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Guiding Light

altfic in passion_perfect

Life and Breath Part 7

Title: Life and Breath
Author: Pink Rabbit Productions
Fandom: Guiding Light
Pairing: Olivia/Natalia
Part: 7
Date: 30 June, 2009
Rating: Personally, I'd call it an R, but some might consider it NC-17 at some point.
Disclaimer: The characters and situations belong to other folks far wealthier, more important (or at least with better lawyers), and hopefully more charitable and kinder than I. They include, but are not necessarily limited to CBS, Proctor and Gamble, and Telenext. The actual arrangement of words, however, remains my own as do any original characters. Meanwhile, there is likely to be all female romantic and sexual activity ahead, so if this is likely to get you, me, or anybody else arrested should you take a gander, please move along. Also, if you find that sort of thing offensive, you really probably shouldn't hang around anyplace I'm posting. Just sayin'....
Archiving: The Pink Rabbit Consortium
Spoilers: Some early scenes definitely, plus anything through the spa trip is fair game.
Timeline: Unlike some folks, I don't have an exact scene where this one takes off. However, it's definitely set after the spa trip, but before Rafe's release from the halfway house.
Earlier Parts: | Part 1 (Prologue) | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 |


Life and Breath
by Pink Rabbit Productions

Part 7/?


With Emma playing projectionist at the Farmhouse Cinema and Café, a triple billing of Shrek and its subsequent sequels was announced with a happy giggle. On the menu was pizza, popcorn, gummi bears, and fruit juice.

"After all we wouldn't wanna be unhealthy about it," Olivia deadpanned while her daughter tore into a pepperoni slice and the opening music roared through the house.

Grinning, Natalia passed the other woman a glass of something dark and sweet smelling. "Grape juice for you," she teased. "Well aged."

Taking a whiff, Olivia realized it was good merlot and she smiled gratefully up at the other woman. "Have I mentioned lately that I love you?" she drawled happily.

A blush crawled over Natalia's cheeks, but any response was forestalled by Emma's annoyed shushes as the movie got past the credits and began in earnest.

The pizza lasted through the first movie, the popcorn and gummi bears through the second, and by midway through the third Olivia was sprawled full length on the couch, Emma snuggled in her arms while Natalia's head was pillowed on her hip, her body pressed up against the length of long legs, her calves hooked over the arm of the couch.

Onscreen, sweet romance had given way to buddy comedy which had largely given way to an annoying tagalong teenager's problems.

Perhaps it was because so much her own teen years had been absorbed into caring for a baby, but Natalia found that adolescent angst, even in parody form less than entertaining. Which was probably why one moment she was watching something or other — she never could quite remember what--- and the next she opened her eyes and the TV screen had kicked over to the DVD player's mindlessly bouncing logo screensaver. She watched it for a moment as it sank in that she'd slept through much of final movie.

And apparently she wasn't the only one because the pillow under her head was rising and subsiding in the slow, steady rhythm of sleep. Somehow she'd migrated upward while dozing because her head was now resting on Olivia's midriff, the older woman's left arm draped loosely around her shoulders. Emma, meanwhile, had also shifted higher on the couch, nosing into her mother's shoulder, her small frame wrapped in Olivia's loose hold, skinny legs dangling off the edge of the cushions.

There really shouldn't have been room for all of them, but somehow in their sleep, they'd accommodated one another.

Natalia was content to just lie and absorb the warmth and sense of being back where she belonged.

Or at least she was until her back and knees both started to protest the position. Then a small body stirred above her and she tipped her head back to see Emma staring sleepily down at her.

"M' foo's asleep," the girl mumbled blearily and Natalia suddenly realized a narrow calf was caught under her shoulder.

"Sorry, honey," Natalia apologized as she reached up to gently resettle the arm slung loosely around her shoulders, then pushed up on one elbow."Time to get you to bed?" she murmured softly to Emma, who nodded. Smiling tenderly, Natalia eased into a sitting position, careful not to disturb the woman asleep behind her, carefully lifted Olivia's encompassing arm out of the way.

The older woman stirred ever so slightly, mumbling in her sleep, then shifted more on her side and settled back down.

Normally Emma was quite bent on being a big girl who did things on her own, but when she got too tired, she tended to get a little clingy. So when Natalia whispered, "Want me to carry you?" she just nodded sleepily and reached out to her other mommy. Finding her feet, Natalia lifted the girl into her arms, smiling tenderly as a small head settled trustingly on her shoulder and delicate arms wrapped loosely around her neck. God, she'd missed this.

Since Olivia had moved back to the hotel on moving out, she'd left her bedroom set for Natalia to use as a guestroom or for Rafe when he was released, and Emma's and Olivia's bags were already stored there. She quickly got the girl into her nightgown and tucked her in. Emma was asleep almost the moment her head hit the pillow, but Natalia sat with her a long moment, gently petting her hair. It still amazed her sometimes how thoroughly this child had come to seem like her own. Emma might not have come from her body, but she'd wrapped a small hand around her heart and wouldn't let go.

Much like her mother in that regard, Natalia thought with a smile. Something about those Spencer women just seemed to pull at her heartstrings. Finally, she leaned over and pressed a light kiss to Emma's temple, then tucked the blankets more firmly around the girl's small frame before slipping out.

She arrived downstairs to find Olivia curled on her side, her breathing slow and deep, her expression soft in sleep. She really should wake the other woman so she could sleep in a real bed instead of a tight ball on the couch, but she was held back by the niggling fear that Olivia would instead pick up Emma and return to the hotel, leaving the farmhouse to meld back into the soulless building it had become in their absence. She did that sometimes, pulled away to resist temptation when she couldn't have everything she wanted.

And while Natalia wasn't ready to assuage all those sweet desires, neither was she ready to let go. She needed this, needed Olivia and their family.

Retrieving the blanket folded over the back of the couch, she carefully spread it over the sleeping women, then without planning to, settled on the very edge of the makeshift bed near where Olivia's hand was folded against her chest.

Leaning down a little, she tipped her head to one side as she studied features that were relaxed in repose. Thick lashes fanned over high cheekbones, steeply arched brows, sharp nose, and lips that were almost too full. Not the cookie cutter beauty of Paris Hilton or the latest teen sensation. No surgeon had been called into straighten the slight bump in her nose or pump collagen into the few scattered crow's feet at the corners of her eyes.

Yet she was stunning, not only beautiful but with a unique kind of elegance, the confidence and charisma that were such an innate part of her appeal commanding attention and respect even from those who hated her.

Natalia knew because she'd been in the hate column once upon a time. Oh, she'd denied it, insisting to herself that God wouldn't want her to hate. It was a sin.

But she'd hated, resenting her, fearing her, so bitterly angry she'd nearly—

"No," she hissed almost inaudibly, instinctively shying from the unwanted memories. Plenty of people thought Olivia dangerous, even evil, but the younger woman knew she was no better. An image flared in her head of a sprawled figure lying terrifyingly limp due to her actions, a heart lost and almost a life.

She hadn't meant to hurt Olivia, not like that anyway, though in the most private space in her head, she'd had to admit to herself, if no one else, that she'd rather hoped that perhaps it would frighten her a little, give her a taste of the havoc she was causing. She'd had no idea of the price of her actions.

Was that when god had decided to teach her a lesson, make her love her worst enemy more than her own life?

Then another memory slipped unbidden through her mind: the roar of her own heart in her ears as she stared down at features that were soft in unconsciousness. Needing the reassurance of warmth and life, she'd touched velvet skin, leaning close enough to see the faint movement of the other woman's chest and feel the touch of her breath with every exhalation. Feeling safe to touch, she'd brushed silky hair back with a gentle hand, then dusted a soft kiss onto Olivia's forehead. She'd needed to reassure herself, and Olivia would never know.

Then... So close...

It had been pure impulse running out of control, her mouth mere moments from tasting silky lips when Olivia had abruptly awoken, ending the brief moment of insanity.

Her hands still trembled at the memory, while her pulse ran fast and her breathing shifted to shallow pants as she found herself staring at those velvet soft lips once again, and thinking the same, forbidden thoughts.

And how was it that she'd admitted she was in love with this woman, and yet they still hadn't kissed—at least not a mutually wanted, planned, all-hands-on-deck kind of kiss---and kisses, in fact, still felt vaguely taboo?

Tilting her head to one side, she leaned closer, barely restraining the desire to reach out and trace the shape and contour of the mouth that haunted her dreams. As if moving under its own volition, she saw her hand float out to find the silky hair at Olivia's temple, stroking slowly, the pleasure from running her fingers through cool silk threads nearly enough to fry out every functioning synapse in her brain.

"Oh, Olivia," she breathed, leaning even closer, her eyes on that mouth, studying the full cupid's bow that she longed to taste. "I do love you," she breathed almost inaudibly, then without planning trailed her fingers through the fall of hair to Olivia's shoulder, then down the length of her arm to gently outline the corded length of her hand. She loved Olivia's hands. So graceful, tapered, strong.

And speaking of longing for something.

A shiver slid through Natalia, playing along the line of her spine like an actual caress—the imagined one from her dream.

Another shiver. She stroked the rise of Olivia's knuckles with the pad of her thumb, enjoying the texture and warmth of her skin, the feel of bone and sinew, of power, elegance, and control. Lost in the moment, she didn't realize the older woman had stirred until the hand under her fingers turned, wrapping her palm in a warm hold, and tugging it close to rest in the hollow between full breasts.

Natalia tensed, her first instinct to pull back, but then she realized Olivia hadn't wakened. The possessive desire to touch and be close had manifested itself even in sleep. That thought brought a small smile to her lips and her gaze fell to touch on their bound hands, taking in the contrasts of skin tone, shape, and size even as she noted how easily they blended together.

"Pretty smile," Olivia's voice, low, sexy and muzzy from sleep rippled through the younger woman as she repeated her earlier line from the day. "Penny for the thoughts behind it."

Heart hammering against her breastbone, Natalia's head snapped up and she ran her tongue along suddenly dry lips. It was all so much safer and easier when Olivia was asleep. Not that she was afraid of her. Not even a little. If there was fear, it was of herself, her reactions, of the sense of being utterly undone by the other woman. She was scared to death, but she wanted this so much, and if she didn't find it in her to move forward, she was getting scared Olivia would move on without her. "I was just thinking how very beautiful you are," she responded haltingly when she finally spoke.

Caught by surprise, Olivia could only stare. Lips faintly parted, her breath coming unevenly, she swallowed hard. Her chest ached with the influx of emotion brought on by those simple words and she couldn't have offered up a coherent word if her life depended on it. A long moment passed as they simply stared at one another, then she looked down, frowning ever so slightly as she took in the hand wrapped in her own and couldn't remember how it had gotten there. Finally, she ducked her head and pressed a soft kiss over fine knuckles. "You certainly know how to get a girl's attention," she said at last.

Pulse roaring so loudly in her ears, it was a wonder Natalia could hear a thing, she nodded jerkily. "Good," she breathed, "because I want your attention." Okay, so this wasn't getting easier precisely, but maybe she was getting a little better at just saying what she was feeling.

Expecting the usual dance of advance and retreat, Olivia sucked in air when it didn't happen that way, awareness swirling around and through her, touching and suffusing every fibre of her being. Without breaking her tie to Natalia's hand, she braced her other palm on the cushions and pushed into a sitting position, folding one leg under herself as she moved. "You definitely have it," she assured the younger woman.

Wondering at her own temerity, not to mention sanity, Natalia took a deep breath, letting it out slowly to calm badly jangled nerves. She wasn't good at this sort of thing. Never had been, probably never would be. She glanced up and found Olivia still waiting at least semi-patiently, which was probably as patient as she was capable of being. She looked back down, studying the hand bound to her own with startling intensity. "I love you," she said at last, her voice soft, but confident. Finally, she let her gaze rise until it met Olivia's. "Sometimes I don't think you quite believe me when I say that."

Olivia couldn't quite cover her answering flinch. "Sometimes I'm not sure I do," she admitted after a long beat, though whether it was trust issues or her own sense of unworthiness, even she didn't know. Her gaze fell away, looking anywhere but at the woman sitting so close on the couch. Then suddenly a gentle hand shaped itself to her jawline to guide her head back around until green eyes met brown.

"This scares the hell out of me sometimes...maybe even most times," Natalia admitted as she brushed her thumb rhythmically against the other woman's cheek. "But I love you...and I want you." The last words came out rough and unsteady, but she got them past the sudden tightness in her throat.

Jade eyes snapped closed and the hand wrapped around Natalia's clamped down almost painfully hard. Olivia took a deep breath as the words hung in the air between them. She opened her mouth to speak, then snapped it shut again, every possible response she could think of feeling hackneyed and insufficient to express her gratitude for those simple words. She was still struggling to find the right response when a horrible thought occurred. She knew she hadn't hid her insecurities as well as she might have preferred, and Natalia had the softest of hearts. The idea that the other woman might...

She couldn't even finish the thought. She remembered the younger woman's sobs in the aftermath of her tryst with Frank. It would kill her, Olivia realized in a rush, absolutely destroy her if she thought she'd ever done anything to cause Natalia to cry like that. "Natalia," she said at last, her voice soft and uncertain. "I hope you know that there's nothing in this world that I want more than to hold you and show you how I feel...but I don't want you to ever feel pressured or like there's anything you have to do to make me happy—"

"I don't," Natalia denied quickly.

Too quickly for Olivia's comfort. "I just..." she started and realized she didn't know quite where she was headed, so she tried again. "I know I can be a little pushy..."

Full lips twisted into a wry smile and Natalia squeezed the hand bound to her own. "It's part of your charm."

A tiny smile curved Olivia's lips, but the look in her eyes was serious. "But I don't ever want you to feel pushed," she said softly. "I hope you know that it means everything to me that you be completely comfortable with wherever this relationship goes." She pressed a light kiss over Natalia's knuckles, taking pleasure from the brief contact. "And if what we have now is all there ever is, I wouldn't give it up for anything—"

"Olivia---" Natalia started to argue, but the other woman laid soft fingers over lips, silencing her with a light touch.

"I'd really like to finish...please," the older woman said softly.

Tucking a foot under her leg and turning to face the woman she loved, Natalia nodded. "Okay." Clearly, there were things Olivia needed to say, and perhaps she needed to hear them as well.

A deep calming breath, and then Olivia continued. "I haven't made a lot of good decisions in my previous relationships," she explained haltingly. "Too quick, too greedy, too self-centered...and too often I used sex to control or to fill the void inside." The muscles along her jawline contracted as she clamped down with her teeth and swallowed hard. "I want you," she said at last, "but not like that. Never like that. I would never want to hurt you, or make you cry, or see regret in your eyes---"

"You wouldn't, Olivia," Natalia insisted, hating that the other woman thought such a thing was even possible. "You couldn't."

"But I remember how you were after..." she almost couldn't say the words, but finally she marshaled herself and got out, "after Frank...and I don't ever want to risk causing you that kind of pain—"

"Olivia—"

"Please," the older woman begged again and Natalia fell silent. A moment passed and then Olivia continued, her voice low and serious, "If it came down to a choice between having you and no sex, or all the sex in the world and no you, I'd choose you every time." She reached out with her free hand, smoothing dark bangs out of Natalia's eyes. "You're everything to me...and I just want you to be happy...whatever that means."

After Olivia had been silent a long moment, Natalia quietly asked, "Finished?"

She got an unsteady nod and a halting, "I think so," in return.

"First of all," Natalia began carefully, "thank you. I know that wasn't easy for you...and I want you know how much I appreciate everything you said." She petted Olivia's knuckles with her free hand, drawing strength and comfort from the contact. "Sometimes I get scared that I can't give you what you need...or that you won't wait—"

"That's not true," Olivia denied instantly. "You're what I need...and whatever this relationship is...or how it develops, it's happening. It's not waiting."

A soft smile touched full lips. "Thank you," Natalia said very softly, then took a deep breath, nerving herself up for what she needed to do next. "You mentioned Frank," she said at last, her voice quavering faintly with trepidation. "We haven't talked about what happened...at least not since we...since we admitted how we feel." Olivia's hand went absolutely still in her hold while her expression shuttered down.

"You don't have to—" the older woman began, but Natalia cut her off.

"I think we need to though." The younger woman took a deep breath. She could do this. "Because it was something that shouldn't have happened...and which...hurt...us."

Olivia shook her head, not knowing what to say or how to react. "We weren't..." she began, then trailed off and tried again. "You had every right to..." Again she didn't finish, just spluttered to a halt.

"It shouldn't have happened," Natalia repeated after a long beat. "I ran scared—"

"From me," Olivia exhaled sharply and looked away.

"No," Natalia said, her voice firm. Releasing her hold on Olivia's hand, she reached out to draw the other woman's head back around until their eyes met. "From myself...from my feelings and my fears...but not from you. Never from you."

"But---" Olivia breathed, her fear showing in her expression.

"No," Natalia repeated in a tone that brooked no argument, then took another deep breath. And she'd thought the first part of this was hard. "And you need to know why I was so upset afterward."

"Yeah, I know." Olivia waved a hand in a deliberately vague gesture. "God, religion, and all the thou-shalt-nots." She didn't mean to be dismissive of Natalia's beliefs. At least, not really. But she resented being a shalt not on top of the memories of a judgmental, bible-thumping mother, who had used god more as a cudgel with which to beat her daughter than as a light to guide her. Okay, so she had a few issues.

"That's what I said," Natalia allowed, "and even what I wanted to believe, but in truth it was a lot more than that." She ran the very tips of her fingers along Olivia's jaw, feeling the muscles flex in the wake of her touch. "I didn't want to admit what I was feeling...but at the same time I knew...and I knew you felt it too." Dark eyes slid closed as she remembered the utter panic of wanting something she wasn't supposed to with such total desperation. "I betrayed you...and I---," she exhaled after a long moment. There it was, the sick, painful reality that sat like a lead weight in the pit of her stomach and had for months.

"No," Olivia interrupted, wanting to wash away the pain and guilt she saw. She shook her head and caught the hand at her cheek to press a soft kiss onto Natalia's palm. "You couldn't...we weren't...there was nothing to---" None of the denials rang quite true as she cycled through them, unable to finish each time.

"Yes," Natalia broke in even as Olivia was running out of not-quite denials. "I could, there was, and we were." She smoothed glossy hair back from the other woman's face. "I knew it was wrong," she admitted, refusing to spare herself from blame. "And I wish like hell that I'd been strong enough to stop it from happening."

Green eyes narrowed, and Olivia suddenly found her heart throbbing painfully in her chest. "Are you saying Frank..." she paused as she considered her choice of words carefully, "pushed things?" she asked at last, thinking that if the answer was yes, she was going to have to make him bleed.

"No," Natalia denied the charge instantly. "It wasn't him, it was me." She thumped her own chest. "I wish I'd been strong enough to deal with my feelings instead of..." She paused for a moment, trying to come up with a way of expressing herself before finally settling on simply, "instead..." She searched Olivia's face, hunting for some sign of censure and seeing nothing but love and sympathy. "It should have been you...us," she admitted, giving voice to the regret that haunted her.

Green eyes snapped closed as Olivia was nearly overwhelmed with emotion. Not anger or jealousy, but rather the profound wish that she could undo all the mistakes. "It will be," she said at last as she opened her eyes to gaze at Natalia with naked emotion. She reached out, stroking dark hair away from the other woman's forehead. "In all the ways that matter." Pushing up on her knees, she leaned closer, stroking velvet skin and silk hair as she studied the rises and hollows of what seemed to her to be the most perfect features ever assembled by man or god. "I'm in no position to stand in judgment of anyone," she offered what reassurance she could. "God knows, I have my regrets...choices I wish I hadn't made...but when I look at you, none of that matters. All I want is to build a future together."

How was it Olivia knew exactly what to say to melt her, Natalia wondered. "I want that too." Reaching out, she curled her fingers into the front of the other woman's blouse, the weight of her clinging hands pulling them closer.

Settling her hands on slender shoulders, Olivia ducked her chin, leaning down until their foreheads just barely touched. Hair in varying shades of chocolate and dark honey blended, silky strands fluttering gently and twining together. They were right where they belonged, the thought went through her head as she lifted a hand to gently stroke silky hair back from Natalia's temple. In past relationships, she'd pushed and prodded, always wanting more than she had at any given moment. For the first time, perhaps in her entire life, she felt a sense of contentment and belonging. Whatever else happened, as long as they had this, she was okay.

Then a gentle hand rose to pet the side of her neck, graceful fingers brailing the flow of taut cords, stroking the faintly corrugated surface of her windpipe, then sliding down to the faint hollow at the base of her throat. Fingertips still painting gentle designs on warm skin, Natalia nestled her hand inside the deep vee of Olivia's blouse to rest her palm on the firm plane of her sternum.

Her breathing coming in soft pants, Olivia let her hands drift lower until they settled on the graceful curve of slim hips, holding loosely without any pressure to draw closer.

As minutes passed, they remained together like that, barely touching, hearts beating and chests rising and falling in tandem. A few small touches and caresses flitted here and there as warmth and breath filled the same space and bodies trembled with slow-burning awareness.

Finally Olivia let her hands make the slow, meandering journey down the length of slender arms, a tiny shiver working its way over her skin as she explored the flow of muscle and sinew. Staring down at beloved features, she was struck once again by their pure aesthetic beauty. And that beauty overlaid a heart and soul twice as lovely as the body. Smart, soft, sweet, strong. Natalia was everything she'd ever wanted without realizing until she finally had it.

"Olivia." The name was carried on the tiniest gust of air as it flowed over slightly parted lips. Natalia tipped her head up enough to study the look in bold, green eyes.

Olivia stared straight back at her, no flinching away, no shyness, but more than a hint of fear—of failure, of loss, of her own impulsive nature.

It was almost a relief to see that the other woman was as scared as she was. "We're together," Natalia breathed after a long moment.

A slow nod. "For as long as you'll have me," Olivia promised.

"I want you forever," Natalia whispered and realized as she said the words just how seriously she meant them. Images slid through her head of a lifetime together, of holidays and vacations, illnesses, watching their children grow and mature, grandchildren playing on the lawn, growing old, building every facet of a life. Not once had she ever had those thoughts with Nicky, and certainly not with Frank. Only Olivia felt like a complete future.

"I'm glad," Olivia admitted, "because I want everything with you." She longed to duck her head and taste the full curve of cupid's bow lips, but the fear of moving too quickly or overstepping some invisible bounds held her back. Instead, she tipped her head sideways, gently nuzzling the curve of Natalia's cheek, breathing in the soft, faintly floral scent of her perfume,

Sensation and emotion coiling tighter with every passing second, Natalia raised a hand, threading slender fingers into the softness of Olivia's hair while she spread her other hand against the warmth of her chest. Without thinking, she trailed her fingers lower, skating slowly down the beginning slope of full breasts.

A low moan accompanied the soft caress as a hard shiver shook Olivia.

Then Natalia froze, uncertain how to react or what do next. Her body clenched and her insides tumbled while her hands itched to learn every secret Olivia's body had to offer. Only she had absolutely no idea where to start.

It was still incredibly confusing, this overwhelming urge to touch Olivia. It spun her brain in a thousand directions, shattered her concentration into a million pieces, and left her entirely uncertain what she was thinking or doing. It had been so much easier and safer when it was still innocent, or at least when she'd still managed to convince herself it was completely innocent, before she'd admitted the thrill of excitement she felt in the other woman's company was anything other than good friendship.

But now there were desires and expectations, not to mention her own coursing arousal, and she had no idea how to proceed, where to touch or what to do, how fast or how slow to move. She had no idea how to react...at least not beyond the tidal wave of stark, raving panic that suddenly threatened to crest over her and drag her down.

"Natalia?" Olivia's voice, tender and a little worried, echoed faintly inside the younger woman's head.

Dazed by the overwhelming influx of emotion and sensation, Natalia shook her head ever so slightly, feeling as though her brain was sloshing around inside her skull. "I don't know what I'm doing," she admitted breathlessly. She registered the ripple of tension that slid through Olivia and the tight, frustrated sound that was somewhere between and growl and a sigh. Tipping her head up, she peered into green eyes that turned blank and walled off compared to their earlier pool of emotion.

Wrong thing to say, the thought went through Natalia's head almost instantly, or at least the wrong way to say it. "Olivia," she pleaded, willing the other woman to come back to her emotionally.

But Olivia was already pulling back, disengaging her hands from slim hips, tamping down the arousal shaking her from head to toe. A flicker of hurt reflected in her eyes, but only for a brief second before it was hidden away.

Damn.

Grabbing quickly, Natalia caught Olivia's hands in her own, keeping her right where she was before she could pull back. "Don't go," she insisted instantly, her voice shaking with the intensity of her response.

Olivia wasn't looking at her. Instead green eyes slid down or sideways, flitting around the room and focusing anywhere but on the woman sitting so close. "It's okay," she insisted, her voice tremulous. "I promised I wouldn't push and—"

"You didn't," Natalia interrupted and drew Olivia's hands up, pressing soft kisses over her knuckles. "I was right there with you." She needed the other woman to understand that it hadn't been some one-sided event. "I just...I panicked a little..."

"Because of me?"

"No," Natalia said instantly, horrified that Olivia would think that. "Because of me...I don't know...what I'm...I'm doing..." she muttered and realized she was just covering the same ground. But it was harder than hell to think straight enough to explain herself when her body was buzzing and roiling and boiling hormones were bleeding over to carbonate her mental processes. She took a deep breath and let it out slowly in hopes of cooling things down a notch so she could think. It didn't really help. Finally, she looked up, her expression open, letting Olivia see some of the glazed terror. "I didn't mean our relationship or what I want with you when I said that," she explained, the words coming haltingly with oddly spaced pauses here and there. "Mostly...emotionally...I know what I'm doing...and I do know what I want. Don't think otherwise."

Arched brows drew into a frown and Olivia nodded slowly, reassured by the look directed her way. "Okay," she exhaled hesitantly. "Then...what?" she asked after a beat. Because clearly, something was going on.

Feeling a blush heat her cheeks, Natalia let her head drop forward, grateful for the way her hair fell across her brow, shielding her face from view. "I...uh...oh god, this is embarrassing," she whispered. She tensed faintly as Olivia's hand brushed her hair, but the other woman made no attempt to bring her head up or press things, just petted slowly, her touch reassuring.

"Just talk to me," Olivia encouraged in her gentlest, most understanding tone of voice.

"When I said I don't know what I'm doing," Natalia mumbled, embarrassment sliding through her as she admitted, "I meant it more literally than you took it." She took a breath, nerving herself up. "A lot more literally." Another breath. "Real sex...not romance novels and stories...it's not just hearts and flowers and vaguely suggestive phrasing...you have to actually touch and be touched...and I haven't exactly done a lot of that."

Olivia finally tucked a finger under Natalia's chin to bring her head up until their eyes met, so Natalia could see her own fears. "When it comes to this...I'm just as inexperienced as you are," she reminded the younger woman. "I haven't done this before either...and I'm scared of failing you...of not measuring up...of doing something wrong..."

Odd that the other woman's obvious nervousness could be such a relief. Natalia found she could almost breathe again as she stared into sea green eyes. "You at least have other...experience."

"You do too...you and Gus," Olivia pointed out practically.

Natalia rolled her eyes and shook her head. "The first time, it was what it is when two sixteen year olds don't know what they're doing—"

"Okay, that probably wasn't good," Olivia allowed.

"No. And there wasn't anyone else until I found him again...then he was with Harley...and what happened between us was all about desperation and jealousy and trying to recapture the past...but it wasn't especially...good. Then after we got married..." Natalia shook her head and heaved a sad sigh.

"I was there causing problems."

"No, it wasn't about you," Natalia denied, and realized it was true. Oh, Olivia had been a thorn in their sides, but she hadn't been the fundamental problem in the relationship. "We were trying so hard...but it wasn't..." She paused as she hunted for a way to describe the intricate game of pretend that had constituted her life with Gus in those days. "We wanted it to work because we had a son and we'd made a commitment...and we cared about each other..."

"But no rockets going off?" Olivia questioned after Natalia had been silent for a long moment.

"He was kind and gentle," Natalia insisted, not wanting Olivia to think Gus hadn't been trying to please her. "And it was nice being close...but...." She trailed off again, her innate shyness making this conversation harder than it had any right being.

"I think I understand," Olivia soothed when Natalia still hadn't continued several moments later.

"And Frank was just a colossal mistake," Natalia added, her tone not precisely bitter, but something akin to it. "I wasn't even remotely..." More trailing off. A muscle seemed to spasm in her jaw and dark eyes slid closed as she debated how much to say and how much to just shove away to some private place in hopes of forgetting.

"Natalia," Olivia said gently while she went back to that slow, soothing petting motion, "you can tell me anything."

"He didn't mean...didn't realize..."

"Natalia?" Olivia pleaded when the other woman didn't continue.

Eyes still closed—she couldn't do this if she was looking at Olivia—Natalia simply whispered, "It hurt." She heard a sharp whoof of air and felt Olivia tense. "He didn't know," she felt the need to defend Frank.

"He should have," Olivia ground out.

"I don't know," Natalia argued, self doubt making her question that idea as she remembered how she'd tensed and made things worse. "Maybe it's me. Maybe the hard wiring's wrong and I just can't—"

"No," Olivia broke in before the tirade could really get started. She laid a gentle finger over full lips and repeated, "No." That simply wasn't a scenario she was willing to believe.

Dark eyes rolled, then slid closed as Natalia blocked the world out. She shrank just a little on the couch, folding into herself in a protective posture. "But what if...what if I can't be what you need...can't..." A deep flush crawled over her skin. "...can't please you?"

Ignoring the intense desire to just take the other woman into her arms and wash away her fears, Olivia remained where she was, one hand absently petting dark hair. "Natalia, you please me just by breathing the same air I do."

That earned Olivia a doubtful look. Natalia knew the other woman well enough to be comfortably certain breathing the same air wasn't going to be enough for her in the long haul.

Seeing the disbelief on the younger woman's face, Olivia realized it was time for a new tack. "Okay," she murmured thoughtfully and leaned a little closer. "You're scared...so we face this head on." She'd been sweet and careful and held back, but maybe it was time to push things just a little and let Natalia see just how good a bit of seduction could feel.

If Olivia Spencer knew nothing else in this life, she knew the art of seduction.

Natalia blinked, staring uncertainly as the older woman's voice took on an all new timbre, suddenly low and smoky and full of promise. "What are you—"

"Shhh," Olivia hushed as she played gentle fingers over Natalia's lips. Gripping the back of the couch with one hand to balance herself, she leaned closer, not touching, but dangerously close. "Just thinking that a couple of quick lessons are in order," she whispered, then ducked her head, lips skating close to Natalia's ear without quite making contact. "Like for instance, do you want to know what the most important erogenous zone is?"

A sharp twist of embarrassment and longing rolled through the younger woman. "Not funny, Olivia," she said after a beat, wondering if the other woman really thought she was that naive.

Her response drew the softest and most sensual of laughs. "It's not what you're thinking," Olivia whispered, her breath tickling Natalia's ear and disturbing a few flyaway strands of hair. "And not your second or third choice either," she added, then leaned back enough to peer down into chocolate eyes, letting the raw hunger she was feeling show in her gaze.

Feeling her heartrate accelerate and her palms sweat, Natalia could only stare at the other woman, caught in the finely woven trap of her eyes.

"It's simple," Olivia whispered, taking her time, letting the suspense build. She leaned a little closer, almost touching.

Natalia swallowed hard, her mouth suddenly impossibly dry. She longed to ask Olivia what she was doing, but she was almost afraid of the answer. And then a fine-boned hand rose, fingers that had touched with wicked intensity in her dreams, drew close.

And tapped the side of her head lightly.

Blinking in confusion, Natalia stared up at the other woman, not understanding at all. Her mouth made tiny motions, but her brain refused to supply a question beyond a barely intelligible, "Wha'...."

"The mind," Olivia whispered as she leaned back until their eyes met. "Get the brain engaged and everything else follows along." And judging by the dazed look in brown eyes, she'd succeeded quite nicely in her mission to spur precisely that response.

Dark eyes slid closed as Natalia fought to steady her suddenly raging pulse and trembling hands. Arousal had fled sometime during the awful terror and uncertainty, but that look in Olivia's eyes, the heat of her body so close, the sensual threat that maybe she wouldn't stop this time had set the wheels back in motion. She felt the couch shift, then the heat of Olivia's breath on her ear.

"And just so you know," Olivia whispered near a delicate ear, her voice a low purr that was pure sensuality given voice and volume, "you do things to my mind that should probably be illegal."

The younger woman let out a delicate sound that was somewhere between a moan and a whimper, the soft cry erotically charged enough to send a hard shudder through the woman kneeling so close.

"So don't worry too much about pleasing me..." Swallowing back a moan of her own, Olivia tightened her grip on the back of couch as a few choice body parts curled and clenched and reminded her just how long it had been since they'd been out to play. Her voice breathless and ragged, she laid her own response on the line. "...because that little sound you just made? It's about three-quarters of the way to doing the job."

Brown eyes snapped wide as Natalia stared up at Olivia questioningly.

An arched brow ticked upward in silent confirmation. "Now... time for a little experiment," Olivia drawled after a long moment, the look in her eyes sending a ripple of want and heat through the woman watching her so closely. "I think," she breathed, leaning forward and down, so close her mouth was almost touching Natalia's, "it's time for a kiss." She felt the brush of heated air as Natalia exhaled sharply. "Just one..." Leaning closer, no more than a hair's breadth from making contact, she slanted her mouth in preparation without actually touching.

Natalia moaned into the not-quite-a-kiss, her heated breath playing over lips that almost touched, then held back at the last moment. "Olivia?" The single word escaped soft lips in a soft, breathless groan.

Heated breath teased already sensitive skin as Olivia pulled back ever slightly. "It's important to choose the right location," she drawled. Green eyes dropped, focusing on the full curve of tempting lips. "Sweet," the older woman admitted. "But a little obvious," she added as she raised her gaze to meet dazed near-black eyes.

"What are you...doing?" Natalia whimpered uncertainly as the tension coiled tighter while her entire body seemed to turn molten.

"Just debating where exactly to place my one kiss," Olivia explained, a feral smile curving full lips as she changed directions, floating along just above the line of Natalia's cheek, deliberately toying with her like a cat who'd gotten hold of a particularly succulent canary. She paused briefly. "Already kissed you on the cheek more than once," she murmured, eyes bright with barely contained hunger. "I should probably go for something new."

Heat flooding her veins, moisture slicking soft skin, Natalia couldn't contain a tiny moan, while slim hips shifted ever so slightly and taut thighs flexed as though reacting to the gentle thrust and play of a phantom body. "Olivia," she whispered again, but this time it wasn't a question. It was something deeper and far more primal.

"I know," the other woman exhaled almost inaudibly, her tone neither confident nor triumphant, but simply an acknowledgment of the emotions and sensations arcing between them. "And I'm still not sure where exactly that kiss should go," she said a beat later, her voice once again a teasing, sensual drawl. If seduction was an art form, then she was its master, a Michelangelo who worked in fantasy and desire. And Natalia would be her masterpiece. "Maybe here," she mused near a delicate temple, only to change her mind. "No, not quite right."

Then the teasing caress that wasn't quite moved on, ghosting over silky flesh, wending this way and that amid softly spoken assessments of the appeal of this spot or that, the only actual contact coming from the brush of heated breath. Yet with every pass, Natalia's skin burned and tiny tremors shook her muscles, her mind supplying some measure of the sensations her body was denied. Heat and moisture coalesced inward, then spread again, radiating outward from the core of her body in white hot flares of thick arousal. She shook her head slowly, lost in the rippling sensations. What witchcraft could make a body ache like this without a single touch?

One kiss.

Olivia had promised that was all that would happen, and Natalia was beginning to fear she intended to keep her word.

And then just when Natalia was certain that Olivia meant to just toy with her and never actually touch, damp velvet found the pulse point in her throat where it resided just below the ridge of her jawline. Lips pressed and clung, parting faintly to allow the delicate stroke of a rough tongue and the brush of sharp incisors.

Tasting the rapid thrum of the smaller woman's pulse where it fluttered under the press of lips and tongue, Olivia purposely pressed the edge of her teeth against soft flesh, trapping and claiming the butterfly wing movement with gentle pressure. Lust, possession, need, and a thousand other emotions coursed through veins and along nerve endings to leave her trembling. She'd set the trap so carefully and now she was just as caught as Natalia. A shaking hand curled to the back of her head, fine-boned fingers working into her hair, holding her right where she was.

Slim hips rolled and Natalia moaned low in her throat.

All it would take was one touch, Olivia knew with some insight. She'd been there before, right on that razor's edge, wanting someone so much, and so lost in the moment that even the tiniest caress would be enough. She could drop her hand, lay claim, palm pressing in counterpoint to the slow, near-thrusting motion of sleekly curved hips.

Only she couldn't do it.

Not literally, of course. She definitely could do it. And after more than a year of weakness and uncertainty, it was a boon to her ego to discover she still possessed that rich, melting power. But that year had changed her. It would be taking advantage and she wasn't willing to make that choice. Natalia had taught her so much and she needed to respect the younger woman's decisions and let her make them when clear-headed and unimpeded by spinning sexual want.

Which meant that, while she'd started this game, it was Natalia who had to choose the time and place to finish it.

Chest heaving with her dragging breaths, Olivia released her hold on soft flesh and sat back on her heels. They were both trembling hard. "I think..." she said after a long beat, the words coming in ragged, unevenly paced syllables, "that should allay any fears about bad wiring." She drew in another deep breath and let it out slowly as she fought to get raging hormones under control. "If you were wired any better, we might just discover the wonders of spontaneous human combustion."

A tiny, near-hysterical laugh escaped full lips and Natalia's head fell forward until she was resting against Olivia's shoulder. There were so many things she wanted to say, but every word she could think of suddenly seemed hopelessly inadequate to express the tantalizing mix of emotion and sensation running riot through every cell in her body. She ached and wanted and loved and lusted and at the center of all of it was the woman who'd sparked the myriad of feelings, both physical and emotional.

Turning her head, Olivia nuzzled silky hair. "Now you know." Lifting a hand, she tucked it under Natalia's chin, guiding her head up off her shoulder. "It'll be okay," she whispered as their gazes locked and held.

"I know," Natalia admitted. Amazing how so much tension could bring so much relief. She took a deep breath and let it out slowly, achingly aware of the throbbing beat of her pulse as it rocked every cell in her body.

Stroking the underside of Natalia's chin, Olivia brushed the pad of her thumb over impossibly soft lips. "Time for you to head for bed," she murmured after a long moment, her voice low and soothing. "Alone," she added softly, very aware of the faintly surprised look directed her way.

Natalia tipped her head forward and they bumped foreheads lightly."I love you," she exhaled on a rough breath, then looked up again, raising a hand to stroke Olivia's cheek and mouth. "Soon," she promised, her tone low and serious. "We'll finish this soon."

Not trusting herself to speak, Olivia just nodded, then watched as Natalia stood and slipped upstairs on silent feet. She heard the sound of the other woman's bedroom door opening and closing again, then leaned against the back of the couch. Exhaling a hard sigh, she folded her arms over the back of her head and whimpered softly. "This being good schtick is a lot harder than I thought it would be," she complained to no one in particular.

* * * * * *


Hair and clothing askew, Frank Cooper sat hunched over the computer keyboard at his desk, the light on his desk the only illumination in the squadroom. Springfield tended to roll up the sidewalks early, so while there might be cops on patrol and a somebody in dispatch, the rest of the station mostly shut down when it got late, even on weekends.

He was grateful for the quiet and the time alone. It made it easier to work without the pressure of trying to keep others from seeing what was on his screen as he tried to check out the chaotic collection of information in the file laid open on his desk. He almost wished he could just close it up and walk away, but he was too good a cop to do that.

He'd even hoped that maybe it was some kind of prank. But his call to Barron's precinct in Chicago had confirmed what he instinctively knew when he met the man. He was legit. His superiors couldn't come up with enough superlatives to describe his work. He was on vacation, and he did indeed like to check out old cases in his spare time.

Frank didn't know whether to be relieved or disappointed.

He'd propped the detective's business card against his desk lamp and he stared at it, his expression a confusing mix of resentment and something akin to gratitude. He didn't want any of this and yet at the same time...

At the same time, it gave him a sense of power he hadn't had since that hellish moment when Natalia ran out of the wedding.

Maybe he'd been played for a fool, but it looked more and more like he wasn't be the only one.

If what he'd learned was true, Gus Aitoro and the rest of them had been taken for a helluva ride because Natalia Rivera was dead.

And had been for nearly a decade....

* * * * * *

TBC

Comments

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HOT, HOT, HOT!
:)

But...Natalia Rivera dead? Huh? What?
Hehe.

Trust me, all will be revealed...eventually.
oh man oh man. totally hot and sweet and a helluva cliffhanger! oh man....
Thanks for writing. Hope you continue to enjoy. :)
First of all...hawt.

Secondly, I think the phrase I want is dun dun dun.
Re: Hawt...Thank you. I try. :)

*evil laugh*
Very nice update. I've often thought that this is what should happen... the status quo needs to be upset, because they might agree that there not be any sex, for now... but that doesn't mean they can't hug, kiss and touch each other. They had the MOST awkward hug the other day I just rolled my eyes... seriously? Sheesh...

Nice cliffhanger as well. Although, I'm not convinced Frank is smart enough to use a computer for anything other than solitaire.
Yeah, the restraint on the show has gotten extraordinarily silly. Honestly, they're thinking about coming out as a couple, yet haven't kissed. *snort*

I wanted to play with where one could go without zooming ahead...let it build. Glad you like.

Thanks for writing.
Smokin' HOT then the screeching halt of Frank and the dead Natalia? HUH?
*evil laugh*
Well talk about dangling the KISS carrot in front of us....I kept screaming(in my head of course) "Just kiss her god damn it"!! Beautifully written piece. Loved how Olivia "helped" check that Natalia's wiring is ok :-) Needless to say, I'm looking forward to the next installment....and I really appreciate how consistent you have been with the updates :-))
Glad you liked...even if perhaps it was a bit slower than some might wish.

I'm trying on the regular updates. May slow down a bit as the summer storm season is upon us. Hopefully I can keep it up though.

Anyhoo, thanks for writing and take care.
Ye gads, Olivia testing Nat's wiring was frelling hot. I love how they talked it all through.

And I'm so curious about WTF is going on with Barron! So he really is a cop? But with is tale-of-wifely-woe, it still seems like he's playing Frank somehow. And Natalia Rivera's dead...what what WHAT?! [/Sheila Broflovski]

I'm loving this story.
Glad you liked the little system's check. lol. Really wanted to let them discuss some things, so good to hear it worked for you.

As for the rest...hehe.
Natalia dead? Come again? How is that...? Dayum! Nice twist!

And the seduction? Flawlessly hot. *fans self*
Hehe (really, that's all I can say without risking spoiling...hehe).

As for the seduction...hehe...glad you liked.
Oh no, not Frankus Interuptus again! I thought we did away with him post-WoD?
Hehe. Unfortunately, he hasn't left town or been murdered.

Yet?
Awesome chapter.

The couch cuddling of all three of them was just aaawwww.
The wire check was unbelievably hot.

I was even impressed with Frank checking out the dude's credentials.
And then utterly shocked at the reveal of just what the file was about.

Hot damn, but this story is good.
Many thanks for the kind words. They are deeply appreciated. I really enjoyed writing this chapter, so glad to hear you enjoyed.
Wow! That was wonderful - lovely couch snuggling, really great talking and processing, wonderfully hot.

And wow, I can't wait to find out what is happening with Frank. Glad he did check up, but whoa!?!

I have missed your plotting! Thank you!
Many thanks. Touched on some subjects I really wanted to with that scene, so glad to hear you enjoyed.

As for Frank...*evil smile*

Thanks for writing. :)
*Fans self*

Dude. Duuuuuude. So hot.

And then little buzzkill Frank to forward the rest of the plot. Awesome. :)
Thank you. I try. :)

Buzzkill Frank...hmmmm....
Whew!
*thud* Seriously, I think you killed my brain - along with Natalia's. So much so that it took me a full minute to process that she's dead!! WHOWHEREWHATNOW?

*stares, blinkin, into the distance...brain still trying to catch up.*
*Evil smile*

Well, somebody's dead...though I should point out that I don't think Olivia was making out with a zombie (hmmm...no wait, that's a different story...lol).

Thanks for writing. Hope you enjoy the rest.
Holy!..... uuhhh..... my brain shorted out!

That was HAWT!

*off to stick my head in freezer*
Hmmm, an all new, green way of defrosting. lol.

Glad you enjoyed. Thanks for writing.
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