Pairing: Olivia Spencer/Natalia Rivera.
Summary: Natalia finds that she massively miscalculated the effect of her departure, and has to deal with the consequences.
Disclaimer: Definitely not mine; I would be taking waaaaaay better care of them, I assure you.
Spoilers: Not really.
Author's Note: As usual, thanks to seftiri for the beta!
The next part of this update will be out mid-week, but the part following will be a little delayed, as RL is going to be hectic next week.
Parts 1-2. Part 3. Part 4.
“Emma!” Olivia and Phillip cry as one as they burst through the doors of Cedars. Rick and Lillian’s heads jerk up at their outburst, and Lillian immediately comes around the counter. Phillip and Olivia skid to a stop in front of them, both breathing heavily (Phillip looks weaker than he did a week ago, Olivia notes, before returning her attention to the doctor and nurse).
They speak over each other for a moment, before Lillian puts a cool hand on each of their arms. “She’s fine!” Rick yelps hastily, bellowing to be heard over their din. They quiet instantly. “She’s okay, guys.”
This time, it’s Olivia who speaks. “What happened?” she demands. Her heart is still pounding, pounding like it’s going to hammer its way out of her chest. She feels sick and dizzy and shaky. She’s actually worried that her pacemaker is going to go off, and from Phillip’s pale face and his harsh breathing, she guesses he’s not much better. What a pair we make, she thinks caustically.
“It happened at recess today, it’s an accident, that’s all,” Lillian soothes. “She fell off the monkey bars and fractured her arm. We’ve set it already, it’s going to heal fine. I think she was more scared than anything else.”
Olivia lets loose a truly impressive stream of profanity in her head as Phillip slumps against the wall like a balloon out of air, as Rick and Lillian clucked over him like a pair of mother hens. Of all the days she’d forgotten to charge her cell phone…and what utter idiot had been in charge of taking messages for the hotel and had not notified her--immediately--of Emma’s accident?
She continues cursing, heartache and pain and guilt stabbing into her as she imagines her baby, alone and in pain and scared, all while she was negotiating prices for franchising the Beacon to Evanston….
Well, one thing's for certain. Whoever the truly impressive idiot was who had taken the message and not immediately come to find her, he was out on the street. Yesterday. And he’ll be lucky if he ever works for more than minimum wage again.
“She was scared?” Her voice comes out weaker and needier than she intended, and Lillian turns back to her, sympathy in her eyes and on her face. They’ve never gotten along, but Lillian’s a mother, too, and that trumps the issues they’ve had over the years. Suddenly, she’s frantic. “I need to see her!”
Lillian and Rick exchange glances. “I want to keep Phillip out here for a minute, but Olivia can definitely go in,” Rick says absently, even as he pokes and prods Phillip (who really doesn’t look good, Olivia notices with a prickle of alarm).
“She was scared, yes,” Lillian says gently, putting an arm around Olivia’s shoulders and leading her down the hallway (and how much has she changed that she lets Lillian touch her?). “But Natalia was here—“
Olivia stops dead. “Natalia?” she asked, hardly believing her ears. Her heart, which had started to settle, starts pounding in triple time again. She doesn’t want to think about or deal with the tangle of emotions that Natalia’s name calls forth in her, not after their chat a few nights ago. She wants to not care. Because she had been so angry, and then she’d yelled at Natalia and seen Natalia cry, and in some ways she’d been satisfied, in others not, but now she’s not so angry.
She doesn’t want to consider what she is, if not angry.
“Yes, she was here for a sonogram,” Lillian resumes shepherding her down the hallway; Olivia continues to follow docilely before a thought stops her.
“A sono—is she okay? Is the baby okay?” she asks, stopping again, grabbing Lillian’s wrist gently. “Is there something wrong with her?” That sensation of panic is rising in her throat again. She’s still absolutely furious with Natalia; she doesn’t trust Natalia. But she still cares about Natalia, wants nothing but the best for her, and if something happened to her or the baby—
She can’t bear to think about it. “Lillian! Tell me!”
Yeah, she really doesn’t want to consider her tone of voice right now.
Lillian looks like she’s suppressing a smile (how infuriating), even as she resumes walking. Still anchored to Lillian’s wrist, Olivia has no choice but to follow.
“I’m not supposed to tell you,” Lillian says, but at Olivia’s growl the smile (more of a smirk, Olivia decides, and it makes her even grumpier) broadens and Lillian relents. “But she’s fine and the baby is fine,” Lillian assures her. “It was just a routine check-up. Everything looked normal.”
Relief pounds through Olivia’s veins, leaving her shaky again. She closes her eyes, lets out a long breath. Then she realizes dimly that they’re still moving. Jesus Christ, had they put Emma in the farthest possible room?
“Anyway, Natalia was here for a sonogram, and had just finished up when Emma was brought in. As soon as Emma was wheeled in, she was glued to Emma’s side. Normally, we wouldn’t allow it, but given the—situation—and the fact that Emma insisted Natalia stay with her, we bent the rules. It made Emma feel much better.”
Lillian is still smirking at her, and Olivia glares before she cuts her eyes away. She can’t see Lillian’s smirk fade into a look of quiet sympathy, of understanding.
“Natalia’s been in with her for two hours. She hasn’t left for so much as a glass of water,” Lillian says gently, and Olivia’s eyes snap up to lock with Lillian’s before she looks away.
The tangle of emotions is rising in her throat again.
They stop. “They’re in there,” Lillian says, motioning toward the door. “Take however long you need. Emma’s ready to go home whenever you are.”
She leaves quietly, and Olivia feels absurdly nervous. She takes a deep breath and peers in the window, but freezes, caught by what she sees.
Despite all the turmoil in her personal life, Natalia is glowing. She’s the most beautiful pregnant woman Olivia has ever seen; her heart literally pangs at Natalia’s beauty. She’s curled up with Emma, cradling the girl, smoothing her hair, in a position that Olivia can’t believe is comfortable for a pregnant woman. Emma has a cast on her arm, and Olivia’s heart hurts just looking at it. My baby…. Her other hand is pressed on Natalia’s stomach.
She realizes the door is open a crack. “—did you leave me and Mommy because you are going to have a baby and you didn’t want us anymore?” Her daughter’s sweet, sweet voice, tentative and a little hurt, and Olivia clenches her jaw.
“No!” Natalia’s voice is loud and harsh, and Emma shrinks a little. But she sees Natalia tighten her hold, press a kiss to the top of Emma’s head, face screwed up like she’s going to start crying. She sees Natalia take a few deep breaths. Her face smoothes over.
Olivia should walk in right now. She should interrupt the talk, take Emma home before she can get even more attached to Natalia. She should not, should not be watching this, but she can’t look away.
She can’t move. Not when she wants to know the answer even more than Emma does.
“I left because I was scared, baby,” Natalia finally continues, quiet but serious. Natalia never sounds like she is talking down to Emma; it’s one of the things Olivia adores, still, about her. “And I was embarrassed because I was scared.”
“Scared of what?” Emma again, with all of a child’s innocence.
Natalia swallows. Olivia can actually hear it, even outside the room. “Scared of lots of things, Emma,” she finally answers, and she sounds like she’s fighting tears. “Lots of stupid things. I forgot what was really important.”
“What’s really important?”
This time, Natalia’s answer requires no pause. “You, and your mom, and Rafe, and how much I love you all, and the fact that you’re my family,” she says firmly. “Nothing else matters.”
A pause. “Are you going to leave us again?” Emma sounds small, and mousy, and unsure, and Olivia’s heart breaks. The anger rises, and Olivia welcomes it. She wants to be angry with Natalia—
“No, honey,” Natalia’s whisper is fervent. “I’m never going to leave you or your mom ever, ever again. I promise you. I swear to God.”
The anger shatters. Olivia shuts her eyes and leans against the doorframe. She feels like a bomb has gone off inside of her. Her denial burns out. The world shakes around her.
Oh my God, I’m still so in love with you.
Emma considers her words for a moment. She reminds Natalia so much of Olivia in this moment; she’s still unsure, still hurt and untrusting, but wanting so badly to believe.
Well, you can believe, Natalia thinks firmly. I’m not going anywhere.
Emma looks up at Natalia, decision made. “Mommy’s still mad at you,” she says plaintively. Natalia swallows hard.
“I know, Em,” she says softly. “But I’m going to do whatever I need to do to make it up to her. And to you.”
And she means it. Every time she’s seen Emma since she’s been back, the girl has reminded her of an abused animal (and it hurts her heart to make the comparison). Emma has been very careful, on her best behavior, obviously terrified that one wrong move is going to send Natalia back into the night, never to be seen again. (It’s actually been rather unnerving how good Emma’s been. Natalia keeps waiting for the other shoe to drop and the police to arrive.) They haven’t even talked, not like they used to; Natalia knows a lot about what the kids at camp have been doing, but nothing about Emma herself, or anything deeper than a play-by-play of Emma’s day as they watch a movie or color together. She feels like she’s holding out a handful of nuts to a wild squirrel, tentatively trying to entice the squirrel closer, needing the squirrel to believe and trust in her good intentions. With Emma, it seems to be working.
Only Olivia is the squirrel that hates nuts.
That makes her heart hurt even more, and she refocuses on Emma, meeting the girl’s eyes and transmitting all her sincerity through her eyes.
Emma considers this and finally nods, apparently content for the moment. “Okay. So the baby is going to be my little—“ she begins, but before she can continue, the door opens and.
Olivia. Natalia almost stops breathing. Oh, she’s so beautiful, beautiful and charismatic and sexy, with her hair mussed, urgency fueling her every move, and….
And she does stop breathing when her eyes connect with Olivia’s. They haven’t looked at each other, really looked, since the first fight, and now.
And now she feels the energy, the spark, the connection flare back to life between them, and Olivia’s eyes are…troubled, wild, but not as angry as they were. For once, Natalia cannot read them, but she is thankful that Olivia seems…calmer.
She drowns in Olivia’s eyes. Seeing the other woman is literally a balm to her soul. She feels whole.
Then Olivia’s eyes shift, and her faces opens, an expression of infinite tenderness crossing her face as she meets her daughter’s eyes. “Hey, Jellybean,” she says softly, crossing the room to sit on Emma’s other side. Emma immediately burrows into her mother, but doesn’t remove her good hand from Natalia’s belly.
“How are you doing, baby?” Olivia asks her daughter tenderly, and Natalia can feel both their hearts break as Emma bravely tries to suppress a little sniffle. Emma’s voice wobbles.
“It hurt, Mommy, and I was really scared.”
Olivia’s face twists, and Natalia squeezes her eyes shut. She opens them after a moment, and Olivia’s face is tormented. No doubt she’s blaming herself for Emma’s fall, somehow. For not being there sooner, even though Natalia would bet her life that whoever at the Beacon was responsible for not telling Olivia will be lucky if they work in the country ever again.
Olivia’s face is still wracked. She needs comfort. She needs a distraction. She needs to be reassured that she’s not the world’s worst mother.
Natalia holds her breath as she reaches out and gently, so gently, scratches Olivia’s knuckles in a gesture of support. Olivia’s eyes jump to hers, and the walls are still up, and Olivia’s hand tenses, but Natalia’s gesture isn’t rebuffed.
It’s ridiculous that her heart leaps the way it does when Olivia doesn’t shake her off.
Olivia kisses the top of Emma’s head. “Are you feeling better now?” she asks, soft again. Emma nods and looks up at her mother.
“Natalia was here, Mommy. She made me feel better. She held my hand the entire time and told me fun stories.”
Natalia flushes under Olivia’s gaze. “It wasn’t a big deal,” she deflects—she wants Olivia again, yes, so badly, but not like that—but Olivia arches an eyebrow, meeting her eyes steadily.
“Lillian told me it was,” Olivia says simply, and Natalia, caught, can only move her mouth soundlessly when—
“Emma!” Phillip has finally arrived, worried and frantic, and Natalia gracelessly (she had forgotten how physically inconvenient being pregnant is, and she’s still only barely showing), finally gets up, moves aside, lets Phillip slide in on Emma’s other side as he fusses over her. Olivia watches her like a hawk.
Reality sets back in and it hurts.
“Emma, I’ve got to go, honey, okay? I’ll see you later.” She brushes a kiss over Emma’s forehead and hastily beats a retreat, pausing only for a moment in the doorway to look back at the happy-looking little family, and something wrenches painfully inside her when she thinks it. Her eyes lift to Olivia’s face one last time.
Only to find Olivia looking back at her.