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.
[Part 1] [Part 2] [Part 3] [Part 4] [Part 5] [Part 6] [Part 7] [Part 8] [Part 9] [Part 10] [Part 11] [Part 12] [Part 13] [Part 14] [Part 15] [Part 16] [Part 17] [Part 18] [Part 19] [Part 20] [Part 21] [Part 22] [Part 23] [Part 24] [Part 25] [Part 26] [Part 27]
Olivia pulled up outside Natalia's mother's building and let out a breath she'd been holding since they turned onto the street. "Want me to come up with you?" she asked softly. Natalia shook her head.
"I'll be okay," she replied. "You should go and look at that building you were talking about."
Olivia shifted in her seat. "Are you sure? Your mother sounded a little...angry on the phone earlier."
Natalia let out a small, rueful laugh. "I bet," she said darkly.
"How's she going to react to you leaving?"
Natalia turned in her seat and reached out to take Olivia's hand. "She can't stop me," she said firmly. "I'm coming home and we're going to be together. She probably won't like it, but that's my decision."
For a moment Olivia said nothing, choosing instead to concentrate on running her thumb lightly over Natalia's knuckles. "You're pretty sexy when you're determined," she said at last, and grinned when a dark flush spread up from the other woman's chest.
"I thought I was sexy when I'm mad?"
"That too." She leaned over and kissed her gently, inordinately pleased when Natalia kissed back. "So I'll see you in Springfield?"
Natalia nodded. "Yes," she said with conviction.
When Natalia finally managed to drag herself onto the sidewalk, she watched Olivia's car until it rounded the corner. She closed her eyes, easily calling to mind Olivia's face, her eyes, her smile. Despite the situation she was about to stroll back into upstairs, she felt her heart give a little leap. This was worth it. She was worth it. That thought added a little spring to her steps as she climbed the stairs.
"I'm back," she called cheerily as she opened the door. Two pairs of feet answered her call, and then she found herself pinned by two pairs of brown eyes - one sullen; the other angry.
"Where have you been?" her mother demanded, stepping forward and grabbing her arm. Natalia gently shook herself free.
"Church," she said calmly. "And then I went to daddy's grave."
Natalia turned to face the disapproving glare of her son. "Yes," she said, in a clear, steady voice. "With Olivia." He turned away from her with a sneer and made to stalk back to the living room. "You! Stop!" she snapped, with a note of steel in her voice he hadn't heard since he was a small child. He responded to it instinctively, stopping in his tracks. "Pack your things," she said. "We're going home today."
Josephine took a step back but Natalia's attention was focused on Rafe. "I'm not going anywhere with you," he said belligerently. Natalia stood up a little straighter.
"You'll come home with me today," she replied, a harsh note lacing her voice. "Or so help me I will call the cops and have them drag you back to that halfway house in handcuffs." Rafe's head snapped up.
"Ma!" he whined, but she cut him off with a look.
"Do you understand me, Raphael?" she demanded. He hesitated for a moment, his jaw clenching and unclenching rhythmically, his eyes narrowed. Finally, he nodded.
"Yes," he ground out. Natalia raised an eyebrow when he made no attempt to move.
"Well?" she said. "Don't you have something to do?"
For a second he looked like he was going to say something else, but in the end he just turned away from her and stomped into the living room. Natalia sighed, allowing her mask to crack for just a second as she rubbed her forehead. Then she went into her own bedroom to pack, leaving her mother alone in the hallway.
She stood for a moment, looking around the baby pink room with its posters and its single bed and its memories. This was where she'd sat and scribbled her adolescent thoughts into her diary. This was where she'd had all those sleepovers with Selina, ignoring any and all uncomfortable feelings. This was where she'd lain, curled into a ball, as she listened to her father and mother talking, the night she'd decided to run away.
"Running away again?" her mother's voice demanded, as if reading her thoughts.
Natalia turned sharply, her hand flying to her heart. "You scared me," she said. Her mother pushed off the door frame and entered the small room.
"Well?" she said, as if Natalia hadn't spoken. "Are you running away again?"
Natalia crossed over to her chest of drawers and began to remove her clothes from it, packing them - a little haphazardly - into her suitcase. "No," she replied firmly. "Just going home."
Josephine sat on the edge of the bed. "Going to her, you mean," she said, bitterness dripping from every syllable. Natalia closed her eyes.
"Yes," she said softly, her back still to her mother. "I'm going home, to her." For a moment she allowed herself to fill with the peace and freedom that simple declaration created. She breathed deeply and smiled, thinking of all the joy her life with Olivia promised - simple pleasures like holding hands in the car, watching movies cuddled under one blanket, falling asleep in each other's arms. It wasn't until the harsh wrench of a sob rang out in the silence of the room that her smile faltered, and she turned back to her mother with a stricken look on her face. "Mom," she said, but Josephine held up her palm to keep her at bay.
"Such an ungrateful child," Josephine managed to grind out through her tears. Natalia nearly rolled her eyes. This again.
"Ungrateful? Because I love someone? Because I can't be the person you want me to be?" She turned back to her packing, throwing her clothes in now with unnecessary force. "I am who I am," she continued, as her anger began building up a head of steam. "I can't change that, and I wouldn't want to even if I could. Not for you, not for anyone."
"I'm your mother!" Josephine exclaimed, wrapping her arms round her torso.
"That doesn't mean you own me!" Natalia snapped back. She scraped her fingers through her hair, eyes flashing. "I've spent my whole life trying so hard to be who people wanted me to be. A good daughter. A perfect mother. An obedient wife." She closed her eyes, thinking of the suffocating life she'd come so close to getting stuck in, remembering the church and the white dress, Frank's earnest face, Olivia's heartbreaking eyes. She shook her head to clear it. She was stronger than that now. So much stronger. "It's time I got to be me," she finished, a little of the anger melting away as she looked at her mother, small and silent on the bed.
"And who are you?" Josephine asked. Natalia smiled slightly, remembering the answer she'd given to Olivia when she'd asked that same question.
"All I know," she said softly, "is that for the first time I'm not afraid to find out."
Josephine seemed to sink even deeper down into herself, her face stricken, and Natalia sighed. She sat down next to her, not quite touching. For a long time there was silence, punctuated occasionally by a muffled bump from the living room where Rafe was packing, or a car whizzing by on the street below.
"I didn't even speak English when we came to this country," Josephine said at last, her voice a little husky from tears and silence. "Did you know that?" Natalia shifted a little, confused at the sudden change in the conversation.
"That must have been hard," she said, a frown creasing her forehead.
"It was," Josephine allowed. "But we wanted you to grow up with both languages, so we learned. We went to classes at the community college." She rubbed her hand across her stomach, splaying her fingers open and sighing. "Your father used to practise his English by talking to you," she said. "Before you were born. He used to pretend you were saying things back."
Natalia blinked against sudden tears and looked away. "Okay," she said, not knowing what else to say.
"I would take in other people's laundry," Josephine continued, as if Natalia hadn't spoken. "Your father worked nights. We worked all the time. Sometimes we had to go hungry so you could eat."
Natalia shifted uncomfortably. "I know what that's like," she said softly. Josephine looked up.
"I never wanted you to have that life," she murmured, reaching out to her daughter but stopping before she could touch her. Her hand hung in the air for a moment, and then Natalia reached up and took it.
"I know that, mom," she said.
"I wanted you to have all things that we never had," Josephine continued. She squeezed Natalia's hand almost painfully, looking up at her with serious, earnest eyes.
Josephine reached up and cupped Natalia's face, combing her fingers desperately through her hair. "I never wanted you to be afraid, mi cariño."
"I know." Natalia sighed deeply, and closed her eyes. Her mother's fingers continued to move rhythmically through her hair. "But I was. I was afraid all the time. For as long as I can remember."
For a moment Josephine made no reply, and then a dam seemed to burst somewhere inside and she melted against her daughter's side, leaning her head on her shoulder. "I'm sorry," she whispered through the sob rising up in her throat. "I'm so sorry..."
Natalia made a decision then, a decision to stamp down on the bitterness and bile still choking up into her throat and demanding to be let out. A decision to let go of one or two of her preconceptions. Or misconceptions. A decision to forgive. "It's not your fault," she said. She wrapped her arm round her mother's shoulders. They began to shake as she squeezed tighter. "I'm sorry I never gave you the benefit of the doubt. I'm sorry I always assumed the worst."
Josephine burrowed closer, like she was the child and Natalia was the mother. She shuddered softly in her daughter's arms and cried, for her husband, for Natalia, for the years they'd all lost. "I do love you, Natalia," she whispered fiercely. "I don't know why I could never seem to say it." Natalia shook her head.
"It doesn't matter," she soothed. "It doesn't matter now." She leaned her cheek against the top of her mother's head. "I love you too, mom," she whispered
They held each other then, for only the second time in nineteen years, but there was no pain edging into the embrace this time. Natalia stroked her mother's hair as she let the last of the tears come, her eyes closed. After several long minutes Josephine pulled back, wiping at her eyes.
"Are you really going to go and live in sin with that woman?" she asked, sounding a little like her old self, but the edge had gone from her voice. Natalia managed to smile.
"There won't be any sinning involved," she gently corrected. "But yes. We're going to be together. We're going to be a family."
Josephine looked away, her eyes resting in the direction of the living room where Rafe could still be heard, throwing his things into his suitcase. "I don't think your son will accept that," she said.
"I'll give him time," Natalia replied. "He'll come around." She sounded utterly convinced, so convinced that Josephine paused.
"I don't know if I can accept it," she said at last. A note of shame crept into her voice, but it was hard to tell whether it was directed at her daughter or herself.
Natalia took a slow, deep breath, bit her lip. "That's a pity," she said carefully. "I would like you to be a part of my life. Part of my family. But that family includes Olivia and Emma. You have to accept them if you want to know me."
Natalia waited for an endless moment, watching nineteen years worth of emotions pass across her mother's face. Josephine looked at her and seemed to read the determination in her face. "I'll try," she whispered eventually. "I...I don't want to lose you again."
Natalia smiled softly. It wasn't exactly a ringing endorsement. But it was a start.
* * * * * *
They had been driving for nearly an hour before Rafe finally deigned to speak to Natalia. He'd practically thrown his bag into the trunk of the car when they left Josephine's apartment. Natalia and Josephine had exchanged tentative hugs while he glowered at them from the passenger seat. It had then started to rain quite heavily as they picked their way through the Chicago traffic.
"Why'd we have to leave today?" Rafe said, his eye trained on the window at the passing scenery. Natalia set her jaw.
"Because I was ready to go home," she said.
He squirmed in his seat. "But I could have stayed," he argued. "I barely even got to know her." Natalia shook her head.
"I'm your mother," she replied. "You belong with me."
Rafe turned to look at her, taking in the set of her jaw, the determination in her profile. "You're not the mother I thought I knew," he spat, clearly intending to wound. To his surprise, Natalia laughed.
"Good!" she exclaimed.
"Huh?" Rafe frowned and crossed his arms across his chest.
"The mother you thought you knew spent her whole life in fear," Natalia said, keeping her eyes trained firmly on the road. "The mother you thought you knew didn't like herself very much. The mother you thought you knew was lonely and unhappy." She looked across at him briefly. "I seem to remember you saying something about wanting me to be happy."
Rafe looked away again. "Yeah," he murmured. "Just...not like this."
Natalia turned back to the road. "You don't get to decide what makes me happy, Rafe," she said softly. He didn't reply.
Natalia sighed deeply and looked up at the sky. The rain began to ease and suddenly the clouds parted to reveal a weak, cold sun. Natalia couldn't help but laugh. There, newly formed in the sky and pointing right towards Springfield, was a rainbow.
Obviously God's given up being subtle, she thought wryly. Because if that isn't a sign I don't know what is.
She thought of Springfield then, of her farmhouse, the Beacon, even Company. All the familiar sets where the drama of her life had played out over these last few years. Most of all she thought of Olivia. Olivia, waiting for her. Olivia, loving her.
She pressed down a little harder on the gas pedal.