FANDOM: Guiding Light
RATING: PG for this part
SUMMARY: After the spa trip, Natalia gets a call that forces her to leave town for a while and confront some issues from her past. Eventually she discovers that dealing with her past is the only thing that will allow her to have the future she wants.
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. And to my wife, kooili, who is my inspiration for everything good I've ever done, or ever will do.
A/N: And I've changed the summary. I discovered that a single line really isn't sufficient to describe a 63,000 (yes, really) word story.
[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] [Part 28] [Part 29] [Part 30] [Part 31]
Natalia waited until she was a good three miles from the halfway house before she pulled over, too shaky to drive. Where the strength to stand up to Rafe like that had come from she wasn't sure. But...no, that wasn't true. It had come from inside her. From the bottom of a well she'd only recently discovered - a well of calm, and confidence, and self-respect.
She was still getting used to it though. The adrenaline from her encounter with Rafe had begun to ebb now, leaving her pale and slightly overwrought. With slightly trembling fingers, she pulled out her cellphone and scrolled through the contacts.
"Hi, it's me - Natalia," she said when the call connected. The voice on the other end of the line was warm and excited.
"Hey you," Selina said. "Long time no hear. Are you still in Chicago?"
Natalia flinched slightly. She hadn't even said goodbye to Selina before she left. She'd been...preoccupied.
"No, I'm at home in Springfield," she replied. "Sorry I didn't see you before I left. Uhm...I was kind of on a mission."
Natalia could practically see Selina's ears perking up. "Do tell," she purred. Natalia grinned, feeling herself begin to calm and settle again.
"I, uh...had to get my girl," she said, and laughed when Selina whopped down the phone.
"Nice!" she exclaimed. "And things are good?"
Natalia held out her left hand, examining the new ring on her finger. "Yup," she said happily. "I got her a ring. And she's moving in."
Selina couldn't help but let out a wry chuckle. "Oh Natalia," she murmured affectionately. "U-Hauling already? You are so gay."
"I am," Natalia replied instantly. "I am very, very happy."
They talked for a few minutes more before Natalia extracted a promise from her friend to visit sometime soon. Then she put her phone away and continued on her way home, feeling much more able to face Olivia's inevitable questions about Rafe.
However, when she got home she found that they had bigger fish to fry.
"What happened?" she asked as soon as she walked into the kitchen to find Olivia and Blake crowded round Doris, who was holding an ice pack to her head and scowling.
"Christians," Doris replied bitterly. "I'm sure you'll see it on the evening news. The Springfield Evangelical Church is picketing City Hall to demand my resignation."
Natalia's fingers grazed delicately over Doris's injured face as she inspected the damage. The Mayor winced in pain and averted her eyes from Natalia's. She couldn't cope with the other woman's kindness right now. She needed to be hard to get through this latest trial, and she couldn't afford to fall apart just because someone was nice to her.
"How did this happen?" Natalia enquired softly, after making certain for herself that Doris's injury wasn't serious. Doris opened her mouth to reply, but Blake answered for her.
"God, it was awful," she said, scooting closer to Doris and rubbing slow, comforting circles on her lower back. She ignored the way the other woman's spine stiffened under her touch. "These nutjobs were just swarming round City Hall, screaming and shouting and waving these disgusting placards everywhere." She shuddered. "I happened to be passing just as Doris was leaving. One of them actually threw a bottle at her!" She turned sympathetic green eyes onto the woman beside her, who seemed to be trying very hard not to cry.
"Where the hell were the cops?" Olivia demanded, her voice low and dangerous. Doris scoffed.
"Frank was there," she said darkly. "He said it was impossible to tell which one of them threw it. So he didn't do anything."
Natalia reared back, appalled. "What? Why would he do that?" Doris shrugged.
"I don't think it's a secret that he doesn't like me," she ventured. "He was the one who outed me in the newspaper you know. God knows how he found out."
"Oh...he saw you in a...sensitive moment," Olivia replied delicately, hoping Natalia wouldn't press the issue and figure out exactly what she meant by that. Doris groaned.
"Fabulous." She covered her face with her hands. "You know, I thought for a minute or two back there that this would be okay. After last night...I don't know. I thought...hoped that things would be all right." She dropped her hands to her lap. "But now..." she trailed off.
Blake's face was a mask of determination. "Those hateful bastards don't speak for the people of Springfield," she insisted. "Don't let them grind you down. You're going to get through this." She straightened. "I'm going to help you."
Doris blinked once, then twice. "Oh..." she murmured, taken aback at the fierceness of the defence being mounted by a woman she barely knew.
"So am I," Natalia added softly. Olivia stood behind her lover, resting one hand on her shoulder as she nodded.
"And me," she said firmly. "You're not alone."
Doris looked up at them, the three women arrayed in her defence, and this time she did cry. Tactfully, they all pretended not to notice.
* * * * * *
In the end, the simple family dinner Olivia had planned turned into a strategic planning meeting fuelled by takeout and nibbles. "You know, this might actually turn out to be good for you," Natalia said to an incredulous Doris around a mouthful of fried rice.
"Head trauma is good now?" She snagged a spring roll with her chopsticks and rolled her eyes. Natalia shot her a withering glance.
"The violence of their reaction will turn neutral people to your side," she explained. "And the editorial you're going to write for the Springfield Journal will demonstrate how much better you are than them."
Doris grudgingly conceded the point. Although it wasn't she who'd be writing it - Natalia and Blake had taken on responsibility for that. Natalia nibbled at her food as she pored over her Bible, looking for appropriate quotes for Blake to weave into Doris's article. "Fight fire with fire," she'd said. "There are a handful of passages in the Bible that address homosexuality but there are thousands that address hate and violence." She'd then gone on a long rant about the hypocrisy of some so-called 'Christians' and only a hug and a kiss from Olivia had been able to quiet her.
Olivia stood back from the table, watching her lover as she traded quips with Doris. She was definitely holding her own. A grin spread over Olivia's face as she watched her - articulate, confident, beautiful.
Later, they stood shoulder to shoulder at the front door saying goodbye to Blake and Doris. "You really don't have to drive me home, Blake - I can call a cab," Doris said after she'd received tentative hugs from Natalia and Olivia.
"Nonsense." Blake grabbed Doris's arm and dragged her towards the car. "And you're staying in my spare room tonight," she said, in a tone that brooked no contradiction. "Just in case your head injury gets worse."
"Stop being such a mother hen," Doris muttered. Blake just rolled her eyes and shook her head, but her reply was lost in the noise of the car door opening and thunking closed. Olivia and Natalia watched them go, smirking when they saw through the windshield that they were still bickering.
"Wow, Doris is going to have her work cut out putting up with that," Olivia murmured as she stepped out onto the porch. Natalia followed her, moulding herself against her lover's side as her arms slipped round her shoulders.
"They remind me a little of some people we know," she ventured, her eyes twinkling with mirth. "You know...one sarcastic, stoic and reticent, the other kind and chatty and unable to take no for an answer." She glanced up at Olivia and laughed at the stunned look on her face.
"No matchmaking, Natalia," she sputtered at last. Natalia grinned wolfishly.
"Why not? It'd stop her chasing after you." She nudged Olivia in the side. "I haven't forgotten exactly how Frank got to know about her, you know."
Olivia sighed, turning so she could take Natalia fully into her arms. "It doesn't matter who's chasing me," she whispered, softly yet firmly. "I'm already very much caught."
A shy smile was her reply. "I know." They leaned into each other on instinct and long moments were lost as they kissed, arms wrapped around each other in the dying light of the day.
"I want to go for a walk," Natalia murmured when they separated.
"Where?" Olivia asked, knowing that - in that moment - she would go wherever Natalia asked. Her lover shrugged.
"Nowhere," she said. She gestured to the west. "Into the sunset."
Just as Olivia was about to reply, the phone erupted inside the house, demanding their attention. "I'll get it," Natalia murmured. "You got get Emma. She can come walking with us."
They separated when they entered the house, Olivia heading up the stairs two at a time to collect her little girl; Natalia crossing to the phone.
When Olivia returned to the living room with Emma she found Natalia looking a little flustered. "Yes," she said into the phone. Then: "no," followed by: "he's getting there." She glanced at Olivia and mouthed "It's mom." Olivia raised one eyebrow. "Huh? Uh...yeah, she's here." Natalia held the phone out to Olivia who looked at it as if it might bite. "She wants to talk to you."
Olivia took the phone gingerly and pressed it to her ear with a wince. To her credit, though, none of her discomfort was apparent in her voice.
"Hello Mrs Rivera, how are you?" She paused. "I'm very well, thank you. We were just about to go for a little evening walk with my daughter." She paused again, and her face softened at whatever Josephine had said. "Thank you," she said sincerely, and her eyes landed on Natalia. "So is yours." There was another slight pause, and then she pulled the phone away from her ear, a look of puzzlement on her face. "Huh," she said softly. "She hung up."
Natalia laughed, shaking her head slightly. "That's your mother-in-law, sweetie," she said as she took the phone from her lover and replaced it on its cradle. When she turned around she frowned. Olivia had gone deathly pale. "What's the matter?"
"I..." Olivia began, then trailed off. "She's...that battle axe is my mother-in-law." Her eyes widened. "Oh my God."
Natalia laughed and held out her hand. Olivia grasped it, lacing their fingers together.
"Lucky me," Natalia whispered as she tugged Olivia out the door. Emma had already run on ahead with half a loaf of stale bread, desperate to reconnect with her cherished ducks. "If you'd known my mom was part of the package in the first place you might have reconsidered this whole thing."
Olivia's reply was instinctive and instant. "Never."
They stopped on the porch for another kiss before stepping out into the twilight. The farmhouse was warm and solid at their backs, and ahead the world spread out like a dreamland. The dying sun glinted off the pond like the flash of tiny jewels. It was beautiful, perfect, and worth every step of the journey, every moment of pain.
"I love you," Natalia whispered, tightening her hold on Olivia's hand.
"I love you too," Olivia replied.
With that, they followed their daughter towards the pond, into the sunset.
This beautiful graphic (click for the full version) was made to commemorate the end of this story by the delightful and talented shaych_03. Thank you so much, friend :-)