Fandom: Guiding Light
Rating: R to NC-17
Notes: PLEASE READ This is a dark, angst-filled story with ADULT themes. It is not graphically violent or gratuitous in nature, but it can be quite dark. For those of you who read and enjoyed "Whatever It Takes," this story takes place shortly after. Completely different tone, though, so be prepared. If you haven't read WIT, it's not necessary but it is helpful.
I'm not 100% sure, but I feel like this is entirely new territory for Olivia & Natalia. Your comments are greatly appreciated.
ETA: Thanks for the immense outpouring of support for this story. I was nervous, I'll admit, but you've been amazingly insightful and supportive. Thank you x1000.
Chapter Two (NC-17)
Chapter Five - (NC-17)
*I'm going away for ten days to Europe (um, yay!) so this will be the last update for over a week. Don't want anyone thinking I abandoned the story or any such madness. Hope this will tide you over till then! *
Olivia was glad she never let Natalia or the kids come to visit her, at least not before their mandated "family weekend" near the end of her rehab stint. It wasn't that she wasn't thrilled to see them, or that she didn't relish holding Emma or kissing Natalia. It was that she loved it too much. A part of her was very confident that she never would've stayed through the end of her treatment if she'd had even a taste of her "normal life" before she was ready.
The nights were the hardest, lying awake alone and counting down the days until she would once again share a bed with Natalia. Share a home. Share responsibilities, chores. Even the mundane tasks held an enchanting allure all of a sudden. Drying the dishes while Natalia washed. Getting Emma ready for school. Arguing about how many slices of bacon were really necessary on a BLT. When the phone on her bedside table rang, Olivia's eyes immediately darted to the clock. It was midnight on the west coast, and the phone's display said it was Natalia calling.
"Everything ok?" Olivia asked hurriedly, the late hour filling her voice with worry.
A sleepy laugh calmed her nerves. "Yes, everything's fine. Just couldn't sleep. Which is weird because I'm exhausted."
"Long day?" Trying to keep the guilt out of her voice, Olivia stuffed a pillow behind her so she could sit up in bed.
"Yeah. Greenway's just getting on everyone's nerves, which means I get to hear about it," Natalia sighed.
Peter Greenway was a temporary hire at the Beacon, brought in to maintain the status quo while Olivia completed her rehabilitation. He wasn't authorized to make any major decisions, but he was experienced enough to keep the hotel from running into the ground. Natalia had brought him on, respectfully declining to man the Beacon herself and choosing instead to remain a stay-at-home mom for Emma. In retrospect, it was probably the wisest decision, wiser than any Olivia had made recently.
"He's not ruining my hotel, is he?" Olivia joked, knowing full well the answer.
"Oh no, Olivia. You know Peter does excellent work. He's just a little..."
"Something like that, yeah," Olivia could almost hear Natalia's smile. "You'd think they'd be used to that over there."
Olivia snorted a laugh. "Oh go to hell."
On the other end of the line, Natalia sighed. Olivia could hear the sheets rustling and imagined pulling Natalia's body close to her own once again. "Speaking of," she murmured, her voice muffled a bit and then cleared again. "Emma asked me if she could come to church with me tomorrow."
"Huh," Olivia offered noncommitally. "She did?"
"Yeah, I... I wanted to see what you thought about that."
Olivia chewed the inside of her cheek. She wasn't sure what she thought about it. "I don't know, Natalia. I don't love the idea of my daughter listening to Father Ray preach on about--"
"It's not Father Ray. I've started going to a different church. I thought I told you?"
Tension tugged at the muscles in Olivia's back, and her stomach felt twisted and acidic. It wasn't so much the discussion of Natalia's church, but the nagging realization that the world really had gone on without her for the past three months. To be truthful, in her memory she was missing more like six. Half a year in the life of her family, and all she knew of it were the drips and drabs she'd picked up through phone calls and emails.
"Maybe you did, I'm sorry. But anyway," Olivia shook her head in the darkness. "I... I don't know, Natalia. I mean, can I really say no here? Do I get veto power from rehab?"
Natalia must've sensed the frustration in her voice, and lowered her own to a whisper. "I know this is hard, Olivia. I know you feel really out of the loop right now. But I promise you things will get better. You'll be feeling like your old self in no time. Once you get back here, get back in the swing of things..."
"What if I don't?" The question hung in the air, stale and offensive. "What if I can't?"
"I'll tell Emma she has to wait, until I get more settled in the church." That was Natalia's way of dismissing the question outright. Olivia had to smile.
"No, no. Go ahead. If you're sure this church isn't some crazy indoctrination camp, well then... I trust you."
Natalia was silent for a minute or two. "What about you? One more week, huh?"
"Yeah," Olivia stretched, limbs straightening in all directions. "Got my exit interview on Wednesday. Like I'm retiring from the Postal Service or something. They are not going to like my scathing reviews of the staff."
"Olivia," Natalia scolded lightly. "Be nice."
"I'm always nice. But seriously," her voice dropped an octave. "I miss you. I can't... wait to come to you. Help you. Make up for lost time."
"You don't have to--"
"I want to go to Isabella's grave. With you. I want to... make that up to you. And to her."
Olivia could hear Natalia's breath catch in her throat. "I would love that."
"I love you both," Olivia whispered. "I love you both so much."
Bags of candy sat scattered about the meeting room, chairs aligned in a haphazard circle. Pierce was in one corner of the room, dragging a table back to its rightful spot.
"Got a sec?" Olivia drummed her fingers against the back of one of the chairs.
Pierce turned around, and when she saw it was Olivia, she smiled.
"You old bitch, didn't you get enough time in the meeting tonight?"
"Yeah, well I figured I've only got a few days left; I better get my money's worth. What the hell is it with you and all this candy, anyway?" She motioned around the room, and Pierce clenched her teeth, embarrassed.
"Oral fixation. I'm going nuts trying to quit smoking. It's harder than losing the bottle, let me tell you." As she spoke, she popped a handful of Swedish Fish into her mouth. "Like right now, I wanna go out and burn one, but... no. I've got these," she frowned, mouth full of red. "Delicious gummy fish that mock me with their shit-eating grins."
"I'm not envious," Olivia rubbed at the back of her neck.
"So what's up? Sit, sit. The room's empty for the rest of the night."
Pulling a chair underneath her, Olivia crossed her legs and rested her elbows on her knees. "My daughter wants to go to church, my business is being run by a stranger, and my wife is so perfect that it drives me nuts."
Pierce laughed, and yanked at a Twizzler. "First of all, Spencer..." she wagged the limp candy in Olivia's direction. "You make mountains out of molehills. Losing your daughter? That was a mountain you tried to make into a molehill. But Emma wanting to try out some Jesus? Come on."
Olivia shook her head. "It's a joke to you, but--"
"You're not uncomfortable with Emma going to church. You don't even care. You told me yourself: you think Natalia's faith is one of her most beautiful qualities. So don't sit here and tell me you're worried about Emma going to church with your wife."
The older woman stared blankly at Pierce, who waved Olivia up and out of her chair. "Come on, outside. I can't do this with fucking Sweet Tarts."
They stepped outside onto a stone patio, the courtyard lit only by a few spotlights recessed into the paved walkways. The ocean breeze fingered through the tree limbs.
"You're not upset about the church thing, or the guy running your hotel. You're upset about the loss of control," Pierce flicked the lighter and inhaled. A grey cloud of smoke followed.
Olivia leaned against the side of the building and sighed. "Okay... yeah. It's like..." She searched for the words, but couldn't find them. "Screw it, give me one of those."
Pierce's eyes widened a bit. "Didn't think you smoked," she tossed the pack to Olivia and when she pressed the cigarette to her lips, lit it for her.
"Haven't since I was maybe nineteen," Olivia exhaled, the smoke not as smooth as she remembered. Her thoughts were jumbled, and she squinted off into the distance to try and regain them. "I don't know, Pierce. I don't know if I can handle everyone walking on eggshells around me. Looking at me and wondering if I'm just gonna pop off, like... like I did before I left."
Pierce simply nodded, and let her continue.
"And Natalia. She's so sweet and so wonderful but... if she babies me too much, I'm gonna lose it, I know it. I can already see it. She'll coddle me and tell me not to rush into anything, back to work or back to whatever, when all I really wanna do is start my life again."
Ashes blew in the wind as the two women stood there in silence, Pierce regarding Olivia with an indistinguishable countenance.
"Can't stop what people are gonna think about you, Olivia. And from what I've heard about what you were like before you started drinking and all... you aren't the type to really give a damn either way."
"But Emma. She's getting older now and she hears people talk," Olivia hung her head, dropped the cigarette and stubbed the butt out with her shoe.
Pierce nodded. "The only people you've gotta worry about are Natalia and Emma. Ava and Rafe. That's it. You've forgiven yourself. Natalia's forgiven you. Now you go home, and you earn back that trust, you show them what the hell you're all about now. And everyone else?" Pierce took a final drag of her cigarette. "They'll either come around or they won't."
"That easy, huh?" Olivia snorted. "What if they don't?"
Pierce shrugged, then offered Olivia a wry smile. "Nobody ever came around in my case. And I'm still standing, ain't I?"
Olivia stood with her hand over the doorknob for what felt like days. It was the end of August in Springfield, and there was no ocean breeze to temper the intense heat and humidity. Sweat rose at her hairline, and she swiped it away with her shoulder. She hadn't responded to Natalia's last text, asking what time her plane was due to land. It had started out as a fun idea, telling Natalia she'd be home late in the day, then showing up early and surprising them. But now it felt like a terrible idea.
Inside she could hear the sound of the television, its quiet murmur not enough to drown out the plodding of what Olivia could only assume were Emma's clumsy footsteps. Up and down the stairs. Up and down. How did that not drive Natalia crazy? She checked her watch; it was 11:23 on a Saturday. Closing her eyes, Olivia tried to imagine the scene that she would find on the other side of the door. When nothing came to her, she swore under her breath.
"Okay Olivia, just do it. They're not strangers in there. They're family. They love you. Just... do it already," she whispered to herself, steeling her resolve.
Finally, she swung the door open slowly, and peered inside. No one in the living room. She stepped inside and pulled her suitcase silently in behind her.
When she called out in an unsteady voice, it sounded more like a question than a statement. "Honey, I'm home?"
There was a clatter in the kitchen, then Natalia appeared in the doorway. "Oh God! You scared me! What're you doing here?!" She ran to Olivia, who hugged so tight the younger woman's feet lifted off the ground. "Oh my God! Emma! Come down here," Natalia finished her shout up the stairs with a kiss, short but sincere.
Tiny feet appeared at the top of the stairs, and one by one they creeped further down, their pace deliberate. "Who is it?"
Olivia laughed. "Who is it? Whaddaya mean, 'who is it?' You can see me from there, Jellybean!"
Emma trotted down the rest of the steps, her white frilly socks sliding against the wood. "Hi Mom," she said softly, pressing her head into Olivia's belly in the embrace.
Natalia clapped her hands together once. "Okay so, you're here! We didn't have a chance to set up our surprise for you," Natalia winked at Emma. "But that's okay. We'll put it up now!"
"We made a banner for you. It says 'Welcome Home'. But you're already here, so what's the point?"
Emma's tone was sad and defeated, and Olivia felt instantly deflated. It seemed she was still striking out with her daughter, no matter what she did. The urge to feel sorry for herself tickled somewhere inside of her, but she looked at her little girl and shook it off. "I am a giant dope," Olivia said plainly. She squatted down in front of Emma. "I must've messed up my flight times," she glanced up at Natalia, then back at her daughter. "But I think I know how to make it up to you. The whole time I was away, you know what I was thinking? I was thinking 'I can't wait to get home to my Emma and my Natalia, so we can get a puppy!'"
The little girl's eyes welled with tears, and she ran to the couch and buried her head in the pillows. "I don't want a puppy anymore."
Olivia stood up, and sighed. "Ohhhkay, Jellybean. No puppies."
She felt Natalia press her hand against her back reassuringly. "Emma, your mom is trying very hard. Don't you think you should--"
"No, no. It's okay," Olivia interrupted her gently. "You take your time, 'Bean. When you wanna talk, I'm here. I love you very much, but I know hurt you pretty badly too. And you're a smart cookie. You'll know when you're ready." Emma rolled over and sat up, appearing to take in what her mother had said. She didn't look at her, but it was enough of an acknowledgment for Olivia. She turned and squeezed Natalia's sides playfully. "In the meantime, is there any food in this house, Mama? I'm starving!"
In the kitchen, Olivia watched Natalia pull out the makings of a sandwich and some salad in a plastic container. She wore a pair of cotton pants that cut off at her calves, and a t-shirt. It was simple, but standing there in her own kitchen for the first time in so long, it was stunning.
"I'm guessing these are your hippie yoga pants?" Olivia reached out and plucked at the fabric as Natalia swept by her.
"Ha, ha," Natalia chided, her head disappearing in the refrigerator. "Don't think I don't know what you're looking at right now," she reappeared holding a pitcher of lemonade which she thrust into Olivia's arms. "And I have to tell you, insulting the pants certainly won't get you in them."
A laugh shook through Olivia before she could stop it. "That was good, that was good. I'll give you that. Damn, you got funny while I was gone."
Natalia sighed as she slapped a knife into the mayonnaise jar. "Had to. I was a little younger the last time I did this whole 'single mom' thing. Emma is a handful, as you know."
Olivia put her hand over Natalia's to stop her. "I'm sorry I wasn't here, but I'm going to make it up to you, okay? I'll start by making my own sandwich for a change."
"Oh no you don't," the other woman blew a strand of hair out of her face with a puff. "You have a bit of a heavy hand with the cheese and mayo. The goal is to live past fifty, my dear."
"I'll live to be a hundred if you don't ease up on the... what are these? Sprouts? Oh god, send me back to rehab."
Natalia pinched her face into a kittenish pout. "You love me."
"I do," Olivia kissed her puckered lips. "So... what's going on? Who's killed who in Springfield? Jilted lovers? Bank robbers? Give me the dirt."
She appeared to consider it for a second, but then Natalia just shrugged. "I've been keeping a low profile, as I'm sure you can imagine. Things have picked up at Company, which is good for Buzz. Um, Frank... Frank's police chief now."
Olivia wailed. "What? Really? That two-bit--" At Natalia's narrowed eyes, Olivia held back. "That's wonderful. For him."
"Not much else. Little stuff. But I made you a list," she smiled as she offered Olivia a crumb-and-mayonnaise covered finger to lick. "On the fridge."
The older woman stepped over to the refrigerator and pulled a legal pad-sized piece of paper from beneath a "Skinny Cooks Can't Be Trusted" magnet. Perusing the list, a crooked smile crossed her face. It was written in Natalia's neat script, and contained everything from 'Go to a Baseball Game' to 'Clean out the Barn'. The activities were varied and numerous, and some, Olivia could tell, must have been added at Emma's behest.
"I didn't..." Natalia suddenly looked bashful. "Some of them I could've done without you. I just... didn't want you thinking that we weren't here, missing you. Waiting for you."
Olivia crossed the room once again and pulled Natalia in close. Her thumb brushed against the other woman's cheeks and Olivia covered her lips with her own. The kiss was passionate, unhurried, and left them both breathless. "You don't know how much that means to me," Olivia breathed. "I've never wanted to," she yanked the list from the table and held it up to read it. "Paint a hopscotch board in the driveway as much as I do right now."
Natalia laughed. "Okay, some of them were things Emma wanted that I wasn't prepared to negotiate on. Speaking of," Natalia tilted her chin towards the doorway. Emma's petite frame stood there, pages of construction paper in hand.
"I made these for you," Emma held them out towards Olivia, who took a hard swallow and stepped forward to take them. "I don't hate you," the little girl looked down at her hands. "I know I said that, with the doctor. But I don't. I'm just..."
"Confused?" Olivia offered.
"Yeah, confused. And... maybe a little mad."
Olivia looked quickly through the drawings and paper cut-outs Emma had made for her. They were beautiful, and heartbreaking. "You're allowed to be a little mad, Jellybean. I'm a little mad at me, too, if that helps."
The little girl nodded and scampered away, and soon the heavy sounds of her feet up the stairs shook the house.
"She gets her articulate nature from you," Natalia said quietly.
"Yeah," Olivia smiled through newly-fallen tears. "But she gets her big heart from you."