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)
Chapter Eight (NC-17)
The rain looked to be holding out as they crossed the grassy hill leading up to Isabella's grave. Olivia took Natalia's hand, wrapped her fingers tightly around it, and watched as a flock of birds leapt from the ground and spread out across the sky, disturbed by their footfalls. Despite the oppressive heat, Olivia shivered. The last time she was here, she had turned off her emotions, but like the spigot of a well she never stopped feeling the pressure there, deep and urgent and threatening to escape at any moment. Objectively she knew exactly what she would find there, but when they reached the tiny headstone, her eyes reflexively snapped shut.
She felt rather than saw Natalia kneel down next to her, in front of the marble slab she knew bore Isabella's name. Natalia's name. Her name. Isabella Rivera-Spencer. But unlike the other stones there, on hers there was only one date: October 18, 2009. The day their daughter was born was also the day she had died. Olivia thought that was the gravest injustice of all, to have never heard her cry, or saw her eyes, or felt tiny fingers wrapped around her own. Not once.
A tug at her hand roused her from her thoughts. Olivia looked down to see Natalia, legs folded neatly to her side and her skirt splayed out against the grass where she sat. The light violet color of the fabric looked almost gray in the overcast light, but Natalia's skin seemed immutable, still glowing and alive and beckoning Olivia to come closer. She squat down gingerly, mimicking Natalia's pose except for a gentle hand she placed on her lover's lower back.
"You, um," Natalia sniffled back tears. "You okay?"
Olivia looked down at Natalia's lap. "Yeah, I think so. Can we just sit here for a minute?"
Natalia nodded, and rested her head against Olivia's shoulder. In the silence she could hear everything acutely: a lawn mower in the distance, a squirrel scraping against the bark of the tree nearest them. Her own heartbeat was loudest of all, though, and she wondered if Natalia could hear it too. Surely she could feel it, as close as they were and as much as she knew Olivia would be struggling.
She began to make tiny circles with the hand that was pressed flat against Natalia's back. Her body felt cool compared to the stagnant August air. Her hair smelled the same way it always did, that gentle mix of something floral and something musky. Shampoo and soap and her own skin, the same smell that had filled her nostrils that fateful morning when she threw open the door to the steam-filled bathroom. Olivia drew in a deep breath of that scent, and kept her eyes closed.
"I was so scared, Natalia. So scared. Not just of losing the baby, but of losing you too."
She felt the other woman shift slightly against her. "The whole time I was praying for God to take me instead of the baby. To let her survive."
This took Olivia by surprise. It swirled within her a range of emotions that she couldn't quite understand, but she knew that she had to let them wage whatever battle inside of her they saw fit. She realized she didn't really know much of what Natalia had felt in those first few days. By then she had already turned everything off inside her own heart.
"And when I started really going into labor, I knew. I knew it wasn't me who was in danger. I felt life slipping away, out of me, but it wasn't my own. That's when I knew."
Olivia tried several times to speak, but found she couldn't. She rolled her tongue around in her mouth, trying to force it into action. Finally, it obeyed. "I felt guilty for being relieved that we hadn't lost you as well. Isn't that horrible? I saw a silver lining to the death of our daughter."
Natalia let out a sad laugh. "No, it isn't horrible. It must have been hard, to have those dueling feelings inside of you. Starting with her conception, even. I know you said... that at first you weren't so thrilled."
The older woman winced at the memory. "Yeah, I kinda..."
"No, no. You don't have to make excuses. You're human, Olivia. Just like me. And maybe there was a part of me, too, that... didn't quite know what to make of the gift that God had given me. I don't know, I know I'm guilty of pushing certain feelings aside that don't necessarily fit with my religious and moral views. Not even allowing myself to explore them, stuff like that."
"You mean like you and I?"
Natalia nodded, her brown hair shaking against Olivia's side. "Most obvious example, yes. But that... my feelings for you could've overpowered anything, Olivia. I didn't stand a chance." She looked up at Olivia and smiled, a few tears scattered across her smooth cheeks. "And with Isabella... I just... I don't know. But I know that when I thought about raising a child with you?" Her eyes rolled up dramatically. "I loved the idea of it. It was all I could think about, while I was away. I wanted to be a mother to our child and watch her grow with you."
"I wanted that too," Olivia managed through the lump in her throat. This was an area Olivia wasn't quite sure she was ready to explore. What could have been. What should have been. It felt senseless to linger on the things that would never be, a fruitless, masochistic exercise with nothing positive to come of it. So she tried to direct the subject elsewhere. "Do you come here a lot? Does it help you?"
"It depends. I come when I feel like I need to," Natalia sighed. "And it does help. I feel close to her here. That's why I never could understand how you stayed away for so long."
A question Olivia wasn't quite sure she knew how to answer, she considered it for a minute. "I didn't want to feel close to her," she admitted. "I don't mean for that to hurt you, but I just... I didn't know how to process it all. Easier to stay away, I guess. And I drank... I drank because even all the way at the Beacon, or at Towers, or Farley's or even on the side of the highway somewhere when I'd just pull over... I still felt too close to her."
"And me?" Natalia's voice cracked at the question.
Olivia pulled the younger woman's hands into her lap. "I thought about... leaving you. When even the booze couldn't get keep all those feelings away. I thought maybe I needed to put some distance between us. For my own sake, but also for yours."
Now Natalia openly wept, hard and jarring sobs punctuated by the occasional sharp intake of breath. Olivia curled around to face her, moist grass sliding against her denim-covered legs.
"But I couldn't do it, Natalia. I couldn't leave you. I tried to run, to run and hide at the bottom of that goddamned bottle and I never could quite do even that right. But you could. You were so much stronger than me. Maybe you always were. But you saved me, Natalia, when you gave me that ultimatum. And I'm going to spend the rest of my life making it up to you."
A few deep breaths later, when Natalia had gathered herself enough to speak, she wiped furiously at the tears all over her face. "No, I don't want that."
Olivia's face fell. Instantly she felt the need to be sick.
"No, I don't want to spend the rest of my life with a martyr. Isn't that what you said to me? When I came back from the retreat and begged you to take me back? You said that you didn't want me falling all over myself to make it up to you. You just wanted me. Well I just want you." She reached her hands out to cup Olivia's face. "I know that things will never be the way that they used to be, that we'll always carry this around with us, first losing Isabella and then your addiction. But not every one of our hopes and dreams died that day, Olivia. Some dreams we can still make happen."
"I don't know, Natalia. I'm a little gun-shy around 'hopes and dreams' these days. There's a reason they tell alcoholics to take it one day at a time."
Natalia slid closer to Olivia and rose to her knees. Her face still in her hands, Natalia dropped a gentle kiss on Olivia's forehead. "It was hard enough," she paused for a second, her voice breaking. "It was hard enough putting my little girl in the ground. Don't bury our future, too."
Olivia looked up into Natalia's eyes until she couldn't stand it anymore and clenched them shut. "If I don't even trust myself, how can you?"
"Because I have faith."
She let Natalia just hold her there against her chest for a few minutes. When a light rain started to fall, Olivia peeled herself away from the other woman and frowned at the sky. "Maybe we should..."
"Wait. Just a few more minutes," Natalia held Olivia's wrist in her hand, her thumb stroking the bony protrusion there. Examining her face, Olivia was certain there was never a more perfect set of features than those she found before her. But there was something Natalia wasn't saying, she was sure of it, except just as she was about to ask, the rain picked up.
Hard rain broke suddenly from the clouds, driving into the earth with a noisy clatter.
"Come on," Olivia stood up quickly, and pulled Natalia beneath the cover of a large, leafy oak tree. Rain dripped into Olivia's eyes and she wiped it away with a dry edge of her shirt, then offered it to Natalia.
"Wow, that got bad fast," Natalia snuggled closer to Olivia as the rain fell all around them. "It's beautiful though."
Olivia agreed. "Yeah, I like a good summer shower." The smell of the wet grass and Natalia's damp skin against her reminded Olivia that she was, indeed, still alive. She pulled Natalia in for a kiss, and she could taste the rain and salt on her lips. "I love you, and I love Isabella. You know that, right?"
"Of course I do," Natalia wound a finger through Olivia's wet hair. "That's why... that's why I want to... not now, but eventually..."
When she stopped mid-sentence, Olivia furrowed her brow at the other woman.
"I was thinking we could..." Natalia bit her lower lip and slid Olivia's hand between them, and held it against her belly. "When we're ready, I was thinking we could try again. I want to raise a baby with you. I want to complete our family. Just me and you this time."
Olivia felt the breath leave her chest, but instead of feeling a hollow there, she felt butterflies. Excitement. Anticipation. She was sure the look on her face was one of absolute dumbfounded disbelief, but she couldn't find the will to shake it free. Until finally, a thought entered her mind.
"Well, we can't do it entirely on our own. We'll need some help."
Natalia matched Olivia's smirk. "Anonymous help, yes. Obviously."
The heavy rain began to make its way between the tree limbs and started to soak them once again. Olivia took hold of Natalia's hand and, instead of making a run for it, pulled them both out of the cover of the tree and directly into the rush of the rain.
"Olivia!" Natalia cried out. "Are you crazy?"
Water soaked through her blue button-up shirt and she could feel the raindrops slipping along her scalp, drenching her hair as well as Natalia's. Wetness snaked down Natalia's exposed cleavage and stained her light purple dress a darker shade, and pulled the fabric snug against her curves. Olivia shook her head, unable to believe her ridiculous fortune.
She practically had to shout to be heard over the rain. "If you're willing to try again with me, with all my faults and all my fears and... everything..." she nuzzled her nose against Natalia's face. "Well then I'd be crazy to say no."
And there, in the pouring rain, against the surreal backdrop of the rolling hills of the cemetery, at the site of their greatest loss, their deepest sadness, Olivia imagined that this was what absolution felt like. Rain cascaded down between their bodies, and their lips met in a slippery dance, holding each other tighter than ever before. They were, at that moment, inseparable, indivisible, a force no tragedy could stop, no obstacle could part.
Breathless as they broke from the kiss, Natalia kept her face pressed closely to Olivia's. "When you told me you loved me, across this field, at Gus's grave... I was lost without you, Olivia. We were both lost."
"We found ourselves in each other once. Maybe we just needed to come back here and find ourselves again."
A flash broke through the sky and thunder clapped in the distance.
"We're gonna find ourselves in big trouble if we don't make a break for it right now," Olivia laughed, pulling Natalia's arm tightly against her body. "You ready?"
Natalia smiled through the rain. "Ready."
It felt good to be back to work. She'd sent Greenway home with a hefty bonus for not burning the place down while she was gone, but the Beacon simply was not the same without Olivia Spencer. She'd taken the first few days to get back in the swing of things, before she really started throwing her weight around again. And now, just like old times, her employees regarded Olivia with equal parts fear and respect, and it felt like finally the pieces of her life were falling back into place. She and Natalia were great, Rafe was disgustingly congenial and fun to be around, and now she was back at the head of her hotel, right where she belonged. All that was left was Emma, who was still giving Olivia the cold shoulder more often than not. She tried not to think about it, but at times Olivia feared she may never get back the closeness she and Emma once shared.
The voice at the door startled Olivia, and when she looked up, she was met with Doris Wolfe's cheshire cat grin.
"Mayor Wolfe, do come in."
"Dispense with the formalities, Olivia. It's so great to see you! I've been trying to track you down for three days now."
Doris walked straight past the chairs in front of Olivia's desk, and right on through to Olivia herself, where she leaned down and pulled her into a strange embrace. Olivia couldn't hide the incredulous look on her face, her mouth hanging slightly agape.
"What?" Doris asked innocently. "You've been gone for months. Can't a... friend... hug a friend these days?"
Olivia felt herself take a cue from Pierce's trademark bluntness. "You're getting laid, aren't you?"
The mayor cackled a laugh Olivia knew to be fake. "God, Olivia, honestly."
"That's not an answer."
Doris pointed a finger at the other woman, and looked poised to launch into an argument. But at the last second she pulled up, and let her hand fall into her lap. "Fine, you got me. I met someone. But that is so not relevant right now. I want to know how you've been, for crying out loud."
"I'm... good. Doing as well as could be expected," Olivia shrugged a little in her chair, and smiled smugly.
"Gosh, not very verbose I see. Did they lobotomize you out there in sunny California, too?" As Doris sat down on the corner of her desk, Olivia let out a chuckle.
"They mellowed me out a bit, yeah. You're the only one who doesn't seem to think it's an improvement."
The mayor's face sagged a little. "No, no. I do think it's wonderful that you're doing well. Don't get me wrong. Maybe I'm just a little jealous because now it makes me look like the only crazy bitch in town."
Olivia opened her arms wide, laughing harder now. "This is Springfield, Doris. Need I remind you?"
She nodded her head. "Good point. So--"
Before Doris could finish, the phone on the desk rang. Olivia excused herself for a moment and answered, expecting to hear her assistant's voice on the other line.
The voice sounded vaguely familiar but Olivia couldn't place it. "Yes, who's calling please?"
"This is Mrs. Johnson, Emma's teacher? I... I'm sorry to bother you at work, but I tried calling your house and didn't get an answer."
Olivia remembered that Natalia had a doctor's appointment this afternoon. "No it's no problem at all. Please, is everything alright?"
The woman on the other line sounded tentative, and it grated on Olivia's nerves. "It's nothing serious, really. Emma took a little fall on the playground at recess just now. She's just got a few bumps and bruises, but she's pretty shaken up."
Doris was watching Olivia's concerned expression. "What's going on?" she mouthed silently.
"Okay, Mrs. Johnson, I'll be right there. Tell Emma I'm on my way." She put the phone back onto the receiver and raised a finger to forestall any further questioning from Doris. "Emma took a spill at school. She's okay, but I've gotta run and go get her."
Doris clasped her hand over her heart. "Oh thank god that's all it is. You need a ride?"
Olivia already had one foot out the door. "Nope, I'm good... And Doris?" She raised both eyebrows at the mayor from the doorway. "Don't think you're getting off that easy. I want a full report on this... someone of yours the next time I see you."
Not since her own childhood had a set of middle school steps loomed so large. Anxiety niggled at Olivia as she stood staring at the bright blue double doors, and if it wasn't happening to her, Olivia would've found the entire scenario very amusing. She held her hands at her sides and took a deep breath. From outside she could already hear the footsteps of little children, and the beckoning call of a teacher warning them not to run in the halls.
"This is ridiculous," Olivia finally said aloud, and swung open the metal door.
Inside children milled about the hallway, a break in periods as they all hurried to their next class. Olivia towered over all of them, her heels and suit undoubtedly making her look even more intimidating. A teacher waved her over to her doorway.
"Emma's mom, right? Olivia Spencer?"
Like the voice on the phone, the young woman looked vaguely familiar, but she couldn't place either of them. Absently she wondered just how much damage her drinking had done to her memory. She was normally much better at this.
"Ms. Smythe. I think you're looking for Emma's homeroom, it's just down the hall. Second door on your left."
"Thank you," Olivia smiled at the teacher, wondering what the last interaction she'd had with the young Ms. Smythe had been like. Had she been there for Olivia's monumental meltdown? Or surely she had been at the school play? Whatever it was, Olivia made sure to smile extra hard, a silent plea for forgiveness even if she wasn't sure she needed it.
At the door to Emma's classroom, Olivia paused. From the tiny window she could see a mostly empty room, desks and chairs seemingly abandoned. But Mrs. Johnson, Olivia guessed, sat next to Emma at a table in the back of the room. Her little girl looked like she'd been crying, and it broke Olivia's heart.
"Hey Jellybean," Olivia spoke softly as she entered the room. The teacher looked up at her and smiled, waving her over.
"Hi Ms. Spencer. We spoke on the phone. I don't know if you remember... I also had Emma last year?"
A light bulb went on in Olivia's head. "Mrs. Johnson, yes. I believe... I believe I owe you an apology," Olivia extended her hand to the other woman, who accepted it warmly. The last time she'd stood face to face with Mrs. Johnson, she seemed to remember chewing her out in a most indecorous fashion.
"Not necessary, Ms. Spencer. I'm glad to hear things are going well at home."
Olivia nodded. It made her uncomfortable to know that complete strangers knew some of the most intimate details of her life, but this woman seemed kind, and definitely cared a great deal about Emma.
"So what happened, Emma? You get scraped up on the playground?"
The little girl looked up at her mother and blinked a few times. "Where's Natalia?"
Olivia swallowed, and took a moment to choose her words carefully. "She's at an appointment. Mrs. Johnson called me, and here I am."
Emma looked beyond Olivia, out the window where some trees rattled against the glass. "I fell. First week back at school and I already look like a total dork."
Her daughter had begun to sound less and less like herself these days. Olivia felt very much to blame for her daughter's sudden cynicism and self-doubt, but she tried to remain focused on the present, and not the mistakes of her past. "Oh Em, it'll be okay. I..." Olivia had a difficult time uttering the cliches most parents would spout off by rote memory. After all, the last year had tested the little girl's faith in every one and every thing imaginable, forced her to grow up in a way Olivia regretted but could not reverse. It was naive to think some trite phrases and a pat on the back would do the trick this time. "Why don't we skip out a little early today? We can talk over some ice cream. That is, if you're still into ice cream. Otherwise we could always do coffee and a scone?"
Emma rubbed her nose and smiled, and even Mrs. Johnson ventured a laugh.
"Yeah, I think ice cream might help," she sniffled in her best matter-of-fact voice. Olivia rounded up Emma's things, including homework for the class Emma would miss, which garnered a groan from her daughter. "Oh brother. Thanks mom. Really."
Olivia turned to Mrs. Johnson. "It's the internet, isn't it? And all the hormones in the milk? Please tell me all the other kids are growing up this fast, too?"
The teacher smiled wistfully. "Faster every day."
Even though she had wanted to avoid Company, Olivia knew that she couldn't hide forever, and at this particular juncture, soothing her daughter's pain outranked protecting her own ego. Not to mention that Springfield was a small town, and therefore the very idea of "hiding" was a complete and total farce. She would've probably been better served announcing her return from rehab in the newspaper, coupled with a photo of her holding her latest sobriety token like a prize-winning bass. But it actually hadn't gone that badly, with Buzz greeting them warmly and crafting a table's worth of comfort food that returned a smile to Emma's face. The conversation between mother and daughter was light, but Olivia took it as a sign of progress that Emma had lowered her guard enough to laugh with her, even calling her "Mommy" once again.
Outside in the rear parking lot, as she held the back door of the car for Emma to climb in, Olivia spotted Buzz sneaking away for a cigarette amongst the dumpsters and the plastic delivery crates.
"Hang out here for a sec, okay Emma? I'm gonna go talk to Buzz real quick."
Emma nodded and Olivia trotted back towards the restaurant.
"That shit'll kill you," Olivia chided.
Buzz smiled defiantly and took another drag. "Pot, meet kettle."
"Damn, you go away once for rehab and you lose your ability to be self-righteous forever? That hardly seems fair."
They shared a laugh and Buzz shrugged his shoulders. "I dunno, in this town everyone's got a pretty short memory. You could be back on your high horse in no time."
She regarded the man before her with affection. "Thank you, Buzz, for everything today. Emma's had such a rough time lately, and it was great to see her smiling like that again."
He sighed. "We may have lost Isabella, Olivia, but we're still family. For better or worse, you know... we're linked now. Forever. Your brood and mine. I know you spoke to Frank."
"Ah, you do?" Olivia looked at him with a skeptical grin. "And?"
"And thank you for not cutting him out. He's still a little lost after the baby. And he still cares so much, about Natalia, about Rafe, Emma... I appreciate that things were really difficult for a while, but thanks for extending him a little... a little grace."
Olivia rolled her eyes. "Not something I'm generally known for, is it?"
"Maybe you can teach an old dog new tricks."
"Call me an old dog again, Buzz," she cocked a thumb towards the dumpster. "And they'll never find the body. You're coming to Rafe's big send-off party, right?"
"Wouldn't miss it."
When Natalia strode into the farmhouse kitchen, her face twisted in surprise.
"What're you doing home? It's so early!"
Olivia stood up from the table where she was working on her laptop and pulled Natalia in for a quick kiss. "So good to see you too!"
The other woman apologized with another kiss. "No, really? Everything okay?"
Dropping back into her chair, Olivia grimaced slightly. "Eh, better now. Emma kinda... bit it on the playground today and feels pretty embarrassed about the whole thing. She's alright, skinned knees, nothing major. I let her play hooky the rest of the day, took her to Company for a snack."
"Oh Olivia, you sure she's okay? Where is she? How did it go... with the two of you... at Company?"
"What is this, twenty questions? Come sit on my lap if you're going to give me the third degree, Mama." Natalia obeyed, and wrapped an arm around Olivia's shoulder. "She's upstairs, working on her homework."
"And the two of you?"
"It went well. She didn't give me the silent treatment or anything. I'm just glad I could be there for her."
Natalia ran her fingers across Olivia's cheek. "I'm glad too. Baby steps."
"Baby steps-- that was going to be my next question. What did the good doctor say?" Olivia's insides quivered at the question, and she squeezed the woman in her arms a little tighter.
"That I'm healthy as an ox. Totally, completely fine. That it's safe to... that we can try whenever we want. Whenever we both decide we're ready."
Olivia squinted at her. "He called you an ox? What is he, blind?"
Natalia pinched Olivia's arm, eliciting a yelp from the older woman. Olivia's cell phone began to vibrate against the table, and from her lap Natalia swatted her hand away.
"I'll get it, I'll get it. Unless it's your other woman calling," Natalia tilted her head slightly to look at the caller ID screen. "Nope, just Pierce. I think I'll take this one."
"Hey, Nat--" Olivia gave up when Natalia swiftly answered the phone with a lilting, sing-song voice.
"Pierce, how lovely to hear from you... How'd you guess... Well, no, she's here but I wanted to speak to you first. You see, Olivia is, as I'm sure you already know... yes, impossible..." Natalia shot the other woman a disapprovingly stare. "I know. And I wanted to invite you to my son's going away party next week... Oh you would... well that's great! I'll give you over to Olivia now, and she'll give you the details. I look forward to meeting you again... Oh, stop... Here she is."
Olivia snatched the phone away with great haste. She returned Natalia's stare with one of their own, and then stuck her tongue out at her to further punctuate her argument. "Pierce, you can't possibly want to come to--"
"Uh, wouldn't miss it for the world, Spencer." Pierce was laughing now, and Olivia knew there was no sense in arguing with either woman.
"Fine. It's next Saturday. You're in luck, I know the owner of the nicest hotel in town. I can get you a full suite with--"
Natalia stood in front of Olivia and furrowed her brow deeply. When Olivia pretended to ignore her, she pushed her hands to her hips and stamped one foot on the kitchen tile. "Olivia!"
"I mean, you can stay here," Olivia corrected herself with zero enthusiasm.
Pierce sighed. "Why that's so gracious of you, Olivia. I can hardly wait."