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)
"Don't look at me like that."
Olivia softened her eyes at the other woman. "Like what?"
"Like that," Natalia squeezed her features together into a scowl. "Those big green eyes... you know I can't resist."
"That's sorta the point."
Natalia brought her hand up between them and covered Olivia's eyes with smooth fingertips. "There, now I can firmly say no to you. No."
Wriggling in the sheets, Olivia scooted up so that her eyes were once again visible, and she could feel the band of Natalia's ring against the bridge of her nose. She batted her eyelashes. "Come on, wifey. Stay in bed with me."
"We're getting out of this bed," Natalia spoke confidently, but her actions betrayed her. Minutes after her proclamation, Olivia could still feel her lover's warm body against hers, and instead of retreating, she'd actually tucked her thigh in between Olivia's legs. Where her fingers rested against Olivia's face, the older woman planted tiny kisses on her palm, and laughed into the skin there.
"You're so full of shit," Olivia breathed. Her choice in language was met with a hard shove below the sheets, which, given the position their bodies were in, was not entirely bad. "Ooh, do that again."
At this Natalia groaned and rolled over, seemingly ready to finally succumb to the day. But Olivia pulled her back in tightly, one arm all she needed to rope Natalia's tiny frame back in against hers. "Hey! We've got like, fifty people coming over today! Are you going to finish all the cooking and cleaning?"
This time Olivia laughed into Natalia's ear. "I'm the one who said we should have it catered. And Natalia, honestly," she nibbled at the other woman's neck, prompting a reluctant giggle. "You're always cleaning. Nothing's ever not clean in this house. I think I saw mice picketing outside. You're starving them out, and they're pissed."
"The house is fine, you're right. But you need to clean out that barn, Olivia. The kids always end up playing out there, and I don't want one of them stepping on some rusty old tool or--"
Olivia squeezed the delicate body in her arms. "Yeah, yeah. I get it. Still don't understand why we couldn't hire somebody to do that, too. It's not too late you know. I bet I could get Jasper from the hotel to come out and haul away whatever junk is still lying around. It's like Amityville Horror in there. I hate--"
"That sounds oddly like whining, Olivia Spencer. And I thought you were turning over a new leaf?" Natalia rolled over in the embrace, and looked into Olivia's eyes. "Tackling things yourself? Not throwing money at the problem?"
It was Olivia's turn to groan bitterly. "You could fill a forest with the 'new leaves' I've turned over in my lifetime, Natalia. Do I really have to stick to this one?"
All brown eyes and pouty lips, Natalia purred at her. "I think it's sexy when you get all sweaty and mad out there in the barn. A little hay in your hair..."
"Oh, well in that case..." Olivia felt her entire body tingle at the thoughts that entered her mind.
"Great!" Natalia clapped her hands and wrested herself free from Olivia's grasp. "Then it's settled. Time to get up!" She looked unmercifully at Olivia, who lie in shock, woefully disappointed at having been played.
"You tricked me," Olivia moaned, sliding out of the sheets.
"You're too easy," Natalia shrugged, slinking off into the bathroom.
The barn was hot and musty, and in the rays of morning sunlight, Olivia watched flecks of dust float and spin and curl like smoke. Rafe had arrived shortly after Olivia dragged herself out of bed, but he begged off helping her in the barn with some excuse about setting up tables and chairs in the yard. If he wasn't scheduled to ship out to Afghanistan in less than twenty four hours, she may have given him a hard time. But as it was Olivia rather liked the idea of him out in the grass, where Natalia could see him from the kitchen window while she finished preparing for the party. He was, she reminded herself, Natalia's little boy. And he'd surprised all of them by growing into a decent man, instead of the quarrelsome punk he almost was. Olivia assumed that whatever moral foundations Natalia had laid as his mother, the military and the death of Isabella had cemented.
Olivia was vaguely aware of the sound of a car door slamming shut until she kicked over a corroded metal bucket with the edge of her shoe, and her senses dulled. Beneath the bucket, amongst dried leaves from who knows when, a half-empty glass bottle thumped against the dirt. She recognized the faded label immediately, once as familiar to her as her own reflection. Like putting on a pair of pants in the dark, her body instinctively knew its dimensions, sensed its gravity. In slow motion she picked it up, turning it in her hands. She brushed the dirt from the face of it. Noted the contents were still unmolested inside.
Unscrewing the cap to the bottle of vodka felt at once completely natural and completely foreign to Olivia. Her hands trembled and she closed her eyes, thinking for a moment about her past. Her future. The love she had found in Natalia. The gaping wound from the loss of Isabella that had only just begun to heal. Memories flashed through her mind, good ones and bad ones, some in vivid color and others in grainy black-and-white. And now Natalia wanted to try again, to have another baby with her. With her eyes still shut Olivia pictured her beautiful wife once again swollen and round with pregnancy. That dimpled smile that shone with the pride of motherhood. She tried to force out the ones that scared her; images of Natalia, knees bent into a doctor's chair, her face contorted in pain. Olivia could feel her heart rate climbing uncontrollably.
The voice came from the barn door that sat halfway open, but, backlit by the sun, Olivia couldn't make out who it was. She shook off the ringing in her ears that dulled the sound, and watched as the figure stepped fully into the shade of the room.
Pierce stood in front of her in a faded black t-shirt, blue jeans and worn out sneakers. Her brown hair fell around her eyes, making them look soft, almost sleepy. But Olivia knew that Pierce was focused on that bottle in her hand.
"This, uh... this isn't what it looks like," Olivia thrust the words from her mouth in a hurry, eager to explain herself.
"What does looks like?" Pierce blinked, her expression flat.
Olivia shook her head and rubbed the bridge of her nose with her free hand. "No, I wasn't... I didn't... I just found this here. I was about to... I was about to dump it out. How'd you get here, anyway? Thought I was picking you up from the airport in a few hours?"
The other woman shrugged, and walked slowly through the old barn. "Got an earlier flight. Rental car. GPS. It wasn't too hard. Natalia sent me back here. She's in the kitchen up to her elbows in something that looks very... mayonnaisey."
They both stood there for a few moments, at an impasse. Finally Pierce peeled a cigarette from her pocket and lit it with a burst of orange flame.
"So you gonna dump it or what, Spencer? You thinkin' you might wanna--"
Purposefully, and with more force than really necessary, Olivia overturned the bottle and let the contents splash on the floor. It created a muddy puddle, the smell of alcohol briefly filling the barn. "I don't wanna do anything that's going to jeopardize my recovery, Pierce." Olivia tossed the bottle in the giant rubber trash bin, and bared her empty, upturned palms to the other woman.
Cigarette hanging from her lips, Pierce clapped her hands together slowly, an awful grin spreading across her face. Olivia strode up to her and plucked the cigarette from Pierce's lips, and pressed it to her own, taking a long, deliberate drag. Then she blew the smoke sharply over her head and stubbed out the butt against the ground.
"You doubting fucking Thomas. You wanna check my breath, make sure?" Their faces were inches apart, but Olivia towered over the other woman. They shared a stare, until a hard-fought truce was forged through a mutual nodding of chins.
Sunlight burst through the door, followed by an equally bright and beaming Natalia. But her smile flattened into a slightly befuddled look when she found Olivia and Pierce standing nearly nose-to-nose.
"This isn't what it looks like!" They recited the words in unison, a laugh spreading between them. They stepped back from each other and Pierce smiled awkwardly while Olivia simply pushed her hands into her pockets.
Natalia took them both in, first one then the other. "I'm not really sure what it looked like, to be honest. But I'm not worried. You kids about done in here? I think maybe Pierce can help me out in the kitchen, and Olivia, it's probably time you got in the shower."
Olivia looked sideways at Pierce. "See what I have to live with? Constant orders."
Pierce watched Natalia as she led the way across the yard and into the kitchen.
"You poor, poor thing," Pierce remarked. Olivia snapped her fingers against the other woman's shoulder when she caught her looking a bit too intensely. "Oh, I'm really going to enjoy this visit, Spencer. I really am."
While she was in the shower, Olivia considered the fork in the road she had just faced. In a way, it had been easy to refuse the bottle, to not give in to temptation. She didn't crave alcohol because she didn't need or want it; her life was on track and she was happy. But she worried, as she ran a towel through her wet hair, what that decision would be like when she wasn't so happy. Olivia was a realist, after all. Even with the love of her life at her side, there were bound to be obstacles along the way, and unpleasantness was just a normal part of life. She took comfort in her self-awareness, though, and smiled nostalgically when she remembered all the nights she spent hashing out her problems with Pierce. The young woman downstairs was, she hated to admit, a huge part of her recovery. Olivia had spent years carefully crafting the air of confidence and power, while Pierce had the real thing in spades. It was easy to forget her sponsor was only twenty eight years old, and Olivia instantly wished she knew more about the other woman.
Sliding into her jeans, Olivia couldn't help but notice they'd become her uniform as of late, at least whenever she wasn't at the Beacon. She felt comfortable in them, and comfortable in the skin beneath them. Maybe for the first time in her life, Olivia was fairly certain it didn't matter what she had on, just that she comported herself in a way she could be proud of, a way she'd never be afraid that her daughter would see.
Downstairs she could hear the hum of activity in the kitchen, so Olivia padded across the living room and stopped just short of the doorway. Natalia was inquisitively questioning Pierce, and Olivia was curious.
"Okay, I really don't know what I'm doing here... How big should these slices be?"
Olivia heard Natalia laugh. "Hm, not slices really. Just chop it up. Little bits."
"I notice you stuck me with the onions. Even Olivia's never seen me cry... are you sure we're ready for this, Natalia? We've really only just met."
From the living room Olivia stifled a groan. Pierce was flirting with Natalia. Rolling her eyes, a fleeting thought about a zebra and its stripes crossed Olivia's mind.
"Something tells me you'll manage. So, you were saying?"
The thump of a knife hitting the cutting board sounded hesitant at first, then almost rhythmic. "I wasn't Olivia's first sponsor. I wasn't even her third. They normally pair up closer demographically... but your lovely wife mowed through the fortysomethings in her first two days."
She could hear the wince in Natalia's voice. "Oh my goodness. So you're..."
"Thirtysomething? Nope, not yet. Olivia made the gals in that age bracket cry, too," Pierce sighed. "Nope, I inherited Olivia and her boatload of issues because no one else could tame her. But something tells me you can relate."
Now Natalia sighed. "I know she can be... prickly on the outside. But you obviously got to her. You know what she's really like. What she's capable of."
Olivia shifted on the balls of her feet. She started to feel like perhaps she shouldn't be eavesdropping.
"She's great, are you kidding me? I mean, just a great person to be around... in that completely insufferable way." The sounds of movement in the kitchen stopped. "She's really committed, Natalia. To making this work, to getting better. I've never seen anybody love someone like she loves you. It's... tenacious."
"I love her too, Pierce. We were thinking... we were thinking of--"
"Whoa, who gave Junior the knife?" Olivia blew in like a cool breeze, putting the brakes on Natalia and Pierce's conversation. She wagged her finger at the young woman at the table. "This one only knows how to make eggs and virgin daiquiris."
Natalia leaned in to peck Olivia on the cheek. "She's doing a fine job, and you," she pointed her elbow to the refrigerator. "Are just in time to peel those potatoes. We've got an hour before people start arriving and I still need to wash up."
Left to their own devices, Olivia and Pierce took turns eyeing each other in between chops and peels.
"You're really going to leave your hair like that? You look like Nick Nolte's mugshot."
Pierce snorted. "Still, a vast improvement over your look the first night I met you."
"Ugh," Olivia tossed a handful of potato skins aside. "Don't remind me."
"Humility, my dear," Pierce wiped at her eyes with her wrist. "Ain't it somethin'?"
Olivia couldn't hear herself think over the sounds surrounding her. If she could've contemplated it that deeply, she imagined she would've been quite moved by the scene before her. Rafe was slinging a football around in a game of touch, with James and Jonathan trash-talking him on the other team. Daisy and Ashlee had returned for the weekend from California, in a move that surprised Rafe so much he actually cried. Everyone who'd been invited had showed, which surprised Olivia so much that she cried. In the bathroom, of course, but she'd cried nonetheless. When Phillip sat down next to her, Olivia snapped her head around and shot him a wide smile.
"You doing okay over here?" Phillip asked, dropping his soda on the table in front of him.
Olivia nodded. "Just taking it all in, I guess. Can't believe everyone's so..."
"Pleasant? Supportive? Yeah, it's kinda unbelievable isn't it?"
Olivia plucked at the white tablecloth, working over the same spot with her fingertips in a repetitive motion. "I knew everyone would be here for Rafe. Kid's going off to war for Christ's sake. But," she dragged her fingers to a stop. "I thought I'd get a few more sideways glances. Hear a few more whispers."
Phillip sighed. "Look around you, Olivia. Everyone of us has been judged at some point. Sometimes unfairly so. Maybe everyone's just tired of it. Tired of working so hard to stay so damn angry."
"I don't know about you," Olivia tugged at the skin just below her eyes. "But I think all those years of animosity gave me premature wrinkles."
Phillip smirked. "You look beautiful, Olivia. You came back and you just... you look better than you ever have. I suppose she's got a lot to do with it?" He tilted his chin towards Natalia, who was busy shuttling desserts out of the kitchen with Doris and Blake. She moved confidently and smiled often. She looked free.
"Oh yeah. Still can't figure out what she sees in me, but I know better than to look a gift horse in the mouth."
They shared a laugh, and Olivia shook her hair out from beneath the collar of her shirt. More to herself than to Phillip, she remarked, "What is with those two, anyway?"
He looked quizzically at Olivia, who motioned to Doris and Blake, who laughed and shoved each other as they set down pies and cookies on the long buffet table in the grass. When he just shrugged, Olivia continued what would have been her internal monologue aloud.
"I noticed it when they came up the driveway. Doris was all smiles, practically cackling with laughter. You know that irritating laugh of hers. Doesn't seem to bother Blake. In fact, it looks like she..."
Olivia trailed off when Pierce appeared at the table and plopped into a folding chair next to them. Phillip eyed the fresh desserts and then the two women at his table. "That apple pie is calling my name. I'll leave you two alone to speculate."
Pierce hurried down a piece of what Olivia guessed was her fourth or fifth hot dog. "Speculate 'bout what?"
"Doris and Blake," Olivia pointed her chin towards them. "What's going on there?"
"Hmm," Pierce chewed another bite, and appraised them. "Totally fucking."
Olivia did a double-take, her eyes wide at Pierce, then across the yard to Doris and Blake. "You think? Get the fuck out."
"I don't know, Spence. I don't know 'em from Adam. But they look like..." Pierce's words sounded soft and muffled through the remainder of bun she unceremoniously shoved into her mouth. As Pierce and Olivia watched, Blake pinched Doris's side, and the mayor swatted her away with a gentle swipe.
"Oh Doris, you little..." Olivia stood up, palms shaking the table as she rose. "And for god's sake, Pierce. Slow down with the eating. You're scaring the kids."
As she crossed the lawn, Pierce shouted something back at her, but Olivia didn't bother listening. Her eyes were fixed on the mayor of Springfield, who had sashayed over to an empty chair and sat down.
"You," Olivia didn't sit down. "You've been flitting around here all afternoon, all happy-go-lucky and perky. When were you gonna tell me?"
"I'm sure I have no idea what you're talking about, Olivia," Doris smiled defiantly.
Olivia hated hearing her own words thrown back at her. "Don't be cute, Doris. You and Blake? She's your someone, isn't she?"
Doris pointed her fork, full of pie, at her. "Yup. You got me."
Olivia had already opened her mouth, expecting to volley back something snide, when Doris's confession left her momentarily speechless. "Wait, seriously? That's it? You aren't going to... to deny it? Or make a big scene, demand I keep my mouth shut?"
The mayor shook her head, relishing a bite of the sweet dessert. "We started dating a few months ago. Kept it quiet for a while but... when we heard about the party, we decided we'd come together. Stop hiding. Let the chips fall where they may." Now Doris shrugged. "Kinda like... our version of the Bauer barbecue."
Olivia, in her peripheral vision, watched Blake handing out plates to Frank and Buzz. "She's not very religious, is she?"
Doris laughed. "Not that I'm aware of."
"You might want to take her car keys. Just in case," Olivia tried to suppress a smile, but simply could not do it. "And how are the two of you being received?"
The other woman shook her head from side to side. "Well enough. But I don't think everyone's actually caught on yet. We're kinda counting on Ashlee's big mouth taking care of anyone who's still clueless by the end of the party."
When Olivia felt a hand on her shoulder, she turned to find Blake Marler's smiling face. "Olivia. No dessert for you?" Blake offered the plate she held in her hand to Olivia.
"Oh, um... no. Thanks. I'll get some a little later. I'm gonna... it's really good to see you, Blake. You look," Olivia backed away, smiling and wagging an upturned thumb at Doris. "You look great."
She was still murmuring to herself, trying to fill in the blanks around Doris and Blake, when Natalia showed up at her side, throwing her arms around Olivia's neck. "Talking to yourself?"
"Yeah... Doris and Blake. They're--"
"Together? Yeah, I noticed," Natalia just looked up at her unphased, her big brown eyes shimmering in the afternoon sunlight. "Can I get your help in the kitchen for a minute? I think the coffee pot just met an untimely death."
The remains of the party lay scattered on the lawn, chairs and tables and coolers half-full of soda cans. What was left of the sunlight filtered through the trees at the far end of the property, basking Olivia and Pierce in a twist of shadows and dusk. At the table where they sat, Pierce pushed around a lump of potato salad with a plastic fork. It was her umpteenth serving of the stuff, and Olivia wondered where it all went on that tiny frame of hers. The crowd had come and gone, but Olivia could hear Emma softly murmuring a few feet away in the grass, a pair of headphones in her ears and a drawing pad on her lap. Natalia had gone for a walk with Rafe, one last requirement she demanded before he go off with Ashlee and the rest of his friends for a night out. Her heart ached when she thought of her wife, a mother sending her son off to war, proud but worried. To her surprise, Olivia found herself feeling much the same thing, her affection for the boy having increased tenfold in recent weeks.
Olivia and her sponsor sat in relative silence for many minutes, content to just watch the sun fade and get lost in their own thoughts. But when Natalia appeared around the corner alone, both heads raised slowly.
"C'mere, mama," Olivia waved Natalia, who'd obviously been crying, into her lap. "Rafe finally wrestle out of your grasp?"
Natalia smiled weakly. "Yes. I think I left welts." She settled against Olivia, who nuzzled her nose into her wife's cheek.
"You'll see him off in the morning though, right?" Pierce asked, sympathy in her eyes.
"Yeah, we will," Natalia sighed. "I just..."
As Natalia trailed off, Emma trotted over to where they sat, her ponytail bouncing behind her. She bopped to the music in her ears, pulling a bottle of water off the table and taking a long swig. As she rubbed her mouth with her sleeve, Olivia tugged on the wires of her headphones.
"Take those off a sec, Emma. Come talk with us."
The little girl scowled at her mother and hid behind Natalia's back. She'd been an angel all day, but when she got tired she got defiant, especially now with her and Olivia's strained relationship.
Natalia slid off Olivia's lap and wiped absently at the tears welled in her eyes. "Emma, that's not how you treat your mother. Especially after this wonderful party she worked so hard to throw for your brother."
"You did most of the work," Emma spat out the words and then tried to bite them back, but it was too late. Olivia dropped her head, frustrated. Natalia began to speak, but Pierce sat up in her chair, her hands on her knees.
"Hey, what's that your mom calls you? KidneyBean?"
Emma looked at Pierce skeptically. "Jellybean."
"Smellybean? That's weird, you don't seem all that smelly to me."
Now Emma fought back a smile. "Not smelly! Jelly! Jellybean!"
"Alright, Jellybelly, well... there's something about your mom you should know. That is, if you're up for listening." Pierce waited for the little girl to consider her offer, and when Emma nodded, she pulled up a chair and motioned for Olivia's daughter to take a seat. Olivia sat watching them, her hands flat against the tablecloth, and felt Natalia's hand rest on her shoulder.
"Leaving you to go and get better... that was the hardest thing your mother has ever had to do. In her whole life, the hardest thing ever. And you and your mom, you've been through a lot, right? Even way back, before you ever knew Natalia and Rafe?"
Emma nodded solemnly, taking a cue from Pierce's suddenly serious countenance.
"So now imagine all that, all that you guys have been through, and even all that doesn't compare. Nothing compared to leaving you. I met your mom when she was at her lowest, when she was sad and lost and really confused. And you were all she could talk about. Now she and I, we've got a lot in common. We've both been through some really tough stuff, but I never had a daughter or anybody else I had to worry about. It's always been just me, so I had it easy. But not your mom. She knew leaving you and Natalia would hurt you, but she had to do it anyway, so that you could all be a family again."
Olivia's body shook with sobs that she tried to contain. Natalia's hold on her shoulder got tighter, and she watched Emma watching her.
"When your baby sister..." Pierce continued carefully. "When Isabella died, your mom couldn't protect you. She couldn't protect Natalia. But when she went away, when she agreed to get help, that was her way of protecting you from... something worse. I know that's hard to believe, but it's true. I remember when my sister was your age, she used to hate when I told her, 'Someday, you'll understand.' It might not make sense right now, but someday it will. I promise you."
Emma appeared to be taking stock of what Pierce had to say, her face changing from confusion to understanding then back again. There was a minute of silence, when only the sound of her tiny fists wiping at her wet eyes filled the space between them. "You have a sister. So then it's not just you. You're not all alone."
Pierce smiled, and Olivia saw something on her face she'd never seen before, not in all the months they'd spent together. It was regret.
"I did have a sister, Emma. She, um..." Pierce stopped and looked at Olivia, implicitly asking for her permission to go on. Olivia swallowed hard, and nodded even though she wasn't quite sure where this was headed. "She was a couple years younger than me, you know, so when I was a teenager, she was just a little older than you are now. Cute as a button and I loved her so much. But one day my mom asked me to pick her up from school... she'd stayed late rehearsing for a play. And I didn't want to, I didn't want to pick her up. I was mad, and I was rushing and I..." She shook her head at the memory. "We got into a car accident, Emma, and... she died. She died and it was my fault."
Emma's hands sat knotted in her lap, and Pierce reached over and placed her fingers gently atop them.
"It was my fault, and my parents... they could never forgive me. I loved them, but they never forgave me. And it wasn't until recently that I was able to forgive myself. That's why it's so important that you give your mom a chance, that... that you both try your hardest, even if it hurts. Because I know you're mom loves you. And you love her too."
The little girl looked moved, but not shaken. She blinked back tears, and when she looked across the table at her mother, Olivia clutched at her heart and mouthed the words 'I love you.' Slipping off her chair, Emma moved to slide in between Olivia and Natalia, and climbed into her mother's lap. They cried, heads pressed together, tears soaking their clothes. When they separated, Natalia swept the salty slick hair out of Emma's eyes, and then did the same for Olivia.
Pierce cleared her throat, and rose from her chair. "It's getting dark. I should move some of this stuff into the house, give you guys some time alone."
Olivia wanted to say something, but everything that came to mind sounded trite and useless. It should've been no surprise, then, that her daughter knew precisely what to say.
"Pierce?" Emma's voice sounded oddly hopeful and bright. "What was your sister's name?"
The young woman smiled at the little girl. "Juliet." She turned to go, but Emma's voice stopped her.
"You're not all alone. Juliet forgives you."