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)
Second to last chapter of this labor of love. Just a heads up. But don't cry in your Cheerios just yet: if you've enjoyed the little universe I've created here, a third "book" (dear baby jesus don't let it be that long) in this series is forthcoming. And let's face it, if you could handle the angst-o-rama of The Lost, there ain't much else I can do to these characters that's any worse... I think. ;)
Towers was abuzz with the happy hour crowd, and as Olivia walked in, she could tell the big talk of the day was the Bears' early season success. Sports in general bored her, except when she occasionally caught a tennis or golf match. But even then, only in person. Certainly never on television. She tugged at the hem of her suit jacket, unsure if she could stomach sitting at the bar as she waited for Doris. Between the sports talk and the booze, it might just prove too much for her after a long day at the Beacon. The hostess recognized her and smiled as she greeted her by name.
"Ms. Spencer, wonderful to see you again! It's been a while. Would you like a table or your usual spot at the bar? I'm sure I can get those gentleman to make room for you," the girl beamed as she motioned to the curved wooden bar.
"I'll, um," Olivia was at a loss. "The bar is fine." Even as she said it, she couldn't believe it. Her face must've contorted to reflect her surprise, because the hostess hesitated.
"Are you sure? I'll gladly--"
"It's fine. This is fine. Thank you," Olivia's "business" voice had a way of making people snap-to, and the hostess was no exception. She turned on a dime and bolted to the chair, sliding it out for Olivia. "Perfect, thank you."
She slid out of her jacket and draped it over the chair back, and pulled her hair around her shirt collar so it laid just so. Then she pressed her hands against the legs of her suit pants, smiling as she felt the sharp creases there. Natalia always insisted on freshly ironing her shirts and pants, even though they'd already been pressed by the dry cleaners. Indeed, whenever Olivia mentioned that fact, it brought a scowl of disdain to Natalia's normally cheery face.
"They use a machine for their ironing, and it's sloppy and imprecise," she would say.
Olivia almost laughed out loud. Not just at Natalia's would-be pouty scowl, but at the idea that the other woman could drive her insane with lust and desire with simple domesticities. That the true path to Olivia Spencer's heart lie in baking and ironing and sheets that smelled like sandalwood was a fact she preferred stayed hidden. She had, after all, a reputation to keep.
It must've been her reputation, then, that led the bartender to leave a martini in front of her without saying a word. Extra dirty, extra olives, and from the smell of it, extra top-shelf. She stared at it, and for a moment felt something approaching sadness. She didn't miss the drinks, the headaches, the empty feeling they always left her with. But for the first time she was acutely aware that there was a part of her she had to leave behind. The image was as old as time: the hardworking executive, unwinding at the bar with a drink after work. And she could no longer be a part of that. It was crazy, she knew, but she missed that. She missed Springfield's top attorneys and businessmen each taking their turn next to her at the bar as she held court, like some kind of royalty. She missed laughing at their corny jokes, and giving them her advice that they so eagerly solicited.
But tonight she was at the bar, and she felt invisible. She felt liked she no longer belonged there, and while her rational mind told her that was a good thing, another part of her longed to be normal again. She reached out for the extra long string of speared olives, and spun them once around the frosty glass.
The man sitting next to her jostled her accidentally, and he turned around to apologize.
"Don't worry about it," Olivia replied brusquely.
"No, no," the man squared himself around, facing the bar so he could properly address Olivia. "If I would've known I was sitting next to such a beautiful woman, believe me, my focus never would've been on this guy over here." He smiled and tilted his head toward his friend, who raised his glass and acknowledged her as well.
"It's really okay. Bears talk is important stuff. I'll leave you to it."
Olivia knew she could've walked away right then, but then where would she have gone? She was meeting Doris here, and she'd be here any second, and shouldn't she really be able to handle this by now?
"You a football fan?"
"Not in the least." Olivia remembered at least that much of the tenets of recovery: honesty.
He smiled again, and then gestured to the bartender for another beer. "We're in from Chicago on business. We should be at the game tonight. Monday Night Football and we had to miss it to come out here for a meeting. Just a minute ago I was cursing my luck. But if you'll indulge me a few more minutes, I'll be the luckiest guy in the world."
Olivia didn't ask him his name, but he offered it, so she gave him hers as a courtesy. The conversation flowed from there: he was in the pharmaceutical business, divorced, and, if she was being fair, quite attractive. He smelled like expensive cologne and his suit was exquisitely tailored. He was a man Olivia would've made quick work of in her old life, one she could take home, have meaningless sex with, and feel absolutely guilt-free in the morning. He'd leave her his number, and she'd never call, but he wouldn't care. He probably wasn't even really divorced.
Absently, in the midst of regaling him with stories about her hotel ownership, she picked up the spear and brought it to her mouth, drawing one green olive with her teeth and sucked it into her mouth, in a manner she hadn't meant to look flirtatious but probably did. It was an old habit, after all, and when she bit into it, lips that were instinctively curled into a smile fell, and she brought her hand to her mouth in shock.
"You alright?" the man asked.
She couldn't help but swallow, and she nodded slowly as she felt the color drain from her face. "I'm fine. I just... I have to..." Olivia could taste the briney vodka on her lips. "I have to go."
The room was a blur as she tossed a twenty dollar bill on the bar and ran out, the man in the suit calling after her just once. She felt the tears stinging in her eyes but they wouldn't fall, a familiar feeling she had almost forgotten about.
In the lobby she crashed into Doris, whose head was down, punching furiously at her Blackberry. "Whoa, hang on there!"
"Oh god, Doris," Olivia couldn't even make an effort to hide the fear in her voice.
"Yeah, it's me. I was running late. I... are you okay? What's going on?"
Olivia didn't say anything, she just sat down on a bench near the doorway. She ran her hands over her thighs, over the creases in her pants. "Oh god. Oh my fucking god."
"Olivia, what the hell is going on?" Doris reached for Olivia's hand, ceasing the repetitive motions.
When Olivia raised her eyes to meet her friend's, she was certain Doris could see right through her. "I... I sat down at the bar. I was waiting for you..." Their heads were close as Doris was clearly alarmed, concerned for Olivia's wellbeing.
"I can smell it," she said softly. A tiny wave of relief washed over Olivia as Doris's tone was light and nonjudgmental. "What happened?"
"I need to get some air," Olivia stood up and Doris followed closely behind her, as the two made their way out into the parking lot. The floodlights were on but it was barely sunset, and an early fall breeze swept through Olivia's jacket.
As best she could, Olivia explained to Doris what had happened, how a feeling had overtaken her and she'd just done what she'd always done. "I didn't want to drink, Doris. Honestly, I didn't. I just... I wanted to feel like my old self for a little while."
They leaned against Doris's car for a few minutes, and Olivia cursed herself repeatedly. Doris's phone bleated several times but each time she silenced it, appearing more and more aggravated.
"Blake?" Olivia's voice sounded small and childlike.
"Yeah," Doris beamed for a second but then reeled it in. "You know, she just worries when I don't respond right away. I pretend to hate it but... I gotta admit, I could get used to this."
Olivia's hair blew in her face after a strong gust overtook them. She stared at Doris for a long time. "Do you think so, really? Is this," Olivia sighed, and it helped her feel lighter. "What it's really all about? Lovers that turn into spouses, families that simultaneously wear you out and reenergize you? Paying the bills on time, driving a sensible car?" When she said it aloud, it sounded like more of an actual question than it had in her head. Of course Olivia already knew the answer, but how it came out was very telling.
"Is everything... is everything okay at home, Olivia? Are you and Natalia having problems?" She tightened her blazer around her against the unexpected evening chill.
Olivia's head rolled back, and she found herself laughing. "No, god. Everything's great. Blissful, even. That's what's so ridiculous about this whole thing. Isn't that crazy?"
Doris shook her head. "Not for people like you and I it isn't." She winked at a slumping Olivia. "We've gotten our asses kicked by love, or things we thought were love, so many times that we're always waiting for the other shoe to drop. We're always glancing over the fence, swearing that the grass is looking greener and greener by the second. Even when we know it isn't."
"It's covered in dog shit," Olivia snorted, kicking at the gravel beneath her feet. "I don't want that life anymore, Doris. I never wanted it in the first place. But it's... it's who I was for so long. Settling down, committing, having a real family-- that I can handle. But I walked into that bar tonight and I felt so goddamned lost. I didn't like that feeling of not fitting in anymore."
"Would you rather feel at home with a bunch of strangers at happy hour, talking shit for hours? Or would rather be at home at that farmhouse," Doris smiled with a bit envy. "With Natalia... with Emma?"
"Plus one," Olivia raised her eyes and a single eyebrow.
"I don't follow."
She sighed again, only this one lacked the cathartic qualities of the last. "We're trying to have another baby. Well, we're going to start trying. Soon."
Doris's eyes grew exponentially. "Are you kidding me?" Love her or hate her, Doris was never ambiguous. "I'm sorry, I'm just surprised."
"It's okay, I know what you meant. We've put a lot of thought into it. She's ready, I'm ready."
"But is that something you want?" Doris leaned in closer, sliding her shoulder against the drivers' side door.
Olivia considered the question. Cars crept by, searching for spots, and the rumbling engines kept a silence from developing. "More than anything."
Doris's tensed shoulders fell at Olivia's confident response. "Well that settles it then. That's all I needed to hear. But it does explain your little crisis, don't you think?"
"I guess, but I'm not really sure I should be giving myself any excuses," Olivia cursed herself once again. "And of course it begs the question, now what do I do about tonight? Do I tell Natalia? It might spook her, no matter how confident I think I am."
Doris clucked her tongue. "You're asking the woman who kept her entire life a secret for god knows how many years. I'm not big on disclosing what doesn't absolutely need to be disclosed, but something tells me you should."
"Ugh, I know." Olivia rubbed her hands together in front of her. "Am I ever going to get this right? For christ's sake, I'm out here mourning my barfly past, when I've got a woman at home with tits out to here who just loves to cook and clean and f--"
Doris clenched her fists when Olivia stopped short. "No, no. Do go on."
After her night out with Doris ended abruptly, Olivia took the extra time to drive around Springfield, thinking. By the time her headlights cut through the darkness of the farmhouse driveway, it looked quiet inside. She dropped her keys into a bowl on the table by the door, peeled her jacket off and dropped it onto the couch. She was halfway up the stairs, unfastening the cufflinks at her wrists, when she stopped in her tracks.
"New leaf, Spencer. New leaf," she muttered as she trotted back down, grabbed her suit jacket and carried it up the stairs with her.
She peered in at Emma, who was asleep, then found Natalia down the hall, curled up in a chair in their bedroom.
"You belong," Olivia scolded the offending garment in her hands, pushed a hanger into the shoulders and hung it in the closet. "In here."
Natalia didn't look up from her reading. "If you start picking up after yourself, I'm going to have too much time on my hands during the day and I might take up a lover."
Olivia chuckled. "That's why I'm knocking you up. Keep you occupied."
"Ah, that's right," Natalia flipped the page in her book, then held it out in front of her, growling in frustration. "Am I getting old? This type is so tiny, I'm having trouble seeing it!"
Olivia stood at the foot of the bed, undressing. Candles lit the room, in addition to a small reading light by the armchair where Natalia sat. It was warm and smelled clean and fresh, and the linens on the bed looked crisp and inviting. It was the most welcoming place a person could come home to, a far cry from even the plushest, most expensive suite at the Beacon. Olivia hated the thought of putting a black mark on the picture of perfection. Loathed it.
"What're you reading?" She fidgeted some more with the cufflinks, before Natalia unfolded her legs and came to her aid, her dexterous fingers uncoupling them with ease. She wore a cotton nightgown, conservative but not frumpy, revealing a bit of skin but clearly built more for comfort than titillation. Her face was freshly washed and makeup-free, but even without mascara her eyelashes were long and black and Olivia remembered what it felt like to feel them against her cheek for the first time.
Natalia looked up at her when she finished, her eyes excited. "Just some books I picked up from the library. C'mere."
Olivia let her blouse fall off her shoulders into a heap, and followed Natalia to her perch near the window. "You know you can just go to the bookstore like the rest of the universe. Library books smell funny, and you can't keep them."
Natalia handed her one of the heavy hardcovered books and frowned at her. "We don't have room for any more books, Miss. Nor do we need them. Not these anyway. I figure we'll only need them once."
Turning it over in her hands, then looking at the rest of the stack, Olivia had to agree. They were all books about getting pregnant via artificial insemination. Some bore clinical sounding names, while others made light of the awkward topic. Some had mothers and fathers on their covers; others were swathed in rainbows and inclusive pronouns.
The older woman regarded Natalia, took in how animated she became as she explained what she'd read. She was nervous and excited and happy, and tenacious in her quest for knowledge. Olivia smiled. "You've done your homework."
"Hm, a little bit. It's a lot to take in. The doctor wasn't kidding when he said we had options." As she spoke Natalia plucked Olivia's shirt from the floor, and tossed it into a basket. Olivia could feel her watching her as she stepped out of her trousers and pulled on a robe. When she went in to the bathroom to wash up, Natalia followed her, still talking a mile a minute, until she suddenly stopped herself.
"Gosh, you know what? I'm going to give you a rest. I should save all this for another time. You've had a long day." Her tiny frame spun in the doorway, and Olivia watched in the mirror as she slinked away. She finished brushing her teeth and washing her face before she returned to the bedroom, where Natalia had turned out the lights and climbed into bed, all but one candle blown out.
The light flickered against the cream-colored walls, and Olivia considered her next move. Clearly, Natalia was eager to take this next step in their life together. And so was Olivia, of this she was now more certain than ever. So what good would it do to scare her? Olivia had already made sense of her moment of weakness. And when Natalia pulled back the sheets and revealed she had shed her nightgown before coming to bed, Olivia's last coherent thought was of letting sleeping dogs lie.
"Sit, sit. I got it."
Breakfast was quiet the next morning, but in a calm, content way. They had stayed up making love far too late, and then lie awake even longer talking about their future. The soft laughter and tickling eventually gave way to sleep, but they both could've used more. Now Emma sat crunching on a bowl of cereal and reading the back of the cardboard box, something about a mystery and a word search, and Olivia stood up to get cream for Natalia's coffee. She poured it in into her mug worldlessly, until the other woman waved at her to stop, her eyes never leaving the newspaper in front of her.
"Will you be late tonight?" Natalia asked after she took a sip, smiling when she found it satisfied her taste.
Olivia shook her head. "Shouldn't be. Assuming nothing major goes down. Have you heard from Rafe?"
"Mmm," Natalia finished another sip. "Last night. His email's working again. For now. He says everything's okay, that they'll be on the move again next month so he may be out of touch for a little while." She sighed, and Olivia placed a hand over hers.
"Hey Mom?" Emma swallowed her last bit of cereal as she spoke.
"I know I said I didn't want one," she pushed her spoon around the now empty bowl, avoiding eye contact until the last second, "but I may want to rethink the whole puppy thing."
Olivia laughed, and Natalia leaned into her shoulder from the chair next to her, looking up at her as if to say 'What now?'
"Um, well, Jellybean," Olivia began, laughing again and poking Natalia a little. "Here's the thing..."
Emma watched the two of them eagerly, her little fingers steepling and folding again and again.
"Natalia and I are going to try and have another baby. A little sister or brother for you. What do you think about that?"
Her eyes went wide. "Wow, really? Another baby?"
Natalia nodded. "Mmmhmm. Isn't that great?"
Emma considered the proposition for a minute. "Wait. Another baby... with Uncle Frank?"
"No, nooo," Olivia responded perhaps a little too fervently. Natalia broke up with laughter at her denial. "Just..."
"Well then... wait. How..." Emma shook her head. "I don't think I get it."
Olivia looked for answers in Natalia, who couldn't seem to stop herself from giggling. At last she finally breathed the words, "I don't know!" and Olivia knew she was on her own for this one.
"There are ways you can..." Olivia rubbed at her temples as Emma's expectant stare never wavered. She wasn't getting out of this easily, this much she knew. "Oh screw it, we can handle a baby and a puppy at the same time, can't we?"
It was less of a rhetorical question and more of a plea to whatever god was listening. Emma immediately shot up with joy, dancing and screaming in the kitchen. Natalia just looked at her like she'd grown a third eye.
"Are you out of your mind?" Natalia whispered.
Olivia laughed, and then sighed. "Yeah, kinda."