DISCLAIMER: Guiding Light and its characters are the property of Proctor & Gamble. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Canon up until the morning of the Fourth of July Bauer BBQ, then I kind of go on a tangent from there.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To Geekgrrl.lurking[at]gmail.com
All The King's Horses
He only wanted to talk.
To calmly explain it all and ask for forgiveness.
At least that's what he'd told himself on the drive over. But deep down he didn't know if that was the truth. A part of him still thought that maybe Natalia was confused somehow. That Olivia had somehow tricked her. That she needed to be saved from the older woman's clutches. That maybe he still had a chance. Alan had even hinted to as much last night over dinner.
He should know better than to listen to his father.
After all, Gus had tricked Natalia too, though. He had fooled all of them and was now bearing the consequences. And the guilt and shame of his actions washed over him as he knocked on the farmhouse screen door.
It was time to pay the piper.
Gus glanced over to his truck parked next to Olivia's white Nissan, which she had obviously parked in her spot in the driveway. And why not? It was her home too. It was her and little Emma's home, along with Natalia, and the promise of a new child waiting to be born. He was slowly coming to accept that he was a fool.
Natalia had moved on and grown well past anything he had ever imagined. She had thrived with Olivia at her side. Alan had told him what little he had seen of her transformation. And the reports that he got from his handlers while on assignment had said the same thing. And what he had taken for a close nurturing friendship between the two women, had become very obviously much, much more.
Suddenly he heard footsteps and then the lock turned, the door swung open and there Natalia was again. And if the small furrow between her eyes was any indication, she was not happy to see him.
"Gus?" Natalia leaned against the door frame, blocking the entrance to her home. Their home, together. "What are you doing here?"
"I-I came to apologize, Natalia." Gus looked down at his well worn boots, shifting his weight from foot to foot. He ran a hand through his hair in frustration, trying to find the words he needed to make this right. "And to explain " He looked up to find hard green eyes staring at him, from behind his wife. "To both of you."
Natalia leaned back slightly, gathering strength from the solid support offered by Olivia's presence. She sighed and nodded once towards the bench on the porch.
"Let's talk." Natalia took a tentative step out of the house, turning as Olivia squeezed her arm gently to get her attention.
"I'll just get Emma squared away with a movie or something and then I'll be right back out." Olivia murmured and disappeared back inside quickly. Natalia missed her warmth instantly but moved outside to join Gus on the porch.
"I'm sorry, Natalia." Gus leaned against the porch rail and stared out across the lawn and the fields beyond that. "I thought I was doing the right thing. Not that it makes what happened any better, but I'd like to explain what made me do it."
Natalia slowly sank down onto the bench and listened to the morning insects buzzing and cars driving past on occasionally on the road. In her pocket her cell phone vibrated with an incoming text. Sliding it out, she saw it was from Frank again.
FCooper 9:23 am Called earlier but you didn't pick up. I saw Gus driving out of town toward the farmhouse, do you need any help?
Natalia smiled and shook her head. All these men wanting to help her, protect her, control her. On one hand it was sweet and on the other incredibly infuriating. She heard the screen door open slowly, and then slam shut as Olivia came out with three mugs of coffee balanced precariously in her hands. Natalia knew she had all the backup she needed right here.
Natalia quickly replied to Frank, saying that Gus was there and it was fine, ending the text by thanking him for his concern before hitting send. Olivia had handed a mug off to Gus and was just sitting down beside her as she slipped the cell phone back into her pocket. She smelled cinnamon as she took her first sip, smiling at the small homey touch.
Gus took a drink of his coffee, half sitting on the rail of the porch, looking at the two women on the bench. Olivia's arm had slid around behind Natalia's shoulders and his wife leaned ever so slightly towards the older woman. They were so comfortable with each other.
He sighed and quietly began.
"I had been pulling in favours and bending the rules to try to find a heart for Olivia. I think Harley uncovered this after I left and swept it under the rug." Gus paused and rubbed at the stubble on his jaw. "Anyway, it attracted the attention of some of my old government secret service bosses and it opened an opportunity for them to approach me."
"You broke the law trying to find me a heart?" Olivia leaned forward, not sure she had heard him right. Gus looked away uncomfortably but nodded. "Gus, no."
"It was important." Gus sighed and shifted. "You were important Olivia, and I don't regret it at all." He spared a glance to Natalia, who was watching the two of them closely. Oh what a tangled web we weave
"Anyway, they approached me about going deep under cover, saying that if I did the job they would find a heart that matched and make my indiscretions disappear. They proposed to fake my death to keep my family safe while I was gone."
"It did seem awfully convenient that you were the perfect match for Olivia." Natalia nodded, thinking out loud. "But how did you know that I'd go ahead with the transplant."
Gus' eyes softened and he smiled.
"I know you, Natalia. It would be hard, but you would do the right thing." He shrugged and took another sip of coffee. Olivia slid her hand down to hold Natalia's, agreeing with him completely.
"Where did they find the match?" Olivia finally spoke, needing to know as much as she could. "A part of me felt like you were guiding me, showing me the right path "
Gus shook his head sadly, not sure he should really tell her what he knew. Their eyes locked and he sighed, decision made.
"They called me, told me that there had been a prisoner killed on death row, a young guy about twenty five. He was stabbed, in the mess hall for stealing another inmates drugs. He was a perfect match." Gus didn't go into whether he believed the murder in prison had been set up by his bosses or not. No need to complicate this any more than it already was.
He glanced up to see Natalia holding Olivia closer, running a soothing hand along her back. Olivia looked up, her eyes starting to well with tears.
"So, you're telling me that I have the heart of a convicted murderer and thief."
Gus nodded and turned away, unable to take the look in her eyes.
"Oh, honey, no " Natalia tried to calm her down. Olivia stood and shook her head, tears falling. She needed time to think and digest this news. She walked from the porch, making her way towards the barn. Natalia watched her go, wanting to follow and knowing that she needed to be alone. She turned dark angry eyes on her husband.
Gus stood there, his heart breaking a little more.
So much for calmly explaining it all...
She really was a monster inside.
Blinking away sudden tears, she tried to let that sink in. Tried to catch her breath. Tried to ignore what felt like a kick to the gut. Tried, but she was a mess.
She knew she shouldn't have asked but a part of her needed to know. All this time she and everyone else in Springfield for that matter, thought she had the heart of a good and decent man beating inside of her. And although she knew it was a little crazy, she had even felt like her new heart had somehow guided the rest of her mixed up self down this new path she was on.
It was all a lie.
It was like being raped all over again.
The feeling of helplessness and betrayal burned through Olivia. It was a total loss of control of the whole situation. Someone else deciding what would happen and just doing it to her. Not to mention the guilt and the shame, the horror of what was buried deep inside of her, knowing that at the core of her being was a killer.
Olivia had to get away, it was too much. She needed to escape. Tears blurred her vision as she fled the porch, needing time to digest this new information. She didn't even know where she was headed until she yanked the rusty barn door open.
She stood inside the huge vacant building, tiny dust particles flying up into the narrow beams of light shining in from between the weathered boards. Hay was strewn at her feet, scattered across the floor boards. The building was only used for storage now, but there were still remnants from its days as a working farm. She staggered deeper inside, trying to catch her breath, trying to make some sense of it all, failing miserably.
Olivia looked up into the widest beam of light shining down into the dark building from a broken out board, lighting a small patch of hay. She stepped into the light.
"Why?" Olivia ducked her head and wept, her hands falling helplessly to her sides. And then it was as if a dam crumbled inside, and so many emotions flowed through her, almost overwhelming her.
"Why why why?" The frustration and anger came to the forefront and took hold, as she looked back up at the light shining in, calling out to the universe, to her creator, to Natalia's God.
"WHY!" Her scream echoed around her, no answers coming. Just silence.
Olivia grabbed the nearest thing she could find, a sledgehammer that had been leaning against an old work bench. She lifted it and swung at the nearest post, hitting the large beam over and over again. The metal head bit into the wood, cracking and splintering it. Olivia just kept striking, slowly wearing herself out.
A hand suddenly grabbed Olivia's bicep, stopping her motion. Dazed, she followed the arm up to find sad dark eyes, staring back at her.
"Natalia " Olivia murmured, her voice sounding so far away.
They stared at each other, both breathing hard.
Natalia moved first, stepping forward, pushing Olivia back hard against the barn boards, then pressing close to keep her there. Wild green eyes stared back at her, tear streaks tracked down flushed cheeks, topped off with tousled hair. Olivia was lost and needed to find her way home.
Needed to find her.
Dipping her head, Natalia didn't give Olivia a chance to react, to push her away. She tasted the soft lips before her, taking what was freely given to her, claiming Olivia as her own. There would be no running from this. From her.
"I love you." Natalia eventually murmured against the sweet lips. Her hands tangled into Olivia's thick hair, pulling her head up, their eyes locking. "You are mine now and I am not letting you go."
Nodding, Olivia started to cry harder, needing Natalia's strength. She burrowed into the other woman's shoulder soaking up the warmth she found there. Holding on for dear life.
"Talk to me." Natalia whispered, slowly starting to stroke through the long hair, trying to calm her down.
"It was bad enough, dealing with the thought of my body being cut open, my chest cracked and spread wide, strange hands deep inside of me, slicing out my heart. Pulling out my very core and dropping it on a cold tray, to be burned and destroyed like trash." Olivia swallowed hard, trying to make sense of her feelings. Natalia just held her and waited.
"And then to find out that they put a murderer's heart back inside of me. I-I can't even " Olivia broke down again. How could she possibly be worthy of Natalia's love?
"Shh " Natalia soothed, pulling her closer still, pressing butterfly kisses to her temple.
"You are more than your heart or any past deeds, more than your gorgeous body or even your clever brain. You are so much more than the sum of your parts." Natalia cupped Olivia's cheek, their eyes meeting again. "You have a beautiful soul, Olivia Spencer, and I am so privileged that you have let me in to see it. I love you, all of you, regardless of your past, present or future."
Natalia gently kissed her surprised mouth, reassuring her. Slowly they pulled apart, resting their foreheads together, catching their breath.
"You have the heart of a young passionate man beating strong inside of you. We don't know anything about him, why he did what he did." Natalia leaned back to stare into Olivia's eyes, wanting to make sure she was listening, really listening. "The only thing that I need to know about him was that he saved the life of Ava and Emma's mom, Sam's big sister, Doris' best friend, my baby's other mother and the woman I love more than life itself."
Olivia started crying again, this time with tears of happiness and relief. Natalia gently kissed her tears away, before once again tenderly taking her lips.
"This is just proof to me that all the good inside of you is all your own. Not anyone guiding you or showing the way, it was you all along." Natalia wiped away a falling tear of her own.
"I love you, so much." Olivia whispered reverently. What she did to deserve this woman she would never know, but was smart enough not to question it.
"And don't you forget it " Natalia teased, getting the small smile she was looking for. They simply stared at each other, taking comfort in each other's arms, knowing everything would be okay as long as they had each other.
"Mommy?" A quiet voice broke the moment.
"Yes, baby." Olivia pressed her forehead against Natalia's affectionately and turned to face her daughter standing in the doorway, watching them curiously.
"Why is there an angel on the porch?"
It's not that she didn't love High School Musical.
Because she did. She loved it with a passion almost as big as her love of the colour pink.
However, having seen it fourteen times before oh wait, there was that time at Callie's sleepover too, so make that fifteen times before, she knew she could wander off a little from the movie and still know what was going on.
She knew that there was a visitor outside. She had heard the knock on the door, and she wasn't stupid. She knew something was wrong from the look on her mommy's face when she rushed back inside, popped in the movie and told her everything was okay but to stay inside.
Her eyes didn't say that everything was okay. In fact, her mother's eyes always told her the truth, and today they said that something was wrong.
Something was very wrong.
And Emma was about to get to the bottom of it. She hated not knowing what was going on. Putting her breakfast dishes away by the sink, she still couldn't make out who was on the back porch at all.
So she had gone back to the movie for a while, figuring Natalia would make sure her mom was safe. It wasn't long until she heard loud voices arguing on the back porch and then she saw her mother rush past the living room window headed for the barn.
That was it. She knew she needed to investigate.
Dashing into the kitchen Emma couldn't quite make out all the words, and some of them were in Spanish, but she knew swear words when she heard them. Natalia was upset.
"What the hell were you thinking, Gus?" Natalia's voice was low and the angriest Emma had ever heard before. And who was Gus? It couldn't be Rafe's dad, could it? He was dead, his heart saved her mommy. Emma stretched to her full height, up onto her tippy toes and still she couldn't see who was there just outside the kitchen window.
"She wanted the truth Natalia. I-I thought she should know." The man kind of sounded like Rafe, maybe it was a lost relative or something. They turn up all the time in Springfield. He stepped forward, coming into Emma's view finally.
It was Rafe's dad, dressed in a bright white shirt. If he was dead then this had to be an angel! Emma looked for wings, but couldn't see anything. It would be so cool to fly; maybe Uncle Gus could take her for a ride
"After all the lies you told, don't you think you could have squeezed out one more?" Natalia sounded like she was going to cry. Emma wasn't sure she liked the man, or the angel, or whoever that was outside. Maybe she should go get her mom after all.
Emma dashed through the house, paused to turn off the movie and then ran out the living room door. She could hear thumping coming from the barn. What was her mom doing? Natalia was ahead of her, almost at the barn door.
Emma watched as Natalia paused in the doorway, as if scared and then she looked skyward for a moment, before rushing into the building. The banging sound stopped almost immediately. Emma walked quietly towards the barn, hoping that everything was okay inside.
She stepped into the open doorway to the barn and peered into the darkness. Natalia was holding her mother, both of them crying.
"And don't you forget it " Natalia murmured softly, her mother smiling slightly. Emma felt a little better, but it always scared her to see her mother cry.
"Yes, baby." Olivia pressed her forehead against Natalia's affectionately and turned to face her. Emma hated it when her mom was sad and if it was the guy on the porch who had made her cry, then he needed to go.
"Why is there an angel on the porch?"
Olivia looked up at her daughter's simple question. How in the hell was she going to explain this, when she didn't understand it herself. She ran a hand through her hair and tried to think of what to say.
Was it too early for a drink?
"I think your mom needs some hugs," Natalia smiled and simply held Olivia tighter, waving Emma into the barn to join them. The girl didn't even hesitate, and came over to wrap her arms around both her moms.
"Why are you crying?" Emma finally whispered, glad that Natalia was there to take care of them.
"Do you remember Natalia's husband?" Olivia sighed, trying to figure out the best way to explain.
"Uncle Gus, Rafe's daddy? Natalia said that he was hurt real bad in an accident, and that God wanted you to have his heart so you could stay with us and Gus went to be an angel in heaven." Emma cocked her head, the pieces not quite fitting yet.
"Well, he didn't quite make it to heaven, baby." Natalia said, running a gentle hand through the girl's hair. Olivia snorted at the understatement. In fact she kind of hoped he rotted in hell for this little mess he'd gotten them into.
"And I'm no angel." Gus stood in the doorway to the barn, watching the tender scene before him. How could he break up this little family? The truth finally hit home.
Gus smiled sadly as that sank in. He had come back for his family, but they had all moved on without him. He stepped into the quiet barn, moving a little closer before squatting down to Emma's height.
"I had to go away for a while to catch some really bad men. And the only way to keep my family safe was to pretend that I was dead. But now we caught the bad guys and I could come out of hiding and be with my family again." Gus looked up at Natalia, giving her a lopsided grin. "Or at least make sure they were okay, and figure out what I want to do now."
Natalia nodded, not stopping her own tears from falling. At last he seemed to understand.
"So, you mean that God sent us the heart of another angel for mom instead, so she could stay with us." Emma finally thought she had it. This angel business was tricky stuff.
"That's right, baby. Your mom has the heart of an angel sent just for her." Natalia stared into Olivia's eyes, her hand coming to rest on her chest, where she knew the surgery scar laid beneath. Olivia leaned over and tenderly kissed the smiling lips, her world once more making sense.
Emma sighed and hugged her two moms tighter. She loved happy endings.
There was no such thing as a happy ending.
At least not for her. That's what she had come to believe, what life had taught her. There was just hard work, followed by more hard work, with a little prayer thrown in to help you survive until the next day, or the next paycheck, or the next whatever. She supposed though that this was not an ending, it really was just the beginning. It was the start of something so amazing and wonderful that she couldn't wait to grab onto it with both hands and hang on for dear life. This time she would work hard and pray even harder just to keep it.
Natalia finally had a happy beginning and she wasn't about to have a little thing like her husband screw it up. However, before she could move on to her new life with Olivia and Emma and the little life growing deep inside, she needed to end things with Gus once and for all. As much as Olivia teased her about being the sexy other woman, she deserved to be so much more than that. She was everything to Natalia. And now she wanted to be free to be with Olivia and that meant taking care of things with Gus, right here, right now.
"I need to talk with Gus for a bit, I think." Natalia squeezed Olivia's hand and smiled encouragingly before shifting away from the group hug with her little family. She watched as Olivia nodded and wiped away the last tears on her cheeks before turning to take Emma's hand.
"Come on, Em. Why don't we go feed the ducks for a little while?" Olivia glanced at Emma, the girl's face lighting up with excitement. Olivia turned to face Gus, giving him a hard stare. "I won't be too far away if you need me, Natalia."
Natalia leaned over and kissed her gently on the cheek, drawing Olivia's attention away from Gus and back to her, where it belonged.
"I know. Don't worry, it'll be fine." Natalia murmured softly before pulling away. She watched as Olivia and Emma made their way out of the barn, and she followed them out. Shutting the wooden door, she latched it closed and turned back to stare at the man she had once thought she would spend the rest of her life with. Funny how things changed.
"More coffee?" She asked as they started back across the yard to the farmhouse.
"I'd like that." Gus smiled, quietly watching Olivia and Emma make their way down a small path towards the pond. He waited on the porch as Natalia went inside and soon returned back out with their two freshly steaming mugs, which he took gratefully.
"So." He awkwardly tried to break the silence between them.
"Gus," Natalia sighed. "You should have just told me what was going on at the time."
Gus looked down at his worn boots and nodded.
"I thought I was doing the right thing." Gus took a sip of his coffee and leaned back on the small bench. "It was so hard watching everyone grieve. Alan told me it was for the best and that he would watch over things for me."
Natalia snorted. As if Alan Spaulding would do anything out of the goodness of his heart. She wondered briefly what his angle had been and then decided not to waste her energy on it. He wasn't worth it. She glanced over as Gus leaned forward and placed his hand over hers.
"I never meant to be gone so long, or to hurt so many people," Gus whispered.
"But you did. And you can't turn the clock back now." Natalia moved her hand away and slowly stood, starting to pace. Behind her Olivia stepped closer to the porch, wanting to be near by in case Natalia needed her.
"I just wanted to say I'm sorry." Gus stood as well, moving to stop her pacing, gently placing his hands on her shoulders. She looked into his dark eyes as he leaned closer to her. "Are you sure this is what you want? That you want to give up a normal life and family, for this whatever with Olivia."
Natalia swallowed hard and stared at him. This was her last chance to change her mind. Olivia held her breath and waited.
"I-I'm sure, Nicky." Natalia looked down and gathered her thoughts. "It's not the same anymore between you and me. I'm not the same anymore. Neither are you nor is Olivia. You cared for her too once, I know. So maybe a part of you can understand what she means to me. Olivia is my everything. And I can never thank you enough for saving her life, trading your safety and your career to find her a heart. And what a fierce heart she has."
Natalia smiled and moved away from her husband, leaning against the porch rail and stared out across the fields.
"When you died, it was as if I shattered into a million pieces. I didn't think I would ever be able to heal from it, but y'know what? I did. I prayed for guidance and I focused my energy on Olivia, on getting her well for Emma. And somewhere along the way we became friends and then a family and now we're so much more." Natalia glanced at Gus as he made his way over to stand beside her. "Olivia did what no one else could; she took those million pieces and helped me fuse them back together again. I'm not the same woman you left behind and I can't go back to being her. I don't want to. What we had is broken now, and we can't put it back together again."
Gus looked out over the quiet country fields and sighed, knowing she was right.
"A part of me will always love you, Nicky, but I am in love Olivia. I'm so in love with her it's almost overwhelming." Natalia fidgeted, playing with the hem of her shirt. "Not only that though, I really like who I am when I'm with her. She makes me feel invincible, that I can do anything I put my mind to, she's so supportive it's incredible. And at the same time, she calls me on my stuff, honestly telling me when I'm off base, whether I want to hear it or not. She pushes me in ways that no one ever has. Not even you, Gus. So to answer your question, yes. I want to build a life and raise a family with her now." Natalia smiled, wiping away a slowly falling tear. "I'm sorry. I choose Olivia."
Silent tears of joy streamed down Olivia's cheeks as she listened from her vantage point beside the porch. Natalia was hers to keep.
"I understand, Natalia. More than I think you know " Gus smiled down at his wife, happy for her and Olivia, even if he was disappointed for himself. He trailed the back of his fingers along the curve of her soft cheek. "I'm sorry to have messed this all up. I have no one to blame for this but myself and I know it. I just want you and Rafe to be happy. That's all I've ever wanted."
"I am happy." Natalia stared at him for a long time, before nodding and finally moving away from him. Something caught her attention and she glanced over to suddenly find herself lost in Olivia's intense green eyes, lost in the love that was reflecting back at her. She smiled, flashing her dimples even more as Olivia grinned back. God she wanted to kiss her so badly
They all turned suddenly as a strange car slowed on down on the road and turned into the driveway, quickly making its way to the farmhouse. The car pulled up beside the other vehicles and parked in the yard. The passenger side door opened and Rafe suddenly stood there smiling at them. From the driver's side someone very familiar stepped out of the vehicle.
Gus blinked, not quite believing his eyes.
What the hell is a soul mate supposed to be anyway?
He had often wondered about that, late at night, as he lay there questioning the decisions he'd made in his life. Some say it's the other half of one's soul, for which all souls are driven to find and join. But how do you know when you've found the one? What do you do to keep it? Wouldn't you do anything in your power to make sure that your soul mate was content and happy?
He did know that sometimes you had to give up the thing you want most so that they are happy.
And Harley had looked so happy. Finally.
The photos his bosses had provided nearly crushed him. All of them had smiling faces, Harley with her sons Zach and Jude laughing together on the beach. In many of them there was a man at her side. She was complete without him. She had moved on with her life and built an even better one in Greece.
He told himself that everything was as it should be. He had a duty to his wife and son to return to, as his father had told him over and over again. Harley had rebuilt her life and was happy without him. Then why had it all hurt him so much? Now here she was, standing in front of him, her eyes full of unshed tears.
"Gus?" She tilted her head in question, clearly not quite believing her eyes.
Gus didn't even realize he had taken a step and then another, all he knew was that he suddenly was moving from the farmhouse porch down to the walkway, heading towards her as she moved to him.
They met halfway, Harley rushing up at the last second, flying into his arms, crushing him close in a hug, her arms wrapped tight around his shoulders as her full lips somehow found his. Their kiss was tentative at first, sweet and tender, and then pressing with more strength and finally opening to each other in passion. Finally they pulled apart, Harley sliding out of his embrace, just standing in front of him staring up at him.
He didn't see it coming. Didn't even see her move until the last moment, until her hand connected, slapping him across the face with a satisfying smack, his head snapping to the right with the force of the blow.
"What the fuck were you thinking, Gus?" Harley snarled, pain and anger pouring out from every word. Tears welled in both their eyes.
"I obviously wasn't." Gus rubbed his jaw. He'd forgotten how strong she was. He reached out and gently took her hand, pulling the now crying woman near, holding her as she fell apart weeping in his arms. He held her close, murmuring into her soft hair, breathing her in as he gently rocked her. "I'm so sorry, honey."
"Well, that went well. At least she didn't faint on him " Olivia smirked, moving onto the porch next to Natalia, both women enjoying the show. Natalia's hand dropped down to take Olivia's, their fingers tangling together.
"How long were you standing there?" Natalia whispered, their eyes meeting. Olivia smiled softly.
"Long enough," Olivia shifted a little closer, nuzzling along the dark hair to find a delicate ear. "I choose you too. Forever." She dropped a tender kiss to Natalia's temple and leaned back in time to see tears start to well. Pulling her close they held on to each other, both of them needing this simple connection. Everything was as it should be, finally.
Standing beside the parked car, Rafe stood, arms crossed, smiling to himself.
"Damn, I'm good."
Life was funny sometimes.
Funny weird, not funny ha-ha.
But that was all right, or at least this was all right. Mind you, this would take some getting used to, but he was coming to realize that sometimes you just accepted the weird for what it was and somehow you make it work. After all, life in Springfield was a master class in the odd and bizarre.
Rafe had always wanted things to work out for his parents, a happily-ever-after ending. What kid didn't? He had always just figured it would be as a couple, together. Now though, it looked like things were falling into place, as they were meant to be. And strangely, it kind of gave him hope that somewhere out there was someone waiting for him, too.
He prayed it would be half as strong as what his parents had, with the loves of their lives.
"I flew out as soon as I got Rafe's phone call." Harley whispered, as she pulled back and stared up at the love of her life, a ghost come back to life. She still couldn't quite believe it was true, but he felt real and solid under her hands as they traveled over his shoulders and down his arms and back up again to cup his cheek tenderly.
"They told me that you had settled in Greece, I saw photos of you with them on the beach, I thought that you had your own little family of your own..." Gus' eyes teared up a little. "And I had responsibilities to my family here in Springfield who I had abandoned, and who loved and needed me." He glanced up to meet Rafe's eyes and then turned to meet Natalia's sad ones. "Or so I thought."
"I just want you and Ma to be happy," Rafe shuffled from foot to foot and looked over at Olivia, standing beside his mom on the porch. "And sometimes happiness is found where we least expect it."
"And sometimes what seems lost forever is found again," Harley said softly. Gus smiled sadly and nodded, before reaching out to take her hands, their fingers tangling together. Digging deep into his pocket, he grabbed the keys to his truck and tossed them over to Rafe.
"We've got a lot to talk over," Gus glanced down at Harley, who was still quietly crying happy tears. "Will you meet me for lunch tomorrow at Company? You can drop off the truck to me then."
Rafe ran his hand through his hair and nodded, smiling at his father. He could hang on to the anger and resentment, but he knew it was time to grow the hell up. Now was as good a time as any to start. He stiffened as Gus moved and pulled him close for a hug, slowly relaxing and wrapping his arms around his father, the comfort found there almost too much to bear.
"Thank you," Gus whispered into his son's dark hair. "For everything. I love you, son." Rafe held on tighter for a moment, and then they pulled apart.
"I love you, too," Rafe murmured, quickly wiping at the tears gathering in his eyes. He felt a little less exposed when Gus did the same. Harley squeezed his shoulder, forever grateful for his phone call that changed her life and then tugged Gus towards the rental car.
Hopping in, it roared to life and with a final wave they were gone, headed back into Springfield and towards their future together.
"Mommy," Emma pushed the screen door open and bounced out of the house. "Daddy's on the phone, can I stay at his house tonight?"
"Sure, Jellybean." Olivia glanced at Natalia who simply smiled back, her hand slowly stroking over the gentle swell of her belly. "Let's make some lunch first and then I'll run you into town."
"I could take her," Rafe said as he wandered towards the porch, his eyes locking with Olivia's, testing the waters. "If you like."
Olivia stilled, a little surprised at the offer but pleased. She grinned at him and nodded before turning to look down at Natalia, her dark eyes wide and dimples flashing. It was a start.
"Why don't you stay for lunch, Rafe," Natalia said, smiling wider as he nodded and stepped up onto the porch to join the rest of the family standing there. Emma reached out and grabbed his hand.
"Come on," Emma grinned up at him. "You can help me chop cucumbers for the salad. You have to be really careful with the sharp knife though," Emma yanked open the screen door and dragged him forward, and he smiled back at his mother and let himself be pulled inside. "One time I dropped it and it nearly hit me in the big toe!"
The screen door slammed shut before either woman could hear Rafe's reply, but the happy chatter from inside was enough to make Natalia sigh with pleasure. Olivia pulled her close and together they just held on to each other.
Lunch was a boisterous affair, with laughter and teasing and everyday family antics washing over all of them. After volunteering to help wash the dishes before heading out, Rafe looked up as he placed a sudsy plate on the dish rack to drain and caught his mother watching Olivia before softly touching her and murmuring to her. Olivia's answering smile was just as brilliant, her hand moving to gently press against his mother's stomach, including the little life inside in their love.
It was heart stopping, the pure happiness and joy he saw radiating from them both. He couldn't remember the last time he had seen his mother so at peace, so in love. And for that he was truly grateful.
"Natalia?" Emma asked from the kitchen table, her markers scattered everywhere across the table top as she worked away on her latest drawing.
"Yes, baby?" Natalia shifted from Olivia, but still kept a hand on her lower back as she turned her attention to the girl.
"If the baby is gonna be my lil' sister or brother, and Rafe is my big brother," Emma looked up from her drawing of said family and smiled brightly. "Does that mean I can call you Ma now, too?"
Natalia gasped, and then started to tear up. Emma looked worried for a moment, glancing back at Olivia to be sure she wasn't in trouble or done something wrong and then suddenly found herself gathered up into Natalia's strong arms.
"Oh, Emma," Natalia whispered into the girl's soft hair. "I would like that very, very much." Emma wrapped her arms around her other mother and squeezed back tight.
Rafe turned to Olivia and watched as she moved over to hug her two girls. This was their future, together, in this home, and it could be his future too if he wanted it. Together they would be a family. Not a traditional one, but a family all the same.
Rafe smiled and made his way over to the table, slipping his arm around his crying mother and joining in the group hug.
"I love you, Ma." Rafe whispered, smiling softly as his mother cried even harder at his words. He'd gotten his happily-ever-after ending after all.
Yes, life was funny.
Their time had come.
The kids had left after lunch, with Emma laughing and giggling and waving goodbye from the cab of the truck, Rafe smiling beside her. The two women were more than ready to just spend time in each other's company so before long they dragged a light blanket across their legs and snuggled together on the couch to watch a movie. The afternoon of gentle sighs and lingering touches, flowed into evening, with candle light and soft music playing. There had been a delectable meal and good conversation, followed by tender kisses and loving embraces. And before they knew it they somehow found themselves standing in the master bedroom, with nothing to stop them from loving each other fully. The way it was meant to be.
There would be no more waiting.
Natalia's eyes fluttered shut and she just let herself feel. She touch of Olivia's full lips on her own, the gentle swipe of a tongue against her lower lip, the soft puff of air against her cheek as a sigh of pure pleasure escaped. A shiver ran down her spine and it wasn't just from nerves.
It was desire, plain and simple.
"You are so beautiful," Olivia whispered, pulling Natalia back to the here and now, and away from her tingling senses. She stilled in her arms and old irrational fears rose, stirring Olivia's insecurities. Hesitantly she pulled back. "I-I'm sorry--"
"Sshh there's nothing to be sorry about. I want this," Natalia murmured into the night, drawing her soon-to-be lover closer again. "Here, now, with you. I need you, so very much."
Natalia shyly glanced up, smiling as Olivia lifted her eyebrow and smirked, before confidently lifting her leg and nudging the bedroom door. It slowly creaked closed, sending the room into darkness, except for the moonlight falling into the room from the window.
Taking the initiative, Natalia's fingers trailed across Olivia's tempting body, slowly making their way across ticklish skin before moving to the buttons of her blouse. Slowly she unbuttoned them, popping them open, one by one, revealing more and more delectable flesh and her white lace bra beneath.
Olivia watched Natalia closely, who was entranced by the movement of her fingers, smiling softly when she slowly looked up and met her gaze. Natalia looked terrified and turned on all at the same time. She could completely relate. Her expression became serious again, as she reached out to take her hands in her own, turning them over to place soft kisses into each palm.
"I want you," Olivia stared at her intensely as she placed a soft kiss in her left palm. "To touch me," Olivia kissed the other palm and licked the sensitive skin ever so lightly, thrilling at the shudder that ran through the brunette's body. "Please, Natalia," she said softly, before bringing her lover's hands to her skin.
As her shirt spread open wider, Olivia could feel Natalia exhale, as she moved their hands together across heated flesh. She was trembling ever so slightly. "It's okay, there's no right or wrong, there's just the two of us." She brought them slowly up to cup her breasts. The action parted her shirt completely and Natalia gasped softly, enjoying the view.
"Oh, Olivia," Natalia's voice was low and a little breathy, thick with unspoken emotion and desire. Olivia smirked knowingly, shifting to nuzzle along her dark hair, and claiming a tender earlobe to nibble on.
"Shhh, baby. I know, I feel it too," Olivia whispered hotly, placing small kisses along the fine hair at her temple. She slid a finger under Natalia's strong jaw and tilted her head back, their eyes locking, searching the depths of each other. "I'm already yours, heart, mind and soul. Take the rest of me now. Just touch me."
Pulling her eyes away, Natalia glanced down to take in the deliciously tempting swell of her lover's full breasts held in place by delicate lace, with long toned planes of her stomach below that. She brushed tentatively with her thumbs, the movement causing Olivia to gasp with pleasure, her nipples growing erect beneath the material as she pressed against her.
Squeezing the stiff nubs ever so slightly, Natalia knew she wanted more, so she dropped her hands to run over the ridges of her ribs. The slight shiver beneath her fingers gave her the confidence she needed to slide even lower, across Olivia's belly, swirling the tips of her fingers around her sensitive navel and along the waistband of her pants.
"God," Olivia moaned softly, the low sound vibrating deep within her, as her blouse was quickly slipped off her shoulders, tugged down her arms and left to flutter down to the wide planked bedroom floor. As if worshiping at an altar, Natalia reverently lowered her head and kissed along her collarbone, spending a moment to lovingly trace the white puckered scar that dipped between Olivia's full breasts with the tip of her tongue, before nipping and licking and bravely moving lower as her mouth skimmed across a twitching stomach.
"Bed," Olivia gasped out, feeling her knees starting to weaken. Natalia smirked against her abs, pleased that she had affected her lover so. As one they moved to the bed, Olivia sliding across the top blanket, Natalia following, slipping her own blouse from her body and dropping it to the floor on top of the other recently discarded one.
Falling together in the bed, they began again, kissing and exploring, popping more buttons and lowering zippers and shucking clothes as they went. Soon they both lay naked, luxuriating in the feel of each other's skin. Natalia began moving across Olivia's sleek body, taking her time, exploring the curves and valleys of the tempting woman before her. Making her way back up the now writhing body, Natalia found herself staring into green eyes, dark with desire.
"I-I'm not sure what " Natalia's voice trailed off, as her eyes fluttered shut and she became distracted by sharp teeth nibbling at her earlobe. Olivia smiled against her skin and took the opportunity to whisper into her ear.
"Don't even worry about that, sweetheart," Olivia slowly stroked her fingers through the thick dark hair, soothing her lover as she moved. She closed her eyes and snuggled closer, breathing in the scent of strawberry shampoo and something all Natalia, and swallowed hard as she decided to reveal something she didn't really like to admit, a deep part of her relieved to finally let it out. "I've had my fair share of sex, Natalia, but I've never, ever, made love before."
Natalia stilled and leaned back ever so slightly so she could capture Olivia's eyes, noticing them glistening with unshed tears.
"Just love me, please." Olivia glanced down, afraid she'd said too much, become too vulnerable. Natalia blinked and slipped her fingers under Olivia's chin and tipped her face back up, their eyes locking once again.
"I'll love you forever, I promise." Natalia murmured as she shifted, placing a slow tender kiss on Olivia's full lips, before they parted and she sank deeper still, their tongues dancing together. Pulling apart to catch their breath, they touched foreheads and snuggled together, needing the simple connection of the other's touch.
"I love every single thing about you," Natalia's smile widened and her dimples came out to play. "I love you from your government issue baboon heart right down to that cute little freckle on your a--"
"Hey!" Olivia grumped and then they started to giggle together, the mood lightening again, as gentle touches eventually turned into soft kisses. Slowly Natalia rolled Olivia to her back and settled her weight onto her full curves, feeling how wet and ready she was against her thigh.
"God, Olivia," Natalia gasped and slid against her again, oddly pleased with herself and what she clearly did to this amazing woman before her.
"That's all for you," Olivia sighed and moved against the strong thigh, desperately wanting more contact. "Take what's yours."
Their eyes locked for a single perfect moment and then Natalia smiled and took what she wanted, what they both desperately needed. Slowly her hand moved and pressed into the liquid heat, a shiver running through her as she slid one finger into the slippery folds. Olivia's sharp inhalation spurred her on, as she began to move, and then added another finger. She quickly picked up the pace, guided by and quickly becoming attuned to her lover's moans and movements.
"Mine," Natalia growled, as her partner's hips began to arch off the mattress to meet her thrust for thrust. She shifted, and added the extra strength of her thigh between Olivia's legs.
Olivia made a small sound at the back of her throat, one that Natalia definitely planned on hearing again someday, as she curled her fingers and circled, finding the spot that she knew she couldn't resist. Making a sympathetic groan, she watched entranced as Olivia gasped and throbbed beneath her, before dipping and claiming her mouth again, kissing her hard. Olivia's body started to tense, building to her peak, her body straining to pull her lover deeper.
"Look at me," Natalia murmured against kiss swollen lips, pleased as Olivia's eyes snapped open at her soft request, desperately trying to focus on her words but clearly too near her release to speak. "I want to watch, when you come for me, baby."
Olivia bucked against her hand, Natalia's words driving her impossibly higher. All Olivia could do was nod and gasp for more air before she was rewarded, her clit slowly circled by an insistent thumb. Their eyes locked and held, and Olivia felt as if her very soul was exposed, overwhelmed by the woman making love to her. Her body suddenly responded to the intimacy and she came hard, shattering in Natalia's arms.
Olivia cried out, her breathy cries echoing in her lover's ears as thrashed against her and then slumped to the mattress in a twitchy, spent heap. Natalia laughed softly, pleased with herself, as she reluctantly pulled herself from her lover's heat.
"I love you," Natalia murmured against sweat damp skin, dropping butterfly kisses along her lover's temple. Olivia rolled to her side and snuggled close, nuzzling into the crook of her neck as she got her bearings again, kept safe in Natalia's strong arms.
Olivia sighed, content at long last. Her fingers trailed along the smooth curve of Natalia's back, fingertips tracing along her spine and up into thick dark hair. She lazily curled the strands around her fingers and then let them fall loose. As her energy started to return, she noticed the tension in Natalia's body and knew that it was more than time to show her just how much she adored her.
Rolling her hips, Olivia dragged her thigh against her lover's center; soft needy moans hitting her hard as she slowly began to explore Natalia's tempting body. She dropped sweet kisses across delicately flushed skin, fingers tickling and teasing pert breasts to rock hard tips.
Natalia's mind meanwhile swirled with sensation, enjoying every moment Olivia pressed and moved against her. Making love with a woman was the same, and yet so very different. She didn't feel like she had to rush to try to keep up or worry about pleasuring her partner at the same time. Instead there was this incredible feeling of being taken care of. She felt nurtured, while at the same time aroused and tormented. She was clearly the center of Olivia' universe.
They took their time, slowly building the desire but Natalia was becoming impatient. What she craved now was Olivia's touch to sooth her soul.
"You are so amazing," Olivia whispered into the darkness, before moving along Natalia's torso, trailing fingers tickling along soft breasts, palms rolling against stiff nipples. Natalia arched into the warm touch, wanting more, whimpering ever so quietly.
Olivia finally seemed to take the hint, her hand wandering down into her folds, finding her swollen and slick. She grinned as Natalia shifted, spreading herself a little wider for her, offering everything to her. Happily she teased the stiff clit with the pad of her thumb, she watched indulgently as Natalia arched up to meet her, gasping as if trying to catch a deep breath, followed by thick moans of pleasure.
"Please " Natalia whispered on an exhale, slow and steady. She felt everything so intensely; responding to Olivia's every touch, her body inviting her with every movement. They both groaned with pleasure as Olivia pressed deeply into her, their bodies dancing back and forth together.
Natalia arms snaked up around her partner's neck, as if needing to feel even closer. Picking up the tempo of her thrusts, she felt Olivia angle deeper, panting desperately into her ear, rocking in and out of her harder. Before she knew it she felt her body tense, clenching greedily around Olivia' buried fingers.
"I've got you," Olivia murmured over and over as her back arched and finally Natalia came hard, releasing a deep guttural cry as she shuddered against her.
Tangled together in a heap, exhausted and spent, they kissed and nuzzled each other softly, their thundering heartbeats slowing. Reaching out, Olivia pulled at the bed sheet, pulling it over them as they settled down. She ran her fingers slowly through Natalia's hair, the woman's lazy smile warming something deep inside her. Natalia's fingers meanwhile played along Olivia's chest, making abstract patterns and then finally coming to rest over her heart.
Olivia shifted to one side, worried about the little life growing inside and not wanting to do anything to hurt the baby. Her heart swelled at the prospect, the promise for their future. She kept Natalia close as she quieted in her arms, holding each other as they touched softly. They lay breathing for a bit, gathering succour from each other.
They didn't get much sleep, whispering and laughing and loving each other all over again. Eventually through the window the first rays of dawn began to peek in and they lay together watching the sunrise. It was the start of a new day, a happy beginning for all of them, pulled from the broken, shattered pieces of both their lives. They had struggled and forged a new, stronger one, together. It wasn't normal, or conventional, but they had built a family.
They had finally found home.
And what God has joined together, let no man put asunder.
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