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ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
"You have GOT to be kidding me!" Olivia couldn't believe what Natalia was saying. How could she not think that she was the one being unreasonable?
"Olivia you're not being fair! And quiet down, Emma's asleep." Olivia held the retort on the tip of her tongue and reluctantly attempted to calm down a little, if only for her daughter's sake. She raked her hand through her hair, took a deep breath and squeezed her eyes shut.
Natalia was torn. She knew this was her fault. Well her AND Olivia's, but most of the blame sat squarely on her shoulders. Fear had stopped her from acting, had stopped her from even acknowledging what she was feeling. And now she'd accepted Frank's proposal. She knew she shouldn't have even let him leave the ring, she should have just told him no and been done with it. But she hadn't. She'd tried to be tactful with him but all it had done was hurt Olivia, something she thought she could never forgive herself for. Tonight had been a prime example of how things were changing.
Suddenly remembering she wasn't alone in the kitchen Natalia looked over at Olivia. She was a little startled to see Olivia sat at the table, hastily filling a shot glass with whiskey and throwing it down her throat. Natalia didn't even know there was whiskey in the house. The half-full bottle didn't look at all dusty; this obviously wasn't a new pastime for Miss Spencer. Surprising both herself and Olivia she made a decision, knowing that things couldn't continue as they were. She casually walked to the glass cupboard, picked out a shot glass and set it on the table before taking a seat. Maybe a different approach was needed.
Olivia paused with her arm in mid-motion, the shot of whiskey a short distance from her lips as she looked at Natalia completely confused. Her confusion turned into shock then amusement as she watched Natalia fill the glass and throw it back. Natalia's face contorted into disgust as she swallowed the amber liquid.
Natalia stuck her tongue out and flailed her arms slightly as she exclaimed,
"That stuff is dis-gust-ing!"
Olivia downed her drink and set the glass back on the table only to refill it again. Her eyes widened slightly as Natalia wiggled her glass at her, obviously expecting a refill herself.
"You want another one? You don't like it, are you sure that's a good idea?"
Natalia nodded her head, her eyes never leaving Olivia's. Olivia only shrugged to herself as she filled Natalia's glass up, albeit slightly less than she was filling hers. This continued for a few minutes, Natalia matching Olivia drink for drink. Olivia couldn't help but smile as she watched the woman she loved attempting to hide her obvious distaste for the liquor. Truth be told Olivia was secretly impressed. She knew she had a high tolerance for alcohol, she was also aware that Natalia did not. She'd seen the woman sway slightly after a few small glasses of wine, but she'd never seen Natalia drink anything stronger and certainly not this quickly. She knew Natalia was trying to accomplish something but she hadn't a clue what it was, what she did know was that they had yet to finish their earlier conversation, and at the rate Natalia was going they wouldn't if she didn't initiate the conversation herself.
"So, booze hound if you've quite finished with all your spaz-flailing, you wanna tell me how exactly I'm being unfair." Olivia had expected an answer, or an argument, possibly both. Those things she was prepared for, she even had her next retorts sorted out. She wasn't expecting Natalia to start giggling so much she thought the younger woman was going to fall out of her chair. Natalia was definitely drunk, a fun drunk it would seem. After a few moments Olivia couldn't help but join in as she waited for the woman to calm down, but each time Natalia's eyes met Olivia's, Natalia dissolved into a fresh round of giggles and snorts that seemed endless. After several long minutes Natalia took a few deep breaths and wiped her eyes as she seemingly got herself under control.
"Sorry 'bout that. But it was funny."
Olivia decided not to question what it was exactly that Natalia found amusing, just in case she triggered another giggle-fit. Natalia was too cute and she was having a hard time remembering that she was supposed to be mad with the woman.
"Let's get back to how I'm being so unfair then shall we?" The question had come out slightly harsher than Olivia intended, and she was surprised to see that Natalia didn't even flinch.
"You're being unfair because you think this is easy for me, that I'm not hurting too. It was Frank's idea for you to be maid of honour. We hadn't really discussed it. It makes sense really if you think about it But not at the same time. Cause you're my best friend and so much more but you can't be my maid of honour. We both know that."
Olivia was speechless. She'd been so angry, and then upset when Frank has announced to a packed Company earlier in the evening that he was marrying Natalia. He'd been on a roll, announcing his father as best man and Daisy, Marina and Emma as bridesmaids, details she'd been privy to. She'd smiled and nodded through the tortuous speech but the cruellest joke had been when he announced the 'obvious choice' for maid of honour. She'd watched Natalia's face grow dark as she realised that she knew what was coming next, but she was obviously unprepared. Frank had said her name and she had no choice but to smile and pretend that she didn't really want to kill the smiling bastard, because it wasn't his fault and he really had no clue. She supposed she was the obvious choice if you thought about it. She had felt a few sets of eyes on her as she made polite excuses of a headache. Emma had wanted to stay and Natalia told her she'd take care of her and bring her home later, she'd relented not wanting to spoil Emma's night. She saw Josh and Jeffrey flash her matching sympathetic looks as she left, but what she was too aware of was Natalia's solemn expression as she turned to go.
A few hours later found Olivia in bed staring at the ceiling as she heard a key in the door. She heard a single set of footsteps slowly climb the stairs and she closed her eyes in relief that Natalia hadn't brought Frank back. THAT would have been another level of hell to endure. Almost as though she could see through the bedroom door, she knew what was happening on the other side. Natalia was carefully carrying her sleeping daughter to bed, it was slightly later for the little girl and Emma had a tendency to fall asleep in the car. As she pictured the tender image she felt her heart clench in loss, not only for herself but for her little girl. This had been not only hers but Emma's home. She knew she was kidding herself with talk of Jacuzzis and game rooms. This farmhouse was more than bricks and mortar to both of them and she knew Emma didn't want to leave, that for the first time in what felt like forever her daughter was safe and settled and that was all about to change. With a deep sigh, Olivia swung her legs over the side of the bed. She knew she wouldn't be able to sleep and there was a half-bottle of whiskey downstairs with her name on it. Natalia would be preoccupied with Emma for a few minutes then would go to bed herself. As Olivia crept downstairs she could hear Natalia's soft humming from Emma's room. Her head swam as she pictured Natalia settling her daughter down in bed, she had never trusted anyone with her daughter like that. Not Phillip, Buzz or even Bill.
Once downstairs she expertly manoeuvred around the furniture in the dark and headed for the kitchen as quietly as possible. Her hand hadn't even reached for the bottle hidden behind the cups as the kitchen had been flooded with light. Olivia whirled around to find Natalia leaning against the wall, managing to look both sheepish and pissed off simultaneously.
The tension had quickly given way to anger as Natalia called Olivia out on her departure, and then Olivia called Natalia out on her plans for her maid of honour. It hadn't been spoken about. It hadn't even been thought about, and now it was the perfect catalyst for a much needed conversation. That was how the two women found themselves slightly inebriated around a kitchen table.
Olivia almost choked on her drink before slamming her glass down, not even feeling the glass break and cut her hand.
"Hurting? You're hurting? Well I'm sorry, but what do you want me to do? What ELSE can I do? Tell me and I'll do it!"
She felt the tears pooling in her eyes, but no matter how many times she blinked they were still there. She looked over at Natalia and her dam broke. Everything she'd held in for so long poured out in that moment as she watched the brown eyes that usually captivated her shut in pain. She brought her hands to her face and for the first time noticed the pool of red on the table and the searing pain through her palm.
At Olivia's pained gasp Natalia raised her head and was shocked to see the blood dripping from Olivia's hand.
"Oh my god. Here." Natalia stood up uneasily, grabbed a clean cloth from beside the sink and gracelessly knelt down in front of Olivia. She reached for the older woman's hand and tenderly wiped away the blood then gently applied pressure to the cut. Olivia was again at a loss. The whiskey swirled within her blood and she felt her control slip. It didn't matter how mad she was at Natalia, it seemed her body still reacted to every touch. She watched as Natalia gently tended to her hand, checking the bleeding was slowing and softly probing for glass and more cuts. When Natalia was sure the bleeding had stopped she made to stand up, to retrieve the first aid kit and patch up Olivia's hand. It seems she moved too quickly, as soon as she was on her feet she fell forward. Olivia was quick to grab onto the smaller woman's waist and braced for impact by pulling her close. Natalia landed with her hands on Olivia's shoulders and her face mere millimetres from Olivia's. Her legs were either side of Olivia's and she was half straddling her. Natalia knew she was drunk, she could taste the whiskey on her tongue and her throat still burnt slightly but she also knew that most of what she was feeling was because of the woman beneath her. She watched as Olivia's watery gaze flickered from her eyes to her lips. She could smell the whiskey on both of their breaths and they mingled and she fleetingly wondered if the whiskey would taste any differently on Olivia's mouth. She groaned silently and accepted her fate. Her future was with the woman in front of her, that was all too clear. Frank was a good man but she didn't understand her, didn't make her feel anywhere near as much as Olivia did. Olivia knew what she wanted, knew not only who she was, but who she could be. Olivia challenged her, made her feel special and 100ft tall and comforted her and protected her. It'd never really been a competition. She'd just refused to believe Olivia was an option, now she knew it wasn't a choice. Choices were made with your head, Olivia had her heart. Natalia pulled back slightly and repositioned herself so that she was sat comfortably on Olivia's lap. She felt Olivia's heart speed up, matching hers beat for beat. Olivia turned her head away, not wanting to be vulnerable. Not wanting to see the thinly-veiled emotions that were getting harder and harder to keep in. She felt a hand cup her cheek and pull her face around so she was once again facing Natalia.
"You want to know what you can do, right?" At Olivia's soft nod she continued.
"You can stop running away from me. Stop pushing me towards a man that I'll end up resenting because he's not you. Promise me you'll never leave me, never take Emma away. Be here for me, even when I get scared or stupid. Bring me back when I try to run away because I'm so damn weak. Look after yourself so you'll stay strong and your heart will continue beating. Continue to be the amazing woman, mother and friend that you are. And please for the love of god tell me that you're in love with me, at least half as much as I am with you. That you want me the way I want you. That you know it's only you I want. That it's me you want and no other. That we'll be a real family, for always."
Olivia couldn't speak. She wasn't even sure she was breathing. When she remained silent she felt Natalia begin to try and move. She quickly brought both hands to Natalia's face and kissed her like she was sure she'd never kissed anyone before. She felt Natalia's hands tangle in her hair, pulling her impossibly closer. They continued to drown in each other for endless moments. Only pulling apart when Natalia fell backwards, Olivia's hands the only saving grace between her and the tile floor. Both women giggled slightly as Natalia once again rearranged herself in Olivia's lap, waiting for Olivia to say something. The kiss had been amazing but Olivia had yet to speak. Olivia opened her mouth a few times before closing it just as quickly. She absently rubbed at her eyes as she spoke.
"We should go to bed Nat. It's late, you know."
Natalia was quite content to stay in Olivia's arms indefinitely but knew that Olivia couldn't be too comfortable in the hard chair. She had felt the air shift, had seen the love in Olivia's eyes and she had felt it in that kiss. But Olivia was still confusing her. Steeling herself she stood up and opened the drawer where the first aid kit was kept. She wordlessly bandaged up Olivia's hand, then quickly tidied up the kitchen placing the near-empty bottle of whiskey on the highest shelf. When she was finished she turned back to Olivia who was still watching her. She watched Olivia rise and walk so she was standing in front of her. Then she watched as Olivia slowly dropped to one knee, her eyes never leaving Natalia's as she reached for her hand.
"I'm going to do this right. I'm promising you, Natalia Rivera that I am going to stop running from you. I'm going to stop pushing to towards Frank. Emma and I are never going to leave you. I'll stop you from running away. I'll keep you safe. I'll take care of myself and keep myself healthy. I'll keep being everything you've made me. I'm in love with you and I love you more than anyone in the world has and ever will love anyone else. I want you in every way possible, more than I ever thought was possible. I know you only want me, and be sure it's only you I ever want. I promise you we'll be a family forever and always."
As Olivia finished her speech her voice caught in her throat and her eyes shone with unshed tears. Natalia pulled Olivia off the floor and into her arms. Both women held the other tight as their mouths searched blindly for the other. This kiss was full of promise and not a trace of regret. As they pulled apart Natalia glanced down at her left hand, the ring sparkling back at her. Olivia held her breath as she watched Natalia pull it off her finger and place it on the table.
"Tomorrow's going to be a tough day, isn't it?"
Olivia took Natalia's hands in her own and gave them a slight squeeze. Her eyes conveying nothing but strength and love.
"It will. But it'll be worth it. And I'll be right there with you."
Natalia's hopeful eyes searched Olivia's face for any sign that she was being misled.
Olivia gave Natalia a gentle smile before pulling her close once again. As she softly stroked Natalia's inky hair she whispered,
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