DISCLAIMER: All characters (Olivia Spencer, Natalia Rivera, Frank Cooper blah blah etc.) and situations belong to Guiding Light, Telenext, Proctor & Gamble, etc. I'm not them.
SPOILERS: The 3/26/09 episode and the stuff that came before it.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To procrastinatingsith[at]gmail.com
An Answer to His Proposal
"So is Frank coming over?" Olivia asked, as she walked down the stairs, her heels clicking on each step.
"Uh, I called him," Natalia replied distractedly, her attention fixed on the blanket she was folding and refolding in an effort to keep from looking at Olivia. It was hard enough to hold herself together now. She had been so certain when she had left the church, Gus' rings in her pocket and off her finger for the first time since Olivia had returned them to her. It seemed fitting then that this time she was taking them off for Olivia. Because that was what she had decided, to come home, fix an excellent meal that would make Olivia feel safe, warm, and content, and tell Olivia the truth - that Natalia loved her. Or felt something for her that was more than just what a friend would feel.
There was no way that Natalia could deny that she had tried to kiss Olivia earlier that day in the hospital. She had, not Olivia. Olivia hadn't even been conscious, but Natalia had still wanted it, wanted to kiss Olivia, to express in some way how much she cared about her and needed her to be okay. That the expression of those feelings had taken that particular form had both been a surprise and not, but it had made her think, leading her to the church. She had spent a long time in prayer and contemplation and finally arrived at the conclusion that it wouldn't be fair to take Frank's ring when she had such conflicted feelings for Olivia.
Taking off Gus' ring hadn't felt like a betrayal, just a new beginning. Natalia had no idea where this new path would lead her. Perhaps she would find out that she was merely confused or not interested in Olivia at all - or that Olivia didn't feel the same way about her. She wasn't sure. She had no idea, but she was open to exploring it. It was scary and exciting at the same time.
And then Olivia had come home.
It had been going so well - Olivia falling in line with her plans for the evening so perfectly - until it wasn't. Until Olivia opened the spice drawer and told her to marry Frank.
"Kind of a big day for ya," Olivia said, coming around to sit on the arm of the couch. Her smile didn't look all that happy. "How are you gonna tell him?"
"I don't even know what I'm going to tell him yet," Natalia countered and she meant it. She had been so certain earlier in the day, certain that she was right in turning Frank down, but Olivia's proclamation that she should marry Frank had thrown her, jarring her confidence and making her wonder if her decision wasn't the right one after all. It had all seemed so clear before in the church.
"Well, what do you need to make a decision?" Olivia asked, drawing the words out hesitantly, as if Natalia's decision should have been simple, not the hardest choice she'd ever made. She was trying so hard to play the best friend, to say all the right things and give Natalia the life that she wanted.
"I need to know that what I'm doing is the right thing," Natalia said, frustration welling within her. How could Olivia not understand? "You know, I want, I want some sort of-"
"Sign? I know. Like, God's blessing. I'm not sure it works that way. I think you just have to make up your own mind." Coming from someone else or even Olivia on any other day the words would have sounded patronizing. Instead she just sounded wistful and resigned to Natalia. It made her ache to erase the sadness in Olivia's voice. She wanted to tell Olivia all the things that she had been thinking that afternoon - that they could be whatever they wanted to be if they just tried. The possibilities for them were limitless.
Most of all she wanted to raise Olivia's chin, bringing her head up to look Natalia in the eye, to erase the quaver in Olivia's voice.
"I know how to make up my own mind," Natalia defended herself. How many times had they had that argument? The one where Olivia accused her of not standing up for herself and what she wanted while she rebutted that life didn't always work that way. Sometimes the only thing to do was make do. But this time was different. This time she wanted and it was Olivia who was pushing her towards what was expected. Her confidence had been eroded, leaving her with ambivalence and desperation. Some might say that the sign had been Olivia telling her to marry Frank, but when she'd gotten it, she hadn't wanted it. "When I know what's right and what's wrong. But in this situation I don't know. I don't know what's good and, you know, what's-"
A loud, eager knock interrupted her. It was Frank. They both knew it. Natalia felt trapped, desperate. Why had he shown up now? Just that moment. If he had come five minutes later...what? What would she do with five more minutes alone with Olivia? Her heart pounded and Natalia felt sick. Olivia was staring at her, waiting for her to say something. She wasn't making any move to get the door.
She was waiting on Natalia.
Realization flashed through Natalia in an instant. Olivia was waiting on her, letting her dictate everything. Telling her to marry Frank wasn't a sign. Olivia wasn't saying that she didn't want Natalia to be happy with her. She was saying that she wanted Natalia to be happy. Only, Olivia didn't know. She had been unconscious. Olivia didn't realize that she was what made Natalia happy.
Frank knocked again, pounding eagerly at the door, startling Natalia out of her thoughts. She half-turned toward the sound in irritation and then dropped the blanket that she had been folding on the couch and crossed the distance between she in Olivia in two swift strides. Sitting on the arm of the couch, Olivia was a head shorter than Natalia. Taking Olivia's face in her hands, Natalia tilted Olivia's head up and leaned down, pressing her lips to Olivia's. Her fingers sank into Olivia's hair, clenching around silky strands as she moved her lips over soft, resistant lips.
Olivia gasped, making a startled sound. For the briefest instant her lips parted and Natalia tasted the warmth of her mouth, felt her tongue slip past Olivia's lips. Then Olivia jerked away, almost falling over the corner of the couch as she stood and staggered a step back from Natalia.
Natalia didn't try to hold on, just let Olivia slip through her fingers. She felt shaky; her legs were trembling. Natalia couldn't believe she had done that.
"What are you doing?" Olivia hissed.
"Oh, God," Natalia whispered. "Oh, God, I thought you-" She was shaking and she couldn't finish the thought. How could she have ever thought - but Olivia didn't feel the same way.
"I think I'd like to know that too," a deep voice said from the kitchen doorway.
Olivia's gaze flicked past Natalia and caught sight of Frank, looking stunned and angry. She blinked, feeling more than a little stunned herself. Involuntarily her hand drifted up to her lips, brushing over them, still feeling Natalia's lips on hers.
Natalia had kissed her.
And Natalia was still staring at her, watching her. What the hell did Natalia want from her? This was not how it was supposed to go. Natalia was supposed to say yes to Frank, marry him and live happily ever after. Not ruin both their lives.
Olivia caught her breath, yanked herself up. Maybe happily-ever-after could still happen. "I think I can answer that, Frankie," Olivia said with a smile that was more than a little dangerous.
"You can?" Natalia blurted out. Olivia ignored her.
"She was kissing me. Well, I should say I was kissing her. You know me. I wanted a little taste before Ms. Goody-Goody Rivera herself was off the market."
Frank just stared at her and then turned to Natalia. He looked angry. "You know, you could have just told me no, if you didn't want to marry me. You didn't have to set up this ridiculous charade. I deserve better than that, Natalia. Maybe you don't want to marry me, but I thought you at least cared about me as a friend. Or more," he added bitterly. "But obviously I was wrong."
"Frank," Natalia said, looking stricken. "I never meant for you to-"
But Frank held up a hand. "Just save it." He shook his head. "Now that I have my answer, I think I'll be going."
"Frank," Olivia cut in again, stepping forward looking suddenly serious, her demeanor of a moment before dropping away. "She didn't mean it. She does want to marry you. She just-"
"I can speak for myself," Natalia cut in.
Olivia's head swiveled, turning back to Natalia. She seemed to sink in on herself. "You do want to marry him."
"No, I don't." She bit her lip, glancing over at Frank. "I'm so sorry, Frank. I thought - but I don't. I can't. It's not fair to you, not when I-" She turned back to Olivia, looking her in the eye. "Not when I have feelings for you." She swallowed hard. "I know you don't feel the same way, but-"
"Are you serious?" Frank demanded. "You love Olivia? That's - that's just ridiculous, Natalia."
It felt like everything was caving in. It was the disaster that just kept on giving. Fear was rising up in Natalia, making it hard to breathe.
"It's not," she said, barely able to get the words out. But it felt like it. Standing there with Frank glaring at her accusingly and Olivia practically throwing her at Frank it seemed like the stupidest idea she'd ever had.
She threw a glance at Olivia, desperately, pleadingly, with no hope of anything - that had already been stripped away from her in an instant - but having nowhere else to look. Natalia's stomach fluttered when her eyes met Olivia's. She felt sick. Olivia looked just as terrified. For a second, Natalia thought Olivia was just going to glance away from her, confirming that it had all been in Natalia's head - some strange delusion. Then Olivia straightened, lifting her head.
"Why would that be ridiculous, Frankie? Enlighten me," Olivia invited him. She smirked. "'Cause I'm a catch." Coming through for Natalia one more time, just like she always had.
Frank sputtered, starting to speak then biting it off. His face turned red. "Because you're you. And she's Natalia."
The smirk on the corner of Olivia's lips grew fractionally.
"She's devout and pious - a good woman. And you're-"
"None of those things?" Olivia supplied helpfully. "Tell me about it, Frankie." She took a step forward. "Plus, you might remember, Frank, I like men."
"Olivia," Natalia sounded both scandalized and hurt. "Stop. Just please stop." She reached out to touch Olivia's arm, brushing her elbow and then yanking her hand back, cradling it to her chest as if she had forgotten what they were talking about. "I've already hurt him enough. Just let Frank go."
Olivia laughed bitterly, ignoring Natalia. "You wanna hear something funny though, Frank?"
"No," Frank said flatly, but he didn't move.
Olivia laughed again; this time it sounded almost hysterical. "I love her." Her lips twisted into a thin pained line. "Ain't that fucking grand? I fell in love with Ms. Mary Poppins herself. Me - Olivia Spencer - bitch on wheels - Man Eater of Springfield. I would do anything for her, to make her happy. Even tell her to marry you. And then..." Olivia staggered a little, unsteady on her high heels as she turned clumsily toward Natalia, who reached out to steady her without thinking. The contact was electric. Natalia jerked her hand back as Olivia swayed ever so slightly closer to her, following her until she caught herself. "And then she kissed me." Olivia shook her head. "She kissed me." She let the words sink in for a moment. It still seemed as unreal as it had the first moment that Natalia had pressed her lips to Olivia's.
Natalia started to say something, but Olivia cut her off, speaking before she could.
"I have to go."
She turned on her heel, grabbing her keys and her coat from the small rack at the foot of the stairs as she headed for the door.
"I'm sorry," Natalia said, squeezing Frank's hand for a second. "I'm so sorry," she repeated and then fled out the door after Olivia.
"Stop!" Natalia called after her. "You stop! You can't just say something like that and then run away."
Olivia pressed her forehead against the top of the car door. "I can't do this, Natalia. Not right now."
"You love me," Natalia said, almost accusingly.
"So what?" Olivia exploded, whirling around and stepping into Natalia's space, forcing her back a step. "So. What. What does it matter if I love you, if my love is going to make you miserable? We can't do this, Natalia. We don't work."
"Yes, we do," Natalia shot back calmly, standing firm with confidence that she didn't quite believe, but had to hold onto. As long as she would lived she would never forget how it had felt when she had heard Olivia say that she had fallen for her. Knowing that, holding that close to her heart, was giving her the strength to fight for what she was now sure they both so desperately wanted. Five minutes ago, loving Olivia had been a lost cause. Now it was only difficult. Natalia could do difficult. She had been doing it her whole life. "We've been working."
Olivia made a scoffing sound. "I don't want to be your best friend. I want to be so much more - more than you're ready for." She laughed again wildly. "Maybe more than I'm ready for."
"Just stop," Natalia whispered. "Stop trying to make this impossible. Just imagine for a minute, what if it is possible?"
"Don't," Olivia said harshly. "You don't get to play with my feelings like that, Natalia. What about your religion? Your precious church. Loving me is the kind of stuff you burn in hell for. Don't tell me you don't care about that. Don't lie to me. At least do that for me."
"I do care-"
Olivia snorted, throwing her hands up in the air and turning away.
Natalia caught her hand and tugged her roughly back, stepping closer to Olivia until they were face to face. "I do care about my church," Natalia said. She raised her other hand and touched Olivia's cheek. "But I care about you too. Loving you isn't wrong - it's a gift, from God."
"I'm no gift," Olivia snapped. "Especially not from Him." She jerked her chin upwards.
"Oh, really?" Natalia whispered. "You came into my life when I needed you most. You were there for me when no one else was."
"I was horrible to you. I took your husband from you."
"You gave me Emma," Natalia said, smiling involuntarily. "You gave me a job like I'd never had before and you pushed me to do things that I'd always been too afraid to try."
"That was-" Natalia put her fingers over Olivia's lips. Their soft warmth made her shudder as she flashed involuntarily on what kissing those lips had been like.
"You love me," Natalia concluded. "And I love you. Don't go looking for trouble. Just hold on to what we have."
"It doesn't work that way for me," Olivia whispered. "I never get to keep what I want most."
"Maybe it does - this time." Natalia smiled a little. "I'm not like anyone else you've ever been with."
"No," Olivia agreed. She let her head slump against Natalia's shoulder. Tentatively she let her arms slip around Natalia's waist. Natalia wrapped her arms around Olivia's shoulders. "I'm so tired."
"Come back inside," Natalia said.
"Okay," Olivia whispered. Then she tensed. "Frank."
Natalia swallowed hard. "He left. I heard his car a minute ago."
"Oh." Olivia hesitated. "Are you su-"
"Don't," Natalia said, cutting her off before she could finish asking. "I am sure." She flushed and glanced down. "I kissed you. I'm sure."
"I think I remember that," Olivia said, charmed by Natalia's sudden embarrassment. She had been so certain up until then. It was adorable - and so Natalia.
"Of course you do," Natalia muttered. "That you remember."
"Hmm?" Olivia asked, quirking an eyebrow.
But Natalia just shook her head secretively.
"It doesn't count," Olivia said.
"When you kissed me. It doesn't count."
"Olivia..." Natalia felt drained. She didn't want to start this argument again. She thought she had finally gotten through to Olivia, convinced Olivia that her love was true.
Olivia touched her lips, silencing her, pulling her fingers away just as quickly as she had touched her. "It doesn't count just like me kissing you after Emma's presentation doesn't count."
"...we were both trying to make a point."
"The same point?" Natalia asked. She felt a jolt at the thought of what point Olivia might have been trying to make, even back then, months ago.
"Maybe," Olivia said shyly.
"Then you should," Natalia said, feeling her face burn. She couldn't believe she had been so forward. Couldn't believe she had already kissed Olivia once today.
"Should what?" Olivia asked, sounding a little entranced.
Olivia shook her head.
"Oh." Olivia's mouth felt dry. She licked her lips. Natalia wanted Olivia to kiss her. It was surreal. She wanted to ask again if Natalia was sure, but she didn't. Olivia didn't want Natalia to tell her no.
Olivia cupped Natalia's face in both hands, her thumb caressing the silky skin of Natalia's cheek. She leaned in slowly, tenderly and pressed her lips to Natalia's gently. There was a part of her that still expected Natalia to push her away. When Natalia's moved against hers, she sagged in relief, sinking into Natalia's body. Natalia caught her, holding her up and deepened the kiss, moving her lips against Olivia's, tasting and searching for more.
Arousal surged through Olivia in an instant and she gasped into the kiss, pulling away before it could deepen anymore. She didn't think she could take anymore.
"Shh," Natalia whispered. "It's okay. I promise." She didn't let Olivia get far, pressing her forehead against Olivia's.
Olivia could feel the faint brush of Natalia's breath against her cheek. She closed her eyes, soaking in Natalia's arms around her and trying not to think about anything but this moment. When she did everything else came flooding in and she started to panic, but here in Natalia's arms it seemed perfect - them - together.
"I do love you, you know?" Olivia murmured, still pressed up against Natalia. It was important to her that Natalia knew it and believed it, heard it from her not in anger. "You mean so much to me."
"I know," Natalia said. "You mean just as much to me."
Natalia's words were like a balm, soothing the voices inside of her that screamed she wasn't good enough and there was no way that she could make Natalia happy. She couldn't believe it yet, not fully. Time and multiple failures had taught her its lessons far too well, but it was a start, a new beginning, and Olivia was determined to grab it with both hands.
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