DISCLAIMER 1: This story is an original work of fiction set in the hectic little town of Springfield, as seen on Guiding Light. Most, if not all, of the characters and references used within belong completely to someone else. Someone who recently found a clue but could still use a swift kick in the rear, so I have borrowed them for just a little while and promise to return them unscathed, and smiling, as soon as I am done. No gain, monetary or otherwise, is expected from their use and no copyright infringement is intended or should be inferred.  (In other words, all I am really hoping to get out of this is some hot sex with my girlfriend so please don't sue me!)
DISCLAIMER 2: All original characters and story lines contained herein belong to the author. (Like anyone else would claim them!) This story may be archived upon request with the stipulation that it must be posted exactly as it was written, with all disclaimers intact.  (Ralst and The Athenaeum don't have to ask!)
DISCLAIMER 3: This story does depict a romantic relationship between two women. Some scenes may be graphic, but they are lovingly so.  If that bothers you than you are wound too tight for daytime TV!   I mean really, how can you be okay with someone marrying their cousin's sister's nephew's son and still bitch about a well done romance between two beautiful women??  Ever hear the old saying that people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones?  (Unless of course they're trapped in said house, then throwing a stone or two might actually be a good idea...but I digress.)  If you are under 18, then you're never going to understand the title reference.  Ask your mom. (And get her to watch Otalia!  We need all the MILF's we can get!)  If this is illegal where you live, check your local ladies night for women in trench coats and silly hats.  Hey it couldn't hurt...
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I had to go into FicSec (Protective custody for fanfic authors) to write this!!  The A/O shippers have teamed up with the J/7 shippers and they're threatening to arrest and assimilate my ass so...write reviews! (How that relates I don't really know but...what the hell!) Just a quick note:  Since we don't know what is going to happen I am approaching this as my own little A/U.  Everything up until now is cannon.  Thanks to all of the wonderful Jesbians on the What Comes After forum, to Otaliafan for providing the clips that melted my brain, to Big Purple Dreams for giving madness a home, and to Ky and Emma for sliding into Otaliawe with me.  Most of all, thank you to Beep, for giving me one more thing to obsess over.  (You just HAD to do it didn't you??) Oh and BIG thanks to DiNovia and Fewthistle…for giving me somewhere to go where I wouldn't end up crying! Now what the hell does the name mean??? This is dedicated to Emma, for supporting everything I do and trying her hardest to keep the snickering to a minimum. I love you, Tidbit.  You're the reason for everything.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.


The Courtship of Emma's Mother
By Patricia L. Givens


Chapter 11 - Damn It!! We Can't Have Nice Things!

It was a beautiful dream, full of soft skin and wet lips, curious fingers and gentle moans. Natalia purred happily in her sleep, her body humming with pleasure as her mind supplied a wonderful dreamscape.

The only problem was the pounding.

The smile on her lips dimmed slightly as the dream faded. She tried to hang onto it, her fingers tightening on the warm body she held in her arms, sighing when the loud thuds finally chased the last vestiges of it away and her eyes blinked open.

Natalia's smile returned full force as her eyes focused on Olivia, who was curled into her side, her head resting on her shoulder; so close that she could feel the warmth of her breath ghosting across her lips. She gently traced that full mouth with a fingertip, her body unconsciously moving her forward. Just as she was about to taste the sweetness of Olivia's lips, the pounding came again.

"Damn it!" She ground her teeth together, biting her tongue, her cheeks flushing when the older woman's eyes flew open.

"Natalia?" Olivia blinked, startled. "What's wrong?"

The brunette felt the roughness of that sleep filled voice travel down her body to settle between her legs. She breathed in deeply, trying to control the rapid beating of her heart.

Olivia read the desire easily, her own eyes darkening as she slid closer, her hand trailing up to cup the fullness of Natalia's breast.

Natalia swallowed, her entire body beginning to tremble...


"GAH!!!" She clenched her fists tightly. "THAT! That's whats the matter!"

Olivia smiled serenely, amused by the younger woman's exasperation. "Someone's at the door." She stretched, the sheet falling down to her waist, gratified when Natalia's eyes immediately fixated on her breasts. "I'll go see who it is."

"NO!" Natalia slid on top of her. "If you get up I will never get you back in this bed."

Olivia glanced at the clock. "That nap lasted longer than it should have. We really need to go into work today." She kissed the younger woman gently. It was soft and sweet, with a hint of barely restrained passion underneath.

"We will, I promise." She slid her thigh between Olivia's legs. "Just... a little later..."

The older woman smiled, her heart full of the joy she had only known since Natalia had come into her life. "Hmm..." She slid her hands over the brunette's backside. "What ever will we do to pass the time until then?"

Natalia brought her lips to Olivia's throat, opening her mouth to bite down on the sensitive skin beneath her ear.


"For the love of....!" She closed her eyes tightly in frustration, then sighed. Looking up into Olivia's beautiful face, she felt her desire turn almost painful. Sliding down the older woman's body, she placed a hot, open mouthed kiss against her sex, shivering at the taste on her tongue as Olivia's thighs trembled beneath her hands. Pulling away, she pointed at Olivia menacingly. "Don't move!" She jumped up, scooping her robe from the floor and sliding it on as she walked backwards towards the bedroom door.

The older woman smiled, stretching out across the bed as she pulled the sheet back up to the top of her thighs. "Wouldn't dream of it."

Natalia swallowed heavily and then bolted down the stairs, her ire rising when the loud banging came yet again. She stopped right in front of the door, her hand on the knob. "Who is it?" She called out, not even trying to mask the frustration in her voice.

There was a pause... "Ma?"

Natalia blinked. "Rafe?" She threw the door open, her hand coming up to cover her mouth when she saw her son standing on the other side of the screen. "Baby? What are you doing here?"

Rafe laughed. "It's a halfway house, Ma, not a prison. I can sign myself out for a few hours."

"How did you get here?"

"One of the counselors dropped me off. I was gonna go to the Beacon but I called and they said you hadn't come in yet. I saw the cars in the driveway and..." He smiled sarcastically. "You gonna let me in?"

Natalia blinked, shaking herself out of her shock. "Yes! She unlocked the screen, moving back as her son entered the house. "I just can't believe you're here."

Rafe's eyes widened as he looked his mother up and down. "That's some robe, Ma. It's almost ten in the morning! What, did you oversleep or something?" He shrugged. "Who cares, gimme a hug, Mommy!"

"Wh...what?" Natalia stuttered as Rafe's comment made her look down at the red robe, her eyes widening in panic when she remembered why she was wearing it... and what she had been doing before she came down the stairs. She raised a hand, pressing it against Rafe's chest. "Wait, wait.... Rafe!"

But it was too late. Her son wrapped his arms around her, his short scrub of beard rasping against her cheek as he pulled her tightly against him.

Natalia winced, closing her eyes in trepidation as she felt Rafe freeze, his arm muscles stiffening as he breathed in deeply.

"Ma?" His voice was very small as he pulled back, confusion painted clearly on his features.

The brunette turned bright pink, her lips quirking to one side as she tried to think of something to say.

Rafe let her go and stepped away. "Ma... what the hell?!?" He waved a hand at her. "You... that..." He frowned. "I know what that is, Ma!"

"Natalia?" Olivia's voice floated down the stairs, the teasing lilt of it setting the younger woman's blood on fire even as she stood, mortified, in front of her son.

Anger filled Rafe's eyes. "Oh, you have got to be kidding me!" He grabbed the banister and pulled himself up the stairs two at a time.

"Rafe!" Natalia followed after him, raising her voice, trying to give Olivia at least some warning of what was coming her way. "Rafe, let me explain!!"

Her son hit the landing hard, skidding slightly on the rug at the top of the stairs before bursting through the half closed door to stare, jaw on the floor, at the woman stretched out on the bed.

Natalia rushed through the door right behind him, gratified to see Olivia wrapped up in the sheet. Well, as gratified as she could be considering that the older woman was very obviously naked with a serious case of sex hair.

She placed her hand on her son's arm, flinching when he shook it off. "Rafe, listen to me."

But Rafe didn't even look at her. "You?" His voice was low as he addressed Olivia, his body seeming to vibrate with anger. "You're the reason... the wedding?"

Olivia took a breath. There were so many ways this could go. Her first inclination was to hedge. But this was Rafe and he deserved better than that, if for no other reason than he was Natalia's son. Besides, she was naked in bed waiting for his mother.

There was only so much hedging she could do.

Taking a deep breath, she looked him directly in the eyes. "Yes."

Rafe shook his head, his lips opening and closing but nothing came out. Color began to rise in his face as he stared at her.

"Rafe, honey..." Natalia began, only to sigh when he walked out of the room. She ran her fingers through her hair as she looked at Olivia sadly. "I need to... I need to go talk to him."

The older woman nodded, sliding off the bed to follow behind her. "I think we should both be there. He can't see this as something you're ashamed of, Natalia."

The brunette raised her hand, placing it in the middle of Olivia's chest, holding her in place.

"I know you want to help..." Natalia cut her off, a small smile on her lips. "...but I think it might go over better if you were wearing just a little more clothing..."

Olivia flushed. Nodding, she picked up the long terry cloth robe at her feet and slid it on, belting it at the waist tightly, feeling strangely as though she were girding herself for battle. "Okay?"

The younger woman smiled. She went up on her toes to kiss Olivia lightly on the mouth, feeling the older woman's relief clearly in the strong brush of her lips. "Let's go."

Rafe was sitting on the couch when they came downstairs, his head hanging low, both hands in his hair.

Natalia frowned sadly. He looked exactly like he did when he was ten years old and recognized the mall Santa as the guy that ran the hot dog cart on the corner. "Rafe?"

He didn't answer so she sat down next to him on the couch, running her hand through his hair like she had when he was a child.

"Rafe, please talk to me."

"What is there to say, Ma? You hid this great big… thing from me… you let me think you wanted to marry Frank, let me think we were all going to be a family when you actually… you wanted…" He waved his hand in Olivia's direction. "That!"

Natalia felt her temper flare. "Rafe, I know you're upset but you don't have any right to be mean to Olivia."

He dropped his hands, looking at her incredulously. "Are you serious? She's sleeping with my Mother!"

"Well… yeah…" Natalia shrugged, wincing slightly. "But that's still no reason to be rude."

Rafe shook his head, unable to keep from laughing. "Oh my god, Ma! You're really going to give me a lesson in etiquette… right now?"

"Don't blaspheme, Rafael."

"Sorry." He sighed and then looked at her in surprise. "The church… you're going against the teachings of the church?""

"Sometimes…" Natalia glanced at Olivia, her left hand coming up to touch the cross hanging around her neck. "Sometimes you just have to trust that your heart knows what's right, Rafe."

He studied her face. "How long has this been going on?"

"Only a few days." She saw that look in his eyes; the one that said it was just a phase, some kind of reaction to the stress of leaving Frank at the altar. She took his hand. "But it's real, Rafe. More real than anything I've ever felt before. And it… it isn't new. I've been carrying these feelings around inside of me for months. I tried to ignore them, tried to do what I thought was right for everyone. Everyone but me." She took Olivia's hand and pulled her down to join them on the couch. "Olivia is what's right for me."

Rafe watched Olivia's face as she smiled at his mother, the coldness and anger burning away as he witnessed the tenderness that filled the older woman's eyes. He sighed. "Having Gus's heart doesn't make you my dad, you know."

Olivia blinked then bit her lip in an effort to keep the sarcasm out of her voice when she responded. "Yeah, I'm aware of that."

"You ain't gonna be my Mom either," He scratched his head . "So what does that make you?"

Olivia reached out, closing her hand around his and squeezing lightly as she stared directly into his eyes. "Hopeful?"

He held her gaze for several long seconds and then turned to Natalia. "You love her, Ma?"

Natalia smiled, tears in her eyes. "With all my heart."

Rafe reached up, wiping away her tears with his thumbs. He looked at her closely, a small smile finally curling his lips. "I don't even have to ask this time." He whispered as he pulled her into a hug. "You're happy. I can see it."

"I am." She whispered back. "So happy."

He released her, turning back to Olivia. "And you… you'd better love her!" Slowly, he leaned across his mother, wrapping his arms around the older woman in a loose hug. "My mother is a good woman." He whispered. "A good person."

Olivia nodded against his shoulder. "The best."

"Treat her right." He continued, pulling back to lock his gaze with her once again. "Do right by her. Whatever… whatever that means in this... particular... situation."

Olivia laughed in delight, suddenly overwhelmed by just how much Rafe reminded her of Natalia.

"I will," She promised through her tears. "I'll do right by all of us."

Natalia looked at two of the most important people in her life and missed Emma so profoundly that it brought fresh tears to her eyes. She covered her mouth with one hand as her body shook with emotion.

"Ma?" Rafe went to place his hands on her shoulders and found Olivia already there. He leaned his head to one side, watching them as Olivia cradled his mother in her arms.

"What's wrong, sweetheart?" She whispered.

Natalia sniffled, an embarrassed smile causing the older woman to sigh in relief. "I just wish... I wish Emma was here. I don't want there to be anymore secrets... at all."

Olivia bit her bottom lip.

"You mean she doesn't know either?" Rafe shook his head, laughing softly. "Well do her a big favor, would you? Make sure she doesn't find out like I did!"

Natalia groaned, burying her face in Olivia's shoulder.

"I think we can handle that." She lifted Natalia's head with her fingertips, desperately fighting the impulse to kiss her as she wiped away the tears with her thumbs. Rafe may have made a tentative peace with the situation, but the mood still felt a bit too raw for that. Instead she looked directly into the amber eyes she loved so much and smiled. "I'm going to run upstairs and get you some tissue."

Natalia nodded, feeling apprehensive as Olivia left. When the older woman had disappeared up the stairs, she turned to her son and looked at him closely. "Are you really okay? I know this is a lot... a lot to take in..."

"Ma... Listen," He took her hands, squeezing them gently. "I'm not going to pretend I get this, because I don't. I don't understand how you could just... just go... 'poof' and you're a lesbian..."

Natalia frowned. "It wasn't quite like that, Rafe."

He smiled. "I know, Ma. I know. I know how hard it must have been for you to make this choice because I know you. I know how much the church means to you and if this... whatever it is... that you have with Olivia... means so much to you that it's worth more than that, then I have to respect it. I have to believe in it, because you're my Mother... and I believe in you. Besides..." He leaned back so he could look up the stairs, making sure they were alone. "She is sorta hot... in a Mrs. Robinson kind of way."

"RAFAEL!" Natalia slapped him on the arm, her face going bright red.

Rafe laughed, dodging the playful slap easily before becoming serious. "To be honest, I always thought Olivia was a cold-hearted bitch." He saw the warning look in his mother's eyes and raised a hand to hold off her reply. "And you can't blame me for that, Ma. After what happened with Gus, how she treated you when you were just trying to help her... There are a lot of other people in this town that think the same thing." He shrugged. "But... she's changed. I never would have thought it was possible but she really has changed. I see the way she looks at you... like you're her whole reason for existing..." He shook his head in amazement. "That woman is crazy in love with you, Ma. And... I want that for you."

The smile that lit up Natalia's features nearly broke his heart.

"Maybe Olivia wouldn't have been my choice to make you smile like that, but it's not up to me." Rafe patted her hand gently. "I guess what I'm trying to say is that I don't have to understand it, but for your sake... I can accept it."

Natalia threw her arms around her son, hugging him tightly. "I love you, Rafael."

"I know, Ma, but can you ease up? You're killing me here!" She let him go and he straightened his clothes as Olivia came back down the stairs. He watched her perch on the arm of the couch as she used a tissue to gently wipe his mother's cheeks. When Natalia unconsciously leaned into the other woman, he stood up quickly. "Okay!" He clapped his hands together. "That's enough of an outing for me today!"

Olivia groaned. "How many times are we going to hear that joke?"

"How many more people do you need to tell?"

"The whole town?" Natalia sighed.

Rafe smirked. "I'd get used to it."

Olivia watched Natalia closely as they entered her suite at the Beacon. The younger woman had been quiet, disturbingly so, since they had dropped Rafe off at the halfway house. "Are you all right?"

"Hmm?" Natalia glanced at her vacantly. "What?"

She dropped her briefcase onto the desk and took the younger woman in her arms, kissing her gently. "I said, are you all right?"

Natalia sighed. "Yes, I'm fine. I'm just... I was just thinking about how badly that could have gone."

Olivia leaned her head to the side. "But it didn't."

"I know, I know. But Rafe could have been really upset."

"But he wasn't."

"I know that, Olivia."

The older woman frowned. "Then could you please explain to me what the purpose of the conversation is? Rafe took the news very well, better than I ever hoped. I don't see how this is a problem."

"It isn't" Natalia sighed as she brushed the hair off her forehead. "But the secrecy is."


"Meaning the longer we wait to tell people about us, the more it's going to look like it's something we're ashamed of." She shrugged. "I... we... don't have anything to be ashamed of.... and I'm... done... with pretending."

"You want to come out."


"To everyone?" Olivia felt her stomach drop just a little.


The older woman nodded. "Okay."

Natalia's eyes narrowed. "Just like that? Why? Why just okay?"

Olivia kissed her on the cheek. "Because the most beautiful woman in Springfield wants to tell everyone she's in love with me. Not Frank, or Gus or anyone else... Me." She smiled. "I could definitely get used to that."

The brunette grinned. "Don't let it go to your head."

"That's definitely not where it went."

Natalia slapped away Olivia's roaming hands. "So... we should probably start with Ava."

"Why not Emma?"

"Because Ava's an adult, with adult understanding and adult biases." Natalia shrugged. "It could go badly with her too."

"I don't think so." Olivia moved around to the other side of her desk. She opened her computer and powered it up. "She does live in San Francisco after all."

"What difference does that make? You're her mother! And this isn't exactly something she would be expecting." She watched absently as Olivia logged on and started typing. "Maybe we should invite her here... or... or go there? Take her out to dinner? I don't know... maybe it would be better if you told her alone... But then, I wouldn't want her to think I didn't care enough to be there. No, we should definitely do it together...but not on the phone, the phone is so... impersonal..."

Olivia tapped a few more keys and then closed her laptop. "Okay, all done."

Natalia stared at her, completely lost. "Done...with what?"

"Telling Ava."

"What...wait... What?" The brunette shook her head slightly, like she was trying to get her brain catch up with her ears. "What do you... what do you mean you're... done?"

Olivia looked down at her laptop.

"Oh..." The younger woman gave her a pained look. "You did not send her an email!"

"I didn't?"

Natalia came around the desk. She used her hip to roll Olivia's chair out of the way so that she could flip open the computer. She quickly logged into the Beacon's email server and went straight to the last message sent, reading it out loud.

"Dear Ava, how is the weather treating you on the west coast? It has been a bit cold here for this late in the season, but at least that means we will get a long summer. Emma is growing like a weed and misses her big sister every day. I am sure she would love it if you would call or come to visit, but I know how busy you are out there so I will just give her your love and let her know you are always thinking about her, just like we are always thinking about you. Much love, Mom." Natalia's forehead furrowed in confusion. "How is that telling her?"

"Scroll down."

Holding her breath, Natalia flipped the roller on the mouse, her hand coming up to cover her mouth as she read the last line in a tiny voice. "P.S. I'm in love with Natalia. See you at Christmas."

Olivia smiled. "I think that covers it."

The brunette looked at her like she had grown a second head. "Are... are you insane?"

The older woman frowned. "Why? What's wrong?"

"What's wrong? What..." She threw her hands up in the air. "You're impossible!!" She paced back and forth next to the desk. "There is no way she's going to take that seriously."

"Why wouldn't she?"

"Because... because..." Natalia sputtered.

"Relax." Olivia placed her hands on Natalia's hips, squeezing gently. "Ava is a very direct person. She appreciates a straightforward approach, like her mother." She smiled. "Besides, I'm sure if she has any concerns at all, she'll just call-" She stopped short as the phone on her desk began to ring. She leaned forward to peek at the number. "Hmm... San Francisco..." Olivia reached out to pick up the handset only to be cut off by Natalia, who quickly hit the speakerphone button as she put a finger across her lips in warning. The older woman sighed. "Olivia Spencer."

"Mom?" The concern in Ava's voice was very apparent. "What's wrong? Is everything okay?"

"Why would you think it wasn't?"

"Because!" Her oldest daughter's voice rose in volume. "That email you sent.... I figured the only way you would send something that ridiculous would be if something was horribly wrong and you needed to signal me somehow... am I on speakerphone?"

Olivia rolled her eyes at the 'I-told-you-so' look Natalia was leveling at her. "Yeah, my...uhm... hands are full at the moment." She slid her fingers up along Natalia's ribs, her heart thudding in her chest when the younger woman's nipples hardened almost instantly. She laughed softly as her hands were brushed away. "Why would I need to 'signal' you?"

Ava sighed. "Who knows with the loonies you've got out there! Maybe Alan has you tied to your desk or Phillip is force feeding you Valium... Jesus, knowing that town? You could have been kidnapped by ninjas and it wouldn't seem out of the ordinary."

The older woman laughed. "Did you ever stop to think that I was being serious?"

"No. There's no way you would do something that understated."

Olivia smirked. "Ava, honey... do you remember when I told you I was dying?"

"Of course I do!" She could hear the exasperation in her daughter's voice, even from the other side of the country. "You told me while we were out getting a manicure of all things, like it was the most normal..."

There was complete silence followed by a long, slow inhalation of breath.

"Oh...my...GOD! You're in love with NATALIA????"

Olivia smiled in triumph, trying not to laugh at the incredulous look on her lover's face. "That would be a yes."

"The woman who tried to kill you on her wedding day?"

"Well... That was... really kind of an accident." She pursed her lips as she glanced up at the brunette. "More or less..."

"Does... does she know you... like her? You know...THAT way?"

Olivia snorted. "After the things we've done the last couple of days? I would certainly hope so... Ow!" She scowled, rubbing her arm where Natalia had slapped her.

"What was that?" Ava's voice became suspicious. "Oh my god, she's there isn't she?"

The two women looked at each other. Olivia shrugged and inclined her head towards the phone.

"Uh....hey... Ava." Natalia winced at the overly cheerful tone of her own voice. "How are you doing?"

"I'm... fine. I would ask you the same thing but I'm... I'm afraid you might actually answer." There was a sigh. "Aside from the all the crap between you and my mom... I've always considered you to be one of the more... sane people out there in Banana Land. So you tell me... the truth... please."

"The truth..." Natalia looked down into sea-green eyes, feeling her stomach flip pleasantly as she got lost in their depths. "The truth is... that your mother is the most exasperating, infuriating, uncompromisingly stubborn woman I have ever met in my life." She trailed her finger along Olivia's jaw line. "And I am so in love with her that sometimes... sometimes I think I might die from it."

There was a long pause. "Wow."

"You have no idea." Olivia whispered as she leaned her head against Natalia's stomach.

"Then... I guess I'll see you... both of you... at Christmas."

Natalia blinked. "That's it?"

"Well...yeah. To be honest, I was always amazed that my mom didn't already have a few female skeletons in her closet. It wasn't the woman part that threw me. It was the YOU part. But... then again..." Ava's smile could be heard across the phone lines. "When I was in grade school I beat up the boys I had a crush on, too."

Olivia rolled her eyes. "Keep it up, smart ass, and I won't have my woman bake you any cookies."

"Ooooh, she bakes? That explains everything!"

"Goodbye, Ava." Olivia paused as her hand hovered over the End button. "I'll call you later, okay?"

Ava snorted. "Expect it to be a long conversation. I intend to hear the whole story... INCLUDING the good parts. Love you."

"Love you too, sweetheart." She hung up, her lips curving into a smile. "Well, that just leaves Emma."

"And then the rest of the town." Natalia shook her head, looking at her lover with fond exasperation. "Your woman? That was a little caveman, wasn't it?"

Olivia pulled her down onto her lap, catching her lips in a passionate kiss. "Sorry, Jane." She whispered when they finally broke apart. "No Tarzan here. You'll have to settle for me."

"I think I might be able to put up with you."

Olivia's eyebrows rose. "I certainly hope so! I was kind of counting on a happy ending."

Natalia nuzzled her neck tenderly. "Me too, baby. Me too."


Chapter 12: Stars Upon Thars... (Come on! Who doesn't like a good Dr. Suess title??)

Olivia's hands slid down Natalia's spine, opening wide to spread across the small of her back. She purred happily when the younger woman shifted, increasing the contact between their bodies as she slid her hands up into her hair. Closing her eyes, Olivia tilted her head to the side, enjoying the feel of long, strong fingers raking across her scalp. When she felt them tangle firmly in her pale brown locks, she growled deep in her chest and attacked Natalia's throat, nipping roughly at the freckle that adorned one of her lovers more sensitive spots. She had charted much of her lover's body using the small, sweet markings like some kind of celestial map. She hadn't realized it before, but somehow, it seemed fitting. The words 'heavenly body' flashed through her mind, turning her lips up in a grin at her own cheesiness.

God, what has this woman done to me?!?

"What..." Natalia took in a deep breath as her voice cracked, the sensation of Olivia's lips against her skin so intense that it felt as though they were in places much more intimate than their current location. "What... are you smiling at...?"

The older woman paused for a moment. "How did you know I was smiling?"

"Oh...! Are... are you kidding?" Natalia groaned. "I can feel it..." She swallowed. "Everywhere..."

Olivia's grin widened, her tongue flicking out to caress Natalia's pulse point. "I can't imagine why I wouldn't be smiling." She whispered. "You're here... I'm here..." She raised her lips to the younger woman's ear, her breath sending chills down the body in her arms. "...the desk is here..."

She heard Natalia swallow. "The desk?"

"Mmmhmmm..." She let her hand trail over the brunette's hip, sliding it under a firm thigh where her fingers squeezed almost involuntarily. "I've had a lot of fantasies about this desk..." She blinked in confusion when Natalia was suddenly gone, her body and lips aching from the loss of firm weight and soft skin. She stared at the younger woman curiously. "What's wrong?"

Natalia shook her head. "I just... I don't think... We just... can't."

Olivia's eyes half closed as she licked her lips. "Oh, I think history has taught us that we can..." She smiled, one eyebrow arching wickedly. "In fact, I think we're rather good at it."

"No.....that's..." The younger woman frowned. "That's not what I meant. I mean... What I wanted to say... I can't..." She took in a deep breath before finishing her sentence in a rapid flurry of words. "Iwon'tbewithyousomewherethatyou'vebeenwithsomeoneelse!"

Olivia stared at her in shock, her mouth slightly open. After a few moments she looked down at her desk, her eyes darkening as a deep flush traveled up her neck.

Natalia's eyes widened. "I know... I know you're no saint, Olivia but... is it really going to limit our choices THAT much?"

The older woman trailed her finger along the edge of her desk calendar. "Do you really think that badly of me?" She whispered, never raising her eyes.

"No! Oh, no, Olivia!" Natalia took a step towards her, only to stop when older woman finally lifted her head and she saw the hurt in those clear green eyes.

Hurt she had caused.

"Olivia... I don't..." She raised her hand only to clench it into a fist and pull it away. "I don't think badly of you at all. You and I... we're different people.." She noticed the older woman's shoulders relax slightly and moved a little closer. "Your life... your past... all of it makes you who you are now." She touched Olivia's cheek gently. "And I love who you are now.... so much..." She bit her lip as her embarrasment finally made her look down. "And okay... maybe... maybe I have... a little...jealous streak..."

Olivia snorted. "Little?"

"Tiny." Natalia eased her arms around her wounded lover, nuzzling her ear with a gentle breath before closing her lips on the lobe. "My problem is not with anything you might have done with other people, Olivia." She tightened her arms as her voice dropped several octaves. "My problem is what those other people got to do with you..."

Olivia turned into the embrace, kissing Natalia on the nose. "I have never fooled around with anyone in this office, male, female or otherwise."

Natalia's eyebrows rose. "Otherwise?"

"Yeah," Olivia frowned, shrugging. "That sounded a lot better in my head."

The younger woman laughed.

Olivia wrapped her arms around her, pulling her tightly against her chest. "I will never, ever try to...be with you... in a place that wouldn't be strictly our own." She looked directly into the deep amber eyes she loved so much. "Because you are far too special to share with other memories." She shook wildly when Natalia kissed the corner of her mouth, her lips trailing over her chin and down her throat. "Not that... I'd be able to remember any when you're around..."

Natalia pressed into Olivia until she felt the desk connect with the back of her thighs. "Tell me..." She whispered as her lips dipped low into the V of the older woman's shirt. It was black and fitted, with a steel gray vest buttoned over the top. The outfit was completed by a tight, matching skirt that barely reached her knees, and black high heeled boots that made the other woman tower above her. The overall effect was was one of power and intimidation and the brunette felt desire tingling down her spine when Olivia trembled under her hands.

Olivia's voice was breathless when she responded, her hands running firmly across the back of Natalia's silk suit jacket. "Tell you what?"

"You're fantasies... about the desk?" She smiled at the older woman's sharp intake of breath.

"They're... pretty..." She swallowed. "Generic..."

Natalia undid the top button of her vest. "Somehow I doubt it..." She let her fingers run across her lover's chest, the hardened nipples she found causing a deep, throbbing ache between her legs. "Tell me..." She pinched one of the nipples hard, her voice taking on the sharp edge of command. "... or show me..."

"Oh...." Olivia groaned, her head falling onto Natalia's shoulder as her body betrayed her in a hundred delightful ways. "Can't..." A tiny smirk found it's way onto her lips. "We're... facing the wrong way."

Natalia's reaction was instant and electric, her spine straightening as her eyes widened. "Wha..." She cleared her throat. "What do you mean?"

Olivia's smirk grew as she felt the control shift. "I had this desk custom made..." She leaned backwards, her hands running across the front edge. "Leather padding all along this side..." She watched the younger woman lick her lips, her pulse rate soaring.

"Pad... padding?" Natalia swallowed. "For what?"

The older woman shrugged innocently. "It... makes it comfortable. To lean against..." She grabbed Natalia's lapels and pulled her closer, not stopping until she could feel the warmth of her body pressed tightly down the length of her own. "... or to be bent... over..."

"Oh..." The brunette said weakly. "How long..." She moaned slightly when Olivia bit her bottom lip. "How long have you... had this desk?"

Olivia paused. She thought quickly about lying and then shook her head slightly. Lying and Natalia...they just never seemed to go well together. "A couple of years..." She admitted slowly.

"Ahh..." The younger woman leaned back, her hands coming up to play absently with the buttons on Olivia's vest. "So... those fantasies... weren't necessarily about me..."

The older woman tucked her fingers under Natalia's chin, raising her head so she could look directly into her eyes. "All my fantasies are about you... now." She kissed her tenderly. "And have been for..." She looked up at the ceiling, pretending to think. "The last year or so?"

"Hmmm" Natalia pressed up against her, her hands going to the older woman's waist as she glanced over her shoulder. "Is the door locked?" Olivia's eyes went so wide that Natalia almost laughed.

"Are you... serious?" Olivia felt her heartrate jump when Natalia nodded. She never imagined that she might actually say yes. Flirting? Sure. Kissing...maybe even a little heavy petting? Possibly. But sex... in a public place? "Who are you and what have you done with Natalia?"

"Well, if you aren't interested..." The younger woman pouted as she started to pull away.

"Hey!" Olivia grabbed her and dragged her back, her lips descending in a rough kiss that left them both breathless. "Interested doesn't even cover it." She slid her hands inside Natalia's jacket, her fingers pulling at the blue silk shirt the younger woman had tucked into her slacks. She growled when her hands were playfully slapped away.

"What about the door?" Natalia laughed as she tried to fend off Olivia's assault.

The older woman snorted. "No sane person would ever walk in here without knocking." She whimpered in frustration when Natalia finally caught both of her hands. The frustration turned to surprise, however, when the brunette forced them behind her own back. "You're stronger than you look..."

"You have no idea..." Natalia purred into her lover's ear, then she watched as Olivia closed her eyes and leaned down slightly, her lips parted, waiting for a kiss that never came. Instead, the younger woman tightened her grip and tugged, turning Olivia so that the edge of the desk rubbed up against her sex as she pressed into her from behind.

"Whoa!" Olivia's entire body flushed with heat as she felt Natalia begin to roll her hips, her head falling back as strong hands slid down her thighs to curl under the edge of her skirt. "What... wait..."

"Wait?" Natalia didn't even hesitate. She pulled her hands up slowly, dragging the material with them as she used her upper torso to push Olivia down. "I don't think so."

"But..." The older woman swallowed, unable to think clearly as fingers reached her panties, tucking into the silk waistband to tug them down her thighs. "But... I... thought I would be... be the one..."

Natalia smiled as she bit her neck, closing her eyes when Olivia's moan sent a flood of heat and wetness to her own sex. "Tell me something?" She whispered.


"In all of those fantasies you had before I came along..." She tangled her fingers in Olivia's hair and pulled her head back roughly so that she could look into her eyes. "Were you ever the one doing the bending?"

Olivia groaned, her knees going so weak that should would have collapsed if she hadn't been pinned up against the desk.

Natalia took the groan as the only answer she needed. She pulled the gray vest open, sliding Olivia's shirt up until she could reach the front of her bra. She released the clasp, moaning when soft flesh filled her hands, the hard points of the older woman's nipples burning into her palms. Olivia whimpered and something snapped; a haze of desire blurring her vision as she used one hand to fling everything off the desktop before pushing Olivia face down onto the blotter. She nudged Olivia's thighs open with her knee, forwning when the silk panties hindered their movement. She bit roughly into one shoulder as she brought her foot up, using it to drag them down to the floor before she wiggled her body into the V of Olivia's legs, spreading them wider as one hand trailed down to stroke a smooth inner thigh.

"Oh my god...." Natalia shuddered at the wetness that met her fingertips; shocked by how far down Olivia's thighs it had spread. She tried to go slow, tried to control herself, but the way Olivia felt.... "Tell me what you want." She demanded roughly, the desire coursing through her driving her crazy.

"You know..." Olivia panted as the younger woman ground against her backside. "You know what... I want..."

"Maybe I do," Natalia bit her neck, rolling Olivia's nipple firmly between her fingers, making the older woman mewl with need. "But you ain't gonna get it...unless you beg me for it..."

Olivia's body rocked wildly, her need overloading her senses at the softly spoken words. "Please..." She whimpered.

"Please what?"

Olivia reached up with her hands, gripping the front of the desk so hard her knuckles turned white. "Please... fuck me... Please, Natalia..."

The brunette bit her lip as she slid her index finger through wet Olivia's wet folds; fluttering them across the swollen bundle of nerves at the top of her sex. "Like this?" She teased.

"No..." Olivia pushed back, rotating her hips. "Go inside... Oh god, please Natalia... please go inside..."

Natalia's hand slid away from her breast, gripping her left hip as she slid two fingers as deep as they would go into warm, soft velvet.

Olivia shuddered in her hands, her mouth pressed against the Italian leather blotter on her desk to muffle her moans. "Oh god yes..." Then she felt Natalia begin to move, using her hips and body to increase the pressure of the fingers buried inside her. She felt those fingers curl and her eyes rolled back in her head. "Oh, yes baby... yes... please don't stop... right like that... don't stop..."

Natalia's free hand went to Olivia's shoulder, using it to pull the other woman towards her as she thrust her hand roughly. She could feel her own need sharp within her as she fucked Olivia from behind. Her breath was coming in short pants and grunts and she made herself blush when she looked up and caught their reflection in the mirror next to the door. Fascinated, she watched Olivia's face, watched her bite her lower lip as she shut her eyes tightly, watched her throw her head back as her pleasure grew, her painfully hard nipples rubbing against the desk when Natalia pushed her back down.

"Oh God... Oh god, oh my god, oh Natalia, yes...yes..."

Natalia could feel Olivia's orgasm building, felt the exquisite flesh around her fingers begin to flutter wildly and moved faster, grinding against her harder as the older woman came apart in her hands.

"OH MY FUCKING GOD!" Olivia went completely still as her release crashed over her, every muscle in her body suffused with pleasure as liquid heat pumped through her veins. The sensations went on so long she thought she might actually pass out. When they finally lessened, she felt Natalia resting heavily against her back, her fingers still curled inside her. "Jesus..." She whispered.

Natalia tsked, pulling her fingers out slowly. "Why is it..." She breathed heavily against Olivia's neck. "That the only time you find religion is when your coming?"

The older woman laughed. "Maybe that's the only time I actually see god?"

Natalia stood up and Olivia turned, gathering her into her arms. For a moment, she just held her; then her lips found the spot just below Natalia's ear that pretty much guaranteed the younger woman would be moaning her name within two minutes.

"Uh uh." Natalia pushed her away gently.

"What? Why?" The older woman pouted when Natalia began to smooth her wrinkled skirt back down her thighs.

"Because we don't have time. I have a meeting with the kitchen staff in ten minutes and after that..." She raised her eyebrows as she inclined her head towards the desk. "You owe me more than a quickie." She picked up Olivia's underwear, biting her lip as she held them out with a sympathetic look. "I think I killed these."

Olivia frowned at the torn silk before leveling a mock glare at her lover. "And you look so upset about it."

"Of course I'm upset. Now I have to work the rest of the day with the knowledge that you aren't wearing any underwear! That's brutal!"

"Not nearly as brutal as me thinking about you wandering around dripping wet." Olivia fastened her bra and straightened her shirt, pulling the vest closed over it. One eyebrow arched in surprise when she noticed something was missing.

"What is it with you and buttons??" Natalia sighed.

"ME?" She pointed at the empty spot sarcastically. "I believe this one was all you, sweetheart."

"Yeah well-"

Both of them looked up in surprise when the door slammed open. Olivia quickly did up the rest of her buttons and Natalia tucked in her shirt as Mayor Wolfe step into the office.

"What are you doing here?" Olivia growled.

"I told you I'd be stopping by today to talk about renting the Grand Ballroom for my upcoming fundraiser." Doris smiled sweetly. "Didn't I?"

"No," Olivia growled. "You didn't."

"Oh, well... my mistake." Her eyes fixated on Olivia's missing button. "I'm not interrupting anything...am I?"

Natalia leveled an accusing glare at Olivia.

"Hey!" The older woman whispered. "I said no sane person!"

Doris' lips quirked oddly as one of her eyebrows crawled up into her hairline. "Wow..." She inhaled deeply. "New air freshener?"

Olivia opened her mouth to reply only to shut it quickly when she saw Natalia's eyes narrow. She watched the younger woman stalk towards the mayor slowly, the small frown on her lips turning into a smirk as she stopped right in front of her. She looked up at the taller woman with a lazy impudence that took Olivia's breath away.

"Shut up, Doris." Natalia picked up her leather portfolio, tucking it under her arm.. "Or I won't have my woman give you the price you want on the ballroom." She turned to Olivia, tossing her a wicked smile and a wink before strolling out of the room.

It took Doris a minute to pick her jaw up off the floor. "What the hell has gotten into her?"

Olivia smiled, her eyes lingering on the empty doorway. "Probably a little bit of me. Ah!" She held her hand up, blocking the comment she knew was coming. "Don't even say it. It's too easy and therefore beneath you." She frowned. "Then again, we are talking about you... Oh and hey, did you ever hear of knocking?"

"Why would I?" Doris pursed her lips. She stepped closer, settling onto the edge of Olivia's desk as she leaned back on her hands. "You miss all the good stuff that way."

The mayor tossed her purse onto a chair. She watched Olivia move around the desk, a smirk planted firmly on her lips as she witnessed the painfully quiet reorganization of the hotelier's office supplies. She picked up Olivia's desk calendar from the floor, smoothing out the torn pages as she handed it back. "Looks like your schedule is a little rough this week."

"I don't suppose you would take that as a hint..." She sighed at the grin the other woman shot her way. "No, I didn't think so."

"Are you always this messy or is this the wake of hurricane Natalia?"

"You're not funny."

"Only because you're the one I'm laughing at."

"Why are you here again?" Olivia dropped into her chair with an exasperated grunt. "Oh right, the ballroom."

Doris blinked. "The what?"

"The ballroom?" Olivia said sarcastically. "The one you need for your fundraiser?"

"Oh," The Mayor waved her hand dismissively. "I made that up."

Olivia's mouth opened but nothing came out. She shook her head slightly and looked at the other woman in confusion. "Then why the hell are you here?"

"Well..." Doris shrugged. "I guess you could say I've had a ringside seat for this disaster since the beginning. You can't fault a girl for being curious. Besides, you two are better than Jerry Springer!" She saw the temper flare in those bright green eyes and held her hand up placatingly. "Come on. You know you want to talk about it."

Olivia took a deep breath, held it and then slowly let it out. The irritating little witch had a point.

"So...?" Doris leaned in closer.

"So..." She sighed and asked the one question she really wanted answered. "Is it always like this?"

The mayor raised one eyebrow. "You're gonna have to give me a little more information if you want an intelligent answer."

"I don't..." Olivia shook her head. She looked around her office, fidgeting with her nails and rearranging the pens in her desk drawer before finally sliding it shut with a forceful 'thud'. "It's just... everything feels like... more."

"More?" Doris looked at her expectantly.

"Yeah... The sun feels warmer, the air smells sweeter... It's like every one of my senses is in overdrive... and my body..." She groaned. "... the barest touch of her fingers on my skin leaves me filled with this..." Olivia tunneled her fingers through her hair. "It leaves me filled with this... incredible joy." She felt a flush creep into her cheeks. "Along with an... overwhelming ache... a hunger... for more." She collapsed back into her chair, breathless from just thinking about how Natalia affected her. "Is this how it... is this how it feels... with a woman?"

"No, Olivia." The mayor said gently. "That's how it feels when you're in love."

She snorted. "Well, that's... just ridiculous. I've been in love before."

"Have you?" She caught Olivia's gaze and held it. "Have you really been in love like this before? Or have you just been going through the motions?"

Olivia didn't answer, her face thoughtful as she stared off into space.

"However..." Doris smirked. "That thing that happens when you're with her... when she's naked and pressed up against you, her hands in... naughty places? That thing that feels like the top of your head is coming off? Do you know what I'm talking about?"

She nodded, swallowing hard.

"THAT is because she's a woman."

Olivia laughed softly, her body weak from a warm rush of memories.

"So how did Rafe take it?"

She stared at the mayor blankly for a moment and then flushed bright red. "Considering he found out pretty much the same way you did... he was pretty amazing."

"Oh my god!" Doris laughed. "The poor boy will be scarred for life... if...you know... he wasn't already, what with prison and all."

Olivia groaned, glad that Natalia wasn't present to hear that remark.

"And Ava?"

"She didn't care so much about the woman part. It was the Natalia part that seemed to shock her."

"Didn't she ever see Beauty and The Beast? Or maybe I'm thinking of Pretty Woman..."

Olivia closed her eyes in frustration. "Remind me again why I hang out with you?"

"Because it's either me or Greg... and I'm pretty sure you hate show tunes."

Olivia leaned her head to the side. Once again, the woman had a point.

"Okay..." Doris blinked. "So let me see if I've got this straight... pardon the pun. In the span of a few days you broke up a wedding, stole the bride, moved in with her, became sexually..." She snorted at the glare Olivia leveled at her. "...flexible, and told two out of three of your children about your alternative lifestyle?" She laughed. "Are you just checking things off of a lesbian to-do list or what?"

"When you say it like that I sound absolutely predatory!"

"Aren't you?"

Olivia looked startled by the question. She chewed on her bottom lip for a few moments while she considered a response. "Maybe I was. Maybe I used to be... But not now. With Natalia it isn't about winning the prize or getting my way." She leaned her elbows on the desk, dropping her chin into her hands as her eyes took on an almost dazed look. "For once in my life I want to give more than I want to get. I want to spend my life making her happy, making her laugh..." A small smile curved the edges of her lips. "Making her truly believe that she is the most important thing in the universe to at least one person." She looked up, her cheeks flushing red when she saw the look of horror on the Mayor's face.

"Oh dear lord!" Doris made a disgusted face. "Did you read that on a Hallmark card? What's next, spouting poetry and rescuing kittens? There was one person in this town I knew I could go to when I wanted a knock down drag out fight and now here she is... she's...she's..."

"In love?"

"Whipped!" Doris threw down the gauntlet. "You're whipped! Olivia Freaking Spencer... is somebody's bitch!"

Olivia smiled. "Yeah... I guess I am."

She threw her hands in the air. "I give up! You're a lost cause..."

The last few words came out so softly that Olivia could barely hear them. She looked into the Mayor's eyes and saw something... Something she never expected to see.


"Why don't you tell Ashlee?" She asked quietly.

"What?" The Mayor huffed and straightened her jacket. "That... That isn't even on the table for discussion."

"Why not?" Olivia leaned forward. "You've planted yourself in the middle of my personal life. Why shouldn't I return the favor?" She stood, coming around the desk to lean up against it next to her. "What is it your afraid of?"

Doris looked down at the floor, her hands shoved deep into her pockets. "I only have two things of value in my life, Olivia; that kid and my career. What you're suggesting could cost me both."

"You don't know that. Ashlee could surprise you. This town could surprise you. It usually shocks the hell outta me." She bumped the other woman with her shoulder.

"Julia Roberts you ain't."

"I think that's the nicest thing you've ever said to me." Olivia smiled gently. "Just tell her."

Doris shook her head, drawing in a deep breath as she collected herself; her eyes darkening as she closed herself off. "Look, I didn't come here for this. If I wanted a shrink, I'd sleep with one."

"Then what did you come here for?"

"I told you, my interest is of a purely prurient nature."

Olivia was having none of it. "Bullshit. You came because we're friends... and you care."

"Okay, that's it." Doris picked up her purse. "I don't need to stand here and be insulted by you. I'm leaving."

"You mean to tell me after all these years that all I had to do to get rid of you, is be nice?"

Doris grinned. "Ironic, ain't it?"

Olivia watched her open the door, waiting until she was almost through it. "Doris?"

The Mayor didn't turn around, but she did stop for a moment.

"Thank you."

The other woman nodded almost imperceptibly. Then she was gone.

The mirror was smudged.

Greg frowned, pausing in his long trek down the hall outside of the Beacon's twin presidential suites. They were located on the top floor of the hotel and, when they were unoccupied as they were now, the housekeeping staff tended to avoid them like the plague.

He sighed again and looked at his watch. It was almost four-thirty. He was off in an hour and a half. He could use most of that time tracking down one of the housekeepers and trying to get her to come up here to clean the mirror, or...

Frowning, he pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket and rubbed quickly at the long smudge, wondering how it had gotten there in the first place and thinking back fondly to when Natalia Rivera had been working as a maid. It's wasn't that he begrudged her the elevation in her career, fast and surprising though it was. It was just that none of the managers ever had to worry about her assignments. One of which had been this floor.

Now, each manager was tasked with doing two sets of 'rounds' every day, prowling the hallways looking for anything that might tarnish the overall presentation of the hotel; anything that was less than perfect.

And if working for Olivia Spencer had taught him anything, it was that there were varying levels of perfection, her's being the most completely unyielding he had ever come across.

And that was on a good day.

Which today was not.

For some reason, both his boss and her assistant had been in a mood since this morning. Natalia was edgy and flustered, her interactions with him short and terse, nothing like the normal smiles and pleasantries he received from her. And Ms. Spencer...

Greg rolled his eyes.

Their supreme leader was being a major bitch today.

Twice he had interrupted her when she appeared to be doing nothing but staring off into space, yet she had reacted like he had walked in on her masturbating or something. He cringed at the mental image. His boss was a Diva with a capital D and he adored her for it, but sometimes...

"Not all queens do drama..." he muttered under his breath.

"What was that?" The deep voice came out of nowhere and he squeaked loudly in terror, spinning around to flatten himself up against the mirror. His eyes slammed shut almost instantly, a knee-jerk reaction from his childhood that he had never been able to shake. It was a rule, wasn't it? When the monsters came, you closed your eyes. If you can't see them, they can't see you.

"Greg." The voice was deceptively soft, making him flinch as his hands flexed against the cool glass. "Greg... what are you doing?"

He cracked one eye open and looked at his boss meekly. "Cleaning the mirror?"

"Well, aside from that not being your job," Olivia looked pointedly at the new smudges the covered the bottom half of the glass. "Your technique appears to be lacking. Did you need me to get a member of housekeeping up here to give you some pointers? I'm sure you'd look adorable in the black dress and flats."

Greg's mind flashed to the French Maid costume at home in his closet, his normally pale cheeks flaring bright red. Swallowing, he peeled himself off the mirror, trying to gauge her mood as he straightened his sweater. "I... I... it wasn't that bad..." He looked behind him at the mirror and flinched. "...before..."

Olivia shook her head. "Whatever, look, I'm trying to find Natalia. Have you seen her?"

"Uhm..." He reached up to adjust his tie, remembering belatedly that he wasn't wearing one. "Heh..." He smiled sheepishly.

"Natalia, Greg..." She forced herself to smile, enjoying the panic it engendered in the man. "Focus. Have. You. Seen. Natalia."

"Yes!" He nodded quickly, looking for all the world like one of those bobble-head dogs that made Emma giggle. He pointed at the ground. "Two floors down. There was a problem with the AC in one of the junior suites. It just got fixed and she was waiting to make sure the room cooled off appropriately." He checked his pad, rattling off the room number quickly.

"Thank you, Greg." Olivia patted him gently on the arm. "I trust you'll get this cleaned up?" She didn't wait for him to answer, turning to stride back to the elevator, looking like a force of nature. He wondered briefly what Natalia had done to irritate the boss to such a degree and then decided he was better off not knowing. He turned and looked at the mirror.

Suddenly, spending an hour trying to track down a maid sounded like the perfect way to finish off his day.

Olivia tapped her foot impatiently as she stood inside the elevator, her finger darting out twice to press the floor button as she ground her teeth. She had been trying to find Natalia all day. Oh, she had no problem getting her on the phone; the cool professional tones of her lover's voice driving her crazy as she deftly avoided being pulled into anything resembling a flirty conversation. But her attempts at securing some actual face time with the younger woman had been thwarted at every turn. Earlier that afternoon she had tracked her down in the kitchen, only to be told by the cooks that the brunette had left a few minutes before her arrival. The same thing had happened when the Concierge informed her that Natalia was down in Maintenance, and the Lifeguards had been too blonde to even point her in a direction when she missed her at the pool. She knew her staff had to have told Natalia that she was looking her and that, coupled with too many near misses to be considered coincidental, led her to believe that her lover was avoiding her.

The elevator finally reached its destination and Olivia was through the doors before they even opened completely. Frustrated and more than a little apprehensive, she paused outside of the hotel room, her hand raised to knock before she realized what she was doing. Growling at herself, she grabbed her passkey and swiped it, pushing open the door so that she could step into the room.

What she found brought her up short in confusion.

Natalia was standing to one side, her body perfectly still, her long hair the only thing gently swaying as she stared up at the vent near the ceiling.

"Natalia?" Olivia said softly. "What are you doing?"


"Waiting?" She closed the door behind her. "Waiting for what?"

"For this... room... to cool off."

Olivia pursed her lips as she glanced around. The room felt fine, if anything it was a little cold. She crossed the space between them to stand right behind the younger woman. "It's fine in here. Are you running a fever..?" She turned Natalia around, reaching out to place a hand on her forehead, only to have the brunette side-step and move away. "Okay, you need to tell me what the hell is going on!"

"Nothing." Natalia's voice was tight, her tone almost cold. "I'm just... trying to get my work done..."

Olivia grabbed her by the lapels, her knuckles grazing over rock hard nipples as she used them to pull the younger woman to her. She blinked in surprise when Natalia moaned, her head falling back as she arched into the accidental caress. Releasing her, she cupped her lover's face in her hands, forcing her to meet her gaze. "Are you all right?" She whispered, swallowing heavily at the need she found in the near blackness of Natalia's eyes.

"No." The other woman laughed, her breath coming rapidly as she reversed their positions and began to push Olivia backwards around the room. "No, I'm not all right. All day... all I've been able to think about is your legs and your..." She raised both her hands, hovering them over Olivia's vest. "Your..."

Olivia smiled, moving in a little closer. "My what...?" She ran her fingers across Natalia's lower lip, tracking the line of her jaw before sliding her hand around the back of the younger woman's neck.

Natalia's chest rose and fell quickly as she tried to control the sensations that had been driving her crazy all day. She had thought work would occupy her mind, tear her thoughts away from the throbbing ache between her legs and the butterflies in her lower stomach, but it hadn't worked. All she could think about was sea-green eyes, full, decadent lips and the scent of Olivia's perfume... "Chanel..." She whispered absently.

"What?" Olivia smiled. The brunette was beautiful every single day, but a Natalia gripped by overwhelming desire? That was a vision she would never forget. "What did you say?" She teased, pressing her hips into the younger woman as she leaned her head to one side.

Natalia opened her mouth, breathing in and out deeply. "Fuck it." She growled. She shoved Olivia backwards, her smile feral when the older woman landed on the bed with a surprised grunt. Without hesitating, she straddled Olivia's thighs, one hand working open the front of her slacks as she grabbed the other woman's wrist.

"Natal..." Olivia's mouth fell open when Natalia pressed her hand down the front of her pants, sliding it inside her underwear so that her fingers could feel the wetness soaking through both. "Oh my god...."

But Natalia wasn't done. Lifting herself up on her knees, she pushed Olivia's hand further down, pressing the tip of her middle finger into her opening, using it to guide her as she quickly dropped back down, impaling herself on three of the older woman's fingers.

"JESUS!" Olivia gasped as Natalia began to grind against her, pressing the back of her hand into her own sex with the strength of her movements. The younger woman released her grip as Olivia began to respond, dropping her hands to her sides, bracing them against the bed as her back arched so severely that Olivia could feel her hair brushing against her thighs. "Oh...my... god..."

Natalia breathed heavily through her mouth, small grunts of pleasure escaping her parted lips as she increased the speed of her hips, rolling them forward and back. "Yes... Oh god yes...." She felt the room around her spin out of focus as pure electricity traveled outwards from where Olivia's fingers were buried deep inside of her. Her entire body felt like it was on fire, the intense pleasure locking her muscles; tearing through her until she felt herself explode in a swirling blur of colors and sounds that made no sense and left her weak and wasted, barely able to force her body forward before collapsing heavily onto her lover.

Long minutes later Natalia raised her head to find Olivia staring at her with such love in her eyes that it took her breath away. "How..." She swallowed. "How can you still look at me like that... after what I just did?"

"What you did?" Olivia laughed joyfully as she gently withdrew her fingers. "What you just did, was ensure that I will never, ever, underestimate you when it comes to sex." She kissed her on the nose. "That was incredible..."

Natalia buried her face in Olivia's neck. "I feel so... wanton..."

"Wanton...really?" The older woman's fingers brushed through her hair. "I like that..."

"You do?"

"Oh yeah..." She flipped Natalia over, her fingers sliding into the V of her shirt. "Let me show you how much."

Forty five minutes later, the two women stepped out of the room, their clothing rumpled and their hair wet from the quick shower they had managed after properly utilizing the over-sized tub in the junior suite. Laughing, Natalia thumbed the elevator button, losing herself in deep green eyes while she waited for the doors to open. When they finally did, she turned and ran directly into Greg, who was trying his hardest to get out of their way.

"Greg!" Olivia smiled, not even trying to hide the happiness in her eyes.

"Uh..." He stared at them both like he had never seen them before. "I was...just finishing my rounds."

"Carry on then!" She stepped to the side and waved him off the elevator. "Oh and, Greg? That suite..." She pointed to the door. "It needs a little attention. Could you get one of the maids to come up please? Thank you!"

Natalia kept her eyes glued to floor as she tried not to laugh at the poor man. "Well that was subtle!" She snickered once the doors had closed.

"Screw subtle." She pushed Natalia up against the elevator wall and kissed her passionately. "We're telling Emma today. After that, it won't matter who knows."

"Really?" The younger woman looked at her adoringly.

"Yeah." Olivia squeezed her backside playfully right before the doors opened. "She's our daughter and it's time."

She turned the corner and stopped dead in her tracks, the smile freezing on her face when she saw Jane and Emma loitering outside her office door.

"Mommy!" The little girl ran up to her, jumping into her arms.

"Whoa, there Jellybean." Olivia smiled, hugging her tightly before putting her down and straightening her vest. "What are you doing here? I thought we were going to pick you up in a little while."

"But Mommy! Rafe said he saw the ducks come back this morning!! I wanted to meet you here so we could get home faster. They've been gone a really long time. I bet their really hungry..."

"Rafe?" Natalia's eyes widened. "When did you talk to Rafe?"

"He called on Jane's cell phone. He asked if he could come see me next weekend. He even called me his little sister!!" Emma smiled happily.

Natalia pressed her hands together in front of her mouth, her eyes shining with happy tears.

"That's great, baby." She nodded at Jane, letting her know it was okay to leave.

"So can we go home now? Please?"

"Yes, baby." She pinched her daughter's cheek playfully. "Wouldn't want to keep the ducks waiting!"


Chapter 13: Nietzsche Was An Ass...

Olivia pushed open the back door to the farmhouse, smiling as Emma tossed her backpack and lunch bag onto the kitchen table before running to the breadbox. She pulled out an entire whole grain loaf and threw it on the floor.

"Emma!" Her eyes went wide as she watched her daughter jump up and down on the unsuspecting bread, giggling like mad as the slices turned into a mash of crumbs and stringy pieces of crust. "What are you doing?"

"Making duck food!" The little girl looked up at her like she was crazy. "Duh."

Natalia laughed and Olivia shot her a dirty look. "You know I don't like the D word, jellybean." She pulled Emma off of her victim, picking up the trampled sack with two fingers as she raised an eyebrow at her snickering lover. "I hope you didn't want toast in the morning."

"If I do I'll just send you to the store."

"Oh, you will, will you?"

"Yup." Natalia smiled sweetly. "And you can pick me and Emma up some ice cream on your way back."

Olivia raised one eyebrow. "Just you and Emma?"

The younger woman shrugged. "Have you done anything lately to deserve ice cream?"

"What have you two done?" She demanded indignantly.

"Well, Emma made food for the ducks and I ensured we'd have toast in the morning..."

Olivia opened her mouth to respond but stopped when she heard tiny giggles coming from her daughter. "I suppose you think that's funny, huh?"

Emma nodded enthusiastically. "Both my Mommies are funny!" She snatched the bread bag and headed for the back door.

"Wait!" It came out a little more forcefully than she intended and Olivia softened her tone as her daughter turned around and looked at her curiously. "Wait, Jellybean. We need to talk to you for a minute." She saw a look of panic flash across Natalia's features.

Ahh well, too late now.

"What Mommy?"

She pulled out a chair, positioning two others across from it. "Come here and sit down for a minute."

"But the ducks..."

"I promise the ducks will still be there, baby." She inclined her head towards the chair. "Sit."

The little girl stuck out her bottom lip but did as she was told, setting the bag of bread mash carefully onto the table as Olivia and Natalia sat down across from her. Her little face became way too serious as she looked back and forth between them. "What's wrong, Mommy?"

"Nothing's wrong, sweetie." She took Emma's hand, smiling slightly when Natalia did the same. "We just need to tell you something."

"We're not moving are we?"

"What? No, baby, no. We're home." She smiled at the joy that filled her daughter's face. "I just... we... needed to tell you... that some things are going to be different now."

"Different?" Emma frowned. Different hardly ever meant better. "Why?"

Olivia blinked, thrown off track by the fact that her daughter had jumped right over what would be different, fixating instead on why it had to be that way. She looked at Natalia helplessly.

"Well, Emma..." The younger woman said carefully. "People...change. Uhm..." She shook her head slightly. How could it be this hard to talk to an eight year old? "Sometimes people... sometimes two people think they know how they feel... about each other, but then those feelings... change... and the relationship has to change with them."

Emma stared at her, sadness in her eyes. "Is this about Uncle Frank?"

"No, baby." Natalia sighed. "This doesn't have anything to do with Uncle Frank."

"So... you don't love him again?"

Her mouth opened and closed twice before she figured out what to say. "Not that way, baby."

"Good." Emma nodded. "It makes Mommy sad."

"That's what we need to talk to you about, Jellybean." Olivia pounced on the opening.

"That Natalia loving Frank made you sad?" The little girl looked at her like she had an extra head. "I don't understand."

"Not that it made me sad, honey." Olivia squeezed her little fingers gently. "Why... why it made me sad." She swallowed, glancing at Natalia for support before she continued. "It made me sad... it made me sad because I love Natalia."

Emma laughed. "Everybody knows that! You're BFF's!"

"Yes," The older woman nodded. "We are. But... that's not all... we are." Okay, okay.... like ripping off a band-aid... "I'm... in love with her."

Emma blinked. Wordlessly, she looked over at Natalia.

"And, I'm in love with mommy." She nodded.

"But..." The little girl looked completely confused. "In love...how?"

"Like...like..." Olivia sighed in frustration.

"Like... you used to love Daddy?" Emma asked quietly.

"Yes!" The older woman nodded. "Like that... kind of..."

Emma turned to Natalia. "Like you loved Frank?"

The brunette's lips quirked slightly. "Well, yeah... sort of."

Olivia clasped her hands together in front of her chest, her teeth nibbling furiously on her bottom lip as she watched Emma closely. The look on the little girls face started off as confused, her gaze swinging back and forth between the two of them as she worked through all of the information she had just been given. Then her eyebrows dropped, her forehead furrowing as her mouth settled itself into a grim line; the hurt in her eyes a palpable thing. The look would have been devastating enough, but the tiny little voice that issued from her daughter's normally smiling lips was so much worse. "No." She whispered, her lower lip quivering.

Olivia's jaw dropped slowly, her eyes seeking out and finding deep brown ones filled with sadness and compassion. "Jellybean... I know this is confusing, but we both love you-"

"No!" Emma shook her head fiercely, her pony tails flying out to the side as she covered her ears with her hands and ran away yelling, "You don't love me! You don't care! 'Else you wouldn't change!"

"Oh, Emma..." Natalia followed her, catching her at the foot of the stairs, she placed her hand on her daughter's head, her heart breaking when the child jerked away from her. "We haven't changed..." She swallowed to hold back her tears. "We're still your mommies. We still love you. We always will."

"You're a liar!"

"Emma!" Olivia caught up to them quickly, her voice hard and filled with pain. Natalia reached for her hand but she pulled back, dropping down to her knees to face the little girl on her own level. "You will not speak to your mother that way!"

"She's not really my mommy!" Emma burst into tears. "She was, but now it's all bad and it's YOUR fault!" She wiggled angrily when her mother tried to grab her arms. "I wish you weren't my mommy either!"

Olivia gasped, the sharp intake of air burning her lungs and stinging her eyes as tears coursed down her cheeks. She let Emma go, her breath hitching as the little girl ran up the stairs, flinging herself into her room and slamming the door behind her. "Oh my god." Olivia whispered, her head falling forward, her hands clutching at her heart through her vest as sobs wracked her body.

"Olivia?!?" Natalia dropped down next to her, cool hands immediately skimming across the overheated skin of the older woman's face. "Breath! Come on, baby! Breath for me, please." She felt panic rising in her when her lover's skin darkened, turning a frightening shade of red. "OLIVIA!" Her voice turned to steel as she grabbed the other woman's shoulders and shook them firmly. "Stop this right now and breath or you're going to pass out and scare the hell out of your daughter and your wife!"

Wife? Olivia's eyes flew open and she raised her head to stare at Natalia dazedly. She couldn't tell from the wild look in the younger woman's eyes whether using that particular word had been by accident or design but either way, it had the desired effect. She felt a cool tendril of reason thread through her consciousness, beating back the almost overwhelming panic, loosening the fear that tightly gripped her chest. She took a long, shaky breath in through her nose, slowing the exhalation from her mouth as she leaned onto her heels. She tilted her head back until she was looking up at the ceiling, using gravity to slow the tears she couldn't seem to control.

"Olivia... she's a child. Children say things they don't mean." Natalia wrapped her up in her arms. "Baby, I'm so sorry."

The older woman shook wildly within the embrace, the love and support the younger woman directed at her nearly causing her to fall apart yet again. Sniffling, Olivia laid her forehead on the other woman's shoulder. "I don't understand..." She whispered. "Out of all three of them I thought... Emma..."

"I know... I know, baby." Natalia stroked her hair gently. "I don't know why but... I didn't even think this would phase her. I guess a part of me always kind of believed that this... us... was something she wanted. I know that's crazy, she's just a little girl... why would she even think that way..." She shrugged sadly.

"I need to go talk to her." She tried to pull away, frowning when the younger woman hung on.

"Olivia, you need to give her a little time. You both need a little bit of time. She just had her whole world turned upside down, give it a few minutes and maybe... maybe she'll calm down and see it differently."

"I just don't get it." The initial shock had worn off and Olivia felt her temper rising. "Someone must have said something to her. Some idiot parent or... redneck-raised kid."

Natalia frowned.

"What? You know how it was after her presentation! Derek wouldn't even play with her! What reason do you think he gave her? Children are cruel Natalia!! They could have been filling her head with crap for months and her only defense was..." She inhaled sharply. "...that it wasn't true."

The younger woman felt fear grip her heart. "So... what are you saying?"

Olivia looked up, catching the panic in her lover's eyes. She immediately filled with shame and remorse. "Nothing, sweetheart." She wrapped Natalia up in her arms, squeezing tightly. "I'm not saying anything." She whispered, feeling the tension drain from the body in her arms. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to scare you."

Natalia nodded slowly, the guarded look not fading from her eyes.

"Hey," The older woman cupped her cheek gently. "I love you. That isn't going to change." She took a deep breath, mustering up a small, pained smile. "We expected at least one of them to react badly. We just picked the wrong one, and now we have to regroup and figure this out from Emma's point of view." She shifted to sit cross legged on the bottom step, pulling the brunette into her lap. "To be honest, I expected we would be trying to fix this with Rafe..."

"I know." Natalia sighed, her eyes closing as she nestled into the other woman's warmth.

"Guess I didn't turn out to be the best mother in the world did I?"

The younger woman leaned back to look Olivia in the eyes. "What the hell are you talking about?"

Olivia blinked at Natalia's unusual choice of words, but didn't comment on it. "Here I was thinking I was setting this great example for her, showing her how to stand up to the bigots and small minded idiots of the world when all I was really doing was..." She ran her fingers through her hair. "Sending her mixed signals."

"Mixed signals? What..."

"I couldn't even face how I felt about you, Natalia!" Olivia cut her off. "I hid from it, ran from it...all the while trying to present this image that it was okay, that it shouldn't matter what people thought because we knew the truth." She snorted. "Yeah, we knew the truth all right...and we lied about it to everyone."

"No." Natalia said gently, but firmly. "We lied about it to ourselves. We weren't ready for it, Olivia. Is it any wonder that Emma isn't either?" She touched the older woman's cheek gently. "We've both made a lot of mistakes... mistakes that caused pain for us and for other people. All we can do now is stand up, and be honest. Take the backlash that, truthfully, we deserve and face it together." She kissed her softly. "We're human, Olivia. We're going to stumble. The measure of a good person is not in how rarely they fail. It's in how we respond to those failures; how we take responsibility for our actions and the things we do to try and heal the hurt we've caused."

Olivia sniffled. "Father Ray's Sunday sermon?"

"No..." Natalia smiled sadly. "Months of self recriminations for Harley and Gus, then a few more for Frank and the Coopers." She placed her finger across Olivia's lips when the older woman started to speak. "Telling me I did nothing wrong doesn't make it so." She leaned forward, pressing their foreheads together. "Falling in love with you, wanting to be with you, giving you my heart..." She ignored the tears running down her cheeks. "None of that was wrong and I will never regret it. But hiding from it hurt other people, the proof of that is right up those stairs. All we can do now is be honest and try and fix it. Emma is a good girl, Olivia. She's smart, like her mother. She feels things strongly, like her mother. And maybe... she overreacts a little... like her-"

"Don't!" Olivia poked her in the ribs, a huge weight lifting from her shoulders as Natalia's gentle laugh acted as a salve on her bruised heart. She brushed the hair away from the younger woman's face so that she could look into her eyes. "You're pretty smart, you know that?"

Natalia threw her shoulders back, puffing out her chest slightly. "All this without finishing school! Imagine what I could do with a degree..."

"We'd all be working for you."

The younger woman smirked. "Who says you don't already?"

Olivia opened her mouth to reply, then closed it quickly as she thought about how much brunette had impacted her life. This one, good-hearted woman, with her quiet faith and her simple ways had succeeded in doing what no one else ever could.

She had made her want to change, made her want to be a better person, if for no other reason than to deserve her love.

Olivia felt an overwhelming wave of emotion hit her and trembled, closing her eyes as it moved through her. She waited for it to batter her apart, to tear her down from the inside, leaving her weak and aching.

But that didn't happen.

Instead, she felt her heart expand, felt it fill with warmth and love as the wave crested and then dissipated, leaving behind only a sense of rightness and an all encompassing peace.

Natalia watched calmness descend on her lover. "So... what now?"

"I have no idea." Olivia breathed in lavender and sweet pea, sighing as the familiar scent relaxed her. "I don't even know where to start."

"She said..." The younger woman swallowed, trying to remember the words without reliving the hurt. "She said I was her mommy, but now I'm not..."

"And that it was my fault." Olivia supplied.

Natalia looked at her sharply, but there didn't seem to be any bitterness in her lover's statement, just a quiet thoughtfulness that confused and calmed her at the same time. "We need to figure out what that meant."

"No, I think we need to do what we should have been doing all along." She nudged the other woman off her lap and stood up, taking her by the hand. "We need to talk to her."

Natalia nodded, following her up the stairs.

"Emma? Baby?" Olivia knocked gently on Emma's door, comforted by Natalia's strong presence at her back.

There was no answer.

"Come on, jellybean... We need to talk about this." She turned the knob, swinging the door open slowly. "I'm not sure what's got you so upset, but we can talk about it... we'll fix it..." She peeked into the room.

It was empty.

"Emma?" Green eyes swung around to the only other door. "She hasn't hidden in the closet for years..." She whispered. She gripped Natalia's hand firmly as they walked across the room. "Emma... come on baby..."

No answer.

Olivia sighed. Okay, time for Plan B. "Emma Spencer, you will come out here right now-" She yanked the door open, her heart jumping up into her throat when all she found inside was clothing and shoes. "Where the hell is she?"

Natalia shook her head, her mouth hanging open slightly. "I...I don't..." She saw the panic in her lover's eyes and squeezed her hand. "Olivia, we saw her come up here... she has to be here. Maybe she's in your room." She started towards the door only to pull up short when the older woman didn't follow.


"No...what do you mean..." The brunette followed her gaze to the open bedroom window, its curtain billowing inwards on the cool afternoon breeze. "No...she couldn't have... we're too high up!"

They both moved as one, Olivia's breath leaving her in a small, pained sigh as she pulled back the curtain to stare down at the thin, white rails attached to the side of the house.

"That god damned trellis!" She slammed her hand down on the windowsill. "I didn't think I'd have to tear that down until she was at least sixteen!"

Natalia bit her lip. "Knowing Emma, we probably should have done it before you moved in."

The older woman looked at her watch. It was early evening; travel time for most of Springfield. The buses were running full force. "She could be anywhere." She whispered, fear heavy in her voice. She ran to her bedroom, grabbing the phone off the nightstand and automatically punching in the number she knew by heart.

"Springfield Police Department, Detective Frank Cooper Speaking."

"Frank!" She couldn't keep the panic out of her voice. "We need your help!"

"Olivia?" The man's voice was incredulous. "Are you kidding?"

"No! Frank! Emma is missing and we need your help!"

"What?" His tone changed slightly. It didn't get any friendlier, but it did sound concerned. "When was the last time you saw her?"

"About... Twenty minutes ago?" She glanced at Natalia for confirmation.


"Here, at the farmhouse."

"Well, she couldn't have gotten that far-"

"She knows all the bus routes. Frank!" Olivia cut him off. "There are two bus stops within walking distance from here and all the buses are running right now."

"Okay, okay. Did she say anything? What would make her take off again?"

The older woman closed her eyes in frustration. "We... we told her... about us."

For a long beat, there was only silence.

"How could you do that?" Frank's voice was accusing, his anger pouring out at her with every word. "She's a little girl and you subject her to...that?"

Olivia felt her own temper rise to match hers. "She needed to know, Frank. How we feel about each other isn't wrong, or bad and she needed to know-" She blinked in confusion when Natalia grabbed the phone from her hand.

"Frank?" The younger woman's face was flushed, her eyes flashing with anger as she barked into the receiver. "I don't give a damn what you think about our relationship. It's none of your business. What is your business is the fact that our daughter is out there somewhere, alone. So why don't you just keep the judgmental crap to yourself and do your damned job."

"OUR daughter?"

"Call us when you know something." She hung up the phone without waiting for a response.

"Useless." Olivia whispered as she tunneled her fingers through her hair.

Natalia found she couldn't argue with the assessment. "Listen, we'll go look for her ourselves. Where would she go?"

"To see Phillip?" The older woman answered weakly. "To one of her little friends?"

"Get your cell phone. We're going to call everyone she knows." Natalia pushed her out the door and down the stairs.

Forty-five minutes later, Olivia slammed her phone down on the coffee table, shaking her head at Natalia's questioning look.

"Nobody I called has seen her either, but at least they all know to look for her now." The younger woman said softly.

"Phillip has Lizzie and Bill checking the north end of town and Beth and James going south." She picked up her keys. "But I can't just sit here and wait."

"No, we can't." Natalia agreed, grabbing her purse. She felt her cell phone vibrating and pulled it out quickly, frustrated that she had forgotten to turn the ringer back on after work. She blinked at the name that flashed on the screen before sliding it open. "Buzz?"

Olivia watched her lover's eyes close in relief and felt her own body sag slightly. She had to sit down on the arm of the couch to make sure she didn't end up on the floor.

"How long has she been there?" Natalia nodded at whatever Frank's father was saying on the other end of the phone. "Okay, keep her there, please! We're on our way."

She clicked her phone shut and grabbed Olivia by the arm. "She's at Company." She handed the emotionally battered woman her coat and pushed her towards the back door. "She's been there for twenty minutes. Buzz thought she was waiting for us to come inside, which is why he didn't call right away."

"What the hell is she doing at Company?" Olivia demanded.

"Eating ice cream."

The small entryway to the restaurant was empty when they arrived and Olivia went past the door to look through one of the windows, sighing in relief when she saw her youngest daughter sitting in the corner booth. The little girl was staring into the bowl in front of her, her expression unreadable and Olivia felt her heart break just a little. "She looks so... sad." She whispered.

"She's just confused." Natalia placed her arms around her waist, hugging her from behind as she laid her head against the taller woman's back. "She doesn't understand and that's scary."

"So how do we fix that?" Olivia laughed softly. "Damn, you think I'd be used to disappointing my children by this point."

"Stop it." The strength in her lover's tone took her by surprise. "You are a wonderful mother, Olivia. Even... even when I thought I couldn't stand you..." Natalia smiled. "Even then I always knew you would do anything for that kid."

The older woman sighed in frustration. "I just.... don't know what to say. It took us forever to accept it..." She closed her eyes. "Why does this have to be so hard?"

"We'll figure it out." Natalia kissed her neck and then stepped away, pulling Olivia around to face her. "What doesn't kill us..."

"Makes us wish it had?" Olivia shook her head at Natalia's disapproving look. "Okay... okay." She straightened her shoulders. "I can do this."

The younger woman took her hand, leading her back to the door. "We can do this." She corrected gently.

Emma looked up as soon as she heard the door open, her eyes widening slightly before a stubborn look descended on her features. She crossed her arms and shrunk back into the booth, all but disappearing as she slouched down in anger.

"Jellybean..." Olivia slid into the booth beside her as Natalia sat down across from them. "Jellybean, what are you doing here?"

"What do you care?" The little girl's voice cracked as tears spilled down her cheeks.

"You know I care, Emma." She pulled her daughter closer to her. "I love you. We both do."

"Then why do you have to change everything?"

Olivia sighed heavily. "We're not changing everything, baby." She rubbed the bridge of her nose. "Just... a few little things."

"Little?" Emma said suspiciously.

"Yeah..." Her mother nodded reassuringly.

"What things?"

"Well... Your mommy and I love each other." Natalia interjected. "So we'll... probably... be sharing a... a bedroom..."

Olivia looked up sharply, her heart racing. That was something they had yet to discuss and now it looked like the discussion was over before it had started. Not that she was upset by the outcome. "And you might... see us holding hands or... or..."

"Kissing?" The little girl's voice was hard.

"Maybe." Her mother nodded. "Is that... such a bad thing?"

"Yeah... it's gross..." Emma rolled her eyes. "Jane kisses that boy, the one at the Beacon, and it's all spit and icky!!"

Olivia filed that bit of information away for future review. "So... it's not gross just because it's me and Natalia?"

"No," Emma shrugged. "All that stuff is yucky!"

"Okay..." She took a calming breath. "I'm a little lost here, jellybean. I don't understand why you got so upset..."

"Because!" She crossed her arms more tightly, her voice shrinking as sobs shook her small frame. "Because I don't want Natalia to leave!"

"What?" The two women spoke in unison.

"Why would I leave, baby?" Natalia leaned across the table to take one of the Emma's hands. "You're my family. I'm not going anywhere."

"Daddies always leave." The little girl said sadly. "My daddy did and so did Frank and now we never see him anymore." The words were coming so fast now that Olivia was having a hard time following them. "When you were friends he came over all the time and now... now you don't like each other and Mommy wouldn't even let me see Daddy for so long because they didn't like each other and I don't want that to happen again!" She threw herself into her mother's arms, crying hysterically.

"Oh, Emma..." Olivia stroked her hair soothingly. "This... it's just not the same."

"It isn't?"

"No." Natalia reassured her. "I like Frank, I just can't like him the way he wants me to. And the reason he doesn't come over anymore... well... that's because... because it's hard for him to see me and your mommy together." She smiled at the little girl gently. "Besides, I can't be a daddy... because I'm a mommy. So...see? None of that applies to our family." She caught Olivia's eyes and held them. "Our family is special. We had to fight for this, baby. We had to fight for us. I love this family more than anything else in the world. And that's not something I'm ever going to let go of."

Olivia felt her throat grow tight with emotion. She reached out and touched Natalia's hand. "I won't ever let go either."

"You promise?" Emma's sniffled.

Olivia bit her lip. She wanted to say yes. She wanted to promise that they would always love each other, that they would always be together. But people ran stop signs, and airplanes fell out of the sky; and as much as you loved someone, that love wouldn't shelter you from other people's mistakes. A year ago, she would have just said yes. A year ago, she would have lied and not thought twice about it.

But here, now...staring into the eyes of the woman she loved, their daughter cradled in her lap, she knew that only the truth would do that love justice.

"I promise.... that I love you... and Natalia, and Rafe and Ava, with all my heart and soul. I promise that I will do anything and everything I can to keep our family together, no matter what happens. I promise that the love I feel for Natalia... for your mother..." She saw tears fill the younger woman's eyes and had to fight to keep them out of her own. "... is stronger, and more real than anything I have ever felt before."

"More real than what you felt for Daddy?"

Olivia sighed. That was the problem with telling the truth. People always expected the trend to continue. "Yes, jellybean. More real than that."

Emma looked at her closely for a moment, then nodded firmly, as though she had decided something.

"Then you should marry her."

Olivia blinked, every thought in her head... gone, instantly.

Emma didn't give her a chance to recover. "When you love someone that much, you should marry them." She turned to Natalia. "Don't you love Mommy that much?"

"Oh..." The younger woman flushed. "Yes! Of course I do. Your mommy... She's... everything to me."

"Then... I don't understand." The young girl looked back and forth between them, wondering why they were both acting so silly. "Don't you want to get married?"

"It's..." Olivia finally found her voice. "It's not that simple, jellybean. If we got married... " God, this is so not a conversation I'm ready to have. "Most people wouldn't see it as a real marriage."

"Would you?"

"Of course we would, baby." Emma leaned her head to the side and Natalia smiled. Sometimes he looked so much like her mother!

"You always told... tell me... that what other people think doesn't matter." She shrugged. "Why is this different?"

Olivia had no idea what to say. She hugged the little girl tightly. "It isn't, jellybean. It isn't any different." She felt Natalia's arms wrap them both and the three of them sat that way for several minutes, neither woman willing to let go.

Emma was the first to brake the almost reverent silence. "Mommy?"

"Yes, baby?" Natalia whispered.

"My ice cream melted."


Chapter 14: Three Cows and A Goat Walk Into A Bar... (Wait for it)

Natalia looked up from the couch as Olivia came down the stairs. They had agreed that it would be better for Olivia to tuck Emma into bed after the little girl had taken her bath; giving them an opportunity to re-bond and soothe over any hurt that might still be lingering between them.

From the look on Olivia's face, however, maybe that hadn't been the best idea.

"Olivia?" She looked at the older woman in concern when she paused at the bottom of the stairs, a half dazed expression on her face. "Olivia?"


"What's wrong?"

"What?" Olivia shook her head, blinking quickly as she tried to focus on the conversation. "What? Oh... nothing." She flopped down onto the couch, her fingers tunneling through her hair as she puffed out her cheeks with a long exhalation of breath.

"Okay, you are officially scaring me. What is going on??" Natalia took her hand, entwining their fingers. "Tell me. Whatever it is, we'll deal with it together."

Olivia's laughter was abrupt and slightly panicked, startling the younger woman. "She went through that recycling box in my closet... the one I put all the old newspapers in?"

Natalia blinked, biting her tongue to keep from saying something sarcastic. Apparently Olivia had really rubbed off on her over the last year. On the wake of that thought came the realization of how dirty it sounded, even to her, and Natalia blushed a bright pink. "And?"

"And..." Olivia sighed. "She pulled out all of the wedding magazines and has them spread all over her bed."

Natalia's jaw dropped. "Are you kidding?"

"No!" The older woman's voice went up two octaves, as it always did when she was overly emotional. "I think she has two of them memorized already!"

"What..." Natalia pressed her lips firmly together, trying to contain the laughter that she knew was bubbling up inside of her. "What is it with you Spencer women and weddings?" She finally giggled. "At least she has the right people paired off this time!"

Olivia looked at her like she had never seen her before. "You're... you're not upset about this?"

"Upset that our daughter loves the idea of us being together and thinks we should get married? Hmmm..." She tapped her lips and then frowned. "You're right. It's awful...horrible...mmph!"

Olivia grabbed her and pulled her into a kiss to shut her up. It was a sweet kiss; gentle, with no more than a hint of the fiery passion that was always just beneath the surface when then two of them were close. "Okay," she whispered when they broke apart. "So the sentiment is wonderful... but how do we explain-" She stopped short when Natalia placed a finger across her lips.

"I don't know about you," The younger woman sighed. "But I think I have had just about all the emotional upheaval I can handle for one day." She stood up and walked to the bottom of the stairs. "I know it's something we're going to have to deal with but right now, all I want is a nice, soft bed and your arms wrapped around me."

"It's eight-thirty! I haven't gone to sleep this early since I was in grade school..."

Natalia lowered her eye lashes, her gaze fixating on Olivia's mouth. "Who said anything about sleep?"

Olivia swallowed against the sudden dryness in her throat. Sex had been the furthest thing from her mind when she came down the stairs. But the look in her lover's eyes and the softly whispered invitation were all that it took to start a gentle ache of longing throughout her entire body. It was a slow burning need that never quite went away and it had her on her feet in a heartbeat, her body fitted tightly against Natalia's as her lips descended on her throat.

"Mmmmm." The younger women pressed into her, using her hips to create a delicious pressure against Olivia's upper thighs. "I'd really like you to join me," She teased, popping open the buttons on the older woman's vest so that she could slip her hands inside of it. "But if you'd rather stay down here and wallow... well, I guess I could start without you..."

Natalia pulled away, throwing her a wicked look as she headed up the stairs.

Dazed, Olivia watched her go, her mind completely occupied by just what Natalia could do without her. She pictured the brunette laying back against her headboard, her eyes closed, her hand sliding down her stomach to slip between her own thighs. "Oh my god..." She groaned, her body reacting so strongly to the mental image that she had to steady herself against the balustrade. She glanced up the stairs, feeling ever muscle in her body tighten. "Wallow..." She whispered, her voice husky. "I'll show you how I wallow..."

She took the stairs two at a time, throwing open the door to her room with a huge grin that slowly faded when she found it empty. She checked the bathroom, but there was no Natalia there either. Stepping back into the hall, she looked curiously at Natalia's bedroom door. It was closed, but she could see the light shining from beneath it. Walking over, she took a deep breath and knocked softly.

There was a small laugh and then she heard her lover's voice. "Come in?"

Olivia pushed the door open slowly, her gaze swinging around the room. She had always liked Natalia's bedroom. It was big, being the master, almost twice as big as her own and decorated in light green accented by rich browns and yellows. She had always felt like she was in a forest during early autumn the few times she had come into this room. It dawned on her that she really had only been in Nat's bedroom twice before and she wondered if that was because she had, on some level, always been conscious of her attraction to the brunette. Her eyes finally landed on Natalia, who was sitting up against the headboard, a sheet wrapped modestly around her shoulders. Nervous, she stepped inside. "That sounded almost like a question."

"It kind of was." Natalia smiled. "Why did you knock?"

"Uh..." Olivia blinked, glancing behind her to point at the door. "Because the door was closed?"


"And... this is your room." She went to tuck her hands in her pockets, only to realize she was still wearing a skirt. Flustered, she dropped them to her sides.

"My room?" Natalia shook her head as she laughed softly. "Olivia, as far as I am concerned this entire farmhouse and everything in it belongs to you." She leaned forward, letting the sheet fall down to her waist, exposing her bare breasts to the cool night air. "Including me." She whispered, holding out her hand. "Especially me... Come here."

Olivia closed the distance between them, sitting on the edge of the bed as she took the younger woman's hand. "I don't want to own you, Natalia." She smiled. "But I wouldn't mind a lease with an option to buy..."

Natalia shook her head, refusing to let her get away with the joke. "I belong to you..." She laced their fingers together, rubbing Olivia's palm with her thumb. "... because I want to." She said firmly. "It's my choice, Olivia, it always has been and I choose to belong to you."

The older woman felt her eyes fill with tears and looked away quickly, brushing at them with her free hand. "I belong to you too." She whispered.

Natalia laid her palm against OIivia's face, using it to turn her head so that she could look into her eyes. "I know." She leaned forward and kissed her gently, enjoying the softness of the other woman's lips; pulling away when the kiss threatened to deepen. "Besides, if we're going to pick a room to share... we should probably try them both out..." She pursed her lips. "At least five or six times..."

"Oh yeah," Olivia nodded, leaning closer once again. "At least!" She frowned when the younger woman's hand pressed into her chest, pushing her away. "What?"

"I've made love to you in those clothes twice today," She grinned. "And while it was definitely fun, I think I'd prefer a little less silk... and a lot more skin."

Natalia felt wonderful.

The lovemaking session the night before had been incredible. Sweet and powerful, it had washed away the lingering emotions of their stressful day; sanctifying the hurt with gentle caresses, lingering kisses and a mutual release so intense that she still felt limp, even now.

Humming softly to herself, she danced down the stairs and into the kitchen, a happy smile gracing her features when she noticed she wasn't alone.

Emma was sitting at the kitchen table, still in her pajamas, her little head bent over her mother's computer.

"Hi, baby."

Emma looked up at her briefly, smiling sweetly before going back to what she was doing. "Hey, momma."

Natalia felt her heart break just a little as tears stung the back of her eyes. Emma may have thought of her as a mother for a while now, but this was the first time the little girl had ever addressed her as such. And the tiny little difference between the term of endearment she used for her and the one she used for Olivia only made it all the sweeter.

Grabbing her apron, Natalia used it to dab quickly at her eyes before she pulled it on. After dropping a quick kiss onto Emma's head, she set up the coffee pot and then went to the fridge, pulling out the supplies she would need for their breakfast. "So what are you doing up so early, anyway?"

"Looking at stuff on the internet."

She narrowed her eyes at Emma's casual reply. "Stuff huh? I don't know if your mommy would like that so much."

"She has that filter thingie on here." The little girl frowned. "So I can't find cool stuff anyway." She looked up at Natalia excitedly. "Did you know that a pig's penis is curly?"

Natalia blinked in shock. "N...no, baby... I didn't know that." Apparently she would have to talk to Olivia about expanding that 'filter thingie'. "Why... why did you look that up?"

Emma shrugged. "I didn't. I looked up pigs because we don't have any and I wanted to know why." Her little nose wrinkled. "They don't sweat so they have to roll in the mud."

"Exactly!" Natalia held up several strips of bacon before laying them out in a pan. "I'd much rather eat them than clean up after them!" She wiped off her hands and pounced on her daughter, making snuffling noises against the top of the little girl's head.

"Noooo!" Emma giggled wildly. "Stop it, momma!"

Natalia smiled as she slide the bacon onto a burner and then began cracking eggs into a bowl, adding in grated cheddar and just a little bit of milk before whipping them with a fork; the cute little pig noises Emma was making keeping her company in the silence.


The younger woman's heart swelled. I will never, ever get tired of that! "Yes, baby?"

"What's a...do..a dour..." The little girl frowned, her forehead furrowing in concentration. "A dowry!"

Natalia blinked, her mouth dropping open slightly in surprise. "Baby, what are you looking at?" She came around the table to look at the screen, transferring her spatula to her left hand so that she could use her right to scroll up to the top of the page. "Marriage: A Complete History. Sponsored by Wikipedia." She bit her lip, chewing on it thoughtfully as she went back to the stove to save her scrambled eggs from browning. "What does it say about it sweetie?"

"It says that a do...dowry is a old marriage tra... trad..ition." She finished with a proud grin and Nat smiled adoringly at the girl.

"That was really good, Em."

"Thank you. What does it mean?"

Ooookay, so misdirection doesn't work anymore. She scratched her forehead absently. "Well, in the past, when two people got married, their roles were a little different than they are today. The bride was expected to cook and clean and take care of the house, while the groom worked to provide for the bride. To help with that, the bride brought a dowry with her to the marriage. It's was kind of like a gift." She flipped the bacon over one piece at a time. "And it was usually land, or money... or even livestock."

"You own livestock!" Emma said brightly.

Natalia turned to look at her, immediately charmed by the twinkle in the little girl's eyes. "Yes, I do. Do you think it would be enough for a suitable dowry, baby?" She bit her lip to keep from laughing. "Three cows and a goat?"

"Why do I feel like I just walked into a punch-line?" Olivia yawned as she stumbled into the kitchen, her voice still thick with sleep. She fumbled with the belt on her robe, smiling shyly when Natalia reached out and tied it for her before returning her attention to the stove. Placing a hand on the younger woman's waist, Olivia leaned in, kissing her cheek lovingly before she even realized what she was doing. Both women turned to find Emma watching them with a big smile on her face. The little girl waved at them happily before returning her attention to the computer, her little eyes sneaking peeks of her two mommies whenever they weren't looking.

Olivia slid into a chair across from her daughter, humming happily when Natalia handed her a steaming cup of coffee followed by a plateful of scrambled eggs, bacon and toast. She tucked in quickly, her eyes closing in appreciation for the wonderful meal. "So?" She munched on a strip of bacon, very aware that Natalia had only given her two. If she had been at the Beacon she would have had four. "What's the joke?"

"No joke..." Natalia placed a plate in front of their daughter, closing the computer so that the little girl would eat. " Emma thinks my cows and my baby goat would be a perfect dowry."

Olivia froze mid-chew, her eyes widening as she looked from her beaming daughter to the smirking features of her lover. "Mphwa?"

"Don't talk with your mouth full, Olivia."

Emma giggled and the older woman made a face at her as she loudly swallowed her food. "What?" She repeated.

"A dowry, mommy. It's a gift the bride brings for the groom! Natalia's is perfect!" She raised her little hand, excitedly ticking off items on her fingers. "She has the farmhouse, so that's land, and she has three cows and the baby goat!" She frowned slightly. "But you don't get to eat them!" She warned, remembering her mother's past comments. "Because that's mean!"

"Wait a minute! Wait a minute!" Olivia took a long drink of coffee. "Am I the groom in this scenario??"

Emma rolled her eyes. "Of course, mommy."

"Wha...!" She glanced at Natalia, frowning when she saw the younger woman had turned her head away and was hiding her laughter behind her hand, her face turning pink with the effort. "Why am I the groom??"

"Because the bride cooks and cleans and takes care of the house..." Emma shrugged. "The groom just pays for stuff."

"Hey!" Olivia sputtered. "I do.... some of that stuff... too!" She snorted indignantly and took another bite of eggs.

"Enjoying your breakfast?" Natalia asked innocently.

The older woman nodded. "It's great thank you!"

"You're welcome. When I'm done cooking, I'll put your laundry in the dryer." She tried to keep a straight face. "I'll pick up your dry cleaning at lunch and get your prescriptions filled on the way home."

Olivia crossed her arms, her eyes narrowing as her lips quirked into a pout. "Fine!" She snorted, sticking her tongue out at her daughter. "You win! But I am not wearing a tuxedo!"

"Awwww." Natalia dropped into her lap, wrapping her arms loosely around the older woman's neck. "But you would look so cute in a cummerbund..."

"Ya think?" Olivia bumped their foreheads together, her voice lowering to an almost whisper. "And you were seriously beautiful in a long white dress." They looked into each others eyes, both sighing happily.

Until they heard the giggles from the other end of the table.

Blinking, Natalia stood up quickly, chewing on her lower lip as she stared at Olivia, her heart pounding.

What the hell! Olivia took a deep breath. Where the hell did that come from? Her eyes followed the younger woman as she filled a plate for herself, bringing it and a cup of coffee over to the table. God... it was so easy to fall into that... to imagine...


"Yes, baby?" Both women answered at the same time.

"I think she's talking to me." Natalia's grin was huge. "What's up, little one?"

"I'm done eating."

"Okay, baby." She stood and picked up her plate, putting it in the sink. "It's getting late, why don't you go get ready for school?"

"Okay." Emma slid off her chair. She wrapped her arms around Natalia's waist and hugged her tight. "I love you, momma."

"I love you too, baby. So very much."

The little girl stopped to hug Olivia on her way out of the kitchen. "Love you too, mommy."

"Ditto, jellybean." She turned to watch her daughter scamper away and then looked at Natalia. Seeing the shine in her eyes and the slight trembling of her bottom lip, Olivia took her hand, smiling at the younger woman gently. "You okay?"

"Yeah..." Natalia blushed. "It's just... that kid kills me, you know? She's just the sweetest thing in the world..." She sat down, pulling her chair closer to Olivia's. "Next to her mommy of course."

"I don't know about that." The older woman teased. "I happen to think her momma is pretty incredible too."

Natalia vibrated with happiness. "Isn't that great?"

"Yeah... yeah it is." She leaned back in her chair, one eyebrow raised. "That girl has a one track mind though. And when she gets it set on something she's like a dog with a bone."

"Gee, I wonder where she gets that from?" The younger woman said sarcastically.

"I wouldn't know!" She sipped her coffee, watching Natalia over the rim of the cup. "We're going to have to say something to her about it eventually."

The brunette nodded silently.

"What..." Olivia swallowed when her voice cracked. "What do you think we should say?"

Natalia stared at her, her teeth worrying the inside of her cheek. "I don't know." She said quietly.

The older woman's sea green eyes followed her as she collected the dishes and began to clean up. "Yeah..." She thought back to how Natalia had looked in her silk wedding gown, her hair swept up, her eyes full of love. But not for the groom.

The bride's eyes had been full of love... for her.

"I don't know either..." She finished softly.


Chapter 15: Do The Elves Know There's A Curve?

(A/N: Tip o' the nib to Bill Cosby for the butchered quote. LOL!)

Olivia glanced sideways at Natalia as she drove them into town. The brunette had been unusually quiet for the entire trip, but then she had to admit, so had she. In fact, if it wasn't for Emma giggling from the back seat as she flipped through yet another BRIDE magazine, she would have thought the three of them were in church.

Church... pews... flowers... She cringed. ...wedding. Damn it!

It was bad enough that Emma was obsessed with the idea, she could hardly afford to get stuck on it too. It wasn't like it was a feasible idea, even if she wanted to get married. Which I don't! She gripped the steering wheel harder. I don't do marriage well, I never have! Just ask the long list of exes I've left in my wake.

Oh, she always started with the best of intentions; tried to keep her wilder impulses in check and follow all the rules. Okay... maybe not all the rules. She could never seem to obey, but damn it, she always intended to love, honor and cherish! And yet somehow, she never failed to screw it up, never failed to be found lacking. And even though most of the people in Springfield traded partners like some seriously screwed up sexual square dance, eventually everyone found their one true love...whether they stayed with them or not.

Everyone but her.

She was constantly on the outside looking in. And somewhere along the way, she started to believe that maybe that was the way it was meant to be. Maybe she just didn't feel enough, didn't give enough... didn't love enough.

But that wasn't exactly true. She believed in true love, despite her history. She believed in marriage, despite her inability to hold one together. But more than that, she believed in Natalia and what they had together. She believed in it too much to risk screwing it up yet again.


Olivia glanced at her daughter in the rear view mirror. "What is it, baby?"

"You passed the school."

"Did I?" Olivia flushed, realizing the little girl was right. She quickly made a u-turn, pulling into the circular drive of the elementary before smiling at her daughter's reflection. "I was just seeing if you were paying attention."

"Right." Emma rolled her eyes and Olivia could not contain her smile.

"You are so my daughter." She kissed her quickly on the cheek, smiling when Natalia did the same. They both watched the little girl climb out of the back seat and run up to her friends, all of them giggling uncontrollably as they disappeared inside the school.

"Are you okay?" Natalia asked quietly as Olivia pulled back into traffic. "You seem a little...unfocused?"

"What? Me? No.." The older woman shook her head and smiled. "I think the problem is that I'm a little too focused."

"Oh what?"

Olivia bit her lip. "The Mayor's Luncheon." She lied, hoping that the brunette would let her get away with it, just this once.

Natalia looked at her closely, a small smile playing at the corners of her mouth when she finally shrugged. "Okay, if you say so."

Olivia let go of the breath she hadn't realized she'd been holding. "In fact, I kind of need to go and talk to her about it, so I'm going to drop you off in front of the hotel. You can hold the fort until I get back, right?" She knew she was pushing it now, but she seriously needed a little alone time or she was going to end up saying things she really wasn't ready to share.

The brunette nodded. "Of course. Whatever you need, Olivia."

The older woman felt a strong pang in her chest. Natalia knew it was a lie, but she was giving her space anyway. God, I love this woman...

She slowed the car to a stop in front of The Beacon, her heart skipping a beat when Natalia leaned over and brazenly kissed her without even checking to see if there were other people around. "What was that for?" She whispered, her fingers coming up to touch her still tingling lips.

"For being you." Natalia smiled, her dimples completing the look of adoration. "For being mine."

She jumped out of the car without waiting for a response, leaving Olivia to rest her head against the steering wheel as she tried to catch her breath.

Towers was empty when Olivia walked in. She took her usual seat at the bar, tapping her fingers loudly on the counter top until a female voice floated out from the back room. "Closed 'til eleven!"

"Not today." She called back, waving when the bartender stuck her pretty red head through the doorway.

"Ms. Spencer!" Evie grinned, walking up to her as she wiped her hands on a bar towel. "I was just cutting up the mangos and pineapple. You know, getting the condiments ready?"

"Well," Olivia put on her most charming smile. "Do you think you could find a spare olive or two?"

The bartender's brow furrowed. "Yeah... I think I could manage that..."

"Good! Then how about you toss them in a glass with say, I don't know, some gin and vermouth? And we'll just call it breakfast." She winked.

Evie laughed. "For you? Sure." She made up the drink and set it on the bar. "Too early to charge so this one's on me. Just don't tell my boss."

"Your secret's safe with me." Olivia whispered as she picked up the glass, waiting until Evie was gone before taking her first sip. She sighed as the warmth from the alcohol spread outwards from her stomach, ignoring the little voice in her head that told her drinking this early was dangerous. Unsurprisingly, that little voice sounded a lot like Natalia.

What did surprise her, was that she agreed with it.

Alcohol was too easy; the amnesia it offered too tempting.

With a sigh, she set the glass down and pushed it away.

"A little early for that isn't it?"

Startled, Olivia jerked her hand, sending the glass toppling off the other side of the bar where it landed with a loud crash. She turned to glare at the intruder as Evie ran out from the back room. "Everything okay, Ms Spencer?"

"Everything's fine!" Reva grinned, ignoring the glare. "That was my fault. Why don't you get her another, on me?"

"No!" Olivia wave her hand at the bartender. "No, I was done anyway. I'm sorry about the glass."

"It's all right." Evie shrugged. "That's the first one this week though, so you get to make a wish." She swept up the glass quickly, wiping up the rest with the towel she always seemed to be carrying. When she was done, she stood up and smiled at Olivia. "So what did you wish for?"

"Yeah, Olivia." Reva slid onto a stool next to her, dropping her chin into her hand and looking at her with an exaggerated grin. "What did you wish for?"

Olivia looked back and forth between the two women. "If I share it, doesn't that mean it won't come true?"

Evie laughed and went back to work, but Reva only leaned closer. "Come on, you can tell me..."

Olivia blinked, her forehead furrowing in confusion. "You're being nice to me, Reva. That always makes me nervous. What exactly is it that you want?"

"I was hoping you could come over and help me with my car..."

"You're car?" Now she was really confused.

"Yeah," The blonde teased. "I need an oil change. I heard you 'gals' are really good with that kind of thing."

Olivia groaned. "Let me guess, you've been talking to Dinah."

Reva just smiled.

"Well? Go ahead! Get it out of your system, but for your information, dating a woman doesn't make you an honorary Mr. Goodwrench."

"That's a shame! I was hoping to save some money on repairs around the house too!"

"Okay, that's enough." Olivia snapped.

"Wow," Reva shook her head. "Are all of you this grumpy?"

"All of who, Reva?!?" She looked around. "I only see you and me here!"

"Whoa!" The other woman held up her hands. "I was just playing with you."

"Yeah, well... it isn't funny."

"Sorry." Reva pursed her lips. "You know you had a better sense of humor when you were straight."

"You just can't resist can you?"

"Can you blame me?" She smiled. "Olivia Spencer, man-eater, suddenly becomes..." She smirked. "A woman-eater?"

"It's not like that!" Olivia growled, exasperated.

"Oh...well... that's a pity." Reva patted her gently on the shoulder. "Is it Natalia? She always did seem a little... cold fish..."

"No!" She crossed her arms on the bar and dropped her head on top of them. "That isn't what I meant!" She sighed. "We are more than fine in that department, trust me."

"Then what did you mean?"

"I just meant..." She raised her head, her eyes taking on a faraway look. "I know who I used to be. But it isn't like that, not with her." She played with the swizzle stick that was left over from her martini. "She... She fills me up, Reva. She makes me feel things... want things... When I'm with her... I'm so wrapped up in 'us' that I can't see anything else, and when Emma is with us, it just... feels so right... like the family I was always meant to have." She shook her head, frustrated that she couldn't explain herself. "She's everything I've always wanted."

"Uh huh..." Reva smiled. "In a nice little female package?"

"That's not what I went looking for!" Olivia sighed.

"Well, you certainly didn't let it stop you."

"No... No I didn't." She winced, dropping her head onto the bar again. "I don't know how to explain that."

"Why do you have to?" Reva asked seriously. "Look, I may like to bust your chops a bit, but really... I'm happy for you." She grinned. "Actually, I'm ecstatic that you're in love, whether it's with Natalia or... anyone else, so long as it isn't Jeffrey."

"Or Josh?" Olivia smirked.

"I'm going to pretend you didn't say that."

Olivia laughed. "What are you doing here anyway?"

"I was across the street and saw you come in."

"So... you were stalking me?"

Reva grinned. "For a chance to tease you about Natalia? Oh, you bet your sweet ass!"

Natalia stepped off the elevator, the smile on her face faltering when she saw Frank waiting in the hallway outside of Olivia's office. She thought about turning around and getting right back on the elevator but she knew what Olivia would think of that idea. Squaring her shoulders, she walked right up to him, trying to ignore the small spark of guilt she felt when his eyes lit up for just a moment upon seeing her. "What are you doing here, Frank?"

"I see Olivia's manners have rubbed off on you." His voice was bitter and angry. "Among other things."

Natalia sighed. "I'm working, Frank. If you have something to say, then say it. Otherwise, let me get back to what I need to do."

The man's bravado faltered for a moment. "You..." He swallowed, adopting his best cop stance. "You never informed me that you found Emma." He opened a small notebook and began writing something down. "I had to hear it from my father, after having two patrolmen out all night looking for her. Twenty wasted man hours is what you cost this city yesterday."

"So bill me!" She could feel her anger rising and did nothing to stop it. "But isn't that your job, Frank? To serve and protect?"

"And isn't it Olivia's job to know the whereabouts of her own child?" Frank snapped back. "What is this, the third time Emma's run away? The fourth? What do you think Child Protective Services would say about that?"

Natalia went cold inside, her fear showing plainly in her eyes. "You wouldn't..."

"Why wouldn't I?" He leaned in closer, his eyes narrowing in victory. "That's my job isn't it? To serve and protect?"

"Frank..." Natalia took a deep breath. "It's wrong... and you know it." She brushed her hair out of her face. "What I did to you... it was unforgivable, I know. But I can't undo it. I can't change how I feel. And I wouldn't, even if I could. I'm in love with Olivia. She's... everything to me. And if you hurt her... you hurt me." She bit her bottom lip. "No matter what happened between us, Frank... I loved you. Maybe not the way you wanted me to, but that still means something... doesn't it?"

He looked at her for a long time, his eyes searching deeply within hers. Finally, his shoulders slumped and he put away the notebook. "Yeah... it does." He shook his head. "She always wins..."

"Does she?" Natalia hesitated and then reached out, placing a hand on his arm. "You forget, I've been around a while... I've heard all the stories." She smiled gently. "I know who she used to be, Frank. All I can tell you is... she isn't that person anymore."

Frank placed his hand over hers, squeezing her fingers once before he gently pushed her away. "I hope not." he said softly. "For your sake, I really do." Hanging his head, he turned and walked away.

Natalia watched him go and then closed her eyes, praying silently. Dear Lord, how about just one... little... quiet afternoon?

The mayor looked up from her early lunch as her office door slammed open, her anger turning to frustration when she saw Olivia walk into the room.

"I'm sorry, Mayor Wolfe!" Her office aide ran in right behind Olivia, falling all over himself as he tried to explain the interruption. "She just barged right in!"

"That's all right, Brian." Doris sighed heavily. "Ms. Spencer was raised by a pack of wild dogs... you can't expect her to understand social niceties like knocking."

Olivia snorted. "Hello, pot..."

The mayor waved her hand and the aide disappeared. "What do you want, Olivia?"

The other woman pursed her lips, tossing her purse onto the desk as she sank into a chair. "I need to talk."

"Oh, for the love of...!" Doris dropped her half eaten sandwich in disgust. "Haven't I played Sapphic Santa enough this year? I mean really, Olivia, there are call-in radio shows for this kind of thing."

Olivia didn't answer, instead she merely met the mayor's gaze and held it.

"Fine. Fine! What is it now?"

"It's starting..."

"A recession? Menopause? Your afternoon soap?" Doris threw her hands in the air in exasperation. "What? What is starting? I swear you used to be better at conversations than this! Did screwing Natalia burn out your speech center?"

"It's starting to get around." Olivia glared at her. "Reva O' Neill came up to me at Towers this morning and just started talking about my relationship with Natalia like we were chatting about the weather or something."

"Well, what did you expect?" The mayor looked at her sarcastically. "You look at each other and the air catches fire, you're always touching in public and let's not forget, you had sex in your office... I mean, you guys are about as subtle as a two-by-four. You might as well drape a big rainbow flag around your shoulders and have a two person pride parade down Main Street."

"We're not that bad!" Her voice got very small. "Are we?"

Doris snorted. "Are you kidding? The only thing keeping everyone from seeing it is your history with men, Olivia. But eventually, even that smoke screen will blow away and they'll see the truth that's been right in front of their faces. Why is this a problem?" She shrugged. "Once you tell your daughter, what difference does it make?"

"We... we told Emma yesterday." She sighed.

"Oh..." The mayor's voice gentled immediately. "I take it it didn't go so well?"

"What? No." Olivia shook her head. "Well.... yes... I mean no..."

"Oh for god's sake, Olivia..."

"What I mean to say, is that there was a... a miscommunication at first, but once we straightened that out she took it well. Very well." Olivia winced. "Maybe a little too well."

"Too well?" Doris looked confused. "How could she possibly take it too well?"

Olivia opened her mouth, closed it, opened it again and finally sighed as a completely panicked look filled her features. "She's hoping for a June wedding?"

Doris blinked. "Wait..." She started to snicker. "You mean you..." Her snicker turned into a laugh. "You and Natalia?"

"Okay, okay." Olivia growled. "It's not that funny."

"You're not sitting where I'm sitting!" The mayor leaned forward and grabbed her water, trying not to choke on it as her laughter trailed off to small snorts of amusement. "Did you tell her that May or December might be better?" She held up her hand when the other woman sent her a look meant to incinerate her on the spot. "Alright... I'm sorry." She took a deep breath, trying to soothe the ache in her ribs. "I just don't see how this is a problem."

"Uhm, newsflash? We can't get married!"

"Why not?"

"Because we're both women?" Olivia rolled her eyes as she fell back into the chair. "Last I checked that still wasn't legal in this state."

"So?" Doris said seriously. "Gay couples get married everyday, Olivia. They don't wait for the government or the church to tell them it's okay. And there are pastors, ministers...even public officials, that are willing to help them out with the ceremony. Maybe it would be going against the grain, but when did that ever bother you?" She look at Olivia closely. "Ooh... I get it."

"What?" Olivia said defensively. "What do you get?"

"You've been the bad girl in this town ever since you got here." She wrapped up what was left of her sandwich and dropped it in the trash. "You've said and done things..." She raised her eyebrows. "That would probably make the devil himself blush, but none of that bothered you because no matter how bad you got... you were still normal. You do this... and you won't be normal anymore." She waved away Olivia's response. "Oh, you can sugar coat it any way you like. You can say that this is special, or different , or that what you have with Natalia defies description." She shrugged. "But the cold, hard truth is that 99% of the population will slap a label on you. To them, you'll just be gay. And that's what scares you. Isn't it?"

Olivia didn't respond.

"What's more important to you?" Doris pressed. "Who you are, or how people see you?"

"That's pretty funny, coming from you." Olivia snorted.

"No... no it isn't funny at all. It's actually rather pathetic." The mayor sighed. "See, I waited too long, Olivia. I crossed the line from being afraid, to being a coward. And now, no matter how I spin it, it all looks like lies." She pulled a bottle of scotch out of her desk drawer along with two glasses, pouring them both a shot. She watched, her finger playing around the rim of the tumbler, as the other woman downed hers. "But you... You have the opportunity to do the right thing from the start. What's more than that, you have a reason to. All I've gotten out of the games I've played is a string of one night stands and a lot of women I can never look in the eyes again. If you do this right, you can have a life. A good one. You just have to decide that you want it, more than you fear it."

"I hate it when you're right." Olivia sighed and held out the glass, downing the second shot quickly. "It totally screws with my sense of reality."

"Imagine it from my side!" Doris complained. "I had to say all that with a straight face so you'd think I actually care!"

"You care!" Olivia teased. "You know you like me..." She stopped short when the mayor smirked at her. "What are you smiling at?"

"Just picturing it."

"Picturing what?"

"You... in light blue satin with a white ruffled shirt."

Olivia rolled her eyes. "Why does everyone assume that I would be the one in the tuxedo?"

"Well, you're already gay..." The mayor smiled sweetly. "It would just be one tiny, little step to become a cross-dresser, too."

She closed her eyes, shaking her head. "You're enjoying this, aren't you?"

"Oh, more than words can say."

"I think I have a few words I could say."

"Careful!" Doris held up a finger. "You don't want to end up on Santa's naughty list."

"At this point, I don't know if that would be a good thing or a bad thing."

"Meh," The mayor shrugged. "I grade on a curve."

Olivia stood and picked up her purse, leaning in to whisper, "You better hope whoever you end up with... does too."

She left the office without looking back. As she rounded the corner towards the elevators, she spotted a familiar face. Smiling, she walked up to the girl and tapped her on the shoulder. "Ashlee?"

The blonde blinked at her in surprise. "Oh, hey Olivia. Did you just... come from seeing my mom?"

"Yeah," Olivia nodded, still smiling. "I did. And, uh... I was wondering... are you free for lunch?"

Part 16

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