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 16:  The Blonde Leading The Blind

Olivia waved at Evie as she and Ashlee walked into Towers, shaking her head when the pretty bartender held up a martini glass.  She almost felt embarrassed when the woman looked surprised. 

Lunch was a seat-yourself situation at the restaurant, so she led the blonde to a quiet corner table.  She had considered taking the girl to more out of the way spot at first but, considering she had interrupted the Mayor eating her lunch earlier, she figured Towers was fairly safe.  Not to mention that being seen in an out of the way restaurant with the pretty young blonde was a bucket of trouble she didn't even want to go fishing in.

Evie arrived almost as soon as they sat down.  She was both bartender and waitress during the light lunch period so she scribbled their order down quickly; bringing them both large glasses of iced tea and a bowl full of lemons before rushing back to the bar.

"So..."  Olivia pulled the ridiculously large napkin from its holder, draping it across her lap as she tried to figure out how to start the conversation.  "How have you been?"

"Since the last time we had lunch?"  Ashlee grinned.  "I think I went through puberty...graduated..."

"Okay, okay!" The older woman laughed.  "I know we don't...interact that often..."

"Or at all... really."  The blonde smiled.  "But that's okay!  You're...busy."

"Yes I am."  Olivia nodded.  "Between being sick and taking care of Emma, there hasn't been much left over and what there is goes towards handling things at the Beacon."  She played with the edge of the tablecloth.  "I love it, but it is a lot of work."

Ashlee leaned forward, a big smile on her face.  "Is that what this is about?  Are you... looking for someone to help you at the hotel?  Because, you know I used to work for Dinah and I have great organizational skills.  I would do an awesome job as an event planner or even a personal assistant!"

Olivia blinked.  "I have a personal assistant."

"Oh..."  The blonde pursed her lips.  "Is Natalia... I mean... I just assumed..."

"Assumed what?"

Ashlee shrugged.  "That she would be... uhm... moving up."

Olivia frowned.  "Why would you assume that?"

"Well... because...because..."  She laughed nervously.  "Because you guys... you know... I heard that you were...close."

Olivia closed her eyes, gratified that Evie had chosen that moment to bring them their salads.  It gave her a few extra moments to figure out what she was going to say.  Denying it felt wrong and considering where she and Natalia were at in their relationship, it seemed futile to start lying now.  But still...  "It's..."  She took a long drink of her iced tea, suddenly wishing that she had ordered the martini after all.  "It's complicated.  Natalia and I..."  She ran her fingers through her hair, her teeth worrying at her bottom lip. "We've been through a lot and... and it's changed who we are.  And how we feel... about each other..."

Ashlee's eyes grew huge.  "Oh my god..." She started bouncing up and down in her seat.  "Ohmygodohmygodohmygod!!  The rumors are true!  You're totally coming out to me!"

Olivia's mouth dropped open. "What?  No!  Wait..."

"You know, I always knew it was true!   I mean, okay so maybe I said I didn't believe it all those times but I still knew!"  The blonde continued, trampling the older woman's response.  "But, I mean, it was like... like ...you. Olivia Spencer!  My mom used to tell me stories about you...kind of like...a cautionary tale?  And when people started saying that you and Natalia were close... you know, like close-close..."  She twined the fingers of her hands together.  "I was like, no way!  But then I was like, hey...maybe way...and then I was like, whoa, definitely way!"  She nodded and giggled to herself.  "And I totally get it!  I mean, I know why you're telling me!  You don't want someone working for you that's going to have a problem with it and I can assure you, zero problems here, I know lots of gay people... well...maybe not lots...but now I know three..."

She rattled on and Olivia blinked rapidly, her head spinning as she tried to follow the conversation. "Ashlee!"

The blonde went completely still.  "Hmmm?"

"I am not trying to come out to you!"

Ashlee's brow furrowed as she looked at her confusion.  "You're not?"

"I... well..."  Olivia frowned, throwing her hand up in front of her as her eyes half-closed in frustration.  "I wasn't!" 

"Sooo..."  The blonde looked up, like she was trying to read the inside of her own eyelids.  "You are...or you aren't?"

"I guess I am now!"  She sighed.  "But that wasn't my original intention. I just... I wanted to see how you would feel about it."

Ashlee blinked.  "Why?"

"B-because..."  Olivia stuttered, stuck between her good intentions and a bad idea.  "Things...change."  She equivocated.  "It's like... it's like you're driving a car and you think you know where you're going and then somewhere along the way you take an odd left and you end up miles from where you thought you'd be."  She winced slightly. "Do you get what I'm saying?"

Ashlee nodded.  "No."

I have never wanted to strangle someone so much in my life!  She took a deep breath.  "Take me for example."  She waited for Ashlee to nod.  "I always thought that I would marry the perfect man; that I would live in the perfect house with my perfect kids..."  She leaned her head to the side thoughtfully.  "But that's...that's not what life had in store for me."  She smiled to herself when she realized that she had quietly let go of that dream a year earlier.  "I met the perfect woman instead."

The blonde nodded again.  "Okay."  Then her eyes cleared and a huge grin appeared on her face.  "Oh... OH!  You're going to marry Natalia!!!"  She clapped her hands together and started bouncing again, giggling madly.  "That's why you told me!  You want me to help plan your wedding!  Oh my god, Olivia!  I can so totally do this!  It will be the most incredible wedding anyone has ever seen-"

Olivia leaned across the table, grabbing the blonde by the head; one hand on each cheek.  "Ashlee!"  She growled.  "There is no wedding!  There hasn't even been a proposal yet!"

Yet?!? A shock went down Olivia's spine, sapping the strength from her knees, causing her to fall back heavily in her chair as her heart pounded in her chest.  I said yet.  I said yet?  Jesus Christ, I said yet!

Ashlee was oblivious.  "Then... why are we here?"  She scratched her head.  "Because... if you're going to come out one person at a time... that's gonna take forever." She smiled brightly.  "I could help!"

"NO!"  Olivia held up both of her hands.  "No... don't help!"  She laughed weakly. "Please don't help."

"Oh!  I get it!"  Ashlee waved her hand in the air as though to clear away the words.  "The wedding's a secret!"  She lowered her voice.  "That is absolutely no problem!  If there's one thing I can do, it's keep a secret!"

Olivia couldn't help it.  She snorted.

"No, look seriously, now that I know it's true... I won't say a word."  She frowned when Olivia's skepticism only increased.  "I haven't said anything about my mom, have I?"

It took a moment for the comment to sink in, but when it finally did, Olivia could only stare at Ashlee, watching as the blonde's eyes widened and her hands came up to cover her mouth.

"Oh my god."  Ashlee cringed.  "Tell me you already knew?"  She shook her head, taking a quick breath.  "What am I talking about...of course you knew!  You've been spending, like, all this time together and you guys hate each other so...yeah, like, why else would that be happening?"  She waited a moment for Olivia to respond.  When the other woman didn't, she waved her hand slowly in front of her face.  "Olivia?"

The older woman swallowed.  "You... you knew?"

"That she's gay?"  Ashlee rolled her eyes.  "Well...duh!  She's the Mayor, Olivia.  It's not like she blends!  Plus, this town is about the size of a Tic Tac box."  She picked up her fork, spearing a piece of avocado and tucking it into her mouth.  "And she wears a lot of hats."

"Hey," Olivia said indignantly.  "I wear hats!"

Ashlee just looked at her.

The older woman flushed.  "Point taken."

"Anyway, it wasn't that hard to figure out.  I've known for a long time."

"Does it... bother you?"

Ashlee pursed her lips as she thought about the question.  "That she's gay?  No.  That she feels like she can't tell me... yeah, that bothers me."

 "Why..."  She shook her head, trying to wrap her mind around the fact that Ashlee already knew.  "Why haven't you said something to her?"

The blonde shrugged.  "She's my mom."  She sighed.  "I keep hoping she'll eventually trust me enough to let me into her life."

"I don't think it's about trust."  Olivia said quietly.  "I think it's about fear."

"My mother?  Afraid?"  Ashlee laughed.  "Have you met her?"

"It doesn't matter how strong she is, Ashlee.  When you're faced with possibly losing the one person in the world that means the most to you... you can't fight that kind of fear."  She shrugged.  "Take it from someone that knows."

"She could never lose me!  I mean, we never agree on anything and we fight about everything but I still love her!"

"I know how that feels."  Olivia smiled.  "But maybe your mother doesn't.  You should tell her."

Ashlee studied the older woman for several long moments.  "You... you really brought me to lunch just to talk to me about my mother, didn't you?"  She shook her head in surprise.  "You actually care... don't you?"

Olivia grunted, rolling her eyes.  "Yeah...  But tell anyone and I swear to god there won't be enough left of you to plan a wedding!"

The blonde squealed.  "I knew you wanted my help!"

Olivia propped her chin up against her hand, her head spinning as Ashlee began to babble about colors schemes and china patterns.  Closing her eyes, she listened silently, her mind conjuring up an image of Natalia in a long white gown.  It was simple, and elegant, no heavy brocade or frilly lace.  Just smooth silk from the top of her breasts to the gently rustling train that followed behind her.  She pictured her walking down the aisle, the smile on her lips extending to her eyes this time as she reached out and took her hand, the charcoal gray of her own tuxedo jacket contrasting beautifully against the white silk, making it shine with an iridescent luster that was breathtaking, even in her imagination.

Olivia's eyes snapped open.

Tuxedo jacket?!?

Oh, goddamn it!

"Miss Rivera!"

Natalia looked up, smiling when she saw the head of housekeeping rushing towards her.  "Marie!"  She said warmly.  While she got along well with the majority of the staff, Natalia had a special place in her heart for the small, energetic woman.  Even though she had once been her boss, Maria hadn't batted an eye when she had leap-frogged up to take the position of Olivia's assistant; she had merely accept the reversal of roles and gone about her business as though the brunette had always been her boss.  "What can I do for you?  And I've told you before, call me Natalia."

"Oh no, that I can't do!"  The French-Creole woman smiled broadly, her slight Cajun accent only making her all the more delightful.

"I called you Marie when I worked for you."  The brunette reminded her gently.

"Maybe... maybe.  But I'm no lady, not like you are."

"Oh..."  Natalia raised her eyebrows as her lips quirked to the side.  "I don't know that that label applies to me either."

"No... you're a lady."  Marie smiled at her slyly.  "Regardless of... anything... you're still a lady."

Natalia's mouth dropped open slightly.  She almost asked her what she meant, and then decided she probably didn't want to know.  "Did you need me for something?"

"I got three of my girls out sick and no way to clean all them rooms 'less you approve the overtime."  She shrugged, holding out a clipboard.  "You know I wouldn't ask..."

"I do."  Natalia raised her hand to cut off the reassurances she didn't need to hear.  "I know how tight you are with overtime, remember?"  She took the time cards and scribbled her name across them quickly.  "Did you need anything else?"

"No, ma'am!"  Marie snapped her fingers.  "But there's a preacher man waitin' outside of Ms. Spencer's office.  Saw him when I was looking for you."

"A..."  Natalia licked her lips nervously.  "A priest?"

"Yes, ma'am.  Tall fella, with the collar and all."  She patted the brunette gently on the arm.  "You be alright?"

"What?  Oh, of course!"  She smiled reassuringly.  "I'll be fine."  She watched Marie rush off towards the elevators before heading towards the hallway that led to the hotel offices.  When she turned the corner, she saw Father Ray at the far end.  The priest looked anxious as he paced back and forth in front of the door with Olivia's name on it, his hands clasped together tightly as though he might drop to his knees at any moment and begin praying.

"So I guess that's a no on the quiet afternoon?"  Natalia muttered softly as she walked towards the office.  "Father Ray!"  She smiled.  "This is a pleasant surprise."

The priest looked up at the sound of her voice, his eyes going hard as they focused on her.

Natalia felt her legs weaken under the scrutiny and squared her shoulders, using pure force of will to keep from dropping her gaze to the floor. 

"I wish I could say the same."  The priest said quietly.

"I beg your pardon?"

"It's not my pardon you need to beg."

"Okay,"  Natalia looked around in confusion.  "Obviously you have something you need to say, so why don't we go inside Olivia's office and-"

"Why?"  He looked down at her, a mixture of sorrow, anger and pity in his eyes.  "Are you so ashamed of what we need to speak about that you would run and hide?"

"I... I don't know what you're talking about."

"I went to visit Rafe at the halfway house this morning."

Natalia felt the bottom fall out of her stomach.

"I am sure you can guess the news he had to share with me."  The priest continued.  "Natalia... how could you involve yourself in such a manner with that... that woman?"

"Involve myself?"  She repeated.  "Father, I love her."

"No."  He held up his hand.  "No, you're confused.  Olivia Spencer... stories of her exploits... they've even reached so far as my ears."  He said gently.  "She's confused you, controlled you, made you into something... your son can barely recognize."

"Rafe..."  Natalia swallowed weakly.  "He... he's upset?"

Father Ray frowned, the muscles of his jaw clenching.  "No.  That's the worst part. He actually believes that you... that you love this woman.  That she loves you; and that it's okay."

"He does?"  A small smile curled the edges of her lips.

"Natalia!"  He took her shoulders in her hands, squeezing them firmly.  "You have to listen to me!  This isn't love!  This is just some... some twisted desire born out of the desperation you must have felt after Gus' death.  Can't you see that?  The fact that you chose Olivia, the woman that has his heart, should be more than enough to convince you of that."

"Chose?"  Natalia felt tears stinging her eyes but refuse to let them fall.  "I didn't choose anyone, Father.  I didn't ask for any of this."

"I know, I know."  He wrapped his arms around her, holding her.  "Trust in me, trust in God and we can get you through this."

"What?  Wait!"  She pushed him away gently.  "I appreciate what you're trying to do here, Father, really I do; but I don't need to be saved."  She sighed, exhaling roughly as she brushed the hair out of her eyes.  "I... have spent so many days just... praying about this, asking God for his wisdom, for a sign to show me what I should do.  This didn't just happen.  I have felt this way for a long... long time.  And every day that I spent fighting it, I spent confused; my head and heart in turmoil as I tried to understand why I would ever feel this way about a woman.  This woman in particular."

"That's exactly my point!  Olivia Spencer doesn't deserve-"

"You wouldn't know the first thing about what she deserves."  Natalia said quietly.  "All Olivia ever wanted was for me to be happy.  And even though she loved me, she was willing to watch me marry someone else because she thought he could make me happy."  She shrugged.  "But he couldn't."

"You don't know that!"

"Yes I do, Father."  She placed her hands on his arms.  "After the wedding... I spent the night alone at the farmhouse... and for the first time, I didn't try to pray.  I just closed my eyes and opened my heart and I felt this... this incredible peace.  It filled me with light and with love and the only thing I could see in my head and in my heart... was Olivia.  And when I stopped fighting it, when I accepted what it meant... I felt such joy..."

"No!"  He shook his head emphatically.  "The flesh is weak, Natalia.  It lies to us, it tricks us... it can make us believe that lust is love!"

"You..."  She flushed, looking away.  "You think all I feel... is lust?"

"It's a powerful emotion."  He said softly.  "One that can make us act contrary to our very nature."

Natalia closed her eyes, trying to stop the maelstrom of thoughts swirling around in her head.  Father Ray was very convincing, very charismatic.  But then, she had never met a priest that wasn't.  "It's more than that..."  She said weakly.

"You feel like it's more than that,"  He grabbed her hands, closing them within his own as he leaned closer.  "But it really isn't.  Are you willing to risk eternity... for a lie?"

She swallowed, her lips trembling as she tried to think of something to say.

"And what about Rafe?" 

"Rafe?"  She blinked in confusion.

"The sins of the father shall be visited upon the son, Natalia.  The bible shows us that the examples we set for our children are the templates they use when they make their own decisions."  His features hardened.  "Do you really want to teach your son that this behavior, this... abnormal lust, is acceptable?  Do you really want someone like Olivia Spencer to be one of his role models?  It's one thing to risk your immortal soul."  Father Ray's voice rose like he was on the pulpit.  "But I would have thought you cared more... for your son's."

Natalia's eyes cleared, her expression changing so rapidly that the priest took a surprised step backwards.  "That is enough!"  She growled at him. 

He raised his hands to cut her off but the anger in her eyes stopped him cold.

"You come here, to my work, spouting all these platitudes about good Catholic behavior and how I'm corrupting my son."  She swallowed, trying to hold the hard edge of her anger in and failing miserably.  "Well let me tell you something, Father." She raised one hand, tapping him in the middle of his chest, the force of her words pushing him backwards until he collided with the wall.  "When I was sixteen, it was the 'goodness' that you're preaching now that caused my own parents to throw me out of our home.  They abandoned me, and their grandson, because the church told them I was wrong to want to keep and love my child.  So I worked and I fought to scratch together a life for us, a life that I never turned away from God's path, or his teachings; a life that included the church, and prayer, and atonement for the sins I believed I had committed." 

She took a deep breath and dropped her hand. "But you know what I finally realized?  That nineteen years ago, I followed my heart.  And for that act of trust and belief, God granted me the most incredible gift he could have ever given me.  He gave me my son."  She laughed softly.  "And maybe he isn't perfect.  Maybe he makes mistakes, just like we're supposed to.  But he is mine!  And I managed to raise him on nothing but sweat and tears... and faith.  Now, nineteen years later... I have the chance to follow my heart again.  To follow my heart... or to follow the teachings of the church.   If I had done that last time, I would never have known the joy of motherhood.  I would have lived the rest of my life knowing that my son called someone else 'Mom'."  She shrugged.  "So if you think you can come here and wave my child in front of me like some...some bad example... to get me to turn away from Olivia, then you are sadly mistaken.  I love Rafe, I love Olivia... and God loves me.  I don't really give a damn what your opinion is on the matter!"  She smiled sweetly.  "Have a nice day."

Natalia left him standing there with his jaw on the floor as she walked away, her body shaking with unspent emotion.  She reached the end of the hallway and turned the corner, running into Olivia who was just stepping off the elevator. 

"Whoa, there tiger!"  Olivia smiled as she caught Natalia by the arms to steady her. 

"Where the hell have you been?"  Natalia demanded.

"I was upstairs looking for you..."  The smile faded as she took in the younger woman's wild expression and her trembling shoulders.  "Natalia?  Are you alright?"  She blinked in surprise when the brunette grabbed her arm and dragged her back into the elevator.  Without speaking, she reached up and took Olivia's face between her hands as the door slid shut behind them.  They stared into each other eyes for a moment and then Natalia was kissing her.

Really kissing her.

Olivia felt the energy and emotion the younger woman was pouring into the kiss from the top of her head all the way down to her toes, which were curling inside of her $900 Jimmy Choo boots.  When the brunette finally released her, she stumbled back slightly, bracing herself on the railing that ran the length of the elevator wall.

"What..."  She panted softly, trying to catch her breath.  "What did I do to deserve that?"

Natalia smiled.

"No really, tell me."  Olivia grabbed her by the lapels and pulled her close again, rubbing the tip of her nose against the sensitive skin on the side of Natalia's neck.  "Because I want to make sure I do it as often as possible."

"You didn't do anything, Olivia."  The brunette whispered, her lips nuzzling gently against the older woman's ear.  "You never have to do anything to make me love you.  I just do."  She felt Olivia swallow and smiled.  "Now take me home."

"Home?"  Olivia pulled her head back so she could look at her in surprise.  "It's not even one o'clock yet!"

Natalia pursed her lips.  "Aren't you the boss around here?"

"That's the rumor."  The older woman smirked.  "Although sometimes I wonder."

Natalia rubbed up against her, one thigh pressing firmly into the subtle ache that seemed to live between her legs these days.  "Then take me home.  Emma has school and then a play date until six.  That's plenty of time."

Olivia placed her thumb against the "Close Doors" button, holding it down.  "Plenty of time for what?"

"For you to pack up your things and move them into our room."  Natalia smiled.  "And for us to maybe try out the cohabitation thing...just a little..."


Chapter 17:  Viewer Discretion Is Advised

Olivia slid out of the passenger seat of her own car, laughing softly as she wondered when her keys had found a permanent home at the bottom of Natalia's purse.  She used to love to drive; finding the freedom and the power of it exhilarating.  Now, she was more content to settle back in the deep leather seat and watch the brunette silently read off street names to herself as she carefully kept her hands in the ten and two o'clock positions.  The speedometer never climbed higher than five miles below the posted speed limit when Natalia drove and yet the trip always seemed to be over so quickly.

Her smile widened further when she met Natalia at the front of the car, their hands linking together as they walked towards the house.  It was an automatic gesture; a seeking of contact on both their parts that took no effort and even less thought.  It was simply as though their bodies gravitated towards each, needing to make contact in a way that was natural and yet utterly amazing.

"What are you smiling at?"  Natalia's matching smile said she already knew the answer.

"Hmm?  Was I smiling?"   Olivia asked innocently.

"Oh, please!  You've had the same goofy grin on your face since we left the Beacon."

Olivia pressed her lips together, trying to pull them into a frown and failing miserably.  "I do not have a goofy grin!"

The younger woman stopped on the porch and wrapped her arms around Olivia's waist, her lips pressing softly against the taller woman's chin.  "Nothing wrong with it."  She whispered.  "It's endearing."

Olivia smirked.  "So... if I tell you you're Daffy you'll find that charming too?"

Natalia rolled her eyes.  "What is it with you and ducks?  Should I be worried?"

The older woman made a face at her, making Natalia laugh as she unlocked the door and led her inside.  They dropped their purses on the couch and headed upstairs where Natalia pulled her past her bedroom door and on to her own.

Olivia raised an eyebrow.  "I guess we've decided which room we'll be sharing?"

"My room is twice the size of yours."  Natalia countered. "We'll need all that extra space just for your clothes."

Olivia thought about it for a moment.  "You got me there."  She scratched her chin as she looked around the room, her eyes falling on the large crucifix hanging on one wall.

"Uh uh."  Natalia shook her head firmly.  "Don't even think about it!  It's on my side of the room and it stays."

"Okay, so I get to decorate this side?"

The brunette blinked.  "I... I guess so." 

"I can see it now!"  Olivia laughed. "A room done in Modern Confessional. We'll get a full page spread in Dwell magazine."

"You're not funny."

"Liar.  I'm hysterical."

"Sometimes."  Natalia nodded.  "But still not funny."

Olivia growled at her.  "Okay, smart ass.  You do realize how much work this is going to be right?  You didn't really expect to get all this done in a couple of hours did you?"

"No."  The younger woman shook her head.   "I just thought we'd get the important stuff out of the way."

"Okay... so what do we move first?"  Olivia watched the look on Natalia's face change from playful to serious; watched her eyes darken in the bright afternoon sunlight streaming in from the windows and felt the mood in the room shift immediately.  She stared, her pulse racing and her mouth dry, as the brunette walked towards her.

Natalia slowly closed the space between them, allowing the slow burn that had been simmering inside of her since their kiss in the elevator to blossom into a raging heat.  She pressed their bodies tightly together but kept her arms at her sides as she looked up into sea green eyes.  "Me."  She whispered, swallowing heavily.  "I... I need you to put your hands on me, Olivia."  She felt the older woman's arms wrap around her immediately; felt them caress up and down the smooth plains of her back and shuddered beneath the touch as an overwhelming wave of love and desire flooded through her.  This... the memory of this... the depth and capacity of their love for each other... was what she had found deep within her when she looked for the strength to stand up to Father Ray.  It was what she always found, in those moments of quiet weakness when she doubted herself; when she doubted her ability to be the woman that Olivia thought she was. 

It was this that defined them.

And it was this she couldn't live without.

"Hey," Olivia whispered, her lips buried in the dark silk of Natalia's hair.  "Are you all right?  What's going on?"

The younger woman shook her head gently.  "Not now."  She whispered.  "I'll explain later.  Right now, I... please... Olivia..."

Olivia heard the need in her voice and cut her off with a kiss, her hands coming up to cup the softness of her face.  She could taste the younger woman's desire on her tongue, could feel it thrumming strongly everywhere they were connected, and yet Natalia remained passive, her body swaying gently beneath the force of her attention.  She pulled back to look into dark eyes made unfocused by desire and felt her own need spike through her, hot and pointed, driving the air from her lungs as she gasped in surprise at the sudden strength of it.  Her fingers moved almost of their own accord, popping open the buttons on the brunette's soft cotton shirt; spreading it wide to stare in open admiration at Natalia's smooth stomach and full breasts.  With a soft whimper, she let her fingers crawl over tightly skinned ribs to slip beneath the pink silk of Natalia's bra; her hands cupping the gentle swells as her thumbs brushed over their peaks, reveling in the instant reaction as the flesh pebbled beneath her fingertips. 

Swallowing, Olivia pulled her hands free and brushed the shirt away from Natalia's shoulders, pushing the smaller woman backwards towards the bed.  Her fingers made quick work of the bra, dropping it in their wake before sliding down her back and around her sides to tuck into the waistband of her pants.  She snapped them open and eased the zipper down, her fingers grazing past soft silk and unbelievable heat.  She paused for a moment, the back of her hand pressed against Natalia's center, and was rewarded when the younger woman's hands gripped her hips tightly.  She kissed Natalia gently as she slid the pants down followed by her panties and then pulled off her own clothing, drawing the brunette tightly against her as a low moan tore free from her chest.  She was always amazed by how it felt when their skin touched, the beauty in it, the incredible... rightness of it.  She could spend hours, days, even weeks just holding Natalia in her arms and she knew she would still be happy.

Not that everything else that came with it wasn't incredible as well.

Olivia took Natalia's shoulders in her hands and gently pressed her down onto the bed, lowering her body on top of the younger woman and dove-tailing their legs so that she could feel the heat emanating from between her lover's thighs.  "I love you."  She whispered, smiling against Natalia's throat when she felt the body beneath her tremble. 

"I love you... mmm... too."  The younger woman moaned softly as she turned her head to the side, offering more of her neck to Olivia's teeth and lips.  Her hands rested lightly against the older woman's back as she lost herself in what Olivia was doing to her.

Olivia kissed her way up Natalia's jaw until she could capture her lips.  The connection was slow and languid and she nibbled gently against the younger woman's bottom lip until they parted, allowing her to slip her tongue inside.  She could feel the desire coursing through the body beneath her.  Could feel it in the tremors it left in its wake as it traveled down Natalia's spine; making her back arch and her hips rise before leaving the hot, slick evidence of it against the smooth skin of her thigh.  Olivia's closed her eyes, her hands tightening in the sheets beneath them as she bit down harder than she intended, earning a surprised gasp from the brunette.

"I'm sorry!"  She whispered, her tongue flicking out to lick a tiny drop of blood from Natalia's lip.  Her whisper turned to a groan when she felt Natalia grip her hips almost painfully.  "You just feel so damn good."

"Don't apologize," The younger woman pushed down with her hips, sliding herself against the firm muscle of Olivia's thigh.  "I don't need you to apologize."  Her voice turned into a low growl.  "I need you to fuck me."

Olivia blinked, a small whimper escaping her throat as a rush of lust shot through her. 


The need in Natalia's voice broke through her reserve and Olivia dropped her head, kissing her way down the brunette's chest, her tongue darting out to circle a painfully hard nipple.  Her right hand slid down Natalia's belly to follow the curve of her hip, pausing to cup her ass before continuing around her leg to trail up through the moisture that coated her inner thigh.  She pulled her fingers and mouth away quickly, ignoring Natalia's disappointed whimper as she painted the wetness across the younger woman's breasts, following the trail with her tongue and a happy sigh.

"Olivia... please..."

Olivia raised her head, taking in the almost painful desire clearly evident on her lover's face.  Smiling, she pulled herself up to place a hand against the younger woman's cheek.  "Natalia..."

The brunette swallowed, shaking her head slightly, her eyes tightly closed.

"Natalia..."  Olivia repeated, her fingers caressing the soft skin beneath them.  "Look at me."

Natalia bit her bottom lip, took a deep breath... and opened her eyes.

"Good."  The older woman smiled, kissing her gently before pulling back to gaze directly into the dark eyes she loved so much.  "I need you to look at me." Without hesitating, she slid her hand down Natalia's stomach to bury her fingers in the wet heat between her legs.  She began to stroke slowly, watching as the small muscles around the younger woman's eyes began to flutter, her mouth moving silently as she fought to catch her breath.  She watched as Natalia's jaw clenched and her lips trembled, as her head tipped back and soft, guttural moans escaped from somewhere deep in her throat.

It was the most incredible thing she had ever witnessed, and she knew it was something she would never forget. 

When a deep blush tinted Natalia's cheeks Olivia leaned in close and whispered, "You're beautiful.  God, you are so beautiful like this."

Natalia concentrated on the feel of Olivia's fingers, finding herself getting lost in the sea foam green of the older woman's eyes.  She watched them darken, deepen to an almost emerald color, watch them fill up with love and lust and a hundred other emotions she couldn't identify but that she could feel through the connection of their eyes and their bodies.  She felt the ecstasy that Olivia was causing begin to fill her and flexed her hands, the sharp edges of her nails earning a soft hiss from the blonde that only made her hold on tighter.   Her head slammed back against the pillow when Olivia's hand moved lower and she felt two fingers curl deep inside her as the older woman's thumb pressed firmly against her clit.  "Oh... Oh...."

"Say it again."  Olivia begged softly as she began to move her hips, rubbing her sex against Natalia's leg, using the momentum of her own desire to increase the thrust of her hand.  "Please..."

Natalia swallowed, her lower lip caught between her teeth.  "Fuck me, Olivia..."  She whispered fiercely.  "Please.... fuck me harder..."

The older woman's spine snapped taut, her hips thrusting wildly as that nasty word said in an angel's voice almost pushed her over the edge.  She curled the tips of her fingers, fluttering them against the high, slick spot that always made the brunette come apart in her arms.  She could feel the edge of her own release building and desperately wanted to watch Natalia's face as she came against her hand. 

She felt the velvet around her fingers tighten, felt the hands on her hips slide up to scratch across her back and smiled, her heart swelling madly as the younger woman began to shake.  Natalia cried out sharply as her release tore through her, her back coming up off the bed to cause an almost unbearable amount of pressure against Olivia's center. 

Olivia's breath stopped as a rapturous delight traveled outwards from where they were connected to all other points of her body.  She shuddered violently, using one trembling arm to hold herself up as she hung her head, her breath finally returning in long, tearing gasps as she collapsed heavily on top of her lover.

For several long moments, she couldn't move, she couldn't think; all she could do was lay quietly and listen to the heart beating rapidly beneath her ear.



"I'm... I'm sorry."

The older woman raised her head, trying to look at Natalia through the sweat-dampened hair that was currently splayed across her forehead.  Unable to gather the energy to move her arms, she stuck out her bottom lip and tried to blow it out of her eyes, earning a soft laugh from her lover.

Natalia gently brushed the hair away with her fingertips, allowing them to linger against the softness of Olivia's face for a moment before she dropped her hand and looked away in embarrassment.

"Hey."  Olivia managed to drag herself up until they were eye to eye again.  She kissed Natalia on the cheek, unable to discern if the lingering tang of salt had come from sweat or tears.  "There's nothing to apologize for." She traced a finger across kiss-bruised lips.  "You trusted me enough to tell me what you needed.  That means more to me than you will ever know.  Okay?"  She waited for Natalia to nod and then flipped over onto her back, pulling the brunette down on top of her. She closed her eyes, humming happily when the younger woman settled into her arms.

"So where were you today?"  Natalia asked as her fingers trailed lazy patterns across the older woman's stomach. 

"I told you, I went to see Doris."

"You were gone for quite a while.  Did her luncheon really take that much planning?"

Not wanting to lie and nowhere near ready to tell the truth, Olivia chose to change the subject instead.  "Well, I kind of got sidetracked on the way back and ended up having lunch with Ashlee."

"Ashlee?"  Natalia raised her head to look at the older woman curiously.  "Ashlee Wolfe?"

"The one and only."  She rolled her eyes before finishing quietly, "Thank god."

"How did that go?"

Olivia laughed nervously.  "She wants to plan our wedding."  She felt the younger woman go completely still.

"I wasn't aware there was one to plan."

"There isn't!  She just... She just misunderstood."


Olivia looked down, the sadness in Natalia's voice taking her by surprise.  She opened her mouth to ask about it but the younger woman went on, her voice once again cheerful.

"So... what was your agenda there?"  The brunette laughed softly.  "To out us to the town gossip and let her do all the work?"

"I wasn't trying to out anybody."  Olivia sighed.  "I was just trying to gauge how she might feel about the whole... gay thing and it all... kind of went sideways."


"Because Ashlee has a mental process that would make a hummingbird dizzy?"

"No," Natalia laughed.  "I meant why were you trying to see how she felt about it?"

"I don't know."

"Were you..."  The younger woman shook her head slightly, her eyes going wide with shock.  "Were you actually trying to help Doris?"

Olivia shrugged.

"You were!  You were trying to do something nice for her... and ended up outing yourself."  She tried not to smile but couldn't stop herself.

"Just goes to prove that no good deed goes unpunished!"

"Well... I had my own little...coming out party today."  She bit her lip when Olivia looked at her curiously.  "Father Ray came by the hotel."

"Father Ray?"  Olivia felt her stomach flip over rather unpleasantly.  "What... what did he say?"

Natalia sighed as she snuggled more tightly into the older woman's arms.  "About what you'd expect."

"Oh.  How did he find out?"


"But I thought..."

Natalia heard the panic in her lover's voice and kissed her quickly.  "Rafe's fine with it, Olivia.  I think the fact that he is fine with it is what really set Father Ray off." She couldn't keep the sadness from her voice.  "He accused me of setting a bad example with my 'abnormal' behavior."

The older woman grunted.  "So what's normal?  Dressing up like a penguin and marrying God?"


"I know, I know."  She smoothed her hands across the plains of Natalia's back.  "And I don't mean to make fun, but really... how could love... real love... ever be considered wrong?"

Natalia's voice was very small.  "I don't know."

"He upset you, didn't he?"

She heard the anger in Olivia's voice and placed a calming hand on her chest.  "A little.  But I think you would have been proud of me."  She smirked.  "I know you would have paid money to see his face when I told him off."

"You..."  Olivia body jumped in surprise.  "You told him off?  You?"

"Yes, me!"  Natalia leaned up and kissed her on the nose.  "You're my family.  No one attacks my family."

The older woman smiled.  "You're something else, you know that?  Just when I think I've got you figured out, you do something that just blows me away."

"I wouldn't want you to get bored."

"Never happen."  Olivia hugged her tightly, her body relaxing as she let go of the tension she had been feeling since Natalia mentioned Father Ray.  She looked at the dresser across from them thoughtfully, her lips pursing.  "You know what would be great right there?"

The younger woman looked over her shoulder.  "What?"

"A television."

"A television?"  Natalia's eyebrows crawled up her forehead.  "Olivia, you didn't even have a TV in your bedroom!"

"Maybe not, but..."  Olivia shrugged, trying to stall.  "I never planned to spend that much time in my bedroom."

"Ooooh!"  The younger woman smirked.  "And... you think you'll have a reason to hang out in here more often?"

"God, I hope so!"

Natalia smiled, her lips quirking adorably.  "Don't you think you might have something else occupying your attention?"  She blinked innocently. "Unless.... of course... you're planning on being up here alone..."

"Well... yeah...."  Olivia frowned playfully.  "A TV and a lifetime supply of AA batteries...?"  She snapped her fingers.  "I'm all set!"

"Olivia!"  Natalia blushed, slapping her on the arm playfully.

"For the remote!"  The older woman snickered, an evil smile gracing her lips.  "My, my... what a dirty mind you have!"

The brunette poked her in the ribs which resulted in a tickling match that left them both breathless and laughing, wrapped so tightly around each other that it was hard to tell whose heartbeat was whose.  When they could speak again, Olivia pressed her lips to Natalia's forehead as she whispered, "Besides, a TV would provide some nice background noise..."  She kissed her lips tenderly.  "For when Emma's home?"

"You know," Natalia laughed.  "I think that is possibly the one compelling argument you could have offered me." She smirked as she nestled her face into the side of Olivia's neck. "Were you holding it in reserve or did you just come up with it on the fly?"

"Came up with it on the fly."

"Thought so."  She tightened her arms, trying to get even closer.  "I'll think about it."

Olivia grinned triumphantly.

"Stop smiling."

"I'm not smiling!"  The older woman protested.

"Yes you are!"  Natalia bit her softly on the neck.  "Except this time it's that outrageously self satisfied smirk you always get when you think you've won."

"You must be used to seeing it then."  She stretched happily.  "So I'm goofy and self-satisfied.  Why do you love me again?"

"You're awfully good in bed."

"Ahh," The blonde smiled.  "And you're basing this on what?  I could be awful you know.  All it means is that Frank was worse..."

"Keep it up and your going to find yourself on the floor."  The younger woman growled, before steering the conversation back on topic.  "It's just that... a TV in here would be so.... ordinary."

"And... " Olivia's forehead furrowed.  "Ordinary is bad?"

"No, not exactly...well... in the bedroom, maybe."  She smiled shyly.  "But I guess sometimes I actually miss ordinary."  She shrugged.  "You have to admit, we don't exactly qualify."

"I love us."  Olivia said quietly.

"Oh! I do too!"  Natalia sat up so that she could meet the older woman's eyes.  "I do too!  I love us, too!  Please don't ever doubt that.  It's just... Sometimes I miss the little, ordinary things... all the things we never did when we were..."  She ducked her head shyly.


"Yeah..."  She grinned, flashing her dimples as she leaned in for a kiss.

Olivia took her time, enjoying the kiss fully before breaking away to ask, "Like what?"

"Like...  going out to dinner...."

"We go out to dinner all the time."

"No, we go out to eat."  She corrected gently.  "It's different."

"Okay," Olivia pulled her close again.  "I'll give you that one.  What else?"

"Mmmmm... dancing!"  Natalia tucked her head into the older woman's neck, sighing happily.  "I miss dancing."

"Really?"  Olivia closed her eyes, getting lost in the brunette's scent.  "I didn't know you like to dance."

"Oh yeah!  It's just... I haven't really gotten a lot of chances to do it, you know?"

"Yeah....  I know."  Olivia said thoughtfully.  "Ooof!"  She groaned when Natalia put a hand on her stomach, using it to push herself up so that she could see the clock.

"And, we don't have time to talk about this now!"  She jumped out of bed and headed for the shower.  "We have to pick up Emma in thirty minutes!"

"That's one of the problems isn't it?"  The older woman mumbled softly.  "The kids usually come after the romance."

Natalia turned and came back to the bed, kneeling down beside it to take Olivia's face between her hands.  "You listen to me."  She said evenly.  "I love you.  And I love our daughter.  And as much as I know I would have fallen for you anyway, she is definitely a very welcome part of the package."  She kissed her softly on the lips. "I wouldn't change anything, even if I could."  She leaned back, brushing the hair away from her lover's face.  "Okay?"

Olivia swallowed hard.  "Okay."

"Okay."  Natalia traced the full mouth she loved so much, thinking for a moment that they could just call Susie's mom and ask her for another hour.  The lips under her fingertips curved into a smirk.

"I know what you're thinking..." Olivia sang quietly, her arms snaking out to loop around the younger woman's body.  She whined softly when Natalia slipped away, the redness of her cheeks both endearing and seductive.

"Get up!"  She reached down to slap Olivia lightly on the butt.

"Why?"  The older woman did as she was told, coming up on her knees, letting the blanket fall away to reveal the sweet swells and curves of her body to dark, hungry eyes.  She slid one hand down her side and over her hip.  "If thinking is the same as doing, then you already have a trip to the confessional in your future."  She brought the hand up to cup one full breast, her fingers flicking lighting over her own nipple until it hardened.  "Why not at least enjoy it?"

Natalia was back on the bed before she even consciously considered it, her hand coming up to brush Olivia's away so that her lips could close over the pebbled flesh.  "I think you might actually be the devil."  She groaned softly as the older woman's fingers tangled in her hair.

"I can live with that."  Olivia snickered, pulling them both back down into the softness of the sheets.

Olivia sat quietly in the passenger seat of the car, her body relaxed and her arms crossed; a smug smile on her lips as she watched a very flustered Natalia try to focus on driving.  Their last session of lovemaking had been wild and fierce, almost fevered, and she could still feel the younger woman's lips on her skin; her tongue on her...

Olivia's closed her eyes, drawing in a long, deeply satisfying breath as she let her mind run away with her; the visceral images it offered up causing her nipples to tighten and the muscles between her thighs to clench.  She licked her lips as the memory of sliding down the brunette's lithe body came to her complete with aroma and taste; the salt tang of her skin, still damp with sweat, the scent of her sex... the taste on her tongue... like fresh honey only better...

"Why...why do you... get to go first?"

The recollection of Natalia's half-playful protest came complete with an overwhelming jolt of desire as what had followed unfolded behind her tightly closed eyes.

"I'm sorry... was it your turn?"  She had teased, her nose buried in slick curls and soft, sweet flesh.

"You always..." The younger woman's voice had been quiet, almost lost within the small whimpers that filled the air around them.  "You always...go first..."

"Did you want me to stop?"  She had pulled her head away, smiling at Natalia's heated protest.  "Well... there's always another alternative..."

"What alter..."   Natalia's voice had cracked in surprise when Olivia swung her hips around, supporting herself on her knees... which were now carefully placed on either side of the younger woman's head.  "Oh my god..."

That little bit of blasphemy had been the last of the conversation for well over thirty minutes. 

Unless moans and profanity can actually be considered conversation...  Olivia thought to herself, her smirk returning full force as she finally let go of the memory and turned to look at her lover.  She laughed softly when she realized that the redness in Natalia's cheeks still hadn't lessened.  "So,"  She coughed innocently. "You're not going to tell me to stop smiling?"

Natalia glanced over at her, her dimples flashing briefly in the low light of the street lamps as she said quietly, "No... not this time.  I... I think this time... you've earned it." 

The shy smile she offered before turning her attention back to the road filled Olivia with the sort of happiness she had always relegated to fairy tales and bedtime stories.  Only this... this was real, this was hers...and it was worth everything she had been through, everything they had been through.

And she would do anything... anything... to keep it.


The older woman looked at her blankly.  "Hmmm?"

"We're here."

"What? Oh!"  Olivia looked out the window, surprised to see Emma racing towards the car.  She opened the door and stepped out, laughing when she barely had time to hold out her arms before her daughter was throwing herself into them.  "Hey there, jellybean!"  She kissed the top of the little girl's head before letting her go.  Placing one hand on Emma's back, she steered her towards the rear of the car, making sure she was securely buckled in before closing the door.  Looking up at the house, she waved quickly at Susie and her mom before climbing back inside.  "So?  Did you have a good time?"

Emma bounced up and down in the back seat. "It was great!  Susie's mom has these old black, round things and they spin and make hissing sounds!  It was cool!"

Natalia looked at her in the rear view mirror as she drove, one eyebrow raised curiously.  "They spin?"  She glanced at Olivia, who looked even more confused than she was.

"Yeah!"  The little girl nodded enthusiastically.  "You put them on this plate thing and it turns and the black things hiss and pop!  Oh, and there was really weird music too!"

"Records?"  Olivia gasped indignantly.  "You're talking about records?  I will have you know, young lady, that some of the best music in the world only sounds good when you play it on a record!"

Emma looked at her like she had sprouted another head.  "Why?"

"Because...  Because..." 

Olivia looked at Natalia for help but the brunette just shook her head, trying not to smile.  "I was a CD baby... sorry."

"I can't believe this!  I cried when they stopped making records!  Cried!"

"Because you'd be able to hear that music?"  Emma asked innocently.

Natalia snorted with laughter, biting her lower lip to cut it off quickly but the damage was already done.

"Oh, ha ha."  Olivia slouched back in her seat, her lower lip extending slightly in a pout.

"I'm sorry."  Natalia reached across the center console and squeezed the older woman's knee.  She had to fight to keep her giggles in check when Olivia jerked away like a petulant child.  "Honestly," She put her hand over her heart. "What can I do to make it up to you, sweetheart?"

The blonde's features softened at the endearment and she had to look away to hide the small smile that was tugging at her lips.  "You just don't know what you're missing."  She huffed. 

"Agreed!"  Natalia nodded.  "Maybe you could... show me sometime?"

Charmed by the sweet tone of her voice, Olivia looked over, only to be completely floored by the suggestive look Natalia was giving her from beneath lowered lashes.  She swallowed heavily and glanced back at her daughter, who was watching them both closely.  "We'll... we'll... discuss that at another time."

"Awww..."  Emma scuffed her shoe against the console.

"Don't kick the car, baby."  Olivia reached back and grabbed her daughter's ankle, pulling off the sneaker so that she could tickle her foot.  She smiled when Emma convulsed with giggles.

"So... do we need anything while we're out?" Natalia asked as she pointed the car towards home.

"I'm hungry, Momma!"  Emma called out..

"Ooo."  Olivia laid her hands over her stomach, feeling it growl loudly at the mention of food.  "I'm hungry too, Momma."

The brunette shook her head.  "I can make us a good dinner when we get home."

"But..."  Olivia winked at Emma.  "I thought you wanted to make it up to me?"  She saw Natalia set her jaw and tried hard not to laugh.  "I think a bucket of chicken would do that nicely."

"Chicken? Okay fine, but we're going to El Pollo Loco."

"Nope!"  The older woman said firmly.  "Fried chicken!  Big, greasy pieces of yummy fried chicken!  KFC!"

Emma cheered from the back seat. 

"That is so not fair."  The brunette mumbled under her breath.

"Who said love was fair?" Olivia's smiled brightly as she kissed her on the cheek.

Forty minutes later, the three of them staggered out of the fast food restaurant, holding hands as they walked sluggishly across the parking lot to the car.

"I cannot believe I ate that."  Natalia sighed as she buckled Emma in.

"Oh, you loved it!  Don't lie!"  Olivia climbed into the passenger side and laid her head back happily.  "Not even you can hate KFC!!"

"It's just... so bad for you!"  The brunette complained as she pulled out into traffic.  "What we should do is go for a walk; get our blood pumping before our veins clog from all that grease."

The older woman snorted and rolled her eyes.  She opened her mouth to say something sarcastic but stopped short as she leaned forward, a sweet smile on her face.  "Take the next left."

"What?  Why?"

"Just do it."

"All right, all right!"  Natalia turned the car, frowning when she realized it was a major street.

"Pull in up there on the right."

"OIivia... Where are we going?"

"You said you wanted to go for a walk right?"  She waved a hand towards the front window.  "Let's go for a walk."

Natalia looked up, a groan falling from her lips when she saw a big blue sign with a giant yellow price tag in the middle of it.  "An electronics store?"  She rolled her eyes.  "Subtle much?"

"Hey," Olivia shrugged innocently.  "You wanted to go for a walk.  It's late... and... that store is... a safe place to go walking."

"I see... and it has nothing to do with the fact that they sell televisions?"

"Do they?"  The older woman asked innocently.

Natalia snorted.  She pulled into a parking spot and cut the engine.  "We're not buying anything!" 

"Who said buy?  I said walk."  Olivia winked at her as they got out of the car. 

Natalia's grumpiness faded when Emma took her customary place between them, grabbing onto their hands and humming happily as they walked into the brightly lit store.   The man at the door smiled and welcomed them, nothing but friendliness in his eyes, and she realized that some people actually saw them for what they were.

A real family.

And only one thing could possibly make that better.

She swallowed as she looked over at Olivia, her glassy eyes in direct contrast to the bright smile on her face.    The older woman caught her gaze and held it as she leaned closer to whisper, "He'll be home soon."

"I know."  She looked down, not even surprised that Olivia knew exactly what was on her mind.  It had been like that for a long time, each of them knowing what the other was feeling; and why not?  Sometimes she felt so close to the older woman that it was like they shared one heart anyway.  "It's just that... it's his birthday coming up and... it's the first one... that he won't be home for..."

"You'll get to see him; he's not in prison anymore."  Olivia stopped in the aisle to face Natalia, her free hand coming up to cup the younger woman's cheek.  "It'll be okay.  I promise."

The brunette took a deep breath and nodded, her happy smile returning as Emma started jumping up and down between them.

"Oooo, iPods!."  The little girl's eyes lit up like it was Christmas.  "Can I go look at them, mommy, can I?"


Olivia glanced around.  The department was fairly busy, but mostly on the other side where the computers were.  On their side there were a couple of harmless looking kids drooling over the digital camcorders and two very attentive looking salespeople keeping an eye on them.  "How about... you go pick one out for Rafe's birthday?"  She smiled at her daughter's instant enthusiasm.  "Find the best one, but don't go any further than those kiosks and," She tapped her daughter on the nose.  "Don't break anything!"


"I promise!" 


The two women watched her scamper away, matching smiles on their faces.  Emma immediately found the master control panel, quickly learning which button corresponded to which unit.  She pressed one after another as she played with the features on each mp3 player.  The female salesperson came up to help her, tossing Olivia a wave and a smile as she answered the little girl's rapid fire questions.


"She is so smart."  Natalia's voice filled with pride. 


"Oh yeah," Olivia smirked.  "Give her fifteen minutes and I'll bet she knows more about those things than the salesmen." 

"Sucker bet."  Natalia smiled.  "But... I can't let you do that, Olivia.  Those things are way too expensive." 

Olivia stepped closer, tilting her head to the side to look at the younger woman seriously.  "I'm not doing it."  She traced her finger down one smooth, olive cheek.  "We are."  She cut off Natalia's response by placing the tip of her finger across her lips.  "He deserves it, and we can afford it."

The brunette kissed her finger softly.  "Okay."  She smiled when her lover's eyes narrowed; the lashes falling low as the sea green iris' darkened to the almost emerald color they became whenever Olivia was aroused.  She watched in fascination as the older woman tried to keep herself under control.

"Speaking of being able to afford it..."  Olivia cleared her throat and linked her fingers with Natalia's, pulling the younger woman towards the televisions on display a few feet away.



Olivia tried her best doe-eyed look but Natalia just shook her head.


"No!  There is no way we are going to pay $3,000 for a twenty-seven inch TV, Olivia."


"But look how beautiful it is."


Natalia sighed.  "Why are we doing this again?"


"Sundays curled up together watching old movies..."  Olivia purred as she leaned into the brunette's side. 


"Emma doesn't like anything made before she was born."


"...snuggling under the covers to watch David Letterman?"


"We can do that downstairs."


The older woman smirked.  "And what if I decide to stop on the way home and pick up a movie...from the back room of our local video store?"


"Then you'd be watching it alone."  Natalia snorted.


"Aww..."  Olivia pouted.  "You know, some of the newer lesbian stuff is really tasteful."


The brunette pursed her lips, her eyebrows crawling up her forehead.  "And you would know this...how?"

"I... heard it..."

"From who?"  Natalia asked sarcastically.

She didn't even bat an eyelash.  "Doris." 

The brunette rolled her eyes.  "And I thought I'd only have to worry about who Emma and Rafe were hanging out with."


Olivia shrugged.  "She's harmless.  All bark and no bite."

"Whether she bites or not... she's still got teeth."  Natalia pursed her lips.  "She makes me nervous."


Natalia turned to look at one of the displays, her fingers worrying at a price tag that had pulled away from the shelving.

"Wait..."  The older woman turned her around gently.  "You're not..."  She blinked at Natalia's sudden blush.   "Oh my god... you are.  You're jealous? Of Doris?"

"Well... no."  She cringed at the lie.  "Okay, yes.  But you spend so much time with her... and you two couldn't stand each other before... I don't understand what changed."

"I changed."  Olivia said gently.  "We changed.  I understand her... better... now.  And she was there for me... in her own unique way... when I needed a friend."  She wrapped her arms around Natalia.  "She needs a friend now, Natalia.  If I can help her, I need to try."

The brunette smiled at her.  "Olivia Spencer... humanitarian.  Who woulda thunk it?"

"Not me."  She leaned in, grazing her lips across the younger woman's mouth.  "It's all your fault, you know.  I was content with my misanthropic ways until you came along and showed me how much better life could be."  She brushed the hair away from Natalia's eyes with a happy sigh.  "You are the very best of me, you know that?  And I love you more than life."

Natalia pressed her lips together, trying to keep her emotions in.  Leaning forward, she rested her forehead against Olivia's.  "Really?"

Olivia smiled.  "Really, really."

The younger woman bit her lip.  "Then why don't you want to marry me?"

Olivia's jaw dropped as her stomach fell into her shoes.  Blinking rapidly, she took several shallow breaths, caught between trying not to hyperventilate and coming up with a proper response. 


"No!  There is no way we are going to pay $3,000 for a twenty-seven inch TV, Olivia."


The older woman's first thought was to wonder why Natalia was repeating herself.

Her second thought was to wonder how she was doing it without moving her lips.

"But look how beautiful it is."

She heard her own voice and looked around, her eyes going wide when she saw their conversation being played out on every television in the store.

"Why are we doing this again?"


"Sundays curled up together watching old movies..."  


"Emma doesn't like anything made before she was born."


"...snuggling under the covers to watch David Letterman?"


"We can do that downstairs."

Panicked, knowing what was coming, she spun towards the kiosks to see Emma holding up one of the digital camcorders, a huge smile on her face as she waved.  "It doesn't even need a tape, mommy!" She called out happily, oblivious to what was happening on the screens around her.

Unfortunately, she was the only one that was oblivious.  Olivia groaned as she saw most of the customers in their vicinity gravitating towards them.  Even the salesgirl who had been helping Emma looked spellbound.

"And what if I decide to stop on the way home and pick up a movie...from the back room of our local video store?"


She rushed over to them, grabbing the camera and looking for someway to stop it.

"Then you'd be watching it alone."


"Aww...You know, some of the newer lesbian stuff is really taste-"

Olivia finally found the power button, jabbing it triumphantly as she let out a relieved sigh.  Shaking her head, she handed the camera back to the salesgirl, an embarrassed smile gracing her features as she turned around...

... and walked right into Emma's teacher.

Natalia pulled the car to a stop in front of the farmhouse and set the emergency break before turning off the ignition.  She glanced over her shoulder at Emma, who was sleeping soundly in the back seat, before finally speaking.  "So..."  She laughed softly. "You sure know how to show a girl a good time."

Olivia sighed as she rubbed two fingers against the tenseness between her eyes.  "I'm sorry."

"She would have found out eventually, Olivia."  Natalia pulled the hand away, linking it tightly with her own.  "One less thing we have to worry about."

The older woman looked at her sarcastically.

"Okay!"  She corrected herself.  "So maybe it's twenty... or thirty... less things we have to worry about, but really, Olivia... did you even know any of those people?"

"You mean besides Ms. Jennings?  Who knows most of Springfield?"

"She wasn't upset...just confused."  Natalia shrugged.  "Really can't blame her on that one.  Anyway, I thought... I thought we were trying to figure out how to let people know about us...  So why does this bother you so much?"

"It doesn't.  It's not really... about that..."  She swallowed.  "Natalia...  what you said..."

"No."  The brunette's voice was kind as she took her hand.  "Not now.  Not tonight."  She smiled and Olivia felt the love in it.  "I think we've both had enough... for one night... okay?  Besides," She gestured towards the back seat. "We have to get our daughter to bed."

Olivia nodded silently and climbed out of the car, watching as Natalia picked Emma up and carried her into the house.  At the bottom of the stairs, she tried to pull the shopping bag from her daughter's hands, grinning when the little girl only whined and held on tighter.  "Good luck getting that away from her."

Natalia looked at her curiously. "Aren't you coming up?"

"What?  Oh... yeah... I just need to... lock up and... maybe take a quick peek at my email."  She kissed the younger woman gently.  "I'll be right up."

"Okay.  I love you." The brunette whispered.

"I love you too."

Olivia watched Natalia carry Emma up the stairs, enjoying the view until the younger woman's jean-clad backside went out of sight.  When she was gone, she pulled her cell phone out of her back pocket and stared at the screen for several long seconds.  Tapping it against her forehead, she paced around the living room a couple of times and then dropped it onto the coffee table and headed for the stairs.  Before she even hit the first step, she turned around and rushed back, scooping up the phone and hitting speed dial before she could talk herself out of it.  She held her breath as it rang, closing her eyes when the call connected and a female voice said hello on the other end.

"Hey... it's Olivia."  She rubbed the back of her neck.  "I was thinking... maybe I could use your help... after all."  She pulled the phone away from her ear quickly, her thumb and forefinger rubbing at the bridge of her nose as she waited for Ashlee to stop squealing.


Chapter 18:  Common Sense and the Art of Ignoring It

Olivia sighed, her thumb and forefinger coming up to rub at the bridge of her nose as she paced around the mayors office; waiting for her to stop laughing.

If this crap keeps up I'm not going to have a nose left.  She thought sullenly.  "Are you done yet?"

Doris held up one hand, keeping the other wrapped tightly around her abdomen as she gasped for air.  Tears of mirth rolled down her cheeks as little whimpers of pain broke free from her throat.  Her nose was red, here eyes were red... pretty much her whole damn face was red and the good time she was having at Olivia's expense irritated the blonde to no end.

"It's not that funny!"  Olivia complained, which only set Doris off again.

Finally, after nearly five minutes, the mayor's laughter trailed off to chuckles and then finally to an occasional hiccup as she collapsed back in her chair trying to drag oxygen into her sadly depleted lungs.  "I think..."  She panted, her hands going to her sides to squeeze gently. "I think I bruised my ribs..."  She started giggling again and bit down ferociously on her lip to stop it.

"Serves you right."  Olivia crossed her arms.  "I came here for advice, not to have you laugh at me."

"But I can do both so why shouldn't I?  It saves time."  Doris' eyes sparkled.  "Oh, come on, Olivia!  You're daughter outed you with your lesbian lover in the TV department at Best Buy!  You didn't really come here expecting me not to laugh did you?  Be honest, if it was someone else you'd be right down here rolling around on the floor with me."

"Alright, alright!"  She held up her hands.  "Can we move on to the advice part of the conversation now?"

The mayor sighed.  "Natalia asked why you don't want to marry her and you don't know what to say.  Honestly... I don't get it. The little saint is perfect for you.  You rub the shine off her halo and she buffs the edges off your evil.  What's the problem?"

"I just..."  Olivia sighed.  "I guess I don't get what she sees in me."

"Oh, please!"  Doris rolled her eyes.  "You're fishing and I ain't biting!  You've got the biggest ego of anyone I know, Spencer..."

"Not this time."  The blonde said softly, her eyes glued to the edge of the mayor's desk.  "Not with her..."

Doris sighed.  "I'm not going to lie to you, Olivia.  You haven't always been the easiest person to like.  You're devious, calculating...sometimes downright nasty..."

"Worried I'll run for office?"

"No, you'd hate it!"  The other woman laughed. "Too many rules... and if there's one thing I know, it's that Olivia Spencer does not play by the rules."

"Your point?"

"My point is, fuck what people think."

"I don't care what people think about me..."

"You care what they think about her."  Doris raised her eyebrows.  "Wow.  Every time I think I understand relationships, something else shows up and proves how lucky I am to be immune."  She shook her head.  "If Natalia doesn't care... why should you?"

"Because I..."

"Because you love her.  Well, let me throw this out there for you.  You follow your heart and maybe... maybe... she gets hurt by the opinions of some small minded people.  You let those people dictate your behavior... and you're the one hurting her.  And yourself in the process.  Can you live with that?"

Olivia stopped pacing and sat down heavily.  "I just want to be able to give her everything that Frank could have."

"Like what?  Early bed death and children with low IQ's?"

"You're not funny..."  Olivia voice trailed off; her eyes widening as Natalia's words echoed in her head.

"You're rich, you're beautiful; together you have a great house and three quasi-normal children.  All that's left to give her is a future."  She rubbed her forehead in frustration.  "Love is blind, Olivia... and in this case, it's also retarded with a slight Oedipal complex.  You really need to take advantage of that."

The blonde laughed softly.  "You're an ass."

"Maybe, but I'm also right."

"Yeah, you are."  She smirked.

Doris' jaw dropped open slowly.  "You... you had already made up your mind before you even came over here!"

"Yup!"  Olivia smiled brightly.  "But now I know you think I'm beautiful."

The mayor snorted.  "Don't let it go to your head.  Even I like to slum occasionally."  She spread her hands out on her desk.  "So what was the purpose of all of this?"

Olivia leaned forward in her chair.  "If I... if we... do this, it isn't going to stay quiet for long.  Especially considering..."

"Especially considering Natalia's very recent stroll down the aisle with the good Detective Cooper."  Doris pursed her lips.  "He's going to be a problem.  After what happened, he's in a very sympathetic position.  Nobody's going to blame him if he has some snide things to say."

"Its not like he's got a lot of room to talk."  Olivia snorted.

Doris looked at her curiously.

"Well," She shrugged.  "Wouldn't it be considered sodomy that he's walking around with his head up his ass?"

"Funny," The mayor snickered.  "But not helpful.  If you want to pull this off you're going to have to retract the claws... at least until the honeymoon."


Doris sighed.  "Little Miss Goody Two Shoes has gone a long way towards de-fanging you in the eyes of this town.  Every time I turn around I hear how she seems to have....ahem... exorcised your demons.  I say... stop hiding.  Show the world how you feel about her... without the TVs this time.  You two are hard to resist as a couple, Olivia.  If you have the town behind you then a few rude comments about sensible shoes won't be anything you can't handle."

"Sensible shoes? What the fuck does that mean anyway?  Like my shoes aren't going to get into a car with a stranger?"

"Now you're just stalling."

Olivia ran her fingers through her hair.  "I'll need your help."

"With the wedding?"  The mayor grinned.  "Just drape the church in rainbow flags and you'll be all set."

She raised one eyebrow sarcastically.  "I've never really been an... 'every color' kind of girl."

"You've never been a 'girl' kind of girl either."

"Good point.  But I already have someone helping me with the wedding plans."

"Then what?"

"A couple of small things here and there but mostly..." Olivia chewed on her bottom lip, one hand coming up to rub at her forehead.  "I need.... I'll need someone to... you know... perform the service?"

"Olivia Spencer!"  Doris smirked.  "Are you asking me to marry you?"

"Only in the very broadest sense of the term..."

The mayor put her hands behind her head.  "Ask me nicely."


"Ahhh... I have a title you know."

Olivia groaned.  "Mayor Wolfe... would you please... stop being an ass just long enough to officiate at my wedding?"

Doris snorted.  "That's probably the best I'm going to get, isn't it?"

"Yeah, pretty much."

"Well, all right then."


"So what are the small things?"

"Give me a couple of weeks to figure everything out and you'll be the first to know."  She picked up her purse and headed for the door.

"Hey,"  Doris called after her.  "Who's your wedding planner?"

Olivia smiled.  "Your daughter."

The look on the mayor's face was enough to keep her laughing all the way back to the Beacon.

Olivia entered the farmhouse through the back door, glancing down at her watch when she found the kitchen empty.  It was almost six. Usually, Natalia would be starting dinner by now.  She walked into the living room, tossing her purse onto the couch as she called out, "Natalia?"

"Up here, Olivia.  In the bedroom."

The older woman climbed the stairs quickly.  She stopped in the upstairs hallway to peek into Emma's room and, finding her daughter focused intently on her homework, quietly pulled the door shut without bothering her.  A few steps more and she was leaning up against the door jam of her own bedroom, a happy smile on her lips as she took in the sight of her lover sitting at the small vanity on her side of the bed.  She watched, completely enchanted as the younger woman pulled a horsehair brush through her long, dark tresses, the motion of her hands never stopping, even when their eyes locked in the mirror.

"Hello, my love."  Pushing off the door, she kicked it closed and came to stand behind her, leaning down to breathe into her ear.  "I missed you."  She felt Natalia's body tremble and smiled, her hands coming up to squeeze the younger woman's shoulders gently.  "I went back to the hotel but you had left already."  The muscles beneath her hands tensed.

"You left.  You didn't tell me where you were going and I had no idea when you'd be back."  The brunette bit her lip, glancing up at the older woman for a moment before looking away.  "I didn't want to make Emma wait."

Olivia's eyebrows rose.  "You were in a staff meeting."  She said evenly.  "I thought I'd be back sooner."

"Where did you go?"

"I had some things I needed to take care of."

The brush stopped.  "With Doris?"

Olivia knew her short bark of laughter was a mistake and bit down on the inside of her cheek to stop it before it got any worse.  "I did stop by Mayor Wolfe's office.  I had a... legal issue I needed to discuss with her."

"You couldn't tell me that?"  Natalia said softly.

The older woman sighed, the irony of the situation not lost on her.  She was usually the one who was insecure in relationships; that insecurity sometimes caused by her own lack of commitment to whoever she was involved with. 

Now here she was, for the first time in her life... all in...  and still acting like a complete idiot.

She came around the side of the chair, resting one hand on the back of it and the other on the vanity top as she leaned down to stair into the younger woman's eyes.  "I'm sorry."  She whispered.  "It's been... a really long time since I've had anyone in my life that cared where I was.  I got used to coming and going without thinking about who might worry.  That was inconsiderate of me and I don't ever want to treat you that way.  Okay?"

Natalia nodded slowly.  "I understand that there are things that you're used to Olivia... in how you live your life.  But there are things that I won't compromise on either."  She put the brush down and stood,  kissing Olivia lightly on the lips.  "We're going to have to have a conversation about that very soon."

"But not tonight?"

Natalia shook her head.  "Tonight, I have a hungry daughter to feed."  She turned towards the door, looking down in surprise when the older woman's arms corralled her and held her in place.

"You have a hungry girlfriend to feed too."  Olivia whispered.  She leaned in with her upper body, pushing with a gentle force until Natalia had no choice but to sit back down.  The older woman followed her, going down on her knees between the surprised woman's legs.

"Olivia..."  She warned.  "Emma's right down the hall."

Olivia smiled, her lips and teeth grazing across the brunette's neck as her fingers worked open the buttons on her shirt.  "So you're saying a television would come in handy right about now?"  Not waiting for an answer, she pulled the shirt open wide, her hands going to the younger woman's sides; sliding up her ribs to slip under her bra. 

"Oh.."  She gasped softly as she felt Natalia's nipples pebble under her palms.  Pushing the bra up, she dropped down to take one into her mouth, her lips closing around it firmly while her tongue flicked roughly over the tip.  She heard Natalia's breath quicken, felt long, strong fingers wind into her hair and lost all control.  

With something between a growl and a whimper, she slid her hands down Natalia's legs until she found the bottom of her skirt.  She pulled at the fabric wildly, pushing it back as she brushed her hands up the inside of the younger woman's thighs.  Without hesitating, she hooked her fingers in the waistband of Natalia's silk panties and pulled them down, stretching out one lovely, caramel colored leg at a time to slip them off. 

"Olivia..."  Natalia felt the older woman's arms slide under her thighs to lock behind her lower back, her eyes flying open when Olivia tugged hard, pulling her backside to the edge of the chair as her legs slid up to rest on her shoulders.  "What are you...OH!"  She hissed, her eyes closing and her head rolling back against the chair when she felt Olivia's nose nuzzling the outer lips of her sex.  For a few moments, that's all that there was; just that tortuously soft touch and the warm feel of her breath against her over sensitive flesh.  Then her tongue... that glorious tongue that was deadly when used in even the most banal conversation... was buried deep inside her.  "OH...  Oh...livia...."  She panted softly.  "Olivia...please...."  Her fingers tightened in soft blonde hair and she used her grip to pull Olivia where she needed her, her entire body trembling when she felt the older woman begin to suck softly on her clit.  "Oh sweet Jesus!" 

Olivia hummed deep in her throat, her eyes closed as she lost herself in the taste and texture of her lover.  She could feel the ecstasy building in the hips that rocked gently against her and reveled in the slight pain the younger woman was causing with the tight grip on her hair.  With every stroke of her tongue she tightened her fingers on the younger woman's thighs, only one thought going around and around in her head like a mantra.

God, I love you I love you I love you I love you....

"Yes..."  Natalia whispered fiercely.  "Oh god, yes... right there....  god... stay right there... just like that....oh my god..... oh my god.....OH MY GOD!"

The younger woman's hips began to shudder violently, her breath coming in deep pants as wave after wave of release broke over her.  She pulled Olivia's mouth away from her, bending at the waist to kiss her passionately, the taste on her tongue only making her tremble even harder.  Finally, she collapsed back into the chair; breathing heavily as Olivia kissed her naval then rubbed the wetness on her face against the smooth expanse of her belly. 

"Jesus, Olivia...."  She whispered breathlessly.

The older woman's laugh was low and husky.  "How many Hail Mary's is that gonna cost you?"

Natalia swallowed.  "At least fifty for the last ten minutes alone."  She pulled the blonde up until she could look into her eyes.  "I love you."

"And I adore you."  She kissed her gently, one eyebrow quirking up playfully.  "So... pizza?"

The brunette nodded weakly.  "Definitely pizza."


Chapter 19:  Now You See It....

Two Weeks Later

Natalia sighed, a happy whimper escaping her lips as she stretched, fully enjoying the sensation of her muscles loosening as she arched backwards into the body behind her.

"If you keep doing that we are so not getting out of this bed."

She smiled, delighted by Olivia's playful whisper, as well as the strong arms that wrapped around her and pulled her back against soft skin and gentle curves.  She wiggled her backside, snuggling even closer; purring deep in her throat as the older woman's body heat took the chill off the cool morning air.  She heard Olivia swallow and grinned as fingertips trailed a feather-like touch across her belly

"You really want us to be late this morning, don't you?"  She rasped.

"MMmmm."  The brunette couldn't resist stretching again, hungry to feel the sensitive skin of her back brushing across Olivia's breasts.  "Have I ever told you how much I love your voice in the morning?"

"No... I don't think so."

"Well I do."  Natalia grabbed the arms wrapped around her and pulled them tighter.  "It's low and it's deep and I swear sometimes I can feel it..."  A gentle blush pinked her cheeks as she turned her head to whisper into her pillow. "...inside me..."

Olivia's eyebrows crawled up her forehead.  "Really?  You mean..."  Her lips curved into a gentle smile as she leaned forward, her nose nuzzling into the younger woman's ear.  "Like when my fingers are buried between your legs... the tips curving to reach that little spot that makes your toes curl and your breath catch..."

Natalia shuddered, her thigh muscles clenching involuntarily as her body reacted to Olivia's words.  "Oh..!"  She turned her head to the side, biting down on her lower lip when Olivia's teeth grazed the skin on her neck.

"Or..."  The blonde slid her hand down, letting her fingers play across the tightly trimmed hair between her lover's legs.  "...is it more like... when you're about to come apart... and I can feel you tighten around my fingers... feel you flutter against my hand..."  She swallowed.  "...or my tongue..."

"Jesus..."  The younger woman twitched, her body moving restlessly against the warmth at her back.  "Olivia..."  She growled.

"Hey, you started it."

Natalia rolled over, capturing the older woman's face between her palms for a long slow kiss.  She had just slid one hand behind Olivia's neck and tucked a knee between her thighs when she heard the bedroom door open.  Moving away, she breathed in deeply and closed her eyes for a moment, trying to get herself under control.

"Mommy?"  Emma peeked her head into the room.  "Momma?"

"Good morning, jellybean!" 

She could hear the laughter in Olivia's voice and shot her a dirty look.  "Hey baby!"  She smiled, tucking the sheets around her body tightly as the little girl jumped on the end of the bed and began to bounce up and down.  "What's up?"

"You guys are sleeping too long!"  Emma whined.  "I don't want to miss the bus!"

"Oh!"  Natalia slapped her forehead playfully.  "Does camp start today?  I totally forgot!"  She laughed at the shocked look on her daughter's face.  "I'm just playing, baby.  We're getting up right now and we'll make sure you get the best seat on the bus, okay?"

Emma's face lit up.  "Okay!"

"Hey!"  Olivia held the sheet over her chest modestly as she ruffled the little girl's hair.  "You're going to be gone all weekend.  You gonna miss us?"

"I guess."  Emma shrugged, giggling at the look on her mother's face as she ran out of the room.

"You guess??"  Olivia called after her, her lips quirking as she stared after her laughing child.

"She gets more and more like you every day."  Natalia shook her head, laughing.

"Worried you'll have to deal with two of us?"

Natalia bit her lower lip as she climbed out of bed.  "Why should I worry?"  She smiled brightly.  "I've almost got you completely trained..."

Olivia lunged at her, landing on her stomach when the younger woman successfully dodged her assault.  Jumping up, she tried to follow her into the bathroom, frowning when she found the door locked against her.  "Hey?  What gives?"

"If I let you in here there is no way Emma is making her bus."  Natalia called out through the door.  "So I am going to shower first.  You go make her breakfast and then I'll clean up while you get ready."

"Are you sure that's the way you want to do it?"  She leaned against the door, scratching at it lightly with her fingernails.  "I could wash your back..."

"You washing my back is not what will make us late!"  Natalia laughed.  "It's how thoroughly you tend to wash...other areas!"

"It's not my fault you're a dirty girl..."  Olivia whispered, smiling when she heard something hit the floor on the other side.  "Now let me in... or I'll huff and I'll puff..."  She trailed one finger down the center of the door.  "You know... in the original story... the Big Bad Wolf ate Little Red Riding Hood..."

"You're mixing your metaphors."  The younger woman's voice cracked slightly. 

"Let me in and I promise you won't care..."

"Olivia!"  She heard Natalia clear her throat and could picture her standing there, naked, her hand against her throat as her body trembled.  "Go. Feed. Our. Daughter."

"Okay, okay..."  She laughed as she pulled on her robe.  "But trust me... an hour from now?  You're going to wish you'd let me in..."

Natalia listened to her lover's laughter as it faded away down the stairs.  She looked at herself in the mirror, taking in the tightness of her nipples and the light sheen of sweat that covered her chest and arms.  "Trust me."  She whispered.  "I'm not even going to last the hour..."

"Emma, you didn't finish your pancakes."

"I can't eat that one, mommy!"

Natalia stopped in the hallway leading into the kitchen, leaning up against the wall as she listened to Olivia and Emma talking.

"What?  Why not?" 

"Because!  It's ugly!"

Natalia bit her lip at Olivia's indignant response.  "It is not!  You said you wanted it in the shape of a heart!"

"That's not a heart."

"Yes it is, jellybean.  It's just... realistic.  Here, put some strawberry syrup on it..."

"Eeew!  Mommy, that's gross!"

Unable to keep from laughing out loud, the younger woman stepped into the kitchen.  She took one look at the plate in front of her daughter and snickered, "That is gross, mommy."

"Ya think?"  Olivia grabbed her around the waist and pulled her close.  "Well, if you had let me shower first you could have made her a plateful of perfect little hearts."  She tapped her on the nose.  "Just like yours..."

Natalia melted inside.  "Sweet talker."  She kissed her lightly.  "You just want me to clean up this mess."

"Actually," She handed Natalia a glass of juice and half a bagel while she munched on the other half.  "I have some errands to run before work.  Why don't you take Emma to meet the bus and then head in?  I'll clean up and meet you there when I'm done."

The brunette frowned.  "Again?  That's the third time this week."  She sipped her juice thoughtfully.  "Is everything all right, Olivia?"

The older woman smiled, wrapping her up in a warm hug.  "Everything's fine.  I just need to see Doris about the menu for her luncheon and then meet with some suppliers for the Fourth of July Gala..."  She glanced away casually when Natalia tried to meet her eyes.  "Nothing big, but I need to take care of it."

"Why don't you get ready and we'll take care of it together?"

"No..."  Olivia shook her head.  "The suppliers are all over town and there's no point in both of us getting bogged down today.  Besides, you have to meet with Greg at ten to go over the convention room scheduling."

Natalia nodded, looking down as she agreed softly.  "All right."

"Hey."  Olivia tucked one finger under the brunette's chin, using it to pull her face up so that she could look into her eyes.  "I love you."

"I know."  The younger woman gave her a wan smile.  "I love you, too."  She accepted the older woman's goodbye kiss then watched her as she walked out of the kitchen.  She knew without a shadow of a doubt that when Olivia said she loved her, it was the truth.

The problem was, everything else she had said... was a lie.

She sighed, plastering a bright smile on her face before turning to look at Emma.  "You ready, baby?"

"Yes!"  The little girl hopped off her chair and ran into the living room, returning with her coat and a small, pink suitcase on wheels. 

"Do you have everything?"

"Yes, momma."

"Okay then, let's go!" She held the door open when Emma declined her offer to take the bag, smiling at her daughter affectionately as she struggled to pull it across the gravel driveway to the car.

Olivia watched them from the upstairs window, her eyes following the Nissan until it pulled out of the driveway and disappeared up the street.  For a moment, she wanted to call Natalia and tell her to come back.  She wanted to break down and explain everything.

But she had come too far for that. 

Picking up the phone, she dialed the number she now knew by heart.  "Hey, it's me...  Yeah, she's gone.  How fast can you get here?"  She frowned.  "No, we don't have that much time.  She'll be in the meeting with Greg until eleven; we'll have to be done by then."  She nodded.  "Did you get everything?  Good.  I'll be waiting."  Olivia hung up the phone and took one last, longing look in the direction her car had gone.  She hated lying to Natalia; it was the hardest thing she had ever had to do. 

She just hoped that in this case, the younger woman would forgive her.

Natalia stepped off the elevator and into the lobby of the Beacon as she glanced at her watch.  It was after eleven and she still hadn't heard from Olivia.  She stared blankly down at her clipboard, trying to figure out what had changed between them in the last two weeks.  It was almost as though she was dealing with two different people.  During the day, Olivia was distant, secretive; almost to the point of being unapproachable.  But at night, she was attentive and loving; her passion focused on the younger woman so intensely that it was occasionally unnerving.

Like she's trying to make up for something.

The uncharitable thought bounced through Natalia's mind so quickly she had no way to avoid it, and once it was firmly embedded in her thought processes she couldn't seem to stop herself from going back to it.  It wasn't like Olivia had been an angel before she came along.  She knew how the older woman had lived her life... the appetites she had indulged...   Frowning, Natalia shook her head.

No.  Olivia loved her.  There had to be another explanation.

Of course, it hadn't helped that Mickey, the Beacon's business accountant, had been waiting for her when she walked in earlier that morning.  The poor man had looked like he was about to have a heart attack and his anxiety had only increased when he saw that Olivia wasn't with her.  After spending a good twenty minutes getting the little Chihuahua of a man to calm down, she had learned that he was there to verify some withdrawals that had been made against the hotel's reserve accounts.  She had asked him to show her the drafts and had watched him nearly die from relief when she verified that the signatures on them were in fact Olivia's.

Unfortunately that little piece of news had had the opposite affect on her.  Over the past week, Olivia had withdrawn over fifteen thousand dollars in cash without giving any kind of explanation.  Of course, the money was hers, and she could do whatever she wanted with it.

Natalia just couldn't help wondering what that might be.

A flash of discordant color drew her thoughts away from Olivia for a moment and she looked up to see the horrendous red, black and white of what was apparently Doris Wolfe's favorite jacket disappear around the corner.  At least, she assumed it was the Mayor... who else would wear that thing?  But she hadn't actually seen the woman's face; her mind being completely occupied by the flowers she was carrying.

She peeked around the corner, pulling back quickly when she saw the door to Olivia's office open.  Setting her back against the wall, she waited quietly and was rewarded when Doris walked by, swinging a key chain in her hand and whistling happily under her breath.  Natalia waited until the Mayor had exited the lobby and then hurried to the office door.  She tried the knob first, her heart wilting slightly when she discovered it was locked.  Deep down, she knew it would be; Olivia was big on privacy. 

But now she had to wonder why the only other lesbian in the entire town of Springfield... had a set of keys to her lover's office.  Sighing, Natalia pulled out her master and slid it into the lock.

The scent hit her as soon as she opened the door.  It was light and sweet, with just a hint of spice underneath and almost as wonderful as the roses themselves.  She stood, rooted to the spot, counting the gorgeous purple blossoms one by one.

There were thirty six.

Three dozen perfectly beautiful roses. 

Moving closer, she gently traced her fingers over the petals, amazed at the velvet-like texture.  That was when she saw it.

The card.

Natalia pursed her lips, blinking as she stared at the blank envelope.  It wasn't right; she knew it wasn't right... the flowers were on Olivia's desk; it was obvious who they were for.  But the plausible deniability of a blank envelope was too much to resist.  She pulled it from its perch and slid her finger inside, frowning as she untucked the flap. 

With a sigh, Natalia closed her eyes for a moment, asking forgiveness for what she was about to do.

It wasn't that she didn't trust Olivia.  She might have questions about her behavior lately, but she trusted her with her heart and her life.

Doris Wolfe, however.... she didn't trust her as far as she could throw her.

Pulling the small card free, she held it up to read it, her jaw dropping as she recognized the handwriting immediately.

I knew you couldn't resist...

Good thing they were for you.

Have dinner with me tonight.




Chapter 20:  ...Now You Don't

Olivia pulled the ringing phone out of her purse, smiling when she saw the picture flashing at her from the screen.  She waited for it to ring twice more before pushing the TALK button, her voice casual as she answered,  "Olivia Spencer."

"You're not funny." 

"I wasn't trying to be funny.  I was trying to ask you to dinner."

Natalia sighed.  "And that was the best you could come up with?"

"I needed to make sure you were paying attention..."

"You've never had a problem getting my attention."

"Never?"  The older woman bit her lip.  "So... say you'll have dinner with me."

There was a pause.  "When and where?"

Olivia's smile was blinding.  "Tonight, seven o'clock... and it's a surprise."

"Okay," She could picture Natalia flipping open her portfolio to look at her calendar.  "If I leave at five I can get home and be ready by six-thirty."

"That won't be necessary."

"What do you mean?"

"At five o'clock, go up to my suite and you'll understand.  But wait until five o'clock!   I'll pick you up in the hotel lobby at six-thirty."

"The hotel...Olivia, what's going on?"

"Just... trust me.  You do trust me... right?"

"Of course I do."

"Then do this... for me, okay?"

"All right.  I'll see you at six-thirty in the lobby."

"I love you."

"I love you too."

Olivia stared at the phone long after Natalia had hung up, a goofy smile on her face as she thought about her plans for the evening. It wasn't until she heard the giggling behind her that she remembered she wasn't alone.

"Oh. My. God.  You two are so adorable!"  Ashlee grabbed her, making Olivia squeak with the force of her impromptu hug.  "This is so, so romantic!"  She took Olivia by the hand and dragged her from the living room of the farmhouse up to the bedroom.  "Okay!"  She hopped up and down slightly with excitement.  "Tell me what you want me to do!"

Natalia stood outside of Olivia's suite.  She shifted from foot to foot as she looked up and down the hall, not wanting to imagine what the employees might think if they caught her standing there staring at the door.

"This is ridiculous!"  She mumbled to herself, twisting the watch on her wrist to read the time.  4:58PM.  She waited for one more minute to tick by and then shook her head.  "Close enough."  She pulled the pass card from her pocket and slid it into the lock, slipping past the door quickly and pushing it shut behind her.

The outer room was dark so she flipped on the light, her lips curving into a gentle smile when she saw an open bottle of champagne sitting in a still cold bucket of ice on the side table.  Next to it was a single purple rose and a small card tented up on its edges.  She picked up the card and flipped it open.

Relax... have a drink...

Your first surprise is in the bedroom.

I hope you love it as much as I do.


Natalia poured herself a glass of champagne; sipping it slowly as she walked towards the bedroom.  The light in that room was already on and she felt the wine glass slip from her fingers as she stared at the bed in shock.

Draped across the expensive duvet was the most incredible dress she had ever seen.

Natalia picked it up carefully, marveling at how soft the material was as she held it up to her body and studied her reflection in the mirror.  The dress was simple in it's elegance, a sleeveless sheath of fabric that hung down from one shoulder, crossing over her chest to leave her other shoulder and her arms bare.  The bottom hem dangled just slightly above her knees.  She swayed slightly from side to side, smiling at the way the snow white fabric moved with her.  There was a pair of white, high-heeled sandals on the bed, the straps on them long enough to tie halfway up her calf, as well as a shimmering pearl colored pashmina and a classic white clutch.

Natalia laid the dress carefully on the bed, her fingers pulling down the front so that she could blink in surprise at the tag that had been hand sewn to the lining. 

"Oh, Olivia.."  She whispered, her eyes bright with tears.

At six-thirty five Natalia was standing to one side of the lobby, the pashmina slung loosely around her arms as she nibbled on her upper lip and watched the door for any sign of Olivia.  The dress had fit her like a second skin, clinging in all the right places while not limiting her range of movement.  The overall effect was that of relaxed sensuality, something the white fabric against her olive skin only accentuated.

This, of course, resulted in much attention being thrown her way, ranging from subtle glances to overt stares and one blush inducing smile from a tall businesswoman who had just checked out and stopped mid-exit to show her appreciation.

Natalia had moved further and further from the main path of traffic as the minutes ticked by and jumped slightly in surprise when someone tapped her on the shoulder.

"Ms. Rivera?"  Greg looked at her, his eyes wide.  "You look fabulous!"

"Thank you, Greg."  She blushed slightly as she pulled the shawl more tightly around her.  "I was just... I was..."  She swallowed.  "Waiting."

Greg looked around.  "Okay...uhm..."  He shrugged.  "While your waiting, do you think you could take a look at the projections for banquet services over the next quarter?"  He opened his portfolio and pulled out several sheets of paper.  "I think Ms. Spencer will be very happy with what I've done..."

"I'm sure she will!"  Natalia cut him off gently.  "But now is not really the best time..."

"But it will only take a moment..."

"Maybe, but like I said, I'm waiting for someone."

He blinked.  "Who?"


They both looked up to find Olivia standing behind them, her hands on her hips as she glared daggers at her banquet manager.

Natalia felt the heat rising in her face as she took in older woman's appearance. 

Their outfits were almost identical...with two major differences. 

Olivia's dress was a mirror image of her own, hanging down from the opposite shoulder... and it was black.  In fact, everything she was wearing was black, the color providing a beautiful contrast to her light skin and blonde hair.  She was looking at Natalia expectantly but the younger woman could only stare while she tried to remember how to breathe.

"Ms. Spencer."  Greg smiled nervously.  "You look lovely."

"Thank you."

"I was wondering if you had a moment..."

"Greg," Olivia pursed her lips as she walked up to them.  She ran a hand down the front of her dress.  "What does my outfit say to you?"

"That... you... have a date?"

She smiled at him.  "Very good.  Now, what does Natalia's outfit say to you?"

He turned to look at the Latina, his eyes widening as they bounced between the two women like a ping pong ball.  "That... uhm....that..."  He put his papers away.  "That she has a date... too?"

Olivia reached out, taking Natalia's hand and linking their fingers together.

"Oh..."  Greg's jaw dropped.  "OH!"

She patted him gently on the cheek.  "I trust that you have everything under control here?"

He nodded wordlessly.

"All right then.  Good night."  She led Natalia directly through the center of the lobby, holding her head up high as dozens of curious glances were thrown their way.  Part of her, the part that was a mother and a businesswoman, quaked under the scrutiny; making her wonder what the repercussions would mean to their lives and the Beacon the following day.

But a bigger part, the part that was Olivia Freakin' Spencer... that part reveled in it.  

Wasn't that the point of their outfits after all?  To make a statement?  To make people realize, without a shadow of a doubt, that the gorgeous woman at her side was her partner... in every definition of the term?

Once they were outside, Olivia raised her arm, signaling discreetly to a long, black limousine parked a little ways down the block.  When it reached them, she waved off the driver, reaching to open the door herself.

"Olivia..."  Natalia hung on when the older woman tried to guide her into the car.  "Do you know what you just did?"

The blonde smiled.  "Yes."  She helped her lover into the back, lingering in the doorway for just a moment.  "I do."

She closed the door, laughing softly at the brunette's wide eyed stare.  She climbed in the other side and rapped her knuckle lightly against the privacy screen, setting the car in motion.  Then she seemed content to just sit and gaze at her lover's face, the small happy smile never leaving her lips.

"This is...lovely..."  Natalia said carefully.  "But... isn't it all a bit much?"

"Not for where we're going."

The younger woman's eyes narrowed.  "Where are we going?"

"That's your second surprise."  Olivia handed her a glass of champagne from the minibar before sliding over next to her and opening her arms.  "Now sit back, and enjoy the ride."

Natalia snuggled against her and for the next twenty-five minutes, the two women sat in comfortable silence.  Until the limo pulled onto a street that Natalia recognized and she sat up, staring out the window as they slowed to a stop.



"This is..."  Natalia blinked up at the classic brick building they were parked in front of.  "This is Georgio's... we're at Georgio's!"

Olivia smiled.  "I know."

Georgio's had been the supper club of choice for the Springfield elite for over twenty years.  Natalia knew this because it was one of a dozen places where she had applied for work when she first came to town.  At the time, they were only hiring busboys and, while her skin was the right color, she was definitely the wrong sex. 

She remembered the place vividly though, with is perfect white tablecloths and crystal chandeliers; and while she had once aspired to work at Georgio's, she had never imagined that she might actually dine there one day.

"Are you sure..."  She looked behind her, surprised to find herself alone in the back of the limousine.  The door in front of her opened and she was suddenly looking up into Olivia's smiling face.  The older woman held out a hand, wiggling her fingers slightly until Natalia took it and allowed herself to be pulled from the car.  "Will they... let us in?"

Olivia laughed in delight.  "Of course they will."  She traced a finger across her lover's lips before leaning close to whisper into her ear.  "Relax, my love... you are just as good as anyone you'll meet here tonight..."  She kissed her lightly.  "...and better than most... including me."  She headed into the restaurant, still holding on tightly to the younger woman's hand.

The Maitre'd saw them coming and came out from behind his podium to greet them.  "Ms. Spencer!"  He kissed her knuckles gently as he bowed.  "How wonderful to see you again.  It has been too long."

"Sergei."  Olivia nodded in response.

He turned his attention to Natalia.  "And who is this lovely creature?"

"My date," Olivia answered quickly.  "Natalia Rivera."

"Ahhh!"  He took her free hand to kiss it and Natalia thought absently that if he was shocked he hid it well.  "You make a stunning couple."  He snapped his fingers and a handsome young waiter rushed to his side.  "Peter, seat Ms. Spencer and her companion on The Deck."

Peter nodded, holding his hand out to direct the two women through the restaurant.  "This way please."

The Deck at Georgio's was something Natalia had heard about, but never seen.  The restaurant backed up to a natural cove, lined on either side by large fir trees that gave the illusion of absolute privacy.  Natalia knew there was a road nearby, but it was easy to forget with the sound of water lapping gently against the wood beneath her feet and the scent of water in the air all around her.  There were twelve tables in all, lined up against the railing; the rest of the deck was taken up by a large dance floor with a live band set up to one side.  Those twelve tables were the best in the house, and the most exclusive.

"Olivia... this is... incredible." She smiled at the waiter as he pulled out her chair for her.

"This?  This is all right."  The older woman reached across the table to link their hands together again.  "You are incredible."

Natalia watched Olivia's thumb as it trailed across her fingers, the boldness of the caress taking her breath away.  "What are you doing?"  She whispered.

"Taking some very good advice."

"What advice?"

Olivia looked her directly in the eyes, not letting go when a bottle of champagne was delivered to their table, courtesy of the house.  "To stop hiding."  She leaned her head to one side as the band began to play.  "Dance with me."

"Here?  Now?"  Natalia looked around.  "What about... what about dinner?"

"I ordered in advance, I hope you don't mind.  Lobster and Filet Mignon with maitered butter and..."  She smiled.  "...snow peas."

Natalia eyes were fixed on Olivia's lips.  "That sounds... wonderful."

"The dancing?  Or the food?"

The brunette swallowed.  "Both?"

Olivia stood slowly, her body moving with a sensuality that left the younger woman's pulse racing.  "Dance with me."

Natalia nodded, letting Olivia pull her gently to her feet. 

There were several other couples already dancing, but the older woman ignored them, tugging gently on Natalia's hand until they reached the center of the dance floor.  The music was slow, an instrumental version of some recent love song that Natalia couldn't think coherently enough to remember at the moment.  It didn't help her thought processes any when Olivia slid one arm around her back and pulled her close, fitting their bodies together loosely from the waist down.

Closing her eyes, Natalia swallowed, her free hand going to the small of Olivia's back as she stroked her thumb across the center of the older woman's palm, making her tremble. "You're just full of surprises tonight." 

Olivia looked down at her, her eyes sparkling.  "You ain't seen nothin' yet."

Natalia smiled and laid her head on her lover's shoulder, gazing up at the stars that shone down on them from a perfectly clear spring sky.  She couldn't believe that it was only a few weeks ago that she had stood in that little gazebo in the park, shivering from the cold as she waited for the one person she knew could make everything better.  And she had.  Olivia had come for her, just like Olivia always did.  It hadn't been easy at first but then, nothing worthwhile was ever easy and she realized that this moment was the perfect metaphor for her life. 

She had gone from the snow to a warm spring night, carried in the arms of the one person who made her feel like she could be more than a maid, more than a wife, more than somebodies mother. 

Olivia made her feel alive.

Turning, she placed a gentle kiss against the older woman's neck, a small thrill running down her spine when she felt the body in her arms tremble.

"What was that for?"

"For being the answer to every coin I ever tossed in a fountain; every wish I ever made on a star..."  She blushed.  "Even when I didn't know what I was asking for... I was wishing for you."  She felt Olivia's arms tighten around her and tears stung at her eyes.  "I love you so much, Olivia."

She heard the older woman clear her throat, followed by a small sniffle and Natalia hugged her tightly.  The fact that Olivia was speechless meant more than any words she could ever say.

The music faded away and Olivia led them off the dance floor.  On the way there, Natalia saw someone familiar out of the corner of her eye and stopped to do a double-take.  "It's Blake Marler..."  She pulled Olivia back to look as her jaw dropped.  "...and she's having dinner with Doris Wolfe!"

"Huh..."  Olivia pursed her lips.  That was unexpected.  The two women looked casual together.  Not exactly relaxed... but casual, which set off all kinds of bells and whistles in Olivia's brain.

"I didn't know they were even friends."

"Neither did I."  The older woman shrugged, making a mental note to ask the Mayor about it later.  "Come on.  The champagne's not getting any colder."

Natalia followed Olivia back to their table, waiting with a small, pleased smile on her face as her lover pulled her chair out for her before taking her own seat.  "Should I expect this kind of treatment everyday?"  She asked playfully.

Olivia snorted.  "You might get it at dinner but I would say that breakfast is definitely out."  She handed Natalia a glass of champagne.  "I can barely make it into my own chair before my first cup of coffee."

The younger woman laughed, sipping her champagne as she looked at the waves gentle rolling in against the shore.  She turned back to ask something about the view, the question dying on her lips when her eyes met Olivia's

The connection was palpable and intense, an emotional impact that hit her in her midsection before spreading out to leave little shocks in it's wake as it traveled down her spine. It's eventual destination was much lower, however and Natalia was amazed at the heat that blossomed within her, all of it initiated by one simple look.  "You need to stop."  She whispered.

Olivia raised an eyebrow curiously.  "Stop what?"

"Stop looking at me like that..."

"All you have to do is look away."

Natalia felt her breath quicken as her hands began to tremble.  "I can't."  She set the glass down before she dropped it.  "Please... Olivia..."

With a small smile, the older woman turned to gaze out at the water.

The brunette took in a long breath, and then another, willing herself to calm down.

"You look beautiful, you know..."

Natalia blushed, shaking her head slightly.

"And it isn't the dress, although that looks incredible on you." Olivia took her hand, turning it over on the table so that her fingers could stroke across Natalia's palm.  "But just now, when you looked at me... I could see how much you love me... how much you want me... Jesus, you take my breath away."

Natalia closed her eyes.  It was too much.  "Olivia... let's go home..."  She bit her lip as the waiter returned to set plate after plate of the most incredible food she had ever seen in front of them.  When he had gone, she smiled brightly and draped her napkin across her lap.

"We can leave if you want to."  Olivia offered.

"No!"  She shook her head emphatically.  "This is... such a gorgeous meal... I couldn't bear the thought of wasting it."  She cut off a small piece of the steak and tucked it into her mouth, moaning at the flavor.  "Mmmm, that is so good."

Olivia smiled, taking a bite of her lobster.  She had time to hum softly in appreciation before the sound of her phone ringing made her frown.  "I'm sorry.  I forgot to put it on silent.  Just ignore it."

Natalia glanced at the older woman's purse which was sitting next to hers near the railing.  "Don't you want to get it?"

"No.  This is our night.  Whoever it is can leave a message."

"But what if it's Emma?"  She picked up the bag and opened it.  "What if she got sick and needs us to pick her up?"

Olivia's eyes widened.  "Wait... Natalia!" 

But it was too late.

The younger woman had gone completely still, her eyes locked on the small velvet box at the bottom of Olivia's handbag.  "Olivia?" She whispered.

The older woman sighed.  "That would be surprise number three."  She wiped the corners of her mouth with her napkin before setting it on the table and picking up her glass.  "Go ahead."

Natalia reached in slowly, pulling out the little black box to set it on the table in front of her.  For several moments she just stared at it.

"Open it."

Her tongue darted out to moisten suddenly dry lips as her trembling fingers cracked the box open to reveal...

...the most beautiful pair of diamond earrings she had ever seen.

She blinked quickly and tried to smile, but Olivia saw the look of disappointment on her face.

"You don't like them."  She said softly.

"No!"  Natalia picked up the box and held it to her chest. "Olivia... they're wonderful!"  She looked down at the earrings, tracing her fingertip over a finely wrought setting of platinum ivy leaves, the intertwined vines dropping down to cradle what had to be flawless half carat stones.  There was a spray of smaller diamonds around the larger stone, creating a sparkling web of light.  She shook her head.  "They're just... too much."  She set the box down on the table.  "Those... had to cost a fortune... I can't accept them."

"You know, I thought you might say that."  Olivia picked up the box, pulling the earrings out one by one.  She stood and came around to Natalia's side of the table.  Tilting the younger woman's head back, she removed her simple hoops and carefully replaced them with the platinum and diamond drops.  "The problem is... these were custom made.  Just for you."  She bent down and kissed Natalia softly before returning to her seat.  "Non-refundable.  Sorry."

The brunette raised one hand to trace over her right ear.  The earrings were the perfect weight, the perfect color...  everything about them was perfect.


"Thank you."  She picked up her champagne, leaning forward to tap her glass lightly against Olivia's.  "I love them.  And I love you."

One corner of Olivia's mouth curled into a knowing smile.  "I'm going to pay for that whole... non-refundable thing, aren't I?"

"Oh you better believe it."

Olivia looked over at Natalia as the younger woman sat in the passenger seat.   Her head was turned towards the window but she could see the reflection of her eyes as they watched the night sky float past overhead.  She had one arm propped up against the window sill and her fingertips played idly across her lips as she sat, lost in thought.

The limo driver had dropped them off at the Beacon where they had picked up her car.  Olivia had offered to drive them back to the farmhouse and was pleasantly surprised when Natalia had agreed.

But then again, it was obvious the brunette had a lot on her mind, and Olivia was pretty sure she knew what most of it was.

Olivia pulled out her phone, her thumb tapping at the keyboard while she tried to keep one eye on the road.

"That's illegal."

"Only if they catch me."  She laughed softly.

"Who are you texting?"

"Just sending Emma a goodnight from her Mommies."  She winked at Natalia, tucking the cell phone into her purse as she turned into their driveway.  She cut the engine, looking up in surprise when she felt Natalia's hand close over hers.

"I had a wonderful time, Olivia."  The younger woman leaned across the seat and kissed her slowly, lovingly.  "Thank you."

"Do I get to walk you to your door?" 

Natalia smiled.  "Play your cards right and I'll let you tuck me into bed..."

They walked into the farmhouse hand in hand, flipping on the lights as they tossed their purses onto the couch and then came together for a much more involved kiss.  Natalia's hands wandered down Olivia's back to cup her backside, squeezing the flesh firmly, pulling an intense groan from the blonde.

When they parted, Olivia rested her forehead against Natalia's for a moment.  "Why don't you go on up?  I'm going to get us something to drink and check the locks."

"Don't make me wait too long?"


Natalia smiled and released her, climbing the stairs slowly, swinging her hips sensually from side to side. 

When she reached the landing however, the teasing look disappeared from her features to be replaced by a confused one.

The door to their bedroom was open and there was a flickering light coming from inside.

Cautiously, she peeked around the door frame, her breath catching in her throat at the sight that greeted her.

Every table, every shelf... every single flat surface in the room actually... was covered with candles.  Tapers and pillars, tea lights and votives...dozens of them, all casting a soft glow around the otherwise dark room.  But the most amazing thing... was the floor.  Twin rows of votives in small purple glasses lined a path that led from where she was standing to the bathroom door, the space in between them littered with what had to be hundreds of soft, purple rose petals.  The entire room was sweet with the scent of them, making Natalia smile as she carefully followed the path to push the door open. 

Inside, the bathroom itself was lit with a dozen large pillars, the fan overhead causing the flames to cast wildly dancing shadows against the walls and floor.  Natalia stepped into the room, smiling when she saw that the old claw-foot bathtub was filled with still steaming water, the top hidden from view by a sea of thick bubbles.

With a small laugh of delight, she quickly peeled off her clothes, hanging the dress carefully over a towel rack before lowering herself into the tub.  She sighed happily as she sank neck deep into perfect warm water and light, fragrant bubbles. 

Closing her eyes, Natalia laid her head back against edge of the tub; all the tension in her body disappearing as she began to float in that wonderful place somewhere halfway between wakefulness and sleep.  The image of Olivia, her lips parted as she gasped for breath, her sea-foam green eyes full of love and need, formed in her mind and she bit down on her bottom lip as a flame of desire licked through her, making her shift restlessly in the silky water.

It was an exquisite sensation; to be so calm, so relaxed and yet so ready... so perfectly aching for Olivia's touch... for her lips.  She whimpered softly as she ran her hands up and down her thighs, so lost in her own daydream that she almost didn't realize the music she was hearing wasn't in her own head.

It was rich and it was full and Natalia smiled when she recognized the slight hiss and pop that accompanied it as the record spun somewhere nearby.

At last, my love has come along

My lonely days are over

And life is like a song

Oh, yeah, at last

The skies above are blue

My heart was wrapped up in clovers

The night I looked at you

A slow smile split her lips as she opened her eyes, focusing them on the small crystal duck that sat on the shelf above the tub.  The flickering candles shone through it, and the refraction cast soft slivers of multicolored light across the wall behind it.  The effect was beautiful and she was mesmerized as the colors seemed to pulse with the beat of the music.

Until the candle closest to the figurine hissed, spitting up a larger flame as the heat came too close to the wax.  In that moment, the light caught something else; something smoother... something brighter... something that glittered like the stars that had been above them when they danced on the deck at Georgio's.

I found a dream that I could speak to

A dream that I can call my own

I found a thrill to rest my cheek to

A thrill that I have never known

Natalia leaned forward, her heart pounding as her eyes finally focused on the brilliant shimmer of silver and ice; drawing it into focus, showing her what it really was.

A ring... suspended around the delicate neck of the little crystal duck.

All of the air left her body in one harsh exhalation as her skin began to tingle from head to toe.

Oh, yeah when you smile, you smile

Oh, and then the spell was cast

And here we are in heaven

For you are mine

At last

The last strains of the melody drifted away, leaving Natalia with only the stillness for company.  She began to tremble, her mouth moving slowly with no sound coming out as the room swayed slightly around her.


The softly whispered word tore through the silence, breaking through the shock she was feeling and allowing Natalia to drag in a lungful of much needed air.  She turned towards the sound, her wild eyes taking in the vision of Olivia standing nude in the doorway.

The older woman had one arm crossed over her chest, the long stems of two crystal flutes tucked between the fingers of her hand as it rested above one breast.  The other arm was draped across her belly, it's fingers wrapped around the neck of a champagne bottle, the bottom angled to hide the delicate V of pale golden down between her legs.  "Breathe," she whispered again.  "You have to breathe to say yes."


Natalia's eyes met hers and Olivia felt her heart kick so violently that, for a moment, she actually believed it was possible to die of happiness.

"I haven't asked yet."  She smiled gently, moving forward to set her cargo on the floor before reaching up to pull the ring free, slipping it onto her pinkie.  Gripping the edge of the tub, she lowered herself to one knee and reached for Natalia's hands.  She kissed each one slowly, her lips coming away wet and glistening in the candlelight.  "I knew... when you saw the box... what you were expecting."  She said softly, her eyes focused on the floor.  "And it killed me to see that look on your face."  Natalia tried to speak but she put a finger gently across her lips.  "It was originally my intention to propose right there... in front of all of Springfield."  She swallowed, finally looking up to meet the deep brown eyes that held her future.  "But then I realized... that this moment... this was ours.  And while I don't intend to hide who and what we are ever again... that doesn't mean they get to share everything with us either."

Olivia released Natalia's hands, pulling the ring from her finger to hold it up between them.  She raised one hand, palm up, until the brunette tucked her fingers inside of it.  "Natalia..."  Olivia's voice cracked as tears began to run down her cheeks.  She held the hand with the ring in it out to the side, like she was presenting herself.  "This is me..."  A soft blush spread down her neck as her breasts rose and fell quickly.  "I'm not perfect.  I'm..."  Olivia laughed softly.  "...older.  I'm cynical and sarcastic; I drink too much and I swear too much and I have spent every single moment of my life... living for myself.  Until I met you."  She traced Natalia's cheek with her fingertip.  "You... came into my life like a thunderstorm, turning it upside down from the day I met you.  Nothing with you was ever simple.  You taunted me, pushed me... pissed me off and challenged me in ways that I will never know how to thank you for.  And then you did the last thing I ever expected.  You loved me."  Olivia swallowed, trying to speak past the lump in her throat.  "In the past year and a half I have gone from wanting to hate you, which I could never really pull off, to wanting to be with you every second of every day.  You did more than save me, Natalia.  You made me whole.  Now I need you to complete one last thing..."  She took a deep breath, holding up the ring again.  "Natalia Rivera...will you drive me crazy for the rest of my life?"

Natalia didn't hesitate.  "Yes."

Olivia laughed.  "You haven't even looked at the ring."

"I don't have to.  I don't give a damn about the ring.  All I want is you... forever."

"Please..."  The older woman slipped it on to her finger.  "Look at it."

Natalia glanced down, immediately caught by the clarity of the stone, the weight of the ring on her finger.  The diamond was larger, bigger even than the solitaire that Frank had presented her with.  But where that ring had been ostentatious, flagrant; the stone sitting high in it's white gold setting, this one was...elegant.  The stone itself winked up at her from where it was cradled in a floating bed of platinum, the sides a filigree of intertwined ivy that met in the shape of a heart on both sides.  With a small gasp, she reached up and touched one of the earrings, recognizing the pattern.  "A matching set..."  She smiled.  "You designed this?"

Olivia nodded.  "It's how you make me feel."  She whispered.  "Like I belong somewhere, with someone for the first... and last... time in my life."

The brunette stared at her, her heart swelling with love until she thought it would burst.  "Get in." 


"The tub, Olivia.  Get in.  Now."

The older woman blinked, surprised at the commanding tone.  Raising one eyebrow, she stepped into the water, sitting down across from brunette so that she could look at her.

Natalia just smiled, sliding up onto her knees to straddle Olivia's lap.  She wrapped her arms around the blonde's neck, pressing their bodies so closely together that Olivia could feel the other woman's heart beating against her chest.

"It's beautiful, Olivia."  She kissed her softly, letting her tongue dart out to taste the sweetness of her lips.  "And the fact that you went to so much trouble means the world to me."  She gently cupped the older woman's face.  "But it could have been a piece of copper wire, and I still would have said yes.  I love you.  I can't imagine my life without you in it.  I want to wake up to your grumpy face every morning until I'm old and gray."  She blinked away her tears.  "And whatever comes after this life... I want to spend that with you too."

Olivia nodded, pressing her lips together as she gave up and started sobbing.

"Hey!"  Natalia rained kisses across her cheeks.  "I said yes!"

"I know... It's just... this much happy is hard to hold in... I think it's leaking out my eyes..."

The younger woman laughed, settling her head against Olivia's chest so that she could listen to the steady beat of her heart.  "God, I love you."

"I love you too."

Natalia leaned up, catching her lips in a softly passionate kiss that promised much more than it's duration allowed.  "Bathe me."  She grinned, turning to snuggle her hips in between the older woman's legs.

"I beg your pardon?"  Olivia smirked.  "Kind of getting a head start on the whole 'obey' thing, aren't you?"

Natalia sighed happily, brushing her back against the blondee's chest until she felt her nipples harden.  "Bathe me, rub my skin with lotion..." her voice dropped to a low growl.  "Then take me to bed and make love to me... like a good little wife."

Olivia grabbed the shampoo, quickly lathering it into the brunette's long, gorgeous hair; a slow groan escaping her lips when Natalia's hands slid up her thighs.

Maybe obeying wasn't such a bad thing after all...

Olivia blew out the candles one by one, her eyes following Natalia as the younger woman did the same.  The bath had been wonderful; all gentle touches and heated looks, long kisses and barely restrained passion.  When they finally climbed out of the tub, she had stood, dripping wet while Natalia raised her arms, watching with a small smirk as Olivia dried her from head to toe with a soft, white towel.  But when she had reached for the lotion, Natalia had taken her by the arm; wisely suggesting that they put out anything flammable before the world disappeared around them. 

As it always did whenever she put her hands on the younger woman.

She watched the last flame flicker and disappear beneath Natalia's breath, the movement of her lips hypnotic as her body responded with tightened muscles and quickened breath.  When the brunette finally straightened and walked towards her, her hands untying the belt on her robe to let it hang open, Olivia felt her knees go weak.  She sat down heavily on the bed, her eyes traveling over the long strip of olive skin that glowed faintly in the lamplight.    "Jesus..." 

Natalia came to stand directly in front of her, moving even closer when the older woman parted her legs, allowing her between them.  A small smile turned up the corners of her mouth as Olivia picked up the lotion, pouring it into her hands and rubbing them together to warm them before laying them on her belly.

"Oooooh..."   Natalia groaned deep in her throat as the older woman's finders stroked up her abdomen and over her breasts, brushing the robe off her shoulders as they traveled down her arms.

"Lay down..."  Olivia moved to the side, watching as the brunette climbed onto the bed.  When she went to roll over onto her back, Olivia pressed a hand to her shoulder, stopping her.  "No... I want you on your stomach."

The younger woman's eyebrows crawled up her forehead but she laid back down, wrapping her arms around a pillow as she rested her cheek against it.  She tried to relax but her breath caught in her throat and her pulse quickened when she felt Olivia straddle her ass, the heat from between her legs a brand against her skin.  "Mmmm."

"Shhh."  Olivia began to knead her shoulders, strong fingers working the lotion into her skin while her hips rocked slowly back and forth.  "Close your eyes."

Natalia did as she was told, her body catching the older woman's rhythm easily, joining with it; the weight and the motion creating a delicious friction as her sex rubbed firmly against the silk of the sheets. 

Olivia tried to focus on what she was doing, but the sexual tension of the last few hours coupled with the exquisite waves of pleasure traveling outwards from between her legs turned her brain to jelly and left her trembling.  Without meaning to, she slid her hands under Natalia's chest as she began to bear down harder, her hips rotating to increase the contact between their bodies.

Natalia pushed herself up slightly, resting her weight on her elbows, her teeth biting down on her lower lip when the older woman's fingers closed on her nipples.  "Olivia...."

A low hum was the only response.


"Hmmm?  What?"  The words were whispered, breathless... almost pained.

Natalia pushed back, colliding with her roughly.  "Harder..."  She growled.  She heard a small groan and then all of Olivia's weight pressed into her, driving her forward with the strength of her thrusts.  Natalia whimpered in delight, her teeth biting down on her lower lip when she felt one of Olivia's hands slide between her and the mattress.  Her whimpers turned to moans when strong fingers played across her already sensitive clit, stroking against it firmly, pushing her over the edge.  The motion of their bodies, the feel of Olivia on top of her... it all merged with the ecstasy that was growing inside of her to explode into a series of overwhelming sensations, each one more powerful than the last.   She threw her head back as she shuddered violently, aware only of her own release and the feel of her lover as she collapsed on top of her.  They laid together, crumpled and boneless, both of them trying to catch their breath. 

"Oh my god..."  Natalia laughed softly when she was finally able to speak.  "What the hell was that?"

Olivia rolled onto her back sighing happily when the younger woman crawled into her arms.  "I have no idea..."  She breathed heavily.  "But can we do it again sometime soon?"

"Oh yeah..."  The brunette traced her fingers down Olivia's ribs, breathing slowly in and out for several minutes until her pulse was back to normal.   "You know... I still don't get how you did all of this."

Olivia shrugged.  "It was easy.  I had Doris at the Beacon to take care of the flowers and the dress and then again at the restaurant...to call my phone."  She grinned at the look of shock on the younger woman's face.  "Ashlee met me here after you went to work to set up the house, and then stayed..."

"To light the candles."  Natalia finished for her.  "The text message."  She shook her head.  "It wasn't to Emma... it was to Ashlee, letting her know we were on our way home."

The older woman smiled smugly... until Natalia pinched her on the arm... hard.  "Ow!  Hey!"  She rubbed at the sore spot, her lower lip extending slightly in a pout.  "What the hell was that for?"

"You lied to me!"

Olivia blinked, immediately contrite.  "I know.  I hated that part."  She said softly.  "Can you forgive me?"

"Well..."  Natalia quirked her lips to the side.  "Considering what you were trying to do, I guess I can... just this once.  But don't make it a habit!"

"I won't!"  She crossed her fingers over her heart before smirking mischievously.  "I have to admit though... your reactions were priceless!"

Natalia's eyes narrowed.  "Was that... was that part of your plan?"

"To make you jealous?"  Olivia smirked.  "Of course!  Why else would you follow Doris?  At least you finally noticed her."  She laughed when the younger woman pinched her arm again.

"It was hard not to!  Why she is so fond of that horrid jacket I will never know."

"Hard not to?  She walked by you twice and you didn't even blink!  She said she practically had to whistle to get your attention.  What were you thinking about anyway?"

Natalia flushed.  She shook her head before placing a long, lingering kiss on her lover's lips.  "What I was thinking about then isn't important..."  She growled, settling her body on top of Olivia's and sliding a thigh between her legs to press firmly against her sex.  "Ask me what I'm thinking about now..."

Part 21

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