DISCLAIMER: I own nothing. I just take Otalia out from time to time to placate my impatience.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Thank You: DiNovia for the encouraging words and grammar googling.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
The Fiercest Calm
By DJ Shiva
"You want me to what?" Doris stared at Olivia Spencer, not sure whether to be incensed or just incredulous. Olivia's notoriety as someone who would do anything to get what she wanted was well documented, but the nature of her current arm-twisting was a bit unexpected.
"I know you're only the mayor, but I am sure you can work some of your connections, right?" Olivia raised an eyebrow, in a look meant to challenge Doris' political ego and aspirations. "It's not like it's some capital offense..."
"You can't help yourself, can you? It's not enough to just blackmail me; you have to get in a few digs as well."
The edge of Olivia's lip curled in a barely perceptible half-grin. "And here I thought I was only appealing to your sense of fairness." Her grin widened slowly. "Or at the very least, your love of political chess maneuvering."
A small chuckle escaped Doris' throat as she raised her glass to her lips and took a thoughtful sip. She swallowed, letting the whiskey take its slow-burn journey down as she contemplated Olivia's request. "Why do I get the feeling you could care less about my role in this, as long as it means you can get Rafe out of prison?"
Acknowledging the point with a nod, Olivia looked her squarely in the eye. "Oh now, don't think I won't enjoy a little payback for that press conference," she replied, sipping her martini with a pause. She sat her glass down and her eyes followed. She sighed heavily. "But you are right. My main concern is getting Natalia's son back to her."
Doris measured Olivia with silent regard. "Ah, so now we get to the crux of this, don't we? Natalia's son."
Green eyes rose sharply with a frown. "She deserves to have her son back."
"Oh, I am sure she does. But that's not the only reason for this little game, is it? Face it, selflessness has never been one of your more abundant attributes, Olivia."
"She deserves a family." Olivia's voice dropped to almost a whisper. "She deserves her family."
Something clicked in Doris' mind. With a burst of newfound clarity, she tilted her head to catch Olivia's eyes. "Her family? I thought this was about your family?" And there it was, plain as day. Another puzzle piece dropped into place as Doris slowly lowered her drink to the bar. "You really...you're not..."
Olivia clenched her jaw, setting her drink down and making her move to leave. Doris grabbed her forearm gently, something softening in her steely eyes.
"She doesn't know, does she?"
The response was immediate. Jaw unclenching, Olivia's eyes brimmed with unshed tears. Once again, Doris had her question answered in the moment of silence.
As Olivia turned back toward the bar, resting her face in her hands, the mayor considered her own reaction. She could be every bit as ruthless as Olivia, but she of all people also knew the conflict raging within the woman standing across from her. She had been there once too; that place of fear and insecurity as everything she knew of herself had been turned inside out. Memories drifted back in a gauzy haze as she considered her next words carefully.
"When did you realize?"
Olivia looked at her cautiously, her defenses weakened, but still possessing enough of her self to be suspicious. "This isn't Dr. Phil, and you are not my friend."
Removing her hand from Olivia's arm, Doris reacted as if she had been slapped. She gathered herself, motioning to the bartender for another drink for each of them. Olivia started to shake her head, but the mayor stopped her with a raise of her hand.
"No, Olivia, I am not. But right now you look like you could use a friend and a drink." The bartender slid their glasses in front of them as Doris turned to fully face Olivia. "And right now, I bet I am the only person you know in this town who has any idea how you are feeling." She drew herself up, inhaling as she did. "Look, you don't want to trust me, fine. But I can't think of a better arrangement, can you?" Her cynical chuckle was followed by a kinder smile. "We are both successful women with secrets to keep. You know mine, and now, I know yours. Seems to me we have a stalemate here. We don't have to be friends. Call it what you will. Right now I need something from you, and you need something from me. But more than that, you need someone to understand."
Olivia shuffled her feet distractedly, reflecting on Doris' words. The mayor raised her glass as if to toast. "Call us captive confidantes, if you will."
For a moment, they stood there, sizing each other up; neither one giving ground.
It was Olivia who finally broke the deadlock, pulling up a barstool and sitting down. This was going to be a long night.
Olivia and Natalia had not exactly been avoiding each other. The unseasonably warm temperatures had lightened the mood in the house considerably, at least enough to facilitate a reasonably cooperative household. Many things were just like they had always been: Olivia avoiding laundry and Natalia running around doing her best to lift everyone's mood and keep the house (and Olivia) running smoothly. It wasn't perfect, exactly, but it was functional.
Yet despite the mood of early spring, the understanding of winter's still firm grasp had not eluded either woman. They smiled and joked, mostly for Emma's sake, and their own sanity. But there was an underlying tension, just shy of those smiles, that neither could deny to themselves. Natalia knew that there were many unanswered questions that she had to deal with, but she kept those in a locked place in her heart, because the alternative was to face them head on, and she needed the illusion of normality for at least a few days before it all came crashing down.
Normality. Natalia stifled a cynical snort as the word flitted across her mind. What she was struggling with was anything but normal. A proposal too soon from a man whose affect on her heart was somewhere in the range of brotherly, and the woman she should think of as a sister whose presence threatened to unravel her senses with desire. Even now, halfway across the kitchen, Natalia could smell the faintest traces of Olivia's perfume, and had to struggle to keep her legs from shaking and her heart rate normal.
There was that word again.
Natalia wasn't as naive as people sometimes thought. She had been poking fun at Olivia with her allusions to her "sweet, innocent face", but the truth of it swam up to meet her fears. She knew that the family she cared so much about was anything but normal in the eyes of anyone outside of it. She knew that in the eyes of the church, her less-than-innocent feelings for Olivia were not normal; to some, even an abomination. Natalia shuddered at the thought. She knew these things, but could not bring herself to consider her feelings anything but sacred. The fullness in her chest when Olivia crooked an eyebrow her way, or laughed at her own sometimes terrible jokes. The fierce protectiveness Olivia had for her daughter, and her insistent faith in Natalia's intelligence and abilities. Abominations? Hardly. A deep line furrowed Natalia's forehead in frustration at the thought.
So why was she so scared?
Frank had told her that he understood the depth of her faith, but he had no idea what that entailed. He was right that it was important, but Natalia almost shuddered at the insulting notion that he had any idea what it actually meant. God was her guide and her confidante, but she had never really considered him to be cruel; certainly not cruel enough to punish anyone for opening their heart and soul to another human being. Love was a gift from God, and she had not once believed in the idea that it could ever be wrong.
She sighed softly. That didn't make it any easier to live amongst those who did. Natalia knew what the whispers and rumours and talk could do to a person. She knew it could rip families apart, destroy one's self-confidence, and most importantly, cause pain for the children who were caught in the undertow. She felt a twinge deep in her chest at the memories of her sixteen year old self, pregnant and scared, and the effect those whispers had all those years ago. Even superheroes have their weaknesses.
And then there was the little matter of her carefully guarded heart.
She had pined for Nicky...for Gus...for so long, and protected his son with everything she had, and never once had let herself be distracted from that all-encompassing love. She let no one in; not one other human being was given access to a soul kept under lock and key. She was so focused, and so unswerving in her mission, and it had all ended in loss. Gus was dead and Rafe was in jail and all she had to show for all her dedication and single-mindedness was her shattered heart.
OK, that's not exactly true, she admitted silently to herself. Rafe may be in jail, but he is healthy and alive, and now I have a safe, warm home and a family for him to come home to, don't I? And no matter how hard this...no matter how confusing her feelings for Olivia were, there were no doubts about the commitment that both of them had made to each other and to their children.
So what is stopping you from giving Frank an answer?
There it was. That voice inside her head that challenged her fears and insecurities, and spoke loudly when she wanted to hear it the least. Was it fear of what people would think? Was it a need for the storybook husband-and-wife tale? Or was it that she feared her heart could not survive spilling its truths to Olivia, only to be rejected? Or even...accepted.
Caught up in her reverie, Natalia didn't even realize she had stopped in the middle of washing dishes, and was standing there up to her wrists in the quickly cooling soapy water. Olivia looked up from making a sandwich when she noticed that the clanking of dishes had ceased.
"Penny for 'em?"
Natalia looked up into Olivia's eyes, finding herself yet again mesmerized by the arch of an eyebrow and a tentatively inquisitive gaze. "Huh?" she answered absentmindedly.
"Your thoughts. One shiny penny to know what you were just thinking about." Olivia rooted around in her pockets with both hands, only to find them empty. She smiled sheepishly. "Would you take a check?"
Natalia shook her head and couldn't help but laugh. She was readying her response when her thoughts were interrupted by a knock at the door. She quirked her head at the sound.
"Are we expecting anyone?" Natalia knew that there was nothing on Olivia's schedule today, and unless they were having another impromptu pool night she had been expecting nothing but finishing the dishes and putting her feet up to watch some mindless television for the rest of the evening.
"Not unless Frank got impatient."
Natalia's head shot up with a frown. She stared at Olivia with a frustrated glare for a split-second, recognizing only the faintest edges of hurt underlying the sarcasm, then dropped her eyes and grabbed a towel. The knock sounded again as she moved to grab the doorknob. Before she could reach it, she heard a voice speak from the other side of the door.
Her hand an inch from the doorknob, Natalia stopped, frozen with shock at the sound of him. Olivia dropped her knife in the mayonnaise jar with a clink, and turned toward the door. Natalia hadn't moved. Walking toward her, Olivia placed a gentle hand on Natalia's shoulder, meeting her eyes with a supportive gaze. She sent every ounce of strength and hope she could muster through the connection there, as she took hold of the forgotten doorknob and swung the door open.
Standing with a dufflebag in one hand, his other in the air readying for another knock, was Rafe.
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