DISCLAIMER: I don't own the characters, I don't claim to own the characters and I don't intend to profit from this story. Just doing it for entertainment purposes and as homage to the fabulous storyline and the amazing actresses depicting it.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Set after the episodes from 11th and 13th March 2009 with Frank's proposal and Emma's disappearance used as a catalyst. And just in case you spot any odd spellings etc, I'm English but am hooked on this storyline – thank goodness for the Internet!!
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Happiness is… you shaped
By Liz M


"You say that all you want is for me to be happy – do you think that marrying Frank will do that for me? Is that what you think I should do?" Natalia followed Olivia out of the kitchen after taking a moment to compose herself.

"I can't… I can't answer that. Only you know what will make you happy. You said that Frank is everything you could want from a man, that must mean something." Olivia willed her friend to let her go, let her dash up the stairs, shut herself in her room and give in to her breaking heart.

"I also said I didn't love him, right after I told you I slept with him. Doesn't that count for something too?" Natalia fired back, desperately trying to coax Olivia into finally admitting what she suspected she had been trying to tell her for days.

"Love isn't… life is complicated… sometimes, there are things that are more important than love. Frank can protect you, he can help you get Rafe out of jail as soon as possible, you know that he will always look out for you and provide for you." Olivia's voice cracked as she spoke, wondering if anyone would believe how selflessly she was behaving right at that moment. Her every instinct was screaming at her to do everything she could to dissuade the young woman from entering into what would inevitably be a loveless marriage, to fight for her chance with Natalia but the raven-haired beauty's crestfallen expression prevented her from speaking out against the man who had proposed to her.

"So you think marriage is all about a meal ticket? That I should accept the proposal to provide a secure future for my son? Do I not deserve some happiness after everything? After Gus?" Natalia held up a hand to prevent Olivia from answering. "I thought I had found a man who could provide all those things for me. When I married Gus, I thought it was for life, forever. None of us know what will happen in the future, immediate or long term. I don't know that marrying Frank can guarantee me of anything… except that I'll lose what we have here." Tears streamed down both women's cheeks as the thought of giving up their family union hit them both.

"Emma and I… we couldn't… I know we wouldn't be living together any more if you did marry Frank but you will always, always be part of our family. I'm not Alan. I don't abandon people I… care about… just because circumstances change." Olivia struggled to speak through the huge lump which had formed in her throat as soon as they had begun this discussion in the kitchen.

"I don't want to lose you… either of you…"

"That won't happen, no matter what you decide to do." Olivia was quick to assure the distraught woman before her, finally breaking her resolve and crossing the room to scoop her up into a warm embrace, even as it sent a piercing pain through her heart. She only hoped Natalia wouldn't feel her pulse racing and call her on it. After a short while, Olivia pulled away, making her excuses and retreating to her bedroom, curling up on her the bed next to her slumbering daughter and giving in to silent tears, unaware of Natalia's heart breaking in similar fashion in the room directly beneath them.

"Okay, so now that you finally get it, how are we gonna keep Phillip away from Emma?" Olivia levelled a steady glare at Natalia, knowing her ire was misplaced but too much turmoil battling within her to allow for niceties.

"Don't do that, don't lash out at me like this is my doing. I'm on your side." Natalia stood her ground under the scrutiny, grateful in some ways for something else to concentrate on – Frank's proposal and her conversation with Olivia from the previous night having tortured her waking and sleeping moments constantly.

"Then go bat your eyes at your fiancé, do whatever you need to do to make him see that Phillip is still a danger to my daughter." Olivia regretted the harsh words as soon as they left her lips, hiding her face behind her hands and trying to calm down enough to offer a decent apology.

"Alright stop that. We will figure this out and I am sorry that I don't have an immediate answer to offer you but this is not something that will be easily solved. It is going to take us time and it is going to take us working together to make sure that Emma is safe – so please Olivia, don't do this, don't keep pushing me away and hiding yourself behind your walls. I thought we had gotten past that. I will do whatever you need for me to do to make sure you and Emma stay safe and together." Throughout Natalia's heartfelt speech, Olivia's face remained hidden to her close friend. When there was no sign of her emergence after a few moments of silence, the Latina woman reached out, placing a gentle palm against a taut bicep.

"Could you… please help me… to sit down?" Olivia gasped, having been valiantly hoping to hide the fact that she was struggling to catch her breath. She could feel her heart racing erratically, just as it had done intermittently for so long following her transplant. 'Not again,' she groaned inwardly as old fears sprung back into her mind, 'not now.'

"Are you ok? Is it your heart?" Natalia tucked a hand beneath her friend's elbow, guiding her down on the cushions of the sofa.

"I think… I'm just… a little over anxious." Olivia breathed, willing herself to inhale and exhale in a controlled fashion, hoping that it was something as simple as a panic attack at the thought of having to battle Phillip once again for their daughter. She was overcome by a sudden coughing fit which left her even more short of breath and clutching reflexively at her chest. "This should not be happening… this… this is meant to have been stopped."

"OK, Olivia, sweetheart, look at me." Natalia waited patiently for her panicking friend to raise her head. "I am going to grab the phone and call 911 and you are going to lie back on here and try to relax." She deliberately kept her voice soft and even as she spoke, soothing a hand through Olivia's silky locks. It was all Liv could do to nod her head and allow herself to be assisted to lay down. Natalia walked hurriedly through to the kitchen, reaching for the phone with shaking hands, dialling the emergency services as she felt her own heart pound at the implications of Olivia's current condition. After arranging for an ambulance to be despatched, Natalia called Jane to ask if she could come over and watch Emma while they were at the hospital before returning to Olivia's side.

"Emma…" Olivia began.

"It's taken care of. Jane's on her way. Just concentrate on yourself ok? You're going to be ok. We're going to get you to the hospital, they'll figure out what's causing this little blip and then we'll get our heads around Phillip and Emma and… everything." Natalia stroked Olivia's hair and cheek throughout as she waited for the knock at the door.

"Please… would you please, just, stay with me? At the hospital?" Olivia asked, genuine fear in her eyes as she faced yet another setback on the long road to a healthy life.

"Try stopping me from being by your side the entire time." Nat answered with a watery smile. "You know this is probably 'cause I've kept you standing outside talking the last few nights in the snow and the cold and everything. So I want you to channel that stubborn energy of yours into getting better so you can kick my butt, ok? You hang on in there because Ava needs you, Emma needs you and… and I need you too," she admitted just as she heard a vehicle pull up in the driveway.

"Natalia, I came as soon as I heard. What happened? How is she?" Frank gripped the woman he hoped to marry by her arms, shrugging it off as she pulled away from his touch.

"Olivia got upset because Emma ran off to try and get a bus to see Phillip and then she started having trouble breathing again and coughing and she's so scared that her body is rejecting the heart again and…" Frank pulled the young Latina woman to him, crushing her against his body, mistaking her resistance for concern for her friend. "No, Frank, I don't want you to hold me, I don't want you to tell me that it's all going to be ok. Because you can't know that, you can't, no one can right now. Olivia, my best, my closest friend is lying in that room alone and I promised her I would stay by her side but they won't let me be in there while they do their stupid tests." Natalia pushed away from the smothering embrace, turning away from the man whose proposal she still had to reply to.

"I want you to know you can lean on me though. I mean, if we're to be married…"

"I can't marry you." Nat butted in, feeling some relief from having said the words aloud finally.

"I understand that you need to be there for Olivia right now but that doesn't have to mean we can't still get engaged. I can wait for you to get Olivia back on her feet again before we make any kind of plans." The captain persisted.

"Frank, I want you to listen to me now – really listen to me. When you proposed to me, you never let me tell you how I was feeling. Every time I tried to say something, you shot me down and pushed me to let you finish. You told me that you knew how I felt after we slept together but you were wrong. Or at least partly wrong. Yes, I felt guilty because of my faith, I don't take sex lightly and I don't jump into bed with anyone usually without it being a very big deal for me." Frank opened his mouth to speak but Natalia never gave him chance to utter a single syllable, "no, this is my time to speak. I did you the honour of hearing you out so please give me the same courtesy. I told you that I used you when we slept together and I did because I was scared and running from these feelings that have been growing inside of me for a long time now. My feelings and my faith don't sit too well together at the moment but the truth is Frank, you are a wonderful, sweet, loyal and generous man. But I just don't love you in a way that would make a marriage work. You are more like my brother and I will always care for you very deeply. I am sorry, I truly am. My heart belongs to someone else." There was a giddiness rising in the petite woman's chest, despite the uncertainty of the situation. Just having said the words, having got them out there, felt incredibly cathartic.

"Who? Who is it?" Frank asked, his face resembling a wounded animal as he reeled from the rejection.

"I think I should tell them how I feel before discussing it with anyone else." Natalia murmured softly, hoping against hope that she would get such a chance.

"Natalia, you can step back inside now." Dr Rick ushered the woman into the sterile hospital room, watching as she immediately crossed to Olivia's side.

"Hey, how are you feeling?" The two women held hands, each with tears in their eyes at being reunited.

"Like a matinee showing of Riverdance just took place in my chest." Liv quipped breathily, tired and weakened from the episode. She felt Natalia take hold of her hand between both her own, her sole focus on the older woman prostrate in the bed with wires once again protruding from an unflattering hospital gown.

"We have the results back from the tests. There's no infection, no fluid build up around the heart, no oedema to suggest that your body is experiencing another bout of rejection. So what we'd like to do is to keep you in overnight for observation, allow us to do some more tests on the pacemaker and check that it's working as it should. All being well, it will just have been anxiety and you can go home in the morning." Rick informed them both, seeing relief but also despair cross fleeting over Liv's noble features.

"And if it's not?" Liv questioned testily, fed up of spending her life bouncing in and out of hospitals.

"Then we'll assess our options but if that's the cause, it should be very simple to fix and we'll be able to have you back home in a couple of days." Rick replied.

"A couple of days?" Liv blustered, struggling to try and sit up.

"Hey, now you just lie back there missy or you'll end up needing that rebooting we talked about!" Natalia steered her friend back down into the pillows as Rick took the chance to slip out. "You gotta take it easy and not get so worked up about things you can't control. And if it was caused by anxiety, you're really not going to be doing yourself any favours by kicking off like this." All the while as she spoke, Nat's free hand was running across Olivia's cheek again and again, soothing her with her words and her actions. "I'll stay for a little while and then I'll take care of Emma tonight, get her off to school in the morning and I will be back here before you know it ok? I promised you I would be here for you and that is exactly where I will be."

"You know, maybe this is fate's way of telling me I shouldn't get my hopes up for any sort of life. I'm living on borrowed time and I shouldn't take up any more of your life. You should let me go Natalia, marry Frank and live your life. You shouldn't have to nursemaid me like this over and over again." Olivia looked deep into the expressive brown eyes she could easily fall into. Tears pricked at her own eyes as she fought not to show how much trying to let go of the woman she adored was hurting her.

"I'm not going anywhere. I told Frank I couldn't marry him." Natalia informed her, pausing to find the words to express how she felt.

"What? When? Natalia, you can't throw away your future because of me being sick again." Olivia was shocked, she had been so sure her friend would opt for the conventional life, even if it didn't ignite blazing infernos of love within her.

"I can't marry him when I love someone else. As much as a sin sleeping with him and using him was, I think God would forgive me that a lot quicker than if I knowingly entered into a holy union based on lies."

"There's someone else? You kept that quiet!" Liv knew the attempt at a joke sounded feeble and hoped that her friend would put it down to fatigue. She didn't think her heart could take any more pain and hearing about whomever the lucky guy was that had captured Natalia's own heart was sure to shatter it beyond repair.

"Well, it's been difficult finding the right time and the words… and the courage to tell you," came the tender reply. A radiance shone from her face, illustrating just how much of her heart this mystery man owned.

"Who is he?" Olivia asked, steeling herself as best she could for the answer, wishing she had been more forgiving of Emma and convinced that the next words from Natalia's lips would be the last she ever heard.

Natalia eyed the monitor tracking Olivia's heart rate warily. "I'm not sure this is a good time to be discussing this… your blood pressure is rising and your pulse is doing rapid things on that screen."

"Please, tell me." Olivia begged, choking back a sob.

"You really don't know?" Before Natalia could clue Liv in to her true feelings, finally, the monitor sounded an alarm and Olivia's eyes fluttered closed. "No! Olivia, no, you don't get to do this to me. You don't get to make me love you and then leave me." Fear and panic gripped Natalia like a vice as faced the very real prospect of losing everything that was right with her life. She watched as Rick and a whole host of medical attendants rushed into the room in response to the klaxon warning of their patient's deterioration.

"Natalia, I think you should wait outside." Rick warned as they began working on the woman now lying unconscious on the bed.

"How is she? Can I see her?" Natalia pounced on the doctor as he left Olivia's room.

"Not just now, they're prepping her for the OR. I think it's safe to say we've found the source of the problem this time. The pacemaker which should be keeping Olivia's heartbeat regular isn't kicking in as it should, which explains the tachycardia she has been experiencing. Elevated stress levels combined with the lack of intervention from the pacemaker to regulate her rhythm brought on a cardiac arrest. We've got her back into sinus rhythm but it's only a temporary reprieve. We're going to try replacing the battery, it's a very simple and quick procedure but, given her current condition, there is an increased risk of complications. We will need to keep her in for a few days, to monitor her condition and make sure that it is not the pacemaker itself which is experiencing a fault but she should be out of surgery within a couple of hours. In the meantime, I suggest you go home, get some rest and come back tomorrow. We'll know more then and Olivia really won't be in any condition to see anyone again tonight." Rick took in Natalia's dishevelled appearance, the dark circles shadowing her eyes and placed a gentle hand against her lower back as he guided her away from the room.

"Please just one moment with her before she goes into surgery?" Natalia practically begged, knowing she would never forgive herself if Olivia didn't make it and she had not told the beautiful woman how she felt. The doors opened to the room in which Olivia lay and a gurney carrying her limp form was wheeled out. Rick held up a hand, indicating they should pause momentarily, allowing Natalia a precious few seconds. "I have to believe you can hear me Olivia," she murmured, leaning in so close no one else could hear her words, "and if you can, I need you to fight and come back to us. To Emma. To Ava. To me. I should have had the courage to tell you, so many times I wanted to." Pressing her lips tenderly to Olivia's smooth cheek, Natalia whispered, "I love you Olivia Spencer and I need you to make my life complete."

"We really need to get her into the OR now." Rick disturbed Natalia's moment, getting the gurney moving once again and leaving her standing alone in the corridor.

Natalia crept back into the house, thanking Jane and assuring her that everything was going to be ok, that Olivia just needed an overnight stay in hospital but would be back home soon. As the door closed behind the babysitter, the Latina woman looked around the house, surprised at the pang of longing as she faced the first night at the farmhouse without Olivia's presence. The difference was remarkable; it felt emptier, devoid of the warmth and homeliness it held when the vibrant, larger than life woman was at home. Tears trickled down her cheeks as she gave into her fears that Liv may never come back, regardless of Rick's assurances that it was a simple operation. Sinking into the sofa, Natalia clasped her hands together and prayed to every saint she could think of to bring her love back to her. She was shocked out of her trance-like state by the clattering of a photograph falling over. She rose, retrieving the fallen picture; a beautiful, natural shot of Olivia and Emma feeding the ducks. Picking the frame up, she tenderly caressed Olivia's laughing face, feeling her own smile grow as she remembered the day it had been taken. As she went to replace the picture, another caught her eye; one of Gus smiling out at her with a knowing look in his eyes.

"Is this what you want for me Nicky?" As she asked the question of her deceased husband, a feeling of complete peace washed over her, offering her hope and faith that this was the path chosen for her.

She didn't know how long she had been asleep for before a creak on the stairs woke her from her awkward position, slouched on the sofa.

"Natalia?" Emma's sleepy head appeared over the banister.

"Hey Emma, what are you doing up baby? It's still way too early for school." Natalia coaxed, turning to face Olivia's young daughter.

"Where's mom?" Emma came the rest of the way down the stairs, flopping down onto the sofa beside her second mommy. "Have you two been fighting?"

"No sweetie, we've not had a fight." Natalia pulled the girl to her side, wrapping her up in a warm hug. "Your mommy has been… well she's been a bit worried lately about you and your daddy and some other stuff too. And tonight…" Natalia's voice cracked a little as she attempted to tell Emma what had happened to Olivia, "tonight, your mommy wasn't feeling very well so she's staying in the hospital for a little while until she's better again." Emma's arms wrapped tightly around Nat's waist as she heard that once again, her mom faced an uncertain future.

"Will she be ok?" Emma's voice was tiny betraying her own fears.

"Dr Rick said she just needs another tiny little operation and then she will be as good as new. And when she comes home, we'll have to make an extra special effort to keep her calm and happy, so no more running off ok?" Natalia forced her voice to a lighter, more optimistic tone.

"Did I make mom sick?" Emma asked burying her head against Natalia's body, worry creasing her tiny brow.

"No! Sweetie, no that's not it at all. She just has to be careful sometimes and she's had a lot on her mind the last few weeks. So don't go thinking it's your fault ok Em? Your mommy loves you very, very much. And so do I." The two stayed in one another's arms, both lost in their own thoughts and worries. Slowly, Natalia became aware of Emma's deadweight beside her. Gently easing the now slumbering child into her arms, the young woman carried her charge up the stairs ready to put her back into her own bed. When they reached the top however, an overwhelming urge to be close to Olivia tugged Natalia into the other woman's bedroom. Lowering Emma onto one side of the plush queen-sized bed, Natalia tucked her in before rapidly changing into her own nightwear and slipping beneath the duvet next to her. She laid her head on Olivia's pillow and inhaled her unique scent, feeling a small flicker of warmth reignite in her core as Olivia's essence surrounded both herself and Olivia's daughter.

"Hi, I didn't know if you'd be awake yet." Natalia slipped into Olivia's room, crossing straight over to the bed and taking hold of Olivia's hand.

"Oh yeah, ever since I came back, they've been waking me every hour checking I'm still alive." The older woman quipped, still obviously woozy from the anaesthetic and the experience.

"Well I'm glad they are making sure you're still alive." Natalia stopped short of saying anything further, not wanting to aggravate Olivia's stress levels.

"How's Emma? What did you tell her?" Olivia asked, sensing her friend's discomfort and hoping she had not dreamt the sweet words she could swear she heard Nat utter before her surgery.

"She's ok, a little quiet this morning but I promised I'd bring her to see you later so she can see for herself that you're going to be ok. I just told her you needed a rest and that you'd been worried about everything lately." Nat informed the woman she adored, reaching for a plastic beaker of water placing a straw in it and offering it to Liv.

"Thanks." Olivia took a few sips of the proffered drink, grateful for the lubrication to her dry mouth. "I thought I was done this time; I really thought I'd had my last chance and my time was up," she admitted, reaching her free hand up to pinch the bridge of her nose.

"I'm glad it wasn't. You have so much to fight for; Ava, Emma, The Beacon…" Again Natalia trailed off, mentally adding 'us' to the list.

"I think I have something else too." Olivia murmured softly, her expressive eyes locking into Natalia's scared brown orbs. "You know, on my way into surgery, I thought I heard you tell me… I… that you…" Her nerve failed and she dropped her gaze, unprepared to lose the woman who had grown to mean so very much to her for what could easily have been a delusion brought about by lack of oxygen and wishful thinking.

"You heard that?" Natalia questioned. "You really heard me telling you that I love you?" Relief flooded through Olivia's body, even as Natalia's stiffened in terror. What happened now if Olivia rejected her? Could she face losing her and Emma, the first real family she could call her own?

"I didn't imagine it then?" Olivia responded hopefully, although still unable to meet her friend's watery gaze.

"No, I said it."

"Do you? Did you mean it?"

"Of course I meant it and I still do mean it. Olivia, I am scared, no terrified, of what this means for us but please don't doubt that I do love you. More than that, I am in love with you." Natalia admitted, her knees weakening as the butterflies in her stomach threatened to burst from her body.

"I love you too." Olivia blurted through tears of absolute pure joy. "I have been trying to figure out how to tell you for weeks and every time I've tried, we've been interrupted by Frank or Jeffrey or Emma or something. Emma's project, the reaction to it, everything about it made me think about what we have, about how I feel like I belong somewhere for the first time ever. I meant it when I said to you that I've never had anything like this before, not ever, in all my marriages and relationships. You mean the world to me Natalia Rivera." Their eyes met for the first time since their conversation had begun, both of them shedding tears of joy and relief. Natalia leaned in close, caressing Liv's cheek as Olivia reached out to mirror her actions.

"So what now?" Natalia asked quietly, relishing the chance to finally show this woman how she truly felt.

"Now… now we get me out of this hospital and back home to our family. That's all I need to keep me going Natalia; you, Emma, Rafe, Ava." Olivia's eyelids were growing heavy, despite her best efforts to remain awake. The huge weight that had been lifted from her, whilst freeing her had also rendered her exhausted.

"Soon baby, very soon. For now, you just get some sleep before they come in here shouting at me for sending your blood pressure soaring. I'll be right here when you wake up, I promise. I'm not going anywhere without you, not ever." Natalia placed a gentle kiss on Olivia's lips, grinning at the frustrated groan it elicited when it ended almost as soon as it had begun. "Sweet dreams, Olivia."

The End

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