DISCLAIMER: Guiding Light and its characters are the property of Proctor & Gamble. Grey's Anatomy and its characters are the property of Shonda Rhimes and ABC. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Thanks to Jen for assurances that it was okay to continue this one when I was only halfway into it and a very special thanks to Deb for taking time out of her busy schedule to beta.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
The Heart of the Matter
Fairly decent lighting, a noticeable absence of dark corners or shadowy booths along the walls, and a very high quality of liquor that surrounded the ice in her drink had the blonde questioning her original thought that she'd somehow stumbled into a lesbian bar in the middle of small town USA. She'd read the 'Ladies Night Only' advertisement on a large portable sign just outside the establishment, its gaudy blinking yellow lights and bold black lettering splashed against a stark white background offering her a beacon of hope that the code words used in so many predominately straight bars to cover its true intent had made its way to this particular bar as well. But from all indications, the night was exactly as proclaimed: an evening of discounted drinks for individuals solely from the female population.
Sighing dejectedly, the woman sipped from her glass and took solace in the warmth provided by the amber-colored liquid as it made its way past her lips to ease down her throat, leaving in its wake a slight burning sensation. What was one more night spent alone in a hotel room? Soon, she'd make a decision as to where to settle down and then she could make a concerted effort to focus on the many leaves of the trees she'd passed on her drive across the states.
A flash of movement drew her attention from her gloomy thoughts to the door of the bar, and she watched as yet another female entered and headed straight for the bartender. The observer unconsciously lowered her glass to the bar's surface and turned her full attention on the newcomer, hoping that the other woman's approach was the only straight thing about her. The woman was positively stunning.
"Jim Beam neat," the newbie said simply as she slid onto a barstool with practiced ease. This definitely wasn't the woman's first trip to a bar, and the watcher was fairly certain it wasn't the other woman's first 'Ladies Night' either. She just had to determine if what had drawn the woman inside had been the reduced price of the drinks or the clientele the bar had to offer for the evening. A line of communication would need to be established to be absolutely certain of the woman's intent, but a positive first impression was even more essential. Cheesy lines and innuendo were the kiss of death or at least they had been when they'd been used on this particular observer, and she hadn't really had any real experience in trying them out on someone else, especially someone else of the same sex. No, she'd need something extraordinary to catch and hold the newcomer's attention.
The perfect opening line presented itself within seconds, and the watcher smiled as she eased from her corner stool and made her way to the center of the bar where the woman sat comfortably, her crossed leg position affording a lovely view of a pair of very sexy legs. But that hadn't been the part of the woman's anatomy that had garnered the watcher's original focus.
"Excuse me," the observer said, gesturing to the other woman's chest and specifically to a pair of creamy white breasts that strained mightily against tight material that kept them captive. "I couldn't help but notice your scar. Heart transplant?"
Stunned, the woman glanced down at her exposed chest, noting the smooth, silky, and more importantly, scar-less skin. "Wha " she protested at the notion that the stranger knew of her recent transplant. "How'd you know? Did someone tell you about me?" She looked around the bar suspiciously, wondering what else the other woman had heard. "Who have you been talking to?"
"No one," assured the blonde, adding a smile to her words and hoping to put the other woman at ease. "I recognized the technique used by the surgeon." She stood up straighter and pulled her shoulders back confidently, clearly impressed with her abilities. "I'm the one who invented and perfected the technique, after all."
The woman looked down at the skin surrounding her ample bosom and stared hard, imagining she could actually see a small seam where there clearly wasn't one and becoming somewhat unnerved by the stranger's observation. "I don't understand. I paid extra for the non-visible option."
"Oh, don't worry. It's only visible to me and a few others," the blonde reassured, smiling even more broadly and offering her strong, steady hand in greeting. "I'm Erica Hahn, by the way."
"Olivia," the other woman said reflexively, extending her hand to firmly grip the offered one. Her eyes, however, were still trained on her own chest, searching for evidence of her recent surgery. Even Natalia had remarked about how surprised she was at not finding any visible scars associated with the transplant surgery. And the other woman should know, she'd carefully inspected every single millimeter of Olivia's flawless skin, very carefully and quite often at that. Only with her eyes, of course, but Olivia hoped that would soon change.
Easing onto the stool next to the woman now known as Olivia, Erica took advantage of the other woman's preoccupation and motioned toward a half-empty glass. "May I buy you another?"
"Huh?" Olivia slowly became aware that the blonde had settled in beside her a doctor, a doctor who'd been directly responsible for her lack of scars. "Perhaps I should buy you one instead," she said, realizing as soon as the words left her mouth that it was entirely possible the woman would misread her offer and hurried to add, "In celebration of your technique, of course."
Erica smiled and nodded as she gestured the bartender over. She'd take whatever she could get at the moment and who knew? Perhaps by the end of the evening, she'd not find herself alone in the king size bed of her hotel room as she had night after night during her travels to various hospitals around the country.
Fate, as usual, had other ideas.
"Olivia?" an angelic voice floated across the length of the bar and both seated women turned almost as one toward the melodious sound. One frowned slightly while the other smiled so warmly it threatened to melt everything in its vicinity.
"Natalia? What are you doing here?" Olivia slipped from her stool and crossed the short distance to the other woman. Without a thought, she reached out and took Natalia's hands in her own, gently rubbing the pads of her thumbs across silky flesh. "Is something wrong?"
"I stopped by your room and you weren't there," informed Natalia, tilting her head slightly to peer over Olivia's shoulder at the blonde still sitting at the bar. She didn't recognize the woman and wondered what topic she and Olivia had found to discuss over drinks. Natalia had seen the 'Ladies Night' sign outside and had been instantly filled with an inexplicable sense of dread at the thought of Olivia mingling with a roomful of women. She couldn't put a name on what she felt, but she knew that whatever it was, she didn't like it one bit.
Olivia took a moment to spare a quick glance over her shoulder at Erica. The doctor was staring in their direction and seemed to be quite interested in her conversation with Natalia. Quickly returning her focus to her friend, Olivia steered Natalia away from the bar and toward an empty table nearby. She refused to relinquish her hold on the other woman's hands as each slid onto her respective chair across from the other. Both women were somehow able to accomplish the feat despite the awkwardness of settling into their seats without the benefit of using their hands.
"Why were you looking for me? Did something happen?"
Natalia shook her head, but she wasn't able to shake the gnawing feeling deep in her gut. "No, I just ... um ..." she stuttered, moving her focus to their joined hands. Olivia was always so gentle with her, always making certain the fit was just right. With Frank, it was usually forced and her hand felt smothered by his larger one.
"What is it?" whispered Olivia, leaning across the booth and ducking her head to try to make eye contact with Natalia.
The reply was so low Olivia had to strain to hear. She released Natalia's right hand and reached up to palm a cooled cheek. Natalia reluctantly raised her head and looked across into loving green eyes. She leaned into Olivia's comforting touch.
"Nothing's silly, Natalia. Just tell me."
"Emma called and said she was sleeping over at a friend's and asked me to check in on you. She said you hadn't been feeling well earlier."
The corners of Olivia's lips quirked upward into a smile. "She did, did she?"
"Yes, and then I couldn't find you, so I drove around town and spotted your car just down the block." Natalia gave another glance toward the bar and the blonde who clearly had an interest in Olivia. "I guess Emma was mistaken."
Keeping her eyes on Natalia, Olivia noted her friend's restlessness and obvious anxiety, but mostly the death glare that Natalia was directing toward the bar. A light chuckle broke free. Olivia was so flattered, she was almost giddy.
"No, I'm not," Natalia denied, her gaze moving back to Olivia. "I was worried about you."
"You were jealous," Olivia accused with a grin that practically split her face. "You still are."
"I am not!"
Natalia opened her mouth to continue the childish debate but quickly snapped it shut. Teasing green eyes filled with mischief stared back at her, and she now knew whom Emma had inherited her debating skills from. Natalia seldom won a round of 'am not/are so' with the young girl.
"Okay, maybe just a little." At least Natalia could finally put a name on what had been causing her insides to become so unsettled. It certainly seemed to make Olivia happy.
"So, were you going to take me up on my latte offer?" Olivia asked teasingly. If she'd been a peacock, she'd have flared out her feathers and emitted a high pitched cry.
"No, I was going to ask you to the farmhouse for a cup of hot chocolate."
"Oh, even better," said Olivia, grinning even wider as she scooted toward the edge of her seat. "C'mon, let's get out of here." Standing, she pulled Natalia from her chair and started for the door, turning toward the bar as she neared the exit.
With an approving nod, Erica simply raised her glass in salute and offered a slight smile. Olivia just chuckled and guided Natalia through the door, leaving Erica to sigh softly and swivel her stool around to face the bar alone once again.
"You never had a chance, you know." The sound of a deep sultry voice drew Erica's attention to a woman who'd slipped, unnoticed, onto the stool on the other side of her. Erica turned to spy teasing blue eyes peeking out from under the rim of a brown hat. The woman smiled and held up her empty glass.
"Buy me another drink and I'll tell you the story of two women whose hatred of each other turned into a love so pure you can't go near it and not feel it deep inside of you."
Erica only took a moment to decide. Maybe there was still hope for her to find that someone special, or at the very least, there was always the possibility that her king size bed wouldn't feel so empty by morning's light.
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