DISCLAIMER: Guiding Light and its characters are the property of Proctor & Gamble. No infringement intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Lemon Grass Love
By still_nina


Part One

Natalia was bored. But the food was good and she had been invited, so she figured she'd stay a couple of minutes longer. At least until the waitress with the tray of little crab cakes returned. If she left with a full belly, at least the evening wouldn't be a complete failure.

She was standing in the corner, trying not to attract too much attention, when suddenly somebody moved to stand beside her.

"Well, I certainly didn't expect to find you here."

Natalia gasped and turned around. "Olivia?" She could barely believe her eyes. It had been over a year since she'd seen Olivia Spencer, most famous hotelier of Springfield and her very own nemesis in a fight that had long since ceased to matter. Over the last few months, as she'd settled in Chicago once more, she'd wondered how the other woman was doing and if she was taking care of her dead husband's heart.

"In the flesh," Olivia said and grinned at the younger woman. "Watcha doing here?"

"Date." Natalia simply said. She still couldn't believe who was standing in front of her. The last time she'd seen Olivia they'd almost been civil. Not friends, but two people who were bound by a shared tragedy. Not much had happened to Natalia since then, but time had passed and it no longer hurt to look at the other woman.

"You're on a date? Natalia Rivera on a date?" There was a glint of mischief in those green eyes and it wasn't accompanied by anything more than humor.

"Well… yeah. What are you doing here?"

"Oh, I'm the host. It's a fundraiser, I raise funds. It's what I do."

"Is it?"

"Oh, yeah. I'm trying to franchise the Beacon. Actually, I already am franchising the Beacon. I just bought an old building a couple of blocks from here and renovations are starting tomorrow. There's already one shiny new Beacon in Indianapolis."

"Well, congratulations. You seem a lot better than the last time I saw you." Natalia remembered Olivia, pale and with a fake smile on her face, telling her that she was taking care of Gus's heart.

"Oh, yes. Much better. Just had a little trouble with a guy named Decker, who I worked for a little while ago. He found out I was sick and tried to sue me. Well, I sued him right back. Took him for a healthy chunk of his money and figured I'd use it to put him out of business. Ruining a man of his caliber is quite expensive, though. So… I'm raising funds."

"And your heart?" Natalia asked.

"It's fine, Natalia. I'm fine. Gus's heart is fine." There was a serenity in Olivia's eyes that Natalia had never seen before and she realized that for the first time since she'd met the woman, Olivia didn't seem restless.

"That's good."

"Yeah. It took me a while to get used to it. To it all, really, but Ava just kinda hit me over the head – a couple of times – and Jeffrey threatened to divorce me if I didn't wanna live. Phillip would have gotten Emma. And even though I knew he wouldn't actually do it, it kinda drove home a few truths. So the next day, I moved out of his and Reva's home, divorced him and started to get my life back on track. Hired a nurse and an assistant, got a new job and a new attitude. So yeah…" It was as if she'd suddenly realized that she'd been divulging information to Natalia as if they hadn't been living in two different places for over a year now. And that they hadn't exactly been the best of friends before. "How are you? How's Rafe?"

"He's good. He's at home." Natalia couldn't help but smile as she thought of her son. He was still the light of her life. "He goes to college. He really likes it. He's taking pre-law classes as well as science and engineering. He really likes science all of a sudden. Physics and chemistry. It's all he talks about sometimes. He also wants to follow in his father's footsteps. Be a lawyer, work with the police…"

"Sounds good."

"Yeah. I think it is. He's really found his way. I didn't think it'd work out at first, when we moved back to Chicago. But apparently a fresh start after he'd lost his father, back in a place where he knew people, was really what he needed. He got good friends, good grades, he's healthy. He's happy."

"And what about you?"

"Oh, you know. Same old Natalia. Working a couple of jobs, smothering and mothering my son." She smiled brightly at Olivia. The other woman smiled right back and Natalia couldn't help but wonder if this was what they would have been if they hadn't met under the weird circumstances that included father-son rivalries, husband-stealing, broken promises and too often literally broken hearts.

"And tonight? This isn't exactly your scene."

"Yeah well. My date picked the place. He said he had this thing to go to and asked if I would accompany him." Natalia's tone communicated exactly how thrilled she was with how the evening had turned out.

"And you agreed?"

Natalia groaned. "Rafe basically forced me to. He said I don't get out enough and that I needed some fun. But I think he really has some friends coming over and the apartment is kinda small. I guess he wanted his mom out of the way."

"Oh, party boy. Is there a girl maybe?" Olivia was grinning and Natalia could only roll her eyes.

"No, no. We saved some money and got him one of those X-Box things, so…they're having some kind of game-party music thing."

"Oh, Guitar Hero? I know that; it's fun."

"Of course you'd think so. I just think it's loud and much too fast. All those buttons and colors. It just gives me a headache."

"Really? I can't quite remember. The one time I did play, I was pretty drunk, so maybe that had something to do with it. I remember having fun though."

"I didn't think your kind of drunken fun required a computer."

"Haha. Laugh all you want, but I had a good time. The hangover was a bitch though."

They smiled at each other and both were surprised at how comfortable they were in each other's company.

"So, where is that mythical date of yours? And why isn't he here, hovering at your elbow?"

"He went to the bar to get me a drink I didn't want."

"I get the feeling you're not enjoying yourself."

"I think he ditched me."

"Why?" Natalia smiled at Olivia's question. The other woman actually seemed sincere.

"He was… it's probably not a good fit."

"Natalia… Do tell." Olivia's voice oscillated quite easily between stern and playful and Natalia found herself so relaxed in her company that she actually opened up.

"He kept talking about, you know, sex. And it wasn't very inspired talk, I might say."

Olivia was laughing. "What? Why?"

"He was just so obviously trying to figure out if he was going to get laid tonight."

"And how did Saint Natalia react?"

"I'm not a saint. I have standards, though. So I brushed him off."

"Good for you. You weren't tempted at all?"

"No, not at all. Really. Very, very uninspired, Olivia."

Olivia had to giggle at Natalia's expression. "So what are you still doing here? Didn't look like you were having fun."

"No, but the food is good. There are these little crab cakes that I've been trying to figure out."

"Figure out?"

"Yeah, I'm usually pretty good with guessing ingredients, but there's something in there that I just can't place." Natalia instantly remembered the taste on her tongue and she barely resisted the urge to close her eyes to try and concentrate.

"But you like 'em?"

"They're amazing. Have you tried one?"

"Yes, I did. It's my recipe. Taught the chef and everything. I made him change his menu. He hates me." Olivia grinned.

Natalia was blushing at her own enthusiasm. "Well, then tell me."

"It's not just one thing, there are a few special ingredients. Almonds."

"Yeah, roasted with curry." Natalia nodded. She'd already planned to try that with her chicken and rice dish.

"Wow, I'm impressed." Olivia really was impressed. There were a lot of different tastes in that dish, battling for attention, and people usually liked them, but had a hard time figuring out what was in them. "How did you learn to do that?"

"I was waitressing at this restaurant uptown and they had this chef who would create something new every week at the end of Saturday's evening shift. Before we started cleaning he always made these little sample plates for all of us. We called it the Tasting. He always asked us to guess what was in there and I was very good." Natalia sighed as she remembered Ramon. He'd had a bit of a crush on her, but he was also married and while he might not have had a problem with that, she certainly had (except for Harley and Gus, her treacherous mind supplied). She refused to let her past drag her down though. She was actually having a good time talking to Olivia. "Anyway, I figured out the almonds on my own. There's something else in there. C'mon, tell me."

"Look at you, anxious like I'm standing in front of your Christmas presents. It's lemongrass. A lot of it in the sauce and a tiny little bit-"

"Natalia, there you are! I've been looking all over for you." A voice that Natalia found as annoying as the man who belonged to it, rudely interrupted them.

"Really? Cause I haven't moved since you left." Natalia's words weren't loud enough for him to hear, but Olivia chuckled.

As he moved closer to them, Olivia leaned closer to Natalia. "Should I stick around or leave the two of you alone?"

"Stick around? I wanna know more about that lemongrass." Natalia's date leaned in close to Natalia even as she tried to take a step back.

"Hey there, ladies." He smiled brightly. The carefree smile of somebody who was convinced that all things could be bought. He eyed Olivia in a way that made both women's skin crawl. Months of hosting fund raisers and charming investors had taught Olivia a lot of patience. She put a fake smile on her features, but stayed close to Natalia, who looked as uncomfortable as Olivia felt. As his gaze got stuck somewhere decidedly south of her eyes, she dropped the smile and rolled her eyes in Natalia's direction. It was true, her blue dress could be called revealing, but polite company usually assumed a certain amount of subtlety while ogling. Natalia seemed to find the whole thing extremely funny.

"So who's your friend?" he asked without looking at Natalia.

Natalia reluctantly introduced them to each other and he actually took Olivia's hand and pressed a kiss to her wrist. Olivia couldn't pull her hand back fast enough. The skin of his hands was clammy and his lips felt simply wrong against her skin. Rarely had she felt such an instant dislike for someone. She was sizing him up. She knew what he was going to say before he even opened his mouth. With a quick glance at Natalia she made up her mind to let her devilish impulses take over.

"So Miss Spencer, could I interest you in a drink?"

"Why? Are you trying to get me drunk?"

"I wouldn't dream of it. It wouldn't be very polite, now would it?" He smiled as if they were sharing a secret, oblivious to the way both women had taken a small step backwards at the smell of alcohol on his breath. Olivia tried to catch Natalia's attention, trying to figure out if she would be okay with what she had planned, but Natalia was hiding behind her hair and from the way her shoulders moved, Olivia deduced that the younger woman was trying to suppress giggles. Figuring she'd be okay with her plan, Olivia turned on her considerable charms.

"So, Natalia are you about ready to go?" the man asked, offering his arm. Natalia was about to decline, but he wasn't finished yet. "Why don't you join us?" He turned back to Olivia. "I'm sure the three of us could have some fun." Olivia felt the urge to purr in satisfaction. She took great solace in her ability to predict the simpler specimen of humanity. "Y'know, find a bar. Get some drinks. Just the three of us, getting away from it all." He now had both his arms extended, obviously expecting both women to accompany him.

This time, Natalia did giggle. He of course had no idea that she was giggling because she found his offer ridiculous. He actually thought she found it appealing.

"Just you. And the two of us?" Natalia's head whipped around and she stared at Olivia. The seductive tone had made her shiver and not just because she couldn't believe that Olivia would say such a thing. She couldn't be serious. When she met Olivia's gaze, she saw the other woman wink at her and suddenly Natalia understood what Olivia wanted to do. She wasn't sure if she liked the idea or not. Before she could make up her mind, Olivia took a step closer to her. One of her hands landed on Natalia's bare shoulder and she leaned in closer until her cheek was pressed against Natalia's hair. "Just what kind of fun do you think the three of us could have?"

His smile got wider. "I'm sure we could figure something out."

Natalia felt Olivia move and she could do nothing but stand there. She had only a vague idea what was going on. While she knew what Olivia was planning, she had no idea why she wasn't protesting or stepping away. It felt like she was wired to the ground. Olivia stopped when she was standing behind her. She rested both her hands on Natalia's shoulders. Natalia let herself be tucked against the other woman's body. Olivia leaned forward until Natalia felt that smooth cheek pressed against her ear.

"You think that the three of us, in a room somewhere… Alone… . What do you think we'd do? What would you do? Watch? Are you a good old-fashioned voyeur?" Natalia was about to run away, trying to get as much distance between herself and the sensations Olivia's breath against her cheek produced, but her feet weren't listening.

"I would like that very much. I think, we'd all enjoy… that."

"Well…" Olivia's fingers lightly traveled down Natalia's arms until their fingers were tangled. "I guess there could be things the two of us could… get into. This is a beautiful woman. She's smart and funny and sexy. I can only hope you treated her right. Since she agreed to be your date for the evening."

"Oh, I'm very interested in treating her right," he said as he took a step forward. Olivia immediately took a step backwards, pulling Natalia with her.

"Oh no, no, no." She brought one arm around Natalia's middle just under her breasts so she was hugging the shorter woman against her front. Natalia let her head fall against Olivia's shoulder, unaware how the movement looked like she was offering her neck to Olivia's wandering fingers. Her head had just felt so heavy and Olivia was supporting some of her weight already. "I thought you wanted to watch." Natalia could barely keep up with the conversation. Her head swam with unexpected impulses and all she could do was follow Olivia. She was certain she was blushing. Her skin felt hot. And yet all she could focus on was Olivia's next move.

Her date was speaking again. By this point, she'd forgotten his name. "Then why don't we get out of here and find somewhere a little more private?"

Suddenly, Olivia stepped around her, only keeping hold of her hand. She looked him straight in the eyes and Natalia could see that Olivia was just as tall as he was. "Well, too bad loser. You certainly have not been treating her right. She is much too good for you. How about you get lost, because the only part of us you're gonna see, is our backs as we walk away. So enjoy." And just like that Natalia was dragged away by Olivia.

They turned around a corner and into a hallway. The ballroom of the hotel that was housing the fund raiser was not as big as the Beacon and Natalia could see the first couple of rooms at the end of the hallway. Before she knew what was happening, Olivia had tucked her into one of the rooms and only then did she let go of her hand. Olivia burst out laughing.

"Did you see his face?"

Natalia didn't know how to react to what had just happened. Their interaction with her miserable date had not taken more than five minutes and yet it felt like hours had passed. She was confused and exhausted. And like an addict, she returned to what felt good. In connection to Olivia that meant one thing: anger.

"Oh, you enjoyed that!"

Olivia seemed perplexed. She stopped laughing. "What if I did?" Her tone was light, but Natalia knew from experience how fast the two of them could go from discussion to fighting match.

"You just enjoy messing with the poor man's brain. "

"Poor man? The only thing not poor about him is his taste in women!"

Natalia stepped back, even more confused. "Was that a compliment?"

"How should I know? What was I saying?"

"Are you drunk, Olivia?" Natalia didn't know what was going on. Olivia always had that effect on her. She could have sworn the woman was sober before, but the way she was acting now was certainly more true to Olivia intoxicated than when she was in full possession of her faculties.

"Didn't touch a drop."

"Then what's going on?" They weren't shouting yet, but Natalia was getting close.

"I have no idea." The words were a mere whisper, but Natalia would never remember them, because Olivia had taken a step forward and suddenly those lips that had been so close to her skin a few minutes ago where kissing her. Olivia Spenser was kissing her and Natalia somehow forgot to protest. Instead she held onto the straps of Olivia's revealing dress, dangerously close to her breasts. Their kiss went right past any gentleness or uncertainty. Instead each of them tried to pull the other closer as lips and tongues moved against each other in a wild rhythm that neither woman could explain. Olivia was the one who let her fingers wander over the zipper of Natalia's dress, but it was Natalia's muffled moan that pushed them further. As Olivia unzipped her dress, Natalia peeled the straps under her fingers over strong shoulders. In seconds they undressed each other. Once more Olivia was moving and Natalia could do nothing but follow. They ended up in the middle of the room and Natalia felt what she presumed was the bed against her calves. Before she could turn around and check, Olivia pushed her one more step and she landed on her back on a comfortable mattress. Olivia followed immediately and they once more groaned into each other's mouths as their naked bodies pressed together. Natalia had no concentration left to ponder what they were doing. She was completely focused on the taste of Olivia's skin and on the sensations the other woman could make her feel. They barely came up for air between kisses and bites and licks. Never in her life had Natalia lost control like this. Their bodies moved in a rhythm that neither woman had ever known before. And they couldn't get enough. When they collapsed against each other for the final time that night, Natalia barely had enough energy left to think 'What have I done?' before sleep claimed her.

She hadn't slept long when an unexpected sensation woke her. There was an arm around her middle, pinning her to the bed. Her time with Gus had been too short to get used to another body in her bed and there had never been anyone else who'd become such a permanent fixture in her bed that she'd gotten used to somebody else in her space. As her eyes followed that arm to Olivia's body, her date and the way it had ended quickly came back to her. She gasped as she remembered some of the things she'd let Olivia do to her. She gasped again when she recalled what she'd done to Olivia in return. She closed her eyes, trying to block out the images in her head, but her mind immediately played them out inside her head.

She was exhausted. She'd stretched muscles that night that she had almost forgotten she had. She couldn't help but smile as she saw where her teeth had clearly marked Olivia's shoulder. She had never allowed herself to be ruled by desire, not in the way she'd acted last night. She wished she knew what it all meant, but before she could give it more thought, her exhaustion and the warmth of Olivia's body pulled her back into sleep.

Olivia's arm woke her again, several hours later. This time, it wasn't its weight across her body that disturbed her slumber, but Olivia's careful movements. Natalia kept her eyes closed as Olivia slowly withdrew from her. She didn't know what would happen if she opened her eyes. She still had no idea what she thought about the night before. She heard Olivia's gasp and could only wonder about its cause. The next thing she heard was a rustling of clothes and quickly after that she heard the hotel door click shut. She waited another thirty seconds before she dared to open her eyes. She was alone in a very luxurious hotel room that looked as if some kind of explosion had taken place. Cushions and blankets were strewn around the bed. The phone, alarm, and lamp from the bedside table had fallen to the floor and they must have tripped over Olivia's suitcase somehow, because it was on its side, clothes spilling out of it.

Olivia had left. Quickly. She'd woken up, seen Natalia, gasped and then left quickly. Natalia squeezed her eyes shut. There was no note and Olivia hadn't even attempted to wake her. Nor had she stayed in bed with her. Natalia wasn't very experienced when it came to morning afters, but she was pretty sure she knew what this meant. Olivia had run away. Which wasn't a very smart thing to do, considering it was her hotel room. Natalia sighed. She threw back the blanket that she remembered sharing with Olivia. When she'd woken in the middle of the night, she hadn't know what she should think about all that had happened between them, but as she walked through the room, looking for her clothes, she only felt achy and sticky as she put on her dress. She remembered Olivia's eyes following a path down her body as she peeled the same garment off of her. Her shoes were by the door and as she bent down to retrieve them, her aching muscles reminded her that her last night of passion had been a while back. She couldn't stop the few tears that escaped down her cheeks as she looked back into the room. She had no idea how she had gotten to this place, where she had to sneak out of Olivia Spencer's hotel room at the break of dawn.

"This doesn't happen in my world," she mumbled and quickly wiped her face. She had to get her coat and purse and then she had to go across town and if she was lucky, she'd be home before her son woke up and then he'd never know and she could quickly forget.

"Hey, Ma. How was work?" She smiled at her son as he stood in their kitchen. He was stirring some pasta for both of them and she could tell by the smell alone that he'd created something fantastic that evening. Her son had turned out to be a good cook (but was helpless at ironing and couldn't stack the dishes correctly) and three nights a week, when Natalia got home late, he'd cook for her. His grades had gotten him into the University of Chicago and the money Gus had left them, together with the jobs both of them were working paid for tuition. It wasn't enough to pay for a room on campus, but as long as they didn't lose track of their money, he'd be set for school for as long as it took him to get a degree.

Natalia told her son tales about her workday. Stories about crazy customers and her evil boss. He laughed and teased as she set the table and within minutes they were saying grace before they both dug into their food. Natalia was starving. She hadn't managed to eat anything that morning. First, the hope that she'd arrive home before Rafe woke up, had kept her stomach in knots and then her regular two jobs had swept her away, keeping her body busy while her mind replayed the previous night. It wasn't late and she had a shift at her third job that night. She wished she could just cancel. Her body still ached and she hadn't gotten much sleep. The only good thing about the day had been the fact that Rafe had not heard her sneak in. He often slept with earplugs, because the club across the street could be a little loud some nights.

Natalia was washing dishes and listened to her son tell her about one of his classes, when her phone vibrated in her bag. Rafe fished it out of the depth of once-nice leather bag and slid it across the table to his mother. "You got a text."

Natalia finished the dishes, wondering only briefly who could have sent her a text message. Only once everything was clean and put in its proper place once more, did she pick up her phone and pushed the appropriate buttons on the small device. It was lucky that she was already on her way to sit down at the kitchen table. Otherwise she might have landed on the floor as her legs unexpectedly quit on her.

'Can U meet me @ the hotel bar @ 7? I think we need to talk.'

Her phone didn't recognize the number, but there was no question who'd sent it. She didn't even think about going. It was ridiculous. She had nothing to say to Olivia. She wasn't even sure she could look the other woman in the eyes.

"Rafe? Did you finish all your assignments for tomorrow? Done with all your reading?"

"Yeah, just got ten pages of Moby Dick left for that English Lit class you made me take."

"It's good to have a vague understanding of the classics. Education is about more than studying the things that you're good at already." Her reply was automatic and Rafe had heard it before. "Do you think you could take my shift at the restaurant tonight?"

"Sure, it's just three hours, right? I got an early class tomorrow."

"Yeah. Seven till ten. And they pay well."

"Everything alright?"

"Yeah, just a friend who wants to meet while she's in town." Rafe nodded, already losing interest as he tried to figure out how long he could play video games before he had to leave.

"Okay, cool. I'll probably drop by Henry's on my way home to return a few books I borrowed, so I'll be home around midnight."

"Okay." They were both distracted so Rafe didn't see his mother's freaked out expression. Natalia was feeling like a sleepwalker as she took another quick shower (she'd spent almost twenty minutes scrubbing her skin clean as soon as she'd gotten home that morning), before she got ready to go out once more. She couldn't remember saying goodbye to her son or taking the subway across town. She just knew that she was standing at the entrance of the hotel bar, watching Olivia sip a martini, even though she'd had no intention to be there.

She was ten minutes early. Olivia was already there and ordering what Natalia assumed was her second martini. When she saw the waiter put the chilled glass on the bar, Natalia started moving. Olivia must have seen her out of the corner of her eye, because she stopped playing with the toothpick that had held the two olives she'd eaten as soon as her drink had arrived and turned on the high bar stool just before Natalia reached her.


"Not here." Natalia grabbed Olivia's drink and downed it with an expert flick of her wrist. She then grabbed Olivia's hand, the chill of her hand a sweet contrast to the heat that radiated from the skin underneath her fingers. She retraced their steps from the night before. She would have been proud of herself for even remembering the location of Olivia's room, if she had allowed herself to think at all. Instead she mindlessly waited for Olivia to open the door and suddenly they were standing in the middle of the room.

She opened her mouth, but no words came out. She hadn't planned what she was going to say. Mostly because she had no idea what was happening. So instead of talking, she found herself grabbing Olivia's neck and pulling her towards her. When their lips met, it was no less passionate than the night before. Natalia felt herself being consumed by Olivia's hungry kisses. There were more layers of clothing between them than the night before and some buttons had to be sacrificed to their need. Natalia cried out as a hot mouth closed around her aching nipple. The sound, meaningless as it was, expertly communicated her abandon and she could finally forget that this was wrong.


Part Two

Natalia wasn't proud of their new routine. Olivia came to Chicago every few weeks. The changes to the property she'd bought were coming along nicely, but Olivia was there to micromanage everything, as usual. She'd text Natalia the day before, always the same message: Will B in town 2morrow. Drink? Hotel bar @ 6?

Natalia never answered. She always swore to herself that she wouldn't go. And yet she always did. They never talked. There'd be two drinks on the bar when she arrived and they'd quickly and quietly empty their glasses. They had sex (amazing sex, Natalia had to admit) until they fell asleep, sometimes literally. Natalia, a light sleeper since birth, always woke up first, sometimes not even an hour after they'd succumbed to exhaustion. Quickly, she'd pick up her things and get dressed in the small hallway that led to the hotel room's door. Once dressed, with her shoes in hand, she'd look once more at the sleeping woman underneath the covers. The room felt hot and sticky and -- with shame as her constant companion -- Natalia would slip silently through the door and put her shoes on outside. The nausea always started on her way to the stairs (she'd taken the elevator once, but waiting in front of it – hoping and dreading that Olivia would follow her – had been too much torture) and by the time she arrived home, she only wanted to sleep. She'd take a quick cold shower and slip underneath the covers, naked. Hoping that this time the invisible imprint of Olivia's hands and lips on her skin would fade away by morning.

She had no idea what Rafe thought of all this. She'd told him that she'd met Olivia at that fundraiser and Rafe knew that they were meeting. He asked how she was and about Emma and Natalia always lied and said that they were fine. In truth, she had no idea how either of them was. She'd learned all the secrets of Olivia's body, knew what made her gasp and squirm, knew how much pain would add to her pleasure and what was too much, knew when to stop to let her breathe just before she sucked at that point between neck and shoulder to elicit a startled gasp. All that she knew and more, but she had no idea what Olivia did when she wasn't in that hotel room in Chicago. She didn't know if the other woman was dating anyone, much less how she got along with her daughters.

In one of her weaker moments she'd almost called Buzz. He'd been a good friend to her while she'd been living in Springfield and even though they'd quickly lost touch after she had left the small town, she knew she could call and ask how everybody was doing. Buzz would tell her and he wouldn't think anything of it if she asked about Olivia and Emma. It had felt like cheating though. If she wanted to know about Olivia's life, she should have the guts to just ask the woman. Natalia had one big problem though. During all the confusion and guilt that had accompanied her strange new relationship with Olivia, one thing had become entirely clear to her: she wanted to know everything about her. It had taken their wordless physical encounters to make her realize that she missed Olivia's voice. And while the low moan of her name had a certain effect on her, she couldn't help but wish for more. She wished for whispered conversations over candlelit dinners and funny stories during breakfast. She wished for witty commentary while they sat on the couch, watching a movie. Somehow, Natalia had fallen hard for a woman who had once been her enemy.

Before they'd left Springfield, she'd only gotten glimpses of Olivia and the way she was with Gus and Emma. She knew that the strong woman had always fascinated her. There was a beauty to her reckless strength that Natalia had both feared and wanted for herself. She would have never thought of those feelings as desire, especially since she'd just found Nicky again, but as she looked back to that time now, she was pretty sure that their love triangle had been more complicated than either of them had been aware of.

She'd struggled with her faith. She'd gone to confession and she was pretty sure that the details she'd divulged about her (then) two nights with Olivia had put Father Peter in an unfair position. To her surprise though, she'd not been lectured on the loss of her eternal soul. Instead he'd quoted pieces of the bible to Natalia that she recognized, but had never appreciated for their potential meaning before. He'd sent her home with specific reading instructions and a reminder that God was about love and if she could find that in her heart and have a clear conscience, he was sure God would still love her for embracing his gifts.

It had taken her surprisingly little time to come to terms with this new facet of herself. She wasn't about to slap a rainbow sticker on her backpack and dance at the parades, but she could accept that she was capable of loving a woman in the same way that she could love a man and that that was okay. She had a much bigger problem with the fact that she was in love than the fact that it was with a woman.

She hadn't not told her son about the nature of their relationship because she was with a woman; she hadn't told him because she felt like Olivia Spencer's dirty little secret and of that she was ashamed.

It was hard to explain – even to herself – how she could love someone with whom she had no relationship beyond the physical, but she did. She could imagine everything she didn't have with Olivia and she knew in her heart that they'd be great together. She could imagine quiet movie nights and long talks under the stars as if they'd already happened. In her mind they had. And maybe the real Olivia wouldn't measure up to the person she imagined, but sometimes she hated Olivia for taking away their chance to find out.

When Olivia had left after that first night, Natalia had filed it away as a mistake. It had left her aching, but they'd just lost control and she could live with the consequences in exchange for an incredible night. When Olivia had contacted her later that day, though, and they hadn't talked, hadn't tried to figure out what they were to each other now… It had taken a piece of Natalia's heart and she hadn't been able to get it back. And every time Olivia summoned her to the hotel, she felt like she lost a little more.

"Hey, Ma. You look hungry. Do you want me to make you something to eat?" Her son's words startled her. She'd forgotten that he was home. She'd been sitting at their small kitchen table, staring at her phone. There had been a message for her yesterday and she'd tried – as always – to talk herself out of going.

"No thanks, baby. I'm meeting Olivia in half an hour."

"Oh, tell her I say hello. Where do you guys go anyway?" Natalia nearly panicked and told him everything, but instead she took a deep breath as she shoved the phone into her bag and stood up.

"Mostly we just stay at the hotel." Not a lie.

"They have good food there?"

"The cook hates Olivia for changes she's made to his menu." Not a lie.

"Well, sit outside and enjoy yourself. You could use some sun and fun. You've been a little pale recently. You guys should enjoy the sun we're having." Her son's concern touched Natalia. She felt so undeserving, but it warmed her heart.

"I'll mention it to Olivia." Lie.

She told her son not to wait up and once more couldn't help but wonder what he thought about her early-morning returns. She always tried not to make too much noise and he'd never asked her about it, but he must suspect something. She never used to stay out late.

"Have fun, Ma."

"You too, baby." She smiled at him before she grabbed her keys and left their home.

Natalia always liked martinis and since she and Olivia had started sleeping together the drink had become irreversibly linked to that first taste of Olivia's lips. Their behavior was so predictable, Natalia could probably time them from the moment they laid eyes on one another to the sound of the door clicking shut behind them. And still, each touch felt like the first one, each touch was a revelation. Sometimes, Natalia thought she would have been able to tear herself from their dysfunctional ritual if it just didn't feel so good to let herself be swept away by their passion.

They'd gotten better at disrobing each other quickly without damaging their clothing beyond repair, but they were still naked before they reached Olivia's bed. A tingle over her collarbone told her that Olivia had already marked her skin. Natalia would always find at least one reminder of their night on her skin and she always made sure to claim Olivia as well. If she couldn't really claim her as her lover, she could at least let their skin tell her story. They could move along each other's skin for hours with no direct goal, but to drive each other crazy.

She kissed her way up Olivia's body, from muscled hip over a soft belly with full breasts as her destination. But as she let her tongue and lips taste the salty skin underneath her, she found that the bones underneath the soft flesh were a lot more pronounced than they used to be. She hadn't realized it before, but Olivia had been losing weight. Quickly, she thought back to the last few times they'd met and had to admit that it had been going on for some time. The soft curves of her hips had started to show a bony hardness that was quickly becoming worrying. Natalia sat up. There were dark bags underneath Olivia's eyes that she could see now that most of her makeup had come off, probably staining the sheets they were laying on. Natalia glanced at her own body. She had needed her belt to keep up her pants lately, but she hadn't really let herself think about it too much. The truth was, she hadn't really felt like eating and had neglected herself. Olivia also seemed to be skipping meals. Maybe the other woman was neglecting herself for the same reasons Natalia was. Maybe this meant that this meant something more to Olivia. Maybe… And all of a sudden, it was all too much.

With a cry she scrambled off the bed. "I can't do this anymore." The words spilled passed her lips without any intention as she frantically searched for her clothes. She couldn't look at Olivia. She had no idea how the other woman would react. All that she knew was that she had to get out of there. For months she'd tortured herself. In love with a woman who probably didn't give her another thought as soon as she was out of sight. For too long, she'd believed that it could be enough to be Olivia Spencer's dirty little secret, but something inside of her had snapped. She didn't want to know what Olivia's weight loss meant. She couldn't deal with another two weeks – analyzing each touch and moan to death – hoping that next time would be different. Hoping that Olivia would say something or that she would say something herself or that she could simply stay away. Natalia couldn't live like that anymore. She pulled on her pants and t-shirt, not bothering with underwear as she grabbed the rest of her clothes and shoes on her way to the door. Pure habit made her look back. Like she'd done every time since they'd started this: standing in the small hallway that led to the door and looking at the woman lying on the bed. Only this time, Olivia was looking back.

Natalia froze. Those usually vibrant eyes were hollow as they looked at her like a drowning man looked at the shore that he knew he could no longer reach. Tears were falling silently from those eyes and Natalia hadn't thought it possible, but Olivia Spencer looked small. This larger-than-life woman looked as if she was trying to melt into the bed or at least have the ground swallow her whole.

"Olivia?" She didn't know what she was saying. She just wanted to understand what was going on. She could no longer live a life that split her in two bleeding halves.

"Just go." Olivia's voice was broken and Natalia's heart thudded painfully with the last bit of hope, no bigger than the seed of a flower.

"Do you want me to go?"

"No." The answer was simple and that tiny seed of hope blossomed into a tiny frightened flower.

Natalia let her things drop to the floor before she walked back to the bed. "Why are you crying?"

"Just go." Natalia sat down. Olivia's whispers were breaking her heart, but she knew she had to find out what this was. Even if it meant she could never come back here. She was pretty sure she couldn't do it either way. So if this was their goodbye, Natalia felt she deserved at least that. A goodbye.

"I want to know why you're upset."

"You don't wanna know." Olivia wasn't looking at her. Instead, she was whispering into the sheets around her. Natalia gently cupped the other woman's cheek, realizing that it still felt new to touch her after all they'd done to each other. With gentle movements, she turned Olivia face until they were looking into each other's eyes.

"Yes, I do." For several seconds, it seemed like she wouldn't get an answer. Olivia looked at her, but her eyes were unfocused. Natalia was sure Olivia couldn't see her at all. Instead she seemed to look into her own personal hell… if the tears that were still running down her cheeks were any indication.

"I'm in love with you." Natalia wasn't sure if she heard correctly. The slow painful thudding of her heart sped up, no less painful as blood was pumped through her body at a dizzying speed. She let go of Olivia's face as if burned. She couldn't have said that.

"What do you mean?" It was Natalia's turn to look away, but the ugly parody of a laugh that came from Olivia made her turn back. The other woman moved until she was sitting on the bed, one of the sheets carelessly draped around her naked body.

"Don't make me explain it. Just go already."

"You're in love with me."

"So what?" There was a hardness in those eyes that Natalia preferred to the emptiness.

"But I'm in love with you." The disbelief in her own voice didn't surprise her. Never in a million years would she have thought she'd get to say those words to Olivia. Much less after the other woman had said them first. And even though they were both crying and nothing was yet resolved, an immense weight suddenly lifted from her shoulders. Natalia laughed. A short, simple, carefree laugh that didn't last long, but that allowed her to bring both her hands back to Olivia's face. "I'm in love with you."

Olivia blinked slowly. She didn't believe her, Natalia could tell.

"You can't."

Natalia didn't know what to say.

"You leave. I return to you like a moth to the flame and each time you burn me to the ground before you leave."

Natalia's eyes widened. She thought the moth/flame analogy was very appropriate. Only the roles were reversed in her version of events.

"How can you think that?"

"You are always gone the next morning. What am I supposed to think?"

"I don't know!"

"Why did you leave?" Olivia's question was so full of raw emotion that Natalia had to look away. She studied a loose thread of the comforter with sudden intensity.

"I didn't want you to throw me out." A single tear slowly made its way down her cheek. "I couldn't bear the thought of that."

"I wouldn't… why would you think I would do that?"

"You left that first morning." In Natalia's mind it was that moment when her world had truly started to unravel. It wasn't the first time Olivia touched her or made her cry in ecstasy. It was the first time Olivia left.

"To get breakfast! I came back with coffee, croissants and strawberries and you were gone."

"Oh." Natalia blinked. "You got me strawberries?" It was the only thing she could think of to say and it made her wince, but Olivia laughed.

"And lemongrass."

"What?" Natalia felt like she was five steps behind their conversation. Olivia hadn't left her that morning out of fear or regret or shame. She'd gone to get them breakfast. It was such a simple thing and yet Natalia had never thought of that possibility. She had even less of an idea what lemongrass could mean.

"That evening, when your date came to talk to us, I asked if I should go and you told me to stay, because you wanted to know more about lemongrass and my crab cakes recipe. Otherwise I may have left and maybe we would have never run into each other again."

"So you brought me lemongrass."

"I brought you lemongrass."

"I love you."

"Say that again."

"I love you." She watched Olivia smile and she was certain she'd never seen anything more beautiful. Almost immediately, doubts started to creep back in.

"You never said anything."

"What was I supposed to say? I had just done unspeakable thing to Natalia Rivera, widow of the man whose heart is beating in my chest. I was a little freaked out. I was looking at you while you were sleeping and I couldn't believe what we had done. I didn't understand… Natalia, I had no idea what we were doing, but the thought of never getting to hold you like that again… it was physically painful. I knew we had to talk so I figured I'd get us breakfast. And then I came back and you were gone." There were tears in Olivia's eyes again.

"I thought you'd regretted what we'd done. I thought you'd run away."

"No. I was miserable the whole day. I thought it was you who'd run away. I thought your choice was clear."

"But you texted me that day."

"I couldn't let it go. I thought we could at least talk… get some closure. And instead-"

"And instead I dragged you back here and repeated the whole thing over again."

"Yes." Olivia nodded and looked away.

"You sent me identical messages, every time you came here. Why?"

"It worked."


"I thought it was the only way I could have any piece of you. I was so afraid that any change would mean that you wouldn't show up…"

"I was afraid of the same thing. God, we were stupid." Natalia laughed again, but Olivia didn't join her.

"That's the other thing."

"What is?"

"God. I know you're very religious. This can't be easy for you."

"What? That you're a woman?" Natalia leaned forward, making sure that she had Olivia's full attention. "Trust me, the fact that you are Olivia Spencer freaked me out a lot more than your gender."

"It did?"

"We barely knew each other in Springfield and then we fought over Gus. So much happened between us and very little of it was good. And as far as God is concerned…Test all things and hold fast to that which is good."

"What does that mean?"

"Thessalonians 5:21. My priest reminded me that my religion is about love. I know a lot of people disagree, but I find it hard to believe that God would put me on this earth and give me this opportunity to love you, just to tell me that it's wrong."

Natalia watched as Olivia let herself fall back onto the bed. "We sure made a mess of things, didn't we?"

"Yeah." Natalia crawled back into bed. "Olivia?"


"Do you think we could try again?"

"Try what again?"

"Waking up."

"You mean…"

Natalia wiggled out of her jeans and pulled her shirt off again before she let Olivia pull her into a lose embrace. "I mean, I want to fall asleep next to you and I want to know that you'll be here when I wake up. I want you to be the first thing that I see tomorrow morning and I want both of us to go on from there. Together."

"I want to take you out on a date."

"I want you to cook crab cakes for me."

"I want to talk while we drink martinis."

"I want to call you when I'm on break."

"I want to kiss you hello."

"I want to hear about your day."

"I want to…"



It wasn't as easy as wanting, but somehow they made it work. They went from highly dysfunctional to slightly unstable, but highly invested and slowly, but surely they managed to built a base on which their relationship could stand. Natalia told Rafe and he made a face.

"Ma, please. I don't need to hear about your love life. As far as I'm concerned, you had sex once and I'm grateful." Later, he'd questioned her about her happiness and when she assured him that Olivia managed to do that he shrugged and said. "Whatever. Cool."

Olivia told Ava and her oldest daughter squealed as she hugged her mother. "I knew it! Jeffrey wouldn't believe me, but I was right." Apparently, her big news wasn't new at all.

Emma didn't really understand, but she remembered Natalia. "She married Uncle Gus." Her little girl only wanted to know if that meant that Natalia could help her with her Spanish homework again.

It took Olivia and Natalia the longest to adjust. Their first date was full of awkward silences until Olivia said "banana pancakes" and as she explained the meaning of the expression, she and Natalia slowly started a conversation about fussy children and 'super secret' sandwiches.

It was Alan, who had called his grandson in one of his non-evil moments, who brought Natalia and Rafe back to Springfield almost a year after Natalia and Olivia had started dating. They stayed for a week and after that it was clear to mother and son that one of them would not return to the big city. Rafe got a roommate and Natalia was looking at apartments in Springfield when Olivia grabbed her by the hand and dragged her to a house instead. "I wanna live here."


"With you. And Emma. Ava lives ten minutes from here."

"We'd be…"

"A family."

There was a small bowl of freshly cut lemongrass on the counter and Natalia laughed.

The End

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