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ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
The engagement party was a sweet idea. If it had been anyone else, Natalia would have been able to believe that that was all it was. However, Olivia Spencer wasn't sweet, or at least she wouldn't let anybody see that she was. Natalia was half-convinced that Olivia was overcompensating for some of her meaner impulses. And most of them probably included Frank's head and a shovel. Natalia giggled at the cartoon-like image in her head. Tiny yellow birds circling Frank's head as Olivia let an oversized shovel bounce onto his head again and again. And again. Olivia was nothing if not thorough. She suddenly realized that people were staring at her.
"Did I say something funny?" Frank's confused expression matched the one she'd imagined almost exactly and she brought a hand to her mouth to hide her bright grin.
"Sorry. I just remembered something. Excuse me." She picked up her glass and escaped up the stairs. She went into the first room and quickly closed the door behind her. As soon as the door was closed she started giggling again. Tears escaped her eyes as all out laughter took over her body.
She knew which room she'd escaped to. She didn't want to think about all the reasons why she'd sought refuge in Olivia's room, but it truly was the closest to the stairs and she'd use that excuse if she had to. Slowly, she stopped laughing. She smiled as she looked around the disarray that was Olivia's room. Books were piling up next to her bed (she'd been surprised how much time Olivia spent just reading), clothing was piling up on an armchair in the corner and papers of all kinds were strewn all over the desk and nightstand.
She was fighting the urge to arrange those papers into neat piles when the door opened behind her. Olivia stared at her for a second, clearly surprised to find Natalia in her room. "Hey, why are you hiding up here?"
"Oh, I'm not hiding. I just " She didn't know how she could explain her behavior. "Let's say I just needed a minute to get an image out of my head."
Olivia frowned, but played along. "Okay." She looked around her own room self consciously. "I bet you'll be happy to get this image out of your head. This must drive your inner neat freak crazy."
"You think I have an inner neat freak?" Natalia smiled and grabbed the small pile of papers from the floor and quickly put them in order before placing them squarely on the rest of the mess that was Olivia's desk.
"Hey. I have a system!"
"Yeah, it's called reprinting and it's not good for the environment or anybody who tries to introduce you to the time saver that is an actual filing system." It was an old argument between them and it brought a smile to both their faces. For several long seconds they were just standing there, remembering arguments that had seemed insurmountable at first, but which had just turned into a part of their daily routine.
"I actually kinda like it." Natalia answered Olivia's earlier question. "Well, I got used to it anyway."
"Yeah." Natalia watched several emotions flutter over Olivia's face. As she'd done so often before, she wished she could just listen to those thoughts and understand what was going on in Olivia's head. "We are very different people."
Natalia knew that her next words were important. They hadn't really talked lately. During all their conversations, it had seemed like there were things each of them were saying, but none of their words would connect. "We are. In some ways. In other ways we're very similar." Natalia sat down on Olivia's bed (unmade, of course). "We both love Emma." The girl had always been the one thing both women could agree on. "And ice cream and cookies. Pool. We both like living here." Her list wasn't really good and she knew it, but she tried to communicate with her eyes, what she couldn't put into words.
"Yeah." Olivia looked away first. "We somehow made it work."
"And to think, they all doubted us."
"Yeah. Boy, were they wrong. We made fantastic roommates." Olivia sat down next to Natalia. "Maybe that's what we were meant to be. You had time to say goodbye to Gus and I could learn to live again and live differently."
For some reason Olivia's words hurt. "I can't believe that. For one thing, living with you was never about Gus." She grabbed Olivia's hand and carefully entwined their fingers. "I need you to know that, Olivia. Please tell you know that." Olivia looked at her. "And trust me when I tell you that I learned at least as much form you as you learned from me."
The first few seconds of silence were nice. They were both thinking about how they'd changed in the last few months, but as minutes passed and they were just sitting there, holding hands, the silence became heavy. It gathered around them like a blanket. Natalia quickly realized that Olivia was saying goodbye. This was their moment for the other woman. The moment they would start changing without each other. Olivia's grip on her hand gradually relaxed and then Natalia felt a small tug, as if Olivia wanted her to let go. And she found that she couldn't. Instead her grip tightened until she was pretty sure she was hurting Olivia.
"Natalia?" Olivia's voice was laced with uncertainty as her gaze moved between Natalia's face and their hands. "Let me go."
"I can't." They were both whispering. "I can't let you go."
"You're hurting me."
"I know." Natalia squeezed her eyes shut as her tears fell. "I've known for a while."
"No. I'm losing you anyway. What does it matter now?" She looked at Olivia and brought her free hand up to the other woman's cheek, slowly guiding her to look at her. "Tell me I'm not losing you and I'll let you go."
"You're not losing me."
"I don't believe you."
"What do you want me to say? I don't know what you want me to say."
"Then don't say anything." She pulled Olivia forward and she could see the fear in those expressive green eyes, but she'd made the conscious decision that it was too late for fear. She pressed a quick kiss against Olivia's cheek. "Just don't say anything." The second their lips touched, she let go of Olivia's hand. Natalia had been afraid, Olivia would run away as soon as nothing was keeping her in place, but Olivia didn't move. In fact, she didn't react to the kiss at all. Natalia brought both her hands to Olivia's face as she drew back. She saw and felt the tears running down Olivia's face. "Don't cry." She kissed Olivia again. And again until she felt Olivia respond. Olivia was kissing her back and suddenly, Natalia felt like she couldn't be close enough to Olivia. Carefully, she brushed the tip of her tongue against Olivia's lips and then they were really kissing. Her hands were in Olivia's hair, carefully tugging strands loose from the clip at the back of her head. For the longest time they just kissed. Natalia could barely think. All she was aware of was the way Olivia's lips fit against hers and the way the tips of her fingers tingled as she let them travel up Olivia's bare arms. Natalia had never really liked the taste of expensive champagne, but on Olivia's lips, it was the best thing she'd ever tasted.
"Stop." The word was a broken whisper between kisses and it took Natalia a few seconds to comprehend what Olivia was telling her. In a simple syllable Olivia was begging her to do what she herself couldn't. With a start, Natalia leaned back. Olivia basically crumbled against her shoulder. At first, Natalia didn't understand the words that were mumbled against her shoulder, but as she slowly gathered the shaking woman into her arms the words Olivia uttered between sobs reached Natalia like a hard slap. "Please don't do this."
She repeated the words again and again and every time it hurt like the first time Natalia had grasped their meaning. "Olivia?" The fear in her voice surprised both of them.
"Please don't do this to me. I can't. Natalia, I- I cannot take this." She leaned back, but didn't look at Natalia. Instead, she focused on the wall behind her. It hurt Natalia to see her so lost. "I've tried so hard. To be who you need me to be, because it's what you deserve. You deserve someone who supports you unconditionally while you find your happiness. And your happiness is downstairs. With that big family that loves you and your fiancée who couldn't be more devoted to you. They are your happily ever after. I want you to have that. Above all else, I want you to have that." She stood up and Natalia gasped as she actually felt the distance between them. She wanted to reach out and bring Olivia back, but she knew that the other woman was right. She couldn't kiss Olivia as long as she had a fiancée downstairs.
"I'm so sorry." She stood as well. "I didn't mean to hurt you. I just I don't want to lose you. I am not going to lose you." She could see in Olivia's eyes that she didn't understand, but that didn't really matter at the moment. Natalia would talk to Frank and once she was free to make promises to Olivia, she would talk to her and explain everything. She crossed the room until she stood in front of Olivia. "Please don't cry anymore."
She'd planned a simple kiss. Just a sweet reminder to give her the strength to tell Frank what he needed to know, but as soon as their lips touched she was once more lost. She stepped into Olivia's personal space until their bodies were pressed against each other. Both their hands were tugging at each other's clothing in an effort to find skin and Natalia was sure that if either of them had any idea what they were doing, they would end up having sex right there against the door. "Natalia " The breathless moan brought her out of her lust-induced trance. She stepped back quickly. They were both breathing hard. It was so obvious that between them, control was not something they could count on.
"Sorry." It felt inadequate, but Natalia had nothing else to offer at the moment. Olivia was looking at her like a tortured prisoner and she knew that she had to make things right between them. "It will be alright, Olivia. I promise."
Olivia didn't say anything and Natalia could see that the other woman was simply overwhelmed by everything that was happening. Somehow, their dynamic had changed and Olivia had become the one who didn't know where she was going, the one who was unsure what the next step should be. Natalia was equally unsure about some things. She didn't know how to convince Olivia that the happiness she was looking for wasn't in the hands of the Coopers. She doubted that she knew how to make Olivia understand that the one thing she wanted was something she had no idea how to get or to keep. Yet. She was unsure how to tell Olivia that any future she could see had three people with her, her son, her daughter and her love.
She was convinced that telling Frank now would spare him pain. She had no doubt that she had to tell him how she really felt and she was sure that it was the right decision.
She knew what she had to do. "Olivia?" She waited until the other woman was looking at her once more. "I'm going downstairs and get rid of these people. You can stay here." She grabbed Olivia's hand and pulled her over to the bed. Gently, she pushed her to sit down. "Don't go anywhere." She smiled and actually felt playful. Having a clear goal in front of her lifted a huge weight off her shoulders. She knew the next step would be painful as she would distance herself from something that society deemed much more normal than what she actually wanted, but none of that mattered. She finally knew what was 'right' and she knew that that was the only thing that mattered.
She quickly walked out of the room. She had one more thing to walk away from, before she could finally walk towards something once more. Olivia would need some convincing, but Natalia was pretty sure she had a couple of good arguments in her favor. This was one fight she was pretty sure they'd both win.
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