DISCLAIMER: Guiding Light and its characters are the property of Proctor & Gamble. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Takes place during Natalia's absence, a few hours after the episode of 12th Aug.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Present Tense
By Purplepapillon


"I'm going to do it." Doris bursts into the office, her face triumphant and determined, and Olivia looks up from the document she's (anything but) working on to fix her with a questioning stare.

"This is my alone time," Olivia jokes quietly, a rare laugh sneaking its way out of her mouth, but Doris waves her off. She's pacing now, striding backwards and forwards with so much nervous energy that it makes Olivia almost seasick.

"I'm going to do it," Doris repeats. "I've called Ashlee, I've invited her to dinner, and I'm going to tell her." She enunciates the final five words separately, as if she's still trying so hard to convince herself of her own bravery, and Olivia can't help but find it endearing.

"Good for you," the hotelier reassures her, a sad smile spreading across her face. She's happy for her friend, she really is, and she wishes her all the luck in the world. Doris deserves to be happy at last. But she can't help but think about what she doesn't have. About what she should have had. About the day they didn't tell Emma. About the day they didn't tell the world.

Doris seems to know exactly what she's thinking, as she increasingly does these days, and crosses behind her, gently squeezing her shoulders in a comforting gesture. "She loves you, she'll be back," the mayor murmurs softly and Olivia wishes she could believe her. She can't help but lean back into the contact, sighing happily as her head falls against Doris's soft stomach, and the mayor's right hand moves up to stroke her hair. It's been so long since she's been touched by anyone and the connection soothes her, convinces her for a few short seconds that she's not unlovable, not completely alone. Doris's fingers graze her face, and she fights the urge to turn and take them into her mouth, her whole body craving the intimacy she's needed for months, the intimacy she knows she can't have. So she pulls away and the moment is broken, the mayor fidgeting nervously again as she states that she should probably go.

Olivia nods and watches her walk towards the door, but at the last minute she calls her back, eyeing the mayor gratefully as she turns. "Thank you," she breathes, then smiles reassuringly, her expression sincere. "And good luck."

The soft knocking on the door wakes Olivia from her sleep. It's not late, but she's all over the place these days, and somehow, during the course of the evening, she's drifted off, fully-clothed and spread-eagled across her bed, a box of chocolates and a glass of wine virtually untouched on the table beside her.

She runs her fingers through her hair, flattening it as she crosses to the door, not particularly surprised when she opens it to find Doris standing in the hallway.

"Sorry to come by so late," the mayor apologises quietly, taking in the hotelier's sleep-dishevelled look. Olivia can practically hear her crackling with nervous energy as she shifts her weight from foot to foot, so she lets Doris in and closes the door, leaning back against it as the mayor once again begins to pace the room.

"I did it." Doris turns to her, her face flushed with pride and a million other unreadable emotions. "I did it." Doris holds the expression for a few moments, then Olivia sees her face crumple in slow motion, as noisy sobs take over and the mayor's shoulders start to shake. In a second Olivia is by her side, steering her towards the bed, sitting her down and holding her close as the tears begin to fall in earnest.

"It didn't go well?" Olivia hardly dares breathe the words.

Doris looks up at her and smiles momentarily through the tears. "No, it was amazing," she corrects in a whisper. "She was amazing. My daughter is the... the most understanding... the most forgiving person in the world."

"Then why are you crying?" Olivia demands softly, but she already knows the answer. She's crying for the same reason Olivia cried on Emma's first day at school and family day and a hundred other momentous occasions. She's crying for the same reason Olivia cried when she found out that Natalia didn't want them to move out, and Philip wasn't going to take Emma away, and she could breathe easily once more. She's crying because tears are all she's got left.

"I wasted so much time. I lied to her for so long." Doris's eyes are full of regret as she shakes her head sadly.

"Shhh," Olivia interrupts her quickly, because she knows how this ends and she's not going to let Doris go down that road. "The past is the past. You've got to think about the future now." She takes a deep breath. "We both do."

Doris looks up at her questioningly, her eyes full of sympathy. "She's not coming back," Olivia murmurs, smiling weakly, "and even if she does... I can't... I won't..." she trails off, wishing that the way that Doris was comfortingly stroking her arms didn't cause such a violent fluttering in her stomach.

"The future?" Doris repeats softly, and Olivia nods, knowing what is going to happen before if does, before Doris's soft lips brush against hers and they kiss, tentatively at first, gradually becoming more confident, as Doris's tongue curls forward, slowly, into Olivia's mouth and the hotelier pulls her closer, desperately needing to feel the connection.

Doris kicks off her shoes as Olivia unbuttons her blazer and slips her hands inside, roaming across the other woman's soft curves, so wrong, yet somehow so right for this moment. They fall back onto the bed, still kissing, and the feel of the mayor's warm body over hers makes Olivia feel protected, safer than she's done in weeks. She stills her hands as they creep underneath Doris's skirt, suddenly knowing exactly what she needs to do.

"Doris?" she whispers, and the other woman pulls back slightly, looking into eyes full of earnestness and hope, nodding for the the hotelier to continue.

"Will you lie with me?" she asks, her voice small and pleading, and Doris feels her heart swell as she reaches up to cup the other woman's cheek.

Olivia closes her eyes as Doris's fingers graze her face and ghost across her mouth, and the mayor breathes a soft sigh of relief. She's exhausted, emotionally drained, and she can tell Olivia feels the same way. And as Olivia shifts across the bed, and Doris curls into her, brushing stray strands of hair aside to plant a soft kiss on her neck, she knows, without a doubt, that this is exactly what they both need.

The End

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