DISCLAIMER: Guiding Light and its characters are the property of Proctor & Gamble. No infringement intended.
THANKS: DiNovia for all of her fantastic help and for being a fanfic goddess. Shadhavar, Jules, Xanadugrrl, and the BPD:AfterDark Chat crew for all their encouragement and asskicking!
SPOILERS: This is after the confession and the handholding and the goodnight at the door.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Through A Glass, Darkly
By DJ Shiva
"Sometimes the moon
and I discern a woman
I loved, drowning in secrets, fear wound round her throat
and choking her like hair. And this is she
with whom I tried to speak, whose hurt, expressive head
turning aside from pain, is dragging down deeper
where it cannot hear me,
and soon I shall know I was talking to my own soul." - Adrienne Rich
She shouldn't care. She really should not care about the widening stain of red spreading across the chest of her crisp white dress shirt. Sure, the label name spoke of wealth and prestige, but Olivia Spencer of all people didn't worry about the monetary costs of such things. It was just a shirt, she reminded herself, and accidents happen. She should be more frustrated about the interruption of a lovely dinner with Natalia; their time together was precious and she wanted to eke the last drop of togetherness out of each moment they spent together. Instead she was in Natalia's room, staring at her ruined shirt in the mirror, and feeling the faintest edges of her ever-present paranoia curling around her thoughts.
Natalia had found a spare shirt that she had left in her haste to move before the wedding, and it should have been a simple thing to change and return to the romantic, candle-lit dinner she was so enjoying before her nervousness and clumsiness had sent her upstairs with a rich, red blotch of Merlot covering the front of her. But something about the stain on the cloth over her heart had captured her attention and now her mind was racing, her nerve undermined by her history and her fears.
Shaking hands? Nervousness? She was acting like a giddy schoolgirl, all smiles and giggles, and this just was NOT Olivia Spencer. Was it? Olivia Spencer was in control, always leading her suitors around like a dog on a leash, tempting them with the promise of her body, and remaining just far enough removed to maintain the upper hand. Even when she had felt love, she had still kept the innermost regions of her heart protected, on lock-down, safe from the prying eyes of the men who loved her.
And now? Now she was tentative, scared, nervous, and shaking. She felt like a teenager striking out on her first date. This was uncharted territory, full of wonder and fear and the inability to hide from the gaze of someone who could read her like a book with one glance. It was beautiful. It was terrifying. And as she looked at the stain on the shirt over her heart, she couldn't understand how anyone like Natalia Rivera could love anyone like her.
Olivia knew that Natalia was no saint. She had taken Gus from Harley, and had almost cost Olivia her life. Perhaps giving Gus' heart to Olivia was penance for that. But Natalia didn't have to stick around. She didn't have to keep her alive, day after day, pushing her to eat, to take care of herself. Maybe it was penance in the beginning. But something had...shifted. What was gratitude had changed into friendship and then... And then here they were.
She looked up into the mirror, gazing at her own visage, unsure how to reconcile the joy just behind the clear green eyes with the pain and longing she had tucked deep inside for so long. She wasn't even sure she knew how to be happy...to STAY happy. For so long, her sadness had permeated every fiber of her being, enmeshed in her heart like the wine now seeping into each fiber of her pure white shirt. It had become almost a constant companion, so irrevocably present that she wasn't sure she knew how to exist without it tugging at her consciousness.
She was roused from her introspection by the sound of the doorknob turning, and Natalia slowly entering the room, a bottle of dishwashing liquid in one hand and vinegar in the other.
"Hey." Olivia could barely look her in the eye.
Natalia ducked her head slightly to catch Olivia's gaze with her own. She raised the bottles in her hands with a shy smile. "I thought we could salvage your shirt with a little old-fashioned stain removal remedy."
Olivia said nothing, dropping her head and looking at the floor as she turned back toward the mirror. All her giddiness from earlier had been shoved aside by her insecurities, and she found it difficult to look at Natalia while she felt so...broken.
Natalia, practiced at reading Olivia's moods, felt the change immediately. She stopped short, taking a moment to assess the situation. She had seen Olivia plunge into these dark moods before, and she knew to proceed with caution. She inhaled slowly, turning to place the bottles on her dresser, before she took a tentative step toward Olivia.
Olivia could feel her approach, and pulled her shoulders inward, a protective motion that gave Natalia the impression of a wounded child. She felt a sharp pang in her chest; seeing Olivia hurting was almost more than she could bear. Natalia felt a wave of protectiveness and love wash over her and moved to put her hand on Olivia's shoulder. She felt her shrink from the touch, but still she allowed it, as if her warring emotions could not come to an agreement.
Natalia moved in behind Olivia, keeping her hand on her shoulder, and looking at Olivia in the mirror. She stayed silent, willing Olivia to pick up her head and look her in the eyes. Natalia waited, but knew she couldn't let Olivia drift too far into wherever it was her head had gone. She took her hand off of Olivia's shoulder, reaching around to cup her chin gently. Bringing Olivia's head up to meet her eyes, she flashed a gently dimpling smile in the mirror, nodding at the sullied white shirt and speaking to her in a low, soothing tone.
"Hey, at least it's not silk, right?" Olivia snorted softly, flashing a smile that never reached her eyes.
Natalia knew then that something was definitely not all right. Appealing to the older woman's sense of humour was usually the best way to snap her out of a funk, but this was something...deeper.
Natalia kept her calming tone, going right to the point. "Olivia. Talk to me. What is it?" She felt Olivia attempt to pull her head away from her hand, but Natalia shook her head and pulled her back gently. "Look at me, Olivia."
Olivia's sharp green eyes met hers in the mirror, and Natalia let out a sharp intake of breath, surprised by the intensity of emotion showing within. So much sadness and fear, when only minutes ago those eyes had shone with happiness and joy. They stood like that for a moment, staring at each other in the mirror, neither one able to speak, until Natalia broke the silence.
"We've been here before haven't we?" Olivia's lips parted in surprise as the memory came flooding back to her; standing in the tiny shop, watching Natalia try on her wedding dress. The emotion that came with the memory was overwhelming enough to cut through her previous thoughts. Coffee brown eyes held her gaze until she knew she had Olivia's full attention. "We've been here before, and we said nothing. Don't do this to me now. Don't shut me out."
Olivia's eyelids fluttered in a half-blink of shock. Natalia had a way of getting through to her when her walls were up and her heart was shuttered, and she knew it was only a matter of time before the walls broke. She just didn't know what would happen when she did; what Natalia would think of her...of her weaknesses.
She reached her hand up, absentmindedly rubbing at her faded scar through the unbuttoned 'V' of her shirt; the remnant of her surgery a reminder of the damage she had wrought. "Some stains can't come clean, Natalia." She dropped her head again, hiding behind the curtain of her hair. Natalia was determined not to let her slip back into whatever miasma of insecurity Olivia was currently immersed in. She looked at Olivia's hand touching her scar, and starting at the elbow, slid her hand slowly up Olivia's arm, finally coming to rest on the hand covering the faded line bisecting her chest. Olivia's eyes shot up to meet her again, a mixture of fear, shock, and..want...swimming in the green depths. She swallowed heavily, tilting her head to the side and shaking it almost imperceptibly.
"There are things you don't know about me, Natalia." Olivia's eyes filled with unshed tears as her past came flooding back to her; the buried dread now full and heavy in her chest. "I am weak. I am...damaged. I need to be loved, but I don't know HOW to be loved." The tears began spilling from her eyes, falling on their hands in a rain of raw emotion.
Natalia's eyes watered, but she took a deep breath, tenaciously summoning her strength to shore up the woman threatening to be pulled under the tide of her fears. "You think I don't know all that?" She spoke in barely a whisper. "Don't you think I know that there are things you try to keep from me? Things you can't tell me just yet, because you are afraid I will run screaming the other way?" She laced her fingers between Olivia's, touching the pink scar on her chest tenderly. "I'm not running away from you, Olivia. We all have our secrets...our burdens to bear. I think that's called 'being human'. If we let that stop us, no one would ever love anyone." Natalia used the hand on Olivia's chest to pull her gently backward, pressing herself against the taller woman's back before reaching up with her other hand to push Olivia's hair to the side. She gently pressed her lips to the back of Olivia's neck, inhaling her scent, feeling her heart swell as she spoke again. "I don't need to know all of your secrets to know I love you. But if I did know them, I still wouldn't love you any less."
She stepped back, pulling Olivia around to face her. Natalia kept her hand on Olivia's scar, bringing the other up to her face to wipe the tears that were flowing freely.
"I couldn't stop loving you, Olivia. I don't know how." The dark-haired woman felt the tremors begin underneath her hand, as Olivia's shoulders shook and a strangled cry escaped her throat. It was the cry of a woman breaking; emotional walls so worn from holding themselves up that they had simply given way, and the oceans of sorrow and pain and fear that had overtaken the heart within were let go in one flooding wail. She was shaken to the core...breaking beneath Natalia's touch.
Somehow, Olivia managed to speak between sobs. "I took everything from you. Gus...who you are...your faith."
Natalia stubbornly shook her head. "You have taken nothing. God took Gus; I've just made choices. I have given you only what I wanted to give. And I have lost nothing because of you, except...except fear and expectation and loneliness." She had given up trying to stem the flow of tears from her own eyes and was now crying as well. "Don't you get it? You have given me everything."
Olivia finally looked up, meeting Natalia's eyes. "I'm afraid I'll hurt you." Natalia's brow furrowed, frustration threatening to overtake her, but she knew that Olivia was so raw that she spoke from a place of sheer terror. She relaxed her eyes, showing Olivia everything...a look of love so deep and so real that it pushed past Olivia's defenses and settled in her chest, wrapping her heart in its warmth.
"Do you think I'm weak, Olivia? Do you think I am so incapable of knowing what it is I want, and knowing the risks that come with that? Don't you understand I know all of this? And yet, here I am. Standing here with you...holding you...loving you. Doesn't that tell you anything?"
Green eyes softened as understanding crept to the surface. The impact of Natalia's words was stunning. She felt her legs begin to shake and her knees buckle beneath her, but Natalia's reflexes took over as she grabbed her and kept her standing. The shorter woman hooked an arm around her back and turned her toward the bed. She turned Olivia to sit her down on the edge of the mattress, just as Olivia's legs lost their strength and she sat down heavily with a sigh.
Natalia moved in front of Olivia, standing there silently as she gazed down at the woman who had taken over her heart so completely. Green eyes were hiding from her again, and the absence of those eyes was too much for her. She stepped forward, using her knee to move Olivia's leg to the side so she could be closer to her. Her need to be physically close to Olivia was palpable and...devastating. Moving between the frame of Olivia's legs, she reached down and took the woman's face in her hands, bringing green eyes up to meet brown. Natalia hesitated for a moment, before she came to a decision, steeling her jaw and drawing a long breath.
"Don't you understand? With you I am whole. This..." She reached down, touching Olivia's scar with one finger, slowly caressing the length of it. "This is MY heart." She leaned down slowly, her eyes never wavering, until her lips grazed Olivia's and her dark lashes fluttered to a close. She pulled away slowly, opening her eyes to look Olivia in the eye again, before she kneeled in front of her. She pushed up on the balls of her feet, and gently began to unbutton Olivia's shirt. Hands came up in a half-hearted attempt to stop her, but she shook her head gently, pulling the final button from its home. Spreading the fabric to each side, she leaned in to place her lips on the pink seam on the white skin of Olivia's chest. She was surprised to see her own tears falling on Olivia's skin as she softly kissed the scar, over and over.
Slowly, she pushed Olivia's shirt up and over her shoulders, her lips traveling across her chest. The smell of skin mingled with the faintest sweet tang of wine that had wetted the skin beneath the cloth. Tentatively, her tongue snuck past her lips to taste the combination, and Olivia's sharp intake of breath was all the encouragement Natalia needed to continue. She felt Olivia's hands on the small of her back, pushing her shirt upwards, and then...oh God...those hands on her skin, the warmth...intoxicating.
Natalia's head was swimming with sensation, but somewhere through the haze of emotion and touch the truth of it all coalesced into a fine point. This feels...right. All the worrying, all of her fear...it just felt insignificant when compared to the explosion of feeling spreading from her chest and surfacing on her skin at the juncture where Olivia's fingers were drawing lines up her back. She was drawn back to those magnetic green eyes, watching as the walls fell away and there was nothing but adoration and love beaming back at her through crystalline sea-foam orbs. Natalia was trapped in the undertow, drowning without regret.
She stood slowly, trapped in Olivia's regard, as hands continued their journey up the smooth skin of her back. Her shirt came with them, and Natalia helped to remove it, as Olivia's hands wrapped around her back and pulled Natalia closer to her lips. Natalia let out a sharp gasp as Olivia kissed her abdomen; a tantalizingly slow dance of lips and tongue and skin. Olivia let out her own gasp as Natalia's hands pushed her away, then reached around to release the clasp of her bra. She let it drop to the floor, baring herself, body and soul, to her love.
It hit Olivia like a piano dropped from the penthouse floor. The woman standing here in front of her, offering her whole self; this vision of beauty and kindness and love...despite all of Olivia's past and faults and frailties...this woman had chosen her. Despite all of Olivia's best efforts to push her away, she was here...and she was hers. She looked at Natalia in shock and amazement. Deep brown eyes registered the change in Olivia's demeanor; watching openly as the last of the defense systems built up around her heart fell, overtaken by a force that both women suddenly understood neither had ever had any power to control. For a moment, they just stared at each other in wonder, until a silent agreement passed between them, and the moment was broken by the unstoppable current of need pulling them together.
Natalia moved forward, pushing the shirt completely off Olivia's shoulders, as Olivia quickly struggled to remove her undergarment. She wanted to stand there forever, just looking at Olivia, but the feeling of want had been rising for sometime, and her patience was waning. She slowly pushed Olivia back onto the bed, climbing over her, one leg between her lover's knees, and Olivia's hands beneath her own. She hovered over Olivia for a moment, testing her before Olivia gave in, rising up to meet her in a breathtaking kiss. Natalia's tongue pushed past Olivia's lips, sealing an emotional covenant unspoken by neither woman, but understood by both.
When they parted lips, breathless, Natalia held herself above her lover with strong arms, her hair falling around Olivia's face in a curtain of espresso waves. The world outside blocked from their view, there was nothing in existence in that moment but the crackling energy between them, and the history of everything they had been, and everything they would be...together.
Natalia rested her weight on one arm and ran a finger down the line of Olivia's chest once more. She looked into those fathomless green eyes she found so easy to lose herself within. When she spoke, it was a husky whisper. "You're not the only one with scars, you know. Just because you can't see them, doesn't mean they aren't there." Olivia gave her a look of alarm and started to speak, before Natalia placed the same finger over her full, kiss-bruised lips. "Sshhhh..." She soothed the woman beneath her gently. "Who we were doesn't matter anymore. What matters is right here, in this room, with each other..." She moved her hand to caress the face of the woman she loved, as she lowered herself to bring their bodies together, finally, completely. "We are whole."
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