DISCLAIMER: Guiding Light and its characters are the property of Proctor & Gamble. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: I have quoted a little from the Bible (psalm 25) in the beginning, and from Margery Williams' The Velveteen Rabbit at the end.
TIMELINE: Begins immediately after the episode on 17th of April and diverges from the canon storyline at that point.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Turn To Me
The farmhouse had never been so clean, but Natalia wasn't anywhere near finished yet. It was important that everything was perfect today, because today was the fulfilment of eighteen years of work and toil and longing. Rafe was coming home. A real home, safe and warm and secure, with a real family.
She'd woken that morning wrapped securely in Olivia's arms. That wasn't new - she had often woken up to find Olivia's body had migrated towards hers in the night. What was new was that Olivia was already awake but hadn't pulled away. She was watching the other woman steadily, her eyes swimming with a tangle of emotions that Natalia couldn't begin to unravel at such an early hour. They hadn't spoken. Natalia had just watched Olivia watching her, until finally she'd kissed her, whispered 'Good morning' and slipped out of bed to make breakfast.
Warmth flooding through her at the memory, Natalia looked at the clock. It was 11.30am and Rafe was due at one. Frank had promised to bring him in time for lunch, along with a delivery from Company to celebrate - on the house. With no cooking to worry about Natalia had thrown herself into cleaning with abandon.
"You don't think you're taking this a bit far?" Olivia asked, her lips twitching as she watched Natalia scrubbing the kitchen floor for at least the third time. "Or are you planning to make him eat off the floor?"
Natalia shot her a dangerous look. "I just want everything to be right," she said, returning to work and redoubling her efforts.
"It will be," Olivia soothed. "Because you'll be there and he'll be there. That's all you need."
Natalia slowed her scrubbing then stopped, looking up at Olivia with shining eyes. "Not quite," she said. "But luckily for me I already have everything else."
Olivia smiled. "What's that?"
"The rest of my family." Natalia stood and crossed to where Olivia was sitting. She stepped up as close as she could and wrapped her arms round the other woman's neck. "You and Emma," she explained, leaning down for an entirely too brief kiss.
Olivia slid her arms round Natalia's waist, nestling her head against the other woman's stomach. "Natalia..." she sighed happily.
Natalia curled her hand round the other woman's head, holding her against her body as she breathed deeply. For a moment there was nothing else in the world. Until...
"I want a hug too!"
The adults pulled apart just a little, both turning to see Emma bounding towards them. Olivia laughed. "Okay Jellybean, group hug," she said, holding one arm out to her daughter. The child wriggled in between them and clung on to them both as tight as she could. Natalia thought she might actually burst from happiness. She hadn't known it was possible to actually get everything you'd ever wanted.
"When's Rafe getting here?" Emma asked excitedly when Natalia finally pulled away to go back to her scrubbing.
Natalia smiled indulgently. The little girl was almost happier about Rafe coming home than she was, if that was even possible. "Around one," she said. "How's the card coming?"
"Good. It has purple glitter." Emma looked up at her mother with a gleam in her eye. "Do you want to help me write something in it mommy?"
Olivia looked over at Natalia briefly before turning her attention back to her daughter. "How could I ever resist purple glitter?" she asked. "I seem to recall that's our colour!"
Natalia couldn't quite wipe the silly grin from her face as Olivia stood awkwardly and hobbled after her daughter. Then, after another look at the clock, she went back to scrubbing.
Rafe sat in Frank's car just looking at the farmhouse for long minutes after they pulled up. Frank didn't speak. Maybe he didn't know what to say; maybe he just knew that words were inadequate for this moment.
"I'm home," Rafe said at last. He unplugged his seatbelt, turning to Frank. "You coming in?"
Frank shook his head. "This is a moment for your family," he said, and managed only to sound a little bit sad.
Rafe didn't argue the point. "All right," he said, and grabbed the couple of bags of food they'd picked up from Company. "When should I come by the station?"
"The day after tomorrow, nine o'clock sharp," Frank replied. "I've been saving up my case reports for two weeks. They're all ready for you."
"Oh, goodie," Rafe deadpanned, and Frank managed a smile.
"Have a great day," he said, turning the key in the ignition as Rafe opened the door and stepped out.
When his car was gone from sight Rafe turned back to the house, feeling strangely nervous. Which was silly. What did he have to be nervous about? It was just his mom. And Olivia, and Emma, and the little family they'd built up together over the last six months without him while he'd been in jail, or in the halfway house. Feeling strangely like a cuckoo about to fetch up in some other bird's nest, he took a deep breath and knocked on the front door.
It opened instantly and Emma launched herself at him like a jack-in-the-box. "Mama, mommy, Rafe's here!" she yelled excitedly, bouncing up and down with glee while still clinging to his legs.
He couldn't help but laugh, swallowing his lingering fears. "Nice to see you too, Em," he said. And then his mother was there, closely followed by Olivia on her crutches.
"Raphael," Natalia breathed, crying already as she wrapped him in the longest, fiercest hug he'd had since the time when he was seven and he'd sneaked out of bed to go and play in a friend's house and Natalia had thought he was lost.
"Hey ma," he said, choking back a few tears himself. "I brought food."
And so the four of them sat down together to share their first real family meal. Buzz had outdone himself and provided all of their favourites - cheese-burgers with onions (they were key), chilli, chicken enchiladas and chocolate sundaes for everyone except Rafe, who needed to watch his sugar intake.
"I can't believe you're actually letting me eat this," Olivia murmured around a mouthful of burger. She glanced at Rafe. "She's had me on freakin' rabbit food and vitamins for six weeks."
Rafe laughed. "Yeah, my mom knows exactly how to guilt people into eating right," he said, thinking of all the times as a kid when he'd really wanted to sneak a candy bar or an ice cream to be more like his friends, only to find his mother's disapproving voice in his head talking him out of it.
Natalia rolled her eyes. "It's not a guilt trip," she said defensively. "I just want the people I love to be healthy, is that so wrong?"
Olivia smiled and threaded her fingers through Natalia's casually. "Not at all," she replied, with such warmth in her voice that Rafe looked up from his food. When he saw their joined hands he smiled and winked at his mom, who blushed crimson, but couldn't help but smile too.
"I made you a card!" Emma said suddenly, rushing off to retrieve it from the living room.
"Oh, wow," Rafe said when she came back and handed it to him. "This is awesome, Em. I love the colour."
Emma giggled. "Purple's our colour," she explained.
Rafe studied the card for a few moments. Big block letters declared Welcome Home Rafe and underneath them Emma had drawn a picture of their little family - a tall boy and a little girl off to one side playing with some ducks while two women looked on, holding hands. "This is great, Em," he said, opening it and reading the message inside.
"What does it say?" Natalia asked. "They wouldn't let me read it."
Rafe looked up at his mom who was surprised to see tears glittering in his eyes. He coughed. "Dear Rafe," he read. "It's been a long time coming but you're finally home. I know this is something your mother's been dreaming of for a very long time - and I don't just mean since you went away. What you have here - both of you - is a home where you will be safe and loved always. Wherever you end up going in life - and I just know that you will go far - know that you will always have a place here, with people who love you unconditionally and without limits. Welcome home. Love, Olivia."
He looked up. His mother was crying and Olivia was blushing and Emma was grinning from ear to ear.
Natalia wiped her eyes. "I don't know who to hug first!" she exclaimed, laughter bubbling up from inside.
Rafe shook his head. "Yes you do."
Natalia nodded. "Yes, I do," she admitted. She turned to Olivia and wrapped her in a crushing hug, which was eagerly returned. Emma climbed up on her chair and leaned against her mom's back.
"Come on Rafe," she said, gesturing to Natalia with her eyes.
"What the hell," he muttered and stood, crossing to the other side of the table in two easy strides and joining in their first - but not last - group hug.
"I think I need to take an extra shot of insulin tonight," Rafe said as he helped his mom with the dishes. "We've had a bit of sugar overload in here."
Natalia swatted his arm. "Stop it," she said, but she was smiling. "We're all just really, really happy."
"I know ma," he said gently, and looked over at Olivia who was playing cards with Emma. "You got through to her then," he added, lowering his voice a little so the woman in question wouldn't hear.
Natalia turned to watch Olivia, her eyes filling with warmth. "I did," she said, then turned to Rafe. Her happiness faltered for a moment. "You're sure you're okay with this?"
Rafe rolled his eyes. "You're impossible ma," he muttered. "You give me everything I've ever wanted and you ask if I'm okay with it?"
Natalia smiled slowly. "Everything you've ever wanted?"
Rafe nodded. "A nice home. A place to belong. A real family, with a little brother or sister and...a second parent. That's everything we came to this town to find, right?"
Tears leapt to Natalia's eyes again. She couldn't even count the number of times she'd cried that day. "We came here looking for a father for you," she amended.
Rafe shrugged. "And we found him. I had Gus in my life, even if it wasn't for very long. I don't need another father figure." He smirked. "And if I did...well, Olivia can be pretty butch."
He laughed at the scandalised look that crossed her face. "You are too much," she said, shooing him away. "Go and play with Emma. I think I'll get this done quicker on my own."
She turned back to the dishes and lost herself in them for a few minutes, basking in the warmth of her family, together and safe at long last. She was so far into her own little world that she didn't notice Olivia's approach until she was pressed up against her back, her arms round her waist and her chin resting on her shoulder.
"Hey," Olivia breathed.
"Hey," Natalia replied, leaning back into her...friend? No, that didn't even come close to covering it. Girlfriend? A little too sophomore for her taste. Lover? She suppressed a shudder. Not yet but, oh...soon. She really, really wanted it to be soon.
Olivia kissed her cheek and tightened her hold. "Are you happy?" she asked.
Natalia turned in the circle of her arms, leaning back and draping her own arms round Olivia's neck. "Very," she purred. She watched Olivia with half-lidded eyes for a few moments. "Thank you," she said at last. "For what you wrote on the card."
Olivia blushed. "It was nothing," she murmured, but Natalia hushed her with a kiss.
"No," she said. "No it wasn't. It was the truth." She brought her hand round and nudged Olivia's chin up. "And not just for me and Rafe, you know that right?"
Olivia looked away. "You don't need to say anything..." she said softly, but Natalia shook her head.
"Yes I do," she said. "You know I think actions speak louder than words. And I've shown you how I feel in every way I know how. But you need to hear this too." She took a deep breath, and ducked her head, forcing Olivia to look her in the eye. "I love you," she breathed. "I love Emma. This is your home. This is where you belong. There is nothing...nothing...you could ever do that would make me stop loving you." She smiled. "Unconditionally and without limits," she said. "I love you, Olivia."
The world dropped away and for a brief moment nothing existed but the two of them, enclosed in the bubble of each other's arms. "I love you too," Olivia said, her voice little more than a sigh across Natalia's lips as she leaned in to kiss her.
"It's rude to stare," Emma hissed at Rafe, swatting him on the arm until he returned his attention to their game. "Got any threes?"
He blinked, unable to reply for several long moments. Finally he shook himself and smiled at her.
"So, the big day's finally arrived huh?" Rick smiled broadly at Olivia who scowled in response. "Hey," he said, wounded. "What have I done to deserve that?"
"Just hurry up and take it off," Olivia grumbled, leaning heavily back against the pillows.
Natalia smiled nervously. "Sorry, Rick," she said. "She's just a little anxious."
Olivia turned her head towards Natalia, her scowl deepening. "Don't apologise for me."
Natalia rolled her eyes as she pushed Olivia's hair away from her face. "Someone has to," she replied, laughter edging into the corners of her voice.
Olivia grunted and crossed her arms over her chest. "Hurry up!" she snapped at Rick.
Natalia pulled a chair up to Olivia's bedside and took her hand. "You're like a child," she scolded.
Olivia grinned wickedly. "I guess that makes you a pervert then," she said, and laughed when Natalia flushed.
"You are too much," Natalia mumbled.
"You love it."
Natalia shook her head. "I love you," she whispered.
Rick coughed suddenly. "Uh...still in the room ladies," he said.
Two pairs of eyes snapped round to meet his. "Oh, would you hurry up?" two voices said in harmony.
He held up his hands. Attacked on two fronts. Hardly fair.
Natalia tried to resist the urge to look at the clock as Rick worked. Who would have thought removing a cast would take so long? She was starting to think Rick was dragging it out deliberately.
As soon as the thought crossed her mind she felt guilty about it. It wasn't Rick's fault they were...frustrated. He couldn't possibly know about the long nights spent whispering and kissing and...she shuddered lightly...touching. Every night things had gone a little further before Olivia's leg had made itself known, like an elephant in the room, and killed the mood. It was ridiculous really. Over a year of dancing around these feelings, moving forward and retreating, one step forward and two steps back and now they were finally, finally,on the same page - and they couldn't do anything about it! It was like some kind of giant cosmic joke.
"How long exactly is this going to take?"
Olivia glared at Rick who managed not to seem phased at all. "Just a little longer," he said breezily. He smiled. "So, how's the memory situation, swiss-cheese for brains?"
Natalia frowned at him. "Don't call her that," she admonished. "She's been doing really, really well."
Olivia nodded. "Yeah...bits and pieces are coming back here and there."
Rick nodded distractedly. "That's good, good," he murmured. "You'll probably find that'll slow down a little now though."
Olivia frowned. "What do you mean?"
"Oh, you know, just that the chances of achieving full recall diminish the further you get from the original trauma. What you have now after a couple of months is probably going to be all you get. Give or take a flash or two here and there. Don't expect too much though."
For a long moment Olivia couldn't speak. She looked up at Natalia, her eyes shining. "I'm never going to remember..." she murmured. "I've...I've lost everything?"
Natalia shook her head and gripped her hand even tighter. "I can remember for both of us," she said steadily.
Olivia looked away. "I'm thirsty," she said at last. "Could you maybe get me a water or something?"
Natalia nodded, trying not to be hurt that Olivia's instinct was still to draw away when wounded. It was only to be expected. It had been just Olivia against the world for so long it was hardly a surprise that she found it hard to lean on anyone else. But Natalia could work on that. There wasn't much she couldn't achieve - when she was determined. And she was very, very determined.
"Now that's the look of a woman on a mission," a mocking voice said. Natalia looked up from the vending machine where she'd been trying to choose between flat water, fizzy water, fizzy water with lemon, or another of the myriad of complicated and unnecessary choices.
"Oh, it's you," she said.
Doris smiled broadly. "Don't sound so pleased to see me Natalia, I might get the wrong idea," she said, her lips twitching as she leaned against the wall.
"Why are you here?"
"Well, maybe I just like to check on the voters, I'm that kind of mayor."
Natalia rolled her eyes but didn't challenge the statement. "Well, it's been a joy seeing you Doris, as always, but I really have to get back to Olivia." She jabbed a random button on the machine and grabbed the bottle of flat water with hints of peach that popped out.
Doris raised an eyebrow. "Ohhhh," she drawled. "Of course. Well, I wouldn't want to keep you from your friend."
Natalia stopped in her tracks and slowly turned around. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"Oh, nothing at all Natalia, nothing at all."
Natalia frowned. "Has she...has she told you anything about us?" she asked hesitantly. Doris laughed.
"Dear God Natalia, is there anyone in town she hasn't told?"
Natalia frowned. "Wh-what do you mean?"
"You're serious," Doris said, her smile fading. "Natalia, everyone knew except you. And Frank, I suppose, but that's no shocker really - you could fill libraries with the things that man doesn't know."
Natalia ignored the affront to her ex-fiance's honour. "So...Olivia's been talking to people about...her feelings for me."
Doris nodded. "Everyone who'd listen. Oh, woe is me, I'm falling madly in love with my bestest fwiend! Does that make me a l-l-l-lesbian? Oh no!" She let out a bark of laughter. "It was kind of cute. In an annoying way."
Natalia stood staring at the mayor for long moments. There was only one part of her speech she'd really focused on. "Does it?" she asked softly.
Doris frowned. "Does what?"
Natalia coughed. "Does falling madly in love with your best friend make you a lesbian?"
For a moment Doris didn't reply, and then a slow devious grin spread across her face as she advanced on Natalia. "That depends," she said. "Do you want to hold her hand and have little pecks on the cheek before you toddle off to your separate rooms? Do you just want to fold laundry and take Emma on field trips for the rest of your life?" She was within a few inches of Natalia now, and her voice had lowered an octave. "Or do you want to hold her down on a bed and fuck her into next week?"
Natalia's breath caught and her face flushed dark with desire at the image Doris's words had painted in her mind. "Uh..."
Doris smirked. "I guess that answers that question."
Natalia looked away, embarrassment following hot on the heels of lust. "I don't," she began, then coughed to clear the huskiness from her voice. "I don't really know how..." she admitted.
Doris thought about teasing her some more, but decided at last to take pity. "You'll find it comes naturally," she said gently. "In fact, I'm willing to bet you'll wonder how you ever enjoyed anything else." Her lips twitched. "I reckon our Ms Spencer is a demon in the sack."
Natalia rolled her eyes. "Been thinking about that a lot have you?"
Doris raised an eyebrow. "Maybe a little. I'm not made of stone."
Natalia felt strangely jealous for a moment, which was ridiculous. If she was going to feel jealous over every person who'd ever lusted after Olivia Spencer...well, her eyes would be greener than Olivia's before she was through. "I have to get back now," she said.
Doris watched her go, but couldn't resist one last quip. "Natalia?" She waited until she turned her head. "I'm sure as a religious woman you're familiar with the expression 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you'. Just so you know? That was made for this situation."
Natalia blushed as she hurried back to Olivia's side, followed by the sound of Doris Wolfe's laughter which sounded equal parts mocking and affectionate. Do unto others, she thought speculatively. That does give me a few ideas...
"My leg looks weird," Olivia said for the tenth time as Natalia pulled up at the farmhouse in her - their - new car. Natalia rolled her eyes.
"Your leg looks wonderful, and beautiful and sexy," she said.
"It's all skinny and wasted!" Olivia insisted.
Natalia took her hand and squeezed. "Doctor Rick explained this to you," she said. "Your muscles have atrophied slightly. You need a few months of physical therapy before you'll be back to normal."
Olivia huffed. "Stupid car accident," she grumbled. "Who would have thought two broken bones and some brain damage would be so much trouble?"
Natalia leaned over and silenced her with a kiss. "Who indeed?" she murmured against her lips. "But we're still here. We're together. What does that say?"
Olivia closed her eyes and sighed deeply. "That this is real," she said happily.
Natalia nodded. "It sure is. Now come on."
Natalia moulded herself to Olivia's side as she helped her out of the car. Doctor Rick had warned them that Olivia should avoid putting too much weight on the leg right away - he had even mimed what might happen if she took things too quickly. Natalia felt they could probably have done without the pantomime of Rick crumpling to the floor clutching his leg and moaning, but it had seemed to make him happy.
The living room looked strange when they entered, but it took Natalia a moment to realise what had changed. "Oh," she said at last. "Rafe must have moved your bed upstairs." Indeed, the room was back to normal again; the couch and coffee table in their regular places. A bottle of champagne stood on the table with a note propped up against it.
Olivia grabbed it as she settled onto the couch. "Dear mom," she read. "Have taken Emma for a little field trip to The Beacon for the night. Don't worry about the expense - the owner owes me a favour." She looked up at Natalia with a smile. "He's almost as devious as you," she said. Natalia took the note from her.
"I figured the two of you might like some privacy," she continued. "And there are some things I really don't need to hear. Just so you know, the walls in this house are pretty thin." Natalia flushed. "What do you suppose he means by that?" she murmured.
Olivia's mind flashed back to the previous night, her hands meandering under Natalia's shirt, her lips fastened to her neck, and Natalia moaning like she was in pain, her fingers threaded through Olivia's hair. "No idea," she said.
Natalia shook her head. "Have fun, and don't worry about us - we'll order room service and watch movies and go to bed at a reasonable hour. I've brought some clothes for Em to change into so she can go straight to school from here. We'll see you both tomorrow around four. Love, Rafe."
Olivia watched Natalia through half-lidded eyes as she dropped the note onto the table. "Alone at last," she said softly. Natalia's mouth twitched up in a grin.
"I've been waiting to do this for a long time," she muttered as she straddled Olivia's lap and draped her arms round her neck. Olivia's arms wrapped around her waist as she leaned back.
"Is that so?" she asked. Natalia leaned forward, bumping their foreheads together.
"Oh yeah," she sighed, and captured Olivia's lips in a heated, bruising kiss.
"Mmmph," Olivia moaned, pulling Natalia closer to her as her lips parted and she felt the other woman's tongue dip briefly and tangle with hers.
"You feel so good," Natalia murmured, dropping her head to hide in the crook of Olivia's shoulder, kissing her collarbone.
Olivia gasped. "You don't feel so bad yourself," she managed to say, her head spinning just a little.
Natalia kissed a trail across her neck, finally lifting up to claim her lips again. "I need to get you upstairs," she murmured between kisses.
"Mmm," Olivia agreed. "Good idea...very, very good idea..."
Natalia tore herself away and stood. She was in danger of losing control and just taking Olivia right there on the couch. Which wouldn't necessarily be bad...but she wanted their first time to be perfect. Just the two of them together in a bed, no interruptions, no hesitancy, no regrets. She smiled down at Olivia and held out her hand.
Olivia Spencer had had a lot of sex in her life. That wasn't exactly a secret. She could barely go anywhere in this town without encountering someone she'd seen naked. It had never really meant anything though. Oh, it was exciting, even thrilling sometimes, but she'd never been nervous beforehand, never found her heart racing and her fingers trembling so badly that she couldn't even undo the buttons on her lover's shirt.
"Let me," Natalia said smoothly, her hands coming up to cover Olivia's and still them. Slowly she undid each button one by one until finally her shirt was hanging open, revealing smooth skin and a lacy bra the colour of sin itself. Olivia spread her hands over her stomach and felt her muscles clench.
"Someone was confident when she got dressed this morning," she muttered.
Natalia's lips twitched. "Like you could possibly resist me," she replied, planting her hands on either side of Olivia's head and leaning down.
"No, I couldn't," Olivia agreed, her lips parting to accept the first of many, many kisses. Her fingers curled round Natalia's hips, pulling her closer.
"I love you," Natalia murmured against her lips, her hands sliding under Olivia's T-shirt and pushing it up. They parted long enough for the shirt and the T-shirt to disappear onto the floor, and then Natalia stretched out on top of her lover, kissing her like she wouldn't get another chance.
"Oh my God," Olivia moaned, her hands leading a trail of gooseflesh down Natalia's back.
"Right back atcha," Natalia breathed, her hands tangling in Olivia's hair as she kissed her again, and again, and again.
For a long time Olivia lost herself in the sensation of skin and lips and the delicious weight of Natalia pressing her into the mattress. "This is new, right?" she said in the brief gap between one kiss and the next. "We haven't done this before, have we?"
Natalia managed a brief shake of her head. "No..."
Olivia bent her head to Natalia's throat, kissing that soft spot where her neck met her shoulder. "What the hell was wrong with us?"
Natalia laughed. What indeed? Fear and uncertainty and other people's interpretations of a holy book translated and retranslated over thousands of years like a massive game of Telephone all dwarfed in comparison to how good, how unutterably right this felt. Her body fit with Olivia's like they were two halves of a matching pair. This was it for Natalia, she realised. This was what she was meant to have. God had made this woman with his own two hands...for her.
Olivia rolled them over so Natalia was on her back and she was on her side. Their legs tangled together of their own accord as Olivia looked down on Natalia, leaning her head on one hand. "You are so beautiful," she whispered, her fingers trailing a path from Natalia's clavicle to her navel. Natalia's breath hitched.
"Not as beautiful as you," she said, and meant it. There was no-one in the world to match Olivia Spencer. Every person who'd loved her before and let her go was a fool.
Olivia blushed and looked away. Natalia smiled slowly, utterly enchanted by this sudden shyness. "What? Come on, people have told you you're beautiful before."
Olivia nodded, and closed her eyes. "Yes, she whispered. "I just haven't ever felt it before..."
The smile faded from Natalia's face, her expression turning deep and serious. "You are," she said, threading her fingers through Olivia's hair. "You're beautiful. You're clever. You're charming. You're good. You're kind. You're everything."
Olivia turned to her with tears in her eyes. Natalia leaned up and tenderly kissed them away, and then for long moments there were no more words. Lips and skin and trembling hands and muffled sighs were all that existed.
"I don't really know what I'm doing," Olivia admitted at last, tearing her lips from Natalia's overheated skin with an effort.
Natalia breathed deeply. "There isn't a script for this you know," she muttered. "Just...let's do what we feel like doing. Whatever feels right..."
Olivia stretched so she was lying half on top of her lover. "Everything feels right," she said.
Natalia smiled. "Then let's do everything."
A slow smile spread across Olivia's face as her hands dipped to the fastening of Natalia's jeans. "Everything? I don't think we have time. Not today anyway."
Natalia hooked her arms round Olivia's neck. "Hmm. Should we make a list? Prioritise?"
Olivia grinned as her fingers slid inside the waistband of Natalia's jeans. "Maybe. What should be number one?"
Natalia pinned her with eyes shaded dark with desire and love. "I really want you inside me," she said, her voice low and gravelly.
A lick of fire coursed through Olivia's blood and she thought she might have growled. "Oh, fuck," she groaned, baring her teeth a little as she steadied herself. "If you don't get out of these clothes right now I'm going to tear them off."
Natalia's fingers were busy with the buttons and zip of Olivia's slacks. "Ditto," she ground out.
Natalia didn't really remember how the rest of their clothes ended up on the floor, and she didn't care. All that mattered was the feeling of Olivia and her, together finally, lips and limbs tangling together like they'd been doing it forever. The world had contracted yet again, but Natalia was also hyper aware of everything around her - the warm summer breeze coming through the window, the bark of a dog somewhere in the distance, the chirp of a bird in the oak outside the window. And then Olivia raised up and raked those remarkable eyes across her face and all that melted away like a pavement chalk drawing in the rain.
"I love you," Olivia whispered. "I feel like...I've been waiting for you...all my life..."
Tears nipped at Natalia's eyes. "I'm here," she breathed. "Oh, honey...I'm here..."
A deep, breathless kiss was her reply and when Olivia pulled away there was fire in her eyes. "I can't get enough of you," she murmured, dipping her head to Natalia's throat. Natalia felt teeth nipping at her and knew she'd be marked the next day.
"You've got me," she moaned. "Everything, anything you want."
Olivia's breath left her in a rush as she arched her back and trailed her hands down Natalia's sides. "I won't break," Natalia whispered. "You can...you can have me. Any way you want..."
Olivia's eyes flickered shut and she ground her hips into Natalia's on pure instinct. "Oh Jesus," she muttered. "Please...I want this to be perfect for you..."
Natalia cupped her lover's face in her hands. "It already is," she said steadily but softly. "Because I'm with you." Slowly and deliberately she took Olivia's hand in hers and pressed them between their bodies. "This is what you do to me," she murmured, and pushed Olivia's fingers into wet heat.
The breath left both their bodies in a rush. "Oh, Natalia..." Olivia moaned. Her fingers twitched a little and Natalia squeezed her eyes shut.
"Inside," she gasped. "Please...I need you."
Natalia grabbed Olivia's wrist in a punishing grip. "If I don't have you inside me right now I'm going to fucking die. You don't want me to die, do you?"
"Nuh uh," Olivia replied and slid two fingers all the way inside her lover in one stroke.
"Oh, Jesus!" Natalia clutched at Olivia's shoulders and arched her back, her head thumping back into the pillow. Olivia's eyes squeezed shut. She had never felt anything like this before, never even imagined... The sensation of warmth and wetness and her lover's muscles contracting on her fingers... For an awful moment she actually thought she was going to cry. How terrible would that be? Olivia freakin' Spencer brought to her (metaphorical) knees by a tiny slip of a woman, by Natalia Rivera, her sometime rival, then friend, and then...and then...
Everything, her mind supplied. She's everything.
Olivia kissed her desperately and added a third finger, flattening the heel of her hand against Natalia's heat. Natalia ground down against her instinctively, her nails scraping almost painfully against her shoulders. They moved together for what felt like forever. Time had lost all meaning; they were outside it, outside the world. They were in their own little pocket of existence and nothing mattered but love, and desire, and that glorious, rare and precious moment when they intersected.
"Mmmph, Olivia," Natalia moaned at last. "I've been waiting so long...I think...oh...I'm going to..."
Olivia silenced her with her lips. "Yes baby," she whispered. "Yes. Let go, I want to see you..."
When it happened Natalia actually sobbed. A mix of pleasure, love and indescribable joy crashed into her like a train and Natalia had the strangest sense that the world had contracted to the length and breadth of their twined bodies, and yet also simultaneously expanded wider than she'd dreamed was possible. For an endless moment she felt like she was floating a foot off the bed, and then she came crashing down and was caught by Olivia's strong arms.
She shuddered, muscles twitching and clenching still, her heart racing, her breath coming in hitching gasps. Olivia wrapped her arms around her tightly and she clung to her, eyes clenched shut.
Something had just happened, she realised, something deeply profound, something she'd never felt before. "Ecstasy..." she murmured, and wasn't aware she'd even spoken until she felt the rumble of Olivia's laughter against her chest and the press of her lips against her forehead.
"That good huh?" She sounded proud of herself.
Natalia smiled. "Yes," she breathed against her lover's skin. "But that's not what I meant." She raised herself up onto one arm with effort, gazing seriously into dark green eyes. "I'm talking about ecstasy," she said. "Not just feeling good - even really, really good. It means...being outside yourself, I guess." She closed her eyes. "I could feel me," she breathed. "And I could feel you. I could feel your heart beating. I could feel the birds singing. I could feel the grass growing." She opened her eyes and trailed her fingers across the planes of Olivia's face. "I could feel God," she whispered rapturously. "In you, in me. In our love...didn't you?"
Olivia couldn't bring herself to meet Natalia's eyes. "I don't think I've ever felt God, Natalia," she admitted, sadness washing through her at that thought for the first time. At that moment she thought she might just have given anything to have felt what Natalia had just felt. "But I know what I see when I look in your eyes."
Natalia curled her fingers under her chin and tilted her head up, forcing Olivia to meet her steady gaze. "What?" she breathed.
Olivia attempted a smile, although it didn't quite come off. "Everything," she said simply.
Natalia was silent for a long, long moment. Then she nodded slowly and smiled. "Good enough," she said, then ran her suddenly fire-filled eyes across Olivia's body. She bared her teeth.
"You're trying to kill me," Olivia grunted, sweat breaking out on her brow.
Natalia shook her head. "I keep telling you, I need your rent money," she said, smirking.
"Hmmph. You know, I really think I should get a discount on that. I'm not renting a whole room anymore."
Natalia grinned. "No, but you're still getting full time care. In more ways than one."
Olivia thought of several replies she could make to that; unfortunately they all led to her sleeping on the couch that night so she held her tongue. "You call this care?" she muttered. "This is torture."
Natalia smoothed her hands over Olivia's calf, massaging tired and aching muscles. "Do you want to be able to walk without a limp or not?"
Eyebrows twitched. "Depends. Is the limp sexy?"
Natalia's hands moved up as she stood, sliding over firm thighs and curling round Olivia's hips. "Excruciatingly," she murmured. "But I'd like you one hundred percent healthy again. There are some things I'd like to do to you that will require all your strength."
The thermostat raised at least ten degrees and Olivia grinned wolfishly as she grabbed Natalia and pressed their bodies together. "Is that so?" she growled, nipping at her lover's throat.
"Mmm," Natalia replied, tangling her fingers in Olivia's hair.
"Oh God...could you two get a room please?"
Natalia turned to see Rafe descending the stairs, a traumatised look on his face. Poor boy, Natalia thought. This was at least the tenth time that week he'd walked in on them in a compromising position. It was Olivia's fault, of course. There was something about her that made Natalia lose all sense of propriety. Strangely enough, she didn't really mind.
"Do I have to remind you who owns this house?" she teased her son, but pulled away from Olivia's embrace nonetheless.
Rafe rolled his eyes. "Emma's in bed," he said, turning to Olivia. "But she wants you to read her a story. I offered, but she said it had to be you." He shrugged.
Olivia grabbed her cane. "Then I guess I have some reading to do," she said.
"I'll be up in a minute," Natalia said and, just to make Rafe groan, patted her lover on the butt as she walked away.
"Aw Jeez, ma!" Rafe whined, right on cue.
Natalia laughed, and Olivia's low chuckle merged with hers as she climbed the stairs. "I thought you were happy for us?" she said, smiling.
"Oh, I am," Rafe replied, holding up his hands. "But there are some things I don't need to see. Or hear. Or imagine." He shuddered. "Speaking of which - can I move into Olivia's old room?"
Natalia frowned. "But...why? It's smaller."
Rafe rolled his eyes and cupped his mother's face in his hands. "Maybe so ma, but it doesn't share a wall with yours." Having finally succeeded in making his mother blush he laughed and released her. "Come with me," he said, leading her into the kitchen.
"You want me to make you a snack?" she asked.
Rafe shook his head as he stopped before the cross on the wall, the only one still hanging in the shared part of the house, although other little trinkets were sneaking back in. "I want you to pray with me," he said.
Natalia's lips parted. "Oh..." she breathed, and smiled. "Rafe..."
Rafe looked away. "You know," he began hesitantly. "When I was in prison...you, and your faith, was the only thing that really got me through everything. And I know that...being with Olivia maybe made you question some things? But that's why you're so amazing, ma - you still believe and you still try to be the best person you can." He coughed. "I admire that," he admitted. "And, you know...I want to be more like you."
He looked up and she was crying, as he'd known she would be. "Oh Rafe," she managed to choke out, and he found himself enveloped in a breath-stealing, bone-shattering hug. Then she took his hand and turned to the cross. "Dear God," she prayed. "Thank you...for my son. Thank you for helping me raise him to be such a good, good man. I know I couldn't have done it without your help."
"Ma-" Rafe interrupted, but she shushed him with a finger over his lips.
"Thank you for Olivia and Emma," she continued. "Thank you for helping us to find our family. And above all, God, thank you for the gift of your love, revealed to us through the wonderful people you have sent to share our lives." She stopped, unable to say the last word of the prayer, lost in a memory of praying to this cross what seemed like forever ago, when she'd been filled with such despair and hopelessness. But she had felt God's presence then...and she felt it again now.
"Amen," said Rafe quietly.
When Olivia finally made her way up the stairs she was out of breath and her leg ached but, and she hated to admit it, the exercises Natalia had been putting her through did seem to be helping. She felt like she was getting stronger day by day, like a sickly plant brought back to life with careful watering.
"Hey Jellybean," she said, grinning as she entered her daughter's room and limped over to her bed.
"Mommy!" The little girl grabbed her for a hug and a kiss as she flopped down beside her, and Olivia felt her heart swell with a love so deep and pure it almost took her breath away.
She smiled. "So," she said. "I hear that someone wants a story. Do you have one picked out?"
Emma nodded eagerly and handed her a thin book. "Bunny wants this one," she said, squeezing the plush rabbit that had been her near constant bedtime companion since she'd been given it at Christmas. "Because it's about a bunny too."
Olivia looked down at the book. The Velveteen Rabbit. "Okay," she said. "I like this one too." She decided not to mention that it always made her cry. She hoped she could make it through this time without blubbing like a baby.
For long moments she read softly to her child, her voice low and steady. "'What is REAL?' asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. 'Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?'"
Emma giggled. "Silly rabbit..." she mumbled sleepily.
Olivia nodded. "Very silly," she agreed and continued reading. "'Real isn't how you are made,' said the Skin Horse. 'It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.'"
"Like Bunny," Emma said, kissing the top of her rabbit's furry head.
"Uh huh," Olivia replied. She could feel the tears coming already. Olivia Spencer, reduced to tears over a children's book - she'd never live it down. "'It doesn't happen all at once,' said the Skin Horse. 'You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand.'" The words began to swim before her eyes and she blinked quickly to clear her vision.
"Why are you crying mommy?" Emma asked, reaching out to touch her mother's face.
Olivia managed a trembling smile. "Well...can I tell you a little secret?" She bent her head to whisper conspiratorially.
"Uh huh." Emma's eyes danced with excitement.
Olivia bent down even closer. "I never used to be Real," she said softly. "I had to become Real, just like the rabbit in the story."
Emma's eyes were wide as saucers. "It can happen to people too?" she gasped. "Not just toys?"
Olivia nodded and gestured to herself. "I'm living proof, aren't I?" She smiled. "And you know, what the horse said is right. It did take a really long time but it was all worth it. Every step."
Emma squeezed her bunny tighter. "How does it happen?"
There was a pause before Olivia spoke. "It's love," she explained. "When someone loves you for exactly who you are. When they're there for you no-matter what happens. When they give you everything without wanting anything in return. When you know that it doesn't matter what you look like or what you do - you'll always have a home with someone who only sees the beautiful in you. That's what makes you Real." She tucked the blankets round her daughter's shoulders. "And I never had that before I had you and our family here, baby."
Emma looked up at her with sleepy eyes. "Am I Real?" she asked softly, her eyes fluttering shut.
Olivia nodded and kissed her forehead. "You've been Real since the day you were born," she assured her. "Because I love you. And I'll always love you. There's nothing you could do, say or be that would ever make me stop." She took a breath. "And that goes for your mama too."
A gasp from behind her made her turn her head sharply Natalia was there in the doorway, a hand covering her mouth, tears streaming down her face as she locked eyes with Olivia. "You've never," she began, wiping her eyes, "you've never called me that before."
Olivia nodded, and turned back to Emma who was already asleep. "I may not remember exactly how we became a family," she said softly, regret creeping into her voice. "But I do know why we are." She looked up at Natalia. "Because we love each other."
Natalia nodded, smiling and crying simultaneously as she crossed the room in two strides and wrapped her arm round Olivia's shoulder. Olivia's arm curled round her waist as her head nestled against her stomach. "We do," Natalia agreed, stroking her free hand through her lover's hair.
For a long time they rested together in silence, listening to the sounds of Emma's deep, regular breathing. "I'm sorry," Olivia said at last. "That I'm probably not going to remember everything...about us...how we fell in love..."
Natalia hushed her with a kiss. "Sssh," she said. "Who cares about the past?" she murmured. "We have the future. And I'd trade a million yesterdays for one tomorrow with you."
Olivia's breath escaped her in a ragged sigh. "Me too," she said softly, and stood. "And you know...even if I never get all my memories back-"
"-we can make new ones," Natalia finished for her.
Olivia laughed, but quietly so as not to wake her daughter. "Finishing each other's thoughts now? Before you know it we'll be wearing matching jogging suits and fighting over the remote like an old married couple."
Natalia knew she meant it as a joke, but she couldn't help but sound serious as she replied. "Sounds good to me," she said, and held out her hand.
Olivia took it.
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