DISCLAIMER: Guiding Light and its characters are the property of Proctor & Gamble. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Written for Passion_Perfect's How "___" Found Out Challenge. Thanks to DiNovia for taking the time to read through and offering a thumbs up. All mistakes are mine and mine alone. This is for Ralst, Cabenson, Grumpybear, and Shay. I do listen on occasion.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Twenty Questions
By Ann


"Oh, Natalia told you she didn't marry you because of Gus?" asked Doris, her surprise extremely mild in comparison to her realization that Frank, while still considered Mr. Nice Guy by many, was living in the land of Denial. In fact, it was painfully obvious that he'd chosen to swim so deeply beneath the Egyptian waters that he couldn't see the writing on the wall in the form of the longing, oftentimes lustful looks that Olivia projected toward Natalia, her 'best friend.'

"No, Olivia did," answered Frank matter-of-factly, as if Doris was the one who'd chosen to frolic in the calm waters that kept his fairytale dream afloat.

"Oh, Olivia did," said Doris, just able to keep from laughing out loud at the poor pitiful fool. She pulled at her ear, a la Carol Burnett, and made a decision. "You know what, I can't do this anymore. Uh..." Taking a deep breath, she dove in, "You've got to wake up, Detective." She patted Frank on the shoulder and sighed. "Your ex-fiancée," she said, pausing dramatically and pointing a finger at the stooge, "has the hots for Olivia."

Frank stared dumbly at the mayor of Springfield, a myriad of emotions passing across his face. Unfortunately, they all came with reasonable explanations for why Natalia and Olivia seemed so close. "You're wrong," he stated emphatically, flipping onto his back to swim to the middle of the safe waters – metaphorically speaking, of course.

Doris raised an elegant eyebrow and made another decision. "Let's play a game, shall we?" She eased onto the barstool next to Frank.

"I don't like games, Doris," said Frank, turning back toward the bar and taking another sip of his beer. He'd never been very good at games growing up, always losing even when he'd managed a sizeable lead.

"Okay," conceded Doris. "How about twenty questions? That's not really a game."

Frank frowned and glanced over his shoulder at Doris' gargantuan bodyguards who stood against the wall. He'd never get rid of her or her goons unless he played her 'non-game.'

"Okay, but when we're done, you have to promise to leave me alone."

Doris smirked and held out her hand. "Deal." She waited for Frank to seal their pact, before asking her first question.

"One," she said, figuring she might need to keep a tally of the questions or else Frank would quit long before she reached the twenty mark. "Does Natalia allow Olivia in her personal space?"

"What kind of question is that?" asked Frank, a frown of epic proportions marring his partly decent-looking/partly putz-like features.

Doris sighed. This was going to be just as difficult as she'd thought, but Doris Wolfe never gave up on a challenge, even one as arduous as this one. "Just answer the question, Frank."

The detective shrugged. "Yes, but Natalia is a very friendly person."

Doris smiled; her foot was in the door now. "Like how personal? Does Natalia sit close to Olivia on the farmhouse couch, for example?"

"That's two questions," replied Frank, apparently able to count after all. "I get to choose, so I'll go for the second one. Yes, she sits right next to Olivia, but only because she has to."

"Why?" asked Doris, curious enough to waste another question to hear what the two lovebirds had come up with to explain the need to sit so closely together.

"Broken spring on the near side. Olivia said either she or Natalia have to sit on the middle cushion to keep from getting poked."

Biting back a laugh, Doris prepared to give Frank more slack before she yanked the rope and pulled him to the shore. "Okay, that sounds plausible," she lied. "How about standing space?" She tilted her head in question and watched as Frank narrowed his eyes. She wondered just how painful it was for him to think.

"Depends," he finally answered.

"On?" Another question wasted, but Doris figured she wouldn't need too many more.

"What part of the house they're in."

Doris' eyes widened. Surely, Frank hadn't seen them in the bedroom together and still hadn't a clue as to the nature of their relationship. "What do you mean?"

"Well," he shrugged casually. "In the den, they usually stay on opposite sides of the room unless they're sitting." He twirled his hand around as if rewinding their conversation. "On the couch, of course."

"Ah," said Doris, figuring Frank would continue his room-by-room explanation without further prodding, but the detective took another sip of his beer and turned his focus on the bar surface. Doris waited and waited until she couldn't stand it any longer. "What about the kitchen?"

Frank fiddled with the beer label. "Depends."

If Doris had a rope, she'd yank Frank from the water and string him up from the rafters. She glanced at her bodyguards, figuring the two men could easily lift the clueless detective. "On?" She repeated her earlier question and wondered if she could count the two as one since, theoretically, it was the same question.

"If they're sitting at the table, they usually sit in chairs beside each other. If they're standing by the stove..." he hesitated, another frown forming – this one even deeper than the others. "You know, once I came in unannounced, and I could have sworn they were kissing."

Doris clenched her jaws together tightly to keep her chin from hitting the bar. A kiss is a kiss – there was no mistaking it for anything else. She couldn't wait to hear how Olivia had explained that away. "What did Olivia say?"

"Oh, Olivia didn't say anything; Natalia did," Frank answered innocently, his goofy expression back in place. "Olivia had thought Natalia was choking and gave her mouth-to-mouth."

"Mouth-to-mouth?" asked Doris, eternally grateful that Frank hadn't had to administer first aid to someone who'd had a heart attack. She was certain the Heimlich maneuver would kill the person.

"Yes," answered Frank, oblivious to Doris' thoughts. "I did ask why Natalia seemed to be squirming against the stove."

Doris swallowed a chuckle. "And what did they say to that?"

Frank swiveled his stool around to face the mayor. "Ever wonder how come that stove is so shiny?" He grinned with pride. "Olivia said Natalia does whatever it takes to keep the place neat and tidy."

"I'll just bet," muttered Doris. That stove was so shiny it sparkled. Mentally calculating her remaining questions, she was tempted to ask exactly where Olivia's hand had been while Natalia was busily 'shining the stove' but opted against it. Frank would never understand. "How about..." Or would he?

"Yes?" asked Frank, more into the game than he'd intended. Half-way in, he'd come to the realization that he couldn't lose. It was only questions, after all.

"Where was Olivia's hand?"

"Huh?" The frown was back and it brought a tilted head with it. Doris began to question her strategy, but she doggedly continued with her current line of questioning.

"When Natalia was 'cleaning,' where was Olivia's hand?"

Frank squinted as if trying to bring the scene into focus. He bit down on his lip and shook his head. "I didn't actually see her hand. I was too busy watching her tongue working to dislodge whatever was choking Natalia. She worked a good five minutes before she was successful."

Doris didn't know what amazed her more: the fact that Frank had stood watching for a full five minutes before letting the two lovebirds know he was there or that Natalia had still had her clothes on.

"You know what, Frank? I don't think there's any need to ask any more questions until you decide to remove your life preserver."

"But..." started Frank, stopping when Doris held up her hand. He was so close to finishing the game, too.

"I'll tell you what," she said with a smile. "You be sure to gauge the distance they keep from each other in either Olivia's or Natalia's bedroom, and we'll continue the game."

Frank grinned stupidly. "Really?"

Tempted to pat the idiot on the head, Doris refrained and shouldered her purse instead. "It's a promise." She slid from the stool and stood. "When you've got the answer, come find me." With a wink, Doris turned and walked away.

Frank would be at her door by the end of the week.

The End

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