DISCLAIMER: Guiding Light and its characters are the property of Proctor & Gamble. No infringement intended.
SPOILERS: Anything up to April 17th... after that I kidnap them all into my own special Springfield.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

The Voice of Your Eyes
By bronzey


Part 1

Olivia gripped the steering wheel.  Her knuckles were white and the muscles in her forearms ached.  Her teeth were clenched.  She knew if she loosened her grip on the wheel she'd begin pounding on it.  She would pound on it and scream and cry and the world fall to pieces around her.  She would not let that happen.  She would not lose control like that.  Not while driving.  Not while Emma sat behind her.  Not today.  Not ever.

"Mom?" Emma's voice came tentatively.

"Yes, baby?" she replied, willing the sound of honest curiosity into her voice.

"Are we going home to see if Natalia's okay now?"

Olivia clenched her teeth harder and pushed on the steering wheel.  I can do this.  I can do this.  "Emma, we talked about this already.  We moved out of the farmhouse today.  We're going to stay at The Beacon for a few days until we find a new home."

"Oh… okay," Emma said in a voice so small and sad Olivia felt pieces of the world start to fall around her.  She pushed her eyes open as wide as they would go, took a deep breath, and willed away tears.  No.  No falling apart.  Not now.  I will be strong for her.

"Emma, sweetie, it'll be fun."  Olivia reached a hand into the backseat and Emma grasped onto it with both hands.  "We'll camp out on my bed.  We'll get lots of room service and watch movies all night. Okay?"

"But if she's not marrying Frank why are we still moving out?  Won't she get lonely without us?"

Olivia felt her daughter grasping her hand as tight as her small hands would allow.  "I think," she paused as she one-handedly maneuvered the car into a parking space in The Beacon's lot.  Once the car was parked, she turned around and faced Emma.  "I think today was a very confusing day for everyone." Emma nodded in sad agreement and Olivia pushed a strand of hair from her daugher's face.  "No one knows if Natalia's still going to get married to Frank, so I'm not really sure what's going to happen next.  I wish I could tell you, but right now I don't exactly know.  What I do know is, no matter what, we'll always be together, and I'll always… always love you."  Emma smiled at that.  Feeling relieved, Olivia gently tweaked her nose and was rewarded with tiny giggles.  "What do you say we go inside and have some dinner?  Then we can have some ice cream?  Watch a movie?"

"Okay, I guess." Emma eyed her suspiciously.  "Can we really have food on your bed?"

Olivia closed her eyes and laughed, she felt a weight slide from her shoulders.  Not all the weight was gone, but it was enough to allow a truly genuine smile to grace her face.

"Of course we can.  I own the place." She winked conspiratorially at her daughter.  Emma giggled.  "Now, how about we go inside?  I don't know about you, but I'm ready to get this dress off."

"Aw, but I like my dress," Emma said, her voice sounding a lot happier, as she climbed out of the car.  "I want to wear it every day!  Can I?"

"Um, no.  How about we save it for…" Olivia started to say the dress should be saved for when Frank and Natalia really do get married, but she couldn't say it.  She didn't know if she couldn't finish the sentence because she believed the marriage would still happen, or because she believed it wouldn't.  Both outcomes were overwhelming.  Instead, she changed the subject to food and movies as she tried to keep up with the little girl who skipped away from her toward the wide doors of the Beacon.

Natalia paced the length of her kitchen.  Her legs felt wobbly, but she couldn't sit down.  She felt she didn't deserve the pleasure of sitting.  She ran her hands along the length of the kitchen table and sighed.  The table was empty.  Earlier that day it had held piles of Olivia's things.  It had been covered in Olivia.  She pressed the palms of her hands against the cool wood as if touching the table could bring the feel of Olivia back to her.  She stood there for a long moment, her eyes shut, picturing the woman in her head.  She pictured her smiling and could see the edge of her teeth and the little crinkle in her nose.  It was a flirty, adorable smile and Natalia found it amazingly comforting.  For the first time in hours, she stopped thinking about the people she'd hurt in the past weeks, and how many she would hurt in the coming weeks.   For the first time, she began thinking of ways to fix all the damage she'd done.

"Hey, Ma? You home yet?" Rafe called as he walked through the backdoor of the farmhouse.

"Rafe!" Natalia covered her mouth and moved toward her son.  "I'm so sorry I left you at the church like that.  I was just about to call you…"

"I got a ride with Buzz, but… I'm not the one you left.  What happened back there?"  Natalia looked at Rafe with such sadness he could feel his heart clenching in his chest.   Seeing that look overwhelmed and scared him.  "Hey, it'll be okay."  He moved toward his mom and she wrapped her arms around him.  "No one was mad or anything.  I hear things like this happen all the time around here."  He shrugged.  He didn't even try to understand Springfield anymore.

"I don't know what happened, Rafe.  I don't know.  I just…. I couldn't," Natalia said, talking into her son's shoulder.   She tried to will away the tears that were springing into her eyes, but she couldn't.  Rafe was confused and frustrated and angry at himself because he had no idea what was going on with his mom.  He had never in his life felt so out of touch with her, and he was sure she wouldn't be crying right now if he hadn't been stupid enough to land himself in jail. 

"You did the right thing," Rafe said, knowing he was right.  He may not know her reasons, but if there was one thing he knew about his mom, it was that she always did the right thing.

"Oh, you don't know that," Natalia said, pulling away.

"Yeah, I do, Ma.  I figure you got cold feet or something?  I mean, it was really fast, right?  I wasn't that out of it, was I?"

"Cold feet?" Natalia said, feeling a little dazed.

"I mean, if you're not sure about something that big, you shouldn't do it."

Natalia gave her son a small nod.  "Sit.  I'll make you something to eat."  Rafe took a breath to protest.  His first reaction was to not bother his mom with cooking, but he remembered how she tended to talk a lot while she cooked.   Plus, he was starving.  He gave her a wide smile and sat down.  Natalia returned the smile and spun toward the refrigerator.

"You don't know how much I've missed your cooking."  Rafe said as he leaned his head on his fist and watched his mom move around the kitchen.

"And you don't know how much I've missed cooking for you," she said, moving behind Rafe and giving him a little squeeze of the shoulders.

"Tell me what's goin' on, Ma."

"Oh Rafe," Natalia sighed as she filled a pot with water. "Can't we just have dinner and not talk about it?"

"Oh no.  You wouldn't let me get off that easy, so I ain't gonna let you off the hook either."

Natalia closed her eyes and laughed a little.  "I don't even know where to start" she said, still facing the sink.

"The beginning might be a good place."

"But I don't know when it began," she turned around and the look on her face reminded Rafe of a wounded puppy.  He jumped from his seat and put an arm around her.

"Hey.  Sit down." He guided her toward a kitchen chair and gently pushed her into it.

"But I…" Natalia gestured toward the food she'd pulled from the refrigerator.

"We can eat after you tell me just what the heck is going on."

Natalia looked at her son for a long moment.  What would he think?  How would he react to the truth of the situation?  How could she do this to him?  He gave Gus's badge to Frank.  She was going to break his heart if she told him the truth.

"No, I can't," she muttered, shaking her head and looking down at the kitchen table which seemed suddenly very large.  She couldn't touch it.

"You can."

"But you love Frank, and I just hurt him so much.  It's all such a mess.  I messed everyone's life up."  She began crying again.

"Love Frank?"  Rafe couldn't help but laugh at that even though the sight of his mom's tears was breaking his heart.  "Ma, I barely even know the dude.  The only reason I care about him is because you love him."  Natalia made a high-pitched whimper and covered her face with her hands.  Rafe raised his eyebrows in surprise and understanding.  "Aw, man." He leaned back in his chair and ran a hand over his hair.  "You don't love him."

"I do!" Natalia protested.  "I love him.  I love his whole family." She wrung her hands in her lap and lowered her voice to a whisper.  "I'm just not in love with him." 

Rafe leaned back in his chair and observed his mom.  Why hadn't he seen that earlier?  It all seemed clear now that the words were out there.

"Then why were you going to marry him?"

 "I don't know," Natalia said in a small voice.

"Ma, you have to know why you were getting married!" Rafe was getting a little impatient now.  This was big.  This was big and important… and downright weird.  He wanted answers.  "I know how important marriage is to you.  I mean, you could have easily married some random loser when I was a kid if you just wanted a husband.  What the heck is going on?  I can't believe all this happened while I was gone.  I should have been here."  He pounded a fist down on the table in frustration.

"No, sweetie," she covered Rafe's fist with her hand.  "Please, never think like that.  This is something… It's important that I deal with this on my own now.  Listen.  All my life, or… well, all your life, I imagined that one day we'd live in a house like this."  She waved her hand around and tried to steady her voice which was coming out in jagged waves.   "In a house like this, with a man there to care for us, love us, and be a father to you.  I wanted that so much, but I couldn't marry anyone else when I knew your real father was still out there somewhere… when I still loved him.  And you know that's why I brought us here to Springfield.  To give you back the father you never had… to try to give us the life we never had."

Rafe opened his fist and grasped his mom's hand.  "And I'm grateful for that.  I didn't get a lot of time with him, but it changed everything.   You know that.  There's nothing you could have done…"

Natalia broke him off with sharp nod.  "I know that, but still… I still want to give you a family." She reached out and cupped his cheek in her hand.  "You're still so young.  You need people other than me in your life to guide and teach you."

"Ma, come on.  I've made it this far and well… okay there's the whole jail thing, but I like to think I got what it takes in here…" He took his mom's hand, placed it over his heart and said, "to get where I need to get in life.  And all I ever needed to help me learn that was you."

"You're so sweet," Natalia said with a little awe in her voice.  He really had grown up to be a good man.

"So let me get this straight.  You were gonna marry him because you wanted someone around the farmhouse to take care of us and give us more of a family feeling?"  Natalia nodded a little and shrugged.  That was a big part of it, anyway.  Rafe looked at her for a moment and let out a confused laugh.  "Well, if that's all you wanted, you should have let Olivia and little Emma stick around!  The poor girl looked so disappointed when I told her I wasn't gonna be her bother."

Rafe laughed and expected his mom to join in.  Instead, her face turned pale and she let go of his hand. 

"I should get back to making dinner," she said, starting to stand up from her chair.

"Whoa.  No," Rafe said, grabbing her wrist and pulling her back down, "not so fast.  What was that?"

"What was what?" Natalia asked lamely, looking like a scared rabbit ready to flee.

"If you want Olivia to move back in, you know I don't…"

"No!" Natalia said, her voice loud and raw.  Rafe opened his mouth to speak, but was too confused to think of anything.  "No. Olivia left already," Natalia said, as if that explained everything.

"You can tell her to come back.  I'm sure she hasn't even unpacked.  She was happy here, right?  This house is really big and I'm sure she'd be really happy to…"

"No, Rafe.  I told you no already."  Natalia slipped from her chair and moved to resume dinner preparations.

"But why, Ma?  I know you two were getting along really well.   I wouldn't mind having her here at all if that's what you're worried about.  I know I didn't like her much at first, but she's growing on me.  Plus, I know you'd love to have her back.  I never see you laugh more than when you're around her.  You're a really good influence on her too, ya know?  She's changed a lot since you two became friends."

Natalia closed her eyes and gripped the edge of the sink.  Usually she couldn't get more than a sentence about anything from Rafe and here he was rambling on about Olivia.  She pushed on the sink in frustration before turning around.  "Rafe! Stop!  Please, just stop.  Stop talking about Olivia.  She moved out and that's the end of the story, okay?"

"Did you guys have a fight or something?"

Natalia took a deep, steadying breath and thought back to her last conversation with Olivia.  "There is no us," said the memory of Olivia in a loop that ran through her mind over and over.  She pushed it to the back of her mind, but the voice kept looping in the distance.  "You could say that," she said to Rafe and brought a plate of vegetables to the table and began chopping them.

"Aw, what about?" Rafe asked.  He grabbed a tomato and joined in the chopping.

"You know, Rafe.  I don't think I've seen you this curious about anything since you were about six years old."

Rafe rolled his eyes.  "Come on.   What could be so big that you won't even ask her to come back?"

"She still thinks I should marry Frank," Natalia said.  It definitely wasn't the whole truth, but she had a feeling she wasn't going to stop Rafe's new inquisitive side by changing the subject.

"But why? Didn't you tell her you don't love him?"

Natalia had to laugh at that.  "Oh yeah.  I sure did… in a really big way."

"I don't get it."

"Rafe, you know Olivia.  She can be… confusing."

Rafe tilted his head.  "She can?  She always seemed pretty easy to figure out to me.  She's got that heart-on-her-sleeve thing going on.  There's something more, isn't there?"

Natalia looked at her son with wide eyes.  "What do you mean?"

"I have no idea, but you're actin' weird, and the way you're describing it, so is Olivia."  Natalia pressed her lips together tightly and stared at her son.  She wanted to tell him the truth, but what then?  What would he say?  How could she do that to him?  How could she sit here and tell him that his own mother was in love with another woman?  That just wasn't something people did. 

"You're starting to worry me, Ma," Rafe said when his mom didn't offer a response.

"It's complicated, Rafe," Natalia said and poked her knife into a sliced vegetable.

"Why?" Rafe was starting to seriously worry because he couldn't think of a single reason for the way his mom was acting.

"I can't… It's just so complicated," Natalia said in a small voice.  "I just can't…"

Rafe dropped his knife and dragged his chair close to his mom.  "Look at me, Ma." She shifted reluctantly and turned to him.  "You can tell me anything, you know that right?  All I want is for you to be happy.  No matter what's happened."  She shook her head.  Rafe leaned in close, touching foreheads with his mom. "Tell me."

"I think… Olivia and I… I think I'm in love with her." Her voice broke.  "I am.  I'm in love with her." She gave her son a look tinged with mild panic.  "With Olivia."  She closed her eyes, unable to bear his reaction.  Tears began streaming down her face.

Rafe sat back.  His eyebrows rose as high as his face would allow.  His mouth dropped open a little, and he rubbed at the stubble on his face. 

Natalia covered her face with her hands.  "Say something, Rafe," she said, still unable to look at him.

Rafe laughed.  Natalia peeked through her fingers.

"Oh, shit," Rafe said and kept laughing.

"Rafe!" Natalia admonished.  Rafe covered his mouth and bit back some of his amusement.

"I'm sorry, but I so wasn't expecting that."  Natalia looked at him with a confused and disapproving look on her face.  "And I know that this is big… like, really big for you.  But you were actin' like it was the end of the world."

"It is big, Rafe.  It's not funny either.  I hurt a lot of people because of this."

Rafe's amusement faded.  "Wait.  Oh Ma, now I get it.  Olivia moved out because she doesn't return your feelings… That's why you almost married Frank!  I'm so sorry… She's stupid as hell!  Doesn't she see…" 

"No, she's in love with me too." Natalia interrupted, blurting out the sentence because she couldn't listen to his Olivia ramblings again.

Rafe covered his eyes with his hands.  "Okay, now I'm back to not getting it."

Natalia raised her arms in the air in frustration and stood up.  "What isn't there to get?  I'm in love with Olivia and she's in love with me.  Nothing out of the ordinary there, is there?  Nope!  Just your average love story."

"I'm sorry," Rafe said, feeling a need to apologize in the face of his mom's sudden outburst.  He stood and grasped both her hands in his, a steadying move she'd done to him countless times before.  "You can't possibly think I'd judge you or think anything bad about you because you fell in love with a woman?"  Natalia shrugged a little.  "You raised me better than that.  How many times do I have to say it?  All I want is you to be happy.  I mean, jeez, now that I think about it, it's barely even surprising.  If Olivia makes you happy, go for it."

Natalia felt a mountain of weight fall from her shoulder.  "Thank you," she said in a small voice as she wrapped her arms around her son.

"I still don't really get why all this is happening," Rafe said as their hug ended.  "I mean, if you guys love each other…"

Natalia sighed a very tired-sounding sigh.  "Rafe, please.  Can we just eat now?  It's complicated, and to tell the truth, I don't really get it all either.   I just don't have enough energy to try to figure it out anymore today."

"Yeah, sure." Rafe said, reluctant to let the conversation go, but worried about pushing his mom too far.  "Let me help you make all this," he said and moved to retrieve the vegetables from the table.  Natalia watched his back and realized she felt hopeful for the first time in weeks.  Her baby was home and there were no more secrets between them.  She felt like she'd finally let go of a deep breath she didn't know she was holding.  Well, let's consider that step one.  Only a thousand more to go.


Part 2

Olivia stood before the doors of The Beacon and straightened her jacket.  She wasn't looking forward to tackling the pile of papers that had accumulated on her desk during the past few days.   After taking Emma to school, she'd spent the morning driving around town, trying to catch up with a few contacts.  Normally, she wasn't a fan of meeting with people outside her own office, but today she wished she had more excuses to stay away.  The stack waiting for her inside was truly ugly.  Buck up, Spencer.  It's only a few… hundred papers to sign.

Suddenly, a door flew open and one of her employees came running out.  "Ms. Spencer!  I saw you through the window.  Please, please come inside. "

"Is everything alright, Nathan?" she asked as she followed the man who was obviously about to have a panic attack.  Nathan didn't respond, only opened the door for her.

"Well, hello there, Olivia," a loud, almost jovial voice bellowed as she walked through the door.

"Oh, God," Olivia muttered under her breath before calling out, "Hello, Alan."  She could literately feel revulsion begin creeping into her body at the sight of him.

"You have such a lovely staff.  I was just telling them how excited I am to see you."  The aforementioned staff began not-so-subtly fleeing in all directions.

"Yeah, I'm sure you were." She rolled her eyes.  Alan pretended not to notice.  "Why are you here, Alan?"

"Well, Olivia.  It was the strangest thing.  I went out to the farmhouse this morning to leave a message for you with your roommate, but she wasn't home.  Luckily, her son was home to answer the door."  Alan paused and tapped a finger to his chin thoughtfully.  "Now that I think about it, isn't he supposed to still be in jail?" Olivia raised an eyebrow at Alan and gave him a bored look.  "Ah, well, no matter.  If you want to harbor criminals, that's certainly none of my business.   So anyway, Rafe invited me in while he found some paper and that's when I noticed none of your things were there anymore."  Alan shrugged and filled his face with confusion.  "It was all so very confusing."

"Why would you go to my home, Alan?  I know you've heard of telephones.  They may not have been around when you were born, but your secretary must keep you up to date with these things."

Alan did nothing more than raise an eyebrow at Olivia's insult before continuing.  "Well, you see, I had been driving through the neighborhood and thought a friendly face-to-face visit would be fun for everyone.  I haven't seen you or little Emma since our lovely family dinner."

"Driving through my neighborhood?  Right.  I bet you do that a lot."  She sighed.  "Let's cut to the chase, Alan.  I have a lot of work today."  Olivia was becoming desperate to get away from this annoying man.  Her eyes kept searching for something that might allow her an excuse to kick him out of her hotel, but no one would come within 50 feet of them.

 "Oh yes, I'm sure you do.  I heard you've been rather busy with some sort of wedding preparations this week.   Something about Natalia and Frank Cooper?  My information is awfully spotty."

"Enough, Alan."  She leaned toward him and lowered her voice menacingly.  "I already know you spend a bizarre amount of time circling above my life like a hungry vulture.  I'm sure you know everything that happened at the wedding, you know Rafe was released from prison, and you knew I moved out of the farmhouse before you even went there."

Alan looked disappointed in her for not going along with his little bit of fun.  "Well then, Olivia." He sighed as if he felt bad about the words he was about to say.  "Since you know everything I know, I suppose you won't be surprised when I remind you that my son Philip actually approved of your living situation at the farmhouse.  He was very supportive of your friendship with Ms. Rivera.  Apparently, Philip thinks she's had a positive influence on Emma."

Olivia nodded slowly, remembering her hung-over conversation with Philip.  "What are you getting at, Alan?"

"Well, I simply thought I'd remind you that Philip hasn't tried any legal action to get custody of Emma.  I'd think you'd appreciate that enough to try to keep him happy."

Olivia felt panic flutter through her chest.  Words she never wanted to hear spoken in the same sentence were custody, Emma, and Philip.  "Are you threatening me, Alan?"

"Oh dear, Olivia.  Of course not.  I'm here as a friend.  A friend who wants to remind you that your ex-husband has friends in very high places.  If he's not happy, he doesn't have to take anti-depressants to boost his spirits."

Olivia took a deep breath and pinched the bridge of her nose.  An Alan-induced headache was beginning to pierce her brain. "You're seriously telling me that Philip will sue for custody if we don't move back to the farmhouse?"

"Even though it's not my preference, for some reason it seems to make Philip happy to think of Emma frolicking on a farm with lots of little ducks and cows.  I'm just telling you what makes Philip happy… as a friend."

Olivia clenched her teeth and shook her head in frustration. "I cannot believe this.  I cannot believe you.  What gives you the right to come in here and tell me where I can live with my daughter?  If you think for one minute…"

Alan raised a hand in the air in an attempt to silence Olivia.  She fiercely batted it away.  "Now, now, Olivia.  Maybe some anger management classes might be in order?  Perhaps it's time for me to go.  I do hope you make up with Ms. Rivera now that Detective Cooper is out of the picture." Alan buttoned his coat and flung his scarf around his neck.  He began walking toward the exit as he said, "I would simply love to see everything work out with your little family."

Olivia wanted to fling a thousand curse words in Alan's direction, but stopped herself because the relief of Alan leaving far outweighed the satisfaction of telling him to fuck the hell off.  She watched him with clenched fists until she was sure he was gone.

"Ms. Spencer?" a voice came from behind her.

"What?" She spun around.  Her eyes still flashed with rage as they landed on a young woman in a maid's uniform.

"Um, I just wanted to…" The woman's words faded and she shrunk back as she noticed the wild look in her employer's eyes.

"You wanted to what?" Olivia asked sharply, knowing she looked and sounded frighteningly angry at the moment, but had no ability to erase the emotions from her face and voice.

"Umm… It's nothing, really… I just…"

"Maybe I can help?" asked another voice from behind Olivia's shoulder.  She didn't spin around this time because she knew the voice as well as she knew her own.  Instead, she closed her eyes and began wishing aliens would abduct her.

"Ms. Rivera!" the young woman said happily, overjoyed to have this new buffer between her and the crazy woman who possessed her boss. 

Natalia smiled at the young housekeeper and said, "I'll be with you in a minute if that's okay? I need a moment with Ms. Spencer."

"No problem!" The woman rushed off down the hallway.

Natalia turned to Olivia.  All the anger had faded from her face and was replaced by a remarkably good impression of a deer caught in headlights.  "I saw Alan leaving as I was walking in.  Are you okay? What did he want?"

Olivia blinked.  She hadn't expected Natalia to come into work today.  She really hadn't expected it.  She looked down at the ground, wondering if her legs were giving out or if they were having an earthquake.

"Um.  Earth to Olivia?" Natalia said with a tilt of her head.

"He was here because he wanted to talk to me," Olivia said with an irrational hope it would explain the situation enough to make Natalia go away.

"What did he want to talk about?  You looked ready to go on a killing spree when I walked in here."

Olivia felt her head swimming.  Confronting Alan over custody threats already had her feeling like pieces of the world were crumbling around her.  The addition of Natalia to the scene was way more than she could handle.  The headache that began with Alan's threats continued ripping through her brain like no headache she'd ever felt before.  She gripped the bridge of her nose again. 

"I can't do this right now, Natalia.  I have paperwork to do, and you have a frightened employee to deal with.  Remind her I'm not a psychopath, will you?" She fled toward her office without waiting for a reply.

Natalia watched her go without protest.  She knew this was going to happen.  She knew Olivia was going to use every trick in the book to avoid her.  She had no intention of letting that happen, but dealing with Olivia was tricky.  You couldn't just get in her face and begin making demands of her.  Well, most people couldn't, anyway.  Natalia knew she was one of the few who could actually wear Olivia down to the point of surrender, but she didn't want to fight with Olivia anymore.  What was happening between them wasn't about fighting until one person gave up and waved a white flag, it was so much bigger than that.   

"You're not getting away that easy, Spencer," Natalia said under her breath before going off to look for the young housekeeper.

Once in her office, Olivia collapsed into her desk chair.  She eyed the large stack of papers on the desk and whined at it.  She reluctantly grabbed the top paper and began staring at it.  Her eyes glazed over.  "Oh God," she whined and flung the paper down.  "I can't work anymore because I've lost my goddamned mind.  All the insane people in my life have finally rubbed off on me.  See?  I'm even talking to myself.  I knew this would happen."  She lowered her head onto her desk.

There was a knock at the door.  Olivia made a tiny crying noise before burying her face in her hands and saying, "Go away.  This office is quarantined due to contagious insanity."

The door opened to reveal Natalia.  Of course.  "Olivia? Can I come in? Did you say something?"

"Of course you can come in," Olivia said, sounding defeated.

"Can we please talk?" Natalia said, sitting down in the chair opposite Olivia's desk.

"Don't you think we talked enough yesterday?"

Natalia frowned.  "Not even close.  However, right now I want to know why Alan was here.   I know the man doesn't come around unless it has something to do with Emma."

"He just… he said he was looking forward to seeing Emma again."  Olivia started poking into the pile of papers on her desk.  She took a few and tried to look like she was organizing them.


"And I guess he came here to ask me if I would let him see her."  Olivia continued to be very interested in her new shuffling-paper past time.

"And that's it?"


"Okay, Olivia." Natalia sighed with a bit of frustration.  "One, that wouldn't have made you angry enough to scare an employee to death.  Two, I have never known Alan to come to you personally to set up a visit with Emma.  Three, I know you're not telling me everything."

"How do you know?  I answered the question," Olivia said defensively, dropping the papers on her desk. "You didn't ask me for a full transcript of the conversation."

"How do I know?  I know because I've seen that look a thousand times this year.   You get that look every time you want to tell me something but get too scared to spit it out.  But okay, we'll get technical if you want.  Olivia, will you please give me a full transcript of the conversation?"

"I'll send it over with my secretary tomorrow."

They stared at each other for long moments.  Each face held a challenging glare.  "Olivia Spencer," Natalia began slowly, "if you don't tell me why you were so angry when Alan Spaulding left The Beacon, I am going to pick up that paperweight on your desk and beat the information out of you."

Olivia blinked and her mouth fell open a little.  Natalia watched her with a stony glare that was meant to show Olivia just how serious she was.  A picture flashed into Olivia's head of Natalia standing above her, about to hit her over the head with a crystal turtle paperweight.  Unbidden, a giggle formed in her throat.  She covered her mouth, trying to keep it in.  She failed.  Giggles fell out of her mouth until they turned into hearty, uncontrolled laughter.

Natalia leaned back in her chair and laughed a little despite herself.    Olivia's laughter was impossibly infectious to her.  "Just what are you laughing at?"

"Just you…" She tried to hold in the laughter so she could speak.  "You with the," she said, pointing to the crystal turtle, "and then with the," she laughed harder and made the standard motion everyone does when they're miming Norman Bates from Psycho. 

Natalia began laughing at the far-fetched picture of herself.  "I would have done it!" she protested and laughed harder.

"I'd pay money to see that," Olivia said, wiping away a laughter tear.

"Olivia, stop.  This is important," Natalia said with a pout, as she sat up straight in her chair and tried to calm her laughter.

"I know.  But you see," she leaned forward conspiratorially and forced a crazy look into her face, "I'm losing my mind.  I have a headache that's searing through my brain like hot lava, and I simply can't handle anything anymore."  The laughter and amusement fell from her face abruptly and she sighed.

Natalia looked at her silently for a long moment.  She watched as Olivia closed her eyes and placed a fist against her aching head.  She looked sad and tired.

"Stand up," Natalia said suddenly.

"What?" Olivia asked, opening her eyes reluctantly.  "Why?"

"No questions.  Just do it."

Olivia shrugged and stood up.  She watched with confusion as Natalia walked around the desk toward her.  Before she knew what was happening Natalia's arms were wrapped around her shoulders, hugging her tightly.

"What are you…?"

"Don't talk.  Hug." Natalia said and squeezed her.

Olivia's eyes were open so widely from the shock of the hug she was sure they'd fall out.

"Hug me, Olivia," Natalia demanded in a quiet voice, close to Olivia's ear.

Olivia's eyes slid shut and she felt her body tremble as the shock started to fade.  Not knowing what else to do, and not wanting to do anything else, she moved her arms until they were encircling Natalia's waist.  She heard Natalia make an "mmm" noise.  The soft, approving sound was all the permission she needed to lay her head on Natalia's shoulder and melt into the hug.

They stood there for several minutes, not moving, only holding onto each another until they both began to feel tension fade from their muscles.  Natalia loosened her grip only when Olivia started to feel like a lazy ragdoll in her arms.

"You don't know how much I needed that," Natalia said when she finally let Olivia go.

"I think I might know a little," Olivia said weakly, trying to remember how to stand without the support of Natalia's body.

"Sit," Natalia said, pushing Olivia back into her chair.  She then went around the desk, got the other chair, and pulled it around until they were sitting face to face. "Now, are you ready to tell me what happened?"

"You don't play fair," Olivia said with resignation.

"Never claimed to," Natalia said, and reached to move a strand of hair from Olivia's face.

"Well, okay then.  Here it is.  He did a lot of his wacked-out babbling first, of course, but the main gist of things was…" Olivia broke off and shook her head.  She really didn't want to tell Natalia about this.  She knew exactly what Natalia would want to do.  It was the right thing, of course, but she wasn't sure if she could handle it.

"Whatever it is, we'll get through it together," Natalia said, becoming so worried and anxious she could feel her heart beating in her throat.  "Just tell me before I have a panic attack over something I don't even know yet."

Olivia steeled herself for the rest of the conversation and went on. "He told me I would be wise to keep Philip happy… and if I didn't he'd sue for custody of Emma."

Natalia raised her eyebrows, "What keeps Philip happy?" she asked, immediately assuming it was something horrible.

"Emma and I living at the farmhouse," Olivia said, bracing herself for Natalia's reaction.

Natalia glanced off to the side and looked annoyed.  "That's it?"  Olivia shrugged and nodded.  "We just… we just went through all of that because… Olivia!  I cannot believe you.  Do you really think I wouldn't want you to move back into the farmhouse?"

"No.  I mean, that's just it.  I can't.  You and Frank will be…"

"Oh, God, please help me.  Olivia!  You frustrating woman.  Did you hear nothing I said yesterday?  I can't marry Frank.  I won't ever be marrying Frank. Get it? Or do I need to use the paperweight?"

Olivia smiled a little despite herself.  "But…"

"But nothing.  You're coming home.  Today." Natalia said firmly and stood up.  "I'll call the movers."

"Natalia, wait." Olivia stood up and grabbed Natalia's arm.  "I don't know if this is such a good idea for us.  There's so much for us to talk about.  So much I don't even begin to understand.  I don't think us being together all the time again is the best for us right now."

"I think it's perfect," Natalia said in a tone that left no room for objection.  She wondered if Olivia knew how many times she said "us" during her objection.  Oh, there is definitely an us, Olivia Spencer. Like it or not.  "I think it's perfect because it'll give us all the time we need to figure things out.   I'm tired of listening to your arguments and going along with how you think things should be.  It's my turn to make some decisions and this is my first one.  You're coming home."

Olivia smiled a little.  "Well, okay.  For now.  I know better than fight you when you get that look in your eye."

Natalia smiled and took her hand.  "Come on, let's go home," she said and led Olivia from her office.


Part 3

Olivia shut the door of her car and paused to look at the farmhouse for a moment.  She couldn't imagine it looking any more beautiful.  The sun was shining and the temperatures were unseasonably warm.  The snow from two days ago was almost completely melted and the sound of dripping and flowing water filled her ears. 

Natalia had somehow gotten the movers to take all of her belongings back to the farmhouse late yesterday afternoon.  They'd spent the rest of the evening into the early morning putting everything back where it belonged.  It was a late night that left her tired today, but there was an undercurrent of excitement that kept her going like the Energizer bunny.  She'd caught up on almost all her work, and even started on a new project.   She kept trying to remind herself that things could crumble with the slightest nudge, but she couldn't help feeling that maybe soon life might resemble something sane again.

"Olivia!  Get in here!" Natalia called out, suddenly appearing in the doorway with a tea towel in her hand.  Olivia had been smiling a little as she thought of her day and took in her surroundings, but at the sound of Natalia's voice her smile grew tenfold.

"What for?  I'm enjoying nature!" she called back.  Even from a distance she could see Natalia roll her eyes.

"Just get in here!  We've been waiting for you."  Olivia walked toward the house.

"Waiting for me?" she asked when she got close enough to talk without yelling.

"Just come on.  I hope you're hungry," Natalia said, and grabbed the scarf that hung loosely around Olivia's neck.  She pulled it off and winked before turning around.  Olivia swallowed hard and pretended the simple act of Natalia pulling off her scarf didn't make her heart pump faster.

"Surprise!" said Natalia, Rafe, and Emma all at once as she made her way through the door.

Olivia lifted her eyebrows and looked around.  There was a banner that said "Welcome Home!" and a table filled with her favorite foods.  Olivia covered her mouth and felt tears fill her eyes.

"Oh hey, no more of that," Natalia said and linked her arm with Olivia's.  "This is a party, right guys?" she said, turning to Emma and Rafe.

"Yeah!" Emma said and jumped up onto a chair.  She pointed at the table.  "Look, Mom!  Natalia got you that gross cold fish you like!"

Olivia laughed.  "It's called sushi, Jellybean."

"Yeah, she got you shushi," Emma said slowly and shrugged, knowing she hadn't said it right, but not quite knowing which part she got wrong.  "And she got my favorite!  Macaroni and cheese!"  She bounced in the chair.

"Anything that's not mass produced has become my favorite food," Rafe said with a smirk.  "Are we gonna eat or what?"

"Yeah, yeah," Natalia said and motioned for him to sit down.

Olivia turned to Natalia.  "I can't believe you did this."

"It was nothing, really.  Most of it was take out since I know you have a soft spot for it.  Now sit so we can all eat.  I thought you'd never get home."

"I had a lot to catch up on at work," Olivia said as they all settled in their seats.

"Me too, but I still got out of there at a decent hour.  You shouldn't work yourself so hard."

Olivia rolled her eyes. "So you've told me a million times."

"Well, it's true," Natalia said and reached out for Olivia's hand.  Olivia looked into her eyes as they grasped hands firmly.  Soon they were all holding hands and Natalia began grace.

"Thank you, God," she said, "for bringing us all back together so we can enjoy this wonderfully gluttonous meal."  Olivia opened one eye and peered at Natalia curiously. "Thank you for bringing happiness back into my life – for reminding me what happiness is.  And most of all… thank you for Buzz Burgers with onions.  Amen."

Olivia laughed loudly.  "Natalia!  That wasn't a very… reverent, was it?" Natalia laughed a bit wickedly and took a bite of her burger.  "Plus, isn't gluttony a sin?"

"God understood what I meant," Natalia said with a mouthful of food.

"I think she was saying she's really happy," Rafe said as he tentatively picked up a piece of sushi.

"Bingo!" Natalia said, pointing at Rafe.  "But happy barely covers it."

Olivia smiled with wonder as she caught Natalia's eye.  Natalia bit her lip a little and smiled back.

"Hey!" Rafe said loudly, breaking up their little moment.  "This sushi stuff is amazing!  What the hell?  Why didn't I know about this before?  What other weird shit do you like, Olivia?" He reached out and grabbed four more pieces.

"Rafe!" Natalia said with a look of horror on her face. "You will not use that kind of language at my table."

Rafe covered his mouth and looked extremely apologetic, "Oh shit, Ma, I'm sorry… I mean! Oh, God…"  He looked panicked.

Olivia discreetly covered her mouth because she felt laughter coming to the surface.

"It's okay," Emma said after swallowing a big bite of macaroni and cheese.  "Mommy says that word all the time."

Natalia let out a sound of frustration.  "What am I going to do with all of you?"

"Keep us?" Olivia said with a big puppy-dog smile.

Natalia laughed and shook her head.  "Oh don't worry.  I fully intend to… and maybe I can teach you all some manners in the process."

"It was a wonderful dinner.  Thank you," Olivia said to Natalia after they watched Emma lead Rafe happily up the stairs toward her room.  She claimed he was the only one who could read to her that night because the book she wanted to hear involved a boy who looked like Rafe.  He readily agreed, but followed her with a feigned reluctance that left her giggling and pulling him along.

"My pleasure," Natalia said. "They're so cute together, don't you think?" She turned to Olivia and smiled so widely Olivia felt her heart expanding to match the wideness of it.


Natalia sat on the couch and leaned back.  She glanced up at Olivia who was still standing.  "Want to watch a movie?"

Several voices in her head began screaming, "Say yes! Blanket! Snuggle with movie?! Yes!"  But instead of listening, she closed her eyes and said, "Don't you think it's time we talked?"

"I know," sighed Natalia. "It feels so magical to have you here… I didn't want to break the spell."

"Technically, I was barely gone a day."

"It felt like you were gone a lot longer than that," Natalia said and reached her hand up.  Olivia took it and sat down.

"We can't start doing this," Olivia said, looking toward the window across the room.  "We can't go back to being two friends who share a house."

"Who said I wanted to?"

Olivia closed her eyes and sighed sadly.  "It's against everything you believe in."

"You don't know that, Olivia.  You just assumed it."

Olivia turned sharply toward Natalia.  "Isn't it though?  Doesn't the Bible have very specific references to," she waved her hand in the air, "this?"

"Yes," Natalia said firmly.  "The Bible devotes quite a lot of time to the topic of love."

"Not love," Olivia said, lowering her voice, "you know… the other thing."

"Sex?" Natalia asked, feigning confusion.

"No!" squeaked Olivia.

"Oh, hmm.  Not sure what you're talking about then."

Olivia threw up her hands in frustration.  "Do I have to show you again?"

Natalia bit back a laugh.  "Yeah.  You know… I might need a visual.  I just have no idea what you're talking about."

Olivia reached up and ran a finger slowly along Natalia's jawbone.  Natalia's eyes drifted shut and she leaned into the touch.  "You know exactly what I mean," Olivia purred, "and there will be no visuals until we figure this out."

Natalia opened her eyes.  Olivia was taken aback by how dark they'd become in those few seconds.  "Then let's figure this out," she said in a soft voice.

"Ball's in your court," Olivia said.

"Actually Olivia, I think I've made myself pretty clear.  When I told you I'm in love with you I didn't say it lightly.  I know what it means.  I gave up a lot to be able to say it, but I did it freely and it was my decision."

"There!  That!" Olivia said with a bit of anger in her voice.  "That's what I can't handle hearing from you.  I refuse to let you give up your life-long dreams because of me.  In the end you'll regret giving up on those dreams.  You'll resent me for their loss."

"Olivia," Natalia began but paused for a moment, thinking of a new way to explain.  Remembering Olivia's own words, she smiled and resumed, "It's like making a pie."  Olivia tilted her head and didn't look amused. "Sometimes a person may think their favorite pie is apple.  So they go around town looking for the perfect apple pie.  They decide to go to every bakery in the city, searching for the perfect one when suddenly they spot a really amazing-looking blueberry pie.  The blueberry pie smells good and certainly looks like it would taste good, but they've got this idea in their head that they only want apple pie.  They've spent so much time looking for the perfect apple pie, it seems wrong to stop when there are only a few more bakeries to visit.  So they reluctantly leave the blueberry pie and go back to looking again for the perfect apple pie.  Eventually they find an apple pie that seems absolutely perfect, but the memory of that darn blueberry pie keeps popping up.  Just thinking about the blueberry pie makes the apple pie seem boring and not so tasty after all." Natalia took Olivia's hand.  "See what I'm getting at here?"

"I'm not a pie," Olivia said, but Natalia could tell by the quiet tone of her voice that she might finally be getting it.

"Alright, let me put it this way.  You're my new dream, Olivia Spencer.  I'm not sure exactly when I fell in love with you, but when I finally realized it you were all I could think about.  It scared me at first because it was so new to me.  My thoughts… thoughts of you absolutely over powered me whenever I allowed myself a moment with them.  It was overwhelming.  I wanted to run in the other direction, and I'm embarrassed to say I did.  I had my eyes closed and my heart clung to an old dream… a dream that turned hollow and crumbled under the power of you.  Olivia, please, you have to understand me.  The only thing I would ever resent you for would be not giving us a chance."

Olivia took Natalia's hand between hers and held it almost reverently.  "What about God?  You really think He's okay with this?"

"I do."

"How do you know?"

"When I look at you, when I think about raising our family together, when I think about being with you for the rest of my life I feel so filled with happiness and love… it's like nothing I've ever felt.  That must be a gift from God, Olivia.  Everything I've ever believed about God has been about love. I believe God is love.  The love I feel for you is so true and strong… the real sin would be in denying its existence."

"Really?" Olivia said. 

Natalia bit her lip, struck by the heartbreakingly sweet look of hope and happiness that filled Olivia's features.  "I promise."

Olivia lifted Natalia's hand to her lips and kissed the back of it softly as a tear streamed down her face.   "I love you," she said.

"I love you too," Natalia replied and lifted Olivia's chin with her hand.

They slowly gravitated toward each other, lips almost touching, when Olivia backed away suddenly.  "No," she said shakily, feeling her own voice pierce her heart like a knife.

Natalia stared at her in disbelief.

"Trust me, I want to.  Oh God," she leaned back and ran both hands through her hair, "more than anything."

"Then, why?  Please, Olivia.  I don't know what I'll do if…"

"Not no… just, not yet.  Okay?  Not until you tell Frank.  Not until all the loose ends are taken care of.  Please?"

"Of course," Natalia said, immediately looking around, "I'll get my phone and…"

"Your phone?" Olivia asked with disbelief.

Natalia blinked.  "Oh… yeah," she shook her head. "That would be absolutely terrible, wouldn't it?  I can't believe I'd even consider that." She cringed.  "See what you do to me?"  She swatted Olivia's arm.

Olivia laughed and put an arm around the pouting Natalia.  "I never claimed to be a good influence.  How about we watch that movie?"

"Is snuggling allowed?"

"Hmm…" Olivia tapped her lip in thought.  "I suppose that could be allowed."

"I'm in!" Natalia said and hopped up to find a DVD.

"Keep your hands to yourself, though," Olivia said with a laugh and left the room to find a good blanket.

"No promises," Natalia said with a smirk once Olivia was out of earshot.


Part 4

Olivia spun around her room wildly looking for the second shoe she planned on wearing that day.  She had overslept and was running more than just a little late.

"Mommy! I can't find any of my books!" Emma called from her room.  Olivia finally found her shoe wedged in the corner of her closet and slipped it on her foot before running to her daughter's room.

"Where did you put them?"

"I don't know," Emma shrugged.  "I looked in all the boxes, I think."

"We already missed your bus, Emma.  Where do you last remember seeing them?"

"I don't know," Emma shrugged again.

Olivia let out an impatient sigh and began looking around Emma's room with her.

"You guys ready yet? We gotta go!" Natalia called from downstairs.  "By the way, your books are down here, Emma."

Emma and Olivia stopped turning boxes upside down and looked at each other in surprise.

"How did she know we were looking for my books?" Emma asked as they moved quickly down the stairs.

"It's simple, my dear.  She's a super hero!"  She picked Emma up with a flourish and jogged toward the kitchen.  Emma was giggling uncontrollably by the time they crashed into an unprepared Natalia.

"Calm down you two, or we'll never get to school on time."

"You don't have to come too.  I can take her," Olivia said, busying herself with straightening Emma's coat.

"Well, that would be silly.  We both have similar schedules today so we might as well go into work together."

"Really, it's fine.  I mean, I might have to work late, so having both cars might be good," Olivia said, scratching her neck.

"Well, if that happens I'll just take the bus.  You know I'm good with that."

"What is that?" Olivia said, tugging at something in her collar and trying to see behind her neck.  Natalia stood on her toes and looked into Olivia's collar. 

"You still have the tag in there.  Here, let me get the scissors."

"Guys!  Hurry!" Emma said.

"Go get in the car, sweetie, we'll be right out," Natalia said as she snipped the offending tag from Olivia's collar.

"Okay!" Emma called out and bounded out the door.

Natalia turned Olivia around and straightened her collar.  "You don't want me to go with you to Emma's school, do you?" she said, avoiding eye contact by stroking invisible lint from Olivia's shoulders.

"That's not it," Olivia sighed.  "People will start to talk if we show up together all the time."

"So?  Why are you so worried about what other people think?"

"You don't know how hard it can be to have people looking at you all the time, whispering behind your back."

"I don't?  Do you really think that Olivia?  Really?  Do you have no memory of the fact that I was once a 16 year old single mother – part of a very Catholic family who lived in a very Catholic neighborhood?  I know whispering.  It's all I heard for years."

"Then why?  Why would you want Emma to go through all of that?"

"Everyone gets talked about for something, Olivia.  It's something we all have to learn to live with.  Plus, in this day and age having two mommies is probably going to be the least of Emma's life worries.  It's not 1950 anymore, Olivia."

"I don't know…"

"Olivia!  In about 30 seconds we're going to go from being late to embarrassingly late.  We have to go.  Now.  We will talk about this later."

"Fine."  Olivia picked up the car keys and tossed them at Natalia who caught them easily. "Shotgun," she said with a quirk of an eyebrow and headed out the door.  Natalia shook her head, slightly annoyed by how cute Olivia could be even when they were arguing.

Natalia and Olivia watched from the car as Emma ran up to a group of her classmates outside the school.  Luckily, traffic had been extremely light and they ended up getting to school with a few minutes to spare.

"Glad we got her here on time.  I used to hate being late to school," Olivia said absently as she watched a group of girls gather around Emma.

"Hey," Natalia said and ran an arm down Olivia's arm to get her attention.  Green eyes turned toward her.  "I want you to look at your daughter for a minute, and when you look at her tell me what you see."

Olivia looked back over.  "Well… she looks like my little girl.  Smart, funny… looks like she has a lot of friends.  Her hair could probably be brushed a little better.  Do her socks match?" She squinted out the window.  "What am I supposed to be seeing here?"

"When I look at her I see a strong, smart little girl who is definitely your little girl.  She is so much like you, Olivia."

"I don't know if that's such a good thing," Olivia scoffed.

"It is.  It is because you're strong and you stand up for yourself.  You're Olivia Freakin' Spencer and one of the reasons I love you is because you're one of the strongest people I've ever known.  Life has put you through a lot of heartache and pain and you've used all of that to build an inner strength that I admire.  You've been through things that would have turned an average person dark and cold, but you still seem to have endless amounts of goodness inside you."

"Tell that to all the people who have called me a manipulative bitch."

Natalia sighed.  "Olivia, I'm starting to get tired of batting away all of your excuses.  I'm not going to give up, but you're trying my patience." 

Natalia's phone rang and she glanced down at it.  "Damnit," she said under her breath.  "It's Frank."

"You should get it," Olivia grumbled and slid down in her seat. 

Natalia turned the phone off.  "I'll talk to him later."

"Putting off the big talk you were going to have with him?"

Natalia clenched her teeth in frustration.  "No Olivia, I just happen to think this is more important than Frank.  You're the most important thing in my life, and I'll be damned if we don't work through this."

"Your language is getting a little rough there, sailor," Olivia muttered, staring out the windshield.

"Olivia.  Sit up.  Sit up and look at me."  As Olivia reluctantly began to sit up, Natalia reached over and grabbed the lapels of her coat until a somewhat stunned Olivia was face to face with her.  "Listen to me, and listen to me good, Olivia Spencer.  I choose you.  I had a choice of who I wanted and what I wanted, and I chose you.  I chose a life with you."  She poked at Olivia's chest with her index finger. "No matter how much you argue with me, no matter how many excuses you make, I will still be here in the end.  We will do this, and we will get through it together.  We can sit here and argue all day if you want, but I'd rather we get on with our lives.

A stunned Olivia stared at her.  The three words, "I choose you," spun in her head.  They were words she'd be waiting to hear all her life.  If she'd been standing she was sure she would have lost her footing and fallen over.  They looked at each other for several silent long moments -- a stubborn and aggravated Natalia staring challengingly at a trembling and wordless Olivia.

Suddenly, a knock came painfully loud from the passenger side window.  Olivia whipped her head around in surprise and was greeted by a waving hand and brightly smiling face.

"Open the window.  It's Mrs. Carter, Emma's math and science teacher," Natalia said when Olivia didn't move for several seconds.  Olivia did as she was told.

"Hello, ladies!  I was just talking to Emma when she pointed out her moms were still sitting over here in the car.  I thought I'd come over and say hello."

"Hello, Mrs. Carter," Natalia said from the driver side and waved.

"It's so good to see you again, Ms. Rivera!  And I'm so happy I finally get to meet you, Ms. Spencer.  Your daughter is such a pleasure to have as a student."

"It's very nice to meet you.  I'm sorry we've never had the chance to meet," Olivia said and smiled as well as she could.

"Oh don't worry, dear.  Sometimes I never meet the children's parents.  I don't spend a lot of time involved with all of the big plays and things like that.  I'm afraid I'm starting to get too old to keep up with the little ones anymore," she smiled a little sheepishly and ran a hand through her graying hair.  She looked reflective for a moment and leaned toward the window a bit more.  "I did actually want to talk to the two of you about something I heard Emma say yesterday."

Olivia raised her eyebrows and tried to look curious, but for some reason the woman's new tone made her heart sink in her chest.

"What's that?" Natalia asked, leaning on Olivia's shoulder to get a better view of the teacher through the window. 

"Well, Emma has been talking excitedly about your wedding lately, Ms. Rivera, and she came in yesterday talking about how it didn't happen.  Which is fine and none of my business… it's just that when I told her I was sorry and asked if she was okay with everything…"  The teacher looked uncomfortable.  "Well, she said she was happy because it meant that her mommy would get to marry you instead."

Olivia glanced over at Natalia, her eyes wide.  "I don't know where she'd get that!" she said to the teacher with a nervous laugh.

The teacher splayed her hands out in front of her.  "Now, I don't mean this to come across as anything negative.  We pride ourselves in diversity here and what your relationship entails is neither here nor there.  I just figured no matter what was going on, she might have her story a little wrong."

"You're right there!  I mean, it wouldn't even be legal for…" Olivia said, not exactly sure which words were spilling helplessly from her mouth.  "I mean, that would be a little fast and… I mean, we're not even... yet, anyway.  And um, what I'm trying to say is…"

Natalia squeezed Olivia's arm as tightly as she could to make her shut the hell up. "What she's trying to say is thank you, Mrs. Carter.  We weren't aware Emma had that idea in her head.  Olivia and I are definitely not at marriage stage… yet."  She smiled, reached down, and entwined her fingers with Olivia's.  "Is there anything else you'd like to talk about?"

Mrs. Carter's face lit up with a smile when she saw Natalia take Olivia's hand.  "Oh, I'm so happy that you two…" She laughed a little and cut herself off.  "Oh dear, don't mind me, I'm just an old lady who worries about her students a little too much."  She began straightening herself to say her goodbyes, but leaned down a moment more and said, "Emma is a wonderful little girl.  She's confident and smart, and she's also a natural leader.  I don't say that much about my students because they're so young, but little Miss Spencer is something else.  You two should be very proud of your daughter."

"We are," Natalia said.  "And thank you, Mrs. Carter.  I think we very much needed to hear that."

Olivia shook the shocked expression from her face.  "Thank you… so much," she said in a quiet voice. 

Mrs. Carter reached in the window and gave Olivia's shoulder a small squeeze.  "My pleasure, dear.  I hope to see you both soon," she said and walked back toward the school.

Natalia tilted her head and watched Olivia, waiting for her to say something.

"I can't believe that just happened," she finally said.

"It's 2009, Olivia.  You shouldn't be so surprised."

"The way you took my hand…" Olivia said with wonder and dropped her eyes to look at their entwined fingers.

"It's time we start telling people.  This… us is here to stay."

"I love you," Olivia said with a trembling voice and reached a hand to Natalia's face.

Natalia leaned into the hand, reveling in the intimate touch.  "I love you too… so very much."  To her surprise, Olivia leaned in and pressed their lips softly together.  The kiss was short and fleeting, but left both women breathless.  "I thought we were waiting," Natalia said softly, running a thumb lightly across the outside corner of Olivia's eyebrow.  She knew she'd never get enough of looking at the tiny details of Olivia's eyes.

"I couldn't." Olivia said, her voice thick with emotion.  "I just…"

"I know," Natalia said and leaned up to kiss Olivia's forehead. "I know."

"We should get to work," Olivia said shakily and leaned back into her seat.

"Yeah.  I guess we should," Natalia said.  She started up the car and began wondering how the hell she was going to get any work done that day.

Natalia stood in the doorway of Olivia's office, watching her for a brief moment before she moved to get her attention.    She watched Olivia nibble the tip of her pen as she read the document before her.  Images of Olivia nibbling other things like straws and plastic spoons suddenly invaded her mind.  She swallowed hard and forced the images away.  The idea Olivia might have some sort of oral fixation was something she didn't even want to begin thinking about today.

"Olivia!" she said a little too brightly and walked into the room.

"Hey you," Olivia said in a voice that sounded as close to purring as a human being could come.  Natalia felt her knees give out a little. She grabbed a chair and sat down.

"I was just…" She swallowed hard.  "Just coming here to tell you something."

Olivia raised an eyebrow. "About?"

"Oh.  I umm," she mentally shook her head.  No more Olivia sexy thoughts, Natalia.  They'd been filling her every thought throughout the entire day… ever since that much too short kiss. Mmmm that kiss. Look at her lips… so nice… so just right there on the other side of this desk… No!  No.  Okay.  "Okay," she said out loud, gathering herself.  Olivia stared at her with growing confusion.  "I called Frank."

"Oh?" Olivia asked.  She gathered a bunch of papers together on her desk and tapped them into a neat pile.

"Yes.  We're going to have dinner this evening."

"Ah, that's good," Olivia said, not looking up.

"What's wrong?  We talked about this."  Natalia leaned forward and tilted her head down, trying to catch eye contact with Olivia.

Olivia looked up reluctantly.  "You're telling him?  About us?" she said, a hint of disbelief in her voice.

"Of course," Natalia frowned and moved around the desk.  She leaned down and took Olivia's hand.  "Hey, come here," she said, guiding Olivia to her feet.  Once Olivia was standing she pulled her into a loose embrace.  "I've been dying to do this all day," she whispered and leaned forward until their lips met.  Natalia moaned softly as Olivia wrapped her arms around her and their bodies pressed together.  She lost herself in the feel of Olivia's amazing lips moving slowly against hers.  After long moments of slow, tentative kissing, Olivia took control of the kiss and deepened it until their tongues had intimate knowledge of each other.   Natalia had never felt so completely consumed by a kiss before.   If she was asked to put words to the way Olivia kissed it would be: with controlling passion.  She felt overpowered by the amount of emotion Olivia seemed to be able to pour into a kiss.  The only thing she could do was follow Olivia's lead and go along for the breathless ride.  Olivia's hands ran slowly up and down the length of her back.  The hands pressed into her in an almost tremulous way – a way that made her think Olivia was holding herself back from something.  She broke the kiss breathlessly when she started to feel the pressure of Olivia's nails run trails down her back.  It was too much… too much.

"Olivia," she said, pulling back, trying to focus and breathe again.  "That was…"  She blinked.

"Oh my God," Olivia said with wonder in her voice.

"That was amazing," Natalia said softly, reaching up and running two fingers over Olivia's bottom lip.

"Oh my God," Olivia said again, unable to think of other words.  Natalia laughed and pulled her into a hug.   "Oh my God!" she said a third time and started laughing.  She pulled back from the hug and looked at Natalia with a big smile on her face.  Natalia smiled back.  "This is going to be fun, isn't it?" she said with a quick wiggle of her eyebrows.

"Olivia!" Natalia said with a laugh.  Olivia smiled at her innocently and shrugged.  Natalia leaned in for a quick kiss and ran her tongue lightly across Olivia's bottom lip. "I can't believe you said that," she said softly after pulling away. "And I can't wait to find out."

Olivia tilted her head and laughed.  "I'm going to have to get used to this side of you."

Natalia noticed the clock on the wall behind Olivia. "Oh no," she said. "I have to go."


"Yeah.  After that… there's no way I should be dragging this on anymore."

Olivia nodded.  "I'm so sorry you have to do this.  I know it hurts you to hurt Frank."

"I can't believe all this happened the way it did."  She shook her head.  "It's going to take me a long time to forgive myself.  I mean, about doing this all to Frank… and his family, but I know it's the only way things can be."

"I'm sorry," Olivia said again.

Natalia shook her head.  "No, stop that.  You mean everything to me." She pushed a piece of hair from Olivia's face. "I'm just glad it didn't go any further."  She sighed and reluctantly moved out of Olivia's embrace.  "I better go."

"See you in a few hours?" Olivia asked.

Natalia nodded.  "I can't wait," she said with a wink and disappeared out the door.


Part 5

Natalia was walking toward the door of Company when her phone rang.  She paused and reached into her purse.  Caller ID said: Olivia.  She smiled and rolled her eyes at herself for feeling a burst of happy butterflies flutter through her chest.

"Hey," she said into the phone.

"Hey you, did I catch you before you got there?"

"Barely.  What's up?"

"Just wanted to ask a favor… do you think you can call me on your way home?"

"Um, yeah.  Of course.  How come?"  She heard a grumbling sigh come through the phone.

"I just uhm, want you to?"

Natalia laughed.  Smooth, Olivia. "Okay.  I'll be sure to do that.  Anything else?"

"That'll do it.  Good luck with Frank."

"Thanks.  I love you."

"I love you… see you soon."

Natalia ended the call and took a moment to smile as widely as her face would allow.  Our first phone I love you's.   She bounced a little on the balls of her feet and felt like a silly teenager.   Stop it.  This isn't the time for giddy.  Collecting herself, she took a deep breath and turned back toward the door of Company.  Her face sobered immediately when she remembered the task at hand. 

"Natalia!" Frank said happily the instant she walked through the door. He walked over and hugged her.

"Hey, Frank," she said, stiffly hugging him back.

"Oh, you don't know how glad I was when you called.  I can't stop thinking about you."

Natalia forced a smile onto her face.  All the happiness of the day seemed to suddenly vanish.  Wearing a smile was so difficult she felt like it was physically hurting her.  The minute she walked through the doors to Company, guilt had begun piling onto her heart.  It left her feeling heavy.

"I've been thinking about you too, Frank," she said quietly.

Frank's face broke into a wide smile. "Oh Natalia, I'm so glad.  I know you still have to work through your feelings for Gus, but I have a feeling if we give it some time…"

"Please, Frank." She held up a hand, breaking him off.  "Like I said on the phone, I have a few things I need to tell you."

"Oh sure! Why don't we…" He laid a hand on the small of Natalia's back.  She tensed up.  Oblivious, he leaned closer and said, "I reserved us a nice little table over there." He pointed across the room at a dark corner where a small table sat.  A single candle burned in the center of it.

"Alright," Natalia agreed reluctantly.  She would have much preferred a less romantic setting… like maybe outside on the sidewalk where she could easily sprint away after revealing the truth.

They made their way to the table and sat down.  For an awkward length of time they said nothing.  Natalia fidgeted in her chair, feeling the weight of Frank's happy stare bore into her.

"I'm so happy you wanted to talk," Frank said.  "I'm glad we're having dinner, too.  Hey, what's Rafe doing tonight?"

"Oh, he's out catching up with some old friends.  He was really excited about it.  I think he worried a little that people forgot about him while he was in jail."

"Oh no.  Who could forget Rafe?  He's a great kid."  Frank smiled, remembering the badge Rafe had given him.  "He's the best.  Well, I'm glad we're having dinner then.  I wouldn't want you to be lonely out there at the farmhouse."

"Oh, um." She looked down and began fiddling with the corner of her napkin. "Well, about that.  Olivia and Emma have actually moved back in."

Frank stared at her in confusion.  He wasn't sure why, but he felt a surge of jealousy move through him.  "Why?"

"Well," Natalia began.  She supposed saying, "because we're in love and I'll simply die if I have to spend any more time away from her" probably wasn't the most tactful way to handle this, so she went for the technical truth.  "It was sort of strange.  She got a call and… Philip Spaulding wanted them to move back in."

"Philip?  That doesn't make sense."

"Well, apparently he thinks it's a good environment for Emma… a good place for her to grow up."

Frank frowned.  "They can't stay there forever, Natalia.  It's your house, not theirs."

Natalia clenched her teeth.  It was all she could do to not go off on a long, ranting explanation about how it so very much was their home.  Tactful, Natalia.  Calm and nice.  "I'm happy to have them back, Frank.  We make a good team."

"But what about us?  What about our plans?  I'm sure it will break Emma's heart when she has to move out.  Why would Olivia want that for her?   I mean, I don't want to rush you.  I know you're having trouble getting over Gus, but I think… I have a really good feeling that we can get through this together."

Natalia sighed.   The man really was clueless.  Even the math teacher who never met Olivia before knew.  Oh, Frank.  Why are you making this so hard?   "I… What Olivia said about Gus, that wasn't exactly true."  Frank squinted at her in confusion.  "I miss Gus… I'll always miss Gus, but I've accepted he's gone.  I've moved on."

"Then why?"

"Oh Frank, I'm not sure there's ever going to be a good way to tell you this.  So I'm just going to come out and say it…"

Frank blinked at her.  He suddenly noticed her face looked very sad.  "Say what?  You know you can tell me anything.  If something's bothering you…"

She sighed and tilted her head sympathetically.  "I never wanted things to turn out like this.  I respect you and your family, but…" She shook her head.  Frank reached out to take her hand but she pulled back.  He frowned and leaned back in his chair.  "And I do love you, Frank… It's just… I'm not in love with you.  I can't change that and we aren't getting married."  She said the last words quickly, as if pulling a band aid off a wound.

Frank stared at her for long moments.  He stopped hearing the soft sound of music in the background.  He stopped hearing the voices of fellow diners.  He stopped hearing until the only thing that filled his ears was the distant rushing thud of his own heart.  He felt the world sink in around him until the only things that existed were Natalia's face and the small, burning candle between them.

Natalia watched him with a rising nervousness.  It looked to her as if a veil of darkness was slowly lowering itself over his face.  It seemed unnatural and instantly set her on edge.  She felt an irrational desire to flee.  She knew she'd want to tuck her tail between her legs and run when she finally told him, but she also assumed it would be an abstract fear like wanting to run out of the dentist's office after he informs you he'll have to fill a cavity – not a desire on which she'd actually act.  But this was something different.  The look on his face was something she never expected.

"I'm so very, very sorry.  Please, Frank.  Please, say something," she said in a small voice, trying to hide what she wanted to believe was irrational fear.

"Why would you…" His eyes were large and he scanned her face.  "Why did you say you'd marry me?"

"Please Frank, you have to understand."

"No.  No I don't, Natalia.  When you told me you'd marry me I believed it."  His words were coming out fast and loud.  "When you stood by my side and we told my family we were going to get married I believed it.   I believed it all.  I believed in you.  I trusted you.  I love you." He clenched a hand into a fist and let it drop heavily onto the table.  Natalia flinched as the silverware and empty plates jumped and landed with a tiny clatter.   "What… why would you do this?  What happened… why would you change your mind?"

Natalia felt her heart beating fast.  "I didn't mean to hurt you.  I was so confused for so long.   I thought us marrying was what I wanted.  I thought it was the right thing to do."

"The right thing to do?  What does that even mean, Natalia?  What aren't you telling me here?"  His eyes were large and dark.  He was grabbing the edge of the table and his knuckles were white from the force of the grip.

Natalia swallowed hard.  She was finding it hard to breathe and knew she looked guilty and scared.  "What do you mean?"

"What is it?  What made you change your mind?" His voice was low, menacing.  She sat frozen, shaken to the core by the notion that this calm, sweet man - this man she almost married – could be acting like this.  "Hmm?" he intoned loudly, eyebrows lifted, demanding an answer.

"I… I think maybe I should go, Frank," Natalia said and moved to get up from her chair.

"Oh no," Frank growled.  He grabbed her arm.  She was forced to lean in toward him.  "Tell me.  Is it someone else?  Is there someone else, Natalia?  Someone other than the ghost of Gus?"  He said the last three words with such a dark sarcasm it made Natalia flinch.

"I… I..." she said shakily, staring down the hand that gripped her arm.

"Tell me, Natalia," he said, moving his face closer to hers.

"You're hurting my arm.  Please, Frank.  Don't do this," she pleaded.  Frank released his grip and threw Natalia's arm back toward her. 

"Go," he muttered darkly.

She grabbed her purse, stood up as quickly as possible, and began moving toward the door.  As she passed through the door, she glanced back to make sure he wasn't following her.  She breathed a sigh of relief.  He was still sitting at the small table in the corner, staring down at the tiny candle.

Natalia sat in her car, doors locked, gripping the steering wheel tightly.  She knew if she stopped grasping onto the wheel she'd start shaking uncontrollably.   She breathed deeply, trying to calm herself.  "What was that?" she whispered to herself in the dark of the car.  "Who was that?"  As her racing pulse began subsiding, she reached for her cell phone.  She dialed and held her breath as the phone rang.

"Hey you, on your way home?" came a gentle purr from the phone.

Natalia released the breath she'd been holding and felt her tension instantly begin fading.  "I missed your voice," she said, making her voice sound strong.

"I missed you too."

"I'm on my way," Natalia said, and started up the car.

"Good.  I'm waiting for you." 

Natalia smiled and cradled the phone closer to her ear.  She wanted to forget what just happened.  She didn't want to talk about it or analyze it or even think about it.  She wanted to lose herself in the comfort of Olivia's voice.  "You are, hmm?" she said.

"I am," Olivia replied, her voice sounding lazy and flirtatious.  "How'd things go with Frank?"

Natalia sighed, "I'd rather not talk about it right now.  I told him.  But… tomorrow, okay?"

"Anything you want.  How far are you?"

 "I just left Company when I called," she said.  Suddenly, she heard a loud, indistinguishable noise from the other end of the phone.  "What was that?"

"Umm," Olivia said and paused for a moment.  "I think it was an owl maybe?"

"An owl?  That didn't sound like an owl.  Where are you?"

"Well, it was some sort of winged creature that makes loud noises at night.  Maybe a bat?"

"I don't think bats make loud noises."

"Sure they do.  Like, eee, eee, eee."

Natalia laughed.  "I think that might only be in cartoons."

Olivia laughed.  Natalia smiled into the darkness of her car as she thought of the way Olivia's nose crinkled when she laughed.

"Maybe it was Bigfoot," Olivia said, amusement evident in her voice.  "If there were lights I would suggest aliens, but no such luck."

Natalia laughed harder.  "Stop it.  Where are you?"

"On the dock by the pond."


"Waiting for you."

"By the pond?  The ducks aren't back yet, are they?"

"Natalia, stop asking questions and come down to the pond when you get home."

"I'll be there soon."

"I'll be here."

Natalia slid her phone back into her purse.  It felt almost inappropriate to be so happy after what just happened with Frank, but she simply couldn't process the memory of it.  It was so out of character for him to act like he did that it was hard for her to keep the idea of it in her head.  She decided to deal with it later.  All she wanted to do was go home to her Olivia.  That was all that mattered right now.

Natalia walked through the darkness of the yard.  She knew she was going in the general direction of the pond, but it was so dark she could hardly see.  Eventually, she spotted a tiny light in the distance and followed it.   After a minute or two of walking, the tiny light came into focus and Natalia stumbled to a stop.  The light had turned into what was, at least, thirty flickering candles dotting the outline of the dock.  Olivia stood in the center with her hands snuggled deeply into her coat pockets.  Natalia stood quietly, still unnoticed by the other woman.  Her breath caught in her throat as she watched Olivia close her eyes and turn her face into a light breeze that made all the candles around her flicker.  So beautiful.  Breaking out of her reverie, she began walking toward the dock again.  Within seconds Olivia heard her footsteps and looked up with a smile.

"What's this?" Natalia asked and returned the smile.

Olivia bit her lip and couldn't help but notice how the candle light accentuated the adorable dimples in Natalia's cheeks.  "I'm being romantic," she said with a little shrug.

"Oh, is that what this is?" Natalia said with a small laugh.  She walked into the ring of light and came to a stop directly in front of Olivia.  "It's beautiful."

Olivia reached out and cupped Natalia's face in her hand.  "You're beautiful," she said so softly her voice was almost lost in the breeze.  Natalia leaned into the hand and accepted the words without protest.   Frank had told her she was beautiful countless times, but she never believed it.  The words coming from Olivia's mouth made her feel like beauty personified.

Olivia leaned down and pressed their lips together.  Natalia reached up and buried her hands into Olivia's hair.   They kissed for several sweet minutes, enjoying the feel of soft lips sliding against each other.   The kiss remained slow and gentle until Olivia finally pulled away.

"Hi," Olivia said softly and pushed a dark lock of hair from Natalia's face.

"Hey," Natalia replied with a smile and dropped her hands to the back of Olivia's neck.   She rubbed tiny circles with her thumb at the base of her hairline.  "I think I like romantic Olivia."

Olivia laughed a little.  "I just stumbled across her today.  I'm glad you like."

"I love," Natalia said and leaned in for a small kiss.

When they broke apart Olivia pulled back farther than before.  "I wanted to ask you something important.  That's why I did all of this," she said, her voice sounding formal and a bit nervous.

Natalia tilted her head curiously.  "Anything," she said.

"I'd like to ask you out on a date.  Dinner, movies, that sort of thing.  I'd like to do this right."  She took a deep breath.   "So, Natalia Rivera, will you do me the pleasure of accompanying me on a date?"  She bit her lip in nervous expectation.

Natalia looked at her for a moment and laughed softly.  "What?" Olivia asked nervously, not expecting this exact reaction.

"If this is how you ask me on a date," she said with wonder in her voice, "I would be an absolute fool not to say yes."

Olivia laughed a little and looked down.  Natalia could see a small blush tint her cheeks even in the flickering candlelight.  "You deserve it.  You deserve all the romance in the world.  You deserve everything."

Natalia felt her heart melt.  "You.  You're all I could ever want."  She leaned in for another kiss.  Within moments they were lost in feel of lips and tongues moving in a slow dance against each other.  A strong breeze blew through and half of the candles flickered out.  They didn't notice.  They continued kissing until the breeze turned into a cold wind that caused Natalia to shiver.

Olivia broke the kiss and pulled Natalia into a hug when she felt the shiver.  "I think we should stop making out on the dock and go inside."

Natalia laughed and looked around.  All the candles were out and her hair was being whipped around by the wind.   "It's going to rain," she said.  Seconds later they felt cold raindrops on their faces.

"Are you psychic?" Olivia asked.

"Yes.  I predict we're going to get very wet soon.  Let's go."

Olivia smirked and watched her jog toward the house.  "Too late," she said under her breath and began running after Natalia.

The lights at Company were dim and the doors were locked.   Everyone was gone except Frank Cooper.  He sat in a dark corner, staring at the burned out remnants of a candle.  A bottle of whiskey and a glass had joined him on the table an hour earlier.  He filled the empty glass again and downed the brown liquid in one gulp.  He swayed in his chair and pressed the empty glass to his face.  He closed his eyes as a surge of grief and anger invaded his body.   He leaned his head back and yelled loudly.  He clenched his fists and heard the crunch of glass against his hand.  He felt no pain as blood dripped silently onto the table.


Part 6

Emma yawned and sat up.  It occurred to her that it was Saturday.  Cartoons!   She bounced out of bed and wandered into the hallway.  Still rubbing her eyes a little, she noticed that both the doors of Natalia and her mom were open.  That was unusual.  It occurred to her that they might be making breakfast downstairs.  "Yaaay" she said quietly and walked to the top of the stairs, but as walked she noticed it was still very quiet in the house.  She knew if her mommies were awake they would be laughing and making a lot of noise in the kitchen.  Suddenly, she heard something that sounded like a snore.  She paused on the stairs for a moment and bent to see downstairs better.

Below she saw the women in question lying together on the couch.  Natalia was snuggled tightly between the back of the couch and Olivia.  She was snoring softly.  Olivia, however, was not asleep.  She was holding Natalia securely in her arms, watching her face as she slept with a tiny happy smile playing over her features. 

Emma watched her mom as she ran her fingers through Natalia's hair and placed a feather-light kiss on the top of Natalia's head.  A smile broke onto the little girl's face and she all but fell down the stairs in excitement.  

Emma didn't say anything for fear of waking Natalia up, but her unbalanced footsteps were enough to make Olivia look up sharply.  She held one finger to her lips as her daughter rounded the side of the couch, then said quietly, "Morning, bean."  At the whispered words she felt the still-sleeping Natalia shift a little in her arms and snuggle closer.  "You're up early," she said.  She momentarily considered freaking out that her daughter was seeing them on the couch like this, but Emma seemed fine and she couldn't seem to think of this moment as anything but normal.

"Why are you guys on the couch?" Emma whispered.

"Fell asleep watching a movie."

"Aww! You watched a movie without me?" Emma said, her voice getting louder.

"Shhh, baby," Olivia said quietly and glanced down at Natalia. "Why don't you go watch some cartoons in your room?  I'll see if sleepyhead here wants to help us make some breakfast."

Emma smiled widely and said, "Okay!" with a burst of loud excitement.  She took off running up the stairs.

Natalia's head popped up.  "Huh? Okay? Wha?"

Olivia let out a tiny laugh and wrapped her arms around Natalia in a hug.  "It's okay," she said softly and kissed Natalia's forehead.

Natalia sunk back against Olivia's body.  She snuggled close, nuzzling her face against Olivia's chest, still drifting and floating in a place somewhere between sleep and wakefulness.  "Mm," Natalia said in reply.

Olivia smiled and took a moment to place small kisses into Natalia's hair.   She watched Natalia's face and waited.  Suddenly Natalia's head popped up again.  There it is.

"Oh my gosh!" She started to lift her body, but Olivia held her tight.  "We fell asleep on the couch."

"We did?"

"Yes!  The last I remember was…" She glanced up at Olivia who was smirking.  She frowned and let go of the tension that had suddenly invaded her body.  "You've been awake for awhile, haven't you?"

"Yep," she replied and began running her fingernails lazily down Natalia's back.  Natalia sighed and felt powerless to do anything but snuggle back into Olivia's body.

"What about Emma?"

"I told her to go watch TV while we wake up.  We'll have to drag her back down for breakfast."

Natalia started to sit up but again felt the pressure of Olivia's strong arms around her.  "She saw us like this?"

"It's not like we're naked. In fact, we're very not naked."

Natalia resisted the pictures that fluttered through her brain.  Olivia's voice was dangerously close to that low, sexy voice that made her brain unable to function.  "Well, no," she went on, trying to not think of not naked and that voice, "but I think we should talk to her about us."

"Anything you want, my angel," Olivia said... in that voice. 

Natalia felt her entire body melt and could do nothing little more than replay the words "my angel" in her head.  They laid for a long moment in silence.  Natalia closed her eyes and listened to the sound of Olivia's strong heart beat beneath her ear.  She allowed herself a moment to get lost in sensation and draped her body more securely and fully over Olivia.   Breathing deeply, she inhaled the sweet smell unique to the woman beneath her.   A small, contented sigh escaped her lips when she felt Olivia move her hand slowly into her hair, and begin running fingernails gently across her scalp.

"This is absolute heaven," Natalia said after a several minutes of enjoying the feel of the woman she loved beneath her, "but we should get up."

"Five more minutes," Olivia muttered.

"Emma will be back down soon, I'm sure."  She lifted her head from Olivia's chest to look into her eyes.

"Five," Olivia said quietly and leaned in to kiss her angel.

Natalia silently agreed to five more minutes by deepening the kiss.  She took a moment to thank the creaky wooden farmhouse floor because she knew it would alert her of a potential Emma approach.  Somewhere inside her head, a rational voice told her she shouldn't be indulging in Olivia like this when there were so many lose ends still untied.  She knew taking things slow was best for everyone, but the constant fire that flared in her for this woman was becoming too much to handle.  She needed a small outlet, even if it was only five minutes. 

Natalia lifted her body and slid one leg over Olivia until she was straddling her hips.  Looking down into smoky green eyes, she silently gave herself permission to enjoy the next five minutes.  She gently lowered her body and dipped her head down until her lips met the soft skin of Olivia's neck.  She began trailing a line of kisses upward toward the strong line of the other woman's jaw.  As she went, she allowed her tongue and lips to linger over small areas.  Each area received exclusive attention until she heard Olivia release a quiet moan, then she would move on to evoke a new sound from a new area.

Olivia could feel her inner control unraveling as Natalia moved against her, nibbling and licking at her skin.  Needing more, stronger contact with the woman above her, she reached her hands behind Natalia, pressed her hands very low against her back and hips, and pushed her down as she thrust her own hips upward.  She felt Natalia's lips tear away from her neck and heard her release a moan that was quieted only by a clenched jaw and the grinding of her own teeth together.  Within seconds Olivia's mouth was covered by passion-filled kisses that shocked her with their fierceness.  She felt Natalia grinding her hips down hard, heard her breathing in jagged gasps between unrestrained, zealous kisses.

"Whoa," Olivia said suddenly, grabbing Natalia's shoulders and holding her back several inches. Natalia stopped kissing her, but continued a slow, forceful movement with her hips.  Olivia dropped her hands down and attempted to still the hips. "Natalia," she said, trying to catch her breath.  Above her Natalia breathed hard and wore a look that reminded Olivia of a hungry, wild animal.  Whoa.  Olivia blinked and closed her eyes, marveling at… and questioning the sanity of her own willpower.  "As much as I enjoy this, thoroughly enjoyed this, I think…"

"Oh god," Natalia said, sitting up, the wild look disappearing with a blink.  She covered her mouth.  "I didn't mean to do that!  I mean, I just got so..."

"Hey, no, no," Olivia sat up and held the other woman in her lap. "Don't you dare apologize for that.  That was so very amazing."  Natalia glanced down and her cheeks reddened.  Olivia quirked an eyebrow and wondered how she was able to stuff her inner tiger back in so fast.  She shook her head and decided not to think about it right now.  "What I'm trying to say is, I want this as much as you do.  I certainly wasn't innocent there…"

"But we need to take it slower.  I know.  I don't…"

Olivia placed two fingers over Natalia's mouth.  Natalia closed her eyes and was powerless not to kiss them.  "Shh, let's go make breakfast, hmm?"

"Breakfast," Natalia nodded and slipped off Olivia's lap.

As they moved through the door of the kitchen, Olivia dropped her hand and grabbed Natalia's bottom.  "Tiger," she said close to her ear and laughed a bit wickedly before moving away from a blushing Natalia.

"I can't believe this weather!" Buzz said as he walked through the doors of Company.  "Did you see that out there, Frank?  There's three inches of ice on everything!  How'd you even get here?  That little car of yours made it?"

Frank watched his father as he stomped around, shaking the ice off his boots.  "You didn't have to come in today, Pop.  I doubt anyone will show up.  No one with half a brain will be out in this."

Buzz waved his hand.  "No, no, that makes it a perfect day to catch up on some things that need taking care of here."

"Okay, anything you need help with?"

Buzz looked over at Frank, noticing a certain lack of emotion in his voice.  "You okay, son?"

"Sure, Pop.  Just lookin' to help out."

"How's things with you and Natalia?  I know you were supposed to meet with her last night."

"She's not going to marry me," Frank said flatly.

"Aw, don't be like that, Frank.  I sure she's just gotta…"

"No, she made herself clear."

"Are you sure, Frank?  If it's Gus she might need a lot more time, you know.  We could all help…"

"No!" Frank said abruptly, spitting out his words.  "She came in here last night and told me she was in love with someone else.  Can you believe that?  All this time we're together and I never see her with anyone.  Now suddenly she's in love with someone else?"

Buzz tilted his head and looked at his son with concern.  He'd never seen that look in his eye before.  "Oh Frank, I'm so…"

"No.  Don't 'oh Frank' me.  Not this time.  This isn't just some situation you can make disappear with a few fatherly words of advice.  She's gone.   She never loved me.  She lied to me."

"Frank.  Come on." Buzz stepped toward him, but he spun around and walked behind the bar.  He grabbed a bottle of whiskey and began pouring a glass.  "Frank, stop that.  It's not your style to drink away your troubles."

"It's not my style to do a lot of things."

"What's that even mean, Frank?" Buzz sat down at the bar and looked at his son worriedly.  "Look, I know this has to be hard for you, and your heart feels like it'll never mend.   But I've been where you are now, and I can tell you that it will mend."

Frank stared into his glass, watching the ice cubes move together as the warm liquid melted them.

Buzz went on, "Natalia… she's a complicated woman, you know that, don't you?" He tilted his head, trying to capture eye contact with Frank.  Frank continued looking down and flexed his fingers.  "Listen, Frank, I understand this must be especially difficult for you considering all the things that have happened with Olivia in the past…"

Frank's head snapped up, "Olivia?  What does she have to do with this?"

Buzz blinked.  All this time he'd assumed Frank's anger was based on who Natalia had left him for.  He knew that business about Gus couldn't have been the real reason.  The way Olivia talked about Natalia and the way they were together – he hoped against hope that he'd been seeing things, but it had been clear to him for a long time.  He'd just assumed Natalia told his son or that he had at least figured it out, but now… Oh, Frank.  He backtracked, not wanting to upset his son any further.  "Nothing.  I don't know, Frank.  It's just that they're very close.  I know you asked Olivia if everything was alright and she told you it was."

"Yeah, apparently she's been doing a lot of lying lately.  Natalia told me that whole damn story about Gus was a lie.  They both lied to me."  Frank took a drink.  "Wonder what else they lied about," he muttered under his breath.

Buzz sat quietly, a sinking feeling falling deep into the pit of his stomach.  "I'm sure nothing, Frank," he said after a long moment.

"Can you believe Olivia's already back at the farmhouse?  Like she was just dying to take my place or something.  Natalia gave me some weird story about Philip Spaulding wanting her to move back in.  That doesn't even make sense." 

He swirled the ice in his glass and watched the whiskey as repeated waves got close to spilling out.

Buzz watched him. 

"It's like Olivia and her have some kind of…"  Frank froze.  His head snapped up and he stared into Buzz's eyes.  His eyes were wide and his face went white.

"Frank," Buzz said slowly, feeling helpless in the face of what his son must have surely just realized.  "I think you need to talk to Natalia maybe… to talk about exactly what's going on.  I mean, we can't help who we fall in love with.  You know that, Frank.  You can't force love where it…"

"Enough!" Frank yelled loudly and slammed a fist onto the bar.  "She's in love with Olivia?  And you knew?  You knew this… this disgusting truth… and you didn't tell me?  You let me be a fool in front of our entire family?"

"Frank, I just… I talked with Olivia and I suspected…"

"You suspected?  You suspected that Olivia Spencer was fucking my fiancée and didn't tell me?"

Buzz flinched at the uncharacteristic behavior of this son and felt a desperate need to smooth things over before something went terribly wrong.  "Frank, listen to me, please.   I know it hurts, but…"

"I have to go," Frank growled and headed toward the door.

"No, Frank! You're upset and it's dangerous out there. You can't…"  Buzz tried to reach for his arm but he jerked it back and pushed his father away.

"Then I'll take your truck," he said flatly and grabbed Buzz's keys off the bar.

"Wait, please, Frank!  Son!" Buzz called after him, but knew it was no use as he helplessly watched Frank run on the ice toward his truck.

"Can you believe this?" Natalia said while looking out the kitchen window.  "There must be three inches of ice out there." 

Olivia dried the last dish and walked over behind her.  "And to think, it all happened while you were using me as a pillow."  She slipped her arms around Natalia's waist.

Natalia rolled her eyes and put her hands over Olivia's.  "I'm glad we don't have anywhere to go today.  I'm sure the roads are hell."

"I wanted to take you out on that date tonight," Olivia said so close to Natalia's ear her nose brushed it lightly.

Natalia took a deep breath and stepped out of Olivia's embrace. "I guess that won't be happening tonight," she said and gave Olivia a warning look.

Olivia raised an eyebrow and smiled innocently.  "It could.  We're having such strange weather lately that I wouldn't be surprised if it was all melted by tonight."

Natalia nodded.  "I suppose that could happen."

"Think positively!" Olivia said brightly and went to grab her coat. 

"Where are you going?" Natalia asked.

"I just remembered I forgot the Jones and Waters file in the car.  I needed to look it over this weekend.  No rest for the wicked, after all," she said with a wink.

Once she was out the door, Natalia busied herself with straightening the kitchen.   She was humming a song under her breath when suddenly she heard a large crash outside.  Her head snapped up in surprise and horror.  Olivia was her only thought.  "Oh God.  No," she said and ran out the door as fast as her body would take her.


Part 7

Natalia threw open the door with a loud bang and sprinted toward the porch stairs.  She'd forgotten about the storm, forgotten about the ice, and lost her footing almost instantly. 

She fell into Olivia's arms.

"Whoa!  Where's the fire?" Olivia asked, attempting to keep Natalia's body upright.

"I…" Natalia looked at her with wide, panicked eyes.  "That noise… I thought something… I thought you were…"

Olivia wrapped an arm securely around Natalia's waist and pointed with her other toward the side of the farmhouse.  "It was that dying tree we needed to do something about.  Looks like the weight of the ice brought it down against the side of the house."

Natalia looked at the tree with a blank expression.   She turned toward Olivia and shoved her shoulder.  "Don't do that to me.  I heard that noise and could only think something happened to you." She gave Olivia a menacing look before moving forward and wrapping her arms tightly around her shoulders.

Olivia laughed a little and raised a hand to caress the back of Natalia's head.  "I'm sorry for being outside when a tree fell on the house.  Can you ever forgive me?"

"This time," Natalia said with a reluctant smile and backed away from the hug.  "Did the tree do any damage?  Aren't there power lines over there?"

"Yeah… I think so."  Olivia crunched out into the grass to get a better look.  "Damn, I think they…"

"Mommy!"  Emma appeared in the doorway.  "The lights stopped working."

"Crap," Olivia said under her breath. "Well isn't this just freakin' great?"

"Okay," Natalia said, taking control of the situation.  "Emma, go inside so the warm air doesn't get out, please.  We'll be right in."

"This sucks," Olivia said, walking toward Natalia who had a hand outstretched for her to take.

"We don't have any firewood left either.  It's going to get cold tonight."

"Whatever happened to global warming?  This is more like global cooling."  Natalia laughed and nodded in agreement.  "Oh well, I guess we'll have to think of other ways to stay warm." They walked carefully up icy steps together.

"I might have a few ideas," Natalia said with a smirk. 

Olivia tilted her head back and laughed.  "I bet you do, tiger."

Buzz tapped his fingers on the bar rapidly, trying to think of what he needed to do next.  Frank had not only taken his truck keys, but he'd taken his own car keys which left Buzz with no way of going after his son.  Buzz felt his pockets and sighed.  "Left my phone in the truck," he muttered.

He walked behind the bar and reached for his book of contacts and grabbed the receiver off the bar phone.  He and rifled through the book until he found the name Natalia Rivera and began dialing.

Natalia was pulling a large green blanket from the hall closet when she heard her phone ringing.  She gathered the blanket into her arms and ran into her room to grab her phone.


"Natalia!  Is everything okay out there?" came Buzz Cooper's loud, emotional voice.

"Umm, I…" Natalia frowned and tried to imagine why Buzz would be calling her.  "We had a little accident out here with a tree, but I think we'll be fine if we just..."

"What do you mean, accident?  What tree?" Buzz interrupted loudly, envisioning Frank wildly driving out to the farmhouse and wrapping his truck around a tree.

"It fell on the house and knocked some power lines out."  She heard a loud groan of relief come through the phone.  "Is everything okay, Buzz?  You sound upset."

"I'm down at Company right now.  I don't have a car and Frank just left.  I'm so worried because…"

The phone went dead.

Natalia looked down at the phone and frowned.  She pushed a few buttons and dialed the last incoming number.   No answer.

"What's wrong?" came Olivia's voice from her door.

"Buzz just called and it was the strangest thing.  He sounded so upset, almost frantic… he asked me if we were alright."  Olivia raised an eyebrow in surprise.  "Then, he started talking about how he was at Company without a car.  He said he was worried about something, but before he told me what about, the phone died."

Olivia tilted her head.  "That's really strange.  Did you try calling back?"

She nodded.  "I bet the phone lines are down."

"Damn ice.  Why do you think he would he call you?"

Natalia's mind flashbacked to the last time she'd seen Frank.  She felt a stab of fear hit her.  She wasn't sure why, but she suddenly knew Frank was behind the worry and panic in Buzz's voice.  "Um, I'm not sure.  Maybe he needed something?"

Olivia shook her head a little.  "I don't know.  Doesn't really sound like Buzz.  Did you try his cell?"

"No… I don't…" She glanced down at her phone and starting looking through contacts. "I don't think I have it."

"I do.  I'll go try it on my cell."

Frank was driving recklessly.  On a normal day he would have been going at a crawl, but the roads were little more than a sheet of snowy ice.

"Olivia Spencer," he muttered under his breath every few minutes like a holy mantra filled with hate and venom.   He hit the brakes a little too hard and the truck swerved for the hundredth time that morning.  He gripped the steering wheel and pressed his hands against it with so much force he was surprised it hadn't started bending.  The cut he'd gotten from the glass the glass the night before made the palm of his left hand burn with pain, but he didn't care.  He almost welcomed the pain as he pushed his hands onto the wheel.  It was the only outlet for his rage.

Suddenly, he heard the chime of a cell phone.  Buzz had tried to reach him repeatedly and he was getting tired of hearing the ringing.  Deciding to turn the phone off, he took his eyes off the road and reached over to the far side of the passenger seat to where he had thrown it earlier.  Phone in hand, he looked back to the road and made a sharp correction.  The truck skidded for a moment but stayed steady.  He flipped it open and noticed the caller ID.

Olivia Spencer.

The sight of that name made his blood instantly boil with rage.  He stared at the phone for a long moment, gripping it tightly and painfully into the palm of his hand.   Suddenly, he hurled it against the windshield, lost his grip on the steering wheel, and let loose a deep, guttural yell as the truck ran off the road.

"There's no answer," Olivia said as she ended the call.

"I need to go see if he's okay," Natalia said and moved toward the kitchen.

"Ohhhh no," Olivia said, grabbing her arm.  "You can't drive in weather like this."

Natalia jerked her arm back and Olivia instantly looked apologetic.  "I can do what I want, Olivia," she said in a fierce voice.

"Of course.  I know.  It's just… Let me… I'll go and you can stay here with Emma."

"No, you can't drive in this kind of weather.  I'm going."

"What?  You just…"  Olivia gave her an exaggerated look of confusion.  "I can do what I want too, you know!"

Natalia raised a finger in the air and pointed it at Olivia, "You will do nothing of the sort.  I know how to drive in this kind of weather.  I'm from Chicago and you… I don't know… you probably spent half your adult life being driven around."

Olivia narrowed her eyes and raised her own finger.  "I can drive just fine and you took buses in Chicago."

"I had cars!  Do you really think…" Natalia stopped herself.  "Why are we arguing about this?"

"Because!" Olivia raised her hands in the air to punctuate the word.  "The roads are terrible and I would die if anything happened to you.  So if you're so damn eager to see what's going on at Company I'll go there and write you a full report.  I'll create some spreadsheets and feasibility reports.  How about that?"

"Calm down right now, Olivia," Natalia said with a harsh tone in her voice.  "You'll put a strain on your heart."

"I am calm!" Olivia said, her voice rising an octave signaling how not calm she was.

"Okay.   Well then, since you're calm, you can go upstairs and check on Emma while I get my coat and go," Natalia replied.  She turned her back and walked away.  


"Listen, Olivia, I'm going.  I need to go check on Buzz and see if everything's okay with him," she said, knowing Olivia was hot on her heels as she passed into the kitchen.

"Why?" Olivia circled around her and backed her against the counter next to the stove.  "I don't want to argue like this, but I think I'm confused.  What's so important at Company that you need to go right now?  You're acting like you think Buzz is in some sort of danger."  Natalia stared her down, but didn't respond.  Olivia raised her eyebrows and took Natalia's hands.  "Look, I'm sorry if I'm missing something here, and I'm sorry I'm upset, but I don't know what I'd do if I lost you."  She shook her head and a sad look filled her eyes. "I just don't know."

Natalia sighed and leaned down to press a little kiss on Olivia's knuckles.  "No, I'm sorry.  I should have told you.  When I talked with Frank, he… didn't take things very well." 

Olivia shook her head in confusion.  "How so?"

"Well, he was understandably upset.   But… it seemed a little extreme for him.  Out of character.  I don't know how to describe it."

"What? Did he get angry?"

"A little."  Natalia watched a dark cloud begin settling over Olivia's features.  Inwardly, she cringed.   She loved this protective side of Olivia, but now wasn't the time for it.  She needed to fix this herself.  "What I mean… he seemed hurt just like anyone would be.  I tried to explain things to him, but he didn't want to hear it.  He told me to leave, and I did… but there was a lot left unsaid."

Olivia ran her eyes over Natalia's face.  There was something in her eyes that said she wasn't quite telling the truth.  "Did you tell him about us?"

Natalia shook her head and looked down.  "It's not because I didn't want to, or because I'm ashamed.  He seemed so upset… and you know I love you with every piece of my heart, but it still so hard to do this to him."

 "And you think driving off to talk to him in an ice storm is the best way to handle things?"

"I'm worried about him.  He seemed almost like a different person after I told him… it was like I saw a light go out in his eyes.  I couldn't live with myself if he tried to hurt himself over this." 

Olivia sighed.  "I guess I can understand that.  I just wish you'd let me…"

Natalia placed a finger on her lips. "No.  This is my problem.   I'll be fine to drive and I have my cell if anything goes wrong.  I'll drive too slowly for anything to happen, okay?" 

Olivia nodded and kissed the finger that covered her lips.  "You will call me when you get there," she said firmly.

"I promise."

Philip Spaulding was driving a Hummer H2 swiftly down the streets of Springfield and humming to himself.  He loved driving when conditions were hazardous.  It got his blood flowing to know danger was only a flick of the wrist away.

He tilted his head in interest when he noticed a large black truck that looked as if it recently ran off the road.  He slowed his vehicle as he neared and came to a halt when he saw a man emerging from the driver side door.

"Detective Cooper?" he asked after hopping down from the Hummer and catching sight of the man limping toward him.

"Philip Spaulding," Frank said through a rough cough.  He held his arm to his body and limped slowly through the snow.

"Fancy meeting you here," Philip said with a small smirk.  Something about seeing the inept police officer with a bloody nose and sagging right arm made a voice in his head snicker evilly.  He inwardly scolded himself.  There will be no more of that, Philip.  "Are you alright?" he asked with a smile.

"I… don't know what happened… the ice," Frank said.  His foot slid on the ice and he fell to a knee before recovering and staggering again toward Philip.

Philip tilted his head and watched the staggering detective.  "Do you need to go to the hospital, Detective Cooper? I would be pleased to drive you."

"No," Frank said, finally making his way to the street. "I was on my way to see Natalia."

Philip raised an eyebrow. "Why? Is there something wrong at the Rivera farmhouse?"

"Yes… no… I needed to speak with her."

Philip looked at Frank for a long moment.  He'd seen that look before… in the mirror.  "Why don't I give you a ride back home, Frank?  I won't drive you to the farmhouse, if that's what you're asking."

"No.  I need to see Natalia," he said, wide eyes staring at Philip.  "I could confiscate your car."  He staggered.  "I'm a police officer."  He pointed toward the keys in Philips hand.

Philip laughed and snapped his keys deep into the palm of his hand.  "Frank Cooper.  I'm offering to drive you anywhere but Natalia Rivera's farmhouse.  You can either accept or decline this offer."

"Take me to Company," Frank said.

Philip nodded and gestured for Frank to climb into his car.


Part 8

Philip watched Frank from the corner of his eye as he drove.  The police officer fiddled with a bloody bandage tied haphazardly around his hand.

"Is your hand alright, Detective Cooper?" Philip asked.  Frank didn't answer.  "I ask because this car is new and I would prefer not to have blood dripping on my seats."

"It's fine," Frank said and shoved the hand into his coat pocket.

"I'm glad."  He paused for a moment and watched the road.  Right after he picked Frank up it had begun snowing.  It was a hard, driving snow that was hard to see through, but at least it was giving a bit of traction to the ice.   "I'd like to ask you why you were going to Natalia Rivera's farmhouse.  My daughter lives there and I need to know if there is something going on which requires my concern."

Frank turned his head sharply.  "You knew about them, didn't you?"

"Knew about whom?"

"This whole damn town knew.  Dumb old Frank Cooper, always the last one to know."

"I'm not sure what you're talking about."

"Olivia and Natalia's relationship," he spat.

Philip remained quiet for a moment.  He wasn't sure how to handle this.  It was always his distinct impression that Olivia and Natalia had a physical relationship.  He hadn't questioned it, and he hadn't cared in the least.  It comforted him to know Emma was being raised in a household where two people so clearly loved one another.  In fact, after taking note of the situation, he had basically ignored Olivia since his return to town.   It amazed him how mentally healthy and happy she seemed, and he knew it was in his best interest for her to remain that way.  He intended to take more time attempting to see his daughter Emma in the future, but he knew he had bridges to mend before any of that could come to fruition.

"Perhaps if you explain what you mean…"

"Oh like you don't know.  You're the one who pushed Olivia into moving back into the farmhouse, for christsake!"

"I'm afraid I'm still lost.  I was unaware Olivia ever left her home, and I certainly haven't pushed her to do anything.  I highly doubt she'd listen to me, and we haven't spoken since…"

"If it wasn't for you telling Olivia to move back into the farmhouse… to take my place," Frank paused and gripped his head.   It ached and the brain inside felt like a confused tangle of barbed wire.  "If Natalia wasn't so sweet and good she would have never fallen prey to that whore."

 Philip winced at the word.  He didn't know Frank Cooper very well, but he knew the Cooper family enough to know they didn't make such accusations on a regular basis.  "I beg your pardon, Detective, but you're making little sense.  I've been away for a long time and I'm afraid I'm not up to speed with all of this.  It is my understanding that Olivia and Natalia have been very close friends and living together for quite some time now.   My daughter seems to be thriving under their mutual care, and I won't deny I'm quite happy about that.  But tell me, where do you come into this picture?  As I've said, I've not been keeping up to date with all the trials and tribulations of Springfield."

Frank flexed his injured hand in his coat pocket over and over, feeling the pain of it cut through his arm and into his chest.  "Natalia and I… we were going to get married."  His voice shook.  "Until Olivia sunk her claws in.

Philip resisted the surprised look that wanted to claim his face.  "And this just happened?"

"Yes!  Why are you asking me these questions, Philip?  I know you know everything.  I'm sick of this."  He pulled his hand from his pocket and noticed the bandage had turned a dark red.  "I'm sick of all of this."

An uneasy silence filled the car.  Neither man had any desire to continue talking.  Philip knew Frank was far from being able to explain the situation with any coherence, and honestly, he wanted the man out of his car before he could bleed on his seats.   He was more than relieved when they finally reached the parking lot of Company.

"I hope you and Natalia work through this, Frank," Philip said and there was truth behind it. "For your sake," he finished.   If this situation was negatively affecting his daughter there would be hell to pay.

Frank did nothing but stare at him a moment before climbing out of the car and slamming the door shut behind him.

Buzz Cooper pulled his hat down past his ears as his feet crunched beside the increasingly snow-covered road.  When the phones had gone out during his conversation with Natalia he made a decision to walk the distance across town to the police station.  He was too worried Frank was going to do something he'd regret to leave the situation alone.  He'd never live with himself if something happened that landed his son in jail.

The last thing in the world he ever thought he'd be doing was going to the police station to tell them to search for his son.  An overwhelming guilt filled him for all the years he hadn't been there to raise his son.  He knew Frank had grown to be a good man, but the hardships he had to face in his younger years… they were enough to weaken even the strongest man. 

With snow melting on his face and pricking his eyes, he felt like a betrayer. 

A loud knock came from the back door of the farmhouse.  Olivia dropped the book she was attempting to read and ran toward it.  Since the moment Natalia left, she'd felt an overwhelming sense of doom creeping into her skin.  An edgy anxiety was close to making her sick.  She could do nothing but picture Natalia driving off the road or getting hit by a reckless driver.   The sharp knock seemed to solidify the fears, making them tangible enough to be true.

"Philip?!" She asked wildly when she opened the door.  She felt angry and frustrated that a knock made by this man could push her so far off balance.

"Hello, Olivia."  Olivia stared at him, unable to find words.  "I thought we might talk?"

"Talk?" Olivia asked, her mouth hanging open slightly.

Philip tilted his head curiously.  Considering he was usually hit with about ten sarcastic quips the minute he saw Olivia, this was unusual.  "Is everything alright, Olivia?"

"Why are you here?"

"I have some questions about your… situation here with Natalia."

Olivia shook her head.  The realization that Philip was not here to tell her Natalia was lying in a hospital somewhere dawned on her slowly.   She swallowed hard, biting back the horrible fear that had consumed her, and forced herself back into the present moment. 

"Now?"  She backed away from Philip and grabbed a chair.  The feel of fear draining from her body left her feeling weak.  "Seriously, Philip?  Right now when there's an ice storm?  You drove here in this to talk about…"

Philip held up a hand.  "It wasn't my original intention, but I saw Frank Cooper earlier.   He was extremely upset, and I wanted to make sure everything was okay out here with you and Emma."

Olivia narrowed her eyes, wondering what exactly Philip meant by upset.  "We're fine.  I don't know why you're so keen on Emma and me living out here, but we really are very happy here.  "

Philip rubbed his chin.  "Why is it that people keep saying I want you to live here?  While I'm perfectly fine with the idea since Emma seems to be flourishing here, I can't say I've done or said much about it either way."

"Is that right?  Well, Alan stalked me down one day and told me you were going to try to take Emma away from me if I didn't move back here."  Olivia gazed at him with a challenge in her eyes.

"I was not aware my father had done that.  In fact, I was under the impression he had a problem with yours and Natalia's relationship." Philip glanced to the side, collecting his thoughts.  "Listen, Olivia.  I'm not sure what's going on in my father's brain, but I can assure you I didn't come back to Springfield to take Emma away from you.  You've been a good mother to her, and I would be foolish to take that away."

Olivia looked at him and rolled her eyes in disbelief.  "Right.  And Hell just froze over."

"Perhaps it has.  Have you seen the weather outside?"

Olivia closed her eyes, restraining her emotions.  "Get to the point, Philip."

"Alright.   I wanted to tell the two of you to keep an eye on our Detective Cooper.  I wasn't aware he and Natalia had almost been married, but he seems to be taking it quite hard."

"What do you mean?" Olivia asked, feeling fear begin to bubble up in her chest again.

"I believe Frank Cooper may be a danger to your Natalia."  Philip said.

Olivia froze.  An icy sheet of fear sliced its way through her entire body.  "Where is he?" she said, the words barely coming out.

"I dropped him off at Company."

Olivia stared at him for a brief moment before sprinting away toward the stairs.

"Olivia?  What are you doing?" Philip called after her.

"Stay down there.  Stay there!"  Olivia yelled back.   Philip shrugged and did as he was told. 

Minutes later, Olivia came bounding back down the stairs.  She had a 9mm in her hand. 

"Whoa, Olivia, what are you doing?"

"Killing Frank Cooper."

"I'm not sure that's such a good idea," Philip said, following Olivia as she strode into the kitchen.  She ignored him.

"This is a test, Philip," she said, turning on him suddenly.  Her voice left no room for protest as she put on her coat.  "You will stay here with Emma until I get back.  If you pass this test, I'll allow you supervised visits with my daughter.  If you fail - if you even think about going anywhere with her." She took the gun and pressed it to his chest.  "I will hunt you down."

"Olivia, you need to stop and think for a minute.  It was never my intention to…"

"Hunt.  You.  Down." She interrupted and pressed the barrel of the gun into his chest to punctuate each word.

Philip nodded and mutely watched as she stormed out of the farmhouse.

As Natalia neared Company, she gave silent thanks for the relatively easy drive.  It had started snowing minutes after she left the farmhouse and the traction the snow provided felt like a blessing.  She was just starting to think things might work out okay when she saw Frank staggering through the door of Company. 

She squinted to see him as she pulled into what she assumed was a parking space.  The snow was coming down hard and it was obscuring everything.  She could see he was holding some sort of tool, but couldn't quite make it out.  He came to a stop the second he saw her car and hefted the object higher.  She climbed out of the car and began moving toward him.  Finally, she saw what he was holding. 

It was an axe.

"Hello, Frank," she called.  She forced a smiled and gave him a little wave as she drew closer.

He stared at her.

She stopped a few feet from him and gasped.  "Frank!  What happened to you?"

"I was going to chop some wood.  The power is out," he said.  His voice sounded dazed.

"But your face… and, oh my god, Frank!  Your hand!" Natalia took a few quick steps toward him and attempted to take his bloody hand away from the axe handle.  He jerked away.

"I'm fine," he said with a low growl.

"I just want to see if you're okay.  We should go inside and bandage your hand properly.  How long has it been like that?"

"No!" he roared and Natalia took a step backward.  "Why are you here?  Shouldn't you be at home with your girlfriend?  Or has she left you already?  You know how Olivia can be."  His face was contorted into a sneer.

A breath caught in Natalia's throat.  He knows. 

"Frank.  I think we should go inside and talk about this… calmly."

He took a heavy step toward Natalia.  She involuntarily took a step back.  His voice drifted toward her through the falling snow.  "I don't know why you're here, Natalia, but I do know why you left me at that altar.  How you could be such a bitch?"  He raised his eyebrows in question, waiting for a response.  He swayed a little, holding the axe in such a way that it seemed to steady him like a tightrope walker's balancing pole.

Natalia took a deep breath and steeled herself.  "I am so very sorry, Frank.  You have to believe me; I never meant to hurt you…"

"Shut up!"


"You heard me!" He plodded toward her.  She took a step back with each of his approaching steps.  "I don't want to hear another word from you.  It's all lies.  Lies!  I'm sick of it!"  He released his double handed grip on the axe and lifted the bloody hand to her.  "Do you think I care about this?  This is blood.  This is flesh.  You ripped my heart apart, Natalia.  I'm bleeding inside - here." He slammed his hand against his chest and left a bloody, smeared handprint on top of his coat. 

"I'm so sorry, Frank."  It was the only thing she could think to say.  Normally she was so eloquent in difficult situations.  Until now she'd been able to talk even the most confused and angry person down off a ledge, but this was too much.  Fear gripped her and she could do little but tremble and feel herself looking wide-eyed from Frank's face to the axe he now held limply at his side.

"Sorry is not the word I want to hear from you, Natalia."

"Then what…"  Still stumbling backwards.  He silently walked toward her.   Eventually, she felt her own car door come into contact with her back.

Frank smiled.  "You can't run away anymore, Natalia." He raised the axe until he was hefting it in both hands again.

Olivia was driving like a maniac.  Often she had been called a maniac or something similar, but this time, for the first time, she felt it.  She felt like she was on the edge of sanity ready to topple over the edge at any moment.  The very idea of Natalia Rivera in danger sent her mind staggering into a place it had never been before.  Her thoughts were uncontrolled, but focused.  She had only one mission, one thought, and only one desire.  She reached over, touched the gun beside her, and felt a shutter pass through her body.

She would do it.  If Frank Cooper was even looking at the woman she loved more than anything else in this universe she would kill him.  She imagined it again and again as she speeded down the twisting roads.  She would squeeze the trigger and feel an almost orgasmic pleasure as the bullet pushed his body to the ground.

Slamming the accelerator harder, she didn't care if there was snow or ice or the very fires of Hell barring her way.  She would not allow anything to happen to Natalia.  She would protect her love until her dying breath.

After what seemed like an eternity filled with slowly passing seconds, she could see the structure of Company rise up through the snow storm.  She pounded her car into the parking lot, not caring that she hit the curb, not caring that she skidded a hundred feet before coming to a stop, not caring about anything but Natalia.

Once stopped, she threw open the car door with the force of a wild animal.  She grasped the gun in her hand and looked wildly around.  To the left, through the heavily falling snow, she saw two figures against a car.  Natalia's car.

Olivia ran toward them as fast as the icy snow would allow.

She felt her heart race wildly, dangerously, but she didn't care.  She would have gladly ripped the heart from her chest and thrown it over a cliff if it meant saving Natalia.  Natalia was all that mattered.

"FRANK COOPER!" Olivia bellowed through the snow.

She was close enough now to see that Frank had Natalia pinned to her car.  No.  No.  No

"NO!" she yelled, stopping a few feet from the pair.  She raised the gun in her hand.

"Olivia!  What are you doing?!" Natalia called out in fear.  As much as Frank was scaring her, the sight of Olivia with that gun in her hand chilled her to the bone.  "Please, Olivia.  No!"

Frank looked wildly from Olivia back to Natalia.

Olivia stepped forward, holding the gun firmly in front of her with two hands.  "Let her go. Now."  Her voice was a barely controlled growl.

Frank dipped his head down and looked at her with a feral sneer.  He grabbed Natalia's arm and pulled her in front of him.  He swung the axe and gripped it tightly around her body, pressing her back to his chest with the wooden handle.  He angled the axe so the blade was perilously close to Natalia's face.

Olivia faltered for a moment, but continued to hold the gun firmly in her hands.

"I will kill you, Frank Cooper," she snarled.

"How are you going to do that, Olivia?" Frank asked, his voice eerily calm.  "How will you steal her from me this time?"

Olivia took a tentative step forward.  He jerked Natalia's body tighter against him and she froze.  Her mind was a tangled web of fear, rage, and confusion.  The picture she'd always held in her mind of Frank Cooper was warring with what her eyes were seeing.  He was a good man.  She knew this and had accepted it for all the years she'd known him.  Could he really hurt Natalia?  Did he really have it in him?  A voice in her told mind her he couldn't, but the look on his face told her he could.  However, she could also see that his arms were trembling and blood was dripping down his left hand.  Frank Cooper was injured and clearly in physical pain.

"Frank," she began, her voice low, hoping to somehow reason with the clearly insane side of Frank's mind.  "I'm not sure exactly what is going on here, but I don't think you want to do this.  You know me.  I'm a crazy bitch, and I can't guarantee I won't shoot you.  I don't want to shoot you, but if I have to choose between you and Natalia… there is no choice.  Let her go, Frank?"

"Olivia," Frank spat out the word.  "Do you know how long I've hated you?  Do you?  The way you invade people's lives and take them over until you're tired of them and throw them out like garbage… it makes me sick. You're even more of a stupid bitch than I thought if you think I'm just going to hand Natalia over to you."

Natalia clenched her teeth in rage.  She couldn't believe this was happening.  The way Frank was talking about Olivia was making her blood boil.  She wanted to kick him, punch him, and throw him to the ground, but the grip he had on her was tight and binding.  How could he be doing this?

Suddenly, she heard more of Olivia's voice drift toward them in the wind, but she couldn't understand the words.  She was too angry to hear.  She only felt Frank jerk against her in anger.  He yelled something in response that travelled passed her ear and almost deafened her with the amount of rage it carried.  And suddenly, he loosened his grip.

Instincts Natalia never knew she possessed suddenly triggered inside of her.   With every ounce of strength she could find, she began pulling the axe from his hands.  He staggered back and lost contact with her body.  She twisted in his grip and reached for his hands.  He surged his body against her, trying to regain his grip, but she bent her hand around and grabbed his injured hand with all the strength she possessed.  She bent a thumb between the axe handle and his wound, grinding her thumb into the gash, and using the axe handle as leverage to push it in farther.   She pushed and grinded his hand into the wood until he collapsed to his knees, releasing a wild scream of pain.

Olivia sprinted toward the fallen figure of Frank and held the gun to his temple.  He didn't notice.  He was looking down at his mangled hand and repressing shouts of pain. 

Olivia's hand shook.  "I love her.  You will never hurt her.  I love her," she kept repeating in a shaky, tear-filled voice until Natalia reached out and took the gun slowly from Olivia's hand and put a steadying hand around her waist.

Natalia kissed Olivia's temple silently.  "It's okay," she whispered, trying to lead Olivia away.

Somewhere in the distance police sirens began to sound.


Part 9

Police sirens and lights filled the evening air.  There were yells and commands shouted back and forth by men in officer uniforms, but none were heard by Natalia.  She stood with Olivia in her arms, one hand buried in her hair and the other tightly wrapped around her shoulders.  Olivia's breath was coming in jagged rasps, her arms wrapped around Natalia's back and waist with a grip so strong she could barely breathe.  Luckily, Natalia had no desire to breathe.  She only wanted to feel the weight of the woman in her arms.  

The world ignored them as they ignored the world.  Even the snow, descending everywhere around them, seemed to catch in the wind and swirl away, allowing them this moment of solace.  After long moments, Natalia leaned her head back and attempted to look into Olivia's eyes.  Feeling the weight of Natalia's gaze, Olivia slowly opened her eyes.  She blinked a few times and felt tears of relief begin to make their way to the surface.

"I don't know what I would have done…"  Olivia started to say in a trembling voice.

"Shhh," Natalia said, pressing a cold finger to Olivia's bottom lip.

Olivia closed her eyes against the tears that were now fully formed and falling from her eyes.  She pressed her lips to the finger and whispered, "I love you," against it.

Natalia leaned in and laid her lips gently onto the crying woman's mouth.  Olivia whimpered at the contact and pressed her entire body forward.  Tears rolled down her face as she slowly moved her lips against Natalia's.  The kiss was needy and desperate and Olivia's breath kept catching in her throat from the tears.  Natalia sunk her hands deep into Olivia's hair and pulled their mouths together as tightly as she dared.  She accepted the breath of every one of Olivia's choked sobs as if she could cleanse her pain by accepting it as her own.

Around them, the air literally hummed with noise and chaos, but they remained oblivious to it all.  They didn't see as EMTs rushed past them, collecting Frank and putting him into an ambulance.   They didn't hear when Frank yelled an obscenity into the cold air.  None of it registered as they found solace in the arms of their love.  None of it mattered.  When their lips finally broke apart, they held each other and tried to calm the searing emotions that gripped their hearts.  They stood for long moments, grasping and taking comfort in each other, until slowly, dimly, the world began to filter back in.

"Ms. Rivera and Ms. Spencer, please, I know you've been through a lot here, but I really must speak with you," said an impatient voice in the distance.  Olivia opened her eyes and reluctantly released her grip on Natalia.

"Excuse me?" she said, forcing her voice steady.

"I apologize, but I need to ask some questions and get a statement.  I need you both to come back to the station with me."

Olivia looked at him.  She was having trouble understanding the words he was saying.

"Of course, officer." Natalia said and firmly took Olivia's hand.  She leaned against the other woman and said softly, "Come on, sweetie.  Let's get out of this snow before we freeze to death."

Olivia nodded and followed Natalia toward the police cruiser.

Olivia sat on a hard, plastic chair at the police station.  She was aggravated.  A tired Natalia sat next to her with a hand resting on her knee.  Olivia had been finding comfort in that touch, but the aggravation was getting to be too much.

Suddenly, she lost all of her patience and popped out of the chair.  "When do you gentleman think we'll be able to leave this hell hole?" she asked, taking long strides until she reached the desk of the officer who was handling their paper work.

"Uhm." He looked up at her slowly and she wondered if his brain was as slow as his movements. "I'm just about finished.  Then we'll need your signatures."

Olivia heaved a sigh and turned back around.  "Useless," she muttered as she stalked back to the chair.

Before she reached the chair, she heard the voice of her daughter from the far side of the room.  She turned toward it.

"Mommy!" Emma called and raced toward Olivia.

"Hello there, my jellybean," Olivia said, happiness and relief evident in her voice.  She bent down and Emma squeezed her in a tight hug.  "I've missed you so much."

"Me too!  Daddy wanted to see if you were okay so we came to find you."

Olivia looked up at Philip who was silently standing several feet away.  He smiled and shrugged a bit.

"When did you become a good guy?" she said reluctantly and stood up.

"Thank you for taking care of her, Philip," Natalia said as she stood up from her chair and walked toward Olivia.  As soon as she was close enough, she reached down to take Olivia's hand in hers.

"It was my pleasure," Philip said and had to chuckle a bit at the picture before him.  Olivia was standing tall with Emma in one hand and Natalia in the other.  He could almost feel the strength of their family bond physically hitting him.  How in the hell did Frank Cooper think he had a chance against this?  "I'm just sorry we weren't here earlier.   I had to call in a few favors to get the roads cleared." He held up his Blackberry, waved it a little, and smirked.

"We got to drive right behind the snow plow the whole time!" Emma said.

Olivia had to laugh.  "I suppose being a Spaulding has its benefits."

Philip smirked again and nodded.   "By the time you get home you'll have dry firewood on your porch, and men will be at your home Monday morning to fix your power lines."

"Oh, Philip, you don't have to…" Natalia began.

"It's the least I can do, Natalia."

"Got that right," Olivia muttered and Natalia elbowed her.  "Thank you," she said reluctantly.

Philip chuckled at the interaction.  He never thought he'd see the day someone could make Olivia Spencer be polite with the nudge of an elbow.

They all turned to look as they heard a door slam open to the side of them.  Buzz walked in quickly.  "Olivia! Natalia!  I'm so sorry about what happened.  I should never have let him…"

"Hey Buzz, calm down, it's okay now," Olivia said, walking toward the man.

He shook his head and grabbed her hands.  "No! I knew how upset he was.  I tried to call but the phones…"

"Really, Buzz, it's okay," Natalia said, sliding next to Olivia once more.  "We know you walked all the way here just to alert the police, and we're so grateful.  That must have been hard for you."

He nodded sadly.  "I would have been back here sooner, but I had to see Frank."

"How is he?" Natalia asked.  "I still can't believe I hurt him like that.  I feel so, so terrible." 

Olivia stared at her with a look of unabashed wonder.  "He had an axe pressed inches from your face, Natalia!  He's lucky he's still alive," she said, anger filling her instantly and forcefully.

Natalia reached up and cupped Olivia's chin to steady her.  "Olivia…"  She waited until Olivia was looking into her eyes before she continued.  "Frank's just lost right now.   I know what he did was almost unforgiveable, but we have to trust he's a good man deep down.  I have to believe that.  I know you believe it too."  Olivia nodded reluctantly and sighed.

"He is!" Buzz said, emotion filling his voice.  "I talked to him at the hospital and he couldn't stop apologizing.  He was so upset."  He shook his head and sighed.  "I don't know.  He spent so much of his life waiting for someone like Natalia.  He was so happy, and when he lost her… he just lost it." 

"Ya think?" Olivia said sharply.  Natalia nudged her almost painfully.

Buzz sat heavily down onto a blue plastic chair.  "And I still can't help feeling this is partly my fault.  If there's anything I can do… please, just ask."  He looked pleadingly up at Natalia and Olivia, but both women just shook their heads.

"It's not your fault, Buzz.  He was going to find out eventually.  This storm just broke down all communication and everything spun out of control.  We're all here now.  We're all safe.  That's all that matters," Natalia said, linking her arm through Olivia's.

Emma walked over to Buzz and sat down next to him.

"Hi Buzz!" she said.  "Can we play cards again?"

Buzz laughed and put an arm around her.  "I don't have any cards, sweetie."

"Awww, darn!  You play cards better than my mommies."

Olivia laughed, grateful for the interruption.  She was tired and wanted nothing more than to forget the events of the day.  "So you're a card shark now, Buzz?"

"I have many skills," Buzz said, keeping a serious look on his face.

Olivia laughed again.  "I won't deny that."

"I'm hungry, mommy," Emma said after a few moments.

"Okay, baby, I think we'll be able to leave soon."

"Can we go to Company for dinner?  I want Buzz Burgers!" Emma said, happily swinging her legs against the blue chair.

Olivia pinched the bridge of her nose.  The last thing she wanted in this world was to see Company again today.

"I could take her for food and keep her for the night if you want," Buzz said tentatively.  "I'm sure you two need some down time, and I could teach Emma a few of my many card skills."  He looked down at the little girl beside her. "Would you like that?"


"Oh, I don't know," Olivia said, reluctant to have any part of her family away from her right now.

Natalia's grip on Olivia's arm tightened suddenly.  "Remember, the heat's out.  Perhaps it would be for the best?  The fireplace can only do so much," she said and ran a hand down the length of Olivia's arm.

"May I join you two for dinner?" Philip asked, cautiously taking a few steps forward.

"Daddy! Yaaay! Can I go, mommy?"

Olivia groaned in defeat.  "Well, I can't fight all of you, can I?"

"Yaaay!" Emma said happily.

"Home," Olivia said with a relieved sigh as she walked through the door of the farmhouse.

"Home alone," Natalia said with a grin as she brushed past Olivia, her hand lingering for a moment on the other woman's waist.  "And cold!" she said abruptly, feeling how the temperature had plummeted in the house.  "It's like ice in here."

"Ugh, don't ever say the word ice around me again.  I'll go start the fire."

"And I'll go get every blanket in the entire house," Natalia said with a laugh.

A time later, Olivia was poking the beginnings of a fire when she heard Natalia stumbling down the stairs.  She looked up and saw Natalia with a stack of blankets in her arms piled so high they reached higher than her head.

"What did you do?  Rob a blanket store?"

Natalia stepped carefully around furniture and dumped all the blankets onto the floor in front of the fire.

"Yep.  Just call me the Blanket Bandit," Natalia quipped back and stuck a tongue out at Olivia.

"I like the alliteration in that.  You could wear a black ski mask and outfit and make people call you the Black Blanket Bandit."

Natalia laughed and rolled her eyes.   "That wouldn't work.  People would spend too much time saying, 'say that three times fast,' when they talked about me."

Olivia laughed harder.  "Hell, if you had given me about two more seconds I would have said it too."

Natalia shook her head.  "How did I know that?"  She bent down and began opening blankets and positioning them on the floor.

Olivia watched her for a moment.  "No fair.  You look warm." Natalia had changed into pajamas and a long, thick sweater.

She glanced up. "You too could be warm if you changed your clothes."


"Strange but true, my love.  Why don't you go do that and I'll see if we have any food.  I don't know about you, but I'm starving."

Olivia agreed and headed upstairs.   Once in her bedroom, she slowly changed her clothes, feeling the weariness of the day's events beginning to take their toll on her muscles.  She was cold and eager to get back downstairs to the fire, the blankets… Natalia. 

On her way out, she glanced into the mirror and groaned. "God, I look like shit," she muttered and ran a hand through her hair.  Olivia knew she was an attractive woman, but she was also painfully aware she wasn't twenty-five anymore.  She leaned forward and rubbed at the makeup that was little more than a smear around her eyes.  "Gotta get this shit off," she muttered again and stalked off to the bathroom.

After washing the makeup off, she stood and frowned at the face that returned her gaze.  She used to like her face without makeup.  Normally, she still did.  She liked seeing herself without any masks even if it wasn't pretty, but today it looked to her as if the weariness of a hundred sleepless nights had over taken her.  She sees this when she kisses me, she thought to herself and her eyes drifted shut as a sigh escaped her throat.  She dipped her head and leaned to brace her hands on the sink. 

"Olivia?" came a gentle voice from behind her.  Natalia had come upstairs to collect more pillows when she heard Olivia's sad sigh come drifting through a partially closed bathroom door.  She pushed the door open fully and moved inside.  "Are you alright?"

Olivia lifted her head and looked at the other woman in the mirror.  Their eyes locked and Natalia moved behind her with a smile.  She placed her arms around the Olivia's waist and pressed into her back.  Olivia watched as her eyes drifted shut with the contact and a small, dimpled smile spread across her face.

"I'm fine.  Just wondering when I started to look like I got attacked by a pack of wild animals."

Natalia opened her eyes and gazed at Olivia like she'd lost her mind.  "You are so beautiful," she said slowly, emphasizing each word as if there was no possible way she could ever convey everything she meant with the simple phrase. "It takes my breath away every time I look at you.  And it's not just your physical beauty, Olivia.  When I look at you, when I think about you, every aspect of your heart and soul… all I see, all I experience when I'm with you is beauty."

Olivia took a deep breath, opened her mouth, and began to reply.  But before any words could come out, she faltered and shut her mouth again. 

Natalia reached a hand up and ran her fingers gently through Olivia's hair.  Her eyes never left Olivia's as she leaned in and pressed a gentle, lingering kiss against the lobe of her ear.  She laid her hands flat against Olivia's stomach and pressed their bodies more firmly together.  "I need you to believe me," she said in a low whisper, her eyes still never leaving Olivia's.

Olivia nodded almost imperceptibly and leaned into Natalia's body as she willed the words to sink in.  She knew Natalia meant them, she could feel the truth in them, and she wanted to accept them, but she could also feel the words bouncing off the walls she'd built around her heart throughout her life.  Countless men had called her beautiful as a way to manipulate her.  She wanted to let Natalia's words in, but she also knew accepting them would break down those final barriers, and then Natalia would own the power to shatter her heart into a million pieces.  She shivered at the thought.

"Are you cold?  We should go downstairs," Natalia said when she felt Olivia shiver.  She knew she hadn't quite reached Olivia with her words, but also knew standing in a cold bathroom wasn't going to get them anywhere.

Olivia swallowed hard and nodded.

Natalia stole a few more moments of having Olivia in her arms before saying, "I'll never get enough of holding you," and pressed a tiny kiss into her neck.  "Let's go downstairs so I can hold you in front of the warm fire."

Olivia released the ghost of a smile and turned around to face Natalia.

"Did you find food?" she asked, finally finding her voice again.

"You'll see," Natalia said with the quirk of an eyebrow and led Olivia down the stairs with her.

When they reached the fireplace, where Natalia had spread blankets and pillows into a wonderfully comfortable looking nest, Olivia began laughing loudly.

"Are you serious?" she said and pulled a sheepish Natalia in her arms.  Sitting on a large plate in the middle of the blanket was a package of hot dogs and a package of hot dog buns.   Bottles of ketchup and mustard leaned beside it.  Two long sticks were laid out on the fireplace hearth. 

Natalia shrugged and smiled.  She was hoping desperately that this would be the kind of reaction she'd receive from Olivia, and felt her entire body light up with happiness and relief when she heard that loud, solid laugh rise up from deep within Olivia.  "I thought it would be fun.  After today, I figured we could use a little fun."

"You are adorable," Olivia said, her laughter subsiding.  She'd expected cheese and crackers at best, but somehow Natalia had surprised her again.  No one had the power to surprise her as much as this woman. 

"Let's eat.  I'm starving," Natalia said and pulled Olivia down into the blankets.

They talked and laughed easily as they roasted hot dogs over the crackling fire.  Olivia kept asking Natalia where she got perfect hot dog roasting sticks on such short notice, but Natalia refused to give up her secret.  Almost a half hour passed with easy banter drifting back and forth between them, and by the time they were filled with food they both felt as if a huge weight had melted from their shoulders.

"I'll take this stuff back into the kitchen," Natalia said when they were done.

"Mmrmm," Olivia protested weakly.  She had already leaned back into a pile of pillows and closed her eyes.  "I can."

"I'll be right back," Natalia said with a chuckle and collected up the plates.

When she returned, she expected to see Olivia dozing, but as she neared the blankets Olivia lifted her hand up and reached toward her.  "I was getting lonely," she said, her voice rising up in that soft flirtatious tone that Natalia loved and had no power to resist.  Natalia took her hand and was pulled effortlessly down.

"You seem comfortable," Natalia said, settling in beside her.

"Mmm, I am.  Warm too."  She pulled Natalia close, wrapping both arms around her.

"Warm," Natalia murmured in agreement and snuggled closer.  Olivia was indeed extremely warm, and after experiencing the chill of the kitchen, the heat from Olivia's body seemed like it was arcing into her own body like an electrical current - an electrical current that was winding through her veins and touching every one of her most intimate, sensitive areas.  She almost began rolling her hips against Olivia's side, losing herself in the contact and warmth.  She closed her eyes tightly and held her breath for a moment.  She needed to control herself.  It was like Olivia had the power to spark flames in her without ever striking a match. 

"Are you okay?" Olivia asked when she felt Natalia stop breathing.

"I'm trying to resist you."

Olivia chuckled.  "Why would you do something so futile?"  She leaned close to Natalia's forehead and pressed a kiss against it.

"Don't you think we should talk about today?"

Olivia released a long sigh.  "We should, but I don't want to."

"I never want to see that gun in your hand again," Natalia said, lifting her body up a little so she could look into Olivia's eyes.  "If you had pulled that trigger…"  She shook her head.  "I would have lost you."

Olivia sighed again and shifted her eyes until she was staring at the fire.  "I did what I thought I needed to do."

"No, Olivia.  Don't you understand?  If you had shot that gun I would have lost you not only physically – you'd be in jail right now – but spiritually and mentally as well.  You are such a good person, Olivia.  And whether you accept it or not, that goodness makes you fragile."  She reached up and laid her hand on Olivia's chest, covering the area where she knew a deep scar marred her skin.  "Hurting Frank, possibly killing Frank… that would have broken you."

"I'm already broken," Olivia said, still avoiding eye contact.

"No.  You are not," Natalia said firmly and reached up to turn Olivia's face until their eyes met.  "You're fully intact, Olivia Spencer.  Maybe people have made you feel that way, or even told you that you were, but I see the truth."  Her hand slid back down to Olivia's chest.  "I know the truth.  I know you're kind and gentle and beautiful in every way."

Olivia's eyes slid shut.  She shook her head.  "No, Natalia.  You… it's like you have this idealized picture of me in your head.  I can be dark and hard and downright mean.  That's who I am.  You've accused me of it yourself."

"Olivia." Natalia raised her body up until she was almost in a sitting position.  She lowered her hand until it was pressing on Olivia's stomach.  "Do you really think, after all we've been through, that I see you as some sort of perfect angel?  I know all about your flaws, and I know you probably have more than your fair share of them."  She shook her head and glanced into the heavens, briefing sending up a prayer for patience.  "I love you in spite of all that.  No… I love you because of all of that.  I love that fire inside of you that makes you want to fight at all costs even if the fight may be a misguided one.  I love it." She poked Olivia's stomach to reiterate the point.   "It makes me feel safe when I'm with you.  I know that stubborn, downright mean part of you will always be there to protect me and our family.  That doesn't mean I ever want to see you with that gun again, but I do love it all, and I love you because of it."

Olivia frowned and opened her mouth to speak.

Natalia cut her off.  "You'll never be able to convince me of anything different, so don't even try."

Olivia looked at her for a long moment.  Eventually, she let out a defeated sigh and reached her arms up toward Natalia's now sitting body.  "Come here," she said, pulling Natalia back into her arms.  She held her for a moment before speaking, listening to the crackling of the fire, and finding strength in the contact.  Eventually, she said, "I need you to know that it's all because of you."  She felt Natalia shake her head.  "Okay.  Maybe I do have some spark of good inside of me, but every minute I've spent with you has made me a better person.  Every time I see you, it makes me want to be a better person.   You don't know how lost I would be without you, Natalia."  Emotion filled her voice and she blinked away tears.

Natalia reached up and placed her hand on Olivia's chest again.  Olivia reached her own hand up and covered Natalia's fingers, pressing them harder onto her chest.

"Can you feel my heart beating?" Olivia whispered.

"Yes." Natalia moved her fingers in slow circles over the scar on Olivia's chest.

"That's not my heart."

"Of course it is, Olivia.  Don't ever…"

"It's yours, Natalia.  I think has been for a long time now."  Olivia's voice broke and tears spilled from her eyes.  "Please don't break it."

Natalia lifted her body until her face was inches from Olivia's.  She reached up and ran her fingers gently across the other woman's forehead, brushed away a piece of hair, and moved her hand downward until she was holding Olivia's cheek firmly in the palm of her hand.

"I will never hurt you," she said fiercely.  "I promise."  She wiped away a tear that was falling down Olivia's cheek.  "Never."

"Kiss me," Olivia said, her voice barely audible.

Natalia leaned down and laid her lips upon Olivia's with a gentle reverence.   The kiss felt like an answered prayer.  Finally, after all the resistance, after all the drama and heartbreak, finally, they shared their love completely.   Natalia slid her lips across Olivia's slowly, trying to empty every emotion she felt into the mouth that pressed back against hers so fiercely.   She needed Olivia to know what she was feeling – to feel what she felt.  She needed her to understand just how deeply she was loved.  The more their lips met, the more her body ached with the need of it.  She needed to ravage every inch of Olivia's flesh so every corner of her body knew just how much it was loved. 

"I need you," Natalia said, her voice low and almost predatory.

"I'm yours," Olivia replied without hesitation and instantly felt Natalia's mouth descend upon the skin of her neck.


Part 10

Natalia ran her tongue over the surface of Olivia's neck like she was licking the skin of a goddess.  Her head was bowed, eyes were closed, and she held her body reverently still as she concentrated on worshipping her lover's skin with the most sensitive parts of her tongue.   She reached a hand up to the opposite side of Olivia's neck and scraped her nails lightly from earlobe to collarbone as she pressed lingering kisses into Olivia's skin.

Olivia rolled her head slowly from side to side, reveling in the feel of hard nails and soft lips balancing and battling their way across her skin.  The experience stilled her thoughts until she was aware of nothing but the feel of Natalia's lips and fingertips.  Her eyes were shut and she was doing little beyond breathing through slightly parted lips and shifting her neck toward the more delicious touches.

Natalia slowly moved her hand down Olivia's shirt, pausing to gently cup a breast in lightly trembling fingers.  She felt the weight of the soft breast for only a moment before her hand drifted farther down and slid beneath Olivia's shirt.  When her hand came in contact with the skin of Olivia's stomach, she ran her tongue firmly across the skin beneath her lips.  Olivia moaned and rose up into the touch.

Suddenly, Natalia shifted her entire body until she was straddling Olivia's hips.  She sat up.  Olivia looked up and saw that Natalia had her eyes closed and had one hand splayed haphazardly through her hair.  Her hips rocked gently against Olivia.  She was breathing so hard Olivia could feel her whole body move with the force of it.

"Are you alright?" Olivia asked, and sat up.  She wrapped her arms around the woman who was now on her lap in a motion she hoped would calm her breathing.

"I feel like I can't breathe," Natalia whispered and pressed her body into the comforting embrace.  She draped her arms over Olivia's shoulders and leaned in to press her lips against Olivia's ear.

Olivia moaned gently into the contact and slipped her hands into Natalia's sweater and under the back of her shirt.  Her fingers were met by hot, sweaty skin.  Natalia felt like she was burning from the inside out.  Olivia immediately removed her hands from the skin, which drew a frustrated moan from Natalia's mouth, and raised her hands up to push the sweater from her shoulders.

"I'm still so hot," Natalia said, her voice nothing more than a soft purr, when the sweater was fully removed.

Olivia leaned up and captured Natalia's lips for a hard kiss that lasted only until the fabric of Natalia's shirt came up and between them.  Once the shirt was discarded, Natalia leaned back down and roughly continued the kiss.  Olivia ran her fingers up Natalia's back until she reached the clasp of her bra.  She unhooked it and instantly Natalia's lips left hers.  She pulled back.

She reached behind her own back and grasped Olivia's hands before she could remove the bra.  Pulling both hands away, she placed them, palms down, on her thighs.  She rocked her hips firmly against Olivia and felt the hands on her thighs instinctively grasp her and press their bodies together.  Continuing to move her hips in a lazy, slow motion, she reached behind her and slowly she pulled the lacy, thin garment from her shoulders.  Olivia watched as small, perfect nipples appeared from behind the fabric.  She resisted the instinct to close her eyes as desire overwhelmed her.  Natalia dropped the bra beside her and reached back down for Olivia's hands.  She slid her fingers beneath both and lifted them, raised them to her chest, and pressed into them.  Olivia closed her eyes and released an awestruck moan as she felt Natalia's nipples come into contact with the center of her palms.

"Yes."  The word came out as little more than a hiss of pleasure.

Natalia's hands were still on top of Olivia's, and she pressed those hands firmly into her, moving them in slow circles, until she felt her nipples pebble against the touch.  Olivia closed her eyes tightly and Natalia watched as she licked her lips and unconsciously bent her head toward Natalia's chest.

"What do you want, Olivia?" she asked as she moved her own hands away and reached up to thread them through Olivia's hair.  She pressed her hips down and arched her back, raising her chest higher.  Eyes focused on her own fingers, Olivia moved them across Natalia's chest until she was lightly grasping Natalia's nipples between thumb and index fingers.

"Everything," she said into Natalia's ear and pressed her fingers together firmly around the nipples.

Natalia released a strangled cry and felt her body jolt as Olivia forcefully moved them back down onto the blankets.  She hovered over Natalia, breathing hard, her mouth hesitating just an inch from her lover's lips.  As she breathed deeply and pressed her thigh slowly between Natalia's legs, the woman beneath her gasped at the contact and began to roll her head back.  Olivia swiftly reached up and halted her progress with a firm hand against her jaw.  Their eyes locked.  The fire crackling gently in the background was the only sound.  An insistent rocking of the hips was the only movement. 

Without warning, Olivia dipped her head down and boldly invaded Natalia's mouth with her lips and tongue.  Natalia moaned into the kiss and dug her fingertips into Olivia's back, trying to pull her in even more deeply.  Olivia moved her hand back down to Natalia's bare chest.  She covered the surface of one breast with the palm of her hand and pressed gently, moving her hand and the breast beneath it in time with the rocking of her hips.

Natalia tore her lips away from Olivia's.  "I need you to take your clothes off," she said, dimly knowing somewhere inside that it was ineloquent to demand Olivia to strip, but she needed to feel Olivia's skin.  She needed to press her skin against Olivia's skin and feel the intermingling of their sweat as they thrust their bodies together.

Olivia responded by lifting her body up and sitting on her heels beside Natalia.  She didn't reach for her clothes though; she only rested there, raking her eyes across Natalia's body.  She watched as her chest rose and fell with each breath, and she watched the subtle thrust of hips that Natalia was helpless to completely stop.   She watched it all, silently, without moving for long moments until Natalia reached a hand toward her.

"Please," she said, not sure why Olivia was hesitating.

Olivia grasped Natalia's outstretched hand and pressed it down into the blankets.  She reached out with her other hand and placed it between Natalia's breasts.  She curled her fingers slightly until her nails were gently pressing into the soft flesh and began moving her fingers firmly, but without hesitation down to Natalia's waistband. 

After releasing Natalia's hand and moving closer, she grasped the waistband of Natalia's pants firmly with both hands.  Her eyebrow lifted and she looked up questioningly at Natalia through dark eyelashes.

Natalia lifted her hips.

A small smile spread across Olivia's face and she pulled Natalia's pants off with a sharp tug.   Olivia then lowered her mouth to Natalia's upper thigh and ran her tongue firmly against the soft skin she felt there.  She turned her face toward the apex of Natalia's legs and breathed deeply.  The scent of Natalia sent such a jolt of desire through her she felt her teeth sinking into Natalia's skin before she stop herself. 

Natalia moaned and arched her body into the sensation.

Despite Natalia's response, Olivia quickly pulled away and kissed the spot gently, pleased to see she hadn't left a mark with the slip in control.  She lifted her eyes from the spot and immediately her attention was drawn to the wet panties that barely covered Natalia.  She swallowed hard as she felt her mouth begin to water, and reached up.  She pressed one finger lightly, just barely enough to feel the hot wetness, down the length of the panties.

"Olivia," Natalia said, a desperate voice coming from somewhere far away.

Olivia reached up with both hands and hooked them around the sides of Natalia's panties.  This time, Natalia raised her hips without hesitation and she slipped the garment down and off her body. 

Olivia moved back up the length of Natalia's legs and was close enough to brush her nose against soft curls when she felt Natalia pull at her hair with one hand and her shirt with another.  She looked up, forcing her eyes to open and focus.

"Wait," Natalia said. "Please."  Natalia was having trouble getting words out, and even though she was telling Olivia to wait, her hips betrayed her with an insistent upward thrust as if they'd given up on her and gone out on their own to search the strong tongue they knew wanted nothing more than to give pleasure.

"What is it, Natalia?" Olivia said, lifting her body up until her face was hovering above Natalia's.  "What do you want?"

"I need you…" Natalia swallowed hard and closed her eyes.  "I need you to take these damn clothes off."

Olivia chuckled.  "As you wish," she said with a small purr in her voice and stood up.

Natalia watched as the standing woman lifted her shirt over her head, but she could no longer only watch when she saw Olivia's breasts fall from the hold of her delicate black bra.  She rose to her knees and reached up, cupping Olivia's full breasts in both her hands.  She lifted them slightly and ran the pads of her thumbs gently over Olivia's nipples. 

Olivia bit her lip and gasped at the contact.  She felt her legs wanting to buckle and reached down to the waistband of her own pants.  Natalia gently pushed her hands away and began untying the string that held the pants together.  Once untied, she put her thumbs together and pressed them into the skin above the drawstring.  She began slowly moving them apart, drawing a line with her thumbs outward toward Olivia's sides.   As she moved, she slipped her fingers beneath the cloth of Olivia's panties and began pushing them downward.  She pressed her entire hand firmly against Olivia's bare skin as she lowered both garments at once. 

Her hands followed the contours of Olivia's legs until the garments were pushed to the floor.  She looked up and focused her attention on the wet area between Olivia's legs.  She lifted her body until the scent of Olivia drifted into her nose.  She closed her eyes and inhaled the heady scent as she ran her hands up and around Olivia until they were resting firmly on her backside.  Unable to stop herself, she felt her fingers grasp into the firm skin and pull Olivia closer to her face.  She snaked out a tongue and pressed it into the wet curls before her.

Both women moaned loudly and Olivia helplessly staggered.  Natalia attempted to steady her with strong hands and leaned forward to press her tongue more firmly against Olivia.  She never wanted to taste anything more in her entire life and knew ambrosia would pale in comparison.  As her strong tongue swept across Olivia's clit, the standing woman felt her knees buckle and she clumsily dropped onto the soft blankets.

By the time she was able to open her eyes again, Natalia was above her, moaning softly as their naked bodies pressed firmly together for the first time.   Olivia could do nothing but open her legs wider as she felt one of Natalia's legs settle down between hers.

Pressing her leg firmly against Olivia, Natalia leaned down and began kissing her slowly.  Olivia moaned softly into her and ran her tongue lightly across Natalia's lips.  She could taste where Natalia's lips had moved against her arousal, and the force of the memory made her tear her lips away from the kiss.

"Please, Natalia," she whispered urgently.

"What?" Natalia said as she moved her hand between their breasts and pinched Olivia's nipple lightly. Olivia released a high-pitched moan and reached out to grasp a fistful of blanket.  She clenched it with all her strength, channeling into it the feelings of uncontrolled lust that were making her thoughts too scattered to answer Natalia's question.

"What do you want, Olivia?" Natalia asked, a feral tone to her voice.  She thrust her leg harder against Olivia.  She knew exactly what the other woman wanted, but she needed to hear the words in the voice she loved so much.

Olivia took deep breaths, trying to calm herself.   "I want you so much.  I want to feel you… inside of me." she said, when she finally found her voice.

Natalia smiled and licked her lips.  She leaned down, kissing Olivia, crushing their lips together as she moved her fingers slowly down her body.

Olivia released a cry when she felt fingertips slowly press against the sensitive flesh between her legs.   She resisted an urge to grab Natalia's wrist and press those fingertips sharply against her clit.  She resisted the urge to beg Natalia to fuck her – fuck her until she screamed and cried out for mercy.  She wanted release.  Olivia Spencer always took what she wanted and it was hard to resist those old, selfish desires as Natalia's fingers moved lightly against her, but she wanted Natalia to experience this at her own pace.  She wanted this to be an offering of pleasure, not a lustful theft on her part.

Natalia could feel Olivia tremble as she slowly, almost curiously slid her fingers gently through the wet heat.  The fingers of one of Olivia's hands were pressed lightly against her back, and her body barely moved even when Natalia took her fingertips and dipped them ever so slightly inside Olivia.  She knew Olivia was holding back.  This was new to her, but she'd lived with the fiery woman long enough, and fantasized about this moment enough to know that this was the point where Olivia's lovers did little beyond hold on for the ride.

"Olivia," Natalia said, her voice low and raspy, her fingers still gently pushing into Olivia the smallest bit, barely penetrating, promising more but never giving it.  Natalia watched as Olivia clenched her teeth and didn't reply.  Her eyes were shut tight and she was still grasping onto the blanket with a grip so hard her arm trembled with the force of it.  Natalia watched was Olivia dug her nails into the blanket again and again.  She had no illusions about what sex with Olivia Spencer would be like.  She wanted those nails on her skin.

She reached out and covered the hand with her own, attempting to stop its movements, and repeated, "Olivia."  She waited for several moments, still getting very little response.  She removed her hand and reached up to Olivia's face, touching her cheek gently.

"Open your eyes, Olivia."

Olivia took deep breaths and forced her eyes open.

Natalia waited until those deep green eyes were focused and locked on her own.  "Why are you holding back?" she asked.

A look of surprise flittered across Olivia's face.  "I'm not," she said because she truly felt like she wasn't holding back.  She simply wanted their first experience together to be more... polite than sex with Olivia Spencer usually was.

"I may be new at this, but I'm not new to Olivia Spencer."  Natalia reached down and pulled her hand from the blanket and entwined their fingers together.  "Perhaps I've fantasized too much," Natalia said in a whisper close to her ear.  "But I always assumed you would exhibit much, much less restraint in a situation like this."  Natalia drew their entwined hands toward her body and placed Olivia's hand firmly against her ass.  "Please don't disappoint me."

A smile spread across Natalia's face as she felt Olivia's fingers clench tightly against her skin.   Soon, Olivia's other hand joined in mirroring the movements of its mate.  She felt fingernails press firmly against her and pressed her body back against the touch.  She braced herself, one hand on either side of Olivia's head, and arched her back, reveling in the feel of Olivia's hands kneading and pulling apart the flesh beneath her hands. 

Olivia scraped her nails slowly, firmly up Natalia's back, all the way to her shoulders.

"That's it," Natalia said, her voice little more than a moan of pleasure, and lowered her mouth to Olivia's once more.  Olivia invaded her with a rough kiss.  Their tongues and teeth met each other in a wild, uncontrolled battle for control as Olivia's hands continued their sharp path across Natalia's skin.

"Fuck me," Olivia said in between kisses and gasps for air.  "I need you to fuck me, Natalia."

Natalia smiled, a lazy, predatory smile and said, "As you wish," mirroring Olivia's earlier words.

Almost instantly, Olivia felt herself impaled by three long fingers and released a loud cry as her body arched upward.

"Oh God, yes…" Olivia said.  A smile spread across her face as she opened her legs and fully accepted the hard thrusting of Natalia's fingers inside of her.  "So good."

Natalia closed her eyes and focused on the feel of her fingers thrusting in and out of Olivia.  She felt the woman clenching hard against her fingers with each thrust, and wished her fingers were more sensitive.  She wanted to feel every nuance of each surface that slid beneath her fingers.  With each thrust, she plunged her fingers in deeply and twisted them, dragging them against Olivia's slick walls, as she tried to memorize each changing texture.

"I'm so close," Olivia said into her ear.  Her fingers were pressed firmly, almost painfully into Natalia's back and sides and the other woman reveled in it.  She felt like her body was being overtaken by lust for Olivia and each strong touch deepened the overwhelming desire.

Natalia gasped and thrust her fingers harder into Olivia when she felt her begin to clench tightly around her fingers.  Olivia cried out and dug her nails into the skin of Natalia's lower back.  Fingers thrust into Olivia at a fast, hard pace, and Natalia rode her body with a hedonistic pleasure as she watched her cry out in ecstasy.  Her hips thrust against Natalia's hand again and again until her hard convulsions began to slow. 

Natalia was so consumed by the feel of Olivia's release against her hand that she could barely keep her eyes open.  She struggled with her own passion because she needed to watch Olivia.  She needed to see everything her lover was feeling.  She watched as Olivia's body sank back into the blankets.  She watched as her mouth fell open, her breath coming in small, ragged gasps.  She watched as Olivia lifted her hand slowly to her mouth, as if a hand could steady her breathing.  She watched as Olivia's eyes fluttered open and attempted to focus on her.

Natalia had never seen anything more beautiful. 

She leaned down and pressed her lips slowly against Olivia's with a deep tenderness.  She continued to move her fingers inside Olivia almost imperceptibly as she poured emotion and love across her soft lips.

"I love you so very much," Olivia said when their lips parted. 

"I love you too," Natalia whispered slowly as she slid her fingers from Olivia's hot center.  She watched as Olivia's eyes fluttered shut.   She bit her lip against a gasp that slipped from her throat.  "You are so beautiful."

Olivia wrapped her arms around Natalia.  She rested her head on Olivia's shoulder and wrapped her arms around her tightly.  They lay for long moments, feeling each other breathe as their hearts slowed their frantic pace.

Eventually, Natalia felt Olivia's hands begin to move against her back, long sensual movements that laid tracks of heat against her skin.  She could feel when Olivia's touch passed over certain areas that were probably red from earlier.  She pressed into Olivia's body and moaned at these touches.  When she felt Olivia attempt to roll her to the side, attempt to take control, she reached down and grabbed Olivia's hands.  She pushed them up over her head and looked into Olivia's eyes.

"I'm not done," she said and leaned down, pressing a heavy kiss onto the middle of Olivia's chest.

"Natalia," said a startled Olivia, she wanted nothing more than to return the pleasure Natalia had just given her.  "You can't expect…"

"I can't be done," Natalia said almost harshly, interrupting her lover's protest.

She leaned down and capture Olivia's nipple between her teeth and pulled gently.  Olivia rolled her head back and all thoughts of protest fled her mind.

Natalia grasped Olivia's breast in her hand and opened her mouth widely, trying to take in as much of Olivia as she could.  She swirled her tongue around the hard nipple again and again.  Olivia reached down and ran her fingertips against Natalia's scalp, pushing her ever so gently down against her breast.  She felt Natalia moan into her and the vibration caused her legs to involuntarily open wider.  She was amazed at how ready she was for Natalia's touch again.  Unable to stop herself, she felt her hands and arms involuntarily pushing Natalia's head down her body.

Natalia smiled against Olivia's skin as she kissed down her stomach.  The gentle, insistent push of Olivia's hands made her feel like she was being lovingly guided into a promised land of bliss.  Once she lowered her body between Olivia's legs, she reached out and parted the folds with her fingers.  She ran a thumb gently over the wetness she found there.  She dipped her index finger in and coated the digit.  She looked up toward Olivia's watching face and slid the finger into her mouth.

"God," Olivia moaned and shifted her hips impatiently.  She reached down and ran her fingers firmly through Natalia's hair.  Natalia closed her eyes in pleasure as she licked her finger clean.  Olivia was helpless to do anything but watch as Natalia comfortably positioned herself between her legs.  She leaned her face down, close to Olivia's center and brushed her nose against the curls she found there.  She breathed deeply and released a contented sigh.

She hooked her arms beneath Olivia's thighs and lifted them up against her shoulders.  She lifted her own backside into the air and could feel the warm heat from the fire radiating against the back of her legs.  She spread her legs slightly and allowed the warmth to play against her skin as she leaned in and pressed her tongue against Olivia's clit.

Olivia was instantly overwhelmed by the contact.  Natalia's tongue wasn't moving, it was simply pressing against her, firm control holding it in place. Olivia breathed deeply and couldn't move.  She felt like she was being held, suspended, as if Natalia had the power to control time itself. 

After long moments, Natalia slowly moved her tongue lower.  She guided it through the slick juices and lapped at them gently.  Olivia was so wet she could do little more than drink her way to the skin beneath.

When Natalia began slowly swirling her tongue around her clit, Olivia felt her entire body surge with a pleasure so deep, an orgasm hit her before she had a chance to temper it in an attempt to prolong the pleasure.  Her hand flew desperately to Natalia's head and she pressed the beautiful woman's face against her as she bucked against the wild force of the orgasm.

When Olivia had finally released the firm grip on her hair Natalia lifted her face and looked up at her lover.  She was laying with her arms laying loosely to her sides and head held limply to the side.  Natalia smiled and took one last, lingering taste of Olivia before she moved up and settled in beside her.

"Mmmrm," Olivia said eloquently as Natalia pulled her into her arms.

 Natalia ran her fingers gently through Olivia's hair and pressed light kisses against her forehead.

"Heaven," Olivia murmured against her chest and ran her palm across Natalia's stomach.

Natalia sighed happily and rested her hand on top of Olivia's as it trailed circles across her flesh.  Olivia looked down and watched as their hands traveled together across Natalia's skin.  The beauty of the two skin tones pressed together reminded her how much Natalia must need a release of her own.  She moved her hand up to cup Natalia's breast and felt Natalia's hand press into hers gently, increasing the contact.  She smiled and shifted herself down far enough to take one of Natalia's nipples into her mouth.

A gasp escaped Natalia's mouth and she pressed Olivia's hand more firmly against her.  Olivia ran a thumb firmly against her nipple as she continued to suck and nip at the other nipple.  Natalia moaned at the contact and ran her arm up Olivia's arm. 

She reached behind Olivia's neck and pulled her up for a kiss.  Olivia kissed her deeply, her tongue making long firm strokes inside her mouth, making promises of things to come.  She moved her lower body firmly between Natalia's legs and pushed her lower stomach into Natalia as they kissed.  Natalia wrapped her legs around Olivia's back and pushed her wet center into Olivia's skin.  Olivia pressed into her firmly, thrusting her hips forward as they kissed.

Olivia broke away from the kiss and watched Natalia's face as she thrust against her.  Natalia's mouth was half open and she squeezed her eyes shut tighter with each firm push.

"I need to taste you, Natalia," Olivia said before leaning down and brushing her tongue across Natalia's chest.

"Yes," Natalia murmured and pushed on Olivia's shoulders as a sign of eager permission.

Olivia kissed her way slowly down Natalia's body which elicited more than a few moans of impatient protest.  When she was finally settled between Natalia's legs, she took a long moment to memorize the intricacies of Natalia's curves and folds before dipping her head down to lick gently at the areas of Natalia's inner thighs which were coated with evidence of her arousal.  She purred against the skin as she took her first tastes and trailed her tongue lightly until it was swirling gently against aroused deep pink folds.

Natalia threw her head back and leaned her entire body down onto Olivia's mouth.  Olivia pressed her lips firmly onto the offered skin and pulled Natalia's clit firmly into her mouth.  Natalia reached down and grasped her hair, wildly seeking out more contact.

"Oh, Olivia, yes… more… yes," she mumbled losing herself in the blissful touch of Olivia's tongue. 

Olivia brought her fingers to Natalia's opening and pressed two fingers inside gently.  Natalia moaned and released her hair helplessly.  Olivia reached up with her free hand and grasped Natalia's hand tightly.  Natalia held on tightly and pressed their hands into the blankets forcefully as she pushed herself onto Olivia's fingers.

Olivia began sliding her fingers gently in and out of Natalia as she sucked and swirled her tongue around Natalia's clit.  She lifted her eyes and watched as Natalia's full breasts moved up and down in time with her movements.  She knew the sight of Natalia lost in pleasure, bucking against her forcefully was a sight she'd never tire of seeing.

Olivia moaned against Natalia's skin as she felt her lover begin to lose control against impending release.  She clenched their hands together tighter, attempting to keep Natalia grounded, as she kept the thrust of her fingers steady and strong.  She slid a third finger inside Natalia and was rewarded with a sharp cry and an almost painful clenching against her fingers.

Natalia released a loud moan as her upper body rose from the blankets.  She froze in midair and her whole body went rigid as the orgasm gripped her.  Suddenly, she fell back and allowed the hard convulsions to ravage her body again and again.  Olivia's mouth and fingers never halted their forceful movements until Natalia lay limp and spent beneath her.

Olivia was still licking and sucking the soft folds of her lover when she felt Natalia tug on her hand in a silent attempt to pull her up.  Olivia immediately lifted her body up and settled beside her.  Natalia moved toward her and draped her body over Olivia's.  She moaned softly as their warm, sweaty bodies reconnected fully with each other.

"My God, Olivia.  I love you so very much.  I… I can't even put into words how amazing that was," Natalia said, reaching for Olivia's face clumsily, unable to open her eyes.

Olivia smiled and leaned in for a lazy, soft kiss.

"I love you too, my angel."  Olivia purred and pulled her lover close. "And words are over rated."

"Mmmm," Natalia agreed and snuggled into Olivia's arms. "No more words."

Both women closed their eyes and drifted into a deep, contented sleep in each other's arms as the dying fire crackled softly nearby.

The End

Return to Guiding Light Fiction

Return to Main Page