DISCLAIMER: Guiding Light and its characters are the property of Proctor & Gamble. No infringement intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To snuffnyc[at]gmail.com

Whatever It Takes
By Snuff


Part 1

Gone were the sounds of Emma rushing up and down the stairs, of Olivia calling out to Natalia from the other room. "While you're in there, if you wanna grab me another glass of wine...?" She couldn't help but smile when she thought of it. But now the kitchen was still, the tick of the clock on the wall audible for what felt like the first time.

Natalia had been too tired to even cook dinner for herself this evening. Instead, she just pushed some crackers and cheese around a plate, washed it down with a glass of milk, and patted her belly, promising the little life inside that she would eat better in the morning. Right now, she was just too drained, too nervous. She flipped open her cell phone once again, sighing wistfully when it showed nothing new.

"Not like I could've missed a call, sitting here staring at you for the last hour," Natalia remarked to the phone. Suddenly aware that she was talking to an inanimate object, she snorted softly and tossed it aside. "Oh Natalia, you're really losing it."

When she rose from the table, she noticed her changing spatial relationship to the things in the kitchen, her favorite room in the house. Before, everything was in just the right place. Every spice in every cabinet perfectly within reach, all of the pots and pans just a quick squat away beneath the counter. Now, with her growing belly things felt slightly out of sorts. The table felt too far away, the sink too close. Soon she would be struggling to get that frying pan down below, or that extra box of cereal up high. The sudden unfamiliarity of a room that once provided so much comfort unnerved her. She padded away into the living room, and that's when she saw the lights in the driveway.

Her heart skipped a beat, and she tried to will herself not to get too excited. "Too late for the mailman," she thought. "But too slow up the drive for it to be her." The young woman smiled bittersweetly once again as she remembered how many times she had to remind Olivia of the virtues of safe driving.

There was a soft knock at the door, then it slowly opened, revealing the half-lit face of her son. "Ma?" he called out.

"Rafe..." she breathed, rushing over to meet him. "What... what are you doing here so late? Is everything ok?"

He shepherded his mother from the entryway to the couch, smiling a little bit at her newfound waddle. "Yeah Ma, everything's fine. Before you were beggin' me to come home, now it sounds like..."

"Oh, I'm thrilled, Rafe. Seriously. Elated. Moms just get suspicious when their sons show up this late on a Friday night. I thought you'd be... out. With friends." Natalia smoothed her son's hair and he playfully swatted her away. He seemed warmer and more relaxed than before.

"I couldn't really celebrate, Ma. Not when things are so... weird between us."

She smiled tightly, and blinked back tears she could already feel forming. "Yeah, weird is one word for it. I guess I just imagined that, when I came back, everyone would welcome me with open arms. And so far..."

"Mixed reactions?" Rafe offered.

"Kinda, yeah," Natalia gave a crooked smile. "And then you give me this news, this... life-changing news. It just feels so sudden."

"Kinda like how you eased me into the whole Olivia thing?" He raised an eyebrow at his mother, who responded with a nod in acquiescence. "Or this Frank's baby thing...?"

Natalia glanced down at the floor and pursed her lips. When she brought her eyes back up to meet her son's, she couldn't stop the wave of tears that streamed down her face. "Point taken," she managed with an embarrassed laugh. "Look, Rafe, I..."

He cut her off with a wave of his hand. "No, wait. I got some things I gotta say. Some things I've been thinkin' about." Natalia simply nodded, chewing a bit on her lower lip. She worried if she could handle any more brutal honesty, after the way things went with Olivia at the Towers this afternoon.

"Seems to me like we got two things going on here. Your... stuff," he gestured to her pregnant belly and then to the house around them. "And my stuff," pointing to his heart. "My stuff is pretty straightforward, Ma. Like I told you before, I need this. I need direction. I need... to prove to myself I can do something positive with my life."

"But you could--" Again Rafe silenced her with his finger.

"I know what could happen, Ma. I know it's dangerous. But I'm less afraid of dying over there, than I am of what might happen to me here. I love you, mama," he paused. "But this town... this town ain't got nothing for me here. Just bad memories and whatever."

Natalia's face crumpled. "But I'm here. Your... your father is here. Your friends..."

"And that's all stuff I can still hold on to. And maybe even come back to, down the road. But right now? Right now I gotta do something for me, for my country, for you. I gotta grow up sometime, Ma." She cupped her son's face in her hands and squeezed. "I'm gonna go and make you proud of me. Maybe for the first time."

She rushed to correct him. "I've always been proud of you, Rafe."

He rolled his eyes and smiled at her. "For real, this time, Ma. I promise you I'll take good care of myself. I'll do all the things you taught me to do."

At this Natalia frowned. Rafe's brow furrowed in confusion, and Natalia inhaled deeply, reaching for her son's hand. She nearly collapsed with relief when he held it, dropping their intertwined hands to his knee. "Recently I haven't exactly been the role model I had always intended for you."

Again he rolled his eyes a bit, and shrugged. Natalia continued in a soft voice. "I should never have just... run away like that. That's one thing I never hoped to teach you."

"You said you needed to find some answers..." Rafe tried to let her off the hook.

"No, no. Not like that. I shouldn't have... run. Run is exactly what I did. And I hurt people in the process. Did I need to find answers? Yes, but I didn't... I didn't go about it in the right way." Natalia looked beyond her son to the photo of her and Olivia, Emma sandwiched between them. "I hurt so many people, and misled more still."

Rafe used his free hand to scratch at his head. "So... why? Why go then? What were you really so afraid of that you couldn't figure it out here?"

Natalia straightened her shoulders up a bit, and puffed out her cheeks, thinking. "Well like you said, honey... your stuff," her eyes wagging about, "is pretty straightforward. Mine? Not so much."

Her son looked down at the small bump beneath her clothes. "Were you... scared? When you found out you were pregnant?"

"Terrified," she blurted out, before he could even finish the question. "Terrified, and... ashamed... and... then, oddly, happy. Thrilled. I couldn't stop thinking how wonderful it would be to raise a baby as a family-- you, me, Olivia, Emma..." she trailed off as Rafe swallowed hard and pulled away.

"But it's Frank's baby, Ma. It doesn't work that way, you can't just..."

"You're right," Natalia found herself saying. The words felt thick and rough in her mouth, and she realized she had been wrong about so many things. "You're right, Rafe. I can't just do anything. I left here, for selfish reasons. So selfish. I thought I could plan it all out. I thought I could figure out the way it all should be, the best for us, the best for this baby... But I can't, Rafe. No one can." She shook her head in disbelief, angry that it took her so long to see it. "The best laid plans, right?" She snorted a laugh, woeful and weak.

Her son sat expressionless, and Natalia could only pray that the wheels were turning in his head. "You had good intentions," he finally said. "Kinda like the time you tried to convince me-- no, forbade me-- not to ask out Chelsea Kimmler in the seventh grade. I thought you were just being a bitch," Natalia looked disapprovingly at her son. "But you were trying to protect me."

"Her parents wouldn't let her go to the dance with a 'spanish' kid," Natalia shook her head just remembering the ignorant bigots.

"Her mom's pretty ugly now, and her dad's got major money problems," Rafe laughed, eliciting a guilty little grin from his mother.

"I never raised you to take delight in other people's suffering, Raphael," Natalia playfully scolded. "But, maybe just this once..."

He pulled his mother into his arms for an embrace, and she squeezed her son tightly and breathed in the smell of detergent on his shirt. "My little man," she admired him as they separated. "What am I gonna do without you?"

More tears streaked down Natalia's face, despite the joy of having her son back. Whatever was left of her makeup had washed away, leaving only a few errant smears. Rafe could tell his mother was still not right.

"So what about... you know?" he asked cautiously.

Natalia feigned ignorance, not wanting to push her son too far in her first night back in his good graces. "We're gonna focus on us being a family, you and me, at least until you ship out."

"That's not what I meant, Ma. You said, you know, that Frank is still gonna be a father to this baby, right? It's all I ever wanted, that's for sure. And I gotta look out for my little bro-- or sis," he corrected.

At that moment Natalia feared Rafe would never understand that she simply did not love Frank. Not the way that she loves Olivia. In fact, she was quite certain she'd never loved anyone the way she loves Olivia Spencer. And that scared her.

Fear kept her words small and fragile, like they would break midair if she dared speak them too loud. "I love Olivia, Rafe. I love her and--"

"But you said," Rafe looked confused, but not angry. There was something soft in his expression, and Natalia's fear subsided just a bit. "You said that you, um, wanted to be with Olivia, but that Frank would be there for this baby too. You said you could have both. Why can't my sister or brother have it all?"

Her lips wet with tears turned up at the sight of her son, so protective of his unborn sibling. "It's not that simple, sweetheart. I... your mother kinda screwed some things up along the way," she sheepishly admitted. Pressing her hair back behind her ear, she searched for the strength to say her next words. "I'm not sure Olivia is ever going to forgive me for leaving her the way I did. For abandoning her and Emma."

Rafe watched as his mother relented to the possibility she had fought so hard against. Her body literally slumped at the thought, and she set her hands in her lap weakly.

"If she does... you know, come around," Rafe struggled with his own admission, "I'd be... I'd be cool with it." Natalia's eyes flickered for a moment. "I ain't sayin' I'm gonna love the idea of it, but... shit, somebody's gotta look out for you while I'm halfway around the world."

Once again Natalia buried her head in her son's shoulder, unsure of when he became the protector and she the protected. But she wasn't about to let the role reversal throw her game off. "Watch your mouth, young man."


Part 2

When night fell over the farmhouse, it fell hard. Inky blackness poured over the treetops and seeped into the earth, and the sounds of crickets and cicadas played out like a lullaby. Natalia was finishing up in the bathroom, carefully blotting water from her face, when she felt the first fingers of sleep wind around her weary body. With a sigh she retreated to the bedroom, her heart sinking for a moment when she realized the bed would be empty.

Not that she had ever shared a bed, intimately, with Olivia Spencer. Accidentally falling asleep together, sure... but the rest? That had eluded them so far. And for how much longer? Natalia wondered. She had resolved not to be morose, not for one more moment this evening, especially after making such wonderful progress with Rafe. So she turned the bedsheets down, smoothed over her hair just once more with delicate hands, and hopped into bed.

Not much of a hop, Natalia mused, finding her legs slow to follow her onto the bed. She imagined what Olivia would say. How she would tease her, how she would playfully get under the younger woman's skin.

"More like the beaching of a ship run aground," Natalia announced to no one, with her best Olivia Spencer snark. This made her smile, and as she drifted off to sleep, she felt ever more confident that she could win Olivia back. That she could earn her forgiveness.

Maybe it was how well things had gone with Rafe, maybe it was her final pleasant thoughts before bed, or maybe it was just the hormones of pregnancy playing tricks on her. But whatever it was, when Natalia was finally able to dream, she found herself in a world her conscious self had been too reserved to imagine.

Wherever she was, she was not alone. She could smell the familiar mix of Olivia's shampoo and light perfume, and feel the warmth of her body nearby. She could barely keep up with the sensations that flashed through her in rapid succession: first sensing the nearness of Olivia, then followed by their bodies pressed together, silky fabric between them. Then breathing, hard and fast. Not her own. Olivia's. Hard and fast in her ear, then hot against her neck, then mingling with her own muted cries. They were both begging, pleading, straining against the barrier between them. Then, in another flash, she felt Olivia's skin beneath her fingers, soft and white-hot. Natalia's breathing hastened as she pressed into the flesh she had found, feeling that at once, everything made sense and yet made none at all. Pleasure rose within her, but so did confusion. The intense flashes of her dream disoriented her, and without warning Natalia felt herself jolted awake.

Breathing hard, her face buried in her pillow, she found herself twisted in what was suddenly an uncomfortable position. Everything was hazy as she realized she must've been nearly suffocating herself. Alarmed, she propped herself up on one elbow... and that's when she felt the familiar burst of pleasure run through her entire body. Looking down, she realized it wasn't Olivia's flesh she had been plying. It was her own.

Red-faced and even hotter than before, Natalia rushed to straighten up in the bed. She imagined how white her wide eyes would appear to a stranger in the dark. Like two beacons in the blackness. She chewed lightly on the inside of her cheek and appraised these recent development in her mind. She wasn't embarrassed about what she had awoken to... ok, a little embarrassed, but not much. After all, she'd done... that plenty of times before. But, it was the content of her dreams, the vividness, that took her by surprise. Yes, she was in love with Olivia Spencer. She knew that much to be true. And she'd even wondered what sex with the older woman would be like. But there had always been all these deleted scenes, these holes, and Natalia was certain she had no frame of reference with which to fill them.

Only now it would appear she did, indeed, have ideas about what she wanted from Olivia. And what she could give.

"Hmph," Natalia squeaked. Before she could return to her reverie, her cellphone began to rattle against the bedside table. The blue and white light display cast strange shadows on the wall as they flickered and bounced, reminding Natalia of a nightclub she'd been to back in Chicago.

The disco ball scene was made even more surreal when she saw that it was Olivia calling... and that when she answered, the rhythmic thumps of bass and glasses clattering superceded the voice on the other line.

"Natalia?" Olivia did not sound like herself. "I really," she practically screamed, driving Natalia to push the phone off her ear. "I really need... can you come get me please?"


Part 3

The night air was brisk and it reminded Natalia that autumn was fast approaching, and she was glad of it. She had driven all the way out here with the windows partly down and a sweater hugging her body, taking in the smell of the damp pavement as she drove. Her dark hair had been thrown all about with the wind, and she quickly glanced in her rearview mirror to straighten it. The light drizzle had stopped, and after she locked the car with a bleat, she crossed the empty avenue and approached the busier promenade.

It was a stretch of bars, really, some with outdoor seating that patrons still drank at, despite the earlier rain. Groups of young men, laughing and smoking and clapping each other on the back, oblivious to the wet, dreary world around them. Natalia had just set about wondering what had driven Olivia out all this way, over an hour outside of Springfield, when she realized where she was. She had read about this newly redeveloped neighborhood in the real estate section of the paper. An enclave of young, urban affluence and culture, the article had said. Trendy. Artsy.

Gay, Natalia thought. Why hadn't they just said that?

She must've looked a bit odd, standing there mid-step, all ballet flats and pregnant belly, at two A.M. on a strip of gay bars, because a handsome young man called out to her. "Ladies' night was last night, sweetheart, but you can come hang with us if you'd like."

She snapped to and smiled at him, clearing her thoughts as she approached his table in the enclosed seating area. "That's sweet of you," she smiled again, feeling several pairs of eyes on her. "But I'm kinda looking for someone. A... friend, she called me to come get her here, but I think her cell phone is dead."

The young man waved his hands in the air to disperse the cloud of cigarette smoke that hung near his table. "Ronnie," he poked the blonde man sitting next to him, "Pregnant lady on deck. Jesus. Stow that shit."

Natalia urged him not to bother, but before she knew it, she had the full attention of the half-dozen gentlemen at the table. "Who did you say you were looking for?" he asked. When Natalia swallowed hard, looking like a deer in headlights, the guys began murmuring. "Mm, ok, ten bucks says you are NOT here looking for your baby daddy."

She couldn't help but laugh. Here she was, standing amongst a group of men, the likes of which she'd really only seen in movies. She'd met gay men before, but not like these guys. Toned, tanned, happy and definitely not repressed. Suddenly, she felt a spark of understanding. You could be gay, flamboyantly gay. Effeminate, show-tunes singing gay. Or you could appear for all the world to be straight as an arrow and still... gay. Or somewhere in between. Even better, they all seemed to get along just fine. She decided to store this revelation for another, more appropriate time. Right now, she needed to find Olivia.

Her new friend pulled her aside, sensing that she was in a bit of a rush. "Ignore these guys, they don't get out much. Anyway, your friend... she shouldn't be too hard to spot. On Friday nights it's mostly guys in these bars. The ladies usually hit up the West End tonight. You sure she's here?"

"This is the block she gave me. But," Natalia frowned, "she sounded pretty out of it when we last spoke."

The young man tapped the handrail as he thought, and Natalia looked up the promenade, counting at least six bars with their lights still on. "I'm just going to start looking," she said, worry blossoming inside her. "Thanks...?" her voice turned into a question mark as she backed into the first open door.

"Kevin!" he called after her, and turned to rejoin his friends.

The first bar had been smoky and dark. The second was... smoky and dark. Natalia hoped and prayed that she would find Olivia at the third, as the time was now approaching three A.M. and any number of bad scenarios could have befallen her.

At the third bar, the bouncer eyed Natalia warily. "You're kidding me, right?" But he gave way, shaking his head as she waddled into the anteroom.

She brushed passed tables of older men, talking quietly and sipping from long-stemmed glasses. When the door at the rear swung open, she could hear a familiar driving beat, and her heart leapt. She paused at the door and steeled herself, then let the loud music wash over her as she entered.

Bodies danced and swirled together around her, and she was vaguely aware of their laughter and joyous sing-song voices. The nightclub back home in Chicago entered her mind once again. The same lights, the same percussive beat, the same smell of alcohol and sweat. She prayed for Olivia to appear; she searched the back bar and the dancefloor and the restrooms. But there were no familiar faces, no acknowledging waves. Nearly overcome by the club's assault on her senses, she felt a strong hand tugging her to the farthest corner of the large room.

A man in a black t-shirt towered over her, his hulking mass silent and unquestioning. Natalia followed him through the emergency exit, and out into an alleyway, until she could speak. "What is--"

The words died in her mouth as she saw before her a slumping Olivia Spencer, on a folding chair with her head in her hands.

"I figured you were looking for her," the man boomed. "We quit serving her a while ago, but when she refused to get into a cab... well... It was this or the cops."

"Thank you," Natalia whispered. She peered up at the man, who at that moment looked for all the world an angel. He had given Olivia a bottle of water and bucket. Natalia could smell that she had been sick.

"Olivia..." The older woman lifted her head and squinted to look up at the figure above her, the lights in the alleyway nearly blinding her. "Olivia, honey, we have to get you out of here."

Olivia's face crumpled and she fought back tears. When her lips refused to form words, she curled them into a crooked, dry smile and shrugged her shoulders. "I think I had one too many."

The twosome made it as far as the curb around the front of the bar, where Olivia had to stop to vomit once more. When she regained her composure, she ventured a look at Natalia. "I'm... oh god... really sorry."

Sitting on the edge of that curb, a twisted mess of knees and elbows, Natalia saw the vulnerable, broken Olivia Spencer she had hoped she would never see again. The younger woman peeled back some of the hair that had matted to Olivia's forehead, soaked with sweat. "No, Olivia," she replied firmly. "Don't apologize. I'm just as responsible for this mess as you are."

Olivia snorted. "You... you didn't drink a handle of Goose tonight, sweetcheeks." Her own humor sent Olivia into a fit of giggling laughter, punctuated by a sad sigh.

"Mmm, you're right. No I didn't. But," she swept more hair from Olivia's face, and wiped makeup from beneath her tired eyes. "I abandoned you. I ran out on you. I... failed you. I may as well have put the bottle in your hand."

Olivia flashed that crooked smile again. "You wanna hear something funny?" Natalia simply shrugged, so Olivia continued. "I drove all the way here, looking for someone. Maybe some hot young thing, you know? With dark hair, and dark eyes, and... dimples just like yours. And you know what I was gonna do, Natalia? I was gonna fuck her."

Those last words felt like razors dragging against Natalia's skin, but she grit her teeth and remained silent. She deserved this, after all.

"I was gonna fuck her six ways to Sunday, just to prove I could. Just to get. It. Over. With." Olivia pointed her finger at no one in particular. "But, wouldn't you believe it? Friday nights are a sausage fest out here. Ha!" She sighed once again. "So I drank until I couldn't remember you anymore... only that didn't work either."

Silence hung between them for several minutes, before Natalia finally spoke. "All I care about is that you're alright," she whispered softly. "All I want to do is get you home safely, so I can start to make this up to you." When Olivia said nothing, simply stared at the ground, Natalia went further. "I love you, Olivia. I love you so much, and I behaved so stupidly. I never should've left you."

Olivia turned to face her, sizing her up for a moment. "You're goddamn right you shouldn't have... But," she waved her hands at the dying bar scene playing out on the street in front of them, "we all do things we regret. We all run... some of us just run somewhere else." She shook the empty water bottle in her hand to illustrate her point.

Natalia wrapped her arm around the older woman at her side, squeezing tight and murmuring "I love you's". She smelled like vodka and sweat on the surface, but on her neck Natalia could still smell Olivia's faint perfume, and she could feel the pulse running beneath her lips as she pressed them to the skin there. They were alive, and they were going to be alright.


Part 4

Natalia rubbed her eyes and tried to concentrate on the road ahead. So much had happened in the last twelve hours, it felt like a lifetime ago and it showed on the weary brunette's face. Sapped emotionally from the ups and downs with both Olivia and Rafe, tired, hungry, and, oh yeah, six months pregnant, she was actually thankful for Olivia's drunken commentary, if only to keep her awake.

"Oh, Natalia... my Natalia... what the fuck are we going to do?" Olivia mused, her head slowly sliding from side to side, her hair following a half a second behind.

"We're going to talk about it once you've had a chance to... dry out."

Air pressed through Olivia's puckered lips in a rush. "Yes, yes, you are correct, that would be best. But what I meant was," she pulled at the hem of her silk top, eyeballing it, confused. "What are we going to doooo about this stain? It's never coming out. Never."

Natalia just rolled her eyes a bit, patting Olivia on the knee. Unfettered, the older woman kept on. "Maybe I will just buy a dry cleaners when I get home. Just buy the whole thing. That storefront, you know the one next to the Post Office? Been empty forever. I'm thinking a dry cleanery."

"A dry cleanery?" the sober woman smiled.

"Yup. A dry cleaning emporium. And then we'll franchise that, too, and when that gets huge-- which it will-- we'll be on the cover of Forbes, as 'The Queens of Clean'!" Olivia spread her fingers wide across the windshield, imagining the headline. Seemingly satisfied, she slumped in the passenger seat with a grin on her face.

We, Natalia thought. You're giving yourself away in your weakened state, Olivia Spencer.

"Well ok," Natalia continued, not wanting to let her drift off to sleep and leave her alone to battle the boredom of the road. "Or we could just wring out the shirt and open a bar."

Olivia sat upright with a jolt and turned to Natalia, causing her seatbelt to strain across her body. "Are you making fun of me right now, Natalia? You are, aren't you?"

Natalia grinned tightly, wagging an eyebrow at the woman beside her. "Ughhh," Olivia sat back, feigning disgust. "If I didn't hate you so much right now, I'd laugh at that."

Dawn had already appeared by the time they reached the farmhouse again, and Natalia hurried Olivia inside to shower off some of the night's ills. Others, she feared, would remain with her, for the next few hours at least. She stood in the kitchen, pondering a hangover remedy.

Having never really experienced a hangover herself, Natalia winced as she tried to imagine the enormity of the headache Olivia was sure to have. Fear also niggled at her, knowing full well that alcohol in that quantity coupled with the stress she'd put Olivia under could have serious implications for her heart. Making a mental note to force her to the doctor at the first chance, Natalia poured a glass of orange juice and made some toast, spreading a little bit of jelly on each slice. She nibbled at her own bowl of yogurt as she moved about the kitchen, readying a tray and a napkin and an extra glass for water.

Carefully, Natalia made her way up the stairs with the breakfast tray without a spill, despite her exhaustion and decreased mobility. She passed a full-length mirror in the hallway, and frowned at her unkempt appearance. Her hair was pulled back loosely, with errant strands framing her face. Black leggings that ended at mid-calf showed that even in her growing state, she would always have the thin legs of a teenage girl. Up top, however, was a different story. All breasts and belly, the cowl neck of her camel sweater looking as limp as she felt.

With no sound of running water in the bathroom, Natalia peered in to Olivia's old room, attempting a light knock on the door. When she found no one there, she padded over to her own bedroom, swinging the half-open door with her foot.

There lay Olivia Spencer, wet hair and bare feet, wrapped in one of Natalia's terrycloth robes, passed out and lightly snoring. Placing the tray on the dresser, Natalia moved to her bedside.

"Ohh, Olivia," she whined. "How am I going to get you..." She wrestled with Olivia's legs and arms, eventually managing to squeeze them beneath the blankets, and pushed a pillow under her head. Finally, after such a long night, she looked comfortable, and at peace.

"I'll just lie here with you, for a second," Natalia decided, curling up on her side against Olivia. Stroking the older woman's wet hair, she sighed softly. "I know I have no right to yell at you, for scaring me like that. I know I have too much work to do to be chastising you," Natalia's voice broke as tears began to fall. "But so help me God, don't you ever..."

She trailed off, unable to manage more than a few body-quaking sobs. Just as she was giving in to the promise of sleep, she heard it. Her cell phone's muffled vibrations from her purse on the nightstand. "Oh, you've got to be kidding me," she mumbled into Olivia's shoulder.

It was now ten A.M., and Natalia's feet moved like sliding cinderblocks. She absently plucked an eyelash that, moments earlier, she'd attempted to apply mascara to, only it hadn't worked out so well and she ended up looking like what Olivia would've characterized as a transvestite Tammy Faye Baker. All of her makeup was wrong, and all the concealer in the world couldn't hide the major baggage she was sporting beneath her eyes. She had just wanted to look presentable when picked Emma up, but in the end she settled for looking present.

The park was nearly empty still, and as she strode across the grass, Natalia could see Emma playing with Jodie, and Jodie's mom sipping on a latte.

"I want that latte. Oh god, I want that latte," Natalia begged aloud, to no one. She hadn't once missed caffeine sinced she realized she was pregnant, but at that moment she could nearly taste the coffee upon her lips.

"Heyyyy," the other woman offered politely. "Sorry to bug you like I did. But Olivia was supposed to meet us here an hour ago! I was starting to get worried, and so was Emma."

Natalia did her best to smile. "Oh it's no problem... Olivia just had some things come up at the last minute, and I bet she left her cell phone behind," she lied, shrugging quickly and rapping slightly on her forehead, denoting Olivia's occasional forgetfulness. Please just don't ask me anymore questions. Just buy it, please.

"Natalia!" Emma squeaked, running across the play area to greet her. "I knew you'd come!" she said, throwing her arms around Natalia's side and pressing her face into the fabric there. "You smell like a cigarette!" she flatly announced, her nose crunching.

Jodie's mom looked quizzically at Natalia, who nervously giggled, and then nervously giggled some more just in case that didn't seal the deal. "Ohhh, Emma, I met..." Think of somebody, anybody. "I met Buzz on my way over here. Must've rubbed off on me."

"Huh," Emma considered, looking a bit too much like her skeptical mother in that instant. "Ook. Well, can we go get mom now? Jodie's gotta meet her grandpa at the airport!"

"Of course we can, Jellybean. Go on ahead to the car," Natalia flipped Emma's ponytail as she jogged away, her little friend running after her for one last hug goodbye. She engaged in small talk with the other woman for a brief minute, and then excused herself, lightly cursing under her breath, which she immediately followed up with a sign of the cross.

This is my penance, isn't it?, she silently addressed her God. Or is this just your incredible sense of humor?


Part 5

Lunchtime came and went, and as the Saturday afternoon sun moved into its second act, Natalia swept crumbs from the kitchen table with Emma's abandoned napkin. Her movements were slow and deliberate: trash into the bin, return to the table, pick up plate, move plate to the sink. Half-eaten crust? The younger woman popped it into her mouth out of habit. Waste wasn't something she'd ever really gotten used to. Stifling a yawn, she peeked out the window to catch a glimpse of Emma serving tea to a roundtable of dolls on the lawn. Her hand instinctively moved to her heart, where she felt a little twinge whenever she thought of Olivia's child. So creative, so uninhibited, so free... all things she herself had been as a youngster, until her childhood came to an abrupt end with Rafe's conception. This time her hand moved to her belly, to the child there, to whom she made a promise to give all the things she never could to her first son.

"A big family. Who will always be there for you, who will always watch over you and help you along the way. And we won't move around a lot, I promise. No new schools every year. We'll settle, right here, and go to your school plays and--"

A gravelly voice interrupted from behind her. "And tease you, and annoy you, and hurry you out of the bathroom when you're thirteen and self-conscious."

Natalia spun around to find Olivia in the doorway, a sardonic smirk on her face. "Exactly," she whispered, tears threatening yet again, only she wasn't sure why.

The older woman, still wrapped in the robe she fell asleep in, rubbed at her neck and took in Natalia's tired posture. "You're a mess."

"So are you."

At this Olivia smiled, and took a seat at the kitchen table. "Emma?"

"I picked her up this morning. I think I covered pretty well," Natalia didn't bother explaining. "She's outside playing. Told her you caught a little stomach flu last night."

Natalia stood stock still, her hands knitted together, unsure of what to do next, while the other woman just sat there, seemingly lost in thought. It felt unnatural, the distance between them, even if it was just a few feet across a farmhouse kitchen. But she suppressed her urge to rush to Olivia's side, not strong enough right now to handle it if she pushed her away.

"What do we do now?" Olivia asked, her voice low and coarse.

Natalia shrugged. "I'm not sure, I mean... you know what I want, Olivia. I want to be with you, now and forever. I know I have some, some making up to do, and I know I lost your... trust, and that kills me, but... I guess I need to know if you can forgive me?"

Olivia snorted, and shook her head. "It's never been about forgiving you, Natalia. That... that's not even a question. I know my love, your love, our love is real. I don't want to spend the rest of my life with a martyr, killing yourself to make up some imaginary debt you think you owe me for, really, being scared. That's all it was, wasn't it? You were afraid, so you ran. Like I told you last night, I'm not one to judge. I've done my own bit of running in my day."

Natalia knew better than to interrupt once Olivia finally started opening up. So instead, she just tried to hold the other woman's gaze, without crying or falling to pieces.

"A little heartbreak, I can handle. That's part and parcel of the whole thing, isn't it? No, the question is really... can I forgive myself? Can... can you?"

To Natalia, Olivia had never looked more stunning. Her brown hair hung loose around her face, her hands swiping long bangs back behind her ear every so often as she spoke. Green eyes, last night so glassy and distant, now so sharp and intense. And focused. Olivia was focused. It took a measure of concentration for Natalia's knees not to buckle.

"Can I forgive myself for my... destructive behavior? My past indiscretions? I mean, sometimes I look at myself-- all of myself, all that I've done-- and I can't understand how you can love me."

"Olivia..." she began. "I don't love you for who you were. I love you for you are. And you wouldn't be... who you are today... without the lessons you learned from your past."

"Who I am?" Olivia shot back sharply. "Who I am is woman reborn... and I have you to thank for that, I do." She reached her hand across the table, an invitation. Natalia accepted, taking a seat next to her and receiving her hand. "But still... a woman, nonetheless."

Ah, that, Natalia thought. "I don't need to forgive myself for falling in love with a woman, Olivia. I don't need forgiveness."

"Don't you?" the older woman squeaked, her eyes looking above her, to Natalia's god.

At this, Natalia smiled. Fully and without reservation. She turned Olivia's chin to face her, to recapture her gaze. "God loves me, Olivia. He loved me enough to send me you. I... it took me some time to understand that. It took me some time to understand that all of it-- you, Rafe, Emma, this baby-- all of it was a gift from God. The family I always dreamed of. It would just be in poor taste for me to reject his offering."

Olivia laughed. "You do have impeccable manners."

"I do," she replied, bringing Olivia's hand to her lips and gently kissing her fingertips. "And you're boorish and pushy and you need me."

The two women laughed, hands clasped over the wooden table like they had done so many times before. After a long silence Olivia spoke.

"You're tired."

"Exhausted," Natalia breathed.

Olivia scooted her chair closer to the younger woman, and placed a kiss on her forehead. "What was I thinking, dragging you out at that hour last night? Dragging my beautiful, very pregnant... girlfriend? out to a smokey... Girlfriend? Is that what I call you?" Olivia backtracked, a sheepish half-cocked smile on her face.

Natalia shrugged and closed her eyes, pressing her nose against Olivia's cheek. "That'll do for now."


Part 6

After battling Olivia over whether or not to have nap in the middle of the afternoon, Natalia had eventually given in and allowed herself to be led upstairs to the bedroom, showered quickly and then collapsed into bed. She had looked at the clock on the bedside, glaring 3:04 PM, and cursed that she'd never be able to sleep through the night after a nap so late in the day.

Somewhere in the midst of worrying about how she'd ever sleep properly again, what to make for dinner, and what the hell to make of her recent relationship developments, the tired woman fell asleep. And she slept, hard. Vaguely recalling the din of movement downstairs in the kitchen, the sensation of a body curled up next to her, Natalia awoke to a bit of confusion.

Turning to the clock once again, she took note of the time. 7:17... the colon in between the numerals flashed, like a wakeup call. It took her until the clock turned another minute until she realized. The sun was shining. It was not, in fact, 7 PM, but 7 AM. The evening had come and gone, took the night with it, and brought the morning.

"Oh my god," she sat up with a start. Looking around the bedroom, she saw that everything was just as she had left it. Clothes in the hamper, robe draped over the door that connected her bedroom to the bathroom. A glass of water by the bedside, which she did not remember drinking, much less asking for. And one Olivia Spencer, pillow half over eyes, blocking the sunlight streaming across her face from the half-open blinds.

Natalia took her in for a minute. Long pants and a thin tank top, revealing just enough of Olivia's form to pique her curiosity. Forearm bent across the pillow with abandon, body above the blankets, presumably to preserve Natalia's modesty. She could feel her own bare skin against the sheets, and she found she was wearing only a short nightgown, made shorter by her pregnant belly, and nothing else at all.

For a few moments, she alternated between admiring Olivia's chivalry and thinking for sure that something was wrong. She was, after all, her girlfriend, wasn't she? They had already surmounted so many obstacles, had ventured well into "I Love You" territory and even set up camp there. So why would she, Miss Super Confident Olivia Spencer, not just climb under the sheets with her?!

"You're thinking out loud," the body next to her suddenly announced, the voice muffled beneath the pillow.

Natalia pulled her hand to her mouth immediately, an innocently surprised look on her face. She watched as Olivia slid the pillow down, revealing just her left eye. The eyebrow above it was cocked in full "Oh yeah, this is really happening" fashion.

"Did I... did I say that out loud?" Natalia asked.

Giving up on sleep, Olivia, in feigned annoyance, moved the pillow from over her face to behind her head. "I think what you said exactly was, 'What's wrong with her? Is she afraid to sleep with me?' "

Natalia laughed nervously. "Well, I'm sorry. I don't know... I'm just really disoriented. It's seven in the morning? You let me sleep all the way through the night?!"

"You're pregnant. That's what pregnant women do, Natalia. Even when they aren't up for twenty-something hours the night before. Pregnant women sleep, and eat, and... cry."

A playful slap cracked across Olivia's upper arm. "Oh, if I'm just the crazy pregnant lady," Natalia quipped, hands gesturing in the air around her, "then what does that make you? The dutiful husband?"

Olivia contemplated for a moment, then turned to Natalia, propped up on one elbow. "Yeah, something like that," she smiled, kissing Natalia's forearm, the nearest part of her she could reach. With that the younger woman slid back down to the prone position, propping her head up in mirror image to Olivia's, on her elbow.

"I meant that, you know." Natalia offered, but when Olivia looked confused, she continued. "You don't have to be so... gentlemanly, Olivia. We're way behind the curve as it is, and if you insist on all this medieval chivalry, we may be sharing a retirement condo before we've even kissed."

Olivia laughed at her partner's frankness. Her smile was mischievous and innocent all at once, and Natalia melted. "Yeah," she egged Olivia on. "More of that. That will help get us back on track."

And just like that, like they'd been doing it all their lives, Olivia leaned in and planted a simple but meaningful kiss on Natalia's lips. Brief, but long enough that Natalia could feel the other woman's smile as they met.

There was a beat, and then Natalia returned the kiss, leaning in for another, and letting it linger just a millisecond longer.

The two looked at each other and took a moment to playfully congratulate themselves. "Hang on another minute, I'm waiting for the roof to collapse on my head," Olivia joked, eyes to the ceiling above them.

"Where's Emma?" Natalia asked, seemingly a non sequitur.

"Where'd that come from? She's probably asleep in her room... in her old room," Olivia corrected. "She was thrilled to spend the night."

Natalia felt relieved, filling in some of the blanks she had missed while she was asleep all those hours. "What did you do for dinner?"

Olivia exhaled deliberately. "What... What does it matter? We were making progress, Natalia!"

"Well I just wanted to..." Natalia trailed off, noticing Olivia's mild irritation. "Aww, are you frustrated, Olivia?" She dragged out the word, mocking her.

"No," the older woman answered abruptly. "Yes. A little."

Natalia couldn't bear to make the beautiful woman in bed next to her wait any longer, so she pulled up at the sheets, inviting Olivia beneath them. Ending her minor pouting fit, Olivia slid inside the fabric and Natalia wiggled closer to her.

Natalia could feel her face redden a bit, and she became slightly embarrassed for the first time. "I feel so huge, like I can't get close enough to you."

Olivia gave her a crooked smile. "It's closer than we've ever been."

They both smiled, and Natalia reached for Olivia's hip, tentatively clinging to the waistband she found there. Olivia untangled her free hand and wound her fingers through long, dark locks. Slowly, Natalia let her eyes flutter shut, and when she could feel Olivia's breath on her cheek, she pushed forward, their lips meeting in a crack of electricity.

Lips explored lips, and necks, and cheeks, and eyelids. Hands roamed on and off the map; over their clothes, under them... never stopping for too long, but just long enough to claim each spot. Olivia rubbed hard in the places she knew Natalia would be sore, and she was met with soft pleas for more. Natalia scraped her nails lightly against Olivia's skin, gauging her response.

Their bodies remained intertwined when Natalia pulled back, her lips pink and swollen from the extended session. Her breath came in shallow, quick gasps. "I love you, Olivia."

Green eyes met hers in an instant. "And I love you, Natalia."

"We should probably get up," Natalia whispered, her mouth close enough to Olivia's ear that she took a swipe at it with her tongue.

Olivia groaned and rolled over, her body hovering above the other woman. Her voice came out in a growl: "Five more minutes!"


Part 7

IMPORTANT NOTE! You'll notice that the POV has changed up. I decided that halfway through, we'd switch it up. Now we get to hear a little bit of what's going on in Olivia's head. And yes, that means you have officially reached the halfway point in the story. Whether that's good news or bad, is really up to you. :)

Olivia never particularly liked the food at Company. Not that she would ever admit it, but there it was. She looked down in front of her on the bar. Sandwiches, she thought. Always with the fucking sandwiches. Buzz had offered it up on the house, so she was pretty much obliged to eat it. It didn't help that Doris had asked her here for a drink, when just hours earlier she'd sworn off the stuff to Natalia. Her club soda did about as much for her tastebuds as the tired turkey sandwich.

The Sunday night crowd was just picking up, and Olivia looked about for any sign of Doris. She wasn't the type to be late, but she was the type to keep you waiting. As she checked her phone for a possible voicemail, a smile spread across her face. There was a text message from Natalia:

Keep forgetting you don't live with me anymore. Why is that again? Grabbed some of you and Emma's things from the Beacon. C U tonight. Not a question. ;)

"You look like the cat that ate the canary," Doris clucked as she pulled up a seat next to Olivia. "I'll have what she's have-- wait," she sniffed at the short glass, holding up her hand to delay the bartender. "My god, what is this? Tonic water? That won't cut it tonight. Give me a shot of... something."

"Rough weekend?"

"You have no idea," Doris exhaled, her shoulders slumping as she rest her elbows on the bar. "Olivia, I ... I told Ashlee.."

Unable to let the opportunity pass her by, Olivia simply stared at the other woman, a faint question in her eyes.

"Don't look at me at like that, dammit. You know what I'm talking about!"

Her lips curled into a smile, Olivia laughed lightly. "What? I assure you, Doris, I do not."

"I told her I'm a lesbian!" Doris blurted out, exasperated.

It was the loudest whisper Olivia had ever heard, and she laughed as she clapped her friend on the back. "Oh! That. Right. How'd she take it?"

Doris's eyes pressed into an incriminating squint. "You're enjoying this, aren't you? Doris Wolfe, losing her cool."

Olivia waved her hands in surrender. "Hey, you invited me here, remember?"

Doris smirked, and tossed back the shot waiting for her on the rail. Wincing a little as the burning liquid slid down her throat, she cocked her finger, signalling for another one. "Alright, alright. I'm a little defensive right now, I'll give you that. It went okay, I guess. She's..."

"Confused?" Olivia offered.

"Mm, no. More like... pissed as hell."

"That you're gay? Ashlee doesn't seem like..."

"No," Doris interrupted. "That I never told her. She thinks I lied to her all this time. I mean... I did lie to her. Oh hell... What's with you, anyway?"

"I'm quite sure I haven't a clue what you're talking about, Doris," Olivia replied, never looking in the mayor's direction, keeping her eyes instead on the straw she was twirling in her drink.

Doris rolled her eyes. "Oh you only get away with that once, Spencer. You can't even look at me. Just a few days ago you were moping around here like someone stole your cookie and now..." She let out a gasp so loud it drew the other patrons' glances, and only when they returned to their meals did she continue. Her voice was low and conspiratorial. "Who needs the cookie when you've got the baker, eh??"

Olivia dismissed her with a head shake. "No, no..."

"I'm right. I'm right, and I don't even need you to confirm it," Doris chuckled, slamming home her second shot. "God that's disgusting."

A stunned Olivia Spencer turned, a look of utter disbelief on her face.

"OH. No! I meant the shot, Olivia. The shot is disgusting. Dear God, no... You and Natalia," she let her eyes dance a little bit, smiling. "That's... ahem, that's the antithesis of disgusting."

"Easy cowgirl," Olivia teased, adjusting the collar on her crisp black blazer. "At this point, you'll have to settle for a 'no comment.'"

"In my experience, that is the direct equivalent of 'guilty as sin'," Doris poked Olivia's shoulder, and then suddenly her face went blank.

When Olivia spun on her barstool to see who it was, her eyes found Ashlee and Rafe. Oh boy, she thought.

"Mom. I thought I might find you here," Ashlee approached her mother with a business-like tone, giving no indication of what emotions lay behind her words. "Do you think we could talk for a second?"

Olivia took that as her cue and excused herself, dropping a twenty on the bar and heading for the door. She could hear Rafe's voice behind her.

"Olivia. Wait up."

Looks like I quit the wrong day to quit drinking. "Yeah, Rafe... what's up?" she smiled at him as they each stepped out onto the patio. She hoped it didn't look too forced.

"While I've got you here, I figure there's some things we need to talk about." Rafe waited for Olivia to respond, but she just stood there. She wasn't going to make this easy on him. "My mom told me this afternoon you guys are... together. Again. Or whatever," he scratched at his chin, searching for the right words. "I'm gonna work on being cool with it, ok? I'm gonna ... try."

Olivia nodded, dropping her crossed arms to her sides. "Okay Rafe. I'm... cool with that." The second time around, her smile came easier.

"But, I gotta say, I don't think it's right that you and my mom are thinkin' you're gonna raise this baby as your own. Frank's the father and--"

Olivia let out a hearty laugh, perhaps a little too hearty. She practically bellowed. "Oh, no no no no NO, young man," Olivia was really smiling now, only with a slightly wild look in her eye. It'd been a while since she felt this Olivia come out, but just like riding a bicycle, she never lost her touch. "Listen to me, and listen good. I've emasculated men twice your age, with twice the facial hair for pettier things than this. But," she tugged at the hem of her jacket and straightened up. "You're family so I'm going to rein it in a little bit."

Rafe just stood there, eyes wide.

"Your mother and I are in love with each other. I know that thought... confuses you. But we've spent a long time, Rafe, pushing that love to the side for other people. For you, for one thing," At this Rafe looked away, squinting off somewhere over Olivia's shoulder. "And we pushed it aside for so long, that we almost lost it. We almost lost it trying to make sure everyone was comfortable. And we're done doing that. We're done."

In a moment Olivia will never forget, Natalia's boy looked her in the eyes. He stared her straight in the eyes and nodded, realization perhaps finally coming to him. "We're going to make us all a family, Rafe. If we have to strangle every last one of you to do it."

They bothed laughed, the night air rippling between them. Again, Rafe nodded. "So we're cool then?" he asked, offering his hand for her to take.

Olivia knew the young boy was saving face, and for maybe the first time her life, she let him keep it. "Yeah, we're cool," she mocked, pulling him into a brief but sincere hug. "Can I give you a ride somewhere?"

Rafe shook his head. "Nah, I think I'm gonna wait here for Ashlee..."

"Ha!" she laughed, placed a hand on his shoulder and leaned in. "It could be a while."


Part 8


Olivia looked at the woman across the table from her. "So?"

"So," Natalia repeated again. They both stared at each other blankly, unaccustomed to the awkward silence that hung between them. The farmhouse kitchen had become Olivia and Natalia's confessional: the place they came to sort out all problems, big and small.

It had been a week since the bar debacle, a week since they'd made up, a week since the latest attempt to get their life together moving forward. They spent the ensuing days sputtering and heaving like a old car, in desperate need of a tuneup. The first kiss, the first kisses had been amazing. Easy, natural... then life got in the way. With Rafe preparing to leave for boot camp, Emma still in the dark, Natalia's new job with Blake, and Olivia technically still living at the Beacon, they were quickly discovering that weekend mornings spent in bed together simply were not going to cut it.

"I'm a little..." Natalia's eyes searched for the right word. "Frustrated."

Olivia watched the younger woman twist a white paper napkin over and over with her fingers. She still managed to look stunning, even after a long day of work. Her dark hair, moments earlier yanked unceremoniously from a loose ponytail, cascaded around her face, which had filled out a little bit since her pregnancy. Everything about Natalia was fuller, and not a single inch of her went unnoticed by Olivia whenever the two did manage a moment together.

"I know. I am too," Olivia replied, rubbing absently at her neck. "We'll tell Emma tonight, ok? And then we can just move back in here like we talked about, and that'll make everything easier. And I know you've been meaning to pick up a few things for Rafe-- we've still got tomorrow to do that. I know you said Blake might need you on Sunday, but I've been thinking, and she really shouldn't make you work hours after you've shipped your only son off to the Army. Even I wouldn't do that to an employee and I'm--"

Natalia rose from her chair and faced Olivia, leaning her backside against the table where the older woman sat. She cupped one hand beneath Olivia's chin, drawing her eyes up to meet hers, and with the other hand she gently shushed her partner, two slender fingers pressed against Olivia's lips. "I meant sexually, Olivia. Frustrated sexually," Natalia gave a half-smile to the suddenly-innocent Olivia, ignoring the redness the words brought to her face. "Although all those other things, they do need addressing, so... yeah."

Olivia's borrowed heart went from zero to sixty when she looked into the sultry brown eyes above her. She herself had felt exactly the same way a week earlier, but she had just sort of assumed it was one-sided. "But you... you need...?" Olivia struggled, words failing her as she imagined the possibilities.

"Addressing? Yes. Unequivocally, yes," Natalia curled her lips into a dimple-inducing smile, a mix of desire in her eyes and innocence on her face. "I have a lot," she motioned to her belly and her entire body, "going on here. A lot. And..." she leaned in to place a quick kiss on Olivia's lips. "I need you."

Emboldened by her near-whimper of a request, Olivia rose to her feet, putting her a head above Natalia. Lacing her fingers at the nape of her neck, Olivia took her mouth roughly for a kiss, so hard the younger woman groaned a little bit, the table's edge biting into Natalia's upper thigh. Keeping their lips and tongues intertwined, Olivia pulled them back slightly, and she could feel Natalia smiling into the kiss.

"Better?" Olivia asked, dragging her lips back and forth against Natalia's.

"Mmmhmm," Natalia replied, parrying Olivia's forceful urgency with a slow, sensuous, deliberate kiss.

Olivia was vaguely aware of light footsteps approaching, but before her brain could emerge from the hazy fog kissing Natalia had induced, she heard her daughter's voice.

"Can I take the sidewalk chalk from the basement? I wanna draw something big in the driveway."

The two women broke their kiss as abruptly as it had begun, both stunned at Emma's small figure in the doorway. There was a beat of silence before Olivia could speak.

"Yeah, uh... Yes, Emma but, ah... hold on a sec." Olivia motioned for Emma to sit down, and the little girl shrugged and plopped down.

Olivia looked at Natalia, who returned her panicked glance before turning her attention to Emma. "Did that... does that make you uncomfortable, Jellybean? Seeing me and your Mommy... kiss like that?"

Emma considered Natalia for a second, and then looked over at her mother, who was unconsciously leaning forward, seemingly awaiting disaster. "No. Is it s'posed to?" She looked at both women expectantly.

Olivia let out the breath she was holding. "Well, no... not exactly. But... do you know what it means when two people kiss... like that?"

Emma just shrugged yet again. "That you love each other?"

"That's exactly what it means," Natalia stepped behind Emma and wrapped her arms around the girl's shoulders. "And because we love each other," she looked up at Olivia whose eyes had begun to water. "We want to be a family. Together, all of us. Me and your mommy, you and Rafe... and the baby in my belly. Would you like that?"

Emma nodded enthusiastically, but the astute young girl noticed her mother's trepidation. "Mommy," her voice got low and small. "Are you worried because our family is different from other families? Like we talked about?"

Olivia wiped the tears that slipped down her cheeks, and smiled. "Not anymore, sweetie," she pressed a kiss to the top of Emma's head. "Not anymore."

"Does this mean--" Emma started, and Natalia interrupted her.

"That you guys can move back into the farmhouse with me? Yeah, it does!" Natalia erupted excitedly.

Emma clapped her hands together and smiled. "Alright! But... I was just gonna say does this mean I can get the sidewalk chalk now?"

The two woman looked at each other and laughed. Olivia swatted at her daughter's pigtails and watched her spring up from the chair. "Of course it does, Bean. Go crazy."

Natalia steepled her fingers and held them at her lips. Olivia watched as her daughter bounded out of the room and went in search of her toys. "I know I should just be happy it went so smoothly, but is it wrong that I feel a little bitter that our big reveal was upstaged by giant pieces of chalk?"

"You would be!" Natalia laughed. "Well, I guess that's one thing we can check off our to-do list, huh?"

"Yup," Olivia agreed, slinking over to Natalia's side. She brushed a stray bit of hair from Natalia's face, and sighed. The sun would soon be setting over the fields and the purple dusk through the window cast a surreal glow on the woman in front of her. "Have I told you how beautiful you are?"

Natalia scrunched her nose and sheepishly smiled. "Mmmm, yes? But it never hurts to hear it again."

Olivia stood once again in the farmhouse kitchen, this time alone with her thoughts. The evening had gone wonderfully, even Norman Rockwell-esque, if The Saturday Evening Post had gone gay. The clean dishes sat in the drying rack, long forgotten. Rafe had come by and shared a dessert with Emma, delighting his mother in the process. Natalia was clearly on her best behavior, stopping only once to graze Olivia's cheek with a chaste kiss, but Olivia didn't mind. Progress was progress, after all.

After Rafe left, Natalia made popcorn and the three of them watched a movie, Emma sandwiched between them. It was almost too much for Olivia to bear, the serenity of it all. While she no longer felt the need to deprive herself of happiness, she did often wonder if she was cut out for it. But when she felt Natalia's hand reach for hers, and her fingers slide between her own, she knew that she wanted nothing more than just that.

Olivia filled a glass with water, and looked out through the kitchen window at the acres of blackness ahead. The peace and quiet would have once driven her mad, and now it blanketed her with a sense of security. She pulled a straw from a jar on the counter, and dropped it in Emma's glass. She padded up the stairs, soft light coming from Emma's room.

Inside, she found Natalia stroking her daughter's hair, and Emma prattling on about wanting to paint the bedroom purple. "One cup of H-2-O, comin' right up," Olivia announced, placing the glass on the bedside table. "Time for bed, sweetheart."

Emma murmured a weak protest as Olivia and Natalia each gave her a goodnight kiss, but relented as soon as Natalia flipped out the light. Leaving the door open just a crack, the two women made their way down the hall to the master bedroom.

Natalia let out a contented sigh as she moved to the bathroom, leaving the door open. Soon Olivia followed behind her, as though they had been doing it for a thousand years, preparing for bed, taking turns at the sink and sharing the toothpaste. Minutes passed and they shared no words, until all the lights were out and Natalia sat at the edge of the bed, Olivia having already climbed into the sheets.

"Can you still see?" Natalia whispered, the earlier confidence in her voice replaced with something else, something tentative.

Olivia murmured that she could, indeed, still see her. Out here on the farm, even the faintest moonlight could sneak its way through the closed blinds, basking them in an ethereal glow.

She watched as Natalia turned to her, still sitting on the edge of the bed. She could hear Natalia take a hard swallow, and then a light breathy laugh. In the dim light, Olivia made it a point to find Natalia's eyes with her own. "Natalia..."

"Just," Natalia interrupted her. "I want you to see me."

This time it was Olivia's turn to struggle with a swallow, and she simply nodded. Sitting upright in the bed, she watched as Natalia stood up and dropped her robe to the floor. She was still wearing a bra and panties, and her pregnant belly surged forth between them. Olivia knew there would be a part of Natalia that was self-conscious about it, but in her eyes it only made her more magnificent.

Her breast heaved with a deep breath, and Natalia wrapped one arm across her chest while the other reached back to undo the clasp of her bra. Olivia could hear the gentle snap as it came undone, and then she noticed it. Natalia was keeping her breasts hidden from her, her arms crossed holding up the fabric there. She was teasing her. And she was enjoying it.

Olivia cocked an eyebrow in the dark, and Natalia lowered her eyes. Slowly, Natalia hooked her thumbs beneath the straps of her bra and they fell across her shoulders. And when Natalia met her gaze again, she dropped her arms and let the garment fall to the floor, an almost imperceptible smirk on her face.

The gentle slope of her body took Olivia's breath away. Olive skin smooth across voluptuous curves. Silken hair grazing her bare shoulders. Finding her mouth dry, Olivia swallowed once again.

Draping one arm over her stomach, the young woman carefully stepped out of the rest of her undergarments, and stood there, not moving, for a few seconds. Olivia's breathing hastened as she took in all of Natalia, and her heart nearly stopped when she spoke. "This is all yours, Olivia. If you'll have it."

Olivia yanked the blankets back at Natalia's side of the bed. "Come here."

Natalia smiled, and slid into the smooth, cool sheets. Olivia never tore her gaze from the other woman, hastily tugging at her own clothes beneath the sheets. Finally free of them, she pulled Natalia closer with a firm grasp of her backside and their naked bodies met. Olivia let out a strained groan, and Natalia simply exhaled a long, hot breath against Olivia's neck.

"I want all of you," Olivia whispered. She felt Natalia's body quake and she held her for another moment. Eventually their lips met, and Natalia held tightly just below Olivia's breasts, snaking one leg over her body. This gave Olivia unfettered access to Natalia's body, and she made it clear precisely what she needed.

Pulling away from the kiss, Natalia looked into Olivia's eyes, their lower bodies grinding involuntarily, and in a breathy sigh made her plea. "Then take it."

Olivia's head was swimming from the intoxicating feel of Natalia's naked body wrapped around her own. She had always secretly suspected Natalia had a hidden side, but to have it confirmed as she purred and begged and pouted was unreal. She debated making a game of it, doing her own bit of teasing, but when Natalia started whimpering in her ear, softly, almost inaudibly, Olivia lost all restraint.

She reached between them and pressed her fingers inside Natalia, eliciting more soft whimpers and moans. They soon fell into a rhythm and Olivia was amazed at how right it felt. She had had fears that the sex just wouldn't compare... and she was right, of course, but in a totally different way. Touching Natalia and pleasing her and watching her eyes flutter and feeling her hot, ragged breath against her skin... it was unlike anything else she had ever experienced.

Watching her as they made love, Olivia could tell Natalia was holding back, keeping quiet so as not to disturb their daughter sleeping just down the hall. Olivia had to smile at the pained look of concentration on her face. She shifted a bit so that Natalia's face was between the crook of her neck and the pillow, and she hurried her pace just a bit. Natalia's body responded in kind, and Olivia whispered in her ear, "Just let go."

And she did, on Olivia's command, muffling a strangled cry of ecstacy into Olivia's neck, sending reverberations throughout the older woman's body. Natalia held on to Olivia for several minutes, breathing "I love you's" over and over into her ear. Finally, when Olivia could manage it, she spoke softly as she stroked Natalia's hair. "You were worth waiting for."


Part 9

"Well I know he can't keep it with him," Natalia was attempting to explain the logic of buying Rafe a new cell phone over the din of a hundred TVs and other whirring appliances. "But he said there's a handful of times when the drill instructor may let them use their phones to call home. I don't want him turning his phone on after a few weeks and finding out it doesn't work!"

And I don't want to be near you when he hasn't called in a while. "Of course, sweetheart. Why don't we just get him an iPhone and call it a day? This place makes my skin crawl." All around her, middle-aged men in sweatpants debated pixels and wattage with pimply-faced teenagers in blue polo shirts. Refrigerators the size of walk-in closets loomed large, and fifteen handheld video cameras on stands broadcasted their feeds to televisions overhead. Passing one, Olivia couldn't help but make an exaggerated look of displeasure straight into the lens.

Natalia chewed the inside of her lip, thinking. "Mm, let's just see what's on sale, ok?" Finally arriving at the cell phone section of the store, Natalia immediately set to work browsing the options. An eager saleswoman sidled up along side her in a flash, and Olivia mentally checked out.

That TV's not bad. Maybe we should get a new one for the farmhouse. Eh, what we really need is another computer for Emma. I wonder if... is that Michael McDonald? I didn't realize that was him with the Doobie Brothers... Takin' it to the streets... oh great, now I'm going to have that fucking song in my head all day.

"Can I help you find anything?" A lanky young man interrupted Olivia's stream of consciousness. He raised an eyebrow when she stared at him with a curious look on her face.

"Oh. No, thank you. I'm just..." she waved her arm behind her, at the cell phone kiosks. "Waiting."

"Alright, well if you need anything... Haven't I seen you somewhere before?" He smiled at her, and Olivia guessed he was all of twenty five years old. He had dark, distinct features and a perfect smile, unblemished and white.

"I don't know, have you?" Olivia laughed. "I mean, I doubt it..."

"Gosh, you just... you just look really familiar," he paused, and rubbed at his short brown hair. "You sure there's nothing I can help you with?"

She let herself get roped into a conversation with the young man when, after suggesting he may have seen her at the Beacon Hotel, he launched into his "secret desire" to work in the hospitality industry. Thankfully, his angling for a job was cut short by Natalia calling to her from across the aisle.

"Olivia!" The younger woman's face was turned into a tight smile, almost too saccharin-sweet to be real.

Uh oh, Olivia thought. She politely excused herself and trotted over to Natalia's side, where she was met with dimples and wide brown eyes.

Her teeth still clenched into a smile, Natalia chuckled a little. "Making friends I see."

"Oh Natalia," Olivia brushed her off with a playful shoulder bump.

"It's okay. It's not your fault he was flirting with you."

Olivia crossed behind Natalia and whispered close to her ear. "He was not flirting with me, Natalia. He's a fetus, for Christ's sake!"

Natalia raised a stern finger, "Uh, number one? Don't bring the Lord into this. Okay? Number two? Yes he was. He did 'the lean'." She dragged out the last two words, struggling not to break a smile as she kept her eyes glued to the cell phone display case.

"'The lean'? What exactly is that, Dr. Ruth?"

Natalia turned and crossed her arms in front of her, slowly leaning towards Olivia with one shoulder leading the way. When Olivia stared back at her unimpressed, she attempted the move again, this time exaggerating the motions.

"Careful there, you might tip over," Olivia teased, shooting Natalia a look of feigned concern.

Unable to keep a straight face any longer, Natalia giggled and then announced flatly, "I hate you."

"You ladies decide?" The bubbly saleswoman bounced in at just the right moment, and Olivia turned to Natalia for the answer.

"This one's $49.99 if I renew our contract another two years," Natalia explained to Olivia, and the older woman picked up the demo phone to have a look at it. It was black, and hefty, and didn't have any of the bells and whistles the newer models had.

"Natalia, Rafe's going to be shooting guns that're smaller than this... thing."

At this, Natalia gasped and made the sign of the cross quickly. Clearly she wasn't thrilled at the idea of her son shooting anything, even if it was just for practice.

"Well this is what I can afford, Olivia. Now are you going to make me feel bad about it, or--"

Olivia clamped her hand lovingly over Natalia's mouth, and turned to the bemused saleswoman. "We'll take the iPhone. The big one." When the employee scurried off to get the new phone, Olivia added: "And don't you go licking my hand."

Dropping their bags on the floor, Olivia slammed the farmhouse door behind her. "Are we seriously fighting right now? All the way home wasn't enough?!"

Exasperated, Natalia spun around, pulling her sweater off her shoulders. "Yes. We're fighting because you are too pigheaded to even listen to me!"

"Pigheaded? Oh that's rich. Pigheaded! Pot, meet kettle."

Natalia squinted at the older woman, her face pinched. "I may be a lot of things, Olivia Spencer, but at least I'm not some... some... neanderthal!" When Olivia spread her arms in the air, incredulous, Natalia continued. "First you go right around my decision for my gift for my son, then you follow it up with some crazy idea that I quit my job and become your ... your little... Stepford wife!"

The pregnant woman paced around the room, while Olivia stood, the color rising in her face. "Oh please, Natalia. We're arguing about a phone? A fucking phone? Don't sit here and tell me that you didn't want to get Rafe the biggest and the best. Of course you wanted to. But you couldn't afford it. Fine. But we can. Remember us? I had no idea it was just your gift to your son! Coulda fooled me. I thought we were a family, remember?"

Natalia crossed her arms defensively. "Oh and I should just quit my job, too? I should just--" Her voice was raised, higher than Olivia could ever remember hearing it.

"Don't change the subject," Olivia shouted back, then quieted down. "Listen, I know you've always done everything on your own. I know you're proud and I know you don't like to accept help. But this isn't help! This is... I want to spend the rest of my life with you, Natalia. And along with that comes... everything I have to offer. For you, for Rafe, for this baby. Is that such a bad thing?"

Natalia erupted in giant, quivering sobs, and collapsed onto the couch. Olivia quickly followed, wrapping her arms around her and laughing a little into her hair. "Most people get excited to marry money. What the hell is wrong with you?"

Through the sobs and sniffles, Natalia's voice sounded small. "I like working. I like the purpose that it gives me. I feel like you think I can't do both."

Olivia sighed. "I never said you should quit your job, Natalia. I just casually mentioned that you may want to start thinking about when you're going to take a break. Unless you want to plop this baby out on the floor of Blake's office?"

Natalia laughed softly, wiping at her tears with a tissue and maintaining some composure. "He was flirting with you."

A groan escaped Olivia's lips. "We're back to that?"

"Mm-hmm," Natalia nodded, taking the opportunity to kiss the skin at Olivia's neck. "Not that I blame him. You're... exquisite."

Olivia smiled, and set their intertwined hands on her knee. "Will you do me a favor? Will you start thinking of things you'd like to do? You know, besides waitressing or working for Blake or working for anybody. Will you start thinking of what Natalia Rivera would like to do, if she could work for herself?"

"You mean after the baby's born?"

"Exactly. Now, these next few weeks? I'm putting my foot down and making sure you take care of yourself for once. But, yeah... after the baby's born and we've had time to adjust," She brushed the hair back from Natalia's eyes and the love she saw there caught her breath. "I don't want a Stepford wife, Natalia. I want a partner." As she spoke the last words, she traced her finger where a wedding band would belong on Natalia's hand.

More sobs broke out, and Natalia waved her hand in surrender. "If you don't... cut it out... I really... will never... stop crying!"

Olivia slapped her hands against her knees and popped up from the couch. "Well, lucky for you, I remember the cure to stop any pregnant woman from crying."

Natalia looked up at her, eyes red and cheeks stained.

"Pizza," Olivia declared.

The waterworks ceased and Natalia's back straightened. Her lower lip jutted out into a pout. "With extra cheese?"


Part 10

The sobs came intermittently, and without warning. One jolted Olivia so much, she spilled her glass of water all over some moving boxes in the living room. The cover of her DVD copy of About a Boy, which, when asked, she would fervently deny owning, would be forever warped and the ink runny from its encounter. Needless to say, Natalia had not taken the send-off of her only son very well.

Earlier that morning, Olivia and Natalia had taken Emma to meet up with Rafe and Frank at the bus stop. A motley crew if there ever was one, one by one the family said its good-byes to the young soldier headed to boot camp. Of course Rafe had lingered longest with his mother, allowing Natalia an unhindered round of intense mothering, the likes of which Olivia suspected no one had ever seen before. It warmed her heart, though, to see the love that filled Natalia's eyes mirrored in Rafe's, despite the false nonchalance of his young adulthood. And now, in the Sunday evening stillness of the farmhouse, amongst moving boxes that had arrived in their absence, Natalia Rivera attempted her own brave face, broken only by the occasional renegade wail.

"You doin' ok?" Olivia asked, turning her head to watch the younger woman pull a few hardcover books from a cardboard box.

"Fine," Natalia sniffed. "I'll be fine."

Olivia dropped what she was doing and went to her lover's side. "You know, we don't have to do this now. We can..." she sifted through the box at her feet. "Play a game of checkers!"

Her best faux-excited face drew a one-dimpled smile from Natalia. "You're sweet," she sighed. "I'd really just like to get these boxes down here finished... I'm so tired."

With that, Olivia scooted around the remaining boxes to stand behind Natalia, who was just the right height for Olivia to drop her chin and press her cheek against Natalia's. Her hands made their way up the smaller woman's back, until Olivia's fingers rested on her shoulders. With only her thumbs she kneaded circles over the muscle and bone of shoulder blades she found there, and the space in between. Almost immediately, Natalia's head rolled back, an easy smile playing across her lips.

Olivia shifted her weight on the balls of her feet, and found it difficult to concentrate with the distinct smell of Natalia's skin so dangerously close. She decided to indulge herself a little, and dragged her lips against Natalia's exposed neck, eliciting a low hum that Olivia could feel reverberating against her mouth. Keeping up the work with her hands, she planted kisses as she went along, throat to jawline to earlobe. Olivia lingered for a second at the last spot, whispering.

"Go upstairs and take a bath, Natalia. Let me finish up down here."

The younger woman started to protest weakly, but Olivia shushed her. She moved her hands around to Natalia's belly, making delicate circles there too. "Let me take care of you, mama," she laughed at the last word, her breath undoubtedly tickling Natalia's sensitive skin. "You don't have to do it all by yourself this time around."

For the first time in many days, Natalia didn't cry. In fact, when she turned around in her embrace, Olivia was shocked that she wasn't. It was just such a regular occurrence lately.

Instead, she looked up at Olivia, held her gaze for a moment, and then slowly closed her eyes. "Why are you so good to me?"

Olivia laughed. "Because I love you," she placed a chaste kiss on her forehead. "And because, let's be honest, you're a hottie."

"Mm, yeah, I felt really hot this morning when I couldn't squeeze my feet into my shoes," she replied, lifting up her skirt a bit and looking down at her wiggling toes.

"Go on up, Fred Flintstone. I'll get the rest of this put away."

Olivia let her eyes follow as Natalia picked her way across the living room and started up the stairs. When she paused, Olivia cocked her head to the side, a questioning look on her face.

"You're going to drag all those boxes out to the barn and ditch them, aren't you?"

Olivia bared her teeth in a guilty smile. "That was pretty much the plan."

Forty-five minutes later, Olivia climbed the stairs herself, and stopped in to Emma's room to check up on her. "You've been kinda quiet up here, Jellybean. Everything ok?"

Emma looked up from a huge pile in the center of her room. Stuffed animals and dolls and clothes and Legos were strewn everywhere. "I'm redecorating!" she chirped, clearly excited to have her old room back.

"Okay, but it's already eight. It's a school night so you've gotta at least have that bed cleared off and ready for bed at nine! Think you can swing it, Martha Stewart?"

The little girl nodded feverishly. "I just want to organize my toys and stuff. Natalia said that if I could keep everything neat for a while, you guys might let me get a puppy!"

Olivia's eyes went wide. Just then she felt Natalia's hand at her hip, the swell of her belly wrapped in a white robe and her dark locks still wet from the bath.

"When did we say that?!" Olivia looked incredulously from Emma to Natalia. This time, it was her turn to crease an impish smile.

"I said we'd think about it," Natalia admitted.

Olivia simply shook her head and left the room, muttering to herself as she went. "A baby, a puppy... Fuck if you think I'm getting a minivan."

She'd already made it into the bathroom before Natalia caught up with her, her face pinched. "I heard that!"

The older woman spun around, pulling off her t-shirt and tossing it at Natalia who stood in the doorway. "Good!"

A smile threatening across Natalia's face, their bodies met as if of their own volition. "You will get a minivan and you'll like it," she said plainly, tugging at the tank top still clinging to Olivia's chest.

"You'll bake me pies and iron my shirts... in stilettos."

Natalia stuck her tongue out. "Pig."


"Ha!" At this Natalia tossed her hair back, unable to keep up the game any longer. "You're lucky I love you."

Olivia smiled. "I know."

Retreating to the doorway of the bathroom, Natalia smiled back coyly at the older woman. Brown eyes traveled slowly up and down Olivia's body, stopping at the ample cleavage exposed. "Take a shower."

Olivia had half-expected Natalia to be asleep already by the time she got out of the shower, given how exhausting the day had been. But there she was, curled up in a chair in the corner of the room, under a reading lamp flipping through some magazines. The master bedroom connected with their bathroom so Olivia had left the door slightly ajar as she showered.

"Nice singing voice you have there," Natalia commented without looking up from her reading.

Olivia brushed a towel through her hair. "Sorry, I guess I got a little carried away," she apologized, suddenly battling a completely foreign battle of self-consciousness.

"I thought it was cute," Natalia continued to keep her eyes on the magazine. "I think you're cute."

Olivia bit back a smile and crossed the room to drop onto the edge of the bed. "Then why won't you even look at me?"

"Mmm," Natalia hummed, considering. Another dramatic page-flip. "Kinda afraid I'll jump your bones."

Olivia wailed with laughter, then caught herself. "Really?"

Natalia appeared adorably flabbergasted as she pulled the magazine to cover her face, then peered over it slowly, nodding her head. "Before I got into the bath, I watched you from the window. Moving those boxes out to the barn?"

A proud smirk took over Olivia's face. "That do it for ya?"

Another guilty nod.

"You want me to make sure Emma's all tucked in?"

Furious nod.

Pursing her lips into a pout, she teased Natalia for a second, drawing a frustrated growl from the woman behind the magazine. Olivia hopped to her feet. "I'll be right back."


Part 11

Her hair looked so dark in the moonlight, it was almost black. It splashed across the pillow, some strands straight as an arrow, others curled like confetti, and it had gotten long. The longest that Olivia could ever remember seeing it, and as she sat and admired her sleeping lover, she gently wound a piece of her hair through her fingers, being careful not to disturb her.

She'd only been maybe fifteen minutes in Emma's room, but Olivia knew that Natalia had been exhausted, and as much as her insides roiled with desire, her foremost concern was the health and wellbeing of her very pregnant... girlfriend? and their child.

Ugh, she thought. Sounds so juvenile when you roll it around in your mouth: my pregnant girlfriend. Sounds like I knocked her up behind the middle school or something. Olivia felt her face get hot when she realized the missteps of her internal monologue. Whoa, unwed teenage mother jokes? Really, Olivia? And besides, I certainly didn't get to have the fun of the 'knocking up'.

Alone with her thoughts, though, Olivia couldn't help herself. Neither did Natalia, apparently. She pressed down a snicker threatening to bubble up in her chest. Fuckin' Frank, Olivia shuddered audibly, then hoped she didn't wake Natalia. But even as she pulled back the bedsheets and climbed atop the mattress, the other woman did not stir.

She watched for another moment Natalia's sleeping form, her body on its side, limbs cradling her belly. Olivia felt that while no adult with free will could ever be truly innocent, Natalia came pretty damn close, and tonight she looked every inch the madonna. Perfect feminine roundness paired with an angelic face. The tranquility of sleep making her look even younger, if that was possible. And the involuntary rise and fall of her breasts against the fabric of her shirt...

Jesus Christ, she tipped her head up to the darkened ceiling, without the least bit of reverence. I'm turning into a dirty old man!

A growl of frustration as she settled into the bed, Olivia tried to concentrate on other things. This 'girlfriend' thing, for one, she thought. That's gotta go. She knew she had casually referred to Natalia as other things... her partner, her wife. And Natalia's response had been overwhelmingly positive, but that had been in the abstract. Olivia worried that, in the strictest literal sense, Natalia wouldn't want to be her wife.

Come on gays, haven't you guys figured out something new to call each other? I'm googling this in the morning.

For a moment she was distracted by the tinkle of rustling leaves outside, the first time this season she'd heard the sound. It reminded her that autumn was here, and would bring with it winter soon enough. And winter meant snow, and cold, and this winter, a child. Olivia smiled against her pillow at the woman across from her. She imagined Natalia making cookies and hot chocolate, the kitchen abuzz with her favorite kind of energy. And she pictured her apron fastened around her suddenly narrow waist, the sleeves of a light cashmere sweater rolled up -- I'll have to buy her one of those-- and jeans low on her hips. Flour covering her slender fingers, and her lips glowing with a slight gloss...

Without warning, those very same slender fingers, minus the flour, came crashing down across Olivia's face. Natalia had reached for her haphazardly in a half-waking state, and she mumbled into the pillow. "I will so... make this up to you."

Olivia kissed the palm of the hand across her face, then moved it gingerly back to Natalia's side. "You always could read my mind," she whispered.

Monday morning blurred into Monday afternoon, business at the Beacon keeping Olivia as occupied as ever. Waking up next to Natalia, or rather, waking up next to the spot where Natalia had just been, was wonderful. She'd made pancakes for Emma and coffee for the two of them, and it was every bit their home as it had once been. Only this time, while Emma prattled on about her potential puppy in between bites, Natalia had snaked her arms around Olivia's waist and untucked her shirt just a tad, fingers plying the skin she found there. It drove Olivia mad, and judging by Natalia's wiggling eyebrows, she knew it.

Now alone in the confines of her office, her cell phone vibrated hard against the table, three quick pulses strong enough to send it nearly tumbling off Olivia's desk. When she picked it up, she was greeted with a cryptic text message from Natalia:

Name a song that makes you think of me.

Olivia creased a crooked smile. At any other time in her life, she would have dismissed such a request as immature and irrelevant. But then Natalia had opened her eyes to the joy of simple pleasures.

Angel Eyes - Jeff Healey Band. Why?

A few seconds later, the phone buzzed again.

Ooh, I like. Just wanted to make sure you were thinking of me.

The woman on the other end of the phone obviously didn't know that, these days, Olivia could think of little else. Before she could reply, the phone lit up again, another text message.

Any more? I'm burning a CD, trying to keep myself from eating vanilla frosting straight outta the jar.

Olivia laughed. The pregnancy had really begun to bear down on Natalia in the last few days; every minute she didn't spend craving junk food, she spent running to the bathroom to pee.

Sexbomb - Tom Jones?

A long delay caused Olivia to rattle her pen against the edge of the desk, impatient.

You're gonna be singin 'Ain't Too Proud to Beg' if you keep that up. Seriously now.

When the landline phone started ringing on her desk, Olivia picked it up and immediately slammed it back down. She rather wished that she was home with Natalia at that very moment, instead of stuck at work.

Answer by Sarah Mclachlan...

Olivia had played that song over and over in her head. Even cried to it many a night when Natalia was gone. But she loved it anyway.

So sweet. Of course now I'm crying into the frosting.

So you lost that battle, huh? Olivia teased.

Nothing in this cupboard is safe. Come home soon?

When her office phone shrilled again, insistent, she picked it up, annoyed. "Yes?"

It was Greg on the other line, explaining that they had a disgruntled customer in the lobby, demanding to see her. Olivia set the phone onto its receiver, but not before begrudgingly assuring Greg she'd be downstairs in a minute. She took a quick glance in the mirror, and straightened her suit jacket. Rolling her shoulders back, she tried to shake off thoughts of going straight home to Natalia. Quickly, she pecked out a text message before heading out the door:

As soon as I can. Problems here. Love you.

The unhappy guest had turned out to be a very important corporate client, leaving Olivia no choice but to resort to ass kissing and free food to regain his loyalty. She joined him for a complimentary lunch, and was once again reminded why she despised ceding the upper hand to anyone. He took great delight in alerting Olivia to what he thought were the Beacon's shortcomings, and areas in which she could improve her staff. She smiled and pretended to take notes on his suggestions, while secretly drawing cartoons of his penis in a guillotine.

"I've always thought that myself, sir. That's a wonderful suggestion. I'll contact the linen distributors immediately, and make sure we're getting at least one-thousand thread count," she nodded. Go fuck yourself.

When her phone vibrated in her jacket pocket, she maintained eye contact with her lunch guest but quietly checked the message.

I stopped crying. But now I want you. Hurry home.

"Is everything alright?" the man asked, taking note of Olivia's suddenly flushed face.

"Oh, yes, just fine. I'm sorry, please continue," she blurted out, perhaps a bit too enthusiastically.

Another vibe. Guess you really are busy. I'll try to wait for you.

Beads of sweat immediately appeared on Olivia's forehead. She tried desperately not to imagine what Natalia's idea of "not waiting" for her would entail. She picked her pen back up, and stared blankly at the man across the table. The plastic ballpoint nearly snapped from the pressure she applied to the notepad.

Olivia audibly sighed with relief when the man declined to order dessert, and she tried one last time to be at her most gracious, offering him a free night the next time his business brought him into town. He accepted her handshake and Greg appeared to usher him out, leaving Olivia alone to answer her electronic torture device, once again ablaze with a new text message.

BTW Emma's staying at Philip's tonight. Just... FYI.

Tossing her phone into her purse, she decided that if she was going to get through the rest of this day, she'd have to ignore the device altogether. "That's a big 'if,'" she groaned under her breath.

She'd already peeled off her suit jacket before she entered the house, and she tossed it onto the couch the moment she walked in the door. Before she could call out to Natalia, the other woman appeared at the top of the stairs.

"Home before seven? I'm impressed," she said, descending the stairs to meet Olivia near the entryway. "You okay? You look a little... flushed."

Olivia shook her head. "Well, let's see. First you had me playing iTunes shuffle in my office, imagining you licking vanilla frosting off your fingertips which, I gotta say: made me feel like a pervert. Then I had to sweat through lunch with a guest, who probably thought I was crazier than a shit house rat because every time my phone went off I turned another shade of purple. Somehow I managed to make it through the rest of the day till I nearly ran over a family of four on the --" Natalia interrupted Olivia's tirade with a long, languid kiss. All the wind seemed to go out of Olivia's sails just then, her tense shoulders dropping instantly.

When she could finally collect herself enough to continue, Olivia spoke into the kiss, her words garbled against Natalia's lips. "I'm still mad at you."

The other woman hummed softly. "Good."

Further protests silenced by a firm finger to her lips, Olivia let Natalia lead her up the stairs and into their bedroom, and sit her down on the bed. As she moved to draw the blinds from the fading dusk, Olivia noticed that Natalia wasn't wearing what she had on this morning. Instead, she wore a simple black cotton dress, sleeveless and with a neckline that plunged into a deep vee. While it was probably designed for comfort, it didn't hurt that Natalia had retained many of her best attributes even in pregnancy. Her shoulders were olive-toned and lean enough to reveal the sharp angles of her collarbone, and her calves still showed the lines of muscle that Olivia had always admired.

Sitting on the bed as she was, Olivia lost the height advantage that she normally held over her lover. Natalia moved to stand in front of her, cupping her face in her hands. She must've noticed Olivia eyeing her. "I wanted to look as beautiful as you make me feel. I want to show you how beautiful you make me feel."

Their eyes met and neither of them ventured a blink. A smile slowly crept across Natalia's face, her lips full and sensuous. "I mean, unless you want dinner first?" she frowned playfully. "I could..." Olivia quieted her with a furious shake of her head. Natalia's fingers moved to the buttons of Olivia's shirt, her expression suddenly serious. "I love this shirt on you."

Hands deftly swept the garment off Olivia's shoulders. "But not right now," she smiled.

Olivia remained silent, her mind going in a thousand different directions. Watching Natalia work was spellbinding, and the room had a grey stillness to it that Olivia was loathe to disturb. But finally, she spoke. "I was thinking earlier today how I hated giving over control to anyone," she watched as Natalia unpinned her own hair, letting it fall down her back. "But this isn't so bad."

Natalia flattened her palm against Olivia's chest and nudged her backwards, drawing a smile from the older woman. "You look like you're enjoying this," she said, scooting back as Natalia tugged at the waist of her pants.

She waited until she had removed Olivia's trousers, leaving her in only a bra and panties, before she slid down next to her and whispered into her ear. "I am."

Her voice was raspy and uneven, and Olivia knew despite her confident exterior, this was new territory for Natalia. It only aroused her more then, when she turned and set her legs across Olivia's hips, straddling her. Lying below her, Olivia could feel the undeniable rush of warmth between Natalia's legs against her own skin, and watched in sheer unspeakable amazement as Natalia sat upright above her, pulling the dress over her head and baring her naked body.

For a while they both were still, content to watch each other breathe. Natalia voice shook when she spoke. "Those last text messages... did they... was that okay?"

"Did they turn me on?" Olivia spoke matter-of-factly, eager to dispel any doubts Natalia may have been harboring. "Absolutely. Knowing you... want me as badly as I want you... You leave me breathless, Natalia."

The woman above her dug her fingernails hard into Olivia's midsection, and her eyes darkened, a sleepy, sexy grin on her face. "You make me so... wet."

The words slid from Natalia's mouth like honey, surprising Olivia, but surprising Natalia even more. Her expression flinched for a second. "You do... you make me..." Natalia shook her head, struggling with the right words. Her hips began to grind against Olivia's body, an excruciating pace so slow Olivia could help but moan, half in pleasure, half in desperation.

"I had a dream... about you," Natalia spoke softly, the quiver still in her voice. "The night you called me to come get you from that... bar." As she spoke, she scratched her nails gently across Olivia's skin, starting across her shoulders, down her torso and then back up again at her navel. Her thighs squeezed at Olivia's hips with each movement, the sum of which threatened to send her into a desire-induced coma. On her second pass up Olivia's front, she slid the straps of her bra down and Olivia took the cue, arching her back and reaching to unfasten it.

"It was... I'm not sure what was going on exactly, but we were..." she licked at her lips, slowly and with purpose. "We were making love and it felt so real. I was more alive in that dream than I had ever been in my entire life." Natalia's breath hitched, emotions deeper than lust creeping through. "And then it was real. You made me real, you gave me life, you... freed me..." She smiled sheepishly, leaning forward until she was almost on all fours, her breasts grazing Olivia's. "With your fingers... with your mouth," she kissed Olivia tenderly, drawing her lower lip into her mouth with gentle suction. "You may have created a monster."

They both laughed lightly, breath mingling with their faces so close. "Chance I'm willing to take," Olivia managed, the act of speaking having become increasingly difficult.

Natalia steadied herself above Olivia, and then dropped her head to place a trail of kisses along her neck and shoulders. With one hand, Natalia flipped her long brown hair, fragrant and silky smooth, over her head. Olivia felt it fall across her face, tickling her lips and eyelids. With a deliberate pace, Natalia lowered her kisses, inch by inch, the dual sensation of her soft, wet mouth followed by the satin tendrils snaking along her skin sparking a fever inside Olivia.

"You do remember I have a heart condition?" Olivia begged. She could feel the warm breath of Natalia's sigh against her stomach.

"Shhh..." Natalia wriggled her way further down Olivia's body until she was nearly between her legs. There was a moment's hesitation, then Natalia flicked her hair behind her ear and out of her eyes with a cheekful of air, back to her kittenish self. "Could you...?"

Olivia smiled. "Of course," she breathed, moving closer to the edge of the bed to allow Natalia to kneel there before her. While pregnancy had made Natalia infinitely more frisky, it also made her a lot less agile than she would've probably liked to be. "If you're not comfortable I can--"

"Shut up so I can concentrate on getting you out of these!" Natalia scolded, a bemused look of both determination and earnest confusion across her face.

Finally removed from all clothing, Olivia tried to breathe evenly while the younger woman looked her over lustily. "You're sexy when you let me boss you around," Natalia purred.

Olivia nearly choked. "I... you..."

Natalia peered at her through sultry brown eyes, her mouth hovering just above the source of Olivia's every desire. "How about now? Does this turn you on?" She breathed and whimpered and licked at the slick skin, first tentatively then hungrily.

Losing all control was not something Olivia Spencer did particularly well, but with Natalia tasting and feeling and nibbling her way through the lesbian sex learning curve, losing control was all she could do. With no one home and the farmhouse miles away from everything, Olivia moaned and cursed and laughed for hours until her voice was hoarse. She came over and over again, sometimes in straining, gasping, desperate desire, and other times in a rush of love and adoration and utter amazement. Natalia, meanwhile, plied every inch of her lover's skin as though she were cramming for a final exam. Finally, they rested in each others' arms.

"Ow, no. That hurts," Olivia croaked, a giggling Natalia pulling her lips away from her neck.

"What about this," Natalia pinched just below Olivia's breast, hard and fast.

Olivia wailed. "Fuck! No! Ow, what the fuck?"

More giggling. "I figured. I just wanted to do it."

The older woman eyed Natalia cautiously. "You're going to kill me in my sleep, aren't you?"

Natalia placed a gentle kiss on Olivia's forehead, then on her nose, then her chin, then finally her lips. "No, I rather like having you around."

Their bodies intertwined and sheets long ago forgotten on the floor, Olivia sighed. "What about you?" Natalia looked at her, confused by the question. "I told you some of the songs that remind me of you... what about you?"

"Madonna, Like a Virgin," Natalia replied without a moment's hesitation.

"Shut up," Olivia bemoaned. "That's your song."

Natalia laughed, her breath lightly dancing across the bridge of Olivia's nose. "Okay... ummm, Coldplay. Green Eyes."

"I Want You to Want Me, Cheap Trick," Olivia offered.

Natalia snorted. "Real romantic. Realize, Colbie Caillat."


"Wicked Game, Chris Isaak?"

Olivia's eyebrows danced. "Sexy. I like it. How 'bout Buffett's Why Don't We Get Drunk and Screw?"

Natalia poked her hard in the sternum. "You wish."

"No, you know what I'd really like to hear?" Olivia smiled, pausing as Natalia simply waited. "Pancakes and Bacon by Natalia Rivera."


Part 12

"How long do puppies have to stay with their mama until you can bring them home?"

Olivia squeezed her eyes shut. "I'm not sure, Jellybean. A while."

Emma chewed on the inside of her cheek. "How many puppies can one mama have at a time?"

"It depends."

"Jodie's mom said at first puppies can't see. They come out blind. Is that for real?" Emma sounded alarmed.

"I guess, if Jodie's mom said it, it must be true." Careful there, Olivia. Jodie's mom also believes in crystals and auras and shit like that.

Emma was perceptive enough to see that her mother was not giving her questions much thought. She crossed her arms in the back seat of the car, being sure to let out a dramatic huff. Olivia caught her eye in the rearview mirror.

"God, you remind me of... me. I love you, Bean, but I told you to slow your roll on the whole puppy thing. We've got the baby coming, remember? Let's take it one step at a time, okay?"

Emma fixed her gaze on something outside the car window, but nodded. "Why don't we know whether it's a boy or girl yet?"

Olivia smiled. "Because Natalia wanted it to be a surprise. I thought you liked surprises?"

The little girl gave in. "Okay, yeah. But I'm making something in school next week... for the baby. But I don't know whether to paint it blue or pink!"

Olivia beat her fingers against the steering wheel, trying to decide whether it was worth launching into a conversation about gender identity and dynamics with her eight year-old daughter currently in a pouty state of puppy-wanting. "Just paint it another color," she said into the rearview mirror. "Like purple."

When Emma seemed satisfied with that answer, Olivia let out a sigh. Just then, the passenger door swung open and Natalia hopped inside.

"Sorry," she apologized, smiling a little and offering Olivia a peck on the cheek.

Olivia shook her head. "How far along are you now? If your squirrel bladder is any indication, Baby Rivera should be arriving any second now."

Natalia crinkled her nose at the woman in the driver's seat. "Twenty nine weeks. So not quite yet, my dear. You're just going to have to suffer through my bathroom break requirements a teensy bit longer. And, um, I wanted to speak to you about that. The last name thing..." Natalia pressed her teeth into a cautious smile, her trademark dimples deepening.

Gravel shot out from under the tires in a noisy rush as Olivia pulled the car out of the strip mall parking lot and back onto the road. "No... you're kidding me, right?" Olivia glanced over at Natalia's please-don't-yell-at-me grin. "Come on, really? I thought you said you could handle Frank. I knew I should've went with you to talk to him. Our fun little non-traditional family is confusing enough for a kid, now he's gonna be a Cooper? Talk about born with a 'kick me' sign..."

"Or she!" Emma interjected excitedly from the backseat. Ah, the blissful ignorance of childhood, Olivia thought.

"You know something?" Natalia mocked the other woman's frustration. "You have so little faith in me. What I was going to say, before you nearly hurt yourself leaping to conclusions-- one of your most deplorable qualities, I might add-- was that I did speak to Frank. I explained to him that I would like the baby to take my last name. And he agreed."

Olivia let out an exasperated groan. "Well then, what is the problem?"

Natalia flipped her long, brown hair out from beneath her jacket collar. "I was going to say that, after today... since we'll be at the lawyer's office anyway... I was thinking..." Olivia spun her hands in the air over the steering wheel, urging Natalia to get to the point. She smiled one more time at her lover. "The baby and I. We're going to be Rivera-Spencers."

The older woman's eyes darted from the road in front of her, to Natalia, back to the road, and back to Natalia. "Get the fuck out!" she practically squealed.

"MOM!" Emma chastised from the back seat.

Olivia shook her head. "Sorry," her eyes danced back and forth several more times, and her face broke out into an almost involuntary smile. This time, she whispered. "Get the fuck out of here! Really?"

"Yeah," Natalia breathed nonchalantly. "I figured, you're the big executive; it would be more complicated to ask you to change your name. I'm just the--" She shook her hair dramatically. "Sultry trophy wife."

Olivia's eyes narrowed and she could see Natalia's features darken. "And you like it..." she purred.

"A little," Natalia squeaked, reaching over to squeeze Olivia's hand.

A blustery sigh came from the backseat. "You guys are weird," Emma lamented.

The lawyer's office was bright and modern, with floor-to-ceiling windows. It had been a bit of drive from Springfield, but this particular firm was known statewide for its expertise in gay and lesbian legal issues. They had two offices; one in Chicago and this one, located in the same artsy gayborhood where Olivia had gone to drown her sorrows but a few weeks prior. Olivia knew Natalia wouldn't be able to help herself.

"Pretty here in the daytime, isn't it? A lot nicer when your head isn't in a bucket," the younger woman remarked, taking in the view from the waiting room.

Olivia clenched her jaw. "Aren't trophy wives supposed to be silent?"

Right then a tall, blonde woman approached them, quirking a smile at the conversation she walked in on. "You must be Olivia Spencer? And Natalia Rivera?" She extended her hand. "I'm Cynthia D'Ettorre, we spoke on the phone?"

Natalia stood up and took the woman's hand. "Yes, hello. She was joking," she pointed to Olivia. "About that."

The three of them shared a laugh. Cynthia waved them off. "Hey, you gotta have a sense of humor these days. Is this your daughter?"

Emma stood up and pressed her hands against her sweater and leggings. That morning, she had insisted on wearing nearly the same outfit as Natalia. Clearly the lawyer's professional presence impressed her, as she looked a little awestruck. "I'm Emma, it's a pleasure to meet you!"

"Wow, the pleasure is all mine, Emma!" Cynthia smiled and shook the girl's hand. "We've got some toys and books and even a computer you can use right over there, if you wanna hang out while your moms and I talk boring business?"

Emma nodded and scampered off. Cynthia shepherded the two women into her office. "My assistant will keep an eye on her, of course."

As she closed the door to her immense office, the attorney clapped her hands together softly. "She's a beautiful girl."

Olivia helped Natalia lower herself into a chair in front of Cynthia's desk. "Thank you."

"And look at you!" Cynthia beamed at Natalia, then pointed her chin at Olivia. "You're keeping her at your beck and call, I hope?"

Natalia smiled demurely. "Olivia has been wonderful."

Cynthia sighed as she plopped into a big leather chair behind her desk. In spite of her well-tailored suit and multimillion dollar office, she had quite a relaxed demeanor. "I love when my clients are so obviously in love. It makes my job a hell of a lot easier."

The three women settled into a conversation about the real reason they were there: to secure each of them, as well as Emma and the baby, in the event of a tragedy or unforeseen circumstances.

"Unfortunately, running off and getting married in Canada or a state that recognizes it won't do much for same-sex couples when they encounter problems at home, where their marriages aren't considered legal. I know it's not the most romantic thing in the world, but you're doing the right thing. Believe me, you aren't a minute too soon, with a baby on the way," Cynthia gathered several documents from the printer behind her desk.

"I know Natalia doesn't like to think about it," Olivia squeezed her hand, "But I've got a heart condition. I was a transplant recipient not long ago. So... I'd like to make certain that she receives..." she hesitated, not at all enjoying the feeling of the words in her mouth. "Everything if something should happen to me."

Cynthia nodded. "Of course. And you've got quite a bit for us to square away, Ms. Spencer. That's why I sent along the drafts to your office ahead of time. For someone with your net worth, it can get a little complicated."

Natalia swallowed hard. Olivia noticed, and let out a guffaw. "Oh, you can handle it, Natalia. It's just like balancing your own checkbook... but with a few more zeroes on the end."

"I hate thinking of this. I mean, I know we need to do it but... I really would just rather kiss and say 'I do'."

Olivia's heart ached, never before having felt so viscerally the inequality their relationship suffered. "I know." It was all she could say.

After about forty minutes of paper-shuffling, signing, notarizing and the like, Cynthia smiled at the two women. "Now all that's left is for you two to kiss and make it official," she winked. "And yes, that's pure selfishness on my part. You're both insanely attractive, and I'm single with two cats and a dog."

Olivia smirked. "I'm happy to oblige." She leaned over and kissed Natalia's smiling lips, sweet and simple but with the promise of more. "I love you, Mrs. Rivera-Spencer."

"I love you too," she laughed lightly. "This is... unbelievable."

Cynthia pressed her hand over her heart. "Ugh, sometimes I love my job. I'll give you guys a minute; I'll go see what your daughter's up to out front."

Olivia rose and offered her hand to Natalia, who took it gratefully. "She's great, Olivia. Really knows her stuff and so easy to talk to."

Picking a stray bit of lint from Natalia's shoulder, Olivia blanched. "Five minutes into legally-bound-by-stacks-of-paper bliss and you've already got a wandering eye? Holy hell, this is practically like all my other marriages!"

"Shut up," Natalia teased. "Kiss me again."

This kiss was long and sensuous, Olivia's hands finding the nape of Natalia's neck and pressing them closer together. Natalia moaned softly into Olivia's mouth, and tugged at her lower lip with her teeth. Their tender moment threatened to turn into something much more, but the clatter of the office door pulled them apart.

"Mom! Natalia! I think I wanna be a lawyer!" Emma announced, bounding into the office with Cynthia close behind. "Cynthia said I have a knack for it already!"

The attorney just shrugged. "Somehow she cajoled my assistant into some Fritos from the vending machine downstairs. Any longer out there and she may have made herself partner."

Olivia nodded approvingly. "We cover hostile takeovers in our house by age six." Natalia simply rolled her eyes.

Cynthia once again shook hands with her clients, and returned Emma's winsome smile. "Well, ladies, looks like we're all set here. I've got a great recommendation for an awesome lunch in town, if you're looking to celebrate?"

Even with the cool autumn air, the threesome took a table on the patio at Cynthia's recommended restaurant, Chartreuse. Business was brisk, an eclectic mix of young couples and business types, gay and straight alike. Olivia had to admit, the neighborhood did look strikingly different in the daytime. The main street was composed of restaurants and shops, with both office and residential units above. Another block further down featured mostly bars and art galleries, clearly the hub of nightlife in the community. As the meticulously planned streets fanned out, they blended into rowhomes and well-manicured lawns. A little too pre-packaged for Olivia's tastes, but interesting nonetheless. Chartreuse had an enviable location, overlooking a snaking river to the west.

When the waiter approached, he made a face at Natalia. "Oh hey there, pretty mama! We meet again!"

Olivia's attention snapped to the present, shooting a questioning glance at Natalia. The younger woman squinted for a second, then pointed a finger to the sky, a non-verbal "A-ha!"

"Kevin, right?" When the waiter nodded, Natalia snapped her fingers. "Kevin, this is Olivia," she motioned to her right, where Olivia produced her hand for Kevin to take. "She's... why I was here... that night we met."

He smiled knowingly. "Mmhmm. Now I can see why you were so pressed to find her. You," he shook Olivia's hand, "are stunning."

Attempting to put two and two together, Olivia guessed out loud that he and Natalia had run into each other "that night I was lost." Both nodded and shared a laugh.

Kevin proceeded to take their order, and he vanished into the restaurant. Natalia simply smiled at Olivia, whose face had gotten just a tad bit hot from embarrassment.

"I'm going to use the restroom," Natalia said, carefully sliding her chair out from underneath her. "If I can make it."

Emma scooted her chair to make room for Natalia to pass, and then sipped eagerly from her straw. Olivia couldn't help but laugh when her daughter's cheeks filled with chocolate milkshake, and the little girl giggled as she swallowed it down. "Whoa! Brain freeze!"

"I love you, Emma," Olivia spoke softly. Her daughter must've sensed the seriousness of the moment, because she pushed the glass back from the edge of the table. "Are you happy? With the way things have turned out, with me, and you, and Natalia?"

The little girl nodded slowly. "Yup. I love you guys. Are... you guys happy? You look happy, and you don't seem as sick and tired anymore."

Olivia laughed. "Oh yeah, I'm definitely happy. And so is Natalia, isn't that great?" When Emma nodded excitedly this time, Olivia pulled out a box from her jacket pocket. "Okay, well then, that's what that was all about at the lawyer's office today. Making it official that we're a family. So..." she cracked open the box for Emma to see its contents. "Do you think Natalia will like this? To show her how much I love her? I can't give it to her without your approval first, 'Bean."

Emma's eyes went wide and a toothy grin spread across her face. "You want my opinion?"

Olivia's breath caught in her throat. She sounds so adult. My little girl. "Yup, whaddaya think?"

"I think it's awesome!"

Another laugh shook Olivia's very soul. She was nervous, but she was more confident now that the rings had gotten the eight year old's "awesome" seal of approval. "Okay then, here, put it on her plate!"

The two waited for Natalia to return, a real chore since the pregnant woman had begun to take eons to get anywhere on foot. Emma squeezed her hands together anxiously, and when she saw Natalia coming towards the table, she straightened up. Olivia smiled.

"What are you two up toohmygod." Natalia immediately noticed the blue box sitting on the charger plate. She looked at Olivia, and her knuckles turned white as she gripped the chairback in front of her.

"Sit, before we lose you," Olivia commanded gently, her eyes never leaving Natalia's. "I figured, since you're set to inherit all my money anyway, I might as well spend a little bit of it."

Natalia made her way into her seat, her mouth agape at the box before her. "Olivia..." she breathed.

"Open it!" Emma squealed, antsy in her chair.

It was all Natalia could do to nod, and lift cautiously at the lid. With trembling hands she revealed the contents, one diamond solitaire engagement ring, stacked atop a simple white gold wedding band.

"We didn't get to do the whole "engagement" thing, but... I don't know, I just thought... " Olivia struggled to find the right words.

Natalia pulled the rings out from the box and inhaled sharply. "Olivia, this must've cost you--"

"Not nearly what you're worth to me, Natalia. Not even close."

Her words struck Natalia square in the heart, as the younger woman clutched at her chest. "I don't even know what to say."

"Say that... you'll be mine, forever and always. And that you'll put up with my bitchiness with a smile on your face."

They both laughed, and Natalia swallowed deliberately. "I can't promise I won't nag you."

"I look forward to it," Olivia smirked, tugging at Natalia's hand, urging her to let her put the rings on her finger. When she could finally move, Natalia gave her hand over to Olivia, who slid the rings neatly onto her slender finger. "Fits perfectly, too."

"Lemme see!" Emma knelt on her chair to get a better look.

Natalia turned to her and scrunched her face, giving the little girl a playful nudge. "I don't know, you think I should keep her?"

Emma giggled. "Duh! And me too!"

Olivia lifted her glass of wine, toasting alone. "Good, now I can put this on," she added, pulling a matching band of her own from her jacket. "Couldn't let you have all the fun."

When Kevin, the waiter, appeared with their food, he noticed the ring and congratulated the couple. As he occupied Emma with the details of preparing the world's greatest milkshake, Natalia whispered in Olivia's ear. Her breath sent shivers down Olivia's spine, and her simple, clean smell nearly paralyzed her. "I'm going to spend the rest of my life loving you."

Back in Springfield, dusk was beginning to settle over the horizon. Natalia had tried to put off yet another bathroom break, but as they drove through the center of town, she flatly announced that there was no way in hell she was going to be able to hold it till they reached the farmhouse. Olivia knew better than to question the woman when she used the word "hell" without making the sign of the cross immediately after. She pulled into the Company parking lot and got out to stretch her legs while Natalia headed inside.

A few minutes later, Buzz stepped out onto the patio and called out to Olivia. "Uh, hey there. Just saw the enormous rock on Natalia's finger. Care to come in here and explain yourself?!"

Olivia groaned and rolled her eyes, but acquiesced to Buzz's good-natured ribbing. "Come on, Emma, we're gonna go inside and visit for a few."

Business at Company had picked up, which Olivia figured was contributing to Buzz's good mood. "Gotta say, never thought I'd see the day," Buzz offered, motioning for Olivia to sit down at the bar. "But things have a funny way of turning out the way you least expect 'em, don't they?"

She nodded. "Sure do, Buzz. You know, Natalia loves you, loves the family. There's no..."

"Hard feelings? Nah, don't be silly. Time heals all wounds, and Frank's doing okay. In fact, he's around here somewhere--"

Oh no, really, that's ok.

"I'm what now, Pop?" Frank called out, coming around the front of the bar near Olivia. "Hey there Olivia, how's everything?"

Buzz just smiled and wiped the wooden bar with a towel, saying nothing. "Ohh, you know, just got back from the lawyer's office with Natalia," Olivia tried to sound blase.

"Right, Natalia told me you guys were... sorting out legal stuff. I told her I support you guys, and I meant it, Olivia. I really did," Frank tapped his hand on the bar to solidify his point.

Olivia looked Frank in the eyes. "So, you're not going to... surprise us along the way? Throw a fit about sharing custody, stuff like that?"

Frank tossed his head back and laughed. "No, Olivia. There aren't going to be any surprises..." he dragged out the last word.

"I'm paying for all of this kid's college tuition, aren't I?"

"Ohyeah," Frank replied immediately. "And the first car, too."

"Shit," Olivia mumbled under her breath. "Well, that's pretty fair, I guess."

"Ohyeah," Frank repeated, taking a long swig of his beer. "Figure it's the least you can do."

Olivia stewed on this thought for a moment, then let out a laugh of her own. "Goddamn it, Frank. You got me."

When Natalia reappeared from the bathroom, she sat on the other side of Frank at the bar. "Hi Frank," she gave him a light hug. "How're things?"

Frank looked at Natalia, then to the hand that swept through her hair. "Wow, hang on a second," he reached for her hand and pulled it closer so he could observe the perfect clarity of the diamond on Natalia's finger. She seemed a bit embarrassed that he noticed, lowering her eyes a bit.

He considered the rings for a moment, then turned to Olivia. "Yeah, Princeton, Harvard, MIT... you're definitely buying."

"What was that all about back there, with Frank?" Natalia asked, hanging her coat in the closet. Olivia dumped hers on the couch arm, where Natalia immediately swept it up with a snort of disdain. The house was chilly so she turned up the heat at the thermostat on the wall.

"Gentleman's agreement," Olivia replied curtly.

Another snort from Natalia. "Is that what you're calling it?"

Olivia stopped Natalia, who had begun folding a blanket that had long been abandoned on the couch. "Yup," she placed a kiss on Natalia's forehead. "I'm making popcorn, you want some?"

Natalia resumed folding. "I crave anything that isn't nailed down, Olivia. Of course I want popcorn."

In the kitchen, Olivia caught herself humming, an act of unbridled joy she was unaccustomed to. "Was I just humming?" she asked aloud to no one. "Weird."

Emma had run into some school friends at Company and begged to go on a haunted hayride with their family. When one of the mothers agreed to a sleepover, the force of three little girls was not something Olivia was prepared to fight. She submitted; after all the little girl had spent the entire day running errands for her and Natalia, and they could use a little time alone anyway. When the popping sound ceased from microwave, Olivia plucked the bag out, bouncing it from hand to hand like a hot potato.

"Ow, mother-- goddamn, sonofa--"

Natalia clucked her tongue in the doorway. "The mouth on you. You're going to turn this child into a sailor."

Olivia tossed the hot bag of popcorn onto the counter, eyeing it with contempt. Natalia sidled up to her lover and gingerly put each of Olivia's ten fingers in her mouth, one at a time. The deftness of her tongue on Olivia's fingertips sent the older woman's mind racing.

"Better?" Natalia feigned innocence, her eyebrows knitting in the most adorably delightful way.

"Mmhmm," Olivia breathed, pulling Natalia closer to her. She brushed her lips across Natalia's, a faint whisper of a touch. "Wanna make out on the couch?"

Natalia giggled. "Yup."

Like two young kids they stole away to the living room, turning the lights out around them and settling in front of the television. Some routine romantic comedy was just starting on cable, so they left the channel and draped a blanket over their legs.

"Feet, feet," Natalia whimpered, wiggling her toes that were exposed to the open air. Olivia reached to cover them with the flannel blanket, and pulled it more securely around her as well.


The younger woman nodded. Under the blankets, their hands met, and intertwined they sat, one responding to the other's occasional squeeze. In the glow of the television screen, Olivia turned to watch Natalia, who, in rapt attention, had a tendency to nibble the inside of her lip. Finally, Natalia felt Olivia's stare.

"Well? Make a move, Romeo!" she teased, never taking her eyes off the screen.

Olivia loved a challenge. With well-practiced precision, she swept in to nip lightly at Natalia's neck. This elicited a long sigh from her lover, which she knew was a good sign. Unhurriedly, Olivia continued her gentle assault on Natalia's neck and collarbone. Without so much as a word, she reached her hands around the other woman's waist and lifted the hem of her sweater until it was all the way over Natalia's head. Removed from her top, Natalia's breasts heaved with each breath, a temptation too great for Olivia to ignore. She lowered her head and kissed the ample cleavage there, Natalia's head tilting back to allow her better access.

"Olivia..." she moaned, but was silenced by a finger to her lips.

"Don't want anyone to hear," Olivia whispered into Natalia's ear. "Don't wanna get caught."

Natalia laughed softly. "What do you--"

"We," Olivia punctuated each word with a firm nip at the flesh of Natalia's breasts. "Shouldn't. Be. Doing. This."

While Olivia reached around to remove Natalia's bra, the younger woman smirked in the darkness. "Ohhh, right," she offered, catching on to the game Olivia was playing. "Because we're supposed to be..."

"Studying," Olivia assisted, returning to Natalia's ear. "I wouldn't be a very good tutor if I..."

Another light giggle from Natalia, this one more deliberate than the first. "Took advantage of me?"

"Exactly," Olivia confirmed, nibbling at Natalia's ear, breathing in the smell of her shampoo. "But I can't... help myself."

The younger woman shook her head, a light protest. "I don't want to get us in trouble... but," she wriggled under Olivia's fingertips, which had moved to the thin fabric at her thighs. "That feels so good."

The glow of the television flickered in and out as Natalia stood up and slid out of her leggings. Olivia responded by taking her own top off, then crooking a finger in the air, summoning Natalia to return to her. She obliged, straddling Olivia, who sat with a cheshire grin on the couch.

Pulling the blanket up around them, Olivia let her mouth wander across Natalia's breasts while her hands clenched at her backside. Natalia whimpered, but looked down when Olivia suddenly let go.

Bringing her hands around to rest between them, Olivia let her fingers spread wide across Natalia's belly. Reverently, she placed a gentle kiss atop it, and looked up into Natalia's eyes. "I will do whatever it takes to give this baby the best life possible. And you, Natalia... I will do whatever it takes to love you, to honor you, and to give you everything you've ever dreamed of. You saved me."

Natalia took Olivia's face in her hands. "We saved each other."

Olivia waited, staring up into those dark brown eyes for what felt like an eternity, for tears that never came. They were beyond uncertainty now, past wondering and longing and trepidation. They were beyond even relief. They were finally just two people there, in the moment, living for each other. Natalia broke Olivia's gaze, lowering her eyelids, as if ashamed. "My professor said if I don't improve my grades..."

A growl erupted from the woman beneath her, and Natalia breathed into Olivia's hair as their bodies resumed their dance. "I can teach you some things..." Olivia's voice was husky and dark. "But they won't be on any test." With that she bit down on Natalia's breast, hard but not without restraint. Natalia cried out, her hands grasping for any part of Olivia's body they could find. Her palms flattened against Olivia's shoulders, pressing the other woman back against the couch with so much force, a startled breath escaped her lips.

When Natalia met Olivia's power play with one of her own, Olivia knew they would be free to explore their fantasies on this night and beyond, a prospect that sent shivers throughout her entire body. "Shhh..." Olivia hushed her. Thumbs brushed against the bony protrusions at Natalia's neck. One hand slid down between Natalia's legs, and the woman on top of her responded with muted cries, which turned into words, which turned into lusty pleas. Olivia let her beg and grind and beg some more, until Natalia scraped her nails into Olivia's scalp, holding a fistful of hair.

"Now," Natalia commanded. Olivia just looked at her, half-smirk in the television haze, and shook her head, chin jutting defiantly out.

This sent the woman above her crashing against her, lips bruising and tongues straining against each other. She laced her other free hand into the rest of Olivia's hair, and stared her straight in the eye, hovering perfectly still above her.

Thatta girl, Olivia thought, as she smiled. Natalia winked back.

Then she twisted one quick, controlled yank of Olivia's hair, sending that insubordinate chin high into the air. Olivia strangled a gasp, and Natalia lowered her head to bring her lips close to her ear. "Now, dammit."

Olivia could no longer deny the woman pressed urgently against her. She moved deftly, filling Natalia up in an instant, and everything else fell away. Propriety was replaced with unfettered lust. Pain became pleasure and tones usually reserved for anger became unequivocally filled with love and desire. They moved hurriedly, but neither was in a rush. And when it was all over, Olivia sensed that they had really just begun.

"I'm hungry."


"Wake up."

"Am up." Olivia's limbs started to twitch, sprawled out in awkward, unnatural angles across the couch.


"Mmmmfff." Her muffled groan was her only reply.

Natalia slapped her hand on Olivia's bare backside, the clap resounding through the quiet farmhouse. "I'm pregnant. Get up."

"Is that gonna be your excuse for everything?" Olivia shouted into the pillow. She turned over, her neck cracking in the process. "'I'm pregnant, get me food. I'm pregnant, pull over. I'm pregnant, fuck me again even though you can't move.'"

Natalia sat up and pulled her hair back into a ponytail, and yanked the plaid flannel blanket off Olivia's naked body, wrapping it around herself as she stood. "I guess you're right. I did wear you out a little, didn't I?"

Olivia simply moaned as she spread out even further on the couch. Eventually though, she joined Natalia in the kitchen.

"Hm!" Natalia took notice of something, and headed over to the sink.

"What is it?" Olivia stood behind her, stroking Natalia's bare shoulders and pulling her close. Natalia leaned back into the embrace, and laughed.

"Does your head hurt?"

Olivia brought one hand up to her scalp and rubbed. "A little, why?"

Natalia turned in her embrace and held up the sparkling diamond on her finger. "Got some of your hair caught in my bling."

"Eh, occupational hazard, I suppose. I'll be okay."

The two met in a kiss, but when they separated, Natalia noticed Olivia looking at her cleavage. "I don't know why you're so fascinated. You have them too, Olivia."

Eyebrows dancing, Olivia just shrugged. "I know, but yours are so much younger and... not mine."

Natalia scoffed at the reply. "You're a pervert."


"Hardly!" Natalia spun around once more. "You come back into the living room, and I'll show you how much you don't know."

"Lead the way," Olivia smiled, but rubbed the back of her neck once Natalia could no longer see her.

Gonna be a long night.

The End

Return to Guiding Light Fiction

Return to Main Page