Title: Broken Bones and Mended Hearts (Part 1/2)
Fandom: Guiding Light
Disclaimer: I don't own Guiding Light, although I hear it's for sale… anyone want to chip in?
Summary: An accident with Emma puts things in perspective for both Natalia and Olivia.
Natalia shifted on the hard plastic chair, not really because it was uncomfortable; she honestly hadn't noticed, but because she was consciously fighting the urge to leap from it's surface and cross the room to mother and child that were both so obviously in pain. Her hands gripped the sides, literally keeping her in place. Why did this have to be so difficult? A few short months ago wild dogs couldn't have kept her from holding both of them to her. Now? Natalia simply didn't trust herself. Her feelings for Olivia were just too intense, too out of control. She no longer understood what was appropriate around the other woman. Her resolve to keep a safe distance was rapidly crumbling.
She hadn't looked over at the pair for at least a minute, yet it felt like hours. Instead she concentrated on the ugly green walls of the exam room, wondering, as she always did why hospitals were so fond of that particular shade of mint green. Did someone at some time find it soothing? Natalia shuddered. It seemed to have the reverse effect on her.
Olivia had received the call just after lunch. Emma had fallen on the school playground. The nurse was pretty sure that her wrist was broken, and they were sending Emma ahead to the hospital. Natalia had watched the color drain from Olivia's face with a swiftness that had her out of her chair and around the desk in seconds. It hadn't even been a question that Natalia would be coming. Olivia had simply grabbed her purse and tossed the keys to Natalia.
They'd found Emma with a teacher's aide, waiting for one of the emergency room doctors to see her. The sight of Emma, lip help firmly between her small teeth, trying not to cry had nearly undone Natalia. Olivia had been in much the same shape judging from the way she faltered and gripped Natalia's arm to steady herself. Natalia didn't give Olivia a chance to squawk over the fact that her child had not been treated yet. She strode over to the reception desk and asked. No, if she was honest, her tone of voice had not included anything approaching a request; she'd demanded that Emma be seen immediately. There had been no threats or theatrics, just a very focused woman taking care of her child.
An exam room had been made available to them scant minutes later, and a doctor had confirmed that Emma's wrist was broken shortly after that. Now, they simply waited for the orthopedist to come to set the bone and cast the arm. How badly she wanted to be hovering over her family, to be kissing away tears and offering soothing words. Natalia fought the inclination, a small sense of self-preservation overriding her desperate desire to comfort. This latest crisis was far from the worst they had been through, but she'd never felt so close to breaking before. Well, except for the last time they found themselves in this hospital. She'd almost crossed the line then. She'd come so very close to kissing Olivia, and not the type of motherly, best friend kind of kiss that she'd bestowed on both of the Spencers in the months since they'd become a family. No, she'd been thinking decidedly non-maternal thoughts at that particular moment. That had been the tipping point. That very day she'd made a vow to herself that she would not risk losing what she and Olivia had over something as trivial as unreciprocated attraction.
A small whimper came from across the room, interrupting Natalia's ruminations, drawing her eyes back to mother and child. Emma half-lay half-sat in Olivia's arms, her broken wrist wrapped in ice and bandages and clutched to her chest. They'd given her a mild sedative, but the doctor's exam had hurt her, and tears trailed down her pale cheeks. Olivia was doing an amazing job holding back her own. She was the picture of a strong supportive mother, murmuring soothing words and kissing Emma's forehead often.
Natalia was halfway to them without realizing that she'd left her seat. Next to the chair that she'd so hastily vacated her cell phone rang, freezing her in place. Olivia choose that moment to meet her eyes, the gaze so filled with longing that Natalia wasn't certain if the emotion was Olivia's own, or simply her own being reflected back at her. The phone rang again, breaking the spell that held them.
Natalia turned and walked back to her bag. The cell continued it's incessant ringing, and Natalia couldn't help the aggravated sigh that escaped her lips when she read the display. Frank. They were supposed to have dinner and talk about possible dates for the wedding tonight. She hadn't given him a thought since the call about Emma.
"Hello," she said quietly into the receiver and turning to face the wall, not wanting to disturb Emma anymore than she had to.
"I wanted to see if you wanted to do diner at Company tonight, or try out something new?"
"Actually Frank, I need to…"
"I know you love the food there, but I thought maybe something a little more romantic. Italian maybe. I know this great place a few towns over. They have this cannelloni that I know you're going to love…"
Natalia heaved another sigh, praying for patience. Frank's habit of talking over her was getting worse. Either that or it was just getting more annoying.
"Frank I can't."
"Well, like I said. We can go to Company. I'm fine with that."
"No Frank. I can't go to Company. I can't go to diner. I'm at the hospital. Emma fell at school today and broke her wrist. We're just waiting for the doctor to put the cast on."
"Oh." Frank's voice sounded disappointed, and Natalia felt slightly guilty for canceling on him yet again. "So is Olivia on her way?"
Natalia frowned in confusion. "No, she's here. We came together."
"Natalia honey, it's only three. You still have plenty of time before our date. And if Olivia is already there, you don't need to stay. Kids break bones all the time. If you rode together to the hospital, I can come pick you up."
Natalia's face went blank, and her voice was decidedly cool when she spoke again. "No Frank. You don't need to come pick me up."
"I don't mind honey. I'm only a few minutes away. It's no problem."
Natalia ground her teeth together with frustration. "I appreciate the offer, but I'm fine. I'm sorry that I have to cancel diner, but I'm going to stay and get everyone settled at home."
Frank's voice was confused. "Okay. But you don't have to cancel completely, right? I mean, Natalia, you'll be back at the farmhouse in an hour or two. We can make it later. I'm fine with that."
He just didn't get it. "I want to be home with Emma. Take care of her."
"Olivia's her mother honey. She did fine without you for most of her life. I'm sure she can handle tucking Emma in by herself."
The patronizing tone in Frank's voice was the spark that set Natalia's temper ablaze. "I'm sure that Olivia could, but the point Frank, is that she doesn't have to. They're mine to take care of. She and Emma are my family, and I want to be with them. Don't fight me on this Frank, you'll lose." Natalia realized that she'd raised her voice, and quieted her next words. "They need me, and I'm sorry that you're disappointed, but this is my choice. I'll call you tomorrow, okay."
"Okay." Frank sounded positively cowed.
"Bye." Natalia didn't even wait to hear his response before snapping the phone shut and tossing it back into her purse.
She ran a frustrated hand through her hair as she turned back to Olivia and Emma. The first thing she noticed was that Emma's eyes were very heavy. Her head was tucked into the crook of Olivia's neck. The medication was finally doing its job, thank God. She couldn't help but share a look of relief with Olivia, only Olivia didn't look relieved at all. Olivia Spencer's eyes were wider than Natalia had ever seen. She looked like she'd been smacked on the back of the head with a two by four.
Olivia felt like someone had hit pause.
She'd been trying to focus on Emma and not eavesdrop on Natalia's conversation. Well, not really, but she'd been trying to do it subtly. She fought the urge to roll her eyes several times, concentrating on Emma, and willing her features to remain serene.
Frank and Natalia obviously had dinner plans, or had had them anyway. That Natalia would cancel a date to be at home for her and Emma wasn't unexpected, although that didn't lessen the gratitude Olivia felt at the gesture. But it was Natalia's heated words that had Olivia struggling to find purchase in her own emotional landscape. Natalia had claimed them as hers. She'd actually said the word mine in such a feral way, that even Olivia had been taken aback. Natalia had so definitively put Emma and her first, behind Frank, behind her official "relationship" that it was all Olivia could do to breathe.
She'd fantasized about hearing just those sentiments so many times over the last few weeks. She'd never expected to actually hear them spoken. Despite the fact that she'd vowed to stand behind Natalia's decision, to be the friend that the other woman so believed her to be, she felt a small glimmer of hope worm its way into her heart.
Olivia realized quite suddenly that Natalia was kneeling next to her with a questioning look on her face. Unfortunately it was not a 'how could I ever think that Frank would make me happy, can we run away together?' look but rather a 'you've been zoned out for a while and it's starting to make me nervous' look.She shifted Emma slightly in her arms, as if her arms or legs were going numb, which wasn't much of an exaggeration at all.
It was enough to distract Natalia. She gave a small smile and reached out to pat Olivia's shoulder. "Let me take her for a minute."
The two women rose together, Natalia slipping her arms under Emma next to Olivia's own. For several seconds they stood together, Emma held between them, supported by both. It felt so incredibly right. Perfect really. "Thank you," Olivia breathed, referring to far more than Natalia helping her stand.
They were still standing that way when the orthopedist entered the room.
Natalia pulled back the covers on Emma's bed while the little girl went to the bookshelf and pulled the book that they'd been reading last. She climbed into the bed, somewhat awkwardly with her bright pink cast sticking out from the sleeve of her light blue froggy pajamas.
Natalia pulled the covers over Emma and settled herself on the small bed. "So where were we?" She started flipping through the book, knowing exactly where they'd stopped.
"Anne was about to play the lily maid with Diana and Ruby and Jane," Emma said excitedly, "but something's going to go wrong. Something always goes wrong for Anne." Her tone was slightly wicked.
Natalia laughed at the child's tone. "You're right, Anne does have a talent for getting herself into scrapes." She pulled Emma close, letting her rest in the circle of her arms, and began reading.
Several minutes later, after the unfortunate sinking of Anne's boat, her desperate scramble up onto the pile, and her subsequent rescue by Gilbert Blythe, Emma perked up with a question.
"Why does Anne have to be so mean to Gilbert?"
"Well, honey. Anne's still mad at Gilbert for pulling her hair and calling her carrots."
"But she likes him," Emma reasoned. "When Gilbert rescues her he says he's sorry for calling her carrots and that he thinks her hair is beautiful. She likes him, but then she's mean to him and he runs away."
"I know it doesn't make any sense." Natalia couldn't help but be amazed yet again by how smart Emma was. "Anne does like Gilbert, and Gilbert likes Anne too. They're both just afraid that if they admit it they'll get their feelings hurt."
"That's silly. Gilbert rescued Anne, he could have just rowed by and said too bad." Emma pursed her lips in condemnation of the fictional characters' hang-ups.
Natalia dropped a sweet kiss on the little girl's forehead. "Want to know a secret?" she whispered into chestnut strands.
"Anne and Gilbert do become friends."
"Yeah?" Emma whispered back.
"They sure do. Best friends." Natalia couldn't help but smile. Anne and Gilbert finally putting aside their differences and admitting their love for each other was one of her favorite scenes. She'd read it so many times as a teenager that the chapter had literally come loose from the book.
"Like you and mommy." Emma snuggled farther down into Natalia's arms, obviously getting sleepy.
Natalia tensed for a second. Emma had no idea that Anne and Gilbert ended up married. She'd only said they were best friends, and Olivia was her best friend. "Yes sweetheart, just like me and your mommy."
She read a few more pages before Emma's breathing turned soft and steady. She eased her way out of the little girl's hold and put the book back on the shelf. "Sweet dreams my princess." She kissed the soft cheek and turned out the light before pulling the door closed softly.
Olivia was so very tired. This particular day had been no respite, with it's ER visit and emotional upheaval, but it seemed she'd been tired for months. Perhaps tired wasn't the right word. Weary? Tense? In love with her best friend, yet unable to tell her for fear that she'd go screaming in the other direction?
Olivia gave a dark half-chuckle. Even in her own head she couldn't control her sarcasm.
She put away the last of the dishes and hung the towel she'd been using on its hook. Natalia had insisted on making most of Emma's favorites for diner, and in turn Olivia had insisted on cleaning up after. She'd known Natalia had wanted to put Emma to bed, and had given the other woman an easy way to do it.
Olivia eased down into a chair at the table, wondering for the hundredth time how she was going to leave this place. Her unrequited feelings for Natalia aside; taking Emma away from the loving home they had made here just seemed wrong, criminal even. Olivia felt tears coming on, and fought them. She'd cried enough over this. She didn't want to cry anymore. Instead, she got back up and began to make some tea.
She was pouring two mugs when Natalia came back downstairs.
"Sleeping?" Olivia asked as she handed over a mug.
"Oh yeah… thanks." Natalia took a sip and sat at the table. "She barely made it through the chapter."
"Are you still reading Anne of Green Gables?"
"I always had such a crush on Gilbert," Olivia confessed with a smile. "He was my perfect man."
Natalia almost spit her tea across the room. "You thought Gilbert was the perfect man? For you?" Her voice was incredulous. "Goody-goody Gilbert? I didn't even know you'd read those books."
"What? He wasn't a good-goody." Olivia smacked Natalia gently on the arm. "And what do you mean 'for me?' Gilbert was kind and smart, and he loved Anne from the beginning, she was just to pig-headed to see it."
"She was that," Natalia agreed. "And prideful and arrogant. Sounds like someone else I know."
Olivia stuck her tongue out. It was nice to be able to tease and talk with Natalia again. They hadn't done it in what seemed like forever. This easy banter was one of the things she loved most about living here.
They stayed up for another hour sipping their tea and talking. When Olivia yawned for the tenth time in the last ten minutes, Natalia announced that it was definitely time for bed. They made their way up the stairs, but instead of heading further down the hallway to her own room, Olivia paused with Natalia.
"Thank you so much for today," Olivia began. "For everything, for being there for Emma and…"
Natalia reached up and pressed her fingers to Olivia's lips, silencing her. "Would you have acted any differently?" she asked, knowing the answer already. "If it had been Rafe who was hurt? Would you have been anywhere else but by my side?"
Natalia's fingers were still covering her lips, so Olivia settled for shaking her head.
"Then you don't need to thank me. This is what we do. We're family." Natalia moved her hand from Olivia's mouth to cup her cheek.
Olivia couldn't help it. Her eyes closed and she leaned into the palm. Her heart was pounding so loud that she was sure Natalia could hear it. A thumb slid across her lips and Olivia's heart immediately stopped its cadence altogether. She could feel Natalia step closer, feel her body brush against her own. Olivia wanted so badly to open her eyes, but fear kept them firmly shut. A ghost of breath fell along her jaw and Olivia's heart kick started itself.
The first brush of Natalia's lips fell on her cheek. It wasn't much to talk about. It was as platonic as any she'd received in her life. The second kiss caught the corner of her mouth, and Olivia couldn't contain the small whimper that escaped. The third came as she was opening her eyes, in time to see the warmth and love radiating out of Natalia's brown orbs. Their lips meet in a gentle caress. It was far from fiery, but the passion was there just the same.
It ended as quickly as it had begun, both women taking a step back in tandem.
Olivia could already see the panic edging into Natalia's eyes. "I'll let you get to bed then," she stated as if their conversation hadn't been interrupted. "Sweet dreams."
She walked the rest of the way down the hall, closing the door quickly and leaning against it before her legs gave out.