Title: The Importance of Family
Fandom: Guiding Light
Characters: Olivia Spencer, Natalia Rivera, Ava Peralta, Emma Spencer, Jeffrey O'neil
Category: Angst, but the good kind. Romance, Drama.
Rating: R...I'm gonna say because there are some disturbing themes explored in here and some violence, although I don't think either is described in graphic detail.
Word count:
Summary: Life goes on. Sometimes it throws you a curveball and you never know what's coming your way on any given day.
Spoilers: Takes place around Thanksgiving '10, and includes the events of the finale.
Author's Note: This fic is solely for kelltwomyn. I was bemoaning the fact that I wasn't going to be able to afford a Venice subscription and she swooped in and got when for me when I said I'd be willing to offer fic in exchange. I hope this fic is both somewhat what you were hoping for and also worth your ten bucks and the wait. I really have enjoyed Venice so far. Thank you. :)
Beta: Many thanks to q_wordy13 & aimlessla for beta'ing this for me! Your insights, comments, suggestions and encouragement have all been very much appreciated! :D
Disclaimer: All characters (Olivia Spencer, Natalia Rivera, Emma Spencer, Ava Peralta, blah blah etc.) and situations belong to Guiding Light, Telenext, Proctor & Gamble, etc. I'm not them.
Warning: This story eventually deals with Olivia's rape. I don't think it's discussed graphically, but I don't want anyone to stumble upon it unaware either.

Part Ten

"Should I be worried?" Olivia's voice, a throaty purr just beside her ear, startled Ava enough to make her jump. "Guilty conscience, much?" Olivia continued, unable to resist teasing her daughter.

"Jeez, Mom, couldn't you wear a bell or something?"

Olivia's eyes narrowed. "Are you calling me a cow?"

"No," Ava retorted quickly. "Just someone who moves way too quietly for their own good. Are you trying to give me a heart attack?"

"Don't even joke about that," Natalia cut in sharply. "It's not funny."

"Sorry, Sweetheart," Olivia said, not sounding very repentant as she caught Natalia's chin with the tip of her finger and guided her jaw around so that their lips could meet for a brief, if not chaste, kiss. "Just worried my daughter was trying to steal my girl." She tried to look stern as she glanced down at Ava's arm linked through Natalia's but couldn't quite manage it.

Natalia rolled her eyes, while Ava snorted.

"Please, Mother. We were just looking for you."

"To break my heart."

Natalia pinched her arm. "Stop being so melodramatic."

Olivia started to say something else, but was stopped when Natalia kissed her again, muffling whatever she had to say with her lips until she no longer had any desire to say it, lost in the feeling of Natalia's mouth against her, soft lips and sweet breath.

When at last she broke the kiss, she was momentarily confused. "Where did she go?"

"Ava?" Natalia murmured, slipping her arms around Olivia's waist and not making any move to let go. "Probably to talk to Jeffrey."

Olivia pulled back enough to get a better look at Natalia's face. "Are you okay with that?"

Natalia wrinkled her nose. "I should probably tell you that I told Jeffrey he was never welcome here again."

"What?" Olivia spluttered. It was the last thing she had expected from saintly, demure Natalia. Although not so saintly or demure now that she thought about it. Still she hadn't expected...but Natalia was still talking.

"And Ava overheard."

This time Olivia frowned. "But you two seemed okay a second ago."

"I think we are." Natalia said. "I wasn't sure..." She shook her head. "I'm sorry if I overstepped, but I don't want him here and she understood why. She knows you had nothing to do with it."

"I don't understand," Olivia said pointedly. "It was a long time ago. You urged me to let Phillip back into Emma's life."

"I know. I know. I'm working on forgiving him, but you can't expect me to just let it go over night. You're important to me," Natalia said firmly, her hand coming up to rest over Olivia's heart. She could feel it beating steadily beneath her palm. "And I will do whatever I have to, to make sure that you're okay. Whether you think you need it or not." The moment drug on in silence, Olivia's gaze never leaving her eyes. "Please let me do this."

"Okay," Olivia finally whispered.

"Thank you," Natalia said, just as softly. "I told Ava that you would want her to have a relationship with Jeffrey and so did I."

"Do you really?"

"For her sake, not his."

"A child needs their father?" Olivia said, almost rhetorically.

Natalia shot a quick glance up at Olivia's face, but seeing nothing there to worry her, she nodded. "Exactly."

"Thank you," Olivia placed a finger over her lips before she could speak. "Not just for this, but for everything."

Emma squealed as she darted through the living room, bouncing off Ava like a bumper car. Instinctively, Ava steadied her, giving her a gentle push toward Phillip's waiting arms, as he held them out to his little girl. She smiled faintly, glad to see that Emma was still her usual irrepressible self after the events of the past few days. It also provided a welcome distraction from what she had been getting up the courage to do. She knew she needed to go talk to Jeffrey, but Ava wasn't sure she wanted to. She had seen him watching her from across the living room since she and Natalia had come back inside, but he hadn't come over. For that she was grateful. Now she almost wished that he had. The walk across the living room seemed daunting.

"Hi." It was a simple nondescript opening that put the conversational ball firmly in his court.

Jeffrey rubbed a hand over his goatee. "It seems like there are a lot of things we need to talk about. I don't know where to start."

Ava shrugged. "I don't either."

"About Olivia-"

Ava held up a hand sharply. "I'm not ready to talk about that and definitely not here."

Jeffrey flinched. "You're right. I'm sorry. About everything."

"Can we just not talk about this and have Thanksgiving dinner?"

"We can do that," Jeffrey said, sounding guarded. "If that's what you really want."

"I missed you," Ava said suddenly. "I thought you were dead and that hurt. I had just found you and I thought I had so much more time. It hurts even more that you did that without letting us know you were alive. I just want one day of not missing you - of not being angry at you - before...before all of that."

Tentatively Jeffrey put an arm around her shoulder, letting it settle there after she didn't jerk away from his touch. "We can do that," he repeated. "We can do whatever you want."

"Even if that means we do have to talk about everything eventually?"

He nodded. "Even that. I'm sorry for that too. I just...when I found out I had a daughter, I wanted you to be proud of me. I wanted to be a man you could respect and love, and I am not that man. I wanted to be a better man, but in the process I tried to hide from my past and that wasn't right either. It wasn't fair to you. Or Olivia."

He felt Ava tense and gently lifted his arm away from her.

"You're right." She said simply. "Mom deserved better." She took a deep breath. "And I'm not saying it's okay, but she has Natalia now. I think, for the first time in her life, she's finally okay."

"I hope she is."

"Me too," Ava agreed. "Me too."

In Olivia's arms was Natalia's favorite place to be. This was no exception. Standing in the kitchen with the remains of Thanksgiving dinner filling the refrigerator and mostly decimated dessert dishes still sitting out on the counter, Natalia felt content, happy and loved. There were still a hundred things to do - the pile of dishes behind her foremost in Natalia's mind - and the list would probably seem endless if she bothered to write it down. Once upon a time, before Olivia, she would have been nervous and jumpy, unable to stand still until everything was done and her house was in order once more. Now it was different. Now, standing here with Olivia and savoring the wonderful evening that they had shared with family and friends felt more important.

She could hear voices in the living room, Francesca's incoherent noises and Emma's high-pitched tones all woven in with Ava's more restrained murmur. Her heart swelled when she heard their laughter and she bit her lip at the pang of regret that she felt at Rafe not being a part of it. This year though, it wasn't because he hadn't wanted to be there, but rather that he couldn't come. Not stationed overseas, thank God, but not able to get leave to go home for the holidays either. Still the fact that he had wanted to be there eased that ache a little bit.

Not enough, apparently, for it to escape Olivia's notice, however.

"Hey, what's wrong?" Olivia asked, reaching out to take Natalia's hand, her thumb rubbing across the back of it gently.

"Just thinking about Rafe," Natalia admitted, giving her hand a reassuring squeeze.

"Next year," Olivia reminded her. "And he promised he would come and visit again soon. You know he adores Emma and Francesca."

"He does," Natalia agreed. "And he likes having a family to come home too."

"I do too."

Natalia smiled gently, cupping Olivia's cheek in her hand. "Olivia Spencer, are you getting mushy on me again?"

"Me?" Olivia said with exaggerated innocence. "Mushy?" She waved her hand dismissively. "Never."

Just as Olivia had intended Natalia let out a soft laugh. "Promise me you'll never stop being mushy."

"You certainly are demanding," Olivia said, with the hint of an arched brow.

"Promise," Natalia repeated, ignoring what Olivia had said with the practiced ease. Natalia wouldn't be distracted from what she wanted.

"Promise." Olivia sealed the bargain with a kiss, wrapped in Natalia's comforting embrace.

They were still there in each others arms simply being together when Ava herded a fussing Francesca and yawning Emma back into the kitchen. Emma and Francesca both looked tired and if they didn't go to bed soon, Olivia had a feeling that tired would quickly devolve into cranky. Even Ava seemed run down from the long day, rubbing tiredly at her eyes before she saw Olivia watching her and flashed her a comfortable smile.

But none of it mattered, because Olivia was here, in a house that was a real home, with the woman that she loved and their children. Not all of them, but somehow Rafe's absence hurt less because it wasn't voluntary. He would have been with them if he could. What mattered was that they were as together as they could be, tied to one another with bonds of blood and of love and that nothing could separate them on this cold November night. It was definitely something to be thankful for.