Title: Five Moments That Shaped The Strangest Moment Of Francesca Rivera's Young Life
Fandom: Guiding Light
Characters: Olivia Spencer, Natalia Rivera, Emma Spencer, Francesca Rivera, Frank Cooper, Rick Bauer.
Category: Romance, Drama, Humor
Rating: R
Word count: 3, 028
Summary: The five moments that shaped the strangest moment of Francesca Rivera's young life.
Spoilers/Timeline Generally through September '09, though nothing terribly specific I think.
Disclaimer: All characters (Olivia Spencer, Natalia Rivera, blah blah etc.) and situations belong to Guiding Light, Telenext, Proctor & Gamble, etc. I'm not them.
Author's Note: I've had this idea for almost a year now. All that to say...even I have no idea where I got this idea from at this point.
Beta: A big thanks to both aimlessla and Rysler for their very different but equally invaluable input about this fic.
Warning: This fic may leave you scratching your head. You may not want to read it if you have a family history of baldness.


"How is she?"

Frank's voice startled Olivia, enough to make her jerk in her chair. She hadn't heard him come in, caught up as she was with Francesca. They were still keeping her sedated until the transfusions could be completed. Still Francesca had wiggled and squirmed in her sleep, little fingers curled closing on air and toes jerking and twitching. Olivia had slipped a finger into Francesca's grasp; she had stilled almost immediately. That it left Olivia effectively immobilized for the time was of little importance. It was something useful that she could do.

"Rick says she'll be fine," Olivia said, keeping her voice low for Francesca's sake, though it was unlikely she'd be roused. "It's Celiac Disease. If we keep her away from gluten she'll be fine."

Olivia heard Frank's shoes squeak against the floor as he took a step closer. "That's all?"

"Yep," Olivia said curtly. "That's all." She wondered why he was here - he hadn't been when Rick had found them a few hours before and told them what was wrong. At the time it had seemed clear enough that Frank wouldn't be coming back. Now Olivia was just exhausted - tired of it all.

"Celiac's Disease? What is that? Some kind of allergy?"

"How do we fix it?" Natalia asked, cutting in on Olivia's question with a more practical one of her own. They were both tired, worry about Francesca and the surreal, dramatic events of the day combining to take their toll.

"Well, right now Francesca's biggest problem is the anemia that was caused by the disease - and we did find donor blood from another blood bank. It was a little outside our usual contact area, but once we explained the situation, they were happy to help. And once we have that under control, it's just a matter of altering her diet so that's free of any gluten - which is what's causing the problem. Her system can't absorb it properly so it's leading to malnutrition."

Natalia hissed; Olivia squeezed her hand harder.

"But that's it? Just no more gluten and she'll be fine?" Olivia demanded. She needed to know now whether it would be all right, whether she could finally let herself breathe again.

Rick nodded. "Right as rain. Good as new in no time."

"Any more clich├ęs you want to throw at us?" Olivia asked, both dry and sharp.

Rick looked like he was seriously considering it, then shook his head. "No, I think I'm good."

"As long as you're happy," Olivia muttered under her breath. Natalia pinched her side. Olivia yelped and glared.

"Can we see her now, Rick?" Natalia asked, clearing her throat and redirecting her attention. It had been a very long day and seeing her little girl was what she needed most.

"Of course, you can stay as long as you want now. They'll keep monitoring her, but she should be improving steadily now - and I'll set up an appointment for you to meet with a dietitian for her."

"Thank you, Rick," Olivia said, speaking for both of them, even as she was already dragging Natalia toward Francesca's room. Neither of them would be able to relax until they had managed to reassure themselves that she really was okay.

"I bet you're happy about this," Frank accused.

"That our daughter is going to be okay? Damn right I am." Even keeping her voice low, Olivia couldn't manage to keep the intensity out of it.

"I meant-"

"I know what you meant," Olivia said, with a sigh. She turned to look at him over her shoulder. "Do you really want to do this, Frank?"

He swallowed and stared at her - glared really. "I guess I do. I'm here, aren't I?"

Olivia sighed. "You're here because you're a good man - and you love your daughter."

"The things I said earlier, I didn't mean them."

"I know."

Frank put a hand on her shoulder. Olivia felt the urge to throw it off and forced herself to remain perfectly still and relax.

"Is this the way you felt, these past few years?"

This. Because that clarified things. Men. Olivia snorted.

"What I feel right now? Is relief. Because she's okay."

Frank's hand fell from her shoulder. "Of course. I do too. That's why I came back - because I had to see."

"Yeah. But, Frankie - it doesn't matter to me." She stroked her thumb over the back of Francesca's hand. "Natalia's went down to the chapel. She needed to think. I think she's a little freaked out by the thought that I got her knocked up. Talk about against God and nature, you know?" She flashed him a smile that could incite an angel to commit a felony. "But me? It's strange, sure. Really strange. But when I look at Francesca I think...what does it matter? Sitting here, holding her hand, it doesn't feel any different than when I was trying to get her to eat her cheerios this morning and she kept throwing them at me."

"I feel like I don't belong, like there's no place for me in her life. In Natalia's life."

Olivia tensed. "Maybe that's the difference, Frankie. I've always seen myself as a guest in Natalia's life; you always thought you belonged."

Olivia didn't need to turn to know that she'd pissed him off. She could feel it in the air. Then he deflated.

"I still want to be a part of her life." Which her, he didn't clarify.

"We weren't the ones who said good riddance," Olivia said, sliding the words in as smoothly as a knife in butter.

"Are you ever going to let me forget that?"

"Were you ever planning to let me forget I wasn't Francesca's real mother?"

There was silence for a moment, then Frank said, "It's not fair."

"We don't always get what we want," Olivia said, but it was speculative rather than hurtful. She looked back over her shoulder at him again and held out her other hand palm up. "Come back in the morning to see her. I'll tell Natalia you stopped by."

Frank looked startled, speechless. Then he squeezed her hand. "Okay."

Olivia waited until she heard the door shut behind him before she pushed her hair back behind her ear and bent over Francesca.

"Now what are we gonna tell your Mama, baby? And how the hell do I keep ending up being the one to stick up for your Daddy?" Olivia shook her head and sighed. "So not fair."

But she would keep doing it anyways, because she had been the one before. She did know how Frank felt and she wouldn't push anyone out of Francesca's life who loved her this much.

Even if there were days when she could do with a little less Frank Cooper in her life.

The chapel was quiet.

Natalia couldn't stop thinking about what Rick had said - God or magic or science that seemed like magic. Something had done this, but she had no idea which one it was. And anyway it was more than the how it was the why that troubled her - why them, why this?

She pressed her hand against her stomach as she had so many times before while pregnant with Francesca. This time there was nothing. No movement or some greater sense of the life growing inside of her. She felt empty.

She and Olivia had created a baby together. Natalia turned the thought over in her mind and then added a new one. God had given them that gift. Wasn't that the point after all? Whether it was magic or science or an act of man, it didn't matter. It was all - every single possibility - a part of God's plan for them, for she and Olivia and this baby. Her fist clenched. And even for Frank.

The things he had said had made her blood boil, rage flashing through her body that he would throw their daughter aside so easily, love so capriciously. It didn't matter though. She had Olivia - they had Olivia. Now more than ever.

But then, in a way nothing had changed. Olivia had been there for them before, when Francesca could have been nothing more than a reminder that Natalia had been with Frank when she should have been with Olivia - instead of being the thing that had brought she and Olivia back together.

So this was God's plan. It wasn't what Natalia would have chosen for herself. Not something she would have ever considered as a possibility. But look how well that had worked out for her so far.

Natalia smiled. Pretty amazingly. And suddenly the last place that Natalia wanted to be was in the chapel alone, brooding over what it might all mean. She had found her answers and accepted them. Understanding why it had all happened seemed less important than being grateful for the things she had been given - like Olivia and all their children.

A sudden thought struck Natalia and she laughed out loud, clapping her hand over her mouth just as soon as she had.

If they had no idea how they had gotten pregnant in the first place...then it would be equally mysterious to prevent. Natalia laughed again, an edge of hysteria creeping in this time. What if God's plan was for her to have even more children? As a practicing Catholic it wasn't a foreign thought, but not one she had given any mind to since she had been with Olivia. How wrong she'd been. She wondered if Olivia would mind - or if she would think Natalia was crazy.

Then she laughed at herself, because they had just found out Francesca was their daughter and she was already thinking about the possibility of more children. It was ridiculous.

A thought crossed Natalia's mind and she sobered instantly. There was one tried and true method of preventing pregnancy - and there was no way that Natalia was going practice abstinence. Not when she had Olivia Spencer in her bed.

"So I was just thinking..." Olivia said, glancing over her shoulder at Natalia as she re-entered Francesca's room.

"Oh?" Natalia queried, giving Olivia a fond smile as she crossed the room to stand behind her, wrapping her arms around Olivia's waist and pressing her chin against Olivia's shoulder. "Should I be worried?"

Olivia snorted. "Well, really I was just wondering, now that we know she's going to be okay, do you think we still have to keep calling her Francesca? Is it too late to change her name? She's only two. Natalia, she'll never know!"

"Olivia! That's terrible," Natalia admonished, but even as she said it she was shaking her head and smiling at Olivia through the look of mild disbelief on her face. Natalia eased away far enough to turn Olivia around to face her, then caught Olivia's face in one hand, holding her still as she leaned over to kiss her, tasting the sweetness of Olivia's lips, savoring everything that made them exactly who they were - together and apart.

"Never change," Natalia whispered, pulling just far enough away from Olivia's lips so that she speak. "Promise me."

Wordlessly Olivia brushed her nose over Natalia, lightly, teasingly, just to make her smile and then dipped her head to capture Natalia's lips with her own, sealing it with a kiss.