Title: Five Things Natalia Rivera Never Thought She'd See
Fandom: Guiding Light
Characters: Natalia Rivera, Olivia Spencer, Francesca Rivera, Emma Spencer, Frank Cooper, Bill Lewis.
Category: Romance, Drama, Angst
Word count: 1,978
Summary: Shortly after Francesca is born, Olivia reveals a desire Natalia never considered.
Spoilers/Timeline Post GL-Finale
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: This was originally written for Rysler's birthday. In the spring. As those of you who have my email addy may know, I have procrastination problems. Fortunately, Rysler isn't holding that against me.
Beta: Many thanks to both Kelinswriter and Aimlessny for letting me bounce ideas off of them through this whole tortuously long process. All their thoughts and opinions were very much appreciated.
"Shouldn't you be getting dressed?" Natalia asked, tossing the question over her shoulder as she padded across the bedroom, crossing from the bathroom to stand in front of the vanity.
She had entered the bathroom with curly damp ringlets and exited all made up, with perfectly straightened hair. It sparked a surge of petulance in Olivia. She loved Natalia's curls and being able to run her fingers through the wild, dark locks. The straightened hair, the perfectly done makeup, the business suit, they all meant that Natalia was getting ready to go to work and Olivia wasn't ready to let her go yet. Not after spending the past month and a half cocooned in the farmhouse with Emma, Natalia and Francesca.
It had been a period of adjustment for all of them. The newness of Olivia's relationship with Natalia still hadn't worn off by the time Francesca had been born and Olivia had reveled in getting to spend so much time with Natalia - even if they had been run a little ragged at first with Natalia still recovering from giving birth, midnight feedings, and taking care of Emma. But it had also been good. Olivia felt more solidly connected to Natalia than she ever had before.
Over time, Olivia had grown used to their little routines, to getting Emma off to school and having time to spend with Natalia and little Chessy. She had even gone so far as to hire a general manager for the Beacon, telling herself it would work out well in the long run. When she came back she could focus on franchising - something that had eluded her in the summer months when it was all she could do to keep herself and Emma at some semblance of functional in Natalia's absence. Now Olivia felt a little bereft. She wanted to grab onto Natalia, tug her back over to the bed and wrap her arms and legs around her and refuse to let her go.
Something told her that Natalia wouldn't be amused. That thought sparked off another one inside her though, an idea that had begun to come together in the back of her mind some weeks ago.
"What if I don't want to go?" Olivia swallowed. She had said it more quietly than she had intended, her nerves getting the best of her. Francesca made a small noise from her perch in Olivia's arms and Olivia glanced down. Little eyelids flickered, but didn't open. She was likely dreaming, Olivia realized. For a moment she got so lost in smiling down at Francesca - absorbing every detail of her, the softness of her little fingers wrapped around just one of Olivia's, the clean smell of her and her curls, so much like her mama's - that she almost forgot that she and Natalia had been talking until Natalia spoke.
"Olivia." Natalia let out a soft laugh, her tone patient and fond, but a little chiding. "If I have to, you have to."
Olivia wrinkled her nose at that and stretched her legs out a little bit farther on the bed, wiggling her cold toes beneath the covers. "You don't have to, you know. It's not like we need the money. You could quit your job and we'd be fine."
Natalia stopped mid-motion, her earring halfway to her ear, and turned to face Olivia. "Is that what you think I should do?"
Olivia shrugged and looked down. "I think you should do whatever makes you happy - and if quitting your job and staying home to raise Francesca is what you want to do - then I want you to know it's a real option." Her eyes flicked back up to Natalia. "I know it wasn't in the past."
Resuming her stalled motion, Natalia clipped the earring in and crossed the room to sit down on the bed beside Olivia.
"I want you to be happy," Olivia said, her voice still muffled.
"And I am. I thought about it, you know. Staying home with her. " Natalia reached out to touch Olivia's cheek, bringing Olivia's gaze flicking up to meet Natalia's. "But I think I need to go back to work - at least for now. I spent so many years struggling so hard to make ends meet for Rafe and I, I don't think I know how to just be Francesca's Mama yet."
Olivia nodded. "That's fair."
"Are you upset?" Natalia asked, hearing something hesitant in Olivia's voice.
"No," Olivia reassured her immediately, shifting Francesca slightly in her arms so that she could free one hand to reach out to Natalia. "Of course not. I meant it when I said I want you to be happy - whatever that means."
"Thank you," Natalia said, her voice soft, caught in the intimate moment that had woven its way around the three of them. She cupped Olivia's cheek and leaned forward to give her a gentle kiss. "You're too good to me," she whispered, her forehead pressed against Olivia's.
Olivia snorted and shook her head. "Not possible, Sweetheart."
Natalia pulled away from her. "Then tell me what you're thinking?"
With a smile, Olivia fingered a lock of Natalia's hair and turned a suggestive gaze on her. "I'm thinking that you're beautiful, wondering what I would have to do to get you to stay home."
"Olivia," Natalia protested, rising immediately. She knew just how easily Olivia could persuade her to do whatever Olivia wanted when she looked at Natalia that way, with so much heat and need in her eyes.
Olivia, however, was quicker, reaching out to catch Natalia's wrist before she could get too far. Natalia didn't try to pull away.
"You're going to have to let me go eventually."
"I know," Olivia said with a smile.
"Is that why you're trying to distract me?"
"Olivia," Natalia said, her tone telling Olivia that she might as well own up to it, because Natalia wasn't going to believe her.
"Fine," Olivia said with a little huff. "I've been thinking. I think...I mean, what if...I want to stay home with Francesca." She blurted the words out in such a hurried jumble that it took Natalia a moment to decipher them.
"Olivia, honey. I know you're going to miss her but it will only be for a few hours," Natalia cajoled. "You can even come see her on your lunch break if that's what you want."
"It's not that," Olivia said. "I mean it is but..."
"Are you feeling okay?" Natalia asked, her face darkening with worry as she took a step back toward Olivia, putting a measuring hand on Olivia's forehead.
"No," Olivia said quickly, fumbling for Natalia's hand. "I'm fine." She wrinkled her nose at Natalia. "Stop that."
Natalia let out a little huff of frustration but dropped her hand nonetheless. "Then what? Tell me."
"When I said I wanted to stay home with Francesca, I meant for more than just now, today." Natalia still looked blank so Olivia continued. "Just until she gets a little bit older. Not forever." Olivia plucked at the hem of the comforter and didn't look up.
"Oh." Natalia sank back down beside Olivia without looking. "Why didn't you say anything before?"
Olivia shrugged, trying to make it look nonchalant. "Maybe I didn't realize until this morning how much I would miss this."
"You, me, us - with Chessy." Olivia trailed a finger down Francesca's smooth cheek. "I missed so much time with Emma when she was this age."
Natalia drew Olivia's hand away from Francesca, capturing it between both of her own and bringing it to her lips, pressing a gentle kiss against the back of it. Then she brought it down to rest against her heart. "Because of Phillip."
Olivia nodded and shrugged. "Lizzie was so jealous; she tried to hurt Emma. I knew I had to protect her and Phillip was in Ravenwood. I couldn't stand up to all those Spauldings by myself."
"What did you do?" Natalia asked, her voice gentled with understanding.
"I left before I had her. When I came back I told them that she was..." Olivia looked up at Natalia. "You know I just did what I had to?"
"I told everyone that she was dead. It was the only way," Olivia added hurriedly. "You know what Alan was like. He would never have stopped coming after her and Phillip - he really was crazy."
"It's okay," Natalia said. "I know."
"Do you?" Olivia asked.
"I trust you," Natalia said without hesitation. "And if that's what you think you had to do then I believe you."
"She was so tiny - and I just left her with Sam." With her gaze, Olivia pleaded with Natalia for understanding. "I came back to see her as much as I could, but every move I made was being watched. I couldn't do anything out of the ordinary."
"So you want to stay home with Francesca now that you can," Natalia concluded.
"Something like that, yeah." Olivia looked back down at the little girl in her arms - the daughter she never should have wanted. "I want to be her mother."
"You sound like you're waiting for me to be upset about that," Natalia pointed out.
"I feel like I'm letting you down," Olivia whispered.
"How?" Natalia said, pulling back in surprise.
"By doing something selfish." Olivia freed her fingers to grasp Natalia's hand again, nerves strengthening her grip. "Neither of us knows how much longer I have left-"
"Olivia," Natalia protested. Olivia gave her hand a little squeeze.
"-And I don't want to have to worry about you and the kids after I'm gone."
"You're not going anywhere," Natalia said, her expression and tone fierce. "That's what I'm here for. I'm not letting you go anywhere."
"Natalia, I wish it was, but it's not that simple."
"I have faith."
"Natalia." Olivia sighed and raised her hand to pinch the bridge of her nose.
"I do and you're not going to convince me otherwise, Olivia Spencer. God must have brought you into my life for a reason, and I'm not going to let you go so easily. So stay home with Francesca. Do what you want. But don't expect me to sit here and listen to you talk about dying when nothing's even wrong with you."
Natalia pushed away from the bed, unfolding her leg from beneath her to stand. This time Olivia wasn't quick enough to bring her back, Natalia's hand sliding through her own.
"Natalia," Olivia protested. "Wait, please." It was the true desperation in her voice that slowed Natalia as Olivia struggled to scoot forward, trapped by the covers and Francesca in her arms. She couldn't move fast enough to chase after Natalia and the thought of leaving this conversation unfinished left her aching.
Natalia stopped at the door, but still looked unhappy when she turned back to face Olivia. "I have to go to work, Olivia. Don't make me cry. I'll have to redo my makeup."
"Baby...Natalia," Olivia cajoled as she began to scoot herself to the edge of the bed one-handed. Finally she managed to push herself off the edge of it, her motions and the absurdity of them drawing a faint smile from Natalia. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to upset you."
Natalia sighed. "I can't think about losing you."
"Okay," Olivia said simply.
"If you want to stay home with Francesca, you should," Natalia said. "You're a good mom - the best. Look at Emma. And don't worry about us. We'll be fine."
"Okay," Olivia said. "I'll think about it." Like she was doing Natalia a favor.
Natalia snorted and shook her head as she turned to leave. Olivia just had to be impossible; she couldn't be any other way.