Title: Once Upon a Christmas Day
Fandom: Guiding Light
Characters: Natalia Rivera, Olivia Spencer, Father Ray and the rest of the gang.
Category: Romance, Drama, Christmas-y-ness
Word count 7,273
Summary It's a few days before Christmas in the Spencer-Rivera household; Olivia manages to surprise Natalia.
Spoilers/Timeline: Through September 09, but very few specific ones, 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 had feels about gay marriage in New York last year. This is the result.
Beta: All the good grammar, most of the characterization and the scarcity of plot holes can be laid entirely at aimlessny's feet. Any remaining plot holes, typos, bad grammar, characterization or general idiocy would be my responsibility.
"Olivia." The good father nodded to her, holding his hands clasped in front of him, the picture of patience and piety. "I didn't expect to see you here."
"Here" was home - the farmhouse. The nerve of his comment struck Olivia's last one with Father Ray. Something must have shown on her face, or perhaps he realized how rude he had sounded when he had said it because he quickly backtracked.
"At this time of day, I mean," Father Ray clarified. "I thought you would be at the Beacon."
Olivia nodded slowly, her disbelief apparent. "Of course." She smiled her friendliest smile at him, the one that showed teeth and couldn't possibly be sincere. "But it is just two weeks before Christmas. I took the time off to spend with my family. Tis the season." This time her smile was far more genuine. "But actually Natalia and I were just leaving. What can I do for you?"
"Ah, I see." Father Ray's countenance seemed to fall. "I just came by to thank Natalia for the wonderful fruitcake that she sent to the church last week."
"Uh-huh," Olivia said, sounding dubious even to herself. Natalia was a wonderful, amazing woman. Sometimes, deep in the privacy of her own thoughts, Olivia considered Natalia her own personal miracle. That Natalia loved her and wanted to be with her was even more so. But not even Natalia could make a fruitcake that deserved the word "wonderful." Which meant the good Father was probably there for another reason. "Well, Natalia will be-"
"Olivia? Who are you talking to?" Natalia's voice drifted out from behind Olivia, growing clearer and more distinct as she approached. "Oh, Father Ray." Natalia stopped short as she stepped up behind Olivia, the tip of her fingers resting at the small of Olivia's back. "I brought your coat. You left it on the couch," Natalia said, handing the offending item to her. She pushed a few scattered pieces of hair out of her eyes and rested her hand on her hip. "What brings you by, Father?"
"As I was telling Olivia, I wanted to come by to thank you myself, for the wonderful fruitcake that you sent by the church last week. Everyone enjoyed it very much."
"Oh, thank you. I'm glad. You didn't have to come by to tell me that though."
"It's no trouble," Father Ray said with a jovial smile. "You know I like to check up on all my flock from time to time."
Natalia smiled, but it was a bit more strained than it had been a moment before. "Well, thank you, Father, but everything is going wonderfully here. Rafe and Ava are flying in tomorrow to join us for the holidays and Emma and Francesca are so excited they can hardly stand it."
"Rafael! It will be good to have him home. Do make sure he comes by to see me."
"We'll be there for midnight Mass, of course," Natalia said. "But I'll tell him to stop by and see you when you have more time to talk. Daisy and Ashley are coming home for the holidays. He's so excited to see them."
"Of course," Father Ray echoed. "It's good that he has such good friends here in Springfield. Their support is very important for what he faces."
Olivia coughed. Natalia squeezed her hip.
"I've heard that Rafael is doing very well in the army though. Is he scheduled to be deployed? I know he's eager to serve his country, but deployment can be very difficult on everyone."
No duh! The ridiculousness of Ray's words made it hard for Olivia to hold back a sharp reply but she managed. Just like she'd held back several other choice things while Ray was standing there. For Natalia's sake she would be polite and charming, smiling and acting like nothing he said could upset her. She wouldn't do anything to make the balancing act that Natalia was struggling to achieve between her faith and her life with Olivia any harder. But it didn't make it any easier to simply stand there and listen while Father Ray questioned and probed in his polite, insidious way, questioning them and Natalia's commitment to them. Even calling into question her commitment to her son and his well-being without ever coming out and saying anything outright about it.
This, however, was different. It was one thing for him to challenge Natalia about their relationship. It was another entirely to play on Natalia's fears for Rafe's safety while he was in the army. It was cruel and coming from a man of God it reminded Olivia of what she despised most about religion.
"We prefer to take it one day at a time, Ray, and not worry about what may or may not happen. Natalia taught me that," Olivia added, with an adoring glance at the woman beside her, stepping forward a little to support her partner. "I'm afraid we have to go now, though, or we'll miss our flight."
"You're leaving?" Father Ray asked in surprise. "I thought you said Rafe and Ava were arriving tomorrow..."
"They are," Olivia said with a polite but dismissive smile. "This is just a day trip up to New York to take care of some things."
"We'll be back tonight," Natalia added. "In time to pick up Emma and Francesca."
Olivia could feel the tension in Natalia's arm as her fingers pressed a little harder than strictly necessary. Olivia understood the feeling. There was no reason they had to defend themselves to Father Ray, but he always left her feeling that way. And that made her feel more irritated than the urge itself. She was Olivia Freaking Spencer. She owed no one an explanation for anything - no one except Natalia. But Natalia never demanded. She accepted Olivia for who she was.
"Then I hope your trip goes smoothly," Father Ray said with a smile for both of them. "Natalia, I look forward to seeing you at Mass." With a nod, he took several steps backward and then turned on his heel and walked away.
"Well, that was fun," Olivia remarked sardonically, letting out a sigh once he was off the porch and out of earshot.
Natalia snorted softly. "More like awkward. I wonder what he really wanted."
"To talk to you," Olivia supplied the answer confidently. "He wanted to see if the fruitcake was just fruitcake or if it was afruitcake."
Natalia shot her a sideways glance. "What are you talking about?"
"I think he was hoping it was a cry for help. A sign you were ready to escape my evil, seductive influences after two long, torturous years?"
Natalia laughed. She couldn't help it. "If that's what he's waiting for, it's going to be a long wait. Sometimes a fruitcake is just a fruitcake."
"Unfortunately," Olivia muttered.
Natalia smacked Olivia lightly on her shoulder but she was smiling when she did it. "I heard that."
"Does that mean no more fruitcakes for me?"
Natalia just shook her head. "You're not that lucky."
It was Olivia's turn to snort. "I am the luckiest woman in the world," she proclaimed, pulling Natalia into her arms and nuzzling into the soft skin at the crook of her neck. She dropped a soft kiss there before she raised her head to capture Natalia's lips in a kiss that was more sweet than sensual until she reluctantly drew away. "Unfortunately I was telling the truth. We have to go now if we're gonna make our flight."
"I still don't see why we need to make one last shopping trip," Natalia said, wrinkling her nose. "It's two weeks until Christmas. The stores are going to be crazy and the kids - all of them - have plenty of gifts. You've been shopping since July!" Natalia gave Olivia a warm, but knowing look. "I thought you'd gotten over the need to do things big."
"Ha!" Olivia laughed. "Have you met me?" She shrugged. "I want to get Ava something special. She's really missing Jeffrey. And who isn't a fan of Tiffany and Cartier?"
Natalia just shook her head.
"And I want to find something cool for Rafe," Olivia admitted.
"Olivia," Natalia drew her name out softly, sweetly. "He'll like whatever you get him." The hint of steel in her voice implied, or else. "He got so many pairs of socks and underwear for Christmas when he was a kid that he won't care as long as it's not clothes. Anything but clothes."
The self-deprecating humor in her voice didn't fool Olivia. She knew how much Natalia had wanted more than that for him and how much being unable to provide that had hurt.
"He was so lucky to have you as his Mom."
"Olivia..." Natalia said, pulling away slightly.
"You gave him the best gift of all - love."
Natalia smiled, looking down, her smile still widening, tugging at dimpled cheeks. "You're such a sap."
"Your sap," Olivia admitted.
Natalia squeezed her hand in acknowledgement. "C'mon," she said softly. "Let's go. We have a flight to catch, remember?"
Natalia gave Olivia's forearm as squeeze as they strode briskly down the street. "So where are you taking me next, Ms. Spencer?"
"Ah, it's not that far actually. Just around the corner."
"Uh-huh," Natalia said knowingly. "Is this another one of your surprises, Olivia?"
"Not really. I mean... I may have forgotten to tell you about this stop, but..."
Natalia laughed. "I don't bite. Just tell me."
"You did the other night," Olivia pointed out, in a tone so sweetly reasonable that it took Natalia a moment to parse her meaning.
"Olivia!" Natalia swatted Olivia's arm and Olivia laughed.
"It's just a little thing for work. It won't take very long. Promise."
"Olivia," Natalia sighed. "You promised you would take it easy these next two weeks. Just forget about work and enjoy yourself."
"I know, Natalia, and I wouldn't break that promise to you if it wasn't extremely important. I wouldn't. But I have to do this. It's important for our future - and the kids. You'll see."
Natalia looked faintly suspicious. "It's really that big of a deal?"
Olivia nodded without hesitation. "It really is."
"Okay," Natalia relented with a sigh, picking up the pace again from the standstill they had slowed to. "You could have told me though. I'm not unreasonable. I understand about things that have to be done."
"I know," Olivia said, covering Natalia's hand on her arm with her own, stroking Natalia's fingers. There were facets of Natalia's life before her that she preferred not to think too much about. They tended to drive her crazy yet with frustration and regret that she hadn't known Natalia then. Even if it wasn't a realistic desire. She had been a very different person then and she probably wouldn't given Natalia a second thought, except to look down on her naivete. And if things had been different then Natalia might still be with Gus and Olivia would be- Well, Olivia didn't like to think about that, because she wasn't sure where she would be. Dead, probably. Olivia did her best to push all that aside. "I'm sorry. I guess I just didn't want to think about it either. It's so rare we get to spend this much time together, just us. I didn't want to ruin it."
"That makes sense," Natalia agreed. "I love the kids - so much. But getting to have you to myself sometimes, well, it's wonderful. It feels like a breath of fresh air. I can breathe when I'm with you - more than anywhere else."
Olivia glanced over, a mischievous smile tugging on her lips. "Why, Ms. Rivera, was that a selfish thought?"
Natalia jostled Olivia with a hip, her grip on Olivia's arm firm and steadying even as she did. "Don't tell anyone."
Olivia laughed. "I don't think that was selfish at all. I think it was the best thing I've ever heard."
Natalia ducked her head against Olivia's arm as they walked but even that couldn't hide her brilliant smile. "So where is this mysterious errand?"
"The City Clerk, Olivia?" Natalia asked, curious now. "What business do you have here, in New York City?" She knew a fair bit about Olivia's business from working as her personal assistant but other than dealing with suppliers or companies out of New York that wanted to work with the Beacon, Natalia had no idea what Olivia would be doing there.
"The internet is a wonderful thing," Olivia said, only paying half-attention to what Natalia was saying as she rose up on her tiptoes to get a better look at the line in front of them. "But it can't take care of everything. Some things you just have to do in person."
"Yeah," Olivia said firmly, coming back down to Earth beside Natalia and squeezing her hand.
There were a lot of other couples in line with them holding hands. Natalia noticed it just as she noticed that Olivia's hand was unusually clammy. Natalia tugged on their joined hands until Olivia turned to face her and then put the back of her hand against Olivia's forehead. It was a little sweaty too, but her skin didn't feel too hot or fevered. It made sense; it was the middle of winter. There was snow was on the ground outside and the heat was turned up inside the building. With people crowded into the small space the temperature had quickly gone from pleasantly warm to stuffy. But Natalia still had to ask.
"Are you feeling okay?"
"Stop that," Olivia said, sharper than she'd intended to, pulling Natalia's hand down from her forehead. She kissed the back of Natalia's hand in apology. "I'm fine. Don't worry about me."
"I always worry about you," Natalia admitted softly. But Natalia couldn't help but notice the way that Olivia was almost bouncing in place as they stood in line. She hadn't been like this earlier in the day. By the time they got to the front of the line, Olivia's bouncy energy had faded away. She was standing too still by Natalia's side, her grip on Natalia's hand almost painfully tight. The earlier flush had left her skin and she looked almost unnaturally pale. Natalia was worried.
"What can I do for you?" the clerk asked, looking almost bored.
"Ah, we- I came to finish filling out an application. My confirmation number is..." Olivia rattled off a long string of numbers that would have impressed Natalia if she hadn't seen Olivia prove the sharpness of her memory time and again, often much to her employees chagrin.
The clerk seemed to brighten.
"Of course! This is a lovely time of year for-"
"Yes, thank you," Olivia said quickly, cutting the women off with a firm smile. "We'll just take it over there and finish it up?" Olivia pointed behind them, to a high counter where people milled with scattered papers.
Natalia glanced between Olivia and the clerk curiously. There was something she was missing in their exchange. Olivia was trying to hide something. It didn't scare Natalia or anger her. She knew Olivia well enough to know all her ways, her tricks. She knew it all and still Natalia trusted Olivia more than she had ever trusted anyone. It was just that she was curious. She wanted to see what Olivia was about to unfurl, what grand plan she had to display. It was always a grand plan with Olivia.
"Of course, hon. Just bring it back when you're done," the clerk said with an airy wave of her hand. "We'll get you two all taken care of." No, Natalia decided, she definitely wasn't imagining the woman's shift in mood.
Natalia let Olivia tug her over to the counter and then stopped, smiling over at Olivia. "What are you up to, Olivia Spencer?"
"Me?" Olivia squeaked.
"Yes, you," Natalia confirmed. "I know you, and all this..." She gestured to the whole of Olivia's being, from the tip of her head to her toes. "This tells me you're up to something. Spill?" She flashed dimples with her request, knowing Olivia couldn't resist.
Olivia let out a nervous little laugh. "Actually there's something I should ask you first." She smiled, her lips quivering as she did and Natalia's heart skipped a beat. She knew Olivia and she knew this was serious.
"What?" Natalia reached blindly for Olivia's hand, squeezing a little too hard when she found it.
"I...there's something I want to give you, but I'm not sure if it's what you want."
The moment lingered, lengthened, until Natalia almost wanted to laugh. She would have if Olivia's silence alone hadn't indicated just how nervous she was about this - whatever it was.
"Olivia. Just ask me."
Olivia swallowed hard. "I'm afraid you'll say no. I want you to say yes, but...I want you to want to say yes. Not just for me."
Natalia squeezed her hand again, reassuringly this time. "I can't answer that until you tell me what's going on." She glanced down at the papers Olivia was clutching to her chest. "This isn't about business at all, is it?" Natalia asked gently.
"No," Olivia said with a faint shake of her head. "This is as personal as it gets." That seemed to make up Olivia's mind. "Come here," she said, tugging on Natalia's hand and dragging her over to a more secluded corner of the room.
Olivia reached into her coat pocket - the coat she had been wearing the first night that they had eat together at Towers after Natalia had broken her engagement, their first date - and pulled out a small box wrapped in cream colored paper, with thin streamers of gold shot through it until they formed into the words "Merry Christmas" on top.
"Open it." Even Olivia's voice sounded shaky as she held the small box out to Natalia.
It was habit for Natalia to find the side where the paper was taped and lift the tape with her nail carefully so that nothing tore. It took a moment longer to slip the box out. It was plain, black with gold lettering. Natalia wasn't familiar with the name but that didn't mean much. Olivia was the connoisseur of brands and designers, not her.
Natalia couldn't help but hold her breath as she lifted the lid. There was no telling what she would find inside, what Olivia had done. But inside it was another box. Still black, but this time velvet covered instead of cardboard. A jewelry box. Something inside of Natalia eased; Olivia bought her jewelry all the time. Despite Natalia's protests. Part of her was still embarrassed by it, but eventually those protests had lessened as she had realized that it was just one of the ways that Olivia said "I love you".
She opened the box expecting...diamonds, rubies, jewels dripping off a necklace, mounted on earrings, dangling from a bracelet. Anything but the diamond sparkling atop a golden band that sat in the box.
"Olivia?" Natalia's voice went up sharply as she simply stared.
"I wanted to marry you the moment I met you."
A strangled laugh exploded out of Natalia.
"Right," Olivia said ruefully. "I don't believe that either. Mostly I thought you were a nuisance. Someone I could run right over to get what I wanted, needed - Gus. But what I found was the woman that I love. And when I realized I was in love with you, I wanted..." Olivia swallowed hard, trying to choke back the tears that were welling up in her eyes. "I wanted you to have a home and someone who loved you and made you happy. More than anything. I didn't think that you could ever love me - not the way I loved you."
"Let me finish? Please?"
Natalia nodded, struggling with her own tears, wiping at them with the back of her hand.
"I didn't think I could ever give you anything that was worthy of all the things you had given me - a heart; a love; a beautiful, wonderful family. And I know it's not what you wanted most, a real church wedding officiated over by a priest, one that you can be proud of for the rest of your life, but...I can give you this, Natalia. Something that says we belong together for of our lives. If that's what you want.
So...will you marry me?" Stay with me forever.
"Yes." Natalia wasn't even trying to stop the tears anymore. She couldn't even feel them. All she could see was Olivia. All she could think was how beautiful this woman was. And how much she wanted to marry her. Natalia's heart pounded as she tore her eyes away from Olivia and glanced down at the box in her hands. "I..yes. Of course, yes. Olivia." She surged forward, slipping her hand behind Olivia's head and pulling her down to kiss her. She almost dropped the ring when she fumbled, trying to put her arm around Olivia's waist and pull her closer.
Olivia laughed against her lips until Natalia felt wet warmth on her cheeks and pulled back quickly. Tears were making tracks down Olivia's cheeks, her makeup running down in little rivulets.
"Hey, don't cry," Natalia whispered, wiping the tears away with her thumbs and then pressing another gentle kiss to Olivia's lips. "I said yes."
"I know," Olivia forced the words out between shuddering breaths. "That's why I'm crying." She waved her hand in front of her face, struggling to regain her composure.
Natalia pressed her forehead against Olivia's. "Did you really think I would say no?"
"I...no...maybe?" Olivia sniffed and then straightened. "You could do better - so much better, Natalia."
"Never," Natalia shot back immediately. "You gave me a home and a life and a family like I've never had before. Something that feels so secure that it could never break. I've had places to stay, people I loved, but that...knowing you'll be there for me no matter what. No one has ever given that to me before. You're the only one, Olivia."
Olivia sniffed. "That's my line."
Natalia grinned, reassured by Olivia's teasing statement. Olivia was already beginning to sound more like her usual sardonic self. Natalia was one of the few people who were allowed to see Olivia's true vulnerability and Natalia didn't take that lightly. That's what Olivia was offering her. Saying yes had been a start but Natalia wanted more. She wanted it all.
"Can I put it on?" Natalia couldn't quite believe the ring that Olivia had gotten her. It wasn't that large - and Natalia smiled at that, knowing how Olivia must have struggled to rein in her usual tendency to do everything big - but it was still larger than any other ring Natalia had ever owned.
"Of course," Olivia said, shaking her head slightly to clear it. She had almost forgotten about the ring in the emotion of the proposal and the tears and happiness that had followed it. Her hands trembled as she took out the ring. She fumbled the box shut and shoved it into her coat pocket as she held her hand out to Natalia.
Natalia's fingers were cold when she put her hand in Olivia's. Olivia smiled nervously and squeezed Natalia's hand, rubbing her fingers back and forth over Natalia's to warm them up. Impulsively she lifted Natalia's hand to her lips and kissed her knuckles. She held Natalia's gaze as she lowered the hand she held in her own and then gently slipped the ring on Natalia's finger. It fit perfectly.
"How did you know?" Natalia asked, a smile tugging at her dimples.
Olivia gave a little grimace. "I remembered."
"The size - just a little smaller than mine."
It took Natalia a minute to understand what Olivia was saying. There was only one ring she had worn in the the time that Olivia had known her - Gus's - and Olivia had worn it too, just for a day.
"Oh." Natalia wasn't upset about it, but it felt a little strange. "You really remembered all this time?"
"Did you know then?"
"That I loved you?" Olivia asked rhetorically. "No, not consciously. All I could think about then was how much I was hurting. My heart." Her fingers came up to brush over the scar on her chest. "I couldn't think about how much you were hurting. I didn't want to. When I put them on, those rings didn't give me anything; they were meant to belong to you. It seemed wrong and that scared me."
"So you gave them back."
"They were yours; you needed them."
"I didn't think I did." Natalia shook her head. "Or maybe I didn't until they weren't there. I thought I didn't need a reminder that he loved me, but...I feel more committed to you without a ring than I did when Gus and I were married."
"Yeah?" Olivia's voice broke over her simple question.
"But, what?" Immediately an edge of tension in Olivia's voice that hadn't been there a moment before.
"But I still want to marry you."
Olivia let out a relieved laugh. "Good." She couldn't help but lean in closer to steal a kiss, tasting Natalia's lips and then pulling away again before she could get lost in them.
"So," Natalia said a little bit breathlessly when Olivia pulled away. "What do we do now? I know you have a plan," Natalia added, stroking her knuckle down the soft skin of Olivia's cheek.
"We can do whatever you want."
Natalia just kept smiling.
"I may have made a few tiny plans."
"Tiny," Natalia repeated her smile growing.
"Rafe and Ava," Olivia said it quickly as if that would minimize it. "They're here in the city. And the girls. Our friends from Springfield. I arranged for a heated pavilion in Central Park, where we could have the celebration outdoors. In the snow like..." Olivia trailed off. "But without freezing this time. Or we could do something else. Whenever and wherever you want. We don't have to do anything actually-"
"Olivia." Natalia smiled to take the sting out of cutting her off. "Just stop. I want it all. Out in the snow, the way it was when I first told you I love you...it sounds amazing." She bit her lip. "But I want something else first."
"Name it," Olivia said softly. "Anything."
"I know you have all these plans - and they sound wonderful -"
"But?" Olivia prompted. She didn't wait for Natalia's response. "We can do something else. Wait for the spring, or...or find a different venue. It doesn't have to be today."
Natalia silenced her with a kiss.
"Cheating," Olivia murmured against her lips but she didn't seem to be complaining, except for a faint whimper when Natalia had broken the kiss.
"I know this sounds crazy," Natalia began.
"Crazier than falling in love with the woman who has your husband's heart - literally?" Olivia interjected.
Natalia ignored her. "I want to get married here. Now."
Olivia's arching eyebrow was the only indication of how she felt about Natalia' s statement. Then she shrugged. "Okay. We can do that. Let me call Rafe and Ava and we can get everyone down here."
She was reaching for her cellphone when Natalia put her hand over Olivia's stopping her. Olivia gave her a questioning look and caught Natalia's faintly guilty expression.
"Hey, what's wrong, Sweetheart?"
"Do we have to?" Natalia asked, wincing as if she expected Olivia to be upset with her for that question.
"No, but I don't understand... I thought you'd want the kids and everyone to be here with us when we got married. I thought that was your dream."
"It is. It was," Natalia hurried to explain. "But...every time we start to do something like this, something happens - Frank gets beat up, or Rafe is about to get out of jail, or...or I find out I'm pregnant with Frank's baby. I don't want anything else to go wrong. I want to marry you now - before it does."
Olivia laughed. "How can I refuse an offer like that?" Then she hesitated and frowned. "But - I really hate to say this; you have no idea - but what about the kids? They want to see us get married. I don't think Emma would forgive us."
Natalia winced. "You're right." She bit her bottom lip. "I guess we wait then." A smile tugged at her lips. "I still can't quite believe Rafe came all this way to see us get married. Just for that I'm more than willing to wait. I'd wait for you forever."
Olivia felt a pang in her chest. She would have worried that it was her heart if she hadn't experienced the sensation often since she and Natalia had admitted their feelings for one another. The things Natalia would say were so sweet, so honest that they struck her in a way nothing else had, so pure it was almost pain.
"We could do both, you know," Olivia said, pushing her emotions down enough that she could speak. She had a reputation to uphold, after all. "Get married now and still have a ceremony for the kids and our friends later."
"Yeah?" Natalia asked in that slightly breathless, hopeful way that she had. It was one of Olivia's favorite things. It meant she had done something right. That and the faint whimper Natalia always let out when Olivia touched her just so...
"Oh yeah. We can do anything you want."
Natalia grinned and stroked her fingers down Olivia's cheek. "I want."
It was all Olivia could do to not turn her head and kiss Natalia's hand. It wouldn't have been a big thing but it felt too intimate, too private to indulge in here and now. No matter how badly she wanted too.
"So we're getting married."
"We are," Natalia agreed. They lingered in silence a little longer, content to just soak in the moment.
"I can't believe this is happening," Olivia said softly. "I never thought it would. It's -"
Natalia put a hand over her mouth. "Don't say perfect. Or wonderful. Or anything else. We'll be doomed."
Olivia let out a muffled laugh and tried to resist the urge to lick Natalia's hand. "When did you become the cynic in this relationship?"
Natalia shrugged. "I guess you've rubbed off on me."
"I certainly hope so," Olivia murmured.
It took Natalia a moment to catch Olivia's meaning. When she did, she flushed bright red and pinched Olivia's arm. "Olivia! I can't believe you said that."
"Yes, you can."
"I guess so." Natalia bit her lip and stared at Olivia. "So, what do you think?"
"About getting married now?" Olivia picked up one of Natalia's hands and cradled it between both of her own. "I was serious. I'll marry you when and wherever you want. We still need witnesses though, if we're going to do this now."
A huge smile flashed over Natalia's face, showing dimples and leaving Olivia reeling and defenseless in the face of her joy. The mischievous, determined glint in Natalia's eyes didn't escape Olivia's notice either.
"Let me worry about that," Natalia said, squeezing her hand. "I'll take care of it. You just finish filling out this paperwork."
Knowing Natalia's determination and the way that she had of getting things done when she set her mind to it, Olivia almost felt a little bit sorry for the people that Natalia was about to convince to be their witnesses. Olivia had used enough wit, charm, seduction and blackmail to secure what she wanted in her day, but somehow Natalia managed to do it with such sweetness and smile that it left her hapless victims dazed, happy and wondering why they had agreed to something they had never had any intention of doing.
Olivia certainly understood the feeling.
The judge was an older woman, with hair as dark as Natalia's but shot through with steel grey. She looked intimidating. If Natalia had been coming before this court with her son's future at stake, she would have despaired. But this time Rafe's future was safe; Olivia had seen to that. Now they were about to secure their own future. Nothing about that could frighten Natalia, not with Olivia at her side, their hands tightly clasped.
"It looks like everything is in order here. Are the two of you ready to proceed?"
"Yes," the words tumbled out of Olivia's mouth so fast it made Natalia smile.
"Yes, we are," Natalia said, adding her own confirmation. "Very ready." She couldn't help turning a loving look on Olivia, all the yearning and wonder she still felt in her eyes as she looked at Olivia.
"Good. Then let us continue. If the two of you will sign here..."
Olivia squeezed Natalia's hand one more time and then let go to pick up the pen, signing her name with a flourish. She carefully handed the pen to Natalia when she was done, their fingers brushing as she did. This was it, signing her life away. The last time that she would ever get married. One way or another, Olivia was sure of that. Still she couldn't take her eyes off Natalia as Natalia bent over the desk and carefully, taking her time to get it just so, signed her own name.
The judge was smiling, a twinkle dancing in her eye. Not that Olivia or Natalia could see it. Their eyes were only for each other.
"Before we go any further, do the two of you have rings you would like to use?"
"Oh, right," Olivia said, pulling a box from her coat pocket. "Here we go." She sounded unusually nervous as she opened it to take the ring out. Her hands were shaking slightly as she reached for Natalia's hand.
"Wait." Natalia said, wincing even as she spoke. The crestfallen look on Olivia's face made her heart clench. "Not like that," Natalia added quickly. "I just...when I put on that ring - your ring - I'm never going to take it off, Olivia."
Olivia let out a nervous chuckle. "That doesn't sound like a problem."
"But if we're going to do this again-"
"Oh." Olivia looked dejected for a split second. "As long as my ring is on your finger at the end of the day - and vice-versa - I can wait."
The judge cleared her throat. "If that's settled then?"
"Then by the power vested in me by the state of New York, I now pronounce you...married."
And then it was done. They were married in the eyes of New York state, themselves and - as soon as they told them - everyone who mattered to them.
Olivia let out a breath she hadn't realized she was holding; Natalia laughed giddily, looking at Olivia until she couldn't stand it anymore. She kissed Olivia, quickly, deeply, pouring her heart and soul and every bit of love she had for Olivia into the press of her lips and the sweep of her tongue.
"We're married," Natalia breathed the words against Olivia's lips as she pulled away. "Really married." She stroked Olivia's cheek with her thumb. "Thank you."
"I don't know what you're thanking me for," Olivia said haughtily. "You're stuck with me now. There's no getting away, Rivera."
"Rivera-Spencer," Natalia corrected. "And getting away from you is the last thing I want to do," Natalia added softly, flushing even as her dimples grew just a little bit larger with her words.
"I'll remind you of that in a few weeks when you're sick of me," Olivia said dryly. She bit her lip, both charmed and a little surprised. "You're going to hyphenate?"
"Please," Natalia countered. "If I haven't gotten sick of you by now, I don't think I ever will." Natalia shrugged. "It's something I've been thinking about. Do you hate it?"
Olivia simply stared at her, the moment growing almost too heavy for words before she finally managed to summon them. "Oh, no. Hate is so not the word I would use. Love it, is more like it. I really love the sound of that. Both of those things, in fact."
Natalia just shook her head as Olivia held a hand out to her, but she took it and let Olivia lead her out onto the dance floor. Apparently Olivia had decided that her poor feet had had enough of a break.
"Can you blame me for wanting to dance with the most beautiful woman in the pavilion?" Olivia asked, responding not to something that Natalia had said but the look on her face.
"I'd better be the only one in the pavilion you want to dance with," Natalia shot back.
"I don't know. I was thinking maybe, someone younger..."
Natalia's eyes narrowed. She knew Olivia was teasing and she was mostly just playing along. "Had someone in mind, did you? I might have something to say about that."
"Oh? I was thinking maybe...Emma. Rafe looks pretty busy right now, but I think I could talk him into one mother-stepson dance."
Natalia just shook her head. "You are something else, Olivia Spencer."
"I am," Olivia agreed. She nuzzled the silky strands of Natalia's long, dark hair, breathing in her perfume. The scent calmed and intoxicated her in turns. "Frank was headed your way. He looked like he was going to ask you to dance."
"My knight in shining Prada," Natalia murmured.
"I know you can handle Frank," Olivia said, uncertain whether Natalia's words had been meant to be dry or sarcastic. "If you want to dance with him-"
"No," Natalia said firmly. "If I wanted to dance with Frank, I would have married him when I had the chance. I married you. I was surprised to see him here actually," Natalia murmured as they swayed gently on the dance floor several hours hint of chill in the air despite the heaters keeping the outdoor pavillion warm gave Natalia a good excuse to stay as close to her wife as possible.
Frank had eventually seemed to accept her relationship with Olivia but Natalia hadn't expected him to come all this way to celebrate it. Even if Phillip's wedding gift to them had been the use of the Spaulding jet to fly everyone to New York City. She knew well enough just how broken up Frank had been when she had run away from their wedding. But when he had come up to them to offer his congratulations, he had only looked a bit uncomfortable as Olivia embraced him. When it was her turn to embrace him, he had hugged her fiercely, squeezing her tightly in her arms with an exuberance that was all Frank.
"I'm glad you're happy," he had said softly enough that Natalia was the only one who had heard him. There was sadness in Frank's large brown eyes when pulled away, but she ignored it, reminding herself that she had nothing to regret. She had done what was necessary, for herself, for Olivia and her family. Hurting Frank hadn't been what she wanted but if she had stayed with Frank she would have hurt him even more. And he and Blake were together now. He had his own chance at happiness. What he did with it was his decision.
"Did you invite him?" Natalia asked, leaning back enough to look at Olivia.
Olivia shrugged and shook her head. "It seemed cruel."
"It's Springfield. Well, you know what I mean. The kids and Doris all knew. And Phillip." Olivia wrinkled her nose at Natalia's arched eyebrow. "Maybe Buzz."
Natalia laughed, her slightly stern mein falling away. "Was there anyone in Springfield besides me who didn't know?"
"Father Ray," Olivia said promptly. "Although...I talked to Sister Anne a few weeks ago. Maybe that's why he came by the house."
"Oh, Father Ray," Natalia sighed and shook her head. "I should send him another fruitcake."
"I'd be afraid he would think it was another cry for help, but I don't really care what he thinks. I'm not going to change my mind."
"Oh, you do?"
Olivia nodded. "I know you. You wouldn't have married me unless you were absolutely certain."
"And don't you forget it."
Olivia smiled happily and leaned further into Natalia. They danced in silence for a moment longer before it was broken by Natalia, her thoughts drifting until they had come around to their previous topic again.
"So anyone could have told Frank is what you're saying."
"Pretty much," Olivia agreed, taking the change in topic in stride.
"How did you manage to keep someone from spilling your secret?" Natalia asked rhetorically.
"Blackmail," was Olivia's prompt reply.
Natalia's stern look didn't work a second time. Olivia's face remained inscrutable and Natalia couldn't tell if she was teasing or not. Once she would have pursued it, needing to know whether Olivia had really blackmailed someone to keep Olivia's proposal a secret from her until Olivia had actually had a chance to propose. Today, Natalia decided that she didn't care. They were here - all their friends and family and the people that they loved and loved them - and they were married.
Whatever Olivia had done to make that happen, Natalia could forgive her, as long as they ended up together. And no one was bleeding.
"You are so bad," Natalia murmured, but the way she tucked herself against Olivia's body once more belied her words.
Olivia just smiled. "I think you like it. Why else would you be with me?"
"You're loaded. And I heard you're a good lay," Natalia replied with the same absence of hesitation that Olivia had answered her with moments before.
Olivia snorted, sparing a grateful thought that she hadn't been sipping on champagne at that moment. She looked undignified enough as it was. "I can't believe you said that."
Natalia looked chagrined. "I was teasing."
"I know. You've never been about the money - even when I wished you were."
"Thank you. I think." Natalia said with a wry smile.
"You're welcome. Thank you for marrying me."
"Now for that, there are no thanks required," Natalia said firmly. "I would marry you when and where ever you want. As many times as you want."
"It's a good thing. I've already married you twice."
"I still can't believe you didn't tell them that we'd already gotten married once," Natalia whispered against Olivia's ear as they moved slowly around the dance floor.
"The kids wanted to see us get married. Who was I to deny them?" Olivia grinned. "And it wasn't exactly a hardship."
Natalia could feel Olivia's smile against her neck.
"You're such a softie."
Olivia laughed. "Don't tell." She grew more serious in the swell of silence. "I'd marry you as many times as you want."
Natalia just laughed at her, the way that she always would at Olivia's not-funny jokes. The ones that tried to conceal Olivia's beautiful heart.
"Was it everything you imagined?" Olivia asked, her heart on her sleeve.
"Good," Olivia said softly, running her hands gently up and down Natalia's back. "Because that's what you give me."
Without another word between them, they danced gently into the good night, sharing the best gift of all - a life and a love that they would cherish forever.