Fandom: Guiding Light
Archival: P&P, Kimly, and AUSXIP of course. Everyone else, please ask.
Summary: Phillip Spaulding has returned to Springfield with a vengeance. Olivia Spencer, afraid that Phillip will take their daughter Emma from her again, flees Springfield with the help of her assistant, Natalia Rivera. Can they stay one step ahead of Phillip? Will they ever be safe again?
Content Disclaimer: This is an AU story--based on a drabble I posted in February--that splits off from the "I can trust you with my life!" scene on 2/16/09. All canon after that does not exist in this story. Also, the Phillip Spaulding that returns in this story is still bat-shit crazy and evil. Graphic depictions of love between two consenting adult women are contained within, obviously, but not for a while.
Source Disclaimer: I do not own Guiding Light or the characters therein depicted. I do not seek to profit from this story.
A/N: I tried to remain as close to character as humanly possible but as I have only seen YouTube clips of Otalia and no full episodes, I cannot guarantee the results.
Style Note: As some of you have noticed, I am switching POVs for every chapter. Natalia, Olivia and Emma will tell their stories in their own words, first-person present tense. Any other exposition needed will happen in third-person past-tense. This will cover the urgency I need and will also allow for omniscience for the longer bits of exposition. I am very interested in knowing whether this style works how I have intended it, so let me know.
A/N*: I should have mentioned this before. I know that this is not canon, but I have chosen to place Springfield in Ohio, mostly to make my research life that much easier. Yes, I am obsessive about my research, which is why Natalia was able to make it to Overland Park, KS in one night to be present for it's sunrise at 6:54am (7:54am Springfield time) on 2/23 (roughly when chapter 2 took place). No, really. I looked all that up. And more. I'm that much of a fact geek. Sad, but true.
Thank You: To mightbefound and bldy_destini for beta-ing this story.
"Don't look now," said Buzz Cooper to his son, Frank, as he leaned over the mahogany bar of his little town grille. A puzzled grin pulled his mouth sideways. "But I think you have groupies." He raised his eyebrows and gestured toward one of the tables along the wall.
Frank Cooper wiped his mouth with his napkin and glanced over his shoulder to the table his father indicated. He frowned. Two girls sat there--one blonde with frizzy curls and one with shorter, darker hair and olive skin--conspicuously looking away from his general direction. The blonde, though, kept glancing nervously back at him. The dark one, he'd never seen her before, but the other one...
"They're from The Beacon," he said suddenly. The one he recognized was part of the senior staff. What is her name? he wondered. Cathy? He got up from his burger and started toward them. Carly?
"Cindy?" he asked, reaching their table.
The young woman's eyes went cold. "Cynthia," she corrected him, disapproval coloring her tone. But then she sighed uncertainly, staring at her hands wrapped around her half-empty glass of lemonade. "Detective Cooper...we have a problem."
Frank sat at the table with them uninvited, leaning toward the younger woman as if sharing a confidence, his features serious. "What can I do for you? Your boyfriend giving you some trouble?"
The dark-haired girl snorted her disbelief. Cynthia just stared at him blankly, wondering what had possessed her to come to this...this ridiculous man in the first place. She started to get up but the other girl stopped her.
"Cyn, we need his help. He knows her."
Cynthia angrily sat back down.
"Knows who?" asked Frank, his concern growing. "Maybe one of you should tell me what's going on."
The dark-haired girl and Cynthia stared at each other for a long moment, seemingly competing for control of the situation. So much was being said between them but with no words at all. Finally the blonde nodded once and the brunette turned to look at Frank, sighing.
"It could be nothing, okay? It's just that she scheduled this staff meeting herself yesterday and then she didn't show up for it. That's really not like her...but things happen, right? So we called her--"
"Wait, wait." Frank held out his hands as if to stop an onrushing train. "Who are we talking about here? And who are you in all this?"
"I'm Dennie--Denise Piola. I work at The Beacon with Cynthia. And I'm talking about Natalia--I mean, Ms. Rivera."
Frank sat forward, shocked. "What about Natalia?" he demanded, his voice measured and low.
"That's what we've been trying to tell you," interrupted Cynthia. She couldn't keep her exasperation out of her voice. "She never showed up to work today! She missed a staff meeting that she scheduled. And she's not answering her cell phone or the phone at her house. We've left messages, we've asked around. No one's seen her since she left the hotel last night."
Dennie added, "It could be nothing but--"
"No." Frank stood suddenly, looking a bit...lost. "No, you girls were right to come to me. It's...ah...probably nothing but I can check things out. Ride out to the farmhouse. See if everything's okay." He started to move toward the door but then stopped, remembering his training. "If I need to talk to you again, though, you'll be at the hotel?"
"We get off at seven," confirmed Dennie.
"Great. Thanks for... Just thank you." He caught sight of his father coming out of the kitchen as he grabbed his coat from the rack by the door. "Dad!" he called. "Dad, I've got to run out to the farmhouse for a minute. Stick by the phone, okay? Just in case!"
"Just in case of what?" called Buzz after him. But Frank was already gone.
"Come on, come on.... Pick up!" Frank took the corner into Natalia's long driveway a little wide, just missing her mailbox. He was on his cell phone and was very unhappy. "Natalia, honey, you've got some people worried about you out here, so when you get this message, call me. It's Frank." He flipped his phone shut as he drove up to the house, slamming on his brakes when he reached the parking patio. He hit a patch of ice and his cruiser slipped a little sideways, coming to a drunken stop. Natalia's car wasn't there.
Frank bolted out of his car and ran to the side door by the kitchen. He looked into the window but the kitchen was dark...and remarkably clean. No dishes on the counter or in the sink, nothing out of place. Except a cell phone lying on the table. He tried the door but of course it was locked.
"Dammit!" he swore. He kicked an empty planter next to a bench and ran his hands through his hair. He walked away from the door, wondering what to do. It wasn't like her to disappear like this. But she was also a grown woman who was more than able to take care of herself. She'd been doing it long enough. He went back and forth in his head, making equally solid cases for both breaking down the door and for waiting to hear from Natalia. In the end, it came down to what he could live with and, unsurprisingly, he could live with breaking in. He'd deal with the consequences later.
He went back to the door and gripped the knob, bracing his arm and shoulder against the muntins in the window. Three sharp thrusts and the lock succumbed, the door banging off the wall loudly. "Natalia?" he called, heading for the kitchen table. He scooped up the cell phone left there and powered it up. It was Natalia's, all right. It showed that she had 17 missed calls and that the last call she'd made out had been to Company the night before at 6:33pm. Had she forgotten her cell on the way out of the house? Where could she be?
He flipped open his own phone and called the station. "Hey, yeah, Mallet? Frank. Listen, do me a favor, will ya? Check with the local wrecker companies and see if Natalia's car has been towed recently, would ya? ... No, it's probably nothing but she doesn't have her cell with her and no one's seen her since last night. ... Check the hospital, too. Cover all the bases. ... Yeah, thanks. I will." He snapped the phone shut and went into the living room. It was as clean as the kitchen had been. Not a thing out of place. He knew Natalia had been a maid, but this was ridiculous. The house didn't even look lived in!
He headed upstairs to see if her room held some clue as to where she'd gone. Of course, he had no idea which of the four bedrooms was hers. He'd never been farther in the house than the stove. He started with the door at the top of the stairs which, when opened, revealed a pink and purple wonderland. Emma's room. As cluttered as it was with the little girl's prized possessions, it was neat. The bed was made, the books and papers on the tiny white desk were arranged neatly. There were no clothes on the floor or toys out of place. Although he had no personal experience with the rooms of eight-year-old girls, Frank thought there was something...off about this one. He couldn't quite put his finger on the problem, though, and he filed the feeling away for contemplation later.
He turned left and went down the hall. The only other door on this level opened onto what looked like the scene of a recent bombing. It was chaos! Clothing strewn everywhere, the bed unmade, the closet doors askew... Olivia's room. Suddenly his uneasiness about Emma's room clarified itself: it was too neat. For an eight-year-old in general but especially for the eight-year-old daughter of Olivia Spencer. Which meant that Natalia probably cleaned it for the little girl.
"Well at least Olivia doesn't make her clean in here," he muttered, closing the door on Olivia's room firmly. He decided he was going to have to have a talk with Olivia when he saw her next. It was one thing for Natalia to clean at The Beacon but quite another for the hotelier to make her clean her daughter's room at home. Natalia's home, at that. He shook his head and climbed the last set of stairs. The first door on that level opened into a very utilitarian room with a bed, a desk, a crucifix on the wall...and little else in it to identify it's owner. After a moment, it came to him: this was Rafe's room, for when he got out of prison. Natalia had provided the basics for her son, clearly intending for him to make it his own when he moved in. He smiled a little. It was a perfectly 'Natalia' thing to do.
The last door opened onto what under other circumstances would have been a palatial master bedroom. It was spacious and filled with light. There were a pair of French doors that led onto a beautiful, South-facing deck and a wall of floor-to-ceiling palladium windows. But the furniture didn't match the grandeur of the room. A small, efficient double bed with no headboard, covered in a colorful but worn quilt, seemed lost in the space. A mismatched chest of drawers and armoire stood along one wall; a standing mirror and a quilt stand--displaying another beautiful if a little threadbare quilt--stood along the other. A blanket chest kept watch at the foot of the bed while another crucifix, this one larger, more ornate, hung on the wall over the head of the bed. The only other thing in the room was a small table next to the bed that sat completely bare except for three photographs in frames. The first photograph was of Natalia and Rafe together. Rafe was a boy in the picture--no older than ten--and he grinned unabashedly into the camera. Natalia's smile, on the other hand, was less exuberant but no less beautiful and she shaded her eyes from the sun with her hand. Frank smiled at the photo; he couldn't help it.
The second photograph was of a very young Gus Aitoro. He looked no older than seventeen and Frank could see the resemblance between this young man and his son instantly. Gus wasn't smiling in the picture. In fact, he seemed to be looking away from the camera at something that had caught his eye unexpectedly. The frame around the photograph was a bit...banged up and the glass pane was dulled by scratches and nicks. Frank imagined they'd been acquired during Natalia's many moves. She had to have been carrying this picture around for years.
The detective sighed. How was he supposed to compete with a ghost? With this particular ghost--a man who was better looking than him, a better cop, a better person? Natalia had already had the best there was--why would she settle for him? After a moment, he shook his head and made an effort to stuff his insecurities down deep. He couldn't worry about things like that now. He needed to find Natalia. That's what was important.
The last photograph was one of Natalia with Olivia and Emma and he would have overlooked it if he had only glanced at it and had left it at that. But the glance led him to look more closely. The photograph had to have been taken recently because it had been taken on the front porch of this very house. It was of Olivia and Natalia standing shoulder to shoulder behind a gap-toothed Emma and it looked for all the world like a family portrait. Natalia and Emma were both grinning at the camera, Natalia's dimples prominent and gorgeous. Olivia, on the other hand, was gazing shyly at Natalia, a sweet smile on her lips and a rare light in her sea green eyes.
Why is she looking at Natalia that way? he wondered, frowning down at the photograph. It didn't make sense to him. I mean, I know they're close but...
But the photograph suggested something altogether different.
He'd heard the rumblings in town after Emma's presentation at the school but that was ridiculous... Wasn't it? Emma hadn't meant it that way and Natalia--her faith would never allow something like that! He grabbed the picture off the desk and scrutinized it intently.
Nah, he decided finally. Olivia's just a passionate person. Natalia must've done something nice for her or something. They're like sisters, that's all. Olivia's sister died and she's looking for someone to fill that part of her life again. Natalia never had a sister. She'd like having someone look out for her like that. Yeah, that's it. That's what it is.
Satisfied with his explanation, Frank put the photograph back where he found it and looked around the spartan but spectacularly neat bedroom again. The wheels in his brain started spinning faster. So they're like sisters... If Olivia panicked when she heard about Phillip Spaulding suddenly reappearing in Springfield, would Natalia have...
How would you know? This place is a museum... Think. What would she do only if she were going away indefinitely?
His mind screamed through scenario after scenario until something occurred to him. He bounded out of the room and down the stairs, taking them two at a time until he ended up back where he started--in the kitchen.
Natalia's frugal, he thought, remembering all those stories of her being a young, unwed mother trying to provide for Rafe on the combined salaries of a waitress and a hotel maid. If she were going away and she didn't know how long she'd be gone, she'd--
He ripped open the refrigerator door. It was empty. Dark. Room temperature.
She'd empty the refrigerator and turn it off. No waste, no spoilage, no unnecessary power drain...
"They're on the run," he said to no one in particular. Hearing the words aloud didn't make them any more believable. He slammed the fridge door.
"Dammit, Natalia! Why didn't you tell me?"
TOWERS RESTAURANT & BAR
"You bastard!" growled Rick Bauer under his breath.
"Hi, Rick. I'm well, thank you for asking. How are you?" Phillip Spaulding sat, utterly relaxed, at the table he'd requested. It afforded him a perfect view of more than half of the restaurant, allowing him to mark the comings and goings of Springfield as they visited a favored eatery.
"How am I? Frankly, Phillip, I'm pissed off. You have some nerve showing your face here again."
"This is my home, Rick. Where else would I be?" The blond man folded his hands in front of him. "Please sit down. I invited you for dinner, not a show." He removed his glasses and looked pointedly at the chair opposite him.
Rick snorted. But he sat. "You haven't changed," he observed.
"I have but I'm not surprised you can't see it. You, on the other hand... Springfield in general..." He shrugged lightly. "Nothing's changed here. It's still Hell on Earth."
"Is that any way to talk about your 'home'?" asked Rick sarcastically. The waiter arrived just then and Rick waved him away. He had no appetite whatsoever.
"Dr. Bauer will have the sea bass," said Phillip, handing his menu to the waiter. "And I'll have the filet. Rare." The waiter nodded and left. Phillip turned his gaze back to his friend. "Whatever Springfield is or is not, I can no longer deny that it is where I was born and where I belong. When I left, I was a still a victim of its cruelty, fighting its influence and making little headway."
"And now?" Rick sat uneasily in his chair. He had a bad feeling about this. Phillip had changed--and it made his skin crawl.
"Now, I intend to be its master."
Rick stared at the man who used to be his closest friend, who he used to trust implicitly...until the madness had set in and ruined it all. He thought once, even after all that, that there might be a way to get through to Phillip again, that there might be a way to pull him back from the brink. He was a doctor, after all. When there was a problem, he did everything he could to fix it. He never gave up.
Looking into Phillip's eyes now, he thought the man might finally be beyond his reach.
"Olivia was right about you," he said, shaking his head. "You're insane."
Phillip smiled politely at the waiter as he set their salads in front of them. "Ah, Olivia," he said, pleasantly. "How is the tired old barfly? I haven't seen her or my daughter since I've been back. They'd apparently rather ski than face a tender family reunion."
"She's probably terrified."
Phillip considered that carefully. "Perhaps," he acceded. "A more likely scenario involves her cozying up to Emma's ski instructor and a martini or three."
Rick shook his head. "No, you're wrong. Not Olivia. Not now."
"Are you telling me Olivia has...found religion?" Even the idea amused Phillip. The Olivia he knew would darken a church's doorway only for marriage, preferably to man wealthier than her last husband.
Maybe in a pair of cocoa-colored eyes, thought Rick to himself. Aloud, he said, "No, not religion. Happiness."
Phillip dismissed this assertion out of hand. "Not possible. You forget, I was married to Olivia. She's not that kind of woman. She does 'victim,' she does 'vamp,' she does 'tragic'--all very well. She doesn't do 'happy.' She's not wired that way."
Rick leaned forward over his untouched frisée salad. "People can change, Phillip. In fact, there's your change in Springfield. Olivia Spencer. She been through a metamorphosis! More of one than even I thought was possible. At first I thought it was the heart transplant because--and I'm speaking from experience here--something like that will change a person in ways you could never imagine. But now I think it's something more. I think it's because she's found a home out there in that farmhouse and I think she's truly happy, for the first time in a long time! Maybe ever."
Phillip laid his fork across his salad plate and wiped his mouth with his napkin, using the time to order his thoughts. A heart transplant? That was valuable information and worth the unpleasantness of Rick's company. Worth it and more. He filed it away for contemplation later. What he wanted to focus on now was this...farmhouse.
"Olivia?" he asked, his tone perceptibly disbelieving. "Living in a farmhouse?"
Rick stopped and took a breath. He'd said too much and he knew it. But Phillip would get the information he wanted eventually. Rick's hesitance would only delay the inevitable.
"Yeah. Yeah. Remember that old place out on 4 near the State Park? She and Emma live out there now, with Natalia, and they--"
"They live with whom?" interrupted Phillip, his voice deceptively light. His eyes, though, had gone jet black.
The sinking feeling in Rick's stomach grew exponentially.
"With Natalia. Natalia Rivera, Olivia's assistant at The Beacon."
Phillip sensed Rick was holding something back. "And?" he asked simply.
Damn my big mouth. "And Gus Aitoro's widow. Whose heart Olivia received."
Phillip actually smiled. It was not comforting. In fact, it was rather...serpentine.
"Well, you've been much more help than I expected, Rick. Thank you. I hope I can expect more of the same over the next few months."
"What--no! I'm not helping you with whatever it is you're planning! I helped you once before and a man died because of it!"
"Yet you're still practicing medicine at Cedars, still a free man. It doesn't seem to have impacted your day-to-day living much." Phillip seemed almost bored.
Rick was flabbergasted. "'A free man?' My 'day-to-day' liv-- You bastard! I will carry that man's death with me for the rest of my life! I barely go an hour without thinking about it, even now!" Rick threw his napkin on the table. "You know what? Whatever friendship you and I had died with Ross. I'm done." He started to get up to leave but the arrival of their waiter kept him seated.
Phillip remained quiet while the waiter cleared their salad plates and served their entrées. When the young man had taken his leave, he smiled another serpentine smile. "How's Jude?" he asked quietly as Rick began to rise from the table.
The change in topic threw Rick for a moment and he sat back down, running his hand through his hair. "He's fine," he said cautiously. "He's with Harley."
"Are you sure?" It was a simple question, delivered blandly, but Rick exploded out of his chair.
"Are you threatening my son?" he growled at Phillip, leaning menacingly over the table at the man.
"Not at all. I asked if you were sure where he was. Because I am. I know where all my children are and I once told you I loved Jude as if he were my own. You were right; he is, in fact, with Harley." His eyes darkened considerably. "You see? I know where all my children are--except for one."
Rick slowly sat back in his chair. "You mean Emma? I thought you said they were skiing?"
"I thought they were. But it was Natalia who told me so. I confirmed it with a call to The Briarwood, but..." He retrieved his cell from his pocket and initiated a call. "Yes, Olivia Spencer's room, please... I see. And when was that? ... Thank you." He disconnected the call and looked up at Rick. "They checked out the day I called," he said impassively.
"I believe it's time for me to pay a visit to this farmhouse. And to have a few words with Natalia Rivera." He caught the waiter's eye and motioned for the check. "If you'll excuse me?" At Rick's nod, he said, "It's almost touching, in a way, you know. Your willingness to help me."
"I never said I would help you," countered Rick but his protestation lacked anything in the way of force.
"Yes, you did," Phillip assured him.
Rick slumped in his chair, staring blankly at his untouched fish. "When I sat down," he said ruefully, his mouth twisting in a self-recriminating scowl.
"No," said Phillip. His eyes were as cold and as calculating as Rick had ever seen them. "When you showed up at all."
Comments are love!