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 exposition with multiple characters. I am very interested in knowing whether this style works how I have intended it, so let me know.
Thank You: To mightbefound and bldy_destini for beta-ing this story. Thank you also to Tiff for helping me to figure out the major plot problems I'd been having and for being on call when I forget them and need to review. ;) Thank you to djshiva for your comments and general enthusiasm for this story.
THE SOUTHWEST CHIEF BETWEEN GALLUP AND ALBUQUERQUE, NM
Oh God! I just wanted a few minutes to breathe...to think. Everything's all.... Too.... I--I think I'm in shock. I just wanted five minutes of peace. After I got you and Emma settled. After the train left Flagstaff and I could let go the breath I'd been holding since we left the cafeteria. No one followed us. Nobody looked at us twice. I was so relieved.
But I've been staring out this window for hours now--without a single thought in my head. My brain feels like I left it in the back of the freezer for a year. Frozen. Useless.
We...we just barely made it on this train. And by the time we got the tickets and the baggage and Emma settled, the train was on its way and you--thank God--you fell asleep. Finally.
You're still sleeping and I'm so grateful because even that was my fault--you sitting on that couch all night, too disgusted to sleep in the same bed with me. I cover my face with my hands, willing myself not to cry.
Oh God! What's happening to me? On top of everything else, now I find out that I'm--I'm what? Attracted to you? That I have some sort of crush on you? That I'm infatuated?
I glance across the aisle at you and I gasp, completely unprepared for my reaction. You're asleep in your aisle seat, your head resting against your own shoulder, Emma curled at your side, her head in your lap. You have one arm around Emma's shoulders, holding her to you. The other one lays next to your leg in the seat, palm upward, fingers still, curled elegantly. Tendrils of your honeyed hair have pulled from the hasty ponytail you created this morning and they frame your face, relaxed in sleep. Your long eyelashes lay softly on your cheeks and your lips are parted slightly. You are so beautiful and all at once a wave of feeling crashes over me and through me, stopping my heart inside me, stealing my breath.... Tears fill my eyes and I blink them away....
You are the most beautiful thing I've ever seen and suddenly I realize...this isn't a crush.
Everything...everything crystallizes in a single moment of recognition. Months of misunderstood longing and sudden, inexplicable giddiness; of a feeling of connectedness and closeness like I've never felt before; of a growing protectiveness and a deliberately ignored undercurrent of desire--it all makes perfect sense to me now. All those nights trying to forget that kiss.... Waking up in your arms the other morning...and trying to recreate that feeling of sanctuary the next night....
Oh my God. I'm in love with you.
For a brief moment, my heart takes off, soaring like a kite catching the edge of the sky. Then...then it crashes at my feet, dropped from a windless height to shatter.
That--that woman. That's what she saw. My heart in my eyes. Was it so obvious? Did you see it, too?
It doesn't matter what she saw; she was still wrong! She had no right to say those things about us! I feel my face heating with anger all over again.
Stupid, ignorant so-called Christians!
I know I shouldn't be so judgmental--after all, the Catholic Church isn't known for its tolerance of anything outside the tired 'one man, one woman, married with children' blueprint.
I know. I remember what it felt like, to be the one the church ladies sneered down their noses at, to be the one children pointed at, and the one men, caught between leering and embarrassment, turned away from. I remember the nuns' hard eyes and Father Benito's sad, disappointed smile when he gave me communion every Sunday. But even though they all abandoned me or judged me or laughed at me, even though I was alone--with a fatherless baby growing in my belly and a decision to keep him firm in my heart--God never turned from me. I felt His love and His protection every day. In the smile from the dark-haired girl at the El who took my token as I boarded the train. In the few-and-far-between ten dollar tips just when I needed them most. In the free clinic in the basement at St. Basil's, when Rafe was little and burning up with fever and I had nothing to spare for doctors or medicines. Even in the days when all I asked for was to make it to the end of yet another shift and I did. God's love is unconditional. I know that. I lived that.
That's how I know that people who believe homosexuality is against God's commandments are...misinformed.
None of us are perfect and God's love never wavers. Look at everything His children do.... Wars, torture, murder, hatred, deceit, infidelity.... All this is in the world and all this can be forgiven, but loving someone of the same sex...can't? I don't believe that. Love...real love...is never wrong. It can't be. God is all about love and when you feel love you're experiencing that love through God. You're allowed to feel what He feels. And that's what's so wonderful about it--when you feel that direct gift from God, when you feel that love, you have to cherish it with all your heart. Love like that doesn't harm anyone. Ignorance like that woman's is only proof that she doesn't know God at all. Not really.
I thought about this a lot just before Rafe went through puberty. I was working three jobs--again--and one of them was as a waitress with a wait staffing service. Cater waiters, with our little tuxes and bow ties. Half of them were actors supplementing their incomes with work that wouldn't interfere with daytime auditions. And half of them were gay. My best friend at that job was a gorgeous man named Guillermo. He had the sweetest heart wrapped in a body that couldn't have been more perfect if it had been carved out of marble. He was an actor and a model but he'd also worked for the company for years, on and off. He was the best cater waiter I've ever worked with and he trained me. Until then, I'd only worked at diners and coffee shops. Cater waiting is an entirely different animal.
Guillermo was also gay. I was young and naive and curious all at the same time. He was so sweet with me, though. Let me ask the most.... I'm sure he thought I was an idiot. Thinking back now--the questions I asked.... He never made me feel bad, though, and he answered everything. He told me how he'd known he was gay and I remember being surprised at how young he knew. He explained to me that everyone goes through puberty at roughly the same time and that many people know then--how did he put it? 'On which side their bed is buttered?' He had and he'd had to hide it. He knew his father would kill him if he ever found out. The day he graduated high school, he moved out of his parents' house. He was sure his mother suspected and if she did, then his father wouldn't be far behind. He left before they could throw him out. It was so sad to me. I mean, my mother had thrown me out but that was...different. I made a mistake. A preventable one. Guillermo hadn't done anything wrong. He was a sweet, loving, talented, hardworking man who also happened to be gay. And for that one thing his parents would disown him?
It was after one day of talking to him between courses at a corporate banquet, somewhere between the soup and the entrée, that I decided that no matter what, I would support and love my son. Gay, straight--none of that mattered. What was important was the man he became. Not the gender of the person whom he loved. Raphael would never have to worry that I would turn my back on him.
I look at you and the butterflies I felt in the cafeteria return--and they bring friends. I never...I never expected this for me. That I would fall in love with a woman....
Not just any woman, either. Olivia Spencer. The most beautiful, the most frustrating, the most complicated woman in Springfield.
It doesn't surprise me. Not really. We've been so close this past year and you've become so important to me, so integral to my life. And you've taught me so much about who I am...what I'm capable of...what kind of strength I possess. Someone might think it's because of Nicky's heart and maybe...maybe my connection to you started there--started with me being unable to let go of the last piece of what I thought was my happiness. But this--what I'm feeling now, this great big open place inside me, filled with hope and sadness and longing and desire--this isn't about Nicky's heart. This is about snuggling on the couch together for Friday Night Movie Night. This is about our I-wash-you-dry talks after dinner. This is about listening to you hit snooze over and over every morning. This is about you and--and--
And I should have seen this coming.
If I had seen this coming, I might have been able to stop it. I might have been able to spare you all the confusion and--and maybe none of this would be happening now.
If I'd been able to stop it, you'd be getting more sleep than you are. If I'd been able to stop it, that harpy in the cafeteria wouldn't have seen what she thought she saw and we'd all be safe.
I--my head is spinning again, guilt dancing with longing, fear and self-recrimination with confusion and so much love. What I need is faith. What I need is the words that have always brought me comfort. I reach under my seat and pull out my smaller bag, the one with all the necessities. Toiletries, first-aid kit, Bible.... Yeah, I'm exactly that way.
I unzip it and reach into it, finding the soft leather cover of my very old, very worn Bible...the first thing I bought with my very first paycheck. I ate ramen noodles all that week, but I didn't care. God came first. That mattered to me.
I pull the book into my lap and run my fingers over the cover, saying a little prayer of thanks for the wisdom held within. Then I open it to a random page, letting circumstance tell me what I need to read.
I gasp when I see what page I'm on. The Song of Songs. The poem of love between King Solomon and his bride. I've always loved this book, both for it's lyrical language and how it makes me feel.
It's chapter five and my eyes scan the text, looking for whatever relevance I can find. It doesn't take me long to find it.
4Thou art fair, O my love, as Tirzah,
Comely as Jerusalem,
Terrible as an army with banners.
5Turn away thine eyes from me,
For they have overcome me.
But...but it wasn't her, was it? It's me--my fault! I'm the one doing this to you...undermining your strength, endangering Emma. I'm the weak link in this chain. If the woman in the cafeteria could see it then others will be able to as well. How...how do I stop that from happening? How do I keep my eyes from betraying me? And more than that--how do I keep my face from betraying us? I'm the one that sticks out in our little family. The Amber Alert practically screamed 'That dirty field rat did something bad to the nice white lady and her little girl!' When people see us, it will be me that they'll recognize. Not you. Not Emma. Me! I'm not the person to rely on. I'm the biggest danger to Emma now. You need to rely on yourself. You're so much better at fighting than I am and right now, we need someone who can fight. We need the army of you, banners flying high.
I turn away from you, my heart aching in my chest, tears blurring my eyes. I stare out the window to my right, the darkness of the New Mexico countryside rarely broken by clusters of lights indicating life, indicating a gathering of people in some common endeavor. Families in homes made warm against the winter chill; children safely asleep while parents sit in kitchens, talking over the last of a pot of coffee, or in living rooms, watching the evening news. Knitters knitting long, periwinkle scarves, glasses perched halfway down their noses, the blue light of the television set reflected in the lenses. Farmers getting caught up on the state of the world existing outside of their worry over seed prices or a tractor that needs repairing. Children asleep, cheeks pink with heat from the radiators, dreaming of a summer that lies slumbering in the cold earth.
That's what I want. I want to go home. With you, with Emma. With Rafe, when he's freed from that hellish prison.
I want to be in our kitchen, leaning over a pot of my special chili, breathing in spice and heat as I listen to you and Emma quietly going over her spelling words for the big test tomorrow. I want to wake up in the morning before you, slipping silently down the stairs to start a pot of coffee, setting your favorite mug next to the machine to wait.
But...but what if we never get to go home again? What if this is our life now? Or worse, what if you find out how I feel and you don't...can't....
Tears drip off my cheeks before I realize I've begun to cry and just as I wipe them away, I feel a hand on my arm and I jump. It's you, of course. Who else would it be at 2 o'clock in the morning, on this train speeding through nowhere?
"Hey," you say softly. My heart thuds painfully in my chest with the sound of your voice. "Are you okay?"
I wipe my eyes but I can't look at you. Your simple touch, just the slight pressure of your hand on my arm makes me shudder. If I look at you now, you'll know the secrets of my heart. I can't risk that. Not when I'm to blame for backing us into this corner, for destroying every gain we've made since I found you at that laundromat. "It's all my fault," I whisper brokenly. "I'm so sorry, Olivia. It's all my fault...."
You don't seem to know what I'm talking about; your voice sounds so confused. "What's your fault?"
I glance up at you, hoping you can't read everything I feel in my eyes. "We almost got caught...back there. Because of me. Because I couldn't walk away."
You smirk a little and I wonder if that's about me. Then you frown and I can see that you have no idea what happened. I never told you. We were--there were so many other things to worry about when we left the cafeteria and--and I couldn't tell you while Emma was there, listening. She--there's no reason for her to know how--how I almost got her taken away from her own mother.
"I--I don't know," I blurt, reacting to the concern I see in your eyes. How can I make you understand without making you turn away from me? "I don't know what she saw or what she thought she saw but--but a woman--a stranger--called us 'filthy'...'godless'...and I couldn't...couldn't hear that. She had no right! She doesn't know us!"
You close your eyes and for a second--one heart-stopping second--I think I've said too much, that you know how I feel. Desperate, I plunge on with the story. "She didn't know what she was talking about," I say angrily. "She had no idea what she was saying! It was just hateful and...and wrong! But I couldn't walk away! I had to...to stop her. And because of that, the other woman recognized me and called the police! Oh God, Olivia! I'm so sorry.... I almost got us caught. Because of me, Phillip almost had Emma!"
"Shhh...." You pull me into your arms and I resist the urge to simply melt into the comfort of your embrace. God, help me! I beg for strength I don't have. You run your fingers through my hair and all I want is to bury my face in your neck and stay here forever. Where it's warm and soft. Where I can feel your heartbeat against my lips. "It's okay," you whisper soothingly. "It's not your fault."
"If I had just kept my mouth shut...." My head is tucked under yours and I can hear your heart beating, strong and sure. Tears come to my eyes again; I think about how grateful I am that you're still here and about how worried I am about you. All this stress, all these crazy sleepless nights and days of fear...they're not good for you. I couldn't bear it if something happened to you. I just couldn't.
You pull back to catch my eye. "It could just as easily have been me, you know. I offered to take care of the spill, didn't I?" You chuckle ruefully. "Think about what would have happened if she'd said those things to me. Remember Towers--with the PTA mommies?"
What if it had been you? YOU would have torn that bigot apart! YOU would have sweet-talked the old lady with the phone out of her phone call! All I could do was run!
I hate how weak I am.
"You got us out of there, Natalia. You kept your head, came up with a plan, and executed it flawlessly--without any help from me. Or anyone else, for that matter. I couldn't have done that."
I shake my head. You're making it sound better than it was. You're making it sound like it wasn't my fault. "But--"
"No buts," you say, cupping my chin in your hand. "It's all true, isn't it?" I nod, reluctantly. I did do those things but it's not the amazing feat you're making it out to be!
A small smile dusts your perfect mouth. "Forget about what happened in the cafeteria. We're fine, everything worked out--"
No. No, I can't let you do this. I can't let you lie to yourself. I didn't save us! I nearly got us all caught! "What if it hadn't, Olivia? Where would Emma be now? Where would you or I be?" The thought of you in prison makes me sick to my stomach and yet it's a real possibility. If we get caught, you could go to prison! What would happen to you there? Violence, bad food, no health care to speak of.... And Emma. Phillip would have her, corrupt her. She'd grow up to be some twisted version of him instead of the sweet little Jellybean she is now. How can I live with that? I can't.
I can only think of one way to fix this.
Your eyes suddenly fill with fear and it slices into me. It almost makes me stop what I'm about to do. Almost.
"We're fine, Natalia," you say, your voice pleading. "It's fine--"
"No, it isn't!" I hiss, burying my face in my hands. "You don't know that!" I continue, swiping angrily at my tears as they fall, betraying me. "It's not fine! Everything's moving too--too fast! It's spinning out of control and I can't--I don't--"
"You said we could do this," you whisper harshly, your voice low and desperate. Your eyes go a little wild and your breathing becomes ragged, panicked. "Natalia, you said--"
I have to do this, fast and clean. Like an amputation. Oh God, it's like I'm cutting out my own heart, but...but it's the only way....
"Olivia," I say, taking your hands in mine. I shutter my heart, my voice in ice, finding it somewhere deep and dark inside myself, somewhere I don't often go. It's bleak and airless in that space and I feel that bleakness take me over. "Olivia, we should--we should split up."
For a long, sickening moment, everything stops and there's nothing in the whole world but the shock in your eyes. Then tears spill down your cheeks and you gasp as if you've been stabbed. I reach for your face, wanting to take it all back, wanting to wipe the stain of horror and devastation from your eyes but before I can, you pitch forward in your seat, clutching your chest. You try to breathe in but it sounds like you're breathing through a wet sponge.
Oh GOD! OhGodohGodohGod! "Olivia? Olivia! Stop! Just stop!" I look around desperately but there's no one to help us. I'll--I have to do it myself. I have to fix this. I grab your wrist and find your pulse. It's fast. Too fast. But it's strong and steady. No lurches, no missed beats. "Olivia, look at me," I say as calmly as I can manage, reaching for and cupping your face in my hands. "Look at me, honey," I plead. "I need you to breathe slowly in and out, okay? Can you do that for me?" You nod and I mirror the movement with my own head, willing you to breathe. You do the best you can but you still sound like the carburetor of the '76 Chevette that was my first car. It was a piece of--
"N-Natalia?" you croak and I see the fear in your eyes.
"It's okay, Olivia. It's okay." My fingers flutter over your cheeks, trying to soothe you, trying to bring you back to me. "Breathe for me, sweetie. I'm right here. Right here." Slowly, breath by breath, you begin to sound better and I reach for the water bottle in my cup holder, uncapping it in one twist. "Can you drink this? A few sips...."
Your hands are trembling as you reach for the bottle and I hold onto it with you, our fingers intertwining as we tip water into your mouth. You swallow two gulps before pushing the bottle away. I recap it and drop it in my seat, my hands going back to your face. "Tell me about your pain. What does it feel like?"
"Sharp," you gasp. "But easing up." You gesture vaguely at your chest, making a slashing motion that follows your collarbone. "Here."
"Okay. Okay." I take a deep breath. "Any abdominal pain? Pain down your left arm? Left side of your neck?"
You shake your head 'no' and I let out the breath I was holding. I reach down with one hand and check your pulse again. It's slowing now, but still strong. Good. That's good.
"I'm sorry," I whisper, realizing that this, yet again, is my fault. I look into your eyes and realize that I'm so lucky. So lucky that this was just a panic attack and not something much worse. Not something that--that would take you away from me forever. I make a decision on the spot: I'm not leaving you. I'm not going anywhere. I'll--I'll figure out a way to hide these...feelings and we'll be okay. We will.
"I'm sorry, Olivia," I whisper, stroking your cheeks with my thumbs, looking into your fearful eyes with my worried ones. "We'll figure something out. We--we'll keep trying together, okay? Please, Olivia. Forgive me...."
I can do this. I can be the superhero you think I am. Or I can die trying.
As if in a daze, you reach out and brush a strand of my hair away from my eyes. "You're...staying?"
"Yes," I say, nodding, tears flooding my eyes. "Yes, I'm staying."
The smile that blossoms on your face is the single most heartbreakingly beautiful thing I've ever seen and before I realize what I'm doing, I'm leaning toward you, my gaze focused on your perfect mouth, my own lips parting in anticipation of the kiss I'm about to give you. Your eyes widen, realizing my intent too late. Just before our mouths touch, a quiet click sounds overhead, followed by the soft, silken voice of one of the train's porters.
"Ladies and gentlemen, we're going to be arriving in Albuquerque in just about eight or so minutes here. If this is your destination, please take a moment to check that all of your carry on luggage and belongings are secured and ready for--"
You gasp and pull your face from my hands, your eyes wide with surprise. "I--I can't...." you whisper brokenly and you bolt from your seat as if it were on fire.
My hands still hover in the air, empty but unable to move. I look at you and you're fumbling with your luggage and waking Emma, trying to get her awake enough to get off the train and onto whatever bus we'll have to take to the hotel. You look up at me for two seconds, just a glance really. But my hands slowly sink from their position and fall into my lap. I'm...stunned. Because the look in your eyes is so vivid, so clear and I realize how many times I've seen it before, blind to its meaning, to its plea.
But it was there. I saw it, an emerald truth I've seen a hundred, a thousand times before.
You.... You love me, too....
Comments are love! (Told you I'd fix it.)