Heroes and FriendsFandom:
PG-13 for this chapterDisclaimer:
These wonderful ladies and the rest of the town belong to CBS, Telenext, and P&G. I’m just having some fun with them.Spoilers:
I don’t think so. This story picks up at the “no more waiting” gazebo scene and goes off canon.Summary:
Nat gets the shock of her life and it turns Liv’s world upside down.Warning:
Not beta’d so if it sucks, there’s only me to blame.A/N:
Well, folks, this is it. The last “official” chapter. The smexy epilogue will be forthcoming. I wanted to torture you all, but I love all of you too much for that. Links to previous chapters: Chapter 1 - Chapter 2 - Chapter 3 - Chapter 4 - Chapter 5 - Chapter 6 - Chapter 7 - Chapter 8 - Chapter 9 - Chapter 10 - Chapter 11 - Chapter 12 - Chapter 13 - Chapter 14 - Chapter 15 - Chapter 16.1 - Chapter 16.2 - Chapter 17 - Chapter 18 - Chapter 19
- Chapter 20
- Chapter 21
- Chapter 22
- Chapter 23
- Chapter 24a
- Chapter 24bChapter 25
Olivia glared at the clock that read 7:43 AM, then rolled over to glare as well, with no effect, at her bouncing daughter. Natalia was already out of bed, slipping on a t-shirt behind Emma’s back, and unsuccessfully fighting the urge to laugh as Olivia was jostled from her sleep.
“Emma!” Olivia whined and buried her head under her pillow. “Visitor hours at the hospital don’t start until ten. This is cruel and unusual punishment.”
The little girl giggled and pulled at her mother’s pillow. “Aw, come on, Mom! We can go feed the ducks before we leave.”
Natalia finally took mercy on her sleep-deprived girlfriend. “Tell you what, Em. Go get some of the old bread in the pantry and head out to the lake. I’ll make a pot of coffee for your mom, and I bet you she’ll be out there in no time.”
“Okay!” Emma was out the door and down the stairs before Natalia barely finished talking.
“And there she goes.” She sat down on the side of the bed, running her hand over Olivia’s hair, which was mostly hidden under the pillow. “Oh, to have that much energy again. You can come out now, Olivia. She’s gone.”
“Don’t wanna. It’s dark and cozy under here.”
Natalia smiled at her muffled reply. “Even if I make coffee and make it very strong.”
She could feel the sigh from the older woman even if she couldn’t hear it. “It’ll take a few minutes to brew, right? Fifteen, maybe twenty minutes? Just a little bit longer, baby.”
Natalia pulled up the pillow a little to give Olivia a kiss on the head. “Okay, but that’s it.”
Not even fifteen minutes later, the sweet aroma of freshly brewed coffee had Olivia up and out of bed. She smiled to see a plate of scrambled eggs and toast, still steaming, sitting on the table with her filled coffee mug next to it.
She saw the folded note next to her plate and picked it up.
“I knew you couldn’t resist a good cup of coffee. We’re down at the lake. Sit, eat, and then come join us. Love you, N.”
“Damn, she’s good.” She sat and ate, contemplating something. “Natalia’s always doing something for me or someone else. Maybe it’s time someone took care of her.”
Smiling to herself, she picked up her cell phone. Ten minutes later, she was sauntering down to the lake her plans for the night in place.
On the other side of town, Rafe looked at his phone, dripping wet from the shower he had gotten out of twice in the last twenty minutes, then he started laughing at the request coming through the other end of the line.
“Dude, you two are freaks! Just ask her out or something or whatever two women do, have coffee or knit or something.”
The long pause made him swallow hard and wonder if he had enough of a head start to escape the wrath of Olivia Spencer. When she spoke, her voice was darkly even. “Knitting with your mother is not what I have in mind, Rafe.”
“Ew!!! I need to scrub my brain out now, Olivia. Thanks!”
She sighed, her patience wearing thin. “Are you going to help or not?”
“Well, you’ve already scarred me for life so why not finish the job?” He grumbled.
“I’ll take that as a yes. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome, I guess. See you in a little while.”
He hung up the phone and shook his head then turned back to finish his shower. His very hot shower. One that’ll be hot enough to scald the image of his Mom and Olivia having a romantic dinner, and God knows what else tonight, from his mind.
“Daddy!” Emma raced into the room and was quickly pulled back by Olivia before the little girl could leap onto her recovering father.
Emma turned pouting green eyes up at her mother. “Sorry. I just wanted to hug him to make him feel better.”
Now Olivia felt like a heel. “That’s fine, honey. Just do it gently, okay?”
Phillip watched the exchange with amusement then smiled big and opened his arms to Emma as she climbed on his bed to wrap her arms around his neck. “Hey, baby.”
“Are you feeling better, Daddy?”
He tweaked her on the nose, making her giggle. “Much better now that you’re here.”
An hour later, Rafe tapped softly on the door to Phillip’s room. When he didn’t get any acknowledgement, he poked his head in the room. What he saw scrubbed away the last vestiges of ickiness he had felt earlier. Seated comfortably in the hospital chair, next to Phillip’s bed, was his mother, her head tilted back laughing at a funny story Emma was telling everyone. Behind her stood Olivia, her hands resting gently on his mom’s shoulders. Occasionally, she would give the shoulders a soft rub and squeeze. He watched for a few seconds and realized he was smiling to himself. It was a smile that corresponded to the one on Natalia’s face. He was happy, and he finally understood that it was because she was happy too. He had gotten what he had asked for even if it didn’t come in the way he had expected, but seeing his mom smile made him realize that the unexpected gifts are some of the best kind.
He tapped on the door again and this time Natalia turned to see him. “Hey! How was Alan?”
Rafe stepped in and nodded at Phillip and Beth, then stuck his hands in his pockets, shrugging as he looked over at his mom. “You know, typical Alan. I’ve never seen a nurse move so fast to get out of someone’s room before!”
“I have.” Natalia joked as she playfully nudged her shoulder back against Olivia’s hip, making everyone laugh.
“That’s why you needed me. I wasn’t taking your crap lady.”
Olivia smiled at the memory. “Thank goodness.”
Rafe looked down and cleared his throat. “Anyway, um,” he looked up at Olivia, “I was wondering if I could steal my mom for the afternoon, maybe Em too. Take my favorite ladies to lunch, maybe play with Munchkin in the park or something.”
Olivia’s mouth fell open and tried to come off as offended but it didn’t work. “Favorite ladies, huh? What about me?”
“Uhhh,” Rafe stalled but was mercifully interrupted by Olivia raising a hand and reaching into her pocket for her cell phone.
A quick pass of eye contact between Olivia and Rafe had her winking at him. She rolled her eyes at everyone else. “It’s Greg.” She flipped the phone open and proceeded to let Greg know he was seconds away from receiving his last paycheck if he didn’t talk fast. After a few moments of silence, she sighed, “Fine. I’ll be there in a few minutes.”
Natalia looked up at her as she slipped the phone back in her pocket. “What’s wrong?”
“Oh, just small stuff like a major conference for one of the largest companies in the country, and we’re fortunate enough to have a chef with the stomach flu. Oh, and the new bartender somehow managed to tip over the most expensive rack of wine in the cellar. Good times!” She gave a hearty, but sarcastic, thumbs up on the matter.
Natalia reached for Olivia. “Oh my God, Olivia. We need to get over there.”
She waved her hand and shook her head. “No, no. Spend time with Rafe. The two of you have some quality time with Emma this afternoon. Really, it probably sounds worse than it really is. I’ll just swing by Towers and call in a favor with the owner for some wine. The kitchen staff will simply have to find a way to work around Fernando’s absence.”
“You’re sure.” Natalia looked at her sadly. It seemed like they’d never be able to just relax.
“Absolutely. And if I get on it right now, it won’t take that long.”
“Um, you don’t have a car, remember? Suicidal deer and all.”
Olivia raised her hands, having already solved the problem in her head. “No biggie. I’ll get a car from The Beacon then head to Towers.”
“Um, okay. If you’re sure. Eat something, okay?” Olivia smiled at Natalia’s obvious worry. She knew how Olivia got when she was stressed, and it was a characteristic that Olivia adored in her.
“I will.” She reached for Natalia’s hand and tugged her closer. She gave her a tender but chaste kiss on the lips. “Love you.”
Natalia couldn’t help but blush a little, and she felt something else stir in her…pride. “Love you too.”
Once the door to the room closed, the brunette turned back to look at her son who noticed she looked visibly relieved. “Well, that just made things a lot easier. Now I don’t have to think of an excuse to get away from her.”
Phillip and Beth looked at each other oddly and then at Natalia. Finally, Beth asked, “Why would you want to get away from Olivia?”
“Aside from the obvious?” Phillip joked.
Natalia ignored it and looked at her smiling children who were in on the whole thing. “It’s not a matter of want but need.”
Phillip looked at Beth again. “Clear as mud to me. How about you?”
“Come on, Natalia. What’s going on?” Beth crossed her arms.
She shook her head. “If it works out, everyone will find out soon enough.”
Over at The Beacon, Greg scrambled into the kitchen with the most expensive wine the hotel carried while Fernando and Olivia filled a bag with a variety of pastas, meats, cheeses, and veggies. She stood back and looked around, making sure she didn’t forget anything. The two men stood by silently, still having no clue what was going on. When she was satisfied that she had all she needed, she picked up the bag and bottle of wine and headed for the back door.
“Aren’t you going to tell us what this is about?” Greg was dying to know.
“Nope! But thanks for your help.” She called over her shoulder as the door closed behind her.
The crew of three worked steadily and happily side-by-side in the small kitchen area as music played through the surround sound speakers. It was the one thing that Frank had insisted on having set up perfectly, and now Rafe was grateful for because it drowned out Emma’s horrible singing. Too bad it didn’t help improve his mother’s dancing. He cringed as she shimmied around the tiny space. All he could hope was that Olivia had rhythm and could teach her some. That brought a whole other mental picture to mind and he quickly turned with the bowl of fruit in his hand to the sink behind him to rinse, with really cold water.
Emma began to trim the crusts off the sandwiches she had just put together and looked at Natalia, who was mixing a cream cheese dip for the strawberries. “So, do you know what you’re going to say yet?”
Rafe cut off the water. He had to hear this. Natalia tried to focus on what she was doing, pretending that it wasn’t that big of a deal. She even shrugged her shoulders. “Not exactly. I mean, I have but I don’t have the exact wording down. Everything I think in my head sounds good until I start to say it outloud. Then it just sounds stupid and juvenile, like some Hallmark card.”
“Ma, you can’t just go in there unprepared. If you do it right, you may never get a chance to say it again. And if you don’t do it right, you definitely won’t get to do it again. Besides, there’s only so many ways you can say it.” He turned back to his task of drying and sorting the fruit, placing them carefully in a bowl.
A frazzled Natalia dropped the spoon into her mixing bowl. “I know. But what if I screw up? What if…?”
“You won’t screw up.” Emma commented matter-of-factly, sounding far too old for her age. “When you love someone and they love you, you can’t screw up.”
Rafe smiled at his incredulous mother. “From the mouths of babes, huh?”
Olivia worked fast around the kitchen. She had never mixed, stirred, or measured so fast in her life. She was mildly surprised the beeper for her pacemaker hadn’t gone off, but seriously, if it could survive her crawling through a sewer pipe on San Cristobel to save Natalia, it could handle her in Martha Stewart mode.
She tasted the sauce for the chicken and added a little more pepper. The timer on the oven went off and she removed the slightly toasted head of garlic. Finding the bread, she split the loaf in half and set it aside. Then reached for a small bowl and butter. She added the now softened garlic to the butter with some fresh oregano and melted it all together. She generously buttered the toast and slid the tray in the oven.
A few minutes later, she was putting the finishing touches on the meal and was setting the table when her phone rang. She answered immediately when she saw Natalia’s name. This keeps working out better and better. At least now she has some forewarning about when Natalia would make it home.
“Hey, are you three in trouble already?”
“Olivia.” There was a long moment of silence and she felt her heart falter. “I need you to come to the park.” Natalia’s voice sounded…strange.
“Is it Emma? Is she okay?”
“Emma’s fine; Rafe has her. I just…I need you.”
“I…I’ll be right there, baby.”
“I’m at the gazebo.”
“Okay, sit tight.”
Olivia only hesitated a moment, wondering what was making Natalia sound so scared and desperate. She moved around the kitchen and turned off everything. When she spun around to grab her keys, her eyes landed on the Virgin Mary sitting calmly on the shelf.
“Can I ask a favor? Could you please ask your boss to give us a break, just once? That’s all I ask. Just once.” She rolled her eyes at the silent statue and left without giving it another thought.
Olivia looked at the clock on the console in her car as she slipped the gear shift into park. 4:45 PM. The sun was sinking lower in the late summer sky, giving the air a slightly brisk feeling letting it be known that fall wasn’t far away. There was still plenty of light to see though, and even from a distance, she could easily make out the long dark hair pulled back securely in a ponytail.
As she got closer, she didn’t get the feeling in Natalia’s body language that anything was wrong. In fact, the other woman was leaning casually against one of the posts by the steps looking out over the lake, one arm wrapped around the post. She made sure to make some noise as she climbed the steps in an effort not to startle her girlfriend. When Natalia turned, Olivia felt any fear from the phone call fall away. Natalia smiled at her warmly, the movement of her body to the side urging her to come closer.
“Hey,” Natalia spoke softly, almost reverently into the light breeze.
Olivia smirked at her, feeling something was up with Natalia, the coy look peeking out from under her lashes a dead giveaway. “So, where’s the fire, hot stuff?”
The brunette giggled and moved closer, tilting her head up to give Olivia a kiss. “I did need you and I still do, probably always will.”
Olivia brushed her hands along Natalia’s hips, until they were wrapped securely around her waist. “Uh huh, you’re up to something, Rivera. Spill it.”
Natalia sighed and rested her forehead against Olivia’s chest, relishing in the older woman’s scent. “Busted, huh?”
“So busted. You’re not very good at hiding things.”
Natalia pulled back out of her arms but held out a hand when Olivia moved forward to get close again. “Nuh uh, stay right there.”
She watched curiously as Natalia walked down the steps to the side of the gazebo. When Natalia came back around the corner, Olivia could see that Natalia carried what appeared to be a picnic basket in her hands. She shifted the basket in her hands as she negotiated the steps. Dark strands of hair fell from her ponytail and into her eyes. The smile on Olivia’s face disappeared as an image from a dream flashed through her mind. It was identical to the image in front of her down to the black jacket Natalia was wearing.
The words from her dreams came out as if they had a will of their own, and for a moment, the rush in her ears and the darkening of her peripheral vision made her wonder if she had even spoken them.
“So, what have you got there?”
Natalia started to answer until she remembered she had heard those words before too, in her dreams. Then she saw the unsteady sway of Olivia, her eyes glassy, and sweat popping out on her forehead. She quickly tossed the basket on the bench and reached for Olivia with both hands, steadying her. She pulled Olivia’s face down willing the haunted green eyes to look at her.
“No peeking. It’s a surprise.”
Olivia started to shake uncontrollably. “Oh my God, Natalia. What the hell?”
“Baby, it’s okay. Stay with me.”
The older woman was getting into full-blown panic mode, and Natalia squeezed her hands tighter, pulling her closer. “But I am here, Natalia. I’ve been here, and you were there too and then you left, just gone. I thought you had left me and you didn’t want me. I was so afraid…so afraid I’d never find you.”
“But you did, Olivia. You did. You found me and you saved me, in so many ways. You’re my very own superhero.” She was crying now, hard. They both were as they held each other tight. It took a moment for the panic to pass, but once it had and Olivia could focus, she pulled back.
She shook her head and took a deep breath. “What was that? Déjà vu?”
The younger woman steadied herself as she looked up at Olivia. “I don’t think so.” Another moment passed and she continued, “Olivia, when Edmund had me captive, I kept having this recurring dream. It was always the two of us. We were always here in the gazebo, and I always had a basket with me, just like the day when I came for Emma’s service project. Sometimes the dream was beautiful and romantic. Sometimes it turned into a nightmare. But it always started the same.”
Olivia stepped back and went to the bench. “I need to sit down.” She looked up at Natalia who was pushing hair out of her face. “I had the same dream. When you walked up those steps, for a moment, you looked exactly like you did in that dream, and I lost it. I thought it was happening again, but for real. Like a nightmare I couldn’t get out of.”
The brunette came and sat down next to her, taking her hand gently in her own, turning it over and tracing her lifeline with her finger. “You did that too.”
“What?” Natalia looked up at her.
“In another dream, out by the lake at the farmhouse, you did that.”
“Olivia, this is…”
“Unbelievable.” Olivia finished for her.
She shrugged. “I was going to say a miracle.”
“Why?” Olivia’s voice was soft and unsure.
Natalia bit her lip then just decided to go for it. This most certainly wasn’t how she expected this to go, but she knew now more than ever that this was their shared destiny. She tilted her head toward the basket. “Look in the basket, Olivia.”
Olivia swallowed hard. “I can’t. The last time I did, bad things happened.”
“That was a dream. This is real. But it’ll all make sense if you look in the basket.”
She knew she couldn’t resist Natalia anything, so she turned from her and raised the wooden lid on the basket. Inside was a small black box sitting atop a bed of white silk. She squeezed her eyes shut. It was just like in the dream.
She jerked her head back to the woman next to her. “Natalia.”
The younger woman stood and leaned over her, taking the box from its confines. She got to her knee and flipped it open to reveal a simple gold band with a classic diamond on it. “Everything we’ve been through, Olivia. Your transplant, losing Gus, the almost wedding, the kidnapping, the dreams, all of it has happened to bring us to this point and show us the immutable fact that you and I are meant to be together. That God brought us together and made us for each other. This moment, and what we just experienced, is proof that our souls are bound together. Even when we were apart, Olivia, we shared our dreams and you already had my heart, now I want to give you my body and my life. I love you, Olivia. And while our souls are bonded for all eternity, and of that, I am absolutely certain, I also know I want to join with you in this life as your wife. And I want to give you this ring as a symbol of our eternal bond.”
In the midst of Natalia’s proposal, Olivia had brought her hand to her mouth and was now crying freely. This was the life and love she had never thought she could have, a love that she never thought she’d be graced with. Her life experiences had tainted her ability to believe in God, much less fate or destiny, but kneeling before her was all the proof she needed. A woman of boundless grace and beauty and enough faith for ten people believed in their love enough to offer not only a lifetime but eternity as her mate. How did she ever get so blessed?
Natalia smiled as she read the expressions flash across Olivia’s face. She tilted her head to the side. “So, Olivia Spencer, are you going to marry me or not?”
Olivia started laughing through her tears. “Yes…absolutely, 100 percent…yes.” She pulled Natalia to her feet and stood as well.
With shaky hands, Natalia took Olivia’s hand and slipped the ring on her left hand.
“It fits perfect,” Olivia smiled down at her.
“Just like us?”
Olivia nodded in agreement before leaning down to kiss her fiancé. The kiss held all of their promises to each other and all of the life they have yet to live together in its tender embrace. They had kissed many times over the last few weeks, but this was entirely different from all the others. The first kiss had opened a floodgate of desire. It was passionate and needy, raw and desperate, a kiss borne of pent up desire. That was until Emma rudely interrupted with a nightmare. This though was something else entirely. Banked warm and low under the surface was the fire that had been there before, that had been existing between them for the last year, but it was tempered with faith and commitment, a knowing that only lovers who have a lifetime and more ahead of them can sense.
Olivia broke the kiss with a contented sigh, bringing an enraptured and smiling Natalia along with her as she reached for one last peck. Olivia gestured over her shoulder at the basket sitting innocently on the bench.
“So, is there food in there?”
Natalia nodded. “Yeah. Do you want something?”
Olivia started to shrug then shook her head, laughing softly, never letting Natalia go. “No, but maybe you should eat something. It’s getting late.”
The younger woman tilted her head and smiled knowingly, tracing Olivia’s full bottom lip with her finger. “I’m hungry…but not for food.”
Olivia’s breathing stopped for a moment almost afraid to move in case it broke the spell and Natalia changed her mind. But to Olivia’s great pleasure, she didn’t. The brunette instead took Olivia’s hand in one of her own and the basket in the other before looking back at Olivia. “Let’s go home.”