otalia fan fiction
An Otalia Wedding
It's 2029 and there's an Otalia wedding brewing that features siblings Emma, Rafe, Ava, Francesca and Elena. 
Violating the Rules
Blis (Blake/Doris) tale that mirrors the Otalia story set during the '1 year later' timeframe of Guiding Light with Olivia and Natalia trying to play matchmaker to the couple. 
Best Man Speech
Olivia tries to get to the heart of why Rafe dislikes her so much. 
Carino
Nothing but some NC-17 sexy smut. 
First Kiss... Revised
Story from Natalia's POV as she confesses sleeping with Frank.  
Frienemies
Upset that Natalia left her without a word, Olivia heads to ladies night to pick someone up only to find Doris who saves her from a mistake...or does she?  
Funny Shapes or Rounds
Two lovers enjoy the 'morning after' until a daughter demands breakfast. 
Girls Night Out
Natalia returns from the retreat but Olivia wants nothing to do with her. So Doris offers to take Olivia on a buddy adventure.
I Get By With a Little Help From My... Enemies
Doris offers a little bit of friendly advice and prodding to help Olivia and Natalia jump start their relationship.
I'll Be Home For Christmas
Olivia's closing a major deal in the Northeast but bad weather keeps her from getting to Springfield.
Like I Always Am
This was an altered reality/ what if story I wrote for my friend Dragonwriter who proposed, "What if Olivia didn't 'wake up' after her heart test & Natalia kissed her?"
Loving You Both
Olivia finds a way to help Natalia balance their love and her lovers' faith in God. 
Lunch Counter Confessions
Olivia gossips with Doris and Blake about Natalia and the wonders of lesbian sex.
Matt? Really?
This story was written on a daily/weekly basis and used spoilers following Natalia's return from the retreat. 
It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Year
Natalia reflects on a Christmas past and their first Christmas with newborn Francesca. 
Merry Christmas Baby
A sexy NC-17 sequel to my Christmas 2009 story, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” 
One Kiss
Otalia’s first kiss told from one of the character’s perspective. ‘Nuff said.
Pass The Potato Salad
In this tale, pregnant Natalia goes to the BBQ, not the retreat. 
Promises Promises
Set a year after the infamous Bauer Barbecue, Natalia tells Olivia she'll 'meet her there' when she ends up running late and it stirs up old feelings. 
Road Trip 
Story based on spoilers that Doris and Olivia were going on a road trip to find Natalia. 
Score One for Natalia Rivera
Olivia's ex's gossip about her prowess as a lover and a drunken Natalia joins the conversation.
This isn't Supposed to Happen
Our gals late night musings as they lie in bed. 
Tonight It Feels Like Home
Olivia is back in the farmhouse again and trying to find a comfort level she once had before Natalia's bolt to the retreat. 
Two Mommies (Take Two)
Rafe examines the relationship of his mother and Olivia. 
Supply & Demand
Olivia and Natalia take Francesca trick or treating and the youngster learns a lesson in marketing. 
Dimples
A collection of short stories about Francesca Spencer told from various family members point of view with each chapter representing a year from her life. 
Until Death
Dark tale of what might have happened if Natalia went through with the wedding.
 
Chapter Forty-Two

Doris sat at the booth at Company with Natalia at the end. She was sitting on Olivia’s lap with her Olivia’s hands between her knees. Olivia felt Natalia stiffen for a moment and then relax. The older woman leaned back to see that Frank had walked in.

"Do you want to move?" Olivia asked in an even voice.

Natalia turned slightly and she cupped Olivia’s cheek.

"No," she answered. "He’s going to have to get used to seeing us together. Everyone will and if they can’t take it – screw them."

Olivia grinned.

"I gotta say, I’m likin’ this Natalia," she replied.

Natalia leaned over slightly and kissed Olivia gently on the lips.

"She’s always been here – she’s been a bit dormant, but…when I’m certain about what I want I can’t be stopped. Can you live with that?"

"As long as you can be with a woman who’s equally as stubborn."

Natalia smiled wider. "I’m more stubborn than you are."

"Proof it," Olivia challenged.

"Oh, where to start? For one, you’re still alive after wishing you’d die and two, I’m in your lap after you swore we’d never be together again."

Olivia considered the statement for a moment and then smiled. "Touché," she replied.

They both began to cuddle and giggle at the same time.

"Killjoy at 2 o’clock," Doris muttered to the pair as Frank made his way over.

"Hello, ladies," he said as he arrived at the table. Both women pulled away a few inches to politely face him. Olivia grinned and raised her hand up to Natalia’s head and began stroking her hair, somewhat-possessively. "How are you doing today?" he asked.

"Good," Olivia answered. "You?"

Fully aware of what she was doing, she moved Natalia’s hair to one side exposing the love bite she’d left there the night before from their first lovemaking session. She smiled even wider as she noticed Frank look away somewhat nervously.

"Can’t complain," he said looking at his shoes.

Yeah, Olivia thought silently. It’s exactly what you think it is on her neck Frankie – a passion mark. She’s mine – all mine – and although you might have did her first, I did her best. And I’ll be the one working her into an ardent frenzy and making her scream MY NAME every night for the rest of our lives.

Olivia continued to admire Natalia’s profile as she allowed her fingers to stroke her hair.

"You know you’ve always had soft hair," Olivia told Natalia. "But the pre-natal vitamins have made it super soft."

"You think so? I thought it might be my imagination," Natalia said amazed.

"I think I might buy some," Olivia replied.

"Pre-natal vitamins?"

"Sure."

"Why? I love your hair," Natalia said as she reached up and began to put some wayward strands behind Olivia’s ear.

Doris just knew the display was annoying the detective to no end. She smiled, but quickly covered her lips with her napkin under the guise of wiping her face. She knew she had to save this poor soul.

"Have a seat Det. Cooper," Doris offered, patting the spot beside her.

"Thank you, Doris, but I can’t stay. I just came in for a coffee – I’m on my way back to the station." He then turned to Natalia. "You mentioned something about designing the nursery or something?"

"Oh! Yeah! We’re trying to hire a nursery designer for later this week. Think you’ll be around?"

"A nursery designer?" Frank asked. "I figured baby’s just cared about being warm, fed and having a clean bottom," he teased.

"True," Natalia answered. "But Olivia wants-."

"Oh, so Olivia wants a designer," he replied, cutting her short.

"You don’t have to be there, Frank," Olivia spoke up. "I just thought our daughter deserved having a nice, cozy room that grown-ups might enjoy too. That’s all. But if you can’t deal-." Olivia stopped when she felt Natalia squeeze her knee and shake her head. "I’m sorry. I don’t want to get upset here, but I’m not walking around on eggshells for you either, Frankie. So if you want to come, then come. If not, then don’t. Natalia would like you in this child’s life. And the truth is so would I, but not at the cost of being criticized by you at every turn we make. So would you like to go or not? It’s your choice."

Frank released a heavy sigh. "Yes, I will be there. Just tell me the day and time."

"Will do," Natalia answered.

Frank nodded and walked away from the table without looking back.

"Look at Mamma Bear Livie laying down the law," Doris teased. "You’re awfully cute when you’re angry." She then made a kissy face.

"That wasn’t anger. I just wanted Frank to know exactly where we stand," Olivia replied. "If anything, that was just annoyance."

"That’s true. I’ve seen ‘angry’," Doris remarked. "When you stormed into my office swearing you weren’t in love with Natalia, but you went on and on about how great she was…That was angry."

"Nah, I wasn’t angry then," Olivia answered. "I was…perturbed…Now Reva or Alan, those two have made me angry in my life."

Doris cocked her head. "So did you know then – that day you came to my office – that you were in love?"

"Yeah, I think I did," Olivia answered, "but she didn’t love me."

Doris paused and looked the two of them up and down as they sat wrapped in each other’s embrace. She started to grin.

"You’re not real perceptive, are you?" she countered.

Olivia and Natalia both grinned.

"Hush up," Olivia told her.

Doris chuckled.

Chapter Forty-Three

"Okay," Natalia said as she steadied herself against the table, "I'm getting claustrophobic here," she added as she motioned between herself and the table, which had very little space. "Besides, my butt is starting to hurt. You've got bony knees."

"Hey," Olivia replied. She grabbed Natalia's growing waistline. "Just for that I'm not letting you go."

Natalia shot her a glance that made Olivia wonder if she really wanted to test her lover's patience. Being the smart woman she is, Olivia instead helped the pregnant and hormonal woman to her feet.

"I think I might tell Ashlee," Doris said to no one in particular as she stared off in deep thought.

"Tell Ashlee what?" Natalia asked as she motioned for Olivia to scoot down so she could slide into the booth.

"About me," Doris replied.

"She doesn't know yet?" Natalia asked.

Instead of replying to Natalia, Doris turned to Olivia. "Do you even talk to this woman?"

"Yes," Olivia answered annoyed. "But that's private stuff between us," she said, defending herself. "I didn't know if you'd feel comfortable with Natalia knowing everything."

"So you kept my confidence?" Doris asked before she began to grin. "That's sweet. I never actually had…a confidant. A few friends who were girls sure, but not like, a best friend."

"She's MY best friend," Natalia remarked possessively. "Hands off."

"No, dear," Doris retorted. "You official crossed the line last night. And yes, you can be 'best friendly' toward each other, but you're not real best friends anymore because sex changes things."

"It does not," Natalia replied.

Doris just motioned with her hand and asked, "Olivia?"

Natalia and Doris both looked to Olivia to reply. Trapped between two sets of eyes, she licked her lips nervously and shrugged slightly.

"So you're not my best friend anymore?" Natalia asked Olivia in a sad tone.

"Of course you are," Olivia insisted. She paused and then added, "But Doris has a point."

"Ha!" Doris said and pointed at Natalia. Then she shook her finger for emphasis. "Told you - it's not the same now."

Natalia brushed her off. "Just because sex is involved, that doesn't mean the relationship has changed," she replied. "Unless, of course, if you look at the fact I love her even more."

"That's sweeeeet...but no," Doris said with a touch on condescension. "It's little things. Your best friend can tell you that the stew you made tastes awful. Your lover, however, has to smile and eat it and… make fake yummy noises."

"Soooo," Natalia said thinking about the comment. "Sex makes you become a liar."

Doris considered the remark. "Actually, that's a great way to put it. Yes, after you have sex you become a liar."

"Now wait," Olivia said to Doris. "I won't lie to her – I might not be as brutally honest, but I wouldn't eat something I didn't like just to please her."

"Yes, but right there," Doris pointed. "You even said you'd change the way you approach things because she's your lover. Right?"

"Not exactly," Olivia replied.

"Okay, picture this," Doris told her. "Natalia and I both make stew. Both are totally appalling. How do you tell each of us it tastes gross?" Olivia began to grin in a guilty fashion, trying not to smile. "Ah Ha! See? See what I mean?"

"What?" Natalia asked.

"She's right," Olivia answered. "I'd be much gentler with you than with her. With you, I'd probably suggest getting take out. With her…I'd, I don't know, suggest she call in an industrial cleaner to get rid of the toxic mess."

"Thank you!" Doris laughed.

"I don't want you to stop being honest," Natalia told Olivia. "I love your…snark."

"Even when it's directed at you?" Olivia asked.

"Especially when it's directed at me because I can be snarky then too," Natalia chuckled.

"Okay so I won't spare your feelings at all then?" Olivia asked to be sure.

"Well, within reason," Natalia answered.

"Then what's the line that can't be crossed?"

"I might look a like a huge squash, and even say I do, but you can't make jabs about my weight."

"Okay," Olivia agreed. "I vote for no clothes comments."

"No," Natalia replied. "I can't promise that. I mean the ugly top you have that looks like bad 1970's wallpaper is nearly as hideous as that jacket Doris wore at my 'almost' wedding."

Olivia and Doris both looked at Natalia slack jawed and whined, "Hey!"

"I don't have bad 1970's wallpaper clothing," Olivia said. "But you are right about Doris's jacket," she agreed.

"Watch it!" Doris remarked. "That's one of my favorites. I wear it all the time."

"We know – please stop," Natalia remarked. Doris pouted as Natalia then turned her sights to Olivia again. "And yes, it's that shirt you had on when you brought Emma over to make rice crispy marshmallow treats."

"That's more Native American than bad 1970's wallpaper," Olivia defended.

"No, I've seen the 'Santa Fe look.' That top is just…I'm surprised it didn't come with a warning that says, 'May cause epileptic fits' because really..."

"So what else do I own that you find totally unappealing on me?" Olivia asked.

"Nothing," Natalia replied. "You make anything look good… including bad 1970's wallpaper blouses."

"Gee thanks," Olivia said sarcastically.

"Really," Natalia answered sincerely. "You look sexy in anything. However, I have to admit those power suits… Wow." She gave a contented sigh. "I spent many a-night fantasizing about them…or I should say taking them off."

"Which one?" Olivia asked mischievously. "I'll just make a little mental note, up here," she said pointing to her temple.

"Definitely, the black pinstripe," Natalia answered immediately. "But what I like most of all is the white bodysuit you have. I've caught glimpses of it when I used to help you get dressed or undressed. I need to buy you another one…maybe something in lace this time." Natalia concluded by making a devouring noise.

"And that's my cue," Doris replied. "Check please," she yelled over to Blake.

Chapter Forty-Four

At the boarding house above Company, Doris's shoulder blades dug into the mattress when her back arched. Mangled cries of passion escaped her lips. Both women panted heavily from the physical exertion, their skin slick and glistening with perspiration.

Above her, Blake supported her weight on her hands as her own hips rolled and thrust between Doris's thighs. The redhead grunted with every deep plunge. When she paused her movements and withdrew to reposition herself to her knees, Doris whimper a protest. But now in the proper position, Blake reclaimed Doris's hips and gently entered her again.

From this elevation, Doris's ass rested on Blake's thighs and the younger woman had her hands free. She began to tweak Doris's nipple with one hand as the fingers of her other hand strummed Doris's clit. The dildo, sliding in and out of her sex, tickled and teased the bottom of her clit from this new stance.

Loving the friction, Doris began to buck against Blake and she grunted each time the strawberry blonde pounded into her. Doris's movements were having an effect too. Each push that Doris made toward Blake sent a shockwave of pressure to Blake's clit as the dildo slapped against her. But it wasn't enough for Blake – she was hungry for more.

Abandoning Doris's nipple and clitoris, Blake's hands grabbed Doris's hips and held her steady.

"Put your feet flat on the bed," Blake ordered.

Doris issued no argument and did exactly as Blake commanded.

Blake then began to buck wildly against Doris. Rather than deep, far reaching plunges, she slid the tip of the shaft in and out of Doris about three times for every second. Her hips gyrated at an enormous rate of speed. The fast rubbing both women felt made them each cry out. Blake was shaking Doris's body so much thought that instead of one long 'ahhh' sound, it came out as a choppy, 'ah ah ah' instead. The sweat began to pour from Blake even more and salty droplets from Blake's face began to fall on Doris's torso.

"Your…incredible," Doris exclaimed.

"Talk to me," Blake said in strained, but quick voice. Her eyes were closed, as if trying to focus only on the physical pleasure, as her hips continued to jerk at lightening speed. "I'm so close."

Doris grinned for a half second. Although Blake couldn't see it Doris's eyes darkened in desire.

"You know how to screw, Baby," Doris said as her hands rested on Blake's hips. Blake, with her eyes still closed, responded with a groan. "You look so sexy – wild hair, puffy lips, taunt nipples." Blake moaned even louder and stopped her quick movements to take a short rest. Sensing the woman's exhaustion from moving so quickly Doris whispered in a hoarse voice, "Fuck me hard, Baby. Pound me into this mattress."

"Oh God!" Blake cried out and then began to forcefully slap their bodies together.

"That's it," Doris said, "Ride me, Baby."

"Fuck!" Blake cried out as she continued to hammer into Doris.

"Oh," Doris moaned and her body became even more flushed. Her toes began to curl and her breathing became more ragged. "I'm gonna…I'm gonna…"

Blake could only groan at first, lost in the sensation.

"Commmmmmmmmme," she said finishing Doris's sentence, who was now crying out in her own right.

Blake collapsed to her hands and the mayor took the opportunity to reach out and slid her hands into Blake's sweat soaked hair. Then she quickly wrapped her legs around her lover's lower back. She wasted no time as she pulled Blake forcefully into her not once, not twice but three times, making sure to buck her own hips each time she did. With the final thrust, Doris kept Blake in place.

"That was…wow," Blake said, fighting to get her breath.

"You said it," Doris said as she pulled Blake down toward her, the younger woman practically collapsing in her arms. "Where did you get these wonderful toys?" Doris asked when the ability to for a complete sentence returned.

Blake snuggled into Doris's shoulder and took a deep breath.

"I take it you like them?"

Doris pulled back slightly. "Having the tools means little without someone who knows how to use them," she complimented. "But yes, I liked them very much, as if you couldn't tell."

Blake smiled broadly. "The harness I got at Playtown yesterday. When you said you wanted to come back this morning, I figured this was my one chance. I never had my college lesbian experimentation, so I figured I'd see if you were game."

"Did I disappoint you?" Doris asked rhetorically.

Blake smiled. "We both just came. I think you know the answer," Blake said as she nuzzled into Doris's neck.

"What about the dildo?"

"Oh, the dildo, well, I've had that awhile. It's pretty lifelike actually."

Doris grinned. "It's been quite awhile since I had a frame of reference, but I'd have to admit you're right," she joked before she reached down and stroked it affectionately.

"Better look out," Blake warned. "You keep that up and you'll get me excited again."

They both smiled at each other for a long moment and until Doris said, "You're fun. I like you."

"I like you too, but…"

"What?" Doris asked.

Blake paused for a moment. "I want more than fun, ya know? I…I want the whole package."

"But I like your package," Doris said as she gave the dildo a playful tug.

Blake chuckled. "Why thank you," she said trying to act bashful before looking serious again. "I just want…more."

Doris gave her a sad grin. "Most women do," she replied.

"What about you?" Blake asked. "I mean…I know what this is. It's not happily ever after. We were just turned on, one thing led to another and… here we are. But really… don't you ever want more? Something like Olivia and Natalia have?"

Doris still held her rueful smile. "You remember when Ashlee said she couldn't do a book on me because she doesn't know me?"

"It was kinda awkward, yeah," Blake confessed.

"I'm not even out to Ashlee. So how can I have a real relationship with anyone?"

Blake reached down and pulled the blanket over them. She didn't lie down next to Doris. Instead, she sat up and motioned for Doris to rest her head in her lap. After she did, Blake stroked her hair.

"Maybe it's time Doris," she said. "Maybe then you'll be able to live openly and find a woman who's worth coming out to the world for…or at the very least, being with someone who can give you the strength to be who you are."

"I wouldn't even know where to start," Doris confessed, sounding fearful.

Sensing her fear, Blake tightened her hold. "Why not say, 'Ashlee, I love you and the reason I don't have a man in my life is because I'm gay' and be done with it."

"You make it sound so easy," Doris replied.

"There's no reason to make it complicated. Just take her to lunch this week – somewhere private like a park, and tell her the truth."

"I might lose her. Then what?" Doris asked.

"Think of how much you've already lost," Blake told her. "Life can be short, Doris. Don't lose more time. And if Ashlee can't handle it, if she leaves, then just remember you do have people who are your friends and love you – Olivia, Natalia…and yes, as annoying as I find you…me."

Doris looked up and she had tears in her eyes. "Don't cry," Blake told her. "I've spent time with Ashlee. She doesn't strike me as homophobic. I think you'll see everything will be fine. In fact, coming out might be the best thing you ever do."

"Or the worst."

"You won't know until you take a chance though, will you? And like I said, you've got people who will take care of you."

Doris smiled and then pulled back. Although she had a serious expression, it wasn't one that looked heartbroken or angry.

"We're, uh, done here, aren't we?" Doris asked. "This isn't ever going to happen again, is it?" she added as she motioned between them.

"I'm not the love 'em and leave 'em type," Blake told her. "But I'm not…gay."

"You sure fooled me," Doris teased. Blake looked like she was going to say something else, but Doris put her hand on Blake's to stop her. "I get it. You're not hopelessly, helplessly in love and chances are you won't. I'm not offended."

"Good," Blake replied. "Besides…I kinda have someone."

"You do? Who?" Doris asked with no malice in her voice.

"I don't want to say since it's, well, it's kinda embarrassing."

"You met someone online?" Doris guessed instantly. Blake looked surprised. "Oh, please. Lots of people meet that way today. Do you really like him, or her?"

"Him," Blake said. "At least I think it's a him. I haven't seen a picture, and he says he's a guy, but then it could be an elaborate hoax. I think he's real though. He's a little gun-shy about love since he was in love with someone who was in love with someone else. So he's nervous about relationships, but he figures maybe he needs to move on. I told him about being a young widow, and he's been very understanding and…" Blake trailed off and looked down at the two of them. "We're both still naked. Maybe I should change the subject, eh?"

Doris chuckled.

"Blake," she began as she stroked her face and kissed her on the cheek. "We'll never see eye to eye, but I can be a friend to you if you let me." Blake smiled wider. "So tell me more about your dream boat," she prompted.

They grinned at each other.

Chapter Forty-Five


Doris seemed almost catatonic as she grabbed some sodas and stood in line at the city hall cafeteria. A million thoughts ran through her head, none of which had anything to do with the food selections in front of her.

What if she hates me? What if Olivia and Blake are wrong and she decides she doesn't want anything to do with me? She's all I really have in the world that matters. What if-?

She remained perfectly still, and wrapped in her doom-filled thoughts, until she felt a hand lightly tap her shoulder.

"Mayor Wolfe?" a patrolman said, making her jump slightly. "I didn't mean to startle you, but you're next, Ma'am," he added politely and then pointed to the lunchroom clerk.

"Sorry," she replied, sounding on edge. "I-I-I got a lot on my mind today. I'm meeting my daughter for lunch." She then turned to the lunch clerk who was looking at her expectedly. "Oh, uh, a turkey and, uh, ham please. I had these too," she said as she motioned to her tray that held the two cans of soda pop.

The lunchroom worker slapped two sandwiches wrapped in butcher's paper on her tray that held the canned drinks and called out, "Next!" before he motioned her toward a cash register.

Still somewhat dazed, Doris did manage to make her way to the register and make her purchase. She didn't notice that the clerk was trying to hand her back her change as she walked away; food and drinks in hand. Not looking a gift horse in the mouth, the cashier pocketed the six dollars and odd cents before helping the next diner.

It was hot outside, but Doris didn't notice. Besides, she was already sweating, wrapped up in her thoughts.

She'll be okay. She'll be all right. She thought positively. It's a different generation, right? Not like my parents' generation; or even like mine. Her friends place more weight on how someone treats others and not just who they love. Except for Rafe, her friend, the person she sees all the time…Oh my God, what if she really is a homophobe like Rafe. No, she's not. She can't be, okay? Stop thinking that way.

Doris looked up from her musings just in time to see she'd stepped into the crosswalk without looking both ways. She stopped dead in her tracks, foot in the air, as a car sped by her and blared its horn. She then looked left and then right and, finding it completely clear, made her way to the bleachers at the park across from her office.

And today there are lots of women who are out. Powerful, successful women. Of course if I tell Ashlee then it won't be long until everyone knows and I'll…I'll lose the party nomination and then…Oh god, I can't do this. I can't do. I…

"Hey Mom!" Doris heard Ashlee's voice say as she moved excited toward her.

"Hey, Sweetie!" Please still love me.

"I can't believe this. I don't think we've ever done this," she said sounding pleasantly surprised.

I'm sure gonna change the mood here soon. "I know. I don't know why either. My, uh, my office being right there," Doris said pointing behind her before handing over one of the packaged sandwiches to Ashlee. "I just, uh, I don't know, I, um, I don't know why I never did it before. You just get into the habit of doing things a certain way, you know? And, um, it gets hard to break out of them, and…" I need to quite stalling, "open up."

"Oh, Mom," Ashlee said inspecting the sandwich, "Is there Swiss cheese on this? You know I don't like Swiss cheese," she whined.

More proof you can't do anything right. "I'm sorry. I didn't even know there was cheese in there. The truth is, I went to the cafeteria, and I never go there," she explained with a nervous chuckle. Calm down. Calm down. Calm down. You're not calming down. Just say it! "You know that's what today's about really. Like doing things you don't usually do, ya know? Like, uh, opening up; sharing."

Ashlee took a bit of her sandwich and nonchalantly asked, "Wanna share my sandwich?"

No, no, no, no, no, no, no! "Oh, god. I'm not doing this right," Doris whimpered.

"Doing what?" Ashlee asked oblivious.

Okay regroup; new tactic. "You remember the day I took you to the beach? You were seven. And, uh, you wanted to play, but I told you we had to talk first?"

"Yes, yes," Ashlee recalled with a smile. "That would be the day you told me about sex."

But not everything I wanted to tell you about it. Not everything I wanted to tell you about me. Oh God. Doris took a deep breath. "Yeah, well, that wasn't the conversation I was planning on having with you that day?"

Ashlee looked confused for a moment, but then smiled again. "Seven is a little young, but at the end of the day you didn't scar me for life," she teased.

Doris smiled a genuine smile at her daughter's sense of humor. "That's good because…you know I've been trying to do that – not scar you for life; to protect you from anything that would hurt you."

Ashlee looked genuinely confused again. "Mom, everything is fine. What's going on?"

"Oh Ashlee," Doris sighed above a whisper. I've been living a lie that's hurt us both.

"What?"

Here it goes. No turning back. Now or never. Just say the words. Doris took another deep breath. "I'm a lesbian." She's not saying anything and that look. She's…she's…"I'm a lesbian," Doris repeated a bit firmer. Why is she still not saying anything? Oh no. Oh no. This was a mistake - a huge mistake…Ashlee, please don't hate me…You're my Sweetie…You're my world…And like I feared, you're walking away Please stop. I have to say something. I have to do something!

"Did you-did you, just say you're a lesbian?" Ashlee asked with her back turned, halting her steps.

God, I think she's going to hyperventilate. I think I'm going to hyperventilate. "Yes…I like women," Doris said as she nervously played with her hands and took a few steps toward the younger woman.

Ashlee's features hardened for a moment. Oh, god, now she's pissed.

"Mom! I know what a lesbian is!" Ashlee nearly shouted at Doris.

"Look," Doris said reaching for Ashlee, who pulled away from her touch. It's already starting. "I have been ever since I can remember, okay?" God, I need to sit down before I fall down. "It just…" God, I need to make her realize. "I couldn't always accept it, okay?" Don't cry. Just hold it together, Doris. Hold it together. Make her see it's okay. "And you gotta understand it was a different time then, okay? People did not understand it they way they do now. And I didn't tell anyone. I just went about my business. I-I went to school. I had boyfriends. It never quite worked, ya know? It wasn't right for me. So I went to school and when I graduated, I decided to live my life the way I wanted to. And at a certain point, I wanted life to mean more so I went to a sperm back and I…got you." Please Ashlee, don't cry. I love you more than anything. "And you have been everything to me," Doris said not being able to hold back her tears any longer. "I remember holding your hand when you learned how to walk. We were so close. And then all of a sudden you were seven and you were asking me why didn't we have a daddy. So I took you to the beach that day to try to explain…only I chickened out. And I've been chickening out ever since. And I know that this wall developed between us. And I know it was my fault and I couldn't do anything about it and then all of a sudden you're this remarkable young woman and I AM STUCK KNOWING that I am LYING to YOU. And you're right, you don't know who I am and the reason you don't is because I haven't shared myself with you. And I am soooo sorry."

Please say something. Please say something. Please say something.

"I-I just don't understand why you don't trust me? Don't you know that I love you!?" Ashlee asked.

I didn't want people judging you because of me. All I wanted was your happiness. Always. But I messed that up too. "I just didn't want you to suffer. The world can be really cruel."

"Mom, I know, the world is cruel. Out of anyone, I know. I know that the world is cruel. You were cruel to me. YOU were cruel."

There's no going back is there. I've said it now. It's out. And you'll hate me for the rest of my life. Not just for this, but for everything. Doris hung her head. I know it probably means nothing to you but…"I'm really sorry."

"Why couldn't you just trust me? Just trust me?" Ashlee asked as she cried.

I gotta know if there's any hope. "Are you ashamed of me? Are you embarrassed?"

"No," Ashlee insisted. "I'm not ashamed or embarrassed. I am so angry," she said pointing, "Because you didn't love me enough to be honest with me."

I love you Ashlee. I love you. I was trying to protect you. Don't leave please. Don't. We can make this right if you stay. We can still be a family if you listen. I know we can.

Doris watched Ashlee snatch up her purse and turn without a word. Still not saying anything, she watched Ashlee walk away. She felt helpless and all she could do was cry.

Chapter Forty-Six

Doris rolled over and looked at the clock. It was nine in the morning, but she didn't care she was running late. She'd be lucky if she made it into the office at all. She slowly turned back the covers, escaping from the blankets' cocooned warmth and placed her feet on the cold, hardwood floor.

She walked first to the hallway and looked into Ashlee's room. The bed was rumpled, exactly as it had been the morning before. Although she was sure she wouldn't find her daughter anywhere else, Doris still went to the kitchen and the living room to look for her.

From there, she headed back to her bathroom of the master bedroom, taking off her sleeping garments as she did. She let them fall haphazardly, leaving a trail behind her as she slowly made her way to the shower. She turned on the faucet and tested the water. Turning around, she spotted her face in the vanity over the sink. Her eyes were still completely bloodshot from crying most of the night.

Ashlee never did come home. She hates me. With that thought, Doris began to cry again.

It took her nearly an hour to get moving after her shower, but eventually Doris dressed and did her make up. She picked up her phone and pressed the programmed number.

"Hey, Olivia. It's Doris…I…uh…Call me when you get this, okay?"

Doris hung up and looked at the phone. She took a deep breath and then made her way out the door. Her first stop, however, wasn't her office. She went to the Beacon.

Not seeing Olivia in her office, she stopped Keira and asked in a short tone, "Olivia Spencer? Where is she?"

Keira was immediately put off by Doris's behavior.

"Not to be disrespectful, but that's really none of your business, Mayor Wolfe. However, I will say she had personal things to handle today," she replied in a less than civil tone. "I can take a message if you like," she offered.

"Useless," Doris muttered as she walked away.

Her next stop was the farmhouse. She knew that things with Natalia were going well, so maybe Olivia was still 'celebrating.' When she didn't find her there she returned to her car and headed back into town.

This is pointless. There's nothing Olivia can do, Doris thought as she drove along. Why? Am I trying to find her? Hell, you know why – you've grown to love her. Really love her and you value her opinion. You need her to tell you everything will be fine, even if it's a lie. What did she call it earlier this year? A comforting lie – that's what I need. She can do that and, well, maybe keep me from totally spazing…Okay, I'm already totally spazing, but, she'll know what to do. I mean, do I go find Ashlee? Do I leave her alone? What do I do here? I don't know what to do. Doris felt herself start to tear up again, but she pushed it down, taking a deep breath.

Spotting Company she thought she'd give it a shot and pulled over. She felt like she was racing to get somewhere, but where exactly she didn't know. It's almost like I've got no friggin' direction right now and if she's not in here-.

"Olivia! I've been looking all over for you."

"Why? Is everything okay?" she asked concerned.

"I told Ashlee the truth…" God, do you have to look THAT shocked? "…about me…"

"Oh, my go-. How'd it go?" she asked hopefully.

She's hopeful. How can she be hopeful? "Good, I guess. I don't know. I mean, it went okay. But she didn't say much, and, uh, then she just walked away and-and I haven't heard from her since and that was like more than a day ago. What do I do?"

God, look how wide your eyes are. You have no idea what I should do either, do you? Shit, shit, shit.

"Ah, I-I…ugh, give her-give her time… Give her time," Olivia said sounding more optimistic and assured than her first reaction showed.

"Time?"

"Time."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah."

This is going to be the worst mistake I've made, isn't it? But if you think so then… "I'm just gonna go to my office and…wait."

"'kay."

On the other side of town, Rafe and Daisy were at a gazebo as Ashlee departed to find Doris. Daisy had a confused expression.

"Don't ask me," Rafe said before taking a drink of his water.

She opened her mouth and closed it two times, but then shrugged. She then said, "Doris, huh? Is that why your mom left my Uncle Frank at the altar? She's in love with Doris Wolfe?"

Rafe choked on his water for a moment.

"My mom and Doris?" he chuckled.

"Well, aren't they seeing each other? I mean the way Doris went on and on about love and was kinda stalling the wedding, and when you both said they were lesbians, I thought-."

"Olivia," Rafe said, cutting her off. "My mom… she likes Olivia – and before you ask, yeah, Olivia likes her back."

Daisy's eyebrows scrunched. "Okay, well, I'm not entirely shocked, actually," she replied.

"Why?"

"They seem to get along really well and they were always together when you were in jail. Plus, Emma seems really happy with them together." Rafe rolled his shoulders in discomfort. "And I take it you're not?"

"I don't think it's right," he said. "Maybe for Ashlee's mom, sure. And maybe even for Olivia, if that's how she wants to be, but not my mom. That's not who she is."

"Was," Daisy said flatly.

"Huh?"

"I'm saying maybe she wasn't gay before, but she is now, or at least she's open to finding love regardless of gender."

"You don't just wake up and be gay," Rafe said growing short with her. "I know this is Olivia's fault."

"What do you mean 'fault,' Rafe? Are you a homophobe?" Daisy asked incredulously.

Rafe didn't answer. Instead he said, "Olivia gets into people's minds and plays tricks on them. She's playing with my Ma now and I don't like it, okay?"

"You're obviously upset," Daisy said pursing her lips together. "But I just gotta ask…why are you okay with everyone else being gay, but not your mom? What is it that's really bothering you?"

"We're talking about her soul here, Daisy. What she's doing is a sin?"

"Are you serious?" Daisy snorted. "Look, we've sinned. I've sinned. You've sinned. We all sin and with as much as I like James, I'm sure I'll sin again, and again, and-."

"I get the point," Rafe said holding up his hands. "This is different, all right?"

"How?"

Rafe stood up and walked to the other side of the gazebo. "It just is. Homosexuality is wrong."

"Oh, please!" Daisy laughed loudly and Rafe turned around to scold her with his eyes. "You know," she continued, "I'd say you ARE a homophobe, but I don't think that's the case. I think you're making excuses that even you can't really believe at this point?"

Rafe's voice faltered slightly and scratched his chest. "Maybe a little," he replied.

"Then I'll ask again," Daisy said more firmly. "What's the real problem with your mom falling in love with a woman?"

Rafe was quiet for a long moment and then asked, "Why does it have to be her? Why couldn't it be Ashlee's mom? Heck, anyone else's mom for that matter. Why her?"

Daisy bit her lip. "Now I get it. It's not about your mom being gay. That's not it, at least not really. It's about who she loves."

"Quit trying to psychoanalyze me," Rafe said annoyed.

Daisy cocked her head. "Do you know everything that Olivia's done for you and your mom?" she asked. "I'm a Cooper, and although they don't tell me much, I do hear a lot at Company."

"Yeah, like what?" he asked. "Getting my Ma's hopes up by suggesting some lawyer for me that she couldn't afford?"

Daisy closed the distance between them. "I'll tell you a few things, but you need to promise not to tell another soul - including your mother…Can I trust you?"

"You know you can."

"Really?"

"Daisy," Rafe said shortly, but didn't add more.

Daisy looked at him a moment longer as if sizing him up.

"According to my grandpa, Olivia put off going to the hospital when she was having chest pains to save your mom's virtue from 'said sleazeball lawyer'."

"What? I don't understand."

"Your mom couldn't afford his rates and she wouldn't take any money from Olivia, although she offered. But the lawyer was willing to make a deal…he'd represent you if she slept with him."

"What?" Rafe said starting to pace.

Daisy nodded. "Olivia got wind of the 'trade' and rushed from Cedars to get to the lawyer's office before your mom could go through with it." Rafe's mouth hung open. "But since you're already shocked, let's not stop there," Daisy teased. "You know that house your mom got eighty grand for from the state? Olivia was going to give Gus's house to the two of you – free and clear, but your mom wouldn't have it. So after paying off the entire mortgage Olivia told your mom she'd sell it to her for only ten grand."

Rafe began to shake his head. "She was just trying to manipulate my mother."

"Come on Rafe," Daisy told him. "Frank had you moved to the library at prison, but it was Olivia who got you moved to a safer prison altogether. And according to Ashlee, who will kill me if she knows I told you, her mom helped you too because of Ashlee's friendship with you AND hers with Olivia."

Rafe looked flabbergasted. "How so?"

"Doris got you an early release from prison AND she got you the job at the hardware store after talking to the owner so you didn't end up back at the halfway house. So without Olivia's connections, well, let's face it, you'd probably still be doing time."

"All the more proof that she just wanted my mom to see-."

"Your mom doesn't know. So how could Olivia be scoring points?" Daisy replied. "And since your mom doesn't know, it's just another reason why this conversation never happened between us. Got it!" she said waving a finger at him playfully. But then she wore a sober expression. "Your mom went to bat for me. She believed in me, even after all the mistakes I made. And she improved my relationship with my family…So you can hate her if you like Rafe, but believe it or not, I love your mom because she's a good person who can spot the goodness in others."

Rafe began to tear up. "I love her too. I just don't love what she's doing."

Daisy walked over and took his face in her hands.

"Consider this…Did she ever turn her back on you when she didn't like what you've done?" she asked.

"No," he said softly.

"Maybe you should show her the same respect? And maybe, just maybe, you could take some time to get to know Olivia, and not just the memories you have of her? She must have some special, redeeming qualities if she's won your mom over, right?"

Rafe ran his fingers through his hair. Then he tried to use his arms to cocoon himself, as he did often when he was nervous.

"I don't know where to start," he answered, sounding almost like a scared child.

Daisy squeezed his arm in support.

"Well, I overheard them talking at Company a little while ago. Olivia and Emma's moving back into the farmhouse today so maybe you could lend a hand?"

Rafe shook his head. "She's really gonna do this, isn't she? She's gonna build a life with Olivia." It was less of a question, and more as a statement, as if it had final registered that his mother wasn't just having a fling or an experiment.

Daisy simply nodded. "She seems really happy, Rafe."

A brief silence passed between them as Rafe considered her words. That's all I ever wanted, wasn't it? he considered. For her to have a life of her own. To have someone to take care of her. Someone to make her smile...Olivia does make her smile, doesn't she? Heck, she's even taken Ma back after not talking to her for over a month. She's willing to raise this child too that they didn't plan... Maybe Daisy's right and I gotta take some steps here...starting today.

"Well," he sighed, "will you be there too? I could use a little extra morale right now. I can't say I'm okay with this, but…I have to find a way to deal, don't I? I gotta try to make it work, huh?"

Daisy pulled him into a hug and stood there for a few moments. Then she pulled back and said, "Come on. Let's go make it work…together."

Rafe smiled and darted over to grab Ashlee's abandoned lunch before they both made their way from the gazebo.

Chapter Forty-Seven

Olivia and Emma’s boxes had long been moved back in the house. After Rafe’s baseball victory over Frank, the teams sat down for a family style spaghetti dinner at the picnic table. Josh and the older kids had all gone home, or to various locations, with only three adults remaining – Blake, Frank and Doris – who were drinking wine on the back porch with Olivia. The red and orange hues were nearly gone from the horizon as night began to take hold around them.

Frank yawned, trying to stay awake.

Doris chuckled lightly. "Oh no, Chief. No yawning. The night is still young," she said, slapping his arm. "Besides, you need to get used to getting up at all hours. No sleep for you."

"Exactly, I need to conserve my energy for when the baby’s here," he remarked as he rose up. "Really, though, I do need to get going."

"Sure you don’t want another?" Olivia said holding up the nearly empty wine bottle.

"I need to avoid getting arrested," Frank replied with a grin.

"Come on – have another one. You can take the sofa tonight," Olivia offered.

Natalia looked over at her lover incredulously, as if she had a third eye growing out of her forehead.

"I’ll pass," Frank said. "I don’t have the luxury of running my own business like you. I do need to be at work."

"Actually, that’s not true," Olivia countered. "You’re the BOSS now." She then turned to Doris and said, "Speaking of which, what happened to your cousin, Chief Wolfe?"

"Who the hell knows?" she shrugged. "He was always flighty – ask Frank."

Frank didn’t agree, but he did grin broadly, which was enough of an agreement for those sitting there.

"I'd better go too, since you’re my ride," Blake popped up.

"Now you’re making everyone leave," Olivia said, tossing his baseball mit at him, which he managed to catch.

"I can take you home if you want to stay awhile longer," Doris offered Blake.

A short, but pointed silence, passed between them as they looked at one another.

"Thanks for the offer, but I really do need to call it a night," she replied.

"Natalia, dinner was wonderful," Frank told her. "Thank you."

"Yes," Blake agreed. "Thank you."

"No, thank you," the Latina insisted. "You guys were a godsend, truly. We appreciate the help."

"'Night, Olivia," Frank said with a wave, which Blake mimicked.

Olivia waved back and watched them walk up the sidewalk to the driveway where Frank’s car awaited them.

Once they were out of earshot, Olivia said to Doris, "It’s too bad it didn’t work out for you two."

"I keep telling you, but you don’t seem to listen. I’ll never have what you have because what you two have is rare," Doris said, pointing between Olivia and Natalia. "So you damn well better hold on it."

"I intend to," Natalia answered and took Olivia’s hand in hers giving it a squeeze. She then stood up and went over to the picnic table emptying the half full glasses into the grass.

Doris downed the rest of her wine. "I should get going too," she replied.

"NO!" Olivia said a little too insistently, making both Doris and Natalia raise their eyebrows. "Stay. You don’t have to go."

"You seem pretty desperate to keep me here," Doris replied. "If you’re looking for a, ahem, third wheel, I’m not that kind of girl." She began to grin deviously. "Well, two beautiful women like you? Okay, maybe just this once," she added jokingly and blew Olivia a kiss.

Natalia smiled and picked up the three empty bottles of wine and headed toward the house.

"I’m not gonna touch that. I’ll just clean up instead," she said before making her way inside.

Doris stood up and stretched and Olivia shot to her feet, coming within a few inches of Doris. She looked over her shoulder to make sure Natalia was gone.

"You can’t leave," she whispered nervously.

Doris looked confused. "W-why?"

"Because Natalia is going to expect me to sleep with her. She said moving in would mean…moving in…ya know?"

Doris looked even more confounded. "Yeah? And?"

"And I’m not sure if I’m ready yet," Olivia replied.

"I thought you already slept with her?"

"I did. At the Becon. Just not…here."

Doris wasn’t following Olivia’s line of logic, but then she got a look of realization.

"Wait a minute." She began to giggle. "This isn’t about the farmhouse. It’s about Emma, isn’t it?" Olivia rubbed her neck and shoulder, but didn’t answer. "You’re worried she’ll hear you guys?"

Olivia looked over her shoulder to see if Natalia was still gone.

"I’ve never had sex like this with anyone, let alone when my daughter was nearby. What if she hears us and what if…"

Doris giggled. "What if she thinks her two mommies are killing each other?"

"Yes!"

Doris laughed out loud. "Oh, to have your problems, Olivia."

"I’m being serious here. How did you manage it with Ashlee?"

"Easy. I never brought a woman home."

"So you have no advice for me then?"

"None."

"Thanks."

"Glad I could help." Doris gave Olivia a chipper smile, although the hotelier wore a frown and began to pace. "I’m teasing," Doris said sympathetically. She then took Olivia by the arm to stop her nervous movements. "Why don’t you just talk to Natalia? Be honest. Tell her your reservations."

"I’m actually pretty tired too," Olivia confessed.

"That’s not an excuse, is it?" Doris raised a suspicious eyebrow. "Not tonight dear I've got a headache."

"No, I really am. It’s been a crazy day. I woke up in my hotel this morning, and tonight I’m going to bed, in our home, with the woman I love." A content smile came over Olivia’s face. "I wanted this – and I still do, but, I’m scared… I just don’t want to…"

The sound of the screen door closing made Olivia and Doris turn to see Natalia coming back outside.

"Uh, oh," Natalia said as she came over to pick up the recycled paper plates and nearly empty fruit salad bowl. "What don’t you want to do?" she asked.

"And that’s my cue," Doris replied.

Natalia’s back was to the duo as she continued cleaning up the picnic table. In doing so, she failed to see Olivia reaching wildly for Doris’s arm to make her stay. She stretched out as if Doris’s appendage was a lifeline, but she still came up short.

"I’ll see you gals later," Doris called from the sidewalk. "Dinner was great, Natalia. I don’t cook, but let’s do Towers next week. My treat."

"Goodnight Doris." Natalia waved. She watched until Doris was in her car and the engine had started. Then Natalia pivoted on her heels to face Olivia, who was looking nervous.

"Again, what don’t you want to do?" Natalia asked. "Are you having second thoughts about moving in?"

"No! Why would you say that?"

Natalia grinned slightly. "Oh, I don’t know," she began sarcastically. "Besides you inviting Frank to sleep over and asking Doris for a ménage a trios? What the heck is going on?"

"I did NOT ask Doris for a threesome – she assumed."

"Honestly, that doesn’t worry me as much as Frank. I’m sure he’ll make some gal very happy someday, but not me, or you, so really, offering him our sofa is out of the question. Tell me, what the heck is it, Liv? Why can’t you be alone with me?"

Olivia took a deep breath and in an almost rapid fire she said, "I desire you so much and Emma’s never known me to be sexual with anyone. Let’s face it – Phillip was nuts when she was a baby, and she was still pretty young when Bill was around and the same with Buzz too and with them, I didn’t…shout like I do with you. I mean my God woman!" Natalia raised a disapproving finger. "Sorry, my goodness…the things you do to me, the things I do to you, the things we do to each other."

"It’s pretty amazing, isn’t it?" Natalia asked as one hand grabbed Olivia’s hip while the other one worked its way into her hair pulling her closer until their lips were mere inches apart. "Go on. You were saying," Natalia replied softly, her breath tickling Olivia’s lower lip.

Olivia didn’t wait for more of an invitation. She took possession of Natalia’s mouth passionately and the younger woman began to match her stroke for stroke. She felt Natalia’s hand work its way down her neck and over her breast, stopping briefly to tweak the erect nipple it found. Olivia groaned and pulled Natalia closer as their tongues danced around each other. The next sensation that Olivia registered was Natalia’s fingers sliding between her brown t-shirt and the waistband of her jeans. She then noticed that her shirt was started to make its way north as Natalia pulled it from its’ confines of her body.

"Okay, we need to slow down," Olivia said trying to regroup. She took Natalia’s hand, guiding her shirt back down.

"Olivia, we’ve already slept together."

"That’s what Doris said," Olivia muttered.

"What?" Natalia asked, not quite understanding what she said.

"I’m just worried about Emma. She might hear us," she answered in a louder voice.

"With the way you yell, probably," Natalia chuckled.

Olivia just sighed. "Point is, she might not understand why her parents are moaning. Besides, the interior doors don’t even have locks. What if she walks in and finds us…you know..."

"Having mind-blowing sex?" Natalia asked casually.

Olivia’s hands went to her hips, more in disbelieve than in defiance. "How can you be so cavalier about this?"

"How can you be such a prude?" Natalia countered as she laughed.

"I’ve been called lots of things over the years, but prude is not one of them," Olivia replied, chuckling too.

"Well, I can’t say I’m worldly. For goodness sake, I just had my first orgasm this week and I’d like to have many more of them if that’s okay with you. Are you saying we’re never going to have sex again?"

"No, not never," Olivia said nervously. "Just until Emma goes off to college in eight years." Olivia gave a short laugh, but Natalia didn’t look amused. "I’m joking… I just…" Olivia took a deep breath to regroup her thoughts. "I’m worried about scaring her. Like I said, she’s never seen me as a…sexual person… and really, she doesn’t think in those terms – my two mommies? Hello!"

Natalia chuckled again. "She is turning ten in a couple of months, right?" Olivia nodded. "How about this? I really, really want to make love to you at all the places we fell in love and we've already got the Beacon covered."

Olivia held up her hand, as she got a far off look of total desire on her features.

"My office," she replied, fixated on the idea. She shook her head and then looked back at Natalia. "I really want to do it in my office," she added hopefully.

"You’re such a naughty girl," Natalia said wiggling her eyebrows.

"You love it," Olivia leaned down and whispered.

"You know it," Natalia said. She snagged Olivia’s earlobe for just a moment before pulling back. "But you’re distracting me. Where was I?"

"Tomorrow’s plans."

"Oh yeah, tomorrow, we buy all new doorknobs; with locks. Then we have the Tarzan/Jane and Jane/Jane talk with Emma?"

Olivia chortled.

Natalia stroked Olivia’s face in encouragement. "We can do this factually, but delicately. That doesn’t mean we draw Emma a diagram of what we do…or things I’d like to do that we haven’t tried yet…" Natalia gave her a very deep and wanton laugh.

Olivia found herself involuntarily matching the rich tone with her own laughter. "There’s my little devil," the older woman said with a seductive smile.

"I told you that you don’t know the half of it," Natalia said in a breathy whispered. "You’ve unleashed a beast, Sweetie. But before I get myself too worked up…"

"Us – get US worked up," Olivia clarified.

Natalia smiled. "Yes, before that, why don’t we call it a night? Just cuddles because – despite the lack of door locks – I don’t think I’d be in peak performance tonight anyway. I’m freakin' exhausted to be honest."

Olivia beamed. "I've never met anyone I'm more in sync with...I love you so much, you know that?"

"I know because you’re here and you want to be here. Even after all the pain I caused you…"

Natalia began to hang her head in shame, but Olivia took her gently by the chin with her fingertips and raised her head so they could look eye-to-eye.

"Don’t…"

Natalia looked like she might open her mouth but instead she just smiled and leaned up to give Olivia a kiss, which she happily accepted.

Chapter Forty-Eight

Dawn had just begun to break. Olivia was curled up in bed, lying on her right side, with her eyes closed. A grin formed on her full lips when she felt Natalia's arm snake around her stomach. Still lying with her eyes closed, she gave a content sigh as she felt Natalia's growing tummy pressed against her back.

The sound prompted Natalia to tighten her hold and move closer. This time, in addition to moving her body closer to Olivia's, she let her nose nuzzle into Olivia's hair until her lips and tongue found the bare flesh of the older woman's neck. After a few nips, she pulled back slightly.

"Every inch of you tastes absolutely delicious," Natalia said softly.

Olivia smiled and smoothly rolled around, her lips taking possession of Natalia's neck.

"Hmm," she hummed against the Latina's tan skin. "I could get used to waking up this way every morning."

Natalia giggled slightly and finally said, "Good morning."

"Great morning," Olivia countered. She then rolled Natalia completely on her back and placed her thigh between hers to hold the pregnant woman in place. "But let's make it even better," she said as she rolled her hips so their centers connected.

Natalia instinctively reached down and grabbed Olivia by the buttocks and pulled her closer as she arched her pelvis toward her. After three strokes, Natalia reluctantly released Olivia.

"Enough teasing," she reprimanded.

"Who's teasing?" Olivia said as she nibbled on Natalia's earlobe.

"Liv? Emma? Remember?"

"Right – door locks," she said with a hint of frustration.

Suddenly, the door opened and Emma barreled inside. The young girl stopped in her tracks though when she saw her mom lying on top of Natalia, pinning her to the bed. A look of confusion with a hint of shock settled on her young features.

"Emma," Natalia said politely, but firmly. "What did we say about coming in without knocking first?"

Emma thought for a moment. "Don't do it."

"That's right. So go outside, close the door and try it again." When Emma didn't move immediately she added, "Go on."

Once Emma was gone, Olivia and Natalia tried to hold back their laughter.

"Thank God it wasn't worse." Olivia remarked.

"Olivia," Natalia chastised.

"I'm not taking the Lord's name in vain," she defended. "I'm really saying, "Thank God."

A small knock came to the door.

Olivia opened her mouth, but Natalia put her finger over it.

"Who is it?" Natalia asked.

Emma's sigh could be heard from the other side of the door and both women again tried not to laugh. "You already know. It's Emma."

"What did you need, Emma?" Natalia asked as she made her way out of bed.

"I want to come in," she replied.

"One second," she replied as she put on her robe. "Okay, you can come in now." This time Emma opened the door slowly. "You did that really good and that wasn't so hard, was it?" Natalia said proudly.

"I wanted to see if you guys were going to make breakfast since Natalia said I can't do it alone," she told them. "It's almost nine, but I did start some coffee."

"You started the coffee?"" Olivia asked surprised, still bundled up in bed.

Emma nodded. "It's not like cooking, so please don't yell at me. I've already gotten into trouble once today."

Natalia snorted and coughed slightly to stifle her laughter.

"Honey, you're not in trouble," Natalia said sympathetically. "It's just that things are different now that you've come back. Your mom and I…" she trailed off and looked to Olivia silently asking if 'now' was a good time for 'the talk'. Olivia didn't offer any support other than an encouraging nod that told her to keep going. "We're not just best friends, we're lovers too. That means…" Natalia paused as she searched for a way to continue.

"I know what it means," Emma said not giving Natalia a chance to continue. "It means you guys have sex." She paused for a moment and then asked, "Right?"

"So you know about sex, Jellybean?" Olivia asked.

"Well, yeah!" Emma said. "In a few years I'll be a teenager, Mom."

"So you know that a man and a woman have different…parts?" Olivia asked. "They each have different…peepee's."

It was clear that everyone in the room was growing uncomfortable with the topic, but the older women seemed to be at a loss of what to say.

Emma nodded and held up her hands as if begging her to stop. "You mean a man has a penis and a woman has a vagina. I get it."

Olivia and Natalia looked at Emma slack jawed, then at each other and then back at Emma again.

"That's right, Baby," Olivia remarked. "But how did you…?"

"I watched National Geographic channel. They had a show about conpetion. No! Wait! Conception. Sperm leaves the penis during the sex act, and it fertilizes an egg in the woman and nine months later you have a baby. That's what you and Frank did, right Natalia?"

Natalia folded her arms across her chest in embarrassment.

"Yes," Natalia said with a short nod. "Yes, it is."

"And how many months have you been pregnant?" Emma asked.

Natalia's jaw tightened. "Six months."

"So that means you must have had sex with Frank…" Emma paused as she counted the time backward. "Around February, right?"

"You're too smart for your own good," Natalia said with a slight laugh.

"I do have a question though," Emma said.

"What's that?" Olivia asked.

"Since neither of you have a penis, how do you have sex?" Emma first looked to Olivia and then looked over to Natalia.

Natalia, in turn, looked to Olivia and said, "Mom? You wanna field this one?"

Olivia did chuckle at that point.

"Well, 'Bean, sex – at least for me and Natalia – is an expression of all the love we have. It's our way of showing each other we want to spend the rest of our lives together, raising our family. It's a lot of kissing, cuddling, and stroking – just like a man and woman do. The difference is we can't make a baby and sometimes when we're really happy, and enjoying the cuddling, you might hear us make sounds."

"What kind of sounds?" Emma asked concerned.

Olivia paused to think of a good analogy that wouldn't scar the child for life.

"Oh! I know! It's a bit like when you take the first bite of a really good hot fudge sundae," she told her. "If someone didn't see you eating the sundae, they might actually think you're hurt because of the yummy moan you make sounds like you're kinda in pain."

Olivia seemed to run out of words to say and turned to Natalia with a pleading expression.

"Right!" Natalia agreed, "And we mention this because there might be times you hear us expressing our love for each other. We just don't want you to be worried and think someone's hurt. I would never let anything bad happen to your mommy, and she wouldn't let anything bad happen to me."

Emma gave a nod and then asked, "So is that what you were doing this morning when I came in?" Emma asked. "Is that why I got kicked out?"

Again, Olivia and Natalia shared a glance.

"Yes and no," Natalia answered, and Olivia seemed thankful for not having to field the question. "While it's true I totally love your mother and love her kisses-."

"Ewww. You get germs that way," Emma interrupted.

"I don't mind your Mom's germs," Natalia remarked with a slight chuckle. "And believe it or not Jellybean, someday you'll find someone whose germs you can tolerate." She tussled Emma's hair. "The point is everyone in this house needs more privacy so from now on if a door is closed, we all knock."

"My door too?" Emma asked.

"Yep," Natalia answered. "We have to knock first. And starting today, every door will have a lock to use as we wish."

"That's cool!" Emma answered.

"It is," Natalia agreed. "However, since we are the grown-ups we do retain the right to open your door if you're late for school or if there's an emergency."

"Think you can live with the new house rules?" Olivia asked. Emma nodded enthusiastically. "Okay, go get dressed then. We'll go out to eat and then go going doorknob shopping." Emma ran from the room, heading back to hers.

Natalia blew out a breath of relief and satisfaction. She took a seat next to Olivia, who was still wrapped up in the sheets.

"That wasn't so hard, was it?" Natalia then rubbed her belly. "Just think, the next time we have to do it will be another decade or so."

Olivia smiled devilishly. "No, next time we get big sister Emma to give the talk."

Natalia swatted at Olivia playfully.

Chapter Forty-Nine

Doris walked into Company to see Rebecca dining alone at one of the tables along the wall. She smiled as she made her way over.

"Hey, just the lovely lady I wanted to see," Doris told her as she took a seat.

Rebecca's hand shot out so fast that Doris didn't have time to react before the palm came crashing against her cheek. The sound of the slap reverberated through the nearly vacant restaurant. Although there were only two other diners in the restaurant, they turned to the noise to see a shocked Doris and a mightily pissed off Rebecca.

"Oooookay," Doris said rubbing her cheek. "Did I miss something?"

"Jamanda? Really?" Rebecca asked in a hushed tone.

"She told you?"

"No, I overheard her talking to her friend about you when we were changing shifts. You're a piece of work you know that? You stroll into Towers and just pick up the day bartender AND the night bartender so you're never alone, huh?"

Doris seemed at a loss of what to say. "I like you both."

Rebecca stared at her blankly for a moment. "She's your daughter's age for cryin' out loud!" she said in a heated whisper.

Doris sighed. "Technically, no. Ashlee's about a decade younger." Rebecca looked unimpressed with the responses. "That's not what you wanted to hear, is it?" Doris said unsure if she should add more.

Rebecca shook her head. "So you were just going to keep sleeping with both of us?"

Doris licked her lips nervously. "You know… I never said we were exclusive."

"Oh, I'm sorry," Rebecca said sarcastically, in a low voice. "I just ASSUMED since we SLEPT with each other that meant something to you."

"It did. I really enjoy your company," Doris remarked sincerely. "That's why I was going to ask you to the Lewis wedding tomorrow... as my date. Are you off work? We could put this ugliness behind us. After all, it means free food and drink," she added to try to lighten the mood.

Rebecca smiled without merriment. It was more a look of preposterousness.

"You're asking me on a date?" Rebecca began, "In Springfield? With other people watching?"

Doris nodded. "I came out to Ashlee. She knows and I'm sure pretty the rest of the town will know soon enough as a result, so…I thought I'd see if you wanted to go with me."

Rebecca laughed sardonically. "You want me...a woman who's in the closet…to go on a date to a huge wedding where they'll talk about love and fidelity…with you, a woman who can't commit to me?"

Direct and honest seemed to be the best approach Doris figured. "I was hoping so, yeah," she replied.

Rebecca's jaw tightened.

"Go to hell," she said as she grabbed her purse from the back of the chair and darted out the door.

Doris just sat there for a moment and then felt a hand on her shoulder. She looked up to see Buzz standing there.

"You know, even 'I' could feel that slap," he offered sympathetically, "and I was all the way behind the counter," he added as he pointed behind him. "Not one of your happier constituents I take it?"

"What on earth ever gave you that idea, Buzz?" Doris laughed. "Oh, boy," she sighed. "Is it your cigarette break yet?" she asked.

He gave her a knowing smile and yelled, "Tammy! Watch the floor for me, Hun!" He then motioned at Doris to follow him.

Moments later, they both sat on the steps of Company. Doris had one of Buzz's cigarettes perched between her lips as he lit it for her. She took a long drag and blew it out slowly.

"Last time I saw you, I was setting up shots," Buzz said as he then lit his own cigarette. "Now it's these," he said holding his up for inspection. "What's going on with you?"

"Remember how I told Ashlee a big truth about me?" Buzz nodded. "The big truth is...I'm gay," she said quickly and then waited for his reaction.

Buzz paused a moment and then began to laugh and Doris puffed harder.

"No! No, don't be offended," he told her putting a hand on her knee. "I'm not laughing at you. It's the fact that it seems every beautiful woman in Springfield is either gay or taken. And now I don't think there's any kid, except for maybe Daisy and James, who has straight parents." He chuckled again slightly and took a drag. As he blew it out he asked, "It's not something in the water, is it? Because I'm-I'm amazed and delighted beyond belief to have Lillian, and I don't want to end up with someone like, Alan."

The two of them chuckled.

"I think you're safe," Doris told him. "I was a lesbian long before it was 'cool' and everyone else jumped on board."

Buzz scratched his head nervously. "I gotta ask…you and Olivia..."

"Just friends," Doris answered immediately.

"Well, I see you guys hanging out a lot, and…I thought maybe..."

"No, she's…She's a very strong and brave woman. I respect that and I'd go so far as to say I love those qualities. But, no, she's…" Doris looked reluctant to go on. Finally, she said, "This is a very awkward conversation to have with you."

"Because it involves Natalia, who was with Frank?"

"Yes," Doris replied and took another hit.

Buzz waved her off. "Water under the bridge. Besides…I knew something was off before the wedding."

"Well, not to disrespect your son in the slightest, but the two of them were in love way longer than Natalia and Frank even dated."

"No, I know. I've…I've been lucky enough to find all-consuming love during my lifetime…so I see it. Natalia never had that with Frank… but when she looks at Olivia…Yeah, it's there and...it's reciprocated because Olivia adores her. I even told Olivia recently that the last time I saw her that happy was when she and I were together…In the end though, it worked out for both of us. If I'd married Olivia, she might have missed Natalia, and I'd have missed Lillian. I think we both got a better deal," he added with a wink.

Buzz and Doris both took hits on their cigarettes.

"I'm not sure I'll ever find that," Doris confessed.

"Well, judging by that slap…not with her."

Doris laughed in response. "Again, what tipped you off?"

Buzz reached and touched Doris's face. "I don't know – that imprint of a palm and four fingers for one." Doris looked concerned for her appearance. "I'm teasing," he reassured her. "It's hardly red anymore."

Again, they each took a hit and blew it out slowly.

"I asked her to Billy Lewis's wedding," Doris explained. "But there is someone else I'd like to ask. She's…she is a bit younger than me…by at least 20 years," Doris said while 'coughing' the age difference.

"Twenty years?" Buzz asked.

"Around…yeah," she replied guiltily. "Do you think it's…tawdry…or…I don't know… depraved?"

Buzz gave her an incredulous and dumbfounded look. "O-olivia? Hello?" he said motioning with his hands.

"Well, yeah, but you're not THAT much older, are you?"

"I'm a lot older than I look, and I act much younger than I am sometimes – just ask any of the women in my life." Doris smiled and took a puff of her cigarette. "I say if you like her, then go for it."

"Truth is, I only asked Rebecca first because she's older. Well, that, and the fact I can already hear the comments Olivia will make if I take Jamanda."

"Haven't you spent enough time not following your heart's desire?" Buzz asked. He patted her knee and stood up. He walked over to the ashtray and snuffed it out.

Doris looked over her shoulder and asked, "Would you vote for me, Buzz, an open lesbian?"

"No," he answered. Doris looked defeated. "But not because you're a lesbian. I just don't believe in your party and the games they play. Maybe you could run as an independent – be your own woman for once?"

"I've got money, but not that much money. When you win the party nomination you get cash for the campaign."

Buzz smiled. "Good thing that, one, it's tough to unseat an incumbent, and, two, you've made some rich friends this year... Something to think about."

As Buzz made his way inside, Doris considered his words.

Chapter Fifty

The wedding attendants were slowly starting to gather around at various places at the boat club. Olivia and Natalia were talking softly and looking out the large bay window when they noticed someone they both recognized from Towers.

"Hey Jamanda," Olivia greeted with a smile as the young woman walked up to them. In the slight distance, Olivia watched as Doris and Ashlee talked and then began hugging.

"Hello, Olivia," she said with a smile. "Natalia," she added politely with a nod, which Natalia returned. She looked left and then right. "We're all alone here. Is this the lesbian corner of the room or what?" she joked.

"Not until Doris get here." Olivia ribbed. "Then they can say they corralled all the dykes in one place."

Jamanda's smile widened.

"You're horrible," Natalia chuckled as she playfully swatted Olivia's arm.

"Yeah, but you're still laughin'," Olivia countered as she reached for her purse with a smile.

"You guys are hoot," Jamanda replied and then turned to see Doris return and take her by the upper arm. "Hey, everything okay?" she asked with a hopeful smile. "With Ashlee, I mean? You weren't there very long."

"She's okay," Doris said with a nod and a huge smile. "Better than okay, actually. She said she's happy."

"You look happy too, my friend," Olivia remarked.

"I am," Doris said with a firm nod. "Good friends, a beautiful date, a child who's still speaking to me." Immediately, Doris cringed at her last words and looked at Natalia. "I am so sorry. Sometimes words enter my head and leave my mouth and -."

"It's fine." Natalia reassured her. "Things are getting better – not great, but better."

"Emma's delight seems to equal Rafe's disappointment," Olivia offered.

"That's why we've decided that, between the two of them, they balance each other out - so it's not as terrible or as wonderful as we like, but we're getting there," Natalia added. "Besides you should be happy that your coming out to Ashlee has gone smooth for the most part, Doris. I think the way I handle things with Rafe ended up being far worse," she added as she pointed toward Rafe, Emma and Ashlee, who were in the serious thrall of a tickle fight.

Jamanda looked confused and pointed behind her. "The guy with Ashlee is Rafe? Doris told me about…his difficulty with you guys," she said nervously, as if maybe she wasn't supposed to have known.

"It's okay," Natalia reassured her. "No more secrets. Everyone knows about us now, and if they don't then I'm sure they will after today." Natalia leaned over and kissed Olivia without reservation or concern, which Olivia happily reciprocated. "What about you though?" she asked. "Showing up on the Mayor's arm is sure to cause some buzz for you."

"Oh, I'm out," Jamanda replied casually. "Since high school, actually."

"So when was that?" Olivia asked as a devilish grin formed on her face. "Like two years ago?"

Although Jamanda grinned Natalia said, "Ignore her lack of manners," as she sternly faced Olivia.

"Oh, ha, ha, Spencer," Doris remarked. "You get one age joke today and that was it."

Jamanda put her hand on Doris's arm. "That's okay. I expected as much."

"That's code for I warned her about you," Doris remarked.

"In your defense, Olivia," Jamanda said, "Doris put off asking me out because of the age difference. She was worried that I'd be upset being seen with a woman of...what did you call it?... advancing years?" Jamanda didn't wait for a response from her lover. "But I don't care because power is sexy. No one else can say they're with the most powerful woman in Springfield."

Doris leaned down and kissed Jamanda softly on the lips. She didn't turn around, but she could feel two waiters behind them whispering to one another. Olivia spotted the gossiping 'help' and nodded toward them. "No turning back now," Olivia told her.

Doris took Jamanda's hand. "I honestly don't care at this point. Let 'em talk."

"So…not to pry, but..." Natalia said anxious, as if afraid to ask. "How long have you been…?"

"Out?" Jamanda asked as finished her thought. Natalia nodded shyly. "About 12 years. I came out not long after my sixteenth birthday and about a day later my parents decided it would be best if I didn't live there anymore."

"They kicked you out?" Natalia asked in a small voice.

"Yeah, I came home from school and my stuff was packed in boxes in the living room, but I ended up only taking what I could carry."

"That's a horrible feeling, isn't it?" Natalia asked. Almost protectively, Olivia began to rub Natalia's back. "The people that you think will always be there no matter what - the only support system you've ever really known - just, turning their back like that is…" Natalia trailed off, unable to continue.

"You came out as a teenager too?" Jamanda asked.

"Oh no, I wasn't gay. But being a catholic, well, I was just as 'bad' in my parents' eyes, since I was pregnant with Rafe. So the whole sixteen, scared and alone thing… I've done that."

"At the time, I hated it - like you said, everything I ever knew was instantly stripped away." Jamanda confessed. "But I was lucky enough to have a friend who had very liberal minded parents. I would have ended up on the street like many gay kids do. They're not blood but to this day they're family, you know? They took me in until I could graduate and start Springfield U. But… facing what I faced… yeah, it hurt, but it also made me stronger, more self-sufficient."

"Do you talk to your parents now?" Natalia asked.

"Once in a blue moon," Jamanda replied. "You?"

"Never," Natalia said flatly.

"I'm sorry," Jamanda said automatically.

"I'm not," Natalia answered with great certainty. "Parents might not like what their kids do, but real parents never abandon them. If I don't exist in their eyes then why should they exist in mine?"

"Good point," Jamanda said with a positive nod.

"And like you said, you make your own families, right?" Natalia answered with a sigh to lighten the mood. "Enough of memory lane, let's get a drink. Today is a day to eat, drink and be merry. Well, you ladies can drink, and I'll just handle the eating and merriment part."

"I'll have two drinks for you today. How's that?" Doris offered.

"Sounds like a plan." Natalia smiled.

As they started to move, Natalia and Jamanda took the lead, chatting and walking slightly ahead of Olivia and Doris, who followed behind.

"So?" Olivia whispered. "You gonna be polishing that 'trophy' tonight?" she added and then gave a wicked giggle.

Doris sighed. "What did I say?" she warned in an equally quiet voice.

"You said no more age jokes. You said nothing about trophy wife jokes. Besides, you're a politician. You're supposed to have a PYT on your arm, aren't you?"

"PYT?"

"Pretty Young Thing."

"Now that was an age crack," Doris said shaking her finger.

"Okay, you got me there," Olivia relented.

"And really, who are YOU to talk? You've got nearly a decade on Natalia."

Olivia smiled. "Yes, one decade. Not two."

"She is a smart, funny and intelligent woman," Doris defended.

"Yes, Natalia certainly is," Olivia teased, fully understanding what Doris meant.

"I was talking about Jamanda," the mayor replied annoyed.

"I was only teasing. I can tell she's special. Heck, I've seen women twice her age who don't seem that mature…" Olivia began to grin and looked at Doris. "…Women, like you."

At the same time, Doris said, "Like me." Olivia giggled again as Doris, continued. "Yeah, I saw that comment coming."

She grinned too, but it only lasted a few seconds. "Seriously though, Jamanda and I have a lot in common – rough childhoods, a love of good Scotch and criminal law. She's in her last year of law school, by the way. When she passes the bar in the Spring she'll be able to practice."

Olivia grinned again and then asked, "And how long have you been practicing?"

Doris was about to answer, but then she realized Olivia was fishing for another age joke.

"Shut the hell up," the older woman chuckled, which made them both laugh. The noise then made Natalia and Jamanda turn around to see what the commotion was about. "She's just being an ass," Doris told the pair as she pointed to Olivia.

Jamanda stopped and turned around to face Olivia and Doris.

"Let her get it out of her system," she said to Doris. "Come on, Olivia. Let's hear 'em – all the age jokes. Let's go. Ready. Aim. Fire."

"I'm not making fun of you," Olivia defended. "I'm making fun of her," she added as she pointed to Doris. "It's obvious why she's with you – you're very bright and beautiful. Her, on the other hand-."

"You don't think Doris is beautiful?" Jamanda asked, cutting Olivia off.

"Well, no. She is. Plus, today, she's got that dress workin' for her," Olivia waved.

Doris gave Olivia a girly smile of thanks.

"And would you say she's intelligent?" Jamanda prodded.

"Doris is very smart."

"And funny? I find her very funny, but not everyone gets her humor."

Olivia sighed. "Okay, yes, Doris has great qualities, but you could find a woman your age."

"Why would I want one?" Jamanda asked as she closed the distance and put her arm around Doris's waist. "It seems the women my age all wanna have babies – no offense," she added pointing to Natalia. "They can't carry on a decent conversation that doesn't involve celebrity gossip and to be quite frank, none of them can hold a candle to what this woman can do in bed." Doris blushed, but she grinned proudly just the same. "Maybe they can run a flight of stairs faster or read a newspaper without glasses. So what? It doesn't matter because the worn out adage is true - with age, comes wisdom. And believe me when I tell you, Doris Wolfe is a very WISE woman in many, MANY aspects in life, and I feel honored that she had the courage to set aside her own reservations about MY age and took the chance in asking ME, of all people, to come here today. So instead of questioning it, perhaps you could be her friend and just admire her too for being brave."

"Look, I'm sorry. I just-." Olivia held up her hands.

"It's okay, really. I know you care for Doris and she cares for you," Jamanda said sincerely before Olivia could apologize further. "Few people get the concept of May, well, not May/December relationships, that's too much of a stretch. I'd say we're more like May/September romance. But whatever you call it, we work well together," Jamanda said with a smile. "Anyway, let's just go get that drink."

As Jamanda pulled Doris along, the mayor did manage to take the time to shoot Olivia a smug look.

"You got schooled," Natalia teased Olivia as they followed behind the couple in front of them. "Good for Jamanda," she added. Olivia opened her mouth to speak. "You were being obnoxious."

"I was teasing Doris."

"You know I'm less than ten years older than Jamanda. In fact, I'm closer to HER age than YOURS."

"Are you saying you're not old enough for her?" Olivia joked. Natalia didn't look amused. "We're not gonna fight, are we?" she quickly added upon seeing the expression.

"Not at all," Natalia answered. "I'm just saying the way you look at Doris and Jamanda is the same way some people might look at you and I. And if age wasn't enough, there're also our social classes to consider."

"What are you saying?" Olivia replied.

"You honestly think there are people – folks who know our history – who won't think I'm just being a gold digger? That maybe I, the poor woman, 'went gay' for a woman worth, what, millions? Or what about you? After all, my own son still thinks that, on some level, you're corrupting me for kicks. They might see me as just another, however slightly unique, notch in Olivia Spencer's headboard."

"Okay, what started out as a few jokes at Doris's expense is quickly turning into every reason why we shouldn't be together…Are you having second thoughts? Is that what this is?"

"What? No! I'm just saying there are people who will wonder what on earth we offer one another? So really, I don't find it very funny for you to question Jamanda and Doris. If they're happy, just be happy for them, because really Olivia, on the surface, you and I don't work AT ALL. But the truth is we do work, and in the end, that's all that matters, right? It's not about what everyone else thinks - it's about what WE THINK."

Olivia grinned. "I keep getting schooled by all sorts of beautiful women today."

"So you think Jamanda is beautiful, huh? More beautiful than me?" Natalia asked, fishing for a compliment.

"Not by a long shot," Olivia said as she raised Natalia's hands to her lips and kissed it while they walked. "Besides, she's got no dimples. You know I love the dimple action." Natalia automatically smiled. "Yeah, those ones right there."

Chapter Fifty-One

Olivia and Natalia stood by the refreshment table, looking out over the water.

"I really love the water," Natalia told her. "It's one of the few things I miss about Chicago."

"That's funny." Olivia grinned. "It's one of the things I miss about San Cristobal. So you're a water lover too? I never knew that."

"Well, not a water lover exactly."

Olivia gave her a light chuckle. "Now I'm confused."

"I like to look at the water – it's beautiful," she said motioning out the window. "I like the way it smells. And I love the feeling of sand between my toes, but as for swimming? Not so much. I can doggy paddle and that's about it. Otherwise, I sink like a stone."

"That's because you hardly have any body fat," Olivia answered. Natalia just motioned a hand down her own body. "No, you're not fat. You're pregnant," her lover added.

Natalia gave a heavy sigh and asked, "What if…what if I don't lose the 'baby weight'?" she asked nervously. "Will you still…find me desirable?"

"Honey, there will never come a time when I don't want to make love to you," Olivia answered sincerely.

"So, let's say if I wanted to find somewhere private. Maybe some place like the beach or, say a broom closet, you wouldn't say no?"

Olivia came within inches of Natalia, but she didn't let her hands touch any part of Natalia. Instead, she moved close enough so they were facing each other, touching breast to breast.

"Can you feel how turned on you make me, just by standing near you? The answer to your question is yes. You name the time and the place and I'll be there."

Natalia glanced down and got a full few of Olivia's cleavage. "I really wanna take you now," she growled. "Can we find somewhere, anywhere, around here?"

Olivia closed her eyes and bit her top lip with her bottom teeth for a second.

"Don't toy with me, Sweetheart," Olivia said, her tone getting deeper due to her budding desire.

"I'm not playing," Natalia said, her voice dropping an octave too. She looked left and then right. "Find a place for us privately, and I'll drop my soaked underwear to prove it."

Olivia groaned and began to smile. "I'd call you a tease, but I know you'd follow through."

"Come on, let's find a place here. There's gotta be somewhere we can go."

Olivia turned around and saw Reva and Josh approaching.

"Shit," she muttered. "We make this friendly and fast, got it!" she whispered.

Natalia nodded and put on a smile for the approaching pair.

"Rumor had it you were having a baby," Reva began. "Do you mind?" she asked as she held out her hand to feel Natalia's stomach.

"Go ahead," Olivia said before Natalia could answer. "Fondle the woman – we all do." Josh, Natalia and Olivia all exchanged a knowing grin.

"So do you know yet if it's a boy or a girl?" Reva asked as she touched Natalia for a moment and then took a step back.

Olivia gave Natalia a look that spoke 'move this along' without saying a word.

"A girl," Natalia answered keeping her answer polite, but short.

"Congratulations!" Reva told the pair. "I mean, that's so exciting! A little girl?"

"Yeah, thank you," Natalia said with a smile. "We're so excited."

"We are," Olivia agreed as she began to rub Natalia's growing tummy. "We-we love the smell of a newborn baby, right?" she added to Natalia.

"I know. I-I just can't wait to get her home and show Emma and watch her face-."

"She's gonna be so happy-you know we should find her and make sure she doesn't get her dress too dirty. Will you excuse us?" Before Josh or Reva could answer, Olivia already had Natalia by the hand, pulling her away.

Reva watched with a smile and then moved to the space the pair vacated and told Josh, "They seem so friendly."

Josh simply smiled at first.

Several yards away, Natalia asked, "Her dress too dirty? That was the best excuse you could come up with?"

Olivia leaned over to Natalia as they continued to walk and said, "Announcing something like 'Excuse me, I need to go have sex with my wife this instant' just seemed a bit excessive."

Natalia stopped in her tracks and the action brought Olivia to a grinding halt as well. Olivia turned, but she couldn't read the expression on Natalia's face – was it sorrow…anger…shock. She wasn't sure.

"You're wife?" Natalia asked.

Olivia looked mildly nervous.

"Maybe not according to the state or Father Ray, but yeah," Oivia said as she took a few steps closer. "In here," she said tapping her ribcage, "you certainly are my wife – we're family. You, me, Emma, Rafe, and this one," she said as she stroked Natalia's belly. "And like it or not, if I knew I could get a marriage license, I'd drag you to City Hall get hitched by Doris today... And hopefully that confession doesn't leave you screaming for the hills."

Natalia began to grin.

"Oh no," she tisked, waving her finger. "No screaming and no quickie wedding for us. I don't need the white dress, or a diamond ring so big that hurts my wrist. However, I do want the flowers and the bridesmaids and the dancing and the food and –."

"Gotta have the food," Olivia interrupted.

"Of course! And you're not getting off cheap with me."

"You know, when you were gonna marry Frank you said none of that stuff mattered."

Natalia closed the distance between them and pulled Olivia to her by the waist. "You're different."

"How so?" Olivia asked.

"With you…" Natalia said as she pushed a piece of wayward hair behind Olivia's ear. "… You're my world and I want to celebrate that with everyone. I don't want there to be any doubt that we belong with each other, or that we belong TO each other… You're not getting away…ever." Natalia smiled.

"Good, because I never wanna leave," Olivia said as she nuzzled next to Natalia's ear.

"Mom! Natalia! There you are!" They both looked over to see Emma moving toward them quickly while, in the distance, Rafe tried to look everywhere else, but at the affectionate couple. "They're gonna start the wedding soon. We gotta take our seats!"

"Okay, Jellybean," Olivia said. "You and Rafe find us four spots, okay? We'll be right there." Once Emma was out of earshot Olivia said, "So much for broom closet sex."

Natalia chuckled as she took Olivia by the waist, and they began to walk.

"Actually, maybe it's better we got distracted," the Latina suggested. "Between your protruding cleavage and my obtrusive belly, we might have gotten stuck somewhere."

"Between my cleavage, huh? I really like having YOU between my cleavage."

"Is that so?" Natalia replied as she looked down Olivia's dress. Olivia, for her part, just licked her lips and nodded. "Ironically, between your cleavage is one of my most favorite places to be…well, aside from the wet cleft between your legs." The breath of her words against Olivia's ear made the older woman shudder. For extra measure, Natalia slid her hand down and casually grabbed Olivia's left buttocks, giving it a quick squeeze.

"Oh, you're a bad girl," Olivia sighed in arousal.

"Yeah, you got pretty lucky," Natalia said as she wiggled her eyebrows.

"Yes, I did," Olivia whole-heartily agreed as they closed the distance to take their seats.

Chapter Fifty-Two

After they had dropped Rafe off at the bus station, Natalia went to Company with Frank to get Emma while Olivia stopped by the Spaulding Mansion to offer her condolences to Phillip and to see if they needed anything.

Later that night, Olivia and her 'girls' barely touched their spaghetti dinner, although it was one of Emma's favorites and she requested it. The truth is no one had an appetite. What began as a fun day at Buzz and Lillian's duel wedding with Vanessa and Billy ended with Emma literally without a grandfather and a brother who would soon be halfway around the world.

Olivia turned off the last light downstairs as Natalia stood in the doorway of Emma's bedroom just watching the young girl sleep. Olivia stood silently watching the sad smile that graced Natalia's face for a few moments. With soft footsteps, she made her way to Natalia, who turned to the sound and looked at her for only a moment. She then turned her gaze back to their daughter curled up in bed with a stuffed animal that resembled a kitten tucked under her arm.

"You know," Natalia whispered once Olivia was at her side. "In about ten years, she'll be gone too."

Olivia studied the gloomy grin on her lover's face as she ran her hand down Natalia's back. The appendage came to rest on Natalia's hip.

"But that's the point, isn't it? You provide the love and guidance they need so they go off and form their own households, like we did. We might not always live together, but we'll always be family."

"Do you think you've guided Emma enough to make it on her own?"

Olivia smiled. "She knows the Springfield bus schedule pretty well, I can tell you that." Natalia playfully swatted Olivia's arm as she held back a laugh. "But to answer your question…no. When I was, dying – that was one of the hardest parts. Did I love her enough? Did I teach her enough and who would teach her when I was gone? I'm not sure if that feeling will ever go away."

"It won't." Natalia's response was barely above a whisper.

A small silence passed between them and Olivia said, "I will say this, if hadn't survived and Emma ended up with you and Gus then she woulda had that love and support I was worried about…I know you love Gus – and always will – and I know you love Emma. Sometimes I think..." Olivia shook off the thought. "Look, it doesn't matter what I think. What's done is done, right? Que Sera, Sera?"

Natalia turned and took a nervous looking Olivia by the waist. "You think that sometimes I wish I had Gus and Emma instead of you and Emma? Is that it?"

Olivia didn't answer – instead she simply shrugged, unable to meet Natalia's eyes.

"Understand something," Natalia said stroking Olivia's face and getting her attention. "Nicky was my first love. I idealized him. But you, you're the love of MY LIFE. I don't worship you. I see you quite clearly – good and…not so good – and I love you nonetheless. So please don't think – not even for a moment – that I wished Gus was here instead of you. Am I sorry he died? Of course I am. But I also know if he hadn't, then chances are you wouldn't still be here, and you're my world."

Olivia took a deep breath. "If that's really true then why did you leave?" she asked as her voice broke. She immediately rubbed her forehead. "I'm sorry. I moved back in – I made my choice to forgive. I - I've got let it go, I know."

"You're within your rights to ask, Olivia," Natalia said trying to comfort her. "Honestly, I second guessed everything in my life when I learned I was pregnant and when I went away to reflect and gain focus my thoughts changed so much on a regular basis. But there was only one constant that didn't change – how 'I' felt about you. Every time I thought of you, and how this baby might drive a wedge between us, I ached at the thought of losing you. It felt like my whole world would crumble. And that's when I realized it… you ARE my world. Because when we're apart I feel empty and when everything feels terrible and hopeless, you make it right with something as simple as a smile... and I think about Rafe leaving today and…" Natalia trailed off, forcing her growing tears down. She sighed deeply. "Look, it's been a long day," Natalia said softly, as not to wake Emma.

"It has," Olivia agreed. "Let's try to get some sleep, okay?"

Natalia nodded and took Olivia's hand as the older woman led her to their bedroom. The hotelier went in first, followed by her lover, but she stopped when she heard the door close and the lock click into place. As she turned Natalia was already closing the distance between them at a rapid rate and drawing her into a heated kiss that took Olivia off guard at first.

Realizing what was happening, Olivia began to reciprocate. A few seconds later Natalia was pulling at the Olivia's white tank top trying to pull it up and over her breasts. Before she could succeed though, Olivia captured Natalia's hands in hers.

"Slow down, Tigress. What's going on?" she asked.

Natalia looked annoyed. "I'm trying to make love to my wife, but obviously she's not cooperating."

Olivia opened her mouth, at first saying nothing. She then pulled Natalia with her and the two of them sat at the foot of the bed.

"Talk to me," Olivia told her.

"I don't wanna talk," Natalia said as she tried to pull Olivia back in for another round of kisses. Olivia, however, turned her head away and Natalia's shoulders slumped in defeat. "You don't want me anymore," she sighed.

Natalia tried to rise to walk away, but Olivia grabbed her arm and pivoted her own body slightly so she could face Natalia more directly.

"Trust me. I want you. More than I've ever wanted anyone. But what's happening here …this display of passion is NOT about us. You're running and you're using me… using sex … to escape."

"I don't mean to use you, Olivia. I just want to feel alive," Natalia said with a slight sob in her voice.

"Okay, 'using me' was a poor choice of words," her lover said. "But I've been where you are right now, Sweetie." She began to stroke Natalia's face. "I've used sex as a release and, yeah, sometimes it works, but… no man recognized my actions for what they truly were - trying to hide what was bothering me. There were times my actions in bed weren't about desire or about wanting THEM. It was about looking for someway to try to heal my heart."

"I'm sorry for upsetting you," Natalia said sounding guilty.

"Listen to me," Olivia said. When Natalia didn't turn her way, she said, "Look at me." Reluctantly, Natalia did and Olivia continued, "I'm not criticizing you, okay? And I'm not mad. I'm saying I understand what you're doing right now - wanting to 'love away' the hurt and confusion. I'm telling you that if you want to talk to me, you can talk to me - between Alan's death, explaining the complexities of life to Emma and Rafe leaving, it's…you're right, it has been a loooooong day."

"It has," Natalia said softly, sounding almost like a scared child. "If you don't want to, you know, have sex, I understand… I-I'm sorry for not thinking clearly. I didn't even consider how Alan's death might be affecting you. I know you genuinely loved him at one time and him dying-."

"He died happy," Olivia told her. "Some people never reach that point, and although he didn't realize what being happy meant for very long, at least he got to experience it. And he got to be the hero he never had the courage to be before. It's just hard talking to Emma, trying to explain…" Olivia paused and tears sprang to her eyes as she recalled the sadness on Emma's face and how she didn't have any solid answers on why people die and why her granddad had to die 'now' when he was looking just fine. Olivia cleared her throat. "Maybe I'm more upset about it all than I thought," she realized as she started to cry silently. She wiped her own tears away and turned to Natalia, who was also now in tears.

"I'm sorry for pushing you," Natalia sobbed.

"Don't," Olivia said composing herself and now pulling her lover closer. "You didn't push me, and yes, I want to make love to you. Like I said earlier today, I will ALWAYS desire you. I just want you to know that you can talk to me if you're upset – you don't have to use sex to find comfort with me."

Natalia was quiet for a long moment.

"What if he... doesn't come back?" she finally asked.

Olivia was aware they weren't talking about Alan anymore.

"I told you. I have faith. Besides, Rafe grew up in a tough city; he's survived prison. He's strong and he's smart and between you and me, the kid is ten times more stubborn than you. So if he decides he's coming home in one piece after his tour then you can be damn sure he will. I don't know what's in those Rivera genes, but you're both survivors who refuse to give up when you set your mind on something."

Natalia considered her words and grinned slightly. "Still…that doesn't answer my question."

"So what if he doesn't come back?" Olivia asked, repeating it. Natalia gave a small nod. Olivia sighed deeply. Sure, she had issues with the young man – that was putting the situation lightly. But Rafe WAS Natalia – her flesh, her blood, her child. She didn't want any harm to befall him – for all their sakes, including Rafe's.

"I'll be here," Olivia began. "Emma will be here. This new child will be here. The entire Cooper clan – hell, you can't avoid them." Both women grinned for a moment and Olivia began to look serious again as she continued. "None of us could ever replace Rafe, but you'll never be without unconditional love or affection again. That much I CAN promise you for sure."

Natalia looked deeply into Olivia's eyes and knew she firmly believed what she was saying. Not that Olivia lied to her or gave her a reason to doubt her words. It was the fact Olivia was convinced, and when Olivia was convinced of something that's usually what happened. Natalia's hand reached up and began to softly stroke Olivia's face.

"I still really want to make love to you," Natalia told her with such sincerity and desire it made Olivia melt.

The older woman stood up, her smile in place, and she lifted the tank top over her head, leaving her clad in her bra and pink jeans. She took a spot between Natalia's legs that hung over the foot of the bed and brought the younger woman's hands to the buckle of her belt.

Without further prompting, Natalia undid the leather belt and then slowly released each button from Olivia's button fly jeans. Once free, Natalia reached for the waistband and pulled the thin denim from her lover's hips, letting it pool at the floor.

Not bothering to step out of her jeans, Olivia went to work undressing Natalia. She started first by tugged at Natalia's maternity top that the pregnant woman was partially sitting on. Once it was free, in one swift move Olivia pulled it up and over Natalia's head to find the younger woman was bra-less.

"Oh. Wow," Olivia mumbled almost incoherently.

Natalia blushed slightly, a rosy color coming to her chest, neck and face. "You approve?" she asked shyly. Olivia opened her mouth, but words failed her. "I'll take that as a yes," Natalia giggled.

Getting her bearings, but still speechless, Olivia reached around Natalia's waist to unbutton the denim skirt. She then gently pushed Natalia's back to the bed and swiftly pulled the skirt to find Natalia wasn't wearing panties either.

"Good God," Olivia said tossing the final garment of Natalia's over her shoulder. "You did have plans tonight, didn't you?"

Natalia rose to her elbows while she still lay on the bed.

"What did you expect?" she asked incredulously. "You got me all worked up at the wedding. I'm not about to let you be a clit tease," she said unflinchingly.

Olivia gave her a deep laugh that happened when something truly tickled her.

"Say that again," she commanded in a husky voice.

"Worked up?" Natalia teased, fully aware what Olivia wanted her to repeat. Olivia's only response as a disapproving raised eyebrow. "Ohhhh, you mean clit tease." Olivia rewarded her with another baritone chuckle. Natalia giggled too for a moment. "I love your laugh," she said in a tone filled with total devotion and love.

"I love your dirty talk," Olivia said as she straddled Natalia's waist. She leaned over the making the smaller woman, making her lie back down again.

"I love your naked body." Natalia reached up and in one fluid movement had Olivia's bra unsnapped and pulled from her shoulders.

"Damn, you're fast," Olivia said, now clad only in her satin boy shorts.

"A stunningly beautiful woman taught me that patience isn't always a virtue – sometimes you just need to grab what you want with both hands."

With that, Natalia reached up and clutched both of Olivia's breasts and began to massage them. Olivia's groan came from deep within her throat and Natalia could feel her own center instantly become wet at the sound. When Olivia's nipples began to grow erect, Natalia took each one between a thumb and index finger bringing it to an even greater point.

"You know one of the many, MANY things I love about sex with you?" Natalia asked in a somewhat absent tone, since she was caught up in see the physiologically reaction her touch was having on Olivia's body.

"Oh, do tell, Dear," Olivia moaned as her arms began waiver slightly, threatening to topple her onto Natalia at any moment.

"That. Right there. You talk to me – complete sentences too. Men, well, the two I'd been with anyway, they couldn't… well… walk and chew gum at the same time, if you know what I mean."

That did it. Olivia laughed and tumbled forward, but she shifted direction and ended up plopping next to Natalia. Olivia reached over and stroked Natalia's face, who'd turned to face her, so they lay side-by-side.

"I know exactly what you mean," Olivia said with a smile as she inched slightly closer. "What else do you like?" she asked coyly as her hand traveled down the length of Natalia's body as far as she could reach before she followed the path back up.

"I like that we can lie like this: laughing, totally naked; totally at ease."

Olivia's eyebrow arched slightly. "I'm not at ease. I'm pretty excitable right now, actually."

Natalia smiled. "Me too. See?" She shifted up slightly and led Olivia's hand to the wetness at her center and held it steady. "I mean I don't feel 'rushed' – like I have some unknown destination that I need to 'get to.' With you, I'll 'get there' – I'm sure of it – but it's more like taking the scenic roads opposed to the quickest, most direct route."

Olivia couldn't control herself any longer and her fingers began to slide through the wetness that Natalia led her to just moments before. Natalia let out an appreciative sigh that made Olivia's breath catch.

"What…What about you?" Natalia forced out. "W-what do you like?"

"You mean aside from the fact you're always soaked and ready for me," Olivia replied as her fingers picked up their pace slightly. Natalia only groaned as her hips began to move of their own accord against Olivia's fingertips. "I love this," Olivia said, almost sounding like a hum. "I love the smooth skin and softness of you." Olivia leaned closer and began to nibble along Natalia's neck and was rewarded with a desire filled whimper. "I LOVE the way you buck against my hand." Olivia rose slightly and looked down at Natalia, whose breathing was becoming more labored. "I love that wanton look in your eyes like you have right now. The one that says you want me to devour you," she answered.

"Please," Natalia begged in an edgy voice.

"Oh, and although I already mentioned it…" she continued to tease. "I love your dirty talk. So tell me…" Olivia said as she easily plunged three fingers inside of Natalia, making her grind even harder against her hand.

"Oh, Liv," Natalia said passionately sighed.

"How can I please you, Natalia?"

Natalia licked her dry lips and then captured Olivia's head and pulled her into a passionate kiss as she continued to ride the older woman's hand. She pulled back and rested her forehead on Olivia's. Natalia took a shaken breath.

"Fuck me…with your tongue."

"You wanna feel my tongue inside you, Baby?" Olivia asked with a playful smile.

"In me. On me. Everywhere."

"How bad do you want it?"

"Real bad."

"Real bad?"

"Real bad."

"Proof it," Olivia challenged.

Natalia groaned both in desire and frustration. She extracted Olivia from the depths of her body and swiftly moved off the bed. Before Olivia could ask where she was going, Natalia pulled on the bedspread with such force that Olivia found her body sliding to the edge. With a mix of desire and uncertainty, Olivia watched as Natalia began to greedily lick her center through her boy shorts.

The older woman's head slammed into the mattress, and she let out a groan as her hips arched in the air, meeting Natalia's hungry mouth. The younger woman made sounds of enjoyment as she slurped and devoured her lover while Olivia's fingers tangled in her hair.

Suddenly though, she felt Natalia rise away, and she whimpered slightly at the loss of contact. The next sensation she felt was the sound of fabric and tread tearing apart as Natalia literally ripped the crotch of the underwear, leaving a hole in the seam that allowed her direct access to Olivia's center. With the shorts still on Olivia, Natalia's tongue sought out and found the older woman's soaked cleft.

"Oh God." Olivia closed her eyes.

She'd had many lovers and tried many things. Hell, she wrapped herself in plastic wrap for Josh for goodness sake But this...this was totally foreign to her. Not once, in all her sexual escapades, did anyone desire her so much that they literally tore clothing apart to get to HER. The emotional implication of that fact, which soon followed, was incredible.

The actual physical sensation was overwhelming too though. Not only did Olivia feel Natalia's tongue driving in and out of her, delicately brushing her clit along the way, but the remains of the underwear continued to rub against her center too.

"Fingers," Olivia managed to croak. "Fingers."

Natalia quickly pulled the remains of Olivia's underwear completely off and without wasting a single second, she slid two fingers inside, and then a third. She began to build a rhythm with Olivia's rising and falling hips when the older woman below her cried out in passion, surprising both of them with how fast her orgasm overtook her.

"Oh, fuck!" Olivia swore with excitement just under her breath, not wanting to wake Emma. "That was…intense."

Natalia climbed up on the bed, a wanton look still on her delicate features. "Was? Oh no, Liv. You're not done tonight," she warned as she began to straddle her hips over Olivia's face. "I proved myself. Now pay up and fuck me with your tongue."

Olivia's eyes widened momentarily at Natalia's directness and desire. She grinned slightly and gave a silent prayer, Thank you God for showing her the way back to me and letting her unleash this passion for me.

As Natalia steadied herself over Olivia by holding the top of the headboard, she heard Olivia start to speak, "So, you want-?"

"I wanna soak your entire face," Natalia answered as she looked down, although she couldn't see Olivia.

Seconds later, without another word from either woman, Natalia's head fell back, and her breast protruded forward, as Olivia's tongue made a connection with her center. After a few moments, she began to rock above Olivia, whose tongue dove in and out of her center, and whose nose tickled her clitoris.

"Oh, that's it," Natalia said in a soft, desire filled whimper as she began to twist her own erect nipples between her fingers. . "Like that. Just like that." Olivia shook her head a bit more and Natalia's back arched even more, and she drove down just a little bit more. "Oh, Liv…I'm close, Sweetheart. I'm so close."

Much to Olivia's own excitement and delight, she was pleased when she felt Natalia's finger reach down brushing her own and together they stroked Natalia's engorged clit. "Inside," Natalia begged as her fingers brushed across her clit at a speedy rate.

"God, you're so fucking hot when you're this turned on," Olivia complimented. "Watching you makes me wanna come all over again."

The touching, the sounds and the smells that filled the room inspired Natalia. However, it was Olivia's voice and words that pushed her over the edge.

"God, yesssss," she hissed as her hands reached for the headboard again to steady herself. Her fingernails dug into the wood as she climaxed harder and longer than she imagined she would.

Natalia rose up slightly as the waves continued to overtake her and Olivia was able to slip out from under her. The older woman watched Natalia's body convulse in pleasure, and she wrapped her arms around Natalia from behind. It was seconds later when she heard the slight sobs escape the younger woman's throat.

At first, Olivia wasn't sure what brought on the reaction. She knew that sex, especially good sex, could stir many emotions – sometimes ones that were in direct conflict with each other. Sometimes an intense release had the power to call to mind events that had very little to do with the sexual pleasure that just took place.

Olivia continued to stroke Natalia's hair as the woman slowly made her way to the mattress. Still not saying anything, and with Natalia's sobs finally calming somewhat, Olivia heard the younger woman ask, "What if he's maimed? What if he dies?"

This time Natalia didn't sugarcoat the questions - she went directly to the point of what haunted her the most right now.

Olivia moved even closer behind Natalia and tightened her hold on her. She buried her face in Natalia's sweat-soaked hair and neck.

"If that happens," Olivia said, not ignoring her concern, "we'll get through it…together... Like we always do."

Natalia rolled around to face Olivia. Neither woman said anything – they didn't need to… they simply held one another.

Chapter Fifty-Three

"I don't believe it," Natalia said as she sat on the sofa and pointed at the television. "Olivia! Get in here!"

They hadn't been awake that long, but upon hearing the urgency in Natalia's voice, Olivia raced into the living room as fast as her feet would carry her. Emma's cereal box was still in her hand. Of course, wanting to see what the commotion was all about, Emma followed too.

"Is it the baby?" Olivia worriedly asked as she rounded the corner, entering the living room. She looked Natalia up and down to see if something was physically wrong.

Natalia shook her head and pointed at the television, not taking her eyes off of it. All three of them watched as Doris stood in front of City Hall holding a press conference, as a banner scrolled across the bottom of the screen saying 'Springfield Mayor Comes Out' and a reporter gave a voiceover.

"Upon learning about Mayor Wolfe's lesbian relationship, with twenty-eight year old cocktail waitress Jamanda Weiks, the Springfield Republican committee issued the following statement saying, 'We feel that Ms. Wolfe's lifestyle choices to be in direct conflict with the Republican committee's stance on family values and moral conduct. At this time, she has been advised that the Republican committee will be selecting a new representative in the next mayoral election."

The screen flashed to some photographers and reporters at Towers, following a nervous and scared Jamanda as she tried to make her way to her car.

"Look at those bastards!" Olivia snarled at the screen.

"Olivia!" Natalia admonished and gestured with her head slightly toward Emma. "Watch your language."

"I'm sorry," Olivia said sincerely, realizing Emma was standing there. "But look at those animals!"

"I know; it's a shame. I hope she's okay."

"Going after Doris is one thing - she's a public figure," Olivia added, "But Jamanda didn't do anything. Besides what can she say other than, 'Yes, Doris is my girlfriend'?"

After a moment of contemplation, Emma asked, "Ashlee has two mommies too?"

Olivia and Natalia exchanged a look and Olivia shrugged as she answered, "Well, I'm not sure if they're as close as me and Natalia, but maybe someday Ashlee might have two mommies like you."

That answer seemed to satisfy Emma and they all turned back to the television, which now showed another clip of the earlier news conference where a reporter asked, "Is this news going to change your plans to run for re-election since you no longer have the financial backing of the RNC? Or do you plan to switch political parties?"

"At this point I plan to run as an independent," Doris replied, the picture of grace under pressure.

"How do you feel about the RNC pulling their backing?" another asked.

"Obviously there are some policies within the RNC I don't agree with, particularly those concerning the LGBT communities. However, there are still ideals I hold firm to – such as their avoidance of tax and spend policies. So since I have no intention of moving to the Democratic party, I'll be considering other funding sources such as grassroots campaigning."

The reporter began to do another voice over as they showed more pre-taped images of Doris. At that moment, Olivia's cell phone began to ring, and she looked at the name.

"It's Doris," she told them.

Natalia made a gesture that she was moving into the kitchen. She took the cereal box from Olivia and then took Emma by the shoulder, gently leading her out of the room and back to their breakfast.

Without even saying hello, Olivia's first words were, "Oh my god. Are you OK?" There was a slight silence and Olivia began again. "Yeah, I know the place. Can you give me about twenty minutes…Thirty? Alright…Okay, I'll see you there."

Olivia walked into the kitchen, and slipped her arm around Natalia and gave her kiss on the cheek.

Natalia smiled slightly and asked, "Would you think it was evil of me if I said what goes around comes around?"

"Meaning?"

"Doris getting blasted in front of a media firing squad about her relationship," Natalia explained. "Maybe it's instant karma."

Olivia paused and grinned slightly. "Maybe a little."

Natalia smiled a little bit more and then looked serious. "Really, though, how's she doing?"

"I couldn't tell actually. She wants to meet me at Ayrin's Park in a half hour. I know we've got that appointment with the designer, but maybe I can meet you at Company later? I'm sure Frank'll be there – we can all leave together?"

"Okay," Natalia replied. "I'll drop Emma off at Jodi's for their play date."

"Natalia," Emma said rolling her eyes. "It's not a play date. I told you. We don't like each other like you and mom do, so it's not a date."

Olivia exaggerated the gesture and then said, "How many times does she have to tell you?" she sighed in exaggeration before starting to smile again.

"I stand corrected," Natalia chuckled holding up her hands. "How about BFF time instead?"

"That'll work," Emma replied with a grin.

Olivia tussled Emma's hair and then kissed the top of her head. She then leaned over to her wife, giving Natalia another kiss. "I'll see my girls later, okay?"

Emma and Natalia both waved at her as they wore matching smiles. Twenty minutes later the hotelier sat on a park bench in one of the less populated outdoor areas in Springfield. She watched Doris arrive carrying roses, and she began to grin at the sight.

"You're not thinking of becoming a florist, are you?" Olivia asked.

Doris chuckled and took a seat next to her.

"No," she said handing them over. "These are for you."

"I'm flattered, but I'm taken," Olivia teased as she gave them a sniff.

"They're given in the spirit of love; not romance," Doris explained.

"What's the special occasion?" Olivia asked.

"No occasion other than I realized something important - something I never had."

"Which is?"

"You're my best friend and I love you," Doris said nervously.

"Awww, so I'm your first," Olivia said as she bumped shoulders, hoping the slight bit of lightheartedness would ease Doris's fretfulness of the confession. "That's sweet," she added, kissing her on the cheek.

Doris chuckled and smiled. "God, you're a pain in the ass."

Olivia barked out a laugh. "And you like that too."

Doris grinned slightly. "Yeah, I do…I just spent an entire night and morning being bombarded by fellow politicians and local organizations telling me what I should do and shouldn't do; what I should say or shouldn't say. But I realized, there's only one person's advice I really want right now and that's yours. We're straight with each other, ya know?" Doris paused for a beat. "Okay, that is probably the worst choice of words I could use."

Olivia chuckled. "Okay, back up," she said holding up a palm in a 'stop' motion. "First, thank you – these are beautiful," she said holding up the flowers. "Second, all jokes aside, I love you too. And if anyone told me in February that I'd be saying that, and actually meaning it, I'd be checking them into Ravenwood. And third, how on earth did they find out about Jamanda so fast?"

Doris sighed and waved a dismissive hand. "Cell phone cameras I'm assuming. The images and video of Jamanda and I kissing went viral online that night. I started getting the calls around seven when I got home."

"It wasn't like you were being lewd. Heck, she didn't even stay for the reception so she wasn't there that long. She said she had to go to work at Towers."

"I know!" Doris agreed. "I spent the evening dancing with Frank! No one bothered to get a picture of THAT, did they? But, believe it or not, it gets worse. The reporters tracked Jamanda down last night."

"Yeah, I saw them on the news stalking her."

"Well, Towers fired her." Doris sighed.

"What? They can't do that!"

"They can and they did."

"For dating a woman?"

"Maybe," she replied. "Or maybe for dating me and causing a disturbance to their establishment. Either way, they gave her the boot, and now she's jobless…because of me." Doris hung her head and rubbed her temples. "No wonder Rebecca turned me down," she muttered.

"Why didn't you call me last night?" Olivia asked.

"I didn't want to dump on you. I know Rafe had left, and I'm sure you were trying to comfort Natalia. And then, around that time, I noticed my cell phone was dead and it wasn't until later that I got Ashlee's messages saying Alan died. So how do I find out? I turned on the news stations to see what was being said about ME and that's when I heard it. So calling you last night was just out of the question."

"Why?"

"Say what you will about the man, Alan was still Emma's granddad, so I figured you were pretty occupied. And-and, the truth is, I needed time to digest all of that too. I married him, like you did, ya know? Well, not really. I never loved him, but…I liked the banter. I have to admit he and I could do a pretty good verbal volley now and then."

She smiled bittersweetly and Olivia simply nodded in understanding.

"So Jamanda…" Olivia began after a small silence, "Have you spoken to her?"

Doris nodded. "I did last night. I told her to come over, but she said she didn't want to make things worse, and she hasn't returned my calls this morning. I told her I'd take care of her, financially…emotionally…whatever she needs, but she doesn't want my help. She wants to do this on her own, saying it's her problem. She knew going to the wedding was a risk, but…but now she's not sure if she made the right choice."

"Damn it, Doris."

"I think the truth is she hates me, but I don't blame her." Doris hung her head again, trying to relieve the migraine that kept building.

"Okay, calm down," Olivia said as she reached over and rubbed Doris's back. "She's young-."

"God, not another age joke, Liv, please?"

"No jokes," Olivia told her. "She's younger than you, just like Natalia's younger than me and look what happened there. In my limited experience with the fairer sex, women freak out sometimes. Natalia bolted on me and you got a front row seat to me acting like Brando, which nearly ended with us being arrested by nuns." Both women grinned for a moment at the memory. "In the end though, Natalia came around. I came around and the two of us found each other. So don't give up on Jamanda. I know I teased you, but if you think you could love this woman, don't give up – just give her some space for now."

Doris nodded. "You know one of the worst parts of all of this?" Olivia simply listened. "I've been called out by practically everyone as the world's biggest hypocrite for the 'my two mommies / protect our children' speech." Olivia just shook her head with a growing grin. "Go ahead. Laugh it up."

"No, I'm just thinking about Natalia. She said what comes around goes around. You know the whole reaping what you sow thing? I will say this though – after enjoying the initial irony of the situation, she was genuinely concerned for both you and Jamanda."

"She is a good woman and I can't blame her for enjoying a little payback," Doris said trying to smile. For a long moment, nether woman said anything. They just sat in comfortable silence until Doris spoke again. "But like I said, through all of this, I realized something."

"What's that?" Olivia asked.

"For the first time in my life, I found a woman I can call a true friend." Doris rolled her shoulders. "Who the hell am I kidding? For the first time in my life, I found ANYONE I could call a friend."

"That's not true. When we were looking for Natalia you said you've been loved before."

"Yeah, boyfriends and girlfriends, but not by anyone who wasn't a romantic partner. I've never had… a confidant…not until you. And I knew when I was dealing with all this crap in the last 15 hours… that in spite of all this chaos, and all these backers, who are now dropping like flies, one thing would be constant… you'd be there when I called…and here you are."

Olivia gave her a small grin. "Should I be proud that you like me for who I am or should I be disappointed that you don't find me as sexually desirable?

"You said it yourself," Doris told her. "You are very, VERY taken. Anyone with eyes can see that…well, except for Frank Cooper."

"Oh! Speaking of, what time is it?" Olivia asked looking at her watch.

"Why?" Doris asked.

"The three of us have a date with a nursery designer," Olivia answered.

"Ooh, a nursery threesome – how sexy is that?" Doris teased.

Olivia just giggled, "Come on, walk with me."

Olivia offered Doris her free hand to help her stand, while her other hand remained filled with the bouquet of roses. As they began to walk down the shaded path, Olivia her arm around Doris and Doris immediately did the same.

Olivia cleared her throat and then said, "Tell Jamanda to take a week off and not to worry about the money – I'll give her a nice sized 'signing bonus'. Then when things cool down in a few days, and the media's salivating over the next big scoop, she can come work at the Beacon. We need a bartender and I'm sure I pay better than Towers."

"Olivia, you don't have to do that," Doris replied. "I didn't ask you here to-."

"And as for your re-election campaign," Olivia continued, ignoring any protest, "let me know what the RNC gave you last time. Phillip and I will split the cost and cover it."

"I don't know what to say," Doris said a bit tearful.

"I do. You learned my deep dark secret."

"You're gay?"

"No, I'm a sucker for flowers."

Doris chuckled.

"After all," Olivia continued, "that's how Natalia won me over again. So stealing a play from her playbook – well done." Olivia rested her head briefly on Doris's shoulder as they walked, making Doris smile.

"Just how are you going to talk Phillip into doing this though? I tried to get him thrown back into jail and, honestly, the Spauldings really don't like me, especially Beth."

"Big whoop. She doesn't like me either. But I'm not worried about her. Emma's Phillip's daughter and you're Emma's Aunt Doris. All she's gotta do is bat her baby blues and say, 'Daddy, can you give Auntie D some money, so she can stay mayor?'" Olivia finished in a childlike voice and stuck out her lip in a pout.

Doris chuckled. "And here I thought Natalia Rivera had rehabilitated you into a virtuous person, but you're gonna pimp your child for me."

"Pimping is such an ugly word. I prefer… errand running. She's just gonna swing by the Spaulding mansion and get some money for us. That's all."

Both women chuckled.

As they started to come back to the parking lot where a couple of cars sat, Doris said, "You better let me go and not stand so close. I don't want you being next on the hit list."

"Are you personally bothered with me being this close?"

"No," Doris said sincerely.

Olivia tightened her hold in response. "Then screw them. I'm not letting go of my best friend."

Doris smiled as they continued to walk practically joined at the hip.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Later that day, on the other side of town Frank, Natalia and Olivia – in that order – sat alone on a large sofa in the interior designer's office. They were looking at a collection of books with baby items, with each of them holding a book on his or her lap while the designer was in a nearby room taking a phone call.

"I like the daisies and pink flowers motif," Natalia sighed adoringly as she pointed to a photo in a huge book, showing Olivia and Frank.

The two older parents leaned over a bit more to look at one another. In doing so they exchanged a look of 'no way' with each other and just shook their heads in mutual disapproval.

"What?" Natalia asked soundly slightly offended. "I've never had a girl. I want…girly things, okay?!"

"Well, how about fighting gender stereotypes?" Frank suggested. "Here's a baseball one and big brother Rafe would love it," he offered.

"Don't you think it's enough that she's got a daddy and two mommies?" Olivia provided. "I don't mind fighting gender stereotypes, and if she came to me and said, 'Mom, I want baseballs in my room'. I'd be the first one to let her have them. But I can't do that now. She'd grow up…" Olivia looked for the right words.

"Gay?" Frank chuckled and shrugged his shoulders.

"Confused," Olivia said instead.

"Marina loved baseball – and she still does, and SHE'S not gender confused."

"Exactly!" Natalia asked. "So what's the harm in daisies and pink flowers? It won't make her ultra-girly. The nursery is more for the parents than the child anyway."

"Fine," Olivia replied firmly. "I – me, myself and I – I don't want to look at daisies and pink flowers. It's just…"

"Super feminine," Frank offered.

"Yes! Thank you!" Olivia said relieved.

"She is a female," Natalia countered. Olivia and Frank both turned their heads away and held their tongues. "You know," she continued sounding annoyed. "I'm starting to think that bringing you both here together was a bad idea if you're all gonna gang up on me."

"And here come the hormones," Olivia whispered over to Frank, making him grin.

"What?!" Natalia asked. "I am NOT hormonal, okay? This is my first baby daughter and probably my only baby daughter, so I want daisies and pink flowers!"

"So Emma doesn't count then?" Olivia questioned, with a slight tinge of anger.

"And let the estrogen soar," Frank muttered as he tried to hide in his book and flipped another page.

"Of course Emma counts!" Natalia remarked hotly. "But she's not a baby! I can't buy a crib and a high chair for her, now can I?"

"You could," Frank replied, with a grin, "But she probably couldn't fit in them," he added hoping a bit of levity might ease the growing tension. It didn't work and he nervously cleared his throat. "Oh, look!" He pointed after flipping the page in his book. "It's baby jungle animals. That's neutral and kinda cute. Even Emma might like that since she loves animals. What do you think?"

Frank's mind screamed, Please say yes, please say yes, please say yes.

Olivia looked over Natalia to see Frank's book.

"I gotta admit they are kind of cute and it works for a girl or a boy," she answered. "It's not ultra-girly or testosterone laden."

"And they've got the design in everything – high chair, crib bedding, wallpaper, you name it!" Frank said trying to really sell the idea.

Olivia nodded in agreement.

"I like it," she said soundly and then turned to Natalia, "Whatta ya say?"

"You both like this one?" Natalia asked. Frank and Olivia nodded. "Fine," she sighed. "Majority rules."

Olivia smiled. She raised her hand to Frank and said, "Up top."

Frank and Olivia gave each other a high five much to Natalia's annoyance. "Yeah this sharing thing…not sure if it's gonna work out."

"Oh, don't be a grump just because you got overruled," Olivia told her.

Natalia grinned and she put her book down on the coffee table in front of them.

"You know," she began as she stood up. "I have no power over Frank's vote, but I can sway yours. I have something you want, so don't gloat too much, Dear."

Natalia walked over to the assistant and asked for the ladies' room as Frank leaned over to Olivia.

"I think Natalia's learned how to use sex as a weapon," he whispered.

Olivia grinned. "How uncharacteristically astute of you, Frank," she commented just as softly.

"Yeah, well, you better not change your vote. I have a date to get to in," he paused and looked at his watch, "less than an hour. Besides, I like the animals. And Pink flowers? Really? I don't think so – that's why we have to be a united front here, you and I, no caving, for annnnny reason."

"Okay."

"I mean it, Olivia," Frank insisted.

"Okaaaay," she whined. After a moment of silence, Olivia asked, "So who's the gal you're meeting? Someone we know?"

"I met her…online," he said reluctantly. At first, Olivia said nothing. "Go ahead. Laugh away."

Olivia just shrugged. "Hey, a little cyber romance is okay in my book. I see those ads on TV all the time about finding a perfect match…Is she cute?"

"I haven't seen her – we've only instant messaged at this point, but I enjoy chatting with her. She's funny and bright and…"

"Might look like Quasimoto?" Olivia asked.

"Or Cindy Crawford – I don't know. Let's just say I'm not that superficial," Frank shot back.

"Oh, and I am?"

"I've never seen you date anyone who's unattractive," Frank countered.

"Present company included?"

"You know what," Frank sighed, "Can we just not talk about this please?"

Olivia shrugged and tossed up her hands as a means of giving up the conversation.

A few seconds later, Natalia returned. She looked at Olivia first and asked, "So jungle animals, is it?"

Olivia looked at Frank, who had a stern look on his face, which was an unspoken warning not to change her vote. Without saying a word she motioned at Natalia's body moving her hands up and down, as if asking him to look at what she'd be missing. He simply shook his head. Olivia's shoulders slumped and she looked at the ground.

"Yes, jungle animals," she answered defeated. She then turned to Frank. "There. Are you happy? Thanks to my scruples, I am now celibate again, damn it."

"Hold on," Natalia said waving her hand. "You think if we don't agree on things I'll withhold sex?"

"You said it yourself, 'I have something you want'," Olivia replied.

"And you assumed sex?"

"What else is there?"

Natalia grinned. "I was talking about doing chores – you know cooking, cleaning, laundry – stuff you HATE to do – which I take care of everyday? Honestly, Olivia, I'd give up many things to make a point, but sex with you isn't one of them. For the first time in my life..." Olivia smiled, but Natalia closed her eyes and pursed her lips, realizing the company she was in. "For the first time in my life, I'm shutting up. Yeah, I'm, uh, I'm shutting up."

"Thank you for that," Frank muttered.

"No problem," Natalia garbled.

Olivia gave her lover a knowing, cocky grin.

Epilogue - One year later

It seemed like everyone in the town had gathered for Shayne's baseball team's semi-final game. Frank and Rafe were playing catch while the Rivera- Spencer family sat on the bleachers. Blake sat next to Emma and Doris was next to Olivia. One tier above them sat Christina, her son and her sister-in-law, Mel.

"I can't stand it anymore! I gotta ask," Doris said in exasperation that got everyone's attention.

"What?" Olivia asked.

Even before Doris asked the question, she was giggling.

"What's up with the big hat?"

She pointed and started to chuckle harder. Natalia began to giggle too.

"I told you," Natalia warned Olivia.

"You hush." Olivia pointed playfully at her wife.

Natalia reached back and lightly slapped Doris's knee. "I told her we're going to a baseball game; not the Kentucky Derby."

Doris and Natalia both laughed harder while Olivia griped indignantly, "Leave my hat alone."

"Mint Jubilees all around, eh?" Doris snorted.

"Heyyyyyy, be nice," Blake whined. "I don't care what they say – I like your hat," she told Olivia.

"Thank you Blake," she replied in a majestic tone.

Doris harrumphed. "This from the woman with no sense of style or taste," she said as she put her hands on Blake's shoulders, giving her a light shake.

"I have fashion sense!" Blake snipped.

"Relax, dear. I know. I'm teasin' to annoy Olivia," Doris whispered as she leaned over to Blake's ear.

In the distance, Frank called over playfully saying, "Doris! Keep your hands off my wife."

Doris pulled her hands back as if Blake was an open flame. But she leaned over and whispered, "What he doesn't know won't hurt him, huh?"

Blake blushed and turned her head away slightly.

Emma looked back at Doris and said, "That's Chessie's step-mommy, Aunt Doris. Plus, I don't think Jamanda would like you hugging Blake too close."

Christina and Mel laughed, as did Blake. Even Doris had to hold back a smile. The mayor put her hands on her hips, trying to appear incensed.

"What are you teaching this child?" she asked Olivia.

"Fidelity," she answered deadpan. Christina and Mel laughed again making everyone smile, except for Doris, who was still trying not to grin. "It's a novel concept – look into it."

"I'm not guilty of anything…" Doris said, trying to sound serious. She then began to grin wider. "…well, not today anyway. Ha!"

"That's it, Emma," Frank called over again. "You keep an eye on Doris for me."

The young girl gave him a thumbs-up.

"It's not just the hat though," Doris continued looking back at Olivia, "It's the shirt too. I mean really? Black?" she added as she pointed to Olivia's shirt. "That's your choice? With a new baby that still projectile vomits you're either brave, crazy or both." The rest of the women on the bleachers began to chuckle again. "Then again, maybe that's the point," she added before beginning her impression of Olivia, "'Here, Natalia. You have to hold the baby. I can't because she might get sick.' You're a tool Spencer," she finished.

"Rafe's homecoming is a special day," Olivia defended. "I don't often get a chance to dress up – at least, not like this."

"Exactly. So why pick…" Doris then waved a exaggerated hand at her attire. When she couldn't come up with a way to describe what she was seeing she simple said, "....this monstrosity?"

Olivia grinned at Doris's ribbing. "I thought you'd like my chapeau – you know, you being an aficionado of hats and all?"

Natalia chuckled. "That was a good one, Hon," she complimented.

"Speaking of," Olivia continued, "do you still have that fedora I saw you in the first time we met at the gay bar?"

"I sure do, and I look damn good in it," Doris defended.

"Okay, I'm confused," Mel said.

"Me too," Christina added. "You met at a gay bar? Did you two date each other?"

Olivia and Doris both spoke at the same time with Doris saying, "Oh, hell no!" and Olivia asking, "Are you crazy?" – all of which caused a new round of chuckles from everyone.

"No, it wasn't like that," Olivia continued.

"I don't want to hear this story again," Doris muttered.

The quiet plea meant nothing to Olivia as she continued and said, "I went to a bar that was having a 'ladies night' because I was trying to sort out my feelings for Natalia. So when I turned-."

"Wait," Natalia stopped her, "You told me you didn't know it was a gay bar. You walked in because you thought you'd get a free drink."

"Yeah, I lied," Olivia said casually. She then turned back to Christina and Mel, who giggled at Olivia's cavalier attitude. "Anyway, I walked in-."

"You lied to me?!" Natalia pressed the issue.

"Yes, I lied! If I told you THEN why I went you would have freaked out. I never mentioned it again because I didn't think it was a big deal."

"You went to pick up a woman?" Natalia asked sounding hurt.

"Not really, no," Olivia replied. "I just went-."

"Not really? Either you did or you didn't."

"I didn't." Olivia sighed. "Besides, you and I weren't even a couple then! You were dating Frank. In fact, that was the night he proposed."

"But you said later that you were in love with me at that time," Natalia pressed.

Olivia sighed heavier this time. "Yes, I was. And I didn't hit on anyone because…" she then turned back to Christina and Mel. "Doris comes in wearin' a hat – like she's in disguise. But the thing is, she didn't even bother to pull her hair back like that," she said pointing at her now. "Or tucking it under so people couldn't be sure it was her."

"Yes, I'm very transparent, unlike you, Ms. Secret Keeper, who's hittin' on the gals at Ladies night," Doris teased.

"We're not done discussing this," Natalia warned Olivia.

Olivia opened her mouth in surprise. However, instead of speaking to Natalia, she turned to Doris.

"This is your fault," Olivia said flatly.

Natalia leaned over and shook her head at Blake and silently mouthed, "I don't care" as she shrugged to let her know she was only pulling Olivia's leg. The two friends grinned at each other for a split second as not to give anything away.

Doris chortled. "How is this my fault? You never would have told that story if you didn't show up in that hat. Speaking of which…" Doris took it off briskly and held it away from Olivia's outstretched hand.

"Hey!" Olivia complained. "Give me that back!"

"I can't take anything you say seriously while you're wearin' it. It's too distracting."

From the top bleachers, Christina and Mel snickered.

"They're like little kids," Mel added to her sister-in-law, who nodded silently in agreement.

"Give me my hat," Olivia demanded.

"No."

"Give it!"

Olivia reached for it as Doris held it away even further.

"No!"

"Yes!"

"Noooo!"

"Girls," Natalia sighed in frustration. "Doris, give Olivia back her Derby hat."

Doris began to fan herself with it, taunting Olivia.

"Boy, it's hot out here," Doris said as she continued to wave the hat. "Wish I had a hat to protect me from the sun. Oh wait!" She then put it on her own head and struck a pose for Olivia.

Having seen enough, Olivia began to stand up, but so did Doris and after a few seconds of plotting their next move, the race was on. Holding the hat to her head, Doris jumped down to the ground, laughing, with Olivia in hot pursuit. Blake smiled and looked at Natalia.

"I bet it's like having four kids at home some days, isn't it?" the book agent asked.

"At least food's not involved this time," Natalia replied optimistically. "I had to spray them both down after an apple pie and Cool Whip fight this summer."

Blake chewed her lip for a moment and then asked, "You? My Sapphic friend? You had to hose off two beautiful lesbians covered in whipped cream?"

Natalia blushed and then looked up at Christina and Mel, who were both trying their hardest not to laugh.

"It's not as sexy as it sounds," Natalia offered, looking up at Christina and Mel. "In fact, it was a pretty big mess."

Olivia and Doris, both barefoot, had just made their third pass around the bleachers, playing keep-away like a couple of schoolgirls. Emma smiled at the pair, oblivious to Blake and Natalia's conversation.

"Emma! Go that way!" Olivia ordered her daughter after Doris put enough ground between them that she couldn't catch her. "I'll go this way and cut her off!"

Emma raced over, but Doris held the hat in the air above her head. She whispered something to Emma and pointed to Rafe. Emma nodded and Doris gave her the hat. Instead of going to Olivia though, Emma raced over to Rafe and started to talk to him.

"Where are you going?!" Olivia yelled to Emma.

Rafe looked over and Doris nodded enthusiastically. Upon doing so, Rafe started to laugh and picked up Emma, who still had the hat in her hand. The three of them – Rafe, Emma and the infamous hat made their way to the tree line, in the distance.

"What did you do?" Olivia asked Doris.

"I told Emma I'd give her and her brother five dollars each if they take that hat to the tree line and 'free it'. If they bury it, they'll get ten."

Olivia wore a look of disbelief mixed with anger. A few seconds later, she yelled out.

"Rafe! Don't you dare!"

Then she began to race after them. Rafe put Emma on the ground and grabbed the hat. He motioned for Emma to keep up as mother and children broke into a run while everyone on the bleachers was laughing.

"You're awful," Natalia condemned Doris with a wag of her finger while still wearing a slight grin.

"Eh, it's good exercise for Liv," she replied as she shrugged.

"Causin' trouble, huh?" Doris recognized the arm that snaked around her waist and the purr of Jamanda's voice behind her.

"Always," she replied as she turned into the woman's embrace and gave her a short, but affectionate, kiss. "I'm glad you made it."

"So am I," Mel told the young woman. "Have you considered the offer Beth and I made?"

"I'm flattered by the invitation to join your new practice," Jamanda began reluctantly.

"I feel a 'but' coming on," Mel told her.

"Buuuuut," Jamanda continued, as she smiled, "I like putting criminals in jail; not defending them, so I'll have to pass. But really…thank you."

"I understand," Mel said sincerely. "It's disappointing, but… I do understand."

Doris smiled proudly. "I'm impressed. You didn't get wooed by the almighty dollar."

"Please," she said swatting Doris's arm, "like I have to worry about money. Haven't you heard the gossip after last night's mayoral debate where you kicked butt? I've got a lesbo sugar mama to take care of me." Doris chuckled and shook her head, even as Jamanda nuzzled into Doris's neck, giving it a few light nips. "Come on," Jamanda continued, "Why should Liv get all the age jokes?" She then began to look around. "She’s…"

"She's tracking down her hat," Natalia said as she pointed out to the tree line where Olivia had finally managed to catch up to Rafe and Emma.

"Emma Spencer and Raphael Rivera!" Olivia said authoritatively when she got close enough. "You stop right there!"

Emma and Rafe came to a grinding halt as Olivia closed the distance.

"Tell you what, Munchkin," Rafe told his stepsister. "I'll give you twenty dollars if you get Ma's keys and put your Mom's hat in the car for the rest of the day. Okay?"

"Deal!" Emma said. He gave her the hat first and then reached into his wallet and pulled out a twenty. "Go on," he told her as he handed it over. "We'll catch up."

Emma took off running, hat and money in hand, as Rafe motioned for Olivia to follow him.

"I'll give you the twenty back," she told him as they began to walk back.

"Don't worry about it," he replied. "I just wanted the chance to talk to you."

"About?"

"You and Ma."

Olivia held her breath for a moment. "What about us?"

Rafe turned to toward her for a moment. "She glows and the last time I saw her this happy was with my dad and even then…"

She watched for a moment to see if he'd continue the thought. When he didn't she asked, "What?" in a quiet tone.

He began to grin, ever so slightly.

"She wasn't as happy as she is now… She has the life she's always deserved, the one I hoped she'd have someday."

"And what life would that be exactly?" Olivia tentatively asked.

"For starters? Not having to work a job, let alone three."

"But she does work, Rafe – very hard, in fact. You might find this hard to believe," Olivia began, sounding conspiratorial, "but taking care of me, Emma and Francesca isn't easy – it really is a full-time job." Rafe was going to explain, but Olivia held up her hand. "But I know what you mean," she added with a smile. "She's not worried about making the rent payment or how she's going to pay to feed Emma lunch each week."

"Exactly. She's finally…settled. Ya know? But it's not just the financial security. She lights up around you, and I've never seen her smile more. Honestly, she just …smiles… even while she's sitting there next to you. I've-I've never seen her have that kind of happiness." Olivia simply nodded. "Chessie is one reason, but you and Emma are the others. I see that… So I just wanted to say thank you for keeping your word and taking care of her… and I'm sorry. I'm sorry I didn't see it sooner. I just…"

"You'd always been taught one thing, Rafe. Religious beliefs can be a huge hurdle – one that I wasn't sure your mom would get over," Olivia replied.

"That's not it, not when you get down to it," he replied. "It wasn't about religion as much as it was about, well, you. You tried to steal my dad and everything that he wanted us to have – the house, her rings, you name it. You were…"

"A bitch?"

Rafe grinned. "A bitchy barracuda, just devouring whatever you wanted…And when I saw you two together it felt like…you wanted to steal her away from me. For years, it was the two of us against the world, and I didn't mind when we found Gus because he was my dad. I wanted to know him."

"So you didn't want to know the woman who tried to wreck that life? How dare you?" Olivia offered with a grin. Rafe just nodded with a slight smile. "Look Rafe, I don't blame you for feeling that way. But I have to be honest here… I do blame you for not opening your mind sooner to the possibility that I DO make your mother happy. And I DO blame you for making your mother feel terrible for finding love and for trying to make me feel guilty. You said some incredibly hurtful things – to both of us."

"I know," Rafe said in shame, all arrogance gone from the statement. "And I can't take them back any more than you can take back trying to steal my dad. But can we start here? I'll tell you now, I don't think I'll ever see you as a mom, like Emma sees Ma, but maybe…"

"We can be cordial?"

"At the very least," he replied.

Olivia just shrugged, not sure what to say at first. "Well, you're a big part of your Moms' happiness too, Rafe. She loves you. We all do. And I know you've got two years left, but when your tour's up, you'll have a place to stay while you go to college – if that's what you want. I'm not pressuring you by the way – I'm just extending an offer. I don't want you to think that you're excluded from this family, not even for a minute."

"And I appreciate that," he said as she slipped his arm around her waist. Olivia, in turn, put her hand on his shoulder.

From the bleachers, Natalia's face was a caldron of swirling emotions. There was a bit of uncertainty, as if she wasn't sure what she was witnessing was real, but then true joy took hold when she realized it was legitimate. She found her smile was growing as she watched both of them approach wearing smiles as well.

They stopped in front of her. Rafe released Olivia and held out his arms.

"You mind if I hang out with my baby sis for a little bit?" Rafe asked as he shook his arms slightly, waiting for the baby. Natalia didn't move at first. She was still thunderstruck by what she witnessed between Rafe and Olivia. "Ma?" he prompted.

"Sorry," she said with a slight jerk. "Sure," she said as she held Francesca up so Rafe could get a firm hold.

Once Rafe had his sister well in hand, Natalia reached over and took Olivia by hers, leading her away for a bit of privacy.

"Okay," she began, "what just happened there?"

At first, Olivia smiled as she watched Rafe making over Francesca before turning to Natalia. She took her by the hips and pulled her closer.

"He grew up," Olivia said proudly. "He's living up to his word of wanting what makes you happy. And he sees that I make you happy…I mean, I do, don't I?"

Natalia still seemed to be in a fog. "Huh?"

Olivia smiled at Natalia's flustered demeanor. "You're adorable," she muttered and leaned her forehead down to Natalia's. In a louder voice she said, "I asked, do I make you happy?"

Natalia smiled sweetly, her eyes searching Olivia's face and then settling on her lips. She kissed Olivia gently and in a soft voice said, "I've never been this happy."

Olivia took Natalia's face in her hands. Her thumbs lightly caressed her cheeks as she looked deeply into the brown eyes that conveyed so much passion and promise.

"Good…" Olivia cooed. "That makes two of us."

The End

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