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rocketfic | five times rafe wanted to say "i'm sorry" but didn't

Title: Five Times Rafe Wanted to Say "I'm Sorry" But Didn't by Rocketchick
Rating: 15+ Pairing: Olivia/Natalia
Notes: My first response to the Otalia Five Things meme, in which others provide prompts for five things described in the Springfieldverse. The title/prompt for this one comes from Flying Peanuts.

I. When he was eight years old, Rafe accidentally knocked a baseball through a neighbor's window.

It was no big deal, he'd thought, even as his mother dragged him by his ear to apologize to the old lady.

"I'm sorry," he said in a bored singsong, folding his arms in his best attempt to look sullen and cool.

"We'll pay to replace the window, of course," his mother promised.

He hadn't thought much about it after that. Except his mom worked a lot of extra shifts that summer, and she seemed tired all the time. At some point she caught the flu, and it took a lot longer to recover than it should have.

He grew annoyed with her apparent distance, her lack of interest in his activities. He walked the neighborhood streets long after dark, long after he was supposed to be home, pissed off that his mother could no longer make time for him.

He would confront her about it, he decided every day. He would make her pay attention again.

Yet every night, he'd fall asleep, knowing that she would come in after her second or third shift and kiss his forehead and say a prayer over him, and he'd forget that he meant to find out why she was gone all the time.

Ten years later, lying on a cot in prison - still sullen, still cool - he found himself staring at the concrete ceiling, thinking about that window, that summer his mother spent dragging under the weight of her own fatigue and overwork just to pay for his mistake.

His hands fisted at his side in sudden, impotent anger.

She'd made him apologize to that old lady, but never made him apologize to her. As usual, she silently accepted his burdens as her own, over and over again.

He would make it right, he vowed, in the prison's looming darkness.

Or maybe he'd just fall asleep and forget, as usual.

II. He supposed the grounds outside the church were meant to be tranquil, or something.

He supposed Gus would have liked that. Maybe. Who knew? He didn't. He'd barely known his father. He barely knew the man he'd grown up idolizing.

He'd stopped counting the number of ways he failed. He'd stopped hoping he could ever live up to the role model he'd hoped the fabled Gus Aitoro would be.

He set the badge on the step beside him, pressed his fingertips to the plaque marking his father's memorial, then stood and walked away.

III. Every once in a while, after a few beers, Frank would start to talk.

Those nights, Natalia wasn't just "the one that got away." She was the one who was taken, spirited away by the conniving Olivia Spencer.

As generally skeeved as Rafe was by his mother's behavior, he was well aware that it wasn't all Olivia's fault. They'd all played a part in how things had turned out. Frank desperately wanted a wife. Rafe desperately wanted a father. Natalia desperately wanted to please everybody and do right by God.

Sometimes on those nights, he wanted to point out that they all had blame to share, that they all had pushed each other into this miserable stalemate.

But when Frank looked at him, rotting from the inside with self-pity, the truth turned too ugly for Rafe to say out loud.

He opened his mouth to say anything, but the words never came out. Instead he just grabbed Frank's empty beer, and showed him how to use it to pop the top on a fresh bottle.

IV. "Hi Rafe! Have you tried the game out yet?" Emma's voice piped from across Company.

Rafe turned just in time for her to plow into his legs for a hug. He laughed, and messed with her hair. "What game, you goofball?" he asked, smiling a greeting at Jane as she trailed after the cheerful girl.

"The game I got you for your birthday. We left it at the house."

"Oh. I haven't been back there for a while," he said as he scooted into a booth. "But thank you."

"I wanted to get you Call of Duty, but Mom said it was too violent," she said, plopping into the seat across from him. "So we got you a racing game. I hope that's okay."

"Sounds great," he said absently.

"And once we all move back to the farmhouse, we can play against each other."

He mumbled a thank you to Marina as she deposited his burger in front of him. "You want to move back to the farmhouse?" he asked. He obligingly pushed the plate across the table so she could grab some fries.

"Well, sure. It's home." She munched a fry and eyed him in plain curiosity. "Didn't you like it there?"

Rafe poked at his lunch and thought about it. "Yeah, I did, actually. Me and ma, we never had a place like that before. It was nice."

"Me and my mom never had a place like that, either. She says that not everyone has a family, or a house, or ducks, and that that's okay." She shrugged. "But she liked it there, too. I hope we can go back."

He sat back in his seat, hearing in her voice the wistful echo of a sullen, cool eight year old who probably would have really enjoyed feeding some ducks every once in a while. He stared at her for a moment longer, then looked over at Jane. "Hey, you want the afternoon off?" he asked. "I'll take her."

"You sure?" Jane asked, with a dubious expression.

"Yeah." He grinned back at Emma. "We have a video game to play, right?"

Later, as the sun set over the trees that shaded the pond, he spotted his mother up the hill, watching them feed the ducks. He handed the bag of stale bread crumbs to Emma, and messed with her hair once more for good measure.

"I gotta go talk to Ma," he announced. "But, uh... I think you might get to come home, soon."

"Really?" she asked.

He considered explaining that it was mostly his fault she'd had to leave at all. "Yeah, really," was all he said.

V. "They look so happy," Daisy murmured.

Rafe tore his eyes away from the dance floor to look down at her as she stepped closer. "Yeah, I guess."

"Oh, c'mon. You're the one who kept saying you wanted your mom to be happy. Now she is." She eyed him while he shuffled uncomfortably. "Maybe you should just apologize."

"For what?" he scoffed.

"For being a jackass when you found out about them. For not appreciating how much Olivia always helped you. For not being supportive of your mother when she needed it."

He reared away, annoyed. "Are you done?"

"It wouldn't bug you if I wasn't right," she said primly. She returned her attention to the dance floor, where Natalia and Olivia moved together, dressed in white. "They're so cute," she declared, with a dreamy sigh.

Rafe wasn't sure about the "cute" part, but his mother definitely did look happy. He watched as she pressed her cheek to Olivia's and whispered something that made them both laugh. In a rush he realized he'd almost broken that bond between them. He'd almost stopped his mother from finding that joy. His selfishness had almost cost her a shot at honest-to-God, did-it-really-have-to-be-Olivia-Spencer love.

So maybe Daisy was right. Maybe even about the "cute" part.

He mustered his courage and stepped onto the dance floor to approach the two women as they swayed, entirely wrapped up in each other. "Uh, can I cut in?" he asked. He was proud that his voice only cracked a little.

And when two pairs of wary eyes turned his way, he was proud that he only squirmed a little.

"Ma, please," he asked, softly.

Reluctantly, they disentangled from their embrace, dragging the very tips of their fingers across each other's arms as they separated. He cleared his throat and stepped closer to offer his hand.

Olivia took it, though not without narrowed eyes and a vaguely distrustful look.

And so they danced, settling into a rhythm that suited them both, and Rafe finally dared to smile at her. Olivia only shook her head and chuckled, not unkindly.

There were a lot of things he wanted to say just then, so many things between them he wanted to justify and explain and set to rest.

"Thank you," he whispered instead.

Olivia smiled, then they stopped to watch as Natalia tilted Emma into the air across the dance floor, both laughing as they twirled together.

"You're welcome, kid," she whispered back.

And somehow, for the first time in his life, all was forgiven.

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