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rocketfic | the new normal

Title: The New Normal by Rocketchick
Rating: 15+ Pairing: Olivia/Natalia
Notes: Takes place a few days after the "doorway" scene on 4/24. A bit of filler for our non-Otalia days.

In the time Olivia had known her, Natalia had never - not once ever - called in sick.

Until today, just a week after not quite getting married. A week after everything changed.

Olivia found herself at the door of the farmhouse, pacing the front porch. Even after moving out, with all the complications and trying to discern where they stood with each other, this place still felt like her home.

All of which was why she had little trouble convincing herself to intrude.

The first floor was dark, empty. There were still gaps on the walls and shelves where her own things had been, all alongside Natalia's. It made her chest ache, but she set the feeling aside to find her friend.

She heard an unusual sound as she moved quietly up the stairs. A faint, repetitive... honking?

Natalia was snoring. Olivia blinked at her as she peered into the bedroom, trying to resolve the goofy, congested noise with the disproportionate rush of tenderness it provoked. Scrunched up tissues lay scattered about the bed, and a small pharmacopeia of over-the-counter cold relievers teetered perilously on the side table. Natalia herself was flat on her back, one arm flung at an awkward angle across her body while she slept soundly.

For several seconds, Olivia fielded a silent debate in her head. Natalia was fine. Ill, certainly, but not in any life-threatening way. Olivia could sneak out, let the woman recover, and not do anything to endanger the slow re-progression of their relationship. She could call later, and make sure Natalia knew she cared, while maintaining the bounds of the propriety they'd established.

All for the sake of "normal."

With a frustrated sigh, Olivia thunked her forehead into the door jamb. She couldn't just leave. Not with the words and feelings that were so fresh between them. Not with Natalia sick and uncomfortable and making that ridiculously cute bleating noise in her sleep.

She pushed the door fully open and spent a couple minutes straightening the room. All the discarded tissues, all the empty blister packs of decongestant meds, all swept into a garbage can, all while Natalia remained quite unconscious. Finally, Olivia bent at the edge of the bed, studying her friend. One of her hands wandered over to brush dark hair out of Natalia's face. Her forehead was warm but not overly so, convincing Olivia that she didn't have a fever. After a self-indulgent moment of exploring Natalia's soft skin, Olivia retreated, ducking out of the bedroom and back down the stairs.

Thankfully, Natalia always kept her kitchen well-stocked, even when her personal life was a complete mess. It was one of the fundamental differences between them, as Olivia herself had relied a little too heavily on room service of late. She surveyed the contents of the refrigerator and got to work.

Twenty minutes later, she was humming and stirring onions as they caramelized noisily in a frying pan. She set the pan aside to attend to her cheese grater, then finally noticed the other person standing in the doorway.

"Hi," she said brightly.

Natalia squinted at her and sunk a bit deeper into her robe. "What are you doing here?" she asked with a pathetic sniffle.

"I came to check on you. And make you breakfast."

"What about work?"

"Work will wait." Olivia shrugged, and spun around bearing a glass of orange juice that she set on the table. "You're more important."

If she'd had the nerve to stop and look, she would have seen the soft regard Natalia aimed her way as she shuffled across the kitchen to sit at the table. "Thank you," Natalia said, as Olivia flashed her a grin. "I really wish I could smell whatever it is you're making."

"Oh," Olivia said, disappointed. She hadn't thought of that. "Well, I'll just have to make it again when you're feeling better."

A few minutes and a few mid-air omelette flourishes later, Olivia slid a plate full of steaming eggs in front of Natalia.

After a few hesitant pokes with her fork, Natalia carved out a bite and ate it. The flavors barely registered, but the omelette was light and inviting, exactly the right warmth for comfort.

"Told ya I can cook," Olivia said as she dropped into the next seat over with her coffee.

"Oh, I never doubted you," Natalia replied, while she attacked another piece. She smirked. "Much."

Olivia grinned around her coffee mug. "How are you feeling?"

"It's just a cold." She shrugged, and tried not to look utterly miserable.

"That bad, huh?"

Natalia slumped. "Moms don't get sick, right?"

The mom who had been sick entirely too much in the past year reached over to give Natalia's hand a squeeze. "Sometimes they do."

Holding up a speared chunk of omelette on her fork, Natalia managed a smile. "Well, I'm feeling better already."

With a nod, Olivia left her to her breakfast and set about straightening the mess she'd made in the kitchen. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Natalia flagging, her energy already depleted.

"Need more drugs? How about a nap?"

"I just got up," Natalia complained. "And drugs make me loopy." She stood, wobbling just a little as she rubbed at her eyes.

It was tempting to point out what an adorably annoying patient Natalia was, but in the comparison of temperaments that was sure to follow, Olivia knew she'd come up the loser. "Okay, so we'll sit and watch talk shows for a bit."

Natalia sighed. "Really, Olivia, I'll be fine. I'm sure you have more important things to be doing today."

"Nope," Olivia said easily. "I don't." She stepped closer, hooking a hand under Natalia's elbow. "C'mon."

After a bit of jockeying, they were seated together on the couch, nestled under a blanket. Olivia put an arm around Natalia's shoulder, gratified when the other woman only burrowed deeper into the embrace. Even as Natalia protested that she really wasn't tired, the rhythmic stroking of Olivia's hand against her hair lulled her into drowsy lassitude. She drooped against her friend little by little, eventually falling asleep curled on her side with her head propped against Olivia's thigh.

All at once, Olivia felt guilty about using Natalia's compromised state to push things. Sure, the two women had huddled together under a blanket to watch TV before. Sure, they were touchy-feely in the most mundane of times. Sure, they'd abandoned work and responsibility to look after each other. Nothing so far about this morning was truly that out of the ordinary.

But it wasn't "normal." Not today. Not after... everything.

And Natalia had so desperately wanted things to be normal.

With a sigh, Olivia gently extricated herself from under Natalia's sleeping form, and slipped a pillow into the spot where her leg had been. Natalia shifted restlessly for a moment before relaxing again and emitting that same silly snore.

Olivia bit her lip to keep from laughing, and returned to the kitchen to prove she really could cook.

When Natalia woke up some hours later, she was alone again. The house was dark, but not in the oppressively empty way it had been before. She pushed herself upright with a groan, grateful for the decreased stuffiness in her head.

On the coffee table in front of her lay her phone and a single daisy from the yard. She smiled, recognizing the Olivia shorthand she was just learning to read: Call me when you wake up. I love you.

She sniffled and grabbed the phone, hitting the speed dial.

"Hey," came Olivia's low, burring voice after a single ring. "How'd you sleep?"

"Good, thanks. I feel a lot better." Natalia felt inexplicably shy, as she toyed with the tousled ends of her hair. "How was the rest of your day?"

"God, it was a mess. Did you hear my assistant called in sick?"

"The nerve of some people," Natalia said with a grin. "You should fire her."

"Nah," Olivia drawled. "I don't think I can live without her."

For a second, Natalia forgot to breathe, and it had nothing to do with sinus congestion. Tears sprung to her eyes, and she fought to find the right words, any words at all.

"You feel better, okay?" Olivia said softly. "Take tomorrow if you need to."

Natalia could hear her smile. "Are you kidding? And leave two days' worth of your mess to clean up? I'll be there."

"Oh good," the other woman drawled, settling in to the more familiar pattern of their banter. "Because otherwise I might just have to strangle the people in charge of that medical conference."

She knew the conference was an especially nettlesome business arrangement, neck-deep in contracts and associated lawyers. When Olivia had first tossed it on her desk, she had been sure she couldn't handle it, but now... "I'll take care of it," she declared.

"Yeah, you will," Olivia said, pride evident in every syllable. "I missed you today."

Natalia didn't bother pointing out that they'd actually spent half the day together. "So did the people running that medical conference, it sounds like," she said dryly. "Anything else fun happen?"

"Our favorite housekeeper attacked some guy with a mop. That was good."

She winced, and covered her eyes with her free hand. "I bet I get to handle that one, too."

Olivia snickered. "Oh yeah, consider that delegated. From what I can tell the guy had it coming, though."

Natalia laughed, and they spent a few minutes giggling at each other until she started coughing.

"I should let you go," Olivia said with immediate concern.

"Okay," Natalia replied. She was reluctant to lose this new, gentle rapport they'd found, but couldn't find a way to prolong the conversation. Instead she found herself wishing the cell phone reception was a little clearer so she could better hear Olivia breathing.

God. What an embarrassingly adolescent impulse. She couldn't help but roll her eyes.

Olivia cleared her throat. "So, listen..."

Natalia waited, and could hear the faint sigh on the other end. She pictured Olivia rubbing the bridge of her nose in frustration.

"I wanted to apologize," Olivia continued. "I don't think I'm doing a very good job of being 'normal.'"

Considering her own desire just to hear her friend's breathing, Natalia couldn't say she'd been doing much better. "I think you're doing okay."

"Taking half a day off from work to snuggle with my girlfriend on the couch is about as far from normal as I've ever been."

"But this is the new normal. Different normal," Natalia replied, thoughtful and just a bit sleep-addled. "Snuggling is allowed. So are omelettes."

Olivia exhaled a surprised laugh. "And the chicken noodle soup I left in the fridge for you?"

"Ooh." Natalia perked up and shuffled into the kitchen. "Oh yeah. That's allowed too," she said as she ducked her head into the refrigerator. "You know, I'm a big fan of normal, especially when it smells this good. Oh hey - I can smell it. I must be getting better."

"Must be," came the amused response.

Natalia made a face and backed out of the refrigerator, steering the conversation to less babble-inducing topics. After a while Emma stole the phone from Mommy One to wish Mommy Two a speedy recovery, and then they were back to the moment of quiet, wistful farewell. She was starting to realize that, as part of this new regime of normalcy, goodbyes really sucked.

"Okay, so..." Olivia murmured. "I really am going to let you go."

"Okay." Natalia cocked her head and smiled as the seconds dragged by and neither of them could be bothered to end the call. "Thank you... for today."

"You're welcome," came the response, sure and warm. "Goodnight."


After she disconnected, Natalia leaned against a nearby counter, cradling the phone to her chest and shutting her eyes. "She loves me," she said aloud, laughing to herself. Until that very moment, she'd allowed herself to doubt it, thinking she had somehow misunderstood everything they'd gone through, and everything they'd tried to tell each other. Finally, the truth shone like sunlight down on her, warming her to her toes.

She debated calling Olivia back, wanting to feel, to explain, to share. Instead she pushed away from the counter and puttered toward dinner and an early bedtime.

She couldn't wait to see what "normal" looked like tomorrow.

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