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rocketfic | something new

Title: Something New by Rocketchick
Rating: 15+ Pairing: Olivia/Natalia
Notes: Third in the series following Something Blue and Something Borrowed.

A week passed, then two. The snow from that fateful storm melted, giving way to the first signs of spring. Slowly Olivia and Natalia were relearning their routine, relearning how to be friends in work and in love.

In all it was shockingly easy, save a recriminating glare or two from the occasional passing Cooper. The town murmurs stirred by Natalia's dramatic non-wedding conveniently died down just as Rafe shuffled off to start his parole. In the meantime, the two women embarked upon the relationship most people had assumed was already in progress. They went on a date; no one noticed. They worked together even more closely than before; only Greg noticed, with a roll of his eyes.

And when Olivia lingered on the farmhouse porch on a Friday night, struggling to tear herself away from the softness of Natalia's lips and say goodbye after a long day together, not even the ducks noticed. Much.

"I'm coming, already," Natalia grumbled the next morning as she rubbed the sleep from her eyes. The knock on her door was insistent, and damned early for a Saturday. She flung the door open to face an anxious delivery man.

"Ms. Rivera?" he asked from behind the biggest arrangement of lilies she'd ever seen.

"Yes?" She peered around the edge of the flowers.

"Where would you like these?"

"Uh... the kitchen table's good," she said, bewildered.

"Right. How about the rest of them?"

"The rest?" Natalia stuck her head out the door to see three other delivery men, all holding bouquets as large as the first. "Oh, boy," she breathed.

"Did you win the lottery or something?" the first courier cracked.

She snorted. "It looks that way, doesn't it?" Once they'd come in, dropped off their enormous piles of flowers and filed out again, Natalia dug out her cell phone and hit the speed dial.

"Hey," came Olivia's low, familiar voice from the other end.

Just that one syllable did funny things to Natalia's insides. "Hi. You're nuts."

Olivia laughed. "You don't like them?"

"They're lovely, Olivia. They're..." She eyed the botanical explosion in her house. "They're amazing. They're beautiful. But you didn't have to do this."

"I wanted to," Olivia said, easily. "You deserve that and a lot more."

I don't, she wanted to say out of pure reflex. But then Olivia would argue with her, trying to shout down a lifetime of self-doubt over the phone, ruining what was turning out to be a rather amazing morning. "Thank you," she said instead, hearing the shakiness in her own voice. "I really miss having you here." Like a few other recent moments of truth between them, it came rushing out in an inelegant blurt.

On the other end, Olivia sighed. "I really miss being there," she replied.

"How goes the house hunt, anyway?"

"Honestly? I haven't been thinking about it," Olivia said. "I have about eight messages from my realtor to return."

"Tell her to forget it," Natalia said, suddenly bold in the face of hundreds of floral declarations of their mutual affection.

It was quiet on the other end, until she heard Olivia take a deep breath. "Are you sure?"

"No," Natalia admitted after a moment. "But the next time you move, I want it to be to back here. And I want it to be for good."

"Okay," Olivia replied. "No rush, though," she added, pitching her voice low and affectionate. "I want us to get this right." She felt that sentiment lie between them, easily able to picture the sweet smile on Natalia's face. "So listen, after Emma's done watching her cartoons, I was thinking we'd use the nice weather to go to the park. Want to come?"

"Nice weather?" Natalia scoffed. "Olivia, it's barely above freezing."

"I thought you Midwestern girls were made of sterner stuff," Olivia teased. "But if you're cold I suppose we could snuggle on a bench for warmth."

Natalia narrowed her eyes, realizing by the all-too-innocent tone that she'd been set up for exactly that proposition. She considered calling Olivia on it, poking her for a laugh. Instead, she just shrugged, ceding to inevitability. "I'll bring the hot cocoa," she promised.

And when they huddled together and looked as happy as any other pair of parents at the playground, only Emma noticed, though she decided to keep it to herself. Pointing out how close her two mommies were tended to make them leap apart in embarrassment, so she just watched them from a distance with a happy grin.

A few days later they were at the Beacon, zipping through their morning routine toward a planned lunch date.

"Crap," Olivia muttered.

Natalia looked up from her laptop. "What's wrong?"

"The Indy office needs to do an emergency conference call at noon."

"Oh." She frowned, faintly disappointed. "Well, okay. We'll just have the kitchen bring something up."

"But I was really craving Buzz Burgers," Olivia said, pouting.

Natalia narrowed her eyes. "So, send your assistant out to get some," she said. The bright smile she got in response sealed the deal, and she chuckled as she stood and grabbed her purse and jacket. "You are so easy," she said with a laugh, before bending to press a kiss to the crown of Olivia's head and breezing out the door.

She stepped out of the lobby, barely noticing the large, dark car in front of her, or the driver who stepped into her path to get her attention.

"Ms. Rivera," the driver said with a sharp nod. "I've been instructed to take you to your appointment."

"My appointment?" she asked, dumbly. Her brain was already halfway to Company, trying to calculate the best way to avoid midday traffic.

"Yes, ma'am. Ms. Spencer left detailed instructions." He moved to the car's rear door and opened it, politely ignoring her brief moment of wobbly hesitance while she tried to figure out what to do. It occurred to her that Olivia had planned this - whatever "this" was - so it was probably best to just play along. Still, she didn't much care for surprises, and she certainly didn't care for the feeling of being deliberately set up for one.

Her phone trilled in her purse, and she dug it out to see a text message from Olivia.

On second thought, take a long lunch on your own. Love, O.

She half-smiled at the driver, who still waited impassively. "'Detailed instructions,' huh?" she asked.

"Yes, ma'am. And I'm not to share them with you."

"Right." She smacked her phone against her open palm, fighting the urge to call Olivia and demand to know what this was all about. "Okay," she said finally, as she stepped forward and climbed into the car. She cast a wary look at the basket and cooler tucked into the back seat, and settled in to wait.

The drive was a long one, and not a route she recognized. They left Springfield and ended up in a small nearby town had probably seen better days before the recession. A few minutes later the driver pulled into the parking lot of a dilapidated grocery store, where Natalia recognized a familiar figure trudging across the parking lot. She was out of the car almost before it had come to a complete stop.

"Rafe!" she called, as she jogged toward him.

"Ma? What are you doing here?" Rafe asked. He abandoned a stray shopping cart to hug her.

"I don't really know," she said with a laugh. "I think I'm bringing you lunch."

"I only get half an hour," he warned.

"I'll take it." She tilted upward to plant a kiss on his cheek and grinned.

The driver took them to a park down the road, where Natalia unpacked the basket and cooler and walked with Rafe to a bench up a nearby hill. As they dug into their provisions, she couldn't help but giggle at the Buzz Burgers carefully wrapped in heater packs, and the prominently-labeled sugar free pie for dessert.

They talked about work, about the halfway house, about how Rafe was slowly readjusting to life outside. Eventually a light wind kicked up, bringing the scent of new flowers across the hill. Natalia turned her face into the breeze, letting it tug at her hair. Rafe watched her as she shut her eyes against the sunlight with a beatific smile.

"You look happy, Ma," he murmured. "Like, really happy."

She opened her eyes and looked over at him again. "Yeah, I guess I am."

He nodded, and took a bite of his burger. "But it's not Frank, is it? You were never that happy with him."

"No," she admitted with a sigh.

Rafe looked down the hill at the driver and the expensive car, doing a bit of mental arithmetic about the source of both their meal and his mother's extended lunch hour. "So, whenever you want to tell me about it, you know I'll listen and be glad for you, right?"

She gave him a worried, uncomfortable glance. "Even if it's weird, at first?"

"Yeah," he said, chuckling. He slung an arm around her shoulders in a half-hug. "Even if it's weird."

On the drive back, she couldn't stop smiling. She had to stop herself from hugging the driver when he opened the door for her at the Beacon.

She didn't stop herself from hugging her boss.

Olivia had her back turned to the office door, and Natalia grabbed her from behind, squishing her with awkward, if heartfelt gratitude.

"Oof," Olivia exhaled with a chuckle, before turning within the embrace. "Have a nice lunch?"

"You know I did," Natalia said. She leaned away just enough to grin at the other woman. "But you really don't have to work this hard."

"It's not work," Olivia protested.

"Really. You've already got me."

"Maybe I want you to know you've got me." She brushed Natalia's bangs aside with a delicate fingertip.

That notion was too far out of Natalia's experience for her to properly process. Instead her face fell as she reverted to what she knew of every relationship she'd ever had. "But there's no way I could ever repay you..."

At that, Olivia stepped away, struck by the dismay in the other woman's tone. "What does that mean?"

"It's just that..." She hesitated, and held out her hands in frustration. "I can't afford to get you the kinds of nice things you're used to. I can't buy you hundreds of flowers. I can't hire a driver to take you some place amazing for an afternoon..."

"Then ask your boss for a raise," Olivia fired back, before wincing and trying a different approach. "What on earth makes you think I want that from you?" She studied Natalia's downcast gaze and felt familiar frustration churn in her gut. "It's just money, Natalia. I spend a little and it makes you happy. Why is that always a problem?"

"Because everything always comes with a price," Natalia answered, miserable.

Olivia had to swallow against the sudden sick feeling in her gut. "Right. A good lawyer, a nice house, a decent chance for your son," she recited, her voice hollow. "Even love? Is that what you think? That I'm trying to buy you?"

The answer was immediate, even as Natalia fought back tears. "No. But no one has ever given me so much without wanting something in return. There's always a catch."

"And I've done that before," Olivia said sadly. "I've used money to get what I wanted out of a relationship. I've used sex. I've used power." She shrugged. "So maybe you're right. Maybe that's all this is." She shrugged and shifted back toward her desk.

The conversation had spiraled entirely out of control, and Natalia couldn't find a way to recover. Inadequacy had tumbled headlong into guilt, and now Olivia was turning away from her, maybe for good.

"No," Natalia said. She leapt forward to grab hold of the other woman's arm. "That's not what this is. I know that." With a shaking hand, she guided Olivia's face around to look back at her. "I know that, Olivia. You've always given freely to me." She sighed, and used the pad of her thumb to catch an errant tear on Olivia's cheek. "Even though I've always been bad at accepting it."

They both knew was true. A few flowers and a sponsored midday field trip were the least of Olivia's expenses on her behalf, and every single time it came up Natalia had bridled at the notion of owing anyone else for her well-being or that of her son.

"But you've given freely to me, too," Olivia replied, hoarse with pent up emotion. "And I could never figure out why you bothered."

Natalia herself hadn't known the answer to that until recently, even though now it was so obvious. "Because I love you," she whispered, relieved when Olivia immediately relaxed.

"I love you, too," Olivia answered. She took a deep, steadying breath and blinked away tears. "And that's all that the flowers and the lunch are about. I just like seeing you smile."

Natalia heaved a sigh as well, walking back the strained emotions to how elated she'd been when she'd first walked in the room. "So, let's try this again," she said. "I loved seeing my son today, Olivia. Thank you. And I'm sorry for overreacting."

"You're welcome," Olivia whispered. "And I'm sorry if I went overboard." She shrugged and cast her eyes downward. "I'm not very good at this."

Natalia wasn't about to let her get away with that. She lifted a hand to Olivia's cheek, forcing the other woman's gaze to meet her own. "Don't apologize for loving me," she admonished gently. "We'll get better, both of us. It's just... this is new, and it's different, right?"

"Really different," Olivia breathed. "I've never felt this way before."

"Me neither," Natalia said. "It's amazing, and scary, and wonderful..." She trailed off, smiling at Olivia's snort of agreement, and watching as the other woman's eyes tracked downwards, fixated on her lips. Suddenly self-conscious, Natalia scrunched up her face in a goofy expression. "So you like my smile, huh?"

"I love your smile," Olivia exhaled, entranced.

Natalia had always marveled at how in the progression of their friendship the mood between them could shift between heated anger and easy affection in the blink of an eye. Now the added dimension of pure, unshielded desire positively made her head spin. She hummed a bit, enjoying the tension that built as she drifted a bit closer. "Now, see, I love your eyes. The way you look at me... God, Olivia. It's pure hunger."

Olivia let the moment smolder a bit longer before she cracked a grin. "Well, I did miss lunch."

She was so caught up in the warmth and flirtation between them that it took her a second to process that comment. "I... Yes. You did." With a shake of her head, Natalia pulled herself back to the present, where she was an employee in her boss' office during business hours. "Can I get you anything?"

"The kitchen's bringing something up," Olivia said with a shrug. She retreated a little, leaning against the edge of her desk.

The distance did little to soothe her simmering hormones, and she wondered vaguely if her cheeks were as flushed as they felt. "I thought you were craving Buzz Burgers."

Olivia trailed her eyes slowly up Natalia's body, making sure the other woman noticed her appraisal. "Nah. Not today."

Natalia swallowed hard, then started at the knock on the door from the service staff. "I'll just..." she stammered, and pointed to the attached bathroom, where she fled to splash water on her face.

The low, gentle laugh that followed her did little to ease her furious blush, which seemed to last the rest of the afternoon.

With the promise of ice cream and generous overtime pay, respectively, Emma was safely handed off to Jane's care for the evening. That was step one.

Step two was convincing Olivia to trade her usual elevated footwear for something a little more functional, a task Natalia accomplished with a winsome smile and a headtilt to say, "Please?"

Of course that worked, so they embarked on a walk together on the outskirts of town. Had either woman been inclined to force their attention away from the other, they would have noticed the fresh, sparkling look of Springfield after a light spring shower as they strolled along.

Their meandering route eventually brought them to the stairs that led up to the church, where they stopped to take a breather. Olivia gave the building a faintly suspicious glare, then eyed Natalia's profile. The determined look on the other woman's face made her realize their journey hadn't been nearly as aimless as she'd thought. "Why are we here?" she asked quietly.

Natalia turned toward her, slow and deliberate. "Because I realized there's something I need to give you," she replied.

"I thought we were over the gift thing."

She took Olivia's hand, coaxing her up the church steps. "Trust me on this," she said. "It's important."

"Natalia, I don't need anything from you. Really. Ever."

"That's not true," Natalia protested. "But it took me a while to figure that out." At the top of the steps she held the door open and waited. "Please?" This time she traded the winsome smile for a direct, sincere look.

With a faint grumble, Olivia ducked her head and stepped inside.

The sanctuary was dark, lit only by the slanting rays of the late afternoon sun and a few fitful candles. Natalia could feel Olivia's hesitance, but drew her steadily along at her side until they stood together in front of the altar.

She waited while Natalia ducked her head in a quick prayer, and eyed the cross above them. When Olivia heard a quiet "Amen," she turned to face her companion, not bothering to hide her uncertainty.

"So, I've been thinking a lot, lately," Natalia said, visibly steeling herself. "And praying a lot. And looking for a sign." She shrugged, and smiled crookedly. "Then I realized that the past year has been littered with signs and I've been too blind to see them." She lifted a hand to hover over Olivia's chest, pressing a single fingertip to the other woman's sternum. "Starting with Gus' heart, ending with that snowstorm a few weeks ago."

Olivia exhaled a nervous chuckle. "Are you sure those signs don't say 'Wrong Way?' 'No U Turn?'" She smirked. "'Slippery When Wet?'"

Natalia shook her head and pressed onward. "Those signs tell me that I am exactly where I'm supposed to be, and with the one I'm supposed to be with," she countered. "I have never been so sure about anything in my life. But I know you, Olivia. I know you need to be convinced that I'm really here. I know you need the Grand Gesture."

At that point, the apprehension in Olivia's eyes was painfully obvious. Natalia tried to soothe her with a gentle look before reaching behind her neck, pulling her long hair away from the gold necklace that bore her treasured cross. Her hands were trembling, and she fumbled a bit with the clasp. Finally she tugged the necklace free, wound up the chain, and carefully lifted one of Olivia's hands to place it in an open palm. "I'm not asking you to wear it," she said quietly, as she tucked Olivia's fingers around the necklace. "Just... hold onto it, for me."

Olivia inhaled, the sound harsh and loud in the stillness. "This isn't mine to take," she rasped.

"I know. But it's mine to give," Natalia whispered. "I love you, Olivia. And I love God. And He loves both of us, no matter what." She stepped a bit closer, holding Olivia's gaze with her own. "I need you to know that I believe that. That I believe what we have is good, and beautiful. That I believe this is right."

For a moment, she thought Olivia would refuse. Natalia watched the struggle play out across the other woman's face before she finally managed a shaky nod.

"I'll keep it safe for you," Olivia vowed.

The slow, joyous smile on Natalia's face easily outshone the flickering candlelight around them. "I know you will." She reached up to catch an errant tear from Olivia's cheek with the pad of her thumb, then left her hand there, caressing that cherished face before leaning in for a sweet, gentle kiss.

For several moments they held onto each other in that space, where so many prayers borne upon so much hope had taken flight, flung toward the unknowable heart of God.

And for the first time in forever, Olivia thought that maybe there really was someone listening on the other end. She cast another glance up at the cross above the altar, then looked into the tearful, smiling face of the woman she loved.

Together they strolled back down the aisle, hand in hand and hearts entwined.

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