ACT 1

This was so unlike her.  Olivia went through about three alarm clocks a year because she pulverized them on chilly mornings like this. Usually, all she wanted to do was huddle back under the warm covers. And more recently, snuggle closer to the warm body next to her.  But here she was, less than two weeks away from having her life change yet again with the birth of her third daughter, and she found herself in a new position…awake…early.  She fought the groan rolling low in her chest so she wouldn’t wake the sleeping woman next to her.  Instead, she quietly sat up to turn off her alarm before it had a chance to chirp annoyingly and then leaned over to watch Natalia sleep.

 The last few days had been chaotic, to say the least.  They had not just one, but two, false alarm rushes to the hospital.  The doctor had explained it as Braxton Hicks contractions.  They weren’t uncommon late in a pregnancy, but they had scared Olivia.  The second time it happened Natalia had some spotty bleeding, but the doctor again reassured them both that it wasn’t a bad sign and to continue on with life as normal.  Olivia brought Natalia home each time, and each time she made her sit on the couch while Olivia made her some tea and wrapped her in a warm blanket.  She even built a small fire so they could huddle under the blanket and listen to the soft winds outside bring in the change of the seasons.

 Everything was changing - the seasons, their lives, and the depth of Olivia’s love for Natalia.  She thought she loved her before, and she thought the love could never get stronger; however, when Natalia cried out in pain at the false contractions, and Olivia saw the small hint of blood on Natalia’s thigh, the fear of loss, a gut-wrenching rending of her soul, was so intense it took her breath away.  Even now, looking down on Natalia’s serene features, Olivia’s hands shook at the remembered rush of fear.

 As she watched Natalia sleeping peacefully in their bed, she pushed away the fear and allowed herself a moment to relish in the warmth that spread through her every time she looked at her lover.  She couldn’t imagine ever being without this profound feeling of love for Natalia that left her awestruck.  Yet it still seemed so surreal at times, and she found herself seeking reassurance in the most tactile of ways by doing what she was doing now, reaching over to brush her quivering fingers lightly over the other woman’s swollen belly.  The solidity of her and the child inside calmed Olivia like nothing else.  Natalia really was here.  She really was back. And she really was hers.  Natalia was okay, and Olivia would do everything in her power to ensure it stayed that way.

 She was roused from her musings by slender fingers slipping between her own and a drowsy mumble. “Stay.”

 “If I stay, I’m going to do far more than cuddle, and it’ll definitely wake you up.”  Olivia whispered.

 “S’alright.  Don’t mind.” Natalia said.

 Olivia smirked at Natalia’s semi-nocturnal confession, but the smile quickly faded. “I know you don’t mind, but you and the baby need to sleep and rest.  Doctor’s orders.  I’ll be back to check on you at lunch.  Sleep.” 

 “M’kay.” 

 Olivia brushed dark hair away from Natalia’s face, enjoying the heavy feel of the strands teasing the skin between her fingers, until the other woman’s breathing deepened.  Natalia visibly sank further down into her pillow and the warmth of the bed.  Olivia wanted nothing more than to slowly wake her lover up with heated kisses and touches.  Instead, she sighed and got out from under the toasty covers, making a quiet but hasty run for the bathroom where she jumped into a steamy shower.

Thirty minutes later, she emerged from the bathroom and dressed in a tailor-fitted tan suit and high-heeled brown boots.  Slipping on her long brown jacket from the closet to guard against the chilly fall weather, she looked in the mirror and drew up short.  Except for the highlights in her pulled-back hair being slightly darker, she looked almost like she did on the surprisingly cold spring day when, over Gus’ grave, she confessed her love for Natalia.  Stepping aside, she saw the reflection of the woman in question sleeping soundly in bed…their bed.


It was hard for her to believe that barely six months had passed.  So much had happened.  So much had changed.  Yet things felt exactly right, the way they should be.

 She shook her head to clear her thoughts.  Natalia was here now.  She had come back to her and that’s all that mattered. 

 Putting on the last of her jewelry, she moved to the side of the bed and gazed down at Natalia.  Even with her mouth slightly open and a hint of drool on the corner of her mouth, Olivia thought she was the most gorgeous woman in the world.  She slipped her hand along a warm cheek, gently caressing the soft skin, her fingers tracing the full lips.  With an internal groan, she fought the desire to strip down and climb back into bed, and instead let her “worried partner” side come out and argue that Natalia needed rest more than sex.  She contented herself with running her fingers softly along Natalia’s cheek and kissing her tenderly on the lips. “I love you.” 

 “Love you too.”

 
***

Olivia glanced at the clock on her desk for the third time in ten minutes, finally tossing down the file in her hand in frustration and sighing.

“Fire ‘em.” Olivia jumped at Doris’ voice coming from the doorway.

 “What?”

 “Anyone who makes you sound like that and fling innocent files at only,” Doris glanced down at her watch, “10:45 in the morning must be fired.”

 Olivia smiled at her friend and leaned back in her chair. “It’s not that.  Well, not quite.”

 The mayor smoothed down the non-existent wrinkles in her tight gray skirt before sitting across the desk from Olivia. “So…spill.  What is it?”

 Waving a hand in the air at Doris, Olivia feigned nonchalance. “Just want to get home.”

 Doris smirked, one eyebrow quirking up naughtily. “Those cookies Natalia bakes must be really good to have you so anxious to get home so soon.”

 “You’re horrible, and that’s not it at all.” Olivia shook her head and sipped her coffee, “Poor Natalia can hardly move, much less do…that.”

 “Thank goodness I don’t have that kind of lady trouble!”

 Olivia let her inner eight-year-old out to play and shot a rubber band at the other woman. “You wouldn’t complain.  Trust me, I haven’t.” 

 Doris’ latent softball skills came in handy as she deftly caught the flying object in one hand. “Please…do tell me all about it, because I just can’t picture your personal Virgin Mary doing anything more intimate than bathing you in holy water.  In fact,” Doris stood and grabbed her coat and purse, “you can tell me over an early lunch and a drink.”

 “I’d love to kiss and tell with my disturbingly nosy friend, but I really do have to go home to check on Natalia.”

 “Augh, that’s just disgusting.”

 “What?”

 “You are so whipped!” 

 Olivia shot another rubber band at Doris’ head.  “I’m not whipped.  I’m worried.”

 “Why?  She’s not due for a couple more weeks.” Doris shrugged, completely unconcerned for Natalia’s health.

 A worried frown creased Olivia’s face and she avoided Doris’ eyes. “She started having some false labor pains last week.”

 “Oh.  Well, she’s obviously okay, right, or she wouldn’t be at home?”

 Olivia nodded, tapping a pen nervously on her desk. “Right.”

 “And the baby’s far enough along that it would be fine if she delivered early.  It’s going to be fine, Olivia.  Don’t worry so much.”

 Olivia rubbed the bridge of her nose.  Her emotions were too close to the surface, and she really didn’t want to break down in front of Doris…again.  “I can’t help but worry.  I know the odds are low that anything really bad could happen at this point, and the doctor has given both her and Francesca a perfect bill of health.”

 “See?”

 Olivia leaned forward, resting her arms on the desk. “But I just got her back, Doris.”  The tears popped into her eyes before she realized what was happening, and she quickly brushed them away. “I just got her back and the thought of anything going wrong is…terrifying.”  Olivia nodded her head in resolve and continued on, “Only a little while longer.  I just have to keep her from overdoing it.”

 Doris waited silently somehow knowing that Olivia’s rant wasn’t quite done.  Doris smiled to herself when Olivia kept talking. “And it’s not helping that Keira is sending me all these health and medical articles about women having babies after 35 with all these medical problems.  I know she means well but…”

 “Fire the bitch!” 

 Olivia stared at her friend for a moment, stunned by the absurdity of the outburst, before bursting into laughter.  Seconds later, Doris started to chuckle as well.

 Finally, Olivia wiped at the tears of laughter in her eyes. “Thank you; I needed that!”

 “You’re welcome.”  Doris picked up her purse and walked around the desk to kiss the top of Olivia’s head.  Olivia smiled up at her friend not letting her shock show at the uncharacteristic affectionate gesture. “Now, go home to your girl.  You won’t get many more moments alone.”

 ***

 

The drive back out to the farmhouse was idyllic.  The fall sky was a startling shade of blue and a light wind dusted fallen leaves across the road and into Olivia’s path as she steered her car along the road.  She took Doris’ advice and left a little early to spend quality time with Natalia and their unborn baby.

 When Olivia opened the door, everything was silent until an overhead crash alerted her to the fact that someone was upstairs.  She climbed the steps quietly and shuffled down the hall until she was in front of the nursery door, the room that had once belonged to her.  She cracked the door open and caught sight of Natalia feverishly reorganizing and mumbling to herself. “No…no there.  Maybe here.  No, then the diaper caddy will be on the other side of the room.” 

 Olivia swung the door open fully and Natalia immediately stiffened, knowing who was there, without turning around.

 “Hi, honey.  You’re home early.”

 Olivia crossed her arms. “And what exactly do you think you’re doing?  The doctor said to rest.”

 She turned eager brown eyes on Olivia. “I am, by getting ready for our little girl to make her debut.  It’s kind of exciting, huh?”

 “Yeah, it is, but we agreed that we’d work on her room this weekend.  There’s hardly anything left to do anyway.” Olivia came up to her and ran the back of her fingers along Natalia’s chin.

 “I know, but something…I can’t put my finger on it, just isn’t right yet.  Something doesn’t feel right.”  Natalia spun around to face the room, taping a finger against her lips in contemplation.

 Olivia smiled at the realization she was having. “You’re nesting.”

 “No…no, I’m not.”  Natalia shook her head and adjusted the bedside lamp by a mere fraction of an inch.

 “Yes, you are.”

 “And you’re not?” 

 At that, Olivia sighed, knowing she had probably walked right into a trap. 

 Natalia’s next words confirmed it. “What’s with that mile high pile of diaper coupons on the kitchen table then?” 

 Olivia shrugged. “It’s practical though.  You can never have too many diapers.” 

 Natalia quirked her mouth and regarded her partner as she took Olivia’s hand and came closer.  The protrusion of her belly, which seemed to be growing exponentially on a daily basis, kept Natalia from getting as close as she wanted so she tugged at Olivia’s coat to bring her face down until their lips met in a kiss.

 “I know, honey, but if you keep buying at this rate, we’ll have enough for all of our grandkids until they go off to kindergarten.” 

 Olivia smiled at her and leaned down into another gentle kiss, relishing the idea of them old and gray and spoiling a house full of grandkids.  When she pulled back, she noted that Natalia wavered a little on her feet.  “Whoa, have you eaten lunch yet?”

 “Nope, waiting for you.”

 “Well, come on; let’s get you downstairs and off your feet for a little while.  I’ll make sandwiches for us.”

 Natalia readily complied and followed Olivia downstairs.  Olivia slipped off her jacket when they reached the kitchen and pulled out a chair for Natalia.  Natalia didn’t sit down right away.  Instead she went to the refrigerator and started pulling out condiments, including the new jar of pickles that Olivia had bought the day before then sat down at the table.

 “Mmmmm, pickles.”

 Olivia giggled at her, sliding into the chair across from her. “I got some ice cream too…you know, just to complete the pregnant woman stereotype.”

 Natalia speared a pickle from the jar and leaned back in her chair, her hand resting conveniently on her belly. “Hmmm, the other stereotypes don’t seem to bother you.”

 Olivia glanced down at Natalia’s ample cleavage, reminding her of one stereotype that she was thankful for.  “They don’t bother me, believe me.  Except for that whole ‘standing on your feet all day, slaving around the house, nesting’ thing when you should be resting.  That…bothers me a little.”

 Natalia watched for a moment as Olivia worked on their sandwiches.  “I’m sorry. I guess I am nesting, huh?”

 Olivia put the finishing touches on Natalia’s sandwich, passed it over, and then held up her thumb and forefinger about an inch apart. “Just a little.”

 With the overstuffed ham sandwich finally finished and in front of her, Natalia lifted it and took a hearty bite, humming her approval.  When she set it down, she looked at her partner nibbling on a turkey wrap.

 “Something’s just not right here.  There’s something missing.”

 Somehow Olivia knew the comment didn’t have to do with her sandwich, and she wasn’t sure how to really feel about it.  She thought this – this home, family, her – was all Natalia needed.  Apparently, she was wrong and she wasn’t sure she wanted to know what the other woman meant.  She got lost in her thoughts and picked at the tomato on her wrap, so she didn’t notice Natalia get up from the table.

 “I got it!” 

 Olivia jumped at the exclamation and followed her absent partner’s voice into the family room.  Natalia was standing in the space by the windows next to the front door.

 “Got what?”

 “Remember that Christmas tree you got from the Beacon last year?” Natalia’s face was glowing with excitement.

 Olivia shuffled her feet. “Yeah, you hated it.”

 “I didn’t hate it.  It just wasn’t homey or…” she smirked at Olivia, “real.  What was real was the warm feeling it gave me to have you and Emma here, in this house with our tree and decorations and food.  We - the people in this house - make it a home.  I want that again this year.”

 Olivia got it but she was still somewhat confused at where Natalia was going with this.  She shrugged her shoulders. “You’ve got that.  We’re here.  Just like we were last year.”

 Natalia went up to her and took her hands. “But it’s not just us anymore, is it?  And the situation is very different than it was last year.  We have this little one here to consider and we have to think about the world and life we’re bringing her into.”

 Olivia started to feel a little uneasy, wondering if Natalia was hinting that their family wasn’t a good life for Francesca.  A moment of panic, borne of years of waiting for flying bricks to hit her in the head, started to set in and tears sprang to her eyes. 

 Natalia felt a surge of sympathy at Olivia’s reaction and moved as close as the baby would allow.

 “I told Frank at the ultrasound, before you got there, that I want this baby surrounded from day one by all the people who love her.  What better time to start than Thanksgiving?”

 Olivia scrunched her eyebrows together. “What?”

 “I know what this place needs.  I know what I want.  A big ol’ family dinner on Thanksgiving, right here,” Natalia turned, looking at the space currently occupied by two chairs and a small table, “with all of our family and friends to share it.  What do you say?”

 “Um, no.”

 “What?  No…why no?”

 “Because you’ll become completely consumed with getting ready for this, and you shouldn’t push yourself that much.  Besides, Sam and Ava are coming, and that’ll be enough to get ready for.  We don’t need to add more work to it.”

 Natalia considered the comment and quirked her face in a half-smile before adopting a full-blown pout. “Please?  I never got to do this with Rafe.  It was always just the two of us, and sometimes I even worked on Thanksgiving so I ended up bringing home leftovers from the restaurants I worked at.  I really want to do this for Francesca…for us and our family.”

 When Olivia still seemed hesitant, Natalia turned the pout into a bright, winning smile.

“That’s not fair.”

 “What?”  She smiled all the more, knowing full well what Olivia was talking about.

 “The dimples.  Those things should come with a warning label.  You flashed those dimples and batted those pretty brown eyes and half of Springfield fell for you, including me.” 

“Does this mean that we’re having Thanksgiving dinner here?”  Natalia bit her lip expectantly.

Olivia threw her hands up in surrender. “As if I have a choice?  The dimples have spoken.”

Natalia bounced with excitement and kissed her partner thoroughly. “I love you so much, Olivia Spencer.” 

“Wow, we can have a big ol’ family dinner every week if you keep kissing me like that!” Olivia smiled happily, loving it when Natalia was happy too.  But she raised a finger in warning at Natalia. “You have to promise me though; you’ll let me and Emma help you.  That you won’t go crazy getting ready for this.  Promise.” 

“I promise.” 

When Natalia added a sexy smile to the already prominent dimples, Olivia held up a finger of warning again.

“Don’t!” Olivia joked then got serious. “Okay, I’ll talk to Keira about bringing in some catering and I can have the logistics guys bring over enough tables and chairs for everyone.  Oh, and maybe Greg can get one of his flower-arranging buddies to do a huge centerpiece for the table!”

The more Olivia talked, the more Natalia’s smile faltered. “No…No, Olivia.”

“But…you said?”

“No, we’re having a traditional family dinner here.  That means I’m cooking dinner, with your help, of course; you’ll personally invite everyone; and you’ll carve the turkey.”

Olivia spluttered, “Carve the turkey?  Why do I have to carve the turkey?”

Natalia smiled lovingly at her partner and kissed her on the cheek. “I cook it.  You carve it.”

Olivia’s mouth hung open as she watched Natalia waddle back into the kitchen and sit down to finish her sandwich.  She followed her back into the kitchen, slumping back into her own chair, and looked at her smug girlfriend. “There’s a problem with this little plan of yours.”

One dark eyebrow curved up. “Oh really?”

“Uh huh.  You’re using this as a roundabout way to do your,” Olivia flailed her hands around her, “nesting thing.  When I leave for work, you’ll probably bake fifty thousand batches of cookies or something.  You have to promise me that you’ll take it easy and let me and Emma help you.”

“Okayyyyyy.” Natalia dragged the word out in exasperation then looked at Olivia through slitted but amused eyes, “And what if I don’t promise?”

Olivia pushed her plate aside and leaned across the table, propping her breasts up on the table to enhance her cleavage.  When she saw Natalia look down and swallow hard, she knew she had her attention.  She stroked one long finger along the other woman’s exposed wrist, watching goose bumps pop up along the tan flesh and smiled seductively at Natalia.  “Let’s just say that with what little time is left between now and when the baby’s born, you really don’t want to be  so exhausted from cleaning and cooking that you can’t manage any other activities.  Now do you?”

“You drive a hard bargain.” Natalia licked her lips and swallowed hard.

Olivia’s smile became feral.  “Oh, honey, you have no idea how hard I can drive that bargain.”

Natalia’s breath catching was audible and Olivia couldn’t resist her.  The sound Natalia was making was a reminder of the sounds of pleasure Natalia made, low in her throat, deep and breathy, as Olivia would make love to her.  For Olivia, pleasing Natalia was a drug that had hooked her on the first kiss and right now, she needed to feed her addiction.  She stood and moved around to the front of the other woman’s chair, kneeling in front of her and sliding her hands along still-shapely thighs as her fingers disappeared under the hem of Natalia’s skirt. “Perhaps a demonstration is in order?”

Her lover’s breathing quickened and her dark eyes were nearly black with desire. “When do you have to be back in the office?”

Olivia smirked and glanced at the watch on her wrist before sliding her hand under the skirt again.  “About 30 minutes.”

Natalia closed her eyes, imagining all of the wonderful things they could do in thirty minutes, and her body instantly responded. “Plenty of time.”

(CLICK HERE TO READ AFTER DARK CONTENT NC-17. WILL OPEN IN A NEW WINDOW.)

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