Act I

Getting away from Greg in full party preparation mode was like extricating yourself from the human octopus, Olivia mused as she closed the door to her office in the man's face. Whoever he was dating, she felt sorry for the poor guy. She could still hear Greg mumbling in the hallway as he talked up Kiera about color palettes and matching hers-and-hers wedding toppers that could be designed in an exact replica of Olivia and Natalia, if the price was right.

Olivia dropped her forehead to the door and sighed.

"Rough morning, querida?"

Olivia jumped at the amused sound of Natalia's voice behind her and turned around. "God, Natalia! Cardiac patient, remember?"

Walking from the corner where she'd been standing when Olivia came in, Natalia sauntered over to her soon-to-be wife. Well, Olivia was already legally her wife. She smiled as she still hadn't gotten over the fact that Olivia had surprised her with a trip to New York City on a whim to get married. She sighed happily at the warm feeling she got in the pit of her stomach thinking of Olivia as her wife.

When she reached the taller woman, she stood on her toes a little, pressing the length of her body against Olivia, pushing her into the door, to kiss her on the lips. Breaking apart with a pleased hum, Natalia smiled. "Don't worry. I'll sooth your aches, my wife." Natalia kissed her soundly again.

Olivia broke the kiss and grinned saucily at the brunette in her arms. "I think it turns you on to call me your wife."

"Good thing for you." Natalia nodded and kissed her quickly but with no less of the passion.

Olivia nodded in return. "Very good. I should have married you ages ago." Natalia's kisses were coaxing her desire, and with a quick glance at the clock on the wall, she flicked the door lock closed.

Natalia didn't have to be told twice what Olivia wanted. As soon as she heard the door lock slide in place, she reached around and began unbuttoning Olivia's blouse. "As far as I'm concerned, we've been married far longer than we realize. I think a part of me fell for you the moment we met."

Sobering at the comment, Olivia leaned back and nodded, reaching for the hands opening her blouse. She pulled them to her lips and laid gentle kisses along the knuckles, eventually opening one and peppering the palm with kisses, lingering over Natalia's wrist. When she heard Natalia gasp, she looked up at the complete abandon in her wife's dark eyes. She cupped Natalia's face, staring into the endless depths of her eyes.

Finally, Natalia could take the look no longer and her voice came out in a choked whisper, "What?"

Olivia brushed a thumb over Natalia's sweet lips. She shook her head, endeavoring Natalia not to worry, even as her bottom lip trembled with emotion. "I just want to make love to my wife."

Natalia's answer was a slow, deep kiss as she reached for the light switch against the wall behind Olivia.

****

Looking up the hallway, Doris tapped her foot waiting for the court session to start. Since her return from New York, her case for self-defense for Katheryn Howard just gotten tighter. The medical documents that she'd requested on Katheryn's behalf finally arrived. Bureaucracy. It had taken an affidavit from Katheryn and a court order for each hospital or medical center to release any medical records. It had taken Doris much of one late evening and lots of caffeine before she'd put together a time-line and escalation of abusive actions that required professional care. Unfortunately, that didn't count the times where Katheryn had been injured but was able to take care of it herself. However, they were in a better place than before.

The offer of housing and employment from Buzz Cooper was another positive for the young woman that Doris would present to the court. It certainly beat being evicted from her home with limited options available. A manslaughter charge certainly didn't help matters when it came to finding employment.

Looking over at her client, sitting on the wooden bench that lined one side of the hallway, Doris sighed, but at last their waiting was over as the court clerk came out to get them. Filing towards the front of the room, Doris lay her briefcase on the table and directed Katheryn into the second seat. She was just waiting for the prosecuting attorney to take his place, and Doris had been relieved that she wouldn't be facing off against Jeffrey for this case, though it had been a bit of a surprise to hear he'd recused himself, given how much of a name he wanted to make for himself prosecuting in his words an easy conviction that would improve his bid for election for District Attorney, instead of his current Acting District Attorney position. Needless to say, her strengthened case, coupled with a young up and coming attorney in the prosecutor's office, made Doris even happier. Finally, the bailiff announced the judge's presence.

Judge Davis banged his gavel on the stone block, bringing the session to order. "I see that Ms. Wolfe is representing the defense," he said, nodding in her direction before turning his attention to the prosecutor. "Mr. Thomas, is it?" The young man nodded. "Well, sir, are you ready to start?"

"Yes, your honor," Carl Thomas started as he glanced down at his legal pad. "Your honor, Ms. Howard is charged with the fatal shooting of her husband. The photographs in evidence of the crime tell of a violent act and one that needs harsh punishment. The post-mortem indicates that Michael Howard was shot at close range, and that their daughter was also present at the time of the shooting. Mr. Howard was an upstanding man of his community, a man who owned his own business and cared for his family. Ms. Howard has also removed their daughter from their home several times, crossing state lines on more than one occasion without the permission of her husband. The evidence, I believe your honor, speaks for itself."

Doris rolled her eyes. Really? That's all you can come up with? But she was spared voicing that thought when the judge spoke up.

"Thank you, Mr. Thomas. I'll keep that in mind." Judge Davis nodded and turned to face the defense. "Are you ready, Ms. Wolfe?"

"Yes, your honor. While the defense will contend that my client, Katheryn Howard, did kill her husband by shooting him, we will stipulate that there are extenuating circumstances, particularly the pattern of escalating violence towards her and the threats of physical and sexual assault on an eight-year old girl." Doris looked directly at the judge, before handing over copies of the medical records to the bailiff to pass to both the prosecution and the judge. "Your honor, I present here a copy of the records from each of the hospitals and clinics where Ms. Howard sought medical attention following an abusive attack from her husband over the past few years. I also ask you to look at the results and photographs of Ms. Howard taken at Cedar's Hospital the night of the attack." Doris handed the second bag of evidence and the accompanying paperwork to the bailiff. "A positive rape kit done the night of the attack was performed and matched against the deceased. As you will notice, there were heavy bruises and tearing of the pelvis and vaginal wall, as well as bruising on Ms. Howard's thighs." Doris paused and looked over at her client, whom she noted was pale and tired. Reaching a hand down to the young woman's hands which were near white as she gripped the table, Doris tried to give her as comforting a presence as she could before returning her attention to the judge. "Your honor, since Ms. Howard is the sole guardian and provider for her daughter, and has not proved to be any flight risk since she was charged, I ask for continued leniency as you decide on her fate. Thank you."

"Thank you, Ms. Wolfe. I have these along with the police statements provided and the witness statements. Ms. Howard, you are still released in your own reconnaissance; I do advise that you do not leave town. I will make my decision soon and will inform the court. We will take a recess until that time, or until I have need to question the defendant further. Court is adjourned." Judge Davis banged his gavel, then gathered the paperwork and evidence in his arms before leaving the room.

Doris sighed; she hated waiting but she had a good feeling about this case and its outcome. Reaching out her hand again, this time to Katheryn's shoulder, she indicated the young woman to stand as they were escorted out of the courtroom.

"Ms. Wolfe, will my daughter have to testify?" Katheryn asked nervously. It was bad enough that she had to go through the trial, but she didn't want to put her daughter through more than she had already endured.

"No. The judge and the prosecution have a copy of her statement, plus the psychological evaluation reports from Dr. Tremain. The judge will look those over but the case is strong. He may have some questions for you, but I wouldn't worry. Just answer them honestly." Doris gave the young woman a confident smile. "Look, it will probably be a while, so why don't we go get a bite to eat."

Katheryn looked down at her hands which had been nervously fidgeting with her blazer hem. "I don't know if I can eat; my stomach is a bundle of nerves."

"You'll be okay. Now, come on, we'll go down to the cafeteria. There's usually some decent sandwiches in there. And tea or coffee." Doris led them down the hallway, passing the young prosecutor along the way. The poor man looked worse that her client did as he paced the hall, his cell phone held to his ear. As she waited for the elevator, she grinned as she heard the young man say, 'But, Mr. O'Neill, there's not much I can do with all that evidence they provided.' Doris had to agree. The prosecution's evidence to the contrary was really rather pitiful, which again had surprised her, given how gung-ho Jeffrey had been to get the case. She would have thought he'd pull in a tighter case. She shrugged, maybe with the finding of Grady Foley and the murder case against Phillip Spaulding had redirected his energies, but still, she wondered. At any rate, she needed caffeine, so once the elevator door pinged, she and Katheryn were on their way downstairs to the small cafeteria.

****

"Okay, Greg needs to step back from all this wedding stuff or I'm so going to have to bitch slap him," Ava Peralta grumbled with a slight grin as she slipped down into the booth by the far window at Company. "Now he wants to hire some guy to make ice sculptures of Olivia and Natalia's heads for the buffet table."

Leyla choked slightly, her eyes going large with suppressed laughter, nearly gagging as she tried to finish swallowing her sip of iced tea.

"He thinks it will be romantic. Seriously? Can you imagine it? Help me, I'm mellllting…I'm meeelllting!!" Ava drooped lower in the booth as if wilting, laughing as Leyla waved her hands and frantically tried to gulp down the drink in her mouth while giggling at her antics. She sighed as she finally got her mouthful of fluid down and could take a breath.

"Let me swallow before you do stuff like that," Leyla gasped, tossing her scrunched-up napkin across the booth at the other woman, as Ava just laughed at her harder.

"Ah, timing is everything, Rivera. Don't you forget it," Ava said, straightening up as their server arrived with a jug of ice water and a menu. Already knowing what she wanted, Ava waved the menu off and they both quickly ordered their fully loaded Buzz Burgers before slipping back into their conversation.

"So are you ready to hit the mall this week with the Bean?" Leyla asked, stirring the ice in her drink with a straw. "I almost dread what type of bridesmaids dress we'll have to wear."

"All I can say is thank God Emma's moved out of that horrid Barbie pink stage," Ava shuddered. "As long as she doesn't move straight into that gothic black and moody stage right away, I'll be happy."

"Well, no guarantees there either," Leyla sighed. As they both well knew it had been a war zone the last little while at the farmhouse. "Emma has a good handle on the moody part already, I'm sure the black clothes and piercings aren't far behind. I guess it's all a part of growing up, pushing the envelope with parents."

Ava shrugged, slipping into thoughtful silence. Her adoptive parents had been lovely and it still broke her heart sometimes that they never lived to see her grown into adulthood. Although she did have Olivia and Jeffrey to turn to now, it really wasn't the same as being with the people who raised her. And the baggage that came with her biological parents was sometimes wearing.

"Emma asked me about Mom and Jeffrey," Ava said quietly, not meeting Leyla's eyes as they snapped up at her admission.

"Jesus, what did you tell her?" Leyla shifted in her seat. She knew Olivia had been upset with Emma's outbursts lately but hadn't realize Emma had figured so much out. The girl was bright, almost too smart for her own good sometimes. Her heart went out to Ava, as she ran a hand through her short hair and sighed.

"Basically that it's complicated, but that we'd figure it out as we go along...as a family," Ava sighed, taking a long sip of her water to collect her thoughts. "To be honest, there have been days I've hated both Olivia and Jeffrey, and then there are days that I don't know what I'd do without either of them."

"Like any parent," Leyla snorted. "My Dad is an asshole, and I have no clue why my Mom has put up and stayed with him all these years and that pisses me off, but y'know what? I still love them. I know Natalia does too, and they treated her like shit." She shook her head. Their mom hadn't been much help, hiding away at the local church helping 'those less fortunate' while life at home was falling apart. It was all such a mess. Leyla gave herself a mental shake and brought herself back to the here and now. "At least Olivia and Jeffrey are a part of your life now, both of them trying to build a decent relationship with you."

"It's a struggle some days, especially with Dad being a real jerk lately, but I've done nothing wrong in all of this and I refuse to be a victim," Ava said quietly, tears welling in her dark eyes but a thread of pure steel backbone ran through her words.

"Hey, you're not alone in this," Leyla automatically reached out across the table, her fingers wrapping around Ava's thin wrist and squeezing her hand as their eyes me and held. "To hell with what anyone whispers around this dinky little town. Everybody's family is dysfunctional one way or another. Your mom and your dad love you, which is a hell of a lot more than some people have and that's what really counts. Plus you have all this extended family now too. So you just need to remember that your family has your back," Leyla smiled softly as Ava glanced up at her, offering a small lopsided grin.

"And this time, we're not letting you go."

****

Natalia quirked her mouth to the side and tapped the top of the pen against her cheek as she looked over the list of names on the page.

"I keep feeling like we're missing someone," she said, continuing to puzzle over the page.

"You've got Sam, right? I know he was with us in New York, but I'd still like to send him one. Though we may have to send it by carrier pigeon," Olivia joked and finished drying the last plate before placing it on the shelf in the cabinet. They'd talked about inviting Natalia's family before, but then Natalia had been kidnapped and her parents could have changed their minds in light of that. She bit her lip and turned to look at her wife who was oblivious to her train of thoughts. "Maybe we should invite your parents again."

Natalia dropped the pen to the paper and sighed, leaning back in the chair before sliding down and pouting. "They didn't come the first time. Why should they come now? Even Rafe won't be here. We have no idea what's going on with him, and I'm worried sick that he's hurt or...worse. You told me how you'd arranged for him to be on the computer so he could be present the last time. Now I can't even have that. I just want this to be a happy day for us."

Resolutely, Olivia tossed the towel in her hand to the counter and walked over to Natalia. She got down on her knees and urged Natalia to turn to look at her. When the younger woman did, Olivia reached up and brushed back the hair from her eyes. "It will be a happy day. Every day that I'm with you is a happy day, even when there are crappy days." She smiled at the hint of a grin on Natalia's beautiful face. "As far as your parents are concerned, how will we know if we never try?"

Natalia tilted her head and regarded the woman she loved. "Is this really THE Olivia Spencer having...faith?"

Olivia smirked and leaned forward to kiss the brunette quickly and playfully. "I learned from the best." She stood and pointed at the paper. "Put 'em down there. We'll keep at them until they cry for mercy."

Smiling, Natalia picked up her discarded pen and wrote down her parent's names. After pausing for a moment, she added Leo and Sophia's names too.

****

Detective Anna Li sorted through some more files on her desk and cross-matched them with notes she'd already added to her laptop, hoping to find some indication of where her father might have disappeared following the actual death of Edmund Winslow. Since Chief Thorne had taken on the death of Grady Foley's investigation, it had left her more time to investigate her father's dealings with Edmund, and her own hunches. She'd contacted her father's home on the Winslow estate on San Cristobel but he hadn't returned there, or if he had, they weren't saying. She'd put out feelers with colleagues at Interpol for information on Hung Li, but there hadn't been much. His passport hadn't been flagged, so she was guessing that he was still using Edmund's private jet and underground contacts for the time being. What he was threatening them with, she didn't know, other than the fact that he had killed Edmund. Possibly the threat that they could be next worked more efficiently to get them to hide him.

But that was just it, really, Anna thought; her father never used to hide from anything. If nothing else, he was proud of the work he had done for the Winslow family. Security and protection were things he held high. So, why was he being elusive now?

She'd been working at her laptop for longer than she'd thought and when she sat back and rolled her neck, she could feel the popping as she stretched in her seat. Fighting the tension in her muscles she stood and stretched, suddenly realizing that she hadn't eaten in a while when she heard her stomach growl. Putting her laptop in standby mode, she put it into her desk drawer and locked it up along with her notes.

Looking over at her colleague, she tossed a scrunched up paper ball over at Remy. "Hey, Boudreau, I'm headed out for lunch. You want anything?"

"A decent coffee!" he exclaimed, laughing back at her.

"Will do." Anna turned towards Sgt. Keri Stapleton, the new officer that had transferred with the Chief. "You want anything?"

"If you can get me a large chai latte and a chicken salad sandwich, I'd owe you big," Keri said, with a smile.

"Not a problem. I've gotta stretch out anyway. Making a run over to Company. If anyone needs me, I've got my cell phone," Anna said as she headed for the exit, bumping into Eleni coming in.

"Hey, can I talk to you later?" Eleni asked her friend, wanting to check with her on something.

"Sure. Just going for lunch. Give me 45 minutes or so?"

"No problem. See you then," Eleni said, headed down the hall to her office.

****

Natalia was busy, lost in dusting off the coffee table for the twentieth time and making sure the magazines on the table were angled exactly the same when a pair of strong but feminine arms snaked around her waist startling her out of her mental meanderings. She was spun around until she gazed into amused but sultry green eyes.

"Stop," Olivia stated sweetly. "It's just Josh. He's been here many times before, and he's definitely seen this house with an occasional speck of dust."

Natalia blew out a frustrated sigh and dropped her head to Olivia's chest as the older woman soothingly ran her hands up and down her back. Gradually, she relaxed and nuzzled into Olivia wrapping her own arms around the other woman.

"I know." Natalia sighed. "Do you think he has any idea what we're going to be asking him? This is kind of a big deal to just spring on someone, especially your ex-husband." Natalia had pulled away as she spoke, her arms flailing in the air at that last statement. She turned and nervously bit at a finger nail. The depth of Olivia's feelings for Josh didn't seem to be helping matters for Natalia. They had a history, a very long, torrid...passionate history. Maybe it would be too awkward to ask this of him.

Olivia tilted her head to the side, practically able to read the reservations written across her love's beautiful face. She walked over and took Natalia's hands into her own, stilling their nervous movement, and brought them to her lips to kiss gently. "Don't do this to yourself. Josh has moved on. He's madly in love with Reva and always has been; even when I didn't want to accept that as true, I knew it was. And don't forget the most important thing..."

Natalia instinctively leaned in closer to her mate as Olivia left her words hanging in the air. Breathlessly, she whispered, "What?"

Olivia dipped her head until her lips caressed Natalia's lightly, teasing the younger woman closer. "I chose you." She closed the barely noticeable gap with a kiss. In mere moments, the clasped hands were dropped as both women lost themselves in the kiss, wrapped up tightly in each other's arms.

A knock at the door broke the moment and Olivia pulled back with a groan. She moved to answer the door, but raised a finger in Natalia's direction as the younger woman got her bearings. "Don't forget where we left off."

Natalia blew out a slow breath and fanned her face. "Don't worry. I won't!" Whatever concerns had lurked in her mind before evaporated with that fierce kiss. She was so gone that she could hardly remember why Josh was coming by the farmhouse.

She walked into the kitchen just as Olivia opened the door to let Josh in. He quickly and smoothly embraced his ex-wife in a hug then turned to Natalia and did the same. Natalia could certainly see why Olivia had been attracted to Josh. He was charming and handsome in a guy-next-door kind of way. He was most definitely the marrying kind; the type you would be proud to introduce to your parents. If there wasn't Olivia and they hadn't been soul mates, Natalia could see Josh being someone that she would have gravitated towards. The fact that he was a spiritual type of person would have been a bonus.

She gestured to the living room and asked Josh if he wanted anything to drink. When he declined, Natalia felt a little awkward for a moment. It would have actually been nice to do something instead of standing awkwardly in the kitchen looking at each other. After an odd moment of deciding who would go ahead of whom, all three made their way to the living room and sat down – Olivia and Natalia on the sofa, Josh in a chair.

"So, how have you beautiful ladies been?" Josh ventured for casual conversation. He had no idea why they asked him to come over. On the phone, he had asked Olivia if she needed some handyman work, but even the flirtatious tone that seemed to come out whenever he was in the woman's presence didn't manage to get details out of her.

Olivia and Natalia looked at each other then at Josh. Olivia spoke first, "Good." Then Natalia at almost the same time, "Okay."

Josh chuckled a little. Whatever they wanted him there for had completely flummoxed both of the women. "Is it ‘good' or is it ‘okay'?"

Pressing the bridge of her nose with her fingers, Olivia decided to do what she does best and jump in head first. "Good. Everything's great. In fact, Natalia and I got married in New York."

A bright smile took over Josh's handsome face. "So I heard! Congratulations!"

"Thanks," Olivia said, relaxing a little as she got her thoughts together. "But, you know, there's still so much not done, that was missing from the ceremony in New York. There were some things we realized we wanted in our lives, that we wanted to have the experience of. Our friends...our family."

Josh watched as Olivia lovingly took Natalia's hand in her own, his ex turning her head to lock eyes with the woman she had chosen to live the rest of her life with. Then, for some reason, the oddest thought came to mind and he felt a wave of panic mixed with excitement. Certainly, they wouldn't ask him to…

"Marry us, Josh," Natalia finished as she turned to look at him, the look of adoration and awe she had from being in Olivia's presence faded at the ashen expression on Josh's face. She reached out. "Josh, are you okay?"

"What?" Josh jerked back to the present, not really hearing what the two women were saying to him.

Olivia reached over and squeezed his knee. She had seen that freaked out look on his face before. "What did you think we were going to ask you?"

"Ummmm," Josh stalled, unable to look either of them in the eye.

Leaning back into the sofa, working hard to hide her amusement, Olivia chuckled lightly. "Oh my God. Josh!"

Natalia looked back and forth between them. "What?"

Olivia leaned over to her partner and whispered, "I think he thought we were going to ask him to be our baby daddy."

Natalia's mouth rounded into an "o" and she turned to Josh incredulously. "Really?"

His embarrassment mounting with each passing second, he looked down and nodded. Clearing his throat and straightening up, he tried to gain a sense of composure. "So, if it wasn't that, then what did you want to talk about?" He saw Olivia hiding her amusement behind her hand. "Shut up, Olivia," he groused.

She threw her hands up in the air. "What? I didn't do anything!"

He teasingly glared at her, finding humor in the moment now. "Yet," he deadpanned. He clapped his hands together. "So, seriously, what's up?"

Natalia shook her head and looked at her partner's scruffy ex-husband. "We'd like for you to officiate our ceremony."

Josh smiled broadly. "Really?" Both women nodded. "I'd be honored," he added.

Natalia stood suddenly. "Well, with that out of the way, I think I need some coffee."

When she was out of the room, Olivia scooted over to Josh. She bit her bottom lip nervously. "I need you to do a favor for me. Actually, two. Do you think we could meet soon and talk about it?"

He shrugged. "Sure...as long as it doesn't involve babies."

Olivia teased her ex by laughing heartily before leaning over and slapping him on the shoulder. "Not yet, but you never know."