for Ambre


There's a firefly
Loose tonight
Better catch
'Fore it burns this place down
And I lie if I
Don't feel so right
But the world looks better
Through your eyes

(Firefly, Ed Sheeran)


She makes it home at 1 AM, so weary that she can barely stand, has to lean against the door for a full minute before inserting her key and twisting the lock. Inside, it is dark, just the glow from the stove light edging the boxes and warning her where not to walk. Slowly, she empties her pockets and drops her jacket on the back of the couch before toeing off her shoes, movements absent of care or thought. Just that, though, exhausts her, and she pauses, hip jutting into the couch. Around her, the silence presses on her eardrums, against her shoulders, squeezes her chest. It is too much.

Rousing, careful of the boxes scattered like land mines, Olivia moves toward the bedroom. By the time she crests the doorframe, her shirt is off, fingers grabbing one of Peter's as she heads for the bathroom, readying for bed. Out of her dress pants and into flannels, brush teeth, wash face, no pausing to linger beneath the cool stream. It is all rote, mechanic, functional because she needs bedand bed now. When she tugs her hair free of its ponytail and starts to unclasp her bra, though, she stops.

The nightlight in the bathroom is dim, silvery, offering little more than a suggestion of countertop and shower curtain, but it is enough. Enough to limn her profile, to highlight the fact that nothing, absolutely nothing, has changed. Yet. Olivia drops her palms, fingers skimming her sides and coasting to a stop on her still-flat abdomen.

Is there really a baby in there?

She shivers, skin rippling into gooseflesh.

It's all been so crazy since they found out, three cases hitting one after the other, Broyles pressuring them for leads, Walter running off distracted and Astrid only there part-time because of her father's heart attack and needing to care for him. Between chasing down leads and packing up the apartment, there's barely been a moment to breathe, much less process everything that's happened. Like the fact that she died.

Not almost died, but did die. Past tense. Emphatic.

And Walter was the one who killed her.

Olivia shivers again, fumbling for her T-shirt, suddenly eager to escape the bathroom, to crawl into bed with Peter and wind herself around him, let him pull her down into sleep and reality once more. Slipping the shirt over her head, she lets it fall to her hips and pads into the bedroom, hair hanging loose about her shoulders.

He's waiting for her, an arm reaching out to draw her close as she slips beneath the covers. She goes willingly, nestling her head between his arm and shoulder, cheek pressed against his ribcage. That's not close enough, though, so she twines tighter, nudging her toes between his, clinging deep, lungs stitched shut in the effort to find familiar ground once more. Only when the weight of him anchors her to the mattress does she stop, finally able to breathe, to start to let everything fall away.

Yes she thinks, and it escapes her body like a sigh. This is where she belongs.


She's furled herself around him – tangled up in him, really – and he doesn't know why. Her head is on his shoulder, breath like warm shadows on his skin. One arm curls at his ribcage, and the other is stuffed beneath his pillow while a leg lies pinned beneath him. Another pokes through his feet, cold and still and pressed tight to keep out the trembling.

Peter lets her be, gives her… well, not space, but the closest thing to it, waiting for her to gather herself beneath him.

"You wanna talk?" he asks eventually, pressing a kiss into her hair.

Silence at first, and when she answers, the words are barely audible. "It's just been a long day."

"Paperwork keep you late?"

She nods against him. "I didn't think you'd be awake."

"I'm always awake."

She laughs softly. "True." A pause, and there are darker memories beneath her silence, memories of his nightmares and the bullet hidden deep in their dresser drawer. He swallows and she shifts against him, and together they push the darkness away. "But we get to sleep in tomorrow. Broyles' orders."

"Really? Now there's something I never thought I'd hear." He can feel her smiling, against his chest, so he continues, coaxing her from behind those walls she so easily falls behind. "He really gave you the day off? No on-call clauses?"

"Nope, none. Sunday too."

"Okay, now that's impossible. You played the pregnancy card, didn't you?"

"Did not." She laughs. "Astrid did it for me."

"You're kidding."

"What?" she lifts up to look at him.

"Nothing – " he chuckles. "I'm just surprised she beat Walter to the punch." He settles deeper into his pillow. "Actually, I'm surprised he hasn't announced it in every classroom on Harvard's campus."

She laughs again, relaxing into him. "Yeah? To tell you the truth, so'm I."

They fall quiet. "Are you sure you're okay, Liv?"

She burrows into his touch. "Yeah. I'm just tired, is all. And… well. You know."

"Actually, I don't."

Silence.

"Hey," he soothes, feathering a hand along her cheek. "You're positive you don't want to talk?"

"Yeah," she murmurs, curling deeper into him. "I just want to sleep."

He doesn't believe her, not really. But he wants to. And at least she's here, he reasons, with him, seeking warmth and comfort and not closing herself off – at least not completely. So he lets her be, just drawing her closer, breathing her in, letting the night pull them down, down together in sleep.


She does want to sleep. That much is true. She just can't get her body to agree to it. Olivia waits an hour before she gives up and starts extricating herself from Peter's embrace to slide out of bed and into the living room. Dragging a blanket from the back of the couch, she folds herself into the cushions. The silence of 2 am spools around her, wound tight, but belonging, somehow. Boxes sit stacked like sentinels, looming reminders that in a week she won't live here. On Sunday Astrid and Walter will arrive, Broyles, too, probably, now that he knows she's pregnant, and together they'll load up the Uhaul and say goodbye, commute to Brookline to begin the long process of unpacking and rearranging, streamlining their two lives into one. And, she startles, making room for a new one. A tiny one.

Their child.

Olivia's gut clenches at the thought, even as her heart leaps. The sensible side of her says that this is normal – the conflicting emotions, the not-quite-belief that sticks like glue to the back of her mind. Every mother-to-be goes through this. But another part of her wonders if this self-doubt is a sign, the universe's way of telling her that she never should have gotten pregnant, wasn't meant for happiness and domesticity and life.

After all, she's spent her entire existence being the protector, the responsible one, the person to come behind and pick up the pieces when the world up and falls apart. Even her relationship with Rachel is like that – the older sister who's always there to take care of the kids because she never has any of her own.

Who is she to think she can start being normal now, after all the craziness of the past four years?

Olivia burrows deeper into the blanket, hooks her feet beneath the couch cushions to keep herself steady. For long minutes, she stays there, motionless, letting the slow numbing of her feet tether her to the present even as the events of the past weeks play a highlight reel in her mind. The Observer, and Jessica, and William Bell, Walter, Peter, Walter, the gun. The gun. She can't even remember if she heard the shot. Just Walter's strangled "forgive me," and then nothing. Darkness. Death.

It's over, she reminds herself, digging cold fingers into her ribcage. It's over.

And it's true. It is over. She died, and now she's alive, and it makes no sense. But it's over.

Still, she can't help but dwell on it, turn it over in her mind and morbidly, thoughts probing every aspect of it. How did Walter know it would work? Or was he even sure? Did he just… shoot her? Blindly? On faith? What's more, how did they get the bullet out? Peter refuses to tell her. Not that she's asked about that specifically, but he begged her not to talk about it. Not to ask about that day.

So she doesn't.

But it's hard for her to move past it, to smile when Walter's in the room and keep her hand from reaching for her gun whenever he startles her. She's forgiven him, there's no doubt about that. But she can't forget the sight of him, trembling, as he leveled the pistol and shot.

Will he do it again?

She knows she should tell Peter, should stop making him fumble about in the dark of her emotions, but she doesn't work like that. It's just easier to keep it locked up, to let it work itself out, in time.

Time.

Olivia loosens her grip on her sides, lets her fingers settle back against her belly instead. Again, gooseflesh ripples across her. But this time she is full of wonder. And maybe a little fear.

A mother. She's going to be a mother.

"Liv?"

She startles up from the cushions, blanket slipping and cold piling in. He's standing at the foot of the couch, hands at his sides.

"Peter. I… couldn't sleep." She realizes her fingers are still splayed on her stomach, the blanket fallen far enough to expose them. Quickly, she pulls away. He catches the movement, a question flaring in his eyes.

She drops her gaze, swallowing hard with a twist of her lips. "Hey," he rasps, sitting beside her. "Talk to me. I'm here."

"It's nothing, Peter."

"Like hell it's not. You're upset."

She attempts a laugh, ducks away from his gaze. "I'm not upset."

"Okay. Then what are you?"

"I'm…" she pauses helplessly, shoulders limp, confession catching in her throat. "What if it happens again?"

"Olivia…"

"I know, Peter," she rushes. "You don't want to talk about it. I died and you thought you'd lost me and it turns out I was pregnant. But what if it happens again. What if next time I die, and the baby with me? I mean, who am I to think that I can get away with this? A mother? I can't – I can't be a mother." She surges to her feet and turns her back to him, arms cradling her ribs.

"What are you talking about?" Peter asks, and she can feel him standing up too, moving closer.

"I'm talking about the cortexiphan trials," she murmurs. "Walter and Bell – they made me… they made me into a soldier." She faces him now, brow anguished. "A soldier, Peter. Not a mother."

"Hey," he rasps, gripping her elbows. "That's over now, remember? You're alive, the baby's alive – we're all okay. Bell's gone."

"But what if he's not?" she whispers, and the words are carved out of her, out of the deepest part of her with fire.

"Then we'll face it together," Peter says, hand cupped at her cheek.

She stares at his shoulder, lips gapped, forehead aching. Everything… everything is falling apart inside her and she doesn't know how to fix it. "I want this, Peter," she says suddenly. "I want this more than anything. But what if it's not meant to be?"

Peter's hand stills on her cheek. "If it wasn't meant to be, then you would have miscarried when Walter shot you," he says.

His words plunge deep, an arc of fire in her gut, and it is all she can do to stay upright. A gasp pulls out of her, ragged, and Peter draws her to him, cradles her close to his chest. "Think about it, Olivia. If there's some sort of – of crazy Fate determining the universe, don't you think you would have stayed dead? Or at the very least, the baby would have died. It doesn't make sense that both of you survived."

"Peter…" His name slips strangled from her lips. She wants to believe him, can feel his words struggling to find root in her heart.

"I know," he murmurs, fingers tangling in her hair, cradling her skull. "Believe me, Olivia, I know."

The night winds around them, pulling tight.

"I can't stop thinking about it," she whispers, before she can check herself. Peter freezes, and she retreats, vows not to speak even as more words well inside her. "Walter, the gun, Bell." She can't stop them; each one strikes like a death knell.

She can see the torture that her words cause him, can see it in the lowering of his eyebrows and the quick shake of his chin, a muscle flexing in his jaw. She doesn't want to do this, doesn't want to hurt him. It would be so much easier if she stopped now, dropped the body and refused to drag it into the light. But she can't – she's already too far. It's like a cliff. Once you're over, you're going to hit rock bottom.

"He shot me, Peter. Walter shot me and killed me and we couldn't do a damn thing about it."

"Stop. Please," he whispers, stumbling back. But she can't. She's over, already falling.

"What if he does it again, Peter? If he did it once, he can do it twice."

"That's not going to happen."

"How can you know?" she shouts, every muscle trembling. "It's never gonna end, Peter! The world will always need saving."

"But you don't always have to do the saving," he grits out, and the words stop her. Raw, like gravel spat from his throat.

"You died, that day, Olivia. I still have a jacket covered in your blood. And my father – my father – put it there. Now I swear to you, I will not let that happen again. Not to you, not to our baby, not ever. I am not gonna lose you again."

She swallows and avoids his eyes. "That's the second time you've promised that. And you lost me after the first."

The air seems to deflate after that, and their emotions with it, until they're left standing with arms limp and feet apart. The clock on the stove reads 3:47, and Olivia is suddenly tired, so tired. Peter is still standing there, wordless, so she gathers the blanket from the couch and moves past him into the bedroom.

She's shaking as she detours to the bathroom and splashes cold water on her face, presses the towel to her skin and breathes deeply before reentering the room. The bed is empty – he's still standing by the couch – so she crawls beneath the covers and curls there, tense and unmoving, wondering what the hell just happened.

She shouldn't have yelled. She shouldn't have said anything, actually. When would she learn that talking never worked? Better to keep it inside, just as she'd decided to do hours ago.

She lies there for what seems like an hour before she feels the mattress dip and the warmth of Peter's body curling around her and over. She can't help but sink into him, tension gone, his presence like a wave pulling her under. Before she knows it, his lips are at her jaw, stubble scratching her cheek.

"I'm sorry," he breathes, and she rolls onto her back to see him, catch his profile amongst the shadows.

"I'm sorry too. That I yelled."

"I shouldn't have pushed you so hard."

She nestles closer, head against his chest. "Things needed to be said."

He presses a kiss to her forehead, lingering, as if gathering his words from her skin. "I have to believe it, Olivia," he says after a moment. "That I can keep you safe. It's the only thing keeping me sane."

She smiles up at him through the dark, threads her fingers through his. She's knows it's not over yet. That fights are still ahead, that fears have yet to be revealed. But for now…

"Let this keep you sane," she murmurs, resting their joined hands on her belly. "And we'll protect each other."

fin