for everyone who misses Charlie Francis
I do too


"Sir, I don't think you understand. This isn't a Fringe event. It's not in our jurisdiction. Frankly, it isn't even – Yes. Yes I understand that this is a sensitive case, but that doesn't call for the FBI – No sir, I am not questioning your authority; I'm questioning your judgment. Sir – sir?"

Olivia slams the phone into its cradle, suppressing a growl as she does. Damn administrators. She wants Broyles back. Now. New York doesn't need him.

"Rough day?"

She jerks her gaze to the doorway, finds Charlie standing there, hands in his pockets, looking entirely too casual for four o'clock on a Friday.

"How long have you been standing there?"

He shrugs. "Long enough. Was that Sandlin?"

Olivia nods. "He wants to keep the Gilmore case under our jurisdiction."

"Is that the one with the wife…?" He twirls a finger by his head.

"Yeah." She lifts her hands. "But it's not a Fringe event, not by any stretch of the imagination. It isn't even a case for the FBI, and he's still refusing to go down the ladder on this one. And now – " Olivia yanks a hand through her hair, tossing a pen on her desk in frustration, " – now I'm getting saddled with the paperwork."

Charlie studies her. "Funny," he drawls, lounging against the doorframe. "There was a time when you loved getting saddled with paperwork."

She shoots him a look. "Yeah, well, that was before Peter scheduled date night." Her cell phone vibrates, buzzing angrily beneath a stack of files she hasn't touched since this morning. "Great," she mutters, digging it out. "Probably Astrid calling to say Walter's blown up the Lab. Again." Charlie laughs, but Olivia ignores him and checks caller ID.

Rachel.

She swipes the screen and slides the phone to her ear. "Hey, Rach. What's up?"

"Ella's sick."

"What?" She sinks back in her chair.

"She came down with the flu. The doctor just confirmed."

Damn. Olivia closes her eyes and pinches the bridge of her nose, right where she feels a headache mounting. First Sandlin and now this.

"Liv?" Rachel's voice sounds cautious, apologetic.

"Sorry – I'm here." Olivia sits up and reaches for her coffee, grimacing as the stale liquid hits her tongue. "Is she okay?"

"Ella? Yeah, she'll be fine. They gave her meds and she's passed out on the couch. Look, Liv – she feels awful about cancelling. Do you want me to come over tonight?"

"No – Rach. You don't have to that."

"It's not a problem. Greg could keep the kids – "

"It's fine. Really." She pushes out a laugh. "Don't worry about it."

"Are you sure? I mean, you and Peter have had this planned for weeks – "

"And we can reschedule. It's no big deal. In fact, it actually works better this way, because I'm buried in paperwork." Charlie glares disapprovingly from the doorway, but Olivia ignores him.

"Okay… but if you change your mind, I can be there in an hour."

Olivia bites her lip. The offer is tempting. Extremely tempting. She's exhausted, and Peter has been planning this night for months. It's nothing fancy – dinner and a movie – but she'd found herself looking forward to it these past few days.

"Liv?"

Olivia swallows and shakes her head. There will be other Friday nights. "Go," she decides, putting a smile into it. "Be a mom. Ella loves it when she's babied."

That earns a laugh, and she relaxes, satisfied that her sister and niece won't feel guilty about spoiling date night. Olivia hangs up and sighs, staring at the mountain of paperwork before her. She should call Peter, tell him to cancel their dinner reservations. And forget the movie and drinks afterward.

Maybe – maybe she can salvage it. They'll order Damiano's and find a cheesy horror film on Netflix, go back to their Friday night routine, the one before Etta. It won't be so bad. They'll just have to wrestle a toddler into her bath and bedtime before they sit down to dinner. Which is never easy. She groans.

"You're pathetic, you know that?"

Charlie. She glares at him. "Right, like you're any better. You used work to get out of visiting your in-laws this weekend."

"Hey." He raises his hands. "I didn't cancel date night."

"I didn't cancel date night," she growls. "It got postponed. Our babysitter's sick."

"The babysitter that your sister offered to replace," he points out.

"Shouldn't you be working?"

"You're really gonna cancel on him?"

She picks up her phone.

"I don't believe it. I just don't believe it." Charlie pushes off the doorframe and walks away, shaking his head. Olivia rolls her eyes. It's not like she wants to do this. Does she?

She brings the phone to her ear. "Peter? It's me. Listen, Rachel called. We're gonna have to postpone date night."

She gives up on the paperwork at six and makes it home by seven, toeing off her shoes and tossing her keys on the entryway table before shuffling through the mail Peter's left for her to see.

"I'm home," she calls out, feeling her stomach rumble. She's starving. And something smells good. Amazing, actually. Has he ordered food already? Before bathtime? She heads for the kitchen, stops short in the doorway when she sees Charlie standing at the stove in a T-shirt and jeans, dishrag slung over his shoulder.

"Charlie?"

He turns. "Hey, you made it. Did you get the paperwork done?"

"What are you doing?"

"Gee, it's nice to see you, too, Dunham," he quips, wiping his hands on the towel. "I feel loved. I really do."

"Charlie." She spreads her hands. "What're you doing?"

"Cooking."

"In my kitchen?"

"Would you rather I do it in the bathtub?" He gestures to the hallway and the bathroom beyond. "Because that's gonna be a little difficult, seeing as your husband is busy filling it with water."

"Will you stop being a wiseass and tell me what's going on? Why are you in my kitchen?"

"I told you; I'm cooking," he replies, dicing a tomato.

"Why?"

"Because I asked him to," Peter says as he breezes past her, Etta in tow. "Okay, bath water's cooling, towel and pajamas are on the toilet, and her blanket is on the bed. Don't forget to brush her teeth after you finish playing chef, and she's pretty riled, so sleep won't come easy." He hands their daughter to Charlie and turns around. "Olivia – you're just in time. Go change; I'll make sure the car's all set and then we can go."

"Go?" she echoes dumbly, pivoting to track his progress across the kitchen. "Go where?"

"Date night."

"But – "

He disappears, keys in hand.

She turns bewildered eyes on her partner, who smile-sighs, working his jaw. "Peter called, after you told him about Ella. Asked if I could keep an eye on the kiddo tonight since Sonia is out of town."

Olivia opens her mouth, but he shakes his head.

"Don't even try, Livvy. You're running yourself ragged with this case, not to mention being a mom. So go. Have some fun. I'll take care of Goldilocks here." He bounces Etta, who giggles and clutches a fistful of his shirt.

"Liv?" Peter calls, poking his head through the carport door. "You about ready?"

She hesitates, and Charlie raises his brow. Okay. You win.

"Be there in five," she shouts back, and heads for the hall.

She changes and has just enough time to kiss her daughter goodbye before her five minutes are up. Thanking Charlie, she grabs her leather jacket and slips into it on her way out the door, tugging her ponytail free of the collar as she goes.

"Do I look okay?" she asks, presenting herself for inspection. She'd thrown on jeans and a gray dolman top, added a necklace, and hoped that the jacket would elevate her look from casual to classy, but Peter barely glances at it before he's pulling her in for a kiss. She responds immediately, through her surprise, lips opening and eyes closing. His hands, curled at her waist, soon unfurl and travel upward, under her jacket, rucking up the loose fabric of her shirt and feathering across her skin. She shivers against him, toeing upward, and he inhales roughly, surfacing for more.

"Peter," she scrapes out a long minute later. "What – "

"I've been waiting to do that all day," he rasps, breath hot on her skin.

"Really?" she startles. As if to prove it, he claims her lips once more, though this time his touch is gentle. Reverent.

"Really," he echoes, his forehead coming to rest against hers. She smiles.

"We should go."

"Mm. Before Charlie decides to break up the party, you mean?"

She jerks back. "Is he watching?"

"No." Peter laughs. "C'mon. Don't want to lose our reservation." They climb into the car.

"You never answered my question."

"And what's that?"

"The clothes – they're not too casual?"

He turns, as if seeing her outfit for the first time. "Hmm."

Olivia frowns. "What?"

Peter reaches over and loosens her ponytail, smiling as the hair falls softly around her face and shoulders. "There," he says, tapping her nose with the discarded elastic. "Perfect. And incredibly sexy."

It's amazing what sex can do.

Olivia blushes as she exits the car, can't believe she just thought that. Across from her, Peter grins. "I love it when you blush," he says, popping the trunk and grabbing their overnight bag. "Means you're thinking dirty thoughts about me."

"Who says they're about you?"

"They'd better be about me," he growls, and Olivia laughs.

"Well, luckily they were. Are." And she's blushing again, furiously, but she doesn't care. Because Peter. And sex.

"Olivia, if you don't stop staring at me like that, I'm gonna take you right back to that hotel."

"That's your fault," she smirks. "The hotel was your idea."

"Yes, but what we did in the – "

"Stop!" She presses hands to her flushed cheeks. "I can't go in there like this. Charlie will never let me live it down."

"Oh come on," Peter groans, pushing her toward the house. "Charlie's married; he can take it."

"Fine, but let the record show that the hotel was your idea. I thought we were just going for dinner."

"You didn't think I'd take you out for dinner and skip dessert, did you?"

"You're impossible," she laughs, and reaches for the door. They spill into the hallway, breathless and laughing, and he's just about to kiss her when she motions for him to be quiet. "Listen," she whispers, tiptoeing toward the kitchen. Peter follows, and together they peer through the doorway.

"You like peaches, kiddo?" Charlie asks, standing with his back to the doorway. Etta, standing tip-toe on a stool to his right, nods and crams a slice of the golden fruit in her mouth as if to prove it.

"Peach!" she announces stickily.

"That's right. And what's this?" He holds up a spoon, coated with some sort of batter.

"Poon!" the toddler crows, and bits of peach go flying. Olivia stifles her laugh, but Peter isn't so successful.

"Daddy! Mama!" Etta shouts and pitches crazily off the stool. Olivia lunges, but Charlie's got her, has her wrangled to the ground before Etta even has time to register the danger. Olivia blows out a breath, scooping up her daughter and pressing a kiss to her sticky cheek. The gesture is more to calm her racing heart than anything else, but Etta loves it and reciprocates with a kiss of her own.

"Oh, thank you my sweet girl," Olivia murmurs, breathing in her scent – crayons and peaches and the watermelon of her shampoo. "Did you have fun with Uncle Charlie last night?"

"Mm-hm!" Etta nods, already squirming to get down. Olivia lets her, smiling when she runs straight to Peter.

"She didn't give you any trouble?" she asks, turning to her partner.

Charlie abandons the peach he's pitting and leans against the counter, arms crossed. "Nope. She was the model child. Even went to bed on time."

"Really?" Peter chimes in, looking at Etta as she sits perched in his arms. "You didn't get out of bed? Not even once?" Etta puffs out her chest and shakes her head proudly.

"Well, there's hope for us yet."

Olivia turns to survey the kitchen. "I see you've been busy."

Charlie shrugs. "I figured you two lovebirds might be hungry. Pancakes and peaches sound good?"

"Sounds divine," Peter grunts, wrestling a squirming Etta.

"Vine!" Etta shouts, and finds that enormously amusing.

"I'm gonna go get her in some clothes," Peter announces, slinging the giggling toddler over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes. "Be back in five."

"Better make it ten," Olivia amends, turning back to Charlie. "How can I help?"

"Well, the peaches still need slicing, or you can take the pancakes; your choice."

"I'll stick with the peaches." She picks up a knife. "The less I use the stove, the better."

"Amen to that," Charlie mutters, then dodges as she tries to smack him.

"Nice apron, by the way," she smirks.

"Thanks." Charlie dips out some batter and pours it on the griddle. "The flowers really complement my complexion. At least, that's what Etta thinks."

"She said that?"

He reaches for a spatula. "No. But she did bring it to me, and kept pointing at my skin when I put it on."

Olivia chuckles, pauses her slicing, and then laughs some more, so much that she doubles over and has to stop cutting completely because she's shaking so hard. Charlie turns and regards her with his usual poker face, which only makes her laugh harder. "Something funny, Dunham?"

Olivia straightens slowly, in spurts, still chuckling though she's got it under control now. Mostly. "I'm sorry," she wheezes, clutching her stomach. "It's just – that's the apron Walter was wearing last Tuesday when he decided to drive over and surprise us with breakfast."

Her partner stares at her like she's a Fringe event. "Uh-huh."

"That's all he was wearing."

"Aw, c'mon." He takes a step back. "I did not need to know that."

Olivia bites her lip, but can't hold back a smile. "Etta probably thought you were Walter."

"Unbelievable. Just unbelievable," Charlie mutters, still wincing. "You know what?" He picks up a spatula, waving it as he speaks. "All that stuff I said about you being a great mom? I take it back. All of it. You're a terrible mother. The worst."

She laughs and reaches for a peach. "Well it's nice to know you believe in me."

They're quiet for a moment, Olivia slicing peaches and Charlie checking the pancakes, and a warmth settles over her.

"Hey," Charlie says suddenly, nudging her elbow. "Did you have a good time last night?"

She looks up, a smile tugging at her lips. "Yeah. I did."

"Good. I'm here for you, Livvy. Whenever you need me. You got that?"

"I got it. And Charlie?"

"Yeah?"

"Thanks."

end