OF FREEDOM

P/O "There's no getting rid of it, not anymore." Post-ep for Jacksonville.

Disclaimer: I own nothing, yada yada yada.

Spoilers: All aired episodes, mainly Jacksonville, The Bishop Revival and What Lies Below.

There's no getting rid of it, not anymore.

Not now she sees it.

He's flickering in front of her like a flame that is about to go out, and she can't help thinking that that's true.

She remembers lying on the sidewalk in front of the building that was, and although she knew exactly what would happen, she still couldn't quite believe her eyes when she turned to find it gone.

Would that happen to Peter, too? Would she turn around one day and he'd just vanish? In that case, she had no idea what she was doing… because whatever the hell she had decided she was starting when she looked in the mirror, pulled her hair down and morphed irreversibly from Agent Dunham into Olivia, that would always be caught up in it now, wouldn't it? When exactly was he going to vanish? Halfway through their date? Once he'd finally gotten to finish that kiss? In her bed? Weeks, months, years down the line when she'd fallen even further?

She hardly hears what Walter says, and she can't respond. Peter's pulling a jacket around his shoulders, and smiling at her, and she wishes the tears in her eyes would disappear, because they're making the glimmering worse. It doesn't help that he's grinning like a cat that got the cream – he's the image of her, moments ago, when this was just a first date with a good friend, and there was a soft underlying promise of more.

He says something else to Walter, and then he opens the door, guiding her out with a firm hand at the small of her back, daring.

At least he feels solid, for now.

He's saying something as they walk down the steps, and then it starts to rain, suddenly and unexpectedly, like the weather is suddenly some sort of twisted metaphor for her own contentment.

Peter's laughing. That shouldn't be so ridiculous, but his arm is right around her as they sprint together towards the car, and about twenty metres away, she sees the funny side, and feels the laughter bubbling her as well.

The rain is really coming down, and by the time they reach the parking lot, despite being sheltered, her hair is soaked, flattened to her head, and there's a drip of water falling off his nose. He leans around her to open the passenger side door for her, and suddenly they're far too close… again.

His face is inches away from hers, and his arms are either side of her, one on the car door, the other bracing himself against the cold metal… all he has to go is lean in, she has no fight left in her.

But for the first time since she arrived that evening he sees into her eyes.

"What's wrong?"

I'm scared, she thinks, and almost smiles as she remembers where that conversation went last time. But what she's scared of now is so different. She was scared of hundreds of people dying, of watching something happen that if she'd been that tiny bit better she could have stopped… of her own failure. Her fear now was entirely different. She was afraid that she'd taken that leap too soon again, that that half-firm belief that she should never let herself get close to anyone was going to become even more founded – she was afraid that after forgetting how to fear, she was going to forget how to love.

"Nothing." She tries, but a small smile ghosts over his lips, and he looks away from her face for a moment.

"I'm not buying that, 'Livia."

He forces his eyes back to her, and behind the flickering, looks almost like he's in pain. "It's not too late to… y'know… if you want…"

She knows what he means, and she's almost ashamed of how easy it would be to take the easy route out right now, tell him that it she doesn't want to ruin their friendship, and a multitude of further lies, and walk away from him right now, not even glancing behind.

But she doesn't want to blink, she's so afraid of losing him.

There's an impasse, they stare at one another, Olivia trying to fight forward or backwards through the fear, one of the two, Peter trying to read the expression in her eyes.

She leans up and kisses his roughly, because she can feel the heat of him against her, because he's from another universe and he's only hers on loan and she doesn't intend to waste time anymore, and because he looks damn good in a wet shirt.

He kisses her back because he's been wanting to all day – hell, all year – and because he's almost as afraid as she is. Her kiss is a little too urgent and desperate… but not a single part of him is complaining. He takes a step closer her, pressing his body flush against hers, and wraps his arms around her, considering briefly that he's making out with Olivia Dunham against his car in a parking lot.

He tastes of toothpaste, and real and warm, and that, she supposes, might be all she needs for now.

She closes her eyes and wills him not to disappear.