Warnings: Mentions of past and future character death
Spoilers: Through episode 2.15, "Peter.".
Disclaimer: I don't own Fringe or its characters.
Author's note: This was actually finished during the hiatus; it's just taken me this long to do the final edits.
"Tick, tock," Olivia muttered, feeling the pressure of time. By his very presence, Peter Bishop had thrown her off what had been a carefully constructed schedule; now she was in a rush to finish getting ready. She ran her hands over her braid again, making sure it was tight, then smoothed her suit jacket over her hips. Her surface was picture perfect.
She closed her eyes, focusing on her breathing as she tried to assume the skin of who she was supposed to be. Special Agent Olivia Dunham, FBI. Star investigator, Fringe Division. Past subject of Walter Bishop and William Bell's ill-fated Cortexiphan trials. Current case study—or maybe guinea pig, she still wasn't clear on that—of Walter Bishop. Lover to Peter Bishop, the new development that had royally screwed up her plans for the morning.
She shook her head, forcing away the irritation. Opened her eyes and stared at her reflection. "Chin up, Dunham. You can handle this. Just like you have every other time."
As if scolding her for her tardiness, the cellphone in her pocket rang. She scrabbled at the phone, checked who was calling. Peter Bishop, the screen read. After a moment of indecision, she answered. "Yeah? What's up?"
"'Livia, where are you?" His voice was warm if a little irritated. "Walter expected you over an hour ago."
Which meant Bishop the younger expected her, since everything she'd seen suggested the elder Bishop's handle on time was iffy at best. He'd left this apartment less than two hours ago, must have thought Olivia would be following on his heels. "I got held up," she said finally. "Something I couldn't get out of."
"You okay?" he asked, careful and concerned.
She injected just the right note of casual into her tone. "Yeah, fine. Just behind schedule."
He waited, then finally broke the silence with, "Well hurry up, will you? Walter's gonna start without you if you take too long."
So Bishop worried if Olivia's schedule changed, even if he didn't push for an answer when she wasn't ready to give one. He cared for Olivia, knew her well, and worked with her every day. He was definitely going to be a complication.
She filed that fact away. She'd deal with it later. "I'm out the door in five."
She was grabbing her coat when the lock snicked and the door opened. Her gun was in her hand and aimed before the blonde woman entered, little girl in tow.
"Liv," the woman said, eyeing the gun. "You said you'd be at work when we came by."
Rachel. This was Rachel. Rachel grown up, beautiful. Wide-eyed and a little concerned, but more amused than anything else.
Olivia holstered her weapon, eyes suddenly prickling with tears. Rachel, alive. This is who she might have grown up to be if she hadn't been killed by their stepfather. And the little girl, that was Rachel's daughter, Ella.
Olivia pulled Rachel into a fierce hug, reveling in her warm and solid presence. She'd seen the woman through the window between universes, but seeing and touching were two very different things. She took a deep breath, reveling in the touch, in the scent that she'd missed for twenty years, before forcing herself to let go.
She dropped to a crouch in front of Ella. "Hi."
"Hi, Aunt Liv." Ella latched her arms around Olivia, who returned the hug with no little awe.
"I have to go to work," Olivia said, drawing back and looking the girl in the eye, "but when I get back, we are going to spend some time together."
The little girl grinned and nodded enthusiastically.
So young and innocent. One of so many innocents Olivia wouldn't be able to save. Grief flickered through her, tightened in her chest.
"You okay?" Rachel touched Olivia's shoulder, peering at her with concern.
"Yeah. Just..." Olivia shrugged, chasing off her regrets. She had her job, and she'd do it no matter what the cost. She hated these sorts of missions, though; she understood the need for the intel they generated, but she always felt conflicted about replacing the women she might have been. Replacing this one was both joy and torment.
It seemed cruel to make her counterpart's loved ones mourn her when their end was so close at hand. Olivia almost hoped that the woman had survived her trip to the other side, that she had evaded capture and would be able to return here for what little time this universe had left.
But none of it changed anything.
"I've got to go," Olivia said with an apologetic smile, standing back up. "I'm running late."
"You be careful."
Olivia grinned at Rachel and ruffled Ella's hair. As she swung out the door, fixing the life she had borrowed firmly in her head, she wondered if the Olivia who belonged here knew how lucky she was.