Author's note: Takes place some time during S1. Tense change is intentional, as you shall see. I'm attempting to get into Peter's head as a plotline moves around my head. Enjoy!
Olivia had been in the makeshift office all morning. She'd wandered there mid-thought earlier, and as usual, she hadn't voiced exactly what that thought was. The quiet click of the door shutting securely was a statement entirely her.
He would bet she couldn't even fathom the idea of someone walking into her office before she came out herself. She was shut up in her own little world now. And he was somewhere near resentful about it.
Peter glanced through the glass again, but Olivia's head was turned resolutely away. "Of course," he muttered, shaking his head.
"Uh-what was that, son?" Walter asked, confused. He'd been in the middle of a rant that Peter had been tuning in and out of until he'd realized it had nothing to do with the task at hand. "Did you just agree with me?"
"Absolutely, Walter." Peter was back to staring at Olivia. Without noticing, his body began to fidget, looking for an outlet for this excess energy. She'd left him in the company of Walter's tireless theorizing and remembering. If he didn't have some legitimate contact with another human life form, and soon, he might burst. Just as a warning, his hand began to tap a pen against the desk he was sitting on. Each tap brought an image to mind of a ticking bomb. He was counting down from sixty seconds in his head.
Walter seemed to sense he was no longer the primary subject of his son's focus, and he resumed his work testing an old piece of equipment. Luckily, he hadn't reached the phase of wishing to test it out on somebody. Yet.
Peter's eyes had begun to stray around the room. Lost in thought, he'd begun to estimate the angles of every sharp corner around him. Instead of four walls, he could only see perfect 90 degree angles looming like a quiz in front of his eyes. To hell with this, he thought loud enough to shut up the part of his mind focused on counting down.
Raising his eyebrows with a sigh, he knew it was time. Now that his decision had been made, the room swirled to a focus in front of him. His father was humming, lost in his own little world. Astrid had gone to fetch some things from the store Walter had requested nearly an hour ago. He was officially the only person here.
Without hesitation, he rolled the sleeves of his long sleeve pullover to his elbows. Once his forearms were bare, he nodded and suddenly came to life. In three strides, he was at her office door.
As usual, Peter didn't have an opening statement planned. But he knew enough not to give her a chance to truly realize he was interrupting her state of study. As she whipped her head up, he was already speaking and shutting the door behind him. "You know, Agent Dunham, you look extremely bored."
Olivia's eyes were focused the entire time, but he could almost see that she was debating… well, something. Peter could never really figure out what she was thinking; she didn't leave a damn trace of an expression most of the time. He'd only begun to figure her out through trial and error. And somehow, he hadn't erred too much. Yet.
"I'm researching," she said kindly, and her lips were turned in a pointed smile. Paired with a quiet nod, he knew that body language. She was dismissing him.
Not so fast. Peter strolled casually over to where she was sitting. Instead of right angles, both sides of his consciousness were narrowed in on her. His brain was instead calculating the exact straight edge of her shoulders and analyzing what exactly it meant. She was irritated with him, but there was a slight slope. Just a slight one. He'd be taking a chance, but Peter's brain snapped to one incredible conclusion.
She was giving him the very subtle signal that he should at least try.
Peter scooted a few papers off her desk, closing folders right in front of her. His eyes were trained on her face the entire time, but her gaze stayed resolutely down. They only glanced up at him when he propped himself decisively where the files had just been sitting. And they were furious. Peter had to smile at that. She was absolutely furious.
"Peter, I'm working right now," she tried again; this time there was a steely note to her tone.
Peter's hands flew up in the air, relinquishing the blame from himself. "I know! I know, and that sucks. But…" He leaned a little closer, quirked an eyebrow. "But I have something to show you."
"Really." It was not a question.
"Come on!" Peter could see he was losing ground – perhaps he'd come on a tad strong. To confuse her, he jumped to life again, stuffing his hands into the front pockets of his jeans and nudging her with his elbow. "Get your things. We're taking a little field trip."
Olivia, for her part, had tried several protests first. Her lips ghosted around the words, but she never decided on which ones to use. Finally, her lips were a solid line.
"Is that a command?" she asked finally, and she gave herself away. That tiny sparkle in her eyes before her lashes brushed it away. (Peter secretly sighed in relief.)
"Think of it as a challenge. I know you like those." He winked playfully, and went to retrieve his coat. Her chin was arched dangerously, but her eyes followed him as he strode out of the room, pointedly leaving the door open behind him.
He knew then, obviously, that she was coming. But it would take her another four point five seconds to realize that fact herself. He'd already calculated it out based on her average and her curt replies. Soon, he'd been telling himself, he'd have her all figured out.
But probably not.
"I'm back!" Astrid announced as she elbowed her way through the door. She was battling with a box four times the width of her torso.
Peter immediately went to take the box from her, and he spied something suspicious in the top layer. Once he'd set it down in front of Walter, he glanced at Olivia in the office. "All right, you got me. What do marshmallows have to do with physics?" he asked and turned his gaze point five seconds before Olivia was bound to glance up at them.
"Nothing at all," Astrid said brightly, grabbing the bag. "These are mine."
"Oh, A-Astrin," Walter began, his hands faltering inside the box as he gazed at the bag of jumbo marshmallows.
"Ours," Astrid corrected herself, grinning. "For some reason that I don't want to analyze, I've been craving marshmallows since… yesterday."
"Me, too," Walter said quietly, his eyes glimmering with glee.
"You're sick," Peter stated, pointing a finger at each of them. "If you're telling me that gooey corpse from yesterday… you know what? I don't even want to talk about it." He raked a hand through his hair and glanced over at Olivia again. She was standing in her doorway. Finally.
"You ready?" he asked her merely because she needed something to tug her towards the door or she would stand there for an hour fighting herself.
Olivia barely glanced at him, but she smiled at the bag of marshmallows in Astrid's hands. "Peter and I are going to drop some files off. We'll be back soon."
Just like that, Olivia and Peter's eyes snapped to each other for another split second.
He conceded this fact as he turned around and trotted up the stairs and through the hallway that led outside. Just after they were out of sight, his hand reached back for hers. Although she hadn't made a sound, he knew she was right behind him. But the offered hand distracted Olivia, and she stopped suddenly from her solid gait.
When Peter stopped to turn around, she started up again. As she passed, he defiantly grabbed her wrist. It went limp in his hand, but there was no other indication that she noticed.
Then, she was gone. Gliding flawlessly away from him.
"You can't just ignore it, you know." Peter muttered.
Olivia didn't say a word, and they trekked to the car silently.
Only when they were in the front seat and he had begun to warm his hands in the heater did he break the silence. A quiet cough, demanding her attention. "So those files in your hand are just a prop, right?" he asked cautiously.
"What do you mean?" Olivia ran a finger down the black folder. "I need to drop these off at my office."
Peter rolled his eyes and took the files from her so that she could back out of the parking lot. "I really do have something to show you," he insisted. Part of him was defeated in analyzing Olivia's actions and words. He stared sightlessly out the window, counting lines on the road.
As expected, Olivia did not reply. But at the first stop light they hit, she tilted her head towards him and smiled ever-so-slightly. On a normal person, it wouldn't even be considered a smile. But Peter had already figured out that the lower the degree of her smile, the more playful she was feeling. (Playful, of course, being a very strong word to use.)
There wasn't a case on hand so soon after they'd finished up the one yesterday, but Olivia was irate that they hadn't exactly solved it. Peter was probably one of a handful of people that could recognize such an extreme emotion in Olivia. She looked normal enough as they took the elevator. She smiled in passing at the security guard. But her gait was just a little too quick, and her face was smooth. Calculatedly smooth. Not a hint of emotion or expression, not even in her eyes.
Peter huddled on his side of the elevator, staring openly.
Three… two… one…
"Why do you keep staring at me?" Olivia asked edgily.
"Do you want me to stop?" he asked without replying to her question.
Olivia didn't reply.
"I promise what I have to show you is conducive to the case on hand," Peter muttered. He shuffled his feet and looked away in frustration.
"I'll bet," she whispered, and Peter's head shot up to judge her eyes. There was a brief sparkle in them – so small, he would have doubted it had ever been there had he not seen it for himself.
When they arrived on her floor, he grinned and followed slowly behind. A syrupy, sarcastic remark was given to everyone they passed. He enjoyed that so many of her co-workers had come to expect him trailing at her heels. Civilian consultant, my ass, he thought to himself with a smile meant only for himself.
Olivia was trying to show him who was boss. Whether she was making the statement to him or her self, he wasn't positive. But Peter was always along for the ride, and it felt good to get out of that lab. While Olivia went to talk to Broyles, Peter sat at her desk and stretched his legs out.
She came back a good twenty minutes later. (Okay, he'd been counting. Had to keep his brain occupied somehow.) "What is it that you have to show me?" she asked curtly. There was a new line of worry just above her eyebrows that Peter noted immediately.
"Something wrong?" he asked, jumping to his feet and placing his hand on her arm.
She looked up at him silently. "No." And the slight tension he'd noticed was suddenly gone, replaced with the same smooth brow that got her through life and death situations with only a minor glitch here and there.
Peter laughed and patted her arm. "C'mon."
He didn't tell her why he laughed, and she didn't ask. Frankly, if she had, he wouldn't have known how to explain it.
"I want you to know something before I open this door," Peter said, leaning against the forbidden door drowsily and covering her hand on the knob.
Olivia stayed still for a moment, but when she replied, her hand simultaneously slipped away from his. "Why do I have a bad feeling about this?"
Peter merely grinned. "Just remember, this is Walter's project. Not mine." With that warning, he swung the door open in front of her.
It was the scent that hit her first, he knew. For he was watching as she began to descend the stairs. Her nostrils flared cautiously.
Peter gave her a squeeze on her shoulder to let her know to hurry up, and he looked around the hallway before shutting and locking the basement door behind them.
"If this is supposed to shock me, it doesn't," Olivia stated, a playful smile quivering at the left corner of her otherwise straight lips.
Still grinning, he met her at the bottom of the stairs and held his arms out wide. "My father… is growing flavored tobacco in our basement." Peter trifled with a sprig of the cannabis plant and grinned at her over his shoulder. "You realize what this means, don't you?"
"Do I?" Olivia ventured.
"Duh." Peter frowned and tried to hide his smile as he walked backwards, arms spread out to the rows and rows of practical forests. "I could be a billionaire's son. Now that could be fun. Maybe not as fun as the mad scientist's son, but still fun."
Olivia laughed despite herself, but a laugh from Olivia was a simple sniffle from her nose as she hid her grin with her hand. He wanted to see her laugh without abandon. He was dying of curiosity… what did it sound like when she laughed with her whole throat? Would it be high pitched, or would it be a whisky rumble?
These questions, in particular, had been on his mind since he discovered his father's crop. "So... what's your favorite flavor, Olivia?"
She went serious again, shaking her head and giving him a strange look. "I…"
"Olivia!" He picked a sprig and brought it closer to her. Maybe he should have done something sensual. Her face was a collection of curves and angles demanding delicacy. Despite her strength and determination, Peter had always known she was fragile.
But he trailed off in these thoughts, guiltily studying his shoes. When he looked up again, he tickled her nose with the sprig. That was somehow more appropriate. She laughed again and snatched it from his hand.
"I suppose we could do some research."
"What?" Peter asked, shocked. Was she giving in? He tugged at his ear unconsciously, wondering if he had a hearing problem.
"Well, if your father can replace LSD with a more natural chemical…" She was outright fascinated with the plants now. Her inquisitive face was on as she fingers plant after plant and studied the handwritten signs of which plants were which flavors.
The sad thing was, Peter wasn't sure if she was serious or not. And that constant question kept him interested in finally knowing all of her answers.
An hour later, and… well, Peter couldn't really remember how they got to this table in the back with a deck of cards and a roach.
He was laughing before he realized it, and he squelched it instinctively. Coughing politely and shifting in his chair so that he could combat the ripple in his diaphragm.
But thinking all that out was funny in itself, and he lost the battle.
Wiping a tear away, he glanced over at his agent Dunham. She had only to meet his eyes, and he knew without a doubt that she was stoned out of her mind. He'd never seen her eyes so clouded, and her face had… softened. Every sharp angle had molded into a smooth curve.
"What?" she asked, biting back a smile.
"I was just trying to remember… what you look like usually." She smiled serenely, and he jutted a finger out sharply. "That's it! That's what you usually look like. Whew." He shrugged and began to shuffle the deck again.
"Like what?" she demanded again, placing both elbows on the table and folding her hands together.
"Well, not like that," Peter said, nodding to her hands.
She looked down, seemed to realize they were shaking, and shuttled them under the table in a flash.
Then, for the first time, she laughed. It started out slow and quiet. A few snuffles, and her hand went to her mouth immediately. But when she saw Peter grinning idiotically back at her, she let go.
He wanted to savor it, but he couldn't. He was laughing, too, and soon they were huddled towards each other on the table. She had slapped the table in her laughter, and he'd found it so funny, he had to put his hand on top of hers to stop her from doing it again. Gasping, he leaned forward. His lips opened as if to speak, and she tilted her head closer. But before he could think of something to say, they both gave in and began laughing again. This time their hands sought each other out. He grabbed her shoulder as if to ask if she found this as funny as he did, and she reflectively grabbed his opposite shoulder to relay that she certainly, certainly did.
Once they'd finally calmed down, Peter shook his head. "You are high as a kite, Livia."
"Researching," she responded with a snort.
"Gambling," he corrected, nodding down to his cards.
"You know," she said thoughtfully as he began to deal. "This really is the only game we can play. Counting is useful, but not with this many variables."
"And not with your functioning systems drenched in THC," Peter added impatiently as he glanced at his hand. "Seven."
"Look, I'm merely saying that it makes sense!"
Olivia's huddled in the corner on her phone, and Peter is speaking to both her and the space between them. His feet lag behind him as he approaches her, and he kind of likes the delicious light headedness and the challenge that came with attempting to hide it from her.
She snaps the phone shut and gives him a decisive look. "It's done." And then she takes the offered blunt from his hand.
"I do not want Chinese food right now!" Then he drops to the ground, leaning his shoulders against the wall and stretching his legs out in front of him. "I wanted pizza, goddamn you."
"You don't know what you want," she states and gets distracted as she watches the smoke fold out in front of her.
He's slumped over, his skin feels papery, and he can't take his eyes off her. She's right to be fascinated, but she can't see the full picture. Her lips are so dry, he can see the perfectly designed little lines. And just after that glimpse, she's enfolded in smoke. He straightens his shoulders, readjusts his legs. And he's grinning because the smoke begins to traipse upwards and he can see everything she is in her eyes.
The fucked up problem is that he won't remember what that everything is by the time he thinks it all out.
Like that, it fades, and Olivia sits down Indian-style a little less than a foot away. Her hand goes limp as she hands him the blunt.
Peter is feeling every moment as if he has no past and future, and that's tantalizing. So tantalizing that he wants to suggest just one more… but it had been hard to convince her to have this one. He'd said it would help them decide what to eat for lunch, but that hadn't gone the way he wanted. Even stoned, Olivia Dunham would not be swayed from what she wanted.
The decision to get cigarettes was definitely Olivia's. Peter is sure of it. He'd seen her lips and fingers practically begging for something to do. And since the first occupation that came to mind was infinitely not going to happen, Peter opted for the second suggestion.
Either way, she had agreed. And that was why they were in a gas station parking lot with the heat on, their windows cracked. Why it was dark outside, Peter couldn't really explain. He was even beginning to theorize if his father had done something chemically to the plants… could they blot out time? Had he been looking for a way to make the effect of the Christmas lights organic?
"You're thinking too hard," Olivia complains.
Peter shakes his head to get out of his daze. He closes his eyes, focusing on relaxing the muscles of his face. Already, a headache is beginning to pound behind his vision.
"What were you thinking about?"
Her voice is so soft, so genuinely normal, that he replies before he can stop himself. "I just... it's hard to explain."
"Try me." She turns to look at him, and her eyes are piercing through the softness of her face. She is two Olivias at once – he can see them both clearly. Two separate halves of her communicating with the same space.
"You ever read Norman Mailer?" he asks, turning away from her and getting more comfortable in his seat. They're going to be here for a minute.
"I read Harlot's Ghost when I was sixteen." His voice is quiet, nearly inaudible. "And… you know when you read a book and it gives you the feeling that some part of you that you never knew existed." His eyes locked to hers. "Like it tugged something from your soul, your heart, your whatever. You felt understood."
There is a long pause before she replies, and when she turns to him, her face is a mixture of emotion. "Yes," she whispers.
Peter can't help it. His hand moves of its own volition to her cheek, hovering millimeters away from actually touching it. When he realizes what he's doing, he drops his hand firmly to her shoulder and grins. He's as good as she is at a poker face.
They're both guilty of creating moments and convincing the other silently to forget it ever happened.
"I was a weird kid. You know?" He laughs and shakes his head back and forth, getting back inside the memory. "It just made me realize I wasn't crazy. I always felt push and tugged by two sides of me. There's this theory in the book. Well, a theory outside the book, but the book is what drew my attention to it. Let's say inside us, we have an alpha and an omega. They're two exceptionally separate personalities. And our personality, you and me, we're the blend of those two personalities."
"Okay." She's waiting for more, he can see it. She's listening to him with the intensity that reminds him of her photographic memory.
Suddenly nervous, he sighs his way into a half smile and looks down at his chest. "It's just a stupid theory… I mean, it makes sense. But it's not an excuse, you know? You have to be the peace treaty between two sides. To let one win out over the other… that's your own fault."
She smiles and looks at him quizzically. "All right. Now you've lost me."
"Like… think of something that you want to do right now. Something you can't do," he suggests. The words are just out when he realizes what they could imply. Rather than take them back, he's fascinated to see if she lets a flicker of her thoughts on her expression.
All she does is smile.
"Now, every reason why you can't do it… that just became reality," he said. Then re-thought how this was going. THC didn't have the most compelling effect on his ability to communicate his thoughts. "Our brains power the reality we see. After thinking of those million reasons why you can't do it, you tried them all. But this world we live in, it's merely organization of those possibilities. You sat there listening because you know, deep down, you shouldn't do it. Those millions of possibilities just happened, and…"
"This is the best action," she finishes with a nod.
Now that he's finished speaking, he recognizes a tinge of awkwardness in the air. But he can't quite recall the exact speech, and he hadn't been watching her reaction to every curveball of the idea.
As he's thinking, he senses her shifting closer. And then, the most shocking thing happens. He feels her cracked lips pressing to his temple. They aren't rough like he imagined… they're more of a feeling than an experience. And he's drowsy with that feeling. The warmth and comfort it so simply implies.
When she leans back, his eyes beg her to return.
After a moment, she finally concedes and tilts her head back towards him. Her eyes are dark but not unreadable. The funny thing is, he just can't figure out what she's trying to say. Her lisp ghost over her first few words before she finally speaks. "I wouldn't have thought you were a weird kid." Her lips twitch into a smile.
Peter can't help but grin back at her. "Yeah, well, I know you had to have been weird, so it's not much consultation!" he announces.
And like that, the moment shatters at their feet. Before he can stop himself, Peter tucks one of the shards into the back of his memory.
"This was a good day," he muses as he drives back to the lab.
"Yeah. It kind of was." She crinkles her nose at him and laughs. "It really was."
"And I completely forget what work reason we gave ourselves for doing it, so let's just keep this little afternoon to ourselves, shall we?"
He winks at her, but she shakes her head and looks out the window.
All around the car are dark lined roadways and brick buildings. But Peter could swear they're driving through more than that. And the journey is taking all of the fun out of them.
Metaphorically speaking, at least. He forgets the dreary thought and concentrates on the road ahead.
"Wanna do it again some time?" he asks abruptly.
"God no." Olivia groans and huddles against her window. "I think I'm getting a migraine."
"Yep! It'll do that to you," he whispers as they turn into the Harvard parking lot.
"Let's just hope there's not a case waiting for us, or I'll have a reason to kill you," she says simply and opens her door.
Peter climbs out the driver's side and frowns at her. "You know, I really think you would kill me."
And then she laughs, again. It's loud and joyful, a primate's laugh because something is raw and animalistic in him when she laughs like that. It's tantalizing. And it's clear as a bell.
And unfortunately, he realizes he loves it.
Sadly, he hooks his arm around her shoulders for just a moment, knowing she'll pull away. She stays for only a split second but breaks apart naturally as they climb the stairs up to the building. He stuffs his hands in his pockets and watches her for a moment, shaking his head.
Just when I thought I had you figured out, you go proving me right all over again, he thinks wryly. Some day, he's sure. Some day, her alpha and his alpha… or maybe it'll be their omegas. Either way, it doesn't matter.
They'll join forces, and everything they think about happening that can't happen will finally happen.
Sure of himself again, Peter catches up with her in the hallway and smiles right through her, searching for that hint of a sign that part of her knows that smile and what it's asking.
He doesn't expect her to smile back, but she does.
And with that, they return to their world. The one in between possibilities.