When she returned to her universe, things were different. The memories that she had felt foggy and strange as the other her memories tried to overwhelm her and take over her body. But she remembered small details about her life here. She remembered where her couch was and which cabinet she kept her booze in. But when she returned home to her apartment, things were wrong. They were so wrong that she stripped her place clean. She removed the posters from the walls. She threw out hideous flowers in vases that she always hated. She wiped clear the fridge of all avocados and removed the dozens of coffee canisters. She wiped clear the medicine cabinet in her bathroom. And when she went to clear out her shower, she saw it.

A bottle of men's shower gel.

It didn't take long after that. She watched him as he avoided her gaze, her body and her presence. Whenever he had to tell her something he'd look at her, his eyes looking at a spot on her forehead and speak. He'd always stand three feet away from her. And now that she held his shower gel in her hands, she had put two and two together. She knew he knew it wouldn't take her long. She was brilliant and he never underestimated that.

Her bed smelled distinctly foreign yet familiar. Familiar in the sense that his scent covered the bed from head to toe, drenched in his musk and sweet smell of sex. But her scent was wrong. And the two smells permeated her room and so she stripped it bare. She shucked the sheets and bedspread from her bed, throwing them out. She took her nightstand and placed it curbside, along with the lamp that sat next to it. She emptied the drawers of clothes and threw them out, unsure what she had worn and what she hadn't. And when she was done and her bedroom was bare, she curled up on her mattress and stared at the wall. She was too hurt for tears.

Peter's been a lot of things, so he knows how to jimmy open her door. When he enters, he sees the damage. The walls were bare, the couch pushed against the other wall, and the floor swept clean. Heading into the kitchen he pulls open the fridge, finding it stocked with foods he knew she loved and void of the green avocado that the other her ate constantly. He opened her liquor cabinet and found it full. He sighed. He turned toward the bathroom and looked in the cabinet, empty. He opened the shower door and looked in, finding only his bottle of shower gel. His heart stopped.

Olivia stood up quickly and wiped her face, not about to let Peter see how she was hurting. She could hear him moving around outside her bedroom and she busied her hands with clearing off her dresser top. She heard the bedroom door open and she stopped. They both stood still for a while, Peter taking in the bare room that meant so much to him at one time, and Olivia not sure how to handle his presence.

"You could have knocked," she finally decides on saying, though she won't face him.

"You wouldn't have answered," he says. She whirls around and stares at him.

"I would have," she replies, the emphasis on her. His brows knit together and then he realizes what she meant.

"No," he answers, "You'd do exactly this. Which is what?"

"I'm cleaning."

"Are you moving?"

"No," she answers. Her eyes bore into his and suddenly he feels like he's intruding on her space. "When had you figured out she wasn't me?"

Peter knows she'll likely never know the order of events in which things occurred between him and Alt-livia, so he looks her in the eyes and tells her the truth. "When she admitted she was scared."

His gaze is intense, like looking at the sun for too long, it's burning holes in her vision. Her gaze is level and equal, although her mind is shaking.

"You slept with her," she says simply, with no emotion in her voice. It's breaking Peter's heart open and apart.

"Yes," he answers evenly, knowing that she wouldn't forgive him anymore if there were a tone of regret or remorse.

The room is quiet. Silence is her self-defense. She's tired, physically and mentally and she's hurting. She's receding inside herself, into a delicate room she's constructed in her heart, where she hides away the emotions that got her hurt. She keeps here Charlie and John, and now she's keeps Peter in there too.

Peter's still in the doorway, staring at the shell of the woman he loved. He couldn't deny it, he should have known. He should have seen the signs. He sees them now, in the aftermath, but not then. He has too much pride to hate himself. So he settles for breaking. It's his fault. But he'll never admit it. He'll lay the blame anywhere, on anyone. And for now, he'll lay the blame on her, the other her, the one that stole every precious moment he should have with this Olivia, every intimate thought and desire. So he feels dirty, filthy, and water will not wash this away.

"You should go Peter," her voice said softly, sadly. She turns away from him and back to the dresser, hoping to find the drawers empty. She pulls them out and is relieved to see she saved not one article of clothing. She feels Peter's eyes in her dresser, looking at the damage. She was damaged, so very damaged.

"You have nothing Olivia," he urges in soft tones, "Let me stay. Cook you dinner. Let me at least get you clothes. Anything, please," he begs softly.

Olivia doesn't have enough strength to look at him. Her eyes are on the wood of the dresser. There is no anger boiling in her, only hurting, breaking. There are soft waves rolling inside her, soothing over her injuries already. She likes this part of her, the ability to heal inside quickly. But now, his pleading, begging voice was stopping the process very quickly.

He takes her silence as a yes, and he moves around to her. It's a simple touch, a simple warm hand grasping hers, gently, delicately, like a butterfly's touch, giving her time to leave if she wants to. To her, he's a rose, and all the roses she's ever held, she feels only the thorn. She feels his thorn. It's sharp and digging, but he's splendid and she can take the pain, because it's a good kind of pain.

She doesn't share a word with him while he cooks. He moves around the kitchen with more knowledge than she likes him to know. He knows where everything is. It's a painful reminder that she was here in her place and he's been with her without knowledge. She finds a spot outside her window and stares at it, the flickering streetlight that sits across the road. She wants to feel home, but she feels raw, so raw.

The meal is eaten in silence. When he sets her plate down she stares up and into his eyes and he feels weak at the knees. It's such an unusual effect this woman has over him. With a single glance he wants to crumple onto the floor and stay at the feet forever. With a single breath he wants to spill his blood from his veins, pour it out onto her to cleanse away himself against her angelic soul. He's so full of mistakes that he believes everything is one. He drops to the seat next to her and talks, softly and lowly at first.

"At night, when I could not sleep, I thought," he says softly. They aren't words of comfort. They aren't words of malice. They are words, only words. "I thought about major, minor and conclusion. There was something terribly wrong, since you-or her- had returned. The conclusion I had drawn wasn't one I wanted to hear, the original. So I made up excuses when I saw you. I hung on your every word, until I went to bed- by myself. Then I could think it over. My first premise was this; that we all have a place in this universe, a pattern we continue because we cannot break it, universally we can't. My pattern never fit this world. Which brings me to the minor, that your pattern was not what it was, that there was so much off from this universe. Therefore, if my pattern did not fit because I was from another universe, then you must be the same."

She watched her plate when he spoke, because she did not have words to tell him, she had nothing to say, yet.

"This sounds awful," he said again, "Because I should have figured it out. But she blinded me. And I wasn't able to tell the truth from the false. I wasn't able to tell what was real because-"

"Real is just a matter of perception," Olivia answers softly, quietly. He wants to ask her how she knew that, but he doesn't. He remains silent. "What was your first conclusion?"

"It does not matter," he says quickly, taking both their plates. He stands and heads for the sink to wash them.

"It does to me," she replies, and she has moved closer to him, she stands exactly three feet from him and he feels scared, physically frightened.

"Don't," he pleads, "Please."

"No," she answers, "It matters. It matters to me."

He turns to face her, so she can feel the intensity behind the words as he looks her in the eyes.

"My first conclusion," he said slowly and clearly, "Was that I had fallen out of love with you."

And she steps back, fear written on her face. Her world is shattering, the room she had is shaking, a crack running through the walls of her heart. The ice that's constricted it for so very long has melted into thin black ice, tricking her mind into believing it's gone when she still can feel it. Peter watches her eyes flutter through emotions and he turns away from her and back to the dishes.

"It felt that," he said softly, "ever since you returned, you weren't the person I remembered and loved. You were strong, but demanding. You were loud and persuasive. You were tempting and seductive. You were someone else." He washes the plate and dries it before facing her. She's standing in the same spot she had been. He let his eyes linger on hers, hoping that maybe she'll feel him and everything would be okay.

"It was the worst feeling in my life," he begins in an even softer tone, "And I thought it was me at first. I thought I was different and that you were the same. That I saw the world differently now and you were really that person all along and I just saw in you what I wanted at the time, a person stronger than everyone else that owed the world something, that had to prove to someone something. And I wanted to right. I wanted to be at fault, because I couldn't blame you, not now, not ever."

Her silence was deadly. Like a snake sinking fangs into his flesh he felt her silence against his skin, and it burned. She stared at him with unblinking eyes, unable to form words. What could she say? Forgiveness was out of the question. She didn't know how to forgive him. She didn't know how to even start.

"Everyone I've held close has betrayed me," she whispers and she doesn't fully understand the sting of her words.

She thought that of him, she really did. He could se it in her eyes. And what could he say in his defense? That he did betray her? He could never tell her that.

"When I was over there," she whispers so softly, but Peter hears it loud and clear, breaking through his mind like a rock through a window, "When I was her, I didn't know me. And my own mind scared me. Because it was you. My mind manifested you. You would appear to me, comfort me and I was so unsure, so sc-

"-Scared," he finishes and now he's a hair away. He can see the heavy wear that marred her face, the heavy wear of time and stress. Traveling between universes must do this to you. But she masks it as well as she could with her emotionless paint. She breathes in the awful scent that she loves so much and watches the underside of his jaw as it lays soft and defeated. And she ducks her face from his.

"Thank you for dinner," she said, facing the ground with her eyes. "You should go."

"Olivia-" he starts and brushes her face with his hand. But she flinches away and tries to turn.

"Stop," she says but he grips her shoulder.

"Look at me," he said, but she refuses. "Olivia," he growls. She spins and her eyes are full of anger, hurt and love.

Her silence engulfs him and he holds her steady. He stares at her eyes for an infinite amount of time, because he wants to see her, to really see her. And he grips her cheeks, firmly but not hard, and she doesn't pull away. And he kisses her. She doesn't kiss back, at least not yet.

She loves the feel of his lips against hers and that's all she wants to feel suddenly. She likes how he lingers, kissing her when she can't kiss back. Her eyelashes are wet and she can feel it, but she stays silent and wordless. Then she kisses him back, and she feels good about it, she feels honest and truthful and light. Small and light like a butterfly that wants to flutter around inside him forever.

"Let me stay," he pleads as he kisses her cheek, her eyes her forehead. His words are soft and gentle and healing, and then he kisses her jaw and she feels them, the strings. They are pulling at her wounds, sewing them up. They hurt now, but will feel good in the morning. And she realizes she can let him be there.

And so she kisses him with delicate kisses, scattering his lips with hers as he makes her feel small, finite in the earth's time and space. She wants to feel that, that smallness. He arms hold her to him with warmth and protection and this is how she remembers him. In her mind that battle for her body, this warmth was the healing to her wounds. And as his tongue invades her mouth she realizes that it hurts so good, that she loves this kind of pain. So she runs her fingers across his chest and presses against him, wanting to hurt more.

"Let me make love to you," he whispers and he watches her pull away. He believes it's because she won't let him, "Let me heal you."

Silently she leads him to her bare bedroom and she pulls open the door, letting him in. She doesn't bother to shut it because she knows he'll keep her warm and she believes it. She lets him slide her shirt from her skin as she does the same. He lays her on the bare bed, stripped from every memory he had there. And it's strangely metaphoric. Laying her down in his raw mind and emotions, so he can feel, just feel her in the way she needed. He'll be anything for her.

She rolls them over and spreads kisses over his chest, just wanting to taste him. She hears his heart beat and feels his chest hair as it tickles and he loves his broad chest and his fingers drawing lazy patterns on her back. They climb to her bra and unclasp to, bringing his head up to kiss her shoulders as he slides the straps down. She allows him to push up, to kiss down her neck and chest, to feel her softest skin under his rough stubble. The needle is sharp and pain precise, but she enjoys it, cherishes it and allows it to remain, if only for the moment.

When he's pulled her pants away and his are gone too, they have nothing left. They are completely bare, completely raw, from the inside out, making love on a bed without sheets or blankets because that's all they are. Bare. Naked. Raw. It was so beautiful, the two of them, healing through hurting. And he enters her without a second thought because he knows this is right, this is of their universe. And she stills so quickly under him and he looks her in the eyes to see tears. He wonders if he hurts her, but he realize they aren't from him, but from him. Emotions. It's the first time he's seen her cry. She was so beautiful. So beautiful.

And he moves gently, holding her close to him. And her fingers were gentle and easy on his back as she held him, kissing his chest as he sucked on her pulse. Her hips would make a circular motion and her kiss would be accompanied by white hot breath, scalding his skin in the greatest of all way. And he shifts and drives himself into as far as he can without a second though and she enjoys it. The pain was acceptable here. Because the pain meant she had nothing left, that she was raw and for him only. So he drove in hard, thrusting faster, all the time his breathing an even reminder that he was just the same, sensitive all over, inside and out. And she kisses him, sucking on his collarbone as he snakes his fingers down between them and on her, and she feels the ocean coming and the wave roaring.

She's so tight when she comes around him that he has to physically stop moving. But it feels so right and he follows her lead with ease and stops moving in her, feeling that this was right. And then he feels her sobs, racking her body and sending shivers in her. He pulls her close and holds her, listening to the most beautiful sounds of pain he'd ever hear. She was perfect, always be perfect.

In every heart, there is a room. It is a place that is safe and strong and warm. It heals wounds. It heals the wounds of lovers past, until a new one comes along. So that's where they reside, all of them but Peter, because he drew himself out of her room when he spoke in his cautious tones. So she answers him with no pretense when he talks, because she has nothing left to defend. Silence if her self defense.

He knew she'd be gone the next morning. And she was. He didn't mind her leaving, because she shared her secret heart with him, and let him have it. And he knows she'll come back because he'll let her in. He'd choose to be with her, if it were his choice. But it wasn't, it was hers. And he'll let her go, for now.

And so it goes. And they're the only ones who know.


reviews?