All That's Best of Dark and Bright
Warning: Incredibly mild spoiler for 03x16
Disclaimer: I do not own Fringe. Don't make me say it again.
A/N: This story is about pancakes. It is also about Olivia and Peter. It started out as a 500 word idea and turned into THIS. Enjoy :)
There's something about the way she moves. A surety in her gait, as if she's done this a hundred times before. Peter watches, almost entranced as she ambles around her small kitchen, standing on her tiptoes as she reaches for a new packet of sugar at the back of the cupboard, bending down for the frying pan on the lower shelf. She rubs her left calf with the back of her foot and sneezes when she opens the bag of flour. This dance of domesticity has him enthralled. He crosses his arms over his chest and leans back against the refrigerator, content to just watch her until she swats him aside with a lopsided grin.
"Are you just gonna stand there or are you going to make yourself useful?" She arches her brow at him, eliciting a chuckle. He feels giddy, which is really the only way to describe it. A marathon round of sex would do that to a guy, but he suspects that the grin he's having trouble supressing has less to do with endorphins and more to do with the woman in standing in front of him in an oversized Northwestern t-shirt that looks like it's seen better days and a pair of sleep shorts. Her hair falls over her shoulders in waves and curls slightly against her neck where it had gotten damp from all their earlier exertions. He smiles at the thought. Olivia unravelled.
"Alright, Martha Stewart. How can I be of service?" He takes a step towards her, and reaches out, fingering the hem of the t-shirt currently skimming her thighs. She shakes her head, biting down on her bottom lip to keep from smiling and motions towards the refrigerator.
"Milk and two eggs." With an exaggerated sigh, he lets go of her and retrieves the ingredients, balancing the milk while juggling the eggs with one hand in a half-hearted attempt to impress her. But she's swirling butter around the pan, and the sizzle fills the silence, reminding him of early mornings and childhood breakfasts. He hands her the milk jug and places the eggs carefully on the counter.
"Thank you," she says and causally leans in to brush her lips against his jaw and his heart leaps. Something about the simplicity of the gesture, the pure effortlessness of it has him twisted up inside. And for the millionth time this week, he's in awe at the simple fact that he's here, with her, like this. He's never been one to wax poetic, but staring at her in that ratty grey t-shirt, with wild blonde hair and those impossibly green eyes makes it easy to understand what Bryon was on about. Instead of quoting sonnets, he leans back and watches her crack the eggs into a bowl.
"So where'd you learn to make pancakes?"
"What do you mean?" She wipes her nose with the back of her hand, getting flour on the tip. He smiles but says nothing. "Everyone knows how to make pancakes," she continues, whisking the mixture into a batter.
"No, everyone knows how to buy pancake mix and add milk. You make it from scratch." He reaches forward and brushes the flour off with his thumb, causing her to go cross-eyed for a second as she tries to figure out what exactly he's doing. "The only other person I know who does it like that is Walter."
"Yeah." He dips his pinkie finger into the batter and sticks it into his mouth. "What's in here, vanilla essence?"
She wiggles her brows and smiles mysteriously, causing him to laugh. "Okay, keep your secrets." She scoops a dollop of the mixture on the frying pan and they watch as it bubbles and hisses. They fall into a comfortable silence, Olivia flipping pancakes, Peter watching Olivia flipping pancakes.
"When I was a kid," he says suddenly, causing her to turn to him, that green gaze entirely enveloping him. "I musta been ten or eleven I went through this phase where I wanted to be a marine biologist."
"A marine biologist?" She pulls a face at the foreign notion.
"I know, right? Anyway, I was obsessed, and Walter…" he shakes his head as if the preface the absurdity of the memory. "Walter used to make me pancakes in the shapes of sea animals. Squids, sea-horses, whales. It was stupid, but…" Peter trails off. His childhood is made up of memories involving Walter in hysterics, Walter in delusion and then Walter not there at all. The rare memories he has before Walter lost his mind he holds on to so tightly he almost never speaks of them out loud. To do so would be to lose fragments of them, to give them away. But with Olivia, it's different. For the first time, it's different. She's looking at him like she understands, like they're sharing a secret, like maybe, she'll hold on to this memory for him and for once, he's not alone.
"Well, I don't know how adept I am at making shapes, but I can flip them with one hand." The smile she gives him is soft but too playful to pity. And all he can think is want.
"That's not all you can do with one hand." He sidles up against her and she eyes him warily.
"'Olivia." He says, mimicking her tone. He twists the fabric of her t-shirt around his finger, all the while staring at her, as if daring her to tell him to stop. When she doesn't, he brushes his thumb over her bare stomach.
"You know, I'm not that hungry anymore," he whispers, sliding his thumb just under the waistband of her shorts. He leans in and places a soft kiss on her neck. Olivia giggles and squirms away.
Olivia Dunham giggles. That in itself is a revelation and a phenomenon that Peter has decided is possibly his favourite sound in any of the known universes.
"Be good," she says, raising the spatula as if to ward him off. Olivia in the kitchen, with a spatula. She manages to look intimidating, despite the fact that she seems to be biting back a grin.
He holds up his hands as a sign of surrender. "Okay, okay. So tell me, where'd you learn to make these?"
She considers him for a moment before focusing on the last few pancakes that need flipping. "Um, okay…when Rachel and I were young, we spent this weekend with our dad's aunt. My mom had just gotten sick and she was in the hospital so, we got shuffled around to various family members." She speaks fast, as if these words are inconsequential, as if this is just another anecdote. But he knows that Olivia's childhood is just about as fractured as his is and these memories are twisted tightly around her very core. He knows how lucky he is to be entrusted with them; he's known this from the very beginning. She goes on, oblivious to his musings.
"Anyway, she'd been married and divorced a couple of times but didn't have any kids of her own. She must have been I don't know, sixty? Although she seemed ancient at the time, and she had this huge house that smelled like peppermint." He loves watching her speak. She uses her hands a lot, which he's always found interesting on someone who isn't necessarily all that physically demonstrative.
"And, there was never any food in the house. I mean, nothing kids would be interested in. She'd give us dried apricots as snacks."
He laughs at the thought of a young Olivia hating the idea of dried apricots. "That's fairly disgusting."
"Yup, "she agrees with a comical grimace. "So anyway, she was out playing bridge one afternoon and it was raining, so Rachel and I got out this huge cook book she had from the 1970's and pretended we had our own cooking show. I was good with the recipes because I was able to memorise all the quantities really quickly." She laughs a little at the memory, "I think we ended up feeding most of our creations to the dog before my Aunt Missy got home. The only thing I ever mastered was pancakes. And Rachel still can't cook to save her life, so..." She purses her lips gives a little shrug as if to conclude the story.
Peter laughs silently and shakes his head, "And now you're a connoisseur."
"Well wait until you've tried them. Hey, could you get the plates; they're in the top left cupboard."
Peter knows where the plates are. He practically lived here for weeks. But he can't say that, not now that she's finally invited him to stay the night, not now that they've finally reached this point. None of it matters anymore anyway. So he turns to get the plates and instead says,
"So how is she? Rachel I mean."
Olivia shrugs a shoulder, "Oh, you know. Fine. Last I spoke to her she sounded good. She's dating again, so I guess that's-" She looks up and catches his gaze. "I know I shouldn't worry, but-"
Peter looks at her wryly. "Olivia, you worry about everyone. It's one of the reasons I love you." He doesn't mean to say it. It just sort of happens. And now it's out there, floating between them in the tiny kitchen.
He's never been a believer in the significance of words, not when he's spent most of his life using them to lie and manipulate. But he knows that certain words need to be said, or rather heard and she needs to know, he owes her that at least. He wishes he could be certain that it was reciprocal, he wants to believe it is, and those moments when she's under him, moving with him, gasping his name he can't imagine how it can't be, but he also can't forget her face on that cold night in Barrett's garden and words, her words. I don't want to be with you. Other things have been said since then, sweeter things, things that tasted like whiskey and apology, things that tasted of lust.
He watches the almost imperceptible changes in her face. The slow shift from surprise to something more obscure. The slow tug on her mouth as she smiles and looks down almost…shy. Of all the reactions, he didn't expect this one.
When she looks up at him again, her eyes are lighter, her smile wider. And Peter finds himself grinning like an idiot, holding her gaze until pungent smell of burning batter forces her attention back to the pan she's quick to flip it out before turning back to him.
"Yeah?" He doesn't mean to sound as hopeful as he does.
"The-uh, maple syrup's over there." She points to the cupboard behind him. It takes him a second to respond. Okay. He tells her he loves her and she tells him to get maple syrup. Olivia is nothing if not unpredictable. So, he turns around and gets the maple syrup. If and when she was ready, she'd tell him. It wasn't even about the words, right? Right.
She's pilling the pancakes onto two plates when he walks over and buries a kiss in her neck. "I was thinking. Since we haven't had a case in over a week and it looks like the universe isn't about to implode just yet, maybe we could-"
They both jerk when a trill jingle breaks through the air. Olivia turns in his arms and appraises him with a wry expression. "You know this is your fault right?"
"How so?" Peter frowns, not quite understanding as she slips from his arms towards the root of the sound. But then she's reaching for her cell phone and the fact that their breakfast is about to be cut short becomes all too clear. He hears, "Dunham." And, "Yes, sir, we'll be right there." And then she's moving to her bedroom, presumably to get changed and he's left in a cold kitchen, with a stack of pancakes and an empty stomach.
Just another day on the job, breakfast comes second to saving the world, although he doubts Walter would agree. He hears her shuffling around inside before she steps around the corner.
"That was Broyles. Apparently there was a burglary."
He looks at her, unfazed. "That's pretty standard."
"Okay, well an eye-witness claims one of the suspects was flying."
"Not so standard."
"Hmm. I'm going to take a shower first, do you think you could-"
She shoots him a rueful smile. "If it's not too much trouble."
He walks towards her and leans down so that their foreheads are almost touching. "For you Agent Dunham," he whispers, "Anything."
She kisses him once quickly but firmly. "Thank you."
He watches her go, suddenly terrified by how perfect everything feels. He's lived long enough to know that perfection almost never lasts and when it does, the price is rarely worth it. But right now, in this moment, he's happy, indescribably and unbelievably so. And if the other shoe is going to drop, he's hoping that he'll be able to catch it this time. He's so wrapped up in his thoughts that he almost misses it, but as he moves to put the milk away, he glances at the stove and sees it - still in the frying pan; half burnt and now forgotten is a pancake, perfectly crafted in the shape of a heart.