Walter and Olivia spread a quilt and opened the picnic basket while Peter led Gene down the ramp and tethered her under a shady tree nearby. She observed them placidly, already enjoying the fresh grass, a welcome change from the hay and alfalfa in the lab.
Unpacking the picnic basket, Peter and Walter were like little kids at Christmas.
"Ah! The antipasto!" Walter said gleefully, peeling back the foil from a platter covered with cheese, meats, and peppers. Peter tried to sneak a pepper from the tray, but Walter smacked his hands, saying, "Greedy boy. You always did want the first bite of everything."
"No, Walter," Peter responded dryly. "I'm pretty sure that was you."
"Oh, was it? Ah, well, no matter! There's plenty for all of us." Walter dug back into the picnic basket.
Peter lifted the cover on another dish, exclaiming "Braciole! My favorite… I don't remember ordering this…" as he snuck one of the pinwheels out of the dish and popped it into his mouth before Walter could scold him again.
"You didn't. That's a special gift from your girlfriend," Olivia smirked.
"My… Ohhhh… " Peter grinned slyly. "What can I tell you? It's the Bishop charm. Mrs. Damiano just loves me."
"Nobody ever gave me free food," Walter sulked. "And I'm just as charming, don't you think?"
"You're a veritable Cary Grant, Walter. Mrs. D probably just likes her men a bit younger," Peter smiled reassuringly.
"And the way to a man's heart is through his stomach," Olivia chuckled, patting Peter's stomach playfully.
"At least a Bishop man!" Walter exclaimed. He opened his mouth to speak, but stopped.
"Walter, you want to ask something, go ahead," Peter encouraged him.
"Did… did your mother have to bribe you with food to get you to make your bed?"
Peter's head dipped for a moment, but when he raised it again, a gentle smile graced his face. "Yeah. 'Peter, love, please, if you'll just put the comforter on properly this once, you can have bacon with your pancakes,'" he said in a soft Irish brogue.
Walter smiled back. "You sound just like her," he said.
"Yeah, well, it's a wonder my arteries aren't 97 percent occluded already, with the number of times she had to do that," he said, lightening the mood. He reached over and snatched a piece of salami from Walter's hand. "You gonna eat that? Didn't think so," he teased, tossing it into his mouth before Walter could even protest.
Olivia stretched out on the quilt and watched the antics of the two men she'd come to love. They were as much father and son as any biological pair could be. Their shared appreciation of good food and music was readily apparent; some of their other similarities were more subtle, like fierce devotion to their loved ones, but no less apparent to her.
Once the dishes were spread out on the quilt, and the wine opened, they settled into the serious business of devouring the feast. Later, Peter stretched out and groaned contentedly, leaning his head against Olivia's legs. "We should do this every week," he said, closing his eyes.
Olivia nudged him into an upright position and handed him wrapped dishes to load back into the basket. "Even if we had the time," she replied, "If we did this every week, we'd need one of those to haul each other around." She gestured with her thumb toward the trailer.
"Well, jeez, if you put it like that," Peter protested mildly. Walter fussed under his breath, but they were both too full to put up much of a fight.
With the basket repacked, and Gene tugging restlessly at her tether, Walter and Olivia slowly got to their feet. Olivia stretched out her hands to Peter, who tried to pull her back down to the quilt.
Walter noticed the affectionate tug-of-war, and said, "You know, al fresco coitus has a long history in literature… why… "
"Walter, don't you have a cow to walk?" Peter replied.
"Why, yes, I suppose I do. Come along, Gene, let's see what the field has to offer today," Walter untied Gene's tether.
"Walter," Peter called as Walter turned.
"That pepperoni in your pocket better not be for Gene – that's just wrong."
Walter pulled the lunch meat from his coat and munched on it. "Of course not. Don't be ridiculous," he said half-heartedly as he and Gene strolled away.
As Walter and Gene walked off slowly, Peter wrapped his arms around Olivia and rested his chin on her head. It was a sunny day, but there was still a chill in the air. As she leaned back into him, he pulled her closer.
"I can't get enough of you," Peter said, and was rewarded with a pleased laugh from Olivia as she nestled into his arms.
They stood in silence for a few minutes, watching Walter and Gene. Walter was having an animated conversation with Gene, gesturing wildly. Gene was grazing here and there as they strolled, but she looked up at Walter from time to time, as if she was agreeing with him.
The sun warmed their faces, but the light breeze reminded then it was still winter. Olivia shivered, and Peter suggested they go inside.
"Walter's fine," he said, squinting into the sun and spotting Walter and Gene at the far end of the field. "Maybe we get can get a few minutes to ourselves."
Peter held out his hand to Olivia as she walked up the ramp, then led her past the stalls. There was a small bed against one wall, a table and two chairs against the other. A small sofa, a flat-screen television and a small refrigerator and microwave completed the human area of the carrier. And of course, the intercom.
As Peter draped their coats over one of the chairs, Olivia took in their surroundings. "I should've known Nina Sharp would have something this plush."
"Leave it to Massive Dynamic," Peter agreed. "They don't scrimp on anything." He kicked off his boots and stretched out on the bed, then patted the space beside him and leered at Olivia.
Olivia laughed. "Don't you ever get tired of this?" she said as she slid her boots off.
"Never," Peter murmured as she stretched out beside him. "Ever," as he wrapped his arms around her and pulled her closer. "I told you, I can't get enough of you. No matter how long we're together."
Olivia smiled and pulled his head down for a kiss. "How long before Walter notices we're gone and decides to pop in on us?"
"Oh, I think we're good. " Peter smirked. "I locked the door."
At Olivia's shocked expression, he hurried to add "I've already talked to Walter. If he and Gene come back and he doesn't see us, he can use the intercom in the driver's cabin."
"So no interruptions?"
"Good. Now tell me what kind of deal you cut with Nina Sharp." Olivia propped herself up on one elbow and gave him a pointed stare.
Peter groaned. "Did anyone ever tell you how stubborn and persistent you are?"
Olivia smiled at him. "I may have heard that a time or two. So…. Give."
Peter brushed his lips against Olivia's before sitting up and sliding to his feet. He picked up the small album on the table and handed it to Olivia.
"Nina wanted you to tell me about these photos. To see if you could remember anything about them."
Olivia sat up and leaned against the wall behind the bed. Peter sat next to her and she snuggled close, flipping through the pages.
"Peter…. I don't know. It's like – it's like some of the settings are familiar, but whatever happened there happened to someone else. It's like they told me about it, but I don't have a personal connection to it."
She leaned her head against his shoulder, letting out a quiet sigh. Peter put his arm around her, recognizing the undertone in her voice, one of failure, of feeling that she wasn't living up to everyone's expectations.
"It's alright, hon. I'd love to see them, though. Would you tell me what you do remember?" Peter wasn't doing this for Nina Sharp; he'd looked through the album earlier and mused over the photographs of a happy, laughing, teenaged Olivia, looking carefree and light-hearted. Nina might be concerned that she was losing her surrogate child, but Peter was still afraid he was asking Olivia to pay too high a price just to remember him.
They started at the beginning – photos of Olivia, Rachel, and Nina at the stables, smiling nervously at the camera. Over the next page or two, the photos showed a more confident Olivia – clad in a riding habit and mounted on a sleek roan; standing next to Nina, arms around each other, holding blue ribbons. Her hair was long then, too, but she wore it in a neat braid trailing from her riding helmet.
Olivia was turning pages idly, but Peter stopped her. He gazed at a photo of Olivia, hair down and falling loosely around her shoulders. She was standing next to the roan patting its neck, with the fond expression girls with horses seem to wear so much.
Peter was imagining another young girl… their little girl in a picture drawn many years forward in a future he hoped didn't exist anymore… the future where their only children were stick figures in drawings on the refrigerator door, where Olivia was afraid to bring children into a decaying world…
Olivia looked at him curiously. Peter hugged her a little closer to chase away the memory of her lying cold and still in the morgue; he needed the heat of her here and now to remind him that future was gone. He pointed at the photo he'd been studying.
"Do you think if we had daughters, they'd look like that?"
She laid her head on his shoulder. "Daughters? How many kids are you talking about?"
"Daughters, sons…. " Peter tried to sound casual. September's words echoed in his mind. "You had a son." That was definitely a conversation for another day; he wasn't sure he was ready to think about it himself, much less talk to Olivia about it.
"A little tribe of Bishops, hm?" Olivia laughed. "Girls with long blond hair and boys with blue eyes and curls?"
"That sounds good," Peter agreed. He pointed at the photo again. "With your smile."
"I hope so. And your eyes." Olivia sounded a bit more somber. "I hope we have the time."
Peter pressed his lips to the top of her head. "We will," he said with more confidence than he actually felt. "Now, tell me about some of these… do you remember any of these ribbons?"
Olivia shrugged, flipping pages again. "A little. I think Rachel was afraid of the horses." She paused. "But I'm not sure… I feel like I'm looking at someone else's life, Peter."
As they turned the pages, he watched Olivia grow up - from a gawky adolescent to a young woman, slender and poised. There were many photos of Nina and Olivia, the fondness shared between the two evident.
"This is why Nina wanted me to see the photos, isn't it?' Olivia sounded sad again.
Peter nodded. "She doesn't want you to forget her, Olivia. You're very important to her." And she was very important to you, he thought.
After seeing the photographs of a much-loved Olivia's happy adolescence in the privileged world of Nina Sharp, Peter contrasted that image to the one Olivia had described to him in their earlier life together. He remembered her childhood overshadowed by an abusive step-father; her first act of protecting others was turning his gun against him, only to wound him, then being haunted by his phantom presence once a year. She'd told him about struggling to care for Rachel and her dying mother, then being sent off to boarding school after her mother's death. And while she never was specific, the few stories she told of her years in the Corps and at Quantico seemed to be that of a woman, a loner, always fighting to find her place in the world.
While he was willing to give up anything, everything, to have Olivia in his life, Peter still wondered if he was asking too much of her. She was willing to give up memories of Nina, of growing up with Rachel in comfortable surroundings with a loving guardian – but should he ask her to give up those memories in exchange for a past that seemed to weigh her down, wear her down, just to bring back the memories of him? He had told Nina (and Walter, and Lincoln) the truth – he wanted the best for Olivia, even if that 'best' didn't include him. He'd been willing to walk away, as hard as it was for him. And even when the Observer told him "She is YOUR Olivia," he still struggled with what these changes might mean for her. She'd gone through so much for him…. was it fair for him to ask for more?
Olivia was quiet for a minute, then she turned to face Peter. "There was this case I worked on, one that happened before you came back."
Peter nodded again and Olivia continued. "It was one of the first cases we worked with the other Fringe Division. A man here, a man there – they had horrible, abusive childhoods. The one Over There turned into a serial killer; the one Over Here was taken in by a very nurturing woman, " Olivia's eyes strayed back to the photos for a moment, "and he turned out to be a kind man, a professor, I think."
"The difference a single person can make…" Peter murmured.
"And the serial killer… he stole people's happy memories when he killed them." Olivia shuddered a bit, remembering the man from this side hooked up to that awful machine. "He had already taken our guy's memories, the memories of the woman that raised him. We were afraid he would turn into a killer as well… because he no longer had the memories of her influence." Olivia was silent.
"But he didn't. It was as if her influence, her impact, stayed with him, even though he couldn't remember her specifically."
Inwardly, Peter sighed with relief. If Olivia retained the benefits of Nina's devotion, even if she couldn't recall the specific events, perhaps that would soften the hard edges of the past that seemed to be returning to her. And regardless of her shifting memories, the stepfather remained dead (as far as Peter knew), and he couldn't help but be grateful for that.
"So, you might still know that Nina loves you, even if you don't remember the details?" Despite Nina's frosty demeanor towards him earlier, Peter couldn't deny the affection between Olivia and the older woman in the photographs.
"Maybe." Olivia let the album rest in her lap, and turned slightly to face Peter, cupping his cheek in her hand. "I still felt your influence even when you weren't here. I still felt you."
Peter cocked his head. He enjoyed the feel of her smooth skin against his face and put his hand over hers, turning his head slightly to kiss her palm, then replacing it on his cheek.
"We never told you…." Olivia's voice trailed off.
"Told me what, Livia?"
"Walter had been seeing your reflections in the lab and hearing your voice, calling to him. Do you remember doing that?"
Peter thought back to the time before he emerged from Reiden Lake, cold, naked, and confused. Before that…. the last thing he remembered was standing on a platform in front of that damned machine, talking to Walter and Walternate – then, nothing.
"No. I don't remember anything between seeing you and Walter in front of the Machine and coming out of the lake. I honestly don't know what happened."
Olivia still looked worried, and didn't want to meet Peter's eyes.
"Liv, what happened? " Peter could tell there was something she didn't want to tell him, but he didn't want to ruin their day by pressing her to tell him now. Whatever it was had waited this long; it could wait another day. He decided to tease her into a better mood.
He shifted so that he could look at her more directly and in his best smartass voice said. "I knew it. You've been having sex dreams about me! You just didn't want to fess up."
By the way two bright spots of color appeared on her cheeks, he knew he'd hit a nerve.