They're standing in his foyer when the beat under her clavicle becomes a fast staccato.
This is the confrontation she'd tried to avoid by slipping out his front door not moments ago.
But Peter's called her name, and because of his goddamn, involuntary gravity, she turned to face him.
It takes nanoseconds for his air to become her cage, trapping her in the angst she'd discovered when Walter left them alone. She'd come this morning for what's become a forced merging, an elder Bishop's plea to a truce in the excuse of blueberry pancakes.
But there's no white flag here, only the punishment of lost words to her one-sided, helpless impasse.
Right now, she's recklessly asphyxiated by her inescapable quagmire.
She was in love on her own, and she was stranded by it.
And she felt exposed in it, left defenseless and naked before her grey-green undoing.
"I don't really know what to say."
She admits, and staring him down, she begins to grow irritated with herself, and him, heated by her relentless longing and his insincerity.
That her has taken him and fucked up her happy, and dammit she's been punched in the chest, because it hurts like hell to breathe.
"I know that you still think about her." she tells him. "I know that you had feelings for her and that you still do."
She's lightheaded, from her maddening disappointment and it's dispensing something like anger.
"And quite frankly," she continues, "I don't think you've been completely honest with me."
He nods, and looks to the ground as she tastes betrayal again.
She's accustom now to it's sickly-sweet pungency.
After a beat, he tells her she's right, that he hasn't told her everything.
"Mostly because I didn't think-"
"That I could handle it?" she finishes, and a red evanescence saturates her vision, colors him in the hue of her frustration.
In defense, he frowns, and that beautiful line deepens.
"I know that you struggle with trust issues." He tells her, his voice rigid, "I know that you struggle with letting people in."
"I'm struggling because the reasons are real, I'm not making them up."
"I know." he remarks. "I never wanted to be one of the reasons."
This tempers her, with the superiority of his stare, so she's quiet, testing the sincerity.
"And I still think about her, because I've spent so long, imagining going down that path with you. Imagining what it would be like to wake up in a bed next to you."
Sadness squeezes into her invisible cell, and it's left her finger-pads throbbing from a familiar reverie.
"To-to sit around, just the two of us, having a cup of coffee, reading the paper. And then finally, I had it."
Envy too, is tempting to spend her, with a rage that tenses her every muscle.
"I've seen what the two of us looks like and it's beautiful."
He finishes, almost shimmy shaking her bones, but she won't lose herself in his sentiment.
"She's the one who's taken it away from us, not me."
"And now?" he asks, calm, hitting her with a reality that's tight in her lungs. "Who's the one stopping us now?"
And she's been backed into a corner that's threatening to crush her whole. Even the home of her jacket felt more constricting then assuring.
She's beginning to feel shame, a dark sheen that's coating her self-righteousness to make her ten times smaller.
All this time, all this rage, and hate and misery, for that monster in her skin, and all she's done is sold him out to save herself.
And she'd never felt more selfish, more undeserving, then she does right now.
Three days after the Allister Peck case, they'd met up for drinks.
The bar had been crowded, loud, dank with the smell of alcohol and sweat, and after a bottle of whiskey, and two chasers, they'd agreed to walk off the buzz with a late night stroll.
They'd gotten on the topic somehow, of their case leader's persona, and as the sidewalk had curved, liquefied from her intake, Olivia had hooked her arm in Peter's to better steady herself.
"You're serious?" she'd pressed him, a question to his just-made statement. "Our Broyles?"
And Peter had smiled, shoved his hands in his pockets, and it hugged her arm to his side. Funny how through a pre-inebriated, post- tipsy phase, his singing of her skin cells had still hit her full force.
"Don't seem so surprised." he'd remarked, "You have to admit he's intimidating at first."
In the way all things amuse through hazy glasses of brandy and rum, she'd laughed at this.
"He'd scared me a little," he'd said, still defensive, "It was the luminous dome and rock-hard demeanor."
Her breath had filled the air between them, little fits of amusement that he'd pulled from her diaphragm.
"I promise you, I will never be able to pull off the overtly serious and bald look." He thinks for a moment. "I'd make a terrible Observer."
After she catches her breath, and after he'd joined in her juvenile enjoyment, a question, borne of curiosity, laced in the careless trepidation of alcohol stemmed from her lips.
"What about me? Did I ever scare you?"
She'd asked him this as her eyes followed their shadows, black silhouettes in the pavement cast by yellow orange street lights.
The concentration made her squint from the head-pain.
"Oh yeah, you were a woman on a mission with a temper and a gun. I kid you not, I was shaking in my boots."
She laughs again, full and breathy, before he finishes.
"But you were hot, so I got over it."
This added warmth to the red-blush of Crown Royal on her cheeks.
"And now?" she asks him, "What do you think of me now?
"Oh, you're still hot. Especially with the gun."
Flustered, she'd slapped his arm playfully, and when she'd turned her eyes to him, the moon and streetlights fought for the high arcs of his face.
She'd never seen him so serene.
"I'm serious." She tells him, post-amusement. "How do you see me now?"
"How do I see you?" They walked a few paces as he'd tasted the words, and the pause almost made her want to rethink her question.
But her alcohol induced fearlessness won over her apprehension to know, for sure, if she beat under his chest the same way he did her.
"You're reverent, determined, with a relentless selflessness that makes you reckless. You don't think twice about your own life and it scares the shit out of me."
His tone was no longer playful as before, but serious and collected.
"But I admire the hell out of you for it. There's something to be said about a passion like yours."
"And what's that?"
She'd asked him, studying the way his eyelashes caught the night lights, little specks of glittered stars that had fallen to his glory.
"Awe-inspiring. I'm amazed by you Olivia."
When he'd looked at her then, with a deep, tender admiration, she'd quit breathing, started taking in his air through merely the pores of her body.
His magnificence had threatened to turn her soul inside out.
And she'd had an intensely hot urge to lean in and kiss him. But the numb of her lips had reminded her, somehow, that she'd lived on practicality.
He tells her, his voice louder, and when he turns to walk again, she'd wondered at what point they'd stopped.
She'd questioned, trying to wrap her head around coherency.
Peter and libations had a way of becoming a mind-boggling duo.
"Yeah, what pleasant misconception did I first give you?"
He presses and she'd remembered their first day together.
"Oh, you irritated the hell out of me. I couldn't stand you." she laughed. "I thought you were a pain in the ass."
"Thank you. I get that a lot."
Then she'd turned her eyes down, and her words grew softer.
"But you changed my mind."
She'd paced her thoughts with their steps and after seconds of silence, she'd continued.
"You're patient Peter, kind, with a hidden compassion that drives the heart of you. And if two years ago, it didn't make you stay, for Walter, for me, we wouldn't be here together." She'd stopped suddenly, to look at him.
"And I'd be missing you right now."
Deep in her bones, she'd felt the validity of her words, and her screaming conviction had filled the quiet he'd shown.
And surprise had met astonishment, had bore the indent of his brow before he'd raised one.
"Guess I made up for the asshole first impression."
He'd remarked, and in the shyness caused by revealing sentiments, she'd tilted her head and shrugged a shoulder.
"And by far, at that."
He'd added, and soft blue, darkened to a navy sea had stared into her.
And when the silent chemistry, his noiseless, reverent current had teetered on the precipice of what she could handle, she'd broken away before it could tilt and fall her.
More then the whiskey, he'd left her lightheaded.
For a forever-long moment they hadn't spoke, just walked in tandem to the beat of their stride.
Then he'd broken through the quiet.
"If you want, I can poke you, for nostalgia's sake."
Leave it to him, to have turned something intimidating, so easily airy.
So she'd laughed again, because on that day, she could.
And to her disappointment, they'd made it to her apartment sooner then she'd liked.
When she'd called him hours earlier, she feared he'd try and decipher why she couldn't stay away from him.
And on that thought, before her eyes, he'd became incandescent, illuminate, and she'd tore her eyes from his glimmer to the ground.
She'd been shaken on that night, by every form of his radiance, and whether it was the whiskey or his fire, her temples ached with exhaustion.
Despite the excuse of 95 proof double shouts, she'd known she had to run, get upstairs and cage herself before she'd stained her sleeves red in that moment, with her heart or his truth.
And though he'd been standing right there before her, for a second, she'd felt inherently alone.
Funny how the secrets you keep become your closest company.
Her head spun, as she'd blinked her eyes closed, a pressing of her held tongue and liquor that hammered on the front=side of her skull.
"I had fun tonight." she'd heard him say, "Thanks for getting me out."
She rose her head and through the banshees in her skull, she'd met his smile.
"Thanks for coming." Her pulse deafened other sounds to white noise as he inched closer.
Then he'd reached out, and when he'd tucked a loose hair behind her ear, his heat scorched her cartilage.
And his eyes scorched her soul.
With his mouth so close, he'd said her name, softly, gently, and she'd breathed it in.
"I don't know of anyone, who sees me the way you do."
In the pit of her stomach, an exciting apprehension had arisen, to pull him by the black collar of his pea- coat and into her lips.
But irony won out, as he'd shone before her with an evanescent glimmer.
"That makes two of us."
His magnificence hushed her, rendered her stasis with devastation if he were to leave her here in this world, alone without his beauty.
And then he'd pulled her into him, and she'd inhaled bourbon and cool water as she pressed into his chest.
He'd engulfed her, with his arms and his warmth and the hands that raked through her hair.
Then he'd kissed the top of her head, the side of her forehead, leaving little mini fires where his lips excited her skin.
"I'd miss you, too," He'd whispered, his breath heating her neck, and tickling her ear.
And she'd closed her eyes, leaned into him, pressed her cheek to the stubble that reddened her flesh. A heated yearning, an overwhelming of desire singed through her follicles to rest low in her abdomen.
Then he'd pushed away, and she'd been lost in the night to the whirl of lust, and vodka and his inertia.
His hand traced her shoulder blade, her arm, and found hers as he'd begun to back away.
"I'll see you tomorrow." he'd told her, squeezing her hand, and to smile, was all she can do from yanking him back and into her embrace.
You'd better, she'd wanted to say, because Walter could in this night, tell him the truth and bid him run.
She'd clenched her jaw on the thought, already feeling helplessly lonely, helplessly chilled, as his grip began to leave hers. And then she couldn't handle it anymore, all of these almost could-haves, and maybe- should- haves with him. And she'd blame it on the rum later, when she'd pulled him back and found his mouth with her own.
There was honey, whiskey, and something dark, on his lips, and she'd savored every taste with her tongue, a passion borne of mystery, synchrony, and infinite need. Like she'd envisioned, she'd pulled on his jacket, melding them together till teeth clashed against teeth, body clashed against body and she'd taken in every flavor on the ample flesh of his mouth.
Then he'd pulled back, and his chest rose and fell from the air she'd stolen.
He'd left her lips tingling, swollen, and when she'd opened her eyes, peered into grey-green, his were a half lidded lusting of what's left them breathless.
But they weren't going to act on it, she wouldn't allow herself to pull him upstairs and into her bed. They both know, for now, this is what this is, a kiss excused by lapse of judgment, borne not of unspoken desire but a half bottle of Jack Daniels.
There was no jeopardizing done here.
"Goodnight Peter." she'd whispered.
So he smiled at her in the moonlight, and nods in a haze of understanding as he brings his hand to her collarbone, then traces her bottom lip with his thumb.
"Best one I've ever had." he whispers, filling her soul with the husk of his octave.
And for the next six hours they'll be apart, alone, left ungracefully to their own justifications in the aftermath of what they'd done.
For the nineteenth time today, she convicts her due diligence of abandoning her weeks ago.
Harm had taken its place, the petulant kind of ire and reprehend that reasonable people avoid placing on another.
So reason, it would seem, had sold her out too, because she feels two feet tall, miniscule and shame-worthy after facing her faults through his rightfully placed blame.
And this morning, at the crime scene on the sixth floor, she 'd chided herself for losing her own responsibility. He'd made her feel such reproach by merely having been next to her.
And it's right that he did so. For how clueless she'd been, she'd deserved it.
And all day, she'd tried hard not to feel every eye on her, as if they knew somehow of her opprobrium; her vicious, curling self-contempt that made her sick to her stomach since she'd walked out his door.
He'd leaded her to the bones with the paranoia of the guilty.
But through the game of facts meets theory, she'd forced mental strength, adhered herself to the case and its story because she was good at deflecting.
It was here now though, in the front seat of her car, she again feels obsolete, deserving and liable of the remorse that's enclosed her.
It appeared when he'd got out to fill up the tank.
At her feet is the seismograph, the one they're going to use to measure what an incredulous Walter suggested was a hole in their universe, a potential vortex signaling the destruction of life.
As if she didn't feel sullen enough, the old metal case against her boots completely dismays her.
The end of the world would be indurate, merciless, burying her alive with too many regrets.
And maybe she's too greedy to ask for a sympathetic last dance.
On the thought she's overtaken, smothered by a claustrophobia of mild sadness and hot air, so she cracks her window and attacks her lungs with the winter cold.
And the icy chill eases her panic, directs her back to a reality where she controls her own fate.
Maybe it's possible, in her insuperable life, that happy endings aren't awarded but created.
At the end of the world, she doesn't have to be alone.
The driver's door chimes open then, rushing the cabin with a shrill breeze and his gene-specific collision of her cells. And in what seemed like minutes in the time span of seconds, her newly-formed epiphany has escalated his significance.
He's irritated, mildly, speaking of the waiting line or late night chill, but she doesn't hear.
Of all the times he's struck her with his beauty, she's never been so floored as she is now, with the fluorescence of the gas station's pagoda turning his eyes to Agate. He's ethereal in its wavelengths, haloed with a phosphorescence that bounces off his body, and makes her oblivious to the cold.
Through his surreal dominion he's broken through her somber cage.
She's never felt more in love then she does now.
And she ducks her head, hiding some kind of giddy, sudden urge to smile.
At the end of the world, she could be sharing in his light.
If only she restored what morale they'd lost first.
On the thought she digs her toes in her shoes, feels the friction of her socks awake the friction in her chest.
God, at this point, she owed him so much more than an apology. But maybe I'm sorry is a good place to start.
He flips on the blinker, and she forms words in her head with the pace of its backbeat.
Then he turns, and she jumps head first.
"You were right." she says, "This morning, you were right."
She picks, at some invisible thread at the waist of her pea-coat, to ashamed to tear her attention from the bulk fold to his face.
"I did this to us." she confirms, "I'm the reason we're still broken."
Her vision blurs, at the corner of her eyes and she whips her head up, catching the swell. Her chest recesses and her lungs, retract.
"I'm sorry, Peter." she dares look at him now. "For all of it, for everything."
Behind the wheel, he's tensed, and as the traffic lights cast Christmas colors on his face, she watches as he bites his bottom lip. But his eyes have turned to marine, and if it wasn't for their softness, she'd assume him almost angry.
"I know." he responds simply, and for seconds, their both quiet.
She doesn't know what more to say as he parks the car. But instead of turning it off, killing the ignition and stepping out, he simply sits, with his hands on the wheel and his eyes out the windshield.
The tension crawls from the bottom of her spine to the fingers in her coat-pocket and she inhales a tight breath. She'd be waiting for some kind of his quiet anger if she didn't feel an un-situational calm, a confusing relief.
And her muscles contract from it; his fusion.
"Olivia, something's only broken, if you can't fix it." he says finally, then he turns to her.
"I'm right here, and I always will be."
So do something about it, he's said, with the obsidian heat behind her grey-blue entrapment.
From this simple response with gargantuan incentive, all she can grasp through cerebral quandary, is this is how he loves her.
Simply, blindingly, without warrant and with an infinite passion.
So all he she can do is say I know in a whisper, because there's an optimism crushing her complex of response. It's breeched from the way his mouth curves.
"C'mon." he says, flipping the car off before pocketing his keys. "Let's go save the world."
He opens his door, then when he stops, she frowns in question.
"You'd wonder how many times we have to do this till we get superhero names."
This makes her laugh, breathy, and wholeheartedly and the boy-like twinkle in his eye fills her with something she'd once thought lost to them.
An assuring kind of hope.
With the excuse of fries, he'd cajoled her into thinking this bar was a good idea. And she had to admit that she'd put up little fight.
He was at the jukebox, behind her, searching for something to fill the air he'd complained needed tunes.
They had to stay in this pub, close to the Rosencrantz building, to wait for the last minute calibrations that could harbor their doom. She'd brought up the question outside, if he'd thought the world was ending, and in the fashion of Peter Bishop, he'd responded by pointing to this joint.
He didn't want to wait for demise in twelve degree weather, he'd answered, and right now, as she felt her skin thaw in the bar's roomy heat, she added another point to his beautiful I.Q.
Since their talk in the car their camaraderie has changed, it was easy again, like before she'd dismissed sensibility and thrived on broken remnants.
By now, because of and through him, she knew what she had to do.
He comes to join her again, at the high bar table, and as though this building were backstage bleachers and he her high school love, a thrilling, frivolous carbonation rises from the pit of her stomach to swell in her chest.
Possibility has a way of reverting maturity back to the excite of flirty first experiences.
The invisible string, the one tethered to him that she's hooked on the other end of, has finally pulled in the middle and entwined them together.
And all she'd had to do was give up her tug of war.
She asks him, teasing, if he's selected "Feelings" as his song of choice, and he shakes his head.
He told her once that he's not a Morris Albert fan.
She's dilating the seismographs keypad, pressing on tiny buttons when he leans on the table to face her.
"Did I ever tell you about the time Walter did his rendition of "Never, Never going to give you up" for me?"
"No, but I love Barry White." she tells him, remembering her and Rachael dancing to "Can't Get Enough Of Your Love" in their Aunt's over-cluttered living room.
"He was only wearing his socks at the time,"
She sees Walter in a Risky Business persona, sliding across their kitchen floor in nothing but skin and cottoned feet, and she throws her amused dislike in the air.
"He was doing the hustle..." he continues, and adding to the picture, this makes her laugh out loud.
But she doesn't want to envision anymore, his scantly clad father.
"Okay," she tells him, creating a halting gesture with her hands, "That's enough."
Over the rim of his beer bottle, he smiles, and overcome by this easy-going atmosphere, she drops her eyes to the tabletop.
This contentment is the light side he brings to her darkness.
And she never wanted to live in his gloriousness more.
"You know how you were talking earlier, about what it felt like when you thought you were with me? How you said it was beautiful?"
Remembering, he smiles, nods, says yeah as an answer and she continues.
"I want to know what that feels like."
Peering into his eyes, they're warm, tender, a transparency of grey-green that invites her in.
And she's use to feeling inhibited when she's so bold to risk her heart, but this time with him is different.
At the world's end, she wants to have lived in every part of his beauty.
A small discouragement breaks on his face, and when he swallows, he makes question of her.
What he doesn't understand is there are no 'buts' now, no excuses she can use to better off her independence. That scar tissue gave in when she'd forfeit her fight.
So she shakes her head, shrugs a shoulder, she's bare now, accepting and forgiving, and all she wants to do is taste every part of his splendor.
And she does, by closing the inches between them, and his mouth is the sweetness of sugar on the inside of a flower. It's a soft kiss, delicate, the tender caress of something still fragile, but then she opens her eyes, and she loses it all.
He's not bright anymore by her fascination, but by a glimmer, his pearlescent aura that throws a sick reality in her face.
He only glows when she's frightened, unhinged, scared of her own emotions and the volume of them.
So she must be all those things now if he's surrounded by essence.
What's stuck in her throat now is panic, the kind borne of sudden realization that spikes adrenaline through fear.
"Olivia...what?" he presses, seeing her distraught, and she feels suffocated in here, by the actuality that's squeezing her heart.
"I just have to get some air. I'm sorry" she says, quickly, and she heads for the door, too fast for him to question or follow.
This shouldn't have to be but it is.
She'd gotten lost in the appeal of dwelling in the fantastic. In reality, everything these past weeks, her vitriol, her resentment, her hatred and avoidance, were all rooted from a deeper source.
Fear. Of herself, and the happiness she isn't capable of.
With or god forbid, without him.
There's nothing more simple then an if-then formula.
And if he glimmers, then she's afraid and defenseless against her own doubt.
Apparently she can't take stock in faith and promise, because she shouldn't feel like this now, as though every hope in life has been ripped from her future.
So she's straining her diaphragm, trying to catch a breath in the frigid, icy air, against the pub's outside wall. But all her panic is firing through her muscles, leaving her antsy and restless to break out of her skin and find a safe-haven.
But the universe won't oblige her.
And maybe that's the way it always will be.
She hears her name, in the questioning tone of who she can't attain, and she stands straighter to prepare her explanation.
"Look whatever that was, if you think that it was a mistake-"
With his name and a swoop of her hand, she abruptly cuts him off.
"You glimmered." she explains, tucking sadness into the same pockets as her hands. "When we kissed, you glimmered."
And she's trying hard to hold it all in, but this derailing is swallowing her whole.
"So you're afraid?" he asks, because he understands how her over-there stuff works, and she nods.
"Afraid of what?" he presses, and she grasps onto her explication.
Damage precludes her from living under his halo.
"That you were right." she says to him. "That this isn't just about her. It was, but I think that this is me, I think that I'm stopping us. Maybe I'm just incapable of being vulnerable."
The weight of all her words are pressing into her full force, and even though it's ten degrees now on this loud main-street corner, she hears and feels nothing but her hopeless distemper.
"Olivia, c'mon, you know that that's not true." he tells her, and when he shifts under the bar's white light, she sucks in on his lingering shimmer.
"It must be." She remarks. "I'm terrified, that I can't fix this is just who I am."
She wants him to say something, anything to alleviate what mild anger has shot through her ribcage, but he's quiet, searching for the surface of this new deep drop.
It's unfair, all of this. Loneliness shouldn't be the price for saving the world.
But then again, what superhero ever lived happily ever after?
Not one she's ever read about.
Defeated, she shakes her head, drops her eyes from him, and when they turn to the Rosencrantz building, a new anticipation takes over.
High above, near the same apartment they'd explored this morning, there's a gleam illuminating a sixth floor window. It's the same glimmer that had wrapped him up minutes ago.
And she's stunned immobile because of it.
There isn't a seismograph in the car this time, but something even bigger, more foreboding.
Strapped in the SUV's bed is a compressed tank of Amber, the transparent, honey-colored life-ending glue they used over there when soft-spots broke through their universe and created a vortex.
They'd re-invented it over here, to stop such an unnatural disaster from occurring from that sixth-story glimmer.
Because of a quantum entanglement, a refusing-to-let-go by the tenant in 6B, an emerging had happened, an over-there breaking through of her dead husband's alternate.
The man she thinks is his ghost.
Alice Merchant can't accept a life alone, so she holds the world's end in her hand by sharing time with her over-there widower.
And what's in the armored cylinder behind Olivia is going to hold that breaking apart together.
There needs to be an Amber for her emotional collapse, she thinks, as Peter passes the car under another set of yellow-white street lights, the pros would outweigh the cons because at least she'd be stuck to feel indifference and not spread thinly raw.
It was like her to choose morbidity over anything easier.
As if it filled the air with its dark ambience, she feels the gloom purport of the large receptecle, seeping through upholstery and wool to leave phantom claw marks on her bare back.
The crisis out there is subtly echoed in here.
Desolation is drawn to her.
"You were wrong."
His voice is strong but soft, sharp with a determination that's cut thorough her morose to peak her brow.
"What?" she questions, grasping onto an idea that she didn't voice.
She's confused, waiting for his answer, and he worries his top lip with his tongue, as though weighing the context of words he's about to say.
And he navigates the atmosphere with their magnitude.
"Outside the bar, earlier." he explains, filling the silence. "You were wrong. We're only incapable of what we're afraid of. But even then Olivia, you don't fail."
There's a tennis ball in her throat, and it tears her esophagus as she swallows it down.
"Maybe it's different this time."
She says quietly, balling her hands in the bottom of her coat-pockets.
There's not enough room in the confines to hold her distress.
"It isn't." He says this so matter-of-factly, she's almost tempted to believe him. "You're not scared of vulnerability, Olivia, you're afraid to be happy."
The passing headlights capture his form, a left-lane double negative that drags his shadow to the back of the car.
Her stability has latched onto the back of it.
"And you don't have to be."
As if the thought were unfathomable, disagreeable, he opens his hands against the wheel to convey his argument.
"You act as if the world will end if you are."
She frowns, from his words and her own deplorability so she retorts.
"That's a pretty ironic statement right now, don't you think?"
Peter shakes his head, inhales a cross between a groan and a laugh, a two second frustration bourne of lost points.
"Look, Olivia.." His words stop short, as if he's thinking them over and when his tight grip on the wheel slackens, she feels her nerves calm.
She's prisoner to his demeanor.
"You're amazing, Olivia, unfaltering. Anything you set your mind to you accomplish because that's who you are. But you need to allow yourself happiness. You're meant to."
He looks at her, a navy-grey conviction that glows among the red of the street light, an Aurora Borealis caught in the softness of his eyes.
It strips her bare completely.
"How can you be so sure?"
She questions in whisper, and when he curves the corner of his mouth, her thoraic hollow grips the edge of his smile.
"Because you belong with me."
The morning after she'd first kissed him, it'd been eight thirty in the morning by the time she'd arrived at the office.
She hadn't been prone to tardiness and had thanked whatever deity had her back because the lab had been a ghost town. Then she'd remembered it'd been Thursday and so there'd been a Belgian waffle breakfast in the master plan of Walter Bishop.
It'd meant she still had five minutes till he and Peter left Regina's Diner and five point three till they'd walk through the lab doors.
And in relief to her earlier rush, she'd closed her eyes, had gripped the front of her desk and let herself breathe in on given time.
Then her new norm had happened, snuck its way into her thought process like a child's roundabout appearing.
Behind the darkness of her lids, she'd seen him, captivating and inviting with his boyish grin and swollen lips. It's a sight that had moved her clock forward till she'd drifted asleep at five a.m.
Because restless is how he'd left her the night before, lost-in and wonderstruck from their post-tipsy doorstep embrace.
A late alarm, two Advil and a shower later, she'd run out her door one hour, two minutes and thirty five seconds too late.
She'd heard voices then, two tones of debate and laughter and as they'd grown closer, an almost panic set in, and she'd toyed around with faking a headache.
Personal attachment had handed her a card she didn't want to play.
She hadn't been any good in sensitive moments.
They had a way of scaring her too much.
But then again, they'd been a little inebriated, a little un-fully conscious in their borderline crossing.
Before she'd knew it, Peter had been in her doorway, greeted her with a "Hey" and "Good Morning" so she'd turned to face him.
"Gotchya something." he'd stated walking up to her.
He'd handed her the paper bodied coffee, and she'd inhaled ground beans, his aftershave and the restaurant linger of hot griddles.
Interesting that he'd smelled like the perfect morning.
He'd asked her if she'd been there long, so she'd taken advantage of her first saving grace.
"Ugh, only a while." she'd fibbed, then thanked him for the provision.
When his smile had pulled in her chest, she'd turned her attention to the plastic cup between her palms.
Somehow she'd have to manage again to look at him unaffectedly, but his goddamn cheeky grin had kept poking at the low-fire in her abdomen.
Then her second grace had appeared, in the shrill of a phone's ring.
That day, she must have been some higher power's choice recipient.
She'd set her coffee down, answered it, but didn't recognize the voice when it asked for him.
"It's for you." She'd said to Peter, pointing the hilt of the phone in his direction.
He'd rose a brow, surprised.
"Is it the Publisher's Clearing House hotline?" He'd teased, grabbing the device and she'd shook her head.
"A little less automated." she'd answered, trying hard to dispel her intrigue, her too-quick jealousy that came when he'd put the female's voice to his ear.
As he'd taken the call, while he'd left to situate Walter, she'd busied herself, re-stacking the papers on her desk or the files in its drawers. All in all, she'd had tried to act uninterested in why he'd been tying up the line.
It had been his business after all.
Then, phone in hand, he'd appeared again, with what she'd assumed was the kind of good mood brought on by indignant flattery.
And she didn't want to name how she felt about that.
But the fission he'd left the night before, from her lips to her toes, begged she lay stake to the cause of her undoing.
She'd cleared her throat when he'd clicked the phone in its charger, and though she'd vowed to leave it be, her curiosity won out.
"Everything okay?" she'd asked, prodding through a file she'd randomly plopped down on her desk-pad.
"Yeah," he'd said, with the hint of a smile, and when he'd leaned on the front of her desk, she'd watched the muscles tighten in his forearms.
So she'd sat up straighter, hoping any kind of movement would lessen what he'd surged through her solar plexus.
"That was Mrs. Ericsson." he'd said, and she'd looked up at his conversational tone.
"Mrs. Ericsson from upstairs?" she'd questioned, curious then if it had something to do with Walter and his occasional tank-cleaning excursions.
"The very one." he responds. "She announced last week when I went to collect the Mad Professor, that her daughter's coming into town and she'd be flattered, if not delighted, if I were to wine and dine her. She wanted me to know she arrived today. Apparently, Mrs. Ericsson is in dire need of grandchildren."
Somewhere beyond the office wall, Walter began to sing, in some tune only he knew before there'd been a clank and bang of metal meets floor.
Then, in a holler, he'd assured the office party that he's fine, he'd merely dropped a cake pan or two. And that maybe they should stay in the office if they're sensitive to homogeneous naturalism.
"It scares me to think my future children could inherit those genes."
Ear to his father, he'd said this to the edge of her desk, with his eyes thin and mouth, amused.
And it had surprised her.
A time ago, roots to him were something to pull up, not implant.
Now he'd spoke as though he'd rethought his position. It made her hopeful, with an eagerness to know why.
Though the phantom spark of a twelve-hour-ago collision already gave her a pretty good idea.
"You want kids?" she questioned, carefully, and he turns his eyes on her.
"I've entertained the idea a bit."
This had tightened her chest, expanded its conclave till it threatened to combust.
"You know a year ago, I didn't think I'd hear you say that."
"A year ago I wouldn't have."
In response she'd met his eyes. They'd darkened a little, like the grey ocean after sunset bathed in dark blue and twilight. And when his demeanor grew serious, she felt rigid from the capture.
"What made you change your mind?" she prodded, her voice softer then she'd have liked.
"The same reason I told Mrs. Ericsson I was already taken."
If there had been oxygen in her lungs, he'd sucked it all out. So when she'd breathed again, it'd felt like rough granite in her sternum.
"What reason would that be?"
She'd swear, at the time, her voice was hardly a whisper.
Then he'd leaned in closer, clashed his air into the personal space she could, at one time, safe-gate herself into. If she'd moved but six inches, she'd have tasted his mouth again.
"You already know the answer to that."
On that day, at that time, there had been a sober re-iterating of his grip on her soul.
There had been no alcohol to shoulder away what he'd implied, and she'd been mind-boggled from all the things they should come out and say.
But her last saving grace had stood in the threshold, frustrated, defeated and very, very naked.
"Pardon the intrusion but Peter, it seems I've misplaced my spatula again."
Walter's interruption had splayed her nerve endings, sending what lull Peter created into a manic seizure.
Their moment had been broken and their silence again would hang from the ceiling; a lamp dimly lit, but never brightened.
Something better left alone to lackluster then the candescence of their consciousness.
And she'd preferred it stay there.
She didn't do well with entrapment.
In respsone, Peter had swore under his breath, but the smile cracking through his annoyance revealed his position.
"I'm adding excellent timing to his array of eccentricities." he'd stated, rising from her desk and returning her self-space.
Leaving her to feel oddly alone in her own air.
Then he smiled at his father, wrapped his arm around the elder set of bare shoulders before turning him from the doorway.
"C'mon Walter, wherever you've put your spatula, it better be with your pants."
At Olivia's feet, glass shards and debris litter the floor of Alice Merchant's apartment.
They're the remnants of the almost-here other side vortex diffused not by the Amber but the woman seated before her.
Time has aged her, gracefully, and as Alice smiles, Olivia watches the skin tighten over the older woman's cheekbones, like rubber stretched then pinned at the sides.
"I'm not sure I'll ever understand what happened." Alice tells her, from across the ivory couch. "And I'm not sure it would make a difference if I did."
Lost to her own thoughts, the older woman fixes her gaze on something faraway in the middle of the room.
Thirty, heart-racing minutes ago, they'd been in time to convince her that she'd had to let her alter-husband go.
Through the gusts of wind, and plaster and lamps, Olivia shouted at Alice, explained the glimmering man and the chaotic consequence whirling around them.
But Alice refused to give in, even while the room was crumbling.
That kind of love, that's capable of breaking the world with infinite power, holds absolutely no bounds.
It's indistinguishable from magic.
And the memory of such power reminded Alice of the life she'd shared with her breaking-into-this-world doppelganger's likeness.
Look around you, Peter had said to her, through the threat of the vortex, there's evidence of a life shared with someone. You've already had what so many dream of.
And Alice had remembered, accepted, and she'd let go, but not on the hope that she'd see her real Derek again.
"Maybe you will." Olivia says to her, matching her smile to the old woman's optimism.
The two share a gaze reserved for the respect of comrades, two survivors spared of shared catastrophe.
A relief fills the air in the aftertaste of aversion.
"I'm lucky enough to have spent one lifetime with my Derek." Alice says, and her eyes twinkle on memory, a light blue hindering of secret moments lost to prying eyes. "I suppose wanting another now was asking too much."
Alice's face doesn't fall, instead it holds vigilant to the broken happy photos spread across the floor.
"I suppose when you know love like my Derek's and mine, it's enough to sustain you for five eternities." Then Alice turns to Olivia, and a question creases deeper the wrinkles at her eye's edge.
"That man who was here, Peter, he's more than just your partner isn't he?"
This sets Olivia's mind at a stand still, a shock of eighty-year old intuition that's sending subtle spasms under her collarbone.
She struggles for words when Alice raises a hand.
"The way he looks at you, for fifty years I saw that look in my Derek's eyes."
Shy, and a bit embarrassed, Olivia drops her head to her lap, but instead of black pleats she sees dusk, a dark blue that the sun's turning grey-green; his eyes on her before he'd left them alone.
Before he ever leaves her alone.
Then Alice stretches out her hand, and fingers a transparent cream stretched across bowed bones and knuckles, tap Olivia's lap and the agent looks up.
"That's love, my dear. The forever kind."
When Alice smiles, it fills Olivia with the optimism he'd set earlier in the car.
"Don't be afraid to know it." the fingers move, from Olivia's lap to her hand and they squeeze her own together.
Crazy how this woman, this tiny woman whom she's never met before could distill the emotional trickery that pleagues her every brain cell.
Life's full circles are drawn to her, unintended irony that reminds her now what free will is used for.
To map out our own path, to chose our own fate.
She's not a puppet to a higher power. There are no strings dictating which way she moves.
And thanks to this fragile, tender soul, she's finally convinced of it.
Thick gobs of god-knows-what was caked into his hair.
It was the first thing she'd noticed when he'd opened his door.
Dried flour and sugar and egg fell onto his shoulders, trailed down his dark shirt to leave smudgy white footprints across the bulk of his chest.
"I'm updating my nanny look." He'd said, in mock defense to her surprise, and when he'd wiped his hands on his jeans, powder sifted into the hallway.
"I call this Mrs. Poppins meets Pillsbury."
His self-pride evident she couldn't help but laugh.
Thanks to an impromptu interview, Rachel had dropped her niece at her doorstep four hours ago. Nine point five minutes before Olivia's own rescheduled meeting, the mandatory, fiscal kind that all seasoned agents look forward to four times a year.
She'd have called Astrid if she wasn't out of town, the Johnson's if they'd been at home, so her only choice was the man across the threshold, dripping with raw pastry and oozing with eight p.m charm.
"I'd say it's more Peter Bishop meets bowl and whisk." she'd said, teasing his smile.
"Stand mixer, actually." he'd corrected, her gauged reaction paying off. "I'd let you verify with my design team but they're passed out on the couch."
He'd motioned to his right, backed up, and when she'd stepped into the hallway, she'd peered into the living room. On the oversized couch, Ella had been tucked against Walter, covered in confectionary wonderment like the dear man she'd been pressed against.
They'd been two children exhausted from their bakery shenanigans.
"Talk about a sugar crash." he'd deadpanned from beside her.
Make that three.
She'd laughed again, trying to consider the eight million reasons for this messy trio, but all she could do was turn to him with a question.
"Cookies. Or an attempt at them." he'd said simply. "Thanks to the Doctor of the house and his new interest in projectiles, what started out as ten dozen tasty morsels, are now stuck to my person, your neice and any open-face surface of the poor defenseless kitchen."
She thought for a moment, before her smile grew bigger.
"Walter started a food fight?"
"Or as he called it, the "war of genetically modified metabolic inhibitors"."
She'd rose a brow, before noticing the powder smudged at the corner of his beautiful eye lines.
"He was high, wasn't he?" she'd questioned and when he laughed, he nodded.
"Oh yeah." He threw up a hand when her gaze widened. "Don't worry. I told Ella his medication makes him a little crazy." he gestured toward Walter and when his eyes narrowed, his flour streaked cheek arced on after-thought of a memory.
Olivia looked back on the sleeping brood.
"And thankfully for us, she's good with crazy."
There was an amused twinkle in his eye when he turned to her, a mischievous silver hue under the dusting of powder on the ledge of his eyelashes.
"She gets that from you."
After he'd said this, she turned to him amused. Then he drew himself into her airspace, paralleled his body to hers when he stepped a little closer.
"How was the meeting?"
She'd closed her eyes on the question, the dull headache of quartly expense reports still rapping on the edge of her inattention.
"Ugh, you know, boring and uninteresting, as usual."
Her arms found her sides as his crossed his messy chest.
"So in other words, a huge waste of time."
She rocked on the balls of her feet.
That silver grew to gunmetal as he looked at her, a mysterious gleam that turned his eyes dangerous like the rolling of a calm sea.
And it'd crashed into her nerves, splayed across her calm to send her senses into an uproar, and for an instant, she felt inherently self-conscious.
And remarkably exposed.
Sharp metal dug into her palm, the keys in her hand protesting the heat he'd encroached on her skin, the relentless altering of her composition that begun weeks ago in her apartment, to stake its claim five nights ago in their doorstep kiss.
He asked her if she wanted a drink, and though she knew the safe bet was to decline, she accepted with an urgency she surprised herself with.
After he lead her into the kitchen, she took in the sight. On the floor, cupboards, and even ceiling, there'd been a mess of sticky dough colored goop, hiding under sporadic covers of flour and sugar, swung from measuring spoons and utensils that littered the countertop.
"You weren't kidding." She'd said to him, making her way to the only stool at the island not violated. "It's a pigsty in here."
She heard him laugh as he'd opened his cup cabinet. Then he'd wiped sticky traces from the door handle with the towel he'd slung over his shoulder.
"Lucky for us, we still have clean glasses."
He presented them to her, one in each hand, and when she grabbed them, he brushed off the textile before her to reveal countertop beneath.
She set them down and he poured from the bottle he just plucked from the fridge.
She likes scotch cold, she told him this once at a bar in sum humdrum town, and he'd feigned mock disgust as he'd argued her preference.
But Drambuie chilled her glass then, though he couldn't stand any ice in the already hard bite.
Before she'd even taken a swig, she felt her cheeks redden.
He kept it cold for the nights he found her at his door.
"Your toast." He'd said, and propped his elbows on the table when he sat across from her.
"Okay." She thought for a second, taking in the atmosphere and his dough stained sleeves. Then she raised her glass and he followed suit.
"To craziness and its inevitable chaos." She offered.
"And the monstrous clean-up that follows."
He added, and they both laughed at this, clanked the tumblers together before downing the alcohol.
She finished first and saw his face contort, in both appreciation and sting, and when he dropped his glass on the table, the dimmer lights wrapped him up in a halo of white-light.
And she feared for a second, that he was gleaming again.
But then he shifted, and she breathes easier.
He commented on the mess, or the day, or his father, but she could only take in his in-front-of-her glory, his silent personified amazing-ness she'd attached to every thought of the secret that she'd buried in her skin.
In a not-meant-for-him world, his reality, right then, had overwhelmed her.
In the same undeniable way it had been lately.
So she reached out her hand, and touched his face, frictioning away the congealed confection at the corner of his mouth with her thumb.
And she'd let her touch linger for seconds too long.
This stunned him, as it seared a prickling heat through her, and as his eyes became a dark blue fire, they enraptured her, burning every part of her body not touching his skin.
She bit down on her sensory knee-jerk reaction, and through some almighty grace, she found the strength to drop her hand.
She didn't want to hurdle over what safe-zone they'd had left.
If there'd been any left at all.
She'd thought of words to say, in the aftermath of the tension humming through her veins, but he settled her struggle.
"How long are we going to not talk about this? About what's happening between us?"
His stare was half-lidded, orbs of tourmaline smoldering in darkness and desire, spiraling her reflex response into a hodge-podge of perplexity.
She couldn't grab on to sound thought.
She hadn't meant for that talk that night, hadn't wanted his invitation for her honesty, because no matter what she'd have said, he'd never get her full confession.
Secrets make the worst of sinners. And guilt cries for retribution.
She'd been too selfish to deserve the want that invaded her; his magnetism bound to the raw side of her soul.
He leaned in closer in response to her silence.
"I'd say it's inevitable at this point, wouldn't you?"
There was a thickness clouding her mind, a pre-panic of his meaning, and she couldn't decide if he was referring to their talk or what could come of it.
"What's inevitable?" She questioned, her voice soft, hoarse and beaten down from her body's violation.
An inner secret drew up the corner of his mouth, a slow, methodical grin that held the same breath-taking mystery as his eyes.
An intrigue she never knew till months later.
Because Rachel will call at that moment, and Ella will wake, and they'd again be behind the line that they kept tip-toeing over.
The whiskey cantor is remarkably smooth, thick cool-at-the-touch aged glass she's running her fingers down the sides of, her thumb's up the front of.
This is a careful attention she's paid since she parked at his curbside, plucked up the libation and stepped onto the sidewalk.
Without aim, she picks at the white label, paper and adhesive that stick to the underside of her fingernail as she leans her back against the passenger side door.
Alcohol eases nerves, they say, so she's whittling down anticipation with this careless redecoration, calming the anxious thump under her ribcage by condensing night air with a long, steady breath.
In her hands is a twenty-three dollar liquor store excuse for visiting him at this hour and in every other part of her, is the overwhelming certainty that brought her here to begin with.
Happiness, the kind she has to create for herself, is fifteen paces in-front of her behind a wood and glass paneled front door.
And she's about to cross it, find for herself what she saw in the eyes of Alice Merchant, what she feels is lingering and hiding below the surface of her self-ridden angst every time she's alone with him.
So fuck fate and its grappling, grimy hands that bleed and bruise what lonely future its predetermined for her.
She's at no one's mercy but her own.
And she's over the self-inflictions that's kept them apart. There's no salt left to press into that her's sharp, jagged cuts. It disappeared with her own relentless self-spite and ruthless self-misery.
There's only healing now. And it starts with her knuckles knocking on his door.
When he answers, he's surprised, taken aback by the visitor and this late night hour.
"I'm sorry, I thought you were Walter," he explains, and as the hall lights engulf him, wrap him up in a two a.m illumination of white-yellow, excitement ambulates her nerve-ends, anticipation that shoots here-there-and-everywhere beneath the surface of her skin.
Light becomes him, in any way, shape or form, by now she knows this, but she still bites her lip on the beauty that's racing her erratic pulse.
She's hotly aware of this physical reaction to her showed-up here motivation, so she rocks back on her heels to cage what primal instinct has her pinning him to the foyer wall.
"Oh, is he missing?" she asks him conversationally, almost awkwardly against her own air of intention.
He stayed down in New York, he tells her this, and when he frowns, asks if she's all right, she's overcome by another certainty that's pushed into her airspace.
She can't feel the remnants anymore, of that fake her, there's no whispering presence lingering in the crevices of this doorway.
It's as if, through sheer will, she's erased all traces, banished them to the same abyss as her pre-decided black-hole of a destiny.
It's solely hers to make of it, her future, and she knows exactly what she wants from it.
A chance at the standing before her personified glory he heats every inch of her flesh with.
She's never known true desire until this moment.
"I might be being presumptuous." She holds up the whiskey bottle, "But I was thinking maybe..."
Intrigued, he nods, "Yeah, sure, I'll get us some glasses."
And he does, setting them on the same island that a year ago, he'd left her scrambling for words at.
It's inevitable, he'd said to her, covered in hard dough and mystery. Even then he'd known chance would lead them here, to an early morning rendezvous disguising what they've never said aloud.
Love binds what's led astray, creates all that's worthwhile. Can give a purpose to two fucked up disasters blindly running after monsters in dark places.
Love is the beauty he'll forever be haloed with.
"To disaster nearly averted." He says, raising his glass, and she smiles, "Or at least postponed."
Her eyes don't leave his, as she sips the liquor, not until she's overwhelmed by inert tenderness, the flecks of gold in grey-green that tear her eyes back to her glass.
There's a stillness enveloping her, a quiet calm she never feels unless he's violated her airspace with his enviable patience.
A promise too, breathes life into her blood, a silent assurance she's stolen from his magnetized-by-her field, a sinking into her of the happiness she begs for, harbored right beneath the seven layers of his skin.
He recognizes what this moment could be.
He's waiting to show her what beautiful feels like.
And she's finally ready to ask.
"Peter, what you said to Mrs. Merchant..." She takes a breath over the electrons firing at every end of her personal spectrum. "I want what you want."
He smiles at her, a curving of his lips that tailspins that calm into a mass hysteria, a rage of heat that shoots from her finger-pads to pool between her pelvic bone.
"What do you think we should do about that then?"
Either lust has no individualization, or on every plane of existence, they're too entwined now for her to tell the difference.
There's no need for distinction now anyway.
Only re-iteration of the desire she sees in his eyes, what she feels beating, wild and crazily, under her sternum.
The beauty his every single cell is composed of.
So she kisses him, a passion borne of what she is and what he's made her, of who they are together and what they could be. This honey flavored press of thin flesh against thin flesh, is a seal to a promise she made walking up to his door.
They're going to make it unscathed after all, in the aftermath of depravity and loneliness, running un-phased anymore from the carnage of that fake her's everything.
His glorious light circumvents her nothingness, finds and rescues her from all her dark places.
A savior for a savior.
His tongue parts her lips as he presses her into him, a flavor of whisky, promise and salvation that plays with her taste-buds to magnify her want for him.
Then she pulls back, in urgent need for the breath that's somewhere in his lungs now.
He kisses her, one last time, before she opens her eyes.
After this kiss, he wasn't glowing, there was no glimmer now to make her question the fears in herself. There was only Peter. Stunning and beautiful, holding her future in the palm of his hand.
Her happy is in the taste of his swollen lips. He put it there, and she's holding on to it.
"Am I glowing?" he asks her, and she shakes her head, smiles.
"No." she tells him, more certain now then ever that knocking on his door tonight was the best choice she's ever made.
For him she'd forsake all others, and she'll show him the depth of such virtuosity.
Love brings hope to the damaged and broken.
And every once and a while, on the rarest occasion, it even has the power to correct completely, what was deemed unmendable.
And so help her god, she felt whole again, in the way his stare becomes half-lidded, she feels her veins come alive, so she takes him by the hand, leads him up the stairs, emphasizes her need for him between bed sheets and the moonlight.
Because love becomes the damaged and broken, is painted on bedroom walls in shadows of passionate creatures once caged, set free to ravage and devour.
In the afterglow of found secrets, freckles and scars discovered in a frenzy of slick skin, love is two souls colliding on every plane of every universe.
Love has become them. And lying here, ragged and spent, under his covers and on top of his chest, she couldn't ask for more glorious proof.
He's undone her completely.
And from now until the end of time, she asks Buddha or God, or William fucking Bell that she can remain under his halo.
Happiness has become her. And she likes the feel of it's warm chest under her cheek, it's steady heartbeat reaching out to her own.
She's addicted to his light, in every illumination of it.
Beauty has become them both.
And she finally knows what it feels like.