My idea of how the inevitable argument that led to Peter in Boston and Olivia in New York happened.
"They need us in New York, Peter," Olivia says tentatively, breaking the silence in the dark living room.
Peter's fingers still on his laptop keys, but he starts tapping away again after a second or two. His eyes strain on the screen because it's the only source of light in the room, casting shadows on his weary face. This is a ritual by now; he spends most afternoons contacting the police forces all over the country to ask if they've had any reports of children found.
He searches across innumerable databases for children matching Etta's description. Most of the time he doesn't even get through to a human, the police forces are expending their efforts trying to deal with the Observers' seizure of power. Even when he does talk to an officer, they are always rushed and dismissive and perfunctory in their sympathy for his situation. It's hard for Peter not to get so furious with them that they put the phone down on him anyway. Often he has to dust off his relatively diminutive knowledge of remote computer hacking to get any information at all.
Nothing ever comes up. Olivia got Broyles to message every FBI field office in the country to keep a look out as a personal favour but every night she still comes home and shakes her head at him. The country and world are in chaos, and it seems like it's enough for one scared little girl to slip under the radar.
She repeats, "Peter, they need us-"
"-In New York, I heard you the first time," he tells her blankly, deleting a line of erroneous code.
There's a tense silence before Olivia says, "Broyles has put it off for as long as he can because-…because of what happened, but the reports are getting worse everyday. The Observers are killing people in the streets like dogs and we're the only ones who have any knowledge or experience of dealing with them. They need us."
"So does Etta," he mutters.
Olivia is silent again. He thinks she's dropped the subject and left, but when she speaks again her voice is closer and quieter. "We're not giving up on her, Peter. As long as we walk this earth, we'll never give up on her. But people are being murdered, and we can't stand back and do nothing. We can carry on searching for Etta in New York-"
"I'm not going to New York, Olivia." He looks up for the first time, the resolve in his voice unshakable. "If we go to New York, we won't focus our every attention on finding Etta. She deserves our every waking second devoted to her, Liv."
Peter swallows the lump in his throat and continues typing. His code is working away at the Texas police department's missing child database, but in the mean time he's writing an email to the Chief of Police in Arizona. He doesn't really expect anything more than an auto-reply from their office, but he's writing anyway—in his recent dealings with police departments, he's learnt that more gets done if he goes straight in at the top, rather than trying to wrangle a junior officer into doing anything at all.
"I know she does," Olivia murmurs, touching his shoulder. "But every person getting killed out there is someone's son or daughter, someone's Etta-"
His head snaps up, a spike of anger rising in him that she was trying to guilt-trip him into effectively abandoning his little girl. Their little girl.
"I'm going to say this one more time so you can understand: I am not going to New York," he says, each word distinct and irate. He pushes the laptop aside, standing up to leave but he's already seeing red so he can't resist having a final poisonous dig at her. "I'm sorry I can't be self-sacrificing and noble like you, Olivia, I'm sorry I can't conveniently 'forget' our little girl is alone and scared somewhere like you seem to."
Olivia reacts explosively in the way he knew she would and there's a part of him that's perversely glad he's gotten a reaction out of her. The last few weeks have seen them stewing silently in their own individual pots of fear and resentment. "How can you say that! You honestly think you're the only one that's suffering, Peter?!" she shouts furiously.
"Sometimes it seems like it!" Peter yells bitterly. Olivia is fuming. They've never shouted at each other like this before. Their arguments in the past have always been good-natured and trivial, like the time Etta wouldn't sleep because Peter let her have a sugary snack before she went to bed. Olivia ribbed him for it, but there was love underneath then. Now it's just a poisonous screaming match. Paradoxically, he's glad Etta isn't around to see her parents like this.
"You don't think it kills me every time I walk into her room and it's empty? You don't think I hurt as well? This is so typical of you, you never think about anybody but yourself!" she accuses, stabbing her finger in the air at him.
"You and your fucking bleeding heart, Olivia, always rushing off to save the world when our own world is crashing and burning around us without Etta! Always playing the tortured heroine! Why can't you save Etta instead?!"
Peter can see the knife twisting in her, his words cutting deep to their full effect but he's too angry to be sorry. He's been stoic and bottling everything up for too long and Olivia's bearing the brunt of it and he's going to hate himself later for doing this to her. He closes his eyes, trying to stop the tears pinpricking his eyes.
"I miss Henrietta," he sobs brokenly, pressing the heels of his hands into his eye sockets. He's out of the house before he even realizes his feet are moving.
Olivia's sitting at the dining table when he gets back from the common where Etta disappeared. He circled it a few times, stopping every time he heard a twig snap, his heart soaring every time he thought Etta might run out of the darkness to him. He is always disappointed.
She doesn't hide the fact she's been crying and as predicted, Peter hates himself. Even when he was unleashing his livid diatribe on her, he knew deep down he was wrong. Olivia's only trying to make sense of the situation they've been forced into in the only way she knows how: by helping people, by being selfless even when it kills her. She's a better and stronger person than he could ever be.
She's twisting her wedding ring distractedly around her finger and fear suddenly floods through him that she'll take it off and ask him for a divorce. She doesn't –or perhaps, can't- look at him.
He sits opposite her and swallows his fear. "I'm sorry, Olivia. I didn't mean what I said; I haven't slept properly in God knows how long. I-I was wrong to take it out on you."
Olivia nods. "Walter, Astrid and I are going to New York tomorrow morning," she tells him quietly.
"I'm gonna stay—you know, hold down the fort," he says as casually as he can manage. They both know what he really means.
"Maybe…maybe it'll be good for us, being apart for a while," she hedges. Peter knows already that it won't be, and he gets the sinking feeling they'll be apart for longer than either of them realizes right now but he nods anyway. Olivia stands and walks towards the stairs, before turning to say, "I'm going early tomorrow morning so I'll ring you when I get there to check in."
"Olivia-" he forces out. She stops on the stairs. "I love you."
"I love you too," she says, without looking back. It's only slightly hollow.
Peter can't help but feel like the worst has come. He and Olivia will be apart from tomorrow until God only knows when and he'll be puttering around this house on his own. It feels too big for him without Olivia and Etta in it, he feels like it'll swallow him whole. He notices how Olivia subtly twists away from him when he gets into their bed that night (neither of them sleeps much, but they keep up the pretence of normality) but he takes the hurt her action incurs without protest. He can't seem to protect anything he loves anymore; his child, his marriage. He wonders what will be next to go—Walter, probably.
'It means keep your people close. Take care of the people you care about.'
'Well, you're good at that.'