Disclaimer: I would like to say that I at least own my feels, but I'm afraid Fringe has taken possession of them, too.
Spoilers: Up to 5x01 'Transcilience..." oh you know.
A/N: The premiere gave me a lot of Peter/Olivia feels and a lot of Olivia/Etta feels (plus Peter/Etta obviously but I've had time to deal with those since 4.19 xD). So basically, this is me attempting to deal with the feels.
There is an allusion to something that we see in the promo for 5x02, but that's it, I don't know anything else about the episode.
OF DUST AND LULLABIES
The air smelled heavily of dust.
Yet again, it was the overall quality of the air that was different, modified by these machines pumping carbon dioxide into the sky, machines the Observers had implanted all over the world while Olivia was…'sleeping'.
That was one thing she didn't seem able to do much, these days, but she doubted it was because she had already lost over twenty years of her life in a dormant state. A lot of things had changed while she was in the Amber, but her old habits had not.
Olivia never slept well. She never had, and never would.
As far as she could remember, nights had always been a time for her when she would simply lie there in her bed, staring at the shadows on her ceiling; she always had something to worry about, her mind never at rest. And things to worry about were abundant right now.
Everything felt wrong tonight. Even Peter's body, only a short distance away from hers, felt foreign. Olivia never thought there would ever come a time in her life when being in a bed with him would feel so odd, and yet, there they were.
The fact that they were in their old bedroom, in a bed that hadn't been slept in in over twenty years, sure didn't help. After some searching, she had found a bunch of sheets in their closet that had been isolated enough to still be usable.
But everything felt wrong.
She kept thinking about the last moments she and Peter had spent in this house, in the aftermath of Etta's disappearance, about how broken everything had been.
She constantly had to remind herself that she had her daughter back, now. A daughter who was not three anymore but twenty-four, irremediably changed and shaped by the two decades she had spent growing up on her own in this hellish world, but her daughter nonetheless.
She felt it in her bones every time she looked at her, every time she saw the blue of Peter's irises looking back at her, with eyes that were shaped more like her own. And that one and only time she had held her against her, she had felt it in the way her heart had broken and healed at the same time; her baby girl wasn't completely lost, after all.
What Olivia was quickly learning, though, was that a lot had been lost. After the events of the day, she had realized her daughter had inherited much more from her than just the shape of her eyes or her jaw line.
There was a darkness in her eyes Olivia had hoped she would never have to see.
Everything in this house was dusty, but her memories of what used to be were not. Her daughter and the innocence that used to radiate out of her was no exception.
She could still feel Etta crawling into bed with them in the middle of the night. Even though she had been a daddy's girl –and still was- she would always reach for her instead of Peter.
"It's too dack in my woom, mama," she would whisper in her sweet toddler voice, curling up against her chest and burying her nose into her shirt, clutching the fabric in her tiny fingers.
"It's alright, baby girl," Olivia would soothe her, her hand finding its way into the soft velvet of her hair, stroking it slowly. "I'll keep you safe." And she would sing, quietly, always the same lullaby, the one she had been singing to her since the day she was born.
After she was taken, being in this bed had been a travesty. Hell, being in this house had been nothing but a lie. Etta had left an indelible mark on every object and in every corner of their home, in the toys they hadn't put away that day before they headed out to the park, in the bottle of baby shampoo in the shower, or in that Disney toothbrush on their bathroom's sink.
And then, there were her drawings, a countless number of drawings that she had left on chairs or on her bedroom's floor, when they weren't covering the fridge's door. Olivia remembered stepping onto one of her crayola crayons, maybe a week after the Purge; when she had seen the pastel on the floor –the yellow one, her favorite, and seen the broken pieces at her feet, it had been her turn to finally break.
If things had been different, maybe she wouldn't have spent the rest of the night in that hallway, sitting on the ground with her lower back to the wall and her head against her knees, her shoulders shaking while her heart bled out.
If things had been different, Peter would have been there with her, in their hollow house, here to share her pain, to carry some of her sorrow, maybe, like she would have carried some of his.
But Peter hadn't come home, that night; Peter never came home anymore, lost in a race that would never end. And so Olivia had cried, alone, because she had broken her baby's favorite crayon, and her baby was gone.
Shortly after that, Olivia had gone, too, gone to save the world, since she couldn't save her family. She had left behind her husband and her wedding ring, none of which had had much meaning left anymore.
They had simply been so incapable of communicating, back then, even wordlessly, something they had always been so good at in the past.
They used to be so close, especially after having Etta, so aware of each other's needs on a very carnal level. After going through so much together, Olivia had honestly felt like nothing could ever make their foundation shake again.
But now, in the new, bleaker light of this future they were in, she understood. It was only logical that losing what had brought them so close together was what had torn them apart in the end.
When they had lost Etta, they had lost everything.
Highly disliking the depressing pattern of her thoughts at that instant, Olivia shuffled under the blanket, still mindful of Peter's proximity on the other side of the bed. When she realized just how tensed she was, and how ridiculous this whole situation was, with her desperately trying not to cause an inch of her skin to brush the man with whom she had a child, she let out a loud, frustrated sigh.
"This was not the greatest idea," Peter spoke behind her, in that half-whispered voice they would always use in that room. She obviously wasn't the only one who couldn't find sleep in here. Not like this.
"Not remotely," she agreed, her thumb pressing hard upon that spot between her closed eyes.
After spending some crazy thirty hours or so in Harvard and around, it had been decided that they should all try and get a few hours of sleep before heading back to New York. For some reason, someone had mentioned going to their old house –probably Walter, who was now sleeping soundly in the guest room, which was how they had all ended up here.
The fact that she and Peter had found themselves in this room had more to do with their daughter's glare when Olivia had suggested that Etta should take the master bedroom. After the row they'd had a few hours ago, Olivia hadn't wanted to make things worse by shoving in her face just how dysfunctional her parents' relationship currently was.
Sighing again, she finally moved, turning from her side to her back. Glancing sideways, she saw that Peter had adopted a similar position. He was also shamelessly staring at her, their eyes briefly meeting in the dim light. She hurriedly brought her gaze back up to the ceiling, though; she didn't have the will or the courage to deal with 'this' right now, not when she was already agonizing over her most recent woes.
She nibbled thoughtfully at her bottom lip, unconsciously twisting her fingers together, wondering if their daughter had been more successful than them in falling asleep.
She wondered so many things about Etta.
"You should go talk to her."
Slightly surprised, she turned her head to look at him again. She really shouldn't be surprised, though; he had always possessed this eerie ability to almost read her thoughts, at times. Right now, he was still staring at her with these burning eyes of his, a look that still managed to dissolve her insides, even after all these years, and no matter the situation.
"What?" she asked with a frown.
"Etta," he said, matter-of-factly. "I know the two of you had a bit of fight, today."
She tilted her head, offering him a suspicious look. He was good, but he wasn't that good. "Alright, I know you've always been very perceptive, but how could you possibly know that? You weren't even in that part of the building."
He shrugged a little, smiling a bit apologetically. "Etta told me." Olivia let out a disgruntled huff at that, turning her head away to stare back at the ceiling. "I didn't prod or anything," he defended himself. "I saw she was upset, so I asked her what was wrong, and she said you'd yelled at her."
Olivia's body span around so fast that it made the rusty bed spring under the mattress creak noisily. She stared at him, deeply affronted by what she had just heard. "I did not yell at her," she protested in a loud whisper, before adding in aggravation: "This is such a Bishop thing to do, to over-dramatize everything."
To her dismay, Peter seemed to find her reaction more amusing than anything else; he was actually smiling a little, not offended in the least by her last remark. "You can't really be that socked," he said with a soft chuckle. "That's been one of her most prominent trait ever since she's been old enough to frown at us."
The vibrant memory of her very young daughter frowning at her with the most disapproving and impressive pout on her face instantly made all of her frustration disappear. She fell back upon the mattress, probably sending some dust flying in the air by doing so, her heart and mind now filling with a sweeter kind of memories.
"Remember how she would always telltale on me like that?" She asked softly, even though there really was no wondering if he remembered. "She systematically ran to you whenever she asked me something and I said no."
"That doesn't seem to have changed much," he pointed out, just as lost as her in remembrance. "And she would always come and get me whenever she realized you were trying to cook."
Olivia could't help but chuckle affectionately at the thought. She found herself yearning so deeply for this, then, for what they'd had together, the three of them, yet another illusion at a normal life.
Before long, the warmth of the memories turned into a throbbing ache, and her smile vanished completely as her face constricted. She closed her eyes, bringing a hand up to her face, trying her best to stop the sudden welling of her tears.
Peter didn't say a word, well aware of her resurfacing distress. She wished he would reach for her, now craving for the comfort of his touch, for the familiarity of his body against hers, and of his scent in her lungs.
But they both remained quiet and still.
"This is so odd, Peter…" she whispered after a while, still not trusting herself to speak any louder. "I know we've jumped twenty years in time but…to me, it feels like we were here in this bed less than three months ago, that we were here with our little girl…" Despite her best efforts, she felt a few tears escape her closed eyelids, but she let them roll down her temples in two burning trails, knowing the lack of light would conceal them, knowing he had seen it all before. "We were happy," she murmured, because they had been. "And then, all there was was that black hole…"
"You mean the Amber?" He asked softly after another long pause.
Olivia dropped the hand she had pressed to her forehead and turned her head slowly, reopening her eyes to look at him. He was so close to her, and yet, they had rarely felt so far from one another.
She shook her head very faintly, a painful smile constricting her face again. "No," she said. "I mean what came before."
Maybe someday, she would tell him about her twenty years in Amber, about how it hadn't been the hell it could have been, the hell it probably was for him. She had remembered just in time that Ambered victims were 'trapped' in their last thought. And so she had thought of him, as the smoke solidified around her.
She had thought of him, and of their baby girl; she had thought of their family on a simple day, a day like they'd had so many in the past three years, one month and five days.
Like she had told Etta, there hadn't been one moment she hadn't thought about her.
That black hole she was referring to was these few weeks that had followed Etta's disappearance, weeks that had seemed to last longer to her than any stretch of time she had spent stuck in Amber.
She knew he had felt it, too.
They had both lost the same piece of their heart, that day in the park.
"Go talk to her," he told her softly, the intensity of his gaze unrelenting.
They were acutely aware of the fact that a moment like this one, with the two of them alone and in a place that made them feel both vulnerable and open, maybe even ready to discuss what had happened between them, would probably not present itself again for a long, very long time.
But a moment like this one might not present itself again for Olivia and Etta either, and right now, Peter knew what she needed, most of all.
And the way he understood it without her needing to say a single word was what allowed Olivia to believe that someday, if the world gave them a chance, they would find a way to heal.
As Olivia walked through the dark hallway, her feeling of déjà-vu felt as dusty as every surface she laid her eyes on.
She had walked by Etta's room without entering it. The door had been slightly ajar, and she had glanced inside just long enough to see that she wasn't in it anymore, when she had been so prompt to lock herself in there upon arriving, a few hours ago.
Olivia's eyes had quickly roamed the abandoned room, taking it all in. It was yet another place that felt so utterly familiar to her, all the while having been drastically altered by the twenty years that had passed, in the most subtle ways.
She hadn't entered what used to be her baby's nursery before they had turned it into a child's room, because she had feared that it would taint all of her memories, shattering away what little was left of their innocence.
It was a good way to describe how she felt about Etta, too.
Unsurprisingly, her daughter was not sleeping.
She had moved to the living room, having spread a somewhat clean sheet over the couch. She wasn't even trying to sleep; sitting on her makeshift bed, she was looking down at a bunch of papers she had scattered all over the coffee table.
Olivia's heart started racing at the sight of her, the way it always did whenever she looked at her, now. She was constantly overwhelmed with such a wide range of conflicting emotions, having to reconcile this grown woman she was seeing with the image of her little girl. But she was also embracing the fact that her disappearance was a thing of the past, now -and of a distant one at that. She was getting a second chance.
She simply couldn't help but wonder if she had anything worthy left to give to this brave, intrepid and gorgeous young woman in front of her.
Even though Olivia had been discreetly observing her from the shadows, Etta must have been feeling watched, because she eventually raised her head and met her mother's eyes. Olivia didn't fail to notice how she was clenching her necklace in her hand, the way she often was.
She offered her daughter a cautious smile. "You relocated," she noted quietly.
"Yeah," Etta nodded, already dropping her eyes, but never dropping the bullet. "It was just a bit too weird to try and sleep in my old toddler's room, you know, even for me. I'm not much of a sleeper, anyway," she shrugged, glancing tentatively at her as Olivia started walking closer to where she was sitting.
"You never were," Olivia said, still smiling faintly. "As a child, I mean," she added almost hastily, stopping next to the couch and holding onto herself tightly.
Once again, she felt completely off balance with the situation, the thought of all these years she had missed more than a little painful. That unbearable feeling of having failed her was even more accentuated after the argument they'd had earlier.
Etta was bluntly staring up at her now, and Olivia could only wait for her reaction, wait to see if they could move passed what had happened today in the lab. She could very well decide to shut her out once and for all, declaring their relationship permanently damaged, or simply not worth the effort.
Olivia wouldn't blame her.
To her most intense relief, Etta offered her a small smile instead, tilting her head slightly, before looking back down. "Apparently, I used to love to draw, too."
For the first time since she had entered the room, Olivia actually looked at the papers Etta had been studying, and her heart missed a beat when she realized that she had collected most of the drawings she had made, what only felt like a few weeks ago to Olivia.
The papers had aged indeed, the white sheets having darkened and rippled slightly, but almost miraculously, the colorful sketches she had drawn on them had barely faded.
Olivia let out a wobbly breath, briefly bringing her fingers up to her lips; when she realized that her reaction was making Etta anxious, she forced herself to smile, dropping her hand to wrap her arms around herself again, and nodding a bit too briskly. "You did," she confirmed, her voice slightly hoarse. "You were quite the young artist, actually."
As Etta looked down again, Olivia walked to her on shaky legs and sat down beside her.
"You don't like to draw anymore?" she asked tentatively, remembering the way she had noted she used to love to draw.
Etta shook her head, still staring at the drawings. "I…don't really know, actually. Pen and paper have become all kind of obsolete, and as a kid, you learned very quickly that it was neither smart nor safe to show any kind of creativity around Them."
Olivia briefly closed her eyes, pinching her lips together, overcome with that intense desire to reach back in time and find her little girl, this time. To hold her in her arms and give her a new box of crayons and a coloring pad, telling her all about the virtue of having a healthy imagination.
It was terrifying, to realize how many things had been robbed from her, while her parents remained untouched in their immutable prisons.
Olivia reopened her eyes, grateful for the fact that Etta had been too absorbed in what she was looking at to notice the sorrow that had taken hold of her again.
Her gaze fell upon the drawing Etta was now holding up. The shapes she had drawn were typical of what her 'style' had been at the time. She saw herself with Peter, two stick figures who were differentiated by her abundant yellow hair and Peter's brown 'stubble', which always ended being a heavy beard on these sketches. Their wobbly house could also be seen, as well as a few bushy trees. In between her parents, Etta had drawn herself with a blue dress and two ponytails.
She had also drawn another tiny person next to her, a small figure with Peter's brown hair and Olivia's green eyes, who was 'holding' Etta's hand.
"I apparently drew him on a lot of these," Etta said, pointing at the other sheets on the table.
Olivia smiled a very pained smile; she was genuinely moved by the sight of this not-so-distant memory, but thinking about it was like hammering a nail deeper in her heart.
"That," she said, taking the paper from Etta to get a closer look at it, "is your brother."
Under any other circumstances, the intense shock and confusion that then appeared on Etta's face would have been almost comical. It really wasn't, though. "My...brother?" She almost stammered.
"Well, the one you decided you were gonna have that year, anyway," Olivia explained more clearly, and looking at Etta's astounded expression, she smiled at her warmly. "The moment you turned three, you declared your father and I needed to make you a brother, so you started adding him to all your pictures, apparently thinking it would greatly influence our decision."
Etta had taken the drawing back, and was now staring at it with eyes that were wide and too bright. It was obvious that she was trying to remember this, and probably failing.
Olivia had no problem remembering it. She remembered so much more than what she had just told her.
She remembered how their daughter, in all her innocence, kept suggesting that they should name him Henry, because her name was Henrietta, and that way they would match. She still saw in her mind's eyes the look that would cross Peter's face every time she said this, and the look they would always exchange then, unable to shake off the feeling that somehow, their girl had known.
What Olivia knew as well was that the idea of having another child with Peter hadn't seemed so far stretched at the time, and that it surely would have come to be, eventually.
They had been happy, and the thought of making another perfect little soul with him had been a beautiful dream.
But the dream had turned into nightmare, and now, she had to accept that it was yet another thing that would never be.
"I'm sorry…" Olivia said softly, looking at her daughter's fine profile.
Etta looked up from the drawing to meet her eyes. "For what?" She asked just as quietly.
Talking about this was excruciatingly hard, but she would never forgive herself if she didn't at least try. "For what happened today at the lab," she said, her voice constricting with emotions. "I didn't mean to…upset you. I had no right to judge you in any way. But…" she briefly closed her eyes, shaking her head. "You have to understand...how difficult it is for me to accept that you had to grow up alone, that you had no other choice than to harden so much."
There still were so many things she wished she could explain to her. She wanted to tell her about all these hopes she'd had for her when she was born, and every day after that. Because what parents didn't hope for their child's life to be devoid of pain and suffering?
What parents didn't imagine them a life without hardships, a life that would take any path but the one they had taken themselves?
And deep inside, Olivia knew it was one of the many reasons why Peter had refused so adamantly to give up on finding Etta to come to New York with her.
Peter had been a child ripped away from his world, a child taken away from his family. How could he ever accept the same fate for his daughter?
And how could Olivia ever accept the fact that her daughter had grown up on her own, and that as a result of being thrown alone into this war long before she was old enough to read, there would probably always be more darkness in her eyes than there would be hope?
The child who had crept into their room and climbed into bed with them so that her mom would keep that darkness away with songs was long gone, now.
Olivia hadn't been expecting the feel of Etta's fingers, as she tentatively reached for them on her lap. Etta gently squeezed her hand in hers, raising her head to meet her gaze again, with blue eyes that shined with tears; but they also shined with so much more.
"I'm not alone anymore, mama..." she said softly, with an hesitant, quivering smile.
Am I? was what her watery eyes were really asking.
She was seeking reassurance from her, with a sincerity that felt as pure to her as it had when she was three.
Olivia understood then that no matter how brave and intrepid her daughter was, there would always be some things only she as her mother could give her. And she had so much to give, over twenty years worth of it.
Maybe lullabies would not work anymore, but there were other ways for her to help her child find peace.
Because underneath it all, beneath her tough skin and fearless bravado, she could still see her chubby cheeks, and two beautiful eyes that were filled to the brim with dreams and hopes, for herself and for their world.
Just like her drawings, her baby had darkened and rippled through the passage of time, but the colors of her soul hadn't faded in the least.
And so Olivia brought a gentle hand to her daughter's face, tenderly cupping her cheek in her palm, and her heart sighed in relief when Etta sank into her touch.
"No, baby..." she murmured. "You're not alone anymore."
And that was one promise she intended to keep.
A/N: Reviews are always truly appreciated :))