Disclaimer: I own a poster of Anna Torv in her bikini, does it count?
Spoilers: All the way up to 5x05 "An Origin Story"
Rating: T for some nakedness/smuttiness
A/N: I have to stop trying to write post-episode stories and making it a race against myself to finish it before the next episode airs, this is not good for my sanity, or for my studies. But once I started this one, I had to finish it. I'm very sleep deprived and emotionally drained, forgive me. This takes place directly after 5x05 ends. I needed Peter and Olivia to try and deal with their loss together, so of course it involves some nakedness. Nothing that should make you blush too hard ;)
An enormous thank you to Ferris for her help. And to you all, faithful readers, for sticking with me :')
It is the sound of Etta's laughter that wakes her up.
Olivia's first coherent thought is that she's imagining it; she must be. As her mind begins to clear, though, she also hears her baby's voice, full of glee and chuckles, and it instantly sends a powerful surge of hope through her entire being. The feeling is so strong that she's unable to breathe for a moment, her throat closing up and blocking the air in her lungs.
But she opens her eyes, then, and that fleeting hope disappears at once. She's left feeling weak and cold, as she realizes where she is, and what it is she's been hearing. Her renewed heartache is mixed with confusion, certain that she had paused the tape before falling asleep, not understanding what has caused it to play again –or where the blanket now covering her has come from, until her vision adjusts, and another kind of relief flows through her.
The TV remains the only source of light in the room, but it is more than her eyes need; the moving image draws shadows on the office's walls, and shadows all over Peter's face, who is sitting bent over at the edge of his chair, with his face only inches away from the screen, one of his hands cupping the back of his neck. The other one, she notices right away, rests on the edge of the monitor, the way hers had been.
He probably hasn't been back for long, as the video is still in its first minutes. She guesses he walked in there to find her asleep on the couch, had put a blanket over her before noticing what she had been watching. After going through the whole tape a couple more times, each screening more painful than the previous one, she had stopped the image on a clear shot of Etta's face, as clear as it could get on this, her chubby, grinning face covered with frosting. When she had lain back on the couch, she had doubted she would find sleep again, despite her exhaustion, her eyes fixed on the screen. She obviously had, though, lulled by the painful pounding of heart against her ears, her thoughts back on Peter, truly afraid that she had failed to reach him despite her pleas for him to come back.
Now awake again, her heart still hurts incessantly, all too aware of the fact that this horrible nightmare remains her reality, but there also is a genuine and intense relief that runs through her blood, appeasing some of her darkest thoughts.
Peter has come home.
It is late into the night now; the entire lab is dark, lacking that peculiar orange glow that permeates the place during the day, when sunlight bounces off the Amber. Everything would be quiet, too, if not for the sound of Etta's and Peter's voices, as they tease each other endlessly, the way they always would. Olivia doesn't say much in that video, but it's nothing unusual; she used to be so perfectly content, simply watching them kid around, often wondering which of the two was the actual child.
Peter's face looks ghostly in that fluorescent, shifting light, his skin worryingly pale, if not for the nasty bruises that have blossomed under his skin, vestige of their earlier fight with an Observer. His entire body is slumped forward in defeat as he stares at the screen. More than his physical appearance, what little she sees of his expression is enough to break her heart even more. It is that same morbid fascination she had felt herself, wanting to take her eyes away from the screen, to throw the tape out, to destroy it, but ultimately only managing to watch a little longer, rewinding and watching again, trying to get back what was just beyond her reach on the other side of the screen. She sees the same longing on his face, the same sorrow.
She lets him watch the rest of the video without giving him any indication that she's awake. She keeps her eyes on his face, keeping track of the progression of the video by listening to the dialogue, remembering all of it herself with agonizing clarity. She lets him watch as they help Etta open the rest of her presents. She lets him watch as on the screen, father and daughter start feeding each other big pieces of icing, intentionally missing the other's mouth, which leads to many more fits of giggles from their three year old, who quickly ends up with her face mostly covered with white and pink frosting.
Soon, Olivia is jokingly pointing out the fact that she's going to need a bath now, which leads Etta to escape from her seat by slipping under the table and running off to another room, shouting "NO WAY NO WAY NO WAY!" as she does so, followed by Peter teasingly telling Olivia: "Way to ruin her perfect day, honey. Now she's gonna go put icing all over the couch just to spite you." After a short, thoughtful pause, both parents are up on their feet and hurrying to the family room, realizing how true that statement is, abandoning the camera to film their empty seats and a table full of discarded wrapping paper and pieces of cake.
Peter pushes a button, and the screen goes black, plunging the room into darkness. As Olivia's eyes slowly adjust to this new lack of luminosity, she keeps her gaze on his silhouette. He bends his head, his chin coming to rest on his chest, one hand soon going up to his face in a defeated gesture, still not letting go of his nape; he looks absolutely beaten down.
She calls his name softly, almost as if afraid to disturb the thick silence that now dominates the room. It is something she has noticed many times before, how silence becomes almost palpable in moments like this, just like the absence of light.
She sits back up on the couch, and the return of this suffocating darkness makes her crave for a more solid proof of Peter's presence. She needs to feel that he's here with her, in this hell, yearning for his warmth and the comfort of his touch.
He doesn't even flinch at the sound of her voice, as if he already knew she was awake; he probably did. They've always been oddly perceptive about these things.
He drops his hand and turns his head to look at her. Even without light, when their eyes meet, she knows that what they are experiencing is very similar, both rubbed raw by the sight of what they once were, of what has been torn away from them again. When their gazes lock, though, she is reminded that not everything is lost.
They are in this together, if they allow themselves to be there for each other, what they had failed to do what only feels like a few months ago to her.
They might just make it through this time.
She isn't able to tell which of them is the first to stand up; it doesn't matter much. The only thing that matters is that they do. They reach out for each other, wrapping themselves into a firm and tight embrace that is more than slightly desperate, fingers twisting fabric and getting lost into hair.
The moment Olivia is in his arms, though, most of her oppressing feelings begin to fade. In each other's arms, the darkness always becomes their ally, shielding them from the rest of the world, hidden in plain sight from unwanted eyes.
There is a gentle, rocking motion to their embrace, one that follows the aching rhythm of their hearts, the ups and downs of their breathing. The way they sway is the physical embodiment of the pain coursing through them both, as well as a futile attempt to comfort the other.
Olivia notices almost right away just how tense Peter's entire body is, his muscles rock hard against her and under her palms, feeling the small tremors that ripple just beneath his skin. What she quickly notices as well is the pungent smell imbibed in his shirt, a combination of sweat and what she recognizes as some sort of blood residue; that metallic tinge is unmistakable.
She has to fight the swift and smothering return of her anxiety, wondering yet again what he has been doing in New York on his own. She keeps her nose pressed into his shirt, because ultimately, underneath it all, the scent is still his and his presence here with her matters more than what he might be concealing from her.
She knows herself to be completely biased when it comes to Peter, especially right now when she's holding on by a thread herself, but she believes in him, and she wants to believe in them. He has kept things from her before, but has always come around in the end. She will give him that time, if that is what he needs.
From the way he breathes too loudly into her hair she realizes that what she had quickly deciphered as signs of pain are more than just the emotional kind; he's physically hurting, too.
She slightly pulls away from him, gently bringing her hands up to his face. It's still too dark for her to make out many details, but that same pain is constricting his traits. She feels it, too, under her fingertips as she lets her fingers travel, how tensed his jaw is, that twitching muscle at his temple. Her nails graze his stubble and soon, she's noticing the troubling dampness of his skin, a feverish sweatiness she finds in his hair as well when she runs her fingers through it. Under her soft ministrations, he closes his eyes, his forehead coming to rest against hers, his breathing still too laborious.
A few more moments go by before she moves again. Without a single word, she softly kisses his face, a hand cupping the back of his head, her lips lingering at the corner of his mouth where blood has dried up hours ago. Taking his hand in hers, she quietly leads them through the silent lab until they reach the bathroom, locking the door behind them.
She only briefly turns the ceiling light on, as the sudden brightness causes Peter to let out a pained grunt, swiftly covering his eyes with a shaky hand. She opts for the dimmer light over the sink instead, giving him time to adjust to the new lighting as she turns the water on in the shower to let it warm up.
When she goes back to him, his eyes are still tightly closed, his face constricted in pain, and her heart sinks now that she sees him more clearly. He looks worse than she initially thought, his skin definitely too pale, if not for where his flesh has bruised or for the deep and worrisome hollows that have formed under his eyes.
He looks so wretched that she has no other choice but to bring her hands back to his face. He reopens his eyes, and even though she was expecting to read this equal amount of misery and fury in his gaze, the intensity of it all still hurts her profoundly. Of the two of them, he's the one who outwardly has been dealing the most 'efficiently' with their daughter's death, leaping into action any chance they got, while she has mostly felt like sleeping through it all. But she knows what this behavior has been hiding. She knows him.
In many ways, the blow might have been even harder on him. As usual, Olivia had been wary and hesitant for a long time upon getting Etta back, unable to truly believe that this was going to last, because good things rarely ever do. Peter had embraced it all, embraced this 'second chance' their family had been given, offering all of his heart to their little girl, who had grown up to become this beautiful, stubborn, and courageous young woman.
One gunshot later, he was rocking her lifeless body against him.
And while Olivia will instinctively always fight to keep her pain hidden deep inside herself, his pain does the opposite. It takes over him so completely in the most ruthless manner, manifesting itself with terrifying anger and stubborn recklessness, and an insatiable thirst for revenge.
"I have experience with this…this sort of pain, and you can't escape it by building walls around your heart. Or by breaking the universe. Or by vengeance."
She understands Walter's words, and knows how true they are.
In order for them to survive this, they must face this pain together, this legacy Etta has left them. They have to let go of these mechanisms, of her need to bury it all while she focuses on saving what can still be saved, that same world Peter wants to burn to the ground to avenge what they've lost.
Olivia's walls might already be fissuring and crumbling, but it will take much more than an old birthday video to pull Peter out of the dark pit he has fallen in. She won't give up, though. They have lost each other once before, and in the past, long before the Purge and long before Etta, there had been times when they could have broken apart, but didn't. They didn't because one of them always refused to give up, holding on tight to what they were, or what they could be.
Tonight, Olivia holds on to what they had, to what they still are. She will hold on to him with everything she has. For all intents and purposes, Peter is all she has left.
Him, and that merciless pain they share.
Again, there is no need for her to say this out loud, even if she could; he reads it in her eyes and all over her face. It is in her actions, too, as she lets go of his face to grab his shirt, carefully yet decisively starting to pull on it. He doesn't fight her, willingly following her lead as she pulls it over his head and drops it on the floor. When she splays both her hands on his bare chest, almost tentatively at first, he closes his eyes again, letting out another shaky breath, instinctively grabbing both her arms.
There is no hesitancy on his side when he pulls her close, bringing their faces together, pressing his nose against hers. Within seconds, both his hands are back in her hair, fisting it firmly, almost painfully, but she doesn't care, if not for the way her eyes prickle excruciatingly, a mournful reaction she cannot help but fight, time and time again.
She feels lightheaded, the feel of his warm breath against her lips and of his chest under her palms causing invigorating shivers to break free beneath her skin. Even gifted and cursed with a heightened memory like hers, she had almost forgotten how this felt. She had forgotten that other sensations still existed besides the throbbing ache of loss and concern.
That is one feeling she doesn't stop, one she doesn't want to fight, the sheer physical relief at feeling him so close. She welcomes it, lets it flow through her, lets it overtake her completely, focusing solely on the force he's exerting on her through his firm grip, a force she matches equally now. There is a renewed energy forming around and between them, a quiet current that starts to fill the air, just like the steam emanating from the hot water.
They have been so engulfed in their sorrow these past couple of days that any physical contact they've had until now has been purely comforting, just like that hug they shared only minutes ago. In the wake of Etta's death, it is like all of the tension that had often arisen between them these past few weeks whenever they found themselves alone or too close had simply been sucked out of the air, sucked out of them, replaced by a paralyzing numbness.
But as she lets herself be swallowed by the feel of him, by the realization that she still has the ability to feel alive, Olivia understands that this tension has never truly left; and now, raw with grief and unadulterated needs, it's tearing holes in any numbness that might have remained, this sensation exacerbated by the few words she had said to him only hours ago.
"Etta would want us to be together, you know? She would want us to survive this."
There are things to be said, discussions they need to have, and they will. But there is no point now, not when they are at the verge of falling apart, faced with that one choice they never really had the first time around: to fall together, or to fall on their own.
She chooses in that moment to silence the pain, what she's been trying to achieve ever since the warehouse, briefly replacing her cold apathy with something warm and comforting as she presses her lips to his. He responds keenly, pulling her even closer to him, his fingers still buried deep in her hair, the feeling almost as new as it is familiar; above all, it is thrilling, exhilarating, almost reviving.
They don't speak as they sporadically break apart to discard of their clothes, preferring the quiet communication that occurs between their darkened gazes and shivering bodies every time they touch. They eventually step into the shower stall, seeking refuge in the small space that has now completely filled up with warm and foggy steam. It envelopes them, surrounds them, hides them from sight the way darkness had a short while ago, except that the shadows have been replaced by the intoxicating heat of his skin against her own as they unhurriedly rediscover each other under the strong spray.
No matter how enthralled she progressively becomes, Olivia remains mindful of Peter's state, not forgetting why she led him here in the first place, and quite honestly in need of it herself on a mere physical level. They let the warm water wash off their skins, let it carry away any traces of fear, blood, and death that pervade their flesh.
She had grabbed a bar of soap, but it quickly becomes clear that there is no concrete purpose in the way she draws abstract patterns over his limbs, across his chest, or along the wide expanse of his back. They fully appreciate the slick, foamy layer that soon forms between them, though, easing the caress of their skins, making her feel like she's turning into something supple and malleable, morphing to match the shape of his body, like he matches her own.
Peter clearly doesn't care much about her attempts at washing them, his mind definitely set on something else, though she doubts it is his mind that is in charge, judging by the way he systematically keeps her from refocusing; every time she moves away slightly, he pins her back to him, always more resolutely. Eventually, she simply stops trying, the soap having slipped from her hand so she can meet his swelling fervor, her fingers travelling over landscapes she still knows by heart. She surrenders to the reassuring familiarity of his flesh, one of his arms wrapped possessively around her. She's rocked by the fast drum of her heart, now pulsing adamantly somewhere deep within herself, his face pressed into her neck, his nose tracing lines between her clavicle and the base of her jaw, and it is a slow, slow burn.
The heat grows steadily, exponentially, rapidly surpassing that of the water. She is suspended in a warm, mellow state. She feels like she's being carried away, even though she's tethered to him so completely; he's fully hard against her now, a reaction that was expected and awaited, and it only increases their mutual need to let their bodies merge at last. Her movements definitely become more purposeful as she wraps an arm around his shoulders, pushing herself up on her toes to cause the strong and unambiguous meeting of their hipbones. She resolutely moves against him, rolls into him, slick and ablaze against his hard-on.
His groan is muffled in the crook of her neck, one of his hands grabbing her buttocks and squeezing it firmly, using his grasp on her to propel her body higher, initiating a new thrust of their hips. She's barely able to hold back a moan of her own when she feels the way their balance shifts dangerously, her weight causing him to tilt backward, having lost their stability; she knows the instant it happens that he won't be able to keep them up, having both neglected the fact that the floor has become slippery with soap and that he's weaker than usual.
But the inevitable stumble and fall she's expecting never comes, and she cannot comprehend how Peter manages to move them around so fast. One moment, they are slipping, and the next, Peter is pinning her to the wall, the tiles ice cold against her back. Despite her confusion and the sudden thermal shock, a new surge of heat instantly spreads through her limbs, pressed as she is between him and the wall; both her arms have instinctively slipped under his to grab his shoulders, trying to maintain a better balance in this new precarious stance.
It only takes her a few hazy seconds to realize that Peter's behavior has changed drastically, as well as his entire body language. He has slammed one of his hands against the wall near her head, clearly for support, as his whole body tenses up, shaking violently. His face is still hidden against her neck when he emits a new sound, one that is definitely not of pleasure but of pain, and it becomes obvious that he can barely keep himself up; he gets heavier, his weight almost crushing her now.
That shift is as shocking and unexpected to her as the puzzling way he had managed to move them from their unsteady position to something sturdier. This pain has descended upon him without any warning, none that she has noticed at least, and this breach is all it takes for the other kind of agony to slip back in, the kind they had managed to keep away for a while. She's swift to join him in his misery, too attuned to him, too battered up and weak to even try and fight it. She begins to doubt she will be able to stay on her feet for long either, as these feelings are more suffocating than Peter's heavy body upon her.
But she clings to him, one arm tightly wrapped around his waist while her other hand cups the back of his neck, her mouth pressed to his shoulder, her face constricted in pain again. She feels it, then, under her fingertips, the small but unmistakable trace of some kind of recent wound on his nape. And she worries; she worries about him, about what has happened to him, about what he's not telling her, and she feels helpless, not knowing how to reach that part of him.
Still, she refuses to let him go.
She buries her fingers in his hair in a soothing caress, moving her lips from his shoulder to his jaw.
"It's okay, Peter…" she says softly in his ear, "It's okay…"
She repeats the same words he had told her a few hours ago, even though they both know it is a lie. How could anything possibly be okay, when their daughter is dead?
But there is another meaning to these words, one that only includes them both. No matter how wrecked they are, they are still here, and she will not let him go, if he would only let her in, let her join him in the dark if that is what it takes.
All the tension leaves his body then, the physical pain having released him at last, and he goes almost completely limp against her. He's slipping, and she's slips down with him, not even trying to stop their momentum.
They fall slowly, or maybe they fall fast; ultimately, they fall together, broken and defeated on the shower floor. They may have fallen, but there is a steadiness supporting them down here that wasn't present when they stood wavering on their feet.
Peter sits with his back to the wall, his entire body still shaking. She straddles him, cradles him, cupping his face in her hands, her touch tender and soft, resting her forehead upon his. She waits for him to open his eyes, and when he eventually does, relief melds with her pain, because she sees no trace of that dark and angry gleam that had refused to leave his gaze until now. She knows this to be only temporary, his sorrow too deep for him to simply let it go, but she will hold on to this while she can.
She whispers against his lips, tells him again that she loves him, hoping that he can feel how much she means it in the way she grasps his face and refuses to let go.
Soon, she feels the gentle caress of his fingers on her cheek, and she leans into his touch as he repeats the same three words, his voice as broken and raw as they are.
She kisses him, then, kisses him slow, hard, deep, seeking a way out from this pain, aware that Peter is the only shelter she will find. And from the way he kisses her back, with the same desperate intent, that same deafening helplessness, she knows he feels it too, both of them entrapped in the same storm, carried away by the same violent winds, lost in this hopeless race for comfort, for a place where it doesn't hurt so much, so ubiquitously.
She begins to move again, and he follows with equal eagerness, his grip on her hips as pliant as it is vigorous, following her lead and guiding her to him, as she goes up, and she goes down, until finally, they let their bodies merge in a swirl of shivers and sensations. And maybe it is a relief that is evanescent and unsubstantial, maybe it is a lie, but it is real and all-consuming while it lasts. And she is decided on making it last, holding him to her, her arms wrapped around him, governing the way they move, her nose buried in his hair when her face isn't turned upward.
She welcomes the water that steadily falls upon their slow, rippling forms, grateful for the way it swallows their sighs, how it relentlessly attempts to hush their pain…hush…hush…hush…It will inexorably fail, but at least it tries and tries again, each drop a new hope that it will remove this thorn from their flesh and suck it down the drain; it never does, and never will. It is a legacy that runs in their veins now, carved too deep within their bones.
If anything, she remains grateful for the way it humbly hides her tears, offering her the opportunity to let go without the subsequent disgrace she dreads so much. She lets them roll freely, as Peter's breath scorches her neck, assured that the soft veil of rain coming from far above will mask their paths, as if they never were.
Some things simply aren't worth being remembered.
A/N: I'm always grateful for any feedback :)