picking up the pieces
who told me to watch it
thank you for listening to it all
A thin wail splits the air, and Olivia struggles up onto her elbows, squinting into the darkness. For a moment she stays there, hair knotted, eyes burning, and clothes clinging to her with the sweat of sleep, bewildered and body aching. Why is there a baby in her apartment? And why did she go to bed half-dressed in her clothes and –
Oh. Ohh. The baby. No, not the baby. Her baby.
She slings herself out of bed and fumbles around for the lamp switch, stubbing her toe on the nightstand and knocking an elbow into the headboard before she finally locates it. When she flips it on, though, the glare blinds her and she throws up her hands. "Ow. Ow ow. Okay. Bad idea." She slaps it off.
The baby's cries are louder now – maybe because she's more awake now, maybe because he's getting angry, or scared, or maybe he just needs changing or –
Olivia massages her temples and staggers over to the bassinet, making a mental note to scoot it closer before she goes back to bed. Save her the trouble of more aching body parts. Of course, with her luck she'll probably forget it's there, trip over it, and kill them both.
The baby's cries are earsplitting now, and she's sure an irate neighbor will start pounding on her door or ceiling any moment. Seriously, how can something this small make so much noise? She leans over the bassinet, shoving her hair over her shoulder. Tugging off the one and a half socks he hasn't kicked off yet, she slides her hands under the tiny body, half expecting him to scream even louder as she picks him up. But the moment she cradles him in her arms, his wails taper off, tiny little head burrowing into her chest.
Okay. Okay wow. She is so not used to this whole mom thing. Seriously, she's never been good with kids. In fact, she can't even remember the last time she touched a kid. And she has definitely never done well around babies.
But now she has one. Of her own.
She's a mom.
The baby bleats against her chest, and Olivia startles, jostling him and making him cry again. That's more like it, she thinks. She doesn't calm babies – she scares them. But he's already settling back down, though his demands to nurse are becoming more insistent, little fingers joining the search his face began. Riiight. Because she has to feed him now. Like every four hours.
"Okay baby, I know. You're hungry. Let's go... feed you."
She groans. This is so weird.
Grabbing the baby blanket from the side of the bassinet – oh man, she should not have left that there – Olivia tosses it over her shoulder and heads for the living room, knowing that if she nurses him in bed she'll fall asleep. And drop him. Or smother him. Or something.
She sighs and shakes her head. Her mom says it's normal, feeling a little panicky and inadequate, but Olivia is almost certain that new mothers aren't this morbid.
Of course, most new mothers also have nine months to prepare for all of this.
Huffing a laugh, Olivia eases onto the couch, one leg under her and the baby squirming in her arms. "Patience, little man. Mommy's trying as best she can."
Oh geez. Mommy.
At the sound of her voice, her son stops wriggling and stares up at her, blue eyes dark and wide in the moonlight. Olivia swallows and looks away. Why couldn't he have gotten her eyes?
Settling the baby deeper into the crook of her arm, Olivia fumbles under her shirt, trying to remember how to work the stupid nursing bra she has to wear now. Her mom had shown her the first night in the hospital (boy had that been embarrassing, nurses smiling everywhere and nodding knowingly behind their clipboards), but for some reason she just can't get the hang of it. Her fingers always seem to trip over the clasps, and tonight is even worse because she's half-asleep and the baby's whimpering against her and why can she not get this blasted thing to work?
"Damn!" she cries, and slumps back against the couch.
Great. Not even a week and she's already cursing in front of her son. Her son that she hasn't even named yet.
She is a terrible mother.
The baby seems to sense her frustration and quiets, which only makes things worse. Olivia squeezes her eyes against the tears suddenly threatening to spill over and breathes deeply through her nose a few times. In, out, in, out, and when that doesn't help, she presses a fist against her lips. Even then, her shoulders give a single, violent shake.
She can't do this. She really cannot do this. By all accounts, she's a mother, but she can't even feed her son because she's too stupid to remember how to unclasp a bra, and the baby knows that because he's stopped crying, as if he can sense that his fussing is somehow making things worse.
Olivia opens her eyes and sucks in a breath, dashing the tears from her cheeks.
"Okay, little man. I'm supposed to be taking care of you, not the other way around." She laughs, short and bitter. "And I'm doing a pretty terrible job of it, aren't I?"
The baby only stares up at her. With those eyes. Her chest tightens, but she refuses to look away this time.
"Okay. Hold it together, Liv. You can do this."
At her voice, the baby sucks up a sharp breath and kicks her arm, waving his little fists around and coaxing a smile from Olivia's lips. Okay, maybe she's not as hopeless as she thinks.
A few seconds of fumbling later and she finally manages to unclasp it. The baby nearly dives into her, he's so hungry, and a startled little laugh escapes her as he nurses. Running a finger along the curve of his cheek, she relaxes into the couch cushions and watches him, her son, the rhythm of his mouth tugging against her soothing and natural and... right.
Maybe... maybe she can do this after all.
And then someone knocks on the door. Olivia opens her eyes and flops her head against the couch, squinting at the clock. Three-fifteen. Really? Ugh. Must be her mom. She'd said she was going to spend the night at her house, give the dog some attention (since Liv's apartment didn't allow pets), and then come back in the morning. "I guess she changed her mind," she mutters. "She's probably worried about me. Us." And rightly so.
Olivia glances down at her nursing son and sighs. There's no way she can interrupt him now, not when she made him wait so long in the first place. Is it socially acceptable for her to answer the door half-undressed? She shakes her head and groans. "Geez, Liv, get a grip. It's your mom for crying out loud." And she kind of just gave birth in front of fifty strangers, too. So yeah, she can answer the dumb door.
Tossing a blanket over her shoulder for the benefit of any sleepless neighbors, Olivia drapes it across the baby and eases into a standing position. Even if it is the middle of the night, Liv is glad her mom's back. "Because let's face it, little man, I don't know what I'm doing."
The baby grunts against her and she laughs a little, flicking the deadbolt on the door and reaching for the key. Lincoln and Charlie had insisted on a 24/7 protection detail, so she doesn't even worry about checking the peephole. Besides, her gun is across the room and she has a baby latched onto her chest – it's not as if she can do any damage.
"Mom, hey, I am so glad – " Olivia stutters to a halt as the door swings back, revealing not her mom, but – "Lincoln. Oh. I – hey." She laughs breathlessly and a hand flutters to her lips. "I uh, thought you were my mom."
Lincoln flashes her a smile and shifts his weight. "Sorry. I should have called."
"No, no – I was uh. Awake. Already." Is she blushing?
Lincoln's gaze flickers to the blanketed bundle at her chest and then back up to her face. She is most definitely blushing.
"Uh. You wanna... you wanna come in?" She offers what she hopes is a genuine smile and steps back, swinging the door a little wider.
Lincoln flashes another smile, this one full of relief. "Yeah! Sure." He walks in. Olivia nudges the door shut with her hip and turns to face him, that stupid grin still pasted onto her face.
"I'd offer you something to drink, but..." she gestures a little helplessly with her free hand. "I'm kinda impaired right now."
He shrugs. "No biggie."
She bites her lip against another smile and moves past him to the couch, flipping on a lamp as she goes. He follows, sitting on the opposite end, but still close to her and wow. Wow, okay, this whole baby thing has really messed her up.
"You look good," he says, his eyes flickering over her appreciatively. Olivia feels her skin flush and curses her stupid hormones.
"Thanks. I feel great. I mean, aside from the fact that I've gained like ten pounds and can't find my hairbrush and, oh, right, haven't slept in more than a week, I'm awesome."
Lincoln grins. Sarcasm has always been his favorite form of communication. "He's not a sleeper, then."
"Ha. No. Not at all. And he nurses like every four hours. It's ridiculous."
Lincoln shakes his head amazedly. "If you ask me, this whole you're-suddenly-a-mom-now thing is ridiculous."
Olivia swallows and the smile drops from her lips.
"Oh. Oh, gosh, Liv – " he lurches forward. "I didn't mean it like that. I swear. I just meant the... the all in one day thing, and finding out about it right before – "
"No. No, Linc, it's fine. It is... pretty ridiculous." She looks back up and him and tries to smile.
"You're fine. I get it. Believe me. It's... all... crazy. And weird and not right and I can't even – " she stops short and blushes when she realizes what she was about to tell him. Lincoln does not want to hear about your bra, Liv.
"Hey." He waits until she meets his gaze. His blue-eyed gaze. "You're doing great, Liv. You're a good mom. I mean look at you, you're up at three in the morning feeding your kid, for heaven's sake."
"Yeah, because he screams and wakes the neighbors up if I don't," she snorts.
He leans back and watches her for a minute. "Do you remember... when we were in the shop, and the ambulance was coming but the baby was coming faster and – "
"God, like I could forget it." And the name comes out more prayer than profanity. It's all still so close… she shivers.
"No, I mean – okay. Yeah, you're right. It's just that crazy moments like that can be a blur sometimes, and..."
"And what?" she tilts her head to catch his eyes again.
"And I remember – Liv, I remember you looking up at me and making me promise to save the baby. The baby, Liv, not you." He stares at her, as if a few panicked words she'd said in the middle of giving birth in a Chinese puppet shop made her an amazing mom.
"Linc..." She rolls her eyes and looks off toward the kitchen. "It's what any woman would have said in a situation like that."
"Exactly, Liv. You responded just like a mother would – "
"That's not what I meant – " she interrupts, but the baby suddenly pulls away and starts in on those pitiful whimpers again and oh my word is she really going to have to turn him around and go through that awkward fumbling routine again and right in front of Lincoln?
She lurches forward, a red-faced mess. "Oh, gosh, uh – "
But he's already up and moving to the kitchen. "I'm gonna grab some water, want anything?" he asks.
She's almost too relieved to answer at first, but finally manages to croak out, "Yeah, water. Thanks, Linc." Olivia watches him until he disappears around the lip of the doorway, then turns her attention to the baby. Her fingers are shaking – from adrenaline or relief, she doesn't know – but she manages to get everything situated before Lincoln ambles back in with the waters.
"Thank you," she breathes, and she doesn't have to explain that it's not for the drink, or even because he remembered that she hates ice.
"No problem." He settles back down on the couch. "So, your mom. She's staying with you?"
"Uh, yeah." Olivia sips her water and sets it on the side table, worried that her still-shaking fingers will drop it. "Yeah, she's staying with me for now, helping me get the hang of things. Since I kinda had two weeks' notice and then... well. This." She laughs.
"Have you picked a name for him yet?"
"No." She shakes her head. Finds herself opening her mouth to explain. "I, uh. I didn't have much time to think, so... I mean, when Fra – when they told me I was pregnant, all I could think about was how I might have the virus, and… Then I was kidnapped, and at first I thought it was because someone had found out I'd been to the Other Side, that they wanted information, but then they kept me drugged and all I – all I could hear was the baby's heartbeat and it's like I couldn't get away from it and then they injected me with, with that compound and it was awful and – " she breaks off.
"You don't have to tell me if you don't want to, Liv."
"No!" she chokes. "Oh no. I'm sorry – I didn't mean to dump all this on you and you shouldn't have to – "
"Hey. Hey," he soothes, and suddenly he's not across from her but next to her, his arms pulling her close – pulling them close – and really she doesn't even care that the stupid blanket is slipping, because he was there when she gave birth, and she should really stop crying all over him but she can't, she just can't.
She stays there for a minute, face buried in his shoulder, until she realizes that the baby's done nursing and she's getting Lee's shirt all wet with her tears and – she jerks back.
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry." She swipes at the tears on her cheeks and tries to laugh it off, but all that come out are more tears. "Stupid hormones."
Lincoln smiles and lifts a hand to her cheek, smoothing away some of the dampness. "Just imagine what it would have been like had you been pregnant for nine months instead of nine weeks," he grins.
"Oh. Oh my gosh, shut up!" she groans, and shoves at his shoulder. But it worked and she's got the tears under control. For now.
Miraculously, the baby has dropped off to sleep, so she tugs the blanket up and blunders her way through everything again, until she's all to rights again and he's finally sacked out on her shoulder, tiny little body warm and sweet-smelling and... wow. Somewhere in the past six days, she's fallen in love with her son. She's a little stunned by it, honestly.
"You okay?" Linc hums, pressing his lips to her hair.
"Yeah." She turns to look up at him. "Yeah I think I am."
He smiles, white teeth flashing against his five o'clock shadow, and suddenly she's aware of how very close he is, or she is, and –
The baby twitches and hiccups so loudly that Olivia actually jumps, knocking Linc in the chin and sending them both into fits of laughter, though she tries to stifle hers for fear of waking the baby. When she finally gets herself under control, though, he's still asleep on her shoulder.
"Look at him!" Linc whispers, eyes still twinkling with laughter and maybe a little wonder. "He is out!"
She bites her lip and smiles. "Maybe he is a sleeper, after all."
They stand there for a moment, both watching the sleeping baby, before Olivia finally stirs. "I should put him down. Be right back."
Linc grins and drops back onto the couch, and as she turns to walk into her room, Olivia catches a flash of white and realizes his shoes are under the coffee table.
Her room is dark, the curtains pulled tightly over the window, so she goes slowly. Even though she's been careful not to toss things around like she normally does, there's always the possibility that she forgot and left a shoe in the middle of the floor. The last thing she wants to do is trip and – she shakes her head. There she goes again, worrying about crazy accidents.
"Ah, baby. I've got a long way to go." But the thought doesn't trouble her like it did before.
Reaching the bassinet, Olivia leans down, palming the baby's head and bringing him down with her. Cradling him now, she takes a moment to study him. His tiny, perfect face, nose no bigger than her thumbnail, rosebud mouth smudged with the peace of sleep – he really is a miracle, just like her mom said. And she can't believe he's hers.
Olivia shivers as goosebumps break out along her arms. She eases her son down onto the mattress and trails a finger down his cheek and onto his little hand before standing up, scraping her hair out of her eyes and blowing out a breath. Great, she's crying again. Laughing, Olivia flicks the tears away and heads for the door, stopping to change into pajama bottoms on the way. Cargo pants are definitely not good sleepwear.
Linc looks up and smiles at her as she reenters the room, ending his call. "Nice cape," he laughs, gesturing to the baby blanket still slung across her shoulder.
"Thanks." She flops onto the couch. "Who was that?"
"Charlie. Just checking in with him."
She sits up, blanket slipping into her lap. "Wait. Are you two – "
He shrugs. "Yeah, we both took detail tonight."
Her mouth drops open. "Linc, you didn't have to do that! You could have – "
"Put one of my peons on guard duty, I know. Hey, Henry's out there, too."
"Henry? Like Henry the taxi driver? How do you know him, anyway? When we were – in there – you said I could trust him."
"He knew the other Olivia Dunham, helped her escape to the Other Side. We caught him lurking outside on your street and thought he had something to do with your kidnapping, but then he told us his story and helped us find you once you'd called."
"Huh." She wraps her arms around her legs, lowers her chin to her knees. "He seems like a good man."
Linc tilts his head. "You should talk to him sometime. He was really worried about you – tried to protect your secret when we first arrested him."
"You mean the other Olivia's secret."
"Yeah. The other Olivia." They fall quiet.
Rousing, Olivia slaps him lightly on the knee, just like she would in the back of the Fringe van on their way to an incident report. "Hey, I appreciate you and Charlie checking up on me, but you don't have to give up your Friday nights."
Linc grins and plucks the blanket out of her lap, running his fingers along the satiny edges. "Liv, what else are we gonna do? We're two single guys. Come on. Well. I'm single – I don't know about old worm belly down there. He's got something going with Bug Woman."
She squints at him. "Bug Woman? You mean Mona?"
"Wha, you knew her name too?! Does no one tell me anything around here?"
"Ah, it's just because we know you can't keep a secret!" she teases.
"Hey!" he wads the blanket up and throws it at her face, but he's laughing as she catches it and stands up.
"Wanna watch a movie?" Linc startles.
"Shouldn't you be getting some sleep?"
"Nah, I'm up," she says, lifting a shoulder. "So," she wriggles her eyebrows. "Movie night?"
A grin steals across his face. "Yeah? What movie?"
"Oh, I dunno. Ever seen – "
"Not Star Wars!" he interrupts, holding up a hand. "Please, anything but that. I can't bear to watch it, knowing that they almost cast Harrison Ford as Han Solo. They came so close to having a masterpiece!"
Olivia chuckles as she bends over the movie cabinet, running a finger along her meager collection.
"What about… this one?"
He wrinkles his nose. "Ugh. Too girly. Don't you have any superhero movies?"
"I have…" she rummages around, surfaces triumphant. "Captain America!"
"That's it?" Linc stares at her.
"What do you mean, that's it – I like Captain America!" she sticks her nose in the air and stalks to the TV.
Linc snorts. "Yeah, right. You like him because he's hot."
"Well duh," she scoffs, popping the DVD in, then smiles when she hears his laughter. "Want some popcorn?"
"You have popcorn?"
"Mmhm. Last of my stash, and I've been dying to make it. I've got this new seasoning and – "
"Hush, the movie's starting!"
Olivia rolls her eyes and pads into the kitchen. "Men," she mutters.
But they're both smiling.
"Seriously?! Linc exclaims, sitting up suddenly. "That's how it ends?"
Olivia gapes at him from the other end of the couch. "You mean you've never seen Captain America before?"
"Shut up," Linc growls, still staring at the screen. "Let me have my moment."
She giggles and burrows deeper into the couch, poking him with her toes. "I can't believe you've never seen Captain America. I mean, of all the superhero movies, really? And the ending's not that bad."
"No, but now I wanna watch the next one!" he whines, and he's entirely serious, which makes her laugh even harder.
"You're evil," he mumbles, and slaps at her foot.
"Big baby," she cracks, and they kick and shove a bit more before falling quiet, Linc staring into the kitchen and Olivia gazing at the ceiling. She rolls her head onto her shoulder and watches him for a minute, trying to figure out where to start.
He turns to look at her. "Yeah?"
"How much… how much do you know? About the baby?"
Any traces of a smile ebb away from his lips, and he shifts to face her more fully. "I know that the Secretary sent you to the Other Side as their Olivia Dunham, and that while you were over there, you… started seeing his son. I know that they pulled you back once your cover was blown. And I know that the baby is Peter Bishop's. But that's it."
Olivia lets out a breath she didn't know she'd been holding. "Is there… is there anything you want to ask me… about it?"
"Is there anything you want to tell me?"
Olivia rolls her eyes to the ceiling, chewing on her lip as a way to stave off the tears. She thinks of Peter and his deep-set blue eyes, and the way his lips tasted at midnight right before they drifted off to sleep, and the disbelieving laughter in his voice when he realized she'd never seen Casablanca. Then, she remembers the pictures from the photo booth that she stuck in her bag on a whim, and suddenly she wishes she'd been able to bring them with her, just as a way to remember him and that time they'd shared together. Because… because…
"I was happy," she says finally, and the words surprise her. "At least some of the time. With him. It started out as an assignment, but…" she bites her lip so hard that she tastes blood.
"But it turned into something more?" Linc finishes, and the pain is like a knife in her chest, because all she can think about it Peter, two months earlier, saying those same words.
"Yeah." She nods, swallows past the lump in her throat. "It did."
Linc stays quiet.
"At first… at first I thought it would be easy, and that the Secretary would pull me out before I had to… do anything. But then I was there longer and longer, and Peter kept – I would have blown my cover, and oh, God, Linc, I almost wish I had, because all I could think about that night was Frank and how quickly I'd deserted him… but then to come back and realize that they'd tricked their Olivia into believing she was me? It was the worst kind of betrayal, and I couldn't tell anyone, not even you, or Charlie… Especially not Frank."
"You still love him." Linc says quietly.
"No – I mean, yes I still have feelings for him, but I don't know if I ever loved him, because I wasn't being myself, but I just gave birth to his child, Lincoln, and what is that supposed to make me fe – "
"Not Peter, Liv. Frank. You still love Frank."
The pain that assaults her is worse than anything she could feel about Peter, because yes, she still loves him but he walked out on her, and rightly so because she'd cheated on him and couldn't even tell him why –
"Linc, oh, God, Linc, I miss him. I miss him so much it hurts." She's in his arms almost before she realizes it, and she can't really say if she'd crawled into them or if he'd come to her, but it doesn't matter, because it hurts and he's holding her and he's there for her when no one else is.
And so she stays there on the couch, in Linc's arms, until she falls asleep.
When she wakes, it's not to the sound of her son crying in the other room. Instead, it's to those soft, mewling whimpers that mean I'm hungry but someone's holding me, so I'm okay right now, and oh, oh he's in her arms now and he is hungry, she can feel it, but who –
"Linc," she rasps, rousing groggily. He's leaning over her, hair askew and shirt wrinkled, but he's awake and he's there, and did they really sleep sitting up last night? She stirs and ow, ow, yes they did.
"My neck is killing me," she moans.
Linc chuckles, planting a kiss on her forehead. "He's awake and hungry, mommy. I woke up a few minutes ago and he was just starting to cry, so I went ahead and changed him, got him dressed."
Olivia gapes. "You changed him?"
Linc glances up at her as he pulls on his boots. "Is that okay? I mean, I didn't want to wake you, and I know how to do it – I had three younger siblings growing up and – "
"No. I mean, it's totally okay. I'm just… surprised, is all. Thank you!"
He laughs, standing. "Well, you're welcome. I enjoyed it. He's a fun little man."
"Yeah he is," she murmurs, watching him grab his jacket and head towards the door. "Linc?"
He turns, hand on the knob. "Yeah?"
"Thanks. For coming over, and listening. And… for hanging out with me."
He regards her for a long moment, so long that she's afraid she crossed a line or something, but then the doorknob is rattling and he's moving around the couch and kissing her, hard, his teeth crashing into hers and tongue pushing through and stroking the roof of her mouth, leaving her breathless and shaking and –
"What – " she gasps when he pulls away.
"There's something for you on the counter," he whispers, nodding towards the kitchen. "I found your brush."
"My brush – but Linc, what was that – "
"That was for later," he rasps, cupping her cheek. And then he's gone, around the couch and out the door, leaving her agape and flushing and very, very happy.