you fill my head with you
He finds her by the microwave, blonde hair spilling to mercury in the moonlight. She's fiddling with something, doesn't see him, so he hangs back to watch her silvered movements. The curve of her shirt across her shoulders, sketched-out hollows of her collarbone, flash of a watch-face as she tucks her hair behind her ear – the grace of her dazzles him.
She glances up at him then, features half-shadowed, eyes flaring with concern but soon flickering back down into something he can't quite place.
"Hey," she says, and he sees it in her smile.
"You're happy," he marvels, straightening.
She frown-grins, that funny little twist of her lips and brow that always left him breathless in another life. "I'm what?"
Peter drops his arms and walks over to the autopsy table. "Your eyes just a minute ago, they were – " he shakes his head " – happy isn't the right word. It was more like… they were at peace."
She tilts her head a bit, does that thing where she doesn't speak, just looks. Yes, he can see it. Whatever awful things have happened in the past three weeks, Olivia Dunham has made peace with them. He shakes his head again, hand rubbing the scruff along his jaw.
"You amaze me, you know that?"
She gives that lopsided grin and drops her gaze to the table and the project strewn across it.
He eyes the mug, containers and spoon, the jug of milk sweating drops of condensation onto the polished metal. "What're you doing?"
"Making hot cocoa." She lifts a shoulder, taps her toe on the floor behind her. "I thought he'd like some. The boy."
"You used to make this for Etta," he says, without thinking.
Her eyes dart up to his, then back down again, hair curtaining off her face as she reaches for the mug.
Olivia shakes her head. "No, it's okay. I was just thinking the same thing."
They're silent for a moment. Remembering.
"Where'd you get cocoa?" he asks, palming the container of spicy Mexican chocolate. It's almost full, smelling of home and Olivia and storytime with Etta. And, nowhere to be found in today's markets, he's sure.
"Uh, Astrid found it in the amber a couple days ago. Same with the spices. I picked up the milk a couple hours ago." She shakes cinnamon into her palm, tilts it into the mug, follows it with a dash of something white and chunky.
"Is that salt?"
Olivia nods. "Sea salt. But don't tell Walter." The devilish glint in her eyes makes him smile, shake his head and chuckle.
"He could never figure out how you made it, could he?"
"Nope," she says, and oh, she's proud of it.
"Well, your secret's safe with me," he promises, and passes her the milk.
They work in tandem for a few minutes, him handing over ingredients, her dipping and stirring and lip-biting, until finally she pops it into the microwave and settles back to wait. She's lost in her thoughts and staring at the microwave, so he lets his eyes wander, sliding over the lines of her body. It's funny – they've been out of the amber for almost a month now, but this is the first time he's really seen her.
She's still long and lean and graceful like a cat. The leanness might be slipping towards underweight, these days – he blames that on their limited food supply – but there's something else about her that's… changed. Shifted. Matured?
Peter squints, letting the moonlight pool into his gaze and trickle down over her hair and hitched shoulders, the curled fingers at her elbow, soft crook to her knees. There's a gentleness to her now, a deep sadness that wasn't there twenty years ago when she boarded the train for New York, back straight and thumb hooked under her bag.
She was fierce then, and the fierceness is still there, inside her, but he can see now that it's given way to something more, something… deeper. Better. Stronger.
Peter thinks back to that day in Boston when she left (when he stayed), and remembers how savagely the pain had ripped into him, watching her disappear into the crowds, wondering if he'd ever see her again. As strong as Olivia was, he'd been certain she wouldn't survive. That the pain of Etta's loss would cripple her, break her down and embitter her, that in a few months' time she'd be just a shell of the woman he'd come to love.
That's what had happened to him.
But now he can see that he was wrong.
Life has knocked a lot of holes in Olivia Dunham. It's stolen her father, her mother, her sister and niece and nephew, her daughter. When she pushed off that platform and onto the train twenty years ago, she'd been one crack short of collapsing. Looking at her now, she's still got those cracks. He can see it in her shoulders, ragged nails, the saddened aura of her gaze.
But there's also the curve to her lips and the peace in her expression, so new and unfamiliar to his eyes.
As he studies her, Peter remembers a museum he visited in Hong Kong, long before Olivia had found him in Baghdad. It hadn't been anything special – all the china had been upstairs, where you had to pay an extra forty bucks to stare at a bunch of dishes – but one exhibit had caught his eye, and only then because it had been so… unexciting. At first.
Vases, the tour guide had rattled off, cracked and useless before one artist, seeing their potential, had encased them in amber. At that, the guide had flipped a switch and flooded the display with light. Thirty years later, Peter can still hear the gasps escaping the bedraggled tourists. He, too, had stared in wonder at the skeletal vases, blazing in the sudden light.
Olivia is that vase, he thinks, eyes sweeping her moonlit form. Fragile to the shadowed gaze, but glorious when exposed to light.
The microwave dings, breaking the silence, and she shifts forward to retrieve the cup.
"Do you think it's too hot?" she asks, holding it out to him.
Peter dips a finger in and pops it back out, licking away a thick drop as it trickles down his skin. "Mm," he hums. "Perfect."
"You're sure?" she tips her gaze into the frothy depths.
She flashes him a smile and moves around the table, heading for the office that serves as the boy's bedroom. Walter, after his initial surprise of knowing the passcode, confessed that he had no idea what they were supposed to do with the boy.
By then, though, it didn't really matter. Olivia had taken the boy under her wing, bringing him dinner, making his bed, heaping up the blankets when he shivered in the lab's cave-like atmosphere. Peter, silent, had watched her, torn between pride and despair as he remembered how she'd cared for Etta in the same way.
Olivia slips into the darkened office, hair brushing her back. The boy looks up as they enter, brown eyes wide in the pale moon of his face. He watches Olivia pad over to the camp bed.
"Here," she says, holding out the mug. "Something to warm you up."
The boy remains motionless.
Olivia smiles, gestures a little. "It's just hot cocoa."
The boy blinks at her, but takes the mug, bone-white fingers curling around its warmth. He still doesn't drink it, though. Unfazed, Olivia settles herself across the foot of his bed, propped up on an elbow, her other hand tucked between her knees for warmth. Peter eases into a chair, heart squeezing painfully. She used to do this with Etta every night…
"I had a daughter, and when she was little, she loved hot cocoa." Olivia begins, focused on making the boy feel at home, relaxed. Even loved. "She used to say, that of all the hot cocoa in the world, mine was her favorite."
Peter clamps trembling fingers to his mouth. Olivia, though, is still entirely in the moment. The boy studies her for a bit longer and then takes a sip of the cocoa. Lowering the mug slowly, he blinks, but gives no indication of like or dislike. Peter's just about to stand up when Olivia leans forward and asks,
"Do you know me? Do you… remember me?"
The boy regards her. Then, he nods.
Peter's hand drops from his mouth. "But he met us in a different timeline. How could he possibly remember you?" He flicks his gaze to Olivia, but she's still watching the boy intently.
"Observers experience time differently," she murmurs. "Maybe he does too."
They stay until the cocoa is gone. Olivia stands and takes the mug from his outstretched fingers, smoothes a hand along his cheek. He tilts his head up to look at her, neither smiling nor frowning, and burrows into the blankets.
"I'll see you in the morning," Olivia whispers.
They leave the room, and Peter knows that the boy is watching Olivia, can sense the brown-eyed gaze following the long yellow hair painted silver in the moonlight. He eases the door shut, then heads to their office-dormitory. The hush of running water tells him Olivia is in the bathroom next door, rinsing the mug and probably brushing her teeth, maybe washing her face. He's still standing in the middle of the room when she enters, rubbing stiff fingers along her arms to encourage warmth.
"You okay?" she asks, fingertips brushing his elbow as she passes.
"Yeah. Just thinking," he replies.
Olivia glances up at him as she wiggles off her shoes, reaches for another pair of socks, tugs them on. It's freezing in the lab. "Thinking about what?"
"You. With Etta."
She ducks her head, lips pressed together. The bed's cold springs groan as she eases onto the mattress.
"Look – Liv, I'm sorry. I keep talking about her and I know I should stop – "
"Peter," she interrupts. He looks up to see her shaking her head. "She was our daughter. We should be talking about her. I hope we talk about her. Every day. For the rest of our lives."
"Olivia – " he stops, breath snarled somewhere between his lungs and throat. It's too soon, he shouldn't do this, hell, they don't even know if they're going to survive, let alone dare to think about…
"I want more children."
Her lips drop open and he kicks himself for saying it, but it's out, and he has to at least try to explain, before she goes running from the room or closing down emotionally and –
"For you. Liv, I want them for you. So you can be a mom again."
"Peter," she chokes out, shaking her head, fingers touching her lips, her chin. "Peter I am a mom. Just because Etta's gone – it doesn't mean – I can't just shut down like that – "
"I know! I know," he rushes. "I didn't mean it that way. I meant… I just want you to be happy."
She breathes a little laugh, swipes a tear from her cheek. "Peter, I don't need to be happy. I just need you. This. Us."
He paces towards her, stops, then starts again, coming to kneel at her feet. "I know. And I'm not leaving again. I'm not. But Liv, I was watching you with that boy, and… and with Etta, before she died, and you were so good with them. And I don't want you to lose that. Not again." He cups a hand along her cheek, oblivious to the tears in his eyes, just needing her to say it, say yes.
She stares down at him and he can see how thoroughly he's devastated her. The pain, the memories, Etta – all if it is right there in her eyes, and he can't help but think how he's taken away all that peace she'd worked so hard to earn.
"It's too soon," she whispers, shaking her head. "I need time – I don't even know if we're going to make it out of this alive. It – I just need time."
Peter nods, sinks back on his heels. "Okay. Okay."
"You really do miss her."
He startles a look at her, and she breathes a quick laugh, cool fingers cupping his chin. "Etta," she murmurs, lips pressing into that sad little smile. "You miss having a daughter."
"More than anything," he rasps.
Olivia nods. "It hurts me too, Peter. Some days, I can't even breathe."
"Will it ever stop?"
She runs a hand through his hair, trails the tips of her nails along his scalp, feather-light, soothing, over and over. "Only if we stop loving her," she says finally.
And he knows then that it never will.
He wakes in a tangle of limbs and sweaty sheets. Peter frowns. Who is in – but then he shifts his head and sees her, Olivia, curled up on his chest with a blanket drawn around her. Her mouth is slack with sleep, hair in a tangle over her shoulder. He reasons that she must have crawled in bed with him after he fell asleep. But why? They haven't shared a bed since… well, since she left for New York. So why now?
"Liv?" he brushes a sleepy hand across her cheek, shakes her shoulder a few times. While he's cautiously hopeful about this latest gesture of hers, these beds were only made for one person, and he really has to pee. Really has to pee. "Olivia."
"Hmm?" she sighs, lids fluttering open. She squints at his chest, then up at his face before it dawns on her where she is. "Oops. I must have fallen asleep."
"I guess so." He squirms.
"What's'a matter, got ants in your pants?" she yawns.
"No, but I really gotta pee," he grunts, rolling her off his chest. She giggles at that, but manages to rouse in time to stop herself from crashing into the wall.
"Go pee then."
He shoves out of bed, tugs down his shirt from where it got all twisted up in the deep of sleep.
He glances back, sees her burrowed into the covers, arm snaked around his pillow. Entirely too sexy for just having woken up. "Yeah?" he says.
"I love you."
"I love you too," he smiles. "And now I've really gotta go pee."
She grins, and the sound of her laughter follows him all the way to the bathroom.