"They gave me her memories. It was like I was her. But now. . .I can see how it wasn't the same. There were gaps, and my real memories were still there, buried. Once I unlocked them, I think that's what allowed me to cross back over."
Olivia has known she would have to say all this, and was dreading it. But it's easier than expected. Like someone has given her a script and she's just reading off it.
Broyles regards her carefully, and finally nods. "Thank you, Agent Dunham. I realize this is has been a difficult time for you. But I'm sure you understand the importance of what your experience can tell us about the other side."
"Of course," Olivia says. She forces a smile. "And I want you to know, I feel like I'm ready to return to work any time."
"We'll discuss that on Monday." He excuses her, but stops her when she's halfway out of the chair in front of his desk. "One more thing: the other Olivia's memories. Do you still have them?"
Olivia shakes her head. "No. No, they faded when I remembered who I was."
Broyles meets her eyes, and she doesn't dare break eye contact. She tries not to show her nerves, and after a second, Broyles looks away and turns off the digital recorder on his desk. There's no indication that he knows she just lied to him.
* * *
Since her return, Olivia goes for a run every morning at five-thirty. She turns off her alarm before it goes off, because she's always awake, and knows she won't be able to sleep again even if she lies in bed until ten.
She should feel half-dead, but she doesn't. It's like she's still waiting for the adrenaline to wear off, even now.
So she gets up, dresses in her work-out clothes, pulls on her running shoes and a hoodie, and tries to work off the desire to run. As though if she keeps running, she'll eventually be able to stop.
This morning, while she jogs through the park in the fog, she remembers the date. She's supposed to take her mother out for lunch today, at that Italian place that just opened up.
Olivia skids to a halt. She stumbles off the path and braces her arms on a cold, damp park bench when the realization hits her. Her mother is dead. Her mother has been dead for a long time, and for the first time in years, that knowledge twists in her gut and brings tears to her eyes.
There are moments like this when the other Olivia's memories intertwine with her own, as organically as though they were the same person. Though, they sort of are, aren't they?
When this happens, it's a little like waking from a dream that was better than reality.
But she deals with it like she always does: she pushes forward and keeps running, her sneakers squeaking on the dew-covered path. She wipes the tears off her cheeks and lets the wind dry her eyes, and she tells herself that at least she knows this is what's real. At least here, Rachel is alive. At least she's home.
She should be happy.
* * *
Peter calls her later that morning. Olivia's thumb hovers over the button on her cell, not sure if she wants to answer it or not. It stops ringing before she can decide, and only then does she wish she picked up.
What if it was work-related? She's promised herself that she's not going to let. . .well, everything get in the way of work.
Olivia takes a deep breath, and listens to her voicemail. For a second, there's just silence.
Then there's Peter's voice, saying, "Hey, it's me. Just thought I'd see how it's going." There's another pause, and then, "I'm sure we'll see each other soon. No need to call me back."
She's a little ashamed of how relieved that last part makes her.
Olivia's not sure what she was hoping for with Peter, exactly. If she was expecting to be greeted with a kiss, well, now she can see how premature that would 've been.
It's knowing she wasn't missed that's the hard part. That, and knowing that someone else has been living her life, and everything has been just fine.
It shouldn't make her feel like everything has been for naught, but it does. A voice in the back of her mind asks what the hell she fought so hard to come back for, and though she quiets it immediately, the echo won't quite go away.
As anxious as Olivia is to get back to work, she concedes that today, she's happier being alone. And though she'll never openly admit it, maybe Broyles was right to give her a few days off to recover.
But she can't live here when, everywhere she looks, she can see the signs that someone else has been living in her home. There are a little things out of place that make her home almost unfamiliar. She's washed all her clothes and bedding, and she's replaced her soap and shampoo. But there are still drawers and cupboards to go through.
She spends the afternoon on the task, and by midday, she has three boxes full of stuff that isn't hers. Maybe she'll call Astrid, tomorrow, and have her take the stuff to the lab.
If any of the stuff is Peter's, well, he can sort through it.
When she's all done, Olivia is finally tired. For the past few days, she's only been able to sleep during the afternoon, maybe because she never really plans to.
She takes off her shoes and stretches out on top of the bed, not bothering to pull back the covers. There's the distant sound of a police siren that makes her muscles tense. But it passes, and she closes her eyes.
Today, she manages a few hours of rest before she wakes up, heart pounding.
This time, she dreamt she was running through the halls of the Ministry of Defense. She could hear footsteps chasing her, and she was trying so hard to cross over, but she couldn't. She never can.
She'll probably have dreams like that for a while.
Olivia lies on top of the covers for a while, while her bedroom gets darker and darker as the day stretches into evening. It takes a while for her heart rate and breathing to return to normal, and the surge of fear to leave the pit of her stomach.
But there are worse things than nightmares, and she knows that.
When she finally gets up, she checks her phone for missed calls and then goes into her address book and finds Peter's number. She highlights it and looks at it for a minute before putting her phone away.
* * *
"Are you sure you're ready to come back to work?"
It's her first day back, and Broyles has already asked her this at least twice. And now he's tracked her down outside Walter's lab, apparently just to ask her yet again.
"Of course. I'm fine."
He looks skeptical, and for a second, Olivia wishes she was a smoker. Then she'd have a better excuse to get out of the lab and into the chilly afternoon.
Not that she should even need an excuse. Broyles following her outside makes her feel like there's something they're not telling her. Like they have her under observation. Maybe that's paranoid, but she's earned the right to be a little paranoid.
"If you need to take a longer break," Broyles says, "or if you need to talk to someone--"
Olivia feels a jolt of panic.
"I'm fine, really," she says. It sounds like a croak to her, like her nerves have sucked all the moisture from her throat, and she tries to keep the desperation from creeping into her voice. Though maybe the hint of it is what makes Broyles back off.
He nods. "All right. But I'm serious, Agent Dunham. You've been through a lot. And for your sake and for the sake of this division, I have to know if you can't be here right now."
"I know. Thank you. But I'm fine."
When he turns to go back to the lab, Olivia closes her eyes in relief. She can't imagine what she'd do without her job.
* * *
Physically, there's very little to distinguish her from the other Olivia Dunham.
Olivia doesn't really believe that the mind has any metaphysical properties. The mind is physical, too, all tissues and chemicals. She and that Olivia have the same mind. They're the same person. The only difference between them is their experiences.
Psychologists have been debating nature versus nurture for years. Something like this would be the ideal case study: two women exactly the same except for the world they grew up in. Olivia doesn't want to know what would be made out of her case.
She can accept that her failings are due to some internal flaw. Everyone has flaws they can't help. What she can't accept is that maybe she can't relax because of the nights she spent hiding from her stepfather. Or that she closes herself up because of whatever happened in the lab in Jacksonville. It feels like she should be able to do something about that.
The other Olivia doesn't seem to have these issues.
When she gets home from work, Olivia runs a bath. She lies in it for a long time, until her skin is wrinkled and covered in goose bumps from the cooling water. For the first time since her return, her mind is blank and she doesn't feel like she has the energy to even lift her head.
* * *
Olivia catches the others looking at her occasionally, with concern or suspicion in their eyes. Especially Broyles.
Work is a performance. She does what she needs to, and keeps it up until she goes home.
She doesn't want to think about what would happen if it was decided she wasn't coping well enough. She knows, logically, that there's no shame in it, but when she remembers how they treated her in the hospital over there, and what happened to Walter here, her fears don't feel illogical.
But she actually likes work. There's something good about keeping busy in something she's good at and can control. It's when she gets home, where she's alone with the silence and her thoughts (or the lack of them) that things get hard.
Tonight, she thinks about Charlie.
Charlie was always braver than her. At least, that was how it seemed. Maybe he was just more fun than her. He used to tease her, just about little things, to make her smile and laugh. She remembers one time, while they were getting a drink after work, when he tried to goad her into trying karaoke.
Only, now she isn't sure if that memory is of her Charlie or the other one. She tries to remember, but she can't.
Her vision blurs, and at first she thinks it's just the tears in her eyes. But then there's a faint orange glow, and the hair rises on the back of her neck.
She's crossing back over.
As soon as she realizes it, it stops. Olivia blinks and clutches the seat of her sofa like an buoy. She sits very still for a moment, barely daring to breathe, as though if she moves, she'll suddenly find herself over there.
But nothing happens. She isn't sure if anything was happening to begin with -- was she crossing over, or just catching a glimpse?
In the first couple days after her return, Olivia worried about this constantly. She kept expecting to get pulled back to the other universe. Now, she isn't sure if she's more scared that it almost happened, or that it almost happened because part of her wanted it to.
She stands up, and her legs feel like they could give out. But she finds herself in the kitchen, leaning on the counter, and she pours herself a glass of water from the faucet. Her hand shakes, and water dribbles out of the glass and onto her shirt.
Then she picks up her phone, and dials Peter's number.
When she gets his voicemail, she considers hanging up. But then she clears her throat and says, "Hey. Just thought I'd say hi. Never did call you back last week. But no big deal. We'll see each other at the lab."
She hangs up, feeling stupid, and goes into the bedroom to lie down. She's not sure what she was thinking, or what Peter will think when he gets the message. It's a little late for her to return his call.
Her phone vibrates on the night stand. She should pick up, but she doesn't.
Twenty minutes later, there's a knock on the door. She wipes her eyes before going to answer it.
Peter looks concerned.
"Hey," she says, forcing a smile. "I just called to say hi. You didn't need to come over."
"You weren't answering when I called you back. I wanted to make sure everything was all right."
She shrugs and lets him in, because he's here and he'll worry if he doesn't get to see that she's fine.
"I was in the neighborhood, anyway," he says. "You don't look too good. You okay?"
Olivia nods. "Yeah. Fine. Since you're here, do you want some coffee?"
While she makes the coffee, she tries to regain whatever composure she's lost. But it's been a while since she felt composed at all, and she isn't sure what that feels like anymore.
When she returns to the living room, Peter is sitting on the sofa. She sits across from him and hands him one of the mugs.
"I know it's been rough," he says.
He hasn't said anything about himself, but his voice has a tone of understanding. Of course, he's caught up in everything, too. He probably understands better than anyone else, and maybe that should make Olivia feel like she can confide in him. But it doesn't. She's never craved understanding.
But she does ask, "Did you remember it? The other side?"
"You mean from when I was a kid?"
Peter hesitates a second longer than is normal. Olivia's used to quick responses, so much so that she forgets sometimes how little he shares about himself. Maybe she's overstepped the bounds of their relationship.
"There's a lot I don't remember about my childhood," Peter finally says. "I mean, there are stretches -- months, years -- that I can barely recall. And I think I decided I don't want to."
Olivia thinks, maybe a little bitterly, that that isn't how is it for her. But then she corrects herself. There are things she's locked away. She still doesn't remember the trials in Jacksonville, not really. But she can remember other things with the same clarity as when they happened. That seems deeply unfair.
"Do you wish you'd stayed?" She asks.
This time, he doesn't hesitate. "Walternate wants to use me to destroy the world. I don't think staying was ever an option."
He's right, of course. And if Olivia hadn't come back, they would have killed her over there. They were going to do horrible things to her. She knows this.
"I guess I was so focused on coming home," she says. "I didn't realize it'd be difficult once I was back."
Peter looks at her. "Are you sure you're okay?"
"Wow," she says with an exasperated laugh, "are you on Broyles' side now?"
He puts his coffee on the low table in front of him, and rests his elbows on his knees. "Wasn't aware there were any sides, here. You know, nobody would look down on you if you needed some time off. And if you wanted me to talk to Broyles--"
"No! No, don't. Peter, this job--"
He lifts his hands defensively. "All right, all right, forget I--"
"It's all I have."
He looks at her like he's a little hurt, and she feels like she should apologize, but she doesn't know what for.
Peter sighs. "I've just been a little concerned. You know, for a long time, I knew something was up with my mom. And I didn't do much about it. I don't know if I could have. But it's something you wonder about."
"It's not like that," she says, promising him. And it's true, or she believes it is, at least.
Has he really considered she might kill herself? She can't imagine that her demeanor has been that alarming. </i>
He nods. "Sure you're okay?"
"I'm fine," she says with a smile. "I promise."
He looks doubtful, but she knows he understands better than anyone else. And that he'll listen to her.
She wishes she had the courage to ask him what she really wants to know: if it bothers him that he might have had a better life if Walter never took him. If that's how he feels, then she thinks she knows what it's like.
It's no wonder he liked her doppelganger, when it was a happier, more successful version of her. One that had had a better life.
After she sees him out, she gets ready for bed, even though she knows she won't sleep for more than an hour or two.
But she's dealt with stuff before, and she'll be fine. And if she isn't fine, well, no one else will ever know.