What Is, Is (Not the Same)
Disclaimer: Not my characters, just my words.
"Do you ever think about what you would been like if you grew up in your own universe?" Olivia asks lightly. She can feel Peter's hand pauses mid-circle on her back, and she makes a note to mention that particular habit of his one day.
When he doesn't answer right away, she tilts her head to look up at him rather than the television. He seems thoughtful, rather than surprised, and she gets the distinct impression he has considered it before.
"I've thought about it," he says after a moment, leaning slightly back on the couch. "But if I had stayed in my world, if Walter had not taken me, my father might not have been the man we met."
He looks at her, his eyes a little dark and the shadows underneath them definitely so.
"You saw more of him than me," he says. "How was he?"
"Hard," she says softly. In the background, they can both hear this Walter, their Walter, hum a song twenty years too old and even then out of fashion. "Walter might have lost something, but your father... He still had all of his mind and none of his heart. I'd rather have this Walter."
Peter nods very slowly, his hand now moving to her hip to rest casually.
"I think I'd rather have this Walter too," he says lightly, but the tone seems too casual and light. The thought behind it is not at all, she knows, and kisses the underside of his jaw. He closes his eyes to it, drawing a breath that seems slightly uneven.
"Olivia," he says, his voice slightly hoarse with desire. Not just for her and him and a bed, she knows. For her as an anchor, to keep him from drifting. Just as she wants him to be a buoy, keeping her afloat. For a life between them, not just a life for each of them.
"Walter is here," she reminds him, and he merely smiles.
"Walter would fluff the pillows for us and cover the bed in rose petals if he thought it would get us there more often," he says, and she makes a slight face at the image. He laughs at that, softly, and she thinks it a delightful sound indeed.
"You know what it takes to get me in bed," she says, touching his cheek. "You."
His kiss is brief, but holds the promise of a much more lingering one as they get up, hand in hand and shared smiles.
In the kitchen, Walter has changed his hum to a Barry White love song, unheard by both.
Sex can just be lust. This isn't. Can't be with them any more, long lost opportunity. She isn't sure exactly when Peter became what he is to her, perhaps because he became it inch by inch, day by day. But she is sure what he is to her now, so sure it is almost painful.
Exactly as he is, she thinks. She can't hate Walter for what he did, not when she cannot envision another Peter being this important to her.
Exactly as he is, and she feels wonderfully warm as he kisses her. There is the bed underneath her, and only Peter and air above her, both clinging to her skin and not letting go.
"I think I might have liked her life," she says to a sleeping Peter. He merely sighs slightly, and she rests her head against his chest. She can feel it rise and fall, and hear his heartbeat too, every so faint but ever so persistent. He's still got his hand on her arm, where she remembers his fingers digging slightly into flesh as she arched against him.
"No glowing. No fear," she goes on. "Charlie still alive. Mom..."
And still she resisted it, she remembers. Because it wasn't hers. Because what she might have been isn't who she is.
It is still hard to let go of what might have been, especially when it's been presented in the flesh.
She exhales, closing her eyes and trying to still her mind before sleep, it seems to make the nightmares more silent too. (But always there, like any other scar she has to live with.)
In the dark, Peter opens his eyes and watches her intently long after she's fallen asleep.
Peter sleeps when Olivia wakes in the morning, and so she kisses his forehead softly and sneaks down the stairs, only to find Walter sitting at the end of them, clearly waiting for her (or her and Peter, she supposes).
"Good morning, Walter," she says, and he stands up a little awkwardly.
"I didn't like her," he tells her earnestly. "I mean, I liked her when I thought she was you and I was so happy you were bedding my son at last. But I like you. I could remove my memories of her pretending to be you if it would make you feel better."
"No, Walter," she says softly. "It's a very touching and very weird offer, but... What is, is. Pretending it didn't happen doesn't change that it did."
He looks slightly downcast at that, and she knows for him, pretending many things didn't happen must seem a daily temptation.
"I made breakfast," he says after a beat. "Would you like some?"
"I would love some," she says earnestly, and he lights up.
"I have made plans for the construction of a device that will allow Peter to confirm it is truly you before he engages in sexual intercourse," Walter tells her sincerely as they walk into the kitchen.
"Maybe it can be a wedding present. What are your thoughts on purple?"
In the end, they come to an agreement that purple is good, and identity checking devices might be better for outside the bedroom. Except maybe on special occasions.
She showers and changes at her own place, and goes out of the shower to find a message on her answering machine from Peter. She listens to his cheerful accusations that she seems to be only using him for sex since she walks out on him before he's even barely awake, and finds herself smiling even after it's finished.
Looking at herself in the mirror, she seems almost foreign to herself, eyes bright, smile easy and hair still dark from the water.
Olivia walks into the lab to find Peter and Walter slightly arguing, with Astrid watching quietly. They exchange a knowing glance, both men too concerned with each other to notice Olivia's arrival.
"I have to protect this world," Walter says, and for all his bumbling and grandfatherly clothes, it still sends a slight chill down her back to hear.
"I don't want you to become more like him," Peter says, turning away in irritation, and thus not observing Walter's expression. But Olivia sees, and it's so loving she finds herself almost envious.
"Walter brought up technology from there," Astrid explains in a low voice, and Olivia nods slightly. She remembers some of the more advanced technologies from there, and some of them would certainly find use here too.
"You have never asked much about the other side or the version of you over there," she says after a moment. "Even Broyles has enquired more than you and he is not one to pry."
"I would still be who I am," Astrid says simply. "Besides, Walter is confused enough about my identity as it is. I was Archaic for breakfast and Astride for lunch. Walter, we have company!"
Walter and Peter both look up, Peter smiling as he sees her, even if the smile doesn't quite touch his eyes.
"Any weird cases?" Walter asks hopefully, looking downcast when she shakes her head.
"Only normal dinner invitations," she says, Peter walking towards her slow enough that she half wants to run and leap at him. But she stays still until he's walked up to her, pausing close enough that she could reach out and touch him.
"Sounds like something worth investigating," he says.
Peter's head is slightly tilted as his lips brush against hers, his hand still on her doorknob. His other hand is brushing the underside of her right breast through the fabric, and she can feel her nipples hardening in response.
"I'm just going to get a change of clothes," she says against his lips. "Then we can go to your place."
He pauses, placing hands on either side of her and leaning on them as he looks at her.
"Why not stay at your place?" he asks. "No Walter to embarrass you in the morning, or even more importantly, during foreplay."
"I like yours," she says, but he narrows his eyes in a way that tells her he isn't taking that for a full answer. Because it isn't.
"We've spent so much time at my place, not yours," he points out. "I was wondering if there is a reason for it."
"You know there is," she says, but he merely looks at her, clearly waiting. "You and her. Here."
"Don't," she says sharply. "I know it's irrational."
"That wasn't what I was going to say. You're right, we did spend time here when I thought she was you. I understand that makes you uncomfortable."
"But..." she prompts.
"You said you wanted what I want. I want you, as you are. Not her," he says. "I don't want to push you, but I want to have memories of you and me here, not just her. I don't want her to keep us apart anywhere. I want to let go of her. I want you."
He kisses the side of her neck as she considers his words. In a way, she knows he too must feel exploited and used, but her own pain is still too raw to quite take in his.
"What do you think we should do about that?" she finally asks, and his smile makes her toes curl.
She wakes in the middle of the night, extracting herself from Peter's arms carefully. He looks at home between her sheets, and for a moment she feels the stranger, even surrounded by her own things. Then she exhales, forcing herself to remember that this is her world, her life, her home, her boyfriend. Hers. They might have been used by others, but they are hers.
She walks into the living room, watching the night outside, the sky not filled with zeppelins.
She'd rather have this, she thinks. With all the pain, it's still hers. What might have been, how she would have been in a different world and Peter in his own, it's all theoretical. This is what is.
"Hey," she hears Peter say behind her. She doesn't turn around, feeling his hands come to rest on her hips.
"Come back to bed," he urges, and she leans back against him.
"Soon," she promises. He brushes the hair from one side of her neck as she remains still, kissing his way up to her ear.
"Are you more comfortable with me here now?" he asks, his breath warm against her earlobe.
"I will be," she promises, to herself as much as him. "Peter, I want us to be entirely honest with each other in this relationship. Full disclosure."
We've both seen where the opposite leads, she doesn't say.
"Full disclosure," he agrees. "Which is why I am disclosing that right now, I am cold and want to go back to bed with my girlfriend."
When he holds out a hand, she takes it, letting him lead her back to bed.
Outside in the dark, the Observer watches the window, as always with a mind filled with what was, what is, what might have been and what will be.
It's all the same to him.
He never understood why it isn't to humans.