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World of Never-Ending Happiness

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Peter’s off balance, figuratively and literally. One arm is still pinioned in the sling, and with the other he intends never to let go of Olivia again—so when he drops clumsily to one knee on the hospital linoleum, he almost drags her over with him. He beams up at her to show that he’s all right, and Olivia laughs, pulling at his good arm.

“Peter! Get up, what are you—” Olivia goes stock-still, her expression frozen somewhere between amusement and challenge. Peter looks into her bright, brimming green eyes and can read her like a book: you’re really gonna do this now?! He drinks her in, her radiant beauty, and he has never been more sure of anything in his life. Fuck yeah, he’s gonna do this now.

“Liv,” he rasps, and clears his throat. “Olivia Grace Dunham.” In the doorway, Astrid emits a strangled squeak of emotion, but Peter sees only Olivia, and grins. “Marry me,” he says.

Nobody breathes. For a moment the silence is absolute and yet roars like an ocean in his ears, spangled with the faint hums and whirrs and beeps of medical machinery. And then Olivia smiles wider than he’s ever seen, her whole face alight and overwhelmed with joy, love, disbelief. He tugs at her hands, clasped around his own.

“C’mon, sweetheart, make an honest man out of me,” he says, and Olivia rolls her eyes heavenward and laughs.

“Okay,” she says.

Peter blinks. “Okay, yes?” he asks, and Olivia nods fiercely.

“Yes! Okay, yes!” Peter lurches back to his feet and then Walter and Astrid are upon them; the four of them stand there giggling and sniffling like idiots in a gingerly group hug, each trying not to squeeze anyone’s various injuries too hard, until an orderly pokes his head in the door, looking dubious.

“We’re going to need to change out the room…” he says warily, and so they all shuffle apart, just a little. “Oh my God, this day,” Astrid sighs, wiping her eyes with a shaky hand. They haven’t quite made it into the hallway when Walter’s struck with a fresh inspiration.

“Peter! I could do it! We could do it right now!” he booms.

“What?”

Walter squares his shoulders with pride. “I’ve been a minister in the Universal Life Church since 1971!” He gives Astrid a conspiratorial nudge. “Got ordained through an ad in the back of Rolling Stone. Or was it High Times?” Straightening his spine, he puts on a solemn expression and a stentorian tone. “Dearly beloved…we are gathered here today to get through this thing…called…Life!”

“Walter—”

“Electric word, Life! It means forever, and that’s a mighty long—”

“Walter!” Peter barks. “That’s Prince. Purple Rain?” Walter frowns, perplexed, until Olivia lays a hand on his arm.

“Walter, thank you. But I think—well, I’d at least like to talk to Rachel first. Tell her the good news,” she says. “All the good news!” At that Walter nods in acquiescence; when Olivia steps forward and shyly, quickly presses a kiss to his cheek, he blushes like a schoolboy.

“Well, then! Young lady, you need to get some rest.” He points at Astrid. “And you, my dear Ascot—and you, son—”

“Everybody needs a rest. For about a month,” Peter says. Suddenly he’s cross-eyed with fatigue: none of them have slept in thirtymumble hours and he no longer knows what the hell day it is. Probably he’ll need to get that straight, when it comes to remembering his anniversary. Together they make their way down the hall, depositing Astrid back in her room before going out to find a cab. Olivia and Peter lean on each other, weaving like drunks, while Walter paces on the loading-zone curb, his hands busy in the air as if he’s grasping ideas out of the ether.

“Peter! Speaking of purple…” he says brightly.