"...Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win."-Stephen King.
More than one night when he is a little boy, no more than seven, Peter wakes from a terrible nightmare where he is taken from his bed. He knows it is a dream however, because instead of a monster, he sees his father's face, drawn so tightly in sorrow and it is his father's hands that hold him when he is scared, taking him away from his mother and through a terrifying door before the ice cracks beneath his feet and his lungs fill with freezing water and the world goes dark.
And on those nights that he wakes, skin damp from sweat and chest heaving as his lungs attempt to draw breath into them, he sees his father sitting on the bed beside him, hands soothing as they wipe the sweat from his brow and bring him a cup of water. And on those nights his father listens as Peter tries to tell him his dream, but fails every time, as the details seem to become lost in his subconscious when he wakes. And a finally, on those nights, his father always pulls the covers back over him, kisses his forehead and says, before he leaves,
"It's just a dream, son; it's not real. You're safe now."
And on those nights, at the tender age of seven, Peter wonders, just before he drifts to sleep, why his father sounds like he's trying convince himself more than Peter of the truth of his words.
He tells himself he's imagined it and forgets it as he falls back to sleep, lulled into security by the impossibility of the notion.
This is his father, after all, and his father loves him.
He wouldn't lie to him about something like this.
He jolts out of sleep; his heart racing as, in the chaotic space between awake and dreaming that he has found himself in the fear of his nightmare seems even stronger than it was in the hazy world of dreams. For a moment there is nothing but that overwhelming fear, like ice in his heart; no sense of where he is and after a second his eyes frantically search for familiar things as his lungs try to draw air into his chest (and largely fail). For a moment what he sees brings him no comfort; nothing but unfamiliar sheets, unfamiliar walls, an unfamiliar room; things that were once familiar to him in his life of wandering, but have now become unfamiliar once again.
And then, still caught in the frenzy of his nightmare, his eyes take in the form of a body beside him, and his panic breaks and his head clears. For a second, while he is still slightly fuzzy from sleep and his nightmare, he thinks it is Walter laying beside him and an equal degree of fondness and irritation rise up in him. The irritation stems from the simple fact that really, the point of them having their own house was so that Walter could stop sleeping in weird places like his bed, the closet and the bathtub (naked, did he mention he was always naked when he slept the in bathtub?) and the fondness from the less than simple fact that occasionally, after so many years without it, he likes the fact that his father cares enough about him to check on him (even though Walter always manages to find an intensely creepy way to do it).
Then however, the rest of his mind clears and it becomes glaringly obvious that the lithe form that is stretched out next to him, all curves and blonde hair in the moonlight is most defiantly not his father. Olivia, his freshly awake brain supplies for him and then before he has time to freak-out the rest of the night comes back to him and he remembers. A walk in the moonlight, a dark bar, shots, stories from his youth and then the press of a mouth that he'd been dreaming about for longer than was healthy against his, the taste of whisky lost under the addictive taste of woman; of Olivia. A cab ride where hands had grasped, hers fierce and his oh so gentle, still slightly in shock at the gift he had been given in being allowed to touch her. Then her apartment, where teeth had bit his flesh and tongue had soothed it, the sting of pain lost in the sea of pleasure. Clothes shed and flesh touching, so hot under his hands, his desire to please; to savour overwhelmed by her desire to plunder and inflame.
A golden goddess rising above him, her eyes nearly glowing in the moonlight as she took him inside her and made him believe in perfection.
For a moment, still stuck in the grasp of his memories he is stuck dumb, unable to do anything more than simply lay still and watch her; listen to the steady pace of her breathing and appreciate how the glint of moonlight through the window accents her face. She is not completely relaxed in her sleep (it would likely shock the hell out of him if she was); instead there is still the slightest tension in her frame that seems to suggest that at any moment she could awaken, ready to save the day. However there is a softness to her that he does not get to see very often, and the rarity of the sight only serves to make her more beautiful in his eyes.
So he simply watches her, and in doing so his racing heart slows and the last of his panic abates, because although this; lying beside her and soaking up her presence like a man who's dying of thirst is definitely new, it's somehow not unfamiliar; rather it feels so perfectly fitted that it's like he's been being doing this forever (and hey, maybe he has, in that other reality, because he doubts there is any version of him, no matter how messed up that could resist this).
There's a part of him that's still trying to figure out what he's done to deserve something this good, a part of him that still doesn't believe this is really happening, even as he soaks in the feeling of her bare skin against his that proves that it is. He's not a bad person, not really, but he knows that the things that he has done have not always been good (and that's if one is being generous) and he knows that there is a darkness in him, something he can't explain or quantify, ingrained in the deepest part of his being and so he simply can't help but wonder, with the part of him that still believes in karma, what exactly he did to deserve this perfection.
He can find no answers to his query, but the feeling of mystery is no stranger to him; he's known that Olivia Dunham would be the biggest enigma he'd ever meet since about an hour after he first saw her, when she'd been nothing more than a gorgeous blond in army fatigue pants in a hotel in Afghanistan, where she should have stuck out like a sore thumb but instead had struck him as if she belonged there. It wasn't until later, when he'd gone back to a building that was going to explode because she was there and he simply couldn't stay away, and watched her disarm a bomb with her mind that he'd realized that it hadn't been Afghanistan where he thought she belonged but rather at his side; that she'd belonged with him (and hadn't that realization just sent him for a hell of a loop?).
He'd be lying if he said he hadn't been imaging what she'd look like wrapped around his body since about ten minutes after he'd met her, but this, the desire for closeness rather than sex, the need for intimacy rather than pleasure, the sheer feeling he has for her is relatively new. The man he'd been before wouldn't have gone back into that building; the man he had been before wouldn't have done any of the insane things he's done since he met a certain blonde. If it had been any other person in that lobby, he wouldn't have even gotten on the plane, not even if the threat they'd been holding over his head had been a WMD. But it had been Olivia in that hotel and so he had gotten on the plane, not because she was blackmailing him, but because she'd stirred something in him, something primal and strange and he'd wanted to know why, and so if he'd had to release his father to do it, well then it had sounded like a fair trade to him. And then he stayed and he'd seen the impossible; had seen the woman lying beside him do the impossible, and well, he simply hadn't been able to leave; hadn't even wanted to.
He told her once he'd never seen anyone do the things that she could do and he'd meant it, and not just the things like seeing another universe and disarming explosives with her mind, but the little things that made her Olivia; the ability to smile in the face of all of the shit they saw every day; the fact that she had a heart that was big enough to forgive his father for what he did to her as a child; the fact that she said his name like she thought he was something special. And so all those little things had added until one day, he'd simply woken up, fought a monster and saved the world and realized that he'd fallen in love with Olivia Dunham; and then?
Well then life had gone on, because although Peter will admit to being many things, at his core he is essentially a pragmatist. Falling in love with Olivia Dunham had never been in his plan; hell, none of this shit had ever been in his plans (and most of it was so impossible that he'd never be able to put it in a plan anyways), but it had happened and since Peter couldn't see any reason in bemoaning what can't be changed, he'd simply accepted it. He'd never really had a plan for telling Olivia, because he didn't want to ruin the best partner/friendship he'd ever had and because he didn't want to dump his problems on Olivia so soon after she'd lost John Scott, a man that had left her vulnerable and doubting everything she'd ever known and desperately in need of some stability in her life. But he'd also never really had a plan for never telling her; a convoluted plan for keeping it all a big secret, rather just the vague idea that one day, when the time was right it would all come out and they'd let the chips rest where they landed. And he'd been perfectly content to sit back and be the friend and the shoulder to cry on that Olivia needed and wait until whenever that day came to sort all that other stuff out.
Of course, then Olivia had jumped him in a bar and dragged him back to her apartment and blown that plan straight to hell (it shouldn't even have surprised him really; she's excellent at exceeding his expectations).
But he's still a pragmatist and so although no, he may not be able to figure out exactly why she picked that particular moment when he had guessed it would take ages for her to even get close, he's not about to look what is likely the biggest gift horse he is ever going to get in mouth. No, instead he's simply going to thank his lucky stars and be this new person that loving Olivia has made him into, because truthfully, he rather likes the person he's become and because Olivia clearly does as well (if the love mark on his neck is any indication) and so he's simply going to go with it and hope that it all works out for the best.
He's pulled out of his contemplations by the sound of rustling fabric as Olivia shifts slightly in her sleep and the movement causes the sheet to drop, exposing one of her lovely, shapely legs to his eyes and the moonlight. He can't help it; he's never been all that good with that whole 'look but don't touch thing' and that was with things far less tempting the pale silk of Olivia Dunham's flesh and so he runs a single finger down the length of her exposed leg, ever so softly in an effort not to wake her. He fails though, as after a second Olivia's body shifts once before she jolts upwards, her eyes wide and alert even a second after waking. After a moment she catches sight of him and she relaxes, lies back down and arranges herself so that her body is twisted towards him as the tension in her body seeps out once more until she is nearly as relaxed as she was in her sleep.
"What time is it?" She asks her voice still husky and deep with sleep and the tone goes straight to his groin (he is only human, after all). He brushes a lock of hair off her face gently before he replies, voice quiet to preserve the mood, "Early. Don't worry; we don't have to go in. I didn't mean to wake you; I just...woke up unexpectedly. Go back to sleep."
She levels him with a look he is very familiar with, a pleasant mix of fondness, exasperation and 'yeah, that's not going to fly' before she asks, cutting through his bullshit in her no nonsense manner, "What woke you?"
"Nightmare," he says after a minute and he nearly turns away. The newness of this - of having someone in his bed and in his life that he's actually willing to spill the secrets of his soul to - is so alien to him, so not in his nature and it makes him want to hide his weak spots away so that they can't be used against him later. It's an instinctual response, deeply ingrained, a lesson taught by a lifetime of self preservation, but this is different; this is Olivia, who knows most of his demons already and doesn't judge him for them and because it's Olivia he's willing to open up; to bare his wounds and trust that she won't use them to hurt him.
"About the case?" She enquires gently after a moment, and one of her hands comes up to rest on his forearm, a quiet gesture of support that he gladly accepts. He laces the fingers of his free hand with hers and squeezes gently before he says, "No, but that was a pretty valid guess, because this has been a trying couple of days. I can't really even remember it; just that it was about Walter. I've been having it more and more lately, but I can never seem to remember anything more about it than that."
There's silence for a moment after he's spoken where she simply looks at him, her eyes inscrutable and a strange look on her face and Peter can't help but feel that Olivia, with that scarily brilliant insight of hers, is trying to profile him like she might a suspect; trying to see into his soul and judge what he knows and what his ulterior motive is. The quiet seems to drag on forever to him, and when it doesn't seem that Olivia is going to respond Peter continues, to break the silence, his voice laced with a slightly forced sense of levity, "It's stupid really; I mean with all the terrifying things that we've seen, to have nightmares about Walter."
She's quiet again in response, but because Peter can see that there's something contemplative in her eyes this time he stays silent and let's her gather her thoughts. After a moment she turns further towards him, brings their joined hands up to the pillow and rests her chin on them, waits until she's sure that his eyes are locked with hers before she says, voice quiet and serious, "I think this job; this insane thing that we do makes us forget that not all monsters have claws and scales and fangs and hide in the dark. It makes us forget that monster can be human as well. With all the things we've seen lately, we forget that we're allowed to be afraid of those monsters as well."
This time it's his turn to be silent in response, any retort he could have formulated lost as he looks into her eyes and sees something, so deep that it seems nearly fathomless and for a second Peter feels almost impossibly small, like a little boy looking into a black hole containing all the secrets of the world; like she's keeping something vitally important from him. But then it's gone and her eyes warm as she continues, "But Walter, well Walter would never do anything to hurt you. That's probably the only constant in his whole life."
"Thank you – I think I needed to be reminded of that." He says, deeply comforted by the honesty of the sentiment, but because he's also still a little overwhelmed by the look in those beautiful eyes of hers that had appeared and vanished so quickly that he wonders if he imagined it he states hesitantly, "You've clearly given the subject of monsters some thought."
"You're not the only one who has nightmares," she confesses quietly, her voice soft and serious and her hand squeezes his almost convulsively for a second before she makes herself relax. In response he feels the tension that he hadn't even been aware that he was carrying leave him (of course there is a perfectly rational reason for that look and he's simply let his imagination run away with him) and he squeezes her hand in a gesture of comfort and accepts her trust, something he knows that she gives out even less frequently than he does for the gift that it is and lets the subject drop.
There's a moment of silence afterwards, not awkward per sae, but somehow necessary as they both compose themselves and after a few more minutes where he simply enjoys the feeling of her pressed against him; of her hand in his he breaks the silence and asks, "What does it look like?" And it's apropos of nothing really, beyond a curiosity born out of the last couple of days they've had and a desire to see the world the way that this amazing woman does and at her inquisitive look he elaborates. "The glimmer, I mean."
She says nothing for a moment, and it's almost long enough that he is considering offering an apology for overstepping his bounds and blundering into what he images is a rather painful subject when she says, her voice uncharacteristically quiet, "It's..." and hesitates, almost like it's there now which he ignores because he knows that's impossible (absurd even) and then he stops thinking entirely as she reaches over and strokes a hand gently over the side of his face, before she whispers, her voice devastatingly low, "It's beautiful. It's new and it's terrifying, but it's beautiful all the same."
For a second in the wake of her words that look is back; her eyes are suddenly an abyss that is filled with so much emotion that Peter can't even identify all of it; a maelstrom of fear and love and sadness and it sparks something almost terrifying in his gut. But then in the next second it's gone and he sees nothing but the clear green of Olivia's much beloved eyes, like it was never there in the first place and as Peter melts into her caress he tells himself he must have imagined it.
"Now," she says, and she shakes her head once, as if she's physically trying to shake off the serious mood and her tone changes, darkens and becomes almost impossibly sensual as she rises slowly over him and straddles him, the paleness of her thighs a beautiful contrast to the flush of his arousal. She smiles once, then leans down, presses her breasts to his chest and a kiss to his neck, "let's see if," a bite to his nipple that is soothed by her tongue, "I can make you," a deep, suckling kiss to his bellybutton, "forget all about that nightmare," and then the impossible heat and wetness of her mouth settles on his shaft and she sucks, hard, and Peter loses his mind.
Suffice to say, she succeeds in making him forget.
Later, eons later, when they are lying entangled together, sweat cooling on their skin Peter, nearly completely caught in Morpheus's grasp, feels Olivia nestle her head into the curve of his shoulder and thinks he hears her whisper, so softly into the darkness that it is barely anything more than a breath of air on his flesh, "It's just a dream. It's not real."
But Peter is too lost in the web of sleep for what she says to truly register, and so he does not hear the guilt that taints her voice, born from the lie of her words.
More than one night, when he is a man (but in some ways still such a little boy), Peter wakes from a terrible nightmare where he is taken from his bed. He knows it is a dream however, because instead of a monster, he sees his father's face, drawn so tightly in sorrow and it is his father's hands that hold him when he is scared, taking him away from his mother and through a terrifying door before the ice cracks beneath his feet and his lungs fill with freezing water and the world goes dark.
And on those nights that he wakes, skin damp from sweat and chest heaving as his lungs attempt to draw breath into them, he sees Olivia lying on the bed beside him, hands soothing as they wipe the sweat from his brow and bring him a cup of water. And on those nights Olivia listens as Peter tries to tell her his dream, but fails every time, as the details seem to become lost in his subconscious when he wakes. And on those nights, Olivia always pulls the covers off of him, kisses his entire body before she slithers slowly on top of him and rides him until he can't remember his own name. And finally, when they are lying beside each other, sweat formed in an activity much more pleasurable than fear cooling on their skin she turns to him and says, before she stays in his arms as they fall back to sleep,
"It's just a dream, love; it's not real. You're safe now."
And on those nights, at the tender age of thirty-two, Peter wonders, just before he drifts to sleep, why Olivia sounds like she's trying convince herself more than Peter of the truth of her words.
He tells himself he's imagined it, and forgets it as he falls back to sleep again, lulled into security by the impossibility of the notion.
This is Olivia, after all, and Olivia loves him.
She wouldn't lie to him about something like this.