"It's blizzarding out," Peter said. "So I get a wish."
He was sitting with his back against the headboard of their bed with week-old Etta half in his arms, half against his upraised knees, entirely asleep. The wind was rattling the windows and they could hear snow pelting the glass in waves.
"When did this rule come into effect?" The corners of Olivia's mouth were up, but she still had tears still drying on her face. She was lying sideways, propped up on a small mountain of pillows with a cheek against Peter's shoulder and Etta's hand wrapped around her index finger. It was only the third time Etta had grabbed her finger and held on, and Olivia wondered if that sensation would ever fail to make her heart skip.
"Just went into effect. Just thought of it," he said, "Next blizzard, you get a wish."
Peter ran a thumb over Etta's cheek, got a nose twitch, an eyelid flutter as reward.
"Well as long as there's wish parity…" she looked up at him. "What do you wish?"
"That you'll go see Dr. Scharff Monday. Just go. Sit in his office. Talk to him. That's it. Simple."
"Auggggh…." Olivia swallowed a frustrated mutter, sank down, pulling the comforter half over her head. "Not fair. You snuck that one in. I told you: I see Dr. Scharff, I have a psych eval on my record."
"And a very relieved husband," Peter said softly. "Whose only wish just came true."
Olivia slid back up, sitting next to him and fighting tears again. She held her hands out for the baby.
"I'll think about it."
Peter handed Etta over with a straight face and a blink that said 'thank you'. He walked to the window, held the blinds open just far enough to see, squinting into the whiteout.
"Two feet of snow," he said, "at least. And still falling. How about I go make us breakfast in bed and we stay here until Noon?"
"That," Olivia said, "Sounds like the best idea ever."
She put Etta over her shoulder as Peter headed downstairs, ran a hand over her back, drawing a deep breath.
"I don't suppose you'd tell him for me, huh?" she whispered. "Well… that's true. You can't talk yet. Fine, I'll handle it. After breakfast."
Fringe Division Laboratory
Three Months Earlier
Olivia was well inside the lab before the door shut, flicking open the buttons of her coat, her boots trailing melting slush behind her. Astrid looked up from her computer terminal, dropped her pen onto the scratch paper where she was making notes. It wasn't just the tone in Olivia's voice that stopped her cold- it was her total disregard of the 'no boots past the door' rule. Neither was like her.
"He's in the bathroom," Astrid keyed something in to the computer, still watching Olivia as she hit 'enter'. "Has been for twenty minutes. No, I don't know why and I'm trying hard not to think about it."
She saw Olivia still pacing, tossing her coat randomly on a lab table, barely seeming to hear her.
"Not the time for a joke, huh?" There was no missing the concern in Astrid's voice now. "Olivia, what's wrong?"
"Everything," She said, finally meeting her gaze. "Only everything."
Walter stepped out of the bathroom and saw them both standing there, silent. He made a beeline straight for his turntable.
"I smell the frission of unhappiness in the air. Music: It may not fix it, but it can't hurt."
He dropped the stylus, and the sounds of "The Air that I Breathe" filled the room as he walked to the table where he'd been working, eyes headed straight for the sights on his microscope. It was clear he thought his part in whatever was going on was done.
"Walter," Olivia walked to him, the fingers of her right hand pinching her nose and then dropping to his shoulders shaking him lightly. "It's not gone. You were wrong. It's never going to be gone, is it? How much of it is in me… what about… what does it mean for the baby? Walter… Please. I'm kind of freaking out here."
"I'll be back," Astrid got up, started to leave, and Olivia stopped her with a shake of her head.
"No need. Just… we have to keep it between us 'til I say…okay?" she smiled as Astrid nodded, sat back down, focused on her computer program.
It was a sign of how far Walter had come, Olivia thought, that he clearly understood her and yet he didn't dissemble, didn't start mumbling incomprehensibly or look for a place in the back of his brain to hide. He just put his hand on top of hers and smiled up at her, his eyes damp.
"I'm sorry, my dear," he said. "As long as I live, I'll never stop being sorry."
"I'm not mad anymore," she said, "And I don't need apologies. I just need to know what it means for her?"
"Empirical evidence first," He said forcefully, getting up and leading her to a lab table, having her stretch out, helping her roll up her sleeve. "What tells you it's not gone?"
"A child ran into the street in front of my car as I was driving home with the groceries," Olivia said, flexing her arm as he tapped her bicep, looking for a vein. "I flung him twenty feet back from the intersection. His little feet left the ground, Walter."
"Well, my dear, I would think that's a good thing," he was laughing as he jabbed the needle in for the blood sample. "You saved the little bugger's life, didn't you?"
"What if what we learn costs me her life?" The question was barely a whisper, and Walter patted her opposite shoulder, shaking his head.
"Let's not panic until there's good reason to."
"Should we test her too?" Olivia asked "The baby? Like an amnio test?"
"Why poke and prod her now?" He asked gently, "It's not like it's going to change anything, correct?"
"You're right," she lay back, eyes on the ceiling. "Lots of time for that after she arrives."
"Yes, my dear, unfortunately, I'd say so…"
Saturday, 10:15 am
"It'll be okay, you know?" Peter said.
"Will it?" Olivia murmured.
"I believe it will. Or I wouldn't say it."
Etta was in the crook of Peter's left arm now as Olivia set their breakfast trays by the door, stacked their empty coffee cups and went back to them. She was relieved he had taken it so well. He'd been a little shaken at first, but somehow it was like he'd been expecting it. He mostly wanted reassurance Etta was physically okay, which she could give him now, which is the only reason she'd waited. As for what it all meant for the way she'd see the worlds… only Etta could tell them that someday.
Mostly she was thankful at how angry he wasn't, and how he never asked why Walter and Astrid had known for twelve weeks that their baby had spent her entire existence swimming in cortexiphan while he'd been in the blissful dark.
"And it would have been okay, too, if my guess had been right. You do believe that, don't you - I mean, really know it? We'd have worked through it together. Just like we'll work through this."
"Of course," she said, settling under the covers, one arm over her head staring at the ceiling.
"I just… It fit all the symptoms," he said. "I'm no expert on these things but everything I read, everything- it was all to a 'T', just so 'on the nose: the bouts of tears, irritability, then you're fine and then falling apart again. All those baby books: It screamed post-partum depression…'"
"Stop it," she sat up, brushed her lips against the spot where his ear met his cheek and sank back down. "What are you apologizing for? Worrying about us? Wanting to make sure I didn't need help?"
"Well…." Peter hit the word hard with a teasing note, then paused, "In my defense, we all know just how much you like to show any sign of weakness…."
"Yeah, sorry," she smiled up at him. "You're probably stuck with that for some time to come. Old habits die hard."
"Now there's only one thing left to discuss," Peter said. "What it is, exactly, that has you crying today? I know it's not what you just told me, you've had months to prepare. So Olivia… let's get this over with. What else is it?"
She lay with her eyes on the ceiling for a moment more then she sat up, facing him, her nose wrinkling as she waved a hand generally around Etta.
"It's different than when I see it with you. With you, it's a vague gold warble, with a pink aura in front. With her, it's everywhere, it's so strong. It's not constant, thank God, but when I see it…. it's so strong she's bathed in it. I guess because she's so young. Maybe it's a life force thing…"
"So," Peter said, "You're saying she has her mother's smile and her father's glimmer?"
"And then some," Olivia kissed Etta's head, slid back down. "And that's it. I promise, Peter, that's it."
"It's enough," Peter said. "Hey, maybe we should both go see Dr. Scharff on Monday?"
"Family therapy?" Olivia asked. "Probably not a bad idea. Might as well bring Walter and Astrid along."
She smiled as Peter broke into a rare fit of outright laughter.
"Might as well. Save us having to explain everything later. Hey, Olivia," he lifted her chin up with a finger. "It'll be okay."
"Yeah," he said, "It will."
Olivia smiled, reached for Etta's hand, wanting to feel her grip again. She decided to believe it: It'd all be okay, for now, for awhile, maybe for a long time.. until it wasn't again. But that day felt far away now—somewhere far on the other side of the storm still rattling their windows, burying the city in snow, making it perfectly all right to stay in bed all day long and forget they'd ever need to leave.