A few days after you bring Henry home from the hospital, you cut your hair.
You stand in front of the mirror in your bathroom and you cut your hair using a pair of dull scissors that you find in the same drawer where you keep the steak knives. The cut is messy and uneven. Pieces of hair stick to the sink and the floor and your shoulders.
Turning on the taps, you let the water rinse away the clumps of hair in the sink, and when you grab a towel to clean up the rest, you look at your reflection. You look different. You don’t look like you anymore.
(And you tell yourself that you never looked like her.)
Your face is framed by a neat and straight line of bangs across your forehead and the rest is an untidy mess that limply hangs below your chin. You touch your fingers to the ends and think, it’ll grow back.
You spend the rest of the night absently reaching for what isn’t there.
And fuck if that isn’t a metaphor for, like, your entire life.
Lincoln smiles when he sees you.
He moves a hand through the choppy ends of the cut, his knuckles skimming over your jaw, and says, Don’t worry, Liv. We can fix this.
I like it, you tell him, crossing your arms and jutting out your chin.
He puts his hand to your cheek, his thumb resting on some small spot between the bridge of your nose and the start of your cheekbone, looking at you with this kind of soft intensity (almost like he’s going to kiss you) and you feel a familiar sort of ache spread through your chest. Putting your fingers on top of his, you stay like that for a moment: the two you in the narrow hallway of your apartment, hands pressed together and not speaking.
I wasn’t talking about your hair, he clarifies.
You can hear yourself laugh and, with a quick nod, you lift his hand from your face, but keep your fingers looped around his wrist.
Yeah, you say. You look to the floor. Yeah, I know.
But we should probably fix that too, he says. ‘Cause it looks like hell.
He laughs too, but somehow the sound is more charming coming from his mouth. Which is just all kinds of unfair.
You pretend to be mad, dropping his hand and narrowing your eyes at him. He just sort of blinks back at you, so you knock a curled fist into his shoulder. Hard.
He smirks, feigning hurt, and grips at the supposed sore spot through his jacket, as he says, Hey, violence. Not cool, Liv.
Making a face, you coo at him, aww, muffin, but your voice is sweet and mocking.
But Lincoln just smiles brightly back at you. And that smile makes your heart beat just a little bit faster. Because you’ve missed that smile. You’ve missed him. You’ve missed the way he looks at you when he thinks that you’re not looking. (You’ve missed the way he looks at you when he knows you’re looking.)
You’ve missed who you were with him.
(And with him, you were never her.)
Sitting on the edge of the bathtub with your hands on your knees and a towel on your shoulders, Lincoln holds you steady with a warm and heavy hand on the back of your head and you can hear the sharp snip snip snip of the scissors as he works them over the uneven layers.
Chin up, he instructs, like he’s done this before.
You lift your head, obedient, but smirking, and hear the same snip snip snip.
When he’s finished, he kneels in front of you and gently pulls on the ends of your hair, tugging the strands between his fingers, checking to make sure that the cut is even.
There, he says. He sweeps his fingers over your nose and cheeks and chin, brushing away stray bits of hair. Perfect.
He stays kneeling in front of you, with his face so close to your own, and it would be so easy to just lean forward and kiss him. It would be so easy to hang your arms over his shoulders and cover his mouth with yours. It would be so easy to lose yourself (you, Olivia Dunham, not her) in just kissing him.
Instead, you say, Thank you.
He stands, and gives you that same heart-fluttering smile, and says, Of course, Liv. Anytime.
Lincoln falls asleep in your bed. He falls asleep in your bed, with his nose to your neck and his arm across your stomach and his leg stretched out over yours, so his ankle is touching to the instep of your foot. Henry lays cradled in your arms and you use your fingers to trace the soft line of his small shoulders.
You keep the television on while you feed Henry, but with the volume turned off, so you don’t wake Lincoln. You listen to the low sounds of Henry suckling and Lincoln’s light snores and feel like maybe this is going to work.
Lifting your free hand, you go to move the hair off of your neck, but when your fingers touch skin, you remember (and, you think, it’ll grow back). You move your hand to Lincoln’s head instead, rubbing your fingers through his hair and then over his jaw.
He stirs and sighs and says, Liv.
And you smile. Because this is who you are. With Henry and Lincoln (and repeats of Liv, Liv, Liv in between sudden, but slow, kisses), you’re you.