The baby’s crying. Wailing, more accurately, piercing the night with a cry that means one thing and one thing only. Somebody’s hungry.
“Linc,” she mumbles into the blankets, hands reaching out to prod him awake. “Can you get-“
The words die in her mouth. Something inside her gut feels like it’s seizing up, choking out the rest of her question. She doesn’t know what she was going to ask, or who she expected to find in her bed at 4 am.
“What did you call me?” Frank laughs, slinging an arm tight around her waist.
Liv feels cold, suddenly.
“Dreamin’ about work again?” He presses kisses to her neck, chuckles into her skin.
“It’s a baby,” she whispers, maybe to herself or Frank or maybe someone who’s not even here.
“The Jacobson’s. Down the hall. They had a little girl last month, remember?”
Of course she does. She and Frank sent flowers, pink lilies for the baby girl. The crying sounds softer now, like it’s coming from another apartment and not the room behind hers.
“You have gotta stop pushing yourself so hard,” Frank tightens his arm around her waist, slides his mouth along her shoulder.
“Day off starts now, Liv.”
She lets the heat in her body drive off the twisting of her gut, Frank’s steady arms replacing the strange rhythm of her heart. Making it all the easier to ignore the bad feelings.
Olivia doesn’t know if it’s always been so easy to forget.
Things will come up; the taste of coffee (she hasn’t had it in years), Rachel’s face (8 years ago in October), a dark haired man who holds her like she’s all he’s ever wanted (she’s always had a thing for blonds). But if she concentrates, if she throws herself into work and helping mom and looking for Charlie’s replacement, then it all kind of fades away. Like it’s nothing but a lingering dream.
The other Olivia feels like the strangest dream. During her sleepless nights, Liv tries to count the ways that they’re alike, but the list never gets her far.
Work ethic. They’re both driven to unimaginable degrees, determined to save people. To be a force for good.
Friends. She’s seen Olivia with the other Lincoln, heard her talk about her Charlie. She’s glad that they attract the same people, it’s comforting to think about Charlie always having her back, Lincoln always laughing at her jokes. Even the lame ones.
Food. They split pepperoni pizza, boxes of donuts. Cups of Earl Grey tea. They start to differ when her alternate brings out the whiskey bottle, late into the evenings when the cases get blurry and there’s no end in sight.
One night she even tries some herself, tries to pretend the taste doesn’t burn her mouth and slide down her throat like hot oil.
Her alternate smiles. Or rather, she lifts the corner of her mouth, which Olivia has come to realize is as close to her version of smiling as there is.
“It’s, uh,” Liv grimaces, placing the glass back on the table. “It’s bad.”
The other Olivia shrugs. “This is the good stuff,” she mumbles down at the files.
They work in silence, papers shuffling, background chatter drowning them out. Olivia tries to focus on the case (a little boy, kidnapped from his bedroom on both sides. Her chest aches, briefly.) but she can’t stop glancing up, watching the other woman work. It’s a funhouse mirror, a carnival act come to life. It’s a novelty that doesn’t wear off, no matter how many times they meet.
“Do I have something in my teeth?” The woman doesn’t even look up, flipping another page in her file.
Olivia smirks. “Just thinking.”
She doesn’t respond. Olivia leans forward in her chair, regarding her double across the table. For a moment, she wonders if the other woman feels it too. The loss, the gaping hole burning inside her. She wonders if this Olivia knows her confusion, tries to make sense of it the same way. She wants to ask, but finding the words seems like a Herculean task.
How do you confront something that’s not even there?
“If you’re not going to finish that,” Olivia (alternate Olivia, funhouse Olivia, not-her Olivia) gestures time the whiskey glass, still mostly full in front of her. “I can help you out.”
She's welcome to it. Liv doesn't think she needs alcohol to feel like she's losing control, not now.
There’s a taxi sitting outside her apartment building. It’s been there for an hour at least, waiting. Watching, maybe.
She stares at it through the blinds, tries to make out the figure sitting in the front seat. If she were really concerned, she could call the office, ask Lincoln to run the plates, but for some reason it’s not fear making the hair on the back of her neck stand up.
She double checks her gun and cuff before she steps outside, feeling the early autumn sun on her face. The cab just sits there innocently, its driver watching a video on his tablet. For a second she stands and watches, before the man lifts his head to look at her.
“Hi,” she grins, that disarming look that usually gets her far with men. “Waitin’ for someone?”
The cabbie sits up straight in the front seat, like he’s been caught doing something he shouldn’t. “I’m sorry, ma’am, if you want me to move-“
“You’ve been here a while,” she says plainly, and again he looks caught. Like he knows there’s something wrong about the situation.
“Look, if you need the spot-“
“Who are you here for?” She can feel her pulse rise, thudding a sharp beat in her body. Maybe she already knows the answer to that question.
“I-I don’t,” the man falters. He lets out a sigh, hands flexing on the wheel. “You’re gonna think I’m crazy.”
She smiles softly. “Try me.”
He narrows his eyes, like he’s trying to figure out if she’s serious or not. After a long moment he shrugs, seemingly giving in.
“I just kept thinking of this place.”
Olivia wonders if that should seem threatening; she’s been followed before, usually by perps who have the good sense to seem a little more embarrassed when they’re caught red handed.
“I’ve never been here, okay? I’m not stalking anybody or anything like that. I just- I dunno,” he shakes his head, voice cracking. “I can’t stop thinking about it. I just thought if I came by, maybe I’d remember something I forgot.”
Cars whiz by behind them, but Olivia feels like she can’t move. She doesn’t know how she understands what he means, or why she hopes, prays, for the same thing. To be able to remember.
“What’s your name?” It comes out barely above a whisper, the words almost fading away between them.
“Uh, Henry. Henry Higgins.”
Something inside her tightens. It’s like reaching for her gun only to find it’s not there, that she’s left herself bare and unprotected somehow.
“Henry,” she breathes, and the name loosens the knot in her stomach like something gentle and sweet.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.” His voice is soothing, somehow. He makes her feel at ease.
“It’s okay, Henry.” She likes saying his name. It feels comfortable in her mouth, like the way those kind brown eyes make her tension dissipate. “I’m Olivia.”
He smiles, much less forced this time. “It’s nice to meet you.”
It is, she thinks. It’s very nice indeed.
Her cuff beeps suddenly, clearing the fog that’s descended over her thoughts.
“Dunham.” She steps back to take the call and he nods. Charlie rambles in her ear as she watches Henry start the car, sparing her another glance out the window.
“Have a good day, Olivia.” He offers, and she feels something else click into place as the cab drives off.
She dreams of decorating her back room with blues and purples, stuffed teddy bears and pictures of herself, mom, Rachel. There’s a soft lullaby playing, a tune that sounds cheery at first, but feels darker the longer it goes on.
In the dream, Frank’s gone and she feels empty, a little. But she’s full up with something else, love that she’s never felt for Frank, for anyone. Encompassing, urgent, the strongest feeling she thinks she’s ever known.
For half a second Lincoln’s there too, teasing her about hanging the painting crooked. She turns and he’s cradling something small, something that’s barely there at all.
She feels warm in the dream, but when she wakes at 5 am she’s sweating like she had a nightmare. She showers away the remnants, willing the images down the drain, but she can’t stop thinking of that feeling. That love. She's never known that emotion, not like that, and yet, she can't stop thinking of it.
“You have nieces and nephews, right?”
Lincoln looks up from his desk, pausing his scan of the victim’s belongings. He furrows his brows but doesn’t ask any questions; like always, he’ll follow where she leads.
“One. My step-brother has a little boy.”
A boy. Maybe that’s where the image comes from.
“Uh, 5 by now.” Lincoln scratches at the back of his head. “Nick moved back to Jersey, I don’t see them as much anymore.”
Ah. She tries to remember if he ever would have brought the boy here, to work. Maybe babysitting one day- he seems the type to think a precinct is a good place for a child.
“Why the interest in my family?” Lincoln quirks an eyebrow. “You trying to see if anybody’s gonna miss me when you off me for eating your yogurt?”
“That was you?” She gives him a slap on the arm and he laughs, hand coming out to catch hers to prevent another strike. His fingers slip against hers, and she thinks she feels something wet. Tears. There’s a moment, a flash in her mind. Her tears and his and blood and sweat and Lincoln holding her hand through it all. The smell of something awful and beautiful at the same time. She feels cold all over, ice piercing down her spine.
“You okay?” He squeezes her fingers, and she pulls back sharply. He looks hurt for a moment before he puts on another toothy smile, dimples flashing.
“How about we take the yogurt out of the Junior you owe me for sandwiches at Coney?”
He’s quick with a joke. That’s why she’s always liked him. “That sandwich was not 20 bucks-“
“You wanted avocado, Liv, it was like the most expensive item on the menu.”
It’s easy to slip back into this. The teasing, the playing. So much easier than confronting the dreams that aren’t dreams and the moments that never happened.
“You ever get deja vu?”
She and Charlie and in the back of a van, speeding headfirst into yet another tragedy. One of their last, before Charlie heads upstate to push papers and collect his retirement money.
He looks up at her with furrowed brows, hands digging in his bag for another round of spider meds. He rolls the canister in his hands, looking down at it as he thinks.
“Y’know, like- thinking you’ve been somewhere before. Or done something.”
Charlie shrugs. “Like, when I gotta remind you to stop leaving your jacket on my chair?”
Olivia rolls her eyes. “I told you, that’s not me, one of the newbies is moving my stuff-“
“Yeah, yeah,” Charlie chuckles, injecting the canister into his forearm with practiced ease. It's strange how comfortable something like your coworker de-worming himself can feel.
What a world.
Olivia leans back against the wall of the truck, watching him. “I’m serious,” she says, and his smile falls a touch. “You know the feeling?”
Charlie twists his mouth, a nervous tick she learned years ago. “Yeah. I think.” He doesn’t elaborate, so she tries to drop it.
“I dunno, it’s probably nothing.”
Charlie shrugs. “I used to get that feeling a lot in the academy. Like, I’d met people before. Or seen these cases before.”
She thinks of the little boy vanished from his bedroom, the sting that left in her gut.
“Haven’t had it in a few years, I guess.” He pauses, eyes her a little more closely. “How ‘bout you?”
She wants to lie, say she just heard about it on TV or something, but it’s Charlie. “Yeah. A lot, recently.” She bites at her lip, lowers her eyes. “It’s like I have these dreams, only they’re not-“
“Dreams,” Charlie leans forward. “You feelin’ okay, kid?”
“I’m fine, I just-“
“It is you, right? I’m not talking to blondie?”
Olivia stifles a laugh. “It’s me,” she swears, and Charlie’s face softens.
“Are you okay?” He asks again. He sounds so sincere that she wants to admit everything. The dreams, the hole in her chest, the fear that she’s forgotten something so horribly important.
The van rolls to a stop. Someone flings open the back door and calls to Charlie, who turns back to her with that same worried look on his face.
“Let’s go.” She pats his knee as she passes, trying to ignore his gaze boring into her back.
She doesn’t bring it up again. Frank leaves on assignment so she buys sleeping meds, passes out on her couch and blissfully doesn’t dream a single thing. It works, almost. Things begin to feel normal again, her life feels like her life.
For a while.
Olivia comes home one night to a bald man in a suit standing at her front door. She reaches for her gun but the same feeling she got from the cabbie creeps up her spine, a not-quite familiarity that stops her from drawing. He’s off-putting for sure, yet there’s something in her that says he’s not dangerous. Not to her, at least.
“Hello.” The man looks at her like he can see through her, past her. Into her.
“Hello,” she parrots. He blinks, passing a long moment in silence, before he opens his mouth again.
“You have been asking questions.” He speaks like he’s reading from a book, reciting lines he’s said a hundred times before. “Do you want answers?”
Well, who wouldn’t say yes to a strange man offering answers outside their apartment at midnight?
He takes off down the stairs, surprisingly fast for a man in a pressed suit, and she jogs to catch up.
“Hey, are you gonna tell me-“ He’s outside before she can finished the question, briskly passing the apartment building and continuing down the street.
This is insane, she thinks. She’s chasing a random man down the street because he might have a clue what’s happening in her mind. There’s an equally good chance he’s a complete nutcase who’s going to try and murder her, and God, what does that say if she’s become so desperate for a truth that she’s risking this?
They go inside an old building, spiderwebs on the ceiling and cracks on the walls. The place looks abandoned, half the doors kicked in.
“You live here?” She jokes, but he doesn’t respond. He leads her silently down the empty corridor, up a flight of creaking stairs. She wonders again if she should take out her gun, but she doesn’t quite feel scared with this man. He’s strange, but not frightening. It’s more like he’s just in the wrong place. Wrong time.
There’s an open door on the left side of the hallway. He pauses momentarily in front of it, waiting for her to catch up. He’s not out of breath in the slightest, a sharp contrast to her sharp inhales as she finally reaches him.
“Are you gonna tell me what’s going on?”
He tilts his head just slightly before stepping over the threshold. Against all better judgement she follows, heart pounding in her chest, arms tense at her sides.
There’s nothing there. It’s a white room, walls freshly painted, devoid of any furniture. She steps up behind him as he stares at the south wall, trying to figure out just where her life went wrong to lead her to this exact moment.
“Look,” the man extends a hand, pointing at the blank space. There’s an image materializing, fuzzy at first before it fades into view. It’s her, sitting at home in that forgotten back room, holding something in her arms. Talking to it. Singing to it.
Not something. Someone.
“You have been thinking of him.” The man states plainly, and she feels like crying. It’s like a weight has vanished from her shoulders, but instantly it’s replaced by another- grief. Loss.
“You had a child that was not supposed to exist. Peter Bishop was meant to-“
“Peter Bishop,” the name tastes bittersweet in her mouth, gentle and rough at the same time.
“Peter Bishop was meant to have children with the Olivia Dunham from the other side. He was an anomaly.”
“My son?” She swallows hard, thinks of the concrete pain in her chest.
“Yes.” The man looks back at the image, tilting his head.
“I have a son,” Liv tests the words, before realizing she’s already misspoke. She had a son. He’s no more, erased from existence and her fucking memory because someone else decided he was a mistake.
“He can not come back.” The man tilts his head forward, like he knows what she’s thinking. Like he knows what she wants to do. “He is erased.”
“What if I want him?”
“He can not come back.” The man repeats with that same funny cadence, expressionless as he takes in the tears on her cheeks.
“I loved him,” she reaches out and brushes her hand against the image, willing herself to feel the softness of his cheek, smell that beautiful baby smell.
“Yes,” the man pauses, looking from her to the image on the wall. “You did.”
“You stole my son.”
For the first time, she sees a hint of emotion on the man’s face. He looks almost affronted, hurt by her declaration.
“He never existed.”
“He did, I can see him right now-“
“No. He never existed.” The picture begins to fade, the thick white paint coming back into view. She wants to scream, wants to beg for it to come back. She wants him back.
“You were not meant to remember.” He says softly, but deep inside her, Olivia knows that can’t be true.
“But I did. I remembered him.” She feels the wetness on her cheeks, her lips, but she doesn’t bother trying to stop it.
The man looks back at the wall. “I wanted to show you-“
“I want to see him grow up.“ She doesn’t know who, or what, he is, but if he can show her this, he has to be able to do something else. He has to be able to bring him back.
“He will never grow up.” The man doesn’t seem angry, or upset with her. He almost seems confused, like he doesn’t understand her insistence. “He was not meant to happen.”
“So, why did he? Why do I remember him?” She feels the gape in her stomach, the ache in her chest. “Why do I miss him?”
The man doesn’t respond. She wonders if she’s stumped him, or if he’s just recognizing that a crying woman with a gun isn’t something he wants to be around.
The walls start to shimmer. She squints around the room, watches it change under her own feet. The man keeps his gaze steady on hers as the world disappears around them, head turning to the side until she sees their new destination:
Central Park. She’s been in this exact spot before, knows the crooked lamppost standing just beyond the hill. The benches behind them are dedicated to the Amber victims.
He turns his head so she follows his gaze, until she sees something hauntingly familiar.
Lincoln’s a few feet away. He looks a little different; older, maybe. Hair not so perfectly styled. Eyes tired, but not weary. His Five o’clock shadow seems less intentional and more a side effect of whatever’s preoccupying him.
“They can not hear you.” The man pulls out a black box and opens it up to type, like some old school cell phone.
They. She turns her head and sees a little boy running from the other end of the field, tiny legs carrying him as fast as he can go. He swings at the soccer ball with vigor, sending it flying past Lincoln and rolling until it stops, just below her own feet.
“Look at that, Henry!” Lincoln whistles, turning to watch where the ball landed. For a moment, Olivia thinks he can see her, but he only smiles and turns back to the kid. “Great job, bud.”
Henry laughs, his round face crinkling. She tries to drink it all in the best she can; brown curls, dark blue eyes. He looks like his father, but she can’t figure out why she knows that, somehow.
“He’s happy. He’s happy here.”
The bald man doesn’t respond. A popping sound echoes through the park, and she watches Lincoln turn abruptly, his expression changing in an instant. There’s a red light shining on the horizon, just stretching over the trees.
“We gotta get home, buddy.” He leaves the forgotten ball, scooping the boy up into his arms. “We gotta get back to your mom.”
The red light brightens on the horizon and she realizes it’s not a light at all, but something worse. Something eating through the sky, tearing it apart. Something horrible is happening here.
They pass by her, close enough to reach out and touch them, so she does. Brushes her hand against the back of Henry’s, fingers aching for that smooth skin.
He turns to look back at her, dark eyes staring straight at hers as they disappear into the distance.
“This is how your world ends.” The man turns his head, regarding the fleeing parkgoers with trademark indifference. “This is his impact.”
“One little boy can’t destroy the world,” she thinks. She stares up at the gaping hole in the sky, the tear widening and widening until she understands what’s happening. In a flash, it all goes white, and she’s back in that tiny room, just her and this man. No Lincoln. No Henry. No dying world.
“It’s not fair.”
He blinks back at her. There’s a long pause, a moment where he looks nearly sad. “No. Maybe it is not fair."
Fair escaped her vocabulary when she ambered her first vortex hole. She hasn't had the luxury of black and white in so long that she's forgotten what that feels like, to be so confident in her own moral judgement.
But this, this loss. This is cruelty.
"Please," she wants to ask for him, wants to beg for things to be how they were.
The man pulls something out of his coat, and she barely has time to register what it might be before the blast hits her. Her mind goes black thinking of a little boy with curly hair and those stunning eyes, a name echoing in her head like a prayer.