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Two to Care For

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Olivia walked into the apartment ahead of Peter and wandered into the kitchen. She listened to the thud of the closing door, the quiet thunk as Peter dropped their bags to the floor, and the light sound of the music he started playing in the living room. She gripped the edge of the countertop, her fingers meeting the cold granite. As soon as she feels support, she leans against it, letting her head fall forward and her tired eyes fall shut. She didn’t know how tired she felt until she got here. Something about being home, with him now, makes her able to let go (slightly) of the day's work. He makes it so she can actually fall asleep at night. So she can calm her mind. 

But it’s quite hard to calm your mind after it’s had cortexiphan-repaired bullet hole going through it.

She hears his footsteps closing in. 

"You okay?" Peter asked, walking up behind her and wrapping his arms around her waist. He leans over and places a kiss on the inside of her neck from behind. She sighs heavily just as his lips touch her skin. He can calm her mind and her body, even if there was a bullet through both not even 24 hours ago.

She nodded, “mhmm” and stood, still facing away from him. She leaned back into his chest and he tightened his arms around her. She hummed contentedly when he tightened his grip, her heart rate dropping and her breathing slowing.

"You sure?" he murmured into her ear and neck, kissing her along the way, his voice quiet and a little hoarse. She can hear his soft breaths against her skin, the quietness of the night now even more apparent. 

He pressed his lips to the soft skin just behind her ear, making her shiver as his stubble tickled her neck. She turned her head to the side, her cheek pressed to his shirt, and relaxed against him, knowing he'd hold her up. She could stay like this for hours. Hell, she could fall asleep like this right now. She wanted to. Her mind was blurry with exhaustion—the deep kind that made your limbs heavy and your head foggy.

"Liv?" he prompted again, his voice questioning, laced with worry still.

She turned in his arms so she could see his face. She looked up at him and offered up a soft, sleepy smile. "I'm fine, Peter," she told him, because she was. She had him, and no Bell, and two intact universes, and a baby

— She blocks her mind from going down that path. Wanting to stay relaxed in his arms and not think too far into the future. The furthest she could get right now was planning their 10 step walk to bed. 

So yeah, it was…a lot. Almost causing the end of two universes, jumping out of a helicopter onto an invisible boat, dying and undying, finding out she was pregnant… 

— she closes her eyes tightly to stop the thought again. But it keeps creeping to the forefront of her mind. How can it not?

Anyway, it’s a lot to experience in less than twenty-four hours. A little too much, even for her, if she was being honest. Which she could barely admit to herself, let alone anyone else. Even Peter.

"I'm just…tired," she said, her voice raspy. She closed her eyes and pressed her face into his chest, sagging against him a little. He felt so sturdy beneath her, like she could finally let the world(s) slip away. Soon she starts to feel herself drift on the edge of consciousness, her mind wandering into that blissful half sleep state. 

He chuckled quietly, "come on, let’s go to bed."

While she knew it was probably (definitely) a good plan, she still wasn't happy when he pulled away, taking away his warmth, broad arms, physical and emotional support, "You better come with me," she mumbled as she's pulled by him, a little dazed, into the bedroom.

He threw her a grin over his shoulder, "as if that were ever in question."

She'd barely slipped out of her jacket and shoes before she flopped onto the comforter, not bothering to pull back the blankets. Still fully dressed, she starts to think she might be slightly more tired than she thought. He chuckled again, but she was too sleepy to open her eyes, too tired to even feel embarrassed for her slightly ridiculous behavior.

"Olivia, I will let you go to sleep fully clothed, slacks and all, but you need to at least get under the covers," he said, sitting on the other side of the bed taking off his shoes

"Mhmm," was her incoherent, half-asleep response. There it was again, his light laughter. She definitely prefers it to the constant worry he has been projecting these last few weeks. These last 24 hours. Although, she can't blame him.

He starts to walk toward the bathroom, but she stretches her arm out from the edge of the bed to find him. Her finger tips barely reach his low back and she grasps at him, the only thing tangible to grab is the belt loop on the back of his pants. She pulls him gently, weakly, insisting that he come over to her and sleep now - while also fully dressed. 

He stumbles backward behind him, sitting on her side of the bed. He runs his fingers through her hair as he studies her face. Her long locks splayed across the pillow behind her. 

"I'll be quick," he whispers with a quick kiss on her cheek. 

Once he returns to bed, his shoes are off, but clothes still on, he gives in to her weak pull and rolls over to wrap her in his arms. Her body sinks into his as soon as they make contact. 

It seems he is clearly the only responsible (awake) adult in this situation. He props his head up on his elbow while laying on his side so he can look down at her. She looks so peaceful, a strange word to describe a person who was dead less than 24 hours ago.

Dead...

— he wipes that thought from his mind, focusing on the task at hand, "ok, if you're not going to do it, I guess I can do it for you," he chuckles lightly. He starts unbuttoning her dress shirt and slacks, turning her every which way until he's pulled all of her limbs out of each piece of clothing. She pulls off her own underwear, and then rolls slightly to her side so he can un-clasp the back of her bra, which she lets fall to the floor. He kisses her chest and neck and she shivers at both the cold and the stubble of his beard tickling her. 

"You're going to have to get under the covers," he says gently into her skin, his lips still exploring her tired body. She grunts and simply rolls into him, holding her body tight to his and stealing any warmth he has to offer.

 "Okay, fine," he said. "But I'm not letting you freeze to death."

If she hadn't been so sleepy she would've pointed out that it was May and freezing to death in a well-insulated house was probably not a real concern, but he was already standing up and heading back into the living room. He returned a moment later with a throw blanket that he draped over her, which actually felt nice. But it felt even better after he undressed himself and laid down on the bed behind her, curling his body around hers.

"Don't even need the blanket," she murmured. "Just you."

"You get sappy when you're unconscious," he told her, but she could tell even with her eyes closed that he was smiling, that he loved it.

She pressed back into him, loving the feel of his broad chest at her back, his lips pressed to the curve of her shoulder, his hand resting in a warm and protective manner over her stomach. "Love you," she whispered.

"Love you, too," he mimics back.

...

When Peter woke up, it was still dark out. The dull kind of darkness that lets you know it's not even close to morning. Olivia was still deep asleep in his arms, her body completely relaxed against him. He smiled as he looked at her face, lips turned down slightly, not a worry in sight. He let his eyes trail over the smooth contours of her forehead and cheeks, the line of her jaw and chin, then down over her neck to her chest that rose and fell steadily with each breath. He watched for a moment, grateful for the pure fact that her chest is lifting up... and down...

As he lies there, mesmerized by her breathing, he finds himself suddenly overwhelmed with memories flooding through his mind. The quiet night not feeling so quiet anymore. He knows what it feels like to hold her slack body in his arms—her stilled heart, her breathless lungs. It was crushing, and left him a little breathless just to remember. And that is not something you can un-know. It will haunt him, probably forever, even with her breathing and alive in his arms.

He'd spent too many days and weeks and months missing her. She was just out of reach - and she made sure he knew that. He never wanted to feel that again. He never wanted to see the emptiness in her eyes. The lack of passion, memory, humor, kindness. All of it... was gone. And he'd worked with her for months like that, going through the motions, just trying not to let it dissuade him from finding his way home. 

 A part of him wanted to lock the front door and persuade her to hide out in this little apartment with him, to forget about the outside world if only for a few weeks. Their only concern would be what to order for dinner, not whether or not the world was going to end.

Normal. He wanted it so badly. But more than that he wanted her to be safe, needed her to be safe—her and their baby.

The thought made him smile, made his body soften slightly as he shook away the remnants of that moment when he'd thought he'd lost her, lost everything. He shifts his gaze to the hand that still rested over her abdomen, his palm and fingers splayed across the warm, smooth skin of her belly.

He still couldn't believe it. Olivia was pregnant. Actually pregnant. And not 'per the plan' pregnant... I mean this was happening now... like right now. Laughable to think about the conversation they had only a few weeks ago.

...

Nursery? Nursery.  

...

Was she pregnant then? Were they planning for something that had already happened? The universe made it so - that's what he likes to believe. 

He wanted to wake her up and kiss her or talk to her or just stare at her. He felt full and a little breathless with all this happiness— full of awe for her... and their future and this incredible thing they'd done together. Well, save the world, yes. But more importantly (to him), they'd made a family. He finally had a family - somewhere to belong. 

He knows she needs to rest, and he knows a grumpy Olivia all too well, so he sits content in the moment - his whole world in his arms, something he never thought he'd have. His mother was... gone, and the shell of a relationship he had with Walter faded in the distance. He thinks back to the three years he spent with him, their trust building and breaking along the way. But at the end of the day, no matter which timeline they were in, he was Walter and he did care. And what little Peter had left of any parent in his life, he would take. His mind starts reeling at the thought of himself becoming a parent, and just how unprepared he was for that. 

Most people had at least one parental figure to look up to... but even between Olivia and him, they had a big fat zero. His stomach drops as he realizes just how unprepared they are. He feels her breathing in his arms and it pulls him back to reality, slightly, as his mind wanders to how wonderful Olivia will be as a mother, how naturally it will come to her. He breathes a sigh of relief into the back of her neck, her small hairs dancing in the sudden gust of air. 

But he still can't turn his mind off. Minutes pass by, thoughts pass through him, and soon he checks his watch again. 

2:34 am. It's been over an hour.

His body and mind are so tired, yet he can't seem to get them to rest. He rolls onto his back and stares at the ceiling. He tries to imagine what a whole, unbroken family would even look like, and he can't. He sighs and closes his eyes again, deciding to get up and ponder somewhere else. 

He pulls on flannel pants and grabs an old crew neck sweatshirt, dressing himself as he walks out of the room. The cold air is thin and harsh against his skin, her body warmth missing. He heads to the kitchen and habitually pulls out the bottle of whiskey. He pours himself a glass and then sits at the kitchen table, a single fixture above him providing dim light for the room. He sits there, playing with his glass of whiskey... overthinking just about everything. He tries to think back to his childhood before he was taken. tries to regain all those lost memories from the corners of his mind. He sure as hell knows what not to do, but there has to be some resemblance of happy memories in there? Before he was taken... right?

They'd been trained out of him so well - the memories - but they had to still be in there... in his head, somewhere. 

He can't seem to separate his two mothers, unsure where one starts and the other begins. He traces back in his mind, all the memories he can recount in order. Soon enough he's well past the good times and into the... well, bad times. The depressed... anxious.... drunken.... lonely times. He looks at the untouched whiskey glass in front of him and suddenly feels shame. He'd been a "parent" for not even 24 hours and he was already turning to alcohol in the middle of the night. Pathetic

He's lost in self deprecating thought, his hand now under his chin, supporting his head with his elbow on the table. His left hand continues to play with the glass of whiskey, not a drop consumed... yet. 

He is startled by a figure in the doorway as it crosses the threshold of the kitchen into the dim light. He's brought back to reality as Olivia sits at the table across from him in nothing but one of his sweatshirts that is too big for her. 

"You ok?" she asks, immediately looking at the glass of whiskey in his hand. He doesn't answer yet, just looks at this watch: 4:02 am. Shit.

Time flies when you're self-deprecating, apparently. "Yeah," he puts on a fake smile, "just can't sleep."

"And the midnight cocktail didn't help?" she asks, genuinely curious and not indicating blame or disappointment. Hell, she would probably do the exact same thing. 

"I haven't had any..." he answers slowly, his head still propped in his hand. His eyes are focused on the glass as he twirls it around his finger on the inside of the rim. She can tell he is lost in thought. Self-tormenting thought, at that. 

...

"Why do you feel this way about yourself?" she asks. That gets his attention. His eyes shift up to meet hers, and his hand moves to join his other at the glass. Using his own neck to support his head, he looks at her and asks, "what?"

"Don't be daft, Peter," she says, "I know you well enough."

He sighs and places more blame on himself for being so easy to read, "do you think we can do it?" he asks timidly. 

Immediately knowing what he is referring to, she replies with a chuckle, "yes. Of course. I thought this was what you wanted?"

He nods, answering immediately, "it is -"

"But?" she prompts.

"I don't know. I guess I thought I'd have more time to plan it out," he shrugs. He thinks back to the insecurities he's already admitted to her, all those weeks ago. Or really, the insecurities that she's pulled out of him. They couldn't even get through their first conversation about potentially having kids without him doubting his ability to be a father. That obviously wasn't going away soon, and she knows that.

"Peter, no matter how much time passes, you will never feel prepared for this," she smiles, "the only way you can learn is by committing to it and living through it." Her words are comforting, yet annoying, because they proved him right - motherhood would come so easily to her. 

"I know," he responds, barely above a whisper.

"It doesn't seem like you do," she replies cheekily. 

He looks at her, seriousness and concern in his eyes, "do you actually think we can be better than them? Our parents?" he finishes. 

She smiles lightly, always knowing it comes back to this for him. Be a better man than your father. "Yes, Peter," she starts, "I do."

"Why?" he asks immediately, "what makes you so confident?"

"Honestly," she pauses, "you." Her eyes meet his with this admission. 

He scoffs, "me? Come on Liv, you and I both know that's not true."

She shrugs, "I just... I think you have more of your mother in you than you know," then quickly adds, "in a good way," still taking note of the whiskey glass on the table. 

He huffs, refusing to meet her eyes. She searches his face for answers, "circumstances change a person, Peter."

"I know," he murmurs, "but what says that we won't have shitty circumstances, too? The record book shows our lives have just been... entangled with shit." He finally breaks a small smile. 

"Because we've seen exactly how not to react to the circumstances," she says reassuringly, "my mom was so different with my dad. I can only imagine what my life would be like if he didn't die. And your mom was different before you were taken... before you were sick. There is nothing that says they weren't good mothers in the early chapters, because they were."

He doesn't respond. 

"Peter," she continues, "I know you miss your mom.... your real mom, terribly. But you learned a lot more from her than you give yourself credit for. You still have her in you." She reaches her hand across the table and places her knuckle under his chin, forcing him to lift his gaze and meet her eyes. 

His eyes well with tears... he still can't speak. 

She brushes her thumb over his cheek and lets her hand fall back to the table. Knowing very well it will take time for him to soak those words in, "you know," she hesitates, "I miss my dad, too."

With that deep admission, the water in his eyes breaches the edge of his skin and leaves a track down his cheek. He knows how hard it is for her to say these words. And she's doing it for him. Fuck, he doesn't deserve her. 

 He reaches out his hand to hold hers, silently letting her know that he's sorry. That he feels her pain too. And that he should have considered what it was like for her to miss her dad.

"No, Peter," she stops him from taking any blame, "it's not about me or you, or my dad or your mom. They are all different things," she shrugs, "and all we can do is be there for the other person. I've barely even talked about him... so it's on me too."

He nods, actually relieving himself of any of that specific burden, "what was he like?" he asks quietly. 

She looks down at the table and smiles shyly, breaking down this wall has never been easy for her. Yet, it was easy in this moment, to tell him, "I was only 7 when he died." He squeezes her hand lightly to encourage her to keep speaking, "so, I don't have that many memories. I just know he was a good man. And I used to get this feeling around him, a feeling of safety, security, or like I could let my guard down. I wasn't an easy or friendly kid, but when it was the two of us, I could tell him anything."

"What did you talk about?" he asks.

"I don't remember specifics," she admits, "but I just have this overwhelming feeling of... I don't know, assurance. Or mutual respect. Like I knew he would always be there to take care of me, but he would let me take charge of my own life, let me take my own risks."

She pauses, then her breath catches, "and honestly I never thought I'd feel that again... Or maybe I didn't expect to? Like it wasn't something that anyone else was supposed to provide for me. It was unique only to him..."

"Oh?" he asks, completely oblivious to where she is taking this conversation.

"... and then I met you," she looks up to meet his eyes. They both smile, well she does, and he tries to. Their lips barely moving not signifying the intense meaning in the other's eyes.

"I didn't expect it," she reconfirms, "it just happened. I just felt that..." she struggles to find a word to describe the feeling, and instead settles on the silent implication, "...again. So yeah, I miss him. And yeah, I wish he was here to tell me what to do... to tell us what to do. But I feel confident because I feel him with me... in you. And I trust that."

...

"I trust you," she finishes. 

He laughs and shakes his head, dismissing her comment. There is no longer sadness in his eyes, but awe. He is in awe that he found her, that she lets him call her his. And that they've been torn apart so many times and still made it back to each other. 

"I trust you, too," he smiles, clearly wanting to take the spotlight off himself. 

She meets his smile, "Ok, so let's go back to bed," she says as she holds out her hand to him. He grabs it, of course, and stands. He follows her out of the kitchen and back into their room. The dim light is still on, shining a soft yellow glow on the center of the kitchen table. The glass of whiskey illuminated, left behind, still fragrant and full.

...

She pulls him into bed and they actually get under the covers this time. He knows that it's early enough for her to say it's morning and ready herself to take on the day. But she crawls in bed, letting him wrap his limbs around her. Her warmth and stability soothes him and he is finally able to let his mind rest. Surprisingly, she starts to feel drowsy as well - the soft hum of his slow breathing on the back of her neck. 

She thinks he may have fallen asleep, her shortly behind him, when she hears a soft call, "Liv?" he whispered, close to her ear. "Livia?"

"Mmm," she hummed back, shifting slightly in his arms, barely awake now. "You okay?" She asks.

"Yeah, I just…" He trailed off. She sighs and shifts her hand almost unconsciously to his hand where it rested over her stomach. He grinned and kissed her neck. "I just…I love you."

She smiled, but something in his voice made her turn in his arms. She lifted her hand to his cheek, felt the scratch of his whiskers against her palm. "I love you, too," she said quietly.

Her voice was a little rough, her eyes glazed. Her body was warm and soft. Sleepy. He loved her most when she was like this—open and content in his arms. It amazed him how she rose above the horrors of the world and still managed to crack a smile, to kiss him like she might come undone from how in love she was.

"You're going to be an amazing mother," he told her, leaning forward to kiss her forehead, her closed eyelids, her cheeks, her mouth.

She hummed softly into the kiss. "You think so?" she asked and he could see the flicker of insecurity in her eyes.

"I know so," he told her. "I wish you could see it, Liv."

"See what?"

"How I see you. And how easy it is for me to love you."

"Peter… I could say the same about the conversation we just had--"

He cuts her off though, "It's different," shaking his head, his voice soft but fierce. He lifted his hand and threaded his fingers into her hair, trailed his hand down her arm to the curve of her waist. "You know why?"

She smiled shyly, still uncertain, and dropped her eyes from his face, "why?" she asks softly. 

"Because you open your heart to everyone."

"Only to you," she murmured, surprising him. She kissed him softly, then deeper, and he was momentarily distracted as her tongue traced the seam of lips before delving inside.

"You have the biggest heart of anyone I know, Liv. You're always looking out for other people. Always."

“Peter... that’s not true.”

"Sappy, but true," he breathed, but he couldn't really bring himself to tease.

...

“Thank you.” He said after a few moments.

“For what?” She asked.

“You brought me back. And now you're still here, making me feel like I belong."

"What do you mean?"

He sighs, "I didn't exist. I was erased, but that is completely different to feeling like you don't exist. Feeling like you don't belong. And since the beginning, all of that has been you. When you dragged me from Iraq, when you dragged me from only God knows where in the other timeline. All this, even when you're the one who should have the right to feel lost because you're the one that's expected to save everyone. You're the one who has to bear the burden of others' wrong-doings. And you're the one who is actually pregnant," he chuckles.

She smiled, not quite meeting his eye. "Peter," she muttered, her eyes telling him so much more. He laughed, because this is exactly the way she was—carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders, but never taking credit for it.

"You're cute when you blush," he breathed, kissing her soundly.

She giggled—actually giggled—and he was so delighted by the sound that he dipped his head forward and pressed light kisses to her neck, knowing she was a little ticklish there. He wasn't disappointed. She let out a breathless laugh, pressing her hands to his chest and half heartedly pushing him away.

He stopped his torture and caught her tight against his chest. "You know I can't help but try to make you laugh," he confessed.

She grinned at him, flushed and bright. "Did you notice?"

"Notice what?" he asked a little distractedly. She was so goddamn beautiful.

"This is all very domestic for us. Who would have thought we'd be here 3 years ago?" She asks. 

"3 years ago? Not me," he smiles, "but 2 and a half, definitely."