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Pools of sorrow, waves of joy

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The crack of the gunshot reverberates in Peter’s ears as he turns toward the sound in time to see Olivia crumple to the floor. His ears still ring loudly enough that he doesn’t hear his own anguished scream but rather feels it as it claws its way out his lungs and throat. A heartbeat later - or three, rather, because his heart is racing - the ringing is replaced by a dull, cottony silence that battens him in sorrow.

He pulls Olivia close, ignoring the sharp, fiery pain licking through his injured arm and shoulder as he holds her tight, tighter. The physical pain is infinitesimal compared to the white hot agony of his shattered heart.

Walter is talking. Peter hears but doesn’t listen. He can’t. He can’t listen to the man who killed Olivia, the man who took away his heart, his happiness, his future, his home. He’s crossed universes and timelines and so many insurmountable obstacles to be with her and this can’t be the last time he’ll ever hold her in his arms.

The sting of Walter’s palm striking his cheek momentarily pulls Peter adjacent to his grief. It’s still there, still close, still in his hands, still burning him from the inside out, but he listens to Walter. His ribs break from holding in his sobs as he watches Walter work. He flinches when the bullet drops onto the table and he squeezes Olivia’s hand tight, tighter.

It isn’t working, it can’t work, he can’t let himself believe it will work, but Walter’s telling him it did and Olivia stirs ever so slightly, just as he’s seen her do on so many mornings in the gray blue pre-dawn light before a ringing telephone forces them out of bed. He lets himself believe and the sobs he’s been holding in, the ones that have broken and battered and bruised the inside of him, are exchanged on an exhale for a breath of hope and his breathing slows to match Olivia’s.

He keeps his hand in hers until they reach the hospital, refuses to let her go until it’s absolutely necessary. Hope is tenuous, fragile at the best of times and this moment is far from the best of times. She was dead and now she’s alive and he still feels too warm, too heartsick, too broken, too ill at ease so he holds her hand to keep himself tethered to hope.

Walter sits quietly beside him at the hospital and Peter replays it all on a loop in his mind. The thorns of grief are buried in his bones and he pulls them to the surface where they prickle at his skin like splinters made of glass. The inside of his chest feels more akin to a sunburn than the supernova of anguish he felt when he held a lifeless Olivia but his arms still hold the memory of her death pressed against him and that will take longer to fade. She’s just on the other side of the door he can’t stop staring at but he can’t keep the anxiety from darkening his windpipe. He won’t be able to choke it down until he’s within arms’ reach of her again.

The doctor tells him that Olivia is all done and ready to go home and Peter moves briskly to her room. His heart falters at the threshold as it takes an extra beat to realize what his eyes are seeing, that Olivia is alright. Scrabbling for a shred of normalcy to put them back on an even keel, he holds up the newspaper and tells her he’s found them the perfect place.

He rambles, briefly, about the inconsequential, expelling the last vestiges of disquiet wedged between his tender, re-knitted ribs before he’s able to push the truth onto his tongue and tell her, that even though the Observer was right and her death was the only way to save the world, he never wants to lose her again.

He pulls her close with his good arm and buries his face in the crook of her neck, breathing in the warmth and the life of her and closing his eyes against the memory of before when she was dead and he was broken by the loss of her. When Olivia pulls away, he sees hesitation, uncertainty on her face and he feels the sick heat of unease twist in his gut and he can’t help the quiet note of panic that slips into his voice.

“What? You’re okay, right? The doctor didn’t tell you anything else.”

He can’t stop touching her. Hope is tenuous and he feels it slipping through his fingertips so he presses them to her cheek and desperately clings to what little hope he can find.

“Actually, he did.”

Olivia leans into his touch, her lips pressed against his palm for a moment, a heartbeat - or three, rather, because his heart is racing - then takes his hand in hers. A smile ghosts across her face.

“Peter, I’m pregnant.”

The dull, cottony stillness in his ears fades as the weight of her words sinks in and his brain and his heart catch up to what he’s been told. They speak without words as he raises his brows in a silent question and she nods in assurance and they smile. He can’t stop smiling.

All of his raw and shattered places, everything burned and broken and scraped hollow by the grief and fear of before, fade away under a healing swell of incandescent joy. Astrid and Walter are at the door with tentative grins and he smiles back because he can’t stop smiling. He kisses Olivia and kisses her again because he can’t find the words for this excited, fizzy feeling running across his skin and through his heart and veins.

Peter can’t stop smiling as he presses his forehead to Olivia’s and she smiles too. She is his blood and bones, his heart, his happiness, his future, his home, his hope. Hope is a tenuous thing but he’s tethered himself to it and now, after two miracles in one day, he feels like he could fly.