Characters: Olivia, Walter, Ella, plus a Rachel cameo
Word count: 1115
Summary: A proper story; an enchantment waiting to be broken; a cookie. Olivia wakes up.
Spoilers: Post-episode 3.22, "The Day We Died."
Disclaimer: I own nothing. ( Collapse )
In an old house in Paris, covered in vines
lived a girl by the name of Madeline
She was not afraid of spiders or mice
Madeleine loved winter, snow and ice
She watched from her window, onto the street below
The soldiers and the ladies stopped to say hello
They asked for her pleasure, be it whiskey or plain
But there's no need for drink to take away that kind of pain
And in the middle of the night, Madeline would reach for her bedside light
Saying something is not right.
And wearing a face as pale as ash
she'd sit and watch the raindrops fall and splash
Then she would turn to rest once more
And like all good children watch no more
--"Madeline," The Triffids
And suddenly the memory revealed itself.
Olivia wakes up happy in a square of sunlight, as warm and comfortable as she’s ever been. It’s dawn, it’s spring, the whole world blooming with promise, and she rolls over with a ready smile…but whatever she’d been dreaming dissipates like smoke, and there is nothing and no one in the room, in her bed, only the honeyed light.
Olivia wakes up crying, startled by her own sobs in the night-quiet room. Her face is wet, her fists clenched so tightly that her nails have bitten crescents of red into each palm, trying with all her might to hold on, to cling to something in a dream that like all the others she can’t recall.
something’s wrong something’s wrong
Something flickers at the edge of her vision, in the corner of her eye: light and shadow beating like a wing, beating in time to her pulse. Olivia blinks, looking around her office. The fluorescent tube in the overhead panel stutters and hums, and Olivia fires off an email request to Facilities to have it replaced.
She wakes up shouting, a word on her lips she immediately forgets.
something’s wrong something’s missing something’s wrong
Something flickers at the edge of her vision, light and color pulsing like a migraine aura—but she turns and it’s only Astrid, bearing a cup of coffee and a concerned expression.
“I haven’t been sleeping well,” Olivia admits. Astrid slides the coffee across the desktop towards her, then hesitates. “Should I bring a bigger mug?” she asks. Olivia smiles wearily at her and takes a sip: the coffee’s oily, black and strong. She wishes idly for sugar but it’s across the room and she’s already tired. Instead, she rubs her eyes, pressing until colors swirl beneath her closed lids, deep oranges and reds, licks of green like flames. The fiery landscape of her own blood vessels.
something's wrong something’s wrong something’s missing
It’s like walking into a room and forgetting why. All day she pats her own pockets compulsively, keys phone Chapstick badge pen, muttering to herself, unconvinced: something’s missing but they’re always there. At night she paces the perimeter of her apartment, opening closets and cabinets, staring for long minutes into the sterile white light inside the mostly-empty fridge. She makes lists: she needs eggs, detergent, toothpaste…but none of those are it.
something’s missing something’s wrong
It’s like having her wisdom teeth pulled, at 17—how the painkillers left her baffled and slow, how she couldn’t stop seeking out the absence with her tongue, poking the gap and startled every time by the jolt of pain, bristling stitches and the copper taste of blood. Twenty minutes later, she’d do it again.
Ella enlists in Brownies, and on their next visit recounts the experience in exhaustive, encyclopedic detail, modeling the dark sash for badges, the beanie, the little golden pin. “You realize you’re on the hook for a gross of Thin Mints,” Rachel says, and Olivia laughs and pours herself a third cup of coffee, rubs the grit from her eyes.
Ella is describing the initiation ceremony, how the troop leader had laid an ornately-framed mirror on the floor of the rec center like a fairy pond, and led each girl to stand above it. “Twist me and turn me and show me an elf!” she recites, revolving on tiptoe on the kitchen linoleum. “I looked in the mirror and saw…” She waits, expectant.
“Myself,” Olivia and Rachel declare in unison. Ella nods fiercely, looking hard at her until Olivia laughs and says “What?” But Ella says nothing, fingering the Brownie pin on the front of her dress for a moment before leaning into Olivia’s chair with a sigh, submitting to a hug.
Ella insists on sleeping in Olivia’s bed, and Olivia fervently hopes this won’t be one of the nights she wakes up sobbing, or screaming, or worse. She’s surprised to find herself so comforted, by the warmth of the little girl curled against her back. For once she sleeps deeply, opening her eyes only at the golden glow of morning. When she turns over, Ella’s awake, watching her so intently that Olivia’s unnerved. “Hey. Was I talking in my sleep or something?” she asks.
Ella shakes her head. “Did you dream anything, Aunt Liv?” For an instant, something stirs in Olivia’s mind. A bird’s shadow on the window blind. A shining footprint in wet sand, blurred and erased with the incoming tide.
“I don’t remember,” she says. “Did you?”
Ella’s quiet for a long moment. “I dreamed you were so happy,” she says finally.
something’s missing something’s missing missing missing something
Taking Walter and Ella to the Cold Stone Creamery was probably a terrible idea, Olivia notes: they egg each other on, crafting terrible concoctions of gummy bears and hot fudge and orange sherbet, and costing Olivia nearly twenty dollars in the process. “Here’s something special for you, pickle. Something weird,” the manager jokes, handing the change to Ella.
“Thank you,” Ella says. Olivia herds them both out the door, bumping into Ella when she stops on the sidewalk. “Aunt Liv! What is this?” She holds up a single coin: a silver Kennedy half-dollar, gleaming and outsized, between her thumb and forefinger. The sunlight hits it squarely, bouncing a white beam straight into Olivia’s eye.
“Walter,” Olivia says. “Walter!” Light flares all around her, outlining the hole in the world, making her eyes tear. She wants to shout, can hardly catch her breath to whisper. “Walter!”
Walter’s maneuvering his monster ice-cream cone to his mouth when she grabs his arm; a gob of sprinkles and cookie dough sloughs off like a calving glacier, splatting on the sidewalk. “Agent Dunham!” he protests, annoyed and disappointed—but Olivia grips his shirtfront in one hand, tugging, wordlessly begging him to see the corona, the frame of light. Her other hand finds Ella’s and holds tight, pulling the little girl’s hand high, higher, showing Walter the coin.
“Walter,” she pleads. His eyes meet hers, and widen. For the first time she notices that they’re a striking, steely blue. There is another name on the tip of her tongue.
“Peter,” she breathes, and every door opens, her eyes and her mind are filled with light. Walter swims in her vision, doubling and shimmering through a haze of tears. “Peter,” Olivia repeats, and through her panic and disorientation sweeps a current of unmistakable relief, terror twined with hope. “Walter. Where’s Peter?” she asks, and when Walter drops his ice cream entirely to clutch at her shoulders, Ella drops hers too, locking her arms instead around Olivia’s waist.