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[personal profile] fringesock posting in [community profile] fringe_exchange
Title: "Hope and Fear"
Author: [personal profile] fringesock
Gift for: beautyofsorrow
Word count: 2771
Warnings: none
Summary: Saving the world, one trimester at a time.

For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?

Romans 8:24, New International Edition


"Hope" is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all -

- Emily Dickinson

First trimester

For the first time since she returned from her captivity on the Other Side, Olivia was dreaming about her mother. In the dream, her mother looked healthy and beautiful, like she was before she got sick. Even though her mother was standing just a few feet away on the other side of the room, Olivia couldn't hear what she was saying. Her mother was mouthing the words but no sound was coming out. Instead, she could hear someone knocking loudly at the front door. Dreaming, Olivia ignored that; she wanted to know what her mother was trying to tell her.

"Mom, I can't hear you," she began, when the knocking turned into pounding and woke her up. It wasn't her dream—someone was at the door. She looked over at Peter, who was still sound asleep. Hearing the knocking resume, she groaned softly and forced herself up out of the warm bed. Shivering in the cool night air, she pulled on the cashmere robe Peter had surprised her with for their one month anniversary, smoothing the fabric and tying the sash. It was after one a.m. Who on earth could it be? Her weapon was sitting on top of the dresser. As a precaution, she picked it up and headed down the stairs.

It was Walter. That was...odd. It was rare for him to leave his lab.

"What's wrong?" she said, feeling instantly on alert.

"I, I wanted to wait until morning to tell you, but—" Walter stepped aside and gestured for someone to come forward. "He insisted that we tell you tonight."

It was the Observer. Olivia's chest tightened. She pulled her robe closer and took a step back.

"They are coming," the Observer said in his flat, emotionless tone. He paused, listening intently to something inaudible to their ears, almost as if he were tuning into a different frequency. "Dr. Bishop will explain everything. I must go now." Then he vanished.

The Observer's disappearing act left them no choice but to hear Walter's version of events. Olivia sat next to Peter on the sofa, watching Walter pace and listening to him ramble. As Peter clasped her hand, she forced herself to stay calm and pay attention. If what Walter was telling them was close to the truth, the plan to invade Earth was well underway. But now something had happened to cause the Observers to alter course. Although Olivia had died just as the Observers had predicted she would, Walter had managed somehow to bring her back to life. And that change—Olivia's survival—had made the future the Observers had been scheming towards less...certain? Less predictable? For whatever reason, the Observers' timetable had been accelerated, presumably to circumvent the unknown variable. It was very confusing.

"So now what?" Peter said impatiently. "This is a race with advanced technology who have been time-traveling for hundreds of years. Why tell us about the invasion if there's no way to stop it?"

"Because the Observer wants to help us. He'll be back," Walter said. He sat down heavily in the armchair opposite them. His words sounded hopeful but he looked as depressed as she felt.

"Damn it. We just can't seem to catch a break, can we?" Peter said, putting his arm around Olivia.

She leaned against Peter and closed her eyes. Less than 24 hours ago, she'd survived a fatal gunshot wound, only to be told she was having a baby—Peter's baby—but there was no time now to think about that, let alone process what had happened to her. If the Observer was right, she might not live long enough to give birth. No. As much as she wanted to, she couldn't let herself give in to her emotions.

"In the meantime, we'll begin to plan the Resistance," Walter proclaimed. He frowned and began clutching at his abdomen fretfully. "I'm afraid I need to use your toilet, Olivia. My bowels are very loose. It must be from stress. Or perhaps the frozen burrito I ate last night?"

Peter grimaced. "Too much information, Walter."

Olivia tried to smile. "You know where to find it." Exhausted as she was, she knew wasn't going to be able to sleep. She looked up at Peter. "I could use coffee."

"Yeah, I don't think I'm getting back to sleep either," he said, stifling a yawn. "You sit. I'll make it."

Astrid was still recuperating from her injury. There was no reason for her sleep to be interrupted. They would tell her in the morning. Sooner rather than later, they would have to tell Broyles and Nina, too. With or without the Observer's help, they weren't going down without a fight.

~/~/~

In the end, the simplest thing to do was to just tell them all together. Olivia waited until five to call Nina at home. While puzzled at the urgency of Olivia's request, Nina agreed to call Broyles and set up a breakfast meeting. Peter and Olivia got dressed and drove Walter back to the lab so that he could get ready. Astrid agreed to be picked up at her apartment by Nina's driver and brought to Massive Dynamic.

Initially, the mood in the conference room was expectant, even ebullient. That was understandable; after all, they had just saved the world—again. Coffee was served, and Nina had ordered in a breakfast buffet of juice, fruit, and pastries from Walter's favorite bakery, which he was happy to partake of.

Olivia didn't have much of an appetite, and she noticed Peter had left his plate untouched as well. She needed to get this over with. She signaled for attention by tapping gently on her water glass with her spoon.

Startled, Walter looked over at her. "Is it time already, dear?"

She nodded. Peter reached under the table for her hand, as Walter cleared his throat and stood up.

"I'm sure you're wondering why you've been asked to this meeting. Last night, we, meaning Olivia, my son Peter, and I, received a disturbing message from the entity we call the Observer."

After hearing Walter's news, their colleagues sat in stunned silence. Nina was the first to speak. "Well, that settles it, Philip. I can't possibly leave Massive Dynamic now. The transition will be too time-consuming, and time is what we're running short of. Someone else will have to take over Fringe Division."

Broyles looked grim. "This is the worst possible news. I have a meeting in Washington scheduled for the end of the week. I'll make sure that gets moved up. In the meantime, until the official promotion comes through, I am still in charge of Fringe division. If we're going to be going to war, I'd just as soon stay at that post. But I serve at the will of the President..."

"How can we fight an enemy who can catch bullets in mid-flight and disappear into thin air?" Astrid sounded despairing and that wasn't like her. But they were all worn down from the last few days—heck, from the last few years—and maybe that was why the enemy was planning to strike soon.

Philip shook his head. "I don't have an answer for that. We may be able to reverse engineer the weaponry that Bell designed to circumvent the first problem. They have superior technology, though I suspect not superior numbers. They'll kill our leadership to weaken our resolve, and use brute force whenever necessary to intimidate the general public and keep them in line."

"They've been studying us forever. They'll use everything they've learned against us," Peter said.

"And remember, they don't see time the same way that we do," Nina said thoughtfully. "We may have only days to prepare, or we may have decades."

"This is an enemy unlike any we have faced. We won't win using conventional warfare," Philip said, looking grim.

Walter wasn't fazed. "We'll have to see what the Observer says when he returns. I believe that we'll come up with a plan." He picked up the remaining pastry off his plate and bit into it. "These cheese danish are delicious, Nina. I don't suppose you have any more of them?" he said, looking around at the walls and up at the ceiling as though she might have a secret hiding place. Knowing Nina Sharp, she very well might.

"I'll send out for more, and maybe for some sandwiches for later? I assume we'll want to keep working on this, brainstorm, draw up some initial strategies?" Nina asked. Not waiting for the reply, she pressed her intercom. "Alex? Inform the staff that the buffet needs replenishing. Oh, and we'll need to order in lunch, too."

Olivia knew Walter was right about one thing: the people in this room would come up with a plan. They were intelligent and resourceful, among the bravest men and women she'd ever known. The real question was whether or not it would work. Unconsciously, she put her hands protectively over her womb.

~/~/~

Second trimester

Olivia had begun dreaming about her mother again; in truth, the dreams that had begun at the onset of pregnancy had never stopped. But they were unrelenting now. She dreamed about her childhood, mostly. But which childhood? She still hadn't sorted out her two sets of fractured memories—three sets, if you counted the ones belonging to the Other Olivia, which she'd been force-fed during her captivity.

She didn't understand why she couldn't let it go. Her mother had been gone for over twenty years now, buried in a cemetery outside of Chicago. She hadn't gone to visit the grave since Nina Sharp had moved her and her sister to Boston. Why should she? Even while she was alive, her mother hadn't kept her safe, not from being experimented on by William Bell and Walter Bishop, and certainly not from her stepfather.

After Olivia had shot and killed the bastard, they'd moved away. And moved again, eventually settling into their modest neighborhood in Chicago. Just when that place had started feeling like home, her mother had gotten terribly sick. Then she'd got even sicker, and died.

At Peter's urging, Olivia had begun to keep a dream diary. But all she'd been able to recall were fragments—an image here and there, sometimes an emotion.

Her sister had a theory, which she kept bringing up over Olivia's strenuous objections. According to Rachel, it all came down to losing their mother at an early age.

"You have to read this book, Liv. It will explain everything. Why you don't trust people, why you're afraid of dying young, why you never believed you'd be a mother."

Rachel meant well but being orphaned at fourteen was the least of Olivia's problems right now. She was beginning her sixth month of pregnancy, rushing to get as much done as she could before being forced to take maternity leave. Fortunately, the Mad Scientists Union had taken the month off. There hadn't been a real Fringe case in weeks. She'd had time to get caught up on paperwork, and to get the new agent she was training up to speed. If Agent Jessup worked out as well as she seemed to be, then after the baby was born, Olivia might be able to work from home part of the time, and share childcare with Peter. The idea of putting little Henry/Henrietta into daycare made Olivia feel anxious. She didn't need a book or a support group or a therapist to explain the reasons why.

That night at dinner, when she mentioned her conversation with Rachel, Peter didn't have much to say. Walter looked uncomfortable and changed the subject.

When she brought it up with Astrid at work the next day, she was more supportive. "It couldn't hurt to talk to someone and it might help." She hesitated and looked away.

"What is it? Please, just spit it out."

"I think I know what was bothering Peter and Walter," Astrid said finally. "Peter's mother committed suicide when he was only seventeen."

How could she have forgotten that? "I'll think about it."

"It's okay, Olivia. You have a lot on your plate right now. Peter and Walter understand that."

~/~/~

Third trimester

Because of the long hours she was putting in, working her Fringe caseload, as well as her old position as interdepartmental liaison, coordinating the pre-invasion planning, Olivia had been too tired and too busy to set up a proper nursery. Though Peter hadn't given up on his idea of buying a house, she'd argued against moving off campus. Instead, she'd moved into the old Bishop residence, where Peter been staying on Quincy St. In the event of the Observer invasion, she wanted them to be able to get to Walter as quickly as possible. Staying close to his lab at Harvard seemed like the best option.

It was five days before her due date, and only her second full day at home. Already she was bored and restless. Her doctor had talked her out of a scheduled c-section. Walter refused to express an opinion but Peter was horrified at the idea. Everyone had an opinion about natural childbirth methods, too: Lamaze, Bradley, Water-birthing. Ugh. Olivia just wanted her epidural.

Since she didn't care what the nursery looked like, Peter had brought home a basic crib and changing table from Baby World and set them up last weekend. This weekend, he found an old dresser on Craiglist, moved it into the nursery and painted it white. Olivia had refused to shop for a layette but Rachel had sent a huge box of baby clothes two months ago. It was sitting in the corner of the nursery, unopened.

Olivia woke up feeling unusually energetic. Peter was over at the lab with Walter, fiddling with one of their projects. Maybe today was the day to sort through the baby things. She got a pair of scissors from the kitchen and cut through the tape. There was a envelope sitting on top of the pile, next to a brightly colored rattle and a soft flannel blanket. Everything else was individually wrapped in white tissue paper. She picked up one of the tiny parcels. It still smelt faintly of Ivory Snow. Oh, Rachel. She slit open the envelope and took out the note.

Dear Liv,

I knew you'd get around to opening the box eventually. But between work and well, work, I wasn't sure if you'd find the time to wash and sort, so I did it. The infant layette is on the top. When she outgrows the tiny things, you can just go down a layer. I have the 12-18 month clothes washed and ready to go. You'll need them sooner than you think.

You'll have to buy diapers and wipes, and maybe a breast pump if you decide to go that route, but everything else you need for the next few months is in there. I even packed up the baby tub, towels and washcloths.

I know you're worried about what kind of mother you're going to be, and other things that you can't talk about but you-will-do-fine. I know because of how you took care of me when Mom got sick.

You said no when I offered to come help but all you have to do is ask, Liv and I'll be on the plane.

I love you.

Rachel


After wiping away her tears, Olivia didn't hesitate. "Rachel? It's me. Please come." They talked and reminisced while Olivia opened up the rest of the packages. Carefully she put away the little shirts and sleepers, the tiny socks and matching booties.

Asking for help didn't mean Oliva wasn't strong. Surrounding herself and her family with people who loved them was the best way for Olivia to keep her child safe, as safe as you could be in this crazy, mixed up universe.

"I'm so glad you're going to let me come," Rachel sighed happily.

"Me, too."

That night she dreamed again about her mother. She was standing on the other side of the room from Olivia, talking softly, so softly that she could barely hear her mother's voice. Olivia took a step forward, and then another, and another, until she was standing so close that she could reach out and touch her mother's face.

"I love you, Olive. You don't have to do this alone."


The end.
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