A/N: This story popped into my head and festered. I don't think it'll leave me alone. :/ So here I am writing. :P Spoilers for all of Fringe; may or may not go to M later. Probably will, at least for flashbacks, but for now it's T. Peter/Olivia, of course, and AU, though still somewhat canon. You'll see what I mean soon enough. If you don't like, then don't read.
Disclaimer: I own nothing. Fringe isn't mine. That is all.
Her whole life, she'd been alone. Even as a child, she'd felt as if something were missing. It was hard to pinpoint exactly when it had begun, but once it had, it hadn't let up. It began as a tickling in her brain and gradually blossomed into a nagging and persistent irritation; it was almost like a tumor, this constant sense of emptiness and forgetfulness. As a child, and later as a teenager (especially as a teenager), Olivia had always felt like something must be wrong with her; after all, something definitely was missing and she couldn't figure it out. Through her twenties, she matured and realized that it wasn't her fault; it simply just was there, and she learned to accept it. She dated, but it never turned into anything more. It couldn't, merely because she was hollow and these men-all of them good men, brave men-could never fill the emptiness or make the sense that she'd forgotten something important go away.
Today was certainly no different, aside from the slight queasiness, a byproduct, she assumed, of not sleeping well for five days and barely eating. Olivia shrugged it off; she had more important things to worry about than what was likely a springtime flu; she'd often gotten them as a child, and on occasion as an adult as well. She was okay; it wasn't like it was affecting her work, which was what really mattered. Olivia had four ongoing cases; more shapeshifters (now dubbed the Second Wave; though their origin was still unknown, they suspected Walternate had either made them or they'd evolved from the First Wave); a case of people having their bodies intact and their livers dissolved; a case of a religious group that was trying to destroy both worlds; and finally, a case of yet another chimera gone wrong. All in all, typical and hectic, and far more important than Olivia's not feeling well.
She arrived home at 7:30, only to find her younger sister, Rachel, asleep on her couch. She smiled fondly; she loved her baby sister. They were nearly three years apart but still very close. Rachel never asked about Olivia's work and Olivia never told, which was fine by her. Briefly, Olivia wondered where Rachel's seven-and-a-half year old daughter, Ella, was; she didn't wonder long, because there was soon the sound of someone trying to be sneaky and a loudly whispered, "Aunt Liv!" before a little body threw itself at her legs. She chuckled and smiled, reaching to pick up her niece.
"What're you doing here?" she asked; Rachel and Ella lived in Chicago with Rachel's deadbeat husband, Greg; they'd had marital problems, though they had been recently attempting reconciliation for Ella's sake.
Ella shrugged, "Mom said she wanted to surprise you, so, surprise!"
Olivia grinned, "You're the best kind of surprise, baby girl."
Ella squealed as Olivia tickled her, causing Rachel to wake up and groan. Olivia smirked, lifting Rachel's feet and sitting down; she set them in her lap, plopping Ella on Rachel's stomach. Rachel rolled her eyes; she was never coherent right after waking up, and when she'd stayed with Olivia two years ago, Olivia would always wake her up this way.
"You hungry?" Olivia asked, "If I'd known you were coming here, I would've left work early."
"Oh, it's okay, Liv. Save the world and all that," Rachel replied, smiling, "And yeah, I am hungry. Want to get takeout?"
"Sure. My treat," she grinned, "Nice surprise, by the way."
Rachel smiled broader than before, "I figured you'd like it. You just sounded so overworked the last time we talked. I know Ella always helps."
"She does," Olivia agreed easily, "How long are you staying for?"
Olivia didn't miss Rachel's glance at Ella, who was now on the floor on the computer, to judge how much she was listening before she told Olivia, "I don't really know. Didn't think that far ahead."
"Menus are in the kitchen. Let's go figure out what to eat," Olivia suggested, needing to get Rachel alone. Ella knew her mother and father had issues with each other, but that didn't stop Rachel from protecting her as best she could.
"It isn't working, Liv," Rachel admitted as soon as they stepped foot in the kitchen. Despite not cooking as often as she might've liked, this was Olivia's favorite room in her apartment. It was just big enough for her, and she enjoyed spending her mornings with coffee, toast, and the morning news on the miniature television set.
"I'm sorry, Rachel," she sighed; while she'd never approved of her sister's husband, she was hoping that at least one of them could be happy and relatively baggage free.
"I'm not," she shrugged, "We just reached the conclusion that us staying together was unhealthier for Ella than us not staying together."
"Well, you know you and Ella both are always welcome here," Olivia told her, "Is he going to fight you for custody again?"
"Maybe. I don't really know. I don't think so. This time it wasn't antagonistic, Liv. We honestly tried to make it work and it didn't. It's a mutual divorce. I'm assuming he'll want her as much as possible, though," Rachel sighed, "It's going to be tough, that's for sure. I don't know if I want to stay in Chicago or move to Boston. I'd rather be near you, but Ella deserves to have her dad growing up."
"I'm sure you'll figure it out. Cheer up, though. At least you tried," Olivia replied.
Rachel smiled wanly, "You were always the strong one. Independent, never gave up. I always wanted to be like that. We were too young. I can see that now. I was only twenty-one when I had Ella and I'll never regret her. She's the best damn thing I've ever done, Liv. She's probably the only thing I haven't screwed up."
"People make mistakes, Rachel. I knew the moment Greg picked you up with his motorcycle when you were seventeen that he was no good for you, but you were so happy, Rachel. I gave him the benefit of the doubt because he seemed to make you happy, and I know he really is a good guy. He's just not right for you. You're still young and you've still got plenty of time. Plus, you have Ella. What more could you want in life, Rachel?"
"A family. A real family," she paused, swallowed, "I'm sorry. I'm just bitter."
"I know how it feels," Olivia replied wryly, "It's alright. Now, about dinner...?"
"Sure. I'm sure Ella will prefer that," Olivia responded kindly, "Listen. I meant what I said, Rachel. You're welcome here as long as you need."
"You're welcome. That's what big sisters are for, isn't it?"
Three hours later, after pizza, soda, popcorn, and two Disney movies, Ella is asleep in Olivia's bed and Olivia and Rachel are sitting cross-legged on her couch. Rachel is looking at her, she has been for a bit, and Olivia can't take it anymore.
"Why are you looking at me like that?" she demanded.
"Like you pity me or something."
A pause, and then Rachel replies, sighing heavily, "I just want you to be happy, Liv. If anyone deserves happiness, it's you."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Whatever. It's late and I'm too tired for this," she truly was too tired to fight her baby sister, "Goodnight."
"Night, Liv. Sorry if I made you uncomfortable."
"You didn't. I'm just having a tough time at work right now, okay? It's nothing personal, Rachel."
"That's a relief," Rachel grinned, "Sweet dreams. Holler if the little monster wakes you."
Olivia chuckled, "Will do."
Olivia went into her bedroom, swiped at random a t-shirt and sweats from her drawer, and went into her bathroom. She went through her routine and pulled on her pajamas. She pulled her hair back and went into the other room, smiling slightly at Ella, sleeping peacefully. Olivia crawled into her bed, snuggled up to Ella, wrapping an arm around the little girl. Despite the emptiness she felt, Olivia could admit that there was nothing better than watching her niece sleep.
Ella mumbled something, and Olivia smiled, cuddling her tighter. She stroked a hand through her hair and sighed. As much as she loved Ella, it made her ache for things she couldn't have. Not with the emptiness; it'd be unfair. Besides, she wouldn't know what to do with a child. Her job was tough, and it wasn't exactly like she could tell her child anything. It didn't stop her from daydreaming, however. Especially when she was holding her niece.
Eventually, Olivia fell asleep, dreaming of white tulips in a meadow of blue-green grass.