A/N: Welcome to my first multi-chapter story! This story takes place three years after 5x09. Everything is canon except for the abortion, because I don't know how to write my way out of that one. I hope you'll indulge me in this descriptive prologue, I really wanted to spend some time setting the scene. I expect this story to be 4 or 5 chapters, posted over the course of the hiatus. I'll be pouring my soul into this one, its basically my olitz therapy. If you decide to join me on the journey, I'd appreciate your feedback in the comments!
Olivia Pope isn't nervous. She's not.
Glancing down at her watch she realizes she must have switched time zones by now, and she clicks the crown out to adjust the time so that it reads nine-thirty am instead of eleven-thirty am. She has no reason to be nervous, she tells herself over and over again as hundreds of butterflies flutter around in her belly. She squeezes the armrests of her seat as the plane descends into Denver, sliding open the sunshade to look out the window. The landscape below is white with snow, sprawling and barren, dotted here and there with patches of foliage and houses surrounded by large plots of land. The plane banks left and the Rocky Mountains come into spectacular view, spread out before her in all of their snowcapped majesty.
Visiting an old friend is nothing to be nervous about, she reasons, drawing in a breath and subtly blowing it out through her lips. Except he isn't just an old friend, she concedes. He's a former President of the United States. He's her ex-boyfriend. The ex-love of her life. Her almost forever.
Olivia makes her way through the airport and out to baggage claim, immediately spotting a familiar face holding a sign with her name on it.
"You didn't need to bring a sign, you know. Did you honestly think I wouldn't recognize you?" she asks, coming to stand in front of him.
"Well ma'am, it wasn't really up to me," Ben chuckles, folding the sign up and storing it in the pocket of his suit jacket.
"Its really good to see you, Ben," Olivia says sincerely, smiling brightly and squeezing his forearm.
"You too, Ms. Pope," he replies, returning her smile with kind, crinkly eyes.
Ben had been one of her personal secret service agents at the White House. She noticed almost immediately that he seemed more sympathetic to her transition than the others, often taking an extra moment to explain the details of a security protocol when she was feeling uncomfortable or irritated. Alternatively, he was also quick to give her a second to breath when she needed it, and as a seasoned agent he influenced the others in her detail to follow his lead when he fell back. He quickly became her most trusted agent, the one she would make small talk with during a car ride, or in the vestibule of a senator's office, and although many of her memories from her time in the White House are painful ones, it really is good to see him again.
Olivia insists that she roll her own suitcase, so after she pulls it off of the carousel and secures her carry-on to the top, Ben leads the way outside. The sliding doors open and a whoosh of cold, crisp air hits Liv in the face, making her shiver and tuck her shimmery white scarf closer around her neck. The sun is blinding, the sky a stunning shade of blue.
"You picked a beautiful day to fly in. This is classic Colorado winter, not a cloud in the sky."
"That's right, you're from Colorado aren't you?" Liv asks, suddenly remembering.
"Born and raised," Ben replies proudly.
Ben leads her across the taxi and public transport pick-up lanes to an area lined with limousines and private, company vehicles. She recognizes the secret service issued SUV immediately.
"Its beautiful so far, but, its so cold!" she laughs, handing off her suitcase so that he can put it in the trunk.
"Even colder where we're going," Ben smirks, opening the back door and helping her climb in.
"Are you comfortable, ma'am? We have a bit of a drive ahead of us," Ben warns, after she's settled in the backseat and he's climbed behind the wheel. The butterflies have returned, but there's no turning back now.
"I'm fine, let's go."
Fitzgerald Grant is going to have a nervous breakdown. He's sure of it.
Standing at the kitchen counter, he takes another sip of coffee before realizing the caffeine probably isn't helping his anxious state. He tips the rest of the dark, rich liquid into the sink and rinses his mug, putting it in the dishwasher.
He paces around the kitchen island a few times and glances at the microwave clock. Nine-twenty am, her plane should be landing soon. He checks his phone for the fifth time, waiting on a text confirming that she's safely off the plane and in Ben's company.
Olivia is coming to Colorado. Today. He's still having some trouble wrapping his mind around the concept that in a few hours Liv will be here in this house with him for five days. The uncertainty of how these next five days are going to go is unnerving him, making him jittery and anxious.
They're friends now, really and truly just friends, for the first time over the course of their ten-year relationship. But he is all too aware that taking a friendly relationship that has been cultivated and nurtured strictly over the phone and translating it into an actual visit is going to be…challenging. And he's nervous. He's nervous that they won't be able to maintain this new balance after they're in the same room. He's nervous that as soon as they see each other in person they'll realize they've been kidding themselves all these months. And he's especially nervous because he isn't sure that he wants to fight the pull between them, but he doesn't think she feels the same way anymore.
Two pairs of eyes track him suspiciously as he walks through the living room and starts pacing there, tracing circles around the large, plush sectional, the anxiety coming off of him in waves.
"Don't judge me, you guys," he speaks directly to the two black and white Tibetan Terriers lying on the tan and navy braided rug in front of the fireplace. Their ears perk up, quickly losing interest after they realize that nothing Fitz just said promises food or a romp in the snow.
His phone buzzes with a text and he's so on edge that he nearly drops it.
Found Ben, on our way. See you soon.
Fitz sucks in a breath.
"No turning back now," he mutters, sending her a quick text back letting her know he's here waiting for her.
He has about two hours to kill and realizes he can't sit inside without going insane. He eyes the dwindling pile of firewood on the hearth and grabs his brown Patagonia jacket, heading to the expansive sliding glass door at the back of the house. The dogs jump up as soon as he touches his jacket, whining with excitement.
"Alright guys, let's go. Let's go chop some firewood."
The Rockies in February are one of the most beautiful sights Olivia has ever seen.
The cruise down I-70 west is breathtaking, and the views get better with every turn. The mountains rise up all around them now, and Liv feels like she's in another world. They go around a bend and the rocky landscape opens up again, exposing a glittery lake amidst the thousands of evergreens dusted with snow. Fitz had made a campaign stop in Denver, what feels like a lifetime ago, but they'd been in and out within thirty-six hours, barely time to step outside the hotel, definitely not enough time to explore the mountains and appreciate the magnificent landscape.
Olivia and Ben make small talk initially but its quiet in the car now. She stares out the window lost in thought, going over the last three years of her life. She's secretly relieved that Fitz hadn't come along to pick her up from the airport. She's excited to see him of course, she wouldn't have come if she wasn't, and those feelings are mixed in with the nerves. But they haven't been in the same room for over three years, and it went unspoken that a two-hour car ride probably wasn't the most ideal situation to break the ice.
Breaking up with Fitz after spending six months together, really together, felt lonely, and devastating, and so very, very final. They had argued, and hurt each other, and been "done" before, but this time felt so different. They had tried to make a go of it and failed spectacularly, and that changed everything. It made her question everything she had ever believed about them, every instinct she had ever had. Every cell in her body screamed that being with Fitz was right, and yet it had all gone so wrong.
Going through a bona fide break up with Fitz was just as gut wrenching as she'd always imagined it would be. The first month was the hardest. She'd gone through bottle after bottle of wine, trying to dull the pain. She hadn't expected to be in actual pain but she physically ached, her chest, her head, her limbs. She ate terrible, greasy food or nothing at all, cycling between the two for days on end. She slept fitfully, at first unable to sleep at all without his warmth next to her, and then dreaming of him when she was able to drift off. For a while she wasn't sure which was worse, being awake and re-playing their fatal argument, or dreaming about it only to wake up with tears running down her face.
After some of the anger faded, the sadness had crept in, the unbearable pain of not having him near her on a regular basis anymore. She missed his smile, his laugh, and his voice. She missed fighting for the blankets in the middle of the night, and she missed taking five minutes in the morning to sit and drink her tea across from him while he sipped strong black coffee. She missed arguing with him over foreign policy and celebrating with him when he was able to affect change. She missed kissing him. She missed his body covering hers and feeling him inside her, and those dreams were the worst of all, the dreams where she woke up wet and panting, aching for him, feeling phantom lips on her belly, on her neck. She was often unable to go back to sleep for hours, and no amount of attention from her fingers ever soothed the burn.
When they broke up she cut all ties with the White House and they didn't speak for almost a year. Olivia knew a clean break from Fitz was going to be necessary if she had any chance of moving on, and so, she made it happen. For the first time, she cut herself off from any and all things pertaining to Fitzgerald Thomas Grant the third. And it worked. Each day got a little bit easier until, three months after, she was honestly feeling better. It wasn't necessarily easy to think of Fitz, but it wasn't painful either. Six months after, she caught herself in the kitchen one night, waiting for her popcorn to finish, recalling a night in her apartment when Fitz had accidentally loaded an obscene amount of kernels into the air popper. She had walked in just as he frantically stuck a bigger bowl under the spout and she had lost it, finding the look on his face hilariously adorable. As she recalled the memory she realized that even though it still made her heart ache, it also made her smile, not cry.
But inevitably, it started again the way it always did with them, with a crisis.
Almost a year to the day of their break up, he called, desperately needing her advice about something. It had been surprisingly easy to fall back into a professional relationship with him, perhaps because it was so mutual. They were both equally guarded, so careful about that first set of phone calls, and it set the tone for all of the calls that came after. They'd always been good over the phone. Slowly, she became an advisor to him again, a role that she'd always loved and something she genuinely missed doing.
The transition into being friends happened slowly as well. It started with little things, one of them mentioning a book or an article they were reading that they knew the other would love, or suggesting a documentary or a restaurant for the same reason. As Fitz prepared to transition into life post-presidency, conversation turned to where he wanted to go, what he wanted to do. It was Fitz who finally voiced what they had both been silently wondering.
Can we—are we friends, Olivia? I mean, can we be? Would you like to be?
She'll never forget the vulnerable, nervous quality to his voice that night. Tears immediately stung her eyes, because she was so grateful to have him back in her life, so happy that he wanted her in his. She embraced the possibility that even though they didn't work romantically, they could still work as friends. And they did.
They make a conscious effort to be careful, though. Careful not to let things get too close. In all of their conversations they never approach the subject of their failed relationship, and after he moved to Colorado seeing each other in person wasn't even an option anymore. Without the pressure of any expectations they've been talking about once a week for the past year, about anything and everything. Politics and social issues of course, Olivia's business, which is once again flourishing, the limited number of commitments Fitz has taken on as a former POTUS and his new life in Colorado, and unsurprisingly their friendship has grown and blossomed beautifully.
Come to Colorado, Olivia, we're ready
He's been asking her to come and visit for several months now. She hesitated until she didn't.
I have a list of three different weeks that I can come visit. If none of those work I can pick three more. If none of those work, I'm not coming.
He had momentarily been stunned into silence, before springing into action and pulling up a calendar.
Ben snaps her out of her reverie, announcing that they're approaching the Eisenhower Tunnel, which passes through the continental divide, and Dillon is about another half hour away. Olivia nods, trying another deep breathe to calm her nerves.
"How is he, Ben?" Olivia asks, suddenly.
Ben meets her eyes in the rearview mirror, and she can see him considering how to respond.
"He's good, ma'am. Happy. More relaxed than I've ever known him," he answers finally.
There's a beat of silence before he continues.
"He's excited to see you," he offers, keeping his face carefully neutral.
Her stomach flips. Olivia isn't one hundred percent sure what this visit is, but she knows that it's time. She's been in orbit with this man for ten years and it's time to figure out what they can be, or what they can't be, to each other, once and for all.
Dillon, Colorado is a quiet little mountain town with a population of about one thousand people, situated about thirty minutes outside of Breckenridge. The town itself is only two and a half square miles, forty percent of which is water in the form of the Dillon Reservoir.
Ben takes the exit for US-6 East and follows the road through the tiny cluster of streets that make up Dillon proper, past Main Street and into the residential area of town. Olivia watches through the window as they turn away from the houses onto a well traveled, albeit deserted, county road. Her heart is pounding, she realizes, and she fidgets in her seat, tucking her phone back into her bag and swiping on some Chapstick. They've turned onto an even more deserted road now, and they may as well be in the middle of the nowhere.
"Ben? You're not driving out here with plans to murder me, right?" she asks dryly, craning her neck to stare up at the enormous evergreen trees.
"Its just up here, Ms. Pope," Ben chuckles, turning onto what she imagines is a paved driveway, although she can't tell for sure because they're driving on packed snow.
Olivia brings one hand to her chest as Fitz's house comes into view, still trying to slow her pulse. The house is tucked into a clearing in the trees, situated against a slope in the land. As far as Liv can tell it's two stories, half stone and half wood, with six or seven sets of large windows on all sides that almost make it look like it's made of glass more than anything else. The front of the house features a large porch on the second floor, and she can see a few chairs and a table. There's smoke coming out of the chimney and the whole scene is incredibly picturesque.
Fitz has an unfair advantage, and he sees her before she can see him. He's in the kitchen when he hears the car crunching through the snow and he immediately moves to the window. His heart slams into his chest when she gets out of the car, looking up in apparent awe at her surroundings. She's wearing one of her signature black and white coats, tied at the waist, with a scarf made out of something that sparkles and shimmers in the sunlight. As he watches, she flips her hair and adjusts the wide white headband that's keeping her ears warm, smiling at something Ben is saying to her. She looks like Liv, which is a silly thing to think because of course she does, he doesn't know what he was expecting. She still takes his breath away, and it's an involuntary reaction that he couldn't control even if he wanted to. He realizes he needs to actually go and let her in as she starts walking up the driveway.
The first thing that strikes Olivia when she opens the car door is the silence. The air is completely still, not even a whisper of a breeze to make the trees rustle, there are no roads nearby, no other houses, and the silence is deafening in the best way possible. She takes a deep breath and the smell of fresh evergreen fills her nose, the air crisp and pure, and cold.
"I told you it would be even colder up here," Ben says when he notices her pulling her headband down further over her ears, trying to get a laugh out of her because she looks nervous.
"You go ahead Ms. Pope, let me get the bags."
She nods and turns toward the house, crossing her arms for warmth and to keep her hands from shaking. She's about halfway up the driveway when she hears the front door open and her head snaps up as Fitz walks outside. The sight of him knocks the wind out of her, but she recovers quickly.
"You make a girl haul it a long way up this damn mountain, Grant," she calls out to him.
Fitz beams at that because it's such a Liv thing to say, and oh, maybe everything really is going to be alright.
"Oh, don't try to pretend you didn't enjoy the view on the way up here," he calls back.
"It was pretty spectacular," she concedes with a smile, stopping a few feet away from him.
Olivia takes him in for the first time. His wavy hair is a little longer now, and he's sporting about a week's worth of scruff on his face. He's wearing jeans and some sort of navy fleece pullover with a gray tee shirt underneath, his hands tucked into his pockets. If its possible he looks younger than he did the last time she saw him, and when they make eye contact she notices that there's light behind his eyes again.
Finally, finally, she's standing right in front of him and they both stare at each other for a second, which turns into five seconds, which almost turns into ten seconds.
"Awkward, I know," he finishes for her, and they both laugh nervously.
They spend another few seconds looking each other over, as if they're instantly able to catalogue everything that's different, everything that's the same. Fitz opens his mouth to say something and then thinks better of it.
"God, this shouldn't be so hard," he says, running a hand through his hair.
Olivia takes a deep breath and squares her shoulders, shifting from one foot to the other, looking down at the meticulously laid stone walkway under her feet.
"Why don't we just start with, 'hey'," she suggests, taking a tentative step forward.
"Simple, to the point, I like it," he replies, and they laugh again, still trying to dispel some of the nervous energy.
She sobers a bit, looking at him with a soft smile.
He grins at her, inadvertently causing her heart to skip.
"Hey, Liv. Come on in."