A few people, only the most daring of her acquaintance, sometimes wonder aloud how she began When did Olivia Pope begin fixing things? Of course, that sort of question leads to others, such as how? and why?
It’s a loaded answer.
Olivia’s granddad owned a repair shop. People would bring him their bulky TV sets and their toaster ovens, their cassette players and their lamps. Granddad was never very good with the cosmetic issues but he could make the insides of anything whole again.
Olivia and Alison used to sit on the counter in the back and watch their granddad tinker with whatever problem had been brought to him. He would poke at it for a little while and then he would ask Olivia to fetch him some tool or other and then he’d start. “The trick, girls,” he said, “Is to imagine what it needs to look like at the end, and then do one little thing at a time to make it that way.”
Fitz calls at three in the morning. Olivia knows it’s him without looking at the caller i.d. because no one else would dare.
“I thought we were past this,” she answers.
“There’s going to be a man at your office. Liv, I want you to take him on as a client. Not Olivia Pope & Associates, just you.”
Olivia sits up in bed, no longer tired and wariness tripled in two sentences.
“As a favor.”
He sighs and there’s a crackle of echo. “If you want to put it that way.”
“Is this a favor to the President, or just to you, Fitz?”
“Same thing, Liv.”
“No, not really,” she tells him. Then she hangs up and gets out of bed.
He’s youngish, handsome with his well-trimmed dark hair, but as skittish as an infant squirrel. She recognizes him the same way she recognizes everyone who’s anyone in D.C. He’s a rising star in the party, and according to rumor, in twenty or so years he may b the Star. If Fitz has sent him to her that can only mean he’s gone supernova.
He hovers against the corridor wall watching her closely as she brews tea for the both of them. He doesn’t speak until she settles him in one of the leather wingback chairs in her office and sits across from him.
Olivia says, “Tell me everything.”
Alison broke their mother’s second favorite vase when they were ten.
It was an ugly thing, in all honesty, but their mother liked it for sentimental reasons and Alison was already on thin ice for throwing a ball inside and knocking over a crystal lamp.
Alison was always breaking things.
Alison dragged Olivia away from her tattered paperback copy o To Kill A Mockingbird nd together they gathered the shards. It wasn’t so bad: five cleanly broken pieces of similar size and a sixth, much smaller and jagged.
Olivia found the craft glue, the strong kind, in the garage and they sat at the table holding two pieces in shape until that part dried and it was time to move onto the next edge. They put it together by doing one little thing at a time, just like Granddad taught them.
“She’s going to notice eventually,” Alison worries.
“Of course she is,” Olivia agrees. “We just need her not to notice it tonight.”
“It was an accident. I swear,” he says.
That doesn’t mean anything.
Olivia’s first real job was as personal assistant, and apart from Alison and Granddad, it taught her everything she ever needed to know about people.
It started out as a work-study program, but her bosses’ bosses always eventually noticed how frighteningly efficient she was. Someone higher up the chain always noticed that Olivia Pope was good in a crisis, that Olivia Pope knew what to do before anyone else, that Olivia Pope made things happen. Olivia Pope fixed things.
“What’s your trick?” A then-boyfriend teased when she was hired as chief PA to th Wilkins for Senate ampaign manager.
Olivia shrugged. “I can run their lives better then they can. It’s just a matter of letting them realize that.”
The Supernova is shaking.
Distantly, Olivia feels a strange mixture of disgust and pity toward him. But mostly she’s distracted by the list running through her mind’s eye of Things That Must Be Done And Now.
“Here’s what we’re going to do,” she says. It’s so simple, really. People do it all the time.
Within six weeks on the job as PA for the Wilkins campaign manager, her boss starts introducing her to people as: “Olivia Pope, the best assistant I’ve ever had. And she knows where all the bodies are buried so I can’t ever get rid of her.”
Cyrus always was too close to the mark.
It’s familiar, this: the eerily calm drive in the night, the mute panic radiating from the passenger seat, the slight nausea overruled by her thoughts.
It’s not difficult to see this as any other case. Visualize Granddad’s hands hovering over the broken pieces on his table; hear his low, rasping voice sayin ‘Livvy dear, fetch me the screwdriver and the electrical tape. Ali girl, come look, but don’t touch. Livvy dear, hold this for me, but careful the ends are sharp. Look girls, this is how we’ll fix it.’
Olivia’s first boyfriend was Alison’s (years later, she thinks about that during a one minute with Fitz, and wonders if maybe that set her up for a lot of things).
He was tall and good-looking in an average way, and Alison was completely mad about him. So was Olivia. Alison never knew.
Alison had mascara lines down her cheeks when she woke Olivia that night. It took her fifteen minutes to tell Olivia what happened.
Alison shook apart all over Olivia, sobbing and snotty, and Olivia held her because Alison's her sister and she needed to be held. And Olivia needed just five minutes to poke at the problem, to see how it needs to look at the end. She needed just a few minutes to imagine, and then begin doing one little thing at a time.
“It was an accident, Livvy, I swear,” Alison sniffled.
“I know,” Olivia soothed. It doesn’t matter that it’s an accident; she would fix it even if it weren’t.
Fitz calls a few nights after. He’s not apologetic, exactly, but there’s an understanding in his voice.
“I appreciate you handling that unfortunate situation,” he says.
It’s not a thank-you, which Olivia respects. It wasn’t a favor she did for thanks.
Oliva Pope fixes things.