Title from the National's guilty party. For the trope bingo square PERSPECTIVE FLIP. Thanks A! Not mine, no profit garnered.
Peter saw it the first time while he was out drinking with Olivia. After the hospital. Olivia had told him about seeing John. He assumed his own drug hangover produced a hallucination that was shaped by his subconscious.
It was clearly a hallucination. His mother was beautifully dressed and she was talking to Nancy Reagan.
Just say no to drugs, he muttered to himself and stopped drinking alcohol.
There was nothing for the next week. No hallucinations, no Nancy Reagan, no visions of his mother. Nothing in his head; there were the usual fucked up weird happenings that Broyles wanted to call a Pattern.
But he was at the lab late at night, waiting for Walter to stop playing with whatever he was doing with the bunsen burner and soy flour he'd requested. He was at the lab and he was staring off in space and he saw Walter, vision Walter next to real Walter. Vision Walter was younger, in an expensive suit gesturing around. Peter said, "Walter?"
Real Walter turned towards him and Vision Walter ignored him. One of the Walters said, "Peter, son, come out from behind there."
"Walter," Peter said. "I am ready to go."
It became a recurring issue. Not too frequent, but once or twice a week. He catalogued the hallucinations. He tended to see his parents, and frequently they were different from what he remembered. The other visions were Walter in his shambling, chaotic way and his mother very, very tired. He extrapolated from the data that Walter shocking him yet again had somehow unlocked some of his memories he'd lost to Walter's experiments. It didn't explain the strange warping of how he remembered his parents.
Memory was subjective, of course. He had Walter as a living example. Walter's version of Peter's childhood was frequently wrong, as far as Peter knew. He didn't think the truth was somewhere in the middle. Theoretically, neither of them were even close to the objective truth that might have been recorded on video.
Or by an Observer.
"I wonder," he said to Olivia. "The Observers seem uninvolved, above it all, right? Maybe they're attempting to record a truly factual history."
"As opposed to?" She looked mildly interested. He'd lured her away from her sister and niece for a simple drink, in a brief lull of improbable events.
"You've seen Rashomon," he said. "Don't make me explain subjective perspective."
"Not only have I seen Rashomon, but I've actually studied eyewitness reports," Olivia said. "My question is, if they are, who are they recording it for? What's the purpose?"
Peter shrugged. "I don't know. Why did one of them save Walter and me? Why do they chase little cylinders around? Why are they following us, specifically? Are there other people they're following?"
"It makes my head hurt," Olivia said. She rubbed her forehead, right near her hairline. He was tempted to push one stray hair back in place, back in her hairband. That wasn't happening until it was clear Olivia wanted it to happen. He had patience. She stared at him for a moment like she could read his mind. She half-smiled.
She said, "Part of me misses John's presence in my head, isn't that nuts?"
"We both completely accept that you had a dead man's consciousness in your head, everything else is less nuts," Peter said. "Ever since Walter shocked my brain, I've been having hallucinations of my parents. Like I'm getting back all the memories he fried out of my brain."
"But you call them hallucinations," Olivia said.
"See? You're not even slightly troubled by that admission. This is the state we're in," Peter said. He took a sip of his beer. "They are hallucinations, I see these things and people just there, as real as you sitting here."
Olivia nodded. "Things you remember."
"They're never things I remember. I barely remember anything before I was ten. And they're false. Or distorted. It's Walter as a person who's commanding and responsible and dresses well. I don't remember that because it never happened. He was never like that," Peter said.
"You sound very sure," Olivia said. "Maybe he was different."
Peter glanced at the entrance of the bar as more people came in. It was always good to be aware of people coming and going. He said, "Don't you think I did my research?"
"But you thought he made toothpaste," Olivia said.
He smiled because he knew Olivia knew him better than that. "I was definitely not lying to the FBI agent who just threatened me to see what kind of information you had."
"He was different when you were younger," Olivia said.
"Not that different," Peter said. "Not nice suit, meeting with Reagan different."
"If your hallucinations include Ronald Reagan, I think you should check any food or drink Walter's prepared for you," Olivia said. She sat back, smoothed her hair and redid her headband. "I assume you haven't told Walter."
"God, no," Peter said. "I'm not stupid."
"That's not stupid, that's, that's you and Walter," Olivia said. "Is it nice to see your mother?"
Peter shrugged and looked her straight in the eye. "It's not her. I'm not interacting with her."
"So you're good," Olivia said.
"I'm great," Peter said.
Olivia stood up. "Time to go."
When Olivia started seeing an alternate universe, a different timeline, whatever it was, she said to him, "Maybe that's why your memories of your parents are wrong."
"You think I'm seeing alternate timeline memories? It doesn't work that way," Peter said. "You can travel to another universe because of Walter's experiments. But even Walter can't make someone remember a whole different timeline. I hope not."
"Maybe it worked differently on you," Olivia said. "Are you sure he never used cortexiphan on you?"
"Absolutely," Peter said. "I asked Walter. More than once."
"Walter never lies to you," Olivia said. She looked a little angry.
"He lies to me constantly," Peter said. "But I think I've reached the point where I know if he's lying to me. He doesn't remember giving me those kind of drugs. Plus, no one's coming to my door trying to activate me."
"You weren't one of the experimental subjects," Olivia said. She said the last two words like she hated the sound of them. "You wouldn't be on whatever list these people have."
"I just don't think it's the answer," Peter said, resigned. "Walter was an abusive jackass and a horrible parent, but he wasn't abusive and horrible that way."
Olivia stopped looming over him and sat down next to Peter at the ice cream shop. Walter was still in the bathroom. Peter wondered what Olivia would have said to Walter if Peter'd been the one in the bathroom. Olivia said, "He still experimented on you. He shocked you. You really think you were immune?"
Peter reached out and took her hand. She was furious. Understandably. "You weren't, right?"
Olivia sat back. She didn't move her hand. She said, "Sometimes I hate him."
"He deserves that," Peter said.
A few days after Jones's death, Peter went over to Olivia's apartment. It looked a little empty now that Rachel and Ella had moved out. He handed her the coffee he'd brought her. He sat down on the couch and started drinking his own. She said, "Thank you for the coffee. Did you want to talk about anything?"
"I don't know. The confirmed existence of another universe? That at some point my father built a door to it? That he'd actually crossed over himself? That Bell is probably living over in that other universe? Or do you just want to talk about the Bruins' chances?" He smiled like none of it was bothering him.
She glanced at him and said, "Did you see any new hallucinations?"
"Yes," Peter said. "Why did you think so?"
Olivia didn't answer. He wanted to call her smug but she wasn't.
"I saw my mother. I saw the glamorous version of my mother. More Walter, more Walter who had himself together," Peter said. It was painful, seeing all of them.
"What are you thinking, Peter?"
He loathed thinking. Ever since Walter had talked about the door and bringing something back, Peter kept seeing the logical conclusion. The knowing Walter logical conclusion. He remembered Walter suddenly remembering Peter being sick. He hated it all. He said, "I'm not thinking anything. Have you heard from Massive Dynamic yet about meeting Bell?"
"No," Olivia said. She drank more of her coffee. She kept looking at him.
He moved to kiss her. She looked resolute before she kissed him back. She was holding him close, it felt like an honor. She said, "You can tell me."
"Can't we just make out?"
"Eventually, you can tell me," she said.
They had sex in her bed. She was so gorgeous, naked on top of him, her hair down. Every second was wonderful.
It definitely gave him a different perspective. As they were both in bed, starting to fall asleep, he said, "I think Walter did something awful."
"Specifically?" Olivia smiled a little.
"I don't think it matters," Peter said. "It was awful, but, well, Walter."
"You've already forgiven him," Olivia said.
Peter looked at her. He said, "Not quite yet. But I can cut him a break. I'm just in a really good mood now."
She laughed quietly. "You don't have to forgive him."
"Noted," he said. He ran his hand through her hair and she let him. "Maybe if you look at it with a different perspective. I feel good right now. Let me hold on to that."