FRINGE

Shades of Gray

No in FRiNGEment intended.

Note: set after "The Transformation" – missing scene.

-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o

Peter Bishop motioned at the bartender for a refill and glanced at his reflection in the mirror behind the bar.

When exactly did his hairline start receding that bad, he thought, running impatiently his hand in his untamed hair. He gave another critical stare to his appearance; sure those jeans still work, and the sweater, and the stubble but did he have to be stuck to keeping the scruff? The general idea was that it looked cool, and that the rugged look comes off with girls and on top of all bad reasons, he was not ready to grow up just yet.

Only he wasn't attracted to girls anymore but to women, --to one woman. He sighed and gulped his glass down, and turned around to face the population of the crowded room. He spotted rapidly the usual suspects. Business men trying to put back the inevitable return home to a comfortable life they never pictured for themselves, the lonely middle aged women, the ones with extra weight and a thing for Prince Charming, and the motley crew of shabby party goers in their early thirties eagerness for a one night stand adventure written all over their faces. Where did he fit in?

He was going to ask the bartender for another shot when a pretty brunette smiled in his direction with an appreciative waving of the eyebrow. After the last couple of weeks, that was all he needed, a little appreciation and mindless sex with no morning after. He smiled back and made his way towards the other end of the bar.

He stopped in his tracks when his pocket started vibrating with insistence, and gestured at the girl to be patient. He checked his cell. MADHOUSE incoming call, he read.

"Hey," he said, his eyes locked on his prize.

"Peter? Is that you?"

"Walter, you know it's me, you're calling my cell. Would you ever stop with that nonsense, please? I know you can use a phone, you can drop the act now."

"Peter, I did something wrong. Well not wrong per se, but something bad, I might confess."

"And it's supposed to come as a shock Walter? Please by all means indulge me Walter."

"Yes, yes," uttered Walter before going silent.

Peter sighed and his chin sank to his chest. Time to go back to the babysitting routine he was so desperately trying to get away from by drowning himself in booze and hazy encounters.

"Why are you still at the lab instead of back at the hotel in your pyjamas?" Peter asked patiently but obviously riled by the conversation. "You should be popping that one-serving casserole we bought together inside the microwave right now. You told me you'll take a cab back, remember?"

"I know, I know son, and I'm very happy with the Russ Meyer DVDs you rented for me and with your assortment of candy bars, but…"

"I have no time for this now, Walter, I'm in some sort of… a negotiation right now."

"Oh, I see! Is she pretty son? I guess she's not as pretty as agent Dunham though."

"Walter!"

"Sorry, I do not want to intrude son," he said apologetically.

"But somehow, you definitely do."

"I need your help."

"Why am I not surprised? What is it this time?" Peter turned around to the girl and shrugged. She smiled again and mouthed something he did not catch. "You spilled Gene's milk and need a mop?" he said briskly, "or you lost your coat again? It's on the hanger Walter, right beside the lab door."

"Peter, I did it again."

"What Walter, what could you have possibly done again since I left you," he checked his watch, "one hour and thirteen minutes ago?"

"I put her in the tank. She came back and she asked me. I put her in the tank again."

"What? She asked you? Olivia went back in the tank. Why, --why would you do that Walter? Where is she now?" asked Peter, already rushing to the door.

"That's the problem son, she's in her office and she won't talk to me. I'm afraid she might catch a cold… or something."

"I'm on my way Walter, stay put okay?"

And he started to run.

-o-

Peter barged inside the lab out of breath and sweating despite the freezing cold. He immediately saw Walter who was seated perfectly still on a wooden chair before Olivia's office door. In the dim light, he looked pale and weary, and when Peter came closer, he noticed that his face was not only pasty but also disenchanted.

He raised his head and looked at his son, and mumbled something, quickly shut his eyes, and when he opened them again, he was back to his somehow exuberant self.

"Peter, I'm so glad you came. How did you know?"

Peter decided not to acknowledge his remark and patted him on the shoulder, slightly leaning over.

"Tell me what happened."

"I was about to read Gene her bedtime story when agent Dunham came back."

"She did?" Peter crouched down besides Walter and waited.

"At first I thought she was looking for you. But it appears she was not."

Peter sighed in an attempt to keep his temper in check. There was no use at rushing Walter.

"And then I feared that she should be angry at me because of the antidote."

"Okay."

"I was afraid that…"

"You were afraid that she'd asked you to help her get back into the tank, right?" he said in a very gentle voice.

"Yes," Walter answered briskly. "Yes, yes. You've seen her brain waves son," he said in a very matter-of-fact fashion. "So you know."

"Yes I know. They are almost back to normal."

"You know what it means," he trailed.

"That her mind is almost free of John's memories," confirmed Peter with a concerned nod. "What you're saying is that she did not want to."

"Yes," Walter said forcefully.

"She needed closure."

"Yes," the old man sighed.

"So you helped her."

"You must understand son. I had to." He sounded desperate.

"I know."

In retrospect, with his mind still in shreds, that was something he never should have done alone. Peter felt that he had not only failed him but failed Olivia. He hugged him and Walter's tears made their way to his own cheek. He chose to look away, trying to see Olivia through the glass panels and through the shades, wrapped in a towel and prostrated on the couch.

"Did she say anything?"

"I think that she said things to John Scott."

"Whatever," said Peter, unable to bear the sting. He let go of his father to stand up. "Did she speak since you retrieved her from the tank?"

"No. She… I called you."

"That's okay Walter, you did good. Now do me a favour please. Go back to the hotel. I'll take care of Olivia."

"And Gene?"

"I'll take care of everything." I hope, he thought.

"Thank you son."

Walter got up from the chair and unbuttoned his white lab coat. He was staring at Peter, frozen in front of the door to the office.

"She needs you," he said.

Peter glanced briefly, and shrugged. "Go home Walter. And don't wait up for me. I might have to sleep at the lab."

A warm smile spread on the wrinkled face of the elder Bishop whose eyes were watering again.

"Is this home son?"

"Yes it is Walter," Peter answered with a tentative smile and he opened the door.

Walter nodded and scurried away.

-o-

Not my best but I needed to get it out of my chest.

What do you think?