Spoilers: Through 1.14
Disclaimer: I don't own Fringe or its characters.
Author's Note: Inspired by a comment by Alamo Girl, who was also kind enough to beta.
Shades of Truth
Olivia's fiddling with her pen during a seemingly innocuous conversation about Walter's latest idiosyncrasies when she asks, out of nowhere, "Why didn't you run when you had the chance? Why come back?" She doesn't look at Peter, just throws out the question with a skittish mix of dread and defiance.
He studies her before answering. She's carefully not looking at Jones's little box of tricks, an avoidance she's increasingly elevating into an art form. The pen stops moving and her knuckles whiten as she steels herself for the answer she doesn't want to hear, no more ready to believe now than in the heady aftermath of survival. The ten days since that night have been more than enough time to practice and perfect the only story he'll admit even to himself—that by the time they saw the bomb he'd had no chance to get away clean—so he shrugs and tells her a truth that both of them can live with.
"Two minutes? Not enough time to get away from the toxic goodies packed inside Jones's explosive piñata." He's deliberately matter-of-fact, and she responds by finally meeting his eyes. "By the time I hit the elevator I realized we were already dead. If I had to die, it wasn't going to be in a claustrophobic little box." He grins, hard and humorless. "Besides, that close to the explosion, we probably would have died in the blast. Beats out death by suffocation any day. Cleaner, y'know."
Her hands unclench from the pen and her shoulders relax. Her smile flickers out as quickly as it's sparked, but her breathing is easier. If she knows he's not telling her everything—and he bets she does; she reads him too damned well—she's willing to look the other way. He's as grateful to her for that as she is for his not questioning how they survived.
She drops the subject, returning the conversation to what passes for mundane these days as quickly as she'd shifted it away. Soon enough they have more important distractions to puzzle out, more shocking revelations to deal with, and details that seemed so important then are tossed aside as inconsequential.
It's not until years later that he tells her, tells himself, the full truth of that night. By then he's guarded her back against situations more dire, including a closer approximation of hell than he ever wants to see again. They've been lovers for years, in love for longer, and if they have secrets left to tell it's only because they haven't gotten around to confessing them.
He's tracing the pattern of her skin with hands and lips, following the familiar map of dips and curves and scars. Remembering how many years there were between wanting to touch her like this and actually taking the leap. Remembering the first time he had to stop himself from grabbing her and kissing her senseless, that night when he got the first glimmer that she'd eventually mean everything to him.
"I couldn't leave you to die alone, y'know," he murmurs into her shoulder. "Couldn't let you think I'd abandoned you."
She props herself on her elbows and turns her head, watching him through that long curtain of hair. He doesn't need to tell her when, just lets her pull the images from his mind as easily as he could from hers.
She cradles his memory of her framed against the night, so impossibly brave it still makes his heart ache, and offers up hers, of the relief of his warm and steady presence at her back, focusing and grounding her until she'd moved beyond rationality and into the place where all things were possible. And she knows, because he knows, that he may have twisted the truth when he'd told her why he hadn't left but he'd never lied. The bomb was the least of the reasons he'd had no chance at getting away clean that night. He'd been caught by the underpinnings of love not yet realized, and leaving her would have meant cutting off a part of him he'd assumed lost long ago.
Even if he'd gotten out alive, he'd have been as good as dead. Not in body, but in soul.
She twists to her back and wraps her arms around his shoulders, pulling his lips down to hers. "I'm glad you came back," she whispers.
He grins and kisses her on the nose. "I'm glad we didn't die."
His hands are on her skin and hers on his as they brush through the edges of each other's minds and lose themselves in the wonder of each other.