Warnings: Dark. Swearing, violence.

Spoilers: Through "Ability", episode 1.14

Disclaimer: I don't own Fringe or its characters.

Author's Note: This has been running through my head since last fall, and finally had to be written. Thanks go to Alamo Girl, who is an awesome beta.

The Politics of Betrayal

"Stop right there."

Olivia's voice is cold. Even. And fuck, but Peter's been expecting this for months.

"Hands out of your pockets. Slowly." Her words are clipped now, betraying a touch of impatience. He turns and she's five feet away, pale hair and paler skin washed white in the gleam of the streetlight, gun trained on him.

"What, I can't get a night off anymore?" He forces the amiability of his casual grin into his eyes. Just in case. It might not have been his contact who was the focus of the little covert op she and her FBI buddies have been wrapped up in all week. It might not have been the gold of her hair he'd spotted across the crowded dance floor at the nightclub. She might not have seen it all go down, then watched and waited until he was alone in the back streets of Boston to accost him.

He doesn't bother the check the streets for other members of her team hidden in the shadows. She'll want to confront him in private, out of the view of prying eyes.

"You met with a known member of a terrorist organization to pass classified information." Her hands are steady, her expression still as death. Except for her eyes; he's never before stared into somebody's eyes and watched them shatter.

He forces himself not to look away. "Did I? And here I thought I'd gone out to have a few drinks and avoid Walter for a few hours."

"We have it on tape." Matter of fact. Maybe the slightest hint of resignation, if there's any emotion in her voice at all. And behind her eyes, more pieces tumble away as the frame holding them up cracks further. "What was their price, Peter? How much was it worth to fuck us over?"

He's done for. He knows it, she knows it. Time to play the final round to its bitter end. "A hell of a lot more than you ever offered, sweetheart."

The flinch as he brings them back to the beginning isn't contained behind her eyes, but shudders down her body; her gun wavers. He remembers the first time he called her that, facing down that then-unfamiliar indomitable force as he let her hook him in. The pain in her eyes was the same then as it is now. "You think they didn't expect Walter would come back into play? Someone was going to connect the dots and spring him eventually."

Her only reaction is a sharp intake of breath, but this time her gun doesn't move. "One point of access," she murmurs. "Compromise that point and control the results."

"And you never even thought to ask." His grin is deliberately mocking as he calculates the exact phrasing he needs to twist the words for maximum impact. "Did you even consider that trusting me was a bad idea? Didn't you learn anything from John?"

He's sure he's dead. Her expressionless mask is consumed in her blast of fury, cracks behind her eyes welding together as they reshape into new determination. Her finger twitches on the trigger and he braces himself, waiting for the shot. The streetlight flickers, a strobe of brilliance chased by shadows.

"Bastard," she hisses, venom in her voice enough to rattle the most unflappable of suspects, the hatred in her eyes promising him worse than death.

Vengeance always did look good on her, much better than haunted pain. His grin is the first honest one of the evening. "Yeah," he says softly, almost sighs.

"Was a there a single moment you weren't lying to us? To me?"

Countless. Big, small, and everything in between. She has no idea how well she knows him—better than anyone, really—and how far he's let her under his skin. The cruel edge to his smirk will make damned sure she'll never find out. It's better that way, for both of them. "What do you think, Special Agent Dunham?"

"I'm going to destroy you." Her statement is harsh with strangled rage.

"I don't doubt it." He shrugs, flipping the palm of his right hand up in a nonchalant gesture. The gun shifts a trifle, following the movement, and he sidesteps and grabs for the gun with the hand she hadn't been distracted by. "But you have to catch me first."

The fight's a blur of feints and blows; she's better than him, but he fights dirtier. It's a tradeoff which of them has more to lose. His cheek's throbbing from the right cross, his ribs from the kick, when he snaps her handcuffs on her right wrist—she hadn't even noticed he'd slipped them out of her pocket while narrowly avoiding the elbow to the jaw—and whips behind her to grab and secure the other. He locks an arm against her throat, pulls her arms upwards with enough pressure to make her gasp.

The streetlights flare and go dark, leaving them surrounded by shadows.

He can't see her eyes, but her body is rigid against his. She should be fighting him with every fiber of her being, but she's still, except for her ragged breathing as she tries to pull air into her lungs.

"Well?" she rasps, belligerent and taunting. "What the hell are you waiting for?"

The people he's been passing information to don't want her dead, but with what they know of him they'll be suspicious if he lets her live. She knows too much, has too many of the pieces and too much of an incentive to put them together. Especially the pieces dealing with the magnitude of his involvement. She doesn't take losing well, and this is a knife to the back she won't forgive. While she's alive, she'll hunt him to the ends of the earth, a crusade that will make her search for the answers behind John Scott's loyalties look like casual interest.

He tightens his grip on her throat, just enough to block her air. She flinches—shock, he thinks, absolute disbelief that he hadn't been bluffing—then drives her head backwards, twisting against him. Almost wriggles free, except he yanks her arms upwards and the pain all but drops her to her knees. He secures his chokehold, pinching off the blood supply to her brain.

"I couldn't let them kill Walter," he murmurs as he counts off the seconds. "And I didn't know you. Not when they came to me. By the time I did, I was in too deep to go back."

She goes limp, dead weight supported by his arm around her neck and the one he quickly loops around her waist. Ten seconds go by, then twenty, and he lowers her to the pavement, drops beside her and presses two fingers to her pulse, desperately trying to separate out the pounding of his heart from the beating of hers.

Her pulse is there, strong and steady under his fingers. He closes his eyes and lets out the breath he'd been holding. She's unconscious, not dead. At least he hadn't fucked that up.

"It was supposed to be easy, 'Livia." He runs his palm along her cheek, wiping away the wet trails her tears left behind. "Before, it was always easy. I never fucking expected you."

He shoves to his feet.

It should look like a miscalculation, that he botched his attempt to kill her. They'll be pissed that he's been compromised, more pissed that he tried to end her life when he knew they wanted her alive. But they won't touch him because he's made himself too useful to be eliminated, even without the Fringe Division gig allowing him to provide insider information.

No one can know there's another person who could be used against him, not even her.

Especially not her.

His bridges lie in wreckage behind him. Time to abandon the ruins and go to ground. She'll protect Walter with her life and every resource the FBI and Homeland Security can muster. Maybe if he's lucky, she'll finally learn to save a smidge of that protective instinct for herself as well.

Not fucking likely, but it's the only thing he has left to hope for.

Sixty seconds pass before she regains consciousness, and he watches over her from a shadow-shrouded doorway up the block until she staggers to her feet, cursing. Until she contorts enough to fish out the key and unlock the cuffs, rubbing at her wrists as she retrieves her gun. Until she jabs at her phone and snarls for backup, pacing stiffly up and down the deserted street.

Then he loses himself in the night.


This may eventually get a sequel.

Feedback is always welcome. Concrit is love.