Warnings: Swearing, violence.

Spoilers: Through "Bad Dreams", episode 1.17

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

Author's Note: Very AU. Olivia's childhood goes a bit differently, which leads to a universe where Peter and Olivia are soldiers for the ZFT. Thanks and donuts to Alamo Girl for making sure this made sense to someone not in my head—and for not laughing that I managed to write this despite not having the time.

Slip Off the Choke Chain

The ground is cold, sucking warmth out of Peter as he lays prone and studies the layout through binoculars. Olivia, a shadow but for her pale skin and the strands of blonde poking out from under her dark cap, watches the scene through the same gap in the bushes. The hill is a good vantage point, overlooking the isolated private lab and providing plenty of cover for them to stay hidden from casual observers below. Or the not so casual.

The moon is low on the horizon by the time the cars come, big black sedans that look like they could take on a tank and come out intact. The ranks of protection file out, surveying the area with wary eyes before they usher their charge into the building.

Peter knows what she's about to do the instant before she moves. "Olivia. Olivia." He rises to his knees and grabs her wrist as she jumps up, dragging her to a stop. She's raring to go; he can feel the hot flicker of her impatience against the skin of his palm. Only a flicker. As usual, she's so guarded it's tough to get a good read on her. "We wait. We watch. Don't jump the gun."

"They target's there."

"The target will be there for the next hour, maybe two."

He can't tell if she's just gung ho or bordering suicidal, not tonight, not even with the bare strip of skin between her glove and sleeve pressed against him. She's been pushing the boundaries more and more, little things that look like eagerness but he recognizes as discipline breaking down. Not that he minds. Fuck, he approves of her shrugging away the indoctrinated chains that are holding her back, but if she's not smart about it, they'll both catch hell.

He has orders to rein her in; she probably has orders to kill him if he steps out of line. They trust her more than him, and he'd really fucking like to keep it that way.

She settles back to the ground, pressed warm against his side. He studies the building and tries to focus on it, not her. The night settles into the rustles of nocturnal animals, the songs of the crickets, and the even breathing of the woman stretched out next to him.

She breaks the peace maybe fifteen minutes later, just when he's finally managed to filter out the alluring but distracting buzz he always gets when he touches her. "Why do you always call me Olivia?"

"'Cause you're not an Olive," he replies absently, calculating how long it'll take him to break through the security system. Five minutes, tops. If their target wanted to be safe, he really should have ponied up the money for something better. "Who gave you the nickname, anyway? What'd they think you were, a martini?"

"My dad. He always used to tell mom my eyes reminded him of olives."

He lowers the binoculars and looks at her. Her attention is focused on picking apart the grass in front of her and shredding it into little piles. Her mouth moves, silently counting every piece that falls.

Her chattiness is unusual. Usually she's quiet before a mission, stalking her target like some sort of deadly blonde feline. Of course, usually she has enough common sense to wait for her target to settle rather than rushing in for the kill. "'Livia—"

"It reminds me of them. Before they died."

Before she became the ward of an organization that trained her into a weapon. Back when she had family, a life. Hope of becoming something normal.

His father protected him longer, shielded him after those first years of testing. After Walter's death, Peter bolted and enjoyed a few giddy years of freedom before being found and forced back. Forced to remember his ties to her.

There were worse things than being tied to her. Even if it's kept him tethered to the people she unquestioningly obeys. Making a break for it would mean abandoning her, and he's not about to leave her behind.

"Everyone dies," she murmurs, and he can't read her face, has to stop from reaching out to touch her to figure out what she's thinking. Nick again, maybe. She took Nick's death hard. Hell, he took Nick's death hard, despite the weirdness of their little triad of interlocking partnerships. He'd gotten used to brushing up against Nick on the edges of her emotions, of sometimes feeling him more clearly than Olivia herself.

Being strong for Nick kept Olivia focused and grounded. Gave her a purpose beyond the mission. Now, Peter doesn't know what the fuck is going on in her head.

He sure as hell hopes she didn't pick up suicide from Nick before he imploded.

"You're not going to die," Peter says roughly. Not if he has anything to say about it. "Which is why we're waiting for the right time to make our move."

She glances at him, looking through lowered eyelashes and chewing her lip. "You might."

"Not if I can fucking help it." He meets her eyes. She looks away.

"I like it when you call me Olivia," she offers quietly a few minutes later, then whiplashes back to businesslike. "And thirty minutes in. They'll be off their adrenaline high from the trip in, and won't be gearing up for the trip back yet."

He watches her push to her feet, bouncing a little to limber up after the wait, flexing her fingers and securing her grip on her guns. At least her strategic instinct has kicked back in. He still wants to touch her, to try to suss out what the hell that was all about, but she's right. Mission comes first. Even he'll admit that. He pulls on his gloves more to curb the impulse to reach for her than to guard against fingerprints.

He's through security in two minutes, with Olivia a warm and dangerous presence guarding his back. He gestures her through first, and not just so he can watch the swing of her hips. His gun's out but she takes point. What she was made for. Each them play their own fucking little roles.

She focuses a moment and fritzes the inside cameras, then moves ahead in a graceful lope.

It's bad luck that one of the guards was fucking around on his rounds and not where he was supposed to be. Even worse that a wild shot—he was shooting at Olivia, for Christ's sake, and Peter was eight feet away—takes Peter in the shoulder and spins him to the ground.

About half a second after which the guy goes up in a tower of flames to the tune of Olivia's inarticulate scream of rage. He feels the backwash of heat, sees parts of the corridor melting from the blast.

"Peter? Peter?" She's beside him, eyes wide and voice full of terror, pressing hands against his shoulder.

"Shit," he mutters and tries to sit up. She holds him down; the pressure spears agony through him and he yelps.

"We need to stop the bleeding." She's back to flat and impersonal, but she's too white.

"Then cauterize the damned thing. We don't have time." Not with the fire alarms blaring like a flock of banshees on speed and truly fucking up what was supposed to be a quick in and out.

She swallows. "I—"

"Look, you can torch a guy, you can do this. Just... dial it back."

"I don't want to hurt you."

"Then don't." He drags the glove off his good hand, catches one of hers and curls his fingers against the skin of her wrist. He ignores that the wetness making his grip slide is his own blood. The racing of her pulse keeps time to the pain throbbing through him.

He's seen her file. He knows exactly how many people she's killed with that practically uncontrollable fire thing, starting when she was four—and he doesn't want to think how that fucked her up as a kid, how it's echoed into her adult life. He knows that lack of control is why Olivia—and therefore he and Nick—were kept close and active rather than dropped into sleeper mode. But none of that matters.

"I trust you," he insists. The truth, and he presses it into her skin and tries to reach through the prickling needles of her fear to embed that trust in her soul.

She keeps a death grip on his hand and he anchors her eyes with his. Searing agony radiates through his shoulder, then eases, leaving behind no more pain than before and the stench of scorched flesh.

"I did it?" She sounds more scared than surprised, and he disentangles his hand from hers to cup her face. She leans into his touch and closes her eyes, looking impossibly young and vulnerable. Taking advantage of her uncommon pliancy, he strokes her cheek with his thumb. So soft. So at odds with the steel core of strength and determination that threads her every action.

Common sense overrides indulgences. "C'mon. Let's see if we can salvage something from this mess."

She's across the hall as soon as he breaks the spell, guns in hand and eyes wary. Not just wary of enemies, not the way her attention keeps flitting back to him. "We could always blow up the whole damned building," she mutters, fingers flexing on the grips of her guns.

"Can you?" She doesn't meet his eyes, but it's not denial. Also, not in her files. "Huh. Not a bad idea. Orders were to make it strange and fucking scary, and to make sure the breech is contained. We do it right, that might work."

The rest goes more smoothly. They catch their target on his way out—some guy named Esterbrook that's supposedly profiting from both sides—and make sure he's a warning to anyone else who dares try. When they're done Olivia focuses a second, hand on the body, then rises with a nod. "Building'll burn. He won't."

He didn't know she could do that, either. Neither, he'll bet, do their lords and masters.

They take Esterbrook's briefcase. The rest of the papers they're after are in the safe in the lab like they were told, though picking the lock one handed triples the time to break in.

The explosion is spectacular, lighting up the night sky for miles.

By the time they're back on their hill they're out of breath. His shoulder hurts like a bitch and from the way she's scrunched her forehead the headache from overuse of her talent isn't much better. She still stops to watch the fire. He stops to watch her, silhouetted against the fiery backdrop, her hair free from both cap and ponytail and curling over her shoulders.

"That was fucked," he murmurs.

"We got the job done."

Trust her to focus on that part. "Yup."

"They're using us." He can't see her face, but exhaustion and resentment vibrate through her voice. "And they're no more right than the other side."

Huh. The good little soldier really is breaking free of the fold. "Well, yeah."

She glances at him, orange and yellow of the fire below reflecting in her eyes and casting odd shadows on her face. "We can't let them use us forever."

He'd think she was playing him, luring him into betraying himself, but he feels the honesty reverberating through her from five feet away. Excitement twists up his spine. Everything's in balance, about to shatter free of the status quo. "Split?"

"They'll still be out there, waiting for us to slip up and show ourselves." They stare at each other, and he can feel the shape of what they have to do forming between them. She's the one to say it out loud. "We take them down. Work from within."

"It'll be dangerous." Massive understatement. But the alternative is worse.

"Then don't get caught." Her eyes are serious and unflinching. "Or killed."

"Back at you."

She nods, solemn.

Her touch is a casual brush to his arm as she's passing by, not even skin to skin, but she's raw and unguarded and he knows. Eyes wide, he turns her, cups her cheek and studies her face. "Olivia?" he breathes, and lowers his lips to hers before she can manufacture a protest.

It takes three seconds for her to get over the shock—he counts them, hoping he's not letting his own feelings color what he recognized in hers—and then she responds, her arms locking around him and her mouth hungry on his. And fuck, she's completely open to him for the first time, showing shades and nuances he never even knew existed as she comes alive in his arms.

He grins against her lips. Damn, but those dumb bastards have no clue what they think they have a leash on. Not a fucking clue. He's going to love watching her chew up and spit out the binds they think are trapping her. Then do worse to their captors themselves.

The kiss is too short, a confirmation rather than a resolution. But even with the high of this wonderful, eager woman egging him on his shoulder is really fucking starting to hurt, and she's about to drop. And they need to get out of here before someone comes looking because neither are in any shape to deal with opposition.

She practically glows when she really smiles.

He grabs her hand to pull her along. "C'mon. Let's go take down the ZFT."

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