Spoilers: Season 1
Disclaimer: I don't own Fringe or its characters.
Author's Note: Thanks much to Alamo Girl for the beta and for helping brainstorm all the myriad possibilities offered by the show.
Another Stop Along the Road
The persistent knocking drags Peter from the first sound sleep he's had in weeks.
He doesn't have to check the peephole to know who it is. He almost doesn't open the door, but he hasn't yet ground out that instinctive need to hop to her commands. She's sopping wet—strange, since he hears no rain from outside the window he left cracked—arms wrapped around herself and shifting from foot to foot. She looks up, and the wrinkles in her brow relax. "Peter."
The relief in her voice fucking hurts. Lacing his words with as much venom as he can muster, he drawls, "So, sweetheart, what brings you to my door at one in the morning?"
It's the half step back and defensive set of her shoulders that finally clue him in. The bewildered pain in her eyes just twists the knife of guilt. "Shit. You're reality hopping. And you don't have a fucking clue what I'm talking about."
Her brow wrinkles again and she stares out the window of the hallway, at the moonlight streaming through to make patterns on the carpet. He watches her as he hasn't been able to for months, her eyes distant as she twists the pieces and finds the order in which they fit together. "Walter's déjà vu."
"Yeah. The extended edition. Which means you don't belong here."
"How do you—"
"Because the Olivia I know has been skimming through alternate realities long enough to know what she's doing." He gestures her inside and closes the door, leaning up against it with a self-mocking grin. He doesn't trust himself to get any closer. "She also hates my guts, so the fact you're talking to me is another pretty good indicator."
"What?" She stares at him, eyes wide. Whatever other differences between there and here, she hasn't learned to hate him yet. Her Peter doesn't have a fucking clue what a lucky bastard he is.
He drops his eyes from hers and crosses his arms across his chest. "Let me guess, you're still doing it unconsciously? You're emotionally invested in a case, need information you don't have access to, and all of a sudden you've popped somewhere else?"
"Is that why?"
"Yeah. Linked to emotions, remember? So when you're all caught up..."
"I end up somewhere I can get answers." Dripping water or not, confused or not, uncertainty has given way to determination. She's finally gotten her feet back under her and he's not sure if he's happy she's found her balance or not. "So why am I here?"
"Fucked if I know. You're the one who showed up on my doorstep."
She rakes a hand through her hair, spins to stare out the window. "I needed to talk to you. I was worried, too, wanted to make sure you were all right," she glances at him, almost guiltily, then drops her eyes, "but I needed to find out about your connections to Mountainside Industries."
And there it is, the mistake he's going to regret forever. Months later than it had been in this reality, but his sins are still crawling out of the darkness to lay him low.
"What about them?"
"I need to know how involved you were."
He wonders what changed, that she's only finding out about Mountainside now. How their universes are different. He asks the question that, while out of left field for her, has been burning in his mind since he first realized who she was. "Have you two slept together yet?"
Her head shoots up, and she's glaring at him with equal parts offense and curiosity. He smirks. "That would be a no, then." Maybe that was it, the key reason he hasn't screwed up in her particular slice of reality. Maybe by not sleeping with her, by not scrambling to bury the worst of his past when he realized he'd fallen hard, he put off the inevitable for a few more months. But his screwing it up is inevitable, just as inevitable as his falling for her.
Or maybe the reason is something completely different. Either way, he still bets the Peter there won't be ready to tell her what she needs to hear, not until he's boxed in a corner and doesn't have a choice. And she needs to hear it.
"My involvement," he says, "and I'm assuming the involvement of your Peter, was as deep as it gets."
She flinches, just a little, then stiffens her spine and squares her shoulders. Her ability to roll with the punches even while her world is crumbling under her feet is one of the things he most admires about her, even when he's the one delivering the blow. Maybe especially then.
"I had half interest, up until a few months ago—probably still have it, on your side. Ken Stevens, who had the other half, became a very former friend." He regrets the fallout, but the bastard targeted Olivia as the best way to put pressure on Peter. Stevens fucking deserved what he got, and at the time she'd been in no condition to object. "Stevens will do whatever it takes. Don't turn your back on him, not for a second."
She just studies him, eyes flicking back and forth across his face. He doesn't have a clue what she's thinking, but whatever she sees leads her to the right question. "How far are you— is my Peter about to go to stop him?"
"As far as it takes." The smile he pastes on is more a baring of teeth, and he's sure more than a little of the rage he still feels towards Stevens is leaking into his expression.
She nods slowly. "All right."
"If I'm guessing right, the shit's about to hit the fan." The shift in her eyes indicates he's dead on. He hesitates, debates. It might not be fair to him—the other him—but ... "Piece of advice? Cut me lose while you can. When my past misdeeds catch up with me... well. It's not going to be pretty. It'll be better for everyone if you're not involved."
Better for her, certainly, if she's not getting the flack for his mistakes. Better for him? He remembers the day she found out: shock giving way to pain, pain kicked away by betrayal, betrayal darkened to hate. Anything's better than seeing her go through that.
"I'll take it under advisement." Not a flicker of emotion makes it into her voice; she's gone even more impassive than before. Ever the consummate professional, not giving promises but keeping her options open. Add in cold with the occasional flicker of hate, and she could be the Olivia who's across town, probably still combing through files on her latest case.
This Olivia won't listen. Damn it, he knows her, and she'll leap before she looks. And he won't be there, either of him, to watch her back. Despite his warnings—because of them, even—she'll go in hard and fast and end up in the body bag his Olivia had narrowly avoided. He strides forwards and grabs her shoulders, startling her out of impassivity. He much prefers the heated irritation of the look she levels at him.
"Be careful," he says urgently. "The Mountainside situation... it's a tangled mess. I never should have gotten involved. Never should have..." He shakes his head, swallows. "I was young and stupid and so fucking arrogant to think I had it under control. Just... just watch your back."
She backs up a half step, and he drops his hands back to his sides. He doesn't move when she walks around him, or when she opens the door.
"I'll be careful," she says abruptly. "And thank you."
He turns to her. She gives a slight nod, and then is out the door.
He catches the door before it shuts. Standing in the doorway, he watches her leave and misses his own Olivia so much it hurts.
She stops just as she's about to round the corner and pivots, catching him watching her. Her expression softens, and there's compassion in her eyes. "Peter? Give your Olivia time. Whatever happened, give her a chance to come to terms." She pauses. Looks down uncertainly, then raises her eyes back to his and continues softly, "And don't give up. She'll never admit it, but she needs you."
She waits until he nods—he doesn't think he could choke out a word if he tried—before striding around the corner, probably shifting back to her little slice of reality as she goes. He's left staring at the spot where she'd been, his mouth dry and hands fisted, propped against the doorjamb because he's not sure if his legs will hold him otherwise.
And wonders if she's right.