Disclaimer: I don't own Fringe or its characters.
Author's Note: As always, Alamo Girl rocks for being willing to beta.
After All Is Said and Done
Olivia ambles down mostly-deserted halls flooded with light from the late afternoon sun. In four years the Kresge Building has become as familiar as the Federal Building, and she wants to make this final walk through last.
Four years, three months and sixteen days, to be exact. That was the length of time between being roped into a strange world full of the barely possible and sealing the last of the interdimensional portals. And now it's over. Fringe Division is closed down and their lives have newly become their own. Counterterrorism, while a good use of her talents, will be boring in comparison. New York is wonderful city, but it is Boston that has become home.
She'll miss the Division, and all the talented agents she's been privileged to work with. Broyles, who she started at odds with but who became her staunchest ally, is back in Washington already, enjoying a well-deserved promotion. Charlie, who without question and without hesitation always had her back, she misses fiercely; nightmares about his death regularly haunt her sleep. And there are scores of others, some moving on to new assignments, others dead, having sacrificed their lives along the journey to saving their world from destruction.
She'll miss her team even more. Together they've lived through betrayals from old friendships and testing of new, through everything the team knew of their lives getting wrecked apart and learning to depend on each other to put themselves back together. Through heartbreak and hilarity, and every other emotion in the spectrum. Astrid, Walter, and Peter have become family, and now that family is moving on, scattering away from Boston.
She smiles at Walter's name on the clouded glass, remembering as she opens the door the dusty and shadowed room she first entered, the lights that blew out when they first flipped the switch. Now the space is already half cleared out, more empty than it had been all those years ago. She knew Peter and Walter were debating putting the old lab in mothballs, at least for a little while, but she still aches at the sight.
Father and son bicker over some point about dismantling the electron microscope while Astrid packs glassware, carefully wrapping each piece before placing it in the box. They glance up when she enters; reflex, she supposes. How many times had she strode through these doors, bringing them details of a new case or badgering them about details of the one in progress? Hundreds, at least.
"Olivia!" Walter grins; Peter rolls his eyes, grabbing the metal cylinder in the hand Walter enthusiastically waves and packing it away. "Come to say goodbye?"
She leans her forearms against the metal rail and smiles. "And reclaim a few things I didn't grab last week." It's an excuse, she knows. Peter or Astrid would have been happy to bring her anything she'd left, but she wanted to see the place one more time, to say goodbye when the world wasn't at stake.
"Hard to believe, isn't it?" Astrid's expression is wistful. "I mean, that it's over."
Olivia nods, glancing around the space that has never looked this neat. "Almost unreal."
Peter looks up at last as he smooths down the tape on the box he'd just filled. "Just seems like yesterday we were dragging you out of the tank for the first time."
She laughs. The tank is still there, despite years of Peter threatening to dismantle it, and it will probably be the last thing to go. "And you were still trying to convince me it was a bad idea."
"Well, it was." He grins. "Just not the worst one you ever tried to coerce us into."
"You had your share of bad ideas, Mr. 'I'm sure this is a foolproof plan'. Aren't you supposed to be a genius?"
"Even genius isn't proof against occasional stupidity."
The grins they share are entirely too silly for two grown adults, but Olivia thinks they've earned the right to more than a little silliness. Astrid shakes her head and laughs. Walter's already moved to another part of the lab and is organizing bottles of chemicals by a system likely known only to him.
Astrid sighs as she closes up her box. "I'll miss all of you, y'know. I never thought I would, those first few weeks here, and I know this sounds weird, but this has kind of become home."
"Yeah," Olivia murmurs. "It has."
"We've certainly spent more time here than our homes. And since one of us has been splitting her time away from home between here and the Federal Building, that's saying something." Peter smirks up at Olivia; she snickers and shakes her head.
"Well," she says, pushing herself back upright, "that one who you're implying works too much better finish up so she can go home."
She pats Gene's nose on the way to the office and stops just inside the room. Most of the files are already in storage, the room empty without the filing cabinets lining every wall. She walks to the desk she had used so often, running a hand over the scarred surface. It's old, battered, and not very big. Not even hers; she shared the space with everyone in the lab. She'll miss it more than the spacious cherry wood desk in her office in the Federal Building.
Her unlikely ally turned best friend—her confidant, confessor, and coconspirator through everything the world could throw at them—lurks in the doorway like he has a thousand times before. Her heart gives that annoying little flutter like it often does when he's near, the one that makes her want to say to hell with regulations. Would have said it if she hadn't been burned so badly the last time and if getting to the root of the Pattern hadn't been more important than her stupid schoolgirl crush.
"So you and Walter really decided to leave, then?" She gestures to where Walter is now micromanaging Astrid's packing and still getting her name wrong. The Junior Agent deflects him with the amused exasperation of long practice.
"Yeah." He shrugs, glancing out into the lab then back at her. "Long past time to be splitting town, at least for a bit."
She grins and tilts her head. "Running from the memories?" She doesn't ask if Walter will go with him. That's a given.
He laughs. "Well, I'd have reason. But no. Just remembering there's a world beyond the Eastern Seaboard."
"Only one I'm interested in."
The one he'd chosen to stay in. She doesn't know what she would have done if he'd decided to go. At least she knows they'll share a dimension, if not a zip code. Not that he's given so much as a hint what he's going to do next. Suddenly curious, she asks, "Plans?"
"Waiting on a couple things." He glances at her, opens his mouth as if to say something, then just shakes his head. "I'll figure it out."
"You always do." She's sure he'll land on his feet; it's part of who Peter is. "Be careful. Wherever you end up."
His smirks. "Oh, I always am."
Impulsively, she reaches out and hugs him, hard. He squeezes back just as tight, hands tangling in her hair.
"Thank you," she murmurs. "For everything."
She considers telling him how she really feels, but it would be unfair. The time to chance that was months ago, not as he's about to walk out the door to resume the life she'd unceremoniously yanked him from. She's kept him tethered long enough. It's time to set him free.
She lets go reluctantly, straightens the front of his shirt and steps back. "Keep in touch?" she says when she finally looks up to meet his eyes.
"Always." His reply is quick and easy, and his smile crinkles the edges of his eyes.
There's a crash from the lab, and they both wince.
"Go. Before he decides to blow the place up instead of leaving."
"I so wish that were a joke."
"You know you'll miss it."
"Yeah, I will. But I'm not telling him that." With a last grin he spins off to cajole Walter into playing nice with the lab equipment.
She gathers up the last of her odds and ends and shoves them in her pockets, surveys the room one more time, then slips out the double doors that lead from the office to the rest of the Kresge building.
She hesitates, door in hand, looking through the windows separating the office from the lab. She should go back in, be there for one last round of goodbyes, but it's not like she'll never see them again. They're doing dinner in a couple of days—in celebration of Olivia's promotion, according to Astrid; in celebration that the fucked up shit is finally done with, according to Peter—and there will be emails and phone calls and maybe meet-ups on the odd occasion when they're in the same town at the same time. It's only this chapter of her life she's finishing, not everything.
With one last look at the place of so much triumph and tragedy, she shuts the door behind her. Her shadow stretches in front of her as her footsteps echo through the hallway.
And apparently she's not getting away that easily.
She turns. Peter, backlit by light streaming through the windows behind him, leans against the door to the lab watching her. "Say—hypothetically—I'd asked you out. What would you have said?"
Her breath catches. She can't make out his expression, not with the sunlight haloing him, and there's nothing in his tone to give her any clues. She chooses her words carefully. "I'd have told you that we were colleagues, and that it would be... inappropriate."
"And if I were to ask you now?"
She hesitates, searching his face, but there's still nothing she can read. "I'd ask you why."
"And if I said that I didn't want to lose you?" He pushes off the door and closes the distance between them, stops just out of reach and rocks back on his heels. "And that I've been crazy about you for longer than I want to admit."
Breathe, she tells herself. Remember to breathe. "Just hypothetically?"
"No." He shakes his head and his chuckle is more than a little rueful. "No, it moved past that stage... well. A while ago."
"I'm due in New York by the end of the week," she says slowly. She's never been any good at this and there are only too many ways she could screw it up. At least if she does, she won't have to see him every day.
He shrugs. "Walter likes New York. He's told me. Often. Especially in the past week."
Which suggests that Peter had been feeling Walter out on the idea or that Walter had picked up on something Peter hadn't been saying. Her heart flutters. Damn it, she's a seasoned FBI agent who's coolly dealt with horrors beyond imagination, and her heart flutters. She looks anywhere but at Peter, because if he sees her eyes he'll be able to tell just how nervous she is—and being nervous is absurd because this is Peter, who's been with her through everything. Besides, hiding her nerves is a lost cause, anyway, because he knows her, and has probably pegged to within a hairsbreadth exactly what's been going on in her head since before this exchange even began.
She takes a deep breath and focuses on his reflection in the polished marble of the wall. "I thought you wanted to leave the East Coast?"
"I can think of a thousand places we could go see. This new job of yours does come with time off, right?" It's only now, hearing the teasing in his voice, that it registers he'd been nervous, too. Not anymore. He waits until she meets his eyes before moving, stepping close enough that she can feel the warmth of his body and his breath ghosting against her skin.
"Even when it did, I've never been good at taking it, remember?" A smile tugs at the corners of her lips.
Eyes intent on her, he smiles back. "Then you need someone to convince you."
"Yeah." Laughing breathily, she reaches up to cup his jaw, stubble rough against her palm. "I probably do."
He wraps his arms around her and closes the distance to her lips.
Feedback always welcome. Concrit is love.