I've come to the conclusion that I simply must have an AU going at all times. Y'know, like a radio or something going in the background while you're doing something? Anyways, the new season of Fringe starts up in September sometime, and AU's are pretty safe along the lines of preserving a story line that I have no right to tamper with. The wonderful thing about Fringe is that just when you think you know something, you find yourself completely incorrect- infuriating yet invigorating. But enough, on to the AU!

*If the world were run by communism, we'd all own Fringe. But, via crippling diversity in government, we do not, and thusly I must put a disclaimer here.

Chpt. One: (Sine In)

Monarch, Washington.

It's often foggy, there.

The savage crash of the chill surf against the jagged grey cliffs would have muted any cries from the shallow, white beach nearby, and even if there had been a break in the waves, her earphones would see to it that the world was completely blocked from her consciousness. Olivia liked to run here, for this reason in itself, and preferred her run in the early morning, before anyone showed up to remind her that humans still existed. Her sheer, purposely careless lack of concern for potential distractions had made it nearly a miracle for her to stumble across the body in the first place.

She spotted it as she vaulted a large piece of driftwood, her white sneakers thudding to a halt in the sand, flecks of sand flicking away from each of her footfalls. Her breathing heavy, Olivia pulled her headphones from her ears, tucking them into the sweaty collar of her shirt, and squinted.

For a few moments, she thought it may have been someone sleeping on the beach, until she got closer and realized just how strange it was. The corpse appeared to be a man in his late twenties or early thirties, dressed in a black suit. As Olivia neared, she took note of the obvious; the cause of death had been a bullet to the brain, dead center between his eyes. The bruises at the sides of his mouth and banding his wrists lead her to conclude that he had been killed execution-style.

The regular suspicions were raised, as she struck a stray lock of blonde hair from her eyes. Mob, crooked politician, embezzling businessman. But the rough effect of stubble about his chin made the fine suit look like a costume, rather than the everyday attire.

Olivia sighed. She could never just run in peace. No, there had to be a body sprawled out here, of all places. She was shaking her head and muttering about her luck as she drew out her cell phone from her pocket, beginning to dial.

The phone hit the sand as something touched her ankle, and she jumped away, startled. It was the corpse, staring up at her, seeming to have a hard time with the film of blood over his left eye. "What the hell?!" Olivia exclaimed.

"Sorry," he answered roughly, letting his arm drop back onto the sand. He shifted his weight onto his shoulder, turning over with a soft grunt of effort.

Olivia looked back and fourth along the beach, completely bewildered, "Who are you?! Is this some kind of joke?!" she demanded at last, taking another step back from him.

The stranger was sitting back on his ankles, yanking the knot from his tie and pulling it free of his collar, "Nope," he answered. He raised a hand to touch the leaking wound in his head, and Olivia looked sick as he poked the tip of his finger inside the hole, "…interesting," he concluded at last.

"Who are you?" Olivia stammered, "What are you?! Answer me!" her hand went for her gun, missing from her hip as she was out of uniform.

"That's the big question, isn't it?" the man laughed, and the laughter quickly became coughing. He cleared his throat after a bit, and spat something dark to the side, "you dropped your phone."

"You need medical attention," Olivia decided at last, stooping to retrieve her phone and dust the sand away, "I'll call an ambulance… Jesus, I thought you were dead…"

"Is this as big as it feels?" the stranger asked, frowning as he pointed to the hole in his forehead, "feels like a god damn cannon ball, rolling around in there."

"I'd say a twelve gauge solid slug," Olivia diagnosed immediately.

He nodded slowly, as if to feel the hunk of lead in his skull, "Yeah, I guess that would do it," he looked back up at her, "you could probably call that ambulance, now." he lay back on the sand, loosing even more color from his face, "I could use a good laugh."

"What do you mean?" Olivia asked, "Hey, you're not going to pass out on me, are you? Hey!"

But the stranger had stopped breathing. Olivia swallowed, and crouched down to gently press two fingers against his pulse on his neck. Immediately he snapped awake, gripping her by the wrist and making her jump, "Would you quit touching me?" he demanded.

"Sorry," Olivia stammered, gaping. His fingers against her skin were icy, and he was shivering, "listen, you're going into shock. I don't think we have time to wait for an ambulance. My car is up the cliff- do you think you can walk?"

"Yeah. I guess," the stranger replied, blinking up at her. His half-red stare was unnerving, and Olivia at last tore her eyes from his face, looking back the way she came. There was no one in sight. What chance had there been, for this man to survive with a bullet in his head in such a desolate place? It was very apparent that he was supposed to be dead. She would later come to question why she hadn't just left him there.

She helped him up, and they ambled off down the beach.

xXx

Whelps Ridge, Washington. Approx. 17 kilometers south-east of the US/Canadian border, only a few hundred miles from Monarch.

And dear god, is it boring.

"Do your hotel rooms have closets?"

Astrid looked up from her magazine, blinking at the form across the counter. Slowly, shock formed her face at what she saw, "Oh my god," she exclaimed before she could stop herself, "what happened to your face?"

He may have been frowning, or it may have simply been a grimace of pain, his split lip made it nearly impossible to tell. The man was beat to hell, hunched slightly and cradling his side. In a matter of seconds, his demeanor had been memorized; A dirty, torn, once white lab coat, the left lens of his thick-framed glasses shattered, his graying, curly hair caked with blood and dust. His eyes were blue… but one was nearly swollen shut, a cut spanning his eyelid to cleave his eyebrow, "I ask again," he said, his tone slightly annoyed and very tired, "do your hotel rooms have closets?"

"Um, yeah," Astrid replied, sitting up and doffing her magazine onto the counter, "why? Are you alright, sir?"

"I would like to rent a room for the night," he said dismissively, flipping the tails of his stained jacket away from his thigh to delve into his pocket, "how much are they running?"

"Oh," Astrid exclaimed, glancing down at the rates list taped behind the counter beside a clipped, laminated newspaper cartoon strip, "they're…" she trailed off as he drew out a banded roll of large bills, pulling a few loose.

He glanced up at her silence, "Yes?" he questioned impatiently.

"…Forty-five dollars for one night," Astrid finished, tearing her eyes away form his method of payment, "internet and local calls are free."

The stranger muttered something about how the economy was going to hell and forked over the bills, and Astrid spun in her chair to the wall of pegboard that sported the room keys, "Something on the second floor, please," he asked.

Astrid felt that the man hardly seemed in the shape to ascend the stairs to the second level of the small complex, but obliged his request none the less, "Your room is thirteen B," she said, passing over the key, and he chuckled darkly, "do you need any assistance with your luggage, sir?"

He was shaking his head and muttering as he shuffled out of the office, the small brass doorbell chiming distantly as he disappeared into the dark, a red spot growing at his elbow.

Despite herself, Astrid got up from her chair to go to the window, pushing the white, plastic blinds apart and peer out into the parking lot, lit dimly with a single, orange streetlamp. The man was pulling open the door of an old, dusty Station Wagon, the color indefinable through the grime. He disappeared into the back seat, apparently looking for something.

Perhaps he was in trouble. On the run? Surely not from the law? What could he have done to break the law? Astrid pushed her questions aside and reached for the phone, dialing the number for the local police station. It toned only twice, before someone picked up.

"Sheriff Francis," came the slightly tired-sounding reply.

"Hey, Charlie," Astrid said, "it's Astrid, up here at Lux Inn. Sorry to call so late."

"Hey, my shift's all night. What seems to be the problem?"

"Well, this guy just checked in," Astrid said, "and… he looks like someone roughed him up pretty bad."

"Oh? Well, what's his name?" Charlie questioned.

Astrid balked, and looked over her shoulder at the untouched ledger next to the cash register, "Damn it, I forgot to get him to sign in. I do that every time. I'll call you back, Charlie." and she hung up the phone.

After watching the stranger gather his things and make his way off to his room, Astrid gathered the roster and a pen and set out from the office. Quietly she climbed the steel grate steps and along the outdoor balcony, counting the rooms off as she passed. She reached 13B and raised her knuckles to knock, and was stilled by his rough call of "Whatever you want, go away!"

"Sir?" Astrid questioned, shifting the heavy book in her arms, "I forgot to have you sign in, sorry."

There was silence as a reply, and Astrid was about to head back to the office when the door chain rattled, and the door opened. The stranger stuck his head out, glaring, "Why didn't you call up?" he snapped.

"I didn't want to make you walk down to the office," Astrid replied sheepishly, extending the book slowly, "you look…" she swallowed, with a quick smile, "…tired."

"I am," he replied gruffly, taking the roster and scribbling a name quickly. He snapped the book shut sharply and thrust it at her, "I trust this will be sufficient until morning?"

"Um, unless you need something else," Astrid replied, still smiling weakly, "Mister…" she peeked into the ledger, "Mister Bishop."

"It's doctor Bishop, thanks," he corrected, "and I will be most comfortable until morning, thank you very much." and he shut the door in her face.

Astrid let out a sigh and tucked the book under her arm, scratching the back of her neck as she headed for the stairs. She was stilled as Dr. Bishop called to her, "Miss!"

She looked over her shoulder, "Huh?"

"What's your name?"

"Astrid," she replied, hoping he wasn't going to call the day manager and complain, "Astrid Farnsworth."

He thought this information over for a few moments, and winced, clutching his head, "Will you do something for me? I'm more than willing to reimburse you for your time…"

Astrid swallowed, blushing violently, "Hey, I'm not-"

"Take this list," Dr. Bishop said, flapping a piece of paper at her, "retrieve its constituents and bring them to me." Astrid took the list from him, looking it over.

"What is all of this?" she said, "Ginger ale? Coffee cake? Frankenberry crunch? Cotton candy?"

"Blue, not pink."

"…Wool socks?"

"Can you get them or not?" Dr. Bishop snapped, irritated.

Astrid smiled, "Sure thing, Dr. Bishop. There's a truck stop just down the way, I think they'll probably have most of this. The socks might be a bit of a stretch, though."

Walter watched her a moment, and sighed as he raised his hand to his brow again, pulling off his glasses and rubbing his eyelids, "Get what you can. Keep the change, and go away." He pushed a wad of bills into her hand and shut the door.

"Dr. Bishop," Astrid said uneasily after she had counted over the money, "there's over a thousand dollars, here!" There was no reply, and she shook her head, heading off, muttering under her breath, "maybe it's jerk tax…"

xXx