FRINGE

Party Time

No copyright inFRiNGEment intended.

Note: the FBI approved new housing for the Bishops? It's time to party, --sort of....

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PROLOGUE

"Need some help?"

"No. Thank you, I'll be all right." She handed a 20 dollar bill, took a deep breath and shifted slowly on the back seat trying to manage a brown bag, her purse and her cane. "Please, keep the change."

"Thanks," the taxi driver pocketed the twenty. "… you sure?" asked, clearly not referring to the tip, his eyes locked on the blonde woman in the rear-view mirror, "because I don't want to sound rude or anything but you really look like you can use some. Listen lady," he opened his door and unlocked hers, "I know what it's like. I went back from Iraq a couple months ago. And I wasn't injured as you are. Don't be shy, give me your hand."

She gratefully grabbed his hand and he pulled her out of the car. She winced from the pain. Her leg twitched when her foot landed on the sidewalk. When he touched her bruised shoulder to help her keep her balance, she almost cried from the pain but it ultimately sounded like a little squeak. She closed her eyes tight and let go of his hand.

"At least, let me help you with the bag…"

"I really can do this, but I appreciate the offer," she smiled, carefully balancing her weight on the cane. She rested a moment. He didn't move. She knew she was gazing at him. "How long?" she said in a whisper.

"36 months," he said without a pause, obviously relieved she finally asked and that he could somewhat confide in her. "The last 12 in Iraq. I was in Afghanistan when I first enrolled."

She nodded. "Bad?"

"More than you know."

"I know," she nodded.

He smiled awkwardly. "Look at me," he shrugged, "I'm… sorry, I'm supposed to be the one helping and…"

"That's okay." She hesitated. "I have to go," she smiled. Her left eyebrow arched, she nodded, biting her lip.

"Yes, yes of course," he muttered.

She turned around and limped her way to a 19th century building. She stopped abruptly. "Hey, mister?" she called.

He was already back inside the car but got up and turned to her, with his elbows on the roof. "Hey, you're having second thoughts?"

"The dreams, they will disappear, you know…"

"So they say."

"It can take a while…"

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PART 1

The elevator doors hissed open and she heard the general commotion of confused voices, music and laughters. She frowned absently. She had not realised that Peter had so many friends when he talked her into coming to his party. On the other hand, she might have known better. He had been back to Boston almost a year now. That was probably enough to make friends, --friends she didn't know about and never heard of. She simply hoped the people inside were not his weird connexions. But it didn't make any difference anyway. She was ultimately the one who had never met her own neighbours…

She took some time to regroup and walked slowly to their door. With part of her memories still missing, she would have hoped to be able to rely on habits and well known places. But it seemed that the FBI had chosen to grant Peter his request, --finally. It was about time, she chuckled. She knew that Walter simply being Walter made it difficult to share a suite, notwithstanding that he had developed a fondness for various lab animals these last months and decided to keep them all as pets. Last time she checked, he was short of an alligator, should he have chosen to launch a mini-zoo. Or perhaps Peter had been more persuasive. She didn't know of all the details but things were changing, and changing fast at the Fringe Division lately.

She had to admit that no one would really tell her anything. Her own colleagues insisted on treating her like a China doll since her accident in New York. And this was more painful that the pain itself. Even Charlie was not his usual self when she was around.

Anyway, it was about time the Bishop boys moved to a proper apartment even if she couldn't help but regret the hotel and their impromptu discussions in the middle of the night. It was a nice neighbourhood, and she had postponed her visit so many times that she couldn't duck out any longer. Maybe it was the last hurdle before getting her life back, like a rite of passage. Listen to you, she thought, why do you insist on overanalysing things down to a pulp? Stop being so overly dramatic, for crying out loud!

She stopped in front of their door and grinned. Walter had stuck a large sheet of paper under their apartment number with a hand written mention:

Stranger, enter at you own risk

Friend, why are you late?

She stood there and stared for a while, with both her hands on the cane. When the light in the lobby went out, she listened in the dark to the happy hoo-ha and flinched. And then she knew she couldn't knock on that door, come in and act casual. She had thought she was ready, but she was far from ready. Or maybe, she could just come in for a minute and leave the bottle and her late birthday present and go away quietly. No, if she ever went inside this apartment, she'd be trapped. She wanted to see Peter and Walter, and Astrid, but…

The door opened abruptly and for a brief moment she was blinded by the bright light coming from the apartment. The noise was unbearable. She blinked. Walter was standing on the doorstep, wearing his usual brown corduroy pants, a checkered shirt and a V-neck maroon knitted cardigan. But she'd never seen him with a bow tie, --or this kind of ridiculous paper hat since she had missed Peter's birthday.

"Peter, you were right, Olivia's here." Walter beamed. He turned around and shouted, "Peter? She's here, can you hear me?" He seemed to be even more agitated than when she had left the lab, a couple of hours ago. She couldn't move. He turned back to her swiftly and took the brown bag. "I'm so glad you came, Olivia. Peter was worried. He thought that…"

"Stop that nonsense Walter," Peter interrupted, "Livia, you okay? You look terrible."

"Thank you, Walter," she smiled gently. "I'm just tired. Hello to you too," she snapped, regretting instantly her inappropriate fit of temper. But they didn't seem upset.

"You're very welcome my dear."

"Come on in, Liv, Walter give her some space. You didn't have to bring anything, I told you…"

"It's just a bottle of Chardonnay, don't start a war just yet," she chuckled, hobbling inside.

Walter helped her with her coat and purse, while Peter led her to the living room and the rest of the guests. She braced herself against any possible strange or unexpected encounter. Smile, she thought, following Peter, so far so good. She could hear Walter prattling in her wake and the loud laughters ahead. Hampered by her cane and reluctant to go any further, she walked nonetheless. Showtime.

"So what do you think?" Peter stretched his arms to embrace the vast room with its huge twin bow-windows and the Charles River glistening below.

She stopped in the doorway to dwell on the implications. "Where is everybody?"

"Everybody?"

"It's your house-warming party... no?"

"Yes, it is, definitely. I'm not sure I understand what you mean. You told me you'd better stay away from any kind of crowd. So here you are my lady, your very own private party hosted by your favourite surrogate family."

She glared at Peter, feeling lost and confused. Dumbstruck, she wobbled on her legs searching for options and wishing she didn't look too distressed. Now was the time to accept the situation as a fait accompli. But she hated it, she hated every single minute of this new life and her new found talent. It kept throwing her off balance. Not only couldn't she control it but it seemed to happen more and more often. Is that what Weiss meant by "Have the headaches started yet?" How was she supposed to master this unexpected ability?

All of a sudden, the flat went quiet, some classic jazz playing softly in the background and the faint sound of traffic a few stories below. And yet she had heard the laughters and the shocking of glasses. And now even if she tried, she was barely hearing the ticking of the clock on the wall.

"Livia, you okay?"

She swallowed and nodded. "Yes. Peachy."

"Hearing things again, are you?"

"Yep."

"You're hearing things?" Walter chimed in. "Really? What kind of things? You have to tell me, is it more like Jeanne d'Arc visited by…"

"Walter, not now, please," Peter warned him. "Don't you think that she deserve some rest after what she's been through?"

She didn't have the strength to protest. "I deserve a drink," she said in a whisper.

"… Saint Michael or…"

"I can hear things Walter, but not that kind of things, more like what you neighbour is watching on tv or when he's running a bath two stories below or a fly on the wall."

"Oh, oh I see," Walter commented. "In this particular instance, I can already confirm that it is not schizophrenia which is characterized by abnormalities in the perception of reality. Indeed, distortions in perception may affect hearing, and commonly manifest as auditory hallucinations, but you are experiencing a form of extra-sensory perception, aren't you Olivia?"

"Walter!"

"Let him, please, Peter?"

Peter crossed his arms and restrained from snapping at Walter again.

"I would posit that YOU possess paranormal auditory means."

"Clairaudience?" Peter winced.

"Exactly, Peter, good, very good. Clairaudience may not refer to the perception of a real sound, like an inner mental ear. In fact, you…"

"Mental ear?" she said.

"… are able to hear sounds that cannot be heard by me or Peter, even not be recorded! That is fantastic! Actually, I would have to run a few tests in my lab to quantify your ability. Only if you want to, of course."

"And make it disappear?"

"This I cannot," Walter said. He shook his head and trailed away.

Peter put a comforting hand on her arm. "I'm sorry Livia."

"That's okay. I already suspected that much. Not in so many words though," she smiled apologetically. She dropped on the couch awkwardly. The cane bounced on the corner of the coffee table. Her hand moved jerkily. Peter watched her intently and turned around to hide his feelings. He poured some amber liquid into a large glass. "Here you go, scotch, neat."

"Thanks for the party Peter."

"You haven't seen anything yet. Walter outdid himself!"

"Again?" she chuckled.

"Don't you go anywhere, I'll be right back. And really, it's even kind of good in its own way," he chuckled. "You'll be surprised. Let me fix you a plate."

**

Peter stopped the car. Olivia didn't move. He looked at her, wondering whether she'd fallen asleep on the way back to her home. "Hey… we're here."

She grasped her cane and her knuckles went white. She took a deep breath and turned to him with a faint smile. "Well… thanks for a great evening Peter."

"That's it? Livia, you barely nibbled on Walter's tabbouleh and falafels."

"I was not terribly hungry I guess," she said avoiding to look at him.

"You're not going to tell me anything, are you?" Her chin sank to her chest. Silence. "I know, you're not into Lebanese food, are you?"

She looked up, her face pale and distraught. "I'm… I guess I'm scared."

"Scared? You? Scared?" He quipped, relieved she was finally opening up.

"Mmm… I… I haven't been quite myself lately, and I know that Broyles told you to look after me."

"Not in so many words."

"So he did?"

"Busted," he grinned. "Yep, sort of, you know Broyles, he can be quite outgoing."

She chuckled softly. "Nina Sharp sent me to this Weiss guy."

"A shrink?"

"No. I'm not sure. I met him only that one time."

"And when were you going to tell me?"

"I am now."

"Okay…"

"Peter? Could you walk me to the door? Or is it too late for a last nightcap?"

"It's never too late!" he exclaimed. He went out of the car and in two strides, he was opening her door. "Let me help you."

"I'm okay."

"Yes you are." As soon as she was up, he lifted her from the ground, slamming the car door shut with his foot.

She convulsively grabbed his neck. "Peter what are you doing?"

"Walking you to your door."

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TBC