Disclaimer: Not mine, not for profit
Notes: A Whedonland fic gift for non-Whedon show "Fringe" and prompts "law school", "diner" and "apple cider"
Summary: Another day, another Walter developed device
"Steady," said Walter. "Steady."
He was talking to himself, since he was the one with the screwdriver jammed inside the device, slowly turning something deep inside the mysterious object. On the outside of the oddly shaped box was a small glass covered number reel. The reel consisted of three sets of four digit numbers in black, and a further single digit in red. As Walter adjusted the device the numbers would tick round, though not in any discernibly logical order that Peter could make out. Every time the red digit displayed a "9" (twice in the twenty minutes Walter had been tinkering with the device) Walter said "Oops!" in a way that was very unnerving.
Astrid was frozen to the spot, watching in fascination and fear, both hands clutching her coffee mug. Peter was stood, arms akimbo, thinking for the hundredth time that this was a Bad Idea.
"You see, the settings must be exact," Walter said, pausing in his adjustments, and this time he directed his remark to Astrid.
She nodded. "What happens if they're not?"
Walter threw out both arms as he laughed, "Boom!"
"Boom?" Peter shouted. When Walter had said it was a delicate matter he thought the scientist was referring to the device being liable to damage, not the device being likely to explode.
He marched over to his father and grabbed for the screwdriver. Walter batted at him and for a moment they looked to Astrid like they were having a cat fight – she half expected hair pulling, or for it to degenerate into a Three (or, technically, speaking two) Stooges skit.
"Walter, give me the screwdriver," Peter ordered.
"No!" Walter tried to hide it behind his back.
Astrid cleared her throat. "How big a 'boom', exactly?" she asked faintly. "Because we should probably move the device off campus."
Peter looked to her and then to his father. "Good question. How big?"
Walter shrugged expansively. "It won't make a difference even if we take the device all the way to San Diego. The device would trigger a burst of energy that could tear down all of the er, walls between worlds, all at once….I had a teaching assistant from San Diego…or was it Okalahoma? Nice girl, very smart. Small breasts, but well formed."
"Walter!" Peter snapped. He was thankful he didn't blush or he'd be constantly reddened with embarrassment due to Walter's lack of social mores. "You said this was a device for monitoring Pattern related activity. You didn't say it was explosive."
Walter spluttered in indignation. "You didn't ask," he retorted.
Olivia chose that moment to arrive. "Hey," she called, closing the lab door behind her. "What's going on?"
Peter pointed an accusing finger at his father. "He's tampering with the device!" He lowered his finger and glowered, embarrassed on his own account this time; he felt as if he were telling tales to mom.
"This is the device Walter remembered he'd stored at the train station?" Olivia crossed the room and bent over the table, studying the object.
"It measures Pattern related activity," Walter said proudly, "at least, that's what you would call it now. It also generates electrical fields which, I don't need to tell you, opens up myriad possibilities."
"And it explodes," Astrid added. She took a mouthful of cold coffee and grimaced. She hadn't realised how long she'd been watching Walter; nor had she realized until the "boom" moment how dangerous this latest device was. She was used to corpses by now, and giving shots – and even ultrasounds – and most of the time she was okay with the bizarre and distinctly biomedical turn her career with the FBI had taken. There were moments like this, however, when she wondered if she shouldn't just have gone to law school like her mother had wanted her to.
Olivia straightened up, eyes wide. "Explodes?"
Walter threw the screwdriver down in annoyance. "Only if I don't get the settings exactly right."
"And if you don't get them right, it explodes?" Olivia asked, shocked. She subconsciously took a step away from the table. Peter nodded grimly.
"Explodes is not the correct terminology," Walter interjected sulkily.
Olivia looked to Peter for an explanation and he folded his arms. "Let's just say, if Walter gets it wrong, we'd never know about it."
Olivia took this in, and then carefully slid the screwdriver behind a box of disposable gloves, out of sight.
"I think we should work on something else for a while," she said brightly. "In fact, I think it's time for lunch." She smiled at Astrid. "What do you say? Team bonding. Put it on the company tab."
Astrid nodded brightly. Not only was it a genuine offer it was clearly an attempt to distract Walter. "I'll get my coat. Coming, Walter?"
Grumbling, Walter shuffled off towards the coat rack. Halfway there he stopped, looked over his shoulder, and said, "Do you think there will be apple cider?"
"I'm sure there will be," Olivia promised. "And if not, we'll go somewhere else."
Walter grinned. "I haven't had apple cider in years."
Peter turned to Olivia and gave a sigh of relief. "That device needs to be secured."
"Absolutely," she agreed.
"I'll take care of it and join you for lunch," Peter said softly. He planned to go halfway down the corridor, make an excuse that he'd left something in the lab, and double back. He needn't have worried too much, because Walter was already educating Astrid about cider of all varieties and had seemingly forgotten all about the ominous machinery.
Walter was drawing smiley faces in the condensation on the window of the diner when Peter arrived. Olivia was still studying the menu. Astrid was enjoying a milkshake with a long, curly, straw in it. Walter, Peter saw, had indeed got cider, and Olivia had orange juice.
Peter slid into the seat next to Walter, opposite Olivia.
"Done?" she asked, quietly.
"Done. At the bottom of the Mystic Lake." He rubbed his hands together and said at normal volume, "What about a coffee? It's freezing out."
When they left, Walter had another apple cider, to go. Olivia had never been so relieved to have Charlie call her with a potentially Pattern-related case to attend to. She swung the car around and grinned wildly at Peter who shared her enthusiasm for something else that would distract Walter for a while.
When finally they did get back to the lab several hours later, Walter had forgotten all about the device – he now had a quick frozen corpse to examine, and that was far more interesting.