Warnings: Prompt, character death.
Spoilers: Through episode 2.5.
Disclaimer: I don't own Fringe or its characters.
Author's Note: Written for Death Bingo on Dreamwidth, prompt: Illness (cancer).
Just One More Day
An unanticipated side effect. That's what Walter called it, putting a sugar coat of science onto the reality she has to live with. Not of the Cortexiphan, not of itself, but of the body's reaction to the effects brought about by the drug. Unlimiting the possibilities of the mind had a similar effect on her cells. The result? Cancer. Fast moving, inoperable. Eating her alive, day by day. No telling where it originated, because by now it's infested every major system of her body.
Seems the human body wasn't built to shift between realities and trigger unexplainable events, and now she's paying the price. Of course, others have already paid the price for her jumped up abilities, so it's beyond time that she pay as well. She bitterly wishes Bell and Bishop had thought through all the possible repercussions before injecting hundreds of innocent children. Before injecting her.
Peter's expression is inscrutable, the blank mask he put on to hide his reaction marred only by the faint furrow between his brows. He's been silent and still, barely even breathing, since Walter relayed the news.
She breaks the silence. "So how long?"
Walter can't meet her eyes. Where Peter is unreadable, every line of Walter's face shows guilt and grief. "Without intervention, months. Perhaps a year. There are some therapies we can try—"
"No." She hardly recognizes her voice, distant and hollow and hoarse as it is. "Don't prolong the inevitable."
"Olivia." The furrow between Peter's brows deepens. "You have to fight this."
Peter comes alive, grabs her shoulders. His blankness shatters into fear and sorrow. She meets his eyes, and his fingers tighten almost painfully. His touch forces her to acknowledge this is real, and not just one of the nightmares that haunt her sleep.
"I've served my purpose in the damned war, Peter. I'm tired." Beyond tired. They won, but too many people she loves were caught in the crossfire. Dead because of her. For her, winning wasn't victory but revenge, and it tastes like ashes.
He pulls her against him, murmuring, "We'll figure it out." She lets his warmth penetrate her perpetual cold, but still feels like ice.
Peter doesn't let it go, won't permit her to slink off and let what will happen, happen. He tracks her down to where she's holed up in her apartment. She lets him in, can't not let him in. He and Walter are the only tethers she has left in this world, the only friends and family she hasn't managed to destroy.
Besides, Peter Bishop wouldn't let a little thing like a lock stop him if he was set on seeing her.
"You can't just give up," he says as he enters. No lead up, not even waiting until he's through the doorway before making a flat out statement that's practically an order.
She closes the door and leans against it, watching him stalk across her living room. "I can."
"Olivia." He levels a stare at her. "You have to fight this."
"Why is it so important to you?" It comes out too bitter, and she retreats into the kitchen to fiddle with glasses to avoid facing him. Her hands are steady, for the moment, her body mostly pain free. Within weeks that will change. Months, at the most. Soon, in either case.
He stops her with a touch and turns her to face him. Raw agony lines his face, and he cups her jaw in his hands. He's shaking, she notes absently. She's still steady, but he's shaking. His mouth comes down to hers, a gentle kiss that barely brushes across her lips.
Her breath hitches and her eyes close, involuntary responses she couldn't stop if she wanted to. She leans forwards and deepens the kiss, responses which she could stop, should stop. This has been building between them for years, but she thought she'd sacrificed any chance at it along with everything else.
Except they don't have a chance, not really.
She pulls back, but he doesn't let go, sliding his hands along her jaw line and into her hair. "Don't." He says hoarsely.
"I'm dead either way." Somehow he's broken through her numbness, because she's fighting back tears. "It's only a matter of time."
"I'll take what I can get."
She loses her battle against tears; he's not doing any better. She doesn't trust herself to words, just nods and resolves to dredge up the energy for one more fight.
Her days become injections and medications, weeks of poking and prodding as Walter does his mad science. Peter hovers by her side every step of the way. Her nights are full of Peter, both of them fiercely making the most of every second she has left.
The progression of the cancer slows to a crawl. Weeks turn to months, and the cancer doesn't get any worse.
She wakes up warm and sated one morning three months after the diagnosis, Peter's arms around her and his legs tangled with hers, and realizes that, whether she deserves it or not, she hasn't been this happy for years.
And perhaps never this content.
"So what is this?"
She blinks up at him, at his furrowed brow and the muscle jumping in his jaw. His arms cage her, and his stare is intense and worried.
"What is what?"
"You and me, being together. Why did you give in? Are you just indulging me because I'm in love with you, or are you here because you want to be?"
"Peter?" She studies his face, trying to figure out where this is coming from. It's not like him to be so uncertain, especially of her. She wishes she knew what was going on in his head to cause him to second guess his nearly infallible ability to read her. And his admission he loves her is a first. Although they've been together for seven months, by unspoken agreement they never talk about love or commitment because it's a reminder of a future they don't have. Even without the words, though, she knows how he feels. She sees his love in his eyes every time he looks at her.
He's still watching her. No matter how she tries, she still can't tell what he's thinking. He repeats the question, softer this time. "Are you indulging me? Simple question."
"Peter." She reaches up to cup his cheek, rubbing her thumb against his stubble. She shakes her head and flips them, putting him on his back and her sprawled on top.
Not as easy as it should have been, she notes. Despite all of Walter's therapies, she's losing strength.
She banishes that thought, leans down to touch her lips to his in a soft kiss that deepens with underlying desperation. "I'm indulging myself," she says when they break for air. "For once I get what I want, for what little time I have left."
"And I'm what you want," he says slowly, caution warring with hope in his eyes.
She barely keeps herself from laughing. She doesn't deserve him. She traces the line of his jaw, runs fingers back into his hairline. "For longer than I could let myself admit. Stupid thing, falling in love with my partner."
His breath catches in his throat, and he frames her face with his hands. "Yeah?"
"Yup." Stupid thing to tell him when it will only bring him more grief, but she couldn't keep the truth from tumbling out, not when he seems to need it so much. Besides, watching that glow of happiness in his eyes makes her want to fight all the harder to live.
She notices the shaking first, and with it the deep-seated pain that doesn't go away. Peter doesn't miss the signs, either. They look at each other, but neither has words. It's been over three years, three stolen years she hadn't planned. Three happy years she'd never thought to let herself have.
It was always going to end in heartbreak, only this time she's not the one that will end up breaking. And she hates that he helped put her back together and she's repaying him by tearing him apart.
"Don't, 'Livia," he whispers, stroking her hair. "Stop thinking about it. I wouldn't trade one minute."
The sound she gives is equal parts chuckle and sob. "It's annoying when you do that."
"I know you. Martyr complex, I swear."
"And proud of it, sweetheart." He says it with a cocky arrogance that makes her grin and a smirk that she can feel against her forehead.
She holds on tight because she knows that soon she'll have no choice but to let go.
Once the cancer takes hold again, it sweeps through her system like wildfire. In less than two weeks mostly healthy deteriorates into pain racked and bedridden. Walter proscribes a cocktail of drugs that only work to dull the pain, and she knows that no matter how she fights nothing will buy her time.
Olivia and Peter talk for hours, all the little things they never shared but that now seem so important. And the closer she gets to the end, the more she dwells on how it began, those days that, for better or worse, changed the course of her life forever.
The day she met him.
"I thought you were a pain in the ass when I met you," she says softly. Her voice is always soft these days, with all her energy caught up in not spending the time she has left in a drugged daze.
He shifts to his side, watching her. She studies him in turn. He hasn't changed much. A few more wrinkles around his eyes and mouth, a few strands of grey sprinkling through his hair. "Cute," she says, "but still a pain in the ass."
He laughs, brushing hair away from her face, fingers lingering after he secures the strands behind her ear. "And my smooth charm changed your mind?"
"Nope." She grins at him. "I just learned to like you too damned much for it to matter."
"Hmm." He smirks, and his eyes go distant, remembering. "I was smitten by the way you had the balls and the poker face to blackmail me without any hard evidence."
"Were you?" She raises her eyebrows, amused.
"Oh, yeah. Course, it was embarrassing as hell that it was a Fed that conned me, but still."
She laughs and closes her eyes. "We were good together, weren't we?"
"The best. Both as partners and as lovers." He curls around her, a warm and solid shelter against the coming cold. "I love you, Olivia Dunham."
"Love you, too." She cups his chin and pulls him into a kiss. When they separate, she leans her head against his chest with a sigh and, giving in to exhaustion, settles into sleep.
She doesn't wake up.