So, I guess this fic was written because I'm going stir-crazy, since the start of the new year. And because I wanted something fresh, to start out oh-ten, and this concept had been battering about in my brain for a while, and it was finally given shape one strangely hot afternoon of sitting in the car. Good luck trying to figure it out.
*Fringe is property of Fox Broadcasting; a large, evil corporation bent on world domination. And we love them for it.
When you get past the sloughing stacks of roundish, tan boulders that create a natural break of the swift, hot desert wind, you hit a sand flat, with minimal alterations until you reach the vast planting fields of deep, southern California. The air is unfriendly, there- smelling of people and freeway. The supposed attraction of the place was the solitude, and how the flat-landers can drive out into the middle of nowhere to drive their untagged ATVs and shoot things. But if you keep going, past Plaster City and El Centro and the sweltering orange dusks of the place, it feels like you reach the end of the world.
Peter searched around under the bench seat of the old station wagon, his knuckles gracing the hot floor board, smudging them with grime. At last he found what he was looking for- a scratched bottle of flat, warm Dr. Pepper. Peter up righted himself with a smile, calling, "Walter!" He pushed himself out of the car, smearing sweat onto his forearm and holding up the bottle, "thirsty?"
Walter was kneeling beside a spiny yucca plant at the side of the vacant road, poking at it with a twig. Peter knew it was to mute his raspy coughing, "Do you think that there are armadillos, here?" He questioned.
Peter smiled, "I don't know, Walter. All I know is that you need to keep hydrated, in this heat."
"It's night time," Walter frowned, standing and dusting his jeans. His once black work boots were a dusty, white-grey color, as they scuffed the sand. The sand seemed the same color as his father's skin, in the silver light of the half-moon, marred only by the dark circles around his eyes.
Peter shook his head, "It doesn't matter. Besides, I need you to stay in the car, until I get back with the gas."
"Can't I walk with you, son?" Walter questioned eagerly, reaching for the soda. Peter jokingly held it out of his reach for a few moments, then settled it into his hands.
"But it's night!" Walter insisted, as if the sun going down had anything to do with the extreme temperatures.
"You can't fool me, Walter. I know you haven't been feeling well. Besides, it would probably be a good idea if you caught some z's, to keep up your strength."
Walter shook his head, grimacing, "I'll end up sleeping my days away, if I keep listening to you."
"Then just stick around. But the station is a ways off, and I don't think that you could make it." He sighed as Walter glared at the label of the bottle, "Hey. What if I bring you back an ice cream or something? That's got to sound good."
"Make it one of those string cheese jobbers, and we've got ourselves a deal," Walter muttered.
"Deal," Peter smiled. He strode around the Vista Cruiser to hoist open the hatchback, pushing an old, military-surplus foldable spade aside to get to the yellow, spouted gas can. He hadn't taken into consideration how the heat would affect the car, when they had filled up after leaving the motel 6 that morning, and they had run out of gas long before their plotted destination.
Walter had followed him, and rifled through the junk in the back of the car, finding a wind-up emergency radio. He was fiddling with the knobs as it blared white noise and Peter shut the hatch, hefting the gas jug under his arm.
"Okay, Walter. Just stick next to the car until I get back, okay? I should only be a few hours."
"What if someone comes by?" Walter asked, dropping the radio onto the hood now that he'd grown bored with it.
"Send them my way. I could use the ride," Peter joked.
"Okay, son. Be careful."
"You be careful, too, Walter-" he paused as there was a sudden shimmer of light, on the horizon, making him squint, then smile, "hot damn."
If you knew anyone to describe Astrid, they would say that she was a girl that worked entirely too hard. Her hours at one job ended when another began, sometimes slurring together until she found herself trying to fold grilled cheese sandwiches at the diner and grill-block ties at the cleaner. This would have seemed laughable, if she had the energy.
Life didn't rush her- it simply drained her. Even now, the sleeves of a few Border Patrol uniforms fluttered mutely through the open gap of her truck window, as she had taken them home in the hopes of finishing sewing on the patches before she caught an hour or two of sleep.
She rubbed her sore eyes and glared at the glowing yellow dashes that passed her headlights, trying to concentrate on the entirely too loud Korn song booming through her nearly blown speakers. She didn't even like the band- but the raw energy of the hateful lyrics kept her alert.
And Yuma was a few hours off, in the numbing dark.
Astrid was running her itinerary through her head as she watched the glare of headlights in her rearview mirrors, "Mind dulling your brights, buddy?" she grumbled, but her sentiments were not audible over the clattering of the truck cab. She knew that she would have to clean the dust from the uniforms when she went back to work the next afternoon…
Her existence was a monotonous routine that was slowly driving her mad.
At times, she wondered if it was worth it.
The Korn song ended with a last, raspy scream of the lyrics part of me…, and Astrid could not draw up the strength to reach to the dash and flip the tape over. Instead she drove on in silence, sighing now and again in the dusty, muggy air.
What if she ever got out of Yuma? Finished her online courses, and went on to be a graphic designer in LA, or some place? Met a nice guy, who cooked her breakfast that didn't have to be smothered with ketchup to be remotely edible? Then… what? She could sleep late on Saturdays, get a pedicure when she was feeling down, just because it would make her feel better?
Then… why did it feel like she was stuck, here?
But these thoughts had taken her mind from the road, from her exhausted body, from her slowly drooping eyes. She could feel her eyelashes flick open as her breath caught, and she realized that blood flashed off her windshield, and a telephone pole was crushing the front of her Ford.
Peter could remember the altogether vivid details of the accident, even as he stared, reeling, up at the inky sky. The screech of the tires, the tensing of every muscle he possessed, as he braced for impact against the grill of the truck, the sand that stuck to the blood on his skin, and the prickling crunch of his bones snapping as he was pulled under the car, his back burning against the hot muffler as he was rolled into a wad under the wreckage.
The sky was so expansive, out here. It had seemed much smaller, when he was in San Francisco, and it had seemed to grow, as he and his father had gone south. Peter didn't think he'd ever seen the sky so large in his entire life.
"Peter?! Son?! Please- please, god, son, talk to me! Peter-" his father's voice had faltered under a wave of heavy coughing, followed by gasping and choking. Peter blinked to his senses as Walter spat out blood.
"Peter!" Water croaked, scrambling to him, "Dear god, Peter, I thought-!" He smeared tears from his eyes, "Are you hurt, son?"
Peter groaned as he slowly sat up, his father's trembling hand supporting him at the lower back, "No, Walter. I- I think I'm alright, actually," Peter blinked in bewilderment at the wrecked truck, folded around a telephone pole, "What…?"
"I don't know. I saw you… I saw you go under, and-!" Walter was wheezing his hand over his chest.
"Walter, calm down. I'm fine, see?" Peter smiled, placing a hand on his shoulder, "The doctor said you shouldn't over stimulate yourself. It's bad for your respiratory system, remember?"
Walter nodded, shutting his eyes as he struggled to even his wheezing breath, "You scared me, Peter."
Peter chuckled, "Sorry."
"Hello?!" Someone questioned, and they looked up. A young woman had emerged from the ruined vehicle, looking frightened, "Is anyone there?!"
"Hello!" Peter called, drawing her attention. He climbed to his feet as she approached. Walter continued to watch them both in a trembling mixture of fear and concern, rubbing his chest.
"Oh my god- did I…?! Jesus, I am so sorry- I-I dozed off, and-"
Peter waved off her comments, "It's alright, no harm done. What about you? Are you alright?"
"I-I think so," she said, clearly shaken. She looked back at the truck, "Jesus, I can't believe it… that's so crazy…"
"Hey, just think what your insurance will say," Peter joked, dusting his jeans, "All that damage and no casualties? Screams fraud, if you ask me."
"I couldn't care less about that thing. Are you sure you're alright?" she questioned.
"Yeah," Peter replied, "I know- I can't believe it, either. To think I was going to flag you down for a ride," he shook his head, chuckling.
"A ride?" she said.
"Yes. My father and I-" Peter motioned to Walter, who continued to stray from them both, as if he could not quite make out what he was seeing, "-ran out of gas, and I was headed to the station for a refill."
"Oh," She said, looking back at her truck, "well… I mean, I don't think that's going anywhere anytime soon, so… I guess you could siphon some gas out, if you wanted. I mean, if you wouldn't mind giving me a ride to a phone or something." she shifted uncomfortably, "but… I mean, I can understand if you don't want to, this is all so crazy…"
"No, no, it's fine," Peter said, "We'd be happy to, wouldn't we, Walter?"
Walter only nodded, wary.
"I'm Peter, Peter Bishop," Peter said, offering her hand.
"Astrid Farnsworth," the woman replied, and they shook hands.
"Well, a run-in doesn't get more abrupt than this," Peter said with a smile, "nice to meet you, I guess."