Author's Notes: I'm embarrassed by how long it's taken me to write Fringe fic. I hope this makes up for it.
i'll be found in you, still standing
(stumbling on these shadow-feet)
Astrid's first day goes like this:
She's working in the lab at FBI headquarters when Director Broyles shows up out of nowhere and asks if anyone studied medicine in college.
Astrid took an intro to biology course her freshman year, so she raises her hand. He looks at her once and then never again, nodding sharply before two nicely dressed men escort her to a waiting car. Broyles is sitting at the window, and wordlessly hands her a file that says Walter Bishop at the top.
"You'll be assisting Doctor Bishop and Agent Dunham today," Broyles explains flatly. "You'll be expected to do anything and everything that they ask."
It sounds like the sort of thing someone says when they're going to ask you to do unpleasant tasks, so she says, "What sort of work should I be expecting, sir?"
He keeps his eyes straight ahead, but Astrid thinks she sees a sardonic little smile steal across his mouth. "It's better if you don't expect anything at all," he says.
He drops her off at the lab, where Dr. Bishop and Agent Dunham are already bustling around. Agent Dunham introduces herself quickly and asks to be called Olivia; Dr. Bishop doesn't introduce himself at all but walks over to her and demands she get him a cow and herself a pair of earrings with bananas on them. Astrid isn't sure about the relevance of the second thing, but she likes fruit, so she goes online and writes them off in what will become her favorite excuse for spending tax dollars: experiments of Doctor Walter Bishop.
When they wheel in Agent Scott, Olivia's eyes get somehow hard and soft at the same time, and then Astrid begins to understand.
It's not until after, when Agent Scott is solidifying again (and Astrid wonders that already this seems natural to her), that Peter makes his way over to her. He's got blood on his hands so he wipes it on his jeans before he offers it to her.
"Peter Bishop," he says, and his mouth tips into a little half-grin. "Things were kind of crazy before. It's nice to meet you, Agent Farnsworth."
"You too." She doesn't know whether to call him Peter or Mr. Bishop so she does neither. He holds her hand a second longer than he needs to, and she thinks this is probably natural for him, to play the charmer and cultivate people that love him, just in case.
She gently takes back her hand and his smile widens. "You can call me Peter," he tells her as something crashes and Walter lets out a screech of joy.
They both turn to look. Walter is licking something from the floor, and already Astrid knows that this sort of thing will become her daily routine. "I should go take care of that glass," she says.
"I should go take care of that ass," Peter mutters, and they share a look, and smile.
(toward home, a land I've never seen)
Walter keeps a picture of Peter on his bedside table at the hotel. Peter tries not to look at it or attach more meaning to it than absolutely necessary, but sometimes when he can't sleep he wanders in to study the faces smiling up at him.
Walter isn't in the photo, which is hardly surprising given that Walter wasn't really in Peter's childhood, either. Instead, his mother has him in her lap. Her head is thrown back because she's laughing and there are little crow's feet around her eyes, deep and long. Her hair is down and loose around her shoulders, something Peter doesn't ever remember seeing growing up.
Peter is young, maybe four, and he's screaming. His mother's hands are linked around his stomach, securing him, but he's reaching for something, straining with all his might for it, face red and eyes blotchy from tears. A little roll of fat pokes out from his pants and his shirt.
Walter catches him looking at it one night and smiles. "It was me," he says, running a hand along the frame.
"What was you?"
Walter doesn't meet his eyes, but settles back down into his pillows and squeezes his eyes shut like a little child. "It was me you were reaching for," he says.
(I am changing, less and less asleep)
The doors of the elevator close, and Peter can't push the button.
It's a tinny silence, and in his head he can hear the bomb counting down like tictictictictic. He tries to breath through his nose, because that's supposed to help fend off panic, but it doesn't work and he presses a hand against the cool steel of the elevator to steady himself.
He imagines Olivia, standing in front of the bomb, her hands buried in her hair the way she does when she's nervous, black pantsuit wrinkled and worn from stress and long stretches in the car.
Peter does the math-- he won't make it out. There's no way he can get to the ground floor and at least eight blocks away before the bomb blows; his best chance is to send the elevator to the basement and hope it can weather the blast.
Or he can die looking out at the New York City skyline as it frames Olivia's hair and straightened shoulders.
When he was young, his mother used to tell him that everything was a choice and we had to make it without looking back, so Peter blows out a breath and thinks: I'm an idiot.
And he steps back into the room.
(made of different stuff then when I began)
There is a split-second, as Olivia spins out of one world and into the next, that she thinks she is going to die. She can feel herself being pulled in every direction, the very atoms of her body being ripped apart by time and space and unreality, and she is certain that what is happening is so unnatural that the world and all its counterparts will end it.
But then she blinks, and she is in an office building, and suddenly it seems as if it had all been a dream and she was never falling through any holes at all.
It elevator ride takes longer than it should, and Olivia keeps checking her phone for text messages. She isn't sure who she's waiting for, but her thumb hovers over the letter P.
Later, when she is waking slowly and all that's in her mind are greek words that she could not possibly understand, she thinks back to that moment and it seems out of place, almost like a dream.
Charlie is at her bedside, her hand clasped between his own, and when she blinks at him his face melts into a deep smile. "You're all right," he tells her gruffly. "Of course I knew you would be. You're like that stupid dog my wife won't let me shoot."
"Always begging for food?" she asks, her voice croaky and unused.
"Cuter when your sleeping," he quips back, and presses his lips to her forehead.
When she's putting a bullet through his chest, this moment will come back to her and the skin where he kissed her will burn.
(when the world has fallen out from under me)
When Astrid loses Walter in Chinatown, every bone in her body locks into place and she is rigid and frozen. She sees a hundred different scenarios, each one more far-fetched then the last, and when she snaps back into place an hour has passed and Peter is leaning over her.
She realizes that she's — she's been hit, actually, physically assaulted and the fact that she can't remember it scares her more than the shocking pain, than the notion that Walter is still missing, than the destroyed lab and the look in Olivia's eye that says that this is a Cause for Serious Alarm.
When they leave her, she sits for a long time in the middle of the lab and looks at all the shattered glass and wonders if this job is the right one for her, if there isn't anything else she could be doing.
But then they bring Walter in, and he looks at her with those sweetly addled eyes and that gentleness that hurts to see. He cries, and she holds him, and he glances at her with frightened, sideways stabs like a child afraid of punishment, so she takes him out for ice cream.
He shares his sunday with her and not with Peter, and this shouldn't make her feel better, but it does.
(when the sky rolls up and mountains fall on their knees)
Peter screams and knocks his fist against the window, and Olivia starts back toward him like it's the most natural thing in the world.
It's Broyles that grabs her arm and keeps her steady, even as Peter screams, "Olivia! I'm fine! Look at me! Look at me!"
She is shaking, and for a second it's not Peter shouting at all, but John, his perfect face twisted in agony. She thinks she might be holding Broyles' hand, clinging to it even, and he lets her.
When she lets go, and the words level six float past her like there aren't people at stake that she loves, Olivia realizes that it was never John inside at all, but Peter, always Peter.
Before she goes inside, Broyles grabs her shoulder and murmurs, "You have your sister to think of. And Ella."
Olivia looks at him helplessly, her hands floating upwards like they were grabbing for something but finding only air. "It's Peter," she says, and she can hear the edge of her own words, rough and crumbling. "Phillip. It's Peter."
She's never called him by his first name before, and she expects him to scold her but instead he nods once. "Be safe," he says, and it's an order. "I don't want… to lose anyone today."
"You won't," she promises, and when she steps inside she can feel his gaze like a shield.
(I'll be found in you, still standing)
When the world ends, Peter shows up with pizza. He gets mushrooms, because they're Astrid's favorite, and pineapple, because Olivia's a freak with her toppings, and cheesy crust because Walter's cruising for a heart attack. Peter doesn't know what sort of pizza Broyles likes.
They're all sitting in the lab, and things are crumbling into dust, and at this point there isn't anything to do but wait.
"So, last night on earth," Astrid says, her voice light and dreamy. She has a bit of grease on her chin. "Didn't really see this coming when I woke up this morning."
"Don't give up yet," Olivia says, always the optimist, and the look she gives them all is hard and determined. "Only one world is going to end. Not necessarily this one."
"They've got robots," Walter points out happily, licking cheese of his fingers. "And shapeshifters. And advanced technology. And an intimate knowledge of the way the universes interact. And — "
"But we have this fabulous pizza," Peter interrupts. "What just and loving God could destroy the world in the face of this pizza?"
Broyles' expression doesn't change as he says, "Well, I'm convinced."
They all turn to look at him, jaws loose, and Peter asks, "Was that a joke? Did you just tell a joke, Broyles?"
There's the sense that they should say important things, that secrets should spilled and emotions be shared, but instead Peter takes Olivia's hand and squeezes. Astrid reaches over to brush some sauce off Walter's shirt and Broyles looks up at the ceiling like it has answers and he wants them. They tell jokes. They want beer.