Spoilers: Through episode 2.20, "Northwest Passage".
Disclaimer: I don't own Fringe or its characters.
Hope and Guilt
Walter breaks in public and Olivia is not there to take care of him, not until Astrid calls to tell her he's in police custody. Only when Olivia walks into the house does she realize how far Walter has slipped. She sorts through the unpaid bills and watches from the edges as Astrid tries to paste together the pieces of the mess Olivia and Walter have made.
"Walter," Astrid says, watching him with concerned eyes, "why didn't you tell me you needed help?"
'Me', Astrid said, not 'us'. The guilt shudders through Olivia, twisting into her belly and gripping her chest. She should have been there. Should have been looking after the one Bishop even if she has lost the other one. She failed Walter just like she failed Peter.
Walter meets their eyes in quick, darting glances that break away as soon as they settle. "What am I going to do, call you every time I run out of Pudding Pops?"
"Yes," Olivia says. "If you need them."
"I need to learn to care for myself. If Peter doesn't come back—" he stops and turns away, fidgeting with the dishes in the sink.
"They'll send me back to the hospital, won't they?"
The fear in his voice drives the guilt even deeper, until it curls through her bones. "I won't let that happen."
Astrid glances at her and nods slightly. Together they start to set the house to rights.
When Olivia slinks home she scours away the taste of her failure with whiskey. The burn brings back memories of a cold winter's night and an hour stolen in the middle of a case for drinks. Stolen moments of happiness.
"Peter will come back," she whispers to herself, a mantra so repeated it has become meaningless. All she can do is cling to the rhythm and the sounds.
Peter will come back.
She's been saying it for two weeks, ever since he sauntered out of the hospital and out of Boston without a backwards glance at those he left behind. He's proven that even with all the power of the FBI, he will never be found unless he wants to be. Probably dumped his phone in the harbor on the way out of Boston, found a shady connection to help him fake his way back across the ocean to places she will never reach. She can't blame him for taking his chance to walk away. She knew, from the day she coerced him back to Boston, that she only had him on borrowed time.
She had hoped Walter had provided him with enough reason to stay. Some small part of her, romantic and naive, had even dared to hope that maybe, just maybe, he would stay for her as well. She should have known better
But Peter will come back. He has to. If he doesn't—
She cuts off the doubts that insist on poking holes in the illusion she's trying to cling to. She lost two partners; she can't lose a third.
Sleep, for the few hours she manages, is haunted by restless dreams. Morning brings questions and accountability. Broyles sits across from her, implacable and unreadable, a file on the previous day's events open in front of him. "How is Dr. Bishop doing?"
Terrible and broken and the part that isn't his fault rests squarely on her shoulders. Olivia belatedly does her job to protect him, running damage control in the aftermath when she should have been sheltering him from the storm. "Walter's trying to adjust to a very difficult situation. He's concerned about being sent back to St. Claire's."
"Will he be able to function if Peter doesn't come back?"
"I'm sure that Peter will come back," she says, but the weakness wavers through her voice. She can't even convince herself this time.
And then she sees it in Broyles' eyes, in his face: the break she's chased after for two weeks. "Do you know something?" she asks, her voice steadying and threading with steel. "Have you spoken to him?"
Her world narrows, focuses. He has information; all she needs to do is extract it from him. She's an expert at that, with years of finely-honed skill sharpened by new determination to find out by any means necessary.
She will find out. And then she'll find Peter.
Rekindled hope hurts even more than the guilt.