A Fringe Hurt/Comfort/Friendship Fanfic

It was a perfectly innocent remark that showed him who she really was. SPOILERS FOR THE SEASON 2 FINALE.

Rated K for nothing to bump it up.

Disclaimer: Fringe belongs to the idiots who almost got Peter and Liv together... then trapped replaced Liv with Livernate and trapped Liv on the other side.

A/N: I wrote this a few days ago, but I've been waiting for it to be beta'd. Thanks go to Myelle White, my beta.

This idea came from my wondering about how Peter would discover that Livernate (my name for the alternate Olivia) isn't our Liv. I was also staring at my shiny piano and thinking about how I've tried to teach myself Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata.

(775 words)

They were both good.

They weren't good at the same things, and they knew it. There were some things that Olivia took over without remark, and some things that Peter led without asking permission. They had different skill sets, but they both had strong skill sets, and the way that they avoided jealousy was by the silent, mutual agreement that neither compliment the other.

In the end, it was worth the fleeting personal doubts.

At first, it was simply a matter of Olivia refusing to accept Peter's achievements as proper achievements. Sure, he could pick just about any lock set in front of him, take apart anything mechanical and put it back together so it worked better than before, or best her (not to mention every other person this side of insane) at understanding his father's crazy theories. But where was that going to get them?

When she heard him play – when she was shocked to learn that already he knew her better than to concede to her request for Bach – she almost, almost forgot and complimented him.

But then she remembered that this was Peter, who nearly needed force to be stopped from calling her sweetheart, and she kept the compliment within her.

Peter followed her lead.

He was always good at reading people, sussing out the situation, as it were. With the brainpower to remember all those useless little quirks of human nature he absorbed simply from observing – treating the world as if it were a huge experiment (wouldn't Walter be proud?) – he might as well channel it into something vaguely useful. It was also immensely helpful in poker, not to mention the even less savoury situations he kept finding himself in.

It was a simple trade-off. Liv never openly complimented him. He never openly complimented her.

He'd occasionally slip and say something that looked like a compliment, but they were already so set in their no-compliments rule that she didn't notice.

Or he liked to think she didn't, anyway.

She had been off since they came back to this side. Peter couldn't quite pinpoint what was different about her, but something wasn't right. It wasn't just how she'd run off after they'd arrived, which was more than just confusing (hadn't she been the one to kiss him?); it was difficult even for him to read.

The next day, he, Walter, and Astrid arrived at the lab at their usual time. She was eighty-seven minutes late, pushing back her old record by over an hour. He chalked it down to stress, to lack of sleep finally catching up with her, to the strain on her body from taking them across dimensions.

He was exhausted enough to rationalize away her other little mistakes over the course of that day, the sort of thing he should have picked up on, the sort that would have told him sooner that something was wrong. Instead, he let them go. He was tired. She was tired. They were all understandably worn out.

At the end of all of that, there was, however, the one thing he couldn't explain. One thing that broke his heart in a way such a thing never should.

He was hammering away at the piano in the lab. He couldn't remember what, but he knew it was something that absorbed his mind as well as his fingers, a full-bodied act that was an attempt to restore some sort of order to his skewed world, at least for this short moment.

She paused from whatever it was she was doing to listen to what he was playing. That wasn't too unusual, and he barely picked up on it, anyway.

It was afterwards, when he'd pulled the piece together to a neat conclusion and dragged out every last note for its full, wavering life, that he was greeted by a remarkable applause from the woman who he expected to be blond, standing behind him. He turned just his head to look at her and smiled in a way totally devoid of ulterior motive.

"That was amazing," she said truthfully.

He could have stared. He wanted, more than anything else, to stand up and shake sense back into her at that moment. All the small mishaps that he'd forgiven over the course of the day flooded back to him. Another man might have gaped.

Peter quietly nodded to confirm his heartbreak and turned back to the reassuring black and white keys.

As he drew from those keys tenfold every ounce of sorrow and confusion he felt, he knew, in his heart, what he had known since the bomb went off:

This wasn't his Liv.