Disclaimer: I own nothing related to The Mentalist, just the thoughts in my head.
Rating: T(violence and mild swearing)
Summary: There's no place like home – a journey both within and without as Peter and Olivia find their way back to each other.
Spoilers: Post-ep to Over There 1 & 2
Author's Notes: I know it's not exactly original, but I just had to write this. This is my first foray into the Fringe universe(s) and the first plot-driven multi-chapter story I've written in years. So, although I'm not new to fanfic writing, I have to admit to being a little nervous about posting this. I'm relatively new to Fringe, so I apologize if I've missed a fact here or there.
This will be several chapters long and while it's not finished, I do have the entire thing mapped out, so hopefully I'll be able to stay on track. I warn you, reader, I'm a slow writer. Still, chapter 2 is nearly done and soon to be off to my beta and the fun I'm having with this will hopefully propel my writing faster than usual. I have to get it done before September one way or another, especially since I haven't yet read any other Over There post-eps. I won't let myself indulge until I've finished this, so I'll have a lot to catch up on. Anyway, I hope you enjoy.
Thanks, as always, to my fantastic beta who forces me to reach the outer limits of my vocabulary.
"We're not in Kansas anymore."
Faintly calloused fingers skated along her jawline, trailing both fire and ice in their wake before sliding up to thread their way through her now russet strands. Sighing contentedly, she sank deeper into his embrace, wrapping herself in his familiar scent and strength like a well-worn blanket.
'This is home,' she thought fiercely as his hands fell from her hair to settle at the base of her spine, pulling their bodies flush and leaving her with no doubt as to the extent of her effect on him.
His lips found a sensitive spot behind her ear, sending a delicious shiver skittering along her every nerve down to the tips of her toes.
"I belong with you," his words breaking over the sensitive skin of her neck, a warm wave that threatened to sweep her knees out from under her, dragging her along with the tide.
The simple assertion, an echo of her earlier confession, finally breached the carefully constructed dam around her heart, releasing a flood of emotions that threatened to drag her under. Pushing off from his chest, Olivia snagged Peter's eyes with purpose. The warning in their dark depths was clear, but he didn't pull away as she slid her hands behind his head and rose up on tiptoe to fuse her lips solidly with his. Saline droplets glistens on her lashes before forging trails down her cheeks as she forced her way into his mouth, pouring the gallons of fear, determination, confusion and, yes, love that had been boiling in her chest these last few months into a bruising kiss. Peter, for his part, took it all, consuming her desperation and feeding her strength as she rode out the wave.
When oxygen finally became more important than exorcising her demons, Olivia released him with a quiet gasp, creating only enough space for the much-needed air to rush over her swollen lips. Rocking back on her heels, she stumbled slightly, listing dangerously to one side until Peter caught her under the arms and slipped his knee between her legs to steady her.
Dropping his forehead to hers, he chuckled low in his throat, warm breath ghosting across her face, reminding her of how cold she'd been for so long. "Never thought I'd see the day when the great Olivia Dunham swooned."
Olivia narrowed her eyes at him before nipping at his lower lip in retaliation. He caught her before should could retreat, pulling her back in. This kiss started out far gentler than the last, but built quickly, spinning out of control as he dragged the zipper of her leather jacket down and his hands found their way up and under her shirt.
The brand of his skin against the bare small of her back drew a whimper from deep within, a sound that was quickly swallowed up by Peter's questing mouth. The desperation rose again within her chest, fuelling her almost frenzied attempt to crawl up inside of him, to disappear into his arms and never come out.
The rollercoaster of emotions was making her sick. Less than twenty-four hours earlier, after weeks of frantic searching, she'd been trying to accept that he'd left her behind for good, choosing his birthright over his makeshift family and crossing over to the other side forever. Now he was here in front of her and she couldn't let go, couldn't get close enough, hoping his warmth might melt the chill that had settled within her heart.
A crash from behind startled her, forcing Olivia to drag her lips from his. Glancing over her shoulder, she caught a glimpse of a bright flash of light before the room was plunged into darkness. Turning back, Peter was gone, her arms were empty and the cold rushed back in.
The unforgiving cement bench bit into her shoulder as Olivia slowly regained consciousness. Blinking did nothing to beat back the darkness. The slot in the door had already closed and any light that had been in the empty room was long gone. Reality hit her hard, a sickening blow to the gut that sent panic bubbling up into her throat.
She was alone.
She was captured, trapped, locked away in a deep, dark dungeon while everyone she'd ever cared about went on with their lives, oblivious to her plight. The last thing she remembered before she'd wound up here was her doppelganger pulling off her jacket. She was sure that she'd been replaced.
'Peter will know.'
No matter how many times she tried to reassure herself with that particular affirmation, it brought her no comfort. Even if Peter did discover the truth, there was nothing he could do. The door was closed and they'd forfeited the key when they had lost Nick and the others. There was no one coming to rescue her.
Leaning her head back against the tiled wall, Olivia rubbed at her eyes, wincing at the grit that ground against her eyelids. Sleep was rare and hardly restful. She was never certain when light would slice through the darkness, blinding her after so many hours without it, or noise would buzz up around her like an invisible swarm of hornets, or some sort of sustenance would be shoved through the slot in the door. The lack of routine and random shots of discomfort was designed to obliterate her sense of time and space, a common torture technique even in her universe. Its goal was to destroy her connection with the outside world ... to destroy her humanity.
On its own, it likely wouldn't work. Olivia had been trained to withstand worse measures of torture than this during her tenure with both the marines and the FBI. Hell, some of Walter's 'experiments' made her current routine seem like little more than an annoyance. However, it didn't end there.
Sometimes the door would open.
She was never ready for it, never prepared to fight back. The lack of routine had dulled her awareness, leaving her vulnerable to surprise. Strong hands would clamp around her arms and sharp pain would pierce her neck. When the fog cleared she would find herself in the grey room.
In a strange, hazy way, the grey room reminded her of Walter's lab in the bowels of Harvard: drab walls, solemn shadows. But that was where the similarities ended. Where Walter's lab had become over the last year or so a sort of twisted sanctuary, Walternate's playroom was simply a house of horrors, complete with a mad scientist and evil henchmen.
Olivia would inevitably wake up in the grey room strapped to a chair, IVs in both hands and electrodes taped to strategic locations about her body. She almost laughed at how commonplace this occurrence had become, both here and back in her own universe. The position almost left her homesick, but then the drugs would flow and thinking was no longer under her control.
She could only assume that it was this world's version of Cortexiphan, however, Walter's concoction seemed like sugar water compared to the poison they pumped into her veins. The visions were dark and brutal, cutting deep into her already damaged psyche with her most-closely held fears. She predictably thrashed and screamed, nearly tearing out her restraints as one-by-one, everyone she'd ever cared for was taken away from her over and over again.
By the time her tear-soaked cheeks slammed against the tile floor of her cell, Olivia's throat was raw and every cell in her body burned with exhaustion and despair.
After revelling for a moment in the relief of cool ceramic against her overheated skin, she pushed herself up onto her knees. Her arms barely able to support her weight, she dragged herself across the tiny room, collapsing into a heap in the corner, using the walls for support. Dropping her head to her chest, Olivia closed her eyes, forcing herself to control her breathing, to bring order back to the chaos of her fractured mind.
She had yet to ascertain the purpose of these sessions, if they were to drag secrets of the other side from her uncontrollable lips, to discover her hidden 'talents' or simply Walternate's way of making her pay for losing his son again, but she was certain of one thing.
They were priming the pump.
'You have to find your way back to that scared little girl.'
'We don't have a way to cross over, Olivia, but you do.'
She was pretty sure that the good Mr. Secretary was not yet aware of the storm he was creating. She could feel it building from deep in her core, a cumulonimbus of pain and fury, swirling layer upon layer, energy crackling from within. She didn't need to be afraid anymore. Anger worked just fine.
Opening her eyes, she glanced down, the inky darkness receding in the face of a hazy blue glow that swirled over the skin of her hands like a will-o-the-wisp. Drawing from deep within, she couldn't help the tiny smile that tugged at her lips as the glow grew faintly brighter, reflected in the deep green of her irises.
Unconsciously, she clicked her heels together three times, whispering under her breath, "There's no place like home."
Soft tendrils of hair swept delicately across his bare chest, an artist's brush leaving her signature on his soul. Blowing out a long, slow, contented breath, Peter glanced up at the jade coloured eyes that gazed warmly back at him from beneath an auburn curtain.
He was still getting used to the hair.
As Olivia fell forward, settling herself over his heart, her head tucked under his chin, Peter conceded that her appearance wasn't the only thing he was getting used to. Satiated and comfortable, he glided his hands up along her sweat-slicked back, detailing the contours of her spine before tracing lazy circles between her shoulder blades, enjoying the warm blanket of her hair. Olivia nearly purred in response, bonelessly fumbling for the nearest sheet to pull over their quickly cooling bodies.
Chuckling at her fruitless efforts, Peter snagged the comforter and completed the task, tucking them both into a flannel cocoon.
"Never thought I'd see the day I rendered the great Olivia Dunham helpless."
All he got in response was a snort of derision and her fingers digging into his ribs.
"Hey!" he exclaimed, trying to wriggle deeper into the mattress, away from the onslaught. "Stop it or you're going on the floor."
"Nope," she mumbled into his skin, sliding an arm between the bed and his body, pulling him in tightly as she wound her leg around his. "I'm right where I belong."
Warmth unfurled in his chest at her words, spreading out along every neuron, soothing his battered heart as its pounding slowed in time with hers beating steadily above him. Stretching forward, he dropped a kiss behind her ear and whispered, "Me too," surprised to discover that he actually meant it.
After years of running, of feeling out of place, of searching for a life he could slip into, Peter had found everything he was looking for wrapped up in the woman currently curled like a cat around him. In the space of only a few weeks, she'd managed to both destroy his world and become it. The ease with which he'd left her behind shamed him now in the bright light of hindsight. He'd been so occupied with nursing his anger and discovering the hard way that you truly could never go home again that she'd had to risk her life to show him where that home really lay.
Pressing a lingering kiss over his heart, eyelashes fluttering kisses of their own along his skin, Olivia shifted and settled into the crook of his arm. As sleep tugged at his senses, Peter couldn't help but smile.
'I could get used to this.'
The racket of breaking glass and a scuffle dragged him rudely from his slumber with a gasp. Stretching lazily, Peter turned, searching for his bed mate. He met air instead, scrambling gracelessly as he fought to keep from tumbling to the floor. Arms flailing, he righted himself, sitting up carefully in the old wooden desk chair and sucking in a couple of deep breaths as his heart rate settled back to something resembling normal.
Damn his subconscious.
One little kiss and he was already picking out china patterns.
He really wanted to hate her, wanted to despise her for everything she'd done, everything she stood for. She'd lied to him. They all had, but he'd come to anticipate it from everyone else. It was Olivia's deception that truly stung. It wasn't even really the lie that bothered him. It was that she'd made him expect more, made him want to stay, want to care and use words like 'family'. She'd restarted his heart only to break it.
He'd embraced his fury when he figured out the truth, feeding it the moment he'd woken up in that hospital, building the flame until it was white hot within his soul, burning all his bridges and leaving him once again alone. Then he had run as far as he could and when it wasn't far enough, he'd jumped, leaving this world, her world, behind. Through the red haze of anger, the choice to leave had been easy, but when the smoke had cleared, all that was left was emptiness and no way back.
Seeing his mother had helped, her tender touch a much-needed balm to his heart, but still, the hole remained. So he'd quickly set to building walls, shoring up his soul with barriers of resentment and righteous indignation, but then he'd heard her voice, her voice from her world, and it had rocked his foundation to the core. Four simple words had finished the job, striking straight though his shields and tying his heart to hers more strongly than ever before.
'You belong with me.'
Now she was running, retreating back behind the impassive mask of Special Agent. At least, he assumed that was what she was doing. He hadn't really seen that much of Olivia since she'd dragged him back to the only home he'd ever really known.
Granted, they'd only returned to this universe a little over 24 hours ago, but after the glimpse she'd given him of what really lay beneath that mask, Peter yearned to see more, to make up for lost time and hold on tight to what he was sure was his last second chance. However, after a quick debrief with Broyles, Olivia had rebuffed his attempts to get her alone, pleading exhaustion and disappearing for home as soon as they'd returned to Boston.
Sighing, Peter heaved himself up out of the chair, wincing as his muscles protested the movement after being cramped into the confines of the unforgivingly uncomfortable furniture. The part of him that was still licking the wounds born from Walter and Olivia's deception taunted him with the possibility that this too was a lie, that she'd said whatever he'd needed to hear to get him to return for the greater good, to save the world, but he knew better. She'd meant it. He had felt it in the achingly careful way her lips had moved against his own, like he was a dream and she'd been afraid that one wrong move would wake her up.
No, this was just classic Olivia avoidance. He decided to give her some time. If there was one thing he understood about Olivia Dunham, it was that she didn't share herself lightly and she'd just laid herself bare. Peter was sure she needed a chance to regroup, to regain the control she so desperately clung to and he was willing to give her that time, just not enough time to forget.
The bustle outside the door suddenly increased in volume. Another glass shattered followed by muffled words that sounded suspiciously like, "Don't eat the test tubes."
Concerned, Peter peeked out into the lab and was met with a sight that was both exasperating and strangely comical. Gene had apparently escaped her stall and was making a break for it, but not without sampling some of the lab supplies on the way. Walter was simultaneously trying to rescue glassware and get a grip on the Holstein's halter. The cow was having none of it, however, whipping her head back and sidling away from him every time he got close to getting a grip on the situation.
Chuckling, Peter stepped up to help, coming around the increasingly frantic bovine and herding her back towards her stall. Walter quickly picked up on Peter's plan and joined his son in cutting off the cow's escape route. With nowhere to go, she finally admitted defeat, letting Walter slide his hand through her halter. Slowly and calmly, he led Gene back into her stall and Peter swung the gate shut.
Back in familiar surroundings, the cow decided to show her appreciation, drawing a sloppy tongue across Peter's exposed hand. He couldn't help but recoil at the warm sticky sensation, quickly swiping the back of his fingers over his pants, trying desperately to clean them of cow saliva.
"Gene," Walter admonished. "No licking."
Peter couldn't stem the laugh that had built in his throat. "Looks like Gene was making a bid for greener pastures."
Walter smiled, savouring a rare father-son moment before his shattered mind remembered that Peter was technically not his son and he had no right to be savouring anything. His face fell as the tension that hung between them stretched a little thinner. Fear clouded his eyes as he gazed warily at the younger man.
"I don't know what happened," he stammered, suddenly afraid that he'd angered Peter somehow. "I simply turned away for a moment and … I believe that Gene has learned how to manipulate the locking mechanism and … I'm sorry if we disturbed you and-"
"Walter, stop." Peter dropped a hand to the older man's shoulder, shocked when he flinched away as if he'd been burned.
Walter continued to ramble, quickly becoming incoherent and increasingly distressed. Despite all attempts to preserve his resentment toward the man who'd essentially kidnapped him all those years ago, Peter couldn't stem the wave of sympathy that crowded his chest as he watched a now broken Walter flounder. When Astrid had filled him in on what had really happened 25 years ago, Peter's haze of anger had cleared ever so slightly. It was far from gone, but he couldn't help the tiny spark of gratitude that had lit within him when he realized what Walter had done to save his life, both as a child and now. All was not forgiven, but he wasn't completely adverse to the idea either.
"Hey," Peter whispered firmly, grasping Walter's shoulders and ducking his head to meet the older man's glassy eyes. "Walter, it's okay. I'm not mad."
When he got no immediate response, Peter clasped his erstwhile father's hands tightly within his own. "Walter, snap out of it. I'm not going to leave," he said, again allaying the fear he knew ate at the elder Bishop like a cancer.
The fog slowly cleared and light crept into the grey eyes staring back at him.
"It's fine, Walter," Peter soothed. "Gene's not going anywhere and neither am I."
Walter nodded repeatedly, pulling his hands free and looking for something to busy himself with. "Thank you, Peter. I'm sorry," he whispered before shuffling over to another corner of the lab.
Peter wiped a hand tiredly across his face. They definitely were all going to need a little more time.