Ruby Slippers

Disclaimer: I own nothing related to Fringe, just the thoughts in my head.

Rating: T (violence and mildly suggestive situations)

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: Well, gang, this is it. It took a little longer than I'd hoped, but we've finally come to the end. It's been a fun ride and I hope to do this again sometime soon. I enjoy the challenge of writing plot-driven multi-chapter stories and Fringe is a great source of inspiration. However, I'm sorry it takes me so long to finish them. I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. Thanks so much for your reviews and support. I love hearing what worked and what didn't for you and your words of encouragement really kept this going. I hope this epilogue lives up to expectation.

Thanks, to my best friend and beta, Joy. I bet you never thought you'd be asking me to write longer chapters. Thanks for your always insightful and extremely fun edits. There's no one I'd want to be wielding the figurative 'red pen.'


Epilogue

"If I ever go looking for my heart's desire again, I won't look any further than my own back yard."

Agent Lincoln Lee shuddered as a gust of wind slipped past the collar of his jacket, sending a frisson down his spine. Grumbling, he pulled the coat tighter around his body, biting back a wince as the underlying fabric of his shirt rasped against his still healing skin. Turning, Lincoln eyed the Fringe Headquarters looming up behind him with a curious mixture of longing and derision. A small, childish part of his brain wished he could turn the clock back a week, back to when life was normal and all he had to worry about was ragging Charlie about his 'spider' infection and reminding Olivia to go home and rest now and then. Sure, they'd had a few quarantine scares now and then, but that was nothing compared to the mess he was currently knee deep in.

Sucking in a steadying breath, he beat a path along the bustling Manhattan sidewalk, every brush of a passing pedestrian a hot lance to his damaged nerve endings. He never should've left the hospital.

If the doctors had had their way, he would still be there. Third degree burns over eighty percent of his body was not a trivial injury. Every cell in his epidermis felt like it was alive, a constant uncomfortable tingle as the nanites slowly pieced his tissue back together. While they'd assured him the healing process would go quickly, nothing would be fast enough. He'd checked himself out yesterday with the promise to return to the outpatient clinic regularly for sessions in the regeneration chamber and to top off his blood-oxygen level, but he couldn't just sit there while his team felt apart around him.

Olivia had been labelled a traitor, Charlie was in holding, suspected of aiding in her escape, 13 men were dead and eight injured in some unexplained explosion on Liberty Island and no one from the DOD would tell him what the hell was going on.

The whole damn mess reeked of a conspiracy.

Lincoln sighed; he'd never been the paranoid one, usually leaving the spinning of wild theories to Charlie, but there was no way any of this had gone down the way the official report was reading.

His Livvy wasn't a traitor.

His Olivia also didn't just follow orders blindly. Lincoln was certain that these 'invaders from the other side' had a role in this. Just what did they know about these people? If they'd created the holes that had plagued his world for most of his life, had they done it on purpose? Was the Secretary right? Did they really intend to destroy his universe and if so, why?

It just didn't make any sense. There were too many pieces missing. Had Olivia filled in the blanks?

He'd only managed wade through the crowd moving upstream on Lafayette for two blocks before strong fingers clamped around his wrist and he was roughly yanked sideways into the shadows of a nearby alleyway. Before he could even register the agony of his tender skin slamming against the brick wall, a heavy hand settled over his mouth, capturing the hiss of pain that slipped from his lips. His hand was released only to have an arm press tightly against his chest, holding him in place against the building.

Blinking through the white-hot flares behind his eyes, Lincoln fought his attacker, trying to get some leverage so that he could use his knees to force them off. As the world came into focus, however, he stilled, staring into olive eyes that he would recognize anywhere.

"Liv?" His partner's name was muffled by her palm.

Her gaze softened, but didn't lose its edge of desperation as a tentative smile bloomed across her face.

"Lincoln," she sighed as though the weight of the world was sliding off her shoulders. He couldn't help but think that it probably was.

She eased her arm off his trachea, her body still strung tight as a bow, ready to take him down if it came to it. She wanted to trust him, he could tell. She wanted to know he had her back, like he always had, but the wariness just wouldn't dissipate from her gaze. Whatever she'd been through had left her questioning everything she'd ever believed.

Lincoln's gut churned. He had a feeling that whatever had passed for a normal life had just gone out the window. Reaching up, he carefully cupped her cheek, dragging her skittish eyes back to his.

"Liv, I'm here. Whatever you need."

The hope that shone behind her gaze nearly knocked his knees out from under him, but he'd never been able to deny her.

"Always?" she asked, her voice rough and he couldn't help but wonder if it was from lack of use or something worse.

His body wavered, his systems stretched to their limit by the energetic drain of healing and worry. Every muscle ached and his skin was on fire. His eyes threatened to roll back into his head from exhaustion, but Lincoln forced himself to his full height. Flashing Olivia what he hoped was something resembling his trademark grin, he dropped his hand from her cheek and reached out to snag her fingers, squeezing them as tightly as his weakened muscles would allow.

"Always."


A wayward sunbeam slipped through a crack in the curtains, working its way across the bed before finally settling over her face, warming her eyes through their closed lids. The growing warmth roused Olivia from her slumber, drawing her from the comforting darkness of a truly blank mind for the first time in a very long while.

Drawing in a deep breath through her nose, she couldn't help the smile that ghosted across her lips as she found herself surrounded by all things Peter. He'd herded her up to his room last night when they'd arrived back at the house from Reiden Lake. As expected, he'd insisted that she take his bed. Despite its size, there were only two bedrooms not crammed with stuff in the old house Peter shared with his father and there was no way she was going anywhere near Walter's room. Of course, she'd tried to refuse Peter's offer, insisting she'd take the couch, but it was really only out of habit.

The truth was that she'd needed to be here, comfortable and warm, wrapped up in his scent, listening to the soft rumblings of what she assumed was Walter bustling around the house. It felt like home, which should've struck her as strange since she'd spent very little time in the Bishop's house prior to Jacksonville, but instead it felt as natural as breathing; for once, Olivia wasn't going to question it.

Blinking back the last vestiges of sleep, she decided it was time to get up. However, the crushing wave of pain that broke over her body when she tried to lift her head from the pillow made her rethink that decision.

Sucking in shallow breaths in rapid succession, Olivia eased herself onto her side, riding out the last of the throbbing. Apparently jumping universes twice in a twenty-four hour period and creating human fireballs took a lot out of a girl. Gritting her teeth, she clenched her freshly re-bandaged hands, drawing her knees into her chest as she pushed back against the pain, scattering it like light through a prism. Slowly, the sharp edges dulled and her breaths evened out, tendons easing as the last of the fire faded and she once again felt human.

It was at that moment Peter decided to slip into the room.

"Oh, my God, 'Livia! Are you okay?"

He was at her side before she'd even registered his presence, too focussed on relaxing her spasming muscles.

"I'm fine," she breathed, moving to roll back onto her back.

With a muttered, "The hell you are," his arms slipped under her shoulders, guiding her progress. The ache had dissipated, but it had again left her body weak. Frustrated, Olivia flopped her head back onto the mountain of pillows they'd supplied her.

"I fine now," she huffed, fixing Peter with her best glare.

He eyed her appraisingly before apparently deciding not to push her any further. The line between his brows disappeared and his eyes lit up as he settled himself on the edge of the bed.

"You don't want to go out there, anyway."

Olivia waited for him to elaborate, knowing her 'why' was implicit.

"It's Tuesday," Peter answered matter-of-factly.

Her brows furrowed in confusion and Peter snickered, getting ahead of his own punch-line.

"Walter always goes naked on Tuesdays."

She cringed and shuddered with exaggerated distaste and Peter's chuckle bloomed into a full-blown laugh. Warmth flowed out from her chest at the sound, easing the last of the tension in her body and drawing a serene smile across her lips as she thought to herself, 'There's no place like home.'

After allowing herself to savour the moment, Olivia sobered, watching Peter carefully. He seemed … normal, as though they had somehow reset the clock to before all of this mess, to before Jacksonville. She knew it had to be too good to be true. Ducking her head, Olivia snagged his gaze, sucking in a steadying breath before she burst this strange and wonderful golden bubble that had enveloped her morning so far.

"So, you and Walter?" She couldn't figure out an intelligent way to phrase the question, but knew he would understand what she was asking.

The mask slipped a little, revealing a hint of the pain and anger that had been simmering in his eyes before he'd disappeared from the hospital, from her life, from her universe. She wasn't sure what it said about her that she found the darkness actually a bit of a relief. However, the shadows had eased a bit, replaced by what looked suspiciously like hope. It was contagious, and the tiny flame in his eyes tripped her heartbeat up a notch.

"We're getting there," Peter answered evenly.

Olivia held her breath, waiting for the rest of what she knew he wanted to say.

"It's hard to hate someone who's broken the laws of physics to save your life."

Her pulse shot up even higher as Peter purposefully held her eyes captive with his own, pinning her back into the bed with the force of all he wanted her to understand. Energy built once again within her core, spilling out along her neurons, expanding into an exquisite pressure within her chest.

This wasn't fear, or anger; it was something else entirely … and it was beautiful, arcing between them as Peter reached out to trace calloused fingertips gently along her jaw, drawing a smile across her lips.

They were far from safe, the danger more immediate than ever. Universes hung in the balance and she really had no idea where to start undoing over twenty years of damage. She wasn't even sure that she could. Still, as Peter's hand drifted along her arm to tangle her fingers with his own, she had to believe it was possible. There was too much in her world to fight for now, too much that she just wasn't willing to lose.

His hand shifted, clasping hers tightly, settling her whirling thoughts for the moment, reminding her that she wasn't alone, that she had friends … family standing by her side, ready and willing to dive into the fray and catch her if she fell. However, the battle could wait until tomorrow. She was warm, safe and sleepy and for the first time in as long as she could remember, Olivia was going to take the day off.