A/N: Fringe ended about a month ago now, and apparently, my counter-reaction is to deny it ever happened and hide in old seasons. I've been wanting to go back to this story for a long time, but my lack of free time + new episodes that kept on putting plot bunnies in my head = it never happened. Obviously, it's not a problem anymore *insert dramatic sobbing*
I'm not going to beg you to reread the previous chapters before you read this one, but really, you should reread the previous chapters, it's been almost 18 months :D
CHAPTER FOUR - WAIT AND SEE
It made every single thing around her shine in wavy rays of light, brighter around humans than it was around inanimate objects. It really was all kind of mesmerizing.
Liv couldn't stop staring at it, as it relentlessly swayed around Walter's body.
She had brought one of her hands up between them again, trying to touch it, even though it was so obviously unsubstantial. And yet, every time she waved her fingers, the light moved ever so slightly, as if reacting to her presence.
"Would you stop doing that?"
The curt request wasn't Walter's, although he was the one subjected to her curiosity. The annoyed demand had come from the chair placed only a few feet away from hers, on which Olivia sat; they were still linked together through the blood going from one to the other.
Liv didn't even glance at her, now waving her hand in front of Walter's face, the old man apparently lost into some deep inner thoughts. "I can't help it", she said, unable to contain another bemused grin. "It's trippy."
Walter did move her hand away, distractingly, as if merely chasing a fly, chewing on his piece of red vine. "Yes, I've always assumed seeing that shimmer had to be quite similar to what one sees after taking some potent LSD," he mused. "Though Olivia never described it as such, and she's experienced both."
That statement finally got Liv to focus back on her Alternate, who was still glowing as well. It was all about the glimmer, though; the expression on her face was so stern, she couldn't have been farther away from figuratively glowing.
As daring as ever, Liv smirked at her, raising an eyebrow. "LSD, uh? I guess it's true what they say. It's always the good girls."
Olivia simply glared back; if a look could kill, Liv would have died a few dozen times already. She was still alive, though, despite how shitty these odds had been a couple of hours ago. That fact alone had a lot to do with why she felt so genuinely thrilled.
And she wasn't the only one.
"This is beyond fascinating."
Liv brought her eyes back to Walter. It was the third time he expressed how "fascinated" he was, and unsurprisingly, this repetition was rewarded with another exasperated sigh from Olivia.
"We got that part, Walter," she told him crossly. "But you still haven't told us why she can see the glimmer. How come she's reacting to my cortexiphan?"
"It is quite obvious," Walter said. He had now gone back to pointing a bright light into Liv's eyes, as if he really hoped to find some kind of answer in there. "How are you feeling," he asked her, rather gravely this time, never answering Olivia's question.
"You mean, beside the headache your light thingy is giving me?" She half-joked, hoping to lighten his mood again; despite his obvious thrill and excitement, he remained incredibly cold whenever he spoke to her directly, not even trying to conceal how much he resented her for what she had done. Getting no positive response, she finally lost her smirk, tilting her head. "Compared to how I felt two hours ago, I feel amazingly good."
The deep, searing pain she had been feeling in every inch of her body ever since she had crossed over had completely disappeared. All that was left was some distant soreness, but even that seemed to be fading. If that was the price to pay for staying alive, she would have gladly been sore for six months.
"Fascinating," Walter repeated for the fourth time, now rechecking her pulse. "Belly and I always assumed that receiving cortexiphan for the first time during adulthood would kill the subject."
Liv, who had started wiggling her fingers above Walter's hair again, abruptly stopped her movements. "Come again?"
"I don't think you have anything to worry about," Walter continued, indifferently. "If it were going to kill you, it would have happened already, given the amount of stress your metabolism has been subjected to today. You actually seem to be recovering faster, ever since Olivia's cortexiphan has started acting on your body. Which makes perfect sense, considering its regenerative properties."
Truth been told, she still didn't understand half the things he was telling her. From what had been said around her today, what she had understood was that her Alternate apparently had some kind of magical drug in her blood, a drug that gave her special abilities, like making things glow –which was neat but pretty useless, let's be honest. However, it also appeared to be quite useful when you were suffering from severe "cross-over side effects" and dying because of it.
All and all, Liv was just glad it had saved her ass.
Walter was staring at her again, with a grim scowl on his face; with his eyes half-closed like that –and minus the piece of candy that had been dangling from his mouth until now, he looked exactly like his Alternate.
She felt very uneasy all of a sudden. Now that she didn't have to worry too much about dying anymore, her mind was back on track, and she couldn't help thinking about the Secretary. For all intents and purposes, she had fled their world to come help this one, betraying him and their side in the process.
She still refused to see it that way, though; as far as she was concerned, she would keep on thinking of this as an insane, hopeless and desperate 'rescue' mission of sort, in which both universes were what she was trying to protect.
How noble of her.
No matter what this was, she had no doubt the Walter Bishop in her world now resented her just as much as the one standing in front of her did.
"How's the glimmer?" This Walter asked then, still peering at her.
She stopped nibbling the inside of her lip. "It's still there, though I think it's getting dimmer."
He nodded approvingly. "That must be because Olivia is calming down."
"I'm still in the room, you know."
They both turned their gazes on Olivia, who Liv had indeed almost forgotten for a moment. In all honesty, she didn't seem to have calmed down much at all. She mostly looked like she was about to kill one of them, and Liv highly doubted Walter would be her first victim.
"Evidently, dear," Walter replied rather condescendingly, as if she had just said something particularly absurd, darkening her mood. He did move, then, joining Olivia's side, and within seconds, he began working on unplugging the IV line from her arm. "I'm going to stop the transfusion, which means you can start moving around again, though you might experience some dizziness. Your Alternate will have to wait until the bag is empty."
"Fantastic," Olivia muttered.
Perceptive as she was, Liv didn't miss how she swiftly turned her head away from Walter as soon as he began handling her IV. She closed her eyes as well, apparently having no desire to see what he was doing, swallowing almost convulsively.
This was an interesting reaction, one she probably would have pondered upon if a new male voice hadn't been heard just then, successfully getting all of their attention.
"Looks like I've been missing out on some real fun."
Liv stared at the man standing at the top of the stairs. Salt and pepper hair and beard, he looked somewhat disheveled, his clothes dirty and torn in places; he was holding on to a bunch of rolls, a box tucked under his arm.
She had no idea who he was, but when she glanced at her Alternate and saw the way she was glaring at him –her favorite look today, shaking her head disapprovingly at his 'joke', it was obvious that she did.
Looking back at him, Liv promptly decided she liked this stranger, as he gave Olivia an apologetic shrug. "I told you I never got invited to parties."
From the moment he opened his eyes, this thought dominated in his mind. More than that, it quickly became an all-consuming, yearning feeling.
It wasn't just a place to him. It was a necessity.
He was aware on some level of his own confused state, just like he knew the dulled, pounding sensation beneath his skull should have been much sharper than it was. Ultimately, he didn't really care, obsessed by these words that continually echoed in his head.
I need to go home.
He briefly tried to focus on something else as he detached himself from all the odd machines attached to him and got out of bed, standing up on wobbly feet, but the fog blocked almost everything out, like statics interrupting his thoughts. In a haze, he found his clothes, a set of keys, and something he knew to be a cellphone, though he couldn't quite remember what a cellphone was for.
I need to go home.
As he roamed through deserted hallways, he smelled pancakes, and thought of his dad. He would always make them in the shape of whales on Saturdays. He thought of his mom, too, watching her flip his favorite coin between her fingers, smiling at him with a grace that was all hers. Inexplicable sorrow gripped him at the thought of her, somehow deeply aware that wherever home was, she wasn't part of it anymore. She had been gone for a very long time.
"What's your name?" He merely blinked at the woman speaking to him –a nurse? That was an interesting question, one he couldn't answer right now, and again, it didn't matter much.
I need to go home.
He managed to make his way out of the building, and as soon as he did, he briefly wondered if he was hallucinating. In the distance, lightning bolts struck the ground, the air filled with the sound of sirens, as smoke rose from the earth. This was not a hallucination.
This was the end of the world, and somehow, part of him knew he was responsible for it.
Her face appeared in his mind, then. He saw her smile first, swiftly followed by the demons that hid behind her eyes, chasing her, always haunting her.
He thought of the fear and hope he had seen in these eyes, of the feel of her cheek in his hand, of her lips upon his own, his fingers entangled in her hair; it had been vibrant and dark that night, both her hair and the feelings she created in him.
More than the feel of her breath upon his skin, of her fingers pressed into his nape, the words she had told him then were what echoed in his mind, remembering how she had entranced him, confirming what he had known for some time.
She was home.
And wherever she was now, it was where he needed to be.
Olivia had been called many things in her life, described as a few more, to her face or behind her back. She had long ago begun to feel like she was nothing more than a tool, a programmed soldier, the faulty result of an experiment conducted by two arrogant scientists, almost three decades ago. This brand new label only validated these heavy feelings in her heart.
She was being forced to sit still again, asked to somehow manage to meditate despite how restless she felt. No matter how hard she stared into that mirror, how intensely she focused on the letters, trying to type the phrase with her mind, she was getting no result.
Feeling defeated and rightfully exhausted, Olivia closed her eyes, resting her forehead on her joined hands, her elbows up on the table. She didn't know how much more of this she could take, how many more "new developments" she would be able to sustain before she finally broke altogether. She had already been feeling like everything was out of her control when Sam had joined them in the lab, less than thirty minutes ago.
Noticeably ruffled by his quest to find the key, he had also been all too ready to show them the drawing. That drawing depicting her acting up as, well, a crowbar.
Before she knew it, Walter had deduced from it that she and she alone had the power to unlock the Machine, and that all she had to do was use her abilities. He had said that as if it was something she could control, as if she'd ever had a say in the things she could do.
But a crowbar was nothing more than a crooked piece of metal, unless someone took it in their hands and gave it a purpose.
"I owe you an apology."
Startled out of her bleak reflections, Olivia raised her head, her gaze stopping on Walter, who stood in the doorway. He and Sam had stayed with her at first, trying to guide her as she attempted to find that "inner peace" she apparently had to achieve in order to do these things that were asked of her; they had left quickly enough, though, probably realizing that the weight of their expectations only made this harder on her.
Or maybe Walter had simply been eager to go back to her Alternate, who still remained greatly entertaining to him, although her presence here had lost its spot at the top of the list after Sam's revelations.
Ultimately, what had led him to leave her alone in this office didn't matter much. She hadn't accomplished anything at all during that time, which made her feel like she should be the one apologizing.
"For what, Walter?" She asked him quietly, not even trying to conceal the exhaustion in her voice.
He walked into the room, coming to sit down on the other side of the table. He looked almost as weary as she felt, his whole frame slumped inward, his lined face slightly constricted with regrets; in that moment, he couldn't have looked more different from the Secretary.
Even though she would never enjoy seeing him in any kind of distress, no matter their history and how many grudges she could have held against him, Olivia felt herself relax a little, relieved to see him being so…Walter, right now.
Broken and half-mad. Deeply caring, too.
He seemed to feel the subtle shift in her stature, offering her a timid, quivering smile, one that was definitely apologetic. "I was indeed being unfair to you earlier, when I tried to guilt you into helping the other Olivia. It was cruel of me, to force you to make that choice, given what she has done to you, and to Peter."
Olivia shook her head, swallowing back the lump that always formed in her throat whenever Peter was mentioned. "You were right. It would have been selfish of me to let her die simply because she hurt me."
His soft smile grew, but somehow, it only made him look sadder. "Your compassion has always amazed me. It is one of the many things I admire about you."
She simply stared at him, offering him a small, pained smile of her own. His words were kind and honest, but they felt empty to her.
They felt like lies.
There was nothing admirable in helping another human being survive.
She knew it had been the right thing to do, and yet, something in her still throbbed with resentment, all of her old wounds exposed again, making her feel weak and vulnerable, a state of mind she despised more than anything else. Her Alternate had yet to tell them why she had come here, as she stubbornly refused to say anything to anyone who wasn't Peter, a thought that only caused her insides to ache, almost wishing she had never agreed to help her.
Feeling like a fake, she averted her eyes, staring back at the keyboard through the mirror.
"Any progress?" Walter asked her after a few seconds, his voice still low and gentle.
She shook her head, staring at the backward letter "B".
Be a better man than your father.
The thought had imposed itself in her mind as Walter instructed her to think of a specific phrase; her body had been tingling unpleasantly at his proximity, his shoulder brushing hers, asking her yet again to be the tool they all knew she was.
"Maybe you should give me that shot of cortexiphan you mentioned earlier," she suggested resignedly, thinking about what he had said when he had first told her about using her blood to save her Alternate.
Obviously, she was never going to accomplish anything useful unless her veins were pumped with that drug.
But it was Walter's turn to shake his head. "I'm afraid at this point, it would do you more harm than good." She sighed, briefly resting her forehead on her fingers again. "These abilities are inside of you, Olivia, and so is the drug; you proved it earlier. Cortexiphan isn't what gives you power. Your emotions have always been the catalyst. How you feel is what causes your brain to produce it, not the other way around. You simply need to harness it."
She was looking at him again, feeling absolutely hopeless. "I don't know how, Walter. I never have."
He stared at her somberly; she had rarely seen him looking so lucid and grave, and yet so different from his counterpart. "I know what it's like, to feel unequal to the task required of you," he admitted softly after a long stretch of silence. "To feel incapable. To feel like there is another version of you out there…who will always be better than you."
The air hitched in her throat, her heart pounding painfully within her chest; all of her insecurities were too close to the surface, overcome with that smothering vulnerability she couldn't fight.
Because that better version of her was out there, just a room away. And Walter understood that, more than anyone else.
"I'll never be the man I was," he carried on solemnly. "But I've come to embrace those parts of my mind that are... peculiar and broken. I understand now that's what makes my mind special. No one can ever take this singularity away from me, no matter how similar we are because we share the same genes, but made different choices somewhere along the way. I understand that the people who love me don't do it in spite of how...unconventional I am. They love me because of it. Even if it causes them to be blinded at times, because they care too much, and wish I didn't feel so burdened all the time."
She knew he wasn't simply talking about himself anymore, and she understood the hidden meaning in his words, saw it his eyes. This was the closest anyone had ever come to discussing the Switch with her, with the exception of the few agonizingly awkward conversations she'd had upon returning from the other side.
"I wish you could see yourself the way I see you," he continued after another pause, his words warm and emphatic. "You have no idea how extraordinary you are. If you would embrace that, there's no end to what you can do."
When she trusted herself to be able to speak, a few seconds later, her voice was barely louder than a whisper: "I know that you want to believe in me...and I want to believe in me...but believing doesn't make it true."
And she meant it. She truly wished she could have that kind of faith in herself. But she knew too much to believe she was capable of doing half the things Walter wanted her to accomplish.
A crowbar was nothing more than a crooked piece of metal, unless someone took it in their hands and gave it a purpose.
"Just try," Walter said encouragingly, his eyes filled with that same unwavering confidence.
Olivia closed her eyes again, holding back a sigh.
Eventually, she did focus back on the mirror, staring at that inverted "B", imagining the typewriter sitting on a table that was not part of this world, but part of the one hiding just behind theirs.
It was yet another world that had broken her a little more when it had used her like a tool, until it had branded her 'expendable', with the exception of her brain and its ever-so-precious drug.
But she couldn't forget how it was that same world that had given her one of the most important pieces of herself, the only piece that made her feel whole, at times.
It had given her someone who made her feel like she belonged, like she was more than just a tool.
She was his, as much as he was hers.
Be a better man than your father.
From the moment he was born and up until today, Liv had always managed never to spend more than six hours away from her son.
She had been on this side for nearly twelve hours, now, without having any way to check on him, and she was learning the hard way that she did not like it, at all.
She missed her child.
The more she tried not to think about him, the more prominent he became on her mind. As a result, she was only becoming more and more restless.
She kept on checking her watch, systematically forgetting that the damn digital thing had stopped working when she had crossed over. She would then turn in her seat to glance at the clock hanging on one of the lab's walls. Forced to stay seated as the last of her Alternate's blood slowly dripped into her veins, every minute seemed to stretch into hours.
For the past half-hour, she had been mostly discarded by the A-Team, as they found themselves completely engrossed in whatever that man named "Sam" had brought with him. From where she was sitting, she hadn't been able to see much, and no one had bothered including her in the conversation.
She tried not to care, even attempting to fake sleep again for a total of ninety seconds, but since they kept on mentioning Peter and the Machine, her interest remained piqued.
As she understood it, her Alternate's abilities now went beyond seeing shinny things and crossing over to other universes. Apparently, she also had some kind of connection with the Machine. One thing for sure, her double wasn't happy with this at all –not that it was a big shocker, she had yet to see her be happy about anything. Everybody had then retreated to what she knew to be Olivia's office, to "practice", though Liv hadn't heard enough to understand what that even meant.
Walter and Sam had come back quickly enough. That's about when she and Sam had started eyeing each other curiously, as they had yet to talk to one another. She had let Walter do another eye exam on her, had answered all of his questions on how she felt, though it was obvious his attention had shifted, now more interested in whatever her Alternate was up to, soon running back to her.
Being ignored like that by everyone made her feel absolutely useless, a feeling she highly despised. She was all too aware that this trip had mostly been a big waste of time so far, and that it wouldn't change anytime soon, unless Peter made a surprised entrance in the next five minutes.
And while she was here, doing nothing, she had no idea what was going on on her side. More importantly, she didn't know how her son was doing, where he was, who was looking after him, and these thoughts were slowly driving her insane.
"Somewhere you need to be?"
Liv, who had once again shifted in her seat to glance at the clock behind her, turned back around to look at Sam.
Like her, he was now sitting down, but while she had been behaving more and more like a wild animal stuck in a cage, he merely looked bored. She didn't know much about him, but he seemed like the kind of guy who was rarely bothered by anything. Maybe it was the way he talked, always with a drawl.
She flashed him a cocky smile with a tilt of her head, disliking having been caught in a moment of vulnerability. "Not in this universe," she answered, quite truthfully.
He smirked at her. "I don't think we've been properly introduced. Sam Weiss. I would ask for your name, but your face gave that away a while ago."
"You're a funny guy," she said somewhat sarcastically, but truth been told, she did like him. It probably had a lot to do with how he pretty much was the only person who hadn't been sending hostile vibes her way today.
Astrid seemed neutral as well, though she had seen too little of her since she had been fully awake to really know where she stood. The young woman was always in and out of the lab, running all kind of errands for people. As underappreciated as ever, apparently.
"And you," Sam said, pointing a finger in her direction, peering at her mysteriously, "are an unexpected development."
She chuckled, offering him her most confused frown. "What's that supposed to mean?"
He shrugged with a dramatic sigh. "It means I'm out of the loop. My great-great-great-great grandfather is turning in his grave right now. Literally. I had to pry open his tomb today."
It was her turn to squint at him, scrunching her nose. "Alright, I take it back. You're actually weird."
The main door of the lab opened then, and Astrid appeared, swiftly coming down the steps with a bag of donuts and a tray of smoking cups.
Liv instantly sat up straight, her eyes glued to the cups. "Coffee," she said, sounding a bit too much like an addict in urgent need of a fix. Which wasn't that far from the truth.
She had bitterly regretted ever getting hooked on that beverage once she had gone back to a world that didn't have any –none that she could afford anyway. It obviously hadn't been first on the list of things she had come to regret, but having to wean herself off caffeine hadn't helped. Like (too many) other things, she had sincerely missed it.
To her surprise, Astrid actually smiled at her. "I thought I would get scowled at for thinking about drinks and food at a time like this, but someone has to feed the troops if we want to save the world. Worlds," she quickly corrected herself.
"You'll probably get a scowl from Uptight Olivia, but you definitely got my vote...and Walter's," Liv assured her enthusiastically, still staring at the cups.
She extended an expecting hand, but eventually had to look up from the promising tray when she didn't make a move. She wasn't entirely surprised to see that Astrid was now the one with a disapproving scowl on her face.
"What?" Liv said innocently. And then: "It's the 'Uptight Olivia' comment, isn't it?"
"You think?" Astrid asked her, actually quite coldly this time, and Liv slumped back in her seat with a small 'humph'. "She's right, you know. You really got some nerve."
Liv smiled, mostly because it was the only thing she could do, shrugging as if it didn't bother her at all, though she stared stubbornly at the floor. "I don't need coffee anyway."
But a cup materialized in front of her, then. Rightfully shocked, she accepted it almost reverently, looking at Astrid in dismay.
Astrid shrugged. "Even if you still refuse to be honest about why you're here, I'm pretty sure you're trying to save the worlds, too." She then gave her an overly stern look. "But you should really learn to bite your tongue, sometimes."
"Yes mom," Liv chuckled, as it was an advice her mother actually gave her on a weekly basis –one she always ignored, obviously.
She then promptly brought the cup to her lips, and her tongue did get burn in the process, as the coffee was still too hot. She didn't care. She had come to appreciate it more with milk during her time here, but the raw aroma made it taste like heaven right now.
Astrid had barely started to walk away when her cellphone started to ring. She dropped everything on a table, picking up hurriedly, back to Apocalypse business. "Hello? Yes." Whoever was on the phone apparently only had bad news for her, judging by how her face fell, then. "What do you mean, he's missing?"
As she listened on, she immediately made her way towards Olivia's office, probably needing to inform her of this new development, once again leaving her alone with Sam. He just shook his head derisively, having apparently given up on trying to keep up with whatever was happening today. Standing up, he got himself a donut, roaming through a pile of old magazines that had been discarded on the table.
Liv took another swig from her cup, deciding it would be less frustrating for her to stay focused on this blissful beverage rather than to give a hundred different meanings to Astrid's mysterious phone call.
What if her son was missing, back home?
It was a stupid thought, especially since she had entrusted Lincoln with his safety, like she had ever since he had helped her deliver him on that crazy night, and she knew he would protect him. She had asked him to bring Henry to her mom's today, but knowing him, he probably stayed with them.
Her baby was fine, she kept on repeating herself as her fingers fidgeted, her nail repeatedly scratching the edge of her cup's lid. He was fine.
She just really wished she had a way of making sure of that.
If there was one voice she had not been expecting to hear right now, it was this one.
She almost let the cup slip from her suddenly loose grip as she swiftly raised her head in surprise, her eyes stopping on the man who had just called her name.
Peter Bishop was standing at the top of the steps.
One of the very first things she noticed was how battered he looked, his face recently and deeply cut in several places. Adding to that the nature of his look as he stared at her, it was clear he had suffered some kind of head trauma, and was still suffering from it right now.
Because if there was one thing she remembered with perfect clarity about Peter, one thing that had come back to haunt her again and again, especially since her son was born, it was the way he had looked at her, the last time they had been in the same vicinity.
She had tried hard to get rid of these memories, to erase from her mind the weeks she had spent as his lover, unwilling to think about his quiet fury on that very last day. He had hated her guts, then, probably as much as he hated himself for letting her play him the way she did. No matter how much she willed herself to forget, these things just didn't work that way.
And more than his presence in the lab, the way he looked at her was what startled her the most. There was no anger in his eyes, no accusation, no resentment and hurt; the dark gleam indicating he wouldn't mind hurting her back in some ways was gone, too.
Peter was staring at her, and all she saw was honest confusion. He looked like a lost child.
Against all better judgment, she couldn't help but see some of Henry in him, then, just like she always saw some of Peter in her son.
In her state of shock, Liv hadn't even realized the rest of the group had joined them from the office. It was her Alternate who had just called his name, in a voice that sounded both relieved and tense. When Liv briefly looked at her, Walter and Astrid by her side, she saw the same relief and worry constricting her face and tensing every muscle in her body.
With her standing farther away in the lab and Peter still at the top of the stairs, looking even more confused than before as his eyes moved from one Olivia to the other, they almost formed a perfect triangle.
"Well, this is awkward," Sam couldn't help but say.
A/N: Again, I'm taking some liberties, changing things around or keeping speeches, aka I still don't get the point of Peter taking a trip to NYC to buy his coin, I mean I know he was confused but really, I decided he would just take a cab to Boston in my version xD
I would love to hear from you, let me know if you're still interested, that would keep me going! :)