OF EGGNOG AND FESTIVE FLIRTING
Summary : Childhood friends Olivia Dunham and Peter Bishop only meet once a year – at his father's Christmas party. And every year, they find themselves waking up next to each other on Christmas morning.
Disclaimer : So, Santa totally exists and he got my letter and got me the rights to Fringe. Totally. Also, have you met my friend Sarcasm?
Of Eggnog And Festive Flirting
One : I'll Be Home For Christmas
Every single year, Walter Bishop, a man she's known for as long as she can remember and now works with, throws his annual Christmas party at the Bishop residence, a home she practically grew up in.
Every single year, she attends because it's the Bishops, her surrogate family, the family she's known forever, and really, the only family she has left.
Every single year, Peter Bishop – a big part of her childhood and adolescence – comes home and they talk and reminisce and have too much eggnog only to wake up next to each other after the highlight of her year, and then go their separate ways until the next Christmas.
Every year this happens.
And so there's no way she's going to let a little snow get in her way this year.
Okay, so it's a lot of snow.
A whole lot of snow and Walter's place isn't exactly five minutes away from her own. She's probably going to be late but then again, everyone knows that the first hour of the party is really just spent getting the guests drinks and loosening them up so that everyone's old friends by the time the second hour rolls around.
Besides, Peter is usually two hours late.
She groans out loud in the privacy of her car, frustrated with her own seemingly – and suddenly – one-track mind. Peter, Peter, Peter. She needs to take her mind off him. Maybe this year it won't happen. Maybe this year he'll bring someone home with him. Maybe this year he won't even be there.
All three possibilities would put a serious damper on her holidays.
But the message he'd left her three days ago remains stuck in her mind on an endless loop: "Hey, 'Livia,", he'd started with that infuriating nickname that she refuses to accept, even if some small part of her has come to expect it from him and feels just a little bit more special when he calls her that. "It's almost Christmas – but you probably knew that already. I'm coming home for the party, as usual. Mom would kill me if I missed it." And then he chuckles, that same pattern of laughter she's known her entire life; the one that warms her and brings back memories of a secret tulip field, their home away from home when she'd gotten tired of practicing her abilities – long after the trials had ended, Walter had continued to keep tabs on her under the pretense of monitoring her 'extraordinary talent'. The older man had really just used that as an excuse to keep Olivia safe from her abusive step-father and submissive mother.
"Anyway, I guess I just wanted to let you know that I'll be there. And I wanted to know if you will be, too, even though you're always there, but just in case, you know? Never know when the FBI's gonna whisk you and Walter-"- always Walter, never Dad because for some reason, that close bond they'd once had had been broken, a long time ago, and though father and son had worked out their differences, the family ties had never been the same again – "away on a super-secret, need-to-know-only, look-at-me-I-have-classified-information," She'd laughed then, because he would always sulk whenever he heard of a particularly interesting case only to be fed with the same answer, over and over: classified, "case. So… I'll see you in a few days – I hope."
He had started rambling and that had amused her after a long day of paperwork, so the three words, along with her nickname, that he'd spoken very softly at the end, right before hanging up, had surprised her.
"I miss you, 'Livia."
The traffic light turns green and Olivia goes on with her slow drive, determined to make it to the Bishops' because truth be told, she misses Peter, too.
And then she wants to hit herself because she is being such a girl.
Walter has a way of squealing her name and turning it into two separate words, like a toddler reunited with his mother after a particularly long and trying hour, and it makes her feel loved and wanted and accepted every single time – every morning she drops by his lab.
"Walter," She smiles, letting him hug her – only the Bishops could ever get away with that because over the years, Olivia has learned to shrink away from any human contact except for the safe, warm embraces of this family. Elizabeth stands nearby, waiting for her turn. She steps up the minute Walter lets go of Olivia and replaces his arms with hers, holding the woman she considers a daughter close.
"You never come by anymore, Olivia." She playfully chides in her accent. "It's been weeks of lunch with that one," She shoots Walter a look, "gobbling up my culinary masterpieces. It's bad enough Peter's barely around – are you going to do the same to your aunt Elizabeth?" As a child, Olivia had loved Elizabeth's accent – the way her 't's and 'r's were always very pronounced; the way she pronounced her son's name.
"Sorry," Olivia shrugs. "Work's been… crazy."
"And still confidential, I see," Elizabeth rolls her eyes, though she's gotten over the whole hush-hush thing now, unlike a certain younger Bishop. "Come along now," She takes hold of Olivia's hand. "I've made some brilliant appetizers and there should be some unspiked eggnog around here."
"Some unspiked eggnog would be great," Olivia smiles, basking in the warmth that only the Bishops – her real family – can provide her.
This is her home.
Olivia turns around quickly as Walter's booming voice rings out, sighing in relief when she spots her junior agent, Astrid Farnsworth, walking in to receive a warm greeting from Walter. She quickly excuses herself from the mad scientist she's been listening to for the last five minutes and heads straight for Astrid.
"There is a God," She groans as Astrid playfully links their arms, in search of a drink.
"Miss me that much?"
"I've been stuck with some guy who has a deep love towards math. So, yes, Astrid, I missed you a lot." She pauses for a moment. "And your sense of humor." She adds honestly.
"I'm flattered," Astrid smirks as Elizabeth walks up to them, handing Astrid her safe, un-Walter-fied drink. The younger duo smile at the maternal Bishop as Astrid thanks her. Elizabeth is about to walk away when she turns around.
"Oh, Olivia," She speaks up with a glint in her eyes. "Peter called. He should be here soon and can't wait to see you."
"Thanks, Elizabeth." Olivia smiles tightly as a slow blush creeps up while Astrid smirks. Elizabeth nods and walks away.
"He just did that for fun," Olivia mutters to her junior agent who has been trying forever to convince Olivia that Peter is hopelessly in love with her, and vice versa.
"Suuure," Astrid says slowly, dragging out the word in an act of disbelief. "Peter Bishop a.k.a Total Hottie a.k.a your annual one-night-stand," Olivia still hates that Astrid had somehow managed to pry that bit of information out of her, "called his mom just to tell her that he can't wait to see his good friend, potentially setting himself up for embarrassment, just because he wanted to get at you." Sarcasm drips out of each word and Olivia tries not to scowl.
"You can't go around just saying that, Astrid." She hisses. "Peter and I have known each other forever and I would hate for things to get awkward just because someone, like maybe, say, his father, the man we work with every day, overheard you calling him my- my-"
"Annual one-night-stand." Astrid supplies helpfully. "And yes, that would be so awkward because sex between two childhood friends isn't, at all."
"Someday, you and Walter are going to find your calling and start a matchmaking agency." Olivia predicts, giving up on trying to convince Astrid that Peter has no romantic feelings for her whatsoever. Astrid smiles impishly and shrugs.
Let the girl have her fun and dreams and fantasies about Peter and Olivia. As long as she knows the truth, and he knows the truth, they'll be fine.
But it won't be fine, because even she's beginning to doubt the truth.
It's been an hour since Peter's call to his mother – not that Olivia is keeping track and insanely impatient on the inside. No, she is having fun and not moping around, waiting for him. No, no, no. Olivia Dunham is independent.
But wanting to see her best friend doesn't make her dependent on him. She merely misses the boy she spent most of her childhood and adolescence with; that's all.
Despite her best efforts to convince herself, she finds herself glancing at the grand, ornate grandfather clock way too often and Astrid keeps sending her knowing smirks whenever she realizes that Olivia has checked out of their conversation.
"It's been an hour," Astrid remarks innocently after Olivia checks the time for the seventh time. "Impatient much?" Olivia forces out a smile.
"Not at all – maybe he's snowed in or something." It's a dark thought – she really, really wants to see Peter, and him getting snowed in would be typical bad luck, the kind that's prone to shadowing her.
"Yeah, right," Astrid snorts delicately. "As if some snow would stop him from getting to you tonight."
"Astrid!" The blonde agent gasps, mildly scandalized.
She's about to add to that single remark when two arms wrap around her waist from behind. Instinct tells her to defend herself and her body automatically prepares for a fight, but the smug smile on Astrid's face and the familiar scent invading her senses get her to back down and she tries to turn around to face the one she's been waiting for all evening – all year, actually.
But his hold on her is secure and leaves no space for squirming, and so she gives up and settles for talking this out. "Peter," She acknowledges sharply, unsure if she can trust her voice to be level and calm. Astrid gives her a quick wink before gliding away, her subtle gift of privacy.
She waits for him to release her and end this game, or maybe speak up, but all she can hear is his steady breathing as he moves closer to her, violating her personal space. But then again, there's never been any space between them.
He moves closer still as his breaths become more pronounced, and she can feel her own breath hitch, a natural bodily response to their close proximity. There's music playing – one of Walter's old records – and he sways them gently to the classic holiday music, his grip loosening but only slightly.
Finally, he speaks, and a cold tremor runs down the length of her spine despite her best efforts not to show him just how much he gets under her skin.
"We really need to stop meeting like this, sweetheart."
And so ends the first chapter of this Christmas special. Chapter title is – you guessed it: the titular line of I'll Be Home For Christmas. Don't forget to stay tuned for the following chapters – there should be two more. I'll be working on those soon so keep that in mind when you read this story: it's been written without any reader's input or feedback – all pre-written and finished with a big, red ribbon for you guys.
Let's do a gift exchange – Fringe Christmas Special for you, reviews for me! How does that sound? For more info on all the nicely wrapped-up Christmas Specials I have planned for you guys, don't forget to check out my homepage and Twitter!
Happy holidays, everyone!