A Peter and Ella bonding fic because I thought the familiarity with which she talked about him in Brown Betty was more than we've actually seen in the episodes. And because, cute. Set after The Bishop Revival and implied Peter/Olivia because I can and therefore will. I don't own Fringe and will return all characters unharmed when I'm done. I'm a new fan so be gentle with me.
"I wouldn't ask if I wasn't desperate," Olivia said, grabbing her keys and phone from the table. "Rachel's at work and the Jacobsons are busy so I didn't know who else to ask-"
"Olivia," Peter interrupted, holding his hands up. "It's fine. Work emergency, I understand."
"Well, not really emergency, but some things I need to get done," Olivia said distractedly. "Are you sure you'll be okay?"
Peter gave her a placating smile. Ella skidded into the hall in her socks, grinning. "We'll be fine." He lifted Ella onto his hip. "We're gonna have lots of fun, right, Ella?" She nodded eagerly.
Olivia looked slightly reassured. "Well, call me if you need anything, okay?" Peter mock-saluted her with his free hand and she rolled her eyes. She opened the door a fraction, but turned back to them as Peter began to walk into the living room, still holding Ella. "And Peter?" He turned on his heel towards her. She took a step forward and kissed him on the cheek. "Thank you."
Peter was a little surprised but gathered himself quickly. "It's my pleasure," he told her sincerely, and grinned at Ella.
"You be good for Peter, okay?" Olivia reached out and touched Ella's cheek.
"I always am, Aunt Liv!" Ella said, indignant.
Olivia smiled fondly. "I know." She waved once more then left, closing the door with soft click behind her.
Peter turned to Ella, a pretend serious look on his face. "It's just you and me now, tyke."
"You're better at this than I am!" Peter whined playfully, as the buzzer went off for the sixteenth time.
"You're not even trying!" Ella complained, flicking him on the nose. "Watch." She stuck her tongue out in keen concentration, carefully lifting the Funny Bone out of the hole in the cardboard, without the buzzer making so much as a peep. "See? It's easy!"
"You make it look easy," Peter accused, pretending to glare at her and she giggled. He went for the Adam's Apple this time, deliberately but surreptitiously letting the tweezers touch the sides again. The buzzer beeped and Ella sighed emphatically again, giving him another demonstration.
Truth was, Peter had acute fine motor skills and could work out in his head what was the best angle in which to hold the tweezers in relation to the metal sides in order to get the pieces out. He could have easily got the plastic pieces of anatomy out, if he'd have wanted to. But in the few and far between times that Walter used to play card games with him in his childhood, Walter never let him win. Peter knew that in Walter's brain it was meant to be some kind of extended metaphor of a life lesson. That victory wouldn't be handed to him on a plate; that he'd have to work for the things he wanted in life. And while he supposes in hindsight it did serve its purpose, he'd have liked to have felt the pride of winning over his father. Just the once.
Ella didn't notice anyway, and Peter could see it made her feel good that she was better at something than him. So for the rest of the game he carried on with the pretence for her; making deliberate near-misses so she'd have to keep showing him how to do it. It was only on the final piece that he actually tried and succeeded to get the Wish Bone out without the buzzer going off.
"Yay!" Ella cheered and clapped for him as he held the tweezers in the air, Wish Bone on the end. "You did it. Finally!"
"Well," he said, grinning at her. "You're a good teacher."
Ella smiled, proud of herself, and Peter thought it was better than any life lesson he might have taught her.
"Here, Ella. Let me do that." He took the knife off her and starting cutting up the onions for Spaghetti Bolognese-their dinner. "Can you go and get the tomatoes in the jar out of the fridge for me?"
She did, but sighed, "I can use a knife, Peter. I'm big now."
"I know you are. But my fingers are worth less than yours and your Aunt Liv has a gun." Ella shrugged, seeming to accept this. Peter chuckled.
She told him about school as they worked, about her friends and what teachers she liked and hated. He also told her about when he was at school, about the trash can he 'accidentally' set on fire and his horrible English teacher in elementary school, Mrs Parks. He lifted her up so she could stir the pot of bubbling red sauce on the hob and helped her grate the cheese. They eventually sat down to eat at Olivia's dining room table about three quarters of an hour after they had started cooking.
"Peter?" she asked, slurping her spaghetti like he used to when he was her age.
"You're in love with Aunt Liv, aren't you?"
He looked up at her curiously, wondering at her casual tone. "What makes you think that?"
"Uncle Walter told me," she says, in the middle of another mouthful of spaghetti. Peter nodded knowingly, rolling his eyes. Ella had met 'Uncle Walter' enough times now that they were pretty much as thick as thieves. While Walter wasn't traditionally good with kids, his wayward charm and general craziness seemed to appeal to Ella. "And he's smart."
"Yeah, well. While Uncle Walter is smart, he's not always right," Peter told her.
There was a short silence. "Peter?" Ella said again, pushing away her mostly-eaten spaghetti.
"You didn't say no."
Touché, Peter thought wryly.
When Olivia finally opened the door into her dark apartment, a lot later than she thought she would; she was greeted with the smell of cooking. In her kitchen, she found the source. A box of spaghetti Bolognese, with a post-it note in a familiar hand left on top.
Leftovers. Thought you might be hungry.
She smiled at the gesture as her stomach growled and she turned on the hob, dropping the contents into a pan and lets it simmer while she looked for Peter and her niece. She eventually found them curled up in her guest bed, both fast asleep with a storybook in Peter's lap.