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Fic: Hanging in the Balance (Peter, Olivia) 
20th-Feb-2010 05:33 pm
Title: Hanging in the Balance
Fandom: Fringe
Author: chichuri 
Characters: Peter, Olivia
Word Count: 1647
Rating: PG
Summary: When the truth comes out, old instincts take over and Peter bolts.
Spoilers: Through episode 2.14, "Jacksonville".
Disclaimer: I don't own Fringe or its characters. 

Hanging In the Balance

When the truth comes out, old instincts take over and he bolts.
If Peter wanted to hide, he would have dumped his phone, ditched the car. Escaped to Iraq, Hong Kong, any one of a hundred exotic locations. He doesn't. Doesn't even think about it, really, just gets on the highway and drives. He's not even out of New England before he runs himself out and goes to ground in a bar more suited to flirting than brooding. The place may be more upscale than his mood requires, but it's the first bar he finds when he's done running, so there he stops and devotes himself to forgetting.  No amount of alcohol in the world can cut through the cold that owes nothing to the temperature or the snowstorm that's moving in, but at least it cuts the pain.
Within the hour, puffy snowflakes lazily drifting to the ground give over to snow coming hard and fast, swirling on winds that whip it to blinding. He won't be going anywhere farther than the motel down the street, not until the system blows itself out. He can't bring himself to care. Getting stuck here is as good as anywhere.
When the door opens and snow blows in, framing and announcing a slender figure in black, he's lost count of how many drinks he's downed. Not nearly enough; he's made the mistake of pacing himself, so he's buzzed and not blitzed. He looks up long enough to confirm who it is, then bends his gaze back to the glass. Forcing his fingers not to tighten, he takes a sip and rolls the alcohol around on his tongue before letting it burn its way down to his stomach.
Olivia settles beside him, pulling off black gloves and shaking snow from the hair that hangs loose around her shoulders. She stares steadily at the mirror in front of her; he stares steadily at the glass in his hands. He tries not to wonder what she sees, if the damned glimmer shows up in the mirror. If she can see it out of the corner of her eye the way he can see her sitting so still out of the corner of his.
She doesn't fidget. Hell, he can barely even tell if she's breathing.
The bartender offers her a friendly smile. "What can I get you?"
Peter interrupts her refusal.  "Whiskey for the lady," he says, and motions at his own glass for a refill.
A glance from the bartender and a nod from her; the whiskey is poured and they're left alone. She picks up the glass, swirls the liquid before taking a gulp. Her stillness broken, her fingers sweep restlessly along the rim as she cradles the glass in both hands.
"So." He downs his shot. The glass hits the bar with a thump. He's surprised to realize how much anger roils through him. He thought it had burned out somewhere between Boston and Connecticut, but it's back and aching in his chest. "Are you going to tell me why you didn't let me in on this little secret?"
She shrugs, barely a movement, and shakes her head. He looks up to find her watching him through the mirror, eyes wide and a little sad. He meets her mirrored gaze and she looks down, tapping against the glass.
"Well, then," he snarls, tossing a handful of bills down on the bar. He slips off the stool, shrugs into his coat as he stalks into the night, into the cold and the blowing snow. The wind cuts through him and the snow slides icy streaks against his skin, but he shoves his hands in his pockets and soldiers on.
A hand, whisper light, stops him. A first; as many times as he's touched her, she's never reached out to him. He wants to shake her off, to push her away, but he can't make himself do it. He turns, her hand staying steady on his arm.
"Why, Olivia?" he murmurs, dipping his head towards hers. Snowflakes whip through the foot of space between them. He doesn't take his hands out of his pockets, doesn't dare.  Not because of the cold, but to stop himself from giving in to the impulse to brush the hair that keeps being picked up by the wind back behind her ear.
She stands straighter, staring at him unblinking. "Because I knew, I knew, this was how you were going to react. You had no reason to stick around once you found out what he'd done."
He steels himself against the bitterness in her voice and counters with plenty of his own. "You didn't think I might stick around for other reasons?"
There's no humor in her laugh. "Why would you?"
"Right." He smirks and shakes his head. "Why would I." He's tired suddenly, the weight of the years and the lies crashing down on him. His whole life is a lie, and he still hasn't figured out how to twist that one truth into something he can live with. "I've been working with you for over a year and a half, Olivia. Don't you think that maybe, somewhere in that time, I started sticking around for something other than my father and answers we'll never really get?"
She stares at him mutely, searching his eyes, and he has no clue what she can read on his face. Maybe everything. She knows him well, too well. All except for the important things, like why he would stay.
He wonders if she ever really trusted him. If, given the years of heartbreak and betrayal that forged her, she ever really could. He trusted her. He realizes that now, although he didn't before. That's why her silence hurt so damned much. Why, of all the people in his life, he couldn't believe she had kept the truth from him.
More fool him.
"Will you come back?" she asks, her voice small.
"I can't work with him. I won't work with him. Find the man another keeper; I'm done."
She swallows, nods, and her hand is gone from his arm. She backs up a step, memorizing his face with shadowed eyes, then pivots and heads towards the parking lot, chin down and hair whipping around her in the snow-laden wind. Just like that, she's letting go, without a single argument to convince him not to leave. After braving the snow to track him down, she's just walking away.
Or maybe, somewhere in that screwed up head of hers, she thinks she's setting him free.
"I'll work with you," he calls out.
She stops. Doesn't turn, doesn't speak, but her head tilts. Listening. Waiting.
He clears his throat. This is a bad idea, he knows it. She doesn't trust him, not really, and he doesn't trust her, not anymore. But that doesn't change anything. "You still need someone to watch your back."
Her head twists towards him. He can't see her eyes, but her stance is defensive and her words, when they finally come, are carefully neutral. "Broyles can assign me a partner."
"Some FBI hotshot who still half-believes the Pattern's bullshit?" he scoffs. "Yeah, that would work out well. Face it, Olivia, you need me."
"Not if you don't want to stay." She turns to look at him, and he can't tell if the wetness on her face is due to the snow or something more.
"I want—" He pauses, stopping himself from giving the flip and easy answer. Sucks icy air into his lungs and closes his eyes. He wants to go back to before. Before he learned the truth, before she did. Hell, sometimes he wants to go back to before he ever heard the name Olivia Dunham, back to when all that mattered was saving his own skin. He wishes it was easy to walk away, but he's changed too much to go back to what he was before.
He opens his eyes to watch her watching him. Studies the curve of her cheek, the stubborn set of her mouth, the wrinkles between her eyes. Maybe this will crash and burn like a hundred of his gambles before, but maybe it won't. Maybe they can work through this. Maybe, with time, the trust they'd assumed solid in more innocent days can be earned.
A thousand maybes, but no certain future.
"I want to give it a try." It's the best he can do, but it's not a promise to stay. She knows it as well as he, and her nod is cautious. Her shoulders relax, though, and the wrinkles between her eyes smooth.
"All right," she says.
She holds out her hand to shake on it. He hesitates, and resignation slumps her shoulders. He catches her hand before she can drop her arm, pressing cold skin against cold skin. She squeezes like she's afraid he's going to disappear. He holds on longer than necessary, long enough for her skin to feel warm against his, and curls his fingers against his palm when she slowly pulls away.
"Well." She shoves her hands into her pockets and rocks back on her heels, snow settling on her face as she looks up, sliding free as she glances at the street. She tilts her head towards the bar and clears her throat. "Buy you a drink? Since we aren't going anywhere tonight."
"I'd like that." And he's surprised to realize it's the truth. A flicker of a smile curves her mouth, and his own lips curve up in response. They stand there for a moment, staring at each other with ghosts of smiles.
Maybe this won't work out. But maybe, against all the odds, it will. He's risked everything on longer shots than this one.
When she turns and starts back inside, he falls into stride next to her, and they retreat into a warm haven against the storm. 
(Deleted comment)
21st-Feb-2010 03:54 am (UTC)
Thanks! Glad you liked this.

I'm starting to want "the fanfic writer's guide to how a Cortexiphan-treated child's powers work". I'd shelve it right next to the also-desired "the fanfic writer's guide to how Fringe alternate universes work".
(Deleted comment)
21st-Feb-2010 12:24 am (UTC)
I really enjoyed this - I like that it came from Peter:s perspective. Well done.
21st-Feb-2010 03:55 am (UTC)
Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

I love writing from Peter's perspective; I love Olivia but I have such an easier time writing Peter.
21st-Feb-2010 12:48 am (UTC)
You know what's amazing? There is such a sense of relief for me after reading this: relief as a fan, relief on both their behalves, just a huge, huge sense of calm after a storm that we haven't even seen properly on the show. Your portrayal of Olivia is especially stirring and I think I died when Peter realized she wasn't going to ask him back because she thought he wanted to be free; that was so right, so in character, so canon. Again, wonderful work.
21st-Feb-2010 04:05 am (UTC)
Thank you! I'm so glad you liked the fic, and that it had such power for you.

This, I think, is the rosy possibilities, though. I suspect there's equal chance of everything really blowing apart--within the limits, of course, of having to keep Olivia, Walter, and Peter in the same show. Although I think Peter disappearing for an episode or two would be interesting, maybe give Astrid and Olivia more of a chance to interact as they try to fill in the spaces.
21st-Feb-2010 04:47 am (UTC)
Out of all the possibilities I've thought about, this one seems like the most reassuring to me for some reason. I don't know what it is, the way you wrote this just makes me feel more at ease with the whole thing. I guess I need to stop reading spoilers for awhile so my heart can relax but something like this needs to happen on the show to really show how close - or not close - the two are.

And yes, Peter is much easier to write than Olivia.
21st-Feb-2010 07:26 am (UTC)
Thank you! I'm glad I managed to reassure you as to where the characters could be going. (and this is why I stopped reading most spoilers, myself; much less stressful to just watch it unfold on screen)
(Deleted comment)
21st-Feb-2010 07:33 am (UTC)
Thanks! Glad you liked this.

I know she knows that she's the other reason.

See, I'm convinced she's one of the reasons he would stay, you're convinced she's one of the reasons he would stay, but I'm not entirely sure Olivia realizes/would realize she's a key reason he would stay. At least not to the extent that it would overwhelm Peter's need to run. As astute as Olivia is professionally, she's always struck me as a touch oblivious on the personal level.

They do that a lot, without realizing that they do more than just walk. It's like they're rubbing each others' sexual tension—If sexual tension could be materialized—when they rub each others' shoulders. I love it.

Hee! I just love this description of them walking.
(Deleted comment)
21st-Feb-2010 11:53 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much. I'm glad I was able to provide what you needed to read. And y'know, even after all this time I still flail happily when told I succeeded at characterization.
21st-Feb-2010 04:59 pm (UTC)
Oh, so beautiful. And so very realistically done. I can really really see this and you described Peter's motivations and feelings so well.

I can see how instinctively he felt the urge to bolt, to run, but he's changed so much that it's just too hard to walk away -- to cut ties so entirely, and so he doesn't make it hard for her to find him.

And find him she does. And I LOVE that. Usually, it's Peter who is the one who comes after her, who comes to comfort her and makes sure she's alright. Although we've just begun to see her take the initiative, as she did in the "Johari Window" episode where she let him know the first time killing someone is hard. So it's just really lovely to see her coming after him this time, and more than that, to see her reaching out to him. I love that you had him notice how she finally touched him first. It's such an important point, and you really showed how much it meant to him.

And so he does stay. I love that you noted that he no longer trusted her like he once did and he knows she doesn't trust him fully, but he's willing to take the gamble because he knows Olivia has lived through so much heartbreak and betrayal and he's willing to be patient and he also selfishly doesn't want to let her go and selflessly he does know that she needs him.

And poor, oblivious Olivia. She's so lucky that he can read her so well, to know that her walking away was her thinking she was setting him free. And I have to cut Olivia some slack for doing that and believing that he wanted that because she had dragged him into this world, reuniting him with his father and having him learn about all this crazy and terrible Fringe stuff. She had blackmailed him into coming back to Boston; she probably felt she didn't have the right to blackmail him into staying.

Which is why I think the "Not if you don't want to stay" line of hers is so fitting. She has come to care about him so much (love him actually, although she probably doesn't know it yet) that she's putting his feelings first and not her own. She refuses to force him, to make the choice for him like his father had done in taking him from another universe.

They stand there for a moment, staring at each other with ghosts of smiles.

Oh, I love that image. I can just see them freezing in the cold out there, but there being this warmth filling each of them as they exchange just the hint of smiles, knowing that this new bond they're forming is tenuous still -- Peter could still leave, Olivia could never get up the courage to let him in -- and yet already they're building up the trust between them to be stronger than before. Both of them are taking a chance on each other, because both of them think the other is worth it.

And I love that it's them two just going back to a bar to have drinks. It's so them. :)
22nd-Feb-2010 12:04 am (UTC)
Thank you so much. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

I loved playing with the role reversal of Peter and Olivia, because we've been seeing it in the show all season. Olivia's taking Peter's "Are you all right?" multiple times. And Peter's is always touching people and Olivia isn't, so I keep waiting for the moment she reaches for him; it's going to be a wonderful and significant moment in their characters.

And I admit, I'm rather taken with the idea of Peter getting the choice to stay, after he got blackmailed into it in the first place; it's shown up in at least a couple of my stories, I think.

They stand there for a moment, staring at each other with ghosts of smiles.

I didn't realize until after I wrote this, and thought about the image, that I was taking them back to the end of the pilot, when Peter had, without words, agreed to stay, and they just kind of almost smile at each other for a couple beats. The idea of going back to the beginning had been in my head all through the story, and for various reasons I never wanted to address it in the story, but it came out in that line.

And yes, got to send them back to the bar. Now maybe they can have the drinks that I'm suspecting they never get after the interruption of the not-date.
21st-Feb-2010 08:04 pm (UTC)
You're BACK!

I like this fic. Was it hard to write? It's not half as satisfying as porn battle [;)] but it's bloody intriguing stuff. I love the 'looking at each other in the mirror' scene. And I love Peter's realisation that he's come to like being here, and that something as cruel and crazy as his secretly being kidnapped doesn't affect him the way less awful situations have affected him in the past. And while I know it's probably for many reasons, I like to think that - like this fic - the main one is Olivia. :D
22nd-Feb-2010 12:10 am (UTC)
Back and better than ever (yes, yes and being far too silly)? Or at least just happy you're enthused that I'm back?

Glad you like the story! And actually the porn is harder for me to write, especially in the time period; Porn Battle is a time for me to push my comfort zone. This is much easier, as easy as writing gets for me. And the story shaped itself pretty easily, for the most part.

I'd also like to think Peter's going to stay, in part, for Olivia. I suspect that's why they moved the relationship forward in "Jacksonville": to give Peter a concrete reason to stick around after he finds out the truth.
22nd-Feb-2010 01:51 am (UTC)
Consider me enthused. ;)

I like that this story makes sense (not that PB doesn't!) and that it follows on from the show's storyline and the character's habits. I think that a situation like this is how they'll eventually have to deal with all the shit that's falling on that fan...

I'd also be half afraid that the writers would set the whole ship back by having Olivia keep the secret, and that we'll have to build up all over again (my major life 'ship so far has been Sam and Jack on Stargate SG-1, and despite umpteen teases and promises, they STILL haven't happened). But I think Fringe has a different plan, and there's some sort of bond there that even Peter and Olivia don't realise yet (which, in my SG1 induced paranoia, I'm also afraid will drive them apart!).


And I read fic.

Life is good.

(and it'll be better on 01/04!)
(dammit, 02/04 for me...)
19th-Oct-2010 02:56 am (UTC)
Guh. This is great, it's very them - it fits Peter and Olivia.
1st-Nov-2010 12:59 am (UTC)
Glad you liked it! And apologies for the belated response.
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