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05 December 2012 @ 12:39 pm
I asked myself about the present: how wide it was, how deep it was, how much was mine to keep  
how much was mine to keep
by sezzie_dee
Fandom: Fringe
Rating: pg
Summary: “The implant is failing. He thinks he just might be failing with it.” The tech starts glitching, Peter’s slipping away, and Olivia’s never been particularly good at letting him go. Post 4x07.
Notes: This is long, angsty and probably overly convoluted, but I was determined to finish it before the next episode came out and I got majorly jossed and completely lost interest. I’m super terrible like that.

“Will you stay no longer? Nor will you not that I will go with you?”
“By your patience, no. My stars shine darkly over me; the malignancy of my fate might, perhaps,
distemper yours; therefore I shall crave of you your leave that I may bear my evils alone.
It were a bad recompense for your love to lay any of them on you.”

- Twelfth Night, act II scene I.

“All moments past, present, and future, always have existed, always will exist… it is just an illusion we have here on earth
that one moment follows another one, like beads on a string, and that once a moment is gone it is gone forever.”

- Slaughterhouse Five

In actuality the Observers’ reign ends the very day it begins; Captain Windmark dies sixteen seconds before he appears in the park, obliterated by an antimatter device that takes out an entire building and everyone inside it.

There are things happening simultaneously, maddeningly all at once:

Peter Bishop is with his family in a park/embracing his wife in a deserted street/phasing back into space-time behind the murderer of his child.

Olivia Dunham, love of his life, is reading a book/breathing a sigh of relief while their daughter plays/is being mourned by her parents.

Windmark stops. Picks up the dandelion.

Seconds later, Peter Bishop knows nothing but white.


(Rewind, fast forward; at this point it’s much the same.)


Olivia comes back eventually. He knew (predicted) she would.

“Peter, you need to get that thing out of your head,” she says quietly. “You need to come with me, right now, and we’ll speak to Walter, and he’ll get it out because this… this is definitely not okay.”

“I have done what needed to be done, Olivia. We have a chance, now.”

“Peter, either you come with me or I walk out that door and don’t look back.” Her voice is low, dangerous. “But I need you to remember what you’re fighting. Because joining them is not the way to beat them.”

He tilts his head at her, possibilities whirring.

“You are lying.” She turns away, fingers pressed to lips, eyes brimming with tears. “You speak with conviction but your body betrays you. Your behaviour in the past suggests otherwise. You will not abandon me. You will stay because you… love me.”

His gaze follows hers to where she has fixed it firmly on the mantelpiece, on the photos of Etta’s short-lived life that line it.

“You spent the whole time she was missing believing she was dead. I suppose it is not much of an adjustment for you to go back to that.”

He calculates her ire a nanosecond too late; her hands fist in his shirt, slamming him into the wall in blind anger but he dissolves beneath her fingertips before he can hit the plaster. She whirls to face him when he rematerializes behind her, too furious to be shocked.

“Screw you,” she hisses.

He looks suitably alarmed, eyes suddenly clear and focused.

“I’m sorry! Olivia, I’m sorry.”

She notices the change in inflection, the loss of jilt to his movements as he reaches for her in apology and she stops only after a half-step back, allowing him to hesitantly bury his hand in her hair and pull her against him, the feel of her skin against his enough to ground him.

“I’m sorry,” he mumbles, over and over, until she softens and reluctantly returns the embrace as he remembers himself – remembers her - in a rush.


(His eyes linger over her shoulder on the board.)


Walter seesaws wildly between fury at his son’s stupidity and tearful incompetence, performing scans with shaky hands and wavering lucidity.

“It’s implanted itself too deep. Extraction at this point would ultimately be fatal,” he eventually despairs, then overturns a tray of instruments with an enraged shout.

“Walter!” Olivia reprimands in an attempt to refocus him. “There has to be something you can do.”

“Do you think I’m enjoying this, this lack of solution?” he snarls. “Of once again being unable to save my own son?”

Only Astrid can calm him down, coaxing him into the next room with her hand on his back and the promise of liquorice and the suggestion that he listen to some music to help him cool off and think.

“I really messed up this time, huh?” Peter jokes when it’s just him and Olivia left.

She glares at him, of course finding him unfunny, and slips out of the room herself.


It takes him awhile to realise it, but it’s worse when she’s not around.

Olivia, true to form, locks onto this fairly early; after their encounter in Etta’s apartment she’s deduced a method for disengaging him when he gets carried away. It’s vaguely terrifying, he thinks, that’s he’s never quite aware of how far from himself he’s strayed until she snaps him back unforgivingly with her fingers at his wrist, with a push, with a shove, with a memory – with ettaettaetta.

She blocks his readings with Etta’s ease, slamming him back along the wire with forced recollections until he feels them, feels like his head’s going to explode from the overload and when his eyes slam shut in pain and his posture loosens she relents, unapologetic when he meets her gaze through the migraine.

“Don’t let me forget what losing her feels like,” he tells her.

“Loving her,” Olivia corrects. “That’s what you need to remember.”

(His dreams are filled with screams and burning flesh, of branches thinning and marked with Windmark’s name.)


The tech starts glitching after she hits him particularly hard; something bursts and bleeds through him, sending him slack then convulsing to the ground. He can hear Olivia yelling for Walter but it’s disconnected; one minute he’s on the floor of the lab, skull slamming against cement and the next he’s back in Etta’s apartment, vision swimming with colour-marked glass, calling to him, incomplete.

“Peter, can you hear me?” Olivia asks, and just as suddenly he’s back in the lab, her fingers digging hard into shoulders.

“Yeah,” he breathes.

It’s strangely silent, in his mind, as if gears have vanished or stopped turning. Quiet, peaceful, uncomplicated. Olivia is worried, and he knows this without knowing her pulse, her perspiration levels or dilation of pupil. It’s just something that he knows, because he knows her, and he knows how she feels.

“Where did you go? You disappeared for a moment.”

He shakes his head. Tries to read her. Nothing.

“I think you turned it off,” he says hoarsely, attempting to sit up. “It’s not working. I think you short circuited it, or something.”

She’s wary as she helps him rise.

(Olivia doesn’t ask again where he went, and he isn’t entirely sure he’d tell her if she did.)


It turns out the implant isn’t off so much as it is broken.

This becomes evident to him the second time he’s sucked unceremoniously into the past, crashlanding beside or rather into a metal tray in the lab, overturning it, causing a laser-brandishing Walter to admonish him loudly over his shoulder about the disturbance.

His stay lasts approximately three minutes and nineteen seconds, the majority of which he spends gulping in air in an attempt to orient himself whilst trying to jump back. His efforts are to no avail, and it’s only after he’s given up that he feels a kind of ripple wash over him, tugging somewhere behind his navel. Then he’s right back where he started, and the lesson he learns from this particular trip is that there’s a warning sign, at least.

He dreams of grey, like a blanketing fog concealing blurry shapes that occasionally sharpen into focus in front of him, like someone’s adjusted some kind of inner lens he never knew he had. The fog’s made up of numbers, of histories, of things that have not yet come to pass. More often than not the centre of the storm is Etta, brow furrowed, arms outstretched, and Peter never quite gets there in time.


He doesn’t plan to do it; it just sort of happens.

He’s out scavenging when the alarm bells go off, and he supposes he should have anticipated something like this after what happened the last time he went looking for fuel. He grips onto a nearby railing in protest but it’s no use, finding himself unsteady on his feet when he reappears, elsewhen, feeling dizzy and vaguely ill.

There’s something eerily familiar about the grass, the clear skies, the sun on his back, and every hair at the nape of his neck rises to attention in dread. Then he sees her, and his heart plummets.

There’s a dull murmur around him; a muffled roar that he supposes is yelling when experienced at the proper speed but everything’s slowed down or he’s moving too fast, and he can see ahead to the blast going off, to neither he nor Olivia getting there in time and suddenly he’s reaching, falling, standing back in 2036 with the familiar weight of his three year old daughter bundled tightly in his arms.


Etta stares up at him in shock, then promptly bursts into tears.

He can’t bring himself to release her, so besotted with the sight and the smell and the warmth of her that he thought he’d never have again; Etta however has different ideas and squirms and cries and thumps her palms against his chest as she demands downdowndowndown, and after an extended struggle he relents and reluctantly lowers her to the floor. She toddles hurriedly towards the couch where she fists the fabric, sniffles and eyes him with uncertainty.

Her proximity of flesh and blood is intoxicating. An angry, selfish part of him immediately wants to keep her to himself, keep her locked away here where she can be his little secret and no one else’s, where he can love her forever and never have to let her go. He tries to placate her but Etta fusses and wails and wants nothing to do with him, and then the reality of what he’s wishing for hits and he feels nauseous and guilty and calls Olivia on her com.

“I’ve done something,” he chokes.

She’s silent on the line for an unbearable stretch.

“Where are you?”

Olivia’s cautious but sure-footed when she sidles through the doorway to the apartment, calling out his name. He waits, lets her find him where he sits tense and terrified on the couch. She searches his face in confusion, then Etta whimpers and Olivia looks like she’s just been doused with ice water.

He can see in this moment that a part of her hates him for doing this to her, for torturing her like this, for pushing her heart til it bursts. He almost thinks she’s going to refuse, to shut down and walk away claiming an inability to deal. But Olivia Dunham is the strongest person he knows, and this is no exception.

She presses the back of her hand to her mouth; breathes deeply and composes herself. She crouches down, tucking a stray curl behind her daughter’s ear, and to her credit her voice barely wavers.

“Hey there, baby girl. I’ll bet you’re wondering what’s going on, huh? It’s been a pretty crazy day.”

Etta rubs her eyes with balled fists and continues to frown, tired and confused and sulky.

“How about we get you to bed, hmm?”

She’s gone for a good hour because of course Etta has no idea what’s going on except everything is wrong, starting with what her parents are wearing and how they’re acting, and nothing about this place or the bed she’s being put into is familiar. Olivia gets her to settle eventually, though, and when she re-emerges from the bedroom Peter can see the pain written into every inch of her features. All she does is stare.

“You know I thought about using it a few times before? Going back to the day we met, in Iraq. Stopping us from ever... I’m not sure I could though, since it didn’t happen that way this time around.”

Olivia remains silent.

“Then I realised: I could save her. If I could go back to that moment before the building went up, I could get her out of there, and maybe she would not have to die.” He sees the slight dilation of her pupils at this; the intake of breath. He identifies the split second of hope. “But that is not how it happened, so it could not happen that way.”

She advances on him, now, annoyed, and the blue recedes from his vision.

“Peter, we’ve heard this story before. It doesn’t have a happy ending.”

“What Walter did was different. This wouldn’t be taking something that isn’t ours, Olivia. That’s our daughter.”

“You don’t get to do this,” she hisses, tears flowing freely now. “I will not do this with you.”

She stalks out of the room to make her point but doesn’t leave; he hears a door slam but not the front one. The bathroom, maybe.

It’s late when she resurfaces. Dark.

“She would have died,” he says quietly when she senses her behind him.

He’s toying with the dandelion Etta had been grasping in her chubby palm when he took her, a little tattered but for the most part amazingly no worse for wear. He slides it back inside his jacket.

“I didn’t realise what I was seeing, at first. I thought it was just a nightmare. But it felt different – more like tracking them. There was a blast, in the park. I went there, without meaning to. It all happened so fast, I…” He trails off. “I couldn’t watch her die again.”

It’s awhile before she speaks, and he almost turns his head to check she’s still there.

“Na einai kalitero anthropo apo ton patera tou.”

He glances up at her in surprise as she lowers herself to sit beside him and she says it again, firmer this time. Her voice is hoarse, rough from crying but she’s softer than she was before, anger dissipated into sorrow.

“I know what you’re thinking. That maybe we could just keep her, take her back with us. Have all the years with her that we missed out on. But she had a life, Peter. It may not have been the one we imagined for her, not remotely, but it meant something. What you said to me was right, you know – we did get a second chance, no matter how small. We got to see that our daughter grew up into an incredible young woman, despite the terrible hand life dealt her. And it would be doing her a disservice to change any of that.” She takes a deep breath and presses something into his hands. It’s a photograph of Etta, around fifteen, standing smiling beside a couple. “Which is why you have to give her back. She doesn’t belong here.”

You were three years old the last time I saw you.

I thought I was four.

“I don’t know if I can say goodbye to her again,” he murmurs.

“Well, technically, for her, it’s not goodbye, you know? It’s just until we meet again. Until she finds us,” she smiles despite the tears, hand finding his and squeezing.

(He knows it’s hit or miss whether he can get her back to the right place – he supposes that’s what kept them from finding her all that time.

“Mommy and daddy love you, so much,” Olivia murmurs into her daughter’s ear before she lets him take her. “Don’t you ever forget that, okay, baby girl? No matter what – no matter what happens, you are loved, and nobody can take that away from you. You’re going to see us again someday soon. I promise.”

Peter smooths her blonde curls back from her forehead.

“Worth every bump and bruise, kiddo,” he whispers.)


The night after they lose her for the third time Peter crawls beside her on the mattress and pulls them head to toe, his face pressed damp into her neck. She smells like alcohol, the horrible raw stuff Etta kept in the top cupboard that seemed to be the best anyone could get their hands on these days, but her face is red and shiny with tears and he knows she’s never been more sober.

“I guess you were right. Some people aren’t supposed to be happy.”

She twists in his arms to face him, almost nose to nose and sighs at his resignation to what has always been her mantra, never his.

“I’m done with happy. It’s fickle. Besides,” she says, wrinkling her nose and shaking her head minutely as her fingers close over the bump beneath his shirt that she’s deduced to be their wedding band, “that wasn’t the vows.”

He smiles, nuzzling his face gently against hers.

“I just want you,” she elaborates, and holds his gaze for seriousness.

There’s a beat and he kisses her, then; properly, for the first time in four months or twenty-something years, and all the desperation she’s been forcing herself not to show floods out of her body by way of her fingers scrunching hard in his shirt.

“I’ve missed you, so much,” she breathes when they part.

“I’ve missed you, too,” he gasps as he sinks over her, into her, overflowing, and as they start to move together again it’s like waking up, like breathing, like finally coming home.


Things are better, for awhile; he sleeps easier with his wife back beside him, toes curled possessively around his calves and her breath chuffing softly over where their hands rest entwined against his chest. They find more tapes, Walter’s disposition is uncharacteristically extendedly cheerful and Loyalist activity outside the lab remains at next to nothing.

The time slips, or hiccups, as he’s jokingly come to call them, become steadily more frequent and out of his control, and when it happens right in front of her eyes again he’s forced to explain himself to Olivia. She berates him for not telling her sooner, concerned.

“Walter will think of something,” she says.

(He doesn’t.)


He dreams of oblivion and bright white light, tossing and turning, sweat-soaked in the bed. When Olivia presses him the next day caves easily, exhausted and foreboding.

“I can feel someplace pulling at me,” is all he can explain.

When the symptoms manifest again she’s right in front of him before he can blink, arms looping around his neck, nose pressed against his throat.

“What are you doing?” he chokes out.

“I’m coming with you this time,” she tells him, as if it’s the most obvious thing in the world, and this time when he falls it’s the two of them, falling through the fabric together.


Olivia draws back from him, relatively unwinded – it’s like crossing over, but different - hands lingering at his lapel.

“Where are we?”

Peter drinks in their surroundings but comes up empty; he knows this place as a distant memory of a haunting dream. The harder he tries to place it, the further it slips away.

“I have no idea. But I get the feeling we need to leave.”

As if to accentuate this point, a searing pain slices through his temples as his brain whirs in warning, the air is rippling madly around them, signifying upcoming disturbances.

“Observers,” he curses. “Olivia, run!”

He’s chasing her down the hallway when he feels it, tight in his stomach and nononono he can’t leave yet, not without her. She’s four feet in front of him and he digs in his heels to stay but falls right through, panicking and breathless.

(He doesn’t see the dandelion slip from his jacket and flutter gently to the ground.)

There’s an explosion of antimatter. The building flickers out of existence and Olivia stumbles when she hits the street, eyes prickling.

“Peter,” she whispers, terrified.

“I’m here,” he assures her, stricken but grateful when he manages to materialise beside her, enfolding her in his arms when she catapults herself at him in relief.

“What was that back there? How did you know about the birthday?” she asks, breathless, forehead pressed bruisingly to his.

His brow creases in confusion but the question dies on his lips when she kisses him with urgency, hands tugging hard at his shirt. She pulls back only minutely, nose nuzzling his, eyes wide, and he can feel her pulse hammering where his fingers curl at her wrists.

“I thought I’d lost you,” she admits.

“We’re going to be fine, Olivia,” he says, the words feeling thick in his throat as he pulls her back into him. “You’re not getting rid of me that easy.”


It’s always seemingly at random but significant, important places and events pulling back on him, calling out his name like muscle memory, like gravity. The lab is the most common, and his trips here are always the briefest and most recent, their old house on Quincy Street much the same. The worst by far is the day in the park; he spends hours, wandering aimlessly, everything around him ground to an uncanny halt.

He returns to Olivia shaking and exerted, head pounding, blood trickling from his ear. She holds onto him with bruising force, as if determined not to let him from her sight, hand gripping his with an intensity that takes him back to her sixteen hours labour.

(The implant is failing. He thinks he just might be failing with it.)

“You got that look on your face again,” he teases, but it comes out uneven around the pain. “You don’t need to worry about me. I always come back.”

He knows what she’s thinking, though: she’s starting to worry about the time that he doesn’t.


The first time he gets pulled into the future is also the only; he puts himself back together inside a kitchen, unfamiliar to him, and if it weren’t for the occupant he might never have realised.

A bowl drops to the floor and shatters, dry cereal scattering across the tile.


The woman standing before him is unmistakably his wife, hair still impossibly long but thick and silver, eyes sheltered in the creases of her features, the same mix of wonderment and disbelief that was on her face the day he blasted her from the amber and she laid eyes on their grown up daughter for the very first time.


“You lied to me, you bastard,” she whispers as her hands tentatively frame his face, forehead pressing against his own and eyes falling shut through tears, the metal of the wedding band she doesn’t wear where he’s come from cool and soothing against his cheek.

He isn’t entirely sure what she means.

“I’m sorry,” he says. Then, “I can’t stay.”

Her fingers are slowly but determinedly mapping his features, heartbreakingly tender as she traces his brow, his cheek bones, his nose. Her forefinger comes to rest on the crest of his lip, caressing the soft skin there beneath his stubble.

He wants to ask her so many things, like if the plan worked, if they made it, if they were strong enough to win. He knows Olivia, though, and knows they’re answers she knows well enough not to give.

He wants to ask her if she’s happy -

“Peter, there’s something I think I need to tell you.”

“What is it?”

She hesitates before she leans in, breath tickling his ear, one hand gripping his shoulder, the other curling at his hip. The sequence of numbers she imparts to him is meaningless, and he pulls back, confused.

“Don’t do anything stupid,” she murmurs as she presses a smile, and he can already feel the current of time-space tugging at him to return.

(He can tell by the way it doesn’t reach her eyes that he already has.)


They’re down to the last tape and things are still failing to make sense.

Walter’s back to being crabby, snapping at everyone in equally infuriating measure. Peter just feels exhausted, like all he ever does is sleep but never rests, and all of them are silently praying that with the last piece of the puzzle everything will magically fall into place.

(Windmark’s getting closer. He can feel it.)

He finds Olivia in the back room, toying with Etta’s necklace - the one that almost got him killed, that was with her when she died, that held the bullet that both ended and failed to end his lover’s life.

He just needs to know --

“Hypothetically… if I could have gone back. To the day we met in Iraq, maybe - or any other time along the way - and somehow stopped it all from happening… made sure we missed our moment…”

She stays silent for a while and he isn’t entirely sure whether she’s considering it or refusing to even dignify him with a response.

“No,” she says. She finally turns to look at him. “Would you?”

“No,” he echoes.

“I made that decision a long time ago – that it’s better to have loved and lost. And it seems like the universe has well and truly tried to call that bluff.”

She smiles at him, a little bitter but not accusingly, head ducked as she runs her fingers through her hair, searching for words.

“But you forget, Peter – I lived that life, where we never met. It was mostly the same, without you. The world was still falling apart and I was still running around putting band aids on it. Only it was terribly lonely. And somehow, we still found each other. So I can’t help but think… can’t help but believe… that something will always bring me back to you.”

He nods, slowly.

“I want to believe that too,” he confesses. “And I’m sorry, Olivia. For everything.”

(Later that evening he returns to the dry-erase board, fingers shaking around the pen as he plots out one last timeline – the one that flashes behind his eyelids when he tries to sleep at night, the one he knows Windmark must be seeing, too.

He’s not invincible – unpredictability has approached predictability. All roads are returning to Rome.)

She holds his gaze for a long moment, and he knows her first instinct is to dismiss his apology as unnecessary, but something she must find in his face makes her reconsider.

“I forgive you,” she says instead. “For everything.”

Her hand finds his between them and squeezes, and for the first time in what seems like forever he feels oddly at peace.

(The felt tip squeals as he drags the line of yellow ink back to where he supposes this all started; back to where he’s realised it has to end. He hopes when Olivia reads the timeline he’s marked PETER BISHOP she’ll understand and one day forgive him for this, too.)


When his destiny comes calling he’s not ready per se but prepared, shoulders set and heart heavy as he feels himself being pulled, none too gently, away into the past.

He catches a glimpse of himself for the very first time; sprinting down a brightly lit hallway before he winks out of sight, a flash of blonde hair rounding the corner in front of him, unawares. It’s an alarming thing to witness; Olivia, he notes, has to her credit taken the whole thing rather well.

He’s selfishly glad he’s been allowed to steal this moment with her.

When he catches up to Olivia her palms are slamming against the wall in adrenaline-fuelled frustration:

“Peter, the door’s sealed tight. We don’t have the code.”

Something pulses, and clicks into place; he’s overcome by the recent memory of the woman next to him, but older, face tear streaked and torn as she sighed against him and murmured in his ear.

Two-six. One-two. Oh-nine.

He must have spoken aloud because Olivia blinks at him, shaking her head.


How did you know about the birthday?

The pain in his skull flares white-hot, excruciating, and his vision is interrupted in bursts. He sees the security guard, chewing absently on a sandwich, flicking crumbs off a photo of a girl in green overalls. The vision shifts and it’s Etta he’s looking at, pink and pigtailed, armed and dangerous, dying, three years old and in a crown and demanding that her father give her mother a kiss.

“It’s her birthday. The code,” he hisses through the pain. “Twenty six, twelve, oh-nine.”

She’s concerned but obedient, fingers frantic at the keypad, breathing a sigh of relief when the door creaks into motion.

“How could you possibly have known that?”

“Listen, you go ahead, I’ll catch up,” he says, ignoring her question. “There’s something I have to do.”

“No. Peter, I’m not leaving you,” she argues, and he wants to remember her exactly like this: fierce and stubborn and incredibly beautiful.

“Hon, I’ll be fine. Go on, I’ll meet you outside.”

He kisses her then and it’s not goodbye, he thinks; not really, but more like until she finds me again.

“I love you,” she says, right as he starts to feel the beginnings of disassembly murmuring through his atoms. “Just promise me you won’t do anything stupid.”

His heart seizes, then, because he’s lived her side of this particular part of their story before; knows well enough that the version of himself she’s currently mistaking him for will indeed meet her outside as planned. But he aches with the awareness that on some sort of cosmic level she knows; has known, will know what he’s about to do.

You lied to me, you bastard.

“I promise,” he tells her softly. And, because he doesn’t want the last thing he ever says to her to be a lie, “I love you too.”


He closes his eyes and thinks of ettaettaetta --

(The antimatter device is cool beneath his sleeve.)

Current Mood: relieved this monster is over omfg
Current Music: Loading...
Mack the Spoon: fringemack_the_spoon on December 5th, 2012 05:41 am (UTC)
Oh, man, I hope this isn't the way things happen but this is REALLY good.