Disclaimer: I only wish that I owned Fringe, so I could have them make another 100 episodes.
A/N: Today's monologue in my head goes as follows:
I will not write a Fringe fanfic. I will not write a Fringe fanfic. I will not write a Fringe fanfic.
It's a ridiculous thing to do, right? After all, *I* just finished watching it (all 100 episodes in 13 days), but it's been off the air for 3 years! It doesn't make any sense to write something new at this point. Why am I even thinking about it?
This is what I've told myself, except that I'm not listening. I tend to fall hard for TV characters, and when I do, logic does not make a bit of difference to me. So I'm doing it anyway. I don't usually write one shots – I have this tendency to write what my husband helpfully points out are stories that are longer than many actual novels. Like I said, I fall hard for characters and it takes me a long time to work through my feelings. :) I love to poke around in their heads and see what makes them tick, and go beyond what they say and do on TV. So I have no idea how many chapters this will be or if there's anyone out there to read it. For me it's mostly a way of working through my newfound love for Peter and Olivia. It's much cheaper and more fun than therapy, after all.
OK, enough babbling, here it is. If you have thoughts, please leave them for me. Thanks!
He could just tell that she was going to be a pain in his ass.
As he reached the bottom of the open, wide spiral staircase after a successful meeting with a pair of new clients at what was arguably the nicest hotel in Baghdad, he heard his name being called by an unfamiliar woman's voice. This was unexpected, since he was there on business, and because he chose his meeting locations carefully so that he wouldn't be ambushed. Clearly, he'd missed something this time. Who else could possibly know him here? He turned to face her, and was surprised to see a woman whose blonde hair and western clothing made her stick out sharply in this part of the world.
"Peter Bishop? Olivia Dunham," she said, extending her hand to him for a handshake and looking him firmly in the eyes. "I'm with the FBI."
He paused for a second to consider this new information. She was certainly not what he envisioned an FBI agent to look like – he'd dealt with a few of them when he was on jobs in the States, but none that looked like her. He was almost distracted from her all-business tone by her long, straight blonde hair, pulled back into a ponytail. She was dressed casually, khakis and a dark brown t-shirt, which he couldn't help but notice fit her perfectly. While he found himself slightly distracted by her, he quickly realized that she was looking at him deathly seriously, as though state secrets were at stake. Still, he imagined that he could probably charm her pretty easily, as he generally could with most women.
He had a way with women, and while he wasn't one to brag, he was had more than his fair share of confidence. Really, he had a way with most people in general. In his line of work, such as it was, that was an absolute necessity. He'd always been able to tell people exactly what they wanted to hear in exactly the way that they wanted to hear it, and make them believe him, even when it was purely bullshit. This skill had gotten him into a ton of trouble, but it had also gotten him out of trouble even more times. He didn't really care for the label of "con man," but he supposed that that was what he was.
So the woman standing in front of him was an FBI agent. The FBI, of course, only had jurisdiction in the United States, which made him immediately wonder what she was doing there. Logically he had no reason to be nervous – there was nothing to suggest that she had anything on him for any of his past or present jobs.
"Okay," was his only response, still waiting to find out what she wanted. It occurred to him that it could be bad for business to be seen standing in this lobby, conversing with an FBI agent, and he was a little bit anxious to be done with this conversation already.
It was the serious look on her face, the one that told him that she took herself and her job far too seriously, combined with the determination that he saw in her eyes, that immediately told him that she was going to be a pain in his ass, that she wasn't going to just ask him a question and then go away.
He smiled at her insincerely, already having been on high alert for trouble from the moment she said that she was with the FBI. What did she know about him? Was he being investigated? No, that couldn't be it. First of all, he was far too careful. Always. He didn't like to brag, but he knew without a doubt that he was good at what he did – which was almost anything, really. He found a need and he filled it. With the people who he generally worked for, he wouldn't have survived this long if he wasn't good at what he did.
Secondly, if someone had been investigating him, that would have been the job of the CIA, and they wouldn't have come right up to him and announced themselves. Just wait and see what she has to say, he told himself as he continued to smile at her. Despite the fact that he knew she couldn't possibly have anything on him, he felt more than a little uncomfortable with the way she was studying him. After all, he could read people, and he could tell that she could, too.
When she'd finally made her request – for some insane reason, she wanted to talk to his crazy ass father back in the loony bin back in Boston, and she couldn't get in without him because only immediate family was authorized to visit – he relaxed. There was absolutely no way he was abandoning the deal he had just set up to fly halfway around the world to do this woman, this stranger who was a damn federal agent, a favor. He hadn't felt any remorse whatsoever when he'd turned to walk away from her. He couldn't believe she was asking that of him in the first place.
As he started walking away and she suddenly told him, to his back, that she was begging for his help, he turned around and was surprised to see something in her eyes that he hadn't expected from someone who a second ago had seemed like such a hard-ass. Pleading. This was clearly very personal to her, and suddenly he knew that he held all of the power, a feeling that he'd always enjoyed.
"I'm going to beg you, as one human being to another. Your father may be able to save someone who's dying. Someone I care about very much." She stared at him, her expression suddenly revealing that she was at his mercy.
For just a second, he felt something that surprised him. Just then, if it had been within his power to help her without completely sabotaging his own business, he would have. He couldn't say exactly what it was about her, about the way she was looking at him… people didn't get to him. They just didn't. He was the one who manipulated others – because he did know that that was what he did – not the other way around. He stared at her for a second, wondering what the hell was happening to him, then quickly regained control of himself.
Clearly, she isn't as good at what she does as I thought, he thought as he turned to walk away once again, dismissing her pleas with a line about how "we all care about someone who's dying." Even if he wanted to help her, there was no way in hell he was going anywhere near Boston, and certainly not anywhere near the man he only grudgingly admitted was his father.
It wasn't until this, the second time he turned to walk away, however, that she truly surprised him. He'd already made it across the lobby by then, done with the conversation and unwilling to even entertain the idea of returning to the States with her just so that she could talk to his father. So sorry about that guy you wanted to save, but I can't help you, he thought as he left her standing at the bottom of the stairs, watching him go.
But he was about to learn that she wasn't finished with him yet. There in the midst of the crowded hotel lobby, she'd raised her voice to an uncomfortably loud volume, and her next words had him turning around immediately to face her again, ready to say whatever was necessary to just get her to stop talking. "I know why you're here," she told him. He had the sinking feeling that his expression was betraying him, but try as he might, he just couldn't force a more convincing smile to appear on his face. Peter Bishop didn't get nervous, but that was exactly what he was now feeling.
What the hell was she talking about?
Did he really believe that the FBI had a file on him, as she claimed? He laughed nervously when she told him that they did. He didn't quite believe it, but he was unable to discount the idea completely, just in case it was the truth. It was simply too big of a gamble to take, even for him. Now her eyes, the desperation in which he had mistaken for weakness only a moment ago, told him something else altogether.
Not only had he underestimated her, but he wasn't the one who was in control, after all. And apparently, despite his refusal a moment before, he was about to return to Boston with her.
She'd seen pictures of him, of course, but even so, in real life he looked younger than she had expected. Somehow he looked every bit the self-assured genius, and yet also less of the stereotypical, slick con man, more of the ruggedly handsome type than what she'd imagined. He looked to her like a guy who could fake humility when he needed to, but who, in reality, possessed far more than a healthy amount of confidence. After all, from what she'd read, he was most likely accustomed to being the smartest one in the room pretty much all the time. If that meant that he was about to underestimate her, then all the better. She'd long since learned to use this to her advantage.
Yes, she had to concede that he was good looking – not that anything about the way he looked mattered in this situation. What she knew about his questionable past activities was more than enough to keep her from believing whatever he might be about to say. On the contrary, she was pretty sure that she'd be able to use his past deception to her advantage, if that became necessary. She didn't have specific details about his business dealings, if that's what you wanted to call them, but there was no reason that he had to know that. Really, what she knew of what he'd managed to accomplish over the years was, while illegal, quite impressive. Too bad he'd decided to use his talents on the wrong side of the law, or he might have had a career in law enforcement.
She spotted him quickly as he came down the stairs of one of the nicer hotels in Baghdad, where she'd managed to track him down, noting with satisfaction that as soon as she introduced herself, he seemed to become noticeably uncomfortable. His discomfort appeared to start as soon as she'd uttered the letters "FBI." Not that it came as too great a surprise, considering the illegal activities that she knew he'd been engaged in, to say nothing of whatever he'd done that they didn't know about. Surely with his record, there were plenty of things for which he was worried about being investigated.
Looking into his eyes, however, as she watched him display just a touch of – was it anxiety? – over what she was doing there, she couldn't but help feel like whatever he'd managed to get away with up until then, somehow there was still more to him than what she'd read in her research. She couldn't decide whether that was a good thing or a bad thing, and at that moment it didn't really matter.
The only thing that did matter was that she needed a way to convince Peter to come back to Boston with her so that she could get into St. Clair's to talk to his father, whether he wanted to or not. Walter Bishop was her only lead, the only person who could help her save John. She wondered if she'd be able to successfully bluff the con man, so as she looked at him, she made sure that she exuded even more confidence that she actually felt.
His forced pleasant demeanor quickly evaporated, however, when she explained why she was there. It wasn't only his voice that seemed to spit venom at her for even uttering his father's name, it was his eyes as well. While every family had their issues, it appeared that there was a lot more behind this apparently dysfunctional father son relationship than her notes had led her to believe.
"And what is it exactly that you're expecting me to do? Hop on a plane with you back to Massachusetts? I just got here, honey."
Inside, she cringed at that last word. For whatever reason, some men seemed to believe that just because she was a woman, they could get away with calling her, a complete stranger and a federal agent, by some sort of pet name that should have been reserved for someone who they knew far better. It had always irritated her, and it did so now even more so, because it only showed his arrogance that much more clearly. She could see now that he wasn't going to help her voluntarily, and she knew that she had to change her tactic quickly, before he walked away. Since he seemed to have already decided to see her as some sort of weaker competitor in this game they were playing, she decided that she'd try to use that to her advantage. It wasn't that hard, after all, since she did actually feel desperate to save John. Now she just had to play up that side of herself.
"I'm going to beg you, as one human being to another. Your father may be able to save someone who's dying. Someone I care about very much." She stared at him, hoping that she was pulling it off convincingly. There wasn't a lot of acting involved, after all, it was more a matter of letting the emotions that she actually felt show through. Usually she worked hard to do just the opposite.
As she looked into his eyes, attempting to hold him there for as long as possible, for a second she thought that she had him. He looked as though he actually did want to help her. But then he looked away, and sighed, and when he looked back at her she saw regret, but not enough that he was going to do what she wanted him to do. It had been something of a Hail Mary, she knew, as what she was asking of him was no small thing. Frustration boiled inside her, knowing that she'd been close to getting him to agree, but just not quite close enough.
Watching him turn away once more, as he uttered, "I can't help you, I'm sorry," in a tone that told her that he wasn't actually very sorry at all, she knew that she had time for one more attempt. She was about to see if she could out-con the con man.
Before he got more than a few steps away, she rearranged the expression on her face so that there was no sign of the desperation that had been there a moment ago. Her expression was once again a mask of determination.
"I know why you're here," she told him loudly, not caring how many people overheard her. On the contrary, this was a big part of her strategy, because she had a strong suspicion that he did care about being overheard. Her hunch was proven right when he turned back towards her immediately, his eyes revealing surprise and discomfort. He stood there, waiting to hear what she would say next, clearly thrown off balance by her change in tactic.
"I have your file," she continued, her voice now icy. He smiled at her, a smile that an untrained eye might have seen as genuine, but that she recognized as covering his sudden nervousness.
"What file?" he asked, pretending that he was only casually interested, feigning innocence.
"The one the FBI would say doesn't exist," she replied boldly. Inside, she actually wanted to laugh, since she was telling the truth about one thing – they would say the file didn't exist because it didn't actually exist… but Peter didn't need to know that.
Speaking of Peter, he'd just experienced a dramatic change in his demeanor, and was now glancing around nervously as he began walking back towards her, smiling as though everything was fine. She didn't want to be overly confident, but thought that she might actually have him this time. She'd certainly gotten his attention, that much was for sure.
"And it has everything," she continued, looking him straight in the eyes, the look on her face completely serious. "Where you've been, what you're running from…" She was actually almost enjoying this, her voice growing quieter as he approached her. "…And what you need while you're here." He was standing right in front of her now, the two of them facing off. He looked into her eyes for a second, then his gaze lifted up above her head to scan the crowd in the lobby. This was working out better than she'd hoped, because she could now see just how very nervous he was.
"So either you come with me," she told him, attempting to finish the transaction as he finally looked back at her, "or I let certain people know your whereabouts." He smiled ever so slightly, once again glancing around the lobby, going so far as to turn his head to inspect more of the crowd at the edges of the large room. Turning back to her, he now smiled broadly, though insincerely, and she knew before he said anything that she'd won. His words were just icing on the cake.
"When do we leave?"
She felt smug satisfaction as she looked back at him, her face revealing nothing of her thoughts. "Right now," she told him seriously. "Let's go get your things."
And just like that, without either of them knowing it at the time, their adventure had only just begun.