Date: 2011-12-22 04:21 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Peter’s first thought wasn’t a thought as such, more an automatic response to stay alive: flailing his arms, kicking his legs, and then a deep gasp of air as his head broke the surface of the water. This time there were no father and son in a fishing boat to come to his rescue.

On the plus side, Peter reflected, it wasn’t winter and he wasn’t freezing to death below a ceiling of ice.

It took him a couple of seconds orientate himself – it wasn’t like he came here for fun – before he headed for the far shore.

Why was it he always seemed to go under as far away as possible from any civilization?

It wasn’t until he was nearing the shore that he realized that he was also naked.

“Perfect,” Peter muttered as he felt his feet touch bottom.

Not only did he have no idea which universe he was in, but he had no idea when it was, both in terms of the date and the hour.

From the forest he heard the sound of running feet and he froze. He was literally as naked as the day he was born and had no way to defend himself. Resigned to getting hauled in for indecent exposure, Peter waited where he was, cool water lapping softly just under his sternum, to find out what his fate would be.

This time he wasn’t saying a word until he figured out where he was.

Two military-looking types broke through the trees and skidded to a stop. While they weren’t wearing fatigues, they were dressed entirely in black; black ball caps, black t-shirts, black BDU pants, and black army boots. More worrying was the fact that they both had guns strapped to their right thighs. The one on the left smirked at him and crossed his arms; the one on the right kept her eyes fixed squarely on Peter’s.

“Can I ask what you’re doing here, sir?” the woman asked in a no-nonsense voice.

“I’m not exactly sure.” Peter crossed his arms and felt foolish, but there was no helping the fact that he was buck naked and had no idea how he’d gotten here. Though at an educated guess, Peter figured ‘here’ was Reiden Lake.

“Can I asked what happened to your clothes?” asked her counterpart. Peter could hear the amusement in his voice as he leaned a shoulder against a tree trunk.

“I’m not exactly sure about that either.” Peter grinned sheepishly. Experience had taught him that the less threatening he looked, the better the outcome of any particular situation.

“If you wait where you are, sir,” said the woman, “I’ll get you a blanket from the shack.”

“Thanks.” Peter smiled gratefully at her.

“Want to tell me how you got here?” asked the man as his partner disappeared back into the trees.

“I wasn’t trying to be evasive before; I have no idea how I got here. I have no idea what I’m doing here. And, no, I have no idea where my clothes are.”

Though he was trying, Peter couldn’t make out any distinguishing markings or patches to give him the smallest clues as to which universe he’d found himself in. He couldn’t even tell if the guards were private or military. If he had to venture a guess, Peter would put money on them both being ex-military now employed by the private sector. However, he couldn’t even begin to speculate as to why they were out here.

“Do you know where you are?” the man asked in the deceptively relaxed manner of those trained in a very specialized, very deadly, form of combat interrogation.

“Reiden Lake.” Peter tried not to let it sound like too much of a question.

“Where did you come from?” The tone stayed mild, but Peter could see the man’s eyes assessing everything, despite the smirk and relaxed stance.

“Look, I’m naked, getting colder by the second, and feel like I haven’t eaten in a week. I don’t have any answers for you. Not because I’m hiding anything, but because I really have no idea how I ended up here.”

Which wasn’t exactly true, but Peter wasn’t going to start explaining his hypotheses about alternate universes, diverging timelines, mistakes in the slipstreams of the world, and Observers who somehow seemed to get involved far more than their name suggested.

Before the guy could ask him any more questions, the woman came back with a standard issue grey wool blanket folded over her left arm.

“I’ve radioed back to HQ and they’re sending a jeep,” she addressed them both, again looking him directly in the eyes. “I’m going to turn my back.”

“Thanks,” Peter said.

“Don’t be too grateful,” the man said sardonically, “I’m not going to turn around.”

“Usually, I get my date to buy me a drink and fries before I let them see me naked.” Peter said, smiling wryly.

“Think of me as love at first sight type of date,” the man shot back.

“Can I at least know your name?” Peter inquired.

“Bill Black,” the man told him. “My partner, Jill Green.”

“For real?” Peter stared at him incredulously.

“If I was going to make up names, don’t you think I would have done better?”

“Fair enough.”

“If you two are done flirting, do you think that Mr. Bishop would like to get out of the water so we can get back to monitoring the lake?” Jill asked, addressing her partner before turning her back.

“How do you know my name?” Every muscle in Peter’s body tightened when she said his name. And though he knew it was hopeless, he tried to figure out a way to escape.

“Since you disappeared the second time, the lake has been cordoned off and we’ve set up twenty-four hour surveillance,” Bill informed him as Peter made his way out of the water.

Shocked, cold, and more than a little worried, Peter wrapped the blanket around himself.

“How long was I gone?”

“Seventeen months,” Jill informed him when he and Bill walked up to stand next to her. “There are a lot of people who are going to be very interested in your return. Welcome home, Mr. Bishop.”

Home could mean just about anywhere and anytime. Numbly, Peter followed them into the woods, automatically skirting the twigs and small rocks in the path as his mind whirled at the possibilities.

# # #

This time, he kept his mouth firmly shut, pleading ignorance to pretty much every question anyone asked him. It was too late to pretend he didn’t know his own name, but experience was one hell of a teacher and he refused to say anything else until he talked to someone he knew and he could take his cues from them.


The voice was familiar, as was the blond hair, but Peter had no idea which version of Olivia had just slipped silently into the room while he was staring out the window. Peter had been so caught up in figuring out a strategy for surviving this world that someone – Olivia – had managed to enter the room without him being aware.

“So it would seem.” He steeled himself against the flood of emotions that washed over him; happiness and worry, joy and sorrow, friendship and desire. The love he felt, would always feel, was both incredible joy and gut-ripping pain.

“Where were you?” Olivia asked as she walked up right into his personal space, her eyes searching his for answers he couldn’t give.

“I don’t know.” It took a physical effort not to reach out and touch her, but he’d been fooled by clever doubles before. And his last memory was stepping aside when he realized that the woman who was so like his Olivia wasn’t quite right and would never be his lover.

“Peter?” Olivia cocked her head and worry filled her eyes. “Do you know who I am?”

“You’re Olivia Dunham.” That, he figured, he could answer without revealing too much. Not that he really had all that much to reveal besides confusion and hopes barely surviving the repeated bludgeonings of fate.

There were just too many variables for him to know if this Olivia is his Olivia.

“What’s the last thing you remember?”

“Studying blueprints.” It was another safe answer that also had the happy coincidence of happening to be true. If it turned out he was back with Olivia 2.0, he didn’t want to say anything that could cause her to want to lock him up.

The fact he once again found himself in a world so similar to his that he couldn’t currently tell them apart hurt. That he couldn’t just pull Olivia into his arms and hold her until his world made at least the smallest bit of sense was tearing him apart.

Not that any of that was anything Peter was willing to talk about right now. That he might almost be home, but not quite, might almost be with her, but not quite, hurt too much to bring up if once again it turned out he was in the wrong time, wrong place.

“You have been gone for nearly a year and a half. Your…” Tears gathered in her eyes as she trailed off. “Your body was found on the shores of Reiden Lake eight months ago.” Olivia took a huge step back from him and crossed her arms. “The body showed no signs of decomposition.”

Shock Peter didn’t think he was capable of feeling rocked him back a full step. Dead. They thought he was dead in this universe. Again. Or maybe just for the first time as he really didn’t know where he was.

“You buried me?” The pain on Olivia’s face was plain to see and Peter couldn’t help but stepping forward, trying to offer her whatever comfort he could.

“Where have you been?” she whispered, voice achingly filled with loss that nearly brought him to his knees.

“I don’t know.” At this point, he would gladly tell her if he knew, just to try and ease some of the agony that he could feel coming off of her in waves. If this wasn’t his Olivia, then she was one that was just as in love with him as his was.

They stood in silence for countless minutes just studying the other, weighing the person in front of them, trying to determine what to say. Out of the four Olivias he’d had contact with, two of them had loved him. Or maybe it was the same one, just at different times. And one fooled him into believing that she loved him as much as he loved her.

“Stegosaurus?” Olivia finally whispered.

“Olivia?” Peter asked, hardly daring to believe that the woman standing in front of him was his Olivia.

“Stegosaurus,” she repeated, staring at him with tears in her eyes.

“Pale Blue Eyes,” he responded.

Unable to hold back any longer, Peter was next to her in two strides, wrapping his arms around her. From the way her arms banded around him and her shuddering breaths, Peter couldn’t help but accept that while he might be out of time, he was most definitely back where he belonged.

Part of the fallout from FauxLivia was a secret code between them, one that she had to say without any prompting from him, to confirm her identity if there was ever any question. As far as they could tell, there was just one Peter Bishop, but it didn’t hurt to be careful, so he had an answering phrase.

“Where have you been?” she asked again, her face buried in his neck.

“Honest to god, Olivia, I have no idea.” When he started to pull back, her arms tightened around him. Freeing his arm from around her back, Peter ran a soothing hand down the sleek fall of her ponytail over and over again.

“No burrowing,” she mumbled, her breath still hitching against his throat.

“Promise,” he said, even as his other hand rubbed a couple of circles over the small of her back.

She pulled back from him, searching his face. “Jerk.”

Whatever else she wanted to say, he cut off with his lips on hers. It felt like it had been years since he’d last held her, months since he’d last kissed her. And from the desperate way she was returning his kiss, it must have been the same for her.

“I love you,” she whispered when they broke apart.

“I love you too,” he answered, wondering exactly how long she’d waited to hear him return her sentiment. From the fleeting smile and the joy in her eyes, too long.

And then he didn’t care, because her lips were on his again, and her tongue was seeking entrance into his mouth. She tasted like home and safety, like a thousand private moments and a million hopeful dreams.

Peter wasn’t sure where he’d been or why he’d been. He carried with him memories of two different times, two different Olivias since he’d last seen his and he didn’t give a damn.

All he wanted was never again to be far away from the woman in his arms. He held on to her as tightly as he dared, terrified that she would disappear if he didn’t.

Shudders shook his body – relief and joy – and seemed to engulf Olivia. Together they broke the kiss, but didn’t pull too far apart and he rested his forehead against hers.

“I want to go home,” he said, hoping she knew he meant he wanted to go back with her, wherever she was going.

“Soon,” she promised, pulling back to look at him. It seemed as if she couldn’t get enough of just looking at him. “I just want to stay here for a little while longer.”

“Okay,” he murmured, wrapping one arm around her waist as he stroked the tears away. Just once, he would like to not have caused her so much pain that she cried because of him. That the pain was mixed with a bittersweet joy at his return didn’t erase the initial cause.

“I missed you,” Olivia said, cupping his face with her hands, then slowly traced his eyebrows, the rise of his cheeks, the line of his jaw.

“I missed you, too,” Peter told her, leaning in to her touch. Wanting more of the soft caresses, wanting never to long for them knowing he had no right to them, knowing that though the woman before him looked exactly like his Olivia that she wasn’t the one he loved.

“I thought you said you didn’t know where you were.”

“For seventeen months, no, I have no idea where I was.” He kissed her softly, then pulled back to look her in the eye. “But for nearly a month I was somewhere that was like home, only not quite. You were there, but you didn’t know me. Didn’t know what we were to each other.”


“I don’t know.”

Olivia nodded her acceptance, then just went back to tracing his features.

Outside of the room, Peter could hear some sort of commotion, but no one was calling either of their names and he didn’t think that anyone cared right now what they were doing. So there they stood in each other’s embrace, exchanging slow kisses and long looks because frankly, even if he got to stay here, even if this was his home – and he was really starting to think that it was, that the woman in his arms, returning kiss for kiss, touch for touch, was his Olivia – Peter wasn’t sure what was going to come next and right then was just about perfect.

With a sigh, he gathered her close and just savored the feel of her mouth under his, the way her body fit against his, the way that part he couldn’t explain with science was finally at peace.
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