Disclaimer: Fringe belongs to JJ Abrams, Torchwood belongs to the Beeb, all I have is my Microsoft Word...|
(A Torchwood/Fringe Crossover)
Walter didn't even twitch a muscle when the transmat beam lit up the room, he just kept on working. Jack supposed that the element of surprise had been a little too much to ask for, all things considered. "Hello, Walter, long time, no see."
"It's impolite to teleport into another person’s private space without their permission," he said, with a measured voice. He poked at the insides of the contraption on his lab table, and muttered darkly under his breath. Jack strained to make out the words as he walked up to the table and eyed the tangle on it. It seemed to be a peculiar mishmash of modern tech and vintage eighties circuitry.
"That's all you've got to say to me, after all this time?" Jack eventually asked, as the silence went on. It hadn't escaped his notice that Walter hadn't looked up once since he'd arrived; not even a sly, sideways glance.
"I've been locked up in a funny farm for the last seventeen years..." his voice trailed off, his hands going limp as his eyes darted over the counter. "I got old," he admitted quietly.
"I know," Jack said, feeling a pang of regret; for what had happened, for what neither of them could have changed.
"Why are you here, Captain?" Walter asked suddenly, irritation bleeding into his voice as he changed the subject. "You can't shut me down, you know. It's not allowed; I'm working for a federal agency on importan--"
"Looking for the pattern," Jack cut in. "I know, but that's not important right now."
"Really, a pattern?" Surprise made Walter glare at him and Jack found himself staring into a pair of hazel eyes he'd thought he'd never see again. "I didn't know," Walter burst out. "They never mentioned a pattern...although, now that I know, I can see it...yes...yes, it makes sense...."
Jack wasn't sure if Walter’s words were meant for him, or if he was talking to himself, but he let him ramble on as he tried to collect himself. He'd thought he'd been ready to see Walter after all these years, but he hadn't been prepared for the deep lines etched into his face, or the confusion and sorrow in his eyes. Where was the Walter he'd known? Had that bright and brilliant man died all those years ago? It took him a moment to register the fact Walter was putting on his coat and leaving. "Walter, where are you going?"
"I'm going for a milkshake," he said. "My assistant said she'd get me one, but she hasn't come back yet; and Peter....I don't know where Peter...is..." He looked around the room, and Jacks eyes followed him.
"Walter, is that a cow in the corner?"
"Yes, but I don't have an ice cream maker, so we have to go to the diner."
Jack was relatively sure that Walter was making sense on some level. Then, the name clicked. "Peter? Peter is here?" Broyles hadn't mentioned that.
"Of course he isn't. Are you blind as well as deaf?” Walter snapped. "Do you see him here? Didn't I just say he wasn't here?"
Jack swallowed, he wasn't sure how to handle this older, madder version of the man he'd once called a friend. "Sorry, Walter."
"Yes, well..." He pulled on his gloves and wandered towards the door.
"Walter, could you wait just a moment, I need to talk—"
"No, no talk," Walter said, suddenly agitated. "I'm going to the diner."
"But Walter—" Jack stopped. Maybe he was taking the wrong tack. "I'll join you."
"Huh" Walter stared at him, searching his face. For a moment, Jack saw a spark of intellect, of understanding. "Do you like strawberries?" he asked.
Walter slurped through his straw greedily, and Jack studied him uneasily as he took a sip of his coffee. He'd spent the last two hours trying to screw up the courage for this meeting, but he'd been expecting to meet a different man, not this distracted and confused shell.
"The drugs," Walter muttered, as he let go of his straw. "I still haven't found my way back."
Jack slumped back into his seat. It seemed Walter's ability to guess what he was thinking was still intact. "I need a favour, Walter," he said.
"No," Walter said.
"You don't understand—"
"Don't tell me I don't understand!" Jack went rigid as Walter thumped the table with his fist, his voice booming around the diner. "I'm crazy, not stupid!"
"Walter, you need to calm down—"
But Walter was already standing and putting on his coat. "Never change, you never change!"
A waitress was suddenly hovering by their side, and Jack stood as he reached for his wallet. "Sorry about that."
"No need to explain," the waitress said dryly. "We're used to Walter's episodes, by now."
Jack pulled a face at he watched Walter scuttle towards the door. "Keep the change," he said, throwing a twenty on the table. He caught the door just before it swung closed. "Walter, wait!"
"No more waiting," Walter roared, as he stalked down the sidewalk. "I waited, and waited, but no one came, and then I forgot, and my wife died, and Peter hates m--" he staggered to a halt. "You need to leave," he said lowly. "I can't have you here...too many memories."
"Walter, I'm sorry, but I can't--"
"I can't, you can't, can't, can't, can't," Walter muttered. "You're like a broken record, skipping and repeating endlessly. Leave me, go away."
"No, Walter, I can't do that," Jack said grimly. "Too many people are counting on me." It was the wrong thing to say.
"Counting on you?" Walter whirled on his feet, and glared at him venomously. "Poor fools, don't they know? A recipe for disaster and betrayal." He broke into a trot and sped up the steps into the college.
For a moment, Jack was tempted to leave; to forget that Walter Bishop even existed - or Ellen Bishop, or little Peter. Of course, little Peter wouldn't be so little anymore. It had been nearly twenty years since he'd last seen him and, if he didn't convince his father to help him now, he wouldn't live to see another twenty. "Damn it, Walter," Jack muttered as he followed him up the steps.
Walter had left the lab door ajar in his haste to get away from him, but Jack lingered outside as he heard an unfamiliar voice.
"Walter, I told you not to go wandering off without telling me. You have my cell numbe—"
"I'm not a child!"
"Then stop acting like one! You know Peter would freak out if you went missing again, and you don't want that, do you?"
Silence fell. "No, of course not, my apologies... m'dear," Walter said eventually, his voice soft.
"Yes, of course... Astrid."
Jack gently pushed the door open and stepped inside. A young woman, with a halo of dark curls around her pretty face, was glaring at Walter. In her hands, she held two milkshakes. "Just don't do it again," she scolded. "I like you, Walter, but I can't keep playing this game with you."
Jack cleared his throat, and the young woman jumped. "The door was open," he said.
"It was not an invitation," Walter growled. "Go away, Jack."
"Walter, don't be rude," Astrid said automatically before smiling up at him politely. "But I'm afraid he's right, sir. This is a federal lab and off limits to the public."
"I'm not the public," Jack said. "I'm an old friend of Walter's."
"Huh, no friend of mine," Walter snapped, his mouth falling into a stubborn line. "Go away, Captain!"
"Captain?" Astrid echoed, ignoring Walter's outburst. She seemed inured to them, which probably meant Walter's erratic behaviour wasn't due solely to his presence. Jack wasn't sure if he was happy about that.
"Captain Jack Harkness," he said, with a smile. "Agent Broyles gave me clearance to be here."
She looked at him suspiciously. "I wasn't notified of any such clearance."
Jack shrugged. "I asked him to let me introduce myself, first."
"You didn't want me to know you were coming," Walter grumbled.
"Yeah," Jack admitted quietly. "That was a factor; but this is important, Walter. It's about the Omega—"
"La, la, la," Walter said hurriedly, clapping his hands over his ears. "Go away!"
"Captain Harkness, perhaps it's best if you leave," Astrid said cautiously, as she placed the milkshakes on a counter. "There's no reasoning with him when he's in this mood."
"I'm sorry Astrid, but I can't do that," Jack said. "Maybe you could give us a few moments alone, I need to talk to Walter in private, anyway."
"I'm not sure if I should—"
"Why don't you give Agent Broyles a call, and pass it by him." Jack interrupted.
"No, no need, I don't want to talk with him," Walter said. "Tell him to go. Peter will be here soon."
"Peter? What has Peter got to do with this?" Astrid asked, puzzled.
"Nothing, he has nothing to do with this," Walter said sharply. "Now leave me alone. I have work to do."
Jack watched as Walter exchanged his overcoat for his lab whites. A stream of indistinguishable words came out of his mouth, and Jack felt something inside him break a little. Agent Broyles had warned him that Walter's mental condition was fragile, but it was another thing witnessing it.
He knew that a lot of Walter's mental incapacity was due to his drug regime at the hospital. Certain people had wanted him to be docile and quiet during his stay there; but Jack had thought - he'd hoped - that Walter would somehow become his old self once the had chemicals left his system. He’d forgotten to factor in what seventeen long years in a mental institution would do.
"Don't look at me like that!" Walter demanded. "Here, hold this! You might as well make yourself useful if you refuse to leave." Jack looked dubiously at the sealed black metal box Walter held out to him, and then sneaked a look at his assistant. She was busy on the phone, no doubt checking up on his credentials.
"This isn't going to kill me, is it, Walter?" he asked.
Walter smirked. "So what if it did?" he asked slyly, pushing the box into Jack's chest. "It's not as if it would be permanent."
Jack grabbed the box before it fell to the ground; it had a solitary, thick wire attacked to its lid. "Walter, I need to know where you put the Omega Device--"
The world whited out.
He was conscious, but everything was disjointed, faded. Voices caught his attention and he strained to follow them.
"You really don't have any idea how serious this is, do you? You've just killed a man, Walter, he's dead. They're going to send you back to the nuthouse, and this time they'll throw away the key - and I'll let them."
The voice was young, masculine, Jack couldn't place it, but it seemed strangely familiar.
"Peter, Peter, do not worry. All we have to do is dump him in an abandoned lot and he won't be our problem anymore."
"Are you, crazy, Walter - no wait, what am I saying? Of course you're crazy, that's why you were locked up in an insane asylum for the last two decades, and that's why you're going back!"
Ah, Peter, that explained it. Jack tried to open his eyes, and groaned as a deep pain snapped through him. Whatever Walter had done to him, it had packed quite a punch.
"Shit, he's alive," Peter’s voice said.
"Yes, worst luck," Walter said glumly. "I had hoped it would last a while longer."
“But he should be dead! I checked his pulse. I did mouth to mouth!”
Jack smirked, and then winced as his face ached in protest. Damn it, what had Walter done to him? A face swam into view, and Jack found himself looking into Ellen Bishop's eyes. "Like your mother," he muttered.
Peter Bishop frowned down at him. “You knew my mother?”
“Don’t listen to him, Peter,” Walter said, agitated. “I don’t want you to listen to him.”
“Don’t worry, Walter, I just want to talk to you about the Omega Project, that’s all,” Jack said, trying to put reassurance into his voice as he gingerly sat up on the couch.
"Then you'll go?" Walter glowered at him; worried and a little scared. Jack didn't like seeing fear in Walter's face, not when he was looking at him.
"Then I'll go, Walter," he said.
"And never come back?"
Walter gave him a flat look. "You shouldn't make promises," he said. "You don't know how to keep them."
Jack looked around the room. Astrid sat at her desk, studiously trying to ignore them. Peter's eyes were flitting from him to his father, irritation and concern warring on his face. He looked so much like his mother; it was... he needed to get away from here.
"Let's take a walk, Walter," he suggest, as he hauled himself to his feet.
"You're in no condition to walk," Peter said reluctantly.
"I'll manage," Jack said, ignoring the flaming agony in his joints as he stood. "Walter?"
Walter looked at him, his body still. "I'll go with you," he said, nodding sharply.
Peter shifted uncomfortably on his feet. "Walter, I don't think that—"
"I'll be fine, Peter," Walter said sharply. "And he'll bring me back, won't you, Jack?"
"I'll bring him back," Jack said softly, to Peter. "This won't take long, anyway."
They sat on a park bench, side by side. Walter silently tore pieces off the pretzel he'd bought from a vendor, and fed it to the pigeons landing at their feet. He had a wide, childlike smile on his face, and Jack was filled with another sudden urge to be elsewhere; anywhere other than here. He let none of it show on his face.
"I need you to tell me where it is, Walter," he said. "I need it."
"I am the alpha, I am the omega, there is nothing in between," Walter murmured, as the pigeons cooed around them. "It's imperfect, never finished."
"It doesn't matter. It only has to work once. I can make it work once."
"You broke your promise, Jack," he said. "You didn't keep my Ellen safe."
"I tried Walter, she wouldn't let me." A beat later. "She didn't believe me."
"You didn't try hard enough - you were useless, useless!"
Jack watched silently as Walter jumped to his feet and scattered the panicked pigeons. There was nothing he could say. Walter was right, he had had failed him. Walter Bishop, a man who’d saved Jack's life, well before he realised it didn't need saving, had only asked of him exactly one favour during their long friendship, and Jack had failed him miserably. Ellen had died, and Peter had been left to fend for himself.
Walter stormed across the lawn, and Jack couldn't summon the courage to chase him. He should have stuck to his initial instinct and sent Gwen instead. He closed his eyes, and attempted to ignore his still aching limbs as he tried to figure out what he should do next. He still needed the Omega device but—
The scratch of boots on asphalt caught his attention, and he opened his eyes. Walter was standing in front of him, his gaze riveted on a pigeon that was helping itself to the last remains of the pretzel he’d had thrown away a moment before. "They're never really lost, you know," he said. "They can always find their way home... can you?"
"What do you mean, Walter?"
"Twenty three, twenty two, thirty point five one. Twenty three, twenty six, twenty one," he rumbled. "Don't get lost, Jack. Time is an unforgiving master."
Jack stared after him, wordlessly, as Walter strolled off. He wondered if he should make sure he made it back to the lab okay.
But then he thought no, it was better this way.
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