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New Fic: Out of the Mouths of Babes

Out of the Mouths of Babes
Fandom: Fringe/The Mighty Ducks
Rated: PG
Category: Family, friendship, and humor - with a touch of Peter angst, because it’s me.
Season: AU in that this is a crossover-establishing piece, so not really relevant, but likely two-ish.
Spoilers: General series knowledge/nothing specific.
Summary: Ella tells a story. To a casual listener, it’d just be a crazy story made up by a child. To a fanfiction writer, it might be considered crackfic (or - dare I say it? - quackfic), but for a certain pair of Fringe investigators, it makes a scary amount of sense.
Disclaimer: If I said I owned Fringe, they’d send me to St Claire’s. That seems like it would suck, so no thanks. But if I claimed to own The Mighty Ducks, they’d probably just put me in the penalty box. In that case, I’d say, “Two minutes well worth it.” *grin*

xxx

Ella tilted her head sideways and reached for the remote control, pausing her movie mid-frame.

Her aunt looked down at her from the other end of the couch.

“Ella?” she asked, wondering what made the child stop the film.

“Yeah, Aunt Liv?”

“You okay, sweetie?”

Ella nodded. “Yeah. Just… he looks familiar,” she said.

Olivia looked at the TV. “Who?”

Ella pointed at screen. “That boy.”

“From what?” asked Olivia, puzzled.

“I’m not sure,” answered Ella, tilting her head more and squinting her eyes. “He just does.”

Olivia shrugged. “I’m sure it’ll come to you.”

“He doesn’t look familiar to you?”

“Can’t say that he does,” said Olivia.

Suddenly, Ella giggled and then outright laughed. “He should!”

Olivia regarded her niece like she’d grown a second head.

“Ella, what are you talking about?”

Ella started bouncing in place. “I figured out who he looks like!” she shouted.

Olivia sighed. Clearly, her idea of parking Ella in front of a movie and getting some paperwork done while the girl watched was not going to work today.

She set the folder in her lap on the end table and turned to fully face her niece.

“Okay, then. Who?”

“Uncle Peter!” she yelled.

Olivia turned her head to look at the screen, then looked back at Ella. She did this a few times before shaking her head.

“No way,” she said, steadfastly ignoring the recent tendency of her niece to call Peter her “uncle” and the possible implications of that word. “Besides, how would you know what Peter looked like at that age? That boy isn’t more than twelve years old!”

“I saw a picture at Uncle Walter’s,” said Ella, very matter-of-factly and completely sure of herself.

Olivia again ignored the even more inaccurate use of “uncle” and held up her hands in mock surrender. “Oh. Well. Then you must be right,” she said.

Ella sniffed and held up her head, then crossed her arms.

“I know I am. He looks just like Uncle Peter.”

Peter chose this moment to wander in from the kitchen with two cups of coffee in his hands.

“Who looks like me?” he asked innocently. Olivia sighed, knowing this was going nowhere fast.

“That boy on the TV,” said Ella.

Peter looked at the screen closely, handing one coffee to Olivia and taking a sip of the other as he did so.

He then nodded slowly, giving Ella a look.

“Maybe a little,” he drawled.

Ella shook her head and giggled. “Nope. Not a little. A lot!”

Peter looked again and shrugged. “His hair’s a bit long,” he said.

“You had longer hair when you were little,” argued Ella.

Peter put a hand to his chest in mock surprise. “I did? I don’t remember that! How do you know?”

“She saw a picture at your house,” explained Olivia.

“Oh,” said Peter, “I guess my secret’s out, then. You got me, Ella. I did.”

Ella giggled again. “See? I told you he looks like you!”

“But it’s not me,” said Peter.

“Duuuuh,” said Ella, all sarcasm.

“Be nice, Ella,” warned Olivia.

Peter waved her off and looked at Ella.

“But what if it was?” he asked, eyes narrowing.

Ella looked at him funny. “What?”

“What if it was me?” said Peter. “Can you make up a story where it was?”

Olivia groaned softly. Peter heard her, but ignored the noise, while Ella was blissfully ignorant of her aunt's exasperation.

Ella had started bouncing again. “Yes!” she hissed.

“Alright,” said Peter, settling in next to the little girl on the couch. “Let’s hear it.”

Ella squirmed her way under Peter’s arm and started to talk quickly.

“Once upon a time…” she started.

Olivia interrupted her. “Peter, you don’t have to stay. I appreciate you bringing me home since my car’s in the shop, but didn’t you say you had to be at the lab tonight?”

“I was just going to have this first,” he said, holding out his cup. “Surely I have time for a cup of coffee and a story, right?”

“Yes!” hissed Ella again. Then she continued before anyone could interrupt her again. “Once upon a time, there lived a boy named Peter.”

Olivia mouthed a “sorry” at Peter, but he was enjoying himself far too much to care about being late to the lab and whatever crazy experiment Walter needed help with. He waved her off, loving the fact that because he was using Ella to do so, he was allowed to distract Olivia from her work for a while.
Ella was oblivious to the exchange above her head and plowed on.

“And this boy, this other Peter, was a lot like Uncle Peter, except he played hockey, obviously,” said Ella, motioning to the TV as she spoke. Olivia noticed for the first time what Ella had been watching. It was a hockey movie of some sort and the boy in question was clearly a young player. Olivia thought the movie actually looked vaguely familiar, but she couldn’t place it for the life of her.

Before she had a chance to ask about it, Peter interrupted Ella again. “How do you know I didn’t play hockey?” he asked.

Ella rolled her eyes at him. “Because you played soccer, silly,” she explained.

“How do you know that?”

“Because I saw the picture, remember?” Ella said, clearly thinking Peter was thick.

“I could have played both, you know.”

That seemed to stump Ella for a moment, before she turned a sharp eye on Peter.

“But did you?” she asked, eyes narrowed.

Peter laughed, and Olivia grinned, remembering a previous conversation and wondering if Peter would admit his other pastime to the little girl or if he’d let her go on with her fantasy of him only playing soccer. “Actually, kiddo, I did.”

Ella’s eyes got real big and she clapped her hands as Olivia laughed.

“You did? That’s perfect! I told you he was like you. Now, let’s see, where was I?”

“The boy played hockey. That’s as far as you got,” said Peter, motioning for Ella to continue.

She obliged in short order.

“So, this boy, the other Peter, he looked like Uncle Peter, but he lived in an alternate universe, so things were different after that,” said Ella.

At the mention of the words “alternate universe,” both Peter’s and Olivia’s eyebrows shot up and they stared at each other for a moment over Ella’s head before both turned back to Ella, eyebrows suddenly closer together and faces rapt with attention. Ella just kept spinning her tale, unaware of the reaction her words had caused.

“This Peter was just a kid, and he had a beautiful mom and a great dad and a dog and a cat and he was really good at hockey, but it wasn’t always that way.”

“It wasn’t?” asked Olivia.

Ella shook her head. “Nope. See, when Peter was little, he was really sick. He couldn’t play sports at all.”

Peter squirmed and Olivia sent him a concerned look, but Ella still just plowed on, completely oblivious to Peter’s discomfort, as only small children are.

“He was so sick he nearly died, even. His mom and his cat and his dog were sad, but his dad wasn’t sad. He was mad. So mad he made a deal with some bad people to get a cure for Peter.”

Olivia paled, and stopped Ella as Peter squirmed again.

“Ella, are you making this story up?”

Ella nodded. “Yep!” she said. “Do you like it?”

Olivia pursed her lips, not sure how to answer. “It’s very… creative, honey. But are you sure Uncle Walter didn’t tell it to you?”

Ella shook her head. “No way! His stories are always so weird! But do you think it should be aliens who had the cure instead of people? I was thinking maybe this universe has aliens in it. You think it should be aliens, Aunt Liv?”

Olivia shrugged. “It can be whatever you want, sweetie. But maybe we should take a break,” she said, aware of Peter’s slight scowl, though Ella couldn’t see it, nestled as she was in her “uncle’s” lap.

“Do we have to?” whined Ella. “I was just getting to the good part.”

Olivia glanced at Peter, who gave her a slight shake of his head.

“It’s fine,” he mouthed, so Olivia nodded to Ella.

“Alright, but just a little while longer, okay?”

Ella beamed. “Okay.”

“So,” she continued. “The dad, well, he made a deal with the bad guys to get the cure for Peter and it worked and Peter got better. But because the dad owed the bad people now, they made him do a lot of bad stuff and he got sent to jail.”

Peter coughed and Ella stopped for a minute. “Are you okay, Uncle Peter?” she asked.

Peter swallowed and then nodded. “Yeah. I’m fine, kiddo. Keep going.”

Olivia met his eyes and he mouthed a question to her.

“What’s going on?” he asked.

Olivia shrugged and Ella thought for a moment before speaking again.

“It was very sad when he went to jail, because no one knew why he did the bad things he did. He never told anyone it was to get the cure for Peter. Not even Peter or his mom. But because the stuff he did was so bad, Peter and his mom and the dog and the cat had to move far away, so they wouldn’t get in trouble all the time because of the stuff the dad did. They even changed their names.”

“Why would they change their names, Ella?” asked Peter.

Ella thought for a minute before lighting up. “Witness protection!” she exclaimed.

Olivia did a double take at that. “Witness protection?” she asked. “How do you know about witness protection, Ella?”

Ella sighed. “I’m nearly seven years old, Aunt Liv. And you’re in the FBI,” she said, as if this explained everything.

Olivia blinked, suddenly aware that her niece was far smarter than even she’d suspected.

“So, anyway,” continued Ella. “They had to change their names and move far away, because they were in witness protection to keep them safe from the bad guys who were still after the dad.”

“Where did they move?” asked Olivia.

“Minnesota!” said Ella. “Weren’t you watching the movie, Aunt Liv? That’s where he lives!” Ella pointed at the screen again. “And his name is Charlie!”

Peter blinked. “Charlie?” he asked, too mystified by the parallels between Ella’s story and his own life to remember the original challenge he’d given her.

“Yeah!” said Ella. “Witness protection, remember?”

“Oh, yeah…” mumbled Peter.

Ella didn’t seem to hear him and proudly announced the conclusion of her story. “And that’s how you and Charlie Conway could be the same person, Uncle Peter!”

Peter blinked at the little girl, then looked up at Olivia.

Ella smiled. “Well, in the alternate universe, anyway,” she said, shrugging.

“Actually, it does make sense,” he conceded.

Olivia nodded. “Stranger things have happened,” she agreed.

Peter chuckled. “Indeed.”

“So you liked my story?” asked Ella.

“It was a great story, kiddo,” said Peter.

“Very well told,” agreed Olivia, “But I know a certain nearly-seven-year-old who is supposed to be in bed before her mom gets home.”

Ella whined. “But Aunt Liv…”

“Don’t you ‘Aunt Liv’ me. Time for bed. Go on. Go brush your teeth and get into your PJs. I’ll be there in a minute to tuck you in.”

Ella sighed, but scampered off, leaving Peter and Olivia alone.

Olivia watched the child go, then turned to Peter.

“What was that?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” answered Peter, “but if she really made that up entirely on her own…”

Olivia snorted. “I know, right?”

“Yeah, we’re in trouble.”

“Totally,” muttered Olivia, as Peter slowly stretched and stood up.

For a moment, the pair stared at each other, awkward and unsure of how to end the evening.

Finally, Olivia spoke. “Well, thanks for the ride and for helping with her tonight. I know you probably had better things to do.”

Peter snorted. “Yeah, like watch Walter try not to blow himself up or get electrodes stuck to me.”

Olivia laughed, and it broke the tension between the two.

A moment later, a shrill voice rang out. “I’m ready, Aunt Liv!” screeched Ella.

Olivia sighed. “Duty calls,” she mumbled.

Peter smiled and grandly bowed while gesturing an “after you” toward Ella’s room, then showed himself out as Olivia went to tuck Ella in for the night.

As he drove home, he thought that in all honesty, there was really nothing he’d have rather done that night, even given Ella’s bizarre story-telling abilities.

Before he even arrived home, Olivia dozed off on the couch while waiting for her sister to get home from a rare late shift. Rachel would leave her there when she came in, and in the morning, both Olivia and Peter would agree that even if Ella was telling the truth and her story was all her own, they really needed to limit her time with Walter as much as possible.

And the next time they watched a movie together, they watched The Mighty Ducks, because Peter found out that Olivia had never actually seen it in entirety, and he just couldn’t have that. About halfway through, they paused the film for a bathroom break, and before they hit play again, they talked it over and they had to agree that Ella was right. If things had been different, Charlie Conway really could be a young Peter Bishop.

A/N: The conversation in which Olivia and Peter talk hockey occurs in my fic, Epiphany. Also, this fic is the intro to a series of AU fics in which, yes, Charlie Conway and Peter Bishop are the same person. Those fics were written first and had a long intro note explaining their premise, but I never cared for that, so they have not yet been posted. But it turns out that Ella was much better suited to explain things, so here we are. More coming later.

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