Title: The Logic of Peace
Pairing: Anderson Cooper/Keith Olbermann
Rating: PG-13?
Summary: There are some stories Anderson will never get to tell. There are others he will never have the chance to learn.
Warnings: suicide, discussion of serious mental and physical illness
Notes: [profile] emmelinep has graciously looked over this and cleared it for public consumption.
Disclaimer: All television shows, movies, books, and other copyrighted material referred to in this work, and the characters, settings, and events thereof, are the properties of their respective owners. As this work is an interpretation of the original material and not for-profit, it constitutes fair use. Reference to real persons, places, or events are made in a fictional context, and are not intended to be libelous, defamatory, or in any way factual.

She is a doctoral candidate at NYU and tomorrow morning, bright and early, she is going to kill herself. Anderson is not aware of this. If he were, there is no guarantee he would be able to do anything to stop it. But it's the kind of thing he would probably like to know.

As it is, he knows only that when he sat down outside this cafe, she was already on the fire escape across the street, smoking cigarettes end to end and staring off into space for five minutes to every one she spends focused on the pad resting on her knees. She is making him nervous.

Last night, Keith sent him a text message berating him for spelling poorly on his twitter feed. He sent back a string of emoticons because no matter how often Keith uses them they always strike Anderson as odd. Incongruous. He got no response.

Now he pulls out his phone and looks at the exchange, again, and thinks about how they've said the same things, or almost the same, to each other before and how they will again in the future, barring catastrophe. Which he won't. It's a defining feature of catastrophe that you can't just bar it – it will break down your bars and roll over them without ever realizing they're there.

If the mother or the sister or the best friend of the girl across the street had been the one thinking those thoughts, they might have one day counted it as prophecy. But they aren't. Right now they are thinking, respectively, of the Second Amendment, The X-Files, and King Lear's other two daughters, whose names she can't remember.

Anderson has no sensation of prophecy, no sudden urge to actually use his phone and check in with his loved ones, see that they're safe. He doesn't really get those urges. Hypothetical disaster no longer disturbs him. It's the sort of thing he can think about in four dimensions without realizing it's in his head at all.

Because he has his exchange with Keith open, his phone does not otherwise inform him of the in-coming message. There is a lag of several seconds between when it appears and the moment Anderson realizes it's there. He kind of forgot where he was for a second.

Keith wants to know what he thinks of the concept of a 'best case scenario brain tumor'. His first thought is 'bullshit'. His second is 'telekinesis'. So he suggests that it has no symptoms beyond causing the patient to develop psychic powers. Then he sends another message, asking Keith where he is.

No response.

The next message Keith sends him will be tomorrow night, something grotesquely prosaic about his schedule changing.

The grad student across the street has stopped writing and is stretched out a little now, her face to the sky. The last text she got was from the sushi place that delivered her lunch. The one before that was yesterday and it said, 'there is nothing about that i don't love'.

Keith is standing over Anderson.

“Psychic powers?” he asks. He's kind of looming.

“You're looming,” Anderson says.

Keith repeats, “Psychic powers?”

“Or,” he says, “benign, asymptomatic, and easily operable.”

Keith sits and he adds, “Whichever.”

“I think,” Keith says, “that a best case scenario brain tumor is a brain tumor that doesn't exist.”

“In a real best case scenario, there are no brain tumors,” Anderson replies.

This not being a best case scenario world, there are brain tumors. And lots of other tumors. Benign, malignant, operable, inoperable, and in all sorts of places. They have been introduced into the conversation, so this can't be a real best case of anything.

“All we can hope for is minimizing the damage,” he concludes.

“By making them benign, asymptomatic, and easily operable,” Keith says, as though it's something they personally can do, possibly by decree.

“It makes sense,” Anderson insists.

Keith is smiling at him, that faint, amused smile he gets when Anderson is logical.

Across the street, the student is also smiling. The PhD she won't get is in philosophy and she has just determined her suicide to be a logical necessity. She even wrote a proof. So she doesn't have to worry about it anymore.

“You don't agree that a best case scenario brain tumor is one that isn't there?” Keith asks.

“I think that would be the ideal,” says Anderson. “But this isn't an ideal world, and brain tumors aren't hypothetical. We shouldn't bring them up if we don't need to.” He frowns. “Are we talking about the real world?”

Weirdly cheerful, Keith says, “I have no idea. I was eavesdropping on someone at a crosswalk.”

Of course he was.

“He said it would probably involve psychic powers.”

It shocks a giggle out of Anderson. This is the first time he's been out in a while, the first time he's had anything to laugh over and he buries his face in his hands and lets it go. When he looks up, again, it feels like a long time has passed. Keith is sitting back in his chair, still smiling.

But he says, “You okay?”

Anderson giggles, again, and shakes his head.

“Never,” he says. “I'm okay.”

“That's what I love about you, Anderson,” Keith says. “You're so open and eloquent about your mental health.”

“You would hate me if I actually were.”

Keith says, “No.”

Anderson has to look at his hands, then, and notice how pale and thin they are, skin papery dry, blue veins showing through.

He says, “I'm fine. I'm always fine.”

“Wrong answer.” Keith stands and Anderson follows suit.

Across the street, the grad student is caressing the old scars on her inner arm, where she didn't go deep enough, before. It won't be a problem, this time.

“Come on,” Keith says.

“Where are we going?”

Anderson's phone is still lying on the table. Keith takes it and puts it in his pocket.

“Not your place,” he says. “Which leaves mine. Objections?”

Well, yes.

“You just stole my Blackberry.”

“No, I just confiscated your Blackberry. You'll get it back.”


“If you're very good – ”

Anderson snorts. Keith starts walking.

“If you're very good,” he says, again, “within the the next twelve hours. Coming?”

He's a dozen paces down the sidewalk, looking back. The girl across the street is leaning forward into the fire escape rails, feet swinging over the edge. When Anderson glances over, her face is turned towards the sun.

Keith is lying; in sixteen hours, when she goes over another edge, down deep enough into the Hudson she never finds her way up again, Anderson still won't have his phone back. In his defense, he will have been asleep for five of those hours, and Anderson will not have asked.

Anderson says, “Logically, I don't think I have much choice.”

Across the street, she thinks the same. They're both okay with that.

In Anderson's last sight of her, she no longer makes him nervous. She seems at peace. He doesn't notice himself half-envying her that and in the next ten seconds he's forgotten her and won't remember her again for nineteen days, when he walks by that cafe, again, and that fire escape, and thinks briefly of the last time he was there. He will never remember her again.

He closes the gap between Keith and himself and walks away with him, towards another kind of peace. His will last beyond tomorrow morning.


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