-What?-Peter asked dumbly, assured that it was some kind of joke.
-Ella, honey, what did Mommy tell you?
-You told me to stay outside with the nurses and not to come in here while you talk to Uncle Peter-Ella looked at her feet guiltily.
-Please do as I say Ella, don't be difficult! Mommy will come out and invite you back inside. OK?
-But I wanted to show my new dress to Uncle Peter so badly!-Ella almost started to cry.
-And you surely did. You did so much more than that, thought Rachel exasperatedly. Now go and play with Maya for a while.
-You never let me do anything!-she stormed out of the convalescence room
Peter looked long and hard at Rachel's serious eyes, looking for some sign of denial. Anything at all that would tell him that what Ella had just said in all of her innocence wasn't true. But it wasn't there. It wasn't there and Peter felt chill slowly creeping up his spine and gradually devouring his brain.
He spoke unhurriedly, measuring his every word and Rachel started to feel afraid of the cold and calculated look that glinted behind his ice pupils; it was the look she had never seen before and it made her think of the life he had led before meeting Olivia. Of his life as a criminal, thief and a con-man.
-It's not a joke, is it?
She pressed her lips hard together and sighed.
-No. No, it's not-Rachel swallowed hard, unsure what to do and how to proceed.
-Tell me-his eyes were never leaving hers and she felt uncomfortable. To Rachel Dunham, Peter Bishop looked like a suddenly encaged, wary and cunning wild animal. Like a giant, powerful blue-eyed black panther which didn't slam randomly and desperately into the metal bars that now surrounded it, but tried to think its way out of the situation it was in, taking in its surroundings slowly and with a lot of caution. Rachel wondered what Peter would do when he realized there was no way out. Not for now. Would his apparent current calmness be substituted with a shear, unguarded rage? She didn't want to be there if and when such thing occurred.
He crossed his arms expectantly and Rachel's lips started moving of their own accord.
-Lucas is… Was… Olivia's first relationship ever. First serious relationship, at that. She met him at high school.
Peter raised his eyebrows without interrupting her and she continued hurriedly. Rachel wanted to give him a neutral, objective picture of events that had transpired, not wishing to enter into too many details so as not to harm him even more than necessary.
-They had been together for five years. She already saw them as good as married. But he left her soon after she started working as an FBI agent. That happened six years ago. It broke her.
She could sense Peter starting to stiffen slowly right next to her while his fists clutched the hospital bed sheets so hard Rachel thought he was going to rip them into pieces.
-Olivia met him again in Germany two or three months ago-she saw a bitter realization starting to dawn in the corner of his now darkened eyes but still Peter said nothing. –He told her he wanted another go. Olivia hadn't replied anything back then.
-But?-he finally croaked and cleared his throat.
-It was a surprise for me too, I swear! I didn't know what had gotten into her! After that day when all of us visited you at the hospital… Ten days ago. Olive just called him to come here, out of the blue. And he did.
-He's here?-there was an incredulous and broken note in Peter's tone of voice.
-Since Saturday evening-Rachel could see how Peter slowly closed his eyes, willing himself to calm down and taking a deep breath. –I couldn't tell you earlier, Pete, I swear. I just couldn't. It simply isn't the thing you throw at someone in a simple SMS or during a casual phone call. I wanted to tell you in person. And I wasn't able to visit before Wednesday. Before today.
-Is he… Is he at… Your place?-Peter's chest was heaving and Rachel was just plainly sorry for him.
-No. He's staying over at the Liberty Hotel.
-At the Liberty…-Peter shook his head in disbelief and his mouth twitched unpleasantly. –I see-he finally whispered resignedly.
-They went for dinner on Saturday. He came to our house on Sunday at lunchtime. That's when Ella got her dress.
-She likes him.
-Who?-Rachel said confusedly.
-Ella-he replied dryly.
-Oh. Yes-Rachel stated guiltily.
-Does he… Love… Her?
-He does-Rachel bent her head not daring to look him in the eyes.
-And Olivia?-that came out almost as an inaudible whimper.
Peter let out a hiss and grabbed her hand, boring his bulging, widening eyes into hers.
-She doesn't. Yet.
Peter was now shaking his head repeatedly. –Why call him, then?
-She wants to like him. And I guess…. At this moment, that's the only thing that matters.
Peter hid his face in his hands and sighed.
Rachel started babbling without being able to stop herself.
-Listen, Pete… I think I know why she called him all of a sudden… You told Olive you were going away, right? She was affected by that decision you had made… Maybe she didn't realize how much she cared about you up until that moment… And knowing that you are leaving… Made her wish to… Eliminate you from her thoughts, from her mind… So she…
-Replaced me-Peter whispered tiredly. Well, fuck my life. Now I know how it feels when you work hard all your life for something and then someone who has good connections simply casually strolls in your stead, and gets promoted before you do, while you're just standing there like an asshole.
-Yes. But…This is good, look… We are making progress; we know what caused all this. I have a plan. Now we just need to tell Olive you are staying and then she…
-Please-Peter raised his hand and spoke in a leveled, robotic tone of voice. –No more plans. I am tired, Rachel. Of your plans, schemes, plots and machinations… She wants to like him, you said. And it's plain and simple from where I'm standing. Ladies choose. One can slam into the brick wall with his thick, stupid, hopeful head countless times, but until the lady he's trying to woo doesn't open the door, he's not getting in. And Olivia opened the door. For Lucas.
-Just because she wouldn't have been able to resist you otherwise, she wouldn't have been able to keep them closed to you.
-Whatever the reason behind that action was. She did it. And let me tell you that I didn't expect that from her-he started rabidly but then he suddenly shut his mouth and the tone of his voice became calm once again. –I don't want to dwell on this anymore. Just… Listen to me, Rachel. I don't… I repeat. I don't want you to tell Olivia a thing. Let her think I'm leaving. It's for the best.
Peter grasped her hands desperately, almost hurting her in the process.
-Let her think I'm leaving-he repeated quietly, half growling those words menacingly, and Rachel's heart almost stopped. She was so afraid of him. She stood up and nodded awkwardly.
-And don't come again. I'll be out of this godforsaken, forlorn and desolate place in ten days. No need to visit me before that. See you when I'm out of here.
-Leave now. I wish some time for myself.
-Ella was so looking forward to spending some time with you.
-Oh, I beg your pardon. Why don't you take her to Prince Lucas? He seems to be good at replacing me in ladies' hearts. I'm sure he'll cheer her up in no time. Next thing you know, she'll be calling him uncle Lucas.
Upon hearing those words, Rachel hurried out of his room angrily, without looking back. She was panicking inwardly after having seen what the news had done to him. After seeing Peter transform completely before her eyes, from that witty, jovial, playful person into an unknown, still, stubborn, cold and cruel stranger she now wished never had emerged from his very being, Rachel knew what's coming. A complete breakdown.
When Rachel finally left, Peter sighed in relief. He didn't care that his words had offended her. Alone at last.
But he was sorely mistaken. He was not alone. Peter Bishop was left on his own with his bitter thoughts, myriads of questioning, probing, tiny thoughts that appeared out of nowhere like hungry mosquitoes and started biting at the very fabric of his soul, drawing blood…
…And so the beautiful sad princess no longer lived alone in a castle on top of the cold mountain. Instead, she jumped the bones of a wealthy German guy and lived happily ever after…While the fool who cared about her was lying sick in hospital bed. She betrayed me.
…So that's why the phone rang six times before she picked up, panting…
-Hey. You're not gonna believe this, 'cause I'm not really sure that I do, but… I think that this might actually work.
-Walter figured it out?
-Well there are limits. Some… Issues and problems… But… Walter seems to think we can get the dead guy to answer some questions.
-Then we're on. I'll call you from prison. Eight a.m. tomorrow, my time.
I could clearly hear her ragged breathing then, but I didn't relate it to anything, stupid, love-struck moron that I was. I was just happy to hear her voice, excited to tell her good news.
-I'm good. Thank you.
…She was good… She was excellent, probably… Rolling around in bed with the guy she liked… Consoling herself, trying to forget the loss of John Scott. I was never in the picture. It was always someone else she longed for and someone else who would console her… Other men acted on the stage of Olivia Dunham's life, while I was merely an audience.
….She is… Different. More opened up. She smiles more. She talks about you a lot, she says you're really smart and funny…. She likes being around you…
Lies… All lies…
….Don't give up on her. I know you won't…
She gave up on me, Rachel… Jesus, she was the one who gave up on me.
….Oh, who cares about me, I wanna know who's next.
-I care about you…
All the nights I spent with a dick in my hand moaning Olivia's name, imagining of being with her and her only, abstaining from even thinking about other girls… She wasn't worth it. She didn't deserve my single thought.
….You're okay. You're okay… You're gonna be fine…
-I'm here. I'm here for you.
-Oh, Peter… It was so strange… And I felt cold… And alone… And I couldn't….
-It's OK now. You're out, you found your way out. I'm here for you. You're back…
Where was John Scott when she was feeling like this? Rotting and decomposing, that's where.
Where was Lucas? Enjoying in his wealth in Germany, after previously having abandoned her, after having hurt her.
Who was the only one there for you, Olivia? God… Olivia… Jesus… Why?
….-John would've never lied to me like that. He loves me…
And I didn't know that life was actually easy back then… When my only rival was a memory in her head. But now… Now there is someone else… Very much alive. And he is an ideal husband material.
…-She always does things her way. She is really prickly. And she probably used to be a real flesh and blood human being who mutated in an unapproachable hedgehog at some point in her life. A hedgehog who uses every her spare moment to pinch me with her needles just to see if I'll bleed to death.
-But there is an antidote for such transformation, my son.
-And it contains three perfectly balanced ingredients: unconditional love, constant support and patience. The last one being the key ingredient, actually…
Well guess what, Walter? While I was playing scientist for ten months, someone else took her away from me in a second.
-I need to do this! There is no other way.
-If you stay here, you are going to die! I am not doing this with you, Olivia! You're outta your mind.
But I came back, willing to die with her if the need be. Is there a greater sacrifice than that? And then she did it. That unbelievable, incredible, strong women turned off those lights and I still don't know how she managed to do it but I admire her so much. I've never met anyone who could do things that she does…
Some sweet memories pushed through the waves of persistent bitter thoughts, but even those just made Peter cringe even more in pain, realizing what he could've had.
…Relax, Peter, and just… Let me guide you.
I'm sorry about tonight. You know… For what I told you at the door… You were right. Ella is so happy. Thank you…
The way she fit perfectly in my arms… How her gentle fingers caressed my hair and my back instinctively while we were dancing, even when she wasn't even aware what she was doing… And then she ran away from me. Dammit. Why didn't I try to… God, she was so beautiful that night. And to think it was just around ten days ago…
…Move away from him, you bastard!...
She was crying when she saw me on the ground, lying in the pool of my own blood. She… She came for me. Olivia put her life on the line to save me.
…How did a tramp like you manage to get in this fine lady's pants? What kind of lies did you tell her to make her spread these sweet long legs for your cock?...
A tramp like me, Big Eddie… Will never get into her pants… Because I don't deserve Olivia Dunham. A petty criminal and a flawless human being… Ain't gonna happen.
And then their very last conversation appeared crystal clear in his tormented mind and his heart clenched agonizingly in his chest.
…Peter… You already are a better man. I mean… The fact that you know what you did was wrong… That's a start. You don't have to go away because of that. We need you back here. You can't just leave the division like that. Broyles isn't going to like it.
…We need your help. You are part of the team and… It wouldn't be the same without you. Please reconsider your decision. Broyles thinks you are doing a great job, Walter is saner than ever with you around, and I am sure he will forgive you for what happened last night because he's your father and he loves you very much. Astrid loves chatting with you about the musical taste you both share…
…You belong with us, Peter…
Her lips were inches away… If something had actually happened between us… If we had actually kissed… Would she call that pompous prick Lucas then?
You belong with us. You belong with us… Those words were resonating repeatedly in his numb brain, inducing a powerful nausea and repulsion. Did she really mean it, back then, when she said it?
Peter Bishop's insides were burning, he felt as if strong jaws with sharp teeth suddenly appeared in his stomach and started tearing through his very flesh, eating him alive… And he couldn't get them out, he couldn't stop them…
…You are not seriously thinking of leaving Olivia. If you leave, Peter… Without you… She would crumble to pieces. Believe me, I know…
You don't know anything, Rachel Dunham. Without me… She would be perfectly happy with someone else and she wouldn't have to come running to save my sorry ass.
I'll just… Call Broyles. Tell him I changed my mind.
…I will have none of that, do you hear me, Peter! I just got my son back, dammit, and I am not going to lose you again…
Walter… I… Even if the thing I want most right now is to… To jump out of this bed and get the hell outta here… As far away possible from her, from her perfect life. I can't hurt Walter. I promised. I told him I was going to stay. He needs me. God, I thought Olivia was broken. I thought she needed me. Now she is whole again. But my father isn't.
…Walter is saner than ever with you around…
Drops of sweat were coming out on his forehead and on his torso. Peter was positively slowly shaking now, backward and forward, engulfed in nervousness caused by a horrible agony. His mouth formed a thin line and his chest and stomach were rapidly pulsating.
I need to stop thinking about… This… But how? How, dammit? When it's the only thing I can think about. God, I'll become crazier than Walter has ever been.
Should I tell her I… But why? Why now? What would that change? She has already chosen her path. I am not calling her. I am not humiliating myself because of her. Never again. Do you hear that, perfect, flawless, Olivia Dunham? Never again!-he roared inwardly.
Peter felt sick. His body was almost healed but his soul was shattered and he was struggling not to let it show, fighting to keep it all inside, grasping the fistfuls of his hair with his trembling disobedient fingers.
It was already lunch time. Maya entered his convalescence room carrying a tray of food, smiling widely and humming a happy tune. Peter suddenly felt the urge to slap her across the face, to wipe that silly grin she wore plastered there, to tell her how there was no reason to smile. Not today. Not ever. Not for him. That optimism of hers irritated him like hell.
-Mr. Bishop, it's time to eat. How is my favorite patient today? Did you get the book you wanted? Now, I know you don't like hospital food. But you have to eat it all up. You've already lost some weight. If you want…-she winked naughtily…-I'll feed you myself. Although I've already spoiled you too much.
Her tone of voice changed as soon as her gaze fell on his shuddering figure and the murderous stare in his eyes; she winced, frightened of the change she found in Peter Bishop.
-Are you alright?
-Take it away.
-I said… TAKE IT AWAY! I AM NOT EATING THAT FUCKING SWILL!
Maya's eyes widened but she persisted, getting one step closer with a plate of chicken soup in her now trembling hands, having previously removed it from the tray laden with food.
-Just… Eat a little bit. Please…-she continued to insist. –You have to…-her tone of voice became almost pleading.
Peter was staring at the wall in front of him, breathing heavily, now barely registering her words so Maya approached him even more, boldly, although a bit warily. And that was a mistake.
Peter's left hand jerked up in a sudden blurry motion and slammed into her, sending a dish full of hot liquid straight on her white coat and scorching her hands in the process.
The nurse yelped, and went for the door, but Peter was faster. He jumped out of bed, firmly grabbed both lapels of her coat and whispered venomously, his feverish eyes boring into hers:
-Don't you ever… Do that again. Do you hear me? Never.
Then the full realization of what he had just done hit him as he saw tears forming in her warm brown eyes. His grip loosened in repentance and Maya had just enough time to run out of the room.
-I'm sorry-he croaked, whispering to the now empty room. His body was sorely feeling a lack of oxygen, he needed some air, he… He couldn't breathe.
Peter staggered across the room and opened the window a bit. His head was spinning, the white walls were closing in on him, the bright lights of the Liberty Hotel were mocking him from afar, and Peter wished he had Olivia's power, her ability, to turn them all off, to make them stop blinding him. To tear the goddamn building apart, to bring it down…
Cold night air didn't help at all. The dizziness was apparently there to stay and Peter's legs were wobbly. He barely made it to bed when he collapsed, feeling his body temperature raising way above normal level. Peter was sweating and shivering, his head was throbbing like mad and all of his muscles seemed to ache at once in a glorious dolorous symphony. He was so thirsty… He hugged a pillow with his free hand, bringing it closer to his chest, and whispered Olivia's name loving her and cursing her at the same time.
When Maya cautiously came back some time after that, without having informed anyone about what had just transpired between them, knowing there must have been some reason for the sudden violent shift in his demeanor, Peter's skin was already burning, being consumed by the inner fire of fury, helplessness and jealousy.
-105 Fahrenheit-Peter heard Maya's voice as if it were coming from somewhere far far away. He felt enveloped in a grey, ominous fog, without being able to move. Two shadows were towering above him and another voice said: -That's a high fever. Keep me informed. Maintain him hydrated all the time. If his body temperature doesn't drop any time soon, we can expect tremors, convulsions and hallucinations to kick in.