OLIVIA'S eyes snapped open but she didn't move. The bright daylight playfully greeted her pallid face as she was aimlessly staring at the white ceiling of her bedroom. She briefly wondered what time it was. She could hear Rachel and Ella giggling in the living room… The cartoonish sounds were reaching her and she managed to flash a small smile. Disney Sunday.
When Olivia glanced on the clock at her bedside nightstand, she was astonished. It was half past one. Her stomach rumbled unpleasantly asking for her immediate attention.
I can't believe it. I came home around… One o'clock a.m. I went straight to bed… And I wake up… To this? I slept over twelve hours? Why didn't Rachel or Ella wake me up?
She figured they probably thought she was tired and left her to rest. And Olivia Dunham needed to rest… If not her body, then… Her mind. And her soul. Olivia felt utterly broken.
She had this tendency to organize, to order, to compartmentalize her life… The five previously established compartments were clearly visible to her: 1-Family, 2-Friends, 3-Love life, 4-Health, 5-Career and money.
She had a wonderful family now… In spite of losing her father when she was just a child, despite the recent death of her mother… Rachel and Ella could always bring a smile on Olivia's face.
Charlie, Peter, Astrid, Walter, and … Even agent Broyles, in a way… They were all her friends. Olivia didn't have any health problems, if you excluded the obvious occasional worrying about the ability she would sometimes display in the state of heightened nervousness or distress. But then again, Olivia could always suppress those worrying thoughts and push them away, while actually striving to do something more constructive. She was satisfied with the career choice she had made, seeing how that was the only thing she wanted to do since she was nine years old.
There was only one thing she was almost never happy about and… And it was now breaking her, slowly but securely… Love life.
Rough and tough special agent Olivia Dunham didn't have a love life. There was no longer a man who would care about her. And even when there was… She would somehow manage to ruin it all with her tomboyish behavior, with something she would say out of sheer stupidity, or with the amount of time she would spend at work.
Olivia was suddenly feeling extremely insecure. All the men in her life would abandon her, one way or the other… Lucas went away from her because of the work she did, John died because of their job… Her workplace would somehow always end up as a hurdle for her emotional affairs.
And then Lucas closed the inherent loop by leaving once again. But this time it wasn't the FBI. Olivia knew she was the one who'd messed up.
It didn't matter why, in the end… But it appeared that no one… No one was willing to sacrifice himself that much just to be in a relationship with her. Or at least try to.
And why would they?-Olivia analyzed herself briefly. Apart from physical attractiveness, which is really the least important thing when it comes to lasting relationships and is more valued for one-night stands, what can I offer to a man? A warm embrace in the evening? A hot, home-made cooked meal? That is not me. I'm a stiff, wooden, cold, boring person, without sense of humor… Too shy, too awkward in romantic situations. I always place my job in front of everything. Who would want to be with such a person, let alone form a family one day? Women are supposed to be affectionate, cordial, feminine, kind, great cooks, with a sense for fashion… A wife is the pillar of the family who holds everyone together. Like my mother was. Like Rachel is. Maybe I'm just destined to be alone.
Tears flew freely from her eyes at that thought and dissipated in narrow salty streams around her lightly freckled heart-shaped face before she could stop herself.
On other occasions she might've said to herself: Stop wailing in self-pity. Get up. Let's go. Don't think about it. But not now. She really needed to cry. Olivia firstly had to let all that angst out of herself before she could finally accept the current situation; otherwise, she would fall to pieces and that was something she couldn't allow herself to do. Not now. She was always the strong one. Others depended on her, looked up to her as their leader… There was no time to be sad. Life was too short for that…
And Olivia knew it, she knew it oh so well. It was just…
Five minutes. That was all the time she needed. To rest, to catch a break… Only to… Stop running in loops, to stop participating in that crazy rhythm of life that she'd been leading. It can't get worse than this. So I have to assume that it'll only get better. It must get better… Please, let it get better.
On top of everything… There was Peter.
The one man she couldn't escape from no matter how hard she tried, no matter what she did. Olivia distanced herself from him the best she could, repeating the "friend and partner" mantra, she even started a new relationship. But nothing, nothing was helping and Olivia was purely desperate now.
Being alone and not being attracted to anyone was one thing. She could turn off her bodily needs, she could tell herself not to think about sex, or romance. But… When there was someone who affected you as Peter Bishop had started affecting her out of the blue, you could hardly think rationally and coherently. She needed to shake him off so badly and she didn't know how. Olivia was on her own with her concealed desire now after Lucas had left… There was no one else to distract her anymore.
Her thoughts delved shamefully on the night in the bathroom two weeks ago, on what she did, on how she passionately called out Peter's name as she exploded in the shower after many months of self-restraint… Then Olivia's cheeks obtained a reddish tinge as she further remembered the last night's occurrences, the way his smoldering hands caressed her hips and her thighs, pulling her closer… How his feverish eyes bore into hers… How she felt his hot breath on her lips and how his drunken ramblings aroused her so much, more than she ever thought possible, that she eventually practically had to run away from him and try to find release in Lucas's arms.
Why him?-she wondered impotently. I wish it were anyone but him. Inane, flirty, sarcastic, unstable… And most likely in a budding relationship with my sister, on top of that.
Olivia thought about that for a second. Rachel and Ella hadn't visited Peter since Wednesday… Since the day he told them he was… Leaving? Maybe that's why Rachel got angry with him? She wondered about that. Broyles told her that it was precisely on Wednesday when Peter said to him he was positively staying in Fringe division.
Maybe Rach doesn't know he's staying. They probably fought over his departure… Then in the end he decided to stay because of her and Ella… But perhaps he hasn't broken it to her yet.
She ran her fingers nervously through her hair. Olivia couldn't analyze things anymore… She felt like her head was going to blow up. I'll just let everything run its course. I can't think… I can't.
God, this neighbor from the ground floor and his songs…
Olivia firmly decided to have a talk with the man one of these days. The music he played was simply too loud for her taste and… Too painful for her to listen right now. Olivia recognized the well-known Counting Crows song and she covered her head with the pillow in dismay and desperation.
So she said: what's the problem baby? What's the problem I don't know, Well, maybe I'm in love
(Love), Think about it every time I think about it, Can't stop thinking 'bout it…
How much longer will it take to cure this?... Just to cure it cause I can't ignore it if it's love (Love)…Makes me wanna turn around and face me but I don't know nothing 'bout love…
Oh, come on, come on, Turn a little faster, Come on, come on, The world will follow after, Come on, come on, 'cause everybody's after love…
God… -Olivia thought. I don't want to be in love. Not now… Not with him.
The door of her bedroom swung open and Rachel and Ella burst inside singing jovially:
-Come on, come on, Move a little closer, Come on, Come on, I want to hear you whisper, Come on, Come on, Settle down inside my love…
Oh, come on, come on, Jump a little higher, Come on, come on, If you feel a little lighter, Come on, come on…We were once upon a time in love….We're accidentally in love!-they both screamed in unison and fell giggling on Olivia's bed.
She tried to smile as widely as she could even though there was nothing to laugh about… Olivia was incredibly grateful for the presence of her sister and her niece in her dull life and she hugged them both so tightly that Ella moaned in complaint.
-Hey, sleepy head! Wakey-wakey! Rise and shine!-Rachel teased her good-naturedly. –We thought it was about time for you to leave your bedroom, eat something and then join us in our Sunday Disney marathon before you disappear on us again. Since you're dating your Prince Charming, El and I don't get to see you so often. Anyway, we've just started watching Shrek II! And Ella loves this song, so she had an idea… She wanted us to wake you up singing it to you.
-Well apparently you're not the only ones who made a decision to wake me up with that particular song-Olivia tiredly motioned towards the window. –The ground floor neighbor is at it again.
Rachel's eyes twinkled and she stated, beaming:
-Man knows his music! That's telepathy for you.
Then her gaze fell upon Olivia's wet pillow, green dress and what seemed to be an extremely expensive necklace carelessly thrown in the corner of the room, and mascara smudges under her sister's eyes. Rachel frowned suspiciously, putting two and two together.
-Ella, honey, go on and watch Shrek some more while mommy talks to Aunt Liv.
The girl came out of the bedroom unquestioningly, remembering how her mother was angry with her when she hadn't obeyed her in the hospital while they were visiting uncle Peter.
-Olivia-Rachel took her sister's head in her hands and forced Olivia to look her in the eyes. –Are you going to tell me what's going on?
PETER was staring at the yellowish piece of paper. It was no doubt torn out of some sort of magazine where Gertrude had carefully scribbled her number and her name. She even drew a set of tiny hearts on it. Peter shook his head but he knew better than to snicker. He was now able to eat cheese soufflé for lunch thanks to his father and that was not a small favor Walter did him. He carefully placed a note on his bedside table and started texting the number to Astrid. Peter's eyes flew over his cuts and bruises and marveled at the speed rate of their healing. Well, I guess there are some life situations in which is good to have a mad scientist for a progenitor. Tomorrow night… I can start packing my bags. Finally. The doctors were more than suspicious about my miraculous recovery, but… In the end they had to sign the release papers.
He was so bored. There was nothing for him to do. Peter had already read "An End to Innocence", and as much he was thrilled by it, he saw no point in going through it again, at least not for the time being. He amused himself for a while thinking about Walter's future date, guffawing out loud.
Love works in mysterious ways. I should be the one to know that, being a devil-may-care con-man who fell for a lawful good ice queen.
Fell for… More like… I am so deeply smitten with her, so infatuated and besotted that there is simply no turning back. My heart beats for my sweetheart-Peter laughed at himself sardonically and sighed deeply, burying his head in his tremulous palms.
God, if only she would fancy me in the same way. There would be no happier man on Earth than me. The way she trembled in my hands last night…Was it out of fear or… Out of desire?
But face it, Bishop… Which woman would want you for a long-term relationship? They might appreciate your baby boy eyes, sexy stubble and tight ass… But girls aren't blind… They know you're no husband material. Who wishes for a vagabond? Good fathers, honorable citizens and faithful lovers are pricey on the market right about now… And I'm not sure I can be either of them. Not to mention the wealthy businessmen…
Walter's right. I'm always so damn reckless… Irresponsible, goofy, laidback… I mean… A guy should be… I dunno… Dedicated… Committed… More serious… Not a downing-shot- casual-sex crook and tramp.
A little voice whispered in his ear:
-But you are different with her… With Olivia. You care about her… You're always there for her.
-And what good has that brought me?-Peter frowned upon his own train of thoughts. Or Olivia? Me being in her life… It just jeopardized her existence! She was almost killed, almost raped because of me.
My divine guardian. My savior. When she stormed into the warehouse with that resolute and worried look on her face… It felt like I was being reborn again.
God, I wish I can… Pay her back one day… For everything she's done for me. For taking me away from my shady past. For having given me a family to hold on to.
I want to be part of her life. In any way she'll let me. As a friend, as a partner… As a shoulder to cry on.
If she has already chosen… Him… Over me…-Peter swallowed but he managed to control himself, for the first time actually accepting the thought of Olivia being with Lucas, as opposed to the previous violent rage and denial.
Then let it be so. I can't stay away from her anymore. I'll give her all I've got when she asks me to.
I just… I miss her terribly … I miss her weird mannish black jackets and her plain white shirts… Those god awful squeaky shoes…
The little tilts of her head… The amused quiet chuckles she makes whenever I try to crack a joke.
That strange, resolute way in which she nods and says "Fine", whenever someone asks her to do something virtually impossible…
That poking and prodding and trying again and again until she solves the mystery evolving the case… The love, the care she displays for the humankind… The necessity to help, to save everyone, to sooth the worldly pain…
I admire you so much, Olivia Dunham. I know I don't deserve you, sweetheart. I… only… Only wish to see you again… To… Goof around… Work on the case… To at least get some breadcrumbs from your table. I'd be happy with just that…
Peter let out a deep sigh and browsed through the songs on his cell phone.
-I guess it's time for some cheesy U2 bonding -he said out loud to an empty room as the quiet melody engulfed him, reminding him of the beautiful blonde agent.
See the stone set in your eyes…
See the thorn twist in your side
I wait for you.
Sleight of hand and twist of fate
On a bed of nails she makes me wait
And I wait without you…
With or without you
With or without you
Through the storm we reach the shore
You give it all but I want more
And I'm waiting for you
With or without you
With or without you
I can't live
With or without you
And you give yourself away
And you give yourself away
Peter pressed his lips hard together and closed his eyes in pain, envisioning Olivia's pale, tender perfect body, imagining Olivia giving herself away to Lucas… Ugh. This is so much harder than what I had to endure when she was moaning John's name in the tank. At least that sex was in her head.
My hands are tied
My body bruised, she's got me with
Nothing to win and
Nothing left to lose
And it was the plain truth of it… He had nothing to win by staying. Olivia was already someone else's. But there was nothing left to lose either.
Peter had never had her in that way in the first place, she had never been his to begin with… He could go back to square one, he decided. Support her, whatever her decisions were. Do everything… Just to be near her.
Peter felt like on the seesaw. Before Lucas came to Boston… He was up.
He got on Rachel's and Ella's good side… He managed to make Olivia more relaxed then she was prior to meeting and getting to know him. She even hugged him tighter while they were dancing at Ella's birthday party…
Then, Olivia saved his life… She immediately came to see him at the hospital… She looked so worried about me. Life was great. And all of a sudden… Bam! He was down.
Ten months' hard work went down the drain when that flight from Frankfurt landed.
But if I know the seesaw of life…From all that I've learned so far…-Peter consoled himself. I'll be back up again. I don't know when but… That's just how things work. It's karma.
And you give yourself away
And you give yourself away
And you give
And you give
And you give yourself away
With or without you
With or without you
I can't live
With or without you
As the last notes of the song died away, he thought of Rachel and reached for his cell again before the U2 playlist could continue its pace and throw him into depression.
OLIVIA was just about to shrug her shoulders and avoid her sister's question when Rachel's cell rang loudly and the familiar intro of "Hey, Soul Sister" soundsfilled Olivia's bedroom. Rachel didn't move a muscle.
-Aren't you… Aren't you going to get that?-Olivia asked, surprised.
-No-Rachel retorted, irritated. –It's Peter. He has already called me like… Ten times today. I am in no mood to talk to him right now.
Olivia's heart did a somersault at the mention of Peter's name. He called her ten times?
She did her best to conceal her reaction to that particular piece of information that confirmed her doubts that there was something going on between her sister and her partner, and she tried to pretend like she didn't care.
-Why have you been crying?-Rachel asked, worriedly and angrily at the same time. –Did Lucas do something to you? Because if he did… I'm sooo gonna get that son of a bitch to answer some questions. I mean… Leaving you once was enough… But hurting you again? He's dead meat, Liv. Just tell me what he did and I swear to God…
-He left this morning. He went back to Frankfurt-Olivia stated simply, without elaborating any further.
-What?-Rachel's tone of voice was furious and incredulous this time. –How dare he?
-Don't blame him. It's my fault.
-Oh, please, Olivia! Yes, blame it all on yourself! How typical! You used to that the first time when he broke up it you as well! You are soo getting on my nerves right now. The most perfect person on this planet, my sister, who just happens to be a Superwoman, suffers from low self-esteem. I don't want to listen to that.
-It's true-Olivia whispered.
-Tell me all about it. I hate it when you are being so vague about the details. God, I swear you're like a man sometimes… You remind me of my best friend Rob from high-school. Whenever I tried to get some information from him, it felt as if I had to pry it from his mouth with pliers, for crying out loud!
-OK-Olivia took a deep breath. She wasn't sure if she wanted to relive the last night's experience, however, on the other hand, she thought it might help her to get all that troubled her out of her mind. –Fine-she nodded resolutely. –Everything seemed OK yesterday. We went shopping. He got me a dress. And a necklace.
Rachel's eyes widened at the sight of the expensive jewelry.
-The same necklace you threw on the floor?-she went to pick it up and whistled after having inspected it.
-You can take it if you wish.
-Well, I normally wouldn't on any other occasion, but seeing how it would only remind you of Lucas, I'll be delighted to remove it from your eyesight-Rachel joked. –It's gonna go well with my new green blouse.
Olivia smiled at her radiant sister.
-Go on. Don't think I forgot-Rachel inquired sternly.
-Oh. Well… We went back to his suite. We were…
-OK, I get it… You were just starting your engines… Steamy-Rachel giggled and Olivia blushed.
-My boss called. I had to go to the hospital. Because of Peter-her voice trembled and she looked everywhere but in her sister's eyes.
When Rachel spoke next, she sounded genuinely worried.
-He did something to himself, didn't he?
-Yes. How did you….
-Last time I visited him…-Rachel hesitated wondering how much she should give away. Even though Peter and she had a fight, she didn't want to tell on him. –Let's just say I had a hunch that shit was about to hit the fan. Pardon my French.
Olivia cleared her throat uncomfortably.
-He… He got drunk and…
-Say no more. It got ugly. I get it. And…
-I had to go over and interrogate him about the circumstances. I didn't find out much so…
Rachel looked at her inquisitively.
-So I was hoping you could tell me what it was you talked about on Wednesday morning.
-Olive, are you questioning me? Did you just pull a cop trick on your sis?-Rachel burst out laughing.
-I'm sorry… It's just… I understand that it is a private thing between Peter and you…
Rachel almost laughed out loud at that simple, almost imperceptible jealousy tone she discovered in Olivia's voice.
God, this is incredible. But… Seeing how Lucas is gone now… If I play along, I just might do Peter Bishop a favor. Not that he deserves it… But… The sooner Olive realizes how she feels about him, the better.
-Can you at least tell me if you fought over something?
-Yes, we had a fight but I'm not really comfortable with telling you what we talked about. Then Ella and I went home abruptly and left Peter there. From the way he looked… I could tell something bad would happen soon.
-OK. That's all I needed to know. I had my suspicions about your conversation being a reason for his… Disruptive behavior-Olivia barely finished her sentence while her heart was throbbing.
Peter told Rachel he was leaving. She got angry… They fought… He was desperate because she was mad at him… That is why he did all… Those things. And then he flirted with me to boost his ego.
-But what about Lucas? Did you go back to see him once you left the hospital? You must have, because Ella and I went to bed at half past twelve and you still hadn't arrived.
It was so hard for Olivia to focus on that particular story arc right now, when all she could think about was Peter's reaction to his fight with Rachel and the ten phone calls he made today.
-Basically…-she ran her fingers through her hair… -He told me he had noticed the very thing you were warning me about. That there was no chemistry between us. And that he wasn't going to stick around and wait for it to appear.
-Just like that? Out of the blue? Are you absolutely sure nothing else happened?
Olivia bit her tongue. She couldn't tell her sister, who was obviously probably about to embark in a relationship with her partner as soon as she found out he was staying, how she had moaned Peter's name accidentally, while she was making out with Lucas.
-That's all there was.
-What a jerk. Listen, Olive. He was never even worth your time. Hell, I have no idea why you called him in the first place and I don't want to know. I am just glad that asshole is gone. I know that now you think it's the end of the world, I used to think the same when Greg ditched me. But then, time comes when you fall in love again-Olivia jerked her head up and stared at her sister, wondering if she meant Peter. Has she forgotten Greg by falling in love with… Peter?
–And then you will laugh at what had transpired and at how foolish you'd been for crying over someone who didn't genuinely love you, who didn't deserve you. I promise. It's my personal experience. Been there. Done that.
Then Rachel hugged Olivia tightly and Olivia simply sighed, hiding her face in her sister's chest, inhaling her familiar scent. It almost felt as if she were their mother, as if their mother were still alive. She found Rach's soothing words, her warmth and her steady heart beating so deeply comforting.
-Thank you-she blurted. –For being here for me.
-Olive, not another word. I am your sister. You would do the same for me.
A pang of guilt bit Olivia as she considered that sentence for a moment.
Then Rachel stood up and said:
-OK. I'm gonna go to the living room to check up on Ella. Lunch is ready and warm. I want you out of that bed. Now. You are spending the day with us. And I don't wanna hear a word of protest.
Olivia nodded and flashed a small smile.
Rachel was already at the door when Olivia said, deciding it was only fair, without being able to contain herself any longer, while the images of her grumpy sister and violent, bruised Peter flashed through her mind:
-Rach… I know that Peter told you he was leaving the day you fought.
That is soo far from the truth, Liv. He told me the exact opposite: that he was staying because of his father-Rachel thought, but chose simply to continue listening to her sister.
-But… He isn't… I mean…-and then so many words flew out from her mouth that Olivia was surprised she had it in her.
-If you are… If you are still angry with him for deciding to leave… You should know he is staying… He… Changed his mind. And he probably did it because of you. And Ella. So maybe next time he calls you… You should hear him out.
Rachel's eyebrows shot up at this new personality Olive was displaying… She is so nervous… And she stutters… Well this is the first. She really cares about him. She is actually convincing me to talk to him in spite of what that does to her.
-OK-Rachel simply replied with an enigmatic expression on her face and left Olivia's room.
I did it. I… Told her. Now they will most definitely make up. Rach will be glad because he chose to stay for her and El. It will get better between them. And I was the one who helped. I contributed to their happiness.
Somehow, it didn't make her feel any better.
Well life is really like a giant seesaw. Lucas was here, Peter was leaving. Everything was going according to plan. I was up. And now… The tables have turned. Lucas abandoned me and Peter is staying. To be in a relationship with none other than my sister. Ouch.
She pushed those thoughts aside, desperately, and got dressed. The tantalizing smells were coming from the kitchen and Olivia nearly fainted from hunger. She was starving. Peter is right. I most certainly don't eat as much as I should.
Ella was sitting on the sofa, munching a pear and she happily raised her head having noticed her aunt.
-Aunt Liv! Are you hungry like me? I could eat a house!
-Me too!-she chuckled and embraced her niece. –Where's your Mom?
-She's in the bathroom.
-OK. Let me tell you what we are going to do…-Olivia whispered into Ella's ear, tickling her in the process. –We are going to wait for your Mom and then we'll all have lunch together.
-And then Disney marathon!
-Yes, El. I promise.
-Aunt Liv… Do you have to save the world today?
-No-Olivia chuckled, amused. –Where did you hear that?
-It's just that Mom always says, when I ask her why aren't you home with us, that you have to save the world.
Olivia caressed the little girl's hair and pulled her close.
-I love you, El.
-I love you too, aunt Liv.
The shrill pitch of the phone interrupted their hug and Olivia's head buzzed in pain.
-Me, me, me, me, me!-Ella screamed, jumping from the couch.
-OK, you answer it. Do you know what you have to say?
-Yes, aunt Liv!
Ella picked up the phone and said, in such an incredibly mature voice that Olivia had to giggle:
-Hey, pipsqueak-deep, familiar voice greeted her from the other end of the line and Ella squealed enthusiastically.
Olivia froze on the spot.
-How are you, Ella?
-I'm fine-she replied, reluctantly and crossly, after an initial blast of happiness had passed.
-What's up with the voice? Did the angry birds get to you?
-What are angry birds, uncle Peter?
-Those are special birds that are always mad at someone. And they perch on the trees in front of people's windows and they sing their angry songs all day long… You see, they want everyone else to become angry too. And let me tell you, their song is very contagious. Are you angry right now, kiddo?
-Yes-she said shyly.
-And why is that?-Peter was enjoying their little chit-chat.
-Because you are going away from us and you will never come back.
Olivia silently listened to their conversation. She didn't know what Peter was saying, of course, but Ella's answers were giving her a clue.
-Now who told you that, little mouse?
-But that must have been a long time ago… And I have changed my mind. I am not going anywhere. How is that for a surprise?
-Really, really-he promised, grinning widely in his hospital bed. That kid is really something. Peter cursed himself inwardly for not wanting to see her five days ago.
-Are you still in the hospital, uncle Peter?
-Why, yes, yes I am. But I'll let you in on a secret. I am coming out on Tuesday morning.
-Yep. And you know what I'm gonna do first?
-No…-she laughed, amused with his tone of voice.
-I'm gonna come straight to you and give you the best pony ride of your lifetime. I missed you, El.
-I missed you too, uncle Peter.
Olivia's eyes watered a bit and she turned her head away from her niece in embarrassment.
-Now I'm gonna ask you a question and let's see if you know the answer.
-Is this like a quiz, uncle Peter?
-Yes, honey, it's a quiz. And if you can answer me correctly, I'll bring you a special toy next time when we see each other.
-A doll?-she inquired.
-No. Something even better. But I can't really tell you what, because then it wouldn't be a secret, would it? Ready for the question, Els?
-OK, so here goes… And a one, and a two, and a three… The question is… Where is your Mom?
-Aw, uncle Peter, that is so easy to answer! My mom is in the bathroom!
-OK! Ten points for Ella Blake! You have won your toy prize. Listen, sweetheart, I am going to call back later, is that a deal?
-But, uncle Peter…-Ella approached Olivia, holding a phone in her hand. –You can talk to aunt Liv until my Mom comes out. Aunt Liv, it's uncle Peter!-she announced proudly and then added in a worried whisper: -Did I do good? Did I answer the phone correctly?
Peter's hands trembled and he closed his eyes listening to Olivia's sweet, tender voice.
-You did excellent, dear.
Then there was a moment of strange, uncomfortable silence and Olivia spoke again.
-Hi-Peter said guardedly, and calmly.
-Hi-Olivia's voice was still soft from talking to Ella.
-How's it going?-keep it cool, Bishop… Don't lose it…
-Great. It's great. How are you feeling?
Peter couldn't tell if she was being so polite because Ella was there with her but he was grateful, nonetheless. The way I behaved with her last night… She should launch the salve of swear words right on top of my head and she would be totally in her right to do it. What is it with me and the Dunham girls, anyway? Whenever I open my mouth something goes wrong.
-Much better than last night. Sober, for one-Peter forced himself to laugh even though there was obviously nothing funny about that particular remark.
-That's good to hear-Olivia teased him gently. She couldn't stay mad at him for long. So he flirted with her last night. So what? He was always the flirty type. It was not like it meant anything. The sweet way in which he had just talked to her niece melted her anger a bit. –What's up?
-Nothing, I was actually calling for Rachel. Is she there? El told me she's in the bathroom… I… I can call back later, you know… If you… If you guys are in the middle of something-Peter muttered incomprehensibly, swallowing, wanting nothing else but to keep listening to her, never to hang up.
His voice seemed so kind, so polite, so carefully measured… It was his way of apologizing for what had transpired between them in his convalescence room a night ago and Olivia knew it very well.
Of course. That's what you expected, didn't' you? Why else would he call? Olivia willed herself to calm down, to… Speak up normally… To stop shaking.
-Oh. Yeah, sure. I… I think she's coming out now. Um… Yeah, it's her. Rach… It's for you. It's Peter.
Rachel rolled her eyes, vigorously drying her hair with a big yellow towel and she made a throat-slit gesture in Olivia's direction. Olivia shrugged noncommittally, as if saying: "What else could I do?" and Rachel had no other choice. Even Ella was looking expectantly in her direction so she took the phone and headed for her bedroom, as Olivia's wide and envious eyes watched her go.
Once she settled in an armchair, Rachel pressed the phone tightly to her ear and said, coolly and formally:
-Hi-he began awkwardly, not really sure how to approach her, fully aware of what he did. –I… Um… I called you several times this morning… And you didn't pick up… So I..
-So you thought you should bother and stalk me some more? I thought that me not picking up my cell was a clear enough message to you.
Wow. She is actually tougher than Olivia.
-Yes, yes it was. But listen, Rach…
-Don't give me that Rach talk-she actually started to sound hurt, instead of her previous official tone and Peter took that as a good sign.
-I am an idiot-Peter confessed, bluntly and directly and then hurriedly went on, afraid that she was going to hang up and that he wasn't going to be able to tell her all he wanted to. –What can I say? My… Emotions… Always tended to get the better of me, whether they were positive or negative. And then I would somehow constantly hurt the people I care about in the process. And when you…-he breathed in deeply, willing himself to continue, to speak those words thus accepting the truth that lay hidden in them.
-When you told me about Olivia and… Lucas… I wasn't myself. I couldn't control what I felt at that moment. And you were the person who was standing closest to me back then, so all the rage that I felt went in your direction, I took it all out on you. I know I can't justify my behavior. Far from it. But I really wanted to apologize. It's the least I can do. I am truly sorry, Rach. I am. I don't want to lose you. You are one of the few true friends I've got here. To think that I endangered the bond we share… It was an incredibly stupid thing to do. You were always there for me and I paid your kindness back by behaving like a jerk to you and Ella. I miss you… The harmless banter, the quirky sense of humor we both share… I hope you can forgive me for what I did. Of course… I wanted to talk to you about this in person too. I know this is not a kind of a conversation which should be led over the phone. I just wasn't sure how you'd react if you saw me at your doorstep so I thought it might be better to call first. Anyway… What I was trying to say…-he wondered if the silence on the other end of the line was a good or a bad sign.
-That's enough, Peter-Rachel replied firmly, interrupting him. –I won't deny it. I am still terribly angry with you.
-I know-he said sheepishly. –And I understand. You have the complete right to be. I am willing to give you as much time as you need.
-Hey, do you know how everything someone says before the word "but" doesn't actually count?-he couldn't contain himself but Rachel actually laughed at that one.
-Not many guys would admit they committed a mistake. Especially not that honestly, openly and sincerely. And I also have to confess I missed you too.
-So does this mean I get another chance? Will you bring Ella to the lab on Tuesday morning? I really want to see you both.
Rachel was caught off guard.
-Aren't you staying at hospital for like, ten more days? Liv told me about your… Bathroom sado-mazo escapade.
-Ouch. That hurt. It's a bit too harsh choice of words, don't you think?
-I think it's quite adequate. So let the cat out of the bag, Pete.
-My father. Let's just say he… Boosted my energy and…In a way…Sped up my convalescence time.
-OK. I'm sure I don't wanna know anything about it. I can only imagine what a man who is partial to injecting helium in children's birthday cakes would concoct.
-You're right. You don't.
-So you're out on Tuesday already? The day after tomorrow?
-Yeah, and Walter is preparing me a "surprise" party, firmly believing I know nothing about it.
-Well in that case, Liv, Ella and I will go and help him out.
Peter's miserable answer came out as a doubtful whisper.
-I don't think Olivia will have time to… Come… Seeing how she is…
Peter cringed. Those words stabbed him straight through the heart but he repeated to himself. She is dating Lucas. She is. That's the reality you have to face with. She is dating Lucas. She is dating Lucas.
-She isn't dating Lucas.
-What?-Peter's jaw dropped and in a second, an incredibly heavy stone was lifted from his chest, leaving him as light as a feather, giddy and incredulous.
-Now that we're friends again, I thought you should know. What kinda friend withholds such an important piece of information?
Rachel could hear his ragged breathing.
-What happened?-he muttered, finally speaking up.
-He left to Germany this morning.
-She dumped him?-he couldn't believe his ears.
-Actually… It apparently was the other way around.
That sentence right there was the true test for Peter Bishop's feelings. After having heard it, he realized how deeply he loved Olivia Dunham. He couldn't quite comprehend it himself, but the first thought that popped into his mind after having learnt that Lucas abandoned Olivia yet again, was not the joyful one. It was worry. Pure worry he felt for her. And desire to kick Lucas's ass.
-How is she?-he croaked.
-You can only imagine.
-That bastard-Peter growled into the phone, clenching his fists. –What, she wasn't good enough for the likes of him?
-Hey, Casanova! Good news for you over here, hello!
-I know. But… She is sad.
Rachel smiled at those words. This man has changed so much for my sister. He actually puts her feelings in front of his own right now.
-You do realize how pathetic you sound right now, Pete?-she mocked him in a friendly way.
Peter let out an affirmative grunt, mumbling something she couldn't understand but Rachel took it as a sign of an agreement.
-Thank you for telling me.
-Much better. But I also feel bad for Olivia.
-Aww… How sweet-Rachel teased him. –Your five minutes have come… You know the drill. Console my sister properly and… There'll soon be two lovebirds singing in this apartment.
-I don't want to rush things, Rach. Maybe she isn't ready just yet. I'll take it slowly. By being there for Olivia. By caring. By showing I would never do that to her.
-If you ask me, she's ready as she'll ever be, but suit yourself. Anyway, I'll tell the good news about your fast forward speedy recovery to Liv right away. So we'll all see you on Tuesday?
-If you wanted to throw in another one of yours "I'm sorry" again… You don't have to do it. We're good now, Bishop. Bye.
She could hear him sigh contently, relieved.
-Bye, Rach. Thank you.
IT WAS TUESDAY and Walterwas running around the lab impatiently, placing fresh, clean hay below Gene and warning her not to poop in another hour or so, if she would be so kind… Then he took out a pink brush and nervously started gliding down her black and white hide.
-You have to look pretty for Peter!-the old scientist whispered to the animal's ear and Gene mooed in a reply. –Who's a good cow?
Olivia was standing in the corner, looking pensively through the window. Astrid was diligently clearing out a lab table, putting different sorts of food and drinks on it, while Rachel and Ella were finishing placing ornaments and balloons with "Welcome home, Peter" writings all around the lab.
-The cake, Aspen!
-Oh, yes-Astrid said absently… -Which one was it…. The cheese cake?
-Do you even have to ask?-Walter's eyes smiled at her. –You know what my boy likes! Now… What time is it? Ten o' clock sharp! He should be here any minute!
And sure enough, only five minutes later, the lab door opened and Peter Bishop walked inside with a wide and a little embarrassed knowing smile on his face as everyone shouted in unison:
-WELCOME HOME, PETER!