Green Eyed Monster

Hide-And-Seek

OLIVIA had heard the door open and her heart started beating at a rapid pace. She couldn't force herself to tear her gaze away from the window. A girl and a boy, both students, probably sophomores from the look of it, were sharing a chaste kiss beneath a tree in front of a Harvard University and Olivia quickly averted her gaze from that scene as well.

-We got you there, didn't we, Peter! And here he was thinking… When I enter the lab, I will see my senile father working on a project, experimenting on Mr. Papaya with Afro… You didn't expect this, did you now, son?

She heard his deep throaty chuckle and a series of goosebumps ran through her flesh, making it impossible to attain her calmness and her composure.

-I most certainly didn't, Walter. I had no idea. What a surprise this has been!-Olivia turned around at the sound of his mocking voice as if attracted with some invisible force and saw Peter wink at Astrid and Rachel, while Walter was rubbing his hands together gleefully, with utter satisfaction as if he were saying: Mission Complete.

Standing semi-concealed behind one of the pillars next to the window, gathering her strength, Olivia slowly took in his graceful, lithe, tall figure.

He was wearing simple, tight, light blue jeans and a moss green sweater that somehow matched the current color of his beaming gaze. He has had his hair cut-Olivia thought awkwardly; also noticing that he had shaved the overgrown scruffy beard, leaving just the small stubble that he normally wore. He looked as good old Peter again, as if the last two weeks of the torment he had endured had never happened. The only giveaway was his weight. He still looked a bit slimmer than before but it actually did him good, Olivia pondered, ogling him secretively and bashfully, albeit not without a certain pleasure.

-Uncle Peter, uncle Peter!-Ella ran into his wide open, welcoming arms.

-Hi there, munchkin! Did you help Grandpa Walter to prepare all this nice food for me?

-Yes I did! Me, and Astrid, and my Mom and Aunt Liv!

-Come over here, you rascal!-Peter lifted her high above the ground and placed her on his shoulders. Then he started neighing and running around the lab while Ella was screaming gleefully. He put her down after couple of minutes and motioned towards the olive green duffel bag he had left at the door.

-What do you think that is?

-It's like Santa's bag where he holds the presents for the children who have been good this year.

-You are one smart young lady, I'll give you that.

She leaned forward and held on to Peter's ears, whispering conspiratorially.

-Is there a toy prize for me in the bag, uncle Peter?

-Now when have I ever broken a promise? Sure there is. Let's go and find it.

After couple of seconds of fumbling through the bag, Ella's delighted face resurfaced and she proudly held up a huge microscope.

-Oh my God, Pete, what is that?-Rachel exclaimed, coming closer.

-Let me read what says on the box to you: My first lab duo-scope microscope. With two lenses for optimal viewing, this kids' microscope brings the world's wonders into closer view. With dual lights, this amazing microscope has the flexibility to view both slides and solid items. View slides with the light shining up from below and view solid objects with the light shining down on the specimen. A fun and educational microscope for scientists of all ages.

-Peter, that is an excellent present, son!-Walter asserted with a smile.

-Yeah, I'm totally luring her over to the scientist dark side…

-Can I study nasty things with Astrid and Grandpa Walter, Mommy, can I?

-El, didn't you want to be a princess?

-I did… But…-little girl stopped for a moment, thinking… -I want to be a scientist princess and work with Uncle Peter! And save the world every day like Aunt Liv!

Olivia shook her head gently, looking proudly at her niece.

-And… Ladies and gentleman-Walter, in this case. That is not all. Seeing how I was released at exactly eight o'clock sharp… I had some time before coming here to the lab so… I got everybody a little something. It's not much, but I'm sure you'll like it.

There was a mixture of "Awww" and "You didn't have to do that", but Peter wouldn't hear about it.

-You were all there for me during these two weeks and… That's the least you deserve. Astrid… This jazz compilation vintage disc is for you… We can listen to it together while we're catching the break of all those new cases or while we're having Chinese here in the lab.

-Thanks, Peter-Astrid was really touched.

-Wait until you see what else I brought, you might not thank me so much then.

-There's more?

-Yeah. I got you this baby monitor. You know how, when I leave you here to keep an eye on Walter, you always have to stay close to him… Not anymore! Now, you can move freely around the lab, and if he does something weird, you'll hear him in no time.

-God, Peter-Astrid laughed out loud. –Only you could come up with that strange idea.

-It is not only strange, son, but it is also highly rude and underestimating-Walter started sulking.

-Oh, come on, Walter. You know I love you, but Astrid really needed my help on this one. You really are like a giant, intelligent, overtly destructive baby.

His father's eyes watered at the casually along the way thrown declaration of affection from Peter.

-Besides, I got you something that should cheer you up.

-Oh! Is it a root beer float?

-No, Walter, it is not a root beer float. But it's a second close. Seeing how you're taking your bonobo lady on a date, I thought I might help you out so that it turns out pitch perfect. I got you these two tickets for a cheesy romantic movie tonight, and… I reserved a table for two in your favorite restaurant, just a couple blocks away from our place, so you two can walk over.

-Thank you, son-Walter's face lightened up.

-You take it from there, Walter… I know you're a charmer so it won't be a problem. While you're on it… Explain the meaning of the word "depilation" to her, will ya?

Olivia looked as puzzled as Rachel and Ella, but Astrid apparently knew what Peter meant by that remark and started laughing so hard that she had to clutch her stomach.

-Look at Gene!-Peter exclaimed approaching the mooing animal. –Who's a pretty cow? Heck, I'm even glad to see you, now that I'm out of that horrible convalescence room. Here is a treat for you, sweetheart.

Olivia rolled her eyes and a wide grin crossed her face. Only he could call a cow "sweetheart".

-Peter, what are you giving to her?-Walter swiftly approached, concerned for his lab pet.

-Relax, those are just alfalfa cubes! I bought them in a pet shop on the way here. Cows are crazy about them.

-Uncle Peter, can I sit on Gene and ride her like a pony?

-I don't know if she'd like that very much from the start, Ella. You see, she doesn't know you, honey. But let me tell you what we're going to do. I am going to take you to Gene later and you can pet her and feed her all you like. Then she'll warm up to you in no time and who knows, maybe she'll let you ride her.

-That is out of the question-Rachel stated, with her arms crossed. No rodeo cow riding for you, missy.

-But Mommy…

-Now, now, munchkin. Listen to your Mom-Peter was on Rachel's side this time and Ella could only pout and wrinkle her nose in reply.

Olivia watched Peter approach her sister with a wide, but insecure and questioning smile plastered all over his face.

-Rach…-he said tentatively. They stood in front of each other, simply staring. Peter was hesitant, unsure how to proceed, knowing fully well how angry she'd been at him, and for a reason. Then Rachel cracked a grin and embraced him firmly, pressing her head on Peter's shoulder.

-Oh, come here, you!

He returned the embrace, holding her in his arms for a while, pleased, and whispered in her ear:

-Thank you.

Everything was right again and Peter sighed in relief. He didn't lose a friend after all.

-I am so glad you two have worked things out-Walter stated ecstatically.

Olivia suddenly felt as if someone had hit her square in the stomach. She began to have difficulty breathing, and her nails dug into her palms. She was willing herself to calm down. But there was more where that came from.

Peter put his hand in the pocket of his jeans and pulled out a tiny black box.

-This is for you-he simply stated.

Rachel wore a smug expression on her face.

-Is it a ring?

-No-he chuckled and shook his head at her joke. Olivia didn't find that funny at all.

–But you're close.

-So… Warm…

-Warm-Peter playfully confirmed.

-A necklace? I hope it's not a necklace cause I've just got an awesome one from Liv.

Peter's eyes darkened in understanding. Olivia gave her Lucas's present.

-Cold-he replied, accepting the game.

-North Pole cold?

-Um… Not quite North Pole cold but… Let's say… Russia cold.

-So it's not a neck piece of jewelry… And it's not a ring… Easy breezy. You got me a pair of earrings.

-That's hot, equatorial heat and you win. You are correct, Mrs. Dunham-Peter opened the box and handed her a pair of jade green hand-crafted earrings. –I picked your favorite color.

-Ooh, I simply love jewelry! You know how to choose a present for a lady! If I ever bore a grudge against you, Peter Bishop, I surely don't anymore!-Rachel cooed and gave him a peck on the cheek. –I'm gonna go to the bathroom for a second and put them on.

Olivia let out a deep sigh.

I have to find a way to get out of here. At least until I get used to this… I have to get used to this… The sooner the better. God, I didn't know I was going to react this hard. It's like I have fallen head over heels for Peter all of the sudden. I notice things I haven't noticed before… What is happening to me?

Just as she was considering quietly departing the lab without even having to talk to him, Olivia heard him inquire softly.

-Where is Olivia?

Walter was busy showing Ella how microscope worked, and since Rachel went to the bathroom, Astrid was the only one left standing near Peter. She was just pouring orange juice into the cups and cutting the cheese cake into big slices as the question reached her. She raised her head, looked at Peter knowingly and discreetly motioned towards the pillar near the window.

Peter nodded in thanks and went to Olivia, who found she suddenly couldn't move. As if there was nothing she could do; she was rooted to the spot where she was standing, helplessly watching him approach, striding slowly and leisurely towards her, like a big cat who knew its prey wouldn't be able to run.

Olivia rocked on her feet, backwards and forwards, nervously, forcing herself to look him in the eyes when he finally reached her. By doing so, she noticed they were that calm and gentle sea-green color and that soothed her for some reason.

Peter's heart climbed all the way up to his throat as Olivia's statuesque body contours slowly came into his field of vision.

Her hair is down-he thought, and for a moment, Peter enjoyed, observing its silken gloss and smoothness. He smiled at her shabby black trench coat and her plain white shirt, greeting them in his mind as old friends.

God, how much I missed you, sweetheart. My sweet Livia. I am never going to make a mistake with you again, Olivia, I swear. I am never going to hurt you like I did that night at the hospital. I am going to be whoever you want me to be. If it's a friend you wish for, you will have him in me. And you will also have my unreserved support. I'll give you my all. I would never leave you like that son of a bitch.

He carefully inspected her pallid, freckle peppered swollen face and flinched at the sight of dark bags under her puffy eyes. She had been crying.

Peter wanted nothing more but to grab her, to pull her closer to him, and cradle her close to his chest safely, to envelop this fragile little girl he was seeing in Olivia now into his arms, to shield her from any harm that might befall her.

But I have no right to do it, God, I can't simply do it, just like that. We've never embraced before. Olivia would think me insane; she would button up in her cocoon even more than ever.

He opted for a friendly, caring, joking tone and respectful distance instead, not wanting to scare her away.

Peter Bishop always felt awkward around Olivia Dunham, because he cared too much about her, as he wished everything to turn out perfect. He didn't dare to do anything that would jeopardize their flimsy friendship. Not anymore.

He swore inwardly he wouldn't even flirt with her, lest she took it in a wrong way. He had never behaved like that with any other woman, so cautiously, so guardedly, carefully planning where he was going to stand, what exactly he was going to say prior to each conversation, and that was what frightened him. His world was upside down because of Olivia.

He placed his nervous hands in his pockets and smiled, shyly.

-Hi.

-Hi-she replied a bit breathlessly. –Glad to see you out and about.

-Tell me about it. No one is happier than I, me and myself. The best part of it… I'll finally be able to fully enjoy the privilege of Walter's fine cuisine. So…-he eased her into conversation with the only way he knew how: with a joke. -You Dunham girls really like playing games, huh? Ella loves her pony rides; Rachel was just playing Hot and Cold with me...

-Yeah, I know, I heard you.

Was he imagining it or her facial expression actually stiffened for a bit?

-Now you are making me play Hide-and-Seek-he gave her that familiar lopsided grin and Olivia felt her knees become wobbly.

She blushed and Peter thought how cute Olivia looked when she was embarrassed about something. He couldn't keep his eyes off of her, so he went staring on and on, drinking in her soft angelical features… Having her so close after weeks of being apart was making him giddy. How could I ever think about leaving her? I wouldn't last a month away from Olivia.

-I'm sorry, I wanted to be there with everyone to greet you… I was just… I had another one of my headaches coming on and… So I came over here by the window to…-she blurted out guiltily. It was the first excuse that popped into her mind.

-Hey, hey, hey, hey-Peter whispered gently, instinctively taking both of her hands into his, in order to calm her down. She is like a delicate, wild, frightened doe. With those big, beautiful pleading eyes.

Olivia's head jolted sharply upwards. She was looking everywhere but into his eyes. Warmth surged from his palms into her body and she let out an inaudible gasp.

-It's okay, Olivia. You don't have to apologize. Especially not to me, of all people.

She plucked up the courage and finally looked at his clouded-over pupils, wondering what he was going to say.

-The way I acted couple of nights ago towards you was inexcusable. I could blame it on all the whisky I had ingested prior to your coming to visit me but that was not the only reason I… I was behaving like that-Peter swallowed hard several times, still holding her tiny cool hands in his, reminding himself this would be a good time to stop talking or she'll be on to him in no time.

-I know-Olivia replied, with a hinge of deep sadness in her tone of voice, and Peter frowned, not comprehending why she was reacting like that.

You were sad and angry because of the fight you had with Rachel. You overreacted and got violent-Olivia thought. He really is in love with my sister. Who wouldn't be? She's cute, charming, flirty and outgoing, everything I am not.

-Anyway… I wanted to say that I am sorry. Thank you for putting up with me and Walter during all this time we've known each other. Both of us have been a handful more than once and… You have been incredibly patient. I sincerely appreciate that. You are the most tolerant person I know-Peter spoke straightly and honestly, wishing to patch up everything so badly. Just let everything go back where it was… Don't reject me, Olivia. Let me stay in your life, at least as a friend.

He opens up to me differently. The way he speaks… So bluntly, so directly… In such a friendly demeanor… And… He doesn't even lightly flirt with me anymore. That… That must be because he has chosen her already and I am simply staying his friend. And nothing else.

It hurt her.

Olivia couldn't help herself as her thoughts briefly wandered to the scene that played out between them about half a year ago, before Rach and Ella came to live with her in her apartment. They had just finished working on a case. She found out where he had gotten his information about the facility where Claire Williams was held. Peter did it for her. It was his way of wishing her happy birthday. They were sitting together on a bench, impossibly close, never taking their eyes off of each other. She suddenly sensed how much she attracted him and it scared the hell out of her. If she stayed there for a couple of seconds more, she knew he would lean forward and kiss her. Her feet moved of their own accord and she stood up, distancing herself from his warm, lustful, sincere gaze, running away from that perfect moment, ruining it on purpose, seeing how he was trying to hide the disappointment that was written all over his face, how he was masking it with a feeble joke.

Now Olivia wished she hadn't done that, she wished she could turn back time but she knew it was impossible and that it was all in vain.

No one sits around and waits forever for a girl to decide. Peter waited for such a long time. I didn't realize how I felt about him back then. Now that I do, it's too late. It simply is. That is the irony of life. If you miss that perfect moment it might just never come back anymore. I missed it. Rachel didn't. The winner takes it all.

Abba's song was running through her mind as she was half-listening to Peter's sincere confession….

I don't wanna talk about things we've gone through. Though it's hurting me, now it's history. I played all my cards and that's what you've done too. Nothing more to say, no more ace to play.

The winner takes it all. The loser has to fall. It's simple and it's plain, why should I complain?

The game is on again, a lover or a friend, A big thing or a small, the winner takes it all. I don't wanna talk… If it makes you feel sad… And I understand you've come to shake my hand. I apologize…If it makes you feel bad…Seeing me so tense, no self confidence…

Peter stopped frozen in mid-sentence, frightened of the desperate look Olivia had on her face. She was furiously biting her lower lip as well and she seemed incredibly anxious.

-Olivia-he said softly and the way he called out her name brought her back to her senses. Olivia's eyes quickly darted to the floor, since she sensed the moist gathering in their corners. I can't be weak now. Not in front of him.

After several seconds of amazement, wondering what he should do, his forefinger opted for gently settling just below her chin, carefully lifting her head up.

-Are you OK?

She nodded, wordlessly.

Peter cursed himself for bringing up the subject, but he simply had to do it:

-I… I know what happened. I… Know that he left. It's not like it's any of my business-he hurriedly distanced himself from the matter, in case she got angry.

-Rachel told you.-Olivia stated mechanically, trying to participate in the conversation.

-Yes. Yes, she did. Listen… He didn't deserve you, Olivia. If he had truly loved you he would have never been able to walk away. Look at me, sweetheart. This is how it's done. For crying out loud, I'm glued on to you like a blood-hound. And I care about you so much that I've even pushed my jealousy aside just to make you feel better.

Is he… Consoling me? God, can this get any worse? He is not even jealous. Peter is behaving as if he were my older brother.

-I don't want to talk about it.

-It… It'll get better-he finished, weakly. Ugh… Me and my big mouth. I should've known she didn't want to ramble on about this.

-I know it will.

-If fierce Special Agent Olivia Dunham can solve a dozen of pattern cases and live to tell the tale, she most certainly can survive a break-up-Peter joked, albeit cautiously.

-Yeah-she nodded, faux-enthusiastically.

Then her breath was caught in her throat as Peter's forefinger slid upwards from her chin and rested on her cheek instead, caressing it with care and kindness, brushing away a single translucent tear that lay there forgotten.

That bastard. He made her cry. I swear, if I saw Lucas right now, I'd kick his ass. Well, I would if I knew how he looked like.

Olivia panicked and she took a sudden step backwards. Peter swiftly removed his hand, cleared his throat and said, without looking at her, and abruptly changing the topic:

-So I gave the presents to everyone else. Let me get yours as well.

-Peter…-she actually felt guilty. Olivia remembered how he said the presents were for the people who were there for him during the two weeks of his convalescence, and she wasn't exactly among them. She actually avoided him on purpose. –You shouldn't have.

-Are you really telling me I shouldn't have bothered to buy a gift to a friend who just happened to save my life? Without whom I wouldn't even be standing here today?

She blushed. That part was true. "To a friend" were the words that caught her attention.

-Anyway, I know you don't like when people buy you presents. Don't worry, I haven't forgotten that part-Peter completely disarmed her with his boyish smile. -But these are actually useful and interesting. In that order-he winked.

Olivia had to admit that her curiosity was sparked and she tried to peek over his shoulder as he was browsing through the contents of the duffel bag. Peter was standing by the door, leaning forward, carefully pulling something out of the bag and Olivia's eyes instinctively checked his chiseled bottom in tight jeans.

Olivia shook her head at herself in sheer horror, as she suddenly remembered a joke Rachel would always play on one of her classmates who, according to her younger sister, had a gorgeous ass. She would tell him: "Nick, we hate to see you leave, but we love watching you walk away!" That particular line was from an Atkins Trace song, "Honky Tonk Badonkadonk" and it was perfectly applicable in Peter Bishop's case as well. Well, she'll be able to touch that kind of backside now, Olivia thought enviously.

-Got 'em!-Peter exclaimed, satisfied, and came back to stand next to her, by the pillar.

-OK, now close your eyes-he whispered mischievously.

She did as she was told, smiling. In a way, that little girl in her still loved surprises. Then Olivia sensed Peter shift and stand right behind her.

Peter took out one of the hair ties, a bright emerald green one, from the "One hundred and one hair ties compilation" as he proudly called them. He deeply inhaled the sweet vanilla scent of Olivia's skin and the apple smell of her hair shampoo.

Peter was drunk on that essence that was just hers and no one else's, and his nostrils stretched lustily, greedily, wanting for more.

He simply stood like that for a few seconds, as if he were in some kind of drug induced stupor, wishing she was his and his only… Madly desiring to have the right to encircle her waist from behind, to pull her closer, to press his ever-hardening erection, which woke up once again now that he was so close to Olivia, onto her sculpted thighs, to show her what she was doing to him. Peter craved for nothing but to rest his weary head on her shoulder, in the yellow field of her hair.

Then he heard Olivia's impatient little foot stomping on the lab floor and he chuckled out loud. Peter took her hair in his hands and started stroking it with care, gathering all the golden wheat into one sheaf and tying it into a ponytail.

Small jolts of electricity were running through Olivia's body as Peter was gently caressing her hair. It felt incredibly erotic to her for some reason and she subconsciously wished he would never stop.

-There-he muttered hoarsely after having finished, barely being able to hide his excitement and his arousal. I knew I shouldn't have worn these tight jeans today.

–Now I've put you in a bad-ass-agent-Dunham detective mode. Stretch out your hands.

When she did so, and then opened her eyes, Olivia saw a big, simple wooden seashell box lying in her palms.

-It's beautiful-Olivia could see it was old and hand-crafted and a thought occurred to her. –Did you make this?

-Yes. A long time ago.

I made it for my mother, on our first holiday on the beach that we spent without Walter. To make her feel better. But now she is gone and I want you to have it. To make you feel better.

Those words never left Peter Bishop's mouth. He was afraid Olivia would reject the gift if she knew it used to belong to Elizabeth.

-Open it-Peter instructed her and grinned like a fool, adoring that curious childish glance she gave him.

Olivia looked even more puzzled when she discovered that box was full of hair ties and ribbons, in various shades of green.

-Peter…

-Peter Bishop proudly presents… One hundred and one hair ties compilation.

Olivia clasped her mouth and shook her head incredulously.

-How… Where did you find all these?

-They are all completely different in color, shape and size. The only thing that they have in common is that they are green. Well, that, and… They are hair ties, obviously. You know how I always tell you I like it when you wear your hair down while you like it up so we constantly argue? And how you had to endure me stealing hair ties from your hair and then making them magically disappear? So I was thinking and I decided to let the lady choose. If you like your hair in a braid, in a bun or in a ponytail… So be it. Now a hair tie can be your trademark.. You know… Everyone who sees this shell box will think it's full of jewelry. What they will not know will be that it contains something equally precious to Olivia Dunham as the necklaces, rings and earrings are to other ladies. Her hair ties. And you can wear a different one every day.

-This…-Olivia didn't know what to say.

-Did I just leave my boss speechless?-he teased her, good-naturedly.

-It is an incredibly original gift, Peter. Thank you so much. And you weren't lying when you said it would prove useful.

Then her eyebrow shot up in the air inquisitively, as if she remembered something.

-What about the other gift, the one you labeled "interesting"?

-I'm getting to that-Peter pulled out a book from behind his back. – I want you to have this book, too. I know how you love reading. Mostly forensic science, yes, but I thought a different genre wouldn't hurt. It might appeal to you more than you think. Anyway… When you have time… I would like you to read this.

-"If you meet Buddha on the road, kill him"? Does it speak about abolishing the religious fetish?

-Yes, you're onto something there… The title are the words that the ninth-century Buddhist master Lin Chi is supposed to have said. Basically… To turn Buddha into a religious fetish is to miss the essence of what he taught. Buddhists do not consider him to be a God per se… And his way, the way he found the enlightenment he preached about… Shouldn't be the only way. It is actually up to us to find our own enlightenment, our own way. We shouldn't be influenced by those of others.

-So this book talks about not depending on other people for answers? I already like it.

-I couldn't have put it better myself. I thought you might.-Peter silently admired her swift power of deduction.

-Is this your personal recommendation?-Olivia inquired mirthfully.

Peter evaded the answer once again.

It would become too significant, too obvious, if I told her it's my favorite book. Just like with the shell box. She would guess what I feel for her, then. And seeing how she still suffers for Lucas… That is the last thing I want her to find out right about now.

-Nah. It's Markham's. I dropped by the bookstore earlier this morning, asked him to recommend a good book for his favorite blonde FBI agent… And here it is.

Olivia was a bit disappointed Peter hadn't chosen the book himself but she hid it very well.

-Oh, and Olivia?

-What?

-If you happen to stumble upon some erotic Kama sutra position drawings or bold, untoward, slightly perverted suggestions hastily written on the pages… Just skip those and go on reading… You should know Markham wrote them, not me.-his cheeks reddened. –He's one really sexually frustrated dwarf.

-Um… Sure. Thanks for the heads up-Olivia casually shrugged, accepting the information like any other and Peter beamed. He loved that characteristic of hers: no matter how strange or weird something was, Olivia would calmly analyze and acknowledge the situation, adapting to it in a jiffy.

-Let's go join the others. I could really go for a cheese cake.

-Uncle Peter!-Ella shouted enthusiastically seeing them approach. –Sit next to me and my mommy!

-Here I am, sweetheart. I'm coming to sit right next to you.

-I saw something green and gross on a microscope slide! Grandpa Walter showed it to me.

-I'm sure he did.

Ella was sitting in Rachel's lap so Peter positioned himself next to Rachel, while Walter hurriedly took the other free seat on Peter's right side, happy that his son was finally here.

Olivia sat next to Astrid, opposite Peter, Rachel and Walter. Her good mood slowly started to fade as she watched Rachel whisper conspiratorially into Peter's ear, leaning over to him every now and then.

They still don't quite seem like a couple… But… They'll probably be together very soon. It's only a matter of time.

-Now!-Walter bellowed. –Let us all sing in unison! Happy birthday to you… Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday, dear Peter…

-Walter.

-What?

-It's not my birthday.

-What are you talking about, son, we've baked the cake and all… Oh. –it finally dawned on Walter and he patted Peter's back awkwardly. –Welcome home, my boy.

-Thank you Walter. It's good to be back.

The small, cozy party went on for half an hour or so in a pleasant atmosphere. Peter, of course, was the star of the morning, making everyone laugh with hospital food anecdotes, and with the talk of the frightening new nurse that Walter was taking on a date. He and Ella fed each other cheesecake and played "I spy with my little eye". Olivia had to admit that the lab looked completely different, now that it was illuminated with his boyish smile.

But… The relaxed, flirty way in which he talked to Rachel, faux stretching towards her, over the back of the chair …How Rachel would wipe the cheesecake stains away from the corners of both Peter's and Ella's mouth…

It all weighed heavily on Olivia and she wasn't certain how much longer she could bear to look at them like that. I wish I could have an excuse to… Go… To leave now…

Peter's eyes would flicker worriedly towards Olivia every now and then, when she wasn't looking at his direction, or when Astrid would address her. She was unusually quiet and it concerned him. Rachel had just muttered into his ear that she was sure Olivia was jealous of her, but Peter wasn't quite buying that.

That can't possibly be true. She's just broken up with someone who had been her first love, someone who meant to her very much. Olivia sees me as nothing more than a friend. Maybe, in time… But for now… Rachel must be wrong.

A familiar melody of "Imperial March" reverberated through the lab and everyone but the Dunham girls groaned in unison.

Olivia reached for her cell, secretly very pleased. Finally, a case. That should distract me.

-It's Broyles-she said, but there really was no need to explain that to Walter, Peter and Astrid. They knew that ringtone all too well.

-Dunham.

-Dunham. This is Broyles. There has been another incident. Four bodies have been found mauled up to the point of irrecognition by an animal of an unknown origin, in a car wreck near the Big Dig Boston highway. I'll give you the exact location once you're in your car. I need you there in thirty. Bring the Bishops with you.

-Yes, sir.

-Tell Peter Bishop I said "Welcome back".

-I will, sir.

-Talk to you later, Dunham. After you three visit the crime scene and find out everything that you can, report back to me as soon as possible.

-Of course, sir-she hung up and turned to others, announcing in a formal tone of voice: -We've got a new case on our hands.

Peter moaned and hid his face in his palms: -Home, sweet home.



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