Every day started ending in the same way for Olivia Dunham. And she was beginning to be afraid of her own room and of her own bed. She wasn't able to sleep. She wasn't able to think. She was afraid of herself. Of being alone with herself. I thought I knew who I was. But maybe I was wrong. How the hell did I turn off those lights? And how was it related to Jacksonville?
Above all, Peter was irritating her with his smartass comments. Ever since she managed to do it, he joked around, and his jokes went from calling her Deluminator to pulling her leg on daily basis. "A real pain in the ass", she thought, but a little smile danced around her lips. She knew him well by now. He wasn't malevolent; he simply wanted her to relax and to try to make her look at the situation "from the bright side", as he said, adding later with a wolfish grin: "no pun intended". Olivia couldn't stay mad at him for long. Especially not after what he did for her in the previous case, going undercover, risking getting himself killed; and very recently, coming back, standing next to her… She could see the scene so clearly in her mind; she replayed it so many times she knew it by heart.
She felt his anger, the way he pulled her, beckoning exasperatedly, and how it made her desperate; she couldn't move away from the test lights, she couldn't let all those people die. Peter left her alone and she felt so helpless. She could only stare at those glittering mocking yellow flashes… Olivia didn't know why David Robert Jones wanted her to do something like that, why he believed in her. For some reason he did. "Before they can be considered soldiers, they must be regarded as recruits…" were his exact words… He actually was willing to jeopardize so many lives just so she could… Do what? Perform her "hocus pocus" and "abracadabra", like Peter called it. David Robert Jones thought she was a soldier. He actually believed in every word of the ZFT manifesto. It frightened her. She was out of control when she spoke to him on the phone, when she realized that he really meant it. That it was the "do" or "die" thing. And Peter left. For some reason, that was the most frightening fact of them all. He left and he said that he wasn't doing that with her. Her partner. Her true friend. He abandoned her and she instantly felt so broken. Olivia couldn't focus back then. Her thoughts were jumping carelessly around even though they should've stayed on the lights…
There were only thirty seconds until the explosion when she heard the soft, reluctant footsteps that were slowly approaching and then they stopped somewhere behind her. Olivia heard Peter sigh so silently that for a second she wondered if she'd imagined it. But somehow she knew it was real. He came back. He wanted to be with her at that moment. Peter was ready to die with her even if she couldn't turn off those lights. Her energy ceased to dissipate, and Olivia calmed down. That was the effect Peter always had on her. If this freakish mind power was hers, soothing was his unique ability. She channeled her brain waves, focused them with success, staring down the light box and the lights actually started turning off, one by one. Olivia stopped questioning herself on how she was doing it, the only thing she could think of was: "next one, next one, next one"… She thought of Peter, of his closeness, of his faith in her… And it somehow worked. She turned around to find him smiling, relieved, astonished… And full of admiration for what she did. Olivia Dunham admired him even more. It took a lot of courage to do what he did. She started appreciating everything about him that she used to take for granted, or pretend not to notice under his cynical façade.
Meeting David Robert Jones was a turning point experience for her and she had to admit it. It actually changed all she knew about her past and it turned her perspective upside down. Nina's phone call also made her dread her own past even more. She confirmed that there actually were some experiments done on children in Jacksonville, Florida, and Olivia shuddered at the very thought. Who was she? And why did she have this ability?
Today, when they found that silent little boy in the building foundations, her heart shattered. She was so sad; she couldn't bear looking at him. His skin was so pale that it almost looked transparent. He had difficulty breathing and he hadn't eaten anything solid, at least that was what the doctors said. He was in a sad state. What kind of person would do such a horrible thing to a child?
In a way, she was glad that this new case came up. Even if it meant less sleep, less time for herself. Because it also meant less time for thinking about questions that bothered her and that could not be answered. New case, in Olivia Dunham's life, signified something new to occupy her thoughts, and she plunged in it willingly, welcoming the oblivion that engulfed her.
On the other hand, it was also easy to get caught in this case, especially because of the fondness she felt for children and the case soon became very personal to her. She would visit the hospital several times a day just to hold the strange boy's hand or to speak to him in soothing voice. Olivia liked the boy. He was simple, calm and kind. And she wanted to believe that the boy liked her too, because it seemed as if his face would light up each time she stepped into his room. He wasn't speaking yet, but his face was fairly expressive, and he could also write, albeit backwards. The initial trauma and fear he felt had vanished, and he also got accustomed to bright light and higher levels of oxygen that were administered slowly into the room where he was spending his day. Olivia wished he would tell her his name, or at least write it down on the piece of paper, but the only things he would write down were somehow related to the case they were working on, because he apparently figured the case was important to her.
She was trying to complete the pieces of the puzzle, scrabbling down all the details they knew so far about the serial killer, nervously biting her lower lip when Peter entered the office.
-How's it going? Have you managed to shed some light on the case?
-No, I still don't know where all this is going…-having realized what he said, she frowned at him. –Peter, cut it out!
He grinned and knelt next to her, looking at her sketches about the crime. He accidentally saw something very interesting and he made a mental note of it in his head, already planning the evening.
Olivia became aware of his proximity and his deep voice and she trembled a little.
-Lighten up, Dunham… It was just a joke… With all the magic tricks you can do, and with your wits, you'll probably see the light at the end of the tunnel very soon….
"He just can't stop teasing"-Olivia thought angrily and chose to ignore his remarks.
-OK, sorry, I exaggerated-his voice was softer, more apologetic. –But hey, don't start hating on me… I thought I was your favorite guy by now, seeing how I was ready to die with you and all that…-Peter chuckled.
She nodded courtly, not wanting to speak to him at all. That was so Peter-like… Why work on the case when you can joke around all day? He simply wasn't helping.
Peter realized she was very angry and he kept silence, simply observing her and enjoying her proximity. His awe and love for Olivia Dunham became even deeper after what she did with that light box. Peter wanted to know how she did it, but since Olivia decided not to talk about it, he determined not to push it. She was already nervous enough about the matter, and he thought his jokes might unwind her… Obviously, he was wrong.
She let her hair loose on that particular morning and it was cascading down her shoulders… Her beautiful face seemed so focused and concentrated… Peter loved watching her think. When she had an idea, you could just see it racing through her mind… Her face was like an open book to him at those moments. Right now, her long pale fingers were tapping impatiently on the desk and he had a sudden urge to lean forward and kiss them, one by one, take them in his both hands and tell her that she'd figure it out because she always did, because she was the most amazing woman he had ever met.
He was thinking about Walter's proposed formula: love, support, patience… He had been giving her all that. Heck, what better proof of his support than his coming back to die with her? "That was insane", Peter admitted to himself. It frightened him a lot because it showed him how much he was smitten with her. Seven months ago, if someone told him he would be ready to lose his life for a girl, he would laugh in that man's face. Now… He could only mockingly laugh at himself. He just couldn't believe she said no when he invited her to grab a drink or five. She didn't even thank him for staying. That's not true. She looked you in the eyes in such a grateful way, like she owes you so much. That's just her way of showing affection.
Peter wanted her to open up to him… But it was so hard to accomplish. He decided to change his approach a bit and to stop looking so desperate. If anything, his experience with women had taught him that they always know if you like them. After seven months of constant eye-sex he'd been giving to Ms. Olivia Dunham, he was positive she knew he felt something about her. Hell, even if she didn't realize it by now, she could surely see it after the light box episode.
Now, obviously, she didn't want to encourage that feeling, for the reasons that were her own… Fear? Insecurity? Maybe she just didn't want a relationship on her hands at the moment and she shoved those thoughts under the carpet, like she did with everything that bothered her? Peter didn't know but he was hoping the reason wasn't that she didn't like him at all.
Anyway, he decided on B) option. No matter how hard it was. She simply meant too much to him and he knew he wasn't going to be able to leave her. He also believed it wasn't the right time to press her and to impose his feelings on her. That left him with a friend zone.
Peter decided to stop drooling over Olivia Dunham and start behaving more normal, more his quirky, witty usual self. He had been giving her his unreserved affection up until now. Peter Bishop wanted to see what would happen if he stopped showing her how much he cared for her every minute, and simply relaxed in her company and if he began simply being her friend. He even stated it openly a week ago in Markham's shop. He wished he could've seen the look on her eyes when he said, levelly: "This one's just a friend". Was she disappointed? Peter secretly wanted that. Then stupid smelly dwarf Markham slightly pissed him off because he was hitting on her. Well, at least it was awkward for Olivia too, he thought.
-Say, Dunham, I forgot to tell you something. I was required to convey a message by one of your numerous admirers. -he started jovially, with a wide smile on his face.
Olivia turned towards him, rubbed her temples tiredly, and smiled as well. That Bishop smirk was contagious, she had to admit it.
-So… What's the message?-her tone of voice was playful and curious and her wide green eyes twinkled.
-Markham said to me, and I quote: Tell her that she's extremely sexy and that I would like her legs wrapped around my neck anytime.
Olivia burst out laughing and her head bobbed forward; she was almost choking. Her laughter warmed Peter's heart like a ring of hundred tiny silver bells.
-Oh my God. That was untoward. And I here I was thinking he was just harmlessly flirting with me. But… The craziest thing is… The man has no neck.-she couldn't stop giggling.
-Right, that's exactly what I told him-Peter grinned; amused that she had precisely the same thought as he did.
They stared at each other in understanding for one blissful moment, with silly smiles plastered over their faces, but then Olivia blushed slightly and averted her gaze.
Peter swallowed hard. She was so beautiful. He continued chatting away, in order to stop himself from ogling her further.
-Isn't it time for your daily afternoon visit to your grandfather?
She frowned, not realizing who he was talking about at first, but then she retorted:
-Don't call him like that. He's merely a boy, Peter.
-Yup, but for what all we know, he might've lived underground munching vermin for over 70 years. He's probably ancient.
-You're incorrigible-she sighed, and Peter nodded proudly. "He looks like a mischievous boy"-she thought. –Denis the Menace.
-That's what my mother used to call me sometimes, when I got in trouble in school, or with our neighbors, because I was performing all sorts of experiments in the backyard, when… When Walter was still around and we lived in that big house by the lake-a shadow of sadness crossed his face.
Olivia felt awkward and, wishing to change the subject, she stood up and stretched, yawning.
-So, care to join me?
-Sure. You could always use some help. Imagine this situation: you are entering a hospital room to see your grandfather. Instead, there is a wolf in bed, wearing your grandfather's pajamas, and you tell him: "Grandpa, what big eyes you have! What a big nose you have! What big teeth you have! And the wolf would say: All the better to eat you up with!" Eventually, I would burst into the room and save you. Me, being the hunter. Get it? Bishop-Hunter. The chess figure, I mean. In Slavic languages "bishop "is known as "lovac", that was taken from German "laufer"-it actually means hunter.
-Nice try. Only the story would be called Little Black Riding Hood, since I never wear red.
-Somehow I don't believe there is a wolf in that boy's hospital bedroom, but you really are imaginative.
-Always been, always will be. Hey, can I drive?-his puppy dog eyes pleaded her while they were exiting the university.
-In your dreams, Peter-she replied shortly and he merely grinned, thinking how he would say exactly the same to Walter each time his father asked him that question.
The ride to the hospital was quiet. Peter observed her cautious eyes were always on the road.
-Speaking of wolf in the bedroom… What's on your mind?
-What do you mean?-her eyes looked at him for a moment.
-Is something wrong with the boy?
-How do you know?
-Call it my impeccable intuition, I guess.
-There is a wolf in his bedroom, theoretically speaking. A man is visiting him constantly and he has made it clear, as soon as the boy recovers, he'll take him away.
-Can we prevent it?-Peter's voice was serious, his gaze hard.
-I am investigating all the possibilities-she rubbed her temples again.
-Olivia, do you need my help with anything? Maybe you bit more than you can chew right now, let me assist you. There is this boy, and there is this crazy serial killer roaming around the streets… How about I check what can be done about a foster family for him, while you focus on chasing the bad guy?
-Thanks.-she shot him a look full of gratitude. –I just feel so tired, mentally and physically. But at the same time I don't want him to feel abandoned. I'll just continue visiting him.
-Have I heard you correctly? You are actually accepting my help?-Peter chuckled. -Why don't you take a day off?-he asked, and then simply smiled after having seen her horrified face. –Broyles will have to bribe you in order to tell you to go home and stop working overtime . Olivia Dunham, an agent who dreaded holiday seasons.
She shot him what she thought was an angry glare, and Peter shook his head. They were at the hospital already. They came out of the car and went inside.
The boy was lying in bed quietly, with a lot of sheets of paper and a pencil in his hand. He was drawing strange symbols, writing backwards and painting the things in the room. As soon as Olivia entered, he beamed.
-Look at the happy little tyke. His eyes light up when you are here, but when you leave the room, they somehow turn off…
-Peter, cut it out with those stupid light jokes already!
-Sheesh. I didn't know you hated my sense of humor that much-he grinned defensively.
-Hey-Olivia said gently, kissing the boy on the forehead. –Have you eaten something today?
He nodded, serious, searching Olivia's face for the signs of her emotions. She seemed serene.
Peter sat near them, watching their interaction but without participating in the conversation. This was Olivia's moment. The boy adored her. They connected somehow, on a higher level. She could make him eat for her when no one else could and when the nurses complained about his indifferent behavior.
-So today I brought you some white chocolate. You haven't tried that yet, have you?
He shook his head, observing her intently, and then he slightly parted his lips accepting the piece of chocolate. Afterwards, he gave her some and smiled again, holding her hand.
All of a sudden, he looked afraid. Olivia spun around and noticed the dark man in the lobby. He was in the hospital again. She stood up abruptly.
-Do you want me to go and talk to him?-Peter asked calmly, remembering their recent agreement.
-No, not now. This is too important, I'll go this time-she answered calmly. –Stay with him, I'll be back fast.
-OK-Peter replied, and sat next to the boy.
-Hi, buddy. Let me tell you something now that Olivia has left the room… I would switch places with you anytime… I mean, gorgeous Olivia Dunham feeding me chocolate… My life would be complete-it was a joke but Peter actually meant every word he said.
The boy smiled and looked straight into his eyes. Peter suddenly felt dizzy and weak.
-Kiddo, if you got some mumbo jumbo tricks just like Dunham, please don't try them on me. I've had my fair share of being tortured and experimented on. Look, I brought you something too. It's my favorite brontosaurus toy, Bronco. He's pretty cool, right? Used to play with him all day long when I was your age. Well actually, no. Strike that. You're over seventy so… Maybe you just want me to turn on the TV so that you could watch reruns of Matlock.
The boy's smile became even wider, if possible, but he took the brontosaurus and placed it gently on his palm. Then he looked towards Olivia again. Peter turned around as well. She was arguing with the "wolf" as Peter secretly called him and the boy seemed very tense. He started rocking forward and backward.
Peter took his hand.
-Hey pal. There's nothing to worry about. Olivia… Olivia and I won't let him take you anywhere. Did you know that just this morning, she authorized me to find a great home for you?
The boy calmed down and looked at Peter warily.
-That's right. And you can trust me. I know, I know, I was a criminal, but I am a reformed man now. It's a promise. In my new saint role, next mission is: find the great foster home for grandpa.
The boy looked incredibly like Olivia when he shook his head in Peter's direction, with a hint of a smile creeping up his thin purple lips.
-Well, I guess no one appreciates my sense of humor anymore. Now let me ask you something. Grandpa or not… You would probably like to go outta this place sometimes, take a stroll, you know what I mean? Not just to the lab to be hooked up to my father's medieval torture devices. So how about you and I go someplace nice tonight? I can bring you back here in two or three hours.
He nodded slowly and squeezed Peter's hand.
-That's my man-Peter smiled. Of course, he was going to ask the nurse for permission beforehand, but he was certain she would grant it.
Peter turned around again to look at Olivia. The man was gone, but she was standing alone in the corridor, in front of the room, and she looked angry and desperate. She was biting her lower lip furiously and he knew she was distressed. He hated the man who made her feel like this. He closed his eyes for second and imagined her happy, and laughing contagiously like she did that morning after his Markham joke. "Except it was not a joke. The old goat actually said it", he thought.
The boy tugged at his coat and Peter looked downwards. He was writing again. It was only one word. aivilO.
Peter smiled a sad, haunted smile and the burning desire appeared in his eyes. He sighed and caressed the boy's head.
-Yes. Olivia. Olivia… -he repeated her name, whispering it softly. –I would be lost without her, like a blind man who can't see where he's going.
The boy looked at him, interested, and then started drawing super fast. His hands were moving at an incredible speed. Peter was almost afraid that he was having some kind of seizure. He had never seen someone who could draw like that.
-Olivia, you gotta come in and take a look at this!
She ran into the room and stood above the boy, worried.
It was over in less than two minutes. On the drawing, there was Olivia, just as she looked like that morning, sitting at the table, her golden hair cascading down her shoulders, and the first three buttons on her shirt were open, allowing a good look at her cleavage. Her kind green eyes were sinking into his very soul and it seemed as if they were gazing straight through him, twinkling like tiny emeralds… Her full soft lips were bright red and she was smiling in earnest; she was blissfully happy because he was in the room with her… They were slightly parted, as if daring, and inviting him to taste her, to suck on them and on her tongue…
Peter swallowed and his cheeks reddened. The boy had drawn the very image of Olivia he had in his mind that morning.
Olivia smiled nervously.
-Cute. How did he… What was that all about?
-I've no idea. But, it is a nice drawing, you have to admit it.
-Yes, Peter, but...-she frowned. I don't really look like that, do I?
Peter fidgeted and looked everywhere but in her eyes. –Um… Ever heard of artistic liberties?
The boy calmly placed the drawing in Peter's hand.
-Oh… You want me to keep it? Thanks, man… Sure, why not?
Olivia looked uncomfortable but said nothing. When she opened her mouth to speak, her voice was very businesslike.
-Look, I've gotta go to the corner of those two streets whose names he drew yesterday. There've been a lot of FBI agents undercover, patrolling around but so far, no sightings of our guy. I want to be there just in case, I want to feel like I'm participating in the capture. You stay with him for a while if you wish. I'll let you know what's going on, or if something new occurs-she ran her fingers through her hair absently. –I guess I'll see you tomorrow.
-Yeah-he sighed when she was already out the door.
Then he smiled at the boy.
-I've no idea how you did it… But…. It's awesome. Thank you.
The boy nodded solemnly.
The nurse came in to check his vitals, so Peter came out for a moment.
He carefully cradled the drawing between his hands as if it were made of thin glass. His eyes were smiling as he was drinking in her features. His heart was painfully throbbing in his chest.
-You do look like this, sweetheart. Moreover, the drawing comes close, but it doesn't do you justice-he whispered to an empty hallway.
It was about half past eight when Olivia finally was able to come home. Thanks to the help of the little boy, they've actually managed to catch the serial killer that evening.
And it wasn't so bad to be at home at half past eight, because, on other days, she would sometimes stay on the field or in the office until midnight. Tonight, however, was very important, she thought… She was so tired… She tied her hair in a careless bun, and put her hands in the pockets of her simple black suit… She carefully tucked a beautifully wrapped book, "Burlap Bear" under her armpit After all, it was Ella's fifth birthday today and she wanted it to be special. Olivia was certain the girl was going to like the gift. Ella loved their reading nights together.
She was really looking forward to spending some quality time with her sister and her niece, because that was what she hadn't been able to do for ages. Rachel baked a cake, Olivia knew. Now they could eat it happily in a family atmosphere, and watch Disney cartoons together… A smile appeared on her lips.
However, when Olivia came to the door of her apartment, she heard merry, loud voices from inside and she was startled and surprised. When she unlocked the door, she saw that her living room was brightly lit, filled with people…
Peter reached her first, with a genuine, happy smile on his face, holding a beer in his hand. He was wearing a light blue sweater that perfectly matched the current color of his eyes, and tight beige flannel pants. He looked really smart. Olivia felt a bit ashamed because she knew she looked awful in her work suit and that she had purple bags under her eyes.
He leaned towards her. He was so close that she could catch a whiff of his cologne and Olivia instinctively took one step backwards as her heart skipped a beat.
-Welcome to the party, Dunham-he flashed a mischievous grin and ushered her into the living room.