Olivia parked her car at the beginning of the street, deciding she'd walk up to the number 14, so as not to raise suspicions.
As far as Astrid could tell, checking on Google Earth, the building where Peter was taken was some sort of old warehouse. She took several deep breaths. Her heart was beating like crazy. All she could think of was: Not again, not again, not again... And the painful images of bloodied, still face of agent John Scott sprung into her mind, temporarily incapacitating her to process any other type of information.
She couldn't lose Peter. Dammit, life was not fair. Everyone she cared about abandoned her one way or the other. Her parents died, Lucas left her without so much as a word of explanation, John lied to her and then he died as well. Not that she wasn't grateful for Charlie, for Rach and Ella. But it was just that there were so few of her loved ones left now... Olivia nervously bit her lower lip in frustration and ran her fingers through her hair, finally admitting to herself she was grateful for Peter.
For his constant, silent support, for his calming aura that would envelop her and dissipate her fear and insecurity. For his unconditional care. She was so numb and lifeless after John passed away. Peter's kind smile, his silly jokes, his gentleness... Olivia depended on his presence to survive another day, surrounded with never-ending grief that threatened to rip her apart. If he... If he died... She didn't know what she was going to do, how she was going to survive that blow.
She forced herself to calm down. Olivia needed a plan, needed to perform this rescue as if it were just another FBI operation, just another day on the job... Even though, for her, it was a matter of life and death.
She snuck up the back side of the old building and carefully peered inside through the dusty broken window. She needed to see who she was dealing with, why they had Peter, how many of them were there in order to think of the next step she was going to take. Back-up would be there in ten minutes top, but was it fast enough? And what if that person who had Peter, upon hearing the arrival of the FBI units, simply decided to... Kill him fast...
Olivia shook her head. Her chest was heaving. It started to rain and she welcomed the cold heavenly drops on her face while they mingled with her warm salty ones.
Peter was barely able to walk. He was covered in blood and his mouth hurt like hell. Big Eddie's thugs gagged him and Walter and they spent around twenty minutes in a small trunk, in the back of the car. All of his muscles were strained. Even breathing was painful. He was wondering how Walter was doing. If something happens to him because of me... I would never forgive that to myself. He's like a child, he wouldn't understand why all those people want to hurt us. How are we going to get out of here?
Peter honestly did not know. Normally, the cogs in his brain would start whirring like crazy, making up some sort of miraculous escape, but not this time. There was no way out. No one knew where they were. Olivia went to drive the boy back to the hospital, and she probably thought Peter and Walter were at the hotel. We are going to die, he'll slaughter us like pigs and I won't be able to do anything about it. And if I know Big Eddie... He's gonna make it a hell of a show.
-Walk!-deep voice grunted somewhere behind him and second later he felt the searing pain in his lower back, where the man's boot kicked him. Peter staggered but forced himself to stand upright. He wasn't going to give them the satisfaction of seeing him humiliated.
Peter blink several times, to adjust his eyes to the sudden strong neon light. They were in some sort of warehouse, filled with planks and building material. In the center of the brightly lit room there were two metal poles. The building was old and the roof was leaking... The floor was wet and covered in water and mud puddles.
Walter was already there, gagged, just like him, and tied to one of the metal poles. He was sitting in the mud, looking utterly miserable. He had a black eye and Peter could hear him whimpering as he was rocking backwards and forwards, humming to himself.
-Shut the fuck up, old man!-one of the thugs landed a blow on Walter's head and he cried like a baby.
Peter felt an indescribable rage rising inside of him, he wanted to rip the man's head off. He felt so impotent. I brought this upon us. Then the two thugs threw him in the mud as well, binding his hands with the chain, tying him to another pole next to his father.
Big Eddie watched him calmly and then he spoke in a mockery of kind voice.
-Boys... Boys... Where are your manners? Is this the way to treat our guests? My former associate and his venerable progenitor... Please remove those filthy cloths out of their mouths.
When they were both ungagged, Walter turned to look at Peter. His gaze was sad and frightened, he looked lost and disheveled and Peter's heart hurt. He doesn't deserve this.
-It's okay, Walter-he spoke softly to his father, trying to calm him as if he would calm a frightened animal. –It's gonna be fine. You're gonna be fine. Just... Calm down.
Walter nodded slightly, trembling.
-So-Peter turned cheekily towards Big Eddie, determined to stall him for as long as he could-to what to I owe the honor of your presence? Can it be? You flew over two thousand miles just because you missed me? I didn't know you cared so much about our partnership.
-Don't play games with me, Bishop-Big Eddie's pupils narrowed. –You know perfectly well why I am here... My friends at Boston located you pretty quickly after you left Iraq and I appreciated the information.
-So you want the money? Why didn't you just say so? Give me the number your bank account and the exact amount… I'll see what I can do about it…
-Save it, Bishop. You never knew when to shut up. I see you haven't changed at all… Like a stray dog barking at the car wheels, always provoking, always feigning courage… One fine day that car might just turn around and run you over… And who knows… Maybe that day has finally arrived.
Peter swallowed hard but his smile didn't abandon his lips.
-Come on… I'm sure we can work this out, like old pals that we used to be. There's no happiness money can't buy, am I right?
-You're not gonna sweettalk your way outta this one, Bishop. You crossed me countless times already. And it's payback time. I don't want your money anymore. I want your blood. And pain. No one crosses Big Eddie, remember that. I was furious when I heard you weren't in the car when the bomb went off in Kirkuk. But now I am thinking… Maybe it was a good thing. I can kill you slowly now… And enjoy the view…
He knelt on the ground and spat in Peter's face. Then he stepped hard on his right bandaged hand and Peter bellowed in pain, feeling that the injured flesh was starting to tear open and bleed again. The next blow that landed on his chin made him choke on his own blood. Peter gurgled, spitting red and took several deep breaths. He felt as if he was going to faint.
-But I really need to make this more interesting, don't you agree?
He motioned towards Walter.
-Sometimes the emotional pain is… Greater than physical one, don't you agree?
-Leave him out of this!-Peter was surprised when his voice came out as a broken, powerless whimper.
-Oh, but I don't think I will, Bishop. You see, this is all very amusing for me… And the fun has just started…
Big Eddie put out a cigarette on Walter's skin, and all of the thugs did the same. Peter's father wailed looking at the six ugly scars that were rapidly beginning to form and Peter tugged at his chains desperately, without being able to do anything but curse and shout.
-Boys… You know how to play baseball, don't you?-Big Eddie said lazily. They produced several bats behind their back and Peter couldn't contain himself anymore.
-Stop it, you son of a bitch! If you hit him with those, you're gonna kill him!
-Didn't I mention that was my goal all along? Strange. I think I did.
-What do you want from me? WHAT DO YOU WANT? I'll do anything, I swear to God!-Peter screamed desperately.
-I want you to die like a little piece of shit that you are, drowning in your own pool of blood. Nothing more, nothing less.
He swiftly lowered once again and he pulled out a pocket knife, ripping Peter's shirt open.
-Let me leave you a little reminder of my own. You're mine, Bishop, you are part of my gang and if you thought you were going to get out and run away from us so easily with all the money you stole… Then you obviously weren't thinking straight, were you now?
Big Eddie traced the cold blade across Peter's bare, bruised chest, sinking it into his sensitive skin while Peter was howling in pain. He clearly heard the soft thuds of the baseball bat and Walter's cries filled the room, reverberating all around and coming back even stronger. Peter couldn't watch as they hit his father mercilessly. Poor man was covering his head the best he could while the blows were landing on his legs, his chest and his shoulders. After the last desperate cry, Walter fainted and the thugs backed off, clutching their noses.
-The old man pissed himself and shit in his pants. He stinks like hell.
-Leave him for now-Big Eddie purred softly. –Playing is no fun if he's unconscious. Luckily, there is another toy for you.
Peter looked down his bleeding chest and there were two letters there engraved in blood. BE.
Pain was becoming almost unbearable but he didn't want to show Big Eddie how scared he was, how worried he felt… He howled in pain as the bats descended on his body. They weren't picky, they were hitting him everywhere and soon he felt so dizzy… Everything was hazy and Peter couldn't discern the faces around him… His body had become a mass of bloodied, beaten meat and the blood was trickling from his forehead onto his eyes…
He was seeing red. So this is how it ends… He thought of the life he led, of all the wrong choices he made. Of the only right decision he took when he decided to stay in Boston with Olivia. She was his guardian angel and he was becoming a different person because of her… And it was all in vain.
Olivia stormed into the room. She'd seen and heard enough. There were five men, besides Big Eddie but none of them had a gun at hand. She carefully slid behind Big Eddie, pulled out her Glock and placed it on his temple.
-Move away from him, you bastard-she whispered in a cold, angry voice.
-Well, well… What do you know… We've got company-Big Eddie whispered playfully.
-Do it! Now!
-I don't think so… My dear… At this very moment, the edge of my knife is at Bishop's throat. Should you decide to shoot, my hand will simply slip up and… I think you know what happens next. And we don't want to spill any more of his precious blood, don't we?
With tears in her eyes, she lowered her gun slowly, her eyes never leaving Peter.
Peter was lying face down in the mud puddle, swallowing dirty water. His mind was completely numb. He didn't care about anything anymore. He couldn't feel his limbs… He just wanted to give himself to the oblivion and… To sleep. To forget… But that voice… That sweet, trembling voice… Was waking up something dormant deep inside of him and his chin went up for the second as he was trying to open his eyes, coughing and spitting dirt and blood likewise.
-You'll regret the day you were born-Olivia growled at Big Eddie, while the two of his thugs grabbed her from behind, disarming her.
-And who might you be, pretty lady?-he mocked her. –I see you are wearing a dress… And a nice one at that, too… Did you have a date with Bishop or something? You don't seem to be his type… He likes his women giggly and cute… You're too stern for his liking…. All the whores he fucked in Iraq were sweet, wet and willing… You are no fun.
-FBI, you bastard. Prepare to pay for what you've done. In five minutes, my men'll be here and you will be under arrest. You'll never make it out of here without being captured, no matter what happens to me.
-Ah, you are the FBI girl who recruited this poor sod and coerced him into the service… My men have gathered a lot of information about you…So you think he's a good guy now, being in cahoots with you and all that… But he is a wolf in sheep's clothing. Peter Bishop would sell his own mother if she were still alive.
Olivia! Peter finally jerked up, urgently, staring at her incredulously. Walter was still out. She's here. She's come for me. A feeling of pride and gratitude washed over him realizing how much she cared about him. And then it was quickly replaced with fear and angst. How could she be so reckless! She came out here alone… And now she's captured as well.
-I must tell you though…-Big Eddie's fingers traced her cheek… -The information I got said nothing about how tantalizing you were…
He removed her coat, holding her gun is his hands, his eyes never leaving hers. She was left standing in nothing but a dress she wore at the party and the thugs whistled in approval…
Big Eddie leaned forward a little bit more and Olivia bit his finger, enraged.
-You're playing hard to get… I like that.
He motioned to one of his men, who quickly positioned behind Peter, placing the knife on his neck.
-Now, darling… Be a good girl and play nice, or something might happen to your boyfriend.
Peter roared, furiously:
-Leave her alone!
-Look who's up… Hello, Sleeping Beauty…-Big Eddie said, smirking. –Let me ask you something while you're still alive… How did a tramp like you manage to get in this fine lady's pants? What kind of lies did you tell her to make her spread these sweet long legs for your cock?
-Don't…Talk… About her…Like that! She's my partner, you asshole!
-Now… Now… There's no need to get angry…
Peter's and Olivia's eyes locked and they stared at each other for what seemed like an eternity, love and concern mirroring in both of their gazes.
-However, what you just said helped me realize you actually didn't… Get into her pants… I can't quite put my finger on it, Bishop… It's obvious you'd like to bang her silly… But no matter… It's even better like this… It'll be like in good old times… I'll just enjoy her delicious pussy first… You can watch… And then you'll get the leftovers…
-Noooo!-Peter yelled, tugging even harder at the chains, exasperated, but his strength was failing him… And the chains wouldn't budge… The tears ran down his face… He couldn't do anything, he couldn't… He couldn't protect her… He was the one who brought this upon her.
I'll never forgive myself for as long as I live.
-Hold her for me, boys.
Olivia was trying to wriggle out of their grasp but there were four of them and they were too strong. She felt the anger building inside her, sensing Big Eddie's paws on her body while he was standing behind her… His teeth sank possessively into her neck, she could feel his bulge pressing into her thigh while his hands went up to grasp her breasts and roughly roll her nipples between his fingers… She felt so humiliated, so.. Vulnerable…
Olivia remembered the only period in her life when a similar man dominated her like this, treated her with despise, and decided instead of everyone… He used to beat her and her mother up like they were garbage… Her stepfather… And she froze in fear, she paralyzed, she couldn't move, she couldn't do anything… Olivia was unable to react. She was feeling like a little eight year old girl again… She was so scared…
And then the lights in the warehouse suddenly flickered ominously... Several of them went out bursting simultaneously and some of the cables detached themselves from the ceiling… Peter looked up in disbelief and then his eyes rested knowingly on Olivia's focused face… Her ability.
-What was that?-one of the thugs asked, unnerved.
-Are you afraid of the storm, Johnnie?-Big Eddie mocked him, now dipping his finger between Olivia's legs, determined to enjoy the moment.
And that was when it happened.
Half a dozen of cables imbued with electricity flew down and crashed upon the two nearest thugs, electrocuting them instantly… As they were convulsing in pain, Olivia gathered her wits, kicking Big Eddie in the groin and incapacitating him. The three remaining men backed away, unsure what to do, and she managed to get hold of her gun, forcing them on their knees.
-Olivia, behind you!-Peter shouted, seeing how Big Eddie was slowly standing up …
She didn't even blink. Big Eddie was standing in the puddle of water, and her eyes simply flew to one of the remaining cables, forcing it downwards… Screams and smell of charred meat filled the warehouse while Olivia was sternly and calmly contemplating Big Eddie's gruesome demise. He's dead. It's over. It's over.
FBI back-up unit chose precisely that moment to barge through the door.
-FBI! Put your hands where I can see them! You're under arrest!
Olivia sighed with relief and shot an inquisitive glance in Peter's direction. He weakly nodded towards her seconds before fainting, burying his head in the mud.
-We need a team of paramedics here!-Olivia issued orders in a surprisingly strong, controlling voice, which sounded nothing like she felt inside at that moment. –Untie those men! Take them to the hospital immediately!
Olivia lifted her coat off the ground and started walking towards her car. She tried to empty her mind but all she could think of were those metal poles, that overwhelming stench of urine and feces, gashes on Walter's skin, Peter choking on his own blood… And Big Eddie's hand raking her body possessively, forcefully, making her sick…
She slowly turned the key in the lock and quietly entered her apartment. It was dark in the room. Olivia glanced at the nightstand watch. Midnight. Ella and Rach are probably sound asleep in their beds. There is no reason why I should wake them up, I'll simply tell them about this tomorrow. I'll say Peter and Walter had a car accident or something and that they shouldn't worry. They don't need to know what sort of horror is lurking out there. Maybe now Peter's ghosts from the past will leave him alone once and for all… Or there'll be more of them to come?
She took off her clothes and felt a sudden urge to throw all of it away into the trash can. Her feet quickly found the way to the bathroom and she leaned her hot, throbbing forehead on the washbasin, retching. Then she stepped under the shower, letting the hot water engulf her amicably. Water was running down her neck, down her swollen breasts, her stomach and her thighs, washing her clean, wiping out the dirt Big Eddie's hands had left…. Olivia scrubbed her body frantically, nervously, washing and rinsing, washing and rinsing, repeating the process until her hands hurt. And then she couldn't hold it in any longer, and she crouched on the cold bathroom tiles, shaking uncontrollably while the quiet moans escaped her lips and hot tears were streaking down her face. Olivia was once again torn apart by the memories from her childhood and she simply wasn't sure if she was ever going to be whole again…
The morning rays of sun found her staring through the window, with dark bags under her eyes. Olivia didn't get much sleep that night.
-Hey! What time did you return last night, I didn't hear you enter-Rachel startled her as she came into Olivia's room. –Olive…-Rachel scanned her face worriedly. –You look awful.
-Peter and his father had a car accident last night-Olivia explained in what she was hoping was a leveled tone of voice. –They are both at hospital at the moment.
-Oh my God!-Rachel clasped her mouth. –Are they OK?
-I… I don't know. I am going to go there now, and see what I can find out.
-Liv-Rachel grabbed her cheeks and forced her to look her in the eyes. –Are you alright?
-I'm fine-she croaked. Rachel wasn't so convinced but she let it go. Olivia will talk if and when she is in the mood to do so.
When Olivia arrived at the hospital, she quickly found the room where Peter and Walter were held. Before entering, however, she wanted to talk to the nurse about the injuries they withstood and their severity.
-Mr. Walter Bishop was luckier, he has no head injuries, just one black eye, six gashes on his skin that are already healing and several bruises on his torso… His son, Mr. Peter Bishop… Is pretty gravely wounded, I'm afraid… Men who attacked them focused on him more for some reason… He has a head trauma, one cracked rib, and his chest, hands and legs are swollen. He has also sustained some cuts on his chest; it appears some sort of letters had been engraved just above his stomach… He has a deep cut on his right hand which has infected… Mr. Walter can leave the hospital this week, but Mr. Peter will have to stay for at least three weeks, or for an entire month…
-But he is going to be fine?-Olivia interrupted her impatiently. –I mean, his life is not endangered?
-No, the injuries are not life threatening…
-Thank you-Olivia nodded gratefully. –May I see him?
-I believe both of them are fast asleep, but yes, agent, you may go into the convalescence room. Just don't stay inside for too long, they need to rest.
Olivia slowly entered the room. Both Walter and Peter were sleeping, the nurse was right. She tentatively approached Peter's bedside and quietly sat on the chair next to it. Her worried gaze caressed his dormant form and she sighed inaudibly, in relief. She was just grateful he was alive. She managed to keep him alive. She did all it took and she pulled him through. Peter remained in her life, as her partner and as her friend.
And… And nothing else, she decided firmly… What she felt last night had to be passable, temporary. Peter Bishop must never become anything more for her, because… Olivia couldn't find the exact reason why she shunned his warmth, his presence and the pleasantness of his touch. But she knew that the job they were doing was too dangerous… You were here one day and gone the next. And if she got attached to Peter in that way… She would suffer. Much more than she suffered because of John. Olivia didn't know how she knew that, she simply did. And then there was Rachel too. She shook her head trying not to think about their relationship and focused on Peter once more.
Peter's head, right hand and his stomach just below his chest were bandaged. His breathing was shallow and fast. Olivia could hear him wheezing each time he drew a breath and she cringed slightly, feeling a tear forming in the corner of her eye. What had you gotten yourself into, Peter?
She remembered Big Eddie's malefic voice and his mocking… The way he described Peter, as a devil-may-care rogue, as someone who slept with whores and with the girls that Big Eddie had previously bedded…. Olivia simply couldn't believe that those stories were true. Looking at him right then… With his eyes closed, and his unruly hair… Peter resembled a little innocent boy while he was sleeping; he looked like a peaceful child, safely hidden in his own dream world. Olivia couldn't resist touching his face and her fingers slowly stroked his forehead, glistening with sweat; she removed a runaway lock of his somewhat curled hair from there, returning it to its rightful place. Then she gently caressed his slightly chubby boyish cheeks and smiled, reveling in his presence, in the sound of his alive, beating heart and in the warmth he radiated. Olivia's gaze then boldly travelled to his broad shoulders and his lean, muscular torso; her cheeks reddened at her thoughts. His chest was badly bruised and she frowned disapprovingly at Big Eddie's initials that were carved in there.
Then, all of a sudden, his eyelids fluttered rapidly, he thrashed in bed, moaning her name and Olivia felt like she wasn't supposed to be there, like she was intruding his thoughts.
-Liv… Olivia…-he was calling her name in dismay, wailing, clenching his fists. –Don't touch her!-Peter groaned desperately.
-Peter… Peter-Olivia whispered his name, carefully shaking his shoulder. –Peter, it was just a dream.
Peter's feverish eyes flew open and he almost sat upright in bed, before he realized his own body wasn't allowing him to do so. Seeing her heart-shaped worried face only inches from his made him smile broadly.
-Oliv…Olivia-he croaked, taking in his surroundings. –You're okay… Ugh… My head hurts like hell.
-Well, you probably hurt all over, considering the blows you took last night.
-I'm sorry-Peter looked at her in earnest, ashamed of himself, ashamed of what she had to go through to save him.
She only nodded ever so slightly, without saying a word, and Peter was grateful for that.
-How are you feeling?-she asked him tenderly, her eyes never leaving his.
-Much better, now that I know I'm not gonna die. Yet. However, the pain I am experiencing could be similar to the one that person would feel after being run down by an extremely fast train.
-I'm glad you mentioned that.
Peter looked up at her, puzzled.
-Rachel and Ella, and everyone else, for that matter, except Astrid and Broyles, must think you've had a car accident. I don't want them to worry more than they need to.
-Alright-he quietly agreed, and then he continued to happily scrutinize her beautiful face ever so slightly peppered with freckles.
-What?-Olivia inquired, playfully.
-How did you know where I was?
-Well, Mr. Baldilocks told me you were in trouble. He also gave me an address where you were held. And, he was right.
-And just when I thought that our job couldn't get any weirder. Listen, Olivia, about him… I found him a great foster home yesterday afternoon, just before I met with Rachel to organize Ella's birthday party. The nurse might take him there this week. She knows all the details about the family and apparently they are great, but I wanted to inform you so that you can check them out as well.
-Thank you-Olivia smiled.
-I should be saying those words to you, Olivia-Peter's voice was contrite, filled with self-loathing.
-Don't mention it, Peter-she shrugged, modestly. –We are partners. And friends. You would do the same for me.
-Yes-he said earnestly, frantically grabbing both of her hands. –Yes, I would, Olivia. I am glad you know that. We… We have our fair share of differences but in the end we watch each other's back.
-Yeah-she nodded. –Yeah, we do.
-To think that motherfucker almost raped you last night… I would rip his head off if I could Olivia. I felt so powerless back there. And what he said to Walter… What they did to him…
Olivia saw the tears gathering in the corner of Peter's eyes and she shifted uncomfortably.
–I don't know how I am going to look him in the eye when he wakes up. How am I going to explain all this to him?
-Peter…-Olivia felt his pain and she wanted to make it better. His trembling hands were still firmly holding hers in their panicked grasp. –Peter, don't torture yourself like that.
-You're too kind to me, Olivia. It was all my fault. Shady deals I had with him… Jobs that I've done for him… I knew what I was getting into and still I plunged even deeper instead of getting the hell outta there. And look what that got me into. This all happened because of my sheer stupidity, recklessness, desire to play with fire. I'll never learn. Somebody's life has to be on the line for me to stop being a complete ass. But not anymore.
-What do you mean?-she eyed him warily.
-I am leaving, Olivia.
-What? When did you decide this?-Olivia felt as if the power of his words hit her straight into the stomach, making it impossible for her to breathe.
-I had it on my mind all along, actually. While I was lying in the dirt, I was repeating to myself: If I make it out of here alive, I'm leaving Boston. No one else is going to get hurt because of me.
-Where… Where are you planning to go?
-Not sure yet. When I recover, for starters, I'll contact some of my… Weird connections-a wide grin adorned his face but Olivia couldn't force herself to smile. –They'll find me a job. But a good, honest job to start with. I need to redeem, Olivia. I feel so tainted and… If I hadn't met you… I would never be set straight, I would never walk the path of righteousness. But now that I have seen the light…-Peter winked at her and she knew it was another one of the jokes about her ability-I am going to try to be a better man.
-Peter… You already are. I mean… The fact that you know what you did was wrong… That's a start. You don't have to go away because of that-Olivia's eyes were travelling rapidly from his eyes to the floor. He could see she was upset. Maybe she doesn't want me to leave? His heart did a somersault and he boldly placed his hand on her cheek to steady her and to make her look at him.
Olivia looked lost and nervous as their eyes locked.
-I might come back one day. I am not sure. I don't do well in one place. So this won't be our last goodbye, sweetheart.
-Peter…-he loved the way she would whisper his name, rolling it on her tongue sweetly, always with the right amount of exasperation and rebuke.
-What, Olivia?-he replied casually, wanting her to open up, to tell him she wanted him to stay. Because she clearly wants me to stay, I can see it in her eyes… She just won't admit it.
Olivia cracked her knuckles in disarray.
-We need you back here. You can't just leave the division like that. Broyles isn't going to like it.
-Oh, come on. I mean, like I told you and him many months before, I am perfectly expendable. Another young, handsome scientist might replace me and no one would ever notice. I'm not actually sure Walter would notice it, either-Peter chuckled. –He'd probably think I got sun burnt or that I'm wearing contacts or a wig, something along those lines.
-It's not funny, Peter! Strange things are happening all around us every day. We need your help. You are part of the team and… It wouldn't be the same without you.
-Are you admitting that I started to grow on you, agent Dunham?-he inquired teasingly.
-Well, apart from being your irritating, cheeky self, you have many good qualities too.
-Such as?-Peter pushed her a little bit further, caressing her soft skin, without removing his hand from her face.
-Peter, listen. I don't want to have this conversation. You need to get some rest. Please reconsider your decision. Broyles thinks you are doing a great job, Walter is saner than ever with you around, and I am sure he will forgive you for what happened last night because he's your father and he loves you very much. Astrid loves chatting with you about the musical taste you both share... –her voice broke and for a moment neither of them spoke. There was a palpable tension in the room.
-You belong with us, Peter-Olivia finally added in such a low tone, casting her eyes downward. Peter wondered for a moment if he had heard her correctly.
-Honey…-he whispered softly, bringing her head closer to his, forcing her to look him in the eye, which she did, with difficulty. Olivia Dunham felt like a helpless prey, trapped in a snake's alluring, hypnotizing gaze…
-Uncle Peter!-Ella ran into the room, yelling his name loudly, jumping right on top of his bed.
-Ouch! Ok, kiddo, funtime's over. You can stay on my bed, but steer clear of my bruises, OK?
-Yes, uncle Peter-Ella replied obediently.
Rachel followed, smiling radiantly. Olivia quickly jerked her head back and stood upright, clearing her throat.
-Well we heard there is one bad driver here in room 419 and we came to meet him and reprimand him a little.
-You've heard correctly-Peter grinned at her. Rachel quickly sat on his bed and immediately took his hand in hers, gazing at his face worriedly. Olivia felt like an intruder and she fidgeted awkwardly, moving to stand over by the door.
-What happened? You look like you got hit by an extremely fast train.
-Yeah… I've looked better. Funny thing, I was just telling Olivia that I felt like I got run down by an extremely fast train.
-Well, that's telepathy…-Rachel deliberately announced. –Soon we might start completing each other sentences.
Olivia said nothing.
-So tell me, Ella, what have you brought me?-Peter asked, hugging the little girl.
-Mommy and I bought some bananas and oranges-she replied shyly.
-That's great! Those are my favorite!
-Does this hurt you uncle Peter?-Ella gently touched the bruise on his shoulder.
-Yes, yes it does. So I wouldn't do that again if I were you. But nothing to worry about, it'll pass.
-And what about grandpa Walter?
-He's gonna be alright. You can talk to him when he wakes up.
Olivia was observing them from the corner of the convalescence room. Peter's beaming face obviously brought joy to Rachel and Ella. They couldn't stop laughing at his witty remarks. Ella was resting sin his lap after he managed to sit upright with difficulty, and Rachel was holding his hand in hers.
They look like a family. That thought, that comparison, made her feel uneasy. More than anything, it made her feel like an outsider. Maybe… Maybe this had to happen. I had to kidnap Peter from Iraq and bring him here so that he could meet my sister and make her happy. Their conversation flows so naturally, so spontaneously, so easily… There are no those awkward pauses, strange silences and misunderstandings which occur whenever I talk to him… And if Peter becomes hers… Well I won't have to control myself anymore so much in his presence, to try to be reserved all the time… That would solve everything… And my sister will finally have the happiness she deserves
But somehow, for some reason those altruistic thoughts weren't working for her anymore. And a different kind of voice whispered inside her mind:
You sacrificed for him, you saved him… And still he wants to leave you or… To be in another woman's arms.
-Why do I care?-she jerked her head, irritated. –He's a friend. A partner.
-Oh, but you do care, sweetheart, and you know it-another voice, so similar to Peter Bishop's reverberated in her head.
Olivia sighed, her back turned to the happy trio. Then she finally gathered her strength, looked at them resolutely, and spoke coolly and calmly.
-I'll leave you guys to it. I see you are having a blast.-she managed a sincere smile.
-As you can imagine, there are some files to squash, and the job can't wait…
She grinned to her sister and her niece and nodded briefly in Peter's direction.
And then Olivia left, walking fast, each step taking her further away from Peter Bishop. And that was for the best, she convinced herself.
His cerulean gaze followed her intently, boring lovingly in her back as she was walking away. For the first time, Peter Bishop thought that there was hope. And that Rachel Dunham was right.