The next scene has a sexual situation. Nothing graphic.
Four stacks of files lay on the desk in front of Peter, along with his laptop. Jazz from WGBH played faintly in the background. Peter rubbed his eyes, stretched, and pulled another folder from the tallest stack.
At least he wrote everything down, even if most of it doesn’t make sense.
Olivia stood in the doorway, watching Peter as he skimmed the contents of the folder. How many nights had she done this with case files, going over the details dozens of times, looking for any clue that would bring her another step closer to resolution? And how many times had Peter coaxed her away?
She walked behind him, then leaned on his shoulder and set a small tumbler of whisky by his left hand. She rested her hands on his shoulders and began to massage the knots from his neck and back.
“Thanks, Liv. Ahh, that feels good,” he mumbled, never looking up from the file in front of him.
“How’s it going?” She asked softly, still rubbing his shoulders. “Anything I can do to help?”
“Find Walter…” he sighed. He took one of Olivia’s hands in his, and leaned back, resting his head against the back of the chair.
“Come to bed, Peter… You’ve been at this for hours.” She kissed the top of his head. “I miss you.”
“Is this how you felt all those times I tried to get you to take a break?” His voice was serious, but he was smirking. “Isn’t this the part where you kiss me and promise me mind-blowing sex if I’ll just come to bed?”
“Did that work?”
“Most of the time.”
“Then yeah, this is that part.” She leaned over and brushed her lips against his stubbly cheek. “If you shave before you come to bed… and if you can stay awake.”
“How can I refuse?” He chuckled and shut down the laptop. “But shaving, huh?” He wrapped his arm around Olivia as they walked out of the room.
“Well, it’s not a requirement… but it severely limits your options if you don’t,” she teased.
Twenty minutes later, Peter emerged from the bathroom in a burst of steam. Olivia was already in bed, reading, but she marked her place and laid the book aside as he climbed into bed.
He nuzzled her neck, then asked, “Better?”
With a smile, Olivia cupped his cheek. “Much… I might let you kiss me now.”
Never one to turn down a challenge, Peter rolled on his back and brought Olivia with him. He tugged at her shoulders until she leaned down for a kiss.
“Best distraction I’ve had in a while,” he said as he tangled his fingers in her hair and brought her down for another kiss. While they’d had their nights of fast and hard, this was a night of gentle and leisurely, the journey as important, if not more so, than the destination.
They’d had a lot of nights like this one since that day in the park, since they’d both seen a future where they were more apart than together. They held each other a little tighter, kissed a little more often, said “I love you” more frequently, to each other and to Etta.
Olivia rolled to her side, and snuggled into Peter as he turned to face her. When he tipped her head up for another kiss, she cupped his cheek and studied his face. “You look tired.”
He shrugged, but he didn’t deny it.
“You don’t have to do it all. Nobody expects you …”
“Nobody expects me to fill Walter’s shoes?” He snorted derisively.
“Nobody expects you to do it all by yourself.”
He gave a heavy sigh, and pulled her closer. “I knew he’d done some amazing stuff…” He shook his head. “I’ve been reading his textbooks, and transcripts of some of his lectures. Theorizing about all this is genius… but Walter made it real.”
“Which has not always been a good thing,” Olivia observed wryly.
“True, but he had the intellect…”
“And the hubris. Nobody wants you to BE Walter.”
Einai kalytero anthropo apo ton patera toy thought Olivia. The endless cycle of Bishop fathers and sons.
She ran her hand down his naked back, still warm from his shower. Nothing she could say would make him feel Walter’s equal… but there was always distraction.
“Remember the part where I promised you mind-blowing sex?”
“Mmmm…” His face was buried in her neck, nuzzling his way to her clavicle. “I shaved.” He rolled her on her back, and smirked down at her. “And I’m still awake.”
Olivia wiggled under him, getting comfortable and enjoying the feel of his body reacting to her. She ran her fingers through his still damp curls and caressed the back of his neck. She stopped, and gently ran her fingertips against his nape again.
In between kisses, he mumbled, “It’s not there.”
Olivia tensed and he looked up at her. “It’s not there. The scar.” He blinked slowly. “But I remember it all.”
She tangled her fingers in his hair and brought his face down to hers. “I don’t want to lose you again,” she whispered fiercely. She wrapped her arms tightly around his shoulders and kissed him deeply. “I was sure I’d lost you, too.”
Peter rested his forehead against her shoulder. “You brought me back. Again.”
She cupped his cheek and tilted his face so that she could see his eyes; like hers, they were shining with tears – the memories of their losses and the price they paid to prevent them lay just below the surface of everything they did. In quiet moments like these, the ‘everything’s fine’ masks of the day came off; Olivia could clearly see the stress and sadness on Peter’s face, evidenced by every new line around his eyes and every silver thread hiding among the auburn curls. No matter how much she tried to hide it, Peter knew that Olivia felt the weight of their memories, the fear that somehow the events that Walter left them in order to prevent would yet become their reality again.
“Not leaving,” Peter murmured between kisses. He rubbed his less-scruffy cheek against hers. “Not getting rid of me this time.”
Just like they’d started the night, with gentle kisses and languid touches, they ended it the same way, Peter cradled Olivia as he rocked easily against her, and she stroked his back, loving the feel of his muscles tensing as he sank into her.
As they neared their climax, Peter propped himself up on one elbow and gazed at Olivia.
In response to her questioning look, he brushed his lips against hers. “I don’t ever want to forget how beautiful you are like this,” he whispered.
Her arms tightened around him and she gave a sigh of deep contentment as her orgasm rolled over her. She murmured his name as he buried his face against her. His breathing hitched, his body tensed, and he groaned into her shoulder as he followed her over the edge.
They fell asleep in a loose embrace. Olivia’s last conscious thought was the reassurance she felt from the steady rise and fall of Peter’s chest under her head.
Because she had fallen asleep so closely entwined with Peter, Olivia was surprised to wake in an empty bed. A note propped against the alarm clock read “Brainstorm – gone to lab. Love – P”
It wasn’t even 4 am yet, and Peter’s side of the bed had gone cold. For a man who buried his head under his pillow for anything less than sex or the end of the world before 9 am, the brainstorm must’ve been significant to motivate him out of his warm bed and into work.
Olivia stretched and snuggled under the covers. Without Peter’s warmth curled around her, she needed the blankets they’d kicked off earlier. She’d give him a couple of hours with his brainstorm and call him once she and Etta were up for the day, she thought, and rolled over to doze until the alarm went off.
The morning was a flurry of activity: getting Etta dressed and off to pre-school, getting herself dressed and downtown to a day of meetings at the Federal Building. In between meetings, she coordinated the other agents assigned to their latest case. It was late afternoon, just before she left to pick up Etta, that she had time to call Peter.
Pick up pick up pick up, she thought, drumming her fingers on the desk.
“Peter, I’m leaving to pick up Etta at pre-school. Call me when you get a chance,” she paused. “Peter, I love you.”
They’d never been the kind of couple that had to confirm their relationship with every conversation. Even Peter, who had become so open about his feelings for her once they’d renewed their relationship (again), expressed himself with gentle touches, smiling eyes, and little gestures. Saying “I love you” was still a gift they gave each other, especially outside their bedroom, yet Olivia felt the need to tell Peter, and even Etta, more often.
She called the lab next.
“Astrid, it’s Olivia. I was trying to reach Peter. Have you seen him?”
“He’s been in Walter’s office all day.” The younger woman lowered her voice. “Olivia, I think he found Walter’s stash.”
“His pot?” Olivia scoffed. As long as she’d known the Bishops, Peter’s drug of choice had been alcohol. While he worried about Walter’s habits at first, and rolled his eyes at them later, he never gave any indication that he cared to join his father.
“He’s been playing Walter’s old albums… and it smells like marijuana, just like it did when…” Astrid’s voice faltered.
“Well, if he comes out before you leave, would you remind him to call me?” Olivia paused. “And Astrid… if I need to come get him…”
“I’ll let you know,” Astrid reassured her.
Afternoon turned into evening; dinner, bath time, and bedtime stories flew by, and still no Peter. Olivia spread her files on the kitchen table, the best vantage point from which to greet him when he returned. She checked her phone multiple times; no missed calls or text messages, signal strength and charge status were both good.
At midnight, she gave in.
“Peter, are you still at the lab? Call me, please, when you get this message.”
At 2 am, she gave up and went to bed, more than a little irate at her absent husband… and worried.
The next morning, she answered innumerable questions from Etta about her missing father, in between a hurried breakfast and finding matching socks in the laundry basket. She was tying Etta’s tennis shoes when Etta tugged on her sleeve.
“Mama… Daddy didn’t go to visit Grandpa, did he?” Her voice quivered a little at the thought of her grandfather AND her father a million miles away.
Olivia closed her eyes. Of all the possibilities that had crossed her mind, time travel had not been one of them, until now. And now, that was all she could think about… it was so like Peter, and Walter, to create an impossible solution to an unsolvable problem.
“No, baby girl, he would never leave us without saying goodbye,” I hope. “He’s just working hard on a new case since Grandpa’s not here to help.” She finished the second shoe and patted her foot. “Now, let’s get going, so I can go help him, too.”
Seemingly satisfied, Etta hopped from the chair and grabbed her lunchbox from the counter. “OK, Mama. Work REALLY hard today, so Daddy can come home tonight, ok?”
“I will, baby girl, I will.” And with that, they were out the door and on their way.
Once Etta was safely ensconced at pre-school, Olivia headed towards the lab. After trying fruitlessly to reach Peter, she tried Astrid’s number.
“No, he’s not here. Didn’t he come home last night?” Astrid sounded worried. “He was still in the office when I left… I thought.”
“But he’s not there, now?” Olivia was beginning to get anxious as well. “No note? No signs of a struggle or any indication of where he might’ve gone?” She could hear Astrid’s quick pace as she headed towards the office.
“No… of course, it’s hard to tell if he took any files… they’re all over the place. But there’s no note.” Astrid laughed. “The bong’s gone, though.”
“I don’t know if that’s a good sign or a bad sign,” Olivia admitted. “Alright, I’m going to follow up on some leads for the Pearce case, but if you see him….”
Astrid tried to sound reassuring and confident. “I’ll have him call you.”
Another day passed with no sign of Peter. Astrid came home with Olivia the next night to watch Etta while Olivia went out on the streets to look for him. She tried all their old haunts… the Milky Way, the tiny bar at Damiano’s, all the little dives around Cambridge and Allston. She even went to see Ed Markham, much to his delight.
“So you’ve finally wised up and dumped that guy you came in with last time, eh?”
Olivia smiled ruefully and shook her head.
“Don’t tell me, he dumped you? He’s more thick-headed than I thought,” Ed paused a minute, and then virtually quivered with excitement. “Don’t worry, darlin, I’ll make you forget that bastard so fast it’ll make your head spin.”
Olivia shook her head again. “No, Markham, Peter’s gone missing. I wanted to know if you’d seen him in the last couple of days.”
His face fell. “And here I was hoping that you were coming to see me…Nah, haven’t seen him since the last time he was in here with you.”
“Well, if you see him…” Olivia’s voice trailed off.
“For you, anything. But if you change your mind…” Markham looked hopeful again.
“Thanks, Markham,” she threw over her shoulder as she trudged out the door.
She decided to swing by the lab one more time before heading home. Only a few lights were on, the offices were dark, and Gene’s lowing was her only response when she called out.
She checked the offices, just in case Peter had decided to crash on one of the couches. Nothing had changed since she’d been that earlier in the day. She headed to the back of the lab to check on Gene; as she passed the white boards, she noticed that Peter had labeled it “DO NOT ERASE” – it contained Walter’s last scribbles.
The board was covered in mathematical formulae, both in Walter’s hand and another; Olivia and Peter surmised this must’ve been The Plan that Walter and September had developed. Tonight, there were additional notations in Peter’s hand, and they continued on the back of the board.
Olivia sagged into one of the lab chairs near the white board. That wasn’t here this afternoon when she and Astrid left. Peter had been back to the lab THAT EVENING.
Etta’s question from this morning echoed in her mind. If Peter was working with Walter’s formulas for time travel…
She fished her phone out of her coat pocket. “Peter, please…” she swallowed. “Peter, please call me before… before you make any big decisions. Peter… please come home.”
Sliding her phone back in her pocket, she headed for home.
He’d been reading through some of Walter’s old papers on recombinant DNA and applying the concept of genetic re-engineering to non-organic material, trying to find any clues on how the synthesized compounds in the toxins were being created. As he dug through box after box, he kept finding traces of Walter’s habits…empty Red Vines bags, wrappers from DingDongs and RingDings, and tiny little circles burnt into the pages filled with Walter’s handwritten notes. When he moved the boxes around in Walter’s office, he kept finding little baggies, all neatly labeled (from the label maker) with names and dates… Brown Betty, Lemon Zinger, Afghani Kush, Sparkle Plenty.
“Walter, you crazy old man,” Peter thought fondly. “No wonder you were seeing green unicorns.”
When he moved Walter’s bong out of the way for the third or fourth time, it occurred to him that maybe Liv was right… if he needed to think like Walter, he needed to see the world through Walter’s eyes. He closed the door to Walter’s office, cranked up the music, and fired up the bong.
In all his years of living by his wits, he’d never had the luxury, or the desire, to blur his perception of the world through anything stronger than alcohol. He’d been around users, of course, and didn’t have problems with the occasional contact high, but it just wasn’t a habit he’d ever had time to indulge. Obviously, Walter had built up a tolerance; after a couple of hits, Peter laid his head down on Walter’s desk, a stack of file folders for a pillow, and dozed until he heard Astrid leaving for the night.
When he heard Astrid calling her goodbyes, he raised his head and rubbed his eyes. He still had enough of a buzz on to feel it, but he didn’t feel like he was moving in slow motion anymore. He propped his feet up on the desk and started on the next folder in the stack. After a couple of hours, he realized the high was wearing off. Even though the lab was locked and there were no security cameras inside the offices, Peter wasn’t comfortable with lighting up; Astrid had been his buffer during the day. He knew that never bothered Walter, but then, what DID bother Walter?
What was it… he remembered Walter talking about a place he and Belly used to go…. The steam tunnels, that was it! He’d go down there for a couple of hours, finish up this stack of files, then go home. He packed up the bong and its accoutrements, a couple of baggies, Walter’s Walkman, and the files, patted his pockets for keys and phone, then set off for the underbelly of Harvard.
As he walked out of Walter’s office, one of the floor tiles creaked. He was already a few steps into the lab when it hit him – “Wait, floor tiles don’t creak.” He returned to Walter’s office and tested each exposed tile until he found it, just a few steps from the wall. He pried up the tile and peered into Walter’s hidey-hole. “Not only was the man a packrat,” Peter thought, “He was a paranoid packrat.”
He found a bound notebook, full of Walter’s drawings and scribbled descriptions. Some of them he recognized, some he’d heard Walter talk about… and some were complete mysteries. He replaced the tile and threw the notebook in the box with the rest of his father’s files.
After a couple of false starts, he found Walter’s underground lair, as he’d come to think of it – a little alcove, hidden from the main tunnel, with a power strip, a small shelf attached to the tunnel wall, and… a couple of recliners. How the hell he and Belly got recliners down there…Peter laughed inwardly at his father’s antics.
After settling in, he could understand why Walter came down here. The steady whoosh of steam passing through the pipes was white noise, broken only by the gurgling of the bong and Peter’s lung-rattling coughing. After a few hits of Brown Betty, Peter felt sufficiently stoned to dive back into Walter’s notes. He turned on the Walkman (a little Miles) and started to read. Soon, he was absorbed in the files.
They were finally starting to make some sense. He knew Liv was joking when she reminded him that Walter was ‘under the influence’ when he came up with most of his ideas… but the more he thought about it, the more reasonable it seemed. Just like Walter coaxed his memories out of hiding with music and food, he was trying to enhance his perception and understanding of Walter’s research by emulating his state of mind.
He was coughing his lungs out, and the sound echoed in the steam tunnels underneath the lab. How the hell did Walter do this all the fucking time? He held the quarter over the bowl and breathed as deeply as he could with his chest on fire.
When he opened a file and saw September’s cryptic notation on the first page, he almost dropped the folder. This had to be part of “The Plan” that Walter and September devised, the plan they followed in 2036. As he skimmed through Walter’s scribbled notes, the tapes they’d pulled out of the amber started to make more sense. The formulas on Walter’s white board, the last work of his father… it all began to coalesce. And if this allowed them to create a wormhole to the future… who’s to say it couldn’t be done again, this time as a two way street?
After another hit, it all became clear. Suddenly, Peter HAD to see the formulas again. He tapped the ashes from the bowl and ground them under his feet, then stowed the bong and baggie, along with the other files, back in the box. Tucking the folder under his arm, he took off through the labyrinth of tunnels back to the lab.
He stood before the white board, following Walter’s free flowing theories interspersed with what had to be September’s meticulous annotations. It was all falling into place.
“Walter, you mad genius.” He picked up a marker and began scribbling notes to himself so that he’d be able to make sense out of it all later. When he reached the equation that proposed the ability to move through time… he couldn’t capture his thoughts quickly enough. He flipped the board and scrawled his ideas across the vast blank space, rotating the board from time to time to reference Walter’s notations.
He stepped back and reviewed his work. It just might work… it WOULD work. He grinned broadly to himself. Maybe those 6 IQ points weren’t so important after all, he thought as he flipped the marker behind his back and caught it handily, then headed back to the tunnels for another bowl and contemplation of his new theory.
“Astrid, I don’t know whether to be scared or angry,” Olivia confessed, gratefully accepting the coffee mug Astrid passed to her over the lab table. “Nothing… no voice mails, messages, nothing. For TWO days!”
Astrid looked at her with sympathy in her eyes. “That just doesn’t sound like Peter…”
“He’s still getting used to Walter not being here,” Olivia said sadly, “but he wouldn’t just take off without telling us. Even Walter left the tape…” her voice trailed off as she started looking around the lab. With the exception of Peter’s scribbles on the white board, nothing had changed in the last couple of days. “I wonder…” she said thoughtfully, “I wonder if the surveillance film would tell us anything. Could you…”
“I’m on it,” Astrid was already moving to a workstation to access the Harvard security system. In minutes, she brought up the footage from the Kresge Building cameras – the exterior doors and the hallway outside the lab entrance. Two pairs of eyes scanned the display, watching the steady flow of students entering and leaving the building during the day dwindle to janitorial staff in the evening… to nothing.
“He came in two days ago, but… “ Astrid hesitated.
“But he never left,” Olivia finished, giving her a worried look.
“I’m sure there’s an explanation,” Astrid said hurriedly as she displayed the video coverage of the basement hallway on the next monitor. She noted the time she left the lab two evenings ago, then compared the time to the footage on the building exits; they were synchronized within a few seconds of each other. Turning back to the hallway footage, she and Olivia studied the display.
“There!” Olivia pointed to the lanky figure of her husband walking through the lab door. “19.03.29 – can you find it?”
Astrid’s fingers flew over the keyboard as she searched for the corresponding frames of the exterior footage. “Nothing… I’ve gone ten minutes before and after, there’s just no record of him leaving the building.”
Olivia drummed her fingers on the table. There was something in the back of her mind… something about this was familiar. An image of the five of them – Walter, Peter, Astrid, Etta, and herself – flashed through her mind; slipping out of the lab, looking down the hallway, loosening the screws on the ventilation grate… “That’s it,” she exclaimed. “He’s in the tunnels.”
Astrid stared at her.
“The steam tunnels. The utility tunnels that run under the Harvard campus.” Olivia was already heading towards the door.
“Olivia, wait!” Astrid was focused on the monitor. “You’ll need a map, it’s like a maze down there.”
Olivia nodded. “You’re right… he could be anywhere down there.”
Astrid looked at her curiously. “And how do you know that’s where he is?”
“Walter…” Olivia stopped. “Walter told us that he and Bell used the tunnels when they were lab partners. They marked their paths on the walls so they could find their way around.” She walked slowly back to the lab table where Astrid sat, perched on a stool in front of the monitors.
She spread her hands flat on the metal surface of the table and looked down. “We used the tunnels to sneak in and out of the lab… when the Observers had taken over. In the future.”
Astrid focused on the monitor in front of her as she searched for schematics. “One of these days, you’ll have to tell me all about that.”
Olivia grimaced and shook her head. “Some of it… you don’t want to know.”
“Here… I’ve got something, Come look at this.”
They studied the display; the schematics combined the tunnels with conduits for electricity and fiber optics, making it look more like a plate of spaghetti than a map. “I don’t have any idea where he could be…” Olivia commented. She sighed.
“Well, we know he came out last night,” Astrid murmured as she nodded towards the white board. “I can stay with Etta tonight, if you want to wait for him,”
Olivia looked relieved. “You know she loves her Aunt Astrid… “
This chapter has an Mature-rated scene.
A few hours later, Olivia returned to the lab, this time in clothes more suited to traversing the underground labyrinth – jeans, boots, a long sleeved t-shirt, and a lightweight hoodie. She made a pot of coffee and settled herself at a lab table facing the door, her phone and the files for the Pearce case spread out in front of her.
The minutes seem to drag by, but she could tell by the dwindling light that evening was turning into night. She laid her head on the table, pushing away the worry that Peter, like his father, had pushed the boundaries of science and ended up far away from the people who loved him. They had a history of doing just that, Walter and Peter.
Footsteps in the hallway echoed in the silence of the deserted building. Olivia sat up and reached for the gun at her side. She heard Peter’s phone, the beeps and buzzes that indicated a dozen missed calls, voice mails, and text messages, and then his voice – rough and hoarse, as if he’d just awakened.
“What, you haven’t gotten enough attention? You’d think everyone in Boston was calling me.”
The door opened and a disheveled Peter ambled into the lab, carrying a box that contained his phone, still buzzing angrily. “Olivia,” he said with a note of surprise. “What are you doing here?”
She studied the man standing in front of her. His eyes were mere slits, red and swollen, and his hair stuck out in dozen different directions. His scruff was well on its way to becoming a beard and… he reeked of marijuana smoke.
He walked over to the lab table and set down the box, rummaging through it for his phone. As he flipped through the missed calls, he ran his hand through his hair. He looked up at Olivia. “Oops?”
She gritted her teeth. “Oops? You’ve been out of touch for almost three days!”
“Livia, I didn’t realize it had been that long.” He moved towards her, but she took a step backwards and wrinkled her nose.
“You haven’t been answering your phone,” she accused him, her eyes flashing angrily. “And all you’ve been doing is smoking dope?”
“I’ve been going through Walter’s files. Thought it would help,” he mumbled.
Olivia shut her eyes and pinched her nose, a sure sign she was frustrated. “Just go take a shower,” she said irritably. I’ll find you some fresh clothes.”
As Peter ambled off towards the shower, Olivia picked up her phone and called Astrid.
“Yes, that’s where he was… in the tunnels reading Walter’s files and smoking his dope… because he thought it would help him understand Walter.” Olivia sighed into the phone. “I know, I know, it’s starting to weigh on him.”
She listened for a moment, a smile brightening her face. “Yes, I heard her. Tell her Daddy’s finishing his work and we’ll both be home soon.” She paused, listening again. “I will, thank you for everything, Astrid. See you shortly.”
Olivia could hear the shower running as she headed towards her office. They kept duffle bags with clean clothes and toiletries there for emergencies. I’d say three days of pot smoking and no showers constitutes an emergency.
When she reached the shower, she called out to Peter. “I’ve got clean clothes for you.” As she walked by the shower stall, an arm stretched out and grabbed her. A much more pleasant smelling Peter leaned out, curls flattened by the water.
“I’m sorry, Liv,” he murmured, and pulled her face to his. “Didn’t mean to worry you.” He bent his head and kissed her gently. His lips moved languidly over hers, his tongue tracing her upper lip until she relaxed and leaned into the kiss. Convinced she wouldn’t run away, he moved his hand to cup her face and deepened his kiss until they both were breathless.
Olivia looked at him and blinked rapidly. His eyes were tired and bloodshot, but his trademark smirk was still there. “Care to join me?”
She looked crossly at him, but her eyes belied her expression. “Maybe when you smell better,” she said softly and walked off to collect her files.
A few minutes later, Olivia returned to the shower area. She expected Peter to be out by now, but the water was still running and he was nowhere to be seen. Cautiously, she pulled back the shower curtain and found Peter, eyes closed, leaning against the back of the shower. His shoulders were slumped and his head was bowed.
When he didn’t respond, she dropped her clothes on the chair alongside his, and touched his arm gently as she entered the shower stall.
“Peter, what’s the matter?” She cupped his face in her hands and tilted it up to hers.
He wrapped his arms loosely around her waist and leaned into her, resting his forehead against hers. “I’m so sorry, Olivia. I keep doing this to you.”
“I was worried,” she whispered, barely audible above the water coursing over their shoulders. “We… I didn’t know where you were.” She leaned into his embrace and leaned her head against his shoulder, relaxing for the first time in days. As the tension left her body, the tight grip she’d held on her emotions loosened as well and she felt her eyes well with tears.
When Peter felt her trembling, he nuzzled the side of her face until she looked up at him. “Olivia… I’m right here. What’s wrong?”
Her breath hitched. “I saw you working on Walter’s formulas. I thought… I thought you might be trying to find him.”
“Etta asked me if you were going to see Walter… Peter, I was afraid you were gone.” She tried to hide her emotions, but the stress won out and she couldn’t hold back the tears any longer.
Peter cupped her cheek and wiped away the tears that had fallen. “Livia… shhh, I’m here.” He wrapped his arms around her and rocked slowly, holding her as the tears came. “I’m here…” He closed his eyes and let his still-heightened senses take over: the warmth of Olivia’s body tucked into his, the sound of the water reverberating in the shower stall, the scent of Olivia as he buried his face in her hair.
As he felt her breathing slow, he began nuzzling her, dropping kisses along her neck. One arm, wrapped around her waist, held her close, tucked between his outstretched legs. Her skin felt like silk under his lips. He brushed her hair away from her neck, seeking the sensitive spot behind her ear that always made her gasp when he found it.
“I’m here,” he whispered as he found that spot and nibbled. “I’m here,” he told her, before tracing her clavicle to his favorite spot, the little hollow between her neck and shoulder. He loved to kiss her there, to map the outline of her shoulder with his lips until she shivered from the rasp of his scruff against her.
“I’m here,” he murmured to the cleft between her breasts as he moved down her body. He could spend hours here, teasing her nipples into pebbled nubs, caressing the fullness of her breasts in his hands. Her body had changed since her pregnancy, but the changes made her even more beautiful in Peter’s eyes, no matter how much she protested to the contrary.
He grasped her hips as he knelt before her, the water cascading down his back. “I’m here,” he whispered to her navel, before leaning his cheek against her barely curved belly. He traced the faint silver lines at her hips, proof that Etta had been there. He ran his tongue along the crease of her thigh and felt Olivia’s fingers in his hair as he eased her leg over his shoulder and nuzzled her soft blond curls.
Every sensation, every sound, every touch was more intense for him. He closed his eyes and leaned into her, remapping the familiar territory of her body with a new appreciation – the soft heat of her skin, the sound of her moans and the tug of her fingers in his hair as he teased her with his lips and tongue. He wanted to drink her in, to never leave the musky warmth of her.
“Peter…” she breathed his name, barely audible above the falling water.
“Hmmmm?” he hummed against her clit, and smiled as she moaned and her fingers tightened in his hair. He lost himself in her, thinking only of how she felt under his mouth, around his fingers, and how to elicit more of those breathy sounds of pleasure she made as he found the right combination of fast and slow, hard and soft, here and there and rightthereagainplease!
She leaned against the wall, grasping his shoulders for balance. He could feel her fingernails carving tiny half-moons into his back as he continued. As amazing as she felt pressed against his mouth, he wanted her wrapped around him now. As he started to stand, he grazed kisses across her hipbones and thought he heard her whining in frustration.
When he straightened, he covered her mouth with his and leaned into her, deepening his kiss and running his hands down her sides. He remembered the shelf built into the shower, just the right height for him as he slid his hands under her ass and lifted her to the shelf. Her legs wrapped around him instinctively and he gave a deep sigh of contentment as he buried himself in her.
“Peter, don’t ever leave me.” Her voice was a whisper; he could barely hear her over the sound of the water echoing in the shower, but the worry and pain in her voice was clear.
Her head rested against his shoulder and he nuzzled her cheek until he could see her face. “I’m here, Olivia, I’ll always be here.” He murmured into her hair as he began to move against her.
He said a mental ‘thank you’ to whoever installed the shower (and the shelf) in Walter’s lab, then remembered it WAS Walter… and William Bell, back in the early days of their partnership back in the 70’s. Knowing those two…. He wondered briefly how they’d managed to get the shelf just the right height, then pushed the thought from his mind as Olivia’s arms tightened around his shoulders and her lips grazed his. And then he decided that rational thought was vastly overrated when a beautiful, naked woman was moaning in his arms, and he lost himself in her again until they leaned against each other, breathless and sated.
“Peter, don’t go away again.”
“I’m not going anywhere…” Yet, he thought.
Yet… she thought.
Olivia awoke suddenly, instantly alert as she felt Etta’s weight leave her arms.
“Shhhh, it’s just me,” Peter whispered. “I’ll put her to bed, then you can sleep through the rest of the movie.” Their sleeping child was nestled against his chest, and as he stood, Olivia felt a chill as his body moved away from hers.
She pulled the afghan a little closer and closed her eyes, waiting for his return. After a few minutes, she felt his familiar warmth surround her as he pulled her into an embrace. “Never even woke up,” he whispered, and thumbed the remote to restart the movie.
She couldn’t even remember what it was; the low drone was background noise, purely incidental and an excuse for the three of them to snuggle together on the sofa on one of the first cool evenings of the fall. Peter built a fire in the fireplace, Etta picked out a movie, and Olivia popped popcorn. Now, the fire was dying down, reduced to glowing embers; the popcorn bowl was empty, with more than a few kernels scattered on the floor from Peter and Etta’s challenge to see who could catch more popcorn ‘hands-free’; and the Mighty Ducks were skating to victory.
Olivia snuggled closer to Peter and buried her face in his neck. The heat from his bare skin against her face warmed her, and as he tucked her back into his side and pulled the afghan around her more securely, she felt cossetted and drowsy again, secure in his arms.
“Sure you don’t want to go to bed, hon?” he murmured. “I think you know how the movie ends…”
“Mmmhmmm,” she mumbled, never opening her eyes. She breathed in the essence of Peter; the aroma from the cherry wood burning in the fireplace, a hint of spice from his cologne, and something that was undeniably him. Sometimes the upper notes changed…. the earthy smell of freshly ground beans in the morning when he made coffee, the sharp scent of sweat after he’d been out for a run, the sweetness of the whisky they sipped in the evenings after Etta was in bed… but underneath it all, there was always something that was uniquely him.
She nuzzled his shoulder, pushing the t-shirt aside and relishing the contrast of soft skin and stubble against her cheeks. She felt content within the circle of his arms; the warmth of his skin against hers, the steady rise and fall of his chest, and the knowledge their daughter was safe and sleeping in her bed upstairs – all was right in her world, for a change.
“I think…. I could stay right here forever,” she whispered into his chest, then drifted back to sleep. If she noticed that Peter’s arms tightened their embrace, or that his body tensed at her words, she gave no indication that he could see. He shifted their positions so he could stretch out on the couch with Olivia still in his arms, and pondered her words as he watched the dying embers.
First thing Monday morning, Peter, Olivia, and Astrid were huddled around a video monitor; looking back at them were Brandon Fayette and Nina Sharp.
“The compounds are being created in a space where the laws of physics don’t apply?” Nina asked with a frown.
“That’s right,” Peter answered. “The molecules are being ‘loosened’, for lack of a better word, and the atoms are more receptive to alteration in that state.”
He tapped Astrid on the shoulder. “Can you bring up the Loeb file, the part about the bank robberies?”
Astrid’s fingers flew over the keyboard; shortly, the schematics for the device that Mitchell Loeb used to ‘walk through walls’ was displayed on a split screen alongside Nina’s face. Brandon could be seen in the background with a tablet, stroking and tapping, muttering to himself.
“I think they’re using some sort of device that’s either immune or compatible with this, and they’re using that to manipulate the compounds while they’re in this state.” He paused for a moment, watching Brandon’s face for confirmation. When Brandon’s eyes widened and he nodded his head furiously, Peter continued.
“From your analysis, we know that the polonium and technetium elements would never unite because of the disparate atomic weights, but if you suspended that theory and blended the two together while atomic weight was irrelevant to the process…” Peter looked up at Brandon again before continuing. “My theory is that once blended, the atoms have melded, even if that combination is counter to what we normally expect.”
“Absolutely, and if you made enough combinations of this type, you would eradicate the original barriers to creating the compounds.” Brandon was practically bouncing up and down with excitement.
Nina, Olivia, and Astrid moved to the background while the two continued their discussion, although Nina and Olivia exchanged bemused glances at their total immersion in the technical details of their conversation.
“There’s a tremendous amount of energy required to sustain this process, however, and that may be the key to determining the location of their labs. We need Massive Dynamic to monitor grid fluctuations – Nina, is that possible?”
“Of course, Peter, our resources are at your disposal. But what makes you believe they have multiple locations?”
“I don’t believe they’d be able to conceal the power spikes if they had more than one process running at the same time… and the compounds would be highly unstable while in their transitory states.”
Nina nodded to Brandon, who continued to tap furiously on his tablet. “Got it, Ms. Sharp,” he replied. “I can get teams on this right away.”
Olivia stood up and rested a hand on Peter’s shoulder. “I can touch base later today and give Broyles a status report. Do you need anything else to get started?”
“Actually…” Brandon looked almost awestruck as he gazed into the monitor. “How did you come up with this, Dr. Bishop? This is genius, determining how the base elements were combined.”
Peter’s shoulders tensed. “Just looking over old case files and put a few things together…” he replied crisply. “And it’s just Peter. Dr. Bishop wa – is my father.” He stood abruptly. “If there’s nothing else…” Without waiting for a reply, he strode to the back of the lab.
“I’ll…. I’ll just get started on all this,” Brandon stammered.
“He’s so much like Walter,” Nina remarked, while at the same time, Olivia said, “He’s really missing Walter.” Nina smiled at the younger women. “You’ll have to fill me in on the details of Walter’s… ‘sabbatical’, my dear. It was a bit unexpected, wasn’t it?”
Before Olivia could answer, a loud metallic crash from the back of the lab echoed through the room. She turned to Astrid with a questioning look on her face.
“It’s just Peter. When he’s frustrated, he kicks the door on the bathroom stall,” Astrid explained.
“Nina, I’ll talk with you later today.” Olivia hurriedly ended the video conference, then looked pointedly at Astrid.
“How often does this happen?”
“Oh, two or three times a day,” Astrid said nonchalantly.
“Astrid…” Olivia fell silent and tried to arrange her face into a neutral expression as Peter walked out of the bathroom. He’d changed into sweats and an old t-shirt, and he was carrying a pair of running shoes.
As he passed Olivia, he leaned over and pecked her cheek. “Back in a bit. Need a break.” Heading out the door, he called, “Astrid, got my phone if you need me.”
After the door slammed behind him, Olivia turned to Astrid again. “And how many times does he do that?” she queried.
“Oh, two or three times a day,” Astrid turned to her and smiled. “At least once a day. He says he needs something mindless to clear his head.”
“At least he’s not sneaking off to the tunnels anymore…” Olivia said, then glanced quickly to Astrid for confirmation. “Is he?”
She wouldn’t admit to the sense of relief she felt when Astrid shook her head. “He’s really feeling the pressure, isn’t he?”
Astrid nodded sadly. “He puts a lot of it on himself, feeling like he has to live up to Walter’s reputation.” As she gathered up the papers spread in front of the monitor. “It’s harder when people compare him to Walter…even if they don’t mean to.”
“He IS a lot like Walter.” Olivia drummed her fingers on the table. “I wonder…” Olivia headed to her office. “Let me know if you need me, I’ve got some calls to make.”
Peter stood in the middle of the living room of the Bishop house on Yukon Street, surveying the chaos. On one side of the room, there were stacks of boxes filled with books, files, and rolled tubes of schematics. On the other side of the room sat box after box of records, the remainder of Walter’s record collection, his turntable and speakers, and easily a dozen boxes of framed photographs, diplomas, and awards that Walter had amassed over the years before he entered St. Claire’s.
It had been three weeks since he’d received Walter’s letter. Two weeks since they’d announced that Walter was on an ‘extended sabbatical’ and he’d officially taken over his role with the Fringe Division. Four days since his first breakthrough on his first case as Walter’s successor; it was up to Massive Dynamic to locate the labs now.
In the meantime, he needed to make sense of Walter’s absence. Olivia was managing the bureaucracy, and Astrid had the lab and all its complexities well in hand. It fell to him to go through the house on Yukon Street. In one timeline, Walter and Elizabeth had lived there until his incarceration in St. Claire’s; in another, he and Walter lived there after Olivia dragged him back from Iraq and sprung Walter after John Scott’s accident. He’d lived there both with and without Walter, but it would forever be associated with Walter in his mind, along with the lake house and their first house in Cambridge where they lived as a family until Walter went to St. Claire’s.
As he walked through the house, gathering odds and ends, every room reminded him of Walter. The kitchen had always been Walter’s domain, his lab away from the lab. The family room, where Walter slept, “only thirteen steps away” from the kitchen. The dining room, where Walter had presented a candlelight breakfast in his attempts to force Peter and Olivia to reconcile. Walter’s voice echoed in his ears as he walked through the dusty rooms.
You’ve were abducted! Of course, you need crepes!
Don’t worry, son. I promise to wear my shorts to bed so that if you bring any young ladies home there won’t be any embarrassing moments.
The right tool for this job…. Is Tinkertoys!
Peter… every living thing dies. As a scientist, that’s one of the hardest things to accept, that — that we try to understand the mechanisms of life, but inevitably, we can’t defeat death, no matter how much we — we may want to.
You’re a good man, Peter. She knows that.
Every relationship is reciprocal, Peter. When you touch something, it touches you
Breakfast. The most important meal of the day, and I proved it in 1973. Blueberry pancakes. This is a Bishop family specialty, best eaten while still warm.
You called me Dad…
A knock on the door brought his thoughts back to the present. As he neared the door, he could hear Etta’s excited voice.
“Dadddddddyyyyy, We know you’re in there!”
He flung open the door and swept her up into his arms. “And to what do I owe this pleasure, Princess?”
Olivia stepped through the doorway with bags of Indian take-out. “We thought you might want some lunch…” she said, kissing Peter on the cheek, “and some company.” She headed towards the kitchen.
“How’s it coming?” Olivia asked as she spread out containers on the island.
Peter nudged one of the boxes with a toe and shoved his hands in his pockets. “Hard to believe… All that’s left of Walter is a few boxes of paper and a bunch of old records.”
She came out of the kitchen and embraced him from behind, resting her head against his shoulder blades. “Oh, that hardly seems accurate…”
Peter shrugged. “Look around. Most of what he accomplished can’t be talked about. Nobody would believe us if we COULD talk about it.”
He kicked a corner of the box nearest him in frustration. “The whole world should be thanking him, Olivia, and nobody even knows his name.”
Etta tugged on his hand and Peter knelt to examine what she was holding. “Look, Daddy, it’s you and Grandpa!” She handed him the framed photo; Walter was smiling broadly, and Peter had his arm slung around his father’s shoulder.
Olivia laid her hand on Peter’s shoulder and leaned over to examine the photo. “When was that taken, Peter?”
“I thought it was about a year after you got Walter out…” He looked over at Etta. “About the time we moved in here.” Peter shook his head. “That’s not possible, is it? How would the photo end up… here?”
Olivia smoothed his curls. “I remember that it was one of his favorite photos. Where Walter’s concerned…. I don’t doubt that anything is possible anymore.” She straightened and held out her hand to Etta. “C’mon, let’s eat before everything gets cold.”
Peter groaned and stretched. The kitchen island was littered with now-empty take-out containers. Having cleaned her plate, Etta was swinging her legs restlessly, ready to find other treasures in “Grandpa’s boxes”. The photo she’d dug out earlier sat before them on the island.
“Sure, sweetheart, go ahead,” Peter said absent-mindedly. He rubbed his thumb over Walter’s image, then looked up at Olivia with shining eyes. “Did I tell you I found the tape he left me… in 2036, the day before everything happened… before Walter left?”
Olivia shook her head, and slipped her hand over Peter’s.
“I took it out of the amber. We watched it together, Walter and I.” Peter paused, and swallowed, then looked at the photo in his hand. “He told me he knew it was what he had to do.” He brushed the back of his free hand across his eyes. “He said I was his fav…”
Peter was interrupted by Etta clambering into his lap with another picture. “Look, Daddy! Look! It’s me and Grandpa!”
Olivia squeezed his hand, then leaned over to see the photo that Etta held. Walter and Etta were in the lab, blowing bubbles. They were laughing as if they were having the time of their lives. Peter stood in the background, regarding them both with obvious fondness.
Peter laid his head against Etta’s and closed his eyes. He pressed his lips against the blond curls that always escaped her pigtails and thought about Walter’s last embrace, about his words after they’d watched the tape together.
I know in my soul this is what I am supposed to do. I want you to give Olivia your daughter back. I want to give you your life back. As a father, how could I not do that for you? What I said on the tape about stealing time with you, I meant it. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. You are my favorite thing, Peter. My very favorite thing.
“What did Grandpa say to you, Daddy?” Etta wiggled in his lap to face him.
“He said…” Peter’s voice cracked. “He said I was his favorite thing, but I think he meant you.” He wrapped his arms around his daughter and squeezed her til she giggled. “Because you are my favorite thing, Henrietta Dunham Bishop. My very favorite thing.”
“Astrid, could you…”
“Put this in the centrifuge? Of course.” She took the test tube from Peter’s hand, slapped a label on it, and inserted it into the device with a sure hand.
Astrid knew what he wanted almost before he did. While he was in the field with Olivia, she had been in the lab with Walter… in one timeline, anyway. In every timeline, as her responsibilities as caretaker lessened, she replaced them with those of a lab assistant. It was obvious that Walter had given her, in addition to a love of Red Vines, an intensive course in biochemistry, physics, and how to think like a mad genius – qualities that would serve her well in the current environment.
While he waited on the results, he studied the new equipment set up in one corner of the lab. After Massive Dynamic located the sites being used to create the toxic compounds, Federal agents in bio-hazard suits raided each building and confiscated the original chemicals and the equipment used to transform them into synthetic fusions that could only be created through suspension of theories on how molecular structures behaved… in this world.
Mitchell Loeb, with help from David Robert Jones, had used a device similar to this, to enable his team to literally ‘walk through walls’ to raid safety deposit boxes and retrieve Walter’s components to create a device that would allow him to cross the time-space continuum. Dr. Krick combined Osmium and Lutetium, two elements that should never even co-exist, creating a serum that enabled paralyzed men, including his son, to walk again – or rather, to float, when the membrane between this universe and its counterpart decayed to a point that began to break the laws of physics.
Peter’s ability to recall and associate these disparate events enabled him to develop a theory; using the resources available at Massive Dynamic, the researchers there were able to prove his theory. Now all that remained was a final resolution, an antidote to the toxins yet to be recovered. It was obvious from the state of the labs that more toxins had been created; the spent energy sources and the missing vials gave them an indication of how much – enough to decimate a small city if dispersed correctly. So far, the incidents had been limited to a few people in controlled areas – shops, offices, bus stops – but until they knew who was behind the attacks and their motivation, the potential for catastrophe hung over them, Peter most of all.
Massive Dynamics researchers were working on the anti-toxin, but they were struggling to create the altered environment to synthesize the compounds. Or rather, they could create the environment, but not the instruments and equipment needed to function in that environment. When Loeb and his team crossed into the altered environment, the residual effect of having their atoms scrambled proved to ultimately be fatal; the MD researchers were still struggling to overcome that obstacle.
Peter eyed the equipment, then turned back to locate Astrid. She was busy at a monitor across the lab, keying rapidly as she compared results with Fayette at MD. He drummed his fingers on the lab table… something, something was there in the back of his mind. He dug through the box he’d carried to the tunnels, flipping through files rapidly until he reached the bottom of the box.
“Almost the bottom of the box,” he thought, when his fingertips touched Walter’s notebook. He pulled it out and started thumbing through the worn pages. He paused on the page describing the Casimir Effect and the portal Walter created; running his fingers down the page, over Walter’s notes, he began nodding to himself.
“Astrid, I’ll be back in a minute!” he said loudly, and she responded with a nod, never even looking up from the keyboard. When he stood up, he closed his eyes for a moment, visualizing Walter in 2036, replaying the scene in his mind as Walter led them to the basement where he’d stored all manner of things: samples and residual evidence from Fringe cases they’d worked together all the way back to inventions he and Belly had created when they shared the lab.
He walked cautiously through the crowded room – at least the lights still worked, unlike their initial visit in 2036. He made a mental note to return and catalogue the contents – later – as he made his way to the back of the room.
Finally, he spotted the aluminum ‘wings’ of the portal device, propped in the far corner of the back wall. He moved a number of boxes and cases to reach it; it was almost as if Walter didn’t WANT the equipment to be found.
It took a couple of trips, but he was satisfied that he had all the components. Using Walter’s notebook as a guide, he reassembled the portal, creating an area large enough to hold the isolation box where the recovered elements were stored.
He powered up the device that created the altered environment; he could see the shimmering effect encompassing the isolation box between the two wings. He immediately felt a change in pressure, almost as if a hand pushed against his chest.
Only those who risk going too far, find out how far they can go
He picked up a pencil from a nearby lab table and tossed it into the isolation box. Just like the FBI agent on the bridge a few years back, the pencil just… disintegrated. Not a trace was left behind. Peter glanced behind him; Astrid was engrossed in her conversation with the MD scientist. As Peter approached the equipment, he did a mental inventory. He took a deep breath, stepped up to the portal, extended the pinkie finger on his right hand, and slowly stretched it into the box.
Just as slowly, he withdrew his hand and examined his finger. No indication that anything had happened, not even a tingle. He repeated the process, fingers splayed, arm extended, until his entire forearm was in the isolation box. Satisfied that he could work in the isolation box without harm, he stepped into the shimmering area and set about combining the chemicals to create the anti-toxin.
A few hours later, Peter and Astrid were back at the monitor, video-conferencing with Brandon at Massive Dynamic and Olivia at the Federal Building. Peter and Brandon were deep into the logistics of mass producing the anti-toxin, based on Peter’s accomplishments that morning, when Nina’s face appeared over Brandon’s shoulder.
“I hear congratulations are in order, Peter,” Nina said with not a little pride in her voice.
“Yes, I used one of Walter’s old inventions,” Peter replied. “Astrid, can you share the scans from Walter’s notes?”
As the sketch from Walter’s notebook appeared on the screen, Nina visibly blanched. “Pe-Peter,” she stammered, “THIS is what you used?”
“Yes, Nina… and I understand its original purpose… at least, I think I do. “
Nina nodded imperceptibly.
“I see no need to recreate the past,” Peter continued smoothly, looking intently at Nina as he spoke, “and while technology has certainly advanced since 1985…“ he flashed his best con-man smile at an obviously flustered Nina before resuming, “I think that’s a project for another day, don’t you, Ms. Sharp?”
“Astrid said I might find you here,” Olivia said as she crossed the roof of the Kresge Building to a picnic table where Peter and Etta sat, perched on the table and looking out over Huntington Avenue.
“Yep, well, I saved the world, again… so I thought I’d take the afternoon off and spend it with my best girl,” Peter smirked, tugging on Etta’s pigtail. “Well, one of my best girls,” he amended hastily. “Care for some popcorn?” He extended a bag, one of several sitting beside them on the picnic table.
Olivia rounded the table and sat on the bench between her husband and her daughter, whose eyes had not left the stream of traffic in front of her. When Olivia gave Peter a questioning look, he just shrugged and mouthed, “Wait and see.”
Suddenly Etta vibrated with excitement and leaned towards Peter. “PUNCH BUGGY!” she yelled enthusiastically as she slugged Peter’s shoulder. “BLUE!” She pointed to the baby blue VW Bug headed south on the busy street.
“Good one, Princess. I totally missed that one,” he said, as he winked at Olivia.
“How many is that, Daddy?” Etta asked, her gaze back on the road.
“Six, I think,” Peter replied, rubbing his shoulder. Turning back to Olivia, he said “Etta was telling me that she missed playing Punch Buggy with Walter, so I thought…” His voice trailed off as a wistful expression crossed his face, replaced by a sad smile as he looked at Etta.
Olivia leaned against his knee. “I think Walter would approve,” she said softly to Peter, smiling gently.
Olivia was rinsing the pasta, Peter was stirring the sauce, and Etta was setting the table. Rather, Etta was dancing around the table, and with every pirouette, she would lay down a piece of silverware.
“Whaddaya bet I get two forks again,” Peter laughed.
Olivia shrugged. “You take what you can get, I guess…” She smiled at him as she emptied the pasta into a large bowl, then opened a cabinet and removed two oversized wine glasses and held them up for Peter’s inspection. “A little celebration for saving the world?” she asked.
“Sure, why not.” Peter poured the sauce over the pasta and carried the bowl to the table. “A-ha! A fork AND a spoon this time. Well done, Princess!” He made a formal bow to Etta, who curtsied and giggled.
“Red or white?” Olivia called from the kitchen.
“Oh, let’s go for the sparkly stuff… we might really have something to celebrate,” Peter replied as he pulled out Etta’s chair for her. Once she was settled, he tucked a napkin around her neck and dished up salad and pasta for her.
“Really, now… what could that be?” Olivia came out of the kitchen and handed Peter a bottle of Prosecco. She and Etta covered their ears and Peter eased out the cork; they giggled and made faces at each other at the loud pop.
“So, what are we drinking to?” she asked as Peter filled the glasses.
“How about… to serendipity?” He held out his glass.
Etta raised her glass of milk and the three of them clinked glasses gently.
“To…. saran—dity,” Etta said slowly, looking at her father for confirmation.
“Ser en dip ity,” Peter said slowly. “It means a happy accident. Like finding something you weren’t looking for.”
“Ser en dipity,” Etta repeated confidently. “Did you find a lucky penny, Daddy? Or a four leaf clover? Grandpa says that those are good luck, even if they are mutants.”
Olivia stifled a smile, while Peter hid his grin by taking a sip of wine.
“Well?” Olivia nudged Peter.
“Well, it was a couple of things… you’re responsible for one of them.”
“Yay, Mama!” Etta interjected. “Did Mama help you save the world?”
“She did, kiddo. She gave me the first clue that told me where to look for the answers.” Peter smiled at Olivia, who returned his smile with a puzzled look on her face.
“Remember a couple of weeks ago, we’d just picked up the Pearce case?”
“You reminded me….” Peter paused and glanced at Etta. “You told me that Walter… that Walter may have viewed the world from a different perspective than the rest of us.” He looked at Olivia. “You remember that conversation?”
She nodded slowly. “Peter…” she said with a warning tone to her voice.
“No, no…” he said hurriedly. “I’m not advocating his methods. But you reminded me what made Walter special.”
Olivia rolled her eyes a bit, but nodded for him to continue.
“Then when I was teaching Etta about statistics and probabilities…remember, kiddo?”
“You were teaching her how to figure odds, Peter,” she laughed.
“Same thing…” he shrugged. “But when Etta said the odds were fifty-fifty, you said …”
“Unless you break the laws of physics,” Etta and Olivia said together.
“Exactly! And that made me think…. What if I COULD break the laws of physics? Like Walter… if I could do anything, what would I do? And how would I do it?”
“So Grandpa helped you, too,” Etta said, between mouthfuls of pasta.
“You’re right, kiddo,” Peter said thoughtfully. “Grandpa helped me, too.”
Olivia took a large gulp of her Prosecco and looked down at the pasta. Fathers and sons, she thought. What would you do for the ones you love.
“And…I had a really interesting conversation today,” Peter continued. “Dean Kastner, from MIT.”
“The Dean of Science? Was he…” Olivia paused.
“No, surprisingly enough, he wanted to talk to me.”
“We touched briefly on my… previous association with MIT,” Peter said wryly. “And he had a proposition for me.”
Olivia laughed, a short bark. “Did it have anything to do about pressing charges for misrepresentation?”
He gave her a dirty look before continuing. “No, as a matter of fact… he wants me to write a doctoral dissertation. They want to give me a Ph.D.”
“But MIT doesn’t award honorary…”
“He said it wouldn’t be an honorary degree. It’s the real deal.” He shook his head. “I don’t get it either. Maybe they’re trying to cover their tracks. All they want is a dissertation… on any topic. He practically guaranteed a pass on the oral…”
Olivia rolled her eyes. Peter opened his mouth to speak, his eyes glittering, but she cut him off with a sharp glance to Etta, who appeared to be engrossed in twirling threads of linguine around her fork. “Don’t even…” she warned him.
“All he said was that it had come to his attention that I had done exemplary work that the university would be proud to stand behind…” He looked at Olivia suspiciously. “Do you know anything about this?”
Olivia looked at him innocently. “Do you really think I have that kind of pull at MIT?”
“Hrmph.” Peter looked doubtful. “I think I want to do it.” He gave her a small smile. “I think Walter would like it…“ He grimaced. “He always said I squandered my education.”
Olivia looked down and bit her lip, that gesture that always melted Peter’s heart. “I think he would like it, too,” she murmured. She lifted her glass. “To Dr. Bishop,” she said with a broad smile.
“To ANOTHER Dr. Bishop.” Peter raised his glass and tipped it against hers.
Etta looked up from her pasta. “Cheers!” she exclaimed.
Olivia put the last of the leftovers in the refrigerator, then turned off the lights in the kitchen and followed the sound of voices to Peter’s study. He and Etta were crouched in the middle of the room, examining an enormous metal box, almost the size of an old steamer trunk.
“That’s right, kiddo, this is Grandpa’s address on the top.” Peter looked up at Olivia as she entered the room and shrugged apologetically. “As close as we can get it.”
When Etta noticed her mother, she jumped up and grabbed Olivia’s hand, tugging her excitedly to Peter’s side. “Look what Aunt Nina sent us!”
Peter was running his hand over the top of the box, over an embossed plate bearing the inscription “Dr. Walter Bishop, Oslo, Norway”. “I was talking to Nina after the Pearce case wrapped,” he said quietly. “I told her a little bit about Walter’s ‘sabbatical’. I thought she had the right to know…”
“Of course,” Olivia replied, putting her hand on Peter’s shoulder. “But what it is?”
“According to Massive Dynamic, it is an indestructible container, guaranteed to survive nuclear explosions, fire, floods… and time. According to the warranty,” he laughed, “it’s good for 10,000 years.”
Olivia gave Peter, and the box, a skeptical look. “A 10,000 year warranty, hmm?”
“Well, if anyone or anything will be around for years to come, I’d say it would be Massive Dynamic. Nina’s having instructions drafted for managing the… delivery.”
“And in the meantime,” he said with a cheerfulness his eyes denied, “Etta will be filling it with drawings and letters to Grandpa, right, kiddo?”
“So he knows we’re still thinking about him even though he’s far away,” Etta explained solemnly. “Daddy even bought me special paper and colors.”
Peter shrugged again. “Acid free paper,” he explained. “And archival markers. Plenty of room for letters and Etta’s pictures… maybe a small turntable and a few albums.” He stood up and stretched. “Plenty of time to figure it out.”
Olivia slipped an arm around Peter’s waist and laid her head on his shoulder. “Are you going to draw one tonight, Etta?”
Etta was already headed to Peter’s desk, a pad of paper and new colored pencils in hand. “I want to write to Grandpa every day. Can I? I don’t want him to be lonesome.”
“Of course, sweetheart,” Peter replied. “Maybe I’ll write to him every day, too.” He picked up a book from the desk, a journal bound in black leather. He showed it to Olivia, a wistful smile on his face. “I don’t want to be lonesome, either.”
“It’s been thirty days…”
Peter spoke again, breaking the silence that had fallen between them. “You know, it’s really too late for fireflies in Boston…”
“But…” Olivia knew him too well to think this was all he had to say.
“Do you remember that Walter made a dog hypo-allergenic so I could have one as a kid?”
Olivia nodded and curled more comfortably into his lap.
“D’ya think he made the fireflies in Boston resistant to colder weather so Etta could chase them longer?”
She stifled a giggle. “Peter, is that even possible?” She could feel him shrug and knew if she looked at his face, he’d be smiling.
“You ask this about a man who dosed caterpillars with LSD?” He chuckled. “I wouldn’t put anything past Walter.”
She raised her head to look at him, and cupped his face in her hands. “He was right, you know.”
“Despite all the crazy, outrageous, dangerous things he did…” she kissed him softly, “he brought us together… and kept us together. No one else could’ve done that.”
“He gave us our family back.” His voice was hoarse. “I miss him, Liv. I don’t know how to live in a world without him.”
“Peter, I see him everywhere… at the lab…in you, in Etta…”
“Now THAT’S a scary thought,” Peter remarked, a small smile creeping into his voice.
“Look at Astrid…five years ago, she didn’t even know what a DNA replicator was, and now she’s programming one.”
Peter nodded slowly, “Walter would be proud of her. But Etta…”
“Etta will grow up… IS growing up knowing her grandfather.” Olivia stood up and walked around the room. “We talk about him every day. We have videos, photographs…”
Peter’s eyes rested on a framed photo on his desk – his favorite – Etta and Walter sitting on the steps of the house on Yukon Street earlier that summer. They were eating (and wearing) grape popsicles; Etta was talking, using the expansive hand gestures that she could only have picked up from Walter, and he was listening intently, a smile on his face and pure adoration in his eyes. He blinked, remembering Etta wrapping her arms tightly around Walter’s neck, whispering her “I love you, Grandpa’s” in his ear and making his eyes sparkle with delight.
“You’re teaching her his love for good food,” she walked around his desk, trailing her fingers over the surface, picking up the white paper wrapper holding what was left of Etta’s daily allotment of Red Vines, “and junk food.” She smiled, picking up the licorice and sniffing it before twisting the white paper around the remaining pieces.
She paused to look at Etta’s latest drawing for “Grandpa’s Box”, her name for Massive Dynamics’ ‘time-proof’ container sitting in the corner of the room. Peter had been reviewing more of Walter’s files and left one open on his desk; Etta had been copying the molecular structure Walter had sketched in his notes, adding her own personal touches with rainbows and brightly colored balloons surrounding the multi-hued skeletal formulae, and Walter’s favorite, a green unicorn, dashing across the bottom of the page, being chased by what Olivia could only assume were Etta and Walter, Red Vines in hand. She held it up so Peter could see it. “Is there any doubt that Etta is a Bishop?” she laughed.
He smiled, and shook his head. “Let’s hope she only inherited the saner aspects.”
Olivia continued to walk around the room, running her fingers over the albums cramming the shelves along the wall. “You’re passing on his love of music… listening to Walter’s albums with her, teaching her to play the piano, playing for her…” She stopped, her back to Peter. “He loved to hear you play, you know?”
Peter sighed heavily. “Yeah, I wish I’d done it more, and now…”
She turned to him and said gently, “You haven’t played since… I miss it, too.” She walked back to him, and perched on the arm of his chair. “Walter played a lot when you weren’t there… when you left.” She fell silent for a moment. “He said it made him feel closer to you, wherever you were.”
He nodded slowly, and she threaded her fingers through his hair. “You’re a lot like him, too,” she said, leaning into him.
He grimaced in response. “Just what any son of a lunatic wants to hear,” he groaned.
She tugged his hair, and in retaliation, he pulled her legs over his and slid her back into his lap. “You are!” she protested, and held up one hand, counting on her fingers, “You’re brilliant in so many ways. You’re a wonderful teacher. You’re a devoted father. You’re an amazing cook.”
Peter was shaking his head, but Olivia kept on despite his denials. She smiled up at him and pushed her hand against his chest. “You both love the sensual things in life… wine, women, and song.” . She slipped her hand inside his shirt.
He captured her hand and pressed it against his chest, over his heart. “Woman. Just one.”
“You’re passionate about what you do. “ She paused. “Sometimes, too passionate. You both get carried away from time to time.”
Peter tried to look innocent.
“Three DAYS, Peter, smoking dope… if that’s not Walter….”
“I can’t argue with you there, Liv. I’m sorry…”
She looked up at him again and bit her lip. “I’m not saying it’s ALL bad.”
“Hmmm?” He caressed the back of her hand with his thumb.
“Well… you’re kind of cute when you’re stoned.”
“Agent Dunham!” He tried to sound outraged, and failed miserably, eliciting a giggle from the decidedly unofficial woman snuggled in his lap.
“And you know that thing…”
“What thing?” He played along.
“That thing…“ she bit her lip again. “That thing you do with your mouth…”
“Hmm?” He nuzzled her neck until he found that spot and nibbled the soft skin under her ear until she squirmed in his lap. “This thing?”
“Nooooo,” she settled back into his embrace. “The other thing… in the shower.”
He sat silently for a moment, as if he was replaying that week in his head, until Olivia huffed in frustration. “Oh, THAT thing,” he laughed.
“Yeah…. That thing…“ Even after a couple of years of marriage, Olivia was still capable of embarrassing herself in front of Peter. She buried her face in his shoulder and mumbled, “It’s always good…. But that night, it was… wonderful.”
He tipped her face up to his and smirked. “I can assure you, Walter didn’t teach me that.”
“Oh, you…” She laid her head back on his shoulder and breathed an internal sigh of relief. Peter had been quiet all day, bordering on sadness. He kept his deepest feelings to himself until they overwhelmed him – another way he and Walter were alike. He’d talked more about Walter tonight than he had for a week or so, and she’d been able to make him smile, even make him laugh a little about him. She knew it was unbearably hard on him – hell, it was killing her a little bit every day and her relationship to Walter was nowhere as deep and complex as Peter’s. But she couldn’t lose them both… she couldn’t bear it if she lost Peter again.
He wrapped his arm around her a little tighter, his hand splayed against her hip, and reached for his glass with the other hand. He swirled the golden liquid – there was barely a sip left, and Olivia shook her head when he offered it to her. He swallowed it and closed his eyes as the warmth coursed down his throat.
“You know, he did teach me something,” Olivia’s voice was quiet in the stillness of the darkened room.
“Mm-hmm.” She curled her body into his, tucked under his arm. “He taught me how to love… fearlessly, unconditionally,” she smiled a tiny smile, “dangerously.”
He was quiet, waiting for her to continue.
“You know this is hard for me, Peter…”
“I know, Liv, and I haven’t made it any easier.” He brushed a strand of hair from her face and tucked it behind her ear.
“No, Peter… it’s always been hard for me to let people in… but Walter…” She looked up at him. “Walter loved you so much. No matter what happened, he loved you.”
“Except for being poofed out of existence,” Peter added wryly.
“Even then… he knew he wanted to love you, but his fear of losing you again held him back. When he got over that, though…”
“Did you know,” he mused, “that Michael was able to bring back all his memories?”
Olivia sat up. “Everything? Like mine? Peter, that’s wonderful!”
He smiled, remembering Walter’s exuberance that day, the joy in his voice when he related the things he remembered, the hug they shared on the sideway in Brooklyn. “He told me that he didn’t think he could love me any more than he did, but when he remembered everything we’d been through together…” He held Olivia’s hand to his face, and kissed her palm. “I just hope I can love Etta as much as he loved me.”
“You will… you are,” she cupped his stubbled cheek. “Walter taught us both a lot about the power of love.”
He rubbed his cheek in her palm, smiling. “Yeah, the power of love saved my worthless ass enough times…”
Now it was Olivia’s turn to chuckle. “An ass, yes, but never a worthless ass. I’ll have you know I’m rather fond of that ass.” She leaned in to kiss him, and felt him smile under her lips.
“That ass is devoted to you, as is the rest of me,” he murmured.
“Good to know,” she said as she pulled his head down for another kiss. “Now stop talking.”
They sat in comfortable silence, watching the soft glow of the fireflies… until they heard the familiar sound of bare feet padding across the hardwood floor.
“Daddy, the stars are falling outside my window!”
“Shooting stars? I don’t recall any new meteor showers predicted for this time of year…” he puzzled.
Olivia and Etta walked to the windows and looked at the gold streaks illuminating the darkened sky, while Peter checked a few web sites for expected activity. “The only known activity this time of year is the Leonids, but it’s too early in the evening even for them.” He joined them at the window and swung Etta into his arms for a better view.
“Wanna go outside, kiddo? Go get shoes and a coat.” Peter barely finished his sentence before Etta was squirming out of his arms and running back to her room for sneakers. Olivia found a couple of quilts they used for picnics in the park and watching the constellations in the summer. Soon, they were settled in the backyard, Etta nestled between Peter and Olivia and a quilt wrapped around all three of them.
“I still think it’s an anomaly of some sort,” Peter said quietly as the brilliant lights continued to splash in the sky. “For this much activity, it’s unusual not to have advance notice of a celestial occurrence.”
“Is it weird that we think of everything as a Fringe event?” Olivia replied.
“Given our history?” Peter snickered. “I’m surprised we do anything that’s not weird.” His eyes lingered on the skies as he continued to speak. “It’s a little odd that they seem to be moving in a different direction than the Leonids usually travel.”
“It’s Grandpa…” a sleepy voice from between them said. “He’s telling us hello and that he loves us.”
Peter pulled his family closer to him and looked back at the golden threads flashing across the indigo sky. He kissed the top of Etta’s head. “I think you’re right, kiddo. I think you’re exactly right.”