Olivia pinched the bridge of her nose. She hadn’t gotten much sleep last night and this most recent news wasn’t helping her migraine.
"It says something about this job that a straight kidnapping is a good thing right now, doesn’t it?"
"The probability of a successful exchange is usually forty percent and this depends on the nationality of the kidnappers, the age of the victim and whether a hostage negotiator is employed. These odds go down sharply of course, if we can’t raise the ransom."
Walter’s fingers twisted up in the pockets of his worn sweater, his voice trailing off as he realised the implications of the facts he was nervously leaking.
Olivia couldn’t help wincing at his words. "Yes. Thank you for that, Walter."
Broyles cleared his throat. "Unfortunately the U.S. government does not negotiate with terrorists. Our involvement can only go so far."
"Wait." Olivia pointed at one the agents in the room. "Pull up the recording."
She lowered her tone. "I don’t think they want money. Walter’s relationship with Massive Dynamic has been in the papers for weeks. I’m sure they’d spring for the ransom, but why ask for so much when they must know he can’t easily afford to pay it?"
"What are you saying?"
"Listen to the way they talk. When they threaten that Peter will be ‘a pile of putty’, there’s a stutter there. It makes me think they want something else."
"Another invention of Dr. Bishop’s?"
"Walter, does putty mean anything to you? Perhaps connected with a device you once made?"
"No. Should it?" He was folding the abandoned wrapper of the chocolate bars he’d found in the trash, trying to get them to crease perfectly. "Although I always loved how silly putty could absorb the ink of a newspaper headline. I once stretched out the word ‘assume’ to comical effect."
Broyles turned back to Olivia, leaving Walter to relate his nostalgia with the other agents in the office. "Do I have to remind you of the last time unknown persons wanted an invention of Dr. Bishop’s? We don’t know how harmful a mystery object could be in enemy hands."
"Then we make sure it’s not functional when we make the trade. With all due respect sir, I’m not abandoning Peter because of a few regulations."
It had been twelve hours and the window of finding Peter alive was closing. Olivia rubbed her hand over her face, discouraged by her last phone call.
Her last conversation with Peter before his abduction was not a pleasant one and this was not what she had wanted to wake up to today. He had been pushing her to trust him and she had pushed back, hard. Now the idea of those being the last words she ever said to him haunted her.
She was about to microwave the coffee she was too busy to finish for the fourth time when she realized that whatever was left was too far gone to salvage. She sighed before dumping the cold contents down the sink. Olivia was not one to give up easily.
She smelled the intruder before she saw them enter the small kitchenette of the FBI’s break room. She instantly and irrationally hated anyone who had time to buy fresh, piping hot coffee with what smelled like cinnamon. It didn’t help when she finally did see the face of the person who the coffee belonged to and had to force back memories of their double.
"Agent Jessup, I wasn’t aware you were in Boston. I thought you were staying in Washington."
"I was called in — after the loss of Agent Francis, I was the only person available with high enough clearance to be read in on Fringe Division’s more circumspect aspects."
Olivia tried to rationalize that this was a different person, a person she had only met once before and with whom she had no history. It didn’t go so well.
"You won’t be needed today."
"Broyles thinks otherwise. He believes your judgement might be compromised in this case. Given your close relationship with Peter."
Olivia squared her shoulders, tension mounting. Apparently this version of Amy Jessup was more like the one she had known than she had previously thought. "My judgement is steady."
"Remember, I have worked with Fringe Division before. I worked with Peter when you were missing. Both times."
Olivia struggled not to look as rattled as she felt. Her time in the other universe was still a subject she had not broached with anyone, except for a sparse report after she had returned. She knew she would have to face what had happened eventually, but until then she didn’t appreciate her absence shoved in her face.
"I know how he cares for you, it blinds him to all else. I’m here to make sure that doesn’t happen in this instance."
Olivia turned her back to Amy and finished rinsing her mug. "As assuring as I am sure that’s meant to sound, I don’t need help keeping my concentration when I’m doing my job."
"I’m sure that’s the case usually, but—"
"No. That’s the case."
She swept past Amy quickly, her phone up to her ear before even exiting the room, her steps already picking up speed. She didn’t have to put up with bureaucratic bullshit right now, time was running out.
It was easier to keep things straight when she was working. It was only during her down time that she would remember buildings, people and protocols that didn’t exist in this world. She had been back for months and yet there were times when things were just as disorienting as when she returned.
Of course, as she entered the basement lab at Harvard, she was still a bit surprised to see Astrid smile in greeting. The Astrid she had encountered on the other side was far more cold and calculating, her sense of humour had been as non-existence as her patience. If she made any outward sign of shock or distress, Astrid didn’t comment on it.
"Astrid, any news from Walter?"
"You know how he gets when Peter’s in danger, he’s babbling about going back in time so he could implant a tracking chip in his big toe. I left him with a couple joints and an Ella Fitzgerald album."
She pulled at her jacket, frustrated. "So, no help from him any time soon. Just great."
"Maybe not. But I think I’ve got something that could help."
"Let’s hear it."
"They grabbed Peter’s cell phone, but remember when we had to clone his phone for that undercover job in Providence? Well, we’ve still got that copy."
"What does that mean? Can we track it?"
"It doesn’t work that way, but we might be able to see Peter’s last call."
"Okay. Call me if you get anything." She manages to see the flash of hurt on Astrid’s face as she rushes to leave. She knows that she’s been avoiding people since her return but she can’t help feeling like a stranger, trapped in a warped version of reality. If she concentrated, she could always tell the difference, she wouldn’t have been cleared for duty if she couldn’t. But sometimes she felt disoriented or paranoid and the faces of her loved one quickly became the faces of her enemies.
Thank goodness there was only one Peter. It was always just Peter in the room with her, sitting beside her in silence as he waited for her to let him in. There was only Peter snoring lightly in the corner chair as she slept so someone would be there when she woke up in the middle of the night. He had been a comforting constant when everything else felt chaotic and impermanent. While faces and memories could shift with her mood, Peter always remained the same.
She didn’t know what she’d do if she lost him.
Olivia strode quickly past reception, adjusting her jacket as she walked. There was always something off in the air here, a faint sterile smell that never fully faded away.
She was loath to waste more time on what might be a pointless exercise, but she dreaded the coming conversation more. Not for the first time, she wished that Walter hadn’t been quite so generous in returning control of Massive Dynamic to Nina Sharpe.
"Agent Dunham, this is a pleasant surprise."
"It shouldn’t be. I’m here for another treatment."
She saw Nina falter: she was a smooth liar, but catch her unawares and her emotions played out on her face. "So soon?"
Olivia merely adjusted her stance, waiting.
"The procedure is still experimental and all the consequences are not yet known. It’s a risk I am not willing to take with your life, however cavalier you may be with it."
"It’s a gamble I’m telling you to take. I need my mind to myself today."
Sensing that this was not an argument she would win, Nina returned to her desk, pushing a button. "Brandon, prep a neural extraction chamber for Ms. Dunham."
She turned back to face Olivia, the sunlight hard and cold on her face. "Well, is there anything else you wish to requisition from me?"
"We both know that this is the least you could do."
Nina seemed to deflate at that and it was the most vulnerable Olivia had ever seen her. She found that she couldn’t keep eye contact with her, not when she knew intimately what it felt like to lose someone. "I’m afraid you’re right. You deserve my apologies. I have always been invested in your well being, Olivia. So you must know that I had no idea about Sam Weiss—"
Olivia held up her hand, unable to deal with anything else at the moment. This was something better left until she had Peter by her side again. "I better start the preparations. I don’t have much time."
"Of course." She watched Olivia walk out the door, waiting a moment before whispering a terse prayer for luck.
Brandon was monitoring the dips and curves of her vitals, humming absent-mindedly to himself, so he didn’t notice her eyelids flickering open. She was already half-way out of her restraints by the time he’d turned around.
"You okay? You came out ten minutes early."
As though she had no idea he was in the room with her, she began packing up her gun and clothes, muttering to herself. "Why didn’t see it before?"
She turned abruptly, as if only now realizing he was there. "I only just remembered, things are still blurring but—"
"No. You can’t leave, you need to---."
She gripped his shoulders, squeezing tightly. "There’s no time."
She whirled past him, ignoring his frantic warnings.
He tried yelling after her, but she was more focused on dialling her phone. "Astrid, get me Roy McComb."
Astrid was used to the dark shadows under Olivia’s eyes but the forlorn look was new. She wanted to place a comforting hand on her shoulder, but Olivia looked so tense she’d probably shoot first and hug later.
"So you think this will work?"
"Roy has access to their communications network. He heard and saw things that they were planning. If these are the same people he might be able to tell us where they’re keeping Peter."
"Last time I checked he left with a perfectly clear head. No more voices in there but his own."
"Just because they stopped broadcasting on one channel doesn’t mean that they’ve stopped completely. Maybe they just changed the frequency."
"But how do we check for that? I mean, I can’t work Walter’s cranial helmet alone and neither of us knows which one out of the long list of Peter’s shifty sources to contact. Or if he even has one that could help. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t know anyone who can tune a human being." Astrid had begun to pace during her tirade, her voice rising in pitch as she went.
"I can. Adjust him, that is."
She thought back to her time on the other side, the training she had endured. She had yet to try anything once she got back home. "Well, I think I can."
Astrid’s eyebrows shot up, her eyes quizzical.
Olivia merely sent her a half-smirk, "Long story."
She sat squatting behind a dumpster, the rest of the SWAT team in position nearby. Her hamstrings were beginning to burn with the effort of staying still. The drop was supposed to take place in the city in an hour, but they were able to get a trace back to the kidnapper’s location.
She rolled her neck, scanning the pavement around her, searching for signs of activity. Easing one hand from her gun she raised it to the base of neck, rubbing softly. If had been weeks since she had had the tattoo removed but she still felt the phantom weight of it on her skin.
A rat’s nearby scuffle through the trash brought her attention back to the moment.
"Kush is taking the rear. Jones is taking the right and Silverman is with me."
Just before she was about to give the signal, her cell phone rang. "Dunham."
She shook her head at Kush’s shoulder shrug, unwilling to make the agents under her control any more wary. They hadn’t necessarily been enthused when they discovered that their intel came from a formerly deranged man who heard voices. "Agent Jessup? I can’t talk right now."
"We found the device."
A quake shook through Olivia, half hope and half anxiety. Now at least if they went wrong, or they were keeping Peter somewhere else they’d still have a bargaining chip. Of course, it confirmed that these people had more nefarious plans than a simple kidnapping.
"I agree with Colonel Broyles, we can’t hand this over to civilians, the danger—"
But Olivia wasn’t listening, a light had flickered on three feet from her location and the buzz of adrenaline was already starting to work its way through her system. "That’s not going to be an issue in fifteen minutes, Agent Jessup." She snapped her phone shut, tucked it into her pocket and stood to nod at the other agents, signalling a simultaneous assault.
"You came?" Peter placed a bloody hand up to her cheek, stroking clumsily at her skin as she cradled his face. He was lying on the wet concrete, one foot poking out at such an awkward angle she was sure the ankle was broken.
She tried to focus on his eyes, blocking his bruised body from her mind. "Always."
She placed a finger above his swollen lip, not wanting to put any pressure on it. "It’s okay. We know."
He grunted with pain and he shifted in her arms, trying to see her face better. "I’m sorry." He spat out, blood ruining the heartfelt apology.
"Hey. We don’t have to do this right now."
"No. I shouldn’t have pushed."
"Peter, I—" She refused to hear her voice break in front of him, letting the words she couldn’t form break off into the empty warehouse, more debris to crumble around them.
"You’re used to handling everything yourself. I know. And I wasn’t exactly easy to be with the last few days. You’re still new at trusting other people, which is understandable with what you’ve been through."
She knew this would come up again and again until he’d battered down all her walls to dust, with or without her consent. He’d already breached so many while she wasn’t looking. But she wasn’t ready to lose him due to a silly spat, not when she’d just gotten him back. "I’ll try harder."
"That’s not what I mean. I just....when you are ready, I’m here."
She smiled down at him, affection welling. "I know."
He gave her hand a squeeze before reaching up to her wrists for a lift and soon she was helping him limp to the door. "C’mon, let’s get me to the nearest ambulance with a stock of drugs."
She couldn’t help but let out a hysteric giggle at that. "You really are your father’s son."
The rhythmic hum from the machines in the ambulance sounded soothing to Olivia’s ears. It was like white noise that kept the silence between them from becoming awkward.
"So, is this the part where you yell at me to never make you worry like that again and then I swoon into your heroic arms?"
She smiled, running her fingers through her hair. "I think I’m all yelled out for today."
"Yeah, that was a pretty extreme conversation you had with someone out there."
She tilted her head, quirking an eyebrow. To which he did his best imitation of a shrug as his body would allow. "I’m drugged, not deaf. So, who was that on the phone?"
She was about to say ‘it was nothing’ and move on, start to worry about the time it would take Peter to heal and where she’d sleep tonight if the hospital wouldn’t let her stay in his room. But he must have sensed that her mind was wandering and gently brushed his fingers against hers.
Then Olivia figured that there was talking about moving forward, and there was actually doing it. So she took a deep breath and began her story, starting with Agent Jessup shoehorning her way onto the case.
She knew Peter and Amy were casual friends from their shared time together but he didn’t interrupt to correct her somewhat skewed version of her dealings with the younger Agent. In fact, he remained silent the whole ride to the hospital, his eyes warm and comforting.
The ambulance slowed as it approached the hospital and Peter’s head lolled, his exhaustion beginning to overtake him. "Hey, in case I pass out later, thank you."
She matched his smile, "Anytime."