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By all accounts you really should've died

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"I admit," Olivia said, "I had some liquid courage before I came over." Peter's sweater was on the floor, his shirt open, belt also on the floor, pants unbuttoned. She was much more nearly naked, with only her underwear still on. She pressed herself against his hand between her legs. She tried to get his pants off but she was very uncoordinated. Because of what Peter was doing to her, not because she was drunk. She said, "And then we had more drinks."

"We did," he said. He helped her with his pants with his free hand. "But not too many."

"Just the right number," she said. She stopped talking and he stopped talking.

Until he was inside her, and she was pulling on his stupid shirt, pushing back against him, and she said, "This is a much better ending to today than I pictured."

x

She woke up at 3 am and Peter was talking on his phone. "I'm sorry, Astrid --"

He got out of bed and put his underwear on. She reached out and tugged them down. He looked back at her. "But," he said. "I will definitely be there by 6 am." He tossed his phone somewhere over his back. "Hi," he said to her.

"6 am," she said.

"She is going to kill me," Peter said.

"She really isn't," Olivia said. She got on top of him this time.

x

She went to the Federal Building first. Broyles said, "We haven't found Newton, if you were wondering."

"I think you would have called me if you had," she said. She was in good mood. She felt like she was using muscles she didn't remember how to move.

Broyles stood straight and tall over her desk. "Have you seen anything else? Any more glimmers?"

"No," she said. "Nothing since the building. Maybe it only works when I'm that scared."

Broyles didn't speak. She said, "I know, it's scary to think about relying on my level of fear."

He said, "Your value here isn't predicated on a one-off feat inspired by fear, it's the work you do every day."

"Thank you," she said. She looked at her phone, she had a text from Peter. She hoped she wasn't smiling like an idiot.

x

"I am saying, and I am the only one in this lab who can make this joke, but I feel like you two showed up for your first date with U-Hauls," Astrid said.

Peter actually blushed and turned away. Olivia said, "It's been a week, come on."

Astrid said, "I know very well that you've spent 6 of the last 7 nights together. And none of them at Peter's actual home."

"I'm sorry," Peter said. "Really, I'm not abdicating Walter duties."

"You totally are," Astrid said. "Which is fine, it was fine, but now I need a break."

Peter was focused on Astrid. "It's just --"

"Waking up to Walter," Olivia said. Peter nodded. Olivia said, "Which is not as bad as I imagine, I bet."

"You would bet wrong," Astrid said.

So Friday night she slept at home and Saturday night she went to the belly of the beast. Walter was not a beast, she thought. Not really, not anymore. It wasn't a year and a half ago when he had just gotten out of St. Claire's. Things were different.

Walter was up at 2 am making pineapple upsidedown cake and when he finished, after much banging and cursing, he knocked on the door repeatedly to see if they wanted some.

She pulled the comforter over her head. "At least the sex is good," she said.

"Thank you," Peter said.

x

"You are practically living here," Olivia said. "3 nights a week."

"Sorry," Peter said.

"I'm not complaining," she said.

"Are you saying this is all very sudden?"

Olivia put her beer down on the table. She said, "Maybe it's more like it doesn't feel very sudden."

"I think we should brace ourselves, though," Peter said. "Good things mean we're about to get super fucked, and not in the good way. Which is all the more reason to enjoy it while we can."

"Party now, tomorrow Newton sucks us all into a wormhole," she said.

"Or someone else," Peter said.

x

The night she was visited by James Heath, Peter was half asleep in her bed. Walter had been particularly upset at the idea of someone seeking out and killing Cortexiphan children. Upset to the point he took a large cocktail of something and Peter convinced Astrid to stay. With a large bribe he refused to tell Olivia about. "It's not sex," he said.

She saw Heath and invited him back in. She saw Heath see her badge. She shouted for Peter as Heath shoved his way in.

When they had him subdued, Heath saw the picture of his sister and cried. By the time the clean up crew came, Peter had put on pants and a t shirt. Olivia was pretty sure Broyles had already put together what had been happening before he saw her bed and Peter's things.

He didn't say anything to her.

"No more fights in your underwear," Olivia said. "Not against people who give you cancer when they touch you."

"I was never treated with Cortexiphan," Peter said. "So I wasn't really at risk."

"You think you were never treated with it," Olivia said.

He didn't argue with her. He pulled her even closer. She was sitting up, with Peter wrapped around her from behind. She wasn't ready to fall asleep yet.

Peter said, "I bet it looked pretty funny, though."

"Yeah, I couldn't stop laughing," Oliva said.

x

There weren't many cases. Olivia decided to go back through the old ones. She had them spread out on her table in the living room. Sometimes she took pages and pictures with her to the Bishops'. Then she would find them spread out on Peter's desk in his room.

"I can't read these notes," she said to him.

He blinked and looked up from the bed. "Please don't make me answer without coffee."

"It's Tuesday," she said. "If you want coffee, you're going downstairs to get it."

He rolled out of bed and grumbled as he pulled on a pair of pajama pants. Ten minutes later, he came back upstairs with two mugs of coffee. "You asked about notes."

"You wrote all over my case files," she said.

"I know for a fact those are copies," he said. "I was trying to figure out how that would work."

"How what would work?" She squinted at the page.

Peter finished his mug. "Okay, I think it was really late at night when I wrote that."

"Thanks for trying to help," she said. "We thought William Bell wrote the ZFT and financed them. We thought most of the incidents Broyles and Massive Dynamic identified as part of the Pattern were largely brought about by the ZFT. But how did they do all this?"

Peter nodded. "These are good questions."

"Until the next horrible thing happens and we're off to the new next set of questions."

x

Peter rarely slept well. Olivia rarely got enough sleep. She would wake up and go to Peter's desk or her own living room. She'd look at files and try to find connections. Then she'd go back to bed and find Peter turned, his face pained. Once she woke him up. He mumbled and then opened his eyes. She said, "Were you having a nightmare?"

"Probably," he said. It didn't seem to bother him and he fell right back asleep.

In the morning, he didn't even remember it.

x

They found a corpse of a young woman left by a shapeshifter. It was all part of Newton's new plan. She sat on the stairs leading up to Peter's room, watching Peter and Walter talk back and forth. Peter called him Dad.

Then they figured out Newton was opening a door.

They were too late to stop it. She and Peter made it to the other side of the river where Newton was. They sprinted across the bridge Newton brought over before it went back. She saw Newton helping a tall man into a vehicle. She aimed at Newton, hit him in the shoulder. The man he was helping got into the car and slammed the door. Newton calmly turned around with his gun aimed at her. She dived and heard Peter yell. She heard the shot.

She rolled onto her back. Peter came towards her. He squatted down next to her. "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine," she said. She sat up. "What happened?"

"I don't know," Peter said. "He had a clear shot at me. He shot up. He just left. Got into his car."

"What?" She stood up and looked around. Newton had gotten away. "Fuck," she said.

x

She liked this, with Peter. She liked that he nudged her to eat and sleep. She liked that he tended to look at her like she was the most amazing person in the world. She liked that he was so foolish to really think that about her. She liked how much they could talk. She liked their easy silences.

She'd had some version of all of that before they were having sex. But it was all better after. Now she could end a horrible day when she had somehow let Newton accomplish everything he wanted with someone who tried to talk her out of blaming herself. He hadn't been successful. She appreciated the effort.

She loved him. She shifted against him so they could kiss and kissed him. "Hey," he said.

"Hey," she said.

He woke up five times that night with nightmares.

x

They all met at Massive Dynamic. "So Newton has been doing this to open a door and bring someone over," Olivia said.

"This is the first time they've been able to do that, right?" Peter looked at Broyles and Nina.

"I believe so," Nina said. Olivia doubted that answer was true.

Peter said, "Did we ever find out how Newton knew where to find Walter's --"

"Brains?" Walter was quiet and withdrawn. He said, "Maybe William told him. He did the surgery. He took apart my brain."

"I don't believe William would do that," Nina said. "Why would he pull Olivia over to warn her about Newton and then tell Newton about Walter?"

"Why would he do anything?" Walter snarled. "I don't pretend to understand the motives of the wonderful William Bell."

"Is this productive?" Olivia stood up and looked at the printouts and pictures of the incident from yesterday. "Newton's been here at least five years, that's how long the head was in storage. Who knows how much time before that. Who knows how long the other shapeshifters have been here?"

"Who did they bring over?" Peter said. "Walter, what did you take all those years ago?"

"What, what?" Walter's hands twitched.

Peter said, "You told me you opened the door because you'd lost something and you went to the other side to get it back."

Olivia watched Nina. Nina absolutely knew what Walter had taken. Walter said, "Nothing. Nothing. No thing."

Nina made the tiniest roll of her eyes. Olivia felt cold in the pit of her stomach. Peter said, "Walter, stop being ridiculous." He was staring intently. "Walter, just tell us. Who would they send to get it back?"

Broyles said, "Dr. Bishop, we know that the door you opened was the first breach."

"It was," Walter said. "It was. But they've never, they didn't know how to do it. To do it. William must have something to do with it. Maybe we should all ask Nina."

"Walter," Nina said. "Really?"

Peter had moved to Nina's desk. He was looking at a report on her desk. He turned around and looked at Walter. He rubbed his face. Peter was thinking and Olivia was scared of the expression on his face.

Peter said, "Walter, what did you do?"

Walter said nothing. There were tears in his eyes. Olivia could put things together, slower than Peter, but she could.

Astrid said, "Walter, just explain."

"You have to understand, Peter, you were dying," Walter said.

Olivia covered her mouth. Peter was suddenly glimmering.

Peter spoke very softly to Walter, looming over his father. Not his father, Olivia thought.

xxx

The motel in Topeka had a fantastic panoramic view of the parking lot and a few dusty fields behind it all the way to the horizon. Peter almost got up and made coffee without putting on his pants but he was feeling very strongly he didn't want to emulate Walter. Not today. He found his jeans.

He started the coffee in the cheap little Machine they put in the room.

Olivia said, "Are you making coffee?"

Peter was angry at everything and he almost said something from that anger. But he turned around and made sure he was looking at Olivia when he finally spoke. "The question is will I be making good coffee? I would lay odds on no."

He got back in the bed and took off his jeans. He realized he'd just put them back on when the coffee was ready but being naked with Olivia was one of his favorite things and he intended to enjoy it. He laid on his stomach and turned his head toward the window. He said, "We assume Newton's coming for me, right?"

"That's why I'm here," Olivia said. Peter would have called her tone sarcastic or hopeless or desperate. One of those three. Maybe he was projecting. She'd been so scared he would leave she'd seen him glimmer. She'd followed him out of Massive Dynamic, onto the street. He was happy about that, compared to all the things he hated right now that made him miserable, he was basically ecstatic.

"That's why I started running, not because I gave up on trying to stay in one place since my whole life is a lie," he said.

He turned to look at Olivia. Her face was blank but she was upset. He said, "Sorry."

x

In Montana, he told Olivia about the special approach a pilot had to make into the Missoula airport. "Or you had to, obviously, it's been a few years since I was flying."

"You were a cargo pilot," she said. She looked down at her phone and then said, "I need to take this outside."

He knew she was talking to Broyles and probably Walter. He'd been a cargo pilot for a total of seven weeks and then he'd moved on and never looked back. Now he found out his life was a lie and he was barely making traction getting away. Of all the life skills to acquire from growing up kidnapped to the wrong universe, he thought he liked his ease of leaving best. He'd left his mother when he was 16 and after that, only flitted in and out of her life. That had been easy.

She had known, of course she had known. Her child had died, her insane husband brought home a replacement, then her husband had gone completely around the bend, saddling her with the replacement. He shook his head. It wasn't a story that made sense in his heart. His mother who was also not his mother had loved him. She'd never missed a school event, she had always had breakfast and dinner for him, she laughed at some truly horrendous jokes.

Olivia came back into their motel room. He thanked the infinite universes for breaking up his morbid train of thoughts. He said, "Did Broyles say hi?"

She said nothing. He said, "You used to find me funny."

"Sometimes you're funny," she said. "I have information. Do you want it?"

He rubbed his forehead. "Could you be more specific?"

She smiled slightly. "Broyles got Nina to give us information William Bell had given her about the other side. That's one part. The other part is that Astrid and Broyles got the whole story of your, of what happened to you out of Walter. So I can tell you either one."

"That's a lot to get in a three minute call," he said.

She looked around the room at the most generic decor he'd ever seen. She said, "That was just me checking in. The other stuff was in an email."

"When did you get that email?" He wasn't even angry. He was intrigued by Olivia's reluctance to share.

"3 days ago," she said. "I'm sorry."

"Why? Why were you hiding it from me and why have you decided not to now?"

Olivia sat down on the bed. "I have no idea, honestly. I understand why you had to leave but I can't just turn off who I am and the importance of what we're doing, what we've been doing."

Peter shrugged. He said, "Okay. Forward me the email." Answers would be nice, he thought.

x

"Is this your first visit to beautiful Regina?" He squeezed Olivia's hand as they walked back to their motel.

"It is not my first trip to Canada, it is my first trip to Regina," she said. "Why aren't you angrier?"

"You think I'm insufficiently angry? Maybe it's just because I'm from another universe."

"Angry with Walter," Olivia said.

"I am very angry with Walter," Peter said. "But I keep putting miles and countries between us and I'm not angry with you. You're the one who is actually here."

Olivia said, "Okay. I don't even know how I'm expecting you to react. I don't know how I'm reacting."

"I'm still processing," Peter said. "I said that to a lot of counselors after Walter was locked up."

"It's a lot to process," Olivia said. "You don't have nightmares anymore."

"I guess now that I know what happened, I don't need barely suppressed childhood memories coming at me every night. Now my dreams are all you, Astrid, in the lab, Gene can talk. So. We have a lot of tourist things to do here in Regina," Peter said. He swung her hand forward and back.

Olivia said, "Or we could just stay in the motel."

x

They were having a lot of sex. Possibly even a tonne, he thought, since they were in Canada still. There really wasn't much else to do besides stay under the radar, eat, and sleep.

Olivia being Olivia, in between bouts of wonderful sex, she returned to their old cases. "I thought we'd finally understand everything, but I still don't get what happened with Jones."

"The thing about that," Peter said. "The thing about that is that Nina tells us David Robert Jones was trying to contact William Bell and Bell had nothing to do with anything Jones did and we now know she has been lying to us since day one."

"She stood over me, watching me put together that map of soft spots and didn't say a thing," Olivia said. "She told me that whole story about her cancer."

"Now you're on Walter's side of the anti-Nina brigade," Peter said. His jaw ached.

Olivia rolled onto her back. They would both need to put on clothes to get food. He loved this view of Olivia. He loved nearly every view of naked Olivia. She said, "I know you hate talking about this."

"I don't hate it," Peter said. "What if Bell was behind everything Jones did? The whole ZFT thing? And then Bell loses that bet. So he plays the other side."

Olivia sighed. "We don't know anything," she said.

"You know what we have to do," Peter said, staring out the window. She said nothing. Peter said, "We let Newton find us."

Olivia sat up. "Peter," she said.

"What else are we going to do? What's the next step after this? Go to Europe? See the sights?" He touched her shoulder. "You can barely take these three weeks away from work."

Olivia said, "Is this what you really want?"

"That's not really something that matters right now, is it?" He got up off the bed and got dressed so they could get food.

"It does matter," Olivia said. She didn't make a move to get dressed which he really appreciated. "You did not wear shirts like that back in Boston."

Peter looked down at his bright Regina t-shirt. "People see stupid t-shirts, they remember that. You pretend you blend in those black and greys but it means they remember your face."

"I don't pretend," Olivia said. "It's what I wear."

"You don't have the face for blending in," he said. "It's a compliment. You're too pretty. You're beautiful." She rolled her eyes at him as she put on her black t-shirt and dark jeans.

"If you want to be found, then you should ditch that shirt, I guess. And the one from Calgary, the one from Missoula, the one from Topeka," she said. "I think you're trying to justify your new urge to buy loud tourist t-shirts everywhere we go."

"I like them. I am a tourist, after all. I am probably the first visitor from another universe these towns have ever had," Peter said. "And no, we're going to go to one place and stay there. Then you're going to make sure Broyles tells someone where we are and Nina knows, too. And people at Massive Dynamic."

"Then we wait," Olivia said.

"It'll be fun," he said.

x

Two days after they got to an actual town named Gimli (Peter brought three different t-shirts because he was so pleased with the name) and let Broyles know they were there, at 6 am, the locked door of the hotel room flew open. Olivia had her gun drawn from under her pillow while Peter barely had his hands out.

It was Newton. He had his gun out and was pointing it directly at Olivia. "Now, now," he said. "We're hardly here to hurt you."

Olivia said, "We?" at the same time Walter walked in. Not Walter. Walter in a nice suit the likes of which Walter had never worn in his life. Walter with his brain intact. His father, Peter thought.

He felt Olivia lower her gun. She gripped his arm because when the door opened, Peter hadn't gone for the gun he had, he'd thrown his arm out like his mother did at sudden stops in the car.

"Hello, son," Not Walter Walter said.

Grab your things I've come to take you home, Peter thought. My heart going boom boom boom, he had the song stuck in his head now. "Hey," he said.

Walter Not Walter said, "I'm sorry it took so long." He didn't look sorry. He looked like someone who got everything done and had always intended to be where he was right now.

Peter said, "I didn't know."

"You do now," his father said. "It's time for you to come home." His father glanced at Olivia and then back to his full attention on Peter. "The devastation caused when you were stolen is tearing our world apart. I think you can help heal it."

"Really?" Peter's voice squeaked.

"This is a one-way trip, Peter," Not Walter Walter said.

"Then, no," Peter said. Because Olivia. Her hand was warm on his arm, her grip tightened. She was wearing the most ridiculous shirt he could find in Calgary that had Calgary on it. Two nights ago he'd fallen asleep with his head on her stomach and woke up with her hand in his hair. He didn't belong anywhere but he wasn't some kind of idiot who would leave Olivia.

"Peter," Olivia said. He turned to look at her and somehow he could see everything in her eyes.

"If Olivia comes," Peter said.

Newton said, "Are you sure?" There was definitely some contempt in his voice. For Peter, or Olivia, or humans in general?

"Of course I'm sure," Peter said. He looked at Olivia again and she nodded. She was sure, too. She would need time to call Ella, he thought. Boom boom boom, he thought.

Walter who was not Walter at all said, "We can arrange that."

xxx

Olivia sat at Peter's bedside, watching him sleep. When they'd been wrenched over, Walternate and Peter had both staggered. Peter almost literally fell over. She'd copied him. She could only feign exhaustion and universe hopping travel jet lag for so long though.

Walternate came into the room and said, "Peter will be fine in a day or two. I'm sending him to my home, where his mother is."

"Then I'll go with him," Olivia said.

"Of course," Walternate said.

She said, "You told your shapeshifters to kill me last year."

He said, "We are in a war. Your side has these small disturbances, petty annoyances. We have wormholes that open at random. The fabric of the universe fraying apart. Hundred of thousands of people dead. Smallpox has come back. You brought wool socks, do you know how rare wool is? Sheep are extinct here. Look out that window." He pointed angrily. She saw a lot of Peter in him in that moment.

She looked out the window. He said, "Do you see that yellow over there? It is amber. We use amber here to stop the holes from spreading. Seventy five percent of Boston is covered in it."

She looked at him then. She'd seen Walter look that cold, in flashes, but not for long. Walternate said, "We are in a war. What would you do to save your world?"

"You thought I had information that William Bell had told me," she said. "Walter says that the shapeshifters look like something Bell designed."

"For many years I thought William Bell was trying to help our side, working with us to help. But I have always doubted his true loyalties." Walternate walked to the door. "Feel free to go see him again. He's been toeing the line the last few months, I'd be interested to hear what he would say to you."

"I'm not leaving Peter," Olivia said, keeping her voice calm.

"Of course," Walternate said.

x

Peter's mother was beautiful. They didn't talk much while Peter slept in his hospital. Olivia thought it was almost cheating. Peter should be the one to tell his mother who he was now. She sat by his bed and read Walternate's ZFT. Then she looked for other books that weren't written in Greek or Latin. "My mother took a First at Oxford in the Classics," Peter had told her once, proudly. Defensively, too, as Walter at home had just gotten in one of his digs at his "narrow minded" wife.

Olivia wasn't suited to sitting and reading all day. She ran around the part of the lake outside the window that was safe without oxygen cannisters twice a day. She wasn't allowed to go further outside.

By the morning of the third day, she leaned into Peter and said, "Please wake up now." On her third whisper he actually did.

She went for the kiss and he shook his head. "My mouth tastes like a sewer, I'd like you to enjoy your first kiss on this side. My side," he said, tentatively.

She had to explain the shower to him. "They take conservation very seriously," Olivia said. "Did you know sheep are extinct over here?"

"You're kidding," Peter said, behind the curtain.

"It was one of the reason your father ordered me killed," Olivia said.

"Of course you asked him about that," Peter said. "Your death for wool sweaters?"

"He wanted me to know about how at war they are on this side," Olivia said.

She could hear Peter's sigh over the sonics and water.

She fussed with the discarded hospital equipment while Peter went to find his mother. She read the decor magazines Mrs. Bishop favored. It was three hours before Peter came back in the room, flopping on the bed. He said, "You didn't have to hide in here."

Peter around his mother was a Peter she'd never met. Olivia had never seen him look at anyone with that sort of openness. Maybe her, maybe once.

They had sex that night. Peter clung to her, she wondered if Walternate had cameras in the room. She may have showed off a little. Peter said, "Thanks for making sure our sex tape looks extra hot." She could feel his smile against her back.

"I was doing it for you. I really want them to think well of you," she said. "First sex tape impressions are so important."

"He's probably not recording us," Peter said.

x

She spent the week confined to the house with Peter's mother. Except Elizabeth was allowed to go outside, more than just running around the lake. She saw Peter in the morning, before the car came for him. She saw him again when he came home in the evening. He told her everything. He worked out things out loud. He said, "You are so stir crazy."

Olivia said, "Trust me, unless your father plans to shoot me, I am not spending one more week in here."

Peter said, "He probably wouldn't."

She stared at him. "No, really, I'm pretty sure he wouldn't have you shot," Peter said. "Not to death." He looked lost. She knew how each day went for him. He'd told her he thought his father felt a perverse vindication having him look at all the damage that Walter had done. Olivia knew what Peter hadn't said, that he felt it was just as much his burden as Walter's. She still could not stay one more day inside.

Finally he said, "I'll talk to him."

That night, when Peter came home, he woke her up. It was 2 am. He told her about the Machine.

xxx

Peter's father had granted him the weekend off from analyzing in excruciating detail how widespread the damage had been from Walter's kidnapping. He'd watched movies that were nothing like the real ones -- the ones he'd seen on the other side, on Olivia's side, he corrected himself -- with Olivia and his mother. His father had shown up in the afternoon to his mother's surprise. After some haggling about which game to play, the four of them settled on Risk. Olivia had won. His father had seemed genuinely pleased to be bested. They'd had dinner, and then his father had left. Sunday the three of them had done about the same things but they played Scrabble instead of Risk. His mother won this time.

Now it was Monday and time to go back to see the Machine again. Peter sat in the back of an impressively armored car, for once not staring out of the window, engrossed. He reviewed the schematics he'd seen in his head. He kept seeing the picture of himself with eyes on fire. Fire shooting out of his eyes? He rubbed his forehead as his driver commented, "We're slowing down because there's a protest up there."

"Okay," Peter said. He'd had a different driver every day. He wondered if his father didn't want to get to know anyone. He wondered a lot of things. He didn't have an ear cuff or a show me and neither did Olivia, though Olivia had been allowed to at least tour Manhatan today with an escort.

The car shook. There was banging, concussive thuds. The driver drew a gun but he fell towards the other side of the seat as the window exploded inward. The sounds the driver made weren't the kind someone who was only scratched made. Peter gripped the handle of the hard case his father had given him. No weapon, no way to call for help, he was feeling really good about how this would play out. Presumably the Big Brother like monitoring of all cameras and phone calls meant someone would know soon. Someone would be coming.

He didn't plan to wait. The car door to his left opened, Peter swung the case into whomever was trying to get in. He pushed out, feet first. He was stepping on someone in black with a gas mask, he had two on either side of him. He still had the case and he shoved it hard into the person on the left, hoping to get past and run somewhere. The person now behind him jumped onto him and Peter bent, letting combatant three fall over Peter's head into combatant two. Peter kicked at both of him as he tried to jump over. Instead he stumbled, was pushed onto his knees, and felt the barrel of a gun at the back of his head.

"Stop," a male voice snarled.

Peter had been in this position more than once -- later, he needed to reconsider all his life choices, that was not something that was good to be able to say -- and he wasn't going to stop. He looked up and said, "Oh my God, is that a tear? Is that a tear in the sky?"

The gas mask fellows shifted behind him so Peter twisted and knocked away the gun. He took off running across a throng of people carrying signs.

He felt the shot go through his back to the right side, bright burning pain. He fell. Someone hit him hard on the back of his head.

He opened his eyes. It was a hospital. He was on painkillers for sure. He saw beautiful Olivia ponytail hair and then Broyles from this side short sleeve shirt like welcome to the gun show. Still very stern. He said, "Is he taller on this side?" to Olivia.

His father was behind Olivia. He said gently, "You'll be okay, son."

"We were a minute out," Short Sleeve Broyles said. "You didn't have to get yourself shot."

"He didn't know that," Walter said. His father said. He sounded proud.

"It was a terrorist group," Broyles said. He kept staring at Olivia. He said, "They used the amber protest to try and take someone important. They didn't know who you were, just that you had your own car taking you to the Department of Defense."

"You're the Lindbergh Baby," Olivia said. "No one else but you and I know who the Lindbergh baby is. But you are."

"He flew airplanes," Peter said. "Surprise not famous here. Not enough," Peter mumbled.

"They wouldn't have shot you if they knew you were Peter Bishop," Peter's father said. "These people act as though we chose amber out of spite and malice. If there were another way to stop the wormholes, we would be using it. No one likes the loss of life."

"I believe you," Peter said. He sounded high to his own ears. Olivia was smiling at him like he was high.

They let him go three hours later, nothing but a red mark on his back. It was some truly superior medicine.

Peter said to Olivia, "How was your touristing?"

"I almost bought you a t-shirt," she said, leaning against him in the back of the car. "I'm hoping to see more tomorrow. I had squid from a street vendor. And I'm thinking of buying us tickets to the moon."

x

Peter walked around the room, looking at everything but the Machine. He looked again at the picture of himself. "That's my DNA for sure?"

His father said, "Yes. We were able to confirm when you came back."

"Just part of the regular treatment for traveling to a parallel universe," Peter said. His father said nothing. "And there's a book."

"It's a ridiculous piece of literature but it has the coordinates for the pieces of the Machine." His father handed Peter something called The First People.

"I'll skim it, then," Peter said. "You got all this in the last five years, right?"

His father did not look away from the Machine. Peter said, "Because five years ago, before Newton's head went off to the freezer, I was easy to find. I was in Kiev for five months under my own name. Walter was in St. Clair's. Everything Newton did this year, he could have done even easier. You could have brought me home. Walter didn't have his memories of how the door worked removed until 1995, at that point I had only been gone for 10 years. You probably could have still been a father to me. So you didn't come for me until you had all this compiled and needed me."

"You've seen the damage that happened from one trip between universes, we had to weigh what it would mean to cause even more damage versus the life of one person," Peter's father said. He turned around to face Peter, his expression unashamed. "Yes, as our world has deteriorated, and we looked for ways to fix it, that did occupy me more than you. I was happy to find out you were important to the healing. I never stopped wanting you back." For a single moment, Peter thought he saw a flash of the pain his father had carried. Then it was gone.

"You were occupied," Peter said lightly. "So the plan is I get in the Machine and what? How does that help?"

"I believe once you are operating it, you can solve the conflict between our two universes."

Peter walked over to the Machine. He felt a hum in his bones and resisted the urge to run out of the room, to go somewhere, anywhere else. Why did an ancient Machine respond to him? Peter said, "You mean, you think I will get in and destroy the other universe. Everyone I know, Olivia's family. Walter."

Peter's father didn't answer. Peter said, "But you can't know."

"No," his father said. "No one knows until you get in it, I suppose."

xxx

Peter was roaming around the dark room, pointedly going nowhere near the Machine. He snuck her in after sundown. People were still working. They had had to dodge Peter's father to get into this room. With the Machine. It looked like a piece of art in front of one of the federal buildings she went to. Not a specific piece, but in the style of all of them. Abstract, no message to communicate. If she'd said it out loud, Peter would have said she didn't appreciate art. Instead she said nothing and he took off his jacket.

"I thought your father had all those shirts destroyed," Olivia said.

Peter grinned at her. She felt stir crazy with nothing to do, in the enemy's country. But only a few of these people were her enemy. Peter was feeling something else. He tugged at the shirt. One of his Calgary shirts, in a bright, nearly neon blue. Peter said, "He just makes this face whenever I wear one. If it were Walter, I'd be wearing them just to see that look. Or I would have, a year ago, or when I was 12."

"You're not angry at your father," Olivia said.

"I am," Peter said. "It's different, though. I completely understand why he regards me mostly as a tool. I can't imagine what it would be like to live with this kind of random destruction. So, sure, I'm a DNA sequence that will make his Machine into a universe destroying weapon." Peter shrugged. "Maybe I'm not even angry with him. I didn't have huge expectations."

"You're not a tool to your mother," she said.

"No," Peter said. He looked down at his sneakers. He squatted down and started untying his laces.

"What are you doing?"

"I thought I'd try this puppy out," Peter said, toeing off his shoes. He wasn't wearing socks.

"That seems like a stupid idea," Olivia said. "You're just going to get in. You don't know what it does. I like your eyes, I want you to keep them."

He walked over to her and held her face. "Something has to be done. Everything that's happening here will happen over there. It shouldn't be happening anywhere to anyone. Here is an actual solution. And I'd rather choose my own time to do it than wait for my father to, you know, pull the trigger."

"Do you think you're being brave?" She stepped closer to him. "I'm voting stupid."

"I don't know if you remember, but there was this one time we were all going to die and you stayed behind to stare at a lightbox. Speaking of brave and stupid." He kissed her. She felt his hands tremble.

"Don't be like me," she said.

"You're amazing," he said. "I already said I love you, right?"

"No," Olivia said. "I love you, too." They went back to kissing. She wanted to do this forever and never let go of him.

He let go of her and walked towards the Machine. She wanted to ask him how he would get up there, what he thought would happen, but her voice didn't work.

He was humming a song she thought she knew. Peter Gabriel, she thought. "Peter," she said, plaintively.

He looked over his shoulder, smiling at her. Then he was scrambling, his bare feet in the base. The Machine turned on, humming and it shifted. Peter reached up and put his left hand and then his right in the top pieces.

His eyes did glow. She found her voice.

xxx

"You were dead for seven minutes," Walter said. Peter blinked. He was in a hospital room again. But it was Walter looming over, not his father. "Seven minutes, son. That's not good."

"Did it work?" Speaking was painful. He couldn't focus his vision but he looked for Olivia.

"It did," Olivia said. He felt her hand covering his. "What do you remember?"

"I got in the Machine and something happened. I don't remember what. But I remember, I got out after and you, Olivia, was there and then nothing until right now with Walter shining that light in my eyes."

"You were dead for seven minutes," Walter said again. He withdrew the light and Peter could see Olivia sitting by the side of the bed. "You made a bridge between the universes, and I came over to check on you. Are you still mad at me, son?"

"Yes," Peter said. It seemed brave and stupid to be forgiving. He could try. "But I love you anyway."

"That's good, that's very good," Walter said, his eyes wet. "I'll leave you two alone. Thank you, Peter. That's good." And he did leave.

Olivia said, "We're still on your side. Better hospitals. Your father brought you back to life, they have some incredible defibrillators over here. Don't do that again."

"I actually can't," Peter said. "You look good."

"You don't," Olivia said. She still leaned over and kissed him.