Spoilers: 1.8 The Equation

Set during "The Equation". Usually Peter runs when things get tough, but now he has people to take care of, and a purpose.


Staying Put

"When you get out, I'll be right here," Peter promised. Ten minutes and Walter should have been back with them. Except he wasn't.

"What do you mean, you sedated him? Walter is legally in my custody, you have no right to keep him here!"

Peter is furious with Sumner, with himself for letting Walter go in there in the first place, with Walter for not behaving impeccably and giving Sumner the opportunity to lock him up again.

To Peter's gratitude, Olivia backs him up, not personally angry but professionally annoyed. She explains that Walter has been helpful to her and her investigations but Sumner won't listen. In fact, he says that they've been playing into Walter's fantasies.

To say they've made Walter worse is an insult. To blame them for any mental instability is wrong. It's all Peter can do to restrain himself from reacting physically.

"Really?" Peter says. "After some of the things I've seen over the last three months Walter strikes me as one of the sanest people I know!" Afterwards he regrets it. The Pattern seems an impossible idea for him, some days; to an outsider it is incomprehensible. To Sumner, that Walter could be right about any of his "pseudo-science" theories is unthinkable, and for Peter to agree with them probably gives the doctor an urge to recommend the son be incarcerated with his father.

It's a nightmare Peter has had before. That he might be doomed to follow his intellect and imagination over the edge of sanity into the abyss. It's one reason he ran, the fear of becoming obsessed with finding truth or meaning in a meaningless universe. It's part of the reason he never stays in one place long; too much chance he'll be imprisoned one way or another.

The nightmare will come again tonight, but that's a problem for later.

Meanwhile, Olivia has been laying down the law, or the threat of it, to Sumner. He scoffs; let her get a court order.

"Lousy son of a –" Olivia pauses in her litany of insults as she slams on the brakes when the lights ahead turn red. She glances at Peter. "We'll get him out. I promise."

"I lied," Peter says, miserably, as they drive back to the lab.

"When?" Olivia asks.

"I said I'd be right there, when he came out." Peter thumps the dashboard in frustration. "He made me a liar."

She understands his disjointed line of thought. "Sumner."

"Yeah, Sumner." Peter looks out of the side window, refuses to meet Olivia's sympathetic gaze.

Olivia starts the car again, makes a left. "If I'd known this would happen, I would never have allowed it."

"Hindsight is 20-20," Peter says bitterly, then, remembering how she stood up for him, how she's just as angry at the situation and herself, says, "It's not your fault."

He imagines Astrid asking "Where's Walter?" when they get back to the lab. He doesn't think he can bear that, having to explain that he let Sumner take Walter away. Not so long ago he'd been reluctant to be in same room with his father. Now he feels a responsibility to him, to protect him, to help Walter to help Olivia uncover the Pattern.

They go instead to the federal building so Olivia can make some calls, try to circumvent the court system. The best she can do is get an order to release Walter at 7am the next morning. It's a relief but it means Walter has to spend the night in that damn place.

If Peter had known what a terrible place it was he'd never have left his father languishing there, no matter how he felt about him. So when Olivia offers him to go back to the hotel and get some sleep he can't. To sleep in a comfortable bed with room service while Walter sleeps in a cell is more than his conscience will allow. He'd never get any sleep anyway.

Besides, here he can help. He finds the mystery woman. Hiding her identity as he so often has. Takes a faker to catch a faker.

Next morning, back at St Claires, Sumner tells Peter that he's making a mistake, that Walter is not mentally fit to be in the community.

Olivia has work to be doing, important work on finding the missing child, so Peter's here alone and he understands why but he wishes, for a moment, that she was here, with him. She could lend him her strength, she could be a buffer between Peter and this arrogant quack.

Peter struggles to keep himself under control and sounds calm to his own ears when he retorts, "Thanks for the advice, but my personal assessment is that he's safer with me than he is with you." He has reasons, too, the primary one being that he saw Walter change yesterday. Walter retreated from the unstable yet buoyant, creative genius Peter was now used to, back into the fragile, empty shell of a man that he'd been when he laid eyes on him three months ago.

"He was afraid," Peter concludes. He doesn't know, doesn't want to know, what was done to Walter in this place. It isn't a place for treatment, it's a place for imprisonment; and with no danger of inmates being released, with them being too insane to be believed, what's to stop Sumner using them as guinea pigs for controversial or experimental procedures?

Sumner prickles at this suggestion that he might intentionally harm Walter. When Peter refuses to further his suspicions, the doctor goes on the attack again. He talks about the court order, how Peter is mixed up with Homeland Security, despite his background. He knows the right buttons to press, of course. He talks about MIT, about Peter's use of false credentials, of how he's always into something unsavoury, always running away.

Peter is, according to Sumner, "not a fit guardian". He candidly tells Peter that he intends to petition to have Peter removed as Walter's guardian.

Olivia will not let that happen, Peter repeats in the safety of his head. Olivia will stop him. Olivia will protect us.

Sumner ventures his opinion that Walter is a danger to himself and others. At that, Peter snaps. Olivia will protect them as best as she can, but that isn't always enough. The law isn't always enough.

"The apple doesn't fall far from the tree," Peter tells Sumner. He needs to make the man understand that any attempt to come between Peter and his father will end in tears, and they won't be from the Bishops. "You have no idea what I'm capable of."

"Are you threatening me?" Sumner demands.

No, I'm offering to repaint your office is what springs to mind; but Peter holds his tongue. It was a threat but not a threat that would hold up in court; it was the reason he didn't go for something more obvious such as "You better watch your step".

So instead, Peter simply says, "I'd like to see my father."

Walter is tired, withdrawn.

"Walter, are you okay?" Peter asks.

Walter says, "I'd like to go now."

Peter understands. Walter however is upset; he's failed. His friend merely rambled on, "like a loon".

"Is that what it's like talking to me, son?" Walter asks, with insight that convinces Peter he is doing the right thing by taking Walter back with him.

Peter simply smiles and says, "Walter. Let's go home."

It's been a difficult time for both of them, for different reasons. Usually when things get tough, Peter runs. It's easier to start over than to fix what's broken. But now he has people to take care of, and a purpose.

This time, Peter's staying put.