She heads for the parking garage when we leave the hospital, gets a few yards away before she realizes I'm not following. I've got a goal, you see. Pick a random street near a hospital and walk. You'll find a bar and chances are it'll be a really miserable one because hospitals are miserable places. And this has been a miserable day.
"Where are you going?"
Turn and walk backwards a few steps, luring her along. "I'm thirsty."
Her forehead creases but she's smiling, too, following. "Then let's go get something to drink."
Exasperated laugh and she jogs to catch up to me. We manage a few blocks of walking in silence, walking closer to each other than necessary. Her hand brushes mine every few steps and either one of us could step away but we're still walking so very close when her curiosity loosens her tongue.
"Where are we going?"
"We're going to find a bar and drink until we aren't thirsty anymore."
"Quite an undertaking."
Glance sideways at her and she's looking pensive. Little creases between her eyes that I want to smooth away with my lips. "Everything ok?"
"Hmm...? Yeah. Great." Smiles at me, but it's weak, doesn't reach her eyes and I want to ask because it's not just the case. I don't, though, because it's not just the case.
I see it then, and angle across the street.
Perfect scummy little dive. Just off Beacon so getting a cab will be easy. No intention of driving anywhere and I can't believe she followed me in here. Brief hesitation at the door and a little whine that never left her throat. Game enough once she's inside, though, and she swallows the cheap whiskey with barely a wince and I'm wondering how well acquainted Olivia is with Mr. Walker and friends. No room to talk myself. The scotch is atrocious but I'm aiming for a more medicinal application today. Something to scour away the leftovers from being electrocuted and chatting with the dead. Be nice if it could do something about the latest Walter-induced traumatic memories, too. Daddy dearest with car batteries and god knows what else.
My hand is shaking when I reach for my glass and dammit she notices.
The concern there, god it's too much. "What, Olivia?" Sharply and that's not fair. She's not the one who hurt me. And the horrible little voice whispers, "yet," and I hate to think that it's telling the truth.
"Maybe you should just go home and get some rest." Her gaze is measured, assessing me, more than a little cold now and I'm amused how easy it is to lose ground with her.
"I'm fine, really," and I try to mean it, but it comes out as a sneer and her eyes narrow.
For a con man Peter can be a really lousy liar.
I could hear him on the phone earlier today, in the background, voice ragged from pain. The sound made me nauseous and it wasn't adrenaline that left me trembling after they drug me from the room. Fear and anger, fighting it out over the wires of my nerves, anger winning out in the end. It flares up now, making me want to smack him for the snotty response to my suggestion.
I wonder what Walter did to him in getting the dead to speak. I have a flash of hatred towards the man so casual in his disregard for what he causes, how it spills out from the lab and we're left trailing the debris. John's browsing the ancient jukebox and I swear if he manages to get something to play I'll lose it. It's pointless, though, like being angry at the sun for burning your skin. You know what it will do to you and all you have to do is avoid it to be safe. We're both bleeding from Walter's damage and it drives us together but we're neither one smart enough to put down our knives. We could cut each other to ribbons without even trying.
The jukebox stays mercifully silent. The whiskey is warming me and dulling everything except him.
He's finished off his scotch and is waving the bored waitress over for more. I could have done with some food but Peter was single-minded in his thirst and I didn't want to abandon him. I was driven along by morbid curiosity, or misplaced protective urges, or something else I don't want to examine too closely. The bar stinks of alcohol and sweat and something that must be hopelessness. We brought that last one in with us. We've claimed a booth in the back, a chamber of pealing veneer and cracked vinyl to contain us and our collective demons.
The waitress drops two drinks on the table and is gone. My first rocket-fuel whiskey is only half-empty but Peter's pushing one glass towards me. At least he's smiling now.
"Thought you were thirsty."
I resist the urge to stick my tongue out at him and instead finish the glass off in one painful swallow. Shit. We have to work tomorrow. I have to work tomorrow. Peter can park Walter in front of cartoons and go back to bed until noon. My fuzzy mind becomes enamored of the idea and follows him to bed for a moment before I drag it away.
He's holding his glass up and swirling the pale gold around in mesmerizing circles. It's soothing to watch and I sip absently at my drink as the motion lulls me. I'm not sure how long I watch before I realize he's watching me instead of the glass. I raise my eyes to his and a lazy heat blossoms in my belly that has nothing to do with the whiskey.
"Cheers," he says. His voice does nothing to counteract what his eyes are doing to me. This is not at all good. Shit.
The word is clipped and she's closed her hands around the chipped tumbler like it's anchoring her. Drops her head to stare at the table and I don't have a clue what just happened here. Guess I should be getting used to that. Was I staring? Hell, I stare at her all the time. She should be getting used to that. If I were a decent sort of guy I'd stop, but I'm not and I won't.
Try to think of something to pull her back, but it's beyond me. Wits too frayed and I feel too raw to deal with her mood swings, so we sit in silence and refuse to look at each other. The alcohol is wending it's way through my system, easing the tremors and pushing the terrors back to a manageable distance. I imagine my mind building a little fort around itself out of empty glasses and bottles of scotch and a few tattered cardboard coasters for reinforcement. Lean my head against the back of the booth and close my eyes.
Relaxed. This was a good idea. Good for her, too, she never relaxes. Keep trying to work out what went wrong in Germany. She got to Jones and Loeb is alive so it isn't that. Whoever her contact was? I think about Nina Sharp and her price and wonder if Olivia carries debts like I do. Maybe it was just someone she didn't like. Maybe I should ask.
The hairs stand up on the back of my neck and along my arms and it's a struggle to keep my eyes closed. A shift in the current between us and she's the one staring and I know I shouldn't be able to feel it but I do anyway. Open my eyes now and she'll flee, embarrassed to be caught. So damn tempting, though, to see what I could read in that unguarded stare.
She sighs and I've missed my chance, feel her eyes slide away. Blink my eyes open and return my attention to my drink. It's been waiting so patiently. She scowling at something over my shoulder and it's too much to resist. I'm grinning before I can complete the motion.
A weight thuds against the toe of my shoe, startling me from my brooding. I drag my eyes from the couple at the bar to the smirking jackass across from me. He grins and kicks me again. "Penny for your thoughts."
"Mmmm no. These are way more expensive than that. We're in a recession, you know. What do you think you're going to get with a penny?" I'm smiling despite myself, despite the gnawing worry about the case, the exhaustion from scanning my surroundings for ghosts and step-dads, the jittery desire that's been with me since I blue-balled Lucas.
Peter looks thoughtful but the smirk never quite leaves and that seems to be a universal truth with him, not just something induced by the scotch. He leans forward and almost manages to look serious. "I found a Canadian dime today. I also have some gum." I stare at him and feel a grin spreading across my face and them I'm laughing and so is he. I'm beginning to realize that this was a very bad idea. I should have known this, should have been able to put the pieces together. Peter Bishop is a dangerous drinking partner.
Her laugh nearly undoes me and I'm not sure if she's laughing because I'm being charming or stupid. Don't really care. It's musical and she's wrinkling her nose and that's so fucking cute. Our glasses are empty again and I'm waiving the waitress over. Can't believe she's keeping up with me. "What happened in Germany?" Can't believe the shit I say.
Her eyes slide away and she stares at the fresh drink as if it holds answers. Think she knows as well as I do there are no answers to be found there. She's trying, though, trying to puzzle out the message in the waves of the glass and the distorted grain of the table made amber by the drink.
"I... Do you ever keep making the same mistake over and over?"
Laugh at that and it's not a happy laugh, cynical but she understands and looks up again. Looking for something like she always is and I know this time it's loyalty she wants. Kinship in our ability to screw up whatever it is we're screwing up. "Story of my life. You know that."
She echos my laugh. "Peter, I don't know anything about you," and there's a sadness there in her voice and she looks lost. It's dumb, I know it's dumb but she's lost and all I want is to offer her something. "What do you want to know?"
He'd tell me. If I asked. Anything.
I consider it and hate myself for it.
Hate him for taunting me. The anger is there again, snuggling up against the aimless desire and blending into something red-edged and nasty.
"I had an old friend help me get in to see Jones. A boyfriend. Ex." Something shifts in his eyes, hardens. "He... when I thought I wasn't getting in, because Smith was dead, I was just going to come back. I thought..." and I hate even saying it. Burns my throat worse than the shitty whiskey. "Thought I failed. And he asked me to stay. Spend the night anyway even though there wasn't a reason to." He's shaking his head now, mapping out the course of this little tale and not liking the scenery. Careful what you ask for, Peter.
"So I did."
"Olivia..." and his voice is all regret now and it's senseless but I want to hurt him with this.
"What's wrong? Not so eager to hear the story after all?" God, what am I doing?
God, what is she doing?
I've got my wallet out and a twenty on the table before she can blink. Move towards the door, only thought to flee. Couldn't find it to run from Walter but goddamnit I can run from her if that's what she wants. It's freezing and my hoodie is no match for the wind but I can see Beacon, bright like it's name, bright with shops and people and cabs that will take me home to where I can figure out how much of my heart she ripped out. Hear her behind me, running to catch up and think briefly of trying to escape but it's her job to catch people and I'd be no challenge tonight.
"Peter stop. Please. Please, I'm sorry."
She's grabbing at my hand and I keep walking, dragging her with me and it's too far to Beacon. No way to get there without damages. I wheel on her sharply, stepping close, shifting my hand. Her wrist feels ridiculously delicate in my grasp. "I don't care what you do," I lie, "but at least know who your friends are, Sweetheart, and keep your claws in around them."
It's instinct that makes her try to jerk her hand away. Ready for it, though. Follow the movement until she's off balance and then pull. She stumbles hard and I remember then that she kept pace with the drinks, her gracefulness killed by the whiskey. I let go of her wrist to catch her and she growls at me. "Stop that," I tell her. My hands are on her shoulders and she's bracing herself against my arms, both of us panting like out of shape joggers. We're holding each other up uneasily, clearly a metaphor that extends well beyond this evening. Watching each other, we're letting go by degrees until we're standing far too close on the dark sidewalk.
"If you didn't want to tell me you could have just said so."
Even in the dim light I can see her cheeks flush and she looks down briefly. Eyes back to mine after a moment. "I shouldn't take things out on you. I don't mean to make a habit of it. I'm sorry."
Shaking my head. "It's alright."
"No it isn't."
"You're right. It's isn't. But you're exhausted and drunk and it's freezing out here so I figured I'd cut you some slack. This time." The barest smile from her and weave our way towards Beacon, still too close to each other by far. We're ok again, start the cycle over and I wonder how many times we can do this before the ending changes.