A/N: Property of Abrahms, Fox, etc. Enjoy, critique and stuff. So yaaah. :)

The dead bodies and leads back to Massive Dynamic get old after a while.

(The Pattern changes.)

Four children between the ages of two years to five years sprawl inelegantly in beds, slouch over tables and chairs in an arthritic and splintered old cabin hiding in the Maine countryside. They are dead.

Outside, it rains.

Inside, Olivia Dunham crouches next to one of the children and narrows her eyes.

Dark-skinned, his head rests off-kilter on the kitchen's gray Formica counter, one hand cradled up near a cereal bowl full of nothing. There is blood caked around his nose, on the front of his striped blue-and-white shirt, but when she looks up at the boys face, to see if he had a reaction when he passed, she sees nothing.

The face is expressionless.

Behind her in the living room opposite of the kitchen, Peter stands up from one of the children slouched in front of the ancient and ridiculously undersized GE television.

"These kids," he says, remarkably reserved, "are blank."

Olivia stares into the hazel eyes of the boy at the table, stares at the frozen sobriety in his face, the titled position of his jaw.

"Yes," she says, and without knowing why, reaches out and gently touches the boy's forehead. A memory drifts and bobs in her brain and all she can think is back to six years old and Mommy's worried face above her bed, whispering as she placed a palm against Olivia's forehead, "Oh, baby, do you have a fever?"

His skin is hot.

First, they bring in Real Doctors. The ones with PhDs in more proper and formal fields, that study diseases and defects that seem abnormal but not paranormal.

The first is a doctor from Portland, Maine, with a background in neurology, pediatrics, and some maxillofacial studies.

She is an older woman, tall with frayed, bottle-brown hair. Her eyes are tired but wise behind thick glasses, and when she lifts the eyelids of the three-year old child in front of the television, her lips purse.

She goes around to all the children, her gait careful and quiet as she repeats the procedure. Latex-gloved hands ghost across cheeks, foreheads, eyelids and lips, tap speculatively on the zygomaticus minor and major, the anguli orises.

When she finishes – when she gets to the boy at the kitchen table next to a cereal bowl full of nothing – her smile is thin and sad.

"He has Moebius Syndrome," she explains to Olivia. "They all do."

She explains later that the muscles in the faces of all these children are non-functioning, that a genetic disorder affected the 6th and 7th cranial nerves of their skulls and prevented them from the ordinary actions of smiling, frowning, blinking – even moving their eyes up and down. They cannot eat without help, some may not see well or hear well. Further have foot and hand deformities.

"Why is their skin so hot?" Olivia asks.

The woman blinks, brow furrowing.

"That," she murmurs, "I cannot tell you."

And then they bring in virologists (who usually are trailed by the occasional hematologists), the pathologists. The folks that study the germies and viruses and all those things that do – indeed – go bump in the night.

Bodies should cool when they begin to decompose.

And these ones? Don't. Or haven't yet.

"All too weird," one of the virologist says, snapping off his gloves with a shake of his head. He glances over from another boy – this one five years old, olive-colored skin, legs and arms strewn about on the bed, head to the side as if sleeping – and frowns.

"We'll need blood samples," he says.

"Of course," Olivia replies.

And then – then they bring in Walter.

Walter, the All Knowing One.

Walter, the Wise Looney.

Walter Bishop, who has dealt with mysteries such as microwaved brains, self-mutilation à la hallucination, a capsule that burrows like a mole and hypnosis via Christmas lights. Walter, who – so far – has appeared to have every answer to every case, a solution to every problem, knowledge to whom, to what and (almost, but not quite) why.

He stands in the living room, circles the t.v. and murmurs something about how absolutely fantastic the 1980 GE televisions were before noticing the three-year old girl, mouth agape and eyes fixed on the ceiling.

He stops smiling.

And then Walter slowly sits cross legged next to the child, folding his hands in his lap.

He stays that way for a long time, tilting his head to the left and to the right, lifting one of the girl's arms, blinking at the homemade pink-bead bracelet that slides down her forearm.

Olivia watches. Peter, arms crossed, almost imperceptibly shifts the weight back and forth between his feet. In the far end of the cabin, Charlie stills from looking out the back window and carefully points his chin towards the Terrific Trio circled around a tiny, three-year-old girl.

It's funny how they've come to this. How they've become so reliant.

Have you ever wondered
, something whispers in Olivia, if there will come a time when he won't have your answers?

Nearly five minutes later, Walter's shoulders slump and he sighs.

"This is strange," he confesses, looking up to his son and Olivia.

Peter raises his eyebrows. "That's it?"

Walter looks back down at the little girl, then back up.

"Yes," he says, softer than before.

The dead bodies and leads back to Massive Dynamic get old after a while.

(The Pattern changes.)

And this is what is so frightening, though Olivia is loathe to admit it – loathe to believe that when Walter does not fully understand what is going on, she feels some deep inkling of fear.

Their compass is broken.

And now – now they must truly fend for themselves.

"No parental units, no guardians. Electricity and plumbing were paid up until the end of next week."

"Who pays the bills?"

From across the piano, she sighs, irritated, and her lips thin.

He stops for a measure, makes eye-contact and nods slowly as the realization hits. Starts up again at the key change for "Rondo Ala Turk" and trills one of the dissonant 7ths absentmindedly.


Few more measures, then: "so if the parents are fake and/or non-existent, who called it in?" Another pause. "Anonymous payphone?"

"Thankfully," and Olivia is serious about this, "no. The cabin may be ten miles away from the nearest paved road, but there are people in town that have seen one or two of the children occasionally, and started wondering where they'd gone."

They frown at each other, now – Peter's brow furrowing and her forehead far beyond wrinkled, her fingers tapping out some unknown rhythm at the edge of the piano. The back-and-forth game of question and answer has reached full momentum, and as it rolls down the hill like a seething ball of madness, they both must catch up.

"None of these children are related," Peter points out. "They're all different."

"And if you were keeping children that weren't yours in a cabin ten miles out of town, you'd probably try to prevent the kids from seeing other people as much as possible."

He smirks now and taps out the first two measures of Beethoven's 5th.

"Somebody," he says, the ring and index finger of his left hand still resting gently on f and d as he stands up, " is lying."

There is a man named Ronald Gerber, and he was probably a handsome football jock in high school. Now on his second marriage, his orange hair is wispy and barely clings to the sides of his head, and his fingers are swollen and bruised from construction and arthritis.

Photographs are spread out on the grungy coffee table in front of Ronald like some eerie hand from a perverse poker game, and when Special Agent Olivia Dunham taps particularly at the one of the five-year-old boy in the bedroom, he swallows visibly.

She reminds him of how serious lying to a federal agent is.

"Did you ever see these children, Ronald?"

"Yes," he breathes.

(But they never finish a second round of interrogation, for Ronald Gerber lunges to a gun he had hidden underneath his Laz-Z-Boy recliner and proceeds to jut the barrel under his jaw and apply the mere ounce of pressure needed to pull the trigger.)

("That's not incriminating," Peter observes sarcastically over his third cup of espresso.)

(Olivia holds her tongue and instead stirs creamer into her mug. Violently.)

Soon there are names. And parents, some that are dead in freak car accidents, bizarre suicides and unusual murders.

Only two parents call back after Olivia leaves a message.

One woman speaks in broken English, the heavy Mandarin still clinging on her confused 'r's and 'l's as she speaks from Beijing.

"My government tell me my child is missing," the woman says, and even through their language barrier, Olivia hears the tension and dread in her voice.

"Are you allowed to speak on this?"

"No," the woman says, then: "I must go."

Later, Olivia calls again and gets the ambassador from the U.S. Embassy, who tells her gravely that, "I don't know what you're looking up, but you're startling some people that don't want to be startled."

In mid-stroke of an 'l' on her notepad, she stops and bites her lip.

"Sir, I have four dead children here, and all I want to know is where the parents are."

"I understand," the ambassador says (and Olivia wants to snarl at him, no you don't, asshole), "but I find myself requesting that you know more clearly where you're going with this before you run lines through Beijing again."

"Of course," Olivia responds, even as she feels the tension building in her jaw.

"You still have this woman's name?" the ambassador asks.

She pauses on whether or not she should reply affirmatively, then gambles.


The ambassador waits a long moment before he responds, clicking his tongue. "Please be careful, Agent Dunham."

"Of course."

The important and lengthy details aside, the story gets more complicated and ugly. The children might've had leukemia, but their brains might've actually just hemorrhaged, which explains the nosebleeds but not why the eyes haven't caved in or why they're not bleeding from their ears and mouth. A quick check at the results from the Portland virologists proves that it wasn't a virus, or, at least, one that the scientists recognize.

(Peter momentarily lifts his head from its resting position on a desk, then clamps the heels of hands to his eyes and groans when Walter explains the if/then possibilities of this case.)

("For once," the younger Bishop pleads, "for all that is heavenly and sacred, could this be an open-and-shut case?")

(Walter blinks solemnly. "Oh, I doubt it, son.")

Olivia finds a woman.

Or, rather, a woman finds Olivia and smiles beatifically as she takes a red Prada-heeled step into the elevator.

Olivia does not think much of it at first (and berates herself later), because there are ten other people in the cramped space alongside her.

But then ten empties to six, four and then two, and the woman is still here and Olivia is still here and there is no one else.

The elevator jumps, stutters. Olivia's stomach drops and her hand ghosts on her holster but the woman standing across the elevator continues to smile calmly, black-slacked legs at an easy parade rest and purse loosely held in front.

When the elevator stops after two hiccuping seconds, and lights begin to flicker, the woman clears her throat.

"Massive Dynamic," she says gently, "isn't the only one."

Olivia moves, stiffens, her muscles tightening and a rush that can only be described as the tangy and sour taste of fear and surprise thrumming hard through her veins, pounding in her ears and in her mouth. She blinks to focus and regain some sense of equilibrium, but by then lights have steadied, the elevator has stilled and it's her floor.

There is no woman across the way.

"Could we be looking at it all wrong?" Peter blurts a few days later, as Astrid and Olivia quietly converse over the newest round of names buzzing out of the fax machine.

The women freeze, slowly pivot their heads.

"What makes you say that?" Olivia asks slowly.

But facts don't come, only possibilities, and every one of them only leads to another question, and then another, and another and another.

The children remain dead. The agents remain confused. Walter remains puzzled, even frustrated, and his son paces the lab like a man in prison, glancing out windows and crossing his arms frequently in a gesture that looks both defensive and nervous.

Broyles asks for answers. Olivia tells him that they have none. And maybe that's a lie because perhaps it's right in front of their faces, but maybe it's the truth, because nothing seems to be making any sense that even the most oddball and macabre of previous cases did.

Broyles voice is stiffer than usual, brusque in the way an interrogator greets a suspect. When Olivia answers on her elevator trip down to the parking garage, she tries not to bridle at the almost angry way her superior addresses her.

"We have another situation," he says, and while Olivia's mind abruptly spiderwebs into all the possibilities this could entail, it suddenly narrows neatly into the children. The dead children, the bloody noses, the still faces and the lack of answers.

It frightens her how quickly she comes to this conclusion and knows, deep in her gut, what this is.

A man stand opposite of Olivia as she gets the call, a small, nearly invisible smile pulling at the corners of his lips. He says nothing through the entire conversation, but as the elevator stops on the third floor, he tips a black bowler hat towards her upon exiting.

The connection with Broyles rudely cuts off, and in-between staring at her phone and contemplating its destruction, Olivia's gaze wanders to the man striding away.

She realizes that his shoes are a bloody red just as the doors begin to close.

And by then, it's too late.

The dead bodies and leads back to Massive Dynamic get old after a while.

(The Pattern changes.)