Shades of Gray – chapter 5
No in FRiNGEment intended.
Note: final chapter. Thanks for your continuing support. I hope this helps bear with the upcoming infamous winter break….
Astrid turned the last curve to the Fringe Division restricted parking lot on the Harvard campus and immediately spotted Olivia's black shiny SUV parked in front the building. She checked her wrist watch. It was not even seven and no one text messaged her to inform her about any new development or any new case. She pulled on the brakes, padlocked her bicycle to the gates and retrieved her backpack. She started to jog to the entrance, her brow furrowed. She kept running, her petite silhouette projecting giant shadows on the walls. Her steps echoed in the deserted hallways and she finally reached the Kresge building and the lab door. It was unlocked.
She entered cautiously.
"Agent Dunham? Olivia?"
Her voice sounded hollow inside the lab. The familiar buzzing and humming of electronic devices and computers welcomed her but Olivia was nowhere to be seen. She switched on the lights and the lab was flowed with a bright metallic neon wave and Gene mooed in appreciation.
Olivia's office was in the dark. Astrid tossed her bag on her bench and trotted up to the catwalk and peered through the blinds. Olivia was asleep on the couch. That was odd. She knew for a fact that Olivia usually went to her office downtown first thing in the morning for the first debrief and to coordinate the daily roster with agent Francis. Astrid prayed that she had not run into more troubles with agent Harris. The guy had a strong reputation of being a serious pain in the ass and a total nuisance and he had made no mystery than he was after agent Dunham. Or maybe she just needed a breather after the last events. She decided to let her have her sleep and went to milk Gene instead, --which was the beginning of her morning routine.
Back to the lab, she put the kettle on. She was a tea addict and she kept a collection of every herbal tea known to mankind in her cabinet at the lab. She spent so much time in here that it was a lot easier. She usually had two cups before the Bishops show. She only brewed a large pot of coffee later on, generally around eight just before they checked in for the day. Walter was a coffee addict himself and Peter seemed to follow the same path.
She was reviewing the results from the day before when she noted a discrepancy in the sheets. She went to check on another computer to make sure it was not a glitch. No, it was not. Someone had been in the tank again yesterday evening between five forty two and seven twelve. That was weird. She compared the sheets and was on the verge of printing a whole set of data when she noticed a bundle of documents in Walter's handwriting.
That was the missing report, along with the transcript of Olivia's last trip to dreamland in another attempt to reconnect with her dead partner. And it was very, very personal. She placed the documents in a folder, marked it and shoved it inside Walter's desk drawer. Why on earth would Olivia go back in when she perfectly knew the dangers of the procedure? Obviously it was not case related so why the urgency and on top of it why the secrecy? She would have to clear this up with the elder Bishop later in the day when they'll be alone. They had forged a pretty solid bond over the months and she was confident that he would open up to her.
She mentally braced herself for a confrontation with her superior officer and decided she had to wake her before the Bishops got to the lab and that their world turned upside down once again because of a giant lizard or another case of Dr Strangelove. She pushed the door open but it resisted. She ducked and picked up a pair of grey woollen socks that were in the way. She discarded them on the desk and went near the couch. Yes, Olivia was definitely asleep. She wrinkled her nose when she noticed her alcoholic breath. Something was wrong. That was not like Olivia to get hammered and crash at the lab instead of her place. She gave her a gentle nudge. Olivia winced and turned around.
Okay. That was far worse that her first assessment of the situation. It had nothing to do with the Broyles or Sanford Harris' of this world. Whatever had happened last night with baby Bishop or on the contrary what didn't happen was the key to Olivia sleeping in her clothes at the lab. She was not close enough to Olivia Dunham to have a girl talk so she just nudged her again.
"It's me, agent Farnsworth, Astrid, your assistant."
"Astrid. Yes Astrid, I might have dozed," Olivia said in a hoarse voice. She moaned and put her hands to her head. "What time is it?"
"Almost eight. The Bishops will be here any minute now."
Olivia nodded and retched. She stood up uneasily and walked to the door.
"Let me get you an aspirine and a coffee."
"Yes, thanks, I'll have a shower first. Thanks Astrid. Oh my… I think, I-I, I think I'm going to be sick..."
Astrid watched her leave the room, her face pasty, her arms folded on her stomach. Then she heard Olivia heaving over the bowl. She shrugged and went back to the kitchen to prep Mr Coffee.
She was interrupted by the sound of a vocal exchange. It was just another day at the office but this morning already looked like a journey at the zoo. She checked the door to the bathroom and went to meet the boys. Walter was especially cheerful and he was making sure that everybody in the building could benefit from his latest idea.
"… and then, I posited that if you derive the ion flux you can induce a matching result in the other room."
"And what would exactly be the use of such a device Walter?"
"At the moment, I have no idea. But I think it's brilliant. Hello-hello Astroid," he chirped, "it this not the most glorious day?"
"Good morning to you too Walter."
"Walter. Astrid. Her name is Astrid."
"I know who she is. She is my assistant. The best," he smiled fondly.
Peter rolled his eyes and smiled to Astrid. "Morning Astrid. What's up, you look worried."
Astrid shook her head slightly and goggled in Walter's direction mouthing a silent 'no'. Peter nodded back and came closer. He took her by the elbow and turning his back to his father, he asked in a very soft voice, his eyes never leaving his father who was on his way to paying Gene his morning respects.
"What's going on?"
"Olivia spent the night at the lab."
"No. I drove her home last night. I'm pretty sure she didn't."
"She was here before I arrived and she was asleep on the couch in her office," Astrid explained with a shrug. "She's been drinking."
"I know. I was with her."
"Oh, I see… so it makes it… acceptable?"
"It's not like we drink on a daily basis," he protested. "She was depressed, I held her hand and we had some harmless fun. It's not like we're gonna crash a AA meeting anytime soon."
"Whatever," said Astrid, "it's not my place to judge you. But you must know that she drove herself here and she was disoriented when I woke her up. She must have passed out on her couch. That's bad enough in my book."
"I'll talk to her. Is she in her office?"
"No, she's having a shower. She was sick."
"Olivia's sick? I did not pay attention enough. She probably drank a lot more than I can recall. I had quite a few drinks myself."
Astrid nodded again, I-don't-want-to-know written on her face.
"Yes she's sick and she's not… well."
"Agent Dunham is sick?" said Walter in their back.
They swiftly turned around and faced him.
"Agent Dunham is unwell?" he insisted. "Peter," he turned to his son, his face serious, "were you safe? Is agent Dunham expecting your child?"
"Oh my god Walter, stay out of it would you. You're babbling like an idiot."
"Don't worry Walter, Olivia is alright," said Astrid. "Would you like a cup of coffee? I just milked Gene."
It was not enough to distract Walter from his obsessive crusade.
"Having a child is a big responsibility Peter."
"And you of all people must know," snarled Peter, gritting his teeth. "Olivia is not pregnant. And if she is, she's not pregnant with my child."
"Peter, you can talk to me," said Walter.
"Drop it Walter. I don't need your permission to sleep with Olivia. You have no bearing on my sex life, as a matter of fact, you don't have any bearing on my life and you never had."
Walter's face changed colour. His eyes locked on something behind Peter and he looked appalled. Peter turned around to look at the reason of his change of mood. Olivia was standing sentry by the locker room. She moved quickly into her office with her face hidden in her white bathrobe and swung back the door forcefully.
"Look who's babbling now," Astrid sighed.
Peter looked daggers at Walter and jogged to Olivia's office. He rapped on the door and got in, gently closing the door behind him. Olivia had her back to the door. Her hair was damp. She was wearing the same robe he had found her into the evening before. Déjà vu.
She did not respond and tilted her head, her hands clasping the robe lapels.
"We didn't get a chance to finish our conversation yesterday," he said softly.
"What conversation was that? I'm only hoping I didn't confide in you," she snapped. "Obviously, you're not fitted to keep a secret."
"A secret? Olivia, we had a few drinks, I drove you safely back home, I had no idea it was a secret."
"I trusted you and all you can say is I don't need your permission to sleep with Olivia," she quoted, facing him. "These are your words. Classy remark. And it's only eight, I can't even begin to imagine what is it that you're going to come up with before noon but it's going to be difficult to remotely top that."
"I was being an ass. I was mad at Walter, it's not important. What's important is you. You've been sick?"
"What do you care? I'm not pregnant with YOUR child. Would leave now?"
"You know what? I thought I actually was that close to being "that girl" yesterday."
"The girl who needs too many drinks to say what's on her mind but who feels not even brazen enough to let alcohol courage speak."
"The one who sleeps with the wrong guy because he plays the piano and does card tricks and makes her laugh and because she's lonely and had too much to drink and maybe, maybe for this one time, it would have been the right thing to do."
"Could you at least let me expl…"
"You ruined it. I want you to leave. Now."
Peter took a deep breath, leaned over her shoulder. "For what it's worth, I care and I'm sorry," he whispered in her ear. He left the room and grabbed his coat, his car keys and slammed the lab door shut behind him.
"What just happened?" asked Walter mesmerized by the scene.
"Nothing. It gets better," said Astrid.
"Oh… good. So I take it agent Dunham is not pregnant, yes?"
"I suppose not. Here is your coffee."
"Thank you my dear." He swallowed a large gulp and smiled. "Did I tell you that I once invented a coffee maker…"
"Yes you did."
"Astrid, you think he'll be back… Peter?"
"Of course Walter, it's only lovers' tiff."
"Good, good. Let's get some work done, shall we Astragal?"
I'm not sure that you like this ending better that the first one ;)