TITLE: Walter's Mata Hari
CHARACTERS: Astrid Farnsworth, Walter Bishop, Peter Bishop, Olivia Dunham, Philip Broyles, Nina Sharp
GENRE: Angst, Romance, Character Death, Murder, Torture,
SONG: "The Art Teacher" by Rufus Wainwright, if you want a Walstrid context
FOR: Fantasy Cat. Thank you for this glorious prompt!
WORD COUNT: 1949
DISCLAIMER: not mine
She was wearing the raspberry-coloured cable knit sweater he'd once complimented her on, the one he'd said made him hungry for sorbet. That memory still brought a smile to her lips, one of the few things that did nowadays. She'd left her coat on the passenger seat of the Vista Cruiser because the spring storm that had been expected today had changed course, leaving sunny skies and balmy air. In her arms she carried a huge bouquet of periwinkle, indigo, and cerulean hyacinths, wrapped in butcher paper and tied with white twine. Walter liked hyacinths and now she always brought them to him, hoping it made him smile when their lush scent floated from the blossoms into the air.
Astrid walked among the scattered slabs of stone until she saw him, and as always, she quickened her pace until she reached him. He always waited for her in this exact spot, every Wednesday morning, every week for nearly a year. She sat down on the grass next to him, folding her legs into the lotus position. She still held onto the hyacinths, the Vista Cruiser's keys still clutched in her left hand.
Silence. It was so peaceful here in this cemetery and the robins were out hunting for worms in the emerald green grass. Normally when she greeted him, she brought some sort of sugary treat for him to enjoy while she talked, but she had decided today was the day she was going to come clean about everything. It was exactly a year since, after all.
"If I had known…I didn't know they were going to kill you. I swear if I had known that, I wouldn't have told them anything," Astrid said hoarsely. She looked at the granite headstone and gave a sad smile as she ran her fingers over the carved name. "This was all my fault. Everything is like this because of me.
"Nina…Nina Sharp and Agent Broyles offered me an opportunity to work for them before I met you. They said it was for national security, that it was my patriotic duty, and I was stupid enough to believe them. I was told to gather information…they said Olivia couldn't do it because she was too close to John Scott. I should have known it was too good to be true, Walter. I really should have." A few tears welled up in her eyes, but she blinked them away. "I was given Massive Dynamic stocks and some under the table perks that no one else knew about. You were right when you called me your little laboratory ingénue—I was such an idiot to trust them."
She gave a laugh that was caught between a choking noise and a rasp. "Oh, they were so pissed when you stabbed me with that needle. They were afraid I was going to leave—and I was—but they were willing to bargain with me to get me to stay." It had taken a luxurious apartment, completely furnished and the payment of her utility bills as well. "My god, Walter, I didn't realise what I had become until it was all over. How stupid of me to believe I was doing a top secret assignment when I was nothing more than a mole." She turned back to look at the headstone and with every ounce of regret within her body, apologised to him. "I was a traitor to you, Walter. A fucking traitor. It can't be sugar coated."
She let out a shuddering sigh and lay the bouquet of flowers in front of the script that read 'Beloved Father and Dearest Friend'. She had ordered the stone herself, at the time unable to think of anything clever to have carved on the front.
"I killed Nina Sharp, though. I shot her right between the eyes. I got a medal for that." It had made her an instant legend in the FBI, having slain Medusa in a raid. "Broyles swears up and down that he didn't know that was the plan, but I don't know." She narrowed her eyes. "He didn't seem too upset when they…found you."
Astrid felt a knot form in her throat and she wiped away another forming tear. "I'm just glad you didn't have to see Peter." She could imagine Walter's son right now and she felt sick. "I saw him the other day. He looked very…well, the doctor said he's not getting any worse. And he looks peaceful, like he's in the middle of a very long slumber. Olivia, too. Do you suppose if we were to hook them up to one another, they could finally be happy? I've wondered about that from time to time, if a synaptic transfer would be a good idea, and I've finally found a laboratory willing to do it. It's going to cost a lot of money, but I thought that I could at least withdraw from the funds Massive Dynamic gave me. I'm already paying for their care, I might as well give them to each other." A swallowtail butterfly flew by lackadaisily and she pictured Peter and Olivia's comatose bodies side by side in the guarded room in the private hospital. She always visited them on Saturday afternoons. "I'm going in next month to have the procedure tested. I've decided I'll be the one to navigate the passage between their minds so they can find one another in the abyss of the psyche."
"That explosion was supposed to kill them, but you know them: fighters." Secretly Astrid suspected she was supposed to be in that explosion too, the way the lab had been set up that day, but she had been sitting in her car at her apartment, trying to muster the courage to call up Olivia and confess what she'd been doing when the bomb went off. And by that time Massive Dynamic goons had already kidnapped Walter. "They'll be okay," she said confidently. "I'm sure of it."
Her mind drifted to the large estate she had purchased, one with a large library and small basement laboratory, so she could keep playing around with the few of Walter's notes that hadn't been destroyed. She also had a large rolling pasture, and the face of the only other member of their group left untouched crossed her mind, making her break into an honest smile. "And Gene's doing fine. Of course she misses you and yes, I make sure to brush her teeth. When I milked her this morning, her calf licked the side of my face. You'd like the calf, she's just a pretty as her mother."
The smile faded as she wondered what Walter would have done if he could see the life she was living now. If nobody had died and nobody had been hurt, she'd have let the Bishop's live in the still empty guesthouse and given them whatever their hearts' desired. Yes, Walter would probably request something like a popcorn machine and Peter would probably try to kill her, but this blood money pooled in her bank accounts and had stained every purchase she had made. Anything she spent that money on was supposed to take care of the people she had betrayed, which meant she had bought a house for Rachel Dunham and made a trust fund for Ella, extensive repairs to the Vista Cruiser and if…god forbid, if either Peter or Olivia ever woke up again, their belonging were safely stored in two separate bedrooms in Dogwood Manor, her beautiful and lonely home. She spent many nights standing in the doorways, looking at the rooms that awaited the occupants that would never come.
Oh yes, they'd given her a lot of money, but money was nothing more than a strip of gauze covering the gaping wound she'd created. She was uncomfortably rich, the type of money that said she would never have to work again, the same for any children's children's children. But she would trade it all and more to take back what she had done. Her lower lip trembled and she closed her eyes.
"You forgive me, right? I mean, I know Olivia would never forgive me and I know that Peter wouldn't either, but you…I did this to you as if I had put that gun to your head myself."
She could still see his blank eyes staring as he was being placed in the body bag, a shocked look on his face. He'd been dead for a day when they found him, fours days after he'd been missing, two hours before the doctor told her there was no hope for Olivia or Peter. She could still see every tear track that had dried on his cheeks, still see the blood that had matted in his tangled curls, still see the maggots writhing in the festering wound across his temple. Astrid had been weeping as she as she carefully shut his eyelids before they zipped the body bag closed and removed him from the warehouse.
Did you know that the cornea begins to turn a shade of brown when the human body begins to decompose?
"You must have been so scared!" she cried. "You must have been so scared! I saw the autopsy report, Walter! It said you'd been tortured and don't you give me any of that crap about liking pain because what was done to you was nothing anyone could enjoy, not even you." She wiped her nose on the back of her bare wrist. "I killed you, I hurt Peter and Olivia, I destroyed what all of us had!"
She collapsed against the headstone, her body wracked with sobs as she clung to the cold grey granite. She couldn't believe she had ruined so many lives with such a simple nod of her head and a single 'yes'. And Broyles continued on with life as though nothing had happened, which confirmed her suspicions that all the big players had been eliminated from the game and if it wasn't for the fact that she was still under his thumb, she might have feared she'd be next.
"You know how you told us to change the way we think? Well I did. I've changed the way I think and interpret things." Her lips brushed against the polished stone. "Do you dream of me, too?"
His brain had been too far decomposed for the synaptic transfer to work on her. She'd begged Nina to let her scientists do this for her, let her find out whom his killers were, but even she knew it was too late to rescue him. She would have happily allowed Walter to move into her mind, where she could have had him forever, but Nina had given her that odd quirk of her lips and Astrid had known. Astrid had known then and there that they'd all been set up, so when Broyles ordered the raid against Massive Dynamic, she'd had a bullet specifically reserved for Sharp.
"Would you have liked living in my mind, Walter?" she asked with her eyes closed. She could smell the hyacinths from here and she could feel the sun warming her back and shoulders. "Would we have acted as both scientist and assistant? Would we have had our own ghost network?" She gave an exhausted smile. Her fingers found his name, the dates, the inscription and then the smallest row of numbers; you wouldn't know they were there if you weren't told and already the spring grass was just tall enough to cover them.
She gave a low hum, then began to recite the numbers, pretending Walter was saying them long with her.
"Zero, one, one, two, three, five, eight, thirteen, twenty-one, thirty-four, fifty-five, eighty-nine, one hundred fourty-four…"