Chapt. Eleven: (Caution Sine)

The beep of a respirator nagged him awake, and the slow, twisting throb of the misplaced IV in his arm. Peter opened his eyes open a slit to see an EMT leaning over him, looking sick and shaken. He was leaning on his IV hose.

This mother fucker's gonna get my metal, Peter glared. Stupid newbies. What's the matter? Never seen blood before, jackass? Why don't you take the extra step and become a chiropractor?

Something called the young man away, removing the bruising pressure of the IV, and the other sounds of the ambulance came into focus to Peter's ears. It took him a few moments to register, his jaw grinding painfully as he barred his teeth, biting it back into place. His dry tongue worked against the roof of his mouth a he swallowed back the bits of teeth and grains of dried blood, feeling slightly ill. He coughed into the oxygen mask strapped over his face, and raised a hand to pull it away and wheeze into the charged air.

To his side lay the metal tray, blood and flecks of flesh from his mouth still visible. He guessed he should consider himself lucky, that Walter had disfigured him enough to be unrecognizable. Peter glared, his body surging with fiery anger. Walter.

Peter sat up in the gurney, squinting in the flashes of the emergency lights. The EMT appeared to have vacated the parked ambulance, probably off to botch another attempt at proper medical care. Peter set to pulling off the wires on his chest and the tubes from his arms. He worked his way loose of the gurney straps, climbing out of the back of the ambulance.

He emerged to disorganized chaos, and was quick to straiten his stolen uniform, rubbing at the scabs at the sides of his mouth. If he played himself just right, they wouldn't even know he was gone.

The rage of defeat still smoldered beneath Peter's calm visage as he slipped between the rushing law enforcement, severely tempted to strike out at them for being in his way. But slowly, carefully, he managed to disappear into the shadows and away from the jail.

His nostrils flared as he smelled fire.

Headlights suddenly blinded him, and Peter immediately searched for a route of escape, before her heard someone emerge from the car, "Peter?!" Olivia called.

He shaded his eyes and blinked at her with a smile, "Hey."

"Peter, I heard about what happened in there," she came forward with his coat, draping it over his shoulders, "they said you were almost killed…"

"They over exaggerated," Peter assured her, as she lead him back to the jeep, and they climbed inside. He leaned his head back against the seat, "but he got away. God damn it, he got away."

"It's okay, Peter. As long as you're alright." Olivia ground the shifter, and they drove away from the lights, "You'll get him," she said at last.

Peter rested his forehead against the window, letting out a sigh, "I don't even know where he's going. I doubt he's anywhere near here, at this point- there is that glow coming from?" Peter pointed to the faint glow, over the buildings.

Olivia looked over at him, "What?"

"Here! Turn here!" Peter demanded.

They arrived on a scene of panic, at the patrons of what appeared to be a hotel were scattering away from the burning structure, and Peter emerged form the jepp, cursing, "Son of a bitch! He's covered his tracks! There's no telling which direction he's going!"

Olivia frowned at the flames and greasy smoke, "That's strange. The girl I met at the gas stop said that there was no place to stay, in this town."

Peter glanced up at her, "What did you say?"

"I met a girl in the gas stop and asked her. She said no, that she was just traveling through. And I guess now that technically, there isn't..."

"He's traveling with her," Peter said, smiling, "he probably just recruited her, stupid bastard. He wasn't careful enough, this time…"

"What do you mean?" Olivia questioned.

"The girl, what did she look like? What was she driving?" Peter passed Olivia to climb into the driver seat, and she had to scramble to get into the passengers' side, "How would she know about a hotel, if she's not from here? If she lied about this hotel, it means she knows he stayed here."

"Her name was Astrid. She was driving an old station wagon," Olivia said, slightly perplexed at his reasoning, "she was filling the tank."

"They're headed out of town," Peter smiled darkly.

xXx

"Walter?"

Walter Bishop looked up from his slouched position over his paperwork, rubbing his eyes as he squinted in the dim of the basement laboratory. He brightened as he spotted her in the blue glow of the blinking equipment, "Oh, Nina. Hello."

He didn't know if it was her voice that told him it was her smiling, "You're getting more and more creepy, Walter. Have you ever heard of proper lighting?"

Walter smiled in return, sitting back in his chair with a sigh and brushing his fingers back through his hair, "I like the dark. It helps me concentrate. But I'm sure you didn't come all the way down here to lecture me on my choice of mood lighting."

Nina shook her head slightly with a smile, "I didn't." They were silent for a few moments, and at last Walter got to his feet, brushing the wrinkles from the front of his jeans.

"You want to see him," he said.

"I do," Nina admitted.

Walter pushed his chair in, grabbing up the clipboard and his lab coat, come along, then."

It was something like a maze, passing tall stacks of abandoned equipment, some covered with dusty white sheets, others left to the air. The effect was, as Nina had said, creepy. As he lead her deeper into the lab, it grew darker, as most of the high windows had been taped over with duct tape. Walter wasn't the only one that liked the dark.

They came at last to a steel door, "He might be sleeping," Walter said, hesitant, "But I doubt it." he sighed, and slid aside the cover to the small porthole into the room. Nina watched as Walter raised his knuckles to tap on the glass.

The sound, however small it seemed, all but echoed through the small cell, and he twitched on the floor. Another knock. Moaning, he raised his head for the cement, training his blurred sights on the darkened glass across the cell. He growled lowly, barring his teeth for a few moments in warning. He settled down again.

Walter frowned with worry and Nina looked sad. Walter leaned forward, touching the button beside the com, "William?"

"My name isn't William."

"William, it's me," Nina blurted before Walter could speak, "it's Nina. How are you?"

"My name isn't William," he repeated.

"William-"

"My name isn't William," he sat up to watch them through the door, his hair disheveled and eyes reddened, "it isn't. Don't call me that. Stop calling me that."

Walter released the com button, "He's having trouble with the substitute program. He keeps rejecting it. He keeps insisting-"

"My name is doctor Walter Bishop," he stated at last.

Nina watched Walter, wide-eyed, as he looked sad, "He thinks…?" she questioned, taken aback, and Walter nodded. She raised her hands to her mouth, "Oh, god."

"His delusions have swung to the abstract. I've been working with him when I can, but he gets violent, when I call him William."

"I want to help," Nina said.

Walter shook his head, "Nina, if he's rejecting the substitute program, there's no way he could handle-"

"I'm his User!" Nina snapped, "I can't leave him like this, William. And if he won't accept September's keywords, I may be the only one that can help him."

Walter looked unsure, but faltered to her glare at last, "Alright. Go ahead."

"William," Nina said softly, leaning toward the speaker.

"MY NAME ISN'T WILLIAM!" He wailed, covering his face in his hands and letting out a sob, "Just go away, go away!"

"You're sick, William. You've been sick for a long time. We're only here to help you, and we can only help you if you let us help you. Do you understand me?" he continued to weep in his hands, and Nina released the button. "I have to go inside," she said.

"No. Absolutely not. He's not right, Nina; he's been lain open, susceptible to any of the keywords, and not just from you-"

"Open the damn door, Walter!" Nina snapped.

Obligingly, he hauled over the bolt, slamming it out of the way. He cranked open the lock, pulling open the heavy door, and Nina stepped across the threshold. She could not let him see her pity, and only watched his sobbing, rocking form cooly.

"William, get up," she said.

"No. No. I killed her- I've killed people-!"

"Get up, if you would."

Still weeping, he crawled to his feet, tugging at his hair.

"Good, that's good. Now, you said your name was?"

"Please don't do this to me! Don't take it away! Don't take me away-!"

"Tell me your name, if you would," Nina said quietly.

He rubbed his eyes with his fists, smearing away the tears, "It's Walter. Walter Bishop." he looked up at her, "Nina, please…"

"Cold yellow," Nina murmured.

He spasmed with pain, his knees sliding out from under him as he reeled, clutching his skull with a cry of pain. He kicked from his dropped position on the floor, "Nina!" he cried at last.

She crossed the cell to watch over him, "I just told your brain to suffocate itself. I don't like doing this to you, William. Now, what is your name?"

"Walter… Bishop…"

"Truant memory."

He wailed in pain again, writhing and coughing with sobs.

"What is your name?!"

"WALTER BISHOP!"

"Beautiful Anarchy."

xXx

Astrid awoke as the engine shut off. She wondered, for a few moments, where she was, slowly coming to grasp the memories of the events of the day. Her actions. Her decisions.

She sat up from dozing off against the door, looking over at Walter, "What's up?" she questioned, rubbing the fog from her eyes with her fingertips.

"Nothing. Go back to sleep," Walter answered gruffly, "we'll be back on the road soon enough."

"I could drive for a while, if you're tired."

"No."

"…Where are we going, even?"

"I don't know."

Astrid was silent for a few moments, her eyes adjusting to the dark, "Jeez- Walter, you're bleeding," she searched around in the cluttered floorboard in search of a napkin, and leaned across the bench seat, dabbing at his bloody nose.

"It happens," he answered. She could not see his eyes behind the glare of his glasses, in the dim dusk of pre-dawn, "when I remember something."

"What?" Astrid questioned, and he took the napkin from her, holding it to his nostrils, "remember what?"

"I really couldn't tell you," he admitted, "but it-" he suddenly kicked open the door to stumble out, onto the highway gravel and throw up, "...does that," he completed weakly.

"Walter, are you sick?" Astrid questioned, getting out of the car to approach him, her brows drawn in concern.

Walter wiped his lips on the napkin shakily, sitting back on the hood of the car to take a few deep breaths. He addressed her at last, "Miss, the truth is, I appear to have amnesia."

"Amnesia? Like… forgetting everything?" and suddenly, some of the tumblers fell into place, and Astrid began to understand why Walter acted so strangely- the swings in mood, his forgetfulness. Perhaps even the reason she felt no threat from him.

He smiled wryly, agreeing, "Nearly everything. But it comes back to me, sometimes. Glimpses. Thoughts. Feelings. But not enough… and I can never tell when they'll hit me, or how much I'll remember. Sometimes I can ease it with… but I must apologize, as it makes me sick in a most unsightly way…"

"How much do you remember?" Astrid asked.

Walter shrugged, "I don't know. And what I do remember, sometimes… it doesn't feel like it's mine. Does that make any sense?"

"Do you know why the FBI wants you?" Astrid questioned.

He was silent for a few moments, "No," he answered at last, and turned to look at her evenly, his eyes dark behind the glare of his lenses, "miss, I mean this in the most serious possible way- it would probably be in your best interest to get as far away from me as you possibly can."

xXx