"You don't own anything that doesn't make you look like a steel worker, do you?" Olivia questioned.
Peter looked up from under the hood of the car, a smile on his grime-streaked face, "What do you mean?"
Olivia only nodded distastefully at his greyed undershirt and grungy work jeans, then leaned forward to pluck at his cap, "I mean these."
Peter shrugged, returning to his task, "I always figured that it wasn't about the clothes, but that it was the man underneath that mattered."
"Well, it can't hurt not to look like you just came out of the mill," Olivia muttered, leaning back against the gloss of the wheel well.
"I knew it."
"I knew that there had to be some sort of catch, to you. Everybody's got one, and I found yours."
Olivia frowned, "What are you talking about?"
"Well, with you. You're a smart, charismatic, beautiful woman… but you like your clothes."
Olivia flushed slightly, "That's not true. No one is going to respect my position, if I'm dressed like a- a-"
"A steel worker?" Peter questioned with a smile, tugging at his suspenders.
"Precisely," Olivia huffed, crossing her arms across her front. Peter chuckled, tinkering on in silence for a few minutes before she asked, "what about you, then? What appears to be your catch?" Peter looked up at her, "It only seems fair, if you know mine."
Peter shook his head, "You already know that one." and he continued, after her confused look, "Smart, charismatic, beautiful woman that dress straight out of the pictures." He straightened, wiping his hands on the rag in his pocket before shutting the hood with a click, "Done. The belt shouldn't be giving us any trouble for a while. At least until we get in to Jersey, in any case. Then we can burn the thing, I don't care."
"Buy you a coke, for your trouble?" Olivia offered with a smile.
"Why, thank you kindly, ma'am," Peter answered brightly, "just let me wash up a bit, and we can head out." Olivia nodded and headed into the convenience store, and Peter grabbed his overshirt and headed into the restroom.
He shut the door, doffing his cap onto the mirror shelf and twisted on the tap, letting the water flow over his head before splashing his face. His hand groped for the soap bar near the basin, and he began to lather the dirt and oil away.
The door handle rattled, and Peter called, "Just a moment!" he began to rinse the suds away, and grabbed the towel, rubbing his stubble dry.
"This car out here is yours, then?"
Peter paused, in pulling on his shirt, "What's it to you, mister?" he replied. He was buttoning and tucking in his shirt tails as he fumbled for the doorknob. He blinked in shock at the man that stood before him.
"Peter Bishop," the stranger said, no expression visible, behind his dark glasses.
"Have… have we met?" Peter questioned.
"Once. Long ago." he turned his head, bald beneath his grey fedora, "This is the car you drove, when you played for the Sox."
Peter chuckled uneasily, "You must have me confused with someone else, I never played-"
"Your father is in danger," the stranger continued, "I realize that you have every right to hate him. But there will soon come a time, when he will need your help… and for both of your sakes, I can only hope that you make the right decision. Goodbye for now, Peter Bishop." He tipped his hat, turning and starting away. Peter stared after him, as he held the door for Olivia as she emerged with two glass bottles of dark cola. She thanked him and continued, before she paused, glancing back in the direction he had gone. She shook her head.
Peter met her at the car, and she passed the bottle into his hands, 'What's wrong with you? You're all in a tizzy."
Peter shook his head, "It's… it's nothing." he twisted open the cap of the pop, taking a drink, "Let's get going."
Olivia shrugged, "you're the boss."
Two figures stood as silhouettes in the wide door of the airplane hangar, one in a staunch uniform, the other in a button-up and slacks that looked like he'd slept in them, on the plane ride over from the mainland. Both wore dark sunglasses, in the piercing sunlight, and perspiration weighed on their collars, in the muggy heat. The shade and steady breeze of the hangar was a welcome change, their vision the shade of seaweed, as they peered in at jumbled masses of fighter plane parts hanging on chains that stretched down from the high ceiling.
"Hello?" the uniformed man called in, his voice echoing metallically.
"Do you think he's out for lunch?" his companion joked, his hands in his pockets.
The officer tipped his cap back on his head, rubbing sweat from his face and delving in to his leather briefcase to draw out a think manila file, "Dr. Bishop?" he called again.
After waiting a few moments for no response, the two ventured deeper into the hangar, toward the sound of grainy jazz over the radio, in a separated room decorated with wooden tiki statues and a propeller ceiling fan among the communication equipmnet and maps. The casual man smiled, "Looks cozy." he moved to the desk, shifting through a few unopened letters, looking like they were written in a childish script.
"Dr. Feynman, please," the officer said, a bit pleadingly, "I don't think we have time to be-"
The wooden door out of the office banged open, and the officer started slightly, at the tanned, shirtless form with dripping hair trudging inside, propping a surf board against the wall and drying his face on the sleeve of the military-issue cover-all tied around his waist. He kicked sandy flip-flops at the wall, moving to wipe his feet on the doormat before he realized he had company, "…Hello?" he questioned slowly.
"Dr. Walter Bishop?" The officer questioned.
He delved into the back pocket of his cover-all, pulling out a pair of thick-framed BCGs and pushing them on to his face, "Yes?"
"I'm Dr. William Bell," the officer said, offering a hand, "I've heard a lot about you, Dr. Bishop." They shook hands, Walter still looking confused, and William indicated to Feynman, "This is Dr. Richard-"
"Feynman? Dick Feynman?" Walter questioned, smiling, "Dear god man, where have you been?" they laughed, shaking hands vigorously.
"I could ask the same thing of you, Walt," Richard replied fondly, "It's been ages- last I'd heard, you dropped off the face of the earth, after Harvard."
Walter gave a one-shoulder shrug, "Eh. Have a seat, gentlemen- I must apologize, I'm not decent… can I get you two something to drink?"
"Uh- I don't think so-" William started.
"That would be great, Walt," Feynman smiled. He plopped into a decrepit-looking swivel chair, and motioned for William to do the same. Sighing and looking down at his watch, William dropped into his seat.
Walter shuffled around in an old, empty oil drum in a cool corner of the office, pulling out a few long-necked, green bottles, passing one to each of his guests and having a seat at his desk, "So, to what do I owe the pleasure, gentlemen?"
Richard nodded to William, and William explained, "As you well know, Dr. Bishop, it is the view of the US government that the war with the axis is coming to a head."
"Based on what?" Walter questioned, twisting the cap off of his beer.
"Intelligence," William said, thrusting the thick manila file at him, "The notes are here, and some of our worst fears are very close to being realized- our enemies are only steps away from gaining the nuclear advantage."
"Like bombs," Walter said, poking at the file without much interest.
"Big kabooms," Richard agreed.
"And what do you want me for?" Walter questioned, taking a drink.
"You're one of the best minds in our country, Dr. Bishop. It has been the task of our government to gather our intellectual resources, myself and Dr. Feynman among them to, ah, combat this… instability." William delved into his briefcase again to draw out a folded set of off-blue papers, "These are your transfer papers. Your orders are to accompany us to Los Alamos."
Walter took the orders, unfolding them enough to read the stamp on the front, before he tossed them in with the rest of his paperwork an a shrug, "Nah."
William blinked in shock for a few moments, before stammering, "B-but-"
"Do I look like a government lapdog to you, Dr. Bell?" Walter questioned, and William reddened with offense, "I'm here for a paycheck. I'm not eager for attention, for advancement. I have found that it has always been in my own best interest to avoid drawing attention at all costs. And that's exactly what I plan on doing now."
"Dr. Bishop, this is not a matter that can be argued-"
"Watch me," Walter growled, and William glared.
"Have you ever been to Los Alamos, Dr. Bishop?"
"Yep. 'Hated it."
Walter smiled at him, "Hard to tell, isn't it?"
William looked at the point of explosion, before Richard stopped him with a hand to the chest and a laugh, "Alright, Bishop, alright. We get it, you bluffed us out. But what we're talking about is a threat to national welfare. Nuclear capabilities… they're not just for stopping the war. You must have thought of the implications, for new sources of energy, the possibilities…"
Walter looked slightly uncomfortable, as Richard took another drink of his beer, "Well, I have. Who hasn't? But it's a dangerous thing, I personally don't think we have the methods of dealing with such an energy-"
"Come to Los Alamos," Richard said plainly, "Let me show you what we've been doing, while you've been tanning on this rock."
Walter looked between William and Richard, them took a drink.
"Orders or no, it's your choice," Richard said, and William knew enough to keep his mouth shut.
And it was a choice that, to this day, he did not know if he'd made correctly. He had made so many decisions in his life, and they had accordingly lead him the wrong way… this one had probably been wrong, too.
But he'd won. He just had to keep winning.
Not that he'd ever won before.
"What's got you so down, gloomy Gus?" Astrid joked, and Walter looked up from staring down from the hotel window, at the busy street below- a place that had made him feel small and safe, in the large hotel room. She was drying her hair with a towel, standing in the doorway to the bathroom in a thick bathrobe.
Walter hid his thoughts with a smile, "Feeling better, bluebird?"
Astrid smiled, "Yeah. Have you seen this bathtub? It's massive!"
Walter nodded, "It's nice." he was quiet for a few moments as Astrid looked through her purse on the bed, drawing out a bottle of fragrance and dabbing the nape of her neck with scent, "I've never taken you out, have I?"
Astrid chuckled, "I haven't thought much about it, Walter. You- well, you've always been pretty preoccupied, I just tried to enjoy the time we had when you weren't-"
"May I take you out, tonight?"
Astrid looked up, "What? Why?"
"Because we're in New York, my dear. And… you've always deserved someone, to take you out." Walter rose to his feet with a small sigh of effort, sliding his hands into his pockets, "We could go anywhere you want."
Astrid shook her head with a smile, "Walter, we can't go out. There is someone out there that might be trying to kill you, it's too risky."
"Please let me take you out," Walter persisted, stepping around the small sitting table and making a comically glum face, "Pretty please, with sugar on top?"
Astrid laughed, "Walter, no! Besides, I don't have anything to wear but my stage dress-" she paused and he put his arms around her waist, drawing her in close.
"You look pretty as a picture, just like this," Walter replied with a smile, forgetting to catch his slipping accent, "I'll bet it'll turn those designers on their ears. The big apple will never be the same, after they see you."
Astrid chuckled, "Well, I'm fine. You have been wearing the same clothes for how long? And your hair is a train wreck." she reached up to pluck at his curls poking out from under his hat with a fond frown, "You need a bath and a miracle, to be even remotely presentable."
"They'd be too busy staring at you to notice a homely old man."
"You're not homely."
"You're beautiful, mon cher." His thumb traced her soft cheek, and she raised a hand to touch his, color crossing her features, and he leaned in for a kiss. After a few moments, he added, "I noticed you didn't say anything about my being old…"
"You are old!" Astrid chuckled, pressing her cheek to his chest, and Walter sighed.
"A homely, dirty, old man," he said with a grin, "I don't know why you're still sticking around, if I'm proving to be such an undesirable…"
Astrid smiled back at him, "I'll be the judge of that," she replied, giving him another kiss.
Her palms pressed against his chest, and he followed her motions backward, the back of his knees meeting the corner of the bed, and his shoulders the mattress, as her form stretched across him, constricting in all the right places. Walter let out a breathless sigh, and his muscles tightened as her palms sought support on his stomach, drawing her knees up to either side, on the mattress. His eyes moved up her body, her nearly open bathrobe, and at last to her large, dark, doe-brown eyes, perhaps even more beautiful than anything else.
Walter smiled at her. A smile that may have meant a lot of things, but mostly- "I love you."
His fedora and his thoughts was soon lost among the pillows, as his fingers traced circles around her spine.