A/N: I was shocked to see Peter (or Josh) so tired in the last episode and this is my explanation for it. Enjoy!

After effect

Peter hadn't felt this tired since that time in Iraq when he was hunted for a week and couldn't trust any place to be safe. This time it wasn't the issue of safety or his life, or perhaps it was. Sleep deprivation was a powerful tool in torture and he was approaching the limit where he was even barely functional. The hallucinations hadn't started yet and he wasn't particularly keen on that part, but so far his pride had stopped him for asking Walter's help. He would just whip up some god awful cocktail of drugs, which would probably give him hallucinations anyway.

So he suffered. He had tried all the common advice and some less so, but no, he fell asleep well enough but kept waking up every few hours without ever falling into a deep sleep. His dreams were vivid once more and nightmares were nipping at his ankles at every turn. He dreamt of darkness and squashing pressure, he dreamt of waiting patiently in the dark, hibernating until he was released from his tomb and the blood bath began. He dreamt of feeling nothing in the face of the terror that he caused.

He would wake up drenched in sweat, panting and barely able to move in his terror. He had given up changing his clothes and sheets as this cycle of sheer terror repeated itself every few hours every night for the past three weeks. It had started after the virus infected him at Vitas Petrol so it was only logical to assume that some after effects still lingered, although Peter had been hoping that if he waited long enough the effects would disappear.

Nobody seemed to notice his haggard looks, the way he struggled to keep his eyes open and the slowness of his thoughts and speech. Olivia was the only one who seemed to have given him few probing looks for the past few days, but even she had failed to mention anything.

On one hand Peter was glad that nobody knew as he wasn't very good patient and he didn't want to bother other people, but on the other hand he knew that he was becoming a liability and wished that someone would notice before he had to admit his failure. And deep down he wished that just for once, he could lower all the walls and defences and just be vulnerable and Olivia was the only one that he was willing to let see that side of him, as she wouldn't judge or freak out, she would accept him as he was.

However he wasn't that far gone yet. He sat on the bed in his bedroom listening to Walter puttering around in the kitchen. He was beyond exhausted, his thoughts sluggish, getting tangled in his head and even his body was slowing down, his reflexes slow and to get his body to obey even the simplest commands took remarkable effort. He laid down, closed his eyes and the sleep took him.

XXX

Olivia was sitting in her kitchen eating cereals before going to bed. She had changed into comfortable track suit bottoms and a t-shirt and was feeling pleasantly tired. Her mind was still taking its time to slow down and was going through the events of the past few days. She was still reeling from Walter's decision to use the toxin on their suspect although she understood that many more deaths were avoided with that decision. She was also angry at Walter's refusal to accept Peter's apology. Yes, it was petty what he had done, but he had redeemed himself so many times over, at least in Olivia's eyes. It wasn't easy to look after Walter Bishop.

She was also worried about Peter. He looked tired and gruffier than usual, he seemed to slip into his own world more and more easily and it took longer time for him to resurface. He also wasn't keeping his barriers up as usual, which on one hand pleased her, but also worried her as this wasn't the Peter she knew.

What finally drove it in, that something was wrong, was at the bookshop. It seemed that when Peter was alone with her, he seemed to deflate and let the tiredness seep out from every pore, including his eyes which gave her a clear view of his thoughts. That was unheard of as she normally could glean away only snippets leaving Peter Bishop a mystery to her, even after all this time.

At the bookshop, he had looked at her with tenderness and even his smirk was missing its usually teasing tone and when he had explained why he sold the books, his eyes seemed to be pleading with her. She hadn't been ready for this open Peter and had backed down. And now she was ashamed. Something was clearly wrong with him and he had probably tried to reach out for help and what had she done? Slammed her barriers up and left him on the other side. And what was worse, he hadn't even seemed to have the energy to knock on that high wall around her.

Olivia stopped eating, the spoon half way to her mouth, when she made her decision. It was rash and irrational, but if Peter needed her, she couldn't deny him. She got up from the table and dropped the dishes to the sink, grabbing her coat and car keys from the small table next to the door and left her quiet apartment behind.

XXX

She drove to the Bishop's house and was soon knocking on the door. It was only 10 PM and the lights were still on as she nervously waited for someone to open the door. It was Walter who appeared a smoothie in his hand.

"Agent Dunham! What a delight! Please come in. I will get you one of these lovely smoothies I just made", Walter greeted her enthusiastically smiling and disappeared to the kitchen, leaving Olivia to close the door behind her.

She followed Walter to the kitchen trying to locate Peter on her way, but he didn't seem to be around.

"Walter, I'm looking for Peter. Is he home?", Olivia asked getting a smoothie shoved into her hand when Walter turned around.

Walter seemed thoughtful for a while and answered, "I vaguely recall him saying that he was going to bed" and then a wide smile appeared on his face, "You know where his bedroom is. I'm sure he will be delighted to get a visit from you."

Walter ushered her up the stairs and Olivia couldn't really do anything else than climb the stairs with a smoothie in her hand. She was shaking her head at Walter's antics and was pondering the man's ability to kill someone with seemingly cold blood and then get excited about a smoothie the next second.

Olivia found Peter's bedroom and noticed that the lights were out. Maybe he was already sleeping, he had been looking very tired. Olivia was debating with herself whether to peek in as she was worried, but Peter did need his sleep. When she heard a muffled shout and a loud bang, she charged in without any further thought.

The room was dark, the curtains slightly open letting faint moonlight in. Peter sat upright on the bed, his eyes wide with terror while massaging his head after banging it at the headboard. He visibly flinched when he set his eyes on Olivia and she could hear him murmur, "So they finally started." This didn't make any sense.

"Peter, are you alright?", Olivia asked softly while coming in further to the room.

Peter's head came up and what he said made cold shivers go down Olivia's back, "You are real?"

"Yes, I'm real. Peter, what's going on?", she answered worriedly and came to stand next to Peter on the bed. She sat down putting the smoothie on the night table and took her time to really look at him and what she saw made the worry increase exponentially.

Peter looked haggard, he hadn't shaved for several days, his eyes were blood shot with a hint of terror and fear still lingering on and in any other circumstances the way his hair was sticking up all over the place would have been adorable. But what was most worrying was the confusion in his eyes and he looked like he had been drugged and was deep under their spell.

Peter looked at her confused and gingerly touched her cheek, while she stayed utterly still, her eyes transfixed on Peter. He seemed to come to the conclusion that she really was real as he withdrew his hand and almost visibly shook himself.

"What are you doing here?", he asked with a gravelly voice from sleep while going back to rub his head.

"I was worried about you", Olivia explained simply, "and it looks like I had a good reason to", she concluded.

"What is going on?", she asked again.

Peter was avoiding her eyes now and seemed to hesitate what to answer. Olivia gave him time as she didn't want to push. Finally Peter looked up and his eyes were bare. There wasn't any sign that he was holding anything back and the turbulence took her breath away.

Peter haltingly told her about his problems with sleeping and his theory behind it. He told her almost whispering, how afraid he was that the virus was still hiding and that if the after effect wouldn't go away, how he was afraid that he would hurt her again.

"Peter, you won't hurt me", Olivia tried to reassure him while trying to re-establish eye contact. When Peter finally looked back at her, she could see the wetness gathering in his eyes and if that shocked her, it was nothing compared to what he said.

"Olivia, I can't live with myself if I hurt you. I want to protect you, to cherish you. My worst nightmare is that I somehow hurt you. And that virus didn't leave anything unclear, it wanted to hurt you", Peter brokenly said and looked down at his hands again.

Olivia was left stunned. She hadn't expected to hear anything like this from Peter and was caught completely unprepared. Her initial instinct was to run, but she brutally squashed it. She would be here for Peter and they would sort this out first. Together. Then she could analyse his words more carefully.

Peter seemed to expect her to run, which just showed how well the man knew her. He lowered himself back down on the bed turning his back on her, but Olivia could tell that he was trying to control his breathing and probably trying to not to cry. She finally understood how tired he must be if he couldn't control his feelings any more as Peter had a steely self control in normal circumstances.

Olivia didn't over analyse too much about her actions but let herself do what came naturally. What she wanted to do. So she stood up, shrugged her coat off from her shoulders and kicked her shoes off.

She lifted the end of the duvet and slipped next to Peter, which caused him to stiffen in surprise. What shocked him to his core and also surprised Olivia herself, was when she scooted closer until she was spooning him, holding him close to her. She stroked his hair in calming, gentle strokes and said, "Go to sleep Peter. I will guard over you."

She could feel Peter relaxing in her embrace and before long she could feel wetness on her arm as Peter's tears fell freely. She tightened her grip and nuzzled closer to his neck while Peter responded by covering her hands with his pulling her closer. He wasn't ready to face her yet, so she didn't even try to turn him around.

When she could feel that he was sinking into sleep, she pressed a feathery kiss against his neck and closed her own eyes snuggling closer if that was even possible and fell promptly asleep.

They both missed Walter peeking around the door as Olivia hadn't closed it properly in her haste to get in. He smiled somewhat sadly at the sleeping couple and quietly closed the door.

The end