Something of Value

[notes] Ugh so does not recognize my formatting. This is a re-upload of the same story, which is pretty old. I guess even back in season 1 I was writing about Olivia's conversations with people who aren't there. I was trying to do something interesting with the tenses in the sections of the story but that's really neither here nor there. Pre "The Transformation".

The lab was wet. The first thing she noticed when stepping into it was the large puddle right in front of the doorway (she managed to evade this with only a little bit of stumbling, no mean feat for the size of the puddle) and the second thing she noticed was Walter.

Walter, who was soaked, hair plastered to his head, was wearing a snorkel that was in a particularly loud shade of pink, looked up at her, grinning. "Olivia, my dear! What spectacular timing!"

"Walter, you called me." Astrid was towelling off her hair, though the rest of her looked pretty dry. "What happened here?"

Peter emerged from the back, pulling on what looked like to be a new shirt. "Trust me," he said, "you don't want to know."

"Science happened here!" Walter said excitedly, "pure, undiluted science! Though admittedly, in the attempt, much of the room became a bit diluted in itself, oh and the experiment in itself of course had the key factor of dilution…but no matter! The end justifies the means and all!" he pushed up the snorkel over his head, and came closer to her. "And all of the equipment is just one rather costly replacement away!"

"Yes, but," where did she start? "That still doesn't explain what happened, Walter."

"Have you heard of water memory? It's the theory that states that water retains a memory of the particles contained in it even after it has been diluted to a point that the probability that any such particle remains is slim to none! I myself conducted experiments on being able to reverse engineer such particles in the past, and once the experiment was duly conducted here, today, I was able to figure out what it was in the water that had killed poor Mr…uh…."

"McLean." She closed her eyes but could still see it. The bathtub where he had been discovered was red with his blood, and his skin had melted off, but there had been no evidence of any chemical. There was just a body. Who appeared to have been at the peak of good health until its skin had literally dissolved.

Walter beamed. "Yes, yes of course! Using the apparatus I constructed—" he waved his hand at what looked to be something remarkably similar to a scaled down version of the tea cup rides at the amusement park, "I first diluted the water—"

"The diluting got a bit messy," Astrid interrupted, finishing with the towel, and moving over to rummage on one of the desks (her movements were making a sloshing sound).

"—then shook—"

"That…got a little messy too." Peter came up behind her. His hair was still wet. She smiled a little in greeting, and at the mental image.

"—If you must insist on interrupting me I see little hope of being able to adequately explain my methods—"

"It's okay, Walter," Peter said, "she's got the gist of it. Anyways. Here is the toxin that Walter found in the water. Or, not in the water…" he handed over a slip of paper. She glanced down at it. Nothing she could understand but—

"The water remembered the toxin!"

"And here," Astrid said, holding another slip of paper aloft triumphantly, "is the list of places in Boston that commercially make the chemical." She splashed over to Olivia and pressed a damp piece of paper into her hand. "Now I," she continued, "am going to go find a mop. Many mops."

"And some saltwater taffy!" Walter said, "find some of that as well please."

Olivia scanned the list. Factory, factory, pharmaceutical—wait. "Horizon Pharmaceuticals," she said slowly, "that's the workplace of…"

"The wife," Peter finished. "Thought you ought to know."

"Yes," she said, already fumbling in her jacket for her phone, "thank you." She pressed a button, and heard her phone dial the familiar numbers. She looked back up. Peter was smiling at her, a small smile.

"Guess who holds the patent for the chemical. One guess. Just one."

"Massive Dynamic." She breathed, ringing in her ear.

His smile turned warm, and she forgot to inhale. "Ding ding ding," he said quietly.

"Livvy?" Charlie said into her ear. She broke her gaze with Peter with a start. "What's up?"

"Charlie, Walter identified the toxin. It's being manufactured at Horizon Pharmaceuticals. I'm heading over there right now. Have backup meet me over there. I'm going to see if I can take Sophie in alive."

"You got it, Liv," and disconnected.

She stepped over the puddle in front of the door in one bound, and just barely heard Peter's "Be careful out there!" over the rush of adrenaline in her ears.

John is sitting in her favourite chair when she comes home. She pauses for a second, then noisily hangs up her jacket. It's this new thing she's trying out. Namely, ignoring him.

She heads into the kitchen to make herself a cup of tea and seriously contemplate something stronger, and when she turns after getting the teapot out of the cupboard, John is there, leaning on her counter, not one foot away. She stifles a scream.

He smiles at her, and her stomach does that upside down thing it always does whenever he smiled at her. "Hello, Liv," he says gently.

He's close enough to touch this time, close enough so that if she wanted to she could reach out and feel his shirt, his skin, so instead what she does is close her eyes.

She inhales, exhales, tells herself very firmly that he's not there, that Olivia Dunham, you can do this, then opens her eyes. John is still smiling at her, but now there's a quizzical tilt to his eyebrows.

She brushes past him without making contact and makes her tea, trying to pretend that the shaking in her hands is normal.

He follows her into the bathroom. She pauses there, tea steaming in one hand, and suddenly doesn't know how to proceed. Their eyes meet in the mirror, and she's overcome with the urge to laugh at this situation.

John holds out one hand. "Hey don't mind me, Liv. I won't look." John alive would have added something naughty to that. He would have bridged the distance that stood between them and lifted up her shirt himself, and pressed his smile into her neck. John dead was the perfect gentleman. John the ghost, John the hallucination turned around without a further word.

"It's not you," she says out loud, breaking her new thing unceremoniously. Oh well. It had been a good twenty minutes, "It's the bathtub…" John doesn't move.

So she takes the hint and shakes the image of Allan McLean skinless in a red bathtub out of her head, and while she's at it, shimmies out of her clothes too.

John turns around the second the bubbles are high enough to offer her an adequate amount of modesty, and sits down on the floor beside the tub. She reaches for her cup of tea and his eyes follow her hand.

"Bad day?"

"Long day." She takes a sip of her tea. "The suspect is in custody, though."

"I'd have gone for something a tad stronger," he confides.

And suddenly, she's done with it. She can't pretend that this is a normal thing for her, that seeing him there, everywhere is a normal thing for her. She can't talk to him like nothing's changed, even though she wants to. She just …can't.

"John what are you doing here? What do you want?"

He smiles again. "Just spending some time with my girl."

She closes her eyes for a second, opens them, and he's gone. Just like that. She takes it all in for a second, the empty bathroom, the space where he was sitting a moment before, where her dead traitor of a lover was doing his best to rip her heart out, then climbs out of her tub in search of something a tad stronger.

Peter will be talking to Astrid when she comes in the next morning, but will turn as soon as he's noticed her, and smile. "How'd it go last night?" he'll say, and through the turn of his body Astrid will give her a quick smile before returning to her forms.

She'll swallow and force herself to say, "Fine. As well as could be expected. Sophie McLean is in custody, but she's not talking. I'm on my way over to see what I can do, but I wanted to see how you guys were making out."

"Walter wasn't kidding about expensive replacements," Astrid will say, "We're lucky I thought to back up the files before he conducted his…experiment, but it seems like most of the computers are destroyed."

"Who knew that stupid thing had so much shaking power?" Peter'll nod to the teacup thing, and Walter will emerge from the back.

"The shaking is the most vital aspect of the water memory theory! Without it we just have a large quantity of useless solvent!" He'll offer the box in his hand to her. "Saltwater taffy?"

She'll smile at him and shake her head. "Thank you, no. I'm not sure exactly what happened here yesterday, but whatever you guys did, we caught our killer. So…"

"Always bring a spare set of clothes to the lab," Peter will say, going up to her, "Lesson learned. No harm done." He'll take one of her hands. His hand will be warm. "Olivia, are you okay?"

She'll plaster on a smile. "Yes. Yes I'm fine."

He'll hold on for just a tad too long. "Are you sure?"

"Of course I am." And her smile will turn genuine. "Pink snorkel?" she'll whisper.

He'll make a face. "Don't ask. Just—don't ask."

On the way out, John will start to walk behind her. She can hear it in the echo of her footsteps, his will sound after, just enough after so that she knows he's there. She will not turn around.