A/N I really appreciate all of the feedback I have had along the way for this, my first effort at a multi chapter fic (and possibly the longest thing I've written since my dissertation!) I feel like I left this story not quite finished. And as such am throwing in a final chapter to close it down. Its written in a slightly different style to the first few chapters – purposely done but I'd love to know what you think and whether it works.
There is a companion to this story. A one shot from one of the other key players point of view. It is called Surety Lost. Go have a look.
As ever characters are not mine and are borrowed lovingly with no claims being made.
On day fifty six against a backdrop of Tubular Bells a friendly but heated debate is underway in the lab under the Kresge Building when the two technicians arrive with a body. It is the thirteenth time the two men have been in the lab and she can't help but wonder whether they get paid extra to deal with the team, Whether the lab is just a little too unorthodox for most of their colleagues. After a chat and debrief with a now maniacally excited Walter the men leave and she slips out behind them, keen to take a break before the detail of the new case overrides and desperate for a moments silence. The two men are talking and she moves slowly, interested in what she might hear yet not wanting to be caught eavesdropping.
"How many times have we been there now Jim?"
"Gotta be sixteen. Easy. They're a funny bunch alright, but they must be good otherwise we'd be at the morgue a mite more often."
"I thought for a while we wouldn't be back here anymore – couple of months back when the blonde all but disappeared, was never around I didn't think Dr Bishop would be allowed to carry on. After all she's the one in charge."
"I think I'd miss them if we didn't get to pop over here from time to time so I'm glad she's back. Not bad to look at either, hey?"
She sits down abruptly on a bench and ignoring the complement replays the conversation she has just heard and what it might mean. For the fifth time she is forced to revaluate her assumptions about Her, about this missing time. Realises that whilst she has grieved for the taint the other woman has brought to her life, whilst her things and aspirations are undoubtedly contaminated there has not been quite the wholesale occupation she had imagined. The weight lifts a little more.
The afternoon of day sixty two sees them checking into a hotel in New Orleans. They don't often trav el so far and Walter has been expounding hypotheses around brainwaves and meditation for long enough that she has a throbbing headache and has managed to almost tune him out. She guiltily glances at the amenities board whilst making noncommittal, yet hopefully encouraging noises and is relieved to see there is an outdoor swimming pool.
Twenty minutes later she has just made her third turn, feeling her muscles stretch and her habitual calm descend as she finds her breathing pattern when the otherwise still water implodes as a large male body cannonballs into the main pool. Through her goggles she is astonished to see Peter wave at her. She splutters and surfaces. Surprised.
Head clearly above water, he is pushing his hair back off his forehead, eyes scrunched but grinning widely.
"Thought I'd come and join you." An eyebrow raises in a silent challenge as he pulls himself to the edge.
Five strokes and she is holding the side of the pool next to him, "How did you know where I was?"
"You're where you always are when we check into a hotel like this," he smiles. It's a deceptively innocent smile, "Did you think I didn't know? Come on. As you were." In a surge he pushes off from the wall and into an enthusiastic front crawl, splashing violently.
She cannot help but smile, amused by this small intrusion into her life.
Day seventy one is her bi-annual review with Broyles. As she prepares for the meeting in her once again rarely used office in the Federal Building she wonders how they're going to handle her being measured on someone else's performance. Wonders whether it is hysteria or healing that brings the smile to her lips as she imagines challenging the outcome on the grounds it was based on the efforts of an identical interloper from another dimension, another world.
Broyles looks intimidatingly formal as he welcomes her into his office with a brisk "Agent Dunham." It quickly evaporates as he shares one of his rare smiles, "I'm glad to see you looking healthier, more well rested Olivia." He nods and leans forward, " Now lets get rid of the elephant in the room shall we? I think I know you well enough to know that you will have reviewed all of the files submitted by...ah...er...during your absence. What I think you are now ready to hear is that she did an okay job. This in conjunction with the excellent work from you over the rest of this reporting period means you will carry forward last half's great result. Unofficially however I need to tell you," he pauses and forces eye contact, "and you need to hear. All she managed was okay. I was starting to become concerned that you'd lost your spark. I didn't push it because I knew the impact crossing over had on your health the first time and wanted to give you some time. I thought it might be worse second time round. Now of course, and since you came back to us I am desperately sorry I didn't push harder. Didn't act. I thought I was helping you and I did the opposite. I'm hoping we can put it fully behind us and move on."
She is astounded by the apology, by how well he has understood her unarticulated fear that even as a double agent She was a better agent. A more valuable part of the team. Someone who is missed. If the apology is a surprise so too is the response she finds comes naturally, without guile, "It's fine Sir really. I didn't understand at first but I think I do now and it really is okay."
She thinks she may believe it.
Day seventy seven and she's driving them back from Hartford where they have left Walter and Astrid at one of Massive Dynamic facilities that they had only found out once Walter 'took over'. The traffic is light and she is supremely conscious of Peter in the passenger seat. Of the fact that Walter is not with them; that they are alone for the first time in ten days. Peter is skilled in facing forward and yet focusing fully on her. She can feel his attention and has caught his eye on the four times she's looked over at him. Unlike previous weeks his gaze is unconcerned, not filled with worry and feels a lot like the looks he took to throwing around after the ill-fated Jacksonville trip. As then she finds herself warming with silent anticipation of what that might mean.
Day seventy eight and she is less hopeful. The morning of her birthday dawns with a threatening looking sky. She arrives at work to find the lab doors locked and chained – a sign on the door noting a dangerous spillage being cleared away and barring entry. She is flummoxed on how this has happened with Walter two hours away and out of trouble. A phone call to Peter adds to her frustration levels and gives her a pang. He has obviously forgotten what the day means,
"Can't talk now Livia." he cuts her off before she can even formulate her thoughts, "I'm in the middle of something. I'm going to take the day off. I know what's happened - aan you not just work at the Federal Building?"
Frustrated she heads back across the city. Only the lack of post in her in tray eases her jangling nerves and she throws herself into a pile of paperwork pushing all thoughts of the day to one side.
She arrives at home as the light is fading, puddles and pooling water making the drive treacherous. She is relieved to pull into her street but confused to see the familiar sight of the Bishop car opposite her building. Forgoing an umbrella she stalks across the road and raps sharply on the passenger window. Peter, surrounded by empty coffee cups, sandwich and candy packets, leans across to unlock the door and let her in. She slides into the seat and surveys what is clearly the detritus of a stakeout, wondering what on earth to say. Peter breaks the silence,
"When you go in you shouldn't panic. One of my," he pauses and throws her a wry half smile, "contacts is in the back yard and there's someone else upstairs. Both of them are acquired tastes but I'd prefer you didn't shoot them."
"The lab?" It isn't the question she wants to ask but it's the only one she can form as her brain kicks into gear.
"Ah yes. He is clearly embarrassed. " Sorry not really a spillage. Just wanted to make it a bit difficult to get into and make sure the campus security guards were more alert than they usually are."
The pieces fall into place and whilst history tells her there is nothing that can stop her stepfather she is touched by the efforts he has gone to and doesn't know what to say. She thinks, skimming her hand across the top of his,
"Thank you. Enough now though." She pauses, "Do you want to come in? Maybe get a pizza?"
He pauses. He woke up in her apartment less than eighty days ago and yet she had not invited him in for over a hundred days. The memory of this betrayal of trust tortures him still, and her too he thinks, as he watches her chew her lip as she ponders her offer. It's now his turn to lay his hand over hers and squeeze. Today doesn't feel like the right day to face that set of demons. He peers out of the rain hammered windscreen, "Do you mind if I take a rain check. I'm liking the view from here right now?"
She is both disappointed and relieved by his answer. The adrenalin spikes and makes her giggle at the poor pun. She pauses once more and leans over and gently brushes a kiss against his cheek so softly he isn't sure if he felt it, imagined it or wished it. Her eyes flick to his and flick away again and she whispers, "Goodnight Peter. Thanks." Runs to the house with its empty post box and door mat and smiles thinking of her avenging scientist guarding the door.
Day ninety and they've closed a horrific case. They have worked around the clock and are shaken and sickened and in desperate need of unwinding. Walter has a plan involving a fruit trifle ice cream concoction he had read about in the restaurant pages and Astrid has been talked into being a co-conspirator. Peter has decided to call in his rain check from two weeks earlier and surprised and exhausted Olivia has agreed.
She breathes deeply as she opens the door to him, welcomes him in. She notes his eyes quickly taking in the changes she has made. Enough for her to have reaffirmed her ownership but without wholesale change.
"I come bearing gifts" He waves a bottle of red wine in one hand and produces a box from behind his back in his other, "and the piece de resistance for a mindless night, Ipresent you Yatzee. A game that allows you to play with the numbers and gives me scant satisfaction of almost gambling. What say you?"
She laughs as he shuts the door behind him, "I say – damn the phone!" she moves off into her bedroom as he tried to avert his eyes – doesn't wnat to think about when he was last there, "do you want to open the wine and get set up while I sort this. Hey Rach, you okay?"
She leans against the wall listening to her sister and watches him move around her apartment. She is pleased that her mind isn't playing games with her, presenting her with visions of what might have happened. He shucks off his coat and throws it carelessly over a chair leaving the box on the coffee table. As he moves into the kitchen she finds herself drifting to watch him. He cracks the screwcap on the wine and puts it on the worktop. She is no longer listening to her sister as the memory hits her. As if it were yesterday rather than over two months ago she remembers sitting on the floor on the tenth night howling as she realised that the pans, microwave dishes and glassware had all been re-homed in different places. She remembers pulling the contents of all out in frenzy as she slammed everything back to its proper place. She remembers it all now and holds her breadth as Peter opens the right cupboard first time and grabs two big deep wineglasses. She hadn't realised there was a test but there was and he's passed and she laughs, surprising both her sister and Peter.
"Rach I've got to go Peter's going to guzzle all the wine if I don't stop him. Send my love to Ella I'll call on Saturday. Love you." Abruptly she ends the call.
"That's a little harsh. I haven't had a drop." He picks up the glasses and carries them to the table and starts to set up the game.
"I know. It's just" she is embarrassed, doesn't want to reopen the wound for herself or for him. Acknowledges fully for the first time she is more interested in moving forward, creating a new future, "I want to get on with the game, with the night," she breathes, looks at him full on and flashes one of her rare smiles, "with our lives."