NOTE: This is a rewrite. After re-reading the first draft, I wasn't really happy with it and wished I spent a little more time with it. But, I still like the idea, so here's a second shot. Hope you find it worthwhile. Someone reviewed that it sounded like I swallowed a dictionary, but in all honesty, that's just how I write at times. However, I don't like the construction and, in general, this is probably one of my worst attempts at a serious or reflective piece. Thanks for the criticism and here's hoping you like the rewrite better.
This is an alternate ending (read: slightly AU) to Season 2's episode 7, "Of Human Action," where Peter suffers brain trauma from the intentional accident and Olivia struggles to cope with it.
Warning: Rated T for language. In my mind, Olivia's inner monologue has a lot of swear words. Not sure why.
I hope you enjoy. And if not, I hope you find some joy elsewhere,
The lights from the ambulance thudded against the back of her skull in some weird, epileptic rhythm as it drove away with the unconscious kid. Some kind of abstinent terror glued her feet to the grass. All of the hallucinogens and caffeinated lack of sleep required by the job must have finally busted the brim of her sanity; this had to be a perverted daydream or a shitty joke her mind tried to make from the horrors that haunt her at night.
Peter was not moving.
Please, God. Please tell me I'm hallucinating.
Her partner was on the grass with a bloodied head, a boneless body lost in a sea of frenzied feet. No one was stopping to help in their hurry, no one except the only person here just as likely to be hallucinating as she was.
"Peter, wake up, son," Olivia heard Walter breathe. "Peter, please. Wake up."
Walter shook Peter by the shoulders before cradling his face in his hands, she could hear him choking on the tears.
"Son, please, wake up. Just wake up!" Walter screamed. "Help! Peter, please. Help, anybody!"
"Medic," she said mechanically, her military faculties taking over while she continued to cry helplessly in her mind. Her feet were already moving towards her apparently dead partner before the real terror dropeds into the basin of her stomach.
"Medic!" she screamed, her voice finally catching up with her horror. "We need a goddamned medic here! Now!"
When no one responded to her curse-riddled demands, she lassoed an EMT by the collar with her fist and threw him towards Peter. After stumbling forward, the EMT realized that there's a lifeless lump of a man on the ground and stuck two fingers on his pulse point before yelling for his fellows.
"No pulse! We need another ambulance over here!"
Olivia dropped to her knees next to Walter, and it's a latent compassion that made her grab his hand as he was pushed back from his son. He rocked, back and forth, side to side, with hysteria spilling all over his face. Her face was frozen in a painful grip on her sanity, but inside, she wailed along with Walter.
"Not my son, please. Don't take him, don't take him, don't take him!" Walter cried, all in one breath.
Don't take him.
The medic screamed, "He's not breathing!" before the chest compressions started.
1, 2, 3, 4...
"Please! Oh, God! Please!"
7, 8, 9...
Another EMT dropped next to Peter with a defibrillator, the machine whining morosely as they try to revive him as precious seconds trickle away.
One pump of electricity, his back arched violently, and Olivia's heart surged with hope. He crumpled, and she was sure a little piece of her was withering with each failed attempt to shove breath back into his lungs. It wasn't until the fourth try that the EMTs jump to their feet.
"We've got a beat! Move!"
Peter was gathered and piled onto a gurney and Olivia shoved Walter into the back of an ambulance to accompany his barely breathing son to the emergency room. She's left with the most disturbing notion of abandonment and a sickening belief that this, all of it, was her fault. And she knew that no guilty motivation, no self-loathsome sense of duty would help her make it right.
She followed the ambulance to the hospital, flashed her credentials without stopping to bother with the hospital personnel. When she entered the hall, she felt like she stepped into a wormhole into a world where time must be meaningless, because it wouldn't move. A warped reality hellbent on punishing her for the guilt she couldn't quite explain to herself.
It must have been hours since she first opened the door to his hospital room, the sight of a comatose Peter swaddled in breathing tubes and bandages more than to still her pursuit. Walter had long since been carted back to some safe haven she didn't bother to ask about. She stood alone, watching the blips on the pulse line of his cardiac monitor. Each mechanical bleat paired itself with a crescendo of grief and guilt in her. The gulp she forced down her esophagus sounded like an explosion, a nuclear blasts that rose from the back of her throat to the top of her skull, amplified by the silence in the sepulchre-like room. She couldn't find it in herself to take a step towards him, to touch him, to know if his body was still warm and if he was still alive under this blanketing coma. There was a divide here she couldn't cross for fear the depth of it might unapologetically and rightfully consume her. Worst of all was the certainty, the quantifiable absolute that she caused this. If someone were to design a riddle to divine the rhyme or reason for this carnage, the compass needle would always chase her and her compulsion to flee. She knew it, knew how but not why.
She considered him from her post near the door and she could feel the anger and contrition thinking about how Tyler invaded him and commanded all the control that she knows Peter has to had to function. She could almost hear the latent conscience housed in his amygdala, screaming at him for the things he had done, breaking the strings that play the tune that informs everything that he is and has become. Shooting Broyles, attacking the officer, and whatever other god-forsaken horrific mandates the kid shoved him through in his sick puppet show. She cursed herself for not noticing that he had been taken and, fate or God or whatever unseeable forces pull those strings, she wanted it to go fuck itself.
She imagined cracks running through the marbled identity the past year has crafted for him, and she could feel her heart breaking. There was something osmotic, deafening and suffocating, about the sorrow of losing him and this fortress they had built for themselves over the last two years. She could feel the bricks falling with each pulse of the monitor. Because if he was broken, then surely she would break, too?
She swerved back out the door, to the bathroom or anywhere there wasn't a dying man in front of her, objectified by compassion that she didn't think she could articulate, not even to herself. Care for him was laced so firmly under her skin, she had long since stopped trying to deny it existed.
But of one thing, she was certain: this was not love. Love was an unearned impossibility at this point. A million reasons that the world kept pushing through like daisies through dirt would never let her love him like she had tried to love John Scott. Two incompatible pasts shouldn't and couldn't make a happy future. This was a contract bonded by necessity and fortified by guilt-ridden amendments. And it was a monster raging inside of her head and gut that she didn't even know how to begin to tame.
She stopped in the mercifully empty hallway, her echoing footfalls finally catching up to her. She imagined a shelled cynical version Peter from years past telling her that love does not exist. Not really.
It is a social coping device, he would tell her, an anthropological leveling mechanism meant to separate our instinctual habits from our animalistic fellows. A badge that we give to hormonal impulses simply because they are human.
It was something akin to an epiphany when she realizds that she could never actually imagine him saying this, not now, and how remarkable the change in him was. He's been all civic duty and good intentions for as long as she's known him once the acrimony fell away. He was a human case study against the tenants misanthropy.
Behind every cynic is a frustrated romantic.
The reality of it scraped up the dregs of digestion and shoved them back up her esophagus; she emptied the curdled food and compunction into a bystanding trash can from the weight of it. Peter was mortally maimed while his sociopathic abductor rolled away with the slightest of injuries. When Peter swerved the car, he purposely angled the damage away from the kid. Even after his killing spree, Peter put more value in Tyler's life than his own.
It was a stifling slice of humanity, so pure it was painful. And she didn't know how she never allowed herself to see it before now, how she kept convincing herself that Peter was nothing more than a habitual cynic with marginal potential to be a better man. He'd broken through that ceiling a long time ago. She was suddenly ashamed of her ignorance, because the man deserved better. Maybe he always had. She didn't know anymore, and she didn't know how to even begin to atone for it.
It was suffocating in its omnipotence in her metaphorically fractured skull, a lone thought politicking to a quieted amphitheatre.
She noiselessly pushed back into stifling silence of his room and wished she could just hear him speak one simple word, and it wouldn't matter which one it was. She sat in the chair Walter refused to vacate hours earlier, taking only a little solace in the rhythm of his slow breathing. She remembered the first reality slap this clusterfucked attraction provided. She had wandered into the lab in January. Already breathless from the chill, she had almost stopped breathing when she first saw him that day, hovering over a slug with a plastic bagel knife and a pink apron.
"Olivia?" he found his way to her collapsed side to find her in a phthisic fit of laughter. "What in the hell are you laughing about?"
"You-you're operating with a plastic utensil and pink bakery garb," she stuttered out before erupting into another series of unfettered giggles. That day had been consumed in the flames of hell, and Peter's absurdity absolved it.
"I couldn't find the scalpel," he said weakly.
"Oh, shit, Peter," she almost cried from the force of her amusement. "I just saw your dad scrape someone off the sidewalk and try to have a normal conversation with Broyles, and somehow this is the most bizarre thing I've seen today."
She flattened to the floor on her back, letting the convulsive laughter roll over her, and it was intoxicating and infectious. Peter, kneeling beside her, finally joined her. And they laughed for awhile, like children without a burdensome past. She looked at him, the simple joy on his face was somehow beyond a qualifiable value. It was then, she now knew, that the job had become pointless without him. The sweetness of the memory mixed with her contrition and grief, a temperamental cocktail that boiled up from the bottom of her heart and blights the lining of her throat.
And it burned up every molecular piece of her body, every single cell lighting itself on fire in self-loathing arson, more than any bitterness or guilt she had ever thrown at herself.
She wrapped her fingers around his inanimate hand, trying to squeeze life from what felt like fading warmth.
"How could I tell you to be a better man than your father when you were already better than all of us?" she choked, pressing the back of his hand to her forehead. "I'm so sorry, Peter."