It's six o'clock on a Friday evening, and she's actually closed the case before midnight. There's a spring in her step as she heads toward the lab, keys jangling, mind already chasing after visions of pajama pants and a glass of wine over that novel she's been trying to finish for the past three weeks. Mm, she can almost taste it. But first, she's got to check in with Walter and the gang, tie up any loose ends.
Tugging off her scarf, Olivia slips into the lab. They are all there – Peter, Astrid, and Walter – scattered around to their various stations, Gene in her corner chewing the cud. Olivia sidles over to the table where Astrid is working.
"Agent Dunham!" Her assistant turns, revealing the pile of yellow goo spread before her.
Olivia rears back. "Oh, God – what is that?"
Astrid chuckles and goes back to pawing around. The stuff is all over her hands. Her bare hands. "It's chicken."
"Mhmm. Walter decided to make dinner tonight, but only agreed to leave out his enhanced poppyseeds if I promised to "divest the bird of its flesh" for him." Astrid raises her eyebrows. "Apparently, he has bad memories when it comes to deboning chicken."
Olivia makes a face. "Well, I don't blame him."
Astrid just smiles and shakes her head.
Tossing a final, frowning glance at the chicken, Olivia heads over to Peter's table, where he's slouched on a stool, reading. A pot rattles over the Bunsen burners in front of him, and Olivia is careful to stand clear of the spitting water.
"Hey," she says.
Peter looks up, a smile warming his eyes when he sees her. "Hey yourself. You're just in time for dinner. Walter's making poppyseed chicken." He gestures to the pot. "I'm in charge of the rice."
"Yeah?" Olivia crosses her arms. "I'm not sure I have much of an appetite after what I just saw."
"Ah. You found Walter's latest project." Peter lowers his book and adjusts the flames under the pot, spins the lid a few times. "I told him he shouldn't have left it out for everyone to see, but he insisted that it needed "the warmer environment." Apparently, mold can't grow just anywhere. I believe his exact wording included the phrase you squeamish dimwit."
Peter looks up. "You didn't see it?"
She shakes her head.
"He's got a whole museum set up over there – the oldest mold in Harvard, he's calling it. He found his sock collection. In the plumbing."
"Okay, that's disgusting."
Peter frowns. "Wait a minute – if you didn't know about the sock collection, what made you lose your appetite?"
"Huh? Oh – that." She points to Astrid.
"That's what killed your hunger?"
"Uh-huh." She props her hip against the table. "Why's that so surprising?"
"Are you kidding? After all the disgusting things we've seen on this job, dead chicken is what makes you sick?"
"It's not that it makes me sick. It's just… gross."
Peter laughs, shaking his head, then laughs some more. "You know, I'd call flesh melting off bodies and exploding heads gross, but chicken? No."
"Really? It doesn't bother you?"
He shoots her a look.
"All those little bones, the fat?" Olivia shudders.
"You've seriously never deboned a chicken before?"
"Oh, I had to do it all the time. My mom would throw one in the crockpot every Friday morning, and I'd have to debone it when I got home from school. It was disgusting. I finally made my sister do it."
"You have a sister?"
She cuts him a look. "Yeah. Rachel. Have I never told you before?"
Peter shakes his head. "Nope."
He laughs. "Dunham, you hardly tell me anything about your personal life. I had to drag that story about your stepfather out by its teeth."
Olivia drops her gaze and taps her scarf against her fingers.
"Sorry," Peter apologizes after a moment. "I guess that was a little insensitive."
"No, you're right," she says, darting him a look. "I'm not very forthcoming, am I?"
He studies her for a long moment, then stands and tosses his book aside, twists off the burners and slides the pot onto a pile of hot pads. "Are you thirsty?" he asks, already reaching for his coat.
"Thirsty. You know, like drinks. A bar. You wanna go?"
Olivia's brow dips. "Are you asking me out, Mr. Bishop?"
"Are you turning me down, Agent Dunham?"
She smiles at that, lopsidedly, and gives a little shake of her head. "Okay. But only if I can pick the bar."
"Deal." He slides into his coat. "Hey, Walter – the rice is done. I put it on these potholders over here."
"Excellent," Walter says, rubbing his hands together. "Now, I need you to help me with this cream of chicken. The taste isn't quite right…"
"Uh, that would be a no. I'm going out."
Walter turns, eyebrows drawing together. "Out? But you can't go out now!"
Peter sighs. "Yes, I can, Walter. And I will." He looks over at Olivia and jerks his head toward the door. She bites back a smile and follows, winding her scarf around her neck as she goes.
"You're a terrible sous chef, Peter!" Walter shouts after them, but he's soon distracted by something in the lab, because they hear a gasp, followed by, "No, no, no, Astrix, not like that! You must get all of the meat. Here, allow me to demonstrate." Crack.
Olivia winces. Peter laughs as the lab door slams shut behind them.
"What?" She feigns offense. "It's disgusting."
"It's dead chicken."
"Oh my gosh, Dunham, really?"
She laughs, ruefully. "I'm never gonna live this down, am I?"
"Fantastic. Now get in the car."
The bar she's picked it one brick short of decrepit, a crumbling-faced hole in the wall that looks suitable for rats and an abundance of spider webs, but little else. Peter surveys the premises with a raised brow as Olivia parks the car.
"Sure you didn't take a wrong turn, there, Dunham?"
She laughs and unbuckles her seatbelt. "It's fabulous, best beer in Boston," she laughs. "I promise. And if you're still not impressed, I'll pay the bill."
"How generous," he quips, climbing out. "You didn't strike me as a beer person, though."
She shoots him a look. "I'm not."
She says it with such confidence that he stumbles, almost falling down the stairs in the process.
"Careful," she laughs, catching him by the elbow.
Peter rights himself and straightens his jacket. "What kind of bar has steps going down before you even get in the door?"
"It's an intoxication meter," Olivia explains, grabbing the handle before he can reach it. "If a customer can't make it up the stairs, Larry calls them a cab."
"The bartender." She shrugs.
"I see. And are you speaking from experience?"
"Nah, I never get drunk," she says, sailing through the doorway. "Not since freshman year."
"College or high school?" he shoots back, but she merely raises an eyebrow.
Peter shakes his head and follows her into the bar, admiring the confidence in her stride. It's like she owns the place. Or has spent a lot of hours here. Peter studies her cascade of blonde hair and wonders what could drive such a gorgeous woman to spend her weekends drinking, and in a place like this, no less. He shakes his head. Or maybe you're just sticking your nose where it doesn't belong, Bishop.
"You'll want the house brew," Olivia murmurs as he slides onto the stool beside her. "Trust me."
"Fair enough," he mutters.
Olivia leans forward, elbows on the bar, and jerks her chin. "Hey, Larry – what's keeping you so long?" she yells.
"Hold your damn horses!" a voice hollers, and then a grizzled barkeep bangs out of the kitchen, wiping gnarled hands on his apron. "Young people these days," he grouses, limping over to the counter. "No respect for their elders, I tell you. None. Zip. Nada!"
"Aw, I'm hurt."
Larry stops his tirade and looks up. "Olivia!" A smile breaks out across his face. "You sly little – why, I haven't seen you in a month of Sundays!"
Olivia grins, grips his hand across the counter. "It's good to see you, too, Larry. How've you been?"
"Oh, the same," the old man sighs, waving a hand in the air. "Sweeping and polishing and brewing. But enough about me. Introduce me to your friend here. I'm Larry," he says immediately, stretching out a hand.
"Peter," Peter laughs, shaking the proffered hand.
"Peter!" Larry exclaims. He turns to Olivia. "Is he your boyfriend?"
Her mouth drops open. "What? Oh, no. No, we're not together. Peter, um – Peter works with me. He's a civilian consultant. At the FBI."
"Ahh," Larry's eyebrows raise. "That must mean you're smart then, eh son?"
Peter breathes a laugh. "Something like that."
"Well, it's nice to meet you," Larry says, clapping his hands. He rubs them together. "What'll it be?"
"I'll have a pint of your house brew," Peter replies, relaxing.
"Excellent. Excellent choice. Coming right up. And you, Olivia?" the barkeep asks, reaching for a glass.
"I'll have my usual," she says, flashing a grin.
Larry pours the drinks and clunks them down onto the counter. Peter notices that Olivia's "usual" includes a bottle next to her shot glass. In-teresting.
"Well, as much as I'd like to stay and chat, I've got some things to clean in the kitchen, so I'll leave you two… coworkers… alone for a while," Larry says.
Olivia returns his smile. "Thanks, Larry. It was good to see you."
The barkeep disappears into the kitchen.
"Ugh," she moans as soon as he's gone, rubbing a hand along her forehead. "I'm sorry, Peter. I forgot to warn you that he likes to do that."
"Do what?" Peter asks, feigning innocence. Better to leave that conversation for another day. Olivia looks relieved.
He tastes the beer. It's good. Really good. "So. Whiskey. Never would've pegged you on that one."
Olivia shrugs. "I'm just full of surprises, aren't I?"
He laughs. "You can say that again."
She sips her drink. "So how is it?" Gesturing to the beer.
"You weren't kidding. It's fabulous." He raises his glass.
They fall silent, nursing their drinks, and Peter takes the chance to study his surroundings. It's small. Husky lighting. Empty. Four booths and seven tables, each with two chairs, and not a TV to be found. There's a jukebox in the corner, though, and he's tempted to wander over, until he remembers that he gave Walter his last quarter for the vending machine this morning.
The floor is wooden, with the finish so scuffed up that it's barely there anymore. Warped, too, by the look of it. Peter wonders how many inebriated patrons have broken their noses falling on it.
Really, the only thing impressive about the place is behind the counter, where a glittering array of glasses, bottles, and mugs sits resplendent on the shelves.
As far as bars go, it's a dump.
"So how does a respectable agent like you end up in place like this?" he asks.
Olivia pours herself more whiskey. "A place like what?"
"C'mon, Olivia," he cajoles, gesturing to the empty space. "It's a dump. And it's not in the best neighborhood, either. I'm surprised we didn't get mugged walking in."
"Yeah, well, I have a gun," she says. There's that damn eyebrow again. Yeah, she's not gonna talk.
Peter shakes his head. "Okay. So we'll call it a night on that one." He sips his beer and goes back to surveying the room.
"I have a niece, too."
Her voice is so quiet that he almost misses it. Peter turns. She's fiddling with her shot glass, lips twisted in that funny way of hers, like she wants to say more but is afraid of imposing on him. Which is ridiculous. But, the point is, she needs encouragement.
Olivia nods. "Her name is Ella." A smile. "She's five."
"And I'm assuming this is Rachel's Ella? Unless you have another sibling you haven't told me about." He's careful to keep his tone light as he says that.
Her eyes dart up to his, lips curving a tiny bit. "Yeah, she's Rachel's. They live in Chicago."
"Chicago. Wow." A pause. "So I'm guessing you don't get to see them much."
Olivia ducks her head. "No. The last time I saw them was at Ella's fourth birthday party." She hums a laugh, twirling the glass in her fingers. "We had ladybug cupcakes and drank fruit punch. And Rachel almost set the house on fire, trying to light the candles."
Peter laughs. "No way. A Dunham setting the house on fire? I've got to see this."
Olivia shakes her head, echoes of laughter in her gaze. "Rachel never was one to cook. That's why I always had to do the dirty work – until I figured out that deboning a chicken isn't cooking at all, and then she got saddled with it."
"So your mom taught you to cook, huh?"
"Uh, yeah. I guess you could say that." And suddenly her smile is gone, slipping away. Peter's curiosity rouses, but he forces it down, takes a drink of beer instead.
"So tell me about your sister. Were you guys best friends? enemies?"
"Hah – we were sooo enemies," Olivia replies.
"Mhmm. We hated each other – traded insults like pros." Olivia chuckles. "When we were younger, Rachel used to tell this joke, over and over, just to annoy me." She takes a drink of her whiskey. "It was a knock-knock joke. Well. Sort of."
Olivia nods. "It started off – well, okay. Why did the chicken cross the road?"
"C'mon." She grins. "Why did the chicken cross the road?"
Peter rubs his eyes. "I have no idea. To get to the other side?"
"Nope. To get to the witch's house."
Peter groans. "You've got to be kidding me. That's not even funny."
Peter opens his eyes. "Seriously? That's awful."
"I know!" Olivia laughs.
"She really called you a witch? And with that bad of a joke?"
"Mhmm." Olivia finishes her whiskey. "We did this all the time, too. Rachel was three years younger and a pain in the ass until I went off to college."
"Let me guess – you became best friends."
"Uh-huh. Well. Sort of. Once I'd hauled her home from a couple parties and cleaned up her puke."
The conversation lulls as Peter finishes his beer. He eyes his watch. "We should probably head back," he says, and she nods. Strangely, he doesn't want to leave, not yet, and it has nothing to do with the fact that his mad scientist father is cooking him dinner back in the lab. But it has everything to do with the freckle-faced FBI agent sitting beside him.
Peter kicks himself mentally and stands, reaching for his coat as Olivia does the same. Larry is still in the kitchen, so they go Dutch, and they both make it up the stairs without falling.
Olivia rolls to a stop in front of the Kresge building and turns to look at Peter, finds him staring straight at her. She blushes and ducks her head, suddenly thankful for the car's dark interior.
"Sure you don't wanna stay for dinner?" he asks.
She looks back up at him, tilts her head a little sadly. "I'd better not. I've… still got some paperwork to do."
Peter nods, reaching for his seat belt. "Fair enough," he says. "But you're missing out – Walter's cooking is fantastic. At least, when he has Astrid there to regulate the illegal substances."
Olivia laughs – she can't help it – and it feels good. "This was… nice," she says, suddenly possessed with the desire to prolong the moment. "I don't – " she pauses, fumbles for the words. "I don't do this kind of thing very often, I guess because I'm so awkward about it, and I never really know what to say, so… thanks. For putting up with me."
Peter smiles, a little lift of his lips, and the glow of the streetlight limns his gaze. "You're welcome."
Olivia swallows, hands suddenly sweaty against the wheel. "I'll uh… I'll see you in a few days, I guess," she says, and Peter nods, climbing out of the car. He starts to close the door, but ducks back in at the last minute.
"Hey Dunham – "
"Why did the chicken cross the road?"
She throws him a look, lips parted. "Um. I don't know. Why?"
"Who cares why? The end of crossing the road justifies whatever motive there was," he says, and then he's gone, jogging across the lawn and into the Kresge building.
Olivia stares after him for a long moment, lips still parted and eyes narrowed. Then, shaking her head, she laughs, just a little, and heads for home.