PACIFIC MEDICAL CENTRE, SAN FRANCISCO
Walter and Astrid sat in the waiting room, looking at the clock on the wall. With them, sat in a wheelchair, but well enough to have changed from his gown to a pair of sweats and a 49ers T-shirt, was Winston. His doctor had told him what had happened to Peter, and he had insisted on coming down and waiting with Walter and Astrid. He'd explained to Walter the part Peter had played in helping to save his life, and much as he had done with Guerrero, Walter had reacted to the story by deciding that Winston was his best friend. And so they sat there, drinking coffee and watching the minute clock tick slowly on in it's agonisingly slow trip around the hours. It was well into the early hours, and Winston's doctor had insisted he go back to the room to rest, when the ER surgical attending appeared in the waiting room.
Walter leapt to his feet.
"I'm Walter Bishop…how is he, is he OK?"
Astrid gripped Walter's shaking hand firmly, her eyes just short of the desperation dancing in Walter's.
"Mr Bishop, your son suffered a very serious bullet wound…"
'Oh no', Astrid thought, forcing the words forming to stay inside her head…'he didn't make it'. She suspected Walter was getting to the same place she was by the vice-like grip he was exerting on her hand.
"We cleaned up the minor damage from the first round, but the impact of the second was more severe. We had to remove Peter's spleen and a small part of his liver. We also had to repair some damage to Peter's small intestine. He lost a lot of blood, and he'll be in hospital for a little while, but he made it through a tough procedure and his vitals are good. We'll know more in the morning, but it's looking a lot better now than it did a few hours ago."
"So he'll be alright?" Walter's grip was relaxing, and in his cracking voice, Astrid detected a hint of hope.
"It's very early yet, Dr Bishop. We're keeping him under for the moment and we'll check to see that he's still stable in the morning. I wouldn't say he's out of the woods yet, but the signs so far are looking encouraging."
Walter grasped the surgeon's hand and shook it vigorously.
The surgeon looked at Walter and Astrid.
"You two look shattered. You should probably try to get some sleep. We have Agent Farnsworth's cell number, we'll call you if there's a change." He smiled at Walter. "I understand you're high up in Massive Dynamic?"
"You could say that." Astrid agreed. The surgeon sidled up to them and whispered confidentially.
"We get a lot of stuff at cost from Massive Dynamic, Dr Bishop, so I'll find you a room somewhere where you and Agent Farnsworth can get some sleep. We're not supposed to do that, but I guess for you we can make an exception."
Walter smiled weakly in thanks and the Surgeon led them to a pair of private rooms. They were both asleep within five minutes.
TWO WEEKS LATER
CHANCE'S OFFICE, THE TENDERLOIN, SAN FRANCISCO
Ilsa walked into Winston's office, suitcases in hand. Winston looked up from his desk as she dropped them in the middle of the floor.
"Honestly, Mr Winston," she began before she'd even taken her coat off. "I know I was gone for three weeks, but I told you what time I was arriving back and there was no-one there to meet me. I had to get a taxi. A TAXI!"
I would have picked you up, Ilsa, but as you can see…" he lifted his left arm up, clad in plaster of Paris "… I have a little problem with driving at the moment." Pucci looked at his arm with genuine concern.
"Good grief Laverne, what on Earth happened to you?"
"It's a long story."
"Yes it is." added Ames who walked in and stood behind Winston protectively. Ilsa raised an eyebrow at this.
"Then I'll make us a cup of tea and you can tell me all about it…." She looked around the deserted office. "Where's Chance and Guerrero?"
"That story? They're putting an ending to it."
MASSIVE DYNAMIC HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK
Broyles and Nina Sharp stood together on the lawn next to the Massive Dynamic New York Medical labs. It was freezing cold and their breath formed in mists as they stood and looked at the new building at the far side of the quad.
"OK," Broyles began. "Show me."
They walked across the frosty lawn and up the path to the building, which looked like a slightly oversized bungalow. They walked up to the front door and Nina swiped her card through the lock and punched in a number on the keypad. The door unlocked with a loud clunk and swung open. As they walked in, Broyles felt the air rush in with them.
Nina noticed his confusion and smiled.
"We're keeping the ambient air pressure in the building slightly lower than the external air pressure. Everything wants to get in, not out." The external wall of the building hid the fact that it was double-skinned, with a gap of about 10 metres between in the inner and outer walls. In the space in-between the two walls was filled with scientists monitoring the air chemistry, the air pressure and temperature. Broyles looked around.
"Of course not, Philip. Privacy is important. We're not the FBI."
Broyles smiles slightly at the quip. Nina walked up to the second door on the inner wall and knocked on it. There was a brief pause and the door opened.
"Hello Deborah. I've brought someone to meet you."
Nichols looked at Broyles.
"You best come in then."
An hour later and they were walking back across the quad towards Nina's office.
"Very nice," Broyles began. The quarters that Massive Dynamic had provided for Nichols and Malone were exactly like any other well appointed urban home. Plasma TV, hot tub, free cable. "It's better than my place."
"It should be, it cost three million dollars." Nina replied.
"How are you doing with a cure?"
Nina paused for a second and looked back at the building they had just emerged from.
"We might never find one that doesn't kill them. We're still looking."
"So what you built for them was a three million dollar solitary confinement cell."
Nina never took her eyes from the building.
"No-one said the world was perfect, Philip….."
They resumed walking.
"What about Mrs Fenton?" Nina asked. Broyles shrugged.
"She's in debrief in a Homeland Security facility. The CIA tried to put in a request to prevent us questioning her, but more out of embarrassment than anything sinister. Whomever was responsible for Project Orchid wasn't in the CIA mainstream." He laughed but it was mirthless and sounded bitter. "After she's finished talking to us, who knows? Maybe she'll stand trial, but she was an administration officer, not a doctor….."
"That's what they said about Franz Hoessler." Nina said quietly as they walked across the frost-encrusted grass in the weak winter sunshine.
GRANT MEDICAL CENTRE, CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS
Walter was sat on Peter's bed. They had a series of maps spread across the sheets and a number of guide books were scattered around Peter's private room. He was now off the ventilators and ECG machines, unnecessary now that he was well on the mend. In truth, the only reason he was still in hospital was because they were still monitoring the repair of his liver and that was going well. Before Walter had arrived, the Attending had told Peter that if everything was OK overnight, he could go home the following day. This had bouyed Peter's mood enormously, as had Chance and Guerrero, who'd visited him earlier in the day to let him know that Winston was making a great recovery and both he and Ames were back at work. The only thing that ruined his mood somewhat was the fact Olivia had barely visited since he regained consciousness, and those times when she had, had been awkward.
Now he was sat in bed, good coffee courtesy of Astrid steaming on the nightstand and discussing which of the National Parks they were going to visit whilst Peter was on recuperative leave. A couple of weeks earlier, Peter would have continued to put Walter off, but after his brush with death, and a discussion with Astrid about how fiercely Walter had treated Olivia after the shooting had given Peter a new found appreciation of Walter and the idea of spending some father and son time was actually appealing. Walter's patent excitement was also strangely infectious.
"I'd like to see The Badlands." Walter began. "We could ride horses – like Gene Autry!"
Peter laughed and patted the stick by the side of his bed.
"I think we'll have to give the horses a miss Walter, at least until I can walk properly again."
"Of course." Walter smiled sadly.
"Hey, what about the place with the shrimp?" Peter said, trying to regenerate Walter's upbeat mood.
"Mammoth Cave, Kentucky!" Walter exclaimed. "That would be excellent!"
"And it's Kentucky…" started Peter, "The home of good bourbon."
Walter chastised Peter.
"You heard what the doctor said – no alcohol for you until your liver is properly repaired. Honestly Peter, if you must insist on taking drugs, you're better off smoking marijuana – I'm currently growing and excellent variety of Hanoi Sky which is quite….."
At that point Olivia stuck her head around the door.
"Quite what, Walter?" she asked.
"Agent Dunham." Walter said, a hint of acrimony obvious in his voice. Peter thought he saw a flash of distress pass across Olivia's face, but it was gone almost as quickly as it arrived. "Nice of you to show up."
"Now now Walter." Peter said carefully. At that point Astrid walked in and Peter silently said a prayer of thanks for her appearance.
"Come on Walter," Astrid took his arm. "Let's give these two some privacy and find you some lunch."
Walter got up reluctantly.
"I'll just be down the hall son," Walter eyed Olivia carefully. "…if you need me."
"I'll be fine Walter," Peter laughed. "Bring me back some twinkies will ya?"
Olivia waited until they had gone and closed the door behind her, before sitting on the chair by Peter's bed that Walter had just vacated.
"You know, I don't think he'll ever forgive me…" Olivia said sadly.
"Walter?" Peter eased himself up so that the pillow was snug against the small of his back. "He'll come round. He just doesn't deal with these sorts of things very well. He just needs a little time."
Olivia looked over the mess of maps and guidebooks spread over the bed.
"You planning a trip?"
"Yeah, Walter wants to do a tour of the National Parks. Last month I'd rather have been shot than do that." He laughed at his own quip. "It's funny how your perspective changes when you….well, you know what I mean. I put in for some time off and Broyles granted it, so now we're deciding where to go."
"You put in for some time off?" Olivia looked shocked. "How long?"
"Two Months." Peter replied noticing the look on Olivia's face. "What is it?"
"Nothing, I guess. I mean, why didn't you tell me?"
"When could I have told you Olivia?" Peter knew where this was going and was tired of the awkwardness, of the fighting. He didn't have the energy for it anymore. He found the revelation poisoning his good mood. "You've spent maybe 20 minutes here since I first came round. You don't want to be here and that's fine, I guess I deserve it, but don't get on my back because I didn't tell you I'm taking some personal time."
"I'm not getting on your back," Olivia said, defensively. "I'm just …I'm …I'm not used to partners bailing out on me." She regretted her choice of words immediately. It wasn't what she meant. It wasn't how this was meant to go. Olivia thought back to the conversation she and Astrid had shared in the cabin. She suddenly felt tired and incredibly lonely. "We can't carry on like this. Peter."
"And now you're telling me you're taking time off and I'm finding out about it because you've got maps all over your bed."
"And Walter thinks all this is my fault, and…and…I don't know what to say to you…" Olivia was close to tears. Peter placed his hand gently over hers.
"Is that all you can say?"
"What do you want me to say, Olivia? I love my job and I want to carry on doing it, but not if it makes us both miserable – I know I can't look at you at the moment and not feel a sense of…" he grasped for the words "…a sense of loss, I guess. Since I got back, I've got a new appreciation of Walter. I actually want to spend time with him." Peter laughed. "Perhaps they removed my brain instead of my spleen."
Olivia looked utterly miserable.
"About what? The spleen thing? Walter says it's an over-rated organ anyway. I'm not sure how you rank the organs in the body in terms of how cool they are, but according to Walter, and he actually said this, the spleen is uncool, and he's the Doctor right?"
"Peter!" Olivia was shocked at how lightly he was taking his injuries. "You almost died."
"But I didn't. I'll be using a stick for a while, and I've now got a statistically higher chance of contracting pneumonia, but I was shot twice in the abdomen at point blank range, so I think in the great scheme of things I got lucky."
"So what happens now?"
"Now, I go to Mammoth Caves National Park, Kentucky with Walter where I can see a unique freshwater shrimp, apparently, which he seems unhealthily excited about. Then maybe a couple more places, I quite fancy somewhere warm. Then I guess we come back to work."
"I meant what happens with us?"
"You know how I feel about you, Olivia. I can't undo what happened and I'll accept whatever you want to do, but it's really your choice."
Olivia was silent for a while, staring at the maps littering Peter's bed. When she spoke, her voice had a little more spark.
"You should take your trip, and see your shrimp."
"See, when you say it like that, you make it sound boring…" Peter joked.
"You should take your trip…" Olivia began again, "….and when you come back, you're going to take me to dinner. An expensive one. Then we're going dancing and I don't want to hear any 'I can't dance because I was shot' excuses, so if you can't dance, you'll need to practice in your shrimp cave, stick or no stick. After that you're going to take me to a jazz club and play me some music. Something romantic of my choosing."
"And after that?"
"After that?" Olivia smiled. "After that, we'll have to wait and see, wont we?"
Olivia's face was serious, but Peter saw a familiar park lit beneath the surface, a spark that he thought he had been responsible for extinguishing.
"I'm not promising I can get over this, Peter. You need to know that. But I can promise to try. I really want to try."
Peter looked at her and felt a familiar longing that had been quiet, slowly re-appearing.
"That's all I can ask for, Olivia." He smiled sadly. "You know I love you, right?"
Olivia leaned over and kissed his forehead.
"I know Peter. If you didn't, this would have been much easier."
"I don't suppose I could interest you in a trip to visit a site with its own freshwater shrimp could I? Before you answer, it's found nowhere else in the world….""
Olivia laughed and for the first time in over month, it sounded honest and full of mirth.
"Not a chance. See you when you get back, Peter." With that she squeezed his hand, which he released reluctantly, and left.
"Yes you will, Olivia Dunham." Peter responded to an empty room.
CABO SAN LUCAS, TIJUANA, MEXICO
McLennan was sat on the veranda of his beachside house. On the table in front of him was a mojito, one of many he'd downed since he had arrived. The sun was setting over the Pacific and McLennan wondered why it had taken him so long to discover this little slice of heaven.
His pay-off from CIA service had been enough to buy the house and enough was left over for him to live OK. He'd also managed to squirrel away quite a nest-egg. The great thing about secret projects within the CIA was that the accounting was so tortuous that money got lost everywhere. Secrecy meant that such accounting mistakes never saw the light of day. Knowing that was the difference between a service pension and unlimited mojitos. As he was mulling on his luck and skill, he failed to hear the front door click shut at the back of the house.
McLennan twisted round in his seat. Chance stood in the doorway and McLennan recognised him immediately, giving himself away with the shock on his face. He leapt to his feet and ran to the rail around the veranda but stopped when he saw Guerrero cradling a pump-action shotgun on the beach. Guerrero smiled at McLennan and slowly shook his head.
"Not gonna work, I'm afraid." Chance was still stood, leaning against the door frame.
"You can't touch me, Chance." McLennan stammered. "I'm CIA."
"No…" Chance began "Not any more. Now you're retired and the CIA tends to get nervous around retired black ops types. Too many secrets and too many people to tell them to. I'm guessing your service record is already in the shredder." Chance smiled. "No-one's coming to help you."
McLennan slumped back into his chair,
"I suppose offering money is a waste of time."
"That ship sailed when you set your dog on Winston and Ames, and had Peter Bishop shot." Chance took the baseball bat from behind his back. "Consider this payment for that mistake." Chance advanced on McClennan, his jovial demeanor gone. He took a practice swing at a hanging basket swinging from the roof over the veranda, smashing it and spilling its contents, a collection of pink-flowered orchids, all over the floor.
Then Chance went to work.