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Unravelling

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In some ways, his journey has been a learning experience.

He likes to think of it in this way; it seems brighter, more positive . . . and not the absolutely devastating experience it has already been.

He has learned so much about his son, about Olivia, Astrid, and all of their other friends. More than he ever would have learned had he stayed. If he had stayed, he would have died long before Peter did, before Olivia, before everyone. He would have died, wondering . . . What happened?

Instead, he has learned so many things. Some things he wishes he never learned.

For one, Peter never left Boston. Honestly, he isn't very surprised. Olivia had become emotionally attached to the city and her job there, and Peter never had much reason to leave it.

For another, Peter and Olivia had two beautiful children, a boy and a girl. Moreover, he knows his plan was successful because Henrietta didn't die in the year 2036. Like her parents, she lived to a ripe, old age, with several children to call her own.

And . . . had he stayed, he never would have known that Peter would eventually die in his sleep as an old man. Natural causes, the file said.

In other ways, however, this experience has been an absolute nightmare.

Peter was gone. He was never coming back. And this was an impossibly difficult realization to come to terms with.

There are days when he regrets his decision. When he would like nothing more than to return to his own time, his family and friends, and damn the world. After all, he's already done it once . . . hasn't he?

No matter the circumstances, a father should never outlive his child. Never. Especially not like he has. Not by so many, many years.

Furthermore, he has not only outlived his son and daughter-in-law, but also his purpose. He was no longer necessary. This time, he could not even pretend to be capable of navigating the strange world he found himself in. 2167 was simply too new, too foreign, and too different from his own time. He was lost in it; drowning in it. He was only a useless relic from another age.

Now, the tombstone isn't quite what he thought his son deserved. It's fairly small and well-worn by the time wrought upon it, but it reads 'PETER BISHOP' all the same and reminds him of another grave, smaller still — the catalyst for his greatest mistake. But . . . then again, how can it truly be a mistake when he'd willingly do it over again, if given the chance? If it would bring Peter back...

Of course, he hasn't overlooked Olivia. She lies next to Peter, sharing the same tombstone, which states that she outlived him by only a few years.

He's been sitting here for quite some time, staring at his son's grave, but only now does Walter finally rally enough strength to speak.

"Hello, Peter," he begins with a forlorn half-smile. His eyes then shifted to the other name, which always seemed to be interwoven with his son's. "And Olivia, too, of course."

He couldn't quite explain it, but it felt like Peter was still listening — as he had always listened, since his release from St. Clare's. So, Walter delved into what felt natural, and began speaking to his son as if he was truly present and not just a decorated slab of marble.

"I know it's only been a few weeks since I last saw you — I've been keeping track, you see — but it's been many years for you, and I . . . I'm sorry, son, but it had to be this way. Don't you see? It had to."

When he finished speaking, he paused automatically, as if to wait for a response. When none came, he remembered what had happened, and swallowed a heavy sob. Then, he pressed on again. Because speaking to an absent Peter was better than not speaking to one at all.

"Did you know that our dear Astro married, Peter?" he asked, thickly. "A fellow named Collins, I think — I can't quite remember his name."

Only then did Walter finally frown.

"I miss her dearly, you know," he told Peter, quietly. "I miss all of you."

At that precise moment, a heavy hand touched his shoulder and Walter dared to believe (but only for a moment) that it was Peter incarnate and the past few weeks had been nothing but a nightmare.

Sadly, he was mistaken. It was not Peter. Nor would it ever be.

"Dr. Bishop? Our ride's here," said the strange man in a sympathetic voice.

Walter glanced at the young man assigned to be his guardian and made an impatient gesture with his hand. "Yes, yes — Just give me another moment, please."

The man nodded understandingly and walked away to give him some privacy. He seemed to know what he was trying to do and Walter was grateful for that, at least.

He turned back to his son's grave and a single tear trickled down his cheek.

"I have to go now," he told them, miserably. He touched the tombstone and traced Peter's name with his finger.

"I love you, son," he murmured. "And you, too, Olivia. Goodbye."

Then, he shakily climbed to his feet and left with the young man, shooting wistful looks at the tombstones until they finally disappeared from view.