“Five minutes and counting, Honey!” Comes the shout from the back, harsher than she’s been learning to get used to in this kind of situation and, like everything else they do these days, urgent.
“You need to get him out now, or we’re gonna have to leave without him again,” Her father insists. They’ve got a failsafe in place, antimatter grenades and an escape route away from the ever-watchful eyes of the aptly named Observers, but all that will be rendered null if they can’t get a head start from their persecutors. There’s only so much they can do.
“I know, I know,” she replies, going back and forth across the semi-circle of ambered space, checking and double checking the buffer lights, making sure their newly augmented potency (thanks, dad) is not interfering with the wand’s signal; her teeth grinding and gnashing in a nervous habit she’d picked up from Nina long ago. She thought she’d beaten it into submission already – nerves mean no control, and in her situation control means everything – but perhaps all she’d done was put it to sleep.
Her hands are shaking. What if they’re too late? What if something went wrong when he went in? What if there’s brain damage? What then? She’s sure there are no pieces of his brain in a Massive Dynamic vault. This is all her fault.
Rough hands close around her own. Dad, she thinks. She hadn’t even heard him come around.
“Three minutes, Etta,” he says, softly this time. There’s no “you can do this” or “ just breathe,” her father seems to be a man of few words, but she feels it anyway. That pride that seems to invade his stare every time he looks at her, mixed with the longing that is always there. They’ve been running around for close to two months now, fugitives, and he always looks at her the same, with both wonder and pain. She has no need to ask him why.
Etta has seen pictures of her mother, stuffed away in dusty photo albums stored in forgotten cabinets around Nina’s house. She knows what she must look like, to him, with all but her eyes – his eyes – to remind him of the woman he’d loved and lost. She’s seen his gaze linger on the bullet around her neck more than once. Nina herself, quiet, strict Nina Sharp, had questioned her at the sight, asked why she kept it, the piece of lead that had taken Olivia Dunham’s life, so long ago.
She had not known what to answer, then.
“Will you count for me?” she asks, her voice firm as she hands Peter the control panel.
“Of course,” he says, and she steps into the niche now replacing Walter’s space, holding the wand like she’d been taught to and praying to a deity that had ignored her for all twenty four years of her life to let him be alright.
“Three…two…one…” Etta squeezes, hard. The blast is powerful, too powerful, dust falling around them as it dislodges from the brick wall and the detritus in their surroundings. She’s almost afraid to look around.
And then Astrid speaks, “Agent, Agent, you’re alright, everything’s fine,” there’s rustling and grunting from the ground, and sure enough, that’s Simon Foster scrambling onto his back and breathing hard as she looks down.
“Etta?” He asks, looking around with glassy eyes, disoriented. At least he remembers, she thinks.
“Sorry,” her father says, crouching beside him with a strange contraption in his hand “this might sting a bit.” He presses the thing to Simon’s bare wrist, against the small protuberance of the subcutaneous tracker that they’d made sure to take from her as well. She remembers hating this part.
There’s a ripping sound and a yelp; a bit of blood, a few seconds of pain, and just like that it’s gone. Deactivated and removed in a singularly precise application of a reverse engineered hole puncher – slash – suction gun. Or something. Astrid slaps a Band-Aid on his arm, moving efficiently and perfectly in synch, and then Peter is helping him off the ground as he attempts to dust himself, coughing.
He looks at her with his familiar dark eyes, long and hard, and nods. That’s when the motion sensitive alarms they’ve set around the perimeter go off.
“I… hate…this job” She leans against the damp sewer wall, chest heaving, trying hard to get what air she can into her lungs. It’s acrid and heavy, this far down, but it’s air nonetheless.
Simon chuckles beside her, between breaths of his own. She’s said that to him more than once. Her father snorts, and Astrid shakes her head, a glint of amusement in her wide doe eyes.
And really, what else can she say, after having had to run from a fully armed team of soldiers through a labyrinthine set of streets and passage ways to finally end thigh deep into thick, pungent sewer water.
Etta lets her head fall back against the wall, and smiles.
“Deacon,” Simon says beside her, his hair still damp from his run under their bad imitation of a shower – mostly a water hose that Astrid had procured from places unknown, that tapped into the plumbing of nearby buildings thanks to the genius of the two Bishop men with them. It’s the coldest shower she’s ever been under.
“You said your name was Etta Deacon, when you entered the Division” he snorts, “I should’ve figured it out sooner” a shake of his head “…How on earth did you come up with that anyway?”
“The best lies are the ones based on the truth. And my name is Etta…Henrietta, anyway. I just…it always sounded too severe, I guess.”
He just looks at her from the corner of his eye, sitting with his legs extended ahead, ankles crossed. He’s her closest friend, her partner and her confidant, someone as familiar as there is for her.
“My mother always called me Etta…as far as I can remember, that is.”
“What happened to her? Is she ambered somewhere else?” She knows he’s heard all the stories, the legend of the original Fringe team, same as her. He’s heard all the tales about her mother, too. For years, those stories had been all she had from her parents, from her family. Until that night outside the club, two months ago.
“No, she –” she sighs, fishing under her shirt to roll the bullet between the fingertips, aware of his stare. It’s still hard to talk about, after twenty years. “Someone shot her when I was four.”
When the silence becomes unbearable – because what can he say? They’ve all lost someone (he still remembers her, if vaguely, his Emily, after all this time) – he speaks.
“Why do you keep it?” he asks, pointing at her chest. Etta ponders the question, even though she’s had the answer for a while.
“As a reminder,” she says.
“That we can be monsters, too.”
“She talks about you a lot, y’know?”
Simon turns around as he enters the room, finds Peter Bishop sitting against the corner, his eyes on his daughter’s sleeping form in the darkness.
Simon watches him, has been watching him intently ever since they got him out. This is one of the legends of his youth, the kind of man he’d dreamt of being when he’d left Stanford to become a part of Fringe Division. He’s nothing like Simon expected him to be, aside from the sharpness of his mind and the quickness of his thought. He sees Etta in him, or perhaps him in Etta. In the shape of her smile, or the mischievous twinkle in her eyes that he learned to recognize as a sign of deep, deep trouble long ago. The rest – and the rest is admirable indeed, he supposes comes from the mother she never had the chance to get to know.
He’s young, physically. Probably around his age, Simon realizes, or pretty close at least; all thanks to the amber that encased him for the past two decades, shielding him from the passage of time, and certain death.
“She does?” he asks, honestly curious as he crouches down, his gaze parallel to Peter’s own.
“Yeah…she’s…a lot like her mother.” There’s pain in his voice.
“I’m sorry,” he says. Peter looks at him, questioning. “She…Etta told me, what happened to her mother.” He nods.
“Thank you,” Peter says then, “for getting me out. For getting all of us out.”
Simon shakes his head, “I had to…for the resistance,” for her, too. She’d been so hopeful. She’d always been so hopeful. Part of him had always wanted to feel like that.
Peter huffs, and smiles a knowing smile, “that’s all the resistance you need, right there,” he says, pointing towards the shape of the daughter he’s been so recently reunited with, her chest rising and falling with a tranquil rhythm, like a calm sea against the shore.
Simon doesn’t quite know why, but he’s is inclined to believe the man.