Esther was no one's Girl Friday. Just because she and Olivia Dunham had come to a mutually beneficial working arrangement didn't mean that she was tied to the woman. Sure, Olivia would benefit from having someone watch over her reckless self but that didn't mean it had to be Esther. She was perfectly qualified for a number of jobs.
Yes, they were kind of boring--dictation, filing, yes sirring to someone half the intellect--but that didn't mean she couldn't do it. Esther was perfectly capable of doing whatever it took and Olivia hadn't paid her steadily for six months now. It was a pain to have to apply to the various agencies and suck up but a girl had to eat. She couldn't be paid in excitement and cheap liquor and dancing. And if life would be a little less interesting without Olivia's hard luck cases and bizarre intrigues or the woman herself, well wouldn’t that be a small price to pay for regularly getting to have a little meat with her dinner?
Esther didn't even know what she was doing here, patching Olivia up after her latest misadventure, but Lord knows the woman would have considered a good slug of whiskey enough medical care and then ended up infected with rabies or scabies or gangrene or whatever else was hanging around those odd labs she always found herself in.
That interview Olivia had lured Esther away from with her siren call would still be there, no matter what Olivia thought about sweet talking her into coming back. If not, there would always be another half-assed temp agency that would use a fraction of Esther's skills and consider themselves liberal because they were giving her a chance. Right now, her attention was on swabbing alcohol over the scar on Olivia's shoulder. And if she lingered a little long over the dressing then no one - not even Olivia - would complain, for all the grumbling Olivia did about not needing a hospital or any care at all. As far as Esther could see, Olivia needed all the care she could get because she certainly wasn't going to give it to herself. And there was no one else stepping up for the job.
That Broyles guy looked out for her as much as he could but he was in too much trouble himself to make Astrid entirely comfortable. And who else would make sure that Olivia Dunham wasn't shot or strangled in the middle of the night? Who else would pause more than a moment if she was? Who else could wrangle the information she needed out of the systems to stay one step ahead of trouble (never mind the thrill Esther got from doing it or the the gratitude in Olivia's eyes)? No, Esther was just doing a job, and if that job sometimes went beyond the call of duty and if sometimes she could read flirtation into the Olivia's replies when she was patching her up, then that was Esther’s own business. And business it was. Nothing more, she told herself firmly.
Astrid had double majored in linguistics and computer science and then gotten a master's in cognitive science before she had been lured away to the bureau. She still thought about the Ph.D. sometimes but then considered the expense and the ass kissing and the continual surprise she had met from people when she was doing her last degree. Equally as wearing was the thought of slogging through the dissertation, not to mention finding funding. Though there were programs that encouraged minority women scientists, she’d still have to contend with being under the microscope instead of just being the one wielding it.
Plus, she could do more immediate good assisting here in Fringe Division in pushing the edges of science than she ever could as a peon on the bench. Every day she encountered a new problem to solve. Every day she saw something she never would have seen before (even if, in the small hours in her apartment in Quincy, she wished she had never seen it). Every day she had to use her linguistic talents or her computer skills or her management abilities to get two pounds of raw brain matter from somewhere in the next hour or two universes would collapse. It was like Odyssey of the Mind on crack and for real.
Even if she rarely got to get out in the field, even if Walter forgot (or pretended to forget) her name and demanded a discontinued flavor of pudding, even if she'd had to put her hands into a part of an (often decomposed) body that she had never heard of before, she knew she was doing good work, rare work, valuable work, even if no one ever said it. And when Walter gave her that little boy smile (sometimes not under the influence of other chemicals) or Olivia gave her a brief nod and "Good work" or Peter brought her a coffee along with Walter's red vines, she knew this was where she was supposed to be. Another Astrid in another world might be breaking down doors, or doing complex data analysis, or having unknown adventures but this Astrid was right where she wanted to be.