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It's Difficult Being a Father

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Peter Bishop knew pain; the kind of pain that tears a person apart at a very base and fundamental level. He knew the damage that a lie—even a well-intentioned one — could do. Peter knew abounding rage, distrust, and seething anger from learning about deceptions from those that he trusted the most. Most of all, he knew about being manipulated like a pawn.

During an incredibly tumultuous time, Peter was concerned for his own life. Seemingly destined at a biological level to control a "doomsday machine," he was scared and sought answers for his fate. Once, he had managed to ask to ask someone with the knowledge about the truth that he sought after.

"The picture of me and the device—what does it mean? What's going to happen to me?"

September, the pale Observer who had watched over him most of his life, replied with a slight hint of regret and concern, "It must be very difficult."

Thoroughly tired of wild goose chases, mind-games, and cryptic Observer not-answers, Peter could only reply with an exasperated, "What?"

A simple look of remorse, then a simple statement: "Being a father."

Peter was confused, thinking that the Observer was speaking of the difficulties that his father—Walter—had faced. He stood facing the Observer, and tried his best to be intimidating, but failed miserably; his creased brow, frozen in concerned thought, gave him away. A forceful blast from an air-gun knocked him flat on his back, and gave him a concussion.

That was not even the worst moment of a really shitty day, which was saying something given that this all transpired during the fall-out from Olivia's return from the other universe. A tainted milk-induced seizure made sure that the odd verbal exchange between him and the Observer remained buried, seemingly forgotten in his deep memory.

He eventually came to an understanding concerning the wisdom in forgiveness, but the lesson was not easy – the path was full of obstacles in his heart. He was transformed from a man-child that railed against a world, to accepting that he had a place there. And it was all because of her. Peter learned that he could not always depend on himself for answers.

"You belong with me" would endure against all odds.

"I love you" would eventually echo in his heart across time and space.

The declaration of "Peter, I'm pregnant" would add a whole new level of devotion to his life and brand his soul.

To an older and wiser Peter Bishop, the worst agony was not a visceral reaction to a direct infliction to him, but it was witnessing pain in those that he loves. Peter knew love—great love—a love worth fighting for, no matter the cost.

Olivia, his soul-mate and mother of his child, was his home. He would do anything to protect her. He could not lose her again.

Memories have a funny way of resurfacing years later...

Peter had a son. Had.

September's words would come to Peter's mind at random times: "When you made the sacrifice to step into that machine, you were not the only one who ceased to exist. So would he."

Peter knew in his heart that he could do nothing about this situation. The Observers had manipulated and used him, just as much as the other Olivia had done. A precious child paid the price.

Even though he was never able to hold him, Peter knew the pain of losing a child.

It was a burden that he had carried for some time before finally telling Olivia that there were other consequences of his willful ignorance, and of the act of sleeping with her alternate. Uncertain of her reaction, Peter braced for the worst. He quietly told her while they were bandying about names for the baby during their evening wind-down from work--they had just recently found out that they were having a girl. Olivia had remained quiet for a while, her attention focused on the Angry Birds game that she was playing. Peter felt his heart rise up to his throat, unsure of what to say, and continued to read his magazine. She eventually broke the silence, telling him about the cab driver Over There who had helped her, at great risk to himself. Olivia put the game down and hugged Peter, and they exchanged stories and feelings about the situation.

They quickly decided on Henrietta.

Peter had a daughter. He had a cute, inquisitive, mischievous and charming daughter, who was the spitting image of both her parents.

He worried for her even before she was born.

- He worried if there would be effects from the momentary death that Olivia experienced.

- He worried if she'd inherit the disease that nearly killed him as a boy.

- He worried about the repercussions of having parents that came from different universes and who had differing resonant frequencies.

- He worried about the Cortexiphan found in her body and brain.

He could not lose her.

But Olivia's pregnancy went surprisingly well.

The fears did not subside after she was born, in fact, they intensified. He worried about her dying from the million and one ways doctors tried to scare new parents. Or that Grandpa Walter might falter in his vigilance. Olivia was the voice of sanity to calm him down, but he knew that she worried just as much as he did—probably even more.

Little Etta was his pride and joy, and the twinkle in her mother's eye. Peter strove to be the father to her that he never had – He wanted so very much to be a presence in her life. To cherish her, to teach her, to calm her, to protect her, and to guide her to become all she could be. Wanting to set a good example for her, Peter graduated with a Master of Science in mechanical engineering from M.I.T. He was awarded an honorary doctorate, shortly thereafter.

Etta loved and depended on her mommy, but she was daddy's girl; a fact that Olivia was keen to remind him of whenever Etta exhibited rebellious or bull-headed behavior.

The first few years of childhood were golden. Etta had no shortage of pets; several cats, an aquarium, Zeppelin the Cockatoo, and the family's hypoallergenic bloodhound, Sherlock. As her Daddy played the piano, Etta sometimes sat on his knee and attempted to "help" him. She adored music and would bounce along to any song she heard. Her mother's singing was her favorite.

Peter could not wait to take her sledding in the winter. He had fond childhood memories—some of the few he had—of snowy winter days that ended with mugs of marshmallow-topped hot cocoa, sipped in front of a roaring fireplace. He had fond adult memories of this activity as well, that took place a bit less than five years ago in Vermont…

… And it resulted in a new life, despite the precautions taken.

Not too long ago, Olivia and Peter had discussed the possibility of growing their family. But they were both heavily involved in their work, and Etta was a handful.

Winter, 2016

It was a cold and wet Saturday. Olivia and Astrid took Etta to the aquarium, so Peter worked extra time in his lab at Massive Dynamic. He drew some diagrams and attempted to work out some kinks for a classified project. Late in the afternoon, he heard the door open, and figured it that it was either Kevin the day guard, or Brandon. He nearly fell out of his chair when he saw who had come into the room—a pale, bald man, wearing a suit, his hairless head topped with a fedora—September.

"We must speak."

Peter, who between taking care of a rambunctious and curious toddler, and launching a patent for a new airplane engine, had been burning the candle at both ends. His prior encounters with September were not exactly amiable—more like talks that took place under a white flag. And just like Walter had griped about in the past, he only showed up when something had to do with Peter—and it was always bad.

He indignantly sighed and rubbed his hands over his tired face, then asked a gruff, "Now?"

"They are coming."

Peter stood up straight, shoved his hands into the pockets of his lab coat - his curiosity piqued.

He lifted his chin up and asked the Observer matter-of-factly, "Who?"

"The Others. Not like me… The girl is important. She has to live. When the time comes, you must give her up."

"Now listen here, September. If you think for one moment that I'm going to hand my baby girl over to you freaks of nature, I'll tell you right now, that is NOT going to happen!"

September cocked his head to the side, and laid his hat on an adjacent table. He pulled a chair out from beneath it and sat down rigidly, then focused on the red-faced man in front of him. His chin lifted up and he spoke.


This immediately caught Peter's attention as he never heard his name used before by an Observer.

"I am not… taking the girl or suggesting you give her… to them. You must… take her…somewhere safe… She needs to be safe. She is special. If they know this… they will harm her."

Peter's hands withdrew from his pockets, and his arms folded across his chest.

"You knew this all along. We never had to worry about Hawking's proposed extinction event from an advanced extraterrestrial civilization. The enemy has always been us—humanity."

Peter bent his head back, sighed, and then he brought his piecing stare back to the future-visitor. September made note of the stormy gray-blue hue of Peter's eyes. The "boy" certainly felt threatened. This was. Good. September had learned long ago that getting between a Bishop and his family was the surest way to coax him into doing what he had to do.

"It was one of… many… possible futures. I calculated from what I knew of you… and what I knew of Olivia… that it was most likely… to come to pass.

"You do know… September… That information would have been useful to have, since you've been playing a probability and statistics chess game with our lives… A tactical advantage would have been nice!"

The Observer actually looked like he gave thought to Peter's complaint. But he offered a simple retort.

"Telling you at the wrong time… would have altered events that needed to happen. I am… sorry. You have little time. I must go. Heed. My warning."

In the blink of an eye, the Observer disappeared. Peter leaned back in his chair, and felt numb to his core. As he stared at the ceiling, he mentally played a game of "what-if" with the information he had just been given. When he got a grip, he snapped out of his analytical state and called Olivia with the details of the visit.

That night, Peter bathed Etta to prepare her for bed. She loved to use her soap crayons to draw cows, cookies, mommy, daddy, papaw Walter, and their assortment of critters. Etta also had to have a bath full of bubbles, and she always splashed around so much, that Peter was certain he always ended up covered in half of the bathwater. He tried desperately to adhere to the child's normal routine. No reason to upset her until he and Olivia decided what to do.

She wiggled and ran away from him as he tried to dry her—Etta knew jammies came next and she liked to run naked; definitely a Bishop trait. Peter scooped the squealing toddler into his arms and took her to her room.

Every piece of furniture in the little girl's room had been lovingly crafted with his own two hands. Before she was born, Peter had worked for several months cutting pieces based on his own blueprints from the select mahogany wood that he had paid a knightly sum to acquire. He carefully sanded it smooth, and incorporated intricate joinery techniques, such as mortises and dovetails, into the construction of the pieces. In his mind, the furniture was meant to serve more than one child—it would be passed down among a tribe of Bishops—and he had made certain that all of it would probably outlast him. Right down to "Horsie," Etta's adored rocking horse.

When he had unveiled the self-furnished nursery to a heavily pregnant Olivia, she was impressed with her husband's skill and dedication. One of the qualities about Peter that she admired the most was the fact he was a practical genius. He loved applying his thoughts into action. The crib was the centerpiece, of course. Peter had put a lot of detail work into decorating the baby's bed, and had designed it to grow with her as she aged. However, it was the rocking chair that would see the heaviest use. Olivia spent many nights nursing and singing to Etta in that chair. They used it as a focal point for reading to the girl, who quickly picked up the words on the pages.

Somehow, he managed to get her into her Tickle Teddy pajamas, and he read one of her favorite books for probably the hundredth time before she fell asleep. Peter did not leave immediately. Instead, he turned off her lamp and watched her sleep in the nightlight glow for close to an hour.

He slipped into his and Olivia's bedroom, and poured a glass of water from the pitcher that sat on the nightstand next to his side of the bed. Lowering himself to sit on the edge of the bed, he took several long gulps to quench a thirst that had been building for most of the evening. He withdrew a bottle of extra-strength Excedrin from the nightstand drawer, popped the cap, and with shaking hands, he managed to produce two pills which he quickly swallowed. Eyes closed, he breathed in sharply, and then exhaled with a regretful sigh. In truth, all he really wanted was a bottle of Jack, no glass required. His thoughts along that line were lost; his eyes fixed upon Olivia as she emerged freshly showered, from the bathroom. She walked over to the bed and bent down to kiss Peter; her lips quivered. Both of their eyes locked, each telling the other of the deep sorrow felt. Telling the unspoken action they must discuss and decide upon. She was first to break the silence.

"I'll arrange to meet with Rachel tomorrow."

Peter shook his head in disagreement… "There has to be another way. We just can't abandon her. We should just go, 'Livia. Build us a nice cabin in Canada and just live… I'm tired of saving the world – tired of the darkness. Let someone else do it," he pleaded with her.

Olivia was pale and worn. Bell's followers and shape-shifters were just as much as a nuisance as before, if not more than ever. She had entertained Peter's protective and self-preservative sentiments herself, albeit for a short time. It was not who she was, and she knew Peter would—as he has done before—follow her to the mouth of Hell itself.

"I know that's not the kind of life you want for her. I surely don't. There is no one else better suited than us to stop this event before it happens. When we know the time has come, we will act, and we'll do whatever we have to do to ensure Etta is safe. It's not for forever."

Peter forced a grin. "Of course, you're right, Hun. Because we'll throw those bald bastards back into whatever time stream they came from."

He thought back to the stories of Jewish families that hid their children with non-relatives to prevent them from being sent to the death camps during the Holocaust. He had admired the great strength and resolve these parents must have had to take such desperate actions so that their children may live. Never once had he considered that he'd essentially be in their shoes one day. Those children were lucky. The Nazis loved to use kids for all kinds of horrific experiments. His grandfather had risked everything to prevent their perverted, inhuman world view from coming to pass.

Olivia must have read Peter's mind.

"My life was taken over by experiments that I did not consent to. Your life has been altered as a consequence of genetic tinkering. As much as we hate the thought, those experimentations culminated into our beautiful daughter. But I will not have her subjected to the manipulation like that I endured. Her destiny should be her own."

Olivia placed her hand gently on Peter's cheek and her emerald eyes soulfully bored into his tired, half-closed turquoise.

"Promise me, Peter. We can't have our little girl being used as a lab rat – or worse. We have to fight for a world worth growing up in."

Peter pulled her close to him, and shook his head in agreement. His wife had the final word on the decision.

"I understand now. The Observer told me when I questioned him about the machine years ago, that being a father is difficult. It's difficult being a father, because sometimes you must make tremendous, gut-wrenching sacrifices so that your child can grow up in a better world."

Olivia took his hand, and tenderly stroked the top with feather wisp motion, her eyes dropped from his, and she inhaled hard. Her heart was pounding in her ears, threatening to betray her calmer visage. The two parents clung to each other as if their lives depended on it. Only one could fully understand what the other was feeling. Olivia felt every breath that came from her husband, and they were so shallow, she wondered if he was breathing at all.

Sleep did not come easy for either of them that night, as they tried to quell their tears, but their pillows became soaked with them. Olivia wondered if it were really possible to drown in sorrow.

Two weeks later, the world faced its greatest threat.

The Inquisition, Nazi death machine, Soviet pogroms, Mao's Great Leap Forward, the Khmer Rouge, or any other instance of modern genocide combined, would not compare to the brutality of the Observer-led Purges.

William Bell would reemerge and offer a way to save humanity from total eradication. Olivia was taken in a desperate battle with Bell's shapeshifters. Taken, and given over to the Observers. Olivia's Cortexiphan abilities were not as dormant as Walter had thought. She sacrificed her energy long enough to allow the others to escape. She used her mind to make certain that they could drag distraught Peter away—she paralyzed him temporarily.

This bought the world time, but she was not enough. They wanted Peter and Walter Bishop – and unlike Olivia, they could care less if the two men were alive or dead. It took everything Walter and Astrid could muster to keep Peter from going on a suicide mission to rescue Olivia—the Observer propagandists loved to use her as a warning to others and tried to bait the Fringe team out of hiding. September tried to free Olivia, but he was caught. His grisly execution was broadcast everywhere in the new regime.

After a lot of theories and tinkering, they had a solution to the invasion. A way to keep the Observers locked out of their universe. But they needed to reach Walter's lab to retrieve a key component, and most of Boston was in ruins-surrounded by a militarized and quarantined zone.

A few months passed, and things did not go well. The Fringe Team made a final stand against the Observer invasion, choosing to amber themselves in the lab. Bell was able to locate Walter and followed them to the lab. No one else knew why they were there. One thing was for certain; once Bell knew that they needed something from the lab, none of them could leave.

When they made the decision to amber, Walter placed his hands on his son's shoulders, and with glassy eyes simply told him, "This we share. Family is the most important thing to us. We're willing to cross the line to protect our children- they are our most valuable resource."

Part of Peter's forgiving Walter came from understanding the difficult choices a father had to make. Sometimes the only choices one has are bad ones.

As the gaseous substance surrounded him, Peter smiled at his dad. Walter simply replied, "Good night, Son."

He knew that they would not be physically dead—that they'd be in a state of bio stasis. Olivia had once explained to him that people in amber also exist in a state of remembering their last thoughts they had before they were trapped. Despite, the gut-wrenching events of the past few weeks, Peter tried to remember what made him happy in life.

Peter never worried that he would never see Etta go to school. Or that he'd not be there to chase off boys. That he'd never see her graduate from high school, go off to college, or fall in love. He just wanted her to live and figured the rest would fall into place. He even had thought about having grandchildren, when he watched Walter delight as he pushed the squealing little girl in a swing, or when they made sand castles with her on the beach, and when she "helped" papa make cookies. Now she would live without Daddy or Mommy – and her beloved grandfather.

Peter knew in his heart that Etta would make something great out of herself. She would adapt and survive like her remarkable mother. Although it pained him that he and Olivia would not be there to guide her, keeping her alive and safe was the best that they could do. At least she had her Aunt and cousins. Their last names had been changed, and Peter forged documents so that they would not be linked to Olivia. He instructed them to do whatever the Observers asked, if it came down to it, in order to survive.

Peter held a picture of Etta and Olivia in his hands. Yes, he knew pain, but he also knew hope. Tears slid down his face, and he simply whispered, "It's not forever. She'll come for us… someday."