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The Children that Nina Sharp Never Had

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Nina sinks back into her chair in the back of her black, Massive Dynamic limousine. There are perks to running the company when William is away. She just wishes that William didn’t have to be away constantly for her to get them.

He’s been in Europe for eleven months, and hasn’t even called her for six weeks. Nina understands, to an extent. He has important things to do, important people to see, and important inter-dimensional technology to sell. She would be completely fine with this if the relationship they shared was simply professional, but nothing Nina does can ever be simple. She fell in with the wrong people, and fell in love with the wrong man for her to have any sort of simplicity in her life.

She sighs, and takes a chance. She pulls out her large, modern cellphone and dials his cell number. He probably won’t answer, but it’s worth the attempt

“William?” She asks.

“Nina,” he says, sounding groggy and only half-happy to hear from her, “it’s two o'clock in the morning.”

“I also haven’t heard from you in six weeks,” she says.

“Has it been that long,” he asks, only bothering to sound a little bit guilty about it.

“Yes, William,” she says, “you haven’t called me in six weeks.”

“I’ve been busy,” he says, tactless as always.

“You’re always busy,” she says, almost pleads on her end of the phone, “you haven’t been in the states for nearly a year.”

“Nina,” he says, “I have to work.”

“You can take a week off,” she says, and she knows that it’s true. Even Massive Dynamic can wait a few days. She wasn’t planning on suggesting this, but she honestly didn’t even expect him to pick up the phone. She decides to take another risk.

“My parents would let us use the ranch,” she suggests. She hasn’t been to the country home in years, and hasn’t ridden a horse in almost as long. And she hasn’t seen William in what seems like ages.

“Alright,” William says, “we’ll invite Walter and Elizabeth. I haven’t seen Peter since he was a toddler.” That was decidedly not what Nina had envisioned, but she supposes that it’s better than nothing.

“Alright,” Nina says, only half lying, “that sounds great.”

“Nina,” he says, affection mingling with irritation, “I have a meeting in five minutes.”

“At two am?” She asks sarcastically.

“Alright,” he admits, “I have a meeting with sleep. One that you interrupted.”

“It’s fine, William,” she says, though it’s really not. Then, the line goes dead. Nina sighs, but she knows she shouldn’t have expected any better of him.

William might have been the worst possible person to fall in love with.

 

 

 

The week of their vacation finally comes, and surprisingly, Nina has an exceptional weekend.

They all decide to go riding the first day, and Nina realizes quickly that she’s the only one with any knowledge or experience with horses. William walks behind one, and Walter tries to mount his horse from the right side. Nina groans as she corrects them, and decides that the only one who isn’t hopeless is Peter. She helps him up onto his horse (on the left side, the proper side) and then teaches him the proper way to hold the reigns.

“Can I call you Aunt Nina?” Peter asks with a grin, showing the open space where his two front teeth used to be.

“Please do,” Nina says, and she means it. She enjoys children, even though she rarely has reason to interact with them, and thinks that she might enjoy Peter more than most of them.

She teaches him how to ride (or rather, gives him the best crash course she can manage over three days’ time) and somehow they end up galloping across the entire estate while the city-slickers sip wine in the shade.

 

The two days pass quickly, and it seems like only a few hours have passed when the Bishops get ready to leave. The car’s loaded up, and they all stand out on the dirt driveway, surrounded by tall oak trees.

“Can we do this again?” Peter asks his father.

“Peter,” Elizabeth says, “it was incredibly generous of Nina to invite us in the first place.”

But then Walter turns to him with a childish grin and says, “But maybe she’ll invite us again if we ask nicely.”

“Please Aunt Nina?” he asks with that same guileless grin, and Nina’s not sure that she’d ever be able to say no to that.

“Of course,” she says, laughter on her lips. The Bishops throw the last bit of luggage into the back of Walter’s aging Ford,  and say their thank yous and their goodbyes. Nina honestly finds herself looking forward to the next time.

 

 

 

William doesn’t plan to leave until the next morning, and Nina’s going to stick around a few more days after that. Either way, they aren’t in too much of a hurry to leave.

“I think that I’d like children,” Nina says that night, as they curl up together in the king-sized bed. She knows that it’s not really the conversation any man wants to have after sex, but she suspects they won’t have any other time to do it. He hadn’t spoken to her for weeks before they planned this short vacation.

“Nina,” he says, “I just- I don’t. I don’t have time for children.” Nina expected this. He doesn’t particularly like them, and most of the time he doesn’t even have time for her. He wouldn’t even consider making time for a child that he didn’t want.

“I know, William,” she says softly, running her fingers through his hair. He grins at her, and she supposes that’s the end of that discussion. William won’t have any part in children, and she knows she would never have them with anyone else.

“We should do this more often, though,” she says.

“The sex?” He asks, so seriously it takes her a moment to realize that it’s one of his crude jokes.

“No,” she says, “well, yes.”

He waggles his eyebrows, and she giggles like a schoolgirl as she says, “I meant we should invite the Bishops again.” Walter and Elizabeth are both among her closest friends, and she enjoys Peter’s company. Being an almost aunt to him is probably the closest she’ll ever get to being a mother.

“Maybe,” William says, and Nina sighs. William’s maybes always mean that he intends to think about it for a few days and then forget it was even something he was supposed to be considering.

 


 

 

It’s not even a full six months later when Peter falls ill. No one has any idea what it is, and there’s no known cure. She brings Peter flowers and a teddy bear. He says that the flowers are “for girls” but ends up curling up with the teddy bear as soon as she turns her back.

“I don’t know if he’s going to make it,” Elizabeth tells her, after they leave the room.

“Walter’s always at the lab, trying to find a cure but- but if he doesn’t,” and Elizabeth’s voice trails off at that. Elizabeth tries not to cry, but Nina can tell how close she is to tears. Nina takes Elizabeth’s hands in hers.

“He will,” Nina promises her, and she’s almost certain. Walter and William are the most brilliant scientists in the world, and there’s no greater motivation than Walter having his son’s life on the line. She’s almost certain that he will save Peter. Elizabeth giggles a little bit, a terrified, bitter sort of laugh.

“There are some things that not even Walter can do,” she says. Nina squeezes her hands, and doesn’t say anything. She’s not sure if there’s anything that she can say.

 

 

Peter Bishop dies at nine thirty eight in the evening on October 26, 1985. She doesn’t hear about it until the next day, of course, when she reads the notice in the paper and sends over flowers. She knows that they won’t really help, the same way that they didn’t help Peter, but it makes her feel better to do something. There’s so little that one can do when someone dies.

 

 

She cries. She cries wet, messy tears, and her mascara runs and her eyes get red, and her chest hurts. She didn’t know him all that well, but she would have liked to. Now she, and everyone else for that matter, will never get the chance.

Her eyes are dry by the time she gets to the funeral. The day is bright and the air is chilly, and the words are a hum of white noise in the back of Nina’s mind. It almost feels like a dream, but Nina knows that a dream wouldn’t be so vivid.

William has never liked goodbyes. He thinks that if he never says them, then they aren’t permanent. She thinks that’s at least half of the reason why he doesn’t come to the funeral. He can claim that he’s overwhelmed at work all he wants, but he can get out of it. He can, he just doesn’t because sometimes, William forgets that his friends need him too. Walter needs him, Elizabeth needs him, Nina needs him; but William stays in Paris, cutting some deal with a French company over technology that shouldn’t exist in this world yet.

They lower Peter Bishop into the ground, and afterwards, Nina makes excuses for William, the way that she always does.


 

 

Walter becomes obsessed with the window.

Doctor Warren worries, and Walter watches the other Peter as he slowly dies in the other universe. Carla worries that he won’t be able to stop himself from interfering, from playing God, and Nina can’t help but fear that as well. She and Walter are similar, almost too similar, and she knows that she would do almost anything to save someone she loves. She, however, understands that the boy withering away on the other side of the window is not Walter’s Peter.

She doubts if Walter does.

 

 

Nina tries not to think about it. The technology is years away from being to the point where Walter could cross universes, and she has work to do. But then Doctor Warren shatters all of her perceptions. She staggers into Massive Dynamic that day, following Nina out of the elevator. Like a good executive, Nina tries to shake her.

“Doctor Warren,” Nina says, “is there any way that this can wait? I have a meeting with the CEO of International Investments in fifteen minutes.”

“Nina,” the woman says, and she seems shaken up, frightened even, “this is important.”

“Carla,” Nina says, switching at least partially out of her executive mode and into her friend mode, “what’s wrong?”

“Walter’s going to cross into the other universe to save Peter,” Carla says.

Nina breathes a sigh of relief that they’re the only people in the elevator, and says, “Walter's always been like that. He often goes off on flights of fancy. But even if he was serious, the design itself is decades beyond anything we could imagine.”

“No,” Carla says empathetically, “You don't understand. He already has the design. He's building it.” Nina’s blood freezes in her veins, and she grabs her cellphone.

“Oh,” she says, and she hopes that she doesn’t sound as terrified as she is, “Doctor Bell’s office, please.”

 

William doesn’t answer, and Nina doesn’t find herself surprised by this. She takes a deep breath, and looks Carla straight in the eyes.

“Where does he plan on doing this?” she asks.

“Reiden Lake,” Carla says, and Nina mumbles under her breath. Of course he’d realize he needed to do it at a lake.

“We have to stop him,” Nina says. There’s a multitude of reasons flying through her mind, but she can’t settle on one. She just knows that this, all of it, is the worse idea that’s even been conceived.

“I’ll drive,” Carla tells her.

 

 

 

The lake is frozen solid (or at least relatively so) and covered in snow like something out of a Christmas Special. But this isn’t a television program, these are people’s lives that Walter’s about to put at stake. Nina won’t let that happen.

They have a confrontation. Nina’s not sure what else to call it, except perhaps a fight. Walter refuses to listen to reason, and then almost taunts her about William.

“Walter, regardless of what William wants, or who he is, I know why you're doing this. I understand. You know how much Peter meant to me, and how difficult it will be for me to admit that he's gone. But... this. This isn't the answer,” she says. She hopes that there’s some way to get this through Walter’s thick skull.

But Walter Bishop never listens to her any more than he listens to anyone, and he activates his damn portal anyways. It’s circular and glowing, and it looks like something out of a real life Star Trek, but Nina won’t allow herself to be intimidated. She can’t let Walter cross over.

“No,” he says, “I won’t let him die again.” Nina knows that Walter won’t listen to reason, and she knows that if he goes over to save that Peter, he’s most likely going to bring him back. She makes a split second decision, and tries to tackle him before he enters the portal.

“No, Walter!” she shouts, trying to bring him down, trying to stop this, “I won’t let you do it! Walter!” But Walter disappears along with the glimmering portal, and Nina feels a searing pain in her arm, followed by numbness.

She tries to clutch her arm, but finds that her other hand cannot hold it. She cannot feel her arm as it fades in and out of this plane of existence, flickering like a candle’s flame in the wind.

She can hear Carla calling her name.

“Help me!” she shrieks, but she knows that there’s no hope for her arm. Carla helps her get up, and drags her back to the car.

“You’re going to be okay,” Carla says softly, as they pad their way through the snow, “we’re going to be okay.” But Nina doubts it. Walter’s played with the fabric of the universe, and an arm isn’t going to be the only thing that they’ll lose.


 

Nina’s home pho.ne rings loudly, calling Nina away from the moment of peace that she’d gotten with her book. She lays her book down on the coffee table, and gets up to answer it. She grabs it off the wall, and stretches the long, spindly cord far enough to sit down in one of her wooden, kitchen chairs

“This is Nina Sharp,” she greets, like always.

“Nina,” says another, wavering woman’s voice, “this is Elizabeth.”

“Elizabeth?” Nina asks quickly, “how are you? How’s Walter? How’s-” Peter, she almost asks, until she decides against it. She knows that they kept the Peter from the other side, but she doesn’t want to talk about it. Just thinking about it makes her stomach churn.

“How have you been?”

“I’m alright,” she says tightly, though it’s obviously a lie. Elizabeth sounds more stressed and sorrowful than she’s ever heard her, and that includes the day of Peter’s funeral.

Elizabeth’s voice sounds heavy and tear-filled on the other end of the line.

“I can’t keep doing this,” she says. Nina doesn’t know what to tell her. If the fate of the universe weren’t at stake, she’d tell Elizabeth to take him back. The kidnapping and the deception are obviously weighing down on her conscience, but Nina doesn’t know how to help her. Elizabeth’s always been a moral woman; guilty to the point of ridiculousness when she breaks her code. Nina doesn’t know what to tell her when there’s no ethical solution to her problems.

“But we can’t take him back,” she says, voice cracking with guilt and watery tears. Nina doesn’t know if Elizabeth means that they can’t reopen the portal, or if she can’t bear to give Peter up a second time. Nina supposes it doesn’t matter much. The Bishops have made their decisions. Now they have to deal with the consequences.

Nina hears Elizabeth sob a few mores times on the other side of the line, and continues to hold the phone to her ear as they slowly stop. Nina can’t even speculate about what Elizabeth might say next.

“I haven’t seen you in forever,” Elizabeth says, putting a false amount of cheeriness into her voice.

“Elizabeth-”

“Please, Nina,” she says, “come eat with us.” Nina can’t see what that would fix.

“Everything is falling apart,” Elizabeth says, the grief returning to her voice. Nina sighs into the phone. She supposes not even she can leave her friends completely to their fate.

“Alright,” she says, “I’ll be in Boston next Tuesday. Will that work?”

“Yes,” Elizabeth sighs in turn, “thank you Nina.”

“I’ll see you then,” Nina says. She hangs up the phone, and wonders idly if her entire post-college life has been one long, LSD trip.

 

 

 

She smiles tightly as she enters their home, clutching brownies that she picked up at the grocery store that she can hopefully pass off as her own.

They sit down at the table, and to an outsider the Bishops would look like a perfect family. Elizabeth has a big smile plastered on her face, but seems obviously uncomfortable with the entire situation. From her previous conversation, Nina would suspect that the guilt is still consuming her. Her friend might even be spiraling into depression. She forces her own face into a false smile at the thought, to avoid looking too pensive.

Peter excuses himself early, but he didn’t speak much to begin with. This Peter is wary of everyone, especially Walter, but he seems almost resigned to his fate. He’s not as open or lively as his counterpart, but Nina supposes that should be expected. He was kidnapped, and dragged across universes to a world and people that are familiar but a little bit off. Nina would not be a talkative soul if she met that fate.

Elizabeth sends them a sad smile, and follows him up, obviously trying to talk some sort of motherly sense into him.

She’s left alone with Walter, and it’s the first time that she’s even seen him since he crossed universes. She knows that’s what they’re both thinking of, what neither of them can forget.

“Peter is getting better,” Walter says, “he actually talked to all of us. I think that we’re making progress.” He’s forcing a smile, the same as the rest of them, but Walter seems much better at forgetting what he’s done than any of the rest of them are.

“He isn’t yours, Walter,” Nina says softly. Nina knows this, and she was barely a part of Peter’s life. She doesn’t understand how Walter ignores the fact so thoroughly.

“We can’t give him up,” Walter says, and his voice sounds like shattering glass. Nina can see what he means. They’ve opened Pandora’s Box, and they sure as hell can’t shut it now.

“Walter I just- I can’t stand by and watch this,” she says.

“Then don’t,” Walter says. It’s almost hard, cold- the sort of dismissal that makes Nina’s blood go cold.

“You can’t mourn your son with his doppelgänger here,” Nina says calmly. Walter can be cold, but she can as well. He needs to remember the truth. This boy is not, and never will be his son. She doesn’t know what they should do, but he needs to remember this.

“You wouldn’t understand,” he says, “you’ll never have children.” And this, this somehow hurts worse than anything else. She fell in love with William Bell; a nomad, a free-spirit, a scientist. He’s the sort who barely likes children, and would never stick around long enough to raise one. He won’t settle down for her, and would be less likely to if there was a child in the mix.

“Carla was right,” Nina says, “something has hardened in you Walter, and you ought to be careful. You never know who you might burn.” She grabs her purse with her prosthetic arm, but switches it quickly to her good arm. She prefers to be able to feel the material, know for certain that she’s holding it.

“Nina-” Walter says, but she doesn’t bother looking back, and lets the door slam behind her as she walks out.


 

 

Carla is killed in a fire in the lab. Walter ends up in a mental hospital, Elizabeth commits suicide and the other Peter runs away. William crosses over into the other universe, and Nina is left alone. But then, years later, a woman named Olivia Dunham comes to her, seeking answers.

She threatens to set her attorneys on her, but the woman seems undeterred.

“How long have you worked for Doctor Bell?” she asks. Nina tells her the story that she always does, one involving cancer and running and the beauties of Massive Dynamic. She grabs the file, and passes it to Olivia.

“Everything we have on Richard Steig,” Nina says, and she pauses a moment before asking, “Do you believe that Steig may be part of The Pattern?

“I'm sorry, part of the- part of The Pattern?" Agent Dunham asks, and Nina suddenly realizes how far out of her depth she must be.

“I assumed you had clearance,” Nina says.

“ I'm cleared to know whatever you're cleared to know, miss Sharp,” she says, and Nina admires her tenacity. But Agent Dunham is in deep waters and she’ll likely be able to do nothing more than tread.

“Apparently not,” Nina says, and she pauses a moment before she adds, “ But suffice to say that we reached the point where science and technology have advanced at such an exponential rate for so long, it may be way beyond our ability to regulate and control them.” She can’t tell the woman much of anything, else, but she can at least warn her.

“You should know what you're getting into, Agent Dunham. I would say this to my own daughter: "Be careful and good luck." She finds herself truly meaning the words; Olivia seems much like the daughter she would have wanted. She truly hopes that she doesn’t drown in the ocean she’s jumping into without a life jacket.

 

 

 

Olivia Dunham doesn’t drown. To be more accurate, she does exactly the opposite. She puts together an effective team and learns to swim. She somehow brings the remaining Bishops back together, and Nina would almost call her a miracle worker simply for that. But Olivia and her team solve more fringe cases than any of Broyles’s previous teams combined, and Nina feels a sense of undeserved pride. Agent Dunham didn’t drown, and she can’t help it if she thinks of her a little bit like a daughter.

After Olivia crosses universes, she directs her to Sam Weiss. She likes to think that she helps her, at least a little bit. Sam certainly helped her through difficult times.

 


 

Olivia ends up in Nina’s office, again, accusing her of something that she’s never done. She thinks that it’s become something of a pattern of its own.

“Do you doubt my motives?” Nina asks. Agent Dunham’s never trusted her, and though Nina understands to an extent, she doesn’t appreciate it.

“I don't know,” she says vaguely, “I've always been a little foggy as to your motives.”

“What are you implying?” Nina asks impatiently. If she’s being accused of something, she deserves to know what it is.

“Well, you've kept information from me since I met you -- information that has prevented me from understanding the origin of many, if not all of the cases I've investigated while working with Fringe Division,” she says, and Nina supposes that’s at least a little bit fair.

But then Olivia adds, “And I know about Peter. I know the whole story.”

“Does Peter know?” She asks, “have you told him?” She doubts if Peter has stuck around if he knows. He’s probably halfway back to Iraq, and about to throw himself into worlds of danger. Nina’s never supported Walter’s decision, but she doesn’t want Peter to get hurt over it.

“No,” Olivia says, almost guiltily, “but I’m going to.” And suddenly, Nina understands why Olivia is really here.

“No,” Nina says, “you won’t.”

“What makes you so sure about that?” Agent Dunham asks.

“ Because you haven't told him yet. And I'm guessing you've had any number of opportunities,” Nina says. She knows that she has her pinned down. Olivia won’t- can’t tell Peter.

“Well, I've had my reasons for waiting. This is the right thing to do, and Peter needs to know the truth,” Oliva says. Nina can hear it in her voice; Olivia’s at least trying to believe her own words. She’s just not succeeding.

“ Whether or not it's the right thing to do, I recognize the look in your eyes. I know that working together closely with someone can bring about feelings. I'm fairly certain that you're not prepared to lose him,” Nina says. She pauses a moment, and thinks about what she wants to say next.

She settles on, “You didn't come here today to ask me about a list that you already knew I don't have. And you didn't come here to announce that you're going to tell Peter who he really is. You came here- to have me talk you out of it.”

Olivia bites her lip, and asks, “So what if I did?”

“I won’t talk you out of it,” Nina says, “and I won’t talk you into it either. This isn’t my decision, Olivia, It’s yours.” Nina’s always been distant at best in this entire conflict, and she won’t get her hands dirty now.

“Thank you, Miss Sharp,” Agent Dunham says, as she gets up and starts to exit the room, “I think that I have all the information that I need.”

“Happy to help, Agent Dunham,” Nina replies. Olivia won’t tell Peter, but Nina’s not sure whether or not that’s a good thing.

 


 

Nina can’t say that she’s surprised that Peter leaves. He was never theirs. The guilt drove Elizabeth to suicide, Walter to madness, and it drove Peter away. Nina simply stayed away. This Peter was not the boy she took horseback riding, not the Peter that called her Aunt Nina with a toothless smile. He was the one she could never truly look at, because she never forgot the boy he replaced. She could never bare to pretend.

Olivia might not have told him, but he found out all the same. Peter was always bound to find out, and Nina thinks he was bound to run far away when he did. She wonders, a little sadly, how Olivia is taking it. She thought that they might have been stronger than she and William, but it seems she might be wrong.

They ended up in separate universes as well.

 

 

Peter Bishop comes back for Olivia Dunham. Nina doesn’t think that there’s any way to deny that. Olivia seems a little bit off the next time that she sees her, but Nina supposes that it can’t be too serious. No one else has noticed it.

 

 

Olivia comes back, eventually, after being trapped in the alternate universe and experimented on and having her life stolen. But Olivia comes back at least a little bit damaged, or a little more damaged than she was. She opens up to Nina of all people about the ways she feels that her alternate is better than her, better suited for Peter than her.

She tells her about the complicated relationship she and William had, and how she wishes they would have actually spoken about their feelings instead of shoving them to the side.

“Don't make the same mistake that I did. If you want to know how Peter feels- ask him,” Nina says.

Olivia sends her a sad little smile and says, “I don’t think that I can. I’m not even sure if I want to anymore.”

Nina squeezes her hand, and says, “It’s worth a try.”

“Maybe,” Olivia says, and Nina supposes that’s the closest thing to an answer that she’s ever going to get.

Olivia lets go of her hand, and says, “I suppose that I should get going.”

“Olivia,” Nina says.

“Yes?” Olivia asks, already halfway through the door.

“You’ll be alright,” Nina tells her, and she honestly believes that, “you can get through anything.” Olivia nods absently at her, as if she can't believe the words that Nina just said even came out of her mouth. 

“Goodbye, Nina,” Olivia says, and she slips out the door.


 

Nina’s a smart woman, and it she eventually realizes after riffling through all of the different copies of The First People, written in many different languages, that they all point back to Sam Weiss. She’s not shy either, and she confronts her old friend immediately.

He deflects the questions, and eventually, the subject changes to Peter.

“Go on,” Nina says.

“Okay,” Sam says, “What I can tell you is this... That device can either be used as a tool of creation or as a weapon of destruction.” Sam sits casually on the ball return. It’s always seemed odd to her that she discovered so many of the secrets of the universe right in this bowling alley.

Sam’s started speaking again before Nina’s had much of a chance to think about it, “Depends on your point of view. And Peter Bishop is uniquely tuned to operate it. Whatever frequency Peter's vibrating at will determine how the machine reacts.”

“And what determines Peter’s frequency?” she asks. Peter’s already chose this universe, against all of her original thoughts. He chose it for Olivia. She doesn’t think that it should be hard to get him to choose it again.

“Depends on his state of mind, which, in turn, will depend on who he ends up with,” Sam says, “Olivia from here or Olivia from over there. Whichever one he chooses, it'll be her universe that survives.” Nina almost rolls her eyes. A love triangle will determine the fate of the universe?

But she says, “So in that case, there's no cause for concern. He'll choose our Olivia.” The Olivia that she knows is determined and driven and compassionate in a way that she knows the other isn’t. She spent enough time with Olivia’s alternate to detect some of the differences.

“I wouldn’t be so sure of that,” Sam says, but Nina knows that Sam’s uncertainty is wrong.They’re lost children that found homes in each other. Nina doesn’t think either of them will ever be able to give that up. Nina’s not often wrong, and she doubts she will be this time.

“Would you like to play a round?” Sam asks her.

“Alright,” she says, “if you’ll tell me all about The First People.” Sam crosses to the counter, and pulls out a pair of brightly colored bowling shoes.

“A deal’s a deal,” he says, holding up the shoes. Nina grabs them, and Sam starts to talk.

 

Nina listens.