tableau, fringe, 912 words, implied peter x olivia, etta bishop, post 4x19-letters of transit, author’s note inside
Etta learns about herself through a photo album.
Olivia’s fate is a bit ambiguous in 4x19 (hope she’s still alive) but for the purposes of this, she died in the resistance. So it may turn AU once S5 airs. Desperately fluffy fluff about father-daughter bonding. I'm not entirely sure I like this, but here you go
“You remind me so much of her,” her father tells her, smiling. “She was also convinced you’d grow up to look like me, but I think it’s an even mix.”
Etta tries to smile too but his casual talk of the mother she can’t remember makes tears form in her eyes of their own volition. She feels more like a child than she has in twenty years. After her parents disappeared, she’d grown up fast-she’d had to, just to survive.
Her bottom lip trembles treacherously, betrayed her emotions to her father. “Hey,” he says softly, reaching over to touch her face. “What’s wrong?”
His sympathy just makes her want to cry even more. She doesn’t deserve sympathy.
It takes a while to get the words out. “I- I can’t remember her face,” she admits, more ashamed of herself than she’s ever been. “I couldn’t remember yours either. I tried so hard to hold on but it’s been so long and I couldn’t- I couldn’t…” She takes a jagged breath in and the tears finally start.
He looks shocked. “Don’t ever blame yourself; you were so young. Too young.” She feels a hand lifting her chin, and her father’s thumbs grazing gently under her eyes. “Don’t cry, sweetheart. Please don’t cry.” The tenderness and worry in his eyes is as unfamiliar as it is comforting. As long as she can remember, she’s never had someone look at her like that. She tries to school her face into some sort of composure with limited success.
Peter stands and gets the sports bag Etta saw him grab out of a filing cabinet on the way out of that basement. He sits back down opposite her on the floor. They’re still at the end of the train carriage, where they’ve been sitting for hours, just talking- twenty years is a lot of catch up on. He unzips the bag and takes out a large, heavy stiff leather book with a chestnut wooden spine; it takes Etta a second to realize it’s a photograph album, the kind no one owns anymore in favour of digitised images projected onto walls and on TV screens. She hasn’t seen one in years.
Peter rests his hands on the leather, stroking it with a touch of reverence for a second, and then looks up at her. He inclines with her his head that she should come over. Etta shuffles over to sit next to him, still sniffling quietly. Peter wraps an arm around her shoulders and she leans into him in what should have been an awkward moment of affection between a father and daughter who haven’t seen each other in over twenty years, but somehow…wasn’t. The book rests on Peter’s knees.
“This was the last thing your mom picked up before we had to leave our house,” Peter explains. “A lot of the things we took from the house have gone now, but Olivia made sure we kept this.” Etta nodded against his shoulder and he opened the cover and the first dividing sheet of tissue paper.
The first photo of her mom (like her father, suddenly her face is so familiar Etta wonders how she could have ever forgotten it), sweaty and tired-looking, holding a mass of blankets that has one Lilliputian and wrinkly hand sticking out of it. Despite the fatigue that’s obvious on her face, she’s smiling wider than Etta’s ever seen anyone smile. Peter is in the photo too; his arms around both of them with almost exactly the same tired but overjoyed expression.
Etta reaches out to touch her mother’s smiling face in the photo wondrously, fingers skimming over the resin coated paper. She was so beautiful, Etta thinks.
“You were four weeks premature,” Peter tells her. Etta looks up at him, dazed. She never even knew that about herself. He nods seriously. “It was touch-and-go for a while, but you and your mom pulled through. That was one of the longest night of our lives.”
The next photo is her and her father in what Etta assumes used to be their home. They’re on a reclining chair pushed all the back so it was almost horizontal; she’s a baby pink lump on her father’s chest and they’re both fast asleep. Etta laughs quietly.
Peter chuckles too, “This was your mom’s favourite photo.” He fingers the metal triangle binding absently. “I remember…when they put you in my arms for the first time-” his voice becomes rhythmic, like a soft lullaby, as he recounted the tale. Etta lies against his shoulder, smiling tiredly. “-you were this tiny bundle and you fixed me with this stare. My eyes staring back at me…”
Etta’s eyes start fluttering shut like she has no control of them and it doesn’t go unnoticed by Peter. He kissed her hair. “Time for bed, I think.”
“Dad, I want to see more photos,” she protests a touch petulantly but with little feeling other than tiredness behind it.
He laughs, and it rumbles in his chest. “We have tomorrow, sweetheart. And the next day and the next.” His tone is triumphant.
Etta nods, smiling too. Peter goes to shut the album but she stops him. “Wait, can I- can I see her face again?” she asks hesitantly. She doesn’t want to forget again. Peter gently pulls the first photo out of its bindings and hands it to her silently. Satisfied with the picture against her heart, Etta falls asleep in her father’s arms.