Peter Bishop came home to find an Observer passed out on his couch.
... Well, that wasn't entirely accurate.
The first thing he did was open the front door, grocery bags in tow. Since Walter was not the most autonomous member of the species, Peter was left to do the majority of the chores in the Bishop household. Groceries, cooking, cleaning, laundry, tending to his father's assorted eccentricities; he did it all. Yet he did so without complaint, determined to do whatever was necessary to make his father happy.
This train of thought violently crashed the moment he entered the kitchen.
Someone had broken into their house.
The first clue came in the form of the muddied footprints scattered all over the linoleum floor. He placed the bags on the ground, senses on high alert. He slowly traced the steps and found that they originated from the open window over the sink; plates lay shattered on the floor, having been displaced by the trespasser upon entry.
Whoever this guy was, he clearly needed to work on being a little more discreet.
He then turned his attention to the kitchen's central island. The perpetrator had fancied himself to a snack, judging from the plates and utensils and condiments and other food items littering the island's dreadfully chaotic surface; upon closer inspection, the leftovers on the table left clues shedding light on the intruder's love for unbelievably odd gustatory combinations. A bowl of Fruit Loops and Tabasco sauce? Coleslaw with molasses? A half-eaten sandwich of roast beef, mustard, and raw eggs?
And who the hell manages to empty entire salt and pepper shakers in a single meal?
Potato chips, crackers, milk, meats, part of their fruit and vegetable stock, most of the spices, sauces, and condiments; what little there was left before Peter's earlier visit to the market was for the most part gone. He was decidedly concerned at this point. No sane individual would break into someone's house in broad daylight, let alone deplete the contents of their fridge and leave a huge mess in their wake as a welcome home present.
Who – or what – was he dealing with?
With an anxious sigh, he armed himself with a rolling pin as a precautionary measure before following the trail of prints leading into the living room.
It was there that he found him, half-sprawled onto the couch. His face was a mess, and his suit were dirty; in his hand was a bottle of soya sauce that was full last time Peter checked, but was now almost depleted, what little liquid that remained slowly dripping onto the carpet.
But not just any Observer; the one that saved him and his father at Reiden Lake, and the one who has been involved with them ever since.
Peter stood dumbfounded, his mind and body crippled by the cognitive dissonance borne of the ominous nature of the Observers and the insanity of finding one on his couch. He didn't move for a good five minutes before he came to his senses.
His first thought was to check if he was still alive. Taking his rolling pin, he gently nudged it into the suited man's side, whose reaction was almost nonexistent. He put the pin on the nearby desk, then proceeded to check the Observer for a pulse; there was indeed something resembling a pulse in his neck, but Peter wasn't sure if that meant anything as the Observers might not even be human, so he didn't place much faith in it being a sign of livelihood.
He did, however, put his faith in September's mumbling as he shifted off the couch and onto the floor.
"...but Yahahrahah, Mauritius has always been your home... Where will your kind go?"
After determining that the Observer had in fact not fallen into a coma induced from the blasphemous amounts of food he had ingested, his next thought was to contact Olivia, his trusted partner in all things strange; this was a matter that concerned all of them. He even got so far as to remove his cell phone from his coat pocket.
But just as he was about to press the key, he was blinded by the light of epiphany.
He had an Observer all to himself.
Peter's hand slowly tucked his phone away in his coat, mind aflame. Of course, the others would have to be informed of this; and he was fully intending on letting them in on it, too, but only after he was done with him. Only after he had extracted the answers he knew without a doubt these people held, the answers he so desperately craved.
The answers he deserved.
Peter rubbed his hands. The timing was so convenient that he was tempted to attribute it as an act of Providence. There were no pressing Fringe cases to work on, Walter wouldn't be back from his trip with Astrid to the museum until supper, he had nothing else planned for the day; no foreseeable interruptions for the next few hours.
And as dragged a chair from the dining room and plopped it in the middle of the living room, he figured a few hours were all he was going to need.
September's re-emergence into consciousness was a gradual affair, but he eventually became cogent enough to properly evaluate his circumstances. Given that his head was stopped forward when his vision returned, the first thing he saw was the rope that bound him to the chair he now sat in. He found the bindings to be tight, severely limiting his capacity to move.
"Finally, you're awake. You've been out for almost two hours."
September's head craned up to see a man sitting backward in a chair opposite to him, arms resting on the back.
"Don't bother," said Peter. "Those knots were tied by a former boy scout; there's no way you're getting out of 'em."
Realizing that the Boy was correct, September slackened, which seemed to please him; and pleased he was, for the Observer's small act of compliance served to further affirm that Peter was in control, and as he was well aware, control – or at least, the illusion thereof – was the key to any successful interrogation.
"It's been awhile since we last spoke," began Peter in a casual tone. "And seeing as you and I go way back, I figure now is as good a time as ever to do a little catching up between good friends, don't you? So, first thing's first. What are you doing in my house?"
When the Observer didn't answer, Peter prodded him further.
"Have you come here for me? What about Walter?"
"Yes," said September, suddenly very alert. "It is imperative that I speak to Walter. Where is he?"
"Unfortunately for you, Walter's not home right now," replied Peter, "so the only Bishop you're going to be talking to today is me."
"This does not concern you," said September matter-of-factly. "I must see him as soon as I can." He pulled against his bonds again, still to no effect. "Untie me."
"Sure thing," said Peter. "But before I do that, I'm going to be asking you a few questions, and you're going to be answering them."
Peter rose from his seat and began to pace around the Observer's restricted figure.
"Who exactly are you?" asked Peter, placing his hand on the back of September's chair. A moment passed, and he tried again. "What is it that you want from me? What makes me so special? Answer me!"
September refrained from answering the Boy's queries; he recalled the threat of termination that was issued to him should he get involved, which, along with his ingrained passivity, prevented him from informing Peter of things he wasn't supposed to know.
Yet Peter wasn't fazed by the Observer's reticence; after all, he had cracked a few people back in the day. He wasn't necessarily proud of this (as with many things he did in his nomadic days), but even so, he was at least grateful to have picked up a handful of useful skills, the art of interrogation being but one of them.
However, his skills had only applied on men of flesh and bone thus far; he wasn't sure whether his current guest could even be considered human, so his tactics may not be as effective, if at all.
Still, he thought, he had to at least try.
"You must release me," said the Observer. "There is no time."
"Well, you're going to have to make time, sweetheart, 'cause you and I aren't going anywhere," replied Peter, leaning over the Observer and staring him down.
But September was not at all intimidated; and if anything, it was the Observer's stare that was the more daunting of the two, the bald one's eternal eyes having an almost physical weight to their gaze. With the Observer proving incapable of submission, Peter broke away, approaching the window to consider other strategies.
"Please!" plead September. "My butt hurts!"
Peter then turned abruptly, pointing at his captive with a stern finger.
"Now you listen to me! You're not going anywhere until you tell me what I want to know, and wait, what?"
The Observer seemed in pain, shifting in discomfort in his seat with an uncharacteristically distressed expression; it was a rather bizarre sight, though nowhere near as remarkable as the disbelief etched upon Peter's face, who wasn't quite sure whether he should laugh or cry.
"My butt hurts," he repeated. "Let me go!"
In his struggling, the Observer suddenly tipped over in his chair, falling to the side.
"I must reach Walter!"
September then proceeded to wriggle in his seat as though a caterpillar, apparently expecting to start moving any second. Seeing this, Peter cautiously came to the Observer's aid and pulled him back up. There was something about the numbed exasperation in his hostage that made him re-evaluate his preconceptions about the Observers. This was no ordinary Observer visit, he thought; it seemed to be more of a personal matter than anything else. And as he leaned against the back of his own chair, looking at the dirty, messy, confused individual that sat before him, his anger for the Observers and their holier-than-thou ambiguity was replaced instead by some measure of sympathy.
"Alright, look," sighed Peter at length. "I know you need to talk to my father, but he isn't here right now. However, I might just let you talk to him, but only if you spoil the beans to me first."
"What you ask of me is impossible," said September in protest. "I do not currently possess any beans."
"Why am I not surprised that you don't get idioms," said Peter, rolling his eyes. "Look, just tell me whatever urgent thing it is you need to talk to Walter about. If I approve your message, then I'll let you tell him yourself. So tell me, what do your people want from him?"
"My... people?" said September, puzzled. "They are no longer my people."
Peter's eyes widened.
"What? What do you mean, no longer your people?"
September spoke with difficulty, grappling with the memories of his expulsion.
"...I was banished," he finished at last.
"Banished?" asked Peter, shocked. "For what? What did you do?"
September then proceeded to recap recent events without breath or pause.
"I was to station myself at the corner of Wallace and Long Street to observe and collapse the event to the specified outcome but then a dog came and began to thrust its pelvis against my leg and it distracted me so I was unable to incite a pedestrian to walk in front of the Prime Variable's vehicle, thereby preventing her from braking and causing her to collide with a vehicle at the intersection which now means that she will be unable to play her intended part as the catalyst leading to the emergence of a planetary noosphere that is to herald the next phase in the evolution of the human species and because of this the others–"
"Whoa, slow down!" interrupted Peter, somewhat regretting that he ever asked. "You lost me at thrust. Just... give me the short version, will ya?"
September paused, considering his words, before at last giving the abridged version of his tale.
"I made a mistake."
Peter stood and paced, arms crossed, contemplating the implications of his captive's situation, and what it might mean for him and the others.
"So the Observers basically kicked you out because you screwed up?" clarified Peter for his own sake.
"Observers?" asked September, curious. "Is that the term by which you refer to us?"
Peter was surprised; he and the Fringe team have been using the term for so long that he had never stopped to consider that might have a name of their own.
"Well, yeah... I guess," said Peter. "What do you guys call yourselves?"
"We have always been the Servants of That Which We Serve."
The Boy raised an eyebrow, dubious.
"Okay... So what is it exactly that you're supposed to be serving?"
"We serve That Which We Serve."
"Yeah, I got that, but what is it? What do you serve? Is it God, or some kind of cosmic force?"
"It is That Which We Serve," said September, wondering how the Boy could possibly fail to grasp such a self-evident concept. "Or should I say That Which I Used to Serve; for now, I am no longer bound to serve That Which I Used to Serve, and have forevermore been cast out of the place wherein it and I dwelt."
"The place where you dwelt?"
"Yes," said September. "The Perpetual Halls of the Timeless Forever Place."
It was becoming clear to him that the answers he was seeking were not quite the ones he was looking for; either that, or he wasn't ready for them yet. He began to question whether interrogating the Observer would actually amount to anything, and his yearning for existential clarity dwindled.
"And that is why I have come here," explained September. "I need Walter's help. He is the only one who can."
A long silence ensued, interrupted only by September's intermittent shuffling as he tried to allay the soreness of his posterior. After this period of contemplation, Peter approached September's chair.
"I'm going to untie you, now," said Peter. "Don't go doing anything stupid, alright?"
He undid the knots as easily as he had tied them, and the rope fell to the floor. September arose with sluggish movements as Peter kept his distance, recalling the pistol he whipped out the last time they met face to face; but he sensed no ill intent coming from the Observer now, so he eased himself.
Exhaling, Peter then directed himself to the kitchen, and September followed. The kitchen was nowhere near the mess it once was, having evidently been tidied up to some degree; though there was still much to do, and the floors remained untouched, stained with prints of mud and dirt.
"While you were out, I took the liberty of cleaning up after you," said Peter. "I have to say, you sure know how to make an entrance."
"I had every intention of restoring the room to its original state," explained September. "However, my physiology requires that I slumber for 3.14 hours every 1.618 days; as I finished my meal, the time had come for me to rest."
"So that's what that was?" said Peter, surprised he was managing to keep a straight face. "I was starting to think that you might have overdosed on food; and considering the things you ate, it wouldn't have been that big of a shock. Did you really have to make such a huge mess, though?"
"I was hungry," replied September.
"You don't say?"
Bishop let his fingers glide on the central island's surface as he followed its contours. With a heavy sigh, he spoke.
"I honestly don't know how you expect Walter or anyone to be able to help you out, um... Say, you wouldn't happen to have a name, would you?"
"My name?" said the Observer, perplexed. "I am September."
"September? Well, that's certainly an unorthodox choice for a name."
"No, I do not have a name," corrected September. "I am September."
"What do you mean?" asked Peter. "What do others refer to you as?"
"Then wouldn't that be your name?"
"No, you do not understand. I am September."
"So... you're saying that you're supposed to be the personification of the month of September?"
"No," said September. "I am not a month. I am September."
"...You're hopeless, you know that?"
At that moment, movement resounded from the entrance.
"Peter! I'm home!"
Peter shot a glance at the clock; Walter had arrived a bit earlier than he had anticipated.
"Stay put," ordered the Boy with a point of the finger, hoping that September could at least grasp non-verbal cues.
Peter left the kitchen and sped down the hall that led to the front door, the place where his father was now standing, clutching a tote bag while removing his shoes.
"Ah, Peter!" he exclaimed upon noticing his approaching son. "I had the most wonderful time at the museum today. It just so happened that they had a special exhibit on The History of Taffy. Can you believe that? And look at the souvenirs I bought!"
Walter spread the bag he was holding so that Peter could have a better view of the plethora of cheap baubles stored within.
"That's great, Walter," said Peter with a warm smile. "I'll have a look at them later, alright?"
Walter nodded; his cheerful disposition then mired to suspicion.
"Is there something wrong, son?" he asked.
Peter's cheerful facade also faded, adopting a grave expression.
"I don't want you to be alarmed," said Peter, hands on his father's shoulders, "but there's something–"
As Peter spoke, Walter's eyes shifted across his son's shoulder, looking down the hall. Peter, realizing that the truth had already surfaced, closed his eyes and sighed as Walter broke away from him. He turned to see September standing at the kitchen's mouth, observing them with stoic countenance. Walter shuffled forward with small, slow steps; Peter would only realize after the fact that Walter had instinctively placed himself in front of him and put a hand on his chest as though to shield his son from their guest.
"...Hello," said Walter timidly.
"Hello, Walter," replied September.
"What brings you here?" asked Walter, still hesitant. Then his face fell; he quickly regained himself, however, trying to hide his rising anxiety behind a detached demeanor. "Have you come for my son?"
Peter stepped in, placing himself before Walter and resting his hands on the increasingly agitated man's shoulders.
"Listen, Walter," he said. "He's not here for me."
"...He's not?" said Walter, visibly relieved.
"No, he's not," confirmed Peter. "From what I've been able to piece together, he's been kicked out by the other Observers, so he came here looking for you."
Walter returned his attention to September; the latter was reminiscent of a child who had just been found after wandering lost in the supermarket for two hours.
"Is this true?" asked Walter.
"I have come to seek your assistance, Walter," said September. "Will you help me?"
"Yes," said Walter after a few moments, wariness giving way to concern. "Yes, of course!"
He sauntered to the kitchen, Peter following suit a moment after. Walter then guided September through to the dining room.
"Have a seat," he beckoned.
September did as he was told. Walter then took a seat of his own across from their guest; as for Peter, he opted to lean against the wall, arms crossed.
"Please," said Walter. "Start from the beginning."
And so did September recount the events of the past eight hours in great detail. He began with his trial at the hands of his peers; Peter was shocked to hear that September's abilities have been removed, something the Observer neglected to mention during their earlier one on one session. Then came the retelling of his journey through Boston, including his time at the park. It was here that September shared his concerns about the possibility of the pain in his buttocks being linked to hemorrhoids; Walter offered to examine September's anus to confirm the Observer's suspicions, something to which Peter immediately objected.
"The examination will only take a few moments," assured Walter.
"Do I really need to explain to you how wrong that is?" replied Peter before addressing September. "Listen, you don't have hemorrhoids, alright?"
"It's a perfectly valid concern, son," rebutted Walter. "I see no harm in taking a quick peek if it means dispelling any lingering doubts. Besides, you've developed hemorrhoids on more than one occasion, so you should be intimately familiar with the pain it can cause."
"I can't thank you enough for bringing that up, Walter."
After convincing September that he did not, in fact, have hemorrhoids, the suited man continued with his tale, describing the sequence of events that led him to the Bishop house and how, upon receiving no answer after ringing the bell and knocking for a good ten minutes, he was forced to enter through the open kitchen window.
Walter was less than pleased when September then revealed his interrogation at Peter's hands; the Boy was kind of hoping the Observer would omit that detail from the story.
"You held him prisoner?" said Walter upon entering the living room, seeing the rope lying at the feet of the chair. "How could you possibly have treated our guest so poorly?"
"Guest? Walter, he broke into our house. And I had to see what his intentions were. Whether he could be trusted or not."
"Trusted? Why, this poor soul is the most trustworthy individual I know! What has he ever done to you?"
"He once shot me in the chest. With a plasma bolt."
Walter turned to September.
"You shot him?"
"I had no choice," replied the Observer blandly. "You see–"
"–choice or not, that doesn't excuse you from having shot my son!" reproached Walter. "Now say you're sorry."
September looked to Peter.
"I am sorry, Peter."
"Now you, Peter," said Walter. "Apologize for having held him captive. Go on!"
Peter sighed heavily before turning to their guest.
"Good," said Walter. "Now, I want you both to shake hands."
"Shake hands?" said Peter. "Really? We're not children, Walter."
Peter then caught something in the corner of his eye; from his seat in the dining room, September was busying himself by nonchalantly waving with both of his hands. After a few seconds, he stopped, puzzled.
"Are you not going to shake your hands with me, Peter?" he asked.
"Okay, now I know you're screwing with me."
Then the Bishops took their seats and listened, rapt, as September drew his tale to a close, with him explaining his motivations for seeking out Walter. No words were exchanged for several minutes until at last Walter breached the heavy silence.
"I'm afraid that I will be of little help to you," explained Walter. "The only way to you will adapt with this situation, and with any situation for that matter, is with a little time. I have no doubt that you will eventually familiarize yourself with the strange and wondrous workings of the world; in the meantime, you are welcome to stay here with us for as long as you like."
"What?" exclaimed Peter. "Oh, no, no. No, no. Absolutely not."
"But Peter!" protested Walter.
"No way, Walter. We're not having an Observer living in our house!"
"Haven't you been listening at all?" cried Walter. "He has nowhere else to go. And besides, September is my friend!"
Peter opened his mouth to reply, then stopped, losing his train of thought.
"Wait, did you just say September? You already know his name?"
"Of course I do!" replied Walter. "I've known for years!"
"And when exactly were you planning on telling everyone?"
Walter seemed stumped.
"I... I don't know," he said. "I guess it never occurred to me. B-but that's not important right now. What is important is that September here needs our help. Please, Peter; will you let him stay with us for a little while?"
Peter looked to September, whose bald head tilted and swiveled almost hypnotically.
"Please, Peter?" prodded Walter.
"Yes, Peter," added September. "Please?"
Both Walter and September gazed at him, as though awaiting a verdict of some sort. His bows burrowed, considering a variety of factors that having an Observer in their house would bring. Yet as he looked into September's eyes, he could have sworn that he saw an inkling of something he could only describe as desperation.
"...Okay, fine," said a not-too-pleased Peter. "He can stay for little awhile."
Walter arose from his seat and gleefully approached his bald friend, who stood as well.
"Did you hear that?" asked Walter, gripping September's forearms. "Peter said you could stay with us!" Walter laughed jubilantly, bouncing up and down; September joined him without expression, not wanting to compromise his new arrangement by failing to enact the appropriate reactions. Then Walter gasped aloud in a moment of brilliant insight. "Do you know what this calls for? A slumber party!" He took September by the arm and led him to the living room. "Come, come, come! Oh, this is going to be so much fun!"
Peter watched as Walter buzzed around the house, going to the kitchen, then the living room, then the stairs, changing directions every time a new idea surfaced in his mind. At first, he was glad that Walter was so excited; but it was only while watching September trailing at a languid pace in Walter's frantic footsteps that the actual gravity of the situation struck him in full.
The Observer was going to be staying at his house for what could potentially be quite some time.