Charlie leaves Lincoln to deal with the paperwork. Boss’ prerogative and all. That’s why Charlie never wanted to be in charge. He’s wound up, twitchy with spent adrenaline, so he makes his way to Lincoln’s apartment and lets himself in, if for no other reason than he figures (hopes?) both Lincoln and Liv will end up there eventually.
With Lincoln, he has no doubt. They caught the bug guy and nobody else died. There’s no reason to burn the candle at both ends tonight.
Liv, he’s not so sure about.
He’d used his Fringe Agent status to bully the hospital admissions clerk into confirming that, yes, an Agent Dunham had been admitted, and that she was listed as stable. Aside from the brief message from Frank (they gotta do something about the crappy reception on those earpieces) telling him that she hadn’t been dosed with beetle larvae after all, that’s all he knows.
Actually, Charlie thinks, there’s a lot of things about Liv he doesn’t know lately.
He hadn’t bothered bringing it up with Lincoln again, but something still feels off. He knows that this thing they have shouldn't work, should be tenuous at best, but somehow they're actually stronger for all it's quirks and jagged puzzle-piece edges. They need each other. Charlie worries that when Liv broke and Lincoln got burnt, a few pieces were put back crooked. None of them have actually recovered, even though the shrinks have said otherwise.
Charlie’s in the fridge, reaching past the near-empty jar of mayo and looking for something a little stronger than water or flat 7-Up when the front door slams shut.
“It’s in the freezer.” Lincoln tosses his jacket at the back of the couch, misses, and doesn’t seem to care. The guy looks wound up tight enough to herniate himself.
“Read my mind.” Charlie pulls the clear bottle from underneath a bag of frozen French fries, and grabs a pair of spotty tumblers from the dish rack. “Any news?” he asks, pouring them each a generous couple of fingers.
Lincoln fills him in and Charlie slops the rum over the back of his hand. “Shit," is all he has to say.
Charlie’s always insisted on being careful, (even went as far as using his spiders as an excuse; they all knew it was bullshit but they never called him on it) always knowing that if something happened between the three of them, it would be Liv who'd pay the highest price.
He wonders which one of them she’s going to shoot first.
Turns out, neither of them.
Her key scrapes in the lock sometime after midnight. Charlie rubs the grit from his eyes and drops his feet from the coffee table. He’s slower than Lincoln, who’s on his feet already. He doesn’t think Lincoln’s sat for more than thirty seconds straight since he got home, but Charlie’s head was getting heavy after the third drink. This isn’t the first all-nighter for him this week.
“Hey,” he says before Lincoln can get another word in. His throat feels all scratchy and rough from the drink and not enough sleep, but he figures it’s nothing compared to the day she’s had. “Let her take her jacket off before you pounce.” Though he can’t blame Lincoln for being worried.
She plasters on a smile because she thinks that’s what’s expected of her, but the smart-ass comeback isn’t there. She sheds her jacket, lets her bag and keys land where they land, and sinks down into the sofa beside him with a “Hey Charlie”. Charlie watches her, tries to pick up the clues he’s been missing, the signs that something about her is different, but all he sees right now is how stiffly she’s moving. Liv fell almost a story and a half through that rotten floor; it’s a miracle that all she’s got are a few bruises. She’s going to be hurting tomorrow if she isn’t already.
“What are you doing here Livvy?”
She rolls her head towards him. “What are you doing here?” She looks tired, red-eyed, and he knows her better than to ask why she’s not at home with Frank right now.
But Lincoln can’t help himself. The guy can’t not ask questions. It’s what makes him a good investigator; but it also makes Charlie want to cuff him sometimes. Charlie’s always found that the answers come easier when he’s listening for them. He just has to find the quiet.
“I convinced the docs I’d get more rest at home in my own bed,” Liv tells him, not exactly dodging the question. Charlie stretches an arm across the back of the sofa and doesn’t point out that this isn’t technically her own bed. She uses the opportunity to weasel her way closer and sinks heavily against his ribs. Lincoln plants himself in the space she’s just freed up.
She stretches her legs across Lincoln’s lap and Charlie feels her sag, like she’s finally letting go of the last of the tension that’s been keeping her upright. Lincoln rubs a thumb up and down her calf and seems to come down from that high-pitched vibration that’s been driving him since he pulled a gun on the bug guy, to something closer to a sub-sonic oscillation, soothed somewhat by their pieces all falling into the right places.
This stillness feels easy, like a long, slow breath. Charlie finally stops thinking about what they would’ve done if they hadn’t been in time, if they’d lost Liv, but that just opens the door on a whole other set of concerns.
“You can stop worrying,” she says sleepily, as if she’s read his mind. Or Lincoln’s. “It’s not yours.”
Lincoln’s hand stills and Charlie swears the guy’s face falls just a bit. He glances over at Charlie, but Charlie just gives him a slow headshake that he hopes comes across as ‘don’t push it right now’. They’ve all got their issues and Lincoln’s crush is no secret, not to Charlie, but they make this work, keep each other checked and balanced.
Lincoln gets the hint. He pulls a blanket from the armchair and drapes it across Liv as her eyes slip shut. Charlie lets his hand drop to her hip, feels her shift once more, then settle.
“Wasn’t worried,” Lincoln says as his hand finds her leg again, but she’s already breathing deeply. Asleep.
Charlie’s got questions, lots of them. Like what really happened after her break and why she’s keeping secrets from them, but he’s not going to get answers tonight. Maybe, not at all. Doesn’t matter. As long as they still fit together somehow.