AND THAT ONE TIME…AT BAND CAMP…WHEN LINCOLN LEE MET PETER BISHOP. NO. WAIT. SORRY. WRONG UNIVERSE.
The netting near the batting cage stumbles like a drunkard in the hot wind, a rattling of rusted metal and the sharp crack of a ball striking bat. There’s a shout from the kids, a mad scramble as an outfielder gives chase and the batter bolts for first, then second, base. Lincoln keeps one hand pressed firmly against his essay.
There’s a question mark at the bottom of the page, penned in Mr. Glasbury’s handwriting, his outdated prose. Master Lee, it says ominously below the C minus, we should schedule a talk you and I. Glasbury’s bald, overweight, and sometimes talks as if featuring in a Victorian novel. Lee has to admire someone who would purposefully expose himself to so much student ridicule.
It’s Friday, Lincoln’s day off. His old man takes Saturday as his due and Lee opens the Hardware store in the morning, works the till for the weekend renovators. Friday though, he’s not expected anywhere. He tells his dad he’s going to the game to see the lines ease from his forehead, to hear the gruff approval in his voice when he says. “Give ‘em hell, kid.”
Lee’s perched halfway up the bleachers. He comes here to get out of his dad’s hair, to prove he has a social life beyond the store and school. To watch the kid’s play baseball, tight butts in tighter pants, socks pulled up their calves in an anachronistic uniform. Sadly, it’s school kids today, jeans and t-shirts, ratty sneakers. Lincoln’s never played a single game. Across the field, a beaten up Buick coughs sickly as the engine turns over, a plume of bluish exhaust staining the air. The driver’s side door is wide open. Lincoln can see a yard length of thigh as the driver sprawls half in, half out of the seat. Lincoln’s certain he saw the same Buick parked outside his dad’s store the other day. He stares at Glasbury’s note then stuffs the essay into the bottom of his knapsack and stands up.
He’s sweating, dark circles under his armpits, hair flat to his skull. He misses New Jersey. Lincoln pulls his t-shirt away from his torso, lets the hot breeze dry the perspiration and drops to the ground, the dirt kicking up in puffs as he lands. He readjusts the knapsack on his shoulder and strolls past the catcher and batter.
“Got tired of staring at our asses?” The catcher asks.
Derek is eighteen, he dates Alicia Voston, and yeah, his butt looks fantastic in baseball attire but frankly, Lincoln spends more time ogling his girlfriend. The staring, apparently, has been duly noted. Lincoln’s step hitches in surprise. Derek’s voice is sly, mean; it comes out of leftfield like a fastball pitched by Randy Johnson.
“What?” he says, stupidly.
“What?” Derek parodies. He lifts his mask from over his face; smile coyote-wide, all lolling tongue and sharp teeth. His voice carries across the field. “Well I figured you for a queer. All you do is sit in the stands and stare at our bums.”
There’s a distant snigger. Lincoln sees the batter laugh, his bat swinging idly at his side. He stands frozen. The smart thing to do is walk away, put his head down and let Derek’s verbal joust slide over his shoulder, to stay...small. Adrenalin rushes through him, his muscles keying with tension, even though Lincoln hasn’t said or done anything. For a moment, he thinks it’s hard to breathe. “Well,” Lincoln drawls precisely, slowing his speech in a manner he doesn’t normally do. “I was trying to watch the game, but your wide load kept blocking my view.”
“What?” Derek says, stupidly.
“It’s not that I’m dismissing your butt, I do have standards, but yours is like the Death Star, taking up the solar system, it’s a little hard to see past it.” And yeah, that’s his heartbeat. Jackrabbiting.
Lincoln’s seventeen, he guesses there comes a time, a branching, where he could make the smart choice, or the choice that’s going to give him the beating of a lifetime. That will let him smile with a bloody lip and a straight spine. He’s scared shitless. He wasn’t lying about Derek’s butt, but haunches that size generally imply other, bigger things as well, and Lincoln’s not only outsized, he’s outgunned by the entire baseball team. Across the field, the Buick peels out of its parking spot, gravel spitting in its wake.
Lincoln draws a breath, feels his pulse pound, his lungs strain. Derek drops his catcher’s mitt on the ground and strolls out of the cage.
As fights go, it’s unceremonious. Lincoln dodges a lazy swipe to the jaw, but misses the body rip, a dull fist that lands squarely in his mid-riff. What little air he had is gone. Lee’s half-doubled over when Derek charges, hands on Lincoln’s hammies, he lifts and dumps him in one move. Lincoln’s back hits the hard-packed earth. There are black spots in his eyes, breath rasping. He has the presence of mind to raise his fists, to cover his head, but then the blows come quick and sudden, and he can’t breath, he can’t… Derek doubles over, wheezing, one hand steadying on the ground, his mouth white-tipped, pulled into a snarl.
The Buick skids to a stop, tyres spinning for traction. “Get in.” The words are a buzz. Lincoln can barely make them out. He pushes at Derek, unseats him enough so he can scramble out and upright, bum sliding backward, knees drawn to his chest. The driver shouts, exasperated. “GET IN! Can’t you tell the air’s going bad?”
Lincoln turns his head. It’s a kid, probably nineteen or twenty, no more than three years older. He’s dressed in cargos and a wife-beater, red converse sneakers, hair sandy brown, eyes sky-blue. The driver’s side door is wide open in invitation. The Buick engine growls.
In the distance, the warning siren sounds, a mournful wail like the air raids of the second war. The words, once senseless, suddenly become clear. His heartbeat jackrabbits for entirely different reasons. The kids scatter, racing for bikes or piling into Derek’s (much newer) car. Lincoln launches forward and slides over the driver bodily, taking the passenger seat in the Buick. “Go. Go.”
He doesn’t. The driver waits an extra beat, tracks the kids with his mouth tight, until Derek’s racer screams out of the car park, then floors it.
“Radio?” Lincoln asks, tightly.
Because of course, Lincoln chose the museum piece to escape in.
Which direction, Lincoln thinks frantically, which direction? He cranes his neck around, sees darkness on the horizon, a smudge, distorting the trees, the baseball field, creeping forward. The siren keens like a banshee. “It’s behind us.”
The backseat is piled with junk-food wrappers, a sleeping bag, clothes stuffed in the foot-wells. The driver must be a transient.
Amber, Lincoln knows, leaves a lot of people homeless. There are tent cities and RV convoys, of cars that drive aimlessly from one corner of the city to another. If the driver was parked at the baseball field, then chances were, he was there for the locker room showers. “Lincoln,” he introduces. “Drive faster, I don’t want to be ambered, or be sucked into a black hole.”
“When the wind was blowing, which direction did it come from?”
“North-east,” Lincoln says automatically. “Why?”
The car fishtails. The driver pulls on the steering wheel as if driving a tank. He turns the nose southwest, driving parallel to the vortex rather than away from it. “Wait! The highway’s in the opposite direction." If he’s not a local, then the driver’s probably lost. “Wait!” Lincoln says frantically. “Follow Derek!”
“The amber will come from that direction.” He sounds grim, eyes tracking the potholes in the unmade road. “Fringe division will use any natural advantages for widest dispersal.”
“How do you know?” Lincoln grabs the handhold, almost concusses himself on the roof when they hit a pothole hard enough to ricochet.
The kid grins without humour. “Let’s say I have an inside know, and having amber blow in the wrong direction because of the wind, isn’t a good factor.”
Lincoln considers that, then says crossly. “I don’t even know where this road goes.”
“Away,” the driver says pointedly. “And that was an entire sentence you finished without gasping.” He says it with a whole truckload of sarcasm, as if Lincoln were an idiot for not noticing the air quality was going bad mid-fight.
He'd seen a firestorm roll in once, where the smoke had ghosted forward in streaks of orange and red, nature’s first warning, hours before the flames rushed by. It looks like smoke, or eddies of soft cloud. He could make out dragons in the configuration, in the roiling mass of amber that rises behind them in a gaseous wall. Lincoln has one second to think of Derek, of the kids piled into his car. “It’s coming. Fast.”
Instinctively, the driver looks over his shoulder. His foot flattens against the pedal.
Lincoln braces his hand against the window-screen and warns. “Dead end!” There’s a line of trees up ahead, bush scrub and low hanging ferns where the road widens into a U-turn. The driver doesn’t ease up on the pedal until the last moment. The Buick nose comes to a stop within kissing distance of a California red-wood, the width of the trunk three bodies wide. The driver has the door open and is out of his seat before Lincoln has a chance to unbuckle.
There’s no sound of wildlife. No birdcalls. Even the warning siren has fallen silent. Branches snap in their passing, their feet skidding against rotten leaves, the distant sound of flowing water urging them on. On foot, it’s useless, the amber will overtake them, seal them inside: their bodies straining; leaping over fallen logs, frozen like a painting or a sculpture, a tribute. Youth in flight, Lincoln thinks, drunkenly.
Ahead, the driver is a flash of movement, long legs eating up the ground. Like his nameless rescuer, Lincoln refuses to stop, or face death with any kind of dignity. He’s seventeen, if Lincoln gets out of this alive, he won’t lower his gaze for anyone.
He chances one look over his shoulder, sees the amber snake between the trees, caress over green moss, lick forward. He almost runs straight into the driver’s back. There’s a roar of running water, a two-metre drop into a churning river. The driver turns, chest to chest, and looks over Lincoln’s shoulder. “Peter,” he introduces belatedly, and hooks his hand into Lincoln’s belt. His breath is hot. He smiles once, lopsided, and wraps his other arm around Lee’s shoulder, pulling him close, intimate as a lover.
He’s three or four years older, both heavier and taller, when Peter steps back, topples over the embankment, he takes Lincoln with him.
They wash up six miles downstream. Lincoln can’t breathe, although this time it’s the river-water rushing from his mouth and nose rather than the poor air quality. He hacks, everything shuddering with cold, shock, with the knowledge he’s still alive. There’s a dome of malicious yellow behind him.
He hacks until he throws up, belly down in the slimy mud, with Peter’s hand on his forehead. The older boy is staring back the way they came.
He remembers movement, rocks, pain, he remembers Peter screaming to take a deep breath, before he pulled them both under the water. He remembers being turned around, and turned around again, how when he looked up, it was like a layer of ice had formed over the river, as if someone had peed on it, a sickly yellow.
He remembers his lungs straining to burst - until they broke the surface of their underground river. It wasn’t yellow ice above but blue skies and buttery soft clouds. He shudders, miserable, as the last of the river-water empties from his lungs.
Peter looks like a drowned rat. There are abrasions on his forearms, contact from rocks and scrapes from dragging Lincoln out of the water. Droplets hang from his eyelashes, the point of his chin; there are goose bumps on every surface of exposed skin. “Okay?” he asks. He sounds nonchalant, as if okay's the only acceptable answer in the current circumstances. If Lincoln detects a waver in his voice, sees the way his hand has sunken into the mud, fingers kneading, he ignores it.
“Okay,” Lincoln agrees. Peter stands up, the wife-beater a second skin, showing the slope of shoulder, the trapezius flowing into latissimus dorsi, the tapered V of body structure from shoulder to waist. His cargo’s, water-logged, hang low on his hips, showing a band of skin, the first hint of swell leading from the small of the back to his buttocks. Like the earlier oxygen deprivation, Lincoln’s feeling a little drunk.
“Fringe will have agents scouting the perimeter of the amber blockade,” Peter says authoritatively. “First concern will be the heavily populated areas, bushland and scrub will come last. Might be a day or two. Feel like walking?”
He shrugs. “Pretty sure. It was Secretary Bishop’s mandate.”
“Ex,” Lincoln corrects automatically. He’d done his school assignment on the White House disaster, had listened to the first, final, broadcast, where Secretary Bishop had given the order to amber. Ninety-six people sealed inside, including the President, his family, key members of the White House council, and the scientist and his wife who created the substance to begin with. “Secretary Myers seems a little looser with the protocols.”
Peter looks at him, expressionless. “Myers is a dick.”
“Right,” Lincoln says and pushes to his feet. “Let’s walk.”
He’s alive, Lincoln thinks giddily, he’s still alive. It takes them an hour to reach a main road, another hour until they flag someone down, ironically, a Fringe agent. “Need help?”
“Hospital,” Peter informs her easily, leaning his forearms against the window. “The kid’s a minor, swallowed half a river, I wanna make sure he doesn’t drown unexpectedly in the middle of the night.” The agent looks at Lincoln sharply.
Lincoln feels himself bristle. “Not a kid.” It seems ludicrous, coming from someone barely out of their own teens.
Peter grins at him, eyes tracking down Lee’s body lazily, coming to rest on his mouth. “You haven’t finished growing yet. In my books, makes you a kid.”
“He’s right,” the agent says calmly, and smiles when Lincoln scowls at her. “Juvenile’s are given free access to medical assistance. It’s best if someone takes a look at you. Do you have someone you need to contact?”
Lincoln lurches, hit suddenly with urgency. “My dad. He owns Lee’s Hardware. Can you tell him? Tell him I’m okay? He needs to know.”
“Will do. And you?”
Peter’s watching him, he startles when the agent redirects her question. “No. I’m good.”
“He was in the same river,” Lincoln corrects. “And I’m pretty sure he swallowed the same amount of water.”
“I’m not a juvie.”
He was living in the back of his car, his now ambered car. Lincoln blinks rapidly and says without thinking. “My dad can spot you.”
Peter’s face goes hard, closed off. For a second he looks like Derek, ready to bust a fist on Lincoln’s nose. “I don’t need anyone to spot me…kid.”
“Climb in,” the agent says briskly. “You two princesses can argue about it at the hospital, I have an actual job to do.”
The hospital is a madhouse, over-run with the type of accidents that occur when mass panic hits. There’s a spree of car accidents, broken bones. Lincoln sits in his sodden clothing, one knee jiggling until Peter frowns at him and wanders off. He comes back with a tea in a plastic cup, a blanket in one hand. He keeps the hot beverage for himself but gives Lincoln the blanket, and takes the seat beside him, pressed close, his hand a loose bracelet around Lincoln’s wrist, thumb pressed against the delicate veins. “Your old man's fine, he’ll be here soon.”
“Thanks, for stopping the fight. For…well, stopping.”
“Not a problem. I wanted an up close, and personal, view of the idiot who would take on a giant.”
“Derek,” Lincoln says softly. “His name was Derek.” He had the fastest car in town. There are razors in the back of his throat; his voice feels shredded, head pounding. There’s nothing left in his stomach to throw up.
Peter sips his tea, says nothing.
The doctor arrives before Lincoln’s dad does, checks him over quickly, efficiently. He gives Lincoln the tick of approval and sends him on his way in the span of eight minutes, tells them both to wait outside and quit clustering their hallways. “Bedside manner goes to shit when the world’s ending,” Peter mutters sourly. He turns a slow circle outside, head craned toward the sun.
Lincoln’s quiet. He keeps his head down. He’s never done an outrageous thing in his life. He appreciates girls as much as he appreciates boys and Peter’s got a cute derriere, especially in wet cargos. In the plus column, he probably saved Lincoln life today.
The kiss is awkward, mostly because Lincoln didn’t telegraph his intention so much as launch at the other boy. Because he made a promise, a choice, to never sit in a corner again. Peter turns his head at the last second and the kiss lands on his chin, below the corner of his mouth. Frustrated, Lincoln fixes both hands behind the other’s boy’s head, grabs him by the ears, and tugs him into position. Muffled, he thinks Peter yelps. Lincoln takes the opportunity to push his tongue inside, let’s their teeth clash. He tastes blood, river-water, his heart thundering like the fight, the wild dash through the trees and the current that swept them down, down, and away. It’s quite possibly the worst kiss in his very short lifespan. Peter’s hands settle on his butt, slide into his jean pockets, squeeze, and Lincoln corrects himself. It’s the best kiss ever, right up until he’s shoved away.
“You’re only three years older!”
“Outside a hospital! With police!”
“It’s been a stressful day!”
“Son?” Lincoln’s dad says.
“A very stressful day!”
Whatever else he would have said is cut off, squeezed into oblivion when his father drags him into a bear hug. Hands clutching, voice a rumble like an underground river Thank god, oh Christ, thank god you’re okay and refuses to let go. When he’s finally released, Peter’s gone.
Lincoln doesn’t realise his wallet is missing from his back pocket until sometime after the witching hours, when the police knock on his father’s doorstep and inform them the Hardware shop’s been robbed. “Looters, probably. This kind of thing happens in a high panic.”
Except both doors are locked, the place hasn’t been overturned, the cash register untouched. Their supply of copper, rare in their world and becoming increasingly rarer, has been cleaned out. Its price would raise a small fortune on the black market. Everything else remains perfectly intact.
“Security cameras were taken out. We found a generic tread-mark in the loading bay and your forklift was hot-wired, the copper was loaded, and by now, probably long gone. Chances are he already has a seller on the market. We’re flagging down transport trucks but with today’s disaster going on, resources are stretched thin. Might be best if you leave this one to insurance.”
Lincoln’s wallet, with its twenty-one dollars and sixty-eight cents in change, is left on the countertop, along with his key to the shop. He stares at it blankly, remembers coldness, the way Peter had kissed him, pressing into it, licking across Lincoln's bottom lip, and for the first time that day, feels like a kid.
Chapter 2: And that second time they Met - when there was a lot of Dirty Sex
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Lincoln applies for the Academy at eighteen, one year after the outskirts of his town became a statistic in amber. Following the events of the tragedy the hallways of Hamilton High become depleted. The student numbers thinned with empty spaces and hollow seats. There’s an oppressive silence in class, an ailing bell curve to the school’s overall performance. Unlike the student body, Lee doesn’t slip in his marks but picks up, applying himself in science, math, and his beleaguered English grade.
At the hardware shop, he sets up behind his dad’s counter, with the extracurricular courses laid out for credit; the digital pages on his PADD underlined in yellow. He’s smart but doesn’t consider himself a scholar. Lincoln works at it every second of every day. The baseball field isn’t an option for studying - encrusted in fake gold, a dome raised to the sky - but his dad’s shop will do in a pinch when he’s working the til. He lets the memory of the older boy who saved his life - of Derek and the dozen baseball players piled into cars now ambered - fade; tries to lose the immediacy of events behind mathematical strands, chaos and quantum theory. At night, Lincoln dreams of running, a topsy-turvy nightmare that ends with water in his lungs and cool lips pressed against his own, big hands splayed across his ribs.
He wakes up flustered, sheets a sticky mess, his cock heavy and damp between his thighs.
In the final year of high school Lincoln dates Alicia Voston, who became the national face of the tragedy on newsfeeds and Internet seeds across the world. Eyes lowered to half-mast, her despondent image was captured and replayed around America when she delivered the public eulogy for the teenagers lost at Hamilton. She’s hauntingly beautiful, aspires to be an actor in New York after graduation, and Lincoln loses his virginity the night before Prom.
“We won’t see each other after this year,” she says decisively. Her smile wavers. “You were the last person who saw Derek alive.”
Given the above statement the sex couldn’t be anything less than awkward, cramped and uncomfortable. She cries into his shoulder at one stage and Lincoln doesn’t know if she’s mourning Derek, one year gone, or auditioning for an unknown role in New York. Half buried inside of her, he freezes. He doesn’t know if he’s meant to stop and console Alicia (romantically), or keep on fucking through it (stoically). She tugs on his hair until he shifts, rolls her hips to meet him. Lincoln considers kissing the tears from her eyes, he read that somewhere and it sounded appropriately cheesy, except slobbering on her face might ruin the poetic scene she created. He agrees with Alicia afterward - they won’t see each other again - and they fumble through their goodbyes amongst tangled clothing and swift kisses. He comes away from the experience feeling both baffled and a douche-bag - his signature note in any relationship to come.
Ironically, he blames Peter for the odd mix of emotions. The bastard started a precedent when he saved Lincoln’s life, kissed him silly, and stole a fortune from his dad’s shop. If there’s a shining light in the final year of high school then it’s the certainty of the career Lincoln's chosen for himself. The decision made for him when he survived where others hadn’t. He tells the Fringe panel about the key-moment in his history two minutes into his interview. Inconceivably, he’s rejected outright.
“Right, right, that’s inspiring, get some experience behind you, come back in a couple of years, or come back when you can grow a beard and you've lost the teenage drama.”
“You think Fringe can afford to reject me because I look young?” And maybe there was a hint of arrogance in the statement but Lincoln graduated in the top fifteen per cent of the nation. He’s dreamt about being an agent for months. His hands are flat on his thighs, feet square on the ground; internally the resentment is starting to bubble. The wooden chair squeaks as he leans into it, meeting their eyes wilfully.
“Fringe is folding the newly disbanded FBI into its rank and file at the moment.” The man states back, unimpressed. “I’m doing you a favour kid, come back when you’ve lived a little. Fringe anomalies and sink-holes will still be around, and frankly, you’re too young to bury.” He grimaces, one finger running down the academic record in front of him, and then adds gently. “Trust me, Mr. Lee, you won’t be rejected the next time you apply.”
Lincoln argues discrimination. He grinds his teeth and explains he worked in his father’s shop since he was twelve. Lincoln’s mature, dammit. Sure he looks younger than his peers but appearances aren’t everything and they, of all people, should know it. The panel, consisting of three interviewers and one man who lurks in the corner – a lean streak darker than the shadows - goes from indulgent to stony.
He comes out of the interview gutted. Short of breath all over again.
Lincoln takes refuge in a café across the road, orders a chai latte and stares blankly out the window. His reflection is warped, a disembodied ghost floating above the street, outside the wind’s blustery, the rain falling half-assed and undecided, caught between sleet and vicious bursts of hail. He can sulk (which he really, really wants to), rail against the injustice of it all, or take their advice and give himself three years before he applies again; wait until he’s twenty-one, none of which appeals. Experience, they said. He wants to throw the panel’s logic in their face; smack them in the forehead repeatedly because he can’t get experience unless he’s in the job to begin with. Lincoln’s angry, immature enough not to see behind the panel’s reasoning. It’s mixed up with the promises he never voiced, blurred by a hurt he wasn’t expecting.
He sent back-up applications to half a dozen colleges after graduating high school but never dreamt he’d require them; he thought the Academy would be a shoe-in. There’s a sick realisation he wasn’t prepared for rejection, hadn’t planned beyond Fringe.
It takes him two days to come up with a counter-plan. He opts for Harvard University’s on-line course (a necessity when half of their campus was ambered the summer before and student space became an on-going issue).
Attending university off-campus and part-time allows for a job at least. Keeping in mind the ‘experience’ part of the panel’s rejection, Lincoln applies for the NYPD, figuring he could use the three years dealing with the general population to bolster his next application to Fringe (and maintain relevant studies in the meantime). A win/win scenario for a shitty situation. There are two things he didn’t take into consideration. All new recruits are shown an orientation video upon entering the police academy, typically, it’s very exciting. There are shots of helicopters sweeping low, German Shepherds bounding over fences and SWAT teams creeping around corners. There’s the obligatory blue flash of police cars screaming down highways, criminals in handcuffs being led away, of cops giving chase on foot; the water police on high seas. The music is stirring, the on-screen smiles of serving police officers wide. For some reason, it never covers the two am door-knock. The moment when someone needs to be informed a family member has died.
Or the odd, varied, reactions to grief.
In his first six months Lincoln’s spat upon, a door’s slammed in his face when he tried to deliver a notice of death. Someone else danced a jig, crowed Not soon enough and offered him a beer. He cradled a strange woman who sobbed unconditionally into his shirt, sat through more cups of tea than he would have previously imagined. He doesn’t know how to give information other than bluntly. We’re sorry to inform you, but so-and-so’s car wrapped itself around a telephone pole this morning… your husband was caught in an unexpected loss of air quality… your child’s body was found mutilated…. Would you like us to stay until a family member, or a friend, can arrive?
The ads never cover that moment of reality.
The second part they don’t accurately cover is the sheer volume of paperwork, of domestics, of stupid-ass people doing stupid-ass things. Lincoln’s twenty when he decides the general public is generally moronic. By the time he meets Peter Bishop for the second time, the only part of the recruitment video to ring true is the foot chase - he did leap over fences, run athletically down alleyways - but as luck would have it, Lincoln ended up chasing the under-fifteen track and field state champion.
Legs built like a gazelle their underage suspect was a speck in the distance before Lincoln turned the first corner, his partner wheezing and cursing a blue streak behind them. “We’ll catch him next time,” Monroe gasped. “Or, you know, we could send the dog-squad?”
“Yeah,” Lincoln spat, hands braced against knees, squinting into the distance at their long-fled suspect. “That idea.”
He was seventeen when Peter kissed him – and maybe it’s revisionist history in the making, maybe Lincoln kissed Peter, but he definitely remembers Peter kissing back. He’s twenty going on twenty-one when he walks past the holding cell at the 23rd Precinct and does a classic double-take, heels digging into the linoleum floor and his head whipping to the left. “You,” Peter eyes him up and down, “have definitely grown up.”
His body’s a loose sprawl on the wooden bench, back propped against the cinder blocks of his cell. Lincoln takes in the messy clothing, the glint of handcuffs on Peter’s wrists and says slowly. “That’s funny, here I was thinking you hadn’t.”
“Enough to warrant a jail cell?”
“A lot of parking tickets.”
“Since I know exactly where your car was last parked, can I assume it’s a truck filled with my dad’s copper and we’re about to be reimbursed?”
Peter blinks innocently. “Honestly, it’s been three years. You ought to grow in other ways, too.”
“Cute. I’ll make sure the booking officer doesn’t process your paperwork ‘til next week.”
Peter’s eyes flash, bright and engaged. He slides off the bench and steps forward, the chain of his cuffs clacking against the bars when he wraps his hand around them, voice conversational. “I would have figured you for Fringe rather than NYPD.”
It’s hard to keep the irritation from his tone. “I’m taking the scenic route.”
There’s no snappy comeback. Peter studies him intently, letting the seconds tick by before he nods. “You’re looking good, kid.”
Lincoln deflates. There’s muddy water in the back of his mouth, a sense of vertigo, of moving too fast. Peter didn’t let go when they hurtled down-stream; they stumbled out of that river together, banged up, bruised and soaked through. “You can't use the ‘kid’ moniker unless you’re a decade older. What are you in for? And this time don’t jerk around.”
“Drunken and disorderly conduct,” Peter reveals instantly. He steps back, the smile a little more settled. “They’ll spring me in a couple of hours, no harm, no foul.”
He’d known Peter for the better part of a single afternoon three years ago; it’s hardly long enough to establish basic character, but he doesn’t look like he’s coming off a bender; he looks comfortable. “Don’t go anywhere,” Lincoln says sweetly. “I’ll be right back.”
“Oh… Oh... You slay me.”
Lincoln lets his smile turn insincere and wanders toward the booking office. “The guy in cell two,” he greets Sarah cheerfully. “Who brought him in?”
“Kaye and Clevens, about four-ish.”
She blinks owlishly. “He was slurring his words five minutes ago.”
Lincoln leans his hip against her desk and turns the computer screen around. “He doesn’t smell like alcohol.”
“How close were you standing?”
“As close as you and I.” She has pretty eyes, moss green, he knows for a fact she has the underwear to match. Lincoln bumps her. “He’s not drunk.”
“Take it up with Kaye and Clevens. He’s their catch.” Sarah smirks, swivelling in her seat, shoulders pulled back in a tight blouse to stunning effect. “Did you see his surname on the processing sheet? Bishop, P.J: as in Dr. Walter Bishop, ex-national hero and deceased Secretary of Defence? I hope you’re not playing favourites because of his surname.”
Lincoln straightens and looks toward the cell.
The information on Peter’s Show-Me is sparing; a PO Box and O positive blood type are listed, but other than that there’s no residential address, no listed employment and no record of interest. If he’s still a thief at twenty-three he’s a good one - good enough not to have been caught. There’s a notation on his juvie file but the information’s long sealed, and Lincoln would need a court order to see it. If he is on the opposite side of the law, a drunken and disorderly charge is downright unprofessional. Discarding the junkie element (the type of person who’s chain of thought is chemically fucked), there are two calibres of criminal. Peter struck him as the type to have known better than draw undue attention. If he’s cleaned up his act and the theft at his father’s shop was an aberration and not the norm, if everything Lincoln thought a moment ago was ‘cop suspicions run rampant', then Peter must sober up quickly. Say, within the space of five minutes.
“I’m cutting him loose,” he says slowly
“Favourites,” Sarah singsongs.
“Only for you, darlin’.”
Peter stands quietly when Lincoln opens the cell, holds his wrists out obediently when Lincoln presents the key, and scratches the back of his head sheepishly when Lincoln motions toward the exit. “I’m guessing this is your Precinct and you’re not a transient officer?”
There’s a tone in Peter’s voice that makes Lincoln reconsider releasing him. If he had to identify it, Lincoln would have said ‘reluctance’, odd enough to catch his attention. “Yep.”
“Hysterical,” he agrees. “Care to share?”
“No reason. I just wasn’t expecting to ever run into you again.”
“Small world,” Lincoln concedes. “Out of interests sake, are you still a thief?”
Peter rocks on his heels, mouth curving in a habitual smirk. He makes a show of looking at the uniformed officers, the desks, the jail cell behind him, the cuffs dangling from Lincoln’s forefinger. “Because obviously this is the place to ask: three years and you haven’t learnt tact? And just for the record, I was never a thief.”
Every officer in the station looks around. Peter blinks. “If…if anything went missing then I’d say it fell within the purview of ‘payment for services rendered.’ Nothing unfriendly about it; I saved your life.”
“I’m pretty sure I was the one who knew which way the wind was blowing.”
“Right out of your ass, Einstein, because you wanted to drive toward it.”
“Did you just slur your words?” Lincoln asks, mock-threateningly.
“Fine,” Peter says charitably, “you knew which way the wind was blowing.”
They stare at one another.
Bishop turns away, taking in the room and the surrounding offices with a casual sweep. Maybe Peter was right three years ago; maybe Lincoln was a minor coming off an adrenalin rush; but he hasn’t forgotten how Peter’s mouth slid open for him. The drag of their tongues or the weak sunlight against his skin. He can’t dismiss the memory of when Peter shivered, fingers hooked in Lincoln’s pockets, an indolent roll of his hips. Back then there was a treasure map of bruises between them - impact against submerged rocks; Lincoln’s unruly fight with Derek - here and now, the only marks are the ones on Peter’s wrists. “Are you in trouble?”
“Nothing I can’t handle.”
Not the answer Lincoln was hoping for. He forces a shrug and walks by the other man, passing the smartboard and the duty roster, nodding to Quinton as he rushes by with the station’s lunch order under one arm, a list longer than his body. “I’ll buy you something to eat before you vanish, after that you’re free to go.”
There’s a delay before Peter replies. “Sounds good.” He follows alongside, hands jammed into his pockets, looking at Lincoln from the corner of his eye. They’ve just passed processing when he veers abruptly; turning left at the next corridor, meandering past the interrogation rooms, the ordinance supply. “Need to use the bathroom,” he calls out. “Be right back.”
The doors are unmarked. Lincoln turns on his heel and warns. “Hey! Not that one. It’s the evidence room!”
Peter corrects his stride, pulls his hand back from the doorknob (genetically locked and primed to deliver a nasty shock to any unauthorised personnel) and continues onward. “Thanks!”
Lincoln considers, then considers some more, thinks about being drunk one moment and sober the next and then he says, meanly: “Oh, you son of a bitch.” He’s waiting when Peter emerges from the bathroom, arms folded and eyebrows raised, the very picture of virtue and patience. “Ready to go?” he asks, pleasantly.
“Yup.” Peter says, suspiciously.
They eat outside Daniello’s, a sandwich bar opposite the courthouse. Lincoln picks the olives from his roll and flicks them at the pigeons, who bob left to right. Peter sips from his water bottle. The fountain plays leapfrog; streams of silver water chasing each other across the wet pavement. “I saw your Show-Me. You never thought about following your dads footsteps and joining Defence, or working with Fringe?” Lincoln saw the IQ on the identity card, too. He knows the type. He has the feeling Peter's the kind of student who didn’t have to work for anything, where every subject came natural as breathing.
“Not my style.”
“No, that would be overnight stays in the local drunk-tank instead. Most people aren’t all that keen to see the inside of a police station.”
“You planning on climbing the ranks?” Peter redirects.
“No; a lateral move into Fringe, I start in a couple of months.” Lincoln tears the crust off and tosses it at the unfortunate pigeon, who was starting to look homicidal after ducking the olives. “It’s what I always wanted to do; try to find a way to stop the madness. The amber. Black-holes. Make a difference somehow.”
Peter kicks his legs out in front of him and studies the passersby. “Then I guess you will.”
There’s a knot of journalists gathering on the court steps, the preliminary trial for Eddie Mazqui taking centre stage, a three-ring circus for the Mob Boss commonly known as Big Eddie, an open and shut case. The evidence Detective Jenkin’s gathered after a year of wiretaps will ensure a clean victory when it proceeds. The taskforce has been working diligently out of the 23rd Precinct for twelve months. Bishop’s eyes flick over the crowd, the stubble dark on his face.
Lincoln follows his line of sight. “He’s going away for a while.”
“Things go wrong in court all the time. Hung juries, poor testimonials. Sometimes it’s as easy as the chain of evidence being broken.”
“People aren’t in the habit of breaking into police stations, or stealing evidence for that matter. It’s frowned upon.”
“Definitely not the done thing,” Peter agrees. His voice turns mild. “I’m not a thief.”
“I prefer to say a dealer of information.”
“Semantics," he pauses for a moment, puts his sandwich aside and thinks to hell with it. Lincoln throws out a hunch. "You can’t get into the evidence room.”
“Because the police are beyond bribes or because it’s a genetic lock?”
Lee blinks, wonders with alarm when their security measures became common knowledge.
Peter kisses him, fingers long, placed beside his cheek. The pad of his thumb hooks under Lincoln's jaw, tilting him into the kiss. It’s nothing like the first time. It’s wet. Slow as molasses. He can hear the distant sound of traffic; feel the rasp of stubble. Lincoln groans low when Peter shifts, cupping the back of his skull, fingers tight in his hair. There’s a sharp sting in his scalp when the other man tugs, exposing his throat so he can nip the collarbone.
“If you plucked a single hair from my head I’m shooting you right now,” Lincoln rasps. He ignores the fullness in his jeans, the way his heartbeat accelerated like a Ferrari at the starting point, tries to ignore the hum of laughter against his throat - vibration - a direct line of arousal from pulse to groin.
“Genetic material’s easy enough, and the evidence room isn’t my problem, all I have to do is find a way in.”
“I’m confused. You’re confusing me. Are you playing or warning me?”
“Maybe I’m scouting out the job, deciding if it's worth taking.”
“It’s not,” Lincoln presses. “He’s a murderer, thug, and Big Eddie isn’t the type to mix with. What did they promise?”
“Clear an old payment.”
“Let him rot instead. Problem solved.” Lincoln opens his eyes. His lips feel swollen, the light hits the water-fountain and reflects too brightly. He runs his tongue over his teeth, legs splayed indecently.
“You’re spread out like a filthy magazine,” Peter observes roughly. He’s not watching the crowd, not interested in Big Eddie, attention fixed.
“Come mix with me instead.”
The smile on Peter’s face turns pained before he laughs. “That line's fit for a seventeen year old.”
“And you could barely keep your hands off me even then.” He wants to say he’s not a kid, not blind, Lee knows how people look at him. He’s had three years to play the field, find the excesses, the kinks. Lincoln knows with confidence what he likes. He likes this man, equidistant, forever on the opposite side. And he’ll beat him to a pulp if he tries to fuck up the Mazqui case…Or handcuff him to the bedpost. “Come on,” he says into the shell of Peter’s ear. “Come fuck me. We’ll talk about the logistics of breaking into a police station later.”
“Don’t need to break in, just need to get caught.”
And he thinks there’s something to the statement, half whimsical and half lie. He tightens his hand around Peter’s wrist, tugs him away from the court-house, the fountain; the sharp glitter of water seen through a perfect arc of light.
He loses his left shoe on the eighth step.
His cufflink on the landing.
Peter strips the police tie from his throat, coils it around his hand…
Spread out like a filthy magazine, Peter said, and the words echo in his mind, his heartbeat. Eyes half lowered and his body arched, Lincoln poses…he poses. Dark hair on white sheets and his nipples red.
Mouth full, a silken stretch; he keeps his gaze shuttered, palm pressed against torso, throat relaxed.
Don’t, don’t…come up here
It’s the hitch he was waiting for, unravelling a thread of self-control and if the words sound like an order Lincoln’s quick to turn them into pleas. He deep throats, learns to breathe under water, safe, knowing this rush of vertigo intimately. Peter curves around him like a sickle-blade, abdomen tight. His hands remain gentle in Lincoln’s hair, eyes wild, he comes with a punched out sound, a soft exhalation that sounds like a name. His thighs quake.
Lincoln kisses his right knee, the left, lingering until the tremors subside, and crawls upward to push Bishop into the mattress. “Put the condom on.” If he’s gratified at how quickly the other man moves Lincoln’s doesn’t show it.
“You’re good at that.”
“Regretting not teaching me?”
“Happy to reap the awards.”
He sinks in slow, wants to watch every last inch. When he’s seated, Lincoln talks, can’t help but talk, his teeth gritted and his voice honey. “I saw how you looked at me back then. Was it the fight with Derek that drew your attention? Made you pick me when there was so many others?” His hips stutter, angling to the left, a slow accommodating stretch that makes Peter arch, bearing his full weight until Lincoln thrusts him down. “Fuck,” he says, breathlessly. “Fuck.”
Peter wraps a hand around his nape, tugs him into a kiss that’s dirty. “You’re a little more chatty than I remember.”
He looks amused rather than turned off and Lincoln can work with it. “I’m younger, better stamina. I’m gonna do this until you beg.” He slips a hand between their bodies, traces the edge of his own cock, the skin that’s stretched so wide and fragile around it. “Until you’re puffy, swollen, until you learn how to give a little more.” He presses barely, feels the slide against his own dick, the sucking heat that slips around the tip of his digit, until Peter seizes. The string of invectives that come from his mouth is inspiring. Lincoln eases his finger out, lets his expression turn smug, he thrusts, steady, patient now. “You’ll be sensitive when I’m done, and you’ll feel every inch of my tongue, open and wet and rimming you slow. Was that in your filthy magazine?”
“Lin…coln. Shut up.”
And he knows that look, it’s been aimed at him all his life, it’s naked want, desire, a hint of impatience. Lincoln rolls his hips, sinks closer, strives to connect a little deeper. “It’s Linc. People call me Linc nowadays.” And he likes that look, restlessness contained. Pleasure like a bow string. He presses a kiss to the side of Peter's mouth. "You won't be bored."
I forgot about this story for a while, then spent yesterday staring at a Peter/Lincoln graphic on tumbler and felt the need to write slash. Urgently. So, there was abuse of Baileys, abuse of on-screen characters, and a slightly tipsy and completely unrepentant writer. Pictures are such inspiring things.
For the Olivia lovers she is coming. Next chapter, promise