Chapter 1: Like We Were Yesterday
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
It wasn't like Lincoln had any extra time, between trying to get himself established in Boston and simultaneously settled into his new division, but something about the Cameron James case kept nagging at him.
He read over the case file, had Astrid fill in the specifics that didn't go in the report--he'd learned already that in Fringe Division, the omitted parts contained the most pertinent details by far--and started to make notes.
The investigation went on hold as they dealt with the appearance of Peter Bishop. And then Lincoln was distracted for a few weeks, after Olivia met him at the diner and then for a morning jog and then, astonishingly, they wound up in her bed and all the weird cases in the world were the furthest thing from his mind.
But he still felt there was something important in chasing down the lead, so eventually he gathered up the files, finally dragged from the guts of Massive Dynamic's archives. And how interesting (or creepy or alarming) was it that the company held thousands upon possibly millions of bits of data and Nina Sharp always seemed to know precisely what they were looking for, when Olivia asked.
He found a list, the subjects identified by their number and then name, and started skimming for the two names he knew would be there.
Subject 9: Cameron James
Subject 10: Miranda Green
Subject 11: Nancy Lewis
Subject 12: Susan Lewis
Subject 13: Olivia Dunham
Subject 14: Nicholas Lane
Lincoln jerked bolt upright, staring blindly down at the printout. It'd be the biggest coincidence of all possible coincidences, but Lincoln had already started to distrust that anything associated with Fringe Division was truly mere happenstance.
Because he knew the name after Olivia's. He'd gone to high school with a Nick Lane. It probably wasn't the most uncommon name, but Lincoln was positive even without checking that it was the same guy. Despite everything else going on—his evolving relationship with Olivia and the mystery of Peter Bishop and the existence of shapeshifters and an alternate universe and trying to track down David Robert Jones—his subconscious had been hard at work, trying to remind him: Nick had mentioned growing up in Jacksonville.
It was the last subject Lincoln really wanted to get into with Olivia, considering the whole "experimented on as a child" topic, but after a little bit of digging confirmed it was the same Nick Lane, he couldn't put the discussion off.
Olivia was silent as he showed her the printout and the records he'd found of Nick's life. They painted a grim picture, and Olivia's face was full of memories Lincoln wished he hadn't awakened.
"Cameron wondered if I was 'lucky' that I hadn't had any side effects," she finally said, very quietly. "I'm not sure that's the right word. Where-- where is Nick now?"
"Living in New York," Lincoln told her, and nodded to the incredulous look on Olivia's face. "I know. That can't be an accident, can it? You and Nick and Cameron, all in relatively close proximity. I ran spot-checks on a few of the others and the ones I could find are in the area, too. Nancy Lewis is here in Boston, her sister Susan is in New York, Miranda Greene's in Rhode Island."
"Not a coincidence," Olivia said in a distracted, strained voice. She shuffled through the papers. “I thought I saw-- here it is. The insurance policy Nick used, Cyprox. That's the common thread. That was part of the compensation for participation in the trials. The insurance is comprehensive, but only a few hospitals still honor those policies, and they’re all in the northeast. We moved up here when my mother was sick, they took care of everything." She added, almost offhandedly, “Cyprox was part of Kelvin Genetics.”
“Which later became Massive Dynamic,” Lincoln finished, and Olivia nodded. “That’s a pretty big incentive for people to stay in the vicinity.”
Olivia glanced away, like she was ashamed of something. “There might be other reasons. There were...suggestions, insinuations that we were meant to be soldiers, that we would need to be ready. I ran away before the end, but...I wouldn’t be surprised if the others were given post-hypnotic suggestions to reinforce the training. Including the inclination to stay in the area.”
“And you forgave Walter for all this?” Lincoln blurted before he’d meant to say anything at all, but the sentiment was accurate. It was easy to feel sorry for the wreck of the man Dr. Bishop was now, but he’d left a trail of horror behind him, a past that kept coming back to haunt them all. Judging by Olivia’s face, she was feeling particularly haunted at the moment. “I’m sorry, that was--”
“No,” Olivia said, reaching over to take his hand. “It’s all right. I know how it sounds. And Cameron really was right. I was the lucky one.”
Lincoln squeezed her fingers. "Can you tell me about Nick? About Jacksonville?"
Olivia’s fingers tightened around his hand, but she nodded. "It's mostly a blur. I set a room on fire when I was really little, they were always trying to get me to do it again. They finally scared me into doing it again when I was seven. They had Nick on the floor with makeup like he was all bloody, and I nearly burned the school down. That's when I ran away." Olivia looked away again, biting at her lip. "We were-- Nick and I were paired together for the experiments, we leaned on each other for support. We were close. And I missed him after I left but never...never went back to look for him."
"You were just a kid," Lincoln said, but Olivia shook her head.
"I could've tracked him down later, though, after the school closed. I could have asked Nina where he went, and I never did." Her eyes found his again, full of self-recrimination. "I know I'm not supposed to blame myself for not wanting to revisit childhood trauma, but this...." she gestured toward the files on the table and Nick's picture. "I can't help but think he wouldn't have ended up like that if I'd--"
"Olivia," Lincoln said, as firmly as he could, "none of that is your fault."
"I know," she said, though her eyes were still troubled. "But you said you knew him, too?"
He stared at her, helpless to give back anything but the truth. "I knew Nick in high school. We were...close."
Olivia tilted her head, her eyes intent and knowing. "Did you...did you date?"
Lincoln felt himself going right back to his awkward teenage years with the blush that he felt rising on his cheeks. "Not--not officially, not in any way we talked about or acted on, but there was definitely something there." There would have been more, maybe, if Lincoln had been more certain, if Nick hadn't been so...unpredictable.
They'd met on the track team. Nick ran like he was trying to outrun something terrible; Lincoln always imagined he was running toward something desired, even if he couldn't put a name to his longing.
He'd been both attracted to and disturbed by Nick's strange highs and lows. They'd spent their time like any other kids: riding bikes, reading comics, listening to music. But Lincoln remembered feeling helpless when Nick's depression threatened to crush them both beneath its weight, and equally helpless to resist when Nick's manic highs led them on "adventures."
He told Olivia all of it, creating a bridge between her childhood with Nick to his adolescence to...wherever they were now. "This means something, doesn't it. That both of us knew him?"
"I've become a lot more suspicious of 'coincidence' since working on Fringe cases," Olivia agreed. "But maybe this really is."
They spent the rest of the evening in companionable silence, but Lincoln knew they both had the same thoughts in mind. It wasn’t until much later, both of them lying awake under the weight of their memories, when Olivia spoke again.
"Come with me? To St. Jude's?"
"Of course I will," he said, and Olivia nodded against his chest, and together they both finally drifted off to sleep.
Agent Broyles approved the search for the other Cortexiphan subjects, piercing eyes intent while Lincoln sweated through the request. "And I believe it's important for Agent Dunham's own history," he confessed, but despite that--or perhaps because of it--Broyles gave the go-ahead.
Peter was consumed with trying to get back to his world, wherever that might be, and Walter had finally agreed to help him. Lincoln and Olivia left Astrid to watch over them both (that woman deserved a raise, seriously) and headed to New York, to the asylum where Nick had spent most of his adult life.
They were met by a Doctor Miller: blonde, attractive, impressed by their credentials, and eager to gossip about Nick as if she'd never heard of HIPAA.
Lincoln and Olivia walked alongside her as the doctor talked, enthusiastically. "I remember Nick very well. He was already a residential patient when I arrived here, which was about five years ago now. He had a very comprehensive insurance policy. Quite old. I’d never seen one like it."
Olivia threw Lincoln a knowing look, motioning for the doctor to go on.
"Nick checked himself out about four months ago. He was here voluntarily, after all, and he’d been doing much better for the past year. Nick was an interesting person--he had a kind of brightness to him."
"Intelligent," Olivia said, like she already knew the answer.
Doctor Miller nodded. "Yes, quite, but not what I mean. He had an emotional brightness.” She smiled fondly, like a teacher talking about a favorite student. “If he was happy, he would light up a room. Sad, he was like a black hole that would suck you right down with him. Hyper-emotive is the clinical term. Put simply, his affect was highly infectious."
Olivia frowned. "Was he dangerous?"
"No.” The doctor sighed as if she’d taken Nick’s case to heart. “No, if anything, his ideation tended toward self-contempt. Toward the suicidal. Although he did suffer from some psychosis when his delusions were florid."
Lincoln couldn't help asking, after a quick glance toward Olivia. "What sort of delusions?"
Doctor Miller waved her hand. "Typical paranoid fare. Nick was convinced he'd been recruited as a child for a series of top-secret experiments. That he was being prepared to serve as a soldier in the coming war against denizens of a parallel universe."
Olivia's mouth was pressed into a tight line and Lincoln thought it would be a really good idea to end the interview before she expressed her own distress. "Thank you, doctor, that's all very helpful. We'll see ourselves out."
Outside, Olivia let out a long, pained breath. "'Delusions,' she said. Only every word was true."
"What she was talking about, though, that sounded a lot like Nick when I knew him. The hyper-emotive part, I mean," Lincoln amended quickly.
Olivia hesitated for a long moment. "That was...that was his power, back then. He could project his emotions onto other people. But if he was really manifesting, we would have heard about it. The whole asylum would have been affected. Or the apartment he's at now."
"And your power was the, the pyrokinesis?" He felt like an idiot for saying the word, but it fit.
"No, that was just a...a side effect. Like Cameron's metal attraction, when his real power was astral projection."
There was an obvious follow-up question there, but Lincoln felt it was best to leave it be for the moment. “We have Nick’s address. Do you want to head over?”
“Yes.” Olivia waited until they were in the car, then reached over to take his hand. “I don’t know what he’ll be like, if he’ll even remember me. But thank you for doing this. It’s like getting back a part of my life I’d forgotten about.”
Lincoln squeezed her hand and Olivia squeezed back, smiling. “I’m pretty curious, too.”
Maybe their combined anticipation made Olivia drive a little faster than usual, but they reached the apartment building without incident. The building was older but well kept, apart from the broken elevator. But when Lincoln and Olivia climbed the stairs to the right door, they discovered multiple locks had been installed, setting it apart from its neighbors.
Lincoln had absolutely no surprise that no matter the circumstance, Olivia refused to hesitate. She raised her hand and gave the door three hard, sharp knocks.
A voice rang out from inside, and Lincoln recognized it immediately. "Leave the package outside the door." It sounded like a rote response, and Lincoln had the feeling the man inside said it a lot. As if he had food deliveries, laundry, or whatever else he needed brought to his door.
"Nick Lane? It's Olivia Dunham. And Lincoln Lee," Olivia said in her clear FBI voice, although Lincoln could see her hands were shaking. "Can we--"
There was a crash from inside, and then the sound of feet pounding across the floor and the locks being pulled back in haste. The door flew open and Nick was standing there, gaping at them.
He looked...older, obviously, thin and wiry and with the scar on his face that Lincoln had seen in the asylum pictures standing out in stark relief on his face. His blond hair was cut close, along with his thin scruff of beard, but he was still--Lincoln noted with a strange sense of unease--dressing in the same dark colors he'd worn as a teenager. The same dark colors, he also realized with a jolt, that filled Olivia's closet.
And his eyes, the same remembered piercing pale blue, staring at the two of them in disbelief.
"O--Olive?" Nick said, voice high and thin with uncertainty. "You found me?"
Whatever Olivia had been planning to say, it was wiped away by the look on Nick's face. "I'm here," she said, and Lincoln saw that she was near to tears. "Nick, I--"
"Olive," Nick said again, like her name was a lifeline, and Lincoln watched in astonishment as he fell to the floor, his knees hitting the thin carpet hard, and leaned forward to press his head against Olivia's legs.
Olivia's hand flailed for a moment, then came to rest on Nick's head like a benediction. She stood there, staring down at him, until the tears spilled over and she dropped to her own knees. Olivia leaned in, her forehead resting against Nick's, while their fingers entwined like children's. Lincoln could only stand over them speechless, recognizing the moment for its significance and watchful for any movement in the hall that might disturb it.
Long moments passed before they drew back to look at each other. Nick blurted, "I never thought I'd see you--" at the same time Olivia was saying, "I'm so sorry I didn't--"
They both stopped and smiled at each other, communicating in some kind of unspoken language. The last thing Lincoln wanted to do was interrupt their reunion, but he also figured it would probably be best if they continued in private. He shifted a little to draw their attention, found himself on the receiving end of two nearly identical amused smiles, and stood back while Olivia and Nick got back to their feet. “Come in,” Nick said softly, “both of you.”
The apartment was furnished simply, nothing extravagant, but not cheap either. An overflowing set of bookcases was the most prominent feature. A chair in front of a computer desk was lying on its side, obviously the source of the crash before.
"Lincoln Lee," Nick said, marveling, and put his hand out. Lincoln took it, meaning to shake, and found himself pulled into an embrace. Nick was evidently much stronger than he looked. Lincoln hugged him back but Nick's face was buried against his neck and Lincoln, too aware of Olivia watching, pulled away.
"Wow, you haven't changed a bit," Nick said, not without irony, and grinned. But his eyes kept darting back to Olivia, like he was afraid she'd vanish if he blinked for too long. "But how do you know Olive, how did you find me?"
"We work together. FBI," Lincoln said, showing his badge, but Nick barely glanced at it. "We ran into, uh...."
"Nick," Olivia said softly, "There was a case. It involved Cameron James, do you remember him?"
"Yeah. From Jacksonville." Nick glanced between the two of them, trying to read their faces. "Oh. Oh. That kind of case. It's-- it's all coming back again, isn't it?"
Olivia hesitated, then nodded. "We investigate these kinds of things. After the incident with Cameron, Lincoln suggested we follow up with the rest of the Cortexiphan subjects, to see if anyone else was having...issues."
"Issues," Nick said remotely. "I guess you would have gone to St. Jude's first, right? So you already know I have 'issues.'" He smiled wryly, then glanced around. "Hey, I'm a terrible host. Grab a seat. I don't have any coffee, but I have about a thousand kinds of tea."
He went into the kitchen and gathered glasses when Lincoln and Olivia opted for water, constantly peering over the low wall divider at Olivia and Lincoln to make sure they didn't disappear. Lincoln crossed the room and righted the computer chair, catching Nick smirking at him for his orderly tendencies just like he used to, while Olivia walked over to a rocking chair in a corner and picked something up. When she turned around she was smiling and holding up a bedraggled teddy bear. "Snuggles. I remember him."
"He's the only good memento I have of those days." Nick shook his head as he came back out of the kitchen. “This is crazy, you both being here. Like a dream.”
They seated themselves, Nick sitting across from them so that he could see them both. Lincoln noted with amusement that Olivia was still absent-mindedly holding the bear. “But it’s a much better kind of crazy. I know what the reports said. 'Hyper-emotive, delusional, suicidal.'" Nick grimaced. "I have good days and bad days, you know? Like everybody else. But I'm a lot more functional than I used to be." He glanced at Olivia again. "You look...perfect. You were always the strong one."
"What happened, Nick?" Olivia asked, sounding calm enough, but Lincoln could see her hands held together so tightly her knuckles had gone white.
Nick started to chew on his finger, a regular nervous habit judging by the state of his nails. "Well...you left. You ran away and never came back. And after that nothing worked for me, they tried to pair me with someone else, but it didn't work." He paused, mouth moving without forming words, until he finally muttered, "I didn't work."
"Nick, I-- I missed you too," Olivia said, her voice thick and sorrowful.
"But you left." Nick said again, like that fact was the only constant of his world. "You left, and then the program closed, and I wasn't anybody but one weird kid with a head full of weird drugs and weird dreams."
"When I knew you," Lincoln started, and had to pause to swallow hard as Nick's gaze fell on him. "You didn't say anything about any of that, and I can guess why."
Nick half-shrugged. "I was in all kinds of therapy, and I'd already learned what not to say. I-- you were my only friend, you know? I couldn't risk telling you."
"You vanished," Lincoln managed. "A year before graduation. You just disappeared and no one could tell me where you'd gone."
"I had an...episode. It'd been years since the last one, but it was bad." Nick's hand rose idly to rub at the scar too close to his eye. "That was the last straw for my parents. They packed up and moved me before anyone could find us, and had me committed for my own good." He stopped, chewing at his lip. "I really...hated them for that, for a long time, until I realized it'd been the best thing for me. When the shrinks finally got the right mixture of meds working, I was cleared for release, and I tried to make a go of things. I got my GED, tried to make it work outside. But it didn't, and after awhile I turned right back around and I checked myself back into St. Jude's to stay. They-- they were good to me, you know? Kept me from hurting myself and I didn't have to worry about freaking anyone out. I was practically the most normal one there. Most of the time."
“But you’ve been out for a couple of months now, and...” Lincoln gestured around the apartment. “Seem to be doing okay?” It came out as more of a question than he’d intended.
Nick nodded. "Turns out when you're in for long-term voluntary commitment and don't have to worry about expenses, you end up with a lot of time on your hands. I read a lot. Got a couple of advanced degrees online. I have a talent for languages, so...." he shrugged. "Mostly these days I do translation work for a couple of major companies."
Olivia said something in a language Lincoln vaguely recognized as Mandarin, and Nick smirked and answered back in the same tongue. His accent, from what Lincoln could tell, was flawless. Nick switched back to English and said, "Yeah, maybe it has something to do with the Cortexiphan. I can listen to anything, even in my sleep, and just pick it up. Colloquial usage, even, if I find a native source."
"How many?" Lincoln asked, fascinated.
"Uh. About 30 or so?" Nick shrugged again, looking self-conscious. "Maybe 40. I've kinda been messing around with African languages lately, just for fun."
"That's just-- cool," Lincoln said, and Nick grinned and ducked his head. "But, uh..." he cleared his throat, trying to get in the right mindset. "tlhIngan Hol Dajatlh'a'?" he managed, and coughed.
"HIja'. loQ vIjatlhlaH, " Nick replied smoothly, straight-faced. Then he paused and added, "qaleghqa'mo' jIQuch. qamuSHa'."
"Sorry, you've exceeded my nerd vocabulary. What was that...?"
Nick waved a hand. "Never mind."
Lincoln glanced over at Olivia, who was staring at the two of them like--well, like they were speaking in tongues. "I'd explain, but, uh, you'd probably want to put in a request for a new partner on the grounds that yours is too geeky to live."
Olivia smiled wryly. "I think I got the gist. Besides, you have other talents."
Nick's eyebrows drew together in puzzlement, and then his eyes widened. "But wait, you two, you're together. Not just for work. That's-- that's like fate, right? The only two people I ever loved, sitting right here in front of me, and you're--"
Lincoln found himself standing and he took an involuntary step forward, then another, caught in Nick's magnetic tide. It had always been like that, Nick's emotions so raw and on the surface that Lincoln couldn't help but be swept up as well.
"Nick," Olivia said sharply, and it was like a spell breaking. Lincoln blinked, glancing between them, trying to understand. He’d been-- he’d been walking toward Nick to hug him or something--
Olivia was staring at Nick, her eyes intent. "That was a little more than a passive affect."
Nick covered his mouth with his hands and closed his eyes, seeming to concentrate. Lincoln felt something like a cloud in his mind lifting, a fog he hadn't even been aware of. "Shit," Nick said, his voice muffled behind his fingers. "Wow, sorry. That hasn’t happened in a long time."
"Wait, that was your power?" Lincoln asked. "I thought--"
"He's starting to manifest again," Olivia said, her voice heavy. "I'm immune, just like Nick was immune when I set the room on fire."
"Yeah, and a good thing that was," Nick snapped, his hands dropping to his sides. "They provoked you into a reaction and I could've been burned alive. I wonder if that was factored into the risk assessment, or if I would've just been collateral damage?"
Olivia reeled as if slapped, and Nick looked horrified at his own words. "Olive, I'm sorry, I'm not angry at you."
"Cameron's power seemed pretty active too," Lincoln said slowly. "Why is this happening now?"
Olivia shook her head slowly. "We should consult with Walter."
Nick sat bolt upright. "Walter Bishop? You're working with him? So now that my powers are back, you're gonna haul me off to a lab again?" Lincoln could feel the emotional surge, identifiably distinct from himself this time, a rising crest of fear. "I won't be a lab rat again, I'll run before--"
"Nick!" Olivia's voice was as sharp as a whip's crack, and she crossed the room to sit at Nick's side and take his hands. "I won't let that happen. I promise. No one's taking you anywhere."
He stared at her, face still frozen in panic, until something in their shared connection broke his paralysis. To Lincoln's surprise, Nick looked over to him for confirmation.
Lincoln hesitated, then nodded, feeling compelled to add, "There has to be a way to, uh, stop or control your ability, right?"
"I can control it," Nick shot back, and then slumped back on the couch. "Except I just proved I can't." He stared down at Olivia's hands, entwined with his. "It was always better when you were there, remember, Olive? But I guess that's not a permanent solution."
Lincoln saw Olivia's fingers rub over Nick's wrists, as if she was reluctant to agree. But her voice was steady. "We'll figure things out together.” She glanced over at Lincoln. “I'll call Broyles and let him know where we are."
Olivia stepped out into the hall to make the call, and Lincoln knew why. Nick’s situation was precarious and an argument with Broyles was imminent; there was no point letting him overhear it.
In the meantime, Lincoln had other questions. “Nick, you don’t go out? When we knocked, it sounded like you have all your deliveries left at the door.”
Nick shrugged. “I’m not a complete shut-in. I go for walks when it’s quiet. I guess...I guess with my history, it’s just easier not to be around people.”
“That’s another reason to let us help you,” Lincoln offered by way of argument, and Nick sighed.
“I know you’re right. You were always trying to help me. Guess that hasn’t changed.” Nick glanced at him briefly, then looked down. "I never got to tell you what you meant to me. I hated leaving things like that, but afterward I figured it was best you didn't know what had happened. Still. I don't think I would have made it even that long in school, if it hadn’t been for you." Nick paused and raised his eyes, looking at Lincoln for a long moment. "I wish I'd kissed you, back then."
It was almost, almost too tempting to cross the room to him, despite Olivia, despite everything. Lincoln held his ground, but he smiled and wondered if Nick's empathy would pick up on what he couldn't say. "Yeah. Me too."
Nick smiled wryly at him. "I still can't believe you and Olivia are together. I mean, that's awesome."
“You know, I think so too,” Lincoln said solemnly, and they were both still laughing about that when Olivia came back in.
"Our boss, Agent Broyles, would like you to visit the Massive Dynamic facility for evaluation. I'll go with you," Olivia said quickly. "Nina Sharp, the Executive Director, knows all about the trials."
Nick snorted. "Yeah, I bet. I know Massive Dynamic took over from Kelvin Genetics, I did the research. Sharp was in on it from the beginning, with Bishop and Bell. Why should I trust her?"
"Because I do," Olivia said evenly. "Nina raised me and Rachel after our mother died. She never tried to make me use my ability, if that's what you're concerned about." She hesitated for a long moment. "Broyles...didn't want me to leave you here, if your powers are manifesting. But I told him I didn't think you posed any significant risk to the people around you."
There was enough emphasis on the last part to tell Lincoln that Olivia had put herself in a delicate situation, trading on her experience and unique position to bargain for Nick's continued freedom.
"This is one of those things where it sounds like I have a choice, but I really don't," Nick said slowly.
"You do," Olivia said. "No one's going to come after you here, as long as your abilities aren't affecting anyone else. Or you could disappear," she offered, offhandedly. "That's what Cameron did. He seemed pretty unhappy, though. And if his powers flare up, we'll be right back where we started.” Her professional manner dropped away again as she watched Nick’s face. “But I-- I don't want you to disappear."
Nick was silent for a long moment. "I'll go. But only if you're both there."
"Wouldn't suggest otherwise." Olivia smiled, and Lincoln nodded in confirmation. "I'll set things up with Nina and explain the situation. We'll go in the morning, if that’s all right."
“Better to get it over with,” Nick said morosely, and Lincoln really hated seeing the unhappiness on his face.
“Hey, Nick,” he said softly. “You remember the time we stole the whole football team’s clothes out of their lockers?”
Nick glanced at him, startled, and then his face opened into that grin that still pulled at every string in Lincoln’s heart. At least, the ones that weren’t tied up with Olivia.
They spent the rest of the evening talking about old times (mostly high school shenanigans, since neither Nick nor Olivia seemed to want to discuss their shared experiences), laughing over takeout, before Lincoln and Olivia said good night to find their hotel.
Outside of Nick’s apartment building, Lincoln looked up toward his window. “You think he’ll be there in the morning?”
Olivia nodded with no hesitation whatsoever. “He’ll be there.”
They were still renting two rooms, as per FBI protocol. Lincoln felt bad about wasting taxpayer money, but not bad enough to stay in his own room when Olivia was waiting for him in hers. She’d already stripped down to a plain long t-shirt, though she’d refrained from raiding the mini-bar. Lincoln wouldn’t have blamed her, really. “Quite a day.”
“Productive, though,” Lincoln said. “Nick looked good, don’t you think?”
“Yeah. You didn’t ask,” Olivia said abruptly. “What my ability was.”
“I figured you didn’t want to talk about it.”
“Still true.” Olivia offered him a lopsided smile. “I’d nearly forgotten, but then Peter said--do you remember, in my apartment, before you went over to the other side? He said to me, ‘What do you even need Walter's device for, when you can just cross back and forth any time by yourself.’ I’ve been thinking about that, and I finally understood what he was talking about.”
Lincoln had mostly been thinking about the botched mission on the other side, and how lucky he and Peter were they hadn’t been shot out of hand. A couple of hours locked in a storage closet hadn’t been that bad, considering the probable alternatives. “But he was talking about his Olivia, the one from his timeline, right?”
“Right, but we’ve already determined that things in his timeline and our world happened very similarly. I--” she took a long breath. “When I was a kid I could see objects that were from the other side, they had this kind of...glimmer. And when I was really scared, I could cross over to the other universe. I remember drawing pictures of their blimps in my notebook. That’s what Walter was trying to get me to do, when I set fire to the room.”
“That’s...amazing,” Lincoln said, the words feeling entirely inadequate. “Even better than a pair of ruby slippers.”
“Yeah, I just wish I’d remembered how to do it when they kidnapped me,” Olivia said wryly. “But there hasn’t been anything, not since I was a kid. The thing is....” she got up, her hands twisting. “This afternoon, with Nick, I think it was me. I think it was my being in proximity with Nick, our combined emotional states, that’s why his power activated. If we hadn’t gone, he might not have ever manifested again.”
“Olivia, you can’t know that for sure.”
“But I feel it.” She laughed shortly, no amusement in it at all. “And Walter was always telling us that our abilities were based on our emotions. This-- this means I’m responsible for Nick, from now on. Because I did this to him again.”
“Not alone, you didn’t,” Lincoln said as firmly as he could, as Olivia looked at him with surprise. “If you-- if you triggered him somehow and that makes you responsible, that makes me equally responsible, for starting the investigation that brought us to him. You could even say it’s all my fault. Go on, I don’t mind.”
Olivia looked torn between laughter and denial, clearly wrestling with her usual insistence on taking the weight of the world on her own shoulders. “Lincoln--”
“You’re not in this alone,” he told her, wanting her to believe it more than anything. “I want you to know that. I want you to know--”
Her lips parted slightly, and he knew she’d heard what he hadn’t said. “Lincoln,” she said again, softly, drawing close. “Tell me.”
This nondescript hotel room is the last place he would have chosen, but she’d asked and he never could keep any kind of secret. “You’ll say it’s too soon, and you don’t have to-- I love you, Olivia. I won’t leave you alone with this. Or anything. If-- if you let me.”
Her hair swung to cover her face as she ducked her head and for a moment Lincoln was terribly, terribly afraid that he’d blown it, lost his new girlfriend and his new career all in one moment. But then Olivia was smiling at him, biting her lip but smiling, and everything was going to be all right. She was obviously looking for words but Lincoln kissed her instead, because he could, because she let him.
Nick was ready to go when Lincoln and Olivia came to collect him in the morning. “I thought about it a lot, last night,” he said, looking nervous but determined. “I think this will be better for me. If I can learn to control my ability, I can stop taking all those drugs. And believe me, I’ll be happy to get rid of all those side effects.” His nose wrinkled and Lincoln couldn’t suppress an involuntary chuckle.
The Cortexiphan trials had ended years ago, but to no one’s surprise Massive Dynamic still had protocols in place, a proposed series of trials for the training and development of young psychics. When Olivia and Lincoln and Nick met with Nina Sharp, she suggested that those techniques might help Nick rein in his ability.
After being shown around the facility, and with Olivia’s and Lincoln’s assurances that they’d check in on him by phone every day, Nick agreed to give the system a try. Nina stepped away to give them a moment, before Lincoln and Olivia left to return to Boston.
“Listen, whatever happens here, it’s-- it’s just so good to see you. Both of you.” Nick looked between them, like he was trying to memorize their faces. He stepped forward suddenly, catching them both in an embrace, and it was impossible to do anything but hug him back.
It didn’t strike Lincoln at all strange until later, how much he hadn’t wanted to let go.
Title from “Bizarre Love Triangle” by New Order. Draw your own conclusion.
L: Do you speak Klingon?
N: Yes, I speak a little. ... I’m glad to see you again. I love you.
-- translation from omniglot.com
Doctor Miller’s appearance nearly verbatim from “Bad Dreams.”
Three inspirations for this fic:
1) Ray asked:"exactly how much do i have to pay you for you to write me some olivia/nick/lincoln as in, happy threesome living together." Didn't quite get there with this chapter.
2) And then in a later conversation (as much as tumblr allows conversation), the suggestion for David Call as a season 5 regular (WE CAN DREAM OKAY) made me speculate, "that’s a whole AU. Olivia, Lincoln, and Nick, the new Fringe Division investigative team." Which...clearly didn't happen in this chapter either.
3) This story also owes a nod to Alice Starling's “Through the Black Amnesias of Heaven”, which postulated that Lincoln knew Nick in high school.
Chapter 2: Feeling Like I Never Should
Lincoln woke suddenly.
That in itself wasn't necessarily unusual; his sleeping patterns were erratic at best. But this time he'd awoken to a sound next to him, something anomalous poking his subconscious.
Beside him Olivia tossed her head, which was strange. She had just as much trouble falling asleep as he did, but once she'd dropped off, Olivia usually slept as quiet and still as a mouse. Lincoln waited for a moment, ready to wake her if it looked like she was having a nightmare. He was just about to decide that he might as well try to get more rest when Olivia's mouth opened slightly and she moaned.
In the next half-second, Lincoln thought all at once: oh, that's what woke me. And no wonder that got my attention. And no reason to wake her if she's having a good time. And good lord, that's incredibly sexy.
He watched, fascinated, as Olivia's breathing started to speed up and she moaned again. The sound had a predictable effect on his own anatomy, but he was too mesmerized to do anything more than watch her. Her head rolled back and forth on the pillow, face reflecting her pleasure, until she trembled in a way he recognized and opened her eyes. "Oh!"
"Hey there," Lincoln said, smiling.
Olivia blinked at him, clearly trying to get her bearings. "H- hey."
"You know," Lincoln said, conversationally, "I didn't actually have 'watching my girlfriend have a wet dream' on my list of interesting things to do in bed, but clearly I should have."
"You have a list?" Olivia quirked her mouth at him. "You haven't shared." She shifted a little, biting at her lip. "But Lincoln, that wasn't exactly...well, it was. But it wasn't my dream."
Lincoln felt that fine prickle of apprehension across his neck, the same one he got whenever their cases started to get...weird. Which they always did, so the feeling was becoming a familiar one. He'd never wanted to experience that sensation in his girlfriend's bed. But Olivia looked bemused rather than alarmed, so there probably wasn't any cause for real concern. Yet. "Not yours?"
Olivia shook her head, her eyes far away. "Nick was...thinking about us. Both of us. His dream was, uh, detailed."
"You...felt his dream?" As usual, Lincoln felt like he was three steps behind. Nick was still at the Massive Dynamic facility, learning to focus and refine his abilities. "From New York? Is everyone in between there and Boston waking up with sticky underwear and a vaguely molested feeling?"
Olivia snickered, her hand emerging from under the covers to find his fingers and squeeze. "No, no. We had a...psychic link, a connection, when we were kids. I guess seeing him again kicked it into high sensitivity."
"A psychic link! Okay, that makes everything clear." He rolled his eyes at her. "So...basically, my girlfriend just had a psychic orgasm with another man."
Olivia looked like she was trying to look abashed and not crack up at the same time. "Yeah."
Lincoln let out a sigh. "When you said the kind of cases we work with can get overwhelming...I had no idea it would extend this far." Olivia was starting to honestly look worried now, and Lincoln smiled at her. "I'm still not freaked out."
Olivia breathed out, the exhalation half laughter and half relief. "There are ways to dampen the link, it's just been a long time since I had to work on them."
"So he was dreaming-- uh. About us both?"
"Uh huh." Olivia ducked her head a little, but Lincoln could see her smiling. "Pretty graphically."
"Wow." There was definitely more to consider on that subject, but not at the moment. "One more question. Can he feel what you're feeling?"
Olivia shook her head. "Only when we're close. He's the projective empath, not me."
"Oh, of course, how silly of me not to realize," Lincoln said with teasing mockery. "But you know I can't let you go back to sleep after that."
"At least, not right away." He leaned closer. "Maybe there's no psychic link involved, but if you're going to be having sex dreams, I'd like to be involved."
"Well, technically--" Olivia said, smirking.
"Involved in a way I'm aware of," Lincoln amended, and ducked his head under the covers and started sliding down the bed. "At least, I can send you back to sleep with me on your mind." His last words were muffled against her skin, but judging by the way she shifted to accommodate him, Lincoln was pretty sure Olivia had caught the gist.
Chapter 3: A Life That I Can't Leave Behind
From pre-“Making Angels” through “Welcome to Westfield.”
Some dialogue from "Over There, part 1."
From all the reports, Nick was a quick study. Lincoln and Olivia called him, daily if not more often, while he was undergoing the Massive Dynamic training. The search was on in force now for the rest of the Cortexiphan subjects, and a few others had been coaxed into the program as well. “It’s a regular monkey house over here,” Nick told Lincoln over the phone. “Except with flinging fireballs and telekinetic spitballs instead of poop.”
“Well, as long as you’re having fun,” Lincoln said dryly, and smiled to Nick’s clear raspberry over the line.
Once he’d attained the required level of mastery--and how that was determined Lincoln had no idea, unless someone was cribbing the manual on how to train empaths out of old X-Men comics--Nick took the bus up to Boston, eager to see where Olivia and Lincoln worked.
The lab was quiet when he came by, in the middle of a decent respite between cases. Astrid was right there with a welcoming smile and a kind word for Nick, before she went to pry Walter out of his hiding space.
"She's lovely," Nick said softly, looking after her, and Lincoln had the feeling he was talking about more than Astrid's face. He paused, staring into another part of the room. “Uh. Can I pet the cow? Do I want to know why you have a cow?”
“You probably don’t,” Lincoln said, and Nick nodded solemnly as he was introduced to Gene.
Astrid reappeared with Walter in tow, urging him along as he dragged his feet, seemingly afraid to look up and see their visitor.
“Walter, you remember Nick Lane,” Olivia prompted gently, and Walter swallowed hard and nodded before looking up.
"I have something I need to say to both of you. What I did to you...was inexcusable...barbaric. The collateral damage has been extensive. But we had noble goals. We believed that our world needed guardians, protectors, that you children would be those protectors. We fostered your talents because we foresaw that the day would come when both universes would be in jeopardy. I'm so sorry." Walter head was bowed again, refusing to look at either of them. "If you aren't going kill me...I think I'll go and have a bit of a cry."
Lincoln watched Nick's expressions run through a gamut of emotion at Walter’s speech: anger, suspicion, disbelief, reluctant compassion. From the look on her face, it was the first time Walter had ever offered Olivia an apology, too. “He's not the same guy I remember," Nick said softly as Walter trudged back to his makeshift bedroom. "He-- he lives here? In the lab?"
“He suffered a breakdown, a few years after the school closed,” Olivia told him. “Walter was in an institution for nearly twenty years, before we pulled him out to help with Fringe cases.”
Nick bit at his lip. “I should be... I dunno. That sounds like poetic justice, but it’s just sad.” He glanced around. “You guys didn’t tell me you worked in a mad scientist’s laboratory, though I guess that’s accurate for more than one reason.”
“More ‘mad’ than ‘science’ some days,” Lincoln said. “But it’s...interesting work, at least.”
Olivia laughed suddenly. “I was sort of shocked that you came back after the thing with ‘Gus,’ honestly.”
“Gus?” Nick asked while Lincoln and Olivia looked at each other and laughed. “Uh-- secret FBI stuff, I guess.”
Lincoln had actually been on the verge of explaining, but if the words “sentient fungus” never had to come out of his mouth again that was all right by him. And besides, Nick was a civilian and not actually privy to the mysteries of Fringe Division.
They gave Nick a cursory tour of the lab, complete with Peter waving a distracted “hello” as he bent over the designs for the machine. Lincoln caught Olivia giving Nick an intense glance as he looked at Peter, but neither of them had any unusual reaction as far as far as he could tell.
Once they were out of Peter’s earshot, Olivia let out a long breath. “I was curious to see if Nick would sense anything...different about Peter.”
Nick glanced at her. “No, why? He’s really concentrating on something right now, a big project that’s important to him, that’s all I could tell.”
She shook her head, smiling. “He is, and it’s nothing.” But Lincoln had caught the idea: that glimmer Olivia had mentioned seeing as a kid, the sign of things (and presumably people) from another universe. If Nick had seen it, that might’ve added weight to Peter’s story--not that any of them truly doubted him anymore. But maybe that ability wasn’t in Nick’s repertoire of powers.
They walked across the campus paths for a few moments in silence before Nick spoke up again. “Olive, what about your abilities?”
Olivia shrugged. “Nothing for a long time. I don’t know why they haven’t come back, since yours have.”
“Huh.” Nick cocked his head at her. “You mostly did stuff when you were upset. Maybe it’s not a bad thing that hasn’t happened.”
“Nick, I...” Olivia had on her most contrite expression. “I’m afraid I’m the one who set your powers off again.”
Nick looked at her for a long moment, then nodded. “Dr. Fayette said that might be true.”
She stared at him. “You’re not angry at me?”
“At you? Why would I-- no, never,” Nick said earnestly. “It might’ve happened sooner or later, and now I know how to deal with it, right? And besides, I’m-- I’m so glad you found me, you don’t know.”
But Lincoln thought he did, considering the look of adoration on Nick’s face, and Olivia hadn’t missed it either.
"I stayed in New York because that's where St. Jude's is, I didn't want to get too far away in-- in case I needed to go back. But now...." Nick looked at them, a new sense of freedom evident on his face. "I don't need to worry about that. So I could go anywhere. And I--" he stopped, looking suddenly embarrassed.
"You want to be where we are," Olivia said softly.
"Yeah. I don't want to intrude, I just...want to be near you."
“Speaking of intruding,” Lincoln said without thinking, and then bit his tongue.
Nick groaned, covering his face with his hands, but not enough to hide the unmistakable blush. “Oh, God. I-- I’m sorry, okay? I shouldn’t be projecting like that anymore, and Olive can block me out if I do.”
He didn’t offer an apology for what he’d been dreaming, and Lincoln didn’t expect him to. Maybe didn’t want him to, either.
Lincoln had gone to Hartford for his goddaughter’s birthday and to catch up with his friends there. Olivia was glad for him, pleased that he wasn’t letting those connections go.
And she was feeling good these days, really good. The migraines had stopped, as well as those anomalous dreams about Peter, most likely as a result the experimental meds Nina provided. But it hadn’t escaped Olivia’s notice that the relief also coincided with Nick’s reentry into her life, as if that mislaid part of her past had filled in something that was missing.
While Lincoln was out of town, Olivia and Peter worked the disturbing case of a man who thought he could “save” people from difficult fates by killing them first. The case would have had them at a standstill if not for the presence of the alternate Astrid, who’d come over to this side on her own initiative after her father’s death, seeking the comfort of her double. Olivia’s own alternate had come after her, made herself more-or-less useful, and even had Walter cozying up to her by the time they left. Olivia’s feelings about her alternate were still mixed at best, and considering the still-tentative truce between the two worlds, she didn’t find any particularly compelling reason to make an effort.
Besides, she had more engaging company these days. With a brief gap in cases, there was finally time to take Nick to the Federal Building to meet Agent Broyles. En route, Nick told her about the apartment he’d found, the hassles of moving his stuff, and his new project translating a computer game from a popular Chinese franchise. “So you’re keeping busy,” Olivia noted, and Nick grinned.
“Yeah. I know you and Lincoln have real work to do.”
They were walking through the hall at the Federal Building when Nick stopped short. "Olivia, wait." He looked around, frowning. "Something feels weird."
"What do you mean, weird?"
Nick waved his hands, obviously trying to frame an answer that would make sense. "Even when I'm not trying, I feel the people around me, kind of a low-level hum." He glanced around, frowning. "But I just felt something else. Almost...mechanical? Like a person, but not?" He laughed nervously. "Okay, that sounds crazy."
Olivia felt a chill go through her at his words. "Maybe not. Can you find it? The person who feels like that?"
Nick peered at her, face quizzical, but he looked around again. "Yeah, I think...this way." They backtracked down the hall, to the window of a large room where a team of analysts was working at a number of computer stations. "In here."
"Okay." There was a door on the far wall. "Nick, we're going to walk through that room, and I need you to find whoever it is. But it's important that you don't point him or her out, all right? Don't indicate that person in any way. Wait until we're out of the room before you tell me."
"Oooh. Spy stuff. Okay, I can do that." Nick grinned. "Then you'll tell me what this is about?"
Olivia nodded. "Promise." She opened the door, speaking in a low guide's voice. "This is our analyst's room. We'll just walk through quickly and try not disturb them." She flashed a quick smile to the room and ushered Nick along. They walked through the center of the room at a brisk pace until Olivia pretended to stumble slightly, taking a moment to recover and giving Nick time to look around the room. She glanced around with an embarrassed look, then waved Nick through the rest of the room and out.
"Get anything?" she asked once they were on the other side of the door.
"Yeah. The woman in the far corner, in the green blouse? She felt wrong." Nick stared at her, face starting to reflect his unease. "What is it?"
Olivia glanced back into the room, noting the woman's station and appearance. "Come with me. We need to see Broyles."
She led him around and back to the original hallway, then a short distance to Broyles' office. His assistant Janine nodded to her. "Go ahead, he's waiting for you."
Olivia shot Nick a brief smile and opened the door. "Sir, I've brought Nick Lane to meet you. But we have something else we need to deal with right now."
Broyles looked up from his desk and raked his eyes over the two of them."What's that?"
"I think there's a shapeshifter in the building." Beside her, Olivia caught a glimpse of Nick's face, startled and confused. "Nick sensed her. His empathy picked up on the difference between her emotions and those of normal people."
"Mr. Lane. Is this true?"
Nick glanced at Olivia before he answered. "Uh, yessir. I don't know what a 'shapeshifter' is but she definitely didn't feel like everyone else."
Broyles stared at him for a long moment. "Nina Sharp informed me that your abilities were both accurate and under your control. Is that correct?"
Nick stood up a little straighter. "I know what I felt. She wasn't-- she's not human. How is that possible?"
"Dunham will fill you in." That was authorization for Olivia to give Nick the full rundown, and she nodded in acknowledgement as Broyles turned his attention back to her. "Who is this person?"
"One of the analysts. I don't know her name, but she's at her desk now. We didn't tip her off."
"All right." Broyles stood, motioning for his assistant. When she stepped inside, he said, "I need a surveillance team and employee records on a subject Agent Dunham will identify for you. Need-to-know only, which for the moment means you, me, and Agent Dunham. The subject is not to be alerted in any way. I'll brief the surveillance team once they're assembled." Janine nodded, returning to her desk, and Broyles glanced back at them both. "Good work. Mr. Lane, you might just have given us a lead on one of our most pressing concerns."
"You're, uh, welcome. Glad to help." Nick swallowed nervously and followed Olivia out as she headed toward Janine's desk.
Olivia gave him a smile she hoped was reassuring. "Let me get this squared away, then I'll explain everything." He nodded and stood by patiently, more patiently than she probably would have, while Janine accessed the internal building cameras and she pointed out the suspect. "Her. We need her complete record, and a team to tell us where she goes, who she talks to, everything."
"Diane Kelly. You got it," Janine said, unflappable as always. "I'll cc you on everything, eyes only."
"Thanks, Janine." Olivia turned to look at Nick and took a deep breath. "Okay, there's a conference room close by, we can talk there."
Nick followed her, silent until they'd reached the room and Olivia closed the door. "So...shapeshifters? Is this a Cortexiphan thing?"
"It'd be easier if it was," Olivia said, and waved for him to sit. "First off, you need to know that they're not from around here."
She went on to explain about the invaders from an alternate universe, and watched as Nick's eyes got wider and wider.
"Wow," he said finally. "So it’s really true, everything they told us. Another world like this one, only not. Another you, another Lincoln. And--another me?" He bit his lip. "Do you know?"
"It's likely there would be," Olivia said, picking her words carefully. "There were no Cortexiphan trials there, so if your double and mine met, it would only have been at the daycare. But even that might have been different there."
"Oh." Nick chewed on his lip for a moment, then glanced up at her, smiling. "Then I'm glad we're in this world."
"Me too." Olivia smiled back. "But Nick, seriously, what you did out there? That was incredibly valuable. We haven't been able to find anything out about the shapeshifters here. If we can follow 'Diane,' learn who she's reporting to, that'll make a huge difference."
"That's...kind of what we were made for, right? We were supposed to be soldiers against the other side, weapons." The sudden sadness on his face was heartbreaking. "Is that what we are?"
Olivia sat down in the chair next to his and took his hands. "It's not all we are. Things got off to a rocky start between the two universes, but I don't think it has to be a war. We can fight for that, Nick."
Nick took a deep breath and nodded. "I'm in for that, then. Whatever I can do to help." He brought her hands to his lips and kissed her fingers, then immediately looked embarrassed. "Sorry. I'll...go sit in the waiting room, you probably have stuff you need to do." He got up and walked out, moving swiftly.
Olivia sat and stared at her hands for a long time.
With a lead on the shapeshifters, and Walter and Peter making progress on the machine Peter thought might send him back to his world, it finally seemed that they were finally moving forward on Fringe Division’s most immediate issues.
Naturally that meant they were interrupted by another case, beginning with a crashed plane and developing into several truly terrifying hours as Olivia and Walter and Peter were trapped in a town called Westfield with all of reality disintegrating around them. The people of the town were mutating and going insane, being forcibly merged with their alternate universe counterparts, most likely a result of David Robert Jones’ extraction of the amphilicite at the quarry. They managed to find a safe spot for the survivors while the town collapsed around them--ending the event, but leaving them with a host of other questions.
It was with an enormous amount of gratitude that Olivia emerged from the cell-dead zone to find a number of messages on her phone, mostly from Lincoln saying that he was back in Boston. Hearing Peter talk about his Olivia reminded her how thankful she was for the life she was living now, and she immediately called to ask Lincoln if he’d meet her at her place when she got back into town.
She’d just paid off the delivery guy and gotten comfortable when there was a knock on the door. Olivia opened it with a smile and greeted Lincoln with a kiss, which he returned with enthusiasm. “Wow, hey there.”
“Come on in,” she said, stepping back, unable to keep from smiling.
Lincoln stepped inside, turning to hang up his coat. “Peter told me a little bit about what happened. Sounds terrifying.”
“A little more like being trapped in a Stephen King novel than I would have preferred,” Olivia agreed. “But it’s over now. How was your trip?”
“Really good. The kids are doing great, and--” he paused, sniffing. “What smells so amazing?”
“Peter mentioned this place called Damiano's, I thought I’d give it a try.” She hesitated a second, then said, “I ordered a lot, I was thinking of asking Nick over too...?”
“Fine by me. Although I’m hoping to see a lot more of you by myself, later,” Lincoln said with a sly look, and Olivia leaned against him and laughed with relief and with contentment.
And more than that. “Lincoln, I-- being trapped in that town with everything imploding around us made me remember that I hadn’t told John what I needed to say before it was almost too late. I don’t want to make the same mistake again.” She drew back to look at him, into his earnest blue eyes. “I love you.”
Dinner was delayed, and they never did get around to calling Nick.
They’d had plans to show Nick around Boston when Lincoln returned from his trip, but Olivia was up to her neck in paperwork and follow-ups on the Westfield case. With so many witnesses to such bizarre events, the Bureau was working overtime to contain the situation. Lincoln was willing (if not eager) to pitch in, but since he hadn’t been involved in the case, he had a legitimate exemption--and Olivia encouraged him to take it, suggesting that Lincoln and Nick have a boys’ day out.
“Happy to, if you never refer to it like that again,” Lincoln shot back. “That’s ‘manly bonding time’ to you,” he said, and escaped while Olivia snickered at his retreating back.
He invited Nick over to his apartment, which was at least half an excuse to straighten up his nearly abandoned rooms. It was still far too soon to talk to Olivia about moving in together, but at least a small part of him regretted the wasted rent.
Nick arrived early, as if he’d been waiting by the phone for Lincoln’s call--which wasn’t true, Lincoln knew, from what Olivia had said about Nick’s own work. But this was also their first chance to catch up with each others’ lives, and Lincoln couldn’t help feeling impatient about that too.
“So Olivia mentioned you were visiting your goddaughter.” Nick gave him a look full of bafflement, as if the thought of Lincoln with a goddaughter was too bizarre to contemplate. “I missed a lot, I guess. Tell me about her?”
Talking about Amy meant talking about Jonathan and Jules and Robert, but Lincoln did his best to keep it light. He’d known rationally that thinking about Robert would become easier over time, but it hadn’t really hit home until he found himself telling Nick about Robert’s more ridiculous habits, and laughing. But there was still no solace in the cold facts of his death.
Nick was horrified and sympathetic, and then thoughtful.
“So this thing with the shapeshifters, it’s personal to you.”
“Very.” Nick nodded solemnly as Lincoln continued, “Olivia told me about what you did at the Federal Building. Broyles wants to deputize you. Give you a consultant’s badge.”
“He wants me to be your bloodhound.” Nick’s eyes were bright, knowing. “He wants me to sniff out your--our--shapeshifter problem.”
“More or less, if you’re game.” He hadn’t missed that “our.” “Nick, it’d-- really mean a lot to me if we could find these people.”
“Anything I can do.” The look Nick gave him was so open, so full of sincerity and gratefulness at being needed, that Lincoln had to glance away.
He cleared his throat and changed the subject entirely. “Hey, I noticed a chess board in your apartment in New York. You play?”
Nick nodded with no modesty whatsoever. “Yeah. I’m pretty good, too. I can beat pretty much all the online computer opponents.”
Lincoln grinned. “I’m not terrible myself. You want to...?”
“That’d be awesome. But...outside, maybe?”
They ended up at a nearby park, at one of the painted stone chessboards with Lincoln’s second-best set of chessmen. Lincoln noted with amusement that they were the youngest men there (it was all men, hunched in arthritic pairs over the neighboring tables), but it was a gorgeous day and Nick still seemed pleased about being outside. Nick won the first game and the second, though Lincoln thought he’d given a fair account of himself and gained a better sense of Nick’s strategies for next time.
They walked through the park, swerving to buy hot dogs of dubious provenance from a vendor. “Listen, Linc,” Nick started, and Lincoln realized with a small shock that it’d been years since anyone had called him by a nickname. Since...since high school, in fact. “I know I’ve said it a bunch of times, but-- thank you again, for finding me. Olivia said that was all your doing, so... I’m just grateful. For all this,” he said, spreading his arms out, nearly hitting Lincoln with a mustard-smeared hand.
“If that hot dog repeats on you, you’re not going to be so grateful,” Lincoln said, deflecting for all he was worth, because otherwise he was going to grab Nick’s hand and clean it off. Possibly with his tongue, and what the hell was that about? He’d wonder if Nick was influencing his emotions again, except everyone swore his abilities were controlled.
Nick threw him a sidewise glance, smiling a little. “I’m happy to risk it.” He opened his mouth again, then shook his head and started wiping his hands with the rapidly disintegrating tissues they’d gotten from the cart. “There a water fountain or something around here...?”
It was, Lincoln decided as they cleaned themselves off, just a hold-over from high school, all those unresolved feelings about Nick reawakened by his reappearance in Lincoln’s life. But as adults they could find a new balance for their new relationship.
Based, of course, on all their old commonalities. “Have you seen all the Marvel movies that’ve come out recently? And the Batman films?” Lincoln paused for a second, horrified. “Oh, my God, please tell me you’ve seen the Lord of the Rings trilogy.”
Nick rolled his eyes. “St. Jude’s wasn’t a medieval prison. We had real tvs and DVD players.”
“Yeah, but not blu-ray, I bet. And I’ve got the boxed set.”
Lincoln threw him a hurt look. “What kind of nerd do you take me for? Of course.”
With over eleven hours of footage--plus several more hours of special features, never mind the commentary versions--they had enough to keep them watching long past dinner, until neither of them could focus on the screen any more. “Pick it up next time?” Lincoln asked, and Nick grinned in happy agreement. Geeking out in person, Lincoln thought, was so much better than geeking out over the phone. Shared experience, and all that.
It was just...good to have a friend who shared his interests again. Robert hadn’t been much into genre stuff, and while Olivia was perfectly willing to watch anything with him, Lincoln knew she preferred old-school mysteries and smart horror films. But Nick was into the same stuff he was, total nerd culture immersion and everything.
Anything else he might or might not be feeling for Nick paled in comparison to that.
Chapter 4: Every Time I Think of You
Sometime during the last month, in the middle of the Massive Dynamic training and the move to Boston and everything else, Nick’s inbox had exploded with offers of work. Someone had put in a couple of glowing reviews and now he had translation jobs lined up for months, and back-up offers if something fell through. More proof, he thought, that everything was finally the way it was supposed to be. He was healthy, he was-- he was happy, for maybe the first time since Jacksonville. Olive and Lincoln seemed pleased to have him around, and most incredibly, he could actually make himself useful to them.
He was trying not to bother them, honestly, but Olivia had asked him to swing by the Harvard lab if he had time. The best part about working on his own was that he always had the time, and would have made the effort for her even if he didn’t.
The lab was buzzing when he got there, everyone busy with some new case that had just landed in their laps. Olivia saw him and came over. “Sorry, I’d hoped we could go to lunch, but something’s come up. I wanted to give you this.” She handed over a badge. “Your credentials have been approved. Civilian consultant to the Department of Homeland Security.”
Nick took it and stared, marveling. “From mental patient to government agent in a few short months.”
Almost as amazing as Olive standing there smiling at him, and Lincoln being just across the room. Nick was trying desperately not to leak his emotions all over the place, but the both of them strained all his controls. “But you’re busy, we’ll catch up later.”
Olivia nodded gratefully and turned away, already focused on her new case. Nick waved briefly to Lincoln and escaped the lab, opting for a long walk through the tree-shaded campus rather than heading directly back to the bus stop. He needed some time to work through what he was feeling before he sat in close proximity to other people.
It didn’t help that he could feel Olivia’s deep sense of guilt when she looked at him, combined with a desire to make it up to him at any cost.
It didn’t help that he could feel Lincoln’s more straightforward desire, all those old pent-up high school frustrations returned in force.
He felt Olivia wanting to reach out to touch him, even as she held herself so tightly in check. He felt Lincoln wanting-- well, everything.
No one was a kid anymore, and none of them were innocent. Olivia had lovers before Lincoln. Lincoln conquered his own fears and learned what his body could do, with both men and women.
Opportunities had been limited at St. Jude’s, though not unattainable. And when he was out, that first time and for the past few months, Nick did his best to make up for lost time. He’d been careful, as safe as he could be with partners met at bars and strip clubs. No one he cared about, no one he cared to see more than once, that was best. None of them had seen the inside of his apartment, his safe space. By now he’d forgotten their numbers and most of their names.
Nick had meant it when he said they were the only two people he’d ever loved, at least in that sense. He’d cared about his parents, once he’d stopped hating them, and a couple of the shrinks who’d nearly been parental in their concern.
But he’d been in love with Olivia Dunham before he ever knew what that meant, and Lincoln Lee for half that time. They’d both been his anchors at critical points in his life, and if that was all they were, he might as well turn around and go back to New York; Nick had been through enough therapy and counseling to know he couldn’t base his life on anyone else’s. But he was making a life here for himself, he had a legitimate career of his own and now a genuine chance to be useful with his abilities.
It still felt like fate, all the factors that brought the three of them back together. And if he couldn’t be with either of them, Nick could be happy, honestly, that they’d found each other.
Everything would be a lot easier if they’d stop projecting their libidos in his direction, though.
Chapter 5: Shot Right Through With a Bolt of Blue
From “A Better Human Being” through “The End of All Things.” Quite a bit of dialogue and action lifted from the latter episode.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Nick had come by for his badge in the middle of a case involving a bunch of hive-mind teenagers and the doctor who’d created them all using his own genetic material. “There really aren't any normal days in this job, are there,” Lincoln said during the investigation, half-joking and knowing that “normal” was now a thing of the past. Part of him wouldn’t want it any other way.
Almost more interesting, though, was Olivia’s request to Walter that he try to determine why Nick’s abilities had come back and hers hadn’t. “Not that I want to start setting fires,” she said hastily. “But Nick and the others at Massive Dynamic are manifesting and I’m not, and I’d like to know why.”
Walter’s bizarre sensors didn’t find anything unusual, but his exhaustive tests on her blood and hair samples had put him in an agitated state by the time Lincoln returned to the lab. “I need to see Nina Sharp,” Walter demanded, as angry as Lincoln had ever seen him. Walter explained that there was Cortexiphan in Olivia’s blood, a recent dosage, which should have been impossible. “And you haven’t noticed anything odd?” Walter asked, turning to him, proving that he was more observant than he occasionally appeared.
There really hadn’t been anything that Lincoln could think of, which Walter seemed to take as a sign that the drug hadn’t had any adverse effects yet. But the facts remained that the formula for Cortexiphan had been destroyed years ago, the only remaining samples stored deep in the Massive Dynamic vaults, and Nina was the only one who had access to those vaults.
Olivia and Peter had the ongoing case in hand, so Lincoln thought it best to follow up with Walter without alerting them. He found himself truly hoping that Walter was mistaken; Olivia’s relationship with Nina was too important to her to be doubted on a whim.
The initial meeting with Ms. Sharp proved unproductive. She appeared equally as surprised by Walter’s results, and willing to take them to the biometrically secured vault. When Lincoln insisted they go immediately without alerting any of her personnel, she seemed startled but agreed for Olivia’s sake.
The vault was an impressive piece of hardware, complete with the promised biometric lock that only opened to Nina’s handprint. The vials with their red fluid looked secure, but Walter went one step further and tasted the substance, declaring it false. Nina looked shocked by the assertion but Lincoln was no longer as willing to take her words, or her expressions, for the truth.
There was no cell signal inside the vault. Lincoln stepped outside to call Olivia’s phone and was sent straight to voicemail. Frowning, he tried Peter’s number and was answered with a shouted “I’ve been trying to reach you!”
Peter and Olivia had wrapped up the case and stopped at a gas station on the way back, partly to fill up the car and partly to appease Olivia’s tiny bladder (Lincoln knew it well by now), and she’d vanished.
Lincoln’s grip on his phone threatened to cut his hand. “What do you mean, ‘vanished’?”
“I mean gone!” Peter sounded both frustrated and concerned. “She went inside, or at least I thought she did, but the clerk says he didn’t see her. You’d better get your teams down here.”
Agent Broyles, to Lincoln’s eternal gratitude, didn’t waste a moment getting FBI agents and B.P.D over to the station to check traffic cams and simultaneously moving on Lincoln’s word to take Nina Sharp into custody. Since there was little Lincoln could do on either scene, he agreed to Peter’s suggestion that they check out Olivia’s apartment. “If Walter's right and Olivia is being dosed with Cortexiphan, it stands to reason that she was gotten to when she was alone and vulnerable.”
Lincoln glanced around, the now-familiar furnishings not yielding any clues. “She hasn’t been alone.”
“Because you’ve been staying over.” Peter’s face was a study in contradiction, but Lincoln didn’t have time for that now.
“Yes,” he said shortly. “But not all the time. It’s possible they--whoever the hell ‘they’ are--were here when I wasn’t.”
“Not your fault, Lincoln.” Peter stared up toward the smoke alarm on the ceiling, then climbed up on a chair to pull it down. “Here’s how they knew when to come.”
Lincoln stared at the closed-circuit camera in Peter’s hand. Whatever was going on here was bigger than a random occurrence, a planned and surgical operation--which again, pointed to Nina Sharp and Massive Dynamic. “What’s the endgame here? Why dose Olivia with Cortexiphan?”
Peter continued to disassemble the device, pulling out a memory disk. “Maybe the ‘who’ can tell us why. I’ll take this back to the lab, see if Walter and I can get anything useful off it.”
He should have taken the disk as evidence, but Lincoln had grown to trust Peter’s instincts. And the man had incentive to help, obviously caring about this Olivia as a reflection of his own. “Good. I’ll take another run at Sharp, see what she has to say.”
Broyles went at Nina hard, but either she really was a stone-faced actress, or she was telling the absolute truth: she had no idea about the Cortexiphan or why Olivia was taken. When confronted with the evidence that the logs on the vault showed her entering within the last three months, she looked honestly stunned...and then suggested a shapeshifter had taken her place to infiltrate the facility. It was the best of defenses, completely plausible given their unique knowledge and at the same time, absolutely unprovable.
The interrogation came to an end with Nina’s demand for an attorney, again reasonable given the circumstances. Lincoln found himself standing outside the room, wracking his brain for any connection they might have missed. Maybe Peter could dig something off of the memory disk, but if he couldn’t, and Nina really was telling the truth--
He wasn’t doing Olivia any good standing here. He asked Agent Broyles, as politely as he could, to keep working on Nina Sharp. Olivia might trust her implicitly, but Lincoln still had his reservations.
Lincoln headed back to the lab to find that Peter and Walter and Astrid had uncovered a faint image through the video recovery. Astrid started running it through the databases and facial recognition programs, only to find that the man on the camera had been dead for three years. That revelation put a whole new spin on Nina’s insistence of her innocence. “It really could have been a shapeshifter at the vault,” Lincoln breathed, and Peter nodded.
“Or a doppelganger from the other universe. The thing is, I've been racking my brain trying to figure out--why would Nina, or anyone else, be dosing Olivia with Cortexiphan? The only person who's ever done anything like that, at least in my timeline, was David Robert Jones. Maybe he's trying to do the same thing again, activate her abilities.”
Lincoln stared at him. “Why?”
“I don't know. We could never figure it out. But maybe it's for the same reasons now.”
“...but she’s not the only one with abilities,” Lincoln said slowly. He had the flicker of an idea now, something maybe Jones hadn’t counted on. “Nick has a connection to Olivia, a psychic link.” It seemed so obvious now, but he hadn’t wanted to worry Nick before they knew anything for certain, hadn’t thought of that intrusive connection as something that could be useful. “Walter, can we use that to find her?”
The moment he broached the idea, Walter perked up excitedly.
“That’s an excellent idea, my boy! Call him in, I’ll set up the equipment!” Walter dashed off, calling for Astrid, before Lincoln could ask what the experiment would entail. But with Olivia possibly in danger, he thought, Nick wouldn’t hesitate any more than he would.
He reached Nick’s new apartment and found Nick waiting for him on the curb. “Have they found--” he gasped, although Lincoln had brought him in on the situation just a few minutes ago.
“No, no news. We’re-- I’m hoping you can find her.”
“Whatever it takes,” Nick said grimly, and spent the ride staring out of the window, hands twisting helplessly in his lap.
At the lab Nick marched straight over to Walter, his face resolute. “Lincoln said that Olivia was being dosed with Cortexiphan again. If you need to do that to me, to make my powers stronger, I’m willing.”
Walter nodded solemnly. “We’ll save that in reserve for the moment. I feel confident that with the link you already have to Olivia, you should be able to reach her without too much trouble.” He hesitated, then put out his hand to Nick. “Thank you for agreeing to make the attempt.”
Nick eyed him, seemed about to snap, then shook his head. “Later. Let’s find Olivia now.”
In short order Nick was lying on one of the lab tables, being coaxed into a deep trance by a mild sedative and flashing lights above his eyes. It was possibly the least invasive of Walter’s devices, and Lincoln was grateful for that, if nothing else.
“I’m hypnotically stimulating an R.E.M. state to enhance his psychic connection to Olivia. We’re tuning his antenna, as it were. He’s very receptive,” Walter said quietly, “very easy to put in trance. I-- I think I remember that Nick always was suggestible.”
“Reminisce later,” Lincoln snapped, then put his hands up to Walter’s started look.
“Hey,” Astrid said, “we’re all worried about Olivia.” She gave him a supportive smile, and Lincoln managed a nod if not a similar expression in return.
“She’s uncomfortable,” Nick said suddenly, from the table. “Her wrists hurt. I think she’s in handcuffs.” He frowned and his hands twitched, as if he was trying to free his arms. “It’s cold and her head hurts.”
“Can you see where she is? Anything?” Lincoln blurted before he could stop himself. Walter threw him a look full of disappointment.
“Their link is empathic, not telepathic. But we can still gather some useful information. Nick, what else do you feel?”
“She’s angry. She’s--” Nick surged up, nearly hitting his head on the flashing lights. “They’re hurting her!”
Every muscle in Lincoln’s body clenched tight. “Olivia? She’s--”
Nick shook his head. “No, not Olivia. Nina Sharp. They’re hurting her to try to make Olivia do something.”
Lincoln stared at him. “Agent Broyles has Nina Sharp in detention right now.”
Peter snapped his fingers. “That’s the shapeshifter! Or the alternate Nina. Either way, they’re using Olivia’s connection to her to try to activate Olivia’s abilities.”
“Okay. So-- I have an idea.” Lincoln stepped around to the table, ignoring Walter’s frown. “Nick, it’s Lincoln.”
Nick smirked despite his agitation. “I know.”
Lincoln hesitated, then reached out to take Nick’s hand. “I know you can send Olivia your feelings, you’ve done it before. Can you let her know we’re looking for her? That the Nina she’s seeing isn’t the real one?”
Nick’s hand tightened on his. “She knows. She can feel I’m with her. She--” he paused, his face frozen in concentration like he was listening, and then his lips curved in a smile. Nick’s eyes opened. “She has a plan.”
They’d caught her at the gas station, with a needle to the back of her neck before she’d even been aware of their presence.
Olivia woke in a cold cell, with Nina Sharp sitting restrained and haggard across from her. Nina explained how she’d been replaced by a duplicate, and before Olivia could begin to process that, David Robert Jones walked into the room, reeking of ozone and triumph.
He’d been dosing her with Cortexiphan, he explained...and then held a drill to Nina’s robotic arm. Olivia would have burned him where he stood, if she was able, if Nina wouldn’t be endangered as well by the attempt. When Olivia failed to manifest, Jones decided to play a little game with a light box, with Nina hanging off a wire frame in the next room and him taunting Olivia to turn on the lights in between torturing Nina with electrical shocks.
If anger and fear was all it took, Jones would have been a bonfire by now. Olivia could almost feel the Cortexiphan burning in her blood, but some critical circuit was missing, some factor that would allow her to truly manifest.
When she felt Nick’s touch in her mind, the sense of all his worry and agitation and love, she knew precisely what she was missing.
She’d had a suspicion, but the flashing impressions Nick sent that Olivia’s brain interpreted as a null sign over Nina’s face confirmed the truth. This was all a farce, constructed to make her unleash her buried abilities. If that’s what they wanted....
She sent back an image to Nick, hoping he’d understand and act on it, and slumped in her chair during the brief break Jones had allowed. “This isn't going to work. I don't want them to keep hurting you, but... the only person that this has ever worked with is Nick.”
The woman masquerading as Nina Sharp looked at her in confusion. “Who?”
Olivia winced, trying to sound exhausted and defeated--not difficult on that first part. And the rest of it was the truth. “Nick Lane, from the trials. The Cortexiphan, my abilities-- it only ever worked when I was around him. He’s here in Boston now, we just reconnected.”
Almost immediately “Nina” feigned distress, some kind of internal injury, and Jones’ henchmen came to take her out of the room.
What she intended was dangerous, but Olivia couldn’t see any other way out. She had no impressions of where she was other than this stark room, and she hadn’t heard anything to guide a team to her location. Nick would just have to forgive her.
In a far shorter time than she’d expected she felt a familiar presence in her mind again, even before the sliding metal panel over the window started to rise, revealing Nick on the other side. He didn’t look too roughed-up, although there was a bruise rising on his cheek to attest to his mock resistance.
Olivia opened her mind to him, letting him feel her gratitude and her distress, and put on her most shocked face. “Nick?”
Nick groaned, playing for the crowd, and Olivia’d be damned if she couldn’t feel a slight hint of glee behind his pained expression. “Olive. Are-- are you okay?”
“I’m fine, I’m okay. Did they hurt you?” It was more than a pretense of a question, and Olivia was relieved by the wave of reassurance he sent more than his head shake.
Jones returned, clearly assured of his triumph. “Nice of you to join us, Mister Lane.” He smirked toward Olivia, “By now, you must have realized that your every word was being monitored. If I overheard you correctly, you believe this man will be helpful in evoking an emotional response, so let's give it a try, shall we? Unless, of course, I was mistaken.”
Olivia glared, starting to gather her concentration. Jones’ unpleasant smile grew wider. “I find your silence encouraging.”
Nick stirred, playing up his role to the hilt. “Don't do it, Olivia.” He froze when Jones’ henchman put a knife to his throat, and Olivia felt his flicker of fear. It was Olivia’s turn to send him reassurance, along with a warning, as clearly as she could, not to move.
Jones continued to gloat. “I'm afraid you must, or Leland here will start slicing off pieces of your friend.”
Nick closed his eyes, his mind reaching to hers like when they were children: not projecting a specific emotion but the bond between them strengthening them both, letting her make contact with the part of herself that had been buried long ago.
She felt it flicker, flare into life, and Nick’s support along the link as well.
Olivia narrowed her eyes and stared at the light box.
It was-- it was easy, to find the mechanism inside, child’s play to flick on one switch, then another, then all of them.
She heard Jones saying, “Excellent, Agent Dunham. I knew you had it in you.” But his voice was faint, inconsequential next to the roaring in her head, the ability now surging to escape. It leapt to the electrical system in the room, throughout the whole hospital, powering and overpowering dead circuits.
“What are you doing, Olivia?” Jones asked, starting to sound alarmed, and she nearly laughed at him.
“I'm doing what you wanted. I'm turning on the lights.”
It’s nothing like when she was a child. Not an uncontrolled surge this time, but a directed application of pure power. She imagined her eyes might be glowing, like in a comic book, and if she tried she probably could take out the whole city--
Not-Nina was talking, but Olivia dismissed her, laying her deception bare with contempt. Jones and Nina looked at the flaring lights and made a break for it.
Everything surged at once, the power running from her to the lights overhead and then down, manifesting as a bolt of lightning that hit Leland and sent him sprawling. Dead, some faint corner of her mind, noted, but that didn’t matter compared to what else she could do now--
She felt Nick in her head again, sending a warning like a cold bucket of water in her face, and the lights went out as suddenly as she’d turned them on.
“...holy crap, Olivia.” Nick was staring at her through the glass, clearly shaken but without--thank God--the slightest hint of fear. The electronic lock on the door between them had been fried during the power surge, and Olivia made her way over to Nick’s chair.
“So that worked,” Nick said wryly as she cut him free. “I knew you had it in you.”
“It just made sense to try, since the only time my abilities ever worked was with you.” She pulled away the last of his bonds and took his hand--almost an unconscious reflex, leftover conditioning from Jacksonville. “Okay. Come on.”
Once they were in the hallway, a wave of dizziness and nausea hit Olivia like a tank. She fell to the floor, feeling the seizure work its way from her brain down her spine, while Nick bent over her with panic on his face. Neither of them had time to react before one of Jones’ accomplices appeared, pointing a gun in their direction.
The man aimed his gun at Nick’s head. “On your feet, both of you!”
Nick went for the rational approach. “Hey, man, she’s sick. Give her a--”
“I said get up!” The guy swung his gun to cover Olivia as she moved, and then his face contorted as he convulsed and doubled over, clutching at his head with both hands.
Olivia threw a quick glance in Nick’s direction, seeing his face tight with concentration, and she crawled as quickly as she could toward the fallen gun. She’d just gotten it aimed when she saw it was unnecessary; the would-be gunman was sprawled on the floor, eyes wide open and staring at the ceiling.
“He shouldn’t have pointed a gun at you,” Nick said hoarsely. “Let’s get out of here.”
“We’ve got to find Jones,” Olivia gasped, despite the pain in her head, and Nick looked like he was about to argue but instead came over and put his shoulder under her arm to help her along.
They turned a corner to see Jones and a glowing, familiar portal. “Jones...don't move,” Olivia called, trying to keep her voice from wavering and bringing the gun up to aim.
Jones, damn him, sounded as composed as ever. “That was quite a display you put on in there, Miss Dunham. Your love for this man must be something quite profound.”
Olivia kept the gun leveled. “Step away from the portal.”
He ignored her, which she expected, and when he turned with a final quip, she shot at him once. It was a clean hit--the bullet wound was evident in his throat--but Olivia saw with horror that it hadn’t slowed him down in the least.
“It would seem there are some fringe benefits to having one's body reassembled at an atomic level,” Jones said with a smirk, and then he waved cheerily and was gone.
“Did you see--” she started, and then another seizure hit her.
Nick was there, catching her before she fell. “I saw. What a freak, huh?” he said, and Olivia smiled despite the pain. “There’s an exit back this way.”
On the grounds outside, Nick lowered her gingerly to the steps and pulled out a cell phone. “Grabbed this from the guy in the hall.” He tapped in a number. “Lincoln! It’s Nick. Olivia’s okay, I’m okay, we’re at--” He glanced around, spotted a sign. “Plainfield Memorial, it looks abandoned. Um, an ambulance might be a good idea. And whoever you have to come collect some super-villain tech. --no! She just had, uh, some kind of seizure...?” Nick winced and spoke quickly into the phone again. “She’s fine, really, she looks much better now.” He listened for another moment before he clicked off the phone. “Lincoln’s on his way, and so are the ambulances.”
Olivia nodded gingerly, once she was sure her head wasn’t about to fly off her shoulders. “It's okay. I'm feeling better. I guess all the energy that I expended did a number on my nervous system.”
“That makes sense. I guess.” Nick fidgeted for a moment, then sat down next to her and put his arm around her shoulders. Olivia leaned into him, grateful for his warmth. “I went back to my apartment, just like you showed me. I didn’t let them put a bug on me, I didn’t want to give away that we knew they were coming. Lincoln didn’t want to let me do this, but I convinced him you thought it was best.”
“I’m so sorry I used you as, um, bait.”
“Hey, I said I would help. Besides, that was awesome. ‘cept for the part where you almost went all Dark Phoenix.” Olivia shot a baffled glance at him through her impending migraine. “Uh. Galadriel with the Ring? You know, ‘All shall love me and despair’?”
Her head was hurting too much to try to deconstruct his metaphors. “Thank you, Nick,” Olivia whispered, and closed her eyes.
She felt his lips brush her temple. “I love you, too.”
Astrid, bless her, took on the task of organizing the response teams and sent him on his way as soon as Lincoln ended the call with Nick. Peter jumped in the car and navigated to the abandoned hospital, leaving him free to concentrate on the road.
Lincoln had never driven so fast in his life.
They were sitting on the steps of the overgrown structure, Nick’s arm wrapped around Olivia’s shoulders and her head resting in the crook of his neck. Lincoln took the stairs two at a time and crouched in front of them, trying to see Olivia’s face while Peter stood back and watched them with sympathetic eyes. “Liv?”
Olivia cracked her eyes open enough to see him. “Hey. That was fast.”
“Warp speed,” Lincoln said just to gauge her reactions, and was relieved to see her roll her eyes while Nick grinned. “You’re okay...?”
“Tired,” Olivia said, starting to pull herself up. “But yeah, I’m okay. Really, Lincoln.”
“I hope you don’t mind if we let the EMTs decide, and get a second opinion from Walter,” Lincoln said firmly, and wasn’t sure whether to be thankful or alarmed when Olivia didn’t argue. “You had a seizure?”
Nick spoke up. “She used her abilities to fry a guy. It was amazing, but that kind of thing can really take it out of you.” They both glanced at him, and he shrugged. “Psychic powers take work, y’know.”
“You-- never mind, you’ll tell me later. But why did you have them bring Nick?” Not that he’d wanted to be kidnapped, but some small caveman part of him was disappointed that he hadn’t had the chance to ride to Olivia’s rescue. A very tiny part. Infinitesimal.
“My powers only worked when Nick and I were together as kids, I thought the link would help.” Olivia shot him a wry glance. “But next time I need to have my kidnappers call someone as a hostage, I can point to you first...?”
Lincoln managed a faint smile, caught out, but it was going to be awhile before he found any of this funny.
“And if that hadn’t worked,” Nick said, “I would’ve made them all slit their own throats.” The way he said it, completely as a matter of fact, sent a chill down Lincoln’s spine. “I didn’t have time to concentrate before Olive did her thing, or I would’ve tried to stop that Jones guy and the other Nina.”
“I’m just glad you’re both all right.” Lincoln wrapped his arms around Olivia, to hell with anyone watching, and held out his hand to Nick. They stood there in their closed circle of three, the cool breeze washing over them as the ambulances and the FBI teams started to arrive.
Completely uncontrollable giggling when I realized I could write the opposite of the “Bad Dreams” scene, with Walter hypnotizing Nick to find Olivia. Sometimes fic gives you gifts.
Little bit of a break here while real life chews my face off, and I wait to see if 4x20 gives me anything fun to play with.