Astrid actually sat down and did the math at one point, and it works out that on any one of her precious days off, there's a greater than fifty percent chance she'll get a call from work. Sometimes it's just Walter, excited about something like a breakthrough on a case or a new milkshake he's made. It doesn't occur to him to wait until Astrid's back in the lab, but she doesn't mind too much – it's easy enough to listen to him and make noises in the appropriate places while she's baking or reading the paper.
Sometimes he calls her in distress, and those days aren't so great – more often than not, she drops everything and rushes over to Harvard to make sure he's all right. She may not be a doctor, but she's his friend, and sometimes that's all he needs.
The worst days are the days when it's not Walter on the line but Olivia or Broyles, sounding clipped and urgent and a little apologetic. As soon as she sees either of their numbers on screen she's slipping into her shoes and grabbing her jacket and keys, asking what the situation is and where they need her as she runs out the door.
It's not their fault that they've all ended up in such a demanding line of work, so it's not as though Astrid holds it against her superiors, though when her phone starts buzzing at 5am she definitely feels like cursing someone or other. She also finds herself seriously questioning her choice of career from time to time, but she knows she couldn't give it up. After the things she's seen, the only thing worse than knowing what's out there would be not knowing. If she left Fringe Division behind and went back to graduate school or took a job in computer programming or translation, it's not as if the horror lurking beneath the surface of the world would go away, and she certainly wouldn't sleep easier.
So tonight, when her phone starts to ring just as she's about to open a well-earned bottle of beer, amidst the mingled panic and irritation as she runs for the phone, she reminds herself that this was her choice, and that she still thinks it's the right one.
It's Broyles calling, which is a particularly bad sign.
"Hello?" she says. "What is it, what's happened?"
"Agent Dunham has gone missing," Broyles says bluntly. "I'm calling everyone in, I'll brief you when you get here."
"Oh my god," Astrid says, but it's not as though her shock will help anyone, so she steadies herself and grabs her things. "I'm on my way."
The office is packed when she gets there - anyone with any sort of Fringe-level clearance is in the room, looking tense and worried. The drone of voices cuts out as soon as Broyles steps up to address them.
"Agent Dunham has been on the trail of the serial kidnapper Frank Slater for the past three weeks. Two hours ago, we received this video."
The screen behind him crackles to life, showing a room tilted at an unnatural angle with Olivia at the center of it, strapped to a chair, slumped and unconscious. Astrid's fists clench.
"We've got experts tracing the video right now, and Agent Francis will be heading up the team following Dunham's leads. She must have gotten close, and that's how Slater was able to get her. Now, there's a good chance that Dunham's rescuing herself as we speak, but until she does, finding her is our number one priority. To that end, I've called in some extra resources. There was a Frank Slater on the Other Side, and the Fringe division there has agreed to loan us an agent. Agent Farnsworth, you're going to be supervising that part of the mission. I know many of us have mixed feelings about the Other Side's Agent Dunham --" there was a snort of derision from the crowd, quickly silenced by Broyles' glare, "-- but she's doing us a favour, so please treat her accordingly."
Astrid stares. This is not the assignment she'd been expecting, not at all. The crowds disperse, and the office rapidly fills up with the frenetic buzz of a time-sensitive investigation. She stays where she is, and Broyles comes up to her. She squares her shoulders a bit. She can do this.
"When's she getting in?" she asks.
"Any minute now," Broyles says. "Let's move."
The other Olivia is a good actor, Astrid will give her that. Now she's no longer pretending to be her, it's clear she's nothing like Astrid's Olivia. The other Olivia - Liv, Astrid thinks, hardly feeling friendly enough to call her by a nickname but it's too confusing otherwise - is a completely different person in her natural state, one who rubs Astrid the wrong way entirely. She smirks and swaggers her way through life, seemingly not caring about anything and delighting in winding up the people she deceived.
Logically, Astrid understands why Liv did the things she did. She had her orders, and she believed she was working to save her world. Astrid can respect that, though it doesn't mean she has to like it. But Liv seems to enjoy the destruction she's caused, as though it's all a big joke to her, and that's what Astrid can't stand.
Then there's the one thing that's always puzzled her, the thing that gets to her more than it should. When Liv was masquerading as their Olivia, she took the time to bond with Astrid and develop a friendship that Astrid hadn't had with Olivia before. Astrid's given it a lot of thought and she can't make sense of it - she was hardly mission critical, and the time Liv spent going with her to art galleries could surely have been used for other purposes. Maybe she'll never know, and in any case, it's not important right now.
Liv is already waiting when they get to the bridge.
"Aw, I'm getting a babysitter? Broyles, you shouldn't have!"
Broyles rolls his eyes. "Agent Farnsworth is here to offer whatever assistance you might need while you work on this case."
"And keep an eye on me, I'm sure."
Astrid folds her arms, trying to keep her expression cool and maybe a bit forbidding. "Are you going to help us or not?"
Liv shrugs. "Those are my orders, so sure. Let's go figure out what mess your Olivia's got herself into this time."
"Fine," says Broyles. "Let's get you kitted out, and Agent Farnsworth will brief you on the way."
Liv stands still while people swarm around her, not bothering to hide the fact that they're scanning her and attaching a tracking device.
"Par for the course, I guess," she says to Astrid.
Astrid says nothing.
When Broyles is satisfied that Liv both has what she needs for the mission and is unlikely to be able to do too much damage while she's on this side, he nods at Astrid and strides off, calling Charlie.
"You ready?" Astrid asks Liv.
"Lead on, Astrid," Liv says, so Astrid does.
"Slater's a real fucker," Liv says, after Astrid's told her what they know so far. "He was the same on our side - specialised in kidnapping geniuses, artists and professors and child prodigies. They all lost their talents when they turned up again. Turned out in the end that Slater had somehow managed to steal their gifts for himself, and we found he'd been publishing all kinds of things under different pseudonyms. Novels, scientific papers, the works."
"So what do you think he wants with Olivia?" Astrid asks.
"Could be a number of things. Maybe he's trying to scare you so you'll stop investigating him. Maybe he just happened to get one up on her and is figuring out his next move. Or maybe she's got something that he wants."
"She doesn't fit the profile of most of his victims," Astrid says. "Anyway, the important thing is that we find her."
"No arguments here - the sooner we get her out of there, the sooner I get to go home." Liv pulls out the GPS. "In my universe we found he had a base set up in an abandoned factory about an hour and a half out of Boston."
"Okay, then let's go," Astrid says. "Call it in."
"Yes ma'am," Liv says, sounding amused.
Astrid doesn't rise to it, just looks at the directions on the GPS and starts heading for the freeway.
They drive in silence, mostly. Liv fiddles with the radio on and off but can't find anything they're both happy to listen to, so she resorts to staring out of the window and drumming her fingers on the dashboard.
After they've been on the road for half an hour, Astrid glances over at her. "So here's what I don't get," she says.
Liv groans. "Oh great, here we go."
"You think you're the first one who wants to have an anguished heart to heart with me?" Liv turns to look at her and rolls her eyes, ticking a list off her fingers. "Walter, Charlie, Broyles, Nina Sharp ... even the janitor corned me in a corridor last time I was over here to lay into me. It's gotten pretty old by now. I'll save you the trouble - I did what I had to do to follow my orders. Any of you would have done the same. I hurt people along the way, and I'm sorry about that, but I didn't have that many options."
"That's not what I was going to say, actually," Astrid says. "I get it, I do. I don't like it, but sure, fine. You had your orders. What I don't understand is where I fitted into your great big infiltration plan. Olivia and I never really saw each other outside of work, and you did your research, you would have known that. But then you show up and we're going out for cocktails on Friday nights and watching movies together. Why? What was the point?"
Liv shrugs. "No point. Just seemed like a good idea at the time."
"Think what you want. You probably wouldn't believe me anyway."
Astrid sighs, exasperated, and focuses on the road.
Olivia comes around with a pounding headache.
"Motherfucker," she says indistinctly behind the gaffer tape as she takes in her surroundings and remembers where she is. She's not in the mood for this today.
She straightens up again, wincing as at least half her muscles inform her that she'll be in a world of hurt tomorrow, and assesses the situation. Slater managed to get the drop on her, and that's irritating. She can hear him clattering around upstairs, presumably getting his equipment together so that he can do whatever it is that he does.
Olivia assesses her options. She could make a break for it now, but if she stays here until Slater comes back, there's a chance she'll learn a lot more about what he does and how he does it. She forces herself to relax instead of continuing to work her wrists out of her restraints, and waits to see what Slater's next move will be.
It feels like the longest car ride of Astrid's life. The silence has long since settled and it's stifling. She's fretting about Olivia while all the while Liv's twiddling her thumbs in the passenger seat like she couldn't give a crap whether they find her or not.
Astrid's a decent enough judge of character to know that at least some of Liv's bravado is a front, covering up who knows what. All kinds of things, probably; Astrid knows very little about what life on the Other Side is like.
Liv glances over at her occasionally, quick and unreadable. Astrid can't stop wondering what's going through her head.
"How's Jess?" Liv asks, out of nowhere. "Did you guys ever work it out?"
Astrid is thrown for a second, before she remembers that it was Liv she went to when her relationship was on the rocks, glumly detailing their last argument over a whiskey after work.
"She's fine," she says, feeling a little suspicious but with no good reason not to answer the question. "We're still figuring some stuff out, but it's good."
"I'm really glad to hear that," Liv says, and smiles at her, that broad, beaming grin that she wears far more readily than Olivia does, and Astrid smiles back without thinking.
The silence in the car feels less oppressive after that.
Olivia does her best to look scared when Slater comes back downstairs with a metal box. She watches him as he works, memorising the number sequences he's putting into his equipment and the combination of wires and test tubes brimming over with something that smells terrible.
Slater looks up at her. "I don't think you even know what's special about you, do you? I don't want you for your skill with a gun, Agent Dunham. You've got something much more interesting."
Olivia frowns. She has no idea what he means, and right now it doesn't really matter. He notices her watching him.
"Scientific curiosity? That's good, I can use that." He starts talking about the device, explaining the different components - brainwave analysis, neural pathway mapping, and finally extraction.
Olivia listens intently. It's always helpful when they like an audience.
"You really want to know why I was spending time with you?" Liv says abruptly.
"Wouldn't have asked if I didn't," Astrid says.
Liv rests her hands on her thighs, twisting slightly in her seat. "Because I wanted a friend, okay? Being over here was not exactly a high point for me, not that I'd ever ask any of you to feel sorry for me, and -- I like you. I really do. I hung out with you because I wanted to."
"Oh," says Astrid. She glances at Liv, who's staring out of the window again.
It's easy enough for Astrid to imagine - Liv was isolated and unable to be herself around anyone, on a dangerous mission with no way of stopping until it was done. She feels a pang of empathy despite herself.
Then the GPS whirrs into life as they get close to their turn, and Astrid's mind snaps back to the mission at hand.
Slater's almost done, and Olivia's got everything she needs. She does a quick assessment - he's left handed, bad knees by the looks of things, but he's lean and wiry. She waits until he's right up next to her, about to attach a mass of wires to her head. A weak spot presents itself, and she makes her move.
Astrid turns into the disused driveway leading up to the factory, dust clouds flying up around her as she speeds along. She can see a figure in the distance and it looks like Olivia.
"Oh, thank god," Astrid says.
When they pull up Astrid can see that Olivia's carrying piles of evidence - scientific equipment and research.
"She really isn't someone you'd want to take hostage, is she?" Liv says, sounding genuinely impressed.
"Nope," Astrid says, and beams as she stops the car, jumping out and running towards Olivia. "Olivia! Are you okay?" She reaches her and rests her hand on Olivia's arm.
"Yeah, I'm okay." Olivia stares as Liv climbs out of the car. "But what's she doing here?"
"Called in to help find you, as it happens. You're welcome," says Liv.
"Okay, well, Slater's knocked out and tied up downstairs if you want to go arrest him."
"Oh, with pleasure," Liv says, pulling out a pair of cuffs.
Astrid shrugs when Olivia looks over at her in confusion.
"Not my idea. Anyway, she was a big help, she knew where this place was. So, what do you need?"
"I need to call Broyles and fill him in so he can send a team to pack up this place and take it to Walter."
Astrid shakes her head. "No, I mean, what do you need? How are you doing?"
"I'm fine, really. As kidnappings go this wasn't so bad."
Astrid laughs. "Please stop making a habit out of this."
"Yeah, working on it."
A swarm of black SUVs start to pull up, and agents start pulling on gloves and bagging and tagging everything while Slater is led away, looking seriously unnerved that his most recent victim actually comes as a matched set. Olivia leans against one of the cars as Broyles debriefs her.
Liv walks over to her as Astrid watches the teams at work. "Mission accomplished" she says cheerily. "At this rate I'll get home in time to watch the game."
"I guess I owe you one this time," Astrid says.
Liv shrugs. "Nah, looks like your Olivia pretty much had everything under control. But hey, if you want to buy me a coffee sometime, feel free."
Astrid laughs at that, and Liv's smile is wicked and bright. She's definitely not the Olivia that Astrid knows, but actually, maybe it's all right that there's more than one of everything.