“You’re going with ‘ow’? I’m not sure if your parents ought to be congratulated or examined for child abuse.”
They stumble inelegantly; or rather sink knee-deep into the snow. The landscape is paper white against a line of burnt trees, jail bars that remain gaunt and brittle with ice. The forest was scorched summer last, the leaves long since gone with passing seasons. The sky is white, the ground white; the blackened trees are the only contrast colour aside from Peter’s scarf and Lincoln’s blood.
“Sasquatch,” Lincoln mutters, his breath clouding. “Who would have guessed?”
“You will not mention that name in my presence again,” Peter says stoically.
“Walter will be thrilled. Sasquatch.”
“Have the torn shoulder to prove otherwise.”
“You’re just being difficult.”
Lincoln blinks up at the sky, his mouth pulling into a grimace. “I believe in Sasquatch’s, it’s why Walter likes me best.”
“Walter likes you best because you play chess with him,” Peter readjusts his grip, pulling Lincoln into his side, one arm gentle around his shoulders. “Move it, usurper, before your Sasquatch decides to finish the job.”
He’s cold, blood leaking sluggish down his side. Lincoln can’t feel his toes or his fingers or his right arm for that matter and there are no visible tracks within eyesight. “You sure we came this way?”
“Okay,” he agrees mildly and pushes through the snow again. He keeps his left hand curled around the barrel of the gun. The clip is spent, what warmth the chamber once held after rapid firing has long since gone. LIncoln figures he can club the damn thing over the ears if it decides to return. Peter’s a live-wire against him, eyes narrowed against the glare, cheeks wind-swept and pink with cold.
“Jesus fuck,” he snarls when they sink to waist level.
Lincoln gathers himself, slogging through the worst of it until the snow’s back to their knees, shins, falling to ankle-height. Both of them are sodden through. In the distance, he can see yellow light, a beam crossing their barren landscape. Worryingly, his teeth have stopped chattering. Lincoln blinks, eyes hurting under so much relentless white, and forces himself to say. “Maybe a Yeti, then?”
“Science project gone horribly wrong?”
“That I can believe.”
In the distance, four shots are fired. One...two… The next are so closely spaced together the report sounds as one. Peter drops him, left arm stiff with the weapon he raises. “Liv?”
Lincoln’s fingers sink into the snow, his right shoulder jolted brutally. His ears are ringing as if he’d attended a live concert, saw ACDC from the front row. That buzz is getting ominously louder and Peter’s gun only has one bullet left. “Don’t go.” He’s not sure if he can stand on his own and he doesn’t want to be eaten alive. Sasquatch, bears, and cougars, oh my.
Leather gloves touch the back of his neck, curl around his nape in reassurance. Peter draws one deep breath and bellows. “Liv?”
The resounding shout is distant, undoubtedly her. “Clear.”
He can’t see Peter’s face, everything is white, turning whiter, phasing out into glare. Peter sounds distant, irritated, his voice coming from too far away. “We have this rule, see. It’s a great rule. One might even say genius. Where field agents don’t wander off by themselves, but stick with their partners, who in this case would be Olivia. Dunham. Senior Agent. Compliance with this rule means you don’t get torn apart by weird science projects gone horribly wrong.”
“Sasquatch,” Lincoln insists stubbornly, only to hear Peter swear.
He wakes up in the back of their ruined SUV. It’s perishingly cold. The wind howls through the broken window and the airbags are deployed, flopped across the front seat like a discarded condom, soggy and opaque white. The keys are in the ignition, the nose of their sorry vehicle crumpled with impact.
“…must have doubled back,” he hears Olivia say.
“Half buried in the snowdrift over there.”
There’s silence. Lincoln imagines they’re touching, foreheads resting together, bodies sidled close. He breathes out against the pain, wonders how much of his shirt is embedded inside his chest, if the claw marks on his torso match the ones down his shoulder-blade. A matching set – from flying porcupines to snow Yeti’s. Peter mutters despondently. “The engine’s trashed.”
They tried their cell-phones when they first hit the Sasquatch, when it stumbled out of the snowstorm and onto the road as if blinded. The SUV had flipped twice on impact before landing upright, the headlights shining down the road they just travelled, two of the tyres blown out and Lincoln had seen it lumbering into the woods when the others were gathering their senses. Hadn’t believed it, wanted to see it again, and he’d given chase without thought, skidding out of the car and onto the road, diving into the woods. He winces now because Peter’s right. It was stupidly stupid in a magnitude of stupidity. His curiosity always did get the better of him.
It’s still snowing outside, the flakes falling in a sideways slant, if Lincoln cranes his neck, tries to judge where the sky kisses the ground, he thinks the shade is turning charcoal. His watch says it’s quarter past five and the temperature’s surely dropping.
“The GPS said there was a building, maybe eight miles down the road.”
“He’s lost blood.”
They communicate in half sentences, ideas and thoughts shared in the common space of silence. Lincoln tucks his chin against his chest and blinks owlishly when the door is wrenched open. Olivia ducks into the back seat with him, her beanie pulled low over her eyebrows and ears, the coat buttoned to her chin. Peter stands on the road, shifting from foot to foot. “Be quick,” Olivia advises.
“Yes, ma’am.” The grin is cocky. Peter’s eyes slide past her and land on Lincoln. He pulls his hat down, wraps the scarf securely around his neck and throat then painfully unbuttons his coat. It leaves Peter in a long-sleeved Henley and a t-shirt. “Can’t jog in the damn thing anyway,” he says dismissively, and tosses the garment to Olivia. He turns on his toes and is gone before Lincoln can protest.
Olivia shuts the door. She scoots into the front seat, the snick of a knife flipped open silencing the conversation. Lincoln watches her mutely as she cuts the air bags free, slicing them sideways to extend their length, and then rummages around in the glove department for duct tape. It’s haphazard at best, but she manages to seal the broken window against the worst of the wind before squeezing into the back seat again.
“Might take him an hour, depending on the snow, less if there’s another car on the road.” There’s something edged in her voice, this side of angry. “Lie back.”
Lincoln eases down. Olivia follows him over. He tries not to close his legs when her knees lands dangerously close to important parts of his anatomy, and hisses when Olivia settles on his chest. Face to face, awkwardly close. She’s careful of his shoulder, the rendered flesh. One hand presses against the make-shift bandage, the other remains low on Lincoln’s abdomen, covering vital organs, forcing warmth into his skin. Her thigh is firm against his groin.
Olivia places her head against his neck gingerly, breathes hot and steady, the air a gush of warmth down his collarbone. Peter’s coat is dragged around the two of them, cocooning them until Lincoln feels Olivia everywhere, pressed everywhere, soft curves and cordite. He’s warm. It’s the closest Olivia’s been to him in weeks.
“You’re okay.” She whispers against his pulse, and Lincoln blinks up at the ceiling, blames the sting in his eyes on exposure, torn open and leaking raw, laid open like a festering wound. “I’m pissed,” she adds, evenly. “You’re not expendable, Lincoln. You think you don’t have a place in this world? Then stop acting like a sulky teenager and find it, stick with it, because Peter tore into those woods after you, and I can’t…I can’t afford to lose the two of you. You’re not replaceable. Not to me. Nor to him.”
“I’ve been hurt,” he says slackly, because her bedside manner truly sucks, and he’s dizzy.
She raises her head just a little, her fingers curl against his heart, at odds with the rat-a-tat-tat of her words. “We all have. Deal with it.”
She breathes out, warming him through. Lincoln stares up at the ceiling, trying to puzzle through what felt like a personal attack, trying to ignore the way her body bends around him, looking at he middle ground between words and actions. I didn’t know you cared. It’s on the tip of his tongue to say it, flippant and so-not-seriously (see how serious I’m not being?), except he’s tired of masquerades, and she deserves more. Outside, the snow beats against the windows and a science experiment gone wrong is buried over.
It takes Peter forty-five minutes. He comes back in a stolen snowplough, hot-wired expertly, the cabin blasting out heat like an African summer. “Phone lines are down with the storm,” he says shortly. “Still no reception with the cells either.”
“Any good news?” Olivia asks.
Peter leans out and grabs Lincoln by the collar, hauling him into the cabin, she scrambles up beside him and slams the door shut, pressed together like the three wise monkeys. “The building on the GPS was a camping supplies store. Must have just missed the owner when I arrived.” It’s pressing close to six now, the sky a violet bruise. The snowplough lurches forward, turning a one-eighty before grumbling down the road. “There should be medical supplies, and if we break in and the security alarm goes off, all the better.” Peter glances at them once, out of the corner of his eye. Olivia stares out at the snow fixedly. The wipers drag against the glass with a screech.
“Thanks," Lincoln slurs, "for the mini-marathon.”
Peter’s knee bumps against his own companionably. “Any day.”
They do break in, without finesse, but there’s no security alarm attached to the building and the place remains dark, the power gone with the phone lines, both victims to the storm. Peter ditches his wet jeans for flannel pyjamas, a fleecy top. He sits with his back against the wall, feet flat against the floor and his knees raised. He tugs Lincoln down until he’s situated in front, held steady against the cage of Peter’s body, chest to back, one hand on top of Lincoln’s and their fingers interlaced.
Olivia crouches between both of their legs, expertly cleans out Lincoln’s shoulder and stitches it back together again. Each flinch, half aborted move only presses him into the other man, and the entire tableau is eerily silent. Olivia - holding needle to thread - meets his eyes with an intensity Lincoln can’t read. Her touch is tender. Peter’s a furnace behind him, stealing the oxygen and throwing out heat. Lincoln lets his head loll against the other man’s shoulder, closes his eyes and breathes out through the pain. His muscles unclench one at a time, his body finally releases, turns boneless.
When he slits his eyes open, Olivia’s gaze has turned dark, her cheeks flushed. The tip of her tongue is caught between her lips, and Lincoln can barely feel the tug and pinch of the needle. He wonders, briefly, what's she seeing whens she looks at the two of them. Charmed, Olivia changed his perception from the moment they met, shifted his world axis. He’s been hopelessly smitten for months.
Olivia slips him a glass of water and two panadol when she’s done, admits softly. “You scared me.”
As if being scared leads to unintended consequences, poor decisions. “You scared me too.”
Lincoln tries not to feel bereft when Peter eases him forward, creating space enough to stand. The two of them walk away, perusing the aisles, taking sleeping bags, MRES and beef jerky, talking over the coat-hangars and breaking into the weapons cabinet to steal ammunition, to reload the guns, and bring everything back to Lincoln like a magpies stolen nest. He’s stripped of his remaining clothing. Everything that’s wet, touched by snow or blood, peeled off him. He should feel bashful. Ideally, he’d blush, insist on doing it himself, but Peter’s hands are sure against his skin and it feels good to lean into it, to let the ache of his torn shoulder bleed into the sensation of fingers skating across his hip. Olivia keeps her eyes averted but she’s close, too close for propriety. Lincoln reaches out with one hand, touches her wrist.
Buried under sleeping bags, surrounded by sugar and electrolyte drinks, he considers his options.
Lincoln doesn’t watch them together normally, made it a point not to watch them, but he’s tired, cold, and there’s something glittering bright, mesmerizing about Peter. There’s something otherwordly about Olivia. They’re beautiful, as if leaving the lab, the confines of his usual routine, altered the way he observes them. Lincoln moved his desk to the opposite side of the room; let Walter become the embodiment of a great dividing range, to spare himself the detail of being within their proximity, for their part, Olivia and Peter were careful not to flaunt their relationship at work.
On his bad days, Lincoln fantasized about moving worlds, before the bridge was sealed forever and the option was taken from him. He dreamt about walking away from his newfound partnership with Olivia, his burgeoning friendship with Peter, except he made a promise to avenge Robert and Intel pointed at Jones’ being on this side of the bridge. On his bad days, he finds reasons to work by himself, to chase down leads, to keep distance, a growing chasm of yawning space between them, and it’s exhausting, wearing Lincoln down.
Slumped, so lonely his back teeth ache; Lincoln turns her palm, sheds light on the calluses of her trigger finger. “I’m tired of missing you.” The rasp isn’t his voice, as if Lincoln smokes ten packets a day. It sounds needy and he’d take it back except he’s exposed here, all of his scars on display, sick of feeling the pervading chill. He looks at Peter hopelessly, because the sentence encompasses them both, and if anyone could understand being misplaced, it’s Bishop.
Olivia rocks forward on her knees, 'I’m right here' would be the trite answer, 'I never left' would be downright laughable. Lincoln has memories she doesn’t. But: “I want you," never featured in the previous encounters. It's said bluntly, with no room for misunderstanding.
He remembers how Peter found him in the snow, emptying his clip at the Sasquatch except for a single bullet, saving Lincoln’s life for the second time in so many weeks. He remembers Peter’s scent when he was buried under the man’s coat in the SUV, letting Olivia keep his body temperature warm, shoring off shock, and propositioning his girlfriend probably isn’t the way to say thank you for running eight miles, except Lincoln wants. He hasn’t wanted anything for the longest time – selfishly and selflessly – Olivia's answer burns through his veins like wildfire. He’s not sure if he can string any more words together, doesn’t know how to turn his confession into seduction. Caught between ice and fire, embarrassment and relief, Lincoln only knows for certain both extremes burn.
Fixedly, he turns his attention to Peter, because that type of want isn’t constrained to one person.
Olivia kisses him, open mouthed. Her teeth catch against Lincoln's bottom lip, her fingers splay against his jaw.
He’s startled before Lincoln gets with the program. His tongue traces the contours of her lips. He pushes in without hesitancy when she groans, tries to keep his upper body still, except he wants to twist, wrap his hand in her hair, cant his hips forward and rock. “I want to watch,” he gasps out when they break apart, because he’s lost blood, dehydrated, and there are some things the human body can’t manage all at once. “Please, I want to watch you together.” He spent so much time trying to avoid them, and it's ridiculous when it's blatantly obvious how right they are. Lincoln’s naked under the sleeping bag, half-hard, he wouldn’t be able to keep himself still, and coming, he knows, would hurt like a son of a bitch. Watching wouldn't be so bad.
Peter considers him, bright and interested, he rubs his thumb against his bottom lip once. “You’re all about the wants right now," he says teasingly. "What if I wanted something, and could guarantee you wouldn’t move?”
Lincoln blinks. Olivia passes a sport’s drink over, he takes it with his left hand, gulps half of it down, the slow curl of want in his belly fanning into flames. Neither of them presses Lincoln further, and he realises ultimately it’s his choice. “Are there cameras in this place?” He asks uncertainly.
Peter grins. “I’ll be sure to check when we’re finished.”
“You’re not keeping them for prosperity.” Olivia says, exasperated, but her eyes are bright, her mouth soft as he urges Lincoln to finish the rest of the bottle.
His choice to watch them together - turned on, hard, and left out (again, again, again) - or not be left out at all. To trust Peter to keep him motionless and still. “What did you have in mind?”
“We’re going to need to buy some of this equipment tomorrow,” Peter says cryptically, and starts hunting through the travelling racks.
They move to the centre of the store where a wooden beam, wide, round as a small tree, supports the ceiling. Peter drops two sleeping bags, unzipped, on the floorboards and urges Lincoln to sit. Lincoln still has his own sleeping bag draped over his shoulders, ass naked and distracted by Olivia, who kisses the side of his ear, runs her fingers down his flank. Peter vanishes and comes back with a collection of Korjo travelling straps, wide-framed, and tent string, placing them carefully on the ground. “Get comfortable,” he encourages softly.
Lincoln hesitates, shifting on the sleeping bag until he finds a portion of beam suitably flat. He eases down, splaying his legs out until they're long on the ground, and leans against the beam. His wounded shoulder, upper torso, pulses once. He studies Peter quietly. Bishop once said he was scared of being like his father – and he’s not – as far as Lincoln can tell, he shares more traits in common with his mother, the few times Lincoln had the good fortune to meet Elizabeth Bishop. Lincoln met the Secretary, whole and mentally sane on a number of occasions, works with Walter Bishop daily, fractured into disparate pieces, and he knows Peter fears scientific distance. The ability to look at someone and see something – to declare genocide on another reality, or run invasive experiments on a three year old, a five year old, a seven year old and think it’s acceptable. To take three steps back and declare yourself a god, beyond the doctrines that govern others fate. That type of hubris scares the crap out of him, and Lincoln thinks the other man is riddled which too many uncertainties to ever be in danger of it. Peter isn’t distant, but there’s something a little removed about him now, controlled and locked down. Peter takes the sleeping bag from his shoulders, folds it, folds it again, and then once more, until it’s puffy and three layers thick, padded and thick as gauze.
He wraps it around Lincoln’s torso, circling until it runs out of length and Lee feels like a mummy, arms pinned to his side, immobile, then uses the Korjo straps to bind him to the beam - three of them, below Lincoln’s collarbone, mid-chest, and low waist, cinching it tight around the sleeping bag and pole, holding Lincoln immobile against the wood. The sensation of the straps – the only thing that could cause Lincoln discomfit - is smothered by the layered sleeping bag, and his upper torso turns warm, hot in its trapped confines. Lincoln takes a breath, stares down at his toes, pale legs stretched out in the open, his cock and balls on full display, none of it covered by the folded sleeping bag.
“Okay?” Peter asks.
He can’t thrash, turn, strain, or reopen his injury. He can’t find his nonchalance either, heart pounding. There’s a stain on his cheekbones, and desperately, Lincoln wants to crack the other man’s composure. “Wait, wait. Come here.”
Concerned, Peter drops to one knee, hands checking the straps, making sure they’re not folded on a edge, or cutting in. Lincoln extends his neck, bites the other man on his collarbone, worrying at the flesh, letting his teeth grind. He growls low. Peter holds still, then scrubs the back of Lincoln’s head, ruffling his hair until it stands on end. His fingers rest carefully against Lincoln’s skull. “Later for you,” he says, and there’s nothing removed in the promise, his regard anything but distant.
Lincoln lets him go, turns his head to nudge the other man’s cheek, the rasp of stubble against his own skin. Peter sits back on his haunches, the grin loose and easy.
“I can tie this off too, if you want?” His hand drops to the base of Lincoln’s dick, presses against the vein teasingly before slipping further back, cradling his scrotum. “A ball separator or a sling, tie you up from scrotum to crown?” When Lincoln twitches frantically, growing impossibly hard, Peter arches an eyebrow at Olivia, before stepping back. “Or maybe later, when you’re healed up.”
He feels ridiculous, but secure, splayed out against the post as Olivia steps in. He’s blinking too rapidly, because he wants all of what Peter said and more besides. He’s thinking about fingers buried deep in his body, sounds pushed into his cock, grotesque, penetration so intimate it's all he can concentrate on; he’s thinking about Olivia’s warmth, Peter’s lazy regard, of being split open and held steady. “I want you,” she whispers, hands buried in his groin, pressure inescapable, tugging him into the here and now, where Lincoln’s certain Peter’s ropes won’t release him, where he has Olivia's full attention and there are no secrets between them. “Just like this.”