New cases appear to divert Olivia’s attention--the precognitive girl, the man with a savior complex. Olivia gives them her best effort as usual but feels like she’s just marking time, waiting for a chance to see Lincoln again.
With Walter now on board with the effort to help Peter find his home, Peter’s temper improves, and he shows himself to be helpful and insightful on the cases. Olivia finally sees in him the man that some other version of her loves, and she continues to hope Walter can find a solution for both their sakes.
And then there’s an event in Westfield that brings the two universes crashing together, and something about their interaction flips a switch in Olivia’s mind and she starts to remember. Over the next few days, with Walter and Lee and Peter all hovering over her with concern even while they’re trying to deal with the hive-mind teenagers, Olivia remembers everything.
She remembers her history with Peter now, she remembers loving him. She remembers all the cases they worked together, and his patience, and his guilt over Liv.
(Oh, but Liv. Olivia's hands clench into fists when she thinks of her double now. There's a score to settle there, interdimensional relations be damned. Their truce was established lacking critical information and Olivia is sorely tempted to break it, given what she now knows. Only thing is, Liv will never understand why.)
She remembers how Peter was with Walter, and how much better Walter was with him.
She remembers how she was with Peter, not--not better, precisely, but secure in the knowledge that he'd be there for her, always, even while he challenged all her comfortable patterns and made her stretch outside of her comfort zone.
She remembers Peter's wry humor, and his cleverness, and how his skin felt against hers.
Olivia remembers knowing that she was going to marry him, someday.
It's all come flooding back and there's no reason they shouldn't pick up where they left off, except.
The sex with him was amazing, mind-blowing even, but what does she really know about the other world's Lincoln Lee, anyway? A handful of days, that's as long as she's known him. Well, that and the two months when she wasn't herself. ...and, if she's counting them, the three years of memories Liv had of him before that, still embedded in Olivia's brain. The fine details have faded, but the emotions--friendship, trust, fondness and attraction and care--still remain. Olivia can't even claim that those feelings are borrowed interlopers anymore; she's learned to tell the difference in the texture between her own memories and the implanted ones. They might be borrowed, but the impressions left behind are no less valid.
He loves her. It's impossible not to acknowledge now, with all their realities laid bare.
That Captain Lincoln Lee loves Olivia Dunham in any incarnation or any timeline isn't really in question. And after the days spent with him, Olivia is more than satisfied that he knows the difference between them.
So Lincoln loves her and Olivia...she doesn't know. Cares about him. Wants him even more. Loves the way he makes her laugh, and the way he so obviously wants to take care of her, and--
Why it's so hard just to allow herself to admit she loves him, Olivia can't understand. It took a long time with Peter, too, so maybe it's just been too fast with Lincoln to process. Maybe--oh, definitely--she's still terrified that the bridge will close and she'll lose him forever, and her reserve is her rational mind's way of trying to protect her.
Too late on that account.
She's got a tattoo on her back that matches his, for God's sake. Olivia doesn't have a memento of John, the man she was engaged to, except for his medal buried in a drawer somewhere. She's permanently marked her skin to remember Lincoln by and if that's not love--
Astrid said she'd be there to pick up the pieces if things fell apart. There are, Olivia thinks bitterly, far too many pieces for anyone to cope with. A cosmic game of 52 pickup, with all her memories strewn across two worlds.
Peter, meanwhile, is being amazingly understanding. "I didn't exist. How could I be jealous of you when--" he pauses, frowning. "That's wrong. I'm completely jealous, and upset, and angry. But not at you. Or him, for that matter. But Olivia, I'm really fucking pissed off at whatever did this to us. And I know you need time to sort it all out."
He stops talking, paces, and suddenly, shockingly, nearly puts his fist through the wall. Olivia checks his hand over and gets the kit to clean the cuts; he's lucky he didn't shatter his knuckles. "It feels like we never get a break and that hurts, Olivia. It tears me up that we're finally back in the same place and I can't be with you."
"I know," she says softly, bent over his hand. "I'm sorry."
"You don't have anything to be sorry about." Peter's fury is nearly a tangible thing, a caged beast with no one to savage. But he's gentle with her, stepping back to give her space and time.
Olivia puts off going back over the bridge, unable to imagine what she can say to Lincoln, or even what she wants to say. Her life has suddenly become a soap opera, and it seems she now has a choice between two lovers.
She'd once told Rachel that she was jealous of Rachel's ability to date two guys at once. Olivia would give anything to take it back.
Except that she can't imagine losing either of them, now. It's probably obvious to everyone else that she needs to choose the man who lives in her own world. But Olivia remembers life without Peter now, too, and arguments of "you can't live without him" don't wash. She did, and contentedly.
That same argument doesn't stand with Lincoln, either, considering how recently he's come into her life. Although if she counts those borrowed memories Olivia's known him for exactly as long as she's known Peter, and all the equations reset to zero.
Far too quickly, the decision is being made for her. Both Doctor Bishops determine that the bridge has done its job in restoring balance to both worlds, and started to overcompensate by pulling them together. Westfield was the first event, but sensors are detecting similar vibrations starting to build elsewhere.
Peter had provided the missing piece to the puzzle of the bridge room. It’s his DNA that can trigger or deactivate the machine, and once Olivia removes her telekinetic “crowbar,” the room really will wink out like a soap bubble.
There’s no time to delay, or debate. The worlds need to be separated if they’re to survive, all the scientists agree.
But even that doesn’t have to be the end for her and Lincoln. If Olivia works at it, if she doses herself with Cortexiphan and hope, she can learn how to jump universes without the aid of others or being scared out of her mind. The ultimate in long-distance relationships, but not impossible. Not for her.
It’s a possibility that has nothing to do with reality. Olivia’s decision was made the moment she regained her memories of Peter, and trying to pretend otherwise just insults them all.
She has to see Lincoln one more time, at least, to explain. Or failing that, to find some kind of conclusion they both can live with.
This meeting, Olivia refuses to have on the bridge. While the final arrangements are being made, they find a quiet diner on Lincoln’s side just across the water from Liberty Island. Thankfully it doesn’t look at all like they’d eaten at before, the meal that ended with a walk to his apartment, because those associations would just be too much.
The words sound unbelievable, gibberish coming out of her own mouth as she tries to tell Lincoln about another timeline that she suddenly remembers, one where she was (is) in love with Peter Bishop. Olivia decides, after a lot of soul-searching, to omit the part about Liv sleeping with Peter while she took Olivia’s place. The knowledge can’t cause anything but harm, and she’d forgiven Peter and moved past it once; no reason to drag it all out in the open again, especially to the man who loved her alternate once. Maybe still does.
Lincoln listens without comment, at first searching her face as if he’s trying to figure out if she’s joking, then with increasing bewilderment. When she finally winds down, he looks...like she feels, like his whole reality has just been reshaped around him. But his first question is filled with nothing but concern. “You’re sure these are really all your memories? These things really happened to you?”
“Yes,” she says. “There’s no proof of it in either of our worlds, because Peter was erased so completely. But I can feel that they’re true. And it’s not,” she adds, “like when Liv’s memories were superimposed over my own. I still have some of those, and they feel different. What I remember about Peter, that’s...that’s real.”
She can’t help the smile on her face, and maybe that’s what convinces him. “You’re happy,” Lincoln says, and it’s not a question.
“Yes,” Olivia says again around the lump in her throat. The words leave her in a rush. “I don’t know what to say. Even with-- I don’t want to lose you.”
This is a truth too, one she hasn’t wanted to admit. For all that she loves Peter--and she does honestly love him, ‘til death or shifting timelines do them part again--she can’t deny her feelings for this man.
"Olivia, don't." She looks into Lincoln’s face, startled by his tone. His eyes are sad, but resolute. "We both knew we were only...borrowing each other."
She opens her mouth but nothing comes out. Lincoln smiles slightly, the expression never touching his eyes. "That doesn't make what we shared any less real. I won't forget. You won't either. You're wearing my--"
His steady façade falters, nearly cracks, before he goes on. "Unless time really does reset itself again, we'll still have marks to remember each other by. And if it somehow reverts to your other timeline...I guess it doesn't matter."
“It always matters,” she says, knowing it for fact. “Broyles said something to me, after the McClennan case. He said that he believed there were people who leave an indelible mark on your soul. An imprint that can never be erased.” She takes his hand, feeling his fingers twine around hers. “You’ve been that for me.”
“You’ve been--” Lincoln starts, and then shakes his head. “You know. I hope you know. And I would really rather not start bawling here in public, so that’s all I’m gonna say.” He manages a small smile, but there are standing tears in his eyes and Olivia doesn’t need to see them fall to know what’s in his heart.
Together, they head back to the bridge.
There’s handshaking all around, each touch and word laden with the knowledge that this truly might be the last interaction between worlds. Olivia nods a cordial farewell to Liv--it’s as much as she can manage--and hugs Charlie both for himself and for her own Charlie, the farewell that was stolen from her.
By the time it’s down to her and Lincoln everyone else has drawn back to their opposite sides, giving them space. They stand in the middle of the room and it really is goodbye, after all.
Further words aren't necessary. Olivia puts her hand on Lincoln’s neck, draws him in. Right before their lips touch, he murmurs, "Olivia...everyone's watching."
"I know," she says. "I don't care."
The kiss is gentle and sweet and lasts a long time.
When they finally pull back Lincoln is smiling, and that's the image she's going to take back with her to her world.
Olivia glances over his shoulder toward the other world's door, where Liv and Charlie are waiting. She doesn't even have to say it. "We will," Charlie says, as Liv nods, "Of course."
Lincoln backs toward the doorway without another sound, at least until his foot's on the threshold. His last word, predictably, makes her laugh.
Liv starts to reach toward him, then drops her arm. Charlie's hand is on Lincoln's shoulder as the three of them go through the portal, and that's the last she sees of him.
Olivia turns to face her own team. Lee is blinking fast behind his glasses, looking almost overwhelmed, but his arm is around Astrid as she weeps into his shoulder. Broyles has turned away so she can't see his face, and Walter's eyes are sad and full of compassion.
Peter meets her gaze fully, composed and without judgment.
"Okay," Olivia Dunham says, and her voice is strong. "Let's go home."
Chapter 2: Epilogue 1
Lincoln and Astrid take one car; Broyles mutters, "I'll take Dr. Bishop home," and marches off with him at a fast clip.
Peter smiles wryly. "Want a ride?"
"Long walk otherwise," Olivia says, and laughs for no reason at all.
The trip back to Boston is silent but somehow avoids being awkward. Olivia finds herself staring at her reflection in the window, surprised by how often it smiles, not surprised by the tears on its face.
Peter walks her all the way to her apartment door. There's a pause but this, too, isn't awkward; it's just a moment. He looks at her for a long, thoughtful breath.
"That looked like a good kiss."
"It was," Olivia says as Peter's hand comes up to cup her cheek, his thumb grazing over her lower lip.
He just nods. "When you're ready, 'livia."
She steps back, not quickly, and he follows her cue, offering her almost a half-bow before turning to head back to his car. Olivia has the key in the lock and Peter's almost at the stairwell when she calls out, "Peter."
He turns instantly, as if he'd been waiting for her voice.
"Maybe sooner than you think."
Olivia smiles and closes the door behind her.
Chapter 3: Epilogue 2
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
It's a few weeks before Olivia stops seeing Lincoln in the corners of her apartment, stops smelling him on her pillow even after the sheets have gone through the laundry. She grows to loathe the sight of her empty kitchen and stops at a bookstore to investigate cookbooks; she finds one called "How to Cook Everything" that seems promising.
Fringe Division goes on, with Peter integrating smoothly into the team again. He and Lee--Lincoln, Olivia keeps reminding herself, even if she hasn't gotten there in her head yet--have developed a companionable friendship, bonding over shared nerdity and a love of obscure weird science. She refuses to say "bromance" but it's on the tip of her tongue when she sees them together. She'd even start to wonder about the two of them if Astrid and Lee hadn't started seeing each other outside the lab.
Astrid had actually asked if that was okay by her, as if Olivia had claim to all the Lincoln Lees in every world. And of course it’s more than fine, because Lee has become something like the brother Olivia never had.
Walter is doing much better too, and has started to make noises about moving out of the lab. He declines the suggestion to go back to his old house, which he’s all but ceded to Peter. "A young man needs his space," he keeps saying, with what he probably believes are unobtrusive glances over at Olivia. Both she and Peter ignore the insinuations, concentrating on redeveloping their working relationship first of all, and relearning each other's presence.
But at last it almost feels like old times in the lab, and when Peter asks her to dinner, she agrees.
Peter chooses a restaurant, somewhere neither of them had been before, perhaps signifying a new start. It isn't, precisely, but Olivia appreciates the symbolism regardless. Somewhere between the spanakopita and the dolmades she finds herself laughing, listening to Peter spin a tale about an ill-fated business deal somewhere on the other side of the world. Like so many of Peter's stories from that span of his life, it ends with him fleeing the area with only the clothes on his back...and a handful of emergency credit cards and passports, all in different names.
"And you seemed like such a smooth operator when I met you," she mocks him, and her tone is laden with affection she hasn't forgotten, after all.
Peter grins. "All a façade. But you saw right through me."
“You always saw through me, too,” Olivia murmurs, and the long look they share is full of so many memories, good and otherwise.
"You seem...lighter," he says, and pauses, because now both of them remember another timeline where that sentiment meant something else entirely. But Olivia just smiles.
"I feel lighter."
"He was good for you." Peter's voice stays even, neither accusing nor condoning.
"Yes." Olivia looks at him, the few brief joyous moments she shared with Lincoln tumbling through her mind. "But it's time to move on."
He reaches out over the table and she takes his hand. "Tell me what that means?"
"It means I remember everything, and I don't want to go backward." Her fingers stroke over his palm. "We've both seen too much to pretend that our lives might not be terribly short, or sad, or both. One we can't do anything about except to be as careful as we can. The other...I'm tired of being sad, Peter."
His fingers tighten around hers. "This is how Lincoln made you feel?"
Olivia searches his face. It's not a question of jealousy, she knows that for sure. Maybe he's wondering why she never felt that way with him. But she hadn't had that kind of time with Peter, that kind of leisure or simplicity, and that's simply due to how their short time together had played out.
She's not going to dissemble, either. "That's part of it, yes."
"And the other part?"
"Everything else." Olivia laughs to his bewildered look, she can't help it. "Our lives. Everything we've been through. We just have to...be happy while we can." Lincoln's words too, but Peter doesn't need to hear that now.
Peter's expression slowly spreads into a broad grin. "I like this philosophy. I am willing to embrace this philosophy wholesale."
"Good. Let's start."
His surprise is precious. "Right now?"
"Can't think of a single damn reason," he says, and signals for the check.
They go back to the house rather than Olivia’s apartment, because the memories here are better for both of them. “Yet another first time,” Olivia murmurs, and Peter sighs softly.
“I’d rather think of it as picking up where we left off.”
“In that case,” Olivia says, letting her joy bubble up in her voice, “we’re not nearly naked enough yet.”
Peter looks at her and then laughs, moving in to kiss her. It’s awkward for only the briefest moment before they find their rhythm again, rediscovering all the ways they fit together. Their clothes fall away on the way up the stairs and they’re finally in the bed again, naked against each other the way they’re supposed to be. Both of them have recent marks to discover: Olivia runs her tongue along the new scar on Peter’s hand, learning its lines, and he kisses the new tattoo on her lower back, accepting it as part of who she is.
In their mutually remembered timeline they had too short a time before things fell apart to really get to know each other's bodies, but now Peter plays her like a virtuoso, every movement perfectly in tune with her desires. Entirely different from Lincoln, but with similar results.
It's puzzling enough that Olivia has to ask, once she can speak again. "Peter, how did you know--"
He pauses before answering, and it's significant enough to let her know this isn't something trivial. He stands up and starts to pace. "I...haven't told you everything about when I was lost in time. We had fifteen years."
Olivia sits up, startled and alarmed. "What does that mean?"
"When I went into the machine, near as I can tell, I was thrown into the body of my future self. I never realized that until I woke up, and then there wasn't time to explain." He runs a hand over his face. "I imagine it was kind of like when you had Liv's memories. In that future, we'd been married for fifteen years." Peter smiles wanly. "I recall a few things."
She stares at him, trying to encompass the scope of his revelation. "Why didn't you tell me before?"
"A lot of it wasn't relevant, Olivia." He sits down on the bed and takes her hand. "The world in that future was dying, vortexes opening everywhere. The alternate universe had already been destroyed. It isn't something I really wanted to remember." He must've caught the alarm on her face. "But that's all been averted, it can't happen. It won't happen."
"There's something else," she says, watching his face.
His expression tightens. "Yes. Please don't-- I don't want to tell you."
"All right," she says softly, because it must be devastating if he's that upset about the memory of something he's already sworn doesn't matter anymore. "But someday?"
"Fifteenth wedding anniversary," Peter says, and then does a double take, his expression split between embarrassment and surprise at his own impulsive words. "Too soon?"
"Little bit," Olivia laughs, pulling him back down.
"But maybe sooner than you think."
Stop your crying and dry up your endless tears
Don't you know you've got the key, love sets you free
Worlds on fire full of pain and endless fear
Don't you know, open your eyes, love sets you free
Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything" (and "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian") is *excellent.* Highly recommended for all cooks, no matter what skill level.
...did I ever think this series would end up Peter/Olivia? No, I did not. But since I'd been so determined to adhere to canon, perhaps I shouldn't have been surprised. On the other hand, I was never going to write anything that had 1) Peter needing an Observer to tell him who to love (embarrassing for all involved) or 2) Olivia choosing to forget any life she’s led. So that meant a massive canon divergence, and a logical end to the series.
I wrote a line in "Time on Our Hands" that proved unexpectedly useful: Lincoln looks thoughtful. "I doubt he's as delicate as you think."
-- that was about Blue!Lee, but it applies to Red!Lincoln too. It’s easy to woobify him, but a disservice. He’s not a fragile flower.
This is not the end of my Olivia/Red!Lincoln obsession, and odds are v. good there will be a return to this theme sometime.
Chapter 4: Final Epilogue: Five Years Later
Codas in 100 words.
Grandpa Walter always contributes the most interesting offering to Elizabeth’s pile of birthday presents. This year, it’s a cleverly designed logic puzzle full of moving parts and blinking lights. Perhaps a little advanced for a four-year-old, Olivia and Peter both agree, but certainly more engaging than any simple mass-market toy.
Predictably, Elizabeth’s attention is more immediately drawn to a brightly colored stuffed dragon and a toy truck with a working siren. But a few days later, Olivia finds her daughter sitting on the floor, staring at the puzzle with concentration.
The levers and lights move in time with her breath.
It’s going to be a long time before their world returns to what it once was, but things are definitely on the right track. A scientist in Scotland (appropriate, that) had cloned a small herd of healthy baby sheep, and even if the coffee supply never reaches its former glory, at least they can look up after a storm and see rainbows again.
Rainbows are best with someone to appreciate them with and these days, Lincoln has no lack of company. “Honey, I’m home,” Lincoln calls out, and waits to hear which of the two voices will answer him back.