The lake, for now, is frozen, a sheet of white and gray stretching towards the woods of Pennsylvania. Trying not to shiver, Lincoln hands Olivia one of two steaming hot cups of tea. He holds the other, warmth barely sinking through his leather gloves.
She sniffs the steam from the cup. "Mm, darjeeling." She takes a slow, deep sip. Face still too somber, after the loss of her partner.
He nods towards the lake. "Anything happening?"
"Nope. Still just ice."
They stand side by side amid the recording equipment drinking their tea, and wait for the frozen lake to boil.
Astrid somehow gets her hands on some coffee. She won't tell them how, but she slips Olivia and Lincoln each a small amount, making them swear not to tell a soul, her gaze aimed at the floor of a hallway at Fringe headquarters. She's smart and kind, this Astrid, as was the one Lincoln knew in the other universe, yet completely different.
A few days later Olivia comes in with a thermos, doesn't mention what's in it.
It's been an unusually dull week of paperwork. Lincoln remembers Olivia--the other Olivia--warning him about the things that might be difficult to accept. Paperwork helps center him, it's calming, but he finds himself wishing there were less of it.
"C'mon." Olivia perches on his desk, holding the thermos, playful curve on her lips.
"Lunch. Now." She slides off the desk, walking off without looking back to make sure he follows. He tries not to watch the confident sway of her hips.
They buy sandwiches from a vendor in the park, and Olivia pours coffee from the thermos into plastic cups.
Lincoln's almost forgotten how coffee tastes, and the flavor stirs a cascade of sense memories of the place he left.
Two other agents are already down. The snarls of the mutated…thing bounce oddly off the concrete of the warehouse, making it hard for Lincoln to get a bead on where it might be--the thin beam of his flashlight isn't much help. Lincoln turns slowly, aiming his weapon, ignoring the stickiness and trickle of blood on his arm, where the sleeve of his jacket's torn.
"'Liv?" He says.
"I'm one floor below you," she answers over the comm.
Lincoln steps with care over the debris and cracks in the floor, that odd, acidic, slimy scent reaching him. "I can…smell it." He swallows, tasting something sour. "I think it's up here."
"I'm on my way." Olivia sounds a little out of breath. He distantly hears rapid footsteps below him and to the left, where the stairwell is.
He shoots the thing, right before Olivia arrives, racing towards him. His heart's going freight-train fast as he lowers his gun. His flashlight catches Olivia's face, how the tight set of her jaw and hint of fear in her eyes changes to relief as she spots him. She nudges the monster's corpse with the toe of her boot. "Nice shot," she says, with satisfaction. Then she notices his arm. "You all right?" Her voice goes sharp. "It scratched you?"
"No, scraped my arm against a piece of metal while I was dodging it earlier."
She takes his arm in strong fingers, gently pushing back the sleeve of his jacket to see. "We'll get you patched up. And then--" she turns her back on the monster, the goo spreading in a pool around it, and touches Lincoln's shoulder. "I'm hungry. You hungry?"
He's not, but it's Olivia. "Sure."
After the medic bandages him, they eat slices of pizza and sodas, sitting in Olivia's car.
"So." Olivia sits at her kitchen table, barefoot, wearing cargo shorts and a black tank top, and lifts another forkful of linguini. "You seem pretty good in the field."
Her eyes track Lincoln across the table, assessing, evaluating with curiosity and no heat, but he feels himself flush slightly. He takes a quick swallow of water and turns back to the food she's made for them. "Things are a little different here, but I'm adjusting."
She watches him a beat longer, then turns back to her plate. Lincoln lets out a breath. It seems he's passed some kind of test, been found acceptable--he doesn't know for sure, if she compares him every moment to her dead partner, if she thinks about how much he looks like him, but he sure can't shake off thinking about the other Olivia, the one he can't ever have, while this one is tantalizingly close, yet not the same. He is not him and she is not her, and Lincoln should just eat his linguini and keep his eyes off the glimmer of light on her red hair, stop noticing the way she's been grinning more often lately, and at him, without the little hesitancies she showed for a while, because, he supposed, he was a ringer for her dead partner.
"Things are getting better." Her fork scrapes against the plate. "More places that were ambered get reclaimed, every week. They think some of the blighted crops could come back, too."
"While we deal with killer rabbits. Mutated monsters. Frozen lakes that boil within seconds."
"Aw, that's nothing. C'mon, Lincoln." She wrinkles up her nose in amusement. "You've seen scarier stuff than that in Fringe Division back in the other universe."
"This is true." Lincoln images what Danzig would've made of all this, of Fringe Division, of towns frozen in amber, of monsters and killer bunny rabbits and goo, how his brows would shoot up and then maybe he'd have a great story to tell his kids. There are too many ghosts. Lincoln pushes his pasta around on the plate, twirling it onto his fork.
She's gone too still, too quiet. "You regret it?"
"No, and I didn't exactly belong there, either. Or I did, but apparently I was some different version of myself that wasn't supposed to be. Over here, I have a better shot at becoming something I choose."
The glow of Olivia's tiny emergency light burns between them. Dirt smudges her face; she sits with her back against the stones. Lincoln sits with his shoulder a few inches away from hers. Both of them are unhurt except for a few bruises--they were lucky.
"How long did they say?" Lincoln asks. The air of the cellar is cold, smelling dank.
"Not long. Forty minutes." She touches the comm on her ear, as if it's reflex, reassurance, then lowers her hand, turning towards him. "You saved those people."
"We saved them."
Olivia keeps staring at him, examining his face in the pale light. He feels she's trying to learn him, discover a feature she missed before. Before he's quite sure what's happening, she puts her fingers gently to the side of his face, and leans in until her mouth is warm and soft over his. Lincoln's hands move up, sliding through her hair as he kisses her back, before he even knows what he's doing, falling into the warm solidity and realness of her.
She shifts, sliding onto his lap so she's straddling him, their tongues sliding across and around each other's and his hands move to trace along the line of her back, over her jacket, holding her closer with her knees on either side of his thighs.
He pulls away, his hands falling to rest on her hips, near the weight of her holster. Lincoln wears his weapon in the same fashion--he would prefer that either way, but also he's careful because he knows the other Lincoln had a strong preference for using a leg holster, "We probably shouldn't, Liv," he says, slowly, not wanting to say it. "There's too much that…it confuses things..."
"I agree," she answers, her breath warm against his cheek. "That doesn't mean we shouldn't." She moves off him, returning to her spot next to him against the stone wall. He misses the weight of her.
They sit quietly, listening to water drip somewhere. Lincoln stares up towards the jagged hole in the wood floor far above their heads, the place where they fell. He hears movement beside him, catches Olivia hugging herself with one arm across her chest. Lincoln finds her hand without looking, wraps his fingers around hers. She squeezes back, dirt-stained skin to dirt-stained skin, and lets go a few seconds later.
Lincoln's stomach growls, sharply and loudly in the stillness, and Olivia throws her head back and laughs.
"What?" He protests, chest tight with what feels oddly like joy. "It's been six hours since breakfast."
Stifling a chuckle, she pulls out an energy bar. "Here." She tosses it to him and he catches it. "Only have the one. Unless you've got yours still…"
"Ate it last week, forgot to pack another one." Lincoln peels back the wrapper, then breaks it in half. "We'll share."
They eat, knees bent and bumping together, as they wait for rescue.
Lincoln's never felt so at home before in a place that isn't.