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Paradigm Shift

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They've done this before. They haven't done anything like this before.

There's an Olivia-shaped hole between them now, Lincoln can feel it even as Charlie thrusts into him. (Although honestly, that's more than enough to drive all other concerns away.) There's also a new tang of the forbidden, because they haven't done this before without her.

He hadn't, really-honest-for-true *hadn't* intended this when he'd invited Charlie over. No matter that Charlie only ever visited his apartment on their post-mission nights, Lincoln had been thinking about continuing their conversation in more private quarters.

But he wasn't going to argue, either, not when Charlie pushed through the door with intent in his eyes. "What about Bug Girl?" he'd managed to gasp as Charlie's hands went down his pants.

(That Charlie doesn't shoot back with "What about Liv?" is proof of his fundamental decency.)

"It was just tea," Charlie had growled, and well, all right then. Lincoln knows when to surrender to a superior force. Or at least how to bow (or bend over) gracefully to the inevitable.

And anyway, this is post-mission too, even if Liv was in the hospital with--with her new baby, and Lincoln hasn't half begun to process *that.* So everything else aside they've earned this, a chance to celebrate having survived another insane mission, and Lincoln shuts the rest of it out to enjoy what he's owed.

But after, yeah, things get sticky. (Stickier.) Charlie is drinking and brooding over Olivia, both the one in the hospital and the other one, not-their-Liv. While that's a good look for him, it's also counterproductive when they've got more important issues at hand, like how Secretary Bishop manipulated and lied to them, and how they're going to keep him from realizing that they know it. How they're going to keep from being disappeared like Colonel Broyles.

"How could we not have known?" Charlie asks, his voice breaking, and it turns out they don't have more important issues immediately at hand, after all.

Lincoln can only offer what little he's pieced together. They both understand that the Secretary's mad science is less "mad" than "terrifyingly effective," and even Lincoln's advanced degree gives him just enough background to grok maybe a quarter of what they're really doing out in the field. The rest of the time he can bullshit fast enough to sound smarter than he is, smart enough to have been promoted to the head of division with Broyles gone. There's no space for bullshit here, though, not when it involves two men who've suddenly realized that the woman they'd been sleeping with wasn't herself for a couple of weeks.

And they can't--explain, they can't apologize, because that other Olivia is back in her own universe. Lincoln isn't buying the "sent home" line, not for one second, not after what the cab driver said and Broyles' disappearance. But something tells him she's not dead, either, if for no other reason than the Secretary might want to swap Olivias again at some point.

They can't do anything about her. They can both feel like shit about it, but that's the extent. As for their Liv--

It's his turn to break a little. He's taken hits before but not like this, not so many in quick succession. While she was in the other universe Liv had an affair with the Secretary's son who was kidnapped twenty years ago, and that doesn't sound any less insane when he says it aloud. Liv got pregnant. Liv had a baby two seconds later and Lincoln confessed that he loves her and she didn't blink.

He knows that's more than a little unfair, given the circumstances. And his dumbass crush is no secret to anyone, for God's sake, although both Liv and Charlie have been considerate enough not to rub it in his face. Despite that, despite everything, it somehow makes sense in the context of their crazy, every-second-could-be-the-last lives that they've been sleeping together after missions, the three of them, and that afterward Liv goes home to Frank and Charlie to his worms ("They're not worms," Charlie says reflexively, like always), and Lincoln changes the bed sheets in case he has other company.

Charlie declines to comment on the rarity of that event and instead gets up to wander back to the whisky bottle. As much as Lincoln appreciates the view, he's on the verge of protesting when Charlie comes back with a second full glass in hand and fuck it, he's not the boss when they're here.

He never has been. Charlie is--*Charlie,* older and self-assured and ridiculously competent in a ridiculous number of ways. Lincoln thinks he wouldn't have been able to cope half as well with the arachnids and the constant injections, but Charlie just makes it part of his everyday routine: shit, shower, shave, shot. Never mind the iron discipline he imposes on himself to make sure he doesn't infect anyone else.

And Liv, who ever could tell her what to do? She makes her own way, crazy reckless one moment and whip-smart intuitive the next, and that's why Lincoln loves her.

Charlie's hand tightens on his arm and they both toss back their drinks, all manly and crap, and then Charlie says, "Anything I can do?"

Lincoln pretends to think about it for a long moment, because the real answer is "no" and he doesn't want to leave it at that. "You can call me 'sir' again."

"Respectfully request that you fuck me, *sir,*" Charlie fires back immediately, like he doesn't need to think about his response at all.

It isn't a solution to any of their issues but it's what they have for now, and he'll take it. A damn sight better than sealing their--their new conspiracy with a handshake, too. The world has been falling apart for over two decades but it's only now that Lincoln really feels things shifting under his feet.

At least he's got Charlie to hang on to. For the moment, that's got to be enough.

 

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