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In the four years since he’d been infected by a transgenic monstrosity, Charlie had gotten used to the constant injections to keep the arachnids quiescent. But he’d never resigned himself to the itching under his skin, or knowing there were alien things inside his body.

He never would’ve made it through without his partners. At first Olivia and Lincoln were just his Fringe Division teammates, then fuckbuddies after the bad events, and then—eventually—his partners in every sense of the word. At work, at home. Intrinsically entwined in his life in ways he never could have imagined, and to hell with what the rest of the world thought.

Considering the state of the rest of the world, most people were too concerned with their own situations to pay attention to theirs. Small favors.

The doctors who’d been working with him all these years to keep the bugs quiet never stopped looking for a cure. Olivia had come back with notes from the other-side Charlie’s encounter with a similar—not identical—kind of creature, but since the Fringe agents over here had applied a flamethrower to the chimera with extreme prejudice, the same treatment wasn’t a possibility.

Still, they’d kept him alive and Charlie wasn’t inclined to quibble with their results. Dr. Foster had been a constant source of encouragement, even if she seemed more interested in his bugs than him. Still, she’d been hopeful about the latest experimental serum. Charlie took the injection stoically, just like all the other attempts. As long as the bugs weren’t chewing their way through his skin, he was willing to live with the détente. No real choice about that.

It’d become so routine that the last thing he expected during one of his biweekly checkups was a delay. The docs had his exams down to a literal science, physical checks and blood draws and samples of other fluids. He’d stopped bitching about the tests years ago, after realizing they could’ve insisted on spinal taps as well.

But this week they’d left him cooling his heels in the bare exam room way longer than usual. Charlie gave them ten minutes, then five more, and then he opened the door and stuck his head out into the hall.

Just in time to see Dr. Foster rushing toward him, one of the lab techs he’d seen in passing on her heels. “Agent Francis! I was just— We have to— It’s too soon to say, but—”

“Finish a thought, Doc,” Charlie drawled, but he felt his pulse jump.

She flashed him a quick, excited smile. “I need to do another blood draw. And an ultrasound.”

“Fine,” Charlie said cautiously. She wouldn’t have been smiling if he’d been in danger, so— “Did the spiders move around or something?”

“There’s no evidence of transgenic proteins in your blood,” the tech blurted, and immediately blanched as Dr. Foster turned on him with a furious expression.

“I was going to— Oooh!” She let out a huff of frustrated breath and turned back to Charlie as the tech fled back down the hall. “Charlie, it looks like you’re clear of the arachnid infection. But I want to run additional tests to make sure.”

He reached out, groping for the door frame as the muscles in his legs turned to water. “Just... just like that?”

Dr. Foster reached out to pat his arm. “Well, that last serum did take years to develop. And I didn’t want to give you false hope in case it didn’t work. But when it worked, it worked fast.” She gave him a gentle push back into the room. “Shirt off. I’ll send a second sample to the lab, and then we’ll do the ultrasound. But the preliminary results look good.”

Two hours later he was staring down at his own copy of the results on his datapad, watching the absence of foreign movement on the ultrasound video. Dr. Foster grinned as she watched him. “I’m so happy for you, Charlie.” She added with a smirk, “I’m thrilled about the paper I’m going to get out of this.”

He shook his head in wonder and closed down the pad. “Doc, I could kiss you.”

She laughed. “I know there are other people you’d rather be kissing. Go on, now. Don’t be a stranger?”

He leaned in to kiss her cheek anyway. “I’ll never forget what you did.”

Dr. Foster shooed him off, blushing. Charlie grabbed his jacket and got, intent on a single goal. Or a dual one, rather.

***

By the time he got back to division, Charlie was jittery with reaction. Lincoln saw him come in and waved a casual hand, like it was any other post-checkup day. “Hey, you’re late. Everything okay?”

“Good,” Charlie managed. “It’s— is Liv around?”

“She’s down at the gun range, giving pointers to the new recruits. You need her for something?”

“Yeah,” Charlie said. “Both of you.”

Lincoln straightened up from where he’d been tapping at his screen. “What’s up?”

“Just get her, okay?” He collapsed into the chair at his desk, trying to keep a lid on his emotions. “Please, Linc,” he said, and it came out in the kind of tone he tried not to use at work.

Lincoln stared at him, now looking genuinely concerned, but his hand was already reaching for his earcuff. “Liv, get up here.”

Charlie smiled at him, knowing he was freaking Lincoln out, but he needed to be a lot less public immediately. “It’s okay. Meet me in our spot.”

He got up and headed back out of the command center. “Their spot” was a maintenance closet—cliché and all—that wasn’t under direct surveillance. Everyone knew that the three of them had claimed it for their own use, but the closet saw a lot less on the job hanky-panky than their coworkers probably imagined. Sometimes one or all of them just needed a quiet moment with their partners, away from prying eyes.

He’d been there long enough to get his breathing under control when Lincoln and Liv slipped into the small space. Charlie handed over his pad before they had a chance to question him. “Read that.”

Charlie imagined that the looks on their faces as they read mirrored his in the exam room: utter disbelief, followed by rising excitement and unhoped-for joy. But it was all there in the battery of tests, the meticulous examinations.

The arachnids were gone.

His body was his again.

“Charlie,” Liv breathed, and reached for him with Lincoln only a second behind. He let himself fall into them, hugging tightly, and then—

Part of him was amazed that they didn’t fight over who got to kiss him first, instead trading him between them with unspoken accord. The rest of him didn’t care. He’d missed this so much, the sweetness of Olivia’s mouth, Lincoln’s eager tongue. Not having to be afraid of his own damn spit or the chance (impossible as the docs all said it was) of infecting either of them.

He was trembling by the time they let him step back. “I never thought,” he started, but what he’d thought was past, it no longer mattered. Charlie cleared his throat and tried again. “We should, uh, probably get out of here.”

“We should celebrate,” Lincoln said promptly.

Charlie glanced at him as Liv checked the corridor and they stepped into the hall. “You wanna go out?”

“Stay in,” Liv and Lincoln said together, and Lincoln grinned. “God, I can’t wait.”

You can’t wait,” Charlie said, mocking, but Christ, he couldn’t either.

The news had hit Broyles’ terminal by the time they got back to the command room. He waved for the three of them to come up to his office and reached out to shake Charlie’s hand as they entered. “Congratulations, Agent Francis.” Before Charlie could say anything, Broyles looked the three of them over and rolled his eyes. “You’re dismissed for the day. Get it out of your systems. Don’t be late tomorrow.”

Unprofessional as hell on all of their parts, though they were halfway out of the building before Charlie had even the glimmer of self-consciousness about it. Broyles knew as well as anyone how the arachnids had impacted his life.

But not any longer.

***

The ride home was a blur. Charlie spent the trip resolutely staring out of the window, not daring to glance over at Olivia driving or Lincoln in the back seat, his hands clenched tightly in his lap to keep himself from reaching out to them.

They spilled through the door of the apartment in a tangle, slamming the door behind them. In an eyeblink Lincoln was on his knees, scrabbling to tear off Charlie’s pants, clearly intent on his mission. “Can’t wait to get my mouth on you.”

“Your tongue in me, Charlie, I missed that,” Liv breathed into his ear. Charlie reached down to haul Lincoln back to his feet, shoving him toward the bedroom where they could fulfill all those years of thwarted promises at once.

They hit the bed in a flurry of discarded clothing and eager hands. Olivia and Lincoln wrestled for Charlie’s attention, nearly on the verge of blows over who got to touch and taste him first. And where and how to touch him.

“Option paralysis,” Lincoln muttered.

But Charlie had been thinking about this too long to put up with their dithering. He lay down, pointing at his cock and then at Lincoln. “Need an invitation?”

Lincoln was on him almost before he’d finished the question. Charlie groaned, rolling his head at the feel of Lincoln’s mouth without a damn condom between them. He reached out for Liv, pulling her closer, kissing her lush mouth. But that wasn’t where he wanted his tongue.

“Sit on my face.” He was way past trying for subtlety. Liv grinned and swung her leg over his head, careful not to hit Lincoln as she positioned herself. Charlie drew her hips down and licked at her hard, without warm up.

Liv gasped and reached out to grab hold of the headboard, settling her knees on either side of his head. Charlie took a second just to breathe her in, the heady scent of musk and want. Lincoln was humming against his cock and generally doing his best to throw Charlie’s concentration all to hell. Charlie knew this game, Lincoln was a master at it—but Charlie was determined to have all of this, all at once, for as long as he could. And then do it again.

Charlie lost himself for a while in Liv’s smell and taste, in the sensations of Lincoln licking and sucking at his cock. The intensity was nearly overwhelming: the feel of his partners against his skin, free of barriers and without fear.

When he could focus again Charlie realized he was sucking hard on her clit, like Lincoln was sucking on him. Liv’s hips rolled in a rhythmic circle, keeping his mouth where she wanted it, grinding down against his face.

Charlie reached up to pinch gently at her nipple and was rewarded with both a throaty cry and the liquid gush of her excitement on his tongue. He could barely breathe, the scent and taste of her filling his senses.

He plunged his tongue inside Liv at the same time that Lincoln hollowed his cheeks, increasing the pressure and that was it, he was gone. He was far too out of it to track where they were until the two of them rearranged themselves on either side of him, patiently waiting for his brains to unscramble. Charlie realized he was probably a mess, Liv’s juices smeared all over his face, but that was part of his new freedom. He’d just discovered a kink for it and he was pretty sure neither of them would mind.

“That was awesome for a start, but. Important question.” Lincoln’s eyes were intense. “Which of us do you want to fuck first?”

Might as well flip a coin on that decision but either way, he’d win. Charlie started to laugh uncontrollably, and if there were tears by the end of it they’d understand. That’s what partners were for.