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Bugged

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It just kept--never mind the pun--*bugging* him.

Yeah, he stood up at Charlie’s wedding to Mona Foster, smiling at Charlie’s apparent happiness, but Lincoln never felt easy about the whole thing. About *her.* Something about Mona felt weirdly off, like all her smiles were somehow fake. She seemed to adore Charlie almost too much, if such a thing was possible.

Maybe it was the way she managed to work Charlie’s arachnid infection into every conversation. Could be she was just creepy like that, given that she played with bugs for a living. But when Lincoln mentioned his uneasiness to Liv, she gave him a startled glance.

“You too?”

So maybe it wasn’t just him, because he’d bet on Liv’s intuition any day. He just wished he’d brought it up before Charlie left on his honeymoon—but the whole thing had been so fast, from first date to engagement to sudden courthouse wedding, that he’d barely had time to process his disquiet. Mona had been the driving force behind the rush, talking about how some insects lived their whole lives in days or even hours, and with the way their world was running down, how could they afford to do any less?

Now, though....

It might be an abuse of power, but this was about *Charlie.* Lincoln had a quiet word with Farnsworth, barely skirting illegality with his request, and waited on every virtual pin and needle until she came back with her report. There wasn’t much there, certainly nothing to raise an actual alarm, but reading between the lines still raised the hackles on the back of his neck.

Liv was skeptical, but willing to listen when he brought her the results. “You had Astrid investigate Mona?”

"Just making sure she's good enough for our Charlie," Lincoln said defensively. "Astrid ran a deep check. More than the usual scan. She found a few weird things."

“Weird” was mostly in Mona’s psych reports, comments about how she was more connected with bugs than people. Liv stared at her Padd. “Yeah, there’s something missing here. Let me make some calls.” Lincoln was happy to let her; she always got better information out of people than he did.

When she talked to Mona’s old colleagues, she got the same hesitant, uncomfortable impression from all of them. No one knew anything concrete, but they’d all felt that same odd disconnectedness. When Liv spoke to one of Mona’s colleagues at her current entomology lab, the guy rolled his eyes. “Yeah, she hasn’t been able to shut up about Francis’ bugs. Guess she really wanted to get close up and personal with them.”

That took things from “weird” to “creepy.” Lincoln and Liv respectively gritted their teeth and took the information to Colonel Broyles, standing at attention while they laid out the admittedly sketchy evidence.

Broyles sighed in that way that meant they were stepping on his last nerve, eyeing them narrowly. "24 hours. And if you disrupt Agent Francis' honeymoon without reason, I expect you to apologize."

They took the quick shuttle down to Fiji. Lincoln fidgeted the whole way, starting to have second thoughts. “Maybe we should call?”

Liv shook her head. “Nah. If she’s really a nutjob, we shouldn’t give her any warning.”

A quick talk with the island authorities and a flash of their badges, and they were directed to a cabana on an isolated beach. Mona might be crazy, but she had good taste, Lincoln mused. Then again, she had married Charlie.

Liv bumped his shoulder. "So how do you want to play this?"

"Recon mode."

"Fine," Liv said, "but if we walk in on them fucking, you're doing all the talking."

"Deal." Lincoln tried the door and wasn't surprised to find it locked; Charlie was paranoid about that kind of thing, New Jersey cop instincts at work. The place was old fashioned enough that it had an old-style lock, so Lincoln stood aside to give Liv room to use her picks. She got the door unlocked with a minimum of effort and they both held still for a moment, waiting to hear any sound from inside.

After a moment, Lincoln turned the handle and stepped inside in one motion to find an empty foyer. The living room and kitchen beyond were likewise deserted, but there was a staircase on the far wall. Lincoln had just put his foot on the first step when they heard a groan from upstairs.

Liv rolled her eyes, but Lincoln frowned--that hadn't sounded like a sexytime sound to him. They moved quietly but swiftly, and halfway up the stairs he heard another groan and Mona's voice.

"Sorry sweetie, I can't give you any more morphine. I don't know what it'll do to the babies. Look at them, they're growing so fast!"

Olivia and Lincoln both shuddered, but held position. Liv raised her gun and after a moment, they both crept the rest of the way up the stairs.

Lincoln took a breath and peered around the corner for a quick glance. Charlie was on the bed, lying on his back, his face twisted in pain and a rag stuffed in his mouth. Mona was kneeling next to him, crooning softly under her breath.

He wanted to charge in to the rescue, but instead Lincoln stepped back to let Liv do her thing. She breathed out, narrowed her eyes, and took a smooth step into the room. Lincoln followed, but even as he entered, it was over: there was a single shot, and then Mona fell over sideways, screaming, blood spurting from her shoulder.

"Zip it. Just a flesh wound. You'll live." Liv bolted across the room to the bed, Lincoln on her heels. They both looked down at Charlie, horrified, seeing the bugs moving uncontrolled under his skin. Liv pulled the rag away from Charlie's mouth while Lincoln looked around frantically for the familiar syringes.

"Cabinet," Charlie croaked, and Lincoln dived for it while Liv restrained Mona’s hands with a twist-tie, roughly bound her shoulder, and shoved her off the bed.

Lincoln found the injectors and grabbed them, rushing back to the bed. Charlie tried to reach for them but Lincoln brushed his hand away, lining one up with a prominent vein on Charlie's arm and pushing the button. "One enough, or do you need--" he started, but the squirming under Charlie's skin was already beginning to subside.

"Thanks," Charlie gasped. "How did--"

"We know you married a psycho?" Liv said dryly. "Lincoln got jealous and did a background check."

"Hey," Lincoln started to protest, and then shrugged. It was true, after all. "And Liv insisted we drop in unannounced. Just in case."

"Glad you did," Charlie said, pushing himself up "That bitch--" he cut himself off. "Never mind. She doesn't matter anymore."

Liv leaned into his embrace, smiling, and after a second Charlie cocked an eyebrow at Lincoln and waved him in with his free hand. Lincoln grinned and put his arms around them both. "You guys," Charlie started, and Lincoln realized he was shaking.

"No, hey, you're okay now," Liv said, but Charlie shook his head.

"No, I need to say this. Even before she went all bug-fuck crazy," Charlie snorted, the sound half a sob, "it wasn't working." His arms tightened around them both. "I missed you."

From the floor Mona started to laugh; they all ignored her.

"Shut up." Charlie's head came up in surprise and Lincoln took advantage of the momentary confusion to kiss him. Charlie kissed back eagerly, his body starting to relax. Lincoln pulled back to look at him. "Can't believe it took you getting married to realize that."

"Seriously." Liv tilted Charlie's chin so she could claim her own kiss. When she drew back, they were both smiling. "But I am not sleeping with a married man, so let's call someone to take out the trash, and then work on getting this farce annulled."

"Y- yeah." Charlie looked at them both. " You know I love you, right?"

"'Course," Liv said easily, though Lincoln could hear the catch in her throat. "We're a team. Lincoln's the smart one, I'm the pretty one."

"And you're the one who holds us all together," Lincoln finished, then turned to Liv with a mock scowl. "But I thought I was the pretty one."

"You're both pretty," Charlie said, laughing. "And I want a do-over honeymoon with both of you. But honestly, I fucking hate the beach. Too many damn crawly things in the sand."