Lincoln finds it behind the white-paneled wall that slides and hides what would be a panic room in any other mansion. But Nina Sharp doesn't panic. Some things never change, not even in a universe just a jump to the left.
"Wait," he tells the Fringe team behind him, wide eyes and matching caps, and takes a careful step inside. The room is small, bare; there is no flashing monitor and no intercom. Only a table and a typewriter: archaic, its gold-rimmed mirror oddly out of place.
He circles the table, slowly, and can't see any cables or wires. The sheet of paper still in the machine is blank, slightly skewed. Lincoln feels his fingers itch to take it out and put it back in straight.
This place may not look like a control center. And yet. Lincoln's hand goes to his breast pocket; halfway there he remembers, touches his earcuff. "Liv?"
The com goes live, its transmission as clear as if she were standing next to him. Which hadn't been an option, according to Liv: 'I'm not much about the follow-up, just so you know.' Lincoln didn't view a search of Nina Sharp's premises, uncovered via money trail, a mere afterthought, with so many thoughts as such still a mystery. He did however have a clear view of this Olivia Dunham's face, her expression dubious. 'Call me when you need me.' Which, well. Lincoln glanced down; Liv grinned, just a little.
Now her voice sounds serious. "Lincoln -- you okay?"
"I am, and you should see this."
For a moment, there's silence. Then, "First, you sounded just like him right now. Second, he was a dumbass in situations such as this one too. Tell me exactly what's up. This isn't a broadcast of Double Trouble. "
Lincoln can hear the hard tread of her boots, though, fast and faster. “It's an ancient typewriter with a mirror in a secret chamber. Nothing else here. But."
The last word hangs in the ether, and he can, in his mind's eye, almost see her nod. "I'll be at Nina's in twenty."
Liv makes it over in eighteen, and Lincoln isn't too surprised, thinks he probably didn't imagine, faintly, sirens and the screech of tires. By the time she blocks the door frame, he's donned plastic gloves, is leaning over the typewriter as if it were to spell out its secrets for him.
"It's a communication device. I used one when I was on the Other Side, to get my orders from the Secretary."
Lincoln straightens, turns. Her expression is flat; for once he has trouble reading her. Liv lets him in more often than she shuts him out, but this is not one of those times. "It may mean we can still communicate with it."
His heart slams against his ribcage from the inside, once. Twice. Olivia. Peter. The whole Fringe team. Lincoln doesn't regret his decision, these last phone calls to the notary and to Julie, before he went down to the Bridge. But there were a hundred things left unspoken, and his brain is only coming up with each of them now. He estimates he's pondered them up to number fifty-five at length by now.
"Lincoln." He starts, tries to focus on Liv, whose face has softened. "This doesn't mean we can talk to them. Most likely the new shapeshifters also hid the counterpart, and they're all dead or directionless, as far as we know. What's the likelihood of their Division finding this needle in that haystack?"
Very low, it turns out.
Liv promises and the Science Department assures him that yes, the typewriter that he now knows is a Selectric 251, quantum-entangled, can be removed from its immediate location without impairing its general function. Lincoln tries it out as soon as it's set up and under constant surveillance in C12. In the bright glare of the laboratory lights and from what must be one heart chamber of cutting-edge technology in this world, the Selectric with its typeball and lever looks even more out of place.
Still, it comes to life under his fingers readily, well-oiled. Hello, he types, and feels silly immediately. This is Lincoln Lee, badge number B-M-P-1-2-2-2-9-8 --
He stops, breathes. Measuredly, he types out his identification, adds: Please bring this to the attention of Phillip Broyles, Special Agent-in-Charge with the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The machine remains unresponsive. The mirror only shows him his own, anxious face. Eventually, Lincoln leaves the lab. Back at the desk he is now sharing with Liv, she reaches across it, brushes her fingers briefly across his sleeve. "It was a long shot. We'll keep it hooked up, of course."
By 'hooked up' this Fringe Division obviously means 'sitting around, unused.’ They keep interrogating this side's Nina Sharp, but she has lawyered up and shut down. The fact that Nina seems deflated and oh, also that the world is still spinning seems to imply Jones' evil plans were foiled successfully, but in any case, the typewriter is a mere instrument. For a week or so the scientists are nevertheless fascinated by it, having been kept out of the loop the first time around, with Walterna-- with the Secretary and his inner circle at the helm. Afterward, their interest peters out, so to speak.
With Liv and the Division, he evacuates and ambers almost a quarter of Queens, which makes his hands shake for days; he shoots without a hitch an end-of-days lunatic who's convinced releasing hives of giant bees on the populace of Kansas is the Sacred Act to bring about the Reckoning; he finds the crazy scientist who believed his son needed saving with stolen osmium and, worse, stolen lives.
On his own, he makes sure to come by the lab every weekday, typing a short greeting, a little referral to his first introduction, and when the weekends roll around he has to force himself not to.
The Sunday four weeks after the typewriter set-up, he wakes in the earliest morning light and stares at the ceiling brightening in increments. He's no longer physically disoriented. Courtesy of Liv taking him by the hand -- almost literally -- and throwing around her Fringe privilege, he's just across the street now (making her joke they could set up their own little tin-can telephone). He has his own apartment. His own place.
Lincoln gets up, gets dressed, and drives to work. Liv is with her mother in Tarrytown today. For appearance's sake, he makes a beeline to his desk, scrolls through the inbox. One memo catches his attention -- the return of one Agent Charlie Francis tomorrow, Monday. Olivia's old partner, no matter the spot in time and space. Lincoln imagines he'll have to brace himself once the week starts.
Not now, though. Lincoln knows he's a fool to be breathless. What will happen is this: he will come to the lab in high spirits, type a line (that's what he limits himself to; they may run out of paper on the Other -- on his side after all). There will be no response at all, and he'll leave, deflated.
Still. Songs have been written about keeping the faith, hundreds and thousands. In the quiet, half-lit lab, Lincoln's fingers touch the dun plastic of the keys. Just three words: It's me, Lincoln.
No reply. Right. He takes off his glasses to pinch the bridge of his nose. If Liv were here, he knows the expression she'd make: sympathy with a dash of exasperation. He knows what she'd say. 'How long do you want to keep this up? And don't answer, ‘As Long As It Takes.' Truth is, Lincoln doesn't know. Forever is an awfully long time even for stubborn people like him.
He turns and walks back to the exit.
The clang of metal on metal, separated only by a thin strip of inked ribbon, resounds in the lab. Lincoln almost stumbles, he turns so quickly. Back to the typewriter.
He stares at the paper and pinches himself to make sure the words appearing on the paper in the machine are real, each letter like thunder. In the mirror, he can see them being pushed by invisible hands.
Now, now his fingers are slippery, but he manages to reply, Yes, yes, I'm here.
SO GLAD. VERY!
Lincoln feels himself grin, and that's what makes him type it out: Peter?
SORRY KEYBOARDING BACK IN 11TH GRADE WAS FULL.
As if you even tried signing up.
YOURE RIGHT. THINK WAS FIGHTING WILDFIRES IN CALIFORNIA THEN.
Lincoln takes his glasses off again to wipe at his eyes. But he can't keep the smile off his face. That sounds like sixteen-year-old you.
YOU'D HAVE HATED MY GUTS.
No, Lincoln thinks. Quite the opposite. Or perhaps: the guts, yes. Everything else little Lincoln Lee would have adored about this guy, older and the rebel he always wanted to be. In any case, it's very clear now that this is no leftover shapeshifter, no mischievous stranger having stumbled across a contraption to play with. This is Peter, his friend. Lincoln bites his lip, types again. I take it you're okay? Olivia, Astrid, Walter?
YES. AND MORE. GRAB PAPER AND MAKE SURE THERE IS ENOUGH INK. THERE SURE IS ENOUGH TO TELL.
Fringe Division's response to Peter's account -- Lincoln counts four pages, single-spaced, Courier New, the latter being the worst horror of it all -- is a little muted.
Colonel Dahlander is Broyles' replacement. Privately Lincoln thinks he's a band-aid at best and knows Liv agrees two hundred percent. The man is however keen on learning the details of what transpired on the Other Side pre- as well as post-cataclysm, and Secretary Bishop as well as the Science Division cluster in front of the Selectric with an attention usually reserved for projects both urgent and top...top-top secret when it comes to the overarching plans of one William Bell, PhD, PhD.
Lincoln would love to think Liv at least cares about the more personal side of things. And to a degree, she does. Whatever she learned during the famed-slash-infamous Agent Farnsworth rescue mission, whatever she and Olivia (not his, never his) talked about that very last day, it does make her listen and ask all the right questions:
"Okay, so she's pregnant with Peter Bishop's child. You okay with this, Lincoln?"
"Right. They're trying to repair the Bridge, but it's not a priority for their side. Do you think it makes sense to push them? I could talk to Walter directly."
"Minus the whole soap opera element, this is the most valuable communication tool we’ve got. Given your attachment -- any objections to being assigned Primary Contact?"
He tells her, respectively, that he has no idea what he's feeling; yes; no.
Liv gives him a quirked eyebrow at the first response of his, but she also gives him space. Lincoln doesn't kid himself; he also came here for her, for Liv. He came to this side for a fresh start, being needed, being wanted in a professional fashion.
In the privacy of his own head Lincoln thinks it has also, always, been about being loved. The typewriter doesn't negate any of this, but it makes parting inch deeper into sorrow than into sweet territory. He's granted a reprieve, though -- from what exactly? -- by Charlie's return. Agent Francis doesn't deck him, and he doesn't dunk his head into the toilet for daring to take the place of his partner and friend. He does act extremely aloof around him. While Lincoln never knew the guy in any universe except vicariously through off-hand comments on part of Olivia and Liv, it takes Lincoln roughly a half-second to deduce this isn't how Charlie Francis usually behaves. With Liv, he's warm, easy-going; he's got the balance between taking care of her blind side and respecting all the other sides, strength and determination and flexibility, down to an art form.
On the job, at their desks and out in the field, Liv jokes with Charlie, a back-and-forth you could put on stage and outshine all but the better comedy venues. But Lincoln sees the two of them during the quiet moments too: where his words are soft and the touch of his hands more so, both steadying Liv in ways Lincoln knows he cannot quite provide, not at this point.
What Lincoln can do right now is: take the typewriter home with him, away from the lab and its ever-present cameras. It's a display of trust, but, he thinks, it's also Liv (and possibly even Charlie) compensating for a decision not theirs but his and his alone.
The atmospheric pressure drops and previously inert Auburn Diamonds bloom again all across the city. Like blinking bruises, Lincoln thinks before he doesn't think any more because he has to run and fight -- not for his life but for air, a proverbially ubiquitous good now turned rare commodity. Fringe Division can do little about the soft spots, but they can secure areas old and new, catch Ryan Eastwick's gang of criminals who try to steal the latest shipment of emergency oxygen bottles and extort the city of New York. Lincoln misses Walter Bishop, who'd at least attempt some explanations. Lincoln wouldn't necessarily understand all about kilopascals and greenhouse gases and structural rifts, but he'd find it soothing that Walter would.
When he gets home not at six and not even at nine, he's tired and still wheezing a little -- not from any lack of oxygen but that bullet aimed at his heart. One of the perps was a decent shot. But after Captain Lee's death, Fringe Division has been adamant about their vests that are not kevlar but (of course) something better: thinner, lighter, more protective. Not protective enough to prevent some nasty contusions on the left side of his chest, though. Liv offered to take him to the hospital, and even Charlie nodded with something almost but not quite like worry in his eyes, but he declined -- not because he wanted to appear particularly tough but because he was well aware that the waiting areas would be even more crowded than usual. As a Fringe agent, he could cut the line, or rather: be pushed up the line, whether or not he wanted to, if he revealed himself. He could.
Lincoln leaves his keys in the door for extra security, although that's hardly necessary given the double-barred door and the apartment's sensor alarm connected to Agent Farnsworth and the Lookers' computers. He's valuable to the Colonel in ways he wonders about. Out in the living room with its desk under the window, the Selectric is quiet...but not empty: a sheet of paper curls around it, line after line of black ink on slightly yellowed paper (turns out it's not so easy to get suitable typewriter paper any more in a world that has switched to typepads).
His injury is forgotten. Everything else is. Under his fingers, the paper feels warm, even though the ink has long dried.
SEEMS YOU'RE NOT THERE YET. MISSED OUR USUAL TIME, BUT THAT'S OKAY. I JUST KNOW YOU'RE OUT THERE SAVING THE WORLD. HARDLY A NINE-TO-FIVE JOB. FIVE-TO-NINE IF YOU'RE LUCKY. I CAN ENTERTAIN MYSELF...AND YOU LATER WHEN YOU GET HOME. IS THAT'S HOW YOU THINK OF IT BY NOW? WE BOTH KNOW IT'S MINE IN THEORY BUT WHAT--WHO--IS MINE IN PRACTICE. WHICH ACTUALLY SOUNDS PRETTY INSENSITIVE NOW THAT I RE-READ. THAT'S THE TROUBLE WITH TYPEWRITERS: EVERY WORD COUNTS. NO WHITE-OUT STRIP AT THE READY, NO TAKEBACKS. MUCH LIKE LIFE. WHICH, WHILE I'M ON A ROLL (OR: A TYPEBALL), WOULD BE BETTER WITH YOU AROUND.
IT'S GOTTEN QUIET. CALM *AFTER* THE STORM, I SAID. OLIVIA LOOKED AT ME AND SAID SOFTLY, THERE'S ALWAYS THE NEXT STORM. SHE'S HAPPY, LINCOLN. BUT SHE'S NOT THE TYPE TO FORGET THE WORLD OUTSIDE EVEN WITH THE BABY INSIDE HER: JUSTICE, CARE, PROTECTION FOR ALL OTHERS. I THINK YOU HAVE THAT IN COMMON WITH HER. IT IS WHY I LOVE HER AFTER ALL.
That's -- an interesting juxtaposition. Lincoln's breath is going a little faster now. Peter's out of reach, but somehow he still manages to touch him.
SHE MISSES YOU TOO, BY THE WAY. WHAT SOUNDS JUST LIKE A MERE COURTESY...IS A LOT MORE. YOU REMEMBER WALTER'S THEORIES ABOUT OLIVIA'S SUPERPOWERS DWINDLING? WELL THEY DIDN'T, OR NOT QUITE AS EXPECTED. (BY THE WAY, I KNOW YOU GRINNED AT THE TERM. I DO TOO. SHE SHOULD HAVE HER OWN COMIC.) OLIVIA'S NOT SO MUCH ABOUT THE TELEKINESIS AND MIND-CONTROL ANY MORE, IT'S TRUE. BUT WE THINK THE HORMONES OR THE BABY OR MAYBE SOME FREAKY OBSERVER SIDE-EFFECT INFLUENCE IS ALTERING HER PERCEPTION. SHE HAS DREAMS. REMEMBER THE ONES SHE HAD OF ME?
The ones Olivia didn't really confess to for the longest time. Lincoln bites his lips before he realizes he's doing it, stops himself with some effort.
NOW SHE REMEMBERS THE OLD TIMELINE. NOT EVERYTHING. BUT IT'S AS IF HER MEMORY IS ROLLING BACK. SLOWLY, LIKE A WAVE. LAST MEMORIES FIRST. RECONCILING THESE ECHOES OF HER OLD LIFE DURING THE DAY -- IT WORKS. BUT THE DREAMS AT NIGHT ARE A BIT OF A CHALLENGE. I DIDN'T KNOW EXACTLY HOW CLOSE YOU WERE, OLIVIA AND YOU.
Well. Neither did she, from a certain point onward. He quells the tide of bitterness, and that's easier than usual.
BUT YOU WERE, AND THIS SET OF MEMORIES DOESN'T SEEM TO BE FADING AT ALL. WE'VE BEEN TALKING, OLIVIA AND I. OF COURSE YOU'RE OVER THERE, AND WE DON'T WANT TO DISTRESS YOU WITH THIS. WE THOUGHT YOU'D WANT TO KNOW, THOUGH. NEED TO, IN FACT. I REALIZE I'M ALWAYS THE ONE OFFERING, BUT I'VE ACCEPTED THAT'S MY PART IN RELATIONSHIPS: DO YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT THIS?
(WE CAN ALSO JUST CONTINUE THE...MEDIUM-TALK. STAY OUT OF THE LARGE STUFF. LIKE, DID YOU FINALLY FIND THOSE SELF-CLOSING DRAWER SLIDES? BE FUNNY IF OF ALL THE WONDERS OF OVER THERE, THEY'D NOT HAVE DEVELOPED THIS MARVEL OF INTERIOR DESIGN.)
PS: LINCOLN -- LET'S HOPE YOU TOOK THE TYPEWRITER HOME. OTHERWISE I GUESS 'DAYS OF OUR LIVES' IS FORGOTTEN OVER THERE BY NOW, AND EVERYBODY WILL RATHER FOLLOW THIS.
PPS: THAT'S WHAT IT IS, LINCOLN: OURS. YOURS AND MINE AND OLIVIA'S.
Lincoln presses his hands down on the table hard enough to turn the tips of his fingers white, and stays like that for a good long while.
He's not oblivious enough to miss Charlie lurking just behind it. But until he closes the door of his locker with great precision, Lincoln has some plausible deniability in ignoring Francis eyeballing him. It's impossible now, with no pane of plywood separating the two of them. Lincoln doesn't think words help either. He stays silent, muscles tense.
With Liv upstairs in C12, talking to Walter via the typewriter, he's also lost his one trusty ally. Truth is, he's never had anything at all. Whatever kindness Charlie feels toward Lincoln, it's merely a byproduct of his love for Liv.
"Okay, look." Charlie's voice is low, but it's not unkind. "Let's cut the crap and posturing. We both -- we three -- know you came back for her. For Liv. So what the hell is going on right now?"
If Lincoln knew, things would be a lot easier. In a way, it's soothing: that he still has the opportunity to consider his life very confusing. He squares his jaw as best he can and looks Charlie in the eye. "Is there an It's Complicated option in this universe too?"
For a moment, it all hangs in the balance. Guys like Charlie: They don't need social networks online but simply have them in real life (or don't and don't care). But this is a universe years ahead of his, and besides, Lincoln never bought the Simple Boy From Brooklyn act. They're long seconds, but they do pass, and when they've done just that Charlie grins, lop-sided. "Kid. There's no other option at all here."
Which does mean that Charlie lets him go right here and right now, but also that he drags Lincoln along to that strip club up a few blocks down from Headquarters later that same night. Lincoln has never quite understood the concept of a strip club -- surely if you have trouble with women, it's the last place that'd help, and if you don't, what are you even doing there? -- but has gotten it, enough to go along.
"Just so we understand each other," that's clearly a theme today, "this is not a bros' night out." Charlie frowns, and it looks convincing and a little threatening, too, but Lincoln didn't get where is by sitting pretty. Francis is a lot more bark than bite now that he's classified Lincoln as neither an impostor nor a love-struck fool.
Lincoln himself actually isn't so sure about either. "Of course not," he says, his voice serious but the corner of his mouth twitching. "This is just an interrogation in a more colorful venue."
Charlie, who's still busily chewing the gum he's probably addicted to in lieu of the usual caffeine via cheap, burned java, throws him another semi-smile. He’s a minty-fresh cowboy, way too amused for someone who's got the down-to-earth Fringe agent down to a T. "You got it. Spill."
The thing is, Peter was right: Lincoln can do it, but that doesn't mean he likes to talk about his feelings. For a moment, he contemplates disclosing the matter, but then again, when Charlie told him he wasn't into bullshit down in the locker rooms, that's what he meant. That's all he meant, really.
Lincoln draws a slow breath. "I came here for me." He glances at Charlie, whose eyes have narrowed but who sits back, listens. "I came here because I thought I'd have a shot at a meaningful contribution." To the world, he thinks; certainly to a Fringe Division long-established and lauded this side of the moon. "You're right that I like Liv, though, and came here because we had a -- a good rapport. Great, actually."
Yeah, so he can't begrudge Charlie his smirk.
"But before that I'd spent my last months since my partner's death," maybe that's playing dirty, but it's also playing true, "with Olivia on the Other Side, with her and Peter Bishop as my partner and my charge, respectively. And they -- they mean so much to me." Now Lincoln has to look away. "You've read the reports too; we've been communicating steadily, just to catch up. If I told you I knew what was going on, I'd be lying -- not just to you. To Liv as well. I don't want to do that."
Charlie's turn avert his gaze. He doesn't speak for what feels like an hour but is probably closer to a minute. "Okay."
They both stare at their beer. Not at the stage. Not at Kandy and not Kristian --
Lincoln blinks up at the glittering ball, the flickering lights of the stage. The second person strutting some stuff looks male, quite so. Thanks to the attire, one flimsy thong, nothing but the essentials are left to the imagination, least of all the slim hips and broad shoulders and glistening (well-oiled) pecs and...Lincoln swallows, and a whole lot of things slot softly, neatly into place. He turns back to Charlie, who is very, very definitely no idiot. Whose brown eyes are keen and locked on Lincoln.
Got you, kid.
And that's okay.
"You came here with the other Lincoln. Your Lincoln. Sometimes." It's not a question.
Charlie shrugs: careless, with one shoulder. The profile of his face in the pink half-light is compelling; Lincoln couldn't look away even if he tried. "Yeah. My own interest in Wild Wednesday is limited." He's lacking the usual male defensiveness Lincoln's too used to, though, and he doesn't laugh it off. "But I don't mind." True, and even truer: that he was wondering about him, Lincoln, and his lengthy, daily talks with Peter Bishop and Olivia Dunham, once removed. That question's answered. More remain open.
Lincoln watches Charlie's throat work when he lifts the beer to his mouth. "Does Mona mind that you spend so much time with Liv now that you're back?"
Right, so maybe Lincoln attended the Peter Bishop School of Emotional Communication: genuine, but a little too much at times. Charlie turns his head sharply, shocky, then -- visibly -- forces himself to relax. "Fuck you." His grin isn't especially easy-going, but it's not bad either; it could pass as such.
Lincoln looks down at his own bottle and smiles.
Whatever Lincoln feared would happen to the typewriter after Liv's official discussion with Walter, it doesn't.
The typewriter is back in the spotlight of Fringe Division, but the command from Dahlander to keep it there never comes. Lincoln assumes it was a pretty disappointing hour for Dahlander, who was essentially watching ink dry: letters appearing but all of them spelling out no. Walter knows a hundred different ways of telling a story, but he tends to tell it for his own sake -- a faraway audience in another universe probably didn't merit sugarcoating.
Liv shakes her head when he asks. "The camera didn't just transmit our conversation to the Division Head. Line went straight to the DoD as well." She glances down, following the trend set by the soft corners of her mouth. Even the red of her hair seems duller than usual. "Walter was...quite lucid. He pulled himself together; I think typing actually helped him to focus. But as for the Bridge -- the overload fried systems he never really had a good handle on in the first place. If we are to believe his story, Peter Bishop only got his insights because he threw himself into it."
And out of the timeline. Lincoln nods. "It's understandable they are careful with hands-on attempts at reviving it."
A snort from Liv, but when she looks up and sees his face, her frown smoothes out. "Well, we have seen that the link can have side effects; remember Jones using it to collapse our worlds? It’s not just their delicate fingers they're holding back so the whole arm doesn't get snagged."
"I'm sorry," Lincoln offers. The Bridge means a lot to him, especially since Peter's revelation, but he's just a guy with a messy love life. For this world, scratch the 'love' part. It's life. And now his, too. He's chosen sides, literally. "They will keep working on it, though?"
"Walter promised me on his dead son's grave."
Just the hint of a smile appears on Liv's face. "Weirdly enough, he was. I know, words on a page. But I could tell. Morbid is just another aspect of Walter, even when he's happy."
At least one of them is. Well, all of them on the Other Side are, minus the moments of fighting the drug-controlled flocks of pigeons wreaking havoc in the Greater Boston Area. Peter mentioned that he had been worried for Olivia, not because of being pecked to death but all the diseases they carried. Lincoln gets it -- got it the moment Peter typed the words.
But there's more than one Olivia he cares about, and he's not exactly been a good partner to this one lately. "How are you holding up?"
Liv's eyes widen a little, but now her smile is present and accounted for. "Honestly?" At Lincoln's mute nod, she continues. "Talking to Walter again -- it threw me. Him, personally, but also the situation. It was easier when we were cut off: no realistic expectations then."
"Now there's this carrot again," Lincoln murmurs. "Dangling, but just out of reach."
"Yes. Hope's a powerful motivator." She looks him in the eye. "But it can also paralyze you."
Lincoln swallows but doesn't avoid her gaze. If Charlie were here, he'd raise his eyebrows at Lincoln, See what I mean? "Do you think the typewriter is a crutch for me?"
Liv leans forward, serious. She too has freckles under her light, functional make-up; of course she has. "I think if I were you, I would use the damn thing too. My mother. Charlie --"
"But you wouldn't let it get in the way of your life in a different universe." Lincoln speaks fast, if precise; he doesn't want her to have to get into who else she would want to talk to, if only she could. "You'd focus on your job. You have done so with it around before."
At that Liv tilts her head at him. "Very different situation, Lincoln." Her eyes are shaded, green. A deep well in a forest. She exhales, slowly. "Still, with the Bridge gone and not coming back for a good long while, it'd -- it'd be good to be realistic. For all of us."
Lincoln grimaces, he just knows it. She's right, and he tells her so. Her hand on his shoulder is warm, firm, and he leans into her touch for just a heartbeat.
On his way out, although he's decided to leave the Selectric at Fringe Division tonight, he swings by C12. A lab tech is standing next to the typewriter, which is clanging and moving. The guy's finger darts out, much like his tongue.
"Hey," Lincoln says, perhaps a bit harsher than necessary because the scientist -- Ruiz? Right, Dr. Tomas Ruiz -- draws his hand back and looks guilty. "Agent Lee. I just wanted to com-call you as the liaison to the Other Side."
"No need now, but thank you." Lincoln manages to give him a smile, but then his full attention is on the machine and, a day after the official talk, what must be Peter's usual friendly poke.
Yes, I'm here. Hi Peter.
There is no response for a few second, but then the mirror-side keys are hit with determination and quite a bit of force.
NOT PETER. IT'S ME.
Lincoln has been rational most of his life, but here, he stands no chance. He's surprised his fingers are not shaking.
Olivia, he types, and nonsensically, It's finally you.
FUNNY. THAT'S PRETTY MUCH WHAT I WAS GOING TO SAY.
He blinks, doesn't know whether to laugh or cry. He pushes his glasses up a little and decides to answer -- to ask, really: Finally me? Or finally you?
I MEANT ME. WHO MISSED YOU. SO, BOTH?
Lincoln swallows around the thickness in his throat and goes for item #1 on the list. Olivia, I'm sorry for leaving like that. Not *that* I left, but the way I did it. To you.
LINCOLN, YOU'RE JUST HUMAN. She doesn't type, 'and petty', which he counts as a win. IT WAS HURTFUL, SAYING GOODBYE ONLY TO PETER. BUT YOU WERE HURT.
Still not my finest hour. I like to think I've gotten better since.
PETER SAID YOU AND LIV WORKING ARE TOGETHER. SAVING NEW YORK AND THE REST OF THE WORLD.
There’s a rest of the world? He wishes he could see her face. Olivia deadpans with the best of them, but she's always been far more...appreciative than she let on. The memory is true again, not just for him but for her. Lincoln takes a deep breath, shrugs off his jacket before sitting back down at the Selectric.
YOU SOUNDED LIKE HIM JUST NOW. THE OTHER LINCOLN LEE. Okay, this is -- unexpected. He knows Liv's reactions by now, the flicker in her eyes and the stop in her step, her breathing: Different as his alter ego seemed to be, there are still a hundred tiny things he does that remind others here of the Captain. THE BLEED-THROUGH OF MEMORIES HAS REACHED MY TRIP OVER THERE. OR, MY ABDUCTION. IT'S CONFUSING.
To say the least, he types, and really doesn't want to switch with her. He hesitates for a heartbeat. Do you dream of him too?
OF HIM AND CHARLIE, THE CHARLIE WHO SURVIVED. The keys still. BUT THOSE DREAMS AREN'T LIKE THE ONES OF YOU. NOT EVEN CLOSE.
Lincoln presses his lips together. What are these dreams like?
To his surprise, she answers immediately. NOT PLATONIC. NOT ABOUT US BEING PARTNERS IN THE FIELD.
Okay, that's -- everything, right there on the page. Lincoln should probably mind the cameras quietly recording a conversation so intimate, and he wonders if he should remind Olivia that some trusty DoD chess piece can read every word of theirs, not to mention Secretary Bishop himself. Could she have forgotten? But then, she stood next to Walter on her side just twenty-four hours ago; she knows this side's typewriter is back at Fringe Headquarters.
She's Olivia: Occam's Razor says she doesn't care because, well. Because she cares.
Lincoln realized that their tight little circle of Olivia-Peter-Astrid-Walter wasn't ever directed against him -- it was just too strongly oriented toward Olivia, True North for each of them. Even head over heels for her (or maybe because of that) he'd underestimated the outward power of her emotions. At any given point, the dynamics of the group had stood and fallen with Olivia's feelings. She had loved Walter and been the most important person in his life, and he was taking his social cues from her. She had relied implicitly on Astrid, her field partner for years, who adjusted like the loyal friend she was. And Peter himself...well, no need to even dwell on that one. So when there was only a blank in her mind regarding him, Lincoln Lee, save for some newer memories and a deep sense of trust in her FBI partner, everybody else hadn't paid particularly close attention to him any more either. There had to be a drawback to Olivia's magnetism, always. Lincoln just hadn't much liked being trapped on that dark side of the moon.
A lot lighter now where he stands. Partners. In everything?
IN PLACES BEST NOT DISCUSSED IN COMPANY. Quite literally. Lincoln feels himself smile, then frown. This leaves -- okay, it leaves a lot to the imagination. Namely, his. He knows what he himself will dream of tonight.
It's Friday night; I can and will take the Selectric home with me. We could talk later tonight. He lifts his fingers from the keys, stares at the that last pronoun.
LATER TONIGHT, BUT NOT SO EARLY -- 10PM? AFTER PETER AND I HAVE DONE DAMIANO'S. Lincoln finds himself nodding, which is silly but then again, the whole situation is. LINCOLN?
Later tonight at 10 is good, he writes back, truthfully. You and Peter on your side, and me on this one?
NO. JUST YOU AND ME. A pause. PETER AND I HAD A LITTLE DISCUSSION.
Which is actually a relief. Lincoln doesn't kid himself; Peter really likes him, and that's more than mutual. But the mother of your child wanting a heart-to-heart with the guy she -- fuck, yes, had feelings for in another and now somehow the same timeline? I can -- actually, can't imagine. But I want to.
I KNOW. PRETTY MUCH THE OPERATIVE PHRASE HERE.
Ten at night gives Lincoln three hours to kill. Par for the course at Fringe Division for it to turn literal.
He feels the vibration from the cuff before he hears its soft, audible-only-to-the-wearer signal; Liv's voice then could probably be heard even a foot away from his ear. "Lincoln, we have a problem. Someone called in a 7-11 -- implosion here at NYC NASA, and it looks almost like it. But it's no vortex."
Lincoln is frowning, he knows it. "Terrorist attack?"
"Could be. I've already reported to Dahlander and told him this doesn't smell like a structural weakness; he'll still send Saitou for the measurements. I don't care. Just find Charlie and get here with a tactical. And, Lincoln?" The office is a fun house mirror of his own old headquarters, despite being in New York; Lincoln is, on autopilot, halfway back in the main department when Liv continues, "Hurry up."
Lincoln encounters Francis at his desk, absently sipping from a glass. Guy drinks his tea black like the night, at night. Like now. He's taken the cuff off, is reading some sizable volume Lincoln can't see the title of, only that it contains shimmering holographic images, 3D objects spinning in space and next to long, single-spaced columns. At his quick replay, Charlie forgets his textbook immediately, stands and starts to walk with Lincoln. "Let's take the Nixon Parkway. And the fastest response team."
Even so, they make it just one minute before the second building crumbles into dust; there are screaming people everywhere -- mostly, Lincoln realizes, families returning with the last shuttle back from the moon this Friday. Men, women, and children are running through the rubble, away from the almost-hole right by the main ramp. Lincolns stomach feels as if it also wants to make his way out of there too. His mouth is dry, but his vision is good in spite of the debris, the clouds of finely powdered sandstone and spaceship: Lincoln rushes forward to snag a pigtailed little -- boy? Okay, great; Lincoln snags the crying boy up before the next throng tramples him, hands him to some friendly Fringe agent behind him before tapping his cuff. "Liv, where are you?"
Lincoln can hear Charlie then bark out orders to the tac team: left, right, straight to the site of the implosion to secure it, with an eye out for Saitou and her sensor equipment. He can't hear anything from Liv's end. Lincoln blinks, looks around. If I were a Dunham, where would I go? What would I see? The main site of the catastrophe is being taken care of by Fringe Division, but if this is man-made, just as Liv said, that's not where the attackers will be. They'd need to have full range of vision and as little steel blocking an electronically controlled charge as possible. With that in mind, there's only one location. Lincoln starts to run but remembers: "Charlie, I know where she --"
"Yeah. Meet you at the door to the control tower of the space ramp. Gonna get these suckers together."
And they do.
To be fair, Liv has already taken out three of them when he and Charlie barge through the door, and although she's a little banged up and still has some rope dangling from her right wrist, it's nothing that a little medicinal alcohol and a lot more smirking on her part won't fix. Charlie crushes the windpipe of some nameless goon trying to block their way. The remaining guy, political activist obviously turned fanatical mastermind, has fled higher up, onto the tiny steel balcony where he tries to release a hundred, a thousand fliers proclaiming the need to shut down the folly of space programs, moon visits, all the luxuries the government should can in favor of research against the dying of their world. Against having to amber their own citizens. Lincoln hesitates, lowers his gun when he listens, but that's not a good idea because that means a sharp kick on part of the guy makes him lose it; it skids across the metal surface and drops. So when the guy draws a knife -- a wire-cutter, large and very much establishing him as in charge -- Lincoln has few other options up high across the city on a narrow walkway. He takes a deep gash to the forearm, but that's better than his attacker, who takes flight after Lincoln has to wrestle him against the low handrail and, when his grip on that blade doesn't ease, over it.
When he drops to his knees, still panting, Lincoln bends forward to stare down at the twisted human-shaped figure on the concrete far below. Both Liv and Charlie are there, suddenly, help him up. They're tactile, all warm hands and gentle smiles, which is odd because there's nothing all that wrong with him, nothing too bad but some blood welling out of his arm in rhythmic, sluggish streams. Lincoln and his partners don't see eye to eye on that, though, because Liv bites her lip and brushes his hair away from where it's damp, plastered to his forehead, and Charlie turns to yell for an ambulance loud enough to loosen some nearby rubble. They both remain at the scene -- Liv doesn't actually like that, her fingers curled around his and tightening almost to the point of pain, even through his haze. Lincoln alone is rushed to the hospital.
In the emergency room, they take care of his arm and give him a transfusion and send him home. Lincoln's not too out of it to request to swing by Fringe Division, and neither is he surprised that the baby-faced Fringe assistant complies immediately, even carries the Selectric up the stairs for Lincoln. They are heroes here. Too bad Lincoln doesn't feel much like one.
What he feels is his heart doing the proverbial hammering in his chest. It's almost midnight; it's almost certain Olivia has gone to bed. Still, when he takes it the typewriter (quantum-entangled telegraph) out of the locked and number-coded box, there are words on the page, again.
IF YOU SEE THIS, LET ME KNOW.
IF YOU SEE THIS MUCH LATER, WE'LL TRY AGAIN.
That's not what he wants. What he wants -- Lincoln breathes, hits the keys. Olivia, you're probably already asleep. Sorry. Emergency here; terrorist attack on the space ramp.
Lincoln stares at the paper in front of his nose. They have a NASA facility here. In New York. That flies people into space on a daily basis in shuttles as if they were Greyhounds.
ARE YOU OKAY?
Lincoln startles, but he's smiling when he responds. Yes. Glad you're still around. Isn't it very late for you?
I PUT IT ON THE LIVING ROOM TABLE. LAY DOWN ON THE SOFA NEXT TO IT. WOKE UP.
Oh. That's -- yes. We got the perps. Should he tell her more? Only fair. I had to go by the hospital, but you know: they're pretty advanced here. Doing well again.
LINCOLN. TELL ME WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU?
So he does. It spans a page, pretty much, and Olivia's little questions make him...let him add his commentary too. This is not a report. This is a conversation.
YOU DID WHAT YOU HAD TO DO. THEY'RE LUCKY TO HAVE YOU ON THEIR SIDE. Individually, these are Hallmark sayings. But in combination, from Olivia, they make Lincoln feel warm and floaty.
I was lucky to have you on my side. I'm paying it forward, Olivia.
DO YOU THINK IT'S BACKWARD FOR US TO TALK? NO, WAIT, THAT SOUNDS -- LET ME TRY AGAIN: DO YOU WANT TO KEEP GOING? I WANT TO.
Lincoln doesn't even know how she's asking, except that he gave Olivia plenty of reason.
I want to as well. I think it *is* going forward. So that we'll have no unresolved issues, for the future.
He wishes there was at least an interdimensional Skype connection so he could see her face: that little frown she's bound to be wearing, her expressive lips, her eyes, whether behind glasses or bare.
RIGHT. I WAS AFRAID THIS WAS -- TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE. DON'T GET ME WRONG. I LOVE PETER MORE THAN ANYTHING. I LOVE THE THOUGHT OF A FAMILY, A CHILD I NEVER THOUGHT I'D HAVE BUT LOOK FORWARD TO NOW. VERY MUCH. NOTHING WILL MAKE ME GIVE THEM UP. BUT THERE IS ALSO EVERYTHING YOU AND I. IT'S STRANGE. BUT BEAUTIFUL TOO. I'VE TRIED TO IGNORE IT. (I'M SORRY, LINCOLN.) THAT DIDN'T REALLY WORK.
Maybe he did have too strong a dose of painkillers. Or tiredness is catching up with him.
Olivia, it's okay. Not as if I didn't -- block you out.
He did, and he did more. Liv, whom he met on this side, in this doomed world, was and is a marvel. And also an Olivia Dunham.
Life in general doesn't work. Doesn't work out so neatly sometimes. Not all the puzzle pieces always fit perfectly.
NOT IN PAIRS, AND NOT IN UNIVERSES. TRUE. YOU SAID BEFORE YOU HAD NEVER FOUND YOUR HOME, THAT TIME YOU GAVE ME YOUR PENDANT. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY NOW?
For a long time, Lincoln stares at her words.
I think belonging is a complex concept. Hey, no frowning, Olivia. Maybe I'm being preposterous.
Okay, time for the big guns. Like NYC NASA, this has the potential to implode. Leave yet another hole.
We don't stop loving one person, or don't start loving another. We do all that. It's just how we deal
that's a problem, or not.
NOT A PROBLEM FOR ME, FOR PETER. YOU CAN BE WITH LIV, IF YOU WANT AND SHE WANTS.
He bites his lip.
I know. I sometimes think she knows too.
LIKE YOU SAY. IT DOESN'T LESSEN WHAT WE HAVE, YOU AND I. HOWEVER WE DEAL.
Have? Present tense. Lincoln wipes his fingers on his grimy suit-pants.
I don't know how to do this. But *that* I want to do this.
ME TOO, LINCOLN.
Three things happen the next day.
First, Charlie Francis grins at him. This shouldn't be such a huge thing to Lincoln, but it is. The times of mere tolerance are over, and there's something like acceptance on the horizon.
Sure, it started out standard enough. Lincoln inched into the locker room, holding out his arm a little gingerly -- last night's typing session did not, in retrospect, further the healing process -- and got the patented Francis eyebrow. He also got the question what the hell he thought he was doing last night, up there on the tower. "Next time," Charlie said, "you shoot first, think later." Lincoln must've winced, and not particularly chagrined at that, because Charlie leaned in...but slowly. Softly. "Even when the perp has a sad story, or a good cause you wanna think about." Especially then, Lincoln said, as quietly, and meant it. And Charlie -- well, Charlie grinned, and Lincoln couldn't help it either.
Second, Liv corners Lincoln to drag him to the movies. (There is, literally, a corner to his left, and one to his right because he's just been handing the NASA file to Jill, who slants them both a long look and then disappears at surprising speed.)
"Opening Night for Red Lantern III at the ShExxon CeleGreat Festival. Holomovie." She too stares for a second, namely at his arm, but then tilts her head and smiles a smile that's not just winning; it's more like the jackpot. "You haven't been catching up with the franchise for nothing." If it were anybody else, Lincoln thinks, that would've been phrased as a question, even just out of politeness. But this is Liv. And this is him, the guy with a stack of DC comics piled a good foot high right there by his sofa in easy reach -- and her line of vision, clearly.
He nods. Feels maybe this is a good time to stop waiting for other people's cues. Or, positively framed, to continue what he started all these weeks ago at the Bridge. "Let's go. Tonight? I could pick you up." She looks genuinely amused, so. "Or you could pick me up."
They agree that's how they'll do it, seeing as Liv knows the times, the route, and that guy who knows that girl who organizes concessions at the Festival and can get tickets both cheap and good. Good is also how Lincoln hopes the evening will go, but that's hardly a given. Full disclosure has been his personal policy since coming here, but how she'll take the news about Olivia and him and Peter too is a little unclear at this point. Lincoln's own reaction is, after all.
In any case, given yesterday's overtime and his still-smarting arm, Lincoln goes home a little earlier to shower and get dressed in something less...stiff. He runs his fingers over the fabric of his favorite blue shirt, well-washed, well-worn. Is wearing this one a good or bad omen? He decides he can't possibly start believing in predestination and throws it on. There's still some time left, though, and the temptation is too strong.
The Selectric is quiet, but Lincoln hits the keys. Just in case anyone's there?
And -- third -- there is.
HEY, PETER HERE. UNUSUAL TIME. NOT THAT I MIND. HAPPEN TO BE HOME, AT WALTER'S, TAKING THIS THING ALONG FOR LATER WITH YOU. RIGHT NOW I'M LOOKING FOR SOME OLD ORDER FORMS FOR SUPERCONDUCTIVE LABORATORY GLASS FORMS FILLED OUT BY WALTER DECADES AGO THOUGH.
Lincoln blinks, asks, and learns about the window into another world, remembered by Olivia and not discarded as an idea by Walter immediately. It's enough to make Lincoln's heart pick up a beat. He could see the two of them again, all of them. Olivia's smile and the way Peter's eyes crinkle at the corners when he looks at her, even at Lincoln --
Which reminds him. You were taking the Selectric along, away from Olivia's apartment? Talk just with me?
YEAH. THOUGHT IT MIGHT BE ABOUT TIME TO CLARIFY...SOME THINGS. ONE THING, REALLY.
He feels himself frown and stare at the paper as if to hypnotize it. Peter doesn't, for lack of a better word, sound angry or upset or even resolute.
LIKE, THE ONE BETWEEN YOU AND ME.
Oh. All the air goes out of Lincoln's lungs at once. That's the only reason he feels a little dizzy here, surely. He wipes his fingers on his bluejeans and lifts them to the keyboard.
And the doorbell rings.
Liv's no fool; when he opens the door, she stills, gives him a once-over. "Hey."
Lincoln knows he looks flustered, mostly because he is. "Hey yourself. I, um. Was just talking to Peter."
"Right." She shifts her weight from one leg to the other, a minuscule motion that nevertheless shifts Lincoln's focus to her, legs and shoulders and everything in between, especially those hips of hers. She's still wearing her earlier outfit, but she's combed her hair; that much he can tell, because it swings freely and glossy again, too perfect this world and any other. "How's the Secretary's not-son doing?"
They didn't really get to that. (They'd have gotten to other things though.) Lincoln clears his throat. "Good. I just said good-bye. That I'd be back later." Belatedly, he remembers his manners. "Do you want to come in? Have a drink, non-alcoholic? Think I still have some Dark Joey in the fridge from last time."
She half-shrugs; as ever it comes across as engaging, not aloof. "Nah, let's get going. We still have to swing by Dem's offices. You can buy me one once we've made it inside." Maybe Liv misses the meaning of his nod -- not intentionally blank -- because she tilts her head at him, eyes keen. "You realize I want to see this too, right?"
Lincoln actually does; he remembers the two of them two weeks ago: passing the three-dimensional posters that made him twitch and her laugh. "No holographic ads in your universe, I know. Not to brag, though; they've only had Holo4D since the sequel. I liked the first one best so far, closer to your own, wait, IMAX films."
What they end up watching is something else entirely. Liv and he make it to her friend in time. Demetrius is the second person this day to muster Lincoln from head to toe. Lincoln feels small and very white next to him. But this man in all his six-feet-five glory has only the most amiable handshake for Lincoln. He also has some appreciation for Fringe agents, seeing as Liv had a significant say in saving him and a hundred of his employees back when Western New York was ambered. On the way to the actual venue, Lincoln wonders how blurry the line between doing your job and being a hero is, but when he hints at that with Liv, she grins and tells him Dem's gratitude is more for the NYC connection, the people Charlie got Dem in touch with on the authorities' side, business-wise. Either way, thankful he is, because the seats are fantastic, and the movie even more so. Lincoln isn't sure how he avoids a heart attack, and he's pretty glad he's got his Fringe experience because intense doesn't quite cover it: movement and scent, a perfect audioscape, and Lincoln is breathless, thinks he could almost slip the power ring on -- he does find himself reaching out for it when it tumbles through the clouds, a silly reflex. But of course his fingers grip only air, whatever else his hologlasses suggest. Liv glances at him, sideways, but when her lips twitch it's a smile, not a smirk.
Long after they've wandered out of the cinema again, Lincoln feels dazed. This is not unusual, Liv tells him; there's a reason they only allow Holo4D for ages 13 and up. Lincoln answers, with a straight face, that this explains it. What he doesn't end up explaining is the whole Olivia-Peter thing. To his defense, he thought he had it all figured it out, more or less. Leave it to Peter Bishop to throw him a curve ball. Liv, he thinks, desperately wants to but just for tonight doesn't ask; what she does is offer to take him home again.
Home. Where the heart is, Lincoln thinks, and thanks her.
The Selectric hasn't been idle -- Peter hasn't been. There's some chitter-chatter on the first half of the page, warm and wry: a few lines about Walter and his so-far entertaining rather than successful attempts at a two-way mirror between their worlds and his conclusion that he needed the original material; more about Astrid's latest batch of orange-rosemary muffins; most about the latest tests for the baby coming through clear and Olivia being well if a little antsy.
Peter's last line of that long paragraph is, TELL ME WHEN YOU'RE READY, LINCOLN.
It takes a minutes and three-and-a-half seconds before the typeball moves. HEY, YOU WERE THE ONE SAVED BY THE BELL EARLIER.
Lincoln swallows. Where are you? Did you find what you were looking for?
WALTER'S HOUSE STILL. AND NO, NOT YET; MAYBE THE STUFF IS IN THE BEACH HOUSE. I'LL CHECK THAT OUT TOMORROW. TODAY IS ALMOST OVER, BUT HOW WAS DINNER-AND-A-MOVIE WITH THE OTHER OLIVIA?
No dinner, no drinks, just the movie. He carefully readjusts his glasses so he can see the letters on the pages. I wanted to get back to you; she noticed.
THE FAMOUS DUNHAM EMPATHY. I CAN IMAGINE. SHE IS GOOD AT GAUGING SITUATIONS, PEOPLE. SPEAKING OF. SEEING AS RE-WRITTEN TIMELINES AND ALTERNATE UNIVERSES ARE ALL THE RAGE FOR US, WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU WOULD HAVE DONE IF YOU HADN'T MET OLIVIA? AND NOT ROBERT BACK AT QUANTICO EITHER.
That's...different. Lincoln frowns. He thinks of Robert pushing for him as a field partner, of not being drawn into the shapeshifter story. I'd be an analyst, probably.
YOU WERE SIMILAR TO WHO YOU ARE NOW. REMEMBER I TOLD YOU THAT I'D MET YOU BEFORE? IT'S WHY IT WAS SO EASY TO CONNECT TO YOU WHEN I WAS TRAPPED IN A CELL. WELL. ONE REASON.
Right. The old timeline Peter had mentioned. An indestructible woman. I remember. You said you and I had been a good team.
WE WERE GREAT TOGETHER. I NOTICED; I WAS JUST PREOCCUPIED WITH GETTING OLIVIA BACK. BUT LATER ON, AFTER I MET YOU AGAIN AND WE STILL CLICKED I REMEMBERED HOW YOU LOOKED AT ME. LONG. WITH LONGING.
Lincoln presses his lips together. He likes to think of himself as subtle; that iteration of him obviously wasn't. Or it's just as Peter said: they're all good at discerning motives. I probably entertained similar thoughts as in this timeline. What the hell; he trusts Peter. With his life, and more. Obviously. I mean, look at you. Preferably out of your clothing. In retrospect I wish I had been at Reiden Lake.
HINDSIGHT, 20/20. LINCOLN --
I WANTED YOU NOT LONG AFTER I MET YOU. BUT I WANTED AND LOVED OLIVIA MORE THAN ANYTHING IN THE WORLD. AND WE NEEDED TO FIND OURSELVES AND EACH OTHER FIRST. NOW WE'VE HAD SOME TIME, SPACE THAT WE DID NOT HAVE BEFORE. FOR YOU TOO.
It's not too little. But it is too late. And yet. Lincoln breathes in before he can type again. I thought of Olivia, obviously. But I also thought of you. I didn't need any timeline shift for dreams. Fantasies did the trick too.
DID IDLY CONTEMPLATE TAKING YOU AGAINST THE SIDEBOARD IN THE LAB WITH EVERYBODY GONE ON SOME ERRAND. FUCK YOU NICE AND SLOW UNTIL YOURE BEGGING ME TO SPEED UP.
Lincoln exhales. So hard, typing. Clearly no blood is left in his fingertips. WHO SAID I'M A PLIABLE LITTLE BOTTOM?
WHO SAID ANYTHING ABOUT PLIABLE?
He squeezes his eyes shut, but they don't really help against the mental images. OK. FINE. SOMETIMES.
DON’T GET ME WRONG, LINCOLN. WILLING TO SWITCH. MORE THAN WILLING.
Lincoln grins. And aches. Is it bad form to touch oneself in front of an interdimensional typewriter? He settles for adjusting himself, typing an answer: It’s really less about will and more about ability here.
I KNOW. SUCKS
For a moment, when he hits them, the keys jam, and the machine spells out gibberish, sdklhfasa;;df, before Lincoln snags his fingers back. Are quantum entanglements easily broken by too-horny and too-hasty guys at the helm?
AND I LOVE WE BOTH WERE ABOUT TO GO FOR TERRIBLE DOUBLE ENTENDRE.
Lincoln swallows. Seems the Selectric responded smoothly to Peter's fingers. He would as well, he's sure. Me, too. Feel the same. He knows what he's typing there; he wonders if Peter does too.
For a moment there's silence. Then, words in rapid succession: LINCOLN. I DO WISH THE BRIDGE WERE REPAIRED AND WE COULD BE TOGETHER, ALL THREE OF US. BUT WE MAY HAVE TO MAKE DO WITH THIS FOR NOW.
Of course. How about you go back to telling me more about your...idle contemplations? I can type well with one hand.
When Lincoln slides his zipper down with trembling fingers, he hopes Fringe Division wasn't paranoid enough to install a camera in his apartment. Not that he cares, right now. He really doesn't.
The next day, the world is about to end.
Lincoln doesn't consider himself the center of the universe -- he's not his double, and by now he's confident he won't ever be. But it still is ill-timed, feels like a bit of a fuck-you from fates that haven't been as kind as they could have been.
He fell asleep in the afterglow, sinking down into his new sofa (the thought of a mirror-image Peter on the other side doing the same an added bonus). He wakes to the sound of his earcuff at 4am, Charlie's voice rougher than ever in his ear, calling the shots. Calling him into headquarters. It's a good thing Lincoln's still dressed, although he does change his underwear and pants because even if...especially if this is the apocalypse, he doesn't want to face it with semen stains all over his pants.
When Lincoln stumbles out of his front door, it's dark but far from quiet. Lincoln thinks that maybe this city never sleeps because then it has nightmares like this one. Coming closer, he hears the high wails of police cars, and Lincoln also the hollow bark of law enforcement megaphones down by the park. People are trickling out of their doors in everything from nightgowns to combat-gear; even in the latter case their wide eyes and tight grips around flashlights betray they are civilians, if ones that follow protocol to the letter. Their voices are thin with fright, scattered. Above Lincoln, there's the chop-chop-chop of a helicopter -- no, three helicopters. A whole fleet of them is whirring westward in arrow-point formation.
He finds Liv, or Liv finds him, right by her front door; together they make it to Fringe Headquarters in what has to be record time, her hitting the pedals hard. Outside, the red of the building should be by all means be swallowed by the night --la nuit, tous les chats sont gris. Instead the building is awash in color, its own red highlighted by the flicker of law enforcement vehicles of all stripes, greens and blues from emergency and secret service and of course Fringe Division cars like Liv's. The stairs down to the entrance are crowded; agents and orderlies are trying to clear them, do so successfully when Liv and he barge in.
At least, along with everybody else, the elevator down is running.
Charlie turns when he sees the two of them, jerks his head toward Broy -- toward Dahlander's office. He's standing next to Astrid, their Astrid, who even at that time of day and night looks perfect from behind, cap tilted at precisely the same angle as always. When Lincoln passes her and tries to catch her eyes, though, her face looks anything but: she's staring at the screens, but her lower lip is trembling, and the frown on her forehead makes Lincoln want to go over, reassure her...until Liv's hand tugs at his sleeve and her less-than-gentle verbal reminder makes him nod, shake her off, and pick up his step again.
Dahlander's face also mirrors the Fringe Headquarters' shade, startling against his shock of blond hair. Lincoln manages to focus on the man's words, though: severe environmental degradation throughout the State of New York -- and not spreading out from its Western wastelands. Intact molecular cohesion at the same time; none of the early signs of a vortex opening are present.
Lincoln blinks. But --
"Sir, this means it's not a case for ambering the area?" Liv's voice cuts in, deep like water.
"The Secretary and the science division do not believe that would help stopping the degradation, Agent Dunham." Dahlander's lips twitch, but it's hard to tell whether from derision or doubt or something in-between. He's holding it together, but not by much. Lincoln throws Liv a sideways glance and is not surprised to see her bite her lip, once, uncharacteristic worry reflected in her face: not because of the situation. Dahlander had done well in North Korea, Lincoln remembers reading. But after the destruction of its nuclear capabilities and most land forces, leading part of the military invasion of a country that was no match for US tech wasn't the same as leading people in Fringe disasters.
"Besides," Dahlander continues, "all the amber currently in storage in New York would not suffice for the spread of the destruction."
They will have thought of this, but Lincoln can't stay silent. "Colonel Dahlander, what prevents us from calling it in elsewhere -- the District of Virginia; other large states with large quantities of the substance? Are they hit too?"
When Dahlander steels his gaze and squares his jaw, they have their answer. Oh, they do get more -- information on where to disperse, where to lead Fringe agents for recon and what amounts to research missions. None of it helps much, though. Lincoln and Liv make it to Charlie, who knows a little more, and all of them to the labs, where Lincoln grabs Ruiz -- not literally -- and makes him spit out some more details. Gibberish to Lincoln, mostly, and even Liv and Charlie's eyes look a little glazed. They're trying to make sense of a world that doesn't: par for the course, only this one steers them straight to the edge.
Maybe right over.
Lincoln doesn't know how long he's been walking through debris with a field kit now, yelling orders and receiving them via the now-crackling earcuff straight from Astrid's desk, from the Secretary's mind. He and Liv and Charlie were to spread out in three directions across the State, the star team taken too literally, and they manage to clear areas, secure frightened people, and prevent deaths from trampling and panics, from looting and lack of oxygen. It takes Lincoln about five hours until the truth filters in: that this isn't dust in the air, not pulverized streets and buildings; it's just that the sunlight of this day is muted, dull, filtered through an atmosphere that's ever-changing. And not for the better.
When Lincoln is sent home by Dahlander himself, who (no joke, although Lincoln isn't wont to tell any by this point) gasps into his ear something about the insane amount of hours Lincoln pulled, he does make it through emptying streets -- curfewed, cleared for the most part. New oxygen and emergency parcels have been dispersed; Lincoln carries one up the steps of his building himself, wheezing. He checks one last time that Liv has made it home, which she has, almost, just three minutes from her place. So she's just started going back, but fair enough, close enough for government sleep.
Before Lincoln drops dead on his sofa under very different circumstances, he does put a new paper into the Selectric. It takes him four tries. But then, he types -- keeps it brief, not like a Lee-style report. Just the gist of what happened, what the Secretary and Dr. Fayette think has happened. Lincoln even mentions Dahlander and doesn't hold back. Not that, and nothing else either:
Olivia, Peter. I'll try what I can, but it may not be enough.
Actually, I know it won't. It's okay. In the long run, I knew this would happen. This world has been dying; I just didn't expect it to be so soon.
Take care. Of each other, of the baby and Walter and Astrid, your own world.
He hesitates, but he types it out because when if not now?
And then he lets himself sink back onto the sofa and sleep claim him, finally.
Lincoln shudders awake. His head is foggy, and his vision not much better even after he's groped the edge of the den table for his glasses. They're covered in a slick film of grime, and when even blinking a couple of times doesn't remove the blind spots, he realizes must've scratched them at some point during the last...no, not day. The digital clock by the door kindly informs him that it's Friday morning. He's slept for almost twenty-four hours.
THUD. The front door. Of course.
Has the grid broken down, no electricity and no doorbell? The world as such still seems to be standing, though. Lincoln gives up on his glasses and puts them down again, walks over to the door before Charlie or Liv or some irate neighbor can knock again. It works; he pulls the door open fast enough that Olivia's lifted fist hits only empty air.
What the --
"Lincoln," she says, and he'd know her voice anywhere, at all times, even when it's strangely choked, as she sounds right now. Olivia Dunham, his side's Olivia Dunham, standing on his doorstep, blond hair a shade darker and escaping her haphazard ponytail, eyes too-bright in the shadow of the hallway, where a splintered beam pokes out of the wall.
It's harder to breathe than in any pocket of compromised air all of a sudden, but his body is moving forward, and so are her arms, her fingers sliding up to cup his face, stroke her thumb across the line of his jaw. Maybe it's instinct, human nature, how he reaches out immediately, puts his hands onto her hips and into the small of her back and pulls her in: how he always wanted but never did.
She's real; Olivia Dunham right here is not a hallucination and not a ghost. No shapeshifter would stare at him like this: with wonder and a half-smile as dazed as his own. He manages to whisper her name, swallowed immediately because Olivia's lips slant over his, soft but so hungry, and Lincoln shivers and tilts his head and opens his mouth and, eyes fluttering closed, pushes back at her, into her. He can hear very little over the thunder of blood rushing through his ears, but what he can hear is their little gasps, the wet sounds of their kissing.
Eventually, they break apart, and Lincoln uses to inhales precious oxygen. "You. Here. How are you?" And not just her any more. His eyes fall down to her stomach, where he thinks he sees a gentle swell. "Is the baby okay?"
Olivia breathes in, too, nods. "Yes, she's fine. Walter promised, before, and I knew the moment I'd crossed over." She purses her lips. "To be honest, I think the stress, self-induced and organic, before jumping universes was worse for her than the actual entry. But I still need to tell Peter immediately that we're both fine." Her hair's not actually darker, he notes; it's still moist.
Lincoln reaches out and catches a droplet of water running down the outer shell of her ear. Olivia shivers under his touch -- into it. He swallows. "The typewriter is on the table. I'll get you a towel. Your clothes --"
"Are fine; I got them from Liv."
Right; now the form-fitting jacket on Olivia makes more sense -- that and the loose yet hip-hugging shirt underneath. Blue, though. Of course Liv also owns civilian clothes not either bright or noticeable. "You...you went to her place because you knew where it was. And she sent you here."
"Yes." She walks past him, visibly relieved at the sight of the Selectric. "Plan A was to get to your place first, where the Selectric was the last time you communicated, to let them know --"
"Peter and Walter and Astrid and Broyles?"
"-- that I made it across. That she and I did." She sits down but gives him a half-shrug over her shoulder. "Peter's a little over-protective about my pregnancy, but here, I really can't blame him." Her fingers are already flying over the keys: words of comfort, words about health and her safety, hers and his too; he can see her type his own name.
Lincoln doesn't know whether to look away from the page, her letters black and determined, but he remains frozen on the spot. "You crossed the universe without knowing what would happen to...her?"
Olivia's fingers still. "Lincoln," she says, deceptively quiet, "I love you, but you and Peter have got to get used to me being the one actually carrying the child and making decisions. He'd have done the same if it was the other way 'round: taken a small, calculated risk to save all of you, this world."
In a hypothetical world of Olivia's child growing within Peter Bishop's body (hey, this is Fringe Division) -- no, Lincoln thinks, Peter would not risk life and limb and child then. He's probably the bravest man Lincoln knows, but he has priorities, and they're all female and Dunham.
But Lincoln is glad that she convinced Peter otherwise. That she came. "You're here to save us all?" He almost has to laugh. "That sounds --"
"Preposterous, I know." She finishes typing, turns around. The sloped line of her lips is serious, but her eyes are warm. "I already told Liv, and she looked a lot more dubious than you do; she's off to Fringe Headquarters, our next stop. As I said, Walter and Peter, Astrid and I: We have a plan."
At Fringe Headquarters, Olivia smiles some -- at Charlie, most of all, looking at him out of the corner of her eye as if to check he hasn't suddenly disappeared while she was turned away -- but says very little beyond, "I need to speak to Secretary Bishop."
Her version of Take Me To Your Leader works well. It's not just because they're running out of time, are out of options. Olivia's hair still hasn't fully dried -- the dropping atmospheric pressure makes the air feel dense and wet; it's like walking through a rainforest of dead trees and far-fallen temperatures. But even bedraggled and four months pregnant, Lincoln can't tear his eyes away from her because Olivia burns like the sun. Her words do, too. She's not much of a public speaker, doesn't have Peter's talent for talk small and large, but she's wise enough to hone in on the one person in the room who can help her. Persons, plural, Lincoln thinks. Liv is already on her side, which makes Lincoln's heart do an odd but joyful little jump. Charlie backs any Olivia Dunham.
Dahlander is her main focus, though, and no match for Olivia. He first turns red and then relents, even going as far as to promise reconsidering a release of Colonel Broyles -- even if so, purely temporary and only under the strictest supervision, you understand, and so on. Lincoln knows a victory march when he sees one.
First, though, they have to ride across the water -- leave the rest behind to deal with the mayhem.
On the ferry to Liberty Island, Lincoln touches her hand, gently. "Olivia...I remember. I'm not trying to tell you what to --"
Her sideways glance at him is fond, but a little amused. Not that this would work anyway.
"-- but I'd rather not lose you again." When I've just found you.
"Oh, Lincoln." She turns fully toward him, curls her fingers around his and leans in until their foreheads are touching and they're breathing in the same air. Her scent is familiar and exciting at once, and he feels himself swallow, concentrating on her next words only with effort. "No one is going to lose anyone today. That's the whole point."
"The last time Peter threw himself into a Machine, he was written out of existence," Lincoln says, softly, which is idiotic because she was there, hadn’t heard it second-hand like him. And still the idea was painful even to him. Not just because of what Lincoln had built up with Peter in the short weeks they'd known each other. But because he knew the story, Peter's mellow voice vibrating through his own bones at a deeper frequency: nomad, bright and gifted but drifting.
A tiny frown mars Olivia's forehead. "Walter said it's not about me, quote, tossed into a hamster's wheel and making it spin and spin and -- you know."
"Did he keep repeating 'spin' for a while?" Lincoln asks wryly.
Olivia raises her eyebrows. "And making little circular motions with both hands, yes."
Lincoln grins, and that's like a spark that lights Olivia's eyes too. She's the one who tugs him closer by the hands, rubs her nose against his. Lincoln ducks his head and steals another kiss. Olivia's smile feels even better than it looks against his lips, and he feels silly and serious at once.
Not as serious as the situation is, of course; they both break apart and arrive, are escorted into the heart of the Ministry of Defense.
Where Secretary Bishop listens, then asks, "Would you repeat that for me?" Measured. Motionless.
Olivia too stands composed, very straight and almost as still as the Secretary. "Which part?"
"The one where Dr. Bishop proposes to make you a power source to stabilize this world for the time being."
There we go, Lincoln thinks, and tries to quell the dread bubbling in his ribcage.
Olivia presses her lips together, and for a moment she looks down. To ground herself, maybe, because when she looks at the Secretary again, her shoulders loosen, and she's balanced forward, tiptoes rather than heels. "You remember the files describing the creation of the Bridge -- Peter's work, to heal both worlds."
"Of course. But the Bridge is badly damaged. Perhaps beyond repair." Narrow eyes, but the Secretary doesn't dismiss it. Something is happening in there, but he too is not his doppelganger, none of his emotions or thoughts displayed on his face. Moments like this Lincoln realizes how easy life and work with Walter was in some regards: what you saw was what you got...that very moment, at least.
"Same principle, though, Walter said -- it's all about channeling energy. The Machine provided it, and Peter then shaped it." Olivia frowns at her next words, not liking that fact much but running with it: "Now that I seem to be this vast power source --"
"You cut out the middle man -- the machine. Of course." The Secretary always speaks slow, so quiet everybody else falls silent and strains to listen. This is no exception. "You just need the basic set-up, allowing you to concentrate."
Olivia reads his face better than Lincoln does, he thinks. He wouldn't want to be on the receiving end of that stare. "Yes. No drugs, though. I just crossed over from another universe without the help of Cortexiphan, just my friends and colleagues, my partner. I'll try my luck with this one sober too."
She hasn't, Lincoln realizes with a start, mentioned the baby. It's unlikely she will until she has to. Some cards Olivia plays close to the chest.
"Give me a place to stand, and I shall move the Earth with a lever." For the first time, Lincoln sees something move in the Secretary's face. "My counterpart may just be on to something there. Come with me, Agent Dunham, and let me see those instructions from Dr. Bishop and his -- our -- son."
Lincoln doesn't even move, himself, but the Secretary still stops, looks at him fully. "Join us, Agent Lee. I'm sure you can provide just the help Agent Dunham requires."
When Olivia meets his gaze, he can see it in her face, clear as this day is not: Yes you can.
FUNNY, ISN'T IT? BELL WANTED TO HARNESS YOUR POWER FOR DESTRUCTION. NOW YOU USED IT FOR CREATION.
Stabilization, Olivia types, but she's smiling down at the Selectric. Her shoulder is bumping Lincoln's, lightly; he doesn't know whether she does it on purpose. It's not as if I can actually hold this world together.
Lincoln thinks that's pretty much what she did.
He remembers her staggering, knees buckling, eyes rolling upward. Remembers his fear -- not for himself but for Olivia, her life. Before she could fall to the floor, he was there, and Olivia sank into his arms. Of course, back when he'd idly imagined such a scene, at night and during the day in quiet moments too, she hadn't been barely conscious and still buzzing like a live wire, drenched in sweat. (Or, if drenched in sweat, that'd be for a different reason entirely.) "I can walk on my own," she murmured just minutes later, and he half-smiled at his memory, mirrored it: "I know you can, but you don't need to." Olivia didn't thank him verbally, but she did put not insignificant weight onto his arm when they walked out of the labs.
And pretty much into the sunset. On their way down to the pier, the silhouette of New York seemed ablaze against an amber-red sky, shaded darker at the edges. The degradation was halted, but it wasn't healed, the Secretary had told them. Everybody, soldier and scientist, visibly breathing out. The path to the ferry gave the two of them a straight view across the Upper Bay. Lincoln couldn't help it, he shivered, again, at the sight of the World Trade Center at the center of what looked like a vignetted photograph. Olivia's fingers in his arm tightened almost painfully. "The Twin Towers," she said, voice rough from exertion, from emotion. "Have you gotten used to the sight, Lincoln?" And he'd shaken his head, mutely. Maybe he would, one day. Maybe.
Tonight was for savoring this world in different ways. He wanted to take her to the hospital, to a doctor, but she told him she was fine, they were fine; all she wanted was to go home, to his place and the typewriter.
Which spits out words in response to hers:
FOR A WHILE, IT SEEMS YOU COULD HOLD THE WORLD TOGETHER AFTER ALL. OLIVIA, YOU'RE THE MOST FRUSTRATINGLY HUMBLE PERSON I'VE EVER KNOWN.
The little frown on her face smooths out immediately. Not sure you and Walter are that familiar with humility. You must've missed some other people.
I DON'T SEE GANDHI SAVING TWO WORLDS. NO OFFENSE TO THE MAHATMA.
Lincoln laughs quietly, and Olivia turns her head. Her lips are curving upward, too, and even though the lines around her eyes are deeper than usual and her skin is still pale, her eyes are clear, warm, catching his. "Do you want to talk to him as well?" Her gaze dips down, and suddenly there's a touch of color high on her cheekbones. "Peter may have mentioned your...little session, before all hell broke loose." She gives him what's pretty close to a knowing grin, Olivia-style.
Lincoln feels his own face flush just a little. "Um. Yes."
The keys of the Selectric are familiar under his fingers by now. Hi Peter. I'm pretty amazed too. He tilts his head at Olivia. Obviously. Secretary Bishop revoked the State of Emergency immediately after the readings came in. Relieved me of immediate report duty too so we could come here.
Olivia nudges him gently, and Lincoln takes his fingers off the keys obligingly. Olivia here. You're right; I don't think I could have done it without him. He was holding my hand, and it wasn't just a gesture of comfort. It helped me. He did.
EXACTLY AS WALTER SAID. LINCOLN, ASTRID SUGGESTED IT FIRST: THAT SOMEONE FROM OVER HERE MIGHT HELP -- ADD TO THE RIGHT FREQUENCY. AMPLIFY THE WAVELENGTH WE WANTED TO TUNE OVER THERE TO.
Lincoln frowns, types. Olivia was the one to adjust this world. He looks at Olivia.
BUT OLIVIA IS NOT EXACTLY A TYPICAL CITIZEN FROM THIS SIDE. ADD TO THAT SHE'S JUMPED UNIVERSES A LOT, AND THAT'S NOT EVEN GETTING INTO THE WHOLE PREGNANCY POWERS THING. WE AGREED IT WOULD BE IMPORTANT TO HAVE YOU THERE, WITH HER. NOT JUST FOR HER BUT EVERYBODY INVOLVED. A REGULAR JOE FROM OVER HERE, IF YOU WILL.
Gee, thanks. Also for telling me beforehand.
HEY, IT WAS JUST A THEORY. UNTIL IT WASN'T. QED.
Lincoln's frown dissipates; all he can do is shrug helplessly at Olivia, whose smile is apologetic. "I knew you'd come along in any case."
"Yeah," he says, because it's true. He stares at Olivia, who doesn't look away. "Olivia. Are you going to stay?" There's thickness in his throat. "Just until you've rested, a little?"
She nods, and her fingers say the same thing. Peter, I'm tired. Tell Astrid she was right. Tell Walter he was too, about the second half of the equation filled out by Waltern-- by the Secretary. I'm going with our original plan, remain here until I'm recovered. I'll be with Lincoln. Her fingers hesitate for a moment. As we discussed.
WELL, IF YOU CAN CALL A LOT OF PREGNANT PAUSES AND HAND GESTURES AND NODS A DISCUSSION. OKAY, KIDDING. I GOT YOU, THEN AND NOW. GOT YOU BOTH.
Peter, I love you.
I LOVE YOU TOO.
While she's standing up slowly, Lincoln blinks at the black ink on the paper, then at Olivia. "You...you can have the bed. The sofa's fine for me."
"I'm sure the sofa is fine," Olivia says, gently. "But I'm thinking the bed is better." She bites her lip, glances to the side. "It looks big enough for the two of us." Her eyes are...hopeful. As if she wasn't sure what he'd say.
Actions speak louder than words, Lincoln thinks, and ignoring the butterflies in his stomach he cups Olivia's face to kiss her.
She kisses him back immediately, with more energy than he'd thought, but then she draws back and pulls a face. "Lincoln, I'm a mess. Everything's sticky." At the shadow of his grin, she laughs. "Not in a good way. Shower first?"
Lincoln does love her for her brilliance too, it's true. "Shower it is."
Lincoln rips open his closet door and grabs the fluffiest towel he can feel so as not to lose sight of Olivia: standing in the middle of his bathroom, eyes heavy-lidded and focusing on a point in a distance that doesn't even exist in this enclosed space. Lincoln may be a Fringe agent in this world and warrant a high-security, large-space apartment -- large for New York City -- but that doesn't mean his bathroom has park view. Or any view at all.
He's at her side again, and weirdly glad that the cleaners were in the apartment just before this world started to fray at the edges. Not that Olivia would note any specks on the tiles; she doesn't exactly scan her surroundings, looks dead on her feet. "Hey," he says, softly, "do you, do you need anything else?"
Olivia blinks, takes the towel, and smiles wryly at him. "I'm not sure I'm up to -- well, standing. In hot water."
Right. Lincoln remembers getting injured that time in Hartford during the 2010 drug raid debacle, Robert escaping narrowly. Lincoln, not so much. After ten days in a hospital bed, he gently smiled off the nurse's warning...and promptly had his knees buckle and his vision white out under the scalding spray in the hospital bathroom. That won't do for Olivia now, who's clearly more sensible about these things.
They haven't turned on the electric heater, but Lincoln already feels hot. "I could use a shower too."
Olivia ducks her head, but he catches the edges of her smile. "Get in here," she says, "now."
Lincoln's heart starts pounding, but that's not a bad thing; it's not the thrill of fight or flight, or both. It's anticipation. This is really happening. He'd feel weird being more fully clothed than Olivia, so he puts his glasses on the sideboard, starts unbuttoning his shirt at the top. He hears Olivia exhale sharply, and then her fingers tug his shirt out of the pants, start opening the buttons from the bottom. "You're helpful," he murmurs, and she's that, plus much more awake. She helps him with his undershirt too. Olivia's eyes are almost alert at this point, following the line of his shoulders, down his clavicle and chest, across his naked stomach.
"You are too." She looks up again, into his eyes. "That's not why I'm doing this. I want -- I want you. Have wanted you. I remember now."
"Olivia," he says, and he'd love to answer, I know, but he didn't, not really; not until very recently. No time to think about chances lost, though, because back then he couldn't have been with her, still grieving, and then of course she couldn't be with him, becoming somebody else instead. He wants to say something, but this is Olivia; she too prefers doing things, so he just swallows and slides his hands to the hem of her soft blue shirt, a question in his eyes that she answers with a nod. He pulls it up and over her head, and okay, definitely pregnant because while he's managed to never stare overtly in the past, he'd remember boobs like these: full and large, ready to burst out of the sleek, sporty white bra she wears. "Oh."
She stares down at her breasts along with him. "I know. They feel heavy too. And so sensitive." She half-laughs. "Why do I sound like a pregnancy porn extra?"
"You'd never be an extra," he offers, tries to keep it dry and himself from drooling. "You're always the protagonist. And that came out wrong, out of context?"
"Lincoln." Her nose wrinkles when she grins; he'd almost forgotten. "It came out right. In context." She's flushed as well, but the way she sways forward is an invitation, so he strokes his fingers down her cheeks, the side of her neck, cupping her breasts, their perfect width and weight in his hands. He lets the sensation sink in, watches her intently. Olivia lets out a happy little gasp when his thumbs circle her nipples gently through the white fabric. "Opens at the front," she says, reaching up to do so, with some help from him. Their fingers tangle, tease, but with what he distinctly feels is a super-human effort he tears himself away.
"We'll never make it into the shower this way," he explains, unzipping his suit pants. He breathes in, then slides everything down in one go: until he's wearing nothing but his dignity.
Olivia looks down at him, and just for a moment licks her lips. Lincoln raises an eyebrow, until she unbuttons her...Liv's narrow combat pants. She bends down to push the tightly-fit fabric down her hips, and there's the hint of a frown on her face that he can't have, won't stand for here. He sinks into a crouch in front of Olivia, hears her sharp inhalation of breath and files that away for later. Gently, he slides her pants down, same for her underwear. He's a practical guy, which Olivia right now seems to be all in favor of. For a moment, he just stares and breathes her in: sweat and the caustic dust that's been caking all their skins and clothes, but underneath there's still the scent of Olivia, and at the juncture of her legs --
Olivia's hands card through his hair, and he's, oddly, thrown back to their moment of good-bye in the theater. "Lincoln. Shoes?" Right. He fiddles with her boots -- okay; Olivia's usual sensible shoes would be much easier here, although he remembers walking through rubble and broken glass just to get to this side's Fringe Division, so in retrospect, for their apocalyptic interlude, Liv's boots were just the perfect footwear, and now they're gone. Lincoln and Olivia manage to tumble into the shower, his arm steadying her. Lincoln is glad for the rubber bathmat at the bottom; he'd hate to slip just when she's leaning on him. He turns the shower on with only slightly shaking fingers.
The warm water pounds down on them, and he can see Olivia blink, relax. They're forehead to forehead, their bellies almost touching too. The head of his cock is sliding wetly against the skin of her stomach, its soft swell; both touch and thought send a sharp sensation up his spine, and Olivia shivers agreeably. Pearls of water run down the side of her face; he catches one of them on the tip of his tongue. She smiles at that, one hand on his shoulder, one curling around his left biceps. Lincoln blindly grabs some shampoo, lathers his hands. Olivia's eyes flutter closed when he washes her hair, massages her scalp. She's tall for a woman, but she fits neatly against his chest when he runs his soapy hands down her shoulders, her arms and her back, the curve at its bottom. When he fits both hands around her butt, she makes a little sound and pushes up against him. His cock is trapped between their bodies, and the slick pressure is making him light-headed; his own hips snap forward once, twice. He wants to hold her in place, wants her to lift one leg so he can slide right home. But.
"Turn around," he whispers into her ear, licking its outer shell. Olivia nods; he can feel the movement against the skin of his shoulder. She does turn and around and, because he bends his knee a little to counter the shift in balance, his cock slip-slides along her cleft, upward until it rests in the small of her back, and they both shiver. She leans into him, and that's good; that's great because there's less direct pressure, and he gets to lather her front in too. Her breasts feel even better from this position, slick and warm, and Olivia moans when his fingers run circles around her nipples carefully because hey, sensitive. It's natural, then, to slide his right hand down, washing her stomach, mostly flat but less so than he remembers. "This okay?"
"More than okay." Her voice is deep, wrecked, "I'm really -- Lincoln, please, touch me." He fights down a tremble, slides his fingers down between her legs where she's wetter than the water, twice as slippery as the soap. Her clit is hot under his thumb, swollen, and he has to recall translucent skin and a heavy, dying sky to dial it down a notch. She whimpers again when he crooks his fingers and slides inside her, just an inch or so, keeping the light pressure of his thumb where it is. Another gasp, and that's it, he really has to see for himself. Taste for himself. The bed is too far away; he can't wait any more.
"Put your hands on my shoulders," he says, and now he sounds almost as breathless as her. When he drops down to his knees in front of her, Olivia's reaction is a sound like a sigh, but she does follow direction, and Lincoln is once again grateful for the mat. She spreads her legs obligingly as far as the tub allows. Close enough for government work, Lincoln thinks giddily, and finally leans in. He catches a stream of water to wash the layer of bubbles off her pubic hair, then spreads her open with both hands. Olivia jumps when he touches his tongue to her for the first time, circling the soft hood, and the full-body shudder that comes next is gratifying. The angle is better now; Lincoln starts with his index and middle finger inside of her, turning and twisting them, applying rhythmic pressure. He feels half-drunk on the scent and taste of her, tangy, smoky. Just above where his fingers are entering Olivia, he starts, then, licking up a stripe until he reaches her clit, playing with it trial-and-error until the sound of her gasps reaches the right pitch. And then he presses harder, faster, until he can feel her muscles contract around his fingers, until the only word on her lips is his name.
Lincoln leans his wet cheek against her belly, catching his breath. He can taste Olivia on his tongue and feel her fingers stroke his shoulder, brush back the hair plastered to his damp forehead.
"Come here," she murmurs after what could be a second or could be a minute, and he gets up. Her hand has remained curled around his neck, now tugs him closer by the short hairs. She looks radiant when she smiles at him, and her mouth opens immediately under his when he leans in to kiss her. Her words are soft against his lips. "Thanks. You're good at this."
"Natural talent," he offers, face as straight and innocent as he can make it, "still needs to be practiced."
The corner of Olivia's mouth lifts even higher. Lincoln realizes a moment later why it's so close to a smirk because her hand closes around his cock, and Lincoln shoves forward into her touch, once, twice, before he can talk again, "Don't, I'll...I’ll come." He drops his gaze, speaks the words directly into her ear. "I want to be inside you for that, and in bed. If that's okay."
Olivia trembles against him. "Lincoln, yes, I -- this pregnancy thing is crazy. I want to have sex all the time now, ever since three weeks or so ago." Now it's her turn to laugh quietly, look away. "I've thought about taking a vibrator with me. Everywhere."
"Well, right now, I'm here."
"And I'm glad. But I hope you know you're not a sex toy." Olivia's eyes are warm and serious at once. "You're my partner."
Lincoln feels his heart slam harder against his ribcage. He can only nod.
"In the timeline that doesn't exist any more I told Peter in this very universe that he belonged with me. I kissed him on this side of the universe for the first time, too." She doesn't look away from Lincoln's face. "I know it's selfish; they do need you here, and you have another partner in this world. Two, with Charlie. But wish we could go back together, be together, Peter and you and I. I wish --"
"Olivia," Lincoln whispers, "it's okay." It's not; it's a shock to his system, makes him ache. But he doesn't want to think of tomorrow, or the day thereafter. He wants to be with Olivia. "For now."
She worries her bottom lip between her teeth for a moment, until he stops her from doing it by taking over, much more gently. Her mouth is hot against his, and she still seems hungry, pushing into his body with a gasp. But they manage to remember the plan of washing Lincoln, do so before the towels finally come into play. Her slick, soapy hands on his skin first make him shiver as if cold, and when Olivia towels him off, perfect pressure except where he wants it most, he feels warm all over.
He doesn't exactly have silk sheets -- he suspects his alternate did -- but Olivia makes a happy little sound once they've pushed the covers back and fall into bed. "Mmh," she murmurs and rubs her nose against his pillows, her eyes fluttering shut. For a moment, he wonders if he should offer to let her sleep; she's been through a lot, world after world, saving the latter one single-handedly (literally; he was after all holding the other one). But then she opens her eyes again and rolls fully onto her back, tilting her head in invitation, trailing one hand across her breasts. Her nipples are stiff already, begging to be kissed, so Lincoln does, listening to Olivia's little moans when he uses his mouth, the tiniest hint of teeth. Her fingers stroke across his chest, flick a thumbnail across his own nipples. It makes him arch into her touch, and when he leans more fully across Olivia to kiss her again, she tries to nudge him closer, pull him between her legs. He reaches blindly for the nightstand and, with the help of Olivia, slides on a condom that's thankfully exactly like the ones in their home universe. Then, finally, the head of his cock slides against her pussy, warm and welcoming. And he would, he would, just, "Wait, the baby?"
Olivia raises one eyebrow. "Lincoln, it's fine; sex during pregnancy is fine pretty much until birth if everything else is. Peter has researched it." The second eyebrow rises too. "In-depth." Lincoln swallows at the thought, would appreciate Olivia's rare attempt at humor -- and dirty humor at that -- if there weren't that niggling doubt.
"It's not the, the orgasm," he says, pushed up on his right arm, staring down into her eyes and stroking a light hand over her belly. "Just, the pressure. I don't want to do anything that could harm her."
Her eyes reflect all the hues of green and gold in the light of his bedroom lamp. "Oh, Lincoln. Of course." She gives him a half-smile. "No athletics from me tonight; I'm usually..."
"On top?" He grins at her expression. "What?"
"Flexible," she murmurs, but her eyes crinkle at the corners, amusement and acknowledgment. Olivia speaks the truth, because she easily rolls onto her side, one leg stabilizing the position, the other lifted, stretched. Nice and open. Lincoln's mouth is dry, but his body is already moving, shifting into position behind her with curiously little effort. He strokes her hair away from the nape of her neck, noses the soft skin there. Olivia makes an impatient sound, pushes back against his cock, and okay, fine, this is --
it's better than fine; it's the best. Sliding into Olivia means tight heat, the scent of her surrounding him. He curls his hand around the curve of her hip, shoves his cock deep and deeper, and she gasps, "Lincoln, yes." He squeezes his eyes shut, breathes hard. And then he starts moving. The position doesn't give him the best leverage, but he doesn't need it; he's not gonna last for very long now that he's inside her. He hears her panting, feels her shift in perfect counter-pressure to his thrusts, and her hand -- he can help there, already knows a thing or two. His fingers join, intertwine with hers: slide over her clit, fast and faster, until Olivia lets out a soft, almost-desperate cry and trembles around his cock, and Lincoln thinks, Oh, good, until he doesn't think at all any more and his universe too bursts into bright sensation.
The next morning Lincoln wakes and, for a long while, doesn't move a muscle that's not connected to his eyelids.
Olivia's sleeping next to him, the curve of her mouth impossibly sweet. At some point after they both nodded off, she turned around, is now curled toward him on the pillow, mirroring his own position. Heart-shaped, he thinks, which is too sappy for words -- worlds -- but exactly how the two of them must look like from above.
She stirs, makes an unintelligible sound. Her eyes open wide, suddenly alert, until she sees him and relaxes. Her lips curve into a smile. "Morning." Her voice is gravelly from sleep. Lincoln loves hearing it.
"Good morning." Turns out he can't stop smiling either. "How are you?"
"Better. Much." She shuffles closer, and Lincoln exhales and does the same. She runs her nose along the stubble on his cheeks, and his eyes flutter shut with the sensation. He nibbles at her lower lip, then kisses her deeply. She's responding in kind, enthusiastically enough to make him draw back and gasp for air a minute later.
Her brow furrows, but the glint in her eyes speaks of everything but worry. "Lincoln, remember what I said about athletics?" Her eyelashes fan over her cheeks, lightly flushed. "Peter actually made a show out of groaning and hiding under his pillow two days ago when we woke up. He wasn't as up as I was. I'd understand, of course." The blanket slides down her shoulders, reveals the lushness of her breasts.
Lincoln manages to look up at her face again, has to laugh quietly. "You weren't exaggerating. And, and that's great." He means it; it's mostly his chest that's bursting with feeling, but other parts of his anatomy are too. "I'm up. Try me."
And Olivia does. They're still naked from last night, carelessly kick off the blankets in the warm, hazy sunlight of this new day. It's the easiest thing for Lincoln to lie back and let Olivia do the work this time around, slide over him, onto him. She rides him slowly, leaning down with the flexibility she advertised earlier, and they both come softly, endlessly between one kiss and the next.
Afterward, they doze, but only for minutes. Lincoln gets a wet washcloth to clean them both up, and while standing, grabs his earcuff: just to make sure the world isn't ending again. Olivia eyes the door to the living room, yawns. "We could get the typewriter in here."
"In bed?" Lincoln feels languid, happy; he'd do anything right now, and speaking to Peter is actually a pleasant thought.
They both to the bed return with news -- no emergency, although they're to come in for a debrief at Fringe Headquarters in the afternoon -- and, respectively, the Selectric, placed carefully on the mattress next to Olivia.
"Do you think we'll catch him?" Lincoln asks while Olivia types, nods.
"Peter will make time for us. He didn't want to wake us with the sound of the keys, but I'm pretty sure he --"
GOOD MORNING, SLEEPY-HEADS. IF YOU DID MANAGE TO ACTUALLY SLEEP.
Olivia smiles. Among other things. Details later.
OH, YOU *BET*. HI LINCOLN. HOW ARE YOU?
Exchanging a look with Olivia, who raises an encouraging eyebrow, Lincoln types, Hey! It's not easy from his half-lying position, reaching across Olivia, his arm sliding across her skin, but he makes do. I'm...I've never been better, I think. That's a terrible thing to say in the wake of the averted apocalypse.
AVERTED BEING THE OPERATIVE WORD. AND, I KNOW WHAT YOU MEAN. THAT'S OLIVIA.
Who laughs at that, radiant and at perfect ease post-sex. Lincoln loves her. Like this, and at all other times too. Lincoln touches his hand to the slight curve of Olivia's stomach. Under his fingers, he can feel warm skin, a thin layer of belly fat, muscles. No movement, which is probably normal; it's only been a bit more than four months. "Can you feel her move, Olivia?"
"Lately, sometimes, yes. Very lightly. She's small, still."
"How does it feel?"
Olivia purses her lips, thoughtful. "Like bubbles bursting." She gently strokes over the hint of a bump next to his hand. "Like butterflies. The non-deadly kind."
...he doesn't even want to know, Lincoln doesn't. And, Peter. Lincoln doesn't want him to feel left out. We're talking about the baby. Olivia told me she already moves, a little. But I can't feel her.
USUALLY I CAN'T EITHER. KEPT TRYING TO SAY HELLO FOR QUITE A WHILE. I TALK TO HER A LOT, OF COURSE.
Of course; it's Peter. Lincoln hesitates. He met Robert after the kids were born -- he doesn't know what to tell parents. Except the simplest truth, maybe. It's amazing, to know the child of both of you in there.
SHE'LL BE PRETTY GLAD TO MEET YOU TOO, I'M SURE.
Lincoln swallows -- thanks -- and smiles blurrily at Olivia.
Who smiles back, folds her right hand over his on her belly. Her fingers are warm and a little rough from scars and callouses on her trigger finger. Olivia gives him a rueful glance. "I've only ever told Peter, and it could totally be pregnancy-induced insanity. But already, it's as if I know what's going on with her."
"No; she's not -- it's far too early for that." She frowns, then grins. "Listen to us Fringe agents."
"Talking paranormal powers in the second trimester?"
She runs a hand through her hair, ducks her head. "Quite. It's more like empathy -- feelings. Like, when it gets too loud, or she's just waking up. The crossing of worlds was...not fun for her. But it's actually pretty simple. Probably all mothers know."
Lincoln feels his face twitch. "Um, does that mean she felt us having sex just now? Because while we're at feelings, I don't know about mine."
Olivia blinks at him, then grins. It's like sunshine from behind the clouds. "God, no. That's a one-way street. I was..." she hesitates, then looks him square in the eye, "listening in to her when Peter and I were having sex this week, and she gets, muted and insulated, the pleasure and happiness. It's oddly lovely. But that's it. Probably just what normal kids get."
Yeah, Lincoln thinks, normal probably need not apply, here.
They both look down at her belly. Lincoln sits up and curls the fingers of his left hand into Olivia's, stroking gently across her belly. With his right hand, he types, So, Peter, we still have some time left until we have to be at Fringe Headquarters...
When they hit the shower for the second time in twenty-four hours, Olivia and Lincoln manage not to have sex again.
Once clean and dressed, they venture outside. The streets have been mostly cleared, but public transport isn't running particularly smoothly: Charlie's voice in Lincoln's ear was gruffer than usual when he warned him about severe subway delays both uptown and downtown. They take the fleet car (although Lincoln notes with dismay that one back window has been broken), but that does mean having to wait in line for gas: a stop made even longer by the driver of the double-decker car right in front of them arguing loudly with the attendant at the one pump that's still -- or possibly again -- working. Just when Lincoln contemplates showing them his badge to speed things up, Olivia nods at him and gets out of the passenger side door. Strolls over to where the two of them are throwing up their hands under the ShExxon sign.
Lincoln decides against getting out of the car as well, or even rolling down the window. He can't see Olivia's face from behind, but he knows she's giving them the tentative, tight Olivia smile meant to bring their guard down if they're fools, or to warn them if they're perceptive. The attendant, a thin guy with hunched shoulders looks properly wary, but he's not the problem in the first place. The double-decker makes the mistake of re-iterating his point to Olivia, or trying to; all Lincoln can make out is "price" and "extortion," before his mouth closes, and then doesn't open again. Olivia's stance is wide, as is the spread of her shoulders under the black leather jacket. He can see her arms move: once, twice. From his rapt expression, it seems gas station guy is rapidly becoming her biggest fan. After a minute, double-decker flushes and looks away. Drives away.
He feels his mouth quirk into a smile when Olivia slides back into the seat next to him. "What did you tell him?"
"That he was right, but this not the time and place to complain."
The rest of their trip to Fringe Division is, compared to recent days, so uneventful as to be almost spooky.
Once they're out of Dahlander's office again, Liv bats his careful hand away. "I'm okay, Lincoln."
"Doesn't look like it, really." And it doesn't. There's a long, angry gash running diagonally down her cheek, expertly covered with what looks like heavy-duty butterfly stitches and some clear cream. Liv's hair is vibrant as ever, but there are dark smudges underneath her eyes (always greener than her counterpart's, courtesy of the color contrast) and the usually-soft lines of her face are more prominent today. Her and Charlie's last twenty-four hours must've been different but just as hard as Olivia's and his.
"Rabid dogs," Charlie mutters.
Olivia throws him a startled glance, and Lincoln follows suit. He clears his throat. "I...don't doubt the perps were vicious, if they did this to Liv."
"No," Charlie says, tilting his head and staring meaningfully at Lincoln, "there were rabid dogs."
Liv shrugs, gives them one of her free-for-all smiles. "Long story involving Staten Island, and like most of those, not worth telling. Unlike what you two crazy kids got up to."
Olivia is Olivia; Liv gets only a bland look back. Lincoln, though -- he's not entirely sure his ears don't turn red at the memories. He drops his gaze but catches the knowing slant of Liv's mouth. It's not a secret, Olivia and him, but he still wants to tell Liv, It's not what you think, or if he's honest, Okay, it's exactly what you think, but there are reasons, emotions, and they're compelling. He doesn't even know whether, beyond understandable, deeply human peevishness, his partner on this side minds as such. Liv and he never outright promised each other anything, were unexpected gifts freely taken.
And right now, they have to take charge of other things in the first place.
This world is still dying, Agent Dunham.
Dahlander's words to Olivia ring in Lincoln's ears -- in all of their ears, no doubt. Dahlander didn't sound accusatory up there in his office. Much worse: He sounded preachy. Lincoln didn't want to belittle this side's experience; its people had lived in the epicenter of a cosmic maelstrom for decades now, whereas Olivia's and his home world had been seeing the effects only as of late. But Dahlander was new to Fringe Division: a soldier, not a Fringe strategist. And Olivia had been traveling more worlds and timelines than Dahlander would ever see. If he was lucky.
"So, I'm enjoying the awkward silence," Charlie drawls, not so much derailing Lincoln's train of thoughts as putting it very firmly back on the right track, "except, wait, no: I’m not. Maybe we start talking. How about our official task of presenting a more permanent solution to the instability?"
"Fine with me," Olivia says, immediately. She exchanges a glance with Lincoln, but her eyes focus on Charlie again. No wonder. Lincoln has started to wonder about this side's Robert Danzig -- has already located him with the help of Agent Farnsworth, who admonished him about 52 U.S.C. § 3 (2) and § 41 in conjunction with the U.C.M.J...before giving Lincoln the address and another stern look.
They have to sit down in the smallest conference room; all others are occupied, buzzing with Fringe agents, more than a third drawn from reserves. The temporary fix Olivia forced is going to dissipate eventually, and already the atmospheric situation is far from ideal. Work on the Machine and by extension its Bridge continues, but the overload has, on both sides, fried systems they never knew enough about in the first place -- 'beyond Insert Tab A in Slot B,' Liv mutters, and Olivia quirks her lips in affirmation, adds that even Peter and Walter, for all their intellectual understanding of the Machine, can't work wonders. Peter did operate it, but on a level closer to a user interface once he'd entered it: He didn't devise it on an engineering level. Not in the present. Olivia also reminds everybody that she's not a battery, and that even if she has it now, this strange power of hers could disappear every second. 'Or I could d--' she stops when she sees Lincoln's face, though. Whatever happens, Lincoln thinks, Olivia can't carry the weight of this world, nor any other. There has to be something else. Someone else?
"Maybe we've been looking at this all wrong." Lincoln says out loud. He recalls one Nina Sharp's file, thin even after several weeks of incarceration and attempts to get her to disclose details, but what he does remember is the interviewer's note. "The interrogation records of Nina Sharp -- supposedly she started smiling when she was asked how exactly the Bridge was to be destroyed."
"What do you mean?" Olivia tilts her head at him, gaze sharp.
Liv's more subtle in her shift of attention, but when he glances over, yes, that's the same expression on her face. It's disconcerting, because they're not each other's fun-house mirror, distorted to the level of amusement he thinks Liv felt when she was walking through New York with Lee and him. But they're still Agent Dunham, parallel lines and parallel lives that often veer, sometimes cross, and occasionally, like here, run in perfect tandem.
"Maybe William Bell wasn't ever trying to destroy the Bridge. It did keep our universes connected so their merging could be facilitated." Lincoln looks from one to the other. "But he wasn't relying on the connection -- at least not any longer, when we broke it."
"By then he was relying on me," Olivia says, voice low but resounding. She doesn't look happy at all.
Liv lifts one hand, then the second. "Could be that Bell had Plan A and Plan B: merge our worlds via the Cortexiphan subjects. If that failed, use Olivia." Liv's expression is genuinely apologetic. "Sorry, bad phrasing."
Olivia raises one eyebrow, then offers a curt nod. That's good, Lincoln thinks; back when it would have been flat-out hostile. Olivia is still looking at Liv. "Bad, but accurate. And I agree about alternate plans. Bell was big on failsafes." The corners of her mouth turn downward for a heartbeat. "Or the plans were cumulative, even. But Lincoln's point is that the averted attack on the Bridge actually wasn't directed at the connection between universes."
"Exactly." Lincoln gets up. "Maybe we can get this theory confirmed?"
"The Secretary?" Liv raises an eyebrow.
"I was thinking, a little lower in the chain of command." Lincoln smiles at both of them. "Now that Dahlander is sufficiently --"
"-- convinced," Olivia says, smoothly but with an edge of awareness, and it gives Lincoln an odd little pang because that's what Peter would have done, said. They are rubbing off on one another. With pretty good results, clearly.
True to his word, Dahlander has lifted key security access restrictions. It takes the three of them only a half-dozen showings of, well, Show Mes and slightly fewer electronic hand-prints, plus the usual ferry ride, until they meet up with Colonel Broyles in a nondescript DoD interrogation room fifty feet below the Statue of Liberty.
He takes in Liv without the slightest reaction, but his gaze flickers when he sees Olivia and lingers on Lincoln. He's lost weight that he really couldn't bear losing in the few months since Lincoln last saw him in person (and the truth is that he never got a straight answer when he tried to confirm the ethic checks on interrogation methods used on this side in dire circumstances, for traitors, or both).
"Agents Dunham," the Colonel says, "Agent Lee."
The back of Olivia's hand brushes Lincoln's, and her voice is a mere breath by his ear. "They told him, right?"
He turns toward her, leans in too. In the hollow of her neck and shoulder, she smells like his shower gel, spicy and masculine, but for some reason it matches her very own scent underneath perfectly. Lincoln concentrates on his words. "Yes, from the records I checked, they tried to...make him see what he'd done. What his actions had caused. But he still didn't seem to know more."
Olivia nods and squares her shoulders. One step ahead, Liv is already nodding at the Colonel. "Sir," she greets him, and that's met with a smile more than a little brittle. "We have some questions for you regarding the events at the Bridge just before you were apprehended."
"I have already told you everything I know." Broyles lets out a slow breath. "Which unfortunately is very little."
"Not me; you haven't told me." Olivia says, stepping up to the table and putting her hands firmly down on his surface. "Sir, I know you're an honorable man." There's no doubt in her voice, and no challenge either. She's stating a simple fact. "What you did in the past is done. But you can help us to save this world now."
Colonel Broyles looks at her evenly. "Why do you think I turned myself in?"
"Because Christopher's life may be everything, but it'd mean nothing if his and everybody else's world were destroyed. And that reason stands."
Out of the corner of his eye, Lincoln can see Liv shift, as if surprised, but she lets Olivia be. Lets her do.
Broyles seems weigh her words. "You're familiar with the fact Jones did not tell me what the device would do." He gives Olivia a measured look. "It was only through...my later communication here at these premises that I learned that it had contained explosives and unknown components that the science department couldn't decipher."
It would be funny, to see Liv exchange a glance with Olivia and then ask, "You were told about their lack of success?" Only the situation isn't.
"I deduced it from the interrogators' questions." The edge in Broyles' voice is slight, but he doesn't keep it hidden. He doesn't have to ask if he's right, Lincoln thinks; all their faces tell him -- hell, their very presence here does. And yet. "I can tell you one more thing that I suspected: Jones pretended it was an inconvenience, no more, but he wanted the Fringe Divisions' interaction to cease."
Huh. This isn't exactly a surprise, but it's another stepping stone.
The Colonel's focus shifts to Liv. "How is my son, Agent Dunham?"
Liv tells him: good, considering. Lincoln learns that the bio-chemical cocktail still remaining in one Christopher Broyles' system hasn't been fully retro-engineered, but the research unit has managed to fashion a blocking agent of sorts, keeping his bodily functions up. Halting their degradation. Lincoln's not surprised Olivia is listening with rapt attention; she likes kids, although this level of investment? There was her earlier statement to Broyles, too, all about timelines that never were and meetings that never happened in this Broyles' mind but left a mark in Olivia's.
They've barely left the room when Lincoln lifts his index finger. "I think I know what's going on here."
"Care to share with the class?" Liv's smile has teeth.
He looks at her. "The explosives in the device threw us all, because their purpose was so clear: damage the Bridge and prevent further Fringe cooperation. But the rest of the components --"
"Including one almost like a so-called frequency-wave stabilizer," Olivia says, and Liv and he stare for a second. She shrugs. "I can recall reading it in this side's files. Walter was...not doing well when I approached him with the results of the examination of the apparatus, back when -- the Peter situation. But he mumbled something about a quantum physics paper he wrote on frequency-wave stabilizers in 1978."
"If Walter wrote a paper on it, it's not exactly like filler material in a device that had to be as small as possible, to be smuggled." Lincoln says softly. "Why include it if it served no purpose? Occam's Razor says it did serve one."
Liv runs her hand along the heavy steel frame in this hallway, glances at the door. "What do you think, kids: If we forced this one shut -- with an explosion, right? -- and made sure it couldn't be opened again...but had, before that, thought to jam something in-between the floor and the door?"
"A door-stopper of sorts." Olivia nods, looks at Lincoln.
Lincoln lifts his glasses higher up on his nose. "Of sorts. Only one person left to go to now."
GLAD THE SECRETARY AGREED TO ANOTHER EXAMINATION OF JONES' DEVICE. OR, BELL'S DEVICE, MORE LIKELY. GOOD THINKING, BY THE WAY. FROM ALL OF YOU. WE'LL MAKE PROPER SCIENTISTS OUT OF ALL OF YOU YET.
Olivia grins; her hair flows like water when she leans over the typewriter to respond. Proper like all your science degrees, Peter?
POINT. ALTHOUGH I WENT CONSIDERABLY BEYOND "BEEN THERE, GOT THE T-SHIRT". MORE LIKE, AWARDS.
There's still mirth in her expression when she glances up at Lincoln. "I actually skimmed his papers, you know."
Lincoln remembers, not from her but Peter himself during a discussion of Harvard internals. "The ones he published as an assistant professor of chemistry, right. They weren't what got him kicked out, though, were they?"
Olivia shakes her head. "No. He says he quite liked it, students and research, so he started trying to improve things: introduced suggestions for structural change to the department."
Lincoln gives her a wry oh, bureaucracy smile when the rattle of the keys diverts both their attention.
I'LL RUN THIS BY WALTER, TAKE THE SELECTRIC TO THE LAB. THE SECRETARY AND HIM CAN PUT THEIR HEADS TOGETHER, PLUS YOURS TRULY. DON'T LET THEM GET THE PARTY STARTED WITHOUT US.
Lincoln types, Not until you walk in, no worries. The Secretary locked the device in a bomb safe. "Safe" is definitely the key concept here.
"Did you see the Secretary's face?" Olivia, more somber. "I think he didn't trust Jones -- or Bell -- to have the safety of either world at heart."
"Neither do I," Lincoln says softly. The man is not wrong; even if the wave-frequency-stabilizer of sorts (and no, Lincoln can't believe he's thinking this with a straight face) can function as a narrow conduit, not for passing people but energy, no one says it will be healing. "It could be just another hole punched into the fabric of our universes."
Peter seemingly reads their minds.
YEAH. DEFINITELY DO NOT WANT TO FURTHER THE DEGRADATION. QUITE THE OPPOSITE. SPEAKING OF --
OLIVIA, I KNOW YOU'RE OKAY. OKAY ENOUGH TO START THINKING ABOUT COMING BACK?
The smile on her lips slips a little. She looks at Lincoln, then back down to type. Yes. You know this is a world without Massive Dynamic, so me coming through the tank set up on the ground floor was a one-way trip.
Lincoln thinks of the sensory deprivation chamber in the Harvard lab when he first entered it, far more than half a world away. It's true that when Olivia first told him about how she came here, wet and dripping in the middle of MLK-EC, the thought of a corresponding way back crossed his mind. Right before he banished it and locked it out. Possibly there were bars on these doors in his brain.
WE KNEW THAT, BUT WE STILL THOUGHT A TRIP TO BOSTON, THE OLD LAB OVER THERE
WOULD BE AN ALTERNATIVE IF PUSH CAME TO SHOVE. OR, YOU KNOW, CAME *NOT* TO
SHOVE. FROM WHAT YOU TELL ME, THE OTHER SIDE DOESN'T EXACTLY INVITE TRAVEL AT THE MOMENT.
Time to open up. Lincoln exhales very slowly. "After what you've done for us, Olivia? I have no doubt Fringe Division will move heaven and earth for you, set up a tank for you wherever you like in New York City."
Olivia looks at him, purses her lips. Her eyes are wider than his words warrant, a starburst of surprise. He blinks at her. "What?"
She smiles, but there's still some wonder in her face. "You said, us."
Liv and Charlie did back up the overall plan to build Olivia her very own sensory deprivation tank in New York. Details were another matter. 'Headquarters -- it's where command and control are,' Charlie suggested. 'Sure, but Liberty Island already holds all other cross-universe tech', Liv countered, 'and we know that the DoD science division is up for the job.' Olivia looked from one to the other, steepling her hands, 'Actually, I'd been wondering about just a temporary tank in the park – Martin Luther King and Eldridge Cleaver. I'd be transported straight back into the heart of Massive Dynamic.'
Dahlander finds fault with all of them. Lincoln's regard for Liv rises yet again when she manages to not eye-roll at his lengthy critique on each of their recommendations. Likewise, Charlie's jaw works in mysterious ways even without any gum, but he keeps quiet as well.
When Dahlander has to breathe, Olivia nods quickly and cuts in. "Sir, to be honest, I'm open to any solution that can be set up reasonably fast." She catches Lincoln's eye. "I'm afraid that in order to actually start working on the frequency-wave stabilizer, Dr. Bishop may need a bit of a push from me. Not to mention the Secretary's and Science Division's scans and photos that can only be carried back home on my person."
"Right," Dahlander says, clearly not loving Olivia's leverage here, "since these are highly classified materials under the purview of the DoD, the tank should be constructed on-site. I understand there is a...gift store on your side on Liberty Island. Please be sure to communicate with your team regarding the parameters of picking you up there as to avoid the confusion of civilians."
"I will make sure of that, sir. Liberty Island it is."
Location, location, location, Lincoln thinks, and he too hides his smile.
The Secretary gives his blessings; of course he does. Often enough power and control are a trade-off, but establishing Olivia's present and presumably future passageway in the bowels of the Statue ensures both, for him. Lincoln doesn't like it much. Even without the baggage of her other timeline and corresponding set of betrayals, Lincoln isn't as comfortable with the Secretary as he is with Liv and Charlie. Correction: He isn't as comfortable with the Secretary's multi-layered considerations factoring into the man's choices. They are on the same side now – and how – but that doesn't mean their interests are always going to be in perfect alignment.
Speaking of alignment.
"There hasn't been a single 711 call since you moved heaven and earth," Lincoln tells Olivia on their way back into the bullpen. "And, well, we've found what could be a way to eventually reversing the degradation." His fingers slide over the earcuff, first to check it's there; he no longer feels its slight, metallic weight. “Liv, tell me the world isn't ending again."
A soft snort through the earcuff. Lincoln turns his head to verify it wasn't Olivia making that sound; her facial expression certainly makes it possible. But no, it's Liv, only mildly transmuted. "Not right now. Although if dirigible transport keeps being so badly backlogged, everybody will keep thinking it will soon."
"Don't forget the outbreak of Dengue in Louisiana Territory." Charlie adds, and that's live; Lincoln and Olivia have rounded the corner and are almost at the old team's desks. Charlie's lounging in his chair and lifting an eyebrow at Liv.
"As if I could." Liv ducks her head and slides her hair back with one finger and okay, that's one of her actually-not-amused laughs.
Next to Lincoln, Olivia startles. "Frank – he's there?"
Liv tilts her head. "Yeah. I guess your side's intelligence really deserves its name, after all." Her smile is wry but warm.
Olivia's eyes slide still away from Liv's. "Well, I hope he'll be doing a good job and helping the people there."
"I'm sure he will." Liv's lips quirk. "He's good people. Not the only one, either. Don't know if I've said it yet, but -- thanks."
"Seriously," Charlie adds, face as advertised, "don't worry, Olivia. We'll get you back in one piece, and soon. I'll keep personally pushing this." His pad gives a soft chirp, and Charlie swipes, stares. "Looking great as we speak."
Liv slinks over her desk, looks over his shoulder. "The imminent delivery of your Hex of the Hydra Red-Ray?"
Charlie bumps her chin away with his temple. "Message right below that. Looks like gibberish, but there you go when express-ordering aquarium glass with optimal density for trans-dimensional travel. Man, I can't believe I'm even saying that." He blinks, then focuses on Olivia again. "We’ll shoot for tomorrow morning. Liv?"
"Still coordinating with the Secretary's Office about the schematics, and Ruiz had some input he wanted the DoD labs to listen to, but yeah, that should work. 10am at the Ferry Pier, Olivia?"
"I'll be there," Olivia says. She presses her lips together for a second or so. ""Thank you both. I appreciate it." And not just as an agent. "Liv, can I talk to you for a minute?"
Liv's tongue darts out as she swivels in her chair. She gives Lincoln a glance and looks back at Olivia, who stands very straight. "Sure. Let's step over here."
When the Olivias do, Charlie beckons him over. "Junior says it's about you."
Absently, Lincoln fingers the twenty dollar bill out of his wallet and slaps it onto Charlie's pad while his eyes follow the two of them. "Maybe you haven't heard about this latest research that not every conversation women have is about men." But his heart is not in it.
Lincoln knows where it is instead.
Matters of the mind are much simpler. It's not Broyles' or Walter's favorite solution; as Peter types so aptly from across the universe, some assembly required. Even so, there should be no problem in securing the perimeter in a certain Liberty Island gift shop for Olivia's return.
Fringe Headquarters connects -- literally -- to the Department of Defense science team to let their best and brightest communicate about optimizing the jump from this side to the other. Down in the designated lab space, black-on-white Walter seems enthusiastic enough, if the rapid-fire clicks and rolls of the typeball are any indicator, but Lincoln can tell Olivia is a little uneasy. This is a world without Cortexiphan, without an Olivia Dunham who has powers no one actually understands…up to the point she develops and uses them. She and all the things she can do are undefined variables in the equations both sides are exchanging via an archaic tool hardly made for long, complex discussion.
That said, the Selectric is, as Lincoln notes, surprisingly good when it comes to tossing back and forth formulas: there are key combinations he didn't even know existed on the old lady. Olivia turns her head and looks at him. Reminds him that Einstein didn't exactly have a computer at the ready either.
Now they do, of course. Larger-than-life is not an empty phrase here; the oversize screens transmitting straight from the depths of the DoD fill up C12, and the discussions don't exactly make the lab feel any less crowded. Someone has dragged in a second camera and set up a straight scan of every page rattling out of the Selectric, which only makes sense but also makes Lincoln back up. When his ass almost hits the wall, he raises an eyebrow at Olivia, who promptly tells Ruiz to excuse her, please, and comes over stand by Lincoln's side: closer than proper, not even close to close enough.
"Hey," she says. There are smudged shadows underneath Olivia's eyes, but her smile lights up her face when she runs a soft hand through his hair. "Look, this is just the official part. We'll connect with them again, at your place later tonight."
Lincoln isn't ashamed to admit he leans into her touch. "Olivia, this connection is…not the only one I'm thinking about."
"I know," Olivia says, voice pitched low, "but all the monitors reminded me that there's one more way to reconnect for us. Peter and Walter have looked into the technology that Walter used, back when, to spy on...this side. It's safe, doesn't harm the walls between worlds: a window into the other universe."
Lincoln's throat closes up just a little. "I know; Peter told me. Guess that means I could at least see both of you."
Olivia bites her lip. "First, we could see you, but I'm sure a corresponding window can be constructed here. There's a catch, though, which is why I didn't bring it up earlier -- it works only on-site, bound to the location." Not like the quantum-entangled typewriter, she means; Lincoln has to confess it spoiled him, to at least sometimes carry around a cumbersome but still mobile telecommunication device. He likes to think of the two Selectrics as connected by an invisible but unbreakable thread looping through a dark ether between universes. This Window may be fantastic in the literal sense, but metaphorically it's exactly as mundane as its name.
New York isn't Boston; neither Fringe Division is wont to move, plus there's Peter's and Olivia's new home. Lincoln nods slowly, swallows his disappointment. "So, no interdimensional Skype sessions after all."
"I wouldn't say that." She looks up, and her mouth curves into a smile that's hopeful. "I'll be in New York, for Nina and Massive Dynamics, if nothing else. And I'm sure I can drag Peter along."
It's not a lot, but it's a lot more than he's had.
Olivia and Lincoln eventually leave Headquarters, if not until after the JFK talk.
What Lincoln had absently assumed to be a memorial event, a moniker, had turned out to be exactly what it said on the cover: John Fitzgerald Kennedy, touching base -- so to speak -- with Fringe Division about the respective sectorial input for ACE, his Agency for Consolidating the Ecosystem in light of these more stable conditions. Lincoln did care, deeply, about its task of slowing the breakdown of this world. But he still caught only about half of the communication. For fifty percent of it he was too busy staring at the glittering mosaic screen of the bullpen showing a face that was old but recognizable, not half as withered as he had expected. Olivia next to him did a double-take as well. Nanotechnology to heal was one thing; slowing the aging process was -- a bit creepy, actually. "Maybe he's just a naturally spry nonagenarian?" Olivia offered sotto voce, to which Lincoln replied, "Could be, given the lack of family comparisons." Her mouth turned up at that. It turned up even more at her name being called and Olivia Dunham being briefly commended by the thirty-fifth President of the United States.
Her cheeks are a little flushed all the way to his place.
Once there, they carefully lift the Selectric out of the backseat; setting it up is second nature by now. The typewriter still feels warm under Lincoln's fingers, and the scent of ink is strong. Someone in the lab had the forethought (or possibly the order) to oil the metal parts. Even before Olivia flicks on the light switch in his apartment, the ball with its rings of letters is glistening. A promise, Lincoln thinks.
Not one be immediately realized, though. Olivia looks at him. "It's a long time until seven in the morning."
It's not long enough. Peter will confirm the set-up, and the two of them will be able to confirm the time-frame. But until then it has to be everything. Lincoln swallows and takes Olivia's hand: warm and firm in his. "Let's make the most of it."
In his bedroom, between the sheets and on top of as well as under them, they do. And although Lincoln's eyes don't remain quite dry -- well, right here and right now he does have Olivia to kiss the wetness away, and the touch of salt on her lips when he slants his mouth over hers is faint enough.
The rattle of the Selectric at 6:30am is anything but. Olivia jolts awake, disentangling the two of them and almost throwing Lincoln out of the bed in the process. Lincoln lets out a half-laugh and stumbles to drag the typewriter into bed, placing it carefully in front of Olivia's half-sitting form.
She smiles up at him. "Thanks."
THOUGHT I'D WAKE YOU A LITTLE EARLY SO WE COULD HAVE SOME TIME TOGETHER.
Last time all together, that is. Peter is gentle with him; Lincoln appreciates it.
Olivia's fingers on the keys are not half as soft as her voice was just now. Good morning, Peter. You okay? Did Walter have a nightly epiphany, by any chance?
I'M FINE, LIVIA; WE ALL ARE. ASSUMING YOU REFER STRICTLY AND SOLELY TO THE STABILIZER -- NO.
She gives a little half-shrug at Lincoln, who nods. Worth a try.
Speaking of. Lincoln walks back to his side of the bed and puts his earcuff on. There is a brief recording from Charlie, sent around midnight, that construction at the DoD is proceeding according to plan. No further messages have been pushed across. He glances at Olivia and catches her eye. "We're good; everything seems to be on track."
He wanders back to the bed, where Olivia scoots closer to the Selectric, patting the sheets next to her with one hand, a signal to him, while answering Peter with the other. She's naked, the sheets having slipped down in both their scramble for wakefulness, and Lincoln can't look away from the shaded curve of her spine, except of course to let his gaze follow it upward, loop around one freckled shoulder to where the morning sun is tinting her nipples a warm amber.
Bent over Olivia, it's easy now for Lincoln to read hers and Peter's words.
SO HOW'S THE SHRIMPLET?
Swimming happily. I hate to disturb her yet again for crossing, but there is no other way.
Lincoln is still stuck on Peter's question. He can't help it, grins. "That's one way to not get her confused on the playground."
She looks up at him. "We only found out it's a girl two days ago." Olivia smiles. "I knew our child was all right and didn't need to test its sex, but Peter was so curious."
"You can't tell gender? Or, she herself?"
"She didn't know." Her nose scrunches up, adorably, when she laughs. "She will not for a while."
"So, do you have a list of potential names?"
Olivia lifts an eyebrow. Lincoln asks about our name choices for the shrimp.
ON MY PART, REALLY NO PREFERENCE. JUST HAPPY IT'S A GIRL. HI LINCOLN!
"Hey, Peter," he says, "good to see you," and Olivia faithfully transcribes.
He curls around Olivia, her back to his chest and legs. Lincoln brushes the hair away from the nape of her neck with his nose, breathing her in. Propped on one arm, he reaches out across her to type, a little awkwardly yet perfectly.
You could always go the route of mothers or -- he'd almost have typed 'sisters' because here, in this 'verse, Rachel is dead, but that's not something he wants or even needs to bring up with these two -- grandmothers.
"I'd rather not," Olivia murmurs, and he laces his fingers with hers to hit the keys: Olivia says she'd rather go for something new.
I KNOW. OR EVEN SOMETHING OLD.
Lincoln's heart is beating fast from the nearness of Olivia, and he can't help but brush a kiss to the soft skin behind her ear. She shivers a little and shuffles closer to him until they're flush. Still, he manages to type, Want unusual, I can help. Robert had a large family: Aunt Aislin, Manna Henrietta, Great-Aunt Fionnula.
"Huh." Olivia twists, turns her face toward him, thoughtful. They're very close, almost nose to nose. Close enough to kiss again. He stares at her lips, but then she turns away again, to type nimbly on the Selectric: Peter, the cab driver helping to save me in the old timeline -- his name was Henry. It would fit.
The response is instantaneous. HENRIETTA. HENRY IF SHE'LL BE A TOMBOY. RI IF WE'RE IN A HURRY. AND WE MAY JUST COME UP WITH MORE. I LIKE IT.
Me too. Want me to thank Lincoln for his suggestion?
PLEASE DO. IN MY NAME TOO.
Third time's the charm. When Lincoln has to laugh, his heart lifts more than a little. He can feel the mirror of Olivia's smile against his lips and, for the first time, thinks, Maybe it will all come together -- just maybe, we will.