When memories of a previous timeline started to overwhelm Olivia’s sense of reality, she was faced with a choice between two lives.
She recognized how important the previous timeline’s events were, both professionally and personally: the memories of dealing with Jones and Newton, the truth of John’s death, Peter.
But this timeline held her life. She and Astrid and Walter had closed many of the same cases, and here she had memories of growing up as Nina’s ward, and Rachel’s two children.
There was so much terror in the other timeline, so much loss and sadness. Yet, again: Peter. And all the memories of him she couldn’t bear to lose again, never mind the man himself, who needed her to anchor him to this world.
Working with the alternate universe’s team on the other side of the bridge showed her a third possibility. Olivia being Olivia, she didn’t hesitate to take the unconventional path.
“Stay,” she told Peter. “I won’t let you go again.”
“Stay,” she told Lincoln. “I need you to help me remember.”
Olivia faced the two men, took a deep breath, and said, “I need both of you.”
And that—wasn’t that, wasn’t even close to the end of that. But the conversations and negotiations had to take place in between dealing with Fringe cases and being kidnapped by Jones. Olivia would never say so out loud, but she thought privately that everything she endured had been worth it. Her ordeal ended up being the catalyst to bring her and Peter and Lincoln together, confirming the attachments between the three of them.
The overlapping sets of memories still threw her off balance occasionally, but having access to all those experiences paid off immediately. She could look at Peter and remember everything they shared; she could look at Lincoln and know him for who he was. She could remember her bond with Nina and how cases resolved in two timelines. That knowledge gave them an edge as events began repeating, some patterns seeming inevitable: they were several steps ahead of the transformation on Flight 718, even if all the details didn’t line up.
The immediate personal benefits made all of it easier, of course. Multiple orgasms tended to put everything else in perspective.
The Fringe teams of both universes gathered in force to deal with an appearance by the shapeshifters on the other side of the bridge.
Even in the middle of a crisis, there was time to gossip. “It makes sense,” the other team’s Charlie told Olivia, sounding amused. “Liv and Linc and me, you and Lincoln and Peter. Everything parallels, somehow.”
Olivia never got tired of listening to him talk, if only to hear his voice. Some of the things he said, though....
It had taken her a while to understand the code by which the Fringe agents on the other side lived their lives. The Fringe team over there was a committed trio, but not a closed one. Lee had an occasional thing with his old friend Nick Lane. (Hearing that name reminded Olivia to follow up on the Nick she’d known as a child.) Charlie had a standing date with Mona Foster, who’d helped him solve his arachnid problem. Frank Stanton was still very much a part of Liv’s life.
And they were open to other possibilities. “Survival calls for a celebration. You’re all more than welcome to join us,” Captain Lee said after a near-miss from an assassin’s bullet. He leered at his alternate. “They say twincest is best.”
“We’re not actually related,” Lincoln replied in a cool even tone, but Olivia noted he hadn’t protested the implication, either.
She couldn’t look at her alternate that way—there were still a lot of difficult memories there—and Charlie mostly made her feel like she had her old friend back. She hadn’t had a sexual interest in Charlie Francis in the old days, although if Sonia hadn’t been around, who knows? Olivia’s memories of being in Liv’s place when those three were together after-hours definitely blurred the issue.
She had those memories of Lee as well, and they were exceptionally compelling.
With the shapeshifters uncovered and the alternate Nina Sharp in custody, Olivia and Lincoln and Peter were invited to the standard after-case revelry. The bars on this side welcomed Fringe agents, providing food and drink for their heroes.
Liv and Charlie were sticking close to Lee, perhaps more shaken by his close call than any of them wanted to admit. The rest of the division had ceded the six of them a table, but Olivia couldn’t help noticing the many fascinated and frankly speculative glances they were drawing.
“And over here,” Peter was saying, “no one cares about you three being together?”
Charlie shrugged. “Too many other things to worry about, with the world falling apart and all.”
“Besides,” Liv said from where she had tucked herself under Lee’s arm, “who’s gonna say boo about it?”
“Victor, spoils,” Lee said absently, carding his fingers through Liv’s hair, his other hand on Charlie’s thigh. “Or something like that.”
The casual touches started turning into not-so-surreptitious groping. Charlie chuckled softly. “Okay, time to take this home.”
“Aw, Charlie, you know how much Linc loves putting on a show,” Liv teased, but she stood up and got a good grip on Lee’s collar. “C’mon, soldier boy, let’s go get naked.”
Lee allowed himself to be pulled away, glancing over at Olivia and Lincoln and Peter as he went. “Coming? No? Maybe next time.”
Olivia laughed into her beer. “What did you think of Lee’s offer?”
Peter smirked and looked toward Lincoln, clearly interested in his answer. “I think,” Lincoln said in that same controlled tone as he’d used with Lee, “that man is a libido with legs.”
Lincoln took off his glasses and rubbed at his face. “And. I never thought of myself as a narcissist but damn, I’d hit that.” He glanced at Olivia. “If I wasn’t already spoken for, of course.”
Olivia smiled at the unexpected phrasing, exchanging a significant glance with Peter. But any speculation about possibilities needed to wait until they ended Jones’ threat.
And that turned out to be a challenge none of them wanted to repeat, but in the end they stopped Jones, and more important, thwarted William Bell’s plans without closing the bridge. Olivia was fiercely glad for that; the other side still needed the interface to keep healing their world. And they would be able to find and help the other Cortexiphan subjects Jones had manipulated, including Nick Lane.
Over the following months meetings with the other side included occasional intimate invitations from Lee and the others, but Olivia was becoming increasingly uncomfortable in her own skin. Not an unexpected consequence of her new status, but inconvenient as hell. Even if the end result would be worth all the awkwardness.
All three of them, Olivia reflected with more than a bit of embarrassment, really should have been more responsible about birth control in the first flush of their relationship.
During the latter half of Olivia’s pregnancy, Peter and Lincoln and Astrid took on the job of traveling to the other universe when cases or consultations demanded. Olivia hated the enforced inactivity, taking solace in the official accounts and even more in the private details Lincoln and Peter brought back.
“Charlie ambushed me this time,” Peter reported, grinning. “He said all the flirting was fun, but wondered if any of us were ever gonna seal the deal.”
Peter’s inflections perfectly mimicked Charlie’s rumble. Olivia laughed, adjusting the pillow behind her back again. They’d found a house outside of Boston on a quiet lane, big enough for the soon-to-be-four of them and far enough away from nosy neighbors to avoid awkward questions. Olivia’s deadpan stare, Lincoln had remarked, would stop all other prying in its tracks. “Have you noticed,” Olivia said into the air, “how often this topic comes up when we’re already in bed?”
“Considering all the energy they’re investing in trying to get us naked, that seems appropriate,” Lincoln commented. He settled himself at the end of the bed, drawing Olivia’s feet into his lap and beginning to massage her arches, which always seemed to be aching these days.
“Y’know, we never really did settle on a collective response to that.” Peter threw the statement out casually, but both Olivia and Lincoln knew when he was fishing for a debate.
Olivia tilted her head, considering. It was an interesting theoretical exercise, if nothing else. “Even assuming mutual interest...why should we?”
“Why shouldn’t we?” Peter countered. “Far as I’m concerned, we’re all living on extra time. Might as well make the most of it.”
Lincoln eyed him. “And that includes debauched interdimensional sex parties?”
Peter shrugged. “What happens on the other side, stays on the other side. And that sounds like fun to me. But only if we all agree, and no one should try to talk anyone into it. Consensus or not at all.”
Lincoln didn’t reply immediately, which was as good as an answer; if he was thinking about it, odds were high he wasn’t innately opposed. That went for her, too. Peter glanced at both of them and couldn’t quite suppress a smile. Olivia chose to give him credit for trying. “Table it for now. I’m not in any shape for that kind of...party.”
“I like your shape,” Lincoln said with gratifying quickness.
“Mmm, yeah,” Peter said, displacing the pillows to slide around behind her and cup her breasts, carefully avoiding her too-sensitive nipples. “You’re still up for a private party, though?”
“Definitely,” Olivia said, and reached to draw Lincoln in.
Naming their daughter had involved more discussion than all the rest of the process combined. “No names from friends or relatives,” Peter had declared, looking unusually serious. “Kid’s gonna have a hard enough time, the three of us for parents and what we do for a living. She doesn’t need those ghosts on her shoulders.”
Olivia, who had secretly been holding onto a bid for “Charlotte” after Charlie, couldn’t argue with the logic. “I’m not fond of names like Hope or Dawn.”
“I’d vote against alliteration,” Lincoln called via the pass-through from the kitchen. During the last months of her pregnancy Peter cooked, Lincoln did the dishes, and she got to put her feet up; Olivia thought she’d gotten the best of that deal. Not that she wasn’t earning her leisure, of course. “I was lucky, but—no ‘D’ names.”
Olivia hadn’t even begun to consider the question of whose last name to use on the birth certificate when Peter and Lincoln sprung their declaration on her in a quick, inarguable coup. That was fine by her; “Dunham” would be easiest on the official forms, anyway. “Should we make lists and compare?”
“Something’ll strike us,” Peter said, and in his case it probably would. She and Lincoln were more apt to make exhaustive lists, explore every option...and in the end, stumble on a suitable choice. Different method than Peter, same result.
That was representative of the rest of their interactions. They’d hammered out a balance between work and home, all of them glad there were three of them to lend a hand. Olivia didn’t know how just two people managed, especially once Zoe was born. Walter and Astrid were willing co-conspirators to their arrangement; Broyles turned a deliberate blind eye to retain plausible deniability.
In retrospect, they’d found that balance remarkably easily. Olivia had done discreet research in retrospect: nonmonogamy, polyamory, classifications, guidelines, a thousand different variations on the same themes. She’d asked questions on a polyamorous message board, using an alias and a dedicated laptop separate from all other accounts and as many layers of security as Astrid could provide. (A lot.) So many assumption didn’t apply to them, so many questions about the openness of relationships and negotiating jealousy and the reasons why they wanted to challenge the traditional model of a relationship. They hadn’t been an established couple looking for a third, or three single people deliberately looking for a poly relationship, or any of the usual models.
She and Peter and Lincoln loved each other; it really was as simple as that. But then, Olivia had to admit, the three of them had a significantly different outlook when it came to expectations about the course of their lives. When your priorities included keeping the public from discovering how close they’d come to annihilation on any given Thursday and liaising with an alternate universe, everyday concerns tended to fall by the wayside.
They were by definition a polyfidelitious triad, a lot of syllables to say that they were committed to each other. Exclusively, in this universe. The possibility of liaisons with the team on the other side was a distinct exception, and one they were still considering.
Why they were all willing to entertain the idea was probably worth discussing. Olivia though it likely had a lot to do with the nature of their work, on this side of the bridge and the other, and the few people in the world(s) who could understand. The thrill of the other universe in all its variations. The lure of a unique opportunity, even.
And raw attraction. She couldn’t dismiss that factor. Plus in her case, some very intimate memories that, frankly, she wouldn’t mind replaying in this timeline.
They’d idly discussed the other side’s offers, but things had been in upheaval between Fringe cases and her pregnancy and finding the Cortexiphan subjects. In retrospect, Olivia was glad she and Peter and Lincoln had the time to work on their own partnership, their relationships individually and as a trio. But the next time the question arose, everyone involved deserved an honest answer. One way or another.
Olivia had missed the other universe more than she realized: the tang of the air, the airships flying overhead. Her first trip back was more of a pretext to reestablish connections than for any particular reason, but no one begrudged her the time. Frankly, Lincoln and Peter had more-or-less kicked her out of the house. She hadn’t wanted to leave Zoe, but there was always work that needed doing, and Olivia was eager to get back to it.
Captain Lee was there to greet her at the bridge, as friendly as ever. He demanded to see baby pictures before he would talk about work, gossiped about his partners and hers, and asked if she was comfortable so many times that Olivia finally picked up a datapad and started flipping through the other side’s recent cases until he settled down with her and got to work.
He did concentrate admirably on the data for at least an hour, filling in details that hadn’t made the official reports. And then Lee looked up from the files and asked without preamble or context, “Forgiveness or permission?”
Without thinking about it Olivia said, “Forgiveness,” and Lee nodded and leaned over and kissed her.
She nearly punched him. It was a close call, but she felt that he was braced for a hit—honestly expected it—and that perversely, made her reconsider. So she relaxed into the kiss, and while she didn’t fully reciprocate, Olivia made it clear that she considered his impulse a friendly overture and that she was not opposed to being friendly in return. Perhaps at some more appropriate time and place.
“Wow.” Lee sat back, looking a little stunned. “I thought it’d be worth a try. I didn’t really expect—”
Olivia raised an eyebrow. “Waiting to hear the part where you beg my pardon.”
“Right. Yes. I most sincerely apologize for taking the liberty, and for the presumption, and for offending you, although I think I’m okay on the last.” He eyed her hopefully. “Care to steal one back?”
Too appealing by half. Olivia smiled. “I need to discuss it with my partners first.”
“Discuss, please,” Lee said eagerly. “And make sure they know they’re both welcome to join in.”
“They’re aware,” Olivia said, and bent to the files again. Out of the corner of her eye she watched Lee fight with his desire to comment and miraculously win. She smiled to herself again.
Lee kept his demeanor conspicuously professional during the rest of their meeting, but he did stop her as she was about to head back over to her side of the bridge. “Listen, Olivia—you know I’m extremely interested in fooling around with you guys. Charlie and Liv are, too. But I know things are different over there, maybe not as, uh, uninhibited? And we don’t want to mess up your relationships in any way. I—we—can back off if you decide you don’t want to play. We’ll respect that.”
Olivia smiled, warmed by his concern and thinking about Peter’s and Lincoln’s opinions on the matter, spoken and unspoken. “I’m fairly certain we’ll reach an agreement in your favor.”
Lee pumped a fist into the air, looking absurdly young. “Yessss! I told Charlie we just had to be patient.”
“Work on that,” Olivia said dryly. Although considering it’d been over a year since his first proposal, his willingness to wait on her decision wasn’t really in doubt.
But his self-control was clearly fraying. Lee grinned, already looking celebratory. “Hurry back.”
She hadn’t been sure how to reopen the subject, but she didn’t have to; Peter and Lincoln had already guessed at Lee’s proposal. But then, he and Charlie (and maybe Liv, though neither of them had mentioned that) had been making overtures while she’d been otherwise unavailable.
And as she’d suspected, it wasn’t really a discussion of if as much as when. Everyone had already been thinking about the details.
“Ground rules,” Peter said. “Everyone uses condoms. The Pill notwithstanding and whatever high-tech contraception they have over there. We all know how easily Olivias get pregnant.”
Olivia didn’t miss the extra “s.” Lincoln probably would have caught it too, if he hadn’t had something he needed to say. “Whatever we agree on only applies over there. I don’t want to share either of you in this universe.” He shrugged. “Over there feels like fantasyland anyway. Not that it’s not real, but....”
“Different universe, different rules,” Peter agreed.
“And we agree beforehand about who we’re interested in. No surprises.” Olivia felt herself blushing but forged ahead. “I’m interested in Lee.”
Peter said without missing a beat, “Charlie and Lee, yeah.”
Lincoln’s face was bright red. “Uh. Liv and Lee and Charlie and why’m I suddenly the greedy one?”
Peter laughed softly. “Nothing wrong with that.”
“But more important, I’d like to know why I’m the only one thinking about Liv.” Lincoln looked between Olivia and Peter, searching their faces. “Does it have something to do with your timeline? Should I take her off my list?”
“No,” Olivia and Peter said together, and glanced at each other. They’d told Lincoln about a lot, but not the particulars of Liv’s infiltration in the other timeline. Olivia cleared her throat. “There are some bad memories for us, but they shouldn’t color how you see her. Those things didn’t happen here.”
Lincoln still looked unsure. “It’s fine,” Olivia said softly. “Flattering, even.” That was a more generous way to think about the situation than any past association.
She wondered if it would still be fine if anyone had looked past the science team—if Peter had proposed the other Astrid, maybe, or Lincoln had been intrigued by the other Nick. But she suspected that would have been too messy, given the potential for confusion with their doubles here.
“And I think,” Peter said with a particular seriousness that wasn’t at all sincere, “you two should get the first crack at Lee. So to speak. Since Olivia remembers being with him anyway, and Lincoln...” he smirked, all pretence of solemnity dropping away. “Lincoln can’t wait to fuck himself. Both of them.”
“That’s,” Lincoln started, protesting, and then sighed. “Accurate.”
“Everyone’s all right with this?” Olivia asked, looking into their faces, searching for signs of doubt. She didn’t find any, either in them or in herself. Peter was right: Life really was too short to regret missed opportunities.
Once the three of them had settled on a plan of action, it naturally followed that several weeks would pass before they were called back to the other universe. They could have manufactured a pretext, but Olivia suspected that none of them wanted to seem overeager. As if propriety had anything to do with what they’d decided.
Both teams had taken to researching the other side’s files when a new case arose, since sometimes events on one side manifested at a later date on the other. So when rumors of an “invisible man” were reported to the Fringe tip line, Olivia and Lincoln were called across the bridge to consult.
They resolved the repeated case with fewer fatalities and a more satisfactory outcome—in this universe, Eugene Bryant could get the help he needed. “Are we staying over?” Lincoln asked, sotto voce, while the other team was wrapping up the last details. They were back at Fringe Division, and Olivia couldn’t help but admire the efficiency of their operations. But then, they’d paid dearly for all the practice.
“Assuming the invitation still stands,” Olivia said, which seemed like a safe bet.
“You missed the part when Lee ‘casually’ mentioned having access to a suite at the Grand Hotel for visiting dignitaries,” Lincoln said, smiling wryly. “On the off chance anyone was too tired to make the long trip back across the bridge.”
“So thoughtful,” Olivia said, equally amused, “it’d be a shame to put the offer to waste.”
There was no question of backing out, not in light of the spark in Lincoln’s eye or the way her pulse jumped when she looked across the room toward Lee. But reopening the topic....
“Awkward,” Lincoln said, reflecting her thoughts. “We should’ve settled on a codeword.”
Dithering didn’t suit either of them, and their...target...would appreciate a straightforward approach. With Lincoln in tow, Olivia walked over to the other group and said, as evenly as she could manage, “Captain Lee, I understand there’s an offer of accommodations for interdimensional travelers.”
Lee started to turn, his expression comically flabbergasted before Charlie kicked him in the ankle. “Uh. Yes! If you— if both of you—”
“Smooth,” Charlie drawled. He glanced at Olivia. “You commandeering our captain?”
“If that’s a suitable arrangement,” Olivia said, struggling to keep a straight face. There were bystanders, and she supposed plausible deniability was useful in this universe, too.
“Yeah,” Liv put in, smirking. “Kinda figured he’d get the first shot. Lincoln Lee, irresistible in every universe.”
“Standing right here,” Lee protested, but faintly, like he still couldn’t believe his luck.
“We’ll return him unharmed,” Lincoln offered, smiling at Liv’s comment.
“Oh, you don’t have to be gentle. Ride him hard and—” Liv started, and then rolled her eyes at Charlie’s glance. “Eh, you’ll figure it out.”
“I’m sure,” Olivia murmured. So much for subtlety. Liv hadn’t spoken loud enough to be overheard, but they were drawing glances nonetheless.
Charlie flapped a hand. “G’on, we’ll finish the wrap-up. Linc—”
“I know,” Lee said, and the looks that went between him and Liv and Charlie were nearly too intimate to witness. When he turned back to Olivia and Lincoln, he’d regained his customary grin. “Let’s go while the getting’s good.”
The ride over to the Grand Hotel was quiet, full of anticipation. Olivia had looked up the architect Gaudi’s proposed project after she’d seen the building over here; never built on her side, in this universe it was as impressive as its designer had dreamed. An airship was docked at its rounded peak, and the entire building was adorned with gilded carvings.
“I’ll make sure everything’s ready,” Lee said, and slipped away to leave Olivia and Lincoln gaping at the enormous, over-decorated lobby.
“Gaudy is right,” Lincoln murmured, and Olivia had to agree.
She caught movement out of the corner of her eye and looked over to see Lee waving them over to a side elevator. “Private entrance,” he said when Olivia and Lincoln came over. “Fringe Division puts up visitors from the other agencies here. Those we like, anyway,” he amended.
“So this is business as usual for you?” Lincoln asked with a smirk, but they were both surprised by the shocked look on Lee’s face.
“No! No, it’s really not.” He clearly had more to say, but held up a finger as the elevator sped upward to the 98th floor.
He led them into one of the suites, but Olivia was more interested in what Lee hadn’t said than in looking around. With the door safely shut, he looked at both of them. “No, listen, I know it looks like I flirt with everyone, but there’s just Liv and Charlie. And Nick. You guys are the exception list.” He paused, considering. “And Steve McQueen, but that’d require time travel.”
“We’re glad to be the exceptions,” Olivia said, and stepped in to kiss him to emphasize the point. It wasn’t at all like her memories of being Liv’s unknowing stand-in, and she was glad for that; this time she was fully in her right mind, fully consenting, and that made all the difference.
They broke to find Lincoln staring, his color high. “We’re beautiful,” he said, sounding stunned.
“Yeah, you are,” Lee said. “C’mon, let me see.”
Olivia cleared her throat. “Before we really get started, we need to define parameters.”
Lee’s eyes were bright with excitement. “You mean safe words, things like that?”
“Eventually. But I’m thinking more about...” she paused, casting around for the right words.
Lincoln found them for her, although his voice held the slightly amused exasperation often evident when he talked to his alternate. “Consequences. Emotional repercussions. You know, the stuff that doesn’t happen in your pants."
“The fun stuff happens when I’m out of my pants,” Lee shot back in much the same tone, but he nodded to Olivia. “Boundary negotiations, I get it. Liv and Charlie and I play it by ear, mostly, but I can see where you—” he checked himself, visibly. “Different universe, different rules, right?”
Which was exactly what Peter had said. Somehow, that made Olivia a lot more comfortable with the discussion. “Right, yes.”
Lee nodded and waved toward the room. “Sit, we’ll talk.” He went over to the minibar and grabbed three bottles of water.
Olivia took a seat and glanced around, seeing the suite for the first time. It was more tastefully decorated than the exterior spaces. They'd entered into an expansive living area that included a mini-kitchenette. A hall led deeper into the suite, presumably to the bedroom and bathroom.
“I’m a little surprised,” Lincoln was saying. “I thought you’d be too impatient for a discussion.”
Lee set a water bottle in front of Olivia and tossed another at Lincoln. “Like you’re not. But hey, no reason not to be civilized about it.” He paused. “Briefly, anyway.”
Olivia had no interest in drawing out the anticipation, either. It had been over a year already. “We just want to make sure we’re on the same page about our expectations.”
Lee nodded. “You guys live in another universe. I’m not assuming or looking for anything permanent. I expect to have a good time—great time,” he amended quickly, “and hope for a repeat, in whatever configuration you want to try.”
She smiled at his cheerful, eager tone. “You talked about wanting to ‘play’ before. That’s a good word for it.”
“A little more polite than the usual terms,” Lincoln said dryly. “One other thing: I’d like a little more separation of work and private time, between the two teams. It’s a distraction, sometimes.”
“No more flirting on the job. That’s fair.” Lee stretched out in his chair, putting himself on display. “So you’re distracted by me and my sexy partners?”
Lincoln groaned while Olivia laughed. “Now that we’ve done our due diligence...our time here isn’t infinite.”
Lee smirked and got up, walked over to his alternate, then made a face and reached toward Lincoln’s glasses. “May I?”
Lincoln nodded and Lee slid them off, putting them carefully on a side table. “Can you still see me?”
“I see you very well,” Lincoln said hoarsely. It sounded to Olivia like some kind of quote; she didn’t recognize it, but Lee evidently did.
“Have at me, twinner,” Lee said, and leaned in for a kiss.
She’d thought Lincoln and Lee would be all over each other—the chemistry there was evident, if double-vision inducing—but after the initial contact they seemed to reach some unspoken agreement and turned to her instead. Olivia took a deliberate drink of water and stood. “I’d like to clean up a little. Oh—we need supplies?”
They’d brought overnight bags with basic toiletries—standard operating procedure—but nothing more elaborate than that. “We didn’t pack a pharmacy,” Lincoln said, and Lee grinned.
“In the bedroom, part of the package. The hotel is very discreet.”
She nodded and was heading into the back when Lee said behind her, “Olivia....”
She turned to see his face. He was still standing very close to Lincoln, but there was no mistaking either of them for the other. “Just so you’re forewarned. I want to lick you ’til you scream. Does she scream?” he asked Lincoln, then shook his head. “No, don’t tell me, I want to find out for myself.”
“You’ll get your chance,” Olivia threw back, and redoubled her speed. It would be rude to keep such a generous offer waiting.