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"You ever notice," Lincoln murmurs thoughtfully on his left side, "how Charlie's always the one on top?"

"Huh," Liv replies drowsily from his right. "How about that."

It's too smooth an exchange not to have been planned. "First of all, I am right here," Charlie says from between their warm naked bodies, "and second--"

He doesn't have a "second" immediately at hand. It's not an entirely foreign idea; these two have serious lack-of-boundary issues and their clever fingers go everywhere. Charlie understands the theory and hell, Lincoln seems to enjoy it. It's just because he's older and less, uh, experimental with what he wants in the bedroom (not that he ever has any complaint with Liv and Lincoln, they've opened his eyes to a whole lot of new possibilities), he ends up being the one on top. He prefers it, really, it's a natural role for him. He's never had any real motivation to try things the other way.

But these two, they can talk him into anything and he already knows the suggestion is a foregone eventual conclusion.

Lincoln kisses him, butterfly-light on the cheek, and Liv mirrors the kiss on his other side. "Think about it. For next time."

"Assuming there's gonna be a next time," Charlie growls, but the likeihood's not even in question.

***

Turns out it's not the next time, because a class 3 vortex opens up less than ten miles away from Marilyn Dunham's house in Tarrytown. Liv's mom is in France, the house is closed up, and the vortex is contained with minimal loss of life. All that's entirely beside the point when Liv has a mini-breakdown after it's all over, and Charlie and Lincoln have their hands full getting her calmed down and settled. Alcohol is out of the question for her so that leaves cuddling and sex and more cuddling until she's passed out, exhausted.

***

The time after that--

Charlie lets himself into Lincoln's apartment and heads right for the liquor cabinet. Bad manners, maybe, but when he left the scene Lincoln was still dealing with the various rescue agencies and Liv had her hands full holding back civilians. Crappy of him to have run off on them, no question, but this one rubbed him entirely the wrong way. He's feeling jittery, uncomfortable in his own skin in a way that has nothing to do with the bugs.

He's made a significant dent in the bottle by the time Linc and Liv get back. More bad manners: Charlie makes a mental note to bring a replacement next time. "Guys, 'm sorry, but..."

They don't let him get any further, dropping onto either side of him on the couch and wrapping all their arms and legs around him. "Shitty day," Linc says in his ear. "C'mere."

It hadn't even been a Fringe event, just a lunatic on a rampage. They'd been called in when it looked like the perp was using some cobbled-together sci-fi tech but no, as it turned out, ordinary military-grade weaponry was perfectly capable of turning human bodies into wet smears. Over forty dead, and about the only consolation any of the survivors could walk away with was that the gunman hadn't survived either.

But what really got to him was the background they dug up on the guy. No priors, no history of mental illness, by all accounts a stand-up citizen. Just someone who'd snapped under the pressure of what was happening to their world.

Not the first, won't be the last. It's not enough, Charlie thinks bitterly, to wait for the vortexes to do the job. People are gonna wipe themselves off the planet first. All it's gonna take is someone with a twitchy finger on the wrong red button and then it's all over.

Charlie shudders involuntarily, and Olivia makes a distressed sound and somehow manages to pull him in closer. Lincoln is...petting him, hand stroking over his head in a soothing repetitive pattern.

He tries, honestly, to rally and put himself in some semblance of order but he just can't make himself move. "Sorry," he mutters again, not really sure what he's apologizing for. He can feel the looks going over his head and with anyone else, he'd be mortified. But Lincoln's apartment has become a safe zone for the three of them and they've all had their moments, one time or another.

"What you don't get, Charlie," Olivia says in a calm, conversational tone, "is that sometimes we want to take care of you."

He doesn't-- he's not crying, dammit. Or not much. Or maybe he is, finally, and the harsh sobs he hears really are coming out of his own mouth. His partners hold him tighter yet and together, eventually, they make a world that Charlie feels is worth living in.

By the time he can pull himself together he's pretty sure he's an awful mess, but Liv and Lincoln don't look to be in much better shape, so at least he's not the only one. They all mop themselves off and disentangle and stretch out. By the clock it's been--

Charlie blinks at it. Almost an hour later than he'd thought it was. He's still buzzed--no, he's drunk--but at least he can breathe again.

Lincoln squeezes his shoulder one more time. "Let's get some food in you. Counteract the alcohol."

Charlie's not really sure he wants it counteracted but the scent of Thai noodles wafting under his nose from the self-heating container that Liv's carrying makes his stomach gurgle, and his brain knows when it's been overruled. They dig in like starving animals, all eating out of the same pan and breaking into impromptu fork-battles when two of them reach for the same tasty-looking bite.

He's still feeling kind of stupid and slow, and not...not up to the usual acrobatics. He still wants them both, as much as he ever does--the day that stops, might as well stick a fork in and call him done--but he's having a proverbial "spirit willing, flesh weak" moment. It's fucking embarrassing, is what.

But when they finish eating and Lincoln and Liv start to strip him down, hands working in tandem, he can't find the strength to argue either. It's not until they're floating in Lincoln's monster of a bathtub that Charlie finally starts to feel human again. They're all on the verge of turning into prunes when Lincoln and Liv pull him out and begin toweling him off with that unspoken synchronization, not letting him lift a hand to help.

And thank Christ his body finally gets on the right page, reacting to their combined touch the way it should. "You guys'r better than therapy," he mumbles, the words barely coherent and not exactly what he'd meant to say, but they seem to get it anyway.

"I wish you'd let me kiss you for real." Lincoln presses his mouth against Charlie's, not insistent but warm and inviting and God, he wishes he could. The docs all say it's safe but he just can't bring himself to take the risk, even if it's all in his head.

At least it's better than it was the first couple of weeks after he was infected, when he'd been too afraid of his own sweat, his own skin, to touch them at all. He'd been on the edge of turning himself into some kind of freaky plastic-wrapped bubble boy when his partners took matters into their own hands. They'd caught him unaware and snapped cuffs on, intending to have their way, but let him go when they saw he'd been on the verge of agitating himself into a panic attack. The rest had been a process of careful negotiation, with too many lab results presented as "proof" that he wasn't contagious by anything but blood-to-blood contact. And that's fine, that's all well and good as far as the tests are concerned, but Charlie's the one who's got to live with the nightmares. So, the rules: all his bodily fluids stay right where they are, no matter how much Lincoln bitches about the condom or Charlie wishes he could really use his tongue to lick at Liv until she wails, the way he used to.

But if wishes were horses they'd all be eating steak, as his ma says.

So they make do.

Lincoln and Liv push him onto the bed, still not letting him lift a hand. Their hands sweep over his body, not missing an inch of skin, and they start pressing kisses everywhere they can reach. Charlie squirms when they both fasten onto his nipples and suck until he's aching. He catches his breath when they stop to kiss each other over his chest, tongues dueling for dominance.

They stop to look down at him, both smiling like they have a secret plan. "Look at you," Lincoln says, his eyes intent, "so compliant, I bet you'd even give it up for me."

He'd nearly forgotten that conversation. After the day they've had, between the alcohol in his system and their combined warmth, he doesn't have the will or desire to protest. Whatever they want to do with him, he's game.

Charlie lifts his hand to brush over Lincoln's cheek, and that seems to be enough of an answer.

Lincoln grins and leans down to kiss Charlie's forehead. "Goodie. You'll love it, I swear."

"Think he needs to be a little more relaxed, though," Liv says in a deceptively casual tone, and before he knows it she flips around on the bed, rolls a condom she pulls from who-knows-where over his cock, and goes to town.

Even through the latex her mouth is warm and wet and it's all Charlie can do not to thrust up like a greedy asshole. Lincoln's watching too, rapt. Olivia takes him right to the edge, knowing all his responses, and then she pulls away.

Before he can protest she straddles his hips and slides down on him, her palms against his chest.

"You just lie there," Liv says, her voice husky, "and let me do the work."

She starts to move, strong thighs flexing, and he's already so, so close. Charlie tries to lift his hands, reciprocate at least a little, but Lincoln bats his hands away and slides his own fingers in between Liv's legs. She grinds down hard against the two of them. Between Charlie's cock and Lincoln's fingers on her clit she goes off like a rocket, and with Liv pulsing around him Charlie's gone too.

"Teamwork," Lincoln says cheerfully, licking his fingers. Liv giggles and leans down to kiss the side of Charlie's mouth. He reaches up to hold her and she lets him, still for a few minutes like Olivia never is. When his breathing calms she reaches for a washcloth and strips the condom off, cleaning him gently.

Charlie finally pulls his wits together and realizes that Lincoln hasn't gotten off. Shocking, because he's usually the one at the center of the action. Or at least, the most vocally demanding. But then Charlie remembers Lincoln's suggestion and he realizes--

Lincoln's waiting. For him. If he still wants....

Charlie reaches up to where Lincoln's kneeling next to him, stretching fingers that feel like lead to grab Lincoln's chin and pull him down. He can't, he still can't bring himself to open his mouth, but he can kiss Lincoln with all that thwarted intent and hope he'll get the message.

Lincoln grins down at him. "Greedy for more? Good."

He is. Charlie's exhausted but he's also still wound up, and his partners know how to take care of him. It's long past time he let them.

Again with that unspoken accord Olivia and Lincoln get him turned over. Olivia straddles his waist, strong hands rubbing at his shoulders, working out the last of the tension that the water and the sex hadn't dispelled.

"Comfortable?" Lincoln murmurs, and before Charlie can answer he feels Liv shift away as Lincoln takes her place. Lincoln hums as he strokes his fingers over Charlie's neck and shoulders, leaning down to place a light kiss between his shoulder blades.

But as Lincoln's mouth starts to move down Charlie's back, brushing over the crack of his ass and traveling lower, he can't help tensing up.

"Don't," Charlie croaks, even though the last thing he wants is for Lincoln to stop.

Lincoln does, sighing. "I got something special for this. Under protest, but Liv said you'd never let me do it otherwise." He holds up a thin, see-through piece of flexible latex. "See? Totally bug-proof, even though there's zero percent chance--"

"Lincoln," Liv says, like a warning, and Lincoln sighs again.

"Right. I'm trying to be respectful of your issues. Now everybody shut up and let me work."

He feels Lincoln's fingers smoothing the material into place and then his mouth, heading lower in earnest until--

Charlie jumps, he can't help it, but Lincoln just snickers. When he's settled again, Charlie can feel the thin barrier between his asshole and Lincoln's tongue but God, it doesn't seem to matter. Charlie relaxes--he forcibly makes himself relax--and spreads his legs wider.

"There we go," Lincoln says, words muffled against Charlie's skin.

"Less talking," Liv says. "More rimming." There's a tremble in her voice, and Charlie cranes his neck around to see she's got her hand between her legs. She sees him watching and blows him a kiss. "You guys are my favorite porn."

"mmfffgg," Charlie says, intelligently, because Lincoln's taken her instruction to heart. He's no shy virgin, this isn't the first time someone's done this to him, but no one with as much enthusiasm as Lincoln brings to the party.

At some point a slick finger replaces Lincoln's tongue, and then two, and Charlie's straining back against Lincoln's hand before he even realizes that he's hard again, aching for more.

He feels Lincoln add a third finger and it stings a little but it's good, it's really good, and he never would have credited Lincoln with this kind of patience. Even if he's wondering how far Lincoln's going to go. "Y'trying to get your whole hand in there?" Charlie slurs from where his face is mashed into the pillow.

There's a brief terrifying silence until Lincoln laughs, sounding out of breath. "Another time, maybe." He twists his hand and Charlie jumps, but the movement's toward Lincoln and not away, and this time Lincoln's laughter holds a thoroughly satisfied sound.

The fingers withdraw and Charlie feels Lincoln stretch out along his back, cock firm against his ass. And then Lincoln stops, leaning over to whisper in his ear. "You're sure you want this? Tell me yes, Charlie."

"Yes, dammit," he growls, holding onto the tone because if he doesn't begging is next and he'd never be able to look either of them in the eye again.

Lincoln starts to push in and it's a lot, damn, though he knows Lincoln's proportions by heart and the guy's not inordinately large, or anything--

"Breathe," Liv is saying, her hand stroking over his head. "Breathe, Charlie."

It's...bizarre, no question, but Lincoln's being slow and careful and holy fuck. Charlie bucks, swearing. He knows what his prostate can do, thanks very much, but there's a completely different intensity when someone hits it with a dick instead of a finger. Lincoln laughs low in his ear.

"You're a natural."

In the usual course of things Charlie would snark back, but frankly all his still-functioning brain cells are trying to absorb these new sensations. Charlie doesn't think he's going to come again like this but that's okay, that's more than fine because he feels--well, he gets why Lincoln likes this, and he can see where it might be fun to try again when he's not so wiped. Right now it really is enough just to go with the flow, hearing Lincoln's breathing grow rougher and feeling his movements get quicker, the sweat between them making everything slick and hot. Liv's right there too, her face out of the corner of Charlie's eye lit with excitement.

Lincoln groans, deep in his throat, and Charlie feels him shudder even as he curses. "Dammit, sorry, I wanted this to be good for you--"

"It is." His voice is hoarse, the words thick. He can't see Lincoln's face but he can stretch out his hand and flail it around until Lincoln catches his fingers. Liv slips her hand into their grip and Charlie squeezes, trying to reassure them both. "It's good. I'm-- I'm good."

A few hours ago he'd been on the verge of giving up on the whole world. There's nothing more Charlie wants now than to keep fighting for it, if for no other reason than to keep Olivia and Lincoln safe at his side.