Frank knows the only reason he's alive is because he stayed friends with Lincoln after he left Liv and Lincoln got demoted.
He's been selling information to the other side for over a year, getting medical supplies and research in exchange. It's the middle of the night and he gets a text from Lincoln that says, "RUN," and he does. It's the first time that he's thankful for the holes that are ripping both universes apart. There's too many to guard them all.
True to their word, they offer him asylum. They give him a new Show-Me that that's just called a driver's license, a piece of paper that's called a medical license that lets him work in the state of Massachusetts, and a hotel room with a promise that they'll find him an apartment soon. The documents are all in his name. He doesn't need a new identity because this world's Frank Stanton never existed; his mother died when she was a child.
Frank's attending in the emergency room of a hospital, like he did just out of med school. He's been there about a month and is starting to get used to this world. The hospital is one that's near the military headquarters downtown. They get a lot of police and Army causalities, FBI, too, all from the newly-expanded Fringe Division. When he pulls the curtain aside to stitch up the FBI agent that's been brought in, he freezes.
The field jacket she's wearing is scorched and smells of burning electronics, and is splattered with blood. She has one hand clamped around the blood-soaked wad of bandages on her forearm. Strands of her blond hair have escaped from the ponytail and tangle around her face. She's glaring at the bandages, then her eyes go wide when she looks up at him.
"I can get someone else," he offers quietly.
Olivia shakes her head and he stitches the ragged wound in silence.
She's waving off the prescription for antibiotics he's trying to write, nearly out of sight around the curtain when he says, "It was you, wasn't it? On the phone when I was in North Texas."
She freezes and he expects her to leave without saying anything, but she turns back and stares at his legs. "Yeah."
She looks thinner than he remembers, dark circles under her eyes that his Liv would have hidden with concealer. He can see the freckles on her cheeks and nose. "How long before that?"
"Since they released her... me... from the hospital." She runs a hand over her hair, smoothing it into place. "The mental breakdown was them inserting her memories in mine. They made me think I was her."
He feels sort of sick. "But you knew when we talked. After I left. You knew who you were."
"Yeah. I started remembering. I'm sorry I..." Her voice is tired.
His laugh is bitter and cuts her short. "I don't think you've got anything to apologize for, Liv."
She raises her eyes to his, and it's like looking at him is painful. "Olivia."
"Olivia." Her eyes are darker, he thinks, and the blond hair suits her. "It's nice to meet you. I'm Frank."
She covers the tears well.
The second time he see her on her side of the universes, he's consulting with the FBI on a bio-agent that they think is from his home universe. He thinks it's far too complicated to have been engineered over there, but when they ask for help, he helps, even if they don't listen to him.
The version of Astrid on this side looks like she's panicking a little when she notices that Olivia's approaching him and tries to get him out of sight. Olivia just flicks her eyes to his for a bare second, then nods and says, "Hi, Frank," and asks how he's progressing with the research.
He hears a few days later that she lead the team that took out a domestic terrorist organization that was using the chaos to their advantage.
She stops by the hospital to thank him, and she's got a black eye that would look at home on a prize fighter. She just shrugs when he asks if anyone's looked at it. She only argues for a few minutes before she lets him lead her to a curtained-off exam area and tilt her head around so he can look at her eye.
"Have you been icing it? The swelling is pretty bad."
She shrugs again. "Some." She's not a very good liar.
He digs around in a freezer until he finds a couple squishy blue ice packs. He's a little surprised that she hasn't bolted by the time he gets back to her. He holds one of the packs against her face and lectures her on how often to use it and how long to leave it on. She's nearly falling asleep before he's finished, leaning into the pack, into his hand.
He's at the FBI building checking in. He has to do this once a week and she comes around a corner and nearly slams into him. She wearing a black suit with a pale gray shirt under the jacket and her hair falls in a thick braid down her back. He wonders how anyone ever confused the two of them.
"Hey. Your eye looks better."
She nods. "The ice worked wonders. Thanks."
"You wanna go grab lunch?"
She's staring at his chest, hasn't even looked at his face this time, and he thinks he's just so dumb for even asking, but she nods again and says, "I'd like that."
They mostly eat in silence that wavers back and forth between awkward and comfortable. She stares intently at her salad, her glass, the waiter.
"Why won't you look at me?"
She's startled, and her eyes dart up to his face, then away. She stares at the far wall before looking back at him. This time she doesn't look away.
"What Walter did to me... one of the things is I can see that things are from the other side. It used to not happen very often, but the more damage between the universes, the more I can see it. You..." A bitter little smile twists her lips. "Peter was the first person I saw from over there. It reminds me of him."
Frank nods without really understanding, but he understands enough that just his presence is hurtful. "I'm sorry, Olivia. I'll stop bothering you."
"You don't bother me." Her voice is so soft he can barely hear it over the sounds of the restaurant.
It's pouring rain, and she's drenched when she shows up at his hotel room. She stands, dripping, in the hallway, and he can smell alcohol on her. Her hair is loose around her shoulders, wet strands clinging to her flushed cheeks. She almost smiles and gestures behind her towards the door that leads outside. "Um. It's really crappy out there. I thought we could go grab something to eat, but you probably don't want to go out, huh?"
"It's almost midnight. I ate a couple hours ago."
"Oh. Right. I'll um..."
She gestures to the door again and backs up a couple steps just as he backs up a couple steps to wave her inside. She rocks on the balls of her feet, then follows him inside the room.
She swallows and leans back against the door. "One of my teams was ambushed today. By the time reinforcements got there, five of them were dead."
She nods. "We got a couple of them, but I don't think it makes any difference. There's just too many. We can't secure the rips quickly enough, and they just keep getting through." She twists the hem of her shirt in her fingers. "I didn't want to go home. Didn't want to be alone."
"How much have you had to drink?"
She glares at him. "I'm fine. I don't need you telling me how much I can drink."
He holds up his hands. "I was trying to figure out if you wanted another. I should have just asked."
"Sorry." She drops her head back against the door with a thump, then laughs a little. "I've probably had enough."
He gets her a towel and she sheds her coat and shoes.
When she pulls her jacket off, her hair catches in the collar. She sweeps it aside, and the tattoo is like a punch to his stomach. His fingers are on the back of her neck, tracing the mark on her rain-cooled skin before he even realizes he's moved. She goes perfectly still under his fingers.
"Why didn't you have it removed?"
"I just never had the time." She pulls away from him and only sways a little when she turns around. "Did you get yours removed?"
He shakes his head. "No. I never had the heart to do it when I was home, and here... Christ, you know how they remove them here, right?"
She smiles at him. "Worse than getting one in the first place." The smile fades quickly. "Not that I remember getting it. I mean, I remember her remembering it, but I don't remember when they gave it to me." She frowns.
"Do you remember everything?"
"No. I remember things that I thought about when I thought I was her. Once I knew who I was, I couldn't get to her memories anymore."
"That's still probably a lot."
"Yeah. Lots of random things, like I saw a dog one day, and it reminded her of the dog she had when she was little." She looks up at him. "She remembered when the two of you got the tattoos. It's weird. I remember getting it, but I don't remember why, or what it means." A frown creases her forehead, then she grins. "We should go get them removed together."
"Like the opposite of what it was to begin with."
She's still smiling, but it softens, and she isn't looking away from him. She moves towards him and it's his turn to freeze. She tastes like whiskey and coffee, and underneath that so familiar it makes his chest ache. He allows himself a moment to enjoy the shape of her lips before he gently pushes her away.
"You don't want to do this."
Anger flares on her face again. "You don't..."
"Olivia, you're drunk. Let me drive you home."
Her cheeks flush, painting them an even deeper red than the alcohol, and she drops her head and stares at the floor.
"Sorry. I'm sorry, I thought you..." She runs a shaking hand though her wet hair and laughs. "Sorry."
"Olivia." Frank steps close to her and catches her hand. "I do, just not like this."
She stares at their hands, and he wonders what she's seeing. She rubs her thumb over his fingers and says, "Why can't anything be simple?"
He doesn't have an answer for that, so he pulls her into his arms, and she leans against him like he's the only thing keeping her upright. He presses his cheek against her wet hair and breaths in the smell of her.
"You want me to drive you home?"
She laughs a little. "Not really."
"You want to stay here?"
Her voice is quiet when she asks, "Can I?"
He finds sweats that are a little small for him and a t-shirt from the hospital, and she changes in the bathroom. He shoves the mountain of books off of the recliner and gets a spare blanket and pillow out of the closet. When she comes out of the bathroom, they both move towards the chair.
Frank points at the bed. "Sheets are clean. You can have that."
She wrinkles her nose at him. "I'm not kicking you out of your bed."
"It's fine. I'll take the chair."
"No." The tone is painfully familiar.
He holds up his hands in surrender. "Fine."
After a half hour of tossing around, she says, "This is the most uncomfortable chair ever."
"I tried to give you the bed."
"I'd be more comfortable sleeping in my car."
"That's why I use it as a bookshelf." Frank sifts through the implications of what he's about to offer before saying, "I promise I'll stay on my side of the bed."
She's quiet, and he thinks she's just going to ignore him. She shifts in the chair, and he can hear her putting down the footrest, then the bed dips slightly. He can just see the curve of her body silhouetted against the light from the clock on the microwave. He doesn't know why he thinks of it.
"What does it look like?"
He can almost feel her frowning. "What?"
"How you can tell I'm from over there?"
She makes a little sound, like she's thinking about the answer. "It's a glimmer. Sort of a halo all around you. And it's almost like there are two of you slightly out of sync, like double vision."
"I can understand why you don't like looking at me."
"I don't not... like..." She trails off with a laugh. "I like looking at you, it's just a little distracting." He can hear the smile in her voice. "The glimmer, that is."
"Oh, I see."
She swats at his shoulder. Her hand rests on his arm.
"Can you see it in the dark?"
"Hmmm? Yeah. Sort of."
He shifts a little to pull the blanket around his shoulders and she takes the opportunity to worm her way into his arms, resting her head on his chest. She's warm and soft against him, and he circles his arms around her. Her hair's still damp, and he combs his fingers though it, working out the tangles. She startles awake once, eyes wide and fearful, and he rubs her back until she relaxes again. She sleeps soundly after that.
They both do.
They're watching old movies at her apartment and it's well after midnight. They're curled up on her couch, and it's been weeks now and neither of them have brought up that she kissed him. They've settled into a routine that they aren't willing to break.
Neither of them will call it dating, but they end up spending a lot of time together anyway. When she's not busy or in the field, she stops by the hospital to have lunch with him. When he's not working a double shift they go out for drinks and spend the evening talking quietly in a crowded bar. When both of them are overwhelmed and exhausted, they sleep, curled up together at his hotel room or her apartment.
Frank doesn't say anything, but the only time he sleeps through the night is when she's there.
She laughs at something on the screen. It's an old sci-fi, and apparently that's consistent between the two universes, that she likes bad sci-fi movies. It isn't one he recognizes, so he can't tell her the differences between the two. They're lying on their sides, her back against his chest, and he finally feels like maybe he's going to be able to sleep that night.
He murmurs into her hair, "You gonna watch the rest of this?"
She makes a little humming sound, then yawns. "Nah. Seen it." She turns the TV off and lets the remote drop to the floor with a thump. He pulls the blanket off the back of the couch, settles it over them, rests his arm on her hip.
She laughs again when she pulls the blanket and his arm around her. "We're like Mulder, always sleeping on the couch."
"Fox Mulder." There's an incredulous note in her voice, but that doesn't make the reference make any more sense to him. She shifts so that she's laying on her back looking up at him. "From The X-Files."
He shakes his head.
"Oh, my god, you didn't have The X-Files?"
"Is that a movie?"
She pats his cheek. "Your universe sucks. I've got it on DVD. We can start watching it tomorrow."
He still doesn't really know what she's talking about, but she's smiling and that's all that matters.
He wakes up to the sound of the front door opening, and Olivia jerking awake in his arms. She just has time to mutter, "Oh, shit," and push herself off the couch before the door opens and a little girl he recognizes from pictures runs in.
"Hi, baby girl!" Olivia wraps the girl into a hug. She peeks around Olivia's side and smiles at him.
"This is my friend Frank."
Rachel and Olivia are glaring at each other, faces animated in some soft of silent, sisterly argument, but Ella just exclaims, "Hi, Frank! Aunt Liv, are you going to make breakfast?"
Olivia hugs the girl again and says, "Sure. Why don't you go to the kitchen and start getting things out."
"Nice, Olivia," Rachel hisses.
"You don't forget things!"
Frank cleared his throat. "I'll uh... leave."
Olivia looks hurt, and Rachel sighs. "We planned this weeks ago."
"I know, I'm sorry."
Ella looks out of the kitchen. "How many plates should I get out? Is Frank having breakfast with us?"
He starts to say no, but Olivia is quicker. "Sure." She sneaks a look at him. "If he wants."
"I'd like that."
Rachel gives Olivia a final glare and heads to the kitchen. Olivia smiles at him. "Thanks."
"I don't think your sister likes me."
"She just doesn't like surprises."
"Ah. Are you sure you want me to stay?"
He tilts his head at her. "You cook?"
He's with her when Peter comes back. They're walking to her apartment following a late dinner, and it's been a good couple of weeks. There haven't been any major disasters for her to deal with, and it's been slow enough at the hospital that he's working single shifts and actually getting enough sleep. They're both relaxed and smiling when they start up the steps to her building.
She tenses and has her gun out before Frank even registers that someone else is near.
Peter steps out of the shadows. "I know how the machine works. I can use it to save both worlds, but I need your help."
She keeps the gun aimed at him and her voice has no hint of emotion in it when she asks, "Why should I trust you?"
Frank watches as Peter's eyes dart to him, then back to Olivia. "We both want the same thing."
She lowers the gun slowly.
They talk in her living room, and Frank gets the feeling that Peter really wants him to leave. Olivia doesn't say anything so he doesn't.
"The machines are like magnets. If they're operating on opposing frequencies, they'll push each other apart. They'll push the universes apart."
She leans forward and braces her elbows on her knees. "Why are you here alone?"
"Walter doesn't exactly like this solution. The only thing he cares about is revenge. He doesn't see it though. If one of the worlds is destroyed, the other one will be, too. I'm not..." He swallows and looks at his hands. "I won't let him do that."
"The machine has to be running?"
She shakes her head. "There's only one of you."
"I know how it works. I can make it listen to you." He clenches his jaw and stares at the floor.
"It's not... what you were made for. It accepts me as part of it without hurting me. I don't know what it will do to you."
She shrugs. "They made me to save the world, Peter. That's what I'll do."
They make plans, and when Peter leaves, and Frank offers to go, too. She steps close to him and her voice is ragged when she whispers, "Stay. Please."
This time he doesn't push her away.
He tangles his fingers in her hair and kisses her until they're both breathless, both making hungry little sounds and pressing as close to each other as they can get. They're still standing in her living room, just inside the door. Her fingers are tugging up the back of his shirt, teeth nipping his lips. She pulls his shirt off over his head. He brushes his fingers over her skin as he unbuttons her shirt.
He kisses her shoulder, down her chest along the dark line of her bra. He lifts his head to kiss her neck, wishes his lips could be everywhere on her at once. She leans back against the wall, then arches to reach behind her to unfasten her bra. When he sucks her nipple into his mouth, she gasps and twists his hair around her fingers.
The flat muscles of her stomach twitch under his lips and he sinks to his knees in front of her. He smooths his hands over her hips when he pushes her slacks and panties down, kisses her soft curls. She tilts her hips forward, and she's already slick when he presses his lips to her, opens her with his tongue.
Her breathing goes ragged and her fingers tighten in his hair. The taste of her makes him growl, lick into her hungrily, cup her ass and hold her just there. She's whimpering so softly he can barely hear her, little mewls and "oh's" that are whispers. Even the yelp when she comes is quiet.
She pulls him to his feet and he pulls away from her, doesn't kiss her because she doesn't like that, but her arms twine around his neck, and her tongue's in his mouth. She hums and hooks her fingers in the belt loops of his jeans and drags him towards her bedroom.
He pauses at the foot of the bed, digging around in the pocket of his shed jeans for the condom. When he looks up, she's grinning, nightstand drawer open and holding up a condom of her own. He laughs and crawls on to the bed, rolls the condom on and kisses her. He tenses for the movement that never comes, flipping him on to his back and setting the pace. Instead she locks her legs around his waist and rolls her hips. He sinks into her, and she holds his mouth to hers and he feels like he's drowning.
He's warm and content and trying desperately to ignore the fear that she's going to kill herself saving the world. Olivia's sprawled next to him, smiling, and he wonders if they just stay there and ignore the world, maybe it won't need saving. She fishes at the end of the bed with one foot until she catches the blanket and pulls it over them, pressing her back against his side until he rolls and spoons against her.
He brushes aside her hair and kisses the tattoo on the back of her neck. In some weird way, he thinks that it worked out right, that she's the one who's supposed to have it. She sighs and presses closer to him.
"What do they mean?"
"It's in the First People's language. The script that's in the ruins that are on the other side." He kisses her again, can feel the slight ridge of the black ink under his lips. He smiles against her skin. "That which is meant to be."
When the worlds wrench themselves apart, Frank feels like someone's stabbing him in the chest. He collapses, and the last thing he sees before he blacks out is Olivia and the machine, wreathed in light and lightning.
When he comes to, his head is killing him. Olivia's pushing herself up, and for a moment he thinks everything is perfect, and that she's saved the world and he's hopeful. Then she lifts a hand to her nose, frowns at the blood, and her eyes roll back as she starts seizing.
They won't let him follow her into the hospital. Rachel gets there and doesn't even glance at him in the emergency waiting room. Astrid at least looks at him, and after an hour comes back to tell him that Olivia's stable but still unconscious. They don't know what's wrong.
The waiting room is chaos. He catches the eye of one of the nurses he recognizes and she looks so overwhelmed that he just reacts, helps her with the patient that's bleeding out under her hands. He changes into scrubs after that.
He does two shifts straight before staggering to the on-call room to sleep. The beds are filled, and one of the interns looks up at him, groggy and confused.
"You want the bed, Dr. Stanton?"
Frank shakes his head and makes do with the uncomfortable chair until the next shift starts and he goes back to work. It starts to slow down after about 48 hours maybe, he's sort of lost track, and he's cleaning up the exam room when he hears a little sound behind him, like a whimper and he turns.
Her arms are tight around his chest and she's wearing a hospital gown. "You weren't there."
In her bare feet, her head just reaches his chin, but she feels fierce and strong in his arms. He kisses the top of her head, and chokes back tears.
Her voice is raspy, harsh. "I thought you were gone."
"I'm here." He kisses her forehead. "I'm here."
She pulls away, and she frowning at him and fighting tears, when her expression changes. She lifts a hand to his cheek, then smiles, whispers, "You're here."