Like We Were Yesterday
Relationships: Olivia Dunham/Lincoln Lee
Characters: Olivia Dunham, Lincoln Lee, Nick Lane
Summary: Olivia and Lincoln find Nick again.
Notes: Begins post- "Forced Perspective" but before Lincoln goes back to visit Hartford in "Making Angels." AU for the rest of season 4.
Thanks to samjohnsson for beta!
It wasn't like Lincoln had any extra time, between trying to get himself established in Boston and simultaneously settled into his new division, but something about the Cameron James case kept nagging at him.
He read over the case file, had Astrid fill in the specifics that didn't go in the report-he'd learned already that in Fringe Division, the omitted parts contained the most pertinent details by far-and started to make notes.
The investigation went on hold as they dealt with the appearance of Peter Bishop. And then Lincoln was distracted for a few weeks, after Olivia met him at the diner and then for a morning jog and then, astonishingly, they wound up in her bed and all the weird cases in the world were the furthest thing from his mind.
But he still felt there was something important in chasing down the lead, so eventually he gathered up the files, finally dragged from the guts of Massive Dynamic's archives. And how interesting (or creepy or alarming) was it that the company held thousands upon possibly millions of bits of data and Nina Sharp always seemed to know precisely what they were looking for, when Olivia asked.
He found a list, the subjects identified by their number and then name, and started skimming for the two names he knew would be there.
Subject 9: Cameron James
Subject 10: Miranda Green
Subject 11: Nancy Lewis
Subject 12: Susan Lewis
Subject 13: Olivia Dunham
Subject 14: Nicholas Lane
Lincoln jerked bolt upright, staring blindly down at the printout. It'd be the biggest coincidence of all possible coincidences, but Lincoln had already started to distrust that anything associated with Fringe Division was truly mere happenstance.
Because he knew the name after Olivia's. He'd gone to high school with a Nick Lane. It probably wasn't the most uncommon name, but Lincoln was positive even without checking that it was the same guy. Despite everything else going on—his evolving relationship with Olivia and the mystery of Peter Bishop and the existence of shapeshifters and an alternate universe and trying to track down David Robert Jones—his subconscious had been hard at work, trying to remind him: Nick had mentioned growing up in Jacksonville.
It was the last subject Lincoln really wanted to get into with Olivia, considering the whole "experimented on as a child" topic, but after a little bit of digging confirmed it was the same Nick Lane, he couldn't put the discussion off.
Olivia was silent as he showed her the printout and the records he'd found of Nick's life. They painted a grim picture, and Olivia's face was full of memories Lincoln wished he hadn't awakened.
"Cameron wondered if I was 'lucky' that I hadn't had any side effects," she finally said, very quietly. "I'm not sure that's the right word. Where- where is Nick now?"
"Living in New York," Lincoln told her, and nodded to the incredulous look on Olivia's face. "I know. That can't be an accident, can it? You and Nick and Cameron, all in relatively close proximity. I ran spot-checks on a few of the others and the ones I could find are in the area, too. Nancy Lewis is here in Boston, her sister Susan is in New York, Miranda Greene's in Rhode Island."
"Not a coincidence," Olivia said in a distracted, strained voice. She shuffled through the papers. "I thought I saw- here it is. The insurance policy Nick used, Cyprox. That's the common thread. That was part of the compensation for participation in the trials. The insurance is comprehensive, but only a few hospitals still honor those policies, and they're all in the northeast. We moved up here when my mother was sick, they took care of everything." She added, almost offhandedly, "Cyprox was part of Kelvin Genetics."
"Which later became Massive Dynamic," Lincoln finished, and Olivia nodded. "That's a pretty big incentive for people to stay in the vicinity."
Olivia glanced away, like she was ashamed of something. "There might be other reasons. There were...suggestions, insinuations that we were meant to be soldiers, that we would need to be ready. I ran away before the end, but...I wouldn't be surprised if the others were given post-hypnotic suggestions to reinforce the training. Including the inclination to stay in the area."
"And you forgave Walter for all this?" Lincoln blurted before he'd meant to say anything at all, but the sentiment was accurate. It was easy to feel sorry for the wreck of the man Dr. Bishop was now, but he'd left a trail of horror behind him, a past that kept coming back to haunt them all. Judging by Olivia's face, she was feeling particularly haunted at the moment. "I'm sorry, that was-"
"No," Olivia said, reaching over to take his hand. "It's all right. I know how it sounds. And Cameron really was right. I was the lucky one."
Lincoln squeezed her fingers. "Can you tell me about Nick? About Jacksonville?"
Olivia's fingers tightened around his hand, but she nodded. "It's mostly a blur. I set a room on fire when I was really little, they were always trying to get me to do it again. They finally scared me into doing it again when I was seven. They had Nick on the floor with makeup like he was all bloody, and I nearly burned the school down. That's when I ran away." Olivia looked away again, biting at her lip. "We were- Nick and I were paired together for the experiments, we leaned on each other for support. We were close. And I missed him after I left but never...never went back to look for him."
"You were just a kid," Lincoln said, but Olivia shook her head.
"I could've tracked him down later, though, after the school closed. I could have asked Nina where he went, and I never did." Her eyes found his again, full of self-recrimination. "I know I'm not supposed to blame myself for not wanting to revisit childhood trauma, but this..." she gestured toward the files on the table and Nick's picture. "I can't help but think he wouldn't have ended up like that if I'd-"
"Olivia," Lincoln said, as firmly as he could, "none of that is your fault."
"I know," she said, though her eyes were still troubled. "But you said you knew him, too?"
He stared at her, helpless to give back anything but the truth. "I knew Nick in high school. We were...close."
Olivia tilted her head, her eyes intent and knowing. "Did you...did you date?"
Lincoln felt himself going right back to his awkward teenage years with the blush that he felt rising on his cheeks. "Not-not officially, not in any way we talked about or acted on, but there was definitely something there." There would have been more, maybe, if Lincoln had been more certain, if Nick hadn't been so...unpredictable.
They'd met on the track team. Nick ran like he was trying to outrun something terrible; Lincoln always imagined he was running toward something desired, even if he couldn't put a name to his longing.
He'd been both attracted to and disturbed by Nick's strange highs and lows. They'd spent their time like any other kids: riding bikes, reading comics, listening to music. But Lincoln remembered feeling helpless when Nick's depression threatened to crush them both beneath its weight, and equally helpless to resist when Nick's manic highs led them on "adventures."
He told Olivia all of it, creating a bridge between her childhood with Nick to his adolescence to...wherever they were now. "This means something, doesn't it. That both of us knew him?"
"I've become a lot more suspicious of 'coincidence' since working on Fringe cases," Olivia agreed. "But maybe this really is."
They spent the rest of the evening in companionable silence, but Lincoln knew they both had the same thoughts in mind. It wasn't until much later, both of them lying awake under the weight of their memories, when Olivia spoke again.
"Come with me? To St. Jude's?"
"Of course I will," he said, and Olivia nodded against his chest, and together they both finally drifted off to sleep.
Agent Broyles approved the search for the other Cortexiphan subjects, piercing eyes intent while Lincoln sweated through the request. "And I believe it's important for Agent Dunham's own history," he confessed, but despite that-or perhaps because of it-Broyles gave the go-ahead.
Peter was consumed with trying to get back to his world, wherever that might be, and Walter had finally agreed to help him. Lincoln and Olivia left Astrid to watch over them both (that woman deserved a raise, seriously) and headed to New York, to the asylum where Nick had spent most of his adult life.
They were met by a Doctor Miller: blonde, attractive, impressed by their credentials, and eager to gossip about Nick as if she'd never heard of HIPAA.
Lincoln and Olivia walked alongside her as the doctor talked, enthusiastically. "I remember Nick very well. He was already a residential patient when I arrived here, which was about five years ago now. He had a very comprehensive insurance policy. Quite old. I'd never seen one like it."
Olivia threw Lincoln a knowing look, motioning for the doctor to go on.
"Nick checked himself out about four months ago. He was here voluntarily, after all, and he'd been doing much better for the past year. Nick was an interesting person-he had a kind of brightness to him."
"Intelligent," Olivia said, like she already knew the answer.
Doctor Miller nodded. "Yes, quite, but not what I mean. He had an emotional brightness." She smiled fondly, like a teacher talking about a favorite student. "If he was happy, he would light up a room. Sad, he was like a black hole that would suck you right down with him. Hyper-emotive is the clinical term. Put simply, his affect was highly infectious."
Olivia frowned. "Was he dangerous?"
"No." The doctor sighed as if she'd taken Nick's case to heart. "No, if anything, his ideation tended toward self-contempt. Toward the suicidal. Although he did suffer from some psychosis when his delusions were florid."
Lincoln couldn't help asking, after a quick glance toward Olivia. "What sort of delusions?"
Doctor Miller waved her hand. "Typical paranoid fare. Nick was convinced he'd been recruited as a child for a series of top-secret experiments. That he was being prepared to serve as a soldier in the coming war against denizens of a parallel universe."
Olivia's mouth was pressed into a tight line and Lincoln thought it would be a really good idea to end the interview before she expressed her own distress. "Thank you, doctor, that's all very helpful. We'll see ourselves out."
Outside, Olivia let out a long, pained breath. "'Delusions,' she said. Only every word was true."
"What she was talking about, though, that sounded a lot like Nick when I knew him. The hyper-emotive part, I mean," Lincoln amended quickly.
Olivia hesitated for a long moment. "That was...that was his power, back then. He could project his emotions onto other people. But if he was really manifesting, we would have heard about it. The whole asylum would have been affected. Or the apartment he's at now."
"And your power was the, the pyrokinesis?" He felt like an idiot for saying the word, but it fit.
"No, that was just a...a side effect. Like Cameron's metal attraction, when his real power was astral projection."
There was an obvious follow-up question there, but Lincoln felt it was best to leave it be for the moment. "We have Nick's address. Do you want to head over?"
"Yes." Olivia waited until they were in the car, then reached over to take his hand. "I don't know what he'll be like, if he'll even remember me. But thank you for doing this. It's like getting back a part of my life I'd forgotten about."
Lincoln squeezed her hand and Olivia squeezed back, smiling. "I'm pretty curious, too."
Maybe their combined anticipation made Olivia drive a little faster than usual, but they reached the apartment building without incident. The building was older but well kept, apart from the broken elevator. But when Lincoln and Olivia climbed the stairs to the right door, they discovered multiple locks had been installed, setting it apart from its neighbors.
Lincoln had absolutely no surprise that no matter the circumstance, Olivia refused to hesitate. She raised her hand and gave the door three hard, sharp knocks.
A voice rang out from inside, and Lincoln recognized it immediately. "Leave the package outside the door." It sounded like a rote response, and Lincoln had the feeling the man inside said it a lot. As if he had food deliveries, laundry, or whatever else he needed brought to his door.
"Nick Lane? It's Olivia Dunham. And Lincoln Lee," Olivia said in her clear FBI voice, although Lincoln could see her hands were shaking. "Can we-"
There was a crash from inside, and then the sound of feet pounding across the floor and the locks being pulled back in haste. The door flew open and Nick was standing there, gaping at them.
He looked...older, obviously, thin and wiry and with the scar on his face that Lincoln had seen in the asylum pictures standing out in stark relief on his face. His blond hair was cut close, along with his thin scruff of beard, but he was still-Lincoln noted with a strange sense of unease-dressing in the same dark colors he'd worn as a teenager. The same dark colors, he also realized with a jolt, that filled Olivia's closet.
And his eyes, the same remembered piercing pale blue, staring at the two of them in disbelief.
"O-Olive?" Nick said, voice high and thin with uncertainty. "You found me?"
Whatever Olivia had been planning to say, it was wiped away by the look on Nick's face. "I'm here," she said, and Lincoln saw that she was near to tears. "Nick, I-"
"Olive, Nick said again, like her name was a lifeline, and Lincoln watched in astonishment as he fell to the floor, his knees hitting the thin carpet hard, and leaned forward to press his head against Olivia's legs.
Olivia's hand flailed for a moment, then came to rest on Nick's head like a benediction. She stood there, staring down at him, until the tears spilled over and she dropped to her own knees. Olivia leaned in, her forehead resting against Nick's, while their fingers entwined like children's. Lincoln could only stand over them speechless, recognizing the moment for its significance and watchful for any movement in the hall that might disturb it.
Long moments passed before they drew back to look at each other. Nick blurted, "I never thought I'd see you-" at the same time Olivia was saying, "I'm so sorry I didn't-"
They both stopped and smiled at each other, communicating in some kind of unspoken language. The last thing Lincoln wanted to do was interrupt their reunion, but he also figured it would probably be best if they continued in private. He shifted a little to draw their attention, found himself on the receiving end of two nearly identical amused smiles, and stood back while Olivia and Nick got back to their feet. "Come in," Nick said softly, "both of you."
The apartment was furnished simply, nothing extravagant, but not cheap either. An overflowing set of bookcases was the most prominent feature. A chair in front of a computer desk was lying on its side, obviously the source of the crash before.
"Lincoln Lee," Nick said, marveling, and put his hand out. Lincoln took it, meaning to shake, and found himself pulled into an embrace. Nick was evidently much stronger than he looked. Lincoln hugged him back but Nick's face was buried against his neck and Lincoln, too aware of Olivia watching, pulled away.
"Wow, you haven't changed a bit," Nick said, not without irony, and grinned. But his eyes kept darting back to Olivia, like he was afraid she'd vanish if he blinked for too long. "But how do you know Olive, how did you find me?"
"We work together. FBI," Lincoln said, showing his badge, but Nick barely glanced at it. "We ran into, uh..."
"Nick," Olivia said softly, "There was a case. It involved Cameron James, do you remember him?"
"Yeah. From Jacksonville." Nick glanced between the two of them, trying to read their faces. "Oh. Oh. That kind of case. It's- it's all coming back again, isn't it?"
Olivia hesitated, then nodded. "We investigate these kinds of things. After the incident with Cameron, Lincoln suggested we follow up with the rest of the Cortexiphan subjects, to see if anyone else was having...issues."
"Issues," Nick said remotely. "I guess you would have gone to St. Jude's first, right? So you already know I have 'issues.'" He smiled wryly, then glanced around. "Hey, I'm a terrible host. Grab a seat. I don't have any coffee, but I have about a thousand kinds of tea."
He went into the kitchen and gathered glasses when Lincoln and Olivia opted for water, constantly peering over the low wall divider at Olivia and Lincoln to make sure they didn't disappear. Lincoln crossed the room and righted the computer chair, catching Nick smirking at him for his orderly tendencies just like he used to, while Olivia walked over to a rocking chair in a corner and picked something up. When she turned around she was smiling and holding up a bedraggled teddy bear. "Snuggles. I remember him."
"He's the only good memento I have of those days." Nick shook his head as he came back out of the kitchen. "This is crazy, you both being here. Like a dream."
They seated themselves, Nick sitting across from them so that he could see them both. Lincoln noted with amusement that Olivia was still absent-mindedly holding the bear. "But it's a much better kind of crazy. I know what the reports said. 'Hyper-emotive, delusional, suicidal.'" Nick grimaced. "I have good days and bad days, you know? Like everybody else. But I'm a lot more functional than I used to be." He glanced at Olivia again. "You look...perfect. You were always the strong one."
"What happened, Nick?" Olivia asked, sounding calm enough, but Lincoln could see her hands held together so tightly her knuckles had gone white.
Nick started to chew on his finger, a regular nervous habit judging by the state of his nails. "Well...you left. You ran away and never came back. And after that nothing worked for me, they tried to pair me with someone else, but it didn't work." He paused, mouth moving without forming words, until he finally muttered, "I didn't work."
"Nick, I- I missed you too," Olivia said, her voice thick and sorrowful.
"But you left." Nick said again, like that fact was the only constant of his world. "You left, and then the program closed, and I wasn't anybody but one weird kid with a head full of weird drugs and weird dreams."
"When I knew you," Lincoln started, and had to pause to swallow hard as Nick's gaze fell on him. "You didn't say anything about any of that, and I can guess why."
Nick half-shrugged. "I was in all kinds of therapy, and I'd already learned what not to say. I- you were my only friend, you know? I couldn't risk telling you."
"You vanished," Lincoln managed. "A year before graduation. You just disappeared and no one could tell me where you'd gone."
"I had an...episode. It'd been years since the last one, but it was bad." Nick's hand rose idly to rub at the scar too close to his eye. "That was the last straw for my parents. They packed up and moved me before anyone could find us, and had me committed for my own good." He stopped, chewing at his lip. "I really...hated them for that, for a long time, until I realized it'd been the best thing for me. When the shrinks finally got the right mixture of meds working, I was cleared for release, and I tried to make a go of things. I got my GED, tried to make it work outside. But it didn't, and after awhile I turned right back around and I checked myself back into St. Jude's to stay. They- they were good to me, you know? Kept me from hurting myself and I didn't have to worry about freaking anyone out. I was practically the most normal one there. Most of the time."
"But you've been out for a couple of months now, and..." Lincoln gestured around the apartment. "Seem to be doing okay?" It came out as more of a question than he'd intended.
Nick nodded. "Turns out when you're in for long-term voluntary commitment and don't have to worry about expenses, you end up with a lot of time on your hands. I read a lot. Got a couple of advanced degrees online. I have a talent for languages, so..." he shrugged. "Mostly these days I do translation work for a couple of major companies."
Olivia said something in a language Lincoln vaguely recognized as Mandarin, and Nick smirked and answered back in the same tongue. His accent, from what Lincoln could tell, was flawless. Nick switched back to English and said, "Yeah, maybe it has something to do with the Cortexiphan. I can listen to anything, even in my sleep, and just pick it up. Colloquial usage, even, if I find a native source."
"How many?" Lincoln asked, fascinated.
"Uh. About 30 or so?" Nick shrugged again, looking self-conscious. "Maybe 40. I've kinda been messing around with African languages lately, just for fun."
"That's just- cool," Lincoln said, and Nick grinned and ducked his head. "But, uh..." he cleared his throat, trying to get in the right mindset. "tlhIngan Hol Dajatlh'a'?" he managed, and coughed.
"HIja'. loQ vIjatlhlaH, " Nick replied smoothly, straight-faced. Then he paused and added, "qaleghqa'mo' jIQuch. qamuSHa'."
"Sorry, you've exceeded my nerd vocabulary. What was that...?"
Nick waved a hand. "Never mind."
Lincoln glanced over at Olivia, who was staring at the two of them like-well, like they were speaking in tongues. "I'd explain, but, uh, you'd probably want to put in a request for a new partner on the grounds that yours is too geeky to live."
Olivia smiled wryly. "I think I got the gist. Besides, you have other talents."
Nick's eyebrows drew together in puzzlement, and then his eyes widened. "But wait, you two, you're together. Not just for work. That's- that's like fate, right? The only two people I ever loved, sitting right here in front of me, and you're-"
Lincoln found himself standing and he took an involuntary step forward, then another, caught in Nick's magnetic tide. It had always been like that, Nick's emotions so raw and on the surface that Lincoln couldn't help but be swept up as well.
"Nick," Olivia said sharply, and it was like a spell breaking. Lincoln blinked, glancing between them, trying to understand. He'd been- he'd been walking toward Nick to hug him or something-
Olivia was staring at Nick, her eyes intent. "That was a little more than a passive affect."
Nick covered his mouth with his hands and closed his eyes, seeming to concentrate. Lincoln felt something like a cloud in his mind lifting, a fog he hadn't even been aware of. "Shit," Nick said, his voice muffled behind his fingers. "Wow, sorry. That hasn't happened in a long time."
"Wait, that was your power?" Lincoln asked. "I thought-"
"He's starting to manifest again," Olivia said, her voice heavy. "I'm immune, just like Nick was immune when I set the room on fire."
"Yeah, and a good thing that was," Nick snapped, his hands dropping to his sides. "They provoked you into a reaction and I could've been burned alive. I wonder if that was factored into the risk assessment, or if I would've just been collateral damage?"
Olivia reeled as if slapped, and Nick looked horrified at his own words. "Olive, I'm sorry, I'm not angry at you."
"Cameron's power seemed pretty active too," Lincoln said slowly. "Why is this happening now?"
Olivia shook her head slowly. "We should consult with Walter."
Nick sat bolt upright. "Walter Bishop? You're working with him? So now that my powers are back, you're gonna haul me off to a lab again?" Lincoln could feel the emotional surge, identifiably distinct from himself this time, a rising crest of fear. "I won't be a lab rat again, I'll run before-"
"Nick!" Olivia's voice was as sharp as a whip's crack, and she crossed the room to sit at Nick's side and take his hands. "I won't let that happen. I promise. No one's taking you anywhere."
He stared at her, face still frozen in panic, until something in their shared connection broke his paralysis. To Lincoln's surprise, Nick looked over to him for confirmation.
Lincoln hesitated, then nodded, feeling compelled to add, "There has to be a way to, uh, stop or control your ability, right?"
"I can control it," Nick shot back, and then slumped back on the couch. "Except I just proved I can't." He stared down at Olivia's hands, entwined with his. "It was always better when you were there, remember, Olive? But I guess that's not a permanent solution."
Lincoln saw Olivia's fingers rub over Nick's wrists, as if she was reluctant to agree. But her voice was steady. "We'll figure things out together." She glanced over at Lincoln. "I'll call Broyles and let him know where we are."
Olivia stepped out into the hall to make the call, and Lincoln knew why. Nick's situation was precarious and an argument with Broyles was imminent; there was no point letting him overhear it.
In the meantime, Lincoln had other questions. "Nick, you don't go out? When we knocked, it sounded like you have all your deliveries left at the door."
Nick shrugged. "I'm not a complete shut-in. I go for walks when it's quiet. I guess...I guess with my history, it's just easier not to be around people."
"That's another reason to let us help you," Lincoln offered by way of argument, and Nick sighed.
"I know you're right. You were always trying to help me. Guess that hasn't changed." Nick glanced at him briefly, then looked down. "I never got to tell you what you meant to me. I hated leaving things like that, but afterward I figured it was best you didn't know what had happened. Still. I don't think I would have made it even that long in school, if it hadn't been for you." Nick paused and raised his eyes, looking at Lincoln for a long moment. "I wish I'd kissed you, back then."
It was almost, almost too tempting to cross the room to him, despite Olivia, despite everything. Lincoln held his ground, but he smiled and wondered if Nick's empathy would pick up on what he couldn't say. "Yeah. Me too."
Nick smiled wryly at him. "I still can't believe you and Olivia are together. I mean, that's awesome."
"You know, I think so too," Lincoln said solemnly, and they were both still laughing about that when Olivia came back in.
"Our boss, Agent Broyles, would like you to visit the Massive Dynamic facility for evaluation. I'll go with you," Olivia said quickly. "Nina Sharp, the Executive Director, knows all about the trials."
Nick snorted. "Yeah, I bet. I know Massive Dynamic took over from Kelvin Genetics, I did the research. Sharp was in on it from the beginning, with Bishop and Bell. Why should I trust her?"
"Because I do," Olivia said evenly. "Nina raised me and Rachel after our mother died. She never tried to make me use my ability, if that's what you're concerned about." She hesitated for a long moment. "Broyles...didn't want me to leave you here, if your powers are manifesting. But I told him I didn't think you posed any significant risk to the people around you."
There was enough emphasis on the last part to tell Lincoln that Olivia had put herself in a delicate situation, trading on her experience and unique position to bargain for Nick's continued freedom.
"This is one of those things where it sounds like I have a choice, but I really don't," Nick said slowly.
"You do," Olivia said. "No one's going to come after you here, as long as your abilities aren't affecting anyone else. Or you could disappear," she offered, offhandedly. "That's what Cameron did. He seemed pretty unhappy, though. And if his powers flare up, we'll be right back where we started." Her professional manner dropped away again as she watched Nick's face. "But I- I don't want you to disappear."
Nick was silent for a long moment. "I'll go. But only if you're both there."
"Wouldn't suggest otherwise." Olivia smiled, and Lincoln nodded in confirmation. "I'll set things up with Nina and explain the situation. We'll go in the morning, if that's all right."
"Better to get it over with," Nick said morosely, and Lincoln really hated seeing the unhappiness on his face.
"Hey, Nick," he said softly. "You remember the time we stole the whole football team's clothes out of their lockers?"
Nick glanced at him, startled, and then his face opened into that grin that still pulled at every string in Lincoln's heart. At least, the ones that weren't tied up with Olivia.
They spent the rest of the evening talking about old times (mostly high school shenanigans, since neither Nick nor Olivia seemed to want to discuss their shared experiences), laughing over takeout, before Lincoln and Olivia said good night to find their hotel.
Outside of Nick's apartment building, Lincoln looked up toward his window. "You think he'll be there in the morning?"
Olivia nodded with no hesitation whatsoever. "He'll be there."
They were still renting two rooms, as per FBI protocol. Lincoln felt bad about wasting taxpayer money, but not bad enough to stay in his own room when Olivia was waiting for him in hers. She'd already stripped down to a plain long t-shirt, though she'd refrained from raiding the mini-bar. Lincoln wouldn't have blamed her, really. "Quite a day."
"Productive, though," Lincoln said. "Nick looked good, don't you think?"
"Yeah. You didn't ask," Olivia said abruptly. "What my ability was."
"I figured you didn't want to talk about it."
"Still true." Olivia offered him a lopsided smile. "I'd nearly forgotten, but then Peter said-do you remember, in my apartment, before you went over to the other side? He said to me, 'What do you even need Walter's device for, when you can just cross back and forth any time by yourself.' I've been thinking about that, and I finally understood what he was talking about."
Lincoln had mostly been thinking about the botched mission on the other side, and how lucky he and Peter were they hadn't been shot out of hand. A couple of hours locked in a storage closet hadn't been that bad, considering the probable alternatives. "But he was talking about his Olivia, the one from his timeline, right?"
"Right, but we've already determined that things in his timeline and our world happened very similarly. I-" she took a long breath. "When I was a kid I could see objects that were from the other side, they had this kind of...glimmer. And when I was really scared, I could cross over to the other universe. I remember drawing pictures of their blimps in my notebook. That's what Walter was trying to get me to do, when I set fire to the room."
"That's...amazing," Lincoln said, the words feeling entirely inadequate. "Even better than a pair of ruby slippers."
"Yeah, I just wish I'd remembered how to do it when they kidnapped me," Olivia said wryly. "But there hasn't been anything, not since I was a kid. The thing is..." she got up, her hands twisting. "This afternoon, with Nick, I think it was me. I think it was my being in proximity with Nick, our combined emotional states, that's why his power activated. If we hadn't gone, he might not have ever manifested again."
"Olivia, you can't know that for sure."
"But I feel it." She laughed shortly, no amusement in it at all. "And Walter was always telling us that our abilities were based on our emotions. This- this means I'm responsible for Nick, from now on. Because I did this to him again."
"Not alone, you didn't," Lincoln said as firmly as he could, as Olivia looked at him with surprise. "If you- if you triggered him somehow and that makes you responsible, that makes me equally responsible, for starting the investigation that brought us to him. You could even say it's all my fault. Go on, I don't mind."
Olivia looked torn between laughter and denial, clearly wrestling with her usual insistence on taking the weight of the world on her own shoulders. "Lincoln-"
"You're not in this alone," he told her, wanting her to believe it more than anything. "I want you to know that. I want you to know-"
Her lips parted slightly, and he knew she'd heard what he hadn't said. "Lincoln," she said again, softly, drawing close. "Tell me."
This nondescript hotel room is the last place he would have chosen, but she'd asked and he never could keep any kind of secret. "You'll say it's too soon, and you don't have to- I love you, Olivia. I won't leave you alone with this. Or anything. If- if you let me."
Her hair swung to cover her face as she ducked her head and for a moment Lincoln was terribly, terribly afraid that he'd blown it, lost his new girlfriend and his new career all in one moment. But then Olivia was smiling at him, biting her lip but smiling, and everything was going to be all right. She was obviously looking for words but Lincoln kissed her instead, because he could, because she let him.
Nick was ready to go when Lincoln and Olivia came to collect him in the morning. "I thought about it a lot, last night," he said, looking nervous but determined. "I think this will be better for me. If I can learn to control my ability, I can stop taking all those drugs. And believe me, I'll be happy to get rid of all those side effects." His nose wrinkled and Lincoln couldn't suppress an involuntary chuckle.
The Cortexiphan trials had ended years ago, but to no one's surprise Massive Dynamic still had protocols in place, a proposed series of trials for the training and development of young psychics. When Olivia and Lincoln and Nick met with Nina Sharp, she suggested that those techniques might help Nick rein in his ability.
After being shown around the facility, and with Olivia's and Lincoln's assurances that they'd check in on him by phone every day, Nick agreed to give the system a try. Nina stepped away to give them a moment, before Lincoln and Olivia left to return to Boston.
"Listen, whatever happens here, it's- it's just so good to see you. Both of you." Nick looked between them, like he was trying to memorize their faces. He stepped forward suddenly, catching them both in an embrace, and it was impossible to do anything but hug him back.
It didn't strike Lincoln at all strange until later, how much he hadn't wanted to let go.
Title from "Bizarre Love Triangle" by New Order. Draw your own conclusion.
L: Do you speak Klingon?
N: Yes, I speak a little. ... I'm glad to see you again. I love you.
- translation from omniglot
Doctor Miller's appearance nearly verbatim from "Bad Dreams."
Three inspirations for this fic:
1) Ray asked:"exactly how much do i have to pay you for you to write me some olivia/nick/lincoln as in, happy threesome living together." Didn't quite get there with this chapter.
2) And then in a later conversation (as much as tumblr allows conversation), the suggestion for David Call as a season 5 regular (WE CAN DREAM OKAY) made me speculate, "that's a whole AU. Olivia, Lincoln, and Nick, the new Fringe Division investigative team." Which...clearly didn't happen in this chapter either.
3) This story also owes a nod to Alice Starling's "Through the Black Amnesias of Heaven", which postulated that Lincoln knew Nick in high school.
For much (much) more, see my page at AO3. Link in my profile.