One moment Olivia's standing next to her desk in the FBI building, watching Lincoln's back as he slouches his way to the elevators and trying to ignore the flicker of a shadow in the holding room's door window, and the next she's in Lincoln's bed.
Or more accurately, in her bed. With Lincoln.
It's definitely her bed with the rumpled white sheets and the comforter spilling onto the floor. The sounds filtering through the half-open window are so familiar it's hard to pick them apart - the muted hum of early morning traffic from three stories down, the sharp bark of the Schnauzer in 2A protesting its owner's geriatric pace on their morning stroll, the low wheeze of a bus' brakes as it gears down to the bus stop at the end of the street - all too routine to be out of place. And the man below her, beneath her, between her knees and under the palms she has splayed across his chest, staring back up at her half-lidded and with just a touch of confusion wrinkling his brow, is definitely one Lincoln Lee.
She pushes back sharply and feels every point of contact with his skin; the crests of his hips where they dig into the backs of her thighs and the brush of his legs against the instep of her foot. The tug of him inside her when she moves is so unexpected it sends shivers up her back and makes her breath catch.
This is all too vivid to be her imagination.
He slips his hand from her waist and runs it down her thigh. His fingers dig into her muscle, slightly; enough to bring her attention back down to him. "Olivia? Are you alri—"
Olivia blinks and she's back at the office again, sheaf of reports still in her hand. There's a soft ding as the elevator doors slide open down the hall.
She leans back against the desk, closes her eyes, and rubs the bridge of her nose. When she opens them again, she's still in the office with the quiet hum of the building's air circulation system in her ears. She looks around, but there's nobody close enough to notice the heat she feels on her cheeks.
She writes it off to fatigue, an intermittent state of being these last couple of years, because she will not allow herself to be added to the ever growing list of Fringe events. She grabs her keys and her coat, and takes the stairs so she doesn't pass by the holding room on the way out.
It's been weeks since Olivia's dreamed of him.
Not since before her trip to New York and his supposed Reiden Lake renaissance, that is. She was relieved that Walter was too wrapped up in his own existential crises to ask what exactly she'd been dreaming about at the time because she's not sure how she could have self-edited enough to be relevant to the case. How could she explain that some nights she'd dreamt of coffee with this stranger on easy sunny mornings, and others she'd startle awake to find herself breathless, her heart pounding, with her sheets fisted between her thighs, woken by the rush of endorphins from her crest and her fall? She doesn't have the clinical vocabulary for the ghost of his lips and the heat of his breath on her throat. And what did any of that have to do Walter's visions, anyhow?
No, since Peter's appearance she's slept evenly, if not exactly peacefully. They maintain a comfortably professional distance; she checks her words, bites her tongue when she can see he's feeling lost and her comments will sting him, and he doesn't push her to be the woman he remembers. That's why it's a shock when she dreams of him like that again. In broad daylight.
Like before, at the office - one moment she's here at the crime scene, crouched over a mess of human remains. Astrid's arguing with Walter by proxy in one ear. Lincoln and Peter are tossing theories back and forth in her other. Police radio traffic fills the spaces in between.
And the next she's in a vintage station wagon with the back seat folded flat and the drumming ting-ting-ting of rain on the metal roof. Peter's hands are under her shirt, her leg's wrapped around his thigh, and they're making out like a pair of randy teenagers trying to beat curfew 'round the infield to home base. She rolls her head to the side because Peter's doing something with his mouth on her nipple that's making her nerves hum somewhere in the high end of the FM radio frequency range, and she registers, very briefly, that it's dark outside. The car windows are fogged completely up-
-and then she's back, pulse pounding, blinking stupidly at Lincoln and his question that she didn't hear. Beside him, Peter's watching her with that eerily penetrating stare.
Olivia brushes the grit off the knee of her pants and makes some excuse that sounds feeble even to her about questioning the security guard again, just so she can grab a moment to collect herself. She can feel them both watching her as she picks her way around the crime scene tape and heads to the car where they're holding the witness.
She does not fantasize about co-workers. She doesn't. Not like this.
Sure, she'd had an impure thought or twelve when she was seeing John, especially back in the beginning when illicit was part of the thrill, but those late-night bubble-bath fabrications have nothing on this… this, whatever this is. She can still smell the metal tang of rusting old car and musty seat fabric in her hair and on the collar of her coat. She can feel the burn of Peter's fingers along her ribs.
Olivia's always had a good imagination, but even she knows that fantasies don't smell.
And they don't linger.
Maybe it's Astrid's less-than-subtle hints that she should think about speaking to somebody about the stuff they see on their cases that finally brings it to the fore. Or maybe it's that she's still getting snapshots of them together. Nothing so intense as the first two; flash-bulb quick images - of Peter backing her into the corner of her shower grinning like she's just challenged him to a dare - in the middle of presenting a search warrant to building security. Or finding herself sitting on her kitchen counter, blouse unbuttoned and falling from her shoulders while Lincoln stands between her knees, tenderly kissing his way across the curve of her collarbone as he pins her hands to her thighs and keeps himself just out of her reach, when she should be sorting through decades old archives in the back room of the lab. Either way, Olivia finally admits that she needs to speak to somebody about this. These flashes are distracting enough that she worries she'll compromise the safety of her team.
So she goes to see the best person she can think of.
"Walter, do you think it's possible that we could still be experiencing time slips?" Olivia steeples her hands in front of her and chews on her bottom lip. Walter doesn't answer, so she elaborates, "Even with Kate Green's time chamber shut down?"
By some fluke or scheduling coincidence (and a bit of careful planning), they're alone in the lab. Even Agent Tim's on lunch break, shoved out the door by Olivia's promise that she wouldn't leave until he got back.
Walter's up to his elbows in Louise's tank, rearranging rocks and plastic sea-ferns into some pre-dictated pattern while the octopus hangs suctioned to the wall, way around the far side and well out of her intruder's reach. "I suppose it's possible," he finally answers as he pushes up his lab coat sleeves. It's a futile act though; his sleeves are already soaked, the water having been wicked up by his cardigan and dripped down from his bent elbows into a slowly spreading puddle on the concrete floor. Olivia checks, but there are no live extension cords trailing anywhere nearby, at least not this time.
"How so?" she asks.
Olivia rests her elbows on the side of the tank. "How can we prove the time slips are still happening?"
"Are they?" He glances up at her briefly then moves a couple of large shells into the arrangement. Louise moves along the tank wall towards them with what Olivia imagines to be curiosity.
The thing is, Olivia isn't entirely sure the time slips are latent fallout from the Green's experiment. She's cross-referenced police reports and 911 call logs, expanded her search parameters to include an extrapolated geographical area that would fit with Lincoln and Peter's map of time distortion events, and still she can't come up with anything to support her theory. Not even a single reported case of déjà-vu.
She doesn't want to admit that she isn't sure they aren't happening at all; the headaches she's been experiencing lately are bad enough without the implication that she's lessened her grip on the rest of her faculties. She shrugs. "Theoretically, then."
"Theoretically?" Walter shakes the water off his hands and stops to look at her. Olivia gets the feeling that he's really finally noticing her here in the lab Not just considering her question, but studying her nuances and body language. He's doing what he does best when handed a problem to solve – he observes and assesses, catalogs and classifies signs and symptoms like the tightness she feels in her shoulders, or the way she's got her fingers pressed into the glass wall of the tank to keep them steady. She tries not to flinch or look away.
He clears his throat. "Theoretically," he says again in the authoritative voice he probably once used to lecture his students "one would need to collect enough sample data so that a proper analysis could be done to either prove or disprove the theory." He goes back to fiddling with the rocks. His right sleeve slips into the water again, but Walter doesn't seem to notice.
"What if there isn't enough data?"
He glances back up at her. "Then one would have to design an experiment. Replicate the conditions under which the events occurred. Repeatedly, if possible."
Walter looks down back down into the tank. "Oh look at that," he points into the water, full of delight. "She likes you."
Olivia follows where he's pointing. Louise has edged her way back around the tank and has pressed herself against Olivia's palm, tentacles splayed exactly along her fingers, only the thick pane of glass between the two of them. It isn't the strangest thing she's experienced in this lab, not by far, but Olivia no longer doubts Walter's claim to the creature's intelligence. She wonders what he'd say if she asked about its sense of empathy.
Olivia's no stranger to the experimental processes, neither since joining Fringe Division, nor prior. Forensic and investigative procedures are but variations of the scientific method, after all.
The first thing she discovers is that she can't force the flashes to happen, no matter how hard she tries, because as unsettling as this whole thing is, her interest has been piqued.
She waits until she's alone with Lincoln, watching him perched on a stool at one of the lab benches, head bent over a pile of file folders. She wonders if the lean lines of his neck muscles would feel as smooth as she remembers. She wonders if Peter's stare would burn quite so much if she were to lie beside him in the early morning light.
She concentrates and tries to imagine what it would be like to run her fingers down Lincoln's spine, to feel each ripple and flex of his shoulders as she digs in the heels of her hands, but nothing happens. She tries to picture herself lying in bed next to Peter, watching him sleep. Tries to see herself running a thumb along the frown line that doesn't quite soften, even when he's relaxed.
All that happens is that her phone rings. She hardly has to will that.
Waiting has never been her strong suite. When a week passes with nothing, not even a flickering change of the light, she starts to consider Walter's offer of chemical assistance.
And then one morning, the pieces fall together.
Olivia's going over reports with Astrid when she hears them. Not hears them, as in she's right there in the room having a conversation with them, but hears them. She looks up suddenly, but aside from Gene, who doesn't have much to add to the case they're presently working, she and Astrid are alone in the lab. Lincoln's out chasing down a paper trail at City Hall, and Peter… well, she isn't sure where Peter is; that's up to his escort to keep track of him.
From the back room, Jefferson Airplane is asking Walter if he wants somebody to love at top volume, but for Olivia, that just blends into the background noise, the heartbeat of the lab, no different than the whirr of the centrifuge, or the grinding whine of the old dot-matrix printer as it spews out line after line of readings from whatever probe it's hooked up to this week.
What doesn't belong is the tight shriek of metal springs stretching and recoiling that makes her think first of the archaic trampoline they'd had in her elementary school gym class with its worn canvas and rusted steel frame that had doled out more than a compound fracture or two in its time. That, or almost every bed in almost every cut-rate motel she'd ever stayed in. Whichever, the sound doesn't belong to the lab.
"What is it?" Astrid asks.
Olivia almost asks her if she hears it too, but hesitates because in between the squeaks of the bedsprings (and she's sure it's bedsprings now), she hears breathing, heavy and hard, as if somebody's sprinting through the final straightaway of the four hundred meter dash. The temperature in the room goes up a few degrees when she realizes that it's not just breathing she's hearing, but that high gasp of air rushing past vocal chords stretched tight in pleasure. And then the throaty moan of a second voice adds itself to the mix.
She jumps at Astrid's hand on her arm. "Olivia? Are you okay?"
Just before her cell phone rings, she hears a third voice call out, higher pitched and sounding just slightly off from her own. Like the way it sounds when she's listening to her voicemail greeting.
Except she doesn't curse like that on her recorded message.
She waves a hand at Astrid, who doesn't look entirely convinced, and answers her phone without looking at the display. "Dunham." She smiles and hopes it translates so she doesn't sound as flustered as she feels. She mouths 'Don't worry about it,' at Astrid and turns to take the call.
"Hey," Lincoln's says. "I ran into Peter downtown. We're bringing lunch back. Got any requests?"
"You're with Peter?"
"Uh yeah," Lincoln answers. "Problem?"
"No, no problem," she brushes a stray hair off her forehead. The voices are still there, quieter now, or maybe less intrusive as her brain tries to sort and prioritize all the stimuli. She hears words, but they're lost under Lincoln's as he asks her again about lunch. She strains to pick out syllables, the tiny auditory details, hoping they'll be some clue as to where they're coming from or how she can control it, but there's too much going on at the moment. It's like trying to pick out two conversations in a crowd of thousands, and it's making her head hurt.
Olivia understands now why Walter never said anything when he thought he was being haunted.
"…so Peter suggested Indian and said he knows a place you might like," Lincoln is saying. She closes her eyes pulls her focus back to this conversation.
"Is he right beside you?" she interrupts.
"Is Peter right beside you?"
Lincoln pauses. "He's just down the hall. Why?"
But Olivia is on to something. She doesn't have time to explain. "How far?"
"Maybe twenty feet?"
To his credit, he doesn't ask why; he just follows her orders. Olivia can tell when he moves; the sounds get louder again, as if somebody's slowly turning up a rheostat in her brain. They get clearer too. And then, just when she can start to make out the shapes of words, she trips over some threshold and in her mind's eye she can see it too—
She's lying on her stomach, fingers resting lightly on Lincoln's chest, and she feels loose-limbed and sated. She props herself up on her elbows and leans over to lazily kiss him on the mouth, but when she looks up, Peter's watching them both from his side of the bed. She follows his eyes as they sweep down Lincoln's long, lean torso, then back up to the metal spindles of the old headboard. Peter's mouth curves with suggestion and he doesn't even ask because he can see exactly what's going through her mind. She kisses Lincoln again, tugs at his bottom lip with her teeth in promise, then rolls over and to look for the jacket she'd shed earlier. When she holds up her FBI issue handcuffs, Lincoln moans his approval. Or possibly it's his approval at Peter's mouth on his-
"Liv?" Lincoln's voice, the one in her ear snaps her back. "Olivia? Are you still there?"
She pushes out a breath, aware that Astrid is still watching her. "Now go outside."
"Just get away from Peter. Go outside. I don't care where, just move away from him right now."
He does and the vision fades, followed by the sounds, until finally she hears only the nice, normal, familiar sounds of the lab again.
There is something about the three of them in concert, some link or bond that triggers these flashes. She figures it has to do with proximity, with distance and yearning.
There is only one logical conclusion. She must replicate the experiment.
The first flash blinds her like an explosion just minutes after Olivia texts Lincoln and asks him to meet her at Peter's place. She's just pulled onto the surface road when she catches a glimpse of the three of them – Lincoln, Peter, and herself – in the kitchen.
It's night outside, but inside, the room feels comfortable like a warm sweater and a familiar routine. Peter's hair is tousled, a mess of cow-licks and flattened spots. He's leaning casually against the counter; bare feet crossed at the ankle, a steaming mug of something half hiding that self-satisfied Bishop smirk. Lincoln's propped on his elbows at the kitchen island beside her, shoulder pressed comfortably against hers as he points to Special Number Four on the stained and dog-eared Chinese take-out menu she's holding…
Olivia flips on her hazard lights and pulls over for a minute to let the vision play out. At least it's early and the traffic is almost non-existent in this neighborhood during the day. When the intensity eases and she thinks it's safe, Olivia edges down the street slowly. She isn't at all surprised when she rubs her finger against the pad of her thumb that she can still feel the greasy paper between them.
She grabs the first parking spot she can find, nearly two blocks from the house—
- and finds herself looking up at the plank-wood ceiling, watching the late afternoon light fall softly through the dormer window as Lincolns slips a drowsy arm across her hip and sighs against the nape of her neck—
She locks the SUV's door with hands that are almost steady as she stabs at the key fob and notices that Lincoln's car is already parked down the street. It just confirms her suspicion. She turns to look behind her and –
-her foot's tangled in the sheet. She's got a fistful of Peter's hair and she's trying to drag him back up so she can reach his lips with her mouth. She wants to draw the buildup out as long as she can… but she can't quite because Lincoln's behind her, one arm under her, the other skimming down her belly, and then she feels like something's about to short-circuit as he presses his fingers between her—
Olivia stops just short of the porch steps to steady herself. She doesn't want to burst in there, cheeks flushed, stumbling over her words in a rush, everything over before it's even begun. She is a grown woman, and capable of a little bit of self-control, even if her grip does feel tenuous at the moment.
-and then she's in the living room, undoing Lincoln's shirt, button by button, while Peter brushes her hair back from her shoulder with one lazy finger. She can hear birds arguing in the tree outside the front window, their discussion dulled and flattened through the glass, and almost overwhelmed by the quiet in the room. Peter's mouth on her neck is softer than she expects, his stubble long enough not to feel like bristles at all, but they send shivers down her spine just the same. Her fingers clench in Lincoln's shirt. She pulls him nearer, until she could crush her lips to his, but doesn't. Instead, she kisses him slowly, gently, so she can savor him… see if he tastes like she remembers him to—
Her hand is on the front door knob when a car alarm goes off somewhere down the street. It startles a pair of magpies dozing in the tree beside the front porch into a shrieking match. The feeling of overlapping duality practically crushes the air from her lungs.
-she enters the room and crosses the worn hardwoods towards them. The floor creaks as Peter puts his drink aside and rises to meet her. Somehow, this doesn't surprise her, him being the first; she's always has the feeling that he's been biding his time… waiting for her to come to—
They're both sitting there in the living room, waiting. Lincoln has his tie loosened and shirt sleeves rolled up, Peter is slouched in the easy chair, foot propped on the coffee table. There's a bottle of bourbon on the table between them. A third glass sits, still empty.
They've been anticipating her.
"Gentlemen," Olivia greets them. Her voice is steady, and maybe a little cocky with the heady rush of excitement.
The floor creaks as she crosses the worn living room hardwoods towards them. Peter puts his drink aside.
She meets them halfway.