Cracks in the Foundation

by 'rith



Characters: (alt) Lincoln, Fauxlivia, mention of previous Lincoln/Olivia/Charlie

Rating: PG-13

Wordcount: ~2,000

Spoilers: Post-"Bloodline." Sequel to Paradigm Shift.

Summary: Lincoln has too many doubts.

Notes: I am trying to be fair to Fauxlivia. It's really damn hard. Posting before I'm inevitably jossed by "6:02 AM EST."

Thanks: to Killa for quite properly telling me not to sweat it and post.


***

The next step, obviously, is getting Liv involved.

This is new: Lincoln finds himself talking to Charlie about how to approach her. He's never had a problem with that before, either at work or after hours. But it feels like they've got to tread carefully now about everything, and he can't see moving forward without her. He's never been involved in a conspiracy like this before, and certainly not one that's pointing toward an investigation of arguably the most powerful man in the country.

Charlie's her friend from way back and it might make sense for him to broach the topic, but no. Lincoln is the team leader, he's the boss now, and it's time he really stepped up and earned the title.

And then there's the other thing, his confession thing.

Charlie's got a definite answer on that one, at least. "I'd let it be, buddy. Frank left her, she just had a baby. Crazy girl hormones and all. Probably not the time."

So he's determined not to mention it, as long as she doesn't. They still have things to discuss.

Secretary Bishop was apparently not kidding about making sure Liv has everything she needs; no Super 9 motel for his grandson, but a suite at the Boston Four Seasons. Lincoln is less interested in the decor than in finding the security guys posted outside and inside the hotel. At least four he spotted, one he's not sure about, and he wouldn't put bets against a sniper on the opposite roof. It's simultaneously comforting and terrifying, and he can't help the itch between his shoulder blades as he rides up the elevator, ostensibly alone.

The Secret Service guy in the hall gives him the hairy eyeball, checks his Show Me, and lets him through.

The door opens onto a front room that's bigger than his whole apartment. Liv is curled up on the couch under a blanket, reading. Lincoln catches a glimpse of the title--"Buddha" something, not her usual reading matter--before she tosses the book down and grins at him. "Hey! About time you came by."

"I was just letting you get settled--" he starts to protest, but Liv is laughing at him already. "I figured you had your hands full, that's all. And the docs said you needed rest."

"Uch, it's gross, I feel all stretched out of shape." She tosses her head toward one of the doorways at the back of the room. "Mom's watching the baby sleep."

As if summoned, Marilyn peers around the corner. "Olivia, did you say-- oh, hello, Lincoln." Liv's mom smiles at him and he smiles back; he's always liked Marilyn and she likes him. They bonded early on over their mutual concern (love) for her daughter. She crosses the room to him and bemused, Lincoln lets her pull him down to kiss his cheek. "Thank you so much for everything you did to find her. I don't know what I would have done if, if--"

Liv breaks in, sounding both amused and exasperated. "Mom! Quit mackin' on my boss."

Marilyn waves a dismissive hand. "Lincoln doesn't mind."

"I can't resist the Dunham women," he agrees, too truthfully, because he cannot ever keep his mouth shut.

Liv's mom refrains from calling him on it, but tells him with a look exactly how transparent he is. "I'll leave you two to talk. She's on strict bed rest, so no calisthenics."

"No ma'am," he says, while Liv rolls her eyes.

"Call if you need anything," Marilyn says, and disappears into the back room again.

"Maybe I should have left you two alone," Liv says dryly.

It's as good an opening as any. "Listen, Charlie and I agreed we needed to tell you. While you were...away, you know we still had missions, and afterward..." he can't quite finish, hoping she'll get the gist.

She looks blank for a moment, and then grins. "Oh! Oh, sure." And a tick later, to his stunned and blank silence, she says, "It's okay, really. I mean, she *was* me, for awhile. If that's bugging you."

It's bugging him on a level Charlie's arachnids couldn't touch. This--this isn't news to her. When she returned Liv picked up like nothing had changed, like she'd never been gone. And he gets the "classified mission" part, Liv is a good soldier, but it's still a giant lie of omission between them.

His numb, clumsy tongue says, "But she--she wasn't you, I mean, she didn't agree to be you."

Liv frowns, and then--oh, she's quick, she's always been quick. "Lincoln, it wasn't like--*you* didn't know and *she* didn't know, so really, no harm done, right?"

And right then, he knows how very wrong this conversation has gone. But he's got no filters when he's with her, he can't get his face to behave, and now Liv is staring at him like he's the one from the other universe. An imposter where her--her friend should be.

"No harm?" he manages, and she frowns again.

"Okay, you're upset. But that other Olivia, she's gone now, okay? And it's--you know, you're beating yourself up a lot for someone from a, a universe that *broke* our world."

It's true. They're at war. That other Olivia is an enemy combatant, at best. And maybe he's a traitor for worrying so much about her, about what he did with--to her. But near as he can figure she was also a prisoner of war, and he just can't reconcile "mind-wipe" with the Geneva Convention. Or his part in her sojourn here.

And Liv seems to get it, finally, because her face softens and she smiles at him, ruefully and with gentleness in her eyes. It's a new look for her. "But you're--you're still angsting over it. Look, I can tell you--when I was over there, living her life, I learned a lot about her. I mean, she's *me.* Kind of." She laughs a little, shaking her head. "There's no language for this. But I *know* from experience that you didn't hurt her, so--let it go? Can you do that?"

He nods and manages a smile because it's true, there's nothing he can do about it anyway. "So you don't know anything about what happened to her?"

Liv shoots him a look full of surprise that can't be anything but genuine. "No, why would I? I finished my mission, so I assumed she got sent back too. Things didn't go *exactly* as we planned, but I always figured we'd just swap back, no one the wiser."

It's an assumption he's having a hard time accepting, entirely aside from the implication that she was comfortable lying to her partners. "Broyles disappeared about the same time you came back. Charlie and I, we think it's related."

"I don't know anything about that. I was there, and then I was able to come back, and just picked up where I left off. Well, mostly." Her mouth twists with combined annoyance and regret. "Didn't count on the peanut. Or Frank--"

She cuts herself off with a wince. "Anyway. I can't tell you any more about the cross-over, it's, uh, it's classified." At least she seems embarrassed at having to say it. "Sorry, boss. But you think--" her eyes narrow, "you think Broyles' vanishing had something to do with her?"

He spreads his hands. "Not sure. But the timing is suspicious, so--"

"Suspicious? You don't think she, you know, just grabbed him or something?"

Lincoln has to pause because no, honestly, that hadn't occurred to him. His guilt over the other Olivia is clouding his judgment. On the other hand.... "Secretary Bishop said she was 'sent home.'"

"Oh." Liv is quiet for a moment, fiddling with her blanket, and when she speaks again, her voice is very low. "You suspect *him.*"

"I think," Lincoln says, carefully, and that's a new thing too, "that there's a lot here we're not being told. Aside from the 'classified' part."

"Oh, come on, you *know* there's a lot we're not being told." Liv drops her hands and fixes him in place with a look. "I'm just not sure how much of that is relevant. You know, he's-- the Secretary is doing his best to fix *this* world."

He can't fault her loyalty or her dedication; if he'd been chosen as the agent to go into the other world, Lincoln imagines he'd have done the same. It's not the mission that bothers him, it's the obfuscation. But Broyles' disappearance keeps nagging at him and all of his intuition tells him it's directly connected to Olivia's mission on the other side. "I know, Liv. But look at all the resources that went into finding you, and even then, we got lucky. With Broyles, there's just nothing."

Liv stares at him for a long, long moment before she blows out a breath. "You're right. That is hinky." She looks down, considering, and then back at him. "Not to change the subject, but--is there anything more on who grabbed me?"

Lincoln wishes he was as certain that the two aren't related. "When you were taken, we tried to use the Eschelon tracker, but they'd removed it. Liv..." He tries for a steady look and suspects he's failing miserably. "The list of those who know about the tracker is pretty long. The list of those who knew about it, *and* about your pregnancy, or who had access to your medical records...."

"Pretty short." Her voice sounds dry, and she reaches for the glass of water on the table. "Did you get names?"

And now he's cursing himself, because he'd ordered the database compilation and utterly forgotten to follow up. "Farnsworth should have them by now."

The more he thinks about it, the more certain he is there's one name he's going to find. Accelerated pregnancy isn't unheard of, but it's far from common and requires a lot of specific medical knowledge. And of all the doctors associated with Fringe Division, Dr. Fayette is the one Lincoln thinks mostly likely to neglect the "non" part of primum non nocere.

But for now-- "I'll talk to her in the morning, see what turns up."

Liv sighs and shifts on the couch, discomfort in every small motion. "Wish I could be there."

Lincoln stretches his legs and stands. "You heard your mom. That's one order I wouldn't *dream* of disobeying."

She mutters something mutinous-sounding under her breath, but nods. "Let me know if you find anything?"

"First thing," he promises, and is halfway to the door when she says,

"I did hear you, you know."

So they're having this conversation after all. He turns back to face her, determined not to drag it out. "Liv, I didn't mean--" to make you uncomfortable, he's about to say, but she cuts him off.

"No, I know you *meant* it, don't take it back. I really--is it awful to say I really appreciated it?" Liv rolls her eyes at herself and makes a disgusted face. "Yeah, that is awful. Lincoln, it means the world to me, but right now I just can't-- I can't--"

And he rescues her, like he always does. "Didn't expect you too. We're partners, all right?"

"Always." Her smile is gentle and genuine and out of the blue, the one thing he swore he'd never ask comes tumbling out of his traitorous mouth. It's true, he can't keep a secret, even from himself.

"Did he know who you were?"

Too late, he realizes how much he doesn't want to hear the answer, any answer. "--wait, don't, I don't have the right to ask."

Her face is a tangle of too many emotions for him to decipher. There's anger at his question, which is fair, and a whole world of sorrow, which is new and unsettling, and-- "...the baby will be up soon. You should go."

"Gone," he says, and he is, in too many ways to count.



{end}

Liv is reading "If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him!", the book Peter told her was his favorite.

Purely for my own satisfaction, I hope that Lincoln does follow up on the list he asked Alt!Astrid to generate, and that he dangles Brandonate out a high window to get some answers.




Back to last

Back to 'rith's homepage