Worlds Collide

by 'rith



Fandom: Fringe

Characters: Fringe cast. Assumes previous Alt!Lincoln/Fauxlivia/Alt!Charlie (and Alt!Lincoln/Olivia/Alt!Charlie while she thought she was Fauxlivia in Red'verse).

Rating: PG-13

Wordcount: ~4,200

Spoilers: "6:02 AM EST," "The Last Sam Weiss", and "The Day We Died". Goes massively AU somewhere in the middle of those, because I could not leave that ending for an entire summer.

Summary: It's not as much an investigation as a rescue, and then it's something else entirely.

Notes: Sequel to Paradigm Shift and Cracks in the Foundation. Some dialogue from "6:02 AM EST." Considerable liberty taken with who is in the "bridge room" at the moment the world changes; see the end for more notes.


***

The list proves useless, after all. Oh, the names lay out as he expected, but questioning their owners is above both Lincoln's security clearance and his pay grade. And Dr. Brandon Fayette, the "person of interest" he most wanted to talk to, is suddenly sequestered for a top-secret project of some kind that has all of Liberty Island on virtual lockdown.

So with nothing else to do he and Charlie bide their time, catch up on paperwork, run standard ops. A couple of weeks later Liv comes back to work, and things settle back into a normal rhythm--or as close to "normal" as they get in Fringe Division.

And then there's a huge energy spike at Liberty, a class 10 Fringe event of the world-shattering readings kind, only when they get there all the teams are told by the Secretary himself that it's nothing, it's a false alarm, they should all go home.

The lies are becoming as thin as the world around them. They can *see* the readings on the meters, clearly something huge is going on, but all Lincoln can do is grind his teeth and glare across the water until Liv says, "I think I know who to ask."

If they're going to get answers, it's the only place to start: with Liv's now-familial connection to the Secretary of Defense. Lincoln advises her to tread carefully but she just grins that impish grin of hers and says "Don't worry!", as if that's possible, and she's off into the lion's den.

It's afternoon when she returns, and she'd called ahead to meet Lincoln and Charlie in a bar away from their usual stomping grounds. No agents here, no eavesdroppers willing to get close to their too-tense conversation. Lincoln's not paranoid by nature, but he can't help but think that not meeting at any of their apartments or standard haunts might cut down on the possibility of potential listening devices.

Liv lays it out for them, hands shaking, and it's clearly one of those times that despite her distaste for alcohol, she really could use a drink. She tells them about the cause of the surge, and how she's in part responsible for it, and what it means for that other world.

She tells them without saying that Secretary Bishop is insane, and that billions of lives are now in their hands.

"What's our next move?" Charlie asks, and just like that they're committed, no more discussion.

Liv, of course, has it all plotted out. It's a mad plan, crazy and dangerous, and Lincoln just stares at her when she first lays it out. "You'll just...*make* them send you to the other side? How, exactly?"

"Charm school lessons. I knew they'd come in handy someday," Liv quips, and Charlie laughs with her like he believes it, but Lincoln's head is too full of everything that might go wrong.

"How do you know it'll even work? And if they catch you, Liv, they'll--"

"*If* they catch me they won't shoot me on the spot, like they'd shoot you," she says bluntly, and it's a little too on-point not to be true. "I don't know that it'll work, but we've got to try something. And Peter's the only one I can think of that the Secretary might listen to."

There's something in her eyes when she mentions Peter Bishop, something he doesn't want to look at too closely. Clearly he was more than just part of Liv's mission on the other side, and that's...he doesn't know what it is, and frankly, things are too dire for him to be wasting brain space on it at the moment.

So they're sitting here, plotting treason, and then Charlie says, "There's some guys I think we can trust, let me call around." That's a marker he's been holding on to for a long time with his old FBI colleagues, the ones who weren't pleased to be shunted aside when Fringe Division became the star of the show. He doesn't need to say that he's calling them in as backup in case Liv's attempt fails, because the three of them understand that they're suddenly in a race to save a world, maybe two worlds, and it's all in or nothing.

Charlie goes to make his calls and he and Liv head back to her apartment and send the nanny away. Lincoln can hear her singing to Henry in the bedroom (and Liv is great at a lot of things, but a singer she is not) while he waits for the baby to settle. He's looking at a picture of the two of them together when she comes back out. "Remember this?"

"Yeah. That was my first commendation."

"Yeah, for dragging my ass out of a class 4 vortex." He'd nearly died that day. Not the first or the last time on this job, but one of the hairiest moments. Liv, newly recruited but fearless, had gone in after him while everyone else was already starting to think about funeral arrangements.

Liv laughs. "Well, you actually owed me fifty bucks, so I was going for your wallet."

He smiles at the deflection and puts the picture back on the shelf. "Seems like a million years ago." By the look she's giving him she already knows what he's going to say, but he has to give it one more shot. "You can't do this alone, Liv. Let me come with you."

"As much as I would love to have you watching my butt, I need you here. Now if I'm not back tomorrow, you're gonna take Henry to my mother's, right?"

He can't hear that, can't even think it. "You're coming back."

Her smile is full of yes, but. "Yeah, but if I don't, I need to know that he's safe. You're the only one that I trust."

He wants to kiss her, very badly, and deflects the impulse by mentioning his least favorite subject. "You really think Peter Bishop can stop this? That he can heal both worlds?"

By her tone, she's grasping at straws too. He supposes that she's got even more incentive, these days. "I don't know, but if anyone can change the Secretary's mind and get him to turn that machine off, then it's his son, right?"

Right. She's determined, and all he can do is send her off with all the confidence he can muster. "I'll see you when you get back."

She hugs him--too long and not long enough--and then she's gone and he's on babysitting duty pending her return. It's a long, long night, but at least the kid sleeps through most of it.

The next day when he doesn't hear from her, when she doesn't come back, Lincoln does as he was bid and takes Henry to Marilyn's place. He can't answer any of her questions, only tells her to keep alert for Fringe events in the area. "Liv's on a case" doesn't really cover it, but it's at least marginally true and keeps Marilyn from worrying that her daughter's gone missing again. At least this time, Lincoln knows exactly where she's being held.

He meets up with Charlie at headquarters so they can both pick up the gear they're going to need. Both of them are on edge, so wired that Lincoln almost pulls a gun when Agent Farnsworth appears behind them in the weapons locker.

There's no dissembling about their intent, but as it turns out, they don't need to. Agent Farnsworth stares over their heads and says in that calm, reasonable tone of hers, "Based on the available data I calculated there was a 76% chance that Agent Dunham would try to stop the Secretary by using her family connection. There was a 94% chance that she would fail and be incarcerated, and following that, a 100% chance that you and Agent Francis would try to rescue her."

"We're that predictable, huh?" Lincoln tries to joke but it goes over the mentat's head, as usual, and she ignores the comment as unimportant, also as usual.

"Considering the escalation of Fringe events and the Secretary's erratic state of mind of late, I determined that I should join you." Farnsworth actually looks at him--she even tries to meet his eyes, which he knows takes a considerable effort--before her gaze slides away again. "Let me help, sir."

He's a sucker for anyone who calls him "sir" and means it, and besides, they can use all the help they can get. "Welcome aboard, Agent Farnsworth."

"Thank you, Captain Lee," she responds formally, and checks her sidearm.

Lincoln's badge gets them part of the way, and Charlie's friends expertly handle the rest; they're mad, bad, and dangerous to know, but they understand their business, and manage to get the group over to Liberty Island and deep inside the complex without bloodshed.

They find the room with the machine, making their way by the unearthly sound the thing's emitting. Lincoln peers around to see the Secretary, Dr. Fayette, and--hey, conveniently Liv is there, wearing a generic white lab coverall but despite that crime against fashion, seeming otherwise unharmed. He nods to Charlie and Farnsworth, motions to the other guys to hold their position, and the three of them move into the room as one.

The Secretary looks up, face already filling with outrage, but the howl from the machine and Fayette's increasingly frantic gesticulations draw his attention back to the monitors.

Despite the tension Liv smirks at them. "Nice rescue," she says, and then there's a flash of light and the world

slides

sideways.

They're standing in the same room, but the number of people in it seems to have doubled between one blink and the next. There's a man suspended in the giant humming machine, with a blonde woman standing on a ladder next to him. Lincoln has to blink a couple of times and look again but yes, that's Olivia, it must be the other side's Olivia, because Liv is still standing next to the Secretary. Who is glaring daggers at *his* double, and the headache that started with the flash is now threatening to engulf Lincoln's entire body.

The man in the machine--this can only be the fabled Peter Bishop--steps down and in-between the identical Bishops before they can come to blows. (Only they're not really identical. Lincoln can see differences in bearing, clothing, and attitude before they even open their mouths.) He's saying something about "first people," and making a bridge, and--

.--. . - . .-. / ...- .- -. .. ... .... . ... .-.-.-

The two Bishops are shouting at each other and the blonde Olivia cuts in with the first thing that's made sense since the flash. "Whatever you've both done, we're here now. So maybe it's time we start to fix it. This place," she says, raising her voice so that it carries throughout the room, "it's a bridge. Not in either world, but attached to both. Neutral ground."

Next to him, Charlie murmurs, "That's her."

"Yeah." And there are more important things going on, literally world-shattering things, but maybe he and Charlie will have the chance to make their...apologies...after all. Before he can move, though, at his other side Farnsworth abruptly keens and doubles over, clutching at her head.

"Twoofeverythingtwoofeverythingtwoofus!"

As he leans over, trying to calm her--because dammit, she's essentially a human computer and all the logic in the world just broke--he hears her voice.

"Is she-- is she all right?"

Lincoln glances up and is still looking at Farnsworth's face. Except it's not *his* mentat but her double, who easily meets his eyes. "Autistic," he says shortly, because it's the easiest explanation, and the other Farnsworth's face goes soft with understanding and compassion. It's a lovely expression and one he's never seen on this face.

"My brother is, in-- in my world," she says softly, and does his Farnsworth have a brother? He's ashamed that he doesn't even know. "I'm Astrid. Maybe I can help?"

It's so kindly offered that he can't help but nod and scoot back. As she kneels down, taking her alternate's hands, she flashes him a sweet smile--and a disconcerted, uncertain one toward Charlie.

"Feels like something just crawled over my grave, buddy," Charlie says sotto voce, and by reflex--because both of them need something reflexively normal right now--in tandem they both retort at each other: "Not worms!"

And shit, if they didn't have enough to worry about. "Your shots, how long can you--"

"Always carry a couple of spares," Charlie assures him, and that's when another voice, one Lincoln hadn't expected to hear again, cracks out across the room, commanding all attention.

"All right, people! Obviously we're in the middle of an extraordinary event. Let's all step back and take a deep breath." Again by reflex Lincoln obeys and sees Charlie doing the same--except that it's not Colonel Broyles but his double, lacking the military pips. But otherwise the tone is the same, impossible to disobey. "Dr. Bishop and--Dr. Bishop, I presume," Broyles says, looking like he can't stand the taste of the words coming out of his mouth, "Agent Dunham is correct. In either world you're the best hope we've got of saving *both* our universes. Let's make that happen."

Both Bishops look like they're sucking on lemons but with more urging from Olivia--and with Liv looking on, that coolly amused look that Lincoln knows so well never leaving her face--the two of them finally stop snarling at each other and start trading information in sharp, clipped tones.

Farnsworth looks like she's calmed down too, and after exchanging a nod with Astrid to make sure she's got his agent in hand, Lincoln feels it's time to really get this cross-universal party started.

"Let's go introduce ourselves to the man in charge." Charlie glances at him but doesn't comment, and that's fine. If Charlie thinks he sounds a little too eager to cede authority--well, maybe he is. But they've got enough problems without chain-of-command pissing matches and Lincoln figures that Broyles outranks him. In any universe.

They cross the room and on the way, Lincoln decides to stick with the safest, most likely address. "Agent Broyles, I'm Captain Lee of Fringe Division. This is--"

"Agent Francis," Broyles says, with that same unsettled expression Astrid wore. "Excuse me, I-- It's a little startling, seeing you."

"I'm starting to get that feeling, sir," Charlie says, easily enough, but Lincoln can hear the tension in his voice. "Can you tell me what happened to, uh, me?"

"Murdered by a shapeshifter," Broyles says with a hard look in his eyes, "who took his place for a while before Agent Dunham put it down."

"...fucking hell," Charlie curses, and turns to Lincoln with outrage on his face. "I *knew* I hated those things."

Relentlessly, Broyles continues, "And I was presented with the smoldering corpse of your version of myself, so--"

"*Goddammit,*" Lincoln swears, and grinds his teeth for a moment before he can go on. "Sorry, sir. We-- we didn't know, we weren't sure what happened to him. He vanished about the same time as your Olivia went back. And Charlie and I didn't know about that swap either until after the fact."

Broyles' expression has melted, slightly, from the stony façade. "Sounds like there's a lot your side has been keeping from you, Captain."

"We've been told a lot of things," he replies evenly, "starting from the idea that your side set out to destroy ours on purpose."

"I can assure you that's not--" Broyles starts, and then sighs. "Look, Captain Lee, there's clearly been a lot of misunderstandings--*and* some unfortunate deliberate actions--on both sides. There's a lot of damage in this room. But it's our responsibility to fix it, because there's no one else."

And the hell of it is, Lincoln is feeling worse and worse because the more facts come to light, the more obvious that it's his side--it's Secretary Bishop, to be specific--who misled them all and did most of that damage, to their Olivia and Charlie and his own Colonel Broyles. And judging by the way the blonde Olivia (he's going to assign mental codenames to keep everyone straight, any second now) is glaring at Brandon Fayette, Lincoln's theories about his involvement are right on target as well. "There's nothing we want more, sir," he tells Broyles, who nods in acknowledgement.

"Good. Your agent there, is she all right?"

Lincoln turns back to see Farnsworth getting to her feet, still holding Astrid's hand but looking a little more stable. "I think so. The shock just threw her for a loop. She's a mentat, kind of a super-analyst. She should be able to help sort data, once we establish what we're dealing with." He pauses, fights briefly with his own impulsive mouth, and loses the battle as usual. "Just out of, uh, curiosity, do you know anything about my alternate?"

Broyles raises an eyebrow, but answers evenly. "He's an FBI agent out of Hartford. Agent Lee worked with Fringe Division on one case, but otherwise, he's not involved with this. Is it important that he be here?"

Which in any universe is Broyles-speak for, we have actual work to do, and you playing footsie with your double isn't on my radar. And, fair enough. "No, sir."

"And your scientist there--that's Brandon Fayette, isn't it. It's my understanding that he tried to vivisect my agent while she was in your world." The hard tone is back and Lincoln can't fault him for it. He'd already guessed that Fayette was behind their Olivia's brainwashing; the new information that he'd tried to cut her open doesn't surprise him in the least.

But if there's justice to be done, it's going to have to wait until the current crisis is over. Lincoln turns to see Fayette doing his best impression of a wall, looking everywhere but at the people in the room. "Yeah. He's been working with Secretary Bishop on the machine. I'll make sure he contributes." And Broyles nods again, approvingly, at the tone in Lincoln's voice that says, by any means necessary. As far as he's concerned both Bishop and Fayette are on the hook for--war crimes? crimes against humanity?--but that's going to have to wait.

He looks around and sees both Astrids working over the computer consoles. The technicians on both sides have already sorted themselves into one homogeneous group--eggheads everywhere speak the same language. Lincoln notes that most of them aren't doubles, which is interesting and something they can all muse about later. He and Charlie make a brief circuit around, stopping briefly at Fayette. "You. Go help. Keep your knives to yourself this time."

Fayette gives him a terrified look, but obeys and scurries across the room to his master. The blonde Olivia watches him and after a glance at the Bishops she steps away, her hand clenching like she wants to take a swing at him. She looks around the room and catches Lincoln's eye. Her mouth opens slightly, like she's about to say something, and then she shakes her head and walks over.

"Hi."

"Hi," Lincoln says, and his brain goes flat empty, because-- what the hell can he say to her?

"Glad you're all right," Charlie says, and it's just the right thing, as usual.

She smiles, and it's warm. "Me too. I-- guess you heard about what happened to my Charlie, in my world. I couldn't say before, obviously, but-- it was really good working with you, over there. Like old times."

Charlie sounds way too calm about all this. "So you and your Charlie...?"

"No!" She actually laughs a little, like the very idea is ludicrous. "God, no. He was my mentor, my friend. And married," she adds, "extremely married."

"So just like old times, except you didn't count on--" Lincoln bursts out, and takes a long, slow breath to calm himself and lower his voice. "We felt terrible about it, when we found out about the swap." He can't even look her in the eye. "I didn't know," he says. "I thought you were her."

"Oh," she says. "Oh, no." She reaches forward to take his hand, and extends her other to Charlie. "I don't blame either of you."

He's staring at their entwined hands when he says, "We had no idea."

"Your Walter Bishop is very good at what he does." The tight tone of her voice brings his eyes back to her face. "He's the one who turned me into your Olivia, and he did a good enough job that I didn't know myself. So how could you?"

"I'm sorry," he mutters again, and she squeezes his hand.

Olivia smiles at him, and he sees a faint blush spread across her cheeks. "I'm not. It's a-- it's a good memory."

That's more than forgiveness in her face, it's--

Before he can parse her expression Liv comes up behind them and drapes her arms over his and Charlie's shoulders. "Hey," she drawls, "just because you...*borrowed*...them while you were on my side, doesn't mean you get to play with 'em again."

Olivia goes pale and drops their hands. Lincoln loves Liv with all he's got, but he's never liked her less than in that moment. Maybe it's true, seeing yourself mirrored can only bring out the worst.

That goes both directions, evidently. "How's Frank?"

And wow, Lincoln doesn't even have to turn around to see Liv's countenance go cold. But she rebounds fast. "Nice try, but I know he was away the whole time you were being me. He's still awesome, though. We're engaged."

"Huh. Well, congratulations, I guess." Olivia pauses, then raises an eyebrow. "So then you're just being, what? Greedy? Territorial?"

"Okay then!" Charlie says sharply and decisively before the verbal bloodletting goes any deeper, and shrugs Liv's arm off their shoulders. "Cut it out, both of you."

...and thank God for him, because standing between the two Olivias, Lincoln's brain really did stop working for a moment. They hadn't talked about the engagement, much, and certainly not what it meant for the three of them. He'd assumed, and guessed Charlie did too, that their post-mission "debriefs" (as in, everyone's briefs come off, because they are all five) were over. He hadn't allowed himself to think about it.

And he's just discovered that apparently, he's irrevocably wired for Olivia Dunham. In any universe.

"...right," he says belatedly, and desperate to change the subject. "How's it going with the Bishops?"

Olivia nods a little and looks relieved to get back to the business at hand. "They've stopped trying to kill each other for the moment, so that's something."

Charlie's still got his back. "And this, uh, bridge thing?"

"Oh, I'm sorry, I explained to the Walters." Olivia turns to check on them and Lincoln shifts a little to bring Liv in on the conversation. "I'm...it turns out I'm kind of a 'crowbar' for the machine. I was able to pry it open so it can't do any more damage. This room is a side-effect, a bubble suspended between universes. If you go out that door--" she points to the side where Lincoln and Charlie appeared-- "you'll be in your world. The other door leads to mine."

"All that and super-powers too," Liv says, and there's something in her voice Lincoln's never heard before. Insecurity? Jealousy?

"But handy," Charlie says. "We won't even miss the Thursday night poker game."

Lincoln's still stuck on the details. "And you're sure this room won't...pop like a bubble?"

"Near as we can tell, it's permanent," Olivia says, "at least until the machine is accessed again, hopefully to turn it off for good."

"Guys, I just remembered--" they all turn to Liv to see a catlike grin spread across her face. "They have *coffee* over there, the real stuff. No Blight. We could make a fortune bringing it over!"

They all laugh, mostly as a relief from the tension, and Liv winks at him. It's as much apology as anything and an unspoken promise to behave, at least as much as she's able.

But if this is going to be a permanent thing, he's got some fast talking to do--starting with letting his side know that the Secretary of Defense hasn't gone missing. There's probably a meeting with the National Security Council in his immediate future and even as he's wincing at the thought, part of him knows his father would be proud.

"Okay, I have boss-type stuff to do. Charlie, hold down the fort."

"You got it, sir."

He's pretty sure the "sir" is for Olivia's benefit--both Olivias, come to think--but he appreciates it anyway.

"This is just the beginning," Olivia says, meeting his eyes, and the sudden warmth he feels is both inappropriate and undeniable.

And, yeah. A walk back to his own universe to clear his head sounds like the perfect antidote right now. The fact that "walk back to his own universe" is actually a sane and possible course of action might just be proof he's been working at Fringe Division for too long but this? He wouldn't have missed this for anything. It feels like they have the chance to stop reacting and start acting to fix everything that's gone wrong with both worlds. "Can't wait to see what happens next," he tells her, tells all of them, and heads out to make sure they have that chance.



{end; tbc}



The break line is Morse Code for "Peter vanishes." I couldn't help myself.

Astrid wasn't in the machine room during "The Day We Died", but I felt she needed to be, since she's no less involved than the rest of them. My fanwank for this fic: After Charlie's death and without Peter, Olivia really needed another partner in the field. Astrid filled that role and Walter has another poor, mistreated junior agent back at the lab to be his babysitter.

And I fought really, really hard and won against the impulse to insert Agent Lee into that spot. This fic was already total emo-porn for me; putting Blue!Lincoln in would have pushed it over the top. OTOH, if that's the role he's going to fill come fourth season, I reserve the right to remix this fic with Lincoln added. *g*

Without Peter, Fauxlivia wouldn't have been pregnant, so there's no reason she would have broken up with Frank, and Lincoln didn't confess his love.

Also, I totally cribbed lines from a previous fic of mine, because I didn't realize when I wrote "Someone Borrowed" that it was a warm-up/outline for this.

...I didn't actually mean for the fic to go to the Lincoln/Olivia place, but apparently, I just can't help it. (And now I am wincing that I have written myself into a corner, because: what happens when Peter inevitably reappears, and Olivia remembers him again?)

From series bosses Jeff Pinkner and J.H. Wyman, about the "bridge": moving forward, that room inside the Statue of Liberty will serve as "sort of an airlock" via which VIPs can cross to and fro. "You go out one door and you're in our universe; you go out the other door and you're in theirs." – I love this more than possibly can be expressed and cannot *wait* for canon to use it.

Finally, I hope you're all writing bridgefic too. Please, pretty please?




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