This takes place maybe three years down the road? So mid-season five? Walter and Paige are in an established relationship, Ralph is in ninth grade. I was watching Friends and realized I could easily imagine some Monica/Chandler dialogue as happening between Walter and Paige, so I put it on Tumblr and there were several requests to fic it, so here we go.

"Ralph, we're back!"

Paige frowned when there was no response.

"They're probably upstairs," Walter said.

"Well, it doesn't look like that quake did much damage," Paige said, looking around the garage. A few books and trinkets were on the floor, but nothing was terribly different. "It's only been about ten minutes, they wouldn't have had time to clean up if things were worse."

"Ralph!" Paige called. "Owen!" She shook her head. "Well, I hope they got that project of theirs done."

"Well while you did say it had to be done by the time we got back," Walter said, "the time we had estimated would be required to solve this case was four days. We got back in fifteen hours. They would argue that their promise to you was predicated on that time frame."

"But wouldn't you argue that given the time estimated to complete the project it'd be inefficient to have not..." Paige stopped, lifting her chin. Her brow furrowed. "Do you smell that?"

Walter paused, taking in a deep breath. "Affirmative."

They headed up the stairs, Paige leading. "It's stronger up here..." She looked around.


They headed up. Paige pushed open the door to the roof and found herself less than twenty feet from her son and his boyfriend, who jumped, startled at her presence. A look of panic came across both their faces.

Her jaw unhinged. "What is going on here?"

"I can explain, Mom," Ralph said, gesturing to the side. He froze upon registering the look on her face. "Mom, it's not a big deal!"

"Not a big deal?" Paige said, glancing at Walter before looking back at the boys. "The last thing I expected was to come back here to find you two on the roof smoking!"

"If you'd come up here just ten minutes ago," Owen said, and when he lifted his undershirt to wipe ash from around his eyes Paige noticed the singed hoodie on the ground a few yards away, "you'd have seen us when we were still on fire!"

"You're not helping," Ralph said sternly.

"The experiment was completely safe," Owen said to Walter. "But then we had that earthquake and it made everything unstable. There was a small explosion. It's under control."

"You're both okay, right?" Paige asked, running her hand through her son's hair. He was almost as tall as her now, and he swatted at her hand.

"We'll have it all cleaned up in a few minutes," Ralph said. "We just need to let this part finish cooling down so we can handle it safely. Owen's mom will be here to get him in an hour."

"Okay," Paige said, nodding. "You guys want any help?"

"No," Owen said. "It's our mess. You guys are tired."

"You probably want to get home and unpack," Walter said as Paige turned to head back down into the garage. He lifted a hand to Ralph and Owen as they left the roof, shutting the door behind him. "You certainly over packed for this mission," he said with a smirk.

"We were supposed to be there another four days. And Toby's suitcase was bigger than mine."

There was a chuckle from Walter. "That is true."

"I'm glad it didn't take so long," Paige said. "I know Patrick was going to come by to check on the boys, but you know, less laundry to do, less worrying about Ralph...the roof incident notwithstanding." She shook her head. "It did make for a long day, though."

"Do you want to go on home and unpack?" Walter asked. "I can bring Ralph once Owen gets picked up. Or do you just want to sleep here tonight?"

Paige cocked her head. "How about both?"

Walter cocked his head in the other direction. "Come again?"

"Well..." she took a step toward him, biting her lip. "What if I...unpacked here?"

His brow lowered. "Then all your stuff would be here."

"Well...what if all my stuff was..." her eyebrows rose a fraction, "here?"

"That wouldn't make any sense," Walter said. "Whenever you needed anything you'd be coming over here for it, you'd just end up going back and forth across town all the time and that's terribly inefficient."

"Okay," Paige said, resting her hands firmly on his chest. "What if we live together and you understand what I'm saying?"

It was his eyebrows' turn to shoot upward. "Oh," he said, " uh, you want to live here?"

"Well," she said, fixing the collar on his shirt, "it'd be easier than you moving in with us, all our stuff for work is here. And this place is actually closer to Ralph's high school, plus..." she smiled at him, "you know, I kinda like you a little bit."

He kissed her. "Yeah?"

"Yeah." She grinned. "Little bit." Her face grew more serious. "Look, I can keep my apartment for a while, while we see how it goes..."

"Nah," Walter said. "We'll be fine, the three of us." He touched his nose to hers. "We'll be just fine."