Disclaimer: Alas...I still don't own anything Scorpion.

This one shot comes from my crazy brain pondering the possibilities presented in the preview for 2x14 and the synopsis for 2x15. But it doesn't take into account the sneak peeks that came out yesterday because it was already written by then.

I have no idea how any of it is going to play out on the show but, in my world, this is, ideally, what would happen after the end of 2x15.

For those of you who don't read spoilers, I don't want to ruin things for you, but basically the gist of what happens is – Walter tries speed dating and, big surprise, it's a disaster. Then his "bad" date, from the previous night, ends up with a bomb strapped to her chest and team must save her. This story starts when the team returns to the garage after the case has concluded.

Again…. read at your own risk… mature content ahead.

Thanks in advance for reading and reviewing. Enjoy!

Speed Dating

"Well, I don't know about anyone else but I think today proved one very important fact. Walter O'Brien should never speed date," Toby drawled as the team trudged into the garage tiredly, all seven of them a lot more worse for the wear than they were when they left that morning. The past twelve hours had been a clusterfuck of epic proportions, to put it mildly.

"Shut it, Doc," Happy warned him in a low voice as she knocked his hat off the top of his head.

Paige cringed at his words but he just kept talking. "What? All of you are thinking it, too."

"That's enough," Walter snapped at him as he kept his eyes on Paige. She had refused to speak to him during the entire van ride back to the garage; during the entire case, in fact, unless she was absolutely forced to.

"Okay, today was a pretty stressful one," Cabe chimed in from the kitchen where he was putting on a pot of coffee. "Why don't we all take a beat, clear our heads and we can download tomorrow?"

Paige scoffed under her breath as she sat in her chair and pulled out the bottom drawer of her desk. She grabbed a folder that contained the template documents she used to write up their case summaries and she frowned, wondering just how objective she was going to be able to be in her summary.

Walter pursed his lips and shoved his hands into his pockets as he watched her silently. He knew she was angry at him, although he wasn't quite sure why.

"I'm starving. Does anyone else want to order a pizza?" Sylvester asked he walked to his chalkboard, where his latest algorithm was sprawled messily across the black background.

"I'm down for pizza," Toby said. "Happy?"

"I'm not hungry," she called from the other side of the kitchen wall where she was now digging through her toolbox.

While formulas and problems calmed Sylvester, welding and banging metal calmed Happy. And they all needed something to calm them down tonight.

"No thanks," Paige replied in a clipped tone. "I lost my appetite hours ago."

"I think maybe everyone going their separate ways tonight might be best," Cabe said as he walked over with his, now, full mug of coffee. "Paige, your hands are still shaking. Do that tomorrow."

Paige looked at her hand and, sure enough, Cabe was right. Things went sideways today as they often did. But even though many of their cases put them in dangerous situations, today was just too close for comfort. Walter refused to leave his date even though they were unable to defuse the bomb that was strapped to her chest. And as a result they, both, almost blew up. Walter only managed to get them out of it with barely seconds to spare.

"I think you're right, Cabe," she replied as she set the folder in the tray on the corner of her desk and stood up. "I just want to go to bed and forget this day ever happened."

Walter approached her in three strides. "Can I talk to you before you leave, please?"

She gave him a wary look. "Walter, that's not a good idea."

"But-" he started and she shook her head.

"Not tonight, Walter," she insisted, firmly, as she grabbed her purse out of her drawer and dropped it onto her desk.

"I don't understand why you're so angry with me."

"I'm not angry with you," she replied mechanically, so much so that, even, she didn't believe it.

"Lying doesn't become you, Paige," Walter said with a frown as he rocked on the balls of his feet.

"You're treading on some very thin ice, 197," Toby warned quietly through an exaggerated cough.

"Apparently that didn't matter when it came to your date" Paige spoke over him as she replied to Walter's thinly veiled insult, saying the word date like an expletive. "She lied to you and it almost got all of us killed, especially you."

Walter clenched his teeth in frustration. "I'm not going to apologize for trying to save her, Paige. I would have done the same thing for anyone."

And he would have. Walter didn't hesitate to put himself in harm's way to save people, especially innocents. And despite how much of a mitigated disaster their date from the previous evening had been, she was innocent in the events to the day. Trying to save everyone was the only way Walter could keep the nightmares at bay. The only way he could live with himself knowing what the software he created had done.

Paige just looked at him, her face unreadable but her eyes spoke volumes.

"She meant nothing to me," Walter finally said as he threw his arms up in the air with exasperation. "I don't understand-"

"No, I suppose you don't." she said quietly. Too quietly. But at least she was talking to him again. He knew he needed to say something to make her understand but he had no idea what.

Finally he blurted out, "I only went on those stupid dates for you."

"I'm sorry, what?" Paige did a double take as she looked at him stunned.

"Oh, 197, we're hitting DEFCON one, here," Toby muttered loudly. "Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!"

"Shut it Toby," Cabe said and yanked the shrink out of what surely was going to be the line of fire.

Walter ignored them, focusing all his attention on the woman in front of him. "I did it for you. To..to show you…" he stuttered the way he often did when she got him exasperated. She was the only person on the planet who could do that to him. "I w..was trying…. trying to-"

"What exactly were you trying to do?" Paige crossed her arms in front of her as she narrowed her eyes.

"I was attempting to heed Megan's advice." He pursed his lips and looked miserable. He didn't want to have this conversation with the rest of the team around, but he clearly he was going to have to so he continued reluctantly. "And I was trying to show you how much you mean to me."

Paige couldn't hide the disbelief that crossed her face. "And you thought going on a date with another woman was the way to do that?"

"Well when you put it like that it sounds completely illogical," Walter admitted and his face scrunched up as he frowned.

"That's because it is," Toby mock whispered from where all of the team, including Cabe, were now hiding behind the wall with Happy.

Paige shook her head and released a weary sigh. "Walter, for a genius, you can be a colossal idiot sometimes."

He shrugged, silently acknowledging the validity of her words. When the next words left his lips it surprised them both. "I wanted to show you I could be the kind of man you need."

Paige's eyes flashed angrily. "Who are you to assume you know what I need?" she snapped as she stepped closer and poked him in the chest. "Have you ever thought to ask me?"

Walter held his ground even though part of him wanted to shrink under her furious glare. He felt like a scolded child and wondered if Ralph ever made her this mad. He certainly didn't envy the kid if that was the case.

"I was trying to learn how to communicate more effectively," he replied, his tone defensive. His body language mimicked his voice and he crossed his arms over his chest defensively. "I thought if I could thrive in that kind of environment, fit into the normal world, then I could-.

Page scoffed. "There is nothing normal about speed dating events, Walter. They're for people looking to hook up."

He blanched. "I was not looking to hook up with anyone but you."

She raised her eyebrow and dared him to continue.

"Oh jeez," Sylvester muttered anxiously from behind the wall. "There is a ninety seven and a half percent chance this is going to end badly."

"Shhh… I can't hear them when you're flapping your gums," Toby scolded and Walter wanted to wring their necks. Why hadn't he kicked them all out of the garage?

"Okay, that didn't come out quite right," Walter admitted ruefully.

"You've made it crystal clear that you don't want a relationship, Walter, so you can do whatever you want. And whoever you want," Paige added with a distasteful look on her face.

"I don't want to do anyone," he growled frustrated. Why couldn't she just understand? "Despite evidence to the contrary, I am trying very hard to be worthy of you and be the man you need, Paige."

"Newsflash," she snapped again. "You don't have to be anyone but exactly who you are, Walter. You never have."

"Those dates meant nothing," he insisted stubbornly. "They were a means to an end."

"It's an end, alright," Paige said with a scowl. "Goodnight, Walter."

She grabbed her purse from the top of her desk and started to walk away.

"Paige," Walter said her name desperately as he stepped forward and grasped her elbow. His eyes were as wild as they were the night they fought about Ralph and he went on to crash his car.

"Let me go," she said without turning around.

"No," he said as he shook his head, his fingers flexing against her skin. He let her walk out that night and the thought that she was doing it again made his head swim. He wanted to say so much to her but his tongue was tied.

"You're hurting my arm, Walter."

"Sorry…sorry," he muttered as he released her arm like it burned his fingers and shoved his hands into his pockets again. The garage was silent as everyone held their breath, waiting for Walter to speak. When he didn't, after a minute, Paige shook her head with disappointment and walked out the door without another word.

Walter released a frustrated growl and he slapped his hands down onto Paige's desk causing a picture of Ralph to topple over. "I don't understand why she's so upset. Those dates meant nothing," he said, more to himself, but, of course, everyone heard him.

Toby peeked around the wall and Walter could see him out of the corner of his eye.

"Don't even start with me, Toby," Walter warned before the shrink could speak.

But Toby just strode over and gave Walter the stink eye. "Oh, I'm going to start with you, alright, Walt. Because I think that 197 brain of yours must have oozed out of your ear while you laying on that floor today."

"I don't care what you think." Walter tried to push past him but the behaviorist pressed his hand against Walter's chest to stop him. "Let me go, Toby," Walter warned in a low, dangerous, tone.

Toby dropped his hand but he still stood in Walter's way so the genius couldn't flee. "Usually I can read you pretty well but your behavior lately has been so unpredictable I can barely get anything reliable."

"Good because I hate it when you try to analyze me."

"What the hell are you thinking, Walt?" Toby shook his head as he, too, looked disappointed in the genius. "I warned you the other night about the insanity of this but you didn't listen to me."

"There is nothing insane about this experiment," Walter insisted. "It just, clearly, didn't have favorable results yet, but that doesn't mean it won't."

"Experimenting with dating anyone other than Paige will never yield favorable results, you emotional dumpster fire," Toby said angrily, using his favorite nickname for Walter, other than 197. "Doing the same thing but expecting a different result if the definition of insanity."

"Megan told me not to be afraid to love."

"Somehow I don't think she meant you should love any girl you come across."

"It definitely isn't," Sylvester added quietly from the corner as he wrung his fingers together anxiously.

"Those dates had nothing to do with love, Toby. Don't be ludicrous," Walter scoffed. "The only woman I'll ever love is Paige."

A collective gasp filled the garage followed by the loud clang of whatever tool Happy had been holding as it hit the floor.

Walter froze as his brain caught up with his mouth and he paled as he realized what he said.

Toby was the first to recover and he slapped Walter on the back.

"It kills me to not jump on that faster than you can say it's about time, but, considering the look on your face, it's clear you're even more shocked, than we are, that those words came out of your mouth. So I'm going to let you stew on that a while, 197. But let me say just one more thing." Toby threw his arm over Walter's shoulder and the genius stiffened but Toby ignored it. "You, my friend, need to get your head out of your ass because the best thing that has ever happened to you just walked out that door. If you don't, you're going to lose the only woman you'll ever love," Toby quoted Walter verbatim and anyone with half a brain could hear the glee in it. It made Walter's teeth clench.

"Get off me, Toby," Walter growled as he shoved Toby's arm off his shoulder. He didn't need to look into the mirror to know he looked a like a wild, cornered, animal. Toby's words filled him with panic and it was getting hard to breathe. "You need to stay out of this," Walter practically shouted before he turned and stormed up the stairs.


Walter stomped into the loft and looked around frantically; looking for anything he could throw. He saw his favorite coffee cup on the counter and picked it up before hurling it against the wall.

He pressed her hands against the counter and breathed heavily. This was why a relationship with Paige was a mistake. It didn't matter how he felt about her, it was inevitable he would only hurt her. He couldn't be what she needed. He wasn't built like that.

Walter saw another cup on the counter and picked it up, intending to also throw it, but he saw Paige's lipstick on the lip and it compelled him to put it down.

He sighed and walked over to the sofa, slumping down onto it before leaning forward and burying his face in his hands. He expelled a loud growl against his fingers as his shoulders slumped.

The sound of Ferret Bueller scampering up onto the sofa beside him invaded his mind and he lifted his head and sat back just as the ferret climbed onto his lap. Walter automatically petted him as Ferret Bueller burrowed against him, making himself comfortable before looking up at Walter with what the genius could have sworn was a narrow gaze.

"Don't tell me you're going to yell at me too?" Walter asked with an arched brow.

Ferret Bueller made his typical chattering sound before he started to lick the fur on his belly.

Walter scoffed in the back of his throat. "I can't believe I'm talking to a ferret."

Ferret Bueller stopped licking his fur and looked up at Walter again. "I just don't understand her sometimes, Bueller. Why doesn't she understand? She usually understands me so well. How can she even think those dates meant anything."

Walter rubbed his fingers absently against Ferret Bueller's head and his little paws tried to swat his hand away. "I knew admitting I had feelings for her was going to ruin everything. I never should have told her. I've hurt her like I knew I would and now she walked out on me again."

Ferret Bueller climbed up Walter's chest to wind his lanky little body over Walter's shoulder.

"What are you doing? Ow," Walter snapped as Ferret Bueller bit his earlobe. He yanked the ferret down and held him beneath his armpits as he glared at him.

"What the hell did you do that for?"

Ferret Bueller wiggled in his hand and chattered louder, almost as if he was scolding Walter.

"Whose side are you on anyways?" Walter complained as he rubbed his sore ear with his free hand. "You're my pet, you know. Aren't you supposed to be on my side?"

Ferret Bueller stopped wiggling but kept chattering.

"I can't lose her," Walter mumbled as he put Ferret Bueller on the sofa beside him. The ferret climbed onto his lap again before moving up to snuggle against his chest. "I can't lose her. Or Ralph," Walter said he absently stroked Ferret Bueller's fur. "You saw what happened the last time."

Ferret Bueller yanked at one of Walter's buttons and tried to shove his head into Walter's shirt, but the genius was oblivious. "Okay, yes, I melted down a little bit but what did you expect? She was going to leave me and take Ralph."

Ferret Bueller stopped trying to burrow in Walter's shirt and curled up on his chest again.

"This is Megan's fault," Walter continued to talk to Ferret Bueller, or to himself, he wasn't really sure. "Do you hear that, Megan," Walter said as he looked up at the ceiling. "This is your fault because you aren't here for me to talk to anymore? I could really use you right now," he sighed sadly, missing his sister terribly at that moment.


Walter looked up as he heard Sylvester's voice from the doorway.

"Sly, if you're just going to lecture me too, I really don't need it right now."

Sylvester shook his head. "I'm not here to lecture you. I just wanted to tell you that everyone left and I'm heading out now too."

Walter nodded his head absently, not really listening.

"But before I left I wanted to tell you to check your email."

That caught Walter's attention. "Why?"

"Just check it." Walter looked at him curiously as he shifted Bueller on his chest and reached for his tablet on coffee table. He'd left it there that morning when they got the call about the bomb.

"And, Walter," Sylvester continued hesitantly. "I didn't mean to eavesdrop but I heard what you said. Paige isn't going to leave us. She isn't going to leave you. She promised last time she'd never do it again."

"People make promises they don't keep all the time," Walter replied as he watched the screen of his tablet boot up.

"Not Paige."

As sulky as he was, Walter couldn't disagree. Paige didn't break promises and, logically, Walter knew it. But at the moment, the genius could admit, albeit reluctantly, that he wasn't thinking very logically.

"Night Walter."

As was often the case Walter didn't reply. He set Ferret Bueller on the sofa beside him again and logged into his email before resting his tablet on his thighs. Ferret Bueller burrowed under his arm and climbed on his lap in front of the tablet.

"You're awful pushy tonight."

Walter scanned his in-box and froze when he saw an email from Megan's address. He quickly glanced toward the door Sylvester had disappeared through.

"Sly?" he called but there was no answer.

He opened the email and found a WAV file. He clicked it and the video opened.

Megan was sitting in her room at the rehab facility. It was before her health really started to deteriorate, before she was hospitalized, and she was laughing softly as she looked at the camera.

"Sly, just leave the camera alone. It's fine."

"I just want to make sure you're centered." Sylvester's voice came from behind it.

Megan rolled her eyes as she shifted on the chair that was positioned beside the window. There was a small table beside her and Walter could see a framed photograph of the two of them beside the lamp. Beside it was a photo of Megan and Sly and then one of Walter, Paige and Ralph from their first Christmas together. Walter was wearing that ridiculous light up sweater Paige had given him. She stood next to him and Ralph was standing in front of them. Each of them had a hand on one of Ralph's shoulders and they were all smiling at the camera.

They looked like a family. A happy family. And Walter swallowed as it hit him like a ton of bricks. He wanted that family more than he wanted anything in his life.

"I can see myself in the view finder. It's fine." Megan laughed again and Walter tore his eyes from the photo and looked back at his sister's face in the middle of the screen.

"Okay," Sylvester said and the camera stopped moving.

"Can you give me a few minutes alone?" Megan asked with a soft smile.

"Sure," Sylvester replied from off-screen. "I'll go get that blueberry muffin you like from the cafeteria."

"Thanks Sly," she said and Walter could see the happiness in her eyes as she watched him leave. Why hadn't he noticed how happy Sly made her before it was too late?

Ferret Bueller reached out and started clawing the screen and Walter tapped his paw.

"Don't do that," he scolded as he and Ferret Bueller wrestled a little. "You're going to scratch the screen."

"Hey baby brother," Megan started speaking on the video, as she looked straight at the camera, and Walter's attention was drawn back to her. "So this is another video for you. And if Sly sent it then it means you've screwed up, royally, with Paige."

Walter frowned and pursed his lips as he waited for Megan to continue. "Walter, as someone who is dying I can see things that others might miss. When you know your time is limited you make sure you look for the beauty and the truth in everything. I don't know what you did, but knowing you it could be anything. You need to make whatever it is right with Paige."

Megan reached over and picked up the photo of the three of them. She looked down at it and her smile widened. "She loves you, you know," Megan continued as she looked back at the camera. "She's never told me so, but she doesn't have to. I see it when she looks at you. The same way I see it when you look at her."

Walter looked stoically at the screen in front of him as Megan chuckled and brought the picture to her chest.

"You aren't easy, baby brother, but that just makes you all that much more special; that much more worth the effort. She understands and accepts you exactly as you are. Do you have any idea what a gift that is? To have someone who loves and accepts you with no conditions. She sees your heart, Walter, not just your mind. She may not have a genius IQ but she is one of the smartest people I have ever met and I know the fourth smartest one on the planet." Megan smirked at the camera and Walter's lips quirked as he remembered how she always used that smirk to get him to do anything she asked. "She has the ability to stimulate your mind, as well as your heart, so don't let her go. She and Ralph are exactly what you need. And you are exactly what she needs."

Walter pursed his lips. How did his sister always know the heart of his insecurity? Even from her grave she showed him, as always, that she knew him better than anyone.

"I know you love her, baby bro. I knew it from the first second you told me about her." Megan lowered the photograph to her lap as she tilted her head. "You probably didn't realize how much you talked about her. Whenever you visited me, we talked about exactly four things. My condition, your research and what you were doing to try to help me, Paige, and by extension, Ralph. The day I met her in the garage I knew, instantly, why you couldn't stop talking about her. And I knew, just as instantly, that she would become the love of your life."

Walter frowned at Megan's choice of words but he was riveted, nonetheless, by what she was saying.

"Trust your big sister, Walter. If there is anyone who knows you, it's me. And if there is anyone who can see right through all your walls, it's me. I know you don't believe in love. Or at least you try to convince yourself that you don't. But it's real. And Paige will become the love of your life. Walter. She already has."

Megan placed the photograph back on the table and she looked at it for a long moment before she looked back at the camera. Her eyes were moist and she blinked rapidly.

"Now go to her and make it right. Don't hide from her. Tell her you love her, Walter." Megan sighed and smiled again as she reached over and picked up the photo of her and Sylvester. "I've found my perfect happiness with Sly. I wish I had more time with him." Megan's smile turned sad. "I wish I had a lifetime but I won't waste a single second with him. And don't you do it with Paige. She will give you a life, Walter. A family. She already has with Ralph. That kid may not be yours biologically but he's yours in every other way. You're an amazing father figure and mentor to him and I know you love him too."

Megan sniffled and wiped the corners of her eyes as she chuckled softly. She let the photo of her and Sylvester rest on her lap.

"But that doesn't mean you can't give her more genius babies, baby bro. The two of you would make beautiful babies together. God I wish I could be around to see that."

Megan's face turned serious but her smile remained.

"Love her, Walter. Worship her and cherish her and don't waste another second being foolish or stubborn or holding yourself back from her. Make her your everything because she will love you and all your quirks unconditionally. And there is nothing more important in life than love. Not even science and math." Megan leaned toward the camera so only her face was in the frame. "And never forget, I love you, baby brother."

The video ended and Walter sat there staring at the tablet replaying every second of it in his mind, replaying everything she said. He jumped when Ferret Bueller bit his fingertip.

"Damn it, Ferret Bueller, if you bite me again I'm going to bite you back."

The ferret just looked at him with what Walter would have sworn was a defiant look. Of course, that was illogical, but it didn't make it any less true.

Walter wasn't sure how long he sat there before he grabbed the ferret, tossed his tablet aside and stood up abruptly. He walked over and put Ferret Bueller in his cage and then grabbed his keys off the counter.

"Wish me luck. I'm gonna need it," he said before he bolted out of the room and down the stairs.


"Please don't slam the door in my face."

The words were out of his mouth before Paige had the door open completely.

"What are you doing here, Walter?" she asked tiredly. It was obvious she'd showered and had changed into a comfortable pair of yoga pants and white t-shirt. He could see the fatigue in her eyes and knew it was primarily because of him.

"You walked out on me again" Walter said the first thing that came into his mind even though it wasn't how he intended to start this conversation. "I hate it when you walk out on me."

"Walter, I don't want to do this with you," she leaned against the edge of the door. "There was no reason for you to come over here tonight. I'll get past my aggravation with you and things will go back to normal tomorrow."

Walter cringed. He hated that word. If just reminded him how very different they both were.

"Please just let me come in," he implored, knowing if left now he'd lose his nerve. "Let me say what I came here to say and if you still want to kick me out by the end of it, I'll leave willingly. But I have things I… I need to say. I owe you a better explanation for this whole speed dating nonsense."

"You don't owe me anything." Paige looked at him and she could see the anxiety was pouring off him. And for half a second she felt bad. But then she remembered she wasn't the one who had anything to feel bad about.

"Yes I do," he insisted firmly. "I owe you an apology and I wish you would let me give it to you."

Paige sighed again before she stood back and let him walk into the living room. He stepped to the side so she could close the door.

"Thank you," he said as he shoved his hands into his pockets. He looked around the small condo and everything about it screamed Paige. From the soft, feminine décor to the scent that permeated the entire space. The room smelled like her, just as much of the garage did, now, particularly the loft once he'd installed the lavender diffuser. And Walter realized it was one of the things he'd come to rely on in his life. Her presence in everything.

After a moment, Paige crossed her arms over her chest. "Walter, please just say what you came here to say. It was a long day and I'm tired."

"Right," he said and pursed his lips before he finally sighed as he looked away from her. "I didn't realize what my attempt at speed dating would look like to you. Or anyone really. But I don't care what anyone else thinks." He looked back at her and saw her watching him in that rapt way of hers. It always made him ache for her. He cleared his throat before he continued. "I wasn't trying to hurt you. I never want to hurt you, Paige, and I'm sorry I did."

Paige lowered her arms as her body relaxed slightly. That was her subconscious way of letting him know she was open to what he was saying.

"Walter I know your EQ is very low but you've come such a long way since we met. After everything we admitted to each other, how could you not know how your dating another woman would make me feel? I know we agreed not to act on our feelings but that doesn't mean they go away."

Walter shrugged because he didn't know what else to do. "I don't know how to recognize those kinds of cues, Paige. What I was doing was very clear and logical to me but I see now it was completely illogical. I was trying to learn how to connect. Janice told me it wouldn't be fair to get involved with you if I wasn't able to have a connection with you."

Paige blinked. "When did you discuss us with your ex?"

"Uh…" Walter started, wondering if he'd said the wrong thing again. "That night after the yacht returned to the harbor."

"That was over a year ago," Paige said quietly as she realized he was talking about the case where they stopped Christoph from selling those nukes.

"I've had feelings for you for a very long time," Walter admitted just as quietly and Paige's eyes softened. "But I don't know how to express them adequately. Math and science are so simple for me, Paige. My brain processes them without thought. But when it comes to emotions I'm a train wreck."

Paige smiled a little sadly because it was true. He was a train wreck when it came to his feelings and, as much faith as she had in him to do just about anything, she didn't know if that was something he would be able to overcome.

"Until you came into my life I honestly believed the heart was nothing more than a circulatory muscle. But you do things to mine that are illogical, that are scientifically impossible, and I don't know how to reconcile that. I was trying to learn how to connect with you in an environment where there was no risk of hurting you. At least that's what I thought. But I ended up hurting you anyway."

"Walter, you can't figure out how to connect with me by practicing with someone else," she said obviously. "And we already connect. We have since the day we met. I feel closer to you than anyone I have in my entire life and there is no one I trust more with my heart or my son."

"Before you, Paige, the only person I trusted completely was Megan. But now there is no one I trust more than you," he admitted and the second the words left his month Walter knew, unequivocally, that they were the truth.

"I know we agreed to not act on our feelings," Paige said as she smiled sadly again. "But I thought we were getting closer. I thought we were both moving toward the same thing, Walter, but if you don't want a relationship with me you just have to tell me. If I misunderstood-"

"No," Walter blurted out and the hurt that flashed in her eyes had him stuttering over himself. "What…what I mean is yes..yes." He took a deep breath before he forced the next words out of his mouth. "Yes I want a relationship with you. I just don't know how to do this. I thought if I could find a way to communicate better….." Walter clenched his hands at his sides. Why did this have to be so hard? "I don't want to hurt you, Paige and I'm afraid my EQ deficiency is, one day, going to hurt you beyond repair."

Paige's demeanor softened and Walter stepped closer to her. He wanted to reach for her hand but his arm felt like it had lead in it.

"There is no one else on earth like me, Paige."

She quirked an eyebrow as her lips curved up on the right side. He silently acknowledged her amusement with a nod of his head.

"At one time I would have said that with arrogance and ego but now I say it because it's just a fact. You're the only person who understands me now. Megan did, but she's gone. And even though she did, part of that came from the fact we shared blood and she knew me from the day I was born."

Walter's fingers flexed as he ached to touch her but he had to get this out or he never would.

"But you're different, Paige. You see right through the walls I've erected and you accept me even with all my faults, and I haven't scared you off yet. I have no idea how that is."

"Walter," Paige started to say but he shook his head to stop her.

"But you terrify me, Paige. You have the power to destroy me. I've never in my life wished I was normal more than I do right now."

Paige stepped closer to him and reached for his hand. She entwined their fingers together and Walter squeezed them gently, his relief palpable on his face.

"Walter, you're not normal. And I'd never want you to be. I fell in love with you exactly as you are."

His eyes widened and for a brief second he almost scoffed, having so long not believed in love. But after Megan's video and hearing Paige not only say she loved him, but that she loved him exactly as he was, an emotionally stunted megalomaniac genius, Walter's next words just slipped past his lips unencumbered.

"Do you know the moment I fell in love with you?" he blurted out and Paige gasped at his words before she shook her head softly.

His lips curved into the boyish grin that always made her heart race. "When you vomited out the door of that Ferrari."

She choked out a laugh before she shook her head with disbelief. "That's not possible."

"You're right it's not. It's certain." Walter said truthfully as his thumb brushed over the back of her hand. "I didn't know it at the time, of course. I had no idea what that feeling in my chest was."

"Walter," she breathed his name but he just continued before she could.

"It wasn't until we danced together at Labeaux's party that I realized I had feelings for you. When I saw you in that dress my entire world shifted. And then when I held you when we danced… I knew in that instant I never wanted to live without you."

Paige lifted her hand and caressed his cheek and he hurried on, needing her to know it all now. Now that the dam had been opened, there was no turning back.

"I reset the device, by the way." She looked at him, confusion clouding her features. "I never told you that. I never told anyone. It didn't malfunction. I reset it because I wasn't ready to let you go." The confusion cleared from Paige's eyes as his words registered. "That government shrink figured it out and confronted me. Of course I denied it. I still didn't recognize what I was feeling as love because I had no idea what love felt like. I still don't fully understand everything you make me feel, Paige. All I know is I can't lose you," he stepped closer to her. "Or Ralph," he added honestly and by look in her eyes he knew he said the right thing. "I won't survive it."

"You're not going to lose either of us, Walter," she assured him. "We're friends first. If this doesn't work out it we'll still remain friends and colleagues."

"That's easy to say now," he challenged as he pursed his lips. "But what happens when I inevitably screw up? I can make you all sorts of empty promises, knowing full well I can never keep them, but I won't lie to you, Paige. Not anymore. Every time I state non-facts it turns into a disaster. And I'm so tired of hiding from how I feel about you."

She dropped her hand from his cheek because she could tell her touch was distracting and making him uneasy.

"I don't want to screw this up," he admitted, his eyes flashing with uncertainty. It wasn't something Paige was used to seeing and she knew it was because he was completely out of his depth.

"I'm scared too," Paige confessed softly and he nodded his head. "But not so scared that I don't want to try. We take calculated risks every day, Walter, and this is one I'm willing to take."

Walter's lips curved as she used his logic to make her point. But she needed to know the depth of the risk this was, what being with him truly meant.

"When we were in that blizzard a few weeks ago, and Toby asked me if I'd go back to the hut if you were out there, there was no question. I would have let all of them die to save you."

"Walter, don't say that," she gasped taken aback by his words.

"It's a fact," Walter replied bluntly. "I'm not necessarily proud of it, but I'm not ashamed either. I take very seriously what you said to me the first day we met, Paige, and I live my life by it now. We save everyone. And I would do anything to save the team, our family, but if I ever have to make a choice, I will always save you, and Ralph, first."

Paige lifted her hands and ran her fingers through her hair as she tried to process everything Walter was telling her.

"I don't know what that means for Scorpion and it terrifies me that my feelings for you could alter the dynamic we've all developed because Scorpion doesn't work without you, Paige. We were a mess before you came into our lives and we don't work without you," Walter reiterated before adding truthfully, "I don't work without you."

Walter wasn't sure who lunged at who, first, but before his 197 IQ brain was able to comprehend what was happening Paige was in his arms and her lips were fused to his. Unlike their last kiss, when he hadn't dare touch her, this time he wrapped his arms around her and pulled her against him.

As her body collided with his, the world beneath Walter shifted, more than physically. The last time he kissed her he could feel her on his lips for days afterward. This time he was sure the feeling of her would never leave him.

Paige's fingers slid into his hair and she opened her mouth to him as he thrust his tongue into her mouth, seeking out the taste of her as he deepened the kiss.

"Walter," Paige choked his name against his lips as they stumbled across the room. Walter pushed her along until her back hit the wall. Paige grunted softly and Walter swallowed the sound as he pressed against her, trapping her between his body and the wall.

Paige's nimble little hands slid down his chest and started unbuttoning his shirt. Walter gripped her hips as he pressed his lower body against her harder, letting her feel exactly what she was doing to him. He was hard and throbbing and all he wanted at that moment was to bury himself inside her and let the rest of the world disappear.

In the far recesses of his lust addled brain, Walter knew they should slow down but he shoved those thoughts away and just kissed her more deeply.

Paige got halfway down his shirt and, frustrated with his buttons, she growled before she just tugged and sent the last few buttons flying away as she yanked the fabric open.

Walter's hands left her hips and he tugged her t-shirt out of her yoga pants. His fingers splayed over the warm, smooth, skin of her stomach and she trembled.

Their kisses became more frantic and sloppy and they clumsily dragged along the wall as Paige guided them down the hall, toward her bedroom. Picture frames crashed to the floor but neither of them noticed.

Paige tugged on Walter's undershirt, pulling it out of his pants and reciprocated his actions, running her fingertips over the hard muscles of his abdomen. The muscles quivered in response and then Walter pushed his hips against her again, letting her feel how much more impossibly hard he'd become.

"Ralph?" he barely managed to ask, not wanting the boy to come out of his bedroom to find Walter defiling his mother in the hallway.

"Sleepover at Billy's," Paige answered between long, wet, deep kisses. "Will you just take me to bed, please," she begged softly and Walter groaned, having imagined her saying those words more times than he would want to admit.

"Yes ma'am," he murmured against her lips and, as they reached the threshold of Paige's bedroom, Walter pressed her against the door jam. He pushed Paige's shirt up, until his hands slid over and cupped her breasts. The lace covering her tickled his palms as he flexed his fingers, gently squeezing the soft globes and Paige tore her lips away from his and moaned long and low. Her head fell back and hit the wall as Walter kissed a wet path down her chin to her throat. He swirled his tongue over her skin and groaned as the taste of her assaulted his taste buds.

When his hands only remained on her breasts, gently squeezing and caressing her through the lace, Paige realized he wasn't going to finish his task so she reached up and tugged her shirt over her head.

Walter was forced to remove his lips from her neck and he growled in protest but his eyes dropped to her breasts and they darkened as he took in the sight of the creamy skin encased in satin and lace.

Paige let her shirt drop to the floor before reaching out and shoving his shirt down his arms. He roughly shrugged out of his button down, letting it drop to the floor before returning his hands to her breasts as his lips sought hers again.

"Walter," she whimpered against his lips as his fingers teased her nipples through the fabric.

He tore his lips away, abruptly, and looked down at her breasts again, just as his fingers released the clasp in the center.

"The clasp is in the front," he said with such wonder that she couldn't stop the laugh that escaped. But then her laugh turned into a moan when he pushed the fabric aside, freeing her breasts, and rolled her nipples between his thumbs and forefingers.

"Oh, god," she moaned and she reached for his stomach again, fluttering her fingers over his skin before reaching around his body and clutching him closer.

Walter licked his lips and his eyes darkened as he took in the sight of her skin flushing. Unable to stop himself, he lowered his head and wrapped his lips around one hard nipple. Paige's body jerked like she'd been shocked and she reached up and slid her fingers into his hair again as he suckled her.


His name was like a prayer as it fell from her lips and, in response to the sound of his name; Walter yanked her away from the door jam and guided her backwards into the bedroom.

Paige reached down and yanked on the button of his pants before sliding her hand down over the outside, cupping her fingers over the hard flesh beneath. His teeth nipped at her as she stroked him from base to tip as he strained against the fabric.

The back of her legs hit the bed and she fell backward onto the mattress as he leaned over her, lifting one knee to the mattress between her thighs. He was forced to release her nipple and he lifted his head and looked down at her. She shrugged out of her bra and tossed it aside as he yanked his undershirt over his head and tossed it away.

Paige shimmied up the mattress until she was in the center of the bed with her head resting on one of her pillows. Her breasts heaved as she struggled to catch her breath.

Walter toed his shoes off and then reached for her waist. He tugged her yoga pants and panties down her legs, divesting her of her last articles of clothing.

Paige let her thighs fall open as she looked up at him with eyes heavy lidded with desire. His eyes raked over her from head to toe and she could have sworn she felt heat caressing her skin from the intensity of his gaze.

"Beautiful," he breathed as he pressed his knee to the mattress again and leaned down over her.

His fingertips fluttered up the outside of her thigh as he lowered his lips to her abdomen. The scent of her arousal filled his nostrils as he brushed his lips softly over her, pressing open mouth kisses against her warm, smooth skin. Paige's body quivered as she reached down and slid her fingers into his short hair as her thighs trembled around his torso. She scratched his scalp gently and arched her back, offering herself up to him as his tongue swirled over her in slow circles before dipping into her belly button.

"Walter," she moaned softly and the sound went straight through Walter and made his body twitch and throb in anticipation.

He slowly worked his way up her body, taking his time as his tongue and lips left a wet trail across her skin until he reached her breasts.

Paige moaned long and low when his lips wrapped around one nipple and her eyes rolled back in pleasure. One of Walter's hands found her other breast as he balanced himself over her on the other. His fingers gently tweaked her nipple as he pressed his lower body between her thighs. He could feel the heat of her through his pants and he groaned around her nipple.

The rough fabric of his pants rubbed against Paige. The sensation caused her to jerk softly as her hands clutched at him desperately and she lifted one leg and wrapped it around his hip.

Walter suckled her gently and then more firmly as she writhed and wriggled and moaned beneath him. He finally released her nipple with a soft pop before giving the other one the same attention.

Paige slid her hands between them and her hand splayed over his stomach, again, before she slid her hand lower and slowly lowered the zipper of his pants. She slipped her fingers down the front of his boxer briefs. She wrapped her fingers around him. He was hard and he throbbed and surged against her palm.

"Paige," Walter choked her name as he tore his lips away, panting and gasping for breath. He was never going to last if she didn't stop so he reached down and grasped her wrist, stilling her motions.

He lifted his head and looked down at her. She was impossibly beautiful and for a few seconds he was unable to speak.

"I don't think," he started to say but she slipped her hand out of his boxers and shook his hand off her wrist before lifting her fingers to his lips.

"Walter," she said softly as she slid her hand across his cheek and around to the back of his neck. She pulled him down so she could brush her lips over his. "Shut that brain of yours off for once. Don't think," Paige grasped his wrist and slid his hand down between her thighs. "Just feel," she breathed against his lips as she pressed his calloused fingers against her flesh. She was swollen and wet and warm against his fingertips.

He did as she commanded and brushed his fingers against her, coating the digits with her arousal as he teased her. And as her body melted beneath him, Walter lowered his mouth to her throat, letting his lips just barely brush against her skin. She arched her back as Walter swirled his tongue over the skin of her throat before moving up over her chin to take her lips in a long deep kiss, murmuring her name reverently.

She whimpered into his mouth as she bucked her hips, writhing beneath his touch, urging him on, and he obliged her by slipping his fingers lower, one plunging inside her while his thumb teased her mercilessly.

After several minutes of touching and teasing her, Walter forced himself to move away. He stood and shoved his pants and boxers to the ground, stepping out of them before crawling between her thighs again. He gripped her thigh as she lifted her leg and wrapped it around his hip. His lips found hers as he lowered himself on top of her and slowly sunk inside her, inch by inch.

As her body surrounded him, soft and wet and tight, Walter steeled himself against the sensation. It was too much and he was sure he was going to humiliate himself; so as soon as she was wrapped around him completely he held still and tried to catch his breath.

Paige arched her back deeper and wrapped her arms and legs around him as her body accepted him. It had been so long since she had a man inside her. Years, in fact. And Walter felt so good. It took her body a few minutes to adjust to the welcome intrusion but as her muscles relaxed she let out a shuddering breath into this mouth. She could feel him trembling in her arms and she knew he was feeling the same intensity so she just focused on kissing him.

Slowly, in increments, she felt him relax on top of her, could feel the muscles in his back soften slightly and she fluttered her fingers down his spine.

Walter's lips released hers and slowly brushed across her cheek.

"You feel so good," he whispered against the shell of her ear and Paige smiled. She never imagined Walter to be a talker during sex but she had a feeling he was going to surprise her at every turn the way he always had.

"Mmmm," she hummed against his cheek. "You feel perfect."

Slowly, Walter began moving inside her. He began to pump, shallowly at first, and then with each thrust he plunged deeper.

His lips caressed her neck and throat, his tongue swirling and tasting the sweat as it formed on her skin. What started out as long, slow, deep thrusts quickly sped up and became more frantic and erratic as Paige arched her back and tilted her hips beneath him. She met his thrusts with even rolls of her hips and she pressed her lips against his ear and chanted his name softly. Walter's lips caressed a wet path up over her chin and he kissed her again, desperate for the taste of her.

The weight of him on top of her felt glorious and Paige reveled in the way his chest crushed her breasts between them.

"No, no, no," Walter started muttering as he pulled his lips away and buried his face in her neck as he stilled on top of her.

She could feel his body freeze as he panted harshly against her neck and she knew instantly what was happening. She stopped moving against him and turned her face to press her lips against his ear.

"It's okay, Walter. Just breathe."

Every muscle in her body ached to move beneath him but Paige knew she needed to remain still. He was on the verge of coming and she knew if he ejaculated, prematurely, things between them would be over before they began. In more ways than one.

It had been a long time for both of them but he was clearly more acutely affected by the sensations their joined bodies were creating. She could hear him grinding his teeth has he continued to pant harshly against her neck.

"Walter," she said his name softly. He shuddered in response and grunted against her skin. "I know I told you to get out of your head and not think but maybe that wasn't such a good idea. Why don't you list the elements of the periodic table?"

He barked out a harsh laugh but did as she suggested, awed that she knew what he needed without having to tell her. He was mortified. He wasn't some teenager who was having sex for the first time. He was capable of controlling his body and pacing himself. Granted it had been almost 2 years since the last time he'd been inside a woman, but he still shouldn't be ready to blow, as they say, within minutes like this.

All Walter wanted to do was move, thrust, pump, and pound into her until his eyes rolled back in his head, but if he moved, even once inch, he was going to humiliate himself.

"There's no rush, Walter. We've got all night," Paige soothed gently and her soft voice in his ear, remarkably, calmed him. Slowly the muscles in his body loosened and his body relaxed on her again. She moved gingerly beneath him as she lowered her legs from around him, letting her feet fall to the mattress.

"No," he growled against her and reached down to pull her leg up and around him again. "Wrap them back around me."

Paige smiled against his neck and pressed a soft kiss against his skin as she did as he commanded.

The movement caused Walter to slip impossibly deeper and the feeling drove him to start thrusting again. His body took over and, surprisingly, he had control if it once again. He lifted his head and took her lips in a deep, grateful, kiss as one hand gripped her right thigh and the other slid beneath her ass. He tilted her hips up as he plunged into her, finding his rhythm once again.

Paige whimpered into Walter's mouth and they began a steady pace as their desire took over. Paige could feel the short coarse hairs on his chest rubbing against her nipples as he moved over her and she felt the sensation all the way down between her thighs, adding to the already incredible and intense pleasure coursing through her body.

Walter held back as long as he could, determined to pull every last ounce of pleasure out of her. Never before had that mattered to him. Sex was a physical release and nothing more. Until now. With Paige, everything was more.

She tightened her thighs around his hips and bucked hers beneath him. She felt every last inch of him as her body inched closer and closer to orgasm.

Walter had no idea how much time passed. It felt like seconds and minutes and hours, all at once. But he never wanted to move from where he was at that moment. Ever.

And for the first time in his life he suspected he would be willing to renounce both science and math so long as she never stopped moving her hips just like that.

All too soon, Walter felt the telltale tingling in his balls and he knew he wasn't going to last much longer. He started thrusting harder and deeper, causing her to gasp and moan simultaneously. He lifted his head and looked down at Paige before leaning down and kissing her again. She lowered her legs and pushed her feet into the mattress, using it as leverage as she lifted her hips, meeting his thrusts. She cried out softly into his mouth as her entire body trembled beneath him. He swallowed her cries as he fought his own orgasm as long as he could. She pulsed and throbbed around him, squeezing his aching flesh as her orgasm rolled over her in long waves.

Walter tore his lips away and buried his face in her neck, groaning like a dying man as his own orgasm slammed into him hard and fast. He thrust, deep, one last time and held his hips flush against hers as he erupted inside her. For one brief second the thought that they'd failed to use protection crossed Walter's mind, but then every thought he had was wiped clean as his large body shuddered on top of her. Paige tightened her arms around him and held him until he stopped trembling.

He smiled against her neck and murmured her name and the word love and then something completely unintelligible but Paige could have sworn it was a foreign language.

"Wow," she laughed breathlessly as she kissed his ear. Her legs fell against the bed weakly as her body sank into the mattress.

He chuckled and nuzzled her throat and, now that the immediate urge to mate with her had passed, Walter could finally think clearly again.

Paige wriggled gently beneath him and she sighed happily before cupping his face in her hands and pulling his lips to hers. She kissed him, over and over and Walter sank willingly into her.

"I love you," she breathed softly against Walter's lips and her words slammed into him, causing his body to react instantly. He surged inside her and before Paige could comprehend his reaction Walter was moving. He reached down and grasped her thighs, pulling her legs around him again.

For the next hour Walter was relentless. He brought her to orgasm a second time before he allowed her to roll them over. Paige sat astride him, then, riding him with slow rolls of her hips forward and back, taking Walter deep into her body as he watched her with dark eyes filled with desire.

She looked beautiful and glorious above him and he gripped her hips, pressing his fingers into the soft flesh as he lifted his hips to meet her each time she came down on him.

When Paige came for a third time around him, Walter sat up, latching onto her breast as her body gripped him like a vise. And when she sagged against him he rolled her onto her back and plunged into her steady and deep, as soft whimpers escaped her lips. Walter kissed her as he slid both hands beneath her ass again, tilting her hips up to meet his powerful thrusts.

Paige clung to him and trembled, chanting his name into his mouth and then releasing a long, low, moan of pleasure as he tore his lips away. Walter buried his face in her neck and grunted as the pleasure overtook him and he exploded, his body shuddering and jerking inside her before he collapsed on top of her as they both gasped for breath.

"My god," she breathed and he smirked and tried to roll off of her but she just tightened her arms and legs around him. "No," she whimpered as she tried to keep him from moving.

"I don't want to crush you," he mumbled but she just shook her head as she brought his lips back to hers.

He smiled against her lips and acquiesced, settling his weight on her gently.

"Mmmm," she hummed as she wiggled beneath him, enjoying his weight pressing her into the mattress.

After several long minutes, as much as he enjoyed the feel of her beneath him, Walter rolled them without much protest from Paige. He pulled her thigh up over his hip and they didn't speak until his eyes finally met hers.

"That could have been over before it even started," he frowned, still mortified that he'd almost ejaculated prematurely.

"But it wasn't and the fact that I still can't feel my legs is proof of it," she reassured him as she teased softly.

"I'm not good at this," he murmured as his fingers brushed softly over the skin of her hip.

"Oh, I beg to differ," Paige chuckled quietly even as she shuddered softly beneath his touch.

He smirked at her. "I don't mean this," he motioned with his hand between their bodies. Although he'd slipped from inside her, their bodies were still pressed intimately together. She grinned and writhed a little against him, burying her face in his neck. He released a low groan and gripped her hip with his fingers. "I meant this," he cleared his throat. "I've never held a woman after sex. I don't have the emotional capacity for this kind of behavior.

"You're more capable of emotion than you give yourself credit for, Walter." Paige kissed and nuzzled his throat. "And it's been a very long time since I've been in this position, too," she admitted honestly as she looked at him again. "So we'll figure it out and learn together."

She caressed his face softly and he hissed out a short breath as his body stiffened. Now that the heat of the moment was passed, Walter's discomfort at being touched was returning.

"I'm sorry," she whispered as she started to pull away. "I know you don't like to be touched but I don't know how to not touch you right now."

He grasped her fingers and brought them back to his face. "Don't stop. It's the only way I'll get better at it."

She looked at him, her eyes softening at his heartfelt words. She caressed his face again, fluttering her fingers gently down his cheeks. He shuddered and released a small moan as he pulled her closer. She could feel him, hardening again, against her stomach.

"Paige," her name slipped past his lips and she leaned forward and kissed him. Walter clutched her to him desperately, kissing her just as desperately, before he rolled her onto her back, settling between her thighs and pushing inside her again.

"Oh," she squeaked softly with surprise as she tore her lips away. "Again? Really?"

He stilled, only halfway in. "Too much?" he asked as his brow furrowed uncertainly.

She smiled and slid her fingers into his hair as she lifted her head and kissed him softly.

"No," she murmured against his lips and lifted her legs, wrapping them around him again. Paige knew she was going to be sore tomorrow but somehow, at the moment, she couldn't seem to bring herself to care. "I know you have a superhero complex but I didn't know you also have the stamina of one," she teased, tightening her legs and pulling him deeper.

He groaned into her mouth. "One of the advantages of a very dense brain. Mind over matter," he mumbled but the last words came out strangled as Paige deliberately clenched her body around him.

She chuckled softly. "So what was earlier about then?"

"Too much sensation after too long without it," Walter grumbled petulantly and Paige took his bottom lips between her teeth and bit gently. "But I am in full control of my body now," he growled and his words were both a warning and a promise as he started moving inside her, showing her the only way he knew how that she was everything.

And for another half hour Walter proved his control was impeccable and his stamina did, undeniably, rival that of Superman. When his body collapsed on her, weak, and finally sated, he was genuinely concerned about his ability to walk any time in the near future.

He buried his face in her neck, inhaling the soft scent of her, only now his scent was mingled with hers. Paige kept her arms around him, but let her legs fall to the mattress weakly again, and she smiled tiredly against his shoulder.

"I'm going to mess up a lot," he admitted, tentatively, picking up their conversation from earlier like it had never stopped.

"I know," she agreed but that didn't surprise him. She knew him well. "So will I," she added, so simply, that he was compelled to believe her.

"Not anything like me." His lips brushed against her skin as he spoke and it tickled, causing her to tremble beneath him.

"I know," she murmured again with a soft smile.

"Just don't give up on me," he implored quietly.

"Never," Paige murmured against his cheek. "But no more dates with other women, huh."

He stiffened in her arms and she brushed her lips along his cheek softly to try to soothe him. When she reached his ear, "You know, some would call what happened tonight speed dating," she joked as she arched her back, causing their still joined bodies to roll in tandem. Walter hissed at the feel of her around him and he lifted his head so he could look at her even as she slid her fingers into his hair and massaged his scalp gently.

"You're going to be the death of me," he muttered but his eyes fluttered closed as he let her touch him. He was going to enjoy this touching experiment with her.

"Not a bad way to go, though," she smiled as she kissed the cleft of his chin and fluttered her fingertips down his neck and back causing him to shudder with pleasure.

Not a bad way to go indeed.

So I may add another chapter to this story with Ferret Bueller's POV but I want to get the next chapter of Gauguin posted first. Thanks again for reading and leave a review if you are so inclined.