Disclaimer: I don't own anything Scorpion.
This idea came to me in the shower and I had to write it. It is set many years in the future in my Gauguin universe.
You might need a tissue or two reading it…. I needed one to write it.
As always, thanks for reading and reviewing.
That's how long she'd known him.
That's how long she'd loved him.
That's how long she'd been his wife.
That's how long it took for him to forget her and their life together.
It happened one morning a few weeks after their 50th wedding anniversary. Paige woke beside him as she'd done every morning for almost all of those years. But instead of finding his arms around her he was sitting up and looking at her with a blank expression. And when Walter asked her who she was and what she was doing in his bed, at first, she thought he was joking. But she quickly realized something was very wrong with her husband and his brain.
She immediately called Ralph and their daughter, Megan. Then she called Toby, the only one of the initial team still with them. They'd lost Cabe over thirty five years earlier to a stroke. They'd lost Happy seven years earlier to cancer. And Sylvester had been taken almost twenty years earlier by a massive heart attack.
Toby was Walter's best friend and he was once a doctor. He would be able to confirm what Paige suspected. And even though Walter recognized none of them that day, he did reluctantly agree to visit his doctor with Paige. It hadn't been without its drama though. He became very agitated, yelling at her, accusing her of lying when she told him she was his wife, and even lashing out at Ralph, physically, when her son tried to intervene.
The rapid onset of Alzheimer's was not something any of them would have ever thought would happen to the man with the 197 IQ. His brain was a perfectly tuned machine all of his life and to have it give out so suddenly and without warning had devastated all of them.
Toby, and the doctor, said that kind of rapid onset was usually caused by something like an infection or reaction to medication. But Walter was healthy overall, had always been healthy. He and Paige were both healthy for their eighty five and eighty two years, respectively. Walter didn't take medication and there was no indication of infection in his system. He was also tested for other neurological issues and nothing was found to explain what had brought it on.
But overnight their lives were changed forever. Some days he woke up lucid and knew his life. Others he didn't. On the days he did - things were almost normal. On the days he didn't, it was a nightmare for Paige. Walter was aggressive and combative, with all the EQ and verbal filter he'd learned from her, over the course of his life, completely nonexistent.
It wasn't long before Paige moved out of their bedroom because it was too traumatic for Walter to wake up beside someone he didn't know. Ralph and Megan, with the help of Ralph's daughter, who worked as a camera assistant in the film industry, made a movie of Walter's life. Paige had told them about a film she enjoyed when she was younger called 50 First Dates and so he and his sister, using photos and video footage, recreated their father and mother's life to help him remember. A tablet was left beside his bed each night with a note that said "watch me" on the screen.
And because Walter was too curious not to, each morning he watched.
On good days the movie triggered his memories and he came out of his bedroom looking for Paige, who always waited for him in the breakfast nook of the house they moved into after they retired from Scorpion twenty years earlier. On not so good days, only some memories were triggered and sometimes they included Paige and sometimes they didn't. But he would take the movie at face value and accept who he was and who she was to him. On bad days he wouldn't remember her and he would accuse all of them of trying to trick him into believing what he called a "sham of a life."
Paige tried to maintain a brave face for her husband, her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren but it was difficult and exhausting. The days Walter was good, he was incredibly good, but on the days he was bad, he was so bad Paige often retreated to her room and cried.
As he aged, Walter found he needed more sleep while Paige became somewhat of an insomniac. So on the days he remembered her, she would lie with him in his bed until he fell asleep. He knew the reality of what would happen while he slept. He would forget her again and so he was terrified of going to sleep. It was only in her arms, with the sound of her lilting voice in his ear, whispering her love for him that Walter could feel secure enough to fall asleep. But each morning he woke, she was gone, the tablet was there for him to watch and sometimes he would get her back and sometimes he wouldn't.
One night almost a year after he was diagnosed Paige walked into his bedroom in her bathrobe. It had been a good day. A very good day. His memories returned easily that morning and he and Paige took their great grandchildren, to the science museum. Several scientific innovations Walter had spearheaded, including his non-melting snow, were on display in an exhibition highlighting advances of the twenty first century. He reveled in showing the children the things he'd done and Paige loved watching him with them. He'd been an amazing father to both Ralph and Megan and he was an even more amazing grandfather. Something she always knew he'd be even when he doubted it.
But it had been a long and tiring day and so after a light supper Paige suggested they go to bed early.
She found Walter sitting at the foot of the bed as he struggled to button his pajamas. She walked up to him and gently brushed his hands away, silently completing the task for him.
He looked up at her with a frown. "My hands are shaking more and more."
"We see your doctor next week, we can ask him about it then. Maybe it's from the new medicine."
"My medicine shouldn't do that," he replied knowing the side effects of every medication he now took.
Paige brushed her fingers through his short, now white, hair and scratched his scalp gently the way he always loved. "Let's not worry about it until we're sure we have something to worry about."
Walter lifted his hands to her hips and pulled her closer between his thighs. He pressed his face into her abdomen and hugged her gently. Paige leaned down and kissed the top of his head as she wrapped her arms around him.
"Let's get you into bed," she encouraged softly but he just shook his head.
"I don't want to sleep." His voice was muffled against her robe.
"I know," she soothed. He was getting more and more resistant to sleep on days he remembered her.
"I don't want to lose you again," he murmured against her stomach.
"I'll be right here tomorrow, Walter." Paige slid her hands into his hair again.
"But I might not remember," he said petulantly as he looked up at her.
"But then again you might," she smiled and caressed his cheek. "Sometimes you do."
"Most of the time I don't." He took her hand in his and brought her palm to his lips. As the years passed Walter grew more comfortable with touch and affection, and Paige found that at times he was even more affectionate than she was and it always made her heart sigh in her chest.
She stepped back and he stood slowly, grasping onto her fingers. As soon as he was standing he pulled her into his arms, tucking her head beneath his chin. They stood in silence for several minutes until Walter yawned, causing Paige to chuckle.
"Come on 197," she teased as she pulled out of his arms and led him to his side of the bed. He sat down, toed off his slippers and settled in as Paige walked to the other side of the bed and climbed in beside him. They both rested their heads on the pillows and looked at one another.
Walter reached up and caressed her face. She was still so beautiful to him and he, once again, silently cursed his failing brain for daring to forget her.
Paige's eyes fluttered softly. "I love you," she whispered and Walter leaned toward her, kissing her softly as she sighed into his mouth. He moved closer and his fingers reached for the sash on her robe.
"Walter," she said his name hesitantly as she pulled her lips away, but he just shook his head as his fingers tugged and opened her robe revealing her silk pajamas underneath.
"My mind may be failing me, love, but the rest of my body is in pretty decent shape for my age," Walter grinned the boyish grin she'd fallen in love with all those years ago. "It's been too long and as you can feel my body is still in working order."
He took her hand and slid it down over his stomach. Her lips curved and she kissed him again as her hand reached its destination and she closed her fingers around him, stroking him. Walter moaned softly against her lips as he wrapped his arms around her and pulled her close.
Slowly and gently Walter undressed her as she teased and tempted him. Her body was older and softer and rounder. So was his. She was wrinkled, they both were, but she was still the most beautiful woman he'd ever known.
Walter shed his own pajamas and crawled over her. His body did protest slightly, at first, but he was determined. And once he sunk inside her, and her arms wrapped around him, he felt like he was home. He kissed her softly and deeply as she surrendered to him.
It was over all too soon but when he rolled to his side and pulled her into his arms, Walter buried his face in her neck and murmured the words he'd been saying for the last fifty plus years.
"Grá mo shaol."
And she was the love of his life from the moment she walked into it, even before he realized it, but Paige patiently waited for him to acknowledge and accept it. And he spent the rest of their lives together telling and showing her the only way he knew how.
Paige held him in her arms until he fell asleep, his head resting on her breasts as he clutched her tight. When she felt his breathing even out, she told herself she'd only stay a few more minutes but then her eyes fluttered closed.
Walter's eyes blinked open and he pressed his face into the pillow beneath him. He smiled when he realized it was not his pillow at all, but his wife's breasts.
"Morning, love," he murmured happily as he realized his memories were present, even without watching the movie. That was a very rare occurrence and he felt it was going to be a good day because he remembered her, all on his own. He remembered making love with her, it had taken her over twenty five years to convince him that phrase was an acceptable description of the intimacy they shared, and he remembered falling asleep in her arms the night before.
But something about her felt different. She was usually soft and warm but her body was rigid. Walter lifted his head and looked down at her. Her eyes were closed, her face was peaceful and there was the hint of a smile curving her lips.
And he instantly knew she was gone. Walter pressed his fingers to the pulse in her neck, just to be sure, but her body was already far enough into rigor mortis that he knew she'd been dead for hours.
He didn't move. He couldn't move, for the longest time, until he finally buried his face against her breasts again.
And for the first time since the death of his sister, Walter O'Brien cried. Although he mourned, he didn't cry when his parents died. He didn't cry when Cabe died. He didn't even cry when Happy and Sly died. But the loss of the woman beneath him tore gut-wrenching sobs from his body.
Eventually he got up and called Ralph and Megan. He managed to secure Paige's robe around her before anyone arrived but her rigor mortis was too advanced for him to be able to dress her again.
Ralph was the first to arrive and he wrapped his arms around the man who had become his father, offering both comfort and support, but by that time Walter had regained his composure.
He pulled away and refused to speak or even leave Paige's side until the undertaker took her body away.
The morning Paige Dineen O'Brien was laid to rest Walter woke with no memory of her. He watched the movie, which Ralph had left on his bedside table, but none of his memories came back. He refused to attend the funeral until the woman who claimed to be his daughter begged him with tears in her eyes. He only relented because she looked so eerily like the woman he was told was his wife. And even though he couldn't remember her, there was something inside him that told him she would have wanted him there.
But he felt nothing as he sat in front of the coffin in the graveyard. He watched as it was lowered into the ground and he still felt and remembered nothing. But when he was returned home, something compelled him to watch the movie again. He locked himself in his room as his children, by that time he accepted that they were his children, informed him they were staying the night again. The woman in the movie with him was beautiful and she clearly loved him but Walter didn't believe in love. Yet he couldn't stop watching until he finally fell asleep with the tablet on his chest.
Walter woke the next morning and watched the movie before setting the tablet aside, confused why it wasn't on the table beside his bed where Paige usually left it. His memories of her and their life flooded his mind and he knew she would be waiting in the breakfast nook for him. But when he stepped out of his bedroom he came face to face with his children instead.
"Hi, Walter," Ralph said as he stepped out of the kitchen. "I'm Ralph."
Walter just looked at him. "I know who you are."
"I'm Megan," his daughter said as she stepped around her brother. "Your daughter."
"I know who you are too. Where's your mom?" he asked as he looked around confused why there were there and why Paige wasn't greeting him.
Ralph and Megan looked at one another and Walter pursed his lips.
"Uh, dad-," Megan started to say but Ralph just put his hand on her arm and shook his head.
"Where's Paige?" Walter asked again and he felt his heart start to pound in his chest.
"She's gone, Walter," Ralph said quietly as he put his coffee cup down on the table and stepped closer.
"Where did she go?" he asked suspiciously. "She doesn't usually go out this early. We always have breakfast together first."
Walter liked his routine, always had, and Paige made sure they stuck to it most of the time. Why would she deviate from it?
"She died last week," Ralph said plainly, knowing the best approach with his stepdad was the straightforward one, especially if he was himself today.
Walter looked at them, his face impassive before he nodded his head briskly.
"If you'll excuse me, I would like to be alone," he said as he turned and walked back into his bedroom without another word.
Megan moved to follow him. "Meg, don't."
"But-," she started to say but Ralph shook his head and pulled his sister in his arms. She was so much like their mother, the woman who their uncle Toby had often referred to as "miss human feelings."
"He needs his space right now. Trust me on this."
She nodded her head knowing her brother thought just like their father. He always knew the best way to deal with Walter, second only to their mother. But it didn't make it any easier to accept her father's emotionless response to finding out his wife was dead.
But less than a minute later she jerked out of her big brother's arms at the sound of glass breaking. They both looked over at the door as the sound of more crashing and breaking reverberated behind it followed by the sound of what could only be described as a wail of anguish.
Walter hurled her rocking chair across the room as he fell to his knees. She couldn't be gone. She promised she'd never leave him. Even when he left her, not of his own volition, of course, but even when he left her she promised she would always be there waiting for him to return to her.
He heard the door open but he didn't look over. He knew it was them. The other two people who loved her as much as he did.
Well almost as much as he did because if there was one thing Walter O'Brien knew for a fact was that there was no one who loved Paige O'Brien more than him.
For the next several months many days like that one repeated themselves. Most often when he remembered her it was before her death so he was forced to relive finding out she'd died over and over again.
Ralph hired a live-in male caretaker, Antonio, to care for him but Walter became more and more aggressive and agitated. Each time he learned of Paige's passing he would become more violent than the last, until Antonio and his doctors recommended mildly sedating him all the time.
Ralph struggled with the decision, not wanting to do that to the man who he loved as much as he'd loved his mother. And he knew Paige would never have wanted that for him. But Ralph's wife finally convinced him it was the best and safest thing for Walter and he finally relented. He knew he had to be the one to tell Walter, on the next day he was lucid, although they were becoming fewer and fewer.
A few days later Antonio had called to say Walter's memories were intact that morning when he woke. After his outburst of anger upon learning of Paige's death, he retreated to his bedroom and told the man he wanted to be left alone.
It was Antonio's scheduled day off and Ralph and Megan took turns staying with Walter on those days. Antonio waited for him to arrive before he left for his respite and Ralph entered the house to find it quiet. But it usually was.
"Walter," Ralph called as he walked toward the bedroom.
He knocked on the door but there was no answer.
"Walter," he said again but when he still received no answer he opened the door.
Walter was sitting in the rocking chair beside the window. It has been his mother's favorite and Walter insisted it be repaired after he broke it in his anger and sorrow upon learning of Paige's death.
Ralph could see Walter was holding a picture frame on his lap. It was the picture from their wedding day. Walter had surprised her with a trip to Tahiti, where he proposed, and then flew all of them out the next day to attend the wedding ceremony.
His mom always said it was the most romantic weekend of her life and Ralph knew it was one of the things Walter was most proud of in his life. The man was a genius, the fourth smartest man to ever live, but he considered winning and keeping the love of Paige Dineen O'Brien as one of his greatest accomplishments.
As Ralph stepped closer and said his stepfather's name again, all the air left his lungs. He didn't need to take another step to know the man he loved, the man who had always loved him as if he was his own flesh and blood, was gone.
Walter O'Brien had joined the love of his life in death.
And even though both he and his genius stepfather didn't believe in the existence of an afterlife, Ralph hoped, for the first time, they both were wrong.
"Grá mo shaol" is "love of my life" in Gaelic.
Thanks again for reading and if you are so inclined, please review.