Title: A Long, Strange Trip

Summary: Walter heads to Tahoe. What a long, strange trip he has.

Author's Notes: Final Chapter. The Long, Strange trip is ending here. Thank you to everyone who reviewed and followed. I'm really gratified at the response.

DISCLAIMER: I do not own /scorpion. This story is for entertainment purposes only. I make no profit and no infringement of copyrights is intended.

Chapter 8

Sometimes the light's all shinin' on me;
Other times I can barely see.
Lately it occurs to me -
What a long, strange trip it's been. ~ The Grateful Dead

The pain in his nose had subsided, so Walter didn't take any more of the pain medication, but he still fell asleep for most of the remainder of the ride home. When he woke, it was dark and they were on the outskirts of LA.

"Oh, good, you're awake," Paige said. "I was thinking maybe I should stay at the garage with you tonight. You seem like you're still a little shaky and you're probably going to want to take some of those meds so you can sleep. It might be a good idea for you to have someone stay with you. It's still early so we could maybe order pizza and watch movie or something." She grinned and stole a quick glance at Walter. "It could be like our first date!"

When Walter didn't respond, Paige glanced over again. Walter shifted uncomfortably in his seat. It wasn't that he didn't want to spend time with Paige, but he wasn't quite ready to have her spend the night at the garage. Would she have expectations? What would they do about sleeping arrangements? The only real bed was the one in his loft. He supposed he could let Paige have the bed while he slept downstairs in the Airstream, but he was really looking forward to sleeping in his own bed tonight.

"What about…. What about Ralph?" he asked, hoping she would change her mind and return home to be with her son.

"Oh. Sylvester is staying with Ralph. He doesn't expect me home until tomorrow, anyway, and if he needs to reach me he'll call my cell, so it's no problem for me to stay with you." She glanced over again. "I promise, Walter, no making out as long as your nose is still sore. I just want to be sure you're okay. It's part of the package, you know. I get to worry about you now."

"If I'm not mistaken, Paige," Walter returned the grin, relieved that at least one issue was temporarily deflected. "You've been worrying about me pretty much from the day we met."

"Well, true. But now when I'm worried I get to do something about it. Which includes staying the night with you when you're sick or injured." She smiled again, and Walter thought he recognized it as the particular smile she got when she was about to tease him. "Especially when said injury is the result of a rather romantic gesture."

Walter was beginning to think this idea might not be so bad after all. He realized that he and Paige had never spent much time alone together that wasn't related to work. It could be fun to just enjoy her company for a bit. If left on his own, he'd surely dive into one of his experiments and likely get little or no sleep. Judging by the amount of time he'd slept in the last day, it was obvious he needed it for the healing process. He recalled the same thing happened after his car accident. Even after he was no longer on pain medication, he slept much more than usual while recovering from his punctured spleen and even during the weeks of rehabilitation on his hand. With luck, he'd simply fall asleep on the couch downstairs and Paige would allow him to stay there while finding her own accommodations.

As Paige pulled up in front of the garage, Walter hoped they wouldn't find Toby sleeping off his bender on the couch.

Walter forgot his plan to fall asleep during the movie. After ordering their pizza, Paige selected a movie that Walter realized was in the general category known as "chick flicks". He found he really didn't care too much what they watched. They talked throughout the movie. Paige told Walter some things about her life before Scorpion. He was thankful she managed to avoid mentions of Drew. Walter realized that Drew would probably always be in their lives; in fact, he hoped for Ralph's sake that Drew became more involved. But he was still glad that the subject didn't arise on their "first date". He related some stories of his own life before Scorpion, including some of his favorite stories of the mischief he and Megan got into as children in Ireland. They got on the subject since the movie was about a young Irish girl in the 1950s who immigrated to America.

"Did you have an accent when Cabe first brought you over here?" Paige wondered.

"Sure and begorrah, 'tis a grand thing to be Irish!" he proclaimed in his best imitation of a thick Irish accent.

"I'm serious!" she retorted. "If you ever had one, there seems to be no trace of it and I was wondering… why would you try to … I mean did you get rid of it on purpose or did it just fade naturally?"

"Oh, I had an accent all right," he admitted. "I got tired of people thinking it was 'cute' or 'quaint'. So when I got here to LA I found there is a whole industry here that helps actors lose accents – or gain them. I used some of the first money I earned to hire a coach. Within a few months, I was speaking just like an American."

"And you never seem to slip."

"Not if I can help it," he declared.

Walter was surprised at the things he told Paige, just in one evening. He'd never known what to talk about on any of his previous dates and he'd certainly not been comfortable enough with any of those women to talk about anything personal. With Paige, he felt he could tell her anything. Nothing embarrassed him, nothing was off limits. He felt amazingly comfortable with her. It was a lot like talking to Megan, although he certainly didn't think of Paige as a sister. In fact, if there was one thing that was making him uncomfortable with Paige, it was the knowledge that he very much wanted to explore their relationship in a physical way, but he was at a loss as to how to go about it.

Truthfully, he was breathing fine now and his nose no longer hurt at all. But he was allowing Paige to continue to believe that was an issue to keep the pressure away, at least for tonight. Whatever intimate encounters he'd had in the past were initiated by his dates. He'd tried his best to reciprocate but he'd experienced no desire and usually found the activities uncomfortable. Somehow, despite his reticence, he felt he wouldn't be uncomfortable with Paige. But that didn't mean he knew how to begin. Perhaps if he waited long enough Paige, like those other women, would initiate things herself. The odd thing was, he didn't really think he wanted to wait. Just sitting next to her, having acknowledged how he felt and knowing she felt the same, Walter was experiencing urges he'd never had before. Under better circumstances, he might talk to Toby about it. Toby would tease and gloat and say "I told you so" but ultimately, Walter was sure Toby would provide him with sound advice. But Toby was probably not going to be at his best for some time; at least until this business with Happy and her surprise marriage was resolved. Cabe was another possibility, but Walter thought that some of Cabe's views might be rooted in another era and potentially inappropriate to interpersonal relations in the present day. Walter could think of no one else to ask. Maybe he could do some research and work it out by himself.

Shortly after the movie ended, Paige rose and took the leftover pizza into the kitchen. Walter turned to watch her. He found he couldn't get enough of just looking at her. At least when they were alone like this, he no longer had to be surreptitious. He could get his fill of gazing at her. So many times in the past he'd caught himself staring at her – not realizing what he was doing until he noticed her looking back. Those moments had been both special and unsettling. Now, it all made sense.

Paige sat down again and patted Walter's leg. "It's getting late," she said. "We should probably get upstairs to bed." She sat back and yawned, stretching her arms over her head. Walter couldn't help but notice how the movement accentuated the shape of her breasts. Never before had he even noticed a woman's breasts. They were just mammary glands, after all, meant to nourish babies. Yet he found himself wondering what it would feel like to touch them. There were so many things about this whole love business that he'd never had any interest in before; things where he'd never understood the fascination. He was finding that, at least where Paige was concerned, he was interested. Walter realized he needed to be ready for a great many changes in the coming days.

"I want you to know," Paige told him, "I don't ever sleep with a guy on the first date. But…" She leaned over and continued, whispering in his ear, "... given the extenuating circumstances – and the limited accommodations - I'll make an exception tonight."

Walter turned abruptly. He found himself quite literally nose-to-nose with Paige, who backed away just in time to avoid re-injuring him.

"About that…" Walter began.

May 23, 2016