So my friend Kat (katasstrophee on Tumblr) had expressed a desire to have the season three premiere have no case. Just Walter catching up with Paige, telling her how he feels, and them talking, and us learning about Happy's marriage and her and Toby figuring out where they go from there. I thought that that was a brilliant idea and decided to try my hand at writing it. So this fic will have two (almost entirely separate) storylines, Waige and Quintis.
Walter's ragged breathing had given him a slightly sore throat, and by the time he reached Lake Tahoe, he'd drank so much water that he desperately had to pee.
He'd held off the entire drive – even when he had to stop to get gas. The two minutes it would take to run inside the station felt like an agonizing amount of time. Every moment he was stationary, he could only envision Paige getting farther away, with no idea that he was coming for her.
He felt absolutely terrible. He'd always picked up on the signs that she'd been giving him since Tim showed up – signs that she was still longing for him – but he hadn't fully realized the magnitude of them – of everything – until tonight. But as he drove to Lake Tahoe, their conversations and looks of the past weeks flashing before his eyes, he realized how much he had hurt her with his denial.
He had promised the day that they'd met he wouldn't let anything happen to her, and on one hand, it was a promise that he'd never failed to keep. But on the other hand, he'd made her miserable with his refusal to look in on himself and realize that his feelings for her weren't anything he could bury.
And now that he realized exactly what his feelings meant, they weren't anything he wanted to bury.
But with only three miles to the hotel that he'd originally booked for him and Linda, Walter realized that while he could pour out his heart to Paige on an empty stomach, he couldn't do it on a full bladder.
He pulled off onto the side of the road, still not wanting to take the time to run into a gas station.
The remaining three miles felt like an eternity.
Upon pulling into the parking lot of the hotel, his heart leapt when he saw Tim's car in the light of one of the lamp posts in fire lane that extended from the edge of the building to the hotel's main entrance. They had beaten him by less than a minute.
Walter jumped out of the car, not sure if he was over the white lines, but not caring. The door slammed, louder than he'd intended, causing both Paige and Tim – just about to head inside, to jump and look toward him.
When her eyes hit his, he froze.
She stared at him for several seconds, and he wanted to walk quickly toward her, but for some reason the scenarios he had running through his head had never included Tim standing next to her. It didn't scare him off – he was past that now – but it did throw him off.
They began to walk toward him, disappearing into the darkness between the two lamp posts and then appearing again. Then Tim stopped, and Paige kept walking. He couldn't see her very well – it was four a.m., after all – but her tone conveyed her confusion. "Walter?"
For some reason the need to immediately follow his name with hers overwhelmed anything else. He stopped in the glow of a streetlight, the last one between them, hoping she'd walk forward into it. As sure as he was about this – and he was – he didn't think he could do it in darkness. He had to see her.
And she did, stepping forward, just into the reaches of the light. The effect made it almost impossible to remember that Tim was still there, behind her, his silhouette seemingly looming.
Then he spoke. "I'll, uh...I'll go check in."
The silhouette faded away into the dark, and seconds later, Tim appeared in the next streetlight, the one nearest to the hotel's main entrance. He passed his car and entered the hotel, without looking back.
"Walter," she said, stepping closer. "What...what are you doing here?"
He was suddenly nervous again, this time for a completely different reason. Before, when he'd given her the tickets, it was his fear of failure that stopped him – his fear of messing up any romantic relationship they tried to have and ruining everything. Now, suddenly, after eight hours of being unable to contact her and spending those eight hours thinking about what Toby had said – that Tim was quite the catch – he was afraid that he was too late.
You wouldn't have driven all this way if you didn't believe she feels the same way.
The surge of confidence that thought brought him was gone almost immediately.
You were also positive that you'd save your sister. And that Paige would wait until whenever you decided you were ready.
He cleared his throat, stepping a little closer. He wanted to take her hands. Or maybe put his hands up to her face. But he didn't dare. She'd just spent nearly eight hours in a car with Tim. Eight hours was a lot of time to talk.
"I came here because I had to...I realized..." he furrowed his brow. Words were always hard for him and now he was stumbling all over them. He took a breath, and the words just spilled out.
"I love you."
Happy had asked – demanded – that Toby not follow her.
She knew that despite his impulsive tendencies, despite his need to know everything and his desire to fulfill all of his emotional needs at the moment he first craved them, he wouldn't pursue her tonight. She hoped he wasn't out doing something destructive. She wished she could guarantee his safety while giving herself the distance she needed tonight.
She loved him, even though she'd never said it to his face.
Happy decided that she'd driven far enough. Pulling up to the curb, she threw some quarters into the meter and walked a block before finding solace in an empty alley behind some restaurants. Finding an open spot along the wall, she sank down, pulling her knees up to her chest.
Four more months. All I needed was four more months.
She sat in the alley, her head spinning. She could feel her phone vibrating in her pocket and ignored it, not wanting to talk to anyone. Happy couldn't focus.
She was transported back to the last night she spent with Mamie. They'd only been given about six hours' notice.
"I don't think you should come along," Mamie said, running her fingers along Happy's hip.
They'd already discussed it. They already knew that Happy would be staying behind.
"I wish I'd be able to know how things work out with this Walter. I wish I could meet him." Mamie shifted her weight. "I think he'll be good for you."
"I've never met someone who understands me on the level he does," Happy said. "I know that it's my nature to pull away from anything that feels like a real connection, but...it's like my brain saw his and said 'yeah, I'm supposed to work with you'."
"Kinda like how we saw each other and thought hey, let's see how things work?"
"Yeah." Happy stretched, her toes digging into the mattress. "And it did. For a while."
"It did," Mamie said, smiling affectionately. Happy was grateful to her. They'd been growing slowly apart for a while – even before Sam Rupp – but they didn't hate each other. They certainly wouldn't be spending the last night they'd see each other tangled up if they did. "Maybe this Walter O'Brien will be your next sixteen months."
"I guarantee you," Happy said, "I'm not going to marry him."
"No," Mamie said, laughing, "not from what you've told me. Not your type. But you know, that might mean your relationship will last longer. Though of course" she said, "if you ever meet someone..."
"I won't," Happy said quickly. It wasn't a dramatic, I – will – never – love – another promise. She'd just been burned too many times. Ironically, the wife she was about to never see again and wasn't in love with anymore was the only one who had never completely let her down – but she just felt that the chances of falling in love again, permanently, enough to want to marry them...it wasn't going to happen. "At least not in the seven years."
"Then you don't have to worry about a thing," Mamie said. "Once the seven years are up, you're a free agent."
Happy dug her heels in, pushing them forward, straightening her legs as the backs of her shoes rubbed hard onto the concrete.
She'd always been a little afraid of how she felt for Toby. And honestly, if she thought back on it, Mamie wasn't even on her radar in terms of a possible obstacle to a relationship with him. True, her wife was an example of how things that felt real sometimes turned out to be a for now instead of a forever. But it was her fear of abandonment, of losing Toby as a friend if their relationship flamed out, that had really held her back. When she'd surrendered to her feelings, allowed herself to accept his declarations of love and allowed herself to enjoy his hands on her and allowed him to explore her body and her heart, she wasn't at all worried about the timing. After all, there was only eight months left.
She wiped her eyes. What she had felt for Mamie, once, was no less real than what she felt for Toby, but Mamie had been fleeting, temporary, far less intense than what the psychiatrist did to her heart and she knew in the depths of her soul that Toby was going to be her permanence.
If he'd only waited, if he'd only been slightly less eager, if only four more months had passed before he dropped to his knee and asked her to spend the rest of her life with him, she could have said yes, could have teared up for the reason that she wanted to, could have allowed herself to be happy without betraying Mamie, without putting her at risk.
But instead, she'd panicked, fleeing the scene, unable to decide between providing an explanation and honoring a sacred promise she'd made eighty months ago.