This was originally written for a fic exchange on Tumblr, so if it seems familiar, you may have read it on AO3. Now that the authors have been revealed, I can post it here!
Walter smiled when their faces appeared on his screen. "Hello, Mom. Dad."
Their connection was good quality. He could clearly see them and their expressions, they were pleased to see him – that he could tell – and he silently thanked Paige for the post – it note that she had left on the basket of bagels before she left in the morning. Don't forget to Skype your father (birthday).He would have forgotten. He had been slowly repairing his relationship with his parents over the past year – which included Skyping them on important dates – but bookmarks were something that a person couldn't fake. And although he remembered all the dates relating to his relationships, with Paige, Ralph, Cabe, the others, his parents' birthdays and anniversary just never stuck in his head.
"Walter," Sean said, a smile on his face. His name matched with a smile was a combination that Walter had seen before but was still getitng used to.
"It's so good to hear from you, son," Louise added, her head cocked affectionately.
"You too," he said automatically, nodding. "And uh, happy birthday, Dad."
"Well, thank you," he said. "We actually just got off the phone with Sylvester. He's sending us something in the mail."
"We told him he didn't have to do that," Louise said, "but he said that it was something of Megan's and that she would want us to have it."
Walter cleared his throat. He hadn't thought of getting a gift for his dad – a probably side effect of forgetting it was his birthday in the first place – and now that the topic of a gift for both Sean and Louise had been breached, he remembered that their anniversary was sometime in the next month as well. This was obviously a date that had not slipped the mind of their son – in – law.
"I uh...on the present subject," he cleared his throat again, putting a hand on the back of his neck to fix the tag that was suddenly bothering him, "There is...there's news. It's not...it's not something I'm doing, but..." Walter glanced over his shoulder. No one was around, Paige would be back in a few minutes but who he really didn't want to see was Happy or Toby – they would certainly kill him. Or rather, Happy would, while Toby cheered her on. "I have something to tell you."
"Oh no," Louise said. "Is something wrong?"
Walter was hit with initial surprise, then remembered that he and his parents were still terrible at reading each other, and his mother seemed to have thought he'd meant current subject. "No. No, nothing's...wrong, it's..." he stopped, wondering if he should back out. Maybe it was wrong to tell them before Happy told him. But it was his father's birthday, and you were supposed to make people you care about happy on their birthdays. "Happy is constructing, designing, building, you know, all of that...that stuff, this memorial for Megan. We can't erect it at Zuma beach, I mean, I don't think, but they might look into that, but possibly near the hospital, or, or at one of the trailheads that we used to hike at, back before she..." he cleared his throat again. "Happy will do a...a fantastic job. And from what I have gathered, she is planning on telling me once the location for it is realized. She doesn't want me to know yet." Walter shifted his weight. "But I thought, you know, it being your birthday and all, it'd be nice to tell you today. So you know."
"Happy's putting all of that together for our Meg?" Louise asked. "That's mighty sweet of her."
"For Megan. For Sylvester. For me." He nodded. "She...she can be very sentimental and thoughtful. Despite her exterior."
"You and her are a lot alike, you know," Louise said. "I know I haven't met her but twice, but I could tell you two are similar. Such a vault of emotions under the surface."
Vault of emotions under the surfacewas exactly how Walter had heard Paige explain him to his parents the year before. For her lack of creativity in word choice, his mother was trying, he could recognize that. "Yeah, so...you just can't let on that you knew beforehand."
"Ah," said Sean as he leaned to the side to peer around Walter, a wide smile coming over his face. "There she is!"
As pleased as both of his parents clearly were about the project that Happy was working on, the mechanic wouldn't have provoked such a broad smile from Sean O'Brien. Walter turned in his chair, a smile just for Paige already on his face. "Hey," he said. She was staring at him, her eyes wide, her hands, he noticed, curling around the bottom of her skirt as if she was surprised or nervous. He was expecting her to speak and was alarmed when she simply kept staring. "Paige?"
"Walter," she said slowly, quietly. "How do you know?"
Walter frowned, more than a little confused. "You know?"
"Of course I know," she said, cocking her head. She too looked confused, but the expression also included a dash of annoyance.
"Wha...what's the problem, then?"
"I don't...I mean, it's not a problem, per se, just..." her lower lip slid under and she briefly broke their eye contact. "I wanted to tell you myself. It's a big deal..." She shrugged. "And Walter, as thrilled as I am that you're excited about this, it's not a good idea to tell people right away. Sometimes things go wrong, at the beginning, and we haven't even had a talk about it ourselves yet..."
"Paige," Walter said, interrupting her with what he hoped was a reassuring smile on his face, "nothing is going to go wrong. If anyone can pull this off, it's Happy."
"Happy?" Paige frowned. "Wait, what are you talking about?"
At the sudden outburst, Walter looked over his shoulder at the laptop to see his mother with her hands over her mouth. Clearly Louise had put pieces together that he hadn't yet. Walter looked back at Paige. "What are you talking about?"
"What about you tell me first what..." Paige's eyes fell on the laptop. Walter glanced between her and his mother. "Oh God. Louise. You..."
Louise's hands had moved to her chest. "Sean," she said, her smile almost as wide as her face. "Sean. Oh Sean."
Walter's glances between his parents and Paige were getting more rapid. "Mother...Paige...what...?" He stood up, stepping away from the computer to try and see Sean, Louise, and Paige all at the same time.
"Uh..." Paige cleared her throat, stepping toward the computer. "I think that...I think...uh, Sean? Louise?" She placed her hands on the edge of the table and smiled down at them. "Can you give us a minute?"
"Are you sure, you gotta do that now, honey?" Sean asked. "Because..." his voice dropped to a stage whisper, "I don't think he's anywhere close."
"Anywhere close to what?"
She stepped back from the table and spoke pointedly. "Anywhere close to realizing that I am pregnant."
"So this isn't about the memorial to Megan?" Walter said. As soon as the words were out of his mouth, he wondered if Paige had even known. It took another second or two for what she had said to process. "...what?"
They stood a solid ten feet apart, staring at each other, the laptop so perfectly between them it would have been comical to observers, if there had been any.
Walter tipped his head to the side. "Are you – you messing with me?"
She raised an eyebrow, a wry smirk on her face. "That would be why I'm pregnant."
His bottom lip was trembling – he knew it, and yet he couldn't make it stop. She was looking at him, her eyes wide, searching his face. She was waiting on a reaction. And she'd have one – if only she could read minds.
She glanced over at the laptop. "Sean, Louise," she said again. "I'm...so sorry, but I need a minute with him."
"Wouldja prefer if we signed off, or would you just like to go in the other room?"
Based on Paige's reaction to his mother's words, Walter gathered that she hadn't realized that that was an option. "Right." She looked at him. "Walter?"
He realized he hadn't spoken in an awkwardly long time. "Uh, yeah, come...come over here."
She walked at a faster pace than him, catching up, grabbing his hand as she pulled him across the garage. Then, she turned to face him. "Walter, I didn't want to tell you like that."
"How...how long...when did you..."
"Just two days. But we were so busy with that case and then I realized I hadn't thought about how to tell you and I was nervous because it's a big thing to tell someone, you know, I mean, you don't know, not personally, but you know in the sense that it's a big thing so of course...telling someone..." she trailed off. "Walter if you don't say something you know I'm just going to keep rambling on."
She nodded. "Yeah."
He pressed his lips together, breathing out hard through his nose. She was nervous, she was obviously nervous, and while some of her nerves were likely the general ones that accompanied this particular situation, Walter knew some were undoubtedly related to not knowing how he would react. He didn't blame her for that – they'd never talked about this.
But he'd thought about it. He'd had more than one dream about it. It was so easy, when he already had gotten an actual visual. Sure, that was just a faked pregnancy, a tactic to help progress a job, but he'd never forgotten how she'd looked, and since they'd gotten together his mind had, more than once, traveled back to that day.
He'd never told her about those thoughts. She and Ralph were his entire world. They were a family, biology be damned, and he didn't want anything to indicate that he wasn't fulfilled by the life they had. He didn't want either of them to think that he needed a child that was his – that somehow, Ralph wasn't enough.
But in all those scenarios that danced through his head when he was asleep or allowing his mind to wander, it hadn't been like this. Things had gone the way he'd imagined they'd go if this topic was ever approached in their real lives – there would be a suggestion, a conversation, careful planning, sitting on the edge of the bed waiting on the test results together.
In his head, it was always on purpose, something they worked for, and it had somehow never crossed his mind that she'd be standing in front of him telling him that they were having a baby when he had no idea that the news was coming. For all the times she'd floored him, blown him away, he'd never anticipated this.
"Are we going to do this?"
"I think so." She searched his eyes again. "What do you think?"
Paige looked startled at the conviction with which he spoke, but her lips almost immediately began to blossom into a smile. "Yeah?"
"Uh - huh." Walter nodded, restraining himself from doing so too furiously. He flushed slightly when he recognized how intensely he had answered her question. She was right. This was big. This was the kind of life altering event that suggested, no, required a serious conversation and thought and yet...
She stepped toward him, tipping her head back slightly and smiling. "You want to have a baby?"
"More than I've wanted anything since you and Ralph."
She blinked and he realized he'd said the words in his head out loud. But any regret he had about not thinking before he spoke evaporated at the look on her face. Yes, he had said the right thing.
He slid his arms around her waist. "I..."
He still wasn't good with words, for all their time together, for all his efforts. When he was emotional, especially unexpectedly, words often failed him, even now. Thankfully, she understood, and perhaps even anticipated, that this would be one of those instances. A hand came up to his face and she leaned in rubbing her nose against his. "I know it's a lot to take in."
"No," he said quickly. "Well, yes. But..." he frowned. "It is a lot to take in, but it's..." he nodded. "It's good. It's all good." He kissed her forehead, then pulled her in for a hug. "I love you."
"I love you," she said into his neck. He could feel her hands rubbing his back and her body was nestled against his andgood god everything felt right – why had they not discussed this before?
"We should tell your parents," she said, leaning back and looking at him.
"Didn't you just say people shouldn't know about it right away?"
"Well yeah," Paige said, "but Walter, they...they already know."
"Oh. Right." Walter cleared his throat and nodded. "Yeah. Let's go. Then."
She grinned, and offered her hand.