So I got this basic idea after seeing the promo for It Isn't The Fall That Kills You. After watching the episode, I had to make some tweaks to my original draft, but I'm pretty happy with how this turned out. (And if you haven't figured it out already, all these post 3.03 fics are written from the grave because I died Monday night.)
Upon entering the garage, Paige walked briskly to her desk, pulled off her jacket, and slung it over the chair. "Any cases?"
"Nope," Walter said from his desk. "But we do have a..." He glanced up at her and froze.
Paige looked down, wondering if she'd gotten something on her. She didn't. Looking back up at Walter, she was surprised to see him hastily shuffling papers around on his desk and standing up, banging his knee on the side as he did so. "Uh, I...uh..."
"Walt?" Happy said curiously from her work station. "You okay, buddy?"
"Yeah, I just need to, ah, um..." Walter frowned, staring forward and to the floor, a hand rigidly pointing across the room, then turned abruptly and headed for the stairs.
Paige looked at Happy, startled. "What happened?"
"Beats me." Happy said.
"I should...uh..." her palms were sweaty, and she didn't know why. Wiping them on her pants as she walked, Paige headed for the stairs. It was her. It was something she did.
She just didn't know what.
She found Walter pacing near his bed, his hands up to his face, the pads of his fingers pressing against his skin. "Walter?" She asked curiously, hoping her tone came out as gently as she intended.
"Oh, my God."
"Walter!" She reached out, afraid to touch him, but wanting him to know it was an option. He stopped, staring at her, his face red. "Walter, what is the matter?"
She didn't know how many seconds passed in silence before he cleared his throat and took a step toward her. "Paige. Uh..." He cleared his throat again. "You can't spell 'hypothalamus' without 'us'."
She cocked her head.
"Because, um, without 'us', it's just...hypothalam. And that...that doesn't make sense."
Paige stared at him. "Okay. What...what does this conversation need to make sense?"
"You're wearing what you wore. The first time we kissed."
She looked down again. Oh, that's right.
"And..." he shook his head. "Oh, God."
"Walter," she said, concerned and exasperated. "What is it?"
"I'm so embarrassed."
The sentence came out in a monotone that would suggest he was anything but, but Paige could tell that he was telling the truth. "Why?" She said, hesitantly taking a step closer to him. "A lot of people remember what people were wearing when. And you, you have an eidetic memory..."
"No. I'm talking...about..." he grunted in frustration. "Space. When I was in space."
It was Paige's turn to freeze.
He looked as if he had something to say, but she panicked. "It's okay!" She said quickly. "Don't be embarrassed. You were...you didn't..." she trailed off, realizing that losing control was one of the things he feared most. Trying to assure him that he shouldn't be embarrassed because he didn't have control would be one of the most counterproductive things she'd done in years. "What do you remember?"
"You were there. You know that," he realized, telling her that she hadn't been able to neutralize her expression. "Oh my God."
"Walter, please try to calm down." Her mind was racing. Toby was right. This was too hard on him. But...but Toby had warned against these memories being coaxed out of him because he was trying to move on from her. She and Tim weren't dating anymore...why did he have to? Why did she have to? "Walter, yes, I know you...you had some hallucinations. I know I was...involved...in them. It's okay. Why..." she hesitated. "Why did this shirt make you think of that?"
"Because you wore that when we first kissed," he repeated. "That memory...it burns like a brand. I remember that night. And I just might regret that night for..."
"You wish we hadn't kissed?"
"No. I regret pulling away."
"It was the smart move," she said quickly. "We...you know, we had to be professionals."
"You were wearing it again," Walter said. "I mean, that's how...that's how I saw you. When I started hallucinating."
Her "oh" was quiet, almost under her breath.
"It makes sense, though," he said, apparently feeling the need to justify something he couldn't help. "I didn't have control over my brain, so...of course it was going to be you."
Paige was suddenly more aware of her heartbeat. She took another step toward him and he didn't back away. "What does that mean?" She asked softly.
He watched her approach, and she saw the uncertainty in his eyes. He let out a shaky breath. "It means that..." he paused again, looking away and setting his jaw, still looking as if he wasn't at all sure he should say what was on his mind. Then he licked his lips and reestablished eye contact. "Paige, you are my subconscious."
"You're my first thought. Every day. If you're not here, I'm always wondering where you are, what you're doing. You're every moment I spend alone." He lowered his head. "I'll be working late at night, and I...pretend you're sitting on the edge of my desk. Or you've pulled up a chair. Sometimes we talk. Sometimes you're just there, and we're just...together, in the same space. With no one else."
"Just us," Paige said, quietly and without realizing it.
"Yeah. Just us. Sometimes when I'm laying in bed, trying to sleep, I imagine the two of us...sitting on the roof. Or...or baking, that's one that's recently..." he trailed off again, his eyes widening slightly. He looked back at her in alarm.
"It's okay," she said.
"It helps me sleep," he said. "Thinking about you. And then I wake up and I just think about you all over again and whenever we're actually together I just get this feeling that I didn't know people could feel and you're just always everywhere and..." he trailed off, biting his lip. "I'm just saying...it makes sense, to me, that...that that's what happened, when I was up there" Walter said, staring into her eyes. "If my brain is struggling to survive...it's going to turn to you. Because it is so accustomed to running on you."
Paige's eyes were welling up, and she didn't realize until she blinked and a tear leaked out, running down her cheek. "Walter," she started.
"Oh no," Walter said, looking alarmed. "Please don't cry. I'm sorry."
"No!" She said, biting her lip. "Walter, do you have any idea how incredibly romantic..." she trailed off, wiping her eyes.
"You didn't know you were wearing this shirt in my, uh..." he trailed off. "Were you listening when I said that, uh...when I said some things about feelings?"
She nodded, pressing her lips together in an attempt to keep her crying quiet. "That was me. At the end. The real me. I was talking to you. Trying to help you save your own life."
"So..." she could see him struggling to draw air as he processed what she said. "So...when I said that I love you, you..." he bit his lower lip again.
"I heard it."
"You said you love me." He searched her face. "Were you just trying to bring me home? Or...oh, God," he said when she lowered her eyes. He stepped away from her hands and turned. "You just wanted to save my life. Toby and Sly and Elia watched me...dance in no gravity with no music and no partner and...and oh god, make out with my hand, probably..."
"And then you just wanted to make sure I pulled that lever. No matter what you had to say."
"No!" She reached for him again, but he'd stepped away. She rushed around, getting in front of him, pushing him gently toward his bed, seeing the pure embarrassment all over his face. He obliged her request, stepping back and sitting down on the edge of it. She dropped down next to him. "Walter, I wanted to bring you home. I wanted so badly to have you back on the ground with me. With us. I would have said anything but that doesn't mean what I did say..." she stopped, wringing her hands. "Walter, I don't know if I knew it at the time, but I wasn't just saying words. Okay?" Another tear leaked out. She reached over, taking his face in his hands and turning it to face her, regretting having them sit down because it was harder to look at each other. "Walter, I love you. I do. And whether I knew it or not...I loved you then."
She nodded, closing her eyes and leaning forward, capturing his lips between her own. He kissed her back with an intensity that she might have been surprised about earlier, but not now. If one thing Walter O'Brien had shown her as they'd grown together, it was that he not only had feelings, but he felt them with an passion that probably even surpassed that of someone normal.
She remembered his hesitance on the space ship, how he needed instruction. "Put your arms around me," she whispered against his lips, and then they were, wrapping her up and angling his body toward her so he could pull her closely against him. Paige shuddered. She could feel the passion fueling him but at the same time the kiss was so tender she felt almost overwhelmed. She didn't know he could kiss like this. She couldn't remember ever being kissed like this before.
When their lips separated, she rested her forehead against his, making a breathy hoo sound as she exhaled, still curling her hands gently in his hair. They stayed that way, silently, looking at each other at the odd, intimate angle. Then Paige smiled playfully. "So," she asked. "Am I better than your hand?"
They both jumped as the intercom pinged. "Paige," came Toby's voice, "you have got to have heard how that sounds."
Paige froze, confused, then felt the blood rush to her face. "Oh, my God," she said, putting a hand over her mouth, staring at Walter in embarrassed horror. He looked at her, confused, for several seconds until it hit him, and he started chuckling, sliding his arm around her waist as she leaned forward and rested her head on his shoulder. "Oh, my God."