This is Volume 2 of the 'Sunshine and Sea Air' series, continuing the story of Scorpion post-reconciliation. I know I've kept you waiting a while for this, I hope it's been worth the wait! I really appreciate reviews, thank you kindly!
"Happy Two-Month Anniversary, Walter."
The sound of Page's voice together with the sensation of her lips against his brought Walter out of his sleep. His eyes flickered open and he couldn't help smiling at the sight that greeted him - Paige in bed next to him. In their bed.
It was his favourite way to wake up.
Then Paige's words slowly began to register in his half-asleep mind and Walter's face fell into a confused frown.
"Huh?" he mumbled, rolling onto his side to face her.
"It's been two months since we moved into our own home," Paige explained, rolling her eyes as if she was annoyed that he hadn't understood.
But she wasn't really annoyed with him. She loved him too much for that and she'd learnt the hard way the dangers of allowing silly, unimportant things to annoy her.
Paige shuddered as she thought about how she'd almost lost him - almost lost everything - because of her habit of overreacting. But that was almost a year and a half ago now - it felt like a lifetime.
"Oh, I see," said Walter, pushing himself up onto his elbow. "Should I... should I have got you something?" he added with a worried look.
Paige laughed. "No, silly," she responded. "Just being here with you is enough."
Then a pang of doubt hit her. "You are... happy. Aren't you?" she asked. "Living here with me, I mean," she added. "You... you wouldn't prefer to be living back at the garage?"
Their new place was everything Paige had ever dreamed of in family home. She had never been happier and most of the time she thought Walter felt the same, but then occasionally the old familiar feelings of insecurity would come back and her mind would be flooded with doubt.
Walter had learned to expect it now, though and better still, he knew what to do. He understood what she needed from him.
He took her left hand in his, looked into her eyes and spoke in a warm, reassuring voice that Toby had helped him perfect.
"Paige, I love you," he began. "And this is our home now. The garage will always be the Scorpion family home - our cyclone needs a home too - but this place is our home. You, me, Ralph plus any members of our family we add through successful procreation."
Paige giggled. "Successful procreation – is that what we're calling it now?"
"We will, when we're successful," replied Walter. "Talking of which, have you taken a test yet this month?"
Paige pressed her lips together and turned away from him. "No, it's too early," she replied, abruptly.
Walter frowned. "But modern home pregnancy tests are ninety seven per cent accurate up to four days prior to…"
"It's too early!" she snapped, cutting him off mid-sentence with her forceful repetition. Then she let out a slow breath and forced a smile onto her lips. "Sorry," she apologised. "But there's no rush and I don't want to risk a false positive. You remember how much heartache that caused for Happy and Toby, right?"
"Of course," replied Walter. "B... b… but that was over three years ago and…"
"Walter, I'll do it when I'm ready, OK?"
Walter nodded, puzzled as to why she felt she wasn't 'ready' now. They had only been trying to get pregnant for a few weeks, it was early days so he wasn't worried that they hadn't been successful yet. He now assumed Paige was worried, though.
"I'm sure it's too early to be concerned about… about fertility issues," he began. "However, if you wish, we can…"
"No, it's not that," Paige insisted. "Look, it's nothing. Now come on, get that naked butt of yours out of bed. Allie and Cabe are bringing Rosa to the garage later. We only met her briefly the other day. They're going to be her foster parents for the next few weeks so that makes us her foster family. I think we should take the time to get to know her."
"Hmmm," agreed Walter, but his mind wasn't on Cabe and Allie's new ward, it was firmly on Paige.
Walter knew she wanted another baby as badly as he did, but now he was wondering if they should have waited a little while longer before they started trying. Paige had been badly affected by the events surrounding their temporary split and even now, a year and a half on from that terrible time, she was still seeing Toby on a semi-professional basis to help her make sense of what happened and cope with the aftermath. Right now Walter was the happiest he'd ever been in his life and Paige had told him many times that she was too, but he couldn't help but worry that her insecurities might manifest themselves again one day.
All he could do was make her feel as safe and secure as possible and he put every ounce of his being into doing exactly that every day. He just hoped it was enough. He knew he couldn't bear it if he ever lost her, or Ralph. They were his world.
"Walter!" exclaimed Paige, standing on one leg as she pulled on a pair of panties. "Move!"
Walter got out of bed and walked over to her. Without warning he pulled her into his arms and kissed the top of her head. "I love you," he said.
Paige gasped before wrapping her arms around him. "I love you too," she replied, taking a moment to relish the warm feelings of reassurance that came in moments like this. "Now hurry up!"
"Sugarplum, should you be doing that?" Toby snatched the hammer out of his wife's hand and placed it down on the workbench.
On the other side of the garage, Sylvester winced and buried his head in a book in anticipation of Happy's response. He was right to brace himself.
"I'm pregnant, I'm not an invalid!" Happy exploded, slamming her hands on the bench before picking up the hammer again and waving it in front of Toby's face.
"Thirty five weeks pregnant," Toby reminded her, in a patronising tone.
"Really?" replied Happy sarcastically. She looked down at her enormous belly and spread her arms wide. "I wondered what this was!"
"I just think you should be taking it easy as we wait for the pitter-patter of tiny Quintis feet," said Toby, calmly.
Happy glared at him. "I'm trying to hammer out the dent you put in the side of the coffee machine," she replied, through gritted teeth.
"That was an accident…" Toby began, but Happy wasn't about to let him distract her from her rant.
"I don't remember anything about hammering in any of those dumb pregnancy manuals you made me read!" she continued. Then she drew a deep breath and let it out slowly, knowing she had no need to be so angry. "Listen to me, Doc," she said, her voice now several decibels lower. "I know you're worried about me and our baby, but I promise you, we're both fine."
Toby let out a sigh too and took her hand in his. "I'm sorry, I know my fussing annoys the hell outta you…"
"Just a little."
Toby smiled at her deliberate understatement. "But now the head's engaged and we're so close and… and I can't help it. I want to wrap you both up in blankets and protect you from… well, from everything."
Happy smiled back at him. "I know you do, you big doofus," she said. "But these last few weeks feel like they've dragged on forever and I just gotta do stuff to take my mind off it, or I'll go crazy. So you've gotta let me. I promise I won't go out on the bike, or go bungee jumping."
"OK," replied Toby, leaning in to capture her lips in a tender kiss. "I'll try, but I can't promise anything," he added. "It's taken us so long to get this far and I don't want anything to…" but the words caught in his throat and he couldn't finish his sentence.
Happy kissed him again. "I know," she said quietly.
Neither Happy, nor Toby could quite believe they were actually going to have a baby. After almost a year of fertility treatment they'd decided to adopt instead of having a biological child of their own and were now the proud parents of adorable twin girls. Then this pregnancy had come out of the blue and they were soon to be a family of five and if they thought about it too hard it was overwhelming.
Just then the familiar sight of Cabe's SUV pulling into the garage broke them from their thoughts.
"Hey, geniuses," grinned Cabe, getting out of the car. He was dressed casually in jeans and a t-shirt and looked more relaxed than anyone had seen him in a long time.
Sylvester walked over to join them as Allie got out of the other side of the car and Cabe opened the back door to help Rosa, their first foster child, out of the vehicle too.
"No Paige and Walter, yet?" asked Allie as the three of them crossed the garage.
"Nope," answered Happy.
Allie turned to Sylvester. "Any word from Kimberley?" she asked, patting his arm gently.
Kimberley was Sylvester's girlfriend of barely two months. Their relationship had been going from strength to strength, but then her mother's ongoing illness had taken a turn for the worse and Kimberley and her sister had gone to stay with her. Sylvester missed her more than he ever thought possible.
"Not today," replied Sylvester. "I spoke to her yesterday, though. The prognosis isn't good. I wish I could fly up there and be with her, but she insisted I should stay here."
"You've got the election coming up," noted Allie.
"I know," nodded Sylvester. "And I'm up to my eyes in that legal case I took on, but… but I should be with her. I want to be with her."
"I'm sure Kimberley knows that, but she and her sister have each other for support," Allie pointed out. "Meanwhile your client is relying on you to keep him out of jail."
"I hope he has a Plan B," said Toby, dryly.
Happy rewarded his facetiousness with a slap on the back of the head. "Ignore him, Sly," she said.
"I'm kidding! I'm kidding!" insisted Toby. Then he turned his attentions to the little girl who was still clutching Allie's hand tightly. "Hey, Rosa," he began, with a warm smile. "How are you settling in?"
Rosa stared at him with wide eyes, but didn't reply. Cabe placed an encouraging hand on the little girl's shoulder, but she remained silent.
"I think we're doing fine," Allie replied on Rosa's behalf. She glanced at Toby with concern and Toby responded with a small nod.
He crouched on one knee to get down to Rosa's eye level. She was shorter than average for a ten year old and right now she seemed much more nervous and shy than she had been five days ago when she'd first been introduced to the team. Her dark eyes locked with his and he took off his hat and dropped it onto her head.
"Takes a while to get used to being away from home, doesn't it," he offered. "And you're missing your Mom. It's OK to feel sad, y'know."
Rosa nodded. Allie had plaited her tightly curled hair into two neat braids and they swung past her ears as she moved her head.
"I've got an idea," said Toby with a smile. "Why don't you go play Proton Arnold with Sly?"
"Sure!" added Sylvester with a huge, friendly grin. "Come on, I'll show you the secret level." He held out his hand for Rosa and the little girl reached out to him.
"Oh, wait," said Toby. He leaned forward, brushing his hand against her earlobe and 'magically' producing a coin. He held it between his thumb and forefinger in front of her startled face. "You'll need this," he said with a wink.
The corners of Rosa's lips twitched into a smile and she took the coin in one hand and slipped her other hand into Sylvester's and Toby barely had time to reclaim his hat before she skipped over to the arcade machine with Sylvester.
"We had a call from the hospital this morning," explained Cabe in a low voice. "Rosa's mom had to go back into surgery yesterday. Nothing too serious, I don't think, but it's set back her recovery by another couple weeks."
"Spinal surgery's a tricky game," acknowledged Toby. "And recovery is always a slow process."
"Poor kid's been quiet ever since we told her," continued Cabe. "I guess she's doesn't want to spend an extra two weeks with us."
Happy frowned. "Any kid should be grateful to have you guys as foster parents," she said.
"You might wanna cut the kid some slack, Lovebug," suggested Toby, gingerly. "She's ten. It's not that she's ungrateful, she's just scared. Her Mom's in the hospital and she's got to live with total strangers for a while, it's not easy. I think she'll be OK, she just needs a little more time to adjust."
"We don't really know what else to say to her," said Allie, sadly. "We talked to her, tried to reassure her, but she's shutting us out."
"Sounds like you're doing all the right things," smiled Toby and Allie smiled back, grateful for the endorsement.
"I might go see if she's winning on that game," said Cabe and he walked off to join Sylvester and Rosa.
Allie watched him go, her heart skipping a beat as he strode across the garage.
Toby punched her playfully on the arm. "Seems the whole parenting thing agrees with Cabe," he said.
"He's a natural," Allie replied with a smile. "He's so good with her and he really cares about her. We both do. It feels so odd – we've only known her for a week – but I'd do anything to keep her safe. I know I keep saying it, but thank you for everything you've done for him lately. I know talking to you about losing Amanda hasn't been easy for him, but whatever you did has helped him so much."
"Don't tell him I said this," began Toby. "But that grumpy old guy's been more like a Dad to me these past few years than my old man ever was. I'm just glad I can do something for him in return."
Just then Walter and Paige arrived in Paige's car.
"Sorry we're late," said Paige, grabbing her bag from the back seat.
Toby glanced at the clock on the wall. "Been working on Operation Baby Waige, have we?" he offered with a wink.
"'Waige' is a dumb name," retorted Happy.
"I'll admit, it doesn't roll off the tongue as easily as 'Quintis'…" began Toby.
"And we're all in our thirties, not teenagers," noted Happy, rolling her eyes.
"Darlin', all the best couples have couple names these days," replied Toby, folding his arms across his chest defiantly.
"If I remember correctly," began Happy. "You cited Brangelina as a prime example the day you came up with 'Quintis' and look what happened to them."
Toby shook his head, but he was smiling inwardly. He knew that Happy secretly loved that they had a couple name, even though she would never admit it.
As Paige and Allie began to talk about Rosa, Walter grabbed Toby by the arm and dragged him away from them.
"I need your professional opinion," he began.
"Sure," replied Toby. "You know my regular fees, but I'll cut you a deal - ten per cent discount for my bestest buddy."
Walter frowned at him. "I'll just talk to someone else," he replied and turned away.
"I jest, One Ninety Seven," replied Toby, throwing his arm around Walter's shoulders. "How can I help?"
Walter sighed and turned back. "It's Paige," he said. "She deliberately avoided taking a pregnancy test this morning."
"I see," replied Toby, knowingly.
"She took one last month. Two, in fact," continued Walter. "D…d…do you think she's having second thoughts about having a child with me?"
"No," Toby answered without hesitation. "Definitely not. She's more than ready to join my beautiful wife in the Pudding Club."
"Then why is she behaving this way?"
"Because… because she's Paige Dineen."
"That's not an explanation, Toby."
Toby shrugged. "She's got some niggling doubts, that's all."
"Nope," replied Toby. "I promise you Paige is one hundred per cent committed to your relationship, Walt and she's madly in love with you. And she's got her heart set on having your babies, that's the problem."
"I… I don't understand."
"If she doesn't get pregnant, she's gonna be devastated," Toby explained. "Not so much for herself, but for you. She'll feel like she's let you down if she can't spread your genius genes into the wider human population. You need to talk to her."
"I do, frequently," insisted Walter. "I've learnt so much since… since… y'know… and now we share our feelings and our concerns about any number of things and… and it really helps. Why hasn't she talked to me about this?"
"Because she knows it's dumb to be stressing out over it this early in the game," explained Toby. "And she knows being stressed doesn't help her chances of getting pregnant. I prescribe a dirty weekend away. Just the two of you getting down to some good old fashioned bedroom business. Get your timing right, hit a few home runs and she'll be in the family way quicker than you can say… 'in the family way'."
Walter frowned at him. "I'm not sure playing baseball would be conducive to conceiving a child."
Toby opened his mouth to make a sarcastic comment about Drew, but thought better of it. "Just book a hotel room," he said. "A nice one, Walter, dust the cobwebs off your savings account. It'll work, trust me."
At that moment Paige walked over to join them. "And what are you boys talking about?" she asked, suspiciously.
"Nothing," replied Walter, quickly. "I mean, something, but… I can't tell you what it is yet. I have work to do, I'll be in the loft." And before Paige could reply he was half way up the ramp.
Paige looked at Toby for an explanation, but he just shrugged.
"So much for spending time with Rosa today," she said, rolling her eyes. "Allie told me she's been a little quiet. I really feel for her. It's kinda funny seeing Cabe and Allie parenting a kid, though. I mean, Cabe's been parenting you geniuses for years, but this is different."
Toby chuckled. "Look at all of us, all coupled up with kids. Whatever happened to my carefree youth?"
"Your youth wasn't carefree," Paige pointed out. "Your youth was spent racking up debts in dodgy gambling dens."
Toby thought for a moment. "You have a good point," he admitted. "Anyway, just Sly and Kimmy to go and we'll need to open a Scorpion crèche!"
"Where are your girls today?" asked Paige.
"Patrick has them," Toby explained. "He's taking them to the zoo. Again. He should take out shares in that place, but they love it there. Stella can't stop talking about the 'gillers' and the 'jraffs'."
Paige smiled. "Last time I babysat, Caitlin told me all about the baby 'elewant' she saw there and how Mommy has a baby 'elewant' in her tummy too."
"Hmmm," replied Toby, with a chuckle. "Maybe we need to explain the whole baby thing again."
Just then there was a loud cheer from the other side of the garage and they turned round to see Cabe hoisting Rosa triumphantly onto his shoulder.
Toby, Paige, Allie and Happy all quickly walked over to join them by the Proton Arnold game.
"What are we celebrating?" asked Happy, massaging her aching back as she spoke.
"Rosa got on the leader-board!" exclaimed Cabe, proudly.
"Sly helped me," explained Rosa.
Sylvester blushed. "That's what friends are for," he replied.
Allie was delighted to hear Rosa speaking, those were the first words she'd said all day. "Thank you, Sylvester," she said, smiling warmly at him.
Sylvester was about to reply when the sound of Cabe's phone ringing distracted him.
"Who the heck's that?" asked Cabe, passing Rosa into Toby's waiting arms before pulling his phone from the pocket of his jeans.
"I know, why don't you answer it and find out?" suggested Toby, sarcastically. He swung Rosa upside down and she squealed with delight.
Cabe sneered and stared at his phone screen with a frown. "It's Katherine," he explained. "She knows I'm on parental leave, why's she calling me?"
"I respectfully refer you to my previous suggestion," said Toby, raising his eyebrows in a taunting gesture.
Cabe glared at him and walked off towards the kitchen as he answered the call.
Allie sighed. "I hope they don't make him go back to work early," she said. "He's been so much more relaxed since he's been on leave."
"Retirement would look good on him," Toby pointed out as he sat himself cross-legged on the floor and pulled a pack of playing cards from his back pocket as Rosa sat down opposite him.
"I don't think he'll ever retire," replied Allie, joining them on the floor. "But I'm not looking forward to him going back to Homeland. I…" she paused, glancing at Rosa before continuing in a low voice. "I worry about him. I worry about all of you, of course, but Cabe… I just wish he'd cut back on the dangerous cases."
"Hey, I worry about all of us too," noted Toby, successfully managing to engage in conversation with Allie while simultaneously distracting Rosa with a card trick. "Sometimes I long for the good old days of installing wi-fi into diners. Y'know, before we got involved with worldwide threats, criminal masterminds and exploding things."
Just then Cabe's voice rang out and everyone took notice. "Gather round, team, we've got a case!"
To be continued...