Heyo, again. Or, possibly for the first time, depending. Anyways, this is a first for me, too- my Fringefics usually aren't one-shots, and this is my first short. I tried to make 'Tacks of Snacks' a one-shot…but you see how my attempts failed. Or perhaps you don't see. But anyways.
The title for this one was such a pain. I did not want anything that sounded too, well… lame, for lack of a better term. I myself am a hopeless romantic, and this is actually the flip-side of a fic one of my chums wrote, about Peter and Olivia. She's a huge Peter fan; it frightens me, sometimes. But anyways. Please enjoy, and review only if you feel the necessity.
*P.S. I don't own anything Fringe, 'cos I'm not that clever.
She hated valentines' day. She often found that she was not alone, in her dislike of the holiday, but what made it especially bad was the fact that it was her birthday.
Astrid didn't want to spend it doing anything. She never did. And there was no way in hell she would date a guy that sent her a valentines' day card- it actually annoyed her. All the hype of guys dropping lovey-dovey lines that didn't make a damn bit of sense. The entire romantic thing was so cheesy…
She had had only slight qualms when Peter had asked her to watch his father, on the holiday. But she could not turn him down, she knew he had something special planned for Olivia, and it was unfair to spoil his plans… even if it meant spending her birthday with a mad scientist fresh from the asylum. It would be the first valentines' day in a long time that she hadn't spent alone.
It was snowing, and she found that it was the only thing that she actually enjoyed about her birthday. Boston dressed well in white; uncommon, for cities. As the large, white flakes drifted in the air, things seemed to feel more at peace, and the world was quiet.
"Astrid," someone said, breaking her from her thoughtful gazing, and she looked away from the window. Peter was pulling on his jacket, "I'm gonna be taking off. Are you sure this is alright? Please, any time, just say the word, I know Walter can be a pain-"
Astrid smiled, "Don't worry about it. Have a good time, and don't worry. I'll take good care of Walter."
Peter smiled back at her, "I can't say thanks enough. You're a saint, Astrid," and he surprised her with a kiss on the cheek before hurrying out of the lab. Astrid laughed softly, and turned back to the window.
Snow continued to fall, and it was silent in the lab. She counted the snowflakes that battered the glass, resting her elbows on the window sill. Her senses only vaguely registered Walter's footsteps behind her as he stopped, watching the snowflakes himself, "Thinking of someone?" he asked at last.
"Hmm? Oh, no, nobody," Astrid turned to him, leaning back against the wall, "I don't like valentines' day, actually."
Walter continued to watch the snow, "Oh. Why?"
She frowned, "We've been over this, Walter. It's cheesy and lame."
"Oh, yes," Walter glanced at her, smiling slightly in embarrassment, "Lame and cheesy, I forgot." And he shuffled off toward the office, abandoning the conversation.
Finding herself bored, Astrid followed after him, watching quietly as he shut off the lights in the office, flicking on the large light table and tearing open a large, brown paper envelope, "What are you doing?" Astrid asked lazily.
"X-rays," Walter mumbled, pushing his glasses onto his nose to hold the films up to the light, squinting at them each in turn. He nodded, slipping one into a clean white envelope and poking it into his lab coat.
"What of?" Astrid asked, her curiosity getting the better of her.
"Anything and everything," Walter replied, clipping them onto the light table. A dragonfly, a tulip, what appeared to be a paperclip, a hand… "It's a hobby of mine, collecting X-rays. I like the effect of the negative."
"Negative certainly is the right word," Astrid replied, "Maybe even morbid, if you want to get down to it."
"An X-ray cannot lie, and it cannot be manipulated," Walter said, "Not like a photograph."
"I wouldn't be able to manipulate you into a cup of hot chocolate, would I?" Astrid smiled, as he looked over the top of his lenses at her, "It's boring and cold, in here."
Walter looked back at the light table, then back at the thick stack of film in his hands. He stood in silence for a few moments, "I suppose," he said at length.
"Great. Get your coat."
The snowy roads were empty, but driving was slow going on the ice. More than once Astrid had to pull out of a slide, but her years of driving in hazardous conditions seemed to give Walter no security, and at last he asked if they might walk the rest of the way. Observing the lack of color in his frightened features, Astrid obliged, pulling up to the curb and shutting off the engine.
Astrid wrapped her coat tightly around herself and situated her scarf, hoping to keep in the warmth of the car for as long as she could, in the chill. It was still snowing as they set off down the empty sidewalk, their breath fogging in the cold air.
The first few blocks they walked in silence, until Walter cleared his throat and said, "Did you know that the crystallized structure of no two snowflakes is alike?"
"Really? I didn't know that." Aster frowned, "I don't see how that can be, though. There's so many snowflakes, the sheer numbers mean that there has to be some repeat."
"There are millions of people in the world," Walter said, "Does that not make every one of them unique?"
Aster laughed, "There certainly can't be another person like you, Walter," She smiled, "and, if there is, let's pray you two never get together." She looped her arm around his. He made no other comment until they reached the café, only to find it closed.
"So, what do you want to do now?" Walter asked as Astrid glared at the darkened shop windows.
"Well, there are other diners," She said optimistically, then frowned, "But we wouldn't have this problem if people weren't wrapped up in this stupid holiday."
"How about that café that young woman exploded in?" Walter suggested.
"Um, no. There's a Starbucks just a little way up the road; 'you feel up to it?"
Walter shrugged, "I don't see the point of going back to the lab without hot chocolate," he said reasonably, "I'll consider my frozen toes necessary casualties."
Aster laughed, tugging on his arm, "Come on."
They reached the corner Starbucks as the streetlights flickered on, bathing the white streets in a soft, yellow glow. Astrid laughed as Walter shook the snow from his hair like a dog. The coffee shop seemed very full, and Walter strayed from the door, "What do you want?" Astrid asked, understanding of his wariness of people.
"Just the hot chocolate, thank you," he said.
The warm air rushed across her numbed cheeks as she opened the door, and it smelled of strong espresso. She placed her order and observed the handwritten menu, frowning at the hearts that decorated the corners, before she was called to the counter. She gathered the two large Styrofoam cups, paid her tab, and ignored the tiny chime of the door as she let herself outside.
She glanced around, her brows knitting in concern, "Walter?" She called. He was nowhere to be seen.
"Present," he chirped, emerging from around the corner, beaming.
Astrid stared, "Oh…" She said, feeling heat rush to her features, "Walter, no…"
Carefully he cradled the dozen red, long stem roses as he brushed the snowflakes from the blossoms, "Look what I found," he grinned.
"I told you I hate valentine's day crap!" Aster stammered, "It's totally lame!"
"Valentines' day? Oh, heavens no. These are for your birthday." he took his cup from her, resting the roses in her arms. "This is your valentine," he pulled a white envelope from his coat, holding her cup as she opened the paper flap with quaking hands. A thin plastic X-ray slipped out, "It's a heart," he explained, "A real one. You said this holiday was fake, so I wanted to show you something real- and X-rays don't lie."
"Walter…" She said, hiding her smile with the X-ray, "You're such a dork. You can't even remember my name, and you manage this?"
"Well, it is unfair that you get stuck with me, of all people, tonight," he reasoned, "And since I'm the lucky one, I thought I'd make something of it. Do you like it?"
"It's…wonderful, Walter. Wonderful and weird, like you." She held the X-ray up to the light, "Who's heart is this?"
Astrid glanced over at his silence to see his face turning scarlet. He sipped his hot chocolate nosily. "you gave me your heart?" She questioned.
"A picture of my heart," he corrected, "I don't think the real one would be of much use, as it's fairly worn-out." he glanced up at her hopefully, "Too cheesy?"
Astrid shook her head, sliding the X-ray back into the envelope, "Not cheesy. Cute, but not cheesy cute."
"Is that good?" Walter asked, unfamiliar with her modern terminology.
Aster smiled, "Yes, Walter, that's good." She stood up strait, touching his cheek as she gave him a small kiss. When she stood back, his face was burning, "Thank you, Walter."
"This hot chocolate is delightful," he said, watching his feet, as he was uncertain of what to do.
"Well, I'm freezing," Astrid said at last, "Let's get back to the lab and start the furnace, shall we?"
"Okay," Walter replied as Astrid slipped the envelope into her messenger bag, taking her drink back from him, and he held her roses. He exclaimed and shirked away slightly as she grabbed his hand, and he turned red again, easing into the idea. They strode off down the sidewalk together, "Did you know that the crystallized structure of no two snowflakes is alike?" He questioned.