A light blue Station Wagon clattered and banged to a halt on the dirt road, set into such a noisy frenzy by the round, smooth river stones that littered the road. The engine sputtered and died, and Peter Bishop climbed out of the driver's seat, kicking the door shut.
Olivia Dunham crossed her arms across her chest and shook her head with a smile, "Nice wheels," she teased.
"Yeah, it's pretty sweet," Peter chuckled, stooping to give her a quick kiss and squeeze her elbow, "How's it going?"
"Where's Walter?" Olivia asked.
"As unbelievable as it sounds, he's asleep in the car," Peter shook his head, "But he's cutting it down. He only does thirty-three hour days, and sleeps about ten. Between the nightmares and the closet time."
"I know the feeling," Olivia nodded, "so he's doing better?"
"A bit. What about you?"
"I still sleep with the lights on and the door open."
This was not a joke, and Peter sighed quietly, putting an arm around her shoulders and kissing the top of her head.
"We've got a lead on one company that apparently received a substantial grant from a private source to work on an experiment that nearly echoed Walter's theories," Olivia continued.
"What company?" Peter asked.
"That's what's crazy. Massive Dynamic."
Peter's eyes widened, "Massive Dynamic's huge. Why would they need private sourcing?"
"It's not usually traceable, but what threw up a red flag was that it was granted to Walter, in the name of Glassmouth." Olivia and Peter began to walk toward the rented weekend cabin, "I don't know what the hell it means."
Peter shook his head, "We'll figure it out later. You're on leave, for now- let's try to enjoy it like the doctor ordered, okay?" he smiled, and stilled her to give her another kiss.
Astrid cursed, and plunged the mason jar into the clear, icy water of the creek. She exclaimed as she scooped up a few tadpoles, examining them closely through the glass. One already had back legs-
She looked up as footsteps crushed the twigs behind her, and she smiled at the approaching stranger, shifting her footing in the water as her toes began to grow numb.
"Kitty's catching some fish?" Walter questioned with a smirk, his gaze lost behind dark sunglasses.
"Hey, Walter," Astrid beamed, holding up the jar, "Just tadpoles. Want to help?"
"Yep," he replied, and plopped down on the bank to remove his shoes and cuff his slacks up to his knees.
He was rolling up his sleeves when Astrid stilled him, "Whoa. Impressive job on the tan, Walter."
"I've been working on it," he replied, seeming pleased, "when the sun isn't terribly unpleasant." He still retained a certain paleness to his skin, but it was no longer as noticeable. He waded out into the creek to Astrid, stooping to peer into the water.
"How's the job search going?" Astrid asked as they searched.
Walter frowned, "My psychiatrist says I can't handle the stress, but I applied for nocturnal studies at the zoo anyways, don't tell Peter."
Astrid chuckled, "Mum's the word. My psychiatrist say's I can't go back to work yet, either."
They were quiet for a while, until Walter plunged his arm into the water, scooping up a tadpole to wriggle in his fingers, "The jar! The jar!" he cried.
"I'm trying!" Astrid exclaimed, scrambling to open the jar. It spilled open, drenching the side of Walter's leg, and he gave a cry, the tadpole shooting from his grip. He stumbled forward to grab for it, and lost his footing, falling into the water, "Walter!" Astrid cried.
He emerged sputtering and shivering in the cold, shaking the wet from his face. He searched about for his sunglasses in the drink, and at last jammed them onto his face to hide his sensitive irises, "The one that got away?" he questioned.
Astrid laughed, and offered him a hand up, "Let's get you dry before you catch a cold," she said.
"A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance, when the need for illusion is deep."