I once heard someone use the term 'so-then-thus', and it really made me curious. The phrase in itself doesn't mean much of anything, and can be used for even more than that. The only way I can assume it came to be was that someone clever strung it together from the triple meaning of the Italian allora. But, even then, it doesn't have the onus of the phrase. So Then Thus can be a great many things- in this case, a strange relationship between Walter Bishop and Astrid Farnsworth that can't at all be as easy as people assume it to be.

*I do not own Fringe, quite obviously. Not that it wouldn't be a riot, if I did… but I don't, really.

Chpt. 1: So.

It was a smack on the wrist disguised as a affectionate pat, and a gentle murmuring of "Don't touch that." yet, still, she felt the warning went fairly deeper than a casual dismissal. She also found it the tiniest bit offensive, in the way his gentleness had been used. Why hadn't he simply said "Don't meddle, you're far too stupid"?

Astrid looked up at Dr. Bishop, whom only continued to move her hand away from the mass of wires, placing it back onto the tabletop. It did not seem to affect him, and did not seem to realize the kind of response he had elicited from her. Annoyance bent Astrid's features downward, "I know what I'm doing." and she pulled her wrist from his grip, returning to her task of untangling the mass.

He raised his eyebrows, and moved her hands again, "Don't," as if to a dull child.

Astrid looked to Peter for patience, and Peter obligingly rose, moving toward his father, "Walter, leave her alone, will you?"

Walter looked up at both of them, his brows furrowing, "No." he shook his head, pulling the mass of cables away from her and turning his back, ignoring them.

Peter sighed tiredly, "Walter, please."

No response. Walter was carefully twisting the cables in his fingers, in the same manner Astrid had been useing to untangle them, and Astrid sighed as Peter rolled his eyes, "Dr. Bishop," Astrid started to reason, "I can do it, really…"

Walter shook his head, muttering about colors and numbers before falling silent. Astrid rose from her seat, leaving the lab. Peter saw the frustration and hurt aggression on her face, and swiftly followed after her. Astrid walked a short way up the hall, and leaned back against the wall, scratching her forehead. "Hey," Peter said softly, sliding his hands into his pockets and standing beside her, "'You okay?"

"I'm fine," she replied shortly, crossing her arms across her front.

"Okay." They were silent for a few moments.

"I'm not an idiot," Astrid said at last, "but he keeps treating me like one. It-it's really starting to get to me, okay?"

"I know you're not an idiot. Walter knows it, too. Don't take it seriously, the guy's not even on this planet, most of the time."

"But he acts like I'm so stupid. And I know I am, compared to him…"

"Hey, no. Walter's a moron, okay? Anyone that would upset you like this is a moron," Peter smiled, and Astrid had to smile back.

"Thanks," she said softly.

There came a deep cry, and a loud crash, and Peter and Astrid jumped, rushing back into the lab, "I'm good!" Walter said quickly, nursing his hand as he stooped to gather the scattered cables and utensils from the lab floor, and he smiled up at them painfully, "Just a minor bit of a shock, I'm afraid, sorry."

"What did you do?" Astrid asked flatly, descending the steps as Walter stood, piling the articles onto the table. She took his hand, observing the burn that spanned the back of it, "Come on, let's get the aid kit." and he followed her as she moved toward the office. Peter only shook his head.

"Red was the hot feed, I'd forgotten," Walter was murmuring as Astrid pulled the case down from its bolted place on the wall, snapping it open and beginning to rifle through the contents in search of salve and bandages, "And the wires are old, the plastic is crumbling off, mostly…"

"If you didn't go on doing things so carelessly, you wouldn't-" Astrid paused from reading the instructions on the tube of salve, blinking up at the passive doctor, "…what did you say?"

"Hmm? Oh, those wires are terribly dangerous. I'm even thinking of replacing them, when I sort this mess out. The halo won't do much good if it electrocutes the applicant now, will it?" and he smiled at her.

"You didn't want me getting hurt," Astrid clarified, "that's why you wouldn't let me work with the wires, because I'd get electrocuted."

"Did you wish it? In such a case, I can construct a much more elaborate and sensual method, provided we have a more private setting-"

"Walter!" Peter snapped, disrupting him.

Walter gave a shrug, "I was just saying…" and he fell silent.

Astrid smiled and shook her head, twisting the cap from the salve and applying it liberally to Walters burn, rubbing it gently across the wound with her thumb. His hand suddenly tightened around her fingers, and she looked up at him. As if, once more, he was ignorant of his innocent transgression, he continued to watch her thumb move across his hand, and only blinked once, a nearly invisible sign of nervousness.

Astrid released him, turning for the bandages and tape.

xXx

Walter had turned to his pointless hobby of folding rectangular bits of paper into geometric spheres and flicking them up, to see if he could get them out of the high windows. So far, he'd managed a score of four. The snow kept interrupting him, as it flurried in.

At last, Astrid spoke up, "Can we please shut that, Walter?" she was trying to type in ski gloves.

That was what he'd been waiting for. He climbed to his feet, lifting the broom and swatting away the window support to let it bang shut. "Thank you," she murmured as he swept past her in search of a fire extinguisher. He found a new, shiny, red one tucked away behind a box of filing, an hefted it up, returning to his seat. Astrid had returned to her task, paying him no more attention.

Walter spun in his seat, pulling the pin from the canister and taking aim, squeezing the long, thin, steel trigger. With a blast of icy air and flecks of white foam, the paper balls were cleared from his desktop. He smiled in satisfaction. Astrid did not respond.

"What's for lunch?" he asked, setting the extinguisher under his desk.

"What do you want?"

"A pomegranate," he answered immediately.

Astrid glanced up at him, "Walter, it's January. There's no way I can get you a pomegranate."

"Why not?"

"And a pomegranate isn't a meal, anyways. What about Italian?"

"Can you cook?" Walter asked.

"Yes. But I'm not cooking for you. Hurry up and decide, okay?" she shut her laptop, leaning back to rub her eyes tiredly.

"I don't want anything," Walter decided, getting up and shuffling away.

Astrid rolled her eyes, rising to follow him, "Come on, just choose something. I know you're hungry."

"Go away, I want to take a nap with Gene," Walter said, shutting the door before she could enter. He stood, holding his breath and listening. He could hear her sigh, and take a few deep breaths, gathering her composure. She turned, and her footsteps faded away. He turned as Gene nudged his palm with her wet nose. Walter gently stroked her cheek, thoughtful.

Walter awoke a few hours later a Astrid nudged his shoulder with the toe of her shoe, and he sat up, rubbing his eyes and picking straw from his hair. She dropped a pomegranate into his lap, and he stared up at her for a few moments, before she grew uncomfortable, and left.

Walter got to his feet, shuffling out and heading for his nearest set of surgical tools. Carefully, he cut the leathery skin of the fruit and ripped it apart, exposing the deep, wine-colored jewels of seeds clustered within. He licked the dark stains from his fingertips, and used tweezers to separate six seeds from their wax-like facets, placing them onto a tray.

Astrid had returned to her work when he placed them down before her, and stood back, watching her. She looked up at the display for a few seconds, and shook her head, retuning her eyes to her screen. "Do you get it?" he asked.

"Yes."

"Persephone and the pomegranate. The six months of winter."

"I said I got it, Walter."

"I guess you're in hell," and he turned away, his attempt lost.

"Why are you so annoying?!" Astrid blurted finally. Her face was flushed and angry when he looked over his shoulder at her.

Again, just what he'd been waiting for. Walter smiled, "I'm sorry. We don't get many visitors, in Hades."

There was hope for her yet.

xXx