No copyright inFRiNGEment intended.
Note: Momentum Deferred missing scene.
Astrid was late. And god, how she hated being late. But nonetheless, it was the third time this month that she had forgotten to set her alarm. It must be a sign, she thought with a last glance at the perfect blue sky she was leaving behind before entering the maze of hallways of Harvard University.
She rushed through the Kreisge Building and went directly to the lab. No stopping today at the vending machines in search of a replacement for Walter's greasy Danish she didn't have time to purchase on her way to work.
Walter will have to wait until noon for a refill of more disgusting food. After all, the fridge was already packed with perfectly eatable leftovers, she chuckled. Her laugh echoed in the hallway, making her chuckle more.
She stopped before the lab door, searched for her keys in her purse, and let herself in. The lab was quiet and Gene mooed a welcome from her stable. She switched on the lights, revived the computers and with a grin on her face, put the kettle on before attending to the resident pet's morning needs. Only when she was done, she sipped her first morning tea while thumbing through a pile of data and nibbling on a fresh pear. But peace was soon disrupted. Before she had time to react, Walter showed up, darting inside and to her desk. He had a gigantic headset on his head and was speaking very loudly.
"Astrid Farnsworth!" he chanted. "My favourite lab assistant! Isn't it a beautiful day?" he continued with youthful energy. He dragged her to her feet and they danced to music she couldn't hear. He made her twirl back to her seat and danced back up the stairs to hang his coat and wool scarf near the door. Like he would do of a precious artefact, he retrieved an old portable greyish CD player from a pocket, finally pressing the stop button with an emphatic finger. Holding this latest toy like a trophy, he grabbed his lab coat, stuck it under his arm, and proceeded to his own bench, "I found this old CD player on a shelf behind my stash of… well of, of…"
She signalled him he was still sporting his headset. "Never mind Walter, I know where is your stash."
"Oh! … oh, --you do, really?" He placed it on his desk, and carefully sat the CD player on top of piling folders. "Anyway, it works perfectly! I asked Peter how to burn a disk on his laptop and I compiled some of my favourite tunes and voilà!" he exclaimed.
She nodded. "Where is Peter?"
"He wasn't up when I left," he dismissed her, turning around to check on the player. "But don't you worry, I wrote him a note on the kitchen table, he cannot miss it."
She managed to hide a grin. Peter was right. Their little boy was growing up. Nevertheless, it was the first time since they moved into their new apartment that Walter showed up to the lab alone. Peter will be mad, she assessed, because he was so very protective of his father. But despite how much he cared, it was going to be lost in the midst of an argument about being late and not being dedicated to their work, the whole nine yard. And she probably won't see the end of it if Peter was in a bad mood.
Oblivious of her concern, Walter continued. "I followed your advice Astrid, I took the bus and found a fantastic deli on my way to the lab. I will show you." He dashed back to his coat and this time, it wasn't a CD player he pulled out but a crumpled brown bag. "They make a pastrami sandwich which is even better than the ones I used to buy in New York. Did you know that the word pastrami is most likely derived from the Yiddish פפּאַסטראָמע and that one changed it to pastrami to mimic the word salami?"
"I didn't know that either Walter," she managed to keep a straight face. She sipped on her tea, laced her fingers on the hot mug and waited for the inevitable rant ahead.
With extra care, he took the sandwich out of the bag and she felt nauseous just at the sight of the half eaten food. Oblivious to her revulsion, "I had to taste it on the bus," he stated, examining the food before sinking his teeth into the sandwich.
"Walter," she moaned in protest, "it's not even 9!"
"I know, we have important work to do. I found how to put to good use the subjects I ordered last week. Did we receive them?"
"Platyhelminthes, of course, the ones I ordered from that lab in Belgium, there are the best. Belly and I performed very successful experiments on those specific flatworms and I'm inclined to think that I can reproduce one specific experiment on Olivia, I mean agent Dunham. Where are they?"
"No, no, no, flatworms! Black to be precise, hermaphrodite turbellarians. The largest aquatic species mate by penis fencing, quite intriguing."
"Sorry Walter, I didn't receive any worms male or female."
"Nonsense! You might have put the box in the refrigerating unit," he said, back to his bossy self, his demeanour brooking no argument.
"There are worms in the fridge?" she said weakly. Her stomach churned.
"Of course!" He rummaged through the shelves and turned around, holding triumphantly a plastic box. "Here they are!"
"Tupperwared flatworms, lovely," she sighed.
"We have to call agent Dunham," he said matter-of-factly before turning back to his bench and his discarded sandwich. He raised a finger and without even looking at her. "And we'll need a pound of strawberries."
It was going to be a very long day, she thought.
Why Walter wouldn't let her use the blender in the first place was beyond her. When she had ventured to ask, he had thrown one of his proverbial fits and just started to yell at her. He had stopped immediately though, frozen, then sheepishly scurried to her bench.
"The blender is not good… They would suffer," he had whispered in her ear.
Barely a half hour after the end of his pastrami extravaganza, Walter had raided the fridge again. This time he was not in search of flatworms but food. Apparently, his sandwich had left him more famished than satiated. Mumbling to himself about having been abandoned, he had tried to put together an old recipe, ruined Astrid lunch in the process and incinerated the disaster that had ensued.
"For god's sake, Walter, you should have asked!" She brushed away a stray lock of hair from her brow with the gloved hand holding the knife. "After all this time you must know that if you're hungry I can get you anything you want. Why did you have to…"
"I'm sorry, Astrid. But…" he lowered his voice to a whisper, "last night I was alone and I missed dinner, -- and supper."
"Why didn't you order in?"
"I, I couldn't decide whether I wanted Chinese or Indian," he looked disoriented.
That didn't stop Astrid. "But that doesn't give you the right to deep fry my TLT sandwich!" she snapped.
"Tofu Lettuce Tomato. Wait, Peter was not with you?"
Walter looked around and whispered. "You must understand that Peter is a grown man now, I know that he can't always be with me." With that he nodded. And waited.
Astrid frowned and turned back to the task at hand. She had no time to indulge Walter with a little feel well conversation. The smell of sludge was awful, she wanted to get this thing done and over with. She closed her eyes and kept on chopping the flatworms, desperately trying to keep her eyes away from the mucky substance oozing under the knife, doing her best to think of something else, anything else. Daffodils, clear mountain waters, her training in Quantico, the last Celtics game, Peter missing. 32, 33, 44, 35… Speaking of the devil. She looked up to the sound of light banter and watched Olivia and Peter come in. He entered first and held the door for her. She went past him with a little curtsey, and an unusual bout of laughter. He said something Astrid couldn't quite make out and they both laughed. He followed her, his hand on the small of her back and she trotted down the stairs, glancing behind her in his direction. They stopped their banter when they were only a few feet away from her. Olivia straightened, regaining instantly her poised composure. She was looking good and rested. Glowing would be more proper actually, Astrid thought, puzzled. 79, 80, 81…
Olivia smoothed her hair with her hand, nodded in her direction, and went directly to Walter. A large smile brightened Walter's face when he noticed that she was without a cane. "Agent Dunham," he exclaimed.
Astrid could not help but being moved by his genuine display of affection. These three they were really like a family. 97, 98, 100. She glanced at Peter. He was calm and he was smiling. Good. She was not ready to witness a fight between the Bishops because Peter was AWOL the night before or because he had overslept or because of anything else. She didn't want to deal with the guilt on both parts once it was over either.
"Walter, hey," Olivia smiled. "So, you said you wanted to see me."
Straight to the point, Astrid smirked. She went back to her work and poured the disgusting mixture into the blender. She listened absently to Walter's theory about worms and their memories. Peter grinned and made a face. Olivia's mouth twitched, she tilted her head slightly and obviously resisted her impulse to turn to Peter to share her amusement. From the corner of her eye, the junior agent noticed that Peter's body language was different, probably because of his brand new housing arrangements with Walter or was it because of his new lab? She glared suspiciously at Olivia. Come to think of it, her body language was different too. She seemed more comfortable. Of course, she is, Einstein, she ditched the cane.
No. It was something else that Astrid didn't quite placed. Olivia was positively radiating ease and something close to… what was it? Happiness?
Astrid pressed the button. And she stared. No. It can't be, not after the Rachel… debacle. What guy would have the face to date both sisters? She was so engulfed in her staring at Peter that she missed Olivia gulping down her improvised smoothie. Peter looked appalled at first, then he had this unexpected that's my girl look, and he smiled. Grinned, to be exact. And nodded. A tamed Peter, that was odd. Unless… Astrid flinched. This simply didn't make sense. Peter and Olivia? Come on, it can't be! She would know. And yet…
She could ask Peter. They were close, --as close as work can get you under normal circumstances. "Here is your grilled cheese and ham sandwich. By the way, do you date Olivia?" Nope. Or Walter. She could totally ask Walter. Astrid had ways to make him reveal things he didn't even know he knew.
And if it didn't work, she could always lure him with a pound of chocolate spread and a couple of ice cream sodas. Yep, she had ways.