So, so, so. I find that a lot of people hate St. Valentine's day, and with good argument. But it's such an easy way to flex the Walstrid, which has grown in popularity immensely since Anatomy of a Snowflake. I'm happy, and willing except the slaps involved.
*Dear people that own Fringe: Gimme.
He was out of clean socks, but liked the feel of the warm hardwood on his bare feet, in any case. The heat appeared to be broken, in the bathroom, and it had been like showering in a freezer, he was glad to grab a towel and scramble to a warmer section of the house to dress. He had chosen his outfit carefully, for today- an especially grey sweater vest, dark brown slacks, and his favorite, maroon cardigan. Today… it was all about the correct colors, today.
He was a fancy man, he liked to tell himself.
Walter switched on the radio in the kitchen, tuning it to his favorite jazz station (which barely came in, grainy with white noise), humming and bumping his way around the kitchen to start breakfast. Now and again he would burst out in spontaneous lyrics, most of which he guessed at, and Walter was in a thoroughly good mood, when Peter stumbled into the kitchen, plopping onto a stool at the counter.
"Good Morning!" Walter chirruped, scooting a cup of black coffee to his son, "And how are you, on this fine day?"
Peter fixed him with a squinted stare, then shook his head, slurping his coffee.
"Should I be making breakfast for three?" Walter smirked, arching a brow. His humor was lost, and he shrugged, returning to the stove to tend to the food.
"What are you making?" Peter questioned dully, "It smells awesome."
"Just reheating the pot-roast. Roast-a-roony. They calls me the reheat kid," Walter chattered, mainly to himself.
"What's got you in such a good mood?" Peter questioned, slightly irritated.
"Because today will be amazing," Walter murmured.
Yesterday had sucked.
"Happy freaking birthday," Astrid grumbled to herself, sniffing back her runny nose angrily. She had been battling a cold for what seemed forever, and the illness seemed to be, at last, climaxing, complete with chills, burning ears, and puffy, achy eyes.
And it didn't help that she had been crying, last night.
She sat up from her nest of tissues and pillows and pulled her comforter around her shoulders, shivering and snorting again, making a face at the icky taste in her mouth. She made no attempt to fix the bird's nest that was her hair as she stumbled into the bathroom, scooping up a box of tissues and a bottle of Dayquil as she went.
Her morning proceeded with a bowl of microwaved Progresso Chicken soup and a pop tart, offering her no comfort as she settled on the couch, flipping on the news, which cheerfully warned of more snow to come. She frowned and turned off the television.
Astrid's eyes strayed to the framed film of an x-ray, cleverly set away from the wall in a bright spot near the window so as to illuminate the radiated snap-shot of a human chest. A familiar pain twanged her heartstirngs, and she angrily heaved a throw pillow at it, missing entirely.
She was slightly angry with herself, too. She knew she had told Walter again and again that she hated her birthday, hated Valentines day altogether, but deep down, she had really hoped that he would see past her ruse; see that if it was him, being cheesy… it wasn't so bad. But no- the first and only time he had listened to her, and she had spent yesterday, Valentine's day- her birthday- alone, just as she had requested.
Astrid sometimes hated what she wanted.
Walter was shrugging on a his heavy overcoat as Peter watched him, apparently still hesitant to put on more than his under shorts. "Whatcha up to?" Peter questioned at last.
Walter smiled, fixing his collar around his plaid scarf, "I'm heading out," he murmured pleasantly, "Don't worry, I should be home in time for your date with Miss Dunham." He scooped up a long, thin box, carefully wrapped with gold paper. Gold was an exciting color, he liked to imagine the effect it would have when he slipped it out of his coat, and how it would reflect in her eyes… he nestled the box against his chest, bottoning his coat.
"My what?" Peter said flatly.
"Oh Peter- you did ask her, didn't you?" Walter said, setting his hands on his hips and frowning, "You didn't forget, did you?"
"No- I mean, I did, but Walter-"
"I'm off! There are still a few things I still have to pick up, before… well, it's just best that I get them before the holiday rush." He pulled on his gloves and smoothed his sleeves over them, then settled his cap onto his head, flashing his son another wide smile, "A very happy Valentine's day to you, Peter!" and he shuffled out the door, kicking snow in his wake.
Walter hiked his way down what he guessed was the path under all the white, and at last reached the cleared sidewalk, following it down the block to the corner bus stop. Long before, Peter had purchased him a pass, allowing him free access to the various forms of public transportation around the city. He knew his way to Astrid's city apartment well enough, he'd been to visit her many times, but today he had to do a spot of last-minute shopping.
He found a seat on the bus near the window, and settled himself to prop his elbow on the ledge of the wide window. The bus was nearly empty, and he was left to his own thoughts and imaginings, "She doesn't even know," he chuckled to himself excitedly.
Astrid paused from her typing to rub her sore eyes, and pluck up a tissue, blowing her nose. She truly thanked whoever had invented the tissues with the lotion of them- at least her nose wasn't red an puffy, which was not something she could say about her eyes.
She sighed as she pushed the laptop shut, nudging it away from her and drawing her knees up to her chest as she felt a nasal headache coming on. She rubbed her temples and shut her eyes, tucking her cold toes into the gap of the couch cushions, hoping to warm them.
A knock brought her out of a daze that might have been a nap, and she rose from the spot, placing a now cold cup of Theraflu onto the coffee table as she stumbled to the door, standing on her tip-toes to squint through the peehole.
Walter was plucking at himself, and she frowned.
Astrid drew back the bolt and opened the door as wide as the chain would allow, only a slit of the most miserable face she could conjure visible to him, "What do you want?" she demanded bitterly.
Walter smiled at her brightly, "Hello."
"Go away, Walter. I'm sick."
"I know! I just-" but he was cut short as she shut the door.
Astrid remained at the door, waiting. He knocked again, and she tried to tame her hair a bit as she removed the chain and opened the door again, and he was still smiling, "There's no need to be shy, my dear," he said, pushing the door open further, "I know you don't like Valentine's day, but-"
"Go away, Walter!" Astrid snapped, fighting him back out as she moved to shut the door again. He was chuckling, and her ears began to burn with anger and fever.
"You're so cute."
"And you're a jerk! Go home!" She exclaimed as his arm snaked around her, and he scooped her into a hug.
"Happy birthday, love," he murmured into her hopeless hair. He broke away from her, flipping up a bundle of red tulips in a trick he'd been practicing in the lab with files weeks before hand to perfect. He raised his eyebrows, expecting her surprise.
Astrid's face tightened with pain, "Is this your idea of a joke, Walter?" she questioned in a whisper.
He blinked slowly, the smile fading from his face.
"Get out. It's not funny. Go away." Astrid felt tears begin to ache in her eyes, and turned away from him to hide them, hoping he would simply vanish in the time she wasn't looking.
"I thought I told you I hate this kind of crap. But this… god, I can't even talk to you. Go away."
"I don't understand."
His words alone made her pause; there was very little that Walter did not understand. And as she turned back to him, she saw that he, to, wore an expression of hurt confusion as he watched her, "My birthday was yesterday," she said, "Valentine's day, the fourteenth. Yesterday."
Walter raised a hand to cover his mouth, shock forming his features, "It- it's-?" he stammered, "Oh- I'm so sorry, I- god damn it, I…"
"Walter, did you think it was the fourteenth?" Astrid questioned, arching a brow.
He nodded, hanging his head as a burning blush of shame crossed his face. He glared at his shoes, "I tried, I thought that… all those times you said you hated things like this, maybe I could…"
Astrid watched him for a few moments, and last shook her head, "So you didn't forget?"
He shook his head, looking glum.
Astrid felt a smile creep onto her face, and she shook her head. She pulled him into a hug, "You need to get a calendar, Walter."
"You smell like Vix," he murmured in reply.
"One bowl fresh chicken soup," Walter announced, settling the steaming bowl onto the coffee table beside a mug of hot chocolate.
"You made this?" Astrid said, sitting up and rubbing her eyes groggily, "How? When?"
"While you were sleeping," Walter answered with a smile, having a seat beside her and gently situating her blankets around her, "Now, have something to eat- you won't get well on an empty stomach." He didn't bother to tell her of the three pots of soup before it that he had had to throw out.
Astrid sipped on the soup, murmuring an exclamation of delight. Walter sat back on the couch, pleased with his work, and his eyes rounded to his coat, hung on a hook near the door, and he remembering something, "You know of St. White's day?" he questioned.
"What?" Astrid questioned, looking up at him. Walter leaned forward, chuckling as he touched a spot of broth on her lip with a napkin, and she reddened, "I wish I wasn't sick, I must look absolutely terrible," she confessed.
Walter shook his head, rising. He shuffled the package out of the coat, hiding it from view until he had reached her, and he held it up with a smile.
Yes, there it was- the color in her eyes. It was even more beautiful than he had imagined.
Walter sat again as she accepted the gift, reddening further, "You're such a dork," she chuckled as she pulled away the wrapping, revealing a black box. She lifted the lid away curiously, revealing a long, white, cashmere scarf.
Walter loved colors. He proceeded to explain how he had chosen it to match a sweater of hers that he liked, that the texture of it reminded him of her soft curls.
Her face gathered again as she continued to examine the scarf, running her fingers across the fabric, "I wish I wasn't sick," She repeated, "this is so pretty, and I'm so…"
"Nonsense." Walter took the scarf from her, draping it around her neck and flipping it into a loose knot, "It's perfect, see?" he traced a few curls from her face, and kissed her forehead.
They settled back on the couch, and Astrid curled up in Walters' lap, her face against his neck, and Walter pulled the blanket around them, smiling into her hair. They were silent for a bit, Walter's disappointment in his own lapse in dates displaced in the fact that things were, at last, going to plan.
"I wish I wasn't sick," Astrid said again, and Walter chuckled.
"My dear, I've already told you-"
"I'd kiss you, Walter."
Walter touched her cheek, and she looked up at him with a wry smile. A smile that lit up her tired face, a hint of the usual brightness in her eyes showing through the misery of her illness. She crept closer, on his chest, lowering her lips to his. She hesitated for a moment, her fingers gathering his sweater vest, before she kissed him.
"I love you, Walter," she confessed, her forehead on his.
Walter smiled, and kissed her again.
"How can you even do that?" Astrid chuckled, "I'm so gross, right now…"
"I like gross things," Walter replied brightly, and she laughed.
"I know." She settled back down, her cheek to his chest.
"Happy St. White's day," Walter murmured, "I love you, my dear."
She suddenly sneezed into his vest, and he exclaimed as she emerged, burning red and stammering apologize.
Note: On St. White's Day (the day after St. Valentine's), it is tradition for a boy to give a girl a white ribbon to wear, as a sign of adoration. But scarves rock, so…
Happy St. White's Day!