So I was planning to wait longer to start publishing this, but it turns out writing, editing, and publishing/reading reviews helps my depression, so here we are. (Updates will be slower than they were for some of my other fics, though: I do still have reading to catch up on.)
This is part four. Part one being Nicole's Official Unofficial Season Five, part two being What Is This Feeling, and part three being A Conflict of Parallels. This is the last installment of what I'm calling the Afterward series. It will be fairly lengthy, though probably not as long as part three (since that was supposed to be a standalone, HA). This first chapter is a prologue of sorts, setting up a couple themes of the fic, but there will be much more than is alluded to here.
Like I said during the start of ACOP, I want to ask that you guys trust me. There will be drama in this fic. There will be moments where you might not be sure where I'm going. I don't want to give specific content warnings due to the spoilers they would reveal, but if there is anything that you don't think you can handle reading, please send me a private message and I can tell you if any content of this fic aligns with your concerns. I don't want to trigger anyone. But what I can say up front is this fic will have a (very) happy ending. None of our canon characters + children of those characters that I've created will die. But that doesn't mean there won't be angst.
"Florence," Walter said, looking up from the paperwork on his desk, "what color is your alphabet?"
She paused with her hand on the coat rack, turning slowly to face him. She was hungry, dinner was waiting at home, and she had been at work all afternoon. She had basically zoned out. "What?"
"Your alphabet. When you picture it in your head." Walter leaned back in his chair, his hands folded neatly on his stomach. "Mine is like red to blue, like with light and wavelengths. A is red, Z is blue, the colors in between slowly shift from the one end to the other."
She let go of her coat and walked toward him. "So like A is totally read, B is slightly less red than A, C is slightly less red than B, until you get to Z, which is totally blue?"
"Yes. Although at the middle of the alphabet, it isn't purple, it's more like tiny alternating lines of color running vertically, red, blue, red, blue."
"What is yours?"
Florence thought. It was hard for her to describe it when asked, although the pictures were always clear when they came to her naturally. "I think it's kinda like yours, only per letter. The left side of the A is red, the right side is black. Same for B. It's like a gradient that goes across, but each letter has the complete effect."
Walter was quiet, looking away. Years ago, she would have thought he was simply breaking eye contact, and that did seem to be what he intended her to think, but her years with Sylvester, Paige, Toby, and Cabe had made her more perceptive. He had subconsciously glanced toward Paige's desk.
Florence tipped her head slightly to the side. "Amber?"
There was a long silence before Walter nodded and sighed. "I was trying to teach her the alphabet. I know she's still too young to really retain it but…you know…" he made a motion with his hand. "Exposure."
"Sure. Sure." Florence smoothed down the front of her sweater. Paige was in New Jersey visiting her mother, and while Walter had shown no outward anxiety over parenting their daughter alone – "I'm just as much her parent as Paige is, I can manage" – she knew that neither of them liked being apart for more than a day or so, and that feeling had only magnified once little Amber was born.
"We have those little magnetic letters, you know, the kind you can put on your fridge? They're red, yellow, blue, and green. And I was pointing to them and singing her that alphabet song." Walter paused. "She started crying. She kept pointing to the letters and trying to rearrange them and got…upset when I told her that that wasn't right. At first I tried to keep it light hearted, you know, made a joke about how my voice isn't as pretty as Mom's but she just had to work with me. But…" he shrugged. "Maybe she's just too young, still. I asked Happy and Toby to not do any of that with her today, just let her play. They've got their hands full enough with Tad wanting to learn everything under the sun, so I think they were glad of that."
Florence chuckled. "You'll have fun with that when you get the three of them tomorrow. Amber not wanting to learn, Tad wanting to know everything right now, and Ellie asking for a cat practically every time she opens her mouth. You might be on to something, though, with yours" Florence said. "I mean, if you're thinking that she might just see the alphabet differently in her head and she can't grasp it if it's laid out differently. Like how in my head, the alphabet is on a straight line A through M, then the rest of it is also in a straight line but like, a step down? So if you're writing it out, A through M is straight, then the bottom of the M would be in line with the top of the N."
"Mine is just down, like a list. A at the top, Z at the bottom."
Florence nodded, her hands tugging mindlessly at the bottom of her top. "So maybe she just needs to see it a certain way."
Walter's jaw shifted side to side. "I know it's probably not a big deal. But I've been staring at these forms for most of the morning and they're what I need to focus on, but my mind is…somewhere else."
"I know what you mean. I swear I've been so preoccupied lately. What are you working on?"
Walter sighed. "Paige doesn't want me telling anyone until it's official. But basically…" he glanced at the papers. "Basically, Scorpion has been contacted by the CEO of a major corporation. He wants to donate the majority of his salary to…" he looked at the papers again for the exact wording, "to 'scientifically driven independent humanitarians.' Thanks to our recent work in Haiti, Colombia, Syria, and the Ukraine, he considers us humanitarians, and due to Cabe's…situation…we're no longer associated with the government. He wants to meet with us in D.C. in the next couple of months to see if we might be the company he donates to."
Florence's eyes widened. "How much are we talking? Sorry," she said when she noticed how uncomfortable he looked. "I know Paige said…"
"She just doesn't want anyone to get their hopes up," Walter said. "We're talking…a lot. That's all I really can say. Enough to help us improve our transportation, our equipment…it would mean a lot less of Happy needing to fix something in a pinch, it would mean we're better equipped on any mission we go on. We could change so many lives." He tapped the stack of papers. "He says he has ten organizations in mine. He's going to invite the top three to meet with him, once he determines who the top three are. But Paige…she's talked to him on the phone and she would know this more than me…she says he seemed very confident that Scorpion would be a finalist."
"That's incredible!" Florence grinned. "I won't tell anyone. Promise."
"Not even your husband," Walter said.
"What husband?" Florence shrugged. "I don't know what you're talking about."
Walter rolled his eyes. "You should probably refresh your memory before the baby comes."
Florence froze, then opened her mouth to say something along the lines of I don't know what you're talking about. But she changed her mind. It wasn't like it was going away. "How did you know?"
Walter was already looking back at the stack of papers, lifting one he was finished with and setting it on a smaller pile on the side. "Food is disappearing from the fridge at an increased rate, you admit you've been distracted, and you keep touching around your abdomen. Just like that," he said pointedly when his looking back up at her coincided with her setting her hand flat over her belly button. "Plus your face is redder than Mars right now. Don't worry. I won't tell anyone. Promise." He looked back down at the materials on his desk, then glanced back up at her almost immediately. "Sylvester…Sylvester knows, right?"
"Of course Sylvester knows. But we just…we wanted to wait a little. We didn't start trying until later than we thought we would and then it took a little bit and…" For a little while we almost didn't believe it was real.
"I'm twelve weeks day after tomorrow."
She gave a small smile. "Thanks. We're going to tell everyone soon. We just…" She glanced down, her smile growing ever so slightly. She wasn't showing. She looked no different. But something was different. She didn't think she would ever get tired of the rush that that knowledge gave her. "We wanted it to be our little secret for a while."
"Hmm." Walter nodded. "Well. Don't tell anyone about this, and I won't tell anyone about that."
"Sounds like a deal to me." She gave him a playful smirk. "Sure you wanna be involved in another lie to Paige with me?"
"I think she'll understand."
Authors thrive on reviews, my loves. Hope this was enough for you to want to come on one last journey with me.