* insert diatribe about life preventing updates here*
"What do you got?" Toby asked when Allison entered the room.
"What do you have," Walter mumbled.
Toby spun to face him. "Is that what's the most important thing, here?"
"I mean. It's always good to want to better yourself."
"Walt," Paige and Happy said at the same time.
"I have…a lot," Allison said, giving a deep sigh.
"That doesn't sound good," Paige said.
"Might not sound good for Tim," Happy said. "But it might sound very good for Lauren's family, and anyone else wanting justice served."
Allison paused before speaking. "We interviewed the subjects that were reported to have been making Lauren uncomfortable at work. They have alibis. There was also no evidence that Lauren disclosed said discomfort to anyone; however, the woman that dated Tim prior to him going with Lauren also lives in this town and has signed a statement that he would falsify people bothering her in what she believes was a justification for him following her to and from work."
"Holy red flags Batman," Sylvester said.
"In addition. The…" Allison glanced at Team Scorpion. "The genetic material found in and on the victim belonged to her husband. There is no evidence of anyone else taking part in a sexual encounter."
"Was the encounter consensual?"
"I didn't find anything to suggest it wasn't, however that of course does not conclusively prove a thing. There are…I don't want to say 'levels of consent,' but an encounter where the victim was fighting back is going to show more evidence of force than someone who feels they have no choice, or feels obligated to take part, et cetera. We've also, uh, determined time of death, and it looks like it was four days before you guys got here, not three. That means Timothy Armstrong was in the area during the window in which the crime could have happened."
"Three or four," Paige whispered.
"What was that, Dineen?" Happy asked.
"When Tim gave me his version of events. I thought it was three days since Lauren had been killed, and he said 'three or four, they don't know for sure,' or something like that."
"Rat bastard had to correct information that he knew was wrong," Toby said.
"Tim said that he and Lauren were intimate that morning before he left," Paige said. "So she was killed shortly after that encounter."
"Within a reasonably short time, yes," Allison said. "But that's based more on time of death. Genetic material can still be present days later."
"Between the autopsy findings and the fingerprint evidence," Sylvester said, "as well as the other test results Florence has sent in…"
"We believe there is enough evidence to charge him," Toby said. "However we cannot make a recommendation on what specifically to charge him with. Our preliminary investigation did not turn up strong evidence of premeditation; of course your team may bring more information to light as this goes on."
Allison nodded. "We do greatly appreciate your help."
"Hey. How are you holding up?"
"I don't know," she said. "How do you process something like this? Is there some sort of psychological 'right' way?"
"No," Toby said. "There are multiple valid coping mechanisms. Then there are some that aren't as healthy, or could wind up being self – destructive. Are you feeling anything in particular?"
He nodded. "Not unexpected. There's a lot going on, so I'm sure it's particularly hard for you to process – of course, we all are, to lesser extents."
"Honestly," Paige said, "I'm glad there's a lot going on. I can put myself into the work, and try and separate myself from it, you know, it's just a job, just a situation, blah, blah, blah. It was hardest last night. Because when you go to bed, everything stops. And you're left with what you've spent the day pushing back."
Toby nodded. "How's Walter been?"
Paige looked confused. "Fine?"
"I mean…" Toby shifted his feet and cleared his throat. "Is he acting…does it remind you of how he acted when you were with Tim?"
"Oh. No. I mean, he's quiet. And I recall he was quiet back then, sometimes. But he's not quiet in the same way. This time it feels more like he wants to make me feel better, but he doesn't know how, so he's letting me take the lead. And honestly, I kinda like that. It makes me feel…"
"Yes!" She looked relieved that he'd identified it. "Like he's not trying to push me in a certain way. He's letting me work through it, and he's there when I need whatever from him. And maybe I'm thinking too much into it. Maybe I'm giving him too much credit. But you know? It is kind of nice to give him too much credit, after years of not giving him enough."
"Walt?" Paige asked, exiting the hotel bathroom as she tied her robe around her waist.
He was laying on top of the covers, hands behind his head. He tipped his head to look at her. "Yeah?"
"You know how people have near death experiences and they just want to lay back and get absolutely ravaged by their partner as some sort of life affirming experience?"
"You're asking someone who has nearly died 83 times if I understand the concept of adrenaline?" Walter smirked. "Are you asking to be ravaged?"
"No, I was moreso giving an example that's in the ballpark of what I'm going to ask you to make sure the consent is informed."
"Ah. You would like to ravage me."
He said it so matter of factly that she couldn't help but laugh as she crawled onto the bed and straddled him. "I mean…" she trailed off. Their days of spontaneity were likely over. Walter would need advanced notice, preparation, extra time, more often than not. Paige would have to be prepared for the possibility of dizzy spells, E.D., and other unplanned stops. Every time. For the rest of their lives. It would be an adjustment. But, she supposed, an adjustment that wasn't all that much further than having a small child around already took them. "I mean," she said again, "if you think you can be up for it."
"That was a terrible joke," he said, sliding his hands up to her hips.
Paige cocked her head. "What j…oh. That was unintentional."
"Don't be embarrassed, love, it happens to the best of us."
She snickered, leaning down to kiss him. "I love you so much," she whispered.
"Reciprocated," he said. "Enough that I give full permission to ravage."
Paige giggled. "Excellent. Because I have many plans."
She lowered her head, whispering in his ear, feeling his fingers flex against her thighs in response to her words. She moved her lips to his neck, to the spot where she could always count on getting a groan.
This time was no exception. Some things never changed.
Paige bit her lip as she listened to the officer read the charges to Tim. Read his Miranda rights. Explain what happens next. It still felt surreal, even though a moment ago she thought she'd processed it. Perhaps a moment from now, she'd feel that way again. It turned out processing was a process in and of itself.
"I would like to have a word with him," Walter said. "Allison said it would be all right. But do you mind?"
"What do you mean by a word?"
"I'm the leader of Scorpion, and we've played an important role in the indictment. He's going to prison for a long time. I feel it would be cowardly if I did not."
"Be careful," she said, hoping he'd understand she didn't mean she was worried about personal safety. Tim was restrained. There were cameras everywhere.
"I won't let my emotions get the best of me," he said, "I promise."
She nodded. "I'm okay."
He smiled, kissed her forehead, and left, heading down the few steps that led to the door that separated Tim from the hallway. Paige shifted closer to the others, staring through the one way glass, watching him enter.
"Walter O'Brien," Tim said, his arms folded as he leaned back in the chair. "Should have known you'd pop back into my life and make things difficult one day."
"I don't believe I'm the one that's made things difficult for you, Timothy."
"Yeah. People always have it out for me. And now I lose my wife and I'm getting dragged through the dirt for it."
"Tim, I'm not here to debate your guilt or innocence. The evidence doesn't lie. If nothing pointed to you, we would have recommend you be released with no charges."
"I'm serious," Walter said. "You know we do our jobs."
"Yeah, you do," he said, sounding like he meant it. "You all brainwash Paige into thinking I did it?"
"We are the last people on the planet who could brainwash Paige," Walter said. "You sure gave it the old college try, though."
"I knew you were just here to throw Paige in my face," Tim said. "Cool. Congratulations. You won, I guess."
Walter scoffed. "I didn't win."
"She turn out crazy?"
"I didn't win because she isn't something to be won. And because if there is a winner in this whole mess, it's her, not me."
"I see you're as modest as ever."
"She won because she's not with you," Walter said. "And the prize, apparently, was her life."
"I didn't kill Lauren," Tim said.
"Yes, you did. The question is why?"
"I swear to fuck, O'Brien…"
"You get angry so quickly," Walter said. "You need to control everything. I used to be that way. But I changed. I trusted. I learned. I'm a much better person for it. Far from perfect, of course, but much better all the same. If you somehow get out of this, outlive your sentence? Try allowing yourself to follow. To trust the people that love you. Take it in the buttocks once in a while. You know, let yourself out of that angry, controlling shell."
"We know way too much about your sex life," Sylvester commented to Paige.
"I actually have a clarifying question," Toby said. Paige folded her arms and rolled her eyes. "When he says 'buttocks' in bed, and I'm sure he does because it's the only word he uses, that ever kill the mood, or?"
"Shut up, Toby," Paige said.
Inside the room, Walter stood. "Yes, I'm a better man than you are, Timothy. But that's not patting myself on the back. That's stepping over a bar that's so low my toddler could clear it. And she tripped over her jump rope this morning. Cabe sent a video."
"You know what's extra scary about him?" Happy said. "He's not losing his cool. He's not snapping, telling us that Lauren deserved to die. He's not insulting Walter. He's not insulting Paige – I mean, other than the crazy comment."
"He's calm," Sylvester said.
Toby nodded. "He's a former SEAL who's struggled with PTSD and fits the "good guy" mold to a T, on the outside. He's exactly the kind of person the public would say would never do this."
"That," Happy said, "almost makes him more dangerous."
"Almost?" Sylvester said. "I'd say it certainly does."
Walter exited the room, disappearing from view. Moments later, he entered the observation area.
Paige went right to him. And he held her tight.
The next chapter – or the one right after that, depending on how I break it up – will have an A/N chock full of trigger warnings. I don't want to say what they're for yet, but please read the top A/N on that chapter to make sure you're aware of the content, or if you're not worried about being triggered by anything, skip the A/N to avoid 'spoilers'. I want this to be an extra warning, because I know life is tough for a lot of people right now and I know I have to be in the right head space to read tough material and I'm sure that's true for others as well.
And remember – nobody dies. I promise.