A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words
Walter grinned up at Paige as she straddled him in his chair, his hands naturally resting on her hips before slowly inching upwards, pulling her closer as she whispered his name. Her hands gently cradled his head and turned it upwards to meet hers, her lips mere inches away from his. His lips began to search for hers, but instead they found his arm.
Walter sat up with a jolt and realized he had fallen asleep at his desk. He looked around and saw Toby giving him a smug grin.
“Well hello there, sleepy head,” Toby greeted.
“Where's Paige?” Walter asked as he looked around again, absentmindedly wiping his mouth to make sure he hadn't drooled.
“I'm good, thanks for asking,” Toby answered as if Walter had returned his customary greeting. “And Paige went to go get some stronger coffee and to pick up Ralph from school. So don't worry, she wasn't around to hear you practically moan her name in your sleep.”
“I don't talk in my sleep,” Walter argued.
“Yeah, but you didn't deny you were dreaming about her. Admit it, you like her. You may claim to have a low EQ, but you're still a hot blooded man, my friend,” Toby added, clasping his friend on the shoulder.
Walter shrugged out of Toby's gesture and shook his head. “You've got it all wrong, Toby, there is nothing there other than a working, professional relationship and friendship,” he insisted.
“Right, so you don't care that she has a date tonight?” Toby prodded.
“She what?” Walter repeated, suddenly becoming very serious.
Toby grinned victoriously and simply walked back to his desk as Paige came in with Ralph in tow and carrying a drink carrier with coffee.
“Hey Ralph, how was school?” Walter greeted when he saw them.
“It was okay,” Ralph replied as he put his backpack on the table and got his books out to do his homework.
“Eat first,” his mother urged as she set down a peanut butter and banana sandwich next to him.
Ralph obliged and took two bites before doing his homework. Paige shook her head a little as Walter approached and took the coffee she had brought him.
“Thank you for getting this for me,” he said graciously before taking a sip and looking at her thoughtfully.
“What?” Paige asked as she noticed the odd expression on his face.
“So Toby said you had a date tonight?” Walter inquired.
“No?” she responded as if the thought was absurd. “Well, I did get asked out, but he wasn't my type,” she then admitted with a bright grin as she drank her own coffee.
“Oh?” Walter prompted.
“One of Ralph's classmates,” she explained. “He asked me if we could go out for ice cream sometime. I thought it was adorable, but Ralph doesn't like him much.”
“Ralph is a good judge of character,” Walter remarked with a proud grin.
Paige returned the grin but then narrowed her eyes curiously. “Why would you be so interested if I had a date anyway?” she asked.
“Well…” Walter began before he paused and reminded himself to choose his words carefully. “To be honest, you seem to have a lot on your plate right now, especially with Ralph, and he needs to be your main priority.”
Paige suddenly gave him a look that he couldn't quite read, which made him nervous.
“True,” she agreed after a moment. “And finding a guy who would know how to be with Ralph would be a challenge,”
“One in a million,” Walter added in agreement.
“And Ralph is very picky about the people he likes,” Paige went on.
“Nothing wrong with that,” he agreed quickly.
“So really, that just leaves you,” Paige concluded with a smug grin when she watched Walter realize what she had said.
Neither of them said anything and simply stared at each other, waiting to see what the other person would say. A few silent seconds passed until they heard a faint click and both turned to see Ralph suddenly look down at his work and put his phone down.
Paige gave her son a speculative glance then admonished him to finish his homework and his sandwich before she walked away, leaving just Walter and Ralph in the kitchen area.
“Do you need any help with anything?” Walter offered as he took a seat next to Ralph.
Ralph picked up his phone and showed him the picture he had just taken. Walter looked at the picture and smiled. It was a selfie of Ralph, smiling, and in the background was Paige and himself, still looking at each other.
“Cyclone,” Ralph stated when he nodded at the picture.
“That's right, we're all a family here,” Walter acknowledged.
But Ralph gave a disapproving look. “Cyclone,” he repeated with emphasis.
Ralph's meaning clicked in Walter's mind and he couldn't help but smile even more.
“I'm trying,” Walter admitted in a low whisper so no one else could hear.
Ralph beamed back and continued to work on his homework.
Meanwhile, Paige had tracked down Toby.
“Why did you tell Walter I had a date tonight?” she demanded, fixing him with an expectant look.
“I was just teasing him; besides, little Johnny's offer sounded pretty good,” Toby replied casually with a mischievous grin.
“He's a nine year old,” Paige retorted.
“So not quite your type, huh?” Toby baited jokingly. “Then what would you say is your type? Tall, dark, and handsome with a high IQ and deep brown eyes?”
“Did Walter ever care if any of you guys were in a relationship?” Paige inquired, changing the subject so she wouldn't have to answer his question.
“To a degree, yeah. Like if it was a bad relationship or interfered with work,” he clarified. “You know you're always welcome to have some chair time. Since Collin's intrusion, we've all had trouble finding our bearings again,” Toby pointed out, not noticing when Paige suddenly looked down and tensed up. “I swear my client confidentiality is watertight, and I would never use anything you tell me against you. We’re a cyclone - a family - remember?” he added as he sensed that Paige probably really needed it.
Paige took a deep breath and looked over in Walter's direction. “Okay, tomorrow,” she muttered before walking over to Happy to see if she needed anything.
Back at the table, Ralph had finished his homework and was showing Walter a video of Paige dancing and singing in the kitchen while she made dinner. Walter had to listen to it using Ralph's headphones, but he had the brightest, happiest smile he had worn in years, which was only mirrored by Ralph. After the video finished, he sent the video and the picture Ralph had taken earlier to his own phone. It was then that Walter noticed that Ralph had him on speed dial, second only to his mom.
“You call me whenever you want, okay?” Walter reminded Ralph when he handed his phone back.
Ralph smiled and nodded as he took the phone back.
“Telescope?” Walter suggested, and followed when Ralph immediately got up and went to said telescope.
“Now the key is putting these back in an order where the magnification can be as strong as possible...” Walter began as they arranged the lenses from the dismantled telescope.
Later that night, Paige was tucking Ralph into bed when Ralph showed his mom the picture he had taken. Paige looked at the picture and noticed Ralph smiling.
“Cyclone,” Ralph stated.
“Yeah, we found a bigger family, huh?” Paige responded.
“Cyclone,” he said again.
Paige smiled down at her son and leaned forward to kiss the crown of his head. “Yes we are. We are all a cyclone,” she whispered. “Now get some sleep so we can go in early again tomorrow.”
Meanwhile, Walter had just crawled into bed, having convinced himself that he needed to sleep. But he couldn’t help but pull up the video of Paige singing and dancing in her kitchen one more time. He smiled as he remembered what Ralph had told him.
“Does your mom do this a lot?” Walter had asked.
“She does now,” Ralph replied.
“She didn't used to?” Walter inquired.
“Not since, he...” Ralph started to answer before he threw himself back into working on the telescope.
“Not since your dad left?” Walter guessed with a pained expression.
Ralph didn't answer. He didn't need to.
Walter looked back at the picture of himself and Paige. Hopefully, someday...