15.1 The Champions

by Matt P.

It turned out, Walter was both delighted and surprised to learn, that the party after you’ve (probably) killed a God turned out to be quite a party indeed. None of them had expected there to be a party, necessarily—it had just happened to spring up at them.

It was pushing 8 PM when the convoy from the battle got back to Walter’s house. Andre and Leah had been released far earlier than any of the rest of them, and Walter had expected they had gone home. When William Alexander suggested the rest of them (the two Queens, Walter’s Children, Ryan Aquino, and Alexander) grab a beer, Walter had volunteered his refrigerator as the source and his house as a place to decompress and talk about what came next.

“Were we expecting a lot of company?” Morgan asked curiously. “Should I change?” She gave Walter, who was driving the car with his three children in the back and her in shotgun, a little bit of a smile. She reached to fluff her hair a little bit, and in a flickering instance of power it was back to the flame red comet that it had been in the visions of her childhood. Walter raised an eyebrow, and she smiled. “Someone told me I should go back to wearing it this way.”

Antigone, Siobhan, and Ryan all watched the transformation with longing—and shock for Ryan, who had not seen as much of Morgan’s abilities. Walter filled the silence with a shake of his head. “No, I wasn’t expecting anyone…” He murmured. Cars lined the neighborhood streets on both sides, save for several apparently VIP parking spaces. As Walter pulled in to one, he saw that there were about fifteen people on the porch, and twenty or thirty more he could see inside the house. When they saw the party get out of the car, a cheer went up and people surged toward them.

Antigone and Siobhan were both wrapped in hugs by Lacey and Monica respectively, before they were switched around and hugged by the other. Walter and Andre were immediately gripped and grabbed by Ryan Richards and Andre Alexander, while in their case the switch was not a hug but a handshake. Then others started to come up around them, and bring them in to the house. The crowd was heavily concentrated with police officers, people who had been called out to the battle at the high school—people who had seen what happened. People who had been suddenly clued in to at least some of the goings on of the city they lived in, and who had gathered to celebrate the hard-won victory.

When they came in to the house someone turned the stereo on, blasting them all with the exuberance of Freddy Mercury declaring them the champions. Walter laughed and shook his head, while Antigone blushed and Siobhan raised her fists in the air like a victorious boxer. People in the house started singing along; well before the song was over Walter found himself in an impromptu karaoke session with two Faerie Queens, half the Border PD, and his children.

It was only an hour later that Walter found himself free of the crush of people, hand shakes, and back slaps out to the front porch again. The party continued inside, all of the people pushed in to the house and even in to the basement they had rarely used since moving in. With the door closed he could still hear the party quite well, but it was at least quiet enough for him to think. He leaned against the porch rail and looked out in to the darkness of the city. Having grabbed his cigar humidor on the way out, he was pulling a cigar out of it when he heard someone come out behind him.

“Taking a break, Major?” William Alexander asked as he moved to lean on the railing next to him. Walter nodded, cutting off the tip of the cigar so that he could light it.

“Needed some air. Poisoned air,” Walter offered wryly as he puffed, “and probably tempting fate, given the last time I smoked one my house was attacked, but…” he trailed off, shrugging. “I’m not sure I expected a party.” He held up one of the other cigars, offering it to the Marshal.

Alexander took it, cutting it and lighting it up as he joined Walter in amicable silence for a long moment. The whole neighborhood was on enough of a hill that they could see a lovely section of the city, lights twinkling gently in the darkness. There was enough frost in the air to make it crystal clear, and they enjoyed it as they smoked.

“We don’t get many big victories, Walter,” Alexander commented softly. He turned to lean his back against the rail, and gestured with the lit cigar to the house. “These are a people that live for small victories because they can’t even hope for the big ones.”

Walter didn’t respond for another long moment, and Alexander continued. “Most of the people who join the department are ones who have seen something in this city, Walt. And the ones in there are clued in more than most, whether they were before today or not.” He smiled, although there was not very much humor in it at all. “They know that there are things that they can’t fight back against, and that they can’t stop—so every little stop they get is worth celebrating. And this…this is beyond anything they could have hoped for.”

Walter turned to look at the people in the house as well. “We can’t keep giving up fights for lost, William,” he said simply. “We can’t keep these people thinking they can’t win, or they’ll never be able to.”

Alexander shook his head and sighed. “Walter…when we try to stop everything, when we send people out in to the night to stop all the crazy things in this city we loses people every week. Sometimes every day. They don’t know what they’re up against—”

“Then tell them,” Walter interrupted, looking his boss in the eye seriously. “Then tell them what is out there and let them decide if they want to fight it head on or quit. And then let them fight it with everything we have!”

Alexander sighed, shaking his head adamantly. “Walter…just knowing about these things is dangerous. Just knowing what’s out there makes you a target. We’ve had to pick and choose who knows what and what to fight…” he trailed off. He took a long drag off of the cigar, before sighing again. “But if we’d let this one go, we’d all be dead. We didn’t think about there being one that tried to take out the whole city, and probably a chunk of the state.” Walter started to open his mouth, but Alexander waved his cigar and kept going. “Things have to change. But it is going to be dangerous, and things will get ugly. But you’re not wrong. The question is…are we up for it? Are you?” He asked, looking Walter back in the eye without flinching.

Walter nodded, and Alexander sighed. “Well then…we’ll see.”

“What’s the first step?” Walter asked softly.

“We’ve just taken it,” Alexander responded, looking much older in the smoky light of the porch. He sighed, gripping the cigar between his teeth and heading to the porch stairs. His steps were heavy, and he shoved his hands in his pockets. “I’m going to clear my head a bit more. Besides…I’m not the only one who wanted to talk to you.” With a few steps he was down, and off to the neighborhood.

The footsteps that replaced him weren’t heavy, but soft steps on quiet bare feet. Morgan stepped up to Walter’s side, and he put an arm around her waist without hesitation.

“We should talk,” she offered quietly, as she rested her head on his shoulder.