15.2 The End

by Matt P.

“I don’t suppose I have to caution you about freezing out here,” Walter offered in amusement. Morgan smirked, wiggling her toes and shrugging. She had somehow changed into a fashionable, knee-length dress in dark blue with silver embroidery—although he suspected that all she’d needed to ‘change’ was an empty bathroom and some magic.

“Queen of Winter does have its benefits,” Morgan responded with a smile up at him, wiggling crimson eyebrows as well. She looked at her hair, which was mid-back length and obviously the same hair he had seen in Nightmare. “It’s been so long since I’ve looked like this I’d almost forgotten.”

Walter smiled at her, reaching up to gently brush some of the hair back out of her face. “We’re stalling.” It wasn’t a question, or even a negative—just a statement of fact. She nodded, the smile still on her features but a seriousness coming to her eyes.

“Walter, I like you a lot. You’re interesting, and it’s pretty damn rare that a mortal interests me that much. I…” She laughed, shaking her head. “I want to keep seeing you, and I want to see where this goes.” Her voice was honest, plain and true, and Walter smiled wider—although it had a little bit of a sad edge to it as he spoke in return.

“I like you a lot too. I sense a ‘but’ coming, however…” Walter prompted wryly, making no move to take his arm from around her waist. She nodded, the curls tumbling around her face as she did.

“But it is going to be very hard, for a while. We can go back to Faerie now, and see our people. Rule our courts, in a way we haven’t been able to for a very long time.” Morgan’s voice was a mixture of hopefulness and sadness, the combination of hopefulness and the sinking suspicion that it would not be very pretty or easy at all. “We have had people sending us updates, regents looking after it while we shared Oberon’s exile…but I don’t expect it will be sunshine and kittens when we go back.” She reached down to squeeze his hand. “I’ll probably be gone for long stretches at a time, at the very least.”

Walter’s smile took on the qualities of a smirk for a moment. “Well, it only seems fair. I went on deployments for huge stretches at a time,” he explained, shrugging. “Seems like karma dictates I should get to experience it.”

Morgan laughed genuinely, before nodding in appreciation. “That’s fair enough, I suppose. Certainly can’t argue with the poetry of it. And if some day I have to make a decision for my people that goes against the interests of the police?” She asked, softly. When he didn’t respond, her voice grew quieter still. “Walter…I know things. I am sworn to secrets that you will not like when they come out, and I don’t want to hurt you. I don’t want to hurt either of us.”

Walter was tempted to respond he didn’t believe it would happen, but he had long ago learned that trusting someone meant considering their words seriously. So he chewed on the tip of his cigar for a moment, before taking it with his other hand. “That’s all fair,” he admitted. “And it could happen. I can’t promise that something you know or have done or will do couldn’t make us hurt one another.” Her eyes clouded, and he leaned over to gently kiss her forehead. “But that’s not different than any other relationship—anyone can say something hurtful. Anyone’s past can come back and hurt their relationships.” He offered a shrug of his shoulders. “So we’ll say that we will see each other as much as possible, and take life as it comes. Right?”

She didn’t respond, but leaned up to kiss him instead. It was a good answer.

**** ****

They had perhaps fifteen minutes alone on the porch until they were joined by Antigone and Siobhan. Both girls were as barefoot as Morgan was, their shoes visibly blocking the doorway in the fine family tradition, but they had put on fleece-lined hoodies as a concession to the cold. Walter leaned over and put his nearly finished cigar out in an empty cup of water someone had discarded on the deck as they came up to him. Morgan started to step out of his arms, but demurred when Siobhan snorted and Antigone gave her a smile. Content with those tacit symbols of acceptance, she settled back in.

“So, where did you put the shard of Oberon’s power you palmed?” Siobhan asked curiously as she sat down on one of the deck chairs and considered her father. Morgan laughed, and Antigone raised her eyebrows in surprise.

“I told you they saw,” Morgan commented, as Walter shook his head with an exaggerated sigh. He pulled a small, dark green crystal out of his pocket; it shimmered and cast its own light, little dancing green motes on the deck and the house wall before he put it away again.

“It was the only one I could grab, because it was basically right next to me. It’s one of only two souvenirs I’ve got from him,” Walter explained. Antigone kept her eyebrows raised at that, looking at him critically.

“What’s the second one?” She asked, wary—apparently thinking nothing left from Oberon could be good; which Walter reflected wasn’t far from the truth. He reached out to roll up his sleeve, the opposite arm from which he had his tattoo on. But it revealed what looked to be another tattoo, and both Antigone and Siobhan blinked. In ink so black that it made his other black tattoo look dull by comparison, three twisting lines made intricate knot-work around his bicep. But as they watched the lines seemed to shift slightly, taking a subtly different pattern.

“I don’t remember all of it, but in the last minute whatever he did to bind the bad guys from getting out of wherever they are…tried to escape. Made a run for it, and I knew if it got out it would be bad. So I kept it in. I’m the keeper of his geas now,” Walter explained, keeping his voice studiously neutral. Walter and Morgan had discussed whether or not he should tell them, but he had been adamant about honesty.

“How bad is that?” Antigone asked, reaching out to brush the line before she pulled them back. Morgan sighed.

“Not the best. It is a piece of the Fomori, bound to his will. It will try to tempt him with anger and violence, and he will have to resist it. If it were any other mortal…” Morgan trailed off, which was as good as a pronouncement.

“But he isn’t any other mortal,” Siobhan offered. Morgan nodded, smiling.

“He is not. And I would not bet against the man who beat Oberon and stole his power,” Morgan said with a fond smile up to him. She ran a hand back through her hair.

They all fell in to silence, once again considering the night. A black car slid by sedately, someone trying to find their way home. Unaware, unknowing, but safe for at least the evening because of their efforts.

“It’s going to get worse and weirder, isn’t it. Border isn’t just going to rest, even now that Oberon is gone.” Once again it wasn’t a question. Antigone stated it plain as day, and didn’t look surprised when Morgan nodded.

“It’s part of what it is. Border is…just that,” Morgan explained. “It is the place where all the supernatural worlds overlap with the mortal world. It’s the place where it all comes together, and it will always be a place of worth and desire.” She smiled softly, shaking her head. “I won’t lie to you all. If you stay here, then it is going to be more dangerous. People will come and they will be dangerous, and powerful. You’re tied in to it now, and I don’t know how to pull you out, but you could run.”

Three of the four Richards in Border considered that for a long minute, before all of them gave variations of the same shrug and the same sigh. “We could run,” Siobhan offered without much enthusiasm, and it was so much against character that Antigone raised an eyebrow at her. “I was just saying. I don’t have a lot of run in me.”

“So what do we do?” Antigone asked softly.

Walter considered the city again. The sky was starting to cloud over, and he could see in another part of the city it was raining. It left the city misty, but beyond the cloak of encroaching shadow he could still see the stars twinkling above in their multitude.

“It’s the truth my father told me, when he didn’t want me to join the Army because he thought it would just bring more violence in to the world,” Walter said softly. “Border is filled with danger, and evil people. We live here and we make it better. We choose to protect people, and find out how we make ourselves safe.” He reached out his arms to encompass all three of them in a hug as they looked out at the city they had made their home. “We get to choose the kind of world we live in. That’s what we do.”

And the city continued to glow, lit by the light of the stars in the perfect night’s sky and shadowed by the oncoming clouds, as they all began to choose what the city was going to be—and what they were going to be inside it.