8.5 Shared Stories

by Matt P.

“Needless to say, the vicar was unhappy!” Morgan said through laughter that edged right up to the line of being girlish and barely stopped, kicking her feet in delight. “We were in trouble for months, and it took hours to clean up—but it was so worth it.” She giggled for a few moments longer, clear and light and lovely, before she settled back down against the couch and tucked her legs back up on to it.

Walter laughed as well, shaking his head at the image. He leaned back and let it wash over him, as he finished off a glass of wine and set it aside. They had moved from the kitchen island to the couch and transitioned from whiskey to wine at the same time the Thai food had been delivered. Now they both sat with the detritus of delivered dinner on the coffee table, through the first bottle and in to the next.

Walter felt very comfortable on the couch with Morgan, and it surprised him. He wasn’t sure why it surprised him, or rather he wasn’t sure which reason why he should have felt uncomfortable but didn’t was more surprising. He was, technically, still married—although the exact status of that was sufficiently murky that some days he felt like she was on vacation, and others like he had lost her forever. And beyond that he was sitting on a couch with a beautiful woman who had been born before his great grandmother’s great grandmother’s great grandmother had been a twinkle in anyone’s eye, so a little voice in his head said he should feel uncomfortable with her. But as she adjusted herself and it brought her a little bit closer, he wasn’t.

Morgan wiped at her eyes, shaking her head. “God, I don’t think about those stories enough. We’ve been so caught up these months trying to find the bad guys—and Tania and I have been worried about it for years.” She gave a little bit of a sigh, setting her own glass aside to look at Walter. Her cheeks remained lightly flushed, and a half-smile lingered on her lips. “It’s been a rough couple of years.”

“I can’t argue with that.” Walter agreed, and his smile faded a little bit as he sighed, and leaned back. “A few years ago I would have said I never expected to live in a small Kansas town. Now…” He laughed again, this time with both genuine amusement and a little bit of exasperation. “I can honestly say that living in a small town is not the weirdest thing that’s happened by far.”

Morgan nodded at that. “The one thing that I’ve found is that life is never exactly what you intended.” She agreed, considering him. “You know, I think I’ve been telling stories for hours now, and I still haven’t really gotten one out of you. Not even the one you agreed to trade.” Walter shook his head, smirking.

“I was hoping you wouldn’t notice. Besides, I was quiet enjoying yours. Besides, who am I to compete with eight centuries of horrified vicars.” He offered with a grin, as he reached out to nudge her legs at that, and she shook her head with a laugh.

“I’ve only horrified a few vicars, it’s not like I made a specialty of it. I horrified the enter church hierarchy—I once spooked a Pope, I am proud to admit, and made myself a particular terror to a Buddhist nun. But only because she deserved it.” Morgan clarified quickly, once again laughing delightedly as she remembered it. “But there was a story that you promised, although I may let you have a reprieve.” Walter raised an eyebrow at that. “If you tell me why you left the Army instead.”

Walter considered the offer for a moment, and then nodded “Honestly?” He offered, mostly as a stalling tactic while he decided how honest he wanted to be. “I was tired of killing. There was a lot else to it—I’d missed out on a lot of my girl’s lives, it wasn’t easy on their mother when I was deployed, and after several decades there was a desire for a change of pace.” He offered the reasons one by one on his fingers, counting them out, before he waved his hand absently. “But at the end of the day I was very good at my job, and as often as my job involved a lot of other things…it also involved killing, and I was tired of.” He reached out for the bottle of wine and poured himself a second glass, holding it out to her in offering. She consented, and let him pout a bit more in to her glass before she waved for him to stop.

“Thank you.” She said after a moment. At his look, she smiled and continued. “For being honest. For deciding to tell me that, and for this.” She waved at the discared delivery cartons, the empty bottle of wine, and the general setting. She scooted closer, laying her legs across his lap. He reached down almost automatically to put a hand on her bare knee, and she smiled. “Feeling a little bit bold, Major?” She asked, although her voice was far from reproachful.

“It’s served me well.” Walter murmured. “I give it a fifty-fifty shot we get a hilariously timed text message…” He offered, as he leaned down to give her a gentle kiss. In the movies, he thought, she would have looked surprised, not satisfied; but he also didn’t care, in that moment, what would have appened in the movies.

It was a long, still moment in the house—the quiet of unexpected but enjoyed intimacy, and when they finally pulled away both of them had little smiles on their faces. “See, there was no hilariously timed—” Morgan began to say as she leaned in, before she was in fact interrupted by the ringing and buzzing of two cellphones, left on the kitchen island. Both modern smartphones filled the air with their sounds—one the opening guitar licks of AC/DC’s Back in Black, the other the ragtime chorus of the Heat Miser Song.

Walter and Morgan shared a look for a moment before they were both on their feet.