9.10 The First Seven

by Matt P.

“I think today must be the day when people ask me things twice. Between the guy at the dress store, Bug, and you. I didn’t get a double fortune in the cookie from the Thai place, but I bet if I called them back my odds are good.” Walter responded.

“Who else asked, and also don’t dodge the question.” Morgan asked through the phone. Walter stood up and started to walk around the couch, before the was a rush and a shuffling of bare feet. When Walter looked back Antigone and Siobhan were both perched on the chair he had been sitting on, kneeling on the seat and leaning on the headrest. Antigone at least pretended to look innocent, resting her chin on her head and kicking her feet idly like she always sat backwards on chairs. Siobhan just looked directly interested, rolling her right hand around in a ‘hurry it up’ gesture.

“Antigone. She saw me getting pissed as hell, and then stopped—and she figured that it had to be why. Despite what the rumors say, I can in fact take directions from time to time.” Walter offered in amusement. He reached over to pick up a paper towel from the island in the kitchen and casually balled it up in his hand, before he threw it at his daughters and pegged Siobhan in the shoulder. She flopped back dramatically to the ground, legs kicking in the air, before she pretended to die with a loud ‘bleeeh’.

“What the hell was that?” Morgan asked.

“Siobhan dying from a paper towel to the forehead.” Walter explained. At the beat of silence that followed, Walter continued. “You know, like you do.”

“Sure.” Morgan conceded in a manner that made it clear she was just playing along with the crazy person, rather than actually agreeing on material facts. “So what are the seven words that, if you had said them would have caused strife between our two great houses of Verona?”

Walter looked around. “My house is pretty good, I’ll admit. Might have a magic closet, although I’m still looking in to that, but I’m not sure I would call it a great house…” Walter offered. At that Siobhan let out an exasperated grunt and flopped on the ground like a fish; Antigone started banging her head on the padded headrest of the chair she was still kneeling on; and Morgan snorted.

“Walter, did you know I once worked for about six months to learn how to actually chill the blood in someone’s veins. I only ever did it once, and it’s something you have to practice—not like riding a bicycle, is what I’m trying to say. But I want to tell you very seriously that if you do not get back to the point, I will spend a great deal of time learning how to do it again.” Morgan’s tone was conversational, and he knew from the amused thread running underneath it that she was at least a little amused, but he raised an eyebrow nonetheless. Antigone raised hers in return, and Walter pulled the cell way from his head for a moment.

“She’s just threatening to kill me now.” He explained breezily.

“Oh.” Antigone said with a shrug. “Carry on then.”

“I swear to God and all the little fishies…” Morgan began again.

“How’d you know his name is Tennyson?” Walter cut in, his voice suddenly serious again. It wasn’t angry, but it wasn’t joking around or stalling any longer. “It should count, unless future seeing gets choked up on compound words—then it might have been that bit about killing me just now.” Maybe a little bit more stalling, Walter thought idly.

Morgan was silent for a long moment, and he heard her clear her throat before she responded. “Why?”

“Because you’ve spent since August continually revising how involved you are in all of this crap, Morgan. It’s an ever upward trend, and it tends to coincide with either me getting shot at, getting the shit kicked out of me, or my children being attacked.” Now heat had come in to Walter’s voice, at a low burn rather than an inferno, but it was still there. “And I think it’s pretty much crap. So that’s why I got mad, because I’m slow but I’m not that slow, right? And I know for a fact I didn’t introduce you to Tennyson when we had him in custody before he and his buddies kicked the crap out of me.”

“So you realized I’d used his name, and that meant I knew him.” Morgan completed. “Which…”

“Which pretty much shoots the idea that you’ve been completely uninvolved to hell and back. That was not some flunky, he called the people his masters. And then used some bullcrap magic nonsense to bring them to attack us. So if you know him, you know a lot more than you’ve ever told us.” Walter explained. “And that pissed me right off. And I was about to blow a gasket, and then I remembered Gabriel’s advice. And I breathed, and I came home and had a beer while my children turned my house back in to a Superfund site, and resolved to wait until the phone call.”

“And?” Morgan asked.

“And I like you a lot, Morgan.” Walter said. All three of his children perked up at that, with Siobhan bounding back in to the chair next to her sister and even Ryan raising his eyebrows in surprise. “And because I like you a lot I’ve given you way more chances than I’d have given almost anyone. But that has to stop, because we keep getting into fights that frankly scare the crap out of me, and it keeps threatening my children.” His voice was a mottled combination of frustration, anger, and outright terror. “And so it has to stop, or whatever we are is going to crash and burn, and we might now make it through whatever is going to happen to us.”

There was a long silence from everyone involved. It was the quietude of contemplation, thick with words being considered and consequences being weighed. It felt like it rested on the shoulders and backs of everyone in the room for the space of a few heartbeats before Morgan sighed. “Blight.” She murmured, with the inflection of a swear word. “Alright. Can I come over?”