11.4 Blood and Need

by Matt P.

Walter stood out on the balcony of Morgan’s apartment. They had gone over some more of the basics of what Oberon’s plan likely was, to try to get Walter to understand—that way when they came back after lunch, they could come up with an actual plan. Delivery Mexican food had been ordered, and now Morgan and Tania were updating their allies—and Walter’s boss—with what they suspected was going on.

Left with nothing to do since Morgan was doing the Police side of it, Walter made his way out to the view of the city. It was a warm day for how late in the year it was, and sunshine had driven the frost away. He could see the whole of the city stretching out around him like he was the hub of a wheel, and he was beginning to sense every spoke contained something he wasn’t being told or couldn’t yet understand. The fact a chill breeze, the only stain on the otherwise lovely day, had picked up right when he thought that didn’t seem ominous at all. No siree, he thought.

He found his way to one of the deck chairs and put his feet up on to the balcony rails to look out. He could make out the red bricks of the Old Market, and could see his daughter’s school. He took in the courthouse, the river, and in the distance the forest and the hills. Soon there would be fewer people hiking in the forest once the real cold hit, and more people sledding on the hills. He thought it would be pretty, as he pulled out a cigar and a lighter from his jacket.

“They’ll hate you for smoking those here. Very sensitive noses.” A masculine voice said behind him as he heard the patio door slide open, and then closed. Ryan Aquino came and sat down in the chair next to him, putting his feet up as well. He had two beers that had apparently been broken out in advance of lunch, cold Dos Equis with beads of perspiration running down them.

“Well.” Walter said with a little bit of a shrug. “Normally I wouldn’t, but I figure if there’s ever a time to light one up, it’s when you find out a crazy immortal king is going to try to crash his city in to your city and kill all of you in the process.”

“Most,” Ryan corrected gently, “just most of us.”

“How reassuring.” Walter drawled, as he looked over to his brother-in-law, and friend. He had the same tanned skin as his sister, and the same dark hair—although he kept it short and spiky now, where Rhiannon Aquino had kept hers long. The man sported a new tattoo that Walter could see, on his arm where Walter and Rhiannon had both gotten theirs—except Ryan’s was some strange symbols that he couldn’t decipher.

“It keeps me from being tracked with magic too easily.” Ryan explained, rolling up the sleeve to show Walter the intricate patterns of lines and swirls in black and silver. “If we’d have had one that worked for normal stuff, we might have had some less interesting times, huh?” Walter only nodded. He let the silence grow between them, and it had an awkwardness that had never been there before. Walter looked at the man who had been comrade in arms, best friend, and family for a long measure of that silence before he said anything.

“I could have used you here, brother. It wasn’t easy. We needed you.” Walter said simply. He didn’t need to explain the subject—they both knew. It was the cause of the silence between them, the discomfort where once they had passed hours companionably relaxing.

“I know.” Ryan answered without answering, although there was a pain in his voice that did more of the heavy lifting of sounding sorry then his words.

“Where were you? What happened?” Walter said, puffing on the cigar. “I thought you’d hooked up with a private military company, some Blackwater knock off, and were in to private security now. Then I see you mixed up with Tania, and then you disappear again? What the shit, dude, you didn’t even stop in to see the kids.”

Ryan took a long draw from his beer as a cover for thinking, an old habit of his. When he finally set it down, he sighed. “I never signed up with a PMC. I signed up with Titania, and Mab, right after I got out. Pay was good, and we’d known them since we were kids.”

Walter nodded slowly at that, considering. “So what…you’re chief of security to the Queens of Faerie? Or do they have a Secret Service?” He looked around. “I’m not seeing elves with ear-buds or pixies in business suits.” Ryan chuckled, shaking his head.

“Little more feudal than that, boss. They have Knights. My business card, and I kid you not, says ‘Knight of Faerie’ on it. In gold lettering.” He explained, and then actually pulled one of the cards out to show to him. In paper that was divided horizontally between white and black, gold lettering did in fact spell out his name and that title.

“No cell number?” Walter couldn’t help but ask.

“The people I deal with don’t need cell numbers to talk to you.” Ryan said, and he gave an interestingly annoyed smirk at that. “And they wouldn’t let me put ‘No scrying after 9:00 PM on the card’.”

“And this is what’s kept you from visiting?” Walter asked, gesticulating with the card he had no intention of handing back. He reached over and set it on the table next to him. “From coming when your sister went missing, and from comforting you’re the kids?”

Ryan winced. “Walt…they told you we’re descended from them, right? That Ma has fairy blood, and that’s why Rhee always had those nightmares?” When Walter nodded, he continued. “They’ve been at war, man, for longer than we’ve been alive. They’re my people, and they needed help. The nice house and stupid amount of money is a bonus, but they’re my people.”

Walter met his eyes, dark and deep that he had used to be quite a lady’s man when they were younger. The eyes so much like his sister’s, eyes that were reflected in part in Walter’s children. “We’re your people too. A lot closer blood than anyone else.”

Ryan nodded, and sipped his beer again. “I know. I’ll visit. I got sent away right after I got here because they had an asset in the field they were worried would be hit next, but I’m back now semi-permanently.” He looked back to the city, kicking his feet a little bit—he’d always had a restless streak to him sometimes, a little bit of fidgeting that seemed like his natural quickness boiling over. “I’ll come see them, I promise.”

Walter relented, leaning back in his chair. He took his own beer and considered it. Deciding department regulations could be ignored for unusual occasions, he took a long swallow. On the pleasantly warm day the chilled beer was nice, and gave him a moment to think about his next words. “Ryan, we’ve been through a lot. You’re my brother, and you were way before I married your sister. I need to ask this, and I need to know you’re being honest with me—“

“I don’t know where she is, Walt.” Ryan answered before Walter was even done asking, and once more met his friend’s eyes. Walter saw nothing but honest truth, and concern for his missing sibling. “If I’d known where she was I would have told you.  I tears me up knowing I’ve got absolutely nothing I can help you with, and it’s part of why I stayed away. And that’s God’s own truth, or the Queen’s own truth, by any oath you want me to swear.”

“I don’t need an oath.” Walter said, turning his eyes to the city below them. “I just needed to know. Sorry.” He admitted a little gruffly, running a hand back through his hair. “The world is a lot crazier than we ever thought when we were exploring all the best parts of it, isn’t it.”

Ryan nodded. “I knew maybe ten percent of what I know now, then. What I’ve learned since makes me wish the worst I had was dudes with AK-47s who wanted to wear my pretty skin for a coat.” He flashed Walter a toned down version of his best smile, the radiance tempered with the discussion they’d just had. “You’ll adjust. You’re damn good at doing what you have to, man.”

Walter shook his head slowly, from side to side. “I didn’t want to be good at that any longer.” He sighed. “I was excited by speeding tickets and DUIs, and a schedule that might have sucked until I did my time but would at least be mostly consistent. They were talking about making me a pistol instructor at the academy before Rhee went missing, and that would have been day shift Monday to Friday.”

“Some men aren’t meant to be day shift, Monday to Friday, Major.” Ryan said philosophically. “Some men are meant to right wrongs and fight evil, and that doesn’t keep regular hours.”

“I did my twenty fighting evil. Or at least what we were told was evil, or the enemy. I was ready for graduations and barbecues and end of shift reports that could be kept to one page.” Walter sighed. They both knew what he was really thinking of, what he had really been looking forward to leaving behind, but neither of them said it out loud.

“Yeah.” Ryan agreed. “But come on, we both knew they would have put you on SWAT anyway. If you were going to do it, might as well expand your mind a bit right?” He offered with an amusing waggle of his eyebrows.

“Yeah, see…SWAT paid more.” Walter said, as the doorbell rang  and heralded the arrival of food. “Come on, we’ve got an apocalypse to plan for.”

“Not an apocalypse, it’d be more local than that. A local apocalypse. Alocalypse.” Ryan offered cheerily, drawing a snort and a smirk from Walter.

“Locally grown, farm to table Apocalypse. It’s a hipster’s dream—if they had particularly disturbing dreams.” Walter said as he left his cigar outside, and opened the door back in to the palatial apartment.