11.8 Nineteen Ninety-Naan

by Matt P.

The numbers immediately presented a problem. Walter wasn’t going to be horrible and kick his daughters’ guests out because he hadn’t brought enough food for them all, but he also knew trying to stretch it between them would end up with reproachful glares from his garbage disposal of a son. Fortunately salvation came in the form of his brother-in-law, who texted if he could come see his nieces and nephew and didn’t mind supplementing their order.

When Ryan Aquino—namesake to Ryan Richards—entered the house he carried a large bag redolent of spices. He was about to say something when he stumbled over the pile of shoes in front of the door, and glared at them in consternation. “Still?” He asked.

“Always.” Antigone confirmed solemnly. The elder Ryan sighed and stepped over it, before he gave the three kids a grin. Antigone and Siobhan ran to the door, abandoning their serious defense of shoe-henge, and jumped to hug him. “Hey girls. You being bad as always?” He asked, mostly looking at Siobhan, who wiggled her eyebrows in response. Once his sisters were clear the younger Ryan walked up to the older and they shared a man hug, a handshake that turned in to two seconds of back patting before they both parted.

“Ryan Aquino, this is Lacey and this is Monica, who are not in fact strays but friends of the girls from school. And who also both I assume have last names, but have not chosen to grace us with them.” Walter introduced. “It’s to their benefit you gave Nineteen Ninety-Naan, the most hilariously named Indian restaurant ever, our second round of food today.”

Walter grinned as Siobhan and Antigone both gave him a mild glare at the teasing of their friends, but the friends took it better. They introduced themselves to Ryan—their full names turned out to be Lacey Miller, and Monica Bennington—before everyone moved over to the kitchen island and began to open up and serve the food.

“So you involved in the creepy Faerie business?” Monica asked Ryan directly, as curry and chicken tikka masala were passed around to eager hands. Ryan sputtered a bit, stunned by the directness of the question and choking as the rice he had just put in his mouth got sucked down into his lungs instead of his stomach.

“So much,” he managed after a couple seconds of coughing, “for Operational Security, Major?” He asked, more than a little annoyed and looking right at Walter. Walter shrugged as he grabbed garlic naan.

“Wasn’t my call. Let’s call it initiative in the ranks caused a loss of OpSec, and once the breach was there?” Walter offered with a non-committal little shake of his head. “I figured I would be better to bribe them with food then kill them and bury them in the back forty.”

Ryan nodded at that, but it was Siobhan who pointed out in a tone of obligation, “We don’t have a back forty. Or a front forty.”

Walter nodded. “And that.” He admitted honestly. “So first I’d have to buy a front forty, and then buy a back forty, and then kill them and bury them in it. And it’s really just too much of a hassle.” Walter reached out to take a sip of soda. “And…I think they’re right to have told them, Ryan. How much crap recently could have been stopped if more than four total people had known what the hell was going on?” He asked, raising an eyebrow. “People—Siobhan and Antigone right at the top in my mind—have almost died, and we’re damn lucky no one has. I’ve gotten the crap kicked out of me more times than I can count, and we’re about to go up and try to kill a God. Some people knowing about the apocalypse in case it all goes pear shaped wouldn’t be bad.’

Ryan put his elbows up on the table and leaned in to them, considering the food beneath him for a moment and pushing it around with his fork. “That’s not how they do things, Walt. I mean…there’s a reason you don’t see them in history books, and none of you knew about them. Rhiannon and I grew up with this shit, and they live on secrets. The last person that was killed for telling mortals about Faerie secrets wasn’t in our lifetime but it wasn’t much earlier than that either.”

The room went quiet for a moment in consideration of those facts, and Walter looked particularly unhappy at it for a moment. But then he shrugged carelessly. “I’m not saying that’s not true, mind you. But right now we are on pretty good terms with the two Queens of Faerie. And beyond that, they need us to help them kill their father. And really…if we fail miserably then people are going to know Faerie exists, when it nukes southern Kansas into glass.”

That got even raised eyebrows from the children, who hadn’t expected things to be quite that bad. Ryan sighed and shook his head, leaning back now as if trying to distance himself from those thoughts. “We’ll solve it by not failing, I guess. I don’t know…maybe I’ve just been dealing with weird stuff for too long now and I’m all cynical. But if we manage to off the old jackass then you need to know they’re not going to want you to run around willy nilly spilling their secrets.” He seemed almost dispirited as he spoke, but at the end he looked and met every other person’s eyes to make sure they understood.

“We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.” Walter said seriously. “But things have to change, or we’ll just have some other crisis in a couple of years. You can’t fight darkness with darkness or lies with lies, you have to fight it with the truth. So maybe there will be another fight afterword, but it’s a fight that needs to be fought.” At that he gestured. “But that’s for another day when we’re not eating surprisingly good Indian food in Kansas. Come on.”