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Pine Needles & Hopeless Thoughts

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CHAPTER 1: Strictly Business

 

The nights in Kepler, West Virginia were always fairly silent. The only thing to truly cut through the quiet was the gentle sound of crickets chirping and the occasional car driving through the night. It was 9 PM, and most people were either tucked away in bed or on their way there, beginning to run through their night time routines. Most people, that is, save for a few oddballs; and one of those oddballs was Indrid Cold.

Indrid Cold, professional seer, less professional Mothman. He stood in his Winnebago, clutching a glass of eggnog in his hands as he stared out the window. This had been a particularly rough night for Indrid. He had been restless, wandering throughout his small home all day, crumbling up various drawings until he was left with a few scattered before him on the kitchen counter. He had seen this future coming on and off since yesterday, and ever since he’d become concerned for the wellbeing of a certain forest ranger. 

One vision showed Duck Newton, determined, able to handle the newest abomination with a fair amount of ease before being able to escape (or, in some visions, hold it off until Aubrey could show up in time to lend a hand). But the other was the one that concerned Indrid. It showed Duck Newton, still determined, but far less sure of himself and caught off guard by the abominations sudden appearance. In this version, Duck falls, cut down by the abomination and left for dead.

Indrid’s stomach became knotted up at the thought.

Before Indrid could make sense of why that was, it struck him. Whenever he viewed the future, he saw many branches, forking off into many other possibilities, and when one was made solid and true, the other branches cracked and fell away in an instant. 

And it was this instant that all the safe futures fell away, leaving one lonely future of Duck Newton – forest ranger, begrudging chosen one, most recent wrench in Indrid Colds thoughts – lying motionless on the forest floor. Indrid became conscious of this as he instinctually crumpled up the dejected futures (the safe, more preferred futures), leaving the one lone drawing of a bleeding Duck.

Indrid barely heard the distant crash of his glass of eggnog hitting the ground as he dropped it in his mad dash for the phone.

 


 

It was about 9:15 at night when Jake Coolice heard the distant sound of the lobby telephone ringing. He had been on the way back to his room after a lazy night of board games with Aubrey, Dani, and Dr. Harris Bonkers PHD (who had, of course, won). He knew most of the others in the lodge were away for the night, so he did a quick pivot on his heel and made a dash for the phone.

“Amnesty Lodge, Jack Cool—“

Jake Coolice, yes I know, we don’t have much time.”

The voice on the other end had interrupted Jake, throwing him off slightly.

“This is Indrid Cold. Jake Coolice, I need you to go find Aubrey and tell her to go straight to the coordinates I’m about to give you, do you understand?”

“Indrid Cold?” Jake said, incredulously at the ridiculous name.

Focus Jake,” Indrid snapped over the phone.

“I’m focused, I’m focused! Give me the coordinates.”

 


 

Duck Newton loved his job, honestly. He loved the trees, he loved being outdoors, he loved the smell of the pine trees as he walked through the forest. But he hated wandering through the woods late at night to investigate “strange noises” (especially since joining the Pine Guard).

Which was, of course, what he was currently doing.

Although he had to admit, ever since becoming just a regular guy again, he was a bit more worried about running into one of the abominations alone.  

He was walking through the woods, flashlight shining the path ahead of him. Strange wails and screams had been reported in the pines, and Duck Newton was the ranger on call. Although, ever since he had learned about the abominations, he knew it was probably for the best that he answered these calls. At least he had a vague idea of what was coming when confronted with these things.

He hoped.

As Duck wrestled with his usual self doubt, he heard a sharp noise of something whipping past him. He spun around, flashing his flashlight in the direction the noise came from, but saw nothing. Distantly, Duck was aware he was breathing heavily.

He slowly turned back in his original direction, and came face to face with the newest abomination. It was about ten feet away from him, and it seemed to be the vague silhouette of a man, composed of fast, sharp, swirling wind. The figure held itself slightly crouched, regarding Duck in a curious manner.

Duck held his breath, taking a shaky step back, hyper aware of the fact that he had left Beacon at home (like a damn stubborn fool).

The abomination took a cautious step forward.

“N-Now listen here there,” Duck said, trying his best to sound unwavered by the creature in front of him, “You best stay back.”

The abomination took another step forward, less cautious it seemed, causing Duck to abruptly step back.

It crouched lower then, and Duck could swear he saw a sickening grin spread across the things face. Distracted by this, he noticed a little too late that the abomination was going in for the kill.

It lunged forward at lightning speed, and all Duck could do was throw up his flashlight in protection, but before anything could connect with him something landed with a thud in front of Duck. His eyes snapped open, and the sight before him made him almost stumble backwards.

Because in front of him, protecting him from this new, strange abomination, was the Mothman. Mandibles and all. The Mothman let out a strange cry, and prepared itself for the wind creatures next attack.

“I—Indrid—“ Duck choked out, beyond confused.

The creature let out a banshee-like scream and surged forward. Indrid responded with a flap of his wings, momentarily disrupting the creatures form. This caused it to whip and spin a few feet away, taking a second to compose its form again before going in for another lunge.

This time, Indrid turned to protect the still very confused Duck, pulling him in close as a strong gust of wind came in from the left, disrupting the creature much worse than Indrid had. It twisted and screamed, before whipping away into the night. Its cries echoed through the pines as Duck peered at the edge of the clearing, seeing Aubrey standing there, hands stretched out in front of her as she panted heavily. She had clearly been sprinting through the forest to reach them.

By the time Ducks gaze had turned back to Indrid, he had released him, slipping his red spectacles on and was looking back at Duck in his human form.

“Indrid, what are you doing here?” Duck asked, genuinely baffled.

Indrid opened his mouth to respond but was cut off by Aubrey running towards them yelling out a frantic, “Duck! Duck are you okay?

Indrid made a clearly annoyed face, but stepped back to let Aubrey grab Duck by the arms and look him over.

“The thing didn’t even touch me, Aubrey, relax.”

“I just, I panicked! Jake burst into my room saying Indrid called him sounding very freaked out, demanding I show up here exactly or else you’d be dead, do you understand, Duck?” Aubrey’s tone became frantic, her grip on Ducks arms becoming tighter as she went on. Duck placed a gentle hand on one of Aubreys.

“Aubrey,” he said in his gentlest voice, “I’m fine, okay? I’m alright. Indrid showed up and so did you, so everything’s fine.”

Aubrey took a shaky breath before stepping back, releasing Duck from her iron grip. She ran a nervous hand through her flaming red pompadour before giving a nod paired with a shaky smile.

“I was just worried,” she murmured, “I’m glad you’re okay.”

It was then that the lights of a car came wildly into view as Ned Chicane crashed his car into the clearing and bounded out, Narf Blaster ready, a terrified look in his eye.

“I am here, foul beast, who dares to strike us alone, face us as one!” Ned hollered, as melodramatically as humanly possible.

“It’s taken care of, Ned,” Duck sighed.

“I may have had Jake call Ned for backup,” Aubrey whispered quickly.

Indrid chuckled a bit to himself as Aubrey stepped forward to explain to Ned that everything was, in fact, okay. While this went on Duck stepped closer to Indrid.

“So, you, uh. Called the lodge for me?” He asked, sheepishly adjusting his ranger hat.

“DUCK!” Ned shouted, causing Duck to jump in surprise, “We have decided that I will take Aubrey back to the lodge, would you also like a ride?” Neds voice seemed to carry through the pines and beyond when he talked, and Duck wondered if he’d ever get used to it.

“Actually,” Indrid piped up, “I was hoping I could steal Duck away. Perhaps you could all meet and discuss this newest problem in the morning? If it brings you any peace, I don’t see anything bad happening at this current moment.”

Ned seemed to regard this with more thought than needed, most likely for show, as Duck gave a questioning look to Indrid.

“Alright then,” Aubrey said, “Duck, I’m glad you’re okay.”

“Yeah, me too,” Duck said with an embarrassed chuckled.

Aubrey gave him a small smile before making her way to Ned’s car, “Be safe, see you tomorrow.”

Ned was quick to follow, and the two drove off to the lodge, leaving Duck and Indrid alone.

“So,” Duck said with a tip of his hat, “You wanted to talk to me?”

 



Indrid had insisted on returning to Ducks apartment. Duck assumed it had been to get out of the cold, but then surely the Winnebago must have been closer, right?

Still, despite that, Duck was sure Indrid had his reasons. He always did.

"So, are you gonna tell me what’s going on anytime soon?” Duck asked once Indrid was seated comfortably on Ducks couch, wrapped up in a heavy quilt blanket. He had gotten it from his sister last holiday season and it was decorated in big, bright letters that read ‘Happy Candlenights!’. Duck was currently in the kitchen preparing some hot chocolate.

“Well,” Indrid began, pulling at the blanket, “put quite simply, you are in grave danger, Duck Newton. From what I can see.”

“Oh.”

Duck supposed it wasn’t the worst news he’d ever received.

“But back there you said everything should be fine.”

“Well, yes, for the rest of the night, all should be fairly well. I think we spooked that particular abomination for now, but it will be back. And it seems to have its eyes on you.”

Duck exited the kitchen, taking a seat on the couch next to Indrid, careful not to sit too close. He handed the cup of cocoa to Indrid, who took it with a grateful smile.

“Why me?”

Indrid merely shrugged as he sipped at the delicious hot substance, releasing an appreciative hum as he did. Duck tried to ignore how much he enjoyed hearing that noise, and how…well how adorable Indrid looked wrapped up in the blanket, seeming to drown in the giant thing.

This was strictly business after all.

“Who can say why the abominations pick the people they do. All I can tell you is I see many futures, Duck Newton,” Indrid’s mouth twisted into a frown at this point before continuing on, “and many end with your demise or being very very hurt.”

Again, all Duck could think to say was a quiet, “Oh.” He wondered if this would be the case if he was still ‘The Chosen’ so to speak. He shook his head before sipping at his own mug of cocoa.

“So, what do we do?” Duck asked after a few moments of silence had passed.

“Heavens, I have no idea, that’s what the Pine Guard is for after all,” Indrid said nonchalantly. Duck gave an exasperated noise at that, setting his mug down on the coffee table to rest his head in his hands. He didn’t know what he had expected from Indrid. A clear cut answer how to save the day?

That was never his M.O.

But,” Indrid said, quickly, “I could possibly stay here to help keep you ahead of the game, so to speak.” When Ducks head snapped up from his hands, Indrid began talking faster somehow, “Of course, Duck Newton, that is merely an offer you are free to decline.”

Duck wished Indrid would quit saying his full name like that. Every time it sent a shiver down his spine.

“Nah, I mean,” Duck leaned back now, letting his head fall backwards onto the couch, eyes closed in exhaustion, “If you think it’s best, I trust you, Indrid. Just didn’t expect that is all.”

If Duck had maybe been paying attention he would have seen the small smile that graced Indrids lips at those last few sentences, but he quickly covered it up with his mug as he took another sip of the drink.

Just then, Indrid chugged the rest of the drink and almost slammed the mug down, jolting Duck out of his relaxed state.

“Fantastic, then!” Indrid said with a clap of his hands, “I shall get my things and meet you back here!”

“It’s almost 11, Indrid, what could you possibly nee--?” Duck began, incredulously.

Possibly need from my Winnebago?” Indrid asked abruptly cutting off Duck, “Well, for one, a change of clothes, some eggnog, and possibly one of my smaller space heaters, of course,” Indrid said, kicking the quilt off. His lanky limbs made that quite a sight to behold.

“Indrid, wait.” Duck scrambled to stop the gangly man from heading straight for the door, and he wasn’t really thinking it through as he accidentally tugged the other man back onto the couch. Indrid even seemed startled as he stumbled, practically landing in Ducks lap.

“Aw jeez, shit, I-I’m sorry,” Duck said, flustered at the other man now being so close, splayed across his lap. Indrid perched himself up on his arms, gazing up at the forest ranger, with an unreadable look on his face. The glasses (those, damn things) always made Indrid impossible to read.

“It’s quite alright, Duck Newton,” Indrid said, quietly, before sitting up fully. He was still very close to Duck though, his arm resting on the back of the couch now, right behind Duck’s head.

“I-I was gonna say, uhm, I’m sure I have a change of clothes for now. A-And tomorrow we can go to the ‘Bago to fetch your things,” Duck wished Indrid would stop staring at him so intently, “If that’s okay.”

“Hmm,” Indrid murmured, tilting his head, “That should be fine.”

Duck couldn’t stop focusing on how painfully close Indrid was, how easy it would be to close the distance, and chastised himself for even thinking such a thing. And he was sure he imagined it when it looked like Indrids face inched closer.

“A-Alright, then!” Duck exclaimed then, jumping up, “Y-you can take my bed tonight, I’ll crash on the couch.” The sudden movement seemed to startle Indrid a fair bit.

“Nonsense,” Indrid said, looking away from Duck then. Was that disappointment on his face? Duck doubted it. “I can sleep on the couch.”

Duck snorted at that, “Yeah, maybe if the couch was twice this size, youre just gonna hang off the sides,” he shook his head, “Nah, man, just take the bed. I’ll be fine, seriously. Besides you’re going out of your way to help, ya know? Least I could do.”

“Hmmm,” Indrid murmured again, before finally standing up, “Well, I don’t see any futures where you’re willing to budge on this so, I suppose I’ll take the bed tonight.”

Duck grabbed a spare pillow from the bedroom and fetched Indrid a set of sweatpants and a sweatshirt to sleep in, then set up the couch for himself while Indrid changed. When Indrid stepped out from the bathroom, Duck had to stop himself from staring. Something about the man in his clothes, practically drowning in the size, but his slim ankles still poking out from the pants, made his breath catch in his throat.

“W-Well good night, Indrid,” Duck stammered out.

Indrid offered a small smile, “Good night, Duck Newton,” and retreated into the bedroom.

 


 

Alone now, in the bedroom, Indrid silently cursed himself. He had seen it. Had seen at least five futures back on that couch that had ended with his hands in Ducks hair, their lips together, Duck gently tugging on Indrids tanktop to pull him closer.

Two where they ended up in the very bed Indrid was about to climb into.

But that hadn’t happened. Best not to focus on the past.

Indrid sighed, gazing down at the ridiculous outfit he was in. His ankles were poking out the sweatpants but somehow the sweater sleeves covered his hands. But, still, it was weirdly heartwarming, standing here in Duck’s clothes. It took every fiber in his being not to hold the sweater up to his face to breathe in Duck’s scent, not that he needed to. Once he was bundled up in the bed he was overwhelmed by the scent of pines.

He felt foolish, admittedly, hoping for those outcomes with Duck. But the forest ranger had been at the forefront of his mind since their first meeting, clouding his mind and judgment. He knew it was part the reason that damn goatman had even gotten the drop on him in the first place. He’d been worried, so worried about Duck Newton and the fate of Kepler that he let himself get captured.

But Duck had saved him.

Indrid pulled the blanket closer, letting himself get lost in the scent of pines and hopeless thoughts.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER 2: Meeting at the ‘Bago  

 

When Indrid Cold awoke, two things struck him immediately. The first was that he was definitely not in his Winnebago, and second was that he was very very cold when he tried to leave the safety of the giant blanket he fell asleep in.

The blanket that smelled of pine needles.

That was when he remembered where exactly he was. He was in Duck Newton’s apartment. In his bed. In his blanket.

Indrid felt ridiculous at the embarrassment he felt, especially since he was alone in the bed, but still scrambled out of it as if some unseen force was witnessing him. As soon as he was out of the blankets though, the cold set in and he quickly snatched it back up to drape around himself. He did his best to not breathe in the scent as he trudged out of the bedroom. Upon exiting the room though he realized he was greeted with a much more difficult thing.

The sight of Duck Newton, passed out on his couch, still fast asleep. Indrid gazed at the other man from the bedroom doorway before silently moving closer. Duck was, quite frankly, beautiful in his sleep. He had fallen asleep with his face nestled into the crook of his arm, the other holding the blanket close to him. A light snore was the only sound he made, an endearing sound that Indrid quickly realized he could listen to forever 

He could see himself waking up to that sound until the end of time if the world would give him that.      

Asleep atop Ducks sleeping form was a tabby cat that had been apparently hiding the night before, but once the apartment fell silent it was clear the cat had made itself comfortable. Indrid assumed this was a normal tradition for the two.

Indrid finally managed to tear himself away from the sight of the two sleeping forms and made his way into the kitchen as quietly as possible. In all visions he knew eventually the phone would ring and disturb Duck from his slumber, so he figured he’d occupy himself for now. His hand itched for a sketchbook, and he desperately wanted to fetch that from the Winnebago. Of all the things, he wished for that the most from there. It made the visions easier, gave him a way to process everything and weed out the more likely futures from the less likely. 

And it gave him an excuse to sketch Duck, if he was being honest. If Duck ever got his hands on Indrid’s sketchbook, the Mothman wasn’t sure what he’d do.

He idly wondered if he could figure out how to make that hot chocoloatey substance Duck had made last night as he opened the cupboards, but realized quickly he wouldn’t have time.

“That was quicker than expected,” Indrid murmured to himself just before the phone started ringing. He peered over his shoulder to watch Ducks reaction.

Duck woke with a jump, startling his cat who made a small chrrp sort of noise before stretching and hoping away from the couch to stretch and yawn.

“What in the—why am I?” Duck groaned to himself, running a hand through his hair, shaking his head while trying to understand his surroundings. Indrid ignored how badly he wished it was his hands in Ducks hair.

He took a deep breath before stepping out of the small kitchen into Ducks point of view, “Why, hello Duck Newton!” He called, throwing out an arm before quickly pulling it back into the safety of the blanket.

“Indrid…? Oh, oh.” It all seemed to hit Duck at once as he scrambled for the telephone, “That’s right, that’s right, aw shit.”

The Mothman watched in amusement as Duck fumbled for the phone, managing to answer it on the tenth ring. 

“Go for Duck,” he drawled into the receiver. Indrid ignored the flutter in his heart as he made his way to sit on the couch, now that it was empty. Duck cast a look over his shoulder at Indrid, listening to the voice on the other end (which Indrid knew was Aubrey without having to ask). “Yeah, Aubrey, yes I’m still fine,” Duck pinched the bridge of his nose, “Right as rain, alright?”

There was a moment of silence as Duck listened to Aubrey, and Indrid saw a flash of different futures, possibilities branching out.

“Yeah we can meet at the lodge—“

“The lodge might be a bad idea,” Indrid interjected, frowning at the futures before him. If they met at the lodge almost every possibility presented showed that Agent Stern was far too curious which was just another obstacle they didn’t need to deal with currently. Duck peered back at Indrid again, this time with an eyebrow raised. Indrid shrugged, “If you want to deal with lying to Agent Stern, be my guest.”

At the word ‘lying’ Ducks eyes widened as he shook his head in a rapid no way manner. 

“Alright, Aubrey, so I’ve been informed by Indrid that maybe the Lodge aint the best option.” Another pause, followed by Duck…well, ducking his head down to hiss into the phone, “Yes he slept here, and hush I slept on the couch, Jesus Aubrey.”

Indrid raised his eyebrows at that, but pretended to not be listening when Duck cast another look over his shoulder.

“Where should we meet then?”

“Either that dreaded Cryptonomica or I suppose my Winnebago would be suitable,” Indrid offered with a shrug, doing his best to be nonchalant.

Duck considered the two before shrugging and turning his attention to the phone, “Let’s just meet at the ‘Bago. We gotta grab some things for Indrid anyway—“

Duck seemed to be interrupted by Aubrey, and he pulled the phone back to glare at it the receiver and then groaned, “Im hanging up now, Aubrey, we’ll meet you there, Jesus,” he snapped before slamming the phone down.

Indrid did his best to appear innocent and unknowing of what just transpired on the phone as Duck turned to him, clearly flustered. Didn’t take a seer to know Aubrey had been dragging the other man about Indrid sleeping over.

“Well. I’m gonna change, and try to find’ya something to wear and we’re all meeting at your place. Two birds one stone and all that good stuff.” Duck said quickly before disappearing into his bedroom.

Indrid chuckled lightly, waiting patiently for Duck to compose himself and return.

 


 

Duck stood on the other side of the bedroom door, wishing he could have strangled Aubrey. The things she implied, as if Indrid had any interest whatsoever in Duck. What was wrong with her? They had slept in different rooms for Christ’s sake. Duck squeezed his eyes shut, seeing Indrid Cold behind his eyelids, bundled up in that blanket like it was a cocoon and hated how badly he wished he could just climb inside the blanket with him.

He shook his head and set to digging out clothes for himself from the dresser. He didn’t necessarily have to go in to work today, but almost felt weird not dressing in one of his button down forest ranger shirts. Besides, if they got caught out in the woods it was more believable that Duck was supposed to the be out there, which meant less a chance of him having to lie. He hoped.

 Once he’d finished buckling his belt, he set out to find something else for Indrid to wear. The man would clearly freeze to death if he left the apartment in the clothes he showed up in. Although, no matter what Duck found he knew it would probably fit about as well as the clothes he gave Indrid to sleep in.

Duck couldn’t help but chuckle as he did his best to find something that would hopefully suit the other man, but knew he could only do so much. He grabbed a couple sweaters from his small closet and exited the bedroom to come abruptly face to face with Indrid. He stumbled back, trying not to crash into Indrid, and managed to catch himself before fully falling over. Indrids hands were half held out, clearly unsure if he should help catch Duck, and fairly embarrassed when his hangs hung there uselessly in the air. 

Duck decided to help the other man out and quickly shoved the change of clothes into his open hands.

“H-here ya go, my man, a fresh pair of ill fitting clothes.” 

Indrid looked down at the clothes in his hands, and gave Duck a small smile, “Thank you, I’m sure they’ll be fine.” And with that, Indrid made his way into the bedroom to change, carefully sliding past Duck as he did so.

Duck took a seat on the couch amongst the abandoned blankets left behind by both him and Indrid at this point, and set to tugging on his boots. He was thankful that despite having no sense of awareness when it came to dressing for the cold, Indrid at least showed up in boots of some sort. He wasn’t sure if they shared the same shoe size.

Indrid exited the bedroom then, tugging on what looked to be the second or third sweater he could get into, careful not to knock his glasses off. Duck stifled a laugh at the sight in front of him. Indrid Cold; tall, gangly, and absolutely bulky in the chest underneath all the sweaters. Truthfully, Duck didn’t think Indrid was going to wear every single sweater he gave him. Just figured the man would appreciate some options. The sweater he had chosen to wear on top all the others was a simple, dark grey sweater that read in dark blue letters Kepler High. Ducks heart fluttered at Indrid in that particular sweater, which was ridiculous. He knew that.

But still. The way the sleeves draped slightly over the top of his hands, long fingers sticking out as he ran a hand through his shaggy hair, it made Duck feel a certain way.

Jesus, he didn’t need this right now.

It was then that Duck realized he was all out just staring at Indrid, who seemed to watch back with some form of curiosity.

“Shit. Jesus. I mean. Ya ready?” Duck stuttered out.

He tried to get to his feet smoothly, but instead whacked his knee against the coffee table just as Indrid yelped out a hurried, “Ah, careful!” but it was uncharacteristically a little too late. Duck cursed, landing back down on the couch, wishing he could sink into the cushions. 

“Are you okay?” Indrid asked, making his way over to Duck.

“Fine,” Duck sighed, rubbing his knee. “Nothing I can’t handle. Let me uh, grab you a coat. Unless you’re good with the triple sweater combo you got goin’ on over there.” 

Indrid chuckled a bit, “I’ll admit, I wouldn’t mind a coat.”

 


  

Getting to Indrid’s Winnebago wasn’t the worst walk. Duck could’ve brought his skateboard he supposed but couldn’t exactly give Indrid a ride on that, now could he? That would’ve been a little too dangerous for Duck’s liking, especially now that he was down in the tough department. So instead they made the trek to the Winnebago, beacon tucked away so he wouldn’t have to listen to him, but still ready to go if necessary. It wasn’t until they reached the destination and saw Ned’s car that Duck realized they could have probably caught a ride. Too late for that though, obviously. 

“Duck Newton,” Indrid said, quietly, “I feel like I should warn you…”

Duck cast a glance over his shoulder, “Warn me…?”

The look on Indrids face seemed conflicted, “Perhaps not.”

“Now hold on, ya can’t just say that—“

By that point they had reached the clearing where the Winnebago was parked. Ned and Aubrey both hopped out of Ned’s car; Aubrey with the biggest grin on her face, and Duck already dreading the next moments of his life, knowing they would be hell.

“Hello there Indrid and Duck!” Aubrey said, a small skip in her step, “How are we doing?”

“Can we just get inside?” Duck sighed, storming past her, making a beeline to the Winnebago. He refused to see if Ned was in on Aubrey’s fun, and flung the door open. At that he paused, turning to face the others, eyes focused on Indrid with an incredulous look on his face. 

“Ya don’t lock your door?” Duck asked, hooking his thumb at the open door.

“In my defense, I was in quite the hurry the last time I was here. I believe I was on the way to, if your memory fails, save your life? Hmm?”

Duck knew when he was bested, and strode into the Winnebago, opting not to answer. The others followed behind; Aubrey perching herself on the arm of Indrids couch, Ned opting to lean against a counter, and Indrid heading straight towards the fridge for a glass of eggnog.

“So, Indrid!” Aubrey sat, elbows perched on her knees, “How was Ducks?”

Duck could practically hear Aubrey’s eyes waggle from behind those sunglasses she’d grown so fond of lately.

“Oh, you know,” Indrid said with a small laugh and a wave of his hand, “He was quite the gentleman. Eggnog?”

Duck was thankful that Indrid was at least trying to change the topic. Aubrey and Ned both declined the offer, and Indrid set to collecting his things.

“So, guys! I noticed that, like, my wind magic! It totally goofed that thing up, ya know?” Aubrey said, almost giddy. Ned nodded, one hand stroking at his beard as he listened to Aubrey. “I’m serious, Ned! Only problem is I’m not sure how were supposed to contain wind. This is almost trickier than Aqualung. Speaking of which, what should we call this one? 

Indrid was flitting from one end of the Winnebago to the other, grabbing his sketchbook, eggnog, clothes, everything he deemed important. Aubrey and Ned both seemed deep in conversation about what to nickname this particular abomination, with a few comments on possible containment of it. But mostly the nickname. 

Duck watched from over by the door until he heard his walkie talkie squawk to life.

“Duck? Duck, this is Juno, over.”  

Duck cast a look at the other three before slipping out the door. He didn’t need to try to explain to Juno what was going on if she overheard anything, that was for sure.

Once outside, he clicked the walkie talkie on, “Hey, there, Juno. What seems to be wrong? Over.”

“Another call in about screams and what not from the pines. Could be a dumb joke, but figured someone should check it out.  Are you nearby? I hear its by one of those trailer parks—“

The walkie talkie squealed out then, causing Duck to wince and give it a concerned look. He fiddled with the knobs, trying to bring back Juno’s voice, worry creeping up his spine. 

“What the hell,” Duck muttered before hearing something whip past him. He spun around, confused when he was faced with nothing but the open clearing and the pines.

The hair on the back of Ducks neck stood up then, his nerves skyrocketing. Just as he turned to face back his original direction he heard the Winnebago door slam open, followed by the pounding of feet and Indrids voice yelling, “Duck Newton, wat—“

Duck didn’t get a chance to hear the rest of the sentence, instead he was focused on the sudden force of wind that seemed to cut straight through and lift him from his feet straight into the air. He felt like he had been punched directly in the stomach and cut in plenty of others as he gasped for air. Before he could even think about regaining his bearings – hell, before he even hit the ground -- another slice of wind slammed into him sending him somersaulting through the sky.

Duck wondered how many abominations were gonna fling him through the air. He also wondered if he would even live to see the next abomination, suddenly aware of his lack of Chosen powers.

God, he wished he had brought his helmet.

As he finally began to descend, feeling the ground rushing towards him, he swore he heard someone screaming. Was it Aubrey? 

Before Duck Newton slipped out of consciousness, he felt the soft impact of something snatching him from the sky.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER 3: Duck Takes Flight

 

Indrid chastised himself for getting careless, even if he knew sometimes there was just not helping how sudden the visions that included the abominations could change. The last one had been particularly bad, and Indrid was aware they were getting worse based off what the Pine Guard had been saying, but he didn’t expect this one to sneak up on them like that.

One minute Indrid was shoving items in a duffle bag, and the next he was hit with the sight of Duck arcing through the air, heading straight for the ground.

Indrid had scrambled then, startling Ned and Aubrey out of their nickname debate, slamming the Winnebago door open to shout out a warning to Duck Newton. He knew he was too late, but couldn’t stop himself from trying.

He watched in horror as the abomination slammed itself into Duck, sending him spiraling.

He saw red when it cut into him again, sending him even farther. Distantly, he could hear Aubrey screaming out for Duck as she began to sprint out the Winnebago.

Without hesitation – and for the second time in two days – Indrid flung his glasses to the side, letting the Mothman out. He shot into the sky, flying past Aubrey, flashing through the futures where he caught Duck (desperately ignoring the ones where he doesn’t). Duck began to plummet down and Indrid quickly swooped in, catching the unconscious forest ranger in his arms. He held tight as a strong burst of wind threatened to knock him out of the sky.

But this abomination didn’t know he was messing with the Mothman it seemed. Indrid gave a strong flap of his wings as he clutched Duck Newton to his chest, disrupting the abomination momentarily. He watched it twist and turn and scream and then made his descent back into the pines as quickly as he could. It was the middle of the day and no one needed a Mothman sighting on top of every other problem that was piling up. He landed on the ground with a whumpf and looked up in time to see Aubrey running towards his direction, jaw set in determination, gaze staring up at the screeching banshee in the sky. Not too far behind her, faintly wheezing but running as fast as he could manage, was Ned; Indrids spectacles gripped in his hand.

“I’ve had it with this thing!” Aubrey hollered, sprinting past Indrid. Indrid looked behind him seeing the abomination had landed on the ground nearby, back to assuming its vaguely humanoid shape. Ned came to a stop in front of Indrid, panting and shoving the glasses into his hand.

“Here, friend, you’ll be needing these.”

Meanwhile, Aubrey stood, confident, arm stretched out before her in a threatening manner, demanding the abomination ‘come at her.’

Weakly, from his arms, Indrid heard a dizzied voice grumble out, “Aubrey, no fire.” Indrids head snapped back down to Duck, who still appeared unconscious despite the protests, and then back to Aubrey. He slipped his glasses on, careful not to disturb Duck.

“Aubrey!” He repeated Ducks words, seeing the many many flammable futures possible, “The trees, no fire!”

Just then the abomination let loose another screech as it dove for Aubrey, who gritted her teeth. She knew fire probably wouldn’t help, they knew countering it with more wind at least did something. The abomination was within inches of her as she blasted it in the face with as much force as she could muster. It went flying backwards, still letting loose that ear splitting scream. Indrid peered at it, noticing a faint light in the middle of its body, fiercely protected by a fast swirling wind inside.

And then, before anyone could make another move, it darted into the sky, its screams trailing behind it.

Seriously?!” Aubrey yelled, frustrated, “What is it with these abominations and being such cowards?!”

Then Indrid noticed the blood on his hands.

 


 

Everything felt so distant. Duck Newton could hear his friends, could hear them yelling and fighting, but it all felt out of reach. He couldn’t find a way to piece together the details that slipped in. He just knew he felt cold and that everything hurt.

We need to get to a hospital. Now.

That was Indrid. He sounded more stern than Duck was used to hearing though.

Are you crazy? They ask questions, we have to get him to the Infurmary!

Aubrey, she sounded scared.

This is serious!

Mama and Barclay can handle this, Indrid, I don’t care what your future visions telling you, we’re going to the Lodge.

Now, now friends, perhaps now isn’t the time to argue.

It was always something else when Ned was the voice of reason. Duck wondered who they were all fussing about and why everyone seemed so damn worried. If he could just open his eyes and stand up, he could maybe help get his bearings on the situation at hand. But his eyelids felt heavy, and something – no, someone – was holding him.

“Wass happenin’?” murmured Duck, trying to find some form of strength in him. He absently felt ridiculous, knowing if he was still connected to Minerva in some way he would be fine.

Duck?

Indrid again, and before Duck slipped back into unconsciousness, all he could think about was how worried he sounded.

 


  

Suddenly, Duck realized the environment had changed. He couldn’t smell pines and eggnog anymore, couldn’t feel the dirt beneath him. He had to be indoors, and there had to be more people. It was so loud and hectic around him.

I don’t understand, he’s been thrown into a ravine! He’s been through worse!

Aubrey again, poor girl, trying to make sense of the situation.

Wait, was she talking about him?

“What’s happenin’?” Duck asked, stronger this time. At least he hoped it was, it was all the strength he could muster up.

“Duck?”

Duck peered up at the face above him. Barclay, he seemed worried, but was doing his best to remain calm. Duck desperately wanted to look past Barclay, see who else was around, make sure everyone was okay.

“You really got tossed around from what I can tell, Duck, so I’m gonna need you to lay still. Okay?”

Duck tried to nod but felt immediate pain upon attempting that little move, so instead croaked out a, “Ya got it.”

And then he was out again.

 


 

This time, when Duck came to, there was much less of a fuss. Mainly because the only one presumably present was Indrid, who was staring down at Duck with a small frown on his face. Duck felt a wave of relief wash over him. He wasn’t sure what had happened at this point. The last thing he remembered was one second he was in the Winnebago and the next he was soaring through the air. He didn’t know who got hurt.

So far it seemed like just him.

“Where is ev—“ Duck began to ask.

Is everyone? They’re upstairs. Aubrey looked like she was about to pull her hair out from stress, so I had Ned take her up. Those other two seemed to have things to discuss.”

“I know you know their names,” Duck chuckled, wincing at the pain.

Indrid tensed up, half reaching out to Duck, clearly unsure how to help. It was then that Duck noticed the blood staining the Kepler High sweater he had lent Indrid, similar stains were on the mans hands. This caused Duck to bolt upright. At least he tried to but before he could flinch Indrids hands shot out to grab him by the shoulders.

“It’s not my blood, I’m fine, please don’t do what you were about to do,” Indrid said, quickly, as if he couldn’t get the words out fast enough. “I’ve seen enough of you getting hurt today.”

Ducks breath came out shaky, but he relented.

“Well, who’s blood is it then?” Duck asked. Indrid pulled his hands away before taking a seat at the stool by the infurmarys table that Duck was on.

“Why, yours of course, Duck Newton,” Indrid sighed. He was still trying to act in his typical, nonchalant, isn’t-it-obvious tone, but Duck could hear how tired he was. Indrid had one arm propped up on a knee, holding his head in that hand. “The abomination seemed to hit you fairly hard, but it also cut you up in ways I’d rather not think about. But I think you will be okay.”

“’m sorry, ‘Drid.” Duck sighed, turning his gaze to the ceiling. He felt tired as well.

Duck couldn’t see it, but Indrid gave him an exasperated look before shaking his head.

“I believe it is I who should be sorry, Duck.”

“Huh. Ya didn’t use my last name.”

“B-beg pardon?” Indrid sputtered out. Before Duck could expand on that thought the basement door flew open followed by the clomping of boots down the basement stairs.

"Duck! You’re awake!” Aubrey exclaimed, rushing to his side. Behind her was Ned and Barclay who seemed to make their way down far quieter, Barclay being sure to shut the door behind him.

“Aubrey, try to remember we have a federal agent loose in the lodge,” Barclay sighed.

“Quiet, Footboy!”

Barclay gave Aubrey a distressed look at that particular name and backed off.

“Now, Duck, seriously what happened? You bled! To be honest I didn’t think you could do that at this point.” Aubrey held a hand to her face, lips pursed, “Now that I think about it you’ve been a lot more…squishy lately. If you know what I mean.”

“Aubrey Little,” Indrid snapped, noticing the increasingly stressed look on Ducks face. This caused the magicians head to swivel over to him, taken aback by the sudden harsh tone. Indrid seemed to sense this and cleared his throat.

“I just don’t know if this is the time to interrogate him.”

“Interrogate?” she balked at that.

“Maybe that wasn’t the right word—“

“I’m not interrogating him, I’m concerned. You want an interrogation I will give you an interrogation. Where exactly were you, Mr. Future Man, when Duck was about to get absolutely wrecked—“

“Will y’all please just shut the fuck up?” Duck sighed, feeling a migraine beginning to blossom.

Everyone fell silent at that.

“So!” Ned clapped his hands together, doing his best to kill the tension, “What have we learned?”

“That this abomination is an absolute asshole.” Aubrey huffed, arms crossed, avoiding eye contact with everyone.

“That it doesn’t like me?” Duck asked, earning a small chuckle from Indrid.

“That it’s, as Aubrey was so kind to point out, occasionally quicker than my visions can foresee.” Indrid admitted, earning a small glance up at him from Aubrey.

“And I learned,” Ned announced, drawing all attention to him as always, “That I am wa-a-a-a-y better at handling a bleeding Duck than the rest of you!”

This earned a glare from both Aubrey and Indrid, which Ned either couldn’t see or just ignored. It was impossible to tell with him. But they did have to give it to him, the tension in the room had lessened. Everyone agreed that they should, first things first, get Duck back to his place. Indrid offered to watch over him, ignoring the pointed looks he got from Aubrey and Ned. Barclay meanwhile reminded them they only had a few more days before this abomination could run loose, so they needed to find a way to contain it and contain it fast.

“The Banshee!” Aubrey squealed out, seemingly past the earlier argument now.

Everyone but Duck looked at her, since he already knew what she was talking about. That and moving still hurt.

“We’re gonna call this son of a bitch…The Banshee,” Aubrey’s hands were splayed out dramatically while saying this. “Not that it deserves such a cool name, but damn if it doesn’t fit.”

With that, the group agreed they would refer to this as Project Banshee, and set about to getting Duck home.

 


 

Getting Duck out of the lodge without attracting the attention of Stern had been quite the task. Helping him find a comfortable way to lay down in the new van Ned had gotten had been a whole other obstacle, and getting him inside was, well, embarrassing.

He didn’t mind being carried by another man, but Duck knew he couldn’t hide the blush that crept across his face as Indrid carefully scooped him up into this arms. Those lanky things had no right being able to carry Duck so effortlessly but he supposed now wasn’t the time to complain about such things.

Aubrey had made sure Ducks pillows were fluffed and his cat was fed before bidding her goodbyes. Ned gave a small salute and followed her out the door to give her a ride back to the lodge. Duck could hear the front door close from the comfort of his bed, and turned his head, expecting to see Indrid enter the room. Instead he heard the quiet sounds of someone rustling around in the kitchen. What Indrid could possibly be doing, Duck wasn’t sure, but he tried to let himself relax.

Although he wasn’t sure how he was supposed to manage that considering how badly he felt he had fucked up. He had gotten his ass absolutely handed to him by that abomination, or The Banshee, as Aubrey would say. Not only that but he had worried Aubrey (who he knew from past events seemed to care very much for her extended family) and from what he could tell he had also worried Indrid.

He ignored the warm feeling that made him feel. That just made him feel guilty. He, in his opinion, had no right to find solace in that thought.

Slowly, Duck sat up, ignoring the pain he felt. He stared out his bedroom window hating how he felt. Ever since Minerva had left everything felt so out of control. Well, everything had been out of control long before that, but there had at least been something comforting by the simple routine of her showing up everyday. And at least he wasn’t useless when he was connected to her. Now he was just some mundane asshole who got thrown around like a ragdoll.

Duck was so lost in his thoughts he didn’t hear Indrid enter the room.

“Now, Duck Newton, worrying like that simply won’t help.”

Ducks head whipped around, causing immediate pain. Indrid stood before him, a small worried frown on his face. He was back to wearing the clothes Duck had lent him the night before and was holding a bowl in his hands, and Duck was suddenly aware that he could smell soup.

Indrid Cold had made him soup.

"Also, please lie down, you’re just making it worse by forcing yourself.”

Duck opted to lean his back against the headboard of the bed, accepting the soup he was offered. It was one of the chicken noodle cans that had been stashed away in his pantry for months now. If he was being honest, Duck didn’t think Indrid knew how to cook much of anything, but maybe that was rude. Perhaps canned food was simple enough for the Mothman.

“Thank ya, Indrid.” Duck said, offering Indrid a smile. It was strained, due to the pain and stress, but it was sincere.

Indrid tried to shrug in a nonchalant manner, “It was nothing, Duck Newton.” He glanced at the bedroom door and back to Duck, seemingly unsure of if he should leave or not.

Duck watched him for a moment as he took a sip of the soup, a little amused. It wasn’t often he got to see someone else look flustered.

“Ya can join me, if you’d like.” Duck nodded his head at the bed, “Not that you have to, of course.”

“I’d like that,” Indrid said with a smile before taking a seat on the edge of the bed. For awhile the two sat in comfortable silence while Duck slowly ate his soup. They took turns glancing at the other when they were sure one another wasn’t looking, both enjoying the other mans company in a way they couldn’t quite describe.

 

Chapter Text

CHAPTER 4: Late Night Shower

 

It was 2 AM when Duck jolted awake, cringing from the sudden movement. He was confused, stiff, and sore. The bedside lamp was still lighting up the room, and Duck wondered why he had left it on.

Until he spotted Indrid Cold passed out on the foot of the bed, his legs dangling off the side. Then he remembered. Once Duck had finished the chicken noodle soup, he and Indrid had talked. Nothing serious, they just talked about mundane things. About the lodge, Aubrey, and Ned. Indrid briefly mentioned a few Mothman tales, and Duck had laughed until his sides hurt. Which, yes, he realized in his current condition maybe didn’t mean a lot, but it was the most comfortable he’d felt since Minerva left.

But it wasn’t the aches in his wounds, or the light, or the strange feeling of having someone else in his bed that had woken him. It had been the panic that had been brewing inside of him for a day or two now. He stumbled out of bed, careful not to wake Indrid, and made his way into the bathroom. As he passed the mirror, he froze, taking a moment to look at himself. He was in one of his t-shirts, and absently wondered when that had been put on him, but that wasn’t what he was focused on.

He looked terrible.

Duck never viewed himself as a vain man. Sure, he would’ve liked to have been a little more fit, and he wouldn’t mind a more chiseled jaw instead of the rounded face he seemed to be stuck with, but he was still fairly comfortable. That didn’t mean he liked seeing himself beat to Hell. His face was littered in small, fairly nonthreatening cuts. There only seemed to be one particularly large cut under his right eye. As he gingerly touched at the cut, slightly hissing as he did so because of course it would hurt, he took note of the bandages poking out of his t-shirt sleeve.

Carefully he pulled his shirt up to discover his torso was decorated in various bandages.

He hated this.

If he had still been Chosen—

That thought disrupted him and the panic that had been slowly bubbling up threatened to spill out, so he turned from the mirror. He went into the bathroom, accidentally shutting the door a little too hard, and sliding down to the floor. Resting his face in his hands, he groaned.

He had already been tired of all this when he had the damn powers. Now he had to deal with all this weirdness and danger as a regular schmuck and so far it had made him a liability. He bet the damn abomination could sense he was the weaker of the trio. Hell, even Ned at least seemed sturdy. He’d never had powers and had managed to take out the Aqualung while Duck lay passed out in a ravine.

Frustrated, he pitifully slammed his fist on the bathroom tile sending a jolt of pain up his hand and arm, which only frustrated him more. He couldn’t even be angry without getting hurt now.

“Fuck!” Duck yelled kicking out his legs, and letting his head slam back against the door. In that moment, he’d briefly forgotten that Indrid was essentially on the other side of the door, hoping he hadn’t just woken him up with what was basically a grown man having a tantrum.

Just then, Duck heard a small knock on the bathroom door.

Shit.    

“Duck Newton, are you alright in there?”

Shit!

Ducks head snapped up from its resting position on the door, and he scrambled so he was facing the door now.

“Duck Newton?” Indrid called again, a hint of concern in his voice.

“I-I’m fine!” Duck stammered out, “Just, uh, fuck— I’m. Just…showering? Yeah. Taking a shower! Nothing to worry about.”

There was a beat of silence as Duck realized what he said and mentally kicked himself.

Indrid stifled a small laugh, “I do not think I hear the shower.”

“Well I’m getting ready? For the shower? Fuck, no, not that— I mean, it’s one of them new type’a quiet showers? It’s state of the art, I— y’see, I know a guy? Got a friend. In the shower business? Yeah. Hooked me up, so to speak.”

“And what is this friends name?”

“Fuck— shit, listen.” Duck ran a hand through his hair, wishing to some higher power that for once he could just lie and have a breakdown in peace. “His name. Is.” Duck glanced around the bathroom helplessly, as if a name would appear written on his walls. “Showers. His name is Walter Showers.”

“Walter. Showers.” Indrid deadpans from the other side of the door. Duck could practically hear the smug look on his face and wished he could melt into the floor.

“Yeah. Yeah, Walter Showers. Ya uh, can see why he got into the business, right?” Duck didn’t know why he couldn’t stop this terrible lie, but at this point he felt devoted to it.

“Duck Newton,” Indrid said, “May I come in?”

Into the shower?” Duck almost yelled, confused and flustered beyond repair.

“What? No, I—“ On his side, Indrid pinched the bridge of his nose before continuing, “No, may I came in to talk.”

"I mean, you could  if I wasn’t, ya know. Showering. Maybe we can table a talk for later?”

There was silence again, and Duck wondered if Indrid had given up.

“Alright then,” Indrid sighed. On his side of the door, he leaned his back against it, arms crossed as he shook his head with a chuckle, “Take your…silent shower. I’ll be here.”

Duck stared at the bathroom door, unsure as to why Indrid was being like this. Caring and patient. He’d already caused enough trouble, hadn’t he?

He let himself stretch out on the bathroom floor, and although the door separated them, Duck felt some form of comfort that Indrid was there. Even though, in his mind, he hadn’t really earned all this fuss. He’d messed up, he should be the one dealing with the consequences. And now everyone was either worrying about Duck or possibly trying to catch the abomination without him. He felt useless to everyone.

He wasn’t sure how much time had passed before Indrid spoke up again.

“How you doing in there?” he asked, softly, just loud enough to be heard through the door.

“Oh, you know,” Duck sighed, staring at the bathroom ceiling, “it’s goin’. Real good water pressure.” 

He could hear Indrid chuckle at that, which put a small smile on Ducks lips.

It wasn’t much longer before Ducks back began to complain, which was another new thing he was dealing with now that the powers were gone, but he tried not to think about that. Instead he got to his feet, took a deep breath, and put his hand on the doorknob.

“I’m ready to come out, ‘Drid.”

He took a step out to see Indrid had already moved back to the bed, perched on the edge of it, watching Duck with a small smile.

“Welcome back, Duck Newton,” he said, and Duck tried to ignore his heart skipping a beat at that. Indrid gestured to the spot next to him, “Would you care to join me?”

Duck snorted, “Pretty sure it’s my bed, but sure, Mr. Mothman.”

He took a seat on the edge next to Indrid, closing his eyes and rolling his neck with a groan. Laying on the bathroom floor had definitely been a bad idea, and Duck regretted it.

Suddenly Indrid gently took hold of Ducks chin, turning it to face him. Ducks eyes snapped open in response, confused. Indrid was leaning towards him, studying his face with a small frown.

“Sorry,” he murmured, “I was curious how you were healing. The large scratch doesn’t look nearly as bad as it did before, in case you were wondering.”

Duck could barely hear Indrid over his heart hammering in his chest, but let out a small, “Oh. Uh. Th-that’s good?”

“Yes. I’m very sorry I let that happen to you. I got careless.” He let go of Ducks chin then, but didn’t make a move to really lean back, instead resting his hand on the bed for support. “Would you like to talk about what’s wrong?” 

“I— Nothing’s wrong, I just. Wait, no, hold the phone. Why are you apologizing to me?” Duck shook his head, confused. “I’m the one who got careless. I’m the one who’s some regular guy now and can’t handle an abomination attack now. I’m—“ He sighed, dragging his hand through his hair, getting frustrated again with the whole predicament.

“What on Earth are you talking about?”

“You know what I’m talking about, don’t you? Ya know what I’m gonna say.” Duck didn’t mean for that to come out as harsh as it had. 

“That’s not exactly how it works,” Indrid said with a raise of his eyebrow, seemingly unaffected by Ducks tone. 

“Of course it’s not,” Duck grumbled, “I just feel like, ah Hell, I dunno. Useless, I guess. I’m useless without the Chosen powers. For Christ’s sake, I have to skateboard to work and wear a helmet. I don’t remember the last time I wore a helmet! Aubrey’s out there slinging magic, and Neds,” Duck paused for a second, and shrugged, “Well he’s fuckin’ Ned, I don’t know. That’s not the point.” Duck groaned then, and let his head fall into his hands, “And now I’m rambling.”

Indrid listened quietly to Duck, waiting patiently for him to finish.

“Well, Duck Newton, would you like to know what I think?”

Duck looked up at him, a questioning look on his face.

“I think that might be the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever said. And you’ve said quite a lot of ridiculous things, if you don’t mind me saying.”

“Gee, thanks, I feel a lot better.”

Indrid laughed then, shaking his head. “I think you misunderstand me.”

Duck snorted, “It sounds like you think I’m a goofus.”

“Oh, no. Far from it.” Indrid said, looking at Duck with that intense look again. “It’s just, you act as if those powers made you, well…you which is what’s ridiculous. Being able to take a punch isn’t what made you brave. And I don’t think for a second it’s what gave you the power to change fate itself. Which you do, so often. You’re full of surprises, Duck Newton. How do I put this?” Indrid tipped his head in thought, and then looked back to Duck again, “Ah, yes. Duck Newton, I don’t believe you are special because you were Chosen. I believe you were Chosen because you are special.”

Duck felt his breath catch in his throat, and his eyes darted around the room, embarrassed by Indrid’s words. “Ya— you think what now?”

Indrid gently took ahold of Ducks chin again, tipping his head so he was looking back at him.

“You heard me, Duck,” Indrid whispered, so close now Duck could feel Indrid’s breath on his lips. His mind was racing, confused by Indrid’s kind words and distracted by his eyes. It was easier to see them up close, and though they were still obscured by the glasses, he thought they were breathtaking.

That was his last thought before leaning into Indrid Cold, pressing his lips against the other mans, earning a small, surprised sound from Indrid followed by a small purr that made Ducks heart skip a beat. He reached up, running his fingers in Indrid’s hair, earning another small noise from the man. Indrid ran his tongue along Ducks lips, and he responded in kind.

Jesus, of course he tasted like Eggnog.

The two pulled back slightly, each a little breathless.

“You’re unbelievable.”

“You’re unbelievable.”

The two had whispered it in tandem, and Indrid gave a small shake of his head before pressing a light kiss to Duck’s lips.

“You need to rest,” he murmured against his lips, before lifting Duck’s chin and placing a gentle kiss on his neck.

Duck gave a small gasp before placing his hands on either side of Indrid’s face so he could look at him, swallowing his fear down.

“Will you, uh. Will you stay with me? For the night?”

“Thought you’d never ask,” Indrid whispered, leaning in to Duck to kiss him lightly.

“Oh, and, Indrid?” Duck glanced at the open bathroom door as Indrid crawled and began to lay down, letting out a curious noise in response. 

“I uh. I have to confess. I, well, I wasn’t actually taking a shower. And there is no Walter Showers. I lied to you.”

Indrid snorted, letting out a loud laugh after that before gently pulling Duck down to rest next to him. He rested his head on Ducks shoulder, still chuckling at the confession and at Ducks obvious distress about it. 

“Ya don’t say, Duck?” Indrid breathed into Ducks ear before placing one last kiss against his hair and pulling the blankets over them.

For the rest of the night, Duck slept peacefully with the Mothman curled up in his arms.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER 5: Best Laid Plans

 

The sunlight poking through the blinds was what initially woke Indrid. He blinked, sleepily reaching to rubs his eyes before fully taking in his surroundings. His head was atop Ducks chest, which gently rose and fell with the occasional snore escaping the man. Indrid’s arm was thrown across Ducks body, and in return Ducks arm was slung around Indrid, holding him close and in place. At the foot of the bed lay that cat again, who seemed to only appear in the dead of night. If it hadn’t been for the vision of a knock at the door, Indrid would have been content to lay there for hours.

But the vision worried him, so he carefully – begrudgingly – untangled himself from Duck Newton and made his way to the front door. He swung the door open to reveal Leo Tarkesian, hand hanging in the air, about to knock. The man in front of Indrid, who had rudely interrupted his morning, raised an eyebrow at him.

“And just who the hell—“

 “Am I supposed to be?” Indrid interrupted, “Why I could ask you the same thing.”

Although Indrid knew. This was Leo Tarkesian, the Chosen before Duck and he was here to try and get Duck to train. That was, quite frankly, the last thing Duck needed right now. He needed to rest, not clash swords with his neighbor.

Leo’s eyes narrowed. “Where is Duck?” He asked, arms crossed.

“I assure you, he’s perfectly fine. More or less.”

“Then let me see him.”

Indrid narrowed his eyes back at the man at this point, “Listen, Leo Tarkesian,” At hearing his name before even introducing himself, Leo’s eyes slightly widened and then narrowed in suspicion. Indrid continued on though, used to this from others. “Duck has been hurt. He’s fine, but if you want the truth, he needs to rest. He doesn’t need to run around and play swords with you.”

“I don’t know who you think you are—“ Leo began before a voice interrupted, and it wasn’t Indrid this time.

“Hey, Leo. Indrid what’s going on?” Duck asked, coming up behind Indrid, slight frown on his face. His hair was sticking up in the back, and he was scratching at his chin.

Leo took in Ducks face, covered in scratches, eyes slightly widened. “Duck, what on Earth happened?”

“Ah, Hell man, you should see the other guy.”

Indrid snorted as Leo frowned in response.

“Is it another abomination?”

Duck stepped around Indrid so he was the one in the doorway while Indrid continued glowering at Leo.

“Yeah, bit of a wily one too. Messed me up pretty bad.” Duck shrugged, trying to play it off, “But nothing too serious. Whaddya want?”

“You haven’t trained in a few days.”

Duck opened his mouth to respond but was cut off by Indrid’s hand on his shoulder.

“Yes and it’s going to be a couple more days, isn’t it, Duck?” Indrid said, flashing through the futures ahead for any where Duck would just listen. God, he wished he had his sketchbook. It was getting tougher to handle the visions without it if he was being honest. It felt like they were building up with no way to escape.

“I mean, training isn’t gonna kill me ‘Drid.” Duck said with a roll of his eyes.

Indrid’s grip tightened on Ducks shoulder, “No, maybe not, but you’re gonna pull something and feel ridiculous when it comes time to face the abomination.”

“Or,” Leo snapped, “He’s gonna feel ridiculous when he hasn’t properly trained.”

“Stay out of this, please.”

Duck shook his head, “Indrid, I think you’re being—“

He knew he was going to feel bad, but Indrid quickly took his free hand and pressed it firmly against Ducks ribcage where he knew a particularly bad bruise was. Duck sucked in a breath before almost doubling over, but Indrid had kept his grip on his shoulder firm, holding him upright.

“As you were saying?”

“Jesus, Duck,” Leo breathed, “Are you alright?”

Duck shot a small glare at Indrid, but sighed in defeat.

“Yeah, man, I’m alright. But I guess I’d be lying if I said I was in tip-top shape, so to speak.” He rubbed the spot where Indrid had pushed, “Maybe we should train in a couple days, once I’m healed up and this abomination is taken care of.”

Indrid let a small sigh of relief slip out. He felt guilty about causing Duck pain, but it was better than Duck over exerting himself to prove he was fine or capable, or whatever it was the man was trying to prove.

“You call me if you need anything,” Leo said casting a skeptical glance at Indrid, “and be careful.”

“For sure, man.” Duck and Leo exchanged goodbyes and Indrid released his grip on Ducks shoulder, taking a step back as Duck shut the door.

Duck turned to face Indrid, arms crossed.

“I do apologize for that, Duck Newton, but every future showed a negative outcome from you going out with that man.”

“Nah, I get it,” Duck said, glancing down at the ground then, uncrossing his arms.

Indrid raised his eyebrow at that. “Is something troubling you?”

“No- I mean? No. Yeah, no. I’m fine”

Indrid took a step forward, seeing multiple futures flash before his eyes.

Duck.”

“I just, I guess I wanted to apologize for last night.”

Indrid by now had backed Duck against the front door, one hand resting on it beside Ducks head. Every vision presented to him showed Duck like this, apologetic for some asinine reason. “And what, pray tell, are you apologizing for?”

“Don’t act dumb.”

Indrid chuckled, “Well, if you’re going to play dumb I don’t see why I can’t.”

Duck stared up at the ever so slightly taller man, seemingly embarrassed by this conversation. He glanced away from Indrid, causing Indrid to tsk at Duck while gently taking hold of his chin to get him to look up.

“What are you thinking, Duck?”

Ducks breath came out shaky. “I just feel like you were being nice and maybe I took advantage of that—“

Before Duck could fully finish his sentence, Indrid had thrown his head back in laughter. He shook his head leaning forward to meet Duck Newton’s disgruntled gaze, lightly tugging on his chin to make sure he was looking at Indrid. He didn’t know how Duck could possibly think Indrid regretted anything about the previous night, but he supposed that was par for the course with the forest ranger.

"Duck, believe me when I say that I have thought about a moment like last night for quite a while now. I must admit I wish it had fallen under…better circumstances, but alas beggars can’t be choosers can they?” He whispered, sliding his hand from Duck’s chin to behind his ear to get a better grip as he leaned forward, his thumb lightly rubbing circles on Duck’s cheek, “So do me a favor and don’t apologize for being everything I imagined.”

Ducks breath caught in his throat as Indrid’s lips met his. Once the initial shock wore off, he circled his arms around Indrid’s waist, pulling him closer, reveling in the small purr that slipped through Indrid’s lips. When he nipped lightly at his bottom lip, the moan that escaped stoked a fire inside Duck, briefly filling him with some form of courage. He gripped Indrid’s hips, turning him suddenly to press him against the wall, biting his neck as he did so.

“Oh—“ Indrid gasped, head thrown back, granting Duck more access.

Duck chased each bite with a tender kiss, drinking up every sound and soft purr like it was the last thing he’d ever hear. He ran his hands up Indrid’s hips, sliding them into his shirt, earning a sharp gasp from the man. Indrid turned his head then, capturing Ducks lips with his own again as he dug his hands into Ducks hair. He bit lightly at Ducks lip, his own quirking in a smirk at the moan that drew from the man.

Indrid tried to ignore the visions that showed a very rude interruption. He’d waited so long for this, he didn’t need a phone call from Aubrey Little to stop them.

But some things about fate just couldn’t be stopped it seemed.

The phone rang then, and Duck groaned.

Indrid,” Duck squirmed as the man mouthed at his neck.

“Mmm?” Indrid hummed, “They’ll call back, Duck Newton, you can trust me on that.”

Duck laughed, a breathless sound, as Indrid continued to kiss at his neck, hands still loosely gripping his hair. The phone continued to ring though, and Duck wasn’t one to ignore that.

“It could be important,” he said, still lightly running his hands up Indrid’s chest, “Could be about the abomination.”

“Perhaps,” Indrid murmured against Ducks neck, “Aren’t you on sick leave though?”

Duck snorted at that. “Hardly.”          

Indrid groaned as Duck pulled away and made his way to the phone, answering it with a quick (and slightly flustered) hello.

“Y-yeah, Aubrey, we’ll meet ya guys at the lodge to talk.”

Indrid chuckled, knowing what was next, could see Aubrey Little raising an eyebrow as she asked why Duck sounded so out of breath. 

“What? No. I’m fine? I was just talking to Indrid.” Duck said, his back turned to Indrid. “What?”

Indrid slid up behind Duck then, wrapping his arms around the other mans waist, pressing a small kiss to the back of his neck. Smiling at the slight gasp that drew from the other man.

“Wha- no, that’s not a euphemis— We’ll meet you at the lodge, Aubrey.” Duck said in a rush, desperately ignoring the laughter emitting from the phone. He slammed it down and whirled around in Indrids arms, freezing up when Indrid pulled him closer and kissed him gently on the forehead.

“I’m sorry, Duck, I’m afraid I couldn’t help myself. Besides no future showed anything too terrible coming from that.”

"’S fine, but I doubt Aubrey’s going to let me live it down,” Duck sighed, “Come on, let’s get ready.”

  


 

           

When they reached the lodge and were all tucked away in Mama’s office, safe from prying ears (well, safe from prying Sterns) they decided it was time to deal with the abomination. Barclay sat at the desk, smacking the old computer to life while Mama stood behind him, watching with an amused look. Ned sat in a spare chair and Aubrey sat next to him, sitting on the edge of the desk. Duck was leaning against the wall, doing his best to avoid Aubrey’s gaze since all she seemed capable of doing was smirking at him and eyeballing how close Indrid was hovering by Ducks side.

“So, what’s the plan? What do we know?” Barclay asked once the computer was ready to cooperate, “You guys are the only ones who’ve actually had run-ins with this thing.”

“My wind magic disrupts it!” Aubrey said, twisting around to face Barclay, finally not staring holes into Ducks head. “And Indrid’s wings! Ya know, when he’s the Mothman.”

“Let’s try to keep Mothman sightings to a minimum,” Mama interjected, “Though it is a…backup of sorts.”

Barclay typed into the computer and glanced back up. “Okay, but have we seen any weaknesses?”

“Well,” Ned said, with a frown, “I remember with Aqualung there was that big, bright, hit-me-right-here light, but I haven’t seen anything like that on this guy.”

Indrid perked up at that, “Oh. I think I did see that in our last run-in.”

“And you didn’t say anything?” Mama asked, arms crossed.

“Well I didn’t realize it was important. It was more in the center of it’s chest, and the wind was moving a lot quicker there. It made it hard to make out, but there was some sort of light visible.” Indrid shrugged, “Like I said, I didn’t know it was important.”

“Aren’t you a seer?”

“Yes, I’m a seer. I’m not all knowing though.”

Mama sighed, “Fine, we know now. So, it’s got that light, it makes it vulnerable. Now what?”

Duck rubbed the back of his neck, groaning, “I don’t know, it’s wind for Christ’s sake. Every time we start to get the upper hand it high tails it outta there—”

“God, tell me about it,” Aubrey grumbled, propping her hand up on her chin.

“And since it’s wind, I’m not too sure how we’re supposed to stop the damn thing,” Duck shook his head, “Could we…? Ah, hell I dunno, could we…vacuum it?”

Barclay looked up at Duck, eyebrows furrowed as Mama snorted out, “Ya wanna vacuum up the abomination, Duck?”

Aubrey cackled from her spot on the desk, nodding excitedly, “Oh, can we? Can we please try that?”

"You need electricity for a vacuum and this thing seems to attack out in the wilderness,” Barclay said.

“We have a couple of handheld vacuums at the Cryptonomica!” Ned exclaimed, “I’m sure Kirby can dig one out.”

“Oh dear Lord, they’re considering the idea,” Mama whispered, dragging her palm down her face, “Y’all, we don’t even know if that will work. This thing is magic.”

“Oh! Oh!” Aubrey hopped off the desk, unable to contain herself anymore, “Let’s take one of Ned’s handheld vacuums and get Heathcliff to enchant it!”

“Ah, but our dear feline friend won’t enchant anything without an item,” Ned tapped his finger on his chin, “Will he?”

Duck chuckled, “Think he’d give us an I.O.U.?”

Mama pinched the bridge of her nose. “You’re not using a handheld vacuum to stop an abomination.

“Why not?” Aubrey whined, “It could work! And, whatever, worst case? It’ll bother it long enough for Duck to stab the light with Beacon or something. Oh, I could get them with the Sniyatch!”

Fine, we’ll try it,” Mama looked exasperated, “But we have to draw it out somehow.”

Just then, in perfect unison with everyone’s heads turning towards Duck, Indrid stepped forward, shaking his head.

“Absolutely not.”

Mama raised her eyebrow at that, while Aubrey and Ned exchanged glances. Duck just frowned at all of them.

“What?” he asked, “Absolutely not what?”

Mama glanced down at Barclay, who looked like he was pretending to be very busy with the computer, and looked back up at Duck, “Well, Duck, we’re gonna need some bait. And this thing—“

“The Banshee,” Aubrey interrupted quickly, finger raised.

“Sure, The Banshee, seems to really have a vendetta against you.”

“Oh,” Duck said, and then after a few seconds his eyes widened, “Oh.

“Yeah, oh,” Indrid snapped, “But it’s a ridiculous plan. He’s been beaten up enough as it is. Quite frankly, he shouldn’t even be there, or here for that matter.”

 "I’ll be fine, Indrid, relax.”

Indrid looked over at Duck, a small frown on his face, but he dropped it nonetheless. Duck tried to, once again, ignore the looks Aubrey was giving him. So, to avoid her, he instead looked over at Barclay, clearing his throat.

"Anyway so, yeah. I guess I’m bait, super cool. So we lure it out, fuck it up, and then I’ll uh just stab it with Beacon.

“Or the Sniyatch!” Aubrey interjected again.

“Yeah, or the Sniyatch or whatever. Easy peasy.”

"You forgot the part where we get a vacuum and beg Heathcliff to enchant it with none of the items he asked for in return!” Ned reminded Duck.

“Yes, thank you, very helpful, Ned.” Duck rubbed his temples, feeling a headache beginning to form. “Oh man I hate this plan already.”

 


  

Duck drummed his fingers on the car door, frowning as he stared out the windshield. Him and Aubrey were currently seated in Ned’s new van, waiting for him to find the vacuum in the Cryptonomica.

Won’t be but a moment, fellas!

Neither Duck or Aubrey had believed that statement, and it had been a good ten minutes now.

They sat there, Duck lost in thought. Before leaving the lodge he had told Indrid to wait there since he couldn’t exactly tag along with them to Sylvain. As Aubrey and Ned made their way ahead of them, Duck had noticed a scowl on Indrids face and asked what was wrong.

Oh, nothing, Duck Newton. I love when you agree to being bait against my advice.

Duck had opened his mouth and shut it, unsure how to respond and Indrid just shook his head at him as he turned on his heel

Now, hold on. Duck has said, reaching out to grab hold of Indrid. It’s not like I love the idea of being bait.

Indrid shrugged Ducks hand off. Just go get your vacuum, Duck. He had called over his shoulder and left to join Barclay back in the office, leaving Duck feeling like a fool in the lobby, hand hanging in the air.

Now Duck sat here in Ned’s ridiculous van, wishing the man would hurry up so he could stop letting his mind wander.

“Soooo, Duck,” Aubrey said, snapping Duck out of his thoughts.

“What is it, Aubrey?” He sighed, sensing where this was going.

“Wanna  tell me what you and Indrid were, hmm, talking about this morning?” She rested her elbows on her knees, chin in her hands as she smirked at Duck.

“First of all, it’s rude to ask about other peoples private conversation. Second of all,” Duck glared at her in the rearview mirror, “shut up.”

She snorted, “So you’re gonna tell me you weren’t making out hardcore with the Mothman?”

Duck blanched at that, struggling for words.

“I. You! Aubrey. Shut up.”

Aubrey laughed at that, shaking her head, “So that hickie on your neck appeared out of nowhere then?”

“H-Hickie?” Duck scrambled, pulling the sun visor down to flip open the mirror and inspect his neck. Upon finding no evidence of a hickie he turned slowly to Aubrey who was back to smirking at him. “There— There is no hickie.”

“Mmm, yeah, there’s no hickie. But good trick, right?”

"You’re cruel, Aubrey.”

Aubrey flashed a smile at Duck, “So you gonna admit you’re getting it on with the Mothman or not?”

Duck groaned, pinching the bridge of his nose, “I’m not getting it on with anyone, christ. We— Jesus, fine we’ve made out a little, are you happy, Aubrey? Can’t you wait to do this until after we’ve dealt with this abomination?”

“Oh, where’s the fun in that?”” she asked, still grinning. She glanced out the window then and Duck turned back to look out the windshield to see Ned finally leaving the Cryptonomica. “We’ll table this for now. But Duck?”

“Yeah, what now?”

“There might not be a hickie on your neck, but there is definitely one on Indrid’s neck.” Aubrey said with a small giggle as Ducks head spun around to face her again, “Just saying, you two are anything but subtle.”

“There’s a hickie on Indrid?” Duck hissed, trying to recount the morning.

“Hello friends!” Ned hollered as he threw the door open, bringing the conversation to a halt. He tossed a small handheld vacuum at Duck, who did his best to catch it without fumbling. Ned climbed inside the van then, and glanced between the other two; Aubrey, grinning and triumphant, and Duck, flustered beyond belief. “Did I, uh, miss something?”

“No!” Duck snapped as Aubrey broke out into another laugh. “Just, let’s get this over with.”

"Oh, Duck, I’m sure Heathcliff will help us out. We’ve been nothing but cordial with him.” Ned patted Ducks shoulder, trying to reassure him, but grossly misunderstanding Ducks nervousness. Aubrey just continued giggling from the backseat, drinking in every second of Duck’s distress.

“Yeah, Ned, I’m sure you’re right,” Duck sighed, “Now come on. Let’s go see a talking cat about a vacuum.”