Chapter 1: The Highwayman
The stagecoach rolls and rattles through the scrubby trees, kicking up dust. A good deal of it goes into the air, but plenty lands on the man seated next to the driver: Duck Newton, lawman of uncertain rank (he prefers “ranger”). He’s been ordered to guard the lock-box one of the passengers is transporting from any outlaws or other unsavory marauders.
Well, it’s really one outlaw in particular that has every wealthy man and lawman west of the Mississippi on edge. A criminal going by the name Indrid Cold. He’s never been caught, never even been at risk of being so, and gets the drop on his quarry no matter how careful or cunning a plan is in place to avoid him.
Duck was chosen to guard this particular coach with orders to bring back Cold if he showed his face. He was selected due to being one of the few men who didn’t start quaking at the mention of Colds’ name. He ain’t scared of him, or of the stories the drunks in nearby towns keep telling about a huge black demon with red eyes that haunts the trees at night.
Cold thinks he’s tough? Well, Duck’s awful tough too. That’s what he tells himself as he keeps his ears open, scans the trees and the horizon for signs of trouble. Something rustles in the brush to his right and he turns. Nothing there. The coach slows to a stop.
He turns to look at the driver, but the driver is no longer in his seat. In his place is a man with a pair of red spectacles, white hair sticking out from under his black hat. He flashes Duck a wide grin.
There’s a burst of color and pain behind Ducks eyes and then the world goes dark.
Duck blinks his eyes open and finds he’s staring at the bones of a campfire. An itch against his wrist tells him his hands are tied behind his back, and he glances down to see his ankles are tied as well. And he is most definitely lying on the floor of a cave of some kind.
There’s movement to the right of the firepit and he shifts his head to see a black clad figure rifling through what he is sure is the pack he brought with him on the coach. The figure stops moving, straightens up.
“Glad to see you’re awake.” A surprisingly soft voice says before the figure turns. It’s the man from the coach, sans his hat. Tall, lanky, pale hair and red glasses. There’s only one person Duck knows of who matches that description.
“Indrid Cold.” He says, as he manages to get himself sitting upright.
“At your service.” The man smiles again, tips his head in a gesture of deference.
“You mind tellin' me-”
“What you’re doing here?” Cold finishes the sentence along with Duck. He settles down with his back to the opposite wall so they’re facing one another (the cave isn’t huge, though it is large enough to keep Cold at a distance and for that Duck is grateful). Stretches his legs out in front of him, relaxed as a cat lying in the sun.
“You’re here because once I collected my prize” he pats the small box sitting nearby “the rest of your party was free to go, including the rather rattled coach driver. But you posed an issue. You see, I’d a hunch the authorities in this area would send one of their best, someone who was liable to double back and find me if I let him go. And I was right, in that they sent you, Duck Newton.”
“How did you?”
“Your eyes. They’re quite distinct, and while I’m solitary in my work I do pay enough attention to know that the outlaws in this area have met their match in the man with mismatched eyes who goes by the name of Duck.”
Any pride Duck feels at apparent reputation is crushed by something heavy and frigid that settles into his chest as he realizes that if Cold considers him a threat, his odds of leaving the cave alive are slim.
“I must say you’re tougher than most, it took me two tries to knock you out. Speaking of which.” He stands and crosses to Duck, crouching beside him. Reaches out a hand making Duck tense and pull away.
“No need for that. I merely wish to examine your head to make sure you’re not about to bleed to death in my cave.”
“Sure, hate to have nature rob you of the chance to kill me yourself.” Duck spits out. Cold seems taken aback.
“I assure you I have no intent to kill you. Goodness, what kind of person kills someone who can’t even run away?”
Duck blinks in surprise at that, before deciding he doesn’t believe Cold for an instant; plenty of outlaws act the gentleman at first. The gunshots and broken bones usually aren't far behind.
Cold takes him by the chin and turns his head (strangely strong for someone so skinny) feels at the bruise forming on one of Ducks’ temples and the back of his head. Duck tries to throw his head back and smash Cold on the nose in the hopes that’ll give him time to get free , but Cold counters by fisting a hand in his hair and holding his head in place.
“I suggest not trying that again.” His voice is low and deadly serious in Ducks’ ear. Then he releases him and stands.
“You’re not bleeding and the bruises are not too bad, given how hard I hit you. You should heal up just fine.” He begins searching for something.
“Hallelujah.” Duck answers, dryly.
Indrid turns, holding the bedroll Duck had carried with him. He shakes it out, lays it near Ducks feet.
“I presume that is preferable to sleeping on the bare rock or next to me.” He jerks his head towards a slightly larger roll laid out on the other side of the fire.
Duck nods. Cold stands awkwardly for a moment.
“Right, well, goodnight. Please do not try to escape during the night. It will not end well.”
He turns on his heel, sits down, extinguishes the small lantern, plunges the cave into darkness.
Duck sits for a moment, considering his options. With a sigh, he rolls into a vaguely comfortable position onto the familiar fabric. Shuts his eyes. For all he knows he may never open them again.
His eyes do, in fact, open the next morning as light of the April morning filters through the mouth of the cave and the hole in its roof. Cold is seated similarly to how he was the night before, though his jacket is off and his sleeves are rolled up. He’s holding a notebook, drawing hurriedly and humming to himself. Duck can’t, for the life of him, tell how old he is or where he comes from. His clothes suggest someone who fancies himself high class, but he’s so otherwise unkempt that he can’t have grown up in any kind of respectable family. His few belongings, along with those he’s taken from Duck, are strewn about the small cave.
Duck sits up as best he can, stiff from the night spent on the cave floor. And here he’d thought nothing could be less comfortable than sleeping on dirt. Looking down, he realizes his hands are now tied in front of him and he has some ability to work with them.
“I took the liberty of untying you for a bit while you slept. While that may have been a tad impropriotous, I assumed you’d prefer it to what happens to human limbs if they’re tied up for too long. Plus, it’ll make it easier for you to eat, food’s right there if you want it, by the by, as I got the sense you might try to bite me if I tried to feed you myself.” Cold doesn’t look up at all during his speech, merely points to a small bit of food spread out on a handkerchief.
“Damn right I would’ve.” It would have been payback for the pounding in his skull.
“Really, I’d untie you completely if I thought you wouldn’t try to attack me or run off into the desert.”
“To tell you the truth I, uh, ain’t got, ah, fuck, any intention of runnin' off. Happy to, uh, hell, to stay here. Fuck.”
Cold stares at him.
“That may have been the worst lie I have ever heard.”
“Yeah, I suppose it was.” Duck flicks a pebble across the cave in annoyance with Cold and his own unshakeable honesty. Rolls onto his back.
He has no intention of shooting the breeze with a man wanted by every lawman in five hundred miles, especially when all that man has done is tie him up and make his head hurt.
And so he lies there, rolling over only once to fumble with the canteen Cold slides his way. He spends the first little while considering his options for escape, comes up with a few he thinks may work if he bides his time a bit. When that gets boring, he recites some chunks of the bible in his head, followed by a few drinking songs and the only poem he’d ever liked enough to memorize. And when he can’t stand that anymore, he tries to name all the birds he can hear calling from outside the cave.
“I’m sorry, I’m afraid I’m not much in terms of company. A result of living a solitary life, I suppose.” Cold says.
“Ain’t an unfamiliar concept, I spend most of my time ridin' after some crook or another. Don’t leave much time for conversin'.”
There’s a rustle, at guess it’s Cold putting away his notebook.
“Do you like what you do?”
Duck turns his head to find Cold staring at him, clearly interested in the answer.
“I reckon I do. Been wantin' to roam out somewhere wild and open protectin' people since I was yea high. Once I learned there was plenty of world west of Virginia, I couldn’t wait to get to it.”
“Why?” Indrid cocks his head. Duck snorts out a laugh.
“You even been to Virginia?”
“No, though now I may have to given your glowing description.” He laughs a little, and it takes Duck a moment to realize he’s trying to joke with him. The smallest dusting off tension shakes off his shoulders, and he allows himself to laugh a little more.
Cold continues to ask him questions, manages to actually convince him to eat, tells him of his travels (careful to avoid mentioning anything Duck could use to help the authorities catch him). Duck becomes so engrossed by the conversation that dusk surprises him. He hadn’t thought they’d been talking that long.
Cold builds a small fire, using torn pages from his notebook as kindling. Shares the warmth of it with Duck, seemingly unworried enough that he sits well within striking distance. But Duck has no intention of striking, at least not tonight. For now, he’ll bide his time and continue to get on the outlaws’ good side. Then he’ll make his move.
After all, there’s no way Cold could see it coming, now is there?
Chapter 2: Wake up, Sweetheart
Duck wakes up in two separate predicaments on two separate days.
The following two days pass the same as the first. Which is to say, Duck is enjoying being kidnapped more than he’d guessed.
He’d been suspicious, even after the first day, that Cold was luring him into a false sense of safety. He’d heard plenty of stories of rangers, sheriffs, marshals, captured by outlaws and subjected to the worst kinds of humiliation and torture. But Cold was true to his word, never raised a hand towards Duck. In fact, it seemed his main concern was making sure he was being a good host. Duck began to suspect that Cold hadn’t ever spent much time in the company of another person, as he was awkward or unsure in their interactions more often than he was well-spoken or confident. He also had strange habits, like dumping sugar into his water or sleeping with no apparent regard for time of day.
Not that Duck doesn’t keep trying to get away. But every time he has a plan he likes, Cold unintentionally does something to throw it off enough to make it not worth the risk. There’s also the issue of the red glasses; they’re thick enough that Duck can’t always tell where Cold is looking or if his eyes are even open. Which means more than once he’s begun to try and undo his bonds when a nonchalant, “I can see that” drifts his direction.
On the fourth morning, Duck wakes up in a predicament.
He’d been dreaming of the sort of formless, faceless tryst that comes so often during sleep and woken up to find his body still responding to said dream.
A glance around shows him Cold is gone. And his arms are tied in front of him.
He really doesn’t want Cold coming back and finding him like this. Modesty isn’t always one of his virtues, but he does not want to discuss this fact of nature with his kidnapper.
Plus, he’s still incredibly horny.
It takes a bit of doing to get his cock half out of his pants and into his fist. The range of motion is limited because of the rope, but he manages. Shuts his eyes, tries to will the images from the dream back into his mind. It’s here that he encounters his second problem.
That is, every time he closes his eyes, it’s Cold he sees. The moments when he’s lit by the dying fire or the rising sun, when something handsome flickers underneath the strange edges of his features. And, though Duck is loathe to admit it, the few moments when he’s gripped Duck a little harder than necessary to restrain him or tie the ropes back on.
“Fine” Duck hisses though grit teeth.
He works his hand quickly and purposefully, turns his mind loose and finds he’s thinking about having Cold underneath him on bed somewhere, flushed and panting as Duck fucks him so hard and so well that he swears he’ll never rob anyone or anything again as long as Duck doesn’t stop. Thinks about sinking his teeth into his skin, seeing how raw he can make that soft voice become from screaming.
He comes with a shudder, winces at how even the small gasp that follows echoes in the damn cave.
“They must have different manners in Virginia. I was under the impression it was impolite to do that where someone might see it.”
Duck doesn’t need open his eyes to know Cold is near his feet, likely with that smug smile on his face. Quite frankly, at this moment he’s not sure he can look Cold in the eye ever again.
“And I was under the impression it was awful impolite to watch someone havin' a private moment. But he we are” He says, teeth still gritted.
The low laugh reaching his ears is enough to make him hazard a look at Cold. He’s standing right where Duck thought he’d be, but the smile isn’t as unkind as he anticipated. He mostly looks amused.
And it could just be from being out in the sun, but he seems a little pink as well.
Duck tries not to notice that, or the fact that something curious and hungry is circling his chest at the thought of Cold watching him touch himself.
Cold is still laughing a bit, pulls a handkerchief from his pocket and tosses it onto Duck.
“I imagine you need that.”
“How kind.” Duck says dryly, cleaning himself off.
That settles it, he has to get out there tonight. He’s starting lose his mind.That’s the only logical explanation for those thoughts.
Maybe if he says that enough, he’ll actually believe it.
It’s the click of the hammer being cocked that wakes him up.
Funny, he hadn’t taken Cold as the type to shoot him in his sleep.
He squints. The person holding the pistol to his head is definitely not Cold. They have a bandana around their face, and behind them stand three other figures, not looking at Duck. The low light of the lantern one of them is holding isn’t enough for him to make much else out.
From around the side of his new friend, he sees Cold kneeling on his bedroll in his undershirt and trousers. His hands are up, gun still held in his right, and he looks oddly calm for a man with three weapons pointed at him.
“Well, Cold, finally got the drop on ya.” The bandit in the middle of the trio steps forward a bit.
“It would seem so.”
“We’ll be takin' that box off your hands, if you don’t mind.”
“I mind quite a bit. But I’m not about to risk my life over some pieces of paper and a few coins. However, I’d ask your companion to stop pointing their gun at the gentleman on the floor. He’s well-secured and unlikely to help me even if he wasn’t.”
The leader seems to notice Duck for the first time.
“Why in hell are you holding onto some two-bit lawman? It ain’t like anyone’s gonna pay to get ‘im back.”
“I enjoy his company.” Indrid says plainly, seems perplexed when their assailants laugh.
“That’s awful rich Cold. Here, we’ll do ya a favor and get rid of the nuisance for ya.”
Duck shuts his eyes. Twenty-nine years ain’t bad, but he had hoped to live a little longer.
A shot rings out, the glass of the lantern shatters, and everything goes dark. There’s a commotion from the bandits, undercut by a strange rushing and screeching sound. There’s no moon, and the sudden loss of the lantern means Duck can’t see a damn thing. But he hears screaming and cursing and a snap that is definitely bone. Then the sound of hoof-beats in the distance and heavy panting in the cave.
A lantern, Colds’ lantern, flickers to life. The white-haired man is sitting in front of it, scrubbing blood from his face. He seems shaken. He catches sight of Duck and scurries over next to him.
“Are you alright? Did anything hit you? Here let me see oh goodness there’s blood on you.” He has Ducks face in his hands and is turning his head this way and that.
“Pretty sure that blood came off of your hands ah, lord jesus, ease up you’re makin' me dizzy.”
Cold removes his hands from Ducks face, sees the blood covering them and sighs.
He looks to his right and Duck follows his gaze to two bodies lying stone still on the ground.
“You killed ‘em?”
“Unfortunately, yes. Though it’ll keep their friends from returning, and any other outlaws in the area from thinking I’m an easy target.”
“What are we gonna do with ‘em?”
Cold turns to look at him.
“I’d planned to just drag them off into the brush a ways and let the coyotes eat them.”
Duck studies the bodies for a moment.
“We oughta bury ‘em.”
“Don’t seem right, leavin' them out to rot, even if they were lowdown crooks.”
Cold looks at Duck curiously, shrugs.
“Very well. I have a shovel stashed a ways out for, well, never mind what for. Wait here.”
He disappears from the cave into the darkness. Duck crawls closer to one of the bodies, recognizes it as the man who’d pointed the gun at his head. Cold, or someone else, must have shot him in the throat; it’s torn up something fierce. He tries to remember how many shots he heard, can’t get the fight clear in his head. Either way, the blood pooling on the floor is an unpleasant reminder of the reputation Cold carries with him. What he’s capable of.
There’s a thunk as Cold plants a shovel against the floor of the cave. He’s standing at the entrance, a silhouette save for where his glasses catch the light of the lantern.
“Come along, then. You dig, I’ll stand guard. After all, we can’t have you running off, now can we?”
Two context notes:
1) Duck is from the area of Virginia that will become West Virginia, but this is set prior to that happening.
2) This story is going to span a large chunk of time, hence Duck starting out 29.
Next up: Duck makes a break for it. It goes about as well as you'd expect.
Chapter 3: Crossroad Blues
When Indrid tries to clean up, Duck fights dirty
The next morning becomes the next afternoon, and it’s only then that Duck wakes up. Digging two graves, with the creeping fear that you might be told to dig a third for yourself, has a way of wearing a body out.
Cold had, for his part, mostly been silent or amiable during the process. And had insisted on fussing over Duck once more when they returned to the cave to be extra certain he hadn’t been injured during the fray.
There’s a sloshing noise and Duck rolls over to see Cold , in only his shirt and pants, bending down and placing two buckets of water on the ground.
“Ah good, you’re awake. Given that we both still have other peoples’ blood on us, I thought a bath of sorts was in order.” He sits down by Ducks feet and unties them, helps him up and guides him over to the pails.
“I store a few supplies along with the shovel, these included” He taps a toe against the closest bucket, begins unbuttoning his shirt.
“I figure I can take the front of the cave and you the back to, shall we say, preserve some sense of modesty. Oh, here.” He undoes the rope binding Ducks hands.
“Mighty thoughtful of you.” Duck rubs his wrists absentmindedly
“Don’t mention it.” Cold removes his shirt, hands Duck one of the buckets. Turns his back.
“Didn’t realize there was water so close by.” A plan is starting to form, if he can just keep Cold distracted.
“It’s not as close as I’d like, but it’s a pleasant walk in the cooler hours.” Cold pulls off his gun-belt, tosses it on top of his shirt. By Ducks’ count, that’s all his weapons gone.
It’s now or never.
As he moves, Cold stiffens slightly and begins to turn.
“Don’t do th-” he’s cut off as Duck tosses the all the water in the pail at him. Splutters, grabs at his glasses to keep them from falling. Duck is running as soon as the water leaves the bucket.
Cold reaches out as he darts past him, grabs his collar and yanks him backwards hard enough to throw him onto the ground. He’s on top of him in an instant, one hand scrabbling for the rope that’s just out of his reach.
“Stop! If you run out of here you’re going to regret it and I do not want to have drag you back half-dOW” Duck shoves his knee into Indrids' gut, knocking him off balance and, more importantly, off of Duck. He stands up, takes one step, but even doubled over Cold manages to shoot out a hand and pull his foot out from under him, bringing him back down onto the ground.
He lands on his hands and stomach, rolls over prepared to throw the hardest punch of his life and freezes: something thin and sharp is pressed against his neck as Cold looms over him.
His razor. Cold is always clean-shaven, which means he must keep the damn thing on him.
Duck is so very dead.
“Will you listen now?” Cold hisses down at him.
“Ain’t got much choice.” He brings his hands to the ground on either side of his head in surrender.
“We are far, far away from any town, any shack, any place you could find food or shelter. And there is a storm coming. If you don’t drown in a flash flood, you will die before you can get back to town from the heat.”
“Why should I believe you?” Duck growls up at him.
“Because I don’t lie about such things. And the futures I see are seldom wrong”
He isn’t lying, almost sounds insulted that Duck thinks he is.
The blade is still pressing against his skin.
“Fine. I believe you.”
Cold relaxes back slightly onto his heels. Duck takes that window to sink his teeth into the closest part of Colds arm in hopes of making him drop the razor.
Instead, Cold tightens his grip on the handle, the yelp he makes quickly giving way to a gasp that is decidedly not one of pain. The noise goes straight to Ducks cock.
Some small voice scolds him that now is not the time. He ignores it, releases Colds arm, raises up on his elbows and bites him on the shoulder. This time, there’s a noise between a growl and purr as Cold tangles the fingers of his other hand in Ducks hair, tugging on it until Duck relents and lets go. They’re face to face now.
Duck grins at Cold.
“Said I believed you, not that I’d stop tryin' to run.”
Cold eyes him for a moment before that sharp smile spreads across his face. There’s a clatter as the razor is tossed to the floor, but Duck doesn’t see it happen because Cold has pulled him into the hardest, angriest kiss of his life. He’s pushed onto his back, Cold clambering fully on top of him, hands moving from his hair to pin each of his own to the stone beneath him.
“Insufferable creature.” Cold mutters as he breaks away to bite Ducks lip.
“That makes two of ‘em in this cave.”
Cold laughs, kisses him again while rolling his hips and Duck moans, tilts his own hips up to beg for more. Cold releases his hands, begins roaming his long fingers across Ducks neck, chest, sides, anywhere he can find to touch. Duck wraps on arm around Colds' back, runs the other through his pale hair and grips it tight, feeling the man on top of him shudder as he does.
Goddamn, they should have decided to pass time this way days ago.
Cold pulls up slightly, gazing at Duck. He looks younger from this angle, flustered, like something strange and enchanting that Duck needs to protect. He reaches up to touch his cheek when Cold abruptly sits up, adjusting his glasses.
“No, nono, I can’t, you’re, you’re still my hostage, I can’t take, can’t take advantage. It wouldn’t be gentlemanly, it wouldn’t be right.”
Duck is too stunned by the shift in tone to even object when Cold begins tying his hands together.
“Silly, that was silly of me, I apologize, I, I didn’t mean.” He seems to speaking more to himself than to Duck.
“Ain’t that you gotta apologize for. More put-out by the whole threatenin' to kill me thing.”
Cold flushes with embarrassment
“I’m sorry for that as well. Oh goodness, this day has not gone how I expected it to. Excuse me.” He stands, exits the cave in a hurry.
It’s only after a few moments of sitting there that Duck realizes he didn’t even get to take a bath.
Well, ain’t that just the icing on the shitcake.
He doesn’t see Cold for the rest of the day, and only hears him come in once the sun has been down for hours. He wishes he knew what to say.
But to know what to say, he has to know what the hell is going on and he’s at a loss. He wants Cold, and Cold seems to want him. Duck knows he’d want to fuck him, and maybe even more than that, even if he wasn’t trapped. But once he’s free, they’re unlikely to see each other again. And that’s before he’s even considered the whole “on opposite sides of the law” issue.
Somewhere in all that thinking he drops off to sleep.
When he wakes up, the cave is empty save for him and his few possessions. There’s no rope anywhere on him. And there’s a piece of paper sticking out from a rock that’s been placed where he would see it as soon as he opened his eyes.
Unfolding it as he stretches his limbs, he begins to read.
I hit upon the idea yesterday to simply abandon this hideout for good. As much as I like it, your freedom seemed more important, and so I will move on and find new haunting grounds. I’ve also taken the liberty of acquiring you a horse, as I was speaking the truth when I said this is perilous territory for one to navigate on foot if they do not know the area. Her name is Winnifred and she is tied up outside.
If you go East, in forty miles you’ll hit the town of Rockridge. Twenty miles Southwest you’ll find Silver Springs. Keep in mind there is still a thunderstorm coming so you are not caught unawares.
Perhaps we shall meet again, but until we do I am humbly yours,
Duck reads the note over twice more before he finishes gathering his things. He finds Winnifred tied up and saddled outside, gives her a friendly rub on the nose. She seems to like him.
He takes a look around, sees only one set of hoofprints, meaning Cold left on foot. The boot tracks heading west suggest that as well. He’d been so worried about the storm it’s unlikely he’d chance getting to Rockridge before it given the distance.
That settles the decision for him; after all he has orders to bring Cold back dead or alive, and he still needs to recover the money the outlaw stole. If he doesn’t manage either of those things, his reputation will never heal from the blow. Those are his only reasons. He swears it on his eventual grave.
He climbs onto the horse, turns her towards the Southwest.
“Alright Winnie, let’s go get our man.”
Next up: Indrid plays poker and Duck gambles.
Chapter 4: Ring of Fire
Indrid gets bullets everywhere. Duck gets in over his head.
He makes Silver Springs by the late afternoon, thunderheads looming behind him as he rides. Finds a stable for Winnie whose owner is merciful enough to let Duck make use of an older water trough so he can get clean.
Once he feels more human, he sets out into town. It’s not large, a collection of saloons, a few hotels, a general store, a church, some houses scattered about. From the stares he’s getting, it’s also not a town that takes kindly to lawmen. He follows a hunch to a seedier saloon, tries not to draw attention to himself as he steps inside. Sits down at the bar, orders rye whiskey, scans the room as he drinks.
A familiar laugh draws his attention and he glances towards a dark corner to his right. Five people are seated around a table playing cards. One, with his back to Duck, is dressed in black, tall and lean. He takes off his hat for a moment to run a hand through his white hair.
He hasn’t seen Duck, and so Duck lets his gaze wander elsewhere lest he be caught staring. But he keeps his ears open, listens to the game unfold. It’s clear Cold is winning.
“A fine pair, but I do believe my full house wins this hand.”
“I’m calling, as you are bluffing.”
“How in tarnation?”
“Lord, Frank, ain’t no one can tell you’re bluffin' usually.”
“I fold. Oh well, can’t win every hand now can I? It’s been a pleasure playing with you gentlemen, but I shall quit while I’m ahead. Afternoon.” A scrape of a chair on the floor as Cold pushes away from the table and stands. He passes behind Duck, crosses the room and heads up the staircase.
Duck waits until Cold is out of view before getting up and following him.
The landing is empty when he reaches it, a row of six doors on each side of the hall, none of which show any sign of having just been closed. He paces to the end of the hall, considering his options. Honestly, maybe he ought to knock on each until Cold opens one. Still gives him the element of surprise.
The door behind him creaks open. He doesn’t have time to turn before he’s being pulled inside.
It crashes shut behind him and his back is slammed into it, the cold barrel of a revolver pressing his chin upwards to meet the red-tinted gaze of Indrid Cold.
“That’s twice now I’ve gotten the drop on you. Are you quite sure you’re in the right profession?”
“Naw, thinki'n I might quit and work in a dance hall.”
“There’s a thought. Now let me take this off your hands.” His fingers touch Ducks’ own where they’d made it to the handle of his gun. He pulls it out, empties the bullets onto the floor. Reaches to Ducks side and takes the other pistol he has strapped there, sending another staccato of bullets scattering across the ground.
“That’s all of them, yes?”
Cold steps back, tips his revolver at the sky. Flicks open the cylinder to reveal it’s empty. Grins at the consternation crossing Ducks face.
“As is so often the case in life, sometimes a good bluff is all you need.” He tosses his gun on the small table, sits down in the rooms only chair, facing Duck.
“Now that we’re equally unarmed, we can discuss things like gentlemen. Why did you follow me?”
“I’ve got orders to bring”
“Me in” Cold finishes along with him, continues, “Do you honestly think you could capture me now?”
“I sure as hell, fuck, can. I mean, uh, fuck. No.” Duck crosses his arms, leans back against the door in defeat.
“Which means your plan is?”
“I. I don’t know. I ain’t got any idea what I’m supposed to do in this situation.” He feels smaller and more defeated by the moment.
“Perhaps, then, you ought to consider what you want to do.” A shift in Colds tone, no longer mocking him.
“I….” Duck drops his arms, looks at Cold searchingly. He knows what he wants, but he’ll be damned if he says it aloud. If he speaks it, it may become real and then he’ll be well and truly in trouble.
Cold stands and approaches him slowly, as if trying not to spook him. Stops with only a knifes-edge distance between them.
“Would it help to know what I want?” He removes Ducks’ hat as he says this, hangs it on the wall next to his own.
Cold clasps his hands behind his back and leans down, kissing Duck softly. When he pulls away a moment later, he looks like a man who nearly drowned taking his first breath on dry land.
“Make things clearer?” The whisper hangs between them.
“That it does.” Duck closes the distance once again, places his hands on Colds’ hips. The kiss is the kinder relative of what they'd done the day before. The desire is there, but there’s no anger, no fierceness. Instead Cold is gentle, brings his hands to cup Ducks chin and cheeks with a feather-light touch. The tenderness takes him by surprise, so much so that he gives a small gasp, and Cold slips his tongue between his lips.
He wants this every moment of his life, wants it to be the last thing he feels before he dies. When Cold pulls back slightly he follows to kiss him again, a small hum coming from Cold as he does. It’s in this way the taller man moves him away from the door and towards the bed, coaxing him inch by inch after each kiss with the promise of another.
He’s trembling hard enough by the time the back of his knee hits the bed that he steadies himself against Cold, resting his forehead against his chest with shaking breaths. The heartbeat beneath the skin tells him Cold is overwhelmed too.
Hands run down his back and shoulders before one slips back up to brush a thumb across his lips.
“So much strength, so much courage, all wrapped up in such a lovely package.” Cold says contemplatively before dragging his lips down the length of Ducks neck and spinning him to face the bed. He's tugging Ducks' coat off, only pausing his kisses when he has no other choice.
“Indrid. Please, I, I’d like it if you called me that, if that’s alright.” There’s a tremor in his voice, and it occurs to Duck that the outlaw may be as vulnerable as he is to this thing blooming between them. That for all his confidence, they’re equally out of their element.
Coat finally off, he turns back to face him.
“Think I can manage that, Indrid.” He places a kiss at the base of his neck, smiles against the cold skin as Indrid whines and struggles to remove his own jacket.
“Goodness, I’ve never liked the sound of my name half as much as I do now.”
Duck reclines onto the bed, Indrid quickly climbing on to join him, unwillling it seems to let more than a count of ten go by without kissing him. He’s tugging at Ducks belt, nipping and nuzzling his neck, clearly with one thought on his mind.
If Duck wants to catch him off-guard, now would be the time.
To call his attempt to grab Indrid and pin him half-hearted would be to give it too much credit. Indrid merely sits up a split-second before the motion, so all Duck succeeds at doing is flipping onto his stomach.
“And here I thought we were past that.” Indrid sighs, straddling Ducks thighs to pin him. He’s never been scolded so lovingly.
“Sorry, old habitsohhhhh.” He’s not prepared for the sensation of Indrid gripping the back of his neck to hold him in place on the bed. Suddenly, he’s grateful to be above a noise-filled saloon. Otherwise, the moan he makes would be heard all the way to the pacific.
“My, my.” Indrid releases his grip slightly for a beat, then re-tightens it and Duck presses his face to the bed in hopes of stifling the sound he makes.
“Is this what you’ve wanted all along? For me to take a firm hand and break you in until you’ll let me ride you whenever I please?”
“Seems like I ain’t the only one likin that plan.” Duck grinds up and back against him.
Indrid leans forward, whispers low and hungry.
“You have no idea.” Both his hands snake underneath Ducks waist, yanking the buttons on his pants until they open and tugging them down to Ducks knees.
“I thought this encounter so unlikely I’m unprepared to, uh, ride you at the moment. But I’m sure we can figure something out.” He grips Ducks neck again, raises up on his elbow begins rutting against him. The roughness of the fabric covering his hard-on matches the pace he sets, his weight pinning Ducks hips and thighs in a way that means his cock grinds against the sheets. He never knew he could go to pieces so quickly. The begs and moans filling the room are of a caliber he hasn’t made in a long time.
“That’s it, oh gracious, move your ass like that again or I’ll, I’ll” Indrids' breathing is ragged and his nails dig into Ducks skin, the sudden sharpness all the stimulation he needs to tip over the edge, shifting his hips up as he does so, which Indrid takes full advantage of, grabbing them and grinding against him until he comes with a strange trilling noise that dies out into a groan.
Dimly, Duck is aware of lips grazing the back of his neck right before Indrids' weight leaves the bed.
He supposes he should feel guilt, or shame, or something like that at having given in so very thoroughly to temptation. What kind of upstanding lawman goes to bed with his target instead of seizing the chance to catch him?
An extremely satisfied one, he thinks with a sigh.
A more troubling thought occurs. What if Indrid, now having gotten what he wanted, no longer has a use for him?
Given the pleased melody he’s humming, this seems unlikely. But Ducks survival instinct is threatening to kick in and ruin the afterglow.
He starts when fingers brush across his hair. Turning his head he finds Indrid seated next to the bed, chin resting on one arm as he strokes Ducks head. His gaze is far away, drifts slowly back until their eyes meet.
“Have dinner with me.”
“We’ve done things out of order, you and I. By rights I should have wooed you before, well, before this happened.” He gestures sheepishly at Ducks disheveled clothes.
“And where would kidnappin' have fit into the proper order of things?”
“Ideally nowhere, but such is life.” He leans across the bed for a quick kiss before standing up. It dawns on Duck that he’d half-expected Indrid to ask him to leave as soon as they’d finished. He knows they’re certainly not the first people from opposite sides of the law to fuck, hell, they might not be the first such pair to do so in this hotel room. But from what he’s always heard those encounters generally end in awkward moments of getting dressed followed by a fare-thee-well. Not invitations to dinner.
“You haven’t answered me, you know.” Indrid picks up Ducks coat from where he dropped it, places it on the table next to his guns, then begins gathering the stray bullets from the floor.
“Suppose I could do with a real meal, specially if you’re buyin'.”
The smile that flashes across Indrids' face is bright enough to light the whole town.
Things I googled writing this chapter:
How far can a horse go in a day?
When were zippers invented?
Parts of gun?
Next up: A dinner date.
Chapter 5: Hungry For Love
Indrid does his best to charm Duck.
Four hours later Duck stands in front of the white hotel at the end of the main street, waiting for Indrid. Lucky for him, a store in town had a few shirts that fit him, sparing him having to turn up to dinner in one caked in six days worth of grime, or the sweat of that afternoon.
He’s trying to smooth his hair into something respectable, with mixed success, when an arm loops through his own.
“How are you so damn quiet all the time?”
Indrid shrugs, “it comes naturally. Shall we?”
He leads Duck inside, tips his hat to young woman at the door.
The young woman who is wearing very little.
Just like most of the women here.
“Indrid? You know this is a"
“House of ill-repute? Yes, I’m aware. Also confused by the name, really most of the names, people call it. It seems a rather rude thing to imply about the people who work here.”
“Fair enough, but why are we here?”
“They serve excellent food. And they like me, as I’ve assisted them with some unsavory patrons in the past.” They turn down a hall, moving away from the front parlor and ending in a room full of dark wood and darker corners for extremely private dining. Indrid stops at a table in the far corner, pulls out a chair and motions for Duck to sit down. He does.
One woman appears to run the whole bar, and she brings Indrid something she refers to as “the sweetest thing we got” and whiskey for Duck once it occurs to him to ask for it. The notebook he’s seen Indrid draw in sits on the table alongside a pencil, which Indrid keeps fidgeting with.
“You alright there?”
“Yes, just, lots of things on my mind. And I” His voice goes so quiet Duck can’t actually hear the end of that sentence.
“Wanna run that by me again?”
“I haven’t done this before.” He stammers out, gesturing to Duck and then himself, which Duck takes to mean asking someone to dinner.
“As I said, I’ve spent most of my years on earth on my own. I’m mostly going off my observations of others in how this should go.”
“Can’t say I had much more than you. Courted a few folks when I was younger, that’s all.”
“What happened to make those end?”
“Plenty. I left Virginia, chose work that means I could die any time I step out the door, I ain’t always the best with feelin's, take your pick.” Duck takes a sip, winces. The food may be good, but the liquor is cheap.
He catches Indrid looking at him, curious and shy. Much as he likes the man when he’s collected and clever, he’s beginning to like this gentler side even more. Indrid wouldn’t be the first gentle man to cloak himself in in roughness to survive. Duck ought to know.
“What d’ya draw?”
“Things I see that I want to..keep track of for awhile. Here, look.” He flips open the notebook, tears one page out, tosses it on the floor. Turns a few more pages before stopping and sliding the book across to Duck.
The images on the pages are elegant, far cleaner than those sketched by a man on the run have any right to be. One Duck recognizes: it’s him, seated on Winnie, staring off into the distance. He looks so handsome in it, his cheeks heat up at the thought of Indrid going to such lengths to flatter his mundane features
“I really look like that?”
Indrid looks down at the image, back up at Duck.
“I actually don’t think it does you justice. It’s just a sketch after all.” It isn’t idle flattery, Indrids’ voice earnest and sweet as he says it.
Food arrives, along with more whiskey for Duck and more whatever-it-is for Indrid. The more they talk, the more Indrid relaxes, taking Duck with him as he does. It’s similar to when they were in the hideout, conversation flowing as if they’d known each other for years. Duck thinks of what could have been if they had and finds he can’t think on it too long for how sad it makes him. Partners, perhaps, or even husbands, keeping the prairie and desert and those who dwell there safe.
After an hour or two, they’re mostly lounging as the room fills with more couples drinking, smoking, and laughing. Indrid’s stretched out his legs, resting his feet in Ducks lap under the table, and Duck runs a hand up his calf every now and then as they talk. God, the man is a stick that someone stuffed iron into, and Duck hasn’t even had a chance to touch those long legs without fabric on them.
Well, that’ll have to change, now won’t it?
He’s just finished explaining his riding and tracking habits, which his fellow rangers find strange, and Indrids' head is tilted back in a laugh.
“Gracious, Duck, you know the average man can’t run eight miles on foot and not feel winded, right?”
“I just never have. Can usually run whatever distance I need to without feelin' much. Come in mighty handy more than once.”
“Your stamina sounds otherworldly.”
“It is. And it ain’t only that way for runnin'.” He drops his voice, runs his hand up Indrids leg as far as he can reach, firmer than he has before. Indrid licks his lips, leans forward.
“I’d be awful curious to see what else it's good for.”
“Pay up and let’s get the hell outta here.” Duck gives the leg under his hand a squeeze and Indrid immediately begins pulling bills out of his coat pocket. A crack of lightning bursts outside the window, making everyone in the room save for Indrid jump. He tosses a wad of cash on the table, tips his hat to the woman at the bar, and nearly drags Duck out of his seat.
It’ll be a miracle if they can make it back to the room before Duck does something untoward.
They make it back to the room with causing an indecent public scene. Barely.
Duck has his arms around Indrid before the door even shuts all the way.
“What’ll it be, darlin'?” He asks between kisses.
“Oh, I’m your darling now, am I?” Is the teasing reply.
“Damn right. Know what that gets you?”
Duck drops to his knees, undoes the suspenders on Indrids trousers and wrestles with other pieces of his clothing until he gets a hold of his cock.
“This.” He takes the head into his mouth, sucks, and hears Indrid stifle a groan. Looks up to see him with a hand clamped over his mouth, eyes wide behind his glasses. Sucks harder, moves his tongue about, keeps his gaze on Indrids' face until the hand slips away from it.
“That’s, oh goodness, quite a sight. You, like that, looking at me with those lovely eyes. I, gracious, suggest we move the bed, else I’m likely to fall over.”
Duck pulls away, kisses him on the hip.
“Whatever you say, darlin'. But you better take everythin' off.”
“Way ahead of you.” Indrid is already shucking his clothes, and Duck races to catch up. He’s down to only his pants (why are boots so damn hard to get off at times like this) when Indrid stretches out on the bed, fully naked.
Pants will have to stay on a bit longer.
He climbs between Indrids legs, kisses his way up one of them, then all the way up his torso and neck and then Indrids lips find his own. For a moment, he lets that be all he needs; this strange, dangerous, wonderful man underneath him, kissing him desperately. Then he breaks away, sits back on his heels. Runs his hands across Indrids skin, trying to make a map of his body in his mind.
“What are you..?”
“Admirin' the view. Been imaginin' what you look like under all the black for days.”
“Oh ho, was that what you were thinking about when I-”
“Please don’t finish that sentence, I beg you.”
Indrid laughs, and as he throws his head back Duck notices a thin cord tied around his neck, low enough that it would be hidden by his collar the rest of the time. At the center of the cord is a piece of bright, orange crystal that seems to be glowing.
He’ll have to ask about that. Another time.
He lowers his head to continue his previous activity, Indrid yelping when he does. As his mouth takes in every bit of Indrid it can, his hands rove across his thighs, his hips, his waist. Each touch makes Indrid gasp, and some small part of Duck wonders when the last time someone touched him was. Or if he’s the first.
Slender fingers in his hair.
“I’m close, gracious, if you want to move now would be the timeAH.” He comes and Duck takes his time swallowing. It don’t taste like champagne, but it tastes like Indrid and in this moment that’s all he wants.
He rests his head against Indrids hip for a beat, trying to collect his thoughts. Which would be easier if his own anatomy wasn’t demanding attention.
“Please, come where I can see your face.” There it is again, that vulnerability in Indrids' tone.
“This do?” He rests his head on the pillow alongside Indrid, who turns to look at him.
“Yes, thank you. I, ahem, a quirk of how my brain works is that sometimes I worry that I’m only looking at a moment, not living it. Plus, I do so like looking at you.”
“You’re sweet, darlin'.” The heat creeps up his cheeks again, and a bashfulness he didn’t know he still had drives his gaze down.
“Why do you look like that when I say those things?” Indrid tilts his head.
“I know I’m alright to look at but I ain’t the kind to turn heads when I walk down the road. Suppose it feels a bit odd when someone looks at me the way you do.”
Indrid rolls onto his side, kisses him and runs a hand along his chest
“Then I shouldn't tell you you’re the finest looking man I’ve seen in all my years?”
“Didn’t say that.” It comes out as small laugh as Indrid raises goosebumps on his skin.
“Or that when I feel how strong you are I want to melt into your arms like some delicate flower?”
“Oh, god.” Something bubbles up inside Duck with each compliment, and he rests his head on Indrids shoulder.
“Or” Indrid shoves Ducks pants down, wraps his fingers around his cock, “that in all my years as an outlaw no one’s ever come as close to outsmarting me as you have?” His fingers work lightly up and around the shaft, thumb rubbing across the tip.
“Fuck, Indrid.” A groan, welling up from deep down at knowing that may be the highest praise Indrid could give. His hair is tangled and soft when Duck threads his fingers through it, needing something to hold onto.
“Mmm, you’re so perfect, I can’t believe I have you all to myself.”
“Darlin', please, I’m so close, just-”
“No need to beg, I’ve no plans to stop. I’ll bet you look even better when you come, ohhhh yes it seems I was right.” He purrs as Duck shudders and comes with his arms wrapped tight around the taller man. It’s several minutes before he can form a useful sentence.
“People’ve said plenty of flatterin' things to get me into bed, but that’s the first time someone’s kept it up once I was in it.”
“What a shame, you seem to like it. They had no idea what a sight they were missing.” Indrid kisses the top of his head.
They talk for awhile, the kinds of things people only seem to mention in those hazy moments after sex. It’s when they change positions that Duck notices something intriguing.
“You’re already rarin' to go again, huh?”
“I recover quickly.”
Duck rolls on top him with a hungry look in his eyes.
“Well how about that? So do I.”
The rain and wind pummels the town throughout the night, the kind of summer thunderstorm that makes one unusually glad for any roof, rock, or shrub to hide under.
But Duck Newton is not dreaming of rain. He’s dreaming of fire, a hill, a town, a barn all caught in a blaze. A beam above him cracks and then he awakens with a jolt, only half aware that what he heard was thunder.
“Bad dream?” A sleepy, concerned voice asks.
At that, Indrid sits up next to him, wraps a comforting arm around his shoulder.
“I get these, well, these dreams that feel like more than dreams, sometimes. Ain’t really sure how to explain ‘em. And the worst part is they happen, not always in the way I expect but they do. Aw, hell, that’s make me sound crazy, don’t it.” He looks at Indrid, too tired to hide the worry that crosses his face when he realizes this is the first living soul he’s told about this.
“It doesn’t sound that way at all. You’re not the first person I’ve met to have visions.”
“That’s reassurin', I suppose.” Now if only he could stop shaking.
“Here, I have an idea. Lay on you side, away from me.”
Duck does, and Indrid curls up behind him, holding him close, a small, steady hum emanating from his chest.
“In my experience, this can help soothe the mind enough that the bad visions don’t interrupt your sleep again.”
“I’ll tell you another time.”
Duck wants to keep asking, but the feeling of Indrid wrapped around him soon pulls him down into sleep.
Duck spots two things simultaneously when he wakes up the next morning: the empty space in the bed beside him, and the lock-box sitting on the table.
He sighs, makes his sore limbs move enough to grab the box and the folded paper beneath it, muttering curses the whole time. Of course Indrid had no plans for anything beyond one night with him. He’d been damn naive to think otherwise.
He slumps onto the bed, and by the time he’s finished reading his mood is much improved.
Apologies for once again slipping away before you awake. Had it been solely up to me, I’d have stayed all morning, all day, all night. But there is an urgent matter I must attend to.
I very much enjoy your company, in all meanings of the word. If you wish to see me again, then you shall. To say anything beyond that in writing is to put us both at risk.
You’ll find the contents of the lock-box I stole from the coach that brought you to me are all accounted for. It turned out to be the least valuable thing I acquired during that robbery. When you give it to your superiors, perhaps simply say you got the better of me, even if I managed to get away. You’re job will be safe if you do so.
If you wish it, I will see you soon. Until then I remain faithfully yours,
Next up: A time jump, and a new perspective.
Chapter 6: The Fugitives Lament
Indrid Cold is in love. It's a pity it's with the man driving him to jail.
Six months later, Indrid Cold sits atop a boulder, shielded by a few scrappy trees. This allows him to see where the road peaks and if anyone comes down it long before they have a chance to see him.
He’s so, so very chilly, draws his coat around himself in hopes of trapping more heat. This is his last robbery for the year, then he’ll hole up somewhere over the winter until it’s warm enough to go outside without freezing to death. There’s plenty of money to last him through his forced respite.
If only he had someone to spend it with. It’s that thought that occupies his daydreams as he waits for his prey. There must be somewhere, a hotel, perhaps a cabin, with a big fireplace and a stack of blankets and a bed soft enough that he and Duck can spend months in it and never want to leave.
Oh, Duck. His sweet Duck. He’d never leave his work for that long. And Indrid would never ask him to, as much as he wishes to spend every day by his side.
When he’d slipped out the saloon door all those months ago, he spent the morning in fear of how many futures there were where Duck never sought him out again. All those futures disappeared at once, he guesses at the moment Duck finished reading his letter.
And so they found one another, again and again. Duck has yet to fully relinquish the idea that he’s tracking Indrid in order to bring him to justice, but it takes little to no time for him to set that notion aside when they lay eyes on each other. Indrid encourages this strange game of cat and mouse, leaving tracks a tad too obvious, walking a ridge a little too long, when he knows it’s Duck who’s looking for him.
When Indrid finds Duck there’s no pretense at all, perhaps because Duck doesn’t need a reason to be found, only to find. Indrids' favorite rendezvous happened in the heat of August, when he’d come upon Duck washing in one of the ponds dotting the edge of the mountains. He’d unleashed a string of curses when Indrid snuck up behind him. And invented new ones with his back in the dust and Indrids' head between his legs. Neither of them had been in a hurry and so they’d spent the day in and out of the water, ended it laying in each others arms out on a large stone, soaking up its warmth as dusk crept over the sky.
As he’d expected, Duck asked him why he’d chosen the life of a fugitive. He’d told him half the truth: that he had specific skills, but when he’d tried to use them to help people, he kept taking the blame for the very disasters he wanted to prevent. He grew tired of fleeing towns with nothing to show for it. And so he’d settled into using them for his gain.
“Oughta try doin' it on the right side again some time.” Duck said sleepily.
Indrid said he’d think about it. He has ever since, can’t find a future yet where it works.
Not all their encounters were amorous. There were nights like the one where Duck received word of his fathers death. Indrid saw it coming, risked sneaking into the building Duck shared with other rangers and slipping into his room. Spent the night simply holding Duck, listening to him when he wanted to talk, comforting him when the words caught or cracked in his throat.
He thinks of that moment as he keeps his watch, sighs.
Love. Love is what he feels for Duck. That makes his life so very difficult, but he holds it tight, guards it fiercely.
A stagecoach crests the hill. That’s his cue. He disappears from his spot into the forest, heading towards the road. There is a 95% chance the loot he needs is on that coach.
His timing is impeccable; he grabs the back of the coach just as it rattles past, climbs carefully up and over it. As he prepares to drop down, he already knows there will be a gun waiting for him. And, hopefully, a certain pair of eyes.
He lands on the seat next to the driver, who points a pistol at him as soon as he does. Looking past the barrel, he spies a face wrapped in a heavy scarf, and the mismatched eyes he sees each night in his dreams.
“Shall I take my weapons off, or would you rather do it for me?”
“Drop ‘em all. Don’t try anythin'.”
He undoes his gun-belt, hands it to Duck. The knife in his boot comes next.
“The one in your inside pocket too, darlin'.” The last word escapes out of habit, given that Duck looks embarrassed that it got out.
“That’s all.” He hands Duck the smaller knife, folds his hands on his lap.
“Do I gotta tie you? Or do you promise not to run?”
“I won’t run, or try anything else to get away.” He looks Duck in the eye, holds his gaze, and then the other man nods and holsters his gun.
“Are you about to tell me the money isn’t even in this coach?”
“That I am. We sent two coaches, one on each route. I took the empty one on the road I thought you’d use.”
“I'd guessed they’d send two, and assumed they’d send you to guard the real one against me, and that you’d take the trickier route. Looks like you finally outsmarted me.” Indrid smiles fondly, pats his knee.
Duck grunts, hunches his shoulders against the cold.
They sit in silence for a bit.
“Have you heard from Jane lately.”
“Why are you askin' me that?”
“I’m catching up. I understand that’s what sweethearts do when they’ve been apart.”
“Indrid, I am takin' you to jail”
“That doesn’t mean we can’t be sweethearts.” He slides his left hand under Ducks poncho to wrap it around the hand not holding the reins.
Duck looks over at him, expression softening as he intertwines their fingers.
“Suppose you’re right.”
Indrid scooches closer as he tells him about the last letter he got from his sister, Jane, until his head is resting on Duck's shoulder. He shivers, and Duck releases his hand in order to being his free arm around him, and suddenly he is warm and safe, hums a little and settles in for the ride.
“You’re awful calm, considerin' what’s waitin' for you.”
“I'm with you, I find that makes it difficult to be afraid.”
“I can’t help you.” His voice is serious, upset.
“I don’t expect you to.” It’s the truth. Indrid knows exactly what’s coming when they get to that sheriffs' office. He wishes he could tell Duck not to worry and why he shouldn’t. But he can’t.
“Goddamn it, why’d you have to go for such an obvious thing to steal!”
“Because I know everything being sent on this delivery belongs to men who make their money off the unhappiness of others. Rather steal that than the savings of some poor folks who happen to be in the wrong stagecoach at the wrong time.”
“Don’t try playin' yourself off as some Robin Hood or somethin'. You also kill folks.”
That one stings, and he lets Duck hear as much in his tone.
“No more than you have. I’ve killed only when it was that or die myself. Or let someone I care about die.” He looks at Duck pointedly.
“I ain’t proud of the times I done it.” Duck mutters.
“Nor am I.” Indrid shoots back.
A heavier silence settles over them this time, though Indrid can’t bring himself to move out of the embrace.
“‘M sorry, darling. I’m just...guess I’m just trying to convince myself that I’m doin' the right thing, bringin' you in.
“I understand. All I ask is that you not make me out to be worse than I am.”
“Deal.” Duck pecks a kiss on the back of his head.
The talk becomes more casual after that. Indrid is so caught up in it he nearly misses an important change in the future.
“Get your gun ready.”
“I’m not the only person on this road looking for that money.”
Duck unshoulders the Winchester rifle on his back. Hands Indrid one of his revolvers.
“Yes.” He yanks Duck down a split-second before there’s a crack and a bullet bursts the wood behind where Ducks' head had been.
“C’mon!” Duck pulls him down of the coach as the horses rear back. Indrid takes the reins, tries to keep them from bolting while Duck fires off into the trees.
He hates gunfights, the trajectory of a bullet is hard to predict even with the gift of foresight. Another shot comes and he knocks Duck to the side, pain flashing in his shoulder when he does. Aims his revolver. Misses.
“I got a plan.” Duck whispers, before raising his voice and his hands.
“Hold up! Just hold up! We ain’t got anythin' worth shootin' us over.”
“Like hell you don’t” comes a shout from the trees.
“I swear it. We’re the decoy. Coach is empty, come down and see.”
“Tell your friend there to drop his gun!”
Indrid releases the handle before the man finishes speaking.
Five figures step from the trees and rocks, three keep their weapons pointed at Duck and him while the other two ransack the coach.
“He’s right, there ain’t nothin' here.”
“What do we do with them?” The man closest to Indrid jerks his gun at the pair.
“Let us go. I ain’t seen or heard enough to recognize you, nor has my friend here. ’sides, ain’t no crime if nothin' was stolen.”
Four turn to look at one bandit, with a white kerchief around her face.
“Fine. Leave ‘em be boys, let’s get the hell out of here.”
Duck waits until they’re out of sight to drop his arms with a sigh of relief.
“Well played.” Indrid picks up his gun, hands it back to Duck while kissing him on the cheek. Duck smiles at him, then goes pale. Indrid follows his gaze to the wet patch blooming on his shoulder around a tear in his jacket. It hurts as soon as he acknowledges it.
“Oh dear. I’ve been shot.”
Next up: We meet two new characters, both with names that start with "B."
Chapter 7: Ain't No Grave
Duck feels guilty, Indrid keeps calm, and three little words are spoken.
Duck has never driven so fast in his entire life.
Indrid seems calm, but gets greener as the journey goes on.
When they finally reach the sheriffs' office, Duck’s sent for the doctor before he even gets inside.
“Duck Newton, why is the fugitive not tied up?” The voice of the sheriff creaks out as Duck helps Indrid through the door.
“He’s hurt, Beacon.”
“That’s no reason to let him run loose.”
Duck breathes deep, counts to five.
“I’m puttin' him in the cell now.”
He eases Indrid down onto the bench in the cell and whispers, "You holdin' up?"
“I’ll be alright, go deal with your unpleasant friend.” A weak smile, but one that reaches all the way to his eyes.
He closes the door, watches as Indrid slumps against the wall, eyes shut and breathing deep. Notices the red on his hands from where he tried to staunch the bleeding earlier. Something close to panic prickles at his chest. Where the hell is the doctor?
“I was told I was needed here?”
“Dr. Barclay! Honestly, I have no idea why Duck Newton sent for a doctor for a man who’ll likely be hung in two days.”
“Ain’t no reason to let him suffer.” Duck forces the words to come out calm.
“I happen to agree with Ranger Newton.” Barclay steps beside him, looks into the cell.
“I’ll be, Indrid Cold.” The doctor says this to himself more than to Duck. Indrid glances at Barclay and Duck swears he smiles again as Duck swings open the door.
Barclay kneels next to Indrid, helps him out of his coat. Looks at the wound but doesn’t touch it.
“You got lucky. Bullet went past you, not in, though it sent some of your coat into the wound. Duck, I need you to boil water for me, and bring me a candle so I can sterilize my tools.”
Duck does as asked, decides he likes Barclay as he watches him carefully tend to Indrid and the let wounded man grip his shoulder as he tugs the pieces of fabric out, cleans the wound, and stitches it up.
“Jesus, Beacon, what?”
“We need to discuss your next mission. Would you prefer to leave tonight or wait until after Cold is taken care of?”
Duck glances over his shoulder and his heart tugs at his ribs.
“Choosing to miss the festivities, then?”
“Ain’t nothin' festive about a man dyin'.” He snaps.
By the time Beacon finishes briefing him, Barclay is gone and Indrid is stretched out, relaxed, in the cell. Duck leans against the bars and Indrid stands, comes so that it's only the metal between them.
“And here I was hoping we’d have a bit more time together.” A cool hand comes to rest atop Ducks' own.
“I don’t know what to say, darlin'.”
“I believe goodbye is customary.”
It’s mercy, Indrid speaking to him like this. If he was frightened, or sad, Duck wouldn’t be able to manage.
Indrid draws his hand into the cell, brings it his to lips for a kiss.
Two days later, Duck sits by his campfire as night falls. Ash settles on the sand, sticks pop and crack, and he pretends the tears occasionally hitting the dirt are because of the smoke in his eyes.
Indrid is dead by now. He knows how Beacon is, how he prefer swift, merciless action.
To make matters worse, when he looks up there’s a figure with red glasses standing just outside the light of the fire.
“So I can hallucinate out of guilt. Good to know.”
“Is that what you think this is?” A smooth, familiar voice asks, and then he can see Indrid, amused smile on his face.
“I’m sorry darlin'.”
“For what?” A head tilt.
“I shoulda let you go, should’ve made a different plan, should’ve bribed Beacon, hell I don’t know. Should’ve snuck in to that damn cell the night before they hung you, like you would’ve done for me. And, and, I should’ve” He’s crying again, can’t bring himself to care, keeps wiping his eyes.
“I should’ve told you I love you. You deserved to know that before, before…”
“Duck.” The vision of Indrid crouches next to him
“I love you so much darlin'.”
“Duck.” The voice is firmer this time, enough that Duck stops speaking and looks at him. The vision reaches forward and shoves his shoulder. He lands on his back, stunned.
“I love you too. But please stop thinking I’m imaginarOHGOODNESS.” He doesn’t let Indrid finish, pulls him down to kiss him, refuses to let him up even when they break apart to breathe.
“How in the hell?”
“All I’ll say is Sheriff Beacon has recently discovered the window of his cell has been removed. And a horse has been turned loose in the opposite direction from where I actually went, and they have not caught it yet and realized they’ve lost me.I had to wait until you were out of the area so no one could suspect you of helping me.”
“You..you knew you were going to escape?” Duck sits up, Indrid going with him.
“You. Lousy. Sonofa, I thought you were DEAD. You let me think I helped put a noose around your neck!” It’s his turn to shove, knocking Indrid onto his back, climbing on top of him and grabbing his lapels.
“It was the best available option! I planned to find you so you’d know I was alive, I swear oh OH oh I see.” Duck kisses his neck before biting down and sucking a bruise into the skin. He snaps his gaze back up to glare at Indrid.
“I swear to Christ I could kill you right now.”
“I thought you didn’t want me dead.”
“Figure of speech, you aggravatin' headache of a man.”
“Would it make you feel better to, what’s the saying, penetrate me?”
His grip on Indrid tightens as he grins down at him, shaking his head with a laugh.
“Naw, you ain’t flirtin' your way outta this darlin', I’m still mad at you.”
“Is that what you’re calling this now?” Indrid grinds up against him, indicating the fact that Duck is hard. Duck growls, kisses him again, pressing him into the ground. There’s a sharp inhale and Indrid flinches.
“Shoulder.” He hisses out.
“Sorry.” Duck eases up, settles on kissing Indrid softly on the lips.
“That offer was genuine, you know.”
Duck sucks in a breath.
“You really want me to?”
“I’ve had several very unpleasant days. I would like to have one that ends with you inside me.”
“Think I can manage that.” Another kiss and Indrid is making small, needy sounds underneath him now and he almost doesn’t want to get up. But they could both be a bit more comfortable.
“Wanna at least move to the bed roll so we ain't just rollin' in the dirt?”
As they settle into a (slightly) less rocky spot, Indrid removes a small pouch from his pocket.
“I believe we need this.” He dumps the contents in front of Duck: a condom and a small tin of something that’s slick when Duck touches it.
“Do I even want to know how?”
“I like to be prepared.” Indrid takes off his jacket, tosses it aside.
“You gonna take all that off?” The air is already frigid and Duck has no intention of disrobing anymore than he has too.
“No, only enough to give you, um, access.” He’s turning pink in the firelight as he wriggles out of his trousers and lays down. He’s otherworldly, and Duck wishes he could keep him like this all the time.
It takes him a minute to get the condom on and slicked up, and when he looks back Indrid seems to be shaking slightly.
“Alright there darlin'?”
“Excited, a tad nervous. I’ve never done this before.”
He crawls on top of him, kisses him again.
“Well, ain’t I the lucky one then.”
He nudges Indrids legs open as the other man wraps his arms around him.
“Hope you ain’t in a hurry, plan on takin' my time with you.”
“Take as long as you wantAH!” Indrid arches his back as Duck starts to work his way in, fingers digging into his shoulders.
“Easy, easy darlin'.” He brings his right hand to cup Indrids cheek, then stroke the back of his neck. Waits for him to relax a bit before moving shallowly back and forth. He knows he can’t rush without hurting Indrid, as much as he wants to be completely inside him right away.
The top buttons of Indrids' shirt come undone easily. Duck kisses across his collar-bone, leaves love bites on the soft places between his neck and shoulders. Opens one more button, pulls the fabric aside, licks experimentally at the nipple. There’s a shaky “oh” from above him. He bites down just below the spot he licked
“Shit!” Indrid bucks his hips, pushing Duck further inside him. Duck moans, then laughs.
“Don’t think I ever heard you swear before.”
“Oh, do go fuck yourself.” Indrid pants out the ghost of a laugh, the glint in his eyes noticeable even behind the glasses.
“Now why would I do that, when I got such a good-lookin' man under me?” He teases, bumping their noses together before chancing a deeper thrust. Indrid gasps, purrs.
“More, please, I want as much of you inside as I caaaAAn oh yes, thank you.” There’s a sort of chirp to his words and then his eyes shut and Duck is quite sure he’s never seen anything so beautiful as the look of bliss on his face. Duck slowly, steadily fucks him for what feels like an eternity and a millisecond all at once. Eventually his eyes flutter open and the look he gives Duck is meant for a far better man than he know himself to be.
“Mmmm, I begin to see why people like this so much. And they don’t even have the finest man in the world as a partner.”
It’s Ducks turn to make a needy sound.
“You know what talkin' like that does to me.”
“Yes. That’s, gracious, right there, why I do it. That and you deserve to be told just how wonderful you are in and out of bed.”
Duck growls with pleasure, works his hips a bit harder and kisses Indrid hungrily.
“And you respond so well to it, use all that strength of yours to do the most delicious things to me.”
One of Indrids hands slides between them, and Duck can fucking feel the instant he begins to touch himself.
“Look at what you do to me, my sweet. I’ve never met anyone who gets me hard like you do.”
He looks down, watches with increasing desperation as Indrids fingers work his cock.
“You keep showin' me that and sayin' those things I’m gonna get so wound up I’ll fuck you into next week.”
“It’s all for you my love, my perfect, brave, wonderful Du-” Indrid doesn’t get to finish the sentence because Duck kisses him furiously, tangles his hands in his hair and fucks him frantically, every midnight fantasy he’s had over the last few months fueling his movement, the kiss stifling his moan as he comes. Panting, he looks down to see Indrid came at some point during that as well. He pulls out carefully, collapses onto Indrids chest, takes a moment simply enjoying the rise and fall of it beneath him.
“I’m so glad you’re not dead.”
Indrid laughs, tries to sit up but Duck can’t bring himself to move just yet.
They clean up as best they can, and Duck arranges his bed-roll, blanket, and poncho into something they can both sleep in or under. As they curl up in it, he makes Indrid swear not to disappear before morning.
“I promise, my love.”
They lay there for awhile, Duck pointing out the constellations or naming the birds that call in the dark. It’s then that Indrid knows he has to ask Duck something, even though the answer has no chance of being what he wants. But he needs Duck to know he wants it.
“You may not see me for awhile. I don’t do well in the winter, in fact I can get quite ill from the cold. So I’m going to find somewhere to hide away and stay warm until the worst of winter passes.”
“Would you like to come with me?”
There’s a deep sigh.
“More than anythin'. But I can’t, Indrid. I can’t abandon my work, can’t disappear for that long without someone comin' to look for me and findin' you right along with me.”
“I understand. Then I will just have to find you in the spring.” He draws Duck closer, tries to press the memory of his shape, his smell, the sound of his voice and the feel of his hair into his mind as deeply as he can.
“I’m holdin' you to that.”
“Promise to not die while I’m gone?”
“I’ll do my best. Promise not to get up to any trouble while I’m not keepin' an eye on you.”
“I swear it on my life, my love.”
I'm sure nothing will go wrong with those promises.
Man, I hate using the word penetrate but needed to so that he "no cursing" joke worked.
Next up: Another time jump and one hell of a problem.
It’s early March, still bitterly cold, and Duck is methodically searching a barn in a run-down mining town forty miles south of his home base. There’s a squad of men under his command now, as being the lawman who not only escaped Indrid Cold but captured him once lead to a sort of promotion. His men are fanned out through town, looking for a murder.
It’d begun in January. A traveler murdered in his camp while he slept. Then a lawman on a road near silver springs. A U.S Marshall next, found tied up and shot. That one lead to a second Marshall by the name of Stern being sent to Duck and Beacons' outpost to assist in the manhunt. Body after body, always killed while bound or in their sleep. And always with a slip of paper placed in their hand with a signature that Duck would recognize anywhere: Indrid Cold.
Duck can’t wrap his mind around it, tries to make his heart feel rage instead of sorrow when he thinks about.
Footsteps, hurried ones, behind him and he turns to see one of his men round the corner.
“Boss, we got ‘im.”
They run to an abandoned house a few blocks away and Duck can hear the commotion well before he sees it: His remaining five men in a tight circle around Indrid, whose hands are already bound behind him. He’s still struggling.
“Bastard didn’t want to go down, boss, so we had to get a bit rough with him. If you want to get your licks in, now would be time”
Indrids' head whips with a snarl at the newcomers, eyes widening when he notices Duck is one of them. There are bruises on his face, and his nose is dripping a stripe of blood down his shirt. The skin near the ropes is already red and raw, meaning he's been tied for awhile. A dozen emotions war in Duck at once.
“There’s havin' to be rough and then there’s beatin' on a man who’s tied up. I’ve half a mind to turn y’all loose for doin' that. Or at least hit you once or twice to even the score. Now, get out and get the horses ready.”
“But Duck, we-”
They let go of Indrid, who falls with a thud and stays down. Duck waits until the last man shuts the door behind him to go to him. As he hoists him upright, Indrid speaks in a panicked, soft voice.
“Duck, thank goodness, hurry, you have to help me.”
“Don’t think I have to do anythin' of the sort.”
All the color goes from Indrids' face.
“You don’t believe the rumors too. Please, please tell me-”
“They ain’t rumors! I seen the bodies, Cold, hell, two of them were my men you murdered.”
“It wasn’t me, someone is framing me, please Duck you of all people know I don’t have it in me to do things like that.”
“Thought I knew an awful lot of things about you. Turns out I was wrong.”
Indrid meets his gaze, eyes panicked behind his glasses.
“Why? Why would I start now, when I actually have something to lose?”
“Don’t know, don’t rightly care. You played me for a fool, Cold, so much that I didn’t realize what you are. All I care about now is puttin' you where you belong.”
Indrids frame collapses in on itself with a shaky gasp. Duck turns his back, starts to open the door.
“Duck! For pity's sake, please!” There’s nothing but anguish in the voice behind him.
His heart cracks in half.
He opens the door.
“Alright boys, get the sorry bastard on a horse and let’s get out of here.”
They’re nearly back to their home outpost and the sheriffs' office. Indrid has not made a sound since his last words to Duck. He’s stone faced every time Duck looks at him.
The ride gives Duck time to think. He needs to tell himself a new story about Indrid. About the man he loved. He has to hate him, or he’ll never make it through the next few days.
He tries to think back on all the times they were together, on the clues to his true nature Duck must have missed. The trouble is, he can't seem to find them.
“Goodness, what kind of person kills someone who can’t even run away?”
“you’re still my hostage, I can’t take, can’t take advantage
“I’ve killed only when it was that or die myself. Or let someone I care about die”
But the signatures. That has to mean something.
Then again, all someone would need is one signature reference. Hell, Duck could forge it himself from all the letters Indrid's written him.
He looks back at Indrid, sees he’s looking at him as well. His face isn’t blank this time; it’s hurt.
“All I ask is that you not make me out to be worse than I am”
A horrible sensation, all acid and heat, boils up inside him.
Indrid is telling the truth. He’s been framed.
The scene at the sheriffs office is jovial, Beacon slapping people on the back, his squad whooping triumphantly, even Stern looks pleased. When Duck unties Indrid and shoves him into his cell, he sits down in the farthest corner he can, knees drawn up to his chest, arms wrapped around them. His face is still deceptively calm, but Duck can see his shoulders shake as he breathes.
Duck debriefs with Stern, returns to find Beacon and all his fellow lawmen outside preparing to go to the saloon to celebrate. Stern grabs his hat, ready to join them. Duck waves off the invitation to come, says he’ll be along soon. Goes to check on Winnie, comes back to an empty station.
Well, almost empty.
Indrid is still in the corner of the cell, scribbling frantically in his notebook (no one had bothered to take it or the pencil from him) with his left hand, which is unusual. He doesn’t see Duck, but after a moment throws his head back with a cry of frustration, hurls the book at the wall with tearful, “fuck!”
He’s hunched up, trembling with silent sobs, when Duck unlocks the door. Indrid notices him for the first time, a look of pure terror on his face when Duck moves towards him.
“What, what do you want? Come to break my nose more than those awful men of yours already did?” To his credit, those last words manage to carry some anger with them.
“Be as mad as you want, but we ain’t got much time. I believe you. And I need you to punch me as hard as you can, then go out back and get on the white horse with the brown blaze; she’s the fastest of the bunch. Then head any way except North.”
Indrid stands and just stares at him for a moment.
The punch comes from his left hand, which Duck doesn’t expect so it catches him extra hard. He lets himself fall without bothering to soften the landing. It’s not enough to knock him out (he's never met anything that could do that with one blow) but it hurts bad enough that he keeps his eyes shut for a bit and just stays on the ground.
Eventually, he drags himself upright and down to saloon, to say Indrid got the better of him (it’s not a lie, not really) and from the tracks Duck saw may have gone North (gettinf that lie out takes every bit of strength he has).
The other men are racing around trying to get their horses ready, which would be easier if they all weren’t drunk. It’s in this chaos that Stern calls him into a small side office.
“I know what happened, Duck. What really happened.”
Duck says nothing.
“I know you and Cold have some kind of history, given that you’ve each caught the other once and both times each of you came away alive. And I had not intention to hold that against you. But letting him go now? That I can’t overlook.”
He needs to say something, anything.
“He’s killed your men and mine, and innocent folks besides that. From now on, any murders he commits the blood is on you as much as it’s on him.”
“I, it’s not, he’s.”
Stern holds up a hand.
“I’m not interested. You’re a good man, Duck, or you were. And for that, I’ll give you an hour head start. After that, I tell your men, my men, and anyone else with a badge that you’re a wanted fugitive.
Your hour starts now.”
Next up: Angst and pancakes.
Chapter 9: Hellhound on My Trail
Some familiar faces. And a proposition that backfires
Duck has ridden three days, stopping only to feed or water Winnie or when she seems like she may collapse. He’d used his knowledge of the area to his advantage to throw off any pursuers and as far as he can tell no one is close to finding him. But still he rides.
It’s well after nightfall and he’s still moving, but he can feel Winnie slowing step by step. If he’s not careful, either she'll stumble or he’ll fall out of the saddle and just stay on the ground until death takes him.
There’s a campfire near a small outcropping. He spots it, dismounts Winnie and leads her towards the light. He’s close enough to see a chuckwagon and several horses, and a figure asleep by the fire. Not likely to be bandits or the law; they seldom travel with a wagon.
“Alright fella, that’s far enough.” A woman’s voice, gruff, speaks from his left. He turns to see a figure slip off a rock, already pointing a shotgun at him. He holds up his hands.
“You gonna start talkin?” She’s formidable, to say the least. A long duster, hat on her head, and an expression that suggests he better do as she says.
“I need somewhere to rest. Or, if you don’t trust me to stay, somewhere to leave old Winnie here. Her legs are damn near run off, and even if I gotta keep goin' she deserves a rest. Please” His throat is so dry he’s not even sure she can hear his words.
“What’s your name?” The gun lowers a tad.
“Duck. Duck Newton.”
“That so? Step closer.” He does, realizes that the woman is looking at his eyes to confirm his identity. With a curt nod, she lowers the gun all the way.
“You runnin' from the law?”
“Don’t gotta answer, I can tell. You look like you got every hound in hell on your trail. That and you happen to know one of our party, who’s told me enough to guess why you’re out here nearly dead on your feet.” She waves Duck closer to the fire, points to where he can tie Winnie next to the other horses.
As he walks, he notices the figure asleep by the fire; it’s Barclay.
“Oh yeah, I know Barclay. Wondered where he'd gotten to after he left town”
Mama leans against the edge of the wagon.
“Huh, I suppose that’s true. Weren’t him I was referrin' to.”
It’s then that Duck really looks at the horse next to Winnie; white, with a brown blaze.
If God wanted to strike him down, now would be a good time.
Mama calls softly into the wagon, something Duck can't make out. Then she turns back to him.
“See, I’ll gladly watch your horse. But it ain’t up to me whether you stay too.”
A head full of pale hair, red glasses perched on the nose, pokes out of the wagon. Indrid fixes him with a gaze somewhere between shock and exhaustion.
Duck has absolutely no idea what to say.
“Up to you Indrid. Fine by me if he joins up with us, but if you want him gone I’ll see to it he goes.”
Indrid lowers his head with a sigh.
“It’s alright, Mama, he can stay.” He disappears into the wagon.
“Mama? Wait, you’re his-”
“Not even close. Mama’s what everyone calls me on account of my maternal nature. Which is to say, you hurt him anymore than he already is and I’m turnin' you loose barefoot into the sagebrush to fend for yourself.”
He takes his bedroll, one of the few things he grabbed as he ran from the sheriffs' office, and places it near the fire.
“Lookin' at it ain't gonna make him come out.” Mama says, expression softening. Duck realizes he keeps looking at the wagon every two seconds, hoping to see Indrid.
He collapses onto the bed roll, and the last conscious thought in his mind is: fuck.
As he wakes up the next morning, something delicious wafts through the air. Who in the hell is making sourdough pancakes in this god-forsaken chunk of land?
He rolls over to see Barclay at the fire, cooking with a content look on his face. Indrid sits across from him, bundled against the cold and staring into the flames. Duck sees the sling holding his right arm and wants to sink into the earth.
Indrid shakes his head, looks at the dirt.
“Still nothing?” Barclay asks gently.
Indrid gives a small nod. Barclay carefully lifts the coffeepot off the fire, pours out a cup, dumps sugar into it.
“Here, might perk you up a bit.” He passes the cup to Indrid, receives a soft “thank you.” When he places the pot back on the heat, he notices Duck is awake.
“Morning, Duck. Pancake?”
“Uhhh, sure. Thanks.”
Barclay passes him a plate. He’s so hungry he doesn’t care how much he burns his mouth as he eats.
“I gotta ask, why'd you leave town to do..whatever it is you’re doin' here?”
“Stopped feeling safe in the area, for reasons I’d rather not say. Then Mama showed up, she and I go back years, and I joined up with her. Damn good thing too, since Indrid turned up with a sprained wrist, a broken nose, and a desperate need for a doctor.”
“That’s good. That he found you, I mean.” It feels off, talking about Indrid as if he isn’t sitting across from him but he shows no interest in joining the conversation.
“Mornin', fellas. I got good news and I got bad news” Mama strides into camp.
“Hoo boy.” Barclay says under his breath.
“Good news is I got as high up as I could, and there ain’t anyone on our trail. Bad news is that, with Indrid out of commission, we got no way of knowin' how long that’ll stay the case. Plus, we still got whatever’s killin' folks runnin' around.”
Indrid shivers, scooches closer to the fire.
“Here’s what I propose: We got a safe house, mighty nice on too, about a days ride from here. We stash you two” she points at Indrid and then at Duck, “there until the heat dies down or we catch the damn thing. Normally I’d be happy to have two more sets of hands, but with one of you injured and the other of dubious usefulness”
“I think it’s safer to keep you out of the action for now. All in favor?”
Barclay raises his hand. Duck waits until he sees Indrid hand peek out from his blanket before raising his own.
“That settles it. Long as we don’t run into any trouble, we oughta be there by nightfall.”
Indrid doesn’t speak to Duck the entire journey.
Other than that, there’s no trouble. The four of them weave up and into the foothills, until they come upon a good sized cabin. It almost seems, to Ducks eyes, to blend into the surroundings in a way that makes it impossible to see from most angles. It looks like no one has been in this area for years.
They unload a mass of supplies, food, water, weapons, into the cabin. He’s relieved to see wood already stacked up by the fire place, blankets, and a few spare items of clothing. There’s a small, haphazard stable out back for the horses.
“Who built this?” He asks Barclay as they get a fire started.
“We did, with some help from Mama’s various contacts. There’s more than one of them squirreled away across this chunk of the country.”
He doesn’t seem inclined to say more, so Duck doesn’t press his luck.
They stand outside the cabin as Barclay and Mama mount up.
“Alright, we’ll either be back at the end of the month, or we’ll be dead. See you boys soon. Try not to kill each other.”
And then they’re gone, riding back down towards the plains. Duck turns to say something to Indrid, but he’s already gone inside.
Duck follows his lead, walks in to find an Indrid-shaped lump burrowed under the blankets on the bed.
The only bed.
He sighs, sets out his bed roll on the floor, pulls a spare blanket on top of himself. He’ll think of something to say to Indrid to make things right. He has to.
Neither of them rises early. And when they do, Indrid doesn’t say any more than he has to. “Please,” “thank you,” “excuse me,” and when he doesn’t think Duck is listening, “ow.” The silence is not the companionable one they'd spent so much time in during their previous visits; it’s an uncharted, perilous landscape that Duck isn’t sure how to navigate.
He organizes the supplies, tends the fire, cooks dinner that Indrid does not eat. Offers to help Indrid tend to his injuries, which earns him a glare and a turned back.
It finally occurs to him, in the fog of upset and exhaustion still circling his brain, that maybe he needs to offer Indrid something to show him that he’s still, well, his.
“Hmm?” He’s sitting by the fire, staring at it.
“I was, uh, wonderin' if you, uh wanted to pass the time with me. In a, um, certain way.”
A brief glance over his shoulder is all Indrid gives to show he’s listening.
“I was thinkin' you could, well, fuck me. However you want, and as much as you want. If, if that would make you feel better” He can hear the trepidation in his voice. Hopes Indrid can’t.
There’s a shift in Indrids’ posture as he stands, turns to regard Duck.
“Is that what you’d like?” Honey in his tone, but Duck hears something underneath it that makes him shrink back. Before he can respond, Indrid is slowly, deliberately advancing on him.
“Would you like it if I took you and used you like the worthless, pathetic little creature you are? Treat you like that’s the only you’ve been good for, the only thing you’ll ever be good for? Would you like to be the one who begs me for mercy, for pity this time?” His hand is on Duck’s shoulder, but Duck is moving back on his own and bumps against the edge of the bed with a start.
Indrid grips his chin, forces him to meet his gaze.
“Would you like me to be merciless with you, Duck?” Ice in his voice, pure contempt in eyes.
“Not when you’re lookin' at me like that.”
“I thought as much.” Indrid drops his chin, steps back.
“I don’t want your pity Duck, whatever form it takes. And I don’t want you to offer yourself to me as, as some form of penance. It’s an insult to both of us. To what we had.” He sniffs, wipes a palm quickly under his eyes.
“I’m sure you are.” Another sniffle.
“I know how you feel about me. I’d rather it not come up again.” He passes by Duck, climbs into the bed, yanks the blankets over his head without another word. Duck moves back towards the fire. Whispers something who hopes Indrid hears, though he says it more to the universe than anything else.
“I’m sorry, darlin'. I’ll make things right. I promise."
Up next: Duck tries to fix things. Indrid assumes the worst.
Chapter 10: I'm Your Man
Indrid has problem. Duck lends a hand.
They’ve been in cabin three days.
Duck organizes, reads (of course Barclay puts books in a safe-house), takes small walks outside. Keeps the cabin warm. Catches Indrid looking at him in between bouts of glaring at the fire, the ground, or the ceiling.
Mid-afternoon he pulls out his spare clothes and Indrids' notebook falls out of them onto the floor. He picks it up, gingerly carries it to where Indrid is sitting by the fire.
“I, um, grabbed this from your cell when I left.” He offers it as he sits down beside the taller man.
“Thank you.” He takes it, tucks it under one of the blankets wrapped around him.
“Seemed a shame to leave it. And, well, I wanted somethin' to remember you by. If-” He’s been gazing down trying to find his words, glances up to see Indrid looking at him, really looking at him, for the first time in days.
“If I never saw you again.”
Maybe he imagines it, but Indrid moves a half inch closer.
“You were right. In some of the things you said when you caught me.” Indrids' voice is soft, a bit far away.
“Like hell I was. I fell for a trick and insulted you.”
“But you said you didn’t really know me. And that’s true, in some ways. I haven’t told you several important things about who I am.”
He takes a deep breath.
“Do you know what I really draw in here?” He pulls the notebook from under the blanket, holds it up. Duck shakes his head.
“The future. Or, rather, futures. I’m a seer, one who can see the future, changing and resetting and disappearing in constant motion. Drawing helps me bring them into better focus.”
“That’s why you weren’t bothered by me havin' visions.”
“Correct. I should have told you that the night in the saloon the reason why I understood what was happening to you.”
“That’s why you’re so damn hard to catch isn’t it?”
“Right again. Seeing the future makes it easy to spot targets for robbery, or lawmen on your trail. Or when a certain lawman is about to have a bad day and need a friendly, late night visitor.” A smile in Ducks direction that Duck eagerly returns. Then it falters.
“But then how did my men manage to surprise you?”
“I can’t see it anymore. I woke up one morning in January and the futures had all gone silent. I kept trying, keep trying, but they won’t come back. I don’t know my way around my own head without them in it, and the world takes on many unpleasant elements when you can’t see things coming. I’m useless without those powers.”
“You ain’t nothin' of the sort.” Duck leans closer, desperately wanting to pull Indrid into his arms and soothe that dejected look on his face. Settles for putting a hand on his knee, which Indrid doesn’t move.
“I’m a seer who can no longer see and, by extension, a robber who can no longer rob. My options are limited.”
“You’re one of the cleverest men I know, and you throw a mean punch. Plenty of work for that kind of man. Or you could move back East, get paid to draw dirty pictures for rich folks.”
Indrid looks at him, incredulous, before breaking out in laugh.
“Perhaps I could.”
“Can’t you just see it? You surrounded by high society?”
“That’s a comical image.”
“Want a funnier one?”
“Me surrounded by high society.” Duck smiles.
“I suppose. Though I imagine you’d look rather dashing in a suit.”
A blush creeps up Ducks cheek. Indrid seems to realize the implications of what he just said and clears his throat.
“Be that all as it may, I still feel out of sorts. Like my mind is too quiet.”
“Would you like me to read to you?”
“Maybe it’ll help, havin' some pleasant noise in the background.”
Indrids' posture relaxes,and he turns to face Duck all the way.
“You have no idea how much I’d like that.”
They’ve been in the cabin five days now.
After the conversation about the notebook, Indrid had lain by the fire, eyes shut, as Duck read to him until his voice started to go. Indrid had so missed the sound of his voice, hearing it in such quantities was like slipping into a warm bath.
The conversation was a turning point. Indrid no longer rejects Ducks offers for help, and Duck fusses slightly less. They’re talking again and Indrid finds his appetite starting to return, his need for sleep starting to lessen.
He still loves Duck. He never stopped.
But he knows Duck doesn’t love him back anymore. He watched that emotion leave his eyes when he’d arrested him this time. It hadn’t returned when he helped Indrid get free. Perhaps it is back now, but he can’t bring himself to look for it again. And so he decides it is gone.
Duck is so kind to him, does seem genuinely sorry. Sometimes Indrid can half convince himself Duck loves him, the light touches when he brushes hair out Indrids' face or passes behind him closer than he needs to a reminder of better times. But guilt and obligation are poor substitutes for love, and he tells himself those are the things driving Duck, good-hearted man he is, to care for him.
There’s also the issue of him still being wildly, magnetically attracted to the man. Duck hasn’t made any offers since his ill-fated proposition that first night, which is a mercy. Indrid doesn’t want to be with him if it’s guilt, and not desire, fueling his offers.
His body has not yet accepted this. And so he wakes up that night hard and cannot will the blasted thing away.
Very well. Duck is asleep, so it won’t disturb him if Indrid takes care of this issue.
Right hand out of commission, he tries his left. It’s better, but still sore like so much of him is. The fact he’s clenched it so much out of frustration hasn’t helped matters. Worst of all, whenever he tries to picture pleasant memory, his mind conjures up the look Duck gave him as he hauled him off the ground and refused to listen to him.
Suffice to say, nothing is working.
Duck can’t seem to fall asleep. It’s been five days, he ought to be used to cabin floor by now.
There’s a small gasp and chirp from behind him. A few moments later, another gasp. His back is to the bed and he can’t see what Indrid is doing, but he knows what those noises mean.
Those are some of his favorite noises in the whole wide world.
He should just try to sleep. Ignore those pleased little sounds and what they’re doing to him.
There’s a frustrated sigh.
He rolls over to see Indrid laying on his back, hand resting on his forehead in defeat.
Indrid starts at his voice, then recovers.
“No. I’m in a bit of a predicament, but not to worry.”
Duck crawls to edge of the bed, sits up on his knees so he’s eye-level with Indrids' prone form.
“Somethin' I can help with?” He tries to keep his tone light.
“For the last time Duck, I don’t want you to do that sort of thing just because you feel obliged to.” He sounds tired more than angry.
“And what if I said that ain’t why I’m offerin'?” Duck runs a finger thoughtfully back and forth on the bed.
“Because it ain’t, Indrid. I’m offerin' because you’re still the best lookin' man I ever laid eyes on. Because I can’t forget what you feel like in my arms and every time I look at you I catch fire from the inside out.”
Indrid turns his head to look at Duck, the sadness and exhaustion in his face dissipating with each word. So he keeps talking.
“If what you need right now is for me to touch you, all you got to do is say the word. And if you never want me to lay a hand on you again, you got it. I love you, and I know that don’t make up for what I done. It don't mean you gotta let me back into your bed or your life or anything else, hell you could tell me to go right now and I will. Nothin' changes the fact I love you.”
The fire is dead enough that it takes Duck a heartbeat or two to see Indrid has tears in his eyes.
“I, I thought you didn’t, when you caught me you looked so, so.” Indrids' voice keeps catching and Duck reaches across to take his uninjured hand, strokes it softly. Laughs a little
“Figures the only time I ever tell a half-convincin' lie it comes back to bite us both. I tried to make everyone, includin' myself, believe I hated you, because if I didn’t I knew the moment you were dead I’d lay down and die too. I’m sorry, darlin', for makin' you think I didn't still love you.”
Indrid sighs, a happy, relieved sound. Takes a few breaths to collect himself, never letting go of Ducks’ hand.
“Well, given all that, I do believe there’s something you can help with.” He slides Ducks’ hand down between his legs, and Duck gratefully wraps his fingers around his cock.
“Mighty magnanimous of you.” He says wryly, placing a kiss against Indrids' side.
“Hush, you.” Indrid smiles at him. Duck continues kissing his side and his arms, really any part of him he can reach. Keeps pausing for more kisses as he speaks.
“Not a chance, I ain’t been able to talk to you for near a week and for months before that. Gonna talk your ear off darlin', tell you how wonderful you are every wakin' moment unless you find a way to shut me UMph.” When he raises his head to look at Indrid, their faces level with each other, Indrid leans forward and captures his lips. Duck tries to pour all his remaining apologies and every once of love he feels into that kiss, hears Indrid hum as it deepens. Rests his head on Indrids' shoulder when they break apart.
“You want it fast, or you want me to draw things out?”
“Fast, oh goodness, as nice as it feels I dearly want to, oh, to sleep.”
Duck works his hand quickly, watching with delight as Indrid arches and moans. Reaches his free hand into his own pants, starts stroking himself. It’s awkward to do both at once, but he manages.
“Now there are some sounds I’ve, ah, I’ve missed.” Indrid whispers.
Duck realizes the louder groans and gasps filling the room are coming from him. He presses his forehead into the mattress beside Indrid in concentration, feels his movements stutter and then he comes in Ducks hand.
He switches the hand he's using on himself, opts for fast, short strokes, feels the bed shift as Indrid changes positions. Then slender fingers lift his chin and Indrid kisses him again and that does it, his orgasm sharp and brief as he moans into the kiss.
Pulling back, he catches Indrid looking at him fondly.
“Clean yourself up a bit, then come to bed.”
Duck obeys and in a few moments he clambers under the covers next to Indrid. It takes some adjusting before they find a position that’s comfortable given Indrids injuries, but soon they’re curled up together.
“Mmm, I forgot what a lovely bedwarmer you are.”
“I’ll warm your bed anytime darlin', GAH Jesus I forgot how damn cold your hands get.”
“AH! You got icicles down there or somethin'?”
“Don’t try to wriggle away. Consider this the last thing you have to do to make amends to me.”
“I accept my fate.”
“Mmmmm, so warm.”
Two voices, laughing in the dark.
Thank you for all the kind words and kudos! I'm so glad folks are enjoying the story so far.
Next up: Indrid tends to the horses. Duck gets caught in the rain. And something is in the woods.
Chapter 11: I'm on Fire
Indrid gets the heebies and the jeebies. Duck gets wet.
When Indrid wakes up, he spends a good five minutes simply stroking Ducks hair and enjoying the way he looks as he sleeps. Thinks about how much he wants this to be his morning, every morning. Then he eases his way out of bed.
Well, since he’s awake, he may as well be helpful. He stokes the fire back to life, bundles up and heads out to feed the horses.
He gives them both more food and sneaks his horse (he’s named him Garyl, he likes the sound of it) a handful of sugar. Maybe he and Duck should take them for a walk later. It looks to be a clear sky, and while riding with his arm the way it is remains too risky a quick turn around the woods surrounding the cabin might do them all some good.
It’s automatic, the knowledge that something is watching him. The birds go silent and he knows, as surely as he knows his own name, that if he turns around there will be a face looking out of the trees at him. What that face belongs to he has no idea.
He needs to turn. If not for his sake, then for the sake of the man asleep inside.
Carefully, he looks behind him.
The birds are calling again.
And somewhere, just at the end of his vision, there’s movement disappearing into the shadows of the woods.
In that moment, he’s grateful that they built the safe-house to be extra-secure in ways both tangible and magical. And that Mama swayed him and Barclay into having there only be one window, high enough up that nothing could crawl through it.
He hurries back inside, bolting the door behind him.
The next week passes relatively uneventfully, save for the few times Duck or Indrid feels themselves being watched. And the print, one Duck cannot identify, found a few yards from the cabin.
They spend the days playing cards (Indrid turns out to still be good at poker even when he can’t see the hands coming), reading, talking. At night they curl up together in the bed, though a few times Indrid can’t get comfortable on account of his arm and Duck moves to floor directly next to the bed. Most nights end in a flurry of kisses and touches and the pair of them falling asleep satisfied.
Duck also takes it upon himself to show Indrid that not being able to see things coming isn’t all bad. There are only so many surprises one can cook up in a tiny cabin, but he does his best.
Breakfast in bed earns him a delighted grin from the face peeking out of the blankets muttering about the cold.
Flowers, the sturdy kind that bloom stubbornly in the chill of early winter, make Indrid turn pink.
Indrids favorite are kisses he doesn’t anticipate, when Duck comes up behind him, wraps his arms around him and kisses his neck. Or when they’re sitting side by side and he pecks him on the cheek. He likes it so much he starts doing it back, which Duck loves more than he can say.
In retrospect, he should have taken the dark clouds at face value and stayed inside. But Duck felt the need to check the perimeter of what he’s come to think of as their land. So he slipped out just after dawn.
They’ve been in the cabin a little over two weeks. Indrids' arm has mostly healed. Even better, it’s been three days with no strange tracks in the dirt, no invisible eyes monitoring them from the trees.
The sky chooses to open when he’s as far away from the cabin as he dares to go. By the time he makes the dash back inside, he’s soaked through. As luck has it, the fire cooperates and doesn’t take long to rekindle. He sets about getting out of his wet clothes and hanging them to dry.
He’s stripped out of everything except his shirt when Indrid makes an appreciative noise.
“My, my, now there is a sight.”
“Mornin', darlin'. Hope I didn’t wake you rushin' in like I did.”
“No, the rain on the roof did that.” He’s still staring at Duck, a hungry look creeping across his face.
“It’s criminal, you know.” Indrid slips out of bed, not taking any of the blankets with him.
“That you can just stand there, looking like that. Such an irresistible sight shouldn’t be allowed, it isn’t fair.” He saunters to Duck, but doesn’t stop moving when he reaches him. Instead, he begins circling him, hands clasped behind his back as if appraising a work of art. He speaks and moves slowly.
“I mean, just look at you. At this,” he unclasps his hands, traces a a finger across Ducks chest, curving around his shoulders as he continues to circle, “so strong and soft all at once. Or this,” the finger traces up his neck and becomes a hand caressing his face, “so handsome, so singular in its beauty. And this,” the hand drops down to run teasingly across his cock, already half-hard from Indrids' words, “well, it speaks for itself doesn’t it?”
“Indrid.” It’s half a sigh of thanks, half a question of where this is going.
Indrid stops circling and stands in front of Duck, gaze still raking across him. Puts his hands behind his back again.
“Temptation incarnate. Running around the world where anyone could see you. Like I said” he brings his lips perilously close to Ducks own, “criminal.”
“Ain’t ever been called that before.”
“Do you know what happens when someone commits a crime, my sweet?”
“They, they get punished?” He whispers, desperately hoping it’s the right answer. Indrid has him pinned to the spot, his words making his knees weak and his voice making Duck want his touch anywhere he’ll give it.
“Precisely. And, ironically, it falls to me to be the arbiter of justice in this instance. Which means?” He stares at Duck over the tops of his glasses, expectantly.
“You’re going to punish me. Oh Jesus, yes.” He tries to lean in for a kiss but Indrid presses a finger to his lips, halting his movement. Points to the table in corner.
“Go lean over that. Then wait for me.”
Duck moves to the table, bends forward, bracing a bit on his arms. The rustling of fabric suggests Indrid is dressing, which seems odd. He’s trying to get a hold of himself when cold fingers trail up his ass and onto the small of his back. In the edges of his vision, Indrid places a belt (Ducks belt) on the table.
“I may or may not use that. We’ll see. If at any point it’s too much, tell me to stop and I will.” His voice is a balance of firm and gentle as he continues to run his hands across Ducks ass and back. Duck looks over his shoulder and the noises he heard make perfect sense; Indrid has changed into the same black outfit he wore the first time they met.
“You’re staring.” Indrids' smile is soft.
“Goddamn, how’d I forget how fuckin' good you look when you're playin' the outlAH!” He’s so busy ogling that the first hit takes him by surprise, Indrid bringing a palm solidly down on his ass.
“You fuckin' kidd-AHoh.” Duck rests his head on his forearms with a moan.
“That’s part of your punishment.”
“Takin' away half my vocabulary?”
“Think of it as a challenge.” Indrids voice is low, full of a smile Duck doesn’t need to see to know it’s there. He hits four times, rapidly, and Duck squeaks out an odd noise in his attempt not to swear. Another two hits, and then a hand rubbing soft, soothing circles across the parts that sting. The hand disappears and Duck braces for another hit. It doesn’t come, Indrid instead leaning over him and kissing the back of his neck. It’s only when he relaxes that the hit comes and Duck yelps at the same time Indrid hisses.
“I do believe I have to switch to the belt. My wrist is still a bit tender.” It occurs to Duck that, given his durability, Indrid had to have hit him fairly hard in order for him to feel anything.
The belt is held in front of Ducks eyes.
“Unless you want me to stop?”
“Nuh uh.” Is all he manages to pant out before the belt whips out of his vision and onto his skin.
“Tsk, you were doing so well.”
“SorryOHhhhh.” He bites his lip, leather snapping against his skin twice more. Indrid is panting now, pauses the belt to run his fingers across Ducks' increasingly sore ass.
“I understand why people like this now. Goodness, the sounds alone.” He snaps the belt again and Duck makes an undignified noise.
“You seem to like it as well.” One hand snakes around and gives a perfunctory stroke of Ducks cock, and he moves his hips forward begging for more even as the hand disappears.
“Turnin' out to be just what I need, darlin'.”
“Is that so?” Indrid purrs, snaps the belt a half-dozen more times.
“Ah, god, Indrid yes!” The pain in his skin lights him up in the best way. The knowledge of Indrid behind him, looking every inch the dangerous man he is, makes him achingly hard in a way he’s never felt before.
“You do like it rough, don’t you?”
Duck tries to say yes but all that comes out is a desperate noise.
“Answer me.” A hand grips his shoulder and flips him over with enough force that his feet leave the floor. He has to grip the edge of the table as he struggles to get them back under him. The small of his back presses against the edge of the table as Indrid boxes him in.
“I like it any way at all, long as it’s comin' from you.” Duck pants out, grabbing Indrids' head and pulling him in for a kiss. Indrid retaliates by wrapping Duck in his arms, hands running up and down his back as he pulls him away from the table. The laugh that bubbles up from Indrid breaks his dominant veneer, but only for a moment. When they break apart, one arm keeps Duck trapped against him, while the other brings a hand up to ghost his fingers across Ducks neck.
“In that case, I want to ask you the same question I asked weeks ago.” He’s nearly vibrating, whether from anticipation, nerves, or desire Duck can’t tell, and so he offers a small, encouraging smile.
Indrid meets his eyes, gaze red-tinted and loving with that devious sparkle in it. One that, in Ducks experience, means he wants to do things with Duck that’d make the devil blush.
“Would you like me to merciless with you, my love?”
Duck kisses him, nips playfully and his lower lip before answering.
“Do you worst, darlin'.”
Next up: Duck makes good use of his stamina. Indrid makes good use of, well, a lot of things.
Chapter 12: There Ain't Nothin About You (That Don't do Somethin for Me)
Indrid shows no mercy. Duck is in heaven.
Indrid growls, kisses Duck hard while tugging his shirt off.
“Lie down on the bed and shut your eyes. Do not open them until I tell you to.”
“No need for such formalities, my sweet. Now, go.”
Duck gets comfy on top of the blankets, tucks the pillow under his head.
“Do I get to curse again?”
“Yes, though that won’t be immediately relevant.” From the sound of it, Indrid is rooting through one of the storage chests that was already in the cabin.
“You’ll see.” The bed dips as Indrid climbs on, giving most near Ducks upper arm and shoulders. Indrid said no peeking but didn’t say anything about touching, and so Duck pats his hands out until he feels strong calves under rough fabric, runs his hands up the thighs before squeezing Indrids' ass. There’s a small chirp from above him.
“Open your mouth.”
“Say please, oh shit!” Duck drawls, then gasps when fingers tug at his hair.
Duck opens his mouth, feels the head of Indrids' cock tease at his lips.
“Snap your fingers twice if you need me to ease off. Other than that, that filthy mouth of yours is mine.” The hand in his hair cups the back of his head and forces it up, meaning he takes most of his cock at once. He moans around it, feels as Indrid adjusts above him slightly for a better angle. He digs his fingers into Indrids thighs, needing something to hold onto, feels him start to thrust his hips.
It takes a moment to get his throat and jaw to relax. Once they do he takes his time to enjoy the way Indrid tastes, the way his skin feels against his tongue. When he tries to move his head on his own, the fingers in his hair tighten.
“Ah ah, no need for that. All you have to do is relax and let me fuck that lovely mouth of yours as I see fit.” He gives a harder thrust for emphasis and a mixture of a whine and a moan escapes Ducks chest.
Indrid experiments for the next few minutes, dragging Ducks head back and forth and then holding it in place and fucking into it. Duck keeps his eyes shut, heart fluttering with arousal every time Indrid chirp-moans.
Eventually Indrid settles into a rhythm, rapidly fucking Ducks mouth with thrusts that go most but not all of the way in.
“You can, oh goodness, open your eyes now.”
First glance shows Indrid is still fully dressed, and Duck follows the buttons of his shirt up to his face. He’s flushed, managing to look ferocious and flustered at the time. The hand not holding Ducks head is braced against the wall. He meets Ducks eyes and immediately grins.
“Such a sight, my handsome, brave lawman with his perfect lips around my cock, oh, oh moan like that for me again, yes, yes so good.” It doesn’t seem fair, Indrids' ability to make him melt with his words, but melt he does, each piece of praise making him moan and twitch his hips futilely in the air.
“You’re so perfect, oh, god, I’m going to come in that perfect mouth of yours and you are going to swallow all of it aren’t you, you, oh gracious, good boy.”
Duck whimpers, does his best to nod.
“Right anwserOH, oh my.” His movements still and he holds Ducks head in place as he comes. When he lets go of his head Duck immediately drops to the pillow with a gasp, coughing a bit as a hand strokes his cheek. Indrid smiles down at him, fondly, before rebuttoning his pants.
“You, you don’t gotta, unless you want to.” The words come out in gasps as Indrid moves to sit between Ducks legs and then kisses his way down his chest.
“I very much want to.” He licks the tip to emphasize the point.
“Oh FUCK.” Duck groans, arching his back gratefully as Indrid works his way down (how does he doe those things with his tongue, fuck, it’s inhuman). He lifts his head back up to nuzzle at Ducks thigh and then bite down on it without warning. Duck growls, tangles his hands in that pale hair. That earns him two more bites, one on each side, before Indrid takes his cock back into his mouth.
It doesn’t take long, given how wound up he is and as he comes he feels Indrid purr. Indrid doesn’t stop once his orgasm is done, continues to suck until Duck whines in pleasure and pain from the sensitivity.
He looks up with a smirk, licks his lips.
“You wanted me to be merciless, remember?” He crawls up a bit, kisses Duck on the stomach before sitting up and removing his coat.
“That I did.”
Indrid rests his head on his chest, hums happily.
“I love the sounds you make.”
“Ain’t ever heard anythin' quite like ‘em.”
“A quirk of my biology. I used to worry a partner would find them strange.”
“Find I like a little strange in my life.”
The patter of the rain on the roof fills the happy silence.
“I do believe I’m ready to continue.” He rubs up against Duck
“Get on your hands and knees.” He pats Ducks chest as he rolls off the bed, grabbing several condoms and a tin similar to the one Ducks seen him use before.
“Do I wanna know how come y’all stocked that in a safe house?” Duck rolls over on his side.
“Preparation is half the battle. And you haven’t done as I asked.” His voice takes on an edge as he rolls up his sleeves.
“Was just enjoyin' the vi-” Indrid hauls him onto all fours by his hair. Sits down behind him, smacks him once on the ass.
“Ah, hey!” It comes out as a laugh.
“Next time, do as you’re told.” A scratch of metal as the tin opens, then a single finger works its way into Duck.
“We have rather more of these than I remember, so I’ll ease you into things.”
“Awful courteous of you.”
“After that I intend to have my way with you until you beg for mercy.” A second finger, and Duck whimpers and presses back.
“It’d be a shame not to make good use of this.” He smacks Ducks ass again, not too hard. Works his fingers in and out until take a steady whine is leaving Duck. Adds a third, and the stretch feels so good that Duck shudders, tries to shift down to his elbows for balance. Indrid is suddenly flush against him, free hand pulling his head back.
“Stay in the position I put you or there will be consequences.” Both hands move from Ducks body at the same time. After a pause, they’re back, one on each of his hips.
“Guess I’ll behave myself OH, OH JESUS FUCK.” Indrid thrusts all the way in without any further warning. Grips Duck tight.
“I’m afraid I didn’t quite catch that.”
“Said I’ll be, oh, oh fuck, I’ll be good, I’ll, shit, behave, fuck, FUCK, I’ll do anythin' as long as you don’t fuckin' stop.”
“Mmmmm, that’s my lovely, accommodating Duck.” A cold hand skates up his side as Indrid pets him, hips never stopping. Duck moans, Indrid chuckles low in his chest as he fucks him.
“The whole of you is just incredible, you, ah, you know. I love everything about you. Your voice, your eyes, that brave, beautiful heart of yours. But do you know what I love most about you?”
“Nnnnh?” Is all he can manage to get out.
“The fact that all I have to do is tell you you’re good and you’ll let me do unspeakable things to you.”
“Not true. You’ve, fuck, had to buy me dinner at least once.” Duck shoots a grin over and Indrid laughs.
“Fair point. I wonder..” Sharp, delicate pain stripes down Ducks back as Indrid scratches his nails across it.
“Ohhh, that does create an interesting sensation on my end.” Indrid purrs.
A zigzag of nails this time and Duck gives a shaky cry of pleasure. Indrid takes that as cue to coat his back in scratches, thrusts getting more and more erratic until he comes with a sound that’s suspiciously like Ducks name.
“Stay.” The command manages to be stern even as he’s breathless.
Duck stays on all fours as Indrid pulls away. He’s humming to himself as he crawls up the bed to sit cross legged in front of Duck. Taking Ducks face in his hands, he tilts his head up for a kiss.
“As I’m not completely without pity, I’ll let you decide: would you like to come now, or after I take you again?”
“Now.” His voice feels weightless and far away in his mouth.
Another kiss, soft and light.
“Come lay down with your head in my lap.”
Duck lays crosswise on the bed, rolls onto his side so that he’s facing Indrid and curls up a little. Sighs with relief as Indrid begins moving his thumb across the head of his cock. The other hand begins to wander through his hair.
“Tell me when you get close.”
“Uh huh.” The world feels hazy, warm. He’ll just stay here in this bed forever, let Indrid fawn over him and do obscene things to him until the world ends. Indrid works him with slow strokes, cooing endearments and filth in equal measure. After awhile he pauses, undoes the buttons on his pants before continuing to stroke Duck off.
“I need you to get me hard again. Can you do that, my sweet?”
Duck nods, eagerly mouths at Indrids cock, licking and kissing it as best as his position allows. He slips his hand beneath Indrids' shirt, savoring the way he feels under his hands. He’s so strange, so wonderful, and Duck gets to touch him like this and that thought starts a tight heat circling in his stomach.
“ M’close, darlin'.”
“Would you like to come?”
“Pleeeease.” He licks a long stripe up Indrids' cock, jolts as Indrids' motions turn rapid and in few seconds he’s coming, curling inwards and gripping Indrids thigh.
“Messy.” Indrids voice is teasing, brisk, as he wipes his hand on one of the blankets. Duck is still in the aftershocks of his orgasm when Indrid rolls him over and tugs on his hips to lift his ass up a bit. And then shoves himself in all at once.
If Ducks voice wasn’t hoarse before, the sound he makes when Indrid does this ensures it will be.
A hand grips the back of his neck, pressing him against the bed and he moans, twists his fingers into the blanket near his head.
“I’ve no intention of being gentle. I suggest you hold on.”
“You call the last time gentFUCKfuckohFUCK.” Indrid pulls most of the way out before slamming back in, continues doing that so hard and so fast Ducks amazed he doesn’t hurt himself. That’s the last cogent thought he has for several minutes. Indrid keeps him pinned, gives a laugh that always morphs into a growl every time Duck curses or cries out.
Suddenly the hand on his neck presses harder and a drawn-out purr leaves Indrid. It’s only when his hips stutter out with the last of his orgasm that he pulls out and away, Duck collapsing onto the bed when he does.
“Goodness, I actually worked up a sweat. That never happens in winter.”
“Glad I could, uh, help, uh, eh you know.” Duck manages to string those words together, rolls onto his back. Watches sleepily as Indrid hunts around for a canteen and hands it to him. Sips from it as Indrid strips off the rest of his clothes. Limply hands the canteen back.
Indrid tugs the blankets back, gets onto the bed next to Duck before pulling them up around them both. Guides Duck carefully into his arms, and Duck cuddles as close as he can.
“Was that alright?”
“You were amazin'.”
“I mean all those things, you know that right?”
“When I say nice things to you. I don’t just say them because it makes you aroused. I say them because they are true.”
“You’re somethin' else darlin', don’t know what I did to deserve you.”
They talk a little longer, kissing soft and slow whenever the mood strikes them, until the safe, happy feeling of being in Indrids' arms lulls Duck to sleep.
To quote Griffin McElroy: "Boy, we're really earning the explicit tag on this one."
Next Up: The month is coming to a close. And something is coming for our heroes.
Chapter 13: Vaya con Dios
Some things are won, and some are lost.
The month is also up. And still no sign of Mama and Barclay.
Indrid and Duck come to an agreement: if the two of them aren’t back by the fifth of April, Indrid and Duck will head South and try to keep out of reach of Stern, Beacon, and whatever is framing Indrid.
What they’ll do once they find a safe place, neither of them is quite sure.
Duck daydreams about it plenty. A hacienda somewhere, maybe a ranch. A boarding house, now that could be entertaining. Duck’s sure both of them could find work as cowboys if they had to. He never used to dream of a homestead. There are many things he’d never done until Indrid dropped into his life.
A kiss wakes him up that morning, and he wraps his arms around the lanky frame of Indrid hovering above him as he blinks awake.
“Don’t tell me you woke up rarin' to go again, my legs are still sore from last night.”
“No, I’d meant for it to be a quick kiss on my way to start coffee.”
“Likely story.” He kisses him again before releasing him.
The morning passes quietly, as Indrid reads and Duck figures out what they’ll need to take with them if Mama and Barclay don’t show.
Then, from outside, the sound of terrified horses. And under that noise a horrible, clawing growl.
“Grab your revolvers, I got the rifle.”
They round the back of the cabin and Ducks mind struggles to make sense of what he’s seeing: it’s like a wolf coated in thick, black tar, with limbs at angles as if they’ve been broken. It’s advancing on the horses as Duck fires. Indrid follows suit.
The monster turns, stalks towards them instead. And takes a flying lunge at Indrid.
Duck moves without thinking, grabs the creature just as it makes contact and yanks it backwards. Tries to throw it, only to find the ooze is keeping them attached. Figures this out a moment too late and succeeds only in tossing them both to the ground.
“Hold it in place!”
“I’m tryin'! Just shoot it!”
A snarl as the creature whips its head around to bite him. He narrowly avoids it, hits it as hard as he can on the head. It howls.
“I can’t shoot at if you’re both moving, I won’t risk hitting you!”
Duck looks up to shout something, sees Indrid put a hand up to his spectacles as if to pull them off.
A crack from the trees and the creature under Duck stops moving. He and Indrid turn in sync.
“Lucky for you, I ain’t got any such concerns.” Mama, on horseback, lowers her shotgun with a smile.
Hooves from the other side of them and then Barclay appears from the trees.
“Is it dead?” Duck steps back.
The creatures head raises up and snaps at him, but it stays on the ground.
“No, but it’s close. Here’s the dynamite, Mama.”
“Get it to snap again, Duck.” Mama lights a match.
Duck pokes the monster with his toe.
Mama lights the dynamite and throws it into the creatures mouth.
He does, catches up to Indrid, who pulls him to the side of the cabin.
A boom shakes the forest.
When the dust clears, all that remains of their attacker is stray ooze and something white that disappears up into the sky.
Beside him, Indrid doubles over with a cry of surprise.
“Back! Futures are back!”
“Oh thank the lord.” Mama sighs, helping Barclay from their hiding place behind a rock.
“That answers that question.” Barclay surveys the scattered monster pieces.
“I would like the record to state I’m dreading what you say next.” Indrid rubs his temples as Duck helps him straighten up.
“There are two abominations, Indrid. One brought the other with it for the purpose of disrupting your powers.”
“And you haven’t found the other one.”
“Ain’t for lack of tryin'.” Mama points out.
“And you’re about to tell me that all signs point to it being after me, specifically.”
“Duck is about to ask what the hell is going on, please explain to him while I readjust.”
“Whaddaya want to know?” Mama turns to Duck. He gestures to the remains of the creature, then to Indrid, with a look that he hopes communicates how deeply confused he is.
“Let’s start with this: what has Indrid told you?”
“That he can see the future.”
Mama looks over at Indrid, eyebrows raised.
“I see. Here’s the short version: Indrid comes from a place with a lot of strange folks. And some of those folks come into our territory in the form of abominations. Barclay and I hunt those abominations to keep people safe. Usually the abominations don’t have a goal and usually they only come one at a time but, well, this time is different.”
“I have to leave.” Indrid says softly.
“What?” Three voices say in unison.
“We need your powers to help hunt this thing”
“It’ll be safer if you’re not alone.”
“Please say you’re kiddin'.” Duck refuses to believe it, refuses to let Indrid go again, not when he’s’ in danger, not when Duck can keep him safe.
“Mama is right, I can see now that whatever is still out there has something against me. If I stay with you three, it will escalate and,” he looks at Duck, “it will take away something important to me. Forever.”
He turns back to Mama, ignoring Ducks attempts to protest.
“From what I can tell, your best bet is the Northeast, near the red valley. That’s the path it takes in most of the futures. And take Garyl, oddly enough I will be safer on foot.”
Mama nods, moves towards the make-shift stable. Indrid heads towards to house, Duck close behind. He’s about to start protesting again as they make it inside, but before he can Indrid pulls him into a kiss, holding him as close as he can.
“Thank you.” Indrid whispers as he breaks away.
“For the happiest month of my life. And for probably saving my skin back there.”
“Tell me this ain’t goodbye.” Duck rests his head on Indrids' shoulder.
“Only for the time being. I don’t know about you, but I rather enjoy our partnership.”
“That’s puttin' it mildly.”
“I’ll come back as soon as I am able. The futures are unclear on when that will be, but rest assured it does happen.” Another kiss, and a sad noise that escaping Indrid when it ends.
“I love you so much.”
“I love you too.”
Duck keeps turning to watch Indrid as they head their separate ways (unbeknownst to him, Indrid does the same). When he can’t see the faintest speck of him anymore, he brings Winnie up alongside the front of the wagon (Barclay stashed it somewhere safe before coming to help them). Mama pulls up next to him.
“Well, Barclay, do believe I owe you five dollars.”
“Hold up, did you two bet on me doin' somethin'?”
“More like someone. Barclays' money was on the two of you kissin' and makin' up. I was mighty sure Indrid was gonna throw you out.”
“To be fair, you didn’t see them making eyes at each other the last time Indrid was in jail. Or have to listen to Indrid talk about Duck non-stop when you went to make sure his wound hadn’t gotten infected.” Barclay chuckles at the memory.
Duck groans, embarrassed.
“Don’t worry, lover boy, you’re secret’s safe with us.”
It takes two more months of hunting before they find what they’re looking for.
Barclay notices it first, the figure paralleling them. Shaped like a drawing of a human by someone who’d only ever heard third-hand descriptions of one. Just wrong enough that a sick feeling tangles in Ducks gut every time he sees it.
It follows them for a day and a half. And then they lay their trap. Duck waits by the fire as Mama and Barclay hide in the trees. He pretends to fall asleep.
Footsteps on the dirt behind him. Close, closer, too close where the hell is Barclay…
Oh thank god.
Duck rolls over, still on the ground, pointing his pistol at the creature Barclay currently has trapped in a bear hug. The shotgun in his periphery tells him Mama is there now too.
The monster has a human face, human limbs, is wearing clothes but whenever Duck looks at something feels wrong. It opens it’s mouth and a horrible redblack ooze shows in place of teeth.
“Talk. Why are you here?” Mama growls.
“You don’t look it.”
“Here to hurt Indrid Cold.”
That has Duck on his feet.
Carefully, Mama reaches into the jacket hanging off the creature. Pulls out a stack of papers tied with string. Every one carries a perfect imitation of Indrids' signature.
“Who gave you these?” Mama holds the bundle up.
“Ordered not to say. Please let go of me, I will not run.”
Barclay waits for Mama to nod before releasing it.
The captive reaches into a pocket, pulls out a flask. Takes a swig, then collapses in a heap in the dirt.
“Shit!” Mama drops to the ground to look at the creature while Barclay grabs the flask. He sniffs it and recoils.
“Yeah, that’s wolfsbane alright. Whoever sent our friend here thought of a lot, including giving it poison to drink if we caught it. “
“Dead as a goddamn doornail.” Mama stands, brushing her hands off in frustration.
“Weren't you plannin' to kill it anyway?” Duck studies the pile of papers.
“Was hopin' to learn more from it first. All we know now is someone back on Sy-, back where Indrid comes from is out to get him. Don’t know why or if they plan to send more. He was smart to head for cover either way.”
“Wish he’d stayed alive long enough to get some kind of confession. Would’ve liked to clear Indrids' name on all those murders.”
Mama and Barclay exchange a look.
“Think we might still be able to.”
They leave Duck hidden in the wagon when they get to the sheriffs. He can hear Beacon intermittently shouting from inside. Between the evidence they brought and Barclays’ willingness to lean on his authority as a doctor, they manage to convince Beacon and Stern of the truth. It’s only then Duck is allowed inside, no longer a wanted man (Indrid is no longer wanted for murder, just the two dozen robberies he most definitely committed).
Beacon offers Duck his job back.
Duck turns him down. Going back to his old life no longer feels right.
Plus, Mama’s already offered him a job helping her and Barclay keep people safe from the abominations (“Ain’t everyone who could grab and throw a monster, Duck, even fewer who’d be willin' to try. Think you’d fit in well, if you’re open to it.”)
For the next three months, his life is a crash-course in monster hunting. He finds he’s not bad at it.
But he misses Indrid every damn day, and every damn night.
And he hasn’t quite let go of his desire to have something resembling a normal life.
The hand of fate taps him on the shoulder one evening.
He jumps in his seat, turns to see a face he hasn’t seen in years.
“Leo Tarkesian, I’ll be damned!” He pulls Leo into a hug, slaps him jovially on the shoulder.
“Good to see you Duck. Wild West treatin' you alright?”
“All things considered, yeah. Leo, this is Mama and Barclay. I’ve known Leo since I was a kid.”
They talk for awhile, about home and about where they’ve each been since they left it.
“You lookin' for work Duck?”
“Why do you ask?”
“Because I’m headed out to silver country, got an offer from one of the mining companies to keep its' town safe. Was plannin' on hirin' folks to help me when I got there, but no way am I passin' up the chance to ask the best ranger in the west if he wants in.”
“Excuse me one second.” He steps out onto the porch where Mama is resting in a chair, hat over her eyes.
“Got somethin' you need to tell me, Duck?”
“I appreciate what you’ve done, givin' me work and, well, and helpin 'Indrid. But I ain’t sure yet if savin' the world, or even a few towns, is somethin' I’m ready for. Leo’s askin' me to come work for him and, well,”
“You oughta take it. Won’t say it’ll be easy, losin' a third of our crew, but I ain’t gonna make you stay if it ain’t right for you. If I run into Indrid before you do, I’ll tell him you say hello.” She smiles at him from under her hat, and a fifty pound weight lifts from his shoulders.
The letter is waiting for him in his new room, the quietest one he could find over the roof of a saloon catering mainly to the older members of the town.
If you’re reading this, it means all is well for both of us. And I’m glad you took the job with Leo. As much as I admire and appreciate Mama’s work, it carries a much higher fatality rate than the average job.
I am safe, for now. I will need to stay on the move for quite some time. Years, most likely. It’s not the future I’d have chosen, but it’s what has to be done.
I will write is often as I can. When possible, I will include a way that you can write me back, if you so wish. I miss you so much, and I love you even more than that.
Until we meet again I remain faithfully yours,
Next up: A time jump. And a very, very bad day for Duck.
Chapter 14: God's Gonna Cut You Down
Duck plays the hero. And pays the price.
Content note: Duck is tortured in this chapter. I keep it as vague as I can and it's not graphic, but felt like I should warn folks.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
It’s been a little over two years since Indrid left.
Ducks’ life is fairly routine. Much to his relief, the mining town he’s been hired to guard is relatively peaceful. The worst he has to do is break up a fight here or there or put someone in the drunk tank when they’ve had too much and start causing trouble.
Leo also helps him learn some new fighting styles as a way to pass the time; oddly, they're well-matched in terms of strength.
His days blend into one another, a haze of work, of training, of solitude in is little apartment, of waiting for letters.
They come often, Indrid keeping him apprised of his travels and of his thoughts on the people and places he encounters. Occasionally he gets ahead of himself, asking Duck about things that haven’t happened yet. When he can, he leaves Duck information on how to write to him. Duck always does. He reads the letters until the ink dries up and the paper falls apart, keeps the most recent one on tucked in his jacket at all times.
A heartening aspect of the letters is that Indrid seems to be trying to use his powers for good again. Emphasis on trying. More than once a report reaches Duck of how infamous outlaw Indrid Cold has robbed this train or that stagecoach, only for Indrids' next letter to contain an account of said robbery.
More than anything, their letters to each other are an experiment in all the ways a person can say “I love you” or “I miss you.” Duck always ends his by asking when Indrid is coming back.
“I’m not sure.”
Later, this becomes
“Within the next year.”
At last, in the most recent letter, “Soon, two weeks at the latest.”
That letter arrived a week and a half ago, the start of July, and Duck has counted the days until they’ll be together again, excitement bubbling up in him whenever he thinks about it.
Which meant, of course, that something had to go wrong.
This thought currently runs through Ducks mind as he hides behind a rock, bullets ricocheting about.
For the last month or so, a gang calling themselves “The White Hand” has been terrorizing this stretch of territory. They steal plenty, but worse they kill, readily and often and seemingly for the hell of it.
So when they ambushed Duck, Leo, and a few of their squad while they were out for a ride (just a ride, Duck thinks, we ain’t got anythin' to steal, we ain’t huntin' them, and now folks are dyin') things went bad, fast.
Next to Duck, Leo peeks over the edge of the boulder and fires, the returning shot hitting him in the shoulder. He slumps down and Duck grabs him in time to keep him from hitting his head on the rocks.
“Leo, c’mon, stay with me.”
“They just got my shoulder, I ain’t dyin'. Yet.” He offers a weak smile that Duck does not return.
They’re outnumbered. Three of them are wounded already, Leo included. All signs point their attackers not stopping until they’re dead. Duck has to do something.
“Wait here.” He creeps backwards until he’s hidden by an outcropping of stones. As luck has it, the closest attacker to him is the one who seems to be leading the rest of them.
Here goes nothing.
He moves as quietly as he can, grabs the bandit before he has time to turn. He can’t get away, Ducks too strong, and Duck keeps him in front of him while pointing a pistol at his head.
“Don’t nobody fire another shot, or the big boss here meets his maker!”
“I ain’t got no interest in killin' him, but I ain’t lettin' him go until you let my partners ride on.”
The gang members exchange glances, look at their leader, who simply shrugs.
“Alright, you got a deal!” Shouts one.
Duck keeps a close eye out as Leo and the others, with some effort, get on their horses and head down the trail, Leo looking back at him with concern.
Now all Duck has to do is keep the outlaws from giving chase.
With all his might he shoves the man in his arms forward, then turns and runs like every devil in hell is behind him.
Were they all on foot, he might stand a chance. He’s more stamina than any of them, knows the area well.
But they’re on horseback. There’s a cacophony of hoof-beats and then he’s surrounded, raises his hands in surrender.
The others are safe. This is worth it.
The leader dismounts, strides forward until he’s an arms length from Duck. Glances at one eye, then the other, recognition spreading across his face.
“Well, fellas, I do believe we caught ourselves a Duck.”
The next hour is a blur of anger, fear, and pain as the gang ties him up and sets up camp for the night. He nearly gets away once, but a knee to his ribs ends that attempt and earns him even more ropes on his body.
It’s only when the leader crouches in front of the fire with a mirthless grin that Duck realizes he’s seen this before: a vision, his last one, one where he woke up wracked with terror.
The leader pulls a large knife from his belt, holds it to the fire. As it heats up, he looks at Duck and grins again. This time there is mirth, plenty of it, in his look. And that is so, so much worse.
Duck isn’t sure how long it lasts, just that when it started it was dusk and now the stars are shining bright above them.
His durability offered him some protection, at least at first. But with no chance to recover, with each second bringing more pain, it started to wear him down. The burns are the worst, his body more resistant to impact than to heat.
At first he’d tried not to scream, not wanting to give them the satisfaction. Eventually he found it made things hurt less, even if the laughter that followed it made him run cold. And he’d fought back in the beginning, two of the six bandits sporting bruises on their faces and one nursing a possibly broken finger from where Duck bit her. But that only encouraged them.
There’s a lull now as the gang eats dinner, though the leader (seated next to Duck) occasionally pauses to slam an elbow into various parts of Ducks body. Or reheat his knife in the flames and touch it to Ducks' skin. Again.
Duck is laying on his side, looking at the fire, trying to focus on it rather than the pain. The burn doesn’t make him scream this time, just whimper and curl in on himself.
His jacket is torn, but still on him, and as he tucks inward he brushes against Indrids' last letter.
They’re getting bored with hurting him. Which means he’ll be dead by sunrise.
He presses the letter closer. Wishes he could have seen Indrid, even one last time.
“I'm giving you all one chance to leave peacefully.” A voice, calm and clear, and not quite human somehow, speaks from the darkness
“Now why would we do that? Mighty comfy here, ain’t we Duck.” Another elbow, this time on his back, as the leader speaks.
“You are trespassing.” There’s a growl in the voice now.
“Go to hell.”
A figure steps into the firelight on the opposite side of the circle from Duck. It’s huge, black with wings and glowing red eyes. It reaches two arms out (it has four, Duck notices with terror) placing one each on the heads of the two closest bandits. Claws tighten, hands twist, and both bandits fall dead with their heads at ungodly angles.
Movement, screaming from all sides of him as the rest react. The leader tries to run but the creature is on him in an instant, knocking him to the ground. A snap and Duck sees bone sticking out of the mans' leg. Two of his compatriots have better luck, running in blind panic into the trees. The remaining man charges the monster who seems to anticipate this, grabbing him and hurling him into a tree. He falls to the ground and stays there.
It turns back to the leader. Takes it’s time stalking towards him as he tries desperately to crawl away.
It kneels, says something Duck can’t hear, then brings a clawed hand down and across the mans neck. There’s ripping, gurgling sound.
Primly, the creature wipes the bloody hand on the dying mans' shirt.
And then it turns towards Duck. He shuts his eyes. Maybe he can pretend to be dead and it will leave him alone.
Something crunches in the dry dirt in front of him, and a strong hand lifts him into a sitting position, holds him there. So much for that plan.
He opens his eyes. From this close, the creature looks like a moth, antennae and all. It studies him, various hands touching his limbs and examining the torn fabric of his clothes. As it does, he pleads his case.
“Look, um, in case it ain’t obvious, I ain't with them, don’t mean to be trespassin', and, and, uh, I don’t mean no harm.”
It turns its attention fully back to his face and his remaining courage leaves him.
“Ah, hell, look, if you’re gonna kill me, please do it quick. Snappin' my neck is fine, if I can’t talk you into lettin' me go.”
A large hand rests on either side of his face. He closes his eyes, starts to pray.
A clawed finger brushes his hair back, a low chirring noise emanates from the creature. It sounds sad.
“Oh, my sweet, what did they do to you?”
His eyes snap open. He can’t form words, just stares in shock.
“I apologize for frightening you.”
“You sound like…”
“Indrid? That's because I am.”
Duck shakes his head.
“Gonna need you to prove that. I’ve fallin' for people pretendin' to be him before, ain’t makin' that mistake again.”
Possibly-Indrid cocks his head.
“The first time we met, you tried to escape me six times, though I always told you when I saw you trying. On the sixth attempt, I kissed you. I left you a horse named Winnie the next day. On at least one occasion, you thought I was a hallucination.”
“Indrid, it’s, how, I, what is going on?"
“I kept a secret from you. This” he stretches out his wings, “is the form I was born in. The form you know is what I chose as my human appearance when I came to earth. I’m sorry for keeping it from you so long, but it is a difficult reality to share with most humans” He tears at the ropes binding Duck, eases them off, and Duck falls against him, shaking.
“I, I don’t care if you’re a giant moth lookin' thing, or any other thing, I thought I was gonna die, god it hurts so much, thought I’d never see you again, don’t care if you got wings, just so happy you’re back, and, and.” The thoughts are coming out garbled. Indrid runs two hands soothingly down his back, another pets his hair.
“Shh, shh it’s alright. I can explain more later, right now we need to get you somewhere where I can tend your wounds. Those awful, awful people. I was en route to a town a few miles east to warn them about a fire. Ended up just flying across the main street shouting warnings because I saw all the futures narrowing down and you being hurt. I’m sorry I didn’t make it here sooner.”
Duck makes sounds that he hopes communicate Indrid needn’t apologize.
“Can you stand? Here, let’s try, oh, goodness, that’s a no.” Duck tries, he really does, but standing hurts too much.
Indrid scoops him up, begins walking back into the darkness.
“Not to worry, my love. I’ve got you. You're safe.”
I'm using a different version of Indrids moth form this time around.
Next Up: Indrid is comfortable. Duck asks for a favor.
Chapter 15: I Walk the Line
Many people have a weird morning. And Duck learns about moth physiology.
Duck fades in and out of the conversation as Indrid carries him. He catches enough to understand that Indrid is from another world, Sylvain, and that the little glowing crystal he wears helps him survive on earth.
“Here we are.”
Duck glances around. They’re standing in the threshold of a wooden cabin that has seen far better days.
“I found it abandoned, my last stop before I came to you.” Gingerly, Indrid lowers him down onto a strange, lumpy cot.
“We’ll need to get you to a real doctor tomorrow. I have a few medical supplies, but you need more care than they can provide.” As he speaks he picks up the red glasses sitting on a crooked table. He puts them on and it’s as if the universe twists and then there’s a familiar face staring at Duck.
He’s too tired to cry, or else there’d be tears of joy coating the floor. Indrid turns to gather supplies and Duck panics, reaches for him, terrified that if he gets too far away he’ll disappear like a dream. Indrid returns to cot, settles next to Duck, whispers gentle reassurances as Duck clings to him. Eventually, Duck is calm enough that Indrid can get to work.
Indrid does his best, soothes something cold and sticky across the burns, cleans off the scrapes and cuts with water boiled over a small fire.
“Now, try to sleep, my love. I’ll be right here if you need me.” Indrid lays down next to the cot. Duck murmurs that he will, shuts his eyes.
No position is comfortable. Everything aches, twinges, stings, and the lumpy cot is not helping matters. Duck tosses and turns for half an hour. He just wants to sleep, and is getting increasingly miserable that it might escape him.
“Can’t sleep?” Moonlight through the window reflects off red lenses as Indrid sits up to look at him.
“No, ‘m sorry, did’t mean to keep you up too.” He rubs his eye, winces when he touches the bruise under it.
“I foresee an option that might help.” Indrid removes his glasses and his Sylph form fills the room. He lies down on the floor, motions for Duck to come close. Guides him into place so that most of him is resting on Indrids' torso, just his lower legs and feet touching the floor.
“Uh huh.” Duck nestles his face into Indrids' fluff, manages to arrange his arms in a way that doesn’t hurt too bad, one hand fisting into the down beneath it, the only sign he’ll allow of his still-present fear of what nearly happened. Four spindly arms wrap lightly across his back.
“Are you cold? I can put my wing around you.”
“No, warm enough. Thank” a yawn interrupts his words “thank you.”
“My pleasure. Sleep tight, Duck.”
Duck’s had better nights of sleep, but he’s had far worse ones too.
He blinks awake at some point to Indrid sleep-chirping. Heh, that’s funny, that kind of chirp normally means…
Indrids' hips are moving in his sleep as well.
Duck should get up and let him have some privacy. Except he’s holding him fairly tight. And Duck’s not actually eager to move given how safe and warm he is.
He snuggles back down, as close to Indrid as he can get, shuts his eyes with a happy sigh. Something, and he has a good guess as to what, occasionally rubs up against his leg. After a minute or so there’s a longer chirp and Indrid relaxes. One hand runs unconsciously up and down Ducks back and soon he’s sound asleep again.
A few hours later he rolls at a bad angle and jolts awake from the pain in his, well, everything. Indrid shakes his head, stretches his wings out and yawns (more teeth than Duck would have expected, and worryingly sharp).
“Oh dear, how bad is it?”
“You may have to carry me back to town.” Duck moves off Indrid with a groan of pain, tests out his ability to stand. His legs are still weak and moving his head hurts.
“Are you afraid of heights?” Indrid asks, nonchalant and packing up his belongings. He hasn’t changed back to a human.
“Don’t love em, but ain’t terrified of em. Why?”
“We need to get to town quickly. It’s still dark enough that I’m willing to take my chances on being seen like this. If you trust me to carry you, I can fly us there.”
“What the hell, this night’s been strange enough. But if you drop me and I die, I’m comin' back and hauntin' your ass.”
“I’d expect nothing less. Let’s go.”
Many people have a strange morning in Virginia City.
The doctor, for instance. Summoned before sunrise by a skinny, odd-looking man to come tend to Duck Newton, who everyone in town assumed was dead after the rest of his party returned from a run-in with the White Hand Gang without him. He’s in bad shape; a bruised rib, a broken nose, burn marks, hell, he has more bruises than skin when he examines him. The skinny man stands in the corner, alternately staring into the distance and twisting his sleeve cuffs worriedly. The doctor explains to both of them that Duck will recover fully, and leaves instructions for how to care for his injuries.
Which is how the clerk at the general store finds his first customer of the day is tall man with white hair who smiles a bit too wide. He buys bandages and alcohol and a two pound bag of sugar, piles the counter with groceries that don’t quite make sense together. Pays without blinking at the huge total cost.
Leo Tarkesian may have the strangest morning of all. He’s not in great shape himself, bullet wound only stitched up twelve or so hours ago. But he’ll be damned if that stops him from going to see Duck.
He makes his way into Ducks apartment after a weak “come in” answers his knock.
“You’re one lucky son of a gun.” He eases down into the chair by the bed.
“Yeah, but not in the way you’re thinkin'. I was hopin' you’d come by. I need to ask you a favor.”
“You saved my life, probably the lives of three other folks as well. What d’you need?”
At this moment, the door swings open again and a man carrying an absurd number of items stumbles into the room.
“I’m back, got lots of things because I didn’t stop to check what you had and food is food at a certain point, hello Leo nice to formally meet you, something in one of these bags is supposed to dull the pain, I wish they had aloe, Barclay uses that for burns and I trust him”.
Leo studies the man as he continues to talk and fuss over Duck.
“You’re Indrid Cold.”
The taller man freezes.
“He is. That’s the favor, Leo. Our team is really the only law in town. We don’t nab Indrid, no one else is gonna try. He’s the reason I ain’t dead right now, and why you won’t be seein' the White Hand Gang no more.”
Leo raises an eyebrow, questioning.
“I took care of them. Someone will find the bodies soon and confirm that.” Indrid responds coolly.
“What I’m saying is; let Indrid stay here in town for awhile and promise me no one will arrest him. Far as I know he ain’t got any plans that involve stealin'. Tends to behave himself when I’m around.”
“You do bring out my love of law and order.” Indrid smiles at Duck. Leo sees him wink out of the corner of his eye.
“And if that ain’t enough to convince you, here’s one more: you say no, I haul myself up on a horse and he and I skip town.”
He’s known Duck a long time, the man doesn’t say things like that lightly. And given how Indrid is looking at Duck, it’s clear he has one focus and it’s got nothing to do with money.
“Alright, you got my word.” Leo holds up his hands with a gruff smile.
“Thanks, Leo. How soon do you want me back at work?”
“Whenever you can, I got at least a week before they’ll let me back, figurin' you may need a bit more than that. Just try’n rest up. Make sure he don’t do anythin' foolish, got it, Cold?
“You have my word. And please” he smiles wide “call me Indrid.”
Duck stirs awake the next morning, the down of Indrids' Sylph form soft under him (they’ll stop sleeping like this once Duck is no longer wracked with pain by sleeping on a normal bed, he swears).
“Mmmm, Duck.” Indrid breathes out
“Yeah darlin'?” Is the mumbled reply.
Indrid jolts, and Duck realizes that his hips were making those same little movements they had the previous morning.
“Oh, goodness, must’ve been talking in my sleep.”
“Doin' some other things too.” Duck lifts his head up to smile sleepily at Indrid.
“Wha-oh, oh! I’m so sorry.” Indrid sits up as fast as he can, Duck grabbing on to him to avoid slipping onto the floor.
“Flatterin' to know it’s a about me. Same dream as last night?” Duck eases himself onto the bed proper.
“It...happened last night as well?” Indrid squeaks out. Duck nods and Indrid places two hands on his face in embarrassment.
“Hey, don’t bother me none.” He reaches forward and rubs Indrids' leg reassuringly
“It feels impolite.”
“Darlin', you done far, far filthier things to me. And I ain’t goin' to hold what sleepin' you does against you. Worse things to wake up to than you havin' a nice dream.”
Indrid peeks out through his fingers.
“If you say so. It, um, it may happen again. I think it has something to do with being in this form.”
“It makes you hornier?”
“No, not quite. I’m far more sensitive to scent when I’m like this. These” he points at his antennae, “are mainly for that purpose. And, well, almost every time we’ve been together we’ve had sex. So when they pick up your scent, it triggers arousal on some level. When I’m awake it’s not really a problem, but when I’m asleep…” he trails off, and Duck is positive a blush is moving under those dark feathers. Duck takes pity on him.
“Makes sense. You up for startin' somethin' to eat while I wash out back?”
Indrid nods, relieved, slips his glasses on. Duck leans forward, kisses him, winces.
“Goddamn, two fuckin' years and I can’t even kiss you cause of what those fuckers did to me.”
A soft kiss on the very tip of his nose.
“Not to worry my love, we’ll have plenty of time for that once you’re better. After all, I’m not going anywhere.”
It’s been a week since they got into town and Duck is starting to go stir crazy. Moving and breathing hurt less than they used to, but when he tried to go back to work Leo took one look at how stiffly he was moving and sent him straight home.
Indrid does his best to keep the house from descending into total chaos and to keep both of them fed, though the number of drawings, both crumpled and intact, in the apartment is staggering. There’s enough space for the two of them (when Duck admits he chose a larger apartment in case Indrid wanted to live with him when he finally came back, Indrid is speechless for a full minute), and Indrid gives Duck enough alone time that he doesn’t feel smothered, just spoiled.
Indrid continues to sleep in his Sylph form with Duck resting atop him, though he turns back into his human self as soon as they wake up. At first Duck thought this was for the best, given how intimidating the first form is, but he’s finding as the days go by he’s intrigued rather than nervous about this new (to him) aspect of Indrids' being. It’s when that intrigue morphs into something else that he realizes he may have a new problem on his hands.
It starts with a dream. He and Indrid are back in the cave where they first got acquainted and once again Indrid has Duck pinned to the ground. But this time, as he grins down at him he flicks off his spectacles and his Sylph form looms over Duck, surrounding him on all sides with wings slightly outstretched. One hand tangles in Ducks hair, one keeps his hands pinned, the remaining two tug and pull at his clothes. Indrid says something unintelligible and Duck twitches his hips up and down, begging to be touched. Indrid laughs, wags a finger in loving reproach before baring his teeth and lunging down.
His orgasm is strong enough that it wakes him up, panting and shaking.
“I see what you mean about this being a pleasant sight to awaken too.” Long fingers card through his hair, and a low purr travels from Indrids chest into his own.
“Fuck.” Duck buries his face against Indrid, immediately bashful.
“You’re about to apologize; there’s no need.”
Duck eases himself off Indrid into a sitting position, Indrid grabbing and placing his glasses on as he does so. He’s cheeks are a bit pink, not just from the rising sun creeping through the drawn curtain. And he’s sitting back on his heels, hands clasped very deliberately in front of him. Duck glances down and smiles when he sees why.
“Got you goin' too, huh?”
“I, ahem, may have been having a similar dream before your movements woke me up.”
“I interrupted ya? Awful rude of me.” Duck crawls the small distance between and sits up, mirroring Indrids' position, and moves the taller mans hands out of the way.
“Duck, you don’t need to, I mean, you’re still convalescing.”
“Doubt this’ll set me back much.” He traces a finger across the outline of Indrids' cock, earning him a soft, flustered moan.
“And if it does, it’ll be worth it, god, Indrid, I wanna touch you so bad darlin', missed makin' you feel good when you were gone, ah, damn it, what kind of fella wears pants to sleep in the middle of the summer?”
“I’d point out you’re also wearing themAhhhnnnnnn.” Indrid tips his head back as Duck finally gets his hand where he wants it. He moves firm and fast and Indrid suddenly pulls him close.
“Ow, ribs, ribs!”
“Oh goodness, I saw that coming too late, I-”
“Here.” Duck guides one of Indrids' hands to his hip, the other to his cheek, neither of which still hurt. Indrid smiles, the kind where he looks at Duck as if Duck is the most amazing thing he’s ever seen.
“Darlin', think I might die if you don’t kiss me.”
Indrid obliges, starts of soft and tentative so as not to hurt him, kisses harder when Duck doesn’t wince or flinch. Duck uses his free hand to pull him closer, as close as they can get, moans as he feels Indrid come in his hand.
When they break apart, Indrid rests his forehead against Ducks’.
“I missed you.”
It’s only later, when Indrid is in town on an errand, that Duck stops to think about the implications of his dream. Given how little Indrid lets Duck see him in his Sylph form, there’s no way he’d want to fool around with him in it.
Virginia City is real, but I have no clue if the mining companies hired private bands of people to guard it. Probably not, so let's call it creative license.
Next up: Duck does some investigation. Indrid attempts gardening.
Chapter 16: Rose of My Heart
Duck does some hands-on experimenting.
After three weeks, Leo finally lets Duck come back to work. At first he’s jumpy every time he comes home, worried he’ll open the door to find another note from Indrid telling him he’s left. Again.
It doesn’t happen. Nine times out of ten he comes back to find Indrid drawing or asleep, sprawled out in some of the strangest positions he’s ever seen. On the rare occasions Indrid isn’t there, he leaves a brief note on the table, comes back soon with food or something they need for the house. Once or twice he comes back covered in sweat and grime, shovel over his shoulder and more weight in his pockets.
“I never put the money from a robbery into a bank, so I had to stash it somewhere. Or several somewheres. Nice to have someone to spend it on, for once.”
He says this as he rinses off in the washtub near the back of the building. Duck doesn’t need to be there, not really, but it makes him feel better for Indird to not be in a vulnerable state all by himself. It is the wild west, after all.
Plus, Indrid seems to enjoy having an audience, flirts shamelessly with Duck as he washes off. Every time, Indrid is on his back or knees within thirty seconds of them getting back to their rooms.
And each evening, assuming Duck is home, they sit on the bottom step of the back staircase watching the sky turn dark. Duck admits that for the last year he’s become more attuned to his little patch of ecosystem, making notes about the plants, about the animals, how many baby jackrabbits were born in the nearby warren and how hot it has to get before the sagebrush goes completely dry.He’s half expecting Indrid to tell him it’s silly. Instead, a few days after the discussion Indrid presents him with binoculars so he can better observe the wild.
They sleep side by side now, Indrid with his glasses on, but Duck is still dreaming about his Sylph form. He’s wishes he knew how to bring it up. He worries that Indrid thinks he thinks it’s intimidating (it is, but in a way Duck likes). And then he worries that Indrid will assume he’s only interested in the novelty or foreignness of it, rather than the fact that Duck is simply realizing he’s attracted to him in all his forms and wants to show him as much.
He’s almost ready to say it, keeps losing his nerve, one night as they’re reading for bed. It’s hot, so scorchingly hot even though the sun has been down for hours. Which means he’s wearing next to nothing and Indrid is shirtless. Duck studies the scars across his back, wondering how the wings factor into all of those, when Indrid looks over his shoulder.
“You can ask. I won’t be offended.”
“Ask? Ask what? Don’t, uh, fuck, know, fuck, what you’re talking about, never had a question in my life, fuck.
Indrid gives him a look. Duck sighs, defeated, rubs the back of his neck nervously.
“There’s a future where I ask, ain’t there?”
“I was wonderin' if you’d be okay with me lookin' at you in Sylph form. I mean really lookin' at you.”
Indrid stares into the middle of the room, lost in thought or prophecy or maybe both.
“Very well. Let me make sure the curtain is all the way down.”
After checking the curtain and double-checking the lock on the door, Indrid pulls off his glasses and steps in front of Duck.
Duck runs a hand across his chest. The more he looks, the more he notices the feathers aren’t pure black; they’re speckled with grey and brown, little bits of white tracing from his shoulder across to his back. One set of Indrids' hands are clasped calmly together, but the lower set is fidgeting. He takes that set in his own.
“If you ain’t comfortable I’ll stop.”
“It’s not that. It’s, well, it feels nice, but it’s odd. I’ve never had a human touch me like this.”
Duck uses one hand to spin Indrid slightly, as if they were dancing, so he can run a hand down his wing. He stands up on his toes, fondly scratches near Indrids' neck between his shoulder blades. There’s a high, sharp chirr and his wings stretch out, revealing eye spots on each.
“Oooh, that felt nice.”
Duck moves fully behind him, pets and scritches his hands up and down Indrids' back earning him a flurry of happy chirping noises.
Indrid twirls back around, rubs his forehead against Ducks own, catlike. His upper hands rest on Ducks shoulders. He lets out a laughing chirp and flicks his tongue on Ducks' cheek, making him laugh too. When Duck looks up at him, he’s smiling.
“Had your fill?”
“No quite.” Duck sits on the edge of the bed, continues to run his hands across Indrids' abdomen. Gradually, he moves to stroking up and down his legs, pausing to take one of his lower hands in his own and bring it to his lips for a kiss.
Keeping one eye on Indrids' face he traces a hand up in-between his legs, finds something soft yet solid that responds to his touch.
Indrid stares at him in disbelief.
“Said I wanted to see all of you, remember?”
“I saw this possibility but I didn’t think you’d…” His voice is suddenly small.
“I love you, darlin'. And it’s turnin' out that I find you awful irresistible no matter what you look like.”
“I, oh goodness, Duck.” His name morphs into a purr when he runs a hand down Indrids’ length. He repeats the motion, coaxing it until it’s hard and he finally gets a good look at it: large (no surprise there) the same color as the rest of him. There are small ridges. Duck thumbs over one, curious, and a ripple moves up the whole thing. Indrid covers his mouth, stifling the high noise that comes out.
“Those are, nhn, most sensitive, stimulate movement to, to help with procreation.” He squeaks out, flustered.
“Long way of sayin' they help you fuck.” Duck smirks at him, runs his thumb up and down a few more times, Indrids' legs starting to shake.
“Duck, please.” His mouth is still half-covered in an attempt to stay quiet.
“Need me to stop?” It’s not teasing, Duck's not sure if this is too much.
“Nononono, I want to, I mean, if it’s too strange I can finish myself, I”
“You wanna come.”
A high, needy whimper accompanies a nod.
Duck leans forward, licks experimentally. A drawn out moan from above him as one set of hands threads into his hair encouragingly. He takes the first inch or so into his mouth (it’s fuzzy, almost like velvet) sucks, and the other two hands start roving across his back and arms. It’s heady, feeling just how strong Indrid is even as he comes apart under Ducks hands and mouth.
When he glances up Indrid is looking down at him, awestruck and lust-filled all at once.
“Never, oh goodness, never thought I’d get to see you like this, my perfect human, so wonderful, so handsome, so eager, AH, sucking my cock like you were made just for that.”
Duck moans and a few moments later Indrid yanks his head away and pulls him up onto his feet as if he weighed nothing, holds him close with a chirp-moan as he comes.
Ah, that’s why he made Duck move. That would have been a lot to have in his mouth without warning.
Slowly, he pushes Duck back down so he’s sitting again, kneels on the floor in front of him.
“I’m the luckiest moth, er, man in the world.” He strokes Ducks cheek.
“Love you no matter what you are.”
Two hands ghost across Ducks thighs.
“May I return the favor, like this?”
Whatever blood in Ducks body that hadn’t already headed south does so now.
“I’m all yours.”
Indrid nuzzles against his neck, tongue slipping out to trace across his throat, then his chest, and then his hips as he shifts so that his head is in Ducks lap. He rests it there, looking up at him lovingly. Duck strokes his head, making him purr. He tugs Ducks pants off, tosses them to the side.
A long tongue extends, wraps three times around Ducks cock and then retracts slowly, drawing a low moan out of him as it does.
Those sharp teeth grin at him momentarily and then the tongue snakes out again, flicks across the tip once, twice, before coiling around again and again, twisting and tightening in a sensation that is like nothing Duck has ever experienced. He pets haphazardly at the back of Indrids' head, yelps when he begins purring, the vibration from the sound making his toes curl.
A hand runs over each of his hipbones and then down, Indrid lifting him easily to slip his hands into a position to grab his ass. There’s a rough squeeze from his hands at the same time there’s a sharp movement from his tongue and Duck buries his fingers into the down on Indrids' shoulders, hips moving with increasing desperation.
Indrid turns his head slightly, gives him a small love bite with his mandibles, draws them back to deliver a larger one with his teeth. The burst of sensation is what he needs and he comes with a jolt. As he comes down from his orgasm, he moans shakily when he notices Indrid licking the last of it up.
“Hmm, it tastes different when I’m like this. Fascinating.” He rests his head on Ducks thighs, sighs.
“And here I thought being with you in my human form was overwhelming. This opens a whole new world of sensory experiences.”
Duck will think of a response to that. Right after his brain starts working again.
Indrid stands, stretches, puts his glasses back on.
“Your speechlessness suggests it was satisfactorEEEP!” Duck grabs his waist and pulls him onto the bed, rolling them so that he’s on top of the thinner man and proceeding to coat his face in kisses.
“Yeah, it was fuckin' satisfactory, you fuckin' ridiculous, amazin' man.”
A slower kiss, and he keeps their lips close when he whispers, “and don’t think this gets you outta me fuckin' you like this” he runs a hand up Indrids' chest, “neither. Gonna love every version of you as often as you’ll let me.”
“Oh no, whatever shall I do?” Indrid flops a hand dramatically against his forehead.
“Me? Sorry, couldn’t think of somethin' snappier.” He chuckles as Indrid throws his head back with a laugh, nestles close as the strangest, most enchanting man he knows wraps him in his arms.
Indrid saw this going better.
He’s an excellent craftsman in many ways, able to make charms to help himself and his fellow Sylphs blend in around humans. He’s made his living for many years from a quick mind and quicker hands.
Yet this planter box is getting the better of him. It’s a square. With nails and some dirt. And it is impossible.
And Duck is about to come down the back stairs and ask-
“What’re you doin'?”
“Gardening. I didn’t wish to disturb the ecosystem, so I thought I could make a contained plot. I may have been mistaken” He glares at the hammer.
“Want me to give it a shot?” Duck trots up next to him, extends a hand.
“Please.” Indrid gives him the hammer, sits back and watches as Duck meticulously gets to work.
“Why the sudden green thumb?” He gives Indrid a smile, the one he always uses when he’s amused yet curious.
“I am under the impression it is part of building a home.”
Duck drops the nail he’s holding, but says nothing.
“I planned to plant some vegetables, maybe fruit. I thought about flowers, but realized those don’t have the same utility to me when I’m a human.”
“You’re really stayin' this time?” Wary hopefulness in that drawl he loves so much.
“I will do everything in my power to, though I may have to leave from time to time for short errands. But I’ve no intention of disappearing like I have before.”
“I’m, um, I’m awful glad to hear that.” They smile at each other and then Duck continues building, telling Indrid about his day as he does. That Indrid says nothing of the tears pricking either of their eyes is his choice.
That he says nothing of the fact that, as he stood outside last night, he swore he felt something watching him, that’s his choice as well.
Me whispering at my own version of this character: Indrid you fool don't plant things in Nevada in the heat of the summer.
Next up: Indrid is hungry. Duck is out of his element.
Chapter 17: Raised on Robbery
Duck makes a new friend. Indrid makes a bet.
“I can’t believe you talked me into this.”
“I foresee it going well if we attend. And a change of scene, even for a night, could be nice.”
“If your seer-powers tell you you’re about to be arrested or I’m about to make an ass of myself, you better fuckin' tell me.” Duck adjusts his tie in the mirror. It’s early morning, September, and the mining company is at this very moment sending a coach for him, Leo and their “guests” to take them to Carson City. The owners are, among other things, celebrating that the company suffered no theft this year, which they credit in part to the excellent security provided in town.
The irony of bringing a notorious outlaw into the soiree is not lost on Duck. But said outlaw made a very good point that the paid-for, fancy hotel room could be put to good use. And he looks dashing (and as unlike his wanted poster as he can manage).
It’s only when the coach arrives that they discover Leo’s had to beg off, citing illness. He’s one of Ducks closest friends in the whole world and he’s also dead as soon as Duck gets back from this thing.
Duck hasn’t been in anything resembling high society in decades. And this high society bankrolls him, what if he says something foolish, or worse, has to lie about something? His nice clothes are nowhere near that nice, his accent will stand out, it will be a disaster.
“Are you aware you're saying this out loud?” Indrid looks concerned at him from the opposite seat in the coach.
“What would help you relax?” He switches so that they’re sitting side by side, takes Ducks' hand comfortingly.
“Whiskey, mind-readin' powers, the sweet release of death.” He counts out on his free hand.
“I would suggest an orgasm, but I’m worried about our clothes.”
“Come here.” Indrid puts an arm around his shoulder, pulls him close and rests their heads together.
“I know it’s an honor, I just wish it weren’t so nerve-wrackin'.”
Indrid lifts the hat off so he can kiss the top of Ducks head.
“I have a suggestion: choose something for us to do after the festivities to reward yourself.”
Duck considers the options; there’s something he’s been wanting to try with Indrid for months.
“I ain’t asked yet.”
“Sorry, I got excited.”
Duck whispers the idea into his ear, watches a sharp, delighted grin split across his face.
“Well, now that issomething to look forward too, isn’t it?”
Duck is doing his level best to stay calm. But he's never been in a place quite like this.
It’s a mansion, on a sloping hill in the center of the city. There’s more food and booze then he’s ever seen before. He freezes halfway into the main room, backing up into Indrid in a moment of being overwhelmed.
“Hmm, I’d forgotten how busy and loud these things can be.”
“You been to one of these before?”
“My job back home was with the royal court, for lack of a better term. There were functions like this from time to time. Never enjoyed them then.”
“Hold up, coming was your idea.” Duck’s whisper goes up an octave.
“We’re here so you can meet the man with the yellow tie pin. I think he’s important. Also, I never had you by my side back home. That makes things much more enjoyable.” He loops Ducks arm through his own, guides him the rest of the way into main ballroom.
It’s not long before one of the owners, Mr. Wells, spots Duck and waves him over.
“Ah, Duck, I was just telling Mr. Garfield here that you’re the one keeping the streets of Virginia City safe for our workers.
“Oh, huh, that’s awful kind, but it ain’t just me and Leo, he says sorry for not comin', whole squad of folks help us out.”
“No need for modesty, my good man. Oh, how rude of me, Jonathan Wells.” He extends a hand towards Indrid.
“Right, uh, Mr. Wells, this is Indrid, um, fuck.” They should have come up with an alias for him, oh jesus what is he supposed to call him.
“Newton. Indrid Newton.” Indrid takes the proffered hand, shakes it.
“I had no idea you were married, Duck.”
“It’s a recent development.” He shoots a glance at Indrid, keeps his voice steady.
“No rings, I see.” Mr.Garfield notes.
“Haven’t found the right ones, I’m afraid.” Indrids' smile widens, but doesn’t brighten.
“I have a most excellent selection of them in my store. Might I suggest visiting sometime? You may also find some new garments there, Duck. Costcos Emporium, only a few blocks if you’d like to go now.”
“You'll have to excuse Mr. Garfield, he has a mind for business and not much else.” Mr Wells smiles, departs to make the rounds.
His statement turns out to be aggravatingly true, Garfield continuing to hound Duck and Indrid as the evening progresses. Indrid doesn’t pay him much mind, but Duck is close to breaking from the chatter alone.
“After all my lean friend, without a ring or something of the sort for him to wear, how is anyone to know Duck is spoken for? No offense, but of the two of you he’s the younger and easier on the eyes.”
He can’t get in that much trouble for breaking someone’s nose at a fancy party, right?
Indrid drops his focus from the middle distance to look coolly at Garfield.
“Putting aside the fact that I find speaking of one’s partner in such a way distasteful, you’re quite right. I should get him something” He turns the full force of that wide, unnerving smile on the other man.
“Your watch, for instance. We’ve about an hour until dinner. I suggest we spend that time in a game of poker. If I win, I get that watch.”
“Oooh, now that is an interesting deal. I accept. If I win, I get those fascinating spectacles of yours.”
Indrid hesitates, and Duck can tell he’s looking at the futures. The he nods.
“This is too exciting. Let us find a table.” Garfield hurries a way, Indrid trails leisurely after him, but stops Duck from following.
“The man with the yellow tie-pin is about to turn around riiiight there.” He points.
“You may want to talk with him awhile. Perhaps about your interest in the natural world.”
“Very. Kiss for luck? Not that I’ll need it.” Duck kisses him quickly, goes to talk to the man before he loses sight of him.
The hour, to his surprise, passes pleasantly.
The man, who introduces himself as Vincent, does indeed share Ducks interest in nature. He likes it so much he’s working with the government to set aside certain chunks of wilderness for protection. He’s more than happy to chat with Duck about the writings of John Muir and the finer points of trying to preserve a natural area of any decent size.
“There’s some talk of hiring people to patrol them, like rangers.”
“Huh, now that’s an interestin' idea.”
A cheer from the other side of the room, and Duck turns to see many hands slapping Indrid on the back. Garfields' smile is stretched thin as the wing of a fly.
The dinner bell rings as Indrid makes his way towards them. He presents the watch.
“A token of my affection.”
Duck takes it, tucks it into his pocket, draws Indrid in for a proper kiss. It lasts long enough that people are starting to stare. Duck can’t bring himself to give a damn at that moment.
Dinner itself takes, by his count, a hundred and fifty years. People from the mining company give speeches upon speeches, each as damn dull as the next.
Luckily for him, Indrid is getting increasingly handsy, roaming his fingers across Ducks thighs and lap whenever he can. Duck bides his time, waiting to retaliate closer to the end of the night.
There’s a window at the far end of the dining room. When Duck looks out it, something looks back at him and his pulse quickens. A split-second later, Indrids' hand ghosts over a very sensitive body part, distracting him.
“This is the last speech. After that I suggest we adjourn to the hotel.”
Duck shakes his head to clear it, and when he looks at the window there’s nothing outside but desert, stars, and a few deer. He just spooked himself with his own reflection. Nothing more.
“Goddamn, you could fit a city in here.” Duck marvels, hanging his hat next to the door of their hotel room.
“It’s quite lovely ooooh they have a tub! A real one.” Indrids' voice echoes out what Duck assumes is the washroom.
“You’re only allowed to have a soak if I get to join you.” Duck sits on the bed, yanks his shoes off with a sigh.
“I think that can be arranged.” Indrid grins at him, continues to look about the room as he undresses, leaving a trail of clothes in his wake.
Duck feels a lump in his pocket, pulls out the watch.
“You know you didn’t have to get me anythin', let alone gamble for it, seein' as we ain’t actually married.”
“I suppose, but he was truly obnoxious and I wanted to shut him up. It’s far shabbier than anything I’d think of buying you as an engagement gift.”
The idea that Indrid has given that any thought at all fills Duck up with warmth.
“Not to mention there was never a risk of losing. Seer, remember.” He taps his glasses with a conspiratorial smirk.
“You tellin' me you cheated? And here I thought you were on the straight and narrow.” Duck chides him teasingly as he walks over and puts his arms around him.
“Planning on dispensing justice and taking charge of the situation, lawman?” Indrid nuzzles the top of his head.
A laugh morphs into a growl as they spin and Duck is suddenly against the wall, four hands pinning him in place.
“Not a chance, my sweet. Not a chance.”
Updates may be slow over the next few days, I have a deadline for something else.
Next Up: Grave misuse of hotel furniture.
Chapter 18: Nasty Swing
Indrid does some damage. Duck is all tied up.
Indrid purs low in Ducks ear, flicks his tongue along his jaw.
“Or has your request changed from this morning?”
“No, been thinkin' about this all day.” He’s already shaking, the sense of being so thoroughly overpowered melting him like cheap putty.
“Me too.” He scoops Duck up, looks around the room musing mostly to himself.
“Now, where shall I start? I hope you weren’t planning on sleeping tonight, by the by.”
“Wouldn’t dream of it, seems like you got some ideas on how to keep busy.”
“Indeed. Wait here.” He drops Duck unceremoniously on the bed, proceeds to hunt around the room and in the small bag he packed, tossing things onto the bed at Ducks feet. Eventually he sits next to him, the bed making alarming noises when he does.
“We’ll need to build up to what you want and it will require some” one set of claws skitters teasingly across Ducks' stomach “experimentation.”
“You tellin' me there ain’t a manual on ‘how to fuck when one of you is extra tough and the other is otherworldly and huge?’
“Sadly, no.” Another claw traces down his neck. He cocks his head, eye narrowing slightly.
“Take the rest of this off.”
Duck fumbles, barely manages to get his remaining clothes off before Indrid lifts him again and carries him over to a large chair on the far end of the room. He sits, plunks Duck crosswise on his back in his lap, one arm looped around his shoulder.
“First things first, let’s get you perked up.” With surprising gentleness, one hand begins working Ducks cock, another catches his head when it lolls back as he sighs
“That’s it, love, relax. I’ll take good care of you.”
Duck lets his eyes flutter closed, concentrates on the content hum coming from Indrid as the remainder of his stress and nerves float away. Indrids' hips twitch up every so often, but his touch remains soft. Duck knows, based on their conversation in the coach that morning, that Indrid is lulling him like this with every intention of turning on him.
“You know, that unpleasant gentleman had a point.” An edge hiding just under the softness of his voice.
“Oh?” He takes a free hand in his own, runs a thumb across Indrids' fingers.
“I let you wander about all night, indecently perfect creature you are, with no sign of who you belong to.”
“Awful careless of you.” He rubs his cheek against the down nearest him, feels a hand on his shoulder tighten
“Ought to have done something to make it clear you are mine.”
“Thought you didn’t believe in talkin' about me like that?” He grins teasingly.
“In public. When I have you here, like this” a drawn out stroke, making Duck arch his back, “I’ll talk about you however I please.”
“An’ you say I’m filthy.”
“You are. You’re also talking back too much.”
“You gonna stop me?”
He’s abruptly pulled onto his knees in Indrid's lap, two hands firmy holding his head and tipping it up so he has no choice but to look Indrid in the eye.
“Careful, my sweet. My patience only extends so far.” He runs a thumb across Ducks lips. Duck parts them, bites down when the thumb passes inside.
A deep growl, a flurry of movement, and Duck is on his knees on the floor between Indrids' legs. He’s eye-level with his cock, whines when Indrid holds his head in place so he can’t suck it.
“My stubborn, handsome human, whatever am I going to do with youOH!” He hasn’t bothered to grab Ducks hands, which he runs up his cock taking care to pause and put extra pressure against the ridges.
“Didn’t see that comin'?” He gives his best shit-eating grin.
Indrid tries to glare, only succeeds at laughing at the smug look on Ducks face. The laugh dies out and then the fingers in Ducks hair twist and yank his head back.
“Open your mouth.”
“Good boy.” He shoves Ducks mouth down onto his cock, only stopping when Duck taps his leg.
“That’s, oooh yes, more than last time, you should be proud, my sweet little cocksucker.”
Duck moans, runs his tongue over a ridge.
“Ah! You’re so, so good at this. If only the folks at that ridiculous party knew their heroic lawman had such a talented mouth.”
A flushed, hot feeling spills across his chest when Indrid says that and he shudders, gives an extra-hard suck.
“If they knew just how, oh gracious, good you are I bet they’d trade every last dime to switch places with me.”
Duck moans, shuts his eyes and focuses on Indrids words, reaches a hand between his legs. Maybe he can get himself off without Indrid noticing.
“But you know what?”
Duck whines, shakes his head best he can.
“I wouldn’t let them. Because you are mine Duck Newton, every last, wonderful inch of you, oh ho, what have we here?”
The hand Duck is using to stroke himself is pulled away and up so Indrid can look at it. He gazes up in time to see Indrid grin at him before licking up and down each finger in turn.
“More wound up than usual are we?”
He nods,squeezes the part of Indrids cock not covered by his mouth for emphasis.
“Then maybe next time we’re at something so tedious, I’ll brag to everyone about all the sinful things you do in my bed. Perhaps even make you give a demonstration right then and ther-OH, Duck, yes, sweetheart.” Duck hungrily redoubles his efforts, Indrid thrusting forcefully as he does. It’s incredible, overwhelming, and his left hand scrabbles for something to hold onto, to ground him, finds it when one of Indrids hands intertwines with it.
The hand gripping his hair and the base of his neck tightens, claws pricking his skin and Indrid comes with a long purr. Duck swallows, pulls away with a shaky breath, other hand resting on Indrids' thigh. He hunches forward, tries to get his breathing in order.
“Be, uh, be up in a minute”
He carefully shifts Ducks hands. A rustle of feathers and Indrid moves down to the floor, sitting cross-legged, resting his back against the edge of the chair cushion. He opens all of his arms and Duck crawls into his lap, curls up sideways and nestles against him.
“Are you alright? Oh dear, was that too much?” Three arms hold him, the fourth strokes his hair.
“No, just what I wanted darlin'. Gonna want more of it, but I need more of a rest between than I thought.”
“Of course.” Indrid rubs their foreheads together, chirps reassuringly.
They sit like that for a moment, Indrid resting his chin atop Ducks head.
“It’s funny, you talkin' like that gets me goin' somethin' fierce. But I tell you, no way I’d ever want anyone other’n you seein' me fuckin'.”
“I’ve no interest in it either. I find saying those sorts of things pleasurable, doubly so given how you react, but I’ve not intention of doing anything that would make you uncomfortable.”
“In spite of what the times you’ve caught me with my pants down suggest, I like my privacy.”
“I can help with that.”
Black wings suddenly envelope him, narrowing the world down to him and Indrid.
“Ta-da! Built in curtains.”
Duck bursts out laughing, presses a kiss onto the wing closest to him.
“May I?” One hand gestures to Ducks cock.
“Please, oh, FUCK, pleasepleasepleaseAH!”
“That...took very little time.”
“Said yourself I was wound up.”
Indrid smiles, slowly stands, helps Duck to his feet.
Duck peers around Indrid, and sees what he’s referring to: the once-pristine chair now has stuffing peeking out of many deep claw marks.
“Takin' that as a sign you enjoyed yourself.” Duck giggles, Indrid puts his head in his hands.
“This is why we can’t have nice things.” He’s shaking with laughter too, continues to do so as Duck pulls him over to the bed.
“Think I’m ready for the next part.” He lays down, puts his hands behind his head. Damn, these are nice sheets.
“Really?” Indrids' antennae seem to start vibrating.
“Yep.” He stretches his legs, shutting his eyes as he does so.
Which means he’s not prepared for Indrid, now in his human form, to excitedly jump on him.
“Sorry.” Is all Indrid has to say for himself before he starts covering Duck in kisses. He pauses, resting his cheek against Ducks stomach.
“Preparing you like this is going to much safer. No claws.” He holds up his hands, wiggles his fingers in the air.
Indrid sits up, fumbles with the condom and the tin of lube, crawls back onto Duck, kissing him as he works the first finger in. He focuses on kissing Duck, seems to be looking for every way to deliver a kiss. For a while it’s soft, barely touching, interspersed with nuzzling Ducks nose, cheek, neck. Then long and slow, tongue slipping in to meet with Ducks own. Teeth occasionally nip at his lips or ears, hand roving across Ducks chest.
“Such lovely sounds.” Indrid whispers, as Duck gives a high moan from the third finger making it’s way in, which devolves into low, hungry noises as he twitches his hips. Indrids head dips down so he can kiss across Ducks throat.
He sits up, removing his hand and Duck makes a shamefully pathetic sound.
“Put your hands next to the headboard.”
Duck brings his wrists next to the cool metal and Indrid leans over him, tying his hands above his head.
“I don’t want you lifting a finger for the next little while. And since I know what a stubborn creature you are, I’m taking precautions.”
“I’m all yours darlin', wait, did you use my tie?” He tilts his head up. Yep, that’s his green tie.
“I’ll buy you a new one.” Indrid smiles at him, pushes his knees apart and starts slowly fucking him, hips moving lazily as he leans forward to kiss him more.
“Seems like the best way to build up to the next part, wouldn’t you agree.”
“Fuck, yes.” He pants, brings his head to capture another kiss, feels Indrid laugh as he does.
“I love you so much.”
“Already fuckin' me, don’t gotta sweet talk me too.” Duck teases.
“You know that’s never stopped me.” Another kiss.
“Love you too, darlin'.”
Indrid pulls out, tosses the condom into the wastebasket, removes his glasses. The bed immediately sinks more.
He’s between Ducks legs again, humming as he runs his hands all over him.
“Your antennae are goin' a bit wild there.” It’s true, they’re shaking more than Ducks ever seen them.
“Well, all the cues they’re receiving are that, erm, mating” his voice squeaks with embarrassment on that word, Duck snorting out a laugh when it does, “is about to occur.”
“Guess that’s true, in a manner of speakin'.” He licks his lips as Indrid rubs several fingers worth of lube onto his cock, shuddering as he does so.
“Damn, could watch that all night.”
“A-another time.” Indrid takes a deep breath, works the tip inside, two hands holding Ducks hips up to give him better access, the other two framing Ducks chest.
“Fuck, oh Jesus, that feels mighty strange.”
“Nnn, nope, good, oh fuckohfuck.”
“Then I’m, gracious, going to treat those noises as good unless you tell me, oh, oh sweet goodness.” He’s shaking again.
“Did, didn’t account for how warm and tight it feels, how that, oh my, how that feels on certain sensitive parts, oh, oh you feel so perfect, so good.” The last word is nearly lost in a chirp. His head dips down and his tongue darts out to lick Ducks cheek.
“Been a long time since you come apart this quick.” This is the most flattering, fucking entrancing sight Duck has ever experienced. He wriggles his hips, curious, and the hands holding them clamp down in response.
“It is taking oh so much control to not give into my instincts and fuck you ruthlessly until I come. Do. Not. Tempt me.”
“What if that’s just what I’m anglin' for?”
Indrid freezes, clearly torn.
“Look, you can see the future, and I’m weirdly tough. Odds of you hurtin' me are low, and if they’re there you’ll see it comin'.”
Indrid cocks his head, slowly adjusts until he’s sitting up more. Places one hand over Ducks mouth.
“You’re are about to get very loud, so much that if I don’t muffle it someone will check on us. Show me what you do to make me stop.”
Duck snaps twice. Indrid smiles.
That’s all the warning he gets before a wave of sensation overtakes him; pressure, pleasure, pain all mixed together with the heady rush of just how much Indrid wants him. The claws holding his hips in place as Indrid fucks him bite into his skin with a sting that has no right to feel as good as it does, and his fingers grip the headboard as Indrid growls, mandibles pulling back so he can sink his teeth into Ducks shoulder.
“Perfect, so perfect and mine, all mine.” Indrid purrs as he runs his tongue across Ducks throat and Duck moans.
Indrid shifts his angle slightly, putting more pressure on Ducks prostate as he does so and Duck yells, words muffled by the hand still firmly over his mouth.
“Mmmm, make that noise for me again.” He thrusts his hips the same way and Duck doesn’t really have a choice.
“My perfect human so, Nnnnh, so good for me, taking everything I give you. You’re going to come for me like this, my sweet, and then I’m, oh, going to keep using you until I’m good and done because you are mine, my perfect Duck, all mine.”
Duck is losing his ability to make words, moaning and whimpering into Indrids palm, kissing it when he can to show that yes, yes he’s his, he’ll always be his.
There are so many sensations in his body that his orgasm takes him by surprise, the build-up completely buried under a dozen other pleasurable feelings. Indrid never stops fucking him, seems to double his efforts as Duck goes limp, no longer bothering with any finesse or precision.
“I’m going to uncover your, gracious, your mouth. You are allowed to whisper, but heaven help you if you scream.” The hand moves from his face and Ducks gasps, then lifts his head to kiss the soft cheek that Indrid turns towards him in his quest to lick one side of his neck.
“Fuck, fuck, Indrid, I’m all yours.”
A whimper mixes with a growl as Indrid rests his forehead on the pillow next to Ducks.
“Don’t want nobody but you, love you so much.”
Indrid gives a sharp thrust and chirps, one hand reaching up to tear at the tie binding Duck and then he comes, all four arms pulling Duck even closer to him as he does so. Duck follows a hunch, wraps his now-free arms around Indrids neck, nuzzles against his chest. Hears a soft “thank you” when he does.
Ever so slowly, Indrid untenses and lets Duck out of his embrace. He gradually pulls out, still shuddering intermittently.
“I’ll, um, I’ll be right back.” He disappears, returns a few moments later with a wet towel that he uses to clean Duck off.
“That was quite magnificent. On my end. Was it alright on yours?” There’s a hint of meekness as he glances sideways at Duck.
“Alright? It was amazin'. I mean, ain’t gonna be up for it every night, but if you want it again I sure as hell won't say no.”
Indrid relaxes with a sigh.
“Want your glasses?”
A flicker of reality and then it’s once again the lanky man with pale hair sitting on the bed with him, smiling so bright Ducks heart is ready to melt all over again.
“Oh dear.” Indrid looks at the blanket beneath them, points at the multiple rips it now sports. Duck glances over his shoulder at the headboard.
“Think I did you one better.”
Two bars of the headboard are bent and twisted from where Duck grabbed them.
They look at the damage. Then at each other. And then they collapse onto to bed in a fit of laughter.
“Goodness, I can’t take you anyway.” Indrid wipes a tear from his eye as Duck crawls into his arms.
“Bullshit. Take me anywhere you want darlin', I promise I’ll go.”
Next up: Absolutely nothing bad happens, says the author (with her fingers crossed).
Chapter 19: A Good Run (of Bad Luck)
Indrid makes a promise.
It’s mid-October, the last bit of dusk fading away into the sky as Duck opens the door to their rooms. Indrid’s gone but there’s no note, which usually means he’s run into town for something.
Duck begins settling in for the evening when a voice, agitated an unmistakably Indrids' reaches him from the window.
“For the last time, I am not going back.”
“And for the last time, you do not have a choice.”
Duck peers out the window. Just beyond the back stairs, Indrid is facing someone whose back is to Duck; tall, oddly broad in the way Indrid is oddly thin. Indrid’s without his coat, hat, or shoes, as if he ran out the door in a hurry.
“I’ve made my choice. I’m staying here.”
“Cousin, be reasonable-”
“Reasonable?” Indrid spits the word out, “I’m not the one sending out monsters to hunt down one retired seer.”
“I don’t know what you mean.” The other voice is dangerously level.
“I know it was you who sent those creatures after me years ago, the ones that took away my foresight. I know you and the others don’t like how long I’ve been on Earth and how I prefer it to home, but you nearly cost me my life, and killed dozens of humans. And I know you’ve been sending things to spy on me. So for the last time, leave me alone or I will make you leave.” He takes a step towards the other figure.
“Sylvain will soon be at war with a neighboring planet, Indrid.”
“How unfortunate for Sylvain and how irrelevant to me.”
“The court needs their seers, all of them, even the retired ones, if we are to be victorious.”
“I imagine my absence will not be a deciding factor. You know I have no interest in war.”
“Yes, you seem to only have interest in playing house with your pet human.”
“Do not speak about him that way.” Indrid growls.
“Do you really think he’ll still care about you once he knows what you are?”
“He’s well acquainted with both of my forms and loves me in all of them. Nice try, though.”
“And what do you think the other humans in this town would do if they knew a monster was in their midst?”
“You can’t scare me with that, I’ve gotten out of those situations before.”
“You misunderstand. What do you think they’ll do to him” A finger points at the window and Duck instinctively ducks down for fear of being seen “if they find out he’s not only been hiding a monster but, shall we say, consorting with it?”
“You wouldn’t dare.”
“Only you can see that for certain, cousin.” The figure walks past Indrid, pats him on the shoulder.
“Until we meet again.”
Duck needs to move, to help, to do something, but the words the stranger uttered hold his limbs in place like ice.
The door eases open and Indrid steps inside. He shuts the door, rests his head against it.
“You heard us.” It’s the defeat in his voice that makes Duck finally move. He gingerly pulls Indrid away from the door and sits him down on the bed.
“Heard enough to know you’ve had a time of it today. Who the hell”
“Was that? A family member, one I am not fond of.”
“Can’t say he won me over.” That gets a small laugh as Indrid rests his head on Ducks shoulder.
“Think he’s bluffin'?”
“I can’t be sure. The futures aren’t solidifying, which means he hasn’t made up his mind.”
“He comes after you again, say the word and I’ll run him out of town.”
Indrid looks at him, sadness and love moving across his face.
“My noble Duck, whatever would I do without you?”
The next night, Duck is shaken awake to find Indrid looking frantically down at him.
“He’s made up his mind.”
“Indeed. We need to leave. Now.” He’s already moving, packing up a bag in between pulling his clothes on.
“He’s going to tell them, everyone, about what I am and believe me when I say he is a convincing and manipulative being. And if we stay there’s not a future, not a single one, where anyone but Leo comes to our defense. I either flee in them, or die.”
“You die defending me in every last one.” Indrids hands start shaking so much that he drops the notebook he’s holding. Duck picks it up, tucks it carefully into the bag.
“Guess we’re skippin' town.” He tries to smile reassuringly but it won’t come. Indrids' legs give out under him and he thuds down on the floor and sits there, head in hands. Duck crouches down to say something and Indrid is immediately clinging to him.
“I'm sorry, I’m so sorry, I don’t want to go, I didn’t want this, I’m sorry, sorry sorry.”
“Shhh, hey, darlin', I gotcha.”
A sharp face and round glasses bury themselves against his shoulder.
“It’s not fair.” A hiccup in between sobs.
“No, it ain’t.” He holds Indrid as tight as he can. Wishes for some way, any way at all, to make this hurt less.
Indrid refuses to slow the horses until dawn. It’s only then that they’re able to talk.
“Where are we goin'?”
“To the gate between Earth and Sylvain, near a town called Kepler on the California border. After that I go back to the court and you…” He hunches forward with a sigh, “go on to whatever life you see fit.”
“Wait, you mean you ain’t takin' me with you?” He pulls Winnie to a stop, forcing Indrid to do the same.
“But you said-”
“I know what I said!” Indrid snaps. Duck slides off Winnie, pretends to look for something in the saddlebag so Indrid can’t see the pain crossing his face. A cool hand touches his shoulder, and when he turns Indrid embraces his.
“I said I’d never leave again. I didn’t see this future then, it hadn’t yet appeared. Please, please understand that I’d bring you if I could. But Sylvain is not a forgiving place, Duck, especially when it’s at war. Even though they’re not at war with Earth, a human would be looked on with great suspicion and distaste by many. And when they realized the nature of our feelings for each other, there is a very high chance you’d be killed as a security measure to keep me from being compromised.” He’s pulled back a bit, is studying Ducks face.
“You’re going to ask if I’ll come back.”
Duck blinks back tears
“I don’t know, there are too many variables. But listen carefully.” He cups Ducks face in his hands.
“If I come back, it will be forever.”
“Come hell or high water?”
“I will gladly face both at once if it means not abandoning you again.” He pulls Duck in for a kiss, the kind that is meant to stand in for a promise when words will no longer do.
An hour or two later, they reach the gate. A stone archway in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas.
“Goodbye, my love.”
Sometimes there are no more words to say.
Sometimes there is only a final kiss followed by an empty archway.
Next up: A time jump, and some more familiar faces.
Chapter 20: Here You Come Again
Ned is a good friend, a man with glasses has a bad day, and Duck sees red.
Kepler, Nevada. Five years later.
“Be not afraid, my friends, I came upon this trick while traveling in the land of the Pharaohs. But first, I need a brave soul to volunteer as my assistant!”
From his spot on the front porch of the sheriffs' office, Duck smiles as a dozen hands shoot up. Up on a makeshift stage Aubrey Little, Kepler’s resident magician and (unbeknownst to many residents) spellcaster, continues her patter. On a podium next to her is a large rabbit, one Dr Harris Bonkers, sporting a tiny bowtie to the delight of the travelers currently enrapt by Aubreys' performance.
Most of Keplers money comes from such travelers, it’s position near the California border and a recently built railroad line ensuring a steady stream of folks in need of food, shelter, and entertainment.
Of course, not all travelers are the same. There are also those who come through the nearby gate to Sylvain, and travel no further than the Amnesty Lodge on the far end of town.
Duck stumbled upon the skeleton of the lodge the night he said goodbye to Indrid. Or, more accurately, he stumbled over a sleeping Barclay, too caught up in his own misery to notice anything around him.
The news of the war and of Indrids' departure came as no surprise to Barclay or Mama who, after a few moments of hushed conversation, asked Duck if he wanted to stay awhile and help them while the lodge was built. It was to be Mama’s solution to the increasing number of Sylphs who had to leave home and could not return. Duck agreed, though made it clear he had no interest in helping with the monster hunting end of things.
A week later, he was sitting after work staring exhaustedly and weepily into an empty glass of whiskey when he made his first friend in Kepler.
“Hello friend, you look as though you could use some cheering up!” A man with graying hair and vaguely disreputable air sat down next to him.
“And another drink, it seems. Kirby, freshen up the gentlemans' glass!”
“Sure thing Mr. Chicane.” The bartender poured Duck another as the older man reached across the bar and pulled up a glass box.
“Behold! The great Jackalope!”
The piece of taxidermy in the box was so badly put together that Duck burst out laughing, the first he’d had in a week.
“I know, it’s shit isn’t it?” The other man laughed, smiled and introduced himself as Ned, the owner of the bar they sat in. He spent the better part of the night talking Ducks ear off about his plans to make the bar into something more, something that would draw folks to Kepler. That was, when he wasn’t spinning stories of a past that Duck was sure was 95% bullshit. He asked Duck plenty too, drew him out enough to get him joking.
Back in the crisp fall air of the present, Duck gazes down the road at the giant sign reading “The World-Famous Cryptonomica!” in huge red letters and the small crowd of people peering in the door. World famous may be a bit of an exaggeration but at least Ned finally learned how to fake a decent Jackalope, and a few other things as well.
Across the street he notices Mama watching Aubrey with a smile. She’s been dressing nicer since she was elected Mayor a year ago, but refuses to forgo her duster and hat (or stop running the lodge). She’d been given the position when the previous mayor was run out of town by the citizens who were sick of him and his sheriff extorting money from the residents.
Which, coincidentally, was how Duck became sheriff of Kepler.
He likes being sheriff here; there’s seldom any violence in Kepler that isn’t caused by an abomination. And he finally agreed to start fighting those again when Aubrey arrived and Mama convinced her, Ned, and Duck to join up and help guard the town.
He loves Kepler. He loves his friends, loves watching Aubrey perform or Ned spew malarkey to travelers, loves his small house in the quietest part of town. He’s happy.
There’s a hole in his heart, one that’s been there for five years.
For the first three years, he asked anyone who came to the lodge from Sylvain if they’d seen Indrid or heard anything about him. The answer was almost always no, and the few times it wasn’t it was only the barest confirmation that Indrid was alive.
No letters ever came, either. Duck didn’t stop hoping for those until last spring. The ache in his chest and its cause was one of the few things he never brought up with Ned or Aubrey, or really with anyone. Some days the pain of it was a dull throb and on others, ones that took him by surprise, it was as sharp as the night Indrid left.
He tried, more than once, to convince himself that Indrid would never come back just so he could start getting used to that very likely reality.
But hope is a hard thing to kill.
Lately, however, it was not hope Duck struggled with. It was betrayal.
About a month ago, newspapers began shouting that the outlaw Indrid Cold, long assumed dead, was back to his old tricks. There’d been three robberies, each sporting his trademarks and in one case there was an eyewitness who described a man who very much matched his description. Duck was wary, given how easy it could be for someone to impersonate Indrid. But then the third robbery occurred, and hot on its heels came reports of a dark shape with red eyes in the sky. While said reports were widely dismissed as drunken ravings, to Duck they were a confirmation: Indrid was back.
He was back, and instead of coming to find Duck, he’d gone right back to his old life without so much as a word or a letter. As if Duck didn’t even exist.
As if he didn’t even matter.
Duck shakes his head.
He can’t think about that. He ought to just get along with his life as he has been.
Aubrey’s act is wrapping up. Duck applauds, remembers he needs to finish up some reports inside.
It’s as he’s turning that the explosion echoes through the town.
As Aubrey tries to calm her audience, Duck and Mama take off running. Rounding a corner, they find a smoking hole in the wall of McElroy and Sons Banking Company.
Mama begins to investigate with Pigeon, one of Ducks' deputies, assisting her as soon as she arrives. Duck walks over to one of the sons, the youngest, who looks rather upset.
“Was anyone hurt?”
“No, sir. Aw beans, this is bad isn't it?”
“It ain’t great, but it ain’t the end of the world.” Duck spots Juno, his other deputy.
“Juno, can you come get a statement from Mr. McElroy here and anyone else who was around? See if we can get identify a possible suspect.”
“Don’t think that’ll be needed.” Mama waves him over, hands him a slip of paper before brushing dust off herself.
He unfolds it, reads it aloud.
“I’m back. Yours, Indrid Cold.”
Piggeon curses, the youngest McElroy gasps, and Mama rolls her eyes with a groan.
Duck just stares at the paper.
He’s not angry anymore.
He’s seeing so much red that he doesn’t realize Aubrey has run up beside him until she speaks, nearly jumps a foot in the air when she does.
“Oh thank goodness, it wasn’t me. I always worry it’s me if there’s combustion involved.”
“No, it was the dirty outlaw Indrid Cold.” Pigeon mutters.
“Juno, Pigeon?” Duck says as calmly as he can.
“Need us to saddle up boss?”
“Nope. Need you to stay here and watch the town. I’m goin' after Cold.”
“By yourself? Duck, that could be real dangerous.” Juno looks genuinely worried.
“Won’t be the first time I’ve tangled with him."
He turns without another word, heads out to the stable for his horse (Winnie has been retired and is currently being used to teach Aubrey how to ride, city-slicker that she is). Indrid seldom uses a horse and wouldn’t try to fly in broad daylight. So he’s on foot. It’s already quite cold at night, so he’d look for somewhere to hide with lots of options for shelter.
Duck turns the horse towards the mountains.
“Alright darlin', you got my attention. Now you got a hell of a lot of explainin' to do.”
Next Up: A reunion, an apology, and an explanation.
Chapter 21: Bank Robbers' Nursery Rhyme
Duck really needs to pay more attention to the weather
It’s dusk when Duck spots his best chance: an overhang, sheltered on most sides by trees. The perfect place to hide if you’re a an outlaw who can’t handle the cold.
He dismounts, creeps closer. There’s a figure in a black coat, hunched close to a poorly made fire. Pale hair sweeps down the side of his face, showing just a hint of red glass.
The last bit of doubt disappears as the figure straightens and starts turning a half-second before Duck speaks. A little bit ahead, like always.
“Hands up, Cold.”
Indrid finishes turning, hands raised. When he and Duck look at each other, there is a moment where is face is shows nothing but joy and relief before he collects himself.
“That’s an odd way to greet me, considering how we parted.” He indicates the pistol in Ducks hand.
“Yeah, well, that was before you decided to, apparently, forget about me and go back to your old habits like nothin' ever happened between us. You want to go back to square one and rob innocent folks in my neck of the woods, then I’m goin' back to square one an arrestin' you like the dirty thief you are.”
Indrid cocks his head. He looks more amused than hurt.
“Is that what you think is going on?”
“Got a better explanation? Up.” He jerks the gun and Indrid stands. Duck carefully approaches him, takes out his handcuffs and clips his hands in front of him.
“I do, actually, have an alternate explanation. But something tells me you’re not in the mood for it now.”
“Damn right.” He holsters his pistol, crosses his arms as he glares at Indrid. Indrid considers him for a beat, before darting his head forward and kissing him.
Every atom in Ducks body lights up at once and it takes all his strength to step back.
“Not this time, darlin'. I’m hurt awful deep, and it’s gonna take more than a kiss to make it better.”
“Oh.” Indrids' voice goes small, his face vulnerable and embarrassed.
“Future mislead you there?” Duck thought it would come out as a taunt, surprises himself when it’s gentle instead.
“There was a fifty/fifty chance it went well. Worth a try.” A shy smile and Duck looks down because if he stares any longer he’ll starting kissing the upturned corners of those lips.
“Ahem, um, well, better be gettin' you back to Kepler. This all you got?” He gestures to the single bag near the now-dead fire. Indrid nods.
After some awkward balancing, they get Indrid on the horse and Duck jumps up behind him, wrapping his arms around him in order to grab the reins. Indrid looks at their relative positions, then at Duck, eyebrows raised.
“Just to keep you from fallin' off. Or freezin' to death.”
“Speaking of which, do you have a shelter planned?”
“For wha-oh fuck me.” Duck looks at the sky above them. The first snowstorm of the season is bearing down on them, and there is no way they’ll make Kepler before it hits. Duck spurs the horse forward, navigates them to one of the small cabins that dot the mountains. They’re built to help travelers who get lost or waylaid by bad weather, stocked with food and supplies and replenished by a team of good Samaritans in each county (Duck among them).
He gets the horse sheltered, then drags Indrid inside. He’s shivering something fierce, so Duck strips off his coat and hangs it over his shoulders as he curls up on the bed. By the time Duck has a fire going, Indrid burrows underneath all the blankets on the bed.
“Feels familiar, doesn’t it. You, me, a cozy cabin all to ourselves,”
“This ain’t nothin' like that. And we’re only here for the night. I can handle getting back to Kepler in the storm in the mornin', but in the dark on this terrain it’s a great way to die.”
Duck pokes at the fire, finding he has too many things to say to find a starting point.
“Tell me something, Duck.”
“What?” He turns to see Indrid sitting up in bed, looking at his still-cuffed hands.
“Are you keeping me in these because you’re afraid I’ll run from the law, or because you’re afraid I’ll run from you?” Duck can’t read his expression, the light reflected on his glasses from the fire hiding his eyes.
“The, uh, fuck, first one, fuck, I mean neither. Both. Maybe.”
“I missed your terrible lies.”
“Ugghg.” Duck flops back onto the floor, parallel to the fire.
“Can I come sit by the fire?”
“Be my guest.” Duck sweeps his arm with a flourish.
There’s a fwump as Indrid moves the blankets and walks across the small space to sit by Duck, facing the flames.
“Are you ready for my explanation yet?” A tentative hand rests on his knee.
“No, still pretty fuckin' mad at you.”
“How long are you planning to stay mad?"
“As long as a fuckin' please!” Duck sits back, immediately regrets raising his voice.
“Gonna stay mad all night, cause if I don’t I’ll end up back in that damn bed with you, and then I’ll stay mad in the mornin' so I can get you back to town to plead your case, and then we’ll have a real long chat where you explain yourself and maybe, just maybe, after that I’ll kiss you.”
Maybe if he says that out loud, he can make both of them believe it.
“Very well.” Indrid runs a hand up his leg, absentmindedly.
“Did you miss me?”
“Ain’t gonna answer that.”
“Because you don’t want to, or because the answer ought to be obvious?”
“The first, I, fuck, I mean, neither-”
“The second one.”
“You’re right. You missed me, I could tell from the look on your face when you saw me today.”
“Well-spotted.” Duck grumbles.
“But it wasn’t only that. It was all the times over the last five years I flicked through futures and saw you, and saw you were lonely or sad and that I was the cause, or the moments where you saw happy couples on the street and turned away. The times I saw you waiting for letters I never sent, or asking for news of me that wouldn’t come.”
Duck raises up on his elbows, looks at Indrid. He’s staring at his hands, picking at Ducks pants and his own sleeves in turn, words coming fast.
“I missed you so much in those moments, made myself look at them so I couldn’t forget what my leaving did to you. I missed you even more on the days when I never looked at your futures because those were days I didn't even see your face.”
“I missed you so much, your laugh, your smile, the way you talk, the way your hand felt in mine, the way you could make me feel like the present was a something worth focusing on, your kind heart, your perfect mis-matched eyes.”
Carefully, Duck takes one of Indrids' hands with one of his own. The other man doesn’t seem to notice.
“You don’t want to hear my reasons and I will not say them until you do.You have every right to be angry with me and I’m so sorry for hurting you, I will probably be sorry about it until the day I die. Please, please don’t think that I forgot you. I missed you, I thought about you every day, please, I, I don’t know what else to say right now, it all just keeps coming back to that.”
Duck squeezes his hand and Indird looks down, eyes widening.
“I missed you too.”
Indrid smiles, shakily.
“I didn’t know I could miss anything the way I missed your kissing me.”
“You keep sayin' you missed me I might, well, not sure actually what I might do.”
Indrid leans forward, looks at him.
“Naw, just the fire..heat. Making my skin turn blush-colors. Fuck.”
“I missed you, Duck Newton, with every fiber of my being. I missed you, more than the smell of the desert after the rain, more than the feeling of flight, more than having a life that wasn’t spent in endless throne room arguments.”
Duck laughs at that. Both of Indrids' hands are holding his own now.
“I missed the way you look in the morning, the way you grumble, I missed the feeling of your skin under my hands.”
Duck is hot from more than the fire, affection trying to shove the anger and hurt out of the way. And his blushing isn't the only thing he has to worry about.
“Looks like a certain part of you missed me as well.”
Yeah, Indrid's got him there.
“You gonna do somethin' about it?”
“Not unless you want me to.”
“I do, but not if you think that’s what you gotta do to fix things. Or get outta those cuffs.”
“I’m harboring no such ideas. I know I have more apologizing and explaining to do. But in this moment that may not be what either of us need. Or want.” He smiles, almost playful.
Duck reclines again, fumbles with his belt, then his buttons.
“Nah, right now I want you to use that mouth of yours for somethin' other than apologizin'.”
Indrid wriggles down until he’s on his belly, resting his head just above Ducks hips. He plants a kiss on Ducks stomach as he wraps a hand around his cock and takes it out of his pants.
“I think I can manage that.” He shifts his head, braces awkwardly on his arms and takes Duck into his mouth, agonizingly slow at first. Duck moans, softly, which seems to give Indrid a but more confidence. Still, he seems to be having some kind of trouble, so much so that worry skitters across Ducks' chest. He sits up as best he can, gently moves Indrids head up so he can talk.
“You sure this is okay? You seem a might-”
“Unsteady. It’s the angle, and trying to balance with my hands like this.”
He glances at Duck.
“Perhaps there’s a way you can assist me?’
Did he just flutter his eyelashes?
“Get between my legs, lyin' crosswise ain’t helpin'.”
Indrid does, lays down again and lets Duck take his head in his hands with a small chirp.
“Now, here’s what we’re gonna do: you’re gonna open your mouth and start suckin', fuck, yeah like that.” He ease down onto his back, a few fingers twining into Indrids' hair as he does.
“And I’m gonna do this” he tightens his grasp so Indrid can’t move his head and starts thrusting up, which immediately earns him a low, pleased sound, “that way you ain’t gotta worry bout movin' an’ balancin' or any of that. Just, oh, gotta keep that mouth nice ‘n welcomin' while I fuck it.” Indrid sucks with a moan and Duck shuts his eyes, pleasure blooming in his chest. He works his hips slow and shallow for a beat or two and then Indrid does something with his tongue that makes him buck, hard. He freezes, afraid that was too much. Instead Indrid whines, tries to bob his head to make Duck continue. Duck repeats the motion, is rewarded with a purr.
“You, ah, fuck, enjoyin' bein' roughed up there?”
“If you, nnnh, wanted me to rough you up, don’t gotta rob a fuckin' bank” he punctuates those last three words with sharper thrusts, “just, just gotta come crawlin' on your knees ‘an beg me for it, oh, oh yeah fuck, fuck Indrid.” He picks up his pace and shoves Indrids' head further down as a familiar heat pools in his gut.
“You want it rough, I’ll, fuckin' christ, I’ll give it to you, you fuckin' infuriatin' outlaw, shit do that again, ohOHFUCK!” His back arches off the floor as he comes, tugging Indrids' hair so hard he feels some of it give.
For a moment after, there’s no sound save for the two of them panting and the crackle of the fire. Indrid crawls up until he can rest his head on Ducks chest.
“Been dreaming of that for years.” He sounds content, even happy.
“Me too. Still awful mad, but I ain’t gonna pretend that didn’t take the edge off.”
“Often does.” Indrid sits up, stretches his arms above his head the best he can in the cuffs.
“Would you be willing to bring me my notebook? I need to tear out some futures.”
Relieved to have a distraction from his rapidly evaporating anger, Duck buttons his pants and goes to Indrids' bag. There are two notebooks, one black and one grey, and he grabs them both. Offers them to Indrid, who takes the black one automatically, not seeming to notice the other. As he tears pages out and tosses them on the fire, Duck flips the other one open. He does like looking at Indrids' drawings.
Except this book isn’t just drawings; there’s an awful lot of writing. Curious, he starts reading.
I’m writing you from the royal war room. Or, rather, one of them. I’m supposed to be noting down the people whose futures I’m to track. And I am. With my other hand. The rest of me is busy daydreaming about you.
I can see flowers outside the window, my favorite kind. They’re two-toned and sturdy, and have one of the most complex, lovely scents in the world. If I thought they wouldn’t die right away, I’d bring some with me to give to you. A picture will have to suffice for now.
Duck glances at the margins of the page, where a vine of flowers that remind him of honeysuckle twine their way up to the papers' edge.
I’m sorry this letter is so short. I promise I’ll write more the next time. I miss you, my sweet, and I love you so much.
He looks over at Indrid, who is still concentrating on pulling sheets from the other book. He flips through more pages; they’re all either letters to him or pictures of him, some of which have to have been Indrid drawing him from prophecies. He chooses another letter at random.
I can’t sleep, so I’m writing to you late, late at night. I woke up wishing you were here. More than usual, I suppose, if we’re going for accuracy. I hate war for many reasons, but one is that it tends to bring up old visions or old memories when I’m sleeping, violent or sad ones I want to forget. They’d be more bearable with your arms around me.
I had to distract myself by peering at your future; looks like mostly good ones for the next little while. I included a drawing of my favorite. You seemed so peaceful in it. It looks like the Cottonwoods are changing color, which I recall you liking. I’m glad, you deserve all the color and beauty in your life you can get.
Ned seems nice, from the futures I’ve seen. Is he as chatty as he is in my visions?
I wish I had more friends here. Not as though I’d have time to spend with them, given the demands the court is putting on us as seers. But still.
How is the lodge? Are the Sylphs there adjusting well?
Oh, my cousin, the awful one, died in an attack on the outer edges of Sylvain. Can’t say I’m sorry to see him gone.
Are you going gray? It looks like it some of the oncoming futures. I think you’ll look lovely that way. What is it humans call it? Salt and pepper hair? I can’t wait to get my hands into it.
I better be going, try to sleep so I don’t fall asleep during another pointless briefing.
I miss you, with all of me. I love you more than words can say.
There’s a drawing on the opposite page; it’s Duck reclining against a tree near a creek, reading a letter. He remembers that moment, last fall when Jane wrote him to say he had a new niece.
When he looks at Indrid this time, he’s met with a gaze between shock and fear.
“I’m really not gauging my future odds well today.” His voice is shaking.
“Was I not supposed to find this?”
“Odds were only one in twenty that you picked it up and also looked at it.”
“I’m...sorry?” He’s not really sure if needs to apologize. Indrid starts curling in on himself and Duck drop to ground in front of him, takes his hands.
“I wrote so many letters Duck, had to burn the first batch when the court started intermittently confiscating my notebook to make sure I was following instructions, so I had to keep them and my drawings of you somewhere safe, and, and then it just got riskier and riskier to send them, but I kept writing because I thought one day I’d have an opening but I never did. And I was scared, scared of what would happen if I tried and failed,. I was afraid of you finding that book because then you’d know I’d lost my nerve, that I love you but was too cowardly to risk getting a message to you.” He’s sniffling, which turns into full-on sobs when Duck hugs him, stroking his hair to try and soothe him.
“Hey, hey darlin', hush, it’s alright. You ain’t there anymore, I got you, ain’t gonna let anythin' from there get you.” It’s a hunch that drives his words, his feeling that Indrids' tears are as much to do with what happened in that far-off place than what didn’t happen between him and Duck. Indrid relaxes as he says them.
“Just...why didn’t you show it to me or tell me about it sooner? Would’ve knocked my anger out right quick.”
“It wouldn’t have, actually. Any earlier and it just made you more hurt. Even when I saw you reading it, the odds were you’d be upset rather than comfort me.”
“Jesus, alternate timeline me is an asshole, ain’t he?”
A weak laugh.
“Really, I ought to have seen this coming. In all the years I’ve known you, you tend to choose kindest or the bravest future, even when it’s the least likely one. I love that about you.”
He looks up for the first time since he started talking about the notebook, blinking away tears. Duck still has his arms around him, meaning their faces a dangerously close.
Duck kisses his cheek, then the corner of his mouth, and then they’re kissing, a delighted noise coming from Indrid as they do. When they break apart, he studies Indrids' face.
“Why’d you wait to come find me?”
“I can’t tell you everything now, some of it will only make sense when we get back to town. But…oh, hell, it sounds so silly when I think about it.”
“Promise I won’t laugh.”
“I’d learned that at some point my cousin found my remaining caches of money and removed them. I assume as part of the attempt to make me leave Earth. That was all the money I had. When I came back, I needed to get more.”
“I coulda found you work here.”
A deep sigh.
“On Sylvain, it’s important that one not enter a relationship empty handed. In fact, successful courtship depends on being able to show the object of your affection that you can provide for them. It seemed…shameful, to come back to you with nothing to my name. And I needed to be fast, because I wanted to see you as soon as I could. Crime is a very good way to make a quick buck.”
“Indrid Cold, of all the ridiculous things in your past, that is the most foolish thing you’ve ever done.”
“I’m aware.” A playful shove of Ducks shoulder. Duck retaliates with a kiss.
“Next time, don’t bother with none of that. Just come back to me as you are and I swear I’ll love you no matter what.”
“There won’t be a next time. But you have a deal all the same.”
They seal it with a kiss.
Indrid Cold is breathing easily, something he has not done for months. Maybe years.
Duck still loves him. Still wants him.
That’s all he really needs.
Now that his panic over seeing the notebook in Ducks' hands subsided, his brain and body are turning back to their previous focus.
He had genuinely needed to clear out futures from his other book. More pressingly, he’d needed a distraction from his arousal after getting his hands and mouth on Duck. Said arousal is now back with a vengeance.
He’s not quite ready to ask Duck to help him out. Though most of his anger is gone, he’s still likely annoyed with Indrid for robbing a bank right under his nose (which is why Indrid is still hand-cuffed, which he finds amusing and a bit arousing). Better not press his luck.
Duck is, however, currently dozing in a chair, hat pulled down over his eyes. Slowly, Indrid unclips his suspenders, slips his hands under his waistband to stroke himself. He’ll be as quiet as he can, so as not to disturb Duck.
In spite of his best efforts, a chirp escapes him after only a few moments.
“I give you permission to do that?” He can hear the smile in the drawl. Duck tilts his hat up to look at him.
“Wasn’t aware I needed it.” He smiles, changes his position ever so slightly, giving Duck a better view.
“See this?” Duck taps the star pinned to his chest, “Means I make the rules ‘round here.”
Oooh, now this is interesting. He lets out a moan, exaggerates his motions, watches as Ducks eyes widen.
“You don’t follow the rules, I ain’t lettin' you come.”
“I haven’t broken any rules. Pleeease?” It trills off at the end into another chirp.
“Darlin', you robbed a bank. In my town.” He smirks, advances on the bed.
“So” He climbs onto the bed, straddling Indrid and pinning his hands above his head, “you gotta be punished. Which means you don’t get any release unless I say so.”
“What if I plead my case convincingly?” He continues moving his hips, hoping to tempt Duck.
“I’d say pleadin' is a good word for what you’re about to do.” He flips Indrid over without warning and in spite of seeing it coming Indrid goes giddy with the force of it. He glances over his shoulder to see Duck reaching into one of his pockets.
“Found somethin' interestin' in your bag.” He pulls out a familiar tin and the one condom Indrid was able to scrounge up over the last month.
“I knew I’d be seeing you soon. Foresight, remember.”
“I resent what you’re implyin'.” Duck says in a tone that suggests quite the opposite as he yanks Indrids' pants down to his knees.
“Oh? Oh!” Indrid yelps as Duck smooths his warm, rough hands across his ass. He’d forgotten how lovely it was to have Duck tease him, banter with him as they do this.
“You’re implyin' I ain’t got no self-control when it comes to you.” He shoves Indrids' legs further apart before lifting his hips off the bed.
“You don’t. Alright, maybe you have a bi-AHoohhhh.” The sensation of Duck slowly working his cock into him removes all other thoughts from Indrids' head for the moment.
“Wrong. I got plenty.” He thrusts in little by little, voice a low growl.
“See, if I had none, you would’a been on your goddamn hands and knees as soon as I caught you today ohhhh shit, yes.” He thrusts all the way in, pauses to run a trail of kisses up Indrids back.
“I love it when you get like this.” Indrid whispers shakily. The soft laugh and kiss on the head are the only sign that Duck hears him. When he sits back up he continues as if Indrid said nothing.
“Instead, I waited until you had somethin' nice to lay on before I started doin' this.” On the last word, he starts working his hips violently and Indrid cries out wordlessly.
“No use makin' a fuss now, darlin', you made your bed and now I’m gonna fuck you in it.”
Indrid moans, shudders with pleasure as Duck leans down to whisper in his ear.
“Course, don’t matter how loud y’get, ain’t no one around to hear you but me and I like makin' you scream an awful lot.”
Indrid whimpers, moans louder this time as Duck snaps his hips.
“Mmmm, yeah, like, oh jesus, like that.”
Indrid smiles into the sheets. For all his gruffness, it’s clear Duck is coming apart quickly. He fucks Indird hard, hungrily, and Indrid luxuriates in it, rewarding him with pleased, desperate (and loud) noises. After awhile his own cock is begging for attention in way he can’t ignore.
“Please, Duck, I want to come, please.”
“You learn your lesson?”
“Yes, gracious, please, no more bank robbing, I swear.”
“I’ll, I’ll do whatever you want, whatever it is you want me to say I’ll say.”
“No more outlawin', no more runnin' off to get into trouble.”
“I promise, oh, oh, Duck, please, please, I’ll be good, oh like that, I’ll be so good, please.”
“Fuck, Indrid.” Ducks nails dig into his hips as he comes with a groan. By the time he pulls out Indrid is ready to combust with desire. Duck rolls him back over; he’s completely disheveled, breathless, and Indrid swears he’s never looked more handsome.
Duck considers him, lips pursed.
“Naw, think you gotta wait a bit longer.”
Indrid feels no shame in the whine that leaves him.
“And if I catch you tryin' to get off without my say-so again, I’ll tie you to the chair so you can’t even do that.” He kisses his nose before standing up and going to warm by the fire, keeping his back to Indrid.
Indrid would be more than happy to submit to this exquisite torment. But a quick glimpse at the futures shows him a new option.
One that he likes even better.
Duck stands, warming his hands at the fire and pretending not to notice the needy sounds coming from the bed behind him. Jesus, he’d forgotten just how much Indrid liked it when he took control like that. True, they hadn’t done it much, but every time they did Indrid was a begging, blissed-out heap of lust by the end of things. It’s only because Duck just came and needs at least a little break (thank God for whatever gave him his stamina) that he doesn't turn around and take advantage of that fact.
Indrid seems to like the hand-cuffs too. He’ll have to remember that. That is, if Indrid doesn’t stay in cuffs, or a cell, for the next several years.
Funny, if Indrid really wanted out of them, he could’ve just turned into his Sylph self.
Four things happen in rapid, perfect succession, like the chimes of a church bell.
Duck doesn’t hear Indrid making pleading sounds anymore.
There’s a clink-crack of metal.
A pair of broken hand-cuffs slide across the floor, stopping next to Ducks left foot.
And a pair of large, clawed hands come from behind him and cover his eyes, while two more pin his shoulders to his sides. They’re accompanied by a low, purring voice saying only one word.
Next up: Indrid offers a choice.
Chapter 22: Back in Babys Arms
Duck has a long night. Indrid has cash. And Mama has had it up to here with these two.
Indrid uncovers Ducks eyes, wraps his arms tightly enough around his shoulders and waist that Duck can’t turn. He’s not sure he could even if the grip was looser; the timbre of Indrids' voice, the power in those claws freezes him to the spot.
“Now, what am I going to do with you?” Indrids' tongue skirts across Ducks' neck life a knife.
“Wha-whatever you want.” He needs to get his voice under control.
“Mmm, is that all I have to do to make you comply? Remind you that I could pick you up and fly you off without so much as breaking a sweat?” He flexes his wings, shakes them out.
A thumb runs across Ducks jaw and he whimpers.
“I’m afraid I’m having a bit of a problem, my sweet. You see, it’s very tempting to be rough with you right now.” A sharp, delicious pain at the juncture of Ducks' neck and shoulder as Indrid nips him with his mandibles.
“After all, your behavior this evening suggests that roughness is all you crave.” Another bite, harder, and Duck reaches up and back, gripping Indrids' arm to steady himself.
“But you know what I think?” A nuzzle this time instead of a bite.
“I think you may be craving sweetness more than you’re letting on.” He’s swaying ever so slightly back and forth, as if he and Duck were dancing.
“Shhhh,” a claw presses against his lips, “only speak if I ask you to, my love. You’ve done quite a bit of talking tonight.”
“It’s your choice: I can treat you as you’ve treated me.” A third bite, unexpected enough that Duck yelps, “or I can be sweet as sweet can be. What do you choose?” He turns Duck slowly in his arms so they’re facing each other. In this form, he can truly be menacing, and Duck is half expecting that wicked, mischievous grin on his face. But there’s only earnestness and love, a genuine offer to give Duck what he wants.
“Gentle, Indrid, please.” He breathes out.
A feather forehead rubs against his own.
“As you wish.”
He guides Duck down onto the floor, pulls him into his lap so they’re still face to face.
“Take these off. I don’t want to tear them. And I want to see more of you.” He tugs at Ducks shirt and jacket, which he hurriedly removes.
One hand begins carding through his hair, another roves across his chest , the other two ghost across his legs, stomach, and back. Indrid’s humming appreciatively. He draws the tip of a claw from one hip bone to another and Duck gasps. He hadn’t thought he’d gotten that sensitive to touch. Maybe it’s five years without certain kinds of it. Maybe it’s just Indrid.
“How careless of me. Leaving my perfect little human un-tended to for so long, with no one to fawn over him.”
He leans Duck back, as if dipping him, to better move his tongue across his neck and chest, pausing to circle each nipple in turn. When Duck gasps, he does it again before drawing him back up against his chest as his hands continue their loving onslaught.
“Such a long time, with no one telling you how perfect and handsome you are. You lasted through all of it without straying my sweet. I’m so proud of you.”
Duck presses closer, arms and head resting against the soft down covering Indrids' chest. One hand begins working at his neck and shoulders, rubbing the tension out of them.
“So many knots, all those responsibilities and worries building up inside you. My brave, strong Duck, looking after everyone. Yet no one to look after you all those years. How unfair.”
Duck nods, whimpers. There were so many nights he needed exactly this and Indrid was so far away, all the neglected ache of those nights is building up inside him and threatening to spill out. A steady purr comes from Indrids' chest as he continues speaking.
“Mmmm, still so strong” a hand deliberately runs across Ducks upper back, “so soft too” this time one on his stomach, “so clever, so handsome” a tug on his hair at that one, “still so eager to please me. Still so responsive to praise.” Duck realizes he’s been unconsciously twitching his hips just as Indrid runs a palm across his cock.
“Would you like to help me come, my sweet Duck?”
“Yes, fuck, Indrid please, please.” He wants, no, he needs to be good for Indrid, it’s the only thing that matters in the world right now.
“Shhhh, no need to beg now my love.” He slips several fingers into Ducks mouth.
“Get those nice and wet for me while you take this” he runs his palm across Ducks cock again, “lovely thing out.”
Duck sucks eagerly, desperately, as he obeys. Indrid withdraws his fingers, leans down to nuzzle Ducks cheek. Moves the same hand down between his legs as he adjusts them slightly. One hand nudges Ducks ass, pushing him closer so Indrid can wrap his hand around Ducks cock as well as his own.
“I want you to tell me what speed is best. Can you do that?”
“Good boy.” Indrid moves his hand slowly at first, then gains speed, the sensation intense enough that Duck wraps his arms around his neck to steady himself.
“Like, like that, jesus, yes.”
Indrid chirrs in response, tightens his grip and Duck can fucking feel the ridges of his cock responding where they rub up against Ducks own. He’s losing himself in the rhythm of their movements, going weightless and hazy with pleasure.
“You’re getting close my sweet, I can see it on your face and in the futures. Would you like to come.”
“I’ll make it so if you answer one thing: who do you belong to?”
“You, darlin', ah, ‘m all yours, ohohyes, yes Indrid!” He comes with a shudder, Indrid releasing them both only for long enough to grab one of Ducks hands from around his neck and pull it down to his cock. His hand stays on top of Ducks, guiding his strokes. A memory kicks in and Duck scritches his other hand into the feathers between Indrids' wings, immediately filling the room with a trilling, thrilled chirp. He does it again, Indrid pulling him into the sweetest version of a death grip as his wings flex slightly and his head drops back.
It snaps forward again and he bites Ducks shoulder, growling as he spills over their hands. Duck collapses in a heap in his lap as he stretches his arms in various directions.
“So good.” Sing-song, two arms cradling him close.
“Same to you, darlin'.”
Indrid stands slowly, still holding Duck, and carries him over to the bed. Sets him down gently before searching for his glasses. He puts them on, crawls under the blankets Duck holds open for him. They roll onto their sides, Ducks back against Indrids' chest, arms and hands linked in one of those awkward, loving embraces people form when they can’t bear the thought of being separated even in sleep.
“No angry mob, that’s a start.”
“Indeed.” Indrid brushes snow from his coat before hopping off the horse and joining Duck on the ground.
“Alright, Iemme grab another set of cuffs from my office and then I guess we’ll …go see Mama?”
“You’re the expert on frontier justice, Duck, not me.” He trails behind Duck into the station, willing offers his hands for the cuffs.
“Someone’s waiting for you outside, or they will be.”
As they step out, they make it a few yards off the porch before Pigeon flags Duck down.
“I’ll be damned boss, you got ‘im!”
“That I did.” The reality of how awkward the next hours, possibly days, are going to be settles on Duck and he groans internally.
“Hello Pigeon, nice to meet you. I’m Indrid.” Indrid offers a hand. Pigeon looks at it, then at Duck.
“You can shake it Pigeon, he ain’t gonna bite. You.”
Pigeon shoots him a worried glance as she shakes Indrids' hand.
“Mama wants to see you two at the bank, up in the offices. I’d join ya, but Juno and I have been up all night tradin' off shifts because our spare deputy got stuck at a ranch a few miles out cause of the snow and I’m ready to drop.”
“Get some sleep, Pidge, and thanks for coverin' the extra work.”
She tips her hat, heads into the station as the two men start for the bank.
When they get to office, Mama is waiting for them along with the eldest McElroy brother.
“Glad to see you made it out of the storm in one piece. Indrid.” She nods in his direction.
“Mama.” He smiles.
“Learned somethin' that might interest you both, especially you, Duck. See, while you were off chasin' him down the McElroys, all four of ‘em, did a full count to see just how much was stolen. Wanna guess?”
“Not really.” Duck looks at Indrid, whose smile is widening.
“Two whole dollars.” Mama holds up two fingers, stares pointedly at Indrid.
“That ain’t the only interestin' thing. Seems that explosion didn’t do much beyond a bit of superficial damage. Almost like it was meant to look worse than it was.”
Duck can’t do anything but stare at Indrid, dumbfounded, as the taller man tries not to laugh.
Mama rubs her forehead.
“You got the two bucks on you?” She sounds tired.
“Indeed. Inside breast pocket, on my left.”
Duck reaches into the pocket. Yep, that’s two dollars. He hands them back to the eldest McElroy, who looks as confused as he feels.
“I have the money to repair the damage from the explosion as well. Not on me, I’ll need to make a trip into the desert tomorrow. Chaperoned, of course.” He winks at Duck, who feels heat sneaking across his cheeks
“You two need to get a room or somethin'?” The eldest McElroy looks between them.
“I reckon they do, son. Indrid Cold, I’m gonna pardon you for that ‘robbery’ and you’re a free man as long as you’re in Kepler. But so help me god, if you pull a stunt like this again just to get his attention, I will throw you through the gate back to your home myself.”
“Understood. Much obliged, Mama.”
"And just in case you're lookin' for loopholes, no more bank robbin' or any of that from now on."
"Of course. I swore as much to Duck last night." Ducks blush appears to be contagious, as it's creeping across Indrids cheeks.
Indrid holds his hands out to Duck, expectantly. Ducks halfway to holding them when he realizes Indrid is asking to be un-cuffed.
“Duck, I’m figurin' you’re getting him settled in. Now, get.” She shoos them out of the room, is turning to say something apologetic to the young man as the door shuts.
Wordlessly, Duck guides Indrid to a door down the hall and yanks him inside.
“Wha-AHeeep!” When Duck shoves him against the door by his shoulders, Indrid at least has the decency to look sheepish in the dim light creeping under the rim of storage closet.
“You coulda just knocked on my damn door. But nooooo, you had to pretend to rob a bank.”
“Would you believe me if I said this future offered the best outcomes?”
“I’ll believe you’re dedicated to bein' a pain in my ass.”
“Consider it my last hurrah before settling down.”
“You...ah, fuck it, c’mere” He tugs Indrid forward to kiss him. Indrid hums, bites his lip playfully when he pulls away.
“We should leave, that young man is about to come looking for a broom and I believe I’ve troubled him enough for one day.”
As they’re leaving the lobby of the bank, Ned steps through the doors.
“Good to see you in one piece, friend Duck!”
“Thanks, Ned. Er, Ned this is Indrid. Cold.”
“Former outlaw.” He shakes Neds’ hand.
“Now there’s a fascinating profession. Not that I’d know anything about breaking the law. You should come by the Cryptonomica tonight and tell me all about it over a drink.”
“I’d like that. However, at the moment, I require your assistance. I’ll catch up outside, Duck.” He draws Ned towards to the teller, whispering.
Duck steps into the grey October light. It’s not snowing anymore, but the chill in the air persists. He’ll need to start a fire when he gets home so Indrid doesn’t freeze. And get more sugar at the general store (Leo took it over a year ago, after moving to Kepler and swearing he was done with any kind of fighting or policing and just wanted some peace and quiet, damn it). Shit, does he need more blankets? Maybe he should make a list, so he has everything he needs for Indrid to move in.
Then again, Indrid may not want that. He shouldn’t get ahead of himself.
A hand slips into his own.
“Have dinner with me.”
Indrid is next to him, smiling softly. Duck can’t help but mirror the expression.
“Guess we did things out of order again, didn’t we?”
“Very much so. I have some things to take care of this afternoon.”
“Hush. Where would you like to have dinner?”
“The lodge. Barclay’s a hell of a cook.”
“Sounds lovely. I’ll see you there at six.” He kisses Duck on the cheek before heading off. Duck watches him go. Only partly to stare at his ass.
“Hooray you’re not dead!” Aubreys' arms are around before he has time to be startled. He hugs her back.
“Nah, it'll take more than some snow and one troublemaker to do that.”
“Wait, was that Indrid Cold?” Aubrey looks dangerously curious.
“But, I saw him kiss you...”
“Gotta go!” Duck spins, walks towards home. Aubrey falls in step next to him.
“Shit, what happened to your neck?”
He needs a non-lie, if he lies she’ll know.
“Indrid bit me.” That's the truth, technically, maybe if he just starts running...
“I see that look, Duck. Run if you want, I know where you live.”
“Okay, look, there’s a lot of history between Indrid and me. Come by at five and I’ll tell you. Bring Ned while you’re at it, I really don’t want to explain it more than once.”
“You got it.” She spies Dani, a young woman from the lodge who she’s clearly smitten with, and peels away from Duck with a wave.
Thank god for young love. It’s saved him from more awkward questions.
Next up: Everyone has a lot of questions. Only some of them are to do with jackalopes.
Chapter 23: Don't Wanta (without you)
Ned and Aubrey eavesdrop. Duck hears an offer.
“Soooooo what you’re saying is: you’ve been fucking an outlaw for, like, ten years.” Aubrey sits on the bed, smirking
“Eight, and he was gone for a lot of them.”
“And he’s a Sylph.”
“Yes, Ned, sometimes he turns into a giant mothman. Now, if you two are done interrogatin' me, grey shirt or green one? Green, right?”
“Definitely, but maybe different pants.” Ned considers Ducks dresser, begins pulling items out.
“Don’t you have black boots? Think those might look better than the brown” Aubrey hangs off the bed to look under it.
“Had. A certain someone’s sidekick ate a big hole in them.”
“Ooops, well, you shouldn’t have left them where Dr. Harris Bonkers could get them.”
“They were on my feet.”
“I stand by my point.”
“Speaking of the furry gentleman, Aubrey would you be interested in-”
“Ned, for the last time, I’m not loaning him to you so you can do a ‘live jackalope’ exhibit.”
“What if it was just for a night? That way you and Dani could go out for dinner. Think of it as bunny-sitting, if you will.” Ned holds several pairs of pants up in front of Duck, considering each in turn.
“I’ll think about it. Hold still Duck, your hair is a mess.”
“Aubrey I can comb my own damn hair.”
“The way it looks says otherwise.” Duck chucks the comb at her, she laughs, which makes Ned laugh, which sets Duck off as well. By the time he’s caught his breath, Ned’s laid an outfit on the bed for him and Aubrey is nodding her approval.
“Right, I love you both like my own kin, but please get the hell out so I can get dressed and go.”
The others depart, Ned giving him an encouraging wink and Aubrey bouncing her eyebrows suggestively.
Duck would bet all the money in the world that they’ll be spying on him tonight to make sure things go well. He’d be annoyed if he weren’t so touched.
Duck sits on a bench near the front entrance of the lodge, his bouncing knee the only sign he’ll allow of his nerves. He can’t place their source, it just feels like something is coming.
“Now there’s a sight.” Indrid leans against one of the posts on the porch, giving Duck an obscenely obvious once-over. Some of his secret errands must have involved cleaning up; his clothes are a nicer set than this morning and his hair isn’t as spectacularly messy as usual.
“All for you darlin', c’mon.” He offers his arm and Indrid takes it, occasionally nodding to lodge residents as they make their way into the restaurant.
Dinner begins smoothly, but as it continues Indrid seems increasingly distracted, even agitated.
“Hmmm? Oh, yes, perfectly fine. Just looking at some futures.”
“See any you like?”
“Quite a few, all involving you.”
“Can hurry up and head out if you want.” Duck grins.
“No, not quite yet.” Indrid places a hand on the table and Duck takes it.
“I’m rather enjoying being able to just..be with you. Without feeling like anything’s at my heels or trying to pull me away.”
“You’re really not leavin' again?”
Indrid shakes his head, closes his other hand on top of Ducks'.
“Even if the most unexpected happens, I never want to be parted from you like that again. Between the two of us, we could figure something out. Besides, you have more people watching your back now.” He tilts his head towards a nearby table where Ned and Aubrey are (badly) trying to hide.
“Mighty glad to hear that. I’d, well, I’d be awful happy if you stayed. Find my life’s never better than when you’re in it.”
“Well, I just have to stay in it forever, won’t I?”
He releases Ducks' hand.
Strange, Duck didn’t have anything in his hand a moment ago, but something cool and light is there now.
He opens it, looks down at his palm. A ring, sturdy and silver, glints up at him.
When he gazes back at Indrid, the other man is clearly holding his breath and only manages to stammer out a few words.
“I, I got one for myself as well” he holds up a twin to the ring in Ducks' palm, “as I understand that is the custom.”
“Custom?” Duck is near sure what Indrid means, but terrified of letting his heart believe it without some kind of confirmation.
“I do not wish to be apart from you, Duck Newton. My life has more color, more substance, more futures in it when I am with you. I love you, and I want to stay by your side for as long as you’ll have me. You seem to feel the same about me and wish me to stay. I’m proposing a way that can be true.”
“You’re askin' me to marry you?” Indrid gives the smallest nod as confirmation. Duck turns the ring over in his fingers, heart threatening to burst with more and more joy as the seconds tick by.
“Well?” Indrids' voice is soft, shy, unsure.
“Mr. Cold, I do believe I’ll accept your proposal.” He slips the ring onto his finger, holds up his hand and watches Indrid slump forward on the table in relief.
“Oh, thank goodness.” He says to the table-cloth.
“Darlin', what did you think my answer was gonna be?”
“It was up in the air.”
“Well, now it ain’t.” He picks up the other ring, still pinched between Indrids' fingers. Takes Indrids hand in his own, and slips it on. Coaxes him up and leans across the table to kiss him.
“You know,” he smiles as they break apart, “ain’t supposed to swap rings until the weddin'.”
“What? Ugh, Ned didn’t bother to mention that.”
“Wait, how does Ned-”
“I sent him the rings for safekeeping a few weeks ago. Anonymously, and with a large incentive and no context other than to put them in a deposit box at the bank. That's why I pulled him aside today”
“Ned fuckin’ Chicane” Duck shakes his head before Indrid pulls him into another kiss, hard enough that he’s panting when he pulls away.
“Shall we pay and le-, wait, what is that squealing sound?”
“Aubrey, I’m guessin'. And yeah, let’s get outta here. Got some things I’d like to discuss with you, darlin'.”
“Lemme just, ah, jesus, you keep doin' that I’ll never get the damn door open.”
“Sorry.” A placating kiss on the back of his neck as Duck finally gets them into his house.
“Oooh, this is so charming OH, oh goodness, bite there again AH.”
“Bed’s this way.” Duck navigates them through the house, a trail of clothing falling in their wake. Indrid backs into the bed and sits with an “oof” as Duck finally gets his shirt off. Indrid tugs at his pants with a whine, seemingly too aroused to remember how buttons work.
“Somethin' on your mind there, Mr. Cold?”
“Technically, you’re also Mr. Cold now.” Kisses across his stomach as Indrid wraps his arms around his hips.
“I ain’t anythin' until we say some kind of vows, ‘an we can figure out names later, right now I need to oh shhhhhit, do that again.” Indrid runs his tongue across Ducks' nipple before biting just above it, keeps doing so until Ducks finally gets his pants off and shoves him backwards. He straddles Indrid, bends down to kiss him as he tugs his trousers the rest of the way down and tosses them off the bed.
“Get comfortable darlin', I’ll be back.” Duck rummages through the supplies he bought that afternoon as Indrid settles onto the bed.
“Do I get to know your plans?”
“Gonna let you ride me.” He grins at the blush that immediately spreads across Indrids chest, crawls between his legs, “but I gotta get you ready first.”
“HowOHoh, Duck, ohgoodness.” For someone who can see the future, Indrid doesn’t sound like he anticipated Duck taking his cock into his mouth. He takes a few minutes to lavish that part of him with attention before starting on the next step.
Slowly, he works a condom-covered finger inside Indrid, relishes the way his hips stutter up and his back arches. By the time he has three fingers in, Indrids' hands are tight in his hair and his vocabulary is down to "yes", Ducks name, and various words for, “please.”
Duck pulls away, pats Indrids' thigh.
“Switch places with me.”
Indrid gets shakily to his knees as Duck lays down and rolls on a condom.
“Ready when you are, ohhhhh damn ain’t that sight.” Duck purrs as Indrid sinks down onto his cock with moan, takes a moment to steady himself before starting to rock back and forth. His hands begin roaming across Ducks chest, a chirp escaping him whenever he makes a sharp movement. Duck runs his hands up and down his thighs.
“Forgot how much I like watchin' you do this.”
“Mmmm, so nice to be admired.”
“Come down here, I got an idea.”
Indrid leans forward, rests his arms near Ducks head and shoulders.Duck brings his own hands around to cup Indrids' ass, holds him tight as he thrusts up into him.
“Oh, fuck.” Indrid groans, fingers of one hand gripping Ducks shoulder.
“That good huh?”
“Uh hunnnnh” Indrid moves his hands into Ducks hair to press their lips together in a kiss, wriggles his hips as Duck continues to fuck him, the sounds he swallows down from Indrid moving from groans to growls to whimpers as he picks up the pace.
“Gonna do this to you every night from now on, gonna come home from, fuck, from work and sit you in my lap and, and fuck you until you can’t walk.”
“Ev-every other night. On, gracious, the other ones, I want you on your knees as soon as you get through the door s-so I can use that lovely, filthy mouth of yours as many times as I please.”
“It’s a deal, ahAHfuck, Indrid.” Duck comes, hard, when Indrid sinks his teeth into his neck. In a flash the other man sits up, strokes himself frantically. There’s a chirp-moan as Duck feels him come across his stomach.
The aftermath is as it often is; Indrid cleaning him off, peppering him with kisses as he makes the bed as warm as he can before they cuddle into it. Indrids' breathing slowing, his limbs relaxing in Ducks arms as he drops off to sleep.
But Duck stays up a little this time. Considers the two silver bands winking at him in the darkness, and smiles.
Next up: Hollis! And a lot of bad news
(Jumped on the ko-fi train for the hell of it: https://ko-fi.com/thiswasinevitable )
Chapter 24: Bad Moon Rising
Duck gets a shock, Indrid gets and idea, and everyone gets into a spot of trouble.
The trouble starts a week later. Duck rolls out of bed to prepare for work.
And immediately falls to the ground, Indrid springing out of his chair to grab him right before he hits the floor.
“Fuck, jesus, ow, OW!”
“Are you hurt?”
“Yes! All over!”
He feels sick, off-balance, a dozen aches and pains flashing across his system.
A horrible thought.
“Indrid, need you to bite me. Hard, like when we’re, you know.”
Indrid looks at him, concerned.
“I got a theory.”
“Sorry! Oh dear, that’s quite a bruise.”
Duck looks at the purple splotch on his shoulder as pain courses through him. It’s exactly as he feared.
His power, whatever was giving him his strength and toughness, is gone.
Indrid paces the floor, sketchbook in hand. He’s been pacing for several hours now, trying to puzzle out not only Ducks sudden loss of strength, but the pile of futures that are suddenly presenting themselves that are one bad turn after another.
Why did he have to say to Duck that he finally felt like nothing was nipping at his heels?
And what is supposed to do about the young person about to knock on their door?
He forces himself to wait until the knock actually comes before opening it.
“I’m looking for Duck. Said to meet him here at six. Name’s Hollis”
“He’s not back from work yet, I’m afraid. You’re more than welcome to wait for him inside.”
Smile, he should smile.
Hollis looks at his face, then at the rest of him. Narrows their eyes.
“Think I’d rather stay out here.”
Mercifully, Duck rounds the corner just then, clearly out of breath.
“Hi Hollis, hey, ow, hey darlin'.”
Hollis and Indrid share a look of concern.
“Did you run here?” They seem to be second-guessing their decision to visit.
“Yeah, always do. Usually don’t wind me this much. Just havin' a rough day.” He ushers them inside, shutting the door behind them.
“I’m glad you decided to come. Look, you clearly care about your friends, which is why you gotta-”
Hollis holds up a hand.
“I agreed to talk to you, Duck. Alone.” They look at Indrid. He picks up his notebook and steps into the other room.
Hollis is suspicious, that much is clear. Good. That keeps people alive longer.
He tries to focus on drawing, picking up a few words here and there as they filter through the door. Hollis is switching between what they want to do, because the odds of futures change so rapidly that he gives up on drawing altogether. He pieces together from the snatches of conversation that Hollis and their gang (is it a gang if they really do don't anything bad) of riders, locally known as the hornets, were attacked by an abomination and Hollis is hell-bent on protecting the town, convinced Duck and the others have fallen down on the job.
The futures slim down slightly just as the door shuts.
He steps out of the bedroom to find Duck face-down on the floor. He sits down next to him, pets his back reassuringly.
“They’re gonna die.” Even muffled, the defeat in his voice is obvious.
“Hollis, their whole gang, hell maybe everyone else too. And I ain’t gonna be able to stop it.”
“You’ve stopped many likely disasters in your time.”
“That was before all this” he rolls over, holds up his arms to show a worrying number of scrapes and bruises, “before I got all weak. Can’t protect nobody like this.” He rubs a hand over his eyes.
“I don’t blame Hollis, I really don’t. But even after I told ‘em what Mama told us this mornin', they wouldn’t call off the hunt.”
“What did Mama say?” Fear creeps up Indrids' spine.
“There’s more than one. Again. And more might be comin'.”
Indrid stands, paces, flips through the futures; Duck’s right, Hollis dies in many of. So does Mama. And Barclay. And Aubrey and Ned. And….
Indrid looks down at the floor. Duck’s sat up, but slumped forward. When he meets Indrids' gaze, the fear in his eyes blots out everything else.
“What am I gonna do?” He whispers, curls his knees up to his chest.
Indrid kneels next to him, puts a hand on each of his shoulders.
“You are not going to do anything.”
Duck opens his mouth, but Indrid continues.
“We, however, have quite a plan ahead of us.”
Duck looks around the kitchen of the lodge and for the fiftieth time that night hopes Indrid knows what he’s doing.
Near the stove stand Barclay and Mama, with Ned and Aubrey close by. On the other side of the room stands Hollis and their right hand men, being eyed warily by Pigeon, Leo, and Juno.
Between all of them stands Indrid, Duck at his side. His notebook sits open on the table in front of him.
“Thank you all for agreeing to join me here. I will explain everything in a moment, but before that and in the interest of good faith.” He removes his spectacles, Sylph form filling the room. Hollis steps in front of their men just as Duck moves between them and Indrid. Two clawed arms gently guide him back to where he was.
“Hollis, I am from the same place as the creature that killed your friends. Many of us in town are. We came from that place seeking safety and a new home. But we are not the only beings that can pass between our worlds. I am telling you this so that you will understand we all have a stake in the safety of this town, but that allowing you to run pell-mell on the look-out for monsters would put many innocent people in danger.”
Hollis considers Indrid. After a moment they nod and their posture relaxes. Indrid smiles, puts his glasses back on.
“Do we know just what we’re up against?” Hollis directs their question at Mama.
“At least half a dozen abominations have come through so far. Barclay and I took out one this mornin', but they don’t go down easy. You got to understand, they ain’t never come through in these numbers before.”
“Come through where?” Pigeon looks at Duck rather than Mama.
“A gate, out in the foothills.” Thank god he doesn’t have to worry about trying to lie anymore.
“If you’ll all gather around, I’ve laid out a diagram. And a plan of attack that has the best chance of success.”
It’s as they all look at the notebook that Mama gasps and Aubrey let’s out a quiet, “oh, shit.”
“Indrid, are you out of your mind?”
“On the contrary Barclay, this plan is the only one that makes sense: we’re going to destroy the gate to Sylvain.”
The next night, Duck leads Hollis, Pigeon, and a handful of hornets to scout for the loose abominations. Juno and Leo, with Ducks help, spent most of the day evacuating the town before settling with the lodge residents to hold down the fort there. Indrid took the rest of the guard with him to the gate.
Duck reminds himself that some plan is better than no plan, but he still doesn’t like their odds.
“Duck? You know how you said these things left ooze behind?” Pigeon calls from his left, waving him over.
“It look anything like that?”
A pool of multi-tone, sickly looking muck sticks to the roots of a pine tree.
“Yep. Good spottin', we’re gettin' close.”
“That’s putting it mildly.” Hollis is looking up, eyes wide with fear and pointing into the branches.
The creature was a bear once. Not anymore.
With a roar the twisted, oozing shape throws itself from the tree. A chorus of sounds, gurgles and howls, answer it from the woods.
“That’s more than five, that’s for fucking sure.” Hollis shifts a shotgun from their shoulder, gives a whistle that sends the other hornets into a fighting formation.
Duck fires twice into the charging monster just as ten more emerge from the treeline, nightmare wolves and bears with shapes that are all wrong. Pigeon aims at another, hits it three times before it falls to the ground. The one attacking him rears up and he fires where its heart should be, brings it down. Turns in time to see Hollis fire and, when that doesn’t faze the creature about to pounce on them, flip the gun around to hit it square in the head with the other end.
Pigeons' yell isn’t enough, the wolf nearly on him by the time he sees it.
And then he’s not on the ground. He’s in the air, flying away from the melee in the grasp of strong claws.
Impeccable timing, as always, he thinks with a smile.
They land nearby, Duck shaking the twinges from his shoulders as he stands.
“Thanks for savin' my hide darl-”
That’s a mothman alright.
But it’s not Indrid.
“No, darling would not be the correct term. Allow me to introduce myself. I am Iris” he gives a mock bow, grin widening as Duck looks at him with horror, “Indrids cousin.”
Next up: Time runs out.
Chapter 25: Tu Partida
Iris expounds. Duck holds on.
Iris advances on him and Duck backs up until he’s trapped against a tree.
“Duck Newton, I am going to offer you a choice. I suggest you keep in mind that you are no longer strong and therefore not likely to survive, say, being dropped from high in the air.”
“You can head off into the woods and never speak to my cousin again. Or you can die.”
“That ain’t much of a choice.”
“Indrid did not leave me with much of one, and so I am returning the favor.”
Anger bubbles up, knocks fear to the side.
“You want to talk about no choices, partner? Indrid went back to Sylvain for five years because you threatened to get us both killed if he didn’t! Helped you with a war he didn’t want no part of. One you’re supposed to be dead in!”
“I needed to plan a war of my own, one between earth and Sylvain. Much easier to do when everyone thinks you’re dead. But it could be even easier if I had my future-seeing cousin by my side.”
“Don’t think he’s interested.”
“Indeed. Now why would that be? Could it be because he’s in thrall to a certain human?” He leans down until they’re face to face, bares his teeth, “I believe so. You’ve got him so attached he’s even promised himself to you.” Two claws pinch Ducks hand and lift it up so Iris can glare at the ring on his finger.
Duck laughs. He can’t help it, even when the grip on his hand tightens and breaks the skin.
“You know how many times I’ve had to track that man down? How many times I thought I’d lost him? He and I’ve broken more’n a few promises between us, fuck you for the times it was your fault by the way, and he had chances to go back home before he met me. After too. I didn't do anythin' to make him stay except love him. He ain’t helpin' you because he don’t want to. Not because I bewitched him or some bullshit like that.”
A growl and Duck is off the ground, pinned against the tree trunk by his neck.
“Be that as it may, you still make excellent bait. And if he won’t come with me, then I’ve no use for him and can be rid of him.”
As if one cue, a woosh of air curls through the trees.
The fireball that follows surprises them both. Iris screeches, drops Duck onto the ground and frantically pats at his singed wing.
“Expecting someone else?” The fire on Aubreys' hands is nothing compared to the one in her eyes.
“You know, Aubrey, I do believe he was.” Ned steps from the other side of the clearing holding a shotgun that Duck knows is enchanted.
“Indrid couldn’t come, but he sends his regards.” Ned pulls Duck to his feet, which puts him directly in the line of the claw Iris slashes across the air in frustration. The cut isn’t deep, but the force behind it knocks them both back down. Aubrey hurls another blast of flame, catching Iris on the shoulder.
He begins flapping, lifts off the ground and without thinking Duck runs and grabs onto his legs.
“Little help!” His feet aren’t on dirt anymore. Aubrey gets to him next, and by the time Ned wraps his arms around her knees Iris strains to move, shrieking and slashing at Ducks hands.
It hurts. It hurts a lot. But he’s never abandoned a terrible plan in his life and he’s not about to start now.
“Please tell me there is another part to this plan!” Aubrey yells from below him.
“We’re so fucked.”
“Not helpful Ned!”
“What? I’m trying to be more honest these days.”
“Insufferable creatures!” That yell comes from above him, coupled with a slash on his wrist that nearly loosens his grip.
“On the contrary, I find them rather charming.” More wing-beats as Indrid hovers next to Iris, arms crossed.
“You know, this whole debacle shows why you’d be terrible at leading Sylvain in the first place. You underestimated so many people. Me for instance.” There’s a horrible ripping sound and Iris screams, falters in the air.
“You underestimated Ned and Aubrey. Oh, and Hollis as well.” Three more rips, and on the third Duck sees Indrids' claw making it’s way through and down Iri'ss wings.
“And you underestimated Duck.” The screech is worse this time and suddenly they’re falling, Indird doing his best to catch Duck and Aubrey but still bringing all three of them to the ground in a heap. Iris is breathing, but not moving.
Duck is bleeding. And woozy.
“Can you two get him home?”
“Even if I have to carry him on my back.”
“Gonna hold you to that Ned”
“On second thought, perhaps I’ll make Aubrey do it.”
“Like hell you will.”
Duck’s never been so happy to hear two people squabble in his whole life. Follows Indrid with his eyes as he walks to his cousin and hoists him into the air.
“I’ll be back by morning.”
He’s flown off before Duck can protest.
The full moon hangs over Kepler, or what’s left of it. After he’d been grabbed, the fight moved towards town and only fire, explosives, and gunpowder were enough to take out the full horde. Kepler is a ghost of what it once was.
The gate had been the easy part, according to Mama. The right magic and the right dynamite was all it took. But stopping the abominations already loose took bloodshed. Too much, though as far as Duck was concerned even one person was too much.
Duck sits by the bodies, covered haphazardly in sheets. Even after Barclays' tending, his wrists and hands are ablaze with pain that keeps him awake. And so he keeps watch over what remains of his town. Hollis, arm in a sling, sleeps in the middle of a circle of the remaining hornets and Jake, a member of the lodge. Barclay slumps, eyes closed, near the wounded and healing. Aubrey curls up in Dani's arms, Dr Harris Bonkers huddled between them. Ned snores near Duck, and off in the distance he can see Mama pacing, surveying the damage to the lodge.
“You should rest.”
“Mother of- promise me when we get married you’ll stop sneakin' up on me.”
“I thought my wing-beats were obvious.” Indrid settles in next to him. He looks worn.
“What did you do with him?”
“There is a large, deep lake in the nearby mountains. He was badly injured, couldn’t fly, and could not swim. I’d prefer not to say more.”
“Think I can fill in the rest.”
Silence, as Indrid considers the nearby bodies. Looks at the damaged town.
“This was the best of the possible futures. Knowing that does not make it any easier.”
Duck carefully links their arms together, rests his head on Indrids' shoulder. Slowly, he drops to sleep, barely registering Indrid laying him down onto the ground and drawing a blanket across him. He tosses and turns, half in and half out of consciousness, pain and aches warring with his need for sleep.
Four arms gather him close to a downy chest, roll him on top of it. A wing drapes across his back, and he finally drops into a dreamless sleep to the sound of a low, comforting hum.
Five days later, a train arrives bearing a sack of mail and many passengers who are befuddled to find a mostly destroyed town instead of a pleasant stop-off.
Dani, Aubrey, Jake, and Hollis sit on the porch of the lodge, where the door used to be and sort through it. Duck sits nearby, staring at a map. He promised Mama he’d find places to rebuild, but nothing has all the needed components to keep both Sylph and human residents safe.
Indrid perches on a railing a few feet away, drawing and tossing aside futures for himself, for Duck, for the town and muttering in frustration. Duck pauses, just for a moment, to watch him. He never gets tired of looking at that face.
He jumps when a letter waves in front of his eyes. Aubrey laughs.
“I called your name twelve times, but you were too busy mooning over your fiancee to hear me.”
He glares at her fondly, takes the letter. It’s from Wyoming, in a hand he doesn’t recognize.
You may not remember me, but it is my hope that you do. We spoke several years ago at a to-do in Carson City. At the time you seemed interested in my project of helping the government set aside and protect notable natural areas. I am pleased to announce that the first of such parks, Yellowstone, will soon be ready. If you are interested, I am in the position to offer you a job as a park ranger, someone who looks out for the preserve as well as the guests.
Relatedly, I have heard you are acquainted with Mama and Barclay of Amnesty Lodge. Perhaps you would let Mama know that, should she need it, one of the lodges for guests of the park is located slightly away from the others, near a special type of hot spring, and in need of a skilled proprietress. And that a stone archway that seems to lead nowhere has appeared in the woods over the last few days on one of the more perilous parts of the park
Please send a telegram with your reply.
He dashes inside, flags down Mama. She reads the letter, and it's the first time Duck's seen her with tears in her eyes. After a few deep breaths, she explains that Vincent is a Sylph, one who took a liking to Earth and had the ability to remain independent, rather than tied to somewhere like the lodge.
Ten minutes later, he ushers the quartet sorting the mail, along with Indrid, inside to where the remains of town are preparing for lunch.
“Well, folks, I got a question for y’all?”
Stares all around. He takes a deep breath.
“Who wants to move to Wyomin'?”
Next up: A change of scene.
Chapter 26: Forever and Ever (Amen)
Indrid is caught off guard. Duck begs for mercy.
It’s April, the next year.
Indrid Cold lays in the grass, hat over his eyes to shield them from the sun. Up until a few moments ago he was sketching; one notebook for futures, another for the postcard designs Vincent commissioned from him. But the late afternoon sun is warm, nothing is coming for him, no disaster looms on the horizon, and so he settles in for a nap.
“Well, well, if ain’t the infamous Indrid Cold.” Drawls a voice from above him.
“Mmmhmm, that’s me.” He mumbles, sleepily.
“I’m here to bring you in.”
“On what grounds?”
The hat lifts from his face as his husband sits down and kisses him.
“For bein’ too damn good lookin'.”
Indrid groans at the attempted joke, though that doesn’t keep him from blushing.
“I’m serious, it’s gonna get you into trouble one of these days.” Duck teases.
“Considering you almost got us arrested for public indecency two weeks ago, you don’t have a leg to stand on.”
“How was I supposed to know Vincent was comin' down that path? I ain’t the one who can see the future.”
“Then you have no idea how hard it is to concentrate on the future when a certain someone has his mouth on your co-”
“Alright, alright fair point.”
“Then again, he can’t really arrest anyone.” Indrid sits up, kisses Ducks cheek.
“Nope. I can’t neither. These the new ones?” He picks up what Indrid now considers his work notebook, flips through it.
“Yes. They wanted some with flora as well as fauna.”
“I like the one with the prairie clover.”
“It’ll look nicer when it’s colored. How was work?”
“Nothin' too excitin', thank god.”
“Then you’re not terribly tired?” He puts on his best air of nonchalance.
“No more’n usual.”
Indrid grabs the other notebook, stands, offers Duck a hand and pulls him up and into an embrace.
“Then I have a proposition as to how our evening can be quite exciting.”
“C’mon darlin', have mercy, I’m an old man. My heart can’t take the suspense.”
“Firstly, you are barely even middle-aged. Secondly, your heart is fine. And thirdly, if you want to talk about old, there is only one person in this room who can count his age in centuries rather than decades.” Indrid tightens the blind-fold around Ducks eyes and leaves the bed.
“Cradle robber.” He tests the knots Indrid used to tie his hands behind him; nice and tight.
He’s seated on the edge of the bed and has been instructed to stay like that until Indrid tells him otherwise. Indrid already stripped him of his shirt and boots, but kept his pants on. He traces the other mans path through the room from the sounds; clothing falls onto the floor, a chest opens, and then the soft footsteps return to the bed.
Indrid climbs onto it, kisses Ducks shoulder before moving behind him. It shifts for a moment as Indrid settles in.
“Mmmm, very. Although, it would be most helpful if you’d actually move so your back is against the wall.”
Duck scooches backwards with Indrid guiding him, leans against the wall. Indrids' feet and ankles come to rest in his lap. Alright, so he’s stretched out on his back, that much Duck knows.
“Much better. I want to see your face while I do this.”
A chirp cuts him off, as does the feeling of Indrids' foot flexing. His ears fill with more and more sounds of pleasure. Given the movement of the bed, whatever Indrid is doing he’s doing vigorously.
“Tsk, touchin' yourself while you got two willin' hands here” he moves his wrists “just achin' to do it for you.”
“I’m, oh, aware of that. Hence the rope. Gives you the, the best chance of behaving yourself, oh yes there we go.”
“Obviously. What is perhaps not as obvious to you is that I’m preparing myself to sit on that lap of yours and let you, how do you always put it, fuck me until I can’t move.”
“Fuck, darlin', you ain’t gonna let me watch any of that?”
“Correct.” It morphs into a purr.
“You’re a cruel man, Indrid Cold.”
“On the contrary, were I cruel I would have blocked your ears. This way you can at least hear me.”
“Then let me hear you.”
“Manners.” Sharp, a warning, though of what Duck isn’t sure and that makes him all the more aroused.
“Much better, oh, oh yes, this feels so good, ah!” The words run out, quickly become a series of pleased, achingly alluring sounds. Eventually he gets more words to come.
“Goodness, you look so handsome from his angle, all, oh, all tied up like that. A perfect, wonderful creature waiting eagerly for me. Just, just thinking about having that lovely cock of yours inside of me, ah, oh goodness, the things it does to me.”
Duck shifts his weight, finds Indrids' foot just close enough that moving his hips gives him some relief for his own hard-on. And then the foot disappears. He whines.
“None of that. I put my feet there for my comfort, not your pleasure.”
“Please, please, darlin', you know what hearin' you talk like that does to me.”
“As delightful as the look on your face is right now, no. I am going to put them back but if you try that again, you won’t get to see any of what happens.” His feet are back in Ducks lap, and the sounds of him getting off fill the room. Duck breathes deep; he can be good, he can behave.
“There we go, nnnnh, keeping my feet there helps me, gracious, get a delicious angle, it’s almost as good as having you inside me, my sweet, strong Duck, aohOH, yes!”
He thunks his head back against the wall with a groan.
“I do believe it’s time for the next part.”
Oh thank god.
A weight settles into his lap as Indrid kisses his neck up one side and down the other before finally deigning to kiss his lips.
“Stay still.” Indrid moves his hips slowly, continues kissing him. He can feel the smile against his mouth grow wider every time he whimpers.
“Patience, my sweet, patience.” He coos, before biting Ducks shoulder. The sensation surprises him and his hips jerk up.
“What did I just say?”
“Hey, that one was your doin'.”
He thrusts his hips up twice more.
“Those ones were mine.” He grins
A growl and then the blindfold whips off, Indrid grabbing his chin to stare him down. He raises up onto his knees, depriving Duck of further stimulation. As he speaks, he begins touching himself.
“You know, I’d planned to untie you so you could touch me, but since you insist on being difficult you’re only permitted to watch.”
“How horriblAH!” His sarcasm is cut short when Indrid tangles a hand in his hair and yanks his head down, meaning he has no choice but to watch those slender fingers touch what he wishes he could.
“Mmm, you’re shaking.”
Another growl as Indrid pulls his head back up and kisses him, deepens the kiss as his both his hands move down to unbutton Ducks pants.
Duck gives a grateful moan when he finally sinks down on his cock. He sits for a moment, considering Duck, smirk playing across his lips. Duck wriggles his hips.
“Something you wanted?” One eyebrow arches.
“M-move, please darlin', I’ll do anythin' if you’ll just start movin'.”
Indrid begins stroking himself, seemingly deaf to Ducks pleas. Smiles when Duck groans a frustrated curse.
“What, this, this is moving.” He pants out.
“That makes two of us in this cabin, oh, oh yesYES.” There’s a chirp-moan as he tightens around Duck, comes with a gasp. Still shuddering, he adjusts his glasses and reaches behind Duck to undo the ropes. As soon as they drop from his wrists, his arms are around his husband.
He rolls them over, coats Indrids' face and neck in kisses as he fucks him. Indrid laughs, which drags into a moan as Duck pulls most of the way out before thrusting in as hard as he can. He does it again, pulls more wordless, hungry noises from Indrid.
“Not, fuck, fuck, not so high’n mighty now are you darlin'?”
“Good, cause I’m in charge now, ain’t I?”
“That ain’t an answer.” He thwacks Indrids' thigh and gets a pleased yelp.
“Ah! Yes, very much in charge.”
“Then I suggest you hold tight.”
As soon as Indrid wraps his arms around him, Duck kisses him hungrily, works his hips hard and fast until he comes moaning Indrids name.
“Think we scared off every animal for miles with all that noise.”
“Eh, they’ll be fine.”
“And you call yourself a park ranger.”
“I’m off duty. Only thing I care about right now is you.”
Many hours later, as they’re dozing off, curiosity scampers across Ducks brain.
“Did you ever see this comin,' us I mean, before you met me?”
“I don’t think so. Or, rather, if those futures were there I was too busy planning robberies to notice them. The moment I laid eyes on you, I felt many new futures flash into existence. I ignored them, since getting out of there in one piece was may main concern.”
Duck rests his head against Indrids' chest, heartbeat in his ear mingling with the one beneath his ribs.
“The first time I stopped and looked at them was that first night in the cave. You were asleep and I fixed the ropes to keep you from losing feeling in your arms. When I touched your hand, those futures clamored inside my mind, dozens of wonderful paths opening up and my heart seized up with want in a way I hadn’t felt in such a very long time. They came and went after that, as futures do. But I never lost hope that one of them would come to pass.”
“I’m glad you didn’t.”
“Me” he’s interrupted by a yawn “me too.”
“Goodnight, my love.”
Sometimes there are no more words.
Sometimes there is simply a kiss goodnight and then two people, safe and in love, asleep in each others arms.
Wow, so that turned into a literal novel-length story, thank you to everyone who read this and left comments/kudos. I'm so, so glad you enjoyed it.
Fun fact: If you put all of the country songs that make up the chapter titles in order, you will have an actual, mostly fitting sound track for the story.
The next piece will be a part of my Metamorphosis series. I you haven't read that, or "Falling" which was my first one, give them a peek!
Got any requests for fics? Either message me here or on my Tumblr https://thiswasinevitableid.tumblr.com/ and I'll do my best! If you've got a series/rating requirement, please mention it, otherwise I'll use my good judgement.