The lights on the plane are blessedly dim, especially compared to the plane they’d flown to Brazil on. That one had awful fluorescents and a weird feeling of sterility that Duck had only appreciated because it made a brand new country and a totally different life feel like something completely manageable, so long as he wasn’t on that goddamn plane anymore.
But this plane has low lights, seats that are a bit cushier, and back-of-the-seat screens that Minerva is absolutely entranced by. She’s currently got the latest Fantastic Beasts on her screen and what looks like a nature documentary on his. Duck suspects it’s not a very good nature documentary, if that’s actually what it is. Minerva’s got the audio of both screens tangled into her headphones, though, so he can’t actually fact check.
He can’t help but smile, watching her. She looks so damn goofy like this. This 6’ somethin’ beefcake with scarred brown skin, a bald head covered with painted blue symbols the same slightly off-putting shade as her eyes, which are wide and switching between two screens while her beefcake body and bald head have tangled headphone cords wrapped about them.
He really, really likes where he is right now. In his life, in this moment, on this - well, no, not on this plane. It’s a better plane, but Duck still can’t say he’s really a fan of flying. It’ll be worth it to see everyone again, but that doesn’t mean he has to like hours and hours of plane time.
“Wayne Newton.” Minerva whispers, turning towards him fully, like she always does. It might be more accurate to say she tries valiantly to whisper, but ends up at the same volume as his normal speaking voice.
“What is it, honey?” Duck asks, smiling softly at her. She looks so fuckin’ pleased with herself right now, and he’s glad she’s enjoying what he’s certain would be sensory hell for him.
“These fantastical beasts,” She says, still kind of whispering. “They are not of the same world as these grizzled bears, correct?”
“Right on the money.” Duck says. “Is that a proper nature documentary, then?”
Minerva blinks at him a couple times.
“Which one, Wayne Newton?”
The trees of the Monongahela National Forest cast their shadows the same as Minerva has seen so many times. It is a special day. Their friends will be returning from Sylvain, however briefly, and there will be a memorial for Ned Chicane. She is looking forward to it, genuinely, but she needed time before they went to the Lodge.
Wayne Newton understood. He understands her very well, and she does not think anyone understands needing time in a forest better than him.
Minerva regrets not knowing Ned Chicane better. When it comes to Wayne’s life, she has several regrets, most of them discussed with him at length, in their living quarters or in one of the two grand forests he has made his wards. She has not spoken to him about some of these less tangible regrets just yet, though perhaps after this memorial, she will find herself able to.
It is odd for her to see her partner’s life laid out in this way. There were intimacies she knew so little about while she was lightyears away. There were fears that he imparted to her because she was so alien, because she was the only being aside from his Chosen Weapon who knew anything of the true scope of his life. There were people who meant much to him and whose loss he grieves deeply, and she feels at a loss, sometimes, to help him.
Minerva has grieved the loss of two worlds, suppressed the feeling of it, and then grieved all over again, twice as painful but half as deep. It has been so long since she has grieved a friend. She hardly knows how to stand with Wayne, how and when to listen, how and when to hold him.
She hears the rustle of the leaves behind her, and she can see the shadows move in her periphery. She stays still, though, because these footfalls are some of the most familiar in the world to her, and she feels no defensiveness at their approach.
“Now what’s giving you that look, honey?” Wayne asks. Minerva can hear the smile in his voice, and she knows without checking that he’s looking at her softly, his mouth crooked in a gentle display of affection.
She considers how to answer him. The truth seems best, though she does not want to push him into a painful headspace on such a trying night.
“I am thinking of many things.” She says, simply. Wayne makes that sound that’s like a laugh, except all he is doing is blowing air through his nose. It is one of her favorite sounds.
“Aren’t you always?” He murmurs. He steps closer and reaches out a hand, which she takes without a second thought. His hand is so much smaller than hers, but no less steady. The two of them have a rather troubled past, but Minerva knows without question that there is no one she feels safer and more secure with than Wayne-sometimes-Duck Newton.
“It will be good to see our friends again,” She says, and he hums in agreement.
“Aubrey’s gonna flip.” He says. He sounds tired, but in a way that Minerva has come to understand is slightly exaggerated for comedic effect.
“Why will Aubrey Little be performing gymnastics tonight?” She asks, genuinely a bit thrown by the information, which seems out of nowhere. Although, that often indicates that she is misunderstanding a double meaning of a word…
Wayne opens his mouth to explain, but before he can speak, Minerva’s eyes light up in triumph.
“Ah!” She cries. “You do not mean Aubrey will be performing sick stunts. You are using the word ‘flip’ not to indicate a physical activity, but an emotional response of surprise!”
Wayne laughs in a way Minerva understands to mean he is delighted with her.
“Dead on, hon, as always.” He says, squeezing her hand. She looks at his face and finds her breath caught a bit with how fully his happiness and affection is shown across all of him.
“Yeah, I’m figuring that Aubrey’s gonna be surprised to find out you and I are together.” Wayne explains. Minerva squeezes his hand experimentally, guessing that it will give the correct amount of affectionate support that her partner requires. Judging by the way he leans into her, his lovely, fragile head against her chest, she feels confident she was correct.
“Is that a problem?” She asks. She has no idea if there is some sort of taboo they might be breaking that would cause Aubrey distress. She suspects that, if there is a taboo she has not been made aware of, it likely would not make Aubrey “flip”. She seems too rebellious and fiery for such things.
“Nah, she’s just gonna be a pain about it.” Wayne says. His voice has a smile in it again.
“Ah, you are lying,” Minerva says softly, leaning down to press her forehead against his head. “You are attempting to conceal how happy you will be to see her.”
“I’m not lying . If I was lying, I’d be stumbling out some kinda bullshit about spaceships and firefighters and french onion soup.” Wayne chuckles. “You’re right though, I am looking forward to seeing her. I’m looking forward to telling her about us, too, though I do think she’s gonna make a scene about it.”
“I do not believe Aubrey Little would make too much of a scene, Wayne Newton. Do not be concerned.”
“ Duck! ” Aubrey shouts, running toward him at full sprint. Duck sees Minerva tense up slightly as Aubrey gets closer and doesn’t slow down at all , but she allows him to be completely bowled over by Aubrey’s enthusiasm. Well, he supposes, one point for trust and her ability to be casual, but down a point for how fuckin’ pointy Aubrey’s jacket is.
“Hey, Lady Flame.” Duck says, patting her hair with the hand that isn’t pinned down awkwardly. “How’s it hanging?”
“ Duck ,” Aubrey says, popping her head up and staring at him with the Look she gets when she’s being a damn goof. “ Alien girlfriend squad .”
“Aubrey - ” Duck chokes out, though he’s quickly cut off by Aubrey scrambling off him to throw her hands in the air.
“Alien! Girlfriend! Squad!” She shouts. “Duck, I know you’re a million years old and I had a goddess inside me and also there’s lots of other stuff that’s different about us, but I think that we’re really kindred spirits in the end.”
“Uh huh,” Duck says, slowly pushing himself up. Minerva reaches down to give him a hand, then yanks him up bodily which only kind of hurts, this time. “Thanks, Minnie.”
“I understand you, Duck Newton.” Aubrey says, grabbing his hand and looking him straight in the eyes. “Alien girls - sorry, alien women - are cute as hell and I absolutely respect the fuck out of you and your alien wife.”
Duck pauses for a moment, stumbling over his own words. “Uh, thanks Aubrey. That’s real sweet, but she’s not my wi...and she’s gone. She’s run off entirely.”
“It was nice to see you again, The Lady Flame!” Minerva calls, waving at Aubrey as she sprints off to find someone else to harass. Aubrey flashes two peace signs while running backward, and accidentally rams into Jake Coolice.
“What’d I tell you?” Duck sighs, leaning back into Minerva’s sturdy weight.
“You told me that she would ‘flip’, which I thought would not involve any physical displays. However, she ran into you and knocked both of you down. Perhaps both of us were wrong?”
Duck huffs a little laugh and leans his head back to check Minerva’s expression and make sure she’s not actually distressed at all by misunderstanding. He finds that she’s already looking back down at him with that fun little smile that means she thinks she’s clever as hell.
“Oh, you’re pulling my leg!” Duck says, grinning. “That was a good one, honey, nice job.”
Minerva’s smile grows and reaches her eyes, lighting them up with the way she loves him.
It’s sort of stunning to see, Duck thinks. He leans his head up at a bit of an awkward angle, and she meets him halfway for a short kiss.
He hears Aubrey whoop in the background, and he really doesn’t know if it’s about this or not, and he also doesn’t really care.
It’s not perfect. His neck is strained and his wrist hurts just a bit from the way Minerva yanked, and he knows that they should talk again later about whatever it was that had her so melancholy earlier.
But this destiny thing was never gonna turn out perfect. And with Minerva’s smile against his lips, Duck Newton knows that he finally wouldn’t trade it for the world.