Goosewing was struggling to find the catch here.
He had agreed to lunch with Duckula as a part of some scheme, some plan he had lost the plot of the second he saw that half-worried half-excited look in the vampire’s eyes.
He hadn’t ever been quicker to look away from something. For a creature of the night, it sure did feel like he was staring at the sun. Something in his head kept him from making direct eye contact with Duckula. He passed it off as a subconscious fear over the possibility of a vampire’s thrall really existing, some sort of self-preservation instinct being what held him back from meeting his eyes.
“Y’know, Goosewing, I’ve invited you over for lunch, uh, dozens of times before,” Duckula said, poking idly at his sandwich.
Goosewing was staring with narrowed eyes down at a string that had come undone on the edge of his sleeve, tugging at it and wrapping it tightly around his finger until it left an indent. Anything to keep his hands busy, fully aware he had no intention of eating any food that Duckula offered him.
“Yes, yes you have. Plenty of times,” Goosewing found himself saying, only vaguely aware of his words.
“If you don’t mind me asking,” Duckula had a glass of what might have been iced tea in his hand, tilting it towards Goosewing as he spoke. “What made you change your mind this time around? What was different about today?”
Goosewing didn’t answer. He pulled on that string again, chewing the inside of his cheek. What made him change his mind? Why was he here?
He settled for shrugging, deflecting the question entirely. Duckula laughed, a short and stilted sound.
“Speechless? That’s a first, ‘specially for you.” Duckula put his drink down on the table with a soft thunk sound. “You sure you’re feeling okay? You’re not acting like your usual self today, Goosewing.”
“What are you going on about? I’m perfectly fine! I have all of my wits about me, I assure you,” Goosewing said, scowling at his sleeve. He tugged hard on the string and it finally snapped off, fraying between his fingers.
Duckula hummed, rolling his eyes. “If you insist…”
Silence crept across them like a plague.
“How’s the tunnel coming?”
Goosewing coughed. “The- the tunnel? What tunnel?”
“The one you’ve been boring under the castle for the last few months, dummy. Everyone here can feel it through the walls when you’re mining down there!”
Goosewing went pale, then blushed, rolling the string into a ball and flicking it onto the floor. “...Oh, that tunnel. It’s going well, I suppose. Haven’t had any cave-ins this week.”
“You get cave ins down there? Like, regularly?”
Goosewing looked up at him, mildly put off by the genuine concern written on his face. “...Yes?”
“Well, geez, are you okay? Have you ever been caught in one?”
Goosewing waved his hand. “One time or two, it’s not a big deal.”
“Yes it is! You could get seriously hurt down there!”
Goosewing blinked at that, baffled by the notion. “...Why do you care? If I were injured it would be one less thing for you to worry about.”
He said it with no malice, only genuine confusion. Duckula tilted his head.
“One less- I’d have one more thing to worry about if you got hurt!”
“What? What do you mean?”
“I’d be busy worrying about if you’re okay or not! I already start to worry when I don't see you for more than a day or two,” Duckula took an emotional bite of his sandwich, shaking it at Goosewing as he spoke.
“...You worry about me? Why?”
Duckula paused, setting his food down onto his plate. “Do you really not know?”
Duckula looked at him in silence for a while. Goosewing refused to look at him, counting the cracks in the ceiling and the windows in the room they were in.
“...You never answered my question earlier,” Duckula leaned towards him, placing one hand over top of Goosewing’s. “What made today different?”
Goosewing felt his throat tighten at the contact. Duckula’s hand was cool to the touch, but not cold like he was expecting. Not chilled, simply cool. Like the other side of the pillow, or the surface of his desk when he rested his head on it. A comforting sort of cool-ness that caught him off guard with its familiarity.
“Your- your question…”
Goosewing’s fingers twitched. He felt Duckila move his hand from on top to underneath his own, dragging his thumb across Goosewing’s knuckles in the process.
In all honesty, Goosewing came because he was having second thoughts. About everything. He always had the idea in the back of his head that these invitations were a trap, and he wanted to prove that to himself. Prove Duckula was really a threat.
But there were no traps here.
There was no danger, no threat, and yet his heart was beating like he was being chased. Like he was falling.
(Maybe he was- falling, that is.)
He took a sharp, deep breath, holding it for a while.
“Insanity,” he breathed. “They say insanity is… performing the same task multiple times and expecting a different outcome. I figured, if I wanted a different outcome, I should try a different approach.”
“...So you’re gonna try and kill me again, is that it?” Duckula rested his elbow on the table, resting his head in his free hand with a smile Goosewing refused to accept was dripping with fondness. He spoke again, quieter this time, like it was a secret. “What do you think this is, Goosewing? What we’re doing?”
Goosewing shrugged. “Having lunch?”
Duckula laughed at that, breathy and quick. “So it’s just lunch, then.”
“Well, it’s too early to be dinner, after all,” Goosewing said, finding himself gripping onto Duckula’s hand as he spoke. Duckula held on just as tight.
“... Not what I meant.”
Goosewing picked up his drink. “What do you mean by that, then?”
“I meant, like, is this a date?”
Goosewing choked, having been mid sip the moment Duckula said the word date .
“Is- is this a WHAT?”
“A date!” Duckula smiled, unfazed by his coughing and spluttering and the immediate flush in his cheeks. “I mean, we see each other all the time, but not very often alone or over food. This could be a date.”
Goosewing was floored by the concept, to say the least.
“...But- I’ve tried to kill you,” he started, frowning when Duckula laughed.
“Please, if you could kill me, I would have let you do it by now.”
“And you’re a vampire! You probably brought me here just to- to drain me of my blood!”
Duckula dropped into an annoyed expression.
“Again, if I wanted to do that, don’t’cha think I would have done it by now? It’s not like I couldn’t get into your blimp if I wanted to, and you sleep in the East hall bedrooms of the castle most nights anyway. If I wanted to hurt you, I would have done it, but I don’t.”
Goosewing blushed harder, shrugging his shoulders up to make himself smaller. “You know about that?”
“Of course I do! You keep falling asleep with your glasses on,” Duckula finally has the sense to look away, letting Goosewing look at him as he talks. “ Someone’s gotta put them on the bedside table where they belong or you’re gonna break them in your sleep one of these days.”
Goosewing pushed the glasses up higher on his face, hiding behind his hand. “Oh.”
He couldn’t think of anything else to say. He felt dizzy, his stomach fluttering at the mental image of Duckula carefully taking his glasses off while he slept. Of having the opportunity to attack, to hurt him when he was at his most vulnerable… and choosing to do one small act of kindness towards him instead.
Duckula’s hand on his own felt so significant, but he couldn’t place why.
“So? Do you want this to be a date or what? It’s really not like you don’t already live with me.”
“...When you put it like that,” Goosewing found himself smiling with the humor of it. Then his smile fell and his hold on Duckula’s hand went limp. “...But you are a vampire. I do have to kill you, still.”
Duckula rolled his eyes. “Oh, boo that, who ever said you had to be a vampire hunter anyway? Do you really want me dead that badly?”
“No,” came his immediate answer, coming so easy that he felt mildly alarmed by it.
“Then why bother with it?! I don’t want to drink blood, so I just, uh, don’t do it. If you don’t really care about hunting me, just don’t do it! Because between you and me,” he took both of his hands and sandwiched Goosewing’s between them, which left him reeling. “I like this a lot more than fighting.”
Goosewing swallowed nervously. “...I- I must confess that… I like this, too. But I don’t know how to do this. I don’t know how to do anything besides hunt vampires, and I can’t even get that right! It’s not that easy- ”
“Yes it literally is! Just… why not leave it all behind? Live in your airship and invent things for non-vampire hunting reasons!”
Goosewing looked down, his heart beating a little faster at the idea. “I… have always wanted to become an inventor for the sake of being an inventor…”
Duckula nodded, squeezing his hand tighter. “And when you aren’t doing that, we can travel the world together! We can go somewhere far, far away so that nobody knows that I’m a vampire, and I can help make us money by playing my music for adoring crowds! We can both have the lives we want, together! What do either of us have to lose anymore, anyway?”
Goosewing took slow, deep breaths, the ideas all seeming far too good to be true, but no matter what way he looked at it…
“I think you’re right,” he breathed. “That just might be crazy enough to work.”
Duckula stood up, pulling his hands back. He paced around the room, his cape sweeping dramatically out behind his back. “I can pack my things and be ready to leave by tonight. I, uh, kinda have a suitcase full of things ready at all times. Just in case I ever actually got the chance to leave.”
Goosewing laughed. “Oh, I did that for years before I got the airship up and running.”
Duckula stared back at him, eyes wide. “Y’know,” he tilted his head with a lopsided smile, one hand on his hip. “You look nicer when you laugh.”
Goosewing blushed again, coughing into his elbow.
“Right, that’s-. Uhm...If- if you’re serious, I will bring the ship to meet you outside of your bedroom window at midnight, so that you can escape the castle without being spotted.”
Duckula lit up, and before he had time to process it, Goosewing found himself being hugged tightly.
He settled his arms on Duckula’s back, hugging back, the two of them swaying slightly in the embrace, neither one too keen on letting go just yet.
Goosewing noted that, while faint and slow, Duckula did have a heartbeat. He hadn’t expected that, but it was there, sure as the sun in the sky, thudding in harmony with his own.
The harmony sort of fell apart when Duckula squeezed him tighter, nuzzling into him a little.
“ Thank you ,” he muttered against his chest. Goosewing never really processed how much taller he was than the count until that very moment.
Goosewing stayed quiet, resolving to rest his head on top of Duckula’s. His hair was… remarkably soft. Duckula looked up at him, and finally, their eyes met.
It all really did feel like he was in a thrall, all at once, just then. Like being electrocuted and like falling and like everything was really, actually, seriously happening and he was perfectly okay with it. They were doing this.
Then Duckula stood on his tiptoes and kissed his cheek, and he was sure nothing could have felt so strangely right , like it was the most logical possible thing for him to have done in that moment. He could feel the rumble of Duckula’s words through his chest as he spoke.
“I’ll see you tonight?”
Goosewing nodded, almost frantic, backing towards the door. “I will see you tonight.”
Duckula backed up as well, nodding.
“Thank you,” he repeated, even as Goosewing stepped back towards the door.