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What to Say

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Duck isn't great at emotional stuff. Well, he never has been. The words- well it's the opposite of his lying problem. When he tries to lie, everything comes spilling out in uncoordinated rambling. Same with panic, back when Jane fell off her bike and broke her arm as kids- he wouldn't stop, couldn't stop talkin’ to her. Talked himself in circles he did, when she was in the car to the hospital she was the one telling him to calm down. They always joke that Duck's the tough one but he can't handle seeing others in pain.

Rambling from the panic, the shock, like he's doing right now in his own head.

Duck never knows what to say when he's gotta be emotional.

His hat is in his hands, one of the officials grabbed it from the wreckage of Mr. Tarkesian's store. His thumb trails over the thick rim, replaced time and time again, this time after the mess in H2Woah (It ended up in water for so long it warped, hanging it up by the fire in Amnesty helped. The hat still smells just slightly like the lodge, it's a bit comforting). Momma isn't talking, and neither is he. They’re just waiting for news. The hospital is busy as it always seems to be, but not overfull. Footsteps are most of what he hears, papers shuffling from the nurses station, down the hall he hears a heartbeat monitor.

Truth be told. He doesn’t want to go see Ned or Aubrey. Ned's fucked six ways to sunday, he took a whole hell of a physical hit. He'll be fine though. Ned's thick skinned, in more ways than one. He'll just be a right bear when he wakes up and starts shittin’ on him. Aubrey though… Aubrey is a whole other can of worms.

The doctor comes by while he's sitting on the hallway bench with Momma. She pats his knee as the doc starts talking.

Aubrey's awake. Ned should get out of surgery soon. Aubrey wants to see him. Momma needs to start fixing Ned's mountains of messied insurance information.

Duck stands, cracking his knees from his frozen position. “A'ight. Let's go.” He says.


Aubrey's got a room all to herself, but she's curled up on the head of the bed like Fig, afraid to take up any space at all. Duck knocks on the door even though he's standing in the open doorway.

“Hey.” He says.

“...hey.” She replies.

“I'm gonna come in now, y'hear?”

She nods. Aubrey buries her face in her pulled up knees, rocking just barely front to back. Duck takes a seat on the foot of the bed and watches her for a bit.

“I'm sorry.” Her voice breaks, like she can barely speak at all.

“Aubrey…” Duck sighs.

“I thought I killed you. I thought you died… because of me… because of what I did.” She looks up, and Duck sees the tears running rampant down her cheeks. Her eyeliner got smeared hideously hours ago, it makes her eyes look sunken and sad. Her hair hangs down, wet from sweat and snow.

Duck doesn't know what to say.

“I can't- Not- I-I thought-” Her voice catches and she lets go of her knees, to damn near shove her palms into her eyes. Her shoulders are shaking, she's ashen and wet and sobbing.

“Aubrey.” Duck says again, scooting himself up the bed. It's pretty damn ridiculous, but Aubrey's not up to laughs. “Listen to me kid.”

She pulls her hands down, she wraps herself back up like it'll protect her.

“This isn't your fault.” He says, reaching out to gently hold her shoulder when she starts shaking her head. “Aubrey- This is not your fault.”

“But- B-B-”

“Hey, Torchgirl, you listen here. That sign was comin’ down. I know you were tryin' to help. I know you. You didn't try to hurt anybody, and- and you didn't. Denny, Leo, me, we all got out fine.” Duck is pulling shit out his ass like his life depends on it, but it feels right. He holds her arm and feels his words pour out from god knows where.

“Aubrey you cannot blame yourself. ‘Cause if you do you're gonna fuck up that next time. That next time somebody needs you.” Duck rubs her arm a little, he remembers Jane. He wants to help.

She looks up and actually at him now. She looks so fuckin’ young it's sickening. She's not much younger, but boy. Duck sees the confusion, the hurt, the fear in every one of her movements.

“You think I started off handlin’ fires like Smokey the damn bear? I didn't. You're startin’ off usin’ real, actual, literal magic. Shit's gonna catch wrong. We had advance on this one. We could act, and save everyone.”

He doesn’t know where he's getting his words, he's not even sure if he's saying shit that'll help her. He just wants to do what he can. Duck wants to wrap Aubrey up in her little shock blanket, and tell her everything is going to be alright because it's what Jane would do. Because it's what he'd do for Jane.

Aubrey doesn't talk again for a long while, but Duck doesn't say anything either. Aubrey does move after a few minutes, escaping her blanket to throw her arms around Duck's middle. She's not crying anymore, which is a huge plus for Duck. She's still looking and probably feeling like a drowned rat, but Duck carefully wraps his arms over her shoulders and holds her close.

“I'm so glad you're alive Duck.” Aubrey says, clinging to the pudge around Duck's middle.

“Well damn, I'm pretty… I'm pretty fuckin’ glad too.” He huffs a laugh in his thought, before patting her back. “Momma's here too.” He says, “If you wanna talk to her I know you two are probably- well probably a bit closer than you an’ I.”

“Yeah.” Aubrey says, smiling weakly and rubbing her face against Duck’s jacket in the true little sibling action Duck expects. “I think I'd like to see her.” She lets go, Duck staying still as she adjusts to sit back up.

He nods, patting the bed before standing up. He grabs his hat with one hand. “Uh- Ned's still in surgery, doc said he should be out soon. Anythin I could- you want? I could get ya?” Here it is again, the uncertainty. The fear of saying the wrong thing.

“Some coffee? Oh, and can you- can you hand me my jacket?” She asks, pointing to the chair by the door. Her denim vest is laid on it, low hospital lighting making the red threads glow.

“Yea.” It's vaguely warm in his hand, he hands it over and Aubrey clings to it. “I'll get you a cup and bring it round later.”

“Thanks Duck.”

Duck nods on his way out. He fuckin’ prays that he said the right thing.

Duck thinks that for once, he did.


He makes a mental note to call Jane.