The Beacon, Kepler, West Virginia. A mixture of somewhere between a dive bar and the only bar in town, it was frequented by almost all of the residents of the town, plus the trade supplied by people just passing through. It was the pride and joy of one Duck Newton, something he had worked hard to achieve. The Beacon hadn’t come easy to Duck, but now that it was his, he was sure as hell going to keep it so.
Duck was well aware of the peculiarities of one Indrid Cold. Though he rarely frequented The Beacon, Duck knew he preferred to drink anything sweet, and had sampled most if not all of the cocktail menu at one time or another. The other regulars would often tell Duck stories of what the eccentric man had been up to on the days after his last bar visit. He knew Indrid to be quite reclusive, having heard that he lived in a beat up Winnebago in the trailer park outside of town. There were only a couple of permanent residences there, the rest of the spaces being taken up by people passing through town on their way elsewhere. Duck wasn’t one to judge the man for his living space, especially as he himself lived above the bar, but he couldn’t understand the appeal of wanting to spend winter in a draughty camper. What he wasn’t expecting, however, was for the man to stumble jacketless into his bar one evening, barefoot and bedraggled, and slump down onto his usual stool at one end of the bar. It was next to the wall, so Indrid could have his back to it and view anybody coming his way. Duck made his way over to take Indrid’s order.
“What can I get for ya today, Indrid?” he asked, slinging the slightly damp cloth he used to wipe down the bar over his shoulder. Indrid didn’t raise his head from where it was cradled in his hands, elbows resting on the top of the bar.
“A Chocolate Volcano.” The words were mumbled, and Duck only just managed to catch them. He nodded once and turned to look at his liquor shelf, before realising that he had literally no idea what it was. Nobody had ever ordered one, and he was pretty sure it wasn’t in the cocktail recipe book he used for training the other bar staff. Turning to ask Indrid what a Chocolate Volcano was, he saw the guy had moved from cradling his head in his hands, to flat out burying his head into his arms that were now crossed on the bar top.
He wasn’t panicking. There was no way that Duck was panicking. He still had approximately two minutes to get a drink in front of Indrid Cold without the man knowing that he didn’t have a clue what a Chocolate Volcano was. And he would be fine if the Goddamn Wi-Fi in his bar was working for a change, but it wasn’t. It wasn’t unusual for the Wi-Fi to not work. Duck knew that most of his bandwidth per month was used up by the college kids coming in in the early afternoons to use the bar as a base to attempt to stream movies between lectures, but still. He had hoped that loading a simple cocktail making website wouldn’t be beyond the capabilities of the small router. Apparently he was wrong. Throwing his phone down onto the counter in disgust, his eyes scanned over the bottles in front of him. The only thing he was certain of was that he needed chocolate liqueur. Pulling the bottle down from the shelf, in a vain hope it would give him some inspiration, he shot a glance over his shoulder to make sure Indrid wasn’t watching. He was, and Duck grimaced inwardly.
“Start by putting some ice in the shaker,” Indrid told him, a small smirk of amusement playing on his lips. Duck could only stare at him in bemusement. “Not too much, though. It waters it down.” Duck shook his head to clear it, and grabbed a cocktail shaker from under the counter, adding a couple of cubes before looking at Indrid again.
“What’s next?” He wasn’t sure why he was asking the man in front of him how to make cocktails, but considering he had drawn a blank, and the internet was no help, he wasn’t going to turn around the offered advice.
“Two shots of vodka, a shot of chocolate liqueur, 80ml cream of coconut, and a scoop of vanilla ice cream,” Indrid recited, watching as Duck added the ingredients to the shaker. “Now shake it, hard, for a minute.” After adding the ice cream, Duck screwed the lid on tight and started to shake the metal cylinder. He could feel Indrid’s eyes on him, carefully watching his movements, and a small blush dusted his cheeks. It had been a long time since someone had watched him the way Indrid was watching him now, and he wasn’t sure how to react. Once he was sure the mix was blended, Duck grabbed a wide cocktail glass from the shelf closest to Indrid, and poured the drink with a flourish.
“Any garnishes?” Duck asked, bending his head close to Indrid so he could hear the reply.
“Just a cherry,” came the response, and Duck grabbed the jar of maraschino cherries from the fridge and popped one on top of the slightly thick drink. Indrid picked up the glass and took a sip, savouring the taste on his tongue. “Perfect.” Duck grinned, and turned his attention to another customer at the other end of the bar.
Several volcanoes later, Indrid was open and chatty, a wide grin spread across his features that was only just on the pleasant side of unnerving. At least, that’s how Duck looked at it. Not everybody else in the bar felt the same, giving Indrid a wide berth when they came up to order, but at least the strange man wasn’t scaring his customers away. There was a slight lull in people, and Duck headed down the bar to where Indrid was chatting animatedly to another regular, Ned Chicane, gesturing wildly with his hands. So much so that Duck actually reached forward to slide the latest cocktail just out of range of the gestures. Indrid turned away from Ned briefly and offered Duck the happiest smile he thought he had ever seen.
“See, this is what I mean, Ned. You’ve got to find someone who looks after you like my man Duck here looks after me.” Duck choked on air, his eyes darting panicked between the two men in front of him, who both only laughed. Indrid leaned over the bar to rest a hand lightly on the back of Ducks where it laid on the bar. “These skilled hands have been making the most tremendous cocktails this evening, I can barely remember the reason why I wanted to come in here tonight in the first place.” Duck felt his face heat up from the contact of Indrids cool fingers against his skin. Luckily, he was saved further embarrassment by someone else coming up to order a drink. He could feel Indrids watchful gaze on him while he worked and was trying to understand what felt different about Indrids behaviour. He had had more drinks than he usually would, and Duck ruled that to be the reason for his almost unabashed attempt at flirting. Serving the drinks basically on autopilot, Duck felt himself being drawn back into the conversation between Indrid and Ned. He tried to keep his distance however, and busied himself loading the dishwasher, all the while listening as hard as he could for his name to come up in their discussion. It was hard to tune into their conversation and the voices were mostly hushed, but at one point Neds booming laugh reached his ears.
“Perhaps our dear friend Duck needs to cut you off before you end up saying something you may regret later,” Ned said, loud enough for Duck to raise his head and look at the pair of them. “Friend Duck, it seems as if Mr Cold here might need to switch to something slightly less tongue loosening if what he just said to me is anything to go by.”
“I didn’t say anything I wouldn’t repeat in present company,” Indrid said indignantly, and Duck could see red splotches forming on his cheeks, from perhaps a mixture of the warmth of alcohol, embarrassment, and perhaps a touch of anger. It was difficult to tell exactly as Indrids moods tended to be very changeable, especially when alcohol was involved. “I merely stated a fact about…” The rest of his sentence was broken off by Ned slapping a hand over his mouth. Duck raised his eyebrows and looked between the two of them.
“Perhaps a glass of water wouldn’t go amiss, eh Duck?” Ned said, and Duck nodded and turned to grab a glass. Duck had been in the business long enough to know when people needed cutting off, and Indrid was definitely getting close to his limit. After filling the glass with ice water, he handed it to Indrid who took it wordlessly, and took a large sip before grimacing.
“It’s cold,” he said, and Duck chuckled.
“Understatement of the century. It’s got ice in it.” Tentatively Indrid took another sip and his face relaxed now he knew what to expect.
“Perhaps Ned was right and I should be cut off from the alcoholic beverages tonight.” Raising his eyebrows, Ducks gaze flicked between the two men in front of him.
“Do my ears deceive me or did someone actually say that Ned Fuckin’ Chicane was right about somethin’?” Ned glared at Duck.
“I am nothing but hurt by that suggestion, friend Duck. After all, my middle name is trustworthy.” There was a laugh in his tone and Duck rolled his eyes.
“Yeah, and mine is gullible,” he retorted, causing Indrid to laugh - a beautiful, musical sound that Duck knew he wanted to hear more of.
“I think your middle name should be handsome. Or great ass.” The words were out of Indrids mouth before he had even a chance to register the thought, and Duck could feel himself blush furiously. Ned on the other hand, after he had gotten over his initial moment of shock, was laughing so hard he could pass out from lack of air at any moment. Indrid was looking anywhere but at Duck, sipping innocently at his water as if he hadn’t just implied that Duck had a great ass. Ned clapped a hand on Indrids shoulder.
“Good luck talking your way out of this one,” he wheezed, before making a hasty retreat.
“Ned fuckin’ Vamoose Chicane,” Duck muttered to his retreating back, only just loud enough for Indrid to hear, though Ned did flip him off over his shoulder without turning around, as if he knew Duck would have said anything behind his back. He sighed and turned his attention back to Indrid who was still studiously avoiding his gaze. “Indrid, do I have to remind ya of the bar policy?” He indicated the sign hanging on the back wall of the bar.
“Don't hit on the staff when they are working,” Indrid recited without looking at it. “Wouldn't count you talking to me and Ned and not serving us anything as working.”
“Indrid,” Duck said. “Just because I'm not serving doesn't mean I'm not working. I’m still on the clock.”
“Your own clock,” Indrid muttered under his breath though Duck heard it all the same. “But fine. You’re right. I won’t hit on you while you’re working.” He waved a hand dismissively at Duck who narrowed his eyes briefly before turning to finish loading the dishwasher.
Several hours later, the bar had emptied out to only a few remaining regulars, Indrid, and Duck behind the bar. Even then, as Duck had rang the last call bell ten minutes ago, the regulars were donning coats and jackets in preparation to leave. Indrid, however, had made no move to leave, and Duck was only half paying attention to him as he started cleaning everything up.
“Bye, Duck,” he heard people call, and he responded with a wave, before hearing the bell jingle over the door to signify it opening and letting them out. Indrid still sat at the bar.
“Indrid, it’s closin’ time. I hate to kick you out but you’re the last one here and my beds callin’ me. And I can’t answer that call until you’re out and the place is locked up.” For the first time in maybe an hour, Duck actually turned his attention fully back to the man in front of him. The broken look Indrid had had on his face when he first came into the bar had returned. Knowing that Indrid hadn’t been drinking alcohol for the last few hours rang small alarm bells in Ducks head. He recognised the signs of someone drinking to avoid something, and Indrid was currently the personification of them. Indrid tried, and in Ducks opinion failed, to rearrange his features into some semblance of normality.
“I’m sorry Duck, I must have lost track of time,” Indrid said, studiously avoiding looking at the bartender who was offering him a sympathetic look.
“Hey,” Duck replied, reaching over the bar to place a hand on Indrids shoulder. He ignored the shoot of electricity he felt go up his arm at the contact. “What’s up, buddy?” Indrid looked down to Ducks hand, his facial expression unreadable.
“I…” Indrid began. “It’s nothing, Duck. I just haven’t had the best of days until I came in here is all.” The usual lilt in his voice had been replaced by something so tired sounding that Duck couldn’t help but want to comfort the man in front of him.
“What happened?” Duck asked, circling around to take up the seat next to Indrid.
“It would take up too much of your night to explain,” he replied, and Duck shrugged.
“I mean for sure I’m tired, but when someone comes in here lookin’ like you did earlier, and how you dow now, what sort of a person would I be if I didn’t lend a listenin’ ear?” Just a shame I couldn't hear you out earlier.” Indrid let out a dry chuckle.
“In all honesty, I probably would not have spoken about it earlier. Your cocktails have magical healing properties.” Indrid twisted his hands together in his lap, and Duck fought the urge to reach over and take a hold of them. “I’m probably going to have to leave town.” That was not where Duck had expected the conversation to go.
“How come?” he asked, trying to read the expression on Indrids face.
“The owners of the trailer park say that I’m bad for business with the state of the Winnebago. That and, now how did they phrase it, my circus sideshow fortune telling.” Duck suppressed a snort. Indrids tarot readings bordered on almost prophetic at times. There was no way he was a sideshow attraction. “Apparently visitors don’t take too kindly to the weird reclusive man who lives in a trailer park sketching and doing readings, when there are perfectly good vacant apartments all over the town.”
“That don’t mean you gotta leave though, Indrid. Sure, them stuck up owners ain’t liking you on their site any more, but surely there’s other sites in town you could pitch up at?” Indrid shook his head forlornly.
“Unfortunately, my reputation, or their rendition of it, precedes me. The other sites won’t have me. They don’t want to lose whatever dwindling business they have, especially at this time of year.” Duck frowned at Indrids words. Mulled them over in his mind.
“Y’know, lotta drunk people in this town are pretty generous with their money,” he began slowly, watching Indrid who was studying his hands where they rested in his lap. “Wouldn’t mind bettin’ you could make good money if we set you up all legit.” Indrid shook his head.
“I would still have nowhere to run the business from. None of the sites will have me and I can’t afford to rent somewhere proper for either myself or the business. Not straight away, anyway.” Indrid put his head in his hands. “I don’t really want to leave Kepler though. I quite enjoy the small town vibes, and the ski lodges really keep the place livened up with new visitors. It would mean that I would never be short of business if only I had somewhere to put it.” Duck smiled.
“I wouldn’t have brought it up if I didn’t have half an idea,” he said. “You could park the ‘Bago out front for your business, and I got a spare room upstairs doin’ nothin’ but gathering dust. Ain’t much, but I reckon we could work somethin’ out.” Indrid looked up ad Duck hopefully.
“I wouldn’t want to impose my ‘reputation’ on your bar,” he said, though his face betrayed his true feelings. “Plus, what about your bar policy?” The question was cheeky, he knew, but Duck blushed all the same.
“Now I know damn well we had the discussion that it’s only when I’m on the clock that it applies,” Duck replied good naturedly, which in turn caused Indrid to blush.
“In all seriousness though, Duck. I couldn’t ask you to do that for me. I will figure something out I’m sure.” Duck narrowed his eyes at the man in front of him.
“Indrid. One other question,” Duck began. “How does you drinking to avoid the possibility of having to leave town relate to the fact you haven’t got any shoes on?” Indrid looked at Duck for a moment, then down to his feet, and then back up at Duck.
“You know, I hadn’t even noticed. However, it does mean that I may have to take up your offer of your spare room. Because in case you hadn’t noticed, I don’t have my jacket either and the trailer park keys are in the pocket of that, and I know for sure they won’t let me in at this time of night.” Duck grinned.
“Means you can think over my offer and talk to me about it over breakfast,” he said, and watched Indrids slightly downtrodden look change into something more positive. “As long as you know I only serve pancakes and waffles.”
“It sounds perfect,” Indrid replied earnestly.