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Grounded and Safe

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Duck watched as Thacker stepped through the Sylvain rift with ease. He didn't know the man well, but even he knew that was probably the best choice for him. The look on Mama's face all but proving it.

Aubrey stood there, flicking the little flame between her two fingers as she chewed the inside of her cheek. "I have to talk to Dani," Duck heard her say idly to herself before she sat on the ground and closed her eyes.

Duck looked back at Vincent and Mama now embraced in a hug. A rare sight Duck considered himself lucky to witness.

Vincent walked up to Duck, "To think the first time we met I was ready to kill you on sight," he laughed, putting a hand on Duck's shoulder.

"Yeah, uh, thanks for not doing that man really appreciate it," Duck said.

Vincent turned serious as he looked Duck in the eye, "I'm glad i didn't. Who knows where we would've been now without you, Duck Newton," he said. He turned and went through the Sylvain rift.

Duck never was good at reviving compliments; especially one as grand as that. It made his stomach both turn and flutter at the same time. He didn't feel like he really deserved such praise.

Aubrey was back in the present now we a little smile on her face. She looked between Duck and Mama as she announced she's going to Sylvain.

Duck tried to study Mama's face for any reaction, but it stayed neutral.

Then it burst into a bright smile as she hugged Aubrey.

Aubrey started to spew her justification. Dani should get to go home. Sylvain needed help to rebuild. Sylvain, the goddess that lived inside her, should be a part of the restoration.

"Aubrey, Aubrey please. You don't have to justify yourself. This is the perfect choice for you to make. I hope you and Dani are happy together. It should be a very romantic adventure," Mama said, Duck could see the tears that formed in her eyes. Aubrey clung to her tighter before they finally stepped apart.

Aubrey walked up to Duck.

Before she could say anything Duck held up his hands, "It's okay Aubrey. Mama's right this is the best choice for you. Now, uh, I'm not too good at goodbyes or anything like that so uh..."

Before he could really finish Aubrey gave him a quick, bone crushing hug that Duck, once he came too, reciprocated with a smile.

"See you later, Wayne." Aubrey said with a wink as she leapt through the entrance to Sylvain.

Duck sighed. He's not ever going to get used to that. He heard Mama try to stifle a laugh as she made her way to the Earth rift.

"I suppose someone has to," she said. She gave Duck a nod as thanks, which he appreciated. No sappy words, no hyperbolic expressions. Just a simple nod as respect and understand before parting ways.

And then it was just him, Billy, and Minerva, who he realized that up until now had been standing towards the back of the room. She walked up to him, "Wayne Newton. We seem to be the last ones left," she said.

"Yeah, I guess we are," he said distracted.

Words ran across the screen as Billy tried to get his attention:

"The PoRtals CaN onLy be Open fOr tHe NeXT feW MomEnTs, Duck"

"I know that look, Wayne Newton,"

"It's nothing, Minerva, just. I know Earth is where I belong but..."

"We will see them again,"

We... Duck thought.

He walked towards the Earth rift but stopped to notice Minerva didn't follow.

They were at an impasse, he realized. The fight was over, they had won. Destiny fulfilled. He wasn't sure where that left them. His heart suddenly tugged in her direction. He didn't want to leave here without her, he decided.

He looked to see Minerva's usually stoic and righteous face now suddenly soft and timid.

"Wayne Newton I'd....like to come with you. To your planet. If that's alright," she said.

Duck couldn't hide his smile as nodded.

She walked towards him quickly as Billy gave another bleat that told them they were out of time.

Duck grabbed Minerva's hand and they jumped through the rift. Together.

They landed in Billy's old room in the Cryptonomica. It was dark and dusty but all the old garbage and the foul smell from it was gone since the last time Duck was in here.

Neither of them made a move and they just stood there, hands still intertwined.

The palms on Minerva's hands were softer than Duck expected them to be. He dared a glance down at their embrace and saw how perfectly they fit together.

Well, maybe not perfectly. Minerva's hands were larger than his, her fingers strong and big between his mere human ones.

But it felt perfect to Duck.

Minerva looked at his face quizzically, "This feels...nice, Wayne Newton," she said.

Duck couldn't believe he was blushing right now in this moment, but he didn't fight it. He hoped the room was still dark enough to hide most of it from the strong woman that stood next to him.

Another moment passed before Duck finally released their hands as he removed his hat and fixed his hair. A nervous tick he picked up over these past decades.

They looked at each other again. Minerva's blue markings faintly glowed, it illuminated her face.

Which, in this moment, Duck finally could see how beautiful it was. Her jaw sharp, her mouth and eyebrows were peppered with little scars from her years of battle. Dark skin illuminated and glowing. He was speechless.

He wanted to see her face every day now, he realized.

"We should, uh, get back to my apartment. I, uh, have a spare bedroom you can sleep in. If you'd like. Or I'm sure we can link of with Mama at Amnesty Lodge and see if there's room for you..."

He stopped talking when Minerva smiled, putting a hand on his shoulder. She squeezed, a little too tight, but Duck tried to ignore that.

"I would like to see how you live, Wayne Newton. The spare bedroom sounds delightful!" she exclaimed.

Duck smiled, "Good, great, sounds, uh, sounds good. Hope you like cats," he said.

Her face lit up even more as they started to walk out the Cryptonomica, "oh is that one of your domesticated creatures this planet has?"

"Something like that," he answered.

Somehow, Duck's car doesn't seem to be damaged by whatever battle happened here on Earth. He starts it up as they drive the way back to his apartment in silence.

Minerva's face is twisted in deep thought, Duck laughs a bit, "What's on your mind there, 'Nerva,"

She jumped a bit at his voice, being caught off guard, a rare occurrence.

"What? Oh nothing. I was just thinking about...everything" she said, the last word coming out softer than Duck expected.

He's known Minerva for a long time now. He knew when to fight her and when to let her be. This was a moment to let her be; no matter how much he wanted to pry.

They were almost to his apartment now and still neither said anything. Finally as Duck parked and they both exited the car, she spoke, "That thing we did earlier...with our hands," she started.

Duck looked up at her and attempted to hide his smile. It didn't work.

"I would like to do it again, Wayne Newton," she said.

Duck didn't say anything. Instead he grabbed her hand again, this time giving it a soft squeeze as they made their way to his apartment.

"Duck? Minerva? That you two?" they heard as they entered the hallway. Duck turned to see Leo headed their way, his eyes trailed down to their joined hands only for a moment before he looked back at Duck with a grin that let Duck know they would certainty talk about that later.

"Ah! Leo Tarkesian! You're alive this is most wonderful news," Minerva exclaimed. She moved both her hands around as she spoke, which in turned yanked Duck's one arm with it.

Because Leo already saw and Duck didn't want to let go and Minerva didn't realize she had to.

Leo laughed, "Yeah I'm still here, Minnie, can't get rid of me that easy," he said, he looked down at their intertwined hands and again gave Duck a shit-eating grin accompanied with a wink, "Where you two off too?"

"My apartment just to...chill out. It's been kinda a rough 24 hours or so. So yeah," Duck said, he tried to ignore Leo's look. The man was a good friend but his Manhattan attitude and the years he had over Duck sometimes made him unbearable.

"Won't you join us, Leo Tarkesian! We can share stories of our conquests over our foes!" Minerva said.

Leo shook his head, "Ah maybe tomorrow, Minnie, this old bag of bones here needs about a 12 hour rest. Now I don't know why you all got to but I assume you two do too. I'll catch you guys later."

As Leo walked passed them and into his apartment, he gave Duck one last smile and wave before he disappeared behind the door.

As the two walked into Duck's apartment, Minerva was immediately delighted when Duck's tuxedo cat walked up to them instantly. He walked up to Minerva curiously and sniffed her legs.

"Minerva meet Cookie, Cookie this is Minerva," he said. Cookie meowed in response and looked up at the two.

"Cookie is a ridiculous name for this creature, Wayne Newton, who came up with it?"

Duck laughed, embarrassment filled inside him, "Twenty-three year old me," he said.

Minerva looked at him and laughed.

Duck really liked when she did that.

After scrounging up whatever they could for a meal they sat on Duck's couch and watched mindless television. Minerva constantly asking questions and Duck having to explain it's not real.

Somewhere between it all Minerva fell asleep, her head found its way to Duck's shoulder. He tried to stay as comfortable as he could, given the size of her head being bigger than the space between Duck's head and shoulder.

He realized that he really didn't mind however, and he knew that maybe sometime they'd have to talk about what's next for them now their destined were fulfilled, but he tried to not think about that.

Because everything in this moment felt right to Duck. Her head on his shoulder, their hands in one another's, Cookie at his feet.

He felt grounded and safe. And that's how he wanted to feel all the time.