Bourbon Renewal

The package came after everything. How long was it, after the event. A day?

Did it matter? Possibly not.

The neat little box arrived without a sender's name, without a return address. It was doubtful if it had even been officially posted.

Whatever it was, it had been packed well. A shake would reveal absolutely nothing.

Though, if Jacob got around to opening it, it would reveal a bottle. No card, not identification, but a bottle all the same.

    • DarkwingPsycho
      DarkwingPsycho

      Jacob brought the package inside after retrieving it from his PO Box, glancing at it surreptitiously.  Was it mistakenly placed there?  How had it even been placed in there without having any identifiers whatsoever?  Was it an explosive?  Surely not, it would have detonated on the long drive from the post office to his super-secret hideaway in the mountains on the outskirts of the city.

      Despite his better judgment, he'd taken it without much inspection and now it sat on the granite kitchen countertop.  From his suit pocket he pulled a clip point knife and clicked it open.  Gingerly he cut through the packaging and replaced the knife before opening the box.  There was dense foam material inside to prevent movement, and as soon as he slid it out and removed it, his suspicious frown became a warm smile.

      It was a bottle of Wooddrake Reserve.  His favorite brand of bourbon.  And he knew immediately what it meant.

      ***

      A short trip later, in a nice suit and light blue tie, he was ambling up the walk toward the entrance to the Halden residence.  In the crook of his arm was the bottle of bourbon.  With his free hand he reached out and pressed the doorbell.

      • Lilly Teal
        Lilly Teal

        It was only a short while before the door was opened, and Matthew's slightly thoughtful furrowed brow smoothed out into a relaxed smile.

        "Mister Mallard. What a pleasant surprise. To what do I owe the pleasure?" As if you don't know, don't act coy Matthew.

        But it was a pleasant surprise. He hadn't had to accept the invitation, after all, so that was highly pleasant.

        "Please, come in. Set down your luggage." Alright, now he was definitely teasing.

        • DarkwingPsycho
          DarkwingPsycho

          "Well, Mr. Halden," said Jacob, playing along.  "I happen to have this exquisite unopened bottle of bourbon, and an excellent reserve year, and such a fine beverage should not be consumed alone.  I thought you might enjoy the pleasure of my company."

          With a very slight smirk, Jacob entered the familiar abode and waited until he was invited farther so that he knew where this drinking date would take place.

          "I must admit, I was surprised to receive your package."

          • Lilly Teal
            Lilly Teal

            "I enjoy being surprising," he said lightly, gesturing him politely into the sitting room. "You'll excuse me, there's far too much paperwork today for me to make any neat show of the study." Not for lack of trying. "But we have the sitting room to ourselves. You've caught me quite alone."

            There wasn't even Javert's usual savage growling at people entering his space. Usually if Matthew was home while Lilly was at work, Javert mooched around the house, and he was only ever out when Matthew had a lot of meetings. Darryl tended to take care of him them.

            Clearly the children of the house had gone on an outing.

            "Please, sit."

            • DarkwingPsycho
              DarkwingPsycho

              "Ah, well, I'm sure this will be a welcome break, then.  Paperwork can be so tedious."  He moved into the room and did as Matthew bade, choosing a seat near the fire since the wind outside had been biting.  "Not that I'm much taken aback, old boy, but just how did you deduce I was fond of this particular brand of bourbon?"

              • Lilly Teal
                Lilly Teal

                "We have shared drinks before." Not just in the house, but the few times they had met to pass on information. "And you've shown a strong preference for bourbon. I simply made an educated guess. It's an excellent brand, and chances were a fan of the drink like you would appreciate it."

                So, a gamble. A very safe gamble, since he knew what the mallard liked, and he knew what he had picked was good, but a gamble all the same.

                Glad to see it worked out. He grinned, setting out some glasses before settling down himself.

                "Glad to see you weren't much taken aback." The word was emphasized with amusement as he pictured Jacob's suspicious face at the arrival of the package.

                • DarkwingPsycho
                  DarkwingPsycho

                  Jacob nodded appreciatively.  Matthew did well.

                  "No risk, no reward," Jacob responded simply.  He unwrapped the top and then unstoppered, pausing to smell it with satisfaction.  "As I said - a good year."

                  He began pouring for them both.  "To what do I owe the invitation?  Generally it's business-related, but I gather this time is different?  Unless you've another murder on your hands..."  The last sentence was said lightly, not to belittle what Matthew had gone through, but more a hint at Jacob's ability to get him off.

                  • Lilly Teal
                    Lilly Teal

                    "I hope my luck isn't as bad as all that."

                    Did that joke mean it was unlucky have another murder, or unlucky to be dependent on the justice system? Hard to say. The light tone the joke was made with gave nothing away.

                    He paused a little. Not because of hesitation or nervousness, but simply to let Jacob complete his pouring and settle back with his glass. Why spoil that? Taking his own glass, he took in the smell of it before leaning back in his seat.

                    "I hoped you could satisfy my curiosity about what happened yesterday." Matthew waved a hand slightly. "But if you don't wish to discuss it, we'll say no more on the matter. I certainly won't lie to you and say I would be happy with the decision, but I would respect it."

                    • DarkwingPsycho
                      DarkwingPsycho

                      Jacob rested his ankle over his good knee and took a sip of the drink, letting it rest on his tongue to appreciate the flavor before swallowing.  "Ah - yesterday.  While I had no part in that woman coming across, I do apologize for the inconvenience she caused you and your family while she was searching for me."  Clearly he didn't have a problem discussing it.  At least so far.

                      "What is it that you're curious about?"

                      • Lilly Teal
                        Lilly Teal

                        "As far as you're comfortable, why she came here at all. And..." he gave a little sigh. "I want to be able to tell Lilly about the place. Darryl I believe already knows. Nothing to do with you, just the fact that it exists. You've seen how... trusting she is. I would want her to be forewarned with as accurate a fact as possible."

                        You can see how 'don't trust people who act different' doesn't hold much water for long, don't you?

                        "I just want the people I care about protected. And I can't always be there. But I appreciate if even mentioning the place jeopardises your mission."

                        Again, not something I would be happy with, but I would accept.

                        • DarkwingPsycho
                          DarkwingPsycho

                          Jacob actually set down his glass and regarded the other man quietly.  His black eyes were level, betraying no emotion as he scrutinized his friend.  While it might seem he was offended or put off by Matthew's confession about wanting to tell his loved ones about the existence of the Negaverse, he was reliving the events of his last confrontation with Jake.  His double.

                          Had he, himself, known about the Negaverse before his twin suddenly appeared and shot him, perhaps his own fate might not have been so unjustly sealed.  And should Jake return to St. Canard...Jacob had his own little band of people he had grown fond of.  Lilly included.

                          As much as he also wanted to protect others, focus on his mission unimpeded, NegaPiper had proven that the portal was unpredictable.  He had only considered those who might go in, not those who might come out.  Closing it was not an option.

                          The only thing he feared was the curiosity that knowing about an opposite parallel dimension might bring.  People would surely place themselves in danger seeking out a way to get there.  And as far as he knew, Lilly didn't know what was in her broom closet.

                          Finally he broke his unreadable expression and sighed.  "Just how...curious is Lilly?  If you tell her something is dangerous, would she stay away from it?"

                          • Lilly Teal
                            Lilly Teal

                            "She is a terribly curious girl. Which is precisely why I'm concerned about not telling her." What if she tries to find some information on her own, Jacob? Where would we be then?

                            But he saw his point, and nodded to show he understood the mallard's concerns as he took a long drink from his glass, before looking at the surface of the drink deeply for a moment. "But if I were to make her swear to me to stay away from it, she would."

                            Or at least, it wouldn't be her fault if her tendency to get into trouble brought her towards it.

                            • DarkwingPsycho
                              DarkwingPsycho

                              It would have to be enough.  Jacob didn't feel it was a good idea either way, but this time it may be more prudent to err on the side of information.  At least enough to stave off unwarranted or dangerous investigations or searches.  Better to arm those they both cared for with knowledge should they encounter this type of thing again...God forbid.

                              He reached for his drink and took another mouthful, mulling the taste over in his beak as he mulled over how to continue.

                              "The fact of the matter is, I've discovered a way there.  To the Negaverse.  I went on a bit of an excursion to gather information on my own alternate self - the one you already know about.  While there I crossed paths with that woman and thought I might help her to better circumstances.  But it seems my good intentions had the opposite effect.  I had resolved to check in on her to ensure an improved outcome, but clearly that did not occur.  An unfortunate oversight, to be sure."

                              He paused, letting that hang however it might, then continued, "What will you tell her?  And will it only be her?"  Just how many people are we allowing this information to be disseminated to?

                              • Lilly Teal
                                Lilly Teal

                                "Just her," he confirmed, smoothly sliding away Jacob's story as told and accepted. He had told him the truth. It was an unfortunate set of circumstances, but he was glad to be told. "As I mentioned, Darryl has at least some idea of what is going on, because of his connections with the St. Canardian scientific community, and he's a smart lad, he'll connect the rest of the dots himself."

                                What exactly to tell her was a good question, and a tricky one that he had to take a moment to mull over. Leaning back in his seat, he took another drink and gave the ceiling a thoughtful glance.

                                "Ideally," the ibex said slowly, still looking up at the ceiling as he worked his way through the thought, "I just want her to be informed of the nature of the Negaversian doubles. That there is in existence a place where they reside. Of course, you and I both know how difficult travel between these two places is, so a repeat of this event should be very unlikely. But all the same. Best that if she sees another familiar face acting wildly out of character, she doesn't stop to help them feel like themselves again."

                                He turned his eyes back on Jacob again with a wry smile, as if they were sharing a private joke. Technically, they were, because they both know she would do exactly that.

                                "I hope the way you found is in... secure place? Not something people can just stumble on."

                                • DarkwingPsycho
                                  DarkwingPsycho

                                  Jacob nodded.  "If that is all, then so be it.  There are many dangerous people over there, as we both know.  I can only hope that she does follow your guidance."

                                  He mirrored the wry smile and downed the last of his glass.  He was just reaching for the bottle to refill it when Matthew brought up the location.  Here, Jacob paused, then sat back - glass still empty.  He ran his fingers through his hairfeathers, as he generally did when nervous or frazzled.

                                  "Ah yes...the location leading to the Negaverse..." he trailed off, trying to get his words in order.  "That's where it becomes a bit trickier.  You see...it's in the utility closet of Lilly's bookstore."

                                  • Lilly Teal
                                    Lilly Teal

                                    It was just as well that Matthew had started to take another drink, or there would have been a very undignified amount of sputtering and choking, the story of which would never leave this office on pain of pain.

                                    He had just brought the glass back up to his lips, when he froze.

                                    And while he really didn't mean to, there was a faint sound of glass straining as his hand tightened.

                                    "I. Beg your pardon? It's where?"

                                    How. How does she get into these messes?

                                    Well now it's more vital than ever to give her information.

                                    • DarkwingPsycho
                                      DarkwingPsycho

                                      Jacob nodded without repeating himself.  "I'm sorry, old boy, I've known for quite some time.  I have been keeping rather a sharp eye on her and the store because of it, more expecting less-than-trustworthy characters trying to go in.  From what I can tell, she doesn't know of its existence."  Clearly.  "Perhaps a sort of electronic surveillance is in order for the portal?  At the very least, locking that closet door..."

                                      • Lilly Teal
                                        Lilly Teal

                                        He groaned slightly. "And it's probably safer not to tell her where it is. In which case I can't really suggest she lock it without it seeming very strange."

                                        However... the other option was indeed an idea.

                                        "Electronic surveillance... that could be achieved. And you have no idea how it came to be in her closet?"

                                        • DarkwingPsycho
                                          DarkwingPsycho

                                          Jacob shrugged lightly as if to say, it's your call.  The rest he nodded to.  "I'm sure we both have the tech to achieve such an endeavor.  As for how it came to be there, all I can tell you is that I discovered it thanks to Negaduck."

                                          • Lilly Teal
                                            Lilly Teal

                                            "That rat, eh? So Negaduck's aware of it as well?" And possibly the cause of it? This is getting more complicated by the minute.

                                            Matthew was aware of a slight, yet threatening to get much stronger, headache. Finishing off his drink, he let out a low, rueful laugh.

                                            "And I was so careful. How she keeps attracting trouble is completely beyond me."

                                            • DarkwingPsycho
                                              DarkwingPsycho

                                              "He isn't only aware of it, he uses it quite frequently from what I'm told.  However I haven't seen him much these days, so perhaps he's moved on to greener pastures."  Of course he knew Quiverwing may have killed the villain, but he didn't want to get into that messy business with Matthew.

                                              Jacob smirked.  "We can only do what we can.  Children, eh?"  Not that Jacob knew precisely what it was like, but he did have quite a few little ducklings under his wing now, however inadvertently.  And he could recall when his children were small how often they would discover mischief.  Of course, back then he'd encouraged that kind of thing.

                                              • Lilly Teal
                                                Lilly Teal

                                                "Uses it..." as if the worrying developments hadn't ended. But it was good to hear that Jacob hadn't seen him in a while.

                                                "I highly doubt he would have been subtle about using it. That means she must know something." And even more worrying, she didn't tell me about it. But perhaps there was nothing to be done, and she didn't want to worry me. She does tend to do that.

                                                "Well, that would make things easier. Then we can definitely ask her to lock it when it's not in use." It might be a good idea to have her move her linens elsewhere altogether.

                                                He gave another short laugh, less rueful and more humorous. "Will you ever come to me on the wings of anything but worrying news?

                                                • DarkwingPsycho
                                                  DarkwingPsycho

                                                  Jacob raised a brow with his characteristic boyish smirk, finally pouring himself another glass.  "Now where's the fun in that, I ask you?"

                                                  He lifted the refilled glass toward Matthew.  "A toast.  To new endeavors without complication.  At least the unfun kind."

                                                  • Lilly Teal
                                                    Lilly Teal

                                                    "Only fun complications from now on," he agreed with a laugh. His glass was lifted, clinked against Jacob's, but was just barely lifted to his lips before the phone rang.

                                                    "Hm? Excuse me, won't you?"

                                                    Still holding the glass with one hand, he moved to the phone and lifted it from its cradle.

                                                    "Good day?"

                                                    The ibex's brow furrowed. It didn't look like the phone call was about a fun complication.

                                                    "You're both where? In five minutes? Look, what is this ab-" Heavy sigh. "No. No, I can see your car from the window. Fine."

                                                    Definitely not a fun complication. Covering up the mouthpiece, he turned to Jacob with an apologetic look.

                                                    "Sorry about this, but some friends of mine are apparently coming to tell me something important."

                                                    • DarkwingPsycho
                                                      DarkwingPsycho

                                                      Jacob nodded graciously when Matthew excused himself to get the phone.  "Of course."

                                                      He drank more of the bourbon, only partially listening to Matthew's half of the conversation.  Sounds like they were about to have company.  "Oh, shall I leave you to it, then?"  He started to get up.

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