Hug it Out

The Coatl Club was always on point. It seemed effortless, easy, relaxed, which was the truest indication that, this was not the case. Anyone who was around during the off hours could attest to this, which Gladstone Gander often was.

Not because he was much help, although he could hold things or help with zippers or check seams and even hair if need be but mostly he just helped himself to the liquor. Luckily most of the staff liked him, which was grand because his girlfriend was among them.

It was kind of important that she liked him. Especially when she was about to perform. Which she was, and he was haunting his usual seat at the bar, the one with the best vantage point for him to see her but for him to be out of her direct line of sight so that she wouldn’t get flustered by a familiar face in the crowd.

So that’s what he was doing, the same thing he did quiet frequently. Or it was until Ariana walked in the door. 

Oh-oh no. He looked to the stage as if Lilly would magically appear and save him, but the current singer had just started her first song. He tried to see if she’d spotted him and of course locked eyes with Ariana.

Well, there goes that. He gave her a small wave.

    • DarkwingPsycho
      DarkwingPsycho

      She was wearing her usual blue dress, although the top half was covered by a light coat and lavender scarf, courtesy of Fenton.  She hadn't yet set foot in this place, but Lilly had mentioned she was a singer here.  She so wanted to see her friend perform and to support her.  It had been a little over a week since the bus incident, and Ariana hadn't seen or spoken with Gladstone since that time, although she couldn't recall exactly how she had gotten home.  The last thing she remembered was being choked from behind, and Drake making some sort of movement toward her attacker.  The rest was a blank.

      Her fingers lightly brushed over where the angry red line had been on her throat and she caught sight of the gander.  What was flash of surprise dread or delight?  She couldn't tell, but she moved toward him anyway when he waved at her.

      "Gladstone!" she breathed with a smile.  "I didn't know you'd be here..."

      • Negaduck's Biggest Stan
        Negaduck's Biggest Stan

        Ah, she’d walked right past the coat check.

        “Oh, I’m usually here. “ was there any flash of lusty fire in those silver eyes? Nope. Better carry on as normal then. “You’re here for Lilly I assume, she’s gunna knock your socks off. Just you wait, she’s dynamite. And uh... How... are you feeling? You were pretty out of it when the EMTs were giving you the once over.”

        • DarkwingPsycho
          DarkwingPsycho

          "You are?" she replied, then remembered that he was seeing Lilly.  Well - that made sense.  She smiled and started unraveling the forever-long scarf.

          "I've never seen her perform before!  I'm very excited; I'm sure she's wonderful!"  She paused in getting out of her coat to blink at the gander.  "EMT's?  Wait...do you know what happened?  All I remember is getting out of the bus for some air, then Drake was there, and..."  Again she felt at the now almost-absent red line.

          • Negaduck's Biggest Stan
            Negaduck's Biggest Stan

            Aha, he had hoped that this would be the case.  Being the only one who remembered a snuggly kiss had its drawbacks too, as he wasn’t sure how much to tell her. The good parts at the very least.

             

            ”We’ll I was busy helping Sardinecan Man bind up some Beagles so I didn’t see much.  The lady with the brown hair attacked you I think and Drake stopped that-“ he blinked as if a thought occurred to him. “-Gizmo kept calling him ‘Quiverwing’ should... I be calling that instead? Well anyway you were spent, he was spent but... there was a lot of close talking going on, and... a kiss.”

             

            The first one, not the second, no one else needed to know about that.  Except Lilly.  He was bad at secrets and vented to her poor patient self for hours afterwards.  So no one but himself and Lilly knew about that apparently. 

             

            “He kissed you right before he just ‘keerrrpow’-“ he mimed a tree falling over with his hands. “-boom out of the count.”

            • DarkwingPsycho
              DarkwingPsycho

              Ariana had been about to comment on the Drake vs. Quiverwing debate when Gladstone mentioned a kiss.  She froze, staring at him for a couple of long seconds.  "A...kiss...?"  She must've been out of it, to not remember a smoldering moment like that.

              Another memory came to mind, and she felt her face flush.  "He said he...he liked me..."

              Her eyes travelled back to her friend and she held an expression that was a mixture of guilt and consternation.  "Gladstone, why did you...you knew it was the Beagle Boys all along, didn't you...?"

              • Negaduck's Biggest Stan
                Negaduck's Biggest Stan

                Aha, he hoped this wouldn’t be the case.

                Why couldn’t she have remembered that she’d gotten a kiss from her crush instead of that little nugget of information?

                “I...” should probably lie. “...did. Normally-“ he held up a finger as if about to give a scholarly lecture. “-the Beagle Babes aren’t around and I really feel like they raised the collective IQ of the Beagle family project . Normally-“ he prodded the bartop with the same scholarly finger. “-it would have been just a ‘tie ‘em up and leave ‘em in dat dere closet boys’ kind of scenario but-“ He rolled his eyes. “-St. Canard. I just thought ‘damsel plus minor peril equals dramatic rescue from amorous hero’.” He shrugged. “I don’t generally think things through which you may have realized by now,-“ he shrugged again.

                “But I’m glad you got some validation out of the guy.”

                • DarkwingPsycho
                  DarkwingPsycho

                  She frowned a little, but didn't look nearly as angry as she had on that day.  "Why didn't you tell me?  You put us in danger for...to lure Drake in...I didn't want him to notice me that way..."  And there was that kiss she had witnessed.  It still weighed on her mind, but not as much as it had.

                  She sighed then, and sat down finally next to him.  "He probably won't want anything to do with me anymore, anyway.  He and his daughter invited me over for Christmas, and I sort of...ran out on him..."

                  • Negaduck's Biggest Stan
                    Negaduck's Biggest Stan

                    Gladstone let out a heaving sigh with yet another shrug.

                    "I was trying to be helpful. I'm not particularly great at planning things...?"

                    He leaned his chin in his hand and gave her a slow dull blink at her last admission. When she had finished he made an impatient hand motion. "A week ago he raced to your rescue, said he liked you, and kissed you.  That doesn't sound like he 'probably wants nothing to do with me' material to me.  You are aware that you talk down about yourself every other breath right? I'm amazed at  the dedication you put into pushing yourself around.  It's pretty exhausting and completely unwarranted." He waved over the bartender.  "My friend here needs a drink, what would you like Ariana? They're fresh out of moonshine before you ask." He gave her a small wink as he sipped on his own cocktail. As the bartender waited to take her order he decided to try being helpful again on a decidedly smaller scale and took her coat and ridiculous scarf (what was this thing? did a blind person make it? Nice color though) to the coat check.  

                    He returned with a torn playing card as a receipt for her things that he slid along the bar to her and reclaimed his seat, leaning back watching the woman on stage sing.  

                    • DarkwingPsycho
                      DarkwingPsycho

                      It had worked out fine, for the most part, so Ariana couldn't stay miffed.  "Well...please let me know what's going on if you want to do something like that again...I wouldn't want to do that to Drake or Gizmoduck again...  How is Gizmoduck, anyway?"  She hadn't seen the hero since the incident and never knew if he'd been harmed by the blow Boom Boom landed on him.

                      At his gaze, she craned back a little, then reddened at his point blank call out of her low self-worth.  She felt instantly rebuffed and made a note not to bother him with her thoughts about herself anymore.  The last thing she wanted to be was exhausting.

                      She gave him a wan smile at his joke, then glanced hesitantly at the bartender.  She didn't drink enough to know what to order.  "Um...I'm sorry, I don't...I don't know..."  She felt helpless when Gladstone left.

                      Thankfully the bartender was patient and said he'd make her a surprise she'd like.  When Gladstone came back and faced the stage, she thought perhaps he didn't want to talk to her any longer, but she felt she needed to apologize.  She put her hand very lightly on his shoulder.

                      "Gladstone?" she said softly into his ear, barely audible above the song.  "I'm sorry if I...I mean, I know you were just trying...to help.  I don't...I don't mean to be a bother..."

                      • Lilly Teal
                        Lilly Teal

                        I'll tell you who DOES mean to be a bother. And I'll tell you whose voice is much more audible over the song.

                        "Gladstone!" Oz said cheerfully, clearly trying not to be as loud as usual when songs were happening. Sliding into a seat in the bar, he gestured a drink for himself (it wasn't the SAME when Gladstone wasn't making them), and put his arm around the gander's arms for a friendly squeeze. "So nice to see you again." As always. Get it, because you're just always here, not that I mind at all. "How is my second favourite well-dressed man?"

                        I'm my favourite.

                        Ariana's hand on Gladstone's shoulder, above where Oz himself was holding his arm, was eyed. As was the mouth right up next to Gladstone's ear. Ariana was given a once-over.

                        She was pretty. But she also, in Oz's opinion, didn't have much business being in Gladstone's personal space like that because A: only he was allowed to invade people's personal space on a regular, non-intimate basis because he was Oz, that was what he did, and B: girl you know he's seeing someone right don't even try.

                        Because if you break my singer's heart and she can't perform I will destroy you.

                        And... and she's also my friend, and I want to protect my friendsss....? I guess that's also a thing.

                        "And who are you?"

                        Well good morning to you too, Oz. At least the tone of the question and the expression on his face were friendly. He was GREAT at acting friendly.

                        • Negaduck's Biggest Stan
                          Negaduck's Biggest Stan

                          A few things happened in rapid succession. 

                          Firstly at the voice whispering in his ear he tensed, this... probably wasn't going to end in another kiss. Right?  As she spoke his eyes slid from the singer to look at her out of the corner of his eye. He opened his mouth, taking a deliberate breath.

                          "You're not bother-" 

                          Was all he got out before his name was shouted and he jumped, putting a hand over top his drink to keep it from spilling. Priorities. And from the way things were going he desperately needed this alcohol.  He relaxed for a moment, oh it was Oz, and then he tensed again, OH IT WAS OZ

                          As the rest of the interaction unfolded he stared fixedly at his drink as if waiting for fire to rain from the sky or at least a chasm to open beneath them.  Isn't that what happens when polar opposites are in close proximity?  Like... trying to make two fridge magnets touch when they keep repelling each other. But... he darted his eyes between the two of them. So far... nothing catastrophic. 

                          "Oz this is Ariana." He said diplomatically, "She's a very sweet friend of Lilly and mine, she came to see the show. Ariana, this is Oz, he's the second best dressed man I know, a very dear friend of Lilly's, one of my personal idols and the owner of this fine establishment."

                          Ah,here was something he could try to make a link between them. He turned to Oz and belatedly hugged the man.  

                          "She's just had her first taste of the old Gladstone Gander 'helpfulness' as I got her kidnapped by a bus full of Beagle Boys to get her crush to notice her. Gizmoduck was there, is he one of those hero guys you like?"

                          He then turned to Ariana and rather than hug her himself he opened his arms so not forcing it if she wasn't into it.

                          "Forgot to hug you, I've been slacking lately my apologizes. But this guy-" he jerked his head toward Oz, "-this guy I've tortured almost as much as poor little Lilly with the chaos that seems to follow me these days." 

                          • DarkwingPsycho
                            DarkwingPsycho

                            The loud voice calling Gladstone's name startled Ariana, enough that she didn't remove he hand or back away.  At least for the moment.  The newcomer seemed to know Gladstone well enough to give him a side hug, and Ariana felt instantly like a third wheel even though she hadn't even technically been a second.

                            She watched Oz's eyes move over her, and his appraising look didn't escape her before he'd put on what seemed like a friendly smile.  It didn't matter, though, she instantly felt judged by the man and pulled back from Gladstone, feeling rebuffed even though nothing had happened.  Yet.

                            She eyed her friend through the introductions, looking like she wanted to crawl underneath the floorboards, and glanced hesitantly toward Oz while Gladstone continued.  She was glad not to have to speak.  Suddenly she felt entirely too uncomfortable to be around others, but she didn't dare leave and incur MORE (what she perceived as) judgment.

                            When the gander suddenly turned and offered his arms, she was taken aback.  What was...?  He wanted to...?  Well, she couldn't be rude, no matter how much she wanted to vaporize.  Almost mechanically she slid out of her seat to move into Gladstone's arms for a brief hug.  She didn't know how to reply to anything he said, so she didn't.

                            • Lilly Teal
                              Lilly Teal

                              That's a real genuine hug there. Well done. Full marks.

                              Mine was better.

                              "Gizmoduck? Oh he's a sweetheart. Wouldn't mind spending some time with him," he grinned. "So earnest and adorable, but not quite my type."

                              Give me some dark intensity with sweetness though, and I'm gone.

                              "Why, do you have an in? Can I get a date with him?" Because he is still an earnest adorable sweetheart and I'm only half joking.

                              But on to more important things. Hearing the story, his face grew more sympathetic, and he gave Gladstone's back a very light, playful slap as he hugged Ariana.

                              "Gladstone Gander, when are you going to stop traumatising every woman you meet? I'm sorry about him, I really am. He's a beautiful disaster. You poor thing." He really did sound like he meant it. "You need a drink. On my tab tonight, eat and drink whatever you want. I'm thinking of calling it the Gladstone special."

                              Also, only half joking.

                              "Now question. Did you crush notice you?"

                              • Negaduck's Biggest Stan
                                Negaduck's Biggest Stan

                                "I do have an in!  As is in he's frequently in my hair. He works for my Uncle Scrooge so-" he shrugged lightly. "-Ariana knows him too. I guess he's okay, nice enough, it's just I don't need a babysitter."  He shrugged nonchalantly. Sure you don't Gladstone.

                                At Oz's pretty apt depiction of his ability to be the cause of trauma, and be beautiful he couldn't do much more than shrug again with a proud little smile.  Wasn't he just the king reprobate?  

                                Gladstone should have let Ariana reply but he perked up and he pointed to her first,"He did!"  then pivoted in his seat to point at Oz. "He did! He valiantly came to her rescue." he frowned lightly and partially covered his mouth to whisper to Oz. "Hero type. Cape." He said the word with disdain." Why do they love capes so much? Odd color scheme too. Not bad overall. Kind of a robin hood thing going on."  he dropped the hand to continue on in normal volume. "He was very brave, he may have gotten shot.  A... few times. But-" He slapped the bar for emphasis "-but, he was wearing a bullet proof something or other and is totally fine." Aren't we all glad?  I know I am. Because he sure looked dead before I rolled him over. "But I'm stealing your spotlight Ariana, tell Oz about him and what you're worried about.  He's good at advice." 

                                Whether you ask for it or not. 

                                 

                                 

                                • DarkwingPsycho
                                  DarkwingPsycho

                                  Awkwardly, she moved to sit back into her seat, glancing toward the stage.  When would Lilly's set start?  She was only half-listening to what Oz was saying to Gladstone.  When he addressed her, she looked toward him uncertainly.  His face said he was friendly, but she had a feeling he wasn't - not exactly.  Still, if he was Gladstone's friend, she would do her best.

                                  "Oh, I..."  She shifted, and was a mixture of grateful and annoyed when the gander cut in for her.  She was reminded of when she and Gladstone first met.  He hadn't seemed too interested in what she'd had to say then, either.  It seemed he only acted like he was when they were alone.  She wondered what that was about...if he really did want to be her friend or not.  She still didn't really know him that well.

                                  She wanted even more to disappear now that Gladstone and Oz were discussing Drake.  She couldn't catch the rest beyond "he did" but the way they were whispering conspiratorially gave her an unsettled feeling.  Were they talking about her?  Or negatively about Drake?  Experience told her it was likely either.  Then when he continued in his normal voice, barely audible to her over the music, she looked around the bar as if for an escape...especially when Gladstone put the attention back onto her.

                                  "Oh, that's all right," she said hesitantly.  She didn't want to get into her fears with someone she didn't know.  She wasn't like that, and she didn't really appreciate Gladstone airing that she had any at all.

                                  • Lilly Teal
                                    Lilly Teal

                                    You are so cute when you're enthusiastic. But I didn't ask you.

                                    Raising a hand, Oz rested his fingers meaningfully on Gladstone's bill.

                                    "Let the girl get a word in edgewise, you loser," he said fondly. He understood, he really did. It was great to be excited about friends. Even if this friend seemed weirdly, weirdly determined to be unfriendly. He'd felt more unwelcome before, but that was at literal gunpoint.

                                    Now, Oz was a force, an overwhelming personality who loved being friendly, making friends, and being bossy. But he wasn't a glutton for punishment either, and when she didn't even seem to be paying attention to the conversation, much less giving him any inroad to talking to her... well, it seemed pretty clear she didn't want anything to do with him.

                                    Still, no skin off of his back. He just shrugged at the large amount of awkward silence she was creating for herself.

                                    "Glad, I don't think she wants to talk." To me, or possibly to the world, who knows? "It's fine, you don't have to say anything." Even though I'd have loved to hear the story from you and be all excited for you. "Have a drink."

                                    Wait, was that to Gladstone, Ariana, or himself?

                                    Ah, he had pushed a drink towards Ariana.

                                    And then taken one for himself.

                                    He pretended to forget Gladstone for half a second.

                                    • Negaduck's Biggest Stan
                                      Negaduck's Biggest Stan

                                      Gladstone let out an embarrassed little laugh.

                                      "Uh.. yeah, running my mouth is often the only exercise I get.  Sorry." He almost launched into a story about how Lilly had scolded him for this very thing but... realized that would be counter productive and kept his mouth shut dutifully.  He eyed Ariana feeling very much that he'd upset her, but not really knowing how. Truthfully he had no idea how to be her friend, she was wired so different from him. It seemed he'd done nothing but the wrong thing at every opportunity. 

                                      The drink was a welcome addition and he nodded to Oz in thanks before holding up the glass in the awkward silence to propose  a toast.

                                      "To Lilly, who if she was here with us right now, would probably know exactly what to say." He smiled weakly at the two of them.  Please clink glasses with me.  I have no idea what else to do.

                                      • DarkwingPsycho
                                        DarkwingPsycho

                                        Oz's observation that she didn't want to talk about it and his subsequent change of topic actually made Ariana feel grateful to him, whether he was judging her or not.  Suddenly she wondered if maybe her first impression was wrong.

                                        At Gladstone's apology, she smiled a little at him and tucked a strand of blonde hair behind her ear.  "It's okay..."

                                        She wasn't sure what the drink was, but she didn't want to be rude.  After all, the bartender had assured her earlier that he'd make something she'd like.  So she lifted her glass with Gladstone so that he didn't feel awkward, and clinked it before taking a slow sip.

                                        • Lilly Teal
                                          Lilly Teal

                                          Oz was always happy to clink glasses, and gave Gladstone a huge smile at feeling instantly more included. He did like this man.

                                          CLINK!

                                          "She has a knack," he agreed. "But she'll probably be back after her set, passing out hugs like they're going out of style."

                                          It was her way. And speaking of her set, the band hand started up again, and Oz grinned, turning to face the stage at the familiar voice. Gladstone was given a knowing nudge.

                                          "Stage looks good, doesn't it?" he asked innocently. I know you're not looking at anything else on the stage.

                                          Tilting his head slightly at Ariana, more to include her out of politeness than because he actually wanted to be snubbed again, he added "I do all the costumes and staging myself, I hope you'll like the show."

                                          • Negaduck's Biggest Stan
                                            Negaduck's Biggest Stan

                                            "Hm?" Gladstone for all intents and purposes was not even there anymore, even though he was physically sitting between them.  Once Lilly appeared the blinders came on, he even forgot to drink the clinked drink. He just held it in one hand his eyes glazing over slightly as she began to sing. 

                                            Completely unbeknownst to him a wide smile spread across his face.

                                            Yeah he was going to be useless until she was finished.  Carry on you two.

                                            • DarkwingPsycho
                                              DarkwingPsycho

                                              When Lilly came out, Ariana straightened and smiled.  Finally.

                                              She glanced toward Oz as the music began, and she looked over the stage and costumes.  "Oh..." she said, trying to be heard over the band, but it was difficult for her soft voice.  "It is all quite lovely..."  She meant it.  Lilly looked stunning up there and the way the stage was set up invited all eyes to be on her.

                                              She was pleasantly surprised at how enchanting Lilly's voice sounded, and she was also unsurprised.  A beautiful person with a beautiful voice.

                                              • Lilly Teal
                                                Lilly Teal

                                                Lilly seemed entirely lost to the world when she sang. Oz was sure he had explained something like that to Gladstone before, but he always preferred to tuck himself out of her line of sight, just in case.

                                                In case what, Gladstone, the sight of you makes her forget what she's doing? Because honey if my gorgeousness doesn't distract the singers what hope does anyone else have?

                                                He was lost too. And Ariana seemed to have found something she enjoyed here, so the silence was not awkward like Oz would have expected it to be. A pleasant surprise. He let them listen in peace, turning a critical eye to the staging and lights. No, that one was just a shade too bright. He'd have to ask Darryl to look into it before the next set. But all on all, quite flawless.

                                                But because it was Oz, he couldn't stay silent for long, and he started talking again almost as soon as she took her bow.

                                                "Not that I'm complaining that she's bringing in more business by incessantly making friends with everyone, but how did you two meet? And how did you," motioning between her and Gladstone, "meet?"

                                                Let's see if we can get her to talk. Gladstone was given a little nudge that hopefully implied You can answer after she's tried to answer because I don't see her side of the story going much longer than a few lines.

                                                "You can go say hi to Lilly before the next set, if you want, Glad."

                                                • Negaduck's Biggest Stan
                                                  Negaduck's Biggest Stan

                                                  "YES I THINK I-" He realized he was shouting and timidly cleared this throat. Settle. Down. Boy.  He made vague motions between Ariana and Oz as he got up from his chair. "Talk. Go.  I.  Lilly."

                                                  Eloquent.

                                                   

                                                  He straightened himself out before making a beeline to the backstage entrance.  Not a direct path of course, he had to stop and tell a few people that the songstress they'd just been talking about was his beautiful girlfriend. Yes she is wonderful isn't she? Marvelous as well, how nice of you to say I'll pass that along to her. Of course.  Then he was gone from sight, hopefully to pull her somewhere out of sight herself for a few moments, if she felt like receiving his gushing acclaim.  As well as if she felt like being on the receiving end of a few other things too.

                                                   

                                                  ...they were gunna make out OK?

                                                  • DarkwingPsycho
                                                    DarkwingPsycho

                                                    Ariana glanced hesitantly after Gladstone, then looked at Oz.  She didn't feel too comfortable being left alone with someone she had just met, and a someone she thought didn't like her too much.  She would have much rather gone with Gladstone to talk to Lilly.

                                                    Still, she sat and did her best.  "Well...I went into her bookstore to sell some old textbooks of mine...and she was so nice..."  She trailed off, not really knowing what else to say about that, so she moved on to Gladstone.

                                                    "And Gladstone...I met when Lilly invited him and me to see some Christmas lights..."

                                                    A pause.  "H-how did you meet Lilly and Gladstone...?"

                                                    • Lilly Teal
                                                      Lilly Teal

                                                      Ah, well, that's a long and epic story of-

                                                      "School."

                                                      A... a long and epic story of... school?

                                                      "We met in high school. I was a bit excited about a play I was putting on, and she seemed into books, so I bullied her into coming to see rehearsal, and I've been bullying her every since." He smiled fondly at the memory. "Then I found out she was hiding a voice and the rest is history."

                                                      As you can see. My bullying does me good!

                                                      "Glad, now. Glad I met when he left some gala tickets at Lilly's and I made her use them. Taking me with, obviously. He was drunk and grumpy but then he sobered up and was charming for all of five seconds before Tuskernini burst in to start robbing us. Come to think of it," he mused. "I didn't really interact with him much, then." You probably know the feeling, Ariana. "Still, I invited him to the club after that and he's been a regular. Great guy, love him to bits. A bit thick-headed when it comes to helping people, but the beautiful ones usually are. Except me."

                                                      Obviously.

                                                      "But he means well," he added, looking at her keenly. "You should remember that."

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