Chapter 11: Getting Closer

The day of the party that Phil had arranged was upon the Ducks. All six of them were busy hanging up streamers, balloons and the like all around the Pond. Wildwing had offered to stick up the directional arrows to show the kids where to go, as well as stick down the duck feet floor stickers that Phil had gotten from somewhere. Duke had commandeered the helium tank and had taken charge of filling up the balloons before Nosedive could get there. The last thing the eldest of the team wanted to deal with was an over-grown kid messing around with the helium. Mallory and Grin were busy hanging streamers around the rink, while Tanya saw to the music system and lights. Phil had convinced the Ducks to put on a ‘hockey practice to music’ thing for the kids, which they had somewhat reluctantly agreed to. Duke had just filled up what he thought was his hundredth balloon when Wildwing appeared, sticking down the last of the feet.
“Hey, Wildwing,” he called.
“Yeah?” Wildwing asked, looking up.
“You seen Nosedive? These balloons ain’t gonna put themselves into bunches.”
“No. I haven’t. I thought he was with you guys.”
“And we thought he was with you,” Mallory said, walking up to the two drakes with Grin and Tanya in tow.
“Then… where is he?” Wildwing asked.

Down in the Ducks’ HQ, Agnus was busy in the kitchen cooking up a mini storm. She had just taken out a batch of cookies and was letting them cool on a cooling rack on the counter while she stuck another batch in. While her back was turned, the hand of one particular duck silently moved towards the cooling tray full of fresh hot cookies.
His fingers were mere millimetres from the pastry treat when… WHACK!
“Ow! Hey!” Nosedive cried, pulling his hand back and rubbing it caringly.
“Don’t even think about it, Nosedive,” Agnus said, shaking a wooden spoon at the young drake.
Nosedive pouted just as a hand was put onto his shoulder from behind.
“There you are,” said Wildwing.
Nosedive just smiled up at his brother.
“Yeah. Here he is,” Aggie replied with a smile, folding her arms across her chest with the wooden spoon still in her hand.
“Sorry if he’s caused you any trouble, Aggie,” Wildwing said, beginning to guide his baby brother out of the kitchen.
“No problem, Wing. At least not yet.”
Wildwing just chuckled quietly to himself.
“Hey. You know me, Ags. Can’t resist a sugary treat,” Nosedive said with a shrug.
Aggie just smiled at the two.
“We’ll leave you to it, Ags,” Wildwing said, turning to leave.
“Thanks,” Aggie said.
With that the two ducks began to walk away.
“Wait,” Agnus called from behind them.
The pair turned to find her walking up to them with something other than a wooden spoon in her hands.
“Don’t tell the others,” she said, pressing a cookie into each of their hands before turning and heading back to the kitchen.
Wildwing smiled fondly at her as she disappeared into the kitchen again.
“Coo-ella!” Nosedive said before stuffing the whole cookie into his mouth. “Mmm. Not bad,” he said with his mouth still full of cookie, as he began to head for the elevator.
Wildwing just shook his head and smiled disbelievingly at his younger brother before following after him.

Five minutes to show time and the Ducks had put the final touches to the party area.
“Phew. Made it,” Duke said, with a satisfied smile.
“Wow,” a voice behind them said.
The Ducks turned to find Aggie skating up to them.
“You guys did an amazing job. Well done,” she said with a smile.
“You are going to be hanging around, right?” Duke asked.
“Why do you ask?” Aggie asked with a smile.
“Let’s just say… I’m not keen on being left alone with a bunch of human juveniles.”
“You won’t be alone though, Duke. You’ll have the team with you.”
“Doesn’t count. I’d like to know that there is a knowledgeable, mature human about in case something happens.”
“Like what?”
“I don’t know.”
Aggie couldn’t help but giggle before looking at the other Ducks and saying, “He’s been hearing horror stories, hasn’t he?”
We’ve been, yeah,” Wildwing replied.
Aggie chuckled slightly before composing herself and continuing, “Don’t worry. I will be on scene. Uncle Phil asked me to be for… insurance or something.”
Duke just nodded curtly, but appreciatively.

The party was going well. Agnus had kept off to the side, to keep out of the way of the kids, their parents and the celeb co-hosts. The Ducks had been tense about this at first, but soon got into the swing of things. Nosedive and Grin’s relaxed approach to the situation had definitely helped the others slip into their new role. When the time came for the Ducks to perform their ‘practice-to-music’ routine, they had been pleasantly surprised to see how well-behaved the kids were. The kids had filed into the stands without much fuss and then sat quietly waiting for the show to begin.
The music for the Ducks’ routine was winding up and the Ducks all skated for the centre of the ice. Their sticks clacked against each other as they collided in the signature victory end-of-game team ritual.
“Ducks rock!” the Ducks yelled together as the music ended.
The kids and their parents stood up and enthusiastically applauded the Ducks’ performance, while the Ducks turned to face them and bowed.
Wildwing, still bent over in his bow, chanced a sideways glance at where he had last seen Agnus. He smiled to himself when he saw her clapping along with the others.
The Ducks straightened up again and began to head off the ice.
“That was amazing!” one of the boys said, as the Ducks came past him.
“Thanks, kid,” Duke said with a chuckle and a smile.
Just then Wildwing noticed the birthday girl, Tina, was staring off down at Agnus, who was currently writing something down on her clipboard.
“Something the matter, Tina?” he asked, walking up to her.
“Huh?! Oh, no, Wildwing, just…,” Tina replied with a smile before looking back at Agnus.
“Just?” Wildwing pressed.
“Who’s that?” Tina asked, pointing at Aggie.
“Oh! That’s Aggie. Our manager’s niece and PA. Why do you ask?”
“Is her surname ‘Teak’?”
Wildwing looked surprised by the question, but then thought.
“I… don’t know. Aggie’s never told us what her last name is.”
“Something up, Wildwing?” Duke asked, coming up behind his leader.
“Duke, has Aggie ever mentioned what her last name is to you?”
“No. Why?”
“Tina here would like to know.”
“O-kay. Got a reason for that, kid?” Duke asked, looking down at the little girl.
Tina quickly got down from her seat and raced over to where the party-goers had left their bags.
Duke and Wildwing looked at each other before following after her.
When they reached her, she had pulled out a magazine from her bag and was opening it.
“I’ve been reading about kids in hockey,” Tina started, looking at the story in the magazine, “And… I came across this girl named Agnus Teak. She was a natural born hockey player. Her dad was a hockey player and her mom a figure skater. They say she could skate before she could walk.”
“Okay, and… what makes you think that our Aggie is the Agnus you’ve read about?” Duke asked.
With that Tina turned the magazine around for the two drakes to see the photographs that accompanied the story. They gasped when they saw the pictures.
“May I?” Wildwing asked, reaching out for the magazine.
“Sure,” Tina replied with a smile.
Wildwing gently took the magazine from Tina and held it so that he and Duke could see the pictures better.
“It’s Aggie! Just… a lot smaller,” Duke said, looking at the photos and then at the young lady not too far away from them who was still writing stuff down on her clipboard.
“Or someone who looks a lot like Aggie,” Wildwing said, trying to keep Duke from jumping to conclusions.
“Agnus Teak of The Fantas-Teaks,” Duke read from the magazine, “A natural born hockey player who promises to give most aspiring players, young or old, a run for their money.”
“Coached by her parents,” Wildwing continued to read, “Aggie combines the grace of figure skating with the speed and ferocity of professional ice hockey skating to form a unique and effective playing style. Though only nine years of age, she has mastered her dad’s signature trick shot: The Home-Run.”
“Oh hey! I read about that when I was at the library. It wasn’t used often, only when the other team’s defence was practically non-existent,” Duke said.
Wildwing just nodded before looking down at Tina.
“There’s only one way to really find out, Tina,” he said with a smile, “We’ll go ask her.”
Tina just about grinned up at Wildwing, as he closed the magazine, being careful to keep a finger at the place where the story was, and held a hand out for Tina to take. She quickly took his hand and allowed him to lead her over to Agnus, who had finally finished writing on her clipboard.
“Aggie,” he said.
“Yes?” she asked with a smile.
“This is Tina, the birthday girl we’re holding this party for.”
“Oh! It’s nice to meet you, Tina. Is there something wrong?” Agnus asked, going down onto her haunches to talk to the girl eye-to-eye.
“Not in so many words, Ags,” Duke replied.
“Then… what’s up?” Agnus asked, looking up at Duke.
Wildwing paused before opening the magazine and holding down for Agnus to see. Her eyes widened when she saw the spread in the magazine.
“Do you know who this is?” Wildwing asked.
Agnus quickly stood up again, her eyes stuck on the magazine.
“Where’d you get that?” she asked, looking the lead duck straight in the eye.
“Tina ‘ere,” Duke replied.
Agnus looked at the little girl.
“Is it you?” Tina asked, hopefully, “Are you… Agnus Teak of the Fantas-Teaks?”
Agnus wasn’t sure what to respond.
“It is you!” Tina cried in delight.
Agnus let out a sigh of defeat, but then forced a smile.
“Yeah,” she said, “It’s me.”
Tina just stared at Agnus in amazement.
“Is everything alright?” a lady asked from behind the group.
“Yeah. Everything’s fine,” Agnus replied with a smile.
“Mom! This is Agnus Teak! The girl from my magazine!” Tina chirped.
“Ag…,” the lady, who was Tina’s mom, started before looking at the lady before her, “Well, I’ll be… it is you! Ha!… It’s an honour to meet you, Miss Teak.” Tina’s mom held her hand out for Agnus to shake.
“Thanks,” Aggie replied, her tone not exactly dripping with enthusiasm for the attention.
“Where have you been?! The last I heard of you was… back just after your family moved.”
Agnus looked at Tina’s mom somewhat surprised.
“You… don’t know what happened?” she asked.
“No,” Tina’s mom replied, making a somewhat embarrassed face before continuing, “I was studying when your family moved and… couldn’t keep up with the hockey news like I used to. Then, after that, I met my husband and…”
Agnus just smiled and nodded before saying, “And everything turned into a blur?”
“Something like that. I‘ve only just gotten back into the hockey scene since my little girl got interested in it.”
Agnus just smiled and nodded.
“So… what happened to you?” Tina’s mom asked.
“I gave up after my dad gave up for… medical reasons,” Agnus said, side glancing at the two drakes to her right.
“Oh! I’m sorry to hear that, but surely you could have continued once he got better.”
“I’m afraid his condition was a permanent one… I don’t like to talk about it.”
“Okay. Sure. No problem.”
Just then Agnus felt a tug on her jacket hem. Looking down she found Tina.
“Aggie, could… could you show us the Home-Run?” she asked.
“The Home-Run?” Agnus asked, beginning to feel a bit panicked. Just when she thought she was safe with Tina’s mom not knowing her story.
“Yeah. You know. The trick shot you mastered when you were nine,” Duke said, pointing to the magazine.
Aggie glared at Duke as subtly as she could, while Wildwing just nudged Duke with his elbow.
“Please!” Tina begged.
Aggie looked down at the child, she was torn between upholding her own personal vow never to get back on the ice for hockey and making this child happy.
“You do know what your uncle says about the fans, right?” Duke asked quietly, coming up alongside Agnus and leaning closer to her.
“No fans. No team. I know,” Aggie replied, getting the hint. Turning down a child who was a fan of the team could have disastrous consequences for the Mighty Ducks’ team reputation.
Aggie sighed in defeat before replying, “Sure, Tina. I’ll… I’ll show you the Home-Run.”
“Yes!” Tina cheered, jumping up.
But I haven’t practiced it in a long time, so… it may be a little rusty.”
“No problem. I’ll go tell everyone.”
With that Tina rushed off to tell her friends the news.
Aggie could feel a knot forming in her stomach. This was not what she wanted to do at all. Suddenly, she was pulled from her thoughts by someone putting their hand onto her shoulder.
“Thank you so much. I can see you’d rather not, but…,” Tina’s mom started.
Agnus waved it off and, with a smile, replied, “It’s not a problem.”
Tina’s mom smiled at her before taking her leave.
Agnus watched her until she felt another hand, larger and more masculine, be set on her opposite shoulder. Looking at the owner, she found Wildwing.
“Come on,” he said with a gentle smile, “Let’s get you kitted out.”
Agnus just nodded before turning and allowing the lead duck to lead her to the changing rooms.
Duke, meanwhile, couldn’t help but smile to himself just as the other Ducks came up to him.
“What’s this we hear about Aggie getting on the ice?” Mallory asked.
“To play hockey!” Nosedive added.
Duke chuckled before replying, “Tina’s a fan of the Fantas-Teaks. Of which Aggie’s a member of. Her dad was a hockey player and her mom a figure skater.”
“Yeah, and?” Mallory asked.
“The Fantas-Teaks had a trick shot called the Home-Run. Tina wants to see it in action and… Aggie’s obliging.”
The Ducks just looked at Duke in amazement and then at Agnus and Wildwing as they disappeared into the changing rooms on the other side of the rink.