The house was set up. It hadn’t taken that long, really. Especially when Launchpad had insisted on helping the whole time. Not that Drake was completely against the extra set of hands. It was just… odd. It was almost dizzying with how fast things had happened the past few days. One moment he was living his life as a full-time vigilante and the very next he’s buying a home to house his new adoptive daughter.
Launchpad was welcomed help through it all but the knowledge that he had just met this man only a few days ago did continuously tab to the forefront of his mind.
It wasn’t much work getting both Gosalyn and his own things into the house. Neither one of them really having that many personal items. It was much more effort going out to finish up the real furnishings. There was also the matter of the secret passageway back to the hideaway. But that could be worked on here and there. It would only take maybe a weekend at most. Especially if he contacted help from SHUSH to install the underground connecting network.
Once everything was set up, it was smooth sailing from there. At least, that’s what Drake had assumed. It turns out there was a lot more to it than he had hoped.
Especially concerning Gosalyn.
It was a few days in when Drake really noticed something off with her. She seemed lethargic that morning. Hardly awake enough to even eat breakfast. She wasn’t often the easiest child to wake, but once she was up she was more or less wide awake.
After two days of the small duckling almost falling asleep in her cereal bowl, Drake walked next to her chair and gave her a worried gaze.
“You uh, you feeling okay, Sport?” He hoped his words didn’t come off as tense as he felt.
First meeting Gosalyn felt so natural. Like as if they were meant to meet by some greater force. Not that Drake believed in that kind of hooey. He could even pinpoint the moment he really felt he was falling in love. The feelings only becoming stronger as he realized he wanted nothing more than to take her in and be there for her for the rest of his life. Maybe even more so than when he realized he wanted to be a hero.
But now that things were more real, he felt nervous. As if he was going to wreck it all up. Protecting a little girl from a criminal was easy, it was a breeze, it was second nature. Raising a little girl and taking care of her every day in and out? That was something else entirely. Not that he would admit it, of course. He was Darkwing Duck! If any Joe Schmo could be a dad then so could he! At least that’s what he kept telling himself.
Gosalyn looked up at him with a gentle sound of question. Her eyes looked as though she hadn't slept in ages. Her pigtails were a mess, half of her hair-feathers spilling out from the bottom of the ties. Her shirt was backwards and her yellow baby feathers were a mess.
The sight tugged painfully at Drake’s heart. The energy and light that he was so used to brightening his mornings was practically gone. It felt like the sun itself was dimmer.
He put a hand to her forehead. She didn’t feel particularly warm. But he really couldn't be sure. Did he own a thermometer? He’d have to look or call Launchpad to bring him one. That… seemed like an important thing to own in a house with a child.
He shook the thoughts away for later. “You don’t look too good. Didn’t you sleep well?” He let his hand comb through her feathers down to hold her cheek gently.
She just gave a weak little shrug.
Drake sighed. He scooted Gosalyn to sit on the side of her chair, faced away from him. He pulled out her pigtails, sliding them onto his wrists and then pulled off her shirt.
“You don’t have a fever,” Drake informed as he pulled her shirt right ways out and tried to beat the wrinkles out. “Do you feel sick?”
“Will it get me out of going to school?” asked a curious voice. At least she was still a mischievous little squirt.
Drake gave her a knowing smile when she turned her head to look back at him. “Not if you’re lying.”
She puffed her cheeks out at him; clearly caught. She turned back around to sit right before saying, “No, just kinda tired.”
Drake nodded as he helped pull her shirt back on right and began to smooth out her sleep-mused feathers. “When you get home, if you’re still tired, you can take a nice long nap-“
“Instead of my homework?”
“Before you do your homework.”
Gosalyn let out a groan only pulling out a soft chuckle from Drake as he used his fingers to brush through her hair-feathers. Once they were less of a mess, he parted them and pulled them into their usual neat little pigtails.
The rest of the morning seemed to go fine. Gosalyn still seemed very lethargic but reassured that she was just tired and would be fine. Drake did wonder if he should keep her home from school for the day but she didn’t have a fever. He decided against it and let her go.
It wasn’t till she was out and home that Drake was able to call Launchpad. Where normally the pilot was free between his work in Duckburg; apparently his employer had needed him the whole day. Something about being in Asia was said before shouting about a wing being on fire and then the call being disconnected.
Drake could only be so worried about Launchpad’s flying habits before it was all around pointless.
However, after Gosalyn had taken her promised after school nap and was working on her homework, the phone began to ring. Drake walked to the kitchen and pulled it off the wall and to his ear.
“Mallard residence,” he greeted automatically.
“Hello, Launchpad,” Drake greeted with a roll of his eyes. He kept trying to remind the pilot not to call him the silly nickname out of the mask. Unfortunately, the scatterbrained duck tended to forget once in a while. “I’m glad you’re not crashed in an ocean somewhere.”
“Actually it was a mountain.”
“A wh-“ Drake stopped himself and let out a groan, punching the upper bridge of his beak. Why was he ever surprised.
“Anyways!” Launchpad quickly turned the subject. “You wanted me to call back?”
Drake nodded before realizing that wouldn’t come across. “Yes, I did.” He took the wire of the phone between his fingers and fiddled with it before he continued. He was thankful that Launchpad was patient enough to let him get his thoughts together. “I’m worried about Gosalyn,” he finally admitted.
“Is she okay?” Launchpad asked.
Drake couldn’t help the way the edges of his beak pulled up into a small smile. The way Launchpad cared for Gosalyn always comforted Drake. It assured him that he wasn’t really doing this all alone. Even when sometimes it really did feel so.
“She looked sick this morning,” Drake began to explain. “I checked her temperature- oh right, remind me to get a thermometer for the house.”
“Anyways, she didn’t seem to have a fever and she said she didn’t feel sick, just tired.” Drake let go of the phone wire to rub his hand over across his forehead. “And lately she’s been… I don’t know, down?” He gave a sigh. “I’m just worried something’s wrong and I can’t figure out what.”
“Maybe she’s homesick.”
Drake blinked for a moment. “Homesick?”
“Yeah. I mean she did just go through a lot back there with her grandad ‘n’ everythin’.”
Drake gave a hum. “You’re right. Homesick,” he mumbled the word out again. What did he even do about something like that? What could he do about it?
“Maybe you could take her back to her grandad’s lab,” Launchpad added, as if reading Drake’s thoughts through the silence.
“Take her back?” Drake questioned. “Wouldn’t that make things worse?”
“Maybe. But she might not have ever gotten any closure, ya’ know?”
Drake gave another thoughtful hum. “I guess you have a point. I-“
His words were halted by the sound of the door slamming closed. Drake snapped to look past the kitchen doorway into the living room. “Gos?” He called out. But there was no response. He turned to look at the couch but she was nowhere to be seen.
He lurched forward only for the phone cord to yank him back with a shout.
When he finally situated himself he could hear Launchpad calling him from the phone.
He put it back to his ear, ignoring the other to give out a “I have to go. I’ll call you back.” before hanging up.
Drake stumbled into the living room. Gosalyn was not in sight. Had she left the house? It sounded like the front door he had heard. But why would she leave like that? Maybe she hadn’t. Maybe she had just accidentally slammed her room door too hard.
He stood before the stars and called out again, “Gosalyn!”
Again, no answer.
A cold fear shocked his spine.
He ran back to the front door and threw it open, looking out into the front yard.
“Gosalyn!” he called. Hoping maybe she had just run out to play.
Yet, again, there was no answer. No sign of the duckling at all.
Panic began to set in. Quickly, Drake ran through the house, looking for any sign of her and calling out for her.
There was nothing, no sign, no answer.
He ran back to the front door then stopped. Launchpad was still in Duckburg. The hideaway was too far out. He had no real transportation. He also had no idea where Gosalyn could be.
Then it hit him. Launchpad suggested she could be homesick.
Drake grabbed his keys and ran out the house and down the street, begging that his hunch would lead him to his daughter.
The old lab was still closed off. Drake had reason to believe that SHUSH had some hand in the late Doctor’s studies. Especially if his last creation was to be shipped off for military use. A part of Drake was thankful it was destroyed. With the danger it posed; it was best to not exist at all.
The front door was still locked. He wasn’t too surprised. However, if the door was locked, then he doubted Gosalyn would have been able to get in either. Unless… the front was not the only entrance.
Gosalyn was a very smart little girl. Drake highly doubted a locked door could keep her out of somewhere she was determined to get into. He stepped back from the main entrance and stepped to the side, viewing the building from the corner. He then spotted a partially open window. Bingo.
Drake looked around, to make sure there were no onlookers, before pushing the window open farther and pulling himself through.
Once in, he instantly tuned into the sound of crying and followed it. The lab was dark and seemed a mess. A part of him wondered if this was where it had all initially gone down. When Taurus Bulba’s goons killed Dr. Waddlemire. He wondered if the state of the lab was the result of a chaotic scientist doubling as a single grandfather, or if it was the aftermath of a tragic struggle.
The sound led him to a desk near the wall. “Gosalyn?” He went behind it and looked under to see her, curled in on herself and sobbing harder than Drake had ever really seen.
He kneeled down next to her and tried again, “Gosalyn, sweetie, what’s wrong? Why are you crying?” He asked, bending over to try and get closer. Only to ram his forehead into the side of the desk with a pained sound. “Better yet,” he started and rubbed at his head. “Why are you all the way out here?”
“I’m not going back!” she yelled. Her voice raw from crying and muffled by her stuffed, sniffling nose.
“You can’t make me! I’m not going anywhere!”
“Gosalyn, what on earth are you talking about?”
“I heard you,” she sniffled out her explanation. “On the phone. You said you were gonna take me back to the orphanage. Well I’m not going!” Her scream sounded painful with the roughness it held. She curled back into herself, pulling her arms tighter around her legs and shoving her face so hard into her knees that Drake worried about the safety of her eyes.
“The- oh Gosalyn.” Drake finally sat to the floor and reached under the desk, taking the duckling into his arms and pulling her onto his lap. “Sweetheart, I wasn’t talking about taking you back there.”
She lifted her head to look up at him. Her eyes were puffy and red, the same as the rest of her face. Her cheeks stained with tears and snot. “Y-ya weren’t?”
Drake ran a hand down her head before stopping it on the back of her neck and giving her a patient and reassuring smile. “Of course not. Baby, I was talking about bringing you back here.” Drake then looked around them. “Though, at the sight of this place I’m starting to think maybe that wouldn’t have been the best plan.”
“Here? But why?”
“Well I,” he shifted some, pulling her closer and sitting flatter on the ground, “I was worried you might be homesick. That you might miss it too much and that’s why you haven’t been feeling well lately.”
“Oh,” she mumbled back. Gosalyn leaned forward, curling against Drake’s chest, fitting perfectly under his chin.
Drake rubbed her shoulder gently as she got control of her last remaining tears. After a moment he finally whispered, “Talk to me, Gos. You don’t gotta tell me everything right now, but I wanna help. And I can’t do that unless you help me figure out how.” The hand on her shoulder moved to rub slow circles in her back as Drake began to gently rock her.
“I do miss it. I miss grandpa,” she finally mumbled into his sweater.
Ah. Drake’s beak pressed into a thin line and his brow furrowed. He knew this would come up eventually.
Drake opened his beak to try and say something but Gosalyn beat him to it. “I have nightmares some nights. ‘S why I’m so tired some mornings. I can’t sleep ‘cause of ‘em.”
The circles on her back paused. “Nightmares?”
Gosalyn nodded against his chest.
“About your Grandfather?” Drake asked hesitantly.
She stayed quiet for a moment before nodding against him. “And,” she started. Her hand gripping the fabric of Drake’s shirt like a lifeline. “Him too.”
It didn’t take a genius to figure out who she meant. He was even sure her admitting of the nightmare only confirmed his earlier thoughts on the state of the room.
Where he wasn’t sure exactly how much and to what extent, he did know one thing: Gosalyn saw the incident take place.
Gosalyn was such a strong little girl; and normally a thought like that should bring pride to a parent. But to Drake it only brought anger. She shouldn’t have to be strong. She shouldn’t have to be anything but a little girl going to school and making friends and playing hockey.
Drake Mallard had never been the kind of man to forgive and forget. He was always quick to spark anger and hold a grudge. But he knew, even if he were to miraculously let go of anything he ever held against all his fellow men, the one he would never let go of was Taurus Bulba.
Of all the people Drake faced off against in the past decade, and despite only having gone against him once, Bulba would always be the worst to him. Maybe it was wrong of him to think so; but, he was glad the man was dead.
After all, not everyone can bounce back from a fatal explosion like Darkwing Duck can.
Drake just gave a silent sigh, letting out every anger and thought out at once. He could be livid another day. He could yell and rant and curse Bulba’s name to the gods one day, but not today. Today there was an upset little girl in his arms and she would always be priority number one.
He began to rock her again, letting his hands continue to rub at her back. He wasn’t really sure what to say. It felt like any sort of ‘he can’t hurt you anymore’ montra would only do so good. Explaining to her that nightmares aren’t real and can’t hurt her also felt patronizing to what was clearly a much deeper problem than the boogeyman under her bed.
So, instead he sang.
It was just humming at first, to get the tune right. He was never much of a singer despite being a huge theater kid growing up. He then fumbled to start with the words.
“Rest your head, little girl blue. Come paint your dreams on your pillow.”
As Drake began to sing, he felt Gosalyn shift against him. Curling as close to his chest as she could as if she were trying to hide away inside him.
“I’ll be near, to chase away fear. So, sleep now and dream til tomorrow.” He kept his voice quiet enough that it would be a comforting whisper, but firm enough to drive away anything remaining from Gosalyn’s earlier sorrows. And he knew they’d come back.
Drake was no fool. He knew she would have nightmares and be sad. But he also knew that he could stay with her and protect her. He didn’t know much about being a father, but it felt pretty close to being a hero sometimes.
“Dad, I wanna go home,” Gosalyn mumbled out, pulling him back from his thoughts.
“Of course, Gos.” Drake wrapped his arms securely around her and lifted himself to his feet, pulling her along with him. He made his way towards the door- no use climbing out the window now.
“And Gosalyn,” he started to add as he walked.
Gosalyn only responded with a tired “hm?”
He ran a hand along her head as he walked back towards home. “If you have any more nightmares or anything like that, you can come to me about them. It’s my job to protect you.”
“I know. That’s what heroes do,” she mumbled sleepily.
“It’s also what fathers do.”