“Gosalyn! Launchpad told us not to wander around!” a nasally voice called from around the corner of the building.
“You worry too much!” a bright voice called back. “Look how big this yard is! There’s a peacock over here!”
“Gosalyn! Come back!”
Huey put down his book and turned to his brothers and Webby, who were currently searching through on of Uncle Scrooge’s crates in the garage. The light shown in through the open door, giving them a good view of the mansion grounds. Huey hopped up and wandered further outside. “Did you guys hear that?”
“Yeah! Let’s go see who it is!” Dewey said, dropping a gauntlet back into the box and sprinting past him outside with Webby and Louie close behind. “Might be fun!”
“Never a dull moment,” Huey said as he followed the others into the main yard.
Just down the sloping hill from the garage they saw a red-headed duck with sneakers and a purple jersey looking around the garden decorations with bright eyes. Behind her was a timid looking goose in glasses, clutching a backpack to his chest. He kept nervously looking over his shoulder and grabbing at her sleeve.
“Hiya!” Webby yelled, heading down the hill at a slow jog. She tapped over the last couple of feet, the boys following, and asked. “Who are you guys?”
“Oh! I know you! You must be the other kids Launchpad mentioned!” The girl, Gosalyn if what her said friend was right, turned away from the statue she’d been attempting to climb. She held her hand out. “I’m Gosalyn Mallard, and this is my buddy Honker.”
“Nice to meet you!” Webby replied, shaking it.
“Now that we know your name, what are you doing here?” Louie asked, taking the initiative. “Uncle Scrooge doesn’t seem the type to let random kids wander around his mansion.”
“Are you his fans?” Dewey asked, jumping to a reasonable conclusion. Uncle Scrooge’s popularity since visiting Atlantis had increased. Being back in the news would definitely bring he fans back around. Dewey put his hands on his hips. “This isn’t the best way to get on his good side if you’re here to stalk him.”
“We’re not here to stalk anyone!” Gosalyn said. She crossed her arms and stomped her foot. She stood up straighter, giving herself an inch of height over the rest of them. “And we’re supposed to be here. We—”
“Oh, there you are!” Launchpad said, rounding the corner out of the breath. He joined the middle of the group and leaned over, hands on his knees. “I was looking all over the place for you two!”
“Sorry, Launchpad,” Honker said, adjusting his glasses. “We got a little distracted and wandered off.”
Huey noted the situation, Gosalyn’s headstrong nature and the near immediate response Honker gave. Clearly covering for his friend came as easy as breathing for the timid goose. He easily read the translated sentence as “Gosalyn ran off and I tried to stop her, but what can you do?”
He could relate, considering his own siblings.
“You know them, Launchpad?” Louie asked.
“Yes! This is Gosalyn and Honker,” Launchpad said, straightening up. “Gosalyn’s my best buddy’s daughter, and Honker is her neighbor. D-D—Drake had to go out of town and asked if I could watch his daughter for him.” Launchpad paused. “I’m not actually sure why Honker is here.”
“Gosalyn,” Honker said, a compete explanation and excuse in a single, sighed word.
Huey was going to like that kid.
“Right,” Launchpad said. “I was hoping you kids wouldn’t mind keeping them company while I go work for Mr. McDuck.”
“We can totally do that!” Webby said, linking elbows with Gosalyn. “New friends are always welcome.”
“Assuming they can keep up,” Dewey said. He crossed his arms and smirked. “You guys think you can handle a little adventure?”
“Oh, no. There’s more of her,” Honker said underneath Gosalyn’s “We can handle anything you can dish out!”
They were all going to get along just fine.
“Hey, Launchpad,” Dewey said. He trotted over with a fake sword under his belt, Huey close behind with some padding gear. “We’re going to practice some swordsmanship with Uncle Scrooge and Uncle Donald. Do you want to come?”
“Sure,” Launchpad said. He put down his cleaning rag from the car, and made it about two feet before his cellphone rang. He fumbled and pulled it out of his coat pocket. “Hello.”
Dewey and Huey shared a look as he continued a rather tense conversation on the phone.
“Wonder who that is,” Huey asked, leaning toward his brother.
“Sorry kids,” Launchpad said. He clicked the phone off and dropped it into his pocket. He yelled over his shoulder as he ran down the drive toward his personal car in the side garage. “Gotta’ go! See you later!”
“And there he goes,” Dewey said, dropping his shoulders. “This is like the fifth time this week! Where’s he going in such a hurry all the time?”
“I don’t know,” Huey said. He shifted the protection gear under his arm and touched his chin. “But I did notice that his disappearances have increased since he started babysitting Gosalyn. You think it has to do with that?”
“Maybe,” Dewey said. “Come on, let’s go back to practice and let them know he’s not coming.”
“Yeah,” Huey said.
Dewey didn’t know what had Launchpad running off in such a frantic hurry all the time, but that couldn’t be good for him (especially when it didn’t look like adventure was the one calling!).
The next time when Launchpad’s cellphone buzzed, Louie was the first to grab it.
“Launchpad, I need you—”
“This is Louie Duck speaking,” Louie said, interrupting the rather angry voice on the other line. He could already tell this guy was a loser and a jerk from four words. Louie leaned against the wall and put on a customer service voice. “Launchpad can’t come to the phone right now because he’s driving a submarine. Can I help you?”
The voice on the other end went quiet, before asking again. “Are you one of those kids Launchpad watches for McDuck?”
“Yup,” Louie said, solidifying the instant dislike for this guy’s tone. He dropped the funny act and deadpanned, “And you’re Gosalyn’s dad, right?”
“What makes you say that?”
“The caller ID said ‘Best Buddy’ and well, that’s what Launchpad introduced her dad as,” Louie said. “Not that hard to figure out, Mr. Mallard.”
There was a bit of annoyed mumbling on the other end over ‘Buddy’ until Mr. Mallard spoke up louder. “Put Launchpad on the phone, Kid.”
Now Louie really didn’t like this guy. “He’s busy.”
Mallard yelled, “Put him on the phone! Now!”
“And I just said he’s—hey!” Louie said as Launchpad reached over and plucked it out of his hand.
“Sorry about that, D—Dee,” Launchpad said, fumbling over his words, nervous. He was quiet for a moment as the other man talked, not that Louie could hear it now that he was so far away. Launchpad laughed, “Ah, no. That part was true. I’m piloting a submarine for Mr. McDuck right now.”
The “What!” that came from the other end of the receiver was loud enough for all of them to hear. Even Scrooge and Donald rolled their eyes from the planning table in the corner.
Louie had heard enough and wandered back to the seating area with his brothers and Webby. “I don’t like that Mallard guy. He sounds like a jerk.”
“Makes you wonder how his daughter ended up so great,” Webby said. She rested he head in her hands, elbows on the back of the seat. “And she seems crazy about him whenever she talks about the guy.”
“Of course she does, Mr. Mallard is her dad,” Huey said. He turned to Louie and crossed his arms. “But you did try to egg him on. Maybe he just has a short temper? You’re good at pressing people’s buttons, Louie.”
“He started the conversation with ‘Launchpad, I need!’ without even so much as a ‘hello,’” Louie said. “What sort of friend does that? He sounds bossy.”
“And he is always demanding Launchpad drop everything he’s doing to come see him all the time,” Dewey said. “He sounds like a clingy boyfriend.”
“You think they’re dating?” Webby asked.
“I dunno,” Louie said, looking over his shoulder.
“Oh, I’m in so much trouble later,” Launchpad muttered under his breath as he stuck his phone in his pocket.
Louis finished his sentence: “But if they are, Launchpad can do way better.”
The others agreed.
They just needed to find out for sure.
“So, Launchpad,” Huey said, taking a step into the cockpit of the plane. They soared over the ocean on their way to the next adventure and that meant it was the perfect time for more recon on figuring out just what Mr. Mallard was to Launchpad. “Have a second?”
“Yeah, of course,” Launchpad said. He checked the controls with a tap of his finger on one of the status screens. He looked over and grinned, “What’s up?”
“You and Gosalyn’s dad seem pretty close,” Huey said, taking a seat in the copilot’s seat. He glanced toward the back of the plane where Uncle Scrooge was explaining to the others what they were heading off to find. “He a nice guy?”
“The best,” Launchpad said, smiling absently. His face dazed like he was thinking of something (or in this case someone) really fantastic. Launchpad almost hummed in delight. “I really appreciate everything Mr. McDuck’s done for me and my job, but I think meeting D—” he coughed for a second, “Drake. Meeting Drake and Gosalyn has been the best thing to ever happen to me.”
“You like him that much?” Huey asked, sinking in his chair. The guy certainly hadn’t sounded that great from what they heard on the phone. Launchpad had better taste than that, right? “He uh, seemed kinda mean.”
“Of course I like him!” Launchpad said. He reached over and ruffled Huey’s feathers, softening his tone. The fondness was unmistakable. “I know he sounded kinda mean to Louie on the phone the other day, but he was having a really bad night. Drake isn’t used to talking with people, that's all.”
“I see.” Huey said, straightening his feathers. “Mr. Mallard still seemed sort of bossy. Doesn’t that bother you?”
“Nah,” Launchpad said, turning back to the sky and watching the plane’s flight path. “That’s just how he is. I don’t mind at all and wouldn’t change him for the world. It’s part of his charm.”
Spoken like someone blinded by their affection for a crush.
“Besides,” Launchpad added. He leaned over and whispered. “He’s the only person I know who makes more bad puns than I do. How great is that?”
“The best,” Huey said.
He returned to the others and crossed his arms. Launchpad was clearly crazy about the guy, even from such a small conversation. That meant he was pretty worthless when it came to figuring out what sort of guy Mr. Mallard really was. They needed an unbiased source to figure out this guy’s character that wasn’t the man dating him or his daughter.
And he knew just who they should ask.
“Mr. Mallard?” Uncle Scrooge said, looking down at Dewey. He tapped the top of his cane and straightened his hat. “I haven’t met him in person, no, but I’ve spoken briefly over the phone.”
“Launchpad just goes to see him a lot, and Gosalyn’s cool, so I was wondering what kind of guy you thought he was,” Dewey said.
“Yeah!” Webby said. She jumped up to sit on the desk and swung her feet back and forth. “And Louie said he sounded sort of mean over the phone, so we were a little worried he might be a bad friend.”
“They live together,” Donald said, looking over a checklist on the other side of the room. “So they can’t be too bad of friends.”
“They live together?” Dewey said. That certainly supported the boyfriend theory. “I didn’t know Launchpad lived in St. Canard.”
“He commutes,” Uncle Scrooge said. He put down his cane and sat in his chair. He gently nudged Webby off the desk, and she hopped down to stand next to Dewey again. “As for Mr. Mallard, I've had a total of two conversations with him. The first was when he called to make sure his daughter wasn’t causing trouble around the mansion because he couldn’t trust Launchpad to tell him if she had because, and I quote, ‘That girl has Launchpad whipped.’ The second was an apology phone call after he found out Gosalyn broke a statue running around with you lot.”
Dewey and Webby shrugged nervously. That had been a fun game of street hockey in the mansion hallways. They had no regrets, even if Mrs. Beakley had given them more of an earful than Uncle Donald and Uncle Scrooge.
“So generally speaking, he sounds like a control freak, but not necessarily a bad person,” Uncle Scrooge said. “Don’t worry about it too much.”
“It’s not nice to meddle in other people’s relationships anyway,” Donald said. He waved his hand at the two and shooed them out of the room. “Go play with your friends and leave Launchpad’s personal life alone.”
“Yes, Uncle Donald,” Dewey and Webby chorused.
Just outside the door, they both lingered, listening in.
“If I knew Launchpad getting a boyfriend would cause this much trouble, I would have forbidden it,” Uncle Scrooge said, muttering under his breath. “He’s never around when I need him any more.”
“And you call Mr. Mallard the control freak,” Donald added under his breath.
Dewey and Webby nodded to each other. Something had to be done about Mr. Mallard. But they still needed more information just to make sure Mr. Mallard was bad news before they broke up Launchpad’s relationship with a guy he liked so much.
“So, would you say Mr. Mallard and Launchpad are close?” Huey asked Honker. They sat on the sidelines as Gosalyn and Webby ran circles around Louie and Dewey on the small soccer field they’d set up in the yard. “They seem close.”
Honker shifted, looking up from the molecular biology textbook he’d been highlighting. “I guess? They’re kinda like partners and they live together, so they spend a lot of time with each other. I know Gosalyn thinks of Launchpad as family.”
“Right,” Huey said. He put his hands together and tried a new tactic. “Mr. Mallard’s kinda bossy, isn’t he? We hear him ordering Launchpad around on the phone all the time. That’s gotta get old, right?”
Honker looked intently at his textbook, finger twitching. He was hiding something. Honker shifted in his seat and cleared his throat. “Mr. Mallard can be kinda intimidating, yeah, but he’s okay.”
Huey studied the boy and his growing nerves. He leaned a little closer and asked, “He a scary guy?”
“What?” Honker asked, looking up. “No, no. He’s not scary, like that or anything. He’s just…intense, and sometimes over protective of Gosalyn. That’s all.”
“If you say so,” Huey said. He crossed his arms and considered the facts: The guy bossed Launchpad around, he intimidated Honker, and he was controlling of Gosalyn.
The guy had to go.
“I am absolutely supposed to be here!” An angry voice shouted from down the hill.
“I’d know that voice anywhere,” Gosalyn said, deflating. She tugged off her helmet and dropped her hockey stick. “Come on Honker, let’s go see what’s got Dad’s goat this time.”
Webby didn’t like the deflated, almost exasperated look on Gosalyn’s face. She kept her hands from getting into fists as she and the triplets followed Gosalyn and Honker to the front gate. Once there, she saw her Grammy with crossed arms as she glared down at an angry looking duck wearing a plaid vest.
“If you won’t let me inside to pick up my daughter, than go get her,” Mr. Mallard said, growling under his breath. “How about that?”
“I don’t like your tone, Mr. Mallard,” Grammy said. “And I don’t believe you have an appointment.”
“I don’t need an appointment! I’m her father!”
“Dad?” Gosalyn asked. She tapped over and scrunched her beak. “Why are you fighting with Mrs. Beakley?”
“This lovely lady,” the stress on those last two words was clearly a cover for another word Mr. Mallard would have rather said, “wouldn’t let me inside to come pick you up.”
“I got that part,” Gosalyn said. She tapped her hockey stick against her shoulder. “But what are you doing here? I thought you went out with Morgana.”
“She had to leave early,” Mr. Mallard said, blushing slightly as he looked to the side. He smoothed down his vest and pushed his feathers back. “So I figured I’d come get you and take you out to dinner instead. Might as well not waste the reservation, right?”
“Awesome!” Gosalyn said, jumping up. “Just a second, I’ll go grab my stuff.”
Webby was too distracted by “Morgana” and the implications Mr. Mallard had almost been on a date with another woman to be happy for Gosalyn’s night out with her dad.
Was Mr. Mallard cheating on Launchpad!?
But if that was true, why wasn’t Gosalyn more upset? Did she not know? Did she think he was ‘just friends’ with this other woman? What did Launchpad think?
“Are you okay?” Honker asked, squeezing his backpack strap. “You look upset.”
“I’m, I’m fine!” Webby said, really quickly. “Nothing, just nothing. Nothing is wrong!”
Honker looked like he didn’t believe her, but let it slide. Webby rubbed the back of her neck and wanted to get back to worrying about cheating jerks when Launchpad of all people walked up.
Webby crossed her fingers that they didn’t see a giant break up fight on the lawn the second he head about this Morgana woman!
“Hey, D—Drake. What has you here?” Launchpad said, walking down the hill with Uncle Scrooge and Uncle Donald. “I thought you were going to be out all night.”
“Hey, LP,” Mr. Mallard said. He glared at Grammy out of the corner of his eye but straightened up and forced his voice to be kinder. “Morgana had to leave early, something about sick spiders, so I figured I’d take Gosalyn out instead.”
“Ah, that sounds great!” Launchpad said. He put his hands on his hips and grinned. “I bet she’ll like that, even if fancy restaurants aren’t her thing.”
“I imagine she’ll make it lively,” Mr. Mallard said wryly. He pulled out a watch and looked at it. “But she better hurry up if we want to make it all the way back to St. Canard.”
“I could always give you and her a lift,” Launchpad offered.
“No, you can’t,” Uncle Scrooge said as Mr. Mallard rolled his eyes. “You’re working.”
“Oh, right,” Launchpad said, sheepishly curling in on himself.
Webby paused her momentary freak out; Launchpad didn’t seem to be put out about hearing that Mr. Mallard had planned on a date with some woman named Morgana.
Maybe it was an open relationship?
“Alright, Dad!” Gosalyn said, racing back. She skidded a halt next to him and grinned. “Let’s go! Honker can come too, right?”
Mr. Mallard looked at Honker with a face that said “Why is this child here?” before sighing. “Yes, sweetie, Honker can come, too.”
“Awesome!” Gosalyn hugged her dad with a squeeze hard enough to make the older man gasp. She grabbed his hand dragging him down the gate toward their car, yelling over her shoulder. “See you later, Launchpad!”
“Have a good time!” Launchpad waved at the group.
“He might be a lousy boyfriend,” Webby said softly to Louie, “but at least he looks like an okay dad.”
“So he gets one point,” Louie said. He snorted and shoved his hands in his hoodie. “I still think Launchpad can do better.”
Webby laughed. “No argument there.”
“Your friend is an unpleasant man,” Grammy said, unknowingly backing up the children’s conversation. She shook her head and huffed. “So rude.”
“Ah, D—Drake’s not that bad,” Launchpad said. “He just likes things to go his way. He’s really an amazing guy once you get to know him! He’s like the best friend I’ve ever had.”
“Of course,” Grammy said, the underlying tone being an obvious “I don’t believe you at all” but it seemed to bypass the smitten Launchpad.
“Still, next time he wants to stop by unannounced, make sure he calls first,” Grammy said.
The group of adults walked off and Louie snorted. “Does the fact Mrs. Beakley doesn’t like him nullify his Good Dad point?”
Webby thought about it for a moment and tilted her head. “No, but it does mean an intervention might be necessary to support Operation: Launchpad Deserves Better.”
Huey was the first to bring up that Gosalyn herself should probably have a say in the great “Break up Launchpad and Mr. Mallard plan” considering she liked the guy as much as her dad.
The answer they got when they asked if it was cool with her wasn’t what they were expecting.
After a good ten minutes of laughing, Gosalyn wheezed, “Dating? My dad and Launchpad aren’t dating!
“But they live together!” Dewey said, holding his hands up.
“Dude, they live together because my dad found out Launchpad lived in his airplane hanger and we had an extra room,” Gosalyn said. “The poor guy was sleeping in his plane.”
Huey hadn’t expected that answer. Surely Uncle Scrooge paid Launchpad more than that—Huey thought about his Uncle for a few seconds and retracted that thought. He changed tactics: “But, Launchpad’s always running off to see him at a moment’s notice like a dog on command! Why would he do that if they weren’t dating?”
“Look,” Gosalyn said, shifting and looking off to the side. “My dad may seem like he’s got it all together, but he uh, doesn’t. Sometimes he needs…help, and he’s only got Launchpad and me as friends. He doesn’t have anyone else to call.”
“Oh,” Huey said.
He hadn’t considered that either.
“And before you bring up that he’s always babysitting,” Gosalyn said, eyeing Louie and his open mouth, “my dad is really busy with work and he doesn’t trust me to be home alone.”
“The last time he left you home alone, you turned the house into a miniature golf course and broke his entire dining wear set so he’s not exactly unjustified with that opinion,” Honker said, not even bothering to look up from his book. “And he hates my parents with every fiber of his being, so he’d rather die than ask them to babysit.”
“That too,” Gosalyn said, shrugging.
“But what about how lovestruck he always sounds when he’s talking about him?” Webby asked. She crossed her arms and frowned at the ground. “He always talks like Mr. Mallard is the greatest person he’s ever met and almost sounds like he’d die for him. If that’s not true love, then what is it?”
Gosalyn coughed into her hand and grimaced as she laughed. “Uh, that. Let’s just say that Launchpad is really grateful dad gave him a place to stay and sees him as sort of a personal hero.”
“So you’re saying they’re just really close friends who live together because your dad was being nice, and Launchpad hero-worships him a little bit because of said home and friendship,” Huey summarized.
“Yes,” Gosalyn said. She clapped her hands together, looking almost squirrelly. “That’s exactly right.”
“Then I guess we misunderstood the situation,” Huey said, slowly.
“Yup,” Gosalyn said. She snorted and crossed her arms. “Besides, my dad’s too much of a dork to be dating anyone. He’s going to be single forever.”
“You hope,” Honker said, smiling a bit.
“Oh shut up, Honker,” Gosalyn said, shoving his shoulder. “You know just as well as I do he’s hopeless.”
Honker didn’t answer, and went back to his book; today it was some physics book that he was pretty sure a nine year old shouldn’t be reading—but then again, who did Huey know that was normal?
“Are we done talking about my dad’s love life yet?” Gosalyn asked. “Because that’s not something I ever want to think about again and I heard your Uncle say we were going to some hidden temple today and as long as no one tells my dad about it, I don’t want to miss that!”
“Fair enough,” Huey said.
The conversation turned to their trip that afternoon, but something wiggled in his stomach about this whole situation.
Maybe they’d been wrong about Mr. Mallard.
“You know, when I thought they were dating all I wanted to do was break them up, but now that I know that they’re not I just want to get them together,” Dewey said, dragging his hands down his face. “Why aren’t they dating? Launchpad’s great! He’s obviously crazy about Mr. Mallard. That guy’s a moron for not noticing how awesome Launchpad is!”
Webby sat on a crate full of old artifacts and huffed. “Maybe we should have listened when Uncle Donald told us not to meddle in other people’s relationships.”
“Nah,” Louie said. “Uncle Donald’s never right about stuff like that. We should totally meddle.”
Huey huffed. “Yeah, okay. So we know that Mr. Mallard’s actually kinda cool and just socially awkward, but does that really mean we should be playing matchmaker? Things might just fall into place on their own.”
“This is Launchpad we’re talking about,” Louie said. “He’s never going to make a move on his own if he hasn’t already.”
“You’ve got a point,” Dewey said.
Webby agreed and added, “But how are we going to do that?”
“Looks like we might be wrong about that,” Huey said, pointing out the window. “Things falling into place on their own might be closer than we think.”
Just in the front of the yard, Launchpad greeted Mr. Mallard standing outside the gate waiting with Gosalyn. He grinned brightly and ruffled her hair before walking into step next to Mr. Mallard as naturally as breathing.
They chatted casually as they walked, looking like a little family.
“They’re definitely going to get there on their own,” Huey said. He could help the tiny smile when Gosalyn jumped up and got on Launchpad’s shoulders, laughing as they disappeared down the hill. “With or without us.”
“Grammy always says its not good to rush love,” Webby added.
“Won’t hurt to keep an eye on them, though,” Louie said. “Just because he might be a jerk with a heart under there sometimes doesn’t mean we can let him keep being a jerk to Launchpad, bad day or not.”
“Agreed,” they all said.
Huey dropped away from the window and stretched his arms over his shoulder. Launchpad was in good hands with this crew (even if his taste in ducks had a little bit to be desired).