When Darkwing burst through the wall of the warehouse, Megavolt was not torturing Launchpad. Admittedly, Launchpad was tied to a machine with a few too many sharp edges. And Megavolt was capable of flying completely off the handle at a moment's notice. Still...
Megavolt, sitting on a chair next to his hostage, was balancing a platter of tea and cookies on his knees. They both glanced up at Darkwing as he entered, and Megavolt actually sighed.
"I'd wondered when you'd get here, Darkwing. Toodles!" Megavolt set the tea down and wandered into the darkness as Darkwing watched, beak hanging open.
"Wait! Don't you want to fight?" he demanded. "Don't you have some evil plot I can thwart?" Megavolt didn't reply, leaving Darkwing's voice to echo weakly from the darkness. He scowled and sat in the chair recently vacated by the villain. "Jeez, don't villains have any manners any more?" he asked Launchpad.
"To be honest, I think he just wanted someone to talk to," Launchpad offered. "I got to chatting with him, and he never got around to monologuing about his new machine." He jerked his head up at the strange device. "On the plus side, we can make an early night of it."
Darkwing stared carefully at Launchpad; his sidekick didn't look like he was lying, but he still felt he wasn't getting the whole story. "Fine," he muttered. "Let's see if Gosalyn's still up. We can watch a movie or something."
He untied Launchpad, who gave Darkwing a blinding smile, and they spent half an hour disassembling the device (which Darkwing never figured out what it did) before heading home.
So everything was normal.
A month passed and Darkwing was on a date with Morgana. It was a quiet place in the middle of the business district, and Darkwing was thoroughly enjoying himself, until the lights flickered and went out. The patrons squealed in panic, and Darkwing rose, shoving his chair aside.
"Darkwing-" Morgana protested.
"I gotta check this out," Darkwing said. "It could be someone up to no good."
"Oh, Darkwing, what are the chances?" Morgana asked, but she was already slipping money onto the table and rising after him.
Darkwing paused, staring at Morgana. Even in the dark, he could see the wistful expression on her face. He shrugged at her and left the restaurant, knowing Morgana would make her own way home. She wasn't much for crime fighting unless it was necessary. Darkwing made his way outside, finding the rest of the city was as dark as the restaurant. Groaning, he turned towards the power plant, only for a familiar, distant rumbling to stop his progress. Launchpad arrived with the motorcycle a moment later, grinning at Darkwing.
"Guess you heard the news, eh, DW?"
"Shove over," Darkwing demanded. "And no, I haven't heard anything."
"You left Morgana just because the lights went out?" Launchpad asked warily.
"I left Morgana because I can recognize patterns," Darkwing retorted. "Now let's go!"
The power plant was...under attack. Strange red-and-white orbs were wandering the place, sparking and buzzing ominously. Darkwing, huddled behind an omnipresent crate with Launchpad, watched them wander aimlessly. "What do you think?" Darkwing asked.
"Looks like Megavolt," Launchpad posited. "But I've never seen those little things before."
"No problem," Darkwing muttered. "Come on, let's see what Sparky's up to."
Megavolt and about a hundred of the weird orbs were gathered in the main power generator. He grinned when he saw Darkwing. "Nice tie," he chortled. "Did I interrupt something?"
Darkwing glanced down at the tie he'd worn for dinner, and scowled. "Real nice. You think this is funny?"
"Oh, certainly! Rushing off to save the city from little old me; I never thought anybody'd stand up a beautiful woman like Morgana for old Elmo Sputterspark." Megavolt smirked. "But you aren't here to talk. My friends: attack!" The rolling orbs gathered into a heap and lunged at Darkwing and Launchpad.
"Duck!" Darkwing snapped, dropping under the first wave. This did not turn out to be the cunning plan he had hoped for, as the orbs, rolling forward and sparking constantly, made something of an electrocuted avalanche.
By the sound of it, Launchpad had done the sensible thing and dodged to the side. As the horde of orbs turned on Launchpad, Darkwing escaped from beneath them. His sidekick was holding his own, keeping the things back with a large stick.
Deciding to join in on the action, Darkwing loaded his gun with rubber bullets and fired into one of the orbs.
"Volt..." it began, before sparking and flashing a dangerous red.
"Um..." Darkwing began.
"Whoops!" Megavolt shouted. "Gotta flash, boys!"
"Volt..." chimed in another of the ball things, beginning to flash as well.
"Launchpad?" Darkwing asked. "What's going on?"
"I...er..." Launchpad drew closer to Darkwing. "Nothing good, I'm pretty sure of that."
"Launchpad? In case we don't live through this..."
"Yes?" Launchpad asked. His eyes were a little wide, and he was standing very close.
"Well, you've been the best sidekick I've ever had."
"Oh." Launchpad slumped a little. "Thanks, DW."
"Orb!" A chorus of voices heralded a thunderous explosion, one that rocked the power plant and, Darkwing learned later, collapsing it almost entirely. Smaller explosions marked the death of machinery, or possibly more of those creatures exploding. Regardless, Darkwing wasn't immediately certain how he'd survived, at least until the pile of rubble he'd fallen under groaned, and he realized Launchpad had shielded him.
"You all right?" Darkwing coughed.
"Fine." Launchpad groaned again. "Mostly. You gotta admit this is new."
"Not new so much as redundant," Darkwing said. "Come on, let's get out of here. We can get you patched up and - ow - try to avoid getting the blame for this."
Darkwing and Launchpad crawled out from the disaster, evaded any attention on the way home, and spent the next three hours splinting Launchpad's right arm.
With his sidekick out of commission (not that Launchpad's insistence that he'd meant it when he claimed he could help Darkwing with one wing behind his back wasn't inspiring), Darkwing spent the next six weeks running himself ragged protecting the city.
The night after Launchpad's cast came off, Darkwing left things in his sidekick's semi-capable hands to take time off for a date with Morgana. She seemed happy to see him, but spent most of the first half hour watching the street outside uneasily.
"Anything wrong?" Darkwing asked.
"Oh, not much," Morgana said distractedly. "It's just been a while since we've had a moment together."
"Sorry about that." Darkwing smiled at Morgana, hoping to defuse her apparent disquiet.
It's all..." She paused as screams broke through the quiet of the restaurant, before sighing. "Go ahead, darling."
"Sorry!" Darkwing yelled as he sprinted outside.
The trouble appeared to be at the Botanical Gardens; Darkwing ran into the first carnivorous plant three blocks away. He wondered, vaguely, whether these supervillains were really trying anymore. The plants, while carnivorous (one was opportunistically gnawing on an abandoned plate of sausage), were ambling at a laughable pace that nevertheless appeared to be inspiring a panicked crowd of citizens.
"This is ridiculous," Darkwing muttered, stalking toward one of the tripedal plants and rolling up his sleeves. "Get ready for a pounding!"
The creature turned, almost placidly, and then nearly impaled Darkwing with a whiplike tail that ended with a wicked point. Darkwing lunged back, heart pounding at the near miss.
"Darkwing!" Launchpad and Gosalyn (dressed in her Quiverwing costume) dropped from the nearest building on either of Darkwing's sides. "What're you doing here?"
"I thought you had a date," Launchpad said.
"Couldn't let the city go to pot just because I made other plans," Darkwing said with a shrug. "So what's up?"
"Bushroot," Gosalyn said, rolling her eyes. A plant tried to sting her, but she casually struck a match and set it on fire. "Look, I came out here to make sure Launchpad didn't get hurt, but I have a history paper due tomorrow, which I normally wouldn't care about, except someone said I have to go to college before I can be a full-time superhero. So can we wrap this up? These things shouldn't be too hard to torch."
"Young lady, we do not appreciate casual arson in this house," Darkwing snapped. "But...yes, let's finish these things off."
"Oh, Darkwing, that's not very environmentally conscious, setting plants on fire. It depresses me seeing how little superheroes care for the environment. It makes me question your judgment, Launchpad."
Launchpad's eyes widened. "Ix-nay!" he snapped.
Bushroot laughed. "Sorry, you know how it is. Everyone getting together at the annual barbeque, people get to talking..."
"Launchpad, what is he talking about?" Darkwing demanded.
"I..." Launchpad's eyes flickered wildly around the scene; they alighted on something behind Darkwing, and he suddenly grinned. "Good girl!" he crowed.
"What?" Bushroot and Darkwing shouted in unison as Gosalyn, armed with a can of hairspray and another match, released a wall of fire into the mass of plants.
"No!" Bushroot screamed. "My babies! My beautiful babies! You hateful monster!"
A mass of plants turned the corner into their street, and Darkwing abruptly had to jump into action. The plants were slow, but the stings on their tails looked dangerous, and there were quite a lot of them. Correction, there was a flipping army of them. And they were intelligent, or at least bright enough to avoid their brethren when Gosalyn hit them with the makeshift flamethrower.
Darkwing let Launchpad take to the plants with a two by four while he tried to load his gun with Agent Orange. Halfway through the process, Darkwing rethought using a highly toxic chemical in an urban area. He looked up, pleased to discover his daughter still scorching the hordes of plants (although he vowed to have a talk with her later about the inappropriate glee she demonstrated at setting things on fire). Launchpad, was doing well, having graduated to a chainsaw that left splatters of green goop everywhere.
And Bushroot - Darkwing yelped when he saw the villain standing next to him.
"Oh, calm down, Darkwing," Bushroot said. "Just because I'm assaulting the city doesn't mean we have to be at each other's throats all the time. Ooh. Your sidekick's got a nice backswing."
"We're trying to thwart you," Darkwing said. "Aren't you going to, you know...fight us?"
"Eh." Bushroot shrugged. "You seem to have this well in hand. Rather, your sidekick, and the arrow girl. Makes me wonder what you're doing out here."
"I'm supposed to protect the city from all threats," Darkwing retorted.
Bushroot shrugged. Launchpad hurled his chainsaw into the mob of plants and picked one up and started hitting the others with it. "Looks like your sidekick's doing most of the work."
"Yeah, but..." Darkwing trailed off, uncertain how to frame the next statement. A moment later, a pair of plants began creeping up from behind Launchpad. "Hey!" Darkwing threw his gun at them, and launched himself at them. It was a flurry of fists and knees that Darkwing couldn't clearly remember later. The end result, however, was a street free of evil plants (barring Bushroot), and a panting, sweaty Darkwing. "Yeah?" Darkwing demanded of the now-empty street. "How do you like them apples?"
"I think you're done here," Gosalyn said.
"Yeah, that was pretty neat, DW," Launchpad said. "But maybe we should get home. Someone's got a history paper."
"Aww," Gosalyn groaned.
Thus the night of the duck-eating plants ended with Launchpad helping Gosalyn finish her history paper, and Drake (he was Drake at home, always, because otherwise, what was the point of the secret identity?) made them cocoa.
A week later, Darkwing had made a date with Morgana to make up with the last. But she didn't show up on time. Thirty minutes later, Darkwing decided to throw in the towel. As he turned, however, a tiny mechanical monkey clapped a pair of cymbals at him.
"Heya, Darkwing!" the toy declared. "I hope you're up for a delightful game."
"I don't have time for any of your stupid games, Quackerjack," Darkwing snapped.
"That's ok," the monkey said. "You don't have to play. Your sidekick and your girlfriend, however, don't have much of a choice."
Darkwing's heart skipped a beat. "Where are you keeping them, you creepy clown?"
The monkey laughed. "No secret," it said. "Just come down to my toy factory! I'll bring the entertainment, you bring the refreshments!"
Darkwing glared at the monkey for a long moment before shrugging. "Fine. I'll be there."
He stalked downtown, uneasy when he reached the toy factory to find it deserted. No evil wind-up toys, no joy buzzers, no deadly traps at all. Darkwing crept through the tight passages of the toy factory, nerves winding up tighter as he found no monsters or booby traps, eventually dropping into the central factory. Morgana and Launchpad were suspended over a bubbling vat of...probably molten metal. The rope was stretched over a set of overhead pipes, separating the two by about ten feet of space and ensuring that if Darkwing were to, say, untie one, the other would fall from lack of support.
Quackerjack was sitting near the vat, apparently chatting with Launchpad, who, unlike Morgana, was awake.
Darkwing stared carefully at the scene, picking out every detail before jumping in. He couldn't afford to go in half-cocked, not with two important ducks' lives on the line. When he was certain he'd seen everything he needed to, Darkwing moved forward, still in the shadows, grinning. It was time to get dangerous.
"Quackerjack!" he shouted, lunging forward. Quackerjack glanced up, eyes glittering when they fell on Darkwing.
"Welcome, Darkwing Duck!"
"You've gone too far, Quackerjack!" Darkwing snapped.
"Oh, you're no fun, Darkwing," Quackerjack chortled. "Come on, this is a fun little game. Go ahead and pick someone to rescue. It's pretty simple; I bet even you can figure it out."
"What...happens to the other person?" Darkwing ground out, even though he knew the answer.
"That's a surprise!" Quackerjack declared. "Come on, Darkwing. I'm not going to wait here forever. I'll count to five. One-"
Darkwing sprinted forward, grabbing his multitool from his belt, and launched himself into the air and directly at Morgana. He hit her, wrapped his arm around her, and sent the two of them plummeting downward and, thanks to his forward momentum, towards the far end of the vat. Just at the height of the swing, Darkwing cut the rope, and the two of them flew over the edge of the vat and landed (relatively) safely on the ground.
Darkwing heard a grunt and a series of clanks, and then a squawk as, yes, Launchpad falling on top of Quackerjack.
"Ow, get off me you giant lummox!" Quackerjack howled. "I was trying to do you a favor!"
"You shut up," Launchpad growled. "One more word out of you and I'll make sure you'll only be able to play charades."
"Jeez, fine, whatever," Quackerjack muttered. Launchpad shoved the clown and Darkwing hurried to pull his sidekick away from Quackerjack.
"Hey, hands off the goods. Once they're down, we don't hit!" Darkwing chastised. "What's with you, Launchpad?"
Launchpad, scowling, glanced at the ceiling rather than Darkwing. "Nothing. What about you? Shouldn't you check on Morgana?"
"Well, sure, fine," Darkwing replied. Morgana seemed fine, and Darkwing untied her and sat her up; she seemed to have been drugged, but was stable. Darkwing sighed and returned to Launchpad, who had gagged Quackerjack and confiscated a pile of toys.
"You okay?" Darkwing asked.
Darkwing stared blankly at Launchpad, uncertain how to point out that his sidekick was lying to him without...accusing him of lying. "Look, you're a little jumpy. I wouldn't be a good hero or a friend if I didn't check it out. So, come on."
Launchpad swallowed. "It's just...you went for Morgana without thinking. I know she's your lady and all, but it's a little hard on a guy's ego to be third-best."
Darkwing rolled his eyes. "Is that what this is about? I was hiding in the shadows for like five minutes before you saw me. Morgana was unconscious, and I know you can handle yourself. If I had a single doubt about you getting out of that fiasco, I'd have gone right for you. Do you think I'm joking when I tell you I've got your back?"
Launchpad shrugged and rubbed the back of his neck. "Well, no, but I don't really expect to be...first. Of course, I know G - your kid comes first. And Morgana should be next - I mean, she's the lady you love. I can't...compete with that."
"Of course you-" Darkwing's brain skidded to a halt. "You're jealous."
Launchpad's cheeks burned crimson. Oh.
"Jeez, LP, you never said anything. And here I-" Darkwing's gaze drifted to Quackerjack, who was managing a lewd expression with his eyebrows. A few comments from his nemeses made a lot more sense. "Where the blazes did Quackerjack hear about this?"
"Megavolt," Launchpad muttered. "Look, he just started talking about his problems, and I thought it was polite to listen, and maybe share."
"And how long have you known about this?" Darkwing demanded of Quackerjack. "Jeez! Can you imagine them all laughing up about this? Oh, poor, oblivious Darkwing doesn't even know his own sidekick is in love with him!"
He stalked outside, only for Launchpad to follow a few moments later.
"Sorry about this, DW," Launchpad said. "I think...they thought they were helping. Megavolt was a little insistent he thought we were perfect together. And...I wasn't about to object to the sentiment." He glanced away from Darkwing.
"Helping. What, did they think they were going to drag me away from Morgana by - of course they did. They're insane."
"Sorry." Launchpad's eyes were fixed on the floor, still.
Darkwing replayed the last few minutes in his head. There appeared to have been a few wrong turns...
"No, no, this is my fault," Darkwing muttered. "I'm just a little...shocked." He sat down. "It's not every day you get a confession like that."
"Just give me a minute!" Darkwing snapped. "I gotta think about this!"
"Think?" Launchpad asked, voice squeaking. "About what?"
"Stuff," Darkwing said slowly. "Look, of course I've got your back. Saying that when you're my sidekick is one thing, but when you've got a - a thing for me, it's something different. If I put you before Morgana, that'd mean..." He trailed off, chest suddenly feeling very fluttery.
"I understand if it makes you feel weird, DW," Launchpad muttered, scuffing his foot against the ground.
Darkwing rolled his eyes and grabbed Launchpad's lapel, dragging the taller duck close to him. "Shut up, LP. I said I've got your back. That didn't change. But, knowing that you've got mine..." He felt his lips tug up into a smile, forming without his conscious intent. "Well, that opens up a heck of a lot of possibilities." Sirens began rising in the distance. "After we talk to the cops." He sighed. "And talk to Morgana."
Launchpad's expression was strange, wide-eyed and wobbly. And then he pulled Darkwing even closer. "Aw, that can all wait a minute, DW." A hopeful smile graced his beak. "I think after a daring rescue like that, you deserve a kiss."
"Sure," Darkwing agreed, and complied.
Of course, it wasn't all over with that. There was the talk with Morgana, which wasn't fun. The talk with Gosalyn, which was better. And, somewhere much further down the line, the wedding, which was...well, they'd had to invite Megavolt and the others, at the very least, to keep them from making trouble elsewhere.
So it was strange. But they'd made strange work for years already. So what was a little more?