Drake was starting to regret letting Gosalyn attend St. Aigrette's Senior High School because the campus was a nightmare to navigate. Not that it wasn't anything Darkwing Duck couldn't handle, but he felt like an idiot for not being able to figure out which gate was the front gate and was twenty minutes late as a result. Inside the school was there were at least signs directing parents to the classrooms.
“Mr. Mallard, I presume?” a cheerful teacher approached him with a big clipboard and an even bigger smile.
“Uh, yes, right, that's me!” Drake straightened his sweater vest. “How did you know?”
“I'm Miss Ologose, Gosalyn's homeroom and social studies teacher. You're the only parent here I don't recognize,” she beamed and shook his hand.
“About that, I'm really sorry I couldn't attend the parents' night and the first parent-teacher conferences of the year,” Drake said. Was he shaking her hand too long? These fancy schools could get pretty tetchy. “I work two jobs and sometimes nights aren't doable and everything's been crazy-”
“Please, Mr. Mallard,” Miss Ologose laughed and gracefully extracted her hand. “I wasn't meaning to criticize you at all. I'm just so happy to put a face to the name. I've heard so much about you.”
“From Gosalyn?” He tried to think if there was anything flattering Gosalyn would say about him to her teachers. Recently they'd been fighting a lot about her curfew and her own forays into vigilantism. Since the police or CPS hadn't come knocking he assumed she wasn't telling her teachers about their double lives as crime fighters.
“A little from her, but mostly from your partner when he attended the other functions. I'm surprised he's not here with you tonight.”
“Yes! Mr. McQuack,” Miss Ologose said. “Tall with red hair, yes?”
“Uh, yeah,” Drake rubbed his neck uncomfortably. What on Earth was Launchpad saying about him during a conference with Gosalyn's teachers? “We usually don't attend these things together. Usually just one of us goes.”
“Ohhhh,” Miss Ologose nodded sympathetically though he couldn't imagine why. “I'd gathered from Gosalyn that her previous schools hadn't been quite as welcoming as they could have been. But let me assure you, Mr. Mallard, we here at St. Aigrette's are very progressive.”
“Er, okay?” They were definitely very something. Maybe the Liquidator was putting something in the drinking fountains.
“I just want you to know that you and Mr. McQuack can always attend school functions as a family. I can personally assure you that the principal and the school board are committed to social justice as are our faculty.”
“Well that's quite a commitment,” Drake relaxed. “I'm all about justice myself.” Better leave it there, Mallard, he told himself. “So tell me about how Gosalyn's doing. She really seems to be liking this place, especially after she made the field hockey team.”
Miss Ologose was happy to give him the full report and Drake was satisfied that he didn't seem to be failing too terribly as a dad. It was hard to tell these days what with Gosalyn being fourteen and just as stubborn as her father.
“Tell Gosalyn we're looking forward to seeing her match next Saturday against Odile Academy.”
Did he forget about the match? He was pretty sure Launchpad had put it on the fridge calendar and if it was there then he'd proably seen it.
“Will do, Miss Ologose.”
“And give my warm regards to Mr. McQuack.”
“Sure thing?” Did Miss Ologose have a thing for Launchpad? He'd know about that if his sidekick was seeing someone or going to start seeing someone, right?
Miss Ologose chuckled at his confusion and patted him on the shoulder, “Relax, Mr. Mallard. We're very progressive.”
Definitely something in the water.
“It's just a cough, DW!” Launchpad protested. The protest was undermined by the fact that he was in a tangled nest of blankets on the couch with a carton of orange juice and a bowl of soup on the coffee table.
“Bronchitis is not 'just a cough,'” Drake wagged a finger at his partner. “You can't fight crime hacking up half a lung.”
“How'd you find out?” Launchpad frowned and sagged into the pillows.
“Me,” said Gosalyn in the doorway. “I was here when the doctor called, remember Launchpad? There's no way we're letting you to fight crime when you're sick. That's what the Quiverwing Quack is for!”
“No, the Quiverwing Quack is staying home so that she doesn't get injured before her hockey match,” Drake said handing Launchpad his bowl of soup.
“And to keep an eye on Launchpad so that he doesn't sneak out after me,” finished Drake.
“He knows us too well, Gos,” Launchpad laughed which triggered a coughing fit that had the other two scrambling to find the cough syrup (which had been in the upstairs bathroom until someone had moved it and now it wasn't in the downstairs bathroom but somehow ended up by the kitchen phone).
“See?” Drake said in his best 'I-told-you-so' tone.
“I'm only doing this because I don't want Launchpad to end up in the hospital on Christmas,” Gosalyn grumbled. “Not because I believe in undemocratic restrictions on teenage vigilantes.”
“Your grievances have been noted,” said Drake dryly. “Don't stay up too late watching Christmas specials or Quack Hard marathons. Make sure Launchpad wakes up to take his next dose of medicine that the doctor gave him. I shouldn't be out too late, but crime never sleeps.”
Though apparently it took light power naps because all the crime that night was petty and wouldn't even make the papers. Attempted car theft, dine-and-dashers, and city hall trespassers who were more filled with eggnog than criminal intent. Darkwing darkly wondered if super villains were actually taking time off for the holidays.
Then the jeweler's on Main was broken into.
“I am the terror that flaps in the night! I am the stale fruitcake that continues to be regifted long after it's socially acceptable! I am Darkwing Duck!”
“Boring! You used the fruitcake one two weeks ago, Dorkwing,” Megavolt drawled, sending a few bolts of lightning his way.
“I definitely did not!”
“Bushroot, back me up on this!” Megavolt demanded.
“I wasn't there that night,” Bushroot reminded him. “You know this is a hard time of year for me.”
“Because it's the holidays and your life of villainy is a constant torture of friendless isolation?” Darkwing ventured.
“No! Because I'm a plant. Sap doesn't circulate well in the cold,” Bushroot replied. “And also what you said.”
“Right, well, hand over the jewels or prepare to be made into reindeer chow!” Darkwing flourished his cape dramatically.
“Wait, is this two against one? No sidekicks or anything?” Megavolt dropped the bag of jewelry and started zapping at Darkwing.
Darkwing dodged, which was harder than he anticipated with all the jewelry cases in the room,“Afraid it won't be challenging enough for you? Darkwing Duck is full of surprises!”
“Are they okay?” Bushroot asked worriedly, vines slithering along the floor. “They're not sick or anything, are they?”
“Launchpad is sick, but Quiverwing Quack is fine. The others are just busy. Morgana is doing some seances and Stegmutt is a volunteer Santa-”
“Like seriously sick? It's not contagious is it?” Megavolt backed away.
“What? No! It's bronchitis. He'll be back on his feet in a few days.”
“It'll turn into pneumonia if he gets sicker,” Bushroot wrung his hands. Which was probably supposed to be menacing but Darkwing was worried it was out of misplaced sympathy.
“My aunt had that and was in the hospital for two weeks,” Megavolt jumped over a counter and attempted to tackle Darkwing, who was naturally too swift to be caught and had nothing to do with how he overbalanced and fell out of the villain's reach.
Bushroot had the criminal audacity to give the advice, “You should probably go home and keep an eye on him. Otherwise you'll be down a sidekick for at least a month.”
“That's if he doesn't die!” Megavolt added. “Heroes aren't supposed to die from pneumonia! They're supposed to go down fighting charismatic powerful villains!”
“Duly noted!” Darkwing quipped as his grappling hook gun finally hit the sprinklers over Megavolt's head and set them off.
Megavolt promptly sparked out, “Blast you, Dorkwing! Bushroot, get him!”
“I told you I'm no good in the winter,” Bushroot shook his head. “My vines won't react fast enough.”
“So we're done here?” Darkwing asked. The most exciting call of the night and it was still anticlimatic. Was foiling a big heist too much to ask for for the holidays?
“I guess so,” huffed Megavolt. He emptied the boxes of jewelry back on to the nearest unbroken glass counter. “I wasn't going to need the diamonds for the superconductor until after New Year's anyway.”
One box had an invoice sticker reading 'L. McQuack' and Darkwing Duck was one hundred percent not at all curious. Not at all.
“Oh! This was the thing I was telling you about last week when I was casing the place!” Bushroot picked up the box and shook it in Megavolt's face. “Pay up!”
“No way!” Megavolt adjusted his goggles. “If I have to pay you better make sure Quackerjack and Liquidator do, too. Quackers said they already had and Liquidator didn't believe you.”
“Ahem!” Darkwing cleared his throat loudly, twice. “Ahem, please make your escape unless you want to resume our dance of dueling moralities!”
“You're still here?”
“What do you mean, 'I'm still here?' You're the ones who are de-powered and lost the fight to justice!”
Criminals these days.
“Let's postpone and reschedule the heist in two weeks?” suggested Bushroot. “That way your sidekick will be feeling better and the forecast calls for a warm front moving in. Spike and I should be fighting fit then!”
“Fine!” Now it was Darkwing's turn to huff. “Just go and do whatever villains do for the holidays.”
And he absolutely did not look at the L. McQuack order sitting on the counter even though it was really tempting.
“Ha ha, very funny,” Gosalyn rolled her eyes. “You know that I'm not a baby anymore.”
“Gosalyn, if this is about your curfew,” Drake put the newspaper down next to his breakfast plate. The jewelry heist report was tucked away on the bottom of page eight, not that he cared. “We're not discussing it again until your next birthday.”
“This isn't about that, Dad.” Gosalyn bit her lip and looked so serious Drake was going to start panicking any moment. “It's just you don't have to protect me from everything you know. I can handle a lot.”
“This sounds like it's about your curfew.”
“It's not, Dad, I'm serious!”
“Okay, Gos, what is it you're trying to say?” Drake made a mental note to ask Launchpad if Gosalyn had been hiding some problem from him. Her teachers said she'd been doing more than well and Honker was around just as much as usual so it couldn't be a fight.
“I'm just saying that we tell each other important things. And that you don't need to hide things from me anymore. You're my dad and I won't stop loving you no matter what.”
Mental note to really ask Launchpad what was up with Gosalyn.
“I don't think I'm keeping anything from you on purpose,” Drake said carefully. “And you know you can also tell me anything and I won't stop loving you either.”
“So there's nothing you want to tell me?”
“You won't find out your Christmas presents like that, young lady,” chuckled Drake. “Speaking of secrets you wouldn't happen to know if there's anything Launchpad wants to tell us?”
“Oh! Ohhhhhhh, now I get it,” Gosalyn's face processed about five different expressions so fast Drake couldn't even figure out which ones they were. “Uh, it's Launchpad's thing to tell, right? Definitely not me, Gosalyn, who doesn't know anything about anything, hey is that Honker? I think I hear Honker coming up the front steps and we were going to go ice skating, see ya Dad!”
Gosalyn was out the door and Drake was baffled. “At least one of us seemed to understand what they were talking about,” he mumbled at the newspaper.
The newspaper didn't respond though it did have a good set of coupons for the coming week.
By eight in the evening Launchpad still hadn't left the house all day. Which meant he couldn't be the L. McQuack from the jeweler's because who ordered an expensive gift like jewelry and didn't go give it in person on Christmas. Unless of course his secret girlfriend didn't celebrate Christmas and he was waiting for New Year's.
They opened presents in the morning as per tradition, spent time with the Muddlefoots as per tradition (the eggnog helped), and had Christmas dinner with Launchpad supervising Gosalyn and him in the kitchen as per tradition. Then Gosalyn and Honker had gone upstairs to install the latest video game Gosalyn had gotten onto her computer and talk game strategy until Honker had to go home also as per tradition.
Not once did Launchpad try to leave or even make so much as a phone call.
“There isn't someplace you need to be, Launchpad?” Drake asked, pointedly, with a point.
“All I need to be is home with my family right here, DW,” Launchpad said blithely and put his arm around the back of the couch behind Drake. “Where else would I want to be?”
“It's just that when a person has someone special they want to be with them. Even if other people don't know about it or understand,” Drake said diplomatically.
“Exactly!” Launchpad's grin was contagious because Drake could feel the corners of his own mouth turning up for no apparent reason.
“No matter who you want to be with I support you, Launchpad,” Drake tried again.
“I'm mighty glad to hear it,” Launchpad coughed a little though Drake didn't think it was from the bronchitis. “I think you left something in your stocking, DW.”
“Don't be silly Launchpad, we went through all the stocking gifts this morning,” Drake protested even as he reached for his stocking which did have some weight to it. “Huh, I guess you're right there's a little box by the toe-”
It was a jeweler's box.
Cuff links, he told himself. He used cuff links on his Darkwing costume and they were always getting ruined and-
There were two rings inside.
“I was going to do it all grand in the Thunderquack,” Launchpad ran a hand through his hair. “Out among the stars on a moonlit night and be romantic. But then I got sick and you know the rest”
“You're asking me to-to-to?”
Because it wasn't like Drake had never thought about it, it was more like he didn't think he could think about wanting it.
“After five years I thought it might be nice to make it official,” Launchpad grinned that contagious grin again. “We are partners after all, DW. Whaddya say?”
“I say we're partners, LP,” Drake put on the ring. It slid into place like it'd always been there.
And if he was awkward at kissing Launchpad didn't seem to have any complaints.
“Wait, was that what they meant by very progressive?”
“Go back to sleep, DW.”