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The Scientist and the Secretary

Chapter Text

Donald first met Gyro Gearloose when his invention tried stabbing him in the leg.

It had been the cherry on top of a real garbage fire day, so par the course for his usual luck Donald honestly wondered why he bothered being surprised anymore. 

His job hunt continued to prove fruitless, though it had been weeks since they'd moved into the mansion. He’d returned early from job interview just that day, cut short with the usual drone of “thank you, but we don’t think you’ll be a right fit” not long after handing them his résumé. And who'd been lying in wait but Scrooge, trying for the umpteenth time to convince Donald to work for him as his secretary.

He supposed it was Scrooge’s usual, shortsighted way of keeping his family close by hiring them, and since his uncle couldn’t legally give the boys a wage, it looked like it was down to him.

But the idea of working for Scrooge, working under Scrooge, rankled at Donald like little else could. He could barely be civil with his uncle during their usual, brief exchanges, and he kept his temper in check for the boys’ sake if nothing else. Scrooge was allowing them to live in the mansion, and despite however Donald felt about his uncle and the cavernous rift between them, he knew that Scrooge would never take that back. So no, he didn’t fear the welcome mat getting yanked out from under them. But it would take a lot more than feeling like a failure to convince him to take up his uncle’s offer.

“More” ended up being one certifiably insane scientist named Gyro Gearloose.

As a way to maybe incite Donald into working for him (though he’d long stopped trying to find a reason for why his uncle did half the things he did), Scrooge offered to give the kids a tour of the Money Bin. Donald, vividly recalling the sort of mischief he and Della had gotten up to in their youth, insisted on accompanying them. He was sure that’d been Scrooge’s plan all along.

Upon arriving, Scrooge directed them to R&D, the lowest and most secure level of the Bin after the vault itself. They'd barely cleared the security door into the cavernous laboratory when an unfamiliar voice shouted in alarm, “ Watch out !”

Donald reacted first and it was only his instincts, honed in the Navy but perfected as a parent, that prevented him from getting skewered by a lance-like, metal forelimb. However, he couldn’t avoid the splatter of paint that followed.

His attacker was a robot with a gray, oblong body and half a dozen glimmering red eyes. It skittered around on spindly, multi jointed legs, several of which had paint rollers on the ends that were positively dripping with various shades of paint.

Donald didn’t have long to disparage over the stripe of blue paint left on his shirt because the robot lunged at him again, warbling in a disconcerting high-pitched tone. It reared up, towering on its long legs, and Donald went to shield the kids. But then there was a click , and then a low whirring as the robot faltered, before falling to the ground with a clatter. In collapsing, it revealed the gangly man standing behind it.

He was a smartly dressed chicken wearing a bow-tie and glasses, splattered head to toe in different colors of paint. With one hand in a fist on his waist and the other clutching a gray remote that matched the robot, he appraised the spider-like monstrosity sprawled between them with a frustrated expression.

The scientist, for Donald couldn’t imagine him being anything else, lifted his gaze to finally acknowledge the family of ducks that had been shocked into silence by the robot’s attack.

“Oh, hello, Mr. McDuck! And, um, others!” he exclaimed as the consternation dropped from his face, replaced with a bright smile as he hid the remote behind his back.

With the chicken’s chipper exclamation the spell was broken, and the kids all crowded around the felled robot chattering excitedly. It took Donald another moment to regain his bearings, his heart feeling fit to burst out of his chest, while Scrooge stormed up to his cheerful scientist, angrily shaking his cane.

“Gyro, what in bloody blue blazes is this?”

The scientist, Gyro, took a step back in the face of Scrooge’s disquiet, even if his cheery grin never faltered.

“This here is Inkblot, sir, that industrial painting robot I mentioned a few weeks ago. Remember that?”

No .”

“Well, uh, this is it!” Gyro gestured grandly at the robot that the kids had begun to prod at, noticing he’d used the hand still holding the remote and tucked it behind his back again with a nervous chuckle. “Inkblot is designed for purchase at the corporate level, and can paint every room in an office building in a fifth of the time as a hired team! He’s still in the testing phase, and I’ll admit he’s a little clumsy —”

Clumsy ?” Donald repeated incredulously, “that thing nearly shish kebabed me!”

“It was so cool!” Dewey enthused from where he and the kids were examining the robot.

Nearly !” Gyro pointed out emphatically. “It nearly shish kebabed you! Which means it didn’t! Nice reflexes, by the way.”

Scrooge— ” Donald began exasperatedly, turning on the older duck who had the insane scientist in his employ.

His uncle raised his hands placatingly. “Easy, Donald. This is Gyro Gearloose, my head of research and development.” Gyro proudly straightened his paint stained vest as Scrooge introduced him. Donald tried not to roll his eyes.

“And this is my nephew, Donald Duck,” Scrooge went on, and Donald immediately had Gyro’s full attention again.

“A pleasure to meet you, Mr. Duck!” Gyro said quickly, nearly vaulting over his robot and the kids in his hurry to shake Donald’s hand.

“It’s just Donald,” he replied carefully, shaking Gyro’s left hand since he still had the one holding the remote hidden behind his back.

When Gyro finally released his hand he left behind a smear of green paint on his palm. After a moment of deliberation, Donald rubbed it off on his already ruined shirt, nodding absently. “Well, not that I don’t enjoy being attacked by killer robots, but I really think the kids and I should—”

Donald’s escape attempt was cut short when Huey left the tight cluster of his siblings to approach the scientist, tugging nervously at his shirt.

“Um, Dr. Gearloose?”

“Huh?” Gyro spun around, belatedly looking down. “Oh. Yes?”

Huey was hesitant in continuing. “I, um, I just wanted to say I read your article on comprehensive robotics in last month’s Science Review .”

Gyro was giving Huey his full attention by now, his eyes wide with surprise behind his glasses. “You read my article?”

Apparently bolstered by Gyro’s continued interest, Huey went on, “Yeah, it was great! I...I especially liked your argument for using rechargeable lithium-sulfur batteries instead of the usual lithium-ion. Most scientists would just stick with what they know, and it’s amazing when something so experimental works so well.”

“Right you are!” Gyro agreed, looking increasingly happy, which had Huey positively glowing. “I just switched Inkblot here to LS batteries, and the improvement in their response time has been astounding!”

Great , it can try to stab unsuspecting bystanders even faster,” Donald muttered, but was predictably ignored.

“What’s your name, kid?” Gyro was asking, and Donald watched with some concern as Huey faltered again.

“Uh, H-Huey, sir.”

“Well, Huey,” Gyro went on brightly, “Once I’ve cleaned this place up, you can come by later and I can show you where I machined the servos for Inkblot.”

Huey’s eyes went wide as dinner plates, and he clasped his hands together in wonder. “You machine them in house ?”

Gyro, seemingly spurred on by Huey’s obvious excitement, nodded rather smugly, his arms akimbo. “You bet! I don’t trust anyone but me to oversee their construction.”

Huey whirled around to face his uncles, still clutching his hands over his chest, but his expression was pleading now. “Uncle Donald, can I please come back? He machines the servos in house! In house , Uncle Donald!”

Donald hesitated in saying what a terrible idea that was right away, and not just because of how badly he knew Huey wanted to explore a mad scientist’s lab. Scrooge had begun frowning at Gyro none too happily throughout the entire exchange, while Gyro made a point of avoiding eye contact with his boss.

And so Donald’s natural instinct to keep his boys away from any and all present dangers warred with his petty desire to inconvenience his uncle. He eventually compromised.

“You can hang out with Gyro, but only with my supervision,” Donald said, and Huey cheered. Scrooge groused, but Donald ignored him in favor of returning Huey’s exuberant hug.

Gyro cleared his throat a little awkwardly upon approaching them, any charisma and confidence he might’ve displayed withering under the force of Scrooge’s stink eye. Donald could relate.

“I promise the experience will be very educational, Mr. Duck!” Gyro assured him, “And I understand if you don’t quite trust me yet, what with uh, recent circumstances.”

“Don’t flatter yourself,” Donald deadpanned. “I don’t trust anyone.”


Gyro’s tour of the lab was fortunately free of any further robot attacks, if you didn’t count the little one with the light bulb head that wouldn’t stop following Donald around. They somehow managed to convey an air of menace, even without anything remotely resembling a face.  

The underwater laboratory was certainly impressive, Donald would give it that. With its array of massive portholes in lieu of windows giving one expansive glimpses into the ocean floor,  they lent the entire space an otherworldly feeling. Gyro seemed to forget Donald was even chaperoning, so enthralled was he in showing off his mad scientist lair. Coupled with the high tech doodads and complicated machinery, Donald knew that it had to be Huey’s dream come true.

His oldest nephew had been in a bit of a funk since Mark Beaks’ deception, left disappointed and despondent in equal measure to learn the sordid truth about his hero. To see him now, alight with boundless exuberance and countless questions, was a relief to Donald, even as he worried about the outcome of Gyro’s tour.

Donald could only wonder at Gyro’s intentions, as genuinely engrossed as he appeared to be in answering Huey’s questions. Even in Donald’s youth, people had been swayed by his association to the McDuck name, and both friends and enemies had tried to take advantage of him as a result. Though only part of the reason why Donald had trust issues, it was not a lesson he wanted his boys learning yet. So in the meantime, it would remain Donald’s job to be vigilant.

However, whatever the scientist’s ulterior motives, Donald didn’t think he’d be able to keep Huey away from him. Not with the way Gyro offered to let him help on future experiments, with all the proper safety precautions in place, he assured, or how Huey turned to Donald with stars in his eyes, his expression a war of desperation and frail hope as he already prepared himself to be disappointed.

But Donald surprised him by agreeing, and even going so far as to not impose his supervision. Now Huey was going to be taught by one of the world’s foremost (and possibly unstable) scientific minds, all without his uncle hovering worriedly over his shoulder.

The fact that Donald took up Scrooge on his job offer that same day was completely unrelated.

Chapter Text

“I think Dr.Gearloose has a crush on you.”

Donald choked on his third coffee of the morning, spilling a quarter of it down his shirt.

As the offending party and most considerate child, Huey rushed to get him a napkin, while his other three gremlins snickered into their breakfast. He was lucky Scrooge was away on business or he’d never hear the end of it.

“Huey—what?” Donald sputtered as he patted ineffectually at his stained shirt. “What makes you think that? I’ve barely said two words to the guy.”

Huey shrugged, returning to his cereal. “He’s always asking me about you. About your job, what you’d think of certain inventions, what your investment portfolio’s like.”

Donald raised a brow, amused and incredulous in equal measure. “All that, huh?”

“Yeah. He also said you’re free to visit the lab whenever you like.”

“Maybe I will,” Donald replied speculatively, before his expression gentled. “You’ve got a lesson with him today, don’t you?”

Huey brightened almost immediately. “Yeah, we’re going to test out this new unbreakable glass that Dr. Gearloose just made! We’ll just be throwing stuff at it, but it should be fun!”

“And you won’t forget to text me every half-hour?” Donald reminded him, as he rose from the table to go change his ruined shirt.

“I won’t forget, Uncle Donald,” Huey assured him, and he nodded contently.

 

Donald had a pretty good idea of what Gyro wanted from him, and he was pretty sure it didn’t entail any romantic intention.

He drove Huey and himself to the Bin later that morning, leaving his nephew to lose himself in a world of science and throwing things to test the durability of experimental glass. Meanwhile, Donald dragged himself through the tedium that was serving as Scrooge’s personal secretary. The pay wasn’t any better than most of his past jobs, but it lent him the ability to supervise Huey and his uncle,  which was a perk in of itself.

Several hours later as he was packing up for the evening, he got a text from Huey letting him know that his lesson had just ended. Before that morning, Donald had thought it a happy coincidence that they always finished at the same time he got off work. He knew better now, of course.

Donald rode the elevator down to the lab, the doors opening to the sound of Huey’s excited chatter. He didn’t have to travel far to locate the source; despite the expansiveness of the lab, Gyro was the only person Donald ever saw down there.

He found Huey sitting on a stool before a large, liberally scrawled over whiteboard, in deep conversation with Gyro, who was enthusiastically waving an Eggxpo marker around.

“The localized explosions barely left a smudge, is there anything stronger we could try next time?” Huey was saying.

Gyro was jotting something down on the whiteboard, his back to Huey and the quietly approaching Donald as he responded, “I hear what you’re saying, but I’m only allowed so many corrosive acids down here—” He turned around and immediately noticed Donald, standing a little ways behind Huey with his arms crossed and expression carefully blank. “Mr. Donald! Duck! I mean, Mr.Duck!” he cried, throwing the marker off to one side and moving to stand in front of a cluster of equations on the board that Donald wouldn’t have understood anyway.

“Hey, Uncle Donald,” Huey greeted cheerily.

“Hey, Huey,” Donald replied casually, hiding a smirk at the scientist’s reaction.

Gyro coughed into a closed fist and glancing off to the side. “Uh, yes, hello, Mr. Duck.”

“Have fun?” Donald asked his nephew, though the answer was obvious by Huey’s grin.

“Yeah! The Protect-O-Glass has been completely unbreakable so far, but we really want to test it to the limit! So for next week, Dr. Gearloose and I were talking about maybe using a highly concentrated corrosive—”

Okay !” Gyro interrupted with forced cheer. “We wouldn’t want to bore your uncle with the minutiae of our experiments, now would we, Huey?”

“Well I guess—”

Donald squeezed Huey’s shoulder. “It’s alright, kiddo, you can tell me about it later. You all set? I hear Mrs. B’s making spaghetti for dinner.”

“All set,” Huey confirmed, hopping off the stool.

“Okay,” Donald said, fishing his car keys out of his pocket. “Why don’t you wait for me in the car, I’ve just gotta talk to Gyro for a minute.”

Out of the corner of his eye, Donald saw Gyro stiffen, even as Huey nodded obliviously.

“Sure thing, Uncle Donald,” he said, and began to head for the elevator. “Bye, Dr. Gearloose! I had fun!”

“See you later, Huey,” Gyro replied a little weakly, raising a hand in goodbye.

Within moments Huey had entered the elevator, and the instant the doors closed Gyro spun to face Donald properly.

He began speaking quickly. “You don’t have to worry, Mr. Duck, we’re not actually going to use the acids, I was gonna do that before Huey got here—”

“It’s Donald,” he said firmly, “And I just wanted to ask you a question.”

“Oh,” Gyro faltered, “uh, okay. What—”

“Why did you offer to teach Huey?” Donald cut him off, only a little sharply. He kept the bulk of his annoyance hidden, a rare feat for him, which left his anger to simmer just beneath his feathers.

Gyro straightened, adjusting his glasses. “Well, I could tell right away that Huey was especially bright, and it would be a shame to let such an intellect go to waste—”

“You were trying to use him to get to Scrooge,” Donald interrupted him flatly. Okay, so maybe he wasn’t hiding his aggravation as well as he thought.

The scientist gasped in outrage, planting one fist on his waist and raising a finger self importantly. “I’ll have you know— !”

Donald cut him off mid-excuse, “Sorry, I actually meant you were using Huey to get to me to get to Scrooge. Is that the gist of it?”

Gyro still had his beak open and finger raised in protest, but after a beat he deflated. “ Yes ,” he confirmed in a mutter.

Donald rolled his eyes. “Well, let me be the first to tell you that Scrooge and I aren’t close. You’re not going to get favors, or money, or whatever it is you want, through me. You’re better off just asking him yourself.”

“I, uh…” Gyro rubbed the back of his neck, looking everywhere but at Donald.

The duck sighed, rubbing his forehead with one hand. “Look, are you gonna keep teaching Huey after I exposed your big master plan? He’ll be disappointed, but I get it—”

No !” Gyro said at once, a little too loudly, and he flushed faintly. “I mean, the lessons might’ve originally been part of my, um…”

“Underhanded scheme?” Donald finished for him, his arms akimbo.

“Yes, right,” Gyro acquiesced, only somewhat grudgingly. “But I, well...I do enjoy our lessons. Huey’s a good kid.”

Ever proud of his boys, Donald couldn’t help a smile, his defensive stance loosening. “Yeah, he is.”

Gyro returned his smile, and for a moment they just held each other’s gaze.

The moment was ruined however, when a bolt when careening through the air and collided with Donald’s temple with sharp precision.

Ow !” he cried, startled, pressing his palm against his head. “Ow! What was that ?”

Gyro’s expression pinched in annoyance, and he planted his hands on his waist. “Lil’ Bulb, come out here!” he demanded, scanning the ground.

The little light bulb robot that Donald had seen on his first visit to the lab poked their head out from behind a lab table, and Gyro’s scowl softened slightly.

“Lil’ Bulb, we talked about this,” he said, as he kneeled and offered the robot his hand. They climbed onto the offered appendage, and Gyro brought them up to chest height. “Throwing things at people is not nice. Now apologize to Donald.”

The little robot took one look at Donald and immediately turned their back on him, petulantly crossing their arms.

Despite the blossoming bruise on his temple, Donald had to resist the urge to laugh.

Gyro chuckled awkwardly, looking back at Donald. “Kids, huh?”

This time Donald did laugh. “Speaking of kids, I’d better get back to mine.”

“Right, right,” Gyro agreed quickly, as Donald made to leave. “Uh...hey!”

He stopped halfway to the elevator at Gyro’s exclamation, glancing back over his shoulder.

The scientist had turned to deposit Lil’ Bulb on a nearby lab table, his expression carefully aloof. “Do you think you could let Huey know that our lesson will be starting a little late next week?”

Donald smiled. “Sure thing.”

Chapter Text

If Donald had known that working as Scrooge’s secretary would involve so many all-nighters, he might’ve had second thoughts about taking the job.

It was his third late night of the week, nearly late enough to call it early.The Bin was empty, the other employees long gone and likely enjoying a good night’s sleep in a proper bed. Unlike Donald, who had an absurd amount of work to do and was powerless to resist the siren song of his desk.

After falling asleep atop crumpled invoices and reports for the third time, Donald was ready to admit defeat and make the trek down to the vending machine in the garage.

The other offices were locked after a certain hour, barring Donald from making the coffee that would at least keep him awake throughout this ordeal. In lieu of that, he would buy some Pep and hope the combination of sugar and caffeine would tide him over for the next few hours.

Donald made the trip down to the garage in something of an exhausted stupor, the elevators eventually opening before him with a cheerful chime.

The garage always bore a heaving feeling around this hour, partly because of the dampening effect of night. But Donald suspected this was also due to some combination of the flickering fluorescents and the knowledge that he was completely alone in the building save for the odd, wandering security guard.

But tonight Donald stepped out of the elevator to the sound of  loud metallic klang , and was startled to see Gyro standing hunched over by the vending machine with a vacant expression.

The scientist was curled over a small armload of Pep cans, crouching unsteadily to retrieve his newest soda from the machine.

As Donald silently approached him he noted Gyro’s rumpled clothes, the same black vest and blue shirt that he’d seen the chicken wearing two days before when he’d picked Huey up from his lesson.

“Hey, Gyro,” Donald said at last.

The scientist rose slowly from his crouch, but instead of returning to his usual height, he stood and regarded Donald with hunched shoulders and blank eyes that bespoke a profound exhaustion.

“Oh,” he replied belatedly, blinking slowly, “Hi, Donald.”

“What’re you still doing here so late?” the duck asked with a fair amount of concern. On closer inspection, even Gyro’s orange tie was haphazardly done, his hat was missing, and his hair was a mess.

Gyro shrugged, carefully manipulating his load of Pep so he could pop open his newest acquisition.

“Working late,” he replied, “Mr. McDuck requested a couple new security measures for the Bin that’ll serve as magical defense. Coding for the detection of hexes and illusory magic is not easy, but what’re you gonna do?”

He punctuated this defeated statement with a long swing from his can of Pep, which became so prolonged that Donald was certain he’d finished at least half the can by the time he lowered it again.

But something occurred to Donald, temporarily overriding his disconcertion over Gyro’s potentially impaired physical and emotional state. “I thought Scrooge put millions into magical defense already, why is he having you do more ?”

Gyro rolled his eyes, swinging the arm holding the open can of Pep in an arc so wide he overbalanced and ended up slightly slumped against the vending machine.

“Didn’t you hear? Your uncle’s board’s been cutting costs lately. Historical research, experimental tech...” as he listed them, he counted off on his fingers around the can of Pep he was still holding. “And now magical defense. ‘Unnecessary departments,’ they said. Just means more of my projects get put to the side as I pick up the slack.”

Donald didn’t know what to say to that. For years, he hadn’t bothered to care about his uncle’s company. And even now as Scrooge’s secretary, he wasn’t exactly privy to the greater goings-on of the Money Bin, much less McDuck Industries as a whole. His job usually dealt with Scrooge’s day to day, or week to week when adventuring got a little too out of hand.

And Donald still didn’t really care about Scrooge’s business; he took this job for the kids’ sake, after all. But he did care about Gyro. The scientist’s dishevelled appearance worried him, and not because the risk of him blowing the Money Bin to Kingdom Come rose with the threat of his burnout.

It was a realization that startled Donald. So much so that instead of acknowledging the actual source of Gyro’s distress, he said the first thing that came to mind.

“What’s with all the sodas?”

Donald could’ve smacked himself, but Gyro looked prepared to do that himself.

“What is this, twenty questions?” he muttered rather petulantly, rising from his slump against the vending machine and curling protectively around the half a dozen cans of Pep in his arm. Although, after a beat he replied, “Coffee machine broke.”

“Can’t you fix it?” Donald wondered. He would’ve thought a coffee machine would be an easy fix, especially considering the sci fi nonsense he knew Huey and Gyro usually got up to.

Gyro let out a very put-upon sigh. “When I say ‘broke’ I really mean ‘was burnt to fiery ash’.”

Donald sputtered. “ How ?”

The scientist waved the question away with the hand still holding the open Pep can. “All I can say is that I’ve learned to never trust Lil’ Bulb with a blowtorch again. Now, can I ask you something?”

At Donald’s nod, Gyro took another long swig from his soda. The concentrated sugar seemed to be waking him up; he no longer looked quite like a zombie.

“Why are you here so late?” Gyro eventually asked. “Don’t you have, like, ten kids?”

“I have four !” Donald retorted without thinking, though Gyro’s smirk kept him from backtracking to lie about how he definitely had not adopted his uncle’s housekeeper’s granddaughter.

Donald crossed his arms. “I’ll have you know, I was working late too.”

“What’s a secretary doing at 2 a.m.?” Gyro questioned, puzzled but not dismissive, which Donald appreciated.

“If you’re Scrooge’s secretary, this is the only time you can get work done,” he explained tiredly, pinching the bridge of his beak. “He decided last Tuesday to take the kids to find the mythical Ropen of Papua New Guinea, and I’ve been playing catch-up since we got back.”

Gyro was quiet for a moment, considering his empty can of Pep. With an ease that Donald envied, he tossed it into the nearby trash can with hardly a glance, before retrieving another from the countless unopened cans he held in the crook of his arm. This one, however, he held out to Donald.


 

 

“You can’t be serious?”

“I’m being completely serious! Hardly even a day old, and they decided that they was superior to organic beings in every way!”

Their actual paying jobs long forgotten, he and Gyro found themselves leaning against the front of the vending machine, Gyro’s ridiculously long legs stretched out on the cold concrete as they stacked empty Pep cans between them.

Their conversation, lent vivacity from both the sugary soda and a hysteria that could only be derived from true exhaustion, had strayed to the topic of Gyro’s past inventions.

Donald snorted into his second can of soda. “A robot , made of a VCR and, and what?”

“My old VCR, a GameCube, and a mainframe computer,” Gyro repeated, failing to hide a grin.

“So what you’re telling me is that you made a sentient robot out of a bunch of your old junk?” Donald asked incredulously.

“A sentient robot hell bent on taking over the world,” Gyro corrected, though his amused expression began to falter. “Once Armstrong realized they was too low tech to get into any of our computers, they headed for the antenna farm. I’m still not sure what their plan was.”

Donald took another sip of his soda as he considered the scientist’s change in demeanor. “But you stopped them.”

Gyro chuckled, though there was little humor in the gesture. “Only with Mr. McDuck’s help. I froze at the last minute, and was barely able to tackle Armstrong so he could stick the explosive on their back. If it’d just been up to me, we might be living in a world controlled by a robot with a GameCube for a brain.”

“It was your invention, it makes sense that it would be hard for you to destroy it,” Donald reasoned sympathetically,

But Gyro shook his head, his brow beginning to furrow. “No, that’s...that’s not it. My robots...they’re not just machines, not to me.” He watched Donald place his empty soda can on their growing pyramid, his expression inscrutable, though Donald could sense the weight in his words.

“It’s like...I always felt like I was putting a little bit of myself in all the robots I create,” Gyro explained haltingly, and Donald watched with some dismay as the scientist’s expression crumpled. “But every time, without fail, they turn evil. The Cogs tried to kidnap Scrooge, when I designed them to be bodyguards. Armstrong was meant to be a rough prototype for emergency response, and you already know how well that worked out.”

He scrubbed a hand along his face, knocking his glasses askew. His gaze was unfocused.

“Maybe...maybe it’s me,” Gyro muttered.

“What?” Donald exclaimed, feeling a bizarre sense of déjà vu.

“Maybe I’m the reason that my inventions turn evil,” Gyro said more emphatically, with the air of someone making a great realization, even as he began to curl up on the other side of the soda pyramid, bringing his knees closer to his chest. “Maybe I’m just...not good.”

Y’know ‘cause he’s….

Bad luck

A total jinx

The worst

And all at once Donald understood.

In the ensuing quietude, Gyro shook his head with a grimace, and his face began to flush. “I...sorry, you-you don’t want to hear this, I should just—”

Donald regained his bearings as Gyro began to stand, reaching for him but stopping short of actually touching. “Gyro, no, wait!”

Flustered, Gyro rose to one knee in a sudden, jerking motion, knocking down their soda can pyramid in the process. He somehow looked even more mortified as the empty cans clattered to the ground, and looked like he was on the verge of making a break for the stairs. If that happened, Donald knew that the easy camaraderie they’d built that night would crumble as easily as their soda can pyramid. He racked his brain for anything he could say, anything that would keep Gyro from fleeing.

“I-I know what you mean!” Donald said quickly, even as every fiber of his being rebelled against divulging even a sliver of his own self doubts.

Gyro froze in the midst of his frantic flight, and Donald pressed his advantage.

“I…” But decades of learned instinct, of stifling himself, lodged in his throat, choking him. “I sometimes feel like..like I’m no good,” he forced out, eyes clenched shut.

He heard the sound of movement, and half-expected Gyro to have left, given his weak sauce attempt at commiseration.

Why ?” the scientist said instead, sounding confused.

Donald opened his eyes to see Gyro sitting beside him once more, his face cherry red with mortification at his gaffe.

“I mean, crap , that’s not what - you don’t have to explain—”

It was ridiculous. Donald, stressed and exhausted and emotionally strained, was sitting in an empty garage, surrounded by empty Pep cans, with a bonafide mad scientist. A mad scientist who agonized over his self-worth and inability to create robots that didn’t turn evil, and who might be worse at expressing empathy than him.

So Donald didn’t think he could be faulted for his lapse in composure when he burst into laughter at the expression of sheer horror on Gyro’s face.

Donald was sure he made a picture, clutching at his sides and nearly bent over laughing. Gyro stared for a moment, but was ultimately helpless to join him in mild hysteria, driven by their mutual fatigue and the emotions that had been running high that night.

“I’m-I’m sorry,” Donald gasped as he fought to catch his breath, a grin splitting his beak.

Gyro snorted, muffling his laughter behind his hands. “No, it’s okay,” he said around a wheeze. “That was-that was my fault.”

They both breathed deeply, with much useless hand flapping, and within a minute or two they had calmed the worst of their hysterics.

“I think that’s enough emotional turmoil for one night,” Donald said, still out of breath, and slouching so much he was nearly lying on the floor.

Gyro removed his glasses to rub at his eyes, his voice still edging on a chuckle. “I don’t know, I still haven’t talked about my unhappy childhood!”

Donald turned to look at the scientist with an answering smirk, but his mirth faded quickly. Without his glasses obscuring much of his face, Gyro’s exhaustion was plain to see. The bags under his eyes were more pronounced than Donald had realized, his gaze drained and lackluster despite the inordinate humor of only a few moments ago.

“Gyro,” Donald began uncertainty, sitting up properly, “do you usually work this late?”

He put his glasses back on, glancing down curiously at the duck. “Not always, but often enough. Who else is going to design magical defense systems or deep sea subs for your uncle?”

“Don’t you have assistants or something?”

Gyro turned away, and started collecting the scattered Pep cans. “Well...not really,” he replied offhandedly. “You know how about six months ago the board started cutting funding? I would’ve been fired too if Mr. McDuck hadn’t fought them over it.”

Donald startled at the idea of Scrooge keeping anyone on payroll that his board of directors deemed unnecessary, but ignored it for now in favor of the bigger issue.

“Are you telling me that you’re the only person working in R&D?” Donald demanded, incredulous and more than a little worried.

Gyro looked back up at him, surprised. “I thought...I thought you knew? If anything, Huey or Mr. McDuck would’ve mentioned it—”

“You already know that I’m not on good terms with Scrooge,” Donald said shortly, before pensively raising his hand to the underside of his beak. “And Huey probably didn’t want me to worry…”

“I promise, Huey’s safety has never been in question!” Gyro quickly asserted with a tight expression as he rose to his feet, his arms laden with their empty soda cans. “Even with just me and Lil’ Bulb down there, I took every precaution.”

Donald quirked a brow, smiling a little despite himself. “I believe you! I think I’ve put enough fear of God in you by this point that you know to keep my nephew safe.”

Gyro chuckled, the tense line of his shoulders falling. “I’d say so.”

Hey !” Donald protested, on principle more than anything else.

The scientist laughed again, turning to empty his armload of cans into the trashcan, and  Donald took this time to consider him.

It wasn’t fair that Gyro’s inventions constantly turned against him, despite his best intentions and countless hours of labor.

Donald had thought him egotistical and vain, and he was , but that wasn’t all Gyro was.

In reality he had self-esteem almost lower than his own, and thus overcompensated for it. Gyro worked alone , and so tirelessly that he apparently shut himself away in his lab for hours on end, and even as he worried, Donald could only admire his dedication.

When he really thought about it, there were actually a lot of things he admired about Gyro. Like the fatherly concern he showed his robots, the affection in his eyes when he spoke of Huey, how he spoke with his hands when he was really passionate about something, his movements passionate and grand. The way his face scrunched up when he laughed, and his first glimpse of Gyro’s brown eyes, unobscured by his glasses…

Gyro turned back around and said something, but Donald wasn’t listening because he was too busy considering the unruly sweep of Gyro’s hair. Then Gyro smiled, for a reason Donald couldn’t discern, but his heart skipped a beat at the quirk of his beak and, and ...

Oh .

Oh no.

Chapter Text

 

With the crest of daybreak upon it, the Money Bin was a sight for sore eyes.

Scrooge was newly returned from a three day long visit to his Japanese branch, and the jet lag sat heavily on him. He was no longer the same duck who’d traversed the globe for decades without ever tiring, as if he needed any further reminders.

He’d already nearly fallen asleep twice on the way from the airport, and it didn’t help matters that for once Launchpad didn’t seem in the mood to talk his ear off. So Scrooge remained awake through sheer force of will and imagining the lucrative investments he would be making that day.

Scrooge wasn’t inclined to admit it, even to himself, but he was also looking forward to the expressions of awe and glee on his niece and nephews’ faces when they beheld the gifts he’d brought them back from Japan. His Tokyo partners were always generous when they sent him off, and doubly so when they heard about his new wards.

There also may or may not have been a 14th century samurai sword among the gifts, which Scrooge wasn’t likely to present to his kids until Donald was out of the mansion.  

Launchpad entered the Bin’s parking garage with his usual degree of aplomb, the collision of the limo’s grill with a wall coupled with the crunch and crash of metal on metal as he hit at least one other car on the way.

“Nothing like a crash to wake one in the early morning, aye, Launchpad?” Scrooge muttered wryly, and his offending driver chuckled.

“That’s what I always say, Mr. McDee!”

Scrooge exited the limo to see that Launchpad had virtually gone out of his way to hit a dingy green station wagon, one of the only cars in the garage at that hour.

Another car he recognized as Gyro’s, impossible as it was to confuse it with anyone else’s. With the round, circular frame a 1950s science fiction aficionado would drool over, his head of R&D’s vehicle of choice more closely resembled a hovercar than any suitable form of transportation.

“Are you alright, sir?” an unfamiliar voice called out.

Scrooge realized with a small start that he wasn’t alone in the parking garage.

On the other side of Gyro’s ridiculous vehicle was a duck Scrooge didn’t recognize. He had brown feathers and neatly coiffed hair, and was wearing a white collared shirt and purple tie. He looked between Scrooge, the busted limo, and the dented station wagon, startled and concerned.

“Aye, we’re fine,” Scrooge assured him as he waved goodbye to Launchpad. “And you, lad? That wasn’t your car we mangled, was it?” he asked, punctuated by the crash of Launchpad colliding with the back wall as he reversed.

“Oh, no, Mr. McDuck!” the stranger assured him, though he looked chagrined. “That’s Mr. Duck’s. He asked me to make sure he hadn’t parked over the line.”

Scrooge stepped forward to inspect his nephew’s parking job. “Well, fortunately you can tell Donald that he has nothing to worry about. Aside from the dent, of course.”

He turned and started walking toward the elevator, the tapping of his cane echoing in the wide, empty parking lot.

“Yes, sir,” the younger duck agreed, though he still looked a little guilty as he quickly followed after Scrooge.

Once in the elevator, Scrooge pushed the button for his floor. He noted that the other duck waited until the elevator had begun to rise before selecting the basement level (and how Gyro railed over the lack of recognition still, despite the basic level of secrecy it afforded).

Before Scrooge could wonder at the oddness of his elevator partner’s selection, the younger duck turned to him with bright eyes and his hands clasped tightly together. When he spoke, it was at a mile a minute.

“I don’t mean to bother you, sir but I just wanted you to know that it’s an honor for me to be working here, an absolute honor! I’ve been a big admirer, Mr. McDuck, especially of your research and development division, I can’t wait to get started—”  

“Aye, aye, and we’re happy to have ye!” Scrooge cried, startled by the wall of words. Not for the first time, he cursed his jet lag for ruining his reaction time.

The younger duck smiled apologetically, apparently aware of his fast-talking habit. He needlessly straightened his already rigidly straight tie.

The elevator ticked past the twenty-fifth floor.

“So you’re new here then?” Scrooge asked after a moment.

“Oh, yes, sir!” The younger duck confirmed, looking a little embarassed. He stuck out his hand. “Sorry about that, Mr. McDuck. My name is Fenton Crackshell-Cabrera! It’s an honor to meet you!”

Scrooge shook his hand a little absently. “Are you someone’s assistant?”

Fenton nodded eagerly, not visibly perturbed that Scrooge had no earthly idea who he was. “Yes, sir! I’m Gyro’s new research assistant. Or maybe his first?”

The elevator passed the forty-second floor.

Scrooge nodded distractedly. “Is that so, Mr. Crackshell-Cabrera? Well, give them my regards—”

It took half a second for Scrooge to comprehend Fenton’s words, and realization wound back around to hit him like a slap to the face.  

Gyro ?” He sputtered, “Gyro Gearloose’s assistant!”

“Yes, sir, Mr. McDuck,” Fenton said cheerily, apparently not noticing how near Scrooge was to apoplexy.

“Since when ?” Scrooge demanded.

“Today’s my second day!” Fenton replied in a rush. “Mr. Duck interviewed me a few weeks ago, and believe me, I never thought in a millions years that I’d actually get the job—”

Fenton was interrupted by the elevator’s chime, and the doors slid open on the uppermost level of Scrooge’ office.

“Oh, this is your floor, sir!” Fenton said, holding the doors open for Scrooge.

Scrooge stepped out of the elevator on autopilot, still very much in a shock.

“Have a nice day, Mr. McDuck!” Fenton cried as the doors began to close. “It was an honor to finally meet you!”

Scrooge gathered his wits before the elevator had even fully closed, tightening his hold on his cane. A certain secretary of his certainly had plenty to answer for.

He spun around and threw open the door, entering his office space more fully.

Just before the closed door of his main office was a desk, with his nephew sitting behind it. There was a computer and multiple folders on the desktop, the latter stacked rather precariously on one side.

Donald was talking on the phone and writing something down at the same time, and did not react when Scrooge opened the door abruptly, nor when he slammed it shut behind him.

“Donald—” he started to say, only for his nephew to hold up a finger to indicate he was busy.

Scrooge scoffed at the rebuke, but knew better than to insist on being listened to or hang up the call. One never knew when a lucrative deal might be in the making, and secretaries were often the intermediaries for such things.

But that didn’t mean he wasn’t going to grumble and impatiently tap his fingers against the handle of his cane as he waited for Donald to finish the call.

“Yes,” Donald was saying, “What I’m telling you is—yes. Yes . And Mr. Rockefeather has agreed to the sum? Good. Yes, I’ll let him know. Thanks. Thank you. Have a great day.”

Donald hung up the phone, and looked up at Scrooge expectantly.

“What can I do for you, Mr. McDuck?” He asked.

Scrooge felt a familiar twinge of annoyance (and deeper still, grief and guilt), at the formal address. Donald had insisted on it ever since accepting the job as his secretary.

“Who was that?” Scrooge demanded, gesturing at the phone.

Donald quickly jotted something down on a post-it as he answered. “Rockefeather’s secretary. You’re going to a dinner at his estate next month.”

“I’ll do no such thing!” Scrooge sputtered.

Donald looked very close to rolling his eyes. “I said you’d agree to go and pose for a couple pictures with Rockefeather if he donated 10,000 dollars to the local homeless shelter.”

Scrooge grumbled under his breath, “Aye, very well. And schedule a visit to the shelter while you’re at it, Donald, I want to make sure everything’s still running smoothly.”

As Donald wrote down what Scrooge assumed to be a reminder, he leaned forward on his cane. Now that business was out of the way, on to the real matter at hand.

“Donald,” he began slowly, conversationally, “is there any reason I should believe you hired a lab assistant behind my back?”

His nephew briefly stopped writing. “Yeah,” he replied after a long moment. “Because I did.”

Scrooge slammed his cane against the ground. “And where do you get the gall to hire someone without my knowing!”

Donald stared back at him heatedly, but Scrooge was startled by how controlled his voice was when he retorted, “Since you ignored me every time I recommended that Gyro get more help in the lab.”

“Gyro would tell me if he needed help!” Scrooge countered.

“No, he wouldn’t!” Donald said, finally beginning to raise his voice. “Gyro is overwhelmed with work, Scrooge, he’s basically living in his lab. And his workload keeps piling up, work that he’s ridiculously overqualified for, but you and your board have fired so many people there isn’t anyone left to do it!”

Scrooge’s ire was tempered in the face of his nephew’s sharp words and carefully controlled vexation, as well as information he’d never heard before.

“I didn’t…” Scrooge started to say, but cut himself off and instead said, “How long was Gyro working alone?”

Donald raised a critical eyebrow, though he had visibly calming down as well. “Besides Lil’ Bulb? A couple months, I think.”

Scrooge nodded absently, tapping on the head of his cane, but inside he railed at the news.

How had he missed this? Gyro Gearloose had been a familiar presence at the Money Bin for nearly a decade, his inventions consistently on the verge of inspiring him to return to his life of world travel and danger. It was why he’d hired the scientist in the first place, back before the time adventuring only served to remind him of what he’d lost.

For years he’d run his company on autopilot, had faith in his board, and just tried to get through the day, every day. Scrooge knew he’d hurt people with his reticence, his family most of all, but he’d foolishly thought that his business and employees would be spared.

Donald leaned back in his chair with his arms crossed, watching Scrooge in mild incredulity. “Did you really not know?” He asked, “I mean, you basically cut funding to everything in R&D.”

“That was my board of directors,” Scrooge retorted, but the excuse sounded weak even to his ears. His pride, drawn taut around him like armor, cracked just a bit.

“It was before...” Scrooge started to say. Before you and the boys. Before I started to care again.

He averted his gaze from his nephew’s all too-knowing one, piercing in its intensity. To think he’d forgotten about it; Donald inherited it from Hortense after all.

Scrooge cleared his throat loudly, his hands fidgeting atop his cane.“So, nephew, what about Mr. Crackshell-Cabrera made him qualified to work under our illustrious Dr. Gearloose?” He asked magnanimously, only just salvaging his pride.

Donald didn’t react to the abrupt change in subject, for which Scrooge was privately grateful.

“There were a lot of applicants,” Donald began to explain, and how his nephew had created and accepted applications without his knowing boggled the mind. “And most of them were really qualified. But I wanted someone who could work well with Gyro more than anything else, and based on his references, Fenton seemed like the perfect fit.”

Donald pulled a folder free of the precarious stack beside him, and by some miracle the tower remained intact. He opened the folder and began reading aloud from it.

“Graduated high school at fifteen, got his bachelor’s and master’s in chemistry and engineering in three years—”

“It seems ta say he’s qualified would be an understatement ,” Scrooge wondered aloud, finding it difficult to connect the impressive, rigorous resume with the bubbly, nervous duck he’d encountered in the elevator.

Donald nodded, closing the folder. “Like I said, lots of the applicants were qualified. I met with the most impressive ones, but Fenton stood out to me right away because I knew he could keep up with Gyro.”

When Scrooge only looked at him curiously, Donald elaborated.

“I think you and I know that Gyro doesn’t suffer fools gladly,” he huffed, and Scrooge snorted. That was certainly an understatement.

Donald went on. “So I needed someone smart and quick, who could operate on the same wavelength as Gyro. They also needed to be young, Gyro’s age at the oldest, because he doesn’t need any more authority figures, he needs someone to help him pick up the slack and bounce ideas off of.”

Scrooge nodded, a kernel of pride glowing in his chest. “An accurate assessment, nephew. But Gyro is stubborn. How did you get him to agree to the help?”

“I didn’t ask,” Donald said matter-of-factly, though his smile was anything but, while trying to shove Fenton’s folder back into the teetering tower beside him.

Scrooge was struck with the realization that this was the first time Donald had smiled at him in all the months he and the boys had lived in the mansion. The first time they’d spoken so casually since before Della, the first time Donald looked at him and he didn’t immediately feel the unspoken accusation.

But the moment ended when Donald’s attempt at keeping the tower intact proved unsuccessful and it collapsed, one half sliding onto the floor and the half onto the desk. He crouched to collect the fallen files with a long-suffering sigh.

“Making a habit of that, are we?” Scrooge asked wryly, handing Donald a file that had landed near his feet.

“You know Gyro,” Donald replied cheekily, in a way that made him seem ten years younger, “he never would’ve gone for it.”

“I do know Gyro,” Scrooge confirmed, watching his nephew curiously. “Though, I’m beginning to wonder how you do.”

“I...what?” Donald faltered, no longer looking at his uncle as he collected the remainder of the folders.

“Well, from what I remember you dinnae exactly warm to Gyro on your first meeting,” Scrooge explained slowly.

“He’s not so bad,” Donald said a little too quickly, with a familiar frisson of embarrassment and maybe even panic that Scrooge hadn’t witnessed since his nephew was in high school and Della would tease him about a crush.

“Gyro’s a good man,” Scrooge said, more softly than he intended, as Donald’s silence grew. Their earlier comradery had become brittle, and Scrooge couldn’t fathom what he’d done wrong. “Huey mentioned something about...lessons?”

Donald nodded absently, straightening the files in his hands, “Yeah, Gyro offered to give Huey science lessons once a week.” He snorted, “By now, Huey’s grown on him, but he only offered in the first place because he wanted to get something out of you.”

Scrooge’s face burned as Donald spared him a glance, his inscrutable expression contrasting with the relative levity of his tone. “Guess no one told him that there’s limits to what you’ll do for family.”

Donald’s words were on the verge of accusation, certainly crossed the line of insubordination. If this had been six months ago, Donald and the boys newly moved in, Scrooge would’ve fired him amid an explosive argument, because his nephew’s reappearance in his life had only served to rip open old wounds.

But now he didn’t even refute what Donald said, and something deep within his chest ached.

The silence between them lengthened, pulled taut like a string. It was only broken by Donald’s shuffling and sorting of files, and though he wasn’t even looking at his uncle, Scrooge felt like he couldn’t pull away.

He loudly cleared his throat, breaking the spell.

“How did you even hire someone on your own?” He demanded, back in familiar territory. “You dinnae even have the authority!”

Donald glanced up at him, amused, and almost certainly seeing right through him.

“I forged your signature on the hiring papers,” he replied casually.

Scrooge sputtered. “ Forged ? You scoundrel, since when have you been able to—”

“I’ve been able to forge your signature since I was ten years old,” Donald interrupted succinctly, before holding out a folder. “Now, take this. You’ve got a meeting with marketing in ten minutes.”

Scrooge wasn’t accustomed to being dismissed, but their conversation had left him feeling wrung out, and juggling more emotions than he’d like at seven in the morning, or ever. So he took the folder mechanically, tucking it under his arm.

“Aye, well…” he started to say, but was unable to find words, or even a thought, to finish the sentence. Donald was no longer looking at him.

He marched resolutely toward his office, and was in the middle of closing the door behind him when something gave him pause. Maybe an urge to right things between himself and his nephew, a drive which had grown from bush to wildfire in the short time his family had been back in his life. Which wasn’t a bad thing, though he didn’t have even the slightest idea how to act on it.

“Donald,” he began, and it took a moment but his nephew glanced up at him. It was difficult, but Scrooge made an effort to sound sincere.

“Gyro’s lucky to have a friend like you.”

Donald turned back to his computer screen, apparently unaffected, if it weren’t for the flush crawling its way his face.

“Nine minutes ‘til marketing,” he responded plainly.

Scrooge closed the door, but not before catching the small smile curling his nephew’s beak.