Ten years. An entire decade of mental fortitude collapsed in a scant few minutes. That day had started as any other. Another drab board meeting followed by a ride home, driven recklessly enough to cause most people extreme stress. It just went to show his dissatisfaction with his rote life, that the old man barely reacted as his talkative driver weaved dangerously in and out of traffic and barreled straight through a restaurant’s patio seating.
“This is the life.” Scrooge sarcastically said to himself as he rolled up the window divider to more successfully ignore his chauffeur and continue reading the newspaper. He had become so engrossed in his miserly solitude that when the car suddenly screeched to a halt, he was thrust from the seat. He furiously rose and looked out the windshield, only to see an unfamiliar, beaten-down station wagon parked at the gates of his mansion.
Little did he know, at the time, that this moment would mark the beginning of a brand-new phase of his supernaturally long life. The moment his grandnephews entered his life. The moment he reunited with his beloved yet estranged nephew. He later regretted the venom he discharged towards Donald in his driveway that day, but it was far easier to express, compared to what he wanted to say. The decade’s worth of repressed feelings towards Donald burst forth from the deepest recesses of his mind, nearly coming to the surface. He couldn’t have been less prepared to handle this if he tried. It would have been bad, but manageable, if he had just been confronted with Donald showing up at his house out of the blue. He could have quickly gotten through whatever favor he was asked to do with a seldom few words exchanged, and returned unhappily to his life of wealthy solitude, feeling unsure if that would be the last time he would ever see his nephew. But…her three kids blocked all his easy escape routes. It was an overwhelming mix of emotions that, despite his incredible age, Scrooge had never had any experience with.
Grief, because of these old wounds resurfacing. Having no one to heal with, Scrooge instead chose to grit his teeth and ignore them, burying them deep and erasing reminders of the loss of his niece. All around McDuck Manor, rooms were rearranged and redecorated, paintings and family pictures were taken down and stored away, personal artifacts were hidden in a secret section of his archives, equipped with a DNA scanner entry mechanism. If Donald wanted to keep the rest of his family away, that was fine by Scrooge. No one but him, and Donald would ever know what happened now. He never thought he needed anyone his entire life. He would ask himself why now was any different.
Familiarity, because of just how much they looked like Della. How looking at each one of them, especially Dewey, was strongly reminiscent of seeing Della in person. Scrooge could feel it at the end of their Atlantis expedition that day, that adventurous spirit and tenacity he always saw in Della, with whom he was constantly performing a balancing act between loving the vibrancy her personality brought to his life and being wary of how reckless she could be as a result of her stubbornness.
Happiness, because even though he’d seen unbelievable things in his lifetime, this was among the least likely to happen, yet here it was. When Donald promised Scrooge would never see him or Della’s sons again, he knew his nephew. He wasn’t one to mince words, or to dress anything up for anyone. He would speak exactly what was on his mind, leaving Scrooge no room to interpret anything he said any other way. Having also buried the excitement of becoming a grand-uncle, he now finally might be seeing the opportunity, but is it too good to be true?
Regret, for all the time he’s missed with these boys. A decade’s worth of moments, witnessing their first words and first steps, watching their individual personalities develop, and simply sharing time, love, and affection with them, lost. He wanted to make it up to them but interacting with them might prove to be too hard to bear. He felt out of touch with his grandnephews, feeling personally attacked by questions that were ultimately attempts to connect with their Uncle Scrooge, filtered through the lack of tact of a child. So, he did the only thing he’s done with his family for the last decade: he ignored them, pushed them away, out of his sight, allowing him to fall back into his old routines.
However, that day, the shenanigans of his kin rekindled something inside the old man…the love of adventure that had kept him feeling vivacious and happy his entire life, something he had lost with Della. Months of going on adventures and spending quality time with his grandnephews allowed him to make up for lost time. He reveled at the warm feeling he felt when Huey’s moral compass compelled him to honesty and sensibility on Mount Neverrest, or when Dewey’s quick thinking and risky maneuvering saved them both, as well as Donald, from a watery grave in Atlantis, or when Louie finally found his adventuring strength in the ability to see unseen angles, making him so proud. He could see a little of Della in all of them, and it made his heart swell to see they had forgiven him for his actions from more than a decade ago. However, while his grandnephews forgave him, he wasn’t sure about Donald, as they had always been too wrapped up with the boys to discuss it at any length, and while the two were more than on speaking terms once again, there was still a division between them that just wasn’t there when Della was around, which leads Scrooge to the present day. Beakley and Webby are using some vacation time honing their espionage skills and getting some tanning in by the beach; Launchpad took the boys to a movie, an especially scary affair he himself would be barely able to sit through; it was a Friday night at McDuck Manor with only Donald and his dear old uncle inside.
“Och…enough stalling now…” Scrooge reprimanded himself as he silently stood in the darkened hallway adjacent to the living room, where Donald was unwinding after a day of working on his houseboat. It was rare for him to have absolutely nothing to watch over, to tend to, to protect, and he had some time for himself. Scrooge fondly looked over the nearly-sleeping figure. How typical of his nephew to work himself to physical exhaustion, either from out of habit, or some sort of bizarre desire to ache. He almost felt bad for interrupting Donald’s peaceful sleep, but with the number of inhabitants of his mansion, and how busy both Donald and himself could get, he knew it would be rare for him to have another opportunity. He had to move.
“…Donald? Are you up, lad?” Scrooge cautiously called out as he entered the living room. Donald groaned in response, and turned his head around, peering at his uncle from over the back of the couch.
“Well I am now” Donald retorted as he rubbed his eyes and sat up straight as Scrooge made his way towards him and sat down next to him. Scrooge was running through the options in his head, wondering how to start this conversation; this was one conversation he knew he had to start on the right foot, as any missteps could, like a splinter, worsen the wounds and deepen the division between the two. Scrooge endured many daring and dangerous challenges throughout his life, but he had a feeling this would be the most hazardous of them all. The stakes here meant much more to Scrooge than his own health or physical safety. He would much rather be involved in a situation where something as simple as breaking bones or losing blood was the largest consequence of failure. Those he had experience with. Those he knew how to handle. This though...trying to rebuild his relationship with Donald, in accordance with its former glory, was something entirely new to Scrooge. It wasn’t like he didn’t want it to happen, it was simply that the plan to success was not clear in his mind. In past adventures, Scrooge was not very threatened by imminent danger, as he could always see a path forward, and where that path started; regardless of where it led, it was something to keep him moving, and that bolstered Scrooge’s confidence. There hadn’t been a situation he didn’t see at least one way out of, until now. He was completely at a loss.
“...Scrooge?” Donald asked, confused by the sudden change of plans his uncle had presented to his evening. An uncle who now, curiously, sat silently next to him, staring vacantly, not making eye contact. It unnerved him, seeing Scrooge this...despondent. In his years growing up with his uncle, he had only seen him like this a couple of times, and certainly not at all since he’d started talking to Scrooge again. So far, this encounter with his uncle was nothing but bizarre. Donald was just hoping Scrooge would spit out what was on his mind, so he could put his own chaotic thought process at ease.
At the mention of his own name, Scrooge blinked and quickly refocused on his nephew. The time for deliberation had ended.
“Nephew...I think we need...to talk” Scrooge stammered out, while only occasionally being able to look Donald in the eyes. Donald had sensed this conversation coming when he saw the melancholic look on his uncle’s face mere seconds ago, and with a vague statement like this, the topic of discussion was essentially confirmed.
“I want to figure out where we are...because I miss how it used to be”, Scrooge continued. He had to tread lightly; this was more than just making amends to Donald, someone who meant more to Scrooge than just “nephew”. The reconciliation of Scrooge’s relationship with Donald, sailor, adventure partner, damn near his own son, meant more to Scrooge than any treasure he or anyone else could ever find. He was still bearing a heavy guilt over the loss of Della, and should he ruin this interaction and push Donald even further away, it was unclear to Scrooge how much more he could take.
“How we used to be?” Donald spat back with an ire neither of them expected.
“All those adventures where I get the short end of the stick? While you and Della laugh and have a good time? That ‘used to be’?” Donald continued, temper rising with every word. He would never forget how he felt left out on adventure after adventure, constantly feeling used by his uncle and sister and risking his safety, while the other two proceeded with not a care to speak of. Frozen into a block of ice in Doom Valley. Baked into a cookie at Nostradogmus’s castle. Used as bait to help the society of Pumpkin People in the Amazon Jungle. Scrooge may have remembered the spoils of these expeditions, but Donald didn’t. It’s not like they were his, anyways. As a teenager, his view on adventuring had soured, but thanks to a visit from a future relative one Christmas night, he was eager to join his sister and uncle on adventures once again. Scrooge was primarily in it for the treasure. Della was primarily in it for the thrill. Donald, however, was in it to spend time with two of the people he loved more than anyone else, only to be cast aside and mostly ignored by his uncle and sister while they enjoyed the adventures. Donald would never deny that sometimes his own actions got him into trouble on these outings, but it would have been okay if he had felt wanted in the first place. He began to see himself in the context of the adventuring trio as useless, and always getting in the way of success, a view enhanced by the playful taunting of his sister and uncle. At first, Donald thought they did it out of love, but the more adventures he went on, the less he could believe that. Eventually, his adventuring spirit started diminishing, finally leaving him when Della disappeared. As far as Donald was concerned, it was what he’d been seeing in the adventures for a very long time, and he was glad to give up.
“Someone always gets hurt.”, Donald had thought when his sister disappeared. God knows he wished it was him like always.
“...That’s how you felt?”, Scrooge responded, slightly hurt but mostly confused.
“Lad, I…I never knew, I’m sorry”, Scrooge continued. Donald swore he saw Scrooge’s eyes gloss over with tears, but didn’t react. He suspected his stubborn old uncle wouldn’t accept he might actually be showing emotion for once.
“Yeah, well, it’s okay. I always knew you liked Della more.”, Donald replied passive-aggressively, turning his head away from Scrooge a little. It still stung saying these words, despite the idea having taken root in his psyche decades prior.
Scrooge reacted with a mixture of a pained sob and a chuckle. It hurt to hear how Donald felt, and that he had felt it for so long only made it worse for the miser. How had he never noticed this before? Regardless, he knew where this came from, and now had to do all he could to get this idea out of Donald’s head.
“Oh nephew…” Scrooge sighed. At this moment, he wanted to hold Donald in his arms, like he did when he was a scared child who had gotten hurt playing in the yard, and bring him into a firm embrace. Unfortunately, Scrooge’s nasty overthinking habit stifled this paternal urge quickly.
“No, it’s far too early for that. He still doesn’t trust you. It’s not how it used to be.” Scrooge’s inner monologue warned him, ultimately forcing him to leave his hands as they were, and allowing the space between the two to persist.
“I never loved Della more than you, I could never choose between you two! Della is just more like me, so-”
“So you spent the adventures together with her, and just brought me along to get you two out of trouble. Was that the plan? For you two to do whatever you wanted, knowing I’d clean up your messes?”, Donald interrupted, letting these decades-old feelings boil up to his surface, as he is wont to do.
Scrooge didn’t know how to respond. Tears started to form in his eyes and slowly streak down his face as he hung his head in shame. There wasn’t a way around it. Thinking back to these adventures, he started to see what the excitement and thrill of new treasure had blinded him from. Every adventure, a new danger for his nephew to be tossed into. He would go back and time and strangle himself if he could for doing this to his beloved Donald. How could he have been so stupid?
“You’re right.” Scrooge muttered.
Donald looked as though he’d had an electrical current run through his heart.
“What?” he said in disbelief, as he looked at his uncle, tears now flowing from his eyes.
“I said, you’re right, lad. I can’t believe I hadn’t seen it that entire time” Scrooge sadly replied, straightening his back from the hunched position he had developed, and slumping a little bit on the couch.
“Donald, you must understand. Before you and Della, I was used to my life of going on adventures constantly, mostly alone. But when you two came into my life, I didn’t change with you, I changed you to fit into my lifestyle, without thinking about how you felt. Della’s so much like me...she was easy. But you, lad…” Scrooge’s voice trailed off as he produced a handkerchief from his coat pocket and blew his nose into it.
“Clearly, he had prepared for this conversation.” Donald thought to himself.
“You are different, and I didn’t act like you were. I was trying to force you to be like Della, to be like me, because that was easy.” Scrooge turned to Donald, and scooted a bit closer to him on the couch.
“However, I wouldn’t have you any other way, Donald. I’m so sorry for not expressing it enough, but I need you. I love you, more than anything in this world. I loved Della just the same. We both needed you…” Scrooge sobbed. He had given up on his handkerchief and was now wiping his nose and eyes on his coat sleeve, as a stunned Donald tried to take in what had been said to him.
“You...need me?” Donald questioned his uncle, as tears began to form in his own eyes.
“Without a doubt. Della and I were always concerned about the next adventure, about where we were going, but you...you made us feel at home. You grounded your sister and I, and you deserve so much more love than I showed you.” Scrooge continued, his face and the front of his coat now completely tear-stained. He figured now was as good a time as any, and he reached out his arms for Donald. He had hoped for a modest reciprocation. He figured, that was the best he was going to get.
Donald lunged at his uncle as soon as he saw him open his arms, locking himself in a loving embrace with Scrooge, one that he was simultaneously familiar with, and in need of. Both nephew and uncle assumed the other was going to break the hug, but neither one did. The two of them sat there, as Donald and Scrooge cried together, for all the lost time with each other, the boys, and for Della. The releasing of emotions was definitely necessary for them both.
“I forgive you, uncle. I’m sorry for pushing you away, for keeping the kids from you. I know how much you loved Della...it wasn’t your fault for what happened.” Donald choked out through his tears. He felt somehow much better, for getting this off of his chest, yet also much worse, realizing what his actions had done to his uncle. Isolating Scrooge from his family, when Donald didn’t recognize at the time that Scrooge may have been in even more emotional pain that he was. After all, the guilt of Della’s disappearance rested squarely on Scrooge, between the two of them.
“I love you, Donald. I always have.” Scrooge said as he calmly stroked Donald’s hair.
“I love you too, Uncle Scrooge”, Donald replied as he squeezed his father figure even tighter, seeking comfort as he did when he was a child. It was a familiar, wonderful feeling to be in Scrooge’s arms once again.
Eventually, both men had expended all their tears, and slowly undid their embrace and softly smiled at each other.
“Thank you...I needed that. I haven’t really been able to express anything like that since...well, for a while.”, Donald said as he wiped his eyes.
“As did I, lad.” Scrooge agreed as they both stood up, Donald stretching his spine with a series of satisfying cracks following.
“That was exhausting, want to get something to eat?”, Donald chuckled. Crying really takes a lot out of you.
“Aye, sounds perfect.” Scrooge replied, and the two headed into the kitchen for a snack. Scrooge started to brew a pot of tea, and Donald began peering into the pantry for anything to eat. He had decided on some simple peanut butter sandwiches, when a thought from the previous conversation invaded his calm mind and his chaotic maelstrom of a thought process started up again.
“Uncle Scrooge, aren’t you doing the same thing with the boys that you did with me? Bringing them along for adventures constantly?”, Donald asked, concerned for his nephews but trying not to accuse Scrooge of anything. They did just begin a healing process between each other, after all.
“I had a feeling you were going to ask that.” Scrooge replied as he poured himself and Donald tea, and sat down next to him.
“Those lads did for me what I tried to do with you. They thrived on adventure before they ever met me...they had it in ‘em their whole lives, that McDuck spirit. They really are Della’s kids. Louie’s really the only one who stopped being interested so far, but he got back into it once he found his talent.”, Scrooge reassured Donald, as he put his hand on his shoulder.
“Okay...but I never want those kids to feel like I did. Any of them. If they’re going to keep going on adventures with you, I need to be able to trust you. There’s nothing worse than being with people who don’t seem to want you there...especially people you love.” Donald responded, sipping his tea. Nutmeg with a drop of milk, his uncle’s favorite.
“I’ll never make that mistake again. You have my word, Donald.” Scrooge said as he gave his nephew’s shoulder a light squeeze.
Donald, for the first time in a while, felt like maybe things could return to the way they were before his sister disappeared. That this was the start of a new phase in both his and Scrooge’s lives. For the first time in a while, he trusted his uncle. It would take some time to fully trust him again, but it was starting off on the right foot.
“I know.” Donald replied, finally confident in his answer.