In the year since Scrooge McDuck reconnected with Donald after a decade of silence, the relationship between the two had started to mend, but it was a slow process. For the first six months, progress was especially slow, as Donald had ostracized himself from the rest of the family in favor of living in his houseboat, “docked” in Scrooge’s swimming pool out of a desire for independence, not having to adhere to Beakley’s near-oppressive house rules. At least, that’s what he told everyone. Not that it was particularly untrue, but it certainly was not the whole truth. Donald couldn’t just go back and live in the mansion like his nephews could; he had history there. He had history with Scrooge, and he had spent so much time in that ten-year period pushing the happy memories of his uncle out of his mind, that he didn’t know if he would be able to handle it should he live in the mansion for an extended period. He imagined his mind tearing in all directions, overwhelmed and conflicted with remembering pleasant times from his childhood, yet also having to face the truth about Della.
Over these six months, without having to worry about the nephews, working to make money, buying food, or much of anything at all, Donald had a lot of time to think. He had long conversations with himself about Scrooge’s role in Della’s disappearance. When it had first happened, he had blamed his uncle, of course. Why not? It seemed simple; Della disappeared in space thanks to the Spear of Selene. Scrooge built the Spear of Selene. Donald, although he never prided himself on his induction abilities, understood this to be true. But he began to suspect he had over-simplified the issue. After a while of deliberation, Donald finally felt ready to forgive his uncle, accept the incident, and move on, but in a cruel twist of fate, his nephews found out about the Spear of Selene incident, and had been placed into the same situation Donald found himself in a decade prior. It only made him steadier in his conviction, and through showing his nephews how his views had changed, he was committed to make sure their family would never be apart again.
A few more months later, Donald and Scrooge have begun to heal their relationship much faster, now that Della’s name was no longer forbidden to speak in the household. However, it wasn’t quite the same as it was before the Spear of Selene; Scrooge seemed to have lost that paternal instinct he fiercely exhibited when Donald and Della were in his care, and while he was better in that regard now that the Spear of Selene had been processed a bit better by everyone, Donald couldn’t help but miss how it used to be; he missed Scrooge’s more affectionate side. Not that he’d bring it up, as he was sure Scrooge wouldn’t let him hear the end of it if he asked for a hug, but a duck could dream, couldn’t he? Donald would continue to dream of such things, even up to the present moment, where he was on a phone call with the uncle in question.
“Do not forget to buy rope, Donald! I do not want to have to scale a fifty-foot vertical wall if we fall down that pit!” Scrooge asked as Donald rolled his eyes a little bit. It was nothing new, since he’d been going on adventures with his nephews and Scrooge he’d usually be the one to pick up supplies while Scrooge was off in meetings and the triplets were at school.
“Oh, sorry, I thought you were Scrooge McDuck, and could do anything!” Donald sarcastically retorted. He loved pushing his uncle’s buttons.
“Very funny, lad, just buy the rope please! I don’t have time to get it today.” Scrooge pleaded, as Donald tried his best to stifle a giggle.
“Okay, okay! I will, I’m leaving for the store in a half-hour.” Donald responded. He didn’t want to piss Scrooge off too much.
The second Scrooge ceased his vocalization, a thick silence permeated the call. Donald wasn’t sure how to respond, but he thought Scrooge was going to say something, so he remained quiet. Uneased by the way the lack of communication was continuing, Donald tried to do something about it.
“…Uncle Scrooge?” He said inquisitively into the receiver. He could hardly believe the response he got.
“…I love you” Scrooge said quietly, like he was afraid he’d wake someone up.
Donald was flabbergasted. His uncle had immediately hung up.
“What a strange way to end a call…I wonder if he’s okay” Donald pondered as he got ready to go out and get supplies for the following day’s adventure. The family had made a sort of habit about going out and exploring on Saturday’s, whether it was on the other side of the globe or a few towns over. The emphasis was more on spending time with each other anyways. As Donald went through the highly detailed shopping checklist Huey had made though, he couldn’t get the odd way his uncle ended their phone call out of his mind. On one hand, it was lovely to hear such words from Scrooge, but on the other, it was so out-of-character for the Scrooge he’d been reintroduced to. A part of his mind shamefully jumped to the extreme conclusion of his uncle being in mortal danger, possibly believing that to be his last conversation with his nephew. He wasn’t sure what else could explain it. It nagged at his mind for hours of agony, but eventually Scrooge returned home and was helping to prepare for the following day’s adventure. He was in his office looking for something, and the kids were preparing snacks with Beakley in the kitchen; Donald had found his chance. As Donald approached the door, he found his heart was pounding. Why? This was Uncle Scrooge! He’d known this man all his life, he could ask him a simple question! But…why was he so afraid of what the answer could be? After a good few seconds of standing in front of the closed door, hearing the footfalls of his uncle within, he knocked. A moment later, Scrooge was standing face-to-face with Donald. It was like he had skipped past the door opening; his mind was far too occupied speculating on what that phone call was all about.
“Donald, my boy! Come in, do you need something?” Scrooge invited Donald into the office, somewhat certain he knew what his nephew was after. To keep up appearances, he continued to search for whatever he had been trying to find in that room. Donald entered and, after a few seconds, spoke his mind.
“What was with that phone call today?” Donald asked, knowing he didn’t need to elaborate further. His uncle would know exactly what he was referring to. At this question, Scrooge stopped in his tracks and turned to face nephew. Donald had a hard time reading his expression, but the first word that came to mind was “bittersweet”.
“I’m going to be straight with you. I miss how…affectionate we used to be” Scrooge said, remaining planted in place, smiling with his mouth, but not with his eyes, giving it a forced quality Donald always hated to see.
“When I first met the boys, I got angry when they treated me like some old has-been, but unfortunately that’s partially accurate. I am very old.” Scrooge chuckled sadly. “No one knows when…their time is up. I sure hope mine is before any of yours, but that day I realized I can’t keep myself down anymore. I need to let the people I love know how I feel!” Scrooge continued as he started to tear up. “The worst thing would be for me to die, and for any of you to wonder if I loved you…to be unsure. That is torture. On all of you.” Scrooge said gravely. Donald was completely floored. He had expected a little bit of a deep conversation, but nothing this heavy.
“Well I also read somewhere that people are happier the more affection they give and receive! It’s science!” Donald said with a wink, trying to lighten the mood. Thankfully, it seemed to work, as his uncle perked up.
“Och, look at you! Already doing your research.” Scrooge said with a smile as he approached Donald. “From now on, I’m going to try to be as affectionate as I possibly can. Unfortunately, with you both…gone, I wasn’t affectionate towards anyone for a while, so please bear with me nephew.” Scrooge requested as he tenderly wrapped his arms around Donald, who was eager to return the embrace.
“I will Uncle, I love you.” Donald said warmly. It felt good to have this back.
“I love you too, lad.” Scrooge replied as he turned and gave Donald a kiss on the cheek. It had been a while since he did that, or anything similar for that matter. It was like a trust fall to Scrooge. He had been extremely anxious his nephew would reject his attempts to be affectionate; it would have crushed his spirit. Scrooge was sorry, tremendously so, for even debatably being responsible for the dissolution of his relationship with his nephew, and he had been worrying, ever since Donald reappeared in his life, that his love was doubted. That his love was even doubt-able. That his love for his family, the instinct that would enable Scrooge to give his life for any of them without a second thought, wouldn’t be shown to the people he cared about the most.
“I promise, you’ll never doubt my love for you.” Scrooge said quietly as he slowly pulled away from his nephew’s affectionate embrace. “No one in this family will, ever again.”