The drive up to the orphanage would have been a quiet one, but Drake had… unique coping mechanisms for stress.
That coping mechanism, right now, was screaming the lyrics to every Darkwing Duck related song ever released and pounding his fists against his legs. He knew his throat would be scratchy and sore by the time they got there, but really, that was a small price to pay considering this was the last line of defense he had against the panic that was rising in the back of his throat.
“Oh, jeez, Launchpad. Launchpad,” he flapped his hands, listening to the sounds of the car humming beneath them as the next song loaded.
Launchpad took one hand off of the wheel, holding it out for Drake to quickly grab, squeezing like he was scared he might float away. “Breathe, DW, you’re gonna be okay. We’ve almost there!”
“I know, I just… What if I don’t get approved? What if they take one look at me and decide I’m unfit to be a parent? What if-”
“What if it doesn’t? What if we get there and they go,” Launchpad put on a silly voice, “‘Well, gee, mister Mallard, we know it’s a bit sudden, but you’re the most amazing father ever, you’ve got this!’ And they let you take her home right then and there?”
Drake scoffed. “That’s hardly realistic...”
Launchpad traced his thumb over Drake’s knuckles and Drake found he couldn’t object any more, all the stress leaving his mind with the simple action.
“It’s about as likely as you being seen as an unfit parent. I watched you get hurt over and over protecting her. Even if they don’t know it, if they try to say you can’t adopt her, they’re going to have me to deal with.”
Drake felt his heart melt a little. He looked up at Launchpad, their eyes meeting and putting the rest of the world on hold. “Thank-”
They slammed into and up over a curb as the next song started, Launchpad tearing his eyes away from Drake’s as he swerved back onto the street, cars all around them honking furiously. “RIGHT. DRIVING. GOT DISTRACTED.”
They pulled into the agency building, and Drake found he felt a lot safer realizing Launchpad still had his hand wrapped around Drake’s. He only let go to change gears after they parked.
Launchpad left the car running, letting the song that was playing finish while Drake sang along before turning the keys and letting the silence seep in.
Drake’s breathing was louder than usual, fast paced and panicked. Launchpad got out of the car, running around to the other side and opening Drake’s door for him. He braced himself on the top part of the door. “You okay?”
Drake nodded, still buckled in, gripping the sides of the seat. “Yup. I’m fine. Physically, emotionally, spiritually, I am completely and perfectly fine!”
“Really? Cuz, you’re rambling like you do when you panic.”
“I didn’t notice! Thank you for pointing that out, Launchpad.”
Launchpad just looked at him for a moment before reaching his hand slowly towards Drake. “Hey,” he spoke, cupping Drake’s face in his palm, turning him so they made eye contact. Drake was biting down hard on the inside of his cheek, and he shut his eyes the moment they met Launchpad’s. “Can you try to take slow breaths for me?”
( I could do anything for you , the voice in his head provided.)
Drake gave a quick nod, focusing on not gulping down air. Launchpad brushed his hair back into place and his breath hitched, Drake finally letting himself lean into the touch.
“Y’know why I’m so sure you can do this?”
Drake didn’t let himself open his eyes. Not yet. He could tell Launchpad was giving him that same look from that day back when they had first met, all honest and raw. The look that said you could do this for real , when it felt like nobody else believed that.
“‘Cuz I’m Darkwing Duck, and I always get back up?” he said with a sound that was half hysteric giggling and half of a sob.
Launchpad’s hand came to rest on his shoulder, anchoring him back down. “Nah.”
His answer prompted Drake to open his eyes in confusion.
“I know you can do this, because you’re Drake Mallard, and you can do anything.”
And in that moment, Drake almost believed him. But in the back of his mind, there was a voice that hissed, anything except admit the massive crush I have on you , which he ignored with a grin as he unbuckled his seatbelt and reached up to hug Launchpad close, taking in a breath so big his lungs ached.
“And anything you can’t do, I’ll do. We’re a team.”
Drake felt love well in his chest like honey in a teacup, dangerously close to overflowing.
“Okay. Let’s do this. Do I look good?”
Launchpad nodded. “You always look great, DW! Now let’s go before we’re late!”
The interior of the building was decorated in a way that felt sinister, just below the surface. The dozens of parenting books lining the shelf on the back wall seemed to exist only to mock him, like he was looking through the window at the electric chair on death row. Drake had, quite frankly been in more inviting looking evil lairs. He laughed at that, but there was no humor in the sound. He leaned over to Launchpad, whispering to him.
“I feel like I’m about to walk into a trap.”
Launchpad let Drake grab his hand again, leaning to rest his head on top of Drakes. “I’ll go in first. That way if it’s a trap, I’ll spring it, and you can have my back.”
“Nooo… Taking the first hit is my job. Now I have to go in first, you dummy.”
“Well, I’ll always have your back, no matter what.”
“Shhhhhhut up ,” Drake smiled, closing his eyes. “You’re the best friend-slash-sidekick a guy could ask for.”
Launchpad let out a flustered laugh just as the door opened.
Drake jumped up, shaking his hands out. “Okay. Okay. Let’s do this. We can do this, right?”
“I’m a professional, I-... Launchpad,” he stuck his hand out and Launchpad instinctively took it, lacing their fingers together.
“I’ve got your back,” he grinned, squeezing their hands together. Drake led him through the door, careful, looking both ways just in case it was a trap.
Of course, it wasn’t a trap. Just a room with a desk, and a tired looking lady with a smile sitting behind it.
They got their introductions out of the way, Launchpad sitting down next to Drake after each of them shook her hand.
“Mr. Mallard, I’m going to be honest. Your background check went through fine, and Gosalyn… We don’t think she’ll let anyone else adopt her, really. But…”
Launchpad felt Drake’s hand constrict around his own. “But…?”
“See,” she clicked her pen. “When someone’s considered as a potential parent for a child… it’s customary that that person is married, preferably with some experience raising a child in the past. You marked on our forms that you would be a single parent, which… is going to make things very significantly harder for you, Mr. Mallard. That combined with your rather spotty income sources… Your chances of being able to adopt Gosalyn aren’t looking great.”
Launchpad turned to look at Drake.
Launchpad had seen a lot of people hurting in his life, but looking back, he had never seen someone look that heartbroken.
Maybe he should have stopped to consider his words before he said them. He was no good at lying or acting, but for Drake, he’d try his hand at it.
“Aw, rats, baaaaaabe …?” The word felt strange in his mouth, but he said it still. “Guess Gos won’t be able to come to the wedding after all.”
Launchpad squeezed Drake’s hand again, nodding at him, praying he got the message to play along.
“Yeah, uh, Drake and I… We’re engaaaaaged! Heh...”
Drake just blinked for a moment, looking up at Launchpad, who was giving him his best please catch on look. Drake’s improv instinct kicked in and he nodded.
“Yep! Engaged. We wanted it to be a surprise for Gosalyn, the little angel… Having two dads, and all.” He took his other hand and turned to look at Launchpad, even as he continued talking to the agent.
“She was gonna be the ring bearer!” Launchpad blurted, looking just as heartbroken as Drake.
“We-” Drake sniffled, internally wondering how far Launchpad wanted to go with this. “We wanted to finalize the adoption papers at the same time as we finalized the wedding. Make us an official family all at once, even if they’ve… always been family to me.”
Drake has this look on his face as he snuggled closer to Launchpad, laying on the lovestruck vibes a tad bit thick. Not that Launchpad was complaining.
“Well… I suppose…”
Drake and Launchpad leaned forward, still hand in hand.
“...if you could arrange for the wedding to be sooner, and I know you wanted to wait until the adoption is finalized, but this really does have to be done first, you understand. But we could allow Gosalyn to attend the wedding with you before you officially adopt her. Of course, she'd have to have an escort from social services, but we could make it happen, if you're willing to work with us.”
Until the adoption is finalized , sounded so sure. Like it was inevitable.
“So, we get married, come back, and the adoption process starts?”
“Well, we would need to run a background check on Launchpad, verify that he has a stable income… What is it you do for a living?”
Drake puffed his chest out in pride. “He is the personal chauffeur for the richest duck in the world , as a matter of fact!”
“And I’m a pilot!”
“ And he’s a pilot! A man of many trades, my darling fiance is...” Drake sighed, leaning up against him and kissing the back of his hand, looking up at him through his eyelashes.
(Launchpad really hadn’t thought this through, the tiny action making his stomach flutter and his train of thought crash and his whole face burn.)
The agent nodded, making some notes. “Alright! I’ll give you both a call with a list of information I’ll need from Launchpad, and once his background check goes through you can start on regular visitations with Gosalyn until the home study appointment. I assume you’ll be moving in together?”
They both nodded, she handed them some papers, they all shook hands again, and the next thing either of them knew they were sitting back in the car in silence, just like where they had started.
“...We did it,” Drake breathed. “We did it , Launchpad.”
Launchpad turned to look at him, a giddy smile growing across both of their faces. “We did! I was there!”
“I’m gonna be a dad! I’m actually adopting Gosalyn! It’s happening!”
“I know, DW!”
Drake slid back in the seat, tugging on his hair with one hand and flapping his other. He froze and turned sharply to Launchpad.
“I- you’re so smart. You’re the smartest person I know.”
“That whole marriage thing! You’re a genius, you’re amazing! We wouldn’t have gotten here if it weren’t for you!”
Drake crawled over the glove compartment and hugged Launchpad like it was the last thing he ever wanted to do. Launchpad hugged him back, unintentionally pulling Drake into his lap.
They stayed like that for a while, holding on tightly to each other, basking in the security of it all. Then Drake looked up with a snicker that quickly dissolved into full laughing.
Launchpad tilted his head. “What’s so funny?”
Drake looked at him, leaning back against the steering wheel.
“Just… most people go on a date before getting married.”
Launchpad laughed, scratching the back of his neck. “Right! Right. I know a guy who knows a guy. We don’t… Have to actually get married, I can get us a fake marriage certificate.”
“Oh!” Drake blinked. “Right. Yeah. That’s… I didn’t think we were actually going to get married or anything crazy like that! It’s good that you have a plan that isn't just us getting married, because I knew you would have one. Yep.”
All at once, they both realized how close they were, practically on top of each other, and Drake rolled backwards into the passenger seat but not before slamming the back of his head against the car door with a loud thud .
“ANYWAY! Let’s stop at the grocery store and get some ice cream, it’s really hot outside, we should get some ice cream because it’s really hot out.”
“I thought it was kinda chilly today,” Launchpad pointed out. Drake shrugged.
"Oh well! Best not to dwell on it."
They drove off, the radio connecting back to Drake's phone as the same playlist restarted.
He looked at Launchpad as they drove. Well, more admired, less looked at.
He wasn't really sure when he had developed feelings for his partner in crime, but they were little more than just... annoying. Until now. When he had to get married to him.
It wasn't like it would be hard to fake being in love with Launchpad, it was harder to fake not being in love with him. But... Faking faking being in love with him? That was going to take some work. All of this was going to take so much work, and he knew it would all be worth it for Gosalyn, but still.
They already lived, worked, and did pretty much everything together. What's a little marriage between friends? Just friends.
OKAY, so maybe Launchpad had been sitting there thinking about how much he loved Drake and the agent had said the word married and sent his brain down a rabbit hole that ended with the both of them kissing at a very cool Darkwing Duck themed wedding. What was it, the third time this week? Launchpad was allowed to think about whatever he wanted in the privacy of his own mind! It's no big deal.
Well. Now it was a big deal, actually, because they were-
"Launchpad, focus on the road!"
He swerved back into his own lane, adjusting his grip on the steering wheel.
Drake cleared his throat.
"If we don't have to actually get married, why did we tell her we were going to have Gos be part of the wedding that we're not supposed to have?"
"...I know a guy that can throw us a real fake wedding in the next week?"
"I'm in but- Launchpad PLEASE don't crash until we get home."
(They were getting married.)
Like, for real. What a twist!