Who Says You Can't Go Home - Chapter 7
Darkwing Duck (90s series) fanfiction
Sequel to my recent fanfic The Other Side of Me
Summary: Down on his luck, the Negaverse Launchpad crashes at Launchpad’s parents looking for help. Launchpad, who has avoided visiting his family since he started working with Darkwing, returns in a panic to ensure his double isn’t causing trouble. And then it gets awkward.
Launchpad pulled up outside his derelict little shack. He left the Gator’s headlights on. The horizon was stained pink, but the colour was draining fast. “Negaduck, I’m here! I’ve got your answer… you bastard.”
“About time. I was getting bored.” Negaduck stood just around the corner of the shack, with his motorbike. The door to the shack was open; he’d been passing time checking out what was inside. Suddenly, Launchpad didn’t feel comfortable about his decision to stash flammable material on the McQuack’s property. “So, old buddy, what’s it going to be?” Negaduck reached into the holster on his motorbike and pulled out his chainsaw. He patted its side. “The old girl is primed and ready to go. She’s been itching for a little action.”
That damned chainsaw. He should have grabbed a better weapon from the McQuack’s hanger but it would only have made Loopey suspicious. Okay. The chainsaw. That was the dangerous part. Negaduck… Negaduck was smaller than him. Always had been. It was only because he’d been scared of what Negaduck was capable of that he’d let him rough him up, right?
“Tell me, old pal. Is she going to get to hack up Darkwing Duck? Or are you going to force me to cause some property damage, and maybe carve up any unfortunates foolish enough to get in my way?”
Launchpad slowly, carefully, lifted the crowbar from the Gator’s tray and tapped it on his open palm. “I’ve had to put up with Darkwing Duck whining and snapping at me for hurting his little brat all day. Let me smash in his skull. He’ll be much easy for you to carve up with a head injury.”
Negaduck’s teeth glinted in the Gator’s headlights. He threw his head back and laughed. “Launchpad, you’re back! Oh, to think I was happy to be rid of you. I forgot how much I missed watching you rage out on my lesser enemies. Sure, take a swing at Darkwing Duck. As long as you let me finish him off.” He turned his back to Launchpad and hefted his chainsaw back into its holster.
The terrible thing, Launchpad thought, as he swung the crowbar at the back of Negaduck’s head, was that those times running around their Saint Canard, causing havoc, even though some of the things they’d done now made him sick to the stomach, they’d actually enjoyed hanging out together.
The crowbar slammed into the side of Negaduck’s motorcycle. Negaduck darted back up and circled him. Crap. Launchpad put himself between Negaduck and the chainsaw. But, crap. He’d lost his advantage.
Just out of range, Negaduck chuckled. “You son of a bitch. You actually tried to trick me. That’s… so stupid.”
Launchpad gulped deep breaths, for the first time in months trying to coax out the rage, instead of crush it into silence. “I’m not… I’m not afraid of you anymore!” He yelled, and swung the crowbar.
Again, Negaduck swiftly dodged the attack. “Oh, you’re not scared? Please. You know me too well, you’ve seen me do too much. You know exactly what there is to fear. But if this is the way you want it - then come on! Fight me, you stupid lug!”
Launchpad swung wildly and the crowbar slammed into the dirt where Negaduck had stood a second before. “I’m not going to let you hurt the McQuacks!” Even against Negaduck, even with his not quite family at stake, it wasn’t as easy to let loose his darker side as it once had been. He needed it now! But all he wanted was to land a decent hit so this would be over.
Negaduck’s brows lowered. “You’re going to pay for this. And its going to hurt, buddy.”
Launchpad gathered everything he had inside him, and let it loose with a roar. The crowbar swung within inches of Negaduck’s chest, and tore right through the very corner of the shack. Launchpad stumbled under the momentum. Then Negaduck was on his back, hands around his neck, fingers digging into his throat. Launchpad swiped the crowbar behind him, but it clattered to the ground as he reached the limit of his reach. He grabbed Negaduck’s hands, trying to get his big fingers around Negaduck’s.
Negaduck’s warm breath huffed in his ear as his vision blackened. “Oh, yeah. I know just how to make this hurt.”
Launchpad gasped as something bit into his throat. It all but constricted his airway; he couldn’t breathe.
“Stand up properly, you idiot.”
In his dazed state, on instinct, Launchpad did as his boss instructed. The pressure on his throat lessened to a painful tightness and he gulped in a lungful of air. Launchpad opened one eye. The kerosene lamp he’d strung up was lit, throwing the dingy interior of his shack in shifting shadows. Dust drifted down from the ceiling and the roof creaked as he shifted his weight. His hands were bound tightly behind his back. A rope reached up above his head, taut, and tied off around the single support beam. Launchpad didn’t need to see where the other end was to know it was looped in a noose around his neck. He squeezed his eyes shut. “Aw, shit.”
“You remember this, don’t you? You actually came up with this one. Even though you screwed it up the first time. Hah. Do you remember? You strung this guy up by the neck; made him stand on a crate. Told him you’d let him swing if he didn’t give you the information you wanted, then left him to stew. Well, he stewed alright. And he decided he’d make sure he never gave up that information, and here the guy torturing had given him such any easy way out. You came back and he had choked. And I walked in on you laughing because the idiot killed himself.” Negaduck shook his head. “Can’t believe I got angry with you over that. I may not have got the information I needed, but this… it needed a bit of work, but actually a rare flash of brilliance. Really stops them from squirming when you get around to carving them up, huh?”
Launchpad gulped. “What are you going to do to me?” There was plenty in this shack Negaduck could use. Plus the crowbar, Negaduck’s chainsaw, and even the battery in the Gator… and Negaduck was a lot more creative than he was. But as he started to sweat, Launchpad felt some of the tension leave him. Whatever Negaduck did to him, it wouldn’t be quick. Which meant he wouldn’t be taking that chainsaw over to the McQuacks. Gosalyn would eventually crack and tell her dad what was going on. It may not do him much good, but it would certainly give Darkwing the chance to protect everyone else.
In the light of the kerosene lamp, Negaduck grinned. “Oh no, old buddy. I don’t think something like that is going to work with you anymore, even though I always did go easy on you. No, you’ve gone too soft. And if there was one thing my good for nothing daughter taught me, it was the best way to hurt someone soft, is to hurt someone they care about.”
No. Launchpad felt a lump rise to his throat, pushing against the course rope, and tears filled his eyes. “Negaduck, you can do whatever you want to me, I won’t stop you, but leave the McQuack’s out of this.”
Negaduck snorted. “I’ve always been able to do whatever I wanted to you, and I certainly didn’t need your permission. Oh, what happened to you, old pal? You were the most frustrating, stupid minion, but damn, were you useful. And fun. What happened to the guy who’d cackle at smashing kneecaps with me?”
“I don’t want to be that guy anymore.” The tears spilled over Launchpad’s cheeks. He couldn’t hold them in, or wipe them away, and he’d never, ever, let Negaduck see him break down before.
“Oh, please. You were trying to smash my skull in moments before. And you would’ve enjoyed it. I get it, you had a nice little fantasy going on over here, but now its over. What did you do, tell them how mean I was to you? I bet you left out how much you enjoyed stringing people up like this and burning everything they loved. You’ve done a lot worse than I’ve ever done to you.”
“I’m not that guy anymore! I don’t want to be! If Launchpad and his ridiculously understanding family can, can just be so damn caring, then, then I can…”
“What you’re going to do is get that whole family killed. You crossed me, Launchpad. So now? I’m not just going after whoever gets in my way. I’m going to hunt those ducks down and hack them to pieces. It doesn’t matter what you choose to be, this is on you.”
“Negaduck don’t, I’ll do anything.”
“Oh, no. I gave you that chance already and you swung a crowbar at my head. You think I’m going to cut you down so you can do it again? No, buddy. I’m giving you a different choice. Believe it or not, I can still use you. Once all this silly happy family stuff is taken care of, maybe you’ll see things differently.” Negaduck booted over another crate, then stepped up on it to reach Launchpad’s height.
“Please don’t hurt them.” Launchpad choked over as sob as, almost gently, Negaduck brushed the tears from his cheek.
Negaduck tapped the crate beneath Launchpad’s with a foot, and not only made the crate creak but the whole shack too. “This things pretty flimsy. So don’t shuffle around too much. Or… do. You can sit here all night and have a good think about what I’m doing over in that house. If it gets too much, well, I’ve given you enough rope. But I’ll come back for you when I’m done, take you back home. Might still have to teach you a lesson or two before I can trust you again, but I’m sure we can work something out.”
Negaduck scooped up one of the containers of petrol. He shook his head, a grin splitting his face. “Oh, buddy. Just… hang in there.” He cackled as the door slammed behind him.
Moments later, a whoosh of flame when up outside. Negaduck’s motorcycle started up and tore away. Outside, the flames grew brighter, then the unfortunate Gator let out a bang and the whole shack shook. The kerosene lamp swung, dropped to the floor and smashed, then went out. The shack settled. The only light was the dying flames licking outside.
“No, no, no…” Launchpad stared up at the dark roof of the shack. The crate beneath him creaked, and he forced himself to still every bit energy in him that just want to lash out and tear everything apart. Negaduck was going to hurt the McQuacks. He couldn’t help. If he moved; he’d kill himself. So instead, Launchpad stood rigid with eyes squeezed tightly shut as tears streamed down his face.
“Drake Mallard is the king of board games! What’ve you got? Some strategy ought to properly showcase my talents.”
Birdie smirked as she dug through the cupboard and added another box to the stack in Drake’s arms.
“Of course, Gosalyn is the queen, so…” Drake winced. “Maybe she won’t be on top of her game tonight.”
Birdie fished out a roll of duct tape, frowned, and then put it on top of Drake’s pile. The stuff was everywhere in the McQuack’s house - the perfect repair material. Many of the board game boxes had their edges patched up with it. “I thought the whole idea was to keep her up a little longer? Not take advantage of the fact she took a bump to the head.”
“I’m not…” Drake rolled his eyes. “She’s nine. It’s embarrassing, alright?” He frowned at the topmost box. “Snakes and ladders?
“We’ve got Monopoly.”
“Not exactly the kind of strategy I was thinking of.”
“We mostly had games Launchpad could keep up with. Which, surprisingly, and I guess after working for Mr McDuck, seems to include Monopoly.”
Birdie wondered how Ripcord was going out there, talking to Launchpad. At least this time she knew his reluctance to communicate with his son had been a combination of Launchpad not being old enough, then leaving home, then… life just getting in the way. It’d be hard on her husband, but she knew he could work through it. Ripcord was nowhere near the dark place he’d been when he’d gone into his spiral working out how his plane’s engine had failed.
All those years ago, hauling him away from his maintenance manuals and strapping him into that plane had been a last ditch effort to save their marriage and get him to reconnect with his kids. Birdie had felt terrible. She could feel her husband trembling when she’d strapped Launchpad into his lap, felt him trying to catch her eye, and she’d focused on her son because if she’d actually seen Ripcord silently questioning why she was doing this to him, she couldn’t have gone through with it. Going up in a plane with Launchpad was something he couldn’t, at that point in time, physically do by himself. It was every bloody thing else he’d been carrying on with she’d needed to stop. And doing this to him would either snap him out of it or cause him to completely break. She’d just kept telling herself that he, deep down inside, wanted her help. If he hadn’t, there would’ve been no way she could have physically dragged him out there.
Surprisingly, it had worked. Ripcord had been white as a sheet when she helped him out of the plane, but then he’d sat down and played with Launchpad as he’d gone on and on without a breath about how much fun it had been. When he’d asked if his dad would come up with them again, Ripcord had said yes. And that night, when she and Ripcord lay in each others arms for the first time in months, he’d apologised to her, and promised he’d do better. And he had.
But Launchpad wouldn’t let his father blame himself. Birdie just didn’t know how the knowledge would hurt him, how he would react, or if it was even the best option to tell him. They’d never figured out if the crash and subsequent month in hospital had done any permanent damage. As far as Birdie was concerned, it didn’t matter. But Launchpad was an adult now, he had a right to know, and to figure out what that all meant for himself. She just hoped the knowledge wouldn’t confuse him, or cause him to question himself too much. She just wanted them to come back, so she could talk to her son, Ripcord too, and make sure they were all right.
But for now, board games would be a welcome distraction. Along with the other thing she had on her mind. She was certain now that Drake and Launchpad were not romantically involved with each other. Which left Birdie with only one other theory as to what her son and Drake Mallard were up to, and why they’d been so secretive.
The other Launchpad had told them their son worked for Darkwing Duck. Heck, Ripcord was probably talking to him about that as well. They were both going to have a heavy night. And that led to Birdie’s second theory. What if Launchpad wasn’t only helping Drake with his daughter and upkeep of his house? Now, if Drake was secretly Darkwing Duck… Launchpad was so involved with the family, it made sense. Besides, Drake was about the right stature too.
Drake peered around his stack of boxes. “Do you have cards?”
“Oh! Yes!” Birdie pulled out four packs and slammed them on top of the stack.
“Okay, you do. That’s a lot of cards.”
“I’ve got the perfect game; it needs more than one pack. But, so you like strategy? I guess a man like yourself likes to keep an active mind?”
“Yep yep yep, got to keep on top of my game.”
“What is it you do for work again?”
“Er…” Drake hid behind the stack of board games. “These are getting pretty heavy. I’ll take them to the living room before I drop something.”
Birdie was fairly certain he was blushing. Rip would have her head for teasing him like this. “Come on. With Loopey back from the hanger, four people will make this game the perfect amount of hectic.”
Drake honestly quite liked Birdie. She’d been helpful with Gos, and she understood how he could be equally parts concerned over and frustrated with taking care of his daughter. He’d been stuck watching both her and her childish cartoons, and it was good to have another adult to talk to. The Negaverse Launchpad didn’t count. He’d seemed on edge, and just wanted to hang around Gosalyn. Birdie had convinced him it was just because he felt bad. Stranger still, Gosalyn suddenly seemed to like him, and that meant Drake hadn’t had to entertain her for the whole day. It had been amusing watching Gosalyn bully the burlier version of Launchpad into getting her snacks. Until he’d caught on she was taking advantage of him. So the next time she’d asked him for something, he’d quietly gone and got a positively gigantic bowl of chips, then sat next to her and eaten the entire thing. So, not exactly like his Launchpad.
Birdie was easy to talk to. Most of the time. But then there were her random, absolutely unexpected and awkward questions she’d suddenly, out of the blue, ask him. He’d caught on she was doing it, but heck, he could not see them coming.
But cards were safe; it made it easier to avoid those questions. The Negaverse Launchpad had wandered off, which was possibly good, because Drake wasn’t sure how aggressive he’d get if he got competitive. And the card game Birdie quickly taught them was just a little bit violent.
The game was like solitaire, except everyone played onto the same stacks of cards in the middle of the table and everyone had their own, complete, deck of cards. Which meant you had to fight to get your cards onto the table before someone beat you to it. Birdie and Loopey had practically slapped each others hands on more than one occasion in their rush to beat the other to play the same card. Once you emptied your pile you yelled “Hell!”, apparently the louder the better, which usually resulted in everyone else pelting their remaining cards at you. And that made it extra fun when you had to sort out four separate decks for the next round.
Gosalyn should have loved it. Drake fully expected her to ‘accidentally’ slap him. But she kept climbing up on the couch and looking out the window. At least she wasn’t drowsy, or he would’ve started to worry about the bump she’d taken. But still.
“Gos, you’ve got like three cards you can play,” he tried.
Loopey slammed a card down onto the table.
“Make that two.”
Gosalyn played only one of the two cards, then shuffled slowly through the deck in her hands. Something was going on. Drake needed to talk to his daughter. But ‘hell’ was not the most conducive card game for having a proper conversation.
“Hell!” shouted Birdie, in accompaniment to her last card slamming down.
“Damn!” Loopey flung her remaining hand into the mess. She slumped back into the couch, arms folded, and huffed.
The sky outside lit up, and not quite a second later the bang of an explosion hit the house. The windows shook and rattled. Gosalyn leapt up on the couch. “Oh, no, Launchpad.” Drake was certain she did not mean his sidekick.
Birdie stood up. “Oh, no. What’s he gone and done?”
“What the heck was that?” said Loopey.
“Launchpad… not your brother… I knew we shouldn’t let him play with all that flammable stuff. But he needed to vent, I thought he knew what he was doing…”
Drake shot to his feet. “You’re telling me he has explosives out there? Gosalyn was out there with him. You told me he was safe!”
“He doesn’t have explosives.” Birdie gulped. “That we know of…”
Gosalyn grabbed Drake’s hand. “Dad, you can go check on him, right?”
Drake looked into his daughter’s wide eyes. This wasn’t just the Negaverse Launchpad’s pyromaniac streak acting up. Something else was going on, and Gosalyn knew what it was. “Oh yeah. I can check on him.”
“You’ll be alright out there? I mean, you do this sort of thing a lot, right?” Birdie asked.
Drake eyes narrowed. “Do you really think now is a good time?”
Birdie raised her hands. “You’re right. I’m sorry. Can you just check he’s okay?”
Gosalyn rushed out of the living room ahead of him. When he got to the front door, she was nowhere to be seen. She came rushing from the spare bedroom and shoved his Darkwing costume into his arms.
“Gos!” Drake grabbed the bundle and hugged it to his chest. “Don’t let Birdie see this. Wait… why do you want me to go as Darkwing? What were you two doing out there?”
Gosalyn dragged him out the front door and grasped his hands. “Dad, Negaduck’s here. He followed us from Saint Canard. We saw him when we went out to Launchpad’s ugly old shack.”
“Negaduck… wait, what did… jerkface have to say to him?”
“His name’s not jerkface! Launchpad thought I was unconscious the whole time they were talking. He wanted Negaduck to leave, and he was really, really scared. Negaduck threatened to hurt the McQuacks, and Launchpad went out there tonight to stop him, and he didn’t want anyone to find out, and he made me promise…”
“Okay, okay, I get it. He’s not a bad guy.”
“He’s just trying to protect the McQuacks because they’ve actually been nice to him. Unlike Negaduck. He was horrible to him, Dad. Even when he was supposed to be his sidekick. What if he’s hurt him?”
Drake whipped his cape about his shoulders and pulled Darkwing’s hat onto his head. “Don’t worry; I’ll find him. You go back inside with Loopey and Birdie.”
“I don’t have the Ratchatcher. I’ll move faster without you, and get to help Launchpad quicker.”
“Okay, fine. I’ll make sure Loopey and Birdie are safe.”
Drake sighed. “That’s my girl.”
He headed for the faint glow of the fire on the horizon. Oh yeah, he was really missing the Ratcatcher. The frustration of having to walk, along with the thought of Negaduck being here, causing trouble, made Darkwing grit his teeth. He’d come all the way out here for Launchpad, because his sidekick really, really needed to see his family. Negaduck had no right to be here, threatening them, and Darkwing wouldn’t let him anywhere near them.
Despite now having to come to the rescue he couldn’t work up any anger at the Negaverse Launchpad. He could understand trying to hide Negaduck’s presence from the McQuacks. They shouldn’t have to deal with this sort of stuff. And he’d managed to convince Gosalyn he was alright. That certainly counted for something. Taking on Negaduck himself was still immensely stupid. If he didn’t want to scare the McQuacks he could’ve at least come to Darkwing for help. But then, Launchpad had taken on his double by himself too. Stupidly heroic, but mostly just plain stupid.
Twin lights lit up the road ahead and the roar of an engine grumbled towards him. Darkwing stopped and shaded his eyes. It was just so dark out here and the headlights were blinding. In the city, there was always plenty of ambient light to see by. Man, he was really out of his element.
And then the lights were upon him.
“Oh. Crap.” Darkwing dove to the side as the motorcycle roared past. He could feel the rush of air as it passed within inches of him, and whipped up his cape and wrapped it around him. It rolled him up and tossed him aside.
Darkwing fought with his cape. It’d done him right up in a bundle. “Darkwing Duck will not be defeated… by… his own… cape!” Darkwing fell out of the mess and face-planted into the dirt. “Ow.” He lay there for a moment. Partly to let his head stop spinning, partly out of embarrassment.
Negaduck. The motorcycle was heading straight for Loopey and Birdie. And Gosalyn. Darkwing hauled himself to his feet. His head still spun. And in the darkness, he suddenly wasn’t sure which direction the house was.