A Darkwing Duck fanfiction for squidsfeather and (sort of) for sonichearts (you requested a self doubt fic, and I realized while writing this that there was some of that here, but honestly I’ve already got another one going that’s just all self doubt so you’re getting two… Fun times!)
Let’s get into this!
Five More Minutes: In which Darkwing Duck hates clocks, time, and the general boredom and insufferable anxiety that they provide.
Drake Mallard was not a duck known for his patience. Nor was he known for his exceeding talent at waiting while the clock ticked on without him. His years alone, living in a spacious and barren room on the very top of a hollowed out bridge, had allowed him to use the available space to scream at any pitch he’d wanted whenever frustrations ran high. And he’d done that.
Quite a lot.
It was so much easier than venting to a too expensive shrink about his inability to handle boredom. Or anxiety. Or frustration. Or much anything at all that impeded his ability to run smoothly and rapidly and on his own singular schedule.
If anyone asked what Darkwing Duck’s weakness was, he’d say it was the passing of time. For the boredom it brought, and the chances it took away. He was rarely standing still, rarely giving himself a moment to breathe.
He preferred it that way..
(All the time)
(Most of the time)
(Some of the time)
Stillness was for suckers and losers and people who wandered aimlessly through their mundane and meaningless lives. Not for superheroes. And certainly not for terrors who flapped in the night.
So when he’d thought about making a change in his life-
“You’re kidding.” He had few friends outside of work -actually, scratch that, he had no friends outside of work- and so it wasn’t the best day when the only one he considered something of an acquaintance had decided to test those very thin bonds by snorting at him. “You’re doing what?”
Eddie Egbberta wasn’t even really an acquaintance. He was the man who handed Drake Mallard his coffee three times a week over the counter of the local cafe. They exchanged occasional conversation and kept personal information to a minimum. Which was fine with Drake.
He knew exactly three things about Eddie; he enjoyed coffee, he was constantly pondering upon the state of his gayness, and his least favorite color was magenta because, as he’d put it, the word was created by the very rich to paint their own walls and tie up our tongues.
Eddie, in return, knew three things about Drake; he was irritable, he took his coffee black, and he had the patience for exactly nothing.
It was the latter that had Eddie clutching to the counter for support.
Drake sniffed, pushing down the already secured coffee lid. “I told you-”
“You’re adopting!” Eddie drew back, grabbing another cup and filling it halfway with skim. The cashier shouted back something about a pumkin spiced something and Eddie nodded their way before setting to work. “I just…” he jammed the cup under the foamer and switched on the nozzle. The air was clogged with the whrrrr. “You do know that kids take like… time, right?”
“I sort of guessed.”
“And you have to like… stand still for two fucking seconds-”
“And you need patience-”
“Is there something you’d like to say?” the sweater vested duck shot back, his tone gone sour. “Please do.”
“It’s just…” Eddie drew the cup away and poured decaf into the cup before sprinkling it with something that smelled like a candle. “You don’t seem like the type. You know?”
For a moment, it isn’t Drake Mallard standing there. It’s Darkwing Duck. And he’s holding his coffee cup tight enough to burst. “What’s the type.”
“You know…” Eddie doesn’t notice the tension between writing a name on the newest coffee. “Someone who has an actual house. And who isn’t a total hot head who brings back his coffee if his goddamn name is spelled wrong.” Apparently he hadn’t forgotten the incident from a month ago, for which he’d been totally justified. Names were important things and his wasn’t Blake. Eddie finished scribbling and capped his pen. He called out “CHARLOTTE” before picking up a new cup. “You’d also have to be someone who buys juice boxes,”
“I hate juice boxes. They’re just sugar in a container.”
“You hate everything.” He poured in whole milk and started up the steamer. “How’s that gonna work for a kid.”
Drake Mallard looked down at his cup again. There was no sleeve, and it was beginning to sting his hand. Darkwing Duck recedes. “Yeah,” said Drake, who was in almost no mood to fight. Maybe because yelling at a barista in the middle of a crowded coffee shop sounded like his own personal nightmare.
Maybe because, in a way, the barista was kind of, sort of, definitely right.
“Hey man,” Eddie handed the candle coffee off to another customer, who looked between them curiously before dragging themselves slowly away, an ear still half glued to their conversation, “let me know what you do. But like… my sister just had a kid, dude, and you gotta be ready to just sort of… sit there. You know? Just sort of listen to the clock and let things happen.”
“Right…” said Drake. And then; “Uh… see you next week.”
Eddie waved him away.
Drake would not be returning the next week. Instead, he’d use it to wallow in his own self deprecation while the clocks around him tortured the silence with their awful tick tick tick and Drake followed along with them, knowing full well that if this was to be his life, then maybe he’d end up just scarring some poor child and being the worst father to ever grace the earth. He was becoming everything he ever hated. Everything that frightened him. Everything that he’d always promised himself he’d never become. He was too good for the mundane, for the adequate, for the dreadful normalcy that some people settled with.
This was settling.
Yet, somehow, the paperwork managed to be filed and the interviews managed to get done, and he stood in front of the orphanage doors, feeling his wrist watch ticking away, and wishing he had just five more minutes-
(just five more)
-to make this decision before he dove into what might have been the worst choice he’d ever made. But he was notoriously bad at waiting for things. And so it may have been merely his fear of boredom and time that drove him to cross the threshold and stand in the office and catch a little girl who ran towards him.
(I’ve gotta take care of myself)
(now that I’m going to have a new adopted daughter to worry about)
She calls him Mr. Mallard for a month. And he hates it, but he says little towards it. Whatever makes her happy. She’s been in and out of homes, lost a grandfather, and god knows who her parents were. The last thing she needs is to look at him as a replacement father. If she wants to call him Mr. Mallard for the rest of her life-
“Dad…” she says one night, so shyly it might have just broken his heart and made a home in the cracks, “can we repaint my room… I hate pink…” He’d gotten the room ready for a little girl and might have gone overboard and he’s so deep in the middle of regretting it that he barely notices what she’s called him until he’s catching on and remembering just how breathing worked.
Drake Mallard finds it odd that he suddenly wishes the clocks would stop. That they’d tick on, but time wouldn’t, and that he could have five more minutes with his new title burrowing its way down and infecting every exploding cell in his chest.
He corals her to the car and they buy green paint that day. Soon there are baseball posters and a blue duvet and stacks of comic books, and she’s clinging to his waist looking around her new little hovel and squealing thanks dad into his shirt and he’s looking around with her and deciding that, yes, this was much more suitable.
This was all more suitable.
“No problem, honey,” he says.
He tries those names on his tongue a few more times.
His parents never called him that. Sweetheart, sweetie, honey, dearest. He hadn’t cared then. There was barely any love lost, and he hadn’t thought it was important when he’d lived under their roof. The history has them feeling a little clunky coming out of his mouth, so he practices them often. Like it would erase the lack of them from his own pithy youth.
He matches them against the ticking of the clocks on the stove, and he uses them as often as he can, revealing in the little ways it makes her face light up just so until she looks less like a duckling in a new and scary environment and more like someone he’d lived there long enough to acclimate into the idea of nicknames and bedtime stories and juice boxes in the cupboard.
Drake Mallard sort of loves that he can call someone sweetheart.
And he sort of also loves the grape juice boxes, too.
She tells him that she loves him first. Mostly because he forgot to say it. Or rather, thought that he had. He had sort of assumed that his fast paced caregiving was the same as love. That his never-ending movement (cook, clean, dress, bathe, repeat) would be sufficient.
He was a man of action, after all. And movement to him meant everything. Meant that not a moment was wasted. Wasn’t that just enough? To know that not a second was wasted on you? To know that-
“Night, dad,” she says, tugging at the hem of her pajamas. There’s a spot of toothpaste on the edge of her bill and her soft feathers are still a little wet and warm from the bath. He’s on the couch, and she’s supposed to already be asleep, but she had gotten up and snuck down the stairs and flopped down to reach her arms as far around his waist as they could go. In the background, the newscaster talked about Darkwing Duck before switching to a story on a car wash shutting down after its money laundering was caught by a pizza boy on an afternoon run.
He almost doesn’t hear her over the interview of Pizza Boy who’s name was Todd and who’s appearance was just as Todd-ish as you’d expect, from the swept bangs to the smacking of his stale gum.
Still, somehow, he catches it.
“I love you.”
He doesn’t know what to say.
Except he does.
“Love you too, Gos.” And then: “aren’t you supposed to already be in bed, Little Miss!” because the first rule about being a superhero is not letting them know when you’ve been broken. Or stunned. Or when you’re so positively drowning in love and you can’t seem to speak.
He watches her scamper back up the stairs and hears her shuffle around before all is quiet and he can mute the television and just sort of listen to the clocks turn around him.
He could have had five more minutes of that. Just to hear her voice say it again.
It hits him sometime after midnight while he stares at the ceiling.
He’s a father.
He’s a father.
The mundane becomes the one thing that sets his heart hammering.
He tells her good morning over breakfast and tells her he loves her just after he finishes buttering the toast, just so he can hear her say it back and know that it wasn’t just a dream.
“Love you too, dad,” she calls back, mouth full of jam and toast, feet already out the door. Honker was no doubt waiting for her, ready to watch her crash and burn from a distance, and equally as prepared to console her once the punishment of a long, worthy grounding was provided.
He had someone to ground. Which he shouldn’t love as much as he did. But…
She sounds like she’s practically done with him. Like she’s already exasperated with her father over something he’d said or done.
He loves that, too.
He adds a few more clocks to his house. And one to his lair.
He’s not as afraid of them anymore.
He brings her to the coffee shop. Sort of to show off, and sort of because she had been nagging him for hot chocolate and they had the most mediocre cup around. Which just meant one less thing he had to make when he was feeling particularly lazy.
Eddie is still there. And he’s still making coffee. And when he looks over at the counter, shouting out the name on the cup –GOSALYN MALLARD– he catches Drakes eye and nearly drops the cup. “Oh my god!” he smiles. “He returns!”
“He returns,” Drake agrees. “So… can I take-” he motioned to the cup.
Eddie squinted at him. “This is yours…?” He checked the name again.
“Wow, they got your name really wrong.”
“No, it’s not-”
“It’s mine! Mine! Right here!” The girl had gone off to harass someone while she scoured for napkins, and is back in full force, clinging to his vest and popping up over the counter to grab at the treat.
“Gosalyn, what do we say?”
She has the good sense to look mildly shame faced before muttering “please” and Eddie hands it over and down to her, eyes looking more and more like those knots you found on trees.
“Oh…” said Eddie. “Oh-”
“This is Gosalyn.” Her scarf was slipping and Drake leaned down to fix it. “Gosalyn. This is Eddie. He makes coffee.”
“Hi Eddie who makes Coffee,” said Gosalyn, who was about as interested in all of this as she could bear to manage. “I’m going to find cinnamon.”
“Just stay close!” She scampered away and Drake sighed. “If she breaks anything, I’m not paying for it.” It didn’t sound like a joke.
Still, there were more important things than the implication of a ruined store. Eddie looked at the red headed girl, and back to the duck in front of him. “So that’s your-”
“You did.” Eddie looked over at the girl again, who had gotten a good deal of cinnamon into her cup, and an even greater deal onto the floor and into the purse of some lady who’d been foolish enough to look away. “Oh holy shit. You did. You actually-” Eddie smiled, huge. “You’re a dad!” He blinked. “Oh man. You’re a dad.”
Drake tries to keep the sourness at bay, but he’s almost too giddy with the declaration and whatever bitterness sat there got up and left. “I’m a dad.”
“Hows it feel.”
“Weird.” Drake said. “Different. Terrifying.”
“I mean… I didn’t think you’d actually…” he shook his head. “Hows the old Drake Mallard patience keeping up.”
Drake snorted into his coffee, dragging back a long gulp. “You’d be surprised.” He saluted the barista before whipping his head around and barking “Gosalyn, what have we talked about” and the old Drake Mallard patience roared into view again.
Some things never changed.
But, as Eddie recalled, the single bachelor hadn’t been able to stay in the coffee shop for long. The tables by the windows and the few chairs by the promotional coffee stands were never things he used, and he’d rushed out right after his hand had touched the cup- out to do god knows what.
Now he sits at the table and jokes with the little girl and lights up when he’s able to make her laugh. She makes faces and every so often there’s a mention of a zombie or alien or something that he rolls his eyes at but plays along with enough that she keeps going, unswayed and encouraged.
The clocks tick on around them, and the old stereos blast some awful acoustic songs, and the smell of artificial pumpkin is thick in the air, and the daughter and father sit by the window an hour after they’ve finished their coffee, and time just keeps ticking on.
There are new socks in the laundry and shoes by the door, and as the months pass his orderly life is disrupted in every which way. He has calendars now, hanging in the kitchen, and marked with school functions and baseball games.
His time in the cape has to be given certain hours, and he has to learn how to back away and let the police actually do something because yes, he’d love to help out, but his Gosalyn (his Gosalyn) had made the semi finals and was basically carrying her entire soccer team on her back, and he needed to be in those stands to watch.
So he was.
She scored three goals and only got into two fights, which made up for a success.
He remembers once that he’d promised himself that his life would be anything but mundane.
While he’s busy picking up shoes and vacuuming the rug, and packing apple slices in little baggies for the morning, he wonders how he let himself think something so ridiculously stupid.
Launchpad thinks it all fate. “I’m telling you, DW,” he says, drying dishes and putting them on the rack by the sink, “you were meant to be a father!”
“Eh,” says Drake.
“No! Really! My nan used to say that, you know. That we’re all just sort of meant to be things.”
Drake seals another baggie of apples. “Eh,” he says again.
He doesn’t think anyones meant to be anything. He was meant to be a father as much as he was meant to be a hero. He fought for the latter until he’d made his mark.
As he climbs the stairs and pokes his head into her room, he sort of realizes that he might have fought for this, too.
Drake sees that there’s nothing settling about coming home to a noisy house. And that there’s nothing dreadful about using this newly formed dad voice that he saves for commands about room cleaning and vegetable consuming. And that there’s nothing awful about stacking folded clothes on a bed only to have them be unfolded and scattered everywhere.
Or being caught up in a hug.
There are mornings -rare mornings- where nothing happens. Where it’s maybe just too rainy outside, or there’s no soccer games on television, or Darkwing Duck hasn’t been needed in a week or two, so the news is glossing over the usual soft stories, and their house finds itself quiet.
An odd occurrence. But not an unwelcome one.
He’s gotten very good at spotting them.
Opening his eyes, Drake Mallard looks up at his ceiling, hears the pit-pit-pit on the window, and sinks further back into the pillow.
The doorknob is jiggled softly, ticking as its turned, and the red pigtails appear first, before the rest of the face finds itself peering round the corner. She doesn’t say anything, but she’s dragging her blanket behind her and slides carefully into the rain darkened room. They both know he’s not asleep. Or, at least, he assumes she knows by the way she jostles his mattress climbing up it.
He doesn’t mind. Every once in a while, he doesn’t mind.
She (quietly, carefully) tries to wrestle with her own blanket and is (mostly) successful until there’s a foot in his side and a hand sort of pinching his arm, and she gives up completely and lets the blanket flump to the floor before delicately (or as delicate as a thirty pound gosling with a clumsy streak could manage) lifted up his blankets and burrowed beneath with him. There wasn’t much room. He had a King bed coming along, but had never had much need for it since before he’d had a child and had spent most his time outside.
And yes, an entire year in might have been a little long to wait but sue him, old habits died hard.
She pushed herself all the way under the covers until only the top of her head poked out. Her feet -which were freezing and he’d have to enforce some fascistic mandatory sockwear after this- stuck against his knees before she settled back. It didn’t escape him that she left a great deal of room between them.
Or as much as she could leave without her feet shoved against his knees.
He should have kicked her out. There wasn’t much room. And old him, the I’m-Not-a-Father-I’m-an-Eternal-Bachelor him, the one-year-prior him who still sort of lived in his brain and occasionally came out on especially foul days, might have found any reason to. And the exasperated father who’d bloomed overtime was just as absolutely peeved by the loss of his stretching space.
This was a rainy morning though. A tired, slow morning. And the tiny thing in front of him, so absolutely small compared to the hugeness of her importance which never ceased to amaze him-
he had a child
he, Drake Mallard, had a child
a living, breathing, dependent child
a real life, absolutely adoring, loved him to pieces child
-had crawled out of her bed on a Saturday, ignoring every comic most likely stacked in a messy pile on her nightstand, just to be with him. There was something so effortlessly wonderful about that.
A year. A whole year. And he still marveled.
He moved. She stiffened, thinking she’d woken him. As if that mattered. His arms, thick with sleep, wound around her and pulled her farther under the covers with him, clutching her to his chest. The bottom of his bill rested on the top of her head. “Hey, Slugger,”
She wiggled, bumping into him, leaving what might have been a nice bruise for later, before twisting around and pushing her face into his chest. He felt her yawn before snuggling more securely against him. “It’s raining.”
“It is.” She smelled like coconut shampoo from the bath he’d practically thrown her into the night before. Her downy feathers, still so soft at her age, were fluffed, and he dragged his fingers through the ones at her neck. He remembered when he’d lost his downy finally at the age of eight. The pediatricians he’d taken Gosalyn to for her annual boosters all said that hers would fall out eventually, and it wasn’t unusual for some children to hold onto theirs longer than others, and he didn’t let them know that he secretly wished she never would, because oh god, he’d only had her for a year and she was already going on ten, and there was so much he’d missed at the hands of those who’d raised her before he had-
“Can we have pancakes?”
His mind paused. “What?”
“Can we have rainy day pancakes?” her mouth sounds like its full of sleep. She pushed her face against his pajama shirt. “You smell like smoke.”
“Fire last night.”
She regarded it with a casual nod. And then: “So can we have pancakes?”
He thought for a moment. Thought a moment more. And then he grabbed her up quickly and blew a raspberry in the fold of her neck. Gosalyn shrieked, laughed, and batted at his face between her cackles of uncle uncle! “Yes, we can make pancakes,” he pulled her close again, feeling her tiny body vibrate with little continuing giggles. “Just… five more minutes.”
“Five more minutes, Gos.”
He wanted to tell that to time. Look it in the face and hold onto his little downy child and say five more minutes over and over again until this moment stuck a permanent tac in itself and let them be.
There’s a defeated sadness in the reality that it can’t be.
By some miracle, though, she at least settles. Groaning and complaining, but wiggling closer and sighing deep. Her ear is over his chest. He wonders what his heart must sound like to her. Wonders if she used to do this with her grandfather- sitting on the couch with her ear just over his heart. Wonders if its a kid thing. Or just a her thing.
Old Drake Mallard wags a finger at him from somewhere far, far back in his mind, motioning to the smallness of the twin bed and the ticking away of the time. Not acceptable! Spoling her! Martial rule! You’re Darkwing Duck, not a mundane suburban parent! There are things to do! People to save! Time is wasting! Time! Time is wasting!
Oh hush, says the new part of his brain. Father Drake, which evolves a little more each day, and who has started sprouting a pink apron over his daily ensemble, leans on an imaginary wall and crosses his arms, and ignores the clock. What’s five more minutes. Right?
Which was true enough.
Gosalyn wasn’t off trying to destroy something. There was no sound of breaking china or the screams of furious neighbors. No teacher calls about baseball in the hallways. No screaming matches between the two of them about the absolute parental rule he had over their home.
She’s falling back asleep, pancakes temporarily forgotten. Her breathing was soft, staggered with little snores. Her chest rising and falling between beats, and her legs twitching out every so often. He didn’t want to call it peaceful. God knows he hated the word.
It was… still.
That was the word he’d use.
Everything was just… still.
The flicker of the clock ticking, the careful and steady rain and the smothered sunlight through he shutters, the yowling of a siren farther off, and the soft, soft, soft breathing of the little girl.
He pulled her close and drew her in and matched his breathing to hers.
Five more minutes.
What was five more minutes.