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Here is the latest short story. See author notes at the end for more details...

"The Best Present Ever"

"Come on, come on, where are the presents!?" Gosalyn muttered, opening box after box in her dad's chiffarobe. "I know he wouldn't wait until the last second..."
She paused in her rummaging as she considered this. "On second thought...he would wait ‘til the last second... But not on everything!" she plunged into her mission with even more gusto.

Darkwing was at S.H.U.S.H. for a "debriefing," as he called it, but Gosalyn and Launchpad knew better.
More than likely, Dr. Bellum was showing off some cool new gadgets and Darkwing was making a shopping list of all the crime-fighting gear and computer upgrades that he wanted.

Launchpad had stayed home to watch Gosalyn but he had fallen asleep on the couch an hour ago. Since Darkwing had deactivated the house alarms before leaving (as a precaution against Launchpad accidentally setting them off), Gosalyn had seized the chance to do some serious snooping.

She had already checked out Darkwing Tower. She was pretty sure she knew all the hiding places there and she hadn't come across anything that looked like an ultra cool new machine or gadget for her.

For that matter, the only thing Darkwing had been working on was his gas formulas. Not exactly birthday present material. Gosalyn was hoping for a Quackstation Three or a WEE game console, but so far nothing was turning up.

Gosalyn's stomach fluttered as an awful thought occurred to her. Did he forget her birthday was this weekend?

No...Dad couldn't possibly have forgotten. She'd dropped plenty of hints all month long...

Maybe he had something else in mind? Laser tag, or mountain climbing, or paragliding, or a movie marathon... Or maybe tickets to a major league baseball game or some other cool sporting event...

Gosalyn shook her head.

Nah...This was Dad... He'd had a lot of small time thugs to bag and one or two S.H.U.S.H. assignments. He might have been too busy with crime-fighting to think about anything else...
However, just in case he had gotten her something, Gosalyn wanted to see what she could dig up.

She had checked the garage, the utility room, and the tunnel under their house leading to the tower. The only places left were her dad's room and Launchpad's.

Since she could sneak into Launchpad's room anytime, she was saving that for last. An opportunity to scope out her dad's stuff unsupervised with no risk of intervention didn't come around very often.

However, so far her "big opportunity" was turning into a big dud...

The chiffarobe held nothing more exciting than unorganized boxes of photos, papers, bed linens, and odd bits of attire (like Drake's Santa Claus outfit). There were also some sports things, like golf balls, baseballs, tennis balls, a bowling ball, ski goggles, and various gloves. Drake was good at a lot of sports. Just not as good as Gosalyn...

She grinned. She didn't know what was better: outmaneuvering and outlasting her competition, or "accidentally" hitting something in the general vicinity of Dad's head...

As she dumped yet another box of photos out on the floor, she glanced at the rest of her carnage. There were a dozen boxes lying around. She halfway considered leaving them and making up some excuse about earthquakes, but she instead picked up after herself, taking precautions to make everything look undisturbed. Thankfully her dad tended to put things together haphazardly; otherwise she would be in big trouble. She wasn't sure if her dad would ground her this close to her birthday or not but she didn't want to find out.

As she slid the last box back on its appropriate shelf, she held her breath and listened. A ticking clock (her dad preferred old fashioned time pieces over digital alarms); the air conditioner; cars going down the main road a block away... Ah ha! She found the sound she was looking for: Launchpad's snoring. Coast was clear.

Going to her room to grab her desk chair, Gosalyn shoved it in front of Drake's closet.

After Ammonia Pine sucked his wardrobe up in her vacuum mobile last year, Drake had started using a built-in closet for his clothes. It had ample room for his stuff, plus some extra space. Perfect for hiding presents...

Unfortunately, Gosalyn's hopes were quickly dashed. She saw at a glance that nothing had changed. The floor had the same old sandals, slippers, and boots. The rack had the same old clothes. And the shelf had the same boxes on it, which she knew from previous snooping had a spare gas gun and some crime fighting gadgets inside. Darkwing was always prepared for an emergency. There wasn't much point in looking at those. Besides, she would have seen evidence at the tower if he'd been working on a crime fighting gadget for her. She was sure of it.

Gosalyn sighed and slumped on the chair, hugging her knees.

It looked like Dad hadn't gotten her a birthday present yet. She'd be lucky if she got any of the things on her list. She really wanted the new "Martian Martial Arts" video game, but it was probably sold out by now. And her dad wasn't one to plan ahead by using layaway...

She sighed heavily and slumped further into the chair, idly swinging a foot. She could confront Dad as soon as he got home about shopping for cool new crime fighting tools not sparing a minute for his own daughter, but that would be unfair. Besides, even if he had been goofing off, she couldn't stay mad at him for long. He deserved some peace. After all, not every parent looked after a whole city every night and worked occasional espionage cases for a government agency. Plus, he had been pretty busy lately.

Her dad's last case had required him to go to Duckburg and the Negaverse to find the guy who was responsible for setting him up for murder charges (refers to "Until Proven Innocent"). And before that, Gosalyn had gotten amnesia and Darkwing was almost killed (from "My Daughter, My Life"). And those were just the big cases.

There were still the average muggers and gangs and small time robbers to go after. Darkwing had put Jambalaya Jake and Gumbo back in jail just last night and he'd conquered the Cheese Gang earlier this week. Tuskernini had also been put behind bars for filming a staged mugging on an unsuspecting citizen.

There was never a moment's rest for the city's citadel; which was probably why Launchpad had stayed home today...

Gosalyn decided to call it quits and head back to her room. She wasn't in the mood to check Launchpad's room now, as she knew anything she might find there would be from the pilot himself, not her dad. And she was surprised to realize how much that mattered to her...

Usually any present was fun, especially if it was something she wanted, but now… after rummaging through all her dad's stuff and not finding even a hint that he was thinking about her, suddenly it didn't matter if she got any presents. What she really wanted was time with him...

As she reached out to slide the closet door shut, she glanced up at the envelopes on the shelf. Of course she'd noticed them earlier, but she hadn't paid them much attention. After all, it was unlikely any of them were stuffed with cash or gift cards. They were long and rectangular, so that ruled out greeting cards. But Gosalyn had a strange desire to see her dad's handwriting at the moment and before she could even finish the thought, she was stretching up on the chair to reach them. The moment she read the label on the first one, her curiosity was peaked.

"Gosalyn Waddlemeyer Mallard"

"That's funny..." Gosalyn murmured as she settled the letters in her lap. "Why would Dad write my name like that..."

The envelope wasn't sealed and she easily removed a few sheets of folded paper from it. Her breath caught at the first line.

"The Last Will and Testament of Drake Mallard..."

"Of course Dad would have this," she thought, breathing deeply to calm herself. "He's got one of the most dangerous jobs in the world, if not THE most dangerous..."

Still, it was one thing to know anything could happen to a loved one, but another to actually hold a document like this in her hands. It was so formal and...Final...

Gosalyn steeled herself to find a bunch of fancy linguistics and legal mumbo jumbo on the following pages, but she was surprised to find a well-worn, hand written note tucked on top of the formal documents.

"My dear, dear Gosalyn..." the note began. "Where do I begin? Although you are just across the hall from me, (snoring, I might add...) I wish I could share this with you now. You are my everything. Meeting you, becoming your father, was the greatest thing that ever happened to me. If I hadn't met you, Drake Mallard would be nothing more than a forgotten name. Without you and your boundless enthusiasm, Darkwing Duck would have hung up his cape two years ago..."

"Two years...?" Gosalyn pondered aloud. She started counting on her fingers. "Let's see, last year was my tenth birthday and around that time we had to face the Fearsome Five and FOWL and Moliarty and Taurus Bulba... At least, maybe the third time was the charm and he'll stay in jail!" Gosalyn punched her fist. Then she leaned back and recounted some more of her dad's adventures. "Before that, there was the Whiffle Boy convention, with a couple of clashes with Quackerjack and Megavolt... Oh and I went back in time and found Dad's ancestors..." Gosalyn giggled. "Boy, was that a disaster! They were all definitely related to him... Plus, Dad went to the moon with Gryzlikoff and Quiverwing Quack made her debut against Negaduck... Huh... Two years ago would mean..."

Gosalyn jumped off the chair. "Keen gear! I've lived with Darkwing Duck two whole years! Wow! That is major league awesome! Wait 'till Honker hears this..."

Gosalyn was halfway to the phone when she remembered Honker was out of town. He and his family were still at Twin Beaks, visiting relatives.
She grimaced. Nice time for them to leave...they wouldn't be back in time for her birthday, which pretty much eliminated the majority of people going to her party. But, in a way, that was okay.
Last year everyone she knew had hung out at the park with her. It had been fun, but kind of hectic, even for her.

She decided she would call Honker on his family's cell phone after she'd finished reading.

She returned to the chair and picked up the letter again. Although her eyes were on the paper, her mind stayed immersed in memories. Especially those of her ninth birthday.

She was eight when she was sent to the orphanage. She had watched other kids "celebrate" their birthdays and participated in their meager parties with cake and handmade cards. She had even given toads and slugs as presents to the kids she liked (and especially those she didn't like).

She made the best out of everything by having fun whenever she could, but she only allowed herself to dream at night. She remembered her grandpa saying something like "dreams are grand things to have, but they don't put food on the table unless you do something with them" and had tried to follow his advice by living in the moment every day. But at night, she had often dreamed of meeting someone. Someone who understood that she was not a problem child, but one full of spirit that made everyone else look empty…

As the months had gone by and holidays passed with nothing special happening, she had given herself over to the idea that all she would get for her birthday was a slice of cake and a few scribbled cards.

Instead, she had celebrated her ninth birthday in her new backyard with the neighborhood kids, where she had met her best friend Honker. She had also gotten a ton of sports equipment and a new friend in Launchpad McQuack and so many other things. That had been the best birthday ever. Nothing could top being adopted by a superhero. Or getting a dad...

Last year had been fun at the park, with cake, ice cream, a piñata, and tons of games and sports equipment she had immediately shared. He'd even joined the game, almost hitting a home run. Launchpad had been the umpire.
Drake had also taken Gosalyn and her friends to the laser tag center later that afternoon, and to a movie. And the day didn't end when the kids went home...
That night she'd actually had Darkwing's permission to accompany him on patrol. He took her along the next night, too, if she remembered correctly... She had made her debut as Quiverwing Quack around that time, too. Talk about major league excitement!

This year, Gosalyn had, reasonably, been super hyped up over her eleventh birthday because she would start in Junior High school this fall. She would be that much closer to getting her driver's license and working part time as a superhero-in-training. Or at least, Darkwing had promised he would train her when she was older. Being almost a teen counted as older, right?

Gradually wrestling her thoughts under control, Gosalyn remembered the letter in her hands and eagerly poured over it, hoping for a hint that Darkwing wanted her to join the fight against crime. Within a few lines, she found it.

"I promised you the day we met that I will always be near to chase away fear. I intend to keep that promise. I want you to know, regardless of what happens to me, you will be provided for. I've arranged things so you can choose to stay with Launchpad, Morgana, the Muddlefoots, or anybody else you trust should I be...incapacitated for any length of time.
"There are two savings accounts under your name that you can access when you turn eighteen. One is specifically for college. Your name is also on my personal savings account in case of an emergency.
"Our mutual friend, Mr. H., has offered to support you should you choose to join his people or go down a different path.

"Director Hooter?! Keeeen gear!" Gosalyn muttered. She kept reading.

"Also, Launchpad informed me that his former boss in Duckburg has offered you his hospitality. You made quite an impression on him, Kiddo. You have that effect, you know... A lot of people care about you. You're something special.
"Don't let anyone ever dampen your spirit. Courage and optimism will take you far in life. Hope is a bright beacon in the dismal darkness of dour despair. Keep the faith, Kid. Evil may be prevalent for a while, but in the end love conquers all. (And a dash of derring do doesn't hurt either). Look for the light inside you, Gos. Even when the world is crumbling around you, you will find strength, truth, courage, and hope.
"I know that, someday, you will stalwartly stand by my side. I've noticed everything you've done, Kiddo. You've watched my back and humbly stepped to the sidelines when you deserved the praise and glory for saving the day... Your courage and honor** inspired me and made me a hero. And I know one day you'll make a swell hero. You're already mine..."

Gosalyn reread those last few lines. "Wow..." she whispered to the page.”Thanks, Dad..."

The last words in her letter were just some mushy lines about how much he loved her and that she should be good and eat her vegetables and other fatherly advice. Gosalyn rolled her eyes but smiled anyway.

Still awash with emotion, she numbly opened the other letters. Launchpad's was fairly plain and straightforward. It primarily informed Launchpad that he could apply to be Gosalyn's legal guardian if she agreed to stay with him, and that he would be the executor of the estate until Gosalyn turned eighteen.

Gosalyn didn't mind. It seemed only fair for the loyal pilot to be given some compensation for everything he did. Not only did he fix the mechanical stuff and pilot for Darkwing, he also spent a good deal of his time and energy putting up with temper tantrums, ego trips, and mood swings. That was in addition to being on-call for his friends in Duckburg, and looking after Gosalyn when Darkwing was too busy.

Launchpad had a very demanding job being both a friend and a crime-fighting partner and few people could stand up to the pressure. Leaving him in charge of the house, all of Darkwing Duck's secrets, and Gosalyn showcased Drake's faith in his pal's loyalty and honesty. Anyone else might have taken advantage of the opportunity by selling the house and dishing Darkwing's secrets to media moguls and fans and taking off with the profits. Launchpad had proven time and again that he was as devoted as anyone could ask and Gosalyn was sure Drake's trust was well placed. The closing paragraph of Launchpad's letter solidified that bond.

"And so, my faithful sidekick and friend, I bid you luck and courage for what the future may hold. I've left all my worldly possessions for you to divide fittingly with Gosalyn, Morgana, and Honker. I hope that makes up a smidgen of all you've done for me and Gos. Without you to stabilize my (somewhat volatile) outbursts, I fear I would have driven Gos away.
"You were the glue that held our family together, Buddy. And it has been my great honor to call you my best friend. (Of course, you were the only friend I had for a while...but that's beside the point!) Give Gos a hug for me..."

Gosalyn impulsively tossed the letter aside to start on the next one, but she caught herself and picked it up. As she did so, she pondered over the depths she'd just seen in her dad's character.
She knew he cared about other people, but it was nice to have a reminder once in a while that proved it. He had once insisted he fought crime because he could make a difference, but she recalled a few instances when Darkwing had shown no consideration for the citizens he was protecting. Including his family...

Gosalyn's thoughts wandered from times Darkwing had wronged her and Launchpad to another time and place. A potential future where Darkwing Duck's values and good humor did not exist anymore.

What if Dark Warrior was battling her dad's better nature deep down inside? What if, during those times Darkwing had been callous to her or Launchpad or Morgana, he was giving them a glimpse of his inner darkness? That was a scary thought...

Gosalyn sat down and clutched her knees again, enveloped with memories of the creepy duck that was both her father and a stranger in an alternate universe.

It was her biggest fear, next to being sent back to the orphanage. If Darkwing realized he was holding back his true prowess as a crime fighter and really put all of his training to use (without the ego), he could eliminate crime within a week. Without the challenge of crime fighting, he'd turn into a tyrant; someone more powerful and dangerous than Negaduck or Taurus Bulba.

Gosalyn shook her head resolutely. No matter how often those fears resurfaced, she would never discuss them. She hadn't discussed Dark Warrior Duck with anyone.

She had considered telling Launchpad, but she knew he would simply reassure her that Darkwing would never turn into a bad guy. Honker would probably give her a bunch of scientific lingo and diagnose Darkwing as bipolar. At best, he would make suggestions on how to keep her dad balanced. At worst, Honker might watch for signs that Darkwing was turning into Dark Warrior and actually become afraid of him. If he couldn't stand to be around her dad, he'd stop being her friend. She couldn't deal with that.

Morgana was definitely out of the question, too. Or at least until she stopped turning Darkwing into things. Gosalyn liked Morgana a lot, but she wasn't sure how the sorceress would react if she knew about the darkness in her beloved "Dark." It might turn Morgana back to a life of crime, or make her distance herself from her boyfriend. Either way would hurt Drake in the end.

So, for her dad's sake, Gosalyn kept her fears to herself. Her one solace was that Megavolt still feared him and as long as one villain cowered from him, Darkwing's ego would remain in full control. And she had carefully questioned her dad about his ideals for justice after waking up from an especially bad nightmare. Knowing he was still 100% Darkwing had reassured her when nothing else had.

Gosalyn jumped to her feet, putting the matter out of mind and moving on to the next letter.
This one was addressed to Morgana and Gosalyn hesitated before opening it. She really didn't want to read any mushy love stuff. Still, curiosity made Gosalyn's fingers eagerly unfold the paper. She glanced over the paragraphs, pausing only when she saw her own name.

"Gosalyn adores you and I know you care about her. I'm sure if Gos chooses to stay with you (a strong possibility, considering her intrigue with the arcane and...Special)..."

Gosalyn giggled. "Special" had been substituted for "unusual," a word that would ruffle Morgana's feathers. It seemed her dad was finally learning some tact.

" will take very good care of her. As someone who has risen above the mires of family discontent and social expectations, you are an exemplary role model, and more importantly, a trusted friend...And I do trust you, Morg."

Gosalyn flopped onto her dad's bed and stretched out. She skipped a few more lines and yawned, seriously considering putting the letter away.
A particularly mushy part made her stick out her tongue and mutter "Yuck city."
She liked seeing Morgana and her dad happy together, but these sentences about the shape of Morgana's beak and the "alluring" shade of her eyes were too much to handle.

Just as she was about to enter Snoresville, Gosalyn's drooping eyes seized upon one word. "Vision." She rescanned the preceding line.

"I know this probably isn't the best time to bring this up, but I know I will regret it if I don't at least put this in writing... I want you to know, there is more beyond this world than alternate dimensions and magic. That vision I spoke to you about has remained with me to this day, and I have uncovered further evidence (after an exhaustive exploration of my expansive collection of essays and other reading material) that many others have seen the exact same thing.
"There was some guy named Daniel back in the days of Babylon who saw it. There was another guy (some lonely old geezer exiled to an island) who mentioned it several times in his book, hundreds of years after Daniel wrote his version.
"I've also found accounts from scientists, psychologists, theologians, and blue collar Joes who saw the exact same thing those first two wrote about. I am merely one of many and, knowing the perfectly natural tendency to exaggerate, it is incredible to see how none of the descriptions have varied.
"Sure, the comparisons are different. What one calls "blood red" and "living fire," I termed a traffic light, but it's basically the same. Red eyes lit from within against a white face. Therefore, I can logically conclude, in addition to other proofs, that the big guy upstairs really does exist!
"Even if I had not seen Peter and you-know-who myself, I have to believe what I saw is real. It makes perfect sense! How many times have I escaped the clutches of doom and defeat by a feather? How often have I been crushed, electrocuted, and beaten to within an inch of my life and still prevailed? Countless times! It's not because I'm invincible (although that would be nice). It's because there's a higher purpose for my life.
"All those years of wondering whether I'd make something of myself; all those hours spent moping over my meager reputation and my minor impact on the manipulations of miscreant masterminds: all of it was a waste of time. I am accomplishing something, even though I may never see the full results. I am making a difference. And even in the most tumultuous trials of trouble and treachery, I have never been alone. Knowing this makes it all worth it, even without the fame and glory my feats deserve."

"Okay, that was officially weird," Gosalyn sat up. "Dad's really lost it this time. Come on, seriously? Someone watching over him? Fame doesn't matter? Who is he talking about? Darkwing Duck's ego doesn't take a backseat to anyone!"

Gosalyn's hand wandered toward the telephone, but she resisted the urge to call Honker. The moment she got him involved would likely be the moment her dad walked in and she would have to explain why she was going through his things. And she did NOT care to explain why she had read Morgana's letter.

She forced herself to swallow back her tirade and focus. Either she was going to finish reading this or not. There were only a few paragraphs left, so she picked back up where she'd left off.

"I have learned contentment with what I have, and I have realized my most grievous mistake was ignoring the gifts I've been given. You are one of those gifts, Morgana. Although I may regret not having more time with you, my life was made richer having you in it. If I could, I would give you everything you'd ever want.
"There is nothing more precious to me than my family, and I count you as part of it. I don't know what I'd do without all of you. Gosalyn is such a part of who I am, I can hardly remember what life was like before she came into it; and frankly I don’t even care to try. Launchpad has been my backup and support for every mishap. Honker has amazed me with his loyalty and courage as much as his brilliance and ingenuity. And just amaze me, period.
I love you, Morgana Macawber. Mean it."

Gosalyn smiled. For all the odd things he'd mentioned in the letter, Darkwing's personality still shone through. He may be weird, but he was still her dad.

She lay back on the pillow again, her hands resting on her stomach. So...Drake had found true contentment? Or was it simply gratitude? Or maybe it was a sense of fulfillment. It could be a combination of all three.

Whatever it was, at least he wasn't going to turn Dark Warrior-psycho at the drop of a dime. That was some reassurance. But the more Gosalyn thought about it, the more questions were raised.

What was this vision of a white face with red eyes about? A ghost? A zombie? A spirit? An alien? Something else above all of these? Who was her dad talking about when he wrote "HE"? And, more importantly, why hadn't he shared these things with her? She was the zombie expert around here...

Well, okay, maybe Morgana was a bit more qualified, since she was related to real ghouls, but still Gosalyn was not the type to freak out over stuff like that. She might have even helped Darkwing with his research if she'd known how important it was to him. Certainly there would be plenty of stuff on the internet that she could look up at the Tower. And she could enlist Honker's help if she ran out of ideas.

So why didn't her dad mention this to her? If she meant so much to him, why did he leave her out of so many conversations? She could handle it. After all, she handled Drake's eccentricities and dual identities every day. And she could hold her own against super villains. Sometimes she was a better crime fighter than her dad! (Not that she would tell him as much. That would guarantee getting grounded before her birthday...)

Wait a minute! Her birthday! She had completely forgotten why she was here!

Gosalyn jumped off the bed and hurriedly tossed things back in order. As she put the letters away, she saw there was one she had not read yet. Although she couldn't imagine Drake having anything interesting to say to the Muddlefoots, she looked at it.

Fortunately it was briefer than the others and fairly straight forward. And surprisingly generous.

"Dad must have been on one of his heavy duty painkillers when he wrote these," Gosalyn commented wryly. He would never be that nice to the Muddlefoots in person.
In this letter, there was plenty of love and concern for Gosalyn's well-being.

"Please, when you hold her, tell her that I love her, now and always...She will never be invisible or alone. No matter what happens to me, I will be near, watching over her."

She tightened her grip on the paper. He had reaffirmed that promise to her so many times since that first night, she practically heard him saying it in her dreams. She wiped a tear away, stubbornly shoving aside the resurfacing memories of her grandpa. Dad would be home soon and she wouldn't forgive herself if she didn't finish reading every word on the paper.

The next few lines in particular touched her, for they spoke to a part of her heart she hadn't realized she had been guarding.

"...I never regretted adopting her and I wouldn't change anything about her. She is perfect as she is; a beautiful young lady with the heart and brains to make an impact. I'm so proud of her..."

Wow. She had heard parents say that about their kids before, but usually those were the snobs and the jerks. Drake had said he was proud of her before, but never to this extent. In fact, she had sometimes wondered: if he hadn't already known her, would he have still picked her at the orphanage? If he could change anything about her, how much would he change? And, if she destroyed everything he cared about (i.e., his statuette of himself, his crime fighting stuff, his relationship with Morgana, etc.), would he still love her? She had often tried to find the answer to that last question herself by pushing him to his limits.

Now, after reading all these heart-felt words of praise, she felt something inside her swell.

It wasn't her ego, although that was certainly stoked. It was a ball of warmth that flooded her with good feelings. A sense of belonging. It

Not the gooey gushy love she saw her dad share with Morgana. Not the brotherly love she shared with Honker. Not even what she felt when she thought of her grandpa...
She knew she loved Grandpa Waddlemeyer, but that feeling of warmth went deeper with Drake. It was difficult to admit to herself, but she felt she could lose her grandpa all over again and go back to the orphanage if she would be guaranteed that Drake Mallard would come for her again. With him, she felt totally safe and free to be herself.

Even if...even if the worst happened, she would still feel Drake's love surrounding her every time she thought of him. And she now knew he had done his best to assure she would be cared for. He had covered every base. All that was left was for them to enjoy life now.

The spinning chairs activated and Gosalyn's heart skipped a beat. She quickly put the letter back in its envelope and shoved it on the shelf. Grabbing the chair, she tossed it on a pile of clothes in her room and hurriedly dug out a comic book. Realizing reading would make her look guilty, she threw it on her bed and headed downstairs.
Her dad may be a human lie detector, but she really couldn't feel guilty about this. She was glad she had read those letters.

Gosalyn was halfway down when Drake reached the bannister. He was in the middle of yelling her name when he saw her and smiled. In the half-second their eyes met, she read everything she needed to know. He wasn't hurt or cranky or deep in thought solving some mystery. He was just her dad.

Gosalyn ran to him, colliding with him moments later. She pressed her face into his chest, unable to voice everything she was feeling. She felt the wimpy desire to gush all over him, but, hearing his strong heart beat, she had to smile. Thanks to her, that heartbeat a little stronger and a little steadier. And her own once-broken heart was mending.

"Well, that's...some greeting, Kiddo. Heh heh, I'm glad to see you too," Drake chuckled, wrapping an arm around her shoulders. "To what do I owe this exemplary example of embracing emotion?"

"No reason, Dad," Gosalyn replied, smiling up at him. "No reason at all."

He arched a brow at her reply, but shrugged off his suspicions and returned the hug.

Gosalyn snuggled a few more seconds before heading to the den to watch TV. To her delight, Drake joined her and together they watched the afternoon cartoons. It might not have been Drake's first choice of entertainment, but the fact that he was willing to watch "junk" with her meant a lot.

During the commercial breaks, she couldn't help glancing at him out of the corner of her eye once or twice, recalling bits and pieces from the letters.

It was an incredible feeling; knowing someone cared so much for her. He loved her enough to challenge death itself. Enough to let someone else take her away from him if it meant she would be safe. Enough to plan for her future, with or without him present, to make sure she would never be without a safety net. She couldn't comprehend how a stranger could fall in so love with somebody else's child and completely change his life to accommodate said child.

Then again, Darkwing Duck was no ordinary stranger. He is the thing that goes bump in the night. He is the night watchman who never falls asleep on the job. He is the overprotective parent; the torrent of rage unleashed on anyone who would harm his daughter; the gentle father who tucked her in every night and sang lullabies to her when she had nightmares. Sure, he could lighten up a little when it came to letting her try things on her own, but he was her dad AND her hero. What more could a kid ask for?


A.N.: Two things. One, this story is a lead in for more, tying the previous stories with the new ones coming up. Second, there is some foreshadowing in it of events to come, only some of which will be in the next piece "The Duck Knight in Duckburg." I try to stay true to all of the Darkwing canon, but I had some ulterior motives for this piece. I was also inspired to add a line from the comics in addition to using BeecroftA's suggestions. The phrase marked with ** comes from Issue 4 of kaBOOM! "The Duck Knight Returns".

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