“Hey, come on. Get up.”
Gosalyn inhaled, shifting her hands to rest under her cheek before she settled into the cushions again. Exhaling, her muscles relaxed as her mind drifted off….
“Seriously?” An irritated voice broke through the fog, a heavy sigh soon following. Gosalyn’s mind focused on the sound briefly, the rest of her not moving.
This voice wasn’t the one that usually woke her. It was gentler, less demanding, yet deeper, graveled. It was also… tentative? The usual voice was always so insistent. And it was accompanied by a gentle shaking of her shoulder. Sometimes shaking the mattress around her. Tearing off her blankets. There was even one time that a glass of water had been involved….
“Come on, Gosalyn.”
That was her, wasn’t it? Maybe she should get up….
“I’ll leave you down here. Is that what you want? To sleep on a half-demolished couch?”
Is that why it felt so weird?
Shifting again, Gosalyn stretched, her hip sinking down in between the couch cushions and hitting the wooden frame. The whole piece of furniture creaked loudly in protest as she moved. She remembered it doing the same thing when she’d all but collapsed on it earlier.
“Not that I care,” the deep voice insisted. “I just think it’s stupid to sleep down here when there’s a bed upstairs.”
Bringing up a hand to rub her eyes, Gosalyn asked, “Are you offering up your bed?” Her voice was rough from sleep.
The other voice scoffed. “This is a two bedroom house. Something I thought you’d know by now.”
Peeling her eyes open, Gosalyn looked at the room around her. The living room on Avian Way. Right. She’d fallen asleep on the couch after getting home from the meeting. Rolling onto her back, she sat up, eyes searching for whoever it was who kept talking to her….
And they landed on Negaduck. Standing a few feet away, arms crossed, and his beak pulled down in a frown.
She was in the Negaverse.
She’d just gotten back from a meeting.
Between Negaduck and FOWL.
Gosalyn and Negaduck been on a stakeout for hours waiting for the FOWL High Command to make an appearance. Negaduck hadn’t let Gosalyn talk at all (“It could give away our position.”), but talking was what kept Gosalyn alert during these types of things. So, she’d started to doze instead. But Negaduck hadn’t liked that either and kept nudging her awake. By the time High Command had shown up, Gosalyn had been stifling yawns behind her bow and blinking rapidly to focus.
During the meeting, where Negaduck tried to convince FOWL to work for him, Gosalyn had to keep reminding herself to stay awake. Not even when FOWL demanded a test run and Negaduck had given them a time, location, and amount to rob back in the Prime universe, had Gosalyn been able to pay much attention. Instead she was trying not to focus on how heavy her eyelids were feeling, how foggy her brain was, how all she wanted to do was lay down and sleep right then and there, FOWL or no FOWL.
Eventually, the meeting had concluded, a follow-up scheduled in a week, and Gosalyn and Negaduck returned to his home. She hadn’t given thought to anything else once she saw the couch in the living room, broken and missing stuffing though it was. She’d dropped her weapons and practically nose-dived into the run-down piece of furniture.
“So, my bedr-- uh… the second bedroom is where you want me?” she asked, hoping Negaduck hadn’t caught her slip.
The way his hands fell down to his sides, how he straightened up, spoke to the contrary.
He had noticed then. That was perfect.
Moving off the couch, Gosalyn shouldered her quiver and scooped up her bow. “I’ll just….” She motioned to the staircase behind Negaduck. When he didn’t make any movement towards it, Gosalyn nodded and stepped around him, trotting up the stairs.
She briefly wondered if Negaduck would stay down in the living room the whole night, brooding. But she heard his own heavy footfalls following her when she was about halfway up the stairs.
Waiting for him on the landing, Gosalyn nodded before stepping into the room.
“Leave your weapons outside.”
Gosalyn halted and turned on her heel to face Negaduck. “What?”
“No weapons in… in there.”
Crossing her arms, Gosalyn cocked her head to the side. “Why?”
Negaduck shrugged. “House rule.”
Eyeing Negaduck, Gosalyn nodded towards his room. “So you’re telling me that there aren’t any weapons in there?”
“Of course there are weapons in there!” He sounded indignant.
“So, the rule is just for my-- this room.”
Gosalyn scoffed. “Well, that’s stupid.”
Negaduck went stock still. “Really?” he asked, his voice low. What would be a warning to anyone else to back off was a sign for Gosalyn to forge on.
“House rules implies the whole house,” Gosalyn said. “If you can have weapons in your room, I should be able to have weapons in mine.”
“But the room isn’t yours,” Negaduck snarled, his tone even deeper.
Gosalyn straightened, thrusting her chin up in defiance. “Well, it’s not yours, either.”
“It’s my house.” Negaduck took a step towards Gosalyn, looking down his beak at her.
Gosalyn raised an eyebrow. “Then what made you decide on pink for the color scheme of this room?”
Negaduck’s eyes darkened. “No weapons,” was all he said. He began walking toward his own room, but Gosalyn wasn’t done.
Switching tactics, Gosalyn said, “And if I’m ambushed in the middle of the night?”
“You won’t be,” Negaduck said, his tone still hard, his posture stiff.
“Sure. Of course. Remind me, again, why you have to search the house for intruders every time you come back home.”
Negaduck, gripping the door handle so tight his knuckles were turning white, whirled back around to glare at her.
Gosalyn shrugged. “If you’re afraid someone’ll break in when you’re gone, then you’re probably afraid of someone breaking in when you’re sleeping.”
“I’m not afraid,” Negaduck growled.
“Which is why you stash weapons in your bedroom right? Because you’re not afraid.”
The doorknob began to rattle as Negaduck’s hand shook. He dropped his arm to his side, tucking his hands back into his cape. “Leave your quiver and bow in the hall and go. To. Bed,” Negaduck ground out, his tone clipped.
“But why?” Gosalyn insisted. She just needed a reason, why couldn’t Negaduck give her a straight answer?
“Just do it.”
But Gosalyn stood her ground, gripping her bow all the tighter as the two of them had a stare-off.
She couldn’t be separated from her weapons. She just couldn’t. Not that she didn’t trust Negaduck; she slept with her quiver and bow by her bed back home, too. Darkwing had made her promise to keep them nearby.
“Just in case,” he always said. Cryptic as ever.
And she wanted to follow her father’s advice.
This time, anyway.
Probably because she’d recently started teaming up with his most hated enemy. Retroactive obedience. Was that a thing? When it came to Gosalyn, probably. Other kids….
An idea suddenly striking her, Gosalyn said, “It’s because of her, isn’t it? Was she against weapons?”
“Don’t,” Negaduck warned.
“Is that why all your weapons are stashed away? Hidden out of sight because she was uncomfortable?”
“She’s gone, Negaduck. This is me and weapons are--” Gosalyn never got to explain the necessity of weapons, or that she even thought it was a good idea to keep them handy, especially considering his line of work.
Negaduck pounced, grabbing Gosalyn by the shoulders and shaking her as he spoke. “Are you deaf and stupid? I said no weapons and I meant it!” With that, Negaduck ripped Gosalyn’s bow from her grasp, yanked the quiver off her shoulder, and threw them over the banister. They landed with a crash down on the first level, but that was the only sound in the house for some minutes.
Negaduck caught his breath, the ire slowly disappearing from his gaze as the tension leaked out of him.
Thoughts escaped her. Sure, Negaduck was violent. Sure, he was stubborn. But… they’d gotten past this, right? This sort of anger and malcontent.
Well, she had pushed him. She hadn’t meant for it to go so far.
Okay, yes she had.
She’d meant to get some sort of reaction from him, but she hadn’t meant to make him go this crazy. There was a difference.
Seeing him now, as he stared back at her, eyes flashing dangerously, waiting to see what her next move was, Gosalyn found she couldn’t get a read on him. Didn’t know what he was thinking.
And that’s what was scaring her.
He’d closed himself off.
He didn’t trust her.
Gosalyn nodded. “I’m gonna go.” Turning, she walked down the stairs.
“Oh, come on,” Negaduck said.
Gosalyn continued to walk downstairs.
“Your weapons can just stay in the hall,” Negaduck offered, exhaustion tinging the words.
Gosalyn sighed as she reached the ground level and scooped up her quiver, strapping it to her back. “They aren’t bartering chips. You need to be okay with me keeping them.” You need to trust me to keep them.
“Or?” Negaduck demanded.
Gosalyn grabbed her bow. “Goodnight, Negaduck.”
He watched her for a moment, before nodding jerkily. “Fine. Get out. I’m sure Dipwing is worried.”
Gosalyn ignored the jab. She didn’t bother explaining that she had already made plans to stay here for the night. The meeting with FOWL was scheduled late in the evening; it would have been easier to stay.
But not now.
“I’ll see you later,” Gosalyn said, yanking open the broken front door. Closing it behind her, Gosalyn leaned against it.
Taking a deep breath, she walked down the driveway. She’d just reached the minefield that was the Nega-Muddlefoots yard when she heard an earth-shattering crash and a guttural yell from Negaduck’s house. She turned around right away, already half-way to the front door before she stopped herself.
Negaduck needed to work through whatever he was feeling. Destruction was how he did that. Gosalyn would only be in the way.
Seeing Negaduck’s fury-filled gaze and expressionless face, Gosalyn turned and walked down the street. Even if she did end up staying, she would be useless.
Because he didn’t trust her to talk about this.
Negaduck blinked at her for a moment. “You’re here,” was all he said.
Gosalyn drew her brows together as she walked up beside him. “Uh… yeah.” She secured her quiver to her back. “FOWL is still FOWL even if they decide to work for you.”
“I just….” Negaduck shifted his weight from one foot to the other before he shrugged. “After our argument, I wasn’t sure--”
“You must not think very highly of me if you think an argument can scare me off.” Gosalyn rolled her eyes.
Negaduck didn’t say anything, but instead turned to glance down the alley.
And ouch that kind of hurt. Because he had thought exactly that.
Resigned to an awkward evening, Gosalyn stepped up next to Negaduck to wait.
There was no sign of FOWL. Not yet. But she and Negaduck were early. The villainous mallard always made it a habit of showing up at least thirty minutes before any meeting. He liked to prepare himself, be ready for anything.
“You’re not gonna fall asleep this time, are you?” Negaduck asked.
“No,” Gosalyn scoffed.
He looked back at her, his eyes piercing. “You need to focus.”
He studied her briefly before nodding his approval and looking back down the alley. Gosalyn strung her bow, focusing on the action instead of the tension still between them.
Negaduck really had thought she wasn’t going to show. She may have been a little out of it last week, but she had enough sense to come to this meeting, even if she and Negaduck weren’t on the best of terms. FOWL was nothing to sneeze at.
But, really, she’d still back him up anyway. And not because FOWL was dangerous.
Because they were partners.
Because she liked him.
Because she couldn’t help but see flashes of something buried beneath Negaduck’s brusque exterior. Even when he was raving and yelling, something was there. And that something kept bringing her back, wanting to explore more of Negaduck, learn more about him, and see if she could help.
Because there was also something deep inside Gosalyn. Something that told her Negaduck needed her in a way he hadn’t needed anyone before.
The sound of tires crunching over broken asphalt and concrete drew Gosalyn’s attention out of herself and to the task at hand. She drew an arrow as an unmarked black van appeared at the end of the alley.
The masked menace growled something like, “Finally,” as he marched towards the van. Negaduck and Gosalyn readied themselves as some FOWL Eggmen opened the sliding back passenger door and jumped out, automatic rifles in their hands.
Negaduck came to a stop near the end of the alley next to a dumpster, the lid long since gone. His position was oddly specific; Gosalyn wondered if Negaduck had stored some sort of weapon in there as a failsafe. Probably.
One of the FOWL High Command stepped out of the van, fiddling with his suit cuffs. The other two were right behind him, taking up their usual spots to form their trifecta. They looked cooly at Negaduck, the shadows from the setting sun keeping them in their customary darkness.
“I hear the heist went off without a hitch,” Negaduck said, standing with his shoulders held back, his spine straight, and his feet planted firmly on the ground.
One member of the High Command merely examined his fingernails. “Robbed the whole casino and got away before any of the cops showed.”
Or Darkwing Duck. Gosalyn had helped by dragging her father to go camping that weekend. Normally, she wouldn’t resort to camping to get what she wanted, but Negaduck desperately needed the FOWL agency in his pocket, so she was willing to pull a few strings.
Negaduck nodded, his scarlet fedora bobbing with the movement. “Can’t beat my accuracy,” he said. “A plan as detailed as that would’ve taken you, what, weeks to come up with?”
The middle High Command agent sneered. “Perhaps. But FOWL has never considered something so… simple before. We’ve always striven to hit bigger targets.”
Negaduck didn’t seem to react, but Gosalyn’s fingers tightened on her bow as she nocked her arrow.
“More like useless targets,” Negaduck said. “All of your plans have been ruined by Darkwing Duck, the police, or everything just falling to pieces. And since you just got away with a few million big ones, I’d say simplicity ain’t so bad.”
The third agent shrugged, unfazed. “Maybe it isn’t.”
“We can go over the details of this partnership later, after you’ve had the chance to put those millions to use. If you’ll hand over my cut, I’ll let you all go.”
All three High Command agents laughed. Glancing at Negaduck, Gosalyn caught his slight nod. She brought up her weapon, pulling her arrow back and aiming the head at the van behind the agents. This was nothing a little explosive arrow couldn’t fix.
But she waited. For Negaduck’s next signal.
“I will admit that your universe here is charming,” said the middle High Command agent. “It would make an ideal place for a FOWL agency, but we won’t be giving you anything.”
Negaduck growled deep in his throat, the noise causing the Eggmen to shift nervously, glancing at one another. “Our deal,” Negaduck ground out, “was that you to pay me my due. I went to a lot of trouble organizing your outing.”
“I’m re-writing our contract,” said the middle agent. With that, High Command gave some sort of signal, the Eggmen aiming their rifles down the alley. Negaduck released a heavy sigh before the Eggmen opened fire.
Negaduck kicked at something on the ground, the missing lid from the dumpster springing up and giving him sufficient cover. He leaned against the metal, bullets ricocheting off the lid as he grabbed for a Glock in his cape.
Gosalyn was not standing as close to Negaduck as she should have been, though, and one of the shots went wide, clipping her in the shoulder. She cried out and stumbled backwards, dropping her weapons.
She vaguely heard some swearing before a booming clatter echoed down the alley. Gosalyn winced at the loud noise as she grabbed her shoulder to slow the flow of blood.
But then strong hands wrapped around her waist, dragging her towards the dumpster and pushing her behind it as another array of bullets rained down on them both.
Safe from the gunfire, Gosalyn slumped against the dumpster, whimpering as her shoulder gave an almighty throb.
“Damn it,” Negaduck breathed, his fingers already at her shoulder, tearing her costume away. Gosalyn let him examine her, watching his blue eyes swirling between fury, exasperation, and concern.
“I don’t think it’s that bad,” Gosalyn said.
“Have you been shot before?” Negaduck asked, fingers impossibly gentle as he brushed away blood to get a better look at the wound.
“Then I get to decide if it’s bad.”
Gosalyn blinked at him. “You’ve been shot?”
“Not the point.” Negaduck’s expression softened into something like relief after he examined her. “Just brushed you. You’ll be sore, but it’s nothing to worry about.”
“So, I’ll be all right,” Gosalyn said, not sure if she was saying it for her benefit or for his.
“You will be,” Negaduck said, making it sound like a threat. He glanced behind him and found her discarded bow and arrow. For another moment, he stayed in his crouched position, listening to the gunfire. The bullets ricocheted off the dumpster and buried themselves into the bricks of the building next to them.
After a moment, Negaduck sprang up, dodging out from behind the dumpster. There were shouts, but no gunfire; Negaduck must have been counting the bullets. Grabbing Gosalyn’s bow and arrow, Negaduck took aim towards the FOWL end of the alley and fired.
The explosion shook the block, the van going up in a ball of fire, the smoke and flames making a mushroom cloud that Gosalyn could see from her position huddled on the ground. Yells and screams echoed down the alley as the FOWL agents scrambled.
Negaduck crouched down next to Gosalyn again, setting her bow beside her. Glancing at her shoulder, which was still bleeding, he looked around the alley for something and seemed to find it. Grabbing his Glock, Negaduck stood and walked down the alley to a large dusty window. Shooting out the glass, Negaduck leapt through the frame into the building. Gosalyn grabbed her bow and another arrow, groaning when her shoulder screamed in pain. Even for just a scratch, it hurt. The bullet must have taken some of her shoulder with it.
Gosalyn nocked her arrow, but Negaduck jumped back down into the alley before she needed to use it. Coming back over to her, Negaduck shot a few oncoming Eggmen in the head, the bullets easily bypassing their helmets at this close range. He grabbed her good arm and hoisted her up.
“Let’s go,” he pressed. She followed, not realizing how much she used her shoulder until now when every move she made aggravated it.
Reaching the now broken window, Negaduck gave her a boost. Gosalyn gripped the window with her good arm, pulling herself up and over, Negaduck helping by pushing her legs.
Swinging her feet into the room, Gosalyn dropped down into the building. Clutching her bow and arrow to her chest with her bad arm, she scrambled away from the window, glass crunching beneath her boots as she surveyed the abandoned room around her. Negaduck climbed inside a moment later, but not before launching a grenade down the street. Walking up to Gosalyn, he reached for her good arm again, steadying her when the building around them trembled from the blast.
He led her to another room, as everything settled down.
This room was equally as deserted as the first had been. Pushing the door closed behind them, Negaduck helped her sit against the wall.
Ripping off the edge of his cape, he tied it around her still-bleeding shoulder as he said, “You stay here while I go show those bastards why they don’t cross Negaduck.” Finishing his knot, he pressed his Glock into her hand. “Don’t be afraid to use it.”
Gosalyn fingered the cool metal, eyes trailing over the barrel. “I-I’m not….”
“You’ve gotten better.”
Negaduck slid his fingers beneath her chin and tipped her face up to look him in the eye. “Anyone who comes into this room isn’t going to be nice and offer you help, Gosalyn. They will want to hurt you. Or worse, kill you.” He took in a breath, his fingers trembling slightly. “So you don’t give them the chance to decide.”
His hand moved up, now cupping the side of her face. “I’ll come back for you, but you have to stay here. None of this spirited ‘I’m gonna save the day’ or self-sacrificing ‘I’m gonna help Negaduck’ bullshit--”
“It’s not bullshit!” Gosalyn interrupted.
His other hand came up to frame her face, the uncharacteristic gentleness silencing her immediately. “Stay. Here.”
He waited only long enough for Gosalyn to nod before he left, opening the door and effectively sheltering Gosalyn between it and the wall. Gripping the steel gun in her hand, Gosalyn rested her head against the wall, listening….
There were a few shouts -- warnings or please she’d never know -- and another explosion that made the abandoned building shudder around her once more. Closing her eyes and setting her bow and arrow beside her, Gosalyn wondered how long she had to stay put before she could make her move.
Sure, Negaduck had technically told her to stay here, but the building was big. And it seemed totally empty. She could move around inside, see if she could track down the fight on the street and give Negaduck some backup. FOWL would never expect a sniper. She could make High Command sorry they’d ever messed with Negaduck.
But he could do that on his own. Negaduck didn’t need her help terrorizing the Negaverse. Besides, his methods were… not always steeped in righteousness and, considering the high morals Gosalyn held herself to, Negaduck tended to rampage alone.
But this situation was clear enough. High Command had double-crossed Negaduck.
Gosalyn could have told them, from personal experience, how dumb it was to try and get the drop on Negaduck. It was suicide….
For everyone except her.
Even back in Duckburg, when Negaduck had been sure Gosalyn had been a double agent all along, he had only gone as far as to try and injure her. He hadn’t gone through with it. Instead, he had run. Squirreled himself away for months before reappearing. And the only reason he’d done that was because Gosalyn had been in danger.
He’d given Gosalyn a second chance.
He was giving her one now, leaving her alone with a gun.
That’s what Negaduck called it.
Each gun had a name, some sort of identification.
Darkwing didn’t like guns, he just stuck to his gas gun. Gosalyn didn’t even know if her father knew how to use a real gun.
But for Negaduck they were like an extension of him. He’d started showing Gosalyn different makes and models, what ammunition was for what, and how to assemble and disassemble each kind. After having her clean and assemble each model so many times Gosalyn thought she could do it in her sleep, Negaduck had taken her out to open areas for shooting practice. She’d been awful at first. Negaduck wondered -- loudly and profanely -- how she could be so good with a bow but so bad with a gun.
She’d gotten better -- to prove Negaduck wrong if nothing else -- and he’d brought in bigger and badder weapons the more proficient she became.
The fact that he trusted her with one now, when she was injured and left to her own devices, spoke of how deep his trust really ran.
So, she should return the favor.
Sighing, Gosalyn settled down into the dust around her. Setting the gun down, she replaced her arrow in the quiver and unstrung her bow, sliding it into the clips she’d fixed onto the outside of the quiver. It was her own idea, to include these clips, keeping her bow and quiver together. Unbuckling the straps from around her, Gosalyn pulled the still-full quiver and attached bow off and propped it up beside her.
Stretching and grimacing at the sudden heat that blossomed through her bad shoulder, Gosalyn fully leaned back against the wall.
She took up the gun, checking the magazine as Negaduck had taught her to do. Snapping it back in place, she cocked the gun and held it, ready, ears open for any noise, and body tensed for a change in the building.
There was no chance of sleep this time, not with her shoulder throbbing and a cocked gun in her lap.
Shadows lengthened, the room went from a warm gold to a pale yellow to an icy blue. A deeper blue had started to settle around her when the sound of crunching glass met her ears. Picking up the gun carefully, Gosalyn steadied her breathing, even as her heart raced. She pressed herself against the wall, feeling for any vibrations.
Whoever it was had been injured. One of the feet was being dragged, the scraping against the broken glass and little grunts of protest telling her as much. Gosalyn flexed her finger against the gun, deliberately staying still until the knew whether the intruder was friendly or not.
Whoever it was stumbled, a groan echoing through the empty building as he caught himself against the doorframe Gosalyn was huddled next to. The tremors danced down her spine, causing her fingers to tingle.
Yet the weapon remained steady. That was important, she reminded herself. The gun wouldn’t be good for anything if it was shaking so bad to miss its target.
But would she really have to use it? Targets in a field were one thing. Empty bottles and cans weren’t the same as a living person.
“They will want to hurt you. Or worse, kill you,” Negaduck had said. “So you don’t give them the chance to decide.”
Her or them.
Her. Not them.
The intruder leaned heavily against the doorframe, causing the door to swing open fully. Bouncing off Gosalyn, it gently swung back the other way.
They knew something was behind the door now.
Gritting her teeth and gripping the Glock, Gosalyn focused on breathing steadily as the intruder stood and shuffled into the room. His hand fumbled on the doorknob, the only warning Gosalyn had before the door was yanked away from her.
An Eggman peered down at her, but Gosalyn didn’t give him the time to do much more than that. Taking aim, she fired, wincing when the bullet sailed over his shoulder.
He sneered at her, withdrawing something shaped like a knife from his belt.
Seeing the weapon spurred Gosalyn onward.
She fired again, this time the bullet hitting the side of his neck. Gosalyn prepared to fire again -- what was wrong with her? She’d shot targets half his size at double the distance -- but he stumbled backwards, gagging. He collapsed onto the floor, his forgotten knife clattering against he floorboards. Blood pooled around him so fast Gosalyn initially thought it was a shadow. But it spread along the floor too fast. Was too dark a color.
The Eggman coughed and sputtered, blood rushing into his mouth and choking him as he bled out.
The cold horror of what she’d just done washing over her, Gosalyn dropped the gun with a clatter and scurried away from the doorway. Dragging herself to another corner, farther away from the agent, Gosalyn hugged her knees to her chest. The Eggman continued to cough and then gurgle as he slipped away.
This was different.
This was so very different from hitting cans and bottles in an open field.
Covering her ears so she wouldn’t have to hear the Eggman’s last moments, Gosalyn rested her forehead on her knees, trying to forget everything.
When fingers wrapped around her wrists, dragging her hands away from her ears, Gosalyn screamed and kicked out, worried the Eggman had crawled over to her in his dying minutes and had grabbed at her.
But it was only Negaduck.
He’d sprung away from Gosalyn as soon as she’d started out of her protective stance, so she hadn’t managed to kick him.
“I-I thought it was…” Gosalyn swallowed and glanced at the dark form laying in the center of the room. “Is-is he…?”
“He’s gone,” Negaduck confirmed.
“Oh, God,” Gosalyn said, a rush of lightheadedness making the room spin as she collapsed down onto her side, ignoring the pain that flared when she landed on her bad shoulder. “Oh, my God.”
The rushing in her ears was broken through by someone calling out her name, the dizziness waning as fingers swept her hair from her eyes.
“Gos, hey,” said Negaduck, his hands pulling her back up into a sitting position. When had he kneeled down next to her?
She sat up, leaning heavily against the wall as Negaduck cupped her face in his hands like he had done before he’d left her.
“You did the right thing,” he said, his voice insistent but his tone soft.
“I-I killed him!”
“And what did I tell you before I left?” Negaduck pressed, his voice even gentler.
“To stay here.”
Negaduck huffed something that could have been a laugh or a sigh of exasperation, it was impossible to say which. “No. About the gun.”
“That I was getting better.”
“Now you’re just trying to annoy me,” Negaduck ground out.
Gosalyn gave him a weak smile, her eyes straying over to the body behind Negaduck. “That I shouldn’t be afraid to use the gun.”
She sighed. “That I couldn’t give them the chance to decide.”
Negaduck’s grip tightened, his fingers tugging her face back so she could meet his eyes. Even in the dying light, they were filled with a stony determination. “It was you or him. You made the right choice.”
Gosalyn nodded, her head still feeling dizzy.
“Breathe,” Negaduck soothed. Gosalyn did, sucking down deep gulps of air.
Negaduck watched her for a few moments, eyes fixed on her.
“You know,” Negaduck said, his tone still soft, “there was a moment there, after the second gunshot, that I thought….”
Gosalyn looked up at him, but his face was hidden by the shadows.
Growling, Negaduck suddenly stood, gathering up Gosalyn’s abandoned gun, her quiver and bow, and the knife the Eggman dropped on the floor. He came back for her, a hand out to help her stand. Gosalyn used more of his strength than she normally would, allowing him to pull her from the floor. He ushered her out, steering her wide from the dead body as they walked back into the main room.
Seeing light from the alley pouring in through the shattered window, Gosalyn hoisted herself up and over. Dropping down into the alley, she observed the damage around her.
The van was still smoldering, red-hot metal and small embers like a beacon in the night. Some FOWL Eggmen lay scattered in the streets, bodies in contorted shapes that would only be comfortable in death. Gosalyn hugged herself, reminded of the Eggman she’d shot and killed…
Negaduck jumped down beside her and she asked, “Did you and FOWL come to an understanding?”
“They apologized and said they’d be happy to do business with me.” Negaduck scoffed, shouldering Gosalyn’s quiver. “I’ll need to keep an eye on them, but this,” he gestured to the van, “should keep them in line for now.”
Gosalyn nodded and walked down the alley, the opposite direction from Negaduck’s -- and her own -- carnage. The scene would stay like that for a few days, reminding everyone to not cross their ruler.
“You want your quiver?” Negaduck asked, holstering the Glock as the walked beside her.
Gosalyn shook her head as they made their way into the next street over and stepped into the dim glow of a streetlamp. “No one will attack me while I’m with you.”
That wasn’t true.
It was the opposite of true. Traveling with Negaduck put a target on your back, especially to the vengeful type.
But Gosalyn trusted Negaduck.
She just hoped he knew that.
“How you holding up?” Negaduck asked as he packed up his first aid kit.
Gosalyn downed the rest of her water and nodded. He’d given her a full glass of water with some painkillers when they’d first sat in the kitchen; she was still waiting for them to kick in.
Negaduck slipped the kit back into its drawer. Gathering up the bloody gauze and bandage wrappers, Negaduck tidied the kitchen before washing his hands. Gosalyn leaned back against her chair, a wave of weariness descending upon her. She closed her eyes, letting her mind drift….
“Come on,” Negaduck said, laying a hand on her good shoulder. “Darkwing will be getting worried.”
Gosalyn shook her head. “I told him I’d be on patrol all night and would sleep at the Tower. He won’t miss me until tomorrow.”
“Either way,” Negaduck said, pushing her to standing. “You can’t sleep here.”
“Really?” Gosalyn asked, suddenly feeling like something was constricting her chest as she stood. “I-I thought I could, I don’t know, sleep on the couch or something…”
Negaduck stepped back, eyeing her warily. “You… want to stay. The night.”
He was nervous after their fight.
He didn’t want to kick her out.
He thought he had to.
Because he thought that was what she wanted.
But it wasn’t.
What she wanted.
“I mean…” Gosalyn shrugged. “Yeah. Yeah, I would.”
He looked at her for a moment before shaking his head. “I don’t care what you do.”
Which was Negaduck-speak for yes.
Gosalyn nodded and made her way down the hall, walking into the living room, but Negaduck wrapped an arm around her waist.
“No broken down couch. You need a bed.”
“Really, the couch isn’t that bad.”
“Upstairs.” Negaduck gently shoved her towards the staircase before ducking back into the living room to turn off the lights.
Gosalyn climbed the stairs and edged her way to her -- NegaGosalyn’s -- bedroom.
Unable to think after seeing the bed, Gosalyn fell on top of it, not even bothering to climb under the covers. Sighing, she brought up her good arm to tuck it under the pillow.
She was drawn out of her doze when someone tugged at the sheets. Peeling her eyes open, she saw Negaduck wrestling the pink bedding out from under her. She helped, maneuvering around the bedding as she settled down into the mattress.
“I hate pink,” she said, the painkillers Negaduck and given her kicking in and making everything a little fuzzy.
“So do I,” Negaduck agreed, smoothing the blanket over her.
“Can I get rid of it?” she asked.
Negaduck hesitated for a moment before he cleared his throat. “You can have the whole room if you want it,” he said softly.
“M’kay,” Gosayn murmured, pressing her face into the pillow. “Then no pink.”
“No pink,” Negaduck agreed, smoothing the blankets one last time before he walked out of the room.
Gosalyn saw the hall light vanishing as he closed the door and she protested, “No. Leave it open.”
If she was more herself, Gosalyn might have realized that Negaduck hesitated when he was asked to leave the bedroom door open, to have no barrier between Gosalyn and himself for the night.
But as it was, she fell asleep before Negaduck left her doorway.
As she’d asked, the door stayed open the whole night, the golden light from the hallway spilling into the room and illuminating Gosalyn’s quiver and bow, which were propped up against the cracked cherry nightstand.