A/N: Here's a little something I've wanted to write since watching the finale. You can't imagine the noise I made when I saw McGucket with his son in the ending credits.
"TATE! It happened again!"
His father's voice seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere in particular, echoing through more hallways and rooms Tate McGucket had thought there could be in any manor, no matter how huge. Hard not to get lost in there, to be fair - he had gotten lost a couple of times as well - but that was the fourth time in less than a week.
Still, it didn't bother him. It never did, now.
"Coming, dad! What does the room look like?"
"Huh, somewhere with paintings! I don't know. Lots of them. Oh, and there are windows! I can see the dump from up here!"
"Okay, stay there and keep talking! I'll follow your voice, alright?"
Not even a month before, in the world before the end of the world, Tate McGucket would have ignored the call. But then again, in the world before the end of the world Fiddleford McGucket had been lost for years and decades, his mind someplace with no return.
Except that he had made it back, somehow. Not quite the same, never quite the same, but still the closest he had ever been to the man he remembered from his early childhood. The one who'd build toy robots for him instead of mechanical monsters to send after his mother; the one who threw up his arms in mock surrender and called him 'Sheriff McGucket' when he pointed a toy gun at him instead of the deranged lunatic who had once chased him with a gun, screaming for him to get back and that it all would be better if he just let him help, if he just forgot.
"Oh, I just remembered something! You were afraid of water, right? Did I get that right?"
"Yes, dad. You helped me grow out of that, remember?"
"We'll talk about that when I find you, then. Keep talking!"
Tate remembered running away from him as fast as his legs could carry him, crying for his mother, his vision blurry with tears. He remembered stumbling and hurting his knee on the forest ground. He remembered the shadow his father cast over him, the unhinged smile, the gun being lifted. He remembered his mother coming between them, picking him up, taking him away.
After that, Fiddleford Hadron McGucket had never come home again. To Tate and his mother, it was as though he was simply gone: the lunatic who had taken to living in a dump, muttering nonsense to anyone passing by, could not be him. Wherever his father had gone, it was not there. He was lost somewhere in his delusions, lost someplace no one could see but him.
"What if I sent smoke signals?"
"Dad, no. I'll come find you. Just make noise and don't set anything on fire."
"I mean it, dad. Don't set things on fire."
"Got it, got it! Sheesh, who do you take me for?"
In the world after the end of the world, Tate knew better. He didn't know the whole story - his father seemed unwilling to tell all of it, and certainly not only because of the Never Mind All That Act - but what he had been told gave him a rather good idea of what had happened, what burden he had tried to rid himself of nearly at the cost of his mind.
I was so scared, Tate. So ashamed. I'm sorry I was too much of a coward to own up to my mistakes.
… I'm sorry I was too much of an ass to reach out for you sooner, dad.
"Have I told you of when Ford and I built Fordzilla?"
"... Do I really want to know?"
"It was for a special effects contest in college! We won the first prize. To bad it went haywire, but we stopped it before it could chew someone's arm off, so no arm done. Hah! Get it? No arm done!"
"That was painful."
"Oh, shush. I have thirty years' worth of dad jokes to catch up with. Plus, Ford thought it was funny."
"I rest my case. Wait, I can hear you more clearly now! Stay where you are!"
He found his father in a room in the Eastern wing, one of the many full of portraits the Northwest had left behind. He was looking out one of the windows through glasses that now were rarely off his face, and winced when Tate spoke right behind him.
He turned with a sheepish grin. He was wearing a sweater, one of those Mabel Pines made for him. It was an eyesore, in Tate's opinion, but his father seemed to love it more than any of the clothes he had managed to convince him to buy. "This place is huge. Sorry you keep having to come looking for this old man."
Tate wanted to tell him that it was the least he could do, that he should have come looking for him years ago instead of waiting for Fiddleford McGucket to find his own damn self again and save them all. But he was never very good with words, so in the end he shrugged.
"No problem. So, uh... You really don't remember those swimming lessons?"
"Nope," his father said. He looked mildly guilty, as always when admitting a memory in particular was still lost to him - then he gave another, hopeful grin. "Remind me?"
Da-aad, I'm going to sink!
Not on my watch, you won't. C'mon, Champ! it's just a short way! Daddy's got you!
Tate smiled and put a hand on his shoulder. "Sure. Let's take this to the pool. Seems fitting."
"You sure we won't get lost on the way?"
His father meant it as a joke, surely, but Tate's grip on his shoulder tightened a bit, just in case.
"Then we'll just find our way out again."