Sea of Green
A/N: Welcome to my rewrite of TWC2, which I hope will progress quickly! This fic was originally written in 1994, semi-revised in 1995, and then left to sit in a moldy kitchen where it suffered water damage and... no, it's just that I grew up and realized I could write better now that I wasn't (age deleted to save author's pride) anymore. This follows my recently-released rewrite of TWC1, "My Kingdom For a Double-Plait Bolt", and like its predecessor is in a series which introduces my OC, Beth Webfoot. The original versions of the other three fics are up here on , but they no longer correspond, continuity-wise. Hopefully I can keep my momentum going and get to the other three in this first set of five fics. :) Meanwhile, enjoy, and PLEASE review! I need feedback to keep me going!
Act I, part one
One seasonally mild evening in September, St. Canard's greenest resident made a sincere attempt to enter the city's social scene.
Bushroot was not a fan of dance halls - there was no room to breathe, and his roots generally got trampled on - and he didn't care for bars, or other "typical" places to meet people. Instead he opted for an evening meeting at the St. Canard Botanist Society, held in a local school library, where he found everyone pleasantly talking about flowers and accompanied by a potted plant of some kind. It was lovely, and looking around, he finally felt a sense of kinship with non-vegetable beings.
It was still hard, though, to try to interact. Everyone seemed to know one another, and he knew it would be easier to introduce himself to their plants than to the actual people. He hung back a little, just watching, until a soft, kind voice spoke at his elbow.
"Are you going to stay? Why don't you let me take your hat and coat?"
Bushroot jumped slightly and turned to see a pretty blonde duck smiling at him. He felt himself start blushing, and chuckled awkwardly. "Uh, actually, I- I'd like to keep them on. For now," he added, when she began to look at him a little uncertainly.
"Okay, if that's what you want. You should come on in, though, and settle down. Have a seat, we're always happy to have new members." She took his arm and led him towards a table that was equipped with several slightly-undersized chairs. "I'm Laelia."
"Like the orchid!" he said, delighted.
She beamed at him. "That's right! Wow, you do know your flowers."
"I know a lot of flowers." Although it was the absolute truth, it sounded kind of lame. He looked at his hands, feeling bashful. "Uh, I... I'm afraid I didn't bring a plant with me, though."
Laelia laughed. "Oh, don't worry! That's not a requirement. A lot of people just started bringing in friends from home - it can be a great conversation-starter - but you sure don't have to. I bet we can think of plenty of other things to talk about."
That had the ring of an invitation. Bushroot gave a great sigh of relief and let himself relax a little bit. "Well, have you ever heard of the Lyceum Nycanthropus?"
Shaking her head, Laelia said, "I can't say that I have. I'd love to know more, though. What order is it?" She rested her elbow on the table top and smiled at him as she put her chin against her hand.
"Oh, it's very rare - I'm not even sure what the order would be..." He put a leafy finger against his bill to think, and as he did so, he heard a small, quick intake of breath from across the table. His heart sank as he realized his mistake.
She was staring at his hand. "That's..."
"Oh, no no no! Don't be alarmed!" He waved both his hands frantically, but this only seemed to make things worse; Laelia paled and drew back from him. "Okay, I know what you're thinking, but I can explain this -"
"You're Bushroot!" she cried, and she stood up and backed away with her hand against her mouth. Heads turned from all parts of the room to stare at him. "You're the evil Mutant Plant-Duck criminal!"
"Evil is a really strong word," Bushroot said desperately as he stood up. The quick motion knocked his had off of his head, and the room suddenly started buzzing as his face became visible to everyone. "I'm really more of a misunderstood type..." He smiled gently, or hoped it looked that way, and said, "All I want is to meet some people who love plants as much as I do. Can't we just sit and talk?"
Laelia started crying. "Don't - don't hurt me!" she shrieked, and stumbled over a chair on her way for the door. The rest of the room followed her example, and within moments, Bushroot was alone... Except for the plants, most of which had been forgotten by their panicked owners.
He sighed, then sat at a table next to a potted orchid, and put his face in his hands.
When he arrived home that night, Spike was waiting to catch his hat and coat as he tossed them to the floor. He didn't look as he entered the greenhouse, and didn't bother to acknowledge either his pet Venus Flytrap or any of the other specimens he kept around. He made his way to his lab bench that doubled as his kitchen table, sank into a leaf-chair as it sprouted automatically beneath him, and put his face into his hands with a sigh.
Spike sidled up to him and put his head on the table questioningly, and Bushroot eventually turned to see him and gave him a long, probing look. "So I guess you wanna know how it went," he said finally. Spike gave an affirmative yipping noise, and Bushroot sighed again. "I terrify them. Every last one of them ran away."
With a whimper, Spike cocked his head sympathetically. Bushroot scratched the fluffy foliage on top absently and continued, "And for what? What did I ever do to them? I mean, hey, some 'plant lovers'. What a bunch of hypocrites, am I right?"
Spike's answer was a low grumble, as he shook his head in disgust.
"Yeah. People," Bushroot agreed, and snorted. "I'd like them to know for once what it's like to be chased off the streets... stuck in one place all the time... locked away and lonely, kept conveniently out of the public eye..." He trailed off, his gaze growing distant. "Yeah... I'd like that, alright..."
At age 25, Beth Webfoot aspired to relatively little and had accomplished even less, at least as she saw it. She lived alone, stayed in nearly every night, and worked long hours at a retail hardware store. The primary selling point that her job and living situations offered was the low-stress, low-effort aspect. It was easy to live alone - no effort of keeping up with the expectations of anyone else, no stress of having to try to figure out the often-indecipherable code behind personal interactions that generally seemed to elude her and drive others away. It was easy to stay in her menial job, because she could do it in her sleep, and there was no risk of rejection or of being told she wasn't good enough. Which wasn't to say the job was a perfect pleasure or that she didn't get yelled at, but... it was different, because it didn't really matter.
Despite her preference for an anxiety-free lifestyle, Beth found that she was anxious quite a bit of the time anyway. At the moment, in fact, she felt anxious and nervous. Normally, when she felt nervous, she ended up talking a lot, as some people do; however just now, in the empty front room of the hardware store where she worked, there was no one to talk to. So Beth was trying to distract herself from her nervousness by restocking the ball-bearings wall instead, when the door opened.
The little bell above the door rang, and Beth jumped almost a mile before turning to face the newcomer. Henny, her boss, was in the back room and Beth welcomed the break in the ongoing silence slightly more than she worried at a possible altercation with a pushy customer - especially after the last two days she had had; considering that, she thought jumping at the sound of the door bell was totally understandable. Still, she told herself firmly, she was glad of the company.
A moment later, when she recognized the customer, she really was glad to see him. "Launchpad! Hi!"
"Hey!" said the tall red-haired pilot; he shot her an affable grin. "How ya doin'?"
"Me? Oh, I'm good, really, but how are you? I mean -" She stepped closer, lowering her voice, even though no one else was there and the topic wasn't precisely a secret. "How's Gosalyn? I saw on the news that she got rescued and all, but is she okay?"
"Oh yeah, she's fine," Launchpad said casually, almost as if the young girl Beth had met yesterday got kidnapped by supervillains on a daily basis.
"And - and Mr. Mallard? I mean, he must have been so worried..."
"Well, yeah, it was awful tense for a while there. But everyone's fine now."
"Oh good." Beth felt about half of the tension that had been eating at her since the previous morning ease away, and she gave a deep sigh. "That's such a relief! I can't imagine that something like being kidnapped is easy to get over. Especially someone so creepy as that Megawatt guy..."
"Y'mean Megavolt? Yeah, he's real... different." Launchpad ambled casually over towards the checkout desk, and Beth followed in case he wanted something; however, all he did was lean easily on it as they continued their conversation. "Darkwing's used to him, though. They fight more'n anyone else, I think."
"Wow. That's... that's so crazy. I mean, to think that kind of thing is going on here, in St. Canard, right under my nose! You know, I've lived in this city for over four years now, and until yesterday I'd never seen a single supervillain? I mean, you read about them from time to time in newspaper headlines, sure, but those are like tabloids anyway, and besides, what's in the news isn't really... It's almost not like real life, right? Except... well, I guess it is real life or it wouldn't be in the news..." She paused for a split second - clearly she wasn't quite over her anxiety just yet, because she just couldn't seem to slow down. Aware that she sounded a little silly, she said, "B-but all I mean is, you know, supervillains - I never dreamed that there would be anyone who'd see them often enough to - to fight them. Oh, but I guess you have more experience, huh? Or ... well, you kind of... know Darkwing Duck, or something?" It dawned on her that he'd spoken pretty casually just then about the vigilante who had rescued Gosalyn Mallard the day before, and Beth wondered if maybe she was the lone holdout in the city who hadn't dealt with criminals and heroes up until now.
Launchpad looked a little bit caught by surprise, and he straightened up and looked at the wall. "Oh, uh, yeah... Well, I mean, we met a few times. Actually I - heh heh, I used to keep a scrapbook of 'im when I first moved here. Big fan, actually."
"Aw, really?" This struck Beth as cute somehow, since it was so boyish that it undercut her image of Launchpad, albeit in a positive way. "Heh, I used to do that kind of thing when I was a kid. Well, mostly with authors though. But still. I didn't know Darkwing Duck had been around that long..."
"Uh, no, this... this was a couple years ago," Launchpad said, a little sheepishly.
"Oh." Oops. She cleared her throat, and smiled, changing the subject. "You know, I'm sorry. I'm here babbling up a storm, and you must've come in for a reason, right?"
Leaning back against the counter, he said, "Actually, I came in mostly to see how you were doin'. I mean, yesterday had to be kinda hard on ya, right?"
"Oh!" She'd been carrying such a ball of guilt around with her, since Drake Mallard had made it very clear that he blamed her for the kidnapping of his daughter, that the whole idea of anyone worrying about her reaction to the event was a complete surprise - and completely out of place, as well. "Oh, gee, I was barely even there. No, I'm fine, totally fine!" That wasn't precisely the truth, as her jumpy behaviour from earlier would attest to, but it was as much as Launchpad needed to know.
The thought of Drake Mallard set her nerves jangling again, and she decided - as long as Launchpad was here, and for all appearances not blaming her the way that his friend had - to ask about Drake's current opinion. "Um... While we're on the subject, though..." She bent her head to look downward, but lifted her eyes up to him, peering up through her bangs. "Mr. Mallard - was he... was he really, really angry with me after I left?"
Launchpad looked almost confused for just a moment, then seemed to recall what she was talking about. "Oh, nah. I mean - look, Drake was just worried. He gets kinda worked up about things, especially 'bout Gos. Don't worry about that."
"So he... he doesn't think I really brought Megavolt there?"
"Naaaah, no way!"
"And, um... he doesn't..." She swallowed carefully. "...Hate me?" It seemed too much to ask, for Drake Mallard to actually like her, but she could live with not being hated. In fact, at that moment, it felt like not being hated would be the greatest thing in the world.
Apparently unable to hear her heart thudding away in her chest, Launchpad just grinned. "Aw, don't worry about that! He'd never hate you."
Letting out a breath of pent-up air, Beth couldn't keep from grinning, herself. "Oh, thank you. Thank you so much for coming in here!" she said happily; Launchpad, looking confused, said it was no problem.
As worried as she had genuinely been about Gosalyn's safety, Beth now had to admit to herself that the main source of her anxiety had been Drake Mallard's estimation of her. She felt a little guilty about that - it was not a great set of priorities - but, well, nothing she could do about it. And at least she really had been worried about Gosalyn; she'd been so worried, in fact, in the hours before the girl's rescue that she hadn't been able to concentrate on anything and had ended up coming in to work on her day off, just to keep her mind off of it.
From the back room, a voice hollered, "Beeeeeth! What the heck did you do with the inventory checklists? I hate it when you clean up back here!"
Launchpad straightened up immediately, shooting a glance towards the back room. Beth looked at him apologetically - "Henny's supposed to organize the inventory for tonight," she said quietly. Beth was under standing orders to let Henny know if Launchpad came into the store, but she chose to ignore those orders since Launchpad deliberately avoided the store manager whenever he could. Henny clearly had designs on the pilot, and was by no means subtle about showing it. In a louder voice, Beth called back, "I'm pretty sure they're in that pile on the desk - just a second, I'll come show you!"
"Bring me a soda when ya do, 'kay?"
Beth sighed; the sodas came from the drug store across the street, which meant a short trip was in her immediate future. "Okay!" she called back. She turned back to Launchpad and shrugged, smiling wearily; he shrugged too.
"Well, long's you're doin' okay I guess I'll get goin'..."
"Yes! And thanks for stopping by, it's good to see you." She stood awkwardly for a moment as he did the same, and they appeared to wait for something without knowing what they were waiting for. Beth hated that part of farewells; she had a feeling she was forgetting to do something everyone else knew instinctively to do. "Um, so, see you soon - OH! Oh before you go!"
"Yeah?" He'd started to turn towards the door, but at the sudden urgency in her voice he turned back.
"Well... okay, this is a silly question, I'm sure, but um... am I still supposed to babysit?"
"Oh yeah! Gee, well, I guess so..."
She had hoped he would have a firmer answer than that; apparently, he hadn't even quite remembered she was supposed to do so, whereas Beth had spent quite some time the night before wondering about the status of that job. "Um... are you sure? I mean, I definitely don't want to not show up if I'm supposed to, but..." But showing up unexpectedly would be worse, in a way, she ended up not saying. She managed to convey it with her eyes, though - or at least, Launchpad seemed to understand.
"Look, tell ya what. I'm sure Drake is happy to have you come by an' watch Gos tonight, but just to be sure, I'll ask him. If he says no, I'll call ya an' you can reschedule for a later time. How's that?"
"Perfect," she said, nodding in relief. She smiled again. "Okay - you have the number here?"
"Yep! Well, I mean, it's in the phone book an' all..."
"Right! Of course. Okay! So... see you tonight! A- a little, anyway!" She made for the door to the back room as he started for the front door, and since they were still half-facing each other, she threw a little wave in as well. He returned it. She hoped she didn't come off as a complete flake, she thought, as she ventured into the back room.
"What were you doing out there," Henny said, without bothering to look up or put a question mark onto the end of her sentence. She'd been cranky since Beth had come in late that morning, since - as she'd been saying all week - she hated inventory. Beth, who loved the number-crunching aspect of it, had volunteered to do the actual inventorying; as the store manager, Henny was still left with all the paperwork and organizational aspects, and she was clearly not enjoying it.
"Um, customer," Beth said awkwardly. She tried to think of some details to back that story up, in case Henny questioned her on it, but nothing more was said on the subject.
Henny looked at her, then to either side of her; then she looked back up at Beth with a cranky, expectant look on her face. "Where's my soda?"
Beth winced; the babysitting question had wiped it out of her mind entirely. "Oh - I'm sorry, I forgot-"
Henny let out a heavy sigh and put her hand over her eyes, which Beth felt was a little melodramatic considering it was over a beverage, but she apologized anyway.
"Fine. So, the checklists?" Henny reminded her employee, her tone suggesting that Beth had been the one focusing on a different topic and Henny had been patiently waiting all this time to get to the important part. She had several stacks of papers which seemed entirely unrelated; looking at the state of the desk, Beth now had no idea where the inventory paperwork she had put to the side had gone, since Henny had apparently reorganized everything over the past few hours.
At a loss, Beth said, "Um... weren't... weren't they right there?" She tapped a spot near the middle of the desk. "That's where I left them last night..."
"Last night? Look, in case you can't tell, I've been going over and over EVERYthing, and it's pretty obvious that whatever was there last night is not there now, right? Or am I wrong?"
Beth cringed a little. She hated it when Henny got into this mood, but it was best to just ride it out. "Um. No, you're right. I just meant-"
"What I'm asking is not where the checklists were last night, but where they are now." Henny spread her hands, her eyes wide and questioning.
Beth took a breath, and said as evenly as she could, "I - I don't know but I can go through what's back here, and - and find them..."
"Yeah, okay, that's cool. But don't reorganize again!" Henny stood up and headed for the door to the front of the store. "I know you can't help it but you mess up my system! I know where everything is," she said emphatically, and jabbed at the desk with a bright-red faux fingernail to drive the point home. Beth didn't mention the obvious untruth to this statement; instead she just nodded.
As soon as Henny was out in the store, Beth realized with a sort of intense sinking feeling that she was scheduled to close the store and do inventory that night, and she'd told Launchpad she'd come over to babysit. There was no way she could do both.
She really didn't want to do both, anyway. In fact, she had a definite preference for one over the other.
Well, she had given up her day off the day before; Henny owed her a favour. Maybe if she begged and groveled - and did the store inventory paperwork - she could get away with some negotiating. She vowed to do her best once she'd found the checklists, and got to work.