By Kim McFarland and Rebecca Littlehales
It was a hot and sunny day. All the cars in the city were crawling along on the main highway leading out of town, it seemed- except for one station wagon, which parked in a small lot a few hundred meters from the bay.
Drake Mallard stepped out of the driver's side. "Let everyone else fight for a few inches of beach blanket space." he declared smugly, gesturing at the cars crawling along the Audubon Bay Bridge. "We have the sun, the sea, and the sand right here!"
"Not to mention the skyline." Gosalyn commented. The little stretch of sand on the shore of the bay was so near the Audubon Bay Bridge they could hear the occasional car horn. With the city so close, it was unlikely that her father would forget about being Darkwing Duck entirely. She would have to take drastic action to keep a certain duck in purple from spoiling the day.
Launchpad opened the back of the station wagon and took out the cooler and beach blankets. The back door on the passenger side of the car opened, and Beth Webfoot stepped out and stretched her legs. "Ooh, I HATE riding in cramped cars. Gosalyn brought had so much stuff with her that I had to sit with my knees up near my shoulders the entire trip." She saw Launchpad unloading the back, and said, "I can get something."
He handed her the blankets. "It's pretty out, ain't it?" he commented.
She replied, "It sure is." without looking at the scenery. She was watching Drake, who was surveying the beach for the best blanket site. She skittered after him with the blankets. Casually Gosalyn asked Launchpad, "Where did you say Dad put his spare Darkwing costume again?"
Launchpad answered, "I dunno. Did he bring one?"
"Oh, heh heh, I thought you said he did." Gosalyn replied. Her first attempt foiled, she whispered to Honker, "If you were my Dad, where would YOU hide a spare costume? I know he had to have brought one."
After a few moments' thought he said, "He'd keep it somewhere close to himself." Drake and Beth were setting up the blankets on the beach, not far from the water. "I doubt it's in the car."
Gosalyn looked over the various things that were on the beach. Beth had a huge bag with her that seemed to contain more first aid precautions than the school nurse's office, but Gosalyn doubted the costume was hidden in there. The only other thing nearby that was big enough to hide it was- "The cooler!" she exclaimed. She stopped when she saw Beth running back to the car.
Beth said, "I almost forgot!" Launchpad put down the towels he was carrying in one arm and opened the hatch for her; she took out a folded beach umbrella that was almost as long as she was tall, then ran back to the beach with it.
Drake had spread out a beach blanket and had just lay back to catch some sun. A shadow fell over him. He opened his eyes to see Beth fiddling with a beach umbrella, struggling to set it up. She managed to stick it in a shallow patch of sand. He said, "I can't sunbathe without any sun."
She replied while trying to find the catch to hold the umbrella open, "But- you'll get sunburned!" The umbrella pinched her finger suddenly. She squeaked and instinctively stuck the injured digit in her mouth. Around her finger, she said, "You can't be too careful these days-"
"I'll wear a sunblock." he said through gritted teeth.
"I have some." she said quickly. "Here-" She knelt down partway to sift through her bag. After digging through various "just-in-case" items that ranged from bandages to shark bite medicine, she straigtened up and handed him a tube. She thought about asking him if he wanted help putting it on his back, but she did not have the nerve. Without her to support it, the umbrella started to collapse. She grabbed it, and barely managed to keep it from falling over anyway.
Launchpad saw her problem. He took hold of the umbrella so she could find the catch. She smiled at him. "Thanks."
"No problem-o." He grinned back. He loved to see her smile.
Gosalyn, meanwhile, was digging around in the ice in the cooler, supposedly looking for a Cherry Koo-Koo Cola. In reality, she was trying to find a concealed costume. After a few minutes she looked up. "No luck, Honk." she said, rubbing warmth back into her arm.
He glanced in. She had been reaching in as far as she could - but the cooler should have been deeper. He reached in and touched the bottom with his fingertips, confirming his suspicion. He looked at the outside, then pushed a slightly raised area on the front of the cooler. It clicked inward, revealing a small door in the bottom. He could see a bit of purple fabric inside.
Gosalyn looked at it. "Boy, Dad NEVER quits." she muttered. She glanced over to make sure no one was looking, then said, "I'm gonna hide this." She pulled out the costume and Gas Gun.
Launchpad said to Beth, "Y'wanna take a swim?"
She looked out at the water. It looked inviting - but she couldn't bring herself to take off her robe. She looked terrible in her swimsuit, she thought, all skin and bones. It had looked fine under those fluorescent lights in the dressing room! Launchpad, on the other hand ... he was wearing a pair of trunks and a tank top, and, well, he looked good. As soon as she really realized what she had just thought, she blushed, embarrassed. She glanced back at Drake. He had finished with the sunblock, and had lay back again. She reached over, picked the tube up, and held it out to Launchpad. "Um, want some sunblock?"
"Sure, thanks." He glanced at her. "Uh, you haven't put any on yet, have you?"
"Um, want any help? I mean, it's hard to get in on your back."
"That's all right, Launchpad, but thanks." she said. She did not think that she would need it, because she didn't plan on taking off her robe.
He shrugged. It had been worth a try. At least the robe allowed a view of her legs. As he smeared the lotion on his arms she looked over at Gosalyn and Honker. Thoughtfully, she said, "I'd better put some on those two too."
Gosalyn started shoving sand into a hole. She startled when Beth said behind her, "What are you doing?"
"Um, we're building a sand castle." Gosalyn said quickly.
"By digging a hole?"
"We're laying the foundation first. So it'll be more stable. Right, Honker?" She looked sharply at her friend. He nodded obediently. Beth wondered briefly if something was going on - but that was silly. What could Gos possibly do to get in trouble here? Well, this early, anyway?
Launchpad came up behind Beth. "First sand castle I ever saw with a basement." he commented.
"You two need to put on some sunblock or you'll get all burned." Beth said, going into her maternal mode.
Gosalyn groaned. "But that stuff's all greasy!"
Beth replied, "It'll wash off. Sunburn won't, and it feels a lot worse."
"Oh, all right." Gosalyn grumbled and submitted to the indignity. At least it had gotten them off the subject of the hole.
Not far down the stretch of beach, another set of people arrived. One laid the blankets on the sand. Another blew up a gaudily colored beachball, and then another. A third muttered under his breath while putting his blanket well away from the water. The fourth called, "Last one in is a rotten egg!" and disappeared into the water.
"Sparky's gonna be the rotten egg." Quackerjack sang.
Megavolt favored Quackerjack with a dirty look. "I don't see why we had to go to the beach."
"We voted, remember?" Bushroot said. "Three to one. Who wants to go on a tour of a power plant anyway?"
Megavolt looked up at the sun. "Water and solar power. Oh, the indignity!"
Gosalyn and Honker were building their sand castles. Honker's was not large, but it was impressive. He was slowly and carefully building up a system of towers and flying buttresses supported by sticks concealed in the sand. Gosalyn was going for something more massive. She was satisfied when it was waist high. She glanced at the distant skyline to check the resemblance. Satisfied, she began narrating, "The city of St. Canard starts its day peacefully, not knowing that it will soon face ... GOS-ZILLA!" She made a growling noise and started stomping through her sand castle in slow motion.
Beth watched from a distance. "Gos sure is an ... interesting child." she commented.
Launchpad grinned. "She got a heckuva imagination, doesn't she?"
Beth started to say something else, but motion farther down the beach caught her eye. Someone was beyond the hill. She had only seen a head of hair, but it looked familiar. It couldn't be HIM, she thought- but how many other people did she know who had purple, leafy hair? "Excuse me." she said to Launchpad, and went to look.
When she approached, she heard a crackling noise, then a familiar voice. "Hey! Okay, who got water on the beachball?!"
"What's the matter? Afraid to get your dry cell all wet?"
Beth peeked over the hill, and came face-to-face with a green mutant plant duck with purple foliage sprouting out of his head. Bushroot jumped back, startled. "YAAH!"
Beth couldn't resist laughing a little. She said, "Reggie! I didn't know you were here."
Bushroot lifted his sunglasses and said, "Elizabeth! What're you doing here?" Boy, she looked nice- even compared to some of the daisies he'd been seeing lately. They were a rather poor substitute for her.
"The same thing you are. Well, more or less; I mean, I'm not standing in a tide pool. Want some sunblock?"
Bushroot said, "Oh, no thanks. I like the sun. It's a photosynthetic thing."
"Oh, yeah. I should have guessed." She laughed, and touched him gently on his arm.
He looked for a moment at the spot where she'd touched him, and then said, "Um, anyway - uh, meet the guys. GUYS!" he called. "This is Megavolt, and Quackerjack."
She shook their hands politely. "We've met."
Bushroot looked around. "I don't know where The Liquidator is. Negaduck isn't here. I don't think he takes vacations." All three of them seemed to breathe a collective sigh of relief before Bushroot said, "Guys, this is Elizabeth Webfoot."
"Beth," she corrected, and smiled warmly. Reggie was the only person she wanted to call her Elizabeth.
"Y'know, ever since he met you, Reggie's been-" Quackerjack began. A vine fell out of a nearby tree and wrapped itself around his bill, fastening it shut.
Drake heard a familiar voice. He looked over. The sun was shining in his eyes; he could not quite see who was standing with Beth. She was talking to someone he could not hear distinctly, but the voice was familiar. He shaded his eyes with a hand and squinted. Then he jumped up. That was Bushroot! And Megavolt, and Quackerjack! As usual, Beth had no concept of the danger she was in! He sprang into action as he punched the button on the cooler, reached into the hidden compartment, and grabbed - nothing.
He was startled when he heard another familiar voice, this time close to him. "Dark, darling."
He turned around. Morgana was standing right behind him. She was wearing a dark red beach robe that hung low enough to brush the sand.
"Morgue... I thought you weren't going to come." he breathed.
"Silly. I just didn't need a ride. I'm a witch, you know."
"Um, you want some sun block? I can help you with it." he said eagerly.
"No, thank you, Dark. I have spells to protect my skin."
"Darn." he said softly. "Well - want to go for a swim?"
"In a bit." she replied lightly.
"Hey, look." Gosalyn pointed. Honker and Launchpad looked up. "Morgana's here!"
Launchpad commented. "Whoa. She's not wearin' her red dress."
"I wonder if she even has legs." Gosalyn stared at the hemline of Morgana's robe. As usual, no hint was visible as she floated over the sand.
"Hey, isn't that Morgana?" Bushroot said, pointing.
Beth looked over. Morgana was drifting over the sand to where Launchpad, Honker, and Gosalyn were making sand castles. All three were looking at her, as was Drake. Of course. Of course they would stare at Morgana. Tall and shapely, she was worth staring at. Unlike a certain skinny, mousy-looking brunette. She felt inadequate all of a sudden, as if she were being compared. Her mood ruined, Beth said, "Um, excuse me. I have to get some swimming practice in."
"Okay. Bye, Elizabeth." Bushroot said, somewhat dreamily.
Why was she returning to them? she wondered suddenly. She wanted to get away. She felt out of place, now that Morgana, Drake's girlfriend, was here. There was a rock sticking out of the water not too far from shore; she could go there to be alone for a while. She had to tell someone first, though, or they might worry. Might, but probably wouldn't. Why should they? She almost laughed at herself, but didn't. Why take the job away from so many other people who were willing to do it?
Launchpad was staring at Morgana. That made Beth feel even worse, although she had no idea why. When she tapped his shoulder Launchpad startled and looked up at her. She said, "I'm, uh, going to take a little swim. Just out there." She pointed to the offshore rock. "I'll be back soon."
He saw that she looked a little upset. He stood. "You're going all that way? The water's deep."
"I'll be all right." she insisted. She turned to go into the water.
"Beth? Uh - mind if I come along?"
She looked back at him. At first, she had thought he was patronizing her with that question, but at his look of concern the feeling melted. She would like to swim with him. "All right." She took off her beach robe, revealing her blue one-piece bathing suit. She looked down at the sand as she folded the robe and put it on her towel.
Launchpad tried not to stare, and he almost succeeded. Beth looked up and caught him just as he looked away. She smiled back nervously, slightly flattered - he hadn't looked as though he found her unpleasant. He removed his tank top and looked uneasily at the water as she walked in, then followed her.
When the water was up to her waist she began swimming. She made it look so easy, Launchpad thought. Well, for some people swimming was easy. He nerved himself and followed her into deeper water.
She looked back. Launchpad was far behind her. He was dog paddling clumsily with an expression of intense concentration. It was funny to watch. She treaded water and waited for him to catch up. When he saw that she was waiting for him, floating in place with lazy strokes of her arms, he panted "Thanks."
"No problem-o." she said. "You don't swim much, do you."
"Nope. Um, let's keep going." he said nervously.
Gosalyn looked around. Her father's attention was firmly riveted to Morgana, who had finally consented to letting him rub some sun block on her shoulders. Beth and Launchpad were swimming toward the rock offshore. She said to Honker, "Time to break out the ammunition."
He looked up from his elaborate sand castle. She beckoned to him, and they went to the station wagon. There, hidden from sight by the spare tire, was a pair of BFG Soakers, the ultimate in water gun technology. Solemnly she handed one to Honker. They went back to the shore and filled them with bay water. Ceremoniously she said, "Squirt guns at ten paces!"
He nodded. They stood back-to-back. Gosalyn counted to ten, and then they turned and sprayed water at each other. Gosalyn fanned her spray around, making it impossible to avoid. Honker tagged her with short, carefully aimed bursts. She soon ran out of ammunition. Honker had been waiting for that. He caught her with a stream of water. She clutched at her chest, reeled theatrically, and said, "Ya got me!"
They refilled their water guns for another round, and were soon chasing each other around the beach again, spraying water in all directions.
Quackerjack looked up at the noise the children were making. He said to a swimsuited Mr. Banana Brain, "They think those are squirt guns, do they? Well, those aren't squirt guns. THIS is a squirt gun!" He produced a water cannon from behind his back and grinned wolfishly as he filled it.
Gosalyn and Honker were both surprised by a water attack from the side. She turned to look. "Quackerjack!" He was just standing there grinning - an easy target. She aimed her squirt gun at him and fired.
He bounded out of the way acrobatically, cackling madly. Just out of the range of their water guns, he stopped and opened fire on them again.
Gosalyn said, "Whoa! Impressive range!" She pressed her attack forward, shielding her eyes from the spray. Honker's eyes were already protected by his glasses. Together, they forced him back towards the beach from which he had come.
"Two against one isn't much fun!" they heard from the shoreline. The Liquidator stood on the water. He sprayed a water jet that drenched all three combatants.
Behind Quackerjack there came a scream and a flash of light. Megavolt stood and glared at them. "Oh, for crying out loud!" he exclaimed and moved his blanket farther away.
Quackerjack beckoned to Gosalyn and Honker. "Troops, ATTACK!" He bounded after The Liquidator, firing his squirt gun. The Liquidator turned Quackerjack's water jet back on him. This did not discourage Quackerjack; he only giggled madly and continued firing.
Beth and Launchpad arrived at the rock after a few more minutes. He climbed out of the water shakily. She looked at him with concern. "Are you all right?"
"Yeah. I'm OK now." he said, perching on the rock and breathing hard. He was shivering.
"What's the matter?" She put a hand to his shoulder. She felt him trembling.
He drew in a breath, held it a moment, then let it out again. "I'm not that good at swimming. I, well, I didn't used to be able to swim. I almost drowned a couple of times." he said, embarrassed by this confession.
"You couldn't swim?" she said, surprised. He looked so - athletic; it was almost a shock to think that he couldn't swim.
"Well, yeah. Drowning is scary, even if you get pulled out in time. I kept thinking about that. I can swim now, but when my feet can't touch the bottom, I, uh, I still get nervous."
She patted his shoulder. "But you came out with me anyway."
"Yeah..." he shrugged, not knowing what else to say.
She left her hand on his shoulder, and sighed. "You didn't have to. Not that I'm not glad you're here, but if you were scared, then you didn't have to."
"Well," he said, rather quietly, "ya seemed upset."
His trembling was a lot less intense now, so she took her hand from his shoulder and looked out across the water. "I wasn't... upset. Exactly." She thought back, and remembered the way everyone had stared at Morgana. Even Reggie had noticed her. Even Launchpad had been staring. She was upset, of course, and she knew it. "It's just that I... I feel a little uncomfortable around Morgana."
"You too?" Launchpad grinned. "It kinda makes me nervous, the way she's always barbequin' DW when he says somethin' she doesn't like."
Beth sighed again. "Yeah, I can see how that would make you nervous." That had come out differently from how she had meant it. She frowned a little. "Launchpad? Why..." She stopped. Was she really going to ask him why he'd been staring at Morgana? As if she didn't already know the answer! And why did she need to know?
"Why... What's so..." She shook her head. "Why does everyone have to focus right on Morgana as soon as she comes into view? I mean- Never mind. I know why."
Launchpad paused. "Well... It's kinda silly," he said. Beth winced a little and turned away from him. "I was tryin' to see if she had feet."
Beth sat up straight, surprised. Then she started giggling. "...Feet? You were looking to see if she had feet? That's all?" she asked between giggles, covering her mouth with her hand.
"Yep," said Launchpad. "Hey- did you think I was starin' at her for the same reason as DW?" Still giggling, she nodded a little. He chuckled. "Nah. She's not my type."
She looked relieved for a moment or two, as she got control of herself. "Oh- I thought... You know, she gets attention wherever she goes, and I thought that it was because- Well, she's gorgeous." She waited for a quick moment to see if Launchpad would comment. He didn't, so she went on. "And, after all, even if she weren't... She just, well, she doesn't blend. Like, you know, like some people do. She stands out. As long as she's around, Drake pays even less attention to me then usual." Her spirits dampened again, she stared out across the water. "As long as she's around..."
Drake heard the shouts down the beach, and turned to see his daughter and her best friend in a water fight with two known criminals. He jumped up and pelted down the beach, yelling "Gosalyn! Honker!"
"Aw, what?" she answered, annoyed.
"Don't you 'Aw, what' me, little missy! You know better than to play with supervillains!" he scolded as he seized Honker's and Gosalyn's wrists.
Quackerjack watched as Drake dragged them away. He said to The Liquidator, "That's the problem with society today. Nobody has any sense of fun anymore." He looked at The Liquidator. "Oh well. It's PLAYTIME!" Gleefully he resumed the water battle.
Morgana's towel, which was right beside Drake's, was now occupied only by her bats, spider, and beach robe. Drake asked the spider, "Where'd she go?" Archy mumbled something unintelligible in reply and pointed with two legs out to the bay.
Drake looked out at the water. He could just barely see her. How had she gotten so far so fast? And he hadn't even seen her in her swimsuit, darn it! Too bad he had to stay on the beach and watch the kids, otherwise he would swim out to her.
Launchpad watched Beth for a few moments. She seemed oblivious to his presence. "Beth? Y'okay?" he asked softly. She looked as though she were about to cry.
She shook her head gently to clear it, and shut her eyes. A tear did squeeze out of her eye and run down her face, but she nodded silently in an attempt to assure him that she was all right.
"Don't cry," he said, and wiped the tear from her cheek.
She drew back. "Don't. I'm okay- you don't have to." She felt silly, and found herself wishing that Launchpad had stayed on the beach, after all. At least then she could have cried in peace, by herself. She sniffled a little and tried to will herself not to cry any more. "I'm sorry," she said. "I hate this. I just - I don't know if this has happened to you, Launchpad, but do you know how I feel? I mean, have you been in love with someone and had to watch them falling all over someone else?"
He was quiet for a while. Looking down at the rock, instead of her, he answered, "Yeah."
"Then you know! Didn't it make you feel stupid?" she said helplessly, and started crying harder.
"Ya just have to learn to live with it, I guess. Sometimes, if you try hard enough, maybe they'll come around. Or maybe not. Sometimes ya gotta move on, too." He put a hand on her back and rubbed it gently. In a low voice, he added, "But you're not stupid, Beth."
She thought for a moment, sniffling a little, and then said, "Launchpad? Don't hate me for asking this, but... What's wrong with me?"
He looked utterly baffled. "WRONG with ya?"
"I mean... Why is it that I'm always passed over? What am I lacking? That's what I mean. Why don't people- MEN- like me? I shouldn't ask you this, because it's a terrible thing to ask a friend, but you're the only man I'm friends with and I just thought maybe, you know, maybe you'd know. And be honest. Please." She was blushing, but she looked up at him intensely, expecting an answer.
"Well- nothin'," said Launchpad. She blinked; it was her only response. "You're not lackin' anything." He didn't really know what else to say. That about covered it.
She turned away. "I asked you to be honest," she muttered.
"I was bein' honest! You're not lackin' anything! You're smart, an' nice, an' funny, an' beautiful, an' lotsa other stuff!"
"Beautiful?" she said softly, with new tears in her eyes. Then she grimaced. "Inner beauty."
"No. Not only that, anyway. Like right now. I mean... I dunno how to say it, really. You look great in that swimsuit. REAL great."
She blinked again. He had to be kidding. "You have to be kidding," she whispered. He shook his head, very seriously. He wasn't kidding. No one had ever honestly told her that she was beautiful before. She looked at Launchpad, who grinned at her gently. Would it be an exaggeration to say that he was one of the handsomest ducks she'd ever seen? She looked him over quickly, and decided it probably wouldn't. "I...," she began. "I was, I was thinking... I mean, I thought.. that you--" ARGH! Why couldn't she just say what she meant? "You're not too bad yourself," she finally managed. It certainly wasn't what she had intended, but...
He grinned. "Thanks," he said.
She felt obliged to add something. "And- and one of these days... You're going to have a girlfriend, and she'll just be the luckiest girl who ever lived, because you're really... I don't know. Great. I mean that. I mean, I know you'll treat her well."
"Thanks again," he said. He took her hand, still grinning.
She put her arms around him and hugged him, on an impulse. He put his hands on her shoulders, enjoying the feel of her feathers, and held her warmly. This was incredibly pleasant. He closed his eyes and enjoyed it silently.
She had never really noticed how nice his body was, through his jacket, but she noticed now. It felt nice to hug him like this, too, with her feathers against his. She put her cheek against him and shut her eyes for a moment, then opened them and felt a little embarrassed. She smiled at him. "Um... should we go back now?"
"Yeah, if you want to." She got to her feet. After a moment of hesitation (not to mention enjoying the view), he did too.
Morgana moved through the water, feeling perfectly at home despite the fact that she did not swim often. Though she did not need to, she surfaced periodically to avoid alarming Drake.
While investigating the bottom of the bay she heard a voice behind herself. "This is a side of you I haven't seen before."
She turned. There, swimming up to her, was a small amphibious woman. "Not many have." Morgana replied.
Neptunia looked her up and down. "I never would have guessed. I always thought you were a land dweller!"
"I am, usually." she replied. "Speaking of which, I'd better surface or they'll think I've drowned."
"Drown? Oh, they don't know either." Neptunia followed her.
Morgana broke the surface and cleared her lungs. Drake, at the shore with the children, waved at her. She waved back. Neptunia said, "Get a load of that bathing suit he's wearing."
"What about it?"
"I guess I shouldn't make fun of the colorblind. Good thing he's not coming in. That pink and purple would scare the fish away!"
"He's fond of those colors." Morgana said with a secretive smile.
Neptunia looked at Morgana, then rolled her eyes. "Whatever. See ya 'round." She dove below the surface again.
Beth and Launchpad reached the shore. Launchpad looked tired - but, Beth noticed, he seemed a lot better than he had when they had arrived at the rock. She had helped pace him, and it had actually worked. He still looked happier to have something solid beneath his feet, but she could not blame him for that.
Drake said, "What's the matter with you, LP? See a shark?"
"No, I'm OK. I'm not so good at swimming."
Drake looked even more surprised than Beth had. "Get outta here. We've gone scuba diving before."
"That's different." Launchpad said. "That was underwater, and we had tanks and masks and things."
Drake shrugged. "Whatever."
"It makes sense to me." Morgana said.
Drake turned around quickly. Morgana was tying the sash of her beach robe. Her hair streamed wet down her back. It was startlingly long. She spoke a simple spell and was instantly dry, her hair back in its normal shape. "Launchpad, you're shivering. The water's not THAT cold." She cast the same spell on Launchpad and Beth, drying them instantly.
Beth stood still for a second, then put her towel down, muttering, "Well, I guess I don't need THIS anymore..."
"Goodbye, Drake. I had a wonderful time." She put her arms around his shoulders and gave him a kiss on the bill.
When they separated Drake stared after her dreamily. Morgana drifted over the sand, then turned back to wave at them. As she did, the hem of her robe lifted slightly, and they saw something green and translucent. Launchpad said softly, "Didja see that?" Beth nodded silently.
"Yeah..." Drake said with a silly grin on his face, obviously not paying attention.
When she was out of sight Archy began grumbling at Morgana. She said, "Yes, I know, Archy. But it's so fun to play with their minds." She clapped her hands together and vanished.
Beth had had a good view of Drake and Morgana's kiss. Drake was still staring after her with a goofy look on his face. Somehow, it bothered her a little less that it ought. Looking around, she said, "Where are Honker and Gos?"
"Huh?" Drake snapped back to reality. "Those two - I can't take my eyes off them for a second!" He ran off in the direction of the beach where four of the Fearsome Five still were. "Have you seen two kids?" he demanded.
"I've seen LOTS of kids!" Quackerjack answered.
"You mean, the ones with the squirt guns?" Bushroot asked. "Did they go somewhere? Say, the little girl looked familiar."
"It's a long story. Never mind." Drake said, taking off in the opposite direction.
He saw Launchpad and Beth coming back with Gosalyn and Honker from the opposite stretch of the beach. Launchpad had his arm around Beth's shoulder. Why did Drake find that so startling? And he was more startled to realize that Beth was not bad looking in a swimsuit. He had not noticed it before, when she had been huddled into herself.
When they met Gosalyn saw Drake draw in a breath to begin a scolding. She said quickly, "We were just down the beach a little. I told you, but you weren't listening. We were collecting shark's teeth. Look!" She lifted one out of her bucket. "Neat, huh? Think this came from a Great White, Honker?"
"More likely, a nurse shark." Honker said.
"'Nurse shark'? What kinda shark is THAT?" Gosalyn asked.
"It's a small shark, mostly harmless to people." he answered.
"Darn." She put the tooth back in her bucket. "Well, they're STILL cool!"
"Yeah. Real cool." Drake said. "Now, Gos, sweetie, tell daddy something. Where did you hide his costume?"
She had forgotten about that. Was he guessing, or did he know? The odds were against her being able to make him believe that she was innocent, so she decided to cut her losses. "I buried it in the sand so you wouldn't start fighting crime on our day off." She smiled innocently and made her eyes wide.
"Fine, fine." Drake said tolerantly. "Fortunately the city didn't need saving today. So bring back my costume and we can go."
"OK. No problem. Hey! Where'd our sand castles go?"
Honker said, "The tide came in."
Gosalyn looked at the water. It was at least a foot deep. She looked back at her father.
Drake handed her a plastic shovel.
She sighed and splashed into the water.
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