AUTHOR'S NOTES: Finding Nemo and all characters within are property of Disney/Pixar.
Marlin the clownfish grimaced and shook his head. "No, no, you guys! You're doing it all wrong!" He angrily swam up to the two hermit crabs standing in his front lawn. They both were wearing small shells on their heads, and one of them was looking at a set of plans drawn on a blue frond. "Now, look." He continued, pointing to various areas on the blueprints. "If you put the veranda on that side, you'll completely mess up the theme we're going with. Everything faces the current, get it?"
One of the crabs rustled the blueprints indignantly. "Look, buddy, who's the renovator around here, you or me? I know which way the current flows, and we're sticking to this setup."
"I actually have to live here, you know!" Marlin protested. "I've lived in this anemone longer than you've had that shell, and I know that I don't want to be sitting on that veranda when it falls apart as soon as some brine happen by and make too big of a wake! It needs to be structurally sound, and therefore it needs to face the current, reinforced at…"
"Hey, pal. Don't use that professional talk with me." Snapped the crab. "That's my job. If you wanted a hack job you should have hired the Smelt Brothers."
Marlin rubbed his forehead with one fin. Renovating was almost more trouble than it was worth. Regaining his composure, he tried very hard to be courteous. "Now look. The way you have this, the east wall will end up…"
"Dad! Dad!" Rapidly approaching the scene was Marlin's young son Nemo. Nemo looked frantic and appeared to be out of breath.
"Not now, Nemo." Marlin said. "I'm busy talking business with these…" he paused when he saw the terror on his son's face. "Okay, Nemo. What's the matter?"
Nemo clutched his stomach with one fin as he tried to regain his wind. "Th-there's a shark coming!" He finally managed to gasp. "They saw it on the north side, and, and it's heading right this way!" Marlin turned and saw that this was no joke – even now he could see the distant but gradually approaching dark shape floating through the neighbourhood.
"Uh, I guess we'll discuss this later. Be seein' you, Marcus." The crab said, the two of them tucking into their shells and disappearing deep underground.
"Marlin!" Marlin shouted at their retreating forms. He then turned towards his terrified son. "Nemo, get inside right now!" Nemo disappeared into the safety of the anemone's tentacles without hesitation. Marlin saw that the shark was looming ever closer. He made a quick sweep of the neighbourhood – it was empty. Relieved that all of his neighbours had made it to safety, he swam towards home, before remembering. "Dory!"
The blue tang was carefully and meticulously sorting a variety of small flowering plants in the side lawn. "Okay, let's see. Blue, red, yellow, blue, red, yellow…" she murmured to herself.
"Dory!" Again he shouted at her.
"Blue, uh… yellow… no! Red, no… Blue, red, blue…" Dory shook her head as she lost track.
"Dory!" The shark was getting closer and Marlin was becoming frantic.
"Hey! Do you mind? I'm gardening here!" Dory shouted back. "You made me lose count. What comes after blue again?" As she turned towards Marlin, she finally saw the shadow of the lurking beast, which was very near indeed. With a panicked shriek, Dory swam into the anemone, followed immediately by Marlin. Mere seconds later, the shark was in the front yard, his shadow covering the discarded blueprints and aborted flowerbed with an ominous darkness as he continued his journey in a perfectly straight line.
Nemo shivered as he huddled against the floor. Marlin put a comforting fin on his son's back. "It's okay, Nemo. We're all safe in here." He whispered. "You all right, Dory?" he asked.
"Oh, yeah, oh yeah." Dory muttered, shuddering slightly. "That wouldn't be the first time I've almost been eaten by a…" her voice hitched into a gasp when the inky shadow passed directly over their heads. The three fish could only stare as the massive form slowly moved over them, seeming to chill the water around it. Minutes that felt like hours passed in total silence. Even after the beast's tail disappeared from sight, nobody dared to move or speak.
Finally Marlin released a breath that he hadn't realized he was holding. "All I have to say is thank Cod for this anemone." He whispered. Cautioning Nemo and Dory to stay back, he peered between the tentacles in the direction the shark was headed. There was no sign of the beast. Very gently, Marlin swam to the top of the tentacles and looked out. The shark was gone, and some of the neighbours were already out, checking on each other. Marlin sighed. The crisis was over.
"Aaah!" Marlin panicked and dove back into the safety of his home. After the initial shock had worn off, he dared to look up and saw Mr. Cuttlefish from two doors down looking at him, slightly bemused. Marlin slowly swam back out, a little ashamed. "Sorry, Jerry." He muttered. "I guess you startled me a little."
"A little?" Mr. Cuttlefish laughed. "I thought you were gonna fossilize yourself down there!" Marlin had to laugh in spite of himself. "But seriously, though," Mr. Cuttlefish continued, "I just wanted to see if everything was all right over here."
"Oh, sure." Marlin said. "We had a bit of a scare, of course, but everything's perfectly normal here." He glanced down and saw that Dory and Nemo were playing a high-speed game of tag, bouncing off the floors and walls laughing hysterically. "Well, maybe not normal, but we're all fine at any rate. How are you and the family?"
"Ah, we're fine." Mr. Cuttlefish said with a smile. "From what I've heard that creep didn't eat anybody. I guess he was just passing through."
"Well, I wish he would have picked another route." Marlin sighed. "I just hope that we never see him again."
Bruce the shark swam very slowly in the hull of old battleship. He seemed restless. There was a faraway look in his eyes.
"Uh, Bruce?" Bruce turned and saw his old friend Chum hovering in the entrance. Chum chuckled, slightly nervously. "'Ello. Uh, Anchor and I found a large patch of kelp not far from 'ere. It's the good stuff, too. Got little bits in it. We were just wondering if you were interested, because we'd better get at it before somebody else finds it…"
Bruce sighed and lowered his head. "Thanks, Chum. I just don't happen to be 'ungry at the moment."
"You feeling all right, Bruce?" Chum asked. "You know if something's bothering you, you can always tell your old chum Chum, eh?"
Bruce sighed again, and finally looked up, into Chum's eyes. "Have you heard the news? About that strange shark that's been sighted in the area?"
"Uh, yes, as a matter of fact." Chum said. "An old duffer, they said he was. Got this strange scar covering the right side of 'is face, blind in one eye, and he's a Great White, just like… er, you." Chum didn't know why, but he felt as though he had touched a delicate spot.
"That's him." Bruce sighed. "That's him, all right."
"Well, what about him?" Chum asked. "I mean, I've never met him personally, but I don't know why his showin' up is bothering you so."
"He's my father, Chum." Bruce said, an air of finality in his voice.
Chum was dumbstruck for a moment. "Oh, come on, Bruce." He finally said. "Plenty of fish in the sea, eh? It's probably some other Great White…"
"No." Bruce interrupted. "It's my father, I know it. He got that scar when he was attacking a sinking supply ship. Some spilled fuel ignited, and it burned his face up really bad. He's been blind on that side ever since."
Chum stared at his friend. "I guess that is him, but… what happened? I always assumed he was dead, the way you talk about him."
Bruce sighed. "He ran out on Mum and I. I was just another unwanted egg to him. The few times we were together he did nothing but yell at me. After he left for the last time and Mum was taken off to that aquarium, I lost it. That's when I developed my fish addiction, and… and…" He held his head in his fins. Chum leaned over and tried to comfort his friend.
"I'm sorry, mate." Chum whispered sadly. "I had no idea. I…"
"I never told anybody." Bruce sighed. "I didn't want my friends to run out on me when…"
"No! Don't talk like that." Chum insisted. "We're your friends because of who you are, not how your father feels about you."
Bruce wiped his eyes and smiled slightly. "Thanks, Chum. I appreciate that. I thought I was over him. I really did." His expression hardened. "But now he's back, and I know that he considers me a failure. He always told me that I wasn't fit to be his son. That's always haunted me, even to this day. So, the question is, do I confront him, even though we hate each other, or do I avoid him and spend the rest of my life wondering? Just once in my life I'd like to make him proud of me."
There was a moment of silence between the two sharks, until Chum spoke at last. "I can't make that choice for you, Brucie, but you do know that Anchor and I and all the rest are here for you. Even if things don't work out between you and him, you'll always have us."
Bruce smiled. "Thanks Chum. I appreciate this, but for the moment I'd like to be left alone with my thoughts, all right?"
"Sure thing." Chum said, turning towards the exit. He was so lost in thought that he collided with Anchor head-on.
"How come you always get to be Mr. Sensitive?" Anchor demanded as Chum rubbed his sore head. "Why don't I get my big emotional scene?"
"Because," Chum growled, "you're a hammerhead. Hammerheads are not sensitive."
"Sure we are!" Anchor insisted. "We hammerheads are the most sensitive sharks in the…" he was cut off when he struck his head on an overhanging pipe. Anchor shrugged it off, but then noticed that Chum was glaring at him. "Uh, that hurt?"
"Look, mate." Chum grumbled. "While you're playing carpenter, our friend is being torn up over his no-good father. What do you propose we do about it?"
"Well…" Anchor said, thoughtfully. "We could arrange to have them meet…"
"Arrange to have them meet?!" Chum was incredulous.
"And then they could hash it out. Bruce has got a load of emotional baggage to unload, and…" Anchor continued enthusiastically.
Chum smacked his friend over the head. "You sponge-head! You don't just put two sharks together and let them have it out! Use that brain that you've got buried in that mess of cartilage between your eyes! For the love of Pete, mate…"
"We could… have a counsellor." Anchor muttered, tentatively.
"What?" Chum asked.
"You know," Anchor explained. "We could have somebody to keep things civilized between them, and to help to towards a peaceful conclusion. And we could also bring along all of Bruce's friends to back him up. Once Bruce's old man finds out what Bruce has done and how many of us he has supporting him, he can't consider him a failure anymore, can he?"
Chum stared at Anchor for a long while. "Brilliant!" he suddenly shouted.
"I was?" Anchor asked. "I mean, of course I was! That's me, Brilliant Anchor."
"But wait." Chum hesitated. "Who would be the counsellor? Who do we know who not only knows the intricacies of a relationship between father and son, but also is brave enough to stare down a shark?"
There was a long pause. "Marlin?" Anchor suggested.
"Anchor, you are on a roll today!" Chum enthused. "Let's go ask him right now!" The two sharks were off like a shot. "I knew there was a reason we kept you around, mate." Chum said with a smile.
"Too right." Anchor said. "It's because of my sensitive nature." Immediately after saying so, he collided headfirst into another pipe. "Uh, that one actually hurt a little." He insisted as he and Chum swam away, in the direction of a cozy little reef they knew very well...
"Ah, here we are." Chum remarked as they approached a familiar anemone. Anchor was responding to a greeting shouted at him from a neighbouring yard. "I told you this was the right way." Chum muttered.
"Well, excuse me for making one mistake in my life." Anchor protested.
"We ended up mugged by killer whales!" Chum insisted.
"I have no idea why everybody loves those things so much." Anchor grumbled.
"Me neither, mate. Me neither." Chum sighed. He brushed the anemone slightly with his fin. "Anybody home?" he asked.
A perky blue face popped out from between the tentacles. "Oh, hey! Chuck! Banker!"
"That's not the worst way she's mispronounced my name." Anchor whispered.
"G'day, Dory." Chum smiled. "And how's the cutest member of Fish Eaters Anonymous holdin' up today?"
"Um, I'm not sure." Dory hesitated. "But if I see her, I'll ask."
Chum and Anchor looked at each other. "Okay, you do that." Chum said, not seeing any point in pressing the issue. "Is Marlin in? We need to speak with him."
"Oh, sure! Just one minute." Dory smiled. "He's just having a rest. He was arguing with the renovators today."
"You've been renovating?" Anchor exclaimed. "Well, gouge out my eyes for not noticing! This place looks terrific! I mean, really! Top-hole! Good on you!"
"We haven't started yet." Dory explained.
"Oh! That would explain why I didn't notice." Anchor groaned.
Dory smiled. "You guys just wait a minute. I'll get him." She retreated into the plant. Turning around, Dory saw Marlin sleeping on his side. He was muttering in his sleep. "Move it over to the left… I said away from the sun… are you using a three-and-a-half?" She gently put a fin on his back. "Marlin…"
Marlin suddenly shot out of his slumber. "DON'T TOUCH THAT HAMMER!" he screamed. He then looked around and returned to the waking world. "Oh, I'm sorry, Dory. I guess I was dreaming about… something. At one point I was eating two crabs with melted butter…."
"Sorry to wake you, but somebody wants to talk to you." Dory explained.
"No, no, it's all right." Marlin yawned as he stretched, straightened his dorsal fin, and scratched his sides. "I was going to get up in a few hours anyway." He poked his head between the tentacles, his eyes still sleepy. "I'm sorry." He drowzily muttered to his blurred visitors. "I was just…" Suddenly the world came into focus and Marlin found himself face-to-face with two sharks. "Aaagh!"
"Take it easy, mate." Chum soothed. "It's only us."
"Well, I'm awake now." Marlin gasped, his eyes wide, his heart pounding. "That's twice this week I've had a carnivore on my doorstep!"
"You see? More propagation of stereotypes!" Anchor ranted. "Even though we're old friends of his, his first reaction upon seeing a couple of sharks at the door is to ASSUME that we're here to eat him! Why? Just because we're sharks! Prejudice!"
Chum smacked Anchor across the face. "Button your lip, you krill-brain." He grumbled. He then turned to Marlin with an ingratiating smile. "So, Marlin! How's my favourite clownfish today?"
"Judging by the tone of your voice, I'd assume that he's about to be asked for a favour." Marlin sighed.
"Unbelievable!" Anchor exclaimed. "You must be psychic, Marlin!"
Chum held his face in his fin and grimaced. He then plastered on the smile and continued. "Well, now that you mention it, there is one small item we could mention."
"Go ahead." Marlin said. "By now I've lost all track of who owes who what."
"Well, it's like this…" Chum hesitated. "Er, are you familiar with that one-eyed shark who's been seen in these parts?"
"Familiar?" Marlin snorted. "He passed right over my head just three days ago!"
"Ah, good." Chum enthused. "Well, here's the thing. He's, er, he's Bruce's father."
"His father?" Marlin asked.
"That's right." Anchor confirmed enthusiastically. "And he and Brucie haven't got along very well, and it's really hurting him. Bruce, that is."
"So where do I fit in?" Marlin asked. "What do you need me for?"
"Well, er…" Chum faltered.
"Bruce and his old man are going to have a bit of a whip-round, and we'd like you to help them out." Anchor blurted.
Marlin stared dumbfounded for a few seconds. "Me?" he asked. "Oh, you've got to be kidding me. You want me to be the referee in a shark fight?"
"Technically, yes." Anchor declared. Chum elbowed him in the stomach.
"What we mean is," Chum explained, "that we really need your help. Bruce and his father need to reconcile, or Bruce is just going to sink deeper and deeper. He's in pretty bad shape, Marlin."
"Plus," Anchor added, regaining his wind. "You're the fish for the job, Marlin. I mean, your relationship with young Nemo is commendable. I've always said that you were my role model for parenting."
"You've never said that." Marlin said.
"Well, I've said it at least once." Anchor insisted.
"And finally," Chum piped up, "you know that any of us would do the same for you. Will you help Bruce, Marlin? Please?"
"Just a minute. Wait a minute here." Marlin sighed, rubbing his head. "I know you guys would do the same for me, but… you're overlooking the factor of scale… well… that's convoluted logic!"
"Is that a yes or a no?" Anchor asked.
"Well, this goes against my better judgement, but I guess I'll help out." Marlin declared. "For Bruce."
"Hooroo, mate! Good one!" Anchor cheered.
"We knew we could count on you!" Chum added. "Now, we'll get in touch with you over when and where you can meet with Bruce and his father."
"Ooh! Ooh! A family reunion!" Dory had popped her head out and joined the conversation. "Can I come? Can I?"
"Uh, I don't think that would be a good idea, Dory." Marlin cautioned.
"Oh, of course she can come!" Chum countered. "In fact, we insist! We're rounding up all of Bruce's dearest friends to support him during this time of need, and we'd love to have you say a few words."
"Well, I guess there's no harm in that." Marlin conceded.
"Cheers!" Chum shouted as he and Anchor turned away. "We'll call on you once we've organized everything. Take care, Marlin!"
"Uh, wait a minute!" Marlin shouted after them. The sharks paused. "Is Bruce's father converted?"
"Uhhh…." The sharks hedged in unison. They knew very well what Marlin meant by "converted".
"Well…" Chum muttered.
"You see…" Anchor stalled.
"It's complicated…" Chum mumbled.
"How should I put it?" Anchor mused.
"No." both sharks admitted in unison.
"What?!" Marlin gasped. "You mean to tell me that I'm going to be arguing with a shark that still eats fish?"
"Hey, don't worry about it." Anchor assured. "Chum and I will protect you. We've done it before, you know."
"No worries, mate." Chum added. "This'll be no problem."
Marlin rubbed his head and sighed. Suddenly the renovators didn't seem like such a big problem anymore.
TO BE CONTINUED