AUTHOR'S NOTES: Grand finale time! I hope you enjoy!
NOTE: This story does not condone a belief in vegetarianism. Grill 'em up, I say.
The old shark finished his assessment of the battleship. Finally he spoke, rows upon rows of teeth moving subtly, his booming voice tinged with a thick New Zealand accent. "This don't look like no buffet to me." He growled.
Despite his terror, Marlin had to slap himself upside the head with his fin. How could Chum have been so stupid? Of all the idiotic lies he could have told, this had to be the worst. His attention was startled back to the situation at hand by Bruce, who was surprisingly taking initiative, swimming towards his father.
"Er, no." Bruce finally said. "I'm afraid you've been misinformed. You'll have to excuse Chum, as he's not been the same since he swallowed that oddly-coloured coral." He shot a glance at Chum, in case he was stupid enough to actually contest this. Fortunately, he knew to stay quiet. "You see," Bruce continued, trying not to be nervous, "I wanted to speak with you. Don't you know who I am?" The older shark made no indication in the affirmative or negative, but simply continued to stare and snarl. "It's, it's me." Bruce finally managed to say. "Bruce."
"Bruce." For the longest time Rodney gave no indication of recognition. Suddenly, he emitted a snort of derision, a trail of bubbles escaping his nostrils. "I never thought you'd have the guts to come near me again. I'll give you that." His voice was deep and emotionless. "But," he continued, abruptly, "I'm not going to waste my time with you, Bruce. Nothing's changed." He began to turn away.
Marlin's disgust at the older shark's rudeness cut through his better instincts. "Now, you just hold on!" He shouted, swimming up to Rodney. "You've got a lot of gall acting so…" he suddenly realized his proximity to Rodney's face, and retreated as the shark casually snapped at him. Chum and Anchor moved to a defensive position in front of Marlin, but Rodney merely laughed.
"Who's the little bite with the big mouth?" he asked, smiling coldly.
"He's a friend of mine." Bruce muttered.
"A friend?" Something malicious seemed to light up within the older shark. "Well, if he's a friend of yours, aren't you being rude, my boy? Introduce me to him, by all means."
Marlin knew that Rodney was merely playing games, but he defiantly stared him in the eye, despite his nervousness. "Fine. Dad, this is Marlin." Bruce grumbled, clearly wary of the delicacy of the situation.
"Marlin. A pleasure to meet you, Marlin." Rodney grinned, ferociously. If his misanthropic personality from moments ago was annoying, his new persona, the sadistically smiling killer, was utterly unnerving. "Come a little closer, Marlin. I want to get a good look at you. I don't see so well on this side." Slowly Marlin made his way towards the massive beast, always making sure that the other sharks were keeping a close eye on him, should the inevitable happen. Marlin looked Rodney in his good eye, and was slightly terrified when he realized that he could see his reflection in the shark's eyeball. Infinite moments passed between them, Marlin prepared to swim like mad at a heartbeat's notice. The shark's eye narrowed slightly. "You're a clownfish, aren't you, Marlin?" he asked.
"Y-yes." Marlin managed to stammer.
"I don't eat clownfish." Rodney muttered, with a surprising tone of disgust.
"Y-you don't?" Marlin asked, not daring to venture any closer even after this statement.
"I don't." the shark affirmed. "Do you know why, Marlin?" he asked, his grin tightening even more.
"No, why?" Marlin asked.
"Because." The shark finally replied, barely above a whisper. "They taste funny." He suddenly burst into a fit of deep, darkly rich laughter. Marlin was reminded of Bruce's similar sense of humour, particularly when they first met, but Rodney was decidedly sicker. "You see, Marlin? I can tell jokes, too." He growled. "Pretty funny for a shark, aren't I? What does the clownfish think?"
Marlin was disgusted with this sick game. Gathering his nerve, he began to speak. "I think that you have serious issues to deal with, Rodney! You think just because you're so big and mean that you can get away with anything? Well, you're wrong." He swallowed slightly. "You're wrong."
"Issues?" Rodney's pleased tone was tinged with mock pain. "Dear me. Whatever shall I do? Hmm? Whatever shall I DO?" He final word turned into a growl as he lunged forward once more, stopping short when Marlin retreated behind Chum and Anchor.
"Y-you can pretend you don't care, but it's still true!" Marlin continued. "All Bruce wants to do is have a talk with you, and you've done nothing but treat him like dirt! What kind of a way is that to treat your son?"
Rodney seemed mildly amused. "Nosy for a morsel, aren't you, Marlin? What business is it of yours how my son and I relate?"
Marlin refused to back down. "I've known your son for quite some time now, and I'm sure I know him even better than you! You have no idea what Bruce is capable of, because you aren't giving him the chance! A father-son relationship is a two-way deal! You need to listen to him instead of brushing him off! You're the only father he has!"
Rodney remained stunned for a short while. Then his grin returned, larger and more menacing than ever. "You mean to say that this little fry is a real friend of yours, Bruce?" he asked. Bruce nodded, angered but not ashamed. Rodney erupted into another burst of wicked laughter. "And here I thought we were playing mind games with your dinner! But it really was a social call, was that it?" he roared hysterically. "Bruce, you are even worse than I remembered! Only you would…" he stopped to catch his breath. "Make friends with a fish!"
On this final point, Chum and Anchor, who had hitherto never dared to speak up, came forward in defence. "He's our friend, too!" Chum insisted, refusing to back down.
"Yeah!" Anchor joined in. "Marlin, Bruce and the two of us are all good mates, and if you've got a problem with that, well, that's your tough luck, not ours!" The two sharks' bravado quickly died with the wicked glint in Rodney's eye.
"Don't run your mouths at a Great White, my boys." The older shark whispered. "It's been a while since I've taken on another shark, but you don't want to try me, believe me. It only figures that Bruce would latch onto the likes of you. Weak. Pitiful. Soft-hearted, just like him. You whole lot are absolutely pathetic. And as for you;" he continued, turning his gaze to Marlin, "keep that mouth of yours shut, or I'll make my mouth open in your direction. I don't like clownfish, but I can easily survive a stomachache. Keep that in mind."
"He's big." Was all the comment Dory could think up as the fish watched the ensuing conversation. "Yep. He's real big. Well, he's kinda… nope. He's just big."
"Well, if you think he's big now, wait until you're looking at him from the inside!" Gurgle raged.
"Hey, Gurgle. Would you cool it?" Peach asked, turning from her vantage point. "First of all, he's on the other side of the glass, second, we have three sharks protecting us, which is two more than him, and third, he sounds like a picky eater. Who knows? Maybe he's also allergic to the Chicken of the Sea."
At this comment, Bloat emitted a choked laugh, which he unsuccessfully tried to muffle with his fins. Gurgle shot him a dirty look. "I'm sorry, Gurg, but Peach, that was absolutely classic. I mean, I'm gonna be giggling about that one for a week. How did you come up with that?"
"It's all in the timing, big guy." Peach shrugged.
"Ohh." Gurgle moaned. "I'm not getting any support here. I need fulfilment. Jacques!"
"Oui?" the small crab asked, slightly wearily.
"Clean me again." Gurgle ordered.
"Very well, but this is the last time." Jacques grumbled. "Seven times should be enough for anybody."
"I don't like the way he's talking to my Dad." Nemo frowned.
"Just take it easy, kid." Gill reassured, his steely eyes not leaving the shark for one second. "He knows what he's doing, and so do the rest of them. I've dealt with types like Rodney all over this wide ocean, kid. And they're all the same. They're cowards, when you get down to it. He's probably never met a fish with a fraction of the character that your old man has, and it's intimidating him. He's trying to cover it up, but I can see it."
"I hope so." Nemo sighed. "He looks real big and mean, but he's still Bruce's Dad, isn't he? I mean, why can't Bruce and his Dad get along like my Dad and me get along?"
Gill put a comforting fin on the young fish's shoulder. "Nemo…" he said with a slight smile, deciding that his old tank nickname would not be prurient in this situation, "if every father and son in this ocean got along like you and your Dad, it would be the most wonderful place to live."
"Really?" Nemo asked.
"I mean it." Gill affirmed.
"There." Jacques grumbled, releasing Gurgle. "Ask me to clean you one more time today and I will be forced to pinch you."
"Bottom-feeder." Gurgle grumbled. He turned his attention back to Rodney. "I just don't like it. I've seen a shark in action before. They're remorseless!"
"Now wait a minute." Bloat piped up. "We've been with you since the day you arrived from the pet store, and I know for a fact that you haven't even seen a shark in action, with the exception of Bruce, Chum and Anchor going into feeding frenzy on a kelp bed!"
"Well, I didn't see it first-hand." Gurgle insisted. "When I was at the pet store, the night watchman left the television on, and I saw a movie about a shark. It was eating everything and everybody! It was horrible, and it took them forever to get rid of it!"
"How'd they manage that?" Peach asked.
"Well… it's hard to describe." Gurgle muttered. "First, one of the humans got the shark to open its mouth. Then the human put a tank that I guess had some sort of a gas in it in the shark's mouth. And then he said "Smile", and used some sort of hand-held device to shoot something into the shark's mouth that made the whole thing explode! That was a real action-packed climax, let me tell you!"
"So, let me get this straight." Bloat rationalized. "First a human told the shark to open wide. Then he used a tank that had gas in it to distract it. After that, he said "Smile", and then he shot the shark's mouth with a drill."
"Basically, yes." Gurgle confirmed.
"Well, if we wanted to get rid of a shark, all we'd have to do is call up Dr. Sherman!" Bloat declared. "He did that to his patients every day!"
There was a pause, and then the entire room burst into hysterical laughter, the glaring exception being Gurgle. Even Gill allowed himself to chuckle slightly. Peach looked ready to fall off the pane. Deb giggled insanely, leaning against the glass for support. "I-I'm sorry, I know I shouldn't have laughed at that, but it just struck me as funny!" She collapsed against her reflection with another shriek of hilarity.
"You were right, Peach!" Bloat finally managed to say. "It's all about timing! It really is!"
"You so utterly and completely rock, Porcupine!" Crush howled.
"Just for that, I'm not going to tell them about the sequels." Gurgle grumbled to himself.
Finally Bruce's courage came to the fore. "Now, you listen here, Dad." He declared, swimming up to eye level with his father. "Don't insult them. You can yell at me all you want, but leave my friends out of this." He stared unblinking into the older shark's face.
"What do you want from me, Bruce?" Rodney simply asked.
"I want to show you that things have changed since I was young." Bruce insisted. "I want to show you that I have made something of myself, like you wanted me to. I just want to prove myself to you."
"You call this making something of yourself, my boy?" Rodney sneered. "When I was your age I was a legend wherever I went. Millions of fish met their ends at my jaws, and don't you forget it! What have you possibly done that could match that? All you've done is hide out in this little boat of yours, with your friends the two twits and the big-mouth shrimp."
"That's not true." Anchor protested, swimming forward, while making sure that Marlin was adequately protected. "I'll have you know that Bruce is the President, Chairshark and Co-founder of Fish Eaters Anonymous!"
"The what?" Rodney asked, a tone of dangerous curiosity in his voice.
"An organization devoted not only to the wellness of sharks, both nutritional and psychological, but the wellness of all marine life and their social and communal relationships with sharks the world over!" Chum piped up, quoting the mission statement.
"Eight months since I've so much as chewed on a fish!" Anchor testified.
"Seven months and two weeks!" Chum added. "And Brucie hit the one-year mark three weeks ago!"
"Fish are friends, not food!" the two sharks concluded in unison.
Rodney stared for a moment in utter disbelief before a single question escaped his fanged grin. "Vegetarian sharks, eh?" A deep, bubbling chuckle worked its way from his throat. Suddenly, he lunged at the other sharks with a roar, backing them and Marlin against the wall. "You wastes! Even the saddest sharks I've met have still managed to get some kills between them, but you three have got to be the most pathetic excuses I've met in all my years. You're a bunch of disgraces! The whole lot of you! You don't deserve those fins, those teeth! You aren't true sharks!"
"What's the good in being a true shark if all it wins you is the entire ocean fearing and hating you?" Bruce countered, as loudly as he dared.
"You're the worst of them all!" Rodney roared back. "Fish are not friends! They cannot think for themselves, and they serve no purpose in this ocean except for our dinners! Fish are expendable! Fish have no rights! Fish are…" he paused. For the first time, he had looked in the direction of the blocked-off section with his good eye. "Fish are… here." He murmured, grinning savagely. In a sudden flurry he hurtled himself down the corridor.
"I wouldn't do that if I were you." Chum advised.
"Of course you wouldn't!" Rodney countered. "Let me show you how a real shark treats fish!"
Marlin fought his instincts to follow the massive shark, and prayed that the glass would hold. Dory, to his chagrin, was enthusiastically waving at the incoming shark.
"Ooh! Ooh! He sees me!" Dory enthused, waving frantically at the rapidly approaching shark. "Do you think he sees me?" she asked, turning to Gill.
"Don't worry, sweetheart." Gill muttered. "I can guarantee you that he sees you." Rodney loomed even closer. "Steady, everybody." Gill barked. "Steady."
"Trust the glass, trust the glass." Gurgle whimpered to himself. "Oh, what's the use? I'm going to die, anyway!" He wailed, covering his face.
Rodney opened his mouth wide in anticipation, adding a boost of extra speed as he rushed towards the unmoving fish…
The resulting clang shook the entire ship, but the glass remained unbroken. Rodney lay against the glass in a daze for a short time, trying to determine exactly what had happened. Suddenly his strength returned and he began to ram the glass repeatedly. All he succeeded in doing was battering his face further. By now Gurgle was lying comatose on the floor, and Peach was now stuck against the opposing wall.
"You're wasting your strength, Dad." Bruce muttered, approaching from behind. "You won't be able to break through there."
"What is this?" Rodney growled. "Some kind of sick joke?"
"No." Bruce responded. "This is a way of introducing you to my friends without them being in any danger. We've earned the trust of these fish, and now they're our closest friends, thanks to Fish Eater's Anonymous. They're some of the most pleasant creatures you'll ever meet."
Rodney snorted contemptuously. Even as he glowered at the unobtainable fish, a small blue one eagerly swam up to his face. "Oh, um, hi! Um, I'm Dory, and I'm supposed to say a few nice things about Bruce. Um… he's really a nice guy, really. And… uh…"
"I don't listen to fish." Rodney growled.
"Oh, um… well… hey, Crush! Why don't you talk to this guy?" Dory asked. "He doesn't listen to fish." She added in a very audible stage whisper.
"You've got some serious attitude predilections, man." The sea turtle intoned, much to Rodney's disgust. "You're not gonna be winning any friends if you keep eating your bros., you know?"
Rodney sighed and looked back at Bruce. "I'm sorry, son. You haven't changed at all. You're still weak and emotional. You'll never be the shark you could have been, and that's all there is too it."
Bruce looked hurt, but he nodded. "If that's how you feel, I'll accept that. I can't change the way you think." Marlin dared to approach Bruce and put his fin on the shark's out of comfort.
Rodney turned and slowly swam towards the exit without a word. Bruce lowered his head and tried to keep his emotions in check.
"I'm sorry, Bruce." Marlin whispered. "I'm so sorry."
"Wasn't your fault, Marlin." Bruce responded. "If it weren't for you, I wouldn't have even had the courage to arrange this meeting. At least now I know how it's going to be. Thanks for helping me out."
"Yeah, you're the real thing, Marlin." Chum added as he and Anchor swam to their side. "Even though he wasn't convinced, you did a great job."
"You really did, Dad." Nemo commented from behind the glass.
"Thanks, son." Marlin sighed.
"I was just hoping it would work out…" Bruce muttered.
"So did I, Bruce." Marlin whispered.
"We all did, mate." Anchor added. "This isn't your fault."
"There was so much I wanted to say, but… he wouldn't listen." Bruce sighed.
"I wanted to say more too, Bruce." Marlin added. "I really did."
"Well, at least there's…" Bruce paused. His senses seemed to heighten all of a sudden.
"What's wrong, Brucie?" Chum asked.
A sudden roar and a beam of light rushed from the entranceway. Only one ocean denizen emitted beams of light like that. "Divers!" Bruce announced, gravely. The three sharks raced towards the entrance, Marlin following them cautiously.
Peering out the hole, they saw two men in scuba suits facing off against Rodney. Rodney made to attack, but a diver struck him from his blind side with a stun rod. In panic, Rodney tried to escape, but ended up wedging himself into a hole in the ship. The diver hit him with the stun rod once again. The other diver approached; the blade of his knife glinting in the darkness.
For a moment Bruce was too afraid to act. But in a flash, he was suddenly back to his old home, on the day that his mother was taken away. He was too small, too weak to defend her. He could only watch as the kidnappers stunned his mother into submission and took her away, despite his pleas for her not to leave…
With a sudden roar, Bruce burst from the hole in the ship, slamming his full weight into the diver wielding the stun rod, knocking him over. The other diver, startled, raised his knife, only to have it knocked out of his hand by Bruce's tail. Chum bared his teeth. "Come on, mate! Let's go!" he shouted, as he and Anchor joined the fray, preventing the first diver from reclaiming the stun rod.
Marlin watched as the three sharks defended Rodney from the divers. Bruce, Chum and Anchor were holding their own, and Rodney, while wedged to his dorsal fin in the hole, was at least relatively safe.
"Dad!" Marlin jumped and saw that Nemo was right beside him.
"Stay back, Nemo." He warned, remembering his last encounter with divers all too well. "It's going to be alright. The sharks have everything under control."
"No, Dad!" Nemo insisted. "If we don't help Bruce's Dad now, he won't make it!"
"What makes you say that?" Marlin asked.
Nemo explained. "Mr. Rays, in science class, he, he told us that sharks, they need to keep swimming all the time to live. They have to keep moving to keep water going through their gills. And, and, sharks can't swim backwards either. If we don't get him out of there, he'll suffocate!"
"I believe you, son." Marlin replied. "But I don't think he's going to listen to you." He added, gesturing to the stuck shark.
"Dad, we have to try." Nemo insisted. "I know how to get to him from the other side. I'll explain that we want to help. You know that Bruce would help us out if this happened to us."
Marlin stared at Nemo for a moment, calculating the risks in his head. Rodney was not his favourite individual, but if what Nemo had said was true, there would be no way to retrieve the old shark alive without help from additional sources. "Don't get too close, Nemo. Please." He whispered.
"Don't worry, Dad." Nemo responded. There were more reassurances, but they didn't need to be said. Both Marlin and Nemo knew that the young fish was capable of taking care of himself. As fast as his little body could go, Nemo bolted back into the ship, briefed the rest of the fish on the situation, and then went through the passage that lead to the other side of the hole. Rodney was thrashing furiously, but he was having trouble breathing. "Mr. Shark!" Nemo shouted as he approached.
"Clownfish. Bah!" Rodney snarled, ineffectually snapping at the tiny fish.
"Stop." Nemo warned. "If you eat me, you'll, you'll never get out of here alive! We're here to help you."
"I don't listen to fish!" Rodney wheezed, lunging at Nemo again.
"Oh, come on!" Gill's angry, commanding tone broke through once again. "You're going to die in a few minutes if we don't help you! Why don't you swallow your pride and let us help? What do you have to lose?"
Rodney glared for a while. Even as he considered, his breath hitched even tighter and he gasped. "All right." He said at last. "Get me out of here and I'll… I'll co-operate."
Marlin watched the fight anxiously. Chum and Anchor had successfully driven off the diver with the knife, but Bruce was still locked in battle with the man armed with the stun rod. Suddenly Marlin was pushed aside by Crush and Bloat, Peach clinging tenaciously to the turtle's shell. "What's going on?" Marlin asked.
"We're exercising shark extraction, man!" Crush shouted as he continued towards Rodney's tail.
"We have to pull from this side to make it easier!" Bloat added.
"Wait! Let me help!" Marlin shouted, joining them at the tail. Together they grabbed the tail and pulled with all of their might.
"I've said it before, but it bears repeating." Gurgle fretted. "This is insanity!" The rest of the fish were all desperately trying to push Rodney's head back through the opening. His head was moving, but very slowly. Nemo, Gill, Deb and Jacques were pushing, and Dory and Bubbles were using their tails to direct a weak string of bubbles through Rodney's gills. It was not enough to oxygenate the massive shark, but it was enough to prolong the time until his asphyxiation.
"Gurgle! Help us push!" Nemo shouted, shoving desperately against Rodney's nose.
"Uh, no thanks. I'd rather act as moral support." Gurgle stammered.
Gill frowned. "Gurgle, do you remember when you got stuck in the volcano?" he shouted, still pushing.
"Well… yes." Gurgle admitted.
"And all of us had to pull to keep you from getting blown out of the tank with the bubble stream?" Gill grunted.
"So what? Is this a guilt trip?" Gurgle sniffed.
"No!" Gill replied. "We helped you out because you're our friend. Friends don't use guilt on each other. Will you help us out as we helped you?"
Gurgle fidgeted for a moment, and then sighed. "I must be nuts." He mumbled as he swam towards the shark's head and pushed.
"Keep pulling!" Marlin shouted, tugging on the shark's tail again and again. Even Peach was trying to help pull, although she was not able to muster very much force. "Keep pulling! He's slipping out, slowly!" Marlin grunted.
"How's it going, mate?" Anchor asked as he passed by.
"Fine, fine." Marlin replied. "Just keep that diver away and we'll have him out soon."
"Good, good." Anchor said. "Brucie's got that fellow on the ropes."
Marlin stole a glance at Bruce even as he pulled, but he was somewhat disturbed. Bruce had a gleam in his eyes as he pursued the terrified diver. A gleam Marlin had not seen since the day they had met…
"Keep pushing!" Gill shouted. "Don't stop! Keep it steady! We're doing this!"
"Come on!" Gurgle grunted. "Put your spines into it!"
"Keep pushing!" Dory shouted. "Keep pushing! I can see the head!"
"Dory!" everybody shouted.
"Oops! Sorry." Dory giggled. "I got mixed up."
Everybody grunted, and strained, and pushed, and pulled. Rodney roared in pain as the edges of the hole scratched his sides, but he was moving. Then, in a sudden burst of movement, the shark was pulled free of the hole. Crush, Bloat, Marlin and Peach were tossed back by the recoil. Rodney himself tumbled backwards, and all of the fish from inside the hole spilled out into the open water. Unfortunately, Gurgle, who shot out like a torpedo, ended up shooting directly into Rodney's open mouth. Everybody gasped as Rodney nonchalantly closed his mouth and swallowed.
"Oh my gosh…" Dory whispered.
"GURGLE! NO!" Deb screamed.
Before anybody else could react, another roar was heard from Bruce's direction. All turned and saw that the hapless diver was backed up against a large rock. He pitifully tried to defend himself with his stun rod, but Bruce knocked it out of his hands, smashing it against a rock. Bruce had a downright terrifying expression on his face. For the first time in so long, he was out for blood. The man cowered and covered his face with his arms, awaiting certain death. But Bruce hesitated, and looked at the group that was watching him. Rodney was looking at him expectantly, and Bruce knew exactly what he was expected to do. He leaned closer…
"Don't do it, mate!" Anchor shouted.
"You know how hard it is to stop!" Chum added.
"You wanted to be the first to reach two years!" Anchor insisted.
For what seemed to be an eternity, Bruce stared at the man. Finally, he leaned forward and gently nudged the man with his nose. The man looked at him, confused, and Bruce retreated slightly. After hesitating for a moment, the man made a mad swim for the surface, not caring in the slightest about the consequences of the bends. It was the least he deserved. Bruce exhaled deeply. Mild comments of encouragement from Chum and Anchor reached his ears, but his attention was solely on his father. "Everything alright?" he asked.
The tension of the moment broken, the outrage returned full force. "He ate Gurgle!" Nemo shouted, angrily.
"He what?" Bruce growled. He brought his face right up to his father's, no longer afraid. "How could you, you coward?"
"He swam into my mouth." Rodney insisted, slightly unnerved. "What was I supposed to do, let him go?"
"Back-stabber!" Bruce roared, bumping his father back against the ship. "Is this what you're so proud of? Murdering things that mean you no harm? Is that it?" Rodney actually seemed intimidated, much to everybody's surprise.
"You spoke about disappointment." Marlin piped up, also unafraid to stare down the shark. "Well, how disappointing do you think it is for us to see you kill one of our friends, who did nothing but help you out?"
"You've got a funny way of showing gratitude, man." Crush chided.
"Where's your bravado now, you coward?" Gill demanded.
The old shark sat in silence as all eyes glared unblinking in his direction. For the first time in his life, Rodney was truly afraid. What truly astonished him, however, was that he was being intimidated by creatures whom he would have eaten without a second thought a mere day previous. He looked at Nemo, the smallest of them. The tiny fish's lip trembled, as his wide coppery eyes seemed to burn through him. The old shark coughed, glanced around, and then, with a hideous retching sound, lowered his head and emptied his stomach. All gasped when they saw a small purple fish lying still among the bones and half-digested meat.
"Gurgle!" Gill shouted, rushing up. "Speak to me! Say something!"
"Gurgle?" Nemo asked, gently brushing his fin across his friend's still face.
Gurgle stirred slightly, slowly opened his eyes and looked around. "Blech!" he shouted. "That was the most disgusting experience I have ever had the displeasure of living through, both as a fish and as an individual!"
"Good to see you're alright, too." Bloat said with a smile.
"Hey, you're right." Gurgle murmured. "I'm alive!" He shouted. "I'm… covered with stomach acid and half-digested flesh… AAAAGH! JACQUES! WHERE ARE YOU?" He swam back into the battleship, ignoring the fact that Jacques had been standing right next to him.
"Uh… listen." Rodney muttered. All of the fish turned to him. "I've… well, I've eaten a lot of fish in my life. I can't deny that. But until then, well… I never really though about who these fish were, and what they meant… you know, to other fish. But you folks, well, you showed me that even fish mean something to each other. Friendships. And kindness, even to those who don't deserve it. Well, I was thinking… do you think a fish would ever be my friend?" He felt something brush his fin. He looked down and saw Nemo smiling up at him. Marlin nearly had an aneurysm at the sight, but he managed to keep his cool. "But…" Rodney hesitated. "I'm an old shark. I've been living the same way for so long. You can't teach an old shark new tricks, they say."
At this, Crush began to chuckle to himself. "What's so funny?" Rodney asked.
Crush laughed some more. "Dude!" he snorted. "You're not old! When I was your age, people were still getting around by rowboat!"
Rodney looked down at Nemo, who was still smiling at him. Rodney smiled back.
THREE MONTHS LATER
"And, as President, Chairshark and Co-founder of Fish Eater's Anonymous, I would like to congratulate our latest member on his third consecutive month, fish-free. Let's hear it for my father, Rodney!" The members of Fish Eater's Anonymous, as well as their guests, applauded wildly at Bruce's announcement. Rodney swam up to the podium and waved gratefully. "How you feeling, Dad?" Bruce asked.
"Better every day!" Rodney announced, prompting more applause. "Fish are friends."
"Not food!" the entire room chorused as one.
"All right!" Bruce announced. "Enough of this official stuff. The meeting is hereby adjourned. Now, for the moment we've all been waiting for; let's eat!" With that, the entire room converged on the kelp bed and began to feast.
"You know, this is the best stuff." Rodney remarked between bites.
"Yeah, 'cause it's got the little bits in it." Bruce explained.
"Gotta be the little bits." Rodney agreed.
"Okay, so then they decide to ram the shark with the boat." Gurgle explained.
"Boat-rammage. Gotcha, man. Then what happened?" Crush asked.
"Well," Gurgle hesitated. "They ram the shark, and, well, it just explodes. Actually, it explodes four times for some reason."
"Dude," Crush laughed. "You have got to see better movies. Ever see Surfari?"
"You okay, Marlin?" Dory asked. "You look worried about something."
"No, it's alright." Marlin sighed. "I'm just wondering what those renovators are going to try while I'm gone."
"Are you sure, Reg?" One of the hermit crabs asked the other. "I'm sure he said he wants the veranda adjusted."
"No, Fred." The other crab insisted. "He wanted the tentacles adjusted."
"But Reg…" the first crab protested.
"Look." The crab named Reg remarked. "I'm the management, you're the labour. And I say that we're supposed to adjust the tentacles." He climbed up his ladder and examined the swaying tentacles. "Now, let's take a look at these…" he reached for a tentacle.
Below, Fred heard a violent zapping sound and a scream. "Reg?" he asked. Almost immediately after, Reg fell from the ladder and landed in a smouldering pile. "Aw, gee, Reg, you get all the fun." Fred pouted.
Reg weakly reached up and smacked Fred over the head with the blueprints.