The Sole Survivor
Private squeaked with wide eyes as he flung the blankets over his head when he saw a black shadow disappear from his view. He cowered helplessly in his bed as the vivid images from their earlier horror film spooked him from the crown of his head all the way to the tip of his tail. He stopped breathing as he listened to the sounds the room made in silence.
The younger penguin had been a little excited that Kowalski had suggested they watch a movie, but Private had no idea the movie they were planning to watch would be so terrifying. Now he wouldn't be able to sleep for a week!
If he listened close enough, he could hear the light breathing of Skipper and Kowalski and on top of that, he could hear Rico's snoring, but that didn't comfort Private much. He needed to hear someone's voice, someone familiar.
The shorter penguin normally didn't have trouble getting to sleep, but since his mind was plagued with the memory of the monsters, the dark shadows in their home seemed more ominous and threatening. When he was younger, it never crossed his mind that anything could be hiding in the darkness. He'd always entertained thoughts of sleep and dreams when he laid down every night, not if he'll be alive in the morning due to some unseen assassin.
Private shivered as he tried to calm his racing heart. 'It's just a movie, it's just a movie, it's just a movie…' He chanted in his head over and over again. He took in a deep breath and closed his eyes, but right as he was about to doze off, a loud thump from somewhere in the room caused him to shoot straight up in his bed, banging his head on the concrete above him.
"Ouch!" He yelped.
"Hey, what's going on up there?" A loud, very familiar stern voice called up to him not two seconds later, causing him to flinch instinctively. He'd forgotten how light of a sleeper their leader was.
From below, Skipper glared irritably as he rubbed his tired eye with a flipper. Right as he was about to go and give whoever was waking him up a piece of his mind, the younger penguin's head popped in upside down from above.
"My apologies, Skipper!" Private spoke quickly, his little eyes wide with fear and embarrassment. "It won't happen again! See you in the morning!" He proclaimed with a very forced grin before disappearing from his vision. As soon as he left, Skipper's annoyed glare had all but disappeared before a curious and concerned expression crossed his normally stern features. Sighing, the leader of their group turned in his bed and stood up, causing him to be eye-to-eye with Private's bunk.
What he saw made him slap his forehead and shake his head.
Private had already made up a make-shift safety zone out of his blankets and was currently cowering inside of it. Skipper could've sworn he heard the little penguin sobbing quietly. He sighed and slid his flipper down his beak with a half-lidded stare.
"What are you doing, Private?"
Skipper knew that the hardest part of living with someone who was young and innocent was dealing with their emotional breakdowns and fears.
But he never figured he'd actually have to deal with such a problem as being afraid of the dark.
Private jumped inside the mass of cloth at the sound of his voice before his head peeked out from over the top of it. "Sorry sir, just… trying to get to sleep." He murmured steadily, but his eyes betrayed him and allowed Skipper to see exactly how afraid his youngest recruit was. His eyes searched Private's for a few minutes, as if debating, then he sighed.
"Scoot over, Private." He commanded. Private felt his heart thud dangerously in his chest for a moment, fear gripping his chest even tighter than before.
"W-what?" He stuttered and squeaked when Skipper pulled himself up next to the young penguin. Private scurried over to the far corner of his bunk to give the other room. And they sat there, Skipper staring ahead while Private snuck glances at his leader. Finally, Skipper spoke.
"What's bothering you, soldier?" He asked sternly, but when he turned to look at him, Private could see concern in his eyes. He sighed and partially released the blanket so he could sit up.
"Well, it's just… that movie we watched earlier… frightened me… Just a little though!" As he thought about it, it probably wasn't the best idea to tell Skipper that he'd been afraid. He might think he was being a wimp and tell him to suck it up, be a man and rub some dirt in it or something manly like that.
Maybe Private should've just not watched the movie to save himself from all of this torment.
"I promise I'll be in good shape tomorrow, Skipper! Don't worry about me, I'll be fine…" Slowly, Private trailed off when he looked back at his leader. Those stone eyes cut him like a knife. He turned away, ashamed. He heard Skipper sigh.
"Private, I can't believe you'd let a silly monster movie distract you from getting a good night's rest." The firm penguin began, glancing at the younger for a brief moment. Private somewhat resembled a wounded puppy, and at Skipper's words, seemed to shrink in on himself.
"I'm sorry, sir." He murmured softly. Before Private could stop himself, he felt tears prickling at the corner of his eyes. He wiped at them furiously before he sniffed, trying to do so discreetly, but failing.
"I… I just…" He couldn't seem to come up with any excuse to offer his leader and that made him feel awful.
"Private, you don't have to –" Skipper began, and that signaled the end of self-control for the young penguin.
Feeling his breathing becoming more ragged and also feeling Skipper's bewildered gaze on him, Private finally let a choked sob escape his beak. With nothing else to do, the young penguin turned and flung his flippers tightly around Skipper's torso. He felt his commander freeze upon contact but he ignored it and buried his forehead into Skipper's soft feathers.
"I'm sorry, Skipper, but…" Private hiccupped and took in a deep shuddering breath. "I don't know what else to do." He murmured as tears cascaded down his feathered face.
Skipper sat as still as he could, not moving so much as an eyelid. His eyes darted around cautiously before finally landing on his young recruit. The young penguin shook softly with suppressed sobs and Skipper found himself weakening under this touching sight. He sighed and shifted in Private's hold so he could wrap a flipper around the distraught penguin.
"It's just a movie, Private. Don't worry." Skipper muttered softly before he pat him on the head and released him nervously. As much as he hated to see Private break down, he had no idea how to handle a situation like this.
He was trained for combat and stealth, not… babysitting.
Skipper grimaced subconsciously and quickly detached Private's flippers. "Right, well, I'll… see you in the morning then, soldier." Jumping down from Private's bunk, he was surprised to find that the young penguin followed him, standing awfully close. Skipper felt his eye twitch.
Private was looking at him with tears in his eyes and a hopeful expression. "Private…"
At Skipper's sigh, the young penguin shook his head fiercely. "Please Skipper?" He whimpered and reached out to grab the older penguin's flipper. "Just for tonight?"
"Wha –" Skipper broke off as it occurred to him. Private wanted to stay with him in his bunk. Skipper's eyes widened slightly before he turned away from the young recruit.
"Private, there's no room." He told him flatly.
Private blinked and tried to get a glimpse at Skipper's expression, but the shadows made it near impossible. Turning from his leader to examine the bunk, Private finally released Skipper's flipper to crawl inside the bunk.
"Come on, let's find out." The young penguin suggested as he pat the spot beside him.
Slowly, Skipper turned to face him with wide-eyed astonishment. He blinked his eyes rapidly for a few seconds before throwing his flippers up in the air.
"Are you out of your mind?" Skipper hissed, completely shocked his youngest recruit would imply such a thing. Private tilted his head before a devious thought entered his mind.
"Are you afraid, Skipper?" He asked his commander seriously, causing Skipper to go stiff with the accusation.
"No! Of course I'm not!" Private cocked his head even more at his leader's fierce declaration.
"Then why not?" Skipper stuttered uncharacteristically, his eyes wide before he growled, his flipper slapping his face. "Come on, Skipper, what have you got to lose?"
"Fine! Fine, just stop with the cross-examination!" Skipper grumbled before marching to his bunk and situating himself inside. Private couldn't help but smirk at the awkward blush on his leader's face. Leaning down, the young penguin scooted up until he was lying comfortably on Skipper's protruding stomach. His leader grunted at the sudden weight, making Private chuckle under his breath.
"What are you laughing at?" Skipper grumbled at him, clearly irritated. Shaking his head, Private cuddled into his make-shift pillow with a sigh.
"Thank you, Skipper."
Skipper grit his teeth and shut his eyes as tight as he could. "Just shut up and go to sleep."
In the early hours of the morning, Private groggily opened his eyes and yawned as he stretched. He swallowed thickly and tried to get more comfortable on the very soft bed he was lying on. After snuggling deeper into the feather-y softness, Private heard a very familiar and inaudible grunt. Almost freezing on the spot, the young penguin's eyes flew open to meet Skipper's irked gaze.
"Oh, that's right…" Private murmured before grinning sheepishly at his leader. "My apologies Skipper," His grin widened when Skipper rolled his eyes as Private slid off and landed on the floor. Stretching, he sighed, his silly grin still in place. "But that was probably the best night's sleep I've had in a while."
"Shut up, Private." Skipper growled as he brushed past him.
"Good morning, Private, Skipper." Kowalski's unusually cheery voice spoke. Private smiled and nodded to him and Rico, who were both up and watching television. Suddenly, Kowalski held up a DVD of another horror movie. "I picked out this movie shortly after the one last night. I figured we could have another 'Monster Movie' night again tonight and –"
"NO!" Three pairs of heads whipped to face their leader. Skipper stood with his eyes trained on the DVD before glancing at Private and looked pointedly at Kowalski. "No more horror films, Kowalski." He muttered before turning away, irritated and embarrassed. Skipper quickly left their HQ, leaving very confused eyes staring after him.
"I wonder what got into him…" Kowalski muttered thoughtfully with a slight frown as he fingered the DVD. "I thought Skipper enjoyed these movies."
Private chuckled and shook his head. "I think he's just afraid of what nighttime will bring." Kowalski shot him a curious look.
"Let's watch it, Kowalski."
TSS Notes: Well, there you have it. It's shorter than what I would've liked. I'm not quite sure how this appears to some, but… when I reread it, it kinda sounds like a SkipperxPrivate story, which originally it was supposed to be like a fatherly story between the two. Heh, man was I way off. Oh well, I'm too lazy to go back and change it. ;D
Anyway, enjoy! If you like this story by some miracle, I'm working on a SkipperxMarlene story, so stay tuned, if you want. ((laughs nervously))
Disclaimer: I do not own The Penguins of Madagascar… which is probably a good thing!