Chapter 7: The Talk
Kowalski sat back nervously, tapping his flippers together. On the other side of the headquarters, he could see Skipper and Private speaking fervently. Skipper had yet to say a word to either himself or Rico. He didn't know what to make of it.
The intellectual glanced to the side, his eyes falling on Rico. He was playing with a deck of cards, completely calm. The weapons expert glanced up, catching Kowalski's eyes. He smiled widely.
Kowalski was put a little more at ease. He returned the smile slowly, rubbing the back of his neck. At least Skipper had seemed to calm down a little since he first came back. He felt a little bad for letting Private take the worst of the leader's temper, but he'd always been better at handling Skipper anyways.
The strategies expert tensed, glancing up as he heard his name. Skipper motioned for him to follow, starting up the ladder to the fishbowl entrance. Hesitantly, he began to follow.
"Good luck," Private whispered as he passed.
They were silent for a while as they walked. Kowalski couldn't help but notice they were heading where no one would hear. He wasn't sure if this was for privacy or if Skipper was going to kill him and hide his body. He cringed at the idea, knowing he was being a little paranoid, but the idea wasn't too far fetched, when he considered whom he was following.
Finally, when they reached the back of the Zoovenir shop, Skipper turned to face him, putting his flippers on his hips. He raised an expectant eyebrow, but Kowalski wasn't sure what it is he wanted. Still, he wasn't going to keep the leader waiting long, knowing that could be even more dangerous than saying the wrong thing.
"I-I didn't mean to… Rico and I, we-"
Skipper rolled his eyes, cutting the taller penguin off, "Private says you love him."
Kowalski paused, frowning. Love was such a strong word. One he hadn't stopped to consider. A chemical reaction in the brain that induces bliss. Highly addictive. By scientific definition, that was exactly what he felt, but he knew that wasn't the way it worked when it came to emotions. Relationships.
So then, was that it? He loved all three of his teammates, of course, in a way. One didn't live and work with someone for so long without developing such strong bonds. But it wasn't the same. His feelings toward Rico were so much stronger. More than attraction and affection.
His gaze snapped up again, blinking.
"Turn off the old noggin for a minute, man! Do you or do you not?"
"Yes," his answer was instant, surprising even him.
Skipper nodded, tapping his beak in thought. If things had already gotten so far, he imagined that forcing them to stop would only do more harm than good. Still, there were many things to consider. He'd seen in-team relationships before, some that lasted and some that hadn't.
"Alright, Kowalski. First thing's first," Skipper said finally, crossing his flippers. "Believe me, if you break his heart, you'll be running drills for weeks!"
"B-Break his heart?" the taller penguin repeated nervously, his face flushing.
"Same thing goes for him," the leader added. "If you guys split on bad terms this team will go to pieces!" This was starting to feel like one of those 'man-to-man' talks, but with Skipper playing parent on both parts, Kowalski noticed, cringing at the idea. "And also, no more of that stuff in front of Private. He's just a boy you know."
Kowalski rubbed the back of his head, unsure of how to respond to all of this, simply nodding.
"And last," Skipper continued, "make sure you keep this away from the missions, got it? Can't have my boys getting distracted while we're up against an enemy!"
The strategies expert made the mental note to make sure that Skipper never found out about Rico cuddling with him while they were supposed to be on recon duty. "R-Right."
"Good." Skipper said calmly, as if nothing at all had changed. "I'll have the same talk with Rico." Kowalski nodded again, obviously still stunned. The leader raised an eyebrow and sighed, letting himself relax a little. "How long has this cuddles and googly eyes been going on anyways?"
"A-a few days," Kowalski laughed nervously, tapping his flippers together again. "R-Rico just kind of…" he shrugged.
Skipper laughed. "I knew you wouldn't have enough guts to make the first move."
Kowalski flushed darker, sure that the red was visible even through the feathers on his face. "I have guts!" he protested.
"Guts that you never listen to," the shorter penguin countered, raising a playful eyebrow.
Kowalski fell silent, knowing that Skipper was right.
"What do you think, Skippa'?" Private asked, sitting down next to the team leader, a little grin on his face. At the other side of the headquarters, he could see Kowalski and Rico playing with dominoes, setting up a very complicated array of the little white blocks to be later knocked over.
"About what, Private?" Skipper asked coolly, his own eyes fixed on their teammates. They seemed to be lost in their own little world, completely unaware to the things going on around them. He'd have to fix that. Later, though. Now he'd let the two lovebirds have their good times.
"About them," Private answered, frowning faintly. "Do you think-"
"Rico, wait-!" Kowalski cried, but it was too late. The weapons expert had already knocked down a domino, and with it went two hundred and three more.
Rico laughed with delight, sitting back and sending the tallest penguin a huge grin. Kowalski sighed in exasperation and returned the grin. "Again?"
"Again!" the hefty penguin repeated, nodding enthusiastically, and once more, they began setting the dominoes up.
Skipper glanced at Private, not even needing to wait for him to finish what he'd been saying. "I think they'll be fine."