Final chapter is a-go!
"So you actually thought that Julien and I were together?" Marlene asked Skipper as she stared him down with her eyes. She was a still a little astonished that someone like Skipper would encounter such a misunderstanding.
"Um, well… yes." Skipper grinned sheepishly as he blushed underneath his feathers for the millionth time that day.
"I just cannot believe that you actually thought that, Skipper," Kowalski laughed.
"And who are you to talk soldier? You believed it too for a while and thanks to you three gossiping about me you made it worse!" Skipper crossed his flippers as he quirked an eyebrow at them from across the table. He sighed silently as they hung their heads, his soft side starting to get to him. "Alright, stop it! Stop it… you knuckleheads. You know that gets to me every time."
"Of course we know that, Skipper. It's the only way we can get our way around here," Private revealed with a grin, but it soon disappeared as Skipper let out a growl of annoyance.
"Ah, come on you old bird! Lighten up! It's a beautiful Friday night that does not deserve grouchiness. We get enough of that on a daily basis." Marlene and Skipper both rolled their eyes in unanimity, much to Rico's, Kowalski's and Private's amusement.
"But I have to say… if it weren't for you three… this never would have occurred which means…" Skipper glanced over at Marlene, his expression soft yet nervous.
"That Skipper and I would both be holding back what we truly have to say to each other," she finished for him with a smile.
"Yep, like a soda bottle holding in all that fizz after a good shaking!" Skipper grinned as he used his regular simile talk. "But in the end… I'm sorry I thought that Marlene. It just looked like you were actually falling for him."
Marlene sighed sadly. "I know, I know. And I am so sorry I put you through all of that. The boys said that you were a little depressed for a while there. I hope I didn't make you lose any sleep." She bit her lip nervously, pleading that she hadn't cost him too much trouble.
"Well, actually," Skipper paused at the worried look on Marlene's face, "no, not at all." He gave her a soft smile, completely forgetting that the rest of his team was watching them immensely.
Marlene giggled. "Yeah, poor Julien. Caught up in the middle of everything without having a clue what's going on."
Skipper laughed at the mental image of him pulling on his ears, completely naïve to his surroundings. "Hm, makes me feel all tingly inside." He wrapped his flippers around his torso. "And by that, I mean tingly in the good way."
"Right on, Skipper," Private rooted for him, making the pair jump which clearly showed they had forgotten they were there.
Kowalski cleared his throat, making the four look over at him. "Private, Rico… let's go on outside." He got up along with the other two, but waited for them to go to the ladder before turning back to Skipper. "We'll just leave you two alone." He winked at the couple before turning to follow his teammates out into the night.
Skipper glared at Kowalski's back for a minute before turning to Marlene. "Private shouldn't have been here. It's too much for him to handle."
"It's too much for any of us to handle," Marlene whispered, her voice and her face expressionless. They stared at each other for a good ten seconds before looking away in another direction.
"It's hard for me to… do this." He swallowed thickly, his stomach cramping up at the memories.
"I know," Marlene began in a whisper, "the boys told me about her." There was no way Marlene was just going to sit there and not pretend she didn't know.
Skipper whirled around, his eyes snapped back to her. "What are you talking about?"
She scooted closer to him. "I'm talking about Lola, Skipper. They told me about her… well not everything. I don't even know what species she is, much less how you guys met or anything." She watched as Skipper's azure eyes widened to their limit.
He growled angrily at that realization. "They are on maintenance duty for a week. Maybe even two weeks."
"Skipper… who was she?" She locked her gaze with his, trying to get inside his head. "No secrets are allowed, you know." She grinned at him with ease.
Skipper flinched under her brown green eyes. He knew that he couldn't withstand her any longer. "The beginning?"
"Yes, please." She crossed her legs on the bench with her head resting in her palms. She watched him as he sighed and turned around completely to face her.
"You must understand that this was a difficult time for me." He waited for her to nod before continuing on. "The boys and I traveled to Africa with Alex, Melman and Gloria one day. We were originally in Madagascar before and we fixed a plane in order to get home, but we ended up crash landing in Africa instead of New York. And…I met…her."
She blinked as he flinched. She nodded, showing him she understood but also prompting him to go on.
"There are absolutely no penguins in Africa. Zilch. Which means I was… desperate." He choked out. He tried to not talk about Lola but Marlene was managing to weasel it out of him.
"…Okay? What else?" she pushed him. She looked him up and down as he squirmed uncomfortably. She could tell he rarely talked about her but she had to know. She just had to.
He closed his eyes and clenched his jaws together. "She was not an animal."
"Um, a bird?" She sighed as he shook his head.
"Then what was she?" She frowned, feeling impatience growing within her.
"She was a bobble head doll," Skipper muttered, looking over to the left of the room. He glanced up at her to see her eyes wide and her mouth agape.
"You were with a bobble head doll?" She tried to keep in her laughter so she wouldn't hurt his feelings… but it was hard! A bobble head doll?!
"Marlene…" Skipper whined, a look of agony on his face.
"Okay, I'm sorry, Skipper. I didn't mean to offend you." She gave him a look of sympathy as she placed her paw over his flipper gently.
Skipper glanced down at the warm feel of her paw. "Yeah…"
"So what happened?"
"She ended up cheating on me with a… spider monkey." His face twisted up into anger. "Stupid, relentless, no good hula dancer."
"Hey, hey, it's okay! Everything's fine now. You have a great home, great friends and an amazing team that's always by your side no matter what happens." Her paw skimmed up his arm, making shivers dance up and down Skipper's back. She rested it on his shoulder, feeling his body heat coming off onto her fur. "You are a very lucky penguin." And I am a very lucky otter.
"Thanks, Marlene. You always have a way to make me feel better. And I admire you for that." He smiled at her again in a way that he rarely ever used.
"You're always welcome, Skipper." She looked over at her paw and noticed that she had been stroking him and playing with his surprisingly silky feathers. It slapped back down to her side, her eyes wide with fear.
Skipper chuckled at her reaction. "It's fine, really. I don't mind." He eyed her as she smirked at him slyly.
"So, do you have anything else to tell me? Anything at all?" Her smile slowly faded as he nodded at her.
"Sadly, yes. I have another dirty little secret." He looked down shamefully, not noticing her eyes widening. "I used to be with another… her name was Susie."
"It's not another bobble head doll is it?" She smiled but it quickly disappeared as Skipper glared up at her.
"No, she was a penguin, thank you very much." He just told her the saddest story of his life and she's going to joke about it?
"I'm sorry; I had no right to say that."
"No, you didn't," Skipper's gaze suddenly softened, "I wasn't in this zoo my entire life. I used to live in Antarctica. And when I did I was with this female penguin named Susie."
"What happened with her?" Marlene whispered silently, feeling something bad was coming.
"First of all, I have a very bad love history, okay?" Skipper's face filled with dread for a millisecond before returning normal. "She ended up doing the same thing Lola did. Except for the spider monkey."
"Oh, Skipper, I'm so-"
"Cut the sappy talk and let me finish," he snapped at her. He observed her as she pursed her lips to let him continue. "One day she had gone out on a swim with her new boyfriend and… there was an attack. A killer whale attack…and it ended up getting the both of them."
Marlene gasped and covered her mouth with her paws, her eyes wide with fear and concern for Skipper. "Oh my God. That must have been tragic!"
"It was at first but I learned to live with it. She was not the best girlfriend in the world, anyway. Her parents though… well both of their parents… didn't take it so well. They blamed me for it instead of themselves." Skipper rolled his eyes. "They were just rash. I couldn't stand them."
"I had no idea you had to go through all of that… that's just horrible, Skipper." She leaned forward and hugged him tightly, her nose buried into the side of his neck. "Are you okay?"
Skipper situated his flippers around her gently. "I'm fine. I've been okay this entire time, haven't I?"
"Mmm… you're right. You have," she murmured, her voice muffled by his body and his feathers.
"Do you have anything to say to me around that department?" Skipper questioned her as he rubbed her back soothingly.
She rested her chin on his shoulder so her voice could be clearer. "No, I've never had a boyfriend my entire life. I've been waiting to find the right guy. My mom would always say that that was the right choice and it turns out that it was." Marlene laughed quietly. "She was the one that suggested it, actually. And I'm thankful that she did. She really saved me a lot of grief and heartache in my life."
"If only I was that smart," Skipper muttered.
"Just face it Skipper, you're not that good with romance and girls." Marlene laughed at the look on his face.
"Is that right, Miss Otter? Well let me tell you something." Skipper leaned forward until the tip of his beak was just inches from her little pink nose. "You are absolutely right. And what happened between the two of us is a perfect example."
"I'm just glad it's all over." She leaned away from him as the silence enveloped the room uncomfortably. She eyed Kowalski's table which contained all of his little experiments that were in progress, their metal gleaming in the light of the HQ. Then, something came to her mind. "How would you like to conduct a little experimentation, Skipper?"
He looked up at her warily. "Oh? And what are we testing exactly?"
"Us. Just follow my lead." She began to lean forward leisurely, not knowing what Skipper's reaction would be.
Skipper watched her with his beak slightly parted, knowing what she was intending. But what was really on his mind was how she would react to kissing a cold hard penguin's beak. He really wasn't much for affection but when it came to Marlene… she really sparked his fancy.
He placed his flipper on the table to steady himself, feeling like he was about to pass out, but when their lips met the sensation evaporated from him.
Marlene wrapped her arms around his shoulders and bent forward to get deeper into him. She shivered as he wrapped his flippers around her waist, pulling on her greedily. "Skipper…" she murmured, liking the sound of his name coming from her.
Suddenly, he gasped as his grip slipped clumsily from the table, falling flat on his back onto the hard concrete floor. He flinched, although it didn't hurt as much it should have thanks to the rough training he had acquired when he was younger.
"Oh, Skipper, are you okay?" Marlene asked from on top of him. She gazed down at him, her eyes a brilliant bright green of excitement.
"Y-yeah, of course… you know me." He grinned up at her, taking in her expression. He was about to say something else but a noise from above interrupted him.
"Hey, Skipper, are you… oh," Kowalski eyed them from the entrance on the far side of the room, his eyes wide with what he was currently taking in. "Private! Shield your eyes and back away!"
"Oh, Kowalski… we were… uh, I slipped and we… never mind." Skipper shook his head as Marlene lifted herself off of his stomach.
"It's okay, I was just leaving." She smiled as she began to walk away, her face hot under her fur. As she passed Kowalski, Rico and Private she could feel their eyes on her back.
She lifted herself into the cold night air, now knowing why the three wanted them to hurry. She wrapped her arms around herself and walked slowly toward the water, dreading her late-night dip. And by the looks of the frozen water vapor coming from her mouth, it wasn't going to be very welcoming.
She looked back to the entrance, a wave of light flooding out of it from the secret room below. Even though it wasn't much of a secret any more. She half hoped that Skipper would come climbing out of it, but she knew him better than that.
She was just about to dive into the pool when a voice from behind her halted her.
"Wait, Marlene!" Skipper called with his flipper in the air like he could touch her even though the distance between the two was great.
She turned around and smiled at him, not believing that he came out to see her one last time. "Hey, Skippy."
"I just wanted to say…good night." He smiled softly and walked forward so they could talk properly.
She clasped her paws together and grinned up at him like a lovesick schoolgirl. "Good night." They inched forward and embraced one last time or at least until tomorrow. "I'm glad this worked out."
Skipper chuckled. "You have no idea."
She beamed at him before plunging into the awaiting water, no longer afraid of being cold.
This is the end, my friends! A special thanks to everyone who reviewed this story. You are awesome and thanks for sticking to it. You really made writing this worthwhile. I had fun and I hope you had fun reading it! And don't worry, this isn't my last Skilene fic ;)