Yeah... I was cleaning out my computer's document files, and I figured, since I had this chapter all nice and typed out, I might as well put it up and finish the darn story. ONCE AGAIN, it's quite long, but it IS the final chapter. Of this story. Not the series.
Vanessa, once again, was worried sick over Sarah. She seemed more content, since she'd told off the elders… but she had gone back into her pattern of drawing 24/7 and not speaking for days. It was even worse now - Sarah didn't even have the initiative to go re-dye her feathers and, worse, began refusing food. Vanessa took a look at Sarah's notebook while she was asleep, to see what was going through her mind. Apparently Sarah had lost interest in abstract art… there were 3 new drawings and one in the works, perfect replicas of: Skipper, looking cocky as ever with his flippers on his hips and looking off at some unseen accomplishment; Kowalski, glancing upward with his flipper under his beak, probably contemplating Einstein's theory of relativity or something; Rico, looking happy with his flippers up in one of his odd poses, proudly showing off his scarred face; and the one in the works was, obviously Private. There were actually three pages, the first two unfinished, smudged all over with some sort of water (Vanessa hoped it was the snow dripping through the plastic… oh, who was she kidding?) and the third still quite dry, but the lines were shaky - you could tell how hard Sarah was trying to hold it back so she'd have something to remember him by.
Vanessa was seriously starting to fear for what Sarah was doing for herself. She refused food two days straight, until Vanessa took her notebook away and forced her to swallow a few fish before giving it back. There was no question as to why Sarah was acting this way - it had been well over Skipper's timeline of two months until he, Private, and the rest of the team would be able to break out to Boston… Sarah was doubting where he would come at all. Vanessa understood this feeling all too well - she remembered, back before Sarah was hatched, waiting that year and a half for Skipper to come home and then when he didn't… Sarah was thinking the same things she had thought: Where is he? He wouldn't break a promise, and he swore he'd come back to me… maybe he's hurt, or worse… maybe he doesn't even care about me anymore…
Fearful of what Sarah might do to herself - Sarah didn't have an egg to keep her from doing something insane, as Vanessa had - Vanessa took to sitting beside Sarah as she drew and kept silent, and never left her side. It's a good thing, too - if she hadn't done so, she might not have been able to say good-bye.
May 3rd. The penguins of Boston heard the human's door to the exhibit open, and there was Judd, the zookeeper, holding a big wooden box - empty, from the looks of it. Everyone immediately knew what was happening - someone was getting transferred. Families, friends and of course, the council all clumped together, ready to retaliate if one of their own was to be taken.
Judd looked around. "Now, then… where is she?" Almost by habit, he looked into Sarah and Vanessa's plastic cave, then smiled. "Of course. As always."
Vanessa gasped. Her baby was NOT going to be taken from her - not in the state she was now, she'd kill herself! Vanessa pushed Sarah into the deepest corner and stepped in front of her daughter protectively. Sarah was scared, too. For all she knew, everything she loved, save her own mother, had been lost - now she would lose her, too?
"Mom, I don't want to go-" she whispered fearfully, losing all control.
"You won't." Vanessa said simply.
Judd had crossed the room and was at the mouth of the cave now.
"Hey there, girls." he said cheerfully, and reached inside. Vanessa caught one of his fingers and bit down as hard as she could. Judd jerked his hand away.
"Ouch!" He hissed, then looked at the girls exasperatedly. "Oh, come on, don't do this - don't you want to see your boyfriend again?"
Vanessa and Sarah froze.
Judd laughed. "That got your attention, huh?" he said, smirking. "We got a call from Central Park - sounds like somebody misses you, and wants you back… eh, sweetie?"
Sarah smiled - the first time in well over two months. "Mom - he's going to take us back!" she said excitedly. Vanessa smiled back and they both nearly ran out of the cave.
"Oh, oh oh." Judd said. "Just the smaller one - that's all Miss Alice said."
Vanessa's heart dropped, as did Sarah's. They looked at each other. Vanessa could see it in her daughter's eyes - Sarah wanted to go… Sarah needed to go. And this might be her only chance.
"Well… chick's gotta leave the nest at some point, right?" Vanessa said thickly. Sarah's eyes filled with tears, and she gave her mother a loving hug.
"I love you, Mom. Thanks for not giving up on me." Sarah whispered.
"I love you too, honey. I always will." Vanessa replied, rubbing Sarah's back. She suddenly remembered something. "Oh!" She pulled away and ran back into the cave, then came back out with Sarah's notebook and pencils. Sarah to them, looked at her mother, and had an idea. Turning away from Judd so he wouldn't see, She quickly opened the notebook and tore out the pictures of Skipper, Kowalski, and Rico.
"I'll try to send you one of me and Private, somehow." Sarah said, giving the pictures to Vanessa.
They shared one last hug, and Sarah turned back to Judd. He eyed the notebook, but Sarah gave him the death-glare and he shook his head, amused.
"I don't know what it is with you and that thing…" he said. "Well, it's not like you're hurting yourself or anything, so I guess you can take it with you." Sarah smiled and went with him to the wooden box obediently. Just before she stepped inside, she threw her stuff in and whipped around, determined to make her mark before she left for good. She looked to the council, to the boy who'd rejected her years ago, and to everyone else who hated her for no reason. She yelled at the top of her lungs:
"SCREW YOU ALL! I'm gonna go find my LOVER!"
She laughed maniacally and jumped into the box.
Vanessa laughed, and wiped a tear from her eyes.
"That's my girl."
Three days after the incident, the five penguins discovered yet another wooden box in their habitat.
"Another one?" Skipper said both incredulously and angrily. "First Private, then Kowalski… who's going to get a soul mate now? Rico?"
"Doll!" Rico pointed out helpfully.
"What's going on?" Katrina whispered to Kowalski.
"We've gotten another new transfer - considering you only came about a month and a half ago, it is highly unusual for us to have another newcomer."
"Aren't we going to open it?" Private said.
At the sound of his voice, the box shook as though something was slamming itself against the wooden walls.
"Oh dear!" Private exclaimed, jumping away. The box thudded again, and then again. Kowalski stepped in front of Katrina to protect her if necessary.
"What's in there?" Private asked, looking over at Kowalski, who shrugged.
The box shook again, this time managing to free one of the corners. There was a pause, and the sound of someone sighing exasperatedly.
"Are you guys seriously going to make me do all the work?" a familiarly-sarcastic female voice said from within. Private knew that voice as well as his own.
"Yes, it's me, now couldja get me out of here already?" she yelled, impatiently and joyously. Private didn't need telling twice. He ran up, grabbed the loose corner and yanked as hard as he could, pulling away the wood cleanly. Before he had time to look inside, a sudden impact hit him square in the chest, nearly knocking the wind out of him. He looked down, and embracing him as tightly as a snake was the same girl who'd been haunting his dreams for two and a half months (and beyond) - Sarah herself. Private slowly stroked her back once, to make sure she was real, then returned the hug just as fervently. Thickly, he whispered, "Sarah… oh my goodness, I thought I'd never see you again!"
"Yeah… about that." Sarah said seriously. She pulled away and looked Private in the eye. "If you missed me so much, why didn't you come? You promised-"
"I know, Sarah." Private said contritely, holding her face in his flipper. "I know, but… something came up…"
"What?" Sarah demanded, pushing away his flipper but not letting go of it. "What could be so important that-"
"Me." Katrina said guiltily, stepping out from behind Kowalski. She added in a whisper to where she knew Skipper was standing from hearing his voice, "I heard your conversation with Private. The door wasn't shut right, and I have more sensitive senses of hearing than most penguins."
Skipper blushed a little, feeling guilty.
Sarah turned to look at this unfamiliar girl. "Who are you?"
"My name's Katrina - I was transferred here about a month ago. I'm blind, and Skipper didn't think it was safe to leave me here by myself. I never wanted to cause anyone pain - I'm so sorry." she said sincerely.
"I tried to convince Skipper otherwise-" Private started, but Skipper interrupted by saying, "Very nearly got himself marked up for insubordination."
Sarah's eyes flashed to Private, then back to Skipper. She'd learned how big of a deal that sort of thing was when she'd lived here before. "Really?"
"Yep." Skipper said. "For insulting his commanding officer."
Sarah's jaw dropped. "Seriously?" she said, not quite believing him.
"It wasn't really an insult," Private said, "so much as… saying some things that definitely should have been left unsaid." Sarah and Skipper both agreed that was a better term. Sarah and Katrina were more properly introduced, and Sarah was completely flabbergasted how Katrina go on without sight - considering Sarah was an artist, and all.
While this was going on, Skipper silently slid off to the side, and peered into the wooden crate Sarah had come in. When he'd heard Sarah's voice, he couldn't help but wonder if Vanessa was with her… but the only thing that was still in the crate was Sarah's notebook and pencils. Even though he was more than a little disappointed, Skipper figure it was better this way. Easier to focus on being a good leader.
Later that night, while everyone else was in the HQ enjoying evening free time (or normalcy, in Katrina's case), Private and Sarah stayed up top, to begin making up for lost time. Just like the night of Julien's party, Sarah was curled up against Private, who held her in his arms gently, and they watched the sky, seeing if their star was out again.
"So…" Private started.
"Yeah?" Sarah said.
"Do you forgive me for breaking my promise?" He was seriously afraid she wouldn't forgive him.
Sarah pretended to think about it. "Well… let's see… I might have forgiven you, but…"
"But?" Private squeaked.
"Since I got back, you haven't kissed me or anything." Sarah said suavely.
Private smiled. "I can fix that."
And so he did.
A couple of mentions here:
Thanks to LoveSkipper - his reviews always make me smile. Thanks!
Thanks to GrandOldPenguin for letting me use his idea about the species name last chapter - Thanks!
Thanks to my sister, who you'll hear about in the Flashback Series: The Final Chapter!
And thanks to all my readers - especially those that reviewed. Every time I see a new review, I turn all fluffy and warm inside. Thanks!
Here's repitition for ya - Review!