Chapter Four

The snake and Private watched as the golden ball spun between them, and then it fell, revealing its true identity. The snake's eyes shot wide while Private curled his head back and looked warily at the object. It wasn't a ball at all, but the biggest dubloon the snake had ever seen! With but barely a thought, the snake released Skipper, flipped through the air, landed on the dubloon, and hugged it tightly. "Mine!" he cried, his forked tongue slithering out of his mouth. "Mine! Mine! Mine!"

An urgent squawk shouted from the doorway. "DOWN!"

Though he was not yet recovered and still quite groggy from the snake's attack, Skipper heard Rico's voice and understood immediately. He flipped through the air, grabbed Private, and landed with him beneath him on the other side of the room just as the dubloon exploded. The dynamite attached to the under side of the dubloon Rico had vomited shot both the dubloon and the snake through their ceiling and up to the sun. Unfortunately, it also took out that side of the penguins' living room, and Private cried as the Lunicorns' voices were shattered in the middle of their friendship song.

"The telly!" he wailed. "It's gone!"

Rico snorted as he came forward, dusting off his flippers. "Better telly," he squawked, "than Skipper!"

"True, true!" Private was quick to agree. He looked up toward the hole in their roof. "He won't be coming back, will he?"

"No, soldier," Skipper announced, getting off of Private and offering him a flipper to pull him up beside him, "that is one gone snake."

Rico laughed and beamed proudly. "Kaboom!"

Skipper nodded and slapped his shoulder. "Well done, soldier!"

"Kaboom! Kaboom!"

"Here," Private said and handed his dubloon over to Skipper. "I honestly didn't mean to take it," he admitted, "but if he won't be coming back, we might as well use it to repair the damages and buy a new telly."

Rico paused and looked hopefully at Skipper. "Bigger?" he squawked.

Skipper nodded thoughtfully as he ran a flipper over his jaw. "I see no reason why we can't have a bigger set," he acknowledged. Then he stepped forward and took Private in his arms. "And, Private, we all know you didn't intend to steal that dubloon."

"You do?" Private asked, looking with hopeful innocence shining in his face and eyes up at his beloved commander.

"We do," Skipper affirmed. "You're the sweetest, kindest soul I've ever met, and you'd never do anything intentional to harm any one unless the mission called for it." He smiled down at him. "But I think you've earned your new Lunicorn dolly." He tried not to make a face as he spoke the last two words. The Lunicorns were disgusting to him, but he knew his Private loved them almost as much as he loved him. "Rico," he asked, holding out a flipper, "if you will?"

On command, Rico spit out a few dollar bills into Skipper's awaiting flippers. "Go," Skipper told Private, pressing the bills into his flipper. "Go buy your Lunicorn."

Tears were already beginning to well into Private's eyes as Skipper gave him the money. He hugged him tightly and then raced away before his love could change his mind.

Rico, meanwhile, was examining the effects of his handiwork. "Kaboom! Kaboom!" he called joyously.

Kowalski stepped into the living room, having just returned with his findings from the afternoon. "Gazooks!" he exclaimed, slapping a flipper against his forehead as he gawked at the new hole in their ceiling. "What happened here?"

Skipper smiled. "Life happened, soldier."

Kowalski's gaze darted from his strangely smiling Skipper to Rico. Rico's wild eyes met his, and he cried with ecstatic happiness. "Kaboom! Kaboom! Kaboom!" He loved it when a plan came together, and for it to be his plan that had saved the day made the dangerous penguin even happier.

Kowalski sighed his acceptance as he supposed that, in their lives, coming home to a huge hole in the ceiling was truly nothing new. It had happened because of some fight, and there was scarcely a day that went by that they were not caught up in some battle or another. He had been passed by Private rushing off and yelling excitedly about buying a new Lunicorn dolly, and though he'd known then that something was up, Kowalski knew that it was Rico who had really been instrumental in this fight. As he walked over to join Rico and praise his own love for winning the day as he could tell from Rico's excitement that he had, Kowalski thought to himself that Skipper was right as usual. It was all in the normal happenings of a penguin's day for them, and he was just glad his team, his family, were okay.

Miles away, Private clutched his new Lunicorn dolly and grinned in the setting sun with his happiness. He bounced all the way home, singing and dancing the Lunicorn friendship song and completely, blissfully unaware of the snake that was already beginning to slither back to the zoo.

The End