I don't own Penguins of Madagascar... sadly... but I DO own Taryn. And anyone you've never heard of.
But for anyone who doesn't know (not that you wouldn't know if you were here), "Flippy" was Blowhole's stage name before... you know, he became DR. Blowhole. *thunder crashes* SO MUCH BETTER.
Taryn lingered by the gates for a moment, observing the tank that was enclosed by them. It held a single dolphin, one who absolutely refused to cooperate with the other dolphins, was hostile to them, and attacked his trainers every chance he could get. Apparently she was the last shot to tame him before the park shipped him off to a zoo on the other side of the world.
The tag on the gates read Flippy, which was obviously the name the trainers had given him. She thought it was hideously demeaning to give them names like that, eye-catchingly ridiculous stage names. No real names, what their pod might have called them. Then again, translating dolphin into human was probably near impossible... but still, they deserved to be treated with some dignity, not as some prop whose only purpose was to serve in a side show.
She got into this work because she thought she might be able to change people's attitudes toward and treatment of these animals, but the things she saw trying to accomplish that broke her heart.
She took a breath and began inside. He was just in there, swimming around listlessly, not paying attention, and she thought she might be able to climb onto the ladder and sneak up on him, for lack of a better term, and see if she couldn't comfort him and get him to stop being so violent toward everyone. She had her goggles and snorkel up on top of her head, and dressed in her wetsuit and flippers, she was ready for business.
Taryn took a few slow steps up the ladder, and sat down, swinging her legs over the side so her feet were dangling in the water. "Hey. How you doing, little baby?"
Just by the sound of her voice and the sudden movement in the water, he knew she was there. He started thrashing and squeaking wildly, leaping toward her and splashing her as much as possible, maybe even trying to push her off the ladder.
"Whoa, whoa!" Taryn leaned forward, her hand aiming for him so she could try and get him to relax. It wasn't easy to do with all the water being sprayed in her face. "Calm down, okay? I'm not going to hurt you. You're alright, it's alright." She made sure not to yell, thinking that maybe the trainers shouting at him might be part of the problem. Of course he wasn't going to be anything but hostile if everyone was that way with him. "It's okay."
He flipped his tail one more time, offering a final spurt of water, and sunk down into the tank. He'd stopped moving and trying to drive her off. After a moment, he cautiously rose back up to the surface, giving a curious chirp obviously directed at her.
When he swam close enough, she reached down and carefully slid her hand across his smooth skin, and smiled. "That's right. I'm not going to hurt you on purpose, no." She slipped into the water, keeping her head above so she didn't have to put the snorkel on yet. "Everybody else says you're unbearable, but you seem to be doing fine right now."
He shook his head, nuzzling closer to the cup of her hand, and she giggled, rubbing her fingers on his skin. "Yeah, you're not so bad, are you, boy?" She let go and swam closer, pressing her forehead against his nose. "No, you're just scared. You don't like it here." She stroked the side of his head, closing her eyes and pouting. "But don't worry. You're not alone. I'm scared too, and I don't like this either."
They stayed that way for a minute, then Taryn opened her eyes. "There we go. You don't need trained - you just need some love."
She kicked her feet and swam around to one side, looking him over. She gasped when she noticed a long gash near his eye. She hadn't seen it before because she hadn't gotten a close enough look, but she could see it now. She propelled herself closer and touched it with one finger, tracing down the side of it. "Oh, Flippy... how did this happen?"
He clicked and squeaked wildly when she touched it, and flopped backward away from her. It probably seemed to him like she'd broken her promise not to hurt him.
"Hey, whoa!" She kicked her legs forward and got closer. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to hurt you. I just want to see."
He glanced up at her, clicked, and got a little closer, nudging his head up against her hand.
She didn't touch the scratch this time, but she put her fingers just next to it, examining the mark. It looked recent, but the blood had dried. Maybe from yesterday, or the day before. "Aw, look at you. It's from one of the other trainers, is't it? You didn't want to cooperate so... so they were the ones who were being violent. And you were just fighting back, defending yourself." She stroked her fingers over his back carefully, furrowing her eyebrows together. "Oh, poor thing. I don't believe people, that they can do something like that. What's wrong with the world?"
He squeaked several times in succession, his eyes closing as if he understood and agreed with her.
Taryn leaned forward and lightly pressed her lips against the gash. "There we go." She let go of him and drifted backward, moving her legs until she bumped the edge of the pool. "Alright. Now, why don't we practice some tricks? The manager said he wants you to learn something new, and I've come up with a few routines we can do together. So you won't be alone! What do you think? Practice?"
Flippy made a popping noise that sounded more like a scoff to her, and dove down under the water. A few seconds later, he torpedoed back up and broke the surface at what looked like full speed. Then he squirted some water out of his mouth at her, and it hit the intended target.
"Hey!" Taryn blocked another stream, shaking her head. She laughed, and ducked her head down to get a mouthful of water, then quickly slipped her snorkel down and blew the water out of it at him. "Take that!" she giggled, then took a deep breath and plunged herself down into the water.
The chase began, with Taryn pedaling her legs against the water as hard as she could and Flippy streamlining after her. They did this around the tank two times, before she broke the cycle and went up for air. She shook herself out, spitting out the water that had gotten into her mouth and shocking herself with the sudden heat from the sun.
Flippy came up too, taking a blowhole full of air. After that, he was rather content to playfully shove up against Taryn, then back up and do it again.
"Oh, so now you want to practice." She rolled her eyes and swam to the edge of the pool, climbing up onto the ladder. "Silly little thing. I'll go get the hoop."
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw him dive back into the water, as if to avoid the ring trick.
She giggled as she lugged the ring over to his tank. "You must not like this trick, huh, Flippy?" She dragged it up onto the ladder and tossed it in, making sure it landed on the base and making sure Flippy was out of the way. "Alright! Don't worry, for practice I'm not going to light it on fire. I wouldn't risk you getting hurt." She lowered herself into the water. "I wish they wouldn't set it on fire for the show. It's like they're trying to burn you. Not even fair. But I'll be with you the whole time, okay?" She smiled, swimming over to him and putting a hand on his head. "Good. Now, all you have to do is jump up, and through the hoop."
Flippy shied away from her, drawing back down into the water and squeaking.
"Ohh, what's the matter?" With her snorkel still on, Taryn took as deep a breath as she could and went down after him, gliding her legs up and down and using the side of the tank to keep herself steady. She motioned to him and propelled herself closer.
He looked right into her eyes for a few seconds, then swooped around and rolled to his back so she could see the underside of his tail. There was a healing burn mark, but it was over a large area. Just like the scratch on his eye, she hadn't seen it before.
Her eyes widened behind her mask, and she gasped out loud, almost taking in a lungful of water. She quickly swam back up to the surface, and Flippy followed her. She coughed a few times, yanking her snorkel off her mouth and trying to get a breath.
Once she'd gotten back to herself, she turned toward Flippy and treaded water, lightly kicking her legs. "Was that... Was that from the last time you did the Ring of Fire?"
He clicked sadly a few times, gliding over to her and nuzzling against her waist.
Taryn put her around around that sensitive area between his head and back, and leaned down to rest her cheek against the top of his smooth head. "You couldn't... make it all the way through... must have fallen... right? And you got hurt..."
He clicked again, and immediately tears plopped down onto his skin.
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