January 1, 2015

Skipper paced back and forth just outside Marlene’s habitat. It was Friday, at almost eight o’clock at night. He promised he would tell her what had really happened that دن Blowhole had used his Serum on her, but he didn’t really realize what exactly he’d have to put into words. No matter how he arranged the confession in his mind, he couldn’t figure out how to say it without things getting too awkward. مزید importantly, he couldn’t figure out how to say it.

Finally, it was coming up on the گھنٹہ and Skipper wasn’t planning on being late, especially for their first date. That still seemed a weird thought to him — their first date. After all this time knowing her, all this time wanting her, and he now had the opportunity to have her. The thought still scared him. Enemies always use who آپ love most against you.

Marlene looked at the clock. It was just about eight, the گھنٹہ which Skipper کہا he’d be here. She had a میز, جدول with two cinder blocks to serve as chairs set up in the center of her cave, and had a small bouquet of مچھلی sitting on the floor where they could reach them. Where was he? She started wondering if he chickened out on her. He did seem rather reluctant when he confessed. What if he was having سیکنڈ thoughts?

Before she could have any مزید doubts, she heard footsteps outside her cave and she quickly smoothed her فر, سمور over. Skipper appeared at the entrance of her cave holding a plate of oysters on half-shells in one flipper and a گلبہار, گل داؤدی in the other. He looked a bit uneasy, but Marlene understood why. They’d known each other for a long time. The idea of finally going on their first تاریخ was . . . strange. But a good strange.

“Hey,” he کہا quietly with a small smile.

Marlene laced her fingers behind her back. “Hey,” she کہا with a nervous smile. “Come on in.”

Skipper stepped آگے and held out the oysters and daisy. “I, uh, brought these for you. To be honest, I’m not sure what one brings to a lady on the first date, but, uh, I thought آپ might — like these?” he کہا awkwardly.

Marlene smiled bashfully and accepted the items. “They’re perfect, Skipper. Thank you,” she said, setting the oysters in the middle of the میز, جدول and putting the گلبہار, گل داؤدی in the vase on the shelf سے طرف کی her bed.

“So,” Marlene started, “shall we sit?” she asked, gesturing to the table.

“Sure,” Skipper said, stepping toward the table.

He was about to sit when a thought occurred to him and he walked to the opposite side — although a bit quicker than he’d intended — and pulled the cinder block out for Marlene. Marlene wrapped her arms around herself coyly and sat as Skipper took his نشست across from her.

For a moment, neither of them کہا anything and stared down at the table, trying to figure out how to break the ice.

“So . . .” Skipper started, raising his brow, “you look nice,” he کہا finally, looking at her.

Marlene cocked an eyebrow. “Thanks, uh, this is how I always look, though,” she replied with a nervous smile.

Skipper cleared his throat. “Right,” he said, looking down again.

There was another moment of silence before both of them started to say something at the same time. They laughed.

“You first,” Marlene said, laughing nervously.

“No, I insist آپ go first,” Skipper replied.

Marlene smiled and realized her cheeks were burning. She hoped her فر, سمور was hiding it. “Well,” she started softly, “you کہا you’d tell me what really snapped me out of”—she paused and looked at him—“out of that trance. How — did I snap out of it?”

Skipper locked eyes with her and swallowed, his smile fading. He felt his دل start to pound. “Well,” he said, folding his flippers on the table, and then unfolding them, “I’m not sure how to say it, to be honest,” he کہا with a nervous laugh.

Marlene looked surprised. She leaned آگے on the میز, جدول as her curiosity grew even more. “Come on, Skipper. How bad could it be?”

Skipper shifted in his seat. “Well, it’s not bad, really,” he کہا without making eye contact. “It’s just —” He stopped short, failing to find the right word to use.

“Well, why don’t آپ start from the beginning and just work up to it,” Marlene suggested.

Skipper took a deep breath and nodded. “All right,” he said, exhaling. “You came into the room and Blowhole ordered آپ to kill me,” he started, looking from her to the table. “You started to — attack me, and I tried to fight آپ off without hurting you. I —”

“But,” Marlene interrupted, her face contorting in confusion, “I was attacking you. I wouldn’t have held anything against آپ for defending yourself,” she said, looking at him.

Skipper locked eyes with her. “I could never hurt you,” he replied softly.

Marlene held eye contact, unable to find a response.

“Anyway,” Skipper said, looking down, “I tried to bring آپ back سے طرف کی telling آپ things we’ve done in the past. I thought maybe I could get آپ to remember me. But, it unfortunately didn’t work,” he said, looking at the floor to the left.

“So,” Marlene said, “what happened, then?”

Skipper looked at her again. “You really don’t remember?” he asked slowly.

Marlene thought really hard. Then she shook her head. “Every time I try, I see small bits and pieces, but never get further than —” She paused and looked at him as she realized she hadn’t disclosed that information to him yet.

“It’s all right, Marlene,” Skipper کہا with assuring eyes.

Marlene bit her lip. “I never get further than — آپ telling me آپ love me,” she admitted.

Skipper remained silent for a moment, and then nodded as a thought occurred to him. “So, that’s why آپ came to me this past Wednesday,” he concluded.

Marlene pressed her lips together and nodded slowly. “But I keep feeling like there’s مزید to it than just that,” she said.

Skipper exhaled. “Well, you’re right,” he کہا softly. “When I realized my strategy wasn’t working, I didn’t know what to do. Then I realized that I was going about it the wrong way. The Serum was controlling your mind, and there was nothing I could do about that. But . . . it wasn’t controlling your heart,” he explained, looking at her to assess her reaction. She seemed to start to understand what he was getting at. He took a deep breath and his دل rate accelerated.

“So, I caught آپ off guard and I — took آپ سے طرف کی the waist so I could look into your eyes,” he started, looking down. “I — did tell آپ that I love you, like آپ remember,” he said. He looked at her again. She was leaning forward, waiting for him to continue. He looked down again. “Then I —” He paused, trying to get the words to form. “I —” he tried again. He closed his beak and exhaled.

“Skipper, it’s okay, آپ can tell me,” Marlene urged.

Skipper locked eyes with her. “I know, I’m sorry, it’s just — a little hard for me to say the words,” he said, scratching the back of his neck.

Marlene laughed slightly. “Oh, come on, Skipper. How hard can it be? It’s not like you’re trying to say آپ — I don’t know, kissed me یا something,” she said, laughing at the possibility. Skipper pressed his beak shut and looked down at the floor for a moment, and then locked eyes with her again. Even without saying anything, Marlene’s smile faded and she rose her brow in realization. “Oh,” she said, looking away, feeling the heat rush into her cheeks again.

For a couple minutes, neither of them کہا anything.

“So . . . how — was it?” Marlene asked awkwardly.

Skipper looked at her blankly, and then looked away and nodded slowly. “I-It was good,” he said, shifting in his seat.

Marlene bit her lip. “Can I ask آپ something, Skipper?” she asked.

Skipper finally looked at her. “Of course, go ahead,” he said, happy to change the subject.

“How long have آپ — felt this way about me?” she asked, pulling her arms to herself.

Skipper thought for a minute. “Honestly?” he said, locking eyes with her. “I’m not sure. When I first met آپ — well, I’ll be honest,” he کہا with a smile, “I did have my suspicions on if آپ were a spy یا not,” he admitted, causing Marlene to smile humorously, “especially with your frequent visits. But, oddly, I gradually became مزید comfortable around you. I liked the way آپ smiled — the way آپ laughed. For a while, I didn’t fully realize I’d fallen in love with you. I think I realized it when . . .” His voice trailed off as he went into thought. He chuckled.

“What?” Marlene asked.

“I think I started to accept my feelings for آپ when Kowalski made that silly Love-U-Later and کہا he wanted to use آپ as a test subject,” he کہا with a humorous smile. “To be honest, I was . . .” He cleared his throat. “I was both relieved and a bit disappointed when it didn’t choose me,” he admitted without meeting her eye.

Marlene smiled bashfully and looked down. Skipper looked at her and smiled.

“All right, your turn,” Skipper urged. “I’m not the only one answering the questions, here.”

Marlene looked up at him and rested her elbows on the table. “Fair enough. Actually, I didn’t really realize until this past Wednesday. When I had that hazy memory of آپ telling me آپ love me, I thought my mind was playing some kind of trick on me. But I found myself needing to know for sure. And to be honest, I was — kind of hoping it was true. I’d always known there was something about آپ that I couldn’t shake, but the idea that آپ would have feelings for me, it”—she paused and shook her head disbelievingly—“it made me realize that I actually liked the idea of us together,” she finished softly.

Skipper and Marlene locked eyes for a moment, but had to look away as the intensity grew.

“You know,” Marlene started, breaking the silence, “what آپ کہا about hiding your feelings to protect me, that’s the sweetest thing anyone’s ever done for me,” she said, looking at him with longing eyes.

Skipper smiled warmly at her. Then it faded. “I have to ask آپ something, Marlene. Are آپ sure آپ know what you’re getting into here? I have a duty, Marlene. I protect this zoo, New York, and the world from threats that are usually oblivious to humans. I may not always be here when آپ want me to be,” he said.

Marlene, much to Skipper’s confusion, just smiled. “That’s just it, Skipper. آپ protecting the world? That’s — what I love most about you,” she said. Skipper just looked back into her assuring eyes, trying to figure out how to respond. “I know exactly what I’m getting into, Skipper. What آپ do is noble. While the idea of آپ not always being here disappoints me a little, and the idea of آپ putting yourself in life-threatening situations terrifies me, آپ being one of those brave enough to put others above themselves? I must admit, that’s your — well, your most attractive quality,” Marlene said, biting her lip.

Skipper felt the area around his ear-holes burn. He shook his head in disbelief. “I — never knew آپ would’ve felt that way,” he کہا slowly.

Marlene smiled. “Then I guess we can thank Dr. Blowhole for bringing us together,” she said, shrugging a shoulder.

Skipper scowled a little. “Even if it brought us together, if I could go back and stop him from using آپ for his evil schemes, I would,” he said, slightly growling. He looked at Marlene, who was frowning. “I’m sorry,” he said, forcing himself to calm down. “It’s just that if آپ would’ve landed any other way, I could’ve lost you. Never to have this moment with you, see your smile, hear your voice. آپ have no idea how that makes me feel.”

Marlene searched for a response. “Skipper, I don’t know what to say. آپ would sacrifice this just so he wouldn’t get to me?” she asked incredulously.

Skipper locked eyes with her for a moment. “You have no idea what I would sacrifice for you,” he کہا quietly.

There was another silence as Marlene maintained eye contact with her mouth hanging open, trying to get it to form words.


The two of them turned their heads as Kowalski ran into Marlene’s cave.

“There’s —” He stopped short as he took in the scene before him. As much as he wanted to ask, he realized his situation was مزید important and shook his head to bring himself back. “There’s a clog in the pipe leading to our pool and water pressure is building behind it. We have to fix it now before it bursts.”

Skipper looked at Marlene, who smiled in understanding.

“Go on, it’s okay,” she said, flicking her head toward her cave entrance.

Skipper sighed and gave her an apologetic look and stood up. He walked a couple of steps and came to a stop.

“Can آپ fix it, Kowalski?” he asked.

Kowalski blinked. “Well, of course. But . . . آپ usually give me authorization for any options I give,” he answered.

Skipper stood straighter. “Well, آپ have my authorization. Whatever آپ see needs to be done, do it immediately,” he said.

Kowalski shook his head in confusion. “Sir, are آپ saying you’re not coming with me?” he asked.

Skipper glanced back at Marlene, who’d stood up and was watching with a bashful smile. He turned back to Kowalski.

“Affirmative. آپ have my authorization to take command of this mission as آپ see fit. I have confidence in you. Leave the رپورٹ on the table. I’ll get to it when I return,” Skipper said.

Kowalski wanted to ask مزید questions, but realized he was running short on time. “A-All right. Yes, sir,” he said, with a hesitant salute. Skipper saluted back and Kowalski turned and left, giving each of them a curious look before doing so.

Skipper turned back to Marlene, who stepped up to him. “I can’t believe آپ just did that,” she said, smiling.

Skipper chuckled. “Well, I figure a first تاریخ should only be ended early for something much مزید serious than that,” he said.

Marlene bit her lip and looked down. Then she looked back to Skipper.

“What?” Skipper asked curiously.

Marlene shrugged a little as her دل started beating faster. “I was just — thinking about what آپ کہا earlier about what happened in that fight. Just to jog my memory, آپ کہا آپ took me سے طرف کی the waist?” she asked a little coyly.

Skipper cleared his throat awkwardly. “That’s correct, Marlene,” he کہا softly with a smile.

Marlene stepped closer to him. “Like this?” she said, taking his flippers and pulling them around her waist. Skipper’s eyes widened and darted from Marlene to pretty much everywhere else and his دل accelerated.

“Uh,” he said, deeply clearing his throat, “y-yeah. I-I guess that’s about right, ahem!” he کہا without meeting her eye.

Marlene took a finger and pushed down on Skipper’s beak to force him into eye contact.

“Then آپ said, what?” she asked, biting her lip again.

Skipper felt his دل skip a beat. He opened up his beak and had to force himself to say it — not because it wasn’t true, but because he knew what came afterward. “I love you, Marlene,” he کہا softly.

Marlene rested her paws on his shoulders. “And then what did آپ do?” she asked softly.

“I . . .” Skipper swallowed. “I kissed you,” he answered weakly, trying not to look at her lips.

Marlene looked at his beak for a moment, and then back into his eyes. “Like this?” she said, slowly pulling him forward. He didn’t object. He looked from her lips to her eyes until she gently touched her lips to his beak and their eyes closed.

Skipper felt a shiver run down his spine and Marlene felt her فر, سمور stand on end. Skipper gripped her waist tighter and Marlene wrapped her arms around Skipper’s neck. Skipper stroked her فر, سمور and Marlene gently dug her claws into the back of his neck.

After a few moments of kissing, Skipper reluctantly started to pull away and they looked into each other’s eyes, neither saying a word.

Finally, Skipper smiled. “The answer is no. This one was so much better.”

— § —

Note: Sorry for the delay in posting this chapter. I remembered to post it on FanFiction but forgot to post it here. In case آپ didn’t catch on, this is a sequel to “I Remember,” which was a sequel to “Skipper’s Curse.” I had a lot of fun writing this one, and it is my personal پسندیدہ of all the shorts. I hope آپ enjoyed the LAST installment of “Operation: Skilene.” Mission accomplished! Thanks for reading, and please review!