I am pleased to make a public comment about this fest, after learning of it via the illustrious ysabetwordsmith
. Welcome to any new folks from LJ, as well as to others discovering Dreamwidth. This is a fine, easy to use site for fandoms; I've enjoyed the Snowflake Challenge and though I've not the time to do Three Weeks, it looks worthwhile.
In other news, The 2017 Golden Yoda Awards Ceremony
over on The Force.net also is running until Monday, a big hooha event filled with excellent Star Wars fics, camaraderie and skits tailored to the fics. Woohoo! Come visit for Good Timez that include funny gifs.
Title: Adventures In Babysitting
Era: Directly after the run of the TV show.
Summary: Marlene joins the commando team. Fluff ensues.
A/N Third entry in a loosely constructed trilogy consisting of "Sunny Days Sweeping The Clouds Away"
followed by "Trial And Error."
Through the morning murmur of Kowalski's ongoing lab experiments, Marlene could almost
make out the lyrics that Rico blared to Momma Duck's latest batch of ducklings. Her imagination supplied the full version. Little Paul and Sarah swayed to the rhythm in the endearing way that babies moved to music.Now I'm back in the ring to take another swing
'Cause the walls were shaking
The earth was quaking
My mind was aching
And we were making it and you
Shook me all night long ---
Rico leaned over the playpen and crooned, or rather croaked, to the two children. Marlene thought how far he had come from his allergy to mushy love statements and smiled before speaking in a stage whisper. The littles were so young that they didn't talk yet. She hoped their understanding was limited, too. Some invention of Kowalski's burbled on a high shelf of his lab; it must be dangerous because he'd placed it far out of little feathered creatures' reach. Marlene had in mind a more subtle danger, however.
"That's not the sort of lullaby to sing to babies, really it isn't, I mean they
don't understand the words well not the way you sing them anyway but I do get the song. They might absorb the meaning oh I don't know much about babies --- "
Rico flung a strong flipper about Marlene's shoulders. "Wrytoomuch
, since Private ducked out of babysitting they're your
responsibility so if you want them to --- never mind. I guess you're right. Well, um, they're nodding off so I'll sketch the beginning of the surprise for Momma Duck." She leaned into his side. "Jefe Grande
, set up my easel, huh?"
He astounded her by pecking her cheek before disengaging. "Yah." Her easel was new and untried, like she was in this plural relationship on the team she was beginning to think of as hers.
The splintered old easel made a campfire when she and Skipper hammered out their plans for the future one night as they roasted marshmeowmeows; namely, that she would join the penguin commando group on an as needed basis. He made it formal. He produced a pearl the color of a blushing peach to give to her, actually taking a knee to present it. "My pebble, Marlene." She'd felt faint as she took it, murmuring that she had nothing to give in return. "I'm sure you'll come up with something," he'd said softly and the words felt like a promise from the Labyrinthine Mollusk Herself.
Marlene swam back to the present as she felt Rico's gaze upon her. "Heh. Woolgathering, sorry. I'll get to work now." She framed the portrait in her artist's eye, arranging them all by height. It would be sweet to paint Skipper and Private helping Sarah to stand with one of her tiny wings in each of their flippers. To the left she would pose Kowalski and Rico with Paul in similar position. She took extra time to figure out how she would fit herself in. Between the two pairs? Cliché. Behind them, standing on a stool, as if she were their marionetteer? Maybe. She'd leave that for future inspiration. Momma Duck was busy teaching her older brood to fly, so the penguins had care of the infants for two whole days.
"'Kay, Rico, do that turn the mind off thing you do so well and freeze. Yeah, like that." Rico's eyes blanked scarily, but she was used to it.
She sketched the basic layout, ovals and circles forming penguin shapes of the penguins not in the lab. Rico she filled in more thoroughly and the babies' cuteness was easy; she condensed her usual broad strokes into more precise ones for their small faces and features. Paul and Sarah could both use a smile enhancement. Hmm, how to get them to smile when they woke up and she could begin work fine-tuning their tiny expressions?
She poked Rico when she was finished and he turned his mind back on. Marlene could nearly hear the vroom
of his little gray cells at peak acceleration once more. She anticipated a simple day of sketching and playing with ducklings while leaving most of the work to penguins who had, you know, promised
their mother to take on the awesome responsibility of caregiving.
What Rico did next amazed her.
Zipping from a blank expression to hyper alert commando focus, he homed in on her without saying a word. He leaned into her neck, sniffed hard and then tilted his head back with beak open. With his tongue slapping against the roof of his mouth, he made sounds that reminded her of the sump pump that Handyman Gus installed when her habitat flooded.
"Er, Rico, what are you doing?"
He did not reply, and the sump pump slurped at high speed. She grew uncomfortable.
Her curiosity got the better of her when he waved her closer. "C'mere." Now he slithered his beak into her right pit and she darted back when she felt a long lick.
"Stop! I don't like touching like this, penguin! Quit it!" She pushed him off.
His gaze refocused. "Sowwy." He looked concerned. "Yukay
"Yeah, I'm fine. Why did you taste
me?" Marlene blotted away his spit from her pit. "Ew."
She sniffed. "Well, you're weird, too, and you smell bad sometimes, but you don't hear me
What he asked next dropped a bomb into her lap. "Pregs?""What?
No! How is that even possible!"
His lifted brow said it all. "kaff
" --- is a penguin. Honestly, Rico." She burst out laughing. "Really! Can it be that you don't know
how impossible it is --- "
Rico indicated the two snoozing babies wordlessly.
"Sure, I'll keep quiet," she whispered, "but gosh, what gives?"
He shrugged as confusion rumpled his face. "Dunno. Yutaste
It had to be this next thing that he sensed, it had
to be it. "Not that it's your business, but I'm coming into heat. This stays between you and me, okay? I'll tell Skipper if he needs to know." She looked at him sideways. "Do you realize what that signals, Rico?""Hrny."
"Ha! The opposite, actually, because it hurts sometimes why am I telling you this?" She shook her head. "Just forget about it. It's only ten days, three if I get lucky."
"I don't mean lucky
that way! Look, there are no other otters in Central Park Zoo so I can't become pregnant, the zoo never loaned me out for a breeding program or brought in a male otter --- I wonder why?" She fluttered her lashes because the grin deserved a comeback. "Aren't I pretty enough?"
Fat tears formed in Rico's eyes. He rolled her into a protective hug that had her gasping.
She broke out of it. "I'm kidding, you goofball! I have loads
of green memories, working backwards from Skipper to everyone who's none of your business, m'friend." She patted his broad belly. "Aw, I'm all right. You know, maybe there are
otters in Central Park." She frowned. "I've never thought about it. I've never scented any, though." She'd likely remain childless; she hadn't always been okay with that, but she was now. The solid relationship she had with Skipper helped immensely.
Sarah picked that moment to rouse and bop Paul's beak. He squalled and dotted her eye. The noises arising from the playpen took Rico's attention and Marlene's, too, as they each held a baby to soothe away tiny duckling owwies. Cuddling Paul, Marlene thought that babies were more interesting than she'd considered before two landed intimately into her life. There was the moro reflex, the rooting reflex, the walking reflex ... She mused herself into a reverie as she bobbled Paul up and down.
Skipper's and her baby would be an otguin, a furry black and white stub-tailed shape sporting penguin feet and flippers, but with an otter face. He or she would be the apple of her or his parents' eyes. She squeezed small Paul's yellow fluffy fuzz fondly and he farted. "Let wind be free for there shall be --- oh, skip it. Did you pick up that habit from Rico, Paul sweety?"
Rico huffed as he put Sarah on his shoulder to rub her back and jiggle her. "Nope. Kwoskii."
"Heeee, right! He farts, you burp, Private boushes and Skipper --- what does he do that they could pick up?"
Rico finished comforting. Sarah toddled around the playpen once again and Marlene placed Paul at the opposite corner. She gave him a fish plushie and Sarah a plushie that resembled a partially eaten ear of corn, but on closer inspection proved a mockup of Kowalski's abacus. Paul gnawed the fish plushie and then slapped Sarah with it. It was soft as an otter's winter fur and didn't hurt. "Oh. That's
what they're picking up from him."
Kowalski held the lab door open while Skipper poked his head around it. "Hey, artiste, how's it going?"
." Rico exited the lab at Kowalski's wave. Skipper approached his ladylove.
"You look cute today, Marlene."
"So do you, honey."
"Yeah, um, well, mirrors don't lie. I look exceptional
." He caressed her shoulder. "Wanna fool around?"
"Nooooo, unless you mean sketch
." An ache began low in her belly to signal her condition of reproductive ripeness. If Skipper had taken the flehmen position like Rico did, he would have swallowed her scent like the finest Beluga caviar. As it was, he looked taken aback, but only for a moment.
"Okay. It would have had to be quick, anyway. We've got a full mission schedule today, and I was hoping you could cover for us in the babysitting sitch, what say?"
The peach of a pearl formed a tie with him and all the team, really. "Sure. What's up?"
"Kowalski needs to fix his first fixing of the zoo clock, Rico is itching to scope out Gus' excavating the main fountain, Private wants to pet the bunnies in the Petting Zoo and I am determined to face them head on in do-or-die combat drills."
"Combat with bunnies?
"You didn't see what they did to us once, Marlene. We were pwned. Never again, not on my watch! Learn from your enemies, babe."
Her brow crept upward. "I don't have any --- "
"Sure you do! Anyone who's lived as long as you have has enemies. That's a given."
She sighed. "Same planet, different worlds, I guess. All right, Skipper, mission away. I could use downtime, anyhoo."
"Why so? You're usually gung ho to come along." He didn't appear worried, only curious, thank goodness.
"Let's just say it's my time of the year."
"I don't get y--- oh. You mean that
." He looked at her like she was a fragile ice sculpture, melting if he so much as breathed hard on it. "Out of my jurisdiction and out of my league, Marlene. Tell me what you need. I'll get it for you, no matter what."
She did melt, but deep inside. "Awwww, honey. I don't need anything. It's just the Labyrinthine Mollusk's way of doing things to make otters make more otters. I'm fine."
He couldn't seem to look her in the eye. "Er, how do you handle ... everything?"
"You mean blood, Skipper?"
A wordless nod in the direction of the lab's door, which he might sprint for any moment now. She could tell he was cringing where it didn't show.
"I swim a lot. You may have noticed."
"Oh. Yeah. That'd work. Um, onward, Marlene, I will belay calling on your expertise when that sitch is on the calendar. Just let me know the times."
She wanted to lighten this moment up before he squirmed away. "It's not contagious, Skipper. I've been doing this a long while."
"I can imagine, but it's okay, Marlene. You take it easy today, you hear? We'll dash in at noon for smiling and waving and to bring you some cotton candy for lunch. We'll wrap our missions up by chow this evening and then you can split for home."
She just had
to tease because messing with him was such fun. "So you're not spending the night at my place even though it's Saturday?"
"No, got things to do here at HQ." His eyes popped open wide with inspiration. "Can't leave these adorable moppets alone."
"With three others to watch them?"
"We'll take shifts overnight. The more penguins, the fewer hours in each shift. Yeah, that's it."
"I see. Uh huh."
He rubbed the back of his neck. "It's just that I'd never thought about dealing with this thing
about you because birds don't --- uh. You know what I mean."
"Yes. I do."
"You mad?" Before they got together
-together, he'd never have asked this. Her heart switched from melting to pinging like the sonar did on their sub when it homed in on a school of anchovies.
"Nope." She considered a moment. "I'd never thought about what this would indicate to you. You
believe I can't perform on any mission you'd assign me at these times." She crossed her paws tightly over her white bib of fur and contemplated the lab door as if she
were going to bolt for it.
He wasn't becoming angry, yet she caught the whiff of challenged authority. "You are so wrong, Marlene. I'm afraid that I'd think of you first and put the mission and the team last. I'd put you ahead of the mission. If that makes you think I'm mean, I can't help it."
He was serious. He was actually serious. Ah me, another pile of spraint to step over, as her mom would say. She ought to resist blurting what was on her mind, but her growing bellyache made her fractious. "For a tough guy, Skipper, you sure have a lot of fears."
"You never know the meaning of the word fear
until you lead a team." Ooh, he'd been working on such a response because that sounded rehearsed.
Her heart pinged more, nevertheless. "I guess I never will know it, then. Let's table this discussion because you need to go and these babies need tending." Paul and Sarah played quietly. "Or they must, at some point today."
Okay, now he was at the door where he'd been hankering to be. "Bye!"
"Bye, Mr. Touchy-Feely. Be careful kung fuing those bunnies. Ouch, that was a dirty look!"
The door slammed louder than usual.