Title: Trial And Error
Era: Sometime after the return from Åland in Watermelon Snow.
Disclaimer: I make no profit from this fanfiction set in Dreamworks' Penguins of Madagascar franchise, using its characters and settings.
Summary: Ars longa, vita brevis.
A/N Extrapolated from various eps in which Marlene's cave shows art supplies and various canvases standing against its wall.
"If Namath can do it, so can I!" Skipper reclined on his side on Marlene's bed, stretched his legs coyly and propped up his head on a beguiling flipper.
"Namath? He's from, like, ice ages ago! How old are you, Skipper?"
He winked at her and her heart skipped a beat. "Need to know, Marlene."
"Yeah whatever keep your secrets." She rolled her eyes. "Pretend Kowalski's freeze ray zapped you when I get done posing you, mmmkay?"
Marlene adjusted his top knee to cross his other one to touch the bed's surface. He winked again and she flushed as she aimed a cuff at his earhole, quickly enough for him not to dodge her blow. She discarded the pillow and ruffled her blanket artfully around him to suggest movements from the recent past, blushing even more. She tilted his head up. She was satisfied with the pose.
Skipper was not. "Does the model ever give suggestions? This one has a doozy."
She crossed her eyes before narrowing them. "Okay, yeah, I'll use it but only if I like it. That's why I'm the master and you're the --- "
"Padawan?" he said solemnly.
Marlene blew a raspberry. "Go on, you silly! Hurry up! I'm losing the north light here."
"Slip me one of those pansies." He pointed to her vase, which was out of his reach.
"From your bouquet, Marlene. That's the right name for the purple flower, am I right?"
"Pblbpbpbl, Kowalski must have told you." She passed him one.
He adjusted it upright in front of himself at the natural crease between legs and torso. She could tell he was barely holding back the chortles by the way his shoulders shook. He looked up at her with doe eyes. "Purple on black and white, outstanding, don't you think?" He waggled the posy.
She took two steps back to frame the pose between her paws à la Renoir. She shifted from portrait to landscape and back again. She covered one eye. "Needs something."
"Aw, come on! It's perfect!"
She realized that it was a daunting thing for a commander to share or give up command, but she was positive he'd like her addition to his suggestion. She selected two more pansies from her vase, opened his grip on the original flower and pressed the three stems together before closing his grip again. "You could do with more coverage. Hold still while I adjust your, your --- "
"Uh, I was going to say accoutrements but okay, stance will do. Only you're not standing." She placed his flipper closer to his body and stiffened the pansy stems. "We'll need to get this sketch done quickly before the flowers wilt."
"Mine won't dare wilt. And what's a cootermon? Is that some artist lingo like easel and Ben-Day?"
"Never you mind. Hold that position and look pleasant. No, not like that."
"Better, but with less determination. Think of coming home to a nice warm lair or visiting a nice warm Kitka."
He lowered his eyes and looked unsettled. She had the impression that he wanted to open up about the Kitka situation but instead he said, "Okay, um, Marlene. Operation: Poser is a go."
"I didn't agree to that name." She hustled her easel in place and made broad circles with her pencil. She squinted harder at him after one minute had passed. "Breathe, Skipper, it's okay to breathe."
"Lying about isn't my thing. I at least look at picture magazines when I goldbrick around the HQ."
She had heard of models needing conversation to stay focused and multi-tasked for all she was worth. "Oh yeah? What do you guys subscribe to?" She outlined boxes, circles and spirals and now the body was done. The facial expression would be more of a challenge.
"Ground-To-Air Missiles Quarterly, Tanks Unlimited, Superior Strategies complete with pie charts, stuff like that. Now and then Penguins Illustrated." He paused. "The annual beach bunny issue falls apart three days after it's delivered."
The blanket's ripples gave her fits. "Mmmhmmm." She could only imagine how difficult drawing would be if animals wore clothes. The shading she could fill in later. Skipper was showing signs of restlessness. Oh well, vigor was only one of the things she liked about him. Hmm, vigor ... "Aw dang."
"What is it?"
"A change up in the pose, sorry, my friend." She erased the bottom third of the body. "I had a brainstorm."
"Marlene, I've got things to do this morning --- "
"Okay! Two more minutes then you can split!" She scrubbed furiously at the sketchpad with the eraser. "Shoot, I dropped my rubber. Toss it back, would you?"
"Your ... rubber?"
"The eraser, Mr. Bad Pun. See it bounced by the bed oh never mind I'll get it --- "
"Don't get your tail in a twist, Ms. Otter." He moved from her meticulous posing and she groaned. After a moment's fishing by the bed, he tossed the eraser to her. She replaced it on her easel's tray.
"Before you settle, here's a better pose. Just relax and let me position you."
"Sorry sorry, now recline again on your left side. Flipper under head, yeah like that. Left leg crooked slightly, no a little more. Now angle the right leg up like this" --- she slid a paw behind the knee --- "my goodness, you're ticklish! I'm barely touching you! Relax the right foot --- what's the matter with your pinkie claw? It's shiny and new ---"
"I got hurt on Åland blah blah can we just get on with it?"
"Oh! That must have pained you!"
"I barely felt it. I was busy fighting a sasquatch. Come on, let's do this thing and I'll get out of your fur." He softened. "Not that I'm unwelcome, I know. Stop the pity party, okay? I hate that. The toe's all healed up, see?" He wiggled it.
"Did the sasquatch tear into you that bad? Where was your team?"
"Yeah, Private was the only one with me that battle. Come on now, I don't have all day." The mood in her cave soured.
She assessed him. He was uncomfortable talking about Åland. A story would need to be told ... but not today. "Gotcha. Moving right along, Skipper, I'm ready to work."
She stifled her comeback as she shifted into artiste mode. Now the pose was perfect and she sketched the open legs' apex garnished by the pansies and then the relaxed posture, saving the face for last. A few defining touches about the beak and she declared the first sketch complete. "All done. Te ves grandioso. Thanks. "
"Okay, uh huh, sure. I'm not even going to charge you."
"Haw. Haw. Let me make tea --- "
"I'm a coffee penguin, you know that."
"Whatevs. Vamoose, then. Catch you later, alligator."
"After while, crocodile." Action mode restored, he waddled to her drainage grate and disappeared down it.
Marlene whooshed out a breath. "Girl, you will never learn all the penguins' secrets no matter how long you live. Get used to it." She sat on her bed to critique the sketch. "Hmm, not bad. A Caillebotte I am not, but not bad."