Note: This installment contains hurt/comfort Skilene. Ironically, since the first Skilene installment, every fourth one has contained it. That was not intentional.
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“No . . . No, stop . . .”
“Stop! Let me go!”
“You’re hurting me!”
Marlene sprung awake in her 침대 in a cold sweat. Skipper was above her, gripping her arms.
“Marlene, it’s all right,” he said comfortingly. “It was just a nightmare.”
Marlene looked at Skipper as if ensuring she was actually awake. Then she wrapped her arms around his neck, digging her claws into him as if he might leave.
“Skipper! I’m sorry I woke 당신 up!” she cried. “It was so real!”
Skipper stroked her back, ignoring the sting from her claws. “It’s all right, Marlene. I was already awake, anyway. This storm’s keeping everyone up. The boys and I were checking on everyone when I found you,” he explained.
As if on cue, a round of thunder resounded overhead.
Marlene finally started to calm herself down and she released Skipper, pushing herself to the edge of the 침대 to sit. Skipper sat 다음 to her.
“You wanna talk about it?” Skipper asked after a few 분 had passed and Marlene’s 심장 rate had returned to normal.
Marlene winced. “Not really,” she said quietly.
Skipper studied her. “I’m not gonna make 당신 talk, but I hope 당신 know 당신 can always confide in me,” he told her. 더 많이 thunder cracked overhead.
Marlene reluctantly looked at him. “I know. I appreciate it.”
Skipper held eye contact for a moment, and then he nodded slowly. “Some of the other 동물 took refuge in the Zoovenir Shop. 당신 can too, if 당신 want,” he said.
Marlene nodded, but she didn’t respond verbally. Skipper decided she wanted to be alone and stood, but stopped at the sound of her voice.
“Wait,” she said. Skipper stopped and looked back at her. “Could you—stay? For just a minute?” she requested.
Skipper sat down again.
“I just—ever since I met her, I’ve been having nightmares about her,” Marlene said, looking down into her paws.
Skipper’s brow lowered. “Her?” he inquired.
“My feral side,” Marlene clarified.
Skipper nodded in understanding, but then became confused again. “But I thought 당신 said meeting her made 당신 feel better since 당신 were able to control it,” he said.
“I did—at first,” Marlene replied. “But then I got to thinking. She was . . . insane. No one ever told me the whole story of what she did those few times I went outside the zoo.” She looked at Skipper like she was expecting him to tell her now.
“Well,” Skipper said with a sigh, “she sure put up a fight, but there’s honestly not much left to tell. No one was seriously injured.”
Marlene hugged her knees to her chest. “But she’s nothing like me. How could I turn into something like that, something so—violent?”
Skipper shrugged. “Everyone has a side to themselves they never knew they had,” he said.
Marlene looked at him. “Really? Even you?” she challenged.
Skipper nodded slowly. “Affirmative.”
“What is it?” Marlene asked.
Skipper shifted uncomfortably. “That’s, uh, classified,” he said without meeting her eye.
Marlene looked down. A moment passed before she said, “What if she comes back?”
Skipper looked at her. “I doubt she will. 당신 faced her. 당신 know how to control her.”
“You sound so sure about that,” she said shaking her head.
“Because I am,” Skipper replied. “You have nothing to be afraid of, Marlene.”
As if to mock that statement, a loud bang! of thunder broke the sound barrier, causing the two to jump. Marlene gripped Skipper’s flipper. As their 심장 rates calmed, Skipper pulled his flipper free and wrapped it around her protectively, looking up at the ceiling as if the storm were about to crash through it.
“How about I take 당신 to the park tomorrow? 또는 when it stops raining,” Skipper offered. “I’ll prove to 당신 that she’s gone for good.”
Marlene swallowed. “I don’t know . . .”
“Marlene,” Skipper said tipping her chin, “I’ll be with 당신 the whole time. At the first sign of her return, I’ll rush 당신 back to the zoo,” he promised.
“What if you’re too late?” Marlene asked.
Skipper smiled reassuringly. “Me, late? It’s like 당신 don’t know me at all, Dollface.”
Marlene smiled and rolled her eyes. “Fine. I guess we’ll give it a shot,” she agreed.
Skipper nudged her. “There’s the Marlene I know,” he said proudly.
Marlene laughed. “Am I always scared out of my mind?”
Skipper shook his head. “Everyone’s scared of something. It’s 연기 in spite of that fear that makes 당신 brave,” he told her.
Marlene smiled gratefully, but then she frowned. “Is that what 당신 do?” she asked.
Skipper’s smile faded and he looked at the floor. “Yeah,” he said softly.
“But . . . what are you afraid of?” Marlene asked with surprise.
Skipper made that face again, as he had earlier when she’d asked about his “other side.” He refused eye contact. “Also classified.”
Marlene thought for a moment, and then she tried to meet his eye. “I’m not gonna make 당신 talk, but I hope 당신 know 당신 can always confide in me,” she said with a small smile.
Skipper looked down at her and smiled back. “I know,” he said.
Marlene sighed. “Still not gonna tell me?” she asked doubtfully.
Skipper looked away again and took a breath. “What am I afraid of? I’m afraid of losing the people I care about. I’m afraid that one 일 there’s gonna be nothing I can do to prevent something bad from happening. I’m afraid of—of—” They finished together— “losing control.”
They looked at each other as silence passed between them. A sense of understanding passed between them as the storm continued to rage outside. Despite the pitter-pattering of rain, all they could hear was the sound of their own breathing and heartbeats. There was another crack! of thunder and they were snapped out of their trance.
“Heh,” Marlene said looking up, “maybe we should go to the Zoovenir 샵 now.”
Skipper nodded. “Right. Let’s go.”
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Note: I didn’t realize this until I was just about finished with it, but this kind of seemed like a retelling of Dream (installment six). I debated just completely omitting 또는 rewriting it, but I just really liked how it turned out. I promise I’ll avoid doing that with any other installments, however.