|-----------------We will meet again.-----------------|
Be gentle with me on this one, folks.
This is my first ever slash story (and I can assure you, it won't be the last one either). For those of you who have an aversion to same-sex pairings or simply don't feel comfortable about them, I kindly suggest turning your back on this story now. There're plenty of other stories I've written that don't have slash, so feel free to read those instead.
Anyway, all character and elements of Madagascar belong to DreamWorks Animation.
Stefano had a tizzy of a problem on his flippers. He was suffering a major headache. He felt so much like retching.
Why, you ask?
The reason was...complex, to say the least.
Stefano, as much he'd have liked to, couldn't tell you when it all began. He couldn't tell you when these silly, little flutters started either.
But he could tell you how much he loved them...and how much he hated them.
"Aw, c'mon, Vitaly!"
"For de last time, lion, answer eez no."
Stefano and Gia looked up from the puppy they were helping out of his rocket-boots after their ears caught the familiar voices of Alex and Vitaly. Circus Zaragoza's male resident felines were facing each other like cowboys at a stand-off—except neither of them had guns and they weren't in the Wild West. Oh, and they weren't dressed in chaps or ten-gallon hats either.
All the same, Vitaly looked pretty darn adamant, arms crossed over his broad chest and typical glower present. Alex, on the other hand, was wildly gesticulating with his hands like a desperate salesman.
"I'm telling you, V. This can totally work!"
"Are they goin' at it again?"
Stefano jumped a little when he discovered Marty right next to him, the zebra seated on his haunches and eyeing the arguing cats with a smirk.
"Ugh, si, Signor Marty," Gia confirmed, shaking her head at the scene, even though she also wore an amused smile, "This must-a be the third time this week."
"Well, it sure looks like it'll be interesting."
Marty's prediction did not end up disproved. Vitaly intensified his glare on Alex and went so far as to even bare his teeth, a sight at the which the lion put his hands up in a defensive manner, a nervous, placating smile on his muzzle. "First off, never call me dat again. Second, you will need approval of Gia and Stefano as well before—"
"I already approved, Vitaly," Gia chirped up, raising a forepaw up, "since-a yesterday, in fact."
Stefano jumped in the air a bit, waving his left front flipper wildly, his subtle discomfort momentarily forgotten. "Si, I have-a as well!"
Vitaly looked as if he'd just been double-crossed. The exasperated tiger eyed his two oldest friends with disbelief for a few moments before he dragged a paw down his ruddy face, sighing and giving the glimmer-eyed Alex a disgruntled, "Fine."
The New York lion pumped a fist into the air with a triumphant "yes!" He dashed over to Gia to take her by the waist and plant a kiss on her cheek, giddy enough to overlook Vitaly's warning glare. "Thanks, G. You too, Stef—I thought for sure he'd say no."
"That is-a Vitaly for you," the beautiful leopard responded as she returned the hug and the kiss. "He can be...old-fashioned."
Marty scoffed and rolled his emerald eyes. "Even after the Trapeze Americano fiasco...? Mm, mm, mm...I guess I still got a lotta softening up to do."
It was common knowledge that Marty and Vitaly had formed a firm friendship over the past few months following the DuBois incident. Vitaly, however, still remained the tough, touchy, and grumpy tiger the circus animals knew and loved, even though he'd also regained his desire to defy the impossible and grown a greater tolerance for open-mindedness and new ideas.
"That is Vitaly for-a you. He is like-a the prickly pear: prickly, of course, on the outside, but soft and sweet on inside." Stefano felt his stomach do somersaults when he heard Marty reply with a raspy chuckle, even more when he felt one of the equine's hooves clapping his back.
"Yeah, I guess. Seeing the guy prancing around and spreading flowers in his wake might have been a little bit much, anyway."
Everyone present got a good laugh at the imagery, even after Vitaly's distant "I heard dat."
Only Stefano didn't laugh. He merely gave off weak gasps meant to pass as quiet chuckles. He didn't intend to give himself away and Santa Maria knows he was trying, but the effort turned out to be too much for him. He was too close to—
Marty noticed the seal's sudden discomfort; he craned his head to look his newfound cannon-buddy in the eyes. "You okay, Stef?"
"Oh? Oh! Si, I'm-a perfectly fine!" Stefano looked so panicky, as if he were a criminal on the verge of being caught red-handed, even going so far as to clasp his "hands" together with an unnecessarily resounding clap. Marty and Alex looked a little freaked out; Vitaly, Gia, and the puppy, concerned.
"Are you certain, Stefano? You seem bothered about sometheeng."
"Oh no, n-no, it is-a nothing, Vitaly, really," the sea lion exclaimed as he began to back away from the group, hands behind his back. "Oh, Mama Mia, look-a at the time! It is already-a sundown! I need to be getting the-a shuteye for tomorrow, no?"
And so he left them, his hurried form disappearing into the dark.
He left them to ponder and wonder: what could be ailing their friend?
As his recollection of this embarrassing encounter ended, Stefano released his breath as he stood outside the tent, his back to the wall of thick fabric. That one had been too close for comfort.
So had been the collision with Marty earlier at practice. The seal swore he'd heated up immediately at the brief contact with Marty's tough yet warm skin and sinewy body. Stefano had apologized profusely and dashed off before the zebra could get a word in edgewise.
The point of the matter was...
"They do-a not know." The seal sighed with relief. Good, then he was safe then. But the relief was bittersweet. He managed to keep his secret safe, true, but also at the price of lying to his family. For as long as the Italian could remember, the members of Circus Zaragoza had been his only family and not only tolerated him and his sugar-sweet optimist ways but embraced them as well. After all, they were all oddballs in one way or another.
Maybe it wouldn't be so bad after all if they knew.
Not that Vitaly and the rest of the original circus buccaneers would have thought any less of him; in fact, homosexuality was nothing new to the residents of Circus Zaragoza. Unlike the humans, the animals were more liberal in their viewpoints towards love. Even the pooches, fierce in their denial of being soft, could attest to being attracted to someone of the same sex at one point or another.
For that reality, Stefano felt grateful.
But Marty might not be as understanding.
He was a zoo animal, and zoo animals were more attached to their human caretakers than their circus counterparts were. As a result, human viewpoints had a way of influencing the minds of zoo inhabitants, especially with Nature's touch so far removed in a manmade habitat comprised of nothing but gilded cages.
'Oh, who am I-a trying to kid?' Stefano thought in sorrow as he cupped his face in his fore flippers. He and Marty could never be together, all because of humans and their ways of thinking. Never before had Stefano ever thought of cursing humanity, including now, being too much of a sweetheart, but as he rued over his situation, he had to wonder how people could fear and hate something he only understood to make him happy and fluttery, if not a little queasy and bashful.
He simply didn't understand at all.
And that point hurt the most.
Because that meant he could never understand Marty either.
Maybe the seal could never be his real self around him. Doing so was hard enough with them as friends.
Stefano let tears fall as he dipped his face in sad resignation. He just had to face facts: they weren't meant to be, end of story.
But who said Stefano couldn't still be happy having Marty in his life? Wasn't it good enough that they were cannonball buddies? Wasn't it good enough that they had each other's back through thick and thin?
"Si," the sea lion whispered with gentle firmness as he turned his gaze skyward, his large, brown eyes taking in the gorgeous, pearl-white moon high above, "that will be enough."
Later that night...
Stefano awoke in a fright, his bed-sheets soaked with his sweat, his eyes shooting to and fro and all over the interior of the darkened boxcar, seeking a danger didn't exist. Calming down, the poor sea lion threw off the blankets with a mournful sigh and lay his head back down on the pillow.
'What a horrid-a nightmare...,' he mused with regret, 'I guess I am not-a as satisfied with things as I-a thought I'd be.'
He nearly jumped out of his pelt when he heard someone knock on his door. "Stefano, hey man, is it alright if I come in?"
A part of him wanted to scream in out something in the negative, but Stefano felt his heart take control before his brain could stop it.
"Of course, please come in." He cringed at how his answer came off more as a plea. Shaking the feeling off, he went to the door and unlocked it for Marty, who walked into the seal's room immediately. As the zebra took in the room's cheery décor, Stefano closed the door, ignoring the excited, primal part of his animal mind.
"Nice place ya got!"
The sudden compliment caught Stefano off-guard; he snapped to attention with what hoped to be a very convincing grin. "It is not-a very much. But it is-a my home! That is all that-a matters to me!"
Marty merely returned the grin and resumed with looking over his buddy's abode. Stefano shuffled his feet out of nervousness.
"What happened?" the seal parroted in confusion.
"To you, I mean," Marty's grin dipped into a slight frown, "I got back from going number one," the penguins hadn't gotten around to installing lavatories onto the train-cars yet, "when I heard ya moaning and crying inside. It woke some of the others up, too, but I convinced everyone to go back to sleep after I told them I'd check things out." Marty forced a chuckle. "Heh, knowing G and V, those two won't be sleeping a wink 'til I give 'em the 411."
Stefano looked to the floor, never daring to look into Marty's eyes as if out of shame. "I had...bad dream."
"Did it have something to do with this morning?" The zebra cleared his throat when he caught Stefano's questioning stare again. "The way you were acting, I mean."
Stefano froze like a deer in headlights. 'No...I...I cannot-a tell him. He'll never look at-a me the same way again!'
Marty started once he witnessed the tears streaming down Stefano's cheeks. He could never take the sight of the seal crying; it broke his heart every time. Reaching a hoof out, Marty wrapped an arm around the distraught seal. Stefano recoiled at first at the zebra's touch but in seconds the seal found himself crying long and hard against Marty's lean chest.
"It's gonna be okay, man. Just say what's bothering you and I can help ya fix it, 'kay?"
'Oh Marty...' Stefano looked up at the subject of his thoughts with admiration and something warmer. But then he looked away. "You'll hate-a me."
"Whoa now, Stef! What makes you so sure about that?"
"Because," Stefano paused to sniffle, "I have fallen in love."
"That's it?" Marty smiled and chuckled warmly, rubbing soothing circles into the seal's back. "Nobody's gonna hate you for that! Shoo', if anything, people oughta be happy for ya!"
When Marty realized Stefano was still sniffling, he lost his grin once again, starting to catch on. He rubbed the back of his mohawk awkwardly. "Oh..."
'I knew it. He hates me. But at least he'll never know who I meant.'
Marty regained his supportive grin at full force. "Ah well, that's still okay!"
Stefano couldn't believe his ears! "You...You are-a serious?"
"Man, I am from New York. Trust me; I have seen all kinds of humans and met all kinds of animals. The idea of guys having a thing for each other is no stranger to me, Ali-al, Glo, or Mel. Okay granted, it kinda weirds out Alex a little from time to time, but, hey, sometimes lions hook up to strengthen bonds, believe it or not."
At these words, hope began to reignite in Stefano's heart. The Italiano, being an optimist at heart, wanted to cling to that hope so badly, regardless of the risk of having his heart smashed. He had to make sure of something first, though...and with his emotions the way they were, he'd need a better way than simply through words.
No, there was no other way. Otherwise, he'd lose his nerve. Stefano steeled himself and faced the zebra with a calm and brave smile. "Marty...I am sorry."
That statement earned him a look of perplexity from Marty. "What have ya got ta be sorry for—MMM!"
Before the larger male could react, Stefano grabbed his head and slapped his lips onto his! Warmth and moisture filled the zebra's mouth instantly as Stefano snaked his hand-like flippers around his neck and deepened the kiss, the seal snaking his tongue into the equine's mouth.
Despite his mind's current capacity for coherent thought, Marty managed to reflect on the myriad of emotions this kiss ignited in him. He couldn't bring himself to separate from Stefano. Why he had no idea. He wasn't gay, after all. And what Stefano was doing could legally be counted as molestation.
Marty discovered that he didn't care. He discovered that he liked having this seal explore his mouth. He discovered that he liked having the little guy's body scrunched up against his. And he liked the bubbles Stefano made his stomach churn up. With no further hesitation, Marty wrapped his forearms around Stefano and returned the kiss. Moaning and groaning like a teenage boy kissing his first crush, Marty tightened his hold and shifted Stefano so that the seal was cradled in his lap, his smaller heart beating over his larger one.
Eventually (yet slowly) parted their lips parted, both mammals needing to take fresh air. As they panted fiercely and stared at each other with untold happiness and disbelief, Marty noticed his reflection in Stefano's wide, half-lidded, brown eyes blur from sudden tears.
Stefano quickly his awestruck expression into one of shock and released his grip on Marty, who kept him close and prevented him from pulling away the second he felt the Italian try to scoot back. "M-Marty...I am..."
"Don't be," Marty craned his head and put a front hoof under Stefano's chin so he could make the seal look him in the eyes. The zebra's gaze, like his touch and grasp, was soft yet strong. "It really took guts to come clean like that."
'Santa Maria...does he-a really mean that?' Everything happening—it was all too good to be true. This...This had to be a dream, right? Right...? Stefano stared back into Marty's eyes, their beautiful green shining in the dimness like the leaves of a summer forest. "Then this doesn't bother you?"
Marty shrugged. "I thought it would feel weird at first...but this is way better than I figured it'd be." He perked an eyebrow at the seal suggestively. "And a lot more fun..."
Stefano blushed and giggled at the comment, the tension from earlier fading away. He tentatively placed a hand on the hoof that no longer held his chin. "Heh...well, even so, this might-a take you some getting used to."
"Eh, I'll manage." Marty honestly didn't mind. True, Stefano's surprise lip-lock session threw him for a loop, but in all honesty Marty always felt a sort of synergy only he and the Italian shared. In fact, sometimes Marty wondered whether Stefano knew him better than even Alex and the rest of the Fab Four of New York did. So as far as the zebra was concerned, being in a relationship with the trigger-happy sea mammal, of all animals, was a pretty sweet deal in his opinion.
However, Marty decided to keep anymore deep thought over this new relationship in the morning when he caught the seal's ill-concealed attempt to hide a yawn and smirked. "Besides, somebody here still needs their beauty sleep."
No longer bashful or nonplussed, Stefano nodded and thus proceeded to get comfortable, Marty following his example. As the two mammals lay together on the bed, supine, Stefano, after draping his blanket over the two of them, curled into Marty's chest (so that the big guy's heart would lull him to sleep) and yawned. "Good-a night...my zebra."
Marty nuzzled the smaller mammal's head. "Night, buddy...I love you."
"I-a love you, too." He planted a chaste kiss on Marty's lips then drifted into sleep. "And I always will."
Yeah, I really made Stefano impulsive here. Anyway, feel free to review, but know that any and all flames will be extinguished with a fire hose.
There's not much I have to say about me except...I'm a little random. Yeah, so just be ready for when something shocking or unprecedented pops up in my gallery.|