Chapter 34: Tummy Trouble

A/N: Here is the official chapter! I'm sorry this took so long to get here. Well, it's all worth the wait, right? :) I'm glad that I'm finally finished with this chapter. Now I can move on to other things that I'm actually excited about. I hope you enjoy!

"Dory! Time to get up!" Charlie hollered from the center of their home, helping Jenny finish preparing breakfast.

Her father's voice didn't quite catch on to the dozing, young blue fish, but it was enough for her to hear. She groaned, barely tempting to open her wide, magenta eyes. Her little fins clutched tighter onto her doll Lulu, snuggling with her. Dory wasn't usually like this in the mornings; she was always a bright, perky little girl this time of day. But today, she wasn't feeling it, not even one bit. There was a story behind this, and it all took place yesterday. It took place exactly in her little tube bed. It was so bad that she couldn't even forget about it. There were rare occasions where she would remember certain scenarios; this was a rare occasion. Yesterday, Dory and Destiny happened to be chatting with each other as usual, but suddenly, they started... bickering.

Bickering. That parasite of a word clung onto Dory's tongue. It couldn't wash away. The two girls never fought. They were best friends after all. Destiny was even considered a sister-like figure to her. Dory was confused about why they quarreled in the first place. Odd that she couldn't remember the reason, but she could remember the fight. She desperately wanted to forget all about it, but the taste was still fresh in her mouth. She shivered a little from the memory, eyes remaining close.

"Dory, please wake up, sweetie," Jenny said calmly but still loud enough for her daughter to hear. "We made breakfast."

The recent word that came out of her mother's mouth instantly grabbed her attention. Two magenta eyes eagerly shot open. She quickly rubbed the sleep out of her eyes and gave a huge, natural yawn. Her small stomach rumbled by the idea of breakfast. She had already forgotten about what happened yesterday. Her focus was on the food now. She raced down to her parents.

"Good morning, Kelpcake," Charlie greeted cheerfully. "Are you feeling better today?"

"Feeling better from what?" Dory asked as her mother placed the small batch of kelp in front of her.

"From you and Destiny's-" Jenny began, but then stopped herself from carrying on. She knew that her daughter didn't have a great day yesterday. She remembered the tears that were streaming down Dory's face. That thought alone made her frown. If she brought up the subject, Dory would be gloomy again. She certainly didn't want that mood coming out of Dory once more. So, she kept her lips zipped.

Not caring about getting an answer, Dory happily ate her breakfast. She gobbled on her food.

"You're really hungry today. Aren't you Dory?" her father chuckled.

"Yeah," Dory muffled from pieces of kelp stuffed in her cheeks. She loudly gulped down her breakfast.

Jenny looked up from her food to see thousands of fish swimming around, either by themselves, in groups, or in families, in serenity. She gave a sweet smile at them. The mother fish always loved seeing fish swimming about in the huge tank. It was calm and relaxing. Which was why she adored having swims with her family. It was one of her favorite activities to do besides shell finding and spending time with her beloved family.

She turned to her husband and suggested, "How about we have a pleasant morning swim?"

Charlie nodded before swallowing his helping. "I'm always down for that. What about you, Kelpcake? Do you want to go on a family swim?"

His daughter nodded excitedly. "Yes! I love having those!"

"Alright, then! We'll go immediately after breakfast," Charlie stated.

"Yay!" Dory cheered, wolfing down the rest of her breakfast.

"Woah there, Dory," her mother said. "Don't eat too fast, or you'll get a tummy ache. We don't want that now, do we?"

Dory shook her head. "No! Tummy aches are bad!"

Charlie nodded. "That's right, Kelpcake."

"Dory, why don't you go and play for a bit while Mommy and Daddy finish having breakfast?" Jenny suggested.

"Okay, Mommy!" Dory chirped before swimming away to go roll in some sand.

After Jenny and Charlie completed their breakfast, the trio went out on a family outing. Family swims were often very peaceful in the iconic MLI tank, despite living with hundreds, if not, thousands of other fish and sea creatures that practically breathed in the same home they lived in. The community was vibrant and active, but it was also polite and friendly. Habitants got along with each other, being courteous and not nosy. They frequently minded their own business unless something particular goes out of hand, er fin, which didn't quite happen in this thriving tank. if something terrible were to happen, things would get fixed immediately with limited struggles. This goes without saying that marine creatures were caring and cautious of others, making this environment a healthy, interactive, and stable one. Utopia was not the tank's name though; it had a few hiccups. One of them was the dangerous pipes near Dory's home. Her parents constantly reminded her to stay away from them as far as possible for her own sake. Dory listened to her parents, but every once in awhile, she would forget, resulting in her parents freaking out and instinctively pulling her away. One step closer and the pipes would suck her away into the wild. Jenny and Charlie tried to repress that thought in their unconscious minds. Right now, their goal was to raise Dory and keep her happy.

Dory was between her parents, looking at all the busy fish of various shapes, sizes, and colors.

Dory waved at some strangers politely while they passed by them. She also briefly greeted fish she did know. Her parents grinned as she interacted with their tank mates. Their daughter was definitely a social butterfly. She was delighted with communicating with everyone.

The purple sunfish, which Dory had bumped into a few times before, swam up to the tang family and cast a friendly wave at them.

"Hello, guys!" he greeted excitedly.

"Hi!" Dory replied.

"Good morning, Peter!" Charlie said delightfully. "How are you this morning?"

"Oh, I'm doing fine, thank you. How are you and the family doing?"

"We're doing fantastic," Jenny responded.

"Good, good," Peter said before turning to Dory. "It's nice that we're not bumping into each other this time."

Dory giggled at Peter's joke although she couldn't remember the moments where she accidentally bumped into him.

The sunfish gently gave Dory a pat on her head. "Well, I better go now. It was nice seeing you three."

"See ya, Peter," Charlie waved.

"Bye, Peter!" Dory exclaimed.

"Have a nice day!" Jenny told him.

Dory smiled and waved goodbye to Peter. Her little fin suddenly directed its way to her tiny stomach. She began to groan in pain.

Charlie noticed his daughter not feeling well. "Honey, are you okay?"

"Dory?" Jenny questioned worriedly, shifting her anxious expression to her.

"My tummy hurts..." Dory admitted, whining albeit.

"Maybe you ate too much, love," Jenny assumed.

"No, I... I don't think it's that. I don't remember eating that much," Dory said.

Charlie placed a fin on his chin for a minute before having an insight. "Ah, you must be having stomach cramps from all that swimming."

His daughter gave her father a bewildered look. "Swimming doesn't usually give me tummy cramps. I'm a fish after all."

Charlie chuckled and shook his head. "No, Kelpcake. I mean that swimming after a huge meal can cause those awful cramps. Your tummy needs to digest the food completely before you can do anything active."

"Oh, okay," Dory replied, understanding the explanation.

"I think you should've planned this family swim for the late morning, hon," Jenny suggested to him. "Dory's body is still so small. It takes a while for her meals to break down."

Her husband rubbed the back of his head sheepishly. "Yeah, you're right. Sorry about that, dear. You know how I love morning family swims."

"We can still have morning family swims, but we have to wait for at least an hour until we can head out," Jenny explained.

"Alright. Guess I have to start waking up more early," Charlie said before turning to Dory. "How about you ride in my fins for the rest of the swim?"

"Yeah!" Dory said excitedly, swimming into her father's huge fins.

The family continued their morning swim. Even though Dory was pleased to be carried by her father, her stomachache didn't cease. She groaned, getting her parents' attention yet again.

"Does your tummy still hurt, sweetheart?" her mother asked worriedly.

"Yes, Mommy. It still hurts," Dory whined.

"I think it's a good time to go home," Charlie said. "Let's go, Jen."

When the trio returned home, Jenny and Charlie placed Dory into her little tube bed so that she could get some rest.

"Are you comfortable, Kelpcake?" her father asked.

"Yes, Daddy."

"Are you feeling a little better now since you're in your bed?" her mother asked.

"Yes, Mommy."

"Good. We want you to feel as comfortable as you can," Charlie said genuinely, planting an affectionate kiss on her forehead.

Dory gave her father a small, but warm smile. She really appreciated that her endearing parents were taking great care of her under her temporary condition. She was lucky to have amazing, supportive parents like them. Her stomachache impressively decreased once she got home. She settled in her little bed while she cuddled Lulu in her fins, her nurturing parents simultaneously giving her calm, gentle words and cautiously looking after her.

"Mommy? Daddy?" she then said softly.

"What is it, dear?" Jenny inquired.

"When is my tummyache gonna go away?"

"Soon, Dory," Charlie answered. "Mommy and I will try to figure out what's causing your tummy to ache."

Dory grinned slightly. "Okay."

"Just get some rest, sweetie," Jenny told her gently, stroking the little fish's head in the process.

Dory yawned and cuddled Lulu close to her. "Okay, Mommy."

Her parents both gave her kisses on her forehead and swam away to investigate what might had caused their daughter's stomachache problem.

"Jen, there has to be something about that kelp that is making Dory's stomach hurt," Charlie said seriously.

"But what could it be? We ate the kelp and nothing happened to us," Jenny explained.

"You have a point there..." Charlie studied the kelp and placed a fin on his chin to ponder the situation.

"I already thought that it could be from Dory eating too much, but she already told me that she didn't."

"And it can't be stomach cramps," Charlie said. "Maybe she ate too fast?" he guessed but then thought, "No. She did eat fast at first, but I told her to slow it down."

The two investigated the plants further until Jenny recognized something. She gave a slight gasp upon noticing.

"Jenny? What is it, honey?" Charlie asked frantically.

"These bunches of kelp look… pale," his wife replied quietly and concernedly.

Charlie could then clearly dictate that the sick, pale kelp were largely in contrast with the brighter and healthier kelp. His worried expression changed into an ashamed one. How could he possibly overlook that some of the kelp was sick? And he had a sharp eye like an eagle's. His poor daughter didn't deserve the pain that she was going through. He felt guilty.

"Oh, Jenny this is all my fault. I should've paid attention to the kelp. I-I'm really sorry."

Jenny wrapped her arms around Charlie. "Honey, it's not your fault. You just overlooked, that's all. Anyone would've done the same thing."

Her husband grinned a little at his wife's soft and gentle words, but then gazed up at Dory, who was now sleeping. He cringed.

"But her side effects… They're going to get worse now that we know what's causing the problem."

"I'm sure she'll be completely fine, Charlie," Jenny reassured. "We'll make sure nothing remotely bad would happen to her. We'll give her lots of medicine and love and support. And if the symptoms do get worse, we'll just try our absolute best to constantly watch over and care for her, like we always do as parents."

Charlie's anxiousness dissolved once he heard those comforting words yet again from his loving wife. Jenny always had a way with words; they were so effective and could calm anybody who was down or having a bad day. They for sure worked on Charlie and Dory from time to time. He was very lucky and blessed to win Jenny's heart all those years ago. She really knew how to deal with stressful times even though she herself could get anxiety.

He gave her a soft kiss on the forehead. "Thanks, hon. I really needed that. The last thing I need is to get all nervous. Dory doesn't need that. Not like a time like this."

"It's okay that you are worried, dear. Every parent gets worried when their child is sick. You know that I get that feeling all the time. I'm worried right now for Dory," Jenny said calmly.

Charlie reached out for her fin and squeezed it lightly. "At times like this, our little girl will still be happy, even if we are scared."

Jenny chuckled. "That's Dory for you. Her happy personality just keeps her swimming."

Charlie laughed with her.


The young fish jumped up and bumped her head, startled by the loud voice of her friend.

"Ow!" She rubbed her head.

"Oh, did I wake you?" Destiny asked with concern. "I'm so sorry!"

"I-it's okay," she moaned.

"I just came to apologize for the argument we had yesterday. I know that I really hurt your feelings by bragging about how I'm the most popular creature in the institute. I was selfish. I really hope that you can forgive me."

"That's alright, Des. I forgive you. You're my best friend." Dory smiled.

"Thank you so much. Hey, I've heard from your parents that you had a tummyache. Are you okay?"

"Yes, I'm fine. I'm doing much better now." Dory noticed her parents swimming up to her.

"Hi, Kelpcake." Her father kissed her forehead. "Are you feeling any better?"

"Yes, Daddy. Much better."

"We are so glad to hear that," her mother said happily. "Your father and I know why your tummy was hurting. It's because some of the kelp was sick. We helped clear them out."

"Oh, okay. Well, I'm glad that the sick kelp is gone now."

"We are too," Charlie agreed.

Dory smiled hugely at her parents and hugged them both as tightly as she could. "Thank you so much for helping me during my tummy problem. You guys are the best."

"Aww, you're welcome, sweetheart," Jenny responded, kissing her daughter's cheek.

"We are always here for you, Kelpcake," Charlie said boldly.

"We'll let you talk to Destiny now. Call us if you need anything, okay?" Jenny asked.

"Okay," Dory answered.

Her parents left Dory with her "whale" friend, blissfully swimming away while proudly holding fins.