Author's Note: I decided to take a short break from writing my "Treasure Planet" story to write this short little piece on "Finding Nemo." That movie is so great and I loved everything about it, but I wish we could have seen some more interaction between Marlin and Nemo. They were so far apart for most of the movie, but I think they are both my favorite characters! So this story centers on the two of them. Sorry, Dory fans, she's not in this because I wanted to keep the focus on Marlin and Nemo. This is a father-son bonding story, after all. Maybe another time I'll write a story with her in it, since I like her so much, too. Now, on with the story! I hope you guys like it!

Remembering Coral

The sun's rays shone down through the water in beams of pink and gold. Evening had come and the ocean was growing steadily darker. Mr. Ray glided gracefully over the reef with his students on his back, heading for the gathering place where their parents would take them home. As their teacher sang his favorite songs about science, the children chattered excitedly amongst themselves about their field trip that day.

"That was so awesome!" the little sea turtle Squirt exclaimed. "Did you see how close those dolphins were?"

"Yeah!" Sheldon replied, bobbing up and down excitedly. "I could've sneezed on them!" Right on cue, the little seahorse unleashed a powerful sneeze that propelled him backwards a few inches.

"I can't wait to tell my dad about them!" Nemo said. The little clownfish looked at the small pink octopus floating beside him. "Wasn't that so cool, Pearl?"

"Yeah." Pearl replied. "But I never thought dolphins could get that big."

"Aw, poor Pearl!" Tad teased. "Did the big dolphins scare ya?"

"I wasn't scared!" Pearl snapped back defensively. "I just thought they'd be smaller!"

Nemo knew exactly where the conversation was headed and tried to interrupt. "Give her a break, Tad. She wasn't scared, okay?"

The butterfly fish rolled his eyes. "Yeah, sure. So what was that black stuff floating around her?"

Pearl scowled. She was still sensitive about her inking and Tad never ceased to bring it up somehow. "You're so immature, Tad!"

"Am not!"

"Are too!"

"Am not!"

"Are too!"

There was nothing Nemo or the others could do at this point. Tad and Pearl got into arguments like this all the time, and when they did it was pointless to try and stop them. Usually they would get bored with it after a while or a grown-up would break it up. It was just a matter of time, so they decided to leave it to that.

"Hey, guys," Nemo said to Squirt and Sheldon. "You wanna come over and play tonight? My dad said it was okay."

Sheldon shook his head. "I can't. It's my mom's birthday tomorrow, and my dad wants me home early so we can get her a present."

"Same here, dude." Squirt chimed in. "But it's my folks' anniversary. Year number 145!"

"Wow!" Nemo said, eyes wide. "That's amazing!"

"Hey, Nemo." Sheldon piped up, a curious look on his face. "How come you never talk about your mom?"

Nemo looked at his friend and realized that he was right. "I don't have a mom." he answered.

Squirt gasped in shock. "But you gotta have a mom!" he cried, coming face to face with Nemo. "Everybody does!"

"Yeah!" Sheldon agreed. "Even dad's have moms!"

"Well, I don't." Nemo said flatly.

Sheldon shook his head sympathetically. "That's too bad."

Nemo was about to ask him what he meant by that when Mr. Ray called back to his students. "All right, explorers! We're home at last!"

The spotted manta ray descended over a patch of exposed sand surrounded by coral and small sponges. It was the school's meeting area, where parents were waiting to pick up their children. Once he had landed, Mr. Ray lowered one of his broad fins as a ramp. "See you all bright and early tomorrow for another fun-filled day of learning!" he said cheerfully as the children began filing off his back one by one.

By now Tad and Pearl had gotten tired of arguing and regrouped with their three other friends. As the five of them began chatting with each other, Nemo remained silent and preoccupied with his own thoughts. He was thinking about what Squirt and Sheldon had said to him about moms.

Nemo had rarely wondered about his mother. As far back as he could remember, it had just been him and his dad. The two of them were a family, and he had never thought that someone might be missing from it. His father never mentioned his mother, either, and so Nemo had grown up believing that was how things had always been.

But his friends were right. Everyone had a mother. Mr. Ray had even mentioned it to the whole class. "Many living things reproduce by mating, kids." he'd said in his intellectual way. "This means that none of us could be born without a mom or a dad. Both of their genetic information is necessary for the process to work properly." He didn't explain any more than that, however, because just then a tiny piece of plankton caught his attention and he began going on about the tiny creature's vital role in the food chain.

Nemo didn't know anything about genetic information and barely understood the concept of mating. But the seed had been planted, and he knew that in order for him to be born, he needed both a mother and a father. His father, one half of the equation, was still there, but where was the other half.

"Hi, mom!" Tad's voice broke Nemo's concentration. The little clownfish looked up to see his friend swimming up to two large butterfly fish. He recognized one of them as Bill, Tad's father, and the other was his mother, Sandy. As Tad swam up to her, Sandy smiled and wrapped her fins around her son in a loving embrace.

Soon Pearl's parents arrived to take her home. Nemo hadn't met Pearl's mother before, but he could tell just by watching them that the two of them had a lot in common. Then Sheldon's parents came, and Nemo couldn't help but smile when his mother questioned him anxiously about his H2O intolerance. Finally, Squirt was whisked away by his large sea turtle father, Crush. Nemo had never met Squirt's mother, but he talked about her a lot. And his parents had been together for 145 years!

No sooner had Crush and Squirt left then Marlin, Nemo's own father, quickly came swimming up to him, tail thrashing and fins flapping wildly. He stopped in front of him and began panting with exhaustion. "Hi, son!" he said breathlessly. "Sorry I'm late. I had to help Dory find her house again."

Nemo giggled and hugged him. "That's okay." he said. He was well aware of how forgetful Dory could be and understood how she needed help sometimes. The blue tang often forgot where she lived, but strangely enough, she always remembered where their anemone was. That was why Marlin always had to help her find her way back again.

Just then Nemo remembered what he had wanted to tell his dad. "Hey, guess what I saw on my field trip today!" he said excitedly.

Marlin smiled and took his son's left fin in his own. "What did you see, Nemo?"

"Dolphins!" the boy replied.

Marlin froze and his orange scales seemed to turn pale. "Dolphins?" he echoed.

Nemo nodded, not noticing his father's behavior. "Uh huh! There were tons of them!"

Marlin turned even paler. "Tons?"

"Yeah!" Nemo went on. "And they were really big, too!" He held both of his fins out for emphasis, demonstrating the dolphins' size.

Marlin's eyes were threatening to pop out of his head at this point. "Big?!"

At last Nemo noticed that his father was not sharing in his excitement. "Dad, are you okay?" he asked.

"Nemo!" Marlin exclaimed, suddenly upset. "Don't you realize how dangerous that was?! Those things could have swallowed you down in one gulp!"

Nemo looked surprised. "But dad, they were so cool!"

"They're fish-eaters!" Marlin countered. "And I don't think they're in Bruce's support group, either!"

Nemo stared back at him, pouting grumpily. "Is that all you care about, dad?" he asked. "Getting eaten?"

Marlin's expression softened. "No." he replied calmly. "I care about you." He reached out with one fin and touched his son's face gently. "That's why I went through so much to find you again when you were taken away. And that's why I still worry about you. I'll always worry about you, Nemo."

"Even when I'm as big as you?" the boy asked.

"Especially when you're as big as me." Marlin grinned. "Because then girls will start chasing you!"

"No way!" Nemo exclaimed. "That's nasty!"

Marlin laughed and grabbed his son in his fins, giving him a playful rub on the head. "Oh, you say that now, but someday they'll be all over you!"

Nemo started laughing as well and wriggled out of Marlin's grip. "Catch me if you can!" he cried, swimming away as fast as he could.

"You asked for it!" Marlin called back and swam after him at top speed.

That night, Nemo lay beside his father inside the anemone they called home. He was supposed to be sleeping, but his mind was too busy to let him. It kept drifting back to his thoughts from earlier that day, the thoughts about the mother he never knew.

Frustrated, the little clownfish rolled over on his other side and squeezed his eyes closed as tightly as he could. He was tired, and he wanted to sleep. He tried listening to the sounds of the ocean moving around him, the constant rushing of water flowing through rocks and coral. This would usually lull him to sleep, but tonight it was different. He became more and more alert with each sound, until finally he was completely awake.

Finally, Nemo gave up trying to sleep and lifted himself up. He didn't know what time it was but he knew it was late. It was still dark outside, and beams of moonlight shone down through the water above, creating bright, shifting patterns on every surface. Except for the sound of waves, the reef was completely silent. The anemone seemed bigger and emptier then before. For all Nemo knew, he was the only fish in the entire ocean.

A soft snore caught him by surprise. He looked down and saw his father sleeping peacefully beside him, his gills opening and closing in a regular rhythm. Nemo watched him for a while and once again began to wonder.

His dad had to know something about his mom. After all, she was his mate, right? But why hadn't he ever spoken about her? Could he tell his dad what was on his mind? Ask him his questions? At the very least he had to try. The questions would never leave him alone if he didn't.

Nemo cleared his throat. "Dad," he whispered. "Dad, are you awake?"

No answer. He lifted his left fin and nudged him gently. "Dad, wake up!" he whispered a bit louder.

Marlin groaned and opened one eyelid halfway. "Nemo?" he said groggily. "What is it?"

"I have to talk to you about something." Nemo whispered.

"Couldn't it wait until sunrise?" Marlin whined.

"Dad, it's important!" Nemo insisted.

Marlin groaned again and lifted himself up, rubbing his eyes sleepily. "Okay, okay, I'm awake now." He finished the sentence with a wide yawn. "So, what's so important that it couldn't wait 'til morning?"

Nemo looked down at the floor of the anemone and shifted uncomfortably, feeling both guilty for waking his dad up and nervous about what he wanted to say. "Well," he began. "It's about mom."

Marlin blinked again, this time in surprise. Nemo took this as a sign that he was listening and continued. "All my friends have moms, and Mr. Ray says that everybody needs a mom to be born." he went on, still looking at the floor and feeling very awkward. "But I don't remember ever having a mom. You never said anything about her before, either."

It was Marlin's turn to feel guilty now. "So," Nemo went on. "I was just wondering if, maybe, you could tell me what happened to her." He looked up at him, a look of mixed hope and nervousness on his little face.

Marlin didn't know what to do. He had always known that someday he would have to tell his son the truth, but he always wished that the day would be much later, a day when Nemo was mature enough to understand. Yet Marlin had learned that life rarely let things happen the way he wanted them to, and this was no exception.

"Nemo," he said. "I'm sorry, but . . . I can't."

The hope left Nemo's face and he looked down at the floor again dejectedly.

"It's not that I don't think you deserve to know what happened." Marlin said quickly. "It's just that . . . well, I don't think you're ready yet."

Nemo continued to stare at the floor. "I knew you'd say something like that." he said sadly.

Guilt struck Marlin's heart once again. He had disappointed his son, the person he cared for the most in the whole world. But he had made the right decision, hadn't he? Nemo was too young to understand what had happened to his mother. Even Marlin wasn't sure he understood it himself. But she was Nemo's mother, and at the very least he should know who she was.

Marlin took a deep breath. It was now or never. "Well," he began. "I guess I could tell you a little bit about her."

Nemo looked up at him, his face bright with happiness. "Really?"

Marlin smiled at him. "Yes." he said. "Go ahead. Ask me anything you want to know."

Nemo thought for a moment, trying to decide which question to ask first. At last he came to a decision. "What was her name?"

"It was Coral." Marlin replied.

"Coral." Nemo repeated, and smiled. "That's a nice name. What was she like?"

"She was wonderful." Marlin replied, starting to smile himself. As he spoke, he began to remember more and more details about his former wife, and a sort of nostalgic happiness began to set in over him. "She had the sweetest smile and the most beautiful eyes I'd ever seen. Did I ever tell you that you look just like her?"

"No."

"Well, you do. She had a nice laugh, too. The kind of laugh that makes you feel like laughing too."

Nemo's smile began to fade. "She sounds so nice. I wish I could've known her."

Marlin wrapped one fin around his son hoping to comfort him. "I wish you could've known her, too. But she loved you a lot, even when you were still an egg. And you know what else?"

Nemo looked up at his father questioningly. "What?"

"She was the one who named you 'Nemo.'" Marlin explained, then grinned crookedly. "I wanted to name you 'Marlin Jr.' Don't you think that's a great name?"

Nemo giggled. "Nah. I like 'Nemo' better."

"Oh, you do, huh?" Marlin said, and began tickling the boy. "What, does 'Marlin Jr.' sound too dorky for ya? Does it? Does it?"

Nemo couldn't answer because he was laughing too hard, squirming around and trying to get away as Marlin chased him. They soon grew tired, though, as they were still sleepy, and sank back down to the anemone's floor again. They stayed there for a while, panting from the chase and giggling softly.

At last Nemo spoke up again, looking and sounding serious. "Do you miss her, dad?"

Marlin looked over at him, a sad smile on his face. "Yes." he replied.

"What happened to her?" Nemo asked.

"I think you'll have to wait a little longer to hear that part." Marlin said vaguely.

Nemo pouted and made a small whining noise. "But why?"

"Because it's late, and you've got school tomorrow, and you're still not old enough yet." Marlin explained. "Don't worry, son. I'll tell you all about it soon enough."

Nemo quirked one small eyebrow skeptically. "You promise?"

Marlin nodded. "I promise."

The boy stared at him a bit longer, then stuck out his small, underdeveloped right fin. "Swear it on the lucky fin!" he said.

Marlin gave it a playful slap with his own right fin, sealing the deal. "There! Now," he continued, being parental again. "It's time to get back to sleep."

Nemo pouted again but obeyed, snuggling up against his father's scaly body. "Dad?"

Marlin glanced at him sideways. "Yeah?"

Nemo beamed at him. "Thanks."

Marlin beamed back and wrapped his right fin around Nemo's small body. "No problem." he replied. "Good night."

"G'night." the boy whispered back, and closed his eyes.

The End