Words in italics indicate character thoughts, introspective narration, or flashbacks.

Disclaimer: I don't own The Land Before Time.

As I've said in my previous month's entry, trying out a fanfiction prompt challenge is new territory for me. In fact, this story actually predates Scrambled Eggs since I had started writing it even before starting up last month's entry. So if you want to be specific, this is technically my first foray into the GOF Fanfic Challenge.

The key factor for me joining in for this was actually the prompt itself. Hoo boy, the instant I laid my eyes on this prompt, I already knew in my heart that this was going to be a good one and hence would be a completely wasted opportunity if I didn't write for it.

Anyway, I'm going to go out on a limb and predict ahead of time that this specific topic will be a very popular prompt to write for. So without further ado, the Gang of Five forum's fanfiction prompt challenge for the month of August 2018 is: "Goodbyes are never easy. Write a story about a parting."

Five Stages of Grief

Just how does one cope with a tragedy? When an individual is hit with an event which rocks their world, how would they react? Surprisingly, there is a framework which predicts exactly just that — the Kübler-Ross model, more colloquially known as the Five Stages of Grief.

The model predicts that there are five stages of grief that an individual often goes through as they face the trials and tribulations that come with what they perceive to be a disastrous event. These five stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally… acceptance.

Stage 1: Denial

Denial of a tragedy at hand is a natural coping mechanism for many. If a person chooses not to believe the catastrophic events that had just taken place and would rather live in their own preferable reality… could you really blame them?

Pure unadulterated shock. That perfectly encapsulated the essence of what the young swimmer was currently feeling after today.

It all seemed so surreal. Nothing made any sense to Ducky. Perhaps if she'd had some sort of advance warning, then maybe she would have been able to better prepare herself.

But alas, Ducky had no such luck. The swimmer hadn't seen it coming in the slightest. After all, how was she supposed to know or remotely foresee that an innocuous statement would end up leading to complete and utter catastrophe? That was the equivalent of swimming down a river and suddenly ending up at a waterfall after rounding the next corner.

"The spiketails leaving the Great Valley!"

That was what Petrie had announced to Ducky as he shook her awake. Mere seconds later, the poor flyer pretty much had to squirm out of Ducky's vice-like grip, one that was debatably stronger than that of a sharptooth's closed jaw.

Ducky was an easy dinosaur for others to read. The hadrosaur didn't make it a secret that she had personal issues with the spiketail herd. Her irritated huffs and agitated behavior while around them made that obvious to even the most unobservant hatchling.

It had all started when a group of spiketails came to the Great Valley. That in itself would normally not cause any problems, but the herd's arrival had opened up a rift between her and her adoptive brother, Spike, who began to hang out more with his own species, even to the point where he began to neglect his former friends.

Well, two could play at that game. From that point on, Ducky and her friends began to act as though everything was alright. Like the good ol' status quo that they used to have before the spiketails had arrived was still intact. Even as Spike spent more and more of his time being around a young spiketail named Tippy, the gang chose to keep quiet and not force him back into their games.

But none was more adamant about this issue than Ducky. She flat-out ignored Spike, pretending that the issue didn't exist by dancing around it the exact same way she would swim around oncoming water greens while diving into the fast water.

More than once she had found herself wishing that Tippy and the other spiketails would leave and things would be back to normal. But little did Ducky suspect that she was going to get her wish in a most unexpected way. Her joy and subsequent "yep, yep, yep!" upon hearing Petrie's statement turned into complete and utter horror a few moments later.

It was an argument brought forth by Cera's father—by now the argument part was no surprise, at least—that had ultimately instigated and led to the grand climax of disaster.

"But if he's so smart, then why didn't he know that the white ground sparkles brought such cold with them that it killed all the food! Why didn't he warn us to store away some treestars until warmer weather?" The gray threehorn glared with annoyed eyes at his target. "I thought everybody said that he's been everywhere, knows everything? Quite frankly, I'm rather disappointed with this blowhard considering his title."

In retrospect, it was obvious that Topps would target down the resident teacher of the valley, the dinosaur who had forecast that there was nothing to be worried about regarding the Cold Time, and was now being proven very wrong. But that argument was inconsequential to Ducky. What no one else was able to foresee however, was the second disaster that the incorrect prediction of the Cold Time brought with it…

The departure of the spiketails.

Tippy's mother had said the previous day that the herd was contemplating staying due to the Great Valley having a consistent supply of green food, but what no one had counted on was the weather turning for the worse and burying the valley's food supply under three feet of white ground sparkles. Hence, her opinion was overruled by the spiketail herd's leader after Topps had unintentionally announced out loud to all of them in his spat that every last treestar was gone after the previous night's cold spell. Even his reassurance to the spiketails, a complete one-eighty personality shift after his previous thorough scolding of the hapless valley teacher, did nothing to change their mind.

Ducky should have been jumping for joy at the turn of events. But instead, fate chose to be a cruel mistress. Thus, the swimmer soon found herself at a front row seat to an impending disaster.

"We'll be fine. We are wanderers, after all. I suppose that we all just have to accept that the lush greens of the Great Valley was nice while it lasted…"

A forlorn expression on Spike's face as Tippy's mother announced their departure was what changed everything. What was supposed to be a simple goodbye to the migratory spiketail herd became so, so much more.

Tippy's mother observed that longing look and decided to take a chance. She treaded carefully as she turned her head to gaze at the young Spike, who was playing with her son in the soft snow.

Ducky only found out the meaning of the phrase "be careful what you wish for" as she observed the scene, her heart skipping a beat as she saw the spiketail's slight movement.

"I don't quite know how to ask this of you… but would he…" Even though the spiketail trailed off, courteous and polite enough to be unwilling to finish the question, the unspoken words that were implied was very clear.

"But would he be willing to come along with Tippy and I?"

Ducky's jaw dropped as her mind mentally completed the question that Tippy's mother had posed to her own mother. Her heart filled with dread, not helped by the fact that the cold weather around her suddenly seemed so much colder. She quickly whirled towards her mother, her feet making a rough imprint on the snow as she spun around. The young swimmer then placed one of her hands by the throat to show a cutthroat signal in an effort to try and get her mother to drop the topic as abruptly as possible, manners be darned.

Unfortunately, the larger swimmer was rather distracted by her own personal thoughts and hence missed her daughter's implicit wishes. Ducky's mother, put on the spot by Tippy's mother, found herself at a loss for words. "Well, I… uh, I'm sure he wouldn't," she stumbled on her words as she answered on the mute Spike's behalf. "I mean, we're his family…" The last word was emphasized as the swimmer elongated it while twiddling her forethumbs.

And despite all that, she all but stopped her sentence when she saw Tippy and Spike licking each other with merry faces of joy on their faces. Finally, as Tippy's mother looked at her expectantly, the larger swimmer relented and drooped her head with a sigh. "I'll ask him…" the swimmer conceded as she plodded through the snow to get closer to the two young spiketails who were playing together.

"Do you want to go with them, Spike?"

She leaned her head down, asking the query in an extremely calm tone considering the subject matter, although an observer might note that her slight hesitation betrayed her true feelings. Nevertheless, the swimmer took in a deep breath, resolving not to let her personal feelings get in the way as she gazed gentle eyes down towards her adopted spiketail son.

A muffled "huh?" escaped Spike's mouth as he found himself caught in a truly epic dilemma. The dark green spiketail lumbered his head back and forth between the swimmer whom he knew for close to an entire Cold Time and his new cheery friend, the first of the same species who he'd ever had.

And to compound onto that, he could spot his dear sister Ducky out of the corner of his eye, her quivering lips alone threatening to guilt him into staying.

But if he did so… he felt as though he would never have a spiketail friend again. Sure, they might always return… but then again, they might not.

Eventually the pressure got to be a little too much for him. Spike had always been the most laidback when it came down to personality, so to have this momentous decision pounced onto his back caused him to seek a momentary escape. He achieved that by looking up to the sky as he pondered about the situation and contemplated his options.

Ducky's smile began to falter, the swimmer's body language turning apprehensive when she realized that Spike wasn't giving an immediate answer and choosing to gaze up to the sky rather dreamily. But eventually, Spike did look back down to the ground, the spiketail darting his eyes between the swimmers and the other spiketails.

"Ducky and I will understand if you do."

Ducky folded her arms, holding in a breath as she rocked back and forth nervously at her mother's reassurance to the uncertain Spike. "I did not say that…" Ducky whispered in a voice so soft that no one but herself could hear her apprehensive comment.

After an uncountable number of ground sparkles hit the ground, the answer was finally given. With a sad expression on his face as he tore his gaze away from Ducky, Spike slowly nodded his head.

"You are coming with us, Spike?" Tippy grinned, the energetic spiketail bouncing around the soft snow with unbridled joy. "Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy!"

Spike! Ducky's face was wrought with horror. Why?! You would not… leave me… would you?

The swimmer stretched an arm out helplessly towards her adoptive brother, before letting her hand go slack when she realized that it was a futile effort. "B-B-But…" she found herself physically unable to finish her sentence as she saw her brother hesitantly but determinedly walk off towards Tippy and the spiketails… his new family.

"Ducky, my dear…" her mother looked at her with a solemn expression.

Petrie offered a wing to console his friend when he realized just how distraught Ducky would be. "You okay, Ducky?"

"Hey, Ducky!" Cera cried out, her green eyes hovering on the swimmer as she directed her horn towards the spiketails. "Is it true that Spike's leaving?"

"Don't be upset, Ducky." Littlefoot remained optimistic, as the longneck always did. "I'm sure that he would be back someday."

Ducky ignored everyone's words, as well as her what visual senses was telling her. They were all talking nonsense. Spike wasn't leaving. After all, it was the truth, wasn't it? The reality of it was that her beloved Spike was not going away from the valley with a migratory spiketail herd. Nope, nope, nope!

This is not happening right now, she told herself as she stared after the leaving spiketails, unable to comprehend or perceive anything else but the departing group. She couldn't hear her mother, or Littlefoot and the others. It is all a big lie… a giant prank! It is, it is! Spike is my brother! He would never leave me. Oh, no, no, no!

It was all just a huge misunderstanding, simply put — a very bad sleep story that the swimmer had yet to wake up from. The more Ducky told that to herself, the more reassured she felt that her world wasn't crumbling to pieces around her.

A rueful look. One final bellow and tearful goodbye from Spike. Ducky simply covered her ears in response. Not happening, not happening.

She wasn't sure how long she stood there once the spiketails left. She kept telling herself that her eyes were playing tricks on her… that her mind was actively deceiving her.

It is all a prank by Cera and the others. It is, it is. I know that when I come back to the nest, Spike will be there! He will, he will! Yep, yep, yep!

The whole ordeal and subsequent denial of the situation was certainly a valiant effort on her part, but what Ducky's mind refused to process was one simple problem that grinded it all to a halt. The key problem was that her subterfuge was simply just that in the end… an act. And much like all acts and deceptions, they eventually had to come to a close. Even the most perfect of illusions would shatter into pieces when they hit their limits and cross the breaking point.

The thing about bottling up one's emotions was that it was like the equivalent of a Smoking Mountain that constantly growled, threatening to spew out hot flaming chunks of fire rock. When the threshold was reached, an eruption of intense proportions was imminent. As a threehorn, her friend Cera could attest to that feeling very well.

And with Ducky suppressing her feelings like a Smoking Mountain trying to keep itself dormant, the end result was pretty much exactly the same — the pressure rose and rose until it was finally let out in one disastrous blast, ending with devastating consequences to the ones around her as the unfortunate result.

Stage 2: Anger

But eventually, the cold truth of the situation sinks in for them. Reality reigns supreme, and it is at this point where the individual is unable to accept their world collapsing around them. The pain of loss takes over at this stage, which leads the individual to express their intense pain as feelings of anger.

Most proceed to lash out by redirecting their anger at their close friends or relatives at this point, feeling that life isn't fair. Sometimes letting loose can help to relieve their stress, but it is often at this point where relationships and friendships end up being tested.

There eventually came a point in time where Ducky could no longer ignore the cold, harsh truth.

A few hours later, the fact that her brother truly was leaving her hit the swimmer as hard as the Cold Time had hit the trees in the valley. Which is to say, very hard. Ducky didn't come away unscathed, limping away barren and cold, pretty much just like the bare treestar-less trees in the valley.

"Why, mama!?" she eventually hurled the dreaded question during the Night Circle-less night. "Why did Spike have to leave me? Why did he have to leave us? Why, why, why!?" Those words of agony were choked out of her quaking self as she shook vigorously with a mixture of hot fury and cold despair.

"Oh, precious Ducky…" Her mother leaned down to console her upset daughter. "Please do not be upset, dear. I know how you must be feeling, but you also have to understand that you have to see it from Spike's point of view as well."

"But what about me!?" she wailed, her eyes welling up with tears. "Does… does he not see how I think about this? Why would he go through with it if he know-ed that it would hurt me? I do not understand. I do not get it at all. Nope, nope, nope…"

Ducky felt her mother's arm on her shoulders, and soon heard her gentle words as well. "Now, now, Ducky. I'm sure that he didn't make this decision lightly. Spike knows that you must be broken-hearted—"

"He does?" Ducky cut in as she folded her arms, breaking out of her mother's massage and turning around to glare at her in a rare show of defiance. "I disagree with that very much! I do, I do! He looked very happy to leave the valley and be with the other spiketails. He looked very, very happy!" she sneered as her mind went back to the moment Spike had made his choice, the memory having seared itself into her long-term memory.

"Ducky…" Her mother reached out an arm to console her irate daughter, but to her surprise Ducky ran approximately ten paces forward and out of her reach.

"You had told Spike that we would see each other again before he would know it when he left us!" she yelled as she continued to run, "But that is not the truth at all, mama! You knew that it was not the truth and yet you still lied to Spike!" She stomped her foot on the snowy ground as a tear trickled down her beak. "And you also lied to me as well! You did, you did!"


"Why did you give the spiketails the choice to take Spike away from us? You could have just said no to them! You could, you could! A simple 'no, no, no' would do the trick." Ducky kicked a snow-covered pebble away in anger. "And why did you have to let him go? Why!?" She broke into sobs, unable to control her tears. "I hate you, mama! I hate you!"

"Come back, dear!" The yells for her daughter eventually subsided when Ducky ran out of the nest, the larger swimmer ceasing her cries when she came to the conclusion that her daughter was in need of some space to cool off. The pitter-patter of Ducky's footsteps against the soft snow got softer and softer as the swimmer ran further and further.

"I hope you understand, Ducky. His choice was hard on all of us… not just you," she said to herself, struggling to maintain her own composure. With a sigh, the hunched mother headed back into her warm nest that had the remainder of her children within.

"Mama?" one of her sons called out to her as she walked back in from the entrance of their home. Just from a single glance at the worried expression plastered firmly on his face, she knew that he'd heard everything that transpired. The tense body language that the yellowish-green swimmer held—slouching in a manner rather synonymous to that of defeat—also hinted to it as well. The worry he had for his older sister was clear in his very posture, her outburst earlier having sent him spiraling into a depressed mood even though he was simply a bystander in the chaos.

"What is it, Delta?" His mother propped her tail down on the ground, feeling the mushy white substance cushion her. "I take it from your expression that you heard our conversation?"

A wag of his tail showed his slight hesitation before he continued. "Yeah, I overheard you and Ducky talking 'bout Spike." There was no point in denying it when his all-knowing mother had already figured it out. "But mom… will Ducky be okay? I've never seen sis this upset before! Never in my entire life, not even when she'd come back after the Sharptooth incident!"

His observation was apt. Everyone in their family knew that gentle little Ducky would never hurt a buzzer, so for their oldest sibling to lose her temper and lash out at their mother was a scenario that was practically unheard of. It was something which was very unprecedented, Ducky's recent outbursts being something which scared everyone in their family to its very core.

"Oh, Delta. Your elder sister is currently going through some very difficult times. Surely you must know that Ducky loves Spike very much."

"Well, so do I!" Delta replied indignantly, the young swimmer not willing to let his mother shoot down his argument without a fight. "And you can count Spring and Oxbow in as well! We all treat him as family! But she's taking it so much harder than any of us!" He closed his aquamarine eyes as he placed a palm to his forehead, exhausted. "I feel bad for sis. If you're unable to cheer her up and lift her spirits, then I don't think any of us can. Ducky's going to need all the support she can get, mom…"

I hate to admit it, even to myself, the larger swimmer thought. But my son's right. My precious Ducky's definitely going to need all the help that she can get to pull her through this tough time.

A tumultuous look crossed her face. Ducky always had been exceptionally close to Spike, and to have that bond between them severed so suddenly… it was no wonder that the good nature in her daughter was being suppressed and replaced by boiling anger as an instinctive response to the turn of events.

The best that she could hope for was that Ducky would eventually recover and let her usual perky personality shine through in the end. She and her children would support her all the way to ensure that Ducky returned back to her usual self.

She'd make sure of that.

She hated the spiketail herd for coming to the valley and ruining the status quo between them.

She hated the stupid cold weather.

She hated everything.

She hated everyone.

Ducky let out a wistful sigh as those vicious thoughts ran through her mind. She didn't even know that it was possible for a gentle swimmer like her to harbor such intense feelings of anger. The feeling felt like simmering fire boiling in her belly, a rather stark contrast to the cold all around her.

As she dragged her feet through the formerly green plains of the valley, she felt nothing but emptiness. There was nary a soul in sight out there in the barren fields.

The despair was soul-crushing, almost giving Ducky the feeling of diving very deep into a body of water and feeling the pressure from the liquid all around closing in on her from all sides. It was a claustrophobic, depressing feeling of grief that was indescribable to anyone unless they've been through it themselves.

What had truly hurt Ducky the most about this whole ordeal was the fact that Spike had agreed to go off and join the spiketail herd on his own accord. This separation between brother and sister had been instigated by him and him alone! It wasn't like a sharptooth attack beyond Ducky's control had been what had taken her brother away from her. Spike himself had full autonomy over the situation, and he himself was the one who had pulled the plug on his relationship with his adoptive swimmer sister.

How… how could he? How could he!?

Ducky tightly closed her beak shut, holding her breath so that she was able to puff up her cheeks and thus show her irritation in as threatening a manner as the hadrosaur was physically able to, even though it was a move that would probably ironically end up eliciting more laughs than any other emotion from any onlookers—if they were actually out here—since she just looked plain silly while doing it.

She was so engrossed with her act that she didn't look at where she was going and ran straight into the knee of a larger dinosaur as a result. Landing back on her tail with a whump and shaking her head to re-orientate herself, the swimmer looked up to see just who she had hit.

"Mr. Thicknose?" Ducky quipped as she tilted her head, recognizing the aged dinosaur in front of her. "What are you doing way out here in this cold?"

"I for one echo your sentiments. In fact, I believe that I can throw the exact same question back to you, Ducky." His voice seemed weaker from the boisterous one he used in his lessons. It was probably Topps' harsh tirade in front of every single valley resident that led to his current downcast mood.

Ducky huffed, folding her arms as she refused to answer Thicknose's question. Silence reigned supreme as student and teacher looked at each other, with the only noise around the two made from the gusts of winds surrounding them.

Finally, the swimmer was the first to break the melancholy. "You are upset too, are you not? I can see it in your eyes, Mr. Thicknose. I can, I can." Those eyes, once full of bright passion and brimming with excitement whenever he recited the teachings of a lesson, were now dull and jaded, almost as cold as the Cold Time itself… almost as gray as his body.

It was at that moment that Ducky pondered a curious thought. What did her own eyes look like? Hard water was not as good as regular water in terms of providing reflections, so she hadn't had a chance to catch her image yet. But if she were to venture a guess… she almost wanted to say that her expression probably mirrored Mr. Thicknose's.

Caught out by the young swimmer, Mr. Thicknose could only exhale a sigh, his breath frosting up in the air as he did so. "You got me, Ducky. I'm afraid that all your parents gave me a rather harsh talking-to after this whole ground sparkle mess."

"Oh, do you mean when Littlefoot was talking to you about the falling white stuff and you chose to dismiss him?"

Another sigh as the larger dinosaur looked away. "Yes. It is about that." Thicknose appeared to have aged a good five years at Ducky's remark. He appeared as though he had been coerced to admit his folly, his facial expression contorted in a manner that looked like he had to physically force those words from his mouth.

Ducky folded her arms. Normally, if she was in a better mood, she would cheer him up. But since she was currently feeling down and in dire need of a way to release her anger…

"Well, I think that it serves you right for being such a stick-in-the-mud." Ducky didn't hold back with her words, remembering the many, many times that she'd gotten in trouble with Mr. Thicknose thanks to Spike. "In my personal opinion, you deserve to be wrong for once after always acting so high and mighty and scolding me during your lesson all the time! You do, you do!"

Her accusatory tone struck Thicknose like a bolt of sky fire. His face fell harder than ever before, the elderly dinosaur looking down towards the snow on the ground — the very same white ground sparkles which had utterly trounced his career and reputation. He futilely tried to defend himself as he gazed down to a furious Ducky, "Bu-bu-but—"

Ducky continued on, deflecting Thicknose's miserable excuse of a rebuttal by interrupting him before he could spit any words out. "Oh, but I honestly do not mind the scolding. It is nothing at all compared to the next thing I am about to say." She paused, taking in a deep breath before shouting right at Thicknose's face.

"The truth is that I think that you are a terrible teacher, Mr. Thicknose!"

Thicknose took a step back, stunned both by her words and her angered tone of voice. "Wh-what?" he eventually managed to stutter, "Du-Ducky… is that really how you feel about me?"

"Yep, yep, yep. That is what I think about you. Cera's dad was absolutely right. You are a very bad teacher! You are, yes you are," she emphasized as Thicknose visibly winced. "You say that you have been everywhere and you have seen everything but yet you let this happen. If you really knew everything, then why would you be so horrible and let the cold ruin all the treestars? Why would you, Mr. Thicknose!?"

"B-b-but Ducky… I never wanted this to happen! I never wanted any of this to happen!" Thicknose cried out in a pained voice, shaking his head vehemently. "How was I supposed to know that Littlefoot would be right about the white sparkles? It was just one minor mistake… one minor mistake…" He repeated those last three words with a weak voice, in a manner that made it seem almost as though he didn't believe them himself.

Sure enough, Ducky was able to catch the hesitation in his voice. Sensing that moment of weakness, she went straight for the kill, not showing any mercy to Thicknose in the same way that Spike wouldn't show any mercy to a hapless treestar bush. "Well, if you ask me, I do not think that it was an honest mistake. Nope, nope, nope." Her arms on her hips, she stared Thicknose down as she delivered her verdict. "It was because you did not know anything about the white ground sparkles, did you?"

Thicknose let out a gasp, before looking down to the white ground and exhaling a deep sigh of air which quickly frosted up in the frigid air. From the movement alone, Ducky knew that her Pointy Seed had hit the mark.

Although if that was indeed the case, it meant that the great Mr. Thicknose, master of the lands and terrains, the one who'd "been everywhere, knows everything"… didn't really know everything.

The swimmer was struck dumbfounded by the realization. It was frankly unbelievable, the phenomenon akin to witnessing the fall of an idol. If this had been any other occasion or any other dinosaur who had found out, it would have been the scandal of the valley.

But as things stood now, Ducky was just numb with shock and rising anger. Now the fog from her mind had lifted and everything all became clear to her. Thicknose's constant reassurance to everyone in the valley that he did know everything had lasting repercussions.

In fact, she realized with horror that it played a key factor in Spike's departure.

"Hmph!" The swimmer folded her arms, not letting up on Thicknose as she proceeded to speak everything that was on her mind. "So you truly did not know about this at all. But that is the real reason that the spiketails left the valley. You not knowing about the white ground sparkles was what caused all of this to happen in the first place!"

"But… I knew about… ah, who am I kidding…" Thicknose sighed once he realized that he couldn't even defend his honor against a child. "I… didn't know…" he finally admitted out loud.

Hearing those words, Ducky's fists clenched up. She then firmly locked her blue eyes with Mr. Thicknose's as she launched herself into a tirade. "Well, if you had known about it then maybe we could have stored some green food, and then the spiketails would not have to leave the valley and take-ed Spike with them. It is all your fault, Mr. Thicknose! It is, it is!" The harsh accusation rang out across the empty plains, Ducky letting a few hot tears stream down her face as she completed her rant.

"I… I see… I'm so sorry you feel… this way, Ducky." Thicknose choked on his words, his face completely wrought with guilt as the swimmer's speech reverberated about in his mind. "I… know that I've been a t… ter… terrible teacher—" he had to struggle to spit out those words, "—to all of you young'uns. I guess I really know nothing after all. Please, Ducky… tell the valley that I'm sorry. I can't face them myself…" He blinked his eyes rapidly, looking almost as though he was ready to sob. Before Ducky can say anything more, Thicknose broke into a run, ploughing through the snow.

"Um, Mr. Thicknose?" she called out to the retreating tutor. "Where are you going? Wait… come back!"

He ignored the swimmer as he continued to sprint away. It was blatantly clear now that her emotional outburst appeared to have humbled him greatly. A muffled, "I'm sorry!" was all Ducky managed to hear from Thicknose over the blistering cold winds.

"I did not really mean that…" she finally muttered to herself when she could no longer see him.

Okay, perhaps she was lying to herself. She did mean those words, every last one of them. After the trials that she'd gone thorough, she felt that she was entitled and justified to let a little bit of anger loose towards Mr. Thicknose.

That being said, she hadn't wanted him to run off from her. Furthermore, the way that Mr. Thicknose had run away was so reminiscent of Spike leaving that if she thought about it for another minute more, she would probably get angry all over again.


Ducky perked up at the familiar voice, looking up to see a brown flyer struggling against the winds up above. "Petrie? Is that you?" she murmured as the flyer in question plopped his feet onto the soft ground as he landed five feet in front of her.

"Brrrrr! Me wings very colddd!" Petrie shivered as he trudged towards the swimmer, almost getting stuck in the heavy snow a few times. "You still okay, Ducky?" he asked. "You upset about Spike?"

The swimmer's face fell in an instant.

"You are asking me if I am upset about Spike?" Ducky visibly bristled as she vented about the spiketail. "Well, of course I am! How can I not be upset at him? Spike chose to go! He went, went, went!" she yelled, thrusting her arms up with every iteration of the word 'went'. "And now he has left me alone here… all alone…" she sniffed, choking on the final word.

"Ohhhh… it okay, Ducky. Me know how you're feeling…"

Those reassuring words by Petrie, meant to soothe the distraught swimmer and calm her down, unfortunately had the exact opposite effect on Ducky than what the flyer had intended. "You know how I am feeling?" Ducky spat back in a sarcastic tone, one that was very unlike the usual jovial one that the hadrosaur always carried around her.

"U-uh… yes?" Petrie responded in an uncertain voice, not quite used to Ducky speaking to him in a manner that was very Cera-like. He had approached the swimmer expecting Ducky, not Cera!

"No!" Ducky shouted, her voice reverberating across the clearing. "You are wrong, Petrie! You are, you are!" At that double affirmation, the swimmer stormed forward, causing the nervous Petrie to back away with every step that she took towards him. "You do not know how I am feeling right now at all, so do not lie to me and pretend that you do!" she lectured Petrie with a hardened edge to her voice, shutting down the flyer before he even had a chance to get a squeak out of his beak.

Eventually though, Petrie managed to overcome his shock at Ducky's retort. "D-Ducky!" he squawked in a panicked tone, "W-W-W-Wait! Me don't—"

"Go away, Petrie!" the hadrosaur yelled over the concerned Petrie, lashing out at one of her best friends. "I do not want to be seeing or hearing you right now! Nope, nope, nope!" Her usual triple refutation even seemed unusually threatening, with Ducky stomping forward with every 'nope' that she hissed out.

"Please, Ducky!" he begged, "Me know you angry, but please don't take it out on Petrie!"

Ducky sneered in an unusual display of meanness, knowing that Petrie was going to be stubborn to the very end. In a rare loss of self-control, she raised her voice to a level that almost matched Cera on one of the threehorn's nastier days. "I said… LEAVE ME ALONE!" she screamed at Petrie, her mind too hazy to think straight.

"Du-Ducky?" Petrie stuttered, stumbling and falling on his back as his beak fell open in surprise from her outburst.

Seeing that Petrie was still hesitant to leave, the swimmer proceeded to let loose a whole flurry of insults in the hopes that one of them finally would get the emotional flyer away from her. "What part of 'go away' do you not understand?!" Ducky fumed, "Ohhhh… you are a stupid flyer! You are a beakbrain! You are, Petrie, yes you are!" she yelled out, angrily flailing her arms about in an effort to shoo the flyer away.

Petrie's beak quivered at Ducky's verbal onslaught, his uncertain eyes unable to meet hers as the flyer visibly began to tremble in the white ground sparkles that were scattered across the ground. "M-Me see… me think… me guess now not good time to talk?" He clamped his beak shut when Ducky shot him an icy glare at his rhetorical question.

"Petrie…" she hissed his name, spitting out drops of saliva as her face contorted with anger. She reached down to the ground, scooping up white ground sparkles from the ground in her hands and launching the resultant snowball at the flyer.

"Oof!" cried Petrie as Ducky's snowball hit him right smack in the middle of his head. After a slight pause, he hesitantly used a wing to wipe the slushy substance off his face, the flyer staring at the snow on his wing as though he couldn't believe what his friend had just done to him.

Seeing Petrie too stunned to move, Ducky squatted down to collect more ground sparkles and prepared to launch another projectile at him. "PETRIE!" she snapped as she held her right arm with a clumped snowball up high, "JUST LEAVE ME ALONE ALREADY! GET OUT OF MY SIGHT!"

"O-Okay!" Petrie hurriedly exclaimed when Ducky looked ready to lash out at him again. "Me get it, Ducky! Me gonna go now!" he yelped, blinking back tears threatening to fall from the corner of his eyes. Taking one last look at the fuming swimmer, he hesitantly flapped his wings and took off into the dark skies above.

As Petrie soared away, Ducky was once again left alone, with only the falling white ground sparkles to keep the lonely swimmer company.

She sadly shook her head and continued to walk across the snowy plains of the valley, trying to find any meagre trace of a spiketail who was no longer here.

That was how her family found her later that night. The frantic swimmers had hunted the valley high and low for their missing daughter, before they finally managed to locate Ducky lying down next to a riverbank, the young hadrosaur having exhausted herself to sleep.

Stage 3: Bargaining

Bargaining is the stage where the individual reflects upon everything that had happened to them. A temporary escape can be sought after as they often make try to deals at this point to end up in a better situation than their current one.

An individual at this point often asks themselves multiple 'what if' statements, grasping onto the strings of fate while wondering what it could have been like had they made a different choice…

About a cold time ago…

"This is our new brother Spike!" Ducky happily declared to her parents as she jumped onto Spike's back.

"B-but, my dear Ducky… he's a spiketail!" Her mother gently admonished, correcting what she perceived to be her daughter's naïveté.

But to the elder swimmer's surprise, Ducky shook her head, revealing that she was already well aware of the gap between their species. "I know that. I do, I do. But that does not matter to me at all… nope, nope, nope! I do not care that he is a spiketail. Oh, no, no, no!" the young hadrosaur declared in a firm voice, before clasping her hands together and looking at her mother with the most pleading eyes that she could muster up. "So can we adopt him, mama? Can we, can we? Pretty please?!"

"Well, Shoal?" Ducky's father looked at his mate expectantly, his eyes hovering down towards his swimmer daughter and the half-submerged spiketail absentmindedly gazing about at the multitude of swimmer younglings surrounding him. "What do you think we should do about this spiketail?"

Seeing that her mate had pushed the burden of making the final decision over to her as stealthily as a fast biter ambush, the female swimmer lowered her head down to nuzzle her precious little Ducky. As mother and daughter embraced each other tenderly, she took a closer look at the spiketail with gentle, loving eyes.

"I say we adopt him. Why not?" she replied her mate. Ducky gasped at her response with pleasant surprise, before letting out a merry cheer at her mother's approval of her suggestion. Seeing her daughter's happy mood at her affirmation, Shoal quickly went on to justify her decision to her mate, "I mean, it's the very least we could do after our ancestors from above blessed us with the return of our Ducky!"

Ducky's father sniggered at her answer. "Well, it's not like I can argue with your logic, my dear…" he grumbled in a not-so-humble voice while making circular motions with his arms that matched his rolling eyes.

"Hah! Glad to see that you know your place. You are free to try as hard as you can, but you'll never beat me in a verbal fight as long as I live!" Shoal placed her hands on her hips as she smirked, taunting her mate in a rare display of childlike cheekiness. However, the swimmer quickly dropped her mischievous demeanor when she remembered that her children were still around, and it would be disastrous if they decided to emulate their mother in this regard.

Looking back down to the two younglings in the water, Shoal proceeded to gently press her snout against the young spiketail, with Spike reciprocating the gesture as his new sister Ducky looked on at the scene, her young face beaming with pure joy.

"Welcome to our family, Spike." Shoal spoke to the spiketail with a loving voice, making sure to use the same sort of tone that she would use to tuck her own children in at night.

"Yep, yep, yep! Welcome to my family!" Ducky echoed after her mother, grinning from ear to ear as she leaned down from her spot on Spike's back to nuzzle affectionately against his head. Spike let out a cheery grunt as both females nuzzled him, the spiketail very clearly content with this turn of events.

"It looks like you are now my new younger brother, Spike!" Ducky proclaimed as she excitedly pumped her fist up into the air, "You are, yes you are! Hee hee hee!"

And thus, a family of four children became one that consisted of five younglings. Four young swimmers and a spiketail.

That had been one of the best moments of Ducky's life — the day that she and her friends had put an end to the threatening Sharptooth and subsequently discovered the Great Valley, finally putting an end to the turmoil and uncertainty that she'd had to live with during the early days of her life. In addition, her mother and father also agreeing to adopt Spike and take the spiketail into their family to join alongside Ducky and her three siblings was pretty much adding even more sweetness to the tree sweets, making the occasion even more joyous and dear to the swimmer's heart.

But right now, all her memories of that joyous occasion seemed bitter and tainted with the recent revelations. As her mind reluctantly brought her out of her past and back to the harsh reality of the present, Ducky solemnly gazed her eyes over to the howling blizzard that was outside of their home, with one dominant thought lingering on her mind.

Just where had it all gone so wrong?

Ducky considered herself the opposite of one would call a complex creature. As such, she always followed one simple personal rule in life. The swimmer's belief was one that could not really be argued against — she held the firm opinion that there was always a reason to everything that was happening in the world around her.

For instance, the reason that she positively loved to say her catchphrases was because she was used to mentioning them ever since she was a young hatchling, which as a result, had led to her never outgrowing them. The reason that she was the best swimmer out of her siblings was because she always practiced swimming in bodies of water whenever she was free, giving her an edge over some of the lazier swimmer younglings. The reason she and her friends had always beat the numerous sharptooth during their adventures was due to them working as a team.

But this, however, had differed from the norm. Call her blind, but Ducky could not see any clear reason as to why the cruel strings of fate had to take Spike away from her. Even though her mama and Tippy's mother had justified the reasoning to her, she was still unable to perceive the rationale behind Spike's eventual decision.

Oh, Spike… Ducky thought solemnly to herself as a single tear slid down her face. Why did you choose to leave with the spiketail herd? I mean, I sort of know why, but was the Tippy-no, sorry, tipping point because of something that I did-ed wrong? Did you feel that I had forced you into our family? Did doing that made you mad deep inside when you wanted to be with other spiketails… instead of me?

As the harsh blizzard continued to howl outside her home, Ducky found herself missing all the little things about Spike — small little habits that the spiketail had, habits that the swimmer basically committed to memory after living with him over the past year.

She missed the way that he would longingly gaze at his food, before ruthlessly snatching away anything that could momentarily sate his eternal hunger. She missed the manner that he always behaved in whenever he was munching on a mouthful of treestars, the spiketail making sure to savor the taste of the leaves for as long as he possibly can. She missed him using his tongue to lick her in an affectionate manner. She missed his deep violet, dopey eyes that sometimes made it seem like he wasn't physically in the valley, but rather up in the stars above. She even missed his usual sleep rumbles, since now with Spike gone, the dead silence that had descended upon the nest with his absence suddenly felt so eerie and out of place.

It was funny how things worked… simple, pure irony at its finest. After living with the spiketail for so long, those were the little things that Ducky had admittedly taken for granted. As a result, she hadn't realized what it was like to lose Spike's little quirks until his presence was no longer felt, at which point the hadrosaur began to actively long for them again.

"Please do not leave me, Spike! I know that I haven't been the best sister to you lately, but I promise that if you stay here with me, I will never complain or get mad about your eating or your sleep rumbles ever again. Nope, nope, nope! So please, Spike!" Ducky pleaded as her voice turned desperate, the swimmer looking up to the gray sky outside from the comfort of her mother's nest.

Dead silence.

No slushy tongue licking her awake. No loud burps after meals. No having her dinner stolen from right under her nose, with the culprit for the crime being an overeager spiketail.

She couldn't stand it. She just couldn't stand it.

"Please… do not leave me by myself… I do not want to say goodbye to Spike!" Ducky looked down at her lap with a forlorn expression, her vision going misty yet again. "Nope, nope, nope! I do not want to do that…"

Because if she relented and choose to say goodbye… that would mean that she herself has accepted that Spike had truly done gone and left her. Ducky couldn't bring herself to do that. She literally could not physically bring herself to sever her ties with her adoptive brother.

Her belief that he would return, however slim it might be, was the only thing still keeping her hopeful. It was a miniscule chance, about as small as a treestar that only managed to avoid fluttering away in the blowing wind by hanging onto the tree branch solely from its thin stalk alone…

…but however small it was, there was still a chance. That was why Ducky had held steadfast amidst all the bitter tears. That was why she continued to hold on to that ever-so-slight chance that Spike would break free from the spiketails and return home. Because there was still a chance. There was still hope — the same hope of the Bright Circle appearing over the skies and melting all the cold snow away.

If only Spike would return and be that ray of sunshine that melted her frosty heart. The depressed, begging hadrosaur would give anything for that.


Stage 4: Depression

After adamantly denying about the tragedy of a situation, lashing out at it, misdirecting their thoughts and bargaining about it, at this stage… reality finally sinks in.

But the cold, hard truth that is their new reality often hurts like hell.

Often a times, many spiral into feelings of true despair. While many struggle to cope at this stage, there are a few select individuals who are pushed to the very brink of their mental limits. These people end up relishing the darkness, letting those brooding thoughts enter and take control of their minds like a parasite.

With the seeds of doubts planted, those individuals often have their judgements swayed, to the point that they even think of ending it all…

"Me think Ducky not happy."

Cera rolled her eyes at Petrie blurting out what he thought was an astute observation, whereas in reality it was a blatantly obvious statement. "Well, duh! Of course Ducky's not happy!" the threehorn snorted. "In other surprising news, the Bright Circle always rises from the same direction every day!" she said with as much sarcasm as she could draw in a single breath, which for Cera… was a lot.

A surprised Petrie tilted his head, his beak dropping. "I-It does?"

"Of course it does, ya nitwit!" Cera yelled, losing her temper as her joke flew over Petrie's head like a Pointy Seed arcing over a longneck. "Come on, Petrie! You're a flyer! Of all of us, you should be the one who know this kind of stuff! It's not like threehorns have any use for this weird information, so if I can have it memorized, then you have no excuse not to know!"

"Enough already, okay? Give Petrie a break! There's no need to be so mean to him." Littlefoot chided Cera to save the fumbling flyer from further verbal lashing. "Maybe Petrie hasn't seen the Bright Circle in a while," he pointed out. "Ever since the Cold Time began and the white ground sparkles began to fall, the Bright Circle hasn't been up at all."

"White ground sparkles, me no like!" Petrie declared, the flyer puffing his chest up. "They cold, they get on my wings, and they everywhere!"

"But you have to admit that they're different."

"Just because it's different doesn't always mean it's a good thing, Littlefoot!"

"Anyway, back on topic." Littlefoot quickly redirected the topic before Cera could derail it in a way that only a threehorn could. "Petrie's right. Ducky has not played with us ever since Spike had left the Great Valley."

"Gee, isn't that a surprise? I wonder what else could have caused Ducky to be upset recently?" Cera deadpanned, rolling her green eyes as hard as she possibly could.

"Cera!" Littlefoot scowled, offended by her blunt retort.

"But it's true, Littlefoot!" Cera held firm, brandishing her horn as she stared back at the longneck. "You know as well as I do that she's been hurting over Spike for the past few days!"

That much was certainly true. While all of the gang had been upset over Spike's decision to leave the valley, no one took it harder than Ducky. To see their formerly peppy swimmer friend spiral into a state of depression was heartbreaking.

"Well, I think that we should all just leave her alone for now." Cera's face took on a contemplative expression, the threehorn furrowing her frill. "She'll come around eventually, just give her time."

"You speaking from experience, Cera?" Petrie felt a smug smile creeping up on his beak as he threw Cera's own words back at her.

Cera grew flustered for a few seconds, before a mask of indifference quickly fell over her face. "Hmph! Whatever makes you think that of me?" she cried indignantly as Littlefoot promptly shot the proud threehorn one of his why-do-I-have-to-deal-with-this looks.

Thankfully, before Littlefoot or Petrie could shoot a retort back to the threehorn and potentially start up an argument, they were all interrupted by a caw from the sky.


The three children jolted up at the motherly voice, none more so than the one who was being called. "Mom! What you doing here!"

The dark blue flyer landed on the ground, grinning at her son. "Well, I've been looking for you, Petrie. And well, when I couldn't find you, I figured that you would be with your friends."

"Your hunch is right." Littlefoot smiled. "So what brings you here, Petrie's mom?"

"While we flyers were making our rounds, we managed to find some green food just outside the valley!" the flyer declared merrily. As her uplifting words were heard, the three children jumped for joy.


Littlefoot sighed, shaking his head with a soft smile. The longneck knew that he shouldn't have rejoiced so soon. He should have known there was a catch.

"There was something else we found." She shook her head, her beak drooping as she let out a miserable sigh. "The valley will be conducting a meeting regarding this soon, so I want all of you children to stay put over here, okay?"

All three of them perked up at the word "meeting". From multiple first-hand experience, a valley meeting was never good… especially when they weren't being invited to it.

Although she didn't notice it yet, Petrie's mother had made one fatal mistake. She should have realized that she couldn't tell the children not to do something and expect them to simply obey, and that went double for Littlefoot and his friends, who were undoubtedly the most inquisitive younglings in the entire Great Valley, bar none.

"So what meeting about?" Petrie asked, looking up at his mother.

Petrie's mother let out a groan, shifting her talons and making marks on the snow beneath her feet. "Well, you see, Petrie…"

It was almost amusing, really.

When the spiketails had first come, Ducky had completely ignored them, the swimmer not letting them have the honor of occupying a single thought in her mind. And now that they were gone, they haunted her thoughts day and night. It appeared that Tippy and the other spiketails operated on an inversely proportional thought law. The more she wanted to forget about Spike, the more Spike dominated her mind.

"Oh, I am upset," Ducky casted a despondent look as her voice echoed across the cavern. "I am, I am."

"Me know you upset, Ducky. That why me here to cheer you up!"

"P-Petrie?" Ducky's hands flew to her mouth, instinctively averting her blue eyes towards one side out of guilt as she heard the flyer and promptly saw him a few seconds later, landing himself on the ground. She fought down the panic that she felt within her when she realized that he had deliberately sought her out. Why else would he be at the swimmer's nest in this weather?

Petrie seemed reluctant to step forward, his clear hesitation feeling like a pointy stick was stabbing Ducky in her chest. She could see that the flyer was still hurting from the verbal beating she had thrown at him a while back. With a sense of guilt, she signaled Petrie to come forward. "Do not worry, Petrie. I do not bite," she bantered, "Unless you are made of treestars, that is! Tee hee!"

As Petrie chuckled and strode forward, Ducky's face turned downcast. "Why are you here, Petrie? Do you not hate me the same way that Spike does?"

"What?" Petrie squeaked a little louder than he meant to. "Me hate you? Why would me ever hate you, Ducky? We bestest friends!" the flyer declared in a firm voice.

Ducky shrugged. "Did I not yell at you a few days earlier?" she pointed out. "That is not the right way for bestest friends to treat one another, oh no no no." She moped, squatting down and placing her hands to her cheeks. "I do not deserve to be your friend, Petrie…"

Her lamenting was interrupted by a horrified squawk from Petrie. "Don't say that, Ducky! Me already forgive you!"

Ducky's eyes lit up, the swimmer getting back up. She couldn't believe her ears. "Y-You… do?" she hesitantly asked, afraid that her mind was playing tricks on her and hence requiring another confirmation from the flyer to be absolutely certain.

"Yep, yep, yep!" Petrie said, copying Ducky's catchphrase with a cheeky grin on his beak.

Ducky beamed, tears of joy falling from her face. Wiping them away with one hand, she profusely thanked her best friend. "Oh thank you, Petrie! Thank you!" The feeling of knowing that Petrie didn't despise her for what she had done to him a few days prior was like having a weight lifted off her shoulders. The swimmer had no idea how much she needed the reassurance until Petrie had given it to her.

"No mention it."

"I am sorry, Petrie." Ducky wallowed in her shame, looking down at her toes. "I am sorry for what I have done to you."

Petrie nodded, letting her know that he had accepted her hasty apology. "Oh, me sorry for flying away too." He tiptoed forward, creeping across the snow as stealthily as he could. "The thing is, me siblings always called Petrie names before, but that was first time Ducky ever call me beakbrain." Petrie let out a humored chuckle from his beak as he admitted that fact to the swimmer, before lowering his eyes to the ground and verbally backtracking when he saw Ducky flinch back from his words. "But me gotta be honest… me no know how to feel when you said that to Petrie!"

Ducky couldn't help it. The image that Petrie had painted of her viciously calling him a beakbrain was so much of a far cry from how it actually went down in reality that she had no choice but to laugh.

"But me be serious now." Petrie nervously gazed about as he encroached the topic that had gotten him pelted with a snowball the previous time. "How you feel about Spike?"

Petrie's words hit her like a frozen stick made of hard water. The previous time that she had that question posed to her, she had reacted with anger. But this time, having days to reflect on her situation, she finally decided to let loose her primal thoughts and feelings about the loss of her brother that she had kept hidden within herself for all this time.


She ran forward and gave Petrie a big hug, the only warning that the flyer got being the choked stutter that Ducky had uttered from her beak mere moments prior. "I am so very sorry for yelling at you…" Ducky sobbed into her friend's wing, embracing the flyer as she wailed. "I-It is just…" she hiccupped as she felt another fresh wave of tears coming, tears which threatened to spill from her eyes.

"There, there, Ducky…" Petrie consoled his friend, returning the embrace by wrapping his wings around her. "It gonna be okay. Just let it all out."

"It is just that… I am unable to do anything about Spike! Nope, nope, nope!" she whimpered. "No matter what I do or say, I could not make-ed Spike stay with me here in the valley. I cannot do it… it is all hopeless…"

"Ducky! Don't say that!" Petrie cried, holding up and supporting the inconsolable swimmer as her body shook. "You no alone! The reason Petrie say me know how you feel… is because like Ducky, me also lose family member as well."

"Hu-huh?" A confused Ducky managed to look up into Petrie's face.

"You no remember? How can you no remember!? It happen less than two Night Circle cycles ago!" Petrie responded in an indignant voice as he saw Ducky's baffled expression, before relaxing his stance when he remembered his friend's current mood.

"It me uncle, Pterano…"

"Your u-uncle? You mean… your uncle Pterano?" Ducky blinked tears away as she registered Petrie's words. She couldn't believe that Petrie's maternal uncle had slipped her mind. It had almost seemed like yesterday when the grandiose flyer had landed in the Great Valley and promptly made his plans for a leadership coup, one that was thankfully thwarted by her and her friends.

Ducky had tried to suppress the memory, preferring not to remember the incident. But now that Petrie had brought it up, she did remember Pterano quite well. Namely, she recalled about how the well-versed flyer had let his associates coldly kidnap her.

But then again, the same Pterano did have his reservations about kidnapping her in the end, and had also saved her from certain death when she had plummeted down from the top of a Burning Mountain. In the end, like what she had told Petrie before, Pterano was a good flyer inside… even if his uncle wasn't the best role model for Petrie to emulate.

"That right, Ducky. Uncle Pterano got banished out to Mysterious Beyond for five Cold Times…" Petrie went on to explain with softened eyes. "That why me say to Ducky back then that me also know how you feeling… since me also lose Pterano when valley grownups make decision at Rock Circle to send him away to Mysterious Beyond. Me can't see me uncle no more, just like how we can't see Spike no more either…" the flyer lamented, breaking away from their shared embrace.

Ducky approached her friend, a look of understanding crossing her face. "So you must have felt the exact same way that I feel now when your uncle had to leave, right?"

"Y-yeah…" Petrie admitted, a wistful sigh escaping his beak.

Knowing that she wasn't alone in facing a situation like this helped the swimmer so much. It gave her something that the former optimist hadn't felt a while — hope.

"So how did you cope with it?" Ducky inquired with a curious tilt of her head. She needed to know. She had to know how Petrie coped with his prickly situation.

"Petrie no know if me can explain how me feel about Uncle Pterano inside me head, but me gonna try anyway!" The flyer began to pace about, looking up to the cave ceiling in a manner that made it obvious that he was thinking hard about the topic. "When Uncle Pterano left Great Valley just like that after grownups all made him go away… me felt the same way that you do now. Me thought Great Valley was being super unfair and that Uncle Pterano should have been allowed to stay."

Petrie took in a deep breath, composing himself before he could continue. "But now… me accept it. Sure, me know that me can't see me uncle for five Cold Times. But it okay!" he affirmed with a wing in the air, although his delivery of that statement in an uncertain, shaky voice made Ducky skeptical that Petrie really thought that way. Perhaps he was just telling a lie for the sake of not dampening the mood further.

But eventually, her doubts were cleared when a sad sigh escaped Petrie's beak. "Me finally understand that what he did to you and Great Valley is wrong now, so all me can hope for is that he come back to valley after five Cold Times as better flyer… better Uncle Pterano."

There was a brief silence after Petrie concluded, the flyer bringing his wing forward and taking a small bow as he finished his story.

"Whoa… I never looked at your uncle that way before…" Ducky finally managed to mutter in awe. "Nope, nope, nope…"

At that, Petrie had a wry grin on his face, one which made it almost seem as though he had expected that comment. "Me know exactly why…" he chirped in a teasing tone, "It because Cera and Mr. Threehorn always talk bad about Uncle Pterano, huh?"

Whup. Petrie had hit the mark there. One hundred percent. Right at the bullseye.

It had never struck Ducky before this that Pterano was a real living dinosaur as well, not when everyone in the valley despised him to the point where they would prefer to see him dead. The brutalization of the flyer—of which Mr. Threehorn was the prime chieftain responsible for the project all thanks to the incident from all those years ago—caused her to view Pterano not as a person, but as an acceptable target.

As a result of that, she'd never thought much of Pterano as a flyer with feelings. Hence, she never realized how much Pterano's departure must have affected Petrie. Petrie's outcry when the adults had banished him at the Rock Circle was some indicator to the contrary, but it seemingly appeared that he had recovered quickly from it in the days after.

Evidently not.

From his words, it was clear that Petrie was still scarred by the banishment of his uncle. It wasn't obvious unless one actively looked for it, but the sense of longing and filialness towards his uncle was still there.

But in the end, Petrie had accepted his uncle's fate. He'd said it himself.

Ducky beamed at Petrie as she realized that she and her best friend had much more in common than she'd ever imagined. "Thank you so, so much, Petrie!" she said with joy. She couldn't express in words just how much Petrie's confession had affected her. If Petrie was able to get over the loss of his uncle, it gave her a real life example to follow.

Perhaps… she might be finally able to put Spike behind her.

"Yes, thank you so much for cheering my daughter up."

"E-eep! It Ducky mom!" Petrie respectfully bowed his head at the larger swimmer as she strutted forth from the back of the cave.

"Relax, Petrie." Shoal smiled gently. "There's no need to worry. I had heard everything from afar." She bowed her head before giving the two a warm smile. "But I must thank you for cheering my upset daughter up! I truly appreciate that Ducky has true friends like you and the others!" she called from the distance.

"Me just glad you happy now, Ducky." Petrie gave a smile back to Ducky before abruptly changing the topic. "Whew!" he wiped his brow, "Can you believe me was worried me gonna get more white sparkles thrown at me?"

"Then why did you come back, Petrie?"

The flyer's jovial face turned serious. "Me be honest. Me was originally gonna to give you some space. That is, until me heard news from me mom. When me hear news, me said, 'Now me made up me mind. Me gonna find Ducky at once!'"

This was certainly new information to Ducky. "News?" she prodded, "What news? I have not heard this before. Oh, no, no, no."

"It about Mr. Thicknose. Oh, it so horrible!" Petrie involuntarily shivered, beginning to stutter before he squeaked out in a horrified voice. "H-He dead now, Ducky!"

"Wh-what?" She couldn't keep the shock out of her voice at the blunt statement, her mother following suit from behind her.

Thicknose was… gone? How had that happened?

Hadn't she just seen him very much alive just a few days ago? Even though their teacher had always been agitated at her during their classes, even Ducky wouldn't go as far as to wish such a fate on him.

"How do you know that… he has gone to the Great Beyond?" Ducky finally managed to ask Petrie.

"Because it was actually my momma who found him. Mom was scouting out of valley for food when she saw him lying still below." Petrie cringed at his own words, disgusted by the mental image his mind conjured up. "He no moving. He just lying there with white ground sparkles all around him."

"That is terrible!" Ducky exclaimed. "What happened to Mr. Thicknose?"

"Broken heart. That what Mom told me he died of."

"Broken heart?" Ducky echoed after Petrie as she felt a sinking feeling within her.

"Well, Petrie's right. That was the conclusion the grownups all came to."

Ducky spun on her feet at the new voice coming from the mouth of the cave, recognizing it as belonging to her longneck friend. "Littlefoot! You are here! Yep, yep, yep!" She then looked around Littlefoot to see an apprehensive threehorn following behind him. "And Cera too!"

"Sorry that we're late," Cera panted before she shot Petrie a glare. "It only seems that we're late because Petrie's early. That flyer over there scooted off to your home first while we followed the adults to sneak to their meeting."

"There was a meeting?" Shoal muttered in a surprised voice before the remainder of Cera's words hit her ears. "And you eavesdropped on it, children!?"

"What?" Cera retorted indignantly as Ducky and Petrie tried to hush her from blowing one of their biggest secrets. "We do that all the time!"

"I suppose the message didn't get through to you, Ducky's mom," Littlefoot respectfully said, changing the topic before Shoal could reply in horror. "It was about Mr. Thicknose." He averted his eyes towards the ground before he continued. "When the flyers were looking for food, they found him… not moving."

Shoal held her hands to her mouth. "That's awful! I never expected Mr. Thicknose to go out like this…"

"No one did." Littlefoot nodded in agreement. "I have to confess that I think that it is my fault that this happened to him. If I didn't admit to Cera's dad that Mr. Thicknose knew about the white sparkles, then he wouldn't have got all the blame. They said that Mr. Thicknose has no family at the meeting just now. How must he have felt when the entire valley turned against him?"

"Perhaps it was his fallacy of being unable to predict the cold spell?" Shoal suggested. "Having spoken with Mr. Thicknose before, he takes his own teachings very seriously…"

Littlefoot lowered his neck, his voice turning softer. "Well, in retrospect, I think that I always annoyed him during our classes."

"Hmph!" Cera grumbled. "I think we all annoyed him during his classes."

"Even Cera's dad felt guilty when he heard the news." Littlefoot had a look of surprise on his face that probably mirrored how he felt when he had witnessed it at the meeting firsthand. "He probably thinks that it's his fault Mr. Thicknose ran away."

"Entirely true," Cera muttered, with just that tiny little hint of pride in her voice.

Littlefoot rolled his eyes, sending a subtle signal to the threehorn that now was not the time for jokes. "It was Petrie's mom who'd broke the news to us. That was when Petrie flew off to your nest."

"Already said that!" Petrie piped up, much to Cera's chagrin. "When me heard about what happened to Thicknose, that when me remember seeing Ducky with him a few days ago." He then turned towards Ducky, shivering in fear. "That why me rush for you. Me no want you to end up like Mr. Thicknose. Me no can imagine life without you, Ducky!" the flyer confessed.

Finally, Ducky could take no more of it. "It is my fault that Mr. Thicknose is gone," she mumbled in a soft voice.

The reaction was pretty much instantaneous. A combined "WHAT!?" rocked the cavern.

"Ducky!" Petrie flew towards the swimmer. "Why you say that. It not your fault!"

"It is!" she shouted, a few tears forming at the corner of her eyes. "When I was wandering outside in the cold a few days ago, I had run into him and told-ed him that he was a horrible teacher."

Shoal gasped at her daughter's admission. "Ducky! Why would you do that!?"

"Because Mr. Thicknose does not know everything! Nope, nope, nope!"

"What?" Cera blinked. "What do you mean by that? I know my father poked fun at his 'been everywhere, knows everything' motto, but it's the truth, right?" Only upon seeing Ducky's solemn expression did she lower her face and realize that perhaps the question wasn't rhetorical after all. "Right…?"

Littlefoot had caught on as well as he observed Ducky's serious expression. "No way. You don't mean…"

"It all happened when Petrie was trying to cheer me up a few days ago." The image of the distraught Thicknose began to take shape and form in Ducky's mind. "I confronted him about it and he practically admitted that it was the truth. Mr. Thicknose did not know everything at all. Oh, no, no, no. If he had… then maybe Spike would not have—" she promptly cut herself off before the memories overwhelmed her.

"It wasn't really your fault, Ducky." Littlefoot gently said. "Mr. Thicknose was already on the edge. Your harsh words were probably just the tipping point."

"But I could have cheered him up!" Ducky lamented, feeling a sense of shame at her earlier behavior towards Thicknose. "Instead I made him so sad that he went to the Great Beyond. He was so upset that he told-ed me to tell the Great Valley that he was sorry. It is all my fault!" she exclaimed with rising horror and a sick feeling in her belly. "I was the one who drove him to his—"


The swimmer flinched before looking up at her mother. "Yes, mama?"

"You can't change the past, dear." Shoal walked towards her daughter before leaning down and stroking her cheek. "What you did was definitely wrong, but you cannot let it pull you down forever."

"But Littlefoot said that Mr. Thicknose had no family and friends!" Ducky's voice was strained as the guilt ate at her. "What if I could have cheered him up and made him choose not to head off to the Great Beyond?"

"Ducky, my dear. You'll never know." Shoal said, before perking up as a new thought entered her mind. With a soft smile, she gestured Ducky towards Petrie. "Besides, didn't Petrie say that he came over here because he was worried that what happened to Mr. Thicknose would happen to you? Doesn't that show that you have a very caring friend by your side?"

Petrie bashfully nodded his head at the unbridled praise that was heaped upon him. "Th-thank you. But Ducky mom right. We always by your side, even if Spike no here! It not just me! Littlefoot and Cera always with Ducky too!"

"Yeah!" Cera huffed as she marched towards Ducky and her mother with her head held high. "Spike's disappearance affects all of us, so you're not alone in facing this!"

Shoal gave a reassuring smile to Ducky as the swimmer's mood began to improve. "You have to let them both go, dear. Both Mr. Thicknose and Spike."

"Me agree with Ducky mom. What happen to Thicknose not your fault!"

"You really mean that?" Ducky asked in an unsure voice. "Mom? Petrie?"

Littlefoot strode towards the swimmer. "Well, I certainly don't think that it was your fault. Besides, I swear that we won't repeat the same mistakes the grownups made with Mr. Thicknose when it comes to you!"

"That be right, Littlefoot!" Petrie said determinedly.

"Come on, Ducky." Littlefoot's brown eyes gently give the swimmer a boost of reassurance. "I hate seeing you down like this. When I was lost without my mother a Cold Time ago, it was your cheerful self who managed to bring me back to my senses. So now I'm repaying that favor. We need the old you back, Ducky."

Ducky closed her eyes, wiping her last few tears from her eyes. "I understand. All of you are right. You are, you are." This time, her double affirmation was said with vigor.

"Yeah!" Cera cheered. "Now that's the Ducky who I know!"

Petrie flew around the cave with joy, making a loop-de-loop in the air. "Me so glad you back, Ducky! Me so happy!"

Even the down-to-earth Littlefoot expressed his well wishes. "Welcome back to the gang, Ducky. We all missed you."

"Oh, thank you all so much! Thank you, Littlefoot, Cera, Petrie! I missed feeling like this as well! Yep, yep, yep!" Ducky nodded with joy at her friends' unwavering support. It appeared that the status quo that she had wished for when the spiketail herd had first arrived was finally going to be granted. "But please, just let me do one last thing…"

"Sure thing, Ducky!" Petrie gave her a thumbs-up.

As her friends looked on, Ducky walked out towards the mouth of the cave, giving one last look out to the Great Valley's sharp cliffs and the Mysterious Beyond that surely lay beyond them.

"Goodbye, Spike…" the swimmer sniffed for a final time as she swept her eyes across the skies, "I will miss you. I will, I will."

After that somber farewell, the swimmer had no more tears to shed.

Stage 5: Acceptance

Finally, acceptance. Not everyone reaches this stage, and the time it takes to finally accept the hand that fate had dealt them varies from person to person.

Here, the individual accepts their loss and that nothing could change the reality they now stand in. Emotions are re-stabilized, like a top regaining its bearings. While this doesn't mean that they are okay with the tragedy that had befallen them, they at least are able to accept the reality of the situation.

And thus, they break free from the vicious cycle which had gripped their heart and manage to successfully move on with their lives.

"It's the Cold Time again…" Littlefoot observed as white ground sparkles once again began to fall from the sky.

Ducky never did quite manage to get herself acclimatized to the Cold Time. The freezing weather always made her skin blue, as well as making the act swimming extremely tough. If the water didn't turn hard and make it flat out impossible, it was too cold for her to remain inside for any reasonable period of time anyway.

There was also the fact that the Cold Time had robbed her brother from her. The memory still hurt on occasion, but Ducky managed to cope fine on most occasions, with her friends supporting her on the few moments that she couldn't handle the memories of Mr. Thicknose or Spike and needed some support.

And although the Gang of Five had become a Gang of Four a year prior, life went on as per normal in the valley. In a way, nothing much had really changed at all.

A while later, a familiar sharptooth youngling and an eccentric fast runner had come into the Great Valley and ended up joining their little group, hence turning it into a Gang of Six. Perhaps, in another world where things had played out differently, there might have now been seven members in their unusual herd. But the way that things stood now, they only had six—not seven—very different dinosaur younglings.

It was on that snowy morning that the topic was brought up.

"Did I ever tell-ed you and Chomper about the story of my brother Spike?"

It had been a random thought. After a snowball fight, Petrie casually mentioned that Ducky had once hurled one at him with anger. One question led to another, and soon the topic of the spiketail herd was brought up.

"Spike?" Ruby quipped, tilting her head. "No, you did not, Ducky. I have not heard about this Spike, this Spike I have not heard about!"

"Hey, you know… that's something that I'd always wanted to ask about," Chomper piped up as he held one of his clawed finger up. "I did notice that Spike was missing when Ruby brought me over to the valley, but I've never brought it up until now…" his snout dropped slightly as the young sharptooth apprehensively kept his claws close to his body, "…because it felt like it was a touchy topic."

Cera snorted as she witnessed Chomper stumbling across his words. "In case you're wondering, Spike not being here has nothing to do with a sharptooth attack. So quit acting so guilty already!" The threehorn then let out a laugh as Chomper let out a sheepish sigh at the new information Cera had given him.

"Oh, no, no, no!" Ducky wagged her finger. "Cera is absolutely right. There is no need to feel awkward, Chomper!"

"You aren't answering my question, my question you aren't answering!" Ruby grumbled, folding her arms and bristling her feathers at the topic change. "Just who is this Spike?"

Three pairs of eyes hesitantly hovered over to the swimmer. They all knew that she was the perfect dinosaur to explain the situation to Chomper and Ruby, but all of them were unsure of whether she was up for the task, since it would most certainly bring back quite a few bad memories for Ducky.

Thankfully, their fears were unfounded.

"Well, Ruby…" Ducky started, her voice lowered significantly as her gentle blue eyes glazed up towards the sky, "How would I say this… I know it sounds very awkward, but Spike is not a swimmer. He is a spiketail. He is, he is!"

"Wait a moment!" Ruby interrupted, the fast runner leaning her head to the side in confusion. "I thought you said that Spike was your brother. So then, this does not make sense, no sense does this makes! Wouldn't he be a swimmer and not a spiketail?"

"I was just getting to that! I was, I was!" Ducky grumpily responded to Ruby's premature query. "My mama adopted Spike after I found-ed him all alone out there in the Mysterious Beyond," she explained. "She did, oh yes she did!"

"Your mother did that?" Ruby looked at Ducky skeptically. "Spike is actually adopted into your family? Your family actually adopted Spike in?"

"Yep, yep, yep! And he was the best spiketail ever! We were all good friends with him!" She then gazed downwards, idly shifting her feet around in the snow. "But one day, he had to leave."

"Leave?" Chomper tilted his snout. "Why would Spike have to leave?"

"He found other spiketails willing to adopt him. Yes, I do recall that his spiketail friend was named Tippy. So my mama gave him a choice, and he chose to go with them. He did, he did…"

Chomper and Ruby didn't miss the lamenting that was in Ducky's tone. They exchanged gazes between each other, their curiosity only amplified when the two saw Littlefoot and Petrie with worried faces. "So what happened next?" the sharptooth enquired.

"It is a long story, but eventually Petrie and the others managed to cheer me up. And that is the end of this tale. Yep, yep, yep!" Ducky then kept her beak shut, evidently unwilling to speak more about the topic.

"But Ducky… do you miss Spike? Miss Spike you do?" Ruby's voice turned solemn as she realized just how much this must have impacted Ducky. The fast runner was surprised that Ducky seemed so composed about the whole thing, since she knew the swimmer to be a very emotional girl. She was always as bright as the Bright Circle when she was cheery, but on the rare occasions that she wasn't, her mood tended to be a damper on everyone else as well.

Ducky heaved a sigh as she tilted her head up to the serene sky. "If I were to be perfectly honest with myself, I still do miss Spike." Ducky's voice softened as she peered up to the sky. "I do, I do…" As she squinted her eyes, the swimmer could almost swear that she could see Spike up in the formation of sky puffies above, which caused a faint smile to be traced on her beak.

"But I do not blame anybody for him leaving. Not anymore, no, no, no. It took me quite some time, but I now understand why Spike had to part ways with me." She looked down at her toes, clenching her fists to maintain her composure. "I have accepted it, even though it still does hurts me a little bit inside…" she admitted.

"Has he ever come back?" Chomper asked, only realizing that he had made a mistake when he saw a horrified expression on Petrie's face.

"Hey, Chomper!" Cera snarled at Chomper's tactless query. "Are you dumb? Would Ducky be this sad if he had ever returned back to the Great Valley!?"

"It is okay, Cera. Chomper did not know." Ducky gestured for her threehorn friend to stand down before Cera charged at the sharptooth. "And I can answer that. I can, I can." She took in a deep breath, many pairs of eyes now on her.

"I must admit that I still miss him. There have been moments where I have yearned for him. He has only been part of my life for a year, but that single year has completely changed me. There are days I wake up surprised that no one has woken me up yet, or nights when I am surprised I fall asleep so quickly without any sleep rumbles. There are times where I accidentally pluck a second serving of treestars only to realize that he isn't here with me."

Ruby couldn't help but to feel bad at what she was hearing from Ducky's mouth. "That is very saddening, very saddening that is…"

"No, I understand. It is just that I am used to having him around, but now I am used to having him gone, if it makes any sense. It is a lot like Petrie…"

"What?" Petrie jolted when he realized he had unwittingly become a part of the conversation. "When me gone?"

Ducky giggled at Petrie's surprised expression. "When I first met Petrie, he could not fly," she explained.

"Petrie could not fly!?" Chomper and Ruby's exclamation was simultaneous. "I thought Petrie was just bad at flying…" Chomper added, a "hey!" coming from Petrie as he heard those words.

"But now he can," Ducky continued. "And there are times when I remember our first adventure and wonder why he does not just fly out of danger before I realize that Petrie could not fly yet. It is rather much like that. It is slow, but I have slowly managed to piece together both Petries into one Petrie."

"Hey! Me no have twin brother…" Petrie protested at Ducky's explanation.

Ignoring Petrie's grumbling, Chomper nodded his head, beginning to understand where Ducky was coming from. "I see… so you're saying that you've gotten used to it?"

"In a way." Ducky shrugged. "I have accepted that Spike had his reasons for leaving. I would love to have him back, but even if he does not return, it is fine by me."

"That is very mature of you, Ducky. Very mature of you that is!"

"Well, you don't know how much Ducky had to go through before she reached that conclusion, Ruby." Cera said as she winked at Ducky. "That will be our secret!"

"Hey!" Chomper protested. "That's not fair!"

"Too bad! You'll have to catch me before I tell you the full, non-truncated, story!"

The fast runner twitched at the challenge, gearing up for a sprint. "You have made a mistake, a mistake you have made!"

Ducky was sensible enough to back away before Chomper and Ruby both began to chase Cera down. With Littlefoot and Petrie watching the chaos, no one saw the swimmer walking towards the frozen pond of hard water.

She hadn't realized that she had accepted the loss of Spike until she had told her tale to Chomper and Ruby. The feeling felt like she was no longer being shackled. It felt liberating to the swimmer.

Still, she wasn't going to completely let go of Spike. She still held on to a tiny glimmer of hope that one day, her adoptive brother would return.

But even if he did not, Ducky knew that it didn't matter. Spike would always be with her, even if he was not physically there. Now completely alone, the hadrosaur allowed herself to lay her feelings bare.

"We will always be together, Spike!" Ducky declared as she placed a hand to her chest. "Even if it is in my heart! Yep, yep, yep!"

"Goodbyes are never easy. Write a story about a parting."

It is certainly true that goodbyes are never easy. I mean, who would want to say goodbye to someone you hold dear?

But as the hourglass of time turns, eventually people would have to leave your life for one reason or another. It is all but inevitable. Whether it be death, going separate ways, or some other reason, there will come a time in a person's life where you would have to bid farewell to someone close to you.

All that being said, a parting is only truly eternal if an individual never accepts the loss. But if you turn things around and break out of your grief, you might realize that the memories of those who you hold dear can still keep you company. Life is an adventure, and the nostalgia of the past is often looked fondly upon as one ages.

Be it a first meeting, a funny event, a joyous occasion, or even an argument. It doesn't matter. The memories of those lost to the streams of time will still always be a part of your heart, even if the person themself is physically gone.

While separations might seem to be eternal… they'll always be a part of your memories.

And that is something which no one can ever rob from you.

Author's Note:

…I hope I didn't make anyone feel too emotional with this.

I'll be frank and admit that the very first thing that came to my mind when I read the fanfiction prompt on GOF was the Kübler-Ross model, more commonly known as the Five Stages of Grief — Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. While I'm aware that the model has its real-life critics, I'm handwaving it off since I'm going for a thematic style with this story anyway.

By the way, if anyone is depressed to the point that they're contemplating suicide, please do seek help. I know a few depressed people in real life and on the net, and it's not worth it. Trust me.

Whether I succeeded or not in making you feel Ducky's plight at having to say her goodbyes to Spike, I do hope that this story at least touched you in some way. I'd experienced something similar a few years ago when my younger brother ran out onto oncoming traffic and narrowly avoided being hit by a motorcycle. Sometimes you just don't know when disaster will strike, and the prospect of losing a family member is a harsh one — hence the main reason on why I decided on focusing on the sibling relationship between Ducky and Spike for the prompt (the other was due to the positive reception that I'd received on the relationship between the two in my first LBT fic, Our Safe Haven).

I must say that this story was very different from my usual writing style, but nevertheless it was still a blast to write overall, even if it did take quite some time to write — I'd started this before my July entry, Scrambled Eggs, yet only managed to complete it long after that fic was released. Still, I thoroughly enjoyed writing them both, and I'll definitely be interested in committing more regularly to future prompts when the challenge resumes in December since I joined rather late in the 2018 challenge. Overall, Land Before Time is certainly an intriguing fandom to write for.

Hope you all enjoyed this! I'm rather proud of this one! :D