A/N: I'm well aware I'm going to be flamed for this fic, but hey! All flamers do is bump up review numbers. I've read it all before anyway. It's just a story and before you ask, no I'm not under the impression that the two are really humping in the bushes behind the scenes. This is just fanfic, make-believe: not canon.
Readers please be aware of SPOILERS for Ice Age 2: the Meltdown.
Anyways, the fic takes place after the scene in Ice Age 2 where Sid attempted to teach Diego to overcome his fear of water. I remember watching Diego sitting and smiling at Sid for no apparent reason when Manny and Ellie arrived back on screen (no I'm not making mountains out of molehills, I just happened to think it was sweet) and being a Sid x Diego fan anyway, I decided to expand upon that. So without further ado, on with the story!
Bullfrog, Chickenhawk, Turtledove
Love between a man and a woman is founded on the mating instinct and is not free from desire and self-seeking. But to have a friend and to be true under any and all trials is the mark of a man
Charles Alexander Eastman
Although the night air was still humid, it was considerably cooler than it had been during the day, and the Sabre watched with appreciative green eyes as the 'Lord of the Flame' set about his work for the evening.
A light breeze wafted through the wild green canopy, bringing with it a shower of delicate white blossoms. Diego watched as they fell with undefined grace while the wind rose through the leaves. The fire hissed as a few scattered blooms landed amongst the flickering flames.
They were alone again, an increasingly frequent occurrence ever since the admittance of the slightly befuddled Ellie and her eccentric brothers, Crash and Eddie, into their unorthodox herd. Much to Sid's pleasure, Manfred was accompanying the nine-ton possum on a twilight stroll, while her brothers had scampered off into the trees, at ease in the veil of night.
Diego's smiling gaze lingered on the sloth's wide snout, where, unbeknownst to him, two blossoms had fallen to rest. Shadows cast by the campfire's flickering flames danced against Sid's furred face, wide and always smiling ridiculously at one thing or another: the definition of loveable idiot.
A loveable idiot who was currently the sworn keeper of one of Diego's two secrets; a loveable idiot who, despite having no real survival skills or common sense, had made fire, regardless of the accidental circumstances surrounding the discovery; a loveable idiot who, when they had first met, was risking his neck in climbing a cliff, all to save a baby that wasn't even his own species, let alone his own cub.
Sid was also a loveable idiot who had risked his neck in saving his life that day. Diego held friendship to be the severest test of character. And Sid was a fierce defending champion of his title.
Despite his cowardice and faults, of which Diego would be the first to declare there were many, Sid's loyalty remained remarkably constant. Only hours before had he saved the Sabre's life from certain consumption on the ice-drift. He was incredibly adept at picking up even the slightest change of emotion in his companions, a talent that had unfortunately enabled him to uncover Diego's secret fear of water. And now, just as he had been relentless in pairing Manny and Ellie together, Sid was attempting to cure him of his watery anxieties.
'Stubborn Sloth,' he mused as the creature in thought waddled around the campsite, chattering away, before queer noises and scufflings in the undergrowth bade him quickly back to the fire. Diego smiled. Sid probably expected the tiger was hanging off his every word.
His heart gave an unexpected lurch and he returned his gaze back to the crackling fire. He felt ashamed of his feelings. They had developed so suddenly, he had been quite caught off guard. It was one thing travelling in an unorthodox herd; it was quite another choosing a mate of a different species; another point entirely choosing Sid.
Diego had no idea where the attraction had stemmed from. Sid's faithfulness, perhaps? Diego prized loyalty above all else, a factor his pack had sorely lacked after his father's departure, and Sid's loyalty and perceptive nature was the glue that held their herd together. He admired that.
'But how did the idiot get this far beneath my fur? He can't waddle more than a few feet without falling flat on his face.' And yet somehow he had charmed his way to Diego's heart with bumbling antics and hotshot one-liners.
Diego dug his claws into the dry earth. He hated to admit it, but he relied on Sid just as much as the bulbous-eyed, lazy, infuriatingly stubborn Sloth relied on him.
At that moment, the object of his thoughts let out a loud belch, before slouching comfortably at his side.
"Well it looks like our trio's down to two, buddy-boy." Sid proclaimed and sighed dramatically.
"That's how it should be." Diego glanced down the trail they had been following and smiled contently. "Manny deserves a bit of happiness more than any of us."
"Ain't that the truth," Sid muttered, poking at the fire absentmindedly with the end of a long stick as the night-fog gathered around them. Shivering inwardly, he edged closer to the reclining Sabre. "Creepy night. It's harder to see without the moon's reflection on the snow," he mumbled, stoking the fire with a bit more zest than was needed.
"You prod that fire anymore and it's going to die out." Diego rebuked, though he knew his comment would go ignored.
"Hey tell me something," Sid began thoughtfully, scratching his inner ear with the tip of his fire-poker. "Do Sabres mate for life?"
Diego felt his muscles bunch up, a little disconcerted at the unexpected question. His green eyes glanced towards the Sloth who had manoeuvred himself so that he could lounge comfortably against a rock while inspecting the ear-gunk now gathered on the end of his stick.
Diego's ears flattened against his head. For a moment he considered telling him to jump off a ledge.
"Some do." He answered finally.
Sid slid forward onto his belly, facing the tiger with a considerate expression. "See I don't get it. You and me, we're good lookin' guys, right? We got the charm, the looks, good taste, no bald patches –"
Diego raised a furry brow at the Sloth. "Oh, no mammal alive could resist you."
Sid's brow fell and he fixed an even stare on the tiger. "You're a sneaky, snarky Sabre, Diego. But ah know you're just joshin'." A crafty grin spread across his wide features. "I bet you had a bit of a harem going on in the good ol' days, ah? Ah?" he punched the tiger's shoulder playfully.
"Remember when we discussed the no-touching rule?"
"Oh come on Diego – the kids are out, Manny's on a date, here we are, two bachelors livin' it large under the stars; open up already!" Sid persuaded. "Tell me a bit more about your past."
"All right," Diego grinned, revealing more pale dagger-like teeth. "How about I relate to you a few of my old hunting tales with the pack?"
Sid swallowed, thickly. "Uhm, you can skip on the Sabre cuisine."
Diego allowed himself a small smirk before replying. "Well what do you want to know?"
"I dunno." Sid rested his chin in one hand and pondered for a while. "How about your family?" he asked at last. "What were your parents like?"
"Well," Diego replied, pensively. "My mother was the alpha female of our pack and my father, Sota, was our leader."
"Sota?" Sid froze. "Wasn't he the Sabre who tried to…?"
"No. That was Soto." Diego's face darkened at the memory. "Soto was my elder brother."
"Oh." Sid pulled an uncomfortable face. "Yikes. So what happened to your parents?"
Mentally, Diego groaned. Sid distinguished persistence as an invaluable factor in his less than flawed personality. To the Sabre, it was the source of many a headache.
Diego's eyes hardened into a glare and he growled despairingly. "I don't suppose you'll leave up on this?"
Sid scratched his belly and shook his head. "Not likely."
The large cat's green eyes turned their gaze away from the sloth, uncomfortable with where the conversation was heading. "Fine. My mother died giving birth to me. Sota died a few years later." He replied, begrudgingly.
Sid suddenly looked up from the pattern he was absentmindedly doodling in the dry patch of earth before the campfire. "He was killed by humans, wasn't he?" he asked, quietly.
Diego was startled. "How did you know that?"
Sid shrugged his furred shoulders. "Just a hunch. Back when we were ferrying Pinkie about those painted caves, during your little 'short cut'," he smiled mockingly at the tiger, "it looked like you could really empathise with Manny."
Diego snorted. "Maybe you're not as dumb as you look."
Sid grinned and clutched at his heart dramatically. "You wound me." He pushed himself up into a sitting position and resumed his duties as Lord of the Flame. "So what happened?"
Diego frowned. His sloth companion was restless, he noted, and more so than usual. Perhaps he was concerned with what the following day would bring. The thought that this time tomorrow night, the spot he was currently lying in could be drowned beneath an icy body of water, sent an involuntary shiver down his furry spine.
Perhaps it would be best for the both of them to talk. After all, the ominous groaning of the dam crumbling miles behind them made the gloomy reality of their situation all too clear.
He sighed and resigned himself to telling his story. "'A lot of fear and a little courage is barely a defence against the men when they run'," he recited, solemnly. "It's something my father..." he paused and corrected himself, "Sota taught me. Not that it made a difference. Our pack had more than a few run-ins with the humans. We had the strength but their herds were many and they hunted methodically," Diego snorted derisively. "We were naive at first, thinking that because we hunted the same game they wouldn't come after us. And for a long time that's just the way it worked; they kept to their territory, we kept to ours. Then one night a hunting party failed to return. We found their remains the next morning." Diego involuntarily dug his sharp talons into the earth and the fur of his ruff bristled at the memory. "The humans barely left anything to distinguish one member of our pack from another. They even took their teeth. Six of us went out after them, my father in lead. I was the only one to return." Diego bowed his head towards the fire; his dark eyes dim in its red light. "Soto never really trusted me after that."
The bitterness of the resurfacing memory stung his eyes for a moment and at once he was reminded of the abhorrence he had reserved only for humans, when suddenly he felt something brush the sensitive fur of his neck, gently. His eyes sprang away from the fire. Sid smiled affectionately, his long-clawed hand lingering on the tiger's back a moment longer, before pulling away.
The tiger allowed himself a small smile, which the sloth returned in favour.
"So!" Sid exclaimed, light-heartedly, not one do sit in silence for longer than a minute. "Guess that explains the sibling rivalry. And no mate, huh?"
"No mate." Diego replied, and for a moment he thought he caught a look of relief flit cross Sid's face.
"You know I always thought it was a shame the other members of your pack didn't come along for the ride." Sid said. "I could do with a few more bodyguards.
"Especially with all the enemies you make." Diego quipped.
Sid ignored the jibe and rattled on. "Hey, you think your parents would've liked me?"
"They would have eaten you." Diego replied, evenly.
"But they would've liked me?"
"If they had gotten to know you before they ate you?"
"Not really, no."
Sid narrowed his eyes. "You're just feeling mean because I caught out your secret little fear of-"
"If you finish that sentence, I'll eat you." Diego growled warningly.
The Sloth muttered something inaudible and tossed his stick into the fire. "Diego, who'd you think Manny's favourite is?" he asked.
"Me," Diego replied, frankly.
"What? No way!" Sid exclaimed. "I found him!"
"At least Manny and I are on the same wavelength." Diego sneered. "You're on a whole other continent."
Sid sighed. "Okay, I'll admit you've come a long way since I met you, mainly thanks to me, but you've still got a big knot in your fur, tiger."
Diego folded one paw over the other and sneered mockingly at the boastful sloth. "And I suppose you're going to relieve me of that knot?"
"Precisely." Sid replied, spraying spittle all over the Sabre's face.
"Ahh, Sid!" Growling in irritation, Diego slid back on his haunches to wipe clean his wet face with his paw. The Lord of the Flame, however, had become distracted with the two white blossoms sticking to his nose.
"Hey, how long have you guys been there?" Sid muttered to himself and brushed at the petals with his clawed hand, which nearly resulted in him poking his eye out.
Diego was about to make another scornful crack at the Sloth's expense, when all of a sudden he came under fire from above.
"Cat got your tongue?"
The twin possums pulled ridiculous faces at their twin adversaries before darting back into the cover of the branches. The Sabre leapt to his paws, snarling fiercely. "You're not the only ones who can see in the dark, you miniature reprobates!" he hollered, his eyes flashing like green embers.
"Uhh, Diego that's really weird." Sid commented, before becoming a targeted himself. "Ow! Ow! Hey, Lord of the Flame working here!"
"What do you know, Eddie," the mischievous possum sniggered from his high perch in the canopy, "we have two 'fraidy-cats."
"Don't make me come up there!" Diego growled threateningly.
"Ooh, we're really scared." Eddie taunted and let loose a second barrage of hail fire upon his two defenceless targets, before scampering after his brother, leaving laughter in his trail.
"Yeh know you have to admire their precision." Sid remarked, painfully pulling the prickles from his fur. "What say we put aside our lover's quarrel to vanquish our common foe?"
"I wasn't aware it was a lover's quarrel." Diego raised his eyes in mock surprise. "In fact, I wasn't even aware we were lovers."
Sid paused and turned to look at him, an odd look in his eye. The mocking smile from Diego's face slipped and suddenly he felt very uncomfortable under the spotlight of the Sloth's gaze.
"I only meant-" he began, stumbling over his words and cursing himself for it. "I mean I know that's, that's ridiculous."
Grinning, Sid leant forwards and pulled a prickle from the Sabre's fur. "Well we've already got a Mamossum in our herd. Why not add a couple of Sabresloths?"
His trepidation dissolved, Diego could not help but return the smile while he held the gaze of his foolish companion. "You make a good case."
Criticism is greatly appreciated. Cheers!