Clarity of Life

Ellie grunted softly, slowly opening her eyes. She blinked, letting her eyes adjust to the darkness, and groaned. The sun wasn't even up yet. It was still night. She had woken up in the middle of the night. Again. This was the third time in a row.

Yawning, Ellie rubbed her eyes with her trunk, looking around. Diego was curled up a little ways away, his head resting on his paws, his ears flicking occasionally, his sides rising and falling evenly as he breathed. Sid was sleeping on his back on what Ellie assumed was a rock; she wasn't quite sure what it was, only that it was dark-colored and looked extremely uncomfortable. Sid, however, didn't seem to notice, sprawled on his back, making odd little noises, something like grunts and whimpers. Ellie's gaze drifted to Crash and Eddie; both dangled peacefully from a branch, asleep, and her ear flicked briefly in amusement. The only time, it seemed, her brothers were ever still was when they slept.

Ellie no longer slept in trees with them. Instead, she had taken to sleeping on the ground. The transition had been surprisingly easy for her; then again, she had Manny to snuggle with as she slept, so it wasn't like she had left the trees grudgingly. Thinking of her own roots, she glanced down at her side, at the newest member of the herd.

A young baby mammoth slept between her and Manny now, her young daughter, Millie. Millie looked exactly like Ellie, but she had Manny's heart-melting brown eyes. Or at least, they were heart-melting, in Ellie's mind. All it took was for him to glance at her, and she felt her legs turn to jelly, and her heart melt. Millie was the exact same story. It was hard to say "no" to her.

Lowering her trunk, Ellie gently moved the hair out of Millie's face. She snorted softly, snuggling against her mother, and Ellie smiled. Glancing over at Manny, Ellie felt the smile widen.

No matter what anyone believed, her life was perfect. So she didn't travel with a herd of mammoths. So she had been raised with possums and, until she met Manny, had believed she was one. But it had all worked out in the end. She had a mate she loved, she was a mother, and she had a herd. What could be better? She sighed softly in contentment.

"Hey, Sleeping Beauty. You have a nightmare over there?"

Ellie smiled, looking over Millie as Manny stirred, lifting his head slightly. "No," she said.

"Then what's with all the sighing and the waking up in the middle of the night?"

Ellie blushed. "You heard me?"

"Every time." Manny gently ran his trunk over her shoulder, and she closed her eyes, shivering with pleasure. "Is something wrong?"

"No… I'm just thinking."

Manny brushed a loose strand of hair from her eyes. "What about?"

Ellie reached out, locking her trunk with his. "How lucky I am."

"Oh?"

Ellie nodded. "Yeah. I mean, if you hadn't been so insistent about making me see I was a mammoth, if you didn't have that sense of duty to your race… I don't think any of this would have happened."

Manny smirked. "So you're saying that my screwing up back then made things the way they are now?"

"You know it."

"Well, I won't try to correct you."

"Gee, thanks." Manny nudged Ellie lightly, and she snorted with laughter.

"Careful, you'll wake Millie," she scolded softly. Manny's eyes softened at the mention of his daughter, and he released Ellie's trunk to run his over Millie's forming tusks. Ellie watched him, her eyes gentle.

It had taken time, and some gentle coaxing on Ellie's part, for Manny to finally reveal that he had, at one time, a family. Although she knew that he loved her, and Millie, very much, and would never let anything happen to them, Ellie also knew that a small part of Manny still feared that just as easily as they had come to him, they would be taken away, just like his first family.

"She looks just like you," he murmured after a moment.

Ellie chuckled. "But she has your eyes. And your personality."

"I guess, like any kid, she's the best of us."

Ellie yawned; her little chat with Manny and being awake so late at night were taking a toll on her. Manny chuckled softly, gently lifting his trunk from his daughter and touch Ellie's cheek. "I think someone's feeling a little sleepy," he teased.

"Oh, you're funny." She batted his trunk away gently, but he caught hers in his own.

Ellie smiled tiredly at Manny, and he smiled back before glancing once more at Millie. "Think the little lady will mind being a bit squished?"

"She sleeps like a rock. I doubt she'll notice until morning."

Ellie smiled, snuggling a little closer to Manny, and with a soft yawn rested her head on the ground, letting her eyes flutter shut, but even as sleep claimed her she felt Manny's trunk intertwine with hers. In her sleep, she smiled.

"Ellie, I don't want us to be together because we have to, I want us to be together because we want to. And I want to be with you, Ellie… so what do you say?"

The End

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I don't know why I ended it with that quote... it just seemed to fit.