A chapter of something that could have been more, and might still be more, if I can find the right way to continue this. Anyway...This takes place just after the episode Tiger's Fight With Destiny. No spoilers as of yet, but there most likely will be, if this does get continued.

The trek through the mountains was not the most difficult part of this journey. Whatever words the mismatched seven had were devoured by the needy wind. It didn't matter; even Genki, Hare and Suezo were silent. Not even a stray Caballos had anything to say, since they had all run off-nobody bothered asking where to. Tiger and Hare led, the best off because of their thick fur. Genki and Holly donned their cloaks, and took advantage of Golem's protective bulk with Mocchi and Suezo, not for the first or last time.

That no words had been spoken up in the snowcaps was not unusual. That the quiet followed them down to the caves was. For once, Genki was not boosting morale with a silly song or a pep talk, Hare wasn't speaking of conspiracy theories, and Suezo wasn't complaining about either of them, or any of the others, or even the weather. Golem usually never said anything, anyway, but this time he seemed to be purposely holding back, instead of simply not having anything to say. In his held silence, he sat closest to the fire, gathering warmth for those who wished to use him as their personal pillow. Mocchi and Holly were such individuals; Mocchi stared at the fire, also silent, save for an occasional sigh.

And Holly kept turning worried eyes between the fire and Tiger. He hadn't said a word, either. He looked calm; his eyes were closed, and he lay his head on top of his crossed paws.

But she knew him better than that. They all did.

Holly was the first to break the reverie. "Um, Tiger…" She gently prodded with the word, asked rather than said. He hadn't snapped at her once since he joined their group, but the circumstance had never arisen for him to do so.

"Hmm?" He didn't even look up. If it weren't his voice that had spoken, one might have thought he was asleep.

"How are you holding up?" The question was obvious, possibly even foolish, but it was spoken in a tone of voice that was soft, gentle, and only suited for Holly. This might have explained why Tiger didn't say so.

It didn't make his only response of a grunt any less unnerving.

The others looked at Holly, and then at Tiger. He hadn't moved; his expression hadn't even changed. The twitch in his tail, however, grew harsher.

Genki frowned, and leaned toward Tiger, using his arms and clenched fists for support. "Tiger, she asked you a question!"

"Genki…" Holy murmured the name, but with a scolding undertone.

"No, Holly, he's right!" Suezo squawked. Staggering to his tail tip, he aimed an intense hazel glare in Tiger's direction. "We're all thinkin' it, you overgrown pup, so why don't you quit with the mopin' and say something!?"

Tiger didn't say anything; instead, he opened his eyes and mouth, and bared his teeth at Suezo, whose apt response was a startled peep and a leap behind Golem. Which was all the others needed to respond.

"Tiger!" cried the humans' voices in unison. Mocchi leapt off of Golem with a distressed "Chi!", and Golem rose to his feet, still silent, but no less intimidating.

Tiger closed his mouth, and glared at each of his friends in turn. This continued until he'd looked all of them over at least twice; finally, he rose on all four legs and muttered, "The fire's dying. I'll find more wood."

Four pairs of feet and a tail would have gone after the canine, but one pair was faster than the others; before any of them realized it, Hare had left the cave.