Note: I do not own Ice Age -- this is simply a story that deviates from the movie. All characters used from the movie retain their names.

I. Inner Conflict

"...don't let my boring domestic life hit you in the butt on the way out."

Talk between Manny and Diego was nonexistent ever since those bitter words were spoken. Manny's harsh words strongly resonated through Diego's mind; guilt was the only thing stopping him from taking his leave. Manny, Ellie, Sid, and the two possums were sound asleep, but Diego was still somewhat alert – his mind slowly drifted away.

After regaining attention from the minor daze, Diego slowly pushed his front legs forward while retaining the same position, a stretch of some sorts, before easing into a resting position. As he attempted to sleep, his mind continued to wander faster than he could keep up with.

"...come on, Diego! Let's bring this mammoth down!"

The words of Soto, Diego's former pack leader, began to enter his thoughts. To this day, leading the mammoth who saved his life to an ambush still made him feel like a traitor. Betraying his former saber pack did not make his thoughts sit any easier. Attacking Soto, taking the hit for Manny, seeing his old pack leader get killed - it all replayed so brightly in his mind. Diego awoke from his extremely short rest, conflicted within himself even more.

"Am I wrong for being what I am?" He asked himself. "Sabers shouldn't need to protect anything other than themselves or their pack."

Or their friends.

Does Manny even appreciate me being here anymore? I feel like a ghost. What's the point of staying now if I'm not needed?

...but Ellie's expecting her baby...what if something happens to her or Manny? Manny can't handle protecting Ellie while trying to protect himself.

After a brief deliberation within himself, he quietly lifted himself to stand, and slowly traveled northward, away from the other mammals. His movement wasn't quiet enough to avoid the rustle of a pile of leaves, but it was stealthy enough for the entire herd to stay in their deep sleep.

Diego's trip did not last long - a few hundred paces and the saber's body began to demand sleep. His recurring memories had kept him awake for days; the fatigue was intolerable and simply too much for him to take. After scouting the area for a safe place to rest, he spotted a tree surrounded by an unkempt area of tall grass. Being fairly acclimated with the area around him, Diego was sure that he'd be safely hidden for the night.


Just the mention of Soto's name filled Diego with sadness. His mental anguish was slowly causing him to break down. The once unbreakable saber-tooth shed a tear, let out a sigh, then eased toward the tree.

He no longer wanted his mind to wander, but even he knew that it would happen in his sleep. Sound with that fact, Diego lied directly in front of the tree and made a second attempt to fall asleep. A few moments into his second trance, his mind carried him through another set of memories. The need for sleep had a tight grip on Diego, and he wouldn't be able to simply awaken from dreams of this clarity.

The previously blackened horizon had changed its complexion to a very dark blue. Sid – usually the last person to wake up, awoke to see his campfire still ablaze.

Sid grinned. "All hail fire-king."

He looked around to see what he thought was the entire herd still sound asleep.

After taking a moment to do his usual morning routine of cracking his back and stretching his short arms, he realized something was missing.

"Wait a minute."

Looking around again, he pointed out each of the animals.

"Mammoth, mammoth, possum, possum. Where's the sloth? There's no sloth – just fire-king."

Sid grinned once more before noticing that his fire had completely gone out, causing the over-confident sloth to frown. After thinking for a short moment, he finally accounted for who was missing.

Sid rushed over to Manny. "Manny! Manny – wake up! It's important!"

Manny slowly stood up before opening his eyes slightly to see that the sloth was on his tusks.

"Aaaah!" Slightly startled, Manny took a step back before stumbling back down onto his stomach. The heavy impact caused the other sleepers to yell, and awaken.

Manny gave Sid an almost vicious glare.

"Sid, if this happens to be another one of those nightmares involving you getting kidnapped by a tribe of mini-sloths, I will do the honors of personally pummeling you. Everyone, especially Ellie, needs to get their sleep." Manny angrily shook Sid off of his tusks.

Crash and Eddie jumped onto Ellie's tusks as Ellie walked over to Manny.

"Manny, Sid is part of the family too. If he has something to say, regardless of when it is, we should respect that. Everything alright, Sid?"

"See? Why can't you have a heart as big as Ellie's?" Manny dropped his head to Sid's level with an even bigger glare than before.

"Diego's not here!" Sid frantically yelled, trying to divert Manny's anger away from him.

Manny stood up again to search the immediate area only to notice that Diego was in fact separated from the rest of the herd. After desperately looking around, Manny's memory caught him for a split second.

"...don't let my boring domestic life kick you in the butt on the way out."

He stood motionless – his eyes widened and his face filled with sorrow. The entire herd stared at Manny in awe; they hadn't witnessed him give any sort of serious emotion for quite a long time.

Crash and Eddie jumped off of Ellie's tusks and immediately split up. The rest of the herd looked around for any sort of clues that might lead to where Diego might be. Almost immediately, Ellie found what the entire herd was looking for. After calling the herd to attention, she pointed to a crushed pile of dry leaves.

"They're just leaves, what good does that do?" Manny asked out of frustration.

"Manny, when we got here, the baby kicked. Remember?" Ellie knew relating to the baby would make Manny think more clearly; it was the only thing on his mind before noticing that one of his best friends had gone missing. After staring blankly at Ellie for a moment, he moved some of the leaves around and realized that this was the same pile of leaves he helped Ellie gather so she could rest after feeling the baby for the first time. A few of the leaves had short tears down the middle.

Crash walked up to one of the leaves, still somewhat confused.

"Does this mean Diego went this way?" He asked.

" do we know he was the one who came through here?" Eddie asked, a bit nervous.

After wondering about who or what could have possibly come through, the herd unanimously decided to sleep a bit closer together for the rest of the night.