Peekaboo!

We all know that Diego's playing "Where's the Baby?" had a profound impact on all of them. But when did Roshan pick up Diego's little game himself? A missing scene of the Original Movie. One-shot.

Disclaimer: I do not own any of these amazing characters.


Two hundred miles is too long. Sid groaned inwardly, his feet echoing his sentiments.

How are we not there yet? Manny grumbled to himself, glancing ahead at the flash of light golden fur that delineated the outline of the saber guiding their way to Glacier Pass. He rumbled in his trunk, swaying it gently from side to offer a sense of lull to Pinky, who was nestled in the center. Manny scowled again, glowering at the tiger suspiciously. Is it possible he's taking us the long way around?

Soto is going to be so pleased. Diego thought grimly to himself as he glanced back to see how the others – the useless yet life-giving baggage of mammoth and sloth – and, of course, that precious baby were holding up. Pinky slept comfortably in the warmth the curve of the mammoth's trunk that afforded him a blanket. At the instant Diego raised his head to look, he noticed the mammoth glance down at the sleeping child contentedly enveloped in his trunk, a glint of poignant sorrow alit in his eyes.

He turned to look up, somewhat astonished to find the distrusted saber gazing him full in the face, and something in his expression softened marginally. A hint of a smile lifted his mouth. Diego swiftly averted his gaze, (but not after seeing how that idiotic sloth was faring. True to form, Sid held his "straggling" position of bringing up the rear) unsure of what had happened. Had the mammoth somehow become aware of the unconscious sympathy shining in his green eyes?

The tiger shrugged inwardly, deciding that what the mammoth – Manfred – had seen was of no concern to him. A doubt nagged him all the same. What was it that had happened to cause Manny to convey such pain with only one glance at the baby he'd taken under his wing? To top it all off, the mammoth had noticed his errant blunder – he'd inadvertently shown concern for prey. Diego cursed himself, hearing Soto's words about how a saber should never reveal itself to prey, whether while stalking it or in the company of prey, or to start to feel the compassion prey animals – especially the breed of mammoths – demonstrated to other mammals. To do anything less than be a fearsome killing machine was regarded as weakness. Especially by an alpha like Soto. Diego shuddered, keeping his eyes forward, ignoring his traveling companions stoically.

Small crystals of the atmospheric phenomena called snowflakes obscured the view of the unusual group journeying together. Much to the tiger's and mammoth's relief, the sun still radiated its spears of light into their midst, warming them marginally despite the grip of the sub-zero temperatures that caused the ground they walked on to squeak underneath their feet as if in surprise at such an odd little herd they resembled as they walked on together, and for this Manny and Diego were heartened, as it meant they could still continue on their journey to Glacier Pass.

Finally, Manny decreed that they could stop for the night, much to exultation of Sid's sore feet. The sloth also couldn't help noticing that the tiger had obeyed Manny's orders without complaint, and though he racked his brain that night before restlessly nodding off into unconsciousness on his boulder that doubled as a bed, he could not puzzle it out.

...

Roshan stirred within the comforter that the bowl of Manny's trunk for provided for him a crib, restlessly batting his tiny hands as if to ward off spirits of evil. The mammoth's trunk grew flabby as he fell deeper into sleep, causing the baby to abruptly awaken, blinking his large brown eyes, fraught with unspoken terror as he glanced around, discerning briefly that it was early in the morning, since the sky above was dark grey and foreboding, muffled by the austere line dividing sunrise and moonset. The baby yawned, rubbing his eyes to help him wake up. Once he took his hands away from his chubby face, he caught sight of a dark, almost black silhouette of a strongly muscled yet slight apparition – the saber.

A lopsided smile revealed the fangless grin of the baby, and, forgetting his nightmare, he began to crawl over to the tiger. When he was almost over to where the tiger slept, Roshan lifted himself to his knees, attempting to walk. His venture failed, and the baby slipped, landing on the huge paws of his deadly enemy. Diego awakened instantly, letting out a guttural snarl of anger. Had Soto sent out Oscar again to denigrate him? His green eyes searched the perimeter of the camp suspiciously, glowing eerily yellow in the half-light at dawn.

Finding no one, Diego sighed in relief, laying down once more in an attitude of rest, with his head upon his crossed forelegs. As he was just drifting off to sleep again, the tiger felt a sharp tug on his right long incisor. Snarling once more, Diego raised his head, his green eyes blazing gold in his fury – and saw Pinky smiling blithely up at him, indifferent to the peril he was in.

Oh. It was just the kid.

Diego rolled his eyes, unable to hide his irritation at this untimely onset to his slumber. With his head, he pushed the baby away, but Pinky was not to be deterred in the slightest. A toothy, mischievous smile lit up his whole face, and Roshan carefully placed his two hands over his eyes, and then brought then down again, grinning at Diego with a knowing look in his expression during the whole performance.

He remembers. The tiger realized, feeling an almost paternal pride in the intelligence of the child, and a hidden smile reached his mouth and his eyes. Roshan cooed, his face brightening with an idea. Tapping Diego on his paw, he gurgled, covering his eyes again in "Where's the Baby?" and then, removing his hands from his face, he pointed to a smooth boulder he'd noticed around the corner of the den area when the travelers had just arrived. Diego ascertained swiftly what Roshan meant. Inclining his head, the tiger agreed to the plan.

Rising to his feet, he bent down to snare the nape of Roshan's folds of tanned skins, nearly making him gag as the realization hit him like prey collapsing onto a predator helpless to escape the bulk crashing upon them, and ultimately dying because of the weight. Shoving the reality out of his mind, he gently mouthed the baby in his enormous jaws, bearing him over to the rock, where he carefully placed the child, who turned to face him, his teeth showing in an expression that Diego now knew meant him no harm. He placed his forelegs on the boulder, causing Pinky to scoot to a safe distance on the stone, and then the game began.

...

It was nearly midmorning by the time the mammoth found himself unwillingly roused once more by the absence of a child he had sworn to himself that he'd protect. Once the realization struck him, Manny jumped to his feet, his eyes glinting savagely in his determination to mete out justice to whoever had taken his baby.

His baby?

Most likely that incorrigible sloth had made off with Pinky yet another time, vainly attempting to convince the females of his kind that he'd make a worthy – if somewhat pathetic – mate. Manny's head swiveled as he looked back the resting place Sid had taken for the night, and his brown eyes widened in surprise mingled with dread as he comprehended that Roshan was nowhere in sight.

That tiger. Manny narrowed his eyes, his mouth set in a firm, uncompromising line as he contemplated how he would deal with the tiger, when he returned – ostensibly from his lunch. Manfred felt anger rise within him as he chided himself for letting the tiger guide them to Glacier Pass in the first place. As dark thoughts towards Diego began to consume Manny, his head snapped up at the joyful sound pealing from around the corner – that of a baby gurgling and cooing with delight; the sound of laughter. Manny's body thrilled to the sound as he considered with jubilation that Pinky was still alive. But who was he with? And Manny's thoughts darkened with fury.

Curious, he silently stepped around the corner, making no loud noises in spite of his bulk, due to the rubbery soles of his feet. Craning his head over a brush of sage in his view, the mammoth's mouth dropped open in astonishment at the scene before him. He had been right to suspect the tiger, to be sure, but he had never expected this! Roshan sat on a boulder, covering and revealing his eyes, playing variants of the game Peekaboo. With Diego. With the tiger.

Occasionally, Diego would cover Pinky's eyes with his own large paw, and then Roshan would reciprocate by placing his diminutive hands over Diego's green eyes, giggling all the while as they played the game, completely unaware of the fact that they were being watched. The two – the tiger and the baby – were having so much fun that Manny was loath to disturb them, but, before he could slip away, Pinky had noticed him in spite of the sage blocking his view, crying out in delight, pointing to his hiding place so that Diego could see as well.

I've been found out. The mammoth and the tiger thought simultaneously, feeling somewhat embarrassed. Manny sighed, leaving the sanctity of his hideout dourly. To Diego, watching the mammoth walk towards him, unsure of his motives, every step appeared ponderous. Diego felt the earth tremble beneath him – or was that himself quivering in fear? The tiger closed his eyes in resignation, dreading what would happen to him if this news reached the pack somehow. When he opened them again, he noticed at a glance that Pinky had climbed down from the boulder. He sat by Manny, hugging his trunk affectionately, and, to Diego's amazement, Manfred didn't appear to mind. He raised his eyes to the mammoth's face and looked him in the eye only to find that Manfred was glaring at him sternly. For some reason, at this moment, Manfred seemed to resemble his alpha – but the mammoth had an aura of gentleness that Soto himself lacked, Diego discerned.

"Manny," Diego began, causing the mammoth to lift his eyebrows in surprise, as it was the first time that Diego had truly addressed him by Sid's nickname. Manny said nothing, but his expression clearly asked "Yes?"

Roshan interrupted before Diego could complete his thought, gurgling as he crawled up to the tiger, clasping his nearest foreleg in a heartfelt hug. Having found solace in the trust of this baby he'd been threatened with death if he didn't obtain him for his vicious alpha, Diego attempted to finish his statement.

"Uh, he's a good kid," the tiger said lamely, and then bent his head down impulsively, licking Roshan's face as he giggled appreciatively, for emphasis. The distant look Diego had seen yesterday winked in the mammoth's expression, vanished as abruptly as it had appeared, leaving the tiger puzzled once more as to the mystery behind it. The sternness had faded from Manny's visage when he finally replied quietly.

"I guess you never get tired of peekaboo, huh, partner?" he asked, a twinkle in his eye as Diego understood what he was really asking.

"Friends?" Manny inquired, extending his trunk to the tiger.

"Friends," Diego confirmed, shaking Manny's trunk as Roshan clapped with delight.

Fin (:


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