Dylan was walking across the icy tundra with a warmth of the sun radiating across the earth. It's soft rays patted gently on his fur, brightening his mood. He smiled as he listened to the soft crunches beneath his paws. He had always loved snow since he was a child. The feathery light patter with each step he made. He could not help feeling ever radiant about it. Perhaps everyone had that small thing they loved, which they carried from childhood.
But as joyous as he was, the saber-tooth tiger traversed with no idea of where to go. He simply carried along the thought he'd find the end of his journey when he'd arrive. A destination known only when found. But such mindless thinking only brought him back to asking himself why he was on such a journey. It was only a few days before since he was kicked out of his pack, when he told everyone of a personal secret he'd kept all his life.
Dylan was gay. At first, everyone seemed to take it easy but after a while people started thinking of him differently. His old friends started to avoid him, though as subtle as they did he noticed. He could always hear the females suddenly talking about him, giving him that weirded out every timehe'd catch their eye. As things transpired further into more complicated things, it was no surprise his father, the pack leader, would eventually have to kick him out for everyone else's own good. As a pack, living with everyone and knowing everyone meant everything. Perhaps after that secret, people eventually didn't know who he was anymore. Or the opposite, whereas Dylan no longer truly knew them.
However, the young saber-tooth tiger remained optimistic. In fact, he felt happier to be away from everyone else. The people who disregarded him and felt ashamed of him were no longer his problem. "A real family was someone who would accept anyone for who they were," he said to himself, and being kicked out of the pack was enough for it to be judged as not. He no longer wanted to regard them as family.
Though he utterly admitted he was gay, he still felt like it was wrong to think about some guy who would sweep him off his feet the moment they see each other. His eyes shining like the stars and would all the worries he'd ever had would simply wash away. As if anyone like that would exist, he thought. He shook off any idea of fantasy and simply walked onwards. But alas, fate had a different plan for him.
"No Sid, we're not stopping," said Diego, as he led his herd through the snowy landscape.
"But… *gasp*…I'm really… *gasp*… thirsty… *heave*," replied Sid, tired and weary from a long day journey. "I'm dehydrated."
Crash and Eddie, two mischievous possums, gave each other a wink and took the chance of Sid's condition. They jumped down from Ellie's trunk, landing stealthily unto the ground. The two possums sneaked up towards the unaware sloth. Crash pulled Eddie's tail where Sid's foot was about to step through which inevitably tripped him without warning. Sid fell down on the snow, but kept his face down for a while to try and rest.
"Guys, now's not the time to pulling any pranks," Manny said scoldingly as he looked down at the twins as they high-fived each other.
"Any time is a good time" replied Eddie, a wide smug on his face.
"Don't you think we won't be able to move if he won't move?" said Manny as he poked Sid with his trunk, still lying with his face down on the snow.
"It's alright. Actually, we're here," said Diego as he overheard their conversation, and noticed the familiarity of the surroundings. He stood between a bit of trees and shrubs which made what he saw unclear to the others. The herd walked towards Diego as Sid finally got out of the snow.
As they walked towards him, they began to see a bright unfrozen lake, surrounded by hundreds of flowers that floated atop the lake. The air was sweet and humid with their fragrance. Their petals swayed to the winds as blue pygmy butterflies danced about in the air. The flowers painted with their own images of beautiful colors shimmered along with the light that touched the surface of the water. In an instant, everyone dropped their jaws.
Trumpeting in joy, a small mammoth leaped around."It's beautiful!" shouted 5-year old Peaches, gazing wondrously at the magnificent scenery.
"Water!" shouted Sid, who would undeniably care less for the flowers and rushed towards the lake and take a drink. The floating water flowers spread across the lake as Sid plunged his head down, causing it to ripple wildly. Everyone who noticed him simply shook their heads.
"Amazing! How did you find this place?" Ellie asked Diego, amazed by the scenery.
"If you think this is amazing, wait 'til you see it at night," Diego replied with a smile, happy that everyone shared his appreciation. "Since you guys loved taking little trips every once in a while, I thought maybe I could take you guys to a few places."
"Good thinking, partner" said Manny, giving him a gentle tap on the shoulder. He then made his way with Ellie down the lake to watch the hyped-up and excited Peaches.
"…partner… huh?" mumbled Diego as he was left alone to watch the herd play by the lake.
"Daddy, daddy look!" cried out little Peaches. Diego sat down on the ground while overhearing the sweet bundle of joy from the distance. He watched Manny and his family spending their time together. Everyone in the herd regarded each other as close as family. But there really was just a difference with being someone's mate.
Diego's had a great life. He has great friends, a family that loves him either predator or prey, but he still felt like a significant piece of it was missing. Something... more.
"Uncle Diego! Come over here!" shouted Peaches which broke Diego's deep thought. Diego just brushed the thought aside for the moment and simply tried to enjoy the day.
The herd planned to stay at the lake until at night to see what Diego wanted them to see. It was near sunset, and their excitement was brimming with suspense. But little ol' Peaches couldn't take a little more waiting and wanted to explore the lake as much as every child wanted to explore the world. She ran off from her mother's side and ran around looking at everything she could see.
"Don't go too far, dear!" shouted Ellie as she noticed Peaches started running off. They couldn't help but not stop her from having too much fun, so they let her be for the while.
Like most children would, Peaches ignored her mother's warnings as if they she never heard them, and decided to go even further around the lake. She passed through a couple of plant which she gazed around for a minute before walking on. Back near the lake, she saw a familiar sight.
"It's a Diego!" she thought. "It looks like Diego, it drinks the water like Diego, so it has to be a Diego". Innocent Peaches never saw a saber-tooth tiger other than Diego before, so he approached him. And since Diego was always kind and friendly to her, maybe this one would the same.
"Hi there!" she greeted from behind him, which made the unsuspecting saber-tooth tiger turn around in wonder.
"Oh, hey there," replied the saber-tooth tiger, taken aback from the sudden voice that sneaked up on him.
"My name is Peaches. Peeeches," she introduced brightly with a smile on her face. "What's yours?"
"Dylan. Nice to meetcha!" he replied. Peaches smiled adoringly at him, making his heart a little warmer from being kicked out of the pack.
"You're friendly!" Peaches beamed with delight. Hey! Wanna go meet my family?"
"Sure! I'd love to-" Dylan said before noticing a pair of eyes watching them behind her. From a force of habit, he jumped over Peaches to try to defend her. The pair of eyes jumped towards him the same time he did and the two saber-tooth tigers met face to face.
Diego stared him down like the powerful he was. "You'd better get out of here, before someone gets hurt," he growled.
Taken aback for a second, Dylan immediately stood his ground."What makes you think I'll let you lay your paws on her?" he retorted.
"And what makes me think you won't do the same?" Diego talked back.
"And what makes me think I could trust you?" Dylan taunted.
"Uncle Diego!" shouted Peaches cheerfully above the negative aura of the two, not catching the apprehension between them.
"Uncle?" Dylan blurted in surprise.
"What's going on here?" asked Manny as he walked out of the thick bushes.
"What's all the fuss about?" said Ellie as she appeared behind Manny.
"Daddy! Daddy! Look! I found another Diego!" announced Peaches as she ran towards her father.
"I'm a... what?" Dylan asked. Diego remained cautious despite the stranger had already averted his eyes from something else.
"Alright, alright everyone. Let's all just calm down," said Sid after appearing from the bushes, pretending he could handle the situation.
"What happened?" asked the twins who appeared out of Ellie's head.
"This is getting weird..." muttered Dylan as he saw a couple of mammoths, two possums, and a sloth, who seemed to know the threatening saber-tooth tiger in front of him.
"This guy here would've hurt Peaches if I hadn't seen him" said Diego, still not letting his guard down.
Suddenly shaking off his bemusement, he turned his attention back to the other saber. "No I wouldn't!" Dylan protested. "I was just minding my own business when suddenly Peaches came up and talked to me."
"That's a likely excuse, and a sorry one at that," Diego replied.
"Unca' unca'! I found another Diego!" Peaches suddenly cried out, her undeniable innocence proving more of Dylan's defense.
"Just… trust me," said Dylan, who looked into Diego's hazel eyes. Passing his sincerity through eye contact, Diego tensed down and eased his glare.
"Fine," he said "But it's better if you leave now before-"
Into the fray, Sid entered with arms waving out. "Now hold on just for a second," he said ",that's no fair way to treat a guy we had a simple misunderstanding over, especially from a tiger like yourself."
"Not all sabers are friendly," Diego convinced.
"Yeah, but we still gave you a chance, so it's just fair we give him one too," said Sid before turning to Dylan. "So what's your name, friend?"
"Uhh... Dylan," he introduced.
Sid grabbed him by the paw. "Well then Dylan, nice to meet'cha! What you say you join us for tonight's event?"
"Wait, what?" Diego cried in bewilderment.
"That's a great idea!" agreed Ellie.
"Hey come on. We don't know even know who this guy is!" Diego reasoned.
"Oh, I'm sure it'll be fine," said Manny, 'punching' his trunk to his shoulder. "After all, he doesn't really seem like the guy who would hurt anyone."
"Yeah, but what if he has a pack?" said Diego, still instigating the fact that he might be dangerous.
"My pack kicked me out a few days ago," Dylan cut in with a pained voice. "By... uh... my own dad."
"What...? That's awful!" sympathized Ellie. "Why would he do that?"
For a second, Dylan held his breath, holding back the truth as he searched for a convenient lie. "It's... uh... complicated."
"See! It's the least we could do!" said Crash, who was also feeling pity for him.
"It must have been a tough few days for him," said Eddie. "It's okay bro, we feel for you."
"Nah, I tried to stop thinking too much about it" said Dylan. "Just gives my brain a head ache-overload"
"Okay okay, fine," Diego gave in. "But only if he behaves"
"Behave? Tuh, I think I'm mature enough, thank you," Dylan remarked, ending up with Diego making an almost silent growl at him.
"Come on, come on!" said Peaches as she ran towards Dylan. She grabbed his front paw and pulled it gently to get him moving. "Come on, Dylan! I wanna show you the flowers on the other side of the lake!" The twins followed after them.
"Sure," he said, leering at Diego as he passed by him. He followed Peaches as she led them back to where they first were.
Diego rubbed his paw down his face. "Are you sure we can trust him?" asked Diego.
"Hey, we trusted you didn't we?" said Manny.
"And it almost got us killed" Sid added.
Diego gave a soft grunt. "Point. Taken."
"Don't worry," Ellie commented. "I'm sure he'll grow on you."
It wasn't long before night approached the darkening sky. Clouds covering the heavens, scattered all around as the moon hid behind them. The stars started to jewel the night one by one.
During the time they had waiting for the sun to die down, Dylan had been chatting along with the rest of the herd. His stories and cheerful demeanor, which was opposite to what they've experience with one particularly glum saber, had won the friendship of everyone almost instantly. He was easy to get along with, despite being a saber tooth tiger. He's won the hearts of everyone except one.
Though Diego's suspicions remained, Dylan seemed incredibly friendly. No one seemed to notice him being a predator and all. Perhaps because they were already used to having one around all the time.
"What is this surprise Diego has?" Dylan asked the possums while they were sitting near the lake.
"We don't know either," answered Crash. "After all, it's his surprise."
"I bet he's just trying to pull some crazy prank," Eddie popped in.
Dylan chuckled. "I'm sure that's something only you guys would try."
"When will it happen?" Peaches asked Diego who was sitting beside each other.
Diego noticed the atmosphere changing and the wind blow just as he expected. "Wait for it," said Diego as he stood in anticipation, waiting for the event to unfold. The rest of the herd looked towards the lake where Diego was looking at. They anticipated for it as well, until finally, the clouds lifted out of the moon and the moonlight shone across the lake beautifully and the flowers floating on the lake glowed into a vibrant purple color as the bloomed gracefully. After a few seconds, the flowers around the lake glowed yellow, making the scenery even more spectacular than it already was.
"Woooaaah" the twin possums let out as they widened their eyes to what they saw. Their jaw remaining wide open.
Dylan was enchanted by the amazing spectacle of it all. He could see a flower floating near the shore towards him. Dylan tried touching the flower when suddenly the petals broke up and flew in the air like little angels. All the flowers opened their petals and let it float away like feathers into the air. The yellow and purple glowing petals mixed and they flew all around them, causing them to be captivated, making their hearts skip a beat in every passing petal. The event seemed to cause them to feel an inexpressible sense of love and happiness. Manny and Ellie leaned towards each other and hugged each other's trunk, Crash and Eddie danced with Peaches as they tried to catch as many petals in the air as they can, and Sid remained gazing at them as they seemed to be 'dancing' around. Dylan turned towards Diego to see him watching it as well. Maybe Diego wasn't as bad as he thought.
His gaze was distracted with Diego's focused eyes. The way he looked at that moment, it was as if Dylan could see all the good things about him right then and there. Courage, strength, charisma, and love.
Dylan sighed at the end of the thought. Upon having that stray thought, everything led to one after another. His attraction to men, his exile from his original pack, and the pain of having no family. Anyone who know that part about him... would definitely...
Finally, the entire thing stopped in a moment as the petals danced towards the lake and stopped glowing. The flowers remained without a single petal.
"That was the most AWESOME thing I've ever seen!" Eddie bellowed to the top of his lungs. "Not the most death-defying, but it's still awesome!"
"When did you-" said Manny before being cut off.
"I saw this place one time while I roaming around for game," Diego answered immediately. "I came back the next day but the flowers had all died, so I thought maybe if I bring you all here the following year, we might all be able to see it."
"Can we come back here next time?" Sid said excitedly.
"We should!" Ellie said immediately. While everyone was planning for next time, Dylan smiled and bowed his head out of the crowd and started walking away.
Peaches however noticed and ran towards him "Where are you going Dylan?" she asked.
"I'm thankful for everything you guys have done, but I don't really want to overstay my welcome. I'll be fine alone from here on," Dylan said who was slightly disappointed that he had to leave as well. "Besides, I'm not really part of anyone's family.
"Maybe you can," said Ellie. "Why not stay with us?"
"Huh?" muttered Dylan, who turned his head back.
"Yeah. You seem to be such a good person, and Peaches seems to have grown fond of you," said Manny. "I think we do have room for one more in our herd"
"No one ever deserves to be alone." said Sid. "I'm in favor of Dylan joining the herd!"
"Us too!" the twins cried in unison.
"Wait, but I-" Dylan's wanted protests
Sid turned towards Diego who remained silent and expressionless. "What about you, Diego?" he asked.
Diego stayed a bit silent for a while, first surprised, but then turned his head towards Dylan. In a gust of a wind, the two simply shared each others stare. "I guess that's fine."
"Well, I guess that means you're in!" Sid bellowed.
Dylan remained looking at the herd about how much they seem to care for each other. Though Diego was a saber-tooth tiger, they seem to let him be close to them. Maybe this was the family he had been looking for. They seemed so accepting, open-armed to anyone. The family he had truly desired. Dylan wanted to. He couldn't deny it. But he was still insecure what they might think of him when he reveals about his sexual orientation.
In the end, he had to keep it a secret.
"Do you want to be part of our herd, Dylan?" Manny asked.
"Of course!" Dylan agreed without hesitation, a bit teary-eyed that he had been accepted into a family again, finally being able to sleep without looking back at his past.
The herd got around him and started praising him, which made him all the more happier than he could be. Diego got up and walked towards him as well. Dylan caught him in the corner of his eye as he approached him.
"Sorry about the way I treated you a while ago," muffled Diego as soft as he could, that gave the impression that he didn't want the others to hear, or that he really had trouble taking the words out, or maybe even both. The subtle tiger passed through him nonchalantly. Dylan was a bit surprised. After all, he did see Diego a bit of a grouch before. And who knows, maybe he was wrong about his first impression of him too.
Things seemed to start getting brighter for Dylan. But lest did he know his 'happy ending' was yet to begin.