Mako stared up at the ceiling of the tent he shared with Osso. The bat was still asleep and the sun hadn't begun to rise. The otter had tossed and turned during the night, waking up every couple hours until he eventually couldn't get back to sleep.
He couldn't stop thinking about what Osso had said about he and Kasim being together, and then seeing them kiss. Sure, he'd kissed Osso as well, but the way those two had done so was different, more intimate. Why did it bother him so much? It's not as if Osso had made any sort of romantic advances on him, or the other way around; they'd just spent a lot of time together, had sex, and were in the same tent. "It still hurts," he thought sullenly. He hadn't even been certain if he'd felt anything towards the bat; maybe he was just feeling lonely.
Whatever the reason, he couldn't sleep, and he knew that in a few hours the sun would be about to rise and they'd be walking. It was going to be a long day.
Nearly fourteen hours later Mako was convinced he was going to die. He was absolutely exhausted from the lack of sleep and they'd been walking for nearly ten hours. Mako had lagged behind everyone in the Tribe and Osso had kept asking if he was okay, to which Mako just shrugged it off saying he was just a little tired. When they finally stopped, Osso insisted that Mako relax by the river while he put up their tent.
That's where Mako was now; sitting down on the edge of the river, naked, with his legs hanging in the water as he tried not to drift off to sleep. It was a warm summer night; one of the last ones before Autumn. He could hear some of the evening birds and insects with their songs and chirps, and overhead the sky was clear of clouds with the sun and moon both visible.
His eyes fluttered closed and he focused on the sounds and smells of everything around him, felt the ground beneath him and the small vibrations as people moved about. A few hours passed as he lay there and he stayed in his meditative state, relaxed as he could be, without anything to worry him.
He was brought out of his reverie by a bunch of people cheering, and heard some of the others on the shore talking quickly and starting back towards the camp. Mako dragged himself to his feet and pulled his loincloth back around himself before following after, curious as to what the sudden commotion was.
Everyone, all four-hundred some odd people, were outside, gathered toward one end of their temporary camp, and were all looking towards Chief Ronan. The buck was standing up on the edge of one of the carts, looking out over everyone and smiling broadly.
"I see the rest of you are finally here!" he called out, voice booming through the night. "You'll have to forgive me, I already made the announcement once; I was too excited," he said, getting a few laughs and cheers from people in the tribe. "We have found our new home. Only a few hours distance from here, we'll reach it tomorrow, but we did it. We've reached our new home," he said, grinning ear to ear.
Mako's eyes went wide with surprise and his muzzle hung open. His ears were ringing as everyone cheered and screamed with excitement. Many were jumping up and down, and he could only stand there in shock, so many emotions washing over him. They were finally done traveling?
"I had a good feeling about this area, and left early this morning to scout ahead with Mikal and our new friend Tarn. Sure enough, scouting ahead we came across a wonderful location along the river. Perhaps six miles from here. Tomorrow we shall take the last leg of our journey!" More exaltations washed over the Tribe and a few lights shot into the sky from some of the shamans.
Mako grinned wide, paws clenching into fists as he thought about being able to set up his tent, get his stuff unpacked and start a new life. He'd be able to train his own skills, and socialize more.
The tribe was already breaking off into their smaller groups and families, people still cheering, chanting, or singing. Everyone except Mako. The otter stood off at the back of the crowd, smile fading from his face as he saw everyone together, and he felt incredibly alone. He missed his family; his brothers especially.
Mako let his paws fall to his side and he let out a depressed sigh, turning away from everyone and starting towards his tent. "Maybe I should have stayed with my real Tribe," he thought, trying to hold back the sadness that was creeping over him. "I don't belong here, I don't-"
His thoughts were violently interrupted as two strong arms caught him around his upper torso, nearly knocking him to the ground. Mako yelped in surprise, and a bit of pain, head whipping around to see who it was, surprised to find Kasim of all people with Osso running along behind. "No fair!" the bat complained, catching up and bumping into the pair, grinning wide. "Aren't you excited?"
The otter was still recovering from the sudden bear hug from Kasim and he stumbled when finally released. "Wh-what?"
"We're done searching! No more traveling all day!" the wild dog said, clapping the otter on the shoulder and beaming brightly.
Osso lunged at Mako and hugged him tightly, laughing. "We came to find you, wondering if you'd still be asleep by the river. Kasim runs faster than I do and saw ya, though," the bat said.
Mako returned the hug awkwardly; he'd been so wrapped up in his own worries about not being wanted that this sudden attention caught him off guard. "I heard everything going on, so I came to see. It's pretty exciting, though, for sure. Can't wait to stop walking all day," Mako said, giving a nervous chuckle.
Osso frowned and rest both his paws on Mako's chest, rubbing gently. "Are you sure you're doing okay? You seemed a bit out of it this morning, too,"
Mako's cheeks turned red and he looked away sheepishly. "I'm alright. Just tired, I guess,"
Kasim laughed and rubbed a paw affectionately over the otter's back. "I'm sure we all will be tonight; who can sleep now that we know home is just around the corner?"
The otter nodded and smiled genuinely, reaching out to touch the dog's side. "Yeah. I can't wait to see it,"
"Me neither," Osso said, slipping his arm around Kasim's waist and leaning into his side. "We're going to go down to the river, swim around, relax. Do you want to come with?"
Mako paused for a moment to consider and then shook his head, smiling wide. "No, I think I'm going to lay down, though. Thanks for asking," he said.
Osso nodded and nudged Kasim in the side. "Come on, let's go. I'll see you later, if you're still up," he said to Mako as he and the painted dog walked off.
The otter watched for a while and then started off towards his tent, tail swaying behind him. He felt a little silly, now, to think that he didn't belong. After all, he didn't even know Kasim too well and the painted wild dog had been nothing but friendly and outgoing. Osso, even if completely unaware of his confused feelings, couldn't be faulted for not knowing something he'd never brought up, and was always doing whatever he could to include the otter. "I guess I just needed a reminder," he thought, smiling to himself as he walked back to his tent.
Sleep came much easier and quicker that night, and he only woke when Osso returned. The bat apologized for waking him, gave him an affectionate hug good night, and then the pair were asleep.
Morning came early as it always did, but the otter felt relaxed and rested. Some of the others in the tribe appeared a little ragged, but then again, there had been small parties through some of the night to celebrate finding their home, and it was likely to happen again tonight. Osso and Mako packed up their tent and loaded up one of the carts before starting off after the rest of Tribe.
The new home of the Aurum Tribe was breathtakingly beautiful. The river they'd been following met up with another that they hadn't seen before, and the two joined right at the edge of a large cliff-face. Looking over the edge of the cliff showed the gorgeous waterfall dropping into a basin about a hundred feet down. The cliff overlooked a valley of rich, green grass and colorful flowers with a large herd of buffalo grazing in the distance.
The plains they'd walked through on the east side of the river continued on for miles beneath the cliff, and on the west side of the river was the second river, hidden by the thick forest. There was a gentle slope down into the valley below off down the plains and they'd be able to get back and forth easily. The view off the cliff was a wonder to behold, though. From there you could see a mountain range in the distance as well as a large lake whose far side couldn't be seen.
The Tribe agreed to set up their permanent camp at the base of the cliff, electing to cross to the west side of the river to be beneath the side with trees. It was still early in the afternoon when their temporary camp was set up, and hunters took off immediately towards the buffalo they'd seen. Chief Ronan and some of the Elders were going to be busy for the night as they began planning what would need to go where, and how they'd rearrange the camp if needed.
Everyone seemed to be busy with set up and preparation, and stores of preserved food were pulled from carts. Mako, for his part, could only help so much as everyone seemed to know what they were doing. Osso was spending time helping his sister set up her tent and get things as comfortable for her as possible now that she was five months pregnant. Tarn was off with Mikal to scout along outside of the tribe. Mako wanted to help but didn't know what he could do.
"You alright?" a voice from behind the otter asked, making the smaller male jump.
Mako turned around to see Kasim standing there with a couple large bags in his arms and he was chuckling at the otter's start. "You and Osso keep asking me that," the otter said, frowning slightly.
The wild dog smiled and held out one of the bags. "Here, take this," he said.
Mako hesitated but took the bag, finding it soft and not terribly heavy, probably clothes. "Where to?"
"I'll show ya, come on," he said, leading the otter through the various tents until they got towards the cliff face where Chief Ronan's tent was. Selena and Osso's tents were there as well and Kasim went into Osso's.
Mako frowned inwardly as he carried the bag inside and put it at the side with the others. It was a painful reminder that Osso would be having Kasim in his tent now that they'd found a permanent location. "Anything else?"
"No, that's pretty much it. Have you found yourself a place to sleep? A tent with anyone, or your own?" Kasim asked, brushing off his simple, blue shirt and walking back towards he flap.
Mako winced as he remembered that he didn't actually have a place to stay just yet. "No, I had thought that..." he trailed off, not wanting to say he'd thought about being with Osso. "No, I don't yet."
Kasim looked on at the otter for a few seconds before clapping his shoulder. "Well, I can help. You want to stay with anyone, or be on your own?"
"I'm already on my own I guess," Mako said bitterly before he could think to stop himself.
Kasim's eyes widened and he paused at the front of the tent, looking at the otter with a concerned expression. "Is... this about me and Osso?"
Mako flinched and looked away, pulling away from the wild dog's paw. "I know you two are together, I'm not going to try and get in the way or anything, I just..."
Kasim reached out and grabbed the otter before he could get away. "Whoa, hey, it's okay. I kinda suspected that maybe you liked him, but I didn't think you two were involved,"
"We weren't. Aren't. I don't even know if I like him!" Mako protested, his voice a little higher and shakier than he'd thought.
The canine frowned and pulled Mako into a tight hug, sighing. "I'm sorry. I hope that you don't hate me," he said with a frown, his tail drooped down between his legs.
"No. Like I said, I don't even know how I feel. I just.. I don't know. I guess I thought that maybe he liked me, and I wasn't certain what I thought, and... well now it doesn't matter because you two are together, and I'll just... be alone," Mako muttered, shaking his head and brushing a few tears from his eyes and trying to keep calm.
"You're not alone. It's not like he's not going to want to talk to you, be around you. Same for me, you know. And there's everyone here, I know that you don't know many people yet, but they want to know you," Kasim said, smiling softly and stepping back from the otter.
Mako just held himself close, feeling horribly awkward and out of place. "I don't want to be... in the way. And I'm so unsure of everything, and I hate it. I just wish I knew how I felt or how to feel,"
Kasim sighed and shook his head. "No one can tell you what or how to feel anything. That's all you. You're young- I know you hate to hear that-" he said quickly when the otter opened his mouth to protest. "But you are. You're not used to having feelings towards anyone, and how to deal with them,"
Mako grit his teeth, a mix of anger and sorrow flooding him as he stood there. "I think I like him. And now you're with him, and... what am I now?"
"A very close and important person to both him and me," Kasim assured him. "I know we haven't spent much time together, but we will be when you're training and practicing magic, and I care greatly for Osso, and I know he cares a lot for you, so I care about you, too."
Mako didn't say anything for a few seconds. He stood there, wiping tears from his cheeks and breathing slowly from his nose. "I just- I don't- I don't even know- I don't understand-" he took a deep breath and stayed quiet for a little bit more. "What do I do now?"
Kasim looked down at his paws for a few seconds. "You should talk to Osso. Tell him everything that's on your mind,"
Mako's face turned red and he looked up in surprise, throat suddenly dry. "What?! Why would I tell him that. You're with him now. What if he... feels awkward that I think I like him? What if he thinks I'm stupid for not even knowing how I feel? What if he suddenly decides not to be with you?"
Kasim chuckled and shook his head, sitting down on the pair of bedrolls that had yet to be unrolled. "While I don't suspect he'll leave me, if he does, he does. I won't lie, I might be a bit jealous if he did, but if it's not meant to be, it's not. I want him to be with the right person, and all I can do is try to be the right person. Either way, you should talk to him and tell him how you feel," the dog said, letting out a soft sigh. "And no one should ever get upset with you for your feelings towards them. Nothing could be more flattering and special for someone to hold you in that regard, anyone who is upset you feel that way is not worth your time,"
Mako listened quietly, nodding a few times and keeping his gaze down at the ground. Tears ran down his cheeks and he just took a few deep breaths, feeling anxious at the thought of that discussion. "I'll... try to talk to him when he's not busy," he said, wiping his eyes off on the back of his hand and sniffling.
"Trust me; he's not too busy to talk to you. He's two tents over helping Selena, go talk to him," Kasim said, pulling Mako into another hug and patting the back of his head.
Mako returned the hug and buried his face into the dog's chest for a few moments before finally pulling away. "I will, then. Thanks for not being mad at me," he said.
Kasim laughed and clapped Mako on the shoulder. "Nothing to be upset about,"
Mako left Osso's tent and found Selena's easy enough. He took a few deep breaths to compose himself and make sure his eyes were dry before pushing aside the tent flap and stepping inside. Osso and Selena had just finished setting up a wooden table in the corner and turned to greet him. "Hello Selena, I... was hoping to talk to Osso for a moment,"
The doe smiled warmly and bowed her head. "Hello, Mako. Please, take him off my hands," she teased, pushing Osso's shoulder. "He keeps doting on me as if I'm going to break,"
The bat laughed and stepped towards the otter, turning around to face his sister. "You're getting bigger now, though! Surely you could use the help," he said.
Selena smiled and rest both paws on her belly, looking down at it affectionately. "The help is much appreciated, little brother," she said.
Osso laughed and turned back to Mako, walking over and giving him a hug. "What's up? What'cha want to talk about?" he asked, paws resting on the otter's hips.
Mako took a step back, shrugging his shoulders and looking back at the tent flap. "Can we talk somewhere private? I just... I mean, I don't-" his voice caught in his throat and he started to panic.
Osso grabbed Mako's arm and pulled him from the tent, glancing around as he pulled the otter over to his tent and ducked inside before Mako could say anything. "What's wrong? Are you okay?"
The otter's face was flushed and he glanced around, noting that Kasim must have left already. "I don't... I don't want you to hate me," he said quietly, feeling his fingers tremble as the bat held them.
"Hate you? Why would I possibly ever hate you?" the bat said, looking worried for his friend and pulling the otter over to sit down with him on the bedrolls. "What happened?"
Tears were running down Mako's face again and he couldn't help bet let out an anxious sob, shaking his head. "I think I like you, and I'm afraid that you'll be upset cause you're now with Kasim, and I don't even know how to tell if I do like you, or if I'm just lonely because I don't know many people here and I feel like I don't really belong, but you and Kasim have been so nice and friendly, and I am happy that I decided to come on this journey, but I don't know how I feel about you, and it hurt when you said you were going to be with him, and I don't know if that means I like you, and I'm just feeling like I'm a complete mess right now," he said, taking in a deep breath after rambling on.
Osso frowned as he listened to Mako, nodding slowly and petting the paws he was holding onto. "Mako..." he said softly, stroking the otter's paws.
The otter was just staring down at the ground, choking on his sobs as tears dripped down to the floor. "I'm sorry..." he whispered, letting out a staggered breath.
"Hey, no, don't be sorry," Osso said, pulling Mako close and holding him close, rubbing the back of his head as the otter cried on his shoulder. "If anything I should be sorry. I didn't realize you had any of these problems or feelings, and if I'd realized, I could have helped," he said, rocking side to side.
Mako clung to Osso, trying to keep his crying to a minimal as he let the stress from the last few days out of his system. It took a few minutes before he'd finally calmed down, and he just leaned into the bat, chest rising and falling slowly. "It's not your fault. I should have said spoken up,"
Osso pulled back and brushed Mako's hair from his face, and some tears away as well. "I know it's difficult to talk about something like this, though. It makes me feel very special to know that you might have feelings for me, though," he said, smiling softly. "I just... I'm sorry, I don't quite have romantic feelings for you,"
Mako's chest ached when he heard that, but he nodded slowly, lowering his head and looking away. "It's... alright,"
Osso tilted the otter's head back up so they were looking each other in the eyes again. "That being said, you still mean a great deal to me, and I don't plan on treating you any differently, or thinking of you and differently, or anything like that. You're still a good friend, and I want you around," he said, leaning in and kissing Mako very softly on the lips.
Mako closed his eyes at the kiss and nodded slowly, taking a deep breath. "I just... I don't want to get in the way or you or Kasim,"
"You won't get in the way," the bat sad, smiling and nosing at the otter's cheek. "Though, if you think that being this close makes things difficult, I'd completely understand and respect that. I know that not everyone can be casual with someone they have feelings for,"
Mako shrugged awkwardly, trying to think about how he felt right now. "I... I don't know. I don't know how I even feel about you," he said, frowning. "Sorry,"
Osso chuckled and squeezed him tightly. "You're so adorable. Don't be sorry for that. Not at all. If you don't know, you don't know. Unfortunately I can't tell you how you feel. Why don't we just continue as we are, and see if you can figure it out?" he said, leaning back on the roll and taking both of Mako's paws in his own.
The otter took in a deep breath and let it out, squeezing the bat's paws. "Alright, I think I can do that," he said, a hint of a smile creeping over his face. He felt like a huge weight was being lifted off his shoulders.
"Good. Would you like to help me help my sister?" he asked, standing up and pulling Mako to his feet.
Mako smiled and shook his head, wiping his eyes on the back of his hands and sniffling a little. "No, thanks for the offer. But I need to find a place to sleep for the night, I don't ha-"
Osso gasped and slapped his forehead with a paw, letting out a groan. "Oh my god, I completely forgot! I am so sorry," he said. "I can help you set up one of the extra tents! There's spot next to this one, too. That way you're close!"
The otter blushed and rubbed a paw over the back of his neck, considering it. "Well, what about your sister?"
"Oh she's fine. And if I help put up your tent it'll go much faster, and then you can help me with her, and we're all happy, right?" the bat said, beaming brightly and stepping out of the tent, holding it open for Mako.
Two hours later Mako was unrolling his bedroll and unloading a few of his personal items near the wall of his tent. His thick, rudder tail swung side to side and he beamed brightly as he looked around the inside of his new tent. It was large enough that another person could stay in there with him, if he wanted, but didn't feel needlessly roomy.
Osso stepped into his tent and sighed happily, nodding in approval. "This will do."
Mako nodded in agreement and stood up, hugging the bat tightly. "Thanks for the help,"
"Of course! And Selena is actually finished with what she was doing, so there's nothing to help her with now. Kasim is with his brothers and sisters, helping for the celebration," Osso said.
Mako tilted his head, brow furrowed in confusion. "Celebration? What for? Finding this place?"
Osso laughed and clapped the otter on the shoulder, stepping out of the tent with the otter in tow. "I guess it's partly for that, but it's also for tomorrow," he said, walking through the tents and looking on as everyone worked hard to get everything in order. "You do know what tomorrow is, don't you?"
The otter's eyes went wide and his chest swelled with excitement. "The Autumn Solstice! I thought about it the other day, and I was sad that I wouldn't be able to celebrate!"
The bat threw both hands in the air and spread his wings, laughing good-naturedly. "Yes! The Solstice! We would have stopped on the road if we had to, but we didn't. On the eve of the Solstice we started our new home, and get to have a large campfire-"
"A feast! Wonderful pies, wine, hopefully some buffalo. There'll be singing, dancing," Osso said.
Mako couldn't help but bounce along as they walked, suddenly eager for the day to be over if just to get to the celebration quicker. "I'm so excited, I cannot wait to see how your Tribe celebrates the Solstice."
"Our Tribe," Osso corrected, stopping and grabbing Mako's paw, squeezing it tight. "It's just as much your Tribe as it is mine. I challenge you to find someone who disagrees,"
"Our Tribe," Mako repeated, cheeks flushed with warmth as he returned the caring squeeze.
"Oi!" Kasim called as he ran towards the pair, stopping just in front of them and draping an arm on each of their shoulders. "Tarn and Mikal found a large grove of raspberries not far from here. My younger brothers and sisters want to go pick some. Would you two care to come with?"
"Definitely! We'll be able to use them for tomorrow!" Osso said, looking to Mako.
Mako grinned wide and gave a quick nod, following along behind Osso and Kasim as they went off to fetch the dog's siblings. Along the way Mako watched as the new couple shared a soft kiss, and held each other close; it still hurt, but just a little. Despite their affection, Mako was still smiling, and he was happier than he had been in the last couple months. Hours later, he sat in his tent with a small candle he'd been given by one of the elders, writing on a piece of paper he'd brought with.
If I could only be better; I don't
See the good in myself, and I have no
Life; I would realize this if I were smart.
I am liked and loved by no one at all.
I don't have to stress 'bout being lonely
Because I always will be on my own;
Have some friends that are fake when my back turns;
Looking out for me to fail, and they'd laugh
And point their fingers at me to shame me.
On the correct path I would still stumble.
I am thankful that my life will be short.
I have everything against me; this pain
That I have, and I feel so much; I can't
Block out the bad voice in my head and start
To focus on the good things; there are none.
Big and small wonders are gone. My troubles
That occur each day will someday end me.
The otter stared down at the poem he wrote and then placed his paw over the right side and read it again.
If I could only
See the good in my
Life; I would realize
I am liked and loved
I don't have to stress
Because I always
Have some friends that are
Looking out for me
And point their fingers
On the correct path
I am thankful that
I have everything
That I have, and I
Block out the bad voice
To focus on the
Big and small wonders
That occur each day