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Wild by The Fire Tiger


"Sometimes I wish I could just forget life altogether and escape back to my country. Or the deep forest. Anywhere but here."

Dylan, an orange Bengal tiger, sighed as he slumped further into the couch he sat upon. The thought of finally freeing himself of all responsibility tantalized him so, and all he could do as he spoke of it was give a small smirk. Deep down, however, he knew it wasn't meant to be. He was dragged into this country against his own will, and going back to his homeland, to the highlands where his oldest uncle resided, was an entire endeavor that he just wasn't ready to take right now, and especially not when he just got accepted to college. But the thought lingered. It desired.

And Vincent, his roommate and therapist-in-training, was well aware of it by now. The light blue thoroughbred horse nodded in understanding, somewhat fascinated by these desires, and hummed along while looking at his notebook. "Right... And what would you do if you were, for example, given the opportunity to do so?" As opposed to his tiger roommate, Vincent sat straight up on a small sofa chair that was just wide enough to fit the equine. He leaned forward as he asked the question, ready to jot down Dylan's response. Unbeknownst to the tiger, Vincent had been observing just about every detail of this escapade, and in the three months that they've known each other, Vincent was able to extract quite a lot about Dylan. This response was just the final bit of information he needed, as once he had it, he was going to put a plan together. The horse wasn't entirely sure if it would work, but...

"I'm only taking a backpack with some food and some clothing," the tiger spoke again, after some thought. Dylan never actually made any sort of strategy to this desire, as he knew it wouldn't be possible. But on the chance it was, Dylan was fairly confident he could get by. Being a boy scout from a young age taught him some valuable lessons, and his own curiosity for hiking expeditions led him to picking up a few tricks here and there. All he would need was a small batch of clothes that he could repurpose if needed, some non-perishable food to start, and--

"--and my pan flute. To remember and honor my uncle." Dylan sighed at the mention of his uncle. That pan flute he mentioned was a gift that he gave to him at a young age, and he's treasured it since. He keeps it hidden in his closet, inside of a small briefcase, and often Vincent catches him going back to the closet to admire it. "...I firmly believe this is what he would've wanted."

Vincent wrote all of this down, making a few lines connecting certain points and scratching off a few other ideas. His plan was finally starting to take shape, despite his own doubts, but just to be sure, there was only one more question. "Hm... Does any part of this ever... manifest itself in your dreams?" The equine tried not to dwell too much into this, but it was important for his plan to work. "Perhaps being back home, or in a large expansive forest... Is that frequent when you sleep?"

"Uhm, sometimes," Dylan replied, somewhat confused by this query but understanding it could be important. "I don't get many dreams, but of the few I do, sometimes they're with my uncle. Or just walking along the Andes aimlessly." Dylan seemed to pause for a moment, debating on whether to say something else.

Vincent was still too absorbed into his notes to notice this, but it didn't matter. He was now a little confident he had a plan. It would take some time to properly set up, as this needed a fair amount of conversation beforehand with Dylan. Vincent needed to also be wary of his belongings, as the tiger was more of a typical house cat, sometimes catching him looking at some of his own documents. If Vincent's notebook gets in his hands, it would all be over. He hated carrying it around, but if it was necessary, then so be it. After much more aimless jotting, the equine was finally ready to stand up, gently closing the notebook and giving a warm smile to his roommate. "Well, I thin--"

"They feel very real...!" Dylan finally decided to force it out, deciding that this thought was pestering him too much. To the equine's shock, he sat back down, looking at Dylan with a puzzled look.


"My dreams... When I have them, I... it's like I'm really there." Dylan had to look away while explaining this, because he thought it was rather stupid.

Vincent, on the other hand, couldn't believe it. "...what do you think? Do you not like it when that happens?"

"No... it's just that..." The tiger seemed to shrink a little as he tried to think straight. "This feels like it's some sort of magic, or like I'm faking it for attention, but it's--"

"I know, it's true. And trust me, I've seen it before." The horse now stood up again, pushing the small notebook into his pocket, as he no longer had a need for it. "What you are experiencing is a form of lucid dreaming, a sort of state in your dream where you are aware that you're in a dream and reshape it to your liking. It appears, though, that you're doing this prematurely, as if you don't fully have control over yourself."

"Lucid dreaming...?" The tiger looked up to Vincent, not sure of what to think of this. "But... it's not, like, some pseudoscience or...?"

"On the contrary. Many people practice it often, and most can learn to do it in a few steps. This is a very psychologically oriented subject."

"So... how do I control myself...?"

Vincent smirked now. "I think I can teach you in a few hours, when I come back from classes."

The entire plan he had written up in his notebook was useless now. Dylan just gave the horse an even better one.

"My soul longs for nature, and in nature it shall stay."

Vincent read this phrase attentively from his notebook, trying to get a feel for just how attached his tiger roommate was to this escapade. He would need it for what he was about to attempt.

As promised, Vincent, once he returned from his psychology lessons, rushed to his dorm to teach Dylan all about lucid dreaming. He would give the tiger a few pointers on self-awareness in a dream, reality checks to perform, and other such pointers, as they ate a shared dinner of day-old pizza and lukewarm cocoa. Vincent had told Dylan that it would require some serious commitment, but that managing his emotions within a lucid dream could be beneficial. He then sent the tiger off to bed, commenting that it would still take a few weeks before any notable progress could be made.

However, and if Vincent performed this correctly, the truth was that those results would come by much sooner than he would expect.

Around two hours had now passed since Vincent last saw the tiger, only exiting his room briefly for a few minutes to use the bathroom, but otherwise the room was relatively quiet now. While Dylan slept soundly in his room, Vincent was laid on the sofa, having to take refuge there as his bed had yet to be delivered to him. One glance over at his watch, sitting idly on a small table just next to the sofa, was enough to tell the time: a quarter hour past 3AM, and only getting more late with each passing second. Vincent didn't want to stand up to confirm if Dylan was asleep, mostly out of laziness, but he just knew that the tiger truly was in a deep slumber... which meant that it was time.

Vincent kicked off his slippers and pulled the two covers over his body to keep warm. "I've only ever done this once, but it's like I just know how to do it without fail," the horse pondered to himself. As he slowly shut his eyes, ready to get this show on the road, he felt a cold shiver graze his heart, mostly out of nervousness. He had to get this right the first time.

"I just need to keep myself... aware..." The last words Vincent spoke before finally allowing himself to enter a deep slumber.

It would only be a few minutes of floating aimlessly before Vincent eventually "woke up" in his own dorm again. Despite it being extremely similar to the real thing, it only took one glance over at the balcony window to realize that he was not awake: the sun was setting, and the entire room, instead of being colored a golden hue, was glowing in a vibrant purple and pink. Vincent was still getting adjusted to his own movement before he finally decided to stand up.

As stated before, Vincent was only able to do this once, and it was so far ago that the horse couldn't even tell if it was a success or not. Back then, he had just met a friend who told him about hypnosis and how cool it was, to which Vincent was very happy to learn from him. One of the things they learned was a way to get into someone else's dreams using lucid dreaming, and despite the absurd number of warnings on those websites telling them not to do it, they kept going anyway. On that day, Vincent woke up in his dream, made a short hike over to his friend's house and sneaked in from the slightly open window that his friend had left for him, and eventually found his friend, lying on his bed and with a weird light coming from his head. The last thing he remembered was going over to touch that light, but whatever happened there, it sent the two on a path to using hypnosis in the waking world for good.

Vincent sighed, now realizing that he would be reliving those same memories with just a short walk in front of him. All he could do was gently tiptoe towards the ajar bedroom door and quietly push it open, peeking his head in. And as he did so, he found Dylan, just like that last time, though this time not entirely whole. To Vincent, the tiger was somewhat translucent, as if someone had decided to turn down his transparency just a little to be noticeable, something that Vincent didn't remember happening to his friend back then. His head, however, housed the same very bright light.

"So, Dylan..." the horse muttered to himself, reaching one hand out to this glow carefully. "Show me what you dream of..."

As he did so, the world around him seem to warp and twist in on itself. His vision somewhat became more disoriented as he kept reaching out to that light, feeling so close to physically grabbing it but always being out of reach. This, too, was a familiar feeling, and it wouldn't take long before the equine felt like he was floating in the air again, his whole body stretching out to its limits as he kept chasing that bright light. Only seconds later, his whole vision became nothing but a blinding white light...

And before the horse could ask if he had somehow died, he felt his whole body reconstruct itself back to its original shape, along with a blast of fresh air whizzing past his ears. A few more seconds would pass before the blinding white surrounding him finally faded away, allowing Vincent to see where he was now: a large, open field, green grass for miles in every direction, and clouds so close you could almost touch them. Several large mountains were also visible in the distance, and the sun radiated from above. Combined with the sparse clouds around the area, the whole scene looked like one of those computer lab wallpapers. Vincent just stared in awe.

He would be even more in awe when he focused his gaze on himself: it would appear as if he was floating inside a bubble, being gently descended to the ground, with the bubble itself freely rocking back and forth wherever the wind blew it but never being able to pop it. Shifting his sights to his hands, Vincent realized that the changes didn't stop there. Golden bracelets adorned his wrists, and he was now wearing a colorful garment around his shoulders, long enough to just drape over his arms in a weird fashion. His formal dress pants were now replaced with a skirt-like pair of shorts, and the shoes he had on were gone in favor of barefoot sandals. Whatever this outfit was, it seemed to be important enough to force Vincent to change into it, something he was absolutely certain did not happen when he visited his friend in a dream all those years ago.

And as the bubble finally caressed the ground below, Vincent quickly shifted his body to ready himself to land, all while pondering what was going on. This certainly wasn't the same experience he had, or at least, it's nothing like the bits and pieces of what he remembered from that experience anyway. His train of thought was interrupted as the bubble around him finally burst, and Vincent briefly experienced gravity returning to him again as his feet firmly planted themselves to the grassy hill. With his whole body now finally adjusting for the gentle breeze that eternally blew around this place, the horse could only turn around and look, still amazed at how incredibly real this felt.

"I could stay here forever..." Vincent let himself get carried away at the sight, but only for a moment. He still needed to hunt down Dylan after all, and even if he was put in the middle of nowhere, he was almost certain the tiger was nearby. With his soul seemingly at peace, he briefly inhaled a deep breath, and moved down the hill he was situated on as he exhaled sharply.

And so, he got to searching. Granted, there wasn't much to look at to begin with, so most of what the horse did consisted of walking to a certain point and moving his head around to no avail. What else was he to do? Despite this, though, Vincent felt as if Dylan was just nearby, always feeling a tugging sensation directing him to where he could possibly find him. It would be a few short minutes of walking like this before another figure materialized in the distance, and this time Vincent had no doubts about who it was.

"That's you, Dylan..." The horse now picked up the pace as he strutted towards the tiger, vaguely but correctly remembering what came next: by sharing a physical gesture, like a hug, with the dreamer, the visitor can safely traverse his headspace. This was a very delicate process, as any sort of sudden shift in mood could wake the dreamer up and forcefully boot the visitor out. Of course, it helps immensely if BOTH parties knew what to do... so Vincent had to do some improvisation to keep himself safe.

The blue equine now slowed his step, letting himself relax as he tip-toed over to Dylan. The tiger wasn't looking too good, now that Vincent could look at him properly from a distance. He was hunched over and without any clothes, save for a pair of shorts. He was even walking barefoot, something that Vincent noticed he refused to do, even when inside their dorm, despite being a digitigrade species with no real use for shoes. Whatever was happening to him, it must be serious.

So it was convenient, then, that Vincent had given Dylan a simple trigger to remember. It was in the week they had met for the first time, where the tiger had expressed a desire to keep himself calm in dire situations, and he trusted Vincent enough to give him this simple, one word cue. One word, and the feline would feel his world coming to a standstill as any worry he might have had simply flew away from his body.

"...catnip." The horse was close enough to Dylan for him to be able to hear the word booming from his voice. Vincent would see a visible shudder rocking his body upright, only for it to quickly dissipate as the feline stood paralyzed, letting almost all the tension in his body go. With the right timing, Vincent took a few steps forward and very carefully wrapped his arms around the tiger. He was still unaware of what was happening, but Dylan felt a force compelling him to move his hands up to caress the horse's, and as he did so, a large breeze brushed past the two, completing the ritual.

"...Vincent...? What the hell...?" The tiger seemed to regain awareness as the wind once again died down, now nudging himself away from Vincent carefully. The horse softened his grip and allowed Dylan to free himself from his arms, turning around as he did so. Vincent finally got a better look at the big cat, and his expression of confusion turned to one of shock.

"No way..." Dylan tried his best to keep his steady breath as he finally processed exactly what he was looking at. "How did you... get here? Am I in this, uh, what's it called--"

"Don't worry about it right now," Vincent reassured him, now putting one hand on his shoulder and smiling. "What matters right now is that you stay here with me. Just for a few minutes."

"No, wait," The tiger tried to nudge him away, but only mustered a small pat on the much larger equine's hand before giving up. "I still have so many questions... mainly where you even got those clothes."

Vincent looked down to once more see his regal garments. "Oh, this... I looked like this when I got here. Does it remind you of someone in particular?"

"Actually, it does," Dylan replied, scratching his head in confusion. "It's what I imagine Wiraqocha would look like, with the fancy robes and all. Though, I imagined him as a stronger animal, like a panther."

Vincent recalled from memory who he was talking about: Wiraqocha was supposedly an Incan deity responsible for the creation of everything. In Inca mythology, he is the most important god of the entire pantheon. Vincent also considered how deeply connected Dylan felt to this god, and suddenly his wardrobe change made a lot more sense.

"...ignoring the vague sense of my pride being hurt, I think I'm beginning to understand what's going on." Vincent removed his hand from Dylan and started pacing around him. "This seems like a simple case of homesickness, what with you walking around a vast area that reminds you of the highlands in your country. It appears that you hold on to these memories dearly, and they bring you the most comfort in your soul... hence why you long to escape to these lands."

Dylan just looked at him, nodding in agreement. "Mm, yeah. That's about as basic as it gets, I think. All of the times I've told you that probably should have been enough, Mr. Future Psychologist."

Vincent shoved aside his snarky comment, now turning to him with a rather crude smile. "However, Dylan, and I do believe you'll find this quite disturbing..." Here, the equine leaned into Dylan's face, scoffing as he whispered to him, "You're hiding something else. You talked so much about your uncle, and we've both met your mother some time ago... but I think there's someone you've neglected to tell me about, and they just so happen to be MIA right now."

Dylan's brows furrowed in confusion and slight fear as he tried to open his mouth to speak, but Vincent interrupted him, continuing his spiel: "Furthermore, I also sense that this place was no accident. You mentioned that these sorts of dreams only started occurring after you moved to the States, correct? Perhaps someone... or someTHING... is trying to communicate with you. Yet, try as you might, you never seem to find them, or meet them. And you grow more frustrated."

At this moment, Vincent had remembered an important part of dreams, that being the weather. In any dream, the mood one has could affect what sort of weather they'd have within a dream, and fluctuating between moods is sure to drastically change the forecast as well. He didn't think it'd matter once he was inside Dylan's dream, but after his monologue, he couldn't help but notice that the sky was getting noticeably darker.

"...Vince. Let me be clear that I didn't ask for your opinion on what should have been a private matter." The equine diverted his attention back to Dylan, suddenly realizing that he had a finger pointed at him with one extremely sharp claw unsheathed. "I don't care what you think of me, but I will not allow you to criticize me simply because I care that much about my dad. I wouldn't even be opposed to killing you if you so much as mock me for it."

Dylan had stood up a lot straighter, and his tail flicked back and forth erratically. Vincent could also see a fire light up in his eyes, only partially covered by the disgruntled scowl that the tiger possessed, even going as far as to slightly bare his teeth. And in the distance, a thunderstorm brewed, approaching rapidly over them. Vincent raised his head again in a bit of a panic, noting that maybe bringing that point up wasn't his best option.

"...but I suppose you're... right. About the other stuff." Almost as quickly as the storm had appeared, it had changed color once more from the menacing, pitch-black thunderclouds to a more somber grey, maintaining completely overcast. Dylan also had lowered his arm, once again compacting his body in shame and sadness and looking off to the side with a more neutral expression.

Vincent remained rather dumbfounded by this, only being able to muster one sentence: " still scare me, all things considered."

A light drizzle eventually poured over the two. Dylan looked down and sighed.

"...I'm sorry about that."

"I wander around without directions, because that's what feels right."

Both the tiger and the horse walked along the vast, grassy plains. Vincent, in the moment, remembered this phrase from the few times Dylan had mentioned it, when talking about his dreams. Sure, it was one thing to envision it, but another entirely to experience it. The plains themselves seemed to go on infinitely, only occasionally broken by hills of varying sizes and a few rocky ledges mere meters high. Vincent was quite impressed.

"Is this... part of where you lived?" The tall equine asked, taking in a few deep breaths and feeling the mountain range air fill his lungs. "It's incredible, being able to see natural beauty like this."

"Well, no," Dylan responded quickly. "I lived in Lima, all the way in the city. I only ever visited my uncle a few months at a time, and even then, I always stayed with him. I never got to wander around the Andes like this, but I don't think even back then we'd be allowed to. I think this is what I would imagine it's like."

Vincent nodded his head in agreement, and looked down at himself once more, still stumped by the clothes he was forced to wear. "Mmmyep. Your imagination filled in the gaps quite well, I'd say."

The tiger glanced over to Vincent, sort of admiring how he looked at himself in confusion. "Hey, so, if we're in a dream, can't you just instantly change clothes? I'd imagine this whole Incan garb is uncomfortable for you..."

Vincent had thought about it for a short second, putting the clothes he had on today in class into his mind. This is normally enough to swap out clothes in a dream, but for some reason, he couldn't. "...Normally, I could, but I just tried it now, and it seems I cannot do that here."

"What the hell..." Dylan muttered to himself in confusion, before remembering how Vincent told him to do it from hours prior. Out of curiosity, he would imagine Vincent in nothing but some fairly oversize underwear. He hated to admit it, but he did, in fact, find his roommate cute, yet was still very cautious on admitting these feelings to him. He would get only slightly carried away with the few times he did see the blue equine's physique, as seconds later, Vincent would exclaim in fear.

"Wha-- Where did my--!" Dylan quickly flicked his head to the horse, who had now left his side to very quickly run away to hide behind a nearby rock formation. Seeing him run amok made Dylan burst out in laughter, still watching as Vincent tried his hardest to keep himself hidden from view but still being way too tall to effectively cover anything.

"This... this isn't funny, Dylan..." Vincent was now the one scowling as his cheeks appeared to turn white underneath his fur. It seems he understood that this time he wasn't the one in control. "Give me back my clothes!"

The tiger widened his eyes as he got a better look at Vincent, also coming to the realization that it was, indeed, his dream space. "Hmmm... Nah." The tiger stuck his tongue out at Vincent, giving him a wry look, before fleeing off in a random direction. "Imagine your clothes back into existence yourself if you're so smart, Mr. Sandman!"

Vincent could be heard struggling a little, quite close to swearing at the cat, and eventually shuffled around to catch up to Dylan. "You-- That joke made no sense and it's freezing out here!"

For the next few minutes, the tiger would zip around wildly trying to avoid his flustered friend as Vincent flailed his arms around, trying to catch Dylan. The tiger clearly had energy to fake out Vincent in every manner possible, jumping from rock cliff to hill in seconds, and sometimes leaping over Vincent just to show off, but the equine possessed incredible stamina to at the very least keep up with Dylan as much as possible. The clear skies had eventually turned into an orange, sunset glow, and clouds started to form once more in the distance. The terrain, too, had changed, going from grassy greenery and gentle slopes to a much larger scale mountain range, decorated with yellow pastures combining with hues of green and a gentle stream running alongside it.

As for Dylan, predictably, he had grown tired of his charade and finally settled down on the ground, facing up on the sky. Along the way he had tossed aside his black and gold vest, leaving his entire upper half exposed, save for a necklace dangling from his neck. Vincent, meanwhile, had managed to finally catch up to the tiger, still only covered by his underwear and still somewhat angry at Dylan for putting him in this situation. For now, however, Vincent pushed this angst aside to catch his breath and observe Dylan once more.

Dylan remained facing up to the sky, his arms now spread apart and breathing heavily. He kept a smile, still laughing about the current event, and gazed to the sky, appreciating the incoming sunset. Vincent, with not much else to really do, sat beside him, adjusting himself around and still making futile attempts at keeping himself warm or covering up any of his chest.

"Dude, it's fine. Not even that cold up here," Dylan quipped, still smirking at how much the horse struggled.

"Easy for you to say...!" Vincent eventually resigned himself to just sitting cross legged and cross armed, keeping what little body heat he had to himself.

Dylan smirked again, but then took a deep breath out of some frustration. "I can't believe this will just end again. Like all the other times."

The horse turned his head to the tiger, somewhat confused. "Hm. What, specifically, are you upset about?"

"It's just... I wish I could stay here. It's all so much better here, and now, with you, well..."

A black smog began to fill the sky the more he talked. Vincent knew he had to do something.

"Well, remember what I told you?" Vincent connected a few dots in his head to try and salvage this conversation. "Whatever you do here, in this state of lucidity, can be beneficial for you in the waking world. I came here to try and get you to see that but, well, you certainly had... other ideas in mind."

Dylan appeared to nervously laugh, remembering that the horse was still somewhat naked. "Uh, yeah. Sorry for being in control of my own head space, or something...?" The tiger then muttered under his breath, "And, like, you kinda deserved it after what you said."

Vincent couldn't hear the last part clearly but had figured it out by now. "Is this about... him? Because if my tone of voice came out to be negative when I mentioned it, I must apologize. I didn't mean it that way."

"'re only saying that 'cause you got caught."

"Dylan..." The equine adjusted himself a bit more, his voice getting a bit sterner. "You know you can't just assume everyone is going to be rude to you."

And in his mind, Dylan knew he was right. He knew that maybe Vincent did bite off a lot more than he could chew, but that was kind of his job to do so when necessary, right? In the few weeks they've been together as roommates, he's helped him break out a bit more with other people, a feat that the tiger thought would be impossible. If anything, he should have trusted him with this information the most, and yet, here he was, pushing him away again at the slightest mention of his dad.

Dylan didn't want to voice his thoughts on this... but he had to. "...fine. I'm sorry, okay? I didn't want to think about it again. I really wanted this dream, of all of the ones I've had, to end on a high note for once." His whole body eventually turned towards Vincent, his face now completely saddened. "And like, I'm also very sorry I made you run around like that but it's you! You've become the reason I feel so much better about myself, and I truly don't deserve a man like you, and actually, I'm scared that if I wake up, none of this will even stick to your head..."

The tiger kept running his mouth at a concerning pace, and as Vincent looked up to the sky, the black smog very quickly turned to thunder again. This would end horribly if he let it go on like this... so in his attempt to keep the tiger's emotions in check and keep the dream mostly alive, and against his better judgement, Vincent finally decided it would be time to give Dylan what he actually wanted.

With one arm darting directly under his shoulder and the other to catch him, Vincent used his still large frame to his advantage and scooped up Dylan to give him a firm hug, and one where they would both be facing each other this time. Almost instantly, the tiger stopped talking and gasped for a bit of air.

During that moment, the world around them seemed to stop dead in its tracks. The air whizzing past idly eventually picked up to a light gust, and the slowly descending sun seemed to stop right as it was partially covered by a mountain nearby. The clouds cleared up, seemingly evaporating, and, curiously, a light drizzle had once again formed. Whatever was happening, it seemed to finally satisfy Dylan, and this would be confirmed by the tiger slowly raising his arms up to hug the equine tight.

They weren't sure for how long they maintained that embrace, but after a while, Dylan seemed to shuffle around incessantly. He kept his head buried in Vincent's chest.

"...what's wrong?" Vincent looked down, still seeing Dylan struggle for whatever reason.

"You can't see me cry. That I will never forgive you for." Indeed, Dylan, in that moment, began to sob slightly.

In that moment, Vincent felt a weird stir from his stomach. He wasn't sure what it was, but it only took a few seconds of looking down at his quickly transforming body to understand it.

"...says who?" And a few seconds later, Vincent had a slightly scruffier tone of voice. He had changed, and in fact, he wasn't even Vincent anymore, something Dylan quickly took notice of by lifting his head in shock.

Dylan now found himself embracing his own dad. He immediately responded by gripping his arms tighter than ever, once again digging his face in his father's chest, and finally, in what felt like many years for the tiger, letting all his emotions rush to his face, an letting all his tears flood his eyes. The small faint sobs he tried to hide now emerged as pained wails, only growing louder as Dylan lamented over the fact that this still was a dream.

In that moment, Dylan's fears, his anger and resentments, and the rest of his negative energy that had built up and been shoved away to the back of his mind had manifested themselves to Vincent. For the horse, it felt like he was piloting a quickly deteriorating mech, and every second, a warning message appeared somewhere, obscuring his vision more and more. And as Vincent finally took the time to feel what Dylan was feeling directly from the source, the equine began to understand why he was so reserved about his dad.

Dylan told this once to him, but only now did Vincent get the full picture: His father was once a successful scientist, revered by many and an expert of his field. Dylan was too young to understand what exactly it was, but he loved his father so much, and his father did the same to him. As they grew older, his dad had to leave the house more often, and Dylan didn't have much time to spend with his dad as a result, but despite this, their bond became unbreakable. It remained so until one day, his dad left for work early... and never appeared again.

The lab he worked for couldn't give a clear answer. He had showed up for work that day, and his car was parked in its usual spot, but his father was nowhere to be found. Security cameras were no help, any nearby shops he frequented had been no use, and it was obvious he had no motive to abandon his current situation. His father just disappeared out of thin air, never to be found again.

Since then, Dylan hasn't felt the same. The rest of his adolescence was just asking why he had to disappear, and it hurt him even more when his mom landed a job opportunity all the way in the US, meaning he would leave behind the one place he treasured the most. It would be one final trip to see his uncle where he would get the pan flute he held onto for so much, and the necklace he always wore. It wasn't enough to replace a now bigger empty space in his heart, but for what it was, it kept Dylan grounded and reminded him that they'll meet again, somehow.

And so, his wish partially came true. It may still be a dream, and they'll eventually wake up, but in this moment, both Dylan and Vincent felt the most connected they've ever been.

Vincent -- or, rather, Dylan's dad -- eventually teared up and finally spoke. "If you're sad... that's okay. We can cry together."

Dylan tried to act tough again and raised his head in protest. In between the sobs and his now wet face, however, he only came out as whiny. "...I am... going to m-maul you."

Once again, Vincent's words were said to Dylan in his dad's voice. "Now, now... is that any way to talk to your dad?"

"You... you're n-not my... my d-d-dad."

"Correct, but you willed your dad into existence, and that's different. I just happened to be the closest person you could change into him."

Finally defeated, Dylan sunk his head into not his dad's chest again. "F-f-fuck you..."

And as the sun finally disappeared behind the mountains, muting the bright orange glow of the sunset and giving way to a deep, purple and starry sky, the both of them drifted off into a deep slumber, their crying eventually quieting down and with Vincent regaining his body and original shape back. Both slept soundly on the hills of the Andes, each other's body warmth being enough of a blanket to keep themselves comfortable as the cold mountain breeze picked up.

"To me, home is not just a place. It's a feeling."

Ever since that night, Dylan and Vincent somehow changed themselves. Over the course of a month or so, Dylan became more outgoing, no longer resigning himself to just staying in his dorm when he had nothing to do. Coupled with his subtly flashy attitude and a strong will, he became a much more dependable friend. Vincent, meanwhile, used what he learned from that dream to not just further help Dylan, but to also help other people who might need it. Even though he was still rather timid at first, Dylan's influence helped him get himself out there more.

It wouldn't be long before they eventually started going out together, and while the feelings were still unsure and not quite ready yet, it was clear to them both that they liked each other's company. They would be frequently seen together in the courtyard of the college, or studying together at the library. Strangely enough, they had a seemingly endless list of conflicting strengths and interests, and it wasn't uncommon to see, say, Dylan finishing Vincent's calculus homework, or Vincent lecturing to a snoozing tiger about the importance of literature. It was as if they were made for each other, and they were just denying it.

Perhaps in the future, they might get into bigger adventures together. Uncovering an ancient treasure just beneath their feet perhaps? Or what if they encounter some weird cosmic force and they were somehow humanity's only hope? Perhaps they'll get to travel through time, even... But definitely the first thing they should do is visit Peru, Dylan's homeland. It'll be incredible seeing so much of the land again with Vincent... There would be no shortage of things to do!

Dylan ran these silly little ideas in his head, chuckling to himself as he let them go. Because why would they even be real? And even if they were, that just means free time away from the growing stress of college, but more importantly, more time to spend with Vincent. Speaking of, he was on the couch with him, watching one of those weird American reality shows. It was honestly there for background noise; Dylan just wanted an excuse to get close to Vincent. And so, he did, leaning his head on his shoulder while smiling. For him, there truly was no better place to be, and he decided to express this by finally finishing that sentence from a few minutes ago:

"I may be miles from home, but with you, I'm already home."


The Fire Tiger

"So, Dylan, you mentioned that you and your roommate Vincent had history together, even before what happened just a year ago."

"Mm, yes. We've, uh, connected quite well since then, and I guess I can say I love him a lot..."

"If you don't mind, how did it happen? Did the two of you happen to get your powers at the same time? Or was it like one of those fantasy movies where you meet in a magic high school or the like?"

"Oh, no, we didn't bond because of our abilities. Before this happened, we were just two ordinary college bros."

"Ah... So, then, how did this bond form? Even without your magic, you two are just about inseparable."

"...It's kind of a long story..."

Submission Information

Literary / Story