Cuddles came to as he saw all the members of HTF were victorious, and all tiger soldiers have either died or have retreated. He also saw Flaky, who was kneeling and covering her mouth, hiccupping violently with tears rolling down her hands.
Flaky looked at Cuddles, mournfully.
“I think… we won.”
“So what’s the matter?”
Almost exactly when at her words, Flippy had climbed up the nearby hill, with his newly deceased father in his arms. He looked like he was about to die himself.
“Oh man… Pop…”
“Cuddles… grab Cub. He’s in the bus. Don’t let him see his dad like this.”
Cuddles obeyed and went into the bus and grabbed Cub, who fell asleep, somehow, during the battle. With him in tow, Cuddles joined the other members of HTF, led by Flippy with Pop in his arms. Pop looked peaceful, while all his children were miserably depressed. The former members of the Haven seemed affected more, as Lammy dug her crying eyes in Flaky’s shoulder, who held her arm in Flippy’s. Mime silently cried, but of course no tears left his eyes, as he carried his fallen brother Nutty, a young soul corrupted by the spirit of an attention grabbing hog. Disco and Handy were in tow, bowing their heads, yet neither shed a tear. Petunia held onto Handy and weeped, and Giggles did the same to Cuddles. Sniffles was in tow, also not crying by silently mourned.
The family all walked together out of the battlefield, leaving a trail of water on the ground behind them, as they heard demons laughed and mocked as they welcomed several souls into the fires of hell, and they heard angels singing, welcoming two new soul through the gates of heaven and blessing them with their love.
It was a hard day for everyone.
Without a home anymore, the people of HTF all marched back into their hometown, where they searched up and down for a new place to stay, but to no avail; everything was destroyed. So they only had one choice; they had to leave their home and search for a new one.
But before they left, they had one last thing to take care of.
When everyone dried their tears, they all carried their fallen friends to “The Bed for Long Sleepers”, the graveyard where they place their friends to take their long rest. They all crowded into the cemetery, and Disco and Handy got two shovels. Flippy pointed to an empty spot in the other spaces for Nutty and a special place for Pop; right next to his wife.
With Pop in his arms, Flippy decided to bury him with what he loved the most. He sat Pop’s body next to Jeannie’s tombstone and ran back to the blown up bomb shelter. He was courteous enough to not place a bomb near the shrine for Jeannie. He gathered all the items that weren’t destroyed by Russell, mostly clothes and the banner that was dedicated to her, as well as the wood used to surround her picture. He grabbed hold of everything and walked out the shelter, and slowly walked back to the cemetery.
Disco and Handy had finished building holes to place their friends in, as Lammy and Mime started to build a casket for Nutty out of a pile of lumber left there to do that exact thing by the Haven. Flippy dropped the items and spoke out in a loud voice.
“Bury Pop with these, please.”
He then walked out, without saying another word. Cuddles looked at Flaky, who stared at Flippy as he walked out, showing signs that he isn’t well.
“I’m gonna go talk to him.”
“No, Cuddles. You stay here and get these two prepared.”
“Flaky… let me go talk to him.”
Flaky thought about it, then realized; the two have been best friends since they were both young. They knew everything about each other. If no one knew them well enough, of course they would think they were really brothers. She knew that she couldn’t do anything he could do for her fiance’, so she agreed and let him walk out.
Cuddles knew where he was going; the place Flippy went to when he was at his saddest or his loneliest, a high hill where he could sit and stare at the moon. Cuddles found him on the exact same spot, sitting on the floor with his back arched and his arms out on the ground, staring at the moon with his eyes swollen with tears.
It reminded Cuddles of when he first found Flippy here, when they first met nearly 12 years ago. Flippy had just become a tree friend, and met every one of his new friends, but still had to talk to someone who would listen, so he went to talk to the moon. Cuddles found him there, in the exact same position, staring at the moon and talking to it as if it was alive.
“And then he let me in the tree, and the nice lady took me in a room and pulled the glass out my knees. It hurt a bit, but you know I’ve felt worse.”
Cuddles walked over and sat down.
“Who you talking to?”
“It might be hard to understand, but for the longest time it was my only friend. When I was alone in my room, it was always there to meet me so we can talk.”
“But it don’t talk.”
“But it listens to me, and I know it listens because no matter what I say to it, it doesn’t say a word.”
“Don’t you talk to anyone that… you know, talks to you back?”
“Sometimes, but I know the moon is always there when I need a friend.”
Cuddles admired Flippy’s ambition; it made him seem rather intelligent. That’s when he knew that Flippy would be a friend to him.
Cuddles was back in reality as he saw his friend, 12 years older yet still he talked to the moon. Only this time, he wasn’t talking; he just stared at it. But somehow, he knew Cuddles was there.
“Thomas… what’s happened here? Why’d Pop have to do that? Why’d he give his life to save us, when he knew that we’d probably not do the same to him?”
Cuddles walked over and sat next to him.
“Maybe there was a reason. Maybe he wanted to die.”
Flippy didn’t take his eyes off the moon.
“You think that’s him up there?”
“The moon watches over all of us; no matter where we are it still shines. You think that’s where Pop went?”
Cuddles realized that Flippy had a point. Knowing he was vulnerable at the moment, he nodded and placed his arm on Flippy’s shoulder.
“Maybe. Maybe he just turned into an angel. Either way, he’s gonna be looking over us forever now.”
Flippy nodded, and turned to his friend.
“Cuddles… Pop loved us all, even when we were against him… Do you still hate him?”
Cuddles looked back.
“No. I don’t think I ever hated him, I was just disappointed in him. But either way, no. I never hated him.”
Flippy still cried.
“Listen, Flip. Pop made his choice to give his life to save ours. And for that, we should be there for him in his last minutes in the real world.”
Flippy looked at his friend.
“Plus, I’m sure he’s happy now. He’s with Jeannie again.”
Flippy stood up.
“Let’s go back.”
“Alright, I’ll lead the way.”
Before he followed Cuddles, Flippy gave one last passing glance to the moon and smiled, then he ran off. Soon enough, both were back in the cemetery as they closed the lid to Nutty’s newly made casket, with both of his halves piled together. They slowly lowered the casket with two long silk ribbons, as the girls cried and threw light green tinted white carnations in the hole to be buried with him. Mime hammered down with a rock a medium sized cross made of lumber, and on it was his epitaph.
Here Lies Timothy Anthony Anderson
Born June 6th, 1985
Died July 31, 20XX
Everbody’s got their poison. His was sugar.
With their friend finally able to sleep, they began to cover the whole with the same dirt they just dug up. Meanwhile, Flippy was pounding down Pop’s cross, with his own epitaph printed on it.
Here Lies Paul Benjamin Benson
Born October 20th, 1961
Died July 31, 20XX
Our Loving Father, Watching Us Even Now
Cub cried in Flaky’s arms, who did the same, as Flippy and Cuddles lowered Pop down into the casket. Flippy took Pop’s velvet colored beret and placed it on his cross, like Pop did to his fallen war brothers. Before they lowered the casket, Flippy asked to say a few words.
“For all of us, you were our first real parent. You took the time, and the money, that you saved up and gave us all a home where both you-”
He looked at the tomb next to Pop’s.
“-And your wife cared for us and gave us the love you thought we deserved. And for that… Thank you.”
And soon, after those words, almost everyone started crying.
“Thank you for caring for us when no one else would. Thank you for giving us hope and dreams. Thank you for giving us a home to call our own.”
Giggles, Petunia, Mime, Lammy, Toothy, Flaky and Cub were bawling. And Flippy’s lip was quivering.
“Thank you… for being our dad.”
Soon enough, he was crying too. And also, amazingly, so was Cuddles. The two slowly lowered the casket into the hole. Everyone stared as the casket reached the bottom with a thud. Flippy refused to cover the hole, so Toothy stepped in to help Cuddles fill the hole.
Soon enough, as if HTF were gods, their tears started falling from the sky, and streaks of lightning ran across the sky with thunder clapping.
The people of HTF all walked out the cemetery and walked around the town till they found an abandoned post office, where they decided to camp for the night. Cub was wrapped in Giggles’ arms, who was lying face-down on the floor. Cuddles and Toothy were sleeping with their heads on the broken counter. Sniffles curled up in a ball on the floor. Mime stood tall and had his hands on the side of his head, sleeping. Petunia was on the counter, avoiding the dirty floor. Disco and Handy both leaned up against a wall and slept silently. Flippy did the same as he sat up against a wall, staring at the sky and listening to the raindrops, as Flaky fell asleep with her head on his lap. He didn’t sleep at all.
“Look at it this way, wuss; at least you and your friends are still alive and together.”
Flippy nodded and continued to stare out the window, till he finally dozed off.
Once morning rose, HTF walked out the building and towards the outskirts of the town, about to start their journey for a new home. They all looked out to the road that led out of the city. Cub was standing at Cuddles side, as Sniffles studied the area.
“Seems there is civilization close to 20 miles away from here. We’ll have to travel by foot.”
Flippy walked in front of him.
“So this is it. We’re leaving our home in search of a new one. Well… you guys start walking. I’ve got something to take care of first.”
He started to walk back. Flaky grabbed his hand.
“I’m going with you.”
Cub spoke out.
“I wanna come too.”
“Ok. You two can come. The rest of you, go ahead and start walking.”
They did what they were told as Flippy and Flaky walked hand in hand, while Flippy carried Cub on his shoulder. They all walked back to the cemetery to see their friends one more time. Flaky felt a tear fall as Cub ran up to Pop’s grave and hugged the cross.
“I love you, daddy…”
Flaky grabbed him and he nuzzled his face into her shoulder. Flippy stared at the cross as he looked around.
“Got a lot of company, Pop. Hope you like it here.”
“We better move out if we’re gonna catch up to the others, Flippy.”
“Ok. Take him and run after them. I just need one more minute.”
Flaky agreed as she kissed his cheek and ran off with Cub in her arms. When she was gone, Flippy looked back at the grave. He read the epitaph again and again, as he smiled finally accepting Pop was free and at peace. Then, he reached into his jacket and brought out a small wooden rectangle shaped object. He kissed it slightly and placed it in front of the grave, then smiled.
“Good job, Pop.”
He walked slowly after his future wife, never losing his smile. He then stopped and turned around to see what he left; a picture of all the tree friends as children, smiling and hugging Pop as he smiled back. Flippy was on his shoulders and Flaky was being held by Cuddles. Handy had his arms crossed but still smiled. Petunia and Giggles were hugging each other like sisters. Mime waved with a smile. Nutty licked a lollipop and waved as well. Toothy was laying on the ground, side first with his legs crossed and his hand on the back of his neck. Disco did his point pose while winking. And Jeannie was holding Cub, as Sniffles was holding onto her skirt. They were a family; an inseparable, loving family. Flippy wiped one more tear and smiled bigger as he started walking again.