Arrivals and departures.

 

Weeks passed, and Snowy got heavy with cub.  Tigger anxiously hung round her like a lost puppy, which annoyed snowy.

      “I know you’re concerned,” she said gently one day, “but please Tigger, give me some space!”  Tigger looked scared:

      “But what if you go into labour suddenly?”  He asked.

       “You’ll hear it right enough,” snowy replied, “I’ll most likely scream the place down.  So Tigger padded away from snowy, not wanting to get under her paws.

 

Snowy’s pregnancy continued well, and the cubs were born without fuss.  Little fuss that was from snowy, Tigger, terrified, panicked every time Snowy moaned, strained or pawed at him, thinking something was dreadfully amiss.

       “Just hold onto my paws Tiggie!”  Snowy yelled, straining hard to deliver her first cub.  Tigger held Snowy’s forepaws, feeling how hot and wet with sweat they were as the tigress pushed hard against her cub.  Snowy squealed and roared with pain as the second cub emerged, for this one was larger than the first and caused her more pain.  Tigger made almost as much noise as his mate did, though his yells were of fear, not pain.  By the end of it, snowy was exhausted and frustrated.  All Fleur’s advice to Tigger had gone out of the window, and he’d forgotten everything, as before.  Angry, Snowy fed her cubs, one male and one female.

      “I’m sorry snowy dear,” Tigger mewed, very ashamed.

       “Oh it’s all right,” snowy snapped, “we have our cubs now, even if the labour was not as I wished it to be.  I wanted a labour like Allie’s, nice and gentle.  As it was, it was stressful and painful.  But no matter now.”  Tigger knew he’d not done very well, his own fear being transmitted to snowy via his paw contact with her, and he knew snowy had felt his anxiety throughout.

      “I’m sorry I was so anxious,” Tigger mewed.  Snowy ignored him, trying with all her strength not to get angry with her mate.

        “Come and meet your cubs,” snowy said wearily.  Tigger embraced each cub in turn, marvelling that he and snowy had made such things.  The cubs squirmed and spat as he embraced them.

        “I’m exhausted,” Snowy yawned.

       “Hell Tiggie,” Someone said, “anyone would think it was you having the cubs, not Snowy!  What the hell were you doing, trying to frighten the cubs from snowy?”  Tigger looked round at the speaker, it was Fleur.

       “No fleur,” he said, “I’m sorry, but, but I lost it totally.”  Fleur looked at snowy, and then picked up her left forepaw, feeling how anxious and upset the tigress was.

       “It’s all over now,” fleur mewed.

        “It was horrid fleur,” snowy replied silently.

 

Meanwhile, little Nanuq and Brunetta were playing together, Brunetta trying to show her cub how to massage his own paws.  Little Nanuq caught on fast, and was soon holding his right hind paw with his left fore, while stroking the pads of the held paw with his free forepaw.  Smiling broadly, little Nanuq decided that self administered paw massage was a good thing.  Brunetta, herself being addicted to paw massage, taught her cub how to prolong the sensitivity of each paw so that the self administered massage remained pleasurable for as long as possible.  Little Nanuq was surprised at how good just stroking the paw pads and toes of his right hind paw with his left fore felt.

      “It makes me feel calm and carefree,” the cub said, gently stroking the pads of his left hind paw with his right fore.  Brunetta smiled.

     “It does,” she said softly.  Little Nanuq looked at his mum’s face, then at her forepaws working over the soles of her hind.  He saw she had ill defined pads on the soles of her paws, the brown fur and brown pad being almost indistinguishable by sight.

        “I bet if I touched the sole of mum’s paw I could tell between pad and fur,” the cub thought.  Brunetta seemed to catch his thoughts, for she smiled at him.

        “Want to stroke my paws little Nanuq?”  She asked.  Little Nanuq looked scared, but then smiled:

       “I would, please, if you really wouldn’t mind,” he replied.

      “I would love you to find out for yourself all about the sole of my paw, my pads and toes and everything,” his mother said.  Little Nanuq smiled and reached forward with one hind paw, touching the toes of Brunetta’s right hind paw with his left hind, his mother curling her toes round those which had just touched hers.

       “I love that,” Little Nanuq said.  Brunetta smiled, reaching down and covering with her left forepaw the cub’s toes which were curled round hers.

      “I love it too little Nanuq dear,” she replied.  Brunetta squeezed her cub’s toes, the cub squeezing hers in return and rubbing her pads with his.

       “This is so relaxing,” little Nanuq said.  Brunetta smiled at her cub.

        “Now,” she said, “try massaging my other hind paw with your free hind paw.  Or do you want me to massage your hind paw with mine?”

      “Would you stroke my hind paw?”  Little Nanuq asked.  Brunetta’s answer was to touch the toes of his right hind paw with those of her left hind paw.

       “I will,” she replied.  Little Nanuq and Brunetta played like this for some time, but soon were turning their attention to their forepaws exploring their hind.  Nanuq gently took hold of each of Brunetta’s hind paws in his fore, touching the fur on the top of each paw, as well as on the sole of Brunetta’s paw, finally exploring her pads and toes, something which usually sent Brunetta to sleep.  Whenever she stroked her own hind paws, it was a battle to stay awake the sensation relaxed her so much.

       “I love this,” Brunetta said dreamily, wiggling the toes of her right hind paw as her cub stroked them.

        “You don’t need to say you enjoy this mum,” Nanuq said, “because I can feel you do.  You appreciate me stroking your paws too, and that’s all I need to know.  I hope my paws tell you everything you need to know too, for when you stroke them, I can’t put into words how I feel inside.”  Brunetta curled her toes round little Nanuq’s, squeezing his tenderly.

        “I do feel your mood, and that you love every minute of my attention,” Brunetta replied, “I love giving and receiving massage.”  Little Nanuq kissed his mum on her nose.

        “I love you,” he said, Brunetta covering her face with her forepaws to hide her eyes.

       “No mum, don’t,” Nanuq said, feeling her mood, “you don’t need to hide your eyes.”  Brunetta smiled through sudden tears of joy.

       “I love you too,” she replied.

       “This paw contact thing is great,” little Nanuq said.  Brunetta smiled at her cub.

       “I love it,” she said, “though I was not allowed to touch my paws or the paws of other cubs when I was a cub.  My mother never let any of us play together, and if we were seen playing, we’d get our paws slapped.  My mother hated paw to paw contact you see, or she said she did.  I knew later that she loved it herself, and often played with her own paws, but denied it to her cubs.”

      “But that’s horrid!”  Little Nanuq exclaimed, “How did you learn how to massage your paws then mum?”  Brunetta told him of Nick getting frustrated with her asking everyone to massage her paws, and how Kodiak had helped her master the art.

       “Kodiak learned from a human?”  The cub asked, “How wonderful.  Though it’s a pity he was thrown out when the human thought he’d become too old to have a bear to cuddle up with at night.  Poor Kodiak, I’ll bet he still misses Billy.”  Brunetta knew Kodiak missed the human greatly, but just nodded to her cub as if the brown bear had moved on in life, which he had, though talk of Billy would always make Kodiak’s eyes fill with tears.

       “Billy was Kodiak’s first friend in the whole world,” was all Brunetta said.

       “Kodiak’s wonderful!”  Little Nanuq said, “He’s as tactile as you are, and loves his paw play.  I saw him playing with little Arki earlier, and they were having a wonderful time.  They weren’t playing with sticks, balls or anything like that; they were just roughhousing, though it was more like tickling each other’s paws actually.”  Brunetta smiled.

       “I don’t know what I’d do if I couldn’t play with my paws,” she said, “It’s such a stress reliever.”

       “I would help you if you couldn’t stroke the pads of your own paws mum,” Little Nanuq said.  Brunetta smiled and hugged her cub.

         “Now let’s go and see if we can find big Nanuq shall we?”  Brunetta suggested.

      “No need,” Nanuq said, padding into the room, “I’m here.”  Both Brunetta and Little Nanuq hugged the large male polar bear.

        “I love this!”  Nanuq whispered to them.  Brunetta and little Nanuq kissed older Nanuq’s nose and paws, loving him.  Nanuq lay down with Brunetta and Little Nanuq.  Rolling onto his side, he lay with his paws relaxed, Brunetta and their cub taking one forepaw each and stroking it.

       “Mum and I were stroking each other’s paws Nanuq,” little Nanuq said.  Nanuq smiled.

      “I know how much you both enjoy it,” he said, “I wish your sister enjoyed it as much, but she doesn’t.”  Brunetta looked so unhappy at this that Nanuq shook his paw free of hers and took her paw.

       “I’m so sorry for her,” Brunetta said.  Nanuq knew how much paw massage meant to Brunetta and gently squeezed the paw he held.

       “Little Brunetta doesn’t like her paws touched,” he said.  Little Nanuq looked upset.

      “But, but it’s lovely,” he said.

       “Some just don’t like it little one,” Nanuq said lovingly, “But your mother and I, and you all love it.  I like Brunetta, don’t know what I’d do if I was denied paw play.”

       “Mum and I sat opposite each other with our hind paws touching, pad on pad, toe to toe,”  little Nanuq said, “then she curled the toes of one of her hind paws round those of one of mine and I curled the toes of one of my hind paws, the one that was not held by mum’s, round hers.  We then rubbed paw pads.  Mum then placed one of her forepaws over my toes which were curled round holding hers.  It was lovely!”  The cub enthused.  Nanuq could imagine the scene, so detailed was the cub’s description.

      “That sounds a lot of fun,” he said, and he meant it too.

        “It was, but it was also very warm and lovely,” little Nanuq said, using the only words he knew to describe what he’d felt during that time.

        “Yes, yes it was,” Brunetta sniffed, the emotion of their time together flooding back to her in a wave.

        “Would you like me to stroke your paws little Nanuq cub,” Nanuq asked.  Little Nanuq took his sire’s paw.

       “What do you think?”  He asked.  Nanuq smiled.

      “I think,” he said gently, touching little Nanuq’s nose with his, “that you would like it very much.”

        “And I think you would like me to stroke your paws too,” the cub replied, “and I will, for I want to Nanuq, I want to!”  Little Nanuq clung to his sire’s paw with such desperation that Nanuq was concerned.

        “I don’t want to lose the art of paw play!”  The cub begged.

        “You won’t, you won’t!”  Nanuq said gently, hugging his cub, “now take it gently.  Enjoy every minute of it.”  Little Nanuq was determined to do just that.  Nanuq and his cub sat opposite each other, the soles and toes of Nanuq’s hind paws touching those of his cub.  Little Nanuq explored his sire’s large right hind paw with the toes of his left hind, tickling the larger bear’s pads as he did so.  Nanuq laughed helplessly and curled his toes round those that had tickled his paw pads.

       “Now you can’t tickle my paw,” Nanuq said playfully.  Little Nanuq set about tickling his sire’s other hind paw with his free hind, the larger polar bear laughing merrily and releasing his hold on his cub’s left hind paw.

        “Your paws have white fur all over, including the soles.  The soles of your paws have black pads on them, as do the bottoms of your toes little Nanuq,” his sire said.  The cub smiled.

      “Mum showed me that,” he said, “she showed me how she could see her own paws using what she called mirrors.  I could see the sole of her and my own hind paws perfectly when sitting beside her.  Of course, sitting in front of her, I could see her paws without the mirror.  My paws are so important to me.”  Nanuq took his cub’s left forepaw in both of his.

        “I know,” he said gently.  Little Nanuq let his sire explore all four of his paws, while loving every minute.  Once this was done, and the cub had returned Nanuq’s inspection, examining all four of the large polar bear’s huge paws, the two bears sat down opposite each other, little Nanuq curling the toes of his right hind paw around Nanuq’s left hind, the huge polar bear curling the toes of his left hind around his son cub’s right hind.  Pressing pads together the two bears rubbed their hind paws together, each stimulating the other’s pads, as well as transmitting messages to each other which had nothing to do with the paw play itself.  Messages of love, of togetherness and belonging which paw play and massage strengthened in the whole community.

        “I love this,” Brunetta said, watching her cub and mate playing, “it’s so wonderful!”  Nanuq and little Nanuq grinned at her.

       “We love it too,” they said.

 

Nanuq and his male cub got to their paws and then thought better of it, lying down again to take each other’s forepaws.  Nanuq and little Nanuq stroked each other’s pads and toes some more, seeming never to tire of it.

 

Meanwhile, things were less consensual in Tigger and Snowy’s lie up.  Tigger had guessed how Snowy’s labour had been for her and now felt awful.

       “It was dreadful!”  Snowy yowled, “you were no help Tigger!”  Tigger mewed his apologies, but the damage was done.

      “Your paw massage did nothing but transmit your anxiety and fear to me!”  Snowy yelled, “I was fighting that and trying to give birth at the same time Tigger, you’re bloody useless!”  Snowy was really upset and angry.

        “I’m sorry Snowy dear,” Tigger mewed pitifully, “I tried not to be scared!”

      “You know the mechanics of paw massage and how it works better than most Tigger,” snowy said, “you know it transmits emotions better than metal transmits electricity!  Wouldn’t it have been more considerate towards me to have kept your paws off me?”  Tigger mewed that it would have been.

       “But, but you wanted me to touch you while you were having your cubs!”  He wailed.

     “Only if you were soothing, encouraging and comforting me, not if you were shit scared!”  Snowy snarled.  Snowy’s cubs, reacting to her mood, began to mew and spit at Tigger.

      “Now look what you’ve done!”  Tigger snapped, “Upsetting our cubs like that!”

        “I think it would be a good idea to calm down Snowy,” Fleur said.

       “Calm down?”  Snowy asked, “After, after this idiot did what he did?”  Snowy slapped Tigger with her paw.

         “Hey now!”  Fleur remonstrated.

        “Tigger’s meant to be a comfort to me, not a pest!”  Snowy yelled.  “I wish he’d just bugger off and not associate with my cubs, as he’s upset them and me enough already!”  Tigger looked devastated, knowing that if Snowy pushed hard enough, he’d be excluded from caring directly for the cubs.

        “No, snowy, please!”  He begged.

        ?”All you are is a sperm supplier Tigger,” snowy snapped, “the cubs and I don’t need you now!”  Fleur lost it then, smacking snowy hard across her face!

       “Snowy, stop it, stop acting like a spoilt cub!”  She yelled.  Shocked and bewildered, snowy just laid where she was, her face stinging and mind confused.  Fleur had turned violent all of a sudden, and this was unheard of.

        “There’s not much to be said,” snowy growled, very confused.

 

Tigger ran from the lie up, wishing he’d never set paw on snowy during her labour.  Tigger ran along the passage, the laughter from Nanuq and Brunetta’s lie up angering him further.

       “What the hell is going on in here!”  He snarled.

       “We’re playing!”  Nanuq replied, “Me and little Nanuq here.  What’s got into you?”  Tigger swiped at little Nanuq with his paw, the cub screaming with fear!  Brunetta, sensing Danger, leapt on top of the tiger, dragging him to the floor and delivering a stinging chop with her paw to the back of his neck!  Tigger screamed and screamed as Brunetta roared into his face!

        “Stop it you two!”  Simba roared, crashing in on the scene.

       “Tigger nearly did for my cub!”  Nanuq yelled.

      “What were you doing to provoke him?”  Simba asked.

        “We were doing nothing Simba!”  Little Nanuq yelled, “We were playing together, me and Nanuq, when Tigger comes barrelling in and threatens me!”

       “Why Tigger?  What did little Nanuq do that made you feel threatened?”

       “Nothing,” Tigger said, looking tired, “it was me overreacting as usual.  Snowy’s blown me out after an uncomfortable cubbing, and now I’m all over the place.

       “You bet you are!”  Isaac snapped, padding into the room, “you burst in on poor Nanuq and his cub, claws extended and angry to your tail tip!  You swiped at little Nanuq, and upset Brunetta so much she felt she had to fight for her cub!  Now it’s you who are in the wrong, not the bears, so get out of here!”  Brunetta and Isaac chased Tigger out of the lie up, the tiger humiliated and angry.

       “Now you two can play in peace,” Simba mewed to Nanuq and his cub.”  Nanuq smiled and hugged little Nanuq.

       “I love to see cubs playing,” Simba mewed, “it’s great when they can play together and with their parents.

        “I’ve played with little Arki,” little Nanuq said, “But she’s not really little is she!  Her paws are enormous!”  Simba smiled, having played with little Arki only a few minutes ago.  Little Nanuq waved a forepaw at Simba, who padded across and tickled his pads, much to the cub’s delight.

       “Do you know how a bear strokes his or her hind paws Simba?”  Little Nanuq asked.  Simba nodded, for he’d seen Brunetta massaging her own paws many times and knew how much the bears that’d been shown how to massage their own paws enjoyed doing so.

       “Oh,” little Nanuq said with evident disappointment.  Simba, realising this, smiled and said:

      “But I wouldn’t mind seeing it again.”  Brunetta, catching on to her cub’s mood, smiled at Simba, whose quick thinking had saved an upsetting situation.  Little Nanuq showed Simba how he could stroke his hind paws by taking his left hind paw in his right fore, then stroking his pads and toes with his left fore.

       “That’s wonderful!”  Simba said, “Now if I do this,” he continued, tickling little Nanuq’s right hind paw.  Little Nanuq laughed and let go of his hind paw, falling onto his back laughing helplessly.  Brunetta laughed at Simba’s antics.

       “You two would make a real double act,” she laughed.  Simba smiled at her.

       “You taught him how to stroke his paws,” Simba reminded her.  Brunetta grinned.  Little Nanuq looked at Simba:

        “Could I take a look at your paws?”  He asked.

       “You want just to look at them?”  Simba asked, looking downcast.

        “Can, can I touch them too?  Would you let me do that?”  The cub asked.

       “Of course,” Simba mewed.

      “But, but, lions, they’re the kings of beasts, over us bears, I would never ask, let alone assume I could look at, or touch your paws Simba.”  Simba grinned:

      “Lions being the king of beasts is a load of rubbish,” Simba mewed, “I vote the bears as the kings of beasts.  They are so versatile, we lions are not so.  But yes, you can look at and touch my paws.  Come.”  Simba lay down, and little Nanuq examined his paws by sight and then, closing his eyes, by touch.  Simba’s huge paws seemed even larger to the cub’s paws than they had when his eyes had seen them.  Simba purred as he felt little Nanuq’s toes working over his pads and toes, the cub exploring each paw carefully and with evident fascination and gentle care.  Simba closed his own eyes, almost falling asleep as little Nanuq’s paws worked over his hind paws.

      “You’ve got lovely paws,”  little Nanuq said to Simba, who could barely wiggle the toes of the paw the polar bear cub was holding in his, so deeply asleep was he.

       “Simba’s nearly asleep,” Brunetta said to her cub.  Little Nanuq smiled and patted the pads of Simba’s left hind paw, the lion purring softly.

        “You know how to stroke paws little one,” Simba said faintly, “don’t worry if I fall asleep, I’m, I do not want to be anti social, but this is so nice!”  Simba yawned, stretched and settled to sleep as little Nanuq worked on his forepaws once more.

        “You’ve sent a lion to sleep little fellow,” Nanuq said gently.  Little Nanuq smiled at his sire.

       “I hope Simba knows I liked it when he tickled my paw,” the cub said.

       “I’m sure he knows that,” Nanuq replied.

       “I’ll show him again how I can stroke my paws,” the cub replied.  Nanuq smiled:

      “I’ll show him too,” the polar bear replied, “I want to stroke my paws anyway.”  Simba surfaced as Nanuq was speaking and smiled at the polar bear.

         “How about if we all massage our paws,” Brunetta said, “it beats getting angry and swiping at young cubs any day.”  Nanuq smiled.

 

Nanuq sat down, Simba sitting up and watching him as he bent his left hind leg and took his left hind paw in his left fore, the toes of his forepaw holding his left hind, the pads of his hind paw obscured by the white fur on the back of his forepaw.  Nanuq then played with the toes of his left hind paw with his right fore, his right leg extended hind paw relaxed and resting comfortably on the rug in front of him.  Simba watched intently, smiling as he saw the pleasure on Nanuq’s face as the bear’s forepaw played with the toes of his hind.

       “You bears love your paw play,” Simba observed.  Brunetta, sitting a little way off and playing with her own hind paws, smiled and replied that most bears did.

       “We all love it,” little Nanuq said.  Simba watched the bears with interest.

        “I wish I could massage my own paws,” Simba thought.  Simba flexed his toes and seeing that his claws were extended, retracted them.  This action terrified little Nanuq who squealed something about Simba’s claws falling off!  Simba, seeing the polar bear cub was distressed, padded over to him, lay down and hugged him tightly.

       “My claws haven’t fallen off little Nanuq,” Simba said gently, “I retracted them.  Watch this.”  With that he raised his left forepaw and extended his claws, before sheathing them once more.

       “Clever ain’t it,” Simba mewed.  The polar bear cub smiled. Picking up Simba’s left forepaw and examining hit now the lion had retracted his claws.

       “I like your paws even better when they are without claws,” the cub said, “I wish I could retract my claws, but I can’t.”  Simba smiled and kissed the polar bear on his nose.

        “”sometimes we can’t all be what we want to be,” he purred.  Little Nanuq smiled and embraced Simba’s left forepaw in both of his.

        “I love you Simba,” the cub said, making Simba want to cry.

       “I love you too little one,” he choked.

        “Simba, would you like to touch my paws as I massage my hind paws with my fore?”  Nanuq asked.  Simba smiled.

        “Okay,” he said, “and thanks.”  Nanuq smiled as Simba’s paw touched the pads of his hind paws and the backs of his fore as the polar bear massaged his hind paws.

       “Can I stroke your paws Simba?”  Nanuq asked.  Simba smiled and nodded.

       “Be my guest,” he mewed, “I’d like that a lot.”

 

Once Simba and Nanuq finished their mutual examination of each other’s paws, where Nanuq embraced and stroked each of Simba’s paws with gentle care, the polar bear and white lion curled up together.

        “That was lovely,” Simba mewed.  Nanuq smiled, his left forepaw enfolding Simba’s right fore.

        “I love your paws Simba; they’re big, soft and very huggable, much like the rest of you really.”  Simba grinned, knowing what the polar bear meant.  Nanuq smiled as Simba’s paws worked over his fore and hind paws, Nanuq unable to hide a smile of pleasure as the lion’s pads and toes worked over his own.

       “That feeling is indescribably lovely,” Nanuq said softly, curling the toes of his right hind paw round Simba’s.  Simba tugged at his trapped forepaw, Nanuq smiling and curling his toes even tighter round the lion’s, even introducing a slight wiggle, massaging Simba’s toes with his.

       “You Rogue!”  Simba mewed.  Nanuq released the lion’s paw and hugged him with both forepaws.

       “I loved it when you caught the toes of my forepaw in your hind,” Simba purred.

       “You just like any paw contact at all don’t you,” Nanuq said.  Simba smiled.

 

Meanwhile, across the room from Simba and Nanuq, Little Nanuq and Brunetta were playing much the same game, Brunetta holding her son cub’s toes with hers at every opportunity she got.  Little Nanuq loved the paw contact as much as Brunetta herself did, and the brown bear could feel it.

 

Meanwhile, back in Tigger’s lie up, snowy played with her newborn cubs, gently rolling them over and tickling their bellies and paw pads, to the delight of both cubs.  Snowy felt relaxed for the first time since the birth of the cubs, and now Tigger was out of the way, she felt at ease.  Snowy’s cubs also calmed quickly which in turn soothed their mother.  Petra padded in, saw the newborn cubs and grinned at Snowy.

       “Ah that’s great,” she purred.  Snowy looked up into the lioness’s face.

        “The birth was horrible, but now, now things are okay,” Snowy replied.  Petra nodded.

      “Now it’s time to forget all that and enjoy loving your two cubs,” Petra mewed.

      “How can I forget a horrible experience like the one I’ve just had?”  Snowy asked.

       “Would you like some help with that?”  Petra asked.  Snowy looked wary:

       “Help?”  She asked, “Like what kind of help?”

       “Some help from friendly paws,” Petra mewed.  Snowy looked down at her own paws.

      “Look, just don’t be hard on me,” Snowy pleaded, knowing Petra would be able to feel her inner most thoughts.

        “Do you feel you were hard on Tigger?”  Petra asked.  Snowy sighed:

        “Yes, all right, I’ll admit it; I was a bitch to him.  He was scared, and now, now I don’t blame him, but then I did, and I am sorry for that.”

      “Well tell him then,” Petra said.

        “I would, but, but he’s gone!”  Snowy sniffed, “I told him to get lost Petra!”

       “Leave the cubs with me and go to Tigger,” Petra mewed.  Snowy covered her face with her paws.

       “I’ve busted our relationship!”  She wailed.

       “No, not yet,” the lioness replied, “but go to him before it gets too bad.”  Snowy leapt to her paws and fled for the door!  Petra watched her go, then, sighing, she settled down with Snowy’s confused cubs.  The tiny tigers were both light in colour with black stripes and brown paw pads.  The tiny cubs now looked for warmth from Petra, who was the nearest heat source.  Petra looked at the cubs, feeling the same protective instinct rising in her that she’d felt when first seeing Simba, Rowena and Baingana.

      “I wonder if I will produce milk for these cubs,” Petra thought.  As she thought this, she felt one of the cubs cuddling up to her and searching for milk.  Petra realised the cubs didn’t mind who they cuddled up to, as long as they were warm and they got milk.  Petra’s answer to her question regarding milk was answered by the sound of the cub drinking milk.  Petra smiled to herself as the other cub, hearing the first finding milk, crawled over to Petra and found the milk for itself.  Petra felt her body responding to the cubs, and soon she was curled round them, the cubs settling down to sleep after their drink.  Petra felt herself becoming tired, and soon she was dozing with the newborn tiger cubs.

 

After an hour of searching the house, snowy found Tigger talking to fleur, moaning about Snowy’s conduct and regretting his own part in the whole cubbing.

      “I should have kept paws off!”  Tigger raged, “I shouldn’t have been within a thousand miles of snowy!”

        “No Tigger, it’s my fault,” snowy said, having caught the end of his tirade.

       “I’m sorry,” Tigger said to snowy.  Snowy hugged Tigger tenderly.

       “Come,” snowy said, let’s go back to our den and find our cubs.”  Tigger and Snowy returned to their den to find Petra and the cubs asleep, the cub’s fat with milk that Snowy certainly hadn’t provided.  Snowy stared at the replete cubs, and then at Petra’s teats, realising the lioness’s connection with Eohippus wasn’t entirely severed when Petra broke the dawn horse’s control over her life.

        Petra?”  Tigger whispered, “Petra dear?”  The lioness stirred, opened her eyes and raised her head.

       “Oh, Tiggie, and snowy too,” she yawned, “your cubs are safe, fed too.”

         “Thanks,” snowy mewed, “now, please, can we have them back?”  Petra returned Snowy’s cubs.  Snowy found Petra was tearful as she gave back the cubs.  Rubbing her face with her paws, |Petra tried to cover her emotions.

       “I’m sorry,” she sniffed.

       “It’s okay,” snowy said, touching Petra’s paw with hers.

         “I took care of your cubs, and then before I knew it, I’d fed them too!”  Petra sobbed, “I’m sorry for that snowy, for feeding them I mean, it’s not my place to do that, but, but I couldn’t help myself, it just happened!”

        “It happened because you care about cubs,” Rowena said, padding into the room and cuddling up to Petra.

       “I do care, but I shouldn’t care for tiger cubs Rowena, but I do!”

       “I should have never cared about the welfare of two snow leopard cubs,” snowy said, “but I did, and I don’t regret it.  Please don’t regret a minute of your care for my cubs.”

        “I couldn’t help what I did Snowy,” Petra mewed.  Rowena hugged Petra tenderly.  Petra looked at Rowena, loving the little lioness.

        “I know a bit about how you can love a lost cub,” Rowena mewed.  Petra smiled at her and kissed her nose.

       “I think we can file the events of today under a lioness caring for her cubs,” snowy mewed.  Petra smiled at the tigress.

       “I love your cubs,” she mewed.

        “I’m glad about that,” Snowy replied.

Petra and Rowena left the lie up intending to pick fruit in the wood.  On their way out of the house they met Simba who padded alongside Rowena.

       “We’re going Fruit picking Simba,” Rowena said.  Simba nodded, as Petra had picked up a basket, holding the handle in her mouth.

      “Do you remember the first time I went fruit picking?”  Simba asked his mum.

      “I do,” she replied, “and I remember that fruit picking was what we were engaged in when Samson found you in the string bag.”  Simba looked grim:

      “I don’t want to be reminded of that!”  He snapped.

       “Look,” Rowena said, “are you coming or not Simba.”  Simba nodded, picked up a basket and followed the lionesses out of the house.

 

Baingana watched them from an upstairs window, wondering what on earth they were doing.  Pushing the window open, he yelled down to the trio.

        “What on earth’s going on?  You three look like a convention of old grannies going down the local shop on a weekend.”  Simba dropped his basket and looked up at Baingana.

        “We’re fruit picking,” he replied.  Baingana smiled:

       “This community have some really strange habits,” he mewed, “first you learn to defend yourselves with knives and hammers, and now you’re fruit picking.”

      “Mum’s useful with a stick when getting apples,” Simba remarked.  Baingana looked unconvinced.

       “Come and join us,” Petra invited, placing her own basket down.

        “You have to carry a basket though, it’s the form,” Rowena chimed in.

        “I’m not carrying one of those bloody things,” Baingana replied, “I’d look stupid!”

      “You can’t pick fruit if you have no basket to put it in,” Petra said.  Baingana looked down at the lions with their baskets.

        “If you’re pulling my paw I’ll never forgive you!”  He said.  With that the window closed, and Baingana was soon joining them, complete with obligatory basket.

        “Hi Granddad,” Samson said, slapping Baingana on the shoulder with his paw as he passed to go inside the house.  Baingana dropped his basket and nearly fled!

        “I warned you!”  He snarled at Simba and the lionesses.  Samson turned and grinned at Baingana.

       “I think that basket really suits you,” the lion leader said.  Baingana told Samson where he could shove the basket.

       “Come on,” Simba said, “let’s go.”  With that he picked up his basket and trotted into the wood, Petra and Rowena following.  Baingana, embarrassed, left his basket on the ground and slunk back into the house.  Samson, watching him, made sure he saw him pick up the basket and follow the white lions.  Baingana raced after his leader, intent on getting his basket back!

        “That’s mine!”  Baingana raged.  Samson plodded stolidly on, until Baingana reached him and snatched the basket.  Samson stopped, and with gentle care, took the basket off of the white lion.

       “You dropped the basket,” Samson said round the handle, “I picked it up and now I’m going fruit picking instead of you.”  Baingana snorted:

       “It was your comment!”  He wailed, “I was sure the lionesses and Simba were playing a horrid trick!”  Samson put the basket down and placed his paw on the rim to stop Baingana from stealing it.

       “That was only a joke,” Samson said.  Baingana looked at the long haired lion.

        “All that about Granddad you mean?”  He asked.

      “Yes,” Samson replied, “I heard the whole conversation and thought you would be able to take it.  Instead of taking a joke, I find you an ill mannered cub with no sense of humour.  Now I’m going fruit picking with Petra and those of her family who have not had their humour surgically removed at the root.”  With that Samson padded away with the basket.  Baingana swore at Samson whipping round and throwing the basket at Baingana before racing back and leaping on top of him!  Baingana screamed as first the basket, and then three quarters of a ton of angry lion was thrown on top of him!  Petra and Simba raced back from their fruit picking as the sound of the fight reached them.

       “Stop it Samson!”  Petra yelled.  Samson growled and snarled, slapping and clawing at Baingana.

       “You don’t ever swear at me!”  Samson yelled at Baingana.  Petra threw herself at Samson, dragging the angry lion off her adopted son cub.

       “Stop it! Stop it!”  Petra yelled.

      “You didn’t hear the words Baingana used, just because I took his basket!”  Samson yelled.

       “Look, just leave it,” Simba said softly.

      “Leave it?”  Samson challenged, “How can you say that!  Baingana swore at his leader, and I won’t have it!  He should be punished!”

        “He will be punished,” Simba said softly, “Now leave off.”  Samson grudgingly left Baingana.

      “There’s noone with more authority than me!”  He grumbled, “How can anyone other than me deliver punishment?”  Simba smiled grimly, and then winked at Rowena.  Samson stared as Rowena, smaller than Baingana, strode up to him and belted him across his nose with her paw.  Baingana looked so startled and ashamed that Samson felt strangely satisfied.

       “He knows now,” Rowena said, padding away.  Baingana looked down at his paws, unable to look at Samson.

      “Now let’s get back to our fruit,” Simba said.  Baingana watched as Samson and the other white lions walked out of sight.

        “How did you do that?”  Samson asked Rowena.

       “In Baingana’s mind, I am closest to him,” Rowena said, “so being slapped by my paws would have more authority than any blows from your paws.  I know it’s wrong to swear at our leaders, and now so does he.  Leave him alone now Sammy.”  Samson kissed Rowena’s nose.

       “You mean he feels more than friendship towards you?”  The long haired lion asked.

      “Yes,” Rowena mewed, “Baingana wants me to have his cubs, but he’ll have to show respect to my brother, our mum and our leaders before I will even consider spending a night with him, let alone mating.  Now he knows that swearing at the leaders of the community offends me as much as it offended you Samson.  Now we will go on from here, and banana can get his own basket.”

        “You white lions are the embodiment of enlightenment for us tawny lions,” Samson said.  Rowena looked at the long haired lion.

       “You searched for years for one of our kind I believe,” she mewed.  Samson choked back tears.

       “I did, I had dreams, dreams of a white lioness Rowena.  Rowena rubbed Samson’s paw with hers.

        “You found her I think,” she mewed.  Samson looked at Petra who smiled at him.

       “I’m just a white lioness,” she mewed.  Samson shook his head.

       “No you’re not, and you know it,” he sniffed.

         “So I adopted three cubs, what else have I done of note?  Nothing much.”  Simba knew his mum was playing down what neither he nor Rowena could put into words.

        “We all rely on our rock in one way or another,” Samson mewed.

        “I am as fallible as the next lioness,” Petra warned.

        “Maybe Samson was looking for that which you were not,” Simba said.

       “No, I wasn’t looking for Eohippus,” Samson replied, “I was looking for the little cub who I saw abused in the garden all those years ago.”

        “You saw me as your idea of enlightenment?”  Petra asked.

       “You were wronged by so many, but you strove to help so many,” Samson said.  Petra looked at Samson.

       “I was loved by many too,” she reminded him.

       “You were loved by one, one who knew what you were from the first time his paw touched yours.  You were loved by a lion who tried to love everyone and got hurt by many.”  Petra nodded.

       “Theo showed me how to be gentle,” Petra mewed, “it’s really down to him Samson.  It’s him who I need to thank for where I am now.  He believed in me and helped me through it all.  Petra closed her eyes briefly, thinking of her adopted sire.

       “I love you Theo,” she thought.  Samson wondered if Theo could feel his daughter cub thinking of him.

          “I’m sure Theo can feel you thinking about him,” Rowena said.  Petra stared at her.

       “Your ability to read thoughts is growing stronger by the day,” she remarked.

        “I don’t mean to upset you Petra,” Rowena mewed.  Petra smiled and touched Rowena’s paw, trying to divine her thoughts, but got nothing.

       “I feel confusion, anxiety, and a fear of the rain that is coming soon,” Rowena said.  Petra was startled!

        “Well, yes, I am not keen on rain,” she mewed.  As she spoke, large drops of rain fell.  Then, as if someone had turned a hose full on to them, the lions were drenched in a downpour.  The rain came down so hard it bounced back off the ground.  Petra screwed up her face in disgust.

       “Cold wet paws!”  She whimpered, “I hate cold wet paws too!”  Samson, his own paws soaked, placed his left forepaw on Petra’s nose, the lioness screaming with shock!

       “That was horrible!”  Petra yelled, after shaking her head and slapping Samson’s paw.  Samson grinned at Petra, compounding his error by embracing her with his paws.  Petra wriggled free from his hug, complaining of his cold wet paws.

      “Leave me alone Samson!”  Petra said, half angry, half amused.

        “Let’s get home!”  Simba yelled, as Thunder and lightning made their presence felt.  Rowena and Simba fled for the house, with Samson and Petra pounding after them, their paws splashing along the now muddy track.

      “This is horrible!”  Samson yelled above the pounding rain.

        “A wet nose and cold paws don’t help!”  Petra replied.  The four lions burst into the house through the door into the shower room.  Dripping water, they took turns under the shower, warming themselves up and washing the mud from their fur and paws.  Samson smiled as Simba lay down beneath the water jet and Rowena massaged his paws one by one.  Then, once this was done, she lay down and he did the same for her.

        “That’s really sweet,” Samson purred.  Petra smiled at her cubs.

       “I love it when they do that,” she thought.  Rowena tickled Simba’s paws, the lion laughing delightedly.

        “I love you Rowena,” Simba mewed.  Rowena kissed his nose.

       “I love your personality, the keys to which are four gorgeous paws,” Rowena said to her brother.  Simba curled the toes of his left forepaw round Rowena’s as they came in contact with his.

       “How could you touch his paws like that Rowena!”  Baingana yelled, “That kind of touch is for me and me alone!”  Rowena turned hostile eyes on Baingana.

       “The method of touch is the same, but the emotions transmitted are different.  Another thing, who said I was going to have your cubs anyway?  I could have cubs with Simba, it’s not unheard of you know.  His and my mother were unrelated.  I could have his cubs!”  Baingana looked horrified!  Rowena even went so far as to embrace Simba, though Simba wasn’t so sure that she was playing with Baingana.  Baingana ran to the tiny room just off the shower room and was physically sick.

         “You two aren’t, are you?”  Simba laughed at Baingana’s reaction.

       “Rowena’s right, she could have my cubs.  But I refuse to let her, even if she wanted to.  I love her now and will forever, but if she asked me to give her cubs I’d refuse.”

       “Would you help me during the birth of another lion’s cubs though?”  Rowena asked.  Simba nodded and squeezed her paw, the shower drenching both of them.

        “Thank you,” Rowena said.

        “Do not even think of having Simba’s cubs Rowena!”  Baingana yelled.

        “I might you know, just to piss you off,” Rowena said.  Petra turned her head away, trying not to laugh.

       “You dare have that horrid mangy creature’s cubs!”  Baingana screamed.

       “I’d much rather struggle forever to give birth to Simba’s cubs than yours if they’re going to inherit a Temper like yours!”  Rowena snapped, and Simba could see she was serious.

        “You’d rather strain your guts out to deliver deformed and disgusting offspring rather than have pure perfect cubs?”  Baingana asked incredulously.

       “No!”  Rowena yelled, “But who’s to say what would happen if I mated with Simba.  Who’s to know if our cubs will be healthy or not.  It’s an impossible question to answer.”

       “You will have my cubs!”  Baingana roared.

        “No I won’t!”  Rowena yelled.  Baingana looked with hostile intent at Rowena, his thoughts clear to everyone.

       “You make any move to act out your thoughts, I’ll rip your throat out,” someone said quietly.  Baingana looked round and saw Petra standing in the doorway leading to the garden.

       “You couldn’t hurt a fly, just try it!”  Baingana goaded.

       “You hurt Rowena, you’ll not live to see the sunrise,” Petra said softly, “nothing is more certain Baingana.”

       “You couldn’t kill your own cub!”  Baingana roared.

       “No male cub of mine would ever even think of doing what you were considering,” Petra said.

       “You are not wanted here any more Baingana,” Simba mewed, “get out!”  Baingana looked to Petra for protection from Simba, but saw none.

       “Get out of my sight,” Petra said calmly.

        “But I wasn’t serious!”  Baingana wailed.  Petra saw Simba’s toes curl into the tiles, hearing his claws scratch the rubber flooring as he fought for control.

      “Not serious?”  Simba asked, “I won’t even dignify that with a response.  Now get out Baingana, before I make a meal of you!”

          “If I laid a paw on Rowena, you couldn’t even lift a paw to hit me!”  Baingana said, advancing on Rowena.  He got no further, for Simba landed his full weight on top of him!  Baingana collapsed screaming beneath Simba’s weight, the younger lion crushed beneath Simba’s fury.

       “I will murder you!”  Simba yelled.

        Petra!  Help me!”  Baingana yelled.  Petra turned her back on her cub, for she knew his intentions had been deadly serious.

        “You will die for this!”  Simba yelled at Baingana.

        “I want that lioness!”  Baingana yelled, “She’s mine! All mine!”

        “You don’t own her!”  Simba yelled.

        “Sometimes you speak as if you do!”  Baingana screamed, still pinned beneath Simba.

        “I have never spoken of Rowena like she’s my property!”  Simba yelled, pressing the claws of his right forepaw into Baingana’s shoulder.

        “You and Rowena follow each other round like lost puppies!”  Baingana screamed.

       “Was Baingana serious Petra?”  Rowena asked, her abilities deserting her at the crucial moment.

        “As serious as the plague,” Petra’s eyes said.  Rowena looked at Baingana pinned beneath her brother’s paws.

          “I will have Simba’s cubs, and you will watch the birth,” she said, “then, then you will be killed Baingana.”

       “I want him dead now!”  Simba yelled.

        Petra?”  Rowena asked.

       “Kill him,” Samson said gruffly, “Baingana violated our rules.  He wanted to do unspeakable things to Rowena, things that if I even thought of them would tear me to bits.  I want Baingana dead.  Fighting another male for a lioness’s affections is a just fight, but taking advantage and violating a lioness is unthinkable.  I will not have Baingana taking advantage of any lioness he feels he might want to impregnate.  The fight will be justly won or not won at all.  Our lionesses are not for the taking.  Their affections have to be won by strength of character, as well as strength of body.  Though, sometimes the latter doesn’t matter as much as the former.  Baingana is weak of character, though he can use his paws to slap and maim.  Now one lion who has bags of character is someone like Theo.  He and Nala are going to have cubs in the near future.  Theo might not be able to raise a paw in anger during a crisis, but he is strong in other ways.”

        “That makes Simba a thug then,” Rowena said.

      “No Rowena, you know what Simba is.  Now Simba let me deal with this excrement!”  Samson roared.  Baingana fought Samson, but the larger lion was too much for the white newcomer, and Baingana lost his life in that shower room.  Petra looked down at Baingana’s dead body with no emotion, for she knew his death was for the good of every lioness both present and future.  Baingana’s desires were not tempered by caution.  He thought he could have any lioness he wanted, but he was very wrong.  Afua put his head round the door, saw the aftermath of the fight and nodded.

        “I’m glad to see Rowena’s safe,” the safari park lion said, “Baingana was talking of things he wanted to do to her.  He told me everything.  It made me sick Samson!”

        “Baingana might have seemed a good lion,” Samson replied, “but because of treatment given to him in his early life, he had no male role model to show him the way.  He saw Nuru conquering his lionesses by force, and thought this was the way to go.  Afua, I hope you don’t think Rowena is ripe for the taking.  For if you do, you will end up as stiff as Baingana is now.  You take his death as a warning.”

        “You need not talk to Afua about how to court a lioness,” Ruslana said, padding in from the garden and smiling at Afua, “for he has already courted me, and done it very gently indeed.”  Samson stared at Ruslana, now a fully grown lioness.

         “It’s amazing how quickly these cubs grow up,” he thought as he looked into her clear brown eyes.

        “You and Afua are, well, mated?”  Samson asked dumbly, as if the process was foreign to him.

       “Yes,” Ruslana laughed, “we are.  Afua was gentle and careful; indeed, I think I was rougher with him when it came to the act of mating.  Now he and I are together, I’m going to have his cubs, and I can’t wait!”

         “You need not worry about Afua,” Rowena said, “he has learned, where Baingana did not.  Baingana was used to pity, was used to us excusing his actions.  Afua though, he had no pity, indeed, he had to stand on his own four paws.  He learned fast what it was to be suddenly on the wrong side of the tracks.  He threw himself on our mercy, and learned how we are.  Now I’m feeling a fool for being taken in by Baingana.  Of course, all I saw was the cub needing protection; I didn’t know any of this would happen.  That when he felt safe, he would, would think of, think of what he was thinking of.”  Rowena’s eyes filled with tears.

        “I provoked him into it!”  She sniffed, “I was trying to tell him gently that I didn’t want him!  I didn’t think he was serious!  I told him I’d have Simba’s cubs, and he went mad!  I didn’t love him, and I now hate him from my ears to the soles of my paws!  I wanted him to leave me alone, but he wouldn’t! And now, now he is dead!  I didn’t want to be the one who caused the death of any community member.”

       “You didn’t cause Baingana’s death, he caused it.”  Simba said, “Noone was to know the seriousness of Baingana’s plans for you Rowena.”

       “He was sweet to me for a while,” Rowena admitted.

      “Sweet so that when he committed the final act he’d have some kind of justification for it,” Simba snarled, “Baingana would have said that you wanted him to have his way with you Rowena.  Fortunately he did not get his way.”  Rowena looked at Simba, then went to him and let him hug her.

        “I will not have your cubs Rowena,” Simba said gently, “I couldn’t.”

        “I know,” Rowena said sadly, “I know you can’t Simba.  I, I won’t lie to you and say I haven’t thought of how it would be to have your cubs, for I have.  I know as well as you do that our union would not be unlawful, and I have thought many a night of our cubs.  For if you and I had cubs, I know they’d be looked after and loved with everything you and I had to give them.”  Simba held Rowena tenderly.

        “You could have cubs with another lion,” he said, “then, if that lion doesn’t want to help look after the cubs, then maybe I could help.”  Rowena kissed Simba’s nose.

         “Simba,” Rowena said, “I will never have cubs.  For, for, I love you, as a brother at first, but now as a potential mate also.  I can’t deny my feelings Simba, so there it is.  I love you as a friend, as my cub brother, but also as a potential sire to my cubs.”  Simba felt her intense emotions.

       “You’ve been screwing up courage to tell me this for a long time,” Simba said, “thank you for being so honest Rowena.  Now, now I think it is time for you to learn something too.  I know we can be lawfully mated, and I said I would do anything to keep you safe…”  Simba’s eyes filled with tears as he thought of the mad lust in Baingana’s eyes.  A lust that had no regard for Rowena herself.

       “If, if mating with you would protect you and your cubs, I’ll do it,”  Simba choked, “I know I said I wouldn’t, but now I have seen what Baingana wanted to do, I will do what you ask, to protect the one I love from harm.  I couldn’t consider it before because you were too young, and although we were compatible in so many ways, the thought was unthinkable. Now though, now you have asked me, I will love you as you ask, and if our love produces cubs, then so be it.  I will look after those cubs with everything I have, just like their mother looked after me with everything she had.”  Rowena smiled.

        “I knew what you really felt towards me,” she mewed, “I’ve known it for a long time, and so has Petra.  We played as brother and sister cub for a long time, but that wasn’t the end of things.  I kept coming back to you for I knew you loved me to my core.  I love you that way too Simba.  When our bodies come together and we mate, let our minds mate too, for we are producing life that will be part of each of us, though totally individual from us too.”  Rowena kissed Simba’s nose, her paw enfolding his.

       “How does that feel?”  She asked.  Simba smiled with genuine pleasure.

        “Wonderful,” he said truthfully.

       “I always hoped you two would become more than good friends,” Petra mewed, “and now it’s happened.”  Simba smiled.

       “Nothing feels more right,” he replied.  Throughout all this, the shower had been soaking Simba and Rowena, but they’d not noticed it until then.  Now Rowena picked up Simba’s right forepaw and turned it to look at his pads.

       “Your paw pads are as wrinkled as prunes!”  Rowena laughed.  Simba smiled and kissed her.

       “I’ll bet yours are too,” he said gently.  Rowena grinned:

      “Let’s get dry and then maybe you can find out if my paw pads are as wrinkled as yours,” Rowena said.  Simba and Rowena left the shower room, Samson and Petra dragging Baingana’s body to the place where Mister Badger, or Percy, as Petra sometimes called him, had dug a grave for Baingana.  Samson watched as Baingana was buried deeply, and then turned away.

       “So we lose one of our white lions,” someone said.  Samson spat on the grass.  He knew the Boss’s voice, and wished the human would leave the community alone.

      “Yes we lost a white lion,” Samson said to the human.

       “Why?”

      “He broke pride law regarding the proper treatment of lionesses,” Samson replied.

       “Has this something to do with Rowena?”  The boss asked.

      “Yes,” Samson replied, “but Simba’s her mate now.  Baingana thought he could be, but when he lurched towards taking what was not his to take, he lost his right to live.  Simba was going to kill him, but I did it for him, keeping his paws clean, as something told me he would be holding the paws of a lioness that he’d loved ever since he saw her as a cub.  Simba won’t admit it, but both Petra and Rowena know he’s loved Rowena for longer than even he can remember.  Now their paws are joined, and the two of them are very happy together.”

       “Okay,” the boss said.  Samson walked away from Baingana’s grave.

 

Meanwhile, back in the house, Simba and Rowena lay down together.  Rowena took Simba’s forepaws in hers, stroking and massaging his pads and toes.  Simba smiled, feeling Rowena’s peace.  He knew she’d come to terms with her feelings for him a long time before he had his for her.

      “Simba, I feel you are not as happy with your situation as you outwardly seem.  Please, tell me your concerns,” Rowena said.  Simba sighed deeply, trying to find the words to express his feelings.

       “I hope now we’re older that we will be left alone,” he said.  Rowena smiled:

      “I think we will be,” she said gently.

 

Rowena fell asleep soon after.  She saw Sarafina coming at her with teeth bared and claws extended!  Rowena screamed as the lioness leapt on top of her, clawing and biting her!

       “You will not mate with that lion!”  Sarafina yelled.  Rowena felt paws holding her down.  The scent was familiar, as the basic scent of all white lions, but Rowena could decode nothing more due to paralysing fear.  Screaming, she bit one of the paws holding her down!  A yelp of pain brought her round, and she opened her eyes to see Simba licking his left forepaw, which was bitten.

        “What happened?”  Rowena asked.

       “You had a dream I think,” Simba said, “your dream was of Sarafina, and she was screaming and biting you.  When you felt what you thought were her paws holding you down you bit one of them.”

      “Yes,” Rowena said, “I couldn’t see Sarafina, just hear her and feel her anger.  The paws though, I felt them, strange that.”  Then she looked more closely at Simba’s injured paw and realised with a sick lurch what must have taken place after the paws pinned her down.

        “You were holding me down because I was struggling against Sarafina, and, and I bit your paw,” Rowena said.  Simba nodded, for the evidence was indisputable.  Rowena took his injured paw in hers and looked at it.

        “I’m sorry,” she mewed, kissing the bitten paw.  Simba kissed her nose.

        “You didn’t mean to bite me,” he said, “it wasn’t me you were biting.”  Rowena kissed Simba’s ear.

      “Now let’s find some food,” Rowena said.  While padding towards the kitchen, the white lions met Nala, who’d just been told of her son cub’s death.

       “Why did Samson kill Baingana?”  Nala demanded.  Simba took Nala’s paw and looked into her eyes.

       “Baingana broke pride law,” Simba said, “he wanted to dominate his lionesses, taking them by force, bypassing the usual law of fight the male for the lioness’s attention.  Baingana wanted to take Rowena by force.  I could not let that happen, and neither could Samson.  Nala, Baingana needed to die, as in the wild he would have done.  We cannot have lions violating pride laws.”

      “You wanted Rowena for yourself didn’t you,” Nala said.

       “I wanted Simba,” Rowena replied, “I wanted his attentions, a chance to have his cubs.  I told Baingana that, but he wouldn’t listen, and now, now he’s dead.”  Nala raised her paw to strike Rowena, but Simba pulled it to the floor.

       “You don’t’ want to do that,” he said.  Nala tore her paw free of Simba’s and, clenching her paw, tried to punch him on the nose.  Simba dodged the flying paw and smacked her across her face.  Rowena stepped between the warring lion and lioness.

       “Stop it!”  She snapped.  Nala swore at Rowena, who chased her down the passage!  Nala fled to Theo’s lie up, somewhere where Rowena wouldn’t follow without permission.  Rowena chased her to the threshold, and then roared into the lie up to frighten Nala.  Rowena returned to Simba, who looked frustrated.

       “Nala won’t listen to us,” he mewed.  Rowena looked at him.

       “She probably doesn’t know why her son cub died,” Rowena said, “Someone needs to tell her why he died.”  Rowena and Simba left for Theo’s lie up.  Theo met them at the threshold and waved them down the corridor.

       “Not here,” he said, “Petra’s talking to Nala in my lie up.  We go somewhere else.”  Simba and Rowena followed Theo to the main part of the house where rugs and cushions were scattered all over the floor.  Settling down on a rug with their heads and forepaws resting on a cushion each, the three lions talked over Baingana’s death, Rowena expressing how stupid she now felt for bringing him into the community.  Simba looked uncomfortable.

       “I made that mistake with Sarafina,” he said, “but I wasn’t to know that until it was nearly too late.  Letting Sarafina in brought us trouble, but has also changed my life, so I suppose it wasn’t all bad.”  He kissed Rowena’s nose, “I got to meet a gentle cub that, all grown up, is now my mate,” he said.  Rowena felt warmth spreading from the paw Simba held in his.  Soon she was bathed in warmth from her nose to her tail.

       “I know mistakes were made with Sarafina and Baingana,” Theo mewed, “strangely though, I didn’t feel uneasy with Baingana.  Sarafina though, she made me uneasy, but I didn’t listen to my instincts.”

      “Baingana wasn’t a bad lion; he was just turned bad by experiences.  Sarafina however was bad through and through.  First with Samson, and then with Rowena,” Simba replied.  Theo rubbed his eyes with a tired paw.

        “I hope Nala can cope with the death of her cub,” he said, “Samson didn’t hold back.”

 

Petra lay in Nala and Theo’s lie up, cradling Nala’s head on her shoulder.  She’d explained the reasons why she’d not defended Baingana, reasons Nala at first rejected.

       “How could you not defend your own cub?”  Nala said, bringing the subject home.

        “Baingana was violating leonine law, and I can’t condone that.”  Petra said, “He didn’t want to fight Simba for Rowena.  He was just going to take her for himself, and no lion does that.  None that has been brought up properly.”  Nala squealed with pain, as if Petra had injured her.

       “I protected my cub!”  She wailed, “I tried to protect him!”

       “Nuru’s influence was strong in him though,” Petra said, “Baingana thought he could take any lioness he liked, and when he found that wasn’t the case, he was willing to resort to force.  Now we can’t have that, so he died at Samson’s paws.  Baingana wasn’t a bad lion; he was misled by others, and thought he had a right to lionesses.  The truth is, he didn’t have a right to anything.  Now he is dead and Simba, who courted Rowena in the right way, has Rowena’s affections.  Rowena might have been friendly to Baingana, but she never really wanted his attentions, not that it mattered to Baingana.  Even if Simba and Rowena had been together, Baingana might still have tried it on with Rowena.  Your cub violated our laws and paid the ultimate price.  That is what happened.  Nala looked at Petra.

       “You aren’t so gentle after all then,” she said, “you will let your cubs go to their deaths.”

      “If they violate laws for which violations is death then yes,” Petra mewed, “that’s just nature.”

      “Of course Simba would never violate any laws would he!”  Nala scoffed, “he’s a goody goody four paws!”

         “That was silly, and cubbish,” Petra said calmly.

         “Simba’s too nice!”  Nala yelled, “He is no leader!”

        “Nala, dear Nala, you don’t have to be ruthless with your claws or teeth to enforce laws,” someone said.  Nala looked round, as did Petra.  Leo stood there, all long hair and dirty brown fur.  Nala swallowed hard, trying not to be sick.  The sight of the cross bred cat obviously revolted her, even after their meeting.

       “I say again, you don’t need to b ruthless with your claws and teeth, though that does help.  Samson didn’t want to kill Baingana Nala.  Indeed, that was the last thing he wanted.  He only did it to keep Simba’s paws clean so he could hug Rowena without fear of making her feel uncomfortable.  Samson would have spared your cub’s life, had Baingana wanted to obey the law.  He didn’t, and Samson had to get rid of him for the good of every lioness here.  Now Samson’s talking with fleur, trying to reason out the goings on.  He didn’t want to kill your cub, but Baingana made his own life impossible.  Now I will go, as I can see the mere sight of me is making you feel sick.  As we made a mistake by judging Baingana by his appearance, I would not like you to make the same mistake with me.  Baingana looked fine; indeed, his scars weren’t visible unless you knew where to look.  Now I find you hate on sight, and I am sorry for you.”  With that Leo turned his tail flicking out and touching Nala’s paw as he turned.  Nala leapt back, horrified.

       “I can see I’m not wanted here,” Leo said, almost choking on the words.  Petra felt the cross bred cat’s anguish.

       “Come to my lie up in ten minutes,” she said to him.  Leo didn’t seem to hear her, leaving with dragging paws.

       “I will go now,” Petra said to Nala, “I’m sorry your cub died, but I thought I’d come and explain why he died.  Now I must go.”  With that Petra left Nala’s lie up.

 

Padding to her den, Petra met Leo, who clung to her with desperate paws.

        “Nala’s reaction to me is so horrible!”  Leo sobbed.

        “I know Leo, I know,” Petra mewed, “she’s impossible sometimes.”

      “But I thought we’d sorted it, I spoke to her, she kissed my nose, stroked my paws, everything!  How can she not take me at paw value?  I know I don’t look nice, but she should have remembered what her paws told her in the bathroom, not what her eyes were telling her in the lie up.  Nala was nearly vomiting when she saw me.  It’s horrible!”  Petra hugged the cross bred cat who was now sobbing into her fur.

         “I don’t want to hurt anyone, but I’m feeling like I’m being torn to bits when ever I set paw from my lie up these days!”  Leo cried.  Petra gently rocked the weeping cat.  Leo sniffed, wiping his eyes with his paws once more.  Petra felt the same emotions she had when looking after Snowy’s cubs.  Leo recognised the emotions Petra was feeling as they transmitted clearly through her paws.  Leo found himself curling up with the white lioness.  Petra began to purr as Leo’s body curled close to hers.

       “Love me Petra!”  Leo begged.  Petra loved Leo, and he knew it, but she knew what he wanted.  Petra began to rub Leo down from his nose to the end of his long tail, and from his ears to the soles of his huge hairy paws.  Leo curled his toes round Petra’s, the hair on the soles of his paws tickling his pads.  Petra traced the pads of Leo’s left forepaw with the toes of her right, burrowing deeply into the fur on the sole of the paw with her toes to reach the pads of Leo’s paw.  Leo smiled as he felt Petra’s toes massaging his paw.

       “I love this,” he purred.  Petra smiled, using her toes to trace the pads she’d just stroked and massaged.  Petra closed her eyes, focusing everything she had through the pads and toes of the paw in contact with Leo’s.

        “I love you Leo my cub,” Petra mewed.  Fleur padded in then, felt the general mood and knew not to interfere.  Lying down, she examined her own paws, enjoying the feel of her whiskers tickling her own pads.

        “Love my cub Petra,” fleur pleaded silently, “let him know he has you on his side.”  Petra’s mind responded to Fleur’s, calming the female cross bred big cat.

       “Make contact with Leo with all four paws if you want,” fleur told the white lioness.  Leo loved the white lions, and especially Petra with a depth of feeling that he couldn’t explain.  He put it down to the leonine part of his heritage, but Leo admitted to himself he felt more at home with the naturally caring and affectionate lions than he did with either the snow leopards or the tigers.  Fleur though, now she was different.  Not just because she was his mother, but there was something about her, something witch defied her solitary big cat heritage.  When all was as it should be, fleur should have been of an aloof disposition, but she was anything other than that.  Fleur was as paws on as Simba or Rowena, and Leo knew them to be very paws on indeed.  Lying curled close to Petra, Leo smiled as he thought of Fleur, the real fleur, and not the poor misguided cat that had wanted to murder him before his paws had encountered solid earth.  Leo sighed; he owed his life to a white lion too.  Simba, a white cub then, the cub who had strange dreams.

       “I love you Simba,” Leo thought, “I love you more than I can tell you.  Thank you dear friend.”  Leo didn’t realise he was crying until Petra dried his eyes with her paw.

       “I’m sorry,” Leo sniffed.

        “No need to apologise,” Petra mewed.

       “I want to tell Simba how much he means to me, but I can’t put it into words,” Leo said, “but I must tell him!”

       “You need not struggle for words dear Leo,” someone said, “for I know your thoughts and ask you not to expect unreasonable things from me.  I’m just a lion with a strange gift, one which fascinates and sometimes terrifies me more than I can say.”  Petra looked up to find Simba and Rowena standing close, watching them.  Leo reached out to Simba with his forepaws; Simba lying down so Leo could hug him.

       “Thank you,” Leo whispered to the white lion.  Simba kissed Leo’s nose.

       “I love you Leo,” Simba whispered.  Leo buried his face in Simba’s mane.

       “I have known this since I was born,” Leo whispered to the lion, “in fact; sometimes it’s only been that knowledge which has kept me together.  I’ve had some dreadful nights Simba, Nights which I won’t tell you of.  Nights where I’ve considered awful things, dreadful acts.”

       “I know of them,” Simba mewed, “I went to your side twice one such night.  You probably don’t remember much of it.”  Simba always made sure Leo was totally relaxed so that the long haired cross bred cat would at least be able to get to sleep, somehow.  Leo had hazy recollections of a white lion, though he’d always put them down to a wish for Simba to be near.  He’d never entertained the fact that the white lion had actually been with him.

       “Sometimes, sometimes I wake from one of my hellish nights and can smell your scent on my fur and paw pads,” Leo said, “it’s like you’ve been holding my paw in yours, though I can’t remember any of it.”

       “I often hold your paws in mine,” Simba said gently, while gently taking Leo’s forepaws in his.

        “I, I feel warm now, safe,” Leo said dreamily.  Simba smiled and gathered Leo to him, hugging him tightly.  Simba didn’t seem to notice Leo was fully grown as he massaged Leo’s body, played with his forepaws and the end of his long tail.  Leo loved every minute of Simba’s attention, revelling in the contact of paw against paw or paw against fur, or paws playing with the end of his tail.  Simba could feel Leo’s pleasure and tried his best to increase it without overdoing things.  When Leo withdrew a paw, Simba didn’t chase the paw, instead working on another paw until the withdrawn one was returned.  Simba found himself working on Leo’s hind paws, as well as his fore, and before long, Simba was massaging Leo’s entire body, from his nose to the end of his long tail.  Simba realised he hadn’t felt hair on the soles of Leo’s paws, hair which used to trail all over the place.  Simba worked his toes over the soles of Leo’s paws, realising there was no longer hair covering the pads any more.  Looking at the sole of one forepaw, Simba saw Leo’s paws were now much like Pepper’s, the long hair surrounding the sole of his paw, but no longer present between the pads as it used to be.  Simba could still feel the fur was thicker than that on the soles of Fleur’s paws.  Simba smiled at Leo and said:

      “The hair on the soles of your paws has gone for good.”  Leo smiled:

       “I’m more glad than I can tell you,”  he said, “I noticed something was different, but I can’t really see the soles of my own paws like the bears can, so I couldn’t take a look.”  Simba gently scratched the pads of Leo’s left forepaw with his toes, Leo smiling and catching Simba’s toes in his, holding them tenderly.

       “I like having my toes played with too Simba,” Leo mewed.  Simba smiled and covered the toes holding his with his free forepaw.

       “I like paw play too,” Simba mewed.

        “Playing with paws again Simba?”  Rowena asked, lying down and cuddling close to Leo.  Simba smiled and Leo wiggled the toes holding samba’s paw, Rowena Petra and fleur smiling at him.  Rowena tickled Simba’s hind paws, the lion laughing and catching her toes in his.

       “Stop it!”  He wined.  Rowena smiled and rubbed the pads of the paw she’d tickled.

      “My paws tell me more than my eyes do,” Leo purred.  Simba smiled and rubbed the pads of his right hind paw.

      “Would you like to see the pads on the soles of your paws?  Simba asked.  Leo smiled and nodded.  Simba and Rowena led Leo to a room where there were mirrors.  Simba told Leo to lie down, and then he moved mirrors until Leo could see his own paw pads and toes.  Leo watched his toes curl and flex as he flexed his paws, the sight made him smile.

      “Lovely paws I have,” he mewed.  Simba smiled and tickled Leo’s left forepaw.

       “I’ve seen bears stroking their own paws,” Leo said when he’d stopped laughing, “that’s wonderful too.”  Simba grinned at him.

      “You see the hair’s gone from the soles of your paws?”  He said.  Leo smiled and nodded.

      “I am thankful for that,” he replied.  Simba lay down and let Leo examine his paws, and then Simba returned Leo’s favour.  Both big cats examined each other’s paws with sight, but mostly with touch.  Both big cats flexed their toes as their paw pads were examined.  Simba purred as Leo’s toes worked over his own paw pads and toes.  The paw massage pleasured and thrilled both cats.

        “I like your paws Simba,” Leo mewed, “they’re large and powerful.”

       “Yours are rather fat and heavy, but very loveable, rather like their owner.”  Leo laughed and playfully slapped Simba with his free paw.  Petra, Rowena and fleur watched the goings on from the doorway, all three female big cats smiling broadly.

        “Boys with their toys,” Petra mewed.  Rowena laughed, but she knew she loved the same things Leo and Simba did.  She loved it when Simba played with her paws, and they often played with each other’s paws for hours on end.  The play involved almost constant paw contact between the cats playing the game.  In the paw play game, the object was to see how much pleasure one could give with both fore and hind paws, so it could be slow or fast play, though slow was best for all concerned.

 

Meanwhile, Nala and Samson were talking together, Nala standing before the huge long haired lion.

       “You need to learn about our community fast Nala!”  Samson yelled, “I didn’t want to kill Baingana, but I had to.  He violated leonine law.  Also, listen to me regarding Leo.  Leo’s touched you, bathed you, and even kissed your nose and paws.  You let him do this willingly.  Now you can’t stand him.  You need to regain the memory of the paw contact you engaged in and cherish it.  Leo might look strange, but he’s not.  He likes everything most cats do, play, hugs, all that and more.  I will not slap you with my paws, for this wouldn’t solve anything.  I will ask you to touch Leo, embrace him and touch his paws.”  Nala looked like she would really vomit this time.

      “No, no I couldn’t!”  She whimpered.

       “Leo’s thought of taking his own life Nala, all because of pressure he feels from community members like you.  He doesn’t want you to worship him, or even to like him if you don’t want.  All he wants is for you to tone down your reaction to him.  Touch him Nala, don’t look at him.  If you use your paws, you might learn things about yourself.”  Nala felt her paws becoming hot and uncomfortable.  Groaning with discomfort, Nala lifted each paw in turn and wiggled her toes, Samson recognising the signs.

       “Your paws are hot and stiff?”  Samson asked.  Nala nodded, grimacing.

     “It’s horrible!”  She mewed.  Just then Leo and Simba padded in with Petra, fleur and Rowena.

       “Can I suggest a solution?”  Petra asked.  Nala, now having to lie down to relieve her discomfort, whimpered that she would try anything.  Closing her eyes, she pedalled her limbs and flexed her toes, trying to cool her now burning paws.  Leo padded forward and caught Nala’s left forepaw in his.  Enfolding it, he began to massage Nala’s paw.  Her eyes closed, she could not see Leo’s paw holding hers.  The scent of all four cats strong in her nostrils, Nala did not associate the touch of Leo’s paw with Leo himself.  The touch was gentle, caressing, almost loving.  Indeed, when the big cat’s attention switched to Nala’s other forepaw, she mewed that she wanted more, much more, and quickly too.  Leo even pushed his luck, kissing her nose.  Nala smiled as her body responded to her need for physical contact.

       “Can you guess who’s paws have given yours relief?”  Rowena asked.  Nala mewed that she didn’t care whose paws had given relief to hers, but she knew one thing, that the owner of the paws had a gentle and loving touch.  Nala opened her eyes and saw Leo, who at that moment was holding her left forepaw.

       “Close your eyes Nala,” Leo mewed, “for you were relaxed then, now you are all tense and upset.”

       “I’m upset with myself!”  Nala heard herself saying, “You aren’t horrible.  Let me, let me touch you.”  Nala touched Leo with her free paw, touching his ear, the end of his tail, and, when he lay down and curled up, she managed to touch the sole of his left hind paw.  Leo, feeling her touch, curled his toes round hers, holding them tightly at first, and then slowly releasing them.  Nala whimpered with misery, gripping the toes of Leo’s left hind paw in those of her right fore, squeezing them hard, trying to convey her own sorrow and confusion.  Leo looked at Nala and tried to wiggle the toes of the paw she was holding.  Nala, feeling his efforts to free his paw, relaxed her grip slightly.  Leo smiled.

        “You don’t need to squeeze my toes hard to convey your feelings,” Leo mewed.  Nala felt awful for squeezing Leo’s toes with as much force as she did.

       “I’m sorry,” she mewed.  Nala looked Leo over from nose to tail, exploring him with her eyes and paws, from his pinkie black nose, to his pinkie black paw pads.  Nala found herself kissing Leo’s nose, then his left ear, then the pads and toes of his large well padded forepaws.

      “I love your paws; your tail, your face, everything, and I mean it Leo!”  Nala said.

      “Hug me if you want,” Leo mewed.  Nala did as he asked, embracing him tightly.

       “Hold me tighter, tighter!”  Leo begged.  Nala smiled and embraced him like he was her own cub, with love and tenderness, firmly but gently holding Leo in her paws as best she could.  Leo pressed his paws into her fur like an over excited cub, his toes scrabbling at her fur as she embraced him,  Nala smiling and  catching Leo’s right forepaw in both of hers as his toes raked down her shoulder.  She squeezed the caught paw gently, massaging and stroking his pads and toes, Leo calming the scrabbling of his three free paws as he would if he were a cub.  Nala smiled at him and kissed his nose.

       “I don’t know why I was feeling hatred and disgust,” she mewed, “Leo, I’m sorry, so sorry, and this time, I really mean it!”  Leo smiled, for he knew this already.

      “I know,” he mewed, “I know how you feel.  You transmitted your feelings through your paws.  I felt I could act like an excited cub, because I am!  I’m excited because you’ve overcome your disgust at my appearance, and will even kiss my paws.”

      “I loved it when you scrabbled at my fur,” Nala Mewed, “the feel of your toes raking through my fur was amazing!”  Leo smiled and gently raked the toes of his left forepaw down Nala’s neck fur, the lioness smiling at him.

       “I wish Theo could see this,” Petra mewed.

 

Theo smiled as he watched from the control room as Allie and Kodiak worked the desk.  He watched Nala’s reaction to Leo then ran to the microphone and punched a button.

        “That’s lovely Nala,” he said gently.  Nala smiled at the camera.

       “I love it,” she mewed.  Theo watched with undisguised delight as Nala purred with pleasure as Leo’s paws embraced her own paws.

      “Now we might be able to settle down to normality,” Theo thought.

 

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