More tales from the big house.

           

Kamchatka left her lie up after giving her blessing to Spits and Alaska’s friendship, almost walking straight into Honeyfur, the badger bristling and indignant.

       “What the hell are you doing giving the ok to Alaska and Spits to play like that!”  Honeyfur yelled, “Kamchatka, Spits want Alaska for sex, no friendship at all.  He older than her, and he play with her paws to get one thing only!”

      “You’ve researched that have you?”  Kamchatka asked, kneeling to get eye to eye with Honeyfur her nose inches from that of the badger.

       “Um, no,” Honeyfur gabbled, “but he’s older, and his play is more structured to get what he wants from Alaska!”  Kamchatka raised her paw and showed it to Honeyfur.

       “I’d get out of my sight if I were you,” she warned.  Honeyfur stepped back from the raised paw.

       “Ok mama,” Honeyfur gabbled.  Kamchatka felt a familiar forepaw touch her right foot.  Placing her forepaws on the floor, she closed her eyes, smiling to herself as the toes of the familiar paw explored the sole pad and toes of her right foot.

       “I love that,” she whispered.  The owner of the exploring forepaw kissed her ear, Kamchatka resting her head on Koda’s shoulder.

       “I love your touch,” Kamchatka said softly.  Koda stroked the pads of Kamchatka’s right hind paw, and then gently drew his claws down the sole of her foot from heel to toes.  Kamchatka, gasping, tried not to cry out, stuffing the toes of her right forepaw into her mouth to silence herself.  Breathing deeply, Kamchatka bounced on her heels, half wanting to tell Koda to stop and half wanting him to continue.

        “I’m gonna cry out if you don’t stop!”  Kamchatka thought, “Koda, paws off, paws off!  Oh, but, I don’t really want that, not really!  If I’m truthful.”

       “Sorry mama,” Koda said.  Kamchatka, feeling Koda stop stroking the pads of her hind paw, breathed deeply, trying not to cry.

       “I loved that,” she sniffed, “but, but, I didn’t know what to do!  We’re in public here!”  Koda touched noses with Kamchatka.

      “We’re always in public,” he said, “now everyone knows how sensitive mama really is.”  Kamchatka laughed merrily and kissed Koda’s nose.

      “You nearly moved me to crying out loudly,” Kamchatka said.  Koda smiled and touched Kamchatka’s right foot with the toes of his left forepaw.

       “Don’t, just don’t!”  Kamchatka said, “I’m gonna lose it this time if you do Koda.”  Koda gently drew his claws down Kamchatka’s sole pad, stopping half way, the she bear gasping:

     “Go on Koda!”  Kamchatka said.  Koda gently stroked Kamchatka’s right foot with the claws of his left forepaw, Kamchatka crying out with emotion.

        “It’s too much!”  Kamchatka whimpered, “I’m overloaded!”  Koda felt the rough wrinkled pads on the sole of his mate’s paw warm beneath his, her pulse quickening.

       “Take it Gently Kamchatka,” Koda said.

      “I don’t want to!”  Kamchatka replied, “I want to express my feelings in loud whimpering and kicking paws!”  Koda kissed her ear:

       Kamchatka’s got brown fur with black highlights,” Tornassuk said, padding up to Koda, “her hind feet are covered with the same fur; the soles of her feet have black wrinkled pads.  Very cute.”  Koda giggled:

      “Sounds it,” he replied.  Kamchatka gulped hard; the realisation Koda couldn’t see her hitting her hard, as it did from time to time, even though she knew about her mate’s disability.

       “I do let Koda touch me all over Tornassuk,” Kamchatka said, “I won’t make that mistake again.  I refused Ekaterina for ages when she couldn’t’ see me, but I’ll never refuse again to those I love.”

       “I know you won’t,” Tornassuk said.  Kamchatka reached back with her right forepaw and pressed Koda’s toes hard against the heel of her right foot.

        “That’s what I want,” Kamchatka said.  Koda leant down and kissed the toes pressing his to the pads of Kamchatka’s right foot.

       “You know how to make me cry,” Kamchatka said softly.  Koda led Kamchatka by the paw, back into their lie up, where they found Alaska and Spits, who’d obviously seen everything.

       “That was so cute!”  Alaska said.  Spits touched Koda’s paw.

       “You have the touch, as I do, to make females wave their paws in the air,” he said.  Koda smiled:

      “Only if they love you Spits,” he said, “and Alaska certainly loves you.”

     “And Kamchatka you,” Spits replied.  Kamchatka looked at Koda.

      “I want you to make me whimper and kick the air with my paws, and curl my toes, and go wild Koda!”  She said.  Koda smiled:

       “You were nearly there,” he said.  Kamchatka smiled:

      “I was,” she replied, “but I want you to take the breaks off and drive me absolutely crazy!”  Koda kissed her nose and stroked her paw.

       “I will do all you want,” he said.  I like touching you Kamchatka.  I love your body, and your mind, and love to make you curl your toes and whimper with excitement.”  Kamchatka felt her toes curling despite her instructions to her brain to keep calm.

       “I want this so much!”  She whispered, “Come on Koda, stroke me, touch my paws, and make me a happy mama bear.”  Alaska laughed delightedly.

      “Yeah, I’m gonna have a little brother or sister soon!”  She yelled.

       “Steady on,” Koda replied, “but yes, it could happen.”  Kamchatka giggled:

       “We will take it gently, play with each other’s toes, stroke each other’s hind paws, crawl after each other and kiss each other’s noses and paw pads.  Now let’s settle down and start things gently.”

      “You disgust me!”  Honeyfur snapped, bristling angrily.  Kamchatka turned, and placing her paw on the badger’s head, forced her to the floor.

       “Now what?”  She growled.

       “You promote sex!”  Honeyfur whined, “All that about taking breaks off!  Honeyfur know what you want.  Soon Alaska is in cub from Spits, and you have massive teenage pregnancy problem!”  Kamchatka booted the badger out of her lie up, clearly angry and upset.

       “I know what’s going on; just leave me and my family alone!”  Kamchatka yelled, closing the door with an angry punch to a button on the wall.  Padding into the bedroom, Kamchatka threw herself on the floor, very distressed.

     “I know what I’m doing!”  She roared.  Koda lay down beside her and hugged her tightly, Kamchatka weeping into his coat.

       “You could always kill and eat Honeyfur,” Koda suggested.  Kamchatka snorted:

      “that wouldn’t do any good,”  she replied, “I’d have the whole badger family after me if I did, and if they can bring down a lion, they can bring down a fat old mama bear for certain.”

      “Just ignore her mama,” Silver said, padding into the room with her cubs.  Kamchatka looked at the silver coated big cat.

      “You, you’ve had your cubs!”  She exclaimed.  Silver giggled:

       “I have,” she replied, “and I bring them to you to help me name them.”

      “Little Silver and little Samson,” Kamchatka said immediately.  Silver laughed:

       “Samson doesn’t want contact with his cubs,” she said.

      “I don’t think you’re entirely correct there,” Kamchatka replied, “he wants contact, but he respects your wishes if you don’t want him to have contact.”

        “How do you know?”  Silver asked.

      “I know Samson,” Kamchatka replied, “He’s a big cuddly bear under that entire mane.”

      “He’s a lion!”  Silver reminded her.

      “Samson’s a bear, I tell you he wants to be a bear,” Kamchatka replied, “Sammy are a big softy, you give him five minutes with those cubs of yours and they’ll willingly lap milk from a bowl held in his paws.  He’s lovely Silver.”

       “I don’t know,” silver replied.

      “Why not let him show you?”  Fleur asked, padding in.  Silver looked at the huge liger cub.

       “He’s your sire, you’d say that,” she said.  Fleur smiled and nodded:

       “He’s the sire of your cubs also,” she said, “don’t fear him silver.”

       “I’ll get round to talking to him, someday,” silver replied, “right now, I’ve got to look after little silver and Samson Junior.”

      “Now back to playing with paws,” Koda said, touching Kamchatka’s right foot with his left forepaw.  Kamchatka giggled softly.

       “I’m looking        forward to this,” she said.  Kamchatka sat down, Koda taking her left foot in his paws and resting her heel on his right hind leg to stroke her pads and play with her toes.

       “Koda,” Kamchatka said, “can, can we do this way?”

      “Which way would you like me to stroke your paws?”  Koda asked.  Kamchatka sat back on her heels:

     “Like this, so I can’t see how you are going to stroke my pads, so everything’s done by touch, so I’m not tempted to use my eyes to second guess your actions, please?”  Koda leant down and kissed the pads of Kamchatka’s right foot, the she bear whimpering with pleasure.

       “Go on Koda, explore my hind paws, they’re yours!”  Kamchatka gasped.  Koda stroked Kamchatka’s toes, the she bear lying on her stomach, her head on her forepaws, her eyes closed.

       “My hind feet are the only contact I have with my mate,” Kamchatka reminded herself, “feel the world through the pads and toes of your hind feet Kamchatka.”  Koda traced and stroked the pads of Kamchatka’s hind feet, then drew his claws gently down them, Kamchatka curling her toes tightly.

      “Oooh, wow, Oooh!”  Kamchatka gasped, wriggling slightly, pressing her forepaws into the rugs and feeling the toes of her forepaws gripping the rug.

         “He’s concentrating on my right foot, and then my left, Koda, you wonderful bear!”  Kamchatka thought, “Wow, Oooh, ah, this is good, so bloody good, curl those toes Kamchatka, curl and stretch your toes!  Slowly, slowly!  Curl them, that are it, now, now stretch them, stretch them as far as they’ll go!  Stretch, stretch, stretch!”  Koda knew what his mate was doing and encouraged her to curl her toes by drawing circles on her pads with the toes of his forepaws, then when Kamchatka’s toes were curled as tightly as she could curl them, his circling toes encouraging her to greater efforts, Koda reversed the process, stroking down her bunched sole pads, Kamchatka slowly uncurling her toes, then stretching them, Koda changing stroking with toes to gentle drawing of claws down taught pads as Kamchatka stretched  her toes as far as she could stretch them, the feel of his claws on her pads making Kamchatka want to make greater efforts to stretch her toes.  Panting, Kamchatka whimpered and concentrated on her hind paws, realising she had as much control over her experience as Koda did.

        “I love that Koda,”  Kamchatka breathed, “my hind feet are telling me so much, giving me so much information, making me feel like a mama bear, and a newborn cub all at once!  I want this, I want this so badly!”  Kamchatka sat back on her heels, Koda still stroking, stroking, stroking Kamchatka’s hind paws, Kamchatka starting to wriggle and bounce about on her heels, her forepaws flat on the floor in front of her.

       “Dear Koda, take me there!”  Kamchatka begged.

      “Slowly Kamchatka, take it gently,” Koda whispered.

       “I want it slowly; take me slowly, toe by toe, pad by pad, paw by paw!”  Kamchatka begged.  Koda kissed Kamchatka’s right hind paw.

      “I will,” he said softly, “I promise.  Now let’s start over, from your right foot.”

      “Let’s, let’s do that!”  Kamchatka whimpered, “Though I don’t know how I’m gonna return your stroking Koda, I can’t do what you do!  I’m not as good as you at this, not by a million miles!”

       “let’s cross that bridge when we come to it,” Koda replied, right now, which paw am I touching?”

      “My right hind, the way, the way is clear for you, take my paws, my paws! One by one! Toe by toe, pad by pad!”  Kamchatka replied.  Koda counted the toes on Kamchatka’s right foot, then traced and stroked the pads of his mate’s right foot, Kamchatka whimpering and curling her toes tightly, Koda repeating the stroking in circles and in straight lines method he’d used earlier, Kamchatka gasping and panting.

       “Take it slowly Kamchatka, you have as much control as Koda does, slow down curling and stretching your toes and he’ll slow his stroking, don’t take it too quickly, and take your time!”  Kamchatka told herself.

 

Alaska and Spits watched Koda and Kamchatka.

        “They’re playing like we did, but it’s not the same play at all,” Alaska said.  Spits smiled:

      “We’re cubs, we play to cement friendship, they play to cement that, and a whole lot more,” he replied, “our time will come to play like Kamchatka and Koda are doing, but not yet.”

     “but you drew circles on my pads with your toes to make me curl my toes and then stroked down the sole pads of my hind paws to make me stretch my toes,”  Alaska said, “Koda’s doing that for Kamchatka too.”

      “it’s like paw play,”  Spits replied, “the method of paw play is the same no matter whether cubs play with cubs, adults with cubs, cubs with adults or adults with adults.  The emotion behind the play is different though, and that is what I’m seeing here between Koda’s play with Kamchatka and my play with you.  You’ll see the difference and feel it one day Alaska.”

      “What I can’t get over is how large mama’s paws are, and how thick her pads are too,” Alaska said.  Spits nodded:

       “I saw sire Patch’s paw pads only an hour ago while we were playing, and he’s got thick pinkie white pads on his paws,,”  Spits smiled and giggled a little, “ as well as very mobile toes which wiggle and curl easily,”  he said.  Alaska grinned.

      “Kuruk’s got big paws too,” Alaska replied, “but Koda, he has smaller paws, almost cubbish paws compared to mama Kamchatka’s.  Koda’s paws are so expressive!  I’ve played with them and he curls his toes as much as patch does Spits.  Koda’s gentle when he plays with my paws also, and I can’t help curling my toes with pleasure when he plays with my hind paws!”  Alaska said.

      “Let’s leave mama and Koda to it,” Spits said.  Alaska danced on her toes:

      “I like watching them,” she said, “its lovely.”

      “Be quiet a little then,” Spits said.  Alaska felt Spits paw touching hers, and knew what he meant.

 

Meanwhile, Koda and Kamchatka sat opposite each other, Koda having stroked Kamchatka’s hind paws twice over, Kamchatka crying tears of joy at the end, when Koda kissed the pads of both her hind paws.  Then she’d crawled away, Koda following her.  Sitting opposite each other as they now were, Kamchatka took Koda’s right foot in her forepaws, balancing his heel on her left hind leg.

      “I’m looking forward to exploring these hind paws,” Kamchatka said.  Koda kissed her forepaws which held onto his right foot.

      “You are so sweet to me Koda,” Kamchatka said softly.  Koda smiled and took Kamchatka’s right foot in his forepaws, balancing her heel on his left hind leg.  Smiling, he explored her large paw with its thick pads and large toes.

       “I love your paws,” he said, “a real mama bear’s paws these are.”  Kamchatka smiled and replied:

      “I love your paws Koda, they’re a bear cub’s paws really, not the paws of a finical adult bear.”  Koda laughed, and then whimpered like a cub, kamcahtkakamchatka laughing at his antics.

       “You are so sweet!”  She said.

 

Meanwhile, Honeyfur, furious with Kamchatka for letting Alaska and Spits do what they wished, stormed into Tornassuk’s lie up to challenge him.

      “Leave them alone,” Tornassuk said, having watched everything.

     “But them having sex already and them only cubs!”  Honeyfur yelled, “Kamchatka and Koda condone thing too!  They show them how play with paws to make sex!”

       “Honeyfur,” Tornassuk asked, “how does perky badger stroke your paws?”

      “He stroke pads and draw claws down pads like Koda and Kamchatka do thing,” Honeyfur replied gruffly, “but why you want know thing anyway?

      “Lie down and let me stroke your paws,” Tornassuk said.  Honeyfur grudgingly did, and Tornassuk began to stroke the pads of her right foot in the way Koda had done Kamchatka’s.  Honeyfur found her toes curling involuntarily, and then she stretched them, Tornassuk varying his stroking to accommodate Honeyfur’s toes.

        “Would you call that sexual or friendly?”  Tornassuk asked.

      “Friendly,” Honeyfur replied.  Tornassuk drew his claws down Honeyfur’s pads, from her heel to her toes, Honeyfur giggling:

      “That feels lovely,” she said.

      “But still friendly?”  Tornassuk asked.  Honeyfur removed her right foot from the white bear’s forepaws.

       “Okay, okay, I get your meaning now,” she said, getting to her feet.

      “Spits knows a little of how his play with Alaska can be viewed by others, so he’s not gonna do anything stupid,” Tornassuk replied.  Honeyfur grinned:

        “Honeyfur keep out of bear’s lie ups,” she said, “let them play.”

 

 

Play was what Koda and Kamchatka were doing.  Koda, himself now lying face down on the rug, let Kamchatka play with his hind paws.

        “You do realise Spits and Alaska are watching all this,” Kamchatka said.

      “Yes Kamchatka love I do,” Koda replied, “they will see love making does not always need to lead to making cubs.”

       “I’m satisfied now, and we’ve not mated,” Kamchatka said, “maybe my mind wanted a cub, but my body didn’t.  Even so, I’m one happy mama bear.”  Koda curled the toes of his right foot, catching those of Kamchatka’s left forepaw in them.

       “I hope they play act at cubbing,”  he said, “then Spits can get gentle and comforting with Alaska, which is what they both want.”

       “If, if they did have a cub now,” Kamchatka replied, “what would you do Koda?”

        “One, hope Alaska and the cub didn’t die during pregnancy or birth, two, look after the cub when it was born if Alaska could not,” Koda replied, “termination is out of the picture.”  Kamchatka smiled:

     “I’m glad,” she said.

 

“I love your paws Spits,” Alaska said, sitting opposite her friend, his right foot in her forepaws, “you have the cutest pads and toes going, did you know that?”  Spits laughed merrily, gently curling his toes to make his pads slightly bunch.

       “I love it when you do that,” Alaska said.  She stroked the sole of Spits paw, thinking hard.

       “I had a dream last night,” she said, “a dream I was giving birth to a cub with huge paws.  I could feel every paw coming out, it hurt me Spits, but it was also interesting to feel the roughness of each pad as I pushed to deliver the cub.  Labour was long I remembering that, for Patch was there, and he used special oil to lubricate the cub.  I don’t know why he did that.  Maybe I’ll ask him, he’s good at interpreting dreams.”

      “Maybe the fluids had all gone during the long labour,” Spits suggested, “though what the oil was I can’t say.”

       “He massaged blocks of it between his paws and then gently massaged it inside me and around the cub,” Alaska replied, “it was uncomfortable, but helped a great deal because the cub slid easily, even though it was a large one.”

      “Maybe I can help?”  Patch said, padding into the lie up.  Alaska and Spits got to their paws, ambushing the large male bear, who let them pull him down onto the floor and clamber all over him.  Patch embraced Alaska and Spits in turn, Spits holding onto his adopted sire’s fur with desperate paws.  Pushing with his hind feet, Spits tried to snuggle up tightly to Patch.

      “Push hard with those feet,” Patch said, “harder Spits, harder!”  Spits closed his eyes and pushed against the rug as he tried to bury his face and paws in Patch’s fur, the male bear sitting on the rugs.

       “That’s it,” Patch said, kissing Spits nose.  Spits pressed his hind paws against patches, the larger male bear curling his toes around Spits toes, Spits smiling broadly.

       “Can you tell me what that dream meant?”  Alaska asked.  Patch picked Alaska up in his paws, set her down on her back in his lap, and took her right forepaw in his paws.

        “You were dreaming of having Spits cub,” Patch said, “it was Spits cub, for the cub’s paws were enormous compared to its body, just like Spits paws are.  The oil I used is real, it’s salmon oil.  We get it from the fish; half concentrate it into a cream and then chill it which almost solidifies it.  I can then use a knife to cut lumps off, work it into a warm cream in my paws, and then lubricate cubs with it when mama’s birth fluids have all drained away during a long and slow labour.”

       “Would you show me some?”  Alaska asked.  Patch lifted Alaska off his lap and placed her on her back on the floor, his handling of her something she clearly enjoyed.

        “I’ll find a little of it,” he said, padding away and returning with a small ball of something in his paws.

       “Now feel that,” he said, putting it in Alaska’s outstretched paw.

      “it’s like a block of wax,”  she said, “but working it between my paws, it’s getting softer, going into a cream, just like you said, and how it was in my dream too!  Oh patch,” she laughed, “my paws are all slippery now!  This is wonderful!”

      “But it doesn’t smell of salmon,” Spits said.

      “No,” Patch replied, “it’s treated with herbs and peppermint.  I make it up myself.”

       “This could be a great thing to play with,” Alaska said, especially when playing with each other’s paws.”

      “Why not try it?”  Patch suggested.

       “You mean you haven’t?”  Spits asked.

      “I’m not saying that,” Patch replied smiling.

        “You mean it works?”  Alaska asked, “It’s a multi purpose cream?”  Patch smiled:

       “Here,” he said, holding out his left forepaw.  Alaska sniffed at Patch’s paw, Patch’s fur and pads smelling of peppermint.

      “So you have used it, you do play?”  Alaska said.  Patch smiled:

       “If I didn’t play with my own paws and those of my mate and cubs,” he said, “how could I know how to be gentle to the cubs of others?”

       “Does he play with your paws Spits?”  Alaska asked.

       “Yes Alaska he does,” Spits replied.  I’ve also played with Tornassuk’s paws too, and we used that same oil.”  Alaska, rubbing the oil into her right foot, smiled as it squeezed between her toes as she curled them.

       “This is fun!”  She said.  Patch got a pot of his oil and gave it to Spits and Alaska to play with.

       “now be careful not to get too much on your paws just before walking on tiles,”  he said, “if you do, you’ll likely slip and slide all over the place.”

 

Meanwhile, in Koda and Kamchatka’s bedroom, Koda and Kamchatka’s play had come to an end, and both bears lay together, deeply satisfied.

        “We didn’t mate,” Kamchatka said, “but maybe that’s for the best right now, though what we did was fantastic!  Not being able to see what you were about to do when massaging my paws was lovely Koda.  I responded naturally then, curling and stretching my toes felt great, and your touch, circles on my pads, wow! Then, then, straight lines down my pad with your toes, then, then, drawing your claws down my taught sole pads, wow, just wow!”

        “You had control of when I did that,” Koda replied, “we were truly working together then.”

       “You spent ages massaging my paws, but I spent little time massaging yours,” Kamchatka replied, “Koda, did you get enough massage?”

       “You forgot playing with my toes and me kicking the air with my hind paws,” Koda replied, “you caused me to want to do that Kamchatka.  I know some of your play is visual, so you like seeing me kick the air with my hind feet, which I wanted to do.  Plus I grabbed hold of my hind feet with my forepaws while lying on my back, something else you like seeing.  So the massaging of my paws only a small part of our play.  I liked pressing my hind feet against yours and touching them to feel how big your hind paws are when set against mine.  I’ve got tiny hind feet Kamchatka.”

       “I know,” Kamchatka replied, “little cub paws really.”  Koda giggled:

        “Your paws can be strong, but also communicative,” he said, “when you were in pain with the birth of Alaska, I felt your toes curling, and then your paw told me you were as scared as a newborn cub.”  Kamchatka nodded and hugged Koda.

       “I was,” she replied, “I was so scared, but you got me through it.”  Koda kissed her nose.

       “I hope Alaska and Spits learnt a lot from us too,” he said, “I hope they re-enact what they saw.  I heard them discussing the use of oils in cubbings with patch.  I think Alaska’s had one of her cubbing dreams again, and wanted to know what it was all about.”

     “If she knows all, maybe she won’t try it young,” Kamchatka replied, “if the mystery is not there, maybe she’ll take it gently.”  Koda nodded in agreement.

       “I would like to play act at cubbing,” Alaska said shame faced as she padded into the bedroom.  Kamchatka looked at her:

      “You shouldn’t feel ashamed at wanting to re-enact a cubbing,” Kamchatka replied, “it’s natural to be curious.”

     “But how do I do it mama?”  Alaska asked.

      “When Spits touches your hind paws, groan loudly, then get more distressed as he rubs your paws, then, when you feel you’ve pushed enough, pant, Spits will rub your paws.  Draw your hind feet up, grab them in your forepaws, and then push back against your forepaws with your hind feet.  If you’re sitting up, grab a foot in your forepaws and massage your pads, curl your toes from time to time, but when you want to push, brace your foot against your forepaws again.  Try it Alaska, and maybe Spits would like to try it too.”

      “I’ll give it a go,”
Spits replied.

     “Maybe, if I push against Spits paw while he’s touching it, I can tell him when I want to push?”  Alaska asked.  Kamchatka smiled and hugged her:

      “Yes,” she said, “most of all though, enjoy your playtime.”  Alaska nodded:

      “We are playing mama, I’m not gonna do the same as Elsa did.  Spits and I are friends, though very good friends, and like sire patch and Ekaterina, who treated each other as brother and sister for so long, became lovers, and then mates, so we hope we will do.  I can dream of having Spits cub, already have in fact, and it was very good indeed, but that’s all it will be for now.”

       “Kamchatka, Koda, what would happen if, by some freak of nature, Alaska did get pregnant with my cub?”  Spits asked.

       “We would talk to both of you about what happened and then await the birth of the cub or cubs,” Koda replied.

       “I know I could never abort the cub,” Alaska said, “mama’s told me what happens when that’s done, and it’s awful.  I’d rather struggle to bring up a cub than kill it.”

       “Sarafina was an unwanted cub wasn’t she?”  Spits asked.  Koda nodded:

       “Elsa and Pipin were not emotionally ready,” he said, “they play acted a bit too much, and play became reality.”

      “So we shouldn’t play really,” Alaska said miserably.

        Alaska,” Kamchatka said, sitting down and pulling Alaska onto her lap, “You will know when it is time to mate with Spits.  If it happens early, then so be it.  Mama Ekaterina had her first cubs at two and a half years old.  You are coming up to one now, and your body won’t allow you to have cubs before you reach two.  Sexual maturity in bears is a construct of the human world; they work on when males and females go out hunting for each other.  they don’t know at what age we start to dream of cubs, of having cubs, of the labour to deliver those cubs, of the warmth one feels inside when a cub cuddles up to you.  They can’t tell that, for they don’t see the birth play, the nurturing play, and the love play.  They know nothing.  Plus community bears, due to good food and no stress are mature in mind long before their wild cousins anyway.  That is why Honeyfur and Anook got angry about pregnancies, they don’t understand community bears like I or Patch do.  Now, go play, love your play, love Spits touch, do your best at having that cub Alaska.”  Then Kamchatka looked at Spits, her eyes stern and expression grave:

       “And once she’s had her cub, if you don’t play the part of that cub with as much conviction as she gave birth to it, I’ll not be impressed.”  She said.  Spits looked at his hind paws.

      “How do I drink milk?”  He asked.

      “Kuruk got just thing!”  Kuruk yelled, running in with a feeding bottle.  Kamchatka laughed so hard she nearly choked.

       “Show him Kuruk,” she said.  Kuruk did.

     “Okay,” Kuruk said, sitting down.  “now Spits imagine he just been born and is kicking air with paws, like this,” Kuruk lay back and kicked the air with his hind feet, pawing at it with his fore for good measure, “then, when Alaska give you bottle, you take in paws and drink, like this,” Kuruk continued, grabbing the bottle and drinking busily, his hind feet instantly pedalling the air in his effort to drink quickly.

        “So that’s how it’s done,” Spits said, trying to be serious, but finding Kuruk’s demonstration hilariously funny.

       “That how drink like cub,” Kuruk said.

      “That how drink like Kuruk you mean,” Anook said.  Kuruk laughed merrily:

       “That only acting, Kuruk drink normally most of time.  It only when stressed he drinks like cub.”

      “I loved how your hind paws pedalled the air,” Spits said.

       “Spits have gone at drinking,” Kuruk said, handing him the bottle, “you need get in practise for acting like cub.”  Spits looked at the bottle he held in his paws.

      “So I settle back and drink?”  He asked.  Kuruk nodded.  Spits lay down on his back, the bottle in his paws and drank busily.  Soon, no matter how he commanded them not to, his hind feet wanted to kick the air, and Spits was powerless to stop them.  Soon he was kicking the air madly and wriggling too, much to the amusement of all.

      “I can’t stop my feet!  They won’t stop kicking!”  Spits laughed, “I don’t want to stop them kicking.  I don’t want to stop at all!”  Spits threw the bottle down and began wriggling and kicking hard with all four paws until he was thoroughly exhausted.

       “I’m beaten!”  Spits gasped.  Alaska stroked Spits paws, the male bear giggling and curling his toes with pleasure.

       “Now for you to have a go,” spits said.  Alaska lay down on her back and grabbed the bottle, drinking what was left of the milk and laughing as her own hind feet furiously kicked the air.  Then she writhed and squealed loudly.

       “Oooh, ow!”  Alaska yelled, “I can feel this cub coming, it’s coming~!”  Spits touched Alaska’s right foot, Alaska bracing her foot against his paw and groaning deeply.

      “Oh, oh, ow! Ow! Youch!  It’s coming, it’s so painful!”  Alaska whimpered.  Spits massaged the pads on the sole of Alaska’s right foot, Alaska curling her toes tightly and whimpering in agony.

       “Push Alaska, push,” Spits said.  Alaska bore down, wailing with effort and pain.

      “I must push, I want to!”  She screamed.  Alaska bore down, pushing her hind paw into Spits forepaws.

      “It’s coming, pant Alaska pant!”  Spits encouraged, Alaska panting and whimpering.  Then she roared with pain:

       “Ooowww!  It’s coming strongly now!”  she yelled, sitting up to catch the cub, Spits sitting in front of her, offering Alaska his right foot, which she took hold of and held while drawing up her hind feet and pushing down, simulating delivering the cub’s body and huge hind paws.

      “Ow!  Ow!”  Alaska grunted, straining hard.

      “That’s it!”  Kamchatka encouraged, “push down, and get the cub out Alaska!”  Alaska whimpered as she let go of Spits right foot, Spits withdrawing it slowly, Alaska wriggling as she felt his pads sliding through her forepaws, imagining the feel of the pads emerging.  Wriggling, Alaska pushed down hard for the last time, gasping with the effort.

      “It hurts!”  She squealed.

      “Look at your cub,” Kamchatka said softly.  Alaska opened her eyes and looked at Spits, who was lying on his back, kicking the air with his hind feet and yelling unashamedly for food.

       “Go on, hug him, feed him,” Kamchatka said, handing Alaska a fresh bottle of milk.  Alaska gave Spits the bottle, Spits snatching it eagerly and drinking furiously.

      “Not so fast!”  Alaska said, “You’ll be sick little Spits.”

     “Be forceful, take the bottle,” Kamchatka said.  Alaska did, and Spits protested loudly, but Alaska held on, letting him squeal and kick a bit, before giving him back the bottle in her own time.

      “Now you drink, slowly,” she said firmly.  Spits drinking slowly.

       “Right,” Alaska said when spits had finished his drink, “your turn to have a cub now spits.  Spits looked so horrified that Alaska took pity on him.

       “Not really,” she said, kissing his nose.

       “I’m not really ready to cross roles,” he said, “but I’d like to know all about how you were feeling while acting out a cubbing.”

       “I felt your paw touching mine, urging me to push,” Alaska said.  “The touch of your pads against mine urged me to push.  I groaned and strained hard, as hard as I could, curling my toes and whimpering.  I wanted to push hard down Spits.  The most enjoyable bit was when you gave me your right foot, and I could feel your foot in my paws.  I imagined each pad, each push to deliver the cub’s huge hind feet.  That was amazing!”  Spits giggled softly:

       “I felt your forepaws damp and warm against my foot,” he said, “I saw you with your hind feet drawn up, you reclining slightly.  I could glimpse the pads of your hind feet as you curled your toes and pushed down to deliver the cub’s hind paws.  You looked vulnerable and very much in need of a hug,” Spits said, hugging Alaska.

       “I want to do it again Spits,” Alaska whispered, “I want to do it again!”  She sobbed.  Spits stroked Alaska’s ears:

       “You can, I promise you can do it again,” he said softly.

        “I loved it,” Alaska sniffed: “it’s silly, getting all emotional over role playing a cubbing, but I can’t help it.”

       “You will be a good mama,” Spits said softly.

       “Spits, for a moment, I’d forgotten you were adult.  To me, you were a large cub!  I’m sorry I got so into it!”

        “I’m not sorry you took it to your heart,” spits replied, “you were gentle with me.  Indeed, I’m sorry you ended the role play as soon as you did.”

       “I will pretend a little longer next time,” she promised.

      “I loved being given the milk,” spits replied, “it cemented me in the role of the newborn cub.”

        “If I ever have a real cub, I’ll be ready,” Alaska said, “but right now, I’ll remember this role play.”

        “Was the birth of your cub like it was in your dream?”  Spits asked.  Alaska smiled:

      “Yes, that’s why I was so emotional I think,” she replied.

        “Now lets play like what we are,” Spits replied, “two cubs who love each other dearly.”  Alaska smiled and hugged him tightly:

      “Yes let’s,” she replied, kissing his nose.  Alaska and Spits sat down opposite each other, Spits taking Alaska’s right foot in his forepaws and stroking her pads.

     “I love that so much!”  Alaska exclaimed, bouncing about on her backside and curling her toes with pleasure.

       “How if I do this?”  Spits asked, gently drawing the claws of his right forepaw down the pads of Alaska’s right foot, the she bear crying out with surprise and pleasure.

      “Oooh, oooah! Wow!”  She said, wanting to say more but not having the words.

      “You did so well having your cub,” Spits said.

      “You looked cute playing that cub,” Alaska said, kissing his nose.  Alaska stroked the large sole pad of Spits left hind paw, the male bear curling his toes with pleasure.

      “I love the way your pads bunch up,” Alaska said.  Spits smiled broadly.

      “I love your touch, your tactile way with my paws,” Spits said.  Alaska leant forward and kissed Spits toes, the male bear’s eyes filling with tears.

       “I love that,” he said.  Alaska smiled broadly.

 

Meanwhile, in the wood, a female black bear lay just off the main track, her left hind paw caught in a foot trap.  Terrified, and with the trap firmly holding her paw, she cried out in fear and panic.  Tornassuk, padding nearby after leaving his lie up, heard the female bear’s cries and padded over to investigate.

       “What’s going on?”  He asked.  The female black bear panted with fear and anguish.

       “I’m trapped, someone, something, set a trap for my paws, and now, now I’m caught, and I can’t free myself!”

      “Can I touch your paw?”  Tornassuk asked.  The she bear stretched out full length on the track.

       “Go on,” she gasped.  Tornassuk explored the she bear’s left foot, finding the trap holding her foot, tight around the ankle joint.

       “Hold still,” Tornassuk said, working the jaws of the trap with his paws, “there, you’re free now.”  The female black bear looked at Tornassuk.

        “Your touch was very warm and gentle,” she said, “I liked it.”  Tornassuk helped his new found friend to her feet.

      “Take it slowly,” Tornassuk said.  The she black bear whimpered as she felt the blood rushing back into her left foot, now freed from its constriction.

       “I’ll find out who set that,” Tornassuk said.  The she black bear rested her head on Tornassuk’s shoulder.

       “What’s your name?”  Tornassuk asked.  The she bear brushed Tornassuk’s ear with her nose:

        “My name’s Targon,” she said, “I, I come from a private collection near here.  I escaped when the need to look for a mate became too great.  Now, now I wish I hadn’t, the spirits punished me by trapping my paws!”

       “I don’t think the spirits punished you for looking for a mate,” Tornassuk replied, “they’d never punish for looking for a mate, and even if they did, it’s not their way to punish with physical things like this.  Hard labour when giving birth yes, but not physical traps.”

        “How do you know this?”  Targon asked.

      “I know,” Tornassuk replied, “now let’s get you home.”

       “Home?  Back to the collection I was in?”  Targon asked.

       “No,” Tornassuk replied, “home as in my home, the large house.  Come on, let’s go.”  Targon smiled and looked Tornassuk up and down.

       “What’s your name?”  She asked.  Tornassuk told her.

       “The master of helping spirits,” she whispered, “well, you are that Tornassuk.”  Tornassuk smiled and Kissed Targon’s nose.

        “Have you been taught how to play with your paws?”  Targon asked.  Tornassuk smiled and whispered into her ear:

       “Come to my lie up, sit down, and find out if I know.”  Targon giggled and followed Tornassuk to his lie up.  sitting down opposite Targon, Tornassuk took the female black bear’s right foot in his forepaws, Targon gasping as she felt his touch enveloping her paw.

      “Oh wow, oooah.  This is great!”  Targon exclaimed.  Tornassuk smiled, massaging Targon’s toes, then down to the large sole pad of her right foot, drawing circles on her rough pad.  Targon, closing her eyes, whimpered with pleasure as she felt her toes curling in response to Tornassuk’s touch.

        “My toes want to curl, I can’t stop them,” Targon confessed.

     “Don’t fight them,” Tornassuk replied.  Targon moaned deeply as her toes curled slowly, tighter and tighter.  Then Tornassuk leant forward and kissed Targon’s bunched pads, the she bear sighing deeply as he did so.

      “now to uncurl those toes,”  Tornassuk said, gently stroking Targon’s bunched pads in straight lines from curled toes to heel, Targon finding her paw obeying the urge to uncurl and stretch, Tornassuk stroking, stroking, stroking her foot.  Targon actively stretched her toes as much as she could.  Then, went she thought she couldn’t stretch them any further, Tornassuk ran the claws of his right forepaw down the taught pads on the sole of Targon’s right foot.

       “That feels great!”  Targon exclaimed, wriggling and gasping, “Oooah, wow, Tornassuk, do it again!  Please!”  Tornassuk kissed the taught pads of Targon’s right foot, Targon becoming tearful.

        “What do you want from me Tornassuk?”  She asked.

        “For you to feel safe, comforted and secure,” Tornassuk replied.  Targon shook her head:

       “I didn’t mean that!”  She snapped in mock exasperation, “I meant what you want in mating rights!”

        “I haven’t got mating rights,” Tornassuk said, “I have no right to your body Targon.”

      “But you are my king; you have conquered this female bear.”

       “I will let you guide things,” Tornassuk replied, “we can play as friends, or as lovers, or not at all.”

       “Not the third choice, not that, but the other two, yes, maybe one, and definitely the other!”  Targon replied, grabbing Tornassuk’s right foot in her forepaws and exploring it with frantic urgency.

       “I’m going nowhere,” Tornassuk replied, “so slow those questing paws Targon my dear.”

        “You are a spirit bear Tornassuk, a black bear with white fur.  I can tell this because your paws are those of a black bear, not a polar bear.  The spirits caught me in that paw trap so you could find me.”

       “That was a human construction, but there was a smell of badger there,” Tornassuk replied, “I think there’s gonna be trouble!”

 

Meanwhile, in the wood, Honeyfur found Magnus checking his vacant foot trap.

      “Something been here, I can smell it,” he said, “but someone free that something.”  Honeyfur grunted:

       “You set these traps against laws of community, and now you in big trouble.  Honeyfur know of crime, and she no cover for son cub, even if he end up dead from committing of crime.  Honeyfur furious!”

        “So you no help me out of shit?”  Magnus asked.  Honeyfur turned her back on Magnus and walked away.

       “Now Magnus in real shit!”  Magnus yelled as he saw Kuruk and Anook padding down the track.

        “Kuruk see who trap of Magnus get, and who free trapped creature too,” Kuruk grunted, “Magnus in real shit, deep shit too!”

      “Who did I get?”  Magnus asked.  Kuruk, bending the truth, replied:

      “Targon, mate of Tornassuk.”  Magnus nearly fell over.

      “Tornassuk have mate?”  He asked, “Noone tell badgers nothing these days! We meant to be historians!  Know everything! But bears tell us nothing!”

        “Tornassuk deeply in love with Targon,” Kuruk said, “she black bear female, and he really black bear too, so he and she have compatible paws.”  Magnus began to sweat with fear:

       “So I caught his mate in my trap!”  He whimpered.

       “You did, well caught Magnus,” Anook replied sarcastically.

      “Kuruk take Magnus to be dealt with by mama Kamchatka,” Kuruk grunted, “she be very pissed off Kuruk think.  You no trap bears!  Badgers and smaller animals would not get paws in trap to set it off, but bears, they would if not looking.  Now Tornassuk rescue his mate from trap, but she out there for long time.”  Magnus felt his paws sweating and knew he was in serious trouble.

 

Meanwhile, Targon, now very happy with Tornassuk’s attentions, lay curled up with him, holding his paw in hers.

      “I think the spirits are very kind to me this day,” she said, kissing his nose, “you are a very handsome bear Tornassuk.”

       “I think you are very beautiful Targon,” Tornassuk replied.

      “Is it right for the spiritual leader to have a mate?”  Targon asked, “isn’t there an unwritten rule spiritual leaders need to be unattached to devote all their waking hours to study?”

        “What would you rather I study?”  Tornassuk asked, “Eohippus teachings, which basically are, “be good to one another,” or a new subject entirely?”  Targon giggled:

       “What would that new subject be?”  She asked.

       “Are you as slow as all that Targon dear?”  Tornassuk replied.

        “I would like to be studied intimately by you, that are for certain,” the female black bear replied.  Tornassuk laughed merrily.

        “I would like to kiss your nose, ears, and paws,” Tornassuk replied.  Targon felt her grip on his paw tighten:

       “I want more,” she begged.  Tornassuk smiled:

       “Paw massage? Kissing of bunched pads and curled toes?”  He asked.  Targon smiled and nodded:

      “Take it nice and slow,” she replied, “give me chapter and verse.”  Tornassuk promised he would.

        “I will do all you say,” he replied softly, “but you must release my paw before I can do anything.”

       “I don’t want to!”  Targon whimpered.

       “Let’s sit up, then you touch my right foot with your left hind, then let go of my forepaw,” Tornassuk suggested.  This they did, Targon keeping hold of Tornassuk’s forepaw until she’d got the toes of her left foot firmly curled around those of Tornassuk’s right hind, their pads well pressed together.

      “Done it, done it!”  Targon whimpered, unable to break contact with Tornassuk.

      “What do you expect from me Targon dear?”  Tornassuk asked.

      “In my former home, I was always taught that male bears, when they got hold of a female, would mate furiously with that female.  So I believe, believed, that this was how it should be.”

       “So you want me to rip fur from you, and almost hurt you during mating?”  Tornassuk asked.  Targon hesitated:

      “No, I don’t want it, I expect it. For that is what I’m told happens.  I don’t want to be hurt, to have fur ripped, to be sore and feel exhausted and fearful of my king bear.”

      “What would you like our mating to be?”  Tornassuk asked.  Targon thought for a minute:

       “All touch, gentle, caressing of paws, kissing of noses and paw pads, gentle exploration of my body by your paws.  All that, all that, and then, once all that is done…”

      “Then what?”  Tornassuk asked gently.

       “Then I’d like to explore your body, hug you, stroke your fur and paws, and kiss your nose and paws.  All that.  Ending with a short mating, the focus on the foreplay, on the paw plays, on making love to me as Targon, not just as something to carry on your genetic line.”

       “Your wish for an ideal mating is more akin to how I think a female bear should be treated,” Tornassuk replied, “I will be gentle with you Targon, love you from nose to paws, take hours to make gentle love to a beautiful female black bear.  When and only when you’re ready, will I actually commit the mating act with you?  Once this is done, we can curl up together, and we can focus on more important things than mating.”

        “I heard this of your community,” Targon said, “that cubs were born into loving families with many guardians outside the family and their natural parents.  I heard mothers having cubs were helped to have those cubs, helped to feel comfortable during labour, allowed to express their pain and fears, to push, to curl their toes and scream, to do whatever they wished to have a comfortable and fore filling birth experience.”

       “We do encourage that,” Tornassuk replied, “now Targon; please tell me of your life before this time.  Then, I will tell you mine.”  Targon looked so upset that Tornassuk wished he’d never asked her anything.

       “I was born into the collection, my mama, she was so stressed that, that, her labour was long and painful.  Eventually she birthed me with much kicking and squealing on her part.  I guess that goes on here, but that’s born out of the pain of labour, rather than the fear, which makes it a whole lot worse.  My mama had little milk for me, and the food she was given didn’t do much for her or me, as she was so stressed she could hardly eat most days.  She seemed terrified she might lose me, and told me to keep hold of her paw at all times.  She touched me with her paws, but never looked at me at all.  She told me early on that males were violent, that she knew this from first paw experience.  My mama kept her eyes closed all the time, even when she was awake.  I saw this all the time, but never got to know why this was.  Was it she couldn’t stand the sight of me or of our home?”

        “I don’t think your mama could have seen at all Targon love,” Tornassuk replied, “her eyes were tight shut because she probably had no eyes to see with.  She might have been injured in both eyes during mating, though this is only supposition.”  Targon looked at Tornassuk:

       “Is that how it was for her?”  She asked.

      “I can’t say for certain,” Tornassuk replied, “but it sounds credible.”

      “So,” said Targon, “I grew up with my mother, and we were put into separate cages when I was about six months old and on solid food.  My Mama wanted to feed me still, but she was denied this wish.  She died soon after my first birthday.  I grew up thinking that a male bear would see me in my maturity one day and just lumber up and grab me.  Fearing this, but expecting it as the lot of a female black bear, I got the urge to mate one day, and dreading the outcome, broke the lock on my door and fled for the wood to get the job over with.  I was fearing I’d end up like my mama, but I ended with my foot trapped in a foot trap, and being rescued by a white spirit bear, who tells me mating is not violent, is not conquest of a female bear, but is gentle, and is pleasure for both, and is touch, and exciting, and leaves me wanting more, but satisfied at the same time, and that my paws will be tingling, and my heart racing with love for my mate, and I will not fear him one bit, but love him from his nose to his tail, and look forward to his touch with every inch of my body.  Then, when it comes to labouring to deliver our cubs, I won’t mind the pain, I won’t mind screaming, I won’t mind pawing at the air, for it will be expected, almost approved of.  I Hope, Hope that paw massage and play happens throughout labour.  If it does, I will be one happy mama bear.”

      “It can happen,” Tornassuk replied, “I will play with your toes and stroke your pads as much as you wish me to Targon.”

      “I am grateful and glad,” Targon replied, “now my story has ended, how about yours?”  Tornassuk told his tale, all of it, leaving nothing out, concluding with his enthronement as community spiritual leader.

      “And what of Jess?”  Targon asked, “Why is she no longer here?  For I sense this community is very tolerant of bad mothers.”

       “Abandoning me was not why she was cast out,” Tornassuk replied, his eyes full of the deepest pain Targon had ever seen, “she, she did what no bear would do.  I told you, told you she once was of human form.  Well, her mind wasn’t all that ursine, she did something to her unborn cub that no mama bear would deliberately do.  Jess took potions to abort her cub Targon.”

     “But she had support here, I’m sure of that,” Targon replied, “why would she destroy life?”

     “Because she didn’t want the cub,” Tornassuk said, “she discarded him like rubbish.  I’ve seen that cub’s spirit, and we all know what that means.”

     “No, I don’t,” Targon replied, dreading Tornassuk’s answer:

       “The cub had a spirit,” Tornassuk replied, wiping his eyes with his paws, “the cub had a spirit, because he, he was alive inside jess when she took the potions.  They murdered him, she murdered him Targon.  The potions killed the living cub, then labour, induced by the potions made jess’s body expel the cub’s dead body.  She buried him, but not so well that noone noticed.  The spirits noticed, as did Patch, our resident medical bear, and the softest bear you’ll ever meet.  He has a way of tapping into the activities of others in his dreams and acting on the dreams he has, and saw what jess was doing.  He saw the cub’s spirit, and I’ve spoken to him too.”

        “I will never abort any of my cubs,” Targon said forcefully.

       “Maybe you can meet sire Patch sometime soon,” Tornassuk replied.

      “I’d like to meet him,” she replied, “He sounds a lovely bear.”  Tornassuk looked over her shoulder and smiled at someone he could see, but Targon couldn’t.

       “Sire Patch,” he said, “sit down; and meet, um, my mate Targon.”  Patch grinned and curled up to watch Targon and Tornassuk.

       “I can’t see him,” Targon said.

       “How about if I come into your line of sight?”  Patch asked.  Targon looked round, catching a glimpse of Patch in the corner of her vision.

       “He’s huge!”  She thought.  Patch crawled into Targon’s line of sight, noticing how the female black bear reacted to his presence.

      “I’m no threat,” Patch said softly.  Patch sat down and reached out to Targon with his forepaws.

      “I won’t harm you Targon my dear,” sire Patch said.  Targon looked at Patch, at his grey fur, and white paw pads.

       “He’s cute, but so big!”  She whispered to Tornassuk, who smiled broadly:

        “Sire Patch is lovely, he won’t harm you,” Tornassuk replied, “he’s a grizzly polar cross bred bear, but as gentle as you can hope for.”  Targon looked at Patch’s face, seeing a tender bear.

      “I can’t bring myself to touch him,” she thought, though I want to.”

        “Come,” Patch said softly, “come closer Targon, touch my paws to find out what I really am.”  Targon whimpered with fear, her inbred fear of any larger ursine species choking her natural friendly tendencies.

       “I’m frightened!”  ? Targon’s eyes told Patch.

       “I can’t force you,” Patch replied softly, getting up and making as if to leave.

       “Grab hold of me, hold me and don’t let me go!”  Targon whimpered.  Patch reached over and touched her right foot, Targon gasping and gulping back tears.

        “You’re a cub, a cub!”  She whimpered, “Under all that fur, and those big paws with big pads, you’re a cub!”  Patch kissed her nose, and then kissed her right forepaw.

       “Come, play with my paws, touch my nose, my belly and toes, all that,” Patch invited.  Targon crawled over to Patch as if in a dream, touching his nose with hers, then taking his right hind paw in her forepaws, she shuffled over and touched patch’s hind feet with her own, pressing her pads against his, all the while thinking he’d attack her, but Patch curled his huge toes around Targon’s, and pressed hard back against her pressure.

      “Do you know the stuck paw game?”  Patch asked.  Targon wriggled:

       “I think my paws do!”  She said laughing, “They’re stuck to yours Patch!”  Patch smiled broadly.

      “Let’s not play now though,” he said releasing Targon’s hind paws.

      “Can I?”  She asked, “Patch, please, can I touch your hind paws with my forepaws? Explore them? See if, if I can make your toes curl and pads bunch up with pleasure?”  Patch giggled cubbishly.

       “I’d love it if you would,” he said, Targon smiling broadly.  Targon took hold of Patch’s left foot and began tracing his pads and toes, the male bear giggling and curling his toes with pleasure.  Then, pulling his right foot away from Targon’s forepaws, Patch found a space on the floor, rolled onto his back and kicked the air with his hind feet, Targon laughing helplessly at his antics.

      “You big cub!”  She laughed.  Patch looked at Targon’s face, then reached up with his left forepaw and touched her left eye, or rather the closed lid of her left eye.

      “What happened Targon dear?”  He asked.  Targon looked as sad as he’d ever seen a bear look.

       “I was attacked by an older bear when I was young,” she said, “I fought back, but I lost that eye.”

      “Your left foot was the one that got trapped wasn’t it?”  Patch asked.

       “Yes,” Targon said, extending her left foot so Patch could take a look at it, which he did, by touch and sight.

      “Any pain?”  He asked, pressing pads and flexing toes.  Targon shook her head, and then curled her toes with pleasure.

       “A lot of pleasure though,” she replied.  Patch smiled:

     “Good,” he said.  Targon grinned.

       “I didn’t notice your injury until Patch pointed it out,” Tornassuk said lamely.

      “I know,” Targon replied, “Tornassuk, you love me however I am, and I know this.  I didn’t draw particular attention to my eye as it was not important.”  Tornassuk crawled over to Targon and hugged her.

        “Thank you Tornassuk,” she said softly.  Tornassuk kissed her nose and her closed left eye lid, Targon swallowing hard.

       “I love you Tornassuk,” she choked.  Tornassuk smiled and kissed her nose:

       “I love you too, from your nose,” he replied touching her nose, “to your toes,” Tornassuk said touching the toes of Targon’s left foot, the foot which she’d got trapped in the wood.  Sitting down and lifting her foot in his forepaws, Tornassuk kissed the toes and pads of Targon’s foot, the she bear gasping with emotion.

       “I want to stay with you, please, please!”  She begged.  Tornassuk looked at her sternly, Targon covering her face with her paws, wailing in great distress.  Then she felt her paws gently moved from her face, and then Tornassuk kissing her nose.

      “I love you, so you are not going anywhere,” Tornassuk said, “I’ll tie your paws together if you try to leave!”

       “No, No, you don’t need to do that!”  Targon laughed.  Patch appeared with string, and faster than Targon could think, her hind paws were tied together, and when she struggled, the knots got tighter, until her hind feet were next to each other and then pressed tight side by side.

       “Hey, this is dreadful!”  She squealed, Patch tugging a cord and the whole assembly falling apart, freeing Targon’s hind paws.

        “You made your point,” Targon said.

     “I love you so much,” Tornassuk said, Targon, crying, rubbed her face with her paws.

      “My face and paws are all hot and sweaty,” she whimpered.

      “That’s emotion for you,” Tornassuk said, kissing Targon’s nose and paws, the she bear sniffing hard.

       “Oh, I must pull myself together!”  She said half laughing.

     “Why must you?”  Tornassuk replied, “If you want to cry, you cry.”

      “”I won’t let you go, come here,” Tornassuk said, hugging Targon tightly, the she bear feeling his paws enveloping her tightly.

      “Hold me Tornassuk!”  Targon begged.  Tornassuk held Targon tightly, the she bear relaxing into his embrace, her breath short, thoughts and emotions still disordered.

       “Pull yourself together!”  She told herself, but she couldn’t.  Tornassuk held Targon close, kissing her nose.

      “I love you so much,” he whispered to her.

       “I can’t believe I got trapped in that badger created contraption,” she said.  Tornassuk smiled:

      “I can’t believe you did either,” he said, “but for different reasons to your disbelief.”  Targon held Tornassuk tightly.

       “I’m home now,” she whispered.  Patch smiled at the two bears.

        “I can see you two joined by the paw,” he said.  Targon laughed merrily.

        “I love his paws,” she said, “Tornassuk’s paws are lovely.”  Tornassuk giggled and kissed her nose.

      “How about if you lie down on your back and wave your forepaws, and kick with your hind feet so I can see those gorgeous paws of yours?”  Tornassuk asked.  Targon tried what he suggested, and found her hind feet going crazy!

     “I can’t stop, can’t stop kicking with my hind feet, and my forepaws are waving too, stop, stop!”  Targon laughed, wriggling and kicking for all she was worth.

      “You look so cute!”  Tornassuk replied.

         “I feel liberated, as if waving my paws in the air is normal, as if I can do it whenever I wish and not be seen as cubbish,” Targon replied.  Tornassuk laughed:

      “You can play with your toes, kick the air with your hind feet, pretend to have a cub, all that and more whenever you wish,”  he replied, “we encourage paw play here, it’s something the cubs learn from an early age.”  Targon smiled broadly.

      “I’m so glad,” she said, “now Tornassuk, please, touch my hind paws with your fore, play with my toes, and trace my pads.”  Tornassuk did as Targon asked, the she black bear smiling and curling her toes with pleasure, Tornassuk laughing and kissing her bunched pads and curled toes.

        “I love that,” Targon said.  Tornassuk stroked her bunched pads and curled toes with his forepaws.

       “I love it too,” he replied.  Targon crawled away, Tornassuk crawling after her and to her delight, Tornassuk grabbed her right foot in his forepaws and tracing her pads and toes, Targon giggling cubbishly and sitting back on her heels.  Then, rolling onto her back, Targon drew her hind feet up and grabbed them with her forepaws, Tornassuk kissing the toes of her forepaws which gripped the large sole pads of her hind, Targon wriggling and laughing with pleasure.

      “I love holding my hind feet with my forepaws,” Targon said, “it feels, um, comfortable, as comfortable as sitting back on my heels feels.”

       “They are natural positions for cubbing,” Tornassuk replied.

     “Are they?”  Targon asked, “How wonderful!  It feels to me that I am able to explore almost anything with my paws now.  That playing with my toes and stroking my pads is allowed, that letting others play with my paws is allowed, that playing with the paws of other bears is allowed, that crawling is permitted, and that showing off my paws is welcomed here.”

       “You are right,” Tornassuk said, “crawl, wave your paws in the air, play the trapped paw game, play with your toes, stroke your pads, and play with the toes of other bears all that are allowed here.”  Targon smiled broadly.

      “I like that,” she said.

      “How can I experience having my paws played with like a cub would?”  Targon asked after a minute of thought.

       “You’ll have to come to playtimes in the soft play room,” Tornassuk replied.  “Not all the cubs play on the slides and things, preferring to play with each other’s, or their own paws.”

      “I want someone unfamiliar to touch my paws in the dark so I know how it is to judge by touch!”  Targon whimpered, “I need it, now!”

       “It’s gonna happen when you least expect it Targon,” Tornassuk replied, “You can’t force those who don’t want to touch you to touch you until they’re ready.”  Targon settled down with Tornassuk in his lie up soon after this.

 

Targon was woken some time later by gentle pressure on her right foot, the pressuring paw exploring, stroking her paw.

      “Who’s that?”  Targon asked, sensing no threat from the owner of the exploring paw.

       “You’re new here?”  A voice asked.  Targon smiled in the darkness.

      “I am,” she replied, “what’s your name?”

       “My name’s Sita,” Sita said.

      “So, um, do you know the pads of every member of this community?”  Targon asked, thinking her question stupid.

        “Yes,” was the reply, “I know all the pads of the community?  From lions to other bears, from pandas to leopards, lions to cheetah, badgers to more bear.”  Targon giggled:

      “You are very clever then,” she said.  Sita smiled, the tone in her voice telling Targon so.”

       “It’s always pitch dark for me,” Sita said.  Targon knew what Sita was saying, and buried her face in her paws, feeling a new respect for this community.

      “From injured bears to blind cubs,” she thought, “this community gives everyone a chance.”  Sita felt Targon’s pulse quicken, telling her the bear was thinking or distressed.

      “It’s okay,” Sita said, “I won’t hurt you, and nor will anyone else here.”  Targon turned her head, but couldn’t see Sita in the pitch dark.

      “I’ll see her in the light tomorrow,” she thought, as the toes of Sita’s right forepaw traced down the sole pad of her left hind paw.

       “Now I’ll let you sleep,” Sita said softly.  Turning, she padded from the room.

       “I wonder who she is,” Targon asked herself.

       “You’ll learn more about her in the morning,” Tornassuk said.

       “How long have you been awake?”  Targon asked.

       “Since Sita touched your foot,” he replied.

       “Yes, my foot, and the contact her forepaw had with it.”  Targon mused.

      “What are you feeling?”  Tornassuk asked.

      “Tingling, sort of,” Targon replied, “it’s nice though, I want my paws touched like that again.”  Tornassuk smiled and took his mate’s forepaws in his.

        “I could play with your hind paws?”  He suggested.  Targon smiled:

       “I’d like that,” she replied.  Tornassuk began gently to play with his mate’s left foot, counting her toes, and then stroking her pads, Targon drifting in a present reverie.

       “You will meet Koda and Kamchatka in the morning,” Tornassuk said, “Targon, Koda is the boss of the house, a black bear like us, but infinitely more stately, his mate, Kamchatka, is the most majestic grizzly bear you’ll ever meet.”

       “My mama told me grizzly bears had dreadful tempers and hate black bears,” Targon replied, “maybe your description of this mama grizzly is fashioned from fear of her?  Of her huge size, her big teeth, her massive paws, her long claws, and dreadful temper?”  Tornassuk laughed merrily, Targon placing a warning paw on his.

      “Don’t laugh,” she said, “I’m serious!  Grizzly bears are known for their awful tempers.”

       “Mama Kamchatka is more likely to show you the soles of all four paws while she waves them in the air while lying on her back rather than the power of her paws and sharpness of her claws,” Tornassuk replied.

      “With respect, you’re being presumptuous!”  Targon pleaded.

      “With respect,” a voice said, Targon feeling huge paws enveloping her from behind, “you are totally wrong.”  Targon nearly died of fright.

       “Oh, oh!  What? Who?”  Targon asked, her one eye registering terror.

       “It is the grizzly bear with the huge paws, sharp teeth and dreadful temper,” Kamchatka said softly.  Targon shook with fear.

       “Look at me Targon, please,” Kamchatka said softly, Targon having to turn her head to get eye on with the huge mama grizzly.

       “She’s beautiful,” Targon thought, her fears vanishing as Kamchatka’s smile and warmth enveloped her.

       “I don’t know what to say,” Targon said softly.

      “Say nothing, but lose your fear,” Kamchatka said softly, kissing Targon’s nose.  Targon turned her face to Kamchatka, the mama grizzly kissing her forepaws.

       “Come,” Kamchatka said who was now sitting behind Targon.  Targon felt herself lifted up, and then she was sitting on the grizzly mama’s lap.  Targon found her tearful and feeling rather like a cub in the presence of the huge mama bear.

       “Don’t worry my dear,” Kamchatka said softly.  Targon found her hind feet pushing her body back into the huge mama grizzly’s embrace.

       “You don’t know what you want do you?”  Kamchatka asked.  Targon tried so hard not to cry, to be worthy of becoming this mama grizzly’s grand cub’s mate.

     “It’s okay to cry,” Kamchatka said softly, rubbing Targon’s belly as if she was comforting a cub with an upset stomach.  Targon suddenly felt very sick, her fear getting the better of her.  Leaning over, she violently vomited onto the rug.  Kamchatka immediately slipped into cub comforting mode, rubbing Targon’s back and belly, encouraging her to get rid of whatever was upsetting her system.  After this, Kamchatka helped Targon to the bathroom, where she helped her to wash her mouth and tidy her fur, just like her mama would have done.  Once Targon was tidy and feeling better, Kamchatka gave her peppermint leaf to chew.

      “This will settle your stomach,” she said softly.  Targon chewed the leaf, wondering if she’d dreamt the previous goings on.  Turning to Tornassuk, she whispered to him:

       “Did all this really happen? Was I really sick?  Did a huge mama bear whom I hardly know, pull me onto her lap in an attempt to comfort me, cope with me being very sick, and not only that, help clean me up?”

      “It really happened,” Kamchatka said softly, gently hugging Targon.  Targon faced Kamchatka suddenly, and then knelt down in front of her, showing respect to the mama grizzly, which Kamchatka found profoundly embarrassing.

       “Thank you mama,” Targon said respectfully, her head bowed toward her forepaws.  Kamchatka reached round with a forepaw and tickled the pads and toes of Targon’s right foot, the black bear laughing merrily as she realised what the mama grizzly really wanted.

      “Hey, leave my hind feet alone!”  Targon laughed, curling her toes to trap the mama grizzly’s, which Kamchatka loved, gently freeing her trapped toes, and rolling Targon onto her side so she could play with the black bear’s paws like she would those of a newborn cub, which Targon loved.

        “You are beautiful,” Targon said to Kamchatka.

        “I do have a name Targon dear,” Kamchatka said.  Targon smiled and nodded:

       Kamchatka,” she said softly.  Kamchatka smiled broadly.

      “Though mama is ok, if you prefer,” Kamchatka said gently.  Targon smiled at the huge female grizzly bear.

       “And what of your mate?”  She asked, “Koda? Isn’t that his name?”  Kamchatka grinned:

       “Koda is my name,” someone said, touching Targon’s left forepaw, Targon squealing with shock and backing round so she could see who’d approached her on her blind side.

        “You bugger!”  She exclaimed, forgetting in her shock who she was speaking to.

      “Is that the way you talk to the boss of the community?”  Koda asked conversationally.  Targon, breathing hard from fright, replied:

      “No, um, no, of course not!  it’s, just that, well, my left side, that’s my blind side, I only have one eye, and you came up on my blind side, and scared me so.  I’m so sorry for swearing at you.”

          “I’m sorry for frightening you,” Koda replied equably, “I wasn’t told of your situation.  Indeed, Tornassuk only said he’d found a mate and told me where to find you.  He’s gone to deal with matters pertaining to his job as spiritual leader you see.  Nothing was said to me of you being partially blinded.”  Targon stared at the male black bear.

       “There is one other here who cannot see too well I think,” she said.

      “Make that two,” Koda replied gently.

        “The one other was Sita,” Targon continued, not understanding Koda’s remark.

       “Sita is one who is as without sight as she can be, but she is not the only one who is such.  Targon, for I am also as Sita is.”  Targon finally realised what the male bear had been trying to say.

       “If you’re as she is, then why the hell did you creep up on me on my blind side?”  She screamed.

       “It is not the norm to be without sight,” Koda replied, “and I knew not of your disability until you told me.  Tornassuk, so in love with you as he is, forgot to tell me when he told me of your arrival here.  After all, while your half blindness is not the whole of you, or how you shall be defined, it is a consideration which must be taken into account when interacting with you, as is with me or Sita.  Lack of information caused me to creep up on you unexpectedly, not any ill will from me towards you or your disability.”

       “Okay okay, I’m sorry,” Targon sighed, “now, can we let it go?”  Koda hugged her tenderly.

        “You bowled Tornassuk over, head over paws in love with you he is;” Koda replied, “now that’s what I want to focus on.”  Targon smiled:

       “I love him Koda,” she replied.

       “You love him with all you have, that’s all I ask,” he said.  Targon smiled and hugged Koda.

       “Now how do I show you I’m no threat to you Targon?”  Kamchatka mused.

       “You already have mama,” Targon replied, “but, well, you could, oh, it’s nothing.”

       “What?”  Kamchatka asked, “I’ll do anything, within reason.”

      “Could I, would you, oh dear,” Targon stammered, “I mean, could I, please, look at your paws? Touch them? And maybe, maybe, play with them too?”  Kamchatka smiled and rolled onto her back, waving her huge paws in the air.

      “Come!”  She invited, “come play with all four of my paws!”  Targon laughed so hard she fell over.

       “Oh mama, mama!”  She gasped, “You’re so funny!  Now, now, I can’t, I’m laughing too much to play with your paws!”  Kamchatka let her paws relax, Targon finally taking hold of her right foot in her paws.  Kamchatka smiled as Targon’s toes explored her right foot.

       “I can feel you like my touch,” Targon said.  Kamchatka smiled and curled her toes, making her pads bunch up.

      “That’s so cute!”  Targon said, forgetting for a moment she was handling the paw of a huge mama grizzly bear twice her size and weight.  Kamchatka wriggled and waved her free paws in the air, Targon laughing merrily.

      “Is there anything you can do that is cuter?”  Targon asked.  Kamchatka laughed:

      “Now that is subjective,” she said, “but, for cubbish cuteness?  Well, let’s see.  Hmm.”  Targon smiled, then giggled, then laughed helplessly as Kamchatka sat up, grabbed her right foot with in both forepaws, and then, holding her right foot with her right forepaw, the toes of her right forepaw gripping the thick wrinkled black sole pad and bottoms of the toes of her right foot, Kamchatka brought her left forepaw over and played with the toes of her right foot.

      “That’s cute!”  Targon said, “Now, is there anything else you do?”  Kamchatka looked at Targon and smiled:

       “Some say when I pretend to have a cub I look cute,” she replied.

      “Drawing your hind feet up while lying on your back is said to be comfortable, as is sitting back on heels,” Targon replied.  Kamchatka nodded and grinned:

       “They are very comfortable postures,” she agreed “and,” suddenly she looked as vulnerable as a mama bear can, “I sometimes play with my hind paws when stressed, rubbing my pads and playing with my toes.  then, then, I’ll roar and yell, rolling onto my back and close my eyes, grabbing my hind feet with my forepaws and pushing back against my forepaws with my hind feet, then, then, when things are at their most tense and painful, I release my hind feet from my desperate forepaws and kick, I kick and kick and kick, roll and scream and scream.  Then, if I feel pressure building again, I’ll repeat the process, building pressure up between fore and hind paws, then releasing it and kicking, then sit up, playing with my toes again, coming down, panting, sniffing and sobbing sometimes.”

       “Does anyone see you doing this?”  Targon asked softly.

      “Everyone does,” Kamchatka replied, now playing with the toes of her left foot, “everything’s public here.  Though sometimes Koda’s with me, but then, then my release is more focused into acting out the birth of a cub.  I’ve had cubs before, so I know how it feels, and how it works.  Cubbing is exhilarating, I love the process, the feel of everything, from the changes in contractions, to the way my breath feels and toes curl as I strain and push.”

      “I suppose it’s something you never forget,” Targon replied.  Kamchatka rolled onto her back, drew her hind feet up and grabbed them with her forepaws, Targon watching intently.

       “Does it hurt?”  She asked.  Kamchatka groaned deeply, curling her toes, closing her eyes and clenching her teeth.

       “Yes, yes, ow! It hurts!”  Kamchatka whimpered, “The pressure, the pressure hurts!”  Targon saw Kamchatka’s forepaws let go of her hind feet, then Kamchatka, clasping her forepaws over her belly and squealing, began kicking hard at the air with her hind feet, the grizzly bear putting all concentration and effort into her act.

      “Kick Kamchatka kick!”  Targon encouraged, the mama grizzly wriggling and rolling as she tried to keep her hind feet kicking the air.

      “Okay, okay, I’m done,” Kamchatka said, her fur soaked with sweat.  Targon caught Kamchatka’s right hind paw, feeling her hot sweaty paw.

       “That was cute,” Targon said, stroking Kamchatka’s pads and playing with her toes, the she bear giggling cubbishly.

      “That was fun!”  She said.  Targon traced the pads of Kamchatka’s right foot, the she bear laughing merrily as Koda took hold of her free left foot in his paws and began playing with her toes and stroking her pads.

       “I love all this,” Kamchatka said.  Koda traced the pads of his mate’s left foot, Kamchatka laughing and bouncing about on her backside, curling her toes tightly.

        “mama’s paws are chunky with thick pads and mobile toes,”  Koda said, “just what cubs seem to like playing with, , and I know I certainly do.”  Kamchatka laughed helplessly, kissing her mate’s nose and crawling away, Targon watching as Koda chased her hind feet, pouncing on Kamchatka’s hind paws and stroking her pads, Kamchatka lying on her belly and resting her head on her forepaws, letting Koda stroke her hind feet.

       “Now, how if I stroke Koda’s hind paws?”  Targon thought, crawling up to Koda, who was sitting back on his heels.  Targon touched Koda’s hind feet, stroking his pads and toes, the black bear curling his toes tightly and bouncing about as an expression of his pleasure at her touch.

        “The toes on both my hind feet are curling too!”  Targon exclaimed.

      “That’s a reaction to stimulation at the knowledge you’re giving pleasure to others,” Koda said softly.

        “Tell me, please,” Targon said, “is washing of fur and paws done here?”

       “It is,” Koda replied, turning his head to Targon, “Washing of fur and paws is very much part of community life.  We often wash each other, older cubs washing younger cubs, male washing male, female washing female, brother washing sister, sister washing mother, whatever feels right.”

       “So, I, I could wash Tornassuk’s paws?”  She asked.

      “You could,” Kamchatka replied, “Koda could wash mine, I wash yours, and you wash Koda’s.  It’s all in how we feel at the time.  Sometimes we experiment with washing of paws during play, just to see how it feels.”

      “I think that’s what Targon wants to do to mine,” Koda replied, “but she can’t bring herself to say it.”  Targon looked down at her own forepaws, very embarrassed and ashamed.

        “I can’t ask it,” she mumbled.

       “Why not?”  Tornassuk asked, padding in and kissing Targon’s nose, “it’s only obeying what both you and Koda want.  It’s washing of paws, a humble act, an act of getting to know the boss, then, maybe, you’ll wash Kamchatka’s paws, and she and Koda wash yours.”

       “I’ve always wondered how it would feel to wash another bear’s paws,”  Targon said, “I’ve washed my own forepaws and hind feet plenty of times, but never those of another bear.  I’ never felt the thrill of playing with a bear’s paws until I came here.  The joy of knowing my stroking of another’s paws could be pleasurable to another was and is amazing.”

      “First though, we have to get our paws to a state where they need washing,”  Koda said, getting up and padding to where patch had made a pot of the all purpose cream he used for lubricating stuck cubs during a mama’s labour, available for general use.

      “Sire Patch found a great thing when he began making this cream,” Koda said, “good for bringing cubs into the world, but also,” he sat down opposite Targon, who was now sitting on her backside, “good for massaging into another’s pads and toes,” Koda concluded, picking up Targon’s left foot in his forepaws and massaging the cream deep into her pads and between her toes, the female black bear laughing delightedly.

      “Now let’s get those paws soft and cub like once more,” Koda said, Targon laughing merrily at his antics.

       “You make it sound so good it could be illegal,” she said.  Tornassuk, having grabbed a paw full of the cream, began rubbing it into mama Kamchatka’s hind paws, the mama grizzly waiting until she had cream between her toes, then curling them tightly, giggling cubbishly as the cream squeezed between her toes.

      “You big cub grandmamma!”  Tornassuk laughed.

        “I try my best,” Kamchatka replied.  Targon and Koda touched hind paws together after they’d massaged cream thoroughly into each other’s paws.  Grinning, the two bears pretended their hind feet were stuck together, Koda’s toes curling round Targon’s, the female bear pressing her pads hard against the male black bear’s.

       “You two look very contented,” Tornassuk said.  Targon giggled:

        “I’ve always wanted to play the stuck paw game,” she replied.  Koda tugged at his right foot, snarling and growling with apparent effort as he worked the toes of his right forepaw between the pads of his right hind, and Targon’s left foot, Targon whimpering as her foot was pried free of her friend’s.

      “Pull Targon pull!”  Koda said, bouncing about.  Targon pulled at her left foot, the efforts of the two bears slowly dragging their hind feet apart.  First Koda’s right hind and Targon’s left hind came free, then with a supreme effort from the two bears who faked tiredness and fear they’d not be able to free themselves so well that Kamchatka became concerned; Koda and Targon tore at their own hind paws in an attempt to free themselves.  Targon, yelling at Koda to:

     “Pull hard Koda!”  Tore at her own right foot with desperate forepaws, prying toes loose, then tearing at her pads, trying to free herself before her strength gave out.  The two black bears managed it just in time.  Both exhausted and happy at their play, which they laughed about a good deal afterwards, Koda and Targon embraced each other tenderly.

      “Welcome home,”  he said to the giggling feamale black bear, who threw her paws around Koda’s neck and hugged him tight.

       “That’s rahter prosumptious isn’t it?”  Kamcahtka asked in a rediculous pariady of a british upper class axcent, which had Tornassuk and Koda choking with laughter.

       “You big cub mama!”  They laughed.  Kamchatka, her eyes shining, padded over to Koda and Targon, hugging each in turn.

       “Welcome home indeed,” she said to Targon, but then her mood changed, and she looked as grim as a grizzly can.

      “What?”  Targon asked.

        “I have to deal with that badger,”  Kamchatka growled deeply, her mood blackening the room, “I think I’ll need my paws washing after this,”  she grunted, padding out of the door, her head hung in misery.

        “Poor mama,” Targon remarked.

      Kamchatka hates punishing anyone,” Koda replied, “she beats herself up over doing her duty, but she must do that duty, and she knows it too.  Kamchatka, she’s so soft, loves play, is honest and so warm and loving, but cross her, and you see a different bear, a bear which I believe even Kamchatka herself is frightened of.

     Kamchatka hinted at having given birth to cubs?”  Targon asked.  Koda nodded:

       “You’ve met one, patch,” he said, “You’ll meet Ekaterina, Kuruk and Alaska later.”

 

Meanwhile, in the great room, Kamchatka cornered Magnus.  The badger couldn’t meet the massive grizzly’s eyes, she looked devastated, so upset he wanted to throw his paws around her and hug her, but he knew his actions had caused her distress.

        “I can’t deal with you now,” Kamchatka said, trying to hold herself together, “I’m too busy, I have, um, a lot on my paws, but I’ll warn you now, you do anything like set a trap again, I’ll break your paws Magnus!”  With that Kamchatka padded from the great room, her paws slippery with the of the cream Tornassuk and she’d been playing with.  Kamchatka wanted to play, to be a cub, to play with Targon, to mother the female black bear a little, to comfort her, to make her laugh and relax her enough to settle down and enjoy her life.  Targon saw Kamchatka padding into the lie up, noticing the she bear’s distress.

       “I don’t want to get angry,” Kamchatka said, “it’s not good for my health.”

       “That badger caught my paw,” Targon said, “I want to boot his backside!”  Kamchatka grinned hugely.

       “Now I’m going to lie down for a bit,” she said.  Padding to her lie up, Kamchatka settled down in the bedroom, sprawling on the rug and closing her eyes.  Koda, following his mate, curled up beside her, taking her paw in his and massaging it, Kamchatka smiling wearily.  Koda loved his mate so much, and Kamchatka knew it too.

 

Targon faced Tornassuk in his lie up.

      “This place is magical,” she said, “the whole community are so sweet.”

     “You don’t know half of them yet,” Tornassuk replied, “but your assessment is quite good, even on the sample you’ve met.”  Targon thought for a minute:

      “Sita,” she mused, “who is Sita?”

      “I am Sita; a voice said behind Targon’s left shoulder, the female black bear having to turn her head to see the speaker.  When she caught sight of Sita, Targon gasped and stared unashamedly at Sita.

       “Wow,” she said, “You’re, um, quite a sight for sore eyes Sita,” Targon said.  Sita laughed:

       “That’s one way of putting it,” she replied.  Sita padded round Targon, the she bear spinning in circles to get a good view of the strange creature before her.  Sita, lashing the air with her tail, began dancing on her toes, Targon laughing helplessly.

      “Now, I’ll roll onto my back and wave my paws in the air!”  Sita said, fitting action to words and rolling onto her back, Targon watching Sita’s huge paws pedal at the air.

       “I love that,” Targon said, kissing Sita’s nose.  Sita took Targon’s paw in hers, the black bear gasping as she felt the same gentility she had the night before.

        “You’re a gentle soul Sita,” Targon said softly, “I don’t know what you are physically, but spiritually you’re beautiful and will go far.  Sita kissed Targon’s nose.

       “I know I don’t look as if I belong to any species,” Sita said, “so I can only belong to myself, my face, my paws, my tail, and my fur does not fit together.  I am a tiger, but not a tiger, I’m a bear but not a bear, and I’m a lion but not a lion.  So what am I?  I’m Sita.  Or a maoxiong as Anook says.”  Targon smiled and hugged Sita.

      “Your paws are lovely,” she said, kissing Sita’s fore and hind paws, Sita giggling with pleasure.

       “You are so tactile,” she laughed, “I love all this!”  Targon felt liberation coming from Sita, she loved the feel of this strange creature’s paws, and Targon loved everything about Sita, from her nose to her toes.  Though she felt if she said this, she would be disbelieved.

       “If, if I told you I loved your body from your nose to your toes, what would you think Sita?”  Targon asked.

      “As you are holding one of my paws, I believe you,” Sita replied, “but if you found you could not hold one of my paws and say that, I would not believe you at all.”

       “You would make a good mate for someone,” Targon remarked.

       “I am already very friendly with someone,” Sita replied, “He’s a sweet polar bear.”  Targon grinned at Sita.

        “If you are insincere, I’ll know,” Sita replied.

       “I know,” Targon said, “the power of the paw n’all that.”

      “Don’t mock it,” Sita replied sharply, “you don’t know it that well.”

        “Wow!  That was a little harsh,” Targon replied.

      “Don’t mock the power of a paw until you’ve tried it while in labour,” Kamchatka said, “then Targon, will you know its true worth as a pain reliever.”  Targon smiled and nodded:

     “I’m sorry mama,” Targon replied, looking round at the mama grizzly. Tornassuk padded over to Targon and kissed her ear:

       “You are so lovely,” he said, Targon turning her head to look at him.

       “You are too,” she replied, and then she stared at Tornassuk:

       “What’s happened to you?”  She asked.

      “Oh, the necklet?”  Tornassuk replied, “It’s something Eohippus did “I suppose, well, she wanted me to think of the community more.   I was too much like a polar bear to be noticed,” Tornassuk said, “a white lion is unusual, so stands out, but a white bear is not so uncommon.”

       “You would appeal to me if you wore a straw hat with bells on it,” Targon said, to which Tornassuk ran off, and returned wearing such a hat, Targon roaring with laughter.

      “You’re so funny!”  Targon laughed.  Then, as her gaze travelled down to his paws, she saw another bear cowering at Tornassuk’s flank, indeed, the bear was almost hiding under Tornassuk’s belly.

       “Who’s that?”  She asked, “And Tornassuk, “why are your paws dirty?”

       “I’ve been out in the wood while you were talking with Sita,” he replied, “I went out for a walk to think about things after my change of atire.  I’d showered, and my necklet was handed to me by an invisible force, and this,” Tornassuk said, sitting down and revealing the quarter grown cub beside him, who, devoid of her cover, looked terrified, “is Bella.  I found her in the wood.  She was stuck in the mud on a disused track, hence why her paws are so muddy.”

      It’s okay Bella,” Targon said softly, “we won’t hurt you here.”  Bella looked at Targon, and then covered her face with her paws, sitting down and beginning to sob with terror.

      “Come,” Tornassuk said softly, “Bella, dear Bella, come here,” he said, drawing the tiny cub onto his lap and hugging her tenderly.

       “I wan’a go home!”  Bella choked, burying her face in Tornassuk’s chest.

        “Your home is gone,” Tornassuk said softly, stroking Bella’s head with a massive paw, “your mama was taken by thieves, and then they burnt the place down.”

       “What?”  Targon asked.

       “She came from a collection like you did;” Tornassuk said softly, “her neck tag gives her name and date of birth in case she gets lost.  Now though, she’s lost from her mama and her home.”

        “No she’s not,” Targon said, “we can’t, I can’t, I can’t let her leave here, not alone, not like this.”

       “You were right to say we can’t,” Tornassuk replied, “for I’m not giving this little cub up either.  From the minute I saw her terrified eyes and then dug her paws out of the mud and saw how vulnerable she was, I committed to either finding her mama, or, failing that, giving her a home here.  I promised her on that track, that she would be looked after.  I promised her from her nose to her muddy paws, that she wouldn’t be left to face the world alone.”  Bella rubbed her face with her paws, smearing mud over her face.

        “I can’t go back then?”  She asked.

       “No,” Targon said softly, “no, your mama is not coming to find you, for she can’t.”  Bella choked on her tears.

       “I’m lost!”  She choked.  Tornassuk smiled gently at Bella, lifting her up to his eye level and kissing her nose and paws, Bella lifting up her hind feet to brace them against his chest, Tornassuk lifting Bella higher so he could kiss the toes of her hind paws.

       “That’s so cute!”  Targon said softly.  Bella, her hind feet pawing at the air, giggled at Tornassuk’s actions.

      “Please Tornassuk, promise me, promise me you’ll look after me,” Bella pleaded.  Tornassuk laid Bella on her backin his lap, her muddy paws in the air.  Tracing her pads and toes, Tornassuk looked down into Bella’s eyes.

        “I will, I will look after you with all I have,” he replied.

      “And so will I,” Targon said.  Bella looked up at her muddy paws.

      “I’m sorry for appearing before you with muddy paws,” she said.  Tornassuk laughed, Targon kissing Bella’s muddy right forepaw, the cub giggling and pawing at her nose.

      “I want to wash you,” Targon said, “Bella, would you let me wash you?”  Bella looked up into Targon’s face, noticing she had no left eye.

       “You have suffered much too mama Targon,” Bella said softly.

       “I’m safe now, as you are,” Targon replied.  Bella smiled broadly.

        “I love your touch, your paws, everything,” Bella said softly.

      “Let me look at you Bella,” Targon replied.  Bella wriggled as Targon laid paws on her, making sure all four of her small paws got a good massage.

        “Please play with my paws, play with my paws!”  Bella begged.  Targon kissed Bella’s forepaws while playing with her hind, the cub laughing helplessly and wriggling madly.  Bella tried curling her toes while she kicked the air with her hind feet while Targon held her forepaws and Tornassuk rested a massive forepaw on her belly, gently holding her down.  Bella looked up into Tornassuk’s face.

        “Tornassuk, please, would you let me brace my hind feet against your forepaws?”  Tornassuk lay Bella down on the floor in front of him, her hind feet towards him.  Bella lifted her hind legs, Tornassuk holding his forepaws up, pads facing the cub.  Bella pressed the soles of her hind feet against Tornassuk’s forepaws.  Then, pressing harder, she tried to push his paws away.

      “Push with those feet Bella, push!”  Tornassuk encouraged.  Bella pushed hard with her hind paws, pressing down with all of her paws, from her heels to her toes, feeling the pressure pressing down on Tornassuk’s rough pads.

       “I think we should rejoice in her slightly dirty paws for now,” Tornassuk said, “Bella’s paws are showing she’s a playful cub.”  Bella laughed merrily.

      “Your paws are muddy too,” she said, “Tornassuk, your paws are muddy, as are mama Targon’s!  I loved our play in the wood.”

      “What game did you play?”  Targon asked.

      “Catch the twig,” Bella replied, “the rules are you pick up the smallest twig you can in the toes of one foot, don’t hold it between those toes though, no, that’s against the rules.  Hold the twig in your curled toes.  And then lift your paw up as high as you can while sitting down, then lying on your back.  Stretch your leg up, toes curled around the twig.  It’s a great game.  Then, then, try it while getting your playmate to tickle the pads of your paw while you try to hold onto the twig!  That’s great paw play Targon!”  Targon laughed at the visions of Tornassuk on his back, with Bella trying to tickle his paw while he held a twig in his curled toes.

      “I’d love to see that game played, and to play it,” she replied.

      “We can show her the game Tornassuk,” Bella said enthusiastically.

       “We can, and we will.”  Tornassuk replied, “We’ll show everyone here, Catch the twig will be as popular as the stuck paw game is now.”

      “Catch the twig is an outdoor game, the stuck paw game is indoor,” Bella replied, “but we could play the twig game indoors with string.”  Tornassuk smiled at Bella.

       “Thank you for showing me that game,” he said.  Bella giggled:

       “No problem,” she replied.

       “We could also try crawling with the twig held in our curled toes,” Tornassuk said.  Bella laughed:

      “Yes, that’s great too!”  She enthused, “and I could chase you and try to get the twig from your curled toes, and tickle your paws!”  Tornassuk laughed merrily, hugging Bella tightly.

       “I love your hug,” Bella said snuggling up to Tornassuk.

      “What’s going on?”  Sita asked.

      “Tornassuk’s found a lost cub in the wood,” Targon replied, “her name’s Bella.”  Sita padded over to the group and Bella stared unashamedly at her.

      “What’s that!”  Bella squealed, waving her paw at Sita.

      “Who I think you mean!”  Targon snapped.

     “No, I mean what is that!”  Bella yelled.  Sita stood her ground:

       “My name’s Sita,” she said with dignity, “you can call me that, and not worry about what I am if it’s easier.”  Bella couldn’t take her eyes off Sita’s face.  Kind eyes looked back at her, and she was already regretting her squealing outburst.

      “I’m sorry,” Bella mewed.  She suddenly felt her paw engulfed by Sita’s.

       “I’m sorry!”  Bella repeated, fearing the strange creature would do her harm.

       “I know,” Sita replied.

       “You were checking me out, holding my paw to see if I was true in my apology,” Bella said.  Sita nodded and smiled:

       “The paws never lie,” she replied, “and I need to use my paws more than most.”  Bella didn’t understand what Sita was saying.

      “We all use our paws,” she said.

       “No Bella, with respect, you don’t,” Sita said.

      “What are you on about?”  Bella asked.

       “I’m blind,” Sita replied, “that is why the paw is very important to me.”  Bella lowered her gaze.

       “I didn’t know,” she said softly.  Sita kissed her nose:

       “Now you do,” she replied.

       “So what do we do now?”  Targon asked.

      “We play the twig game,” Bella said.  Tornassuk flexed the toes of his hind paws.

      “I like that game,” he said softly.  Bella ran off into the wood to get the twigs needed for the game, Tornassuk and Targon following.  They followed the cub’s scampering paws to a clearing, then, she stopped, watching a bear who sat under a large tree with his back to them.

       “Quiet,” Bella whispered, motioning Targon and Tornassuk to lie down, which the two adult bears did.  Bella crawled to the bear beneath the tree, who Tornassuk now saw was sitting, his head bent low over his left foot, his forepaws working at his toes and pads with great absorption.

      “Kojack,” Bella whispered, touching the sole of the bear’s right foot with her paw.  Kojack, his eyes closed until then, started at her touch and the sound of her voice.

     “Oh? Bella!”  He exclaimed, “So, so you got free of the sticky mud?”  Bella nodded:

      “The big spirit bear saved me Kojack, he’s so sweet!”  She replied.

       “I ran from him, and then sat down here to play with my toes so I didn’t have to think of what was happening to you.  I couldn’t, couldn’t think of you being killed by that bear!”

       “That bear was sweet,” Bella said, “And he still is sweet, and his name’s Tornassuk, and he’s gentle, and loving, and very cool, and he’s got a mate named Targon, she’s a black bear, how cool is that Kojack!”

      “If they are safe, they are ok with me,” the bear said, playing nervously with the toes of his right foot.

       “Did anyone tell you you have cute paws?”  Bella said to Kojack, the bear grinning shyly.

       “You love my paws don’t you,” he said.  Bella smiled and kissed the toes of his right foot, Kojack curling his toes with pleasure, Bella stroking his bunched pads with undisguised enjoyment.

       “I love that,” Kojack said.  Bella grinned and kissed his curled toes:

      “I love it too Kojack,” she replied.  Kojack looked up as the light was blocked by a huge form.  Staring up into Tornassuk’s face, Kojack felt his paws becoming slippery with sweat.

        “He’s huge!”  Kojack squealed.

       “Let me sit down,” Tornassuk replied softly, sitting down carefully.  Kojack stared at Tornassuk’s face, then huge forepaws and massive hind feet.  Tornassuk wiggled his toes, Kojack smiling broadly despite his fear. 

     We came from the same collection,” Bella said, “Kojack and me that is.  We roamed for days, and when I got stuck in the mud, Kojack stayed with me, until you came along Tornassuk, fear driving him away.”  Tornassuk reached for Kojack’s right foot, the kodiak bear holding tightly onto his left foot and whimpering as Tornassuk’s toes touched the sole of his right foot.

       “You have soft pads,” Tornassuk said.  Kojack whimpered with fear.

        “It’s okay,” Bella said, kissing Kojack’s nose, the large Kodiak bear beginning to sob.

       “They won’t hurt you,” Bella said gently, “Kojack, its okay, I promise its okay.”  Kojack looked from Tornassuk’s face to Bella’s, then to Targon’s, looking for reassurance.

       “Can I hug you Kojack?”  Tornassuk asked.  Kojack looked at Bella.

        “he’s really lovely Kojack,”  she said, “please, please, let him hug you, or if not that, let him handle your paws, take them in his, stroke them, and play with your toes.  Kojack wriggled uncomfortably.

      “I will,” he said, “if, if only you let me hold my left foot tight in my forepaws.”

       “I will,” Tornassuk replied, “for I know what comfort holding your left foot in your forepaws is to you Kojack.”  Kojack took fresh hold of his left foot in both his forepaws, Bella seeing the toes of his forepaws digging into the bunched pads of his hind as he curled the toes of his left foot hard around those of his forepaws.  Kojack closed his eyes, whimpering and sobbing as Tornassuk stroked the pads and toes of his right foot.

      “Squeeze that left hind paw as hard as you need,” Tornassuk said.

       “I’m being a wimp,” Kojack wailed.

       “You’re not,” Tornassuk replied, “you’re frightened and want comfort, playing with your hind feet is your comfort, I know this.”  Kojack squeezed his left foot hard, curling the toes of that paw and digging the toes of his forepaws deep into his pads as Tornassuk took a good hold of his right foot.

        “Okay, one, two three, now squeeze that foot hard in your forepaws Kojack!”  Tornassuk said, stroking the sole of the terrified Kodiak bear’s right foot, feeling his sweat breaking out all over his pads, and the tightly curled toes bunching those pads.

       “I don’t want to squeeze my foot as much as I did,” Kojack said.

      “Don’t let go of your left foot until you’re absolutely ready,” Tornassuk replied.  Kojack shook his head and stroked his left foot, exploring his pads and playing with his now relaxed toes.

      “Thank you,”  he said, letting go of his left foot and reaching for Tornassuk’s right hind, which, as if in a dream, he saw the large spirit bear giving to him, Kojack feeling the large hind paw in his forepaws, then amazed, Kojack traced the pads and toes of Tornassuk’s right foot with his forepaws, the spirit bear curling his toes with pleasure.

       “You really know how it is to be scared as I was,” Kojack said.  Tornassuk lifted Kojack’s right foot in his forepaws and kissed his pads and toes.

         “Can I?”  Kojack asked.

     “Try it,” Tornassuk invited.  Kojack lifted Tornassuk’s right foot a little and kissed the bear’s toes and pads.

        “Are we friends now?”  Tornassuk asked.  Kojack smiled and nodded.

      “Thank you,” he said.  Tornassuk let go of Kojack’s right foot, the Kodiak bear letting go of Tornassuk’s hind paw.  Then Kojack felt himself pulled into a huge bear hug, and didn’t mind one bit.  Snuggling up to Tornassuk, Kojack found the bear’s fur soft and warm.

        “We play with our hind paws here too,” Tornassuk said.

      “I’ll bet you don’t hold your foot so tightly you leave imprints of your forepaws on your pads?”  Kojack replied.

       “I have in the past,” Tornassuk said, “and mamas sometimes hold their hind feet with their forepaws while delivering their cubs.  They squeeze their pads, curl their toes and dig the toes of their forepaws into the pads of their hind in the way you did.”

      “I like playing with my hind feet, is that wrong?”  Kojack asked.

      “No, it’s very right, very right indeed,” Tornassuk replied.

       “What of your mate?”  Kojack asked.

      “I agree,” Targon replied, playing with the toes of her right foot.  Bella laughed at her mama’s antics.

      “Now what do we do with Kojack?”  Bella asked.

      “We take him home of course,”  Targon replied, “first of all though, I must do this.  Kojack looked frightened as Targon pulled him into a huge mama type bear hug, his eyes filling with tears as he felt his need for a hug welling in him, he was well weaned, about six months old, but had lost his mama after the raid and burning of the private collection.  Tornassuk hugged Kojack, the Kodiak bear snuggling up hard.

       “I love you,” he whispered to Tornassuk, the huge bear embracing him tightly.

      “I love you too Kojack,” Tornassuk said softly.  Bella stroked Kojack’s hind paws while the bear knelt in front of Tornassuk, his forepaws embracing the huge bear.

       “Hug me hard Tornassuk, please!”  Kojack begged.  Tornassuk hugged the bear hard, Kojack gripping with his forepaws and pressing his body into Tornassuk’s fur.  Bella stroked Kojack’s hind paws, which, as he was kneeling, she could reach quite easily without disturbing his hug.  Kojack wiggled and curled his toes as Bella stroked the pads of his hind feet, Bella giggling with pleasure.

       “I love your hind paws,” she said.  Kojack smiled, but his mind was with another cub, little Flocke, with whom he’d been raised as a young cub.

      “Flocke used to love it when I turned my back on her, knelt down and let her stroke my hind feet,” Kojack whispered to Tornassuk, “Bella’s stroking reminds me of her touch, where is she now?”  Tornassuk looked down at the weeping Kodiak bear.

       “Who was Flocke?”  He asked.

      “She was my cubhood friend, her mama gave birth to her the same time mine to me.  We, we grew up together Tornassuk, and Bella knew her too.  Flocke was so cute, so gentle, and as gentle as Bella is.  I want to see Flocke again!”

       “Your wish might be granted,” Kamchatka said, shambling up with a cub riding on her back.

       “Who?”  Tornassuk asked, waving a paw at the little cub that was holding on tightly to the mama grizzly’s fur.

      “I found her swimming in the log flume,” Kamchatka said, “I fished her out and told her it was dangerous, but she leapt straight back in, so in frustration and a little rage born of fear, I’ll admit, I took her away from the flume and was wandering round the wood, when I overheard your conversation.  Her name is Flocke, and might be the cub of which Kojack is speaking.”  Kojack looked at the cub on Kamchatka’s back.

      “That’s her, that’s Flocke!”  He squealed.  Flocke, hearing his voice, slid down Kamchatka’s right hind leg and scrambled across to Kojack, half crawling, half walking.  It was clear she could hardly walk, there seeming to be some problem with her hind legs.

      “Can you feel your hind feet?”  Kamchatka asked her.

      “A little, but not much,” she replied, “so I fall over a lot.  I used to stroke Kojack’s hind feet so his wouldn’t lose their feeling like mine have.”  Kamchatka touched the sole of Flocke’s right foot, the little cub pressing her paw hard against the she bear’s, trying to increase the sensation.

      “Can you feel my touch?”  She asked.  Flocke looked concerned:

       “A little,” she replied.  Flocke grabbed Kojack’s right foot and began massaging his pads and toes, the Kodiak bear laughing helplessly with delight and relief.

      “She’s here, Flocke’s here!”  He said.  Flocke kissed the pads of Kojack’s right hind paw, placing a kiss on his pads and toes, the male bear smiling broadly.

      “I can’t believe you’ve got two girls stroking your hind feet Kojack,” Tornassuk teased, “you rogue.”  Kojack giggled:

       “I know,” he said, “wonderful isn’t it.”  Flocke crawled to Tornassuk’s left foot and grabbed it, tracing his pads and playing with his toes, while Bella grabbed his right foot and stroked his pads and toes.

      “I love that,” Tornassuk said.  Flocke and Bella broke off stroking Tornassuk’s hind paws, and, smileing, Bella crawled to Flocke and hugged her.

       “Let’s protect Kojack together,” Bella said.  Flocke smiled:

        “Let’s,” she replied.  Both cubs kissed Kojack’s hind paws, Kojack smiling broadly.

      “Thank you both,” he said.

       “No problem mister cute paws,” Flocke said.  Kojack buried his face in Tornassuk’s chest fur, greatly embarrassed.

       “I think it’s sweet,” Targon said, “mister cute paws, how lovely!”  Kojack giggled nervously.

       “It’s not fair to call me that in public!”  He wined.

      “So he likes it really,” Flocke said.

      “He does Flocke, he does,” Bella replied, hugging the polar bear cub tightly.

       “I love Kojack’s pads and toes, they’re warm, and his toes are so mobile and fun!”  Bella said, Flocke giggling cubbishly.

       “he used to play with my hind paws,”  she said, “but, but,”  Flocke’s face fell, “he tried,”  she sniffed and swallowed hard, “Kojack tried so hard, so hard to make my paws sensitive to his touch, I tried, he tried, but it didn’t work Bella.”  Bella hugged Flocke, who now wept into her coat.

       “Your hind feet could not be helped by either of you,” Bella said, “It’s not his, or your fault.”

        “I know,” Flocke said, “It’s just a little hard sometimes, that’s all.”

       “We’ll all play with your paws,” Bella promised.

      “Thank you,” Flocke said, “mama Kamchatka found me playing in the water, for it stimulates my paws, so that’s why I go there.  She stopped me playing, and brought me here, and I’m glad now that she did.

      “It’s dangerous to play in the flume,” Kamchatka said, “it’s not an ordinary water way.”  Flocke looked at her:

      “I’m sorry mama,” she said.

       “Where is your mama Flocke?”  Bella asked.

       “She was killed when they burned the house,” Flocke said sadly, “she threw me out of the cage and I watched her die!  She couldn’t save herself.”  Targon looked into the polar bear’s eyes.

       “Do you want to come home with us?”  She asked.

       “I do,” Flocke replied, “though I can’t ask it.”

      “You don’t need to ask it, you’re coming with us,” Kamchatka said.  Flocke looked at Bella.

       “I can’t walk, not far anyway,” she said.  Bella looked up at Tornassuk:

       “Can’t Flocke be carried?”  She asked.  Tornassuk smiled and sat Kojack down, the Kodiak bear enjoying being handled by the huge spirit bear.  Tornassuk arranged Kojack’s hind legs, and then stroked his hind paws a little before leaving him.

       “He likes being treated like a cub,” Flocke said.  Tornassuk grinned.    

“Now let’s go home, not forgetting twigs,” he said, not forgetting the original purpose of their visit into the wood.  Kojack carried Flocke on his back, following Bella back to the house.  Once back at the house, Kojack let Flocke slide off his back onto the rugs and then turned to her, grabbing her hind paws and stroking them.  Flocke wriggled and laughed with pleasure, curling her toes as tightly as she could, which due to the muscle wastage in her hind feet wasn’t very hard at all.  Kojack, kissing Flocke’s nose and paws, embraced the cub tightly.  Bruin watched them, then, spying Bella, ran to her, rolled her over and tickled her belly and paws.

       “Hey, stop!”  She whined, “Who are you?”

      “My name’s Bruin and I welcome you to the community,” Bruin said, tickling Bella’s right foot, the female cub laughing helplessly.

      “Get off my paws!”  She protested, though her heart wasn’t in it, and Bruin knew it.  Smiling, he embraced Bella tightly.

      “I love your paws,” he said, Bella laughing softly.

       “I love you touching my paws,” she replied honestly.  Meanwhile, Flocke lay on her back, Kojack playing with her hind paws, the polar bear cub laughing helplessly.

 

Meanwhile, Koda was letting in two other bears, two ex performing polar bears, one who professed he’d been Colar, the original coca cola bear, and another who claimed he was Peppy, the original foxes glacier mint bear.

       “We have a fox or two here,” Koda said, to which Peppy groaned in misery:

       “I’ll bet that performing fox is here too then,” he whimpered.  Colar slapped Peppy playfully with his paw:

        “You’re okay,” he said, “I’ve got an addiction to Coca cola!  Can’t get enough of it.”  Peppy looked down at his paws.

       “Mints and cola don’t’ go well together,” he whimpered.

       “But we’ve stuck together through lots,” Colar said, “I love you Peppy!”  He exclaimed, hugging a startled Peppy with his free forepaw, Peppy looking astonished.

        “Okay, okay!”  Peppy laughed.  Koda smiled and waved the two bears into the house.  Koda then padded to the front door, hearing the scratching of claws on wood.  Opening the door, he found a young female bear cub shivering with fear on the doorstep.

      “Please, please!”  The poor thing begged, “I’m frightened, lost and alone!”  My home was burnt!  And, and I’m here now, all alone!”  Koda knelt in front of the cub and laid paws on her, the tiny form burying her face and forepaws in his fur, crying bitterly.  Koda drew the cub onto his lap and hugged her tightly, kissing her nose and paws.

       “What’s your name?”  He asked.

    Georgia,” the cub sobbed, “my name’s Georgia.  I’m sorry for this, really, I’m so sorry!”  Koda kissed the cub’s nose and paws, Georgia becoming calm and suddenly peaceful in his paws.

         “Where can I go now?”  She asked.

      “Stay here, here is your new home,” Koda said softly.

      “But, but I can’t!”  Georgia protested.  Charles Fullbeans, now at animal welfare, after his interest in the community had peaked and he’d changed Jobs, walked up to Koda and put a paper into his paws.

        “We are going to investigate the trophy collection,” he said, “that collection which got burned down; we will investigate their welfare practises.  Here, all the poor creatures who survived the fire will be safe and protected.”  Koda ran a paw over the paper.

      “What does it say?”  He asked.  Charles read it out.

       “The four pawed community is deemed safe for strays to enter at will,” he said.  Koda smiled:

        “I knew you’d come round to working with me,” he said.  Charles sighed:

       “Others branded me a freak for doing business with a bear,” he replied, “but I knew we’d be partners in the end.  Your community is well run, and the most amazing place.”

 

Koda thanked Charles Fullbeans and the council official left.  Georgia watched him go, and then turned her head back to Koda, clinging to him with the toes of all four paws.

        “Stay here,” Koda said softly.  Georgia looked into Koda’s sightless eyes, unable to voice her deepest needs, for she felt she could not.

       “You want a family don’t you,” Koda said softly, “Georgia, you have a new family now, a family larger and more amazing than you could ever imagine.”

        “I want you to protect me,” she whispered, almost choking.

       “Go on,” Kamchatka said gently, “Koda, give in, you know you want to hug her and stroke her paws.  Treat her as she wants to be treated, adopt her.”  Koda smiled, Georgia seeing his smile, her toes gripping his fur harder with excitement.

       “Let me get paws on with her,” Sita said, padding up.  Georgia looked at Sita, then found she had no time for fear, as Sita’s paws enveloped her own right foot, and messages were roaring into her brain, messages which told her it was ok to cry like a cub, that Sita wanted her in her family as much as Koda did.

      “Feel those paws Sita,” Koda said, rolling Georgia onto her back and turning her towards Sita.  Sita stroked and explored Georgia’s paws, the young cub loving being handled by Koda and Sita.

      Georgia’s paws are so cute!”  Sita mewed.  Georgia kicked the air with her hind feet, giggling with delight.

       “You do love me don’t you?”  She asked.  Sita kissed her nose.

       “Yes,” she replied.  Georgia had pinkie pads and mobile toes on all four paws, paws which Koda and Sita found irresistibly cute.  Her fur was long and silvery, her nose black, her eyes brown.  She was the cutest cub, excluding Alaska; Koda had ever laid paws on.

       “Come on dear cub,” Koda said softly, picking Georgia up in his paws and turning her to kiss her nose.

       “I feel safe here,” Georgia yawned.  Koda kissed her nose.

       “I wish I could see her,” Koda mused.

      “Same here,” Sita replied, “But we can play with her paws and love her in our own way.”

        “We can,” Koda replied, hugging Georgia tightly, the long haired cub snuggling up hard.

       “Take me home!”  Georgia begged.

 

Meanwhile, Colar and Peppy were playing together, Peppy finding Colar’s irrepressible playfulness hard to resist, even though he preferred a quiet time.  Soon Peppy was enjoying Colar’s attentions as the younger bear tickled his paw pads.

       “I do like playing with you Colar,” peppy said, “even if it might not seem so sometimes.”  Colar smiled and kissed Peppy’s nose and paws, Peppy laughing softly.

      “Now that’s so cute!”  Kojack laughed, watching the playing polar bears, while sitting nearby, playing with his left foot.  Peppy and Colar watched Kojack playing with his hind paws.

        “You love playing with your hind feet don’t you,” Peppy said.  Kojack smiled and nodded:

        “I do,” he replied, “it’s, so, so calming and feels so good!”  Peppy padded over to Kojack and took the Kodiak bear’s right foot in his forepaws, stroking the bear’s smooth pads and toes.

       “You’ve not walked much on these paws,” Peppy remarked.  Kojack shined and shook his head:

       “They are the paws of a cub, I know that,” he replied, “but if they were hard and their pads rough, I’d not find them easy to play with.”  Peppy kissed Kojack’s pads, the Kodiak bear giggling with pleasure.

       “You are so sweet to me,” he laughed.  Peppy smiled:

       “You unashamedly do what I cannot bring myself to do,” he said, “Kojack; you play with your hind feet in public, which is cute.”  Kojack laughed merrily.

      “I had a saint Bernard hound friend who used to love playing with my paws,” Colar said.  Peppy grinned and counted the toes on Kojack’s right foot, finding five, Kojack giggling and tightly curling his toes.

 

Meanwhile, Kamchatka played with Georgia’s hind paws, tracing the cub’s pads and playing with her toes, Georgia giggling and banging the rug with her forepaws with delight as Kamchatka’s touch gave her huge pleasure and security.

       “I love these cute paws,” Kamchatka said, “Georgia, how old is you?”  Georgia thought for a minute.

      “I’ve seen, um, twenty one sunrises,” she said.

      “So you’re only six weeks old?”  Kamchatka asked, putting three and three together and coming up with a horrendous situation.

      “Yes,” Georgia said, “three weeks in the dark and three in the light, and I see my mama killed by the humans.  They killed her with a noisy stick.”  Kamchatka covered her face with her paws, smelling Georgia’s scent on her pads.

       “Poor cub, poor cub!”  Kamchatka sobbed.  Georgia crawled to Kamchatka and sat in her lap, clinging to her fur.  Kamchatka embraced Georgia with her tear soaked paws, and both mama bear and cub wept together.

        “Please mama, please, can I stay with you?”  Georgia asked.

      “Yes, yes!”  Kamchatka sobbed, embracing her tightly.  Koda touched Georgia’s right foot, feeling her toes curling and pads bunching up, smiling, he kissed her bunched pads.

       “We love you Georgia,” he whispered.

 

Meanwhile, in the wood, two bears staggered along the track.  Tipped off by the investigations carried out by Charles Fullbeans, the police had stopped a van and raided it, finding some of the stolen bears.  Two bears escaped into the wood.  Lunar, a pregnant moon bear, and Eddie, a brown bear, staggered through the wood, their pads burnt and fur dishevelled from the ransacking and burning of the place they were stolen from.  Eddie was exhausted, so Lunar carried him to the door of the community’s house, Petra meeting them and ushering them inside.

      “Thank you,” Lunar said bowing her head to Petra.  Eddie, close to collapse, was lain down on a rug, offered hot drinks and good food.  Eddie took the drinks and a little food as did Lunar, the two bears marvelling at their surroundings, and the generosity of the community they’d stumbled upon.

       “This is amazing,” Eddie yawned.  Lunar hugged Eddie, the older bear snuggling up to her and wrapping his paws around his neck, burying his head in his shoulder.

        “Sleep now,” Lunar whispered softly.

 

Koda curled up beside Kamchatka and Georgia, one forepaw on Georgia’s right foot, his other on Kamchatka’s left hind, his head resting on her flank.

      “I can keep paws on with both of you this way,” he said, Kamchatka and Georgia smiling down at him.

       “Koda’s got a lovely touch,” Georgia said to Kamchatka, the mama grizzly smiling and hugging Georgia tightly.

      “Can you play with my toes Koda?”  Georgia asked.  Koda moved his left forepaw a little, tracing Georgia’s pads and then catching her toes, the cub squealing with delight.

   She laughed.  Koda grinned hugely, tracing Georgia’s pads faster and faster, the cub forgetting her tears and wriggling madly with pleasure.

       “You’re so good with the cubs,” Kamchatka said to Koda.

       “I think he is,” Georgia said, “his paws are so playful!”  Koda lifted Georgia off Kamchatka’s lap, the cub going limp in his paws, he then settled her on her back on the floor, and then lifted her up, settling her in a kneeling posture before stroking the soles and toes of both her hind paws.  Georgia, her eyes shining, let Koda handle her as if she were a rag doll, making sure it was clear to all she was enjoying the experience.  Koda kissed Georgia’s nose and then drew her into a huge hug, the cub pressing herself hard into his embrace.

       “I loved that,” she said.  Koda held Georgia tightly, the cub holding on tight with her forepaws and trying to push herself closer to Koda with her hind.

        “I love you Koda,” Georgia said.  Koda kissed her nose and ears, Georgia giggling with pleasure.

 

Meanwhile, under a bush near a woodland track far away from the house, near the road, a black bear lay beneath a bush.  Shivering with fright, he’d run from the second van which had been in convoy with six others, carrying many bears, including a polar bear and her cub.  The convoy was stopped at a roadblock, and the van raided by police, the bears, terrified beyond words, escaping into the woodland.  Now one of these bears, a black bear, was hiding beneath a bush, shaking with fright.  Crying with fear, the bear slept finally.  Sita, padding near the bush, smelt a strange scent on the wind.  Padding to the bush, she found the scent very strong in her nostrils.  Feeling beneath the bush, she found a paw, an interesting paw this was.  The paw Sita found had well defined hardened pads and large well padded toes.  The pulse in the pads was elevated; indeed, the paw’s owner was terrified.

         “Who are you?”  The bear asked.  Sita, smiling, crawled beneath the bush and touched the newcomer’s forepaw, the bear wailing with fear.

       “You’re safe, you’re safe, I promise,” Sita said softly.

      “I’m not,  how can I be safe when my home is burnt, then the lorry is raided, and I am running for my life, and now, now, I’m in a wood, a wood with strange creatures who work for themselves, who are said to live together and to love each other.  I’m an outsider, a strange bear, a bear who wants to be part of something, but am nothing to these good, but mysterious people.  Now I am under a bush, and someone approaches me, someone, and someone, someone who touches my paw and frightens me into wakefulness!  I’m scared!”  Sita lay down and kissed the newcomer’s paw.

        “You are safe,” she said, “I’m Sita, what is your name?”

       “Jet, my name’s Jet,” the poor black bear choked.

      “I’m going to take your paw,” Sita mewed, “and I’m going to promise you something Jet.  Do you believe in the power of the paw?”  Jet nodded:

      “Yes, yes,” he replied, “I believe, I want to know more about Eohippus.  I want to meet a spirit bear who knows about her and can teach me.”

       “You want to meet Tornassuk?”  Sita asked.

       “Yes, yes, Tornassuk, I think that’s his name,” Jet panted.

      “Come,” Sita said, kissing the bear’s nose, “come with me Jet.”

        “Can I?”  Jet asked, trusting his paws.

      “Yes you can,” Sita replied, “and for that promise, I’ll give you the paw of friendship from this community.”  Jet scrambled out from beneath the bush and stood up, seeing Sita in the daylight for the first time.

        “She’s beautiful!”  Jet thought.

       “Has anyone told you you are beautiful Sita?” Jet blurted.

       “I haven’t been told that by a stranger,” Sita mewed, “thanks a lot Jet.”  Buck watched from a short distance away, seeing jet’s attraction to Sita.  Buck padded up to jet, and, squaring up to him, attacked him.

      “Hey, paws off!”  Sita yelled, slamming buck to the floor with amazing strength and sitting on him.

      “That bloody bear wants you for his own!”  Buck screamed.

       “I don’t want Sita!”  Jet panted, picking himself up from the ground, “she’s yours big boy, I don’t want her!”  Buck wriggled beneath Sita’s weight, unable to rise.

        “Get off me Sita!”  He gasped.

       “No,” Sita replied, “I won’t, unless you promise me you’ll leave Jet alone.  Looking at me with longing is no crime, touching is.  He didn’t touch me, I touched him first, touched his foot.  And an interesting foot it is too, I might want to get to know the bear with the intresting foot.  Buck looked at Sita.

        “It is quite clear to me you want that black bear!”  He roared.

       “No Buck,” Sita replied, “no, I don’t want him, though if you carry on, I might play with him, play with his paws, might even have his cub.”  Buck squealed with shock.

      “You wouldn’t!”  He wailed.

       “I might,” Sita mewed, “a nice little cub, now, let’s think, a nice brown and white panda like cub with cute well defined paws.  Hmm, yeah, lovely.  I would feel every minute of the cub’s birth, squealing and groaning as I pushed the cub’s forepaws out one by one, pushing slowly, then harder to deliver the cub’s head, then groaning loud and long as the cub’s body comes out, then panting and puffing as its hind feet come out slowly and with every pad felt by me as each paw passes into the world.”  Buck covered his face with his paws and wailed with misery.

        “What have I done wrong?”  He asked.

      “Fighting with a male bear that was no threat to you was the first thing,” Sita snapped, “you are stupid buck!”

      “But I want you Sita!”  He roared, “I want to mate with you, now!”  Sita laughed:

       “And have you asked me about this Buck?”  She enquired, “No.  I don’t want to mate!  You were stalking me to mate with me, now though, after seeing your disgusting display, I won’t mate with you!  I won’t even give you the time of day!  Now I’ll get up, and you leave here!”  Buck padded away from Sita and jet, his relationship with her over due to one paw placed wrongly.

      “We were friends, not lovers,” Sita said, “now though, we’re not even friends.  How dare he presume he can mate with me whenever he wants?”  She ranted to jet, which looked grave.

       “So you and he were friends?”  He asked.

      “Until he professed to want to take me without consent yes,” Sita grunted, “now though, I think I’ll mate with someone else.  Someone with interesting paws and a black coat, and cute toes.”  Jet giggled:

       “Spiteful,” he said.

     “No,” Sita replied, “realistic.  I don’t like being forced, and Buck fighting with you was as good as being forced.  We don’t fight over mates here, and he knows that.  Just because you said you think I am beautiful, does not mean you want to mate with me, but buck thought you did, so he fought you.  That’s disgusting!  Now I will mate with you jet, just to show him he can’t force me to mate with him!  We will have a cub, and it will be a brown and white panda like cub, with the cutest face and paws you’ve ever seen!”

        “You can’t just dump a friend like that,” jet said.  Sita snorted:

      “I can when he becomes possessive,” she said, “and fighting over me screams possession, and I won’t have it!  I’m noone’s, I’m mine, I can mate with whom I like, and I don’t want to mate with a possessive bear!”

         “Don’t take your revenge by having a cub,” jet said, “that’s wrong too.”

       “If I have a cub, that cub will be loved and cared for with everything I have, from my nose to my toes,” Sita said seriously.  Buck turned at the top of the track and looked back at Sita.

        “I want you so much!”  he roared.

      “Paws off!”  someone roared.  Buck turned and stared straight into the face of an angry mama bear.

        “Who are you?”  he asked.

       “someone you know as sire Patch,”  the bear said.

      “But you’re female!”  Buck babbled.

       “I am the only one who still cares about Sita, that actually gave birth to her,”  patch said, “I am the one who will aknowledge giving birth to her with all the pain, love and strain that entails.  I vowed to protect my cub when she was born to me.  now I will protect her.  Buck, by being possessive, by being what we are not in this community, you have lost sita’s friendship.  You cannot possess her like an object.”  Buck looked into Patch’s eyes,  then realised where he’d gone wrong.

        “So I misread her intentions,”  he mumbled.

      “you did,”  Sita said, “I never wanted to mate with you, I was your friend, your dear friend, but now realising you want to mate with me, I can’t be around you.”

      “But you want to mate with a bear you’ve hardly met!”  Buck yelled.

      “That was just talk,”  she said, “but maybe, if he is gentle, kind, considerate and loving, I might, then, then I might give birth to the cub I dream of.”  Buck stormed back to the house, furious with himself.

 

Jet looked Sita over from nose to tail.

       “He wanted to mate with his friend before he’d even asked if you loved him in that way.”  Jet asked.  Sita frowned:

       “Yes,” she replied.

       “Don’t frown like that, it’s horrible,” jet said, “I love your smile.”  Sita grinned, and Jet hugged her...

      “What’s all this about a male bear being female?”  Jet asked.  ~Sita told him everything, jet believing every word.

       “So Sire Patch wanted to know what giving birth was like, and Eohippus showed him, and now he’s your mama and your sire?”  Jet asked.

     “Yes,” Sita mewed, putting the lid on things by telling him all about Ahanu and Haimati’s rejection of her.

      “No, they can’t do that!”  Jet whimpered, stamping his paws with distress.

       “They can, and did,” Sita mewed, “now, I’m Sita, not a bear, or a tiger, or lion, or anything but myself.”

      “You are beautiful Sita,” jet said.

      “I know you told me that from the bottom of your heart,” Sita said softly, “you saw me, seeing through the fur, through the big paws, through everything others find distasteful.  I know you used your eyes, I cannot use mine.”

      “I thought you beautiful while beneath that bush,” jet replied, “now though, now I’ve seen you with my fallible eyes, I love you even more.”

        “Sita,” Patch said, padding up and hugging her, “jet is a black bear with a loving sparkle in his eyes when he looks at you.  Touch his paws, believe in him Sita.”  Sita felt patch’s hugged, and knew she’d do what he advised.

       “Love his body with your paws,” Patch whispered, “Sita, explore him, love him with your paws and encourage him to love you with his.”  Sita wriggled with excitement at the prospect, something she’d never done when thinking about Buck.

        “I will,” she replied, “I want to now!”  Patch pushed her in jet’s direction, the big black bear and Sita meeting on hind legs, their forepaws touching, and then grasping.

        “You can stand on your hind feet then,” jet observed.

      “I can dance too,” Sita said, Jet smiling and leading her in a silly little shuffle, much to Patch’s amusement.

       “You two are so funny!”  He said.  Jet kissed Sita’s nose, Sita returning his kiss with natural ease.

       “How can this be?”  She asked, “That I feel so at ease with a bear I’ve hardly met?”

        “Go with it,” jet replied, “The spirits wouldn’t let us do it if it was not right.”

       “No,” Sita replied, “jet, I want to, want to imagine a cubbing with you, to roll about, kick and scream to give birth to an imaginary cub.  I never wanted this with buck.  I played physical dragging games with him, where he’d drag me by my fore and hind paws, me trying to be as much of a dead weight as possible, but that seems tame now; I want some real action, to imagine real pain, real pushing, real birth.”

       “That’s the mark of a need to have a cub with someone,” Patch said.  Sita dropped onto all four feet and snuggled up to jet, which was likewise on all four feet.

      “I wish I could see the soles of her paws,” jet thought, Sita’s proximity overwhelming him.  Sita found she suddenly wanted to roll onto her back and wave her feet in the air, which she did, finding it was all she wanted in the world that moment.  When jet got paws on with her right foot and began stroking it, Sita whimpered, and then roared with emotion, a sound she’d never made before.  Almost crying, she reached down with both forepaws and pressed Jet’s forepaws hard against the pads of her right foot, the toes of that foot curling tightly to hold jet’s fast.

        “Go with it Sita, follow your instinct,” Patch said softly.  Sita wriggled and roared with emotions she’d never felt before.

      “This is wild!”  She thought, “but I can’t stop it, I don’t’ want to stop it!”  Sita whimpered, screamed and roared as jet stroked, then played with, then kissed the pads and toes of all four of her paws, Sita giving herself up to expressing her emotions and enjoyment of his touch right there on the track.

        “I love this, I love this!”  Sita screamed.  Buck, having crept back, and saw jet doing things to Sita he could only dream of.  He knew he’d gone about getting Sita’s attentions the wrong way, and now was nothing to her, not even the friend he’d once been.

       “You’ve lost her buck,” Anook said, padding up to her son cub.

       “I know mama,” buck replied, “I know I have.”

 

Meanwhile, Sita and jet lay together, their fore and hind feet pressed together.

        “I want to give birth to a brown and white bear with cute paws with well defined paw pads and a cute face,” Sita said, “I want it so much jet.”

       “Sounds wonderful,” he replied, “for that cub would be loved from nose to paws.  Sita wriggled with excitement.

      “I can imagine a big cub, it would be a struggle to deliver, as it’s large, but I would struggle to deliver the cub until the end of my labour or my life.  I want to feel everything jet, everything!”

       “I love the thought of that cub,” Jet said.  Sita, crying now, hugged jet tightly.

       “I can’t wait!”  She sniffed.  Jet hugged Sita tightly.

        “Your paws are gorgeous,” he said into her ear.

        “So are yours dear jet,” she replied, “Your pads, they are interesting, cute, a map, a map to a place, to a bear who is worth getting to know.”

      “I’m sorry my forepaws are boring,” jet said.  Sita giggled:

       “Your forepaws are fine, you’re hind, and exquisitely formed, with the most gorgeous toes and lovely pads.”  She got paws on with jet, touching his face, his legs, his belly and paws, jet wanting to cry out like Sita had, but biting his tongue.

     “Go on, let it out,”  Sita said, stroking Jet’s right foot, then tracing his pads, the bear curling his toes and roaring his passion for his mate.

      “Give it your all!”  Sita encouraged, jet abandonining himself to expressing his feelings in roaring and whimpering, just as Sita had.

        “That’s it, that’s it!”  Sita encouraged.  Jet and Sita then rolled about together, pawing at each other, hugging each other tightly, kissing noses and paw pads, playing with each other’s toes, and generally playing about.  One minute Sita was atop jet, the next he atop her, but their paws never stopped moving, exploring, playing with, and loving each other.

       “I love you Sita, I love you so much!”  Jet panted when they lay entwined, their paws touching.

      “Let’s go indoors,” Sita said, getting to her feet and leading jet by his paw to the house.  Sita, on reaching the door, dropped to a crawling posture and led Jet into the house, jet taking hold of her hind feet in his forepaws and Sita leading him in like they were in a wheelbarrow race, laughing merrily at their own antics.  Jet guided Sita into the house, and she, though in a strange position, was able to guide him to her lie up.  Collapsing on the rugs, Sita and jet snuggled up together.  Sita took jet’s right foot in her forepaws and began tracing his pads and playing with his toes, the black bear closing his eyes and concentrating on her touch.

        “You have an amazing touch,” jet said, Sita gently squeezing the toes of his right foot.  Jet sighed deeply, enjoying every minute.

        “I wonder who else got out of that lorry,” jet mused, his thoughts turning to those he’d left behind when the lorry he was in was raided.

 

Meanwhile, Georgia was distressed.  More than the loss of her mother, the loss of her older sister was playing on her mind.  She’d seen her mother shot, so she could deal more easily with her loss, but the last she’d seen of her sister Kelsey was in the lorry just before the raid.  They’d run away together, but Kelsey had slipped and fallen, screaming to Georgia to keep running.  Georgia stumbled on, and ended up at the community’s door.  Now she was safe, her thoughts turned to her lost sister.

      “I wonder what happened to Kelsey.”  Georgia asked.

        “Who’s Kelsey?”   Kamchatka asked.

      “My older sister,” Georgia said, sniffing hard, trying not to cry.

       “You need not worry about her,” Aga said, padding in with a young female cub riding on her back, “I found him on the track looking rather lost and frightened.  Now, here she is.”  Aga set a larger cub than Georgia down on the rug beside her, the cub’s eyes scared and face streaked with tears.

        “You’re safe now,” Koda said into Kelsey’s ear, “You are safe, I promise.”  The female cub reached up to Koda and embraced him, Koda wrapping his paws around her in a huge bear hug.  Georgia looked at the female cub, then crawled to her and took her right foot in her forepaws, tracing her pads and toes, the older female cub relaxing at her sister’s touch.

       “Thank you,” Georgia said, “thank you all for saving my sister.”  Kamchatka looked down at the two cubs, loving them with her eyes.  She leant down and kissed Kelsey’s nose.

      “Thank you Aga,” Kamchatka said.  Aga grinned, waved her paw and padded away.  Kelsey and Georgia hugged each other once more, and then sat down opposite each other to play with each other’s hind paws, Kelsey playing with Georgia’s right foot in her forepaws, Georgia laughing merrily.

      “I love your touch Kelsey,” she said.  Kelsey traced the pads and toes of her sister’s right foot, Georgia giggling with pleasure.

      “We have been taught that our paws are playthings,” she said, “and playthings they are, how lovely this is!”  She embraced Kelsey’s right foot, her sister laughing helplessly and curling her toes tightly.

       “I love that too,” she said.

       “You seem older than Georgia by some way,” Koda said.  Kelsey grinned:

       “Our mama had us a week apart,” she said, I was there when she went into sudden labour with Georgia.  That was a screaming toe curling time for mama.  Two pushes from mama and Georgia was in the world, wriggling and screaming on the floor.”  Georgia smiled at Kelsey and asked her:

      “Can you re-enact that?”  Kelsey giggled: lay on her side, covered her mouth with her forepaws, kicked the air with her hind feet and squealed loudly, curling her toes the whole way.  Kamchatka giggled at Kelsey’s recreation of her sister’s birth.

       “I touched mama while she laid on the floor, that is how I know how it was for her,” Kelsey said, “Mama taught both of us, me and Georgia, that playing with our paws was the right thing to do.  That paws were the original bear’s playthings, and that we should never neglect, or forget to play with our paws.”

     “That’s good,” Kamchatka said, “my mama taught me that too.”

      “You have big paws mama,” Kelsey said, touching Kamchatka’s left foot.  Kamchatka curled her toes slightly, inviting Kelsey to explore, which she did.  Using both her forepaws, she explored Kamchatka’s toes, then the large sole pad of her left foot, then the less interesting furry top of her paw.  Kamchatka curled her toes, making the large pad on the sole of her paw bunch up, Kelsey giggling cubbishly.

      “I can do that too!”  She laughed, holding up her right foot and curling her toes, Kamchatka taking the cub’s tiny foot in her forepaws and blowing on her pads, Kelsey laughing helplessly and wriggling madly with pleasure.

       “Would you play with my hind feet Koda?”  Georgia asked.  Koda smiled and Georgia crawled to him, the black bear hugging her tightly.

       “You can’t see me, I know that,” Georgia said, “so touch me Koda, feel my face, my ears, my body, legs and paws, especially my paws!”  Koda did, Georgia giggling, then laughing as Koda touched her belly and paws, Georgia curling the toes of all four paws and pushing gently back against Koda’s forepaws as he played with her hind feet.

      “You have the most gorgeous paws Georgia,” Koda said, “all soft well defined pads and mobile toes.”

      “I can remember how it was for me,” Georgia said, “so I can imagine what it is like for you, you are just a grown up cub.”  Koda giggled and kissed the toes of Georgia’s right foot, Georgia laughing and drawing her hind feet up, grabbing them with her forepaws and wriggling madly.  Koda, getting paws on with everything Georgia did, smile broadly.

      “Thank you,” he said.  Georgia giggled:

      “No problem,” she replied, “it’s not a problem, I love your touch, and how are you to know how things are if you can’t see them, if you are then not allowed to touch them?”  Koda kissed Georgia’s nose and paws, Georgia placing herself in a position so he could do just this, wriggling in his paws, making sure he knew where she was, that he could kiss her nose, ears and paw pads.  Kelsey watched her younger sister, loving how she included Koda completely and naturally in their play.  Koda then mimicked Georgia, letting her get paws on with him as he rolled about on the floor pedalling the air with all four feet, Georgia catching his right foot in her forepaws and kissing his pads, Koda laughing merrily.

        “You two are so cute!”  Kelsey laughed.  Kamchatka, close to tears, covered her face with her paws.

      “They are truly cute together,” she sniffed.

        “Koda,” Kelsey said, “would you, can I? Please?”  Koda stopped pawing at the air leaving his left foot in Georgia’s forepaws.

       “Would I what?  Can you what?”  He asked.

     “I want to, would like to, for you to, play with my paws, to play with your paws, to do what Georgia is doing now.”  Koda smiled:

     “How if you play with Mama Kamchatka, then come to me, then Georgia, you play with mama Kamchatka while Kelsey plays with me?”  Koda suggested.  Both cubs were in agreement.

      “But Koda, what will Kelsey do now her home is gone?”  Georgia asked solemnly.

       “she’s got a home, she’s got a mama and an adopted sire, just like you have,”  Koda replied, “Georgia, Kelsey’s safe, from her nose to her toes she’s safe, as are you.”  Georgia tried to pull Koda onto his side, Koda pushing with his feet to help her.

        “Now bring Kelsey to me,” Koda said, Georgia crawling away to usher her older sister to Koda’s side.  Once she was there, and both cubs had touched Koda’s paw with theirs, he hugged them in turn, Kelsey feeling a strong hug, a hug she could melt into, one which made her want to cry with the pain of her loss, but also with joy of finding another family.

      “I must hold myself together, for now,” Kelsey told herself, but Koda, ever sensitive, was telling her different things with his touch, and Kelsey could not hold her emotions in check.  Burying her face in his shoulder, Kelsey cried for her mama.

       “It’s okay,” Koda said softly, rocking Kelsey gently in his paws, Kelsey becoming quiet after a while.

      “It’s okay to cry,” Koda said.  Kelsey sniffed slightly and rubbed her face with her paws.

       “It’s okay Kelsey,” Georgia said, “Koda doesn’t mind you crying, nor does mama Kamchatka.”  Kelsey looked at the two adult bears.

       “I love you both,” she said, “thank you for taking us in to your homes and hearts.”  Kamchatka picked Kelsey up in her paws, rolled onto her back, then hugged her tightly, Koda doing the same for Georgia, both cubs snuggling up to their new foster parents.

 

Meanwhile, Eddie and Lunar played with each other’s paws, Eddie, now much recovered, loved Luna’s touch on his pads and toes.

       “You’ve got amazing pads and gorgeous paws all round,” Lunar said to Eddie, who giggled like a cub.

        “Thanks,” he said.

 

Flock and Bella were also playing with a bear’s paws, Kojack lay on his side, unable to believe his luck or how gentle Flocke and Bella were with his hind paws.  Kojack found that his paws knew what to do to make the play interesting for his two younger friends as much as for himself.  Curling his toes made his pads bunch, which changed their stroking from circles on his taught pads to stroking his bunched pads in straight lines.  Flocke and Bella would also massage his curled toes, giggling to each other about Kojack being a big cub at heart, even though he was at least six months older than the oldest of them.

      “these are the paws of a big cub,”  Bella said, “just as sire Patch’s paws are the paws of a big cub, close your eyes, touch his paws, and you will find this too Flocke.  Flocke looked at Bella.

       “I never knew touching paws could bring friends together,” she said.

      “It can,” Bella replied, “it can also bring lost cubs to new families also.  Flocke, the eyes can lie, the mouth can lie, and the paws never lie.”

      “I suppose it’s partly that playing with paws is seen by everyone else as a little unusual, and not the done thing,”  Kojack mused, “how many times have either of you been told, “stop playing with your paws, it’s a cub’s thing that?”” Bella nodded:

       “My mama was hinting it would be right for me to stop playing with hers, and my paws when I was older,” she replied, “but, now, now it’s the done thing, it’s acceptable, and feels so acceptable.  I heard tell that Sita, dear Sita, found Jet by touching his foot while he lay frightened and lost beneath a bush.  Now it is said, though I don’t know who told me this, that Sita is to have a cub with Jet, and it will be as unusual, but as gorgeous in its own way as Sita is.  I didn’t think Sita was much to look at at first; indeed, she scared me to look at her, I’ll admit that, and am deeply ashamed of my eyes and their hatred of her visual form, for I know this is wrong.  Now I touch Sita’s paws, and find her loving and gentle, and courageous, and I want to play with her paws forever.”  Flocke sat down suddenly, her face in her paws.

       “Sita?”  She asked, “That, um, funny bear like creature with the long tail?”

      “That’s her,” Kojack replied, “well that’s how the world sees her, but not how those who use the paw know her.”

       “I’m sorry,” Flocke said, “I don’t mean to be rude, offensive or anything, I need to get paws on with her, to learn about her.”

        “Come, let’s go home,” Bella said.  Flocke followed them to the house.

 

Meanwhile, Eddie bear, having shed the waste coat he wore, for he was a circus bear and always wore one, flexed his fore and hind paws, stretching his legs like he’d never done before, or not since he could remember.  Eddie bear hugged his friend Lunar in a tight embrace, not letting her go for long, treating her like a comfort blanket.  Lunar wriggled uncomfortably as her cub moved inside her, clenching her teeth and curling her toes slightly as it made its presence felt.

        “Cub’s active today,” she panted, “carrying you might have acetated it.”

      “I was afraid of that,” Eddie said, “but my paws were so sore!”

      “I offered to carry you too, so I’m culpable also,” Lunar said, settling down as her cub ended its protest.

      “I wonder when you’ll have that cub,” Eddie mused.  Lunar touched her belly with one paw:

      “Soon, soon,” she said dreamily, “but my mate won’t be here, for he was killed when the humans came.”

      “I’ll be here though, I’ll help,” Eddie said.  Lunar hugged him:

      “Thanks,” she said, “I’d be more grateful than you can imagine.”  Eddie kissed Luna’s nose:

        “I would love to be with you while you give birth to your cub,” Eddie said.  Lunar held his paw tightly:

       “Try and get away from me,” she said, “I won’t let you go.”  Eddie laughed merrily.

       “Did anyone tell you you looked like Winnie the pooh?”  Allie said.  Eddie’s head snapped round to stare at the half grown polar bear.

        “Don’t say that!”  He snapped.

      “We were told a story of a bear that was a circus bear years ago,” Allie continued, “Winnie, the Winnie we know, was a bear that grew up with a little boy, and both worked in a circus owned by the boy’s father.  This Winnie was a bear who wore a red waste coat, just like yours.  He lived for years with his owners, working in the circus.”

      “Yes, I know that tale!”  Eddie snapped, “I was fed that rubbish too!  Indeed, I’ve been called the real Winnie the pooh, but am not the real one!  If I was I’d be eighty years plus now, and I’m only five.  Now I’m free of that life, the circus life, though only became free of performing altogether when the police set me free from that lorry.  Now I’m here, and I have a mate, and she’s got my cub, and please leave us alone!”  Allie stomped away, and Lunar looked into Eddie’s eyes.

       “You called me mate, you told her my cub was yours too,” the moon bear said, her eyes filling with tears.

       “I bent the truth to get her to piss off!”  Eddie growled.

       “since, since I lost my mate, and how good you’ve been to me in the weeks we were held after the burning of the place and before the raiding of the vans,”  Lunar said, “I’ve been attracted to you Eddie, my Winnie, my dear bear.  I know the cub isn’t yours genetically, but, but, please, let him be yours, can you? Would you? Please?”  She began to sob, please Eddie!”  Lunar yelled.  Eddie hugged the weeping mother to be:

        “I will, I will,” Eddie choked, Luna’s tears upsetting him.

       “Thank you,” Lunar sniffed, “thank you Eddie, and, and I’m sorry I called you my Winnie.”

      “Between you and me, its okay,” he said, “I don’t mind, it’s a pet name, and is said with love, not in spiteful tones.  So I am your Winnie.”  Lunar smiled and wiped her eyes with her paw.

       “Now you give generous and loving birth to your cub dear Lunar,” Eddie said.

      “I will,” Lunar replied, “but I want you there, to touch my paws, to experience the birth of our cub, to hold me while I strain and scream and paw and cry.”  Eddie hugged Lunar and touched her belly with his paw, the cub kicking back strongly.

      “Our cub’s responding to you,” Lunar said laughing, “It wants to meet you so badly.”  Eddie giggled.

      “I can’t wait to meet our cub,” he said.”

      “How about meeting its mother first?”  Lunar suggested.  Eddie laughed merrily, and began to turn his paws all over Luna’s body, from her face, to her tail, Lunar wriggling and pawing at Eddie as he examined her.

      “If, if, if I get too excited, labour might come sooner than I expect!”  Lunar laughed as she felt herself getting excited by Eddie’s touch.  Touching Luna’s upright foot, Eddie felt her curling her toes, and closing his eyes, he leant foreword and kissed her bunched pads and curled toes, Lunar laughing delightedly.

       “I love that,” she said, Eddie embracing her and kissing her nose.

       “I love you,” he replied, “I love you so much Lunar!”  Lunar snuggled up hard, kissing Eddie’s nose and paws.

       “Protect me and our cub, please Winnie,” she begged.  Eddie promised he would.

      “I will my dear Lunar,” he said.

 

Lunar curled up with Eddie, Eddie exploring her paws and belly, Lunar giggling with pleasure.

       “Now if only this cub would come soon,” she said, “if, if I try pushing maybe?”  Eddie shook his head:

        “That won’t work,” he said.  Lunar smiled as her cub shifted inside her.

       “Come out little one,” Lunar whispered, feeling her stomach contract.

 

Luna’s labour started a few hours later, the mama moon bear’s contractions making her squeal and curl her toes from the start.  Georgia and Kelsey, hearing her cries, crawled close to watch.

        “I’ve experienced this before,” Kelsey said, “but there’s something magical about it.”  Lunar paced and paced, stopping to raise a hind paw from the floor, stretch her raised leg, and wail with pain, then pace again.  Then she spotted the two cubs sitting, watching her intently.

       “We won’t get in your way mama,” Georgia said, “We won’t get under your paws, we promise.”  Lunar suddenly sat down facing Georgia and Kelsey, her huge hind feet inches from their tiny ones.  Georgia and Kelsey, hardly knowing what they were doing, or why, each took one of Luna’s hind feet in their paws and stroked her pads and tightly curled toes.  Lunar leant forward and gripped her curled toes with her forepaws, catching the cub’s forepaws with hers and squeezing hard as contractions overwhelmed her.

        “You’re crushing their paws!”  Eddie snapped at Lunar, “Georgia and Kelsey’s paws are caught by yours!”

       “It’s okay Eddie,” Kelsey said, her eyes closed so he could not see her pain, “it’s what we want, to feel Luna’s labour as much as we can.

      “Ow, ow!”  Lunar roared, releasing her hold on the paws of the two young cubs, covering her mouth with her forepaws and screaming lustily.

        “Keep stroking Luna’s hind paws Georgia,” Kelsey said softly to her sister, who was now very frightened.

       “What’s going on?”  Georgia asked.

       “Luna’s having her cub,” Kelsey said, “it’s natural for her to groan, scream and curl her toes.  It’s okay, I promise its okay.”  Lunar panted and whimpered as her cub repositioned itself and put huge pressure on her, stretching everything to allow its passage.

       Yowowowowowowow!”  aow’w’w’w’w’w’w’!  Lunar shrieked, wriggling and rocking while punching the air with her forepaws, “Ouch! Aouch!”

        “Things are moving along,” Kelsey said, “Georgia, all’s okay.  Luna’s fine, her cub is coming out soon.  Hopefully we’ll see it.  Keep stroking her left foot like you are and she’ll most likely stay with us.”

         “”let her walk about if she wants,” Kamchatka said.  Lunar, feeling as comfortable as she could be where she was, looked at mama Kamchatka.

      “The touch of the cub’s paws on mine gives me strength,” she panted, I’ll give birth here.  Georgia, Kelsey, stay with me!  Touch my feet, stroke my pads please!”

     “We Will,” they promised.  Lunar braced her hind feet against the cub’s forepaws, pushing down hard into her tail, panting and grunting, roaring and squealing as the cub surged forward.  Suddenly drawing her hind feet up, Lunar grabbed her hind paws with her fore, wriggled and yelled lustily, then rolled onto her side, thrust her left foot into Kelsey’s forepaws, Georgia watching as Lunar bore down against the cub.

      “Push Lunar Push!”  Georgia encouraged, Lunar whimpering and crying with effort as her cub’s forepaws emerged, then, breathing hard, she panted to allow the cub’s head to come into the world, her eyes closed and teeth clenched.

        “Pant lunar, pant!”  Kamchatka said, the mama moon bear opening her mouth in a roar of pain as she bore down hard against the cub.

       “Keep pushing; keep pushing down gently and strongly!”  Eddie encouraged, Lunar growling and puffing.

      “It’s coming slowly!”  She whimpered, “Oooah!”  Lunar rolled into a crawling posture, put her head down between her forepaws and bore down hard, Georgia catching the emerging cub.

       “That’s it, that’s it!”  Georgia encouraged, Lunar gasping and straining.  Kelsey, stroking the labouring mother’s right foot, felt Luna’s sweat, bunching pads and curling toes.

       “Push mama, push!”  She whispered, Lunar groaning and heaving the cub into the world.

      “Catch my cub!”  She yelled, Kelsey catching the emerging cub, then pulling on it as Lunar pushed.

       “Gently pull the cub as she pushes,” Kamchatka said, “Kelsey pulling the cub into the world as Lunar pushed, the slight traction making loner’s job a little easier.

      “That’s it, pull as I push!”  Lunar gasped.  Kelsey pulled at the cub’s forepaws, then its shoulders, then its body, then, with Lunar screaming with triumph, the cub’s hind legs and hind feet.  Suddenly, with a rush of fluid and loud squealing from Lunar, the cub surged forward and out into the world.

       oooooooooaw’w’w’w’w’w’w’w’w’w’w!  o’o’o’o’o’o’oo’w’w’w’w’w’w!”  Lunar groaned, her large cub slipping free.

       “You have a female cub!”  Kamchatka said.  Lunar, exhausted, lay down and gathered her newborn cub to her, licking it with her tongue and exploring it with tired but relieved paws.

        “I’m so glad that’s over!”  She panted, kissing the newborn cub’s nose and paws, the little cub giggling and pawing at her mother’s nose.

        “That was amazing!”  Georgia said.  Kelsey giggled:

      “That was fantastic,” she agreed.  Then she became thoughtful.

      “What?”  Lunar and Georgia asked all at once, Kelsey turning away from the happy scene, her eyes full of tears.

       “What’s wrong?”  Georgia asked, touching her sister’s paw.

       “I wonder where my twin sister is.”  She asked.

       “You’re what?”  Georgia asked.  Kelsey looked at Georgia, and then hugged her:

      “I’m not your blood sister,” she said suddenly, “your mama adopted me a week before your birth.  I made up the bit about me being a week older than you Georgia.”

       “So you lost your twin and mama, and my mama, heavily pregnant, adopted you?”  Georgia asked.  Kelsey smiled sadly and nodded:

       “The birth of Luna’s cub made me think of my lost twin,” she choked, “I wonder where she went to when the place we were in was burnt.”

       “She was saved by a lovely couple of cubs,” someone said.  Kelsey turned her head and saw her identical double crawling towards her, smiling at her.

      “So we have two Kelsey’s now?”  Georgia asked.

     “Yes,” both sisters said.

     “But how will I tell you apart?”  Georgia asked.

      “Try exploring their hind feet with your forepaws,” Lunar suggested who found she could already tell the two sisters apart easily.”

       “Can I?”  Georgia asked, the two identical twin sisters giggling and rolling onto their backs, presenting her with four hind paws to touch.  Georgia closed her eyes and explored all four hind feet, yes, her nose told her the two sisters were different, but her touch on the soles of their paws were what she was focusing on.  And yes, younger Kelsey had thinner hind feet than her older sister, who’s hole foot was thicker, both sister’s pads and toes equally interesting to Georgia, their toes curling as she stroked their pads, the two sisters giggling with pleasure.

       “We were born two minutes apart,” younger Kelsey said, “my hind feet are thin, my sister’s are fatter and bigger than mine, isn’t’ that so cute?”  Georgia giggled:

      “It is,” she said, “but who were the two cubs who stayed with you after the ransacking of the place?”  Older Kelsey asked.

     “Their names are Harvey and Kendal, Harvey’s an American bear, the other, Kendal is a very British bear with a sweet tooth, and both have very cute paws.  Harvey’s father, Sid, is a great chef, good with food.

      “Can we think of another name for Kelsey junior?”  Lunar said.

       “How about the name Chelsea, it’s like Kelsey but slightly unlike too,” she said.

      Chelsea is lovely!”  Kelsey, now known as Chelsea said, leaping to her paws and dancing about madly.  Laughing, Eddie kissed Kelsey, then Chelsea on their noses.

       “What shall we name this cub?”  Lunar asked, waving her paw at her newborn cub.

       “How about Astra,” Eddie suggested.

      “That’s so cute!”  Lunar said, kissing the cub’s nose.

       “It’s fitting, that’s for sure,” Chelsea said, “Astra, hmm, yeah, great name for a little moon bear.  Astra crawled to Chelsea who hugged her tightly.

        “You are so cute,” she said.

      “What sis cute?”  Astra asked.

       “Appealing, very, um, cute,” Lunar said smiling.

       “Oh ok,” Astra replied.

       “I found a panda!”  Samson yelled, barrelling into the room being chased by a huge male panda that jumped onto the lion’s back and rode him like a horse, much to Kamchatka’s amusement.

        “”where did you find him?  She asked.

      “Since the humans raided the Lorries, the bears have escaped into the woods, and we’re rounding them up, slowly,” Samson replied, “I found this poor chap hiding up a tree.  I talked him down, and we played, and now he’s relaxed.”

       “And riding you like a horse,” Kamchatka laughed.  The panda slid off Samson’s back, rolling onto his back and letting the lion tickle his belly and the pads of his hind feet.

      “His name’s Seri,” Samson said, “he’s so cute.”  Kamchatka laughed helplessly.

       “Samson and the bears,” she said, “what a combination.  Sero kicked the air with his paws, Lunar and Eddie laughing helplessly at his antics.

       “You big cub!”  They laughed.

 

Meanwhile, Sid and Kendal were talking to Koda.

      “I am a sheaf,” Sid said, “I have been trained by humans to cook, I used to do this fin front of thousands,”

      “In a circus?”  Koda asked. Sid nodded:

      “I wish to work for you here,” Sid said, “what do you do for food here?”

      “We have things in tins, and season food with stuff from packages,” Koda said.  Sid looked horrified and quite literally threw his paws in the air.

       “You desecrate food!”  He yelled.  Koda grinned:

       “We get long life stuff in tins,” Koda said.

      “I show you how to cook proper food,” Sid said, “I will give this community good food every day.  Give me the food and I will do the rest.”  Koda smiled:

       “You can have a job in the kitchen,” he said, “Bramble will be glad of that job taken off her paws.”  Sid looked at Kendal:

       “But he’s a cub, do you have cubs here?”  Koda laughed:

       “We do,” he said, shouting to Alaska, who ran in, hugged Kendal and lifted him off his feet, swinging him round in a circle while pivoting on her hind paws, something the cub hugely enjoyed.

      “Now I’m gonna introduce you to other cubs.”  She said, placing him on his feet again, Kendal laughing at her antics.

       “I’m gonna love this place,” he said.  Alaska kissed his nose, and when Kendal rolled onto his back and kicked the air with his hind feet with the joy of it all, she kissed his pads too, the cub squealing with laughter and delight.

       “I like you,” he said.  Alaska giggled, but found her wishing she’d given birth to Kendal.  Closing her eyes, she ran her paws all over the cub, imagining giving birth to him.

       “Getting bready Alaska?”  Spits asked, kissing his mate’s ear:

      “Yeah, too right,” Alaska said, letting Kendal go.  Kendal thrust his right foot into Alaska’s forepaws, Spits and Alaska laughing and Alaska kissing his pads and toes, Kendal laughing merrily.

       “You two are lovely,” Kendal said.

 

Meanwhile, Sita was wildly excited after jet had given her a detailed description of Astra’s birth, actually acting out what was happening, which Sita found most enlightening.  It seemed Jet was quite comfortable with acting the part of a labouring mother, adopting the positions she did, grabbing his paws, then showing Sita, by lying on the floor and allowing her to touch parts of his body to show her how much of Astra he could see at every straining effort Lunar made to deliver her cub.  This way, Sita got as close as she could to actually being at the birth of the cub.  Later that day, Sita was dozing after a good meal, when she felt a tiny form snuggle up to her.

        “Sita doesn’t want you there Astra!”  Lunar whispered, trying to drag her cub away.

       “You’ve woken her now,” Lunar hissed to her cub, which’d been exploring and meeting members of the community, though she’d never as yet come across a sleeping creature.  Sita instinctively reached out with her forepaws and embraced the warm bundle of fur, hugging it to her with gentle but powerful paws.  Lunar looked at Sita, who was now surfacing, and beginning to explore Astra in detail, the cub loving every minute.  Lunar padded away to talk to jet, and when she returned she sent Astros to jet, then sat beside Sita and took her paw.

        “So you got the full explanation of the birth of little Astra,” the mama moon bear said.

       “I did,” Sita said softly, “well as fuller description and explanation as jet could give without me actually getting paws on with you.”  Lunar grinned, shuffled round, gave Sita her right foot, and curled her toes, Sita smiling and kissing the mama bear’s pads and toes.

        “Now you know how my hind paw feels when I curl my toes,” Lunar said.  Sita giggled and stroked Luna’s pads in straight lines, the moon bear slowly uncurling her toes.

      “Now, if I stroke your pads in circles?”  Sita asked, fitting actions to words, Lunar giggling cubbishly:

       “My toes curl!”  She laughed.  Sita smiled and kissed her nose.

       “Can I have some of that fun?”  Astra asked crawling over to Lunar and Sita, having spent time with Jet, whom she loved dearly already.        

        “Yes, come,” Sita said, Astra thrusting her right hind paw into Sita’s forepaws.  Sita stroked the cub’s hind paw, Astra laughing and wriggling madly.

       “I love your touch!”  She yelled.  Lunar kissed Sita’s and Astra’s noses, the two moon bears giggling with pleasure and giving her their forepaws to hold in hers.

      “Shall we play with Sita’s paws?”  Lunar asked her cub.

      “Let’s!”  Astra laughed, Sita smiling:

      “The question should be, does Sita want you to play with her paws?”  Sita asked.

       “Oh please, please!”  Astra and Lunar begged.  Sita and Jet laughed merrily at their tone.

       “Two cubs!”  They laughed.

       “I love Sita’s paws,” jet said, “they’re so soft, so expressive, and so cute.  She’s even re-enacted a cubbing for me, as she thinks she’ll cope when her cub’s being born, and she was so cute.”  Sita giggled:

      “I loved screaming my head off,” she said, “curling my toes and kicking the air felt great, as did holding tightly onto you Jet while screaming and yelling loud enough to burst our ears.”  Jet giggled and hugged Sita.

       “Sita was so cute when she pretended to have her cub,” jet said.  Sita smiled:

       “I can’t wait to do it for real,” she said, “I want to meet our cub Jet.”  Jet kissed her nose.

 

Meanwhile, Chelsea and Kelsey played with each other’s paws, Georgia playing with Kojack’s hind paws, while he played with hers.

       “You’ve got lovely smoother pads,” Georgia said.

      “Your pads are well defined,” Kojack replied, “yes, a well padded sole pad, and Joy of joys!  Mobile toes! Such cute toes!”  Georgia laughed helplessly, tightly curling her cute toes.

      “Your pads bunch up cutely too!”  Kojack replied, massaging Georgia’s smaller paw.  Georgia bounced about on her backside, giggling cubbishly and wiggling the toes of both hind feet, Kojack laughing at her antics.  Georgia grabbed Kojack’s right hind paw in her forepaws, the larger male bear resting his right forepaw on the pads of her left foot, curling the toes of his forepaw around her hind and pressing his paw against the sole of her foot.  Georgia pressed back hard against his right forepaw with her left foot, pressing her toes into the pads of Kojack’s right forepaw.  With his left forepaw, Kojack hugged Georgia, she was so small he could just about hug her comfortably, the little cub laughing and hugging Kojack’s right foot in her forepaws as a sign of her affection for him.

      “I love your touch, I love your touch!”  Georgia laughed.

      “I like well defined and padded paws,” Kojack said, tracing the pads of Georgia’s left foot with the toes of his right forepaw, Georgia giggling and trying not to curl her toes.

       “I like big flat soled paws,” Georgia said, tracing Kojack’s pads, the male bear curling his toes slightly, Georgia running the toes of her right forepaw down the now wrinkled skin on the sole of Kojack’s left foot.

       “You’ve got cub’s hind feet,” Georgia said.  Kojack giggled:

       “I know,” he replied, “so that is maybe why you’re paws and mine are so attracted?”  Georgia smiled:

       “I like the way your fur falls when you crawl,”  Kojack replied, “Georgia, I can’t help wanting to stroke your fore and hind paws while you’re crawling, you’re so cute!”  Georgia giggled delightedly.

       “I’m so glad you like my fur and paws,” she said.

       “I like your face too,” Kojack said quickly.

      “But if my face became changed somehow,”  Georgia said, “for I’ve seen changed faces where the owner of that face had no choice, my paws would still communicate who I was, even if I could not smile or open my eyes any more.”  Kojack nodded:

        “Targon’s face, it’s disfigured, but she’s a lovely bear,” he said, “her paws tell you that.”  Georgia smiled and kissed her friend’s nose.

       “We love first by the paw,” she said, “I was taught that as a cub only five days old.”  Kojack smiled and nodded.

     “Would you pick up my right foot in your forepaws and explore it with your paws?”  Georgia asked Kojack.  Kojack did as she asked, Georgia curling her toes with pleasure as he stroked her pads.

      “Your pads are soft and toes playful,” Kojack said, Georgia giggling cubbishly.

        “I’m glad you love my paws,” she said, “for I love yours so much, really, um, I love their owner too.”

      “I love the owner of this paw also,”  Kojack said kissing her right hind paw,, “and this paw,”  he added picking up her left foot and briefly kissing her toes, “and this paw,”  Kojack said,” grabbing her left forepaw, “and this one too,”  he concluded, grabbing her right forepaw, Georgia laughing  while wriggling with pleasure and excitement.

       “What about Flocke?”  Georgia asked.  Kojack grinned:

      “She is my cubhood friend,” he said, Bella is too.  But you Georgia, I know we’re six months apart, but I love you from nose to toes in a different way to how I love them.”  Georgia laughed.

      “Same for me about you,” she said.

 

Sita and Jet lay together, Sita keen to discuss the birth of their cub.

      “I don’t want pain relief,” she said, “I want to feel everything Jet.

      “That’s understandable,” jet replied, “you can’t see the birth of your cub, so you have to feel it.”  Sita nodded.

      “I’m going to relax,” she said, “not push unless I really have to, so I can feel the cub’s emergence into the world with every part of my body.  I want to catch the cub in my forepaws as it emerges, feel the progress as I push and everything to do with all that.”

      “If the cub you described so eloquently to me is the one we will have, you will feel every bit of its birth from forepaws to hind,” Jet replied.

       “I want to feel every paw, the cub’s head, body, legs and even the passage of its pads as they slide from me on the soles of the cub’s paws.  I heard tell Petra felt the pads of Aslan’s hind feet emerging as she laboured, and has never forgotten the pain, nor the thrill of that time, even though she’s had Simba after Aslan, who’s paws were not so large as Aslan’s, or so I have been told.”

       “So you want your cub’s feet to become stuck inside you so you can feel their passage into the world?”  Haimati asked, having overheard Sita’s words as she padded past.

        “I don’t want the cub stuck,” Sita replied civilly, “I just want to feel the paws passing out of me into the world that is all.”

       “You will feel all you want Sita, I’m sure of that,” Sire Patch said, padding near, and then up to Sita, hugging her tightly.

       “Did you feel my birth?”  Sita asked.

       “I did, every bit of it, every whisker, every pad, everything, and it was wonderful,” Sire Patch replied.

       “Even if I have to push specially for each paw, I will,” Sita replied, “I want to feel my cub’s passage into the world, I must!”

       “You will, have no fear of that,” Patch replied.

       “Why does she want no pain relief?”  Haimati asked patch when they were well out of earshot of Sita.

      “If Sita has pain relief, she won’t even realise she’s had a cub until the labour is over,” Patch replied, “you can see the birth of your cubs, she cannot.  If I give you pain relief, you can see the emergence of your cub, and Sita cannot.  She has to feel everything, and wants to also.  I have studied Petra’s labours and Kamchatka’s too, they were without pain relief and their recoveries and contentment with their birth experiences were very noticeable.  Mamas treasure their labours here Haimati.  I know yours with Sita was not so good, but aren’t there parts you remember which were exciting?”

         “The final big push, that was exhilarating,” Haimati admitted, “it hurt, how it hurt! But it was fantastic!  I felt Sita’s body full in me, then pass out of me, and it was lovely!”  Patch smiled:

      “Same here,” he said.

 

Meanwhile, back with Kojack and Georgia, the two cubs were playing merrily together, Georgia now chasing Kojack’s hind paws, Kojack laughing helplessly when she got hold of them and tickled his pads and toes.

      “I love watching you two,” Samson said, the two bears looking over at the huge lion who had been watching them with shining eyes for the last two hours.

      “Don’t let me put you off your play,” Samson said, “play is cute.”

       Georgia has such beautiful paws Samson,” Kojack said.

       “Kojack has cute paws too!”  Georgia added, kissing her friend on his nose.

        “To play with your paws is to play with the paws of an angel,” Kojack said, Georgia laughing merrily at his words, but Samson saw how deeply they affected her, seeing her look at Kojack with deep love, and this love was deeper than sexual desire, for neither bear was ready for that.  Georgia loved Kojack deeply, from his nose to his toes she loved him with all she had, and when Kojack played with Georgia’s paws, Samson could see he loved her deeply also.

      “Do you want to get paws on with my paws Samson?”  Georgia asked.  Samson indeed had wanted to do that, to touch Georgia with his paws, to touch her luxurious fur, but he dared not ask it of her.

      “I would like to, if, if it’s not too much to ask,” the lion stammered, looking very ashamed of wanting such a thing.

       “Here are my paws!”  Georgia laughed, lying down on her back in front of Samson and presenting him with all four paws.  Samson gazed down at the female bear cub, taking her in from nose to paw pads.  He touched her nose with his, then breathed on her fur to lift it, Georgia giggling and wriggling with delight as his breath tickled her.

        “Breathe on my pads, on my pads!”  She pleaded.  Samson did, Georgia giggling delightedly.

      “I love that,” she said unnecessarily, though it was nice to hear.  Samson took her right foot in his forepaws and traced her pads and toes, Georgia’s eyes shining while she fought to stop her toes curling with pleasure.

      “Let those toes curl,” Samson said, feeling her internal battle.

       “I will in a minute,”  Georgia said, finally giving up the struggle and letting her toes curl tightly, Samson blowing on her bunched pads, Georgia laughing helplessly.

        “You are a bear!”  She said.

      “Samson desperately wants to be a bear,” Theo said softly, “I wonder if the spirits would consider such a transformation.”  Samson looked into his son’s face.

      “Do you think they would?”  Samson asked his eyes more lonely than Theo had ever seen them.

      “They won’t make the same mistake twice,” Tornassuk said.

       “But, but I’ve wanted to be a bear since I was a cub!”  Samson choked.

       “I know Sammy,” Georgia said softly.

       “Noone calls him Sammy without permission!”  Pakshalika snapped, having padded in to watch her mate playing with the bear cubs.

      “She has permission,” Samson sobbed.

        “You say the spirits would not make the same mistake twice?”  Georgia asked Tornassuk.

       “We knew a female human once, who was turned into a bear by the spirits, but she did dreadful things to the cubs she had,” Tornassuk replied, “granted, we’d be turning a lion into a bear, but that is okay.  The spirits created Sita after all, so turning Samson into a bear would not be difficult.”  Samson, his face now buried in his paws, roared with pain and misery.

       “I know I cannot be a bear,” he sniffed, “I’m a lion, and I always will be a lion.  I can’t hope, can’t even dream of it, for if I dream, it tears me apart.  Plus I have my cubs and my mate.  I will love them dearly whatever form I am.  For am I not the sire of my cubs and mate to Pakshalika in spirit?  I wish to be a bear from my nose to my toes!  My tail doesn’t matter, as I won’t have half of that when I’m a bear.”

        “Come,” Tornassuk said, Samson padding to him.  Tornassuk took Samson’s paw.

        Georgia felt something in your paw,” Tornassuk said, and I feel it too.”

       “How come Theo never felt it or Rowena before him?”  Pakshalika asked.

       “Because Samson was not ready until now,” Tornassuk replied, “when a cub tells him he’s a bear, then he’s a bear.  If a cub who knows how to love by the paw finds a bear inside the body of a lion, then that lion is a bear.  Georgia knows not what a lion is, though she knows Samson is no bear.  For he is not like her in body shape.  What he can be is like her in spirit, and she knows she’s met a fellow ursine.  Samson has been, unlike jess before him, identified from his core as a bear.”  Samson looked at Pakshalika’s face, and then at the faces of his cubs, little Sammy and Fleur, who’d padded in.

       “Follow your paws,” both cubs said.  Samson padded away, and then turned sharply back to the group.

        “I am sure,” he said, “I am positive I am not in the right body.”

        “Go Samson, go and assume your rightful form,” Pakshalika said.  Samson padded away, Georgia looking at the tigress and her cubs.

       “You will love him however he looks,” she said.  Pakshalika took Georgia’s right foot in her forepaws.

      “Yes,” Georgia said without Pakshalika uttering a word, “I am sure Samson’s rightful form is that of a bear.”

        I know it is too,” someone said, Pakshalika and Georgia looking round to see a huge brown bear with tawny fur and a shaggy coat, with deep, peaceful eyes.

        “Samson?”  Pakshalika asked.  The bear sat down beside the tigress and hugged her.

      “You tell me,” he said.

       “You are Samson, you are my love!”  Pakshalika sobbed.

      “I am,” Samson said kissing her nose.

       “You’re at peace now,” Pakshalika said softly, “Sammy, you’re at peace now.”

      “I am very agreeable with your change of form dear friend,” someone said.  Samson turned his head and found ancient Theo sitting watching him.

       “You’ve lost your magnificent lion’s roar,” Petra said padding in.

       “If the sum of my losses is only my roar I’ll be happy with my lot indeed,” Samson replied, smiling at the lioness.

       “This was all very fast,” Petra mewed.

      “Not really

,” Tornassuk replied, “I’ve been in talks with the spirits and with Samson ver. a long time.  They told me that, if ever a bear, who knew not of Samson, or of what he is in physical form, told him he was a bear, then a bear he would become, for that bear took Samson’s paw in ignorance of what he was before, and will only feel what he is.  Samson’s paw was that of a bear, not of a lion.  For Samson is a bear in spirit.  Eohippus changed a true spirited bear in a lion’s body into that which he truly is.  Like Koda was once human.  Though no one would dare accuse Koda of being human now.”  Samson stretched his back, and then his paws, and then got to his feet.

       “Try playing with your right foot,” Pakshalika said.  Samson smiled and did just what she suggested.

       “I love that!”  He exclaimed.

       I knew you would,” Tornassuk replied.

       “How come no one saw Samson going for the conferences with Tornassuk and the spirits?”  Petra asked.

         “It was in secret,” Tornassuk replied, “Samson didn’t know when he was to be called to counsel, but called he was, and now he’s a fully fledged bear.”

       “So you stole away during the night?”  Pakshalika asked.

      “In spirit I did,” Samson replied, “in body I did not.”

       “Who else knew of your impending transformation?”  Fleur asked Samson.

       “Who do you think?”  Samson asked.

       “Sire patch?”  Sammy asked.  Samson, now a bear, smiled:

       “He knew,” the bear replied, “Patch knew.”

     “Can I take your paw again Samson?”  Georgia asked.  Samson gave her his right forepaw, Georgia smiling broadly:

     “He’s at peace now,” she said.

       “How did you know my name was Samson?”  Samson asked.  Georgia giggled:

      Kamchatka told us about you, she waved a paw at you, and said, “that is Samson, though she did not tell me what you were, other than your name was Samson.  Now you turn into a bear like me, I know you were not a bear in form, though you are in spirit.”

      “My physical self was a lion,” Samson replied, “now though, I am a bear, a glorious bear!”  Samson rested the heel of his left foot on the ankle of his right hind leg, and played with the toes of his left foot, Georgia laughing at his antics.

       “You love playing with your paws,” she said.  Samson looked down at his forepaws playing with his hind.

       “I’ve been longing to play with my hind feet like this ever since I was a cub,” he said, “now I can, and for that I am very grateful.”  Georgia crawled so she could look at the pads on Samson’s hind feet.  Samson smiled and showed her his left foot, Georgia kissing his pads and then stroking them with the toes of her own right foot, Samson giggling cubbishly.

      “I love that,” he said.  Georgia grabbed Samson’s right foot kissed his toes, played with them, and stroked his pads.

       “Yes it’s real,” Samson said, “I’m no lion dressed up as a bear.”  Georgia crawled into Samson’s lap, the shaggy brown bear hugging her tightly in his forepaws, his eyes filling with tears.

       “Thank you,” he said two words which were more heartfelt than any others he’d used in his whole life to date.

       “When you curl your toes, your paw is so, so, so very cute!”  Georgia exclaimed.  Samson grinned.

      “I love my body from my nose to my toes, I’m comfortable in it now,” Samson replied, “I am not ashamed of my paws, of my fur, or of my face any more.”  Kojack crawled to Samson’s left hind paw and took it in his forepaws, Samson pressing his pads into the Kodiak bear’s forepaws.

        “You have playful paws Sammy,” Kojack said.  Samson curled his toes and bounced about on his backside, Kojack laughing merrily.

       “I love my body now,” Samson said.  Samson crawled about a bit, and then looked at his hind feet in an angled mirror.  Flexing his toes, he watched as his pads bunched and relaxed.

        “I love these paws!”  He laughed.  Samson had smooth pads, a cub’s paws they were, and he knew it.

      “My pads are soft,” he said, rolling into a sitting position and stroking the relaxed pads and toes of his left hind paw.  Curling the toes of that foot, Samson explored bunched pads and curled toes with his forepaws, smiling at what they told him.

     “Now lie on your back and kick with those hind feet,” Tornassuk said, “Samson, try it out, go on.”  Samson did, kicking hard at the air with his hind paws, his whole body involved with this cubbish behaviour, Samson laughing with delight.

      “This is what I’ve always wanted to do!”  He said.  Samson crawled around the lie up, Tornassuk following him by crawling also, then, touching the pads of Samson’s right foot with his paw.  Samson gasped with delight, feeling his toes curling spontaneously.

        Oooah! Wow!”  He exclaimed.

 

Meanwhile, Sita and Jet were discussing the birth of their cub.

       “When I go into fierce labour with contractions and all,” Sita said, “I’ll probably roar with pain like a bear, and mew with discomfort like a tigress.”

       “You know both languages,” jet replied.

     “Three really,” Sita said, “leonine, leonine, and ursine.  So I could roar like a bear or a lion, and mew like a tigress when things get really painful.”

      “You could also give birth to whatever cubs you wanted,” jet said, “due to your lineage, you could give birth to a bear, to a tiger, or a lion.”

       “Anything’s possible,” Sita replied, “but what I do know is that I will love my cubs, regardless of what they look like.”  Jet smiled:

       “I love you from nose to paws,” he said.  Sita giggled:

      “I love you the same too,” she said.

 

Meanwhile, Tommy and Sarafina were growing very close.  The lioness, now looking for a mate, and Tommy, now wanting a mate, met in the wood, and mated in the wood there and then.  Sarafina, knowing Pakshalika would endorse her choice if Tommy’s and her paws were compatible, which they were, walked away from the mating very happy indeed.

 

 

In Petra’s lie up, a lioness was giving noisy birth to her cub.  Imvula, for that was the lionesses’ name, roared and growled her discomfort and pain, after Petra had touched her paw and she’d lost control completely, crying like a cub, then screaming and roaring like a mother giving birth.  Pawing at the air, she roared and growled as she coped with contractions, then wailed and grunted as she pushed down hard, Petra encouraging Imvula to push with all her strength.

        “I am pushing; I’m pushing so bloody hard!”  Imvula roared, “But it’s hard, it hurts, it hurts me! Ow! Ow! Oooooooow’w’w’w’w’w’w!”  Petra watched as Imvula laboured hard, furiously kicking the air with all four paws between contractions, then bracing her paws and curling her toes, clenching her teeth and closing her eyes as she was forced to push hard down into her tail.

      “Push, push push push,” Petra said softly, Imvula pushing down hard, the older lioness’s encouragement helping her.

       “It’s coming, the cub’s coming, coming!”  Imvula roared.

     “Okay, pant, pant pant pant,” Petra said gently.  Imvula, opening her eyes and relaxing her paws, panted, how she panted, then whimpering, she growled, closing her eyes and wriggling, then bearing down hard again, wailing:

       “The cub’s slipping into the world, I can feel this cub!  I feel this cub so much!”

      “Push Imvula, push push push push push,” Petra encouraged as the lioness prolonged the contractions for as long as she could with roaring and growling,screaming and panting while pedalling with all four paws.

        “Your encouragement is welcome, very welcome!”  Imvula gasped.  Then, screwing up her face, she bore down with a yell which shook the air, Petra yelling to her to:

       “Push push push push push, now pant, pant pant pant pant.  That’s it!  Now push push push push push, and, pant, and push push push push push!”  Imvula fitted actions to commands and with Petra wriggling and rocking with Imvula , both lionesses seemed to labour together.

       “Cub’s nearly here now, one more little push, come on Imvula, push!”  Petra said, Imvula squealing with effort and pain as she bore down hard.

      “That’s it, that’s done it!  You’ve brought a new life into the world!  Well done mama!”  Petra said hugging Imvula, who cried into her fur.

       “Who’s this little one?”  Theo asked, padding in softly.  Imvula Embraced her cub and looked at Theo through a haze of discomfort:

        “I’m Imvula,” she said, and Petra helped me have my cub.”  Theo looked down at the wet little bundle, Imvula too exhausted to clean it up.  Theo licked the cub dry, and then Imvula embraced it once more, feeding it for the first time.

        “You seem to know her?”  Petra asked.

       “I met Imvula in the wood and directed her here; she was very much in labour.”  Petra smiled:

       “Imvula crawled in to the house, screaming and begging,” Petra mewed.  Theo smiled at Imvula and her newborn female cub.

       “What would you like to call this little one?”  Theo asked, waving his paw at the newborn cub.

      “Whose cub is she?”  Petra asked, looking hard at Theo.

       “She’s mine,” Aslan said, padding in.  “Imvula’s a tawny lioness from the safari park where Nuru and tigress Tess came from.  I roamed there and met her, and we mated, and now she’s come here to give birth to her cub, as she’s a TAWNEY lioness, and the safari pride didn’t want her to give birth to white cubs, being a tawny pride and all.  So I invited her here.”

       “Why couldn’t you tell me about you becoming a sire?”  Petra asked.  Aslan looked downcast.

        “I was afraid that if you knew too soon you’d be angry with me and instruct me to abort the cub,” Aslan said, “now, now you can’t, really.”

       “If you want to mate with a tawny lioness, then that’s your doing Aslan, and your business.  Now though, all this subterfuge makes me wonder if Imvula’s cub is really yours at all, or Theo’s?”  Aslan hid his head.

        “Imvula’s my mate,” he whimpered.

       “Congratulations little brother,” Theo said.  Aslan looked at the newborn cub and then sat down heavily.

        “Oh for Eohippus sake,” he moaned.

       “You now have a family Aslan,” Theo said.  Aslan, close to tears, swallowed hard.

       “I never knew labour was like that,” he choked, “all that screaming and roaring, all that effort!”

         “It’s hard,” Theo mewed, “Petra had a hard job delivering you, and Imvula delivering your cub.  Look at her paws!  They’re gigantic!”  Theo was right; the newborn cub had a huge head and huge feet.

       “She looks like Aslan did when he was newborn,” Petra thought, her memories of his birth making her curl her toes and squirm with memories.

       Petra can still feel your birth inside her,” Theo said to Aslan.

      “It was a long and hard birth,” he replied, “for that I cannot be blamed, but for Imvula’s pain I can be, I’m sorry Imvula love.”  Imvula smiled broadly.

       “It’s okay, now it’s okay,” she said.  Petra looked at her two sons.

       “Aslan sired the cub, and Theo licked her dry,” she said, “so who’s taking responsibility with Imvula for the cub’s upbringing?”

       “Aslan is,” Theo replied, “I cleaned the cub because Imvula could not do it then, but she’s feeding her now.”

       “What shall we call the cub?”  Aslan asked.

       “How about Amafu?”  Aslan asked.  Theo grinned:

       “She’s one big cub,” he said.  Aslan looked at the newborn cub.

      “I love her,” he said.  Imvula smiled and hugged her cub tenderly.  Samson, now ursine, padded into the lie up, drawn by the sound of the labour which he’d heard from the great room.

      “Hello Samson,” Petra said, rising to her feet, embracing the massive Kodiak brown bear.

      “My friend, Samson,” Petra mewed to Imvula, who grinned:

       “The lion with the spirit of a bear, and blessing of bear’s to become one with them,” she said.  Samson smiled with deep pleasure.

       “How do you know of that?”  Petra asked, “Imvula, it’s only known to us while you were in labour, that Samson has achieved his spiritual peace.”

      “Aslan told me of his sire’s desire to be a bear,” Imvula replied, “He told me I’d see some strange things here.  But a lion turning into a bear doesn’t seem strange to me.  It’s what Samson wants more deeply than I wanted to push little Amafu into the world, and I wanted that as badly as I have wanted anything in the world.” Samson bowed his head to Imvula, who kissed his nose and paws.

      “I will protect you and your cub, I promise,” Samson said softly to Imvula, who let Samson hold little Amafu in his paws and then roll over onto his back to hug her like a mama bear would.

       “Who is this?”  The little cub with the big paws mewed.

     “This is Samson, he’s a great friend,” Imvula said.  Samson wept with joy at the birth of a new cub.  Amafu wiped Samson’s eyes with her paws, this causing the bear to cry even more.

       “He’s so soppy,” Petra said with genuine affection.  Samson gave Amafu to Aslan, then sat down and played with Imvula’s paws, the lioness giggling and pawing at Samson’s forepaws.  Then she grabbed his right foot with both forepaws and kissed his pads.

        “You big softy!”  Samson laughed, Imvula looking into his face.

       “I know now that if one is true to their spirit, they will be at peace,” she said.  Samson kissed Imvula’s nose and paws, smelling her sweat and feeling her tense muscles which told of her hours of struggle to give birth to Amafu.

       “Labour was painful and hard,” Imvula said.  Samson nodded:

       “I have heard it is,” he said.

        “It is,” Imvula replied, “though I would go through it all again if I had to.  Panting and roaring felt lovely, curling my toes was reassuring, and pushing, pushing was horrendous, but rewarding when I felt little Amafu moving into the world, then, then,” Imvula’s forepaws tightened around Samson’s right foot as she thought of her labour, “that last push, that last opening up of things, that last roar, the pain, the exhilaration, the effort of pushing Amafu’s body into the world with one last big squeeze, was so amazing!”  Samson grinned hugely.

      “I watched the birth of your cub, and it was amazing,” Samson replied.

      “I tried to have Amafu at the park,” Imvula said, “but there is only so long labour looks like a tummy ache.  One of the other lionesses blew the whistle on me, and I was forced to run while in labour, climb a fence and run!  Aslan had told me where the community was, so I ran for here, stopping every now and again to roar and cry with contractions.  I made it, Eohippus knows how, and Theo helped me into the house.  I still had an hour of screaming and roaring to endure before Amafu was born though, and that hour was helped pass by the comforting presence and paws of a lovely white lioness.”  Samson grinned:

       Petra’s lovely,” he said.  Aslan looked at Samson.

       “So that’s why I have huge paws!”  He mewed waving his paw at Samson’s paws.

       “I did always tell you that mating with Samson was like hugging a huge cuddly bear didn’t I Aslan?”  Petra asked.  Aslan grinned.

       “Look at the paws on this lovely cub!”  Theo said, holding up Amafu’s right forepaw for everyone to examine, as the cub was lying on her back while her mother played with her hind feet.

       “I know, cute aren’t they,” Imvula said.  Theo grinned and kissed Amafu’s nose.

       “I feel safe with all these voices and warm paws,” Amafu said.

 

Georgia crawled to Koda’s lie up.  Not yet on her paws, she found crawling easier.  Koda met Georgia and embraced her tightly.

      “Would you play with my paws?”  Georgia asked.  Koda led Georgia into the lie up, and she saw another cub playing with Kamchatka, a cub she’d never met before.

       “What’s her name?”  Georgia asked.

      “Esta,” Koda replied.  Kamchatka tickled the pads of Esta’s left foot, the cub laughing helplessly.

      “I love her touch!”  Kamchatka said, “Esta’s a gorgeous cub, and her family is lost like many of the bears are here.  We have room for her now, room for more cubs, for I have sad news about two bears which are much loved by the community.”  Koda turned to Nanuq Junior who’d padded into the room, his eyes full of sorrow.

       “My mama and sire,” he said with gravity, “they wandered into the wood, and both of them, and they made their journey together.”  Koda was shocked, his eyes wide and mouth dry:

      “What?”  He asked.  Nanuq junior took Koda’s paw in his.

       “They wished to go of a time of their choosing,” he said, “it’s their business, it’s their choke, and it’s their lives.”  Koda hugged Nanuq.

       “You are being brave my dear bear,” he said.  Nanuq smiled sadly:

        “I was with them at the end,” he said, “I said goodbye to them and then they took their leave of the community before going into the wood.  Lying down, they embraced each other close.  I returned an hour later, and they had both passed over the bridge.”  Koda kissed Nanuq’s nose.

       “I have done all my grieving,” Nanuq said, “now I am setting my paws to following my spirit, which commands me to look after lost cubs.  Esta is my responsibility now.”  Koda kissed Nanuq’s nose.

      “Were Brunetta and Nanuq senior unwell?”  Esta asked.

       “No, their time had come, so they set their paws on a path to a place where their earthly bodies could not follow them.”  Esta looked into Nanuq’s face.

       “You are very calm about it,” she said, “losing both my parents would upset me for ages.”

       “They prepared me for their journey, and I was sad to hear of their leaving, but I understand why they left this world,” the polar bear replied, “it is my job now to consider others as my sire did.  To be as gentle and caring as he was, to be truthful to his work, and as gentle as he was.”

     “I know you can continue his gentility and love for cubs,” Esta said.  Nanuq smiled and kissed the cub’s nose.

        “I am sorry for you losing your parents,” Esta said.  “My sire is still here, his name is Morris, and my mama is named Twinkle.”  Nanuq kissed Esta’s nose and paws.

      “Your paws are lovely,” Nanuq said.  Esta giggled with undisguised delight.

       “I love you playing with my paws,” she said.  Nanuq played with Esta’s right foot, tracing her pads and counting her toes.  He then got some plasticine, which Koda had introduced him to, and pressed Esta’s right foot into the soft plasticine, Esta giggling at the feel of the plasticine on the sole of her foot.

       “Can Me pres your paws into plasticine,” She asked.  Nanuq laughed and rolled out enough plasticine to press his fore and hind paws into.

      “Let’s play with this material,” Nanuq said, “this is very good play for cubs.”  Koda got a bucket of plasticine and put it in front of Nanuq.

      “Now let’s make casts of our paws,” Nanuq said.  Koda went first, rolling out plasticine with a rolling pin, and then pressing his fore and hind feet into it.  Then he got plaster of Paris and poured it into the casts, letting it set and then pressing his paw into ink and marking the underside of the cast with a paw print.

      What are you doing?”  Kamchatka asked hours later, after her, Esta and Nanuq had taken casts of their paws in plasticine.  Koda grinned and got more plaster of Paris filling up the moulds and then letting them set.

       “I’m creating paw prints to sell,” Koda said, “how would it be if we could use the website which broadcasts our daily lives from the cameras to sell plaster casts of our paws?”  Kamchatka laughed merrily.

     “Sounds good,” she said.

     “Just be careful of the plaster though,” Koda said, “it’s hot when hardening, but we can press paws into plaster to order, then fill the moulds with plaster and let it set.”  Kamchatka smiled:

     “Whose paws would be most popular?”  She asked.

       “Let’s put the suggestion up on the website and see if it gets taken up,” Koda said.  Koda sat in front of the computer and banged at the keyboard with his paws, and then Kamchatka saw the new page go into cyberspace.  Soon emails came in asking about plaster casts of paws.  Kamchatka laughed helplessly at the amount of emails.  Koda set the price at two pounds a cast postage and packing included, and this seemed acceptable.  Some emailer asked for discounts for bulk orders, but Koda politely declined, stating that the community needed to eat and maintain the house and woods.  Five days later, Koda called a meeting of the whole community, explaining the new venture to them.

      “So all we have to do is press our paws into this plasticine, and then people buy the plaster casts of our paw prints?”  Sita asked.

      “Yes,” Koda replied, “you can also press your paw into ink to mark the base of the cast, or I will just stick a computer generated label on the cast, rap it up in tissue, pack it up and send it out to our public.  You wouldn’t believe the amounts of people who have still pictures of us on their desktops and videos of the births of cubs and of their favourite families.  We’re well known on the net you know.  I let the public into our lives virtually, so they do not come here and disturb us.  The live feeds from the cameras are charged at ten pounds a month for twenty four hour a day viewing.  We are being watched all the time.”  Sita thought about this for a bit.

       “So we’re watched while giving birth, feeding our cubs, playing, arguing, and mating?”  She asked.

      “Where there are Cctv cameras, then yes,” Koda said.

       “But that’s private stuff!”  Sita said.

      “If we don’t let them in somehow, they’ll come to our house for real,” Koda replied, “this community is well known, and what will Jess now having been part of it, the world knows of us even more.  We need to feed their curiosity somehow.  I promise you, no human will be allowed into the house, but they can watch online and buy plaster paw prints.  Apart from that, we carry on life as normal.”

       “If we don’t let them see us, we don’t eat,” patch said, “the humans pay to watch us, to find out about us, to marvel at our community, to adore our cubs from afar.  It’s what humans do when they’re bored.  They watch animals on TV.  I wouldn’t worry about them.”

 

Meanwhile, Jess, in her children’s home, watched the meeting on the internet.

        “I miss them so much,” she thought, but I’m no longer part of their lives, though I can watch, I can buy plaster paw prints of my favourite community members.”  She placed an order on line, asking mama Kamchatka if she’d make a cast of her forepaws for her.

 

Mama Kamchatka saw the email, and with the aid of Koda’s special screen reader, she heard Jess’s request.

      “So she’s still out there,” the mama bear said.

      “Yes mama,” Koda said.  Kamchatka was in two minds whether to grant jess’s request.

       “I don’t’ want to give her any more of me,” she said, “and a paw print is too much.”

      “I can write back and tell her no,” Koda said.

      “No Koda,” Kamchatka replied, “let me record a message to her, I’ll speak to her, explain my choice.”  So Koda set a microphone in front of Kamchatka and dialled jess up on an internet telephone, connecting the mama bear to Jess.

      “Hello?”  Jess asked excitedly, seeing the video of Kamchatka sitting in front of Koda’s computer.

      “I wanted to explain my refusal to grant your request for a set of paw prints from me,” Kamchatka said.

      “Mama,” jess replied, “I understand if you wish to refuse.  After what I did to you and your family, I am not surprised you refuse.  Though I am grateful for your phone call...

 

Jess hung up the call, and turned to find her key caseworker staring at the screen.

      “You were conversing with a bear?”  She asked.  Jess nodded:

       “I told you I came from a community of gentle creatures,” she said, “that bear I was talking to is, or rather was, my mama.  She adopted me, and I threw my life there into the bin.  I did something so awful, something so dreadful to my unborn cub.  I once was a bear you know, but now, now I am a human again, and disgraced in the eyes of the community I love more than anyone else in the world.”  The care worker walked out of the room and tapped into her own computer to verify Jess’s story, and there it was, everything about her transformation into her spiritual form, all about Eohippus, and everything.      “This community is very strange,” she thought, “but it is doing no harm, doing a lot of good if the online evidence is believable.”

 

Jess meanwhile, wanted to go back to the community and talk to mama Kamchatka.  To this end, she sent an email to the mama bear.  Kamchatka saw the email drop into the inbox and looked at it:

      ““Dear mamma:” the letter began, “I would like you to come to the edge of the wood so I can talk to you.  I will be bare pawed as is the custom in the woods, and I will not venture into the wood without your permission.  I would like to know how my choice to abort the life of my cub affected you and your family.  I am willing to listen, and to apologise in person.””  Kamchatka read the email twice, and then hit the reply button, then the, “record a voice message,” Button.

      “Come to the wood at sundown tomorrow,” Kamchatka said, “we will send a human envoy to escort you, an envoy the care staff will be agreeable to.”  She hit the send button and sat back on her heels.

       “If she apologised completely, would you let her inn to the community in her human form?”  Koda asked.

      “It’s all down to Patch,” Kamchatka replied, “but she’s not asked to see him.  I think I’ll ask him to come along, and hide up.”

       “I will,” patch said, padding into the lie up, “I want to talk to jess, to express my anger to her, to resolve the matter forever.”

 

Jess was met by Charles Fullbeans and driven to the road which ran through the wood.  Jess removed her shoes and socks, which she’d been forced to wear ever since she entered the children’s home, and padded into the wood on bare feet at the appointed time.  Sitting by a tree, she remembered the first time she’d met mama Kamchatka, and how the two of them had communicated.  Jess smiled as she remembered tickling the mama bear’s pads, and how much love the mama bear had showed her.  Jess heard a rustling sound, then, looking up, saw the face of the bear she loved most in the world.  Kamchatka, on all four feet, padded to jess and looked down at her.

       “You have come,” Kamchatka said.  Jess looked up into the mama bear’s face, facing anything she might see in the mama bear’s face.

       “Mama,” jess said, “Dear mama, I am so sorry about what I did to my cub.  I am sorry I hurt you and my dear brother Patch.  Please, if you do not believe me, take my forepaw in yours, or take my foot in your forepaws and I’ll tell you again how sorry I am.”  Patch watched from behind a nearby bush where he lay out of sight.

        “She looks contrite,” he thought, “but I can never forgive her for ending the life of that poor cub.”  Kamchatka sat down and took jess’s right foot in her forepaws, jess’s toes curling involuntarily at the mama bear’s warm touch.

       “I’m sorry mama,” jess said, “I know now that if I’d even padded into your lie up, squatted and, screaming and roaring, delivered the cub into your very lap, and then told you I was abandoning it, I would still be in the place I love most in the world.  It was because I did the human thing of destroying life unnaturally that I lost my home and my family.  Now I can never come back, even as a human, to the family I love.  Kamchatka looked into jess’s face.

        “Your choice to abort the cub hurt me deeply,”  Kamchatka said, “and, and if you had come into my lie up, sweating, straining and panting, delivering the cub, fresh from your body, into my paws, I would have forgiven you for abandoning it if you truly couldn’t cope.  Now though, I cannot have you here.”

      Neither can I jess,” patch said softly padding out of the thicket.  Jess looked at patch’s face, then, springing to her feet, ran crying from the wood, unable to face the look in her brother’s eyes, for they were the eyes of a devastated young cub.

       “I can’t let her back in,” patch sniffed, sitting down, burying his face in Kamchatka’s shoulder and bursting into tears.       

“She’s gone for good patch,” Kamchatka said softly, “and I will give her the paw print casts she wants, but I don’t think she’ll never come back into the wood again.”  Patch sniffed and rubbed his face with clenched forepaws.

       Let’s go home my cub,” Kamchatka said softly, helping Patch to his feet.”

       “I wish I’d taken a cast of that cub’s paws before we buried him,” Patch said.

      “We’ll make a point of taking a cast of every cub’s paws shortly after they are born,” Kamchatka said, “just in case the cub dies.  Then, if it doesn’t, the mama can take a cast when the cub is full grown and compare the two.”  Patch smiled sadly.

      “I didn’t get to touch the cub’s paws before jess buried him,” he said.  “I wish she’d delivered the cub into your lap mama.  I wish she’d thrown herself on your mercy.”

     “She didn’t though, and you can’t change the past,” Kamchatka replied softly.

 

Meanwhile, Lunar, her cub only a day old, was casting her cub’s paws in plaster.  Pressing them into the plasticine, she made sure Astra pressed hard down into the plasticine with her paws, Astra loving every minute of the feel of the plasticine on her pads.

 

Meanwhile, back in the children’s home, Jess sat down in her room and thought about her life.  She wanted so much to prove how sorry she was for what she’d done.  How could she convince those who knew her so well?  Jess took her left foot in her hands and played with her toes, stroking the sole of her foot with her fingers.

       “if only, only I could have a second chance, even as a human, and deliver the cub into mama’s lap, I wish, wish I could go through the labour again, even now, right here, scream and beg and curl my toes and kick, and sweat and push.  I would do all that, I promise you Eohippus.  I did a human thing, but that cub has never left my thoughts, every day I think of him, wonder what he would have been if he’d lived here on earth,” Jess whispered, her fingers tightening on her toes and the sole of her foot.

 

Patch sat in the clearing, the heel of his right foot balanced on the ankle of his left hind leg, his forepaws playing with the toes of his right foot.  He remembered playing with jess’s hind feet, and couldn’t help remembering their joy at their play.

      “I loved playing with Jess,” he thought, “but I cannot ever forgive her for what she did.”

      “Can’t you?”  Someone asked.  Patch looked up; straight into the face of the cub that jess had aborted.

       “I could,” he said, “if you could too.”  The cub smiled:

       “Go to her,” he said, “go to jess and bring her into the wood.  I’ll be ready for life when she is ready to deliver me, and she’s ready now.”  patch got to his feet and padded to the children’s home, the staff seeming not to give him a second glance as he entered the reception, passing through that and into the residential area.

 

Jess meanwhile, was gasping with the intensity of feeling inside her.  She, still human, could feel something kicking, something alive in her.  Drawing up her feet, she sat with her hands on her belly.    

  “Is it happening to me?  Is my wish coming true?”  She asked herself.  Jess knew how to push, and how to labour, knew now though that she’d be labouring as a human, though was sure the bears could help her, if they knew she was about to have a cub.  Getting to her feet, she padded from the room, her cub kicking energetically inside her.  Jess met Patch in the corridor, the huge grey bear embracing her and carrying her in his forepaws like a mama would her cub.  Jess felt safe in patch’s paws, even though the bear was walking on his hind feet.  During the walk back to the wood jess experienced the first real contraction.  Wailing, she drew up her legs and curled her toes.  Panting, she worked her way through the pain, patch stopping to let her labour.

       “It’s done for now,” jess panted, her body soaked in sweat.  Patch kissed her forehead and padded quickly to the wood.  Jess crawled before patch in the wood, the male bear conscious of her pain, and watching intently.  Patch gently stroked the sole of jess’s right foot as she crawled, jess curling her toes in response.

        “Good luck mama,” patch said.  Patch kissed the bunched skin on the sole of Jess’s right foot, the mama groaning with an impending contraction.

     “That’s it mama, breathe through the pain,” Patch said softly.  Jess wriggled and crawled faster.

       “I need, need to get to Kamchatka’s lie up to complete my duty,”  she said, “I want to deliver the cub into her paws!  Then, then my duty will be done.  Patch followed jess, the human crawling quickly.  Once in the house, jess lay down, and Patch undressed her, for she could not do it herself.  Then, with jess’s labour continuing a pace now, patch carried the now roaring mama to Kamchatka’s lie up, where the mama bear waited.  Jess crawled into the lie up and sat back on her heels, pushing down hard into her bottom with every contraction.

      “Ow! Ooowww!  Yowowowouch!”  Jess screamed banging the floor with her clenched fists and curling her toes tightly with every raging pain.  Kamchatka watched with gentle concern as jess laboured, jess rolling onto her back and kicking the air with her feet, panting and roaring.

       “Things are near now,” Kamchatka said.

       “owwwowwoowwwwoowww!  Owowowowowowowowowwowowowo!”  Jess squealed, her voice getting louder and louder.  Then she caught her breath and strained hard:

     “Eeeeeeeeeeeeoaooow, eeeeeeeeeeeeoaoooww!”  She squealed bearing down hard, her toes curled, teeth and fists clenched, “aowh’wh’wh’wh’ow! Eeeeeeeeeeeeoaoooww!”  Then jess was wriggling hard, then rocking, then screaming lustily.  Suddenly, spinning onto all fours, she braced herself, put her head down and strained hard, squealing and grunting.  Kamchatka saw jess’s effort, her soaked body, curled toes, closed eyes, gripping fingers and clenched teeth.

       “Push mama,” Kamchatka said softly, rubbing the sweat soaked bunched sole of Jess’s left foot.  Jess bore down hard twice, roaring and screaming.  Then she panted hard, whimpering as the cub’s head and forepaws emerged.

      “Ow mama ow! Eeeeeeeeeeeeoaoooww!”  Jess squealed, for she was trying to relax to allow the cub to stretch her body to how it wanted things to be.

      “Now push hard jess, push, push push push push!”  Kamchatka encouraged, Jess bearing down long and hard.

       “Ooooooeeeeeeeeeooooowwwww! aowh’wh’wh’wh’ow! Eeeeeeeeeeeeoaoooww!  Jess wailed as she bore down.

      “Now pant, pant pant pant,” Kamchatka said, Jess panting and gasping as her cub emerged.

      “I want to push again!”  She screamed, fitting action to words with a final roaring effort, squeezing down into her feet, imagining pushing the cub down through the soles of her feet.

     Eeeeeeeeeeeeoaoooww! aowh’wh’wh’wh’ow! Eeeeeeeeeeeeoaoooww!”  Jess screamed.

      “That’s it mama,”  Kamchatka said, catching the cub, which in truth she’d had hold of since it emerged enough to allow her to get hold of it.  Jess turned and saw the cub she’d given birth to.

       “I have no milk for him,” she said.

       “No mama,” Kamchatka replied, “but I know someone who does.”  Jess looked up as Lunar padded into the room, sat down and fed the cub.  Jess realised she’d given birth to a brown furred cub, with long legs and soft paws.

       “Now what?”  Patch asked.

      “Jess gets a wash, and then we present her to Koda to see what he wants to do with her,” Kamchatka said.  Jess looked at mama Kamchatka.

      “I want to stay here mama,” she said.

      “That is down to Koda,” Kamchatka said.  Jess, sore from giving birth to her cub, got to her feet and left the room.  Koda met her in the corridor, jess kneeling in front of the black bear and lowering her head to kiss his nose, then his right forepaw.

       “I appear before you humbly and with great thanks that the spirits allowed me to give birth to my cub,” she said.  Koda could smell Jess’s sweat, and that she needed a wash.

       “Come,” he said, let’s wash you.  Koda led jess through a back passage to his bathroom, where he ran a bath for Jess, the human watching the bear intently.

      “How do I stand here?”  She asked.

      “On your two hind feet I think would be best,” Koda replied, “unless you want to crawl of course.”

      “I didn’t quite mean that,” Jess replied, “what I meant was where do I stand in the community?”

       “You gave birth to your cub,” Koda replied, “but you are still a human deep down, no matter how sorry you are for your actions.”

      “Yes I am still human,” jess replied, “but I love my cub dearly, and wish to be part of this community, who I love more than my own race.”

       “We are thinking of setting up a shop to retail custom made plaster cast paw prints, photographs of the community etc,”  Koda said, “you could man that as a way back into the community.  A human face to face the human world.  We don’t want humans coming to the house, though you, are an exception as is Charlie Fullbeans.”

       “We will forgive you your conduct as you have given your cub a second chance at life,”  patch said, “indeed, I have forgiven you after pleading from your then unborn cub.”  Jess looked into the eyes of the bear she loved more than any other.

       “Thank you patch,” she said.  Patch helped Jess into the water of the now steaming bath and washed her, the first signal of acceptance as a friend of the community.  Finishing the washing, Patch gave jess a towel and she dried herself off.

       “Time for the cat suits again,” Koda said.  Jess nodded and left the bathroom, and was soon wearing a cat suit.  Sitting with Patch later on that day, Jess said to him:

       “While I may never achieve the form of a bear again, I will bear true allegiance to the community, just like the humans do in that series of books, the chronicles of Narnia.  I will protect this community with my body and mind, or my life if needed.”  Patch nodded.

      “I have read those books to you over many a night,” he said in perfect English, even though both he and Jess knew community dialect.  Jess wrapped her arms around Patch, hugging him, feeling his rough fur, smelling his scent, a scent she held very dear, dearer than the scent of fresh air.

       “I’m so sorry!”  She said, crying into his coat.  Patch let her cry, cradling her head on his shoulder.

      “Now we go on from here,” Patch said when Jess had stopped crying.

       “Yes,” she replied, “but I will never forget what I did, and what I had to do to go some way to repairing the damage I caused.”

 

Koda met with Charles Fullbeans, the two leaders, Fullbeans for the council, and Koda for the community, discussing ways of retailing plaster paw prints and photos of the community from an online shop.

      “We do not want a zoo,” Koda said, “but we must get the viewing public’s help with funding this place.”

      “Plaster paw prints and photos should bring in something,” Charles said, “you already bring in twelve thousand pounds a year from the online subscriptions to the live video and audio feeds.  Did you know that the birth of Luna’s cub has been viewed eighty times already?”  Koda smiled:

      “They love the birth of a cub,” he said, “but what will they make of Jess’s cub’s birth?  A human giving birth to a bear?”

      “They did not see that,” Charles said, “though it was filmed, we did not send it to the web, we put a delay on that footage and audio.  Then did not broadcast it from the cameras.  Jess’s labour was secret.  Your adoption of Jess is still intact.”  Koda smiled.

      “Thank you,” he said. 

 

Meanwhile, in Patch’s lie up, patch and Jess played with each other’s hind feet, Jess loving patch’s touch on the soles of her feet.

       “I remember our play when we were cubs,” Jess said, “I am glad I’ve had a cub in the way I dreamt of having one.  Yes the labour was hard, but I don’t regret a second of screaming, sweating, curling my toes or pushing.  I wish I could see the birth from a spectator’s angle.”

      “You can,” Patch replied, playing with the toes of jess’s right foot.

       “I would like to see it,” jess replied.  Patch led her to a private room, where he found the video on a tightly controlled internal server.  Jess watched her labour, from the moment she reached Kamchatka’s lie up, to the screaming expulsion of the cub from her body.

       “Wow, oh wow!”  She said, “How I curled my toes, how I pushed, how I screamed!  I’m not ashamed of it though, for I enjoyed birthing that cub, I really enjoyed it.”

      “I know you did,” Tornassuk said, padding into the lie up.  Jess looked at her birth cub.

     “How can you bear to see me here?”  She asked.

      “I see you are trying to repair harm,” Tornassuk replied, “I can cope with that, and commend you for it.”

 

Meanwhile, in Luna’s lie up, she fed Jess’s cub, who fed busily.  Lunar looked at the brown furred cub, loving his face and paws.

      “I love you little one,” she whispered to the cub, which snuggled up to her.

      “What shall we call him?”  Eddie asked.  Lunar looked at him:

       “It’s not mine to name him,” she said.

      “jess gave birth to him, for it was from her body he was originally meant to come,”  Eddie replied, “he has no human blood in him, he’s all ursine, from his nose to his toes.  Jess isn’t his mother, a bear was his mother.  You’re a bear, so name him, and give him identity.”  Lunar hadn’t thought of things that way.

       “I suppose, I could,” she said.

      “It is not for Jess to give him name,” Eddie said.

       “No,” Patch agreed, padding in, “it was for her to give him life, for she took his life, but it is not for her to give him a name at all.  This is the responsibility of someone who deserves to call him their cub.  You know the pain of labour, for you have had your cub recently.  So you can imagine giving him life if it would make it easier for you to then name your cub Lunar.”  Lunar smiled at patch.

      “I will think,” she said.

 

Meanwhile, Sita, suddenly heavy with cub, found she could feel it kicking inside her; she could feel the cub’s paws and head through the wall of her belly, as they were large, and she had sensitive paws.

      “I wonder what birthing this cub will be like,” she thought, “probably a rough feeling while his forepaws emerge, then a terrible squeeze and stretch while his head emerges, and then a yowling time as his body emerges, then a grunting panting time as his hind feet emerge.  I want to feel it all!”  Jet watched his mate as she thought of her cub’s birth.  The toes of her hind feet were curling and her tail was lashing while she thought about her impending labour.

       “I want to labour now, now!”  Sita begged aloud.

      “In good time,” Jet said softly.

       “Luna’s had her cub, so why can’t I have mined now?”  Sita pleaded.

      “In time,” Jet replied, “What a surprise it will be when you feel the first contraction and can get down to business,” he said.  Sita sighed heavily.

      “Okay,” she said, “I’ll wait.”

 

Sita’s labour started later that day in fact.  She felt the cub’s hind feet pressing hard against her belly, the cub trying to clamber into the position for birth.  Sita puffed and blew hard as her cub wriggled and fought its way into position.  Then she felt his forepaws pressing against her belly.

      “Oooah! Ow! Ow!”  She squealed as the cub kicked and struggled inside her.

      “I think it’s trying to break my waters!”  She groaned.  Then Sita felt the first contractions, the cub having set them in train with violent struggles.  Sita roared lustily with the fourth contraction, then, squealing, she squatted and bore down with all her might.

       “Oooooooooooeeeeow! Oooooooooooooeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaw!”  She screamed as her body expelled her cub.  Jet watched anxiously, as did Kamchatka and everyone else.

       “I must relax, I want to relax!”  Sita panted, while lying on her back and kicking with her hind feet as contractions came and went.

        “Labour’s going well,” Ekaterina said, feeling inside Sita with one paw, Sita feeling the mama bear’s forepaw inside her.

        “How far now,” Sita whimpered.

       “The cub’s not coming yet,” Ekaterina said gently, “you’re making a passage for it.”  Sita sat up and began to push lustily, but Ekaterina told her not to.

       “I want to!”  Sita roared.

       “Your mind does, but your body does not,” Ekaterina replied, “Sita, rock back and forth, curl your toes, breathe and kick, but don’t push yet.  When you need to push, your body will inform you loud and clear.”  So Sita endured six more contractions, then she knew.  The seventh contraction since Ekaterina’s speech drove the cub into the birth canal, and Sita squeezed down hard for the first time, her body feeling as if it was ripping apart.  Screaming and yelling, rolling about on the floor, beating the floor with her paws and kicking with her hind feet, Sita found her tolerance of pain slight, but she carried on, screaming and scrabbling to deliver her cub.

      “Oooah!  Ooooooaaaaaawhwhwh!”  She yelled as the cub’s forepaws emerged.  Then, roaring like a mama grizzly that was giving birth to two cubs at once, “eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeowaouch!  Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeowaouch!

Oooooaw!  Ooooooaaaaaawhwhwh!”  As its head emerged.

      “Pant Sita pant!”  Ekaterina encouraged, as Sita, now mewing like a frightened cub, caught her breath.

       “I want to push, I want to push! Let me push!”  Sita screamed.  Ekaterina laid her paw on Sita’s flank as the cub’s body began to emerge.

      “When I remove my paw, then push, push with all your might,” Ekaterina replied gently.  Sita gasped and mewed, panted and groaned, trying not to push, not to give in.

       Now give it some!”  Ekaterina said, removing her paw, Sita wriggling, and then bearing down with all her might.

      “Aowwwwwwwwwww, aowwwwwwwwwww!  Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeowaouch

aoooooow!  Ooooooaaaaaawhwhwh!”  Sita roared in the voice of a labouring bear as she birthed half the body of her cub while lying on her side.  Then, panting she sat up, catching her cub in her forepaws as it was half way into the world.  Drawing up her hind feet and Bearing down, she let the cub slide through her forepaws.

       “ooooooooaoh! Ooooooooouchowaw!”  She complained loudly.

      “Now relax,” Ekaterina said, “let gravity and the fluid do the rest.”  Sita, panting, relaxed, feeling the cub’s hind quarters emerging with a little stretching sensation, the sensation  causing her to grunt a little and pant harder, then Sita wriggled feeling the cub’s hind legs and hind feet emerging, the cub’s pads catching slightly as its paws emerged.  Sita groaned loudly as they did, but this was a groan of triumph, as well as of satisfaction.  Sita felt her toes curling as the cub emerged, knowing this was a natural reaction to extreme physical stimulation and emotion.

      “I felt my cub come into the world!”  She sobbed, cleaning the cub up.  Jet looked at the cub, and it was as Sita had described, a brown and white panda type cub with a cute face and well defined paws.

       “Wow, just wow!  A male cub!”  He said.  Sita, lying down with her newborn cub, smiled weakly. 

     “That was amazing!”  she said when she could pspeak properly.  

     “It looked it,”  jet replied.  Sita smiled:

      “and I did what I wanted!”  she said, “I felt my cub emerging into the world with everything I had!”

      “You did very well,”  Ekaterina said.

      “I felt the cub emerging with the whole of my body, from my womb to my forepaws!”  Sita yelled, “I did it!  Noone stopped me!”

        “Why all this triumph over the birth of a cub?”  Bella asked, padding in.

       “Sita can’t see her cub’s birth, so she had to feel it,”  jet said, “she had no pain relief, but that was what she wanted.  Now her cub’s birth will stay with her forever.”  Sita grinned happily.

      “It will,”  she replied, “and I will tell my cub about it in words and physical demonstration of the postures I adopted while giving birth to him.  He can get paws on with my body and paws, feeling everything.  I will answer all his questions when he feels old enough to ask them.  there are ways of showing even the youngest cub how birth works.  And I will do this.  His way into the world will not be a mystery to him.”

      “So you can remember the entire birth of your cub?”  Bella asked.

       “yes Bella I can,”  Sita replied, “if you played me the video of my birth, I could re-enact it by listening to my labouring.  I could adopt postures which I did when delivering my cub.  I remember everything, my paws remember, my body remembers.  I will never forget my cub’s birth.”  Bella smiled:

      “Wonderful,” she said.

 

Sita explored her cub from nose to tail while he fed from her milk, the cub snuggling close.

      “What shall we call him?”  Jet asked.  Sita smiled broadly:

      “How about Toby,”  she said.  jet grinned:

       “I like that,”  he replied.  Toby, now so named, rolled onto his back and kicked the air with all four feet, Sita’s forepaws encountering his kicking paws and catching his right foot in her left forepaw.  Tracing Toby’s pads and toes, sita found he did indeed have well defined pads, the cub laughing and curling his toes in response to his mum’s touch, making his pads bunch up.  Sita knew  she loved this cub more than anything in the whole world, vowing to protect him from the treatment she got as a young cub.

       “What the hell’s that!”  someone asked.

      “What’s what?”  jet enquired.  Himati waved her paw at toby.

      “That’s our cub, sweet isn’t he,”  Jet said.  Himati spat with disgust.

     “Now there’s be no need for that!” Kuruk roared, pounding in, picking up Himati, and throwing her bodily out of the room.

      “Kuruk see you have cub Sita,”  the gruff grizzly said, Sita hearing his huge paws padding towards her.

       “Kuruk protect Sita and young cub toby from harm, he make promise of that when he see mama having cub, and hear her efforts too.”  Sita smiled warmly in the huge grizzly’s direction.

       “Thank you,” she said.  Kuruk placed his paws on Sita’s shoulders, the mama feeling his power in the touch of those paws.

       “I don’t know if I ever have explored you with my paws Kuruk,” Sita said, “I’ve, well, been too frightened to ask if you would let me do such a thing.”

       “Why you scared of Kuruk?”  Kuruk grunted.

      “You’re, well, big, and heavy, and like fighting.”  Sita said.  Kuruk’s answering snort told her she’d got things wrong.

       “I’m sorry,” she said.  Kuruk sat down, Sita expecting to hear something like an earthquake erupting beside her as Kuruk plonked his thousand pounds of bulk beside her, but she heard very little, a sound of large paw pads on rug, then a small grunt as Kuruk settled, then she felt a huge paw hugging her tightly.

       “Who’s that?”  Toby asked, his first words on this earth.

       “That’s, um, uncle Kuruk,” Sita replied.  Sita snuggled up to the huge male grizzly, despite her slight reservations, which she knew were unfounded.

 

Meanwhile, in Koda’s lie up, jess and Koda were talking seriously.

       “I might only have the body of a twelve year old human,” jess said, “but I feel in my mind as if I’ve lived twice that.”

      “That is because you have the memories of being a mama bear also,” Koda replied, “you needed those memories to be able to labour properly to give birth to your third cub.”  Jess nodded:

        “I know I did,” she replied.

       “So your body and years do not match?”  Alaska asked.  Jess looked at her:

      “No,” she replied, “I’m older in my mind than my body is.  That comes of becoming a bear, learning how to be a bear, and then flunking the whole thing because I did something awful, then I was returned to my human form, but had all the memories of being a bear.”  Koda sat down opposite jess and began to play with her right foot, jess smiling at the young black bear’s touch.  Curling her toes, Jess pressed her foot into Koda’s grasp, the black bear stroking the bunched sole of the young girl’s right foot with his large paws.

        “I listened to you having your cub,” Koda said.  Jess smiled:

      “I curled my toes like this,” she said, curling her toes tightly.

       “Anything else?”  Koda asked.  Jess smiled.

     “and played with my toes before I got here too, like this,”  she said, removing her right foot from Koda’s grasp and letting him touch her hands as she played with the toes of that foot, curling and relaxing her toes as if experiencing contractions.  Koda grinned:

       “You are as cute as a bear playing with its hind feet when you are playing with yours Jess,” he said.  Jess smiled.

       “I have seen how I play with my toes,” Jess replied, “I use mirrors, just like you do here to see what things look like.”  Koda touched Jess’s left foot with his own right hind, curling his toes around the young girl’s.

      “That feels lovely,” Jess said.  Koda rubbed the sole of jess’s left foot with the sole pad of his right hind paw, Jess giggling.

      “I love that,” she said.

       “Humans round here seem to be afraid of playing with their hind feet,” Koda said, “We’re not afraid here.

       “I know,” Jess replied, “I have to do it in private, for I’m worried I’ll be found out.  But I’ve always enjoyed playing with my toes and letting others play with them also.”  Koda played with jess’s toes, the young girl laughing with delight and pleasure.  Koda picked up Jess’s left foot and explored it with his paws.

    Kamchatka tells me your foot has pink skin with dark close cut claws on each toe,”  the black bear said, on the sole of your foot jess, you have a well padded heel and very mobile toes.”  Jess wiggled her toes, Koda giggling at her antics.

       “The skin on the sole of your foot is lighter than on the top of your foot too,” the bear said. 

      “Yes you are right,” Jess replied, grabbing Koda’s right foot in her hands.

      “Koda, your right foot has long claws, five mobile toes, and black fur on the top of your foot.  on the sole, you have a black pad on each toe, and one large black sole pad on the main part of your foot, here, and here,” Jess said, touching the parts of Koda’s foot as she described what she could see, “your pads are rough, slightly tougher than mine, and also,” Koda curled his toes, as he felt Jess wanted this, “your sole pad bunches up when you curl your toes.”   Koda giggled as jess copied him, curling the toes of her left foot which Koda still held in her forepaws.

      “The skin on the sole of your foot bunches up when your toes curl,” Koda said, “though your heel does not bunch like mine does, I think anyway.  Jess agreed.

      “Yes,” she said, “our feet are different in that way,”  Koda stroked the sole of jess’s left foot, jess curling her toes with pleasure, feeling them curl tighter and tighter as the black bear’s touch gave her huge pleasure.

       “Your hind feet have smooth soles, unlike mine,” Koda said, “and you like my touch I think.” Jess giggled:

       “Yes, oh yes!”  She replied bouncing about on her backside, Koda smiling broadly.

       “Paws can take on another interesting aspect when being chased,” jess said.

      “You mean you want me to chase your hind feet while you crawl?”  Koda asked.  Jess smiled and spun onto all fours, crawling away, Koda chasing her hind feet like he often did when playing with his cub.  Pouncing, he caught Jess’s left foot in both forepaws, stroking the sole and toes of Jess’s foot, Jess laughing and wiggling her toes, before tightly curling them in response to Koda’s toes stroking hers.

       “I heard you used to play with Patch,” Koda said.  Jess turned to the young male bear and hugged him:

       “I would like to again,” she replied.

      “I would like to also,” Patch said, padding in.  Jess saw him, and before she knew what she was doing, she’d crawled to him, thrown her arms around his neck and hugged him tightly.  Patch lifted Jess off the floor, sat back on his backside, and then drew her into a huge hug.

        “We will play together, just like we used to,” patch promised.

       “But what about my mistake?”  Jess asked.  Patch smiled:

      “You atoned for that, going through the labour to deliver your cub as you did.  Now we go on from there, and you need to learn to play again, to play with your toes and with the toes of others in the way you used to.  To play unashamedly with paws, for there are no computer games here.”  Jess smiled:

      “I don’t want them,” she said, “paws are much more interesting, instant feedback, endless tactile stimulation, and the paws themselves are beautiful no matter whose paws they are.”  Jess rolled onto her back and drew her feet up, grabbing them with her hands.  Patch, seeing this, gently traced the heel of Jess’s right foot, then her left, Jess curling her toes tightly while she held both feet firmly with both hands, fiercely gripping the soles of her feet with her fingers.  Patch gently blew on Jess’s fingers which so firmly held onto her feet, Jess wriggling and laughing helplessly.

       “I love that!”  She yelled.  Patch set himself the task of tickling the soles of Jess’s feet with his breath, blowing on her toes, then on her heels, trying to make Jess release her hold on one foot, or preferably both feet. Jess wriggled and rocked back and fourth, Patch lying on his side to better aim his breath at jess’s gripping fingers and wiggling toes, Koda listening intently, and now Kamchatka watching their play with shining eyes and whispering to Koda, describing everything, Koda sitting beside his mate and wriggling with excitement at Jess and Patch’s play.

     “Did anyone describe the birth of my cub to you Koda?”  Jess asked when patch had finally tickled her fingers and toes so much with his breath that she’d released her hold on both feet and enthusiastically waved her arms and legs in the air while laughing helplessly.

      Kamchatka described how you gave birth to your cub,” Koda replied, “She let me get paws on with her, recreating the birth of your cub minute by minute.  It was amazing!”  Jess looked at Koda.

       “Have you ever got paws on with me while I sit back on my heels or hold my hind feet with my hands?”  She asked.

       “No, not that I can remember,” Koda replied.

       “I’d love it if you would,” Jess said.  Koda did just as jess asked, exploring her feet and hands while she first held both feet in her hands while sitting up, then lying on her back with her feet drawn up to her.  Koda touched Jess’s hands and feet with his paws, Jess unable to suppress the pleasure the touch of his paws on her hands and feet gave her.  She wiggled her fingers and toes when he touched them with his paws, Koda smiling.

       “Now, now I’ll sit on my heels,” jess said, fitting actions to words, Koda feeling her feet in this position, stroking the sole of each foot from heel to toes, jess giggling with pleasure.

      “That feels lovely,” she said.  Koda drummed the toes of his forepaws on Jess’s toes, the young girl laughing merrily.

      “I love paw play,” she said.

      “Not that we hadn’t noticed,” Patch said, Koda left Jess and approached Patch, who embraced the black bear.  Koda snuggled up hard, and then patch gave his adopted sire his right foot to play with.  Koda traced Patch’s pads and played with his toes, the grey bear curling his toes with pleasure, and then stretching them as far as he could manage.

       “Patch has off white pads on all four feet,” Kamchatka said, “dark grey fur and off white pads, very striking when you play with his paws.”

       “Do you remember wearing socks as a human Koda?”  Jess asked.  Koda nodded:

      “I remember it,” he said, “uncomfortable on the paws they were.  I was bare pawed whenever I could be.  Now of course, I’m bare pawed all the time.”  Patch smiled:

      “I remember wearing socks on my paws when I used to live with Jess and the humans,” he said, “most disagreeable habit wearing socks is.”  Jess smiled and hugged her life long friend.

      “I know now what happened with me transforming into a bear,” she said, “I know why you had to tell me stories.  Of course, I’m better as a human now.”  Patch kissed her nose.

       “Now let’s play together, and be good to each other,” patch replied.

      “Yes let’s,” jess said. 

 

Meanwhile, in Sita’s lie up, sita  described her labour to Kuruk.

       “It was intense, painful, exhilarating, everything!”  She said, “Pushing was a relief when I could push, but my body told me when for the most part.  I will never forget a minute of my labour.”

      “Kuruk no forget Anook’s labour when she has buck,” he said, “she spend hours groaning and curling her toes, panting and crying.  Then she roar like big bear and strain deep into her tail time after time, rising to hind feet to help pass cub into world.  She ended up on all fours, squeezing buck out bit by bit with Kuruk pulling a little on cub to help Anook.  He is big cub then, and even bigger now.

       “I gave birth lying on my side for the most part, but finished things off sitting up and guiding my cub into the world.  I felt Toby’s paws emerging, they bumped into the world pad by pad, as I wanted them to.”  Kuruk, holding Toby in his paws, explored the cub with gentle care, Toby wriggling and pawing at the large male bear’s paws.

      “He likes you playing with his paws,” Sita said.  Toby giggled and reached up to touch Kuruk’s nose, the male bear blowing on the pads of Toby’s forepaws, the male cub drawing up his hind feet, the pads of which Kuruk gently blew on, Toby squealing with delight.

       “I like that!”  He exclaimed.

      “Kuruk love you little Toby,” Kuruk said gently.  Toby, curling the toes of all four paws, pawed at Kuruk’s nose, the big male lifting Toby off his lap and turning him round to blow on the toes of his hind paws, the cub roaring with laughter.

      “I love you blowing on my pads!”  He laughed.  Kuruk looked over at Sita.

      “You want Toby back for give him food Sita?”  The bear asked.

      “But I don’t want to go yet!”  Toby protested, “I want big Kuruk to play with my paws some more! Please!”  Sita laughed happily.

        “Play with him Kuruk,” she said, “shows him he’s safe, it’s only fair he knows from a young age that he can trust.”  Kuruk smiled and explored Toby from nose to paws, the cub wriggling and laughing helplessly the whole time, constantly tightly curling and stretching the toes of all four large paws while Kuruk played with him.

       “I love your touch, I love your touch!”  Toby laughed.  Kuruk ended his play with the cub by hugging him and giving him to Jet, who continued the playtime with Toby.

 

Patch led jess to the pool complex, where they got into the spar pool.  Finding two strange bears there, one playing with the other’s hind paws, Patch asked who they were.

      “Our names are Fudge and Gizmo,” they said, “fudge has rough pads, and I’ve got smooth ones.”

     “So you’re Gizmo?”  Jess asked.  The bear nodded.

       “Two grey bears,” Patch said, “very close to each other.”

     “We’re brothers,” Fudge said, “we came from the same collection as Targon and Eddie bear.  Our friends Edmond and his cub rascal are here too.  Rascal has his paws into everything, and his friend Morag is also here, Chelsea is it?  She’s taken Morag her in paw anyway.”

      Chelsea is mama Kamchatka’s cub yes,” Patch replied, “as is Kelsey and Flocke.  Bella’s Targon and Tornassuk’s cub.  Well, hang it all, all the cubs are everyone’s.  We look after cubs together here.”  Fudge smiled.

      “I like the idea of that,” he said dreamily.  Patch padded round to the other side of the spar pool and splashed into it, sitting opposite Fudge and Gizmo, who still played with each other’s paws.

      “You two look very contented,” Patch said.  Fudge smiled and looked at Gizmo.

      “What are your names?”  Fudge asked, holding tightly to Gizmo’s paw, the two bears looking as if the question had taken the courage of both bears for one of them to ask.

      “I’m Patch, and this is Jess,” Patch said.

 “You aren’t brothers are you,” jess said.  Fudge looked at her:

        “We pretend we are,” he said.

       “At least they’re together,” Patch said, “you humans put names as barriers between peoples, but we don’t here.”

       “You use brother and sister, and even mama as terms of endearment rather than telling of rank or position,” Jess said, “its strange here.”

       “You humans love your rank in society,”  Patch said, “here we try to help each other, and if fudge and Gizmo want to call each other brother then that’s fine, as long as they are good to each other.”  Jess looked into Fudge’s face, the older bear looking back at her.

       “Are you a friend of the bears, or an enemy?”  Fudge asked.

      “I’m a friend, I won’t harm you,” Jess replied.  Fudge looked at Patch, who nodded.

       “She’s no threat,” he said.  Fudge got out of the spar pool, Gizmo almost holding onto his right foot for reassurance as he closely followed him, drawing the toes of his left forepaw down the pads of Fudg’s paw, Fudge wiggling his toes and leaving his paw in contact with his brother’s for a few seconds to demonstrate things were ok.

       “You two are joined at the paw!”  Jess laughed.  Fudge looked at Jess, the laughter dying in her throat.

      “And what’s wrong with that?”  He asked seriously.

      “Nothing, it’s sweet,” Jess said.  Patch looked at her too, and his disapproval was hard to take.

       “It’s no laughing matter Jess,” he said, “You don’t know what brought those two together.  I won’t speculate here either, but it was something harsh that’s certain.”  Jess walked away, while Patch padded to Fudge and Gizmo, reared onto his hind feet, placed a forepaw gently on their shoulders and kissed their ears.

       “You’re big,” fudge remarked, trying not to show his fear.

       “I’m large yes, but you won’t have any trouble from me, I promise you that,” patch replied.  Gizmo, the younger of the two bears, looked into patch’s face, his eyes pleading with him.

       “What’s up little one?”  Patch asked gently, dropping onto all four paws once more.  Gizmo reached up to hug Patch with his forepaws, finding he had to get to his hind feet to hug Patch.  Patch rolled onto his side and drew Gizmo into a massive hug, the bear scrambling into his embrace with desperate urgency.

       “He needs a hug,” fudge said.  Patch rubbed Gizmo’s back, the young bear, barely out of cubhood, sobbing into his long coat.

        “it’s okay fudge, its ok, I promise,” patch replied.  Gizmo and Patch hugged for a long time on the tiles of the pool complex.  Then Gizmo moved back, his eyes red and body shaking from the intensity of the emotions he’d felt.

       “Come for a hug whenever you wish,” Patch said.  Gizmo sniffed hard, gulping hard.

       “Thank you,” he choked.  Fudge felt his paws becoming hot and damp, he knew what that meant.

        “I can’t ask it, I can’t ask it!”  He thought.

       “Why can’t you ask me for a hug Fudge?”  Patch asked softly.  Fudge felt his eyes pricking with tears.

        “Please, can I?”  He asked in a small voice.  Patch waved his paw.

      “Try it,” he said, “If you don’t try, you’ll never know.”  Fudge crawled to patch, his rough paw pads scuffing the tiles.  When he was up with the huge grey bear, Fudge almost lost his nerve, but then he felt Patch’s paws around him, drawing him closer and closer, and then enveloping him, then Fudge felt a kiss placed on his nose.

       “Come home,” patch whispered.  Fudge wept into patch’s coat.  Patch hugged fudge tightly, the younger male bear sniffing hard.

       “Come,” patch said, getting to his feet, Fudge and Gizmo following with dragging paws and lowered heads.  Patch watched them.

       “Come, raise your heads, lift up those paws.”  He said.

       “How can we when we are humbled before a great bear such as you,” Fudge asked.

       “Me?”  Patch said, turning to the two bears and smiling.

      “Yes,” Gizmo said, bowing low before Patch.

       “Come, come indoors,” patch said, skipping towards the paw bath, fudge running after him, Gizmo racing to catch up with his brother cub.

        “Don’t forget to wash your paws!”  Kamchatka called, Fudge looking up to see a huge mama grizzly, bigger than he could ever imagine, smiling and playfully waving her paw at him.

     Woooh!”  Fudge wailed, running for his life.  Gizmo, taking his cue from Fudge, running with his screaming brother cub, tripped and fell.

      Ooooooah, Ouououoch! Ouch! Youch!”  Gizmo squealed, rolling over and over, almost tangling all four paws as he came to rest on his right side.

      “You tripped over your own paws!”  Kamchatka laughed, padding up and helping a daises Gizmo to his feet, Gizmo hardly realising what was happening until he was on his feet, and the female grizzly was face to face with him.

        “No, oh no!”  Gizmo yelled, but Kamchatka hugged him tightly, sitting down to hug him better.  Gizmo found himself upcoming to Kamchatka’s paws, her warm presence and comforting scent.

      “I fell over, I lost my footing!”  Gizmo sniffed.

      “You’re safe, safe here,” Kamchatka said.  Fudge stared at Kamchatka, not noticing Patch, who crept up, then sat down and dragged him onto his lap, Fudge finding himself embraced in Patch’s paws once more.

       “Is, is this a rather blunt way of showing us we have nothing to fear?”  Fudge asked.

       “Something like that yes,” patch said softly, nuzzling Fudge’s ear.  Patch laid Fudge on his back in his lap and fudge felt his right foot taken in the huge bear’s paws and explored with gentle care.

       “I’m sorry my pads are so rough,” Gizmo said, “It’s not my fault.”

       “I love rough pads,” patch said, drawing circles on the sole of Fudge’s right foot with the toes of his forepaws, Fudge curling his toes tightly in response.

       “I love that,” fudge said softly, his body telling him to relax, the messages from his right foot roaring through to his brain and overcoming his natural fear.

        “Your touch is soothing him Patch,” Kamchatka said.  Patch grinned broadly.

       “Now will you come home with us?”   Patch asked.  Fudge pressed his right foot into Patch’s paws, finding his forepaws reaching up to touch the bear’s face, touching his ears and muzzle, Patch flicking out his tongue and licking the back of Fudge’s right forepaw, Fudge laughing and wriggling with delight.  Patch led the bears into the depths of the house, fudge and Gizmo staring in wonder at the house, the bears, the lions, tigers and other animals.  Samson, seeing another bear, ran to fudge and Gizmo, hugged them both in his huge paws, the two bears staring at the bear with shaggy golden brown fur.

       “Is there anyone here we cannot trust?”  Gizmo asked.

      “You will not be told that,” Kamchatka said, “but follow your paws, as they say here, and you’ll be fine.”  Fudge stared at Samson, the huge golden brown bear looking back at him.

       “I feel we know each other,” Fudge said to Samson, who kissed the younger bear’s nose and both bears got to their hind paws batting at each other’s paws and pawing at each other’s ears and muzzles with their forepaws.  Then Samson overwhelmed fudge, knocking him onto his back and standing over him, much to Gizmo’s distress, who saw his brother fall and the huge golden bear standing over him as if to pounce on him.

         “No Goldie, please!”  Gizmo begged.

      “Goldie?”  Samson laughed, “That’s so funny!”  Gizmo tried to drag his brother away, but Samson put a huge paw gently on Fudge’s chest, Gizmo realising what the larger bear might do.

      “Please, I beg you to spare my brother’s life!”  Gizmo threw himself down at Samson’s feet, begging him to take his life.

       “I won’t harm you or your brother,” Samson said, his eyes shining with merriment, but also tinged with Sadness.

       “I’d almost say this bear was upset at something,” Gizmo said.  Samson removed his paw from Fudge’s chest, and then turned away, hiding his face with one big paw.

        “Are you sorry you lost your game?”  Gizmo asked.

     “No, No,” Samson sniffed, padding away dejectedly.

      “Fudge was angry, and smacked Gizmo with his paw.

      “You stupid bean head Gizmo!”  Fudge snapped, “Godly bear was playing!”  He roared.

      “Godly bear?”  Patch said laughing, “Samson is, he’s lovely and quite close to Eohippus, as he’s broken none of her laws, so he’s kind of godly yes.  Though I think you meant Goldie didn’t you?”  Fudge smiled:

      “I did,” he replied, “and I definitely meant to call my brother Gizmo a bean head!”

      “That’s a fabulous insult,” patch said, “hmm, bean head, yeah.”

      “I’ll go find Samson,” Kamchatka said.

      “Surely I didn’t scare off that big golden furred bear?”  Gizmo asked.

      “No,” Patch said, “you upset him, so he left.  He and fudge were playing; they reared onto their hind feet and squared up, looking for play.  Then they played.  You did not see that for what it was.  But I did.”

       “I am not your blood brother Gizmo,”  fudge replied, “I’m a few years older than you, and saw my mother die when I was fully grown.  My mother taught me how to play, so I know what play is.  You do not, for I taught you play, and we have only progressed to cub play, not adult sparring and mock battles!  Goldie bear was mock battling with me.  A battle which bears use to bond, but also to play and learn to hunt too, though I think more play is in order here.”

      “So I misread his intentions, so what!”  Gizmo snapped.

        “When you laid your life down for me,” Fudge said, “it upset Goldie bear a lot.  I also saw you were serious about your intentions, though you misread Goldie bear’s intentions.”

      “How do you feel about Gizmo potentially giving his life to Samson?”  Patch asked.  Fudge looked at Gizmo, his conflicting emotions of anger at the loss of his game, but also humbled by his adopted brother’s potential sacrifice.

       “I am very humble,” fudge said softly.  Samson padded back to the lie up.

       “I am sorry I misjudged your play Goldie bear,” Gizmo said softly when Samson was standing beside him.

      “That is okay,” Samson said, “you do not yet know the difference between play fighting and something more serious.”

       “Now this is Samson,” Patch said to Gizmo and fudge, “his name is not Goldie bear.”

     “But he is Goldie bear!”  Kamchatka, Gizmo and Fudge yelled in unison.  Samson smiled shyly.

       “Your new name is Goldie bear,” Patch said, Samson smiling broadly.

       “How come he didn’t look like that when he first transformed into his spiritual form?”  Kamchatka asked, realising the dirty brown bear she’d first seen after Samson the lion’s physical transformation into his spiritual form as Goldie bear.

     “That is because Goldie did something which was very natural for the old lion to do,” Patch said.

      “He had a wash?”  Kamchatka asked.

      “He did indeed,” Patch said.

      “And Patch, please,” Gizmo asked, “why did Fudge and I wish to hug you as if you were mama bear?”

      “That is because I am,” Patch replied, “I’m male, but I asked the ultimate question a male could ask.”

       “and I’m his cub,”  Sita said, padding in with Toby in her mouth, setting the panda like bear down at Patch’s feet, the bear picking Toby up and hugging him, Toby giggling with pleasure.

       “I can see you are,” fudge said to Sita, looking at her with no more surprise than he would if she was another bear.

       “She looks, um, unusual?”  Gizmo said.

      “Just like a cub born of a tigress and brought into the world by the courage and effort of a bear would look, or so I think,” Fudge said.

      “How do you know about that?”  Patch asked.

        “Now I know who you are,” Fudge said, kneeling before Patch and kissing his paws, “you are the bear we heard the tale of, the bear whose courage and inquisitive nature led to you helping a mama give birth to a large cub.  The cub, born of a tigress, but by a bear’s strength and spirit, now stands before us, beautiful, large, and with her own spiritually born cub.”  Patch grinned and lifted Toby up to his eye level, then kissed the cub’s hind paws, Toby giggling with pleasure.

        “That story made me cry,” fudge said, tears filling his eyes.

       “You saved that cub’s life,” he said to Patch.  Sita padded up to Fudge and sat down beside him.

      “Why not explore me with your paws, just to make sure the story you heard is true?”  Sita asked.  Fudge got paws on with Sita, Sita giggling and rolling onto her back to let fudge play with her paws and generally make a fuss of her, both fudge and Sita ending up rolling together on the rugs in play, both reverting to ursine play, as fudge knew Ursine play, and Sita, though knowing both Feline and ursine play codes, played like the creature she felt closest to.  Fudge laughed helplessly whenever Sita got hold of his hind paws and tickled his rough pads and toes.

       “patch has been both mama and sire to me,” Sita said, and I love him and most of the rest of this community with every part of me.”

       “Your feline birth mama rejected you, but your ursine mama did not,” fudge said, “I respect her for that.”  Patch grinned.

        “Thanks,” he said.  Gizmo looked at Patch, and then crawled to him, snuggling up to the large bear.

       “I believe you,” the young grey bear said, “I believe you gave strong and committed birth to that funny furred bear.  How you did it I don’t know, but you did, I know you did.”  Patch smiled broadly.

       “I did,” he replied, “I do not regret a thing.”

 

 

Jess sat down in mama Kamchatka’s lie up and played with the toes of her left foot, rubbing the sole of her foot and feeling her toes curling as she played with them.  Leaving her toes for a second, she felt them curl tightly, as tightly as they had when she was in labour with the birth of her newborn cub.

 

Meanwhile, Patch played with gizmo, the young bear laughing with delight as he played with patch’s right foot, Patch curling and stretching his toes to encourage gizmo to play.  Gizmo traced Patch’s right foot with his paws, feeling the bear’s rough pads and then bunched rough pads as he curled his toes.

      “What makes paws so lovely to play with my sire?”  Gizmo asked.  Patch looked into gizmo’s face.  The poor cub stared back at him, begging for a family, calling patch, “my sire,” was not just respectful, like the use of “mama,” for female bears who’ve had cubs; it was a plea for help and a family.

       “Paws?”  Patch asked, “Well, they’re sensitive, they’re the first things cubs use to explore their world, as they cannot see it with their eyes at first.  So we learn to use our paws to play, as well as use the paws as playthings, so we use our paws to play with our paws and the paws of others.  Paws are the ultimate playthings.”

       “And of course there’s instant feedback,” Fudge said, padding over to his adopted brother and kissing his nose.

      “and there are different paws on each bear,”  Gizmo said, training to his brother and grabbing his right foot, stroking his rough pads and giggling as Fudge curled his toes, making the rough pads slightly softer as they bunched in furrows.

      “Your paws are really fun!”  Gizmo said to Fudge, his brother giggling with pleasure.

       “Paws are the keys to the character of the particular bear or whatever animal owns the paw,” patch said, “don’t forget that either of you.”

      “We won’t,” fudge and Gizmo replied.  Patch smiled and then turned his back on the two bears, lying down on his chest to present them with his hind paws from another aspect.

       “Now try stroking my pads from heel to toes,” Patch said.  They tried it, and liked how Patch curled his toes with pleasure.  Patch suddenly crawled away, Gizmo pouncing on his hind paws, catching them.

       “You caught my paws!”  Patch whimpered cubbishly, making everyone laugh.

      “So who has the most interesting paws round here?”  Gizmo asked.

      “Depends what kind of paws you like playing with,” Goldie bear, nay Samson said, padding in.

      “I suppose it does,” Gizmo replied.

      Georgia bear’s paws are different to Kelsey’s for instance, but they are both cubs,” Patch said.

      “Have you played with Georgia’s paws?”  Goldie asked, “I have, they’re the keys to a cute cub.”  Patch smiled.

       “I know,” he replied, “they are so expressive.”

      “I love playing with my paws,” Georgia said, crawling in.

      “She’s so cute!”  Fudge blurted, Georgia giggling and crawling over to him, letting him hug her.

       “Wow, oh wow!”  Fudge said, Georgia laughing.

      “Soft fur, cute paws, I like the feel of your fur and, of your paws too,” Fudge said, catching hold of Georgia’s right foot and tracing her pads, the cub closing her eyes and curling her toes involuntarily with pleasure.

       “Your paw touching mine feels lovely!”  The cub said softly.

       “”I like the softness of your pads,” Fudge said.  Georgia laughed merrily with pleasure.

 

Meanwhile, in another part of the house, Morag was playing with Harvey and Kendal, Rascal getting involved with the other three cubs, all three of them pouncing on him while his sire Edmond, hid his face in his paws whimpering with exasperation.

      “I want rascal to be socialised!”  He wailed.

     “Rascal isn’t doing anything wrong,” Chelsea said.

     “He’s only playing,” Harvey said.  Edmond looked at the four cubs, looking at his cub, which’s right foot was held in Morag’s forepaws, the cub smiling and rubbing the young male cub’s toes, rascal wriggling with pleasure.

     “”we have to think of a better name for you,” Kendal said, “rascal only describes you, and not very well.  You’re a playful cub that’s all.”

     “But my sire has always called me, “little Rascal,” the small cub said, “now , now you tell me that’s no name at all?”  Morag kissed his nose:

      “Not really,” she said, “but we can think of another name for you.”

       “How if we name you mister cute paws!”  She laughed.

     “Oh no!”  Rascal whimpered, “anything but that!”

      “How about if we name you tumbles cub,” Kuruk said grinning.  Rascal groaned.

      “Tumble cub! That’s horrible, dreadful, and painful!”  He roared.  Kuruk scooped Rascal up in his paws and kissed the tiny cub’s nose and paws.

       “Kuruk want call you pasha,” he grunted.  

   “Whatever Pasha means, it’s sounding a lot better than rascal or cute paws,” Rascal, now Pasha said.

      “I like the name Pasha,” Edmond said.

     “Kuruk think Pasha nice name too, it means little and is Russian.  Pasha rascal. Lovely!”  With that Kuruk put Pasha down, rolled onto his back and pedalled the air with his hind feet, Morag, Harvey, Kendal and Pasha laughing helplessly.

       “You silly bear!”  They laughed.  Kuruk snorted, sitting up suddenly and looking shocked.

      “You think Kuruk waving paws in air look silly?”  He asked as if hugely concerned.

       “No, it’s lovely,” Pasha replied.  Kuruk tickled Morag’s toes, the female cub laughing and curling her toes tightly.

       “You have a loving touch big bear,” she said.  Kuruk gathered Morag onto his lap and hugged her.

      “I love this,” Morag said, snuggling up hard.  Kuruk, who loved cubs more than anything else in the world, held Morag tightly in his paws, the female cub tiny in them, though turning to bury her face and paws in his chest with as much force as she could.

         “Can I stay here?”  She asked.  Kuruk nodded:

      “You stay,” he grunted, trying not to let his emotions come to the fore.

        “He’s close to tears,” Kendal remarked.

       “Kuruk’s soft under all that fur,” Anook said, padding in.  Kendal looked Kuruk up and down, from his face to the toes of his hind feet.

       “Go on, touch his hind paws,”  Anook said to Kendal , who reached out a tiny forepaw and touched Kuruk’s right foot, tracing the large pads on the bear’s right foot with gentle care.  Kuruk, unable to resist curling his toes, curled them tightly; making Kendal giggle and stroke Kuruk’s now bunched pads.

 

Meanwhile, in another part of the house, Kojack was stroking Georgia’s hind paws, marvelling at how long her fur was, and loving the challenge of getting to her pads through the long fur on her paws which almost covered them when she lay down, sat down or sat back on her heels.  His questing toes made Georgia laugh as her fur tickled her pads before Kojack got a chance to stroke them.  Wriggling, Georgia often drew up her hind feet and rolled about madly on the rugs roaring with laughter.

      “My paws are ticklish!”  She yelled while kicking the air, to Kojack’s amusement.

       “I have ticklish paws too,” someone said.  Georgia and Kojack turning their heads to see who’d spoken.  The smallest polar bear cub they’d ever seen sat on the rug by the door.

       “How long have you been here?”  Georgia asked.

      “I’ve been in this community for a few hours now,”  the tiny cub said, “my, my names Buffy, I’m, well, homeless, or was until a huge lion found me, well, I, I woke him, I fell on top of him after scampering into a thicket while being chased by a huge white lioness who’d found me hiding, the lion was asleep in the thicket, and I fell on him, and he caught me, and now, now I’m hiding from him!”

      “The lion returns,” Nuru said, padding in and placing his huge forepaws either side of Buffy, the little polar bear cub turning her head, screaming and trying to run, but Nuru had her in his paws in a flash.

       “Don’t terrorise her,” Georgia said to the huge lion, “she’s only very young, look at how small her paws are, those are cub’s paws indeed.”  Nuru looked down at Buffy, who was now sitting, crying into her forepaws and shaking with fright.

        “Leave here now big lion!”  Goldie snapped, pushing Nuru out of the door and making sure the confused pride leader was well away from the bears.

      “Now,” Goldie said, padding back to Buffy and sitting down beside her, “you’re safe here little one.  I promise you that not even the big lion will harm you.  The lioness who chased you did not mean any harm, she wanted to talk to you, but you ran, so she gave chase.”

      “I don’t want to meet the lioness again,” Buffy whimpered.  Feeling whiskers brushing her ear, then a tongue licking it, Buffy looked round, seeing a white lioness lying beside her.

       “It’s her, it’s the white lioness!”  Buffy screamed, leaping to her paws, trying to run, but her paws were stuck fast to the rug, or that’s how it seemed.  Squealing with fear, Buffy waited for teeth and claws to rip into her, but no teeth or claws ripped.

       “I wish you’d let me talk to you for a minute,” the lioness said.  Buffy turned her head to the lioness, though this was no lioness, only a cub like herself.

         “But, but she was bigger, much bigger when I saw her in the wood!”  Buffy thought miserably, “I know what I saw!”

       “My name is Amafu,” Imvula’s cub said, “I am on my paws after six weeks on this earth, and I was walking through the wood when I saw you little bear.  You saw me and screamed, running away.  I tried to talk to you, but you ran and ran, so I chased you, and you fell over Nuru, who’d gone to sleep in a thicket.  I am no big lioness.”  Imvula padded in then, Buffy gasping with surprise as she saw how big an adult lioness really was.

       “I’m sure you were that big,” Buffy said to Amafu.

     “No,” Amafu replied, “look, here are my paws, dirty from the wood, look at them, touch them.”  Buffy did, and realised then she’d been imagining the size of the lioness that’d chased her.””

       “Amafu’s not the big lioness you thought she was,” Goldie said.  Buffy giggled at her mistake, but was still uncertain.

       “I am so silly,” she said.  Amafu giggled and kissed Buffy’s nose and lifting her right forepaw, kissed that too.

      “You soppy thing Buffy,” Kojack said.  Buffy giggled shyly.

       “I really messed up,” she said, “I thought Amax, whatever your name is,” she said, looking at the female lion cub, “was a massive lioness.”  Amafu smiled hugely.

      “Say my name in parts, after ne,” Amafu said, “a.”

     “A,” Buffy said, grinning hugely like Amafu.

     “Ma,” Amafu continued.

   “Ma,” Buffy replied.

    “Fu,” the lion cub finished.

    “Fu,” Buffy said smiling.

      “Now run it together,” Amafu suggested.

      “A, ma, fu, Amafu!  Yeah!”  Buffy laughed, clapping her paws with delight as Amafu danced round her, before tipping her onto her back, and tickling her paws.  Buffy’s pads were soft and sensitive, the bear cub laughing helplessly.

       “Get off my paws, Oi you!”  Buffy guffawed.  Georgia crawled over to Buffy, kissed her nose and the pads of all four paws, Buffy wriggling and giggling with pleasure.

       Georgia’s paws are well padded, almost fat paws they are.  She’s got well defined pads and very expressive toes,” Kojack said.  Georgia laughed:

       “You love my paws don’t you Kojack.”  Kojack smiled:

       “I do,” he replied.

     “Well I like your smooth pads, and how your pads bunch when you curl your cubbish toes,” Georgia replied.  Georgia, lying beside Buffy, cradled the younger polar bear’s right foot in her forepaws.  Kojack, looking at the scene, saw Georgia’s hind feet, her toes curling with emotions as she massaged and played with Buffy’s right foot in her forepaws.  Buffy was gently tugging at her foot, while curling and relaxing her toes, which was the way she expressed her pleasure, half heartedly struggling to free whichever paw was being played with, or that’s how it looked.  Really, Buffy wanted to pretend her foot was trapped, to imagine herself struggling to free her paw, curling her toes and worrying at her trapped foot, then dragging it free inch by inch.

       “Do you want me to let go Buffy?”  Georgia asked.  Buffy, her eyes closed, replied:

     “No, no, hold my paw tightly; let me fight to free it.”  Georgia did so, and Buffy began to struggle in earnest to free her right foot, curling her toes and tugging, then relaxing her toes and pulling gently, wiggling her paw, trying to find a way to free it.  Georgia stroked Buffy’s pads, the polar bear whimpering and curling her toes tightly in response.

       “Don’t, don’t!”  She gasped, “You’re taking my energy, my will to free myself whenever you’re stroking my foot!  I want to free myself, but then I don’t want to all at the same time, and I can’t free myself if my energy is gone!”  Georgia smiled and kissed Buffy’s nose.

       “I think Kojack’s sizing up whether he can play with my hind feet,” Georgia said.  Buffy paused in her animated struggle against the firm hold on her foot by Georgia’s gentle paws and looked at Kojack, who smiled at both bears.  Georgia wiggled the toes of her right foot, then tightly curled the toes of her left hind, Kojack grinning.

         “Play with my paws, please!”  Georgia thought, trying to convey her wishes through her hind feet alone.

        “Do what you want Kojack,” Buffy said, “I think Georgia wants you to go with your paws.”  Kojack smiled and gently stroked the bunched pads of Georgia’s left foot, then the taught, but well defined pads of his friend’s right hind paw.

         “I love his touch, I love his touch!”  Georgia thought, wriggling with pleasure, kicking the air with her hind feet as she expressed her emotion.  Buffy watched this, loving how Georgia’s eyes closed and  teeth clenched slightly, and she wriggled from her nose to her toes, her whole body twisting and hind legs drawing up slightly, Georgia’s toes curling and the grip on Buffy’s right foot from her forepaws tightening slightly.

      “Squeeze my foot if you want,” Buffy said.  Georgia opened her eyes.

      “I’m sorry,” she said, “I forgot for a minute I was holding your foot in my paws.”

        “Your grip was pleasurable to me,” Buffy said.

      “Why do you like the feel of your paws in a confined area?”  Kojack asked.

       “I don’t know, maybe, maybe it was because my paws were constricted during my birth.  Mama felt them emerging, and I felt it too.  It must be that.  It felt lovely to feel my feet being squeezed tightly, then a wriggle and a tug from me, and then, and then, finally freed with a rush and squeal of triumph.  I know it’s a little unusual, but that is what I like.”

       “I think it’s rather sweet,” Georgia said.

        “It’s like the trapped paw game but taken to a whole new level,” Kojack observed.

        “I like that game,” Georgia replied.

       “What’s the trapped paw game?”  Buffy asked.  Georgia smiled and turned her head to Buffy, curling the toes of her right foot around those of Kojack’s right foot.  Kojack had sat down, and was now stroking the sole of Georgia’s right foot with the toes of his own right hind paw, Georgia catching the toes of his foot with hers, Kojack giggling with pleasure as her toes squeezed his with surprising strength.

       “The trapped paw game can be played in several ways, as you and I were playing it Buffy, or by two bears who are sitting opposite each other, hind feet pressed together.  They pretend their hind paws are stuck together, and try to pry them apart with their forepaws.”

       “Sounds great!”  Buffy said.  Georgia giggled:

      “It is,” she replied.  Buffy watched as Georgia released Kojack’s foot and the male bear began stroking the sole of her right foot with the toes of his right hind.

      “This feels lovely!”  Georgia said.  Buffy grinned at the two bears.

      “Now, now to free my foot,” she thought, easing her right foot from the grip of Georgia’s forepaws.  At the last moment, Georgia tightened her grip, Buffy squealing and tearing her paw free with a jerk, Georgia managing to hold onto the younger cub’s toes enough to stop her from freeing her foot completely.  Buffy tore at Georgia’s forepaws with hers, freeing her right foot.  Whimpering, Buffy anxiously explored her foot with her forepaws, Georgia smiling at the way the game had concluded.

      “You look cute,” she said.

       “I loved that game,” Buffy said grinning.

       “I like it too,” Georgia said, feeling Kojack take hold of her right foot in his forepaws.  Then Georgia was tugging at her right foot, curling and stretching her toes and then tugging some more, before spinning into a sitting posture and examining her right foot with her forepaws.

      “Something’s got hold of my foot!”  She whimpered, Kojack having let go of her right hind paw.  Exploring it with her forepaws, Georgia flexed her toes, and then felt her pads anxiously.  Then, spinning round to crawl away, she tried to leave, but Kojack gently took hold of her right foot again, the more Georgia struggled to free herself, the tighter he held on.  Georgia, whimpering, scrabbled at the rugs with her forepaws and pushed hard with the toes of her left foot as she tried to get away.

       “It’s squeezing my pads!”  She whimpered, “The force holding me is squeezing my pads and toes!  w’w’w’w’w’w’ouch! I can’t free myself!”  Georgia spun onto her backside again, exploring her now seemingly free right foot with her forepaws.  Then, as before, she tried to crawl away, but found she could not.  Now Georgia hated shuffling backwards, so always crawled forwards.  Now panicking, she got to her feet for the first time, only to find she couldn’t walk, as her left foot this time, not her right, was trapped in the firm but gentle grip of this force holding her back.  Georgia, snarling, pulled hard at her left foot, feeling the paw giving slightly, but she knew she’d have to keep pulling.

       “Pull Georgia Pull!”  Buffy encouraged, her own toes curling with excitement as she watched.  Georgia set her teeth and dragged at her left foot, pushing with the toes of her right hind paw, the heel of that paw off the floor as she braced it hard against the rugs, while head down, she began pulling furiously with her forepaws, one slightly in front of the other.  Georgia felt her left foot slipping out of the force’s control; she could feel the force touching her pads from heel to toes!  Snarling and whimpering, she tugged harder and harder, realising that curling her toes would do no good.  Concentrating hard, Georgia pulled with all her might, her left foot coming free with a rush that sent her head over paws, Georgia landing on her back, her forepaws grabbing for support, catching hold of her left hind paw.  Buffy laughed merrily, as did Georgia and the others.

      “Kojack had hold of your hind paws,” Buffy said.  Georgia giggled and nodded:

       “I like that game,” she said.  Georgia struggled to her feet for the second time in her life.  Then, deciding she preferred crawling, dropped into a crawling posture.  Buffy, seeing her chance, stroked Georgia’s right foot, the cub smiling and laughing.

        “I love that Buffy,” Georgia said, turning and hugging the polar bear cub.

 

Nanuq watched Buffy intently, his heart sore after the deaths of his mother and sire.  Desperate to help a cub, he padded to Buffy and embraced her, the tiny cub snuggling up tightly.  Georgia looked at Nanuq, her own eyes begging him to hug her.

       “Go on,” Kamchatka said, “adopt Georgia too Nanuq.”  Nanuq grinned and settled back, Georgia scrambling into his hug, Nanuq rolling onto his side to hug her tightly.  Now hugging two cubs, Nanuq felt at peace, his spirit telling him:

      “Be good to these cubs, play with them, and role play with them, teach them how to play.  Be a cub with them, but be a cub with guiding paws and wisdom of your years.  Above all, love and protect these cubs with all your heart and everything you wish to avail yourself of to carry out your calling.  Use your paws, your voice, and your playtime to teach your cubs to be gentle, loving and caring.”  Nanuq listened to his spirit, he’d never stopped listening to it since his first awakening in his early life, where, after a restless night, he’d gone as if in a trance to his sire Nanuq senior and, seeing his sire sleeping, had taken his sire’s right foot in his tiny forepaws and began to play with his sires toes and stroke his sire’s pads.  Nanuq senior had asked his son cub what drove him to wake him by stroking his foot and playing with his toes, and Nanuq junior had replied honestly:

      “My spirit commanded me sire Nanuq, I was commanded to come and make play with you right away.”  Nanuq remembered his sire’s tears of joy when he’d heard these words, and his sire’s curled toes and bunched pads, the toes catching his son cub’s and holding them tightly while Nanuq senior cried into his forepaws and then, then, once Sire Nanuq’s crying was done, the glorious playtime.  Nanuq junior, now first and only of that name in the community, thought about his sire, and, now hugging two cubs in his paws, he gave thanks to his sire for nurturing his spirit.

        “Thank you my sire,” Nanuq whispered, “thank you for showing me how to play, how to use my paws, and for giving me the tolls to give these cubs their spiritual and playful lessons.

       “Who are you thanking?”  Buffy asked.  Georgia squeezed her paw:

      “He’s thanking his sire, Nanuq’s sire is dead,” she whispered.  Buffy became still:

      “Oh, um,” she said, covering her mouth with her paw in embarrassment.  Nanuq looked at the two cubs.

        “My sire, he taught me how to play after I had a dream where someone was telling me to go to my sire right away and play with his right foot.  I obeyed, I was nor but a cub.  My paws were filled by my sire’s foot, his pads were warm and rough and large.  I touched his toes with those of my right forepaw, and sire Nanuq’s toes curled before he was fully awake, and wouldn’t let go of mine throughout.  He asked me why I’d come to him while he was sleeping and taken his right foot in my paws, and I told him, and he cried with joy.  After this, we played gloriously for hours, played with each other’s paws, each other’s spirits playing in great joy and companionship.  Now, now I’m commanded as strongly to play with you two, to free your paws from their bonds and let you use them how you most deeply wish to use them.”

      “He means playing the trapped paw games, I’m sure he means those games!”  Georgia whispered to Buffy, Buffy’s toes curling with excitement at this news.

        “I do mean those games,” Nanuq replied, “I want you to play those games together, but also to teach me also.”

      What can we cubs teach you about playtime?”  Georgia asked.

      “Lots,” the large polar bear replied honestly.

       “I am adult in form, but my inner cub wants to play and he’s still inside me, bursting to get out.  If I could struggle and roar with effort and pain like mama when having her cub, to strip off my adult fur and emerge fresh to the world, squealing and roaring like a newborn cub with tiny playful paws as I was when I went to my sire Nanuq and took his foot in my paws, I would endure the pain for a glimpse of that time again right now dear Georgia, dear Buffy.”  Georgia looked into Nanuq’s face, the expression in his eyes making her gulp hard, and tears fill her eyes.

        “You can,” she choked, “you can play like a cub!  Your body might be older, but your paws aren’t, trust me Nanuq, I know!  Though I don’t know how I know.”  Nanuq smiled sadly.

       “I cannot return to those days,” he replied, “but I will do my best to teach you two, as long as you both promise me something, both of you?”  Georgia and Buffy turned their faces up to the large male bear’s.

      “What?”  They asked faintly.

      “That you will teach me with everything you have, every paw, every touch, every minute of your waking lives.”

       “I’m sure we’ll try,” Georgia replied, “and yes, I promise.”

     “Me too,” Buffy replied.  Nanuq kissed their noses, Buffy and Georgia snuggling close, burying their paws in Nanuq’s fur.

       “I feel safe here,” Buffy said, Georgia grinning:

      “So do me,” she said.

 

Meanwhile, in Koda’s lie up, Kamchatka was having a great time with Kelsey, Chelsea and Esta, the three cubs ambushing their adopted mama, Kamchatka ending up on her back, Esta clasped to her belly while Kelsey and Chelsea played with her hind paws, Kamchatka wiggling and curling her toes, to Kelsey and Chelsea’s delight.

     “Mama Fun paws Kamchatka!”  They laughed in unison, Kamchatka laughing with her cubs.  Kamchatka put Esta down gently on the rugs and grabbed Kasey’s right foot, tracing the sole pad, finding it tough and well defined, Kelsey curling her toes tightly, Kamchatka giggling with pleasure.

      “I love your paws,” the mama grizzly said.  Kelsey giggled and pressed her foot hard into Kamchatka’s paws.  Kelsey’s pads were firm, her toes tiny, Chelsea’s paws, similar to her sisters, were being played with by Koda, who’d padded in to find Chelsea waving her hind feet in the air and complaining she was not getting her paws played with, and they desperately wanted to be played with.

 

Meanwhile, in Yi jie’s lie up, ya Jie was in terrible pain labouring hard with the birth of her final cubs.  Liang and she had mated, and now Yi Jie was in pain with contractions which threatened to tear her apart.  Wailing, she bore down hard, standing on all four paws, her head down between her forepaws while she pushed down hard.  Liang danced about, shouting encouragement to his mate:

      “Push Yi Jie push!”  He yelled, as the mama panda sat back on her heels and bore down, then sat down and roared in agony as she felt her cub emerging.  Panting, she caught the cub in her paws.

       “One male cub,” she panted, “but I think there’s another one inside.  I don’t know though.”  Yi jie fed her cub quickly, Liang sitting down to watch his mate, picking up her right foot and playing with her toes.  Yi Jie curled her toes slightly as she felt her mate’s touch, which was pleasurable to her.

       “When will we know if you have a second cub to be born?”  Liang asked.  Yi Jie smiled weakly:

       “It might be a few minutes, or a few hours,” she replied, “I’ll roar and kick though, just as I did in the first stages of this little one’s birth.”  Liang smiled:

      “You looked cute,” he replied, “all vulnerable and very huggable.”  Yi Jie grinned:

        “I know a panda mama looks cute while having her cubs,” Yi Jie said.

      “All the rocking and sit ups look so cute,” Liang replied, then there’s the birth of the cubs, that’s amazing.”

      “I roared because it hurts,” Yi Jie said, “I know my cub’s small, but they really hurt on their way out.”  Liang kissed the toes of Yi jie’s right foot, the she panda curling them tightly and moaning with pain.

      “The cub’s coming, second cub’s coming!”  She moaned.  Liang took their eldest newborn cub while Yi jie wriggled uncomfortably and crawled about the den panting and grunting.  Then she wailed, pushing down hard into her tail.

       “Ow, ow, ow!”  She yelled, banging the rug with her forepaws.  Lying on her side, Yi jie covered her mouth with her forepaws, drew up her hind feet and curled her toes while screaming lustily.

       Yo’o’o’o’ow! Oooah!  Yo’o’o’o’o’o’ow!”  She screamed, “I can feel this cub large inside me!  yo’o’o’o’ow! Yo’o’o’o’o’o’ow!  yo’o’o’o’ow! Yo’o’o’o’o’o’ow!”  Liang watched Yi Jie wriggling and struggling, her eyes tight shut, her hind feet scrabbling at the air, her forepaws clamped over her mouth while she fought her internal battle.  Then Yi Jie rolled onto her back and drew her hind feet up, grabbing them with her forepaws.  Then, with more screaming of:

       yo’o’o’o’ow! Yo’o’o’o’o’o’ow!  yo’o’o’o’ow! Yo’o’o’o’o’o’ow!”  Yi jie pushed down hard four times, before she sat up and bore down hard, her second cub inching into the world while she strained hard, wriggling between contractions to ease the cub into the world.  Panting, she tugged gently at the cub as she pushed, helping it into the world.

      “Just a little more pushing Yi Jie love!”  Liang said, Yi Jie giving her all to her final push to deliver the cub’s hind legs and hind feet.

     “Ouch, ow! yo’o’o’o’ow! Yo’o’o’o’o’o’ow!”  She screamed.  Then she giggled as her newborn female cub clambered to find milk, its tiny scrabbling paws tickling her.

     “I think we should name these, for the older male cub, let’s call him BOHAI, elder brother, and for the female, let’s name her CHANGPU, meaning forever simple.”  Liang suggested.  Yi jie grinned happily.

      “And unlike wild mamas, I won’t let either of these two die,” she replied.  Liang smiled broadly.

      “You have the most beautiful face and paws mama,”  he said, Yi Jie giggling at his loving words, which meant a lot to her, though his touch was most glorious to her also.

 

Meanwhile, Kamchatka was having problems with stroking Kelsey’s paws.  Whenever she tried to touch the taught skin on the soles of the cub’s hind feet, Kelsey would laugh helplessly.

     “My paws are ticklish!”  Then she’d curl her toes slightly, and Kamchatka would try again, able to stroke Kelsey’s slightly bunched pads, where the cub could not cope with her paws being touched when her toes were relaxed.

       “My pads are too taught over the nerves in my paws,” Kelsey said, “so I can’t cope with anyone as much as touching the pads of my paws.  I’ve never been able to cope with that, nor has Chelsea.”

     “Yes Kelsey dear, Koda’s finding the same too!”  Chelsea giggled...

 

Meanwhile, in another part of the house, Nanuq was busy stroking Georgia’s paws.

      “I wish I could remain eight weeks old forever,”  Georgia said, “I’m happy here, my body is happy, my mind is happy, my forepaws happy, my hind feet happy, I can crawl and walk if I want.  I’m so happy here.”

       “You said your mama was shot,” Nanuq replied, “is this true Georgia?”  Georgia looked sad.

      “I want to believe that, I try to believe it, indeed, it was true, but she was shot after, after, well, after she abandoned me.  She waited for my eyes to open, then weaned me quickly and threw me out; don’t know why she did that.”

      “Maybe she didn’t want a stunted cub?”  Anook said, padding in.  Nanuq stared at the mama bear.

       “That was tactless Anook,” he said.

      “It is true though,” Georgia sighed, “she didn’t want me.”

       “You are healthy Georgia,” Tornassuk said, padding in and hugging the fluffy cub.

       “So now what my spirit master?”  Georgia asked.

      “If you wish to be how you are until Eohippus sets your paws on the path across the bridge, you can remain like you are now,” Tornassuk said.  Georgia wriggled with delight as Tornassuk hugged her.

      “I want this more than anything else,” she replied, “I might not have cubs of my own, but I can teach cubs others have, I can make my paws like theirs are.  I can play with my hind feet, roll about, get my hind feet tangled with my forepaws and with the rugs, laugh like a cub, crawl like a cub, and play like a cub.”  Tornassuk kissed her nose.

     “So it will be,” he said.  Georgia giggled with pleasure.

      “Thank you,” she replied.

      “While your mama disliked your stunted growth, we will celebrate your unique talents,” Nanuq said.  Georgia turned to him, scrambling into his hug, pressing her body hard into his embrace, clinging with her forepaws and pushing so very hard with the toes of her hind, Nanuq hugging her so her toes lost traction and she was forced to scrabble for purchase to push her body hard into his hug once more, Nanuq shifting slightly from time to time to frustrate her, Georgia giggling and scrabbling frantically with her hind feet every time he shifted position.

      “My toes keep losing grip!”  She whimpered.  Nanuq shook himself free of her clinging forepaws, crawling away, Georgia squealing with mock anger and crawling after him.  Finding crawling wasn’t fast enough, she took up rolling and then carts wheeling to catch up with her adopted sire.  Nanuq caught her as she cart wheeled at his feet, Georgia laughing merrily.

      “I loved that!”  She yelled, Nanuq kissing her nose and the pads of all four of her small paws.

      “I love you from nose to toes,” Nanuq said.  Buffy laughed helplessly at Georgia’s antics.

      “You two are so cute together,” she said.  Nanuq, sitting down now, smiled with pleasure as Georgia sat in his lap, Georgia laughing helplessly.

       “I want to play with your paws Nanuq!”  Georgia said.  Nanuq placed Georgia on the floor opposite him, turning her to face him.  Then he lifted his right foot in his forepaws and placed his heel in his cub’s paws.

     “Hold tight to that foot,” Nanuq said.  Smiling as Georgia’s forepaws held tightly to his right foot.

      “Why not stroke his sole pad and play with his toes?”  Buffy suggested.

      “I’ll try that,” Georgia said.  She stroked Nanuq’s right foot, the male bear giggling with pleasure and curling his toes slightly.  Georgia laughed merrily as her sire interacted with her in a way both understood at the most basic level of play, a level they loved interacting at.

 

Goldie sat with Fleur, the liger enjoying having her paws played with by the bear.

 

Meanwhile, Lunar and Astra looked at the new cub Lunar had adopted.  Astra, her eyes now open examined the cub from nose to tail.  She found a brown bear cub with beige paws, his legs long and face very cubbish indeed, so much so Astra couldn’t help giggling.  This cub, though she knew he was not of her mother’s womb, was the same age as she, and to find another cub of her age was good for Astra.

 

Meanwhile, Aga and Bruin played together, Aga trying to teach her cub how to fight his corner in a physical confrontation, Bruin’s response frustrating his mother, as all he did was roll over and let his mama tickle his paws.

      “You’re meant to fight me and make me roll over!”  Aga protested.

     “But mama,” Bruin begged, “I love my paws tickled!”

      “Yes that’s just it,” Aga complained, “you’re no bleedin’ well at fighting Bruin!”  Bruin waved his hind feet in thee air, his mama laughing and grabbing his right foot, tickling his pads and playing with his toes, Bruin wriggling and laughing helplessly.

        “Oh mama!”  He laughed.  Aga had big paws, as did both her son cubs.  this was confirmed when Patch padded into the lie up and sat down beside Bruin, dragging the quarter grown cub into a huge hug, Bruin laughing and allowing himself to be handled like a newborn cub..

       “Hello little brother,” Patch said, kissing Bruin on his nose, the cross bred cub giggling nervously, though his eyes told everyone he liked patch’s tactile manner.

      “Kiss his paws,” Aga whispered to Patch, the big grey bear doing just that, Bruin giggling with pleasure.

       “You big softy!”  Bruin laughed, “Patch, get off my paws!  Wasn’t kissing my nose enough?”  Bruin complained, though his heart wasn’t in it.

      “I loved that,” Bruin confided in a whisper into Patch’s ear, the grey bear laughing softly.

       “I knew that,” he replied.  Patch set bruin on his backside opposite him, his hind feet touching the cubs.

      “Curl your toes around mine please,” Bruin asked.  Patch did, Bruin giggling as the toes of his right foot were engulfed by those of the huge bear’s left hind.

       “Any other requests?”  Patch asked.  Bruin laughed merrily and picked up Patch’s right foot in his forepaws, looked at it, leaning forward to kiss Patch’s toes, then rested Patch’s heel on his left hind leg and stroked the large bear’s pads, patch giggling cubbishly and wiggling his toes with pleasure.  Then, as Bruin stroked the sole pad of his right foot, patch curled the toes of that paw tightly, Bruin laughing.

       “I could imagine you having a cub,” Bruin said.  Patch smiled:

      “So could I,” he replied, “I did once you know.”  Bruin looked into Patch’s eyes.

      “I thought so,” he replied.  Patch relaxed the toes of both his hind feet, and then curled his toes tightly, Bruin gasping with the pressure put on his right foot and on the toes of a trapped forepaw.

     “Oooah!”  He said.  Patch smiled and released his grip.

       “Imagine that when I’m in pain with the contractions of cubbing,” he said.  Bruin stroked Patch’s hind paws.

       “You asked the ultimate question,” the cub said,”and survived the answer.”  Patch nodded.

      “Would you crawl about a bit?”  Bruin asked, “Can I chase your hind feet?”  Patch wriggled with excitement, his toes curling tightly as he thought of the chase, Bruin laughing at the older bear’s antics.

       “You can’t help yourself can you,” Bruin said.  Patch giggled:

      “I love paw play,” he replied.  Patch wriggled, struggling o free his left foot from Bruin’s grip, the cub hanging on gently, Patch whimpering and struggling hard, finally wrenching his foot free and crawling away, Bruin chasing him at a crawl, Patch stopping to massage his left foot with both forepaws, whimpering and rubbing his pads and toes as if they hurt him.

        “I’m watching two very playful white soled hind feet,” Bruin said, patch squealing and crawling away, panting as if he was going as fast as he could.  Bruin chased him, leaping on his left foot, Patch throwing himself forward and banging the ground with clenched forepaws wailing and whimpering.  Bruin traced Patch’s pads and played with his toes, the male bear sitting back on his heels and reaching back with a forepaw to explore what held his left foot.

      “Oooah! Oooah!”  Patch whimpered, your paw is warm and fun to stroke,” Bruin said.  Patch bounced his backside on his heels, Bruin giggling and stroking his toes.

      “I love playing with your hind feet,” Bruin said.  Patch laughed:

      “I love it too,” Patch replied.

       “Your pads are soft and wrinkly,” Bruin laughed.  Patch giggled:

       “It’s the way I keep them,”  he replied, “I walk in the woods, but When done I wash my paws more than most, then rub cream into them, keeping them soft and good to play with.”

       “Cubs love your paws, or so I’ve heard,” Bruin said, “I wish I could have paws like yours.”

     “I’ll show you how you can,” Patch replied.  With that he crawled away, Bruin following.

       “Do you ever walk?”  Bruin asked, as if he’d never seen Patch walking before.

      “Crawling is so much more fun,” Patch replied, “keeps my hind feet available for cubs to play with and that are the best of all.”  Bruin blew softly on the sole pad of Patch’s right foot, the larger male bear laughing and tightly curling his toes.

      “Paw play is so wonderful, so wonderful!”  Patch laughed.  Bruin laughed merrily.

       “Now let’s go and wash your paws,” Patch said.  Bruin followed Patch to a room, where the big grey bear found a pleasantly scented soap and then led Bruin to a bathtub where the huge bear dumped Bruin in the tub, which it seemed was constantly full of warm water.  Patch washed his brother with gentle care, Bruin laughing as his paws were tickled by patch’s ministrations.  Bruin settled back in the tub, the feel of Patch’s paws on his strangely familiar, though he didn’t know how this could be, as Patch, to his knowledge had never touched his paws.

       “I feel strangely close to you,” Bruin said.  Patch smiled:

       “We are of the same mother,” he replied.  Bruin stared at him.

      “But, but, you’re older, much older than me,” he said.

     “Mama Aga had me when she was four years old,” Patch replied, “now she’s fifteen, and she had you.”  Bruin waved to Patch to get into the tub opposite him, and smiled as Patch’s hind feet touched his, the larger bear’s toes curling round his with gentle and soothing pressure.  Bruin pressed his hind feet hard against the larger pads of Patch’s hind feet, Bruin wanting to grab hold of one of Patch’s hind feet in his forepaws and play with his toes.  After a long time of holding Bruin’s right foot tightly with the toes of his left foot, Patch wriggled convulsively, water sloshing back and fourth as he struggled against something, then, panting, he finally reached down to pry the toes of his left foot away from Bruin’s left hind, lifting the offending hind paw with a grunt of effort and placing it into bruin’s waiting forepaws.

      “You’re acting as if this foot doesn’t belong to you patch,” Bruin laughed.

      “When it wouldn’t do what I wanted and; let go of your left foot I got angry with it,” patch replied.  Bruin laughed and massaged the large hind paw, stroking Patch’s pads and toes, patch tightly curling his toes.

 

Meanwhile, a red panda and raccoon played together.  Ronnie, the red panda, fought with Reggie his friend, a large raccoon.  Reggie and Ronny had entwined tails and now fought to free themselves by kicking with their hind feet and pawing at each other with their forepaws.  This contest then became a real fight, and resulted in strained tails as well as bruised feet and paws.  Reggie, the younger of the two, had softer pads, but insisted the game was as rough and tough as they both could make it.  Ronnie wriggled, kicked and fought his way free, tickling Reggie’s hind feet with merciless intent, the raccoon rolling onto his back and drawing up his hind feet and then grabbing his right foot in his forepaws, leaving his left hind for Ronnie to tickle, and tickle it Ronnie did, until Reggie was rolling about, tears of laughter rolling down his be whiskered face.

      “You always win!”  Reggie gasped when he’d recovered.  Ronnie smiled and kissed Reggie’s nose and paws, the raccoon giggling with pleasure.

       “You two look happy,” Ekaterina said, padding into the lie up after overhearing Reggie and Ronnie’s play.

      “We are, very happy,” Reggie said panting slightly, still massaging his tickled right foot, which Ronnie had briefly managed to get hold of.

       “I have little knowledge of red pandas or raccoons,” Ekaterina said, “but what I do have tells me they don’t often meet.”

      “Two lost cubs,” Ronnie said, “we met while looking for our mamas and stuck together like glue.  Now four years on here we are.  I suppose we never grew up, playing silly games with our tails and paws.”

     “They’re not silly games at all,” Ekaterina said, “it’s good to see older community members playing with each other’s paws.”  Ronnie laughed:

      “Reggie’s hind feet, they’re, they’re so cute, all soft pads and playful toes!”  Ekaterina grinned.

      “Can I touch them?”  She asked.  Reggie laughed and waved his hind feet in the air.

      “Go on!”  He urged.  Ekaterina explored Reggie’s hind paws, the raccoon wriggling and laughing so hard he was nearly physically sick.

     “You are a big cub really aren’t you,” Ekaterina said.  Reggie grinned up at her and then pedalled the air with all four paws.

       “I could adopt you very easily,” Ekaterina thought.  Ekaterina looked down to see Ronnie staring up at her:

      “You’re falling in love with Reggie!”  He exclaimed.

       “I was only thinking, well, kind of,” Ekaterina said.  Reggie laughed merrily and sat up; playing with the toes of his right foot in the most endearing way he could think of.

       “You rogue!”  Ekaterina laughed, “Reggie cub, you are a proper little Rogue!”  Ekaterina sat down, and Reggie, crawling towards her, clambered into her lap and pressed hard with his hind feet, pushing himself into her embrace.  Ekaterina, gasping, embraced Reggie with tender paws.  Then, grinning, she flipped him onto his back and examined him with her paws, Reggie wriggling and pawing at her paws with his forepaws and hind feet.  Ekaterina looked at Reggie’s laughing face, pawing forepaws and pedalling hind feet, the young raccoon seeing this stopping kicking and slightly curling the toes of both hind feet to bunch his pads a little, Ekaterina smiling and kissing the bunched pads of the now stilled hind feet.  Reggie laughed merrily at Ekaterina’s antics, loving her playfulness.

       “Right, you need a wash!”   Ekaterina said, Getting to her feet and beckoning to Reggie, Ronnie trotting after her.  Finding Patch in the tub with Bruin, Ekaterina stood back, watching her mate and half brother.

      “You two look so happy there, I’m loathed to stop your play,” she said, “but Reggie here needs a bath.”  Patch looked at the raccoon.

       “Okay,” he said.  “We’re done here now anyway.”  Patch led Bruin from the tub, sat him down and rubbed him down with a towel while Ekaterina refilled the bath and plunged Reggie into the bath.  Bruin, laughing delightedly, waved his hind feet in the air as Patch towelled him dry.

       “You two are so good together,” Ekaterina said to Patch and Bruin, the two brothers laughing merrily.

       “We love each other dearly,” patch said, Ekaterina giggling and kissing her mate’s nose and that of her half brother cub.

     “So you’ve adopted a raccoon?”  Bruin asked.  Ekaterina laughed:

      “Um, yes,” she replied smiling, “Reggie’s, um, lovely.”

 

 

Meanwhile, in the pool complex, Morag, Pasha, Kelsey, Chelsea, Astra, Harvey and Kendal were splashing about in the spar pool with Eddie, Lunar, Kuruk and Anook supervising them.

      “They look so carefree,” Anook said to Kuruk, the male grizzly smiling broadly.

      “How if we get in with them?”  He asked.  Anook waved her paw at the tub.

      “Go,” she said.  Kuruk lumbered into the water, sitting down beside Astra, who clambered into his lap, the huge grizzly bear hugging her tenderly.

 

Meanwhile, Sita and Toby played together, Sita tickling Toby’s paws, the young cub laughing and kicking the air with his hind feet.  Sita caught his right foot in her forepaws and examined it by touch, Toby wriggling with pleasure.

      “You have such cute paws!”  Sita said.  Toby grabbed hold of her right forepaw and held it tightly.

       “Can I touch your hind paws mama?”  He asked.  Sita guided her cub’s forepaws to her right foot, Toby exploring it with gentle care.  Sita couldn’t help slightly curling her toes as her cub explored her paw.

       “Your toes curl like mine do when you stroke my paw!”  Toby laughed.  Sita smiled and gently caressed the digest of Toby’s left forepaw in the toes of her right foot.

     “My paw’s stuck!”  Toby wailed, tugging at his paw.  Sita released her slight hold on his paw.

      “Try to free your paw now,” she said.   Toby tried, but couldn’t.

      “It won’t come free!”  He wailed.  Sita realised he was playing a game with her.

       “I wish my hind paw had become stuck though,” Toby said, “then I could use my forepaws to tug at and play with my hind.”  Sita smiled and suggested:

      “Let your forepaw go free, and touch my right foot with your left hind?”  Toby smiled and did as his mama suggested.  Toby found his mama’s hind paw pads warm to the pads of his foot.

 

Kuruk, sitting in the spar pool, felt his right foot taken in tiny paws under the water.  Smiling, he curled his toes as Kendal’s tiny paws explored his pads and toes.

       “You be very gentle little Kendal,” Kuruk said, Kendal smiling broadly at the large bear.

       “I am trying to be gentle,” Kendal replied.  Kuruk smiled broadly.

      “Kuruk no mean you no gentle now,” he said, “um, Kendal cub is gentle to with Kuruk’s paw, you see?”  Kendal giggled with cubbish amusement.

       “You speak interesting language,” Kendal replied.  Kuruk grimaced:

      “English for Kuruk not good, but Kendal no knows community dialect yet,” Kuruk replied, “so Kuruk stumble through as if he has paws all tied together, you see?”  Kendal smiled with pleasure.

        “I like how you talk,” he said.  Kuruk grinned.

       “Astra likes you too,” Lunar said.  Kuruk hugged Astra with one huge forepaw, the moon bear cub snuggling up hard to the grizzly bear.

      “”This place is lovely,” Kendal said, “more bears than I can shake the paws of in a million years, more playful bear’s paws to play with.”

       “Especially if you shake the fore and hind paws of all the bears,” Georgia said, crawling to the side of the pool, Kuruk looking at her, his eyes telling Georgia he wanted to hug her tightly.  Georgia put a forepaw into the water and playfully flicked water at Kuruk, the male grizzly smiling at her.  Reaching over with his left forepaw, Kuruk tugged at Georgia’s right forepaw and Georgia turned tail and eased herself into the water hind feet first, Astra moving to allow Kuruk to help her.  Kuruk guided Georgia’s hind feet one by one into the water, Georgia placing each foot into Kuruk’s forepaws, smiling as his paws        enveloped each foot.

      Georgia just want Kuruk stroke her hind paws,” Kuruk said grinning hugely.  Georgia laughed merrily.

      “I like my hind feet played with,” she said.  Kuruk guided Georgia into the water, Georgia smiling as Kuruk guided each foot down onto a ledge, Georgia turning to Kuruk and sitting down in the water beside him.

       “Your pads are well defined,” he said to the young bear.  Georgia giggled:

      “My pads are fat and cubbish,” she replied.  Kuruk hugged her tenderly.

       “Kuruk hear that Nanuq adopt little Georgia,” the bear said.  Georgia smiled and nodded:

      “He’s so lovely,” she said.  Nanuq padded up behind his adopted daughter cub and kissed her ear.  Georgia smiled broadly and closed her eyes.

       “I love you Nanuq,” she said.  Nanuq smiled broadly.

       “Now,” he said, “what has my dear daughter cub been up to lately?”  Georgia laughed:

       “My paws have been getting into all sorts of new things,” she said, “water, the woods, everything.”  Nanuq grinned.

       “”I remember getting my paws into everything too,” he said.

      “No Nanuq, my paws got me into the woods and the water, I couldn’t help where they took me!”  Georgia replied.  Nanuq kissed her nose:

       “Follow your paws,” he said. #

      “Yes, I have, and they’ve led me here to this pool, and now have got me wet too!”  Georgia said.  Kuruk laughed merrily at this.

      Georgia cub blaming paws for getting wet fur?”  He asked.  Georgia whimpered and fought with her own hind feet; grabbing them with her forepaws, to which her the toes of her hind paws reacted by curling round those of her forepaws.  Georgia wriggled and fought madly to free her forepaws from her grasping hind, splashing everyone else in the pool!

      “You’re so funny Georgia!”  Kendal laughed, almost choking on the spray sent up by her struggles.  Georgia freed her left forepaw, then her right.

     “Now stay down there hind feet!”  She squealed hysterically.  Nanuq laughed so hard he nearly fell into the spar pool.

      “You’re so funny!”  He said.  Georgia smiled and splashed her adopted sire.  Nanuq fished Georgia out of the water and sat her on the tiles.  Walking round her, he examined her carefully by sight before sitting down and taking both her forepaws in his and touching noses with her, Georgia all the while trying not to laugh, as she wanted to laugh and wave her paws in the air, but knew for Nanuq this was a serious business.

       “Now what?”  Georgia asked.  Nanuq let go of her forepaws and picked up her right foot, resting her heel on his left hind leg.  Gently he began to stroke the furred top of Georgia’s paw, the cub smiling, but whishing he’d stroke the sole of her foot instead.

       “How can I get him to stroke the pads of my paw?”  She thought.  Georgia suddenly tore her paw free of Nanuq’s and rolled onto her back, drawing her legs up and grabbing her hind feet with her forepaws.

       “What are you doing?”  Nanuq asked.  Georgia looked sideways at him.

       “Now, now he’ll have to stroke the soles of my paws,” she thought.

       “I want you to stroke the pads of my hind paws,” Georgia said.  Nanuq smiled:

      “Well why didn’t you say so?”  He asked.

       “I don’t know,” Georgia replied, “but would you?  Please?”  Nanuq crawled to his cub and hugged her.

      “I will stroke your paws, kiss your nose, play with your toes, and hug you as much as you want me to,” Nanuq said.  Georgia looked into his face.

     “Please hug me when you want to,” she begged.  Nanuq kissed her nose and forepaws, then, when Georgia raised a foot, he kissed the toes of that paw also.

       “You are cute from your nose to your toes,” Nanuq said, Georgia giggling cubbishly.

       “I love my paws,” she said.  Nanuq laughed slightly.

      “I love them too,” he replied.

 

Meanwhile, Kuruk was distracted.  He’d seen someone padding into the complex, a large bear wearing the most improbable scarf around his neck that Kuruk had ever seen.  Kuruk recognised the bear from his time in the wilds, and as he watched, he felt his face smiling, and then he was up on his feet, splashing from the pool, running to the large bear and throwing his paws around his neck.

     Nikolai!”  Kuruk yelled, the large bear laughing and rolling Kuruk over on his side to hug him tightly.

      “I’ve been wondering where you got to,” the large bear named Nikolai, or just Nicky, as he preferred, replied.

       “Where did you find him?”  Kamchatka asked Kuruk, who had just kissed the newcomer on his nose in an uncharacteristic public display of affection.

      “This bear mama,” Kuruk said, is Nicolai, my friend from in the wild, and, and, he be wearing his scarf, the same scarf he wore when I last saw him years ago.”

      “Where on earth did you get that scarf?”  Kamchatka asked.  Nicole laughed merrily.

       “I was cold one night, so I stole a scarf,” he said.  Kuruk laughed and tickled Nicolai’s hind paws, the big bear rolling about laughing helplessly.

       “I’m so glad I found you Kuruk,” Nicolai said when he could speak again, Kuruk’s eyes shining into his.

      “So this bear was in the wilds of the mountains and he wore a scarf because he was cold?”  Kamchatka asked.  Kuruk shook his head.

      “He no in mountains, he on train where I find him while we come to this country to find our new homes,” Kuruk replied.

       “But if you found him on the train,” Kamchatka asked, “How come he didn’t follow you here?”

      “Ask him,” Kuruk grunted, “Kuruk no know thing like that.”

        “I was a circus bear,” Nicolai replied, “I wore suits and hats, and socks on my paws too, as well as shoes on my paws.  Now though, I’m sick of all that.  Though I did wear a scarf for a bit, which is a throwback to my human domination.  I should discard the scarf, but, well, I’m attached to it.

      “That make you look a rather silly bear,” Kamchatka said honestly, removing the scarf from around Nicolai’s neck and draping it round Kuruk’s, to the male grizzly’s obvious and comical horror.  Nicolai, seeing his friend wearing his trusty scarf, covered his mouth with one huge paw to stop himself laughing.

       “Kuruk no wearing scarfs!”  Kuruk roared, flinging the scarf into the water of the spar pool, Nicolai staring in horror as it became water logged and sank, to be retrieved by Kelsey who threw the scarf back to Nicolai, the end of the now heavy and water logged scarf smacking the large bear in the face.

      “Ow, shit!”  Nicolai roared, rubbing his stinging face.

      “Language!”  Kamchatka snapped.

      “I’ll give you language!”  Nicolai snarled, rubbing his eye which had also been struck with the wet scarf.

       “Here, I’ll ring it out,” Anook said, picking up the scarf and wringing it in her powerful paws until it was free of excess water.  Handing it back to its rightful owner, Anook looked Nicolai up and down, and then smiling, she took his scarf and tied it round her own neck, before running off.

      “You’ve lost your scarf,” Kuruk grunted.

       “I don’t know what I feel about that,” Nicolai said.  Kuruk sprinted after Anook, rescuing his friend’s scarf from her and running back to Nicolai with it.

      “Here, scarf,” he panted, with Anook racing into view to reclaim her prize.  Kuruk faced his mate, picked her up, swung her round and launched her into the main pool with a huge splash.  Nicolai laughed helplessly.

       “You’re so funny!”  He said.  Anook, spluttering and floundering, didn’t share the large bear’s opinion.

      “I want that scarf!”  She roared.

     “That scarf is Nicolai’s, not yours,” Kuruk replied.  Anook pulled herself out of the water and faced Nicolai, who got nose to nose with her, opened his mouth and roared into her face.

     “Okay, okay!”  Anook yelled, sitting down horridly, shaking her head while covering her ears with her forepaws.

       “So you’re not so weak after all then,” Kamchatka said.  Nicolai grinned, got to his hind feet, picked Kamchatka up in his forepaws and, cradling her effortlessly, kissed her nose and forepaws before setting her down on her hind paws.  Kamchatka, entering into the spirit of the thing, rolled onto her back and waved her hind paws at Nicolai who kissed them also, much to Kuruk’s amusement.

      “Silly mama!”  He laughed.  Nicolai looked Kamchatka in her eyes, kissed her nose, and then spun on his heel, padding out of the complex and into the main house.

 

Meanwhile, in the main house, Pakshalika watched as Sarafina paced and panted while coping with the first stages of labour.  Her and Tommy’s mating was coming to its natural conclusion, and Sarafina was expressing increasing pain with growling and puffing.  When a contraction overcame her, Sarafina lay down, curled her toes, closed her eyes and arched her back, roaring as things got more painful, mewing as the contraction spent itself.

       “I don’t know if I can push voluntarily,” Sarafina gasped, “involuntary contractions hurt so much!”

       “It’ll be okay,” Pakshalika said.  Sarafina rolled onto her back, kicking the air with all four paws, Pakshalika seeing the sweat flying from her fur as she wriggled and writhed as contractions suddenly became stronger.

      Aoarhrhrhrhrhrh! Oaarhrhrhrhrhrhrhr! Aoouch!”  Sarafina yelled.  Then she stretched out on her side and squealed lustily, before clenching her teeth and bearing down hard, roaring and grunting.

     “That’s it, push, push!”  Pakshalika encouraged.  Sarafina got to her feet, squatted, and strained hard down into her tail, Pakshalika seeing the lioness’s toes curled hard into the rugs, her head down and tail stretched out behind her as she pushed down with all her might.

     “The cub’s head’s coming now,”  Pakshalika said, seeing the cub’s forepaws emerging, then seeing the cub’s progress slow down and Sarafina’s agony as the cub’s head began to emerge, making Sarafina wriggle and stamp her feet, her claws ripping out chunks of the rug as she writhed to accommodate the cub’s head while panting and crying.

     “Pant, pant hard!”  Pakshalika encouraged.

     Umph, umph, urhrhrhumph, urhrhrhrhrhumph!”  Sarafina replied, panting and wriggling.  Then she wailed loudly as the cub’s head burst fourth, its body following with a rush.

       Aoaoaoaoaoaouch! Aoaoaoaoaoaouch! Aoarhrhrhrhrhrh! Oaarhrhrhrhrhrhrhr! Aoouch!”  Sarafina screamed as the cub emerged into the world, its mother lying flat on her side, screaming and pawing at the air with curled toes and sweating paws.

      “Cub’s nearly here, one more big push!”  Pakshalika yelled, Sarafina panting, gathering herself together, then pushing down hard with a strangled cry of:

    Urhrhrhrhrhumph!”  Sarafina felt the cub slide free, and then turned to look at it, its fur all wet and the cub roaring as lustily as she had.

       “A male liger cub,” Pakshalika said, “lovely!”  Sarafina smiled weakly.

      That was amazing!”  Nicolai exclaimed as he emerged from behind the door.

      “You saw everything?”  Sarafina asked, not realising she’d never met this bear before.

      “yes,”  Nicolai replied, “I, I didn’t mean to intrude, it was just, well, I was padding about, and heard roaring and mewing coming from here, so I put my eye to the slightly opened door, and, and I saw the most wonderful things!””  Sarafina smiled to herself while she cleaned her cub and got him feeding.  Then she looked fully at the newcomer.  A huge brown bear wearing a scarf around his neck.  The bear had gentle eyes which seemed to love her on sight, a slight smile despite his intrusion into private matters, a confident manner, and big friendly paws.

       “I want a hug.”  Sarafina thought, “Those paws, how good they’d feel around me right now.”  Nicolai knelt down and embraced Sarafina tightly, the lioness snuggling up hard.

      “How did you know I wanted a hug?”  She whispered.  Nicolai kissed her nose and didn’t reply, for there was no need.

      “Your paws are so warm and comforting!”  Sarafina whispered to Nicolai, who pulled her closer, rocking her gently in his embrace, Sarafina curling her toes into the rug and pushing a little with her hind feet, Nicolai smiling as he felt her slight effort.

       “You’ve done all the pushing you need to,” Nicolai said softly, sitting down properly as Sarafina snuggled up to him.

      “Would you let me push hard into you just once,” she said, “push as hard as I can?”  Nicolai smiled:

      “Go on then,” he said.  Sarafina relaxed, and then breathing deeply, she set her mind to thinking of the loneliest place she could, which wasn’t difficult for her, as she remembered the dreadful times before Pakshalika took her in.  Nicolai released his hold on Sarafina, so his paws just touched her.  Then, whimpering, Sarafina felt her toes curl into the rugs, and her hind quarters tense.  Committed, she pushed herself hard into Nicolai’s hug, the bear’s embrace urging her to push hard with her hind feet, harder than she’d ever done before, as hard as she pushed to deliver her cub.  Sobbing, Sarafina braced her hind feet against the rugs, pushing her body hard into Nicolai’s with all her might.  After a minute of intense pressure, Nicolai felt Sarafina relax, her body shaking with exertion.

      “That was wonderful!”  Sarafina said.  Nicolai smiled:

      “It was,” he said.  Nicolai suddenly felt tiny paws patting his right foot.  Looking down , he could see the male cub patting the pads of his huge right foot with his paws.

      “What do you want little one?”  Nicolai asked.  For answer he felt the cub clamber up his right foot, up his hind leg, onto his lap, and up his body to his shoulder.  Then the cub, still blind, clambered up Nicolai’s neck until he was sitting between the bear’s ears.

      “I wanted a hug too,” the cub said.  Nicolai reached up with both forepaws and cradled the cub in them, putting him on the floor.

       “Now if I can hug a little cub,” Nicolai said fitting actions to words and embracing the little liger.

       “What’s your name little one?”  Nicolai asked.

      “I don’t know,” the cub replied, “I’m only a few minutes out of the warm dark squeezing place, and don’t know things like that yet.”

      “Why are you asking me for ideas for names for your cub?”  Nicolai asked.  Sarafina looked sadly at the bear, her expression making him wants to throw his paws around her and hug her.

      “Tommy, that’s his sire, he doesn’t want to know about the cub,” she choked, “we mated, and were happy, but when I went into labour, he ran off, and doesn’t want to know.  Now, now I’m alone with this little cub, and while I won’t abandon him, I need some support!”  Then she screwed up her face in pain:

    “Aaaahh!”  She whimpered, “Something’s happening!”  Nicolai laid the cub aside, the tiny creature unconcerned by his mother’s cries.  Then Sarafina pressed her body into Nicolai’s hug, then, with a strangled cry, bore down into her tail.  Panting, she pushed hard with her hind feet, pressing herself into the bear’s tightening embrace, Nicolai hearing her panting and whimpering.

       “You’re delivering the afterbirth,” Pakshalika said.  Sarafina groaned loudly, panted, and then pushed hard down into her tail.

     e’e’e’e’e’ee’e’e’oah!”  Sarafina groaned as she pushed, the afterbirth welling from her.

      “That rarely happens,” Pakshalika said, “usually the cub comes out in his birth sack.

      “This one didn’t,” Nicolai said, “lucky he was born quickly after the sack separated from him.”  Sarafina, gasping and sweating, whispered to Nicolai that:

       “I wish you’d been there with me during my real labour.  Mama was great, but I wish I’d had a bear to cuddle while I was in real pain.  I wanted to cry into someone’s fur, squeeze their paws, hug them, all that, and mama, while being calm and collected, was not that.  She knows labour, and enjoys it, is comfortable with contractions almost, but I’m a cub, a mere cub in that sense.  I knew nothing!”  Pakshalika heard her adopted cub’s words, and they struck home.  She’d never spoken to Sarafina about how she’d wanted to be helped during her labour, and now she knew she’d put her paw in it.”

       “I described the births of my own cubs, but could never describe yours Sarafina,” Pakshalika said, “I’m sorry I didn’t’ ask how you wanted to have your cub.”  Sarafina looked at her adopted mama.

      “I can’t feel bitter,” she said, “and I don’t.  I do wish though that I could go through things again, to make them right, to wipe away my fear.”  Nicolai took Sarafina’s paw in his, feeling her toes curling tightly.

        “Help me, please!”  The lioness begged.  Nicolai kissed her whiskers:

        “I will,” he replied, Sarafina crying into his thick fur.

 

Meanwhile, a large brown bear stumbled through the wood, pursued by Matoskah who’d seen him walking along a track, challenged him, and was now chasing him as the bear had run off in panic.

      “Stop, stop!”  Matoskah roared, the brown bear charging through the wood with purpose driven by fear.  Matoskah chased the bear into the house, just in time to see him fling something onto the sofa in the great room.  Matoskah was about to chase the bear into the room when he turned to face him.

       “I’m not going to hurt you!”  Matoskah snapped irritably.

      “Do with me what you will,” the brown bear said collapsing onto the floor, “just leaves my cub alone, he’s done no wrong.”

        “Your cub?”  Matoskah asked.

      “Not my cub, not really my cub,” the poor brown bear replied, “he, I, we, um, oh dear.  We found each other, I found him actually.  I promised him, that, that I’d look after him, and, and now I’ve failed!  We’re about to die!”

      “No no no no!”  Matoskah replied, “Whatever gave you that idea?  You’re as safe as if you were with your mama, if you only knew it.  We’re gentle here.  Look, please, sit down, properly I mean, show me your cub, and we can talk.  I am, was, security for the community, now though, as you are no threat, I have shed my security fur and now stand before you as a concerned member of the ursine family.”

       “You mean, you give me your word you will not harm me or my cub?”  The bear asked, his eyes showing hope for the first time.

      “I can only give my word,” Matoskah replied, “also, my paw if you’d like too.”  Padding forward in the most submissive manner possible, Matoskah approached the bear, giving him his right forepaw.  The brown bear stared at the huge polar bear’s paw in his smaller ones as if he’d never seen a bear’s paw before.

      “I’m at your service, and so is my community,” Matoskah said.  The brown bear looked into the polar bear’s face, seeing something he’d never dreamed was possible from a polar bear, a look of gentle concern for him and his cub.

       “Now let’s see where your cub’s got to,” Matoskah said.  The brown bear started in fear as he heard voices behind him, then to his astonishment, saw two large cubs carrying his precious charge between them, the polar bear cub laughing and waving his paws with delight.

      “Who are those cubs?”  The brown bear asked, “And what are they doing with my cub?”

       “That’s Chelsea and Kelsey carrying your cub, with little Georgia alongside your cub tickling his right foot,” Matoskah replied.

       “Little Knut looks at home,” the brown bear replied.

       “I am at home here Zane, I am!”  The cub replied as he was born away on his living personal carriage.

      “Funny bears you have here,” Zane mused, “don’t they have any misgivings about newcomers?”

       “Not unless they have reason to feel such,” Matoskah replied, “indeed, if you hadn’t taken fright, we’d be having a cup of tea by now, rather than sitting with you all hot and sweating in this passageway.”

       “I know that now,” Zane replied, “and I’m very sorry for my fright.”

      “No problem,” Matoskah replied, “now let’s get you into the light so I can take a good look at you from nose to tail, if that’s agreeable of course.”  Zane smiled:

      “Like a kind of medical checkups?”  He asked.

     “No, not unless you want one,” Matoskah replied, “more of a kind of, “let’s see what you really look like,” kind of thing.”

       “I taught Knut to be unashamed of using his paws to explore,” Zane said, “I know this is unconventional, but I think the paw is very important.”

      “So do we feel here,” Matoskah replied, “I will, with your permission, run my paws from your nose to the pads of your hind feet?”

       “I give permission gladly and with much anticipation,” Zane replied.

      “What did he say?”  Georgia asked, padding back with Knut.

       “He means he’s looking forward to it,” Knut translated, Matoskah and Georgia laughing merrily.  Georgia kissed Knut’s nose, the cub giggling with pleasure.  Zane padded in front of Matoskah to his lie up, where the large brown bear settled down on the rugs, sitting with his legs outstretched, hind feet accessible.

       “Here are my paws,” Zane said.  Matoskah hugged Zane tightly, the brown bear cuddling close.  Then, when Matoskah released him, Zane deliberately gave him his right foot, Matoskah exploring Zane’s paw with gentle care, from large toes, to large flat sole pad,  Zane unable to resist curling his toes with pleasure, making his pads bunch up.

       “I like that,” Zane said dreamily, “my paws were made for playing with.”  Matoskah smiled and traced the edge of Zane’s sole pad, the bear giggling and bouncing about like a cub.

       “I love that!”  He laughed, tightly curling his toes.  Matoskah smiled and rubbed the furry top of Zane’s right foot, the large male bear stretching and curling his toes with ecstatic pleasure.

      “This is everything my mama taught me to do with my paws in secret, but told me not to do in public, gathered together all at once,” he said.  Matoskah grinned:

      “Don’t worry about what mama would think any more,” He said, “playing with your paws is okay, or letting others play with your paws is okay, as long as you enjoy their touch.”  Zane pressed his foot hard into Matoskah’s forepaws, curling his toes tightly once more, Zane trying to embrace Matoskah’s forepaws with the toes of his foot.

       “Paws were meant to be played with Zane,” Knut said.  Zane smiled broadly.

      “They are meant for that first and foremost,” he replied, “their other uses come a necessary, but rather boring and poor second in my view.”  Everyone laughed at this, agreeing whole heartedly, and with all of their paws too.

       “You have huge hind feet and tiny forepaws Zane,” Matoskah said.  Zane looked uncomfortable:

      “I know,”  he replied, “my hind feet are so much larger than my fore, they always have been,  my mama said she had to use her paws to ease each of my hind feet into the world one by one when she was delivering me into the world.  She said she had to push down hard to deliver each of my hind feet.  Two big pushes, of which she felt everything.”

      “Ouch,” Chelsea said with feeling.

       “Yes it was,” Zane replied.

     “But now you have very soft pads and very mobile toes,” Matoskah said.  Zane smiled and relaxed his curled toes, Matoskah gently stroking the toes of his right forepaw down the large sole pad of Zane’s right foot, Zane curling his toes slightly.

         “My mama always played with my paws, despite her difficult labour,” Zane said, “and I am very grateful for that.”

      “Has anyone told you you’ve got fun paws Zane?”  Matoskah asked.

      “No,” Zane replied, “but there is always a first time.  Do you think my paws are fun?”  Matoskah grinned:

      “They are,” he replied, “big and cubbish paws, toes which easily express your feelings, pads which bunch up most cutely.”  Zane giggled:

       “I love holding my hind feet with my forepaws and curling my toes, feeling the way my pads bunch up,”  he said, “it’s, well, very therapeutic for me  to play with my own hind paws.”

      “I love the way your pads are so soft and sensitive, even after all the walking you’ve done,” Matoskah said.  Zane smiled:

        “I play with my hind paws every night, as does Knut plays with his.  We then, after playing with our own hind paws, while pretending to examine them for thorns and things, examine each other’s paws.”

     “More like play with each other’s paws Zane,” Knut said.  Zane laughed:

      “Play it is,” he replied, “and very good it is too.”

      “How long have you known each other?”  Georgia asked.

     “Knut was about three months old when I found him wandering the woods alone.  My mate had died, and I was a lonely bear.  Having lost my mate while she was having our cubs, I wandered lonely and depressed.  It was Knut who brought me out of that dark time, for here was a little cub who had no home and no family.  We travelled together, and now he’s six months old, and we’ve been together ever since.”

     “What games do you and Zane play Knut?”  Georgia asked.

     “We play the trapped paw game, that’s wonderful,” Knut replied, “I also will spend time stroking Zane’s hind paws, tracing his pads and playing with his toes, we both like that game.”

      “Do you let Zane play with your paws?”  Matoskah asked.  Knut nodded:

      “I do, I do!”  He replied, “And I love it too!”

       “I love Knut playing with my hind paws,”  Zane said, “it’s, well, what a six month old cub should do, play with their sire’s paws that is.  It’s natural.”  Knut laughed:

       “Your paws are so large, your pads so soft, and toes so playful I love playing with your paws,” the cub replied, “They are supreme playthings.”

      “Your hind paws are large and soft for a reason Zane,” Tornassuk said, padding into the lie up, “Eohippus meant you to have big hind paws.”  Zane smiled:

       “I’m comfortable with my hind feet just as they are,” he replied, “I like them, always have.  I just wish sometimes that I could see the soles of my own hind feet that would be wonderful.”   Tornassuk set up a camera and a screen and soon Zane had his wish, he could see the soles of his own hind paws, finding them highly amusing.  Zane watched as his pads bunched and toes curled, then smiling, he stretched his toes as far as he could.

      “Sweet,” he said.  Tornassuk smiled broadly at the pleasure Zane took in playing with his hind paws.

      “If only we were all so innocent with our play,” he thought.

 

Meanwhile, Bianca was screaming at Tommy, having heard of his actions on hearing of Sarafina’s labour.

      “So you walked out on her in her hour of need?”  Bianca asked.  Tommy whimpered that this was indeed the case.

      “You waste of space!”  Bianca screamed at her cub, cuffing him with her paw and sending him away.

      “So Tommy put Sarafina in cub with full knowledge and then left her when her pains started?”  Snowy asked.  Bianca nodded:

      “He’s committed a dreadful act,” she snarled.

 

Zane, now reassured of his safety, began to open up to Matoskah.  Soon, he and Matoskah were playing with Georgia and Knut as if they’d been friends for life.  Matoskah couldn’t help returning to Zane’s hind paws from time to time to stroke and tickle his soft warm pads, Zane wriggling and laughing with pleasure and delight.

       “I like the way you alternate the paws you stroke and tickle,”  Zane said in a lull between games, “that way, my hind feet don’t become too used to being touched, it’s fresh every time.”  Matoskah grinned hugely.

      “I know how to play with paws,” he said, “I learned that art from an early age.”  Matoskah gently drew the toes of his right hind paw down the sole pad of Zane’s right foot from heel to toes while Zane sat back on his heels.

     “Oooah! Wow!”  Zane exclaimed as Matoskah stroked his right hind paw with gentle care.  Zane, unable to control himself now, bounced about on his heels with pleasure, Georgia and Knut laughing at his antics.

      “You’re like a cub with a new toy,” Georgia said, “Zane, you love paw play so much, and it’s sweet.”  Zane grinned hugely.

      “What I think is so sweet about Zane’s paws are those huge pads,” Matoskah replied, “they’re so soft and warm, and they bunch up so cutely.”  Zane laughed:

       “You innocently love my paws,” he said, “it’s cute, and sweet, and I’d like it to continue.  You’re just a big cub Matoskah.”  Matoskah had to agree this fact.  He’d never really grown up.

      “I ended up as a breeding male in a zoo, and that was that,” he replied, “now though, I have a mate, Jinghua, who’s a panda, and a cub Lihua, who’s just the cutest thing on four paws.”  Zane laughed merrily.

      “And you play with her paws like you play with mine?”  He asked.

      “I do,” Matoskah replied, “and she loves it too.”  Zane wriggled with pleasure as Matoskah’s left forepaw explored the sole of his left hind, Zane deliberately sitting back on his heels so he could not see what Matoskah was doing with his forepaws, so that every touch on the pads and toes of his hind feet was fresh and unexpected for Zane, which was the way the brown bear liked it.

      “Your paws are so playful,” Matoskah said.  Zane, experiencing sensations and emotions he’d not felt since he was a cub, closed his eyes, focusing everything on the messages given to him through the pads and toes of his right foot.  Matoskah examined Zane’s right foot, from Zane’s slightly curled toes to his slightly bunched wrinkled black sole pad.  Matoskah blew on the large sole pad, Zane curling his toes tighter and laughing merrily.

      “Stop that!”  He said.  Matoskah smiled and kissed the bunched pad of Zane’s right hind paw, his action causing Zane to relax his toes and become thoughtful.

       “That’s kind’s sweet,” Zane said.  Matoskah massaged the large sole pad of Zane’s left foot in small circles, the male brown bear sighing with pleasure.

       “I’m glad to see Matoskah’s making you welcome,” Lihua said, padding in.  Matoskah looked at his cub:

      “I like this bear a lot,” he said.  Lihua grinned:

     “Mama’s laughing fit to bust at your antics,” she said, I’ve been waving my paws in the air too and rolling about madly.”  Matoskah beckoned with his free forepaw and Lihua came forward, Matoskah kissing her nose.

       “I’m playing with Zane like I play with you,” he said.

     “Zane’s really a large cub,” Lihua whispered, “I can see it!”  Matoskah smiled:

    “I know he is,” he replied.  Zane turned round and looked at Lihua, his eyes widening as he took in the cross bred cub.

      “You’re the most beautiful cub I’ve ever seen!”  He blurted, Lihua giggling with pleasure, padding forward and kissing his nose, Zane gasping with shock and pleasure.

      “I’ll tickle your toes if you want,” Lihua said, Zane grinning broadly.

      “I’m already getting my paws played with by a gorgeous cub,”  Knut said, throwing his paws around Georgia and kissing her nose, then Georgia thrust her right foot into his forepaws, and Knut tickled her pads, the long haired cub squealing with laughter.

 

Meanwhile, Sarafina and Nicolai played with Sarafina’s cub.  Sarafina, naming her cub Kosey, now felt more at ease with her situation.  Nicolai watched Kosey playing with his mama’s tail, and realised he loved this cub with everything he had.

 

 

 

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