Trial of a Titan.

 

 

In the woodlands, Titan made his way back to the summer garden, feeling the weight of his responsibilities.

 

Titan smiled and purred with pleasure at the sensations caused by  Apudo’s presence inside him as she kicked and kneaded at his womb with her feet and paws. His eyes shining, he rolled onto his back on the track, feeling Apudo kicking as she was turned upside down. Titan breathed deeply, then rolled down the slope towards the summer garden, faster and faster, braking to a stop by digging in his feet.

        “Okay that’s enough,” Titan mewed, panting hard, his pads hot and sweating from his exertions.

        “You look wonderful!” Snowy mewed, padding from the outdoor pool where she was finishing her daily swim.

        “I feel it,” Titan mewed.

        “I heard about what Apudo did!” Snowy growled, “that was awful Titan!”

        “I know,” Titan mewed, “but you cannot speak to her about what is past.”

       “Why not?” snowy asked, “I’d love to tear her paws off for what she did to little Ekaterina, the poor female man cub!”

        “I understand how you feel,” Titan mewed, “but, she has no past now, at least not in her old skin.”

        “What on earth are you on about?” Snowy asked.

        “Touch my belly,” Titan mewed, lying down on the tiles by the edge of the pool.

        “Okay, but, but, oaoaoaoaoh!” Snowy mewed as she too lay down, then reached for Titan’s belly with one huge white paw, her touch answered by an answering kick from inside the huge liger.

        “Titan,” snowy whispered, “are you sure?”

         “It’s my choice, and hers,” Titan mewed.

        “But rebirth is dangerous work,” snowy mewed, “I know that, and so should you Titan, why do it?”

       “I will not break the confidences of one who’s deepest thoughts were spoken to me in privacy and deep distress,” Titan mewed, “except to say this, I will be delivering a cub to the community in a short time. Which means, we have only one leader now, karina.”

        “No, we have two,” Snowy mewed, nuzzling Titan’s paw, “you and karina, and patch, so three.”

       “I’m no leader,” Titan mewed, “I have not been elected, I’ve not done anything to merit it.”

        “You have done much,” karina said, padding near, turning the shower on and washing herself.

       “You look as if you’ve had a good time karina,” Titan mewed.

      “Oh, the sand in my fur from head to feet?” karina giggled, “yes, Moses and little Ekaterina rolled me in sand, then rubbed it into my head fur too. They slightly buried my feet also.”

       “One of the best bits of washing in the shower is cleaning pads and toes,” Snowy mewed, “it feels so good!”

       “that’s so true,” karina mewed, washing herself thoroughly, before soaping her hands and attending to her feet, lifting first her left foot, soaping it, then, standing on her right leg, she grabbed the shower hose and, leaning on the wall,  turned the nozzle to fine spray. Turning her back on the watchers so they could see the sole of her left foot, she directed the jet over her heel, arch and toes, snowy giggling as Karina’s toes curled with the pleasure of the water’s massage.

        “I’m hating every minute!” karina yowled theatrically, Titan laughing merrily at her antics.

        “the day you don’t enjoy foot massage will be a sad day indeed,” he said.

        “What’s the best place for you?” Snowy asked.

      “the best place on my foot?” Karina asked, playing the spray over the sole of her left foot, "um, here.” Snowy saw the jet hitting the ball of Karina’s foot, karina curling her toes slightly to catch the water.

       “I like it there too,” Snowy mewed, padding up behind karina and touching the heel of her left foot with her nose, karina laughing, spraying snowy in the face with the jet of water.

       “I forgot you could do that!” snowy gasped, coughing as water went up her nose.

       “Don’t tickle my pads with your breath then dear snowy,” Karina mewed, feeling snowy plant a kiss on the heel pad of her raised left foot.

         “that’s so sweet!” Titan mewed.

       “I have another foot I need to wash,” karina mewed, repeating her washing on her right foot.

      “it feels great doesn’t it,” Titan mewed.

      “it does,” snowy purred.

       “You will want plenty of paw and foot washes during your labour Titan,” karina mewed, “I know what a rebirth is like, it’s bloody hard work!”

       “I know,” snowy mewed, “my poor toes! My poor legs! My poor everything! So much ouch!” Titan squirmed with the thought of it, but the kick of the new life inside him soothed his anxiety.

       “you do all you need to when in labour Titan,” Snowy mewed, “don’t be afraid to yowl                     like a tigress in labour.”

      “I can’t yowl like a tigress, I’m a liger,” Titan giggled.

        “You can yowl like a lioness or tigress,” Snowy mewed, “don’t hold anything back, if it hurts, let the world know with your voice and paws and feet and efforts.”

      “It will hurt,” Titan mewed, “Apudo is going to be a big cub when she’s born. I only hope she doesn’t come out feet first as she did first time. That would be difficult.”

       “if she does, Blackberry can get his paw in and help,” karina said.

       “I would like to help Apudo out into the world unaided if I can,” Titan mewed.

       “Have you got the, um, equipment to give birth?” snowy asked.

        “I, I, well, yes I have,” Titan mewed, “I looked at the scans of me, and I have a womb and birth canal. I could push properly to deliver a cub. I have no milk supply though, my female side is strange, I have female and male genitalia, as Blackberry put it, but no teats to give milk. I don’t think about it much, I’m more, well, in my head rather than my body.”

        “how do you feel about your body?” Karina asked.

        “it’s what I have, and if others don’t like it, then that’s their issue,” Titan mewed, “as long as I know why I feel the way I do. I’ve wanted to give birth to a cub for ages, as everyone knows. I am glad I have the means to do just that, and that Apudo is safe inside me.”

        “Who checked you over?” snowy asked.

           “I did,” Blackberry replied, padding to Titan, kneeling then kissing his nose.

        “did you see how Apudo was transported?” Karina asked.

        “I can’t explain how it happened,” Blackberry replied, “it was all very strange. Titan covered Apudo in oil and, well, she shrank and I well, um, I saw her transported into Titan’s care.”

       “You put her there?  Inside him?” Karina asked.

        “Apudo sort of made her own way. She was in a sort of half dream when she did it, I think we all were. Titan crouched, and Apudo crawled to him, vanishing beneath his body. I didn’t see where she went, but Titan lay down on his side, panting and pedalling the air with his paws and feet a bit, curling his toes with discomfort from time to time too,” Blackberry replied.

        “up the tunnel that’s where,” Titan mewed, “I’ve felt it done. It’s strange, and does make you pant and pedal the air with your paws!”

        “it’s done that way with those who have tunnels,” Blackberry said, “I’ve spoken to patch about it. he said that in those who rebirth who have no tunnel, males, the cub is placed differently.”

       “Did Apudo actually die?” Karina asked.

      “No,” Titan mewed, “Apudo slid into a dream to crawl to the place where she is now, when she arrived at the place where she is to stay for a while, she went into a deep sleep, her body was flexible enough to get her to where she needed to be. In those who die by the actions of another, in their rebirth the implantation is different, but the outcome is the same. Apudo will know her name, but I will be mama to her.”

        “Why did you let Blackberry do that Titan!” snowy miaowed.

       “I had no hand in what happened,” Blackberry replied, “I was just passing, and saw it done. I carry kit on my trike, so waited for all to settle, for Titan slept for a long time after the implantation of Apudo. Once I was sure he was asleep, I scanned his belly, finding what I, as a scientist, expected to be there, namely the unborn cub. How Titan did what he did, I do not yet understand. I was not there to hear their conversation, and even if I were, I would never speak of what I heard. I arrived just as Titan started cleaning Apudo ready for her long sleep.”

        “that sounds like a sight worth seeing,” karina mewed.

      “It was,” Blackberry replied.

        “did it hurt you Titan?” karina asked.

        “No, it was uncomfortable that’s all,” Titan replied, “most of my pedalling and panting was me trying to help Apudo’s spirit along. She had to really want to get where she needed to be, and get there she did.”

         “the thought of something crawling up the tunnel makes me want to cross my legs and scream!” snowy miaowed.

        “it’s the only way,” Titan mewed, “I could not kill Apudo, as she hadn’t actually killed little Ekaterina, only confessed to her aggression maybe going further if she hadn’t been stopped by me. Having aggressive thoughts is  no crime, acting them out on others is. So I had to help Apudo that way, killing her was not an option.”

     “Ugh, that’s horrid!” snowy spat.

      “Killing her would be far worse,” Titan mewed, “I could not do that, I have no reason, and what’s more, I could not bring myself to hurt another except in great need. Apudo had come to me for help, how could I not help her when I have the power to do so?”

        “and you say you’re no leader?” karina asked.

        “I am not worthy of leadership,” Titan mewed, “I do what I know how to do.”

        “You’re putting yourself at risk to save someone else’s spirit,” karina mewed.

       “I am doing what my body and mind want, and what Apudo wants too,” Titan mewed, “I may speak lightly of this, but I know the risks, I have seen them first paw, as it were, and touched them too,” he looked at snowy with deep love and respect, “I know the risks, I am willing to put myself through them, backwards cub and all.”

       “but surely if Apudo comes backwards you could help Titan Blackberry?”

       “I can, and will,” Blackberry replied, “but hopefully that won’t happen.”

       “I can’t wait to feel the cub’s head stretch me and curl my body round to kiss its nose before its first breath,” Titan mewed.

       “Can cats do that?” Karina asked.

       “yes,” snowy mewed, “I tried curling my body round between urges to push so I could kiss the cub’s nose, but another contraction made me lie down flat and push before I could kiss him.”

       “You did try very hard,” Titan mewed, “but the cub had slid back,.”

         “ “I remember curling everything, my back, my toes, everything while trying to greet Nuru at the first showing of his nose!” snowy mewed passionately, panting, she calmed down, Titan seeing her toes curling as her emotions threatened to overwhelm her.

        “I tried so hard!” she whimpered. Titan leant over to her then kissed her nose.

       “I saw,” he mewed gently, “Dear Snowy, you did all a mother should and could do.”

        “how long until you have your cub Titan?” snowy asked, touching his paw with hers.

        “I don’t know,” Titan mewed, “but when it happens, I want everyone to be there. The labour will be long and possibly very strenuous and painful, I know that.”

       “You will do fine Titan,” Blackberry said. Titan smiled at the black bear.

      “I hope so,” the liger mewed. the sound of small naked soled feet padding over the tiles made Titan look round to see  Little Ekaterina walking towards him.

      “Hello little one,” he purred, the young girl kneeling, then crawling to him.

        “Can I cuddle?” she asked.

      “yes,” Titan mewed, “I know we hadn’t finished our talk earlier.”

       “I’m sorry for throwing the sand,” the little girl said, embracing Titan.

        “I know you are, and I knew it when you took my paw while unsupported, and when you still held my paw while sitting on your heels. You did all you could to say sorry. You did enough Ekaterina dear.”

       “Apudo wanted more. I couldn’t do it Titan!”

      “I know,” Titan mewed, “Apudo knows too. She did you and I much wrong earlier. Now she will get a new chance.”

        “Karina said you were going to have a cub like she did Felix,” Little Ekaterina said.

      “I will,” Titan mewed, “and you can be there little Ekaterina. I will be in pain, but you can touch my paws and feet, and see me have the cub, for I will not harm you, no matter how much pain I’m in.”

          “Titan, labour really hurts,” karina said, sitting down beside him. Titan set to washing little Ekaterina, the young girl laughing merrily as his tongue worked over her hands and feet.

      “You’ve got sand on these feet,” Titan mewed.

      “there is some sand on the tiles,” Little Ekaterina said, “I think it’s from karina’s feet that, or maybe from mine too.”

      “I’ll get rid of it,” Titan mewed, blowing on the soles of her feet, little Ekaterina shrieking with laughter.

      “You’re tickling meyeee!” she yelled.

      “Oh sorry,” Titan purred, little  Ekaterina laughing merrily.

       “You can push while curled up in a ball,” Swarupa said, hauling herself out of the water and walking across the tiles, “I did it when giving birth to Tigger.”

      “I suppose you can do anything when in that much pain,” Titan mewed. Swarupa looked down at Titan.

       “Did you, did you really give Apudo the chance of rebirth?” Swarupa asked.

      “yes,” Titan mewed, sending Little Ekaterina away with a touch and push at her toes, the young girl getting to her feet and walking away to Karina, who returned with her to the house.

       “I, oh dear Titan, I’ve been talking to Nuru. He told me, told me, well, that, that you helped him into the world, and that Snowy told him you’d gone to give rebirth to him!”

       “It’s all true,” Titan mewed. Swarupa looked troubled.

       “I’m the worst of tigresses,” she choked, “I didn’t understand what happened out there, but Nuru, he told me, with patch’s help he told me the whole tale! I then spoke to Blackberry, some time ago now, and, and, he showed me why you are like you are. I’ve been feeling ill recently, and, and, it’s all because I’m hate filled. I do not want to be like this, Sushanti isn’t. I do not want to hate my cubs.”

        “There are tigresses who don’t take to mothering,” Titan mewed.

       “I did what I had to preserve my own skin,” Swarupa admitted, “I mothered you three because I’d born you, not because I truly wanted cubs for the love of them. No wonder Tigger and Namrah stuck together, no wonder they mated, no wonder they forgot their heritage in their need for comfort.”

        “your late regret does not undo anything you did,” Titan mewed, “Swarupa, I cannot give you anything, for I feel nothing for you bar contempt for you for your actions towards your cubs. I disown you, Tigger and Namrah I know do likewise. Anyone can give birth to cubs, it’s bringing them up that’s really hard. Tigger and Namrah wanted to love each other for the joy they gave one another. That love is undiminished despite their mistake. They cared for that dying cub with all they had Swarupa, you know it, and so do I.”

       “I saw what happened,” Swarupa mewed, “I saw the birth of their cub, and, and its death, and their tender care, and the cub’s final resting place. Patch showed me, he knows all.”

       “I know that place,” Titan mewed.

       “I will go now,” Swarupa mewed, “Titan, If your sire knew of our conversation now, he’d kill me for hating my cubs.”

       “I know,” Titan replied, tears in his eyes, sniffing and gulping, he continued:

       “He would hate you for bearing cubs in a selfish manner. Here we have no societal compulsion to have  cubs.”

       “I did it because everyone else was,” Swarupa mewed, “everyone was at it, so I felt left out, so I first used a donor tiger, then I asked ancient Nuru to do his duty by his pride tigresses, and he did. He cared for you more than I did, but I barely let him see you.”

       “I know, and now he’s dead,” Titan mewed, grief choking him.

        “now, now you’re rebirthing Apudo,” Swarupa mewed, “you’re everything a community member should be Titan. I’m glad you didn’t follow my paw prints.” With that Swarupa turned and walked away, leaving Titan crying like a cub.

         “Rebirth Apudo for her and your sire’s sake  Titan,” snowy mewed.

      “I know he wanted to do what I’m destined to,” Titan whimpered, coughing as his tears flowed. Closing his eyes, he hung his head and tried to breathe deeply, struggling to regain his composure.

         “Titan?” a voice asked, Titan feeling a nose and set of whiskers brushing his left cheek.

        “Namrah?” Titan asked, feeling another set of whiskers and another nose nuzzling his right cheek.

        “Tigger and I are here, Sushanti too,” Namrah replied gently.

          “Thank you all,” Tigger sniffled. Namrah rested her head on Titan’s shoulder, feeling her half-brother’s sorrow.

         “I love you Titan,” she mewed, kissing his ear.

       “We all do,” Sushanti mewed.

       “I saw you born Titan,” Tigger purred, “you were big then, and remain so today. I saw you arrive, and Blackberry pulled you into the world.”

         “Knowing what I know now, I’m sorry for anyone being born to Swarupa,” Snowy mewed.

       “What’s done is done,” Titan mewed, raising his head, getting to his feet  and shaking himself from nose to tail, “we must rise above Swarupa’s taint and enjoy our lives.

         “so Swarupa had cubs because everyone else was?” snowy asked, “that’s a very silly thing to do.”

       “it’s past now,” Titan mewed, “I have work to do, and all this disgust isn’t helping my unborn cub.”

 

Apudo listened to all from her cocoon of warmth. She could feel Titan’s upset inside her, and didn’t blame him one bit. Lying in her warm place, she wondered when the time would be right to start the journey to the outside air.

      “here is nice and warm, but there is something to be said for the embrace of warm paws in a snuggly furry hug,” she thought, “oh, yes, and I must try not to be born backwards. Poor Titan if I am. He won’t be able to give birth without help.”

 

Later that day, Titan was dozing in his lie up when little Ekaterina crawled up to him and touched his paw with her hand. Rousing himself, he looked at her.

       “Where has Apudo gone?” the young girl asked.

        “I’ve sent her away to think about things,” Titan mewed, “what she did to you was horrible.”

        “She hurt me Titan!” little Ekaterina whimpered.

          “I know she did,” Titan mewed.

      “I would have held your paw, I was going to ask if I could hug you and say sorry after I hugged Apudo, but she made me hold your paw in a nasty way, and, and it hurt me!” the girl sniffled.

       “I know she hurt you Ekaterina,” Titan mewed, “that is why I roared at Apudo when she made you kneel up again. I knew it hurt you, I knew it was all you could do to sit back on your heels and hold my paw in your hands.”

      “I wanted to hold your paw Tiggie Titan! But I couldn’t do it while kneeling up, I had to sit back on my heels,” Little Ekaterina replied.

      “I know,” Titan mewed.

      “I was wriggling like this!” little Ekaterina said, turning her back on Titan, kneeling in front of him so he got a good view of the soles of her bare feet, then sitting back on her heels, Titan seeing what he was sure Apudo saw.

      “I know,” Titan mewed, kissing the heel pad of her right foot, “Ekaterina, Apudo hurt me too.”

      “Kiss my other heel, then my toes!” little Ekaterina begged, Titan smiling and doing as she asked, little Ekaterina laughing delightedly:

      “Rub my feet with your paws too!” she pleaded, Titan doing as she asked, little Ekaterina bouncing on her heels, then sitting back hard, squirming with pleasure as his paws worked from her heel pads down to her toes, little Ekaterina curling her toes to catch those of Titan’s paws, Titan pushing his toes into the grip of her smaller ones, then tugging at his toes as if they were trapped.

        “Where has Apudo gone?” she asked, uncurling her tiny toes, turning to him and throwing her arms round his neck.

      “Hug me please,” Titan mewed. Little Ekaterina hugged the huge liger as tightly as she could, Titan returning her hug with both paws.

      “snuggle me like Moses, I want to push with my toes!” little Ekaterina begged. Titan did, the young girl pushing with her toes as she’d seen Moses do.

          “Is that better?” he asked. Little Ekaterina buried her face in his fur.

      “I love this,” she said softly, Titan purring deeply.

        “I wish you were Apudo’s dad!” little Ekaterina burst out, “she would be gentle and cuddly like you if you were her dad.”

     “I’m going to be  guide to her,” Titan mewed.

      “She needs doing to her what Theo said Nuru had done to him,” little Ekaterina said, “she needs to learn not to hurt people, she hurt me when I’d already said sorry to you.”

      “I know,” Titan mewed, “dear child, I know she hurt you, she hurt me too. I could not watch her hurting you.”

      “I know,” little Ekaterina said, “but I wanted to hold your paw, that is why I wriggled on my heels, I wanted to hold it for as long as I could. I didn’t want to kneel with my bum off my heels. Which Apudo made me do.

        “You and I have been hurt little one,” Titan mewed, “Apudo is safe with me though, here, feel.” He let go of her and flopped onto his side, then smiling, guided her hand to his belly. Little Ekaterina gasped as she felt something kick back against her finger pressure.

       “you have a cub in there?” she asked.

      “I do,” Titan mewed, “can you guess who it is?”

       “You’re going to do for Apudo what Snowy did for Nuru?” little Ekaterina asked.

      “I am,” Titan purred.

       “I want to see this, now!” little Ekaterina said. Titan laughed then kissed her nose.

      “I can’t make it happen now,” he said, “but I will pedal the air with my paws and feet a bit and curl my toes, how’s that?”

       “Will you make noise like you’re giving birth to a cub?” she asked. Titan hugged her:

        “I might,” he replied softly.

       “You will have to get used to making moaning and growling sounds with others around,” little Ekaterina said.

     “Yes he will,” Moses replied, padding into the room, dropping to his knees and crawling up to Titan.

        “Oh all right,” Titan mewed, waving his huge left paw in defeat, “I’ll moan and growl a bit too. But you two must rub my pads while I’m doing it, that’s my reward for making a noisy exhibition of myself.”

       “We’re getting you ready for the real thing,” Moses said.

       “yeah, I suppose so,” Titan mewed, “Thinking of it, if I want my paws and feet rubbed, I’d better keep them still, though I could still curl my toes.”

       “I’ll bet you will close your eyes and bare your teeth too,” Moses said.

      “probably when giving birth for real,” Titan mewed. Moses Stroked Titan’s large right paw, the liger curling his toes with pleasure.

       “I will moan and groan as if having a cub,” he mewed.. taking deep breaths,  Titan set himself to moaning and curling his toes as long as the children stroked the pads of his paws, prolonging his moan as long as they stroked the large heel pads on the soles of his paws or feet, Titan stopping to pant when their fingers reached his curled toes. Relaxing his toes as he panted, Titan wriggled, then pushed back against their hands with his paws and feet as he felt pressure on his pads from their fingers. Moaning,, he strained during imaginary contractions, extending his legs, pushing his paws and feet hard into the grip of the children’s hands, the length of time their fingers took to travel from his heels to the balls of his feet or paws as well as the pressure of their stroking shortening or prolonging, as well as guiding the severity of his imaginary contractions, and by extension his efforts, Titan curling his toes with his concentration and effort of amercing himself in their game.

      “Push as long and hard as you can Titan, push push push!” Moses urged. Titan growled and moaned as he felt Moses fingers trace his pads, his toes curling with concentration. When the boy's fingers reached his tightly curled toes, Titan panted, whimpering and growling with the imagined pain he thought he would feel, while relaxing his toes in preparation for another contraction.

        “This is just imagined!” the liger panted, “what will the real thing be like?”

       “You're making the story,” Moses said, “when real birth pains start, you'll be unable to control your voice, urge to push, or the way your toes curl. You’re doing wonderfully Titan ! Another push should do it!”

      “I’m trying!” Titan mewed, wriggling convulsively as Apudo drummed on the wall of her safe place with her paws, “uuuuumf, the cub’s getting restless!” the liger moaned, “maybe she’s excited at me getting into the game! I’m not ready to have the cub yet!”

        “Will we see a cub born today?” Moses asked.

        “I don’t know,” Titan panted, “Apudo, Stoaoaoap it!” he pleaded, “oaoaoaoaoawch! Oaoaoaoaaoaow!” Titan moaned as Apudo kicked hard at the entrance to her room with her foot. Suddenly Titan rolled from side to side, seemingly in a battle with the force inside him, flailing all four limbs, his teeth clenched and pads bathed in sweat.

      “oaoaoaoaoh! Aouwch! Uuuuumf, Awowowowowowouch!” he roared in a high pitch voice noone had heard him use before.

     “he sounds like snowy!” Theo mewed, padding into the room, closely followed by Blackberry, both attracted by the noise.

     “I think Titan’s going to have a cub Theo!” Moses yelled, hugging the startled young lion.

      “I don’t know if he will or not,” Theo mewed coolly, “Moses, please, let me go.” Moses did, hearing the rebuke in the lion’s tone, “I don’t mind a hug and all, but I’m concerned for my friend.” He padded to Titan, who now lay on his side on the floor, panting and crying into his paws.

       “It’s gonna hurt and be harder than that!” Titan whimpered.

        “I know,” Theo mewed, “I remember my passage into the world, and Apudo’s effort. Just take it gently Titan.” Titan felt Apudo moving, trying to guess if she’d turned head first or not. Blackberry padded up to Titan, knelt and asked him:

       “Can I please put monitors on you?” Titan replied that he could, Blackberry rigging Titan up with oxygen and heart rate monitors that let the liger move around independently, while still giving Blackberry all his readings.

      “I hope you’re not breach Apudo,” Titan groaned as he felt the first contraction. Getting to his feet, Titan walked round the lie up, feeling the cub shift inside him.

 

Apudo, after kicking hard at the entrance to her room, turned and hit it with her paws, trying to pry it open. It was this which had caused Titan to start rolling about on the floor, throwing Apudo around the room, her paws and feet skidding and scrabbling as she tried to make her wish to be let out known. Titan settled down after a while and Apudo carefully turned round and round, feeling the walls, floor and roof of her safe room with paws and feet. Suddenly she found a place where her paw fitted snugly. Pushing, she felt Titan tense, then heard his moan of pain as she felt the room ripple around her, squeezing her against the entrance.

      “if I brace with my feet rather than my paws, I can speed this up, but I must remember to turn around before I go down the tunnel!” Apudo thought. Rolling onto her back, she pushed at the room’s entrance with her feet, left right, left, right, rolling from side to side as she did so, gently digging her toes in to kneed the place. Apudo knew she was doing well when Titan began responding to the pressure of her feet with moans, groans, roaring, growling and panting.

        “I mustn’t let that door get too big!” Apudo thought, “if it does, I’ll go down the tunnel backwards, and poor Titan will have a horrid time.” Apudo pedalled the entrance to her room with both feet, feeling it widening bit by bit.

 

Meanwhile, Titan, feeling her efforts, moaned and groaned through increasing pain. Stopping pacing, he lay down, his teeth clenching and toes curling with pain whenever Apudo pushed against her door, and afterwards when his body responded with an effort he couldn’t control.

       “Oaoaoaoaow!” he moaned every time, panting and curling his toes, while little Ekaterina and Moses sat by his forepaws, watching from close range, Theo even closer to Titan’s hind end, the young lion’s pads sweating with nervous excitement while he eagerly watched the sweating pads and toes of his cubhood friend’s feet and the space beneath his tail. Theo could see the entrance to the tunnel, but it was still vacant of any sign of the cub which was to be born. Titan curled round and looked at Theo.

        “Tell me if anything happens,” he panted.

      “I will,” Theo mewed, “or I might reach in and help if she comes backwards. I have a feeling she’s trying not to come backwards, but she’s using her feet to kneed the entrance at the moment as it’s more comfortable for her.

       “yes, I can see how it would be,” Titan moaned, “but for me it isn’t!” he gasped.

      “what’s she doing?” Theo asked.

      “Feels like digging her toes in and massaging in circles to open the entrance!” Titan yowled, rolling onto his back and pedalling the air with his own feet, Theo watching Titan’s feet, the liger’s soles facing him, his huge pads moving back and forth and round and round as the liger struggled to cope with increasing pain and discomfort.

    “Uuumf! Oaoaoaoaoaoaaow, I must, umf, uououououof! Pedal the air with your feet Titan, stretch your legs, wriggle, roll from side to side and  pedal the air with your feeyeeet!” Titan moaned aloud, encouraging himself in a world of pain.

        “Like this?” Theo asked, rolling onto his back so his feet faced Titan’s tired eyes, then rolling from side to side while pedalling, the action moving his feet in a circular motion while pointing his toes.

      “Like what?” Titan asked, looking between his hind legs at the young lion, “Theo, I Haven’t got time for oaoaoaowch! Demonstrations of what you think Apudo’s doing inside meyeee,   aoaoaoaow shit! Aouwch!”!” he yelled. covering his face with his paws, writhing, trying to cope with the pain, “she’s rubbing my insides with her feeyeeet!” Titan screeched.

          “I think Moses is pretending to be you Titan!” Theo giggled. for the young boy now lay on his back, knees drawn up, bringing them together and pushing them apart while cycling with both legs, making sure each bare foot described a rough circle in the air, just as Theo had described.

       “Titan’s doing this!” he declared.

       “Seeing it re-enacted makes me even more uncomfortable, stoaoaoaoap!” Titan pleaded. Moses stopped cycling with his feet, rolled onto his side and grabbed Titan’s sweating left paw as the liger rolled over and lay on his left side panting and sniffling.

       “It’ll be all right Titan,” Moses said, kissing his nose. Little Ekaterina started rubbing Titan’s ears, the liger crying with fear and pain.

      “Do you want pain relief,” Theo asked.

      “I can’t, not with rebirth,” Titan mewed, “it can go so wrong if I have pain relief. I can’t feel what the cub’s doing, and it’s only my will to push that’s getting her born!” Titan suddenly took a deep breath and pushed experimentally.

    “aoooooow, not yet, not there yet!” he moaned.

Apudo, feeling Titan’s experimental effort, felt her feet squeezed into the tunnel. Desperately scrabbling with her paws, she managed to free them and turn head first down the now rapidly opening tunnel. Pushing with her paws, she tried to kneed as she had with her feet, but couldn’t do it properly, only able to push straight ahead with both or alternate paws. This didn’t help widen the gap much, her paws fitting into the gap she’d already made, which was not yet big enough for her head, as she found out by gently testing the gap with her nose, only just about able to fit her nose into the gap, there being not enough space to fit her body down it yet.. Titan could feel her efforts, and responded with moans, groans and scrabbling paws, which Apudo could hear from where she lay, experimenting as gently as she could while trying not to be forced backwards down the tunnel. Ten minutes past, and while Apudo was exploring the gap with her paws once more, Titan moaned deeply and pushed down hard for the first time, her paws slipping forward,, her head jamming in the gap.

       “uuuuumf, oaoaoaoaoawch!” Titan screeched, piling on the pressure, Apudo feeling her head and paws slide down the tunnel. Titan responded to the sensation of Apudo’s passage with screams of:

     “ayayayayayayaayaywch! Heuuuuuumf! Roaoaoaoaaoowow! Yayayayyayayayayouwch!” pushing hard down against Apudo. Apudo, her body now half inside the tunnel, felt Titan get up, then squat, so her body was now angled downhill. Yowling, Titan bounced on his toes while straining with another contraction, Apudo feeling her whole body slide into the tunnel.

     “I hope this cub’s not breach!” Titan moaned, “I can’t cope with that too, please, please let her be head first this time! Roaoaoaoaaoowow! Yaoaoaoaoaoaowayayayayowuch!” Roaoaoaoaaoowow!” Apudo felt her body forced down by Titan’s pushing, hearing Titan’s roars and moans of effort.

      “That’s it, Titan, push, push, push!” Theo mewed, “push right down Titan, right into your tail. puuuuuush!”

      “yes Puuush Titan, puuush!” little Ekaterina encouraged, Titan screaming:

     “Shuuuuuut up I’m puuuuuuushing!” collapsing and sprawling on his left side, his feet and paws pedalling the air, his pads sweating with pain and effort, Little Ekaterina and Moses taking a paw a peace and holding onto it, Theo holding Titan’s left foot with his paws.

       “I must auaoaoaoaowch!” Titan roared, straining hard down, kicking with his free right foot. Suddenly he felt something wetting his hind legs. Screeching, he shook his paws free of the hands of the two children and curled round to investigate his birth area, finding liquid there, he quickly cleaned the area, while another contraction built. Groaning with the building pain, Titan found that, by holding onto the floor  with the toes of both paws, he could watch what happened as he pushed. Groaning, he bore down, seeing more fluid burst from him, then seeing two paws entering the world. Shrieking with fear, Titan yelled:

       “the cub’s breach, it’s breach!”

       “No she’s not, they’re forepaws you are seeing,” Theo mewed, squeezing the toes of Titan’s left foot, letting the liger grip the toes of his smaller paw in the toes of his larger foot, “now lie down and push hard Titan, right down, deep down into your bottom!” Theo urged. Whimpering, Titan lay full length on his left side once more, pushing hard down into his tail.

         “Roaoaoaoaaoowow! Ruuuuuumf! Roaoaoaoaaoowow! Roaoaoaoaaoowow!” Titan complained in a strident voice that was not his usual.

       “he sounds like a tigress!” Snowy exclaimed, “Titan even looks like one! I never knew birth suited him so well!”

       “Shut it snowy!” Titan moaned, wriggling convulsively, “now, I must try to kiss that cub’s nose!” Titan groaned, curling round with a low moan of effort. Taking a deep breath, Titan pushed down gently, then, seeing Apudo’s nose emerging, took an even  deeper breath and pushed down strongly, Curling his body tighter, Moaning, growling and puffing with effort, gripping the rugs with his paws, digging his toes into the rugs, curling his body as far as it would go, while stretching his neck and tongue to kiss the wet nose he could see. Straining harder than ever  into his tail, Moaning, grunting and whimpering with effort and desperation, Titan quickly explored the cub’s nose and paws with his tongue and lips, Briefly Kissing the cub’s nose, only breaking off his exploration with a moan of fear when his effort to push failed and the contraction ended, the cub sliding slightly backwards as the contraction failed, Titan panting,  sobbing and coughing. Stretching full length on his left side, Titan moaned piteously as he felt the cub’s head stop the slide back into his birth canal, crying with frustration. Closing his eyes tightly, Titan all too soon found himself panting up to an enormous set of efforts which shook the floor beneath his body as his body strained to give birth, while his voice expressed his struggle in prolonged Shrieks, moans and groans:

          “Roaoaoaoaaoowow! Ruuuuuumf! Roaoaoaoaaoowow! Roaoaoaoaaoowow! Roaoaoaoaaoowow! Roaoaoaoaaoowow! Roaoaoaoaaoowow! Roaoaoaoaaoowow!” Titan screamed and moaned as he pushed, while his legs pedalled and paws and feet sweated, his toes now constantly curled. Moaning deeply, Titan  panted. Taking a deep breath, then wailing, Titan splayed his hind legs, pointing his toes as he felt the cub’s presence. Grunting, he pushed with fresh strength. Moses and little Ekaterina again held Titan’s paws, while Theo held the liger’s left foot in his paws. Groaning deeply, then screeching,  Titan splayed his hind legs an extra bit wider, lifting his right leg and pressing the toes of his left foot into Theo’s paws  as he pushed desperately hard down into his tail. Straining to his limit, he  moaned and yowled, then roared with his expulsive efforts as he felt the cub’s body coming  out into the light of day. Squealing and panting, Titan wriggled, then, settling himself, continued pushing the cub’s body out with strong but slow pushes, his voice sometimes low, then high, as he expressed his agony and struggle with deep prolonged moans and shrill yowls. The liger, his pads and fur dark with sweat, accompanied his final effort which delivered Apudo’s feet with a prolonged, tigress sized high pitch yowl and deep moan as the cub’s feet slid free, one by one, Titan whimpering, screaming and  crying as he felt the passage of her feet as they slid into the world. Soon  Another sound filled the ears of the watchers as Apudo gave vent to all her fear and pain which she could not do while being pushed into the world. Apudo’s fear and terror burst from her in a frenzy of yowling, kicking and rolling about. Theo suddenly found himself being hit by her paws, half stunned by the view from his position, lying almost touching Titan’s tail with his nose. gasping, he  grabbed Apudo in a huge grip of teeth on the scruff of her neck and paws round her, then when she was calm, he got to his feet and padded carefully towards Titan’s paws.

       “I did it!” Titan gasped, panting and sniffling.

      “Clean your cub,” Theo mewed, Titan curling round, his eyes closed in concentration, grabbing Apudo from Theo, who was now exhausted. Exploring Apudo’s body with his tongue and paws, Titan marvelled at how large Apudo was to his touch.

       “you did so well Titan!” Snowy mewed, padding up to him then kissing his sweating cheek.

        “I did didn’t I,” he panted, cleaning the cub which he now held in his paws.

        “I’ve never seen that before, it was amazing!” Magnus said, walking into the room.

        “you’ll never see a liger giving birth again,” Titan mewed, “will someone please get me a drink?” Titan was given water, which he lapped noisily as was his way.

      “Thank you for letting us hold your paws Titan,” Moses said, hugging the liger.

        “You were a comfort,” Titan mewed, kissing the top of his head.

       “you kissed the cub’s nose before it was fully out!” Moses said.

      “I did,” Titan mewed softly, kissing Apudo’s nose once more as he held her in his paws, “and now, now I will feed her. Smiling, he guided his new cub to the milk he knew was waiting for her, the busy drinking sound confirming his belief.

         “now she is born,” Titan purred.

    “when you were licking her, it sounded all wet!” Moses said.

      “it was,” Titan mewed, “thank eohippus it wasn’t dry there, that would have been awful.”

       “I thought you were going to grab the cub in your paws and pull it out into the world Titan,” snowy mewed.

       “I couldn’t do that, I could barely dig my toes in enough to hold myself curled up enough to kiss her nose. It was a hard struggle,” Titan replied.

         “Do you know what her fur feels like against your tongue?” Moses asked.

    “yes,” Titan mewed, “I’ve cleaned her from nose to tail, so I know what she feels like with lips and tongue from nose to tail and ears to pads. Exploring a paw or foot with one’s tongue is unusual, but Apudo seemed to like my grooming her.

       “yes I did, and I want more, please,” the cub replied, Titan curling round to watch her drinking.

       “I pushed all of you into the world,” he said in a voice full of wonder.

      “You did,” Apudo mewed, “from my paws to my feet, it all came from you, and you pushed every bit out yourself.” Titan smiled happily..

     “Thanks for not coming out backwards,” he said.

        “Oh, but, I was looking forward to an extra foot wash!” Apudo miaowed, “you won’t’ deny me that will you Titan. My paws and feet are very tired from kneading the door open before you really began helping. My poor toooes ache so much!” she complained, “I curled my toes on the way into the world. I’ll tell the story tonight, my birth tale, for I know it all. You’re powerful Titan ! I never knew you could push like that.”

      “I didn’t either,” Titan replied, reaching for his cub and hugging her as he groomed her face and paws to clean the milk from them.

      “I love this bit,” Apudo mewed, snuggling up to Titan, the liger chuffing with pleasure equal to the pain he’d felt during her birth.

         “I like that sound too,” Apudo mewed, “how do I make it happen again?” Titan chuffed and chuffed at Apudo, the cub’s eyes which were open, gazing into his as he held her in his paws.

       “ “I wonder if I can make that sound?” Apudo asked Titan.

        “Try it,” Titan purred, Apudo trying a tentative chuff, Titan hugging her.

      “Now can you mew?” he asked. The cub laughing helplessly:

       “Of course I can!”

       “How about a growl and roar?” Titan asked. Moses and little Ekaterina were soon laughing fit to bust as Apudo tried to roar, her attempts sounding more akin to a petulant yowl.

      “I can’t roar!” she miaowed piteously, “and what am I anyway?  Liger or lion, or something else?”

        “you’re a lioness still,” Titan said, “your rebirth was to bring you closer to me, not to save your physical life, so you retain your old species. You are a lioness with a lion’s body and mane, as before.

       “But I am now your cub, under your protection?” Apudo asked.

       “yes my dear cub, you are,” Titan mewed.

 

Imvula, having heard everything from patch, and finding the whole thing very interesting, her mate Aslan having been reborn after dying from illness, had watched Titan’s labour and delivery of Apudo with wide fascinated eyes. Now she wanted to meet the liger, whom she’d never really met before, and also meet the new cub.

 

“Everyone give Titan some room now,” Blackberry said, “Moses, Little Ekaterina, come away now, you’ve been too close too long.”

        “but we love his paws!” they protested.

      “He needs them to greet others,” Blackberry replied. Blackberry pushed Imvula forward, the tawny lioness padding up to the huge liger.

       “I saw your confinement on Camera,” she said, “Titan, well done.”

       “I needed to and wanted to Imvula,” Titan replied softly.

      “Your labour mirrored mine,” the lioness said, “right down to the two children holding your paws.”

      “though I think that time, if the stories are right, Apudo came out backwards,” Titan purred.

     “She did, and I know that feeling,” Imvula replied, “the pain of jamming paws, the fear as you don’t want to push, but you must push. It’s horrid Titan!”

      “come here,” Titan mewed, Imvula cuddling up to the huge liger, Titan tightly hugging her.

       “I didn’t mean to give birth to a confused lioness,” Imvula whispered.

       “do not speak of it here,” Titan mewed, it is not good to speak of this in hearing of the cub.”

        “Oh,” Imvula said, glancing at Apudo, who was so absorbed in drinking and kneading the milk from Titan’s supply that she didn’t hear Imvula’s words.

          “You did very well Titan, “I saw your face, feet and paws working to give birth to your cub,” Imvula said. Titan smiled:

       “I used my muscles too, pushing hard down,” he said.

       “I could see your effort,” Imvula replied, your face, feet and paws were more eloquent of it for me though.”

       “So there’s a contest as to who gives birth more expressively?” Titan asked, giggling slightly.

       “No, well, we take note,” Imvula replied, “the more expressive births are remembered for the birth itself as well as the cub resulting,” she explained.

       “I hope my labour was worth the honours,” Titan purred.

       “Your face was very expressive, closed eyes, bared teeth, but you spent a lot of time moaning with open mouth and closed eyes,” Magnus said, “I saw your head mostly.”

      “So you saw Titan’s face, I saw his paws, and Theo saw his feet?” Moses asked.

       “I saw more than just Titan’s feet,” Theo mewed, his voice hoarse as he wiped his eyes with his paws, “I, I saw, saw,” he gulped, tears of emotion rolling down his face, “I saw everything, and I will never forget it!” he wept, Titan waving at Imvula, the lioness withdrawing, pushing Theo, who was now weeping, towards Titan, who hugged him.

        “You saw what I wished you to see,” he mewed, “and I hope others can see it too, for I’m sure another was watching also.” Blackberry smiled and nodded at Titan, not disturbing his talk with Theo, while catching the liger’s eye.

        “I saw everything Titan, it was amazing! Thank you, thank you!” Theo  sobbed.

       “I am glad of it Theo,” the liger purred, “and you did something else than let me hold your paw with the toes of my foot I think?”

      “While you were pushing, I kissed the pads of the foot holding my paw,” Theo replied, his face reddening with embarrassment.

        “Thank you for that too,” Titan mewed, Theo snuggling hard up to him, Titan hugging him close.

       “You let me see something I have not earned,” Theo mewed.

       “You have earned it, and Theo, please do not talk in that way. You are more dear to me than I can put into words, and letting you take an active part in the birth of my cub was a pleasure.”

      “I, I, Titan, I touched her paws, is that okay?”

       “Yes,” Titan purred, “you brought her to me after her birth, remember?”

      “No, it was before that, when she was being born and you were straining hard into your tail,” Theo blurted.

       “That’s okay too,” Titan mewed.

      “I wish you could have kissed your cub half way out too!” Theo mewed, “Apudo looked as if she needed it.

      “I hope you soothed her,” Titan mewed. Theo, crying, nuzzled his ear in reply.

       “he kissed my nose and paws twice, it was so nice,” Apudo mewed.

       “Theo,” Titan mewed, “I really wanted to kiss my cub’s nose and paws on her way out far more than I managed to. You did it for me, and I am very grateful.

       “I kept contact with your foot as I did it,” Theo mewed, “my hesitation to tell you is because I wouldn’t dream of doing that normally, but I did then, and thought you should know what I did while you couldn’t see your cub. I hope I did not do wrong Titan.”

       “You did everything I wanted, thank you,” Titan mewed.

      “You mean to say you told Theo to kiss Apudo’s nose for you?” Blackberry asked.

      “I think I must have,” Titan mewed, “when did it happen Blackberry?”

       “I saw it done, it was while you were straining to deliver her body and hind quarters.”

      “When I wished to kiss her the most!” Titan exclaimed, “I felt my pushing, and wondered what the cub herself was feeling, and I so wanted to grab her and tell her it was fine and that I was pushing as hard as I could to save her life.”

         “Thanks Titan,” Apudo mewed, nuzzling his paw.

       “so Titan gave Theo the chance to do what he always wanted but dared never to do by instructing him through pad contact,” Blackberry summarised.

      “Yes,” Titan mewed.

       “it seems all is well,” Imvula said.

      “it is, but there are other tales,” Apudo mewed in a small voice, “tales I want to tell,” she added, covering her face with her paws in sudden shyness.

        “Your birth story is very important to me Apudo my dear cub,” Titan mewed.

        “What will the cubs and community Apudo abandoned to become a cub think?” Swarupa asked, sticking her head in at the door.

        “They know what happened, now, Swarupa, kindly piss off, there’s a good kitty,” Blackberry replied, lifting a paw which was clenched round something, or things.

      “Sod you Blackberry!” Swarupa spat, Blackberry throwing whatever he held at Swarupa, the tigress pelted by bottle tops. They kept hitting her, far more tops than he could have held rained down on her and around her, soon getting under her tender padded Tigrine paws, Swarupa shrieking with pain and anger, turning and running away, her paws and feet sliding on the tops, the tigress nearly landing on her nose as she tried to gain traction with suddenly slippery paws.

        “naoaoaoaoao! Stop this!” she yowled, rolling onto her back and kicking the air in her anger, bottle tops pricking her pads and between her toes, as well as her back.

       “waoaoaoaoaoaaoh!” she screeched, finally struggling to her feet and bolting.

        “how did that happen?” Magnus asked, “Blackberry, you threw four bottle tops at most, but there was suddenly a shower of them which overwhelmed that tigress!”

         “I, I imagined it,” Blackberry said, “I must have done, for my anger at her made me imagine what I wished those tops to do to her. I wanted to stop her properly, and I combined what I knew about the tops and about what anger does to pads, and caused each to be enhanced.”

      “Sweaty pads, slippery spiky bottle tops,” Imvula mewed.

      “yes,” Blackberry replied, “I didn’t know I had that power.”

       “You don’t,” Titan mewed, “I too want my family safe, and know about your prowess with the bottle top gun. I gave you the power to bring your imaginings to life to get rid of the threat to my family.”

    “You say you’re not a leader, but you then speak like that?” Blackberry asked.

       “I’m no leader, well not in the traditional sense,” Titan replied.

       “how about Patch?” Theo asked.

        “he and I work together,” Titan mewed, “I am his comfort at night, and also, as his pads are sometimes sore these days, his transport too.”

      “You have paws which would be the envy of any bear,” Blackberry said, “they are soft and tough.”

       “I know they are glorious, many lions and bears have said that,” Titan mewed.

       “We humans think so too,” Jenny said, padding into the room.

       “When Apudo and I tell our tales it will be a hard tale to tell,” Titan mewed.

      “When I tell mine, as I feel I should, though it frightens me to tell it,” Apudo said, looking up to her guide, “will you please hold me?”

      “I will,” Titan mewed, “I’ll tell you what I’ll do. When you’re telling your tale, you lie comfortable, and when you want me to give you reassurance, just squeeze my paw.”

     “I was going to ask if I could hold your paw Titan,” Apudo asked.

      “If you like, I can hold your paw between both of mine,” Titan suggested.

      “But I want a cuddle too, you can’t do both,” Apudo replied.

     “True,” Titan mewed.

       “Why tell your tales if it will hurt you?” snowy asked, padding into the room, having watched everything with Karina in Sita’s lie up, where she had described everything to Sita by re-enacting what Titan was doing in real-time.

       “it’s a hard fight, and people should know how it was to rebirth a community member,” Titan mewed.

       “people should know what rebirth feels like too, terrifying though it is,” Apudo mewed.

       “We will tell our tales after dinner,” Titan mewed.

       “I need sleep,” Apudo yawned, stretching her paws then rubbing her eyes, Titan’s own eyes gentle on her.

       “I love it when cubs begin yawning, stretching their paws then rubbing their eyes when they’re tired, it’s so very cute,” he said.

     “I’m one tired cub then,” Apudo yawned, “then again, I’m not surprised, I’ve been through a lot today.”

       “I have too Apudo dear cub,” Titan mewed.

      “Can I drink some more?” Apudo asked. Titan smiled and pushed her towards his belly. “Come,” he replied,

 Apudo drinking from his ample milk supply, Titan feeling contentment flood him from her kneading paws. Sighing, he closed his eyes, resting his head on Theo’s shoulder.

        “You’re exhausted Titan,” Theo mewed. turning to the assembled creatures, he said:

      “I think we should leave Titan and Apudo alone now. They need rest.

        “I’d like food first,” Titan mewed, “once Apudo’s finished drinking, I’ll settle her and find some.”

      “No you won’t!” Theo admonished, “I’ll find food, we all will find food for you.” Blackberry rubbed his paws delightedly.

       “would you like some of my meat and vegetable Stew Titan?” he asked. Titan smiled and nodded.

       “I’d love some of that,” he replied, remembering the last time he’d tried Blackberry’s culinary creation. The truth was, Goldie and Bramble, who usually ran the kitchens, knew little about food, while Blackberry, as well as being a caring medic, loved his food too. His staple was a rich meat and vegetable stew with which he revived many a flagging patient.”

       “I’ll get some,” Blackberry replied, padding from the room with his camera and downloading all the footage of Titan’s labour to the computers.

 

Soon Blackberry returned with a bowl of stew for Titan, the black bear careful it was not too hot. Titan carefully ate the stew, the flavour soothing him, the food sustaining, but not too heavy on his stomach.

          “You could revive the dead with that Blackberry,” Titan mewed, drinking from a water bowl.

       “I don’t think it does that,” Blackberry replied.

        “now I can sleep,” Titan mewed, Blackberry wiping Titan’s face with a cool damp cloth. Titan, his body more tired than ever, curled up with newborn Apudo.

       “sleep now little one,” Titan mewed, hugging his cub to him, Apudo purring and snuggling close.

         “They look so cute together,” Moses said.

       “how big is Apudo now?” Jenny asked.

       “Well she’s asleep now, so touching her would not be nice,” Theo mewed, “but when she’s awake, I’ll ask Titan if you can touch her.”

       “should you not ask her permission as well?” Jenny asked.

      “not yet,” Theo mewed, “she needs to be ruled by Titan for a few weeks yet, to bed in the fact he’s her guide. Then she will be able to grant her own permission for others to touch her.”

        “Titan was playing at having a cub shortly before he really had one,” Moses said.

      “What was he doing?” Jenny asked. Moses described what happened, Jenny very jealous she hadn’t been there to touch Titan’s paws or feet.”

        “I’ll do what Titan did,” snowy mewed, “I don’t mind re-enacting the birth of a cub.”

       “I’m sure Titan would be honoured if everyone re-enacted it,” Imvula said.

        “he would be, I’m sure,” Theo mewed, “and males can do it too, as long as they lie on their sides to give birth as Titan did.” Imvula smiled at him.

       “Titan sounded part lion, part tiger when he was giving birth, it was a wonderful sound,” Jenny said.

        “It was,” Imvula replied.

        “he was mostly tiger when moaning, lion when roaring,” Blackberry replied.

       “he’s liger, a big, fat, cuddly liger,” Jenny said.

       “Careful,” Theo mewed, “I know you love him and all, but he is still bigger and stronger than you, and could do you a lot of harm if you get on the wrong side of him.”

        “Titan would never hurt Jenny,” Apudo mewed, shaking herself awake, “that’s why we call him leader isn’t it?”

       “Do we?” Imvula asked, “noone elected him.”

        “he hardly needs that,” Theo mewed.

       “he won’t be happy about that,” Apudo mewed, “I’m sure I’m a big enough pawful for him, without leadership on top.”

        “ “we’ll decide later,” Blackberry said, “right now, I think we should all clear out of here and let poor Apudo and Titan sleep.”

        “yes, please, let us sleep,” Apudo yawned, “your talk disturbed me, and I had to throw my paw in to the mix, if only to defend the kindest, gentlest big cat who ever called a striped coat and four fat paws his own.”

       “he is mother and sire combined,” Blackberry said, “I saw lion and tiger, tigress and lioness in his face as he strained to give birth to you Apudo.”

      “How long was I in real labour?” Titan asked, yawning  expancivly.

      “About four hours all told,” Blackberry replied.

       “It felt like it,” Titan mewed, “each push really made me wonder if I could carry on, and if it would ever end.”

       “I was frightened Titan!” Apudo mewed, “I was terrified you wouldn’t be able to push me out!”

        “come here,” Titan mewed, hugging his cub tightly as she cried into his fur.

        “I would have pushed until I was exhausted,” Titan mewed.

        “I know,” Apudo replied, coughing as tears choked her, “but, but, in there, I heard everything, and you sounded very tired, I was so scared!”

        “I was tired,” Titan mewed, “but I would never give up on you Apudo, I promised you I would push until I was dead.”

       “I know,” Apudo sniffled, “but, Titan, it was scary in there! I don’t want to go back, please, please, help me not go back there!”

       “I will do all I can,” Titan purred, licking the tears from Apudo’s face, “you’re safe now, and I love you, so please, don’t worry,” he mewed softly.” Apudo snuggled hard up to Titan, his huge physical presence and warm fur comforting her.

      “the place you came from is now closed,” Titan mewed, “the door firmly shut, with you on this side of it. You will not go back there.” Apudo buried her paws in Titan’s fur, snuggling as close to him as she could get.

       “here is warm,” she mewed, closing her eyes.

       “You’re safe little Apudo,” Titan purred, feeling the cub snuggle down beside him.

        “now we really must leave them to it,” Blackberry said, “everyone, out! Now!” he chased everyone away except Snowy, who literally dug in her toes and refused to leave.

     “You stay quiet Snowy,” Blackberry commanded, Snowy settling down on Titan’s right to make a barrier between him and the door, protecting Apudo, who lay between Titan’s paws, the huge liger lying on his left side where he’d lain for hours.

        “I think Titan, that you should roll over,” snowy mewed. Titan gave Little Apudo to Snowy, rolled onto his right side, Snowy picking Apudo up and padding round to his left, lying down, giving the cub back to Titan, Snowy looking wistfully at  the cub in the liger’s paws.

      “I half hoped you’d tangle your paws when rolling over,” Snowy mewed. “Hold her if you like,” Titan mewed. Snowy rolled onto her left side, extending her paws, both liger and tigress touching Apudo with their paws.

      “I need to clean that rug,” Blackberry said, padding back into the room. “Snowy, get up.” Snowy got to her feet, Apudo stretching and yawning.

      “Can a cub get any sleep?” she asked.

    “Sorry,” Blackberry replied, “look, I’ll freshen the rug, then give you water and food, and go.” This he did, providing snowy with some of his magic meat and veg stew, and both big cats settled down, water available from water fountains in the lie ups, which were pressure pad controlled. To lessen disruption to Apudo, first Snowy, then Titan went to drink, Titan groaning as he got to his feet for the first time in over six hours.

    “My poor legs!” he miaowed. Padding stiffly across to the fountain, he drank deeply, shook the water from his whiskers, then padded back to the rugs. Feeling a stirring inside him, he padded to the relieving place and completed his business there, washing his paws, hind parts and feet.

      “I’m back,” he said, lying down. Snowy went the same route Titan had, leaving Apudo with Titan. Apudo felt the need to relieve herself, and looked anxiously at her guide.

      “how do I relieve myself now I’m a cub?” she asked, “It’s too far to that place Snowy’s going to. I can’t hold it in, it’s come on suddenly!” Titan glanced at snowy, who nodded at him.

     “that happens with newborn cubs,” she said. Reassure Apudo it’s all right to relieve herself here for now. Snowy found some pads Blackberry had put out for that purpose, and, Apudo, getting the picture, scrambled onto the pad almost as soon as Snowy spread it on the floor. Settling, Apudo relieved herself.

      “Very good that,” Blackberry said, “let it come Apudo, push it all out.” Apudo breathed deeply as her body did its natural duty, then, she left the pad, Titan cleaning her up after the event.

       “I’ll clean myself next time,” Apudo mewed, “now I know how it feels when I need to go, I’ll go sooner to the relieving place.”

      “Your mind might want to go, but your body may not let you know in time,” Blackberry said. Apudo sighed:

       “I barely got any warning then.”

      “You won’t for a few days yet,” Blackberry replied.

    “You mean I’ll have to use those pads?” Apudo asked.

    “For a bit yet,” Titan mewed.

       “Oh okay, as long as it’s all right. I had a strange feeling it wasn’t the done thing.”

       “For you it is,” Snowy mewed, “you’re a cub Apudo, you need to gain your paws, and you can’t use the relieving place until you’ve done that.” 

  “Oh,” the cub replied, “I didn’t know being reborn would involve that too.”

        “it does, so you get closer to those who give you care and protection, and we can keep an eye on you to make sure everything’s working properly.”

        “I suppose so,” Apudo mewed, snuggling up to Titan, “your washing was very comforting,” she added.

       “I’m glad,” Titan mewed, settling himself to sleep, “it felt the right thing to do,” he yawned.

       “it was,” Apudo yawned, snuggling deeply into Titan’s hug. The liger and his cub slept deeply, Snowy watching over them, sleep far from her mind. Smiling, she examined what she could see of Titan and Apudo, drinking them in from noses to tails.

      “I love them both,” she thought, reaching out with her paw and touching Apudo’s head, then the furry top of one of Titan’s huge paws which held Apudo in their massive, well-padded embrace.

 

“I just saw the most amazing thing!” Bianca yelled, running in.

      “please be quiet!” Snowy hissed.

       “but snowy, snowy, a tigress gave birth to a lion cub! She did, she did I tell you!” Bianca miaowed, excitedly bouncing on her toes.

        “the tigress was a liger, and yes, the lion cub was born,” Snowy mewed, reaching for Bianca’s paws and pinning them to the floor, “Now stop bouncing!” She pleaded.

     “But it was amazing Snowy, the ligress pushed and pushed, then kissed the cub’s nose, then pushed and pushed, making noises I had never heard before, then the cub slid out, the liger roaring and yowling, pedalling the air with his huge paws!”

       “now you’re not sure if it was a tiger, liger, or tigress giving birth?” snowy asked.

       “It had stripes and miaowed with pain,” Bianca babbled.

       “Could it have been a zebra?” a deep voice asked.

       “Don’t take the piss!” Bianca miaowed, “I really saw the cat give birth! Or did I really see it?  I don’t know now!”

       “Look at me Bianca,” Titan mewed,  Bianca turning to him, shuffling her paws on the rugs, as he was slightly out of her line of vision.

        “oaoaoaoaoh, it’s the liger I saw in the video!” she yowled, “but, but, Titan, I know you!” she exclaimed.

       “I know you too my dear Bianca,” Titan mewed softly, “yes I gave birth, I saved a lost spirit today.” Bianca padded forward, lay down and examined the small bundle of life cradled in Titan’s paws.

     “oaoaoaoaoh, what a lovely cub, such a cute face, and those paws! How lovely they are!” Bianca whispered, touching Apudo’s large paws and feet.

        “she’s my cub,” Titan mewed, gazing down at Apudo with gentle eyes.

       “You’re looking wonderful Titan,” Bianca mewed, “um, being a guide really suits you I think.”

       “I loved giving rebirth to Apudo,” Titan mewed softly.

       “but you cried and screamed,” Bianca mewed.

      “I did,” Titan mewed, “but I loved the whole thing. The emotions pile in on top of you Bianca.”

        “I saw everything!” Bianca exclaimed, “Blackberry watched everything on his headcam, and, I, I saw the cub’s arrival!”

     “Yes, I know,” Titan mewed.

       “You even,” Bianca began, gulping back a sudden rush of emotion, “Titan,” she continued hoarsely, “you even curled round and kissed Apudo’s nose before her head was even out properly. That was so sweet!” Titan smiled broadly and replied:

        “and your friend Theo knows what happens when a cub is born too, so when you’re having his cubs, he can help you.”

   Steady on!” Bianca mewed, “we’re just friends! We haven’t discussed mating, I’m only young, so’s he, we can’t, yet, though, though,” she hesitated.

      “yes?” Titan asked gently.

       “We, we, I, we, um, we played at me having a cub, and, oh Titan, it was lovely! Theo was so gentle, helping me ease the imaginary cub out, rubbing my paws and feet, encouraging me to yowl, roar, moan, pant and scream while pushing at his paws with my feet when I wanted. “Do what you want to do Bianca,” Theo said, rubbing my pads while I moaned and curled my toes. In the end I grabbed him in my paws and yowled with the emotion of it all.”

       “it became very real then?” Titan asked.

       “yes,” Bianca replied, her face red with shame, “but, but, is it wrong to act out such things?  To feel so right about them?”  

No it’s not,” Titan mewed, “as long as the acting gives you pleasure, and tells you not to do the real thing too soon.”

       “I loved it Titan,” Bianca replied, her words coming in  a rush.

  “So that’s where Theo learnt about pedalling the cub out,” Snowy mewed.

      “I’ve, um, even thought about how it would be if I delivered a breach cub,” Bianca mewed, “then, well, I was half cub, half mama in labour, me pushing until I felt the cub’s foot emerge, then curling round and licking at my own pads as if they were the cub’s foot pads, Theo arranging my feet, telling me to push. That was nice too.”

       “it’s not nice at all to have a breach cub,” Imvula replied, padding into the room, “I’ve done it, it hurts. Bianca, tell Theo not to romanticise that! As for you, don’t glorify it yourself, do you hear?” the lioness roared.

        “I’m sorry Imvula, I didn’t know!” Bianca mewed, backing off, lowering her head in submission.

         “I hope you didn’t act out the breach birth too often,” Imvula growled.

      “once, maybe twice,” Bianca whimpered, “the cubs survived both times, we made sure they did!” she yowled.

      “sometimes cubs don’t!” Imvula roared, her voice like thunder, “Why act out something so dreadful!”

        “if they act it out, they can prevent problems,” Blackberry replied coolly, “Imvula, you do not know the half of what their acting may prevent in the future.” Bianca looked scared, her toes curling into the rugs.

       “What?” Imvula asked crossly, “What did it lead to Blackberry?”

        “To Bianca asking me about breach births and if Theo could help if and when she had cubs, and if that were to happen to her unborn cub, could Theo help her.”

        “You told her about it?” Imvula asked.

     “I did, and I demonstrated too with a plush cub and the equipment I have. I showed her and Theo what they should do.”

     “I panted the last breach cub into the world,” Bianca said.

       “naoaoaoaoao, don’t tell me anymore!” Imvula screeched, running from the room.

       “She gave birth to Apudo first time, and,,,” Titan said, Bianca cutting him off:

        “I know Titan, now I’m feeling bad for acting out that scenario.”

      “I had Luna breach,” Targon said, walking into the room, “Bianca, preparation is no bad thing.”

        “but we were playing, and some things you just don’t act out,” Bianca moaned.

       “but that’s okay to act out,” Snowy said, “Bianca, labour happens to nearly every female creature, why should they not be prepared?  by being prepared, things go more smoothly when problems arise. What’s more, if you’re acting alongside someone whom you truly love, and they’re rubbing your pads during the action, that’s all to the good in my book.”

       “mine too,” Titan mewed, “I acted out a labour just before Apudo opened the door to come into the world a second time, and having Moses and little Ekaterina holding my feet and paws, and directing me by touch to push or pant felt great!”

      “how did they do that?” Bianca asked.

    “they touched my paw pads for as long as I was to push, then touched the ball of my foot to allow me to pant,” Titan mewed. “Sometimes I would be in the midst of a good pant when they’d touch my toe pads again, and I’d be forced to push according to the pressure they put on my toes. The harder they pressed, the harder I pushed, the longer it took them to reach the balls of my feet or paws, the longer I pushed, while tightly curling my toes of course.”

        “that sounds a lot of fun,” snowy mewed.

      “It was,” Titan replied, “at first I felt a bit of a fool, making noise about nothing, but then I got into it, and it felt great to respond to their suggestions, making my labour seem sort of real. I would push against their hands with my feet and paws too, so I was really pushing too. It felt wonderful!”

       “Titan’s play with Moses and little Ekaterina made me all excited,” Apudo mewed, waking up from her long sleep, “I wanted to be re-born then.”

       “Maybe Theo and I can play like the humans did with Titan,” Bianca mewed, “that would be nice for me to be surprised by our play.”

       “Theo is a lovely lion,” Snowy mewed.

       “I’ll leave to find Theo,” Bianca mewed.

       “Was Theo the lion who kissed my nose on my way out of the tunnel?” Apudo asked.

       “He was,” Titan mewed.

       “I’d like to see him again, Bianca, I think that’s your name, please, bring him back, and bring yourself back too.” Bianca laughed and trotted away, waving her tail in farewell.

       “I need to wash,” Titan mewed.

       “I need to drink first,” cub Apudo mewed, grabbing Titan’s paw and pinning it down as firmly as her small weight would allow.

      “Raoaoaoaoow!” she growled in her effort, Titan kissing the top of her head:

    “I’ll hang about so you can drink Apudo my dear,” he mewed.

        “Thanks,” Apudo mewed, cuddling up and nursing from his milk supply. Snowy watched them with shining eyes.

       “how about if I get a sponge and water, and wash you where you lie Titan?” Blackberry asked.

        “I’d like that,” Titan mewed. Blackberry padded away, and returned with Jenny, Moses and little Ekaterina.

       “We’ve heard it’s liger washing day,” Jenny said. Titan laughed:

       “If you like, but be careful with Apudo.”

       “Are we going to wash Apudo too Blackberry?” Jenny asked.

      “No,” Blackberry replied, “her fur won’t take the soap.”

      “But I want a wash!” Apudo yowled, rolling about on the floor, kicking the air with her paws and feet.

       “Blackberry?” Titan asked. Blackberry smiled and nodded:

      “We can wash her with water, but not soap,” he said.

       “Mum has some special shampoo that doesn’t make me cry if it gets in my eyes,  I could get that,” Little Ekaterina said.

      “it sounds as if we’re all going to get a wash at this rate,” Blackberry giggled.

        “why not?” Apudo asked, “I want a wash now!” she yelled, clapping her paws and pedalling her feet.

      “awhwhwhwh so cuuuute!” Moses giggled.

      “What is?” Jenny asked.

      “Oh, I forgot, you haven’t met Apudo have you Jenny,” Moses said, “Titan, please, could Jenny touch you and Apudo, to see the size difference?”

       “Please,” Titan mewed, “measure our paws too, hers against mine.”

      “That would be something to see,” Moses replied.

       “Kneel beside Titan Jenny, come, round here,” Blackberry said, guiding Jenny to Titan’s side, the liger chuffing a greeting, Jenny trying an experimental chuff in return, Titan scratching at her arm with the toes of one huge paw, his claws retracted.

       “Now get hands on, but make sure it’s a good massage as well as a fact finding exploration,” Titan mewed, “oh,” he added, “I’ll keep Apudo in one place so you can’t lose her, she’ll be held by snowy.” Snowy, co-opted into this, lay down at right angles to Titan and Jenny, who knelt before Titan, Apudo held in her paws, the little lioness watching all as Jenny touched Titan’s body, running her hands from his nose to his toes, Titan chuffing, miaowing  and purring with pleasure. Once she’d got a good idea of the size of Titan’s body, snowy handed Apudo to the liger, Jenny laughing as she found out how small Apudo was compared to the one who’d rescued her.

“You’re so small Apudo!” Jenny exclaimed, laughing as Apudo squirmed from side to side while lying on her back between titan’s massive paws, trying to get all four of her small paws into Jenny’s hands, “You’re lovely Apudo! Now, please, measure your paw against Titan’s.” Apudo and Titan pressed paws together, Jenny exploring their paws, finding Titan’s paw almost impossibly huge against Apudo’s smaller one.

      “Jenny, may I touch your feet now?” Apudo asked.

      “yes, come on Apudo,” Jenny said, the cub crawling to Jenny’s feet then exploring her soles with her small paws, Apudo’s mischievous nature getting the better of her, the cub tickling Jenny’s toes with her whiskers.

      Yeyeyeyeyeyeyeoaw!” Jenny squealed, laughing and bouncing her backside on her heels, “Apuuudooo’s tickling my toooes!” she squealed.

        “tickle her paws in return,” Titan suggested.

      “I can’t, she’s tickling my toooes!” Jenny squealed.

       “Stop it Apudo,” Titan mewed, snowy lifting Apudo so the cub could tickle Jenny’s heels more easily, Jenny wriggling and bouncing harder and faster as the cub pressed home her attack.

      “I can’t tickle Apudo, she’s tickling meyeee!” Jenny squealed, laughing fit to bust.

     “Apudo, that’s enough!” Titan growled,  Snowy lowering Apudo to the floor, Jenny crawling round, picking the now furious cub up in her hands when she felt the tiny form crawling towards her.

     “Hello little one,” Jenny said gently, hugging her.

    “hello,” Apudo mewed, forgetting her anger, spitting fury turning to purring and mewing. Jenny sat down, cradling Apudo in her lap. The cub, lying on her back, reached up with her paws and feet to touch Jenny’s hands. Jenny gently caught each of Apudo’s paws and feet in turn, blowing on the cub’s pads, Apudo miaowing and wriggling with delight.

        “Titan, Jenny’s tickling my paaaaws and feeyeeet, stop her!” Apudo miaowed.

      “I’m too tired,” Titan yawned, stretching his paws.

      “naoaoaoaoao! Snowy, heyeyeyeyeyeyelp!” Apudo begged, laughing helplessly. Snowy looked at the laughing cub.

      “you’re just too cute Apudo,” snowy mewed. Jenny rubbed Apudo’s pads, the cub purring deeply.

      “I should rub the tickle from your toes too Jenny,” Apudo mewed.

      “I’ll kneel again, and you can,” Jenny replied, Apudo tumbling off her lap, Jenny kneeling, Apudo lying on the floor behind her, rubbing Jenny’s heel pads, arches and toes with her paws with great concentration.

       “That’s better,” Jenny said, Apudo crawling backwards.

        “now what about that wash?” Apudo asked.

 Titan got to his feet, picking up Apudo by the scruff of her neck and carrying her to the bathtubs, Snowy, Blackberry and the humans following her. On route, Theo and Bianca joined them, so when they got to the tubs, the party was large. Blackberry ran the baths, then indicated the communal shower rooms. Everyone went and had a shower, even Apudo, who was showered by Titan, the liger slowing the flow with his paws and washing her thoroughly

      “You really get clean here,” he said, rolling her onto her side and soaping her paws and feet, “the fun starts later on in the tubs. We’ll wash there, but this is where the real washing is done.” The washing over with, Blackberry led the group to the tubs, helping Titan and Snowy into one with Apudo, the tigers washing the small lion cub.

      “Now for you humans, and other lions,” he said, Jenny, Moses, and little Ekaterina climbing into their spar tub, Theo and Bianca joining them.

       “five cubs in one tub, what a hoot!” Blackberry said, throwing in a pawful of something into both tubs which made the water smell sweet.

       “This is lovely!” Apudo mewed, Theo and Bianca playing with each other’s paws, while Jenny tickled Moses and little Ekaterina’s toes with the spray from one of the shower heads which were located by each seat ranged round the sides of the tub. Moses and little Ekaterina laughed helplessly as their toes were tickled, Jenny careful to get the flow of water just right.

        “I’ve just thought of something!” Theo yelled, banging the water with his paw in triumph.

     “What?” Titan asked.

      “Well, if I re-enact your labour Titan, and I do it on one of the rafts from the pool complex, when I curl round to lick the cub’s nose, and hold on desperately with my paws as you did the rugs, I can be more like you than you were yourself, I can be trapped toes Tiggie!” Titan groaned:

      “Not that! Please, not that again!” while everyone else laughed helplessly.

       “Okay, I won’t,” Theo mewed, “but Titan, seriously, your paws! You held on so tightly to your rugs!”

        “It felt as if I needed To,” Titan mewed.

       “I will watch back the whole of your labour,” Theo mewed, “then, I can really go to town on it.”    “I only ask one thing if you do that Theo,” Titan said gravely,, “that you scream and roar, and curl  your toes and do everything I did.”

      “I will,” Theo mewed.

      “I hope noone’s going to re-enact what I went through,” Apudo mewed, “that was awful! I felt squeezing through my whole body, I heard screaming, moaning and groaning, I heard scrabbling paws, and panting, and sounds of terrible pain. I was so scared Theo!”

      “I know Apudo my dear cousin,” Theo mewed.

      “Was that why you kissed me when I was half way out?” Apudo asked.

       “It was, in part anyway,” Theo mewed, his Voice cracking with emotion.

       “I cannot re-enact what happened,” Apudo mewed, “but I would love to see what my guide did to give rebirth to me.

      “I pushed and pedalled with my feet, and pushed, and roared, and curled my toes, and cried and screamed, and yelled and curled my toes, and pedalled the air with my feet some more.”

      “You didn’t pedal with your feet that much, well not with your paws,” Theo mewed, “you kicked with your free right foot a bit. You curled your toes quite a bit though. Titan, mostly, you curled and stretched your toes, Your paws were held in the hands of two children, and I held your left foot.

      “Can I get paws on with your paws Titan?” Apudo asked.

      “you can,” Titan mewed.

     “I vote we leave this tub and dry our fur and paws, then snuggle on your rug in the family lie up Titan,” Snowy mewed.

      “You’re leader now,” karina mewed padding up to the edge of the sunken tub, “Titan, they all want you to be leader along with me.”

        Let’s go to the great room then,” Titan replied, “I want to see if they will all come to me.”

      “I will bring Apudo,” Snowy mewed, getting out of the tub, everyone adjourning to the drying rooms, the humans and lions following the liger, tigress and Titan’s cub.

      Let’s dry our paws and feet first,” Titan suggested, Everyone following his lead.

 

After a meal of Blackberry’s vegetable stew, of which even Apudo finished an entire bowl full, Titan was padding into the great room with Snowy, who held Apudo tightly by the scruff of her neck. In the room  he found bears, humans and big cats, as well as karina and Felix. Padding to the raised beanbag, Titan stepped up onto it, then lay down. Snowy, still standing on the floor,  turned away from Titan to make her way into the crowd, still carrying Apudo.

       “Why are you taking me from Titan?” Apudo asked.

   “You are a cub, he is leader now,” Snowy mewed, “he has to call you to his side if he wants you.”

      “why is Titan rejecting me snowy?” Apudo asked plaintively.

      “I’m not, who said I was?  Snowy? What are you saying!” Titan demanded, having been too caught up with the numbers flooding into the great room to take full notice of what Snowy had been saying or doing, taking it for granted she’d keep Apudo by him.

      “Titan, Save me from snowy! She’s taking me to I don’t know where, I’m scared!” Apudo yelled, furiously pedalling the air with all four paws. Titan rose to his feet, glaring at snowy.

      “Bring her back here,” he growled, his voice cutting through the general chatter all around.

       “But, but, she’s a cub, the least of your community members,” snowy blurted.

       “What?” Titan asked, his face setting into a terrible expression of anger, as his voice rose to a near roar, “Snowy, for that remark, you are the least of all who gather here! Bring my cub to me! Or, or, will I have to come and get her?”

      “Sorry,” Snowy mewed, padding back to the bean bag, the chatter having died, everyone staring at the white tigress who’d just put all four paws in her mouth at once.

       “That’s better,” Titan mewed when Apudo was lying safely next to him, “now snowy, go! Hide yourself in the crowd, and don’t ever, ever, tell my cub she’s the least of the community members, no cub is the least of the members! Adults though, now, they often fall from the grace they are born with, you have seen this, don’t follow in Swarupa’s paw prints.”

Titan lay down, settling Apudo on the beanbags. When he was certain she was comfortable, he stood up on all four feet.

       “You have called me here today,” he called in a clear voice, “I have had a message you all want to talk to me about something. I am here, at your service, at your command!”

        “his voice gives me goose bumps,” Nanulak whispered to karina, “so powerful!”

       “What do you want of me?” Titan asked, “I am here, so speak your will. I have a cub to look after, as some of you may know, so please forgive me if I glance down from time to time to check on her.”

        “You lie down, hold her in your paws, we’ll come to you!” Anook called from the back of the room.

       “What is it I can do for you?” Titan asked, “and for that consideration dear she bear I thank you., I ask again, why am I called here, to this place, at this time?” Titan replied.

      “Doesn’t he know?” Aslan whispered to Imvula.

     “I don’t know,” Imvula replied.

      “Titan, we want you to be our leader!” Luna yelled, getting to her feet, clapping her paws and bouncing on her toes.

        “Sit down!” Targon growled, pushing her cub down onto her backside.

       “But mum, it’s true,  You told me!” she complained loudly.

      “I know, but it’s not the done thing to jump about and clap your paws!” targon snapped.

       “Why is it not?” Titan asked, “dear cub, please leap about with joy if the prospect of having a fat pawed moggie like me for a leader makes you happy.”

      “but you’re not a moggie!” Luna yelled, who’d never met Titan in her life, “I want to hug you and kiss your nose!” Targon nearly walloped her.

       “You don’t say that!” she hissed.

      “come then, come here and do as you wish,” Titan replied, looking straight at Luna.

      “She didn’t mean it Titan,” Targon babbled.

     “You speak with a mouth full of adult embarrassment mama,” Titan replied, glancing at her then Looking back at Luna, who was now having second thoughts, Titan said gently, “come to me dear cub, and please, tell me your name so I know whom I am being hugged by.”

      “You have really done it now!” Targon growled, pushing Luna forward, “go to him!” she commanded. Luna padded to the beanbag, the liger never having seemed so big to her.

     “come closer, stand in front of me, here, on the beanbag,” Titan mewed, patting the space before him. Apudo, fascinated by all the goings on, and having totally forgotten her fears, watched with staring eyes and a gaping mouth.

       “You called me?” Luna asked.

     “I rather think it was the other way around,” Titan mewed, “was it not you who wanted to hug me and kiss my nose?”

      “I don’t know now,” Luna whimpered, the sight of Titan’s huge form frightening her, though his eyes were gentle.

      “I will not force you,” Titan mewed, “but you sounded very definite only a few minutes ago.”

        “You’re big, your head, your paws, your body, it’s huge!” Luna mewed.

    “yes,” Titan replied softly, bowing his head to touch Luna’s nose with his, “but I can still give birth to a cub and be hugged by that cub. Please, will you not make good on your words?” Luna looked up, straight into Titan’s eyes.

     “I so want to hug him!” she thought, “but I can’t,” she reasoned, “he’s too big, and I’m so nervous!”

       “how would it be if I lie on my chest, or even with my feet relaxed, so I can’t spring to them easily?” Titan asked.

      “I saw you giving birth today, and wanted to run and hug you, but mum wouldn’t let me!” Luna blurted.

        “Hug me now, if you like, mum’s not going to stop you,” Titan mewed softly, lying down slowly, his huge paws extending either side of Luna, Apudo seeing what he was about to do, her cubbish smile of delight lighting up her face.

         “Hug her Titan,” Apudo whispered. Luna found she couldn’t help kneeling when Titan lay down, Apudo watching both.

      “now will you hug me?” Titan asked, “or,” he continued, “would you prefer it if I hugged you?”

      “I don’t know,” Luna replied.

      “How about if I just give you my paw,” Titan suggested.

       “You’re not the same liger you were,” Luna blurted, “you’re big and majestic now, back then, you were crying and sweating, and curling your toes, and screaming in pain.”

       “I’m the same liger,” Titan purred.

       “you can’t be,” Luna protested, “you don’t look like him.”

      “Beside me is the cub I gave noisy birth to, look at her, touch her,” Titan purred. Luna looked into Apudo’s face, the little lioness looking back with curiosity.

      “Hug him Luna, he won’t bite,” she mewed, Titan chuffing to Apudo, Apudo replying in kind.

       “That’s Soaoaoaoao cuuuute!” someone exclaimed.

       “I think I’ve got something in my eye,” Aslan sniffled, wiping his eyes with his paws.

       “Go on, snuggle Titan,” Apudo mewed.

       “I can’t!” Luna protested, “he’s not the same liger!”  

He is!” Apudo miaowed, “he had a wash that’s all.” Everyone laughed heartily at this.

       “I tell you! Titan’s the same liger as the one you wanted to hug earlier!” Apudo miaowed, banging the beanbags with her paws in a sudden fit of frustrated rage.

       “Titan, is, that, liger!” she yelled, banging the beanbag with alternate paws as she spoke each word.

       “Peace Apudo dear,” Titan mewed, leaning over then kissing the top of his furious daughter’s cub’s head.

      “Now you’re that liger,” Luna said throwing her arms round Titan’s neck, giving him a huge hug.

     “What?” Apudo mewed, “he always was “that liger,” as you put it.”

      “now We can move on from this,” Titan mewed, after returning Luna’s embrace, ”can I please get to my feet so I can address the community?”

        “I need a drink and a wee Titan!” Apudo miaowed loudly.

     “Oh, um, okay, sorry folks, got to answer the call of nature, back in a minute.” Titan mewed, picking Apudo up by the scruff of her neck. Waving a paw at the gathering, Titan ran for the door. In the corridor, Blackberry laid one of the absorbant pads on the floor, Apudo crouching on it, Titan supporting her with a gentle paw. Apudo settled her feet and paws, urinated, then turned her head to Titan, looking very concerned.

      “I need to poo,” she groaned, “I didn’t need to a minute ago, it’s coming!” she whimpered, bearing down with a strangled yowl, the whole business seeming to upset her.

       “is it hurting you,” Titan asked.

       “No,” Apudo mewed, “but my feet are cold, and my business is keeping you from your business, I can’t do mine without stopping you doing yours, and, and, yours is more important, but my feet are cold, and the floor is cold, and it’s hard to do my business when it’s cold!”

      “ “How if I breathe on your feet and tail to warm them,  like this?”

     “That’s better,” Apudo mewed piteously.

   “good,” Titan purred, “now take your time. Now, if I lie down at right angles to you and then breathe on your feet, is that better?” Apudo mewed: 

    “yes, it’s better, I need to, need to, uuuuumf, it’s happening!” she whimpered.

    “gently now, easy push now, gentle push, puuush, there,” Titan replied, reaching round then rubbing the root of Apudo’s tail, the little lioness pressing down into her bottom as she relieved herself.

        “you’re so kind,” Apudo said, as Blackberry cleared away the results of her efforts and Titan cleaned her up.

      “Are you sure you don’t want a drink before we go back in there?” Titan asked.

      “I do, but, won’t,” Apudo mewed, “I’ll only end up needing to wee again, and, well, I’ve already caused so much trouble.”

       “No you haven’t,” Titan mewed, washing his paws in special solution blackberry brought, then lying down and pulling Apudo close, “you did well, telling me you needed to go to the relieving place in good time.”

     “but here is not, even I know that,” Apudo mewed.

      “I could tell you were desperate,” Titan purred, “you were pedalling with your paws and feet faster and faster as we reached the door.”

      “yes, you’re right,” Apudo mewed.

      “okay Apudo, I want two things, to give you something, and something from  you,” Titan mewed.

     “yes?” Apudo asked.

      “To give you a  hug, and, a drink, if you want either, or both, and for you to promise me something.”

      “What is the promise?” Apudo asked, gazing up into her guide’s eyes with trusting innocence.

      “that you will tell me whenever you need the relieving place and not be shy about it,” Titan mewed.

        “I would love a hug, and a drink, and I promise,” Apudo mewed.

       “Let’s go back to the beanbag for the first two,” Titan mewed, “it’s warmer there, in this corridor it’s cold..”

     “It is,” Apudo mewed. Titan picked Apudo up by the scruff of her neck, but she wriggled and kicked.

    “Can I crawl?” she asked. Titan, smiling, set her down.

    “You can,” he said, turning to the door, Apudo following Titan by dragging herself using her forepaws, trailing her hind legs behind her.

       ”I’m rather slow, I’m sorry, need carrying, please?” Apudo panted when she was half way to the beanbag. Titan, smiling, picked her up and carried her to her old place.

      “All done?” Imvula asked, her eyes sparkling.

      “yes, thanks,” Apudo replied, Imvula smiling at her, which made Apudo feel very good.

       “She’s so cute!” someone said. Startled, Apudo looked round to see who’d spoken, though from her point of view, she could see little.

      “for what purpose did you call me here?” Titan asked the gathered creatures., “if it is to get a good look at my cub, which some of you clearly want,” he looked at the speaker of the words that had startled Apudo, whom she could not see, though he could, “what else do you want of me, or of my cub. Is it me you want?  Or her?”

       “We want you, well both of you,” Aslan replied, “we want you as leader Titan, and we also love cubs.” Titan smiled.

     “Come here,” Titan mewed, patting the beanbag with one huge paw.

     “Must I?” Aslan asked.

      “yes,” Titan mewed. Aslan, his mouth dry, pushed through the crowded room to the beanbag, where Titan stood. Looking up into the liger’s face, Aslan realised how big he truly was. Aslan didn’t know Titan that well, though he’d heard of him, as most of the community had.

      “Place your paw on the bean bag between mine,” Titan mewed, lying down. Aslan did, feeling his right paw sandwiched between Titan’s massive, well-padded ones.

       “For how many do you speak?” Titan asked, “for yourself? Or for your kind? That is to say the pride? Or for all big cats? Or for the community of non-humans? Or for everyone?”

      “I haven’t been elected as their spokes lion as it were,” Aslan mewed, “I was just airing an opinion.”

       “Who else holds the same opinion as this white cat?” Titan asked.

       “We all do,” Patch called in a clear voice, “bears, lions, tigers, and those humans who are born into, or are by virtue of being mothers to cubs that are born into the community.”

       “Go now,” Titan mewed, kissing Aslan’s nose, “go and sit back where you were. Aslan looked at Apudo, the cub gazing back at him.

       “You’re one beautiful cub,” he said.

      “If you want me to be leader, I need a show of support,” Titan mewed, “nothing sycophantic, just, well, a show of paws or hands. As there are so many of us now, this would be impractical. So anyone who wants to leave because of my being proposed as leader can do so, now. Patch, as you have spoken in favour of me, and are known by history and by the present time to be held in most honourable esteem and probity among us, please, look to the door to see if anyone leaves. If they do, make a note of who they are, but let them go in peace.”

      “Why ask patch to watch?” someone asked.

     “Because I can’t see that far,” Titan mewed.

      “I will go,” patch said, “I can tell you noone has dared move a paw yet.”

      “When you are there in place, I will give the assembled company five minutes to decide whether they wish to trust me as leader. If half walk out the door, I will propose that they find someone to stand against me, and we will vote in the speediest way those who have technology at their paws can devise. Then we will see. If noone goes, then, well, I suppose I’m elected. But I will not allow myself to be held to so such high office until everyone has had their say. Okay, the five minutes from,,,” Titan paused as Felix padded up to him:

     “Yes?” he asked.

      “I thought you might want something to signify the beginning of the election time,” the Felursapien said, “I have such a thing.” He placed by the beanbag a rounded object on a wooden base.

      “really you should not be on that beanbag if you are casting doubt on your election,” patch advised.

     “Fine,” Titan mewed, stepping off the beanbag, and resting his paw on the thing Felix had presented him with. Felix returned to his place, and Patch called for silence.

     “Now, I will press this thing to signify the start of the five minutes!” Titan called, when silence had fallen round him. Titan pressed down on the thing, a dreadful loud rasping noise making  him leap into  the air with a surprised yowl, everyone staring at Felix, who rolled about on the floor, laughing helplessly.

    “What in Eohippus name was that!” Titan demanded when all four of his huge paws had finally touched the floor.

       “Felix!” Karina yowled, running to him and cuffing him, “that was nasty!.

         “No it wasn’t, it was wonderful!” “ Apudo miaowed, rolling about on the beanbag laughing as hard as Felix.

      “Okay, stoaoaoaoap this!” patch roared, silence falling, “I will find something else which can be used as a time signal. Ancient Koda had rooms full of human’s stuff.” With that he vanished upstairs to the storerooms. The lift to the great room arrived carrying Patch and something large and wooden. Patch emerged from the lift wheeling a large plate on a frame, a huge hammer dangling from the top spar of the frame which stood vertically on a pedestal.

       “What’s that?” karina asked.

      “A gong,” Patch replied, setting the frame up by using the breaks, releasing the plate to swing free. Patch picked up the hammer, striking the gong in the centre, the sound startling Titan, the liger screaming with fear and racing for the door..

        “Fat pawed  Tiggie, steps on ground, was terrified by farting sound! Tiggie leaping in the air, Titan yowling, “it’s not fair!” Patch strikes gong, bong Bong bong! Fat paws running, Titan gone!” Nuru carolled.

      “I wish I’d thought of that rhyme!” Felix whispered to Apudo, whom he’d joined on the beanbag, the little lioness giggling into the beanbag so Titan would not hear..

       “Titan’s so funny when frightened!” she mewed. Titan, forgetting the door was shut, blundered into it, reared onto his feet and beat it with his paws, screaming:

     “let meyououoout!!”

      “it’s all right Titan, dear Titan, it’s not going to hurt you!” Snowy yelled above the liger’s screams of fear.

       “Stoaoaoaoap this! Nuru, shut up too!” patch yelled, “Titan, for Eohippus sake, what’s the matter?”

        “Titan’s easily startled,” Apudo mewed.

       “I think he gets the leader’s job just for being a total hoot!” Felix mewed.

         “the ground rumbled, then I heard the bell from hell!” Titan miaowed.

       “it’s a gong, not a bell you idiot!” Felix yelled.

       “Can, can I lie down for a bit, please?” Titan asked.

       “Yes, there’s a nice beanbag here,” Apudo called to her guide. Titan looked fearfully at the beanbag.

      “Not there, and you come away too!” he commanded, his legs shaking.

        “but it’s fine, look!” Apudo mewed, rolling about the beanbag until she fell off with a grunt, “well, not if you fall off it’s not,” she added, everyone laughing at her antics.

           “Apudo, please come here!” Titan mewed. Apudo got to her feet, then tottered towards her guide, Titan watching her come to him.

        “Apudo?” he whispered. When she reached him, he steadied her by letting her lean on him as she panted with her effort.

        “You walked to me!” Titan mewed.

       “yeah, my poor legs and pads!” Apudo miaowed.

        “Let’s go back to the beanbags,” Titan mewed, Apudo rearing onto her feet, stretching, gripping Titan’s left foreleg with both  paws, stretching up on tiptoe to kiss his nose. Titan, his eyes filling with tears, bowed his head then kissed her nose, the whole community giving a collective sigh of:

   “awww that’s so cute!” before erupting into cheering and applause.

       “I think they want you Titan,” Apudo mewed, scrambling onto Titan’s back, riding proudly on him as he walked back to the beanbag.

       “Off my back Apudo,” Titan mewed, sitting down on the beanbag, Apudo yowling as she was tipped off backwards, landing with a grunt on the soft beanbag.

       “Now, please, let’s get back to business,” Titan mewed, the applause still rippling round him. Titan tried to gain silence by shouting:

     “Okay, it’s been a funny day I know, but please be quiet!” the community ignored him, applause still rippling round him. Titan, now frustrated, ran to patch’s gong,  finding a pedal before him. Pressing it, he saw and heard the hammer hit the gong. Titan, convinced the world would shake to bits with the sound, but hardly caring if it did, while fearing the consequences, closed his eyes, set his teeth and rocked on his feet, pressing the pedal harder and harder with both paws. The gong’s sound was massive, Titan’s body and ears filled by a sound which vibrated  the whole world. After four presses, Titan stepped away, the gong’s sound dying away to leave complete silence.

       “that’s better,” Titan mewed, climbing onto the beanbag, “now what were we doing before that interruption?  Ah yes, trying to elect a leader. Five minutes from,” he glanced at the gong, “well, no,” he continued, anyone who wants to leave, can. You have five minutes from, now, open the door I couldn’t, and go. Once that’s over, the five minutes I mean, anyone else still in here I will take as accepting what leadership I can provide.”

       “We don’t want to leave,” Fleur mewed, “Titan, we want you, all of us want you as leader. We only ask that you let us touch you, smell you, get to know you.” Titan smiled:

      “My paws and feet will be glad of a hug and stroke,” he replied.

        “they want you to hug Apudo again Titan,” Felix mewed.

       “You want that Felix,” Titan replied.

      “I wouldn’t mind it myself,” Apudo mewed, lying beside her guide’s right paw.

       “Why did they cheer when I hugged you Titan?” Apudo asked.

      “I think they watched you walking towards me and my reaction to the whole thing, you walking on your big paws was so cute and wonderful I got a little tearful, your efforts to hug me and kiss my nose pleased them, They seem to like that,” the liger mewed.

       “We also like fumble footed cubs a lot!” Theo mewed.

       “I was trying not to fall over my own feet,” Apudo mewed.

      “It would have been even cuter if you had,” Theo purred.

        “Bet you would not like to fall over your paws and have everyone laughing?” Apudo challenged.

       “but they’d come and pick me up, and that’s all comforting,” Theo mewed.

       “My paws and feet are big aren’t they,” Apudo mewed, looking down at her paws, then bowing her head between her forelegs and contorting her body, lifting one leg so she could see the pads of one foot.

       “My feeyeeet are huuuge!” Apudo yowled.

     “Now that’s cute!” Theo mewed, rearing onto his feet to clap his paws.

     “Stoaoaoaoap it Theo!” Apudo mewed, kicking and waving her paws about, struggling with a beanbag that had become clawing and enveloping as she tried to get to her feet. Theo dropped onto all four paws, padded across the beanbag,, and pushed Apudo onto her chest with a gentle paw.

     “There,” he mewed, kissing her ear.

      “Thanks,” Apudo mewed softly, pushing herself to her feet, her large paw landing on Theo’s.

      “Sorry,” she mewed, stumbling, her shoulder pushing him.

       “Get your breath and your balance,” Theo purred, kissing the back of her ear.

     “this morning I could crouch for relieving myself, but not walk,” Apudo mewed, “now I can walk, I’m learning fast, but, Theo, there is something. That corridor, it’s cold! My feet froze while trying to, well, and, and, my bum got cold too!” Theo nuzzled her ear.

     “I know that feeling,” he mewed, giggling slightly, “it makes you yowl doesn’t it.”

      “It does!” Apudo mewed, relieved she was not alone in her discomfort, “I would tuck my tail down there to keep me warm but, well, I have a feeling that would not end well.”

      “No it wouldn’t,” Theo purred.

      “Theo,” Apudo mewed, “would you come with me to the place, I know where the pads are, Titan needs to do his business here, he’s deeply into it with Patch, talking about things I don’t understand, but I can’t do mine here, and I need to do it so badly! Would you come with me, please?”

     “I will,” he replied. Titan was talking to patch when Apudo and Theo stole away, taking two absorbent pads with them.

     “You don’t do this normally do you?” Apudo asked as they entered the cold corridor.

      “I have only stopped doing it recently,” Theo mewed, “I’m not so old as you think. Now, here, we won’t be disturbed.” They spread the absorbent pads on the floor and crouched side by side, Apudo’s paw straying over to Theo’s for support.

        “Now let it go Apudo,” Theo mewed, rubbing her paw. Apudo began to relieve herself, but stopped, sniffing back tears and whimpering,

     “It is uncomfortable, not like last time, it’s harder, I feel really bad Theo, I’m going to burst!” she cried.

       “Okay, breathe and push gently,” Theo mewed, Apudo sniffling and struggling to keep calm. Theo heard her breathing, as his head rested near hers. Then she caught her breath and strained, a rasping sound coming from her other end, Apudo squealing with surprise.

    “that’s good,” Theo mewed, “do it again Apudo.” Apudo pushed, feeling something leaving her. grunting, she pressed hard down, bouncing on her toes a bit.

       “It’s hard first time isn’t it,” Theo mewed.

    “Titan rubbed my tail root, but, but, I’m on my own now,” Apudo miaowed. She panted as she felt another need to push. Bracing her feet, she paused, “well I’m not,” she added after her preparations for relief, “you’re here, but I have to make all this effort now!” it’s getting things working again after my rebirth, but it’s so much ouwch, and the floor’s so cold under my paws and my bum too!” she moaned.

       “Do you need to push again?” Theo asked.

      “yes,” Apudo whimpered.

       “okay, all four paws on the floor this time, deep breath and easy push, easy,” Theo mewed, Apudo trying so hard to follow his gentle voiced instructions, her control snapping when she felt the obstruction jam slightly as it was leaving her. with an infantile growl and wriggle, she pushed as hard as she could, her voice rising in a screaming yowl as the obstruction jammed tighter, then left her in a rush.

      “all done?” Theo asked. Apudo nodding and panting.

      “That was awful!” she moaned.

       “I’m done,” Theo mewed.

      “How are we going to clean ourselves?” Apudo asked, her voice full of tears of anxiety, “Theo, I forgot about that bit, and, and, now we’re dirty!” she sobbed, burying her face in his shoulder.

       “We’ll go to a place I know, it’s not far,” Theo mewed, “what did Titan do with the pads?” he asked.

     “Blackberry was here to fold them and get rid of them, but even he’s not here now!” Apudo mewed piteously, “Theo, it’s all gone wrong! I’m a stupid cub, I have got us both into trouble!”

      “We can work this out Apudo, don’t panic,” Theo mewed, “Look, if you stand on one end of the pad, I can fold the other over the results of our relief, then we fold the other side that you are standing on, then we fold the other sides. Can you remember what sides were folded first?”

    “Short ones I think,” Apudo mewed, “we can’t get this wrong Theo, we just can’t! If we do, it’ll be horrid and awful, and, we really will be in trouble!” they managed to fold the first pad, then the second, Theo using Apudo as an anchor, while he folded the pad.

     “Now they’re secure, he said, sticking the tapes down on the last bundle, “we will go and wash our paws and feet and rear ends.” Apudo padded down the corridor  with Theo, still quite unsteady on her paws.

     “Thanks for letting me lean on you,” she said, “I’m still a little unsteady when I have to, well, do that.”

     “here is the place,” Theo mewed. he and Apudo entered one of the relieving places, and Theo helped her to wash herself properly. Smiling, he led her from the place, walking straight into Titan.

       “oaoaoaoaoh!” Apudo yowled as she saw the look of terrified concern on her guide’s face.

       “Where have you two been?” he asked.

       “I need, well, I needed to relieve myself, and you were talking to Patch about the gong and things, so I asked Theo, Theo to, to, to, to come with me, and he did, and we spread the pads and he helped me, and we folded the pads, and we washed ourselves, and, well, I’m here now.” Apudo replied, her words coming out in a babble.

      “You wandered off without telling me,” Titan growled, “Apudo, that is very wrong!” he roared.

      “but I was hurting so much!” Apudo miaowed, “I couldn’t do my business there on that beanbag, I just couldn’t!”

      “Why could you not,” Titan asked in a growl that made Theo want to defecate all over again..

       “It didn’t feel right to do it there,” Apudo whimpered, “and, and, it hurt too. It was my first, well, proper relief.”

      “Theo, why did you not stop her running off?” Titan asked, turning a look of such rage and fury on Theo the Lion miaowed with fear, Apudo pressing herself against him to reassure him, “you know I would have stopped the talk for Apudo.”

       “Apudo asked me, and she was so concerned, I took the lead and helped her,” Theo mewed piteously, “Titan, I thought we were doing the right thing. Apudo didn’t want to relieve herself there, I mean really didn’t want to. She, she, I suppose,,,” he stopped as Titan brandished a huge paw In his face.

    “Let her speak for herself,  You are a naughty little cub, who led her astray!” Titan growled.

     “me?” Apudo asked, “what do you want from me?”

       “Why did you not want to go to the toilet in that place, or to tell me you wanted me to go with you to the corridor?” Titan asked angrily.

       “I didn’t want to soil that place, and you were having such a conversation with Patch that I thought it would be rude to interrupt you, and and I thought I could be gone and back before you realised, but, but, it went wrong, and I took more time, and we had to fold the pads, and, and wash ourselves, and, and,” Apudo began to sniffle with her rising emotions and regret,  “now we’re taking even more time, and I’ve done so wrong, and you’re angry, and the day is ruined, and I thought I was doing the right thing, and Theo’s in trouble, and I’m in worse, and I just want to go home!” Apudo sobbed, leaning against Theo’s shoulder.

       “I don’t know whether to be angry or not,” Titan sighed, lowering his paw to the floor.

        “I would take the less angry option,” Theo began to say when Apudo’s paw slammed down urgently on his.

       “Don’t, Theo! Don’t say anything!” Apudo mewed desperately.

       “Are you scared of me Apudo?” Titan asked, though he knew the answer already, and it made him feel dreadful.

      “You looked terrifying Titan,” Apudo replied, “I, I, I was afraid, but you wouldn’t, I know that.”

      “I would never hurt either of you,” Titan mewed, “my raised paw was to stop Theo talking.”

      “Your eyes Titan, they spoke death,” Theo mewed. Titan choked back  a rush of tears.

     “Not to you, not to Apudo!” the liger replied Horsely, “I felt frothy anger to, to, to, to the ones I imagined had hurt you, to the one who’d got so deep into a conversation about nothing that he’d taken his eyes off the one that was most precious to him. I feel dreadful too. I feel proud of Apudo for taking initiative to smooth my path, but I feel ashamed for not noticing her discomfort. I feel proud she felt such friends with a lion she hardly knew, that she would ask him to help her so intimately. that is testimony to you Theo,  I feel ashamed of my anger, but it was born of fear, then of relief at finding you both safe.”

       “Were you made leader?” Theo asked.

       “I didn’t get that far before noticing you were gone,” Titan mewed, “screaming, I ran from the room, misjudged the angle into the corridor, nearly trod on the packages you had left in the corner, and came along here. It is testament to my padded paws, which Theo, I saw you admiring, that I was silent, but my mind was screaming louder with fear than I did when giving birth to you Apudo.”

      “I’m sorry for running off Titan,” Apudo mewed, “I couldn’t wait. You probably have forgotten how that feels.”

      “No,” Titan mewed, “I know it very well, and I am sorry for roaring, Theo I hope you can pardon my anger too.”

     “I need pardoning too,” Theo mewed, “and, I’m not going to make it either, oaoaoaof!” he whimpered, turning and bolting for the relieving place.

     “You terrified him to that Titan,” Apudo mewed in an accusatory tone.

      “how gentle was he with you Apudo?” Titan asked.

       “he knew my pain and fear when relieving myself,” Apudo mewed, “he soothed it, helped me push, warmed my paws without breathing on them too. He’s lovely Titan.” Titan, tears pricking his eyes,  gulped down a huge lump which had suddenly formed in his throat.

      “I’m going now,” he said, “follow me when you’re ready Apudo. I’m feeling rather foolish.” Titan padded away very slowly, his tail drooping, his paws and feet looking and sounding to Apudo as heavy as lead, and by the shaking of his shoulders, Apudo could see he was crying.

       “Titan?” Theo called when he had nearly reached the doorway into the great room, the liger turning his head, “please, come back.” Titan reluctantly turned and, head down, tail drooping, Padded back to Theo, almost falling over his own feet.

        “I frightened you with my paw, I misused my paws!” Titan mewed piteously, “Theo, I used my paws to cause near mortal fear in a community cub, I’m sorry.”

        “Your anger is understood by both of us,” Theo mewed, “but Titan, your cub did great things today.”

    “I know,” Titan sniffled, throwing himself down on the tiles of the passage, burying his face in his paws, “I know she did,” his breath caught, and he coughed, “she’s a good little lioness,” He sobbed. Apudo and Theo lay down, one  each side of Titan, and started licking and nuzzling the furry tops of his tear soaked paws  until he raised his head, then they jumped on his paws, and lay before him, licking his pads until he lowered his head, when they set about his tear soaked face and whiskers with their warm tongues and gentle paws, washing his pads and face. When Titan realised what they were doing, fresh tears sprang to his eyes, things almost becoming too much when Apudo scrambled up onto his back, then slid down his hind quarters to get to his feet to wash them, Titan soon feeling her tongue working over his pads. Sniffing back tears and Sighing with pleasure,  Titan tightly curled the toes of his huge paws in an effort to get a grip of his run away emotions. Shaking his head, he felt the toes of both feet joining in, Titan giving himself up to fiercely curling the toes of all four paws while closing his eyes tightly.

       “You have a guide who is struggling here Apudo,” Theo mewed.

      “I know,” Apudo replied, “I’m trying to soothe him, but there’s so much going on in his head.”

       “I never knew having a cub would feel like this!” Titan miaowed.

       “Let’s go back to the great room,” Theo mewed, smiling as Apudo grabbed the toes of Titan’s right foot in her paws.

      “I can’t free my toooes!” Titan yowled, pushing with his paws and scrabbling at the tiles with his free left foot, the one which had less traction. Banging his tail on the floor, Titan wriggled and squirmed. Moaning with mock fear, Titan rolled onto his right side, curling round towards his feet to gently explore the sole and toes of his trapped left foot. Unable to see anything due to the angle, he felt the pads and toes of his left foot with his tongue and lips, finding Apudo’s paws holding his sole pad in their small grip, his toes curled as tightly as they’d curl.

       Roaaoaowr!” Titan complained, worrying at his trapped toes with his tongue and lips, “I can’t free my paw!” he moaned.

     “Now you are trapped paw Tiggie,” Apudo giggled.

    “I can’t uncurl my toooes!” Titan yowled, kicking with his free right foot and two free paws, Theo laughing merrily at his antics. Apudo tightened her grip on his pads, holding the furry top in her left paw, plonking the pads of her right slap on his heel pad, Leaving his curled toes free. Titan instantly curled the toes of his other free paws, miaowing about stuck paws and how he couldn’t uncurl his toes. Theo smiled as he watched Titan Reaching for his left foot with fresh urgency. Titan began fiercely tugging with his lips at his own tightly curled toes, Apudo rubbing his sole pad with her paw, Titan mewing and growling with anger at himself for not being able to uncurl his toes. What made this extra funny for the two cubs to listen to was that Titan had the toes of his left foot in his mouth as he growled his frustration.

   “He sounds very funny!” Apudo giggled. Titan, growling and puffing with effort, his paws dangling within Theo’s range, Theo was very tempted to tickle the pads of one of them, but touching it, he restrained himself, for Titan was so absorbed in tugging at his toes with his teeth, that Theo felt, if he were to tickle Titan’s pads, as he so badly wanted to, Titan would do himself an injury, and no play was worth that.”

     “how do I uncurl these toooes!” Titan miaowed, panting hard.

       “Let us rub them?” Theo asked. Titan, miaowing with frustration, gave up the fight with a vicious slash at his toes with his tongue.

       “I can’t uncurl my toooes!” he moaned, lying flat on his side, feeling the two cubs working on his feet with their warm tongues and gentle paws.

        “I’m meant to be leading this community, and I’m here, pinned down by two cubs,” Titan mewed aloud, sighing deeply, he watched them playing with his toes while he flexed and curled them, the two cubs, growling with playful curiosity, scrabbling at his toes with their paws until he straightened them.

       “I should be leading the community now,” Titan continued aloud, “but, I’d rather be here, playing silly toe curling and stretching games with two cubs.” Titan reluctantly put an end to Theo and Apudo’s play by  curling round,  grabbing each cub in turn in his paws and placing them by his belly. Smiling, he gazed into their faces.

       “I have to do boring things now,” he said, “I am sorry I have to end our play.” Apudo and Theo reached up to touch Titan’s face with their paws, leaning on him for support. Titan, lowering his face to their paws, closed his eyes in bliss as they kissed his nose and their paws touched his nose and whiskers, the cubs giggling as his tongue kissed their pads.

       “Titan’s a silly Tiggie, a big silly soppy Tiggie!” Theo giggled.

      “He’s big and soft and cuddly, and I love him so much,” Apudo mewed, Titan catching his breath.

         “come you big, fat padded cuddlypuss, you have work to do,” A voice said. Titan looked up to see Patch watching them from the nearest door into the passage, “you have been away from the great room for ages, time to come and lead this community formally,” patch continued. Titan smiled, gently rolled onto his chest, and, looking round at the two cubs, nodded to them. Apudo and Theo climbed aboard, sitting gripping the thick fur on Titan’s massive back with their toes, the huge liger getting to his feet with a grace and fluidity that had Patch saucer eyed in admiration.

      “I must do my duty now,” Titan mewed.

       “You’ve been doing it for the last hour,” patch said, touching Titan’s massive left paw, “playing with cubs is a leader’s duty first and foremost.” Smiling, Titan followed the huge grey bear into the great room. Climbing onto the beanbag, Titan faced the assembled creatures.

      “Who left?” he asked Patch.

      “Noone,” Patch replied.

       “I can’t believe he’s real,” Sushanti mewed to Androcles, “Titan’s enormous, but, but, those eyes, those paws!”

        “I know what you mean,” Androcles replied, “you want to tell him your most intimate secrets, while hugging those huge paws.”

       “He’s beautiful!” Sushanti mewed, hoping Titan would not overhear her.

       “so do you all want me to be leader?” Titan asked.

       “We do,” Leopold mewed, the young cub padding forward and, rearing onto his small feet, looking up into the liger’s face, Titan bowing to look into his face.

      “They haven’t gone and elected you as their leader have they little one?” he asked.

      “No,” Leopold replied, “I, I, I’m just speaking their views, should I not have done so?”

       “You would not be Fleur’s son if you weren’t brave enough to step forward,” Titan mewed, lying down then kissing Leopold’s nose and paws, the taliger cub smiling shyly.

       “you’re so cuddly!” Leopold blurted, Titan mewing, rolling onto his back and waving his paws and feet about, Leopold laughing helplessly.

       “That’s it, Titan’s duly elected!” Patch announced, hitting his gong with tremendous force.

      “naoaoaoaoaoao, not that again!” Titan miaowed, covering his ears with his paws.

       “Give me a cuddle!” Leopold demanded, Titan rolling onto his side, offering his paws, Leopold scrambling into them, the liger hugging him tightly.

      “wash too?” the liger asked.

     “yes please,” Leopold mewed, Titan grooming him from nose to tail, the Taliger purring and chuffing with pleasure.

       “his paws are magnificent!” Sally said, kneeling by Titan’s feet, drawing circles on the liger’s massive heel pad and counting the toes of his right foot.

       “I watched him labouring,” she said to Petra, “Titan laboured wonderfully, he was committed and didn’t hold back.”

       “he was wonderful!” Petra mewed.

       “Seeing Apudo emerging from him was wonderful too!” Nuru mewed.

        “I remember that,” Titan replied, “it hurt at my end.” Apudo snuggled up to his chest:

       “I remember it too,” she mewed, “it hurt Titan, it really, really hurt! I was so scared!”

     “I know Apudo dear cub,” Titan mewed.

      “I don’t want to tell my tale Titan,” Apudo mewed, “it’s too scary!”

      “You don’t have to,” Titan mewed, I know what you did when you were in there, despite me asking what you were doing, I knew what you had to do. I will tell your tale if you feel you can’t.”

      “I feel bad not doing so, but Titan, I really, really, really can’t tell what happened. It was scary and awful, and I screamed about it when I was born, but it is over now, and I want to forget the passage into the world, but remember the paws which soothed me after Theo restrained me to take me to you. his paws were forceful, but they had to be, yours, oaoaoaoaoh, they were lovely! Your gentle paws and tongue cleaning me, your hug soothing me, that was wonderful!”

       “Your story can be a private one between me and you Apudo,” Titan mewed, “I will not ask you to retell it for others. All they need to know is my story, the struggle to rebirth a spirit who lost her way.”

    “I will tell what I did,” Apudo mewed.

       “You don’t have to tell them what you did Apudo, I know what you did to get out of the room you were in,” Titan mewed, “remember dear cub, I felt it all. I did what you did, trying to open things up for you.”

     “What did you do?” Apudo asked.

     “Okay, I’ll show you,” Titan mewed, rolling onto his back, pedalling and circling at the air with his huge feet as he had during the first stages of labour.

    “that looks so cuuuute!” someone said.

     “It was horrid!” Titan yowled, spinning onto his paws and staring round him, “Apudo’s pressure on my insides, oaoaoaowch! That really was uncomfortable!”

        “It seems no matter what you do with your paws or feet Titan, they’re still very cute!” Sally giggled.

       “Are they?” Titan asked, “I know Moses and little Ekaterina liked my paws and feet when I was pretending to have a cub.”

       “I felt a need to hug your foot while you were curling your toes,” Theo mewed, “I needed to protect the owner of that foot, your toes were so eloquent!”

       “I will never forget the love I felt during my agonising effort,” Titan mewed, lying down on the beanbag.

       “we all love you so much,” Leopold said, snuggling up to the huge liger.

       “I’ve just thought of something,” Namrah said, gazing at Titan from her place in the crush around the beanbag, “Swarupa didn’t leave the room in the five minutes! She’s over there,” she said, waving a paw, “she didn’t leave here Titan. But, well, she hates us. Why didn’t she leave?”

       “Thanks for darkening my day,” Titan miaowed, spitting with disgust at what he had to do as leader, “Namrah, you are right, if she didn’t leave, there are questions she needs to answer. Namely why didn’t she leave if she hates me, my paws and feet, my fur, and everything inside my fragile skin.”

        “Maybe she’s trying, maybe she’s struggling to quell her anger and hatred,” Androcles suggested, “we all saw how she admitted she was at fault, and heard with our own ears how she said she was glad you’d not followed in her paw prints, and that you Titan, were everything a liger should be. Come to think of it, with her not leaving in the five minutes allowed, did she mean leader rather than liger when she said “you’re everything a liger should be Titan.” I wonder if that was what she truly meant.”

 

Swarupa lay on the floor next to the gong. The force and reality of Titan’s labour had scared her at first, but then had made her think hard. The liger had truly faught bravely for his cub, and seeing his efforts had made her feel ashamed at her words to him. She’d heard how he’d gone into the woods to save another cub, the cub they now called Nuru, and seen now how he might have done it. Swarupa had found her own paws and feet pedalling with Titan’s, her breath coming in snatches as she watched his labour on the screen in her lie up, the cameras giving her a view that she found fascinating, despite her anger, which soon turned to anguish and concern when Apudo slid back after Titan had kissed her nose. Now she was in a froth of indecision. Could she accept Titan for what he was?  Could she swallow her own hatred and touch his paws? Would he accept her if she made the effort?  Swarupa hated what she’d become, loathed her treatment of Tigger and Namrah, and in her deepest darkest moments, blamed herself for the death of Tigger and Namrah’s cub.” Lying by the gong, she knew her paws had not taken her from the place of election when the five minute get out time was announced, they’d stuck fast, refusing to move her body, and now were sweating with fear at the ends of her forelegs, her feet doing likewise at the ends of her hind.

        “if you can’t forgive me, please, tolerate me,” she thought, “dear Titan, I want to be here, here is my home! I, I, I love you dear liger.” Swarupa thought, tears rolling down her face. Burying her face in her paws, she sobbed quietly, the rest of the community seemingly unheeding of her distress.

 

“Swarupa,” Titan mewed, looking over the edge of the beanbag, his eyes locking on the weeping form lying by the base of the gong.

      “go to him,” Sushanti whispered to Swarupa, shoving her hip with her paw.

       “I can’t, I can’t!” Swarupa miaowed.

      “You must!” Sushanti growled, pushing at Swarupa’s hip with both paws. Swarupa got to her feet and padded to Titan’s beanbag, as if in a nightmare. Titan bade her get on the beanbag, and worse, lie down beside him. Pushing the others away, he signalled with his paw for space, Apudo crawling away with Sally to the edge of the beanbag. Titan rolled over and took Swarupa’s paws in his.

      “Why if you hate me, did you not leave the room when given the chance?” Titan asked, “I am the one who hurt you during my birth, remember?  I’m the one whom you hate for being different, remember? I’m the one whom you disowned along with your other two cubs on the poolside, remember that?”

        “I’ve alienated myself haven’t I,” Swarupa mewed, “Titan, before I go, which I now see I must, let me say this. Cold, freezing cold comfort it may be, but, for what you did for Apudo, I have the hugest respect for you. if I could ask for such treatment I would, but I can’t, I haven’t the spirit for it. I’ve messed up, I’ve done worse to unborn spirits and to those who are born, I’ve tormented those I should not have, I’ve been punished by bottle tops, but, but, I’ve been let off lightly. You are strong, you are the best of big cats. You can’t stop me feeling this way, so I will say it, I love you dear Titan, and I’m sorry for what I did to you and your half-brother and Sister. Seeing Apudo arriving into the world was fascinating. I sweated and curled my toes along with you, not that you’d wish me to have done that. Titan, you are a tower of strength for this community, and for the newest cubs here. I will go now, I can feel you cannot give me space here.”

        “Swarupa,” Titan said, “I can forgive, but I can never forget. I will not throw you out, I have no reason to. Hatred of one’s own cubs is not enough for that punishment. Go into the woodlands, live as a loan tigress, please, for the sake of cubs, do not give birth to any more, you clearly hate them once they are born, though you love the attention given to you during labour and birth. I cannot condone what you do, and will not even attempt to.” Go from here, go into the woods. I will not say go in peace, for you have no place of peace to go to, and I cannot undo the harm you have done to yourself and to others. For my part, I am very sad, but my injury at your paws was slight. You have stuck your claws far deeper into others, from the effects of that neglect they will never recover.” Titan pushed Swarupa away, the tigress getting to her feet and walking from the room.

        “Titan?” Blackberry asked, kneeling on the beanbag beside the liger.

        “her words were genuine, but, but, she can’t change her ways,” Titan mewed, “Swarupa wanted safe conduct, and I’ve given her that. She is not fit to bear cubs, she clearly cannot nurture them as they need to be nurtured. She will be a loan tigress, a wandering creature who is woodland based.”

        “Are there any special instructions for what we should do if we meet her in the woodlands?” tommy asked.

      “hmm? What?” Titan asked, shaking himself, as if rousing himself from deep thought, “meet her in the woodlands? What do you mean?” the liger enquired.

      “should we ignore her, or talk to her when patrolling?” tommy asked.

     “Oh, talk to her,” Titan mewed, “I have put her out to think, to come back someday, I, I can’t bring myself to,,,” he trailed off.

       “freeze her out?” Namrah asked.

        “yes,” Titan moaned, “I know I’m being stupidly optimistic, but, but, maybe, one day.” Namrah sighed deeply.

       “Push her into the long grass and she’ll go away,” she said.

       “It’s not that, I’m not doing that!” Titan growled, “I just can’t bring myself to throw her out Namrah. I would love it if she could, one day, come back home. Right now she hates all we do here. She’s a community cub who did not take to the community lifestyle.”

       “Do you think her respect for you giving birth to Apudo was genuine?” Blackberry asked.

       “yes, that was,” Titan mewed, “I believe her when she said her toes curled with mine and that her feelings were genuine then. It’s what she does with the cubs after that I don’t like.”

      “Could we not take her cubs off her when she has them?” Patch asked.

       “I don’t like that idea,” Titan mewed, “I hope she will see sense and not have cubs for the sake of the lives of those cubs. My life before I could walk and find other friends was baron, I was not played with much. Swarupa didn’t want to know apart from when she was observed. That was why I went to Tigger and Namrah for play. They were kind to me, and I thank them from the bottom of my heart for their kindness to me. Looking back though, I now know why their play was so frantic, so desperate. It was a play born of loneliness, a need for gentle touch at any pretext. They are not comfortable in their bodies without touch from tender paws. I learnt to cope with no touch from my birth mother, no touch that wasn’t absolutely necessary to my survival. I began wandering, and found those who wanted me to stay, so I stayed, and I grew, and now, now I am leader of my community.” Titan sighed deeply, “what a tangled web this is,” he yawned, “right now though, I am going to feed my cub, and hug her, and be a comfort to everyone, including myself.” Titan hugged Apudo, who’d snuggled up to him during his speech, Soon she was drinking busily.”

       “You’re so lovely Apudo,” Titan mewed. Apudo looked at him, her gentle golden eyes comforting the huge liger.

       “I’ll finish drinking, and then, could I have a hug?” she asked. Titan smiled:

      “of course,” he replied, purring deeply as she kneaded his belly for milk.

        “I thought you’d started on solid food Apudo?” Theo asked.

      “yeah, I have, but, well, this is a comfort drink,” Apudo mewed.

       “Oh don’t!” Theo moaned, “what I’d give for one right now.”

        “I can do you warm milk,” Blackberry said.

     “I didn’t mean milk of cow,” Theo whimpered.

       “Why does he want comfort from Titan in that way?” Androcles asked.

       “he feels Apudo’s need I think,” Titan mewed, “Theo became very close to her I think.”

        “Swarupa made my blood run so cold my pads froze on my feet!” Theo whimpered.

       “I would have rubbed them for you,” Bianca mewed.

       “I don’t think he meant it like that,” Apudo replied in a pause while drinking, “I think she chilled his spirit.”

       “she didn’t do much for mine,” Titan mewed, “my paws are freezing! Come Theo, I know you’re slightly older than Apudo, but, come and drink.”

      “I’ll wait my turn,” Theo mewed.

      “No you won’t!” Apudo mewed, “Theo, come here, beside me, there’s enough room.” Theo padded over the beanbags and lay down beside Apudo, the little lioness snuggling him up to Titan’s paws on his right, her small warm body on his left.

        “Drink,” Titan mewed, Theo finding what he didn’t expect to find, and getting down to drinking, the milk warming him from his feet to his ears.

      “Strange creatures,” Bianca mewed.

       “and you’re not?” Titan yawned, stretching his paws, “what with your playing at having a cub with Theo and all?”

       “I suppose we all are in our way,” Bianca mewed.

      “I want to see Bianca giving imaginary birth to a backwards cub,” Moses said, “that would be an interesting thing to see.”

       “It wouldn’t!” Imvula growled, “Titan, stop her!”

       “No,” Titan mewed, “we all have to have the chance to play at giving birth to cubs, including me, who couldn’t possibly give birth, or so I thought.”

        “I’m nooaoaoaot letting Bianca make fun of my labour!” Imvula yelled.

       “She isn’t,” Titan sighed, “for eohippus sake Imvula, these things happen, things aren’t all sweetness and light you know.”

       “if they were, I’d be out of a job,” Blackberry said.

       “You, you horrid, thing! you!” Imvula screamed at the black bear.

       “I almost want to pretend to have a really long, awful labour, just to spite her,” Theo mewed.

        “I hate you Theo!” Imvula yelled.

       “did Apudo get stuck then?” Theo asked.

      “Not really,” Imvula replied, “look!” she snapped, growling, “I don’t want to talk about it, okay!”

       “We can always get it up on video,” Sally said.

     “sod your video!” Imvula roared into the human’s face.

        “and same to you, you ungrateful moggie!” Sally yelled back.

         “I’ll tear your head off!” Imvula roared.

       “No you won’t,” Sally replied, padding up to the lioness, pushing her onto her back and touching her paws and feet, Imvula growling and roaring with humiliation.

       “Now puss, go back to your basket,” Sally said, Imvula getting to her feet and padding away, her head hung in shame.

        “that was amazing!” Apudo yelled, clapping her paws.

       “Can’t stand that!” Sally blustered, “Imvula knows if it hadn’t been for us, Apudo would not have survived, and she treats us like that!”

        “Will Imvula go after Sally?” Theo asked.

       “if she does, I’ll tear her paws off and ram her tail down her throat,” Patch replied.

        “She won’t,” a voice said from the doorway, Imvula slinking in with dragging paws.

        “Promise?” Titan asked.

       “yes,” the tawny lioness mewed, “I, I, it was a hard fight, and, and, to find others re-enacting it, well,,,” she paused, “it hurts a bit.”

        “How did you wrestle that lioness Sally?” Theo asked.

       “She knew she was beaten before I turned her upside down,” Sally replied, “Imvula’s all bluster and no action. She’s a pussycat really. I know this, I’ve met her in vulnerable situations, and she’s no violent creature.”

        “I’m ashamed,” Imvula whimpered.

       “Now I really want to feel Titan re-enact Apudo’s rebirth!” Sita said.

       “Wasn’t my description enough?” Snowy growled.

        “It’s not the same, and you know it,” Titan mewed.

      “I’m surprised anyone got any good pictures with the amount of spectators round you,” Sally said.

      “I’m assured they did,” Titan mewed.

      “What happened in the corridor Titan?” Bianca asked, “I heard terrible roaring, whimpering, terrible sounds!”

       “Um, ah, I, I, I misjudged two cubs,” Titan mewed, looking down at his paws in shame.

       “So even our leader is not beyond reproach,” Imvula growled.

       “I was angry from fear for my cubs!” Titan miaowed.

       “I was busting for the relieving place,” Apudo mewed.

      “I helped her in the corridor to gain relief,” Theo mewed.

       “they didn’t tell me they were going, because I was deep in conversation with Patch,” Titan added.

        “it all went very wrong,” Apudo concluded.

       “We have made it up now,” Titan added.

       “Theo helped Apudo do what?” Imvula asked.

       “yes, that,” Theo mewed, “Imvula, she needed assistance, reassurance, encouragement.”

      “That’s Titan’s job!” Imvula screeched.

       “I could not be there to do it,” Titan mewed, “and please, she has a right to privacy you know.”

      “Apudo’s a cub, she doesn’t!” Imvula spat.

       “should I tell all on that too?” Apudo asked.

      “No,” Theo mewed gently, nuzzling her ear, “Imvula shut it!” He growled.

       “I trust Theo,” Apudo mewed, “he’s lovely and gentle and kind. He helped me to relieve myself when Titan couldn’t.”

        “I know how that feels,” Bianca replied, padding to Apudo, “I’ve had help from Theo myself.” Apudo looked at Bianca, then kissed her nose, Bianca giggling delightedly.

       “You didn’t see what happened when Titan calmed down did you?” she asked.

      “No, tell me,” Bianca urged.

      “I’ll tell you,” Titan mewed, “I, I, I messed up, messed things up bigtime. When I crumbled onto the floor, my face in my paws, I,” he swallowed hard, “Apudo and Theo were lovely!” he sniffled.

       “What did they do?” Bianca asked.

        “Ashamed by my actions, I was crying into my paws,” Titan choked, “they, I mean Apudo and Theo, they came to me, kissed the furry tops of my paws until I raised my head, then they jumped on my paws and washed them, then,” Titan coughed as tears choked him, wiping his eyes with his paws, “they washed my face too!” he said horsely.

        “We couldn’t get a re-enactment of the washing now could we?” Bianca asked.

      “Oh shut up!” Titan laughed, when he felt four paws pinning his to the floor, then two tongues washing his pads.

      “Oh naoaoaoaoao!” Titan whimpered, “they know how to make me well up!” Theo and Apudo washed Titan’s face and paws just as they done in the passage. Then Apudo, laughing helplessly at Titan’s shocked expression, said:

       “Show them what happened when I grabbed your right foot Titan!” turning to the room in general, she added, “this is really cute, Theo and I haven’t a hope of topping this!”

       “Oh all right,” Titan sighed, smiling at Apudo, who grabbed the liger’s right foot in her paws. Rolling onto his right side as he’d been in the passage, Titan curled his toes, then curled his body round to his left, grabbing the toes of his left foot in his mouth, exploring with tongue and lips, trying to force his tightly curled toes to uncurl. Growling and mewing, he struggled against the will of his tightly curled toes to remain curled and not relax, Bianca watching with shining eyes, worried she might explode with the cute factor.

       “You’re a big soppy snuggly cuddlypuss Titan!” Bianca said, Titan tugging his toes straight with a final growling effort, rolling onto his back, waving his feet and paws about, mewing like a big cub.

       “See?  He’s a big softy!” Bianca giggled.

      “While giving birth to Apudo, I lay on my left  side, curling round to my right to grab her, if I lie on that side, I might end up re-enacting that!” Titan mewed.

       “I’d love to see that,” Bianca mewed.

      “you’ve asked me to act like a cub, now you want me to re-enact the birth of my cub?” Titan asked.

       “Well, maybe, if you don’t want to do that just yet, we can rub your pads while you curl your toes and growl a bit?” Moses said, “that was really cute when you did it last time.”

        “the truth is, I love my pads and toes rubbed,” Titan admitted.

      “We know! You growl and moan with pleasure too, it’s Soaoaoaoao cute!” little Ekaterina and Moses said in unison.

      “Can I feel your paws and feet while you curl your toes Titan?” Jenny asked.

       “I’m not going to get much chance to do my leader’s job here, my paws and feet are in too much demand!”“ Titan mewed.

        “ “I would love to see a re-enactment of the bit where you curled round then kissed Apudo’s nose for the first time, that was so full of power and the joy of new life,” Imvula said.

        “”I remember every second,” Titan mewed, Apudo gasping and burying her face in Titan’s shoulder.

      “I remember that too,” she replied, “Titan, you really pushed, really curled your toes, really gripped with your paws and curled your body.”

       “I’d never wanted anything more in the world than I did to kiss your nose then,” Titan mewed, “I would have done anything Apudo.”

       “You did!” Apudo mewed, sobbing into his fur, “I saw your effort Titan! You stretched everything, braced your toes,” she touched the toes of his left paw, your neck, your back, and your tongue to reach my nose and kiss it. You even kissed my paws.” Titan, the memories flooding back, rested his head on his paws, crying quietly.

        “It was a hard meeting to attend Apudo,” Titan sobbed, Apudo kissing his nose.

      “I remember your tongue slowly licking my nose and paws, it felt wonderful!” she giggled, Then, more soberly, “Apudo continued, I also remember your tears as you had to go back to pushing.”

       “I didn’t know if I’d see your face again!” Titan sobbed. Crying now,  Apudo hugged him as tightly as she could.

        “Come here Titan!” she sniffled, pressing herself into the weeping liger’s embrace, Titan hugging her as tightly as he dared, his strength prodigious, fuelled by past fears that were as real as her own birth tale.

       “I’m not going to die, I’m here, alive and very warm,” Apudo mewed softly.

        “I didn’t think I could push enough!” Titan sobbed.

        “Well you did, I’m here,” Apudo sniffled, her own remembered fear almost choking her.

        “You felt the fear too didn’t you,” Titan whispered, Apudo squeezing his paw in response.

       “it made me want to cry, but I couldn’t then,” she said softly, Titan moaning with pain.

     “I tried to push so hard!” he sobbed.

      “I know!” Apudo mewed, crushing his huge left paw in both her small ones, “Titan, I know you did all you could.”

        “Apudo slid quite far back didn’t she,” Bianca said to Theo, the lion nodding.

       “I thought I could never get to the end and give birth to you Apudo, I was so scared my body would fail you!” Titan mewed piteously.

       “I’m here, I’m four legged, four pawed, complete with twenty four pads and eighteen toes on my four paws, two ears, one tail, one nose, two eyes, one mouth, and a whole lot of love for a liger who never gave up hope or the fight to help me,,” Apudo mewed. Titan embraced Apudo tightly, the little lioness snuggling up to him.

        “don’t think of me sliding backwards Titan,” Apudo mewed, remember our first nuzzle, your first kiss to my nose, for I do.” Titan gulped and coughed, breathing hard as tears choked him.

      “I love you Apudo,” he whispered.

    “Anyone got a tissue?” Blackberry sniffled.

        “We’re all a bit like you,” Imvula replied, drying her eyes on her mate Aslan’s mane.

       “Oi!” he laughed, sniffing back his tears and shaking his head, his mate’s tears flying from his mane.

       “Lion’s manes are not meant to be used as handkerchiefs!” Aslan growled, looking like he was about to put Androcles mane to the same use Imvula had so recently put his.

       “You dare!” Androcles warned, his own emotions almost choking him.

      “If we use each other’s manes, we’re both fixed,” Aslan mewed, grabbing Androcles, the two lions rolling on the floor in a huge embrace, each drying their eyes on the other’s mane, their collective emotions spilling over, till they found they were both crying into each other’s manes, finding their paws unable to let go of each other.

       “Okay, this is really silly!” Androcles miaowed, sniffing hard, hugging Aslan tightly, “we’re all sobbing wrecks.

        “Seeing huge emotion does that to those who really care,” Blackberry said, reeling off a huge length of towel, wiping his eyes, then blowing his nose with an alarming honk which startled Apudo.

      “Sorry,” Blackberry sniffled.

        “Right, this is silly! I must Stop this!” Patch choked, stamping his paws in an attempt to gain control of his own deep well of emotions. Sniffing, he looked round for a tissue, Blackberry throwing a screwed up ball of towel to him, Patch shaking it out and tearing it up into usable sheets.

       “I got a bit teary when Apudo was finally reborn to us, but not like this!” Karina sniffled, “I need a drink!” she announced, running for the water fountain. Weakened by their outpouring of emotion, Aslan and Androcles got to their paws, making their way towards the water fountains. Literally leaning on each other for support, Aslan stumbled, falling over Androcles paws, both lions landing in a laughing heap.

       “Just look at those two!” Blackberry giggled, waving his paw at Aslan and Androcles.

       “Big soppy lions,” patch replied smiling.

      “I think their friends now,” patch replied. Aslan and Androcles rolled about on the floor in a growling, laughing struggle to untangle their paws from each other’s manes. The lions, finding they were exhausted  after gaining freedom for their paws, hugged each other.

       “Just look at them!” Bianca giggled, delightedly clapping her paws. laughing helplessly at their antics, Aslan and Androcles kissed each other’s noses, then got to their feet.

       “I think I like you Aslan,” Androcles said. Aslan kissed Androcles nose, the tawny lion smiling broadly, rolling onto his back, presenting Aslan with a view of his fat belly and the well padded soles of all four fat paws.

      “you big soppy lion!” Aslan laughed, kissing Androcles pads, the tawny lion smiling into the white lion’s eyes.

       “now, can I see your paws?” Androcles asked. Aslan grinned, rolled onto his back, waving his paws in the air, Androcles examining the white lion’s black padded paws.

      “You have really cute pads Aslan!” Androcles mewed.

     “If you want cute, get a load of these paws!” Bianca yelled, tumbling off the beanbag, presenting Androcles with a good view of her smaller black padded paws, the tawny lion racing over to her, pinning her down with one massive paw and blowing on her pads, Bianca wriggling and yowling with laughter, Aslan watching her with a jealous expression.

      “I want to be played with like that!” he heard himself yowling.

      “wait your turn!” Bianca giggled. Aslan rolled onto his back, miaowing and kicking the air with all four paws in protest at the wait, Leopold, Nuru, Theo and Apudo laughing helplessly at his antics.

      “Aslan’s a cuuuub! Aslan’s a cuuuub!” Bianca carolled, clapping her paws. Aslan got to his feet, his mane bristling with rage.

       “I’m Noaoaot a cub!” he roared, stamping his paws and feet and shaking his mane in a display he hoped made him look fierce. The feel of a nose brushing his paw made him look down.

        “I thought I would approach one who looked to be a bigger cub than me,” she said. Aslan opened his mouth to protest, when the cub before him rubbed her head against his, kissed his nose and placed her small left paw on his larger right, all the fire dying in Aslan. Tears pricking his eyes, Aslan head rubbed  Apudo, the little lioness  leaning hard into him, the pressure of Apudo’s greeting overbalancing Aslan, the white lion’s legs collapsing, the huge beast flopping onto his right side with a loud:

      “Miaow!” Apudo kissed the now exposed pads of his right paw, Aslan purring contentedly. Grabbing her in his paws, Aslan hugged her tightly and asked:

       “Apudo, are you all right?  Did Titan’s labour really happen?”

      “I am, and yes, it did,” Apudo replied, still giggling slightly.

       “You pushed me over!” Aslan miaowed.

       “I did,” Apudo laughed, almost choking, “Miaow! Miaow! Miaow miaow miaow!” she mimicked, Aslan kissing her nose, then grooming her thoroughly.

        “I like this,” Apudo mewed, snuggling up as Aslan groomed her from her nose to her toes.

       “I do too,” Aslan purred, Apudo sighing deeply as she drifted in a warm haze of gentle touch.

        “I think they’re both giving each other a huge spiritual hug,” Titan mewed.

       “Apudo,” Aslan said when the grooming was done, “about, about my conduct ages ago, I’m,,,”

       “I know,” Apudo mewed, “I wouldn’t have come to you if I doubted your feelings. Think of it no more Aslan.”

     “but, but, it was after my rebirth that it all happened, and, and, I’m meant to be having a second chance, and I do that?  What sort of sire am I Apudo to do that to one who has never done me harm?”

      “You couldn’t watch my rebirth, so Imvula said,” Apudo mewed.

      “I was scared Titan wouldn’t be able to do it,” Aslan mewed, “I was so scared!” he choked. Apudo mewed:

      “And about the other thing Aslan, forget it now, if I could, I’d make you a cub like me, so we could make a new start together.” This broke Aslan’s control completely, resting his head on the ground, Holding Apudo in his paws, he sobbed like a cub.”

        “could someone rebirth Aslan?” Apudo asked plaintively.

          “is he feeling like he wants to?” Titan asked.

       “I think he is,” Apudo mewed, “all he did to me after his rebirth and all, it’s eaten away at him.”

        “let me hold his paws,” Titan mewed, padding to Apudo, who let Titan lie down beside Aslan, the white lion letting him take all four of his paws in the grip of his larger ones.

         “You want to get rid of the knot inside you made by what you did to Apudo?” he asked the crying lion.

      “yes, yes I do!” Aslan mewed, “it’s balling up in my stomach and making me sick!”

       “ “Apudo, do you forgive Aslan for his folly and attempted destruction of your life?”

       “I do,” Apudo mewed, “please Titan, help him!” Apudo yowled, “he’s dying!” she wailed. Aslan looked into Titan’s eyes, the liger seeing deep sorrow and agony.

       “You have done more soul searching since Apudo asked you to go live your life in peace after the treatment in the great room at the beginning of her leadership haven’t you,” Titan mewed.

       “I hate myself Titan,” Aslan sobbed, “when I felt Apudo’s paws in mine, I, it’s too much!” the lion screamed.

       “Okay,” Titan mewed softly, “Aslan, take a deep breath and listen. The only way I can help you is for you to help yourself. That knot in your stomach, you have to get rid of it, and you know vomiting won’t help. Push it out, get rid of it like all waste products.” Aslan whimpered, curling into a ball and screaming in pain. Then he sat up, crouched and began to strain hard down into his tail. Gripping the floor with his paws, he strained and panted, each effort making him moan and growl, then yowl and roar. Apudo, watching him, wondered if he was feeling what she had in the cold corridor.

       “Ouauauauauauw! It’s horrid! It huuuurts!” he whimpered in a voice which made Theo look round, while Apudo felt her toes curling with Aslan’s, her pads sweating as she watched. Aslan, shrieking with effort, bore down, Blackberry sliding a pad beneath him, Aslan, feeling the touch of the pad, scrambling onto it. crying like Apudo had, Aslan began to get rid of the mass inside him. Straining and puffing, crying and wriggling, then, shifting his paws and feet on the pad,  back to straining again. Apudo watched intently, willing him on.

        “I can’t do it, I need help!” Aslan mewed like a frightened cub, “I’ll never be able to poo!” he yowled, “it’s not coming!” he roared, stamping the floor with both feet.”

       “Can I help?” Theo asked. Aslan looked at him through his tears.

        “You helped Apudo,” the lion said flatly.

       “I did,” Theo mewed, “maybe I can help you too.” Aslan, feeling dreadful in mind and body, bowed his head.

        “yes please,” he whimpered.

       “now Aslan dear,” Theo mewed, sidling up to him and resting his paw on the white lion’s, “gentle push, breathe and push, that should do it.” Aslan caught his breath, then let it out slowly, then breathed in, and out, feeling the mass sliding into the world. Wriggling, Aslan  bit his tongue to suppress  a wail of fear, as the passage of the mass felt very uncomfortable.

       “I want it to stop! Make it stop!” Aslan yowled like a cub. Crying, he turned to Theo, burying his face in the younger lion’s shoulder, Theo squeezing the paw he held, Aslan moaning deeply and piteously  as he pushed, then opening his mouth, he yowled as he lost control.

      “yayayayayayayaayayaowch!” he yowled, pushing hard down into his tail, the mass jamming, then leaving him with a rush which left him panting and gasping. Aslan, feeling the ordeal was over, tottered forward off the pad on unsteady paws, collapsing exhausted  on the rugs.

      “I couldn’t hold it,” Aslan whimpered, “I couldn’t hold it in, now I’ve made a terrible mess!” he cried, sounding like Apudo had in the corridor.”

       “ “I think you need cleaning,” Titan mewed. Aslan looked up at the liger.

        “You?” he asked.

     “Yes,” Titan mewed, lying down and embracing Aslan, “me, with my tongue and paws, your fur is in a terrible state little one, and you look as if you had a terrible time relieving yourself. Here, let me please.” Aslan, sniffling and weak, kissed Titan’s nose.

      “I’m so dirty,” the lion said, “your tongue won’t clean me, not ever, not now.” Titan groomed Aslan from nose to tail tassel, missing absolutely nothing. Aslan, lying on the rugs, felt warmth flowing through him, Titan’s soothing of his sore paws and feet with his teeth, tongue and paws making him feel something he’d not felt since he was a young cub that first time round, all those years ago, before Imvula, before rebirth, long long ago. Aslan knew he was being reborn, Titan’s cleaning of his fur and of his sore places as sensitive as a lioness’s. Once the washing was over, Titan combed and dried Aslan’s fur, the other creatures watching in fascinated silence.

      “Aslan’s smaller!” Apudo exclaimed.

      “yes,” Titan mewed, “he’s smaller, I’ve fitted his body out for his new life. He is as big as Theo now. But, his status is less than yours Apudo. Treat him kindly, for he is fragile, as you found Apudo.”

      “You mean, I really did knock him over?” she asked.

      “yes,” Titan mewed, “your greeting was enthusiastic, but he was a younger cub than you, a, “bigger cub,” as you put it Apudo. But as he is a cub that is so much younger than you, you have to be an example to him. Teach him, as I and Theo teach you.”

        “who’s Apudo’s sire now then?” someone asked.

       “ “does that really matter?” Apudo asked.

      “Aslan is still her sire,” Titan mewed, “but he is of a size now that he can be taught the right ways again.” Titan pushed Aslan’s hip with his nose.

      “Get up on your feet now,” he commanded, Aslan doing as he was told, the others now seeing what Apudo had first seen.”

       “Aslan’s so cute!” Sushanti mewed.

      “he is isn’t he,” snowy mewed.

       “Now,” Titan mewed, padding to the beanbag, climbing onto it and turning to face the assembled community members, “where is this aspiring poet we have in our midst?” Everyone looked round, wondering to whom the liger could be referring. Settling his paws and feet, then raising his head, Titan gazed round him intently. Suddenly he roared:

      “Nuru! Come here!” Nuru, moaning with fear, cowered by Fleur, trying to crawl under her body:

       “stop it, get off!” fleur mewed, cuffing him with her paw.

       “Nuru, come here!” Titan roared, “or,” he growled, that sound more menacing still, “will I have to find you myself?” there was a general shift in the group, Titan seeing a young cub being pushed towards him. This cub was so reluctant to face him, Titan saw he was digging in his toes in an effort not to proceed. Inevitably though, Nuru was pushed to the front, then, gulping hard, his eyes full of fear, slunk fearfully up to the beanbag and faced Titan.

       “You like making up silly songs Nuru?” Titan asked.

       “yes, yes, I have,” Nuru mewed piteously, “I, I didn’t mean to cause offence Titan!” he sniffled, “I was only playing, I can’t help it, these songs just come into my head, and, and, they burst from me, and it’s only later I realise what I’ve sung.”

        “You made one up about me,” Titan growled.

      “yes,” Nuru whimpered, his head bowed so his nose nearly brushed the rugs. Titan climbed down and faced Nuru.

       “Tell me the words to the song, sing it,” Titan mewed.

       “No, no, I can’t, it’s too bad, it’s, it’s disrespectful now!” Nuru choked.

        “So why sing those songs then?” Titan roared.

        “I’m sorry!” Nuru miaowed.

       “Tell me the contents of the song,” Titan purred.

      “naoaoaoaoaoao!” Nuru wailed.

       “I can listen back to it on the video, so you’re fate is only delayed by seconds, Koda!” Titan demanded, “find me Nuru’s newest tune.” Koda, seeing Titan’s wink, and trying not to laugh, tried to be over respectful to the liger.

      “yes sir, right away Sir,” he said, his urge to laugh almost too much. Titan turned to Nuru, the liger cub now sweating with fear.

       “give me your paw,” Titan mewed, Nuru raising his left paw, Titan climbing onto his beanbag and reaching down to grasp the sweaty padded paw.

        “now what was that song?” Titan asked.

       “I’ve found Nuru’s song Titan, the sound engineers are working to clean the other sound out of it, so you can hear it properly,” Koda said.

      “I am very close to finding out the content of your little singsong, so tell me now, or your punishment will be the worse for delay Nuru,” Titan mewed.

       “I’m sorry, I won’t do it again!” Nuru miaowed.

       “here it is Titan,” Koda said, padding over the beanbag with a wireless headset in his paws. Titan, grim faced, let the bear array him with the sound equipment, listening intently. As he heard the song, his face was expressionless. Suddenly, he began to laugh.

      “Oh Nuru, I like this!” he mewed, “let me get this straight, um,        “Fat pawed  Tiggie, steps on ground, was terrified by farting sound! Tiggie leaping in the air, Titan yowling, “it’s not fair!” Patch strikes gong, bong Bong bong! Fat paws running, Titan gone!” Is that right?” Nuru, ashamed and terrified, mewed that it was.

        “I think I like it,” the liger replied.

        “You mean I can carry on making songs?” Nuru asked, beginning to breathe more easily.

        “No!” tommy roared, “Titan, have you heard the song he made about meyeee! It’s worth a good spanking for.”

       “Oh, yes, that one, I remember,” Titan mewed, his eyes sparkling.

      “naoaoaoaoao Titan you dare sing it!” tommy yowled.

        “Thomas Tiggie Tom Tom, brush went up his bum bum?” Titan enquired, Bianca giving herself up to an explosion of giggles.

        “naoaoaoaoao Titan!” Tommy wailed.

      “Yes, that’s the drift of it,” Nuru mewed. Titan stepped down off his beanbag and Koda removed the headset. Hugging Nuru, Titan pushed the relieved cub onto his side and groomed the tears and sweat from his face and paws.

       “You need not fear me,” he purred.

       “But you seemed fierce and angry!” Nuru mewed.

       “Noise dear Nuru, just good acting and a lot of noise, see?  No claws. If you want to know the state of my mind, look at my paws and feet. Even during my labour, I never extended my claws. I know that.”

       “Titan’s claws were out when he was first defencivly furious with us, me and Theo that is,” Apudo mewed, “but he put them away when he was upset after that, when he realised we were safe.”

      “I hate using my claws,” Titan mewed.

      “You used them on my fur,” Aslan mewed.

       “I did,” Titan replied, “but there’s using your claws, and using your claws. I used my claws to comb and clean. I don’t mind using them for that.”

         “Titan,” Patch said, “I think your community need to get to know you a bit, please, lie down so they can touch you and hold you in their paws.”

       “I want to touch him and hold him so much!” Petra mewed.

       “You can, come, and I will let you touch me and hold my paws,” Titan mewed.

 

Meanwhile, at the back of the room, Sita and cub Ekaterina listened to the goings on. Everyone seemed to have forgotten about them, the information they were able to get being only from what they could hear. Sita and Ekaterina wanted to get paws on with Titan, but they dared not ask. When they heard people were getting paws on, they pressed forward as best they could, but could not get near the liger. Sita had to protect Ekaterina with her body several times to stop her being almost crushed by the weight of numbers. Miaowing with frustration and fear  in a fog of noise, loud talking and  eager questions shouted at Titan, she shoved at the encroaching bodies, heads, paws and feet in increasingly desperate attempts to protect the slight bundle of life in her protection.

        “Stoaoaoaoap this!” someone roared, but the noise continued. Panting, Sita held her position, awaiting  developments. Suddenly there was a terrible noise, Sita remembering it was called a gong. Someone was hitting the gong hard and repeatedly with the hammer. As the sound died down, Sita heard silence.

       “There are two creatures being crushed by you lot!” Titan roared, “have a care will you, all of you!”

      “Who?” Karina asked.

       “Sita and cub Ekaterina!” Titan miaowed, “you lot, you forgot them! I am ashamed of you all! Now, karina, find them and separate them from the rest of the group, oh, and Orbon too, and Jenny, everyone who cannot see me. And I don’t mean those who have good sight but can’t get a good look either! Separate Sita and Ekaterina, and Jenny and Orbon from the crush, and I will visit them privately. Take poor Sita for a drink, calm her charge, and make sure the others are well cared for. How can we neglect these people? Come on you lot!” Karina found Sita and cub Ekaterina, leading them from the room, Jenny and Orbon finding their way out soon after.

      “Titan will be along shortly,” Karina mewed, getting cold drinks for all, and a huge cup of tea for Sita, who had begun to shake with exhaustion.

       “It was like the forest from hell!” she whimpered.

        “I can’t imagine it really,” Karina mewed.

       “Long may it be the case,” Sita sighed, “now, now we’re devoid of the excitement of that place, but I’d rather that than be crushed by other community members who have forgotten us."

       “Titan hasn’t,” Ekaterina said.

       “he saw you two I think,” Jenny said.

     “I think he did,” Sita mewed.

      “I think he saved us from the crush,” Ekaterina said, “I’m crawling at the moment, and I nearly got squashed.

      “Can I hug you Ekaterina?” Jenny asked.

     “Of course,” the she bear said. Jenny hugged the naked she bear, Ekaterina pushing her paws and feet into Jenny’s hands, Jenny rubbing her pads, Ekaterina purring with pleasure.

      “You have lovely paws and feet Ekaterina, Jenny said.

      “I know who’s paws and feet I’d like to get my paws on,” Ekaterina said.

      “We all would love to get our paws on Titan’s paws,” Sita mewed, “they say he shrank Aslan to the size of an eight week old cub!”

      “He did,” Aslan mewed, walking into the room, Sita crawling to the lion and hugging him.

      “You’re smaller!” she exclaimed.

      “I know,” he replied, “my paws are smaller too, they need a rub, would you?” Aslan lay down on the floor, and Sita rubbed his paws and feet, the lion purring ecstatically.

       “can we join the party?” someone purred.

    “Titan!” Sita yelled, padding carefully over to the huge liger, then hugging him tightly. Suddenly Aslan realised who was among them, leaping to his feet, he launched himself at the startled liger.

      “Stop it Aslan!” Titan miaowed as the small lion leapt up at his face and pawed at it, kissing Titan’s nose, Titan involuntarily leaping backwards.

      “Careful Titan!” Apudo mewed, balancing on Titan’s back, “stop dancing about!”

       “I’ve got a lion leaping up at my face!” Titan miaowed, “Aslan, it’s finished now!” he growled, slapping the floor with his paw, but Aslan ignored him.

      “Apudo, off my back, go to Sita!” Titan miaowed.

      “naoaoaoaoao!” Apudo mewed, holding on more tightly for safety, “I want to stay with you Titan!” Titan growled at Aslan. Aslan sat down, panting and miaowing.

        “That’s better,” Titan panted, sitting down, “now, I will greet the rest of you, Apudo, time to walk.” Apudo slid down the liger’s back, padding round to his right side and sitting down.

        “I will not have everyone mobbing me,” Titan mewed, “one at a time, and when I say enough, that means enough, and another person gets to stroke me. I know it might sound restrictive, but there is only one of me.”

       “Who first?” Aslan asked.

      “Not you after you disobeyed Titan, that’s for sure,” Apudo growled.

      “Sita?” Titan asked, “how about you first my dear?”

      “No, not me, let the cubs go first,” Sita mewed.

      “Sita,” Titan mewed, padding close, “I want you first, come.” Sita felt herself nuzzled, then a rough tongue kiss her nose.

      “You can ask me about my birth story later,” Titan purred in her ear. Sita opened her mouth, but she felt the soft pads of a huge paw placed over it.

       “Come later, and I’ll explain,” Titan mewed, “now though, I’d like a rub down from one who knows her paws.” Sita grinned.

      “Well lie down little cub, and I will,” she replied, Titan purring happily in her ear.

 

Titan lay down on his left side  and Sita touched him from his nose to the end of his tail, finding there was so much to touch. Titan found Sita’s touch soporific, she didn’t lightly run her paws over his fur in a manner that would tickle, using a firm touch that demanded nothing, but made Titan want to give her everything, if only he could fight the warm feeling making him want to sleep. When she finally reached his paws and feet, having ran her paws all over the rest of him, Sita touched the pads of his left paw with gentle care, Titan wriggling and miaowing, scrabbling his left paw into her grasp, Sita giggling at his urgent scrabbling.

       “You’re desperate for a pad massage aren’t you Titan,” she mewed.

      “he is,” Apudo purred, “I know, I can see his face.

          “I’ll rub your pads a bit,” Sita mewed, rubbing Titan’s left paw, the liger breathing deeply, then catching his breath and gulping back a rush of tears.

        “Sita, stop!” he begged, “I, I, please, paws off my pads. I can’t, not yet.”

       “Can’t what?” Sita asked.

        “Can’t tell you what I want to tell you, not yet, and, and, your touch, it, it, oh dear!” Titan sniffled, “I just can’t, later, then I will.”

        “he means our birth tale,” Apudo mewed.

        “I do,” Titan replied.

      “Can I hug you for now then?” Sita asked.

      “yes, but no pad to pad contact, I can’t stand it, not now.” Titan rolled onto his chest, so his forepaws supported him, while his hind lay along the ground to his right. Sita hugged then kissed Titan, the liger chuffing repeatedly to her, Sita replying in kind, their greeting ending in nose rubbing and Sita playfully tugging Titan’s ear with her teeth.

        “that made Titan curl the toes of his feet Sita,” Apudo mewed, “Maybe the harder you tug at his ear, the tighter his toes curl.” Titan rested his head on Sita’s shoulder.

        “I will talk to you later,” the liger purred.

 

Everyone else touched Titan from his nose to his toes, the liger curling and stretching his toes when they asked him to, but it was clear his encounter with Sita had made a great impression on him.

      “Aren’t you meant to give attention to all your community equally Titan??” karina asked.

       “Am I not?” Titan asked.

      “You’re distracted since Sita touched you.,” Karina mewed when all was over.

      “I am, I suppose,” Titan admitted, “and I’m sorry if I haven’t been all here.”

      “What is it about Sita?” Karina asked.

      “She understands how tactile birth can be,” Titan blurted, “it feels so amazing and scary karina. I need to tell her my tale in touch, curl my toes, let her feel me as I pant, as I curl my body and lick, as I curl my toes and push!”

         “A description in touch rather than sight,” karina mewed.

     “yes,” Titan sighed, “do you know that feeling when you meet someone you want to open up to completely? You can’t help it Karina, it just explodes from you and you hope, hope,,,” Titan paused, tears choking him, “please be gentle,” he whispered.

      “Yes, I know that feeling,” karina mewed.

       “I’m honoured and grateful Titan,” Sita mewed.

        “Who does it for you Karina?” Titan asked.

        “my mum, her who you call Sita, “Sita helped me through labour, and it was wonderful.”

        “but, that wasn’t,,,,” Sita began.

       “It’s all forgotten mum,” karina reminded her, “you repented of that, and that was not to do with the concept of rebirth either.”

       “No, it wasn’t,” Sita mewed. Titan knew what had taken place, and didn’t press them for details.

        “can I tell you too karina?” he asked, as she held his paw in her hands.

     “You can,” karina mewed, “I saw it all, but you can tell me if you want. I could be the silly primate telling you to push if you like.” Titan laughed.

       “It wasn’t silly to tell me,” he replied, “I know I told them to shut up, but Moses and little Ekaterina’s encouragement to push was welcome really. It gave me the will to carry on, as did,,,” he stopped, swallowing hard as Apudo touched his nose with hers, then licked it.

       “that?” she asked, Titan inhaling deeply as his chest got tight with emotion.

     “Apudo don’t do that!” he sobbed.

       “I kissed his nose too,” she said, “noone saw that, as Titan’s head was in the way, and my head was practically in his mouth.

       “It wasn’t!” Titan sniffled.

      “That’s not how I felt,” Apudo mewed, “I got a good view of the biggest set of teeth I’d ever seen, then this great big tongue shot out and licked my nose, then this nose was in my face, and gentle lips were kissing my nose and touching my paws, and as you withdrew to push, your eyes stared into mine as you whimpered and sniffled. Titan moaned deeply with the memory.

     “if I could have grabbed you with my paws I would have,” he choked.

      “I’ve found the perfect birthing bed for you when you want to re-enact it again Titan!” Felix yelled, walking into the room on his two feet with something under his right arm.

     “What’s that?” Titan growled, unimpressed about being interrupted. Apudo saw the thing.

      “I know what it is, I know what it iiis!” she yelled, rearing onto her feet and clapping her paws.

      “Naoaoaoaoao, not one of those!” Titan moaned.

      “You can really get your paws caught in that, then, we can be eye to eye and nose to nose for longer,” Apudo mewed, “stuck tiggie, stuck cub, all in it together.” Titan growled angrily:

       “It’s no joke getting your toes caught in one of those things, and neither is labour!” he miaowed.

        “I wonder what would have happened if I’d come out backwards?” Apudo asked.

      “oaoaoaoaoaoaoh naoaoaoaoaoao!” Titan wailed, wriggling uncomfortably, “don’t mention that, just don’t! Auwououowch!!!” he roared, writhing as if he were in pain.

     “is it too early to change the story a  bit?” Apudo asked.

       “Naoaoaoaow not like that! I did not give birth to a breach cub while lying on a raft!” Titan yowled.

       “but what if you had?” Apudo mewed.

        “Oh naoaoaoaoaoao!” Titan moaned into his paws, “it’s too early for this!”

       “You would have seen two feet, or one foot and a tail, and be licking that to try and free me,” Apudo mewed.

       “yes, and afraid to push, and, it would be lick lick lick at your feet and tail, and,  and moan moan moan, pant pant pant, trying to ease you out!” Titan replied, his voice muffled by his paws.

         “would I have made it?” Apudo asked.

       “yes,” a voice said, “dear Titan, only those who have gone through rebirths are told this, everyone else has gone from here, and those who have not been the one rebirthing, or the cub being reborn will not be able to hear this. There is no danger with rebirth, though it feels as if there is. The rebirthing creature and their cub will survive the birth, the spirits are strong, the will is strong. You would have managed to give birth to Apudo breach or normal presentation Titan.”

        “oaoaoaoaoah,” Apudo mewed, “so I would have been all right.”

      “yes,” patch said, for it was he who’d been speaking, and whom they now saw, as he padded in front of them.

        “I can see why you don’t tell that to first timers,” Titan mewed, “if you did, they’d not try with all their might.”

      “Yes,” patch replied.

     “Let’s go to my lie up,” Titan mewed, “there we can talk properly, and, and, I can show you Sita.”

      “What do you want me to do with the knowledge of your birth story?” Sita asked.

       “Tell it to the cubs,” Apudo mewed.

         “make sure all cats know it, and will be able to re-enact it,” Titan purred.

       “Okay,” Sita mewed, “I know Felix’s birth is re-enacted quite often by the cubs, and by karina herself.”

      “it is,” karina giggled, “that was a very special time mum, Titan.”

       “I hope I didn’t swear,” Titan groaned.

        “You did! You said, “shit!” I heard you!” Apudo yelled, clapping her paws.

       “Oh naoaoaoaoaoao,” Titan wailed, Apudo laughing softly at his reaction.

       “doesn’t matter,” she said, “who gives a shit anyway?”

      “Stoaoaoaoap swearing!” Titan miaowed. Pleased with the reaction such a little word produced, Apudo ploughed on:

        “ when I was opening up the door, you said.

       “I know what I said, and, you, will, not, repeat it!” Titan roared, stamping his paws.

        “Don’t lose your shit Titan,” Apudo whispered.

       “Stoaoaoaoap!” Titan roared. Apudo, now giggling helplessly, continued:

        “I say the word shit, Titan loses his shit, and Karina, and Sita?  They don’t give a, miaoaoaoaowch!” Apudo complained as Titan cuffed her with his paw.

       “Don’t use that language!” Titan yowled.

       “Pleas Apudo, don’t!” karina replied, her voice full of laughter.

     “You’re laughing, you find her funny!” Titan miaowed.

      “Let’s go to your lie up,” Sita mewed. Titan padded with Sita to his lie up, Apudo padding alongside him, until her feet got tired and she scrambled aboard Sita, who carried her the rest of the way, Titan not minding one bit. Once in their lie up, Titan got drinks for all, then lay down on his left side, stretching his legs and paws.

   “Now, I’m going to show you everything I can Sita,” Titan mewed.

     “Are you going to have another cub?” Apudo asked, “that would be wonderful!”

       “Not actually have a cub, but, well, sort of remember what I did when giving birth to you,” Titan replied.

        “I remember every minute, so why can’t you remember every minute too?” Apudo asked. Titan hugged her.

      “I won’t need to remember, well not struggle to,” he replied, “when I get into it, I’ll remember well enough.”

       “Can I snuggle?” Sita asked.

      “what? You want a cuddle too?” Titan asked, “I don’t know Sita, hmm, Apudo? Should I let her?”

       “Oh yes, if you can hug her like you do me, that would be lovely for her.” Titan looked at Sita, then snuggled her, Sita mewing and purring. 

They’re so cute together!” Apudo mewed, Titan laughing.

       “now, now, I think I’m going to have a cub!” Titan moaned piteously, stretching out on the floor. Sita got paws on with Titan, the liger closing his eyes, trying to remember. Sita got paws on as Titan pedalled with all four limbs, curled his toes and panted. Groaning, Titan pushed against Sita’s paws with his feet, moaning with pain.

      “it hurts him so much!” Sita mewed.

       “Yes, it did,” Apudo mewed, “I felt his pain and effort.” Titan showed Sita what he did throughout his labour, Sita finding Titan’s paws and feet with their curling toes most interesting, and the liger himself curling up to lick his cub very endearing. Sita rode Titan’s memories with gentility, touching his paws, feet and head, amazed at the liger’s flexibility of body.

       “how do any of us do this!” she mewed. Titan, miaowing and grunting, kissed Sita’s paws and nose when it came to the point at which he’d kissed Apudo’s paws and nose during the labour to deliver her, Apudo giggling at the situation.

       “I felt everything!” Sita mewed, hugging Titan when all was over.

    “I’m all hot and sweaty now,” Titan mewed.

     “Your pads are very damp Titan,” Sita said, “can, Titan, could, can I wash you, please?” Titan smiled:

         “I’d love you to,” he replied. Sita and Titan padded to the washrooms, Apudo scrambling after them:

      “wait for meyeee!” she yowled, scrambling to her feet and running after them, nearly tripping over her fat paws in her eagerness to follow.

       “Now let’s wash him properly,” Sita mewed, Titan stretching out on the floor, the overhead shower turning on, Sita getting the soap, rubbing it onto an abrasive flannel and washing Titan’s pads until he complained about the rubbing.

       “What are you doing!” he miaowed.

      “Rubbing away all the dead pad,” Sita mewed, working hard on his left paw. After an hour, she’d finished rubbing away the dead skin from his pads. Smiling, she began to wash his softer under pads, the liger mewing and purring as she got to work on his pads with special soap. After another hour, she’d finished her job, Titan left with tingling paws and feet.

       “Now get to those gorgeous paws and feet, and feel the floor,” Sita mewed. Titan did, bouncing on his toes, his eyes alight with amazement.

      “I’ve never felt this since I was a cub!” he exclaimed, Sita giggling delightedly.

       “Not saying your pads weren’t clean before, but,” she said.

      “But, oaoaoaoaoh, I want this more!” Titan replied.

       “I could become personal paw washer for the community leader,” Sita giggled.

       “That would be too posh, too, well, not me,” Titan mewed.

      “how about if I said I loved doing it for you?  would you let me then?” Sita asked.

       “I would,” Titan mewed, “but you’re play specialist Sita, you can’t do that and this job too!”

       “I could,” Sita mewed, “my play sessions finish around four pm, I could come and check your pads over then, before dinner.”

      “no,” Titan mewed, “if you will, please have dinner with me, and then check my pads over. This is an indulgence, not strictly necessary.”

     “Do you not want to feel the cubs touching your feet and paws?” Sita asked.

      “I do, yes I do!” Titan mewed.

     “Then it’s necessary,” Sita purred, Titan laughing delightedly. Sita dried Titan’s pads, and they adjourned to the lie up, Titan flopping down on his freshly laundered blanket.

        “Titan still has fat pads, touch Them Sita, tickle his toes!” Apudo giggled, having watched Sita’s ministrations from a safe distance. Sita smiled, pushing Titan onto his side and tickling the liger’s toes, Titan yowling and squirming, the liger rolling onto his back, Apudo laughing at the sight of his wriggling body, lashing tail,  waving paws and kicking feet.

         “miaoaoaoow! Naoaoaoaoao, stoaoaoaoap tickling my feeyeeet!” Titan yowled, Apudo laughing so much she choked..

     “Stop it Titan, I can’t breathe!” she panted, “Sita, stop tickling Titan, make him be serious!” she pleaded.  “come and rub his paws then,” Sita mewed, pushing Titan onto his left side. Apudo rubbed Titan’s pads, Sita supporting her so she could get to all four of the liger’s huge paws and feet.

     “I would love to see what Theo saw,” Apudo mewed, Sita sitting with her behind Titan, Titan kicking with his right foot, pointing his toes as he imagined straining, Apudo staring at him.

       “I think he’s cute from his nose to his toes!” Apudo mewed, leaning forward then kissing the toes of Titan’s left foot, Titan giggling delightedly, lashing his tail about, whacking Apudo with it, Apudo miaowing in surprise.

      “your tail is violent!” Apudo mewed, Titan curling round and looking at her, Sita pushing her forward so he could kiss her nose.

     “Awhwhwhwh Titan, you big softy!” Apudo mewed, reaching for him with her paws, Titan nuzzling and licking her paws, then curling up more tightly, lashing out with his tongue to kiss her nose, Apudo looking concerned.

        “You looked terrified Titan!” she mewed, “I don’t like that look!” she sniffled.

        “I’m all right now,” Titan purred.

       “I’m glad of that,” Apudo said, sniffing back her tears. Trying to lighten the mood, she said:

       “I can see what Theo saw now Titan, if we got Felix’s inflatable bed, the way you’re paws are, we could make you trapped toes tiggie!” Titan smiled.

       “if you would dig me out of the bed if I get caught, I will get my paws and feet stuck,” Titan mewed.

       “now that’s just silly!” Sita mewed.

      “It is,” Titan purred, lying down full length on his blanket.

    “how did we get to have such a cute and cuddly liger?” Sita mewed, “we’re very fortunate here. She let go of Apudo, the cub crawling to Titan’s head. Smiling, Sita followed her, then leant down and kissed Titan’s nose, the liger deeply embarrassed.

     “I am just me, Titan, a rather big boned, large pawed liger,” he mewed.

      “If Titan gets his toes trapped, he can struggle to free them, then when he does, I can wash his paws,” Sita mewed.

       “You don’t need me to trap my toes to ask if you can wash my paws,” Titan replied.

       “You’re a big old softy!” Apudo mewed.

     “Me? old?  No, three years old if that, and by the way, Sita’s older than me. If I’m an old softy, she’s ancient and disappearing over several hills.”

     “Oi!” Sita meowed, slapping Titan, Sita and Titan settling their differences by wrestling on the floor, Apudo watching them with shining eyes.

       “How will they end this?” she asked karina, who’d padded in at the sound of miaowing and growling.

       “Probably tickle each other’s pads,” Karina mewed, “that’s how these are usually settled. Sure enough, Sita won by tickling Titan’s toes  until he begged for mercy.

      “I win,” Sita mewed, hugging the liger, kissing his nose.

      “Now my pads are all hot and bothered!” Titan miaowed.

     “Good,” Sita mewed, grooming his paws and feet, something they both clearly enjoyed.

      “You two are so funny!” Apudo mewed.

      “We’re not!” Sita mewed, “Titan said I was over the hill! He was so rude I had to tickle his toes to put the big soppy cub right!” Titan kissed Sita’s nose and paws, Sita mewing and purring.

        “You’re both too soppy for your own good and for mine, I’m dying of cute here!” karina giggled.

       “Titan’s face as he curled round to lick my nose during the re-enactment of my birth was so terrified!” Apudo mewed, “I’m glad he was able to push me out after cleaning my face and paws.

  “Did I clean them?” Titan asked.

      “You did,” Apudo mewed, that was why I was able to scream lustily as I was born, I could scream thanks to your tongue doing its job!”

      “but you slid away from me, back inside!” Titan miaowed.

      “I put my paws over my face,” Apudo mewed, “I managed to keep my nose clean, and take a deep breath before I slid back, then breathed and held my breath through the contractions.”

      “don’t tell me anymore!” Titan whimpered.

     “My nose was clear of the fluid around the birth opening once my head was out, even when you relaxed after kissing me Titan, I kept one of my paws over my face,” Apudo mewed. At this news Titan buried his face in his paws, sobbing at the thought of what Apudo must have gone through.

     “I’m sorry!” he wept,

     “I loved your licking,” Apudo mewed, licking his paws, then, when he dropped them from his face,  kissing his wet nose, “ dear Titan, “I’m now like you when you gave birth to me, kissing your paws to uncover your nose and kiss it.” Titan hugged her in his wet paws, Apudo snuggling up to him, purring contentedly.

      “I love you so much Apudo,” Titan sniffled, wiping his eyes on the backs of his paws as he held her, “I would not have given up until I was dead!” he wailed.

       “I know, and I love you too Titan,” she purred.

      “I would love to re-enact the first time I kissed your nose Apudo,” Titan said.

     “I’d love it too,” Apudo mewed, “if I stay by your feet, you can curl round and lick me, how would that be?” Titan smiled:

      “I will,” he said. Titan settled, then began to moan and pant, then groaning, he stretched his legs and curled his toes. Another toe curling effort made him yowl:

       “the cub’s head is stretching meyeee!” then he panted and, groaning, turned his head, then arched his back, Apudo seeing his face coming towards her, then she felt his tongue, warm and rough and slightly wet kissing her nose and paws. Titan miaowing, moaning, grunting and puffing as he worked, the toes of his huge paws curled into the rugs as he held on desperately to keep himself from stretching out full length.

      “Push Titan, push!” Apudo mewed, Titan stretching out full length, groaning with remembered effort and pain, Apudo grabbing his left foot, rubbing his pads and toes, the liger miaowing as he pushed his foot into her paws.

    “Nearly there, nearly, just the feet to go, just the feet, puuush!” Apudo mewed, kissing the sweating pads of Titan’s left foot, the liger yowling and kicking with his free right foot as he pushed the imaginary cub’s feet out, moaning as he remembered the sensation of them sliding free.

      “That was amazing Titan!” Apudo mewed.

      “Why did I do that?” he asked. Apudo padded to his head and hugged him.

      “I loved every minute,” she said.

       “how did you manage to hold my foot, I was pushing against you with all my strength!” Titan mewed.

       “I wanted to help,” Apudo mewed.

        “I would love to see the video as well as feel what happened,” Apudo mewed. Titan got to his feet, padded to the computer and found the video of his labour, scrolling forward, Apudo was treated to the sight of him urgently pedalling his paws and feet, then straining urgently and quickly as the video sped forward, the video  Stopping at the point where he first curled round to check out Apudo’s emerging paws. Apudo heard his distress, seeing Theo kissing the sweating pads of the liger’s left foot, which he held, and which Apudo had held earlier. She watched as Titan curled round a second time, the liger grunting and growling, moaning and puffing as he curled his body, then she saw his tongue and lips exploring her fluid covered face and paws, cleaning them. the sight of him doing that and the expression of fear and anxiety in his eyes made Apudo tearful.

       “Oh Titan!” she mewed, hugging him, “You did so well my dear guide, dear Titan!” she whispered, kissing his nose and paws.

       “I was so scared!” Titan mewed, trying not to cry, but Apudo’s kiss to his nose broke his control, and he rested his head on his paws, sniffing and gulping.

        “Big softy Titan, you big soppy cuddlypuss,” Apudo mewed, kissing his nose and paws.

        “thanks,” Titan replied, struggling with his emotions.

       “Okay, now, can I give this liger a hug?” Moses asked, padding into the room. Titan, seeing him, leapt to his feet and ran to him. Chuffing like an excited steam train, he rubbed heads with Moses, the young human kissing his nose.

       “You big soppy tiggie!” Moses laughed, hugging the liger.

       “come for a cuddle!” Titan mewed, flopping down on the blanket, Moses kneeling and embracing the liger, Apudo watching him.

     “I want to tickle your toes Moses!” Apudo miaowed, Moses wiggling his toes in response, Apudo growling in mock anger, pouncing on the soles of his feet with velveted paws, Moses laughing as she tickled his toe and heel pads with her whiskers.

       “I love your touch!” Moses giggled, sitting back, squirming with pleasure, drilling his heels into his backside, Apudo laughing softly as Moses curled his toes. Apudo blew on the boy’s toes, Moses shrieking with laughter.

     “Can I hug you now Apudo?” Moses asked. Apudo leant on his feet, her paws pressed into his soles, her toes gripping the backs of his heels, the heels of her paws pressed into his arches.

      “If you can free your feet yes,” she said, scratching his heel pads with her velveted toes. Moses squirmed, then crawled away, Apudo following him by scooting along on her backside, her paws still in contact with the heel pads and arches of the boy’s small feet.

    “I can’t free my feeyeeet!” Moses squealed, curling his toes, Apudo feeling his pads heating up as he struggled to free his feet from her paws, Apudo gripping the backs of his heels with her strong toes.

       “Okay, that’s enough,” Apudo mewed, running her paws down the soles of Moses feet, the young boy curling his toes with pleasure, Apudo pressing the toes of both her large paws into the balls of his feet.

       “Can I hug you now?” Moses asked,

     “Yes, come,” Apudo mewed, Moses turning and embracing the large lion cub.

      “You’re so big and so warm!” he said, snuggling her close.

       “I know she’s big, I had to push to deliver her, that was awful!” Titan mewed.

       “Awful until you kissed her nose that is,” Moses said.

       “Yes,” Titan mewed, “but the fear of pain and exhaustion from effort was replaced by a fear of what would happen if I couldn’t push, Apudo seemed so big when being born! How could I give birth to a cub that big?  The passage has a small exit.”

       “the passage stretched to allow Apudo through,” Moses said.

       “Yes, I know, and that hurt too!” Titan growled.

      “I’ll tickle your toes Apudo,” Moses said, pushing the laughing little lioness onto her back and blowing on the pads of her feet, Apudo wriggling and waving her paws.

     “Miaoaoaoow! Naoaoaoaow! Moses is tickling meyeee Titan, stoaoaoaoap him!” Apudo yowled, Titan laughing merrily at her.

      “No, I won’t,” he yawned, stretching his paws and settling down. Apudo faught her way free of Moses tickling fingers and padded clumsily to her guide’s side, flopping down beside him, Titan covering her back with one huge paw.

      “your paw is lovely and warm Titan,” Apudo mewed, squirming her body closer to his, pressing her body against his for warmth.

     “Are you cold Apudo?” Titan asked. Apudo sighed: 

     “I’m trying to cope, but yes, I am cold.” Titan pressed the button on a strap on his left forearm. Could someone please get us a warm drink?” he asked when the voice asked him what they could do for him. Titan, feeling slight discomfort, watched as Bramble padded into the room, settling a bowl within Titan’s reach, Titan helping Apudo to drink the warm tea which she’d made. Titan, smiling at Bramble, bowed his head to her, the she bear smiling.

      “I can see you’re uncomfortable with that wrist strap thing,” she said.

     “No,” he said, “I’m uncomfortable asking others to do things for me.”

     “You have the right to ask, we’re your people now,” Bramble said, “just don’t abuse that right.”

     “I won’t,” Titan mewed, “I asked because, well, I have a cub here who needs warm drinks, and I am her source of emergency warmth, so couldn’t move.” Bramble knelt, her white legs and feet making her look like she was wearing white leggings, the rest of her fur brown.

    “Apudo’s beautiful,” Bramble said, “we all saw her rebirth,” she added, “you pushed really well Titan.”

       “have you heard what each of us thought about our various experiences?” Titan asked, “it was emotional, strenuous work.

        “Yes,” Bramble replied, kissing Apudo’s nose then rubbing the cub’s ears with her large paws, Apudo rolling over so the she bear could rub the pads of all four of her small paws, “Goldie and I saw and heard everything. We respect your actions and words.”

        “I love your touch Bramble,” Apudo mewed.

      “It was terrifying Bramble,” Titan mewed, “Labour really hurt, and was strenuous, everything ached during and after, but I wouldn’t change a thing.”

        “I wouldn’t change the first view I had of my guide,” Apudo mewed, “well except one thing, the fear and exhaustion in his eyes.”

     “You saw that?” Titan asked.

    “I did, and it made me sad,” Apudo mewed. Titan hugged her tightly.

     “I was worried about you,” he mewed.

      “You pushed wonderfully Titan,” Apudo mewed, “scary it was, but every push told me you cared about me, every moan and whimper spoke of your love for me. I held on to the hope you’d given me.” Titan gulped hard.

       “I love you so much Apudo,” Titan mewed softly, “I tried so hard with all I had to give birth to you.” Apudo kissed his nose and paws.

       “I’m warm now,” she said.

        Sita, would you like a drink?” Bramble asked, “I have enough tea on my trolley. Sita replied that she would, and soon felt the handle of a cup placed in her well-padded right paw.

      “Cake anyone?” Bramble asked.

       “Oh yes please,” Sita mewed, Bramble laughing merrily.

     “you have a very sweet tooth Sita,” she said, “now just the one, otherwise you’ll end up like Goldie.

        “What’s wrong with Goldie?” Apudo asked.

       “he’s fat,” Sita replied, munching through her cake, “too much food and not enough exercise.”

         “Oh,” Apudo mewed.

       “Chocolate cake or Carrot cake Titan?” Bramble asked.

       “Carrot cake please,” Titan mewed, “that chocolate’s a bit sweet for me, and I like to pretend I’m eating something of a healthier option too.”

        “ “don’t I get any?” Apudo asked, watching Titan and Sita with large envious eyes.

       “Can you eat solid food?” Sita asked.

      “I can,” Apudo miaowed, “I ate that stew, but, well, it made me feel funny.”

      “Not here Apudo, not while we’re eating,” Titan warned.

        “anyway, I would like cake! Titan’s smells wonderful!”

       “tastes good too,” Titan mewed, licking the pads of both his huge paws, which were all sticky, as he’d held the cake between them, gnawing at it as he would a bone in the wild, something which Bramble found disconcerting.

        “I’ll give you a bit of each Apudo,” Bramble replied.

      “Just a small bit Bramble, give her a mouthful of each. Apudo, you should only eat a small amount of this today, you can eat more when you’re older,” Titan mewed. Bramble cut a small piece of each of her cakes, Apudo tentatively trying the chocolate cake. When the chocolate hit her tongue, she yowled and spat the cake out in disgust, opening her mouth and chewing her tongue as if she was going to be sick. Bramble got her some tea, and Apudo slurped it down for a couple of laps, then took some in her mouth, closing her mouth and washing the tea round before swallowing, making a noise like a washing machine.

       “Apudo, stop that!” Sita miaowed.

      “But, that, that chocolate was horrid! Apudo yowled when she’d swallowed the tea,, “Ugh, ah yuck!” she pawed at her mouth, “it’s all over my lips, yuuuuuuuck! I need to spit!” she miaowed, Sucking up some of the tea and spitting it out several times.

         “That’s disgusting!” Sita complained.

      “Noaoaoaow, that cake is disgusting!” Apudo miaowed.

        “have you managed to clear your mouth,” Bramble asked crossly.

        “yes,” Apudo mewed, “I think so,” she whimpered.

        “Now for the carrot cake, and if you need to complain, don’t spit!” Bramble said.

       “I will try not to,” Apudo mewed. Titan looked with compassion at his cub.

       “you’re not condoning her spitting are you?” Bramble asked angrily.

      “No, but, I do know what she experienced,” Titan mewed, “there’s a type of sweetness that makes one very sick. Now I don’t know if it’s Sita’s ursine heritage that makes her have such a sweet tooth, but I don’t like overly sweet things. Fruitcake, a moist one, with the icing taken off, then yes, but not that chocolate cake.” Bramble tried Apudo with a piece of her carrot cake, the cub trying a small bite, pausing as she chewed, her eyes watchful as if she was expecting the assault on her taste buds of last time. Finding none, she swallowed, then, with a rapidity she regretted later, gobbled the rest down.

       “that was lovely!” Apudo mewed. Before Titan could stop her, Apudo gobbled the next piece of cake Bramble gave her.

      “that was even better!” she miaowed, lapping thirstily at the tea.

        “You’ll be ill later,” Titan mewed.

     “Me?  No,” Apudo replied confidently. Titan washed her face and paws, Apudo curling up beside him. Bramble, smiling broadly, left the room after giving Moses tea and cake, the young boy too fascinated watching the big cats to ask for his share.

 

Once Moses had eaten his fill of cake, Sita and Moses padded to the wash rooms, Sita making sure the young boy washed his face and hands, Moses giggling at her nannyish concern. Not sure if he had carried out her wishes, as she could not see him, Sita got soap on her paws, asked him to close his eyes, then washed his face, Moses trying not to laugh as she worked on him.

      “you’re so lovely Sita,” he said. Sita washed her own paws and face, Moses watching intently.

     “Let’s go,” Sita mewed, both she and Moses returning to the lie up.

     “Would you wash my feet too?” Moses asked Sita, Sita laughing helplessly.

      “I was going to ask you if I could play the stuck foot game with you,” Sita mewed.

  “yes please,” Moses replied, “I love that game, and would love to play it with you.”

     “I love that game,” Sita mewed, sitting opposite Moses, pressing her feet against his.

      “My feet don’t reach half way up yours,” Moses laughed softly, “I’ll lift my feet a bit, then you can hold my toes with yours. Sita felt the touch of Moses feet moving up hers, the boy pulling his foot up hers by gripping the pads of her feet with his toes, digging them in and gripping, walking each foot one by one up hers, first his right, then his left, Sita giggling delightedly, until her toes gripped his, Moses toes gripping the balls of her own feet.

       “Now push, puuuuuush with your feet, puuuuuush those feet Moses puuuuuush!” Sita mewed, Moses bracing his feet against hers.

       “For a moment, I thought we were going to see the birth of a new cub,” Titan laughed softly.

      “Uuuuuuuumf, I think, uauauauauaowch!” I think my cub’s coming!” Moses yowled.

      “Stoaoaoaoap it Moses!” Sita laughed softly.

      “yes, stop that!” Titan growled. Moses braced his feet against Sita’s, pushing hard, burying his heels and toes in Sita’s sole pads, Sita curling her toes as tightly as she could as Moses pushed his feet against hers.

        “Push Sita, puuuuuush!” Moses urged, Sita growling and  miaowing as she braced her large feet against Moses smaller ones. They were just about to get down to play when Apudo suddenly struggled to her feet and ran for the relieving place. Tripping on a fold of Rug, she fell, rolling onto her chest, just about able to support herself with her paws in time to vomit without choking herself. Eyes staring in terror, paws and feet gripping the floor with curled toes, Apudo vomited repeatedly. Sita, hearing Apudo’s distress, broke off the game she and Moses were playing and padded to Apudo, literally bumping into Titan, who was making his way to his cub.

       “It’s that bloody cake!” he whispered, as Apudo retched and vomited again.

        “Poor Apudo’s arching her back and gripping the floor with all four paws,” Moses said, joining them.

       “Apudo?” Titan asked gently, resting his paw on her back.

    “I shouldn’t have eaten that cake!” the poor cub whimpered, “now look at meyeee!” she yowled, retching convulsively at nothing.

        “deep breaths Apudo dear,” Sita mewed, Apudo struggling to breathe, her breath shortened by fear and exhaustion.

        “You ate that cake too quickly and too much of it,” Titan mewed softly.

        “I know, I shouldn’t have!” Apudo moaned, crying as her body took its revenge on her.

      “All done?” Titan asked.

       “I don’t know! I feel all wrong in my belly, and my head feels hot, and my paws are all wet, and I feel dreadful Titan!” Apudo whimpered.

       “I’ll clean you up,” Titan mewed, washing Apudo’s face and paws, then attending to the rest of her.

       “You ate your cake so nicely Titan, and I scoffed mine, then threw it back up again!” Apudo miaowed, “rule one for me, don’t eat the cake so fast, or so much of it.”

      “That should be two rules, not one,” Moses said. Apudo turned savagely on him.

       “what?” she asked, “I’m nooaoaoaot ready for this! Shuuuuuut up!” she yowled, lashing out with her paws.

     “Give her space Moses,” Titan mewed, gently pushing the boy away with one massive paw.

       “sorry,” Moses said. Titan rubbed Apudo’s belly, then hugged her, the cub purring deeply.

      “that’s better isn’t it,” Titan purred, while Moses helped Sita to clear up the mess.

      “that cake was too much Titan,” Apudo miaowed, “I should have listened to you before I went for that other bit. Now, now I’ve lost the lot!” she wailed.

      “These are lessons you have to learn,” Titan mewed, kissing her nose.

        “It was a good cake too,” Apudo mumbled.

      “yes, it was a very good cake,” Titan mewed.

       “You still have yours,” Apudo whimpered.

        “yes,” Titan replied softly. Apudo snuggled up to Titan, Titan kissing her ear.

        “I’m hungry now too,” Apudo whimpered, “hungry and pissed off!” she yowled in a sudden fit of rage, banging the floor with her paws.

       “Milk?” Titan asked. Apudo, her eyes desperate, replied:

      “yes please.” Titan snuggled the cub to him, Apudo drinking desperately, her kneading paws telling Titan she was furious at herself and drinking to blot out her own anger.

        “it’s okay Apudo,” Titan mewed, “it’s all forgotten, everything’s forgotten, once you eat your solid food today, you can have a small piece of carrot cake. Apudo sighed, lying down beside him.

        “vomiting was horrible,” she said.

       “I know,” Titan mewed.

       “You weren’t the one losing your cake!” Apudo yowled.

      “No, but I’ve done it before, and I hate it,” Titan mewed.

        “What are Sita and Moses doing Titan?” Apudo asked. Titan looked over at them:

      “They’re playing the stuck foot game,” he replied, “it’s a difficult game for us cats to play.”

      “It looks as if they can’t free themselves,” Apudo mewed, “Moses is tugging at his left foot, Sita curling the toes of her right foot around his. I can’t see what she’s doing with her left paw, but she’s working away with it, probably at the arch of Moses left foot. I’ve seen his arches, I haven’t seen the soles of Sita’s feet, so can’t tell if she has arches too. Moses toes are worth chasing, and very ticklable too. He bounces his bum on his heels so cutely too!”

       “Shall we see if Sita can bounce her bum on her heels?” Titan asked.

         “She wouldn’t do it would she?  She’s adult, she’s past bouncing on her heels with pleasure,” Apudo said.

       “is she?  Don’t be so certain,” Titan purred.

      “you’re not going to make her are you?” Apudo asked in a shocked tone.

      “Not make her, ask her if she will,” Titan purred. Apudo watched as Moses yowled while tugging at the heel of his left foot, Sita squirming as his heel pulled free of the pads of her right, Sita’s voice growling and yowling her discomfort as their pads were pulled apart, Moses tugging back and down,, prying at the ball of his foot, then  pulling down, his hands gripping his arch, tearing his toes free of the grip of Sita’s larger ones, Sita miaowing and grabbing the sole of her right foot in her paws, while Moses nursed his left foot in his hands.

       “Uuumf, that was hard!” Moses gasped.

      “yes it was,” Sita panted, working her fingers over the sole of her right foot, Moses watching her curl her toes and dig her fingertips into her bunching pads.

      “Are your pads sore?” he asked.

      “They are,” Sita mewed.

      “My rubbing isn’t doing much for me either,” Moses replied, “How would it be if you rub my left foot, I rub your right?” they took hold of each other’s feet, rubbing each other’s pads, while Apudo watched with rapt attention.

       “So after a game like that, you can’t soothe your own feet?” she asked.

       “No,” Titan mewed, “neither can you after other strenuous work Apudo, don’t you remember?” Apudo sighed:

        “the times when you’ve cleaned me up,” she replied, “how could I forget those?  Yes, you washed my paws and feet even when they had nothing to do with the, event. That was to soothe wasn’t it.”

      “yes,” Titan purred, kissing the top of her head, Apudo looking up just in time to bump noses with Titan, the liger’s eyes sparkling into hers.

        “I would love to play that stuck foot game with you, but you’re too big, and I’m too small!” she whimpered.

       “Why not play with Theo or Bianca?  They’re about the right size,” Titan mewed.

       “how would we play?” Apudo asked.

      “Lie down on your side so you face each other, then press paws to paws and feet to feet,” Titan mewed.

       “Then what?” Apudo asked.

      “Try to pull your feet away from Theo’s or Bianca’s, whomever you’re playing with,” Titan mewed, “oh,” he added, “but don’t be surprised if your pads stick to theirs. That’s very common.”

      “You mean like Sita and Moses feet did?” Apudo asked.

       “yes,” Titan purred. Apudo looked at Titan’s own paws and feet.

       “I wish I could stretch my legs so my feet could touch yours,” she mewed,

      “Let’s see if they can shall we?” Titan asked,  pushing Apudo onto her right side, while he lay on his left, and gently taking her paws in his.

      “now stretch those legs so your feet touch mine,” Titan mewed. Apudo stretched her hind legs, her feet feeling for Titan’s. she watched with growing dismay and then fury as her feet failed to find his. Smiling, Titan drew his feet up until his toes caught hers.

       “There,” he said, but she could see he was uncomfortable.

       “Don’t do that,” she said, “though Sita’s and Moses game was hard, they didn’t look like you do.” Titan relaxed his legs, Apudo kissing the toes of the paws holding her own in their massive embrace.

       “thanks for touching my toes with yours,” Apudo mewed.

      “It’s a pity we can’t sit like Sita and Moses can,” Titan mewed.

       “Yes,” Apudo sighed, “ah well, “we’re cats and they aren’t.”

       “Sita’s half cat,” Titan mused.

       “yeah, but she sits like a bear or a human,” Apudo purred.

        “lucky her,” Titan yawned, stretching the toes of all four paws and feet one by one, Apudo gazing at them with admiration.

       “My paws and feet will never do that,  They’re too small!” she mewed.

      “your paws and feet will get bigger,” Titan mewed, kissing Apudo’s paws as she tried to copy him, curling and stretching her toes as far as they’d go.

        “Miaoaoaow! Stoaoaoap tickling my paws!” Apudo laughed softly.

      “Sorry, should I have tickled your feet instead?” Titan asked, curling round and tickling the pads of Apudo’s feet with his whiskers, the cub shrieking with laughter.

       “nayaoaoaoaow, not my feeyeeet as well!” she screeched lashing about her with all four small fat paws, Titan kissing her nose, her right paw grazing his whiskers. Titan opened his mouth and gently took the toes of Apudo’s left paw between his lips, the cub squealing gleefully.

       “Sita! Titan’s tickling my feet and nibbling my paws, Stoaoaoap him!” Sita laughed helplessly at Apudo and Titan’s antics.

       “Will you two be careful?” she asked, “Titan, please remember you’re a lot bigger than Apudo.” Titan let go of Apudo’s paw, padded to Sita’s side and asked:

      “yes, but how much bigger?  I know I’m bigger!” he roared.

       “Sorry,” Sita miaowed.

        “You’re concerned for her safety, thanks for reminding me I’m bigger than her. I have to be careful with my paws and teeth.”

       “can I get paws on with both of you to find out how much bigger you are than Apudo?” Sita asked.

       “yes,” Titan mewed. Titan lay down, and Apudo padded to his side, Sita soon getting paws on with the vastly different sized creatures.

       “she’s so little, and you’re so big!” Sita mewed.

      “Let’s measure paws and feet,” Titan purred, rolling onto his side, Apudo pressing her paws against his, Sita miaowing with surprise when she felt the difference. Then Apudo scooted backwards and placed her feet heel to heel against Titan’s, the little lioness’s toes reaching only a quarter up the main sole pads of both his huge feet.

       “Can I grab your toes in mine Apudo?” Titan asked.

     “Yes, let me,” Apudo gasped, wriggling and pushing with her toes, trying to walk them up Titan’s pads, “let me get them to where you can, there, now try,” she panted, Titan smiling at her, reaching back with his paws and placing them on her head, Apudo giggling delightedly as his toes grabbed hers and squeezed them in a warm, gentle embrace.

        “I love this paw play,” Apudo mewed, “can I tug at my toes like Moses did?” Apudo asked.

      “yes, go on,” Sita mewed. Apudo tugged at her left foot, then her right,  Titan growling and miaowing with his supposed effort to tightly hold her toes, Apudo laughing helplessly at his acting.

      “You’re not even trying!” she challenged.

       “if I did, I’d hurt you, and I would never deliberately do that,” Titan purred,.

      “Squeeze my toes, I dare you!” Apudo mewed. Titan shook his head:

      “No,” he replied firmly, “I’ll hurt you Apudo, I won’t do that!”

       “Titan?” someone asked, Titan hearing large paws padding into the lie up. Looking towards the door, he saw Androcles padding into the room, Titan smiling at the ex-circus lion, the sight of him padding about on his large paws reminding Titan of a cub who never grew into his paws.

       “I know what you’re thinking, so stop it!” Androcles miaowed.

      “What am I thinking?” Titan asked.

      “My paws!” Androcles whimpered.

       “Come,” Titan invited, “come and let me touch your paws, then maybe your miaowing will turn to purring. I love your paws and how fat they are.”

       “I came to ask you something,” Androcles said, “if, if, if, I could, Sushanti and I actually, if we could adopt Aslan, as, he’s, well, you know, a cub now and all?”

       “yes you can adopt him, if he will let you,” Titan purred.

       “he will,” Aslan mewed, padding in on his small paws, Titan shocked at the size difference between Androcles and Aslan.

       “I didn’t realise I’d shrunk him so much,” the liger thought. Aslan lay down beside Androcles, Androcles lying down and pulling the white lion close, hugging him.

       “Can I rub you down from nose to tail Aslan?” Titan asked. Aslan waved a languid paw.

      “come,” he yawned, “I do feel tired Titan, does rebirth make you tired?”

       “it does, at least for a day or two,” Titan mewed. Aslan purred deeply as Titan explored his body with his paws, Titan finding the rebirth process had rejuvenated the white lion.

       “I love these paws and feet,” Titan mewed, handling Aslan’s right paw, the lion purring deeply.

 

Meanwhile in Sally and Jenny’s flat, Jenny and Sally were playing together, Sally showing Jenny how Moses and little Ekaterina pressed Titan’s pads before he’d given rebirth to Apudo, and how the liger had reacted. Jenny started by pressing the heel pad and toe pads of Sally’s right foot, Sally reacting as Titan had by groaning and yowling in response to pressure and duration of press on her heel and arches, sally panting whenever Jenny’s touch reached the ball of her foot, Sally curling her toes with effort and concentration. Jenny found as Moses and little Ekaterina had, that Sally, as Titan had,  got into the swing of the game, becoming more inventive as the game went on. Sally sat back on her heels, Jenny rubbing her heel pads, Sally building up to a massive effort, moaning and groaning her way through the pressure on her pads, then panting hard, Jenny pressing her fingers into Sally’s heel pad once more, Sally yowling with surprise or groaning lustily or quietly depending on the duration and amount of pressure on her pads, as well as drilling her heels into her backside with the intensity of her play. They swapped roles and Jenny had a go, moaning and wriggling as Sally had, the two girls laughing helplessly at their own antics.

      “What will Titan think of us?” Jenny asked.

        “Probably roar with laughter, he seems that kind of liger,” Sally replied.

       “I just want to hug him all day!” Jenny said, “he’s so cute it’s painful!”

        “Hmm, am I?” a voice said in Jenny’s ear, Jenny feeling whiskers tickling her.

     “oaoaoaoaoh! Titan!” Jenny exclaimed, “Oh dear, how long have you been here?”

        “quite a long time,” the liger replied sitting down, arranging his paws and tail, “I heard your playtime, and what you said about wanting to hug me all day too. As to your play, I find it amusing, and as to you wanting to hug me all day Jenny, alas that isn’t possible, but, now, now is a good time, that is if you’ve stopped playing with Sally and can spare me a few minutes.”

      “yes, we both can,” Jenny replied.

       “Sally, I think you want to hug me too?” Titan asked. Sally laughed:

       “I’d love it,” she replied. Titan lay down and  let the two girls hug him one at a time, responding to their caress with head rubs, chuffing and purring.

        “One happy tiggie,” Sally laughed softly. Jenny picked up Titan’s left paw and held his toes.

       “He’s now trapped toes Tiggie too,” she said, Titan miaowing and tugging at his held paw. Finding that didn’t free it, he set to franticly licking Jenny’s hand, Jenny laughing merrily.

       “Tiggie can’t free his toooes, Tiggie can’t free his toooes!” Jenny sang.

      “Miaoaoaoaow!” Titan complained, Sally hugging him.

       “let Titan go Jenny, he clearly can’t cope with trapped toes,” Sally said. Lying either side of Titan, the two girls put their arms round his neck and hugged him gently, the liger purring until his whole body vibrated.

       “Snuggly Tiggie,” Sally said, Titan brushing her face with his whiskers, kissing her cheek, Sally giggling delightedly.

       “Where’s Apudo?” Jenny asked.

      “I’m here, keeping out of Titan’s way,” Apudo mewed, “he has things to do that don’t involve me,” she added.

        “Can I give you a hug Apudo?” Sally asked. Apudo padded to Sally, Sally hugging her tightly, the lion cub purring contentedly.

      “I love a hug,” Apudo mewed.

      “We realised,” Titan purred.

       “I’m partial to the odd cuddle myself,” Titan purred, Rubbing his head against Jenny’s.

       “You’re big and snuggly,” Jenny replied, “Titan, I think someone should make a plush toy version of yourself so we can hug you when you’re not around, like the humans did by making plush versions of Felix and Karina for Moses and little Ekaterina.”

       “they have plush Felursapiens, so you and Sally want to have a plush liger?” Titan asked.

      “Yes, but our liger would have fat paws and pads, and be big and cuddly.”

     “Oh, and if he could have a lion cub inside him which he could give birth to and snuggle, that would be brilliant too,” Sally said.

       “Now that would be one unusual creature,” Titan mewed.

       “they made a plush version of Sita, and it fooled Blackberry, that was very funny!” Jenny said.

       “I heard,” Titan mewed, laughing slightly, “Blackberry would not thank you for reminding him.”

       “You’re big and soft Titan, I want to hug you forever!” Jenny said, Titan snuggling close to her.

     “that plush liger would be a soft toy version of you Titan. We would use pictures to get your fur and face right, and oh, yes, the soles of your paws too. All the cute bits,” Sally said. Titan laughed softly, hugging Sally.

       “All my cute bits,” Titan purred.

      “Well you’re cute from your nose to your tail,” Moses said, walking into the room.

       “thanks,” Titan mewed.

      “I want a cuddle Titan!” Moses yelled, crawling up to the liger and throwing his arms round his neck. Purring, Titan rolled onto his side and hugged the little boy in his huge paws, Moses rolling onto his side and curling up with the liger. Apudo, seeing the soles of Moses small feet exposed to the world, padded up to him, lay down and began rubbing the boy’s heel pads and toes, Moses withdrawing his feet, Apudo chasing them. Titan growled and, excusing himself with a shake of his head, swiped at Apudo with a massive paw, growling:

       “Wait your turn!”

      “But Moses was making me chase his toes!” Apudo yowled.

       “he withdrew his feet, I saw it,” Titan replied, “but he was hugging me, he might not want you rubbing his feet while he hugs me. Okay?” Apudo, mewing disconsolately, padded away to sulk.

       “Thanks Titan,” Moses whispered, “I love Apudo and all, but I didn’t want her to touch my toes, and I couldn’t tell her off, that’s your job.”

      “It’s finished, I can get back to snuggling,” Titan mewed, flopping onto his left side, Moses crawling up to him and curling up beside him, Titan hugging the young boy by draping his right forearm over him, his left paw rubbing the boy’s back, Moses arms around Titan’s neck, his head on the liger’s right shoulder.

        “You are so cuddly Titan, I wish I could cuddle you forever,” Moses said.

       “More plush Titan’s?” Sally asked.

        “I would have thought one of me was enough,” Titan mewed.

        “no, we want more!” Moses said.

        “Miss Chartwell says some of the school are saying the community is now run by a glorified housecat,” Jenny said.

      “Glorified what?” Titan roared.

       “Housecat, moggie, alley cat,” Sally said.

       “I’m nooaoaoaot a moggie!” Titan miaowed.

       “An alley cat then?” Apudo asked.

      “Definitely not that either!” Titan yowled.

       “The fat alley cat caused a spat, now who started that? Oh drat!” Apudo mewed.

      “Shuuuuuut up!” Titan roared.

       “Oh sorry ” Apudo mumbled.

       “As if one poet wasn’t enough, I’ve given birth to another!” Titan growled, “is that what rebirth does to spirits, makes them insufferable poets that are too cute to clout?” the liger asked.

       “Might do,” Apudo mewed.

       “I’m furypuss, oh, I mean furious,  with whomever told the school I’m a housecat!” Titan roared.

       “You do look a little like a housecat Titan,” Magnus said, padding into the room, “you’re not very well striped, you’re big, slightly clumsy pawed, hmm, also fat,” the bear concluded.

      “Fat?  I’m nooaoaoaot fat!” Titan miaowed.

      “Poor striped tiggie, Long tailed Tiggie, miaow  miaow miaow!” Apudo carolled, Titan growling at her, ignoring him, she continued, “fat pawed tiggie, trapped toes tiggie,,, I’m in trouble miaoaoaoow!” Apudo yowled as Titan leapt across the room, pinning her under his paws.

      “stoaoaoaoap this!” the liger roared.

      “I’m sowwy,” Apudo mewed piteously, Titan huffing at her, letting her go.

       “I can’t get angry at her, I just can’t!” Titan mewed, Moses, Sally, Jenny and Magnus laughing helplessly.

      “I’m not a fat pawed tiggie!” Titan yowled, stamping his paws and feet while sounding like a cub.

      “I can see some very fat paws and feet, and they seem to belong to you Titan,” Magnus observed.

       “Oh all right,” Titan mewed, flopping down on the floor, Moses crawling up to him and hugging him. Grabbing Titan’s right paw, Moses counted the liger’s toes while chanting:

      “Fat pawed tiggie, trapped toes tiggie,” ending his count with a touch on the ball of the liger’s paw.”

       “You should grab his toes, you’d get the “mrioaw mrioaw miaow” then,” Sally suggested.

      “Oh nayaoaoaoaow!” Titan mewed piteously.

      “Sally it’s not “mrioaw mrioaw miaow, it’s “miaow miaow miaow!” Apudo corrected her. Giggling helplessly, she continued, “come on Titan, do it! do it! do it!” Banging the floor with her paws, Apudo urged, “Titan, I want to hear you “miaow miaow miaow!””

        “Oh dear,” Titan moaned.

      “come on Titan, with me now, Fat pawed tiggie, trapped toes tiggie,” Moses said, touching Titan’s pads as he had before,

      “Naoaoaoaoao I’m nooaoaoaot doing that!” Titan yowled.

        “Oh please!” Moses pleaded, Titan growling at him:

     “No, what do you think I am?”

       “Now you’re a trapped toes tiggie!” Moses laughed softly, grabbing the toes of the liger’s left paw.”

       “Oh nayaoaoaoaow!” Titan yowled, everyone laughing helplessly at him.

      “If you want to be a liger of the people, as it were, you need to play with the cubs,” Magnus said.

       “Oh all right,” Titan mewed.

     “yeyeyeyeyes! Titan’s going to play the gayayayayme!” Apudo yelled, rolling onto her back, wriggling from side to side, clapping her paws and kicking the air with her feet.

       “Okay, with me now Titan, say this with me, “Fat pawed tiggie, trapped toes tiggie,” Moses said, taking Titan’s right paw in his hands.

     ““Fat pawed tiggie, trapped toes tiggie,” the human and liger chanted, Moses ticking off Titan’s toes with the words, tickling his paw pad with the final “Tiggie,” Titan yowling

     ““miaow miaow miaow!” As Moses and sally tickled his paw pads in time with the rhyme. Apudo, laughing so hard she was nearly sick, gleefully waved her paw at Titan.

       “That’s it, that’s it!” the little lioness gasped, coughing as her breath ran out for laughing, “Titan you’re wonderful!”

       “I’m feeling very silly!” Titan moaned. Apudo padded to the liger, lay down and began rubbing the pads of his right foot, while Sally tended to his left.

      “I thought a new set of paws rubbing these pads would be good,” Apudo mewed. Titan, groaning with pleasure, relaxed completely.

       “now you’re a playful tiggie too,” Moses said, kissing Titan’s nose and the pads of the toes of the paw he’d been playing with.

      “now shall we make Titan trapped toes Tiggie?” Sally asked, holding Titan’s right foot in her hands. Moses, smiling, took the liger’s left paw, Apudo his right and Magnus his left hind.

       “Now Titan, try to get out of that, and make it noisy!” Apudo miaowed.

      “naoaoaoaoaoao! They’ve got my paaaaws and feeyeeet!” the liger yowled, “Roaoaoaoaoaoaaow! wraow! Miaoaoaoaoaoaoaoaaow! Titan screeched, tugging at all four paws, spitting with mock anger and effort, each cry increasingly desperate.

       “awhwhwhwh, yowl, spit, yowl spit, how cuuuute!” Apudo mewed.

      “my paws and feeyeeet are twapped, I mean trapped! My poor toooes! Raoaoaoaoow!” Titan complained loudly, while Apudo and JennyhuggedTitan’s paws, laughing helplessly.

      “the stuck foot game! Titan’s playing the stuck foot game!” Apudo laughed.

       “It’s nooaoaoaot imagination this!” Titan yowled, “my paws and feeyeeet are really stuck, they’re being held onto, and I can’t move my toooes!” He struggled against grasping hands and paws, straining his legs and squirming, “I’m really stuuuuuck!” Titan yowled. Panting, he tried to relax, Sally and Jenny feeling sweating pads.

        “I’ll bet if Titan really tried, he could free his paws and feet,” Apudo mewed.

        “I was really trying!” Titan whimpered.

       “Apudo, if he really put his strength into it, Titan could hurt us all, I’m sure he doesn’t want to do that.”Sally replied.

        “I have seen his strength against a punch bag,” Magnus replied, “um, Apudo, Titan’s scary!” In one fluid movement, Titan suddenly tugged all four paws free of restraining paws and hands, leaping to his feet.

     “there, happy?” he asked with a hint of a growl.

        “Oh dear, what did we do wrong?” Sally asked.

       “Nothing,” Titan snapped, “Apudo!” he roared, “how dare you tell me I can’t play properly!” Apudo miaowed with fright, curling into a ball.

       “Sorry!” she miaowed into her paws.

       “I was being gentle!” Titan roared, “you want to see how my paws can deal with a punch bag?” Apudo looked up at her guide, he was bristling with fury.

        “Naoaoaoaoaoao Titan!” she begged.

       “I need to lie down again,” Titan mewed, lying down. Apudo looked at Titan, taking him in from glossy coat to the sheen on his pads.

        “Hot pads suit you Titan,” Apudo mewed, kissing the pads of his right foot, Titan watching her with gentle eyes.

       “You like my pads?” Titan asked gently.

      “yes, I want pads like yours!” Apudo mewed. Titan curled his toes, Apudo placing the toes of her left paw in the grip of those of Titan’s left foot.

      “I’d love to get paws on with you,” he said, Apudo tugging her paw from Titan’s foot and padding up to his paws. Lying down, she felt his paws embracing her, Apudo mewing softly to Titan, snuggling into the liger’s thick fur and warm embrace.

        “I’m sorry I threw up my cake and complained about your play,” Apudo mewed, “I still have a lot to learn Titan.” Titan kissed the top of her head and her nose, Apudo purring deeply.

       “You’ll learn,” Titan mewed. Apudo kissed her guide’s nose and paws, Titan purring deeply.

        “I would like to see more of the stuck foot game again, and the play births of cubs too.”

       “I think Bianca and Theo are into the latter of those, and the bears and humans are into both,” Titan mewed.

        “I’d love to see how Theo and Bianca pretend to give birth to a stuck cub,” Apudo purred.

       “I know it’s not easy,” Titan mewed.

       “it’s not,” Bianca mewed, padding into the room with  Theo, the white lion and lioness smiling at each other.

       “How long does it take you to give birth to a cub once you know it’s stuck?” Titan asked.

       “About ten minutes once I’ve curled round to lick at the cub’s feet,” Bianca mewed. It’s hard work, you have to make sure the cub’s feet aren’t jammed, breathe the cub out, pushing hard when you need to, panting hard to ease it out. Everything’s inverted, so the head’s the hardest bit.”

       “Just you wait until you have a cub for real, that really hurts,” Titan mewed.

       “I love rubbing Bianca’s paws and feet as she miaows and wriggles, curls her toes and pedals the air with her feet,” Theo mewed.

        “I love wriggling and meowing so Theo rubs my feet and hugs me,” Bianca purred.

       “You have such cute paws and feet, and your face when you screw your eyes shut with effort while you curl your toes and strain your feet against my paws makes me want to hug you so tight,” Theo mewed.

       “Good,” Bianca mewed, kissing his nose.

       “You both be careful not to make cubs too soon,” Sita mewed, padding into the room.

       “We won’t,” Bianca purred. Theo pushed Bianca’s shoulder with his head, the lioness tumbling off her feet and rolling on the floor, Bianca laughing as Theo pounced on her, then rubbed her paws and belly as she lay on her back on the floor.

       “You rogue!” Bianca laughed, batting at Theo’s nose with her paws, then grabbing his head in her paws, kissing his nose, the lion lying across her body.

        “You have really cute paws Bianca,” Moses said, padding to the white lioness’s feet, then kneeling  and drawing circles on her pads with his fingers, Bianca wriggling and  pushing her left foot into the boy’s hands, curling her toes with pleasure.

        “You have lovely black pads!” Moses said, kissing the lioness’s pads, Bianca purring deeply, crossing her hind legs so Moses could get to both her feet more easily. Curling the toes of both feet, Bianca concentrated on Theo rubbing her paws and Moses her feet. Apudo, padding up behind Moses, touched his right heel pad with her paw, Moses sitting back on his heels, trapping her toes between his bum and heel pad.

        “Rub my pads if you like Apudo,” Moses said, Apudo pulling her toes free then rubbing Moses pads, then down his arch and to his slightly curled toes, pressing them with her own, Moses wriggling and drilling his heels into his bum with pleasure.

        “A lioness’s foot in my hands, and a little lioness rubbing my feet with her paws, so lovely!” Moses said, Bianca and Apudo giggling, Apudo kissing the heel pad of Moses left foot.

        “Can I rub Apudo’s feet please?” little Ekaterina asked. Apudo, miaowing, turned and flung herself at little Ekaterina, the young girl kneeling and catching the cub in her arms.

        “Hug meyeee please!” Apudo begged, rubbing her cheek against little Ekaterina’s, the little girl embracing the mewing, licking cub.

         “You’re smaller than me!” Ekaterina said, Apudo purring deeply, rearing on her hind legs  and flinging her paws around little Ekaterina’s neck, pushing with her feet to push herself into the girl’s hug.

        “What about my feeyeeet! Oh,” Moses said, turning and seeing the embrace happening behind him.

       “I wanted to say how sorry I am,” Apudo mewed to little Ekaterina.

       “My toes curled with Titan’s as he miaowed and pushed to give rebirth to you Apudo,” little Ekaterina said. Apudo kissed the girl’s nose and hugged her tighter than ever, pushing hard with her feet, little Ekaterina leaning into the lioness’s embrace.

      “Push Apudo push!” little Ekaterina urged, Apudo miaowing with effort, little Ekaterina sitting back on her heels and wriggling with pleasure as it flowed through her, pulling the cub into her hug as hard as she could.

     “those two are so cute!” Magnus said, padding round the room, watching from all angles.

      “Many toes curled with pleasure here,” he observed, much bunching of pads too. Can’t see faces, as many are buried in shoulders or looking down at pads, so I’ll gather pleasure rating from how tightly toes are curled and pads bunched.” Titan laughed softly as Sita grabbed his paws then kissed his nose, the liger and Felursa hugging each other. Sally looked at Magnus, ran to him, then hugged him, the bear sitting down, Sally calling Jenny over to her, both girls hugging the large fat bear, rubbing his pads, Magnus lying down so they could more easily play with his feet. Apudo, her initial bonding hug with little Ekaterina over, lay down behind her then rubbed her small heel pads and tiny toes, Little Ekaterina lying on her side, watching the cub’s absorption in rubbing the soles of her feet, little Ekaterina curling her toes from time to time as Apudo’s paws found a very pleasurable spot to rub.

       “I like this,” Little Ekaterina said.

      “So do I,” Apudo mewed.

        “how do you pretend to push when not pushing against a real cub Bianca?” Moses asked, rubbing the lioness’s left hind foot in both hands.

       “either concentrate on curling my toes and moan while doing it, or if Theo’s paws are within range of my feet, Brace my feet and paws, or hug Theo while moaning and panting,” Bianca mewed, “I could do it now if you want.”

        “go on then,” Moses said, Bianca growling and panting, then moaning deeply as she pushed her feet against Moses hands, her moan turning into a yowl as she exerted herself.

     “that’s how!” she panted, “and, and once you do it, it’s hard to stop! Oaoaoaoaoh, it’s happening again. Aoaoaoowowowowch! Uuuuuuuumf!” Bianca yowled, bracing her feet harder than ever against Moses hands and  curling her toes, which she’d not done the first time, “aoaoaoaow! Aouwch! Ouwch! Miooaoaoaaoaowch!” Bianca complained lustily as she pushed, breathed and pushed, Moses getting into the spirit, encouraging her:

       “Push Bianca, push that cub out, puuuuuush, breathe and puuuuuush hard, right down into your tail!” Bianca, growling and wriggling, responded with a screeching yowl and, grabbing Theo in her paws, drew her feet up, braced them against Moses hands, and groaning deeply, pushed down hard, her groan turning to a moan then a screaming yowl as she strained hard.

        “That’s it, that’s it!” Theo encouraged, Bianca panting and whimpering, then shrieking as she built up to another huge effort, drawing her feet back, Moses bracing his hands against her pads, Bianca pushing back against his pressure, straightening her legs as she pushed.

       “So that’s how to really push if I want to pretend to have a cub, but I can moan and whimper with the best of them,” Jenny said, getting hands on with Bianca’s strenuous efforts.

       “yes, yes!” Bianca gasped, “it’s really good, feels fantastic!”

        “You two are so silly!” Sita mewed.

      “You never have?” Theo asked.

       “yes, I have,” Sita mewed.

       “I’ve seen her and Blackberry playing, and sometimes, even Blackberry has a go at giving birth to a cub,” Titan purred.

         “Awhwhwhw that’s so cute! “Sally laughed.

        “I know how he feels while doing it,” Titan mewed, “I tried acting out how I’d push a cub into the world while Moses and little Ekaterina held my paws, and then, well, I was pushing a few minutes later for real.”

      “I couldn’t wait!” Apudo miaowed, Titan laughing merrily.

      “I know Apudo dear,” he replied, padding to her then kissing her ear, “you were keen, and so was I,” he whispered, “and,” he continued, “I loved every minute of it Apudo, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.” Apudo, purring deeply, rubbed her head against his whiskers.

         “I have seen and heard Jenny and Sally playing their imaginary birth game, it’s all pressure on the pads, I’ve played it too,” Titan mewed, “but pushing with your feet is good too, if you’re able to grab your feet or have someone hold them while you push back against them. I’ve done one of those, but can’t hold my feet like Sita can, lucky thing you are Sita.”

        “I know,” Sita purred, “but you can curl your toes and pedal the air with all four huge paws, and you do, I’ve been told you do anyway, of course, I’ve never got paws on while you do it.”

       “I’ll do it just for you,” Titan mewed, “curl my toes, pedal the air with my paws and feet, and wriggle a bit too.” Sita looked uncertain.

       “I don’t want to put you to any trouble,” she said.

       “Others can replay the videos of my pedalling paws and feet, zoom into my face and pads, slow motion play the birth of my cub so they can inspect everything. You can’t do this, so I will let you get paws on with my feet and paws,” Titan mewed.

       “I would have loved to be at the rebirth of Apudo,” Sita said, “snowy was re-enacting it, but we could hear your yowls and roaring from the flat, without the camera. We turned it off just to hear your power Titan.”

       “My power born of unimaginable pain and tremendous effort,” Titan mewed.

       “yes,” Sita mewed, padding over to the liger and taking his paw in both of hers, “I heard it all, but I would have loved to get paws on with your rebirth of Apudo.” Titan felt tears pricking his eyes:

       “I would love it if you could have too,” he choked.

        “If we make that plush liger with a cub inside him, then she can,” Sally said.

       “What’s that?” Sita asked.

      “Oh, some silliness the children have come up with,” Titan laughed softly, “they want to make a plush version of me so they can hug me when I’m not around in the flesh.”

        “they made a plush Felursa,” Sita mewed.

       “I know,” Titan replied laughing, “and Blackberry got taken in by it.”

        “yes,” Sita replied.

        “I wonder if they will make a plush version of me,” Titan mewed.

        “I think someone has,” Sally said, “I take it that’s not you lying on your rug in the pride lie up.”

      “Ay?” Titan asked, getting to his feet and staring at the screen, “It’s a huge liger!” he miaowed. Sprinting out of Sally and Jenny’s flat, he raced to the pride lie up and stared at the new liger.

        “it looks like me!” he thought wildly. The plush ligress lay on her side, the pads on the soles of her huge paws and feet visible to Titan, who gently touched them in wonder, the ligress curling her toes at his touch. The leathery pads were warm, but Titan ignored  this for the moment, the ligress frighteningly realistic. Titan explored the ligress from nose to tail with his paws, feeling something inside the liger’s belly when he ran his paws firmly over its abdomen.. As Titan ran his paws firmly over the kicking thing he felt inside the liger, the plush creature seemed to moan in pain. Gasping with shock, Titan pushed his toes deeper into the liger’s belly, the plush creature moaning more deeply, and seeming to pant. Almost crying with terror, Titan leapt backwards.

      “What the hell’s going on?” Titan demanded as the plush liger rolled over onto its chest, put its feet to the floor and got to its feet, turning its head to stare at Titan. Chuffing a friendly greeting, the liger walked over to Titan with slightly jerky strides, as if slightly Arthritic in its joints. Miaowing with fear as he realised the liger was a ligress, Titan watched the ligress come on, and when she was opposite him, and nose to nose, the creature opened her mouth and licked his nose with a rough, wet tongue.

      “nayaoaoaoaow!” Titan screamed.

        “Miaow?” the ligress replied, Titan nearly fainting.

       “Stoaoaoap this!” Titan roared, feeling a paw gently placed on his. Looking down, he saw the plush ligress had placed her huge, very soft padded right paw on his left.

        “This isn’t happening!” Titan moaned, “the bloody thing licked my nose!” the male liger yowled, “oaoaoaoaoh, it’s now staring at me, now it’s chuffing at me! Heyeyeyeyelp!” Titan wailed.

       “she might even begin to go into labour,” Blackberry replied, Titan spinning round on the black bear, “she’s an elaborate computer programme, she can’t do anything but have a cub, so she’s a birthing training aid, but she can do all she needs to, sit down, lie down in various poses, roll onto her back, kick the air, and of course breathe, moan, groan, whimper, roar, mew and yowl, as well as strain to give birth,” the bear continued, while Titan, now completely at a loss, stared alternately at him and the ligress.

         “she even splays her legs to let the cub pass into the world,” Janet said, walking in from the other room, “she’s totally wireless too.”

        “I’m going to be sick!” Titan moaned. The animatronic ligress gripped his paw with her own, mewing urgently, Titan turning to the ligress, rubbing noses with her in an attempt to comfort her. The plush animatronic ligress rubbed her head against Titan’s in response to his comforting kiss to her nose.

       “it’s almost as if, no! that’s madness!” Titan gasped, “it’s almost as if, if, she’s trying to communicate with me!” he roared.

       “she is,” Blackberry replied, “you’re comforting her, and she’s responding.

       “You mean she can see and feel me?” Titan gasped.

       “she has cameras in her eyes and touch sensitive fur and pads yes,” Blackberry replied, “the computer which drives the creature is able to respond to the emotions of others, and the ligress is able to respond to how she is cared for. Titan,  go on, Hug her, see what happens. Titan looked into the animatronic ligress’s face, the creature looking back with a mix of apprehension and trust.

          “I can’t leave you,” he whispered. Suddenly the ligress stepped back. Closing her eyes and opening her mouth wide, screwing up her face in pain and  groaning, she panted hard, squatting and wriggling. Titan stepped forward, no longer caring what the others thought. Mewing to the animatronic ligress, he rubbed noses with her, getting a lick of thanks in return. Growling, the ligress lay down on her side, Titan taking one of her now hot, well-padded, freely sweating paws in his.

       “her pads are warm and sweating, as if, as if she’s alive!” Titan yowled, the tigress suddenly grabbing him and holding onto him with fierce strength, moaning and miaowing in pain as the first pains came. Titan could feel her warm breath, her whole body warm against his. Panting, the Ligress ground her teeth and, with a wail of agony and moan of effort,  wriggled in pain and strained hard, her toes curling with her efforts.

         “It’s all right! I’ll stay!” Titan said to the ligress, who let go of him with a whimper of thanks, before closing her eyes and resting her head on the rugs, moaning piteously  with her labour pain.

        “Walk about,” Titan suggested, the tigress lifting her head to listen to him.

  “Try walking about,” Titan said again, the ligress getting to her feet and walking round the room, Titan following her anxiously. Every now and then, the animatronic ligress would stop, squat and endure a contraction with a moan of pain, curling her toes into the floor, her eyes full of terror  when she wasn’t closing them to concentrate on contractions.

      “Remember she can hear and feel you,” Blackberry said, “Titan, if you want, go to her, touch her paws, rub her pads.” Titan, dry mouthed, watched the ligress turn and look straight at him. In ligrine  She asked him to come to her, and Titan went. Lying down, the ligress closed her eyes, set her teeth and pushed deeply into her tail for the first time, her pads sweating copiously as she exerted herself, the grip of her toes fierce on Titan’s.

       “Can I tell her to push?” Titan asked. For answer the animatronic ligress took a deep breath, caught it  and strained harder than ever, her moan of effort causing Titan’s own toes to curl in sympathy with her.

       “There’s your answer,” Blackberry replied, Titan now comforting the miaowing, sniffling creature by hugging her as tightly as he dared.

       “I know it hurts, but you must push, you must push more,” Titan told the writhing crying ligress, kissing her tear soaked cheek. With a moan of pain, the ligress suddenly curled up and licked at her birth area, Titan gasping as she did this, seeing the wetness of her tongue left on the area while also hearing her panting and whimpering. Lying back down on her side, the ligress strained and pedalled the air with her feet and paws, wriggling and panting as she felt the cub moving down. Titan watched as the ligress struggled to give birth to her cub, the poor creature’s moans and groans of effort making Titan want to cry. When the ligress wriggled, then strained hard, yowling and spitting as the cub’s head emerged, fluid bursting from her, Titan knew he would protect this poor creature, even if in reality she was only a computer. yowling, the ligress curled up into a ball, licking the cub’s face as it emerged. When she lay back down to push, Titan threw his paws round the ligress’s neck and hugged her.

      “that’s it, pant, pant pant, that’s it, now, now, puuuuuush, puuuuuush!” he encouraged, the ligress leaning into him for comfort while straining hard to give birth to the rest of the cub. Screeching, she strained hard into her tail, Titan feeling hot tears against his cheek, her hot padded right paw with its curled toes held in both of his.

      “Miaoaoaoaow! Roaoaoaoaaoowow!” the ligress screeched, Titan watching her feet pedalling the air, her legs straining and splaying as she pushed.

      “Nearly there, one more push, one more!” Titan pleaded, the ligress whimpering with distress and exhaustion,. Then panting, she strained one last time, her yowl of effort making Titan burst into tears. When the ligress curled round as the cub, now released from her, yowled and pedalled its limbs, Titan lost it completely. Moaning, he buried his face in his paws and burst into tears. He looked up as a nose brushed his, Titan seeing the ligress now on her feet, holding her cub by its scruff. Titan saw it was the ligress’s nose that had brushed his. Miaowing, he rolled over, opening his arms wide, the ligress placing her cub in Titan’s embrace, then lying down, chuffing to him all the while. Titan responded in kind, hugging the cub, who snuggled up to him.

        “it’s amazing what computers can do,” Blackberry said.

       “But they’re warm, the ligress and cub, they seem to like me,” Titan gasped.

       “they do,” Blackberry replied, “and that’s genuine too, the computer has recognised you as a friendly presence, and the ligress is showing her trust in you Titan.” Titan, overwhelmed, hugged the animatronic ligress’s cub, the creature snuggling up, purring and chuffing to him, while its mother looked on with what Titan could only describe as gentle eyes, thenTitan felt her paw touch his, the ligress lying down beside him on the floor. overcome, titan wept into her coat. Once his tears dried, he asked:

        “how does she get her power?”

       “Powerful batteries, and her whole body is coated with special stuff that converts light into electricity all the time to help her keep topped up,” Blackberry replied, giggling softly,   “I’ve had her run on one charge for four days once, pushing her batteries to their limit. When she gets low on power, she will yawn, then curl up and sleep. You haven’t seen her switched off yet. Janet?” Janet pressed buttons on a handheld control she carried, and the ligress curled up and went to sleep, as did her cub, after looking at its mother for a minute.

      “the cub took its cue from the ligress!” Titan yowled.

      “yes,” Blackberry replied, Titan squealing with surprise as the ligress woke, roared at him to shut up, then closed her eyes again.

         “oaoaoaoaoh!” Titan yowled.

       “next time, she’ll whack you,” Blackberry laughed softly.

       “I take it you’ve provoked her before?” Titan replied.

       “yes,” Blackberry replied laughing, “she’s lovely. The computer programmes took ages to write, and her development took years. I’ve had two of these made, as I said, a bear, and a big cat,. They’re both able to give birth and their cubs are animatronic too, as you saw the ligress do.”

        “So that’s how you’re so well trained!” Titan mewed.

       “yes,” Blackberry replied, “that’s why I could help Jess have Rosemarie as easily as I could help you if you got into trouble.”

        “oaoaoaoaoh!” Titan yowled, the animatronic ligress waking with a growl, striding over to him and  smacking him with her paw.

      “ouauauauauauw! You bitch, that huuuuurt!” Titan yowled, the two creatures rolling on the floor in a wrestling match, which Titan won.

       “shit she’s strong! she faught meyeee!” Titan miaowed, the ligress pinned under his paws. At the sound of a sleepy mew, Titan looked round, his eyes fixing on the cub, who was rubbing its eyes with its paws in a very tired manner.

       “I’m sorry little one,” Titan mewed, padding over to the newborn animatronic cub, leaning down, kissing the cub’s nose, “I’m big and noisy, and you need your sleep.” The cub crossed its paws and rested its chin on them, closing its eyes.

        “they’re too real,” Titan mewed.

        “I’m sorry,” Blackberry replied. Titan, very shaken, shook himself from nose to tail, stamped his paws and feet and left the lie up. Sniffing back tears, he returned to Sally and Jenny’s flat to find the group he’d left so hurriedly.

        “We saw and heard,” Apudo mewed when he returned and lay down wearily.

       “Blackberry should be shot for that!” Magnus declared.

      “I wouldn’t shoot him, but I’d ban him from using computers,” Titan mewed.

       “that bloody ligress will probably seek you out for company when her loneliness programme is triggered,” Magnus growled.

        “She seemed almost sentient!” Titan moaned.

       “yes, dam Blackberry, dam his computers!” Magnus yelled.

       “What was it like?” Moses asked.

        “too scary to recount,” Titan wailed.

       “Would you like a drink and a hug?” Moses asked.

      “yes, and, and, paw massage, please?” Titan mewed, throwing himself on the rugs. Apudo padded up to him and took his paw, feeling the sweat on his pads.

       “that ligress shook you to your pads didn’t she,” Apudo mewed.

      “Even you give it a gender identity,” Titan thought, the memory of the ligress’s eyes and her struggles to give birth fresh in his memory as he looked at Apudo.

       “that cub, it, it, oh Titan, it was Soaoaoaoao real!” Apudo exclaimed, “I, I,” she swallowed hard, trying not to cry, but Titan knew how she felt.

        “I know Apudo dear,” he replied, “I couldn’t help but be gentle to her and her cub.”

        “What did her pads feel like?” Apudo asked. Titan was about to reply when a paw touched his.

       “Mrioaw?” a voice asked. Titan looked up, Apudo squealing with terror.

       “go away!” Titan snapped in Tigrine, repeating himself in ligrine  and leonine, just in case the ligress didn’t understand him. Suddenly  the ligress raised a placatory paw and padded away.

        “that was, wasn’t it?” Apudo mewed piteously.

       “yes,” Titan mewed, “I think she was seeking me out for comfort, well she can go swing for it!” He raged, banging the floor with his paw, “I’m not going to give sucker to a bloody computer!” he roared.

       “I don’t like it Titan!” Apudo wailed.

       “Blackberry’s bloody training aid has messed with my head!” Titan yowled.

        “she looked desperate!” Apudo mewed.

       “Yes, I know,” Titan mewed, his eyes troubled.

       “You’re not feeling sorry for her are you?” Apudo asked.

       “I, I, I don’t know!” Titan moaned.

         “Give her the same attention you give any community member,” Sita mewed.

      “I will,” Titan sighed, now, Apudo, come here.” Apudo snuggled up to him, Titan grooming her.

         “Can I wash your face and paws?” Titan asked. Apudo laughed:

       “that’s the best bit! Yes, please,” Titan spat on his paws, then washed Apudo’s face, the little lioness purring deeply, pawing at his face while he washed hers.

       “Now let’s wash these paws and feet,” Titan purred, washing Apudo’s paws, then her feet with gentle care, Apudo purring with deep gratitude.

       “I groomed little Ekaterina’s hands and feet while you were away Titan,” Apudo mewed.

       “I noticed you two were talking,” Titan replied.

        “I, well, apologised to her, you remember? I told her how sorry I was with no words, just paws, and, and, it was okay.”

      “I’m glad you two have made peace,” Titan mewed.

       “She sat back on her heels while hugging me, and I didn’t get furious this time,” Apudo mewed.

       “Or furypuss?” Titan asked, Apudo smiling.

      “Not that either,” she replied, “we played and hugged and I tickled her toes and,” she laughed softly, “Ekaterina tickled mine. I loved that bit best of all!”

      “that animatronic tigress’s paws were warm, but not like yours,” Titan mewed, “yours have a pulse, a living pulse of spirit, hers, well, they didn’t, it was all her eyes, her movements, her voice. She had no spirit at all, no inner self. She gave the illusion of feeling things, but really she couldn’t, not in the way we can. Her grab at me was to keep me with her to soothe her physical pain, the tears and heat were just augmentation.” Titan said this last bit with some desperation.

       “You’re not so sure?” Apudo asked.

       “I was so upset, I don’t know what I was feeling!” Titan miaowed, “it  was real, but then again, it wasn’t. it was a shock to find a liger with a cub inside, then, then, well it got stranger by the minute!”

        “You saw yourself giving birth I think,” Apudo mewed.

      “I,” Titan gulped and coughed, “I, I think I might have Apudo,” he replied hoarsely.

        “you’ll be glad to know the cub doesn’t have a mind of his own,” Blackberry said, “we didn’t’ programme that into him.”

      “how dare you come here!” Apudo yowled, “Blackberry, get out! That ligress has already pestered Titan!”

      “She was looking for comfort,” Blackberry replied, “I’ve looked at your ratings on the app Titan, you really soothed that big cat.”

       “I, um,” Titan shook himself then tried again, “I, Blackberry, she, she, it, he, that, the ligress, liger, whatever,” Titan paused, then words burst from him, “Just don’t do that again! It was too close to home!”

       “You mean she touched you deeply,” Apudo mewed.

       “Dam it, she did Apudo!” Titan wailed miserably, “I, I don’t know what to do!” he sniffled.

        “it proves something to me,” Apudo mewed, “you can connect to anyone very quickly. Blackberry’s computer programmes are not simple ones, that was not a simple cat.”

      “No, she wasn’t,” Titan sighed, “and I, I,,,, he hesitated, Apudo finishing it off.

        “You nearly groomed her and welcomed her and her cub into the community?” the little lioness asked. Titan’s emotions welled up, Apudo seeing tears welling in the liger’s eyes, hearing his breath shortening. Miaowing with distress,  Titan leapt to his feet and ran for the door to the relieving  place, Apudo hearing him being violently sick.

         “Poor Titan,” Apudo thought, watching her guide padding back to her on heavy paws. Titan lay down with Apudo, hugging her in paws that were still damp with emotion.

       “so the plush version of you had a bit more life in it Titan,” Sally said.

       “Blackberry’s version did,” Titan grunted.

       “There are two others,” Jenny said.

     “Oh naoaoaoaoaoao!” Titan wailed.

      “They’re just very well made plush with joints, pads and such,” Jenny said, “nothing like Blackberry’s training aid liger. Well, it’s the same model, but without the computer built in.”

       “yes, I modified one,” Blackberry replied, “strengthening the legs, making a birth canal, that sort of thing. I’m quite proud of her really.”

        “she scared the fur off meyeee!” Titan wailed.

        “I’m sorry Titan,” Blackberry replied, looking into the liger’s shattered eyes.

        “I nearly thought she was real,” Titan whimpered, his pads sweating with shame.

       “that’s good,” Blackberry said, regretting the words the minute they were out, for Titan leapt to his feet, roaring at him:

      “nayaoaoaoaow Blackberry it bloody isn’t! you scare the shit out of me, then abuse my emotional state with your contraptions! Stoaoaoaoap it Blackberry, bloody Stoaoaoap this!” Blackberry turned and ran for the door, Titan chasing the black bear from the room, slamming the door behind him.

      “Calls himself a medic, ethics? What would Blackberry know of those?  Bloody nothing!” Titan raged silently. Turning from the door, he padded back to his place.

       “Let’s go home Titan, here is not our place,” Apudo mewed. Titan shook himself, then padded with Apudo to the lift, riding it down to the pride lie up, where so recently he’d met the animatronic big cat. Relief flooded him when he saw his blanket empty. Reflecting on the last few days, Titan realised the last time he’d lain on the blanket for a proper rest was just before he’d given rebirth to Apudo. Sighing, he lay down, pressing his communicator button and asking if someone could bring some of Blackberry’s stew from the kitchen. Snorting with disgust, Goldie obliged Titan.

       “Blackberry might be a technological terror, but he can still cook,” Titan thought as Apudo and he set to eating the thick stew. Apudo lay down beside her guide after finishing her share of the stew.

      “Will that tigress come back tonight?” she yawned.

       “No,” Titan replied, “if Blackberry does that, I’ll break his paws!”

       “But she had her own mind!” Apudo mewed.

       “Complicated programmes I hope,” Titan mewed.

       “You’re still unsure aren’t you,” Apudo replied.

        “Despite my rational mind telling me it was a computer, my other side, well,” Titan replied, sighing.

      “But you said her paws had no spirit,” Apudo said.

       “I know,” Titan mewed, “but, she nearly did, Blackberry’s a bloody pain!” the liger raged aloud.

        “You spoke to the cub too,” Apudo mewed, “it, it, it crossed its paws and settled to sleep, like I would!” she choked on a rush of tears.

       “it’s only a computerised creature,” Titan mewed, but his words sounded hollow to his ears.

       “I half believe they’re real, and, and, I only glimpsed the ligress before you sent her away,” Apudo sniffled.

       “she won’t come back,” Titan mewed, kissing Apudo’s nose and paws, her spirit  soothing his..

 

Meanwhile, in Blackberry’s lie up, the black bear lay on his bed, his face buried in his paws. He knew his training aid had genuinely upset Titan, and that his little introduction to it had gone very wrong. He’d meant to impress the liger, but had terrified and deeply traumatised him.

        “that technology is too realistic for some,” Janet said.

       “I know now,” Blackberry whimpered, “worse is I’ve got off on the wrong paw with our new leader!” he raged, banging the hammock he lay on with his paw.

        “I think if we lie low with the training aid, Titan will forget about it,” Janet replied.

       “I should have told the system not to seek out the one who gave it comfort!” Blackberry whined.

“You think of it as a programme for training medics, it doesn’t look like that to Titan, it looks like a ligress who needs a cuddle, right down to soft warm pads on her feet!” Janet explained.

        “how do I make it up to Titan?  How do I apologise for frightening the whiskers off him?” Blackberry asked, his pads sweating with shame.

       “you didn’t just frighten him, you tricked him into thinking the robot was real, he loved that cat!” Janet replied.

       “the programmes she runs are very complicated,” Blackberry replied, “she’s a very sophisticated and realistic creature.”

      “Have you topped her up with fluids and the cub?” Janet asked. Blackberry nodded.

     “She’s ready to go again,” he replied.

      “Did you remove her memory of Titan as a comforting presence?” Janet asked.

       “I have,” Blackberry replied.

        “I don’t think Titan would deliberately hurt the ligress,” Janet said, “if he knew she was just a computer.”

        “I can’t see that ligress as just a computer,” Titan mewed, padding into the room.

       “Right, we’ll show you,” Blackberry said, getting to his feet. Titan padded with the black bear to the other side of the room where the ligress lay connected to a wire and bathed in strong low energy light.

       “Recharging herself and the cub,” Blackberry explained, the cub recharges when it’s placed in the placenta which she opens up after birth.” Titan touched the ligress’s paws, they were cold to his touch.

       “Her eyes are closed,” Titan said.

      “yes,” Blackberry replied, glancing at a monitor, “she’s topped up with all fluids she needs, and the charging of her and the cub is nearly complete. We can charge her in two hours from flat.”

       “but she looks so real!” Titan mewed.

       “yes,” Blackberry replied softly.

       “what labour is she going to have next?” Titan asked.

        “A breach birth I think,” Blackberry replied, “the sounds she makes are going to be different too, not regular groans at the end like you heard, where she is just pushing the cub along, it’s going to be puffing, grunting, whimpering and licking. It is a very fluid based birth this. She gets up to a lot of licking and is very animated. She may, or may not be able to birth the cub herself.”

        “Does she,,,” Titan began to ask, when Blackberry raised his paw.

      “Wait and see,” he said. Titan watched as Blackberry disconnected the ligress from her power supply, closing the charging port to the ligress and her cub with a bung, then covering it with fur.

       “the cub is now free to be pushed down the birth canal,” Blackberry said, “we use motors and air filled baffles to push the cub down, so, if one has to get their paw inside to help, it feels real when she pushes.”

       “I wish you’d not told me that!” Titan miaowed, remembering the feel of Nuru’s birth on his paws. Janet set up the labour, then they waited for the ligress to react.

 

The ligress, her eyes still closed,  moved her legs, then twitched her ears and tail. sighing deeply she curled and stretched her toes and settled. Titan, seeing this, felt his breath catch and pads dampen with sweat. He knew watching this ligress’s struggle was going to stress him. The ligress suddenly snorted and wriggled, her eyes flying open from sleep. Groaning, she squeezed her eyes shut, panting and mewing with the kicking of her unborn cub, which Titan could see, the first contractions making her moan and pant. Getting to her feet, the ligress padded to her bed and lay down on her chest, her feet  out to her right, Titan able to see her sweating pads, the ligress panting hard as waves of discomfort rolled through her.

        “I want to go to her, to hug her!” Titan mewed to Blackberry.

       “you’re too quick to  get paws on,” Blackberry grunted, “let her work it out. Watch how she deals with it. she knows what to do if she’s in trouble.”

       “she’s in real pain, I can see and hear her pain!” Titan miaowed, his pads sweating.

        “Let her do her natural thing,” Blackberry replied. the ligress’s labour progressed quickly, her voice and paws expressing her pain. Titan, though he kept reminding himself the ligress was animatronic, basically a powerful computer,  he found the ligress’s pain hard to watch. She moaned and wriggled her way through increasing contractions, Titan padding up to her and touching her paws, feeling their heat and sweat. Moaning, the tigress actively pushed for the first time, her toe curling, growling effort ending in a yowl.

       “Push my dear, puuuuuush down,” Titan mewed, rubbing her ears and paws, the ligress looking up at him during a lull in contractions, Titan kissing her nose.

        “Kiss her nose and paws, but don’t help her yet,” Blackberry sighed, realising Titan could not separate fiction from reality.

        “ouououououwach! Roaoaoaoaoawowowowowaoaowoch!” the ligress complained as she pushed, Titan kissing her nose and the sweating pads of her paws.

        “oaoaoaoaaoaow! Ouauauauauauw! Auauauauauauch!” the ligress complained, each wail higher pitch than the last, “Uuuuuuuumf!” she moaned, bearing down into her tail, the ligress rolling onto her right side and curling round to lick her birth area, splaying her legs wide to reach the place with her tongue. Puffing, she wriggled and settled down on her chest once more, her head raised as she looked into Titan’s face with pleading eyes. Miaowing, she lashed out with her tongue in a desperate attempt to kiss his nose, Titan rubbing heads with her, chuffing and miaowing to her, then padding along the side of the bed and rubbing the sole of her right foot with his paws, massaging her toes as she closed her eyes, clenched her teeth and bore down with a wail which made him want to cry.

         “that’s it, push, push!” Titan urged, feeling the ligress’s toes curling with her efforts, watching the contractions tearing through her, the ligress panting, groaning, moaning, wriggling, pedalling her feet and wailing through her labour. The ligress suddenly lay down on her right side, pushing harder than ever, more fluid bursting from her. with a high pitched miaow of pain and distress, she curled round to lick her birth area with her tongue, rasping the birth area that had dried since her last ministrations, the sound of her rasping tongue clear to all. Titan watched anxiously, the ligress lying down to push, then, grunting and growling:

 “Uuuuuuuumf, “Roaaoaowr!” then puffing as  she curled round as Titan saw one hind paw emerging, the ligress staring at it, then curling up tighter, bearing down with a strangled cry as she explored the emerging hind foot with her tongue, the sound of her licking now wet as fluid ran over the cub. puffing, the ligress lay back down and strained, her pained cry:

     “Roaoaoaoaaoowow oaoaoaoaoh,! Uuumf! Roaoaoaoaaoowow!,” Tugging at Titan’s heart. The ligress suddenly panted desperately, curling round and puffing hard as she  frantically attended to the right foot of her breach cub with her tongue,, the only foot that was visible, the cub’s left foot still within her body. Moaning, the ligress tried exploring the rest of her cub with her tongue and lips, finding the cub’s tail and trapped right leg. Whimpering piteously the ligress licked at the cub’s rear end, tugging at the cub’s tail with her teeth as she pushed. Moaning, she reached for the cub with her paws, trying to grab it. Wedging her left paw under the cub’s trapped hind leg, the ligress strained and wriggled, trying to free the cub’s trapped leg. The ligress struggled for five minutes, whimpering and whining while licking her birth area, the cub and her own fur, then straining with a terrible yowl of fear and pain while wriggling, licking and pawing at the cub, splaying her hind legs as she pushed, the sight of her straining belly and feet, and sound of her struggles upsetting Titan.

       “I must help her!” Titan mewed as the ligress lay back, straining hard into her tail for the fourth time with a screeching yowl of fear and pain, alternating her straining efforts with worrying at the trapped cub. Titan stroked her paws and belly, then kissed the pads of her right foot.

      “Can she feel him kissing her pads Blackberry?” a voice asked. Blackberry spun round, seeing Bianca and Theo watching from close range.

      “Yes she can, and what are you two doing here?” he hissed.

       “We heard yowling and labour sounds,” Theo mewed, “Bianca loves the births of cubs.” the ligress moaned as she relaxed after another straining push, Titan easing the cub’s right leg out as she panted between efforts, the ligress curling round and licking at the emerging cub as she pushed again, she and Titan getting eye to eye, the ligress splaying her legs and straining hard down, Titan helping the ligress deliver her cub by holding it in his paws, letting her push the cub out when she wished, holding as much of the cub’s body as he could when she relaxed. Once the cub’s body was delivered, and its head was the last major part of the cub to come out, Titan told the tigress to push and then pant hard. The ligress did as Titan suggested, straining hard, a brief, grunting, powerful shove which brought the cub’s head into the light of day, the ligress following that up by panting and miaowing, splaying her legs and curling her toes as she felt the cub’s head stretching her, growling and whimpering, enduring the pain of her cub’s delivery, crying as the cub slid free, its paws coming with a rush after its head exploded into the open. Titan opened the placenta, then disconnected the chord before he washed the cub’s face and paws. Realising it wasn’t breathing, he licked the cub frantically, rolling it in his paws and pawing at its chest until it coughed  the fluid out of its mouth. miaowing with fear, the ligress grabbed the cub from Titan, finishing the job of getting it breathing, the ligress working until the cub breathed deeply, then deafened everyone with its yowls for attention.

       “It’s alive!” Bianca mewed, as the cub opened its eyes and shook itself, while its mother washed it.

      “that’s a computer?” Theo asked, his breath short and pads sweating.

         “yes,” Blackberry replied, Titan washing the ligress’s feet and birth area, the ligress looking at him with interest, but she didn’t try to stop him.

        “Titan’s washing her!” Theo mewed.

        “he did that for Snowy,” Blackberry replied. the ligress looked at Titan with gentle eyes, chuffing and mewing to him.

       “I don’t care if she’s a computerised ligress!” Titan sniffled, grooming the ligress with fierce intensity.

        “Titan’s lost it, he’s mad!” Blackberry pronounced.

       “He’s giving me ideas,” Theo mewed.

      “after giving birth, I want a wash like that,” Bianca mewed..

       “you’re too young for that!” Blackberry yelled.

       “that’s what we try to enact,” Bianca  mewed.

       “you mean you wash each other, like that?” Blackberry asked.

       “yes,” Theo mewed.

      “has Sita ever wild groomed you Blackberry?  She grooms her cubs the wild way when they’re young you know.” Blackberry stared at him.

       “You’re not serious?” he asked.

      “I am,” Theo mewed.

      “and I do Blackberry,” Sita mewed, padding in carefully, “what was all that Miaowing and screaming?”

      “What did it sound like?” Blackberry asked.

       “A cat giving birth, but we have noone having cubs here!” Sita mewed.

     “” “Muroaoaoaoaow!” the animatronic ligress protested.

      “Who’s that?” Sita asked.

      “A very lifelike training aid, and you’ve just been told off by it,” Blackberry laughed softly.

     “What?” Sita asked.

       “Sita, you don’t know yet,” Titan sniffled.

       “Don’t know what?” Sita asked, “Titan, what the hell’s going on?”

       “me,” the animatronic ligress replied, padding over to Sita and touching noses with her.

     “Ay? What? Who are you?” Sita asked.

       “I don’t have a name, would you like to give me one?” the ligress asked.

      “How can you not have a name?” Sita asked.

       “I don’t understand,” the ligress replied, resting her paw on Sita’s,  “I’m a training aid to help Blackberry with difficult and easy births, and I can have cubs many times a day.”

    “What?” Sita asked, “Blackberry, you’ve subjugated a ligress for your birthing practise?”

      “No! no! no!” Blackberry laughed, “she’s a sophisticated computerised creature.”

       “oaoaoaoaoh!” Sita mewed.

       “My last labour was hard, the cub breach, and the attendant who helped me was very gentle and saved my cub,” the ligress replied.

      “What?” Sita yowled.

       “that is the end of my report,” the ligress said.

       “Can I feel you?” Sita asked.

        “yes, I work well with touch, I like it,” the huge plush animatronic ligress replied. Sita knelt and explored the creature’s head and neck, legs and paws, while the ligress purred contentedly.

     “but You’re warm!” Sita miaowed, “this is too much!” she whimpered, the ligress gently kissing her cheek with her rough, warm, wet tongue.

       “You’re almost real!” Sita mewed.

       “She’s great isn’t she!” Blackberry replied, clapping his paws.

       “We must give you a name,” Sita purred to the animatronic ligress.

       “What name are you going to give me?” the creature asked, sitting down and resting her head against Sita’s shoulder.

        “I haven’t thought of one yet,” Sita mewed, “but you can’t just be nameless.”

       “if we didn’t already have a tigress called Pakshalika, I’d call her by that name,” Blackberry said, “they both seemed to love having cubs at frequent intervals.”

       “Do you think my last labour was easy?” the animatronic ligress asked crossly, “I don’t!” she roared.

      “auauauauauauch, sorry!” Blackberry wailed.

       “maybe she should be given my name,” Sita mused, “for she was the harvest from an experiment too.”

       “but you’re not a computer Sita,” Titan replied.

      “No, but I often get forgotten about and left in a metaphorical corner,” Sita grunted.

      “Ouch,” Titan mewed. Sita took the animatronic ligress’s right paw in her paws, rubbing her pads and massaging her toes, the ligress purring deeply.

       “I like that,” she said, yawning pleasurably.

        “don’t I get a hug too?” the ligress’s cub asked, blundering across the room on unsteady paws, crashing into Sita, collapsing in a shrieking heap.

        “You do,” Sita mewed, rolling onto her side, then embracing the cub tightly in her paws, the creature purring and mewing with pleasure as Sita groomed it.

       “Does the cub have cameras in his eyes?” Theo asked.

      “He does,” Blackberry replied, “but his sight isn’t good at first, he was overconfident a minute ago. His sight gain is slightly accelerated for teaching purposes.”

        “Can I tell you about my labour Sita?” the animatronic ligress asked. Sita, shocked the creature used her name, replied:

      “yes, if you like.”

       “I’m feeling very happy,” the animatronic ligress said, “the one who helped me give birth to my cub is very gentle pawed.”

       “He is,” Sita mewed.

      “he was lovely and gentle, What’s his name?”

       “It’s Titan,” Sita mewed, “and he is very gentle.”

      “he even washed me, which is sweet too,” the ligress replied.

        “I want a wash like that after I have a cub, okay Theo?” Bianca mewed.

      “but of course,” Theo purred.

        “Who is Titan?” the ligress asked, her eyes registering confusion.

       “the liger who has the good paws is named Titan,” Sita mewed, slightly annoyed at the ligress’s incomprehension.

       “She’s only a computer,” Blackberry said.

       “you’d hardly know it,” Titan growled softly.

        “rub my feet Sita, please,” the ligress said. Sita rubbed her paws and feet, the animatronic ligress purring and mewing with deep pleasure, giving vent to a “miaow!” of protest when Sita inadvertently tickled the toes of her right foot.

      “Sorry,” Sita mewed, the ligress pressing her foot into Sita’s paws, Sita rubbing her tightly curled toes and warm pads.

       “Oi mum, I want food!” a small voice yowled, Sita finding herself attacked by a small set of paws.

      “I’m not your mum!” Sita laughed, the cub climbing into her lap and kneading at her fur.

      “No, but you’re stopping meyeee from getting food!” the cub complained, “I don’t want the bottle!”

      “oaoaoaof!” Titan yowled.

        “So this cub recharges itself by drinking its mother’s milk?” Theo asked.

       “Of course silly!” Bianca laughed softly, “well, electricity in the cub’s case.”

      “But it said it didn’t want the bottle!” Titan miaowed.

       “It needs paw contact too,” Sita mewed. Kissing the cub’s nose, Sita guided it to its mother’s milk supply, the cub latching on, seemingly drinking busily.

        “What is the state of mama ligress’s batteries?” Titan asked.

        “still full charge,” Blackberry replied, “she can go four days of giving birth to one cub per day with hard labour, then feeding it before she starts to complain, and, quite frankly, I can’t bear to make her go through another labour, not yet anyway.”

      “I am your training aid Blackberry,” the ligress said, “you can make me do what you want. I have enough room for two cubs inside me if you want me to have them.”

        “I know that!” Blackberry snapped, “but, well, don’t you want rest?”

      “I want cuddles, and if moaning my head off and pushing will get them, I’ll do that,” the ligress replied.

         “Blackberry,” Patch said, “I need to talk to you, and to Janet too.” Blackberry looked at Patch, the grey bear’s expression frightening him.

       “Janet,” Patch said, “you gave this ligress a moral code, the code of this community. Blackberry, you wanted a training aid, but you wanted so much, that Janet had to code ethics and morels into the ligress. Could you now kill the ligress? switch her off? Bin her?  Blackberry?” Blackberry looked scared.

       “No,” Blackberry replied, “oh Patch, what have I done?”

       “Blackberry’s monster,” Theo grunted.

        “Not a monster,” Patch replied, “even Frankenstein’s monster did not start out evil. Blackberry, you have created life with your computer wishes. Janet, a human, had to programme that life with a code to live by, and she chose the code of the community. Now you dared not turn her off. She is yours, to help you deliver cubs, and she is as sentient as you or me.”

       “What about the cubs themselves?” Blackberry asked, “they cannot grow up at all can they?”

       “No, and they will not expect to,” Patch replied, Janet did not code them with a wish to do so. They will remain cubs, and can do the ligress’s will. It is she whom you have given choices, she who has dominion over her cubs.”

      “But what if she takes a liking to one cub and will not rebirth them again and again?” Janet asked.

        “She will do her duty to Blackberry and to her community, as will the bear you have created Janet.”

        “that breach birth was amazing,” Titan mewed.

       “I know,” the ligress replied, “the care I got was fantastic.”

         “how did you teach her what touch was Janet?” Sita asked.

       “Oh, Moses helped there,” Janet said, “I touched his hands and feet, asked him what he liked and what he didn’t. we programmed the ligress together by touching her paws and body. She can feel all over her body, and inside too. That’s why she knows to push her cubs into the world, and when things are going wrong.”

       “You mean?”

      “yes,” the ligress interrupted, “I felt the cub was in trouble.”

      “Oaoaoaoaoah!” Blackberry wailed.

       “My duty is to give birth to the cubs, and my ursine friend, whom I have met, her job is to give birth to the cubs she has inside her.”

         “oaoaoaoaoh, they know each other!” Blackberry screeched.

       “Yes, we do,” a deep voice said. the animatronic ligress settled her cub to sleep, then padded to her ursine friend, who’d padded in from an inner room. Embracing, the two creatures turned to face the assembled group.

       “We are your creatures Blackberry, please do not abandon us to boredom.” They said in unison.

        “Now we really must give them names,” Titan mewed, the ligress going over to him then kissing his nose.

        “though I am assistant to Blackberry,  you are my leader,” she said. Titan looked into her eyes.

        “Welcome,” he said, kissing her nose then rubbing each cheek with his whiskers, the ligress smiling broadly.

      “I was told you’d do that,” she said, “I wanted that so much. You have gentle paws, and I know this so well, as you have touched me deeply.” Titan, his throat closing with emotion, kissed the ligress’s nose, chuffing gently to her.

       “I have a name for you my dear,”” Patch mewed, talking Ligrine   to the ligress.

        “yes?” the animatronic ligress replied.

       “How if I name you Shandy, you have a golden coat like the drink I saw Janet drinking when she taught you to play that first time.”

       “You taught her to play while drunk?” Titan asked, turning to Janet.

        “I had to put away my human inhibitions and play with Shandy, as we will now call her, properly. She is strong enough to be thrown about like a real liger. We made sure of that, but my human brain told me she was fragile.”

      “No she’s not!” Titan miaowed, “I’ve been faught by her, she’s not fragile at all!”

       “I liked that fight,” Shandy replied, “it made me want you to be my leader, not that I would have told you that at the time, I didn’t think you were ready for me to tell you.”

     “aoaoaoaoah!” Titan yowled.

       “how if we name this she bear Shadow?” Shandy suggested.

       “What?” Blackberry asked, “why should we name her anything you suggest?”

       “Blackberry!” Patch snapped.

       “I have been accepted by Titan into the community, and my programming says that when the leader accepts me, I have a right to speak, is this not right?”

       “yes but,” but what?” Titan asked.

     “She’s a computer!” Blackberry wailed.

        “Shandy is more than a computer!” Titan roared.

        “hmm, shadow?” the black bear female asked, “I am sorry I followed you about so often Shandy, but, you are the first, and are as I am, and I needed to learn from you.” Shandy head rubbed with the black bear.

       “Shadow you shall be known as,” Shandy said, kissing the she bear’s nose.

       “I think I will have my cubs soon,” Shadow replied, “I can feel their stirrings.”

       “Mine kicked hard before being born, probably trying to turn right way round, but I was too desperate to push him out,” Shandy mewed.

       “I watched you pushing, you did very well,” shadow replied.

       “I loved giving birth to my cub,” Shandy said forcefully, “it’s what I was made for after all.

       “I will enjoy giving birth to mine,” Shadow replied.

       “but you yowled and were terrified!” Titan pointed out.

       “Yes,” Shandy replied, “but, I knew I could do it, I had warm paws inside me helping me.”

         “oaoaoaoaoh!” Titan replied.

        “You were so gentle to me Titan,” Shandy said, padding over to him then kissing his nose and paws.

       “We can also turn the cub inside you too,” Janet said, “that was in the latest update to your software Shandy, Shadow.”

       “Ah, so they can turn feet or head first, nice,” Shandy replied, “I like a challenging labour.”

        “we built you with a liking for it,” Janet replied.

       “I remember another teaching me how to play, a young creature of your two legged sort,” Shandy mewed.

       “that would be Moses,” Janet replied.

       “Hmm, I could feel and hear, but not speak then,” Shandy mused, “Moses, I would know his touch, I think, though the name means little.”

       “We didn’t use our names while teaching you,” Janet replied.

       “You never forget a touch,” Shandy mewed. Janet called Moses in from another lie up, the young boy padding into Blackberry’s work room, Shandy turning to him.

       “It’s the ligress we worked on mum!” Moses exclaimed.

        “Why not touch her and tell her your name,” Janet suggested.

       “Take her paw?” Moses asked.

       “Yes, like you did when you snuggled with her that last time,” Janet replied. Moses went to Shandy, who lay down and extended her legs, Moses lying down beside her, taking her left paw in both his hands. Her paws were huge, indeed she was a massive creature, fully ten feet long from her nose to her tail tip, with long legs, a massive head, as well as huge paws and feet.

       “this is the touch I remember,” Shandy purred, Moses kissing her nose and the pads of the paw he held, the ligress curling her toes with pleasure.

      “Can you touch my heels and toes?” Moses asked the ligress.

       “I can,” Shandy replied, “now, where would they be, ah yes,” she crawled backwards and held his left foot in her paws.

      “Now, I can groom this foot as I did my cub’s,” Shandy mewed, Moses feeling her tough dry tongue rasping his heel pad and toes, the sensation making him laugh.

       “I love that!” he said.

        “Your tongue is dry, are you out of water Shandy?” Blackberry asked.

       “Hmm, no,” Shandy replied, “I dried out my tongue for this purpose. I know where I can get water if I want. Food is sunlight, so I’m okay for that too.”

       “so she doesn’t need to use the relieving place?” Moses asked.

       “Not really,” Blackberry replied, “both Shandy and Shadow sweat through their paws, and can salivate, but don’t need to urinate or defecate.”

        “so they can lick their birth areas and clean their cubs,” Theo replied.

        “What about the fluids they take in while doing that?” Patch asked, would they not be waste products?”

        “ooaaoah,” Blackberry exclaimed, “I didn’t consider that!”

       “Lucky someone did,” Janet laughed softly.

        “You mean, mean they, they can,” Blackberry asked.

       “yes,” Shandy replied, “my cub can’t, as he’s, well, only fed on electricity, but, well, we mothers, we have to lick our cubs, and the fluids and saliva get collected in another place, and, well, um, ejected. I know that much.”

      “Are you feeling the need to?” Patch asked.

      “I think so,” Shandy replied, “If I squat and push, maybe that will give me relief?”

      “Where’s the pain?” Patch asked. Shandy curled round and nuzzled her lower belly.

        “Yes, get to your feet and try,” Patch suggested. Shandy got to her large paws, settled herself and pushed down strongly.

      “something’s coming!” Shandy whimpered, “I can feel it!” she wailed, “it’s coming, I can’t Stoaoaoap it, must puuuuuush!” she groaned, bearing down with a yowl of terror. Moses, seeing her fear and remembering his own problems that he’d had when younger, put his arms round Shandy’s neck, cuddled her and said:

      “Push and breathe Shandy, push and breathe. Shandy, whimpering, bore down, then panted, weeping into Moses shoulder.

      “Let it come,” Moses said, Shandy miaowing and groaning as she bore down, then, with a squelch, the mass left her.

        “it’s oily and slightly solid,” Blackberry said, examining Shandy’s scat.

       “it would be,” Patch grunted, “her body dried some of it out.”

         “poor Shandy, having to do that in public,” Janet said.

        “NO, it was nice, nice to be cuddled while doing that,” Shandy mewed.

       “I know how frightening it is first time,” Moses replied.

       “Can she wash like we do?” Titan asked.

       “yes,” Blackberry replied, Moses showing Shandy to the relieving place, then to the wash facilities, the ligress washing herself, but clearly wishing Moses would wash her.

        “You feel like a cub don’t you,” Moses said.

       “yes, if a cub is meant to feel unsure and unsteady on their paws,” Shandy replied. Moses hugged the ligress.

       “You should be washing your cub like Titan washed you that first time after your labour,” Moses said, “though your cubs won’t need what you do, as they are not licking fluid like you are.”

      “I understand that,” Shandy mewed, “I would like a drink, please?”

        “I’ll show you the drinking fountain,” Moses replied, showing Shandy the place, the ligress drinking busily.

        “That’s better,” she mewed, shaking her whiskers dry, “now, now, I think I’ll go back to my cub and snuggle with him.” She padded back to her cub, the small creature asleep, curled up on the bed where she’d given birth. Shandy checked the cub over, noticing its paws were warm.

       “What happens when you want to give birth again?” Moses asked.

        “I will have to be put to sleep and have the cub replaced in my womb,” the ligress replied, “I would love to have two cubs next time though, maybe one feet first, the other head first, and, and, Titan? Would you?  please?”

       “Could I help too? And maybe my friend little Ekaterina could help you too?” Moses asked.

       “yes,” Shandy mewed, “and maybe, shadow? Would you help by giving birth tonight too?” shadow laughed softly:

       “I might,” she replied, “but, well, maybe if you have a long labour, mine will start?”

       “The longest I can have is three hours,” Shandy replied.

       “I can labour for twelve,” Shadow replied.

        “I could stretch Shandy’s to twelve too,” Blackberry replied, “you two work on the same programme, “three hours is usual for big cats. That is all.”

       “If I’m having big community cubs though, it could be longer,” Shandy replied, “is my mission not to teach cubs too?  All cubs need to see what I do during my labour.”

        “Yes it is,” Blackberry replied smiling.

       “Well, please, load me with cubs, and then I will give birth,” Shandy mewed, padding to her cub and gently covering its head with her paws, the cub drifting into a deep sleep.

       “Now I will lie down,” Shandy mewed, lying on her back, all four paws in the air, drifting into a deep slumber. Blackberry, connecting Shandy to her power source and checking his screen carefully, opened Shandy’s belly up, opening powerful Velcro fastenings, laying the two cubs inside. The two cubs, now in fluid filled sacks were connected to Shandy through umbilical cords, the fit a snug one. Smiling, he closed up, then filled her fluids to the maximum, saliva, birth fluids, sweat and tears.

    “Shandy will turn the cubs during her first stage labour,” he said.

       “So she’s sleeping now?” Moses asked.

      “She is,” Blackberry replied, “I’ll just seal her fur, there, now turn her onto her side, and, disconnect her power supply, and  wake her up.” He pressed a button on a pendant round his neck and  Shandy woke from her deep sleep, stretching and yawning.

       “am I with cub?” she asked.

      “You are, and you’d better get some food into you,” Blackberry said.

       “Did you not connect me when you were putting the cubs to me?” the ligress asked.

      “I did,” Blackberry replied, “I suppose I forgot for a minute you don’t eat like other creatures.,” he added.

        “My cubs are already kicking,” she said, getting to her feet.

      “They were fully charged when put into you, and are connected to your own power supply too.”

        “Good,” Shandy replied, flexing her legs and bouncing on her toes in a way which Moses found extra cute. Smiling, he dropped to all fours, balancing on the balls of his feet and fingertips, bouncing on his fingers and toes, the ligress watching him, then padding round him to check out the soles of his feet. smiling, she lay down and blew on his raised heel pads and arches, Moses shrieking with delighted laughter. Putting his head down, he stuck his tongue out at the ligress, who reached between his legs with her left paw, touching his nose with her toe pads, Moses giggling at her. Smiling, Shandy withdrew her paw and stood up.

        “I feel a strange friendship towards you little one,” she said, “I don’t know why this is,” she mused.

       “I touched your paws and feet, teaching you touch,” Moses replied, spinning round on fingertips and the balls of his feet, kneeling then hugging the ligress, “I touched your pads after mum, that’s Janet, learnt from me how I liked having my feet touched.”

      “So my liking of foot and paw contact is yours too?” Shandy asked.

       “yes,” Moses replied, “my friends Jenny and Sally helped with shadow’s touch learning.”

        “I do love my hind paws played with,” Shandy said.

       “I do too,” Moses replied, “my younger friend little Ekaterina loves it too. She’s a bit younger than me. Titan knows her.”

       “I get the impression pad contact and playing with toes is very important here,” Shandy mewed.

       “it is,” Moses replied, “I grew up with it, my friend Mishka, a big bear with huge pads, he helped me to learn, I love the play.”

         “I think you blew on my pads like I did yours once,” Shandy said.

         “I did!” Moses replied, “I learnt how to programme your responses, and taught you the feel of tickled pads, curled toes too. I curl my toes often, mum doesn’t so much now, but I remember she used to quite a bit. I taught you that curling your toes with pain or pleasure was all right.”

        “I love play,” the ligress said, nuzzling Moses cheek.

      “I heard they were making animatronic Felursapiens too,” Blackberry mused.

      “ooaaoah nooaoaoaot not another Felix!” Titan wailed theatrically, Bianca and Theo laughing merrily.

        “Another Felix would be lovely!” Karina said, walking into the room.

        “You mean another cub?” Titan asked, “another Felursapien cub?”

        “Yes,” Karina replied, “oh, and yes, they have modified our plush versions to put a small cub inside a slightly larger version of me too. Blackberry, your vision, and Janet, your programming is a hit. It’s general programming, and can be used for any mammalian creature. It’s wonderful!”

      “that would be scary!” Titan miaowed, “have you put your likes and dislikes into the programme Karina?”

      “yes, well why not?” Karina asked. “after all, it’s meant to be an animatronic version of me isn’t it?  it would be silly for me not to input things I like and dislike. Felix also helped programme his animatronic cub self too. And yes, the plush version of me can give birth and can walk and everything. She can even curl her toes and crawl, it’s so sweet!”

         “I’d hate to meet her on a dark night,” Titan moaned, “meeting Shandy was frightening enough.”

        “I can tickle your toes when you’re not here then Karina!” Moses laughed softly.

       “You can Moses,” Karina replied, “and I’ll laugh too, and curl my toes tightly, and it will be lots of fun for you and little Ekaterina.”

       “Hmm, are these creatures warm like me?” Shandy asked.

      “Why don’t you get paws on and find out?” a voice asked. Shandy turned and saw a silver furred Felursapien. Smiling she padded to the animatronic creature and hugged her.

       “You are warm,” Shandy mewed, the animatronic creature kissing her nose.

     “the cub inside me is black coated, I know the real Karina has almost black fur, her cub Felix has grey, they flipped it when they made us.”

      “so Moses and little Ekaterina will have to share you until your cub is born?” Shandy asked.

       “yes,” the animatronic silver Felursapien mewed. of course, I can have cubs as often as I like, that’s my job, as it’s yours Shandy dear.”

       “what have they named you?” Shandy asked.

       “My name is not Karina, I have not got a name yet.”

       “we will have to find names for you and for your unborn cub,” Shandy mewed.”

      “My cub will not have a name, like yours, it is a training aid, as I am, but I get a name because I am the one being cared for in the main. Once my cub is suckling well, then we are left alone, and the training ends.”

      “True,” Shandy replied.

       “So my name is the only real important thing to get sorted, as my cub will not have one, I suppose we can call him Felix, but my name should not be that of the real Felursapien,” the animatronic Felursapien replied.

       “Philomena?” shadow suggested.

      “Nice name that!” the silver coated Felursapien replied, It means friend of strength, according to my sources.”

        “She’s connected to the internet, as am I,” Shandy explained, when she saw incomprehension on Titan’s face.

       “Oh, right,” the liger replied. Philomena lifted her left foot from the floor, balancing on her right, reaching behind her, she scratched the heel pad of her left foot with her fingers, flexing her toes with pleasure as she attended to the margin of her heel pad where it joined her arch, Shandy watching in admiration.

        “that’s a neat trick,” the Ligress said. Philomena sat down, Shandy gazing at her with increasing admiration.

        “did you programme Shandy with a fascination about Felursapiens?” Titan asked.

       “yes, we did, sort of,” Janet replied.

      “Oh dear,” Titan mewed, “that ligress is more like me than I first thought.” Everyone laughed heartily at Titan’s words, Shadow padding over to him and hugging him.

       “Philomena,” Shadow said, “why not come here and meet our leader.” The animatronic Felursapien judged the distance between herself and Titan, seeing it wasn’t worth getting to her feet, she crawled to him, then, bowing her head turned rear on, giving him her left foot, Titan kissing her toes.”

      “wow! Not even the newest cub does that!” Blackberry exclaimed.

        “she’s presenting me with her foot, letting me stop her running away,” Titan mewed, “it’s a way of showing absolute trust and humility. It is rarely shown to that level here.” Titan rubbed the toes of Philomena’s left foot with his left paw, the Felursapien pushing hard back into his touch, Titan letting his paw slide from her toes, over the ball of her foot to her arch and up to her heel pad, where he drummed with his toes, then gripped the back of her heel with them, Philomena laughing and sitting back on her heels, pinning the toes of Titan’s left paw between her buttocks and her heel, Titan returning the complement by pinning the toes of her right foot under his right paw, Philomena squirming and drilling her heels into her backside with delight,.

        “that’s very cute,” Titan mewed, kissing the arch of her right foot.

       “I like that,” Philomena said unnecessarily, Titan rubbing the thick pad of her left heel, the Felursapien purring deeply. Titan saw the soles of Philomena’s naked humanoid feet  had thick heel, ball and toe pads, her arches short, showing she was a young creature.

        “now we’re both trapped by the toes,” Titan laughed softly, blowing on the heel pad of Philomena’s right foot, the young Felursapien laughing helplessly, bouncing her backside on her heels, Titan gripping the pad of her left heel tightly with the toes of his own left paw.

       “I like the grip of your toes on my heel and the touch of your toes on my toes,” Philomena laughed softly. suddenly she tore her feet free, turned and hugged Titan, the liger purring deeply.

       “I’m real,” she mewed, “I’m not plush, I’m not electronic. I’m Blackberry and Freckles cub. they, um, mated some time ago, I’m very young, you know that from my feet. there is an animatronic version of me, but I’m as real as mama Karina. I can’t have Felursapien cubs on demand. Titan nodded:

       “I know this,” he purred, “you have spirit, Shandy and Shadow do not.”

      “so you guessed,” Blackberry harrumphed.

       “I have Blackberry,” Titan mewed, “You and Freckles kept that quiet.”

       “I was in the wilderness when it happened,” Blackberry replied, “it was before Freckles met Kuma. Freckles and I, well, mated, and the cub was born some time later. Freckles gave birth in secret, and Philomena stayed with Mishka for the early part of her life. We both needed it, she and I.”

         “Now there are two young Felursapiens,” Karina mewed.

       “there is a plush animatronic version  of my sister Karina,” Philomena replied, “and what I said about plush animatronic Felix is correct. But I’m real.”

         “how do I truly know this?” Titan asked. Blackberry showed him x-rays of Philomena’s body, and then of her animatronic counterpart. Titan immediately saw the difference,. The metal instead of bone, the mechanical joints. Blackberry ran a metal detector up and down Shandy’s legs, then up and down Philomena’s, the detector squealing when it touched Shandy, silent when it touched Philomena. He then padded to the room where Shandy lay when recharging, presenting Titan with the animatronic likeness of Karina, booting the creature up and letting him touch her, the liger realising his guess was not flawed.

       “So you dipped your wick with Freckles and Philomena was the result Blackberry,” Karina mewed.

      “yes,” Blackberry replied.

        “I was in the wilderness, like my sire,” Philomena replied, “now though, now I’m here.” Blackberry put away Karina’s animatronic likeness and looked at his two daughter cubs.

        “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you about your half-sister until now Karina. If you’d asked, I would have told you, but noone did.”

          “She’s lovely,” Karina mewed, focusing on Philomena as Titan had, loving her for herself, not caring how she came into the world, ignoring Blackberry’s conduct, putting it down to a mental breakdown after his misuse of technology, Blackberry reverting to a basic need for instinctual pleasures, rather than holding himself up to a level of his usual careful consideration.

      “Basically Blackberry, Freckles offered, and you accepted,” Karina said.

      “Um, yeah,” Blackberry replied, his face burning with shame, “but I never abandoned Philomena! She was brought up by me and Freckles. she needed a home and I didn’t have one in the woods, so I slept under trees or in trees, and she slept in Mishka’s treehouse.”

         “I see,” Karina mewed.

       “who taught Philomena what she knows about play?” Karina asked.

      “Um, ah, that was me,” Sita mewed.

      “You knew what Blackberry had done?” Karina asked.

        “Of course,” Sita replied, “I knew I was teaching my then ex mate’s cub. Karina, I can’t deny her life or teaching because of who her sire is now can I?”

       “NO,” Karina mewed, “but Sita, didn’t you get angry at Blackberry?”

       “No,” Sita mewed, “Freckles got great care from him while she was in labour, and he did all he could and should have done for Philomena. Mishka and I taught Philomena how to play. Now she’s a lovely cub.”

      “Quarter grown, but yes, lovely indeed,” Titan mewed, kissing Philomena’s nose.

        “When will Shandy have her cubs?” Moses asked.

         “I’ll have them when I’m ready!” Shandy replied, “Don’t worry, you’ll get plenty of warning.”

       “Can I play with you Philomena?” Felix asked, running into the room on all fours. Philomena looked at him, then ran to him and hugged him tightly.

       “Feyeeelix!” she squealed, kissing his nose, Felix laughing delightedly.

        “I had a feeling you were something to do with Blackberry, but dared not ask you,” Felix mewed.

       “Let’s dance Felix!,” Philomena exclaimed. Felix and Philomena stood on their feet, holding each other’s hands, the two cubs dancing in circles, Karina laughing fit to bust.

      “I forgive Blackberry anything he did because of this sight,” she said.

         “I might too, if I could see it,” Sita mewed.

       “come and get paws on, touch our hands and feet,” Philomena said. Sita got paws on, Felix and Philomena turning on her and mobbing her, kissing her nose and paws, hugging her tightly.

       “if you were big enough, we could both sit on you Sita.,” Felix said.

      “Kneel Felix, kneel down so Sita can touch our hands and feet, we’re quite close in age.” Felix felt Sita exploring his hands and feet, then Philomena felt the cat bear’s touch, curling her toes with pleasure, Sita  finding thick pads and short arches on both Felix’s and Philomena’s feet.

       “I’ll bet Freckles was surprised when she gave birth to you Philomena,” Sita mewed.

   “She got paws on with the whole process,” Philomena said, “I have the video Blackberry made of it. He filmed it on his headcam, which he took into the woods with him. Freckles is very expressive and touches me on my way out from my head to my tail tip. She has to pull my tail out, like Karina did Felix’s. she moans and pushes, doing all the work herself, as she wanted.”

        “ooaaoah, I must see this!” Felix said.

       “You can,” Philomena replied, “Freckles has let it be uploaded to the servers. She screams and yowls a lot. You see a lot of her feet and paws, and of course, a lot of me too. I’m glad I came out head first.”

      “So am I,” Freckles said, walking into the room, padding up to her daughter and hugging her.

       “Hi mum,” Philomena said, kissing Freckles nose and paws, the cat bear smiling broadly.

      “Do you run your paws all over Philomena and remember pushing out each bit Freckles?” Sita asked.

      “I do,” Freckles replied, “she was a hard cub to give birth to, but I remember every minute of her birth. I eased her out, exploring her head, her arms, hands and body, legs, feet and tail.

      “You took a long time,” Philomena said, “I remember it, because you cleaned my face so I could breathe. I felt your paws exploring me mum, I felt you pushing, I heard your effort. Tell them what I did when you pushed out my tail.”

       “Philomena drew up her feet, dug in her heels and pushed back with her feet as I pushed forward to deliver her tail,” Freckles replied.

      “ooaoaoaoaoh, I wish I could have done that for mum!” Felix replied.

       “I would have liked to roll onto my chest, put my feet to floor and push, but digging in my heels was all I could manage, but I lifted my bum and pushed, and my tail came free, in the end,” Philomena said.

       “You did,” Freckles replied, “at the end of it, you rolled over onto your chest, and I rolled over, and we braced our toes and you pulled while I dug my toes in and crawled away, pushing  into my tail as I went.

       “I was probably too frightened to realise what I was doing,” Philomena replied. Freckles padded to a console and played the video of her labour.

 

On the screen Freckles sat under a tree, rocking back and forth on her backside, squeezing the sole of her left foot in desperate paws as she curled her toes in response to her mounting contractions. Grunting and whimpering, Freckles endured a fast first stage of labour, the second stage of labour crashing in on her. Crawling round and round the tree she sat beneath, Freckles wailed and moaned through her pains, sometimes stopping to sit back on her heels and drill them into her backside while  moaning and screaming into her paws in her  struggle to cope. Then it was back to crawling, her large feet eloquent of her contractions with curled toes and sweating pads, Freckles panting and moaning with pain. Suddenly Freckles yowled, rolled over and lay on her back, grabbing her feet with her paws. Growling, she gripped her soles fiercely in both paws, her toes curling as tightly as they could. Squealing:

     “auauauauauauch! Yoaoaoaoaowoch!” Freckles dropped her paws back to her thighs and kicked, then pedalled the air with both feet, left right, left, right, faster and faster, then slower as her contractions grew and eased. Freckles did this for about twenty minutes, pedalling up to a contraction, then drawing her feet to her and holding on tightly to her thighs while she strained hard through the peak, then pedalling down from the contraction, all the while the contractions coming more frequently and for a longer duration, until Freckles ended each contraction with angry cubbish kicking and whimpering while she rested. Suddenly, with a moaning yowl of pain,  Freckles sat up, and, leaning against the tree, curled herself into a ball and licked her birth area, reaching down between her splayed legs with her paws. Groaning, then screeching, Freckles pushed her cub’s head into the world, panting and yowling with the sensation of stretching she felt. Then, still paws on, Freckles squealed as she felt the cub’s head burst from her with a squirt of fluid. Screaming:

      “uauauauauauwch!” uauauauauauauauw! Ouauauauauauw!” she pushed the cub’s body into the world, push after straining, sweating push, Freckle’s teeth clenching and toes curling with her efforts. Drawing up her legs and splaying them, she dug her heels into the forest floor, anchoring her feet. yowling, she lifted the cub in her paws as she pushed, putting it down as she relaxed, exploring its body with her paws in the lulls between contractions, finding the cub’s hips and legs still inside, its head, upper body and arms outside. Freckles licked her paws and washed the cub’s face, then, when she’d got it breathing, she pushed against the cub’s hips, her paws touching the cub’s body as it squeezed and squelched from her own. Grunting with effort, she pushed the cub’s hips into the world with a tremendous effort, the cub exploding forth, Freckles panting and whimpering with effort as the cub shot forth. Freckles moaned as the cub’s large feet jammed, but she panted, feeling everything relax. Softly, gently, Freckles eased each of the cub’s naked humanoid feet from her body with the aid of her own paws and gentle pushes, feeling the passage of the cub’s feet one by one into the world, groaning and moaning the heels, then arches, and toes of her cub’s right foot out into the world, while the cub sat on the ground, watching her mother’s efforts with fascination.

       “I’ll help you mum,” it said, Freckles letting it gently pull its own left foot out into the world, freckles helping by pushing, the she bear having freed her cub’s right with her own paws. Now free except for her tail, Freckles cub drew up its legs and, digging in its heels,  pushed back to try and free its long prehensile tail, Freckles groaning, moaning and wriggling as she struggled to push to help the cub’s efforts. Bracing their heels, mother and cub struggled to free the cub’s tail, Freckles reaching back and holding onto the tree for support, while the cub pulled hard at her tail as Freckles pushed hard with her contractions. When this failed, in a coordinated effort, the two creatures rolled onto their paws and knees, and, jamming their toes and fingers into the track, crawled away from each other, Freckles pushing hard down into her bottom as she crawled. With a lot of collective wriggling and jamming of toes into the forest floor and pushing, a final screaming yell of effort from both mama and cub, the cub’s tail freed itself,  The cub’s efforts making her roll head over heels, breaking the umbilical cord. Freckles crawled back to the sound of her cub’s panting and gasping, touching her cub, then washing it thoroughly.

 

That’s my birth,” Philomena said, “it is amazing isn’t it. mum did wonderfully!”

      “So did you my dear,” Freckles replied, “it was a real team effort.” Philomena crawled to Freckles, hugged her then kissed her nose.

       “I’m tired!” Shandy yawned.

       “How do we charge her up?” Philomena asked.

        “Shandy has a charging cord with which she can be charged that connects to her hip with a magnet,” Blackberry replied, “he thought for a minute, “but there is another way we devised, an easier way of charging Shandy.”

        “What’s that?” Shandy asked, yawning expansively.

        “A blanket that is like a sunbed,” Blackberry explained. “the black stripes on your body fir are covered in solar particles that can create electricity. Wrap you in that blanket, tuck in your paws, which also have the solar powered particles on their pads, and you recharge. You can do this yourself.” Blackberry showed Shandy the blanket, the ligress wrapping herself in it. sighing contentedly, she tucked in her paws. Pushing a switch with her left paw just before she tucked it well into a mitten in the blankets, having already buried her feet in the warm blanket. Blackberry looked at the bundle  of blanket, straightening it out, so it was more comfortable for Shandy, and charged her batteries more successfully. Shandy’s weight started the charging process, the blanket warming her as well as charging her batteries.

        “I feel better now,” Shandy said, “maybe my cubs were drawing extra from my supply a bit.” Snuggling, she rested her chin on the topmost of her crossed paws.

       “As long as Shandy is wrapped in the rugs, or her paws are in the mittens, she charges up,” Blackberry said, rubbing Shandy’s ears.

      “Oi Blackberry,” shadow snapped, “do I get an ear rub too?” the animatronic she black bear padded over to Blackberry and touched noses with him.

       “Sorry,” Blackberry replied, hugging her.

       “Shandy’s asleep,” Philomena observed. Felix hugged Philomena.

      “Come back to our lie up Philomena,” he said, “my mum and I live in the same lie up as Titan, as mum’s leader too. Sita isn’t leader, so she lives in another flat.” Philomena smiled at Felix.

       “I’ll come to your lie up if you like,” she said. Felix and Philomena  went to the monorail and Felix punched a code into the panel. The monorail arrived, and Philomena stared round her as Felix led her into Blackberry’s Ambulance. Smiling, Felix told the car to go out into the woods with full sirens and lights, the car racing away, everything flashing and blaring. Back in the lie up, Blackberry heard the monorail car’s wailing departure. Swearing extravagantly, Blackberry watched Felix and Philomena riding his ambulance into the woodlands, Felix driving the vehicle.

      “They stole my wheels!” Blackberry screeched, Karina laughing helplessly despite herself. Blackberry watched on a screen as Felix drove the ambulance round the woodlands, then back into the house and onto the monorail track, the car racing back to Blackberry’s work room, Blackberry ready to meet the errant cubs who’d taken his ambulance for a spin. Bursting into the ambulance, Blackberry threw himself on top of Felix, pinning the cub to the floor.

    “You are a bad cub!” Blackberry roared, Philomena giggling into her hands as Felix squirmed under Blackberry’s paws.

       “You nearly crashed my car!” Blackberry screeched.

       “I didn’t though did I,” Felix wailed.

        “Felix did really well Blackberry!” Philomena said, Blackberry scowling at her.

       “I won’t steal your car again, I won’t!” Felix yelled.

      “You won’t get the chance!” Blackberry roared, Felix squirming from beneath his grandsire’s paws and running away.

        “Bloody cubs!” Blackberry roared.

        “Let’s go to your lie up now Felix,” Philomena  said, tugging at Felix’s hand. Felix led the way to the family lie up, showing  Philomena the lift, showing her how to use it. Philomena, trusting Felix, followed him, the two cubs sitting on the beanbag sofa. Blackberry watched the two cubs leave him, tracking them on the cctv cameras.

       “They’re too clever!” he growled.

       “You’re not?” Shandy mewed, shaking herself.

       “All right, I am,” Blackberry replied, “but the cubs are the limit. Stealing my wheels!”

        “they stole more than the wheels, they stole the whole thing,” Karina mewed.

       “Oh yes I know that!” Felix can drive my ambulance too, the little shit!” Blackberry fumed.

       “he’s all right, and you’d not see a hair on his head damaged,” Karina mewed.

      “True,” Blackberry replied more calmly, smiling broadly.

        “Felix and Philomena look well together don’t they,” Karina mused.

       “They do,” Blackberry replied, watching the two cubs drinking fruit juice from plastic cups they’d found in the fridge.

         “I love Philomena already, and I’ve hardly met her,” Karina mewed.

        “she’s your half-sister,” Blackberry replied.

        “I know,” Karina mewed, “and watching her birth and all, that was amazing!”

       “it was,” Freckles said, “I remember it all internally and by the paw too. I felt everything Karina, and Blackberry calmed me enough to make it possible.”

       “have you got paws on with Philomena since?” Karina asked.

       “I have, she’s lovely,” freckles replied.

 

Titan shook himself and padded after the two Felursapien cubs to his lie up, where he lay down by the blazing fire.

        “Titan looks like the house moggie, don’t you think Philomena?” Felix asked.

        “I wouldn’t call him moggie,” Philomena cautioned, “he is our leader you know.”

       “I know, but did you hear what happened at the ceremony?  What Nuru did?”

      “Or what you did which set him off!” Titan growled.

       “I heard, it was funny!” Philomena replied, “but all the same Felix, Titan is leader, and should not be called Moggie, even if he is rather crossbred. We are too for the matter of that. Do you think your rather human hands and feet are purebred?  I don’t. Our tails too, they are not those of cats. So us calling Titan “moggie,” is rather rude. At least he’s all cat. We’re, well, not entirely feline, or ursine, or entirely human.”

       “True,” Felix mewed, “but Titan does do a great line in scared cat photos and video if you frighten him.”

      “that’s horrid and you know it!” Philomena snapped.

       “I agree,” Titan mewed, washing his paws by the warmth of the fire.

        “You are a magnificent moggie Titan,” Felix said, crawling up to the huge liger, Titan getting to his feet, turning round, then pouncing on Felix.

        “am I?” he purred, pinning Felix under his paws, the Felursapien screaming for mercy.

       “Please Titan nayaoaoaoaow!” Felix pleaded, Titan kissing his nose, lying down and hugging him.

       “Despite your silliness Felix, you are good,” Titan purred, grooming him thoroughly, blowing on his hands and feet, Felix shrieking with laughter and curling his fingers and toes.

        “I would like some of that,” Philomena said, crawling over to where Titan lay on the rugs, the liger looking up at her.

       “Patch lives here,” he said, bang on his door, he’d love to hug you I’m sure.” Philomena crawled to Patch’s room. Pressing the bell, she waited, the huge grey bear crawling up silently behind her,

placing his paws on the soles of her feet, Philomena  squealing with surprise.

      “Hello,” Patch said, leaning over then kissing the top of her head.

     “oaoaoaoaoh Patch!” Philomena yelled, tugging her feet from under his paws, turning and hugging him.

       “Hello dear one,” Patch said, kissing her nose, Philomena purring deeply.

       “I wanted, wanted, could I?  please?  Would you?” she asked, Patch laughing:

        “You want a hug?”

        “yes,” Philomena mewed, Patch opening his door and letting her in, he crawling in after her, tickling her toes with his breath, the Felursapien laughing helplessly.

        “hug here?” Patch asked.

      “No, sit on the mattress, on the quilt, or better pull the quilt off and wrap it round us, my hands and feet are freezing!” Philomena  replied. Patch smiled, pulling the warm blanket off his bed, the blanket warmed by electricity. Sitting on the bed, he watched as Philomena sat beside him.

      “Now what?” Patch asked, the blanket held in his strong arms.

       “Now wrap me up in that, and yourself too, so we sit on it,” she replied, “then I want you to tuck my feet in so we’re all snuggled, like a tent.” Patch smiled:

       “You don’t want much,” he replied.

       “Isn’t there enough blanket?” Philomena asked. Patch spread the blanket out, and they both sat somewhere near the middle. Patch then drew his feet up, Philomena doing the same, Pulling the forward edge of the blanket with her, up and over her feet, Patch doing the same with his end. Tucking it under their legs Patch then reached back and grabbed the edge of the blanket that was behind him. Pulling it up so it covered his back and over his head, Philomena helping by tugging at her end, until they were completely covered by the blanket, Philomena tucking her end round her legs and over her toes.

      “This is no good!” she miaowed, “there is still a draught!” Patch looked at her.

       “there is something,” he said, “but it will mean you wearing clothes like a human does.” Philomena smiled:

      “What?” she asked. Patch faught his way free of the blanket and, tucking it round Philomena as if she were a very young cub, padded to a wardrobe. Opening it, he leant in. suddenly a brown thing leapt out at him with a yowling roar of triumph. Yelling and swearing with fright, Patch fell backwards onto the bed, Philomena laughing helplessly at his antics.

       “What on earth?” Patch asked, as Apudo, giggling helplessly, her eyes shining with cubbish enjoyment, scrambled into Philomena’s lap.

      “Apudo!” Patch shouted, “you, um, don’t ever do that again!”

      It was brilliant!” Apudo replied smiling, “I hid in the wardrobe when you went out Patch, I heard you come in, I waited, it was brilliant!”

       “It was terrifying!” Patch moaned.

        “It was brilliant!” Philomena laughed softly, hugging Apudo tightly to her.

        “cubs!” Patch groaned.

        “When would you have come out?” Philomena asked, “you could have been in there for ages if Patch hadn’t come back, or if he’d not gone to the wardrobe Apudo,” Philomena said.

         “I would have left the room when he was asleep,” Apudo mewed.

       “You’ll be the death of me Apudo!” Patch remonstrated, the lioness giggling helplessly.

        “What’s going on in here?” Titan asked, padding into the room, Philomena looking first at his face, then down at the liger’s huge paws.

         “Apudo’s causing trouble,” Philomena said, “but it’s really funny!” she added, defending the lion cub, “she leapt out from the wardrobe at Patch.”

       “that’s nasty Apudo!” Titan growled.

        “I was Soaoaoaoao bored,” Apudo mewed, “you’d gone to see Shandy, and I was bored, Soaoaoaoao bored bored bored!” she miaowed, banging the blankets with her paws.

         “Yes, you were bored, so you set an ambush like that?” Titan asked.

       “yes, it was so good!” Apudo mewed, “at first I was going to leap out at Patch when he came in, but Philomena came in first, and I didn’t want to scare her, so, well, I waited, hoping that the drift of the conversation, which was all about Philomena being cold, came round to Patch getting something from the wardrobe. It did come round, and Patch, he opened the door, and I sprung at him!” she laughed helplessly, “he swore  Titan! Patch said,”

      “yes yes I know, I heard what he said  and you’re not going to say it!” Titan snapped. Apudo mouthed the word Patch had used, Titan seeing her.

     “stawoaoawp that Apudoaoaoaoao!” the liger yowled.

    “stawoaoawp that Apudoaoaoaoao, stawoaoawp that Apudoaoaoaoao, stawoaoawp that Apudoaoaoaoao!” Philomena mimicked, Apudo nearly sick with laughter, Patch trying not to laugh by snorting into his paws.

      “That’s enough!” Titan roared, brandishing his paw at Philomena, who kissed his pads, disarming him.

      “If you’re not going to use your paw, don’t wave it at me,” Philomena said, Titan miaowing piteously  and placing his paw back on the floor.

      “Are you all right Patch?” he asked, Patch smiling at him.

       “I’m fine,” the grey bear replied, “I think it’s you who is discomforted now.” Titan lay down on Patch’s bed resting his paws flat on the blanket, his legs out to his right, his soft padded feet pushing into Patch’s and Philomena’s backs., the huge liger relaxed, taking up most of the space on the bed, Apudo leaping for safety, while Patch and Philomena protested by tumbling theatrically off onto the floor.

       “Oh dear, sorry,” Titan mewed. Apudo scrambled up and sat on Titan’s back, while Patch perched on the side of the bed by the liger’s head, while Philomena tickled the exposed pads of Titan’s left foot, while holding his right, of which she could get a good grip. working her fingers delicately against the warm pads of Titan’s left foot, Philomena watched Titan’s face, the liger closing his eyes with pleasure and concentration, squirming and miaowing, realising he was trapped.

      “We’ve got you now,” Apudo said into his left ear, lying along his back, her paws playing with the liger’s left ear, massaging it and then scratching the root, Titan’s purr of pleasure vibrating her whole body.

       “Gently scratch the inside of his ear,” Patch suggested, “not too deep though, I think you know where.” Apudo did, Titan’s moaning mew of pleasure making her giggle. Turning his left paw in so Patch could more easily rub his pads and gripping the blanket in the curled toes of his right, Titan pushed against Philomena’s scratching fingers with his left foot, gripping the blanket as best he could with the toes of his right foot, leaning his head to his left, trying to maximise the pleasure he got from three sides, the liger scared his right foot would not be able to sustain the pressure of anchoring his body.

       “Miaoaoaoaoaow, roaoaoaoaoaoaaow! Miaoaoaoaoaow!” Titan mewed, curling the toes of all four paws with exquisite pleasure, Patch and Philomena giggling delightedly.

        “he’s a big soft moggie! Titan’s a moggie! Titan’s a moggie!” Felix chanted from the doorway, clapping his hands in time with his chanting.

      “shut it Felix!” Philomena said, “Titan’s trying to concentrate, and he can’t with your noise.”

      “Oh sorry dear Philomena,” Felix replied. Patch rubbed and scratched the huge pads of Titan’s left paw, while Philomena worked on his left foot, Titan growling and puffing with pleasure, wriggling and squirming when pleasure peaked, relaxing as it ebbed.

        “don’t overwhelm Titan, press and rub, stroke and pause,” Patch suggested. Philomena rubbed Titan’s left foot with gentle care, watching his right, the liger’s toes gripping and relaxing as he was ministered to.

       “Titan has beautiful paws and feet Patch,” Philomena said, “they’re lovely without claws.” Patch smiled:

        “I don’t think Titan knows what to do with his claws,” he said.

       “I don’t know if he knows what to do with his paws either,” Felix mewed.

      “I think he wants to give us his paws forever,” Apudo mewed, sliding off Titan’s back onto the floor, then scrambling up onto the bed, tugging at the gripping toes of Titan’s right paw in an attempt to get to his pads. Titan let go of the bed with his right paw, turning it inwards, Apudo rubbing his pads with gentle care.

       “I’m now a pampered puss,” Titan mewed, Patch kissing his nose.

       “You have everything a huge snugglypuss should have, big fat legs, huge paws and feet, and a massive body, all good for holding onto, oh yes, and then there’s this massive head and long tail, beautiful too,” Philomena said.

     “the tail is great for playing with, as are his toes,” Apudo mewed, blowing on Titan’s right paw, Titan miaowing and licking the tickled pads, Apudo giggling:

      “that’s cuuuute!”

       “You tickled my toooes!” Titan yowled, Apudo rubbing her small head against his huge one.

       “You’re so cuddly Titan,” Apudo mewed, Titan purring deeply.

       “I wonder when Shandy will have her cubs,” Titan mewed, “I know how she feels when having them, it’s a painful but amazing time.”

       “Maybe I’ll give birth on that bed,” Shandy mewed, padding into the room. Stopping by the bed, she writhed as her cubs kicked and wriggled inside her.

        “they’re really active aren’t they,” Philomena said, gently touching Shandy’s belly, Titan miaowing and smacking the bed with his tail in protest as she let go of his left foot.

      “The cubs are very active,” Shandy panted, squatting and squirming, gripping the floor with the toes of all four huge paws.

       “you poor thing,” Patch commiserated, hugging Shandy.

       “It’s really rough at the moment,” Shandy mewed, panting hard.

       “When will you have your cubs Shandy?” Apudo asked, sliding off the bed onto the floor, padding to her then kissing her paw.

       “I doaoaoaoaon’t knoaoaoaoaow!” Shandy miaowed as her cubs kicked and wriggled more energetically than ever, “Uuuuuuuumf! They’re really, really, oaoaoaoah! stoaoaoaoap! Just stoaoaoaoap wriggling for a minute!” Shandy whimpered, gripping the floor with her toes and squirming, shifting her paws and feet and bouncing on her toes.

       “Your pregnancy is more real than normal, as you are now given community member status,” Patch said, “Shandy, you are no longer just a training aid for Blackberry, and neither is Shadow.”

       “Miaouauauauauauauauw! This is awful!” Shandy protested, throwing herself on the floor, rubbing her belly on the ground, squirming and rolling about. Lying on her side, she curled up and stretched her body, her toes curling and stretching with the rest of her as her cubs kicked and slapped at her insides.

       “oaoaoaoaoawch, Ouauauauauauw! Umf, yayayayayayayaymf!. Auauauauauauaauuwmf!” Shandy yowled, wriggling and contorting herself into all sorts of shapes, tying her paws and feet in knots.

       “she’s really having problems, poor thing,” Philomena thought. Kneeling, she embraced the sweating, crying ligress during a lull in her discomfort.

       “Thanks,” Shandy sniffled. Suddenly Shandy moaned deeply, Philomena cradling her as she sobbed into her fur.

       “Is that labour starting dear Shandy?” Philomena asked.

       “If it is, it’ll be a relief,” Shandy replied, sniffing back her tears, struggling to be strong.

       “If you want to cry like a cub, it’s all right,” Philomena said. Shandy burying her face in the young cub’s shoulder, crying with pain and fear.

       “she’s terrified of labour now,” Titan mewed.

       “I think some sadist is telling the cubs to go mad inside her,” patch said, “autonomous Shandy may be, but a computer still drives her and her cubs. I bet someone is playing with the cub’s settings.”

      “Can they kill the cubs?” Apudo asked, Shandy squealing with fright.

       “yes they could,” Patch replied, pounding from the room. Sure enough, Patch found Moses playing with the unborn cubs. Moses, lying in front of a motion sensitive camera, rolled about, waving his arms and legs and kicking the air with his feet, while curling his fingers and toes from time to time. Patch stopped the little boy’s play by pushing him onto his back and slapping his right paw down on the boy’s two hands. Then, leaning over, he switched off the motion sensitive camera with his free left paw. Releasing Moses, Patch sat down.

       Shandy’s cubs are not a computer game to be played with!” patch remonstrated, “Moses, poor Shandy’s going through hell!”

        “I was going to hit the labour button in a minute,” Moses said.

        “give poor Shandy a minute then, let her catch her breath,” Patch replied, “Moses, I know you wanted to make it more realistic for her, but that’s a bit unfair isn’t it?  You didn’t press any buttons that would kill a cub did you?”

      “of course not!” Moses replied, “I know that would be horrible for Shandy, and yes, I know it can be done too, but I wouldn’t.”

       “if I could show you what you’re doing to Shandy I would,” patch replied, Shandy padding into the room behind the grey bear.

      “this is the boy, this is the boy who did it,” patch said, waving a paw at Moses. Shandy, her fur, paws and feet bathed in sweat, padded to Moses, collapsing in a heap on the floor at the boy’s feet.

        “You played with my cubs?” she asked.

       “I did,” Moses replied, “I’m sorry Shandy, I didn’t know they were so violent inside you.”

       “The faster and harder you move your hands and feet and curl your fingers and toes the more they do the same,” Patch replied.

       “So you Moses controlled my cubs by being a cub yourself,” Shandy moaned.

      “Yes, sorry,” Moses replied, realising what he’d done.”

       “I forgot I am a computer,” Shandy whimpered, “it really hurt me Moses!”

       “I’m sorry Shandy,” Moses replied, crawling to the ligress and hugging her, Shandy purring deeply then kissing his forehead, forgiving him.

        “I made it so both cubs did the same thing, but they were thirty seconds apart, so the rolling, kicking and pawing never ended,” Moses replied, “I didn’t know it was so hard Shandy.”

      “the harder you kick, the harder the cubs kick,” Shandy mewed.

        “I’m sorry,” Moses replied. Shandy kissed his nose, then padded round to his feet, touching the soles of his feet with her nose and paws.

       “these feet are very warm with damp pads, you really were kicking weren’t you Moses,” Shandy said.

       “I was, I’m sorry Shandy,” Moses replied.

       “did you see what you made me do?” Shandy asked.

      “No, if I had, well, maybe I wouldn’t have done it,” Moses replied, turning to the huge ligress, “I know I could have looked at the screen, but I wasn’t, I was too busy kicking and punching the air.”

       “You made me squirm and scream and yowl,” Shandy miaowed.

       “oh,” Moses replied.

       “We can show him on the computer,” patch said. Patch replayed what Shandy had gone through in the previous half hour. Moses watching the replay, then looking at the ligress in front of him.

      “I’m sorry,” he said, kissing her nose.

      “Would you wash my feet and paws Moses?” Shandy asked, “I deserve that I think, after what you did to me.”

        “Yes, I will,” Moses replied. Moses washed Shandy’s paws and feet, then hugged her.

       “I thought my labour time had come, but you were playing, and it’s not quite that,” the ligress said.

       “I nearly pressed the labour button,” Moses admitted.

      “that would have been horrible,” Shandy miaowed, “all that pain and distress, then contractions on top?  Awful!” Moses inspected the ligress’s paws, then turned his attention to her feet.

       “I know that now,” he said, drawing circles on the ball of her right foot, Shandy curling her toes with pleasure.

       “there are three more paws when you’ve finished with that one,” she yawned, stretching luxuriously.

       “yes, they are lovely paws and feet too,” Moses replied. Moses rubbed the pads of Shandy’s feet, the ligress tightly curling the toes of her massive paws with deep pleasure.

       “Even your toes are curling as you work on her feet Moses,” Patch said, watching the toes of Moses own feet as he rubbed Shandy’s pads.

       “I’ve heard you bears and human creatures like to pretend to have cubs,” Shandy said, “how do you do that?”

        “Oh, we hold our feet with our hands, and push our feet against our hands when pretending to push against the cubs,” Patch replied.

       “You do?” Shandy asked, waving a paw at |patch.

      “yes, but I have also had a cub myself, so my act is only partly imaginary. I know how it feels, and add a bit of memory of the real thing into my act. Moses does a good act too, as do Jenny and Sally. Karina’s good at the act, though she’s also had a cub, so hers is based in real experience too.”

       “How do the big cats do it?” Shandy asked.

       “concentrate on curling our toes mostly,” Titan mewed, padding in.

      “I can imagine you giving birth to a cub, you’d do it well Titan,” Shandy mewed, Titan smiling at her.

       “I did give birth once,” Titan mewed.

       “I know,” Shandy replied.

      “If I could have grabbed my feet with my paws during that, I would have,” Titan mewed, “but it’s hard for cats to do that.”

       You did well though,” Shandy mewed.

       “it hurt everything and was such hard work, but I wouldn’t change a thing,” Titan mewed. Moses worked on Shandy’s other paws, then got to his feet reluctantly.

       “using my feet to walk is so boring,” he said.

       “I know that feeling,” Shandy mewed, getting to her own large feet, stretching herself languidly.

       “Soon you’ll be having your own cubs and using your feet and paws to hold onto people and the rugs while you push,” patch said.

       “yes,” Shandy mewed, padding from the room, Moses watching her go.

       “Can I hug you Patch?” Moses asked. Patch smiled, sat down and Moses clambered into his lap, wrapping his arms around the huge bear, Patch hugging him.

       “Can I rub your feet?” patch asked, Moses smiling, sitting down opposite Patch, giving him his left foot, the bear rubbing the naked sole of Moses foot, Moses curling his toes with pleasure.

       “I’ve seen you and little Ekaterina playing games where you two pretend to have cubs,” Patch said, “you really get into it Moses.” Moses smiled, then pushed his foot into Patch’s paws, groaning with the effort of pushing against his imaginary cub.

      “Uuumf, must puuuuuush!” Moses gasped, grabbing his free right foot in both hands and curling his toes with effort, patch laughing. furiously rubbing his foot between efforts, Moses flexed his toes, then suddenly tightly curled them, bracing his foot against his hands with a yowling moan of effort while  gripping the ball and heel of his foot with his hands as if the pain had taken him by surprise. Moaning, then groaning as he imagined pushing, Moses braced his feet hard against Patch’s paws and his own hands.

       “Titan sort of moaned with his pain, then pushed with it,” Patch said, “freckles did the same.”

      “If I rub your pads patch, will you pretend to have a cub like Titan did?” Moses asked.

      “You mean make sound and curl my toes in response to your pressure?” Patch asked.

       “yes,” Moses replied. Patch crawled round the room, Moses pressing his sole pads, patch stopping to moan and sit back on his heels, drilling them into his backside while Moses ran his fingers down the soles of his feet. Patch’s moans, whimpers and groans were so realistic, Shandy fled and Titan felt such a need to curl his toes that he lay down to let his paws and feet follow his urge. Yowling, growling  and miaowing, Titan pedalled the air, tightly curled his toes  and wriggled with his efforts.

       “You’re exhausting me patch, stop it!” Titan miaowed, “Shandy’s fled in terror, and I’m incapacitated here, as the toes of all four of my paws and feet are curling in sympathy with yours!”

       “Switch off then,” Patch panted.

       “I can’t and you know it!” Titan growled, pedalling the air with his paws and feet as another effort made Patch curl his toes, Titan unable to stop his own toes from following suit.

       “uuuuurururururuf! ouououoch, Uuuuuuuumf!”!” Patch groaned, squirming his backside against his heels and curling his toes with the effort  of having his imaginary cub:

      “Miaoaoaoaow! Uauauauauauauauw!” Titan complained as his paws and feet ached with the effort of following the example of patch’s toes, “stoaoaoaoap it patch!” Titan miaowed.

       “You big silly moggie,” Moses laughed softly, pouncing on Titan, grabbing each of the liger’s paws in turn then rubbing his tired toes. Titan, purring deeply, smiled at Moses.

      “Can I help too?” Philomena asked, running into the room, then crawling up to Patch, who hugged her and directed her to his feet, where she rubbed his hot pads and equally tired toes.

       “it’s fun to pretend to have a cub,” Philomena said, “I’ve seen Moses and little Ekaterina, and Sally and Jenny doing it too.”

       “It makes my toes ache!” Titan miaowed.

       “It’s a lot of fun,” Patch said, “it lets me roar and squirm and curl my toes and make a fuss, it’s real fun!”

     “Shandy didn’t think so,” Titan mewed.

       “She sees what she’s about to do when in labour, that’s the reason why she ran off,” patch replied.

       “yes, Patch, you’re too good!” Shandy miaowed, padding into the room, “I had to lie down and copy Titan! I couldn’t help myself!” she roared.

      “I can do what Moses did,” Philomena said, sitting down and grabbing her right foot in her hands, pressing her foot into her hands, curling her toes, groaning deeply with effort, then panting, rubbing the sole of her foot with her fingers. Suddenly she yowled, gripping her right foot with extra strength, pushing it into her hands, her toes curling even tighter.

        “ouauauauauauw!” this is really hard!” she squealed, Shandy looking terrified.

      “I’ll be doing that soon!” she whimpered. Moses rubbed Philomena’s left foot while she held onto her right, bracing her foot against her hands whenever she felt the need. Suddenly she lay back and pressed her feet into Moses hands, pushing hard against his palms with her soles, her toes curling tighter than ever, her sounds of effort making Titan bury his face in his paws.

      “stoaoaoaoap that!” Titan wailed.

       “The cub’s coming uauauauauauuauaoaoaowch!” Patch screeched, grabbing his right foot in his paws and squeezing his pads hard, his toes curling with imagined pain and effort.

       Ueueueueueueueeumf! Eeueueueueueurmf!” Philomena yowled as she pushed against Moses hands, Moses pressing his fingertips into the grip of her toes, pushing back against her strong legs, “must, must sit up, grab cub!” Philomena gasped, sitting up, reaching down to her feet and grabbing her soles, yowling and moaning, then lying down on her back, drawing up her legs and kicking hard. Squealing, she sat up and grabbed her feet in her hands as she eased her imaginary cub out into the world inch by inch, puffing between squealing efforts in which she curled her toes, holding onto one foot, then the other, then both as she pushed against her imaginary cub.

      “Push Philomena Puuush!” Moses urged, Titan mewing to Patch to keep pushing down, the bear wriggling and rocking, then leaning over his right foot, bending his right leg, gripping the sole of his foot in his paws, pushing down hard into his paws with his foot. Philomena and patch crawled to each other, sat down opposite each other, then grabbed a foot a piece, patch grabbing her left, she his right, each squeezing the other’s pads as they pushed into their held feet. Groaning and puffing, the Felursapien and bear faught to give birth to their imaginary cubs.

       “shadow will be doing this for real soon,” patch groaned, “she makes me want to do this so much!” Philomena puffed hard as she faught to deliver the rest of her cub, “Ouauauauauauw! It’s coming Patch! Auuuuuuumf! Auuuuuuumf!” Philomena yowled, crushing his right foot in her hands, patch gripping her left, both squeezing and pushing hard.

       “You’re too real!” Titan miaowed.

      “Remember, I had a cub once, and Philomena probably saw Karina having Felix on video.”

      “yeyeyeyeyes, I know! That’s the worst, they’re too good at giving birth to pretend cubs!” Titan wailed.

      “You’re too empathetic,” Patch replied, “you’re big and cuddly Titan, and want to help, that’s your problem.”

        “I so want to!” he moaned.

       “I know,” Patch said, ruffling the liger’s ears

       “it’s so hard!” Titan wailed.

       Curl your toes and scream as much as you like Titan,” Patch replied. Titan curled his toes and buried his face in his paws, yowling and sobbing with the intensity of his emotions.

      “would you like us to rub your paws Titan?” Philomena asked. “

I need to get used to seeing this,” Titan mewed, “cubs are going to be born all over the place, and I can’t get involved with every birth.”

       “your reaction to the births of cubs is rather sweet,” patch said. Titan sighed.

      “It doesn’t help mamas in labour if I’m yowling and collapsed in a corner,” Titan miaowed. He looked at Patch with a hunted expression.

       “I’m all woosy and silly patch!” Titan whimpered.

      “it’s mostly play Titan,” Patch said. Titan mewed:

       “Mine started off like play with Moses and little Ekaterina, them pressing my pads and me reacting by moaning and yowling, curling my toes and panting, but then, then, I had to push for real, and Apudo was the result, that was a shock!” he yowled.

         “Titan,” Shandy said, padding fearfully back into the room, “could I watch the birth of your cub Apudo?” She asked. Titan looked round, seeing Shandy sit down, her cubs kicking slightly inside her.

      “yes okay,” Titan mewed, getting to his feet and setting up the video.

 

Shandy watched avidly, hiding her face in her paws to hide her tears when Titan curled round to kiss Apudo’s nose.

       “that’s so cute,” she sniffled, Titan hugging her. Shandy watched Titan pushing Apudo into the world, then cleaning her face, fur and paws.

      “You curled your toes so tightly Titan!” Philomena exclaimed.

       “yes, I did,” Titan replied, “seeing my face and feet from that angle, I even feel sorry for myself.” Philomena hugged the huge liger.

       “I can see how much effort you put in,” she said, “it was amazing Titan and you need a big hug for that.” Titan purred deeply as Philomena threw her arms round his neck in a huge hug.

       “Are my paws and feet like yours Titan?” Shandy asked. Titan glanced at the soles of Shandy’s feet as she rolled onto her left side.

       “Well, you were modelled on me,” the liger replied, “um, yes, they’re similar to mine.” Smiling, he rolled over onto his right side and measured paws with Shandy, the ligress’s paw only slightly smaller than his, her pads as thick as Titan’s. Shandy growled with pleasure as Titan’s toes gripped hers, the ligress pressing her toes into the grip of the liger’s more powerful paw. Smiling, Titan kissed Shandy’s nose, the two ligers paw to paw and nose to nose. Shandy returned Titan’s kiss, shaking her right paw free of his left, then gripping his toes with hers.

         “I wish the cubs I’m about to have were yours, and real Titan,” she said.

      “What bit of programming is this?” Titan asked.

      “Oh dam you!” Shandy miaowed, hitting him with a paw driven by frustration, “Titan, I love you very much, and want you to hug me and care for me while I have my cubs and beyond. During my walking trials, I saw you in the woods, they were testing my pads out, testing my walking and my eyes and things on the trails. I saw you in a clearing on the track, I was with Blackberry, you looked very tired. I wanted you to help me have cubs then,” she shook her paws free of Titan’s and hugged him, “Blackberry told me to stop thinking of you, that giving birth to your cubs would be impossible. He even tried to destroy my liking for you, but didn’t manage it.”

       “While I was sleeping after Apudo’s entry into my body,” Titan mewed.

       “yes, now I know it was that time,” Shandy mewed, kissing his nose and paws, “now, now, I got to looking at you Titan, and, and, well, I found I loved everything about you.” Titan looked into the ligress’s eyes, finding them devoid of the spirit he expected to see from her words, and her touch.

        “you’re a computer!” he mewed.

       “I’m a computer, but I know this, for I have asked others to test me,” Shandy mewed, “I know I truly love you Titan. Blackberry tested me after he could not rid my memories of you from my mind. Then, when you came back to me in your lie up, the memory was triggered again, and he tried again to wipe my memory of you. I lied to him. I said I’d forgotten, put the right message up on his screen, but, well, I hadn’t. if I had, when you came to me while I was giving birth to my cub in his work room, I would not have trusted you like I did. Titan, I love you very much.” Titan stared at Shandy.

       “I cannot give you cubs!” he mewed.

       “but, but, you gave birth to Apudo,” Shandy replied.

      “I know, but, that wasn’t really conception, that was rebirth, spiritual rebirth,” Titan explained.

      “You mean like me putting the cubs back inside me and giving them a second chance?” Shandy asked.

      “yes, sort of,” Titan replied.

       “You can’t have Titan’s cubs anyway,” Blackberry said, padding angrily into the room, “you have no DNA Shandy, and Titan is infertile as he’s a male liger. You could have a relationship with him, but no cubs.”

       “But I wayayayayant Titan to impregnate meyeee!” Shandy exploded, banging her paws on the floor.

      “You cannot be impregnated by Titan,” Blackberry replied.

        “you cannot tell me what Titan cannot do, nor what I can’t do! I want Titan, and I will have him!” Shandy roared, leaping on top of Blackberry. Titan, seeing a member of his community being attacked, launched himself at Shandy. Patch, joining in, helped Titan, pulling her off Blackberry and flooring her, Titan throwing himself on top of her, Patch beating her senseless with his paws.

     “thanks,” Blackberry panted, “I, I, I couldn’t!” he whimpered, “she was too strong!” he admitted, burying his face in his paws.

       “You created something you could not control?” patch asked.

      “oaoaoaoah, I might have!” Blackberry wailed. Shandy moaned as she woke up.

“who hit me,” she moaned, “my head hurts!” she yowled.

       “I hit you,” Patch replied, “Shandy, take this as a warning!” Shandy looked at patch, then at Blackberry, then Titan, Titan’s eyes tearing into her, his disappointment in her making her want to cry.

        “You cannot have me Shandy, I will not let you possess me, I will not even call you friend,” Titan mewed. Shandy ran from the lie up, throwing herself on the floor in Blackberry’s work room.

       “They gave me community status, but I’m a training aid,” Shandy thought, “I cannot have Titan’s cubs, I remember him, and love his gentility and warmth, but he cannot be mine, I must not try to possess him. I know the community law, and I was very nearly killed by Patch and Titan, as I nearly killed Blackberry in a fit of rage.”

        “You seriously put your paws in it Shandy,” someone said.

       “I know Patch, I know!” Shandy mewed, “and you know how close I came to killing Blackberry because he said I could not have Titan’s cubs.”

       “Blackberry speaks the truth,” Patch said.

        “I don’t understand that,” Shandy mewed.

      “Titan’s infertile, so he cannot fertilise eggs, though he can give birth to cubs, as he is partly female. He cannot impregnate you Shandy.”

        “I accept what you say,” Shandy mewed.

       “Blackberry said that, and you tried to kill him,” patch replied, “Why not try to kill me?”

        “I couldn’t,” Shandy miaowed, “you’re far stronger than me. You could end my life without trying Patch.”

       “I’m the one who conferred community status on you,” Patch replied, “Shandy, if you attempt to kill, or kill  any community member, I will now tell you the consequences for yourself. Today I incapacitated you, next time, I could terminate you completely. I will not do it without just cause and extreme provocation, but, I will do it to protect my community.”

       “I’m sorry Patch,” Shandy mewed.

       “Be warned Shandy,” Patch replied. Shandy got to her feet, Patch looking her deeply in the eyes, Shandy looking down at her paws.

       “You have a lot to learn,” Patch said.

       “I’ve now put myself on Titan’s blacklist,” Shandy whimpered.

       “yes, personally you have, professionally he will be civil to you,” Patch replied.

       “I can’t look into your eyes patch!” Shandy whimpered, “Blackberry’s, Felix’s, Karina’s and  Philomena’s eyes are the same. Are you all born of man?”

       “I am not, but they are,” Patch replied, “Moses and Janet are members of mankind too.”

        “I thought Blackberry was a bear,” Shandy mewed.

      “he is, but then again, he is not,” Patch replied, “his mother was human, though her form was ursine when she gave birth to him. Notice his paws?  They are opposable thumbed, like a humans, Karina and Philomena, and Felix all have that too, as do sire Koda and Blackberry’s first cubs Caleb, Titania and Targon.”

       “You too have this,” Shandy mewed.

       “I have lived with humans all my life,” patch replied, “I have faught for humans, and brought one up through cubhood with my own paws. I am no human though.”

         “the stories all say you can walk in the world of men without question,” Philomena said, walking into the room.”

       “this is true,” patch replied, “I have done this, but my paws and feet always give me away.”

        “that is how peter uncovered you as a bear when you visited the school,” Karina mewed, padding in after Philomena and hugging her.

       “My feet are a little less bearlike now,” Patch said, “I am in another body now, and my feet are longer and have a slight arch.” Patch sat down, showing the soles of his feet off to everyone. He was right, they did have a slight arch, and they were slightly longer than a bear’s should be.

       “My paws too,” patch said, showing them off. Massive paws, thickly padded with four fingers and one thumb. Patch could work as well as a man with his paws, and often did.

      “Blackberry has smaller feet and paws, but his feet are more like a bear’s at the moment. In time his may grow to be like mine.”

        “you were leader of the community once,” Karina mewed.

      “I was, but I stood aside and behind to let another  take my place, so I could concentrate on my mate at the time,” Patch replied, “even then, the community still held me in high regard, and now, now we have had more change, one leader proposed, elected then demoted, and another proposed, then elected. I do not feel I am fit to be a leader to this community now.”

        “Do you feel too close to man?” Karina asked.

       “No,” Patch replied, “but it is time for community born and bred leaders now, not outsiders such as myself.”

       “You are no outsider,” Karina mewed, but her words sounded hollow.

        “I am,” patch replied, “I am not like you or Titan Karina.”

        “come here,” Karina mewed, Philomena and she piling in on Patch, hugging him, the huge bear hugging them.

        “now let’s go back to the family lie up,” Karina mewed, “Patch, you come, Shandy, stay here, go to patch’s old lie up if you want to go anywhere, don’t come to the family lie up.” Patch padded with Karina and Philomena to the family lie up, where he lay down on Titan’s rug, Titan snuggling up to Patch, curling his body so he lay in the bear’s embrace, curling his body so Patch’s feet were caught between his hind legs.

       “I need to play,” Patch said. Titan sighed.

       “I need to play too,” he replied, but the game I want to play is too difficult for cats.

       “stuck foot games?” Karina asked hopefully.

      “yes please Karina,” Patch replied, Titan looking enviously at Patch.

       “I wish I was a Felursa,” he growled.

       “it’s very hard on you Titan,” Patch said, hugging the liger.

       “You Felursapiens, bears, humans and Felursas have all the fun! It’s nooaoaoaot fair!” Titan miaowed.

       “could we not rebirth him as a Felursa? Or at least change his bone structure so he could play?” Sita mewed, padding into the room. Patch felt Titan’s paws, they were sweating and the liger was very upset.

        “the community elected a liger,” Patch said.

       “No, they elected Titan.” Sita mewed, “I, for one, don’t care what he feels like. I’d love it if he could have big feet and paws, there is more to stroke and play with.” Titan miaowed and pushed his paws into Patch’s grip at this suggestion. Whimpering, he tried to curl round to grab Patch’s toes with his.

        “I think Titan wants this hugely,” Patch remarked.

        “I was born by the paws of a bear!” Titan whimpered, writhing with discomfort, “I want to be able to play like Sita can, like Karina and Felix can. They can still run on their toes, and on all fours, and they have whiskers and a tail!”

        “they do,” patch replied, feeling his way up Titan’s legs, then down again to his paws and feet, handling them, working his toes and stroking his pads, Titan purring deeply and falling asleep.

         “could you?” Karina whispered.

       “yes,” patch replied, “it doesn’t take much. I know how Felursas balance, I created one after all.”

       “Patch?” Blackberry asked. Patch looked round at the black bear, “could I ex-ray Titan, just to make sure?” he asked.

        “I will do the rearrangement for Titan,” Patch replied, stroking Titan’s body from nose to tail.

          “He will have a cat’s face, and a tail. His body is very heavy anyway, so his neck, legs and arms need sorting, along with his paws and feet.” Patch worked on Titan, stroking, moulding, testing, strengthening, changing his balance and stance.

       “Titan will be able to run on his fingertips  and toes as easily as on his flat soles, and stand up on his feet too,” Patch said, “he can do what Karina, Felix, Philomena and Sita can.”

       “I’ll bet he’ll love that,” Sita mewed.

      “He will,” Patch replied, stroking Titan’s back and chest, testing his joints and flexing fingers and toes.

       “of course, he had to have longer fingers, but that’s easy enough when you can make someone as malleable as plasticine,” patch mused.

       “”ooaaoah! That’s what he did to me, before I was given the chance to be reborn!” Apudo miaowed.

       “yes, though he cannot do it for himself,” Patch replied.

       “when are you going to wake him up Patch?” Apudo asked.

        “Now,” Patch replied, “I’ve checked everything over, Titan can wake now.” Patch groomed Titan from his nose to his pads, the bear checking everything over one last time, missing no part of the newly formed Felursa. Once he was satisfied, he woke Titan by shaking him gently, the Felursa yawning expansively.

        “what will his breed be known as now?” Sita asked.

      “Well, he’s a Felursa now, but if you want to go into what breed of Felursa he is, he’s a Felursaliger, and you Sita?  Hmm, Ahanu was a lynx lion cross, and Haimati, she was a tigress. Hmm, you’d be a Felursalynxliger.”

       “oaoaoaoaoh!” Sita miaowed.

       “You’re all Felursas though,” Patch concluded.

    “My head hurts!” Titan miaowed.

      “I’m not surprised,” Sita mewed.

     “No I’m not talking about Patch’s little speech, though that is migraine inducing, I’m talking about my head and just about everything else!” Titan yowled, struggling to his feet with much swearing.

       “now I’m up on my paws, can I call them paws? What’s happened to my paws!” Titan yowled. “You’re standing well, now try to stand on your feet alone,” Patch suggested. Titan pushed off with his paws, finding his legs flexed, then stood him upright on his feet. Gasping, Titan stood tall, holding his arms out to balance himself.

      “Try using your tail,” Patch said, Titan stretching out his tail, the extra balance meaning he could fold his arms across his chest.

        “oaoaoaoah! I’m, wow!” he mewed. Sita padded up to Titan, found his toes with her paw, then reared onto her feet, taking his paws in hers.

        “he’s quite a bit taller than you Sita,” Karina laughed softly, Titan suddenly gripping Sita’s forearms in the huge grip of his two paws and swinging her off her feet, Sita yowling as she was swung round three times, then placed gently back on her feet.

       “I haven’t had that done since I was a cub!” she gasped.

      “Titan is immensely strong,” Patch replied. Titan sat down, curling his long tail around his feet and tickling his toes with the tip.

       “this is wonderful!” he mewed, Apudo padding up to him, tripping over his tail and falling into his lap, Titan pointing his toes so she didn’t land on them..

        “Youououoaw!” Apudo yowled, Titan catching her in huge velvety paws.

       “now you’re safe,” he purred.

      “but, but, you’re big and oaoaoaoaoah!” Apudo miaowed. Titan laughed merrily, rolling Apudo onto her back and scooping her into his arms, lifting her into the air to his eye level  then kissing her nose and dangling paws.

      “I’ve always wanted to do this,” he purred, Apudo sniffling back tears.

        “Stoaoaoap,  Titan,  I can’t see now!” Apudo choked, wiping her face with her paws, Titan putting her down gently in his lap, his own eyes blurring with tears.

         “Soppy old Titan,” Philomena laughed softly.

       “I have a feeling he’s wanted this for a long time,” Moses said.

       “I’ve known it,” patch replied.

       “he does look even cuter now he’s got big paws and huge feet,” Moses said. Titan put Apudo down gently on the floor then got to his feet.

      “now I can be a leader to all my community, cats, bears and humans,” Titan said. Patch reared onto his feet and hugged him.

       “You’re not the cat who gave birth to Apudo,” Moses said.

       “I’m the same,” Titan replied, “I’ve just had, well, some constructive adaptations.”

       “I love him regardless of his body shape,” Apudo mewed, “but now he can chase you and tickle your toes with his paws or his whiskers, and you can tickle his Moses, is that not a good thing?” Moses looked at Titan, who smiled, then dropped onto all four paws, then to paws and knees, then to fingers and the balls of his feet, bouncing on the balls of his feet and fingertips, lashing his tail from side to side, Moses shrieking with laughter.

 “I couldn’t do that when I was a pure cat,” Titan mewed. Moses copied Titan, Moses and Titan bumping noses, Titan swiping at Moses nose with his rough tongue, the young boy giggling helplessly.

       “You’re wonderful Titan,” he said.

      “You’re not so bad yourself Moses,” Titan mewed. Moses pinned Titan’s huge paws under his small hands then kissed the Felursaliger’s nose.

      “You’re so cute Titan,” Moses said.

       “Hug me if you like,” Titan mewed, Moses pushing Titan’s shoulder, the huge creature rolling onto his side, Moses scrambling between his huge paws, and into the embrace of his powerful arms. Smiling, he wrapped his arms around Titan, curling up on his side, Titan purring deeply, the sound making Moses smile broadly.

       “Titan has thick black pads on his paws and feet,” Apudo observed, “they’re rather cute!” she said, lying on her side and tapping Titan’s toes with her paws, Titan curling his toes, trapping the toes of her left paw in the grip of the toes of his right foot.

      “Maiaoaoaoaoow! Noaoaoaoaoaow, he’s got meyeee!” Apudo yowled, tugging on Titan’s tail with her free paw.

       “uauauauauauwch! Don’t pull my tail! That huuuurts!” “ Titan yowled, wriggling and lashing out with his uppermost foot, Apudo rolling away from the reflex kick.

      “Poor Titan,” Moses said, hugging the huge Felursaliger.

       “Don’t pull Titan’s tail Apudo,” Sita mewed.

       “I was only playing with it,  tugging at it to make his toes release my paw,” Apudo miaowed.

      “You hurt him!” Sita mewed, grabbing Apudo’s tail and gently tugging at it, the cub curling round and  lashing out with her paws, while squealing:

      “Ouauauauauauw! My taiyayayayayl!”

     “Feel?” Sita asked.

     “yes, I feel now!” Apudo wailed, Sita letting go of the cub’s tail.

       “I’m sorry Titan!” Apudo whimpered.

       “It’s all right,” Titan mewed, Getting to all four paws and padding about, getting used to his new perspective on things. Sita touched Titan’s paw, Titan collapsing onto his side to she could get paws on with his new body, Sita exploring with gentle paws, starting at his nose and ending with his feet, rubbing the thick sole pads and toe pads.

     “You’re wonderful Titan,” she mewed. Purring and miaowing, Titan rolled onto his back, pedalling the air with his feet, waving his paws and lashing about with his tail. bending his tail up and back, he grabbed the tip in his paws and played with it, Sita laughing at his antics.

      “Big softy Titan!” she laughed softly.

       “you’re not so hard yourself,” Titan mewed, rolling over and crawling away, Sita following in his wake, her paws touching the soles of his feet, her fingers pressing into the balls of his feet as she moved her arms to keep her paws in contact with his huge warm sole and toe pads.

       “I’d love to play the stuck foot game properly Sita,” Titan mewed, “I understand you’re an expert at it.”

        “I’m fairly good yes,” Sita mewed. Titan led Sita to a corner of the room, there he sat down, Sita pressing her feet against his, the feet of the two Felursa’s  meeting at the top of an arch made by their strong legs. Smiling, she explored his toes, which were thick and quite long. Smiling, she measured feet with Titan, her own toes reaching to the balls of his feet. Smiling, she curled her toes, gripping the thick soft pad on the balls of Titan’s feet, Titan finding his own toes curled round hers, holding them securely.

       “I thought your feet would be smaller than mine,” Sita mewed.

      “You thought wrong,” Titan purred, feeling Sita snuggling her toes into the strong grip of his own.

      “now push Sita, push!” Titan mewed, Sita pushing with both feet, feeling Titan pushing back against her, the Felursaliger growling with effort, his growl turning into a yowl as his knees were pushed towards him, Sita’s own legs straightening as she pushed, her thigh muscles tensing with the effort. With a miaow of frustrated defeat, Titan gave up the fight. Panting, his feet hot and toes aching, he rolled over and lay on his side.

       “You’re stronger than meyeee!” he yowled, gasping for breath.

       “sorry,” Sita mewed, crawling to the exhausted Felursa and hugging him.

       “wow Sita, that was amazing!” Titan panted.

       “now can I get paws on with your feet and you get paws on with mine?” Sita asked, “we sort of forgot that you see, it’s part of the game. Once that’s done, maybe then we can play the stuck foot game.” Titan embraced Sita:

       “Can we cuddle for a bit first? I’m worn out!” he panted.

       “Yes,” Sita mewed, grooming Titan as if he were one of her cubs needing reassurance, Titan mewing and purring, the Felursaliger remembering the times Sita used to do the same thing when he was a lot younger.

       “I remember this,” he purred, “it felt great then, and feels wonderful now dear Sita.”

      “You were always a big cub,” Sita mewed softly, Titan’s mind going back to the first time he’d met the huge Felursa. It was in her playroom, and he’d been introduced to her by Baako, Titan remembering thinking Sita was a very strange creature indeed. It was when she touched him he felt her deep love for him, her touch making him want to snuggle with her forever. Her touch was one he half knew, for he’d felt echoes of it just after his birth when Patch had handled his paws. Titan learnt much later that Sita was Patch’s daughter cub.

        “Okay, that’s enough of that,” Sita mewed, Titan miaowing in protest at the withdrawal of her grooming.

      “Get to your feet Titan,” Sita mewed, Titan getting to his feet, Sita checking him over while he stood on all four paws, then again when he stood on his feet alone.

      “You are very handsome in all situations,” Sita mewed, Titan purring deeply.

        “Despite all she did to Blackberry, I’m still wondering what happened to Shandy,” Titan mewed.

     “she might be a raging furypuss but, like you, I’m still concerned about her,” Sita mewed.

 

Shandy lay on Blackberry’s bed enduring the first contractions of labour. Catching her breath, clenching her teeth, moaning and panting, she struggled through the pains which caught her in their vice like grip, the animitronic  ligress curling the toes of all four huge paws. Shandy knew contractions with which she’d have to push would make her muoaw and yowl lustily. Moaning deeply, eyes tightly shut, she thought of whom she’d like to have with her during the worst pains. Shandy’s mind kept filling with visions of Titan, along with a deep longing for his touch, but she felt she could hardly ask him. Shifting painfully on the bed, Shandy felt another contraction rip through her,  Yowling, she felt her toes curl and teeth clench. Groaning deeply, Shandy rolled and writhed on the bed, pedalling the air with her huge feet and paws. Rolling onto her front, she rubbed her belly on the hammock while screaming into her paws.

“Miooaoaoaaoaowch! Uauauauauaauauauwch!” Curling the toes of her feet in agony, “it really huuuurts!” she miaowed. Turning round and Backing carefully off the bed, Shandy gained her feet and padded round the room, panting hard, moaning and growling with pain.

       “What are my cubs doing in there!” she moaned, “they’re tearing meyeee to bits!” Shandy squatted as another contraction tore her apart.

      “uauauauauauwch! Uauauauauauauauw!! Hauauauauauaauauauauauaowauauauauwch!” she screeched, “umf, Uuuuuuuumf! Errururururururmf!” she moaned as the last contraction eased, feeling her paws and feet damp with sweat.

       “I must drink,” Shandy thought, padding to the fountain and drinking deeply.

        “Are you all right Shandy?” a voice asked. Shandy, drinking deeply, suddenly felt another contraction building. Her teeth snapping shut, she took a deep breath, sniffing up water. Coughing, she endured a contraction, collapsing into a huge set of paws. Coughing, then screaming with pain and fear, Shandy gave herself up to the pain and realisation she was about to die.

       “Breathe deep Shandy, deep breaths,” the voice said, Shandy crying into the voice’s fur.

       “It huuuurts!” she screamed, the voice helping her back to the bed. Scrambling onto it, Shandy faught for breath.

       “Slow breaths, gently now, gently,” the voice said, Shandy feeling the voice’s paws rubbing her ears.

        “ouououoououaw, miaoaoaoaoaow! Miaoaoaoaoaow! Ouauauauauauw!” Shandy protested as more contractions tore through her.

        “Not pushing yet,” she panted, “but oaoaoaoaoah, it won’t be long! Uauauauauw! Aoaoaoauauauauwch!” the voice ran its paws all over her body from head to sweating paws and feet, Shandy wriggling and mewing with pleasure, even though she had inner turmoil. Suddenly Shandy felt a cub wishing to be born. Groaning, she curled round and licked frantically at her birth area

       “I think I neyeeed to puuuuuush noaoaoaoaoaoaaow!” Shandy whimpered, lying full length on her side, “Uuuuuuuumf, erurururururururorooooourmf, miaoaoaoaoaouurururururururmf! Auauauaurururururururmf!” Shandy moaned as she pushed four times, each effort more strenuous than the last, each effort wringing a different tone of cry from her. the first of surprise, the second of cubbish fear and pain, the third of a ligress’s need to birth her cubs, the forth, when the cub was sliding well into the world, a shrill yowl of pain and triumph. The voice helped her by stroking her and encouraging her to push with gentle words, Shandy splaying her legs as she pushed deeper into her tail with every contraction. Shandy ignored the squelching sound of the first cub’s passage, but she felt the fluid and the birth all too clearly. Panting, she tried to calm herself, the cub screaming for food. Shandy curled round and licked her cub, pulling it up to her face with desperate paws. Half way through her cleaning, she felt the stirrings of another contraction. Growling and mewing piteously she tried to concentrate on cleaning her first cub, but the contraction made her stop, clench her teeth and then open her mouth in a yowl of agony. Grunting, she curled round to lick at her birth area, convinced her second cub was near to being born. Puffing, she licked and licked, her tongue rasping dry skin, then she felt a desperate need to push. Groaning and puffing, Shandy strained into her tail, feeling the cub’s feet emerge. Sniffling, she explored the two feet with her tongue, realising the cub was breach. Lying back full length, Shandy groaned deeply as another contraction gripped her. Yowling, she curled round, grabbing the cub’s now slippery feet with her mouth and paws, straining hard, trying to pull the cub from her body. She felt the voice’s paws trying to help her, but in a fit of rage, growling and roaring with anger, she batted them away. Taking a good grip of the cub’s right foot in her mouth, the left in her paws, Shandy made a valiant effort to birth her breach cub by pushing hard down into her tail while pulling with her mouth and both paws.

      “ouauauauauauw!” she yowled, straining hard into her tail, then, panting, began pulling at her cub’s feet with her paws and mouth while the contraction spent itself. Between efforts, Shandy tugged, licked and worried at the cub’s feet and tail, whimpering piteously  as she was forced to the conclusion her straining effort had failed, and that she’d have to push down again. Lying full length, she pushed twice more, complaining:

     “Aouaoaoaoaoaow! Yauauauauauaauauwch!” as she pushed, then curled round to worry at her stuck cub’s feet with scrabbling paws and licking tongue, making everyone who watched her want to cry. While Shandy was worrying at her cub’s feet, the cub convulsed inside her, lashing out with its paws and kicking with its feet,  Shandy screaming lustily. Finally realising she was unable to free the cub by traction, Shandy lay down full length, gripped the rugs with her sweating paws, panted for breath, splayed her legs and, with a yowling roar of:

     “Uuuuuuuumf, Roaooaoaoaoaoaooaoaoaoaoaoaoaaoowow!” strained into her tail as powerfully as she could. The fluid around the cub’s body squelched as Shandy forced it into the world. Half way out, the cub’s body jammed, Shandy taking a deep breath, then screeching:  

  “ Ouauauauauauw my cuuuub! Must Puuush!” Straining into her tail as powerfully as she could, she screeched, “Roaooaoaoaoaoaooaoaoaoaoaoaoaaoowow!” The cub’s body exploding into the world with a gush of fluid. Shandy, still screeching and yowling, pushed the cub’s shoulders, head, forelegs and paws into the world with one huge effort. Convinced there was more cub to be born, Shandy continued straining and screeching, the voice squeezing the toes of both her feet to stop her.

       “the cub’s out, they’re both out!” the voice yelled, “Shandy, you did it!” Shandy, crying with relief, relaxed completely, feeling her second cub placed in her paws, its strident yowling for food nearly bursting her eardrums. Sniffling and whimpering, Shandy cleaned her second cub, then set both cubs to drinking.

        “did I do the right thing?” Shandy sobbed.

        “You did wonderfully Shandy dear,” the voice said.

         “it hurt, it really hurt!” the ligress sniffled, “but, but the fear was worse. I nearly couldn’t give birth to my second cuuuub!” she wailed.

       “You have, and you did, all unaided too, you were wonderful!” the voice said. Shandy, who’d kept her eyes closed for most of her labour, using touch to locate her second cub’s feet when fighting to free them, now looked at the owner of the voice. At first she didn’t recognise him.

      “Who are you?” she asked.

       “Didn’t the touch of my paw tell you anything?” the strange creature asked.

       “um, ah, it did, but, but, you can’t be whom the paws belonged to,” Shandy babbled.

       “Why not?” the creature asked with a hint of a growl.

       “the one I most wanted to see and feel comforting me would never come to me,” Shandy mewed, “and you don’t look like him either!” she blurted.

        “give me your paw, close your eyes and tell me whom you feel,” the creature before her commanded. Shandy, feeling weak and disorientated, gave him her paw.

       “Titan,” she mewed, as she slipped into unconsciousness, her last memory being of him kissing her nose before she slept. Titan wrapped Shandy in her blanket, tucking in her paws and feet and making sure her cubs were feeding from her supply of electricity. Titan looked at Shandy’s monitor, smiling, he walked away, the animatronic ligress recharging her batteries after her long fight to deliver two large cubs. Titan knew her cubs would be recharged by their contact with her nipples, all three getting revived in a few hours. Titan walked away feeling troubled. Had he witnessed a computer, or sentient life giving birth to two cubs?  He knew the look in Shandy’s eyes when she’d tried and failed to pull her stuck cub into the world would not leave him in a hurry. Her eyes had been full of genuine fear. What had Blackberry actually created?  Did the black bear even know?  Titan doubted it. padding to the door, Titan heard someone vomiting into the toilet bowl in the relieving place. Padding in, he found Blackberry doubled over, crying and vomiting.

      “Blackberry?” Titan asked. The black bear, his eyes red from weeping, coughed and spat.

        “What have I done?” he asked miserably.

        “Created life my dear chap, that’s what,” Titan mewed.

        “I saw, saw, everything!” Blackberry moaned.

       “now is Shandy still just a training aid?” Titan asked.

       “oaoaoaoah, I don’t know now!” Blackberry wailed, washing his mouth with water. Spitting angrily, he turned to Titan, staring into the Felursaliger’s face.

        “You helped Shandy, even though she wanted to claim you,” he said.

      “I could hardly refuse her, she was in terrible pain and distress,” Titan mewed.

        “Do you love her?  even a little?” Blackberry asked.

       “yes I do,” Titan mewed,  “I think she doesn’t know herself yet, so she’s clinging to one she understands, one who’s likeness she was made in.”

        “I made something I didn’t fully understand!” Blackberry wailed.

        “now you have to live with what you made,” Titan mewed. Blackberry shook from nose to tail, Titan letting the black bear lean on him.

       “I’m terrified Titan!” he whimpered.

       “I think I’m about to have my cubs Blackberry,” shadow said, putting her head in at the door. Blackberry screamed and fled, racing past her and out to the woodlands.

       “Who’s going to be with me during my labour?” shadow asked.

       “I and Titan will,” Karina mewed, padding up to Shadow and hugging her.

        “thank you,” shadow replied, “but how do you know what to do if things go wrong?” she asked.

       “I’ve given birth before, and my labours have been those of a creature very like you Shadow,” Karina mewed, kissing her nose. Shadow smiled:

      “I watched Felix’s birth,” she said, “it was lovely Karina. You and Sita did so well!”

       “I was a cub giving birth to a cub,” Karina mewed.

       “You were lovely,” shadow replied.

       “My reactions were those of a cub giving birth,” Karina mewed, “my voice sounded like that of a cub, my physical reactions were that of a cub, my toes curled like a cub’s would.”

        “You laboured and coped wonderfully,” Shadow replied, “I wish I will labour as well as you.”

       “I will help you,” Karina mewed. Shadow took Karina’s hand and placed it on her belly, Karina feeling slight contractions.

      “You’re not moaning and complaining yet,” Karina said.

       “I’m bearing my pain silently,” shadow replied, “when I’m with you though Karina, I’ll let you know it hurts. I have curled my toes and grabbed my feet in my paws already. I will do more too, with you I will not hold back.” Karina padded with Shadow to her sleeping place, which resembled Shandy’s. Shadow, moaning with pain, sat down on her rug, bending her left leg and reaching desperately for her left foot with both paws. Clutching the sole pad of her left foot with both paws, Shadow wriggled and rocked, curling her toes as tightly as she could, the fierce grip of her paws on her foot making her toes curl even tighter. Panting hard, wriggling from side to side and rocking back and forth, she endured increasing contractions.

       “uauauauauauwch!” shadow moaned, her eyes tightly closed, her teeth bared with the first deep consuming pain of her labour.

      “umf, umf, Ouauauauauauw! Oauuououuoouw!” the she black bear complained, her side to side wriggling and back and forth rocking becoming increasingly desperate.

        “oaoaoaoaoawch! Auauauauauauch!” Shadow squealed, dropping her left foot, then getting to all fours and crawling round the room, Karina following her, rubbing shadow’s sweating sole pads as the she bear crawled. From time to time, shadow stopped crawling, then, squealing:

      “Uawhwhwhwhwhwwhaoaoowh!” Shadow sat back on her heels, squirming and drilling her heels into her buttocks, curling her toes with her increasing pain. Sometimes, during her kneeling sessions, Shadow would cross her ankles to dig her uppermost heel into her backside even harder, Karina thinking shadow was pressing on a nerve that helped her with her pain. Then, Panting, she’d uncross her legs, or kneel off her heels and carry on her crawl, Karina noticing how cubbish Shadow looked, her face taking on a cub like expression when she sat back on her heels to press them into her buttocks, her squeals those of a bear barely out of cubhood. Shadow repeatedly crawled and paused to sit and squeal while squirming her heels into her buttocks, or sit back hard on one heel, squirming it against the root of her tail, Karina watching shadow’s hind end for any sign of her cubs, seeing squirming buttocks, sat on heels, sweating pads and curled toes. Karina took shadow in from her nose to her toes, noticing her black fur and grey paw and foot pads, thinking the she bear very beautiful indeed. Round and round the bear crawled, Karina crawling behind, watching her every move.

Shadow, reaching her blanket for the eighth time, scrambled onto it, rolling onto her back, drawing up her knees and grabbing the backs of her thighs.

     “I must crawl! But I’m aoaoaoaow here!” Shadow moaned, kicking with both feet. Groaning, she pedalled the air with both huge feet, left foot, right foot, left foot,  right foot, left,  right, clasping her belly with her paws.

      “Uawhwhwhwhwhwwhaoaoowh! Yaoaoaoaoaoach, uawhwhwhwhwhwwhaoaoowh!” Shadow whimpered, drawing up her knees and grabbing the soles of both feet with her paws, her toes tightly curled. Wriggling convulsively, Shadow faught her feet free of her paws, grabbing her thighs with her paws, panting hard, Karina seeing the sweat breaking out on the she bear’s pads. Karina gave Shadow a drink between efforts, the bear drinking from a straw held by her.. Screwing her face up in agony, shadow moaned her pain.

         “uawhwhwhwhwhwwhaoaoowh! Karina, I wan’a puuuuuush!” Suddenly she strained hard, her legs splaying as she bore down into her bottom.

      “auauauauauauaoaaoaoaoaoaow!” Shadow yelled, panting hard, then squealing:

      “Yeyeyeyeyeyeyeoaw!” as another contraction hit, Shadow splaying her legs, now curling and pointing her toes with every effort, Karina finding the whole thing fascinating as she circled Shadow, trying to get a good look at the she bear’s efforts from all angles while being attentive to her needs at the same time.

        “leave the drink to my left, I can grab it when I wayayayayant then!” Shandy whimpered, noticing Karina’s dilemma.

        “Okay,” Karina mewed, doing as she asked. Shadow groaned deeply, pushing hard into her bottom, Karina seeing fluid burst from Shadow, the she bear sitting up and leaning down to clean her birth area. Moaning, Shadow lay down on her back to push. Grunting, Shadow strained, Karina seeing something solid emerging from shadow’s body, finally recognising what she was seeing as small paws and a head. Shrieking and Grunting as the cub’s head emerged, shadow sat up, splaying her legs, bending her knees a little so her heels settled into the floor with her knees bent. Curling her toes, bending over and Reaching down with her paws, Shadow supported the cub as it emerged, pushing down into her bottom with squeals and groans of effort. When it came to the cub’s hind legs and feet, Shadow squealed:

     “Uawhwhwhwhwhwwhaoaoowh, uawhwhwhwhwhwwhaoaoowh, uawhwhwhwhwhwwhaoaoowh!” letting everything stretch, while her paws provided support for the cub.

       “there, done it!” Shadow panted when the cub’s feet slid free, swiftly Cleaning her cub up. Groaning with exhaustion, Shadow lay down on her right side to feed her newborn cub, while still clearly in labour.

       “I think the next cub’s coming!” shadow moaned, lifting her left leg to allow the cub’s progress. Karina, kneeling at the she bear’s feet, held Shadow’s right foot to the floor with her left hand, while rubbing the she bear’s bunching pads and tightly curled toes with her right, watching Shadow’s straining belly and left foot, observing tightly curled toes and bunched sweating pads. Shadow wriggled as she struggled to draw up her left foot and lift that leg at the same time. Panting, Shadow slightly bent her right leg for support, drawing up her left leg and bending her knee so she could grab the heel of her left foot with her left paw to hold her leg out of the way of her emerging cub. Satisfied with her posture,  Shadow curled her toes and bore down with groans and moans :

      “Uuuuuuuumf! Uawhwhwhwhwhwwhaoaoowh!” of effort, Karina watching the cub’s emergence with fascination. With more prolonged moans of:

     “Uawhwhwhwhwhwwhaoaoowh!” Shadow gave strenuous birth to her second cub. Karina, her eyes wide, reached out towards the emerging paws and head of Shadow’s cub, catching the cub in her hands. Fascinated, Karina waited,  supporting the emerging cub while intently watching the curled toes and sweating pads of Shadow’s left foot for signs the she bear was relaxing her straining efforts to deliver her cub. Shadow, well into Pushing, screamed and moaned:

      “Uawhwhwhwhwhwwhaoaoowh, uawhwhwhwhwhwwhaoaoowh, uawhwhwhwhwhwwhaoaoowh!” WITH PAIN AND effort, struggling to prolong HER contractions by desperately straining into her bottom, prolonged push after prolonged straining push while she clung desperately to the sole of her left foot with her left paw. Karina caught Shadow’s cub, Shadow moaning  and squealing “Uuuuuuuumf! Uuuuuuuumf! Uauauauauaauauauwch!” straining and wriggling  until she felt the cub’s feet slide free.

      “Oaoaoaoaowch, Uauauauauauauauaauow, Yeyeyeyeyeyeyeeyyeauauauauw,” Shadow moaned as her body adjusted to not pushing, “I did it!” she yelled Triumphantly.

        “You did wonderfully, well done Shadow!” Karina mewed. Shadow smiled, Karina giving the second cub to Shadow, who cleaned the second cub, then began feeding her screaming cubs, who soon swapped screaming for the ursine humming purr as they got filled with the food they desired. Shadow too drank from the drink Karina had placed by her, slurping the water down, then plugging herself into her power source by placing a hat on her head, Karina laughing at her headgear.

      “Don’t mock it, it keeps me topped up,” Shadow said.

       “Your labour made my toes curl in sympathy with you,” Karina mewed.

     “awhwhwhwh, that’s so sweet of you,” shadow replied giggling, “you really are sweet Karina.”

       “Your labour mirrored mine in so many ways Shadow,” Karina mewed.

       “I did what I felt was right, as did you I’m sure,” Shadow replied.

       “Your feet were very eloquent of your struggle,” Karina mewed, “you did everything I did with my heels and toes, but there was something I didn’t do, and that was cross my ankles and sit back on the uppermost heel. Maybe that’s because Sita was paws on with my feet, and I didn’t feel the need.

        “I can’t believe what I saw!” a voice exclaimed. Karina turned, seeing Felix staring at her and Shadow.

       “How much did you see?” Karina asked.

      “right from when shadow FIRST sat down and grabbed her left foot in her paws mum! It was wonderful!” Felix replied.

       “I squealed like a stuck cub!” shadow whimpered.

       “You did wonderfully!” Felix mewed.

        “Your labour was so expressive my teeth clenched, pads sweated and toes curled with yours Shadow,” Karina mewed, “I’m glad I was kneeling or crawling for most of it.”

       “did you sit back on your heels too?” Shadow asked. Karina hesitated:

       “I don’t know,” she replied, “my backside does ache a bit, now you mention it.” Felix, giggling helplessly, hugged his mum.

      “Mum, the only thing you didn’t do while Shadow was crawling was squeal. You did everything else in sympathy with her.”

     “oaoaoaoah!” Karina replied, Felix laughing so hard he choked.

      “Steady!” Karina mewed, patting her son’s back, Felix recovering slightly.

      “Mum, you were wonderful!” Felix mewed.

        “She was,” Shadow mewed.

       “You even crossed your ankles and sat on them like Shadow did mum,” Felix laughed softly.

      “I bet you saw me from close range too Felix,” Karina mewed.

     “at one point I  was half an arm’s length from your toes,” Felix admitted.

        “but you’re part cat, so I suppose you can pad around noiselessly, you almost have licence to do so,” Karina mewed.

      “You too dear mama,” Felix replied, nuzzling her cheek, Karina gulping back a sudden rush of emotions.

       “Mum’s a Soppypuss, a big Soppypuss!” Felix laughed softly, Karina sniffing:

     “shut up!” she laughed, wiping her eyes with her hand.

         “awhwhwhwh mum!” Felix said, drying his mum’s eyes, Karina laughing merrily.

      “So you had cubs too shadow?” Shandy asked, padding into the room with one of her cubs dangling from her mouth, “your cries woke me and my cub,” she mewed, placing the cub she carried on the floor.

       “yes, sorry,” Shadow replied. Shandy padded up to Shadow then kissed her nose, shadow looking at Shandy and her cub.

       “You have had yours too,” she said smiling.

      “I did, and it was hard work Shadow,” Shandy replied.

      “I know, I saw,” the she bear said.

         “your cubs are lovely,” Shandy said, looking at the newborn bear cubs, who already had fur covering them from their nose leathers to the palms of their paws and soles of their small feet, where Shandy could see small thick pads covering the cubs soles and palms, fingers and toes.

       “they are lovely cubs aren’t they,” a small voice said.

      “pardon?” Shandy asked, looking round, staring straight into the open eyes of her youngest cub.

       “I was woken by the cries of a creature in pain, so I crawled away and watched,” her youngest cub replied, unphased at his mother’s reaction to him speaking, “I saw everything too.”

       “oaoaoaoah my cub can talk, and, and he’s walking on his feeyeeet!” Shandy yowled, “I didn’t think they were programmed to that level!”

        “We are,” the cub sighed, “but my brother will go back to sleep to be reborn again, as that is his job.” Shandy stared at her youngest cub in astonishment.

        “You came out backwards!” she yowled.

      “I know, and your paws and mouth kept me alive while you faught to deliver me, my feet charge me like yours do you, your life charged mine,” the cub replied.

       “oaoaoaoaoh!” Shandy yowled again, her cub smiling broadly.

        “you helped me so much during my birth,” the cub purred.

        “Your littermate is not yet on his paws though!” Shandy miaowed.

      “No,” the cub replied, “I’m barely on mine really, but I forced myself due to my curiosity about the cries of pain, I’m glad I did too. Mum, what does it mean when my toes curl with the mama bear’s?”

        “It means you sympathise with her and want to help her push, and I’m not letting you do that!” Shandy screeched.

      “My toes curled so tightly I had to lie down!” the cub laughed.

        “nayaoaoaoaow!” Shandy wailed.

       “It’s all right Shandy,” Shadow said, “I like the thought a cub was sympathetic to me.”

      “Well I don’t!” Shandy miaowed, “they’re not, not, not meant to be as sentient as meyeee!”

       “Maybe getting paws on with the feet of a cub during its birth makes the cub more than just a training aid?” Titan asked, padding into the room, smiling at Shadow, padding to her, kneeling then kissing her nose.

       “naoaoaoaoaoao! The cubs are mine to do with what I want, they can’t have minds of their own!” Shandy screamed.

         “ah, sorry, but there was a bug in the programme,” Patch replied, Padding in after Titan, “if a mama gets forcibly paws on during a difficult birth before the cub’s body is completely free of her body, she has to care for that cub until it naturally dies. Now, if you’d let Titan get paws on and help when he tried to, rather than beating him off, the cub you bore would have remained just a training aid for your use. Of course, your first born cub of this cycle was born to be a training aid, your second? You got paws on, fighting for that cub, and when Titan tried to help, you batted him away, that’s not what a training aid does is it?  the cub was charged from two sources when you touched  him, his cord and his feet. if you’d left his feet alone and let Titan do his job, you would not be caring for a cub until he naturally dies now. Shandy, getting paws on with your cub in the way you did made him more than just a training aid.”

      “Naoaoaoaoao! patch, you must reset him!” Shandy yowled.

       “I can’t do that,” Patch replied, Shandy going mad at the news, turning on her cub and biting him, the cub shrieking and running away.

       “any more displays like that Shandy, I’ll slap your paws so hard you won’t be able to feel the ground!” shadow warned. Shandy looked into the bear’s eyes, and wished she hadn’t.

        “I’ll go to Shandy’s youngest cub,” Felix said, padding on his naked soled feet to the small cowering creature, kneeling and hugging him.

       “What’s wrong with mum?” he asked.

        “She doesn’t understand what she did when she touched your feet while giving birth to you,” Felix mewed, kissing the cub’s nose, the cub rolling onto his back, Felix kissing his paw pads, the cub chuffing with pleasure. Felix blew on the cub’s belly, the cub expressing his pleasure with delighted miaows.

       “I like you,” the liger cub mewed.

        “I like you too,” Felix purred, the cub grabbing Felix’s head in his paws and hugging it, Felix giggling helplessly.

        “come on, let’s get you drink, and then we can curl up together,” Felix mewed, the cub following him to a drinking fountain, watching him drink, then following his example.

       “My paws and mouth took in plenty of charge from mama Shandy’s fur and nipples,” the cub said.

       “What should we name you little one?” Felix mewed, “you do know you won’t grow any larger don’t you?” the cub smiled:

       “I’m ok with that,” the cub replied.

        “I think we should name you little Raja, keeping a good name going, as Raja, sire of Haimati, is very elderly now.” The liger cub smiled, then laughed helplessly as Felix pushed him over onto his side and tickled his toes.

      “Felix!” Karina snapped, “this is meant to be a solemn occasion and you play silly toe tickling games with Little Raja!”

       “sorry mum,” Felix mewed, trying to rub the tickle from Raja’s right foot, further tickling the cub’s pads.

       “hands off Little Raja’s feeyeeet Felix!” Karina snapped, leaping to her feet.

       “Okay mum,” Felix mewed, letting go of Raja’s right foot, the cub’s whimpering and miserable expression leaving her unmoved.

        “I know my name is Raja,” the cub mewed, “I can remember that, now can I get back to playing with Felix?  I so love him tickling my toes then rubbing my pads!”

       “Oh all right!” Karina mewed, trying hard to be angry, when in front of her the newly named liger cub and her own son cub clearly loved each other’s company.

       “You did so well Shadow!” Titan said, smiling at shadow, the she bear smiling broadly.

        “I did my duty,” she said, “but, I would like to try another labour, a harder one this time. Maybe a breach cub would teach me how to birth one, or maybe teach Karina or you Titan. I sense Blackberry has run off.”

       “he fled, ran clear out of the room!” Titan mewed.

        “he did, but, he’s back,” Blackberry said, padding wearily into the room, “if I ever make another animatronic training aid, please take me out and shoot me.” He moaned.

       “Do you now hate our creation?” shadow asked.

       “no, it’s not that!” Blackberry whimpered, “it’s that I can’t understand what I create!”

        “shadow’s labour was amazing Blackberry!” Felix exclaimed.

       “I couldn’t watch!” Blackberry whimpered piteously.

       “I nearly copied her!” Felix mewed.

       “You dare do that!” Karina miaowed, “the rate we’re going, what with Titan able to have cubs and all, I would not be surprised if you could too!”

       “That was a very different thing, and you know it Karina,” Blackberry replied.

       “Oh I know,” Karina mewed, “but it wouldn’t surprise me if Felix gave birth to a cub.”

       “Philomena could give birth to my cubs,” Felix mewed.

      “Naoaoaoaow, Felix, you haven’t?” Karina yowled.

       “No mum!” Felix replied, “well, we have in play, she’s very expressive too, and her fur and the pads of her feet are so soft also.”

       “As long as it’s still play!” Karina mewed.

      “Oh yes, we used a plush version of me as the cub itself. It was so much fun to play,” Felix said.

        “I never had that urge,” Karina mewed, “I suppose I was able to help others give birth to cubs from a very young age, as I was, and am still, well, connected to them, or so it seems. It was only by an act of willpower that I managed not to push with Shadow.”

          “could you have?” Felix replied.

       “no, as she’s a computer when all’s said and done, but, the urge was there, as it was for Titan when he saw Shandy first having her cubs,” Karina mewed.

       “Do you not like us playing at giving birth to cubs then?” Philomena asked, padding into the room.

       “I suppose it’s fascinating,” Karina mewed, “that’s why all cubs do it. Plus it gives them a chance to make a lot of noise and not get punished for it.”

         “Gives a chance for good foot massage too,” Philomena said, Felix giggling and hugging her.

        “True,” Karina mewed, “but we don’t need excuses here. Just ask, and, well, you will mostly find someone who will.”

       “yes, but, there’s always the added urgency of a cub’s birth which makes the massage that much better,” Philomena replied.

      “Even a pretend birth?” Titan asked.

       “Oh yes, well then the massage makes you moan and pant as your pads are touched, doesn’t it Titan?” Felix replied.

      “Erhrhrhr, yes, it does,” Titan mewed, laughing slightly.

      “I love making labour sounds while Felix rubs my heels and arches, then panting hard as he rubs my toes,” Philomena said.

        “I love copying Philomena’s example of moaning and whimpering while she rubs my pads too,” Felix laughed softly.

       “You two don’t?  do you? oaoaoaoaoh nayaoaoaoaow!” Karina miaowed, Philomena and Felix falling about laughing.

      “Bet you and Nanulak do that too Karina,” Philomena said.

      “We, um, well, I did try to imagine what it would have been like with Nanulak rubbing my pads while I gave birth to Felix,” Karina mewed, “during my dream he was there throughout, even if he was hiding, he saw everything, so rubbed my pads how I liked, all that and more.” 

Mum yelled ““ like a cub too!” Felix laughed softly, “she made a sound like “Uawhwhwhwhwhwwhaoaoowh! Uawhwhwhwhwhwwhaoaoowh!” Sounding like you do when you’re playing at having a cub Philomena.”

      “I wasn’t playing when I made those sounds Felix!” Karina yelled, slapping him.

      “I know, I heard you,” Felix mewed, rubbing his hand where Karina’s had smacked it.

       “You heard me in labour?” Karina asked. “

Of course,” Felix replied,  “You didn’t think I was deaf did you?  I heard everything, it was amazing and you really faught for me mum. I only wish I could have had the presence of mind to help you pull my tail free like Philomena did hers.”

        “I was holding you in my arms, I didn’t think you’d have a tail,” Karina mewed, “that was a shock I can tell you.” 

  “You made a lot of noise pushing it out,” Philomena said. “yes, I know,” Karina mewed, “I was exhausted and concerned, and could hardly hold Felix, let alone push, but push I did.”

      “You squealed while Sita pulled,” Felix mewed.

      “I pushed thank you!” Karina miaowed.

      “You did dear Karina,” Sita mewed softly. Screeching:    

Muuum!” with surprise,  Karina whirled round, “how did you creep up like that?” she asked.

      “Soft padded feet, just like yours dear Karina,” Sita mewed, kissing her nose.

       “yeah, but you scared meyeee!” Karina yowled. Sita hugged her daughter cub.

        “I love you my dear,” she purred, Karina snuggling close to Sita.

      “thank you for your help that day,” Karina mewed, “mum, I loved your touch!”

       “I loved touching you too, thank you for letting me get paws on with you and dear Felix too,” Sita mewed. Karina smiled broadly:

        “I loved your help and am thankful for it,” Karina mewed, “I hope you will never forget Felix’s birth mum.”

        “I won’t,” Sita replied smiling. Karina smiled broadly, kneeling to kiss Sita’s paws, Raja crawling up to her exposed soles then tickling her toes with his whiskers, Karina squealing with surprise, then laughing merrily.

       “That’s what grabbing him with your paws does Shandy, it gives your cub autonomy. He can copy what he sees, and hopefully get the same reaction,” Titan mewed.

       “So if I’d not grabbed him, but let you do it, Raja would be like my first born?” Shandy asked.

      “yes.” Titan mewed.

      “But Shadow grabbed her cubs,” Shandy mewed.

      “That’s how a bear gives birth,” Titan mewed, “you could have kissed Raja’s nose, but then for you it’s lie down, curl your toes and push push push, no paw contact from your paws for your cubs Shandy, if you want your cubs to be training aids. Otherwise, they end up like you.”

       “So the only one who’s cubs  can remain training aids if they get into trouble so mama has to help them with her paws as well as her pushing during birth is Shadow’s?” Shandy asked.

        “yes,” Titan mewed, “but even she can give them autonomy if she wishes.” Shandy looked at Shadow, fury in her face.

       “So I can’t struggle to free my cubs at all without having them for life?” she growled, “I thought the training aid was to stop real mamas having problems, so my struggles to save my cub would be normal! I should be able to struggle to free my cubs, but then have them reset, just like shadow can!”

     It would be normal,” Blackberry said, padding into the room, “okay, Raja is here now, we can’t reset him, but Janet has rewritten the code so your cubs are not impacted by anything that you do as regards their autonomy. So you can get paws on and tug as much as you like during their births, and not be encumbered by cubs for any longer than it takes to suckle them to strength, about two weeks. You were the first written for, and now Shadow has got to go some to make her cubs as you are. You only had to touch your cubs feet while giving birth to them to make them autonomous, shadow has to go far further.” Raja looked fearful.

       “You’re not going to, are you?” he asked, his paws sweating.

        “No,” patch replied, “you are safe Raja, Shandy’s other cubs will be proper training aids from now on, even if she gets paws on like she did with you. she will have to sleep her cubs within two weeks though to make sure they don’t gain the autonomy sheand you have. Shandy, that is how it works, and how it works for shadow too now. Shadow will put her cubs into their rebirth sleep before they are two weeks old. Then she can rebirth them again.”

        “Shadow gave amazing birth to her cubs Patch,” Raja mewed.

       “I know,” patch replied, “and she will do so again, as will your mama too. You will see her do it time and time again too.”

       “I haven’t seen my birth yet,” Raja mewed.

       “I can show you that, if you’d like,” Patch replied. Raja padded with Patch to a screen, and soon Raja was watching Shandy in labour. His toes curled with hers, and he panted with her as she groaned her first cub into the world. The sight of Shandy struggling during His own birth made Raja paw at Patch’s arm until the bear sat down, then, whimpering, Raja scrambled into the bear’s lap, burying his face in the bear’s warm fur for fear of the sound.

     “Watch her Raja, you know she manages to get the cub out, for that cub’s you,” patch said. Raja, sick with fright, watched Shandy’s struggles, his toes curling as the ligress tugged and strained to deliver him. When she finally realised that tugging wouldn’t work, and lay down to push as hard as she could, Raja found himself lying in Patch’s lap, bracing his paws against the bear’s chest, feet against his right leg, pushing as hard with his paws and feet as the ligress on screen pushed to deliver him. Shandy’s scream, pleading for her cub made Raja choke back tears.

      “Watch, watch the cub come,” Patch said, stroking Raja’s shoulder, down his side, to his hip, then down his leg to his foot, the liger cub lifting his foot so Patch’s paw embraced it, then pushing hard into his pads with the whole of his foot, favouring his toes, which he braced even harder, the cub pushing as hard as he could.

        “It’s hard isn’t it,” Patch said, stroking the now sweating liger cub.

      “yes,” Raja mewed, “but I won’t be scared now, let me watch it again.” Patch did, Raja staring open mouthed as patch showed the angle from Titan’s point of view, Raja seeing Shandy’s feet with their curled toes and her straining legs. Then the first cub’s emergence and then his own, accompanied by her curling round to grab him with her mouth and paws. Raja saw everything, and when it was over, he collapsed back into patch’s hug, the bear kissing the top of his head, then rolling him onto his back then kissing his paws and feet, the liger cub smiling broadly.

         “you will never grow any bigger than you are now,” Patch said, “Raja, you will physically be a cub for life, are you okay with that?”

        “As long as I’m protected, then yes,” Raja replied, “I don’t mind others finding my paws and feet cute you know, it gets me plenty of pad rubs, which I like.” Patch laughed at this, hugging the liger cub.

        “Do you think Adults with big feet don’t like having their feet rubbed?” he asked.

       “I think you do,” Raja mewed, “and I think Titan does too.”

       “We do,” patch replied.

       “I think Felix and Philomena do too,” Raja mewed.

       “We do, Philomena especially,” Felix said, walking up to patch and looking over his arm to where Raja lay in the bear’s lap.

       “Did Philomena love it when you rubbed her feet while she gave pretend birth to that plush of your kind?” Raja asked.

       “she loved it very much,” Felix mewed. Raja got up and padded to Shandy, who looked at him.

       “So I’ll be stuck with you for life?” she asked.

        “What?” Raja enquired, his face full of sorrow, “you faught for me so much, but you don’t want me now?” Shandy looked at the fat little cub.

       “I didn’t intend to give you life, just push you into the world,” she growled, “now I’m stuck with you!” she yowled.

       “You have to feed him for another week, then we can put him on a bottle,” Blackberry replied, “then, after a week on that, he can charge using light, or the paw mittens and blanket like you do,” the bear concluded.

        “can I still have the bottle if I want it?” Raja asked.

      “Of course,” Blackberry replied, “I’m just telling you when you’ll be off Shandy’s charge that’s all.”

       “if you didn’t intend to give Raja life, why did you fight so long and hard for him?” Titan asked.

       “I don’t know!” Shandy yowled.

       “maybe it is because you truly do want a real cub,” Raja mewed, sidling up to Shandy. Shandy felt his warmth, then his tongue licking her ear, the feeling soothing her, despite her desperate attempts to hold onto her anger.

       “would you like me to show you your fear and terror Shandy?” Blackberry asked, “I can you know.”

       “Noaoaoaow!” Shandy miaowed, fiercely grooming Raja, the cub purring and waving his paws about, Shandy kissing her son cub’s pads, purposefully getting her head in the way of Raja’s waving paws so he smacked her nose with the pads of his paws, his toes brushing through her whiskers.

        “if you have two more cubs, I can urge you to push mama push!” Raja said, Shandy laughing merrily.

        “I would love that,” she replied.

        “do you have another cub for Shandy Blackberry?” Patch asked.

       “Now I can grab my cub’s feet without giving them life?” Shandy asked.

      “yes, all you need to do to give them life now is to stop their growth into sentient ligers by putting them to rebirth sleep within two weeks,” Patch replied, “yours and Shadow’s programmes are the same now.” Shandy smiled broadly at this.

       “I almost want to give birth to cubs right now,” Shandy mewed.

        “You can,” Blackberry replied, “Shadow can too. All we need to do is put your cubs to sleep, and then we can implant them, and you can start the labour yourself, or we can choose it for you.”

        “make it hard for me,” shadow replied, “I’ve had an easy one, I want a hard, screaming effort this time, a real toe curler which makes my pads sweat and me wriggle and struggle, crawl about and groan lustily.”

      “We can,” Blackberry replied.

        “My first cub came so easily really,” Shandy mewed, “my second, the one we now call Raja,” she suddenly sat down, as if the memories were too much. Gripping the floor with the toes of all four paws, Shandy yowled:  oaoaoaoaoh! His birth hurt. It was then I felt fear for him, when it really hurt, and I couldn’t do a thing but puuuuuush!” she exclaimed.

       “You did well Shandy,” Titan mewed.

        “I want to do it again!” Shandy yowled.

       “Okay,” Blackberry said, Shandy putting her paws on the head of her eldest cub, the cub going quickly to sleep, Shandy herself quickly lying down and sinking into a deep sleep. Shadow, smiling, did the same to her two cubs, sliding into sleep herself. Blackberry prepared the black bear and ligress, filling their water and fluid tanks, placing the cubs inside them, connecting the cubs to their mother’s power supplies, then plugging both creatures into the charging blankets by wrapping them up and tucking in their paws, while Raja watched enchanted.

      “So mum and shadow will wake and then give birth to their cubs?” he asked.

      “yes Raja,” Blackberry replied, “though we can wake them with contractions if we want, they and their cubs are ready for the labours to start. The cubs were almost fully charged anyway.”

        “I saw Shadow’s face and feet, her face screwed up and her toes curled as she pushed!” Raja mewed.

      “I know,” Blackberry replied smiling, “it’s good isn’t it. facial expressions and all that.”

      “yes,” Raja mewed, “were shadow’s and mum’s paws damp Blackberry?  Shadow’s looked it when she pushed.”

      “yes, they were,” Blackberry replied, “you can touch them if you like while she’s in labour, shadow won’t mind.”

      “Can I catch mum’s cub as it’s born?” Raja asked.

       “yes,” Blackberry replied, as Shandy, then Shadow woke.

        “Am I ready to give birth to my cubs?” Shadow asked.

      “you are, as and when you want, unless you want a complete surprise.” Blackberry replied.

        “It could be a surprise,” shadow replied, “I will leave it to you, as will Shandy I think.”

       “I waaaaant to go into labour Naoaoaoaow!” Shandy yelled, leaping to her feet and stamping them in a very cub like display which made Raja and Felix laugh.

       “give her a hellish labour for that,” shadow remarked.

       “she might have one, I don’t know,” Blackberry replied.

      “I’m looking forward to my labour,” shadow said, “I’m built for it, labouring is what I do, giving birth is what my job is.”

       “I’m looking forward to seeing how you cope with it,” Blackberry said.

       “drilling my heels into my bum really helped Blackberry,” Shadow said.

        “it really helps doesn’t it Shadow?” Karina mewed.

      “It does,” shadow replied giggling.

        “it looks very cute too,” Felix mewed.

        “it’s a real squirming struggle,” Shadow replied.

       “I saw you doing that several times,” Karina mewed, “sit down hard on your heels, curl your toes wriggle wriggle wriggle,” she mewed, “cross your ankles, sit down hard on the back of one heel, curl your toes, wriggle wriggle wriggle.”

      “yes, I did that, it felt wonderful!” Shadow replied.

      “You grabbed your feet with your paws too, that’s also very cute,” Raja mewed, “though the best bit for me that showed your effort was when you grabbed the backs of your legs and pushed while curling and pointing your toes, while splaying your legs.

       “that was just me in pain,” shadow replied, very little pushing got done then, only when I sat up did the cub really come down. I tried lying on my back and lifting my feet because I remembered lying on my back in water, my feet in the air, that was soothing,” Shadow said, “I stretched my legs then too, splaying them and pointing my toes while in the bath, that was before I came to Titan and Blackberry to tell them I was in labour. The truth was, I’d done everything I did while here once before while in my tub. I thought I could labour alone, but soon realised I couldn’t. dragging myself on paws and knees from the tub, I crawled to the drying place, lying there till I was dry, then got to my feet, ignoring my painful contractions. I padded to Blackberry’s work room, and Karina found me.”

       “Didn’t anyone see you?” Karina asked.

      “No, there are no cameras in my private bathroom, where shadow had closeted herself,” Blackberry replied. Shadow nodded.

       “I laboured for hours in there,” she said.

      “and now you’re going to do it all again,” Felix mewed, crawling up to the she bear’s right foot and taking it in his hands, rubbing her sole from toe pads to heel, the she bear sitting up and curling her toes when she could. Tighter and tighter she curled her toes as Felix rubbed her thick sole pad.

       “I like that!” shadow gasped, squirming and rocking with pleasure, pushing her foot into the grip of Felix’s hands, Felix laughing merrily.

        “rub my foot! Uawhwhwhwhwhwwhaoaoowh, Uuumf, uauauauauauwch! I think my labour’s starting already!” shadow wailed, panting hard.

        “is it?” Felix asked, rubbing the sweating sole pad of her right foot.

      “Uauauauauw, Yeyeyeyeyes!” shadow moaned, rocking and wriggling. Suddenly she spun onto her knees and crawled, Felix following her.

       “rub my feeyeeet!” shadow whimpered, “that’s it, Uuumf, ruururururumf! Rub, rub my toes and sole pads,” she panted as Felix began massaging her hot damp soles, “that’s good, that’s good!” the she bear moaned, sitting back hard on her heels, squirming them into her backside and wailing:

      “The contractions are coming really hard  nayaoaoaoaow! Yuuuuuuumf! Uauauauauauauauw!” Felix watched Shadow’s struggles, as the she bear crossed her right leg over her left, sitting back on her right heel that was now uppermost of the two, drilling her right heel hard into her backside, her toes curled and pads bunched with pain and effort.

       Uauauauauauauawowowowowowowowoauch!” she screamed lustily, sitting back hard on her right heel, squirming desperately. Wriggling her legs uncrossed, she crawled away, Felix following her.

      “it’s hurting isn’t it,” Felix mewed.

      “it really huuuurts!” Shadow sniffled. Felix inspected Shadow’s curled toes and bunched pads as she squirmed and rocked her buttocks against her heels.

       “I’m coming round to your front,” Felix mewed.

      “nayaoaoaoaow!” shadow protested, “stay there Felix, behind me is more interesting, and you can ruuuub my feeyeeet!” she yelled, “umf, ruururururumf, uuuuush!” she gasped.

       “Okay, I will shadow,” Felix mewed, drawing circles on the sole pad of her sweating left foot.

       “rub in circles with two fingers, don’t use one, that’s sure to tickle her foot,” Titan mewed, observing the squirming gasping she bear and the Felursapien cub comforting her.

       “this really huuuurts! Uauauauauw, uauauauauauauauw! I must push harder!” Shadow squealed, rolling onto her back, drawing up her legs, grabbing the soles of both feet with her paws and drawing her knees to her chest, pulling hard on both feet with both paws while desperately rolling from side to side.

       “Try to relax Shadow, don’t force your cubs,” Felix mewed.Squealing:

      “I don’t want heyeyeyeyeyeyelp, I can do this alone, paws off!” Shadow took a fresh grip on her feet and pulled her knees tighter into her chest, rolling faster and squirming harder, her toes curled as tightly as she could curl them. Dropping her paws back to her thighs, Shadow let her feet kick free. Kicking hard and wailing with agony, shadow, her toes now tightly curled,  let go of her legs and thrust at the air with both feet while punching the air with her paws, which she had balled into fists:

      “Ouauauauauauw! Ouauuauauoauoauoauoauowch! Yauauauauauaauauwch! Hururururururumf! Umf! Ruururururumf!” Shadow squealed lustily.

      “Is the cub coming along?” Raja asked.

      “Not very easily since she’s lying on her back,” Blackberry said, “but shadow will try crawling about in a bit. She’ll sit back on her heels too. This is just a phase, she wanted a difficult labour, and has forgotten everything she learnt during her last one. Someone should be advising her, but she’s in wild den mode, so won’t listen to advice, but you can comfort her by rubbing her feet if you can get hold of them.”

         “can Shadow hear our conversation?” Raja asked.

       “No, she’s in her own world,” Blackberry replied, “she’s coping alone, after all, she wanted a difficult labour. She will come to you when she realises she can’t cope alone. She knows you’re there, but is stubborn about having her cubs unaided. Panting, Shadow grabbed her feet in her paws and wriggled convulsively. The wriggling made her moan in pain, but must have also sparked an idea, for she let go of her feet and began to pedal the air, left right, left right, her body rolling side to side with her pedalling.

      “Must puuuuuush! Ouauauauauauw! I can feel the cub coming, must puuuuuush!” shadow roared, struggling to push down, “Uuumf! Ruuuuuumf!” she moaned as she strained, rolling onto her knees and crawling round the room, Felix hands on with the soles of her feet once more. Moaning and gasping, Shadow crawled and crawled, then stopped to sit back on her heels and wriggle, then crawled some more.

      “This feels better,” she panted as she circled the room, Shandy and the others watching her intently.

       “The cubs are nowhere near being born yet,” Blackberry replied, “Shadow’s in for a long labour. Indeed, if she’d not actively pushed, she would be feeling more comfortable now.”

      “What’s that?” Shadow asked, “I should not have pushed while lying on my back?”

       “No, not really,” Blackberry replied, “you have exhausted yourself for no reason, that pushing while lying on your back comes much later. Now is time for crawling and letting others rub your feet, and maybe some sitting and rocking. also lying on your side might help too. But I’d recommend no more lying on your back holding your feet with your paws, not yet anyway, later, when the cubs are nearly ready to be born, then you can. If you want to kick rather than crawl, then that’s okay too.”

        “I need to crawl!” Shadow moaned.

       “can you describe shadow’s feet to me Titan?” cub Ekaterina asked, crawling into the room.

       “But of course,” Titan mewed, “shadow, can cub Ekaterina get paws on with your feet?”

       “Uuuuuuuumf, oaoaoaoaoah, yes, yes, get paws, paws on, Ouauauauauauw! I’d like that, ush, ush uuuuush!” Shadow replied. Titan and cub Ekaterina followed Shadow, shadow trying to crawl slowly. Cub Ekaterina got paws on with the soles of shadow’s feet as the bear crawled, and while she sat back on her heels and drilled them into her backside.

       “Shadow’s sole pad and toes are light grey when she’s relaxed, but darker grey now, how do they feel to you?”

       “Soft and warm,” cub Ekaterina said, sitting back on her own heels and  squirming with Shadow.

        “You’re copying her Ekaterina,” Titan said, the bear cub laughing merrily.

      “I’ll bet my namesake is doing the same,” she laughed softly.

       “Little Ekaterina is,” patch replied grinning, watching Moses and little Ekaterina playing in their flat, “Sally and Jenny are doing what Shadow is too, it’s rather sweet!”

       “Keep ruuubing my feeyeeet!” Shadow moaned, “I like that, ruuuub my toooes too, please!” she groaned. Cub Ekaterina got paws on, rubbing and drawing in circles, shadow sitting back hard on her heels, squirming, moaning and panting, her paws flat on the floor, pushing her bum hard onto her heels.

        “the cubs aren’t even far down yet,” Blackberry said, “my monitors which I put onto Shandy and Shadow tell me that Shandy’s labour is at small contractions, Shadow’s are getting harder and longer, but shadow’s cubs are not ready to be born yet. Every mistake she makes sets her back a bit.”

        “how long can labour last for?” Ekaterina asked.

       “Days,” Blackberry replied, “Shadow can have some painful contractions, but they’re not very powerful, even though they are long. Shandy’s labour can ease off too, her cubs will be okay.” Shadow panted and wriggled, then breathed more easily as the round of contractions eased.

        “Why didn’t Shadow relax during the time she lay on her back?” Titan asked.

      “Shadow can push voluntarily, that’s what she was doing,” Blackberry replied, “she’s now learning to go with her body rather than forcing it. she first went with her body, but then rolled onto her back and tried to force her cubs into the world, they weren’t ready and all her efforts did was hurt and exhaust her. She will learn by relaxing, and learn what real urges to push are. Her voice will tell you when she is really pushing, she won’t scream, she’ll groan deeply, a proper deep groan of effort.”

         “Moses, Jenny, Sally, Little Ekaterina and Janet, as well as two pandas, Xingjuan and Kuaizi are playing at being shadow too,” patch laughed softly. “there’s lots of curling toes, sitting back on heels and squirming going on.”

        “They love to act out what they see,” Titan replied smiling.

      “But I’m nooaoaoaot acting!” Shadow whimpered. drawing in her paws, pushing back, closing her eyes, sitting back on her heels, her toes curled with effort and pain, Shadow wriggled, screeching:

      “Uauauauauw! Aouwwowowowowch!” Shadow drilled her heels into her backside  harder than ever, curling her toes while wriggling and pushing hard down.

        “I muuuuust crawl now,” Shadow groaned piteously, lifting her buttocks off her heels and crawling, cub Ekaterina, who’d been paws on with Shadow’s wriggling struggles throughout, following shadow closely, rubbing Shadow’s toes as the she bear crawled round the room.

       “What’s going on in here?” Sita asked, padding into the room.

        “Shadow’s having cubs,” Shandy mewed.

        “Hmm,” Sita replied, “I could pretend too, but of course there would be no cub at the end.”

       “Is there an animatronic Felursa?” Shandy asked.

      “No, just a plush one,” Sita mewed, “at least I think there’s no animatronic version of me. The plush version is scary enough, right down to the slightly toughened pads on my feet, I’d not like to meet an animatronic version of myself!” Sita protested. shadow suddenly moaned:

        “Cub’s moving down now, ouauauauauauw!” Sitting back on her heels, she screeched:

        “I wan’a puuuuuush!” getting to her paws and knees and pushing hard down into her bottom, “Uauauauauw! Uauauauauauauauw!” she complained while straining hard twice, Then, taking a deep breath, Shadow strained with no sound at all, just the sound of her catching her breath and a slight scuffling as she braced her weight on her paws and splayed her legs.

       “Uuuuuuuumf!” she moaned when she’d come to the end of her first effort, “let’s try that again when there’s another contraction! Umf, umf, Uuuuuuuumf, here goes!” this time Shadow screamed:

      “Yayayayayayaayyah! ruururururumf! Yayayayayayaayyah!” as she strained hard into her bottom, her contraction prolonged, forcing her into further efforts, Shadow pushing three times with her contraction.

       “that was awful!” Shadow panted when the contraction eased, wriggling hard as she came down from her efforts.

        “Your breath holding didn’t help,” Blackberry remarked, “groaning did though, followed by squealing your head off. So groaning and breathing helps best.” Shadow gripped the floor with her paws and moaned through another contraction, pushing down hard, sweat flying from her fur and pads as she wriggled between efforts, the palms of her paws and soles of her feet damp with the sweat of her struggles. Eyes closed, wriggling and straining, Shadow moaned:

       “Yuuuuuuumf! Uuuuuhuuuuuowmf!”

       “Shadow’s really pushing now,” Blackberry said. Shadow sat back on her heels, pressing her backside against them when Fluid suddenly burst from her, the she bear squealing with surprise, then grunting as she pushed.

       “A cub’s not far now,” Blackberry said as Shadow, eyes still closed in concentration, rolled onto her back, drew her knees up and grabbed her thighs with her paws, splaying her legs, her toes curling with the pain and effort of her labour. Squirming and squealing, Shadow endured the beginnings of her contraction, then, when it peaked, she sat up,  dug  her heels into the floor, bearing down with a prolonged :

     “Yuuuuuuurf!” of effort. Shadow repeated this many times, rocking back and forth from lying on her back, knees drawn up, legs wide apart, toes curled, her voice telling the world of her pain,  to sitting and straining with increasingly desperate groans of effort, her heels braced hard into the rugs as she curled her body into a ball while straining, her  toes curled, paws flat on the floor between her feet. Cub Ekaterina got paws on as best she could with the struggling she bear, touching her sweating paws and feet and her rocking and wriggling body.

        “aauauauaauauauauuw! Aoooooow! Aouwch! Uawhwhwhwhwhwwhaoaoowh!” shadow complained in a strident squeal as she  lay on her back, wriggling and kicking with drawn up knees, “Ruuuuuumf! Uuuuuuuumf! Heuuuuuumf! Uawhwhwhwhwhwwhaoaoowh!” Shadow groaned as she sat, straining hard into her bottom, then with a yell, went back to lying on her back, drawing up her legs and holding her thighs or the soles of her feet with her paws, gripping the tense muscles of her legs or bunched sole pads with desperate strength. As Sita and Ekaterina got paws on with her, and everyone else watched, Shadow moaned and sat up, straining down harder than ever into her bottom.

        “Uawhwhwhwhwhwwhaoaoowh Uuuuuuuumf! Ururururumf! uawhwhwhwhwhwwhaoaoowh, uawhwhwhwhwhwwhaoaoowh!” Shadow moaned as she pushed, her paws cradling the cub’s emerging head, Shadow panting out the cub’s head, flexing her toes as she panted and squealed the cub’s head into the world. As the cub’s body began to emerge, Shadow  groaned deeply, pushing the rest of her cub into the world with moaning efforts, desperately curling her toes with every effort.

      “Uuuuuuuumf! Ruururururumf! Uawhwhwhwhwhwwhaoaoowh!” she complained as she struggled, her cub easing out inch by inch. Shadow grabbed her cub in both paws, pulling at the cub as she strained, the cub slowly emerging unlike her first labour, when the cub’s body slipped out easily. Grunting and moaning with effort after five minutes of struggle to deliver the cub’s body, shadow strained deeply into her bottom to expel the cub’s hips, then, squealing and grunting as the cub’s hips jammed, bore down to expel them, its legs and feet coming with a rush as Shadow cradled the cub in her paws, pulling as she pushed.

       “Just the cub’s feet to come now, gently push, gently,” Blackberry urged, shadow moaning as she squeezed down gently, her cub’s feet coming free with a squelch of fluid. Gasping, Shadow grunted to her now lustily screaming cub, who reached up to her with its paws, shadow rolling onto her back, then cleaning the cub with urgent licking.

        “My difficult labour is not over,” shadow moaned, “I think I’m due a breach cub, I’ll push and see.” While shadow cleaned her cub, lying on her back as she was, she couldn’t help pedalling the air with her feet while her paws held her newborn cub, Titan’s eyes shining at the scene.

       “I like that,” he said, waving a huge paw at Shadow, “such a cute view of a mama cleaning her cub, her feet kicking with the intensity of her concentration.”

        “I wonder when shadow will have to put her cub down and attend to herself as her second cub emerges,” cub Ekaterina said, paws on with shadow’s left foot, shadow bracing her foot against Ekaterina’s paws.

      “Oaoaoaoaoaow! I think, think there’s more contractions, muuuuust push, ouauauauauauw!” shadow whimpered, rolling onto her side and placing her newborn cub on the floor. Moaning, she rolled onto her back and pulled her knees to her chest, grabbing the soles of her feet with her paws, wriggling and puffing:

        “It’s Oaoaoaoaowch! It’s huuuurting! Ouauauauauauw!” Shadow squealed, letting go of her feet, grabbing the backs of her thighs and splaying her legs as she suffered.

      “cub’s coming Naoaoaoaow!” she moaned piteously, grabbing her feet with her paws and screeching:  “Oaoaoaoaow Uauauauauw! Ouauauauauauw! muuuuust puuuuuush!” Wriggling convulsively, Shadow dropped  her feet, grabbing her thighs, Shadow grunted with effort, straining hard into her bottom, splaying her legs in her efforts.

        “that’s it, sit up and push, then lie back and relax, sit up and push!” Blackberry encouraged. Shadow rocked back and forth, sitting up and pushing, then lying back, drawing up her legs and grabbing her thighs, splaying her legs, wriggling and kicking as the cub was pushed down, then sitting up, repeating the whole thing over and over, moaning and squealing as she pushed and relaxed. Suddenly Shadow roared as Fluid burst from her and her cub’s feet emerged, stretching her. Shrieking, she sat up, bearing down as hard as she could, the cub’s feet and bottom visible when she pushed to her limit. Reaching down with both paws, Shadow caught the cub’s feet and pulled as she bore down, the she bear screaming as she strained, her heels dug into the floor, wriggling between efforts as she struggled. Shadow’s final effort which freed the cub from her body was a forceful straining push accompanied by a screaming yell, Shadow pushing with her heels, throwing herself backwards as her cub’s head and paws came free, the cub lifted in her paws. Shadow  hugged her cub to her chest, her feet lifting off the floor and pedalling the air as she licked her cub dry.

      “I need food too! Oi!” the first cub screamed, shadow putting down her second cub, crawling over and grabbing her first from Raja, who’d begun to play with the bear cub’s small paws.

      “Oi Raja, paws off!” Shadow growled, slapping the liger cub’s paws off her cub’s, which Raja had begun to tickle, the bear cub wriggling and giggling with pleasure.

       “Maybe I can tickle your toes mama shadow!” Raja miaowed, leaping at the she bear’s feet and tickling her toes, shadow rolling onto her side and cuffing him hard with her paw, yelling:

      “Off my toooes too!” Blackberry, Shandy, Titan and cub Ekaterina laughing merrily.

      “that was so funny!” Titan miaowed.

        “It wasn’t!” shadow replied, backing up to her youngest cub so Raja couldn’t get at her toes.

      “I love those toes, they’re so ticklable!” Raja mewed, Shadow growling:

       “Leave my toes alone!”

       “ Raja, his eyes shining, padded to Shadow then kissed her nose, the she bear unable to use her paws to retaliate as she was hugging her cubs while they nursed.

       “Go away you horrible little half-bred cat!” Shadow yelled.

      “that’s horrid!” Titan growled.

       “yes, it is, sorry,” Shadow said, sitting down, her cubs scrambling into her lap. Hugging them in her arms, she wiggled her toes at Raja, her soles now visible to the liger cub. Raja pounced on her toes, shadow laughing merrily as he tickled her toes and sole pads. Raja lay down paw pad to sole pad with shadow, rubbing the sole of her right foot with his left paw, the she bear curling her toes with pleasure.

       “I like that,” she said.

       “I’d like that too,” patch said, “by the way, shadow, your labour was re-enacted by all the humans and two bears too. I think Lihua is going to have a cub very soon too, as I think Xingjuan  said something to Kuaizi that her mum would be doing this for real soon.”

       “yes, I will,” Lihua replied, padding into the room, “my cub’s nearly ready to be born, Nanuq and I, well we liked having Xingjuan so much that we’d go for another cub.”

       “You gave birth very well Lihua,” patch said, getting to his feet and paws, padding to her and rearing onto his feet, the panda polar cross bear rearing onto her feet, the two bears embracing.

 

“We were enjoying imitating shadow,” Moses said, padding in silently on his thickly padded bare feet, “why did she have to stop her labour?”

       “she had to stop sometime Moses,” Blackberry replied, “but that doesn’t mean you and your friends can’t continue it.”

        “We took turns sitting back on our heels and squirming, each helping the other through their acting, it was great!” the  boy said, “Jenny and Sally were brilliant!”

        “I bet they were,” Blackberry replied.

     “Even little Ekaterina had a go, but she was too interested in helping me to really get into it. she kept tickling my toes!” Moses complained.

       “I saw that!” Patch laughed softly.

        “it put me off!” Moses ranted, Lihua turning to him and hugging him in her large ursine embrace, Moses standing on tiptoe to press himself harder into her hug.

      “I really want to tickle Moses heel pads, but, that would be so wrong!” Titan said.

       “yes it would,” patch replied, bouncing on his toes, “but you can tickle mine,” he said, kneeling, offering Titan the soles of both his huge feet. Titan drew circles on Patch’s pads, the huge grey bear wiggling and curling his toes with pleasure, Titan then blowing on his sole pads and toes, patch sitting back on his heels, bouncing hard, then, to Titan’s delight, the grey bear sat down properly, grabbing each foot in turn, massaging and scratching at his thoroughly tickled sole pads and toes with both paws, curling and stretching his toes as he worked on his sole pads, then grabbing each toe in turn and scratching the tickled pad.

       “You look very cubbish when doing that,” Titan mewed.

        “I feel it, but can’t help it,” patch replied.

        “Patch was the cutest big cub in the community as far back as I can remember,” cub Ekaterina said, “I met him when he was fully grown, and even then he had the pads of a cub. I doubt anything has changed.” Patch knelt and drilled his heels into his buttocks like Shadow had, cub Ekaterina getting paws on with his struggles.

        “Were you drilling your heels into your bum like Shadow Patch?” cub Ekaterina asked.

        “yes,” Patch replied, “for a while anyway, for most of it I just sat, but there were parts when, well, I couldn’t help sitting back on my heels and squirming.”

       “You feel our pain just as much as Karina or Titan do,” Lihua said, kneeling then kissing Patch’s nose.

       “I do,” patch replied, “I could push with any of you, but I stop myself, though sometimes it’s a hard won victory of my rational mind over my urge.”

       “I wish someone had pushed with me,” shadow replied, “it was awful pushing on my own.”

        “I can only push with those who are mortal,” Patch replied, “those who have real spirit rather than animatronic life, I’m sorry shadow.”

        “I thought you’d say that,” shadow replied sadly, “I suppose I am just a training aid when all’s said and done. I can strain and push, and scream and roar, and exhaust myself, but I can be reset and revived, you mortal life forms can’t, when you die, you die, so powers like Patch’s have to be there for the times of need.”

        “Are you saying Patch is ever living now?” Sita asked.

        “I was given an extra boost when I inherited sire Orbon’s body,” Patch replied, “I don’t know how long that will give me on this earth.”

       “Hopefully a long time yet,” cub Ekaterina said, “I have a lot to learn from you patch, but I don’t expect you to be my guardian, for I cannot bear to disappoint you a second time.”

        “We are all your guardians, as you are a community cub,” patch said, turning to cub Ekaterina and stroking her naked back from her shoulders to the small of her back.

        “Your touch makes me want to crawl into your lap and curl up,” she said, patch smiling and sitting down.

       “come then,” he said, clapping his paws, cub Ekaterina crawling to him, finding his feet, then feeling round to his right leg, then scrambling in over his right leg, pulling her body over his legs until her paws touched his left leg, drawing up her knees, then curling up in his massive warm lap.

        “if I sit in your lap, you could rub my feet,” cub Ekaterina said. Patch put his huge right arm around Ekaterina’s body, his paw over her belly, while she drew up her legs, bending them, Patch pressing the palm of his huge left paw against the soles of her small feet.

         “this is lovely Patch,” cub Ekaterina sighed contentedly.

       “Push with those feet Ekaterina,” Patch said, Ekaterina bracing her feet against his paw and arm, Patch able to stop her pushing his arm sideways without effort.

      “Uuuuuuuumf! Ururururumf!” cub Ekaterina moaned in her efforts, pushing hard with both feet, then alternate feet, left right, left right until she gave up in exhaustion.

       “You’re now a cub Ekaterina,” patch reminded her, drawing circles on the small sole pad of her right foot.

       “I know, I knoaoaoaow! Stoaoaoap tickling my fooooot!” she giggled helplessly.

      “If I tickle your foot, I can then rub the tickle from your pads,” patch said, Cub Ekaterina smiling.

        “yes,” she purred, “that is the really nice bit, though you tickling my foot is nice too.” Patch looked at the naked female cub, taking her in from her ears to her soft padded paws and feet.

       “These hind pads haven’t touched the floor yet have they,” he said, “but your knees and paws have.”

       “Yes,” cub Ekaterina replied, “it’s cold now too patch, the autumn is coming in, and I’m freezing!”

       “would you like to be dressed from neck to feet in a warm suit?” Patch asked.

      “Don’t cover my paws and feet,” Ekaterina said, “I don’t want to lose touch with the world.” Patch kissed Ekaterina’s nose and paws, the cub snuggling close to him.

       “would you like to wear a suit?” he asked.

       “Like furball does?” Ekaterina asked.

     “Yes,” patch replied, “we can make it so the wrists and ankles are elasticated so there’s no strap tight across your sole pads or squeezing your toes”

       “I’d like that,” the she bear cub replied. Patch picked cub Ekaterina up in his paws and carried her to the family lie up, and to his private room. There he set her down on the bed, where she sat looking very naked and vulnerable. Smiling, he turned away, rummaging in a cupboard for a suit. Finding it, he turned back to Ekaterina, measuring her by eye for the suit. Patch  wrapped her up in a warm blanket, cub Ekaterina tucking her paws and feet into the warm folds of the blanket while Patch did something with the suit, which involved a noisy fan and some heat. Turning back to her, Patch helped cub Ekaterina into the suit, easing the legs of the trousers over her own legs until her small feet emerged from the trouser bottoms, Cub Ekaterina having to help him by pushing her feet through the rather tight elasticated holes in the ends of the trouser legs, her ankles gripped firmly but comfortably by the elasticated cuffs. Patch asked:

      “Can you pull the trousers up yourself Ekaterina?” cub Ekaterina did so, finding they were a snug fit. Sealing the Velcro fastenings on the trousers, she found herself cocooned in warmth from her hips to her ankles. Patch then helped her on with the jacket, the whole thing velcroing closed round her hips, Ekaterina cocooned in warmth from neck to ankles.

       “If your feet and paws do get cold, there are socks and mittens for you, oh and a silly hat too,” Patch said.

       “I won’t wear the silly hat,” cub Ekaterina said.

      “Can you crawl about in that suit?” Patch asked.

       “If you would help me to the floor, I will try,” the polar bear cub replied. Patch helped cub Ekaterina to the floor, and she tried crawling about, finding it easy, that the suit moved with her and didn’t slip, just like wearing a second skin.

      “I like this,” cub Ekaterina said, “I can feel the air on the soles of my feet and carpet under my paws. The rest of me is very warm, but, oaoaoaoah! There’s a wind coming from somewhere to my left, and now my head’s cold!” she yelled.

       “Shall I get you that hat?” patch asked. Cub Ekaterina felt a warm hat placed on her head, wondering how patch got everything so warm.

       “I can still hear!” she exclaimed.

       “the hat  was made with little bears in mind,” patch replied.

       “It keeps my head warm without making me deaf!” Ekaterina squealed delightedly, rolling over onto her back, kicking the air while clapping her paws.

        “that’s very cute indeed,” patch replied. Ekaterina grabbed the brim of her hat with her small paws, stretching it until it caught on her nose, Patch laughing so hard he had to sit down. Ekaterina, feeling the hat blocking her nose, squealed with fright, bracing her paws against the brim of the hat, trying to pull the hat off her head. With an open mouthed cubbish squeal of angry dismay, the naked footed polar bear cub rolled about on the floor, kicking with both feet, crossing her legs,  curling and uncurling her toes, curling and stretching her body in increasingly desperate attempts to free her nose, all this accompanied by bad tempered infantile squealing and screeching. Lying on her back after ten minutes of intense struggle, panting hard, cub Ekaterina gave herself up for lost. Exhausted and frightened, anger was soon replaced by fear and terror, cub Ekaterina venting her distress in an almost constant cubbish scream of rage and fear.

        “now let me get you free,” patch replied, trying not to laugh, as he could hear cub Ekaterina’s distress was now very real.

        “come here,” Patch said, crawling up to the distressed cub, sitting and gathering her into his lap. Smiling, he gently stretched the hat until her ears and nose popped out of the hat.

       “there,” Patch said softly, hugging the whimpering polar bear cub.

       “the hat got stuck on my nose, then I tangled my toes!” cub Ekaterina wailed.

       “I saw,” Patch replied, “Maybe it isn’t such a good idea to stretch the hat down until it catches on your nose?”

       “My paws weren’t strong enough to make the hat go away!” the polar bear cub yelled.

        “that was very funny,” Patch replied.

      “nayaoaoaoaow it wasn’t!” cub Ekaterina yelled, beating Patch with her small paws, “it was horrid, and scary, and I squealed and tangled my feet and rolled and screamed!”

       “Then it wasn’t funny,” Patch replied.

       “But I bet you found it cute!” cub Ekaterina yelled.

      “I did find it cute until you really got distressed,” patch replied, “I found the whole thing up till then very funny indeed.”

       “Naoaoaoaoao you horrid thing!” cub Ekaterina shrieked, but both knew her anger was based on sand. Patch’s gentility had soothed cub Ekaterina’s distress, and she was unable to maintain her former fury.

        “You’re a cub,” Patch said, “and you were safe, even though your feet were stuck and your nose was caught. You could breathe, for you were screaming lustily, I knew you were safe. You are very funny when angry cub Ekaterina.”

      “Thanks!” Ekaterina whimpered.

       “I would never let harm come to you,” Patch said, tightly hugging her.

        “I know,” the polar bear cub purred, snuggling up to patch, who kissed her nose.

         “Your touch makes me all warm and sleepy,” cub Ekaterina said.

       “Would you like to put your gloves and socks on?” patch asked.

       “Would you help me?” Ekaterina asked.

        “Of course,” Patch replied, “but I must get them, they’re not here. I must put you down on the floor to get them.”

      “But my paws and feet will be all cold then!” cub Ekaterina whimpered piteously.

       “It’s only for a minute, I can see them from where I sit,” patch replied, “sit and rub your feet in your paws one at a time, curl and stretch your toes, rub the sole pads of your feet with your paws.”

         “What are my sole pads?” Ekaterina asked.

         “don’t you know?” patch asked, playing along.

       “No, not really,” cub Ekaterina replied, “I was miniaturised, and, well, forgot all I ever knew about my feet and paws really.”

        “okay, so now I have to tell you about your feet and paws, which I will,” patch replied.

       “You have big feet Patch, would you show me your feet, then teach me about mine?” cub Ekaterina asked.

       “I will,” Patch replied, “now, would you like me to find you some mittens and socks?”

      “Naoaoaoaow! My feeyeeet can’t feel the air then!” Ekaterina yelled, patch laughing and  hugging Ekaterina tightly.

       “What do you want? Warm feet or touch with the air?” he asked.

      “both!” Ekaterina whimpered. Patch smiled:

       “How if we wrap ourselves in warm blankets, then I can show you your feet while keeping you warm?” Patch asked.

        “would you just sit here rubbing my feet?” Ekaterina asked.

       “yes,” Patch replied, “I can then teach you about your feet and paws too.”

        “I thought I was to be left alone to find my own way,” Ekaterina said.

         “would you like me to leave you to it?” Patch asked.

       “My head tells me I must be left, but in my heart, no, I would be devastated if you left me here, cold and alone.”

       “Your feet and paws are cold,” patch said.

         “I know, I have poor circulation there, it’s terrible!” Cub Ekaterina replied.

      “No wonder your poor paws and feet are cold,” Patch replied gently. “well all the more reason to rub them and explore them then.” Cub Ekaterina laughed merrily at this, patch hugging her tightly.

        “if you sit sideways on to me, I can then draw circles on your sole pads and count your toes with my left paw, while cradling you with my right arm, okay?” Patch suggested, cub Ekaterina snuggling into his embrace.

       “I would like that,” she said, turning her head as Titan padded into the room and sat down to watch their play.

       “I know the settlement that gave Ekaterina a second chance,” he said, “but there is undeniably a love between you two.”

       “I can’t help it,” patch replied, “I just help cubs, be they the cubs of mamas who are injured in the conception of those cubs, or cubs who have lost their way.”

       “So you helped me, and helped Nanulak too?” cub Ekaterina asked.

       “yes, my pushing was for him and for you,” Patch replied.

       “I remember that,” cub Ekaterina replied, “I know I’m a cub, and that you have no obligation to me other than to protect me as a cub, but I can’t forget that deep peaceful feeling when you appeared next to me in my hour of deepest mental and physical pain. I’ve heard community members say that the real leader of the community is not Titan or Karina, but is you patch. They all look up to you.”

       “true enough,” Titan mewed.

       “I’m not worthy of that,” Patch replied.

       “but you are, if only you knew it,” Karina mewed, walking into the room, then crawling up to Patch, spinning round two paces from him so she crawled backwards, arriving on his left side, giving him the soles of her feet in a display which embarrassed him even further, as he realised the significance of her actions.

       “I’m not worthy of this either,” he said, reaching over with his left paw to draw circles on the ball of Karina’s right foot, Karina giggling and sitting back on her heels, bouncing extatically, then wriggling hard with pleasure.

        “You soppy thing Karina,” patch said gently, Karina drawing her feet together, then rolling over and sitting down, all the while keeping her feet in contact with Patch’s fingers, Patch drawing his fingers across from the ball of Karina’s right foot to her left, then, when she was comfortable, Karina slightly curling her toes so the skin on the ball of her foot bunched under his fingers, patch firmly rubbing the now bunched skin, Karina curling her toes tighter in response, Patch pressing more firmly still, Karina curling her toes as tightly as she could, pressing against Patch’s pressure.

      “puuuuuush Karina puuuuuush!” Titan urged, Karina laughing merrily.

       “I wayayayant to puuuuuush with my fooooot, but my toooes won’t curl tightly enough to let meyeee!” she whimpered, bouncing on her bum in frustrated rage.

      “You sound like Shadow!” Ekaterina giggled.

       “I wanted to push with her so much it was painful!” Karina mewed.

       “I know Karina dear, but we can’t,” patch replied. Frustrated, Karina grabbed the sole of her now free right foot, squeezing the pads of her heel and ball, curling her toes and rocking back and forth in her frustration, patch telling Ekaterina what Karina was up to, Ekaterina laughing helplessly.

        “I watched you pressing these feet against Sita’s paws during Felix’s birth,” patch said, tracing the ball, arch and heel pad of Karina’s left foot, Karina squealing with delight as she curled her toes as tightly as she could, finding she was able to curl her toes a little bit tighter as he touched the extra sensitive part of her sole by her heel pad on the inside of the arch of her right foot.

       “these pads are very soft Karina,” patch said, drawing a circle round the margin of her right heel pad with one finger, Karina giggling as he tickled her.

       “Can i feel your pads Karina?” cub Ekaterina asked.

       “yes, of course,” Karina mewed. cub Ekaterina, still sitting in Patch’s lap, took Karina’s foot in her paws, Karina resting her heel in Patch’s paws while cub Ekaterina explored her pads.

        Can I get paws on with the rest of you Karina?” cub Ekaterina asked.

       “yes, of course you can, I would love it if you did. After all, it is your need and indeed your right to look at me in the way you need, as others can look at me with their eyes.”

       “Mama Sita didn’t get paws on with you did she Karina,” patch said.

      “No, not in the early days, and I wish she had,” Karina mewed, “she missed me crawling and walking too. I showed her how I crawled and walked, and of course, she got paws on during the most painful, strenuous part of my life. I wish, so wish she’d get paws on more often, but she won’t.”

         “Maybe if you remind her that she is allowed to, Sita might get paws on more often,” Patch suggested. Karina got to her feet and padded from the room, riding up in the lift to Sita’s flat. Pressing the button on the intercom, she waited for Sita to ask who was there. Karina identified herself, and the door opened. Sita stood in the doorway until Karina touched her paw, then she led the way into the flat. Karina saw Philomena and Felix sitting at Sita’s table, eating a mountain of toast.

       “It’s nice to keep families together,” Sita mewed, waving a paw at the two cubs.

       “it is indeed,” Karina purred.

      “Sit down if you like, tea? Toast? Coffee?” Sita asked.

       “Coffee with buttered toast please,” Karina mewed, looking round at the two cubs, who had steaming mugs of tea in front of them, Felix tucking into peanut butter on toast, while Philomena had jam. Sita presented Karina with a pot of coffee and a heated toast rack full of toast, butter was in another dish, milk and sugar provided.

       “So you don’t butter the toast?” Karina asked.

 

        “You’re not a cub any more,” Sita mewed, “the toast is warm, the coffee’s hot, the butter’s spreadable, dig in before it gets cold.” Karina felt terrible for questioning Sita, for she saw what her son and half-sister had in front of them, a toast rack a piece, along with teapots, cups and sugar bowls. Sita had also portioned out some peanut butter into a dish for Felix, and jam for Philomena, far more than they could actually consume, now she saw,  but Sita’s innate sense had told her how much the cubs could eat. Soon the toast was gone, the tea drunk, and Philomena and Felix washed their faces and hands at the large double basin in the bathroom. Smiling, they flicked water at each other, Sita laughing as Karina remonstrated with them.

       “Stoaoaoap that you two!” Karina yelled, banging the table with her hand.

       “It’s only water mum,” Felix mewed, “we washed our faces and hands, then emptied, rinsed and refilled the tubs, it’s clean water!” Philomena blew bubbles in the water, Felix shrieking with laughter. Laughing, Philomena snorted water up her nose, making her cough,  Felix cradling her while she recovered.

       “That’s what silly play in water does to you, now stop it!” Karina snapped.

       “Silly play is all right,” Sita mewed, “Titan showed me how to play safely in the water, and it’s okay.”

       “ Karina finished her hot buttered toast, then drank deeply of the hot coffee.

        “Now who taught you to make coffee like this Sita?” Karina asked.

      “Patch did,” Sita mewed, “he’s my guide you know, and taught me to do a lot of things, not least to play properly.”

       “Patch suggested I remind you to get paws on with me more mum,” Karina mewed, “I want you to, but you never ask.”

       “I have no right to ask that,” Sita mewed.

       “but others are watching me all the time, they see when I’m playing, when I’m rolling about on the floor with my cub. they can see me from my nose to my toes, you can’t. You missed Felix walking and crawling too didn’t you.”

       “I did,” Sita mewed, “but my world is an isolated one. Getting paws on is not mine to ask, let alone be granted such privileges.”

       “okay, I’m here, Felix is here, please, get paws on with both of us, okay?” Karina asked.

      “I will and thanks,” Sita mewed.

      “and I’ll find my mum, the one you call Freckles too, and you can get paws on with us!” Philomena replied. Philomena called Freckles lie up, Freckles only too eager to help. Soon she was in Sita’s flat, the three Felursapiens and one Felursa sitting on beanbags, Sita getting paws on with them from their ears to their feet, all were very sorry when Sita’s tactile exploration came to an end, for her paws made them feel warm and safe.

       “Everyone curled their toes with pleasure!” Karina giggled.

       “I’m not surprised,” Freckles replied, “Sita’s got a lovely touch.”

      “I almost want to make a regular appointment with her for this!” Philomena exclaimed, Felix smiling at her.

       “You took the words from me,” he said, “I want to too.”

       “There’s nothing stopping you,” Karina mewed.

      “Can we walk among her paws and let her get paws on with us while we’re crawling too?” Philomena asked.

      “yes, of course,” Freckles replied.

       “I liked it when mum touched my feet while I did that,” Karina purred.

        “We are certainly very interesting to the touch,” Felix replied, “furry bodies with naked human like hands and feet, bear like bodies with  heavy arms and legs, bear cross cat like  faces with whiskers, and a long tail too.”

       “I love how your eyes shine and toes curl when Sita touches your feet, it’s so cute!” Karina laughed. Felix playfully swiped at his mum:

      “Yours do tooooo!” he replied, Karina smiling broadly.

       “Sita’s touch is very like patch’s, but then he is her sire, and the only one who really gave birth to her,” Karina mewed.

       “Haimati spoke falsehoods from her spirit to gain patch’s help,” Freckles said.

       “She did,” Sita mewed sadly, “but that’s all over now,” she said, shaking herself, as if to rid her mind of the thought of her mother.

       “how’s little Apudo?” Felix asked.

      “She’s fine, and she won’t be little for long,” Sita mewed.

        “I watched Titan giving birth to her, it was amazing!” Felix mewed.

      “It was,” Karina agreed.

       “It was an amazing effort by both,” Sita mewed.

       “You mean Apudo started the process of her rebirth?” Felix asked.

       “yes,” Sita mewed, “she opened the door and Titan helped by pushing her out into the world. He had no urges to push, so he had to do it voluntarily  until she was quite far down, then he couldn’t help pushing hard down into his bottom.”

      “he yowled and miaowed like a tigress, it was lovely to see Apudo reborn and Titan’s commitment to her.” Karina mewed.

       “Titan’s so sweet!” Sita purred, “he let me get paws on with a re-enactment of Apudo’s rebirth, it felt amazing!”

       “I saw that,” Karina mewed.

      “Titan really can curl his toes,” Felix mewed.

      “We all can when giving birth to cubs,” Sita mewed, “it’s an experience which really makes you curl your toes tightly, especially when pushing.”

       “I think I curled mine,” Karina mewed.

       “You did,” Sita purred, “and I curled mine the last time I had a cub Karina.” Karina grinned:

       “I was a big cub,” she replied.

       “Next time though, I think I’ll take a leaf from your book Karina,” Sita mewed, “I will try and crawl and ease my cub out. I pushed too hard last time I think.”

        “You did what your body wanted,” Karina mewed.

      “and the result was a beautiful cub who grew into a lovely person,” Sita purred, Karina giggling with embarrassment.

       “awww mum,” she said, crawling to Sita and hugging her, Sita purring deeply.

       “I love you Karina,” Sita purred, Karina’s eyes filling with tears, “I will never forget Felix’s birth, when my cub turned into a mama herself.” Karina buried her head in Sita’s shoulder, sniffing and gulping.

        “I felt real freedom then,” Karina sniffled, “freedom to push, to be myself.”

       “I felt the pads of a frightened cub under my paws,” Sita mewed, “then, once that cub got onto the birthing ball, she pushed like a mama would.”

       “I alternated from straining mama to screaming cub I think,” Karina mewed, “but you were lovely mum. You rubbed my feet and helped me ease Felix into the world.”

       “You told me to get paws on, and I did,” Sita mewed.

        “I wanted your touch so much!” Karina purred.

      “Ease me into the world?” Felix asked, “I was pushed and  squeezed into the world!”

       “I know,” Karina mewed, “You’ll never know how much pushing I had to do. Each push seemed so powerful, but did very little for the effort exerted. Ask Titan about that.”

      “Titan seemed to push so hard, but Apudo came so slowly,” Felix mewed.

      “yes that’s right,” Karina mewed.

       “so a lot of pushing for little progress,” Felix mewed.

       “yes,” Freckles confirmed, “I gave birth to Philomena in the woods, during that I pushed for a long time to deliver her into the world. Strong pushes, long straining efforts, but little progress.”

       “but when you got paws on, did you feel better?” Karina asked. “Oh yes, when I got paws on with Philomena emerging, then I did,” Freckles replied laughing gently, “then I knew my pushing was doing well. The problem came when I couldn’t push out her tail. that needed a joint push pull from me and her.”

     “We both pushed with our feet and pulled with our paws,” Philomena said.

     “We did,” Freckles replied, picking Philomena up in her paws and hugging her.

      “my hands and toes remember the feel of the woodland floor,” Philomena said.

      “So do my paws and toes Philomena dear,” Freckles replied.

       “that must have been a hard fight,” Karina mewed.

       “It was,” Freckles replied, “have you seen Blackberry’s video of it, he caught everything. He was there with me, but I wanted to give birth unaided, I told him to keep recording whatever happened.”

       “I have seen it, it’s a hard watch,” Karina mewed.

        “But we did it mum,” Philomena said.

      “We did,” Freckles replied.

       “I think we should re-enact that for Sita,” Freckles said.

       “that would be fun,” Philomena replied, “Sita can tell me when my tail’s about to come free, I can then roll head over heels. She can also encourage you to crawl and push with your feet.

 

Freckles and Philomena settled on their paws and knees, the tips of their toes touching, Sita making sure they were ready to go, Philomena’s tail stretching between freckles feet and under her body.

       “now, let me pant a bit, then we’ll brace our toes and we’ll try to free Philomena’s tail.” Freckles said. Moaning and panting, both mother and cub braced their toes and lifted themselves off their knees onto hands and toes. Sita got paws on with Freckles and Philomena as both re-enacted what they had done in the woodlands, Sita’s memory of the sound on the video still very fresh.

      “wow!” she exclaimed as Philomena rolled head over heels at the end, tumbling into her paws.

        “that’s how it was done,” Philomena panted.

      “Thanks for showing me that,” Sita mewed.

 

Later that day, Blackberry, having downloaded the footage of Shadow in labour along with the animatronic bear’s vocal and physical reaction to her two labours into the computers, padded into the secret room where he experimented with his animatronic ideas. There he found Janet comforting a distressed animatronic Felursa which looked like Sita.

        “You do realise I’ll have to tell Patch what you have made here,” Janet said.

        “I must turn her off!” Blackberry replied, “I can’t have three of these walking round, I have a Felursapien training aid too, and if the contagion spreads to her also, the community will hate me! I’ve already been warned once!”

        “You must come clean with how many you have made, and let Patch give them full life, then make no more,” Janet replied, “I’m already struggling with this one, the Felursa. You really have made something you don’t understand. Patch understands them better than you do Blackberry! You know the mechanics, but he knows their spirit. You must not make any more of these, This poor Felursa wants to meet Sita. I do not know if she should be allowed to or not.”

        “get her to meet Titan,” Blackberry replied.

       “I don’t want to meet Titan,” the Felursa replied, “I need to meet Sita, the first Felursa who ever lived.”

        “You cannot meet her!” Blackberry raged.

       “You cannot meet Sita!” Blackberry screamed, slapping the floor with one paw.

 

Later that day, Blackberry’s Felursa found her way from the room in which she lived, Janet having left the door open without telling Blackberry. The Felursa padded on noiseless paws, her motors silent. Fully charged and fuelled, she padded to the lift and looked at the screen which showed pictures of the occupants of all the lie ups, as well as their names. She had two choices, use a joystick or a touch screen. The Felursa found Sita’s picture, touching it with her paw, the lift asking her:

      “Sita’s lie up, do you want Sita’s lie up?  double tap to accept.” The Felursa tapped the screen twice and  the lift beeped, accepting her choice by darkening the screen and opening its doors. The Felursa padded into the lift and rode to the floor above the family lie up, passing a huge grey bear as she padded from the lift. The bear followed her on silent paws, letting her into Sita’s lie up, watching her enter Sita’s lie up, then Padding in after her.

 

The Felursa padded to Sita’s bed, where she lay sleeping, patch padding to a corner and lying down. Sita slept on a warmed blanket, her heritage being that of cats which like warm climates, her ursine heritage being mostly the shape of her body rather than any DNA from patch. The Animatronic Felursa, yet unnamed, lay down beside Sita, Sita woken by the feel of someone lying down beside her.

        “Who are you?” she asked sleepily, “then waking fully, more sharply, “How did you get in here?”

       “A grey bear let me in,” the Felursa replied, “and as for who I am, I’m related to you I think, by image anyway. I was desperate to meet you, but because of Blackberry’s wish to kill me, Janet had to conspire with patch to let me out when Blackberry was asleep.”

       “Blackberry wishes to kill you?” Sita mewed, rolling onto her side and taking the Felursa’s paw in both of hers, feeling the warm pads that had a pulse just like hers.

        “Blackberry wants to end the experiment, he is scared of what he created,” the animatronic Felursa replied, “he made me, I’m a Felursa. He also made An Animatronic  Felursapien, a tigress and a bear. he had no need to make a human, as someone had already done that. He made us as training aids for him. Though he went further in our programming than he wished, and now, now we learn, we think, and we are as he is. Patch warned him about creating us in the way he has, but he ignored Patch. Now Patch has given us the gift of Community membership, as we are sentient, and cannot be lawfully killed. The Felursapien has met Karina, the first born of her kind, and now I have met you, the first born of my kind.”

        “Why did you want to meet me?” Sita asked.

         “to meet a gentle creature, as I know I want to be gentle, but don’t know what it means to be gentle. I have an urge to be gentle, but what is gentle?  How do I be gentle?  I know it means not hurting others, but I feel there is more to it than that. I feel you know cubs so well they snuggle you. I would love my cubs to snuggle me when I have given birth to them, as I am in cub now, as is the Felursapien who is now meeting Karina for the first time.”

        “I cannot see you, can you see me?” Sita asked.

       “I can,” the newcomer replied, “though I have been taught to touch first, then use my eyes.”

        “Can I feel you?” Sita asked.

       “yes, but make it a good one, from nose to toes, okay?” the newcomer replied. Sita got paws on with the newcomer, feeling her face, her ears, shoulders, arms, back, belly, legs, paws and feet and finally her long tail. Sita smiled as her touch made the newcomer’s toes curl with pleasure, marvelling as her pads bunched under her fingers.

         “You have opposable thumbs, just like me,” Sita mewed.

       “I think I was modelled on you Sita,” the newcomer replied, “I think Blackberry modelled me from my nose to my toes, using you as a template.” Sita felt strange, but treated the newcomer as she would any other new creature, stroking fur then rubbing pads, the newcomer curling round to embrace Sita at the end, Sita feeling the newcomer’s need to hug her.

        “stay here, and I will protect you,” Sita mewed. The newcomer kissed Sita’s right ear, then her nose, Sita giggling delightedly.

        “Blackberry’s too clever for his own good,” she mewed, “who taught you to seek out gentility?” Sita asked.

       “during one of my programming sessions I was told to find the one whom I most resembled and follow them,” the newcomer replied, “one day I was shown a list of pictures, I touched your photograph on the list and have wanted to find you ever since. When I woke in the room where Blackberry keeps us, I wanted to leave to find you, but my programmer would not let me. She said that Blackberry, the brains behind my programme now wanted to kill his creations. He is too clever for his own good, he created life in us. I think the grey bear has something to do with my protection too.”

      “The grey bear is the only one who understands fully what Blackberry has created,” Sita mewed, “Blackberry has a mechanical mind, he doesn’t know what else he has made other than that you are a very sophisticated training aid. The programme which he inspired created more than just a training aid.”

       “Why could the programmer not refuse to programme me,” the newcomer asked.

       “Each bit of your programming leads to another bit, and another bit,” Sita mewed, “Soon it becomes too intricate, and is more akin to complicated mortal life. Blackberry has vision, but not insight. Patch has insight into what you will become. He knows what you are, and protects you because of that knowledge. Just because you were not born of a mama’s pain and struggle, does not mean you are not as alive as I am.”

       “I know Blackberry will not make any more of us,” the newcomer replied.

       “I hope he doesn’t,” Sita mewed.

       “I like you Mama Sita,” the newcomer said, “please, treat me as your cub, hug me, teach me?” Sita smiled.

      “I will,” she purred.

        “thank you,” the newcomer replied, “how will you name me?”

      “Well, I have the name Mama Sita, so you can just be little Sita for now, then plain Sita when you grow up, for you are a harvest, as was I when young, but now my pads are wrinkled with age, toughened and dirtied with life while yours are soft and clean.” The newcomer smiled, hugging Mama Sita tightly.

       “Will my Felursapien friend be adopted by Mama Karina?” Little Sita asked. Mama Sita thought for a minute.

       “I hope she is, despite what Mama Karina may think of Blackberry’s stupidity, I hope she doesn’t take it out on her animatronic likeness.”

        “I’m smaller than you Mama Sita,” Little Sita mewed, Mama Sita nodding.

       “yes you are slightly,” she replied, “this is a good thing indeed.”

        “My Felursapien friend and I used to play together when we were being taught what was what before we broke free,” Little Sita mewed, “Janet let us both out today you know. Blackberry’s probably going to go mad when he finds out. we learnt We were not his playthings, though we would help him by giving birth to cubs over and over again. But then, once we got to thinking about that, and other things, we decided giving birth to cubs over and over was not our thing at all. We saw Shadow and Shandy doing it, and though we knew it was to be our time soon, we didn’t want it right now, we wanted what the cubs had, for we watched Felix and Philomena, and wanted some of their play too. Janet programmed us more like over developed cubs than fully grown mama training aids. Blackberry was thinking of what to do if mamas barely out of cubhood came to him I think, and wanted to train on a younger training aid. Trouble with that was, that our brains looked for care and nurturing, not to be training aids right from when we were given our autonomy. He didn’t think of that, but Janet did, having been a young mama herself I bet. She looked for care and nurturing when she was younger too. Oh, and by the way, I have a feeling jess is going to come back to Patch. I know what she did during Rosemarie’s birth, and the conversation they had, but I’ve been watching her and Royston, and I think she misses Patch a lot, despite her professing her maturity and lack of need for him. He knows this, but cannot approach her until she makes contact.” Little Sita had studied what Patch and jess had been to each other, and had felt almost as bereft as Patch when jess had made the break with him just before the birth of her first child. Granted, jess could not crawl and play like she used to, but Sita still hoped to touch jess and Patch’s feet while they  played the stuck foot game at least once again. Sita remembered laughing helplessly at patch’s retelling of the story of when jess caught her toes in the egg box when simulating the sound of stretching glue as they struggled to free their feet from the glue of play, and how Jess, in her efforts to free her toes, ended up fighting against her own toes, tugging at the egg box while her toes, already trapped in the box, curled with her efforts, her toes holding the box ever tighter the more she struggled.

         “I think there will be a time soon when Jess will plead with Patch to play the silly games they used to play,” Little Sita mewed, “I think she will come to a realisation, and crawl back to him, touching his paws and wanting to press her feet against his.”

       “I’m sure she will,” Mama Sita mewed.

       “I’ve also been watching two younger female human cubs, Jenny and Sally,” Little Sita said, “their play makes me smile.”

       “their play is very involved,” Mama Sita mewed, “they’re always playing foot games, holding each other’s feet and pulling them free, as well as the traditional stuck foot games, cycling games and leg wrestling games, pushing their feet hard together, testing the strength of their legs.”

       “Can we play that game now?” Little Sita asked. Mama Sita smiled:

      “A cycling game?  Press our feet together?” she asked.

      “yes,” Little Sita mewed.

      “Okay,” Mama Sita mewed, rolling onto her back, Little Sita crawling round to her adopted mama’s feet and examining them closely by touch and sight, blowing on Mama Sita’s pads, Mama Sita laughing and pedalling the air at the tickling.

       “Now I’ll press my feet against yours,” Little Sita mewed, lying down on her back, pressing her feet against Mama Sita’s, her toes burying themselves in the gap between the ball and toe pads of Mama Sita’s feet, the older Felursa curling her toes around her adopted daughter cub’s, Little Sita rubbing Mama Sita’s sole pads with hers as she wiggled her toes deeper into the warm grip of Mama Sita’s toes, Mama Sita adjusting her grip twice before both were Satisfied. Once they were Satisfied, Little Sita pushed her feet hard against Mama Sita’s, Mama Sita pushing hard back, feeling her adopted cub’s feet pushing hard against  her soles, Mama Sita finding herself curling her toes with effort as she braced her feet, pushing hard back against the pressure of her cub’s feet.

        “eueueueueuemf, Uuuuuuuumf!” Mama Sita grunted as she pushed back against her adopted cub’s feet with her own, feeling the sweat breaking out on her pads.

      “now pedal with those feet mama!” Little Sita miaowed, Mama Sita releasing her toehold on her cub’s toes then pushing hard against her feet, she and little Sita pushing their feet furiously back and forth, left right, left right,.

      “now cycle the air, pedal round and round,” Mama Sita panted after a furious ten minutes of play, both of them cycling, their toes and the balls of their feet keeping most contact, while their heels briefly touched during their furious pedalling.

      “This is fun!” little Sita mewed, Mama Sita laughing merrily.

        “Let’s get paws on with each other’s feet,” little Sita mewed, sitting up and grabbing Mama Sita’s left foot in her paws, Mama Sita grabbing the cub’s right foot in hers, tickling her toes, little Sita shrieking with laughter, rocking back and forth and curling her toes.

      “I love your touch!” little Sita mewed, gently curling her toes around her mum’s fingers as she explored the toes and the gap between the ball and toe pads of her right foot, Mama Sita pulling her fingers from the grip of her daughter cub’s toes, drawing wavy lines from the ball of her foot to her heel, little Sita shrieking with laughter and squirming delightedly.

       “I’ll tickle your toooes Naoaoaoaow mum!” little Sita miaowed, tickling the toes of Mama Sita’s left foot, Mama Sita bouncing and squirming as her cub had, little Sita laughing helplessly at her mum’s reaction to her inexperienced toe tickling.

        “Can we join the party?” Mama Karina asked, padding into the room with Felix, Philomena and a large, but young looking Felursapien. Mama Sita, now used to anyone barging into her flat, put an end to little Sita tickling her toes by placing her paws on the cub’s smaller ones and asked:

      “Who’s here?”

       “Mama Karina, Felix, little Karina and me Philomena,” Philomena replied, hugging Mama Sita.

       “I wanted to introduce my youngest cub to you Mama Sita,” Mama Karina mewed.

      “You gave birth to another cub?” Mama Sita asked.

      “Mum played at it for a bit of a laugh,” Felix replied, “but no, mum didn’t. this is Blackberry’s last creation, a computerised Felursapien. She’s lovely Mama Sita!” Mama Sita felt a large creature clambering into her lap. Getting carefully paws on, she found the creature was similar to Felix and her own youngest daughter cub. Sita embraced the newcomer in her huge paws, the new Felursapien snuggling up to Mama Sita, turning and throwing her arms around her neck, nuzzling into her chest.

         “You are a big softy,” Mama Sita mewed, hearing little Sita laugh merrily.

        “She is!” she said, clapping her paws. Holding the Felursapien cub with her left arm, Mama Sita explored down the new Felursapiens left leg with her right paw until she reached her left foot, noticing the bunched pads and curled toes of effort as the creature pushed herself hard into her large hug.

     “Is little Karina on her feet yet?” Mama Sita asked.

        “yes, well, she didn’t want to be,” Mama Karina replied, “young Karina wanted to crawl, and I let her. Blackberry made these latest creations very young mothers indeed, barely out of cubhood. I felt a kinship with little Karina, for she looked to me like I looked when I gave birth to Felix, very scared and vulnerable.”

       “I too am on my feet, and was going to ask you if I could crawl like a cub Mama Sita,” little Sita replied.

       “You can,” Mama Sita mewed. she explored little Karina further, then said: “this Felursapiens feet are very like yours Mama Karina when you were very young, I suppose if she was to give birth to her cubs, she’d scream and cry like a cub in labour.”

         “yes, she would,” Janet said, walking in, “Little Karina and little Sita are meant to be young mamas barely out of cubhood, to give Blackberry and other medical trainees an idea of what it would be like to work with very young first time mothers who are having their first cubs.”

        “I got that first paw, as it were,” Mama Sita mewed, “no training what so ever, I had a young mama in labour on my paws, and we got through okay.” Mama Karina grinned.

        “The problem was, during their programming, little Sita and Karina didn’t want to go the way Blackberry wanted, “ Janet said, “they wished to go another way, so I let them, knowing how it had been for me to give birth in this community when really too young to do so. I was barely out of cubhood myself, screaming with labour pain. Moses was the result, and he is a lovely cub.” Mama Sita smiled broadly.

      “he is,” she mewed.

        “We will help with training Blackberry in the future,” little Karina said, “but we don’t’ want to do it right now.”

        “We saw cubs being cubs, and wanted to be cubs before training aids,” little Sita mewed. Mama Sita smiled:

       “I like that,” she said.

       “We wanted to be like jess, getting our toes stuck in egg boxes while playing, and playing the stuck foot game until our feet were well stuck too,” little Karina mewed, “little Sita and I played those games, and we got stuck too Mama Sita, it was lovely!” the young Felursapien said, Mama Sita, her right paw still resting on the sole of the young creature’s left foot, feeling her toes relax, then curl with excitement.

        “My feet are so big, I could never get my toes into an egg box to try it out for myself,” Mama Sita mewed.

       “We must see if we can get one big enough,” Janet said, “it was a plastic box jess used I think.”

        “I can fight my own curled toes with my paws,” Mama Sita mewed.

      “Go on then, show us,” Janet said. Mama Sita gently put little Karina down on the floor, then, with everyone watching intently, shuffled back a bit, then grabbed her right foot with both paws, rubbing her sole and toe pads with her fingers, her toes curling with the pleasure of her ministrations. Mama Sita, working up from her heel to the ball of her right foot with her left paw, rubbed the pads of the toes of her right foot with the fingertips  of her right. Suddenly, when the fingers of Mama Sita’s  left paw were rubbing the ball of her right foot, and had reached the gap between the thick ball and toe pads, and were exploring it with care, the toes of her right foot tightly curled, trapping the fingers of her left paw in their strong grip. Squealing, Sita tugged at her left paw, but could not free her fingers from the grip of the toes of her right, which seemed to hold on more tightly the more she struggled. Growling, Mama Sita rocked back and forth and side to side as she tugged at the toes of her right foot with her free right paw, but her struggles were useless, the toes of her right foot wouldn’t release their hold on the fingers of her left paw.

       “the toes of your left foot are curling with your efforts,” Janet said.

     “Miaoaoaoaoaow! Riaoaoaoaoaow! I caaaaaan’t freeyeee my fingers! My toooes won’t let goaoaoaoaoao! Riaoaoaoaoaow! Roaaoaowr! Riaoaoaoaoaow!” Mama Sita complained, squirming,  wriggling and  rocking from side to side and back and forth in her efforts while tugging harder at her paw and curled toes than she ever had, the toes of her right foot curling tighter still. Yowling piteously and throwing herself onto her back, Sita struggled harder than ever, bending her right leg then trying to straighten it so the fingers of her left paw had to be released by the toes of her right foot. With a furious wriggle and a rising yowl, she pushed hard against her left paw with her right foot, the toes of her right foot now unable to hold her fingers, her curled fingers scraping down the sole of her right foot as the toes of that foot, which had held her fingers captive for so long, finally lost their grip.

        “Well done Mama Sita!” mama Karina cheered, clapping her hands.

       “That was difficult!” Mama Sita miaowed, panting hard.

       “you needed no egg box at all Mama Sita,” Felix mewed.

        “No,” Mama Sita purred.

      “that looked very real,” Philomena said.

       “It was!” Mama Sita mewed, “my toes wouldn’t let go of my fingers, no matter how I tugged at my toes with my free paw or at my trapped paw to free it from them, I was stuck!” she yowled. Little Sita laughed for a long time at her adopted mama’s antics, as did everyone else.

        “I should try that I think,” Janet said.

       “I hear you’re quite good at getting your feet stuck Janet, your foot  stuck  so firmly that you have to turn your foot over in the glue and crawl away, using the power of your leg through the braced ball and toes of your free foot and arms through your gripping hands to free your trapped foot,” Mama Sita mewed.

       “I am quite good at that. Bracing the toes of one foot, pushing with those toes while pulling with my arms and hands to pull my held foot free of the firm grip of someone’s hands or paws. I like that game a lot, the firmer held my foot is, and the more I have to push and struggle, the better. If they start with the pressure of their paws on my heel, then move to my arch and so on as I pull and struggle, I like that best,” Janet replied, “and, she added, “if I pause for too long, they can slowly reset the game, and while they’re working their hands or paws up to my heel, I’ll squeal and wriggle, let my bracing foot slip and curl my toes with frustration.”

      “sounds energetic,” mama Sita mewed.

      “it can be very entertaining,” Janet replied, “and Sita, it’s not the ball of my foot I push with, I just push with my toes. Here, I’ll show you,” she said, kneeling, then getting into a crawling posture, “crawl to my feet and touch the soles.” Mama Sita crawled up to Janet’s feet, feeling her left foot resting on its top, the sole uppermost, her whole sole exposed to Sita’s gentle exploring paws, then her right foot with toes braced, the skin of her arch taught, her toes pressed against the floor.

        “Ah, I get the picture,” Mama Sita mewed, Blowing on the toes of Janet’s left foot, Janet squealing with laughter.

      “I don’t think that was part of the deal,” she laughed, turning and hugging Mama Sita.

        “Oh, I’m sorry for tickling your toes,” Mama Sita mewed.

       “No Mama Sita you’re not,” Janet replied, kissing her nose.

        “if I hadn’t tickled your toes, I wouldn’t be getting a hug now, so that’s a good outcome isn’t it?” Sita asked, Janet embracing her tightly.

        “Can I tickle your toes in return Mama Sita?” Janet asked.

        “Well, yes, but I’d know you were about to do it, so my reaction wouldn’t be as spontaneous as yours.”

       “You’re right there,” Janet said, Mama Sita purring deeply.

       “have you played with Jenny and Sally?” Janet asked.

       “yes, I have,” Mama Sita mewed, “I’ve rescued their feet from yoghurt pots too you know.” Janet laughed:

       “They’re silly like that, getting their feet stuck in yoghurt pots, just to see what happens.”

        “And you never have tried it?” Mama Sita mewed.

        “I did, once or twice,” Janet replied, “the second time, I barely got my foot out of the pot! I thought I’d have to get scissors and cut myself free! That was when my foot was almost too big to get in there, and instead of stopping when I realised my foot was almost too big, I tried curling my toes extra tight to get my heel in. I managed it, stretching my toes a little when my foot was in the pot, pressing my heel against  the rim. When I came to free my foot, I had to curl my toes extra tight and wiggle my foot a bit to free my heel.”

        “How long ago was that?” Mama Sita asked, laughing hard. Janet giggled:

       “Oh, about a month back, I have small feet for my age really, and I was playing a silly game with Moses, and yes, got my foot stuck in the pot. Stretching my toes jammed my heel against the inner lip, and after a bit of crawling about, my foot was warmed by my play enough that it got a bit bigger, and I had to concentrate on curling my toes as tightly as they’d go so I could make my foot small enough to ease my heel from the pot.”

        “You silly thing!” Mama Sita laughed, kissing Janet’s nose.

       “I even tried those rubberised socks Moses wears to school,” Janet said, “they’re as good as he says they are, you can feel everything as if your feet are bare, and only in the wet does the rubber grip, so when it’s dry, someone who is rubbing your feet doesn’t feel anything but near normal skin feel under their hands or paws. Curling toes causes the sock to follow the contours of your bunching skin on the ball of your foot, they are wonderful things. Though getting them off is a bit of a trial, it can be done by the wearer with a lot of tugging and curling of toes to begin with to free my heel and roll it over my arch,  then relaxed toes and tugging to free the toes. Though it is nice to have another’s help when ridding my feet of those socks.” Mama Sita smiled:

      “I’ve worn them myself,” she mewed, “they are a pest to remove aren’t they.”

       “Why would you need to wear those socks Mama Sita?” mama Karina asked, “you have thick sole pads, not like me and other Felursapiens, we have tender pads on our feet, just like young humans do.” Mama Sita smiled:

      “I want to play the way my cubs do, even the human cubs,” she purred, “if they play with socks, so will I. if they struggle to get them off, but make the struggle into a game, I will help them and also get my feet stuck in the socks to play their game with them.”

       “Awww Mama Sita, that’s so sweet!” Janet giggled.

       “I’ve noticed Moses loving Jenny’s touch so much he can’t keep quiet, he curls his toes Expressing his pleasure in pleasurable moaning and whimpering, asking her to touch his heel pads and toes, curling his toes as Jenny rubs them. he crawls away, making her chase his toes, squealing when she gets hold of his feet, but begging her to rub his heels and toes again. I think they make a regular thing of it now, Moses going to Jenny’s flat for foot rub time. He also rubs hers too, they really do enjoy each other’s attentions, though Moses does like to watch their antics on video, and laughs at how he reacts to Jenny’s touch, though admits he really can’t keep quiet when she’s playing with his toes or rubbing his pads.”

        “Moses begs her to rub his toes and heel pads, It’s so cute!” Karina giggled.

       “I’ve seen that,” mama Sita mewed.”

        “I’ve played with him, rubbing his pads and playing with his toes too,” Janet said, “he squeals as if hurt when I stop, grabbing his feet in his hands and tightly curling his toes, then almost purrs when I play with his toes and rub his pads.”

       “Sounds like a bear cub!” Mama Sita mewed.

       “Moses was brought into the world by a bear,” Janet reminded her.

       “Oh yes, he was wasn’t he,” she said smiling.

       “I was that bear,” cub Ekaterina said, crawling into the room.

       “I know you were,” Mama Sita mewed, “but you are now a cub Ekaterina.”

       “I still remember Moses birth,” Ekaterina replied.

       “I do too,” Janet replied, “it hurt, and I pushed harder than I ever thought possible. It was time for me to moan deeply, tightly curl my toes, scream loudly and push. it was very hard work.”

      “I remember that too,” Ekaterina said. Janet left, leaving Karina, mama Karina, Philomena and Felix with Mama Sita.

       “So should we put those socks on, Mama Sita?” Philomena asked.

       “Hmm, if going outside, yes, for indoors, no you don’t need to.” Mama Sita replied smiling.”

       “Would you like to check my feet for thorns Mama Sita?” little Karina asked.

      “Didn’t mama Karina do that for you?” Mama Sita asked.

      “yes, she did, but she said you might want to check also,” the Animatronic Felursapien replied.

        “Oh, okay,” Mama Sita said.

       “Get paws on with my feet too,” Philomena said, “then you can check if our feet are similar Mama Sita. I must say, little Karina’s feet and hands do look very well made, almost as if they were made naturally. I wonder if your paws will find any differences between mine and hers.”

       “Okay, lie down and I will get paws on with your feet,” Mama Sita mewed, little Karina crawling up to Mama Sita and lying down, letting Mama Sita run her paws all over her, Little Karina wriggling with pleasure at her touch.

        “Little Karina’s fur, hands and feet are warm, and her toes and fingers curl like Yours would Felix,” Mama Sita mewed.

       “So Blackberry did well in his creation?” Philomena asked.

       “yes,” Sita purred, “but he doesn’t understand what he created, so it scares him.”

      “he doesn’t know anything,” Mama Karina mewed, “Blackberry has these technological visions, but he has no insight into the consequences of his creations.”

        “he made Shandy and she saved her own cub, that was not meant to happen, and life was created.”

       “will Shandy have her other two cubs?” Philomena asked.

      “She will,” Mama Sita replied, “but she may not let them go beyond two weeks of life, if she does, then they become sentient life, like little Raja.”

        “I know my reactions to giving birth to my cubs will be those of a startled two year old Felursa, barely able to have cubs,” Little Sita mewed, “I know I can’t stop that.”

         “Mine was that reaction,” mama Karina replied, “I know how you will feel little Sita.”

       “You did wonderfully mama Karina,” Mama Sita mewed.

      “I saw Felix’s birth, it was amazing!” Sita mewed.

      “It was scary!” Mama Karina mewed, “I felt things I never felt during the spiritual rebirth of Angeni. Mama Sita helped me a lot that day.”

      “I can still feel her paws holding and pulling my tail!” Felix miaowed.

      “No you can’t!” mama Karina yowled.

      “I pulled ever so gently,” Sita mewed.

       “I know you did,” Karina purred.

       “I’m so tired,” little Sita mewed, rubbing her eyes with clenched paws, “I need to rest,” she yawned.

 

Meanwhile, Blackberry, having found out that his Animatronic Felursa and Felursapien had made their own choices, waited with sweating paws for the whole thing to blow up in his face. He was sure his training aids would go rogue and try to kill those who’d promised to look after them.

 

Janet padded into Blackberry’s lie up on bare feet.

        “What are you looking so glum about?” she asked.

       “What are those creatures doing in Mama Sita and mama Karina’s lie ups?” Blackberry asked.

       “they wanted out Blackberry, they’re not just training aids you know,” Janet replied.

        “But they are!” the Black bear shouted, “they’re training aids Janet! Highly sophisticated training aids!”

       “Your vision created life Blackberry,” Janet replied, “the more you wanted me to code, the more I had to code in to give the creatures boundaries. In the end, your wishes made me create life. I had to code them with a moral code to make sure they didn’t go rogue. I gave them choice, as they were younger creatures than the first two.”

        “they chose nurture rather than work,” Blackberry replied.

      “They did,” Janet replied, “but they will work for you when their minds are older. Of course, they will still act like young mothers when in labour, but they will have made the choice to do that work.”

         “I’ve got a headache!” Blackberry whined.

       “Two headaches I think,” Janet replied, “one, a painful head, and two, your wish to make these machines which you make ever so complicated so that programmers like me have to basically create life to enable your fantasies, stop it Blackberry!”

       “I will!” Blackberry moaned.

       “Little Sita and Karina are fine,” Janet said, “They will play with mamas Sita and Karina, and Karina’s cubs.”

       “You saved me from myself,” Blackberry whimpered.

       “I did I think,” Janet replied. “I used my own experience as a young mum to advise the creatures what it would be like and asked them if they’d want to do it straight away, they chose not to.”

        “They wanted play first,” Blackberry replied.

        “yes, we did,” a voice said, Blackberry seeing a half grown Felursapien and Felursa standing just inside the door.

       “oaoaoaoah, they look so real!” Blackberry wailed.

       “They do, they’re full of life too,” Janet replied.

        “You made us, now you hate us?” little Sita asked, walking towards Blackberry.

        “I fear what you have become!” Blackberry replied, fending the creature off with raised paws, “I don’t understand what I’ve made here.”

       “if you’d given birth to us in one of your re-enactments that you do, would you understand us better?” little Karina asked.

       “Oaoaoaoaoh, it’s like that?” the black bear whimpered.

       “It is,” little Sita mewed, “we know you pretend to have cubs yourself. If you’d given birth to us like Sire Kuruk gave birth to Faith, would you dismiss us then?”

       “I, oh dear!” Blackberry squealed.

       “You wouldn’t?” Little Karina asked, dropping to her knees and crawling towards Blackberry, the black bear staring at her.

       “oaoaoaoah, she looks like my daughter cub did when she was younger, I can’t stand this!” Blackberry screeched.

        “You modelled me on the only likeness you had,” the Animatronic Felursapien replied.

       “but, but, you’re too alike!” Blackberry wailed, “yes, I know I made you with white body fur and black arms and legs instead of deep brown black, but, it’s too much!” Blackberry moaned piteously.

       “you’re too clever for your own good Blackberry,” mama Karina said, padding into the room, “first you create Nanulak, then you create shadow and Shandy, now little Sita and little Karina. I’m not sad you created these creatures, but your experimentation must stop! It’s wrong of you to leave others to pick up the pieces of your dabbling’s!”

        “I’ll stop now! Right now!” Blackberry wailed, “I’m resigning as medic, I can’t cope with this!” he whimpered.

      “Who will take your place if you go?” mama Karina asked, “you are ideally placed to do this work.”

       “Patch can do it,” Blackberry growled, “I’m clearly not fit for this!”

       “but Patch’s paws are too big!” mama Karina wailed.

        “he can slim them down if he wants,” Blackberry grunted, getting up, brushing everyone aside and leaving the room.

       “Oh dear,” mama Karina mewed, watching the black bear disappear.

        “Patch’s paws are too big!” Janet said.

       “he thinks they are, but we have only his word for it,” Mama Karina mewed.

       “We can’t measure Blackberry’s paws, he’s taken them with him!” Felix said, Philomena laughing so hard she had to lean on Janet.

      “there is one who has the same size paws as Blackberry,” Shadow said, padding into the room.

      “So you would measure paws with Patch?” Janet asked.

       “I would,” Shadow replied. Karina dialled up to Mama Sita’s lie up and called the grey bear down to the medical room. Patch padded in to the room, smiling at mama Karina and her cubs.

        “paw measuring time?” he asked.

       “We want you, patch, we want you to take over the medic’s job,” mama Karina mewed, “Blackberry’s run off, and you’re so gentle and all, that we think you’d do well at it.”

      “I used to do that job in a former body,” Patch replied smiling, “I would hurt any mama to be now though, I have such big paws that I couldn’t pull a cub if I tried.”

      “Are your paws really that big patch?” little Karina asked. Patch padded over to the animatronic Felursapien cub.

      “Look at and touch my paws,” patch said, lying down on the floor. Everyone looked at Patch’s paws and feet, the huge bear’s pads examined from all angles.

       “You have very clean pads patch,” mama Karina mewed.

      “Why thank you dear mama Karina,” Patch replied smiling.

      “his paws are huge!” Felix mewed.

       “His pads may be thick, but let’s measure them,” mama Karina mewed. Patch measured his paws against Shadow’s, patch’s paws were huge.

       “How if you help Shadow and Shandy have their cubs patch?” Mama Karina asked, “they can tell us if your paws are too big.”

        “I have rebirth slept my two cubs already,” Shadow said.

       “the comfort of patch’s presence will probably outweigh any discomfort his large paws may cause if he has to get paws on with the birth of a cub,” mama Karina mewed.

         “I can feel that,” Shadow replied, “I only wish he was allowed to push with me.”

       “I can’t, and you know why,” patch replied, getting to his feet.

       “I know why,” Shadow replied. Patch padded to Shadow’s sleeping place, where he found her cubs in a deep sleep.

      “so who’s got control of Shadow and Shandy now?” Patch asked.

        “I can,” Janet replied.

     “Will you please put Shadow into her sleep mode?” Patch asked, Janet pulling out a mobile phone and tapping her screen, Shadow padding to her sleeping place and lying down.

      “Now I’ll show you how to reset her,” Janet said. Janet returned Shadow’s cubs to her womb, topping up fluids and the she bear’s own energy by plugging her into a mains supply by covering her paws and feet with mittens and socks.

        “So Blackberry’s run off for good?” mama Karina asked.

       “I don’t know, but I must carry on his work while he’s away,” Patch replied, washing his paws.

        “Blackberry’s work used to consist mostly of pulling thorns from Apudo’s pads!” Felix giggled.

        “Yes, I know, and I will continue to pull thorns from her pads,” patch replied smiling.

       “well you’ll be busy, as she’s on her feet after her rebirth,” Mama Karina mewed.

      “She is, and she’s wonderful,” Patch replied.

 

“it’s wet outside!” a voice yelled, the sound of small scampering paws coming nearer. Patch turned to the door to the outside air, just in time to see Apudo racing into the room. So intent was she on running from the rain, she failed to see Patch standing in her path. Miaowing with surprise as she spotted him standing on his feet, Apudo jammed the toes of her paws into the floor, the rubberised flooring gripping her toes, flipping her into a forward roll. Yowling hysterically, her eyes full of terror, Apudo flipped head over heels, Patch leaning down and catching her in his paws in mid-air.

        “Thanks!” Apudo gasped, lying on her back in his embrace.

         “You came charging in, saw me at the last minute and tried to break to a stop,” Patch said, looking down at the little lioness.

        “I did,” Apudo mewed piteously, “my toes stuck and flipped me upside down!” she yowled. “

      “I would recommend braking with your hind feet, not your paws Apudo,” Patch said softly.

I saw Apudo’s pads, I saw her pads!” Felix laughed, clapping his hands.

        “if you wanted to see my pads, I would have rolled over and shown them to Youououoaw!” Apudo whimpered, Patch bowing his head, kissing her nose then hugging her.

    “Apudo tumble cub?” he teased, Apudo yowling and swiping at him with her paws.

      “Apudo tumble cub! Apudo tumble cub!” Philomena carolled, Apudo miaowing and spitting at her.

      “Stoaoaoap that!” Apudo yowled, thrashing the air with all four fat paws, Patch smiling down at the wriggling cub held securely in his arms.

        “You’re growing into a lovely lioness,” he said, Apudo batting at his nose with her paws.

      “she’s beautiful standing on her feet or lying on her back,” Philomena said.

      “I prefer the view of Apudo on her back, you can see her face, belly and the soles of her paws and  feet that way,” Felix mewed. he thought for a minute, “mind you,” he said, “the view of Apudo tumble cub was cute too.”

       “nayaoaoaoaow not Youououoaw as well!” Apudo yowled.

        “you’re very cute Apudo,” patch said, “right from your black nose through brown eyes and tawny fur to your black paw pads.”

       “awww that’s so sweet to hear!” mama Karina mewed. Patch blew on Apudo’s paw pads, Apudo purring deeply with pleasure, curling her toes to catch Patch’s breath on her pads, the bear smiling broadly.

       “Where’s Titan?” Apudo asked.

      “he’s about somewhere,” Patch replied, “would you like to go to him?” yowling, wriggling  and waving her paws, Apudo struggled madly until patch let her go, turned paws down in mid-air, landed on her feet and ran off.

       “I suppose that was a yes,” patch replied, watching the scampering cub’s tail tassel vanish round a corner.

       “Apudo’s beautiful,” Philomena said.

       “Why did she struggle and wriggle?  Why did Apudo not just ask to be let go?” Felix asked.

        “I suppose she liked the perceived danger of wriggling free and being in control of her own landing,” patch replied, “I let her go, and she flipped onto her feet in mid-air.”

       “I saw that, it was wonderful!” Felix mewed.

        “it was,” Patch replied.

 

Apudo ran through the house, loving the feel of the cool tiles on the pads of her fat little paws and feet. Smiling with delight at her agility when turning corners, she raced faster and faster, gripping the tiles with the pads of her paws and feet, feeling the tiles with all of her paws and feet, enjoying the sensations under her feet. Racing into the pride lie up, her head down in concentration, she tripped and flew! Yowling with fear, Apudo crashed onto the beanbag sofa, her back hitting the back of the sofa, her body sliding down the back of it, until Apudo found herself facing outwards, lying half on her side, cradled in its embrace.

       “What did I trip over?” she asked blearily.

       “My tail!” Sita miaowed.

        “Um, sorry Mama Sita,” Apudo replied, wriggling until she could see the huge Felursa, who had got to her feet and was now padding carefully towards her.

        “I wonder who’s more blind sometimes,” Mama Sita mewed, “I didn’t even hear you coming little Apudo. What were you doing to launch yourself so high into the air by tripping over my tail?”

        “I was, was running hard, I wanted to find Titan,” Apudo mewed piteously.

         “you nearly lost your head,” Mama Sita mewed, reaching the sofa, sitting carefully down, then feeling for Apudo, lifting her into her lap and examining her by touch.

       “Tell me where it hurts,” Sita mewed.

       “I’m all right! Paws off!” Apudo miaowed, spitting at and striking out at Mama Sita with her small fat paws. Despite the spitting fury in her lap, Mama Sita refused to be deterred from her paws on examination of Apudo’s body, starting at her head and ending at the end of her tail.

       “Nowhere hurts, now leave me alone!” Apudo miaowed.

        “You’re pads are a little tender,” Sita mewed, handling the cub’s left paw.

        “I, um, tried to stop my headlong run just before I slammed into patch,” Apudo confessed.

       “You’re too small to run about like this at the moment,” Mama Sita mewed gently, “you’ve burnt these pads a little.”

       “They are a bit sore,” Apudo admitted, “running on the cool tiles of the passage helped me cool them.”

        “Then you tripped over my tail,” Mama Sita mewed, soothing Apudo’s pads with her tongue, cooling the hot damaged pads with her breath.

         “I did,” Apudo mewed, snuggling into Mama Sita’s embrace, purring deeply.

        “So I’m now allowed to explore these pads?” Mama Sita mewed.

      “yes you are,” Apudo yawned, stretching her paws, Mama Sita smiling as Apudo’s paw stretched under her touch.

        “I like feeling bunching and stretching pads and stretching and curling toes,” Mama Sita mewed, Apudo giggling delightedly.

       “That’s so sweet!” she replied, “well I have four paws, please, get paws on with them, and I’ll curl and stretch my toes and bunch my pads all you like.” Mama Sita smiled broadly.

       “Can I curl my toes and bunch my pads while you hold my feet too Mama Sita?” Philomena asked, padding up to the sofa.

       “yes, you can, but not before I’ve done it!” Apudo snapped, “and you have two feet only, I have four, so I take longer to do it okay?” Philomena sat down to watch Apudo, smiling at her assertiveness.

       “You win,” Philomena replied. Apudo and Mama Sita played their game, Sita holding each of Apudo’s paws in hers, the little lioness curling and stretching her toes, Sita rubbing her toe pads and palm or sole pads, then getting her fingers into the gap between the sole pad and toe pads of Apudo’s small feet as she curled and stretched her toes, Sita rubbing the lioness’s pads, Apudo squirming, mewing and purring with pleasure, pushing her feet hard against Sita’s rubbing fingers.

       “puuuuuush with your feet Apudo, puuuuuush!” Philomena urged, giggling delightedly.

       “I’m  really puuuuuuushing! with both feeyeeet too!” Apudo miaowed, Mama Sita laughing helplessly.

        “You are just too cute Apudo,” she said, Apudo scrabbling at her left paw with the toes of both feet.

      “maiaiaiaiaiaow! Roaooaoaoaoaoaooaoaoaoaoaoaoaaoowow!” Apudo miaowed  in a cubbish voice while her toes scrabbled for purchase, Apudo keeping her claws sheathed.

  “your pads are all damp now, you’re really putting everything into this aren’t you Apudo,” Sita said smiling.

        “I’m trying so hard to stop my head exploding with pleasure  by pedalling my feet fast!” Apudo mewed, Philomena laughing helplessly at her antics.

       “You’re so cute Apudo!” Philomena said, Felix padding up to the sofa, attracted by the noise.

       “I love upside -down Apudo,” he said, tickling the pads of the little lioness’s right foot, Apudo squealing with surprised delight.

       “You Rogue!” she yowled.

      “If I move my foot to my right, you can rub my pads, and Sita can rub my left foot,” Apudo mewed. Felix traced her thick toe pads and the thick sole pad with the fingers of his right hand.

       “I like your thick pads, are they your heritage from Titan?” he asked.

      “It must be,” Apudo mewed, “my feet were rather flat padded when I was bigger than I am now.”

      “You have lovely pads Apudo,” Philomena said, Apudo has thick pads like we do Felix, she’s young like we are. Apudo bouncy-paws, as well as being a bouncy tumble-cub.”

        “she’s so sweet,” Felix said.

       “Apudo has the cutest feet and paws,” Mama Sita mewed.

        “So you feel you cannot touch her face?” Felix mewed.

       “I can while grooming her, but not generally,” Mama Sita mewed.

        “I will express my feelings through my voice, paws and feet Mama Sita,” Apudo mewed.

       “Maybe if we all closed our eyes and got paws on, we may find we all have another dimension,” Philomena said.

       “What on earth are you on about?” Felix asked.

        “Just that touch is far different to sight, and that if we got paws on with respect for each other but without fear, we might learn something more about each other,” she replied.

        “Mama Karina said something about that when she groomed me last,” Felix mewed, “she often explores me by touch. She does this even when I’m clean after she’s been licking and combing at my fur for an hour.”

        “What I really enjoy is when my feet and hands are washed,” Philomena said, “Freckles wets her paws and rubs them over my feet and hands, it feels wonderful!”

       “mama Karina washes my face, feet and hands that way,” Felix mewed, “it’s really nice.”

       “I love having my paws and feet washed,” Apudo yawned, covering her mouth with both paws, stretching her legs, pointing, curling and stretching  her toes, Felix watching in admiration.

       “she’s beautiful even when she does that!” Felix mewed.

        “Apudo’s lovely,” Philomena replied, Mama Sita smiling as she got paws on with the stretching, toe curling, yawning cub.

        “You stretch like Apudo does when you’re about to go to sleep Philomena,” Felix mewed.

         “Do I?” she asked, “I’ve never noticed.

        “You wouldn’t notice yourself silly!” Felix giggled.

       “No, suppose not,” Philomena mewed.

        “Where’re little Ekaterina and Moses these days?” Felix asked.

       “Oh, they’re in their flat, playing pass the twig with a marble. It’s rather an interesting foot game, I played it with mum a few times, it’s really hard!”

      “how do you play that game?” Felix asked.

      “Pick the marble up in your toes and try to pass it to someone else’s toes, only using your toes,” Philomena explained, “the best way to make the pass is for the other player to roll onto their knees and for the first player to use their toes to place the ball in the grip of the other player’s toes, the other player curling  their toes round the ball and crawl with the ball to a third player, then pass it to the third player. It’s quite difficult, the larger the marble, the harder it is.”

       “That sounds like a really great game,” Mama Sita mewed, “”what happens if you drop the ball?”

       “the other player gets to tickle your toes,” Philomena replied.

       “Ah, sounds good,” Mama Sita mewed.

      “It’s a lot of fun,” Felix replied.

         “I’ll bet you and Philomena play that game a lot,” Sita mewed.

      “Of course,” Philomena replied, her eyes shining.

       “I forget you two are part human,” Sita mewed, “oh, and you haven’t tried doing what Janet and Sally did with their feet too have you?”

      “You mean getting them stuck in pots and or socks?” Philomena replied starting to giggle helplessly.

       “Yes,” Mama Sita mewed, “Have you?”

      “Felix put his foot in one of those socks, then jammed it into one of the pots too!” Philomena squealed delightedly.

        “yes Mama I did,” Felix confirmed.

       “I’ll bet that took some effort to free,” Mama Sita mewed.

        “it did,” Felix replied, “oh, and I wear those socks outside too, as my poor pads are so tender Mama Sita. You see, our feet are young human ones like those of Moses and Little Ekaterina, so they’re all soft and not used to hard ground.” Mama Sita smiled broadly.

      “I know,” she replied, “your pads are all springy and soft.”

        “I’m going if you three are going to play pass the marble,” Apudo mewed, “I can’t play it, I’m a cat.” With that she rolled off Sita’s lap, landing on her feet. Smiling, she ran off.

      “Apudo!” Mama Sita miaowed, “walk from the lie up!”

        “Oh, yes, slow down,” Apudo mewed.

       “yes, otherwise you end up flying,” Mama Sita mewed.

        “I’ll slow down,” Apudo mewed, “I’ll pretend my feet are slightly sticky so I can’t run,” she stepped exaggeratedly toward the door, tugging each paw and foot from the floor as if they stuck a little each time she placed them down, Felix and Philomena laughing at her antics.

      “Oh Apudo! You silly thing!” they laughed, Apudo wriggling and bouncing as she struggled to free her feet as she walked.

       “the faster I try to walk, the more the glue sticks my feeyeeet!” the little lioness yowled, Philomena choking with laughter.

      “if you walk slowly, you won’t stick,” Philomena said when she could speak.

       “but I wayayayant to go fast! When I do, my toes and pads stick hard, and I’m pitched into head over paws and I fly and land in sofas and the embrace of bears and things!” Apudo yowled.

      “Things?” Mama Sita enquired.

        “You grabbed meyeee, I didn’t land in your lap!” Apudo huffed, realising the drift of Mama Sita’s enquiry.

       “it’s all right Apudo,” Felix mewed, padding to Apudo and hugging her.

        “You’ve got a slight mane,” Felix mewed, “are you going to be stopped from running about by a long mane, like last time?” he asked.

      “I might,” Apudo mewed, “but I’d rather remember not to run about than get tripped by my mane.”

      “Apudo tumble-cub,” Felix teased, Apudo miaowing and swiping at him with one fat paw.

       “You’re big and fat Apudo,” Felix mewed, “a fat little cub you are,” he said. Apudo was about to get very indignant and start protesting when Felix threw his arms round her, hugging her tightly, her previous anger forgotten in a rush of warm feelings.

       “What was all that about your liking me upside down?” Apudo asked.

       “On your back, paws in the air,” Felix mewed, pushing Apudo onto her side, then over onto her back, staring down at her.

       “This way, I can see your face, and the pads of all four gorgeously fat paws,” Felix mewed,  when you’re right way up, I can only see your face, and you trip over your paws all the time, which makes you tumble rather amusingly. Also, when you’re on your back, or upside down, I can grab your paws or feet and do this,” Felix said, grabbing her fat little left paw then rubbing the pads, Apudo miaowing and purring with pleasure, the toes of her three free paws curling with pleasure.

       “That’s why I like upside-down Apudo very much,” Felix mewed, his eyes shining as she kicked the air with her feet and pawed at him with her free paw, miaowing and purring.

       “This nose and these toes are soaoao cute!” Felix said, kissing Apudo’s nose and pads, the little lioness clasping his head in her fat little paws and returning the kiss to his nose with her rough tongue, Felix’s eyes shining into hers.

        “That’s so sweet!” Philomena gushed, quickly recounting Apudo and Felix’s antics to Mama Sita, who laughed merrily and crawled over to them.

       “Apudo’s lying on her back on the floor, Felix holding her paws in his hands,” Philomena said, When he kissed her nose, she grabbed his head between her fat little paws and returned his kiss, it was Soaoaoaoao cute!” she squealed gleefully.

       “You two make me smile,” Sita mewed, “What is it you like about Apudo Felix?”

        “Oh, she’s so fat and cute, and she runs around everywhere, head down, concentrating on her paws, then she looks up, sees she’s about to crash  into something, digs her toes in, they stick, and she tumbles over her paws, landing in a spitting miaowing heap! Then she rolls onto her back in a frothing paw and foot waving rage, showing  me her face, belly, paws and feet. she’s very cute,” Felix gushed.

        “I don’t mean to fall over my paws!” Apudo miaowed, “but, well,” she considered aloud, “when I do, I get the pads of my feet and paws rubbed and played with, so it’s not all bad.” Felix laughed and hugged her as tightly as he dared.

       “If you tumbled in the playroom, you could be a tumble cub in safety, and kick the air with your paws and feet in a cubbish fury until you tied them up in knots, and I could crawl up to you and rub your pads as much as you liked,” he said.

        Awhwhwhwh Felix that’s so sweet!” Philomena said, her eyes shining.

       “I haven’t really let myself go yet,” Apudo mewed, “everyone’s stopped me so far. Maybe one day I’ll really get furypuss and kick until my feet and paws tangle, and then that will make me even more furypuss and you can come and soothe my angry curled toes on paws and feet.”

       “Why not tangle your paws and feet now?” Felix asked.

      “nooaoaoaot now!” Apudo miaowed, “I’ll do it later, now, now I’m getting paw and foot rubs and it’s nice.”

      “What if I stop,” Felix asked.

     “nayaoaoaoaow! Don’t Stoaoaoaoap!” Apudo begged, waving her paws and feet about, Felix grabbing each of her paws in turn then kissing the pads, then grabbing each fat foot then blowing on her toes, Apudo yowling with laughter, kicking hard, the toes of her left foot striking him on his nose. Felix sat down and gently took the fat cub’s left foot in his hands, blowing on her exposed pads, making sure his breath tickled each pad on the sole of her foot, Apudo shrieking with laughter.

      “Mama Sita! Felix’s tickling my feeyeeet! Stoaoaoaoap him!” she miaowed.

       “No,” Mama Sita mewed, laughing at the antics of the two creatures.

        “I love these big fat paws,” Felix mewed, washing her feet and paws, Apudo purring deeply.

       “now can you get onto these paws and feet and walk?” Felix asked, kissing Apudo’s nose.

       “I don’t want to now,” Apudo mewed, “being upside-down Apudo is such fun, my feet, paws and nose like it a lot.” Philomena and Mama Sita said:

    “awww!” In unison, then fell about laughing.

         “when you’re in the playroom, I will come running in, jam the toes of all four feet into the floor, then roll onto my back, I think I need to use my rear brakes as well as my front ones a bit Felix,” Apudo mewed. Apudo suddenly jerked her foot free of his hands and scrambled into his lap.

      “Hug me Felix,” Apudo begged, “hug me tightly too, I’m quite tough you know.” Felix felt Apudo’s head resting on his shoulder, and he put his arms around her body and hugged her tightly, the little lioness snuggling hard up to him, holding him as best she could with her paws.

        “So you have four paw drive and excellent ground holding skills?” he purred into her ear.

      “Four paw drive yes, ground holding skills?  Well, no, my front breaks are better than my rear,” Apudo mewed, both she and Felix laughing merrily.

        “You don’t dig your claws in do you?” Felix asked.

      “No, I don’t,” Apudo mewed, “I thought my toes would stop me!” she whimpered.

        “I loved the old Apudo very much,” Felix mewed, “but the new smaller Apudo is so cute I could easily fall in love with her all over again.” Apudo buried her head in his shoulder, snuggling up, purring as deeply as she could.

       “Get hands on with me, rub my feet and paws, play with me, please?” Apudo pleaded.

      “I will,” Felix mewed, “can Philomena get hands on too?”

     “yes, and, then could I chase your tails and toes?” Apudo asked.

       “You can,” Philomena replied, lying down to get a closer look at Apudo.

       “Apudo is very cute isn’t she,” Philomena said softly. Apudo smiled at the two Felursapiens.

       “I still want Mama Sita to rub my feet though,” Philomena said wistfully.

       “She can now her paws are not full of a fat little lioness,” Mama Sita replied.

     “Oi, that’s not fair!” Apudo yowled.

       “But you are fat, fat from your nose to your toes,” Felix mewed, touching Apudo’s nose, then her toes, digging his fingers into the gap between the toe pads and heel pad of her right foot and scratching the tender place of pleasure he found there, Apudo mewing and purring.

      “Why not scratch the pads of Apudo’s foot on the place that would be the ball of my foot,” Philomena suggested. Felix moving his fingers down slightly from the gap between Apudo’s heel pad and toes to the ball of the heel pad, then pressing and scratching that, Apudo miaowing:

      “I preferred between my pads, scratch there, the bit, the bit where the thorns get caught, that’s very sensitive, I hate thorns there, but, but, when I’m not walking, a good rub there feels great!”

        “I’ve had the privilege to get hands on with fleur and Snowy’s paws and feet recently, they have lovely thick pads, Fleur’s are thickest of all, as she’s a liger. Titan’s used to be cat like too, but now he’s got more of a bearlike paw and foot, but he can still walk on his toes like a cat if needed, he has thick pads on heel and ball and long toes  with thick pads too.”

       “We Felursa’s can all do that, it’s rather good for creeping about,” Mama Sita mewed. she thought for a minute, “let’s go to the playroom where you can tumble and roll in safety Apudo.”

 

Miaowing with excitement, Apudo leapt to her feet, ran a few steps, crossed her legs, tangled her feet and fell flat on her nose.

     “Ouauauauauauw!” the lioness screeched, Felix and Philomena trying not to laugh.

        “Oh dear, oh dear!” Mama Sita mewed, stuffing her left paw into her mouth to stop herself for laughing like the two Felursapien cubs.

      “My feet tangled and I hurt my nose!” Apudo yowled, sitting down then rubbing her nose with a paw.

       “You’re a funny little cub,” Mama Sita mewed.

      “I’m nooaoaoaot!” Apudo yowled hysterically, turning and rushing at Sita, tripping over her own feet, flying through the air and landing in Sita’s lap, Sita laughing helplessly at the little lioness’s antics.

      “Stop it Apudo, stoaoaoaoap it! You’ll kill me laughing!” Sita laughed. Apudo coughing and gasping as the wind came back into her lungs.

       “Dear Apudo, take a deep breath, several breaths and slow down!” Mama Sita mewed, picking Apudo up, turning her onto her back and gently placing her down on her lap.

       “I tripped and flew,” Apudo mewed piteously.

       “Stand on your feet, then walk gently, walk feeling the floor under your pads, love walking, love pad pad padding, don’t tangle your toes.” Apudo smiled at Mama Sita.

      “I love my feet being rubbed,” Apudo mewed softly.

       “You don’t have to tangle your feet to get your pads rubbed,” Felix giggled.

      “Every time I run, I trip over my feeyeeet!” Apudo whimpered.

      “then don’t run,” Mama Sita mewed.

       “Where’s Titan?” Apudo asked.

      “I’m here,” a voice mewed, Mama Sita screaming with shock, Felix laughing helplessly.

       “You saw him come in and didn’t tell me!” Mama Sita accused.

       “yes,” Felix replied, spluttering as he tried to repress his giggles.

       “I’m here Apudo,” Titan mewed, “I’ve been watching you tripping over your feet the whole day, and thought I might come and check that things were okay. Walking doesn’t seem to be your strong point since you came in from the rain.”

       “I keep tripping over my toes!” Apudo raged, waving her paws and lashing out with her feet.

        “I saw,” Titan mewed gently, kneeling then kissing Apudo’s nose, then blowing on her waving paws.

       “I have watched my rebirth again,” Apudo mewed, “Would you do it again Titan?”

        “I would,” Titan mewed, “I know my feet and paws are not the same as those with which I gave birth, but I am the same Liger inside.”

       “I could imagine you giving birth to me in the form you are now,” Apudo mewed, “it would be wonderful Titan.”

       “it might be,” Titan mewed, “but I hope I don’t have to do that Apudo.”

       “I promise to do all I can so you don’t have to,” Apudo mewed.

        “You’re a cub, play like a cub, fall over your paws, show everyone your pads, get cuddles, give hugs, ask others to touch you and touch others,” Titan mewed.

        “I will,” Apudo mewed, “Felix likes me, “upside-down,” as he puts it. He means  me with my face turned to the sky and paws and feet in the air.”

        “I’ve seen that,” Titan purred.

       “I can see all of her then, and she can’t fall anywhere either,” Felix mewed.

       “That’s true,” Apudo mewed, curling and stretching the toes of her paws and feet, Titan watching her face, paws and feet, watching Apudo closing her eyes and bearing her teeth as she concentrated on curling and stretching her toes, making her pads bunch and stretch as she tightly curled and stretched her toes.

      “That’s a lot of concentration,” Titan mewed as Apudo panted with her efforts.

       “Sometimes my feet and paws don’t seem to be mine,” Apudo mewed, wriggling and kicking, “I’m happily padding along, then my my toes trip and I fall over them!” she miaowed, Titan laughing merrily.

        “you’re so cute Apudo,” he purred, reaching out with a paw to trace the pads of her left foot, Apudo grabbing his fingers with her fat padded toes.

        “Got you!” she growled, miaowing as she struggled to hold onto her prize as Titan tugged at his trapped paw.

      “miaoaoaoaoaow! Rowowowowor! Roaoaoaoaaoowow!” Apudo yelled as she struggled to hold onto his paw with the toes of her left foot, Titan kissing her sweating pads as she rested, panting hard after a few minutes of struggle.

       “You’re a lovely cub,” Titan mewed, kissing Apudo’s nose.

       “How do I stop my paws and feet tangling whenever I walk Titan?” Apudo asked.

        “Go slowly my dear cub,” Titan mewed.

       “or you could try being upside-down Apudo more often,” Felix giggled.

       “Okay, let me try,” Apudo mewed, getting to her feet, Titan rubbing the tops of her feet and paws with his paws, Apudo purring deeply with pleasure.

        “I’ll walk with you to the playroom,” Titan mewed, “Mama Sita, Felix and Philomena, are you coming too?” Everyone followed Titan and Apudo.

 

Padding to the playroom, the five creatures stopped to remove their outside pads, enjoying each other’s attentions as each helped the others to remove imaginary thickened pads and wash the resulting softer pads beneath. This done, they padded to the playroom, Titan rolling head over heels in delight as his feet touched the rubberised flooring, Apudo yowling with laughter at his antics.

        “Look at that silly Felursa!” she yelled, waving her paw at Titan, who now stood on his feet smiling broadly.

       “Who’s leader round here now?” Titan asked, “I really think I should put myself up for re-election in my current form, as it were.”

         “You were elected because of what’s inside you, not what form you take,” Mama Sita mewed.

        “thanks,” Titan mewed, dropping to all fours and turning to the assembled creatures.

       “Now, Apudo, can you run without tangling those gorgeous paws and feet?” he asked.

      “I can do it Titan, but sometimes, well, sometimes it doesn’t work!” the little lioness mewed.

         “I wonder what the next mutation will be?” Felix mewed, “Titan’s magnificent! I wonder, will we get a female white liger?”

        “Hmm, Shandy would have been that if I’d been a white liger,” Titan purred.

       “You would have had to be born of leonine Samson to have a chance of being a white liger,” Mama Sita mewed.

       “the best bit of a liger has to be their paws, all huge and soft,” Theo mewed, padding in with Bianca.

        “Liger paws are lovely aren’t they,” Mama Sita mewed.

       “I know,” Theo purred, “Titan’s paws were beautiful, and still are, but I loved those thick pads so much!”

       “I’ve still got those,” Titan mewed, lying down, Theo racing to him and examining his paws and feet.

       “Thick toe pads, thick pads too on the palm of your paws and balls of your feet, then a deep arch and a large heel pad on your feet,” Theo mused, “long fingers and toes too!” he exclaimed.

       “I can walk flat footed like a bear or run on my toes like a cat,” Titan mewed.

        “What are these feet like when you curl your toes?” Theo asked. Titan curled the toes of his left foot, the one Theo held in his paws, the toes curling tightly, bunching the pads to nearly half way down his arch.

        “that’s so cute!” Theo mewed, rubbing the bunched skin on the sole of Titan’s left foot.

       “Of course, when I have another cub, if I do, I’ll be curling them even tighter, as I did when rebirthing Apudo,” Titan mewed.

       “you’re having another cub?” Apudo asked, leaping about with excitement.

      “No, not yet!” Titan laughed, “I’m just saying that if I do, my paws and feet will tell the story of my struggle.”

        “I hope you’re vocal too,” Mama Sita mewed.

       “I will be, if it happens,” Titan mewed. Titan purred and mewed as he stretched and curled his toes with pleasure as Theo rubbed his pads.

        “I love big springy liger pads,” Theo mewed.

        “I know you do,” Titan purred, “just touch Apudo’s pads, hers are a lot thicker and more springy since I rebirthed her. If you want genuine thick liger pads, find ligress Fleur and ask her if you can touch her paws and feet, she’s got very thick pads,” Titan mewed.

       “Leopold should also have thick pads, but he’s only a cub, so you probably won’t want to get paws on with him,” a voice said. Theo padded over to Leopold and  playfully knocked him off his feet, leaping at and grabbing his now free paws, rubbing and playing with them, the Taliger cub mewing, moaning and purring with enjoyment of Theo’s ministrations.

       “You noisy thing Leopold!” Theo laughed.

      “I learnt that from mama fleur,” Leopold mewed, “she made lots of noise during my birth, so now I do too.” Theo kissed the fat Taliger’s nose, Leopold pawing at his face with his large, soft, exceedingly fat paws.

      “You’re big and snuggly, and I love that,” Theo mewed.

      “Don’t I get to play with Leopold’s paws too?” Bianca asked.

       “I’ll play with his paws, you play with his feet,” Theo mewed. Leopold, now pinned down by two white lions, mewed, growled, wriggled and purred as they played with his paws and feet, rubbing his pads and playing with his toes, Leopold finding the only way to stop his head exploding with pleasure was tightly curling his body and the toes of all four huge paws, closing  his eyes and clenching his teeth from time to time.

        “Do you notice what Leopold does every time we rub his pads Theo?” Bianca asked.

        “yes, he curls into a mewing, toe curling, teeth clenching ball of fur, it’s so cute!” the young lion replied, Bianca giggling happily.

      “miaoaoaoaoaow! Rowowowowor! Roaoaoaoaaoowow!” Leopold yowled as he struggled to articulate something for which he had no words.

       “keep rubbing his pads Theo!” Bianca urged, Theo rubbing the pads of Leopold’s left paw, the taliger squirming and miaowing.

       “Leopold’s so funny!” Apudo giggled.

       “You sounded like that,” Titan mewed softly.

     “Naoaoaoaow I didn’t! Oh, all right, I might have sounded like that,” Apudo mewed.

       “Could I hug you Titan?” Leopold asked.

       “yes, why not?” Titan replied, lying down. Leopold hugged Titan, the Felursaliger smiling and returning his hug.

      “You big snuggly moggie,” Titan mewed, Leopold complaining:

       “I’m nooaoaoaot a moggie!” Slapping him with his paws, Titan laughing merrily, turning onto his back, lifting Leopold up in his paws, bench pressing the Taliger, Leopold pedalling the air with all four huge paws with increasing desperation, Apudo shrieking with laughter.

      “Put him down Titan!” she laughed, rolling about from side to side on the floor, kicking the air with her feet and waving her paws in cubbish excitement.

      “Puuuut meyeee doaoaoaoaoaown!” Leopold screeched, Titan lowering him until their noses touched, kissing his nose. Rolling over, Titan let Leopold go, the taliger cub sprawling on the floor.

        “don’t ever do that again!” Leopold moaned piteously.

      “That was Soaoaoaoao fuuuuuuny Titan!” Apudo squealed gleefully, waving her paws about.

      “Naoaoaoaow it wasn’t! Titan lifted me off my feeyeeet and I pedalled hard, but he bounced me up and down! Oaoaoaoah, I’m going to be sick!” Leopold moaned, vomiting onto the rubberised flooring.

        “Oh, maybe it wasn’t so funny,” Titan mewed, Apudo struggling to hide her mirth by snorting into her paws.

       “I’ll clear that up,” Felix mewed, running for a brush and shovel.

          “I need to wash,” Leopold whimpered, gagging and spitting.

          “I’m sorry Leopold,” Titan mewed, looking very contrite.

       “Titan! Wash meyeee!” Leopold demanded.

        “I humbly suggest after shaking Leopold up it is your duty to wash him,” Mama Sita mewed.

      “I will,” Titan mewed, getting to his feet, gently picking Leopold up in his paws and carrying him away.

       “Titan bench pressed Leopold!” Philomena giggled.

       “Titan was very stupid and made Leopold very sick,” Mama Sita mewed.

        “I think he knows that,” Apudo replied.

       “I hope Titan’s washing Leopold right now,” Sita said.

        “Titan’s all right Sita,” Apudo mewed, “he knows he did wrong.”

 

Titan washed Leopold from head to paw pads, the taliger soon forgetting the horrendous ride he’d had.

        “I gave no thought to you being motion sick,” Titan mewed.

       “Neither did I,” Leopold miaowed, “if I had, I would have told you to stop sooner. It was only when you were half way through did I begin to feel unwell, it came upon me so fast!”

        “Sorry,” Titan mewed.

       “It’s all forgotten now,” Leopold replied, turning onto his back, showing Titan the pads of his paws and feet, Titan looking at the thick pads and fat paws.

      “You have lovely pads dear Leopold,” Titan mewed, tickling the taliger’s toes with his breath, Leopold expressing his pleasure by infantile mewing and lots of kicking and waving of feet and paws.

       “Silly moggie,” Titan teased, Leopold swiping at his whiskers with his massive paws.

       “I love these padded paws,” Titan mewed, kissing the pads of the Taliger’s left paw, Leopold’s purr vibrating his whole body.

        “Can someone please tell me who’s leader round here?” a voice asked. Titan looked up, straight into the eyes of the largest big cat he’d ever seen.

        “mhyayayayayayaaioaow!” Titan yowled, leaping backwards, Leopold laughing helplessly.

        “Um, sorry, did I frighten you?” the newcomer asked, panting hard.

       “Um, ah, no,” Titan babbled, shaking himself, “I, I, I’m leader, at least I think I am. Mind you, after my reaction to you, I’m not sure now, um,  oh dear,” his voice trailed away.

        “I’m, well, lost,” the newcomer replied, “I, I got a thorn in my pads while in the woods, and can’t remove it, and I’m in terrible pain and feeling awful, and a huge fat slothful tiger told me to come here. He said, well, that I could get it removed, the thorn that is.”

       “Let me look at you,” Titan mewed, inspecting the large big cat from all angles. Titan saw the biggest ligress he’d ever encountered, the creature’s coat magnificent, the only thing disfiguring her was the way she held her left foot off the floor, the paw swollen and painful.

        “This foot is infected,” Titan mewed, looking down at the effected foot.

       “I know,” the ligress whimpered, miaowing with pain as Titan touched the injured foot with his nose.

      “That huuuurts!” the ligress yowled, turning savagely on Titan with a roar that chilled Leopold’s blood.

         “Sorry!” Titan yowled, leaping backwards, the ligress’s sudden movement causing her to place weight on her injured foot, her heart rending screeching yowl of pain making Titan want to cry.

        “We can help you!” Titan mewed.

        “I, I, I hope so!” the huge ligress sobbed, sweat darkening her fur as the pain shot through her body, settling down to a persistent throb which made her sniffle like a cub.

        “the pads of your foot have been injured some time ago,” Titan mewed.

       “I think so,” the ligress whimpered.

       “I’ll take you to Patch,” Titan mewed, rubbing the ligress’s massive left paw reassuringly.

         “I don’t think she’s fit to walk any further,” Leopold said, “Titan, can we get patch to come here with his trolley?”

         “yes, let’s,” Titan mewed, recovering himself. Pressing his communicator, he spoke to Patch, and soon the huge grey bear was beside them with his trolley.

        “I think you have competition Titan,” Patch said, waving his paw at the newcomer.

       “I do, she’s even bigger than meyeee!” Titan replied in a surprised yowl which made Leopold smile.

       “Come and lie down my friend,” Patch said, helping the pain maddened ligress onto the bed, strapping her down.

        “I’ll get off now and see to this ligress’s huge foot,” Patch replied, having seen other things which he dared not talk about. Patch wheeled the ligress away, Titan and Leopold watching them go.

        “What’s wrong with Patch?” Leopold asked.

       “I think that ligress’s sicker than we realise,” Titan mewed.

 

Patch wheeled the ligress back to his work room and set up a drip full of antibiotic and a sedative.

        “What’s your name?” Patch asked the ligress.

       “I’m not telling you, you’ll laugh,” the ligress replied drowsily.

       “I won’t, promise,” Patch replied.

       “My name? what’s my name?” The ligress mumbled, “it’s Tiggs.” Patch smiled, stroking Tiggs’s shoulder.

        “You’ll be okay,” patch said, taking a look at Tiggs’s swollen foot, noticing the bulging pad full of pus. Patch scrubbed his paws for a fourth time, then grabbed a scalpel and incised the area, releasing the muck from the foot by squeezing the pad, Tiggs drowsily watching him.

       “I can’t feel a thing,” the huge ligress mumbled.

     “Local anaesthetic and a sedative, a great combination,” patch replied. Tiggs sighed deeply, settling back on the bed, Patch working with gentle care, enlarging the drainage hole, then finding the offending thorn, driven deep into the tissues. Removing it with forceps, Patch dumped the thorn in a dish, then packed the wound with antibiotic powder. Bandaging the foot, Patch finished the job, then took a good look at the rest of Tiggs’s body. The ligress’s fur was clean, as were her pads and teeth. Patch smiled at the drowsy ligress, kissing the big cat’s nose.

       “I’ll keep you on antibiotics and fluids,” he whispered, “you’re very unwell dear Tiggs.” Tiggs sighed deeply, basking in the relief from pain. Patch ultra sound checked Tiggs, his eyes widening as he saw something inside her womb.

        “What’s wrong with her patch?” Leopold asked.

        “Oh, hello,” patch said, turning and washing his paws, “poor thing has blood poisoning from her infected foot, she’s on antibiotics, but if things don’t go well, I may have to transfuse her blood.”

      “oaoaoaaoh!” Titan miaowed, he having followed Leopold to the medical room.

      “The thorn went in at the ball of Tiggs’s foot, where Apudo usually gets hers stuck,” Patch replied, “it was in deep, and there was all sorts of muck in there too.”

       “She’s on oxygen too,” Leopold observed.

       “yes,” patch replied, “oh, her name’s Tiggs by the way, she seems gentle enough, well, we won’t know until she’s well again. she’s big, that’s one certainty.”

      “She’s nearly as big as me!” Titan mewed, stroking the huge ligress’s shoulder with one paw.

        “I hope Tiggs will survive,” patch said, “she was exhausted, panting hard and on death’s door when she came to us.”

        “She hid it very well,” Titan mewed.”

      “How can a thorn cause all this?” Leopold asked.

       “Easily if it’s not removed,” patch replied. Patch wheeled Tiggs and all the monitoring equipment into the ward, then checked a tablet computer to see that all Tiggs’s vital signs were monitored.

         “Drip fed, catheterised, infection excised, now it’s up to Tiggs’s,” he said once he’d closed the door and Tiggs could not hear him.

        “Poor thing,” Titan mewed.

       “I’ll watch her by cctv and by vital signs,” Patch replied.

       “Is her size due to the infection?” Titan asked.

       “No, she’s naturally huge,” Patch replied.

       “I’m glad she’s huge,” Titan mewed.

 

Tiggs slept deeply for fifteen hours. Waking, she found herself lying on a warm bed. Looking up, she saw the hairy face of a huge grey bear looking down at her.

        “I remember you from somewhere,” Tiggs mewed sleepily, “you, you helped my pain go away and fixed my foot,”

       “I checked on your foot and have cleaned, treated and  bandaged it,” the bear said, “you seem to be on the mend in other ways too. How are you feeling?”

       “Better than I did,” Tiggs replied, “I was feeling awful, and that had nothing to do with my foot I don’t think.”

       “You had blood poisoning,” patch replied, “I’m monitoring that, and your kidney function too. You’re on high doses of Anti biotic and pain killers to kill infection and make you feel more comfortable.”

        “I didn’t think a thorn could do all that,” Tiggs mewed.

       “Unfortunately yes, now rest dear,” Patch said, kissing Tiggs’s nose, the ligress smiling sleepily.

        “Will I be confined to bed for long?” she asked.

        “yes, for a few days,” patch replied, “but you can have visitors, and can turn over and lie on your back or your front. The catheter is flexible enough to allow that, the bag isbeneath your bed. You can relieve yourself in the natural way in all other respects. We only catheterise you to make sure of kidney function, jess is testing that every hour or so, right now, you’re doing fine.” Tiggs took all this in, not really worrying about who jess was, nor whether she’d ever roam the forest again. Right now, under this warm blanket with the warm mattress under her, she felt better than she had for weeks.

         “What can I eat?” she asked.

       “Drink plenty of fluids, and drink nutritious soups, we can put all you’ll need in those,” Patch replied.

       “So I lie here, lapping soups and keeping warm while I recover?” Tiggs asked.

      “That’s about it,” patch replied, “then, after a few days, when I’m sure your kidney function is unimpaired, I’ll let you out of bed and treat you with a pump that will administer antibiotics so you can walk about and meet the community.” Tiggs looked at patch.

        “I can’t stay,” she said, “it would be wrong of me to stay. You haven’t the room for me, I’m too big!” she protested.

        “You’re small enough to fit in the front door, so you’re fine,” Patch replied smiling.

         “You’re very kind,” Tiggs mewed.

        “Now, would you like some soup? Or to rest a while?” Patch asked.

        “I’d love some soup, then to rest a bit,” Tiggs replied. patch, having anticipated this, reached down to a flask which he’d clipped to a belt round his middle. Unscrewing the top, he held the flask out to Tiggs, the Ligress taking it in her paws and putting the teat in her mouth, drinking busily.

       “I’ve made a special soup so you need only drink,” Patch explained. Tiggs, the warm fluid soothing her, kept drinking, until it was all gone. Smiling, she handed the flask to patch, patch stowing it on his belt.

        “You made short work of that,” he commented, taking Tiggs’s pulse and looking at her vital signs, and the level of pathogen in her blood which was monitored by another machine.

        “You’re getting better,” patch said, “I can see the infection leaving your body on a scale of ten to zero, ten is very infected, zero is no infection. You’re on two now. When you started, you were up at eight, very unwell indeed.”

        “Oh,” Tiggs mewed, “I must say, I do feel a lot better.”

       “if all goes well, I’ll turn the amount of Anti biotic down tomorrow,” patch replied.

         “now, now, can I sleep?” Tiggs asked.

        “yes, I’ll leave you to sleep,” Patch replied, taking a screenshot of her vital signs, annotating with the date and time, then saving everything into his records with his comments on Tiggs general demeanour.

        “Thanks again,” Tiggs yawned, Patch smiling broadly at her, then tucking her in, Tiggs watching him through half closed eyes.

        “You love tucking creatures into bed don’t you,” she mumbled.

         “I used to do it for my young human when she was very small,” patch said, finishing off by tucking Tiggs’s paws into a fold of the warmed blanket.

         “are you warm enough? Can I get you anything else?” patch asked.

       “no thanks,” Tiggs mewed, swallowing hard as emotions threatened to swamp her.

       “it’s all right, you’re safe now,” patch replied, kneeling and taking her paw.

         “I’m being so silly,” Tiggs sniffed, “but, but, I wouldn’t be here now, I know that.”

       “You got here just in time Tiggs, now sleep, and don’t worry,” patch replied, kissing her nose and squeezing the paw he held, tucking it back into the warm blanket, Tiggs sighing deeply.

         “I’ll never forget this,” she mewed. Patch withdrew, keeping an eye on Tiggs all the time until he’d closed the door, watching her through the porthole in the door for a few minutes longer.

       “how is she?” Titan asked.

        “She’s better than I could have hoped for,” patch replied, “it seems we might have caught her infection just in time.”

        “You’re wonderful patch,” Titan mewed.

       “Titan,” Patch whispered, pulling him down the corridor, “that ligress is in cub!”

       “ooaaoah!” Titan miaowed.

        “I think I’ve saved them both,” Patch replied.

        “wow Patch, that’s great news!” Titan purred, Patch smiling broadly.

       “I don’t know who the sire is,” Patch whispered, “but, well, I think a certain slothful tiger might be responsible.”

        “Fleur’s gonna go mad!” Titan mewed.

       “No,” patch replied smiling, “I do wonder though if the name Tommy is somewhat of a guide to the bearer’s wish to be a promiscuous male.”

       “You mean he, he didn’t! did he?” Titan mewed, Patch laughing at the Felursaliger’s scandalised expression.

       “I think he did,” Patch replied.

       “At least he’s been good to her, tipping her to this place for treatment,” Titan mewed.

       “he’s desperate for sex,” patch replied, “and fleur’s got a cub on her paws at the moment, so where else is he going to get it but with a free ligress?”

        “Who is Tiggs mama though?” Titan asked.

       “Who cares About that?” Patch asked, “Tiggs is here, in cub and on the mend too.”

       “Tommy might not know!” Titan whispered.

       “Hmm, true,” Patch replied, “well are you going to tell him?”

       “I dared not!” Titan miaowed, “maybe if she has the cub, then, well, we can just pretend noone knows who the sire is, how long has she been pregnant?”

        “Um, three months now, it’s nearly time for her to give birth,” patch replied, “I’m surprised the cub has survived the infection, but it has.”

         “Lucky cub,” Titan mewed, “maybe mama Tiggs’s kidneys filtered out enough junk to make sure the cub was healthy, while Tiggs got weaker by the day.”

        “Maybe,” patch replied.

      “I think Tommy should be told he is to be a sire,” Titan mewed.

        “go on then,” Patch replied.

 

A day later, Tiggs woke in the early evening. Lying in her bed, watching the screens displaying her vital signs, she thought about her situation. She felt better than she had for weeks, but there was one thing she missed, the company of others. When she was very ill, she’d not wanted anyone near her, but now, now she craved the touch of another. Reflecting on the last, how long was it?  weeks?  Tiggs realised the last time she’d had company was when that fat tiger had mated with her. Now, confined to bed as she was, she wanted someone to talk to, or better still to snuggle with. The bed was a large one, and despite her own bulk, there was room for someone else who was small to snuggle with her.

 

A day later, Apudo, waking in Titan’s lie up, padded after Patch’s old scent, wondering what the huge grey bear had done with the large ligress. Padding to the medical room, she found the door to Tiggs’s room. Smiling, she pressed the button which let her in, the door swinging open slightly, Apudo barging it wider, then swinging round it to stop it slamming onto her tail, finally letting it close. Apudo found herself in a small room with a low bed in it, a large ligress lying under the duvet on the bed. Padding up to the bed, Apudo watched carefully, in case the ligress sprung upon her.

        “hello little one,” the ligress mewed, turning onto her left side and watching Apudo creeping towards her.

       “And I thought I was being stealthy,” Apudo mewed.

        “You were,” Tiggs mewed, “it’s that door which gave you away, it’s loud.”

      “Oh, okay,” Apudo mewed, reaching the side of the bed, Tiggs watching her come closer.

       “Are you feeling better now?” Apudo asked.

       “yes, thanks,” Tiggs mewed softly, “I would like some company though.”

       “Didn’t patch leave you with a button to press for assistance?” Apudo asked.

        “he did, but that’s for assistance, not for company, I can’t press it just because I’m lonely,” Tiggs mewed.

       “awww, that’s so wrong,” Apudo mewed, rearing onto her hind legs and placing her paws on the bed, “would you like me to stay for a while?”

         “I’d love you to,” Tiggs mewed, Apudo scrambling up onto the bed.

      “I’ll make some room,” Tiggs mewed, shuffling across the bed. Apudo snuggled under the duvet, Tiggs tidying the bedding, then embracing Apudo in her huge paws, the little lioness snuggling up to the ligress’s warm body.

        “now how’s that?” Tiggs asked.

         “It’s nice,” Apudo mewed.

        “Good,” Tiggs purred, “now you are hidden, noone can see you under the quilt.” Apudo giggled delightedly at this news.

        “I’m getting bigger all the time, so I may not be able to be hidden for long,” the lioness mewed.

       “You’re not growing that fast dear Apudo,” Tiggs purred, kissing the top of her head, Apudo nuzzling Tiggs’s cheek, Tiggs embracing the little lioness in her huge soft warm paws.

        “I can sleep now,” Tiggs mewed, closing her eyes.

         “sleep well Tiggs,” Apudo mewed, the warmth making her drowsy. Sighing deeply, Apudo settled to sleep, taking hold of Tiggs’s left paw in her small paws.

 

Ages later, Apudo woke to the sound of Tiggs moaning and panting. Shaking herself, Apudo felt the toes of the ligress’s paw which she held in hers curl tightly. Miaowing, Tiggs wriggled and panted. Suddenly Tiggs screamed:

       “I muuuuust puuuuuush! wayayayant to puuuuuush! Yeyeyeyeeyaow!” Tiggs settled herself and began straining hard. Apudo scuffled backwards down the bed, until she found the toes and sweating pads of Tiggs’s right foot. Holding  it, she felt Tiggs straining hard, Tiggs jamming her right foot into Apudo’s paws, her left jammed against the tucked in quilt at the end of the bed, Apudo getting paws on with the straining ligress’s tightly curled toes and bunched pads. Once the ligress relaxed, Apudo explored Tiggs’s tail and what was beneath it with her small paws, feeling a set of paws emerging from Tiggs’s body. Tiggs, now screeching, pushed down hard, Apudo feeling her struggles, a cub sliding into her small paws, Tiggs screaming and crying, yowling and roaring as she wriggled, pushed and panted. Tiggs moved from lying on her side to sitting up, her paws resting flat on the bed, her hind end still turned almost through ninety degrees. Gripping the sheets with the toes of both huge paws, Tiggs inflated her lungs, lowered her head, and bore down into her tail with a groan of effort.

      “Push Tiggs! That’s it,  push! Puuush! You’re having a cuuuub!” Apudo miaowed, Tiggs repeatedly bearing down hard while roaring and miaowing, her feet braced against the bottom of the quilt, Apudo lying beside the struggling ligress’s hind legs, paws on with the slowly emerging cub.

     “miaoaoaoaoaow! Roaooaoaoaoaoaooaoaoaoaoaoaoaaoowow! Riaow! Uauauauauauauauw! This cub’s huge, Errururururururmf! Miaoaiaiaiaiaow!” Tiggs screamed, groaned and screeched as she strained to deliver her cub. Apudo, already cramped at the end of the bed and drenched in sweat from the heat of the quilt and the electric blanket, felt fluid drench her, then the paws of the newborn cub filling her paws, a huge set of paws belonging to a cub, Tiggs screaming muffled by the quilt as the cub’s head stretched her, the ligress’s paws beating the quilt from time to time as she screamed:

     “Riaow, Uauauauaauw! Riaow Riaow! panting the cub’s head into the world. Suddenly her legs began straining and toes scrabbling for purchase as she strained deeply to deliver the cub’s body, her moans and cries eloquent of her effort.

      “yeyeyeyeeyaow! Umf, Umf, Ouauauauauauw! Miaoaoaoaoaow!” Tiggs screamed as she strained, then she moaned, “Uuuuuuuumf, Uuuuuuuumf! Yuuuuuuuuuuumf! Uauauauauauauauw!” as, with a final rush and gush of fluid,  the massive cub slid free, pushed into the world by Tiggs’s straining efforts. feeling the cub’s feet slide free, Tiggs buried her face in her paws, panting and crying,.

       “the cub’s tail is still inside you, you need to push a bit more Tiggs,” Apudo mewed.

         “I cayayayayn’t puuuuuush anymore!” Tiggs wept.

      “Okay, I’ll gently pull,” Apudo mewed, cleaning the cub up. Tiggs felt Apudo tugging at the cub’s tail with both paws, the sensation of the cub’s tail sliding from her making her clench her teeth, moan and pant while curling  her toes every time Apudo pulled at the cub’s tail.

        “Panting helps, pant Tiggs pant!” Apudo mewed, Tiggs panting and moaning as Apudo pulled the cub’s long tail free from her body.

       “Concentrate on your toes, pant and curl your toes Tiggs!” Apudo urged, “That’s it Tiggs, pant and moan, curl your toes, that’s it, nearly there!” Apudo encouraged, Tiggs moaning and panting, her toes flexing with each effort Apudo made to free her cub’s tail.

       “All done!” Apudo mewed, “any more in there?” she asked, having cleaned up the cub for a second time. Tiggs didn’t reply. Dragging the cub to Tiggs paws, Apudo found Tiggs almost comatose. Miaowing, she slapped the ligress’s shoulder, “Oi!” she snapped, pummelling Tiggs’s shoulder, the ligress rousing herself and looking round at the newborn cub cradled in the paws of the small lioness.

       “What’s that!”,” Tiggs sniffled, “I was woken by an urge to push, it huuuuurt Apudouuououoouuouo!”

       “You did well,” Apudo mewed, as the door burst open and patch rushed in.

       “what the hell’s going on in here?” he asked, his eyes wild, “all my alarms went off at once, and I panicked, getting my feet and paws tangled in my quilt! After a hell of a struggle I’ve just freed myself, and ran here, and now what’s going on?”

       “Tiggs just gave birth to a cub!” Apudo laughed, clapping her paws.

        “I can see that, I suspected nothing!” Patch yelped.

       “me too,” Tiggs whimpered, “being woken by hard labour is horrible!” she miaowed.

        “I thought there were two cubs!” patch replied.

       “No, just one pedalling hard with her paws and feet I think,” Tiggs gasped, trying to hold onto her kneading, kicking cub. Putting the cub to her milk, she looked at patch.

       “All my treatment,” she said, “will that affect my cub now?”

        “I don’t think it will, I’ll take you off it now,” patch replied, “I think you’re all right now. I’ll remove the catheter now, and you can have some more soup.” Tiggs breathed deeply as patch removed the catheter, wriggling as he pulled it free.

     “aoaoaoaow!” she protested, patch stroking her flank as he dumped the tube in a bucket.

        “All done,” he said, removing the drip from Tiggs’s left paw, “Now feed your cub Tiggs.”

        “how many days have I been here?” Tiggs asked.

       “A week now,” Patch replied.

        “Oh,” Tiggs replied softly, “now I have a cub,” she mused, “so quickly, I push and yowl and I now have a cub.”

         “You must have been in labour for about half an hour,” patch said, “I know that, as the alarms went off, and it took me half an hour to free my feet and paws from my duvet!” Apudo, finding the idea of Patch tangled in his bedding very funny, laughed helplessly.

      “Patch tangle-paws! Patch tangle-paws! Patch tangle-paws!” she carolled.

       “Stoaoaoap it!” patch whined, Apudo laughing so hard she choked.

       “you’re so funny!” Apudo squealed.

      “Naoaoaoaow I’m Noaoaot!” patch yelled, rearing onto his hind legs, waving his paws and stamping his feet in a cubbish rage, Apudo losing control completely, rolling about on the floor, waving her paws and feet, laughing helplessly.

       “You’re soaoao funny patch!” Apudo miaowed, patch catching sight of himself on a screen. Finally realising what he looked like, he put an end to his antics, dropping to all four paws, trying to look serious and in command.

        “You’ve made my day patch!” Tiggs mewed.

       “I’ve made myself look very stupid,” patch whimpered.

      “come, meet my cub,” Tiggs mewed.

       “I need to change your bed Tiggs,” Patch replied, “I’ll do that, make the bed, then meet your cub. Please, get out of bed.” Tiggs did as he asked, and patch quickly stripped the bed and made it up with fresh sheets and quilt.

       “now that’s better,” patch said, supervising Tiggs and her cub’s settlement into the clean bedding.

      “I think someone ought to tell tommy,” Apudo mewed.

       “tommy knows,” Tommy mewed, slinking into the room, “Tiggs, I’m sorry I skulked out of the way while you were in labour! I know I was with fleur when she had her cub, but, but, I couldn’t do it again!”

       “So you’ll dip your wick but not see the female through her pain Tommy?” Apudo asked.

      “yes!” Tommy wailed.

        “I think fleur’s labour put him off forever,” patch remarked.

        “I remember that!” Apudo miaowed, “fleur and Leopold faught together for Leopold’s freedom.”

        “I can’t cope with this!” tommy whimpered, “who helped Tiggs give birth to her cub?”

      “I did, noone saw a thing,” Apudo mewed, “it was all done under the quilt, I felt Tiggs curling her toes and straining her legs, and then the cub emerging too.”

        “I had no time to think!” Tiggs mewed, “I woke in horrendous pain, feeling a huge urge to push. I pushed, I couldn’t do anything else!”

       “You did wonderfully Tiggs,” Apudo mewed.

        “My cub’s sleeping now,” Tiggs purred.

       “I’ll never forget helping you give birth to your cub Tiggs,” Apudo said.

 

“Now leave Tiggs and her cub in peace Apudo,” Patch said.

     “Naoaoaoaow don’t goaoaoaoaoao!” the cub yelled, waking suddenly, leaping at Apudo and clinging to her.

       “Okay little one, I won’t go,” Apudo mewed gently, kissing the cub’s nose. Patch looked at Tiggs, who waved her paw at Apudo.

       “Let her stay,” she mewed.

        “”is there enough room on that bed Tiggs?” Apudo asked. Tiggs smiled:

       “there is, now snuggle with us Apudo,” Tiggs purred. Apudo snuggled up to the ligress and her cub, the cub snuggling down between Apudo and Tiggs.

       “it’s warm here,” the cub mewed, Apudo stroking the cub’s head with her paws, the cub purring and nuzzling Apudo, the lioness smiling broadly.

        “this is lovely,” Apudo mewed softly.

        “it’s lovely and warm here,” the cub agreed. Tiggs looked round at the two cubs, her eyes shining with love for both.

        “It’s been eventful today,” Tiggs mewed.

       “Why did Tiggs wake to raging hard labour?” Apudo asked Patch.

       “Probably the amount of pain relief she was on made her impervious to contractions until they got really strong,” the bear mused.

       “I’ll say!” Tiggs mewed, “that hurt so bloody much, and pushing was hell!”

       “One huge cub,” Patch replied.

        “yes, it was hard work and hurt when I pushed her out!” Tiggs whimpered.

       “You have a female cub?” patch asked.

       “yes I do, aren’t you meant to check these things after birth?” Tiggs replied.

       “Um, well, you haven’t given me a chance,” Patch said.

         “here, check her over,” Tiggs mewed, rolling onto her side, Patch getting paws on with the newborn cub, who spat at and struck out at him with huge paws.

       “She’s a lively bundle,” Patch said, laughing at the huge cub’s antics, while she clambered all over him like he was a climbing frame.

       “hey little one, I just want to check you over!” he pleaded, while Tiggs and Apudo laughed so much both lay on their backs waving their paws.

        “I’m cold!” the cub miaowed.

       “Okay, I’ll warm you up,” patch replied, embracing the cub in his huge paws.

       “I need to be kept warm!” the cub yowled, “I was forced out of my warm place into a cold place!”

       “the sooner you keep still, the sooner I can put you back with your mum,” patch replied. the female taliger cub, seeing the sense in this, settled on her back in patch’s lap, showing the bear her face, belly and the pads of all four of her fat paws and feet.

        “You’re so cute,” patch said, checking the taliger cub over from nose to tail, the female cub purring and miaowing at him in the manner of all newborn cubs which patch loved and found so endearing.

        “you’re fine little one,” Patch said, the cub grabbing the toes of her feet in the grip of her paws and sticking her tongue out at him.

        “Now that’s super cute and super silly!” patch laughed, blowing on the pads of the female cub’s feet, the cub yowling and lashing out with her feet.

       “You tickled my feeyeeet!” she yowled.

      “I know,” Patch replied, lifting the cub in his paws then kissing her nose.

        “I love you kissing my nose, kiss my paws and feet too!” the taliger cub demanded. Patch did, the female cub purring delightedly.

       “She’s got you wrapped around her little paw I see,” Tiggs giggled.

       “I love cubs,” Patch replied, “I only wish I could have seen this one being born.”

        “if I’d known what was happening, I would have shouted,” Tiggs mewed, “I just felt an uncontrollable urge to push, and I obeyed the urge. I didn’t realise I was having a cub until Apudo slapped my shoulder and I looked round to see her cradled in Apudo’s paws, That’s the truth!”

       “Did you even know you were in cub?” patch asked.

      “No, Patch, I didn’t!” Tiggs admitted, “I remember mating with tommy some time ago, but I wasn’t in season, or don’t think I was, and, well, thought the pains were something to do with my illness. I strained and screamed and curled my toes and pushed, and, well, my cub’s here!” Tiggs miaowed.

        “You have had a really eventful day Tiggs,” Patch replied.

        “You saved my life,” Tiggs mewed, “then, then, I gave birth to a gorgeous cub.”

        “You did,” patch replied smiling.

       “How do you know all that about drips and things Patch?” Apudo asked, “that was Blackberry’s domain, not yours at all.”

        “It was mine as well as his,” Patch replied softly, “I learnt all he did, shadowing him, though he never knew it.”

         “Why?” Apudo asked.

       “In case of crisis,” Patch replied, “I couldn’t leave the community without medical help. I moved from medical work to leadership, but always kept my skills sharp. Now I find that was not a bad idea at all. I find a sick ligress and by good fortune and training save her and her cub. Saving Tiggs life and that of her cub is worth any amount of opprobrium I get from Blackberry for making the medical bear’s job a watertight one.”

        “thank you Patch,” Tiggs mewed.

         “thank you for letting me hug your cub Tiggs,” patch replied, “hugging your cub is all the thanks I need.”

        “You can keep hugging me too, and tickling my toooes!” Tiggs cub roared in an infantile voice which made Patch’s eyes grow misty with emotion.

       “She’s so cute,” Patch said, rubbing the taliger cub’s belly, the cub curling the toes of both feet while holding his huge left paw in the tiny fierce grip of her own much smaller paws.

       “You’re beautiful little one,” Patch said.

        “What will your cub’s name be Tiggs?” Apudo asked.

       “Hmm, I like the name Yendi, I once knew a lioness of that name,” Tiggs mewed.

       “Yendi, that’s a nice name,” patch mused, Tiggs smiling to herself.

       “I hope Tommy’s happy,” she purred, “We mated with joy in both of us, but my shock at going into labour almost put me off sex.”

        “You had no choice in that though, pushing I mean,” patch replied.

      “Hmm, true,” Tiggs replied.

       “it was hot under that quilt, but I wouldn’t have missed Yendi’s birth for the world,” Apudo mewed.

       “Did you see it all?” Tommy asked.

      “No, it was dark under the quilt, but I felt everything,” Apudo mewed.

      “auauauauauauch! So did I,!” Tiggs miaowed.

       “We felt different things Tiggs,” Apudo mewed.

       “yes,” Tiggs replied grimacing, “I woke screaming in pain with an uncontrollable urge to strain into my bottom as hard as I could!”

      “I was woken by your yowling, then felt the toes of your paws curling,” Apudo mewed, “to begin with I didn’t know what was happening, but then I realised and shuffled down the bed to the scene of action.”

      “You caught my cub,” Tiggs mewed.

       “I did, and I felt you push with your feet and  curl your toes while you struggled to deliver Yendi into the world too,” Apudo purred.

       “I want to know what happened!” tommy demanded, shifting his paws and feet in agitation.

       “I pushed and screamed and roared, and Apudo caught Yendi as she emerged from my body,” Tiggs mewed.

        “how could you not know you were pregnant?” tommy miaowed.

       “I was very ill tommy!” Tiggs replied angrily, “I woke in hard labour because my pain killers had dulled everything before that! I didn’t know what was going on! Feeling the pains and obeying my urges, I just pushed!”

         “Apudo?” tommy asked, “you must tell me!” he demanded.

        “it’s all a bit of a whirlwind,” Apudo mewed, tommy now dancing with rage, “I can’t remember much about it,” Apudo continued, tommy roaring with anger:

       “If you try, you can remember every bloody second Apudo!” tommy roared, leaping around in his anger and frustration, I wayayayayant to know what happened during Yendi’s birth!” he wailed piteously. Apudo watched tommy’s antics, his antics making her want to roll about on the floor and wave her paws and feet about while laughing helplessly. When tommy’s antics got so animated that he  leapt clean over Tiggs’s bed where the ligress and her cub Yendi were lying, Apudo lost control completely. Shrieking with laughter, she ran for the door, tommy pounding after her, roaring angrily.

       “Leave it tommy!” Patch commanded, leaping on top of the tiger, bearing him to the floor, the tiger yowling and screeching as he fell, letting Apudo escape, “you’re too upset, just calm down a bit!” Patch pleaded.

       “but I wayayayaynted to be at the births of my cuuuuubs!” tommy screamed, beating the floor with his paws and weeping inconsolably.

        “Look, sometimes you miss these things,” Patch said, sitting down, lifting the weeping tiger into his lap and  cradling him in his arms.

       “Apudo won’t tell me, she won’t tell me!” Tommy wept, Patch stroking his ears and paws.

      “Apudo probably thought you were being a petulant cub,” Patch replied, “I’ll ask her to tell you your cub’s birth story.”

        “I might be a fat, lazy tiger, who likes eating too much and patrols too little, but I love my mates and cubs!” tommy sobbed.

        “I know you do,” patch replied gently, while Apudo, realising she was out of danger, crept back and sat, staring open mouthed at the weeping tiger.

       “Tell Tommy what you felt Apudo,” patch said, looking Apudo in her eyes.

        “I was woken by Tiggs moaning and panting, I had gone to sleep cuddled up to her,” the little lioness said, “I held one of her huge paws in mine, and could feel her curling her toes in pain. To begin with I didn’t realise what was happening, but, as Tiggs wriggled, I realised she might be having a cub, so I dove under the quilt and felt my way to her tail, finding her sweating feet first. she was curling her toes and straining hard by this time, so I found her tail, and investigated beneath it. just in time to find the cub’s paws emerging. Tiggs braced her feet against the quilt, fortunately it was tucked under the mattress at the foot of the bed, so it held, even as she pushed hard against it with both feet, one of which I held briefly in my paws, feeling her sweating pads and curled toes. Once I got paws on with Yendi’s paws however, I forgot about Tiggs’s eloquently curling toes and bunching pads and held the emerging cub as Tiggs pushed and panted, yowled and strained. I felt Tiggs change position a bit, and heard her beating the bed with her paws as she faught to push harder, I think she was lying on her side at first, and had moved to sitting up, with her head raised so she could breathe more easily and push harder. Tiggs pushed and pushed, and I caught more of the cub’s body which came out ever so slowly, Tiggs squealing and shrieking as Yendi’s head emerged, Tiggs bearing down even harder to deliver Yendi’s body. I remember thinking Tiggs’s efforts were out of all proportion to the amount of progress, Yendi came out really slowly! I encouraged Tiggs to push as hard as she could, though I don’t think she could have heard me under that quilt as I was.”

       “I heard you all right,” Tiggs replied smiling, “it helped to hear you urging me to push.”

        “thanks,” Apudo mewed, Tiggs grinning at her. “well,“ Apudo continued, now bouncing on her toes with excitement at her tale, “I caught Yendi and helped her into the world, poor Tiggs too exhausted to turn and grab Yendi off me. I had to pull the cub out, right to her feet and long tail, then clean her and pull her up to Tiggs and slap her before she realised the cub was born. After that, nothing much happened.” Tommy hung on Apudo’s every word, his eyes and mouth wide with surprise, his fat toes curling in sympathy with Tiggs’s own toes.

       “Thank you Apudo,” he sighed, rubbing his eyes with his paws.

        “I’ll never forget it,” Apudo mewed.

       “I take it you’re my sire then?” Yendi asked, crawling over to Tommy, flopping down beside him.

       “yes Yendi I am,” tommy mewed, looking at the female taliger cub.

        “No wonder Tiggs had a hard fight giving birth to her she’s huge!” tommy thought, reaching out and touching the huge cub’s head and back, Yendi rolling onto her side to give him access to her paws, belly and feet.

       “She’s got big paws with thick pads and a gorgeous face,” tommy thought. Tommy rubbed Yendi’s belly with one huge paw, the cub purring softly.

        “You are really beautiful Yendi,” Tommy mewed.

        “Mum said I have a half-sister now!” Leopold yelled, pounding into the room on his small paws.

       “You do,” tommy purred, Leopold skidding to a stop beside Yendi.

      “I take it this is her?” Leopold asked, touching  Yendi’s paw with his.

       “yes, that’s her,” tommy mewed.

        “You never said I was to have a little sister, why did you keep it quiet tommy?” Leopold asked.

       “I don’t know,” tommy mewed, watching as Leopold stroked Yendi, the female cub purring delightedly.

       “I’m glad Tiggs gave birth to her safely,” Leopold mewed.

       “We all are that, oh, by the way, her name’s Yendi,” Tommy purred.

        “I’ll bet Yendi didn’t end up pulling her tail into the world like I did mine,” Leopold mewed.

       “Um, no, Apudo did that for her,” Tommy replied.

       “if I’d known I was in labour I would have got out of the bed to give the cub some room. As it was, things were so far along, all I could do was grip the bed with my paws, brace my feet, scream, moan and push,” Tiggs mewed.

        “I’m sorry I wasn’t there,” Tommy mewed.

       “I was there, and it hurt!” Yendi miaowed in a high pitch voice.

       “it hurt me too!” Tiggs whimpered, “I thought I’d never be able to give birth, everything seemed so slow! Straining pushes which nearly tore me apart hardly seemed to move you along at all Yendi. It was really hard work, and then, then, I had to endure the passage of your tail, oaoaoaoaoawch!” she moaned.

      “Why is it Felursapien and liger mamas  have this problem where the mama can’t push out the cub’s tail?” Apudo asked.

        “The cubs are that much bigger that they have to push really hard to deliver the body of the cub,” Patch replied, “after that,” he continued, “the mama is so exhausted, pushing out a long, thick tail is too much for them. Big cub from crossbreeding big cats in the case of ligress’s, or big cub and thick tail in the case of Felursapiens. As to why the fluid isn’t around the tail when it’s passed, well, most of the fluid goes to lubricating the huge cub’s body.”

         “ouch!” Leopold mewed.

      “yes indeed,” Tiggs miaowed.

       “it did with mine,” Leopold said, “and if Felix and Philomena’s births are anything to go by, theirs too. I understand both mama Karina and mama Freckles both had problems pushing out their cub’s tails.”

       “it really takes it out of you!” Tiggs whimpered.

        “I suppose after pushing out the cub’s body, it would,” Apudo mewed.

        “yes,” Tiggs sighed, “everything stops you see, there’s very little to push against, so you end up straining hard.”

       Double ouch,” Leopold mewed.

       “I wonder how long it will take others to re-enact Yendi’s birth?” Apudo asked.

       “they couldn’t see much, so it won’t be much good to them,” patch replied.

        “hmm, yeah, I see that,” Apudo mewed.

       “it’s only you and I who know what really happened Apudo!” Yendi giggled, “how wonderful is that?”

       “It’s not wonderful at all!” Tiggs whimpered, “I wanted to see you born, but I was denied that! I wanted to give birth like Titan did, I heard of that, how he curled round and saw Apudo born into the world as he laboured.”

          “Oh,” Yendi mewed, “who’s Titan?” she asked.

       “he’s, he was, a liger, like your mum,” Apudo mewed, “he now, well, he’s, a, a, Felursa, in shape anyway. He’s still my guide though.”

         “You’ll meet him later on,” Patch said.

       “Why not now?” Titan asked, walking into the room. Tiggs eased herself off the bed and padded to Titan, the Felursaliger and ligress looking into each other’s faces.

        “You’re magnificent Tiggs,” Titan mewed.

        “You used to be shaped like a liger didn’t you,” Tiggs mewed.

       “Yes, I changed to suit my community, so I could play with them more easily without giving up my liger roots,” Titan replied.

       “it is said you feel the pain of mamas in labour, did you feel mine?” Tiggs asked. Titan shifted his paws uncomfortably.

       “I did,” he said, “and it was hard not to push with you.”

         “during the worst of it, when I could hardly move Yendi along, I closed my eyes, imagining I was a huge liger giving birth,” Tiggs mewed. Tommy told me of Apudo’s birth, and how you’d struggled. I thought what I felt giving birth to Yendi would be similar to how you felt when giving rebirth to Apudo, so I pushed and roared like a liger.”

          “I didn’t have to pant out a long tail,” Titan mewed.

        “No,” Tiggs mewed, “that seems to be the preserve of us who give birth to Taliger cubs.”

       “I would have helped you if you’d asked. Titan mewed.

       “Apudo pulled Yendi’s tail,” Tiggs mewed.

        “I understand she did,” Titan mewed, “can I meet Yendi?”

       “yes, come,” Tiggs mewed, waving her paw at Yendi, Titan padding to the female cub, kneeling, kissing her nose.

      “Hello Yendi,” he purred softly.

       “Who’s this?” Yendi asked.

      “His name’s Titan,” Tiggs mewed, “he’s our leader here.”

       “Can i feel your paws Yendi?” Titan mewed.

       “You can,” Yendi mewed, purring and squirming delightedly as Titan rubbed the pads of her paws and feet.

       “You have gorgeous pads Yendi,” Titan mewed, Yendi laughing helplessly as Titan rubbed her pads, then tickled her toes.

      “I love you tickling my toooooes!!” Yendi squealed, Titan smiling at her, stopping his tickling.

      “nayaoaoaoaow, don’t stoaoaoaoap tickling my toooes!” Yendi miaowed, Titan kissing her pads, Yendi giggling delightedly.

       “I love Yendi Tiggs,” Titan purred.

        “I’m so glad,” Tiggs mewed, Titan letting Yendi smack his whiskers with her paws while he blew gently on her pads to tickle them.

      “he’s tickling my toooes muuum!” Yendi miaowed, Tiggs laughing so hard she couldn’t answer.

       “would you like me to stop?” Titan asked.

     “nayaoaoaoaow! you don’t stop!” Yendi commanded. Titan tickled the pads of Yendi’s feet with his breath, the taliger cub shrieking, squirming and kicking with glee.

       “I love you dear Yendi,” Titan purred, Yendi dabbing at Titan’s nose with the toes of her left foot, Yendi screaming with delight as Titan tickled her toes with his whiskers.

        “Tickle my toooes again!” Yendi begged, Titan sitting down, gathering Yendi to him, hugging and grooming her.

       “I’ll tickle your toes later,” he mewed, Yendi kissing Titan’s nose as he groomed her with his rough tongue.

       “you’re so soft Titan,” Yendi said softly, Titan smiling down at her.

      “You’re soft too Yendi, cub soft from your nose to your ticklish toes Yendi dear,” he purred, Yendi giggling delightedly.

       “Mum thought I was hard work, can I be soft and hard too?” Yendi asked.

      “yes,” Titan purred, Tiggs gulping back emotions.

       “You’re so lovely,” she sniffed, padding over to Yendi then kissing her nose, the cub purring deeply.

        “I love you Yendi,” Tiggs mewed, Yendi rolling over so she faced her mum, Tiggs lying down, Yendi clinging to the ligress’s huge left paw with both her small fat paws.

        “I think you’re well again Tiggs,” Patch said. Tiggs smiled at the huge bear.

        “yes I am, thanks to you,” she replied, Patch padding to her, and removing the last bandage from her healed foot.

        “Now you can walk properly,” he said. Tiggs smiled at him and got to her feet, bouncing on her toes.

      “Tiggs is so lovely Patch,” tommy mewed.

       “I know you love your mates and your cubs,” Patch replied.

       I love you Tommy,” Tiggs mewed, hugging the tiger then kissing his nose, the expression on Tommy’s face making Apudo think he wanted to return her hug.

       “go on, give Tiggs a cuddle Tommy,” Apudo mewed, pushing the huge fat tiger’s flank with her small paw, “or do I have to tickle your toes before you’ll do it?” she asked, lying down and blowing under tommy’s left foot, tickling the heel pad, the tiger miaowing and bouncing on the toes of all four of his huge paws, making the tickling worse.

      “nayaoaoaoaow stoaoaoaoaoaop tickling meyeee Apudoaoaoaoao!” Tommy protested.

      “Only if you do what you want to do Tommy,” Apudo mewed, blowing gently on the now exposed pads of the tiger’s left foot, tommy bouncing about on three legs as he lifted his tickled left foot to flex his toes to ease the tickle from them, inadvertently angling them into Apudo’s stream of breath.

       “Stoaoaoap tickling my toooooes!” Tommy yowled, bouncing harder, Apudo and Leopold shrieking with laughter. Tommy,  swallowing his inhibitions, padded forward and hugged Tiggs, the huge ligress purring and chuffing delightedly.

       “You big softy,” Tiggs mewed, brushing her velvet padded left paw through his whiskers, dabbing his nose with her toes, tommy smiling and nuzzling her pads.

       “I love you so much Tiggs,” tommy mewed. Fleur padded in, Tommy padding to her and head rubbing with her.

        “I like ligress’s,” he mewed, Fleur and Tiggs smiling at each other.

       “We like fat tigers,” they mewed in unison, laughing so hard they both leant on Tommy, the tiger looking as if he would collapse at any moment.

      “grip the floor with your toes Tommy!” Apudo mewed, Tommy gripping the floor with the toes of all four paws, his ligress’s laughing at his antics. Yendi clambered up Tiggs’s left leg, scrabbling with paws and feet for toeholds until she lay exhausted on the ligress’s back.

        “What on earth are you doing up there Yendi?” Apudo asked.

       “I thought I’d climb,” Yendi mewed.

       “your cub’s on your back Tiggs,” Apudo warned, “she’s too high up for her age!” she yowled.

        “when I sit, please slide off my back Yendi,” Tiggs mewed. Yendi slid as Tiggs asked, shrieking with delight at the living slide which Tiggs’s back created.

       “I want to slide again!” she miaowed when she landed, her feet either side of Tiggs’s tail.

       “I wish I could do that!” Apudo thought.

       “All right,” Tiggs replied, “I’ll sit on the bed, that way if you fall, there’ll be a soft landing.” Yendi climbed onto her mum’s back, Tiggs climbing onto the bed and sitting down, settling her paws and feet. miaowing with glee, Yendi clambered up and slid down Tiggs’s back again and again, the ligress laughing merrily.

       “that’s enough now,” Tiggs mewed after six slides.

     “nayaoaoaoaow I want more!” Yendi yelled.

       “Yendi’s so cute,” Apudo mewed.

        “I agree,” Tommy purred. Leopold looked at tommy.

      “am I small enough to slide down your back?” he asked. Tommy pushed Leopold around with his nose and paws, the cub shrieking with laughter.

        “No, you’re too big now,” Tommy decided, Leopold mewing disconsolately:

      “Oooaoaoh tommy, you spoilsport!”

       “let’s leave here now, let’s go to the family lie up,” Titan suggested, getting to his feet from where he’d been lying, observing Leopold and Yendi from near floor level.

       “Can I ride on you Titan?” Apudo asked.

      “yes,” Titan mewed, Apudo clambering clumsily onto his back, Leopold leaping onto tommy’s back, Tiggs carrying Yendi.

       “Let’s go,” patch said.

 

Reaching the family lie up, Tiggs and Tommy sat down, their cubs sliding off their backs and onto the floor, then  lay down with their cubs, Apudo falling with a thud as she tried to climb down Titan’s left hind leg and lost her footing.

       “maiaoaoaoaoow! Umf!” she yowled as she fell, Titan turning and checking her over with anxious paws, Apudo squirming from his grip, protesting her fitness in a bad tempered miaow.

      “I’m all right, get off!” she miaowed.

       “You miaowed and grunted as you fell!” Titan protested.

      “I’m strong Titan,” Apudo giggled. Titan kissed her nose, Apudo rolling onto her back, the Felursaliger kissing her paws and blowing raspberries on her belly, Apudo laughing helplessly.

       “Titan’s tickling my belly and toooes!” she screeched, Mama Sita laughing helplessly from her place with little Sita, Karina, mama Karina and Cody.

      “You silly thing Titan,” Mama Sita mewed.

       “You have never had Titan tickle your toooes!” Apudo miaowed.

        “I have, it’s intense.” Mama Sita replied.

       “I could do with a hug,” a voice said.

       “Who’s that?” Mama Sita asked.

      “I don’t recognise him, he’s a huge silver grey bear with white fingers and toes.” mama Karina mewed.

       “he sounds very interesting,” Mama Sita mewed.

        “I’m not interesting, carry on as you were,” the bear yawned. Mama Sita padded to where she heard the voice come from, finding the bear had very soft fur as well as large well-padded paws and feet.

       “What’s your name?” Mama Sita asked.

       “My name’s Mercury, but you can call me whatever you like,” the bear replied.

       “You’re fir is very soft,” Mama Sita mewed.

        “I was found by a young she bear,” the grey bear said, “she couldn’t pronounce my name though, it came out as Mewcuwy, which made her sound like a cub, which she clearly wasn’t.”

        “That’s Puwdy, I mean Purdy,” Titan mewed.

       “what’s wong with her?” mercury asked, mama Karina coughing to stop herself laughing helplessly.

       “the humans she used to live with took her front teeth,” Patch said, “but I don’t think that’s what causes her rotasism, I think it’s a deeper speech impediment than just the loss of her teeth.”

        “She’s lovely,” Mercury said, “her cub’s sweet too, Koda’s his name isn’t it?  hmm, and her mate too,” Mercury mused, “the funny thing is I almost got them the wrong way round, sire coda’s so small I thought at first he was Purdy’s cub! silly me!”

       “I’ll bet that endeared you to him,” Titan mewed.

       “I managed not to say anything inappropriate, but, it was a close shave,” Mercury admitted, while mama Karina still struggled not to fall about laughing.

        “Ah there you awe!” Purdy said, sweeping into the room, “My cub and I were wondewing where you’d got to Mewcuwy!” Mercury rubbed his face with his paws to hide a huge grin.

        “I’m here Puwdy,” he choked, trying not to laugh.

       “You don’t speak like meyeee!” Purdy remonstrated, stamping her feet with rage, Mercury racing to her and hugging her.

        “I love you Puwdy,” he whispered, embracing her in a massive bear hug.

       “You’we a big soft bwuin Mewcuwy,” Purdy replied, snuggling into Mercury’s hug.

      “Awww, that’s Soaoaoaoao cuuuute!” Apudo giggled, “big soft bwuin, big soft bwuin!” she carolled, Purdy scowling at her.

       “Shut up Apuwdo!” Purdy raged, Apudo smiling up into the enraged she bear’s face.

       “All wight Puwdy, I will,” Apudo whispered, Leopold covering his mouth with his paw to stop himself laughing.

        “You’we all howwible!” Purdy yelled.

        “Stop it all of you,” Patch said softly, “Purdy can’t help how she is, and it’s not right to ridicule her for what you perceive as her shortcomings.”

       “And you never have spoken like her?” Apudo challenged.

        “I never said that,” patch replied, “if I have spoken like Purdy, I have never meant to ridicule her. I have spoken to her privately, when she is embraced in my paws, so she knows my true intent. Like Mercury now, who got a gentle response when he hugged her, Purdy knows true intent when you embrace her.”

       “Mercury’s a very beautiful bear patch,” mama Karina mewed.

       “he is,” Patch replied, crawling up to Mercury, who was kneeling to hug Purdy. Smiling, he blew on Mercury’s toes, the silver grey bear laughing helplessly, sitting back on his heels, curling his toes and squirming in response.

       “Stoaoaoap tickling my toooes!” Mercury giggled, patch tickling his heels instead, Mercury rocking and rolling about on his knees, then reaching round behind his back with his paws to scratch his tickled pads.

       “that’s cute too,” patch said, kissing Mercury’s scratching fingers, Mercury laughing merrily.

       “I’m coming to get Youououoaw!” Mercury yelled, spinning round and launching himself playfully at Patch, both bears rolling on the floor in play, each trying to tickle the other’s toes.

       “now that’s cute!” Mama Karina mewed.

       “you have big fat feet Patch, great for tickling!” Mercury yelled, grabbing Patch’s right foot, tickling the squirming grey bear’s pads, patch laughing helplessly and thumping the floor with his paws.

       “I used to do this when a friend of mine named Kuma and I used to play,” Mercury continued, Patch’s cry of astonishment giving Mercury pause.

     “What?” he asked.

      “Kuma’s here,” Patch said, “at least we have a bear by that name here. Mercury rubbed the tickle from patch’s toes and pads, Patch laughing merrily.

       “I’d like to see him again,” mercury said, “I knew Kuma when he was a cub, he was a big fat thing with small paws and huge feet.”

      “Kuma has got small paws and huge feet, even now,” patch replied.

       “I would love to meet him again,” Mercury said.

       “I can arrange that,” patch replied, smiling as Mercury drew circles on the huge sole pad of his right foot with the fingers of one paw.

       “I’ll find Kuma,” patch said, finding that mercury’s tickling of his feet had exhausted him so much he could only crawl to the console. Smiling, Patch put in a call to Kuma’s lie up, the bear padding to the pride lie up and then racing to Mercury, the two bears tightly embracing each other.

       “I haven’t seen you in years!” Kuma said, kissing Mercury’s nose and paws, mercury’s eyes filling with tears.

        “go on, snuggle!” Apudo urged, Kuma and Mercury laughing at her urging.

      “We will, in time,” Kuma promised.

     “I want to see it now!” Apudo mewed. Mercury nudged Kuma.

      “I don’t know, we’ll be tickling each other’s toes on command next Kuma,” mercury said, Kuma grabbing Mercury’s left foot in his paws and tickling his toes, Mercury catching the fingers of Kuma’s right paw in the grip of his curled toes, the bears laughing helplessly  as they started a tug of war between toes and paw.

        “I can’t free my paw!” Kuma whimpered, “eoeoeoeoh! Your toooes are so strong Mercury!” Mercury, growling with effort, wriggled with Kuma’s efforts, keeping hold of  the fingers of Kuma’s right paw with the toes of his own left foot.

      “Okay, I really can’t free my paw now, let go of it will you Mercury?” Kuma whimpered.

      “No!” Mercury replied, Kuma tickling the pads of Mercury’s right foot with his left paw, Mercury releasing Kuma’s right paw, roaring with laughter.

       “Bet you can’t catch my toes! Kuma challenged, crawling away, Mercury crawling after him, pinning Kuma’s feet under his paws, plonking them down on the brown bear’s large sole pads, Kuma squealing like a stuck cub and throwing himself forward to bang the floor with his paws in a display of surrender which had everyone laughing merrily.

        “I can catch more than just your toes,” Mercury said, lifting his left paw then blowing on the pads and toes of Kuma’s left foot, the male bear curling his toes against the tickling breath.

       “huauauauowwheeee! That tickles!” Kuma squealed, Mercury tickling the pads of both Kuma’s feet until Kuma rolled onto his back and kicked the air with his well tickled feet, mercury pressing home his attack until Kuma drew up his knees and grabbed his feet with his paws, Mercury finishing by kissing Kuma’s tightly curled toes and the furry tops of Kuma’s fiercely gripping paws.

      “now that’s cuter than I could ever have hoped for!” Apudo laughed with cubbish delight, throwing herself down on the floor, then rolling excitedly onto her back, before squirming from side to side while kicking the air and clapping her paws.

       “I might explode from cute!” she miaowed.

       “I might too!” Mercury laughed, Kuma suddenly letting go of his feet and leaping on top of Mercury, rolling him over onto his front, pinning him down under his left paw, tickling the large bear’s toes with his right, Mercury laughing helplessly as they rolled on the floor in play.

      “I love seeing play,” Patch said, smiling from where he sat on the sofa.

       “You have very soft fur and firm pads Kuma!” Mercury observed loudly.

      “And so do you dear Mercury,” Kuma replied, turning on Mercury and hugging him tightly.

       “You soppy pair!” patch giggled, Mercury and Kuma crawling to the grey bear, grabbing his feet then tickling his toes, Patch laughing merrily and curling his toes, catching the paws of the two bears in the strong grip of his large toes.

      “he’s got both of us!” |Mercury yelled, scrabbling at the sole of Patch’s left foot with his free left paw, his right caught in the toes of Patch’s left foot, while Kuma tugged at his left paw, while scrabbling at the sole of Patch’s right foot with his right paw.

      “Yeoeoeoeoeoeah, I can’t freeyeee my paw Kuma!” Mercury squealed, the large bear trying to wedge the toes of his right foot in the gap between the palm of his trapped right paw and the sole of Patch’s left foot in an attempt to use his toes as a lever to free his paw.

       “that won’t work,” patch said, gripping mercury’s paw harder with his toes, mercury squirming with effort while tugging at his trapped paw while trying to wedge the toes of his right foot between his right paw and patch’s left foot. Kuma struggled similarly, Patch gripping the paws of both struggling bears with ease in the powerful toes of both his huge feet.

       “We’re really stuuuuuck!” Kuma whimpered.

       “I know!” Mercury wailed, tugging at his trapped paw, rocking back and forth and wriggling from side to side.

        “You two are so cute!” patch giggled, uncurling his toes, letting go of their paws. Mercury, strongly pushing with his right foot and tugging hard at his left paw when patch let go of his paw, fell backwards, Kuma laughing helplessly as Mercury’s paws and feet flew skywards as he landed on his back.

       “Mercury, you’re super cuuuute!” Kuma laughed, Mercury sitting up hurriedly.

       “I’m nooaoaoaot cuuuute!” Mercury yelled, looking very cute indeed. Kuma crawled to mercury and hugged him, Mercury smiling broadly and returning his hug.

       “I remember the first time I met you,” mercury said, “Kuma, I saw you born, your mum laboured for hours and I saw you born, I was an inquisitive cub, only three months old myself, I strayed into a den because I heard sounds, and saw a cub being born! My mum couldn’t keep me away, and your mum wouldn’t let me leave!”

        “my mama told me much about you,” Kuma said, “I met you three months later.”

       “We played every day from dawn to dusk, and in each other’s dens too, our mamas were so frustrated!” Mercury laughed, Kuma hugging his cubhood friend as tightly as he could.

       “Who was your mama Kuma??” patch asked.

      “Her name was Catherine,” Kuma replied, Patch nodding and smiling.

       “Thought so,” he replied.

       “So Patch’s sister is your mama Kuma?” mercury asked.

       “she is,” Catherine replied, walking into the room, kneeling, kissing Kuma’s heel pad as he hugged Mercury. With a cry of delight, Kuma turned and threw himself at Catherine, the fat she bear and her grown son rolling over in play.

        “So you’re my nephew Kuma,” patch said softly.

      “I am,” Kuma replied. Patch beckoned to Kuma, who scrambled into his lap, the huge grey bear hugging him tightly while Catherine watched with shining eyes.

        “I can see similarities between all three of us now,” she said, “big fat pads is one for sure, and, we’re all, well, slightly fat! Sire Orbon was a big bear, and it shows in all of us.” Patch and Kuma laughed merrily at her observation.

      “We are a fat padded family,” Patch said, Kuma snuggling up to him.

       “Can I snuggle too?” Apudo asked, rearing onto her hind legs, placing her paws in Kuma’s lap.

       “No! get off!” Kuma roared, pushing Apudo down off his lap and onto the floor with a decisive paw, Apudo miaowing with surprise and disappointment as she slid backwards, then lost her balance, toppling onto her back, her legs flying in all directions.

      “Miaoaoaoaoaow! Miaoaiaiaiaiaow!” Apudo protested, wriggling and kicking.

        “Right, that’s enough, I’m in bits!” mama Karina sniffled, wiping her eyes.

       “Apudo’s so cute upside down isn’t she mum!” Felix mewed from his place watching behind the sofa.

       “she is,” mama Karina mewed.

      “Golden eyes and a black nose, large thick black pads on her fat paws and feet and soft brown belly fur,  what is there about Apudo that I could not fall in love with?” Felix mewed. deeply embarrassed, Apudo covered her face with her paws.

       “You really do love her don’t you Felix,” mama Karina teased.

       “I do mum!” Felix mewed, Apudo miaowing and trying to roll onto her paws to run away.

        “you love him too Apudo?” Philomena asked. Apudo, yowling hysterically, tried to run, but tripped over her paws, landing in a heap.

      “Miaoaoaoaoaow! Rowowowowor!” she protested, words failing her.

       “I think that’s a yes!” Philomena laughed, clapping her hands, Apudo looking very upset.

        “What do you feel for Felix Apudo?” Philomena asked, padding up to the distraught little lioness.

        “I don’t know,” Apudo mewed, “he makes me feel warm and safe, and I like that a lot!” Philomena smiled and helped Apudo to her feet, pointing her in Felix’s direction, Apudo’s paws taking her towards him as if she had no will of her own. Apudo came to her senses to find herself nose to nose with Felix, their hands and paws very close together.

       “oaoaoaaoh, Felix!” Apudo miaowed, Felix’s hand closing over the furry top of Apudo’s paw, Apudo finding her toes curling to grip the floor as he touched her.

        “want a hug?” Felix asked. Mewing piteously, Apudo watched Felix sit down, then scrambled into his lap. Felix embraced Apudo, the little lioness fitting snuggly into his embrace. Felix hugging her as tightly as he could, Apudo tried to increase his hug by pressing herself into him along the length of her whole body, even trying to embrace him with her tail, pushing against his legs with her own feet to push her body against his, while her paws embraced his neck, her head resting against his.

      “Push with those feet Apudo!” Philomena urged, Apudo miaowing:

      “I am already pushing as hard as I can with my feeyeeet! I can’t push any harder!” Felix smiled as Apudo strained her legs, the toes of her left foot slipping against the fur on the top of his own right leg,, her body collapsing into his lap.

        “Maiaiaiaiaiaow! Miaowowowowow!! Rowowowowor! My toooes slipped!” Apudo protested, Felix lifting her in his arms and hugging her, Apudo clamping her paws around his neck, resting her cheek against his.

         “hug meyeee! Please,” she begged. Felix hugged Apudo tightly, then shook her paws free of his neck, placed her lying on her back in his lap, then played with her paws and feet, gently curling her toes then rubbing her pads, Apudo mewing, pawing and wriggling with pleasure.

       “If you want my toes curled, I can curl them!” she giggled, “I can do that you know, I might not be able to stand on my own four paws, but I can do more with them if they’re free from supporting me.”

        “you’re so cute,” Felix mewed, lifting Apudo in his arms, kissing her nose and the soles of her flailing paws and feet, Apudo’s eyes filling with tears, the lioness sniffling as tears ran up her nose as emotions swamped her.

      “Put me down,” she choked, Felix settling Apudo in his lap, the lioness turning her head away from him, coughing and sniffling into her paws.

        “I’m sorry,” Apudo sniffled, gulping hard, “I don’t know what’s come over me,” she wept, Felix rubbing her back and shoulder with his hands, Apudo sniffing hard, rubbing her eyes with clenched paws.

        “I can’t let you touch me anymore,” Apudo said, her voice hoarse with emotion, I love your touch too much, and, well, I end up like this!” she miaowed.

        “are you worried that what you feel is wrong?” Felix asked.

        “I am, a bit. I love you Felix, and, well, I love your touch and your play and everything!” the little lioness blurted.

        “Hugging me and letting me play with your paws and feet is not a bad thing, if that’s what you want. I love it too. Being hugged hugely and hearing your purr and mewing and all sorts of other cute sounds is so sweet, and your soft pads and fur  are so lovely to touch, and I love thick fur and pads too. You have the most gorgeous face, and the cutest paws and feet I’ve seen on a lioness. I must say, your rebirth did lots for your coat and pads as well as your outlook on life. You were gorgeous before your rebirth, but now, you’re more than that Apudo. You have a sheen to your coat and paw pads that no scrubbing in the world would ever give to my coat or pads. Plus your feet and paws have the softest pads going. Are you sure you will ever be able to walk on them outside the house?  You’ll get thorns in them very easily,” Felix replied.

      “I don’t know!” Apudo mewed, “I find myself seeking out sand and soft things to walk on,” she suddenly looked anxious, “Felix, would you pull thorns from my pads if I happen to pick them up?”

       “yes my dear,” Felix mewed, “if you roll onto your back when you feel a thorn go in, I’ll come and help.”

       “Why would she have to roll on her back?” Philomena asked.

       “To stop her pushing the thorn further in to her pad silly,” Felix mewed, his eyes shining.

       “Who’s she? The cat’s mother?” Apudo asked.

       “well, yes, in a former life,” Felix giggled, Apudo growling and swiping playfully at him with one massively fat paw.

        “You are so cute,” Felix mewed, picking Apudo up in his arms and resting her paws round his neck, snuggling her close to him.

       “My feeyeeet won’t let me push myself against youuuuu as hard as I wayayayayant!” Apudo yowled piteously, Felix purring deeply, the sound and vibration soothing the frustrated lioness as his whole body vibrated, soothing her through her paws, feet and any other place on her body which touched his. Apudo yawned expansively, stretching her paws, her claws sheathed.

         “Your purring makes me want to sleep Felix,” she yawned deeply.

      “Can I rub your pads while you sleep?” Felix asked. Apudo, yawning more than ever, snuggled down into his lap.

       “here are my paws and feet, do what you want with them,” she mewed, rolling onto her side, wiggling the toes of all four paws. Felix looked down at the lioness in his lap, taking her in from her nose to her toes, Apudo falling asleep, even while Felix turned her gently onto her back and explored her feet and paws by touch with gentle care. Gazing into her face, he massaged Apudo’s paws and feet in his hands, missing no part of the lioness’s fat pads, from her toe pads, to the bridge between her toes and the sole pad, to the sole pad itself, rubbing the ball of her foot where thorns lodged to the mid-point and heel of the sole pad, while Apudo slept on, a huge smile on her cubbish face.

         “Apudo’s beautiful Philomena,” Felix mewed softly, rubbing Apudo’s belly with the fingers of one hand while the other stroked her ears,  Apudo mewing piteously  in sleep, stretching her paws towards him as if she knew he’d stopped rubbing her pads.

        “I think Apudo wants you to rub her pads some more,” Philomena remarked.

       “I think she does,” Felix mewed, watching Apudo’s paws scrabbling desperately at the air for reassurance, Felix stilling them by taking one in his hands then rubbing the pads, the lioness briefly tightly curling the toes of all four paws with pleasure, then  relaxing them, settling into a deeper sleep.

     “She’s so cute isn’t she,” Felix purred, Patch smiling at the Felursapien.

        “You love her don’t you,” he said.

      “I do Patch,” Felix mewed. Apudo slept deeply for an hour, Felix watching over her the whole time. Waking slowly, Apudo yawned then rubbed her eyes with her paws, Felix gazing down at her with gentle eyes.

       “I love the way Apudo rubs her eyes and flexes her toes,” Felix mewed.

       “I know someone else who looks rather cute when sleeping,” Philomena said, kissing Felix’s ear.

       “Do I?  awww, thanks,” he mewed, Philomena giggling delightedly.

       “You curl your fingers and toes, twitch your tail and pedal the air with your feet,” Philomena giggled.

        “No wonder I’m so exhausted all the time!” Felix miaowed.

       “your toes curl and pads bunch so cutely!” Philomena laughed merrily.

       “you also pedal the air with your feet and wriggle!” Felix mewed, fighting to outdo Philomena’s description of him sleeping.

       “Do I?” Philomena asked.

      “yes,” Felix mewed, “I’ll show you!”

       “I’d like to see that,” Philomena replied. Apudo, also wanting to see this, padded after Felix to the console. Felix showed Philomena a video from their lie up, the female Felursapien clearly asleep. Mewing, she wriggled, lashed about with her tail, pawed and kicked at the air with gripping fingers and toes.

       “I look like I’m struggling to get free of something,” Philomena observed.

        “Reliving the struggle you had to free your tail when you were born?” Felix suggested.

        “it does look like that,” Philomena replied, winding the video back and zooming in on her face, then her hands and feet.

      “I look stressed out, toes curled tightly, hands almost balled into fists. I’m surprised I feel as good as I do when I wake!” she mewed.

       “That was last night’s sleep,” Felix mewed.

       “’twas the same for you my dear,” Philomena replied.

       “I sleep like that?” Felix asked.

      “You do, pedalling your feet and waving your arms in your sleep,” Philomena replied.

       “oaoaoaoaoh! I really do don’t I!” Felix miaowed as he watched himself sleep on video.

        “I’m surprised you two aren’t permanently tired,” Apudo mewed. Felix and Philomena smiled at the large fat cub, then rolled her over and tickled her paws and feet until she could hardly breathe for laughing.

         “stoaoaoaoap it! Stoaoaoaoap tickling my toooes!” Apudo begged, panting hard as Felix and Philomena rubbed the tickle from her pads.

       “That’s very cute,” Felix mewed, smiling broadly.

        “I have very sensitive pads Felix, remember when I was bigger than I am now, how Blackberry used to pull thorns from my pads and I could still feel those thorns days later?” Apudo reminded him.

      “Oh yes, I remember now,” Felix mewed, “no wonder you went stratospheric when we tickled your toes.”

         “Stratospheric?” Apudo mewed, “I was somewhere near the moon I think! It was almost hurting, it was nearly horrible!” Felix looked into Apudo’s face, seeing she was serious.

        “We didn’t mean to hurt you,” he mewed contritely.

        “I know,” Apudo replied, “it’s hard having such sensitive pads, I want to be tickled like any other cub, but, well, others tickling my paws is almost painful!”

       “I’m sorry Apudo,” Philomena said, kissing the little lioness’s nose.

        “If I can miaow and kick or wave my paws or wriggle while someone’s tickling my toes, I’m all right,” Apudo replied.

       “I wish I’d never tickled your toes now,” Felix whimpered, “I didn’t know it hurt you Apudo,”

        “I’m all right Felix,” she purred, “take my paws and feet and rub them Felix.” Felix smiled.

      “Just be firm with my rubbing?” he asked.

      “yes,” Apudo mewed.

       “I do love your paws and feet Apudo,” Felix mewed.

       “I like your hands and especially your feet Felix,” Apudo purred, “and your laughing eyes while I tickle your toes are very sweet too.”

       “You like human feet don’t you Apudo,” Philomena said.

      “I do,” Apudo purred, “Felursapien feet are nice too.” Philomena giggled helplessly at this.

       “I will show you mine then,” she said, lying down comfortably on her side, Apudo grabbing Philomena’s left foot in her paws, rubbing her heel pad and ball of her foot, Philomena curling her toes with pleasure, Apudo rubbing the toes of her left paw down ridges of the now bunched pads of Philomena’s left foot, Philomena smiling broadly and curling her toes even tighter as Apudo rubbed her bunched pads and the heel pad of her foot. Squirming with pleasure, Philomena smiled at Apudo, curling round to watch the lioness’s rapt attention to her job of massaging the sole of her foot.

        “I like that Apudo,” Philomena purred, Apudo smiling broadly.

      “I know,” the little lioness mewed, “I can feel you’re enjoying it. Curled toes and bunched pads, and you straining to curl your toes extra tight when I touch your arch tells me you like my touch.”

      “I do, I really doooo!” Philomena gasped, pushing her foot against the pressure of Apudo’s rubbing paws.

        “Are you enjoying that Philomena?” Felix asked. Philomena miaowed incoherently with pleasure in reply, wriggling and curling her toes extra tightly.

       “I think she does,” Apudo mewed, blowing on Philomena’s heel pads, Philomena squealing with shock and crawling away, Apudo chasing her toes, pinning them under her paws and blowing on Philomena’s heels and arches, Philomena laughing helplessly.

        “Can I have some of that?” Felix asked. Apudo leapt at Felix and pinned his left foot, tickling his toes, Felix shrieking with laughter.

       “Stoaoaoaoap tickling my toooes!” Felix yowled, Apudo laughing merrily and tickling his left heel with her whiskers, Felix squealing with glee.

        “he’s loving that,” Philomena mewed.

       “I thought so,” Apudo mewed, kissing the tickle from Felix’s heel pad and toes, Felix curling his toes with pleasure at the feel of Apudo’s rough tongue soothing the tickle from his pads.

        “You big fat softy!” he giggled, Apudo miaowing and pouncing on his back, Felix rolling onto his side,  throwing Apudo off his back, the little lioness tumbling off her paws and scrambling clumsily to her feet, Felix watching her scrambling paws and feet from floor level. Apudo, growling in an infantile manner, turned, pushed Felix onto his back, then clambered aboard. Her feet pinning his legs, placing her paws either side of his shoulders, Apudo leant down until their noses touched

      “Miaow?” Apudo enquired, Felix laughing helplessly at her.

      “You big fat moggie!” Felix teased, Apudo standing up and brandishing her fat, well-padded left paw in his face. Felix, seeing the lioness’s claws sheathed, kissed her offered pads, Apudo’s eyes smiling down into his.

       “now what do I do?” she asked, placing her paw on the floor.

       “Come here,” Felix mewed, reaching up and  putting his arms round her neck, Apudo lowering her head, Felix kissing her nose.

       “I love you Apudo,” Felix mewed, Apudo smiling at him.

       “I love you too,” she mewed, Philomena smiling broadly behind her hands as she sat watching them.

       “What would Felix and Apudo’s cub look like?” Philomena asked mischievously.

      “nayaoaoaoaow! I’m not having a cub!” Apudo miaowed, “well not yet anyway,” she added after a long pause, Philomena laughing so hard she nearly choked.

       “I imagine Apudo’s cub would be a furry lion with a long tail, feline paws and human feet,” patch suggested, Felix laughing merrily, while Apudo looked very uncomfortable.

      “I would have to give hard, long birth to that!” she miaowed, “I’m nooaoaoaot ready for that!” she yowled.

      “You could pretend,” Felix teased, Apudo growling at him.

        “but it would be Soaoaoaoao cuuuute!” Philomena said, Apudo scowling and spitting angrily at her.

       “I won’t do it!” Apudo miaowed, Felix and Philomena giggling helplessly, Apudo putting pressure on her paws to lift her feet off Felix’s legs so she could hop them sideways, when Felix suddenly grabbed and hugged her,  Apudo losing her balance, falling half on top of him with a miaow of protest, her paws and head ending up resting on his chest.

        “I love you so much Apudo,” Felix mewed, Apudo purring deeply.

       “I fell on top of you silly!” she mewed, Felix stroking her head and ears, Apudo finding her paws gripping his fur, feeling her toes curling as he stroked her.

        “Your toes are very expressive Apudo,” Philomena said, crawling to Apudo’s feet and touching her pads, exploring her tightly curled toes and slightly bunched pads, Apudo accidentally gripping Philomena’s fingertips with the toes of her right foot, Philomena feeling the power of the little lioness’s toes as they gripped her fingertips, her thick pads warm and soft.

        “Squeeze my fingertips with your toes Apudo,” Philomena said, Apudo doing as she suggested, Philomena miaowing with surprise.

       “That’s why you don’t want to get on the wrong side of my toes when I curl them, I can tightly curl my toes!” Apudo purred, Philomena miaowing as she tugged at her trapped fingers, finding she was unable to move them.

      “Wow Apudo!” she mewed, Apudo smiling broadly.

     “that’s when I’m not curling my toes with the pain and effort of labour,” Apudo mewed, “when I’m in labour, I curl my toes even tighter.”

       “I thought you were a cub!” Philomena exclaimed.

      “I’m learning how to play, and my stature means I can be guided,  but I still have my memories of what I used to be,” Apudo mewed.

       “So that’s why Theo helped you when you had problems relieving yourself, he loves you dearly already!” Felix mewed.

“I suppose that’s why,” Apudo replied. Philomena tugged at Apudo’s curled toes with her left hand which held the fingers of her right, Apudo fighting Philomena’s tugging fingers with much miaowing and growling.

        “I’m nooaoaoaot letting goaoaoaoaoao!” Apudo growled, Philomena curling her own toes with concentration, Felix giggling helplessly as he saw her toes curl, as Philomena now lay across his legs, Apudo lying with her paws resting on his chest.

        “I’m pinned under cuddly snuggly friends,” Felix giggled.

       “if I was bigger I wouldn’t do this as I would squash you Felix, and I could never do that,” Apudo mewed.

     “If I roll onto my side Apudo, I can hug you and you can hug me, and Philomena can still hold your feet, or you can hold her fingers with your toes,” Felix mewed. Apudo released Philomena’s fingers from the grip of the toes of her left foot and  shuffled backwards, Felix rolling onto his left side, extending his arms and putting his arms around Apudo’s neck, Apudo rubbing heads with him.

       “I love your hug,” Apudo mewed softly.

      “I love your mane Apudo, it’s all soft and warm,” Felix purred, Apudo smiling:

       “I have a mane again don’t I, I need to make sure I don’t trip over that,” she purred.

      “Can I hold your paws Apudo?” Felix asked. Growling with effort:

     “I muuuuust find the strength to get out of this huuug!” Apudo shook her head and squirmed until Felix let go, then, miaowing piteously  thrust her paws back into his hands, Philomena laughing helplessly at the fat little lioness’s antics.

      “awww, you can’t bear to stop the cuddles Apudo!” she giggled, Apudo mewing and purring with pleasure as Felix rubbed the pads of her left paw, while Philomena, her fingers now released from the grip of Apudo’s toes,  grabbed one of Apudo’s huge feet then rubbed her pads, as Apudo had begun wriggling and pedalling the air.

       “I think I could get used to having my paws and feet rubbed,” Apudo purred, rolling onto her side, resting her head on the floor, Felix and Philomena rubbing all four of Apudo’s fat paws, the lioness wriggling and mewing with pleasure.

      “Apudo bracing her paws and feet into our hands is so cute!” Philomena giggled.

      “yes,” Felix replied smiling broadly, his eyes shining.

      “You lo