A friend for life.
The news of Elsa’s pregnancy spread throughout the house. Clarence was overjoyed at the news, for despite not wanting to sire any more cubs, he’d always loved Elsa, and wished the best for her. When she told him, Clarence threw his paws round her and hugged her tightly. This reaction, Elsa knew, was Clarence all over, he was nothing but a big softy beneath all that fur. Tommy watched Clarence’s reaction, and warned him off.
“She’s my mate now Clarence, paws off!” he snarled. Clarence squeezed Elsa’s paw and she left him, Clarence watching her leave, his eyes full of pain.
Elsa was furious with Tommy.
“Clarence isn’t a danger to me, my cubs, or anything else. He’s a kind and gentle lion, who loves cubs, and will do anything to protect them. So leave him alone!! Elsa snarled.
“He threatened to kill Tembo!” Tommy replied.
“I’m not surprised he did,” Elsa said, “Tembo was heading for trouble anyway. Clarence would have been the last to lay paws on Tembo. I know that, for Tembo was his cub!”
“Well,” Tommy snapped, “I don’t want him anywhere near you! Oh, and by the way, when you have your cubs, I’m not going to be there, for I hate the whole business of cubbing.” Elsa stopped dead.
“So you’re quite willing to have the pleasure, but not to help me through the pain?” Tommy looked away.
“I just don’t like it,” he mewed. Elsa was devastated.
“I don’t know what to say!” she growled.
“Say nothing, because it won’t change my mind!” Tommy snapped. Elsa walked out of the room, her cubs stirring inside her as if they felt her emotional distress. Elsa padded up the stairs to where Tib lay on the quilt having her paws massaged by Kodiak, who’d appointed himself the tabby’s guardian.
“I’m in cub,” Elsa announced to the room in general, avoiding Tib’s eye.
“That’s wonderful!” Tigger mewed.
“Agreed,” Ringo added, “when are they due?”
“Any time within the next four weeks,” Elsa replied, hoping she was somewhere near the truth.
“That’s good,” Tib mewed, “more cubs in the house, wonderful!”
“don’t get any ideas about killing these cubs Tib,” Stifftail mewed.
“Now that’s not fair!” Tib yelled. Elsa felt her pulse quicken, her paws become damp and her toes curl involuntarily, she was becoming anxious.
“I don’t want to hear that kind of talk either!” Elsa said, “I hope Tib wouldn’t do my cubs harm.”
“Of course I won’t!” Tib snarled, “I killed Tembo for one reason only! That was that he was a danger to the others!”
“That he was, I know that now,” Elsa replied. Elsa looked Tib full in the face, and the look in the tabby’s eyes brought tears to her own.
“I’m not sorry Tembo died,” Tib said, “but I’m more sorry for the distress I caused you than I can tell you Elsa.” Elsa’s vision blurred with tears as she looked into Tib’s eyes. Suddenly she was being embraced in Tib’s paws, the tabby hugging her tightly. Elsa felt no fear, just immense sadness.
“I’m sorry Elsa,” Tib mewed. Elsa buried her face in Tib’s fur, weeping for her cub. Tib stroked Elsa’s back, ears and paws, trying to tell her how confused and apologetic she was for and about what had taken place the previous day. Elsa felt Tib’s paws working over her, and despite everything, her touch was genuine, her intentions non threatening. Elsa began to relax a little.
“How about a paw massage Elsa?” Kodiak asked. Tigger laughed merrily:
“You make me look lazy Kodiak,” he said, “ever since I showed you how to stroke a paw, you really have been eager to try it on everyone!”
“I don’t know if it wouldn’t be such a bad thing,” Elsa mewed, “they say that whatever happens to me happens to my cubs. Whatever I eat, they get, whatever chemicals I put into my body, be it by massage or through other means, my cubs get a share also. A paw massage wouldn’t be a bad thing after what Tommy’s just said to me.”
“What did he say?” Snowy asked.
“He told me he wouldn’t be at the birth of our cubs, because, because he didn’t like cubbing! As if I’m going to have any choice in the matter! I’d like some support from the father of my cubs!”
“if Tommy won’t give you support, I know who would,” Tigger mewed.
“yes, I know,” Elsa replied, “and Clarence has been wonderful to me.”
“He still loves you Elsa,” Tigger said, “Clarence would give his life for you and your cubs.” Elsa looked down at her paws. She knew Clarence still loved her, and she often regretted leaving him.
“We’ll all help you through your cubbing,” Brushtail barked, “it’ll be like what us foxes do, we have a huge gathering when a vixen is due to have her cubs. That way it can be a huge celebration of the cub’s birth.”
“What happens if things go wrong?” Stifftail asked.
“You really know how to spoil a conversation!” Amber snapped, cuffing Stifftail across his nose with the back of her paw.
“A valid question, if somewhat inappropriate considering,” Brushtail replied, “well, if the worst happens, the extended family are all there to comfort the mother. So it works both ways.” Elsa was glad she had support, even if it was from an assortment of different animals.
“Thank you all,” she said.
Tib looked over Elsa’s shoulder and smiled.
“Ah, Clarence,” she mewed, “what can we do for you?” Clarence looked shell shocked.
“I’ve, just, just done the most awful thing,” he mewed. Elsa turned and looked into the lion’s terrified eyes.
“What have you done?” She asked.
“Tommy, he, he attacked me,” Clarence replied, his voice and paws shaking, so, I, I defended myself, and, well, well, he’s now, badly injured! Theo’s treating him now, but, but, well, it doesn’t look good. Leo sent me up here to tell you what I’d done. He treated me like a naughty cub! Retribution n’all that stuff. Well, now you know what I’ve done.”
“I would have stood up to Leo,” Tigger snapped, “he’s a bully sometimes!”
“Leo knows Clarence has terrible difficulty raising a paw to anyone,” snowy mewed, “Leo’s just throwing his weight about because Clarence was driven over the edge.”
“I don’t think Tommy’s going to survive this,” Clarence whimpered, “I tore him up pretty badly.” Elsa looked into Clarence’s face. The terrified lion stared back at her.
“I’m sorry Elsa,” Clarence said. Tib released Elsa and she padded over to Clarence, who hugged her with both paws.
“I want you to be there when I have my cubs Clarence,” Elsa mewed. Clarence stroked Elsa’s paws:
“I will be there,” he replied, “no matter how frightened I am, I’ll be there.” Elsa buried her face in Clarence’s fur, breathing in his scent, his warm, sweet, comforting scent.
“You now need to look after those cubs Elsa,” Snowy said, “Clarence will help, so will Tigger and Theo. They will make sure you’re safe.” Elsa rubbed Clarence’s massive left forepaw with both of hers, the huge lion watching her.
“I still love you Elsa, despite everything,” Clarence sniffed.
“I know Clarence, I know,” she replied, “and I’m sorry about everything, going with Tommy n’all. I know now I did it only because I wanted cubs. He doesn’t love me at all. I tried to love him, and for a time I thought I did, but when he said he’d refuse to be at the birth of our cubs, I had my doubts about him. Now I know, I know what love is, for when I told you about my cubs Clarence, you threw your paws round me and hugged me. I felt safe, as if, if I’d come home.” Clarence hugged Elsa as tightly as he dared.
“You have come home Elsa, you have,” he said, “for nothing will harm you now, and you are totally safe with me, and with these other good animals.”
“you great big softy!” Elsa sobbed, “I love you Clarence, and that’s the truth!” Clarence held Elsa tightly in both paws, hugging her tenderly.
“I don’t mind if the cubs aren’t mine Elsa,” Clarence said, “I will help you through it all, get my paws dirty during the birth of your cubs if I have to, all that. I will be there for you throughout it all, to massage your paws, hug you, stroke your ears, everything I can do to help, I will.” Elsa snuggled up to the large lion.
“you used to be scared of cubbing,” she mewed.
“I am still,” Clarence replied, “but I will be there, I will be there because I love you Elsa, and that means being with you throughout everything.” Elsa stroked Clarence’s paws.
“I’ll try to make things as easy as I can,” she said, “I know you’re not trained in attending cubbings.”
“Making things easy is my job, not yours Elsa dear,” Clarence replied, “I’m not the one giving birth to the cubs.” Elsa smiled.
“It will be okay,” she said.
“Even so,” Clarence replied, “I will ask everyone I can think of about cubbing, what it’s like, what to do, all that. I want to know.” Elsa hugged Clarence.
“I’d ask Theo and Tembi then,” she mewed, “They only recently had Aslan. Tembi will tell you from her point of view and Theo from his, and that way you should get a good idea. Ellie’s always eager to tell anyone about Pipin’s birth too.”
“I know,” Clarence replied, “she’d have me witnessing a mock cubbing if she had half a chance. That lynx is impossible!” Elsa licked Clarence’s ear.
“Better to be prepared,” she said. Clarence felt Elsa’s cubs kicking at his paw as he touched her belly, Elsa smiling as she felt his touch and the reaction of her cubs to it.
“We’ll get through this together Elsa my love,” Clarence said. Elsa squeezed his paw.
Meanwhile, Tommy lay on the carpet of the living room, wishing he’d never met Clarence. Clarence had beaten him up severely, and now he was bruised and aching from nose to tail. Leo had dragged Tommy to safety after Clarence’s attack on him.
“You make sure that dam lion’s out of this house by sundown!” Tommy yelled at Leo. Leo looked at Tommy.
“You don’t love Elsa at all do you,” he stated. Tommy spat on the carpet.
“All she wanted from me was cubs!” he yelled, “that was the agreement we had! Now, now she’s got cubs, I don’t want to be with her any more!”
“Clarence loves Elsa dearly Leo,” Sparky said. Leo looked at the Dalmatian.
“He does,” Leo replied, “and I’ll bet he thought Tommy did too, so he got wild with him when he realised Tommy didn’t love Elsa at all.”
“She loved Tommy though, or tried to,” Sparky replied, “now though, she’s lonely, and Clarence is in your bad books.”
“I shouldn’t have sent him away like that,” Leo said, “I treated him like a cub. Clarence doesn’t often lose his temper, but when he does the affect is massive.” Tommy moaned with pain.
“for a pacifist, he n’alf knows where to hit someone,” he complained.
The sound of scuffing paws on carpet announced the arrival of Elsa and Clarence. Seeing Clarence, Leo motioned with his paw for him to come to him. Clarence, seeing Leo, began to shake with fear. Leo patted the carpet with his paw.
“Clarence,” he said, “come here please. Clarence stared at his leader, not moving a muscle, as if his paws were stuck to the carpet. Indeed, Clarence wished they were, so he had a reason not to go up to Leo. Curling his toes into the carpet, Clarence stared down at his paws.
“Clarence, did you hear me?” Leo asked. Clarence’s reaction to Leo’s voice told the lion he’d heard what he’d said.
“Don’t get angry with him Leo,” Theo mewed, “Clarence was only defending Elsa. It should be celebrated that he still loves her to literally fight for her. Tommy wouldn’t fight for Elsa, that’s almost certain.” Leo crawled up to Clarence and touched the terrified lion’s paw.
“Clarence, please,” Leo begged, “look at me.” Clarence raised his head, his eyes terrified and bewildered.
“I can’t believe I did that to him Leo,” Clarence whispered, waving a paw at Tommy.
“good thing you did if you ask me,” Tinka said, “Tommy’s a horrid animal! Fancy telling Elsa he wouldn’t be there at the birth of her cubs! How could he!”
“Well I’ll be there,” Clarence replied, “I’ll be there from the start until it’s all over!”
“Brave talk,” Leo said, “but you’re scared of cubbing.”
“Scared I am,” Clarence replied, “but afraid to go through it with Elsa I’m not. I will learn, I will talk to others who have seen it or been through it.”
“I’ll describe Aslan’s birth to you if it will help you Clarence,” Tembi said. Clarence looked at her.
“Thank you,” he replied.
“I’ll help too,” Ellie chimed in.
“You’d re-enact it too if you had the chance,” Clarence said smiling. Ellie grinned.
Elsa hugged Ellie, Tembi and Clarence tightly.
“I know what cubbing’s like,” she said, “I’ve gone through it, but everyone’s help is greatly appreciated.” Clarence hugged Elsa tenderly, her cubs reacting to his presence.
“They seem to react to you,” Elsa laughed. Clarence smiled.
“Let’s wait until they’re born,” he said, “then we will see.” Elsa knew she wanted to ask Clarence something, but how could she word what she wanted to say.
“Clarence,” Elsa said, “about my cubs. Would you help me look after them?” Clarence thought about her words.
“Are you sure that’s what you want?” he asked.
“I am sure,” Elsa replied. Clarence looked into her eyes.
“I would be delighted to help,” he said. Elsa tried to throw her paws round Clarence’s neck, but she could only reach so far. Clarence rolled onto his side, took Elsa in his paws and hugged her. Elsa snuggled up to him, working her paws into his fur, stroking his mane, caressing his huge ears and paws. Clarence smiled as he felt her touch.
“Elsa dear,” he purred, “could I do something for you which I’ve been longing to do for a long time now?”
“That depends,” she said airily, knowing he meant her no harm.
“could I stroke your body and paws?” Clarence asked. Elsa looked down at her paws, they were tiny compared to Clarence’s.
“There’s not much to stroke in the paw department,” she said, “my paws are tiny!”
“I used to stroke them,” Clarence said, “then they were as small as they are now.” Elsa agreed.
“I’d love it,” she said, “please Clarence.” Clarence waited until Elsa lay down, then he began to work on her, starting by massaging her head and ears, then her neck, then her back and legs, then her belly and paws. Clarence took extra care over Elsa’s belly and paws. Stroking her belly ever so gently, her paws also. Elsa curled her toes, catching hold of Clarence’s and holding the pads of his huge paws against her own.
“You like that?” Clarence asked. Elsa, now almost comatose, mewed a reply, but Clarence could hardly hear it.
“it’s at times like these when things are most relaxed that cubs decide to make their arrival,” Clarence thought, “I hope it doesn’t happen here. If it does, there are many willing paws to help me and Elsa.” Clarence gently touched Elsa’s belly, feeling her cubs kick at his pads as he touched her.
“They do seem to be reacting to me,” he thought, “I’m looking forward to meeting them for real.
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