All mixed up.
The tiny tiger cub woke slowly. Opening his eyes, he saw a face in front of him, a face with white fur all over, and it was unlike any he’d seen before. Arki watched the tiny tiger cub until he woke, but then it was too late, he’d seen her.
“What are you?” The cub asked.
“I’m a polar bear little one,” Arki replied, “my name’s Arki.” The tiger cub freed his forepaws from where they’d been wrapped up in the quilt and stretched each paw. Arki reached out with one large paw and enveloped one of the cub’s tiny forepaws in hers. The tiger cub looked surprised and afraid for a few seconds, but when he felt how soft and warm the paw was holding his, he relaxed.
“Arki,” he mewed, “nice name that. Your paws are nice and warm.” Arki smiled and licked the tiger cub’s ear. The cub touched Arki’s nose with one tiny forepaw, making Arki sneeze violently as his paw tickled her.
“Sorry Arki,” the cub whispered, aware that Tigger and Amber were sleeping nearby. Arki wiped her eyes with a well padded forepaw.
“That’s okay little one,” she said. Arki looked down at the cub’s paw.
“You’ve got such tiny paws little cub,” Arki said.
“I’ll bet you had small paws when you were a cub,” The tiger cub replied.
“They were small, just like yours little’n,” Arki said. The cub held Arki’s paw between his.
“I like you,” he said. Arki smiled:
I like you too little cub,” she replied.
The sound of large paws scuffing on carpet announced the arrival of Leo, who gazed round the room in amazement. Before him were two snow leopards, two female polar bears, a female brown bear, and numerous cubs of the above, not to mention an otter, a husky dog and a red fox, as well as a snow tigress and her cubs, plus two arctic foxes. Arki, hearing the sound of large paws on carpet, looked round, expecting to see Clarence. When she saw Leo Arki screamed with fear and buried her head in the quilt! This lion was huge!
“Get him out of here!” Arki wailed.
“That’s Leo,” Tigger replied, waking suddenly, “he’s all right, honestly Arki, he’s fine!” Arki watched in horror as the tiny tiger cub who’s paws she’d been stroking crawled over to the edge of the quilt, leapt off it, and made his way to the large lion. Prodding at the lion with a tiny paw, The tiger cub invited retribution. All the lion did was roll onto his back and wave his paws in the air. Arki expected the lion to kill the little cub, but he didn’t, indeed, he seemed to like, even love the tiny creature.
“I can’t watch any more!” Arki whimpered, burying her face in her paws.
“Leo’s as soft as Clarence is,” Tigger said, “I’ve even tickled his paws!” Arki stared at Tigger between the toes of one forepaw.
“You’re joking!” Arki protested, her voice muffled by the paws covering her face.
“No,” Tigger replied, “here, I’ll show you.”
“No no no!” Arki pleaded.
“I will show you he’s no danger Arki,” Tigger replied.
“I will show you if you won’t let Tigger,” Whitie said. Arki shot out a paw and got a good grip on Whitie’s tail and one tiny hind paw.
“You will go nowhere near that brute!” Arki yelled. Whitie struggled frantically, but her efforts were no match for the strong paw holding her.
“Let go of me Arki!” Whitie yelled.
“I’ll go,” Candy said suddenly. Arki squealed as if she’d been shot and made a grab for her cub! Her paw grabbed hold of Sam’s, not Candy’s! Looking properly, Arki found Sam lying beside her, the male polar bear having blocked Arki’s access to Candy while the cub escaped and made her way to Leo’s side. Arki whacked Sam hard across his nose and paws, screaming at him that he was about to be an accessory to murder, and that she’d never speak to him again if harm came to their cub, and what the hell was he playing at sacrificing the life of his own cub?” Sam had seen the lion, and recognised him. Leo and Theodore had been at the same zoo in America Sam had. He’d spoken long distance with them, and although Leo had never seen the large polar bear to whom he’d spoken, the two had become firm friends.
Candy was now at Leo’s side, the lion leaving the tiger cub to return to the quilt, and transferring his attention to Candy, whom he took in his paws and began to stroke. Candy couldn’t believe how soft Leo’s paws were, they were as soft as her own mother’s, and he was so gentle with them too!”
“Nice soft paws ay Candy,” Leo purred. Candy, laughing with delight as Leo’s paws tickled her own, snuggled up to the huge lion. Sam then made his move, crawling off the quilt and over to Leo.
“Leo?” Sam said gently. The lion looked round, but didn’t recognise the polar bear who’d spoken to him, though the voice was familiar.
“Who are you?” Leo asked.
“My name’s Sam,” The polar bear replied, “Remember those nights when we used to talk for hours Leo?” Leo stared at Sam, Candy forgotten for the moment.
“You said you’d left a cub in England,” Leo replied, “you wanted to get back there to find your cub.”
“and find her I did,” Sam replied, “the polar bear cub you’ve been playing with is my cub Candy. I am the polar bear to whom you spoke for weeks. Leo took both Sam’s forepaws in his, his eyes filling with tears. Anger rose in Leo, that Sam should have left him and Theodore alone in their hell, but he forced it down, realising the male polar bear had wanted to find his cub, and it was wrong for Leo to use him as a crutch to solve his own problems. Once Leo had put away feelings of anger, he felt overjoyed to find his friend again, and wanted to run and tell Theo all about it.
“So you found your cub?” Leo asked, “how wonderful!” Sam smiled:
“It is wonderful Leo, it is,” he replied.
Meanwhile, Arki watched, wondering what on earth to make of all this. Sam obviously knew Leo, for they were chatting amicably, each holding the other’s paw without fear. Arki crawled off the quilt and went closer to Leo. The huge lion watched her approach.
“You must be Arki,” he purred. Arki swallowed hard, trying not to take fright. This lion was even more massive up close, and he had big paws! He was even larger than Clarence, and Arki thought him impossibly massive!
“I, I’m, I mean, My name’s Arki, Sir,” Arki mumbled, hoping the huge lion would just vanish. Leo crawled over to Arki, who watched him with terrified eyes. Suddenly Leo had Arki in his forepaws! Whimpering with terror, Arki tried to struggle but found she had no strength, the huge lion was killing her!” Arki’s panic attack subsided, and what she’d thought was snarling resolved itself into purring, what she thought were claws were warm, exceptionally soft paws, and what she’d thought was a death grip was in reality a gentle hug. Then another sound registered itself, Sam shouting, and he was shouting at her.
“Arki! Stop it! You attacked Leo! You hit him! All he did was touch your paw, and, and you went for him!” Arki felt the lion’s paws holding her, and realised her own paws were immobilised. Leo had pinned her paws to stop her from doing any more damage to him.
“Arki, dear Arki,” Leo sniffed, “What have |I done to deserve a walloping? I did nothing, I was kind to your cub, and kind to your mate.” Arki looked into the lion’s streaming eyes.
“I’m so, so sorry,” she said, “I didn’t mean to attack you. Honestly Leo, I didn’t mean to,” Arki now saw how much she’d hurt the huge lion.
“thank goodness you were only using your paws!” Sam yelled. Arki tried to free her left forepaw and touch Leo’s cheek, the lion reluctantly releasing her paw.
“I lost it totally,” Arki admitted, “I’m sorry Leo, I should have thought first. I saw the way you and Sam were, the way you played with the tiger cub and Candy, and the way you let Tigger tickle your paws. If you were aggressive, you wouldn’t have done all that.” Arki stroked Leo’s cheek with her free paw, the lion still stunned by the ferocity of her attack and unable to look her in the eye.
“I’ll leave,” Leo sobbed, “I know I’m not wanted here.” Releasing Arki, Leo watched her crawl away, one very distressed polar bear. Then he turned, and stopped dead in his tracks. The snow tigress whom he’d seen on first entering the room was watching him, and when his eyes met hers, Leo found himself unable to take his eyes off hers. She had friendly deep blue eyes. The tigress waved a paw at Leo, beckoning him closer. Automatically, Leo obeyed, his paws shuffling the rest of him towards her. Leo saw the snow tigress was lying on a rug, and had many animals round her. Two of her own cubs, plus a grown arctic fox, and a tiny arctic fox cub. The snow tigress indicated Leo should lie down, the other animals making room for him on the rug. As if in a dream, Leo lay down, feeling his fore and hind paws taken in those of the foxes and tiger cubs, who began to massage his paws. Leo, forced to relax, sprawled on the rug, realising he was in the power of the foxes and the tiger cubs, and held by the deep blue eyes of the snow tigress. The snow tigress indicated to the large arctic vixen that she wished to take Leo’s right paw in her own, and when the fox left off, the tigress took Leo’s forepaw in hers, the lion’s other three paws being massaged by two tiger cubs and a fox cub.
“Thank you Brushtail,” Snowy purred. Leo lay wondering what would happen to him, what would this tigress do to him now she had him under her spell.
“You look lost Leo,” Snowy said gently. Leo found he couldn’t speak, words deserted him, only sight, scent, sound and touch were left to him. He could smell the tigress’s scent, a warm, coconut like scent it was. A scent which was warm and comforting to Leo, and relaxed him. Leo took a deep breath, Snowy’s scent enveloping him in warm waves.
“That’s better isn’t it,” Snowy Half tail purred. Leo, now giving up all control, worked closer to Snowy, the snow tigress embracing him.
“They said you were too unwell to do any of this,” Leo murmured.
“Too unwell to show kindness to another animal?” Snowy asked, “no. they might have said I was too ill to do much, but this is all right. My condition is controlled by watching what I do and by regular paw massages.
“My mother used to control my Brother’s panic attacks with paw massages,” Leo replied, “I try my best to help him, but he’s always on the verge of losing it.”
“Your brother?” Snowy asked, “where is he now?”
“He’s downstairs, probably fretting over where I’ve got to.”
“Why not bring him to me, I will see what I can do,” snowy suggested. Leo gently disengaged his paws from those of the three cubs and that of Snowy half tail, and crawled away to find Theo. Finding him on the rug where they lived, almost frantic with worry, Leo, with a lot of coaxing, persuaded Theo to follow him. Once lying beside Snowy, Theo found himself amerced in the same warm scent and embraced by the same large, soft paws Leo had been. Snowy decided she’d take full control of Theo’s paw massage, starting with his left fore and working her way round all four of the young lion’s trembling [paws. Tilly, Brushtail, and Snowy’s two cubs watched as she started her work. Theo lay uncertainly on the rug, his instinct to run fighting with his rational mind, a battle with his instinct Theo was trying to win. Digging the toes of three paws into the rug, Theo tried to make it as hard as possible to run away.
“This is dreadful!” Theo mewed.
“You don’t’ like paw massages?” Snowy asked.
“it’s not that,” Theodore replied, “it’s just that my instinct tells me to run, but I know I mustn’t, but I so want to run! I want to! I want to!” Snowy felt the young lion’s tears wetting her paws as they fell off the end of his nose and fell onto her paws as she worked on his left forepaw. Snowy stopped stroking Theodore’s paw and embraced the now openly crying lion.
“I won’t hurt you little cub,” snowy purred. Theodore buried his face in Snowy’s fur.
“I don’t want to run Snowy,” he mewed pitifully.
“What’s your name little cub?” Snowy asked.
“Little cub!” Amber snapped, “he’s about two years old, “he’s no cub! What’s Half tail on?”
“I think it’s rather sweet,” Brushtail replied.
“You would!” Amber yelled at the vixen, “you’re as cubbish as Tembi is! Both of you disgust me! “Brushy cub,” that’s what she calls you isn’t it fox! Well, you’re disgusting!”
“Leave it Amber, leave it!” Tigger spat, his words whip cracking Amber into silence.
“My name’s Theodore,” Theo mewed, hating the sound of his own name. |he preferred the contracted version. Theo knew Leo was not his brother’s full name, their mother wanting grand sounding names for her cubs. Leopold and Theodore sounded fine, or so she thought. Theo hated his full name, but Theo was all right. Snowy felt Theodore’s distaste for his name and knew how he felt. Being labelled “half tail,” as she was didn’t amuse Snowy one bit, but she knew that was how she’d been named.
“Would you like me to call you by another name?” Snowy asked. Theo nodded:
“My brother calls me Theo,” Theodore replied, “Everyone calls him Leo, but that’s not his full name. Our mother called us Theodore and Leopold. Now, can you imagine the lion we both know as Leo being named Leopold?” Snowy grinned, she couldn’t imagine it without smiling.
“No,” she replied, “Leo’s much better.”
“I think so,” Theo replied.
“Your paws have stopped shaking Theo,” snowy said. Theo looked down at his paws in astonishment! They had indeed stopped shaking, and he felt better than he had in a long time.
“Now can I massage your paws Theo my cub?” Snowy asked gently. Tears filling his eyes, Theodore gave Snowy his left forepaw. Embracing the sobbing lion, Snowy massaged his paws one by one, taking her time over each. Leo watched Snowy and Theo’s interaction, relief coursing through him that someone had managed to calm his brother. The mention of his full name embarrassed Leo hugely, but he admitted to himself it would have come out in the end. Once snowy had reached Theo’s left hind paw, the young lion had stopped crying and was sound asleep. Letting him roll gently onto his side, Snowy finished massaging his paws. Once she’d finished, snowy gently rubbed Theo down from nose to tail, soothing the sleeping lion into deeper slumber. At a signal from Snowy, Brushtail and Brunetta gently picked Theo up in their paws and carried him to the quilt, leaving the rug free for Leo, who lay down beside snowy so she could continue his massage. Snowy looked at the prostrate lion.
“Your brother is better now I think,” she said. Leo took Snowy’s paw in his.
Thank you Snowy,” he said, “We are both very grateful for what you’ve done for us today.” Snowy smiled.
“Now my cub, will you let me finish what I started?” Leo gave Snowy his left forepaw, and Snowy’s cubs, plus Tilly, Brushtail’s cub, helped out also, as Leo was so large, Snowy couldn’t reach all of him without difficulty. Leo breathed deeply, every breath drawing the white tigress’s strange scent deep into his lungs, soothing him, caressing his mind like her paws and those of the cubs did his own paws.
Tilly and the two snow tiger cubs enjoyed their work with snowy. They’d learned fast about paw massages, having helped snowy with her own condition. Now they worked with snowy, not for her, for they enjoyed their work, and knew snowy could not do what she did without their help. Brushtail, though not as involved with the massage work as her cub, enjoyed her part in the running of things as much as Tilly did. Brushtail massaged the paws of those animals who didn’t like cubs, or had paws which scared the cubs, such as Hop along, who’s paws were vast, and due to abuse in his early life, needed special care. Hop along was so massive that when it came to massaging his paws, it took Clarence and Tigger to help him lie down. Snowy and Brushtail then got on with their work. Brushtail knew it was time for Hop along to have his paws massaged later that day. Regular paw massages helped him cope with the pain from his damaged leg, and Brushtail knew how grateful Hop along had been when Clarence and Tigger had devised a way of him lying down without causing him pain so Snowy could massage his paws.
Finishing Leo’s massage, Snowy Whispered to Brushtail to find Clarence so that Leo could be lifted from the rug and carried to another rug set up on the other side of the room. This done, snowy headed downstairs to work on hop along. Finding the massive male Bengal tiger standing in his usual place by the door into the living room, snowy noticed he was wearing a rug similar to that on which she slept and worked. The huge tiger regarded Snowy with kind eyes, but Snowy could see the pain behind the cheerful exterior. Hop along was in terrible discomfort from his leg, and it often left him exhausted and slightly irritable. A lack of sleep due to the pain in his leg also meant Hop along was nearly always tired.
“You are the bringer of the only real relief I get Snowy,” he said as he saw her, his vision dulled by constant pain. Snowy saw the stress in hop along, and realised her own difficulties were minor compared to his. She could be relieved by paw massages, whereas Hop along could not really be said to be given relief by them. They were the best solution, however temporary that anyone could offer.
Clarence and Tigger helped Hop along to lie down, the large tiger almost weeping with pain as he was forced to move his injured leg. Once down however, things calmed down a lot. Snowy worked on Hop along’s forepaws, while Brushtail worked on his hind, being careful not to aggravate his leg. Hop along tried to get into the spirit of the thing, but could not achieve the total relaxation Clarence or Ellie could. Once The tigress and the vixen had done all they could, Clarence and Tigger helped Hop along onto his feet again, enduring the swearing and insults the pain maddened tiger threw at them. Clarence and Tigger knew Hop along experienced a lot of pain from his damaged leg, so they didn’t take the insults and bad language personally. When well out of Hop along’s hearing, Clarence had often remarked to Tigger that, compared to the large tiger’s, their lot had been easy. Heading upstairs once more, Snowy and Tigger stopped in the hallway. Looking at each other, a single thought passed between them.
“What the hell are you and I fighting for Snowy?” Tigger asked.
“I was wondering the same thing,” snowy replied.
“We’ve been at each other’s throats for so long now,” Tigger said, “it’s been crazy, and why? Because you said and did things for which you’ve now apologised, and I can’t let them go. Well I will let them go snowy. We’ve both been bloody stupid over this.” He extended his paw towards Snowy, who took it in hers.
“let’s go on from here,” snowy said, “after all Tigger, “we’re both tigers, even if we don’t share the same habitat.” Tigger felt Snowy’s warm soft paw envelope his, and it felt very good, very good indeed.
“Peace Tigger?” Snowy asked.
“yes Snowy, peace,” Tigger choked, the enormity of the situation hitting home.
“We have to work together now,” Snowy said, “for our troubles aren’t over yet. Amber hates me, and if she realises we’ve made peace, she’ll go ballistic.
“Are you both stupid?” Amber asked, “of course I dam well know what you two have been saying! I know it all! I hate you Snowy! I don’t know why Tigger has prostituted himself like this! You are weak Tigger, as weak as a cub if you think this dam genetic misfit will keep her word. She’s horrible! An abomination! You are disgusting snowy!” A low growl stopped Amber’s tirade. Looking round, she saw Leo at the top of the stairs, rapidly approaching her.
“Snowy has done more for us than you ever have Amber,” the huge lion said, “I would keep your mouth shut if I were you. For there are stronger animals than you here now, who might not agree with your views on Snowy.” Amber looked at the huge lion, at his commanding stature, and his massive paws.
“You couldn’t attack me, even if you wanted too,” Amber challenged, “you are a big wimp Leopold!” Leo smiled, opened his mouth, and shook the windows with the loudest roar any of the animals had ever heard! Snowy mewed with fear and clung to Tigger, Amber hurriedly retreated, and Clarence came bounding up the stairs.
“What the hell’s going on!” He demanded.
“Leo lost his temper,” Snowy mewed faintly.
“Lost my temper snowy?” Leo replied, “no, no no, I can’t accept that. I threatened Amber, that’s all. She was saying horrid things about snowy you see Clarence, and I couldn’t let that go on now could I? Not after what snowy did for me and Theo. Clarence hadn’t really met snowy Half tail, but he knew she’d been good to Tembi in the past, and that his cub often spoke warmly of the snow tigress.
“Amber,” Clarence said, “you might not like the current accord between Tigger and snowy, but that gives you no right to upset them. Snowy loves your cubs as her own, if it hadn’t been for her Whitie and Blanche wouldn’t have survived to be returned to you. You have a lot to thank Snowy for. The tigress you call a genetic misfit has shown herself to be a gentle creature. Even with the health problems she has, Snowy has shown she will help others to the extent of almost curing their ailments.” Clarence looked at Leo, who nodded. “Theo’s much better now Snowy,” Leo said, “he would like to thank you himself, but whenever I mention going to you, Theo breaks down, telling me he’d never get through it.”
“Send him to me Leo,” snowy said, forgetting Amber for the moment, “Send Theo to me, and let him say what he wants. I don’t mind tears, for I myself have been in terrible situations.” Leo went to find his brother.
“Now Amber,” Clarence said,” go back to your place on the quilt, and remember this. If I hear anything more about you terrorising snowy or those she helps, you will have more problems than you have ever had before, is that clear!” Amber mewed that she understood.
Leo arrived with Theo, the latter looking as if he wanted to be anywhere but where he was at that moment.
“Snowy,” Theo said, his voice almost cracking, “Thank you for all you’ve done today. Snowy smiled and hugged Theo, something which broke the lion’s already fragile control on his emotions.
“It’s all right Theo,” Snowy said, “tell you What, why not come to me regularly, that way we can keep in contact.” Theo wasn’t about to argue with Snowy, he liked her, and that was plain for all to see.
“That’s settled then,” Leo said. The truth was, Leo liked Snowy a great deal too.
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