A panda with a bad attitude.
Geming woke slowly; his paws remembering all that had taken place the previous day. His pads and toes relived everything, and Geming was smiling before he’d properly woken. Instinctively, he sat up and reached for one of his hind paws with his fore, feeling his right hind [paw taken in both his forepaws. It felt wonderful!
Later that day, when Geming and the other pandas were lazing about together in the living room, it was suggested that they go to the pool complex, Geming was up for this, and he, along with Yi Jie, Liang, Shuang, and Geming’s parents went to the large pool complex. Splashing through the bath which cleansed their paws, the pandas entered the pool complex and made their way to the spar pool, Geming smiling as he stepped into the water, for the spar tickled the soles of his paws, reminding him of the previous day’s events. Settling down, Geming set to enjoying the sensations his paws fed to his brain.
Not too far away from Geming, a large female panda named Jinghua lay in the shallow water. She was heavily in cub, and knew her cub was due any day. Jinghua had walked into the pool complex behind Liang, hoping the other pandas wouldn’t notice her. Now she lay in the warm water, her body telling her her cub was ready to be born. Jinghua thought miserably of what her name meant.
“My Chinese name means “splendid situation,” what a laugh that is now! I’m in labour, and in a strange place!” Groaning with discomfort, Jinghua shifted her position on the ledge. It was then Geming paddled up to her. Jinghua looked at the cub through growing pain and fear.
“Do you need help?” Geming asked. Jinghua tried to suppress her urge to shriek with pain as another contraction tore through her.
“I’m having my cub!” She gasped. Yi Jie, seeing what was going on, paddled across to Geming and told him to leave. Yi Jie sat down beside Jinghua and took her paw.
“It will be okay,” she said to the labouring female panda, while Jinghua pawed frantically at her fur, whimpering and crying with pain and fear.
“This is my first cub!” She sobbed, clenching her teeth and curling the toes of all four paws as she was torn apart by the heaviest contraction yet. Jinghua lay on the ledge, screaming and begging for mercy and release. By this time, all the other pandas were gathered round, watching proceedings.
“We have to get her out of here,” Liang said, “she can’t give birth to her cub here!” Yi jie knew labour for pandas was painful from the start, but this meant nothing as far as how long the labour would continue. From what she could see, Jinghua was not ready to have her cub just yet.
“What’s your name?” Yi jie asked the mother to be.
“Jinghua,” the female panda panted, “It, it means splendid situation. This isn’t one of those!” Closing her eyes, she panted hard.
“Let’s get you to somewhere warm and dry,” Yi Jie suggested.
“After the next contraction we go,” Liang said, “We can’t risk her having the cub here!” Yi jie held Jinghua’s forepaws as she coped as best she could with her cubs will to be born. Once the contraction was over, Yi Jie, Liang and Shuang quite literally dragged Jinghua to her feet and they almost ran from the complex, Yi Jie and Shuang almost dragging Jinghua, with Liang bringing up the rear, hoping he wouldn’t be catching the newcomer’s cub in his paws. Jinghua, while conscious of the need for speed, found moving quickly almost impossible, though she did her best, trying to keep up with those who pushed her along. Reaching the safety of the house, Jinghua was exhausted and frightened. Collapsing onto a rug, she gave herself up to another contraction, screaming and thrashing her way through it.
“Try sitting down and massaging the sole of one of your hind paws,” Yi Jie suggested. Jinghua looked at her.
“How do I do that?” She asked. Yi jie showed her how, by sitting down and massaging the sole of her right hind paw with both forepaws. Jinghua, glad for some diversion from her pain, copied Yi Jie’s example, finding the massage soothed her, and made her pain easier to cope with.
“This hind paw massage is good,” Jinghua panted as another contraction gripped her, while she concentrated on rubbing the pads and toes of her left hind paw with both her forepaws.
“I will have to give this up when my cub gets closer to being born,” Jinghua said, “but for now, it’s good to do this.”
“Change the paw you massage from time to time,” Yi Jie replied, “massage first your right hind, then your left, “massaging alternate paws is the name of this game.” Yi Jie demonstrated how to massage each paw. Jinghua followed Yi Jie’s advice, and her labour became easier. In the latter stages of her labour, Jinghua began rocking back and fourth, gripping each one of her hind paws with both forepaws and pressing her hind paws hard into her forepaws, Yi Jie encouraging her all the way by copying her.
When it came to the cub’s emergence into the world, Jinghua squatted on her haunches, bracing her fore and hind paws flat against the rug while pushing hard against the cub when she felt the urge, and bouncing on her toes between contractions, feeling the cub move towards freedom with every effort she made. Bouncing on the toes of her hind paws and panting, Jinghua finally felt the cub coming into the world. Reaching down with both forepaws while still bouncing on her toes, Jinghua caught her cub as it slid into the world, helping it along by bracing her hind paws and pushing hard to deliver her cub’s hind legs and paws. Once all was calm, Jinghua looked with astonishment at the wet bundle of life her now held in her paws.
“I don’t know how long we’ve been here,” she panted, but it’s all been worth it.” Yi jie smiled. She noticed the tiny female cub was more developed than most newborn pandas, for she already had black and white markings whereas cubs are usually born without fur. There were more surprises in store, for when Jinghua checked over her cub’s tiny paws; Yi Jie saw they had brown soles. Jinghua’s own paws had black soles, so maybe she’d mated with a male who had brown soled paws. Then Jinghua saw something strange about her cub’s paws, the sole of its left hind paw was black, the others brown. Seeing Yi jie was interested in her newborn cub, Jinghua pointed this out to her. Yi jie examined the female cub closely, touching her with her paws while the tiny creature spat and wriggled.
“Yes, your cub does have one black soled paw.” Yi Jie confirmed. Jinghua hugged her cub to her, the tiny creature drinking busily from the milk she had to offer. Yi Jie flexed the toes of her fore and hind paws, her whole body aching, as she’d quite literally demonstrated to Jinghua from how to massage her paws, to how to rock back and fourth, pressing the soles and toes of her hind paws into the pads of her fore. This meant Yi Jie was almost as tired as Jinghua. Jinghua watched Yi Jie flexing her paws.
“You look as tired as I feel,” Jinghua said, gently rocking her cub to sleep. Yi Jie looked at her.
“I wasn’t playing when I was showing you how to cope with your pain; I was actually massaging my paws and pressing my hind paws into my fore with as much urgency and effort as you. You wouldn’t have put in as much effort if I’d pretended would you?” Jinghua smiled.
“Thanks for the demonstrations,” she replied.
Yi Jie smiled and patted Jinghua’s left forepaw. It was hot and damp with sweat.
“I coped with my own cub’s birth in the same way I showed you to,” she said.
“I like paw massage,” Jinghua replied, “all that paw play must be good when I’m not in labour too?”
It is,” Yi jie replied, “the paw resistance game, where you press your hind paws into your cupped fore paws with the toes of your forepaws linked together is a good one to strengthen your limbs. The game where you curl the toes of one hind paw round those of a forepaw and tug at your forepaw develops strength, but also imagination, as you need to pretend you are struggling to free your paw. This is the most liked game with cubs, as they learn they can play with their paws. Its fun playing those games and watching cubs play them. Jinghua smiled and curled up on the rug with her cub, who purred with pleasure as her large paw enveloped her tiny one. Yi Jie felt exhausted, her paws ached, and she felt dog tired.
“If I feel like this, what must Jinghua feel like?” Yi Jie settled down, her whole body aching.
Yi Jie and Jinghua settled down with Jinghua’s newborn cub, the cub still holding her mother’s large paw as best she could.
“This is the most amazing day I’ve ever had,” Jinghua said to Yi Jie, who smiled at her.
“You did very well,” she replied, “well done Jinghua,” Jinghua’s newborn cub, hearing the voice which had quite obviously helped her mother, reached out with her free forepaw towards the voice, Yi Jie smiling and taking the female cub’s tiny paw in her huge one.
“You helped my mum,” the cub said, Jinghua catching her breath as she watched Yi Jie and her cub.
“I think she knows what you did for me,” Jinghua choked.
“Maybe she does,” Yi jie replied, “though we won’t know this for years to come, maybe we’ll never find out.”
“I must go and wash my fur and paws,” Jinghua said, “I feel dreadful! Then again, at the same time, I’m exhausted.”
“Sleep now Jinghua dear,” Yi Jie suggested, “bathing can come later.” Jinghua looked down at her paws through a fog of fatigue, they were shaking.
“My paws are shaking, and I can’t see straight!” Jinghua exclaimed.
“All the more reason to go to sleep,” Yi Jie replied. Jinghua smiled to herself as her cub, having touched Yi jie’s paw, returned to her and snuggled close.
“Good night little one,” Jinghua whispered, a deep sleep overcoming her.
Jinghua and her cub slept for a long time, Yi Jie, Shuang, and Liang watching over them. Theo was informed of the birth of Jinghua’s cub, and he was anxious to pay them a visit, but Yi jie advised against it in the first few days. Theo, feeling the leadership kept him from playing with the cubs, had banged his fore paws on the carpet in frustration until Elsa calmed him.
“We bears, while respecting you Theo, need our time alone you know.” Yi Jie said. Theo mewed in genuine pain.
“I’ve always got paws on with the cubs,” he whimpered, “I’m always paws on with them, lion cubs, snow leopard cubs, and every cub! That’s the way I am!”
“You can hug that cub in a few days Theo Dear,” Yi Jie replied, gently patting the lion’s paw. Theo wiped his eyes with his free paw.
“I must remember I’m a big cat, not a bear,” he sniffed.
“Sometimes you act like a bear,” Yi Jie replied, “all that hugging and stroking of paws.” Theo smiled at her.
Theo watched Jinghua and her cub, keeping a close eye on them. He wished he’d witnessed the birth of the cub, but didn’t know what was happening until it was all over. Sometimes Theo wished he was any animal but a lion. After Yi jie left, he lay down and covered his face with his forepaws.
“The bears seem to have it all,” he thought, “they can do so much, climb trees, swim for long distances, slide down the water slide, even stroke their own hind paws. I’d love to stroke my own paws.” He’d talked to Brunetta, who’d showed him how she massaged her own paws, Theo wishing all along that he could massage his own hind paws like the bear could. Miserably, Theo had watched Brunetta stroking her right hind paw with both her forepaws.
“I probably was a bear in a former life,” Theo thought. Getting to his paws, he padded from the room and made his way to the pool complex. Snowy, seeing him walking towards the door, released it and let Theo in. She watched him padding along the passageway, then splashing through the disinfectant bath, the shower drenching him from above. Smiling, she turned her attention to the main pool, where fleur, Bianca and Pepper played together. Snowy had watched the birth of Jinghua’s cub, and recorded it for posterity, should she want a record of her cub’s birth. Snowy had Ahanu’s birth on camera too, as did she Bramble’s. Even though both cubs were born in the large bathtub, snowy could watch via tiny cameras, though she rarely did so. Snowy had used her technology to great affect these last few months, solving disputes between community members, as well as capturing the first steps of the newborn cubs. Snowy had watched Ahanu walk on the soles of his paws for the first time. Indeed, as she knew, cats didn’t walk on the soles of their paws like bears, they walked on their toes. Even so, Ahanu had gone from his paws being an accessible way of making him laugh when others tickled his pads, to walking on those pads. Snowy had seen so much, and soon she hoped to record the birth of raja and Rani’s cubs. Everyone knew about the cameras, but as so often happens, the knowledge was pushed to the backs of the minds of most, so that when things needed clarification, and snowy came forward with her video evidence, those involved were always surprised.
Snowy watched the goings on in the pool complex, remembering how she’d played with Bianca when she was a tiny cub.
Meanwhile, back in the house, Geming and Weici played together, the newborn female cub loving every minute of the older male cub’s attention. Geming soon taught Weici how to tickle her own paws and then to tickle his. Weici smiled at Geming.
“This feels great,” she said, stroking her left hind paw with both forepaws. Geming smiled at the tiny cub, rolling her over and tickling her belly. Weici laughed helplessly, waving her paws in the air.
“You have lovely ticklish paws Weici,” Geming said, tickling and stroking her right forepaw, to the newborn cub’s delight. It was true Weici hadn’t been introduced to the community yet, though her mother had told her what her new name was only that day, and she’d told it to Geming. Geming smiled at her and held her forepaws in his.
“Let’s spend some time stroking each other’s paws,” Weici said, “for it feels so good, and your paws are so soft and gentle Geming.” Geming gave her each paw in turn, first his right fore, than his left, his right hind, then left. Weici examined his paws with hers, from his toes to his heel pads, gently exploring each paw in turn. Geming smiled with pleasure.
“You can really stroke paws,” he said, wiggling the toes of his right hind paw feeling Weici take hold of his toes in hers. Jinghua watched them; smiling at the way Geming and her cub interacted. Geming gently removed his hind paw from Weici and crawled away, Weici, unable to see Geming, keeping in touch with him by touching the sole of one of his hind paws with one of her forepaws at all times. Geming led Weici to the pool complex, Jinghua following at their pace, enjoying watching her cub enjoying her newfound freedom. Jinghua knew Geming would stick by her until her eyes opened and she could crawl about independently.
Once they reached the pool complex, Geming and Weici crawled along the passage passing under the shower, the shallow bath now empty, snowy having emptied it when she’d seen the two pandas crawling into the complex. The shower drenched Geming and Weici, WEICI’s paw pads slipping on those of Geming’s hind paws as the water trickled down the soles of the larger panda’s hind paws. Geming laughed as the water tickled him, this was reinforced by Weici, who tickled the larger panda’s paws. Geming crawled quickly away, Weici chasing him.
“Give me those paws!” She yelled, grabbing for Geming’s paws with her tiny ones. Geming laughed helplessly until tears rolled down his nose as Weici tickled his hind paws. He put an end to this by enfolding Weici in a huge hug. Weici, while only three days old, had learned a lot about things, or she thought she had. Little was she to know, but very soon she was to learn a lot about many other members of the community.
Weici met Leo on the path into the wood a few days later. The huge lion stopped and stared at the tiny cub crawling beside Jinghua.
“I believe this is the youngest panda cub I’ve ever seen,” Leo mewed. Jinghua smiled.
“WEICI’s a lovely cub,” she replied. Leo sniffed cautiously at Weici, who, not having met a lion before, didn’t know what to make of the obviously huge creature in front of her.
“What is that huge thing in front of me mum?” Weici asked. Jinghua told her.
“There aren’t many lions in china, so you wouldn’t usually meet one in your lifetime,” Jinghua added. Leo lay down, in an attempt to make himself look smaller to the panda cub. Weici reached out with a tiny paw and touched Leo’s massive one. Leo smiled and enfolded her tiny paw in his.
“Lions aren’t usually friendly to pandas, but this community has some of the friendliest lions around. We won’t harm you.” Weici smiled at the large lion.
“Your paw is soft and warm,” Weici said. Leo smiled.
“I’m glad you like my paw,” he mewed. Weici traced round Leo’s paw with her own tiny ones, and then up his leg to his shoulder, then crawling towards his head, she felt his mane, ears, nose and whiskers. Leo purred contentedly as he felt her paws exploring him.
“What is that rumbling sound?” Weici asked.
“Leo’s purring,” Jinghua replied, “that’s a reassuring sound Weici.” Weici found herself enfolded in a huge set of paws, which she knew by their scent, belonged to Leo. These paws were soft and warm. Jinghua looked round as another lion, smaller than Leo, padded up to him and touched noses with him. Jinghua stared at this newcomer. He looked like an overgrown cub! His paws were quite definitely not those of a fully grown lion, and his manner was hesitant. Jinghua wondered if this lion was maybe a cub from another family.
“This is Theo, my brother and leader of the community,” Leo said to Jinghua.
“That’s, your, your brother? He’s leader is he? Leader Here?” She asked, “I, I thought he was a clumsy half grown cub!” Leo was astonished at her words, even angry, but Theo was smiling.
“Clumsy cub,” he mewed, “ah yes, I know why you say that.” Leo was furious!
“You insolent bag of fur!” He yelled at Jinghua, “how dare you, how could you even think that? My brother’s one of the most respected lions around these parts, and you’d better get that into your thick head! Clumsy cub? Who the bloody hell do you think you are to say such things?” Jinghua shuffled her paws in nervous embarrassment, but Theo laid a paw on Leo’s mane, the angry lion evidently soothed by his touch.
“She probably thought you were leader,” he mewed, “after all, “I don’t look much like one.”
“It’s not what you look like though, it’s what’s beneath the fur that counts,” Leo mewed.
“First impressions count too,” Theo replied, “though I’m getting used to those unfamiliar with our ways thinking I’m just an overgrown cub.”
“In many ways they are only too correct,” fleur said, padding past Theo, Leo and the pandas.
“Hey, don’t give it away!” Theo laughed, swiping at fleur with a playful paw. Fleur walked away laughing merrily.
“You’re no cub,” Leo said, “Theo, in many ways you are more courageous and wise than the longest serving community member here.” The oldest members happened to be the badgers, and Leo knew that if his words were overheard, or repeated in their hearing, Brock and Constance would be furious. Indeed, his words were true, the two badgers bucked the trend of their species, wanting to lead quiet, unobtrusive and unadventurous lives. Petra padded near to the little group, Jinghua staring at her.
“If I’m not mistaken, there’s a white lioness standing not too far off,” she said. Theo smiled.
“That’s Petra, she’s my cub,” he mewed, his pride in her evident.
“Your cub?” Jinghua asked, “Normal lions can have white cubs?” Theo nodded.
“Yes they can,” he replied, omitting the true story of Petra’s arrival into the world. Petra padded up to Theo and hugged him tenderly.
“Hi Petra love,” Theo purred, kissing her on her nose, “how are you?” Petra returned his gesture and took his paw in hers.
“I’m okay Theo,” she mewed. Theo smiled as Petra touched his left forepaw with her right. She had large fat white paws, and Theo knew they had pinkie black pads and black claws, although at that moment Petra’s claws were retracted and he couldn’t see the pads on the sole of her paw. He’d seen her paws often enough to know all about them however. Theo knew every inch of Petra from her nose to her toes, for he’d washed and groomed her when she was a cub. Secretly, she still let him wash and groom her, though that was in very private time. Petra loved these almost illicit times, enjoying the pleasure of being washed and groomed by her sire, to whom she felt closer than almost any other lion in her life. These washing and grooming sessions often ended with massage and tickling of all four of her paws, to Petra’s great delight. Petra loved Theo stroking her paws, and would let him stroke them all day if she had half a chance.
Theo rubbed the back of Petra’s free forepaw, the white lioness smiling with genuine pleasure.
“She’s your mate?” Jinghua asked.
“No, she’s my cub,” Theo corrected the panda. Jinghua stared at Petra.
“How?” She asked, “you’re tawny, she’s, well, white, white from her nose to her toes I don’t doubt!”
“Tawny lions can give birth to white cubs,” Theo mewed, “it’s perfectly natural.”
“Your mate gave birth to her?” Jinghua asked. Theo tried to imagine his mate Elsa giving birth to Petra, wishing that was how things had happened, but the image wouldn’t come.
“No,” he replied, “Petra was adopted by me and my mate.”
“I wish I had been born to your Elsa Theo,” Petra mewed, “and then, well, so much trouble would never have taken place.” Theo touched Petra’s nose with his.
“I know,” he mewed, “but we can’t change anything now.” Petra suddenly felt an overwhelming need for Theo to stroke her and reassure her by massage of her body and paws.
“Please Theo,” Petra said, she was about to say more when Theo’s paw closed on hers.
“I know,” he mewed, “ok, we’ll go.” Padding from the room, they made their way to Theo’s sleeping place. There Theo and his adopted cub settled down, Theo taking her left forepaw in his. Theo could feel Petra’s paw trembling, she was upset.
“What’s up?” Theo asked, stroking Petra’s paw.
“Jinghua hates me before we’ve even met!” Petra mewed, “I felt it and saw it! I don’t expect to be liked by everyone, but give me a chance!”
“I don’t know why she should feel that way,” Theo mewed.
“Well I do,” Jinghua said, striding into the den, “Petra’s overgrown, fat, clumsy and dumpy! She’s more male than her mate! Have you seen Aslan? He’s quite a slim lion; he’s got quite the lioness look about him I’d say. Petra’s more lion than lioness, she’s horrid!”
“You can’t judge her on how she looks!” Theo roared.
“I can, and I will!” Jinghua replied, raising a paw to smack Theo. Jinghua suddenly felt herself flying across the den, and then hitting the wall with tremendous force! Theo had cuffed her so hard she’d been knocked off her paws and sent reeling.
“That’s what happens to those who insult my cubs for no reason other than they don’t like the way they look!” Theo snarled. Jinghua, her face stinging from the slap of the lion’s paw, whimpered with pain and misery.
In an attempt to take her mind off the disgusting panda, Petra looked down at her own paws. Turning them so she could see the soles of her paws, she realised they were very beautiful. Theo looked over her shoulder, also examining her paws.
“Lovely aren’t they,” he mewed.
“Fat, well padded and thickly furred, with five toes on each paw,” Petra said, “yes they are lovely Theo.” Petra knew her hind paws had four toes on each, in other respects, they were almost identical to her fore, if not a little smaller. Petra traced the pads of her left forepaw with her whiskers, smiling with delight as they tickled her toes.
“You look just like you did when you were a cub,” Theo mewed. Petra mewed like a cub, turning her left forepaw over to examine it in the same way she had her right. Theo impulsively hugged Petra, Petra snuggling up to him.
“Stuff yourself Theo!” Jinghua yelled, “You’re nothing but a silly overgrown cub! All that examination and touching of paws and whiskers you and your fat white cub are engaged in is dreadful! You’re both horrid, and unnatural, and disgusting, and I hate you both! Petra’s more male than female, Aslan’s more female than male, and I hate every one of you!” Fleur quietly put her head in at the door, calmly assessing the situation.
“If we hadn’t let you in here, you’d have had your cub in the cold wet wood Jinghua,” fleur mewed.
“We would have coped!” Jinghua yelled, “Yi jie did nothing to help really, and what the hell are you? Another fat misfit spawned by this abnormal and deranged community?” Fleur suddenly ran at Jinghua, the panda startled by the large cat’s speed! While Fleur and Petra were of similar build, both large and with a slow solid look about them, unlike Petra, fleur could run! Now she proved it! Streaking across the room, grabbing hold of the dishonoured panda’s scruff in her teeth and shaking her! Jinghua screamed as her paws left the floor and she was hoisted into the air like a crane would a container! Fleur, now fully grown and oversized as are most cross bred big cats, stood with her forepaws splayed, her toes dug into the carpet for extra purchase. Fleur never dug in her claws in case they got trapped. Then, to Jinghua’s horror, fleur demonstrated a rather neat trick she’d learned from Rani. Throwing Jinghua into the air, fleur stood on her hind legs and, leaning back against the wall, caught the somersaulting panda in her forepaws! Jinghua suddenly felt herself flying! Ascending like the latest space shuttle, Jinghua felt her body twisting, the heel of her left hind paw grazing the ceiling fifteen feet above the carpet! Then sickeningly, her world turned upside down, and she was falling towards the carpet face first! Shrieking with terror, she felt something smack her on her shoulder, tipping her body sideways, and then she felt herself caught in two huge paws, claws extended! Jinghua howled with pain and fear!
“How dare you insult my friends!” Fleur yelled, now literally spitting with fury.
Gosheven, padding past the room and hearing Fleur’s words, put his head in at the door and took in the situation.
“Go for it fleur love,” he purred gently, for he never got excited about anything. fleur, hearing his words, put the panda down head first, making her walk on her forepaws until the toes of her hind touched the floor when fleur dropped them in her own length, Jinghua whimpering as her toes slammed into the carpet.
“You really don’t know when to stop do you,” Gosheven asked the disgraced and badly frightened sow panda.
“Where’s my cub! Where is Weici! What have you done with her you horrid creature!” Gosheven shook his head sadly.
“Done with her?” He asked, “Nothing piebald one, nothing at all. She crawled to Fleur’s place after you left her to come here and taunt Theo and Petra. Fleur, wanting to investigate why you’d left your cub alone at such an early age, asked me to look after Weici while fleur went to take a look at the situation. The puma, deeply in love with Fleur and all she was, did and stood for, hated Jinghua for what she’d said. Petra mewed with misery, hiding her face in her large white paws.
“Now go!” Fleur yelled at Jinghua, throwing her bodily out of the room, Gosheven aiding the panda’s exit by giving vent to the puma’s yowl which had Petra shrieking with terror and Theo trembling with fear. Gosheven, initially pleased at the affect he’d had, purred contentedly, the sound reverberating around the room.
“Don’t do that again!” Theo pleaded, his paws shaking and damp with sweat.
“I just had to,” Gosheven replied. Gosheven, sensing all was not well, looked at the two lions, taking Pity on Petra who was most distressed. Lying down beside the white lioness, Gosheven took the weeping lioness’s paw in his and held it, kissing her on her nose.
“It’s okay,” Gosheven purred, “hey Petra dear, its okay I promise. I won’t hurt you.” Petra, incapable of speech, stared at the puma through her tears. He was not by any means as large as her, but the sound he’d made told of horrid mutilation and possibly instant death, or worse. Petra could cope with lions, and even tigers, you knew where you stood with them, but the puma, or cougar, were known to be cunning, devious creatures, unpredictable with no allegiances to anyone but their own immediate families.
“When, when Aslan, when I heard we had a puma here, I, I nearly ran into the wood and hid,” Petra mewed, “I don’t know if I like what I’ve heard about your brethren Gosheven. Now, now I see you’re here, and that’s fine, but you didn’t honestly feel the absolute and imminent need to give vent to that yowl did you? Could you have made another sound?”
“I’m sorry,” Gosheven purred, kissing Petra on her nose, now wet with tears. Gosheven, while being a hardened hunter, was also a gentle creature. Feeling the white lioness’s bone shaking, toe curling terror upset him. He embraced Petra tightly in both paws, the white lioness submitting to the cougar’s hug.
“I’m sorry I upset you Petra,” he mewed. Meanwhile, fleur left to return Weici to her mother, the cub having been left by Gosheven in a clever hiding place, just like the female of his race would hide her own cubs. Fleur found Weici hidden in a broom cupboard, the panda cub further hidden under blankets. She’d obviously been told not to come out unless Gosheven came to get her, for at first she wouldn’t go with fleur. Fleur managed to persuade the cub however, and took her back to Jinghua, who fussed over her cub, trying to forget her mistakes in Theo’s den. Fleur looked with loathing at Jinghua, realising she actually hated the panda. Fleur wasn’t given to hating anyone, but now she knew she hated this panda, and while she felt justified in feeling this emotion, it saddened her Jinghua had driven her to feel it.
Fleur returned to Gosheven, who still lay on the rug beside Petra.
“I won’t harm you, I promise you that,” he mewed to Petra, while Petra lay shaking with terror. Theo wasn’t fairing much better. Acutely conscious of his cub’s distress, he lay with his face buried in his paws, whimpering softly to himself.
Fleur entered the secluded room and smiled at Theo, hugging him.
“It’s all done now,” she mewed. Theo began to relax. Petra too was beginning to calm down, Gosheven’s soothing talk finally winning the day.
“Now,” the cougar said, “let’s all try and keep calm for a bit. The only one who needs to worry is Jinghua, for she’s made Fleur very angry, and we all know how difficult that is. That panda had better watch her back.” Fleur hugged Gosheven tightly, the puma smiling with delight.
“I love you fleur,” he mewed, kissing her nose.
Meanwhile, Jinghua had run into Elsa, the lioness furious with the panda when she finally dragged from her what had caused the earlier rumpus.
“You insulted Petra and Theo, um, yeah, great move that,” Elsa mewed, and then she turned savage, spanking Jinghua hard across her face with one forepaw, the sow panda screaming with pain.
“Did you think I’d let you get away with this?” Elsa snarled, “You disgusting animal! We take you in, help you give birth to your cub, and then you repay us by insulting the community leader and his cub! You don’t know us here, we watch newcomers, we see how they integrate, fleur was watching you Jinghua, the minute she felt bad vibes from you towards Petra, and she watched you until you put your paw in it. Now she’s angry, I’m furious, and the rest of the community are now bound to hate you. You are stupid!” Jinghua felt Elsa bowling her over, and smacking the soles of all four of her paws, the pain was horrendous!
“You evil moggie!” Jinghua yelled, the soles of her paws stinging horribly, “you are flea ridden and mangy!” Elsa suddenly leapt on top of Jinghua and clamped the sow panda’s head in her jaws!
“No Elsa, no!” Theo pleaded, running into the room, “Don’t do that!” Elsa snarled and blew her anger, Theo seeing it plainly in her toes curled into the carpet with extended claws, her rigid manner and lashing tail. Elsa suddenly let go of Jinghua’s head and inflating her lungs, roared into the panda’s face from a few inches away! Jinghua’s world seemed filled with noise! Shrieking with fear, she still couldn’t outdo the lioness for sheer volume.
“Just leave me alone!” Jinghua pleaded. Elsa cuffed Jinghua across her nose with her paw one last time, and then left her. Jinghua lay on the carpet, covering her stinging face with equally stinging forepaws, while curling and relaxing the toes of both hind paws in an effort to dispel the stinging in her pads.
“I vote we go back to the den,” Elsa mewed, “I’m exhausted.” Theo and Petra followed her back to the den.
Meanwhile, fleur and Gosheven lay together in the indoor bath pool, as the large bathtub in the bathroom of the house was now known. Gosheven had never, until now, examined fleur from nose to tail, and neither had she examined him. They were looking forward to this hugely.
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Martin Wilsher © 2010
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