Arki and Kodiak have a cub.
Arki and Kodiak lay together beneath the quilt. The weather outside was freezing, and Allie, who’d ventured outside, reported that her paws had almost frozen solid, which told the other animals that the weather was unacceptably cold, even for the snow patrol.
Arki and Kodiak, warm beneath their quilt, held each other’s paws, and dreamt about the cub they were soon to have. Arki’s adopted cub, Candy had been overjoyed at the news her foster mum was going to have a cub of her own, but other than Candy and Kodiak, no animal knew of the impending birth of Arki’s cub. Arki knew she’d have to tell Fleur about the coming birth of the cub, as she didn’t want a repetition of the events surrounding Fleur’s birth, events which she’d been told about in graphic detail by Aslan. Arki wondered what her cub would be like, being a cross between the brown and polar bear. Would it be a brown bear with thick fur? Or would it be a polar bear with brown ears and brown patches? She didn’t know. Kodiak stroked Arki’s paw with his, the touch of his warm paw relaxing her into sleep. Kodiak knew brown bears and polar bears could breed successfully, for he’d heard of it from Allie, who’d known such a pairing between brown bear and polar bear adults, who’d had three cubs.
Despite Kodiak and Arki keeping a lid on the impending birth of their cub, the news somehow got out, Candy having let the news slip to Whitie. Whitie, though usually trustworthy, had been so excited about the coming arrival of the new cub she’d let it be known to all. Arki at first was furious, but then, as she realised the community weren’t bothered at all by the prospect of interbreeding, relaxed and began to enjoy the attention lavished on her by the community.
Arki woke slowly the next day, feeling her cub more active inside her than ever. She knew her time was near, and that she’d better find Fleur. Looking over to her right, she saw Fleur looking at her.
“I felt your cub’s need to be born,” the strange cross bred cub said. Arki smiled, feeling safe with this large cat. Kodiak, hearing Fleur’s voice, woke and looked at Arki.
“It’s time I think,” Arki said. Arki knew labour hadn’t yet started, but soon it would start. Arki wriggled free of the quilt and crawled with Fleur and Kodiak to the bathtub, Arki wanting a water birth. Fleur reflected that it had only been two weeks since Pakshalika’s birth, and that maybe Arki’s cub and the tiger cub would get on well together. Nick, now settled in the community after four weeks, and well recovered from his ordeal in the outside world, watched the two bears and Fleur padding towards the bathtub. Arki crawling uncomfortably as her labour had started suddenly.
“Good luck Arki,” Nick thought. Arki’s labour continued as Fleur filled the bathtub. Kodiak stroked his mate’s paws as she panted and groaned with pain. Fleur quickly got the bath ready, but for Arki it seemed like ages before she could be helped into the warm water. Splashing and pawing at Kodiak who lay beside her in the water, Arki coped as best she could with the birth of her cub. Fleur, watching over proceedings, rested her paw on Arki’s sweat soaked right forepaw.
“Now just let things take their course,” Fleur said, “Kodiak, you concentrate on Arki. Don’t worry about the cub, its safe.” Arki breathed hard.
“I want to push!” She moaned.
“Go on then,” Fleur said gently, Feeling Arki’s paw clench beneath hers as the female polar bear bore down against her cub.
“Does that feel better?” Fleur asked, stroking the fur of Arki’s paw as she pushed.
“Yes, oh yes!” Arki gasped. Kodiak looked sick with fear.
“Everything’s okay,” Fleur mewed to him, Kodiak burying his face in Arki’s shoulder.
“You’re not much good are you?” Leona mewed, padding into the bathroom, “Kodiak, what good are you to Arki if you’re terrified out of your fur by the sight of her in labour?” “Go away!” Fleur snarled. Leona, feeling she could stand up to Fleur, as she’d been brought up with her, stood her ground.
“No I won’t!” The female lion cub snarled back. Fleur extended her claws, showing them to Leona as Arki wailed with pain and bore down against her cub once more.
“That’s it Arki!” Kodiak encouraged, “push, Arki, push!” Arki screamed with fear and pain as the cub progressed towards the outside. Fleur cursed Leona as the female lion cub distracted her from her work.
“Get out of my sight!” Fleur snarled.
“You can’t remove me!” Leona snapped.
“Go back to work Fleur,” Nick said, striding in and dragging Leona from the room.
“Thanks,” Fleur replied, leaping into the bathtub to catch Arki’s cub as the female polar bear pushed it into the world. Arki felt Fleur touch her right hind paw, and wiggled her toes to acknowledge her.
“Right Arki, push hard, I’ll catch your cub,” Fleur said. Arki heaved, Fleur catching the cub in her large fat paws. Arki clenched her teeth and all four paws, bearing down against her cub for the last time.
“Done it, I’ve done it!” Arki yelled. Kodiak smiled with relief.
“I’m only sorry you nearly missed the whole thing,” Arki said to Fleur. Fleur, cleaning up the newborn bear cub looked briefly at Arki; her eyes telling her Leona would have a lot to answer for.
Arki and Kodiak looked with interest at their newborn cub. It was white with a black nose and black paw pads. Eyes tightly shut, it hardly struggled as Fleur cleaned it up, the cub sensing the owner of the paws holding it was gentle and meant it no harm. Once the cub was cleaned from nose to paws, Fleur let it go, the cub swimming towards Arki, instinctively knowing how to swim, finding out where she was by scent. Kodiak knew bear cubs didn’t usually learn to swim until they were at least three months old, but this one seemed to be highly developed for a newborn cub.
“I don’t know what we eat here,” Kodiak remarked, “but it leads to some well developed cubs.” Pakshalika, hearing of the fight between Leona and Fleur, rushed in to see if Fleur was okay, and caught sight of the newborn bear cub.
“Everything’s fine here Pakshalika,” Fleur said. The tiger cub smiled and looked at Arki.
“Come on,” Arki said to the tiger cub, “come and meet my cub.” Pakshalika padded over to the bathtub, and Arki gave her her cub to look after while she got out of the water. Pakshalika rolled onto her side and took the cub in her paws, hugging it tenderly.
“What are you doing!” Kodiak asked Arki, “you’ve just, I can’t believe what you’ve just done! Giving the care of our cub over to, to a tiger? What the hell are you on Arki!”
“Pakshalika won’t hurt our cub,” Arki replied, “she’s as gentle as Fleur.” Kodiak slapped his mate, the first time he’d ever done so. Arki snarled and bared her teeth at him.
“Don’t ever hit me again!” She snapped. Kodiak stared down at his paws, regretting his actions the minute they were performed.
“I’m just scared for the safety of our cub,” he mumbled, “you have a wonderful cub, and then, then you go and do something like this!”
“Your cub’s asleep Arki,” Pakshalika said, gazing down at the cub held in her paws. Her eyes having been open only for a few days, Pakshalika was taking every opportunity she had to look at everything, as well as touch things with her fore and hind paws.
“My cub will be hungry I’ll bet,” Arki said, gently picking the sleeping cub up in her mouth and carrying it back to the cubbing den, now vacated by Theo and his family. Kodiak followed his mate, giving Pakshalika a filthy look as he passed her. The female tiger cub, very upset by the bear’s apparent disgust at her actions, looked at Fleur for reassurance. Fleur smiled at her, waving her paw to indicate the cub should wait a minute. When Kodiak was out of sight, Fleur pulled the plug on the bathtub and got into the shower, putting another plug into the outlet and filling the shallow tray with water, before turning on the shower proper and rubbing shampoo into her fur. Pakshalika watched Fleur, wanting to be with her, wanting her to wash her fur in a similar way to the way Fleur was washing her own fur. Indeed, Pakshalika, while having been in the large pool in the complex, had never yet been washed properly by Fleur. Hosing herself down with the shower, Fleur read the tiger cub’s thoughts.
“In a minute Pakshalika,” Fleur said gently, thumping the button to turn off the shower with the heel of her right hind paw.
“Just let me finish cleaning up here,” Fleur said, stepping out of the shower. Pakshalika watched Fleur clean the bath, and then when the huge cross bred cub had washed her paws once more, she padded up to her.
“What did I do wrong?” Pakshalika asked.
“You did nothing wrong dear Pakshalika,” Fleur mewed, “Kodiak didn’t like you hugging his cub, that’s all.”
“But, but I didn’t take his cub, Arki gave me it to hug!” Pakshalika mewed pitifully.
“I know, I know! What happened is not your fault,” Fleur said gently. Pakshalika snuggled up to Fleur, wanting her to give her a hug. Fleur hugged Pakshalika tightly.
“Would you help me shampoo my fur?” Pakshalika asked. Fleur smiled, remembering how the female tiger cub had watched her.
“Let’s run a bath and I’ll help you wash your fur and paws,” Fleur mewed. Pakshalika watched as Fleur ran warm water into the bath. When all was ready, the cross bred cub helped Pakshalika into the water.
“Now let’s wash each other’s face, paws and fur,” Fleur said, “so we can see how it’s done.” Pakshalika was up for this. Fleur first showed the female tiger cub how to wash her face and paws without soap, then with. Pakshalika loved this, but took careful heed of Fleur’s warning not to get soap in her eyes and mouth.
“Get it in your eyes, it stings, and in your mouth it tastes horrid,” Fleur said to the cub, who smiled at her.
“this is fun!” Pakshalika mewed. Fleur showed the tiger cub how to wash her fore and hind paws, which Pakshalika loved, as she got a paw massage. Fleur knew the tiger cub would enjoy this bit, so she took her time, stroking the two week old cub’s pads and toes with infinite gentleness and care, and once this was over, tickling the pads of her paws until Pakshalika was laughing fit to bust.
“This is wonderful!” the cub mewed, when all was over. Fleur hugged her.
“Now, now, do I get to tickle your paws Fleur?” Pakshalika asked.
“All in good time,” Fleur purred, “you wash them first, like you saw me wash yours,” Fleur replied. Pakshalika took each of Fleur’s huge paws in her tiny ones as best she could and rubbed the soap over and between Fleur’s toes and pads, Fleur trying not to show the cub how much she was tickling her. Pakshalika wasn’t so much rubbing Fleur’s pads as lightly brushing them, causing a tickling sensation which eventually had Fleur laughing helplessly.
“You’re tickling me!” she whooped. Pakshalika knew she was doing wrong, as Fleur hadn’t tickled her pads or toes when she’d washed her paws.
“You need to be firmer, don’t rub too hard, but be firm, don’t tickle the pads of my paws with yours, for that won’t clean my paws at all,” Fleur said, “be firm, I’ll tell you if you’re in any danger of hurting me Pakshalika, don’t worry.” Pakshalika tried again rubbing Fleur’s paw furiously with hers.
“that’s it!” Fleur encouraged. Pakshalika worked on all four of Fleur’s huge paws, being extra careful not to tickle her.
“Nearly done,” Pakshalika said, working on Fleur’s right hind paw. Fleur smiled as the tiger cub finished her work.
“Well done Pakshalika dear,” Fleur said, “now we wash face and fur.” In this way, by mimicry, Pakshalika learned how to wash her face, paws and body fur. Fleur and the female tiger cub finished their bath and dried each other off with the towels provided.
Leaving the bathroom, Fleur and Pakshalika met Kodiak and Arki in the living room with their cub. The bear cub, scenting Pakshalika, crawled towards her, and Kodiak could do nothing about it.
“her name’s Bramble,” Arki said. Pakshalika smiled:
“I like that name, Bramble, what a nice name!” Bramble crawled up to Pakshalika, the tiger cub enveloping the bear cub in her large, fat, warm paws. Arki smiled as she saw her cub’s reaction to Pakshalika’s hug.
“I love you little one,” Pakshalika mewed, nuzzling the cub’s ear. Bramble buried her head in Pakshalika’s fur.
“I’m cold,” the bear cub whimpered. Pakshalika smiled and passed the cub over to Fleur, whose thick warm fur soon had the cub warm and comfortable.
“our cub couldn’t be in safer paws,” Arki said to Kodiak, who was regretting walloping Arki for letting Pakshalika look after their cub.
“Look, Arki, and you Pakshalika,” Kodiak said, “I, I’m sorry, sorry for hitting you Arki and for doubting you Pakshalika. I now see you were right Arki, Pakshalika is no danger to our cub.” Pakshalika and bramble played together, each catching the other’s paws and holding them. Fleur watched this, enjoying every minute of the antics of the two cubs. Arki rolled onto her back and waved her paws in the air, Kodiak laughing helplessly at her.
“You do look funny Arki,” Kodiak said. Arki caught the toes of Kodiak’s right forepaw in those of one of her hind paws and briefly held them.
“I have learned to use my paws to examine the world around me,” Arki said, “I know I wasn’t good at it to begin with, but now I’m trying to learn.” Fleur padded over to Arki, who rolled onto her side and enveloped her in a polar bear sized embrace, Fleur snuggling into the bear’s thick fur. Fleur took Arki’s left forepaw in hers and began to gently stroke it. Arki worked her paw into Fleur’s, pressing her pads against those of the cross bred cub.
“You have soft, warm, gentle paws Fleur,” Arki said dreamily, “I could get used to having my paws stroked like this.” Fleur purred as she continued stroking Arki’s paw. Bramble, having quickly become exhausted from playing with Pakshalika, had curled up in the warmth afforded by the tiger cub’s body heat and soft fur. Arki watched Pakshalika as she stroked the tiny cross bred bear cub’s head and paws.
“We are so lucky to have a community like the one we have here,” Arki said, “where else could a polar bear cub lie down with a tiger cub in complete safety, knowing the tiger cub wouldn’t think of attacking the bear cub.”
“I know Arki, I know,” Kodiak replied, feeling worse than ever about hitting his mate. Fleur released Arki, and Kuan-Yin, keen to see what was going on, crawled up to Arki and touched her paw with his. Arki looked at the panda and smiled at him.
“You have had a cub I see,” Kuan-Yin said. Arki’s smile grew wider at his words.
“You are right,” she said, stroking the paw holding her own. Arki looked Kuan-Yin over, from his nose, to the brown patch of fur on the soles of each one of his fat paws. Arki hadn’t seen this brown patch of fur on the soles of the paws of any other panda in the house, the soles of their paws being the same colour as the rest of the paw. Arki turned over Kuan-Yin’s forepaw, and found the same colouration on the sole.
“I know the soles of my paws are brown,” Kuan-Yin said, curling the toes of the paw Arki held, making his pads bunch together, “I like my paws.” Arki kissed Kuan-Yin’s nose, and then the black fur on the top of his left forepaw. Kodiak watched her, glad she’d found a friend in the large panda. Kuan-Yin licked Arki’s ear. Yi Jie watched him, wondering if he was falling for Arki. Kuan-Yin gazed into Arki’s eyes, his own expression one of total bliss as he looked into her own. Kodiak thought this had gone too far! Crawling up to the panda, Kodiak whacked him across his nose with his paw with an open pawed slap! Kuan-Yin howled with pain and threw up one of his paws to protect his nose, Kodiak slapping the pads of the panda’s raised paw! Arki shouted at Kodiak!
“No Kodiak, no! Don’t hit him!”
“He was making advances towards you Arki, and you’re my mate!” Kodiak yelled.
“We were looking into each other’s eyes yes,” Arki admitted, “Kuan-Yin was enjoying the experience maybe too, but there was nothing else to it!”
““I will go, I’m sorry,” Kuan-Yin gabbled, now shaking violently from his black nose to the brown soles of his fat and very strokable paws. Arki was disturbed by the sight of the large panda crawling away, Kuan-Yin looked dreadfully upset.
“He meant nothing by what he did!” Arki yelled at Kodiak.
“Bloody pandas!” Kodiak yelled, “They should be banned from here!”
“Do you want some of what you dealt out to my sire?” Shuang asked Kodiak, who spun round at the sound of her voice.
“Are you threatening me?” Kodiak asked. For answer Shuang raised her paw and cuffed Kodiak hard across his nose! Kodiak squealed with pain, burying his nose in his paws!
“That hurt, that hurt!” He wailed.
“I do not speak empty words,” Shuang said. Arki looked at the panda cub.
“But you’re only a cub!” She said, “You, you can’t just hit those whom you don’t like!”
“An eye for an eye Arki,” Shuang replied, “we pandas believe very strongly in that.”
“But, but that’s the law of the jungle, not the laws we abide by here!” Arki protested.
“Oh yes it is the law you abide by here,” the panda cub replied, “you stroke me, I’ll stroke you, you hit me, I’ll hit you. You see?”
“Well, yes,” Arki replied. Shuang padded forward and Arki hugged her.
“Wow!” Tinka mewed, “you n’alf gave Kodiak something to think about Shuang.” Yi Jie rubbed her nose with her paw to hide her smile of satisfaction at her cub’s actions.
“Plucky little cub isn’t she,” Clarence mewed. Shuang strode up to Clarence and stared into the lion’s eyes.
“You call me a plucky cub again, and you’ll get a paw across your nose, just like Kodiak did, okay?” Shuang said softly. Clarence snorted with disgust.
“Impudent little sod!” He snapped, swiping at Shuang with his paw, which paw was slapped by the panda cub. Clarence’s paw stung horribly after this.
“You, you horrid little, oh, I can’t think of words bad enough to describe you Shuang!” Yi Jie made quite sure her face was straight before she faced Clarence.
“All Shuang’s asking is that you never refer to her as a plucky cub again,” Yi Jie said. Clarence rubbed his paw, thankful the panda cub hadn’t gone for his nose as she had with Kodiak. Kodiak shook his head, trying to dispel the tingling feeling in his nose.
“I’ll smash that bloody cub into the earth!” He yelled. Suddenly Yi Jie was on top of him, her paw crashing down on his nose! Screaming and yelling, Kodiak crumpled totally! Arki watched this, knowing intervening would be stupid.
“What happened to a bit of back up!” Kodiak moaned as Yi jie left off.
“You deserved that,” Arki replied, “especially when you threaten to hit a cub.” Kodiak sniffed and rubbed his nose with his paw, it was still tingling.
“I’ll get you for this Yi Jie!” Kodiak snapped.
“Not while I’m here you won’t,” Theo said. Kodiak looked at him, and then stared at his own paws, defeated.
“You win,” he whimpered, crawling away. Kuan-Yin looked at his mate.
“You two don’t need my protection,” he said, “I’m superfluous to requirements here!”
“No you’re not,” Shuang said, snuggling up to her sire. Kuan-Yin hugged his cub tightly. Kodiak slunk away, leaving Arki and their cub Bramble alone with Pakshalika and Fleur, the other animals watching him go.
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