Bianca brings families together.

 

 

Bianca woke slowly, she felt warm and safe, her paws buried in Fleur’s fur.  Bianca examined her paws with her whiskers, making sure her claws were retracted, they were. Bianca burying her paws back in Fleur’s soft warm fur woke the large cross bred cub, who opened her eyes and looked at the newborn female tiger cub.

        “Morning Bianca,”  Fleur yawned.

      “I’m  really happy fleur,”  Bianca said.  Fleur smiled and touched the cub’s tiny paw.

       “I’m  glad you are Bianca my dear,”  she said.

     “I want to meet more animals today,”  Bianca yawned, stretching her paws.

     “You will,”  Fleur replied.

 

The destroyed rug had been cleared away, and fleur was glad to see the back of it.  Now she lay, her paws still sore from curling her toes as hard as she did the day before during her rescue from the nasty rug.

 

Fleur got up, and so did Bianca, as her warm comforter had decided to get to her huge paws and walk away.  Fleur ate some of the fish veg mix and then drank from a water bowl.  Bianca drank some of Snowy’s milk, snowy herself only half awake.

      “I’m  going with Fleur,”  Bianca whispered to her mum, snowy mumbling something indistinct in reply.  Bianca knew that her mum would be very upset if she woke properly to find her gone, so she decided to wake  Snowy properly by gently patting her paw.

     “Ay? What?”  Snowy mewed.

     “I’m  going with fleur mum,”  Bianca mewed.  Snowy opened her eyes, shook herself and looked at her cub.

      “Where is fleur going?”  Snowy asked.

      “I don’t really know,”  Bianca admitted truthfully, “I suppose she’s going to the cubbing den, where Tigger said you were meant to give birth to me.”

      “All right,”  snowy replied, looking round her blearily, “I see Theo’s gone, upstairs no doubt.”

       “Let’s go Bianca,”  Fleur said.  Padding up the stairs, they quietly entered the cubbing den, Fleur leading Bianca by one of her tiny forepaws.  Bianca padded along, her tiny padded paws making hardly a sound now her claws were retracted.  Fleur guided the tiny tiger cub through the group of half drowsy and sleeping lions and they settled beside Theo, who, feeling something large settle beside him, looked up blearily.

      “Oh it’s you Fleur,”  he mewed, “and you’ve got, um, what’s her name again?”

      “My name’s Bianca,”  the tiger cub mewed.  Theo reached over to where Bianca lay between Fleur’s forepaws and took one of the cub’s tiny paws in his huge fat one.  Bianca felt her paw taken by one that was soft, warm and gentle.

      “I like the feel of your paw Theo,”  Bianca purred.  Theo smiled, curling his toes round Bianca’s paw.

       “This is lovely,”  Bianca mewed.  Fleur smiled at Theo and said:

     “Shall I let you into a little secret Bianca?”

     “Okay,”  Bianca said.  Theo looked down at the rug, he knew what was coming.

       “Theo loves having his paws stroked,”  Fleur said.  Bianca shook the paw Theo held and he released it.  Bianca quickly crawled up to Theo and, her whiskers tickling him, she kissed Theo on  his nose.  The lion’s eyes filled with tears.

      “Oh Bianca sweetheart,”  Theo choked, embracing the tiny cub in both well padded forepaws, “I, I love you little one!”  Bianca snuggled up to Theo, the young lion openly crying into her fur.

        “You know I wanted to help fleur yesterday Theo,”  Bianca said, “I wanted to rescue her, and I did.  I know Fleur’s your cub, but I got her into the situation where she could trap her paws, so I felt I should get her out.”  Fleur listened to this and was greatly moved.

     “You did a wonderful job yesterday Bianca,”  fleur whispered.  Bianca wanted to hug Theo and Fleur at the same time, so she laid one tiny paw on Theo’s, and one on Fleur’s.  Theo wiped his eyes with his free paw.

      “Theo’s a very handsome lion Bianca,”  Fleur said, “he’s a young lion, about three years old.  He looks like his body has never really grown up, for he’s not a cub, but then he still is a cub, especially in the paw department.  Big fat paws, fatter than his legs, whereas his brother Leo’s paws are in proportion to his legs, Theo’s aren’t.”  Bianca felt Theo’s paw, fleur was right.  Theo had the slender legs of an adult lion, with the large fat paws of a cub.

     “Oh yes,”  Fleur added, “Theo’s easily moved to tears too, as you found out.”  Theo looked at Fleur.

      “Why all this description of me?”  He asked.

      “I thought Bianca might want to know what kind of lion it was who’d hugged her,”  Fleur said.

       “I can tell you love Theo a great deal,”  Bianca said.

     “I do, in fact all the animals bar amber and Stifftail do,”  Fleur replied.  Bianca heard Theo sniff hard as he tried to control his all too sensitive emotions.

      “Can I hug you and stroke your paws Bianca?”  Theo asked.  Bianca rolled onto her back and waved a forepaw at Theo.

      “My paws are yours,”  she said smiling.  Theo took Bianca’s left forepaw in both of his huge fat paws and began to stroke it.  Bianca wiggled her toes, just like Snowy had done, and Theo patted her pads.

       “Would you stroke my toes?”  Bianca asked.

     “Just your toes?  What about the rest of your paw?”  Theo enquired.

      “It’s all right Theo,”  Fleur said laughing slightly, “Bianca’s been learning about her paws, and she wants to feel what having her toes stroked is like.  I’m  sure you’ll get to the rest of her paw in a bit.”  Theo did as the tiny cub asked, stroking and massaging her tiny toes.  Bianca smiled at Theo and said:

      “Now would you massage the rest of my paw, but leave my toes alone?” 

      “If you like little one,”  Theo said, smiling at her.  as Theo stroked Bianca’s paw, he felt the toes of his left forepaw gripped by Bianca’s tiny ones.

     “I like that Theo,”  Bianca purred.  Theo examined the tiger cub’s paws as he stroked them.  They were beautiful paws, in fact the whole of Bianca was beautiful, even though she was half Bengal tiger and half white tiger.  Theo would always refer to her as a Bengal tiger, for that was what Bianca most resembled, but her white tiger heritage was there to see, if anyone cared to look for it.

     “Can I stroke your paws Theo?”  Bianca asked.  Theo, stroking the pads of her left hind paw, and beginning to relax, smiled and patted her paw, accidentally touching Bianca’s toes.  The cub instantly reacted with explosive fury!

     “don’t touch my toes!”  She snarled, curling her toes round Theo’s in an attempt to trap them, while rolling quickly onto her paws, releasing Theo’s paw at the last moment and flying at him, her mouth open in a snarl of anger!  Theo, grunting with surprise and fear, withdrew hurriedly!

    “I’m  sorry!”  he mewed throwing up his paws to protect his face from the ferocious attack he knew was coming!  Bianca tore Theo’s paws from his face, and then threw her own paws round his neck and hugged him tightly, nuzzling his ear and purring loudly.  Theo, realising the tiger cub was waiting for him to make this mistake so she could spring a mock attack on him, and therefore get an excuse to hug him, lay, shaking with fear.

      “I wish you wouldn’t do that!”  he panted, shaking from nose to tail.  Bianca realised then how much her mock attack had upset the young lion.

      “I’m  sorry,”  she mewed, “I thought you knew it was a joke!”

      “No little cub,”  Theo said, beginning to cry, “I thought I’d really upset you.”

      “No,”  Bianca purred, “I love having my paws and toes stroked.  But I know I’ve upset you Theo, and for that I’m  very sorry.”

      “I might have seen your true intentions in your eyes if they’d been open,”  Theo mewed, “but your eyes haven’t opened yet!”  Bianca knew she’d really upset Theo, and felt dreadful.

       “What can I do to reassure you I didn’t mean you any harm!”  she begged.

      “Think about it Bianca,”  fleur said, “what does Theo like most.”

        “Could I stroke you Theo?”  Bianca asked.  Theo, still sobbing, patted her shoulder with his paw.  Bianca began to stroke Theo’s nose with one paw, and bit by bit, worked her way over the young lion’s body, not missing an inch.  Theo, feeling Bianca’s tiny paws working over his body, began to relax, his tears drying.

      “Work your toes into his fur Bianca,”  Fleur suggested, but do it Gently, as if you’re rubbing in oil.”

     “How do I do that?”  Bianca whispered.

       “Like this,”  Fleur said, taking hold of Bianca’s tiny paws in her huge ones and showing her how to massage Theo’s skin with the tips of her toes.  Once Bianca had practised on Fleur, Theo watching her all the time, she returned to Theo and began his massage all over again, something which the young lion wasn’t about to argue with.  Theo drifted in a pleasant haze, his fear over Bianca’s mock attack on him forgotten.

     “Theo’s falling asleep,”  Bianca mewed, stroking his belly.  Fleur touched the pads of Theo’s right forepaw, feeling the slow pulse of a sleeping lion.

       “He’s almost there,”  Fleur mewed, “good work Bianca.”  Bianca embraced Theo’s fat warm left forepaw in both of hers.

      “I didn’t mean to scare you Theo,”  Bianca mewed.  Theo opened his eyes and looked at the tiger cub.

       “I touched your toes accidentally Bianca,”  Theo said, “and for that I’m  sorry.”

     “No, don’t be,”  Bianca replied, “for there’s no need.  I am the one who should be apologising.  For I had a plan that if you were to touch my toes again when I’d told you not to, I’d launch a mock attack on you as a joke.  I wanted to hug you Theo, but couldn’t work out how to ask if I could.  I thought you would have seen by my retracted claws that I meant you no harm,”  Bianca replied.

     “All I saw was a snarling cub leaping at me,”  Theo said, “plus you curled your toes round mine so I couldn’t move my paw!”

      “Well I’m  sorry for what I did, and I’m  always up for having my paws touched, stroked or tickled,”  Bianca said, “any time you feel like playing those games, come to me, I’m  up for it!”

     “Same here,”  fleur said.  Theo touched Fleur’s paw.

      “You are so kind to Bianca fleur,”  Theo said, “I’m  glad she’s found you.”  Fleur smiled, slipping her paw into Theo’s.

     “Would you stroke my paw Theo?”  She asked.  Theo stroked Fleur’s paw, and while he was doing this, he felt the cross bred cub’s thick padded toes under his paw.  This made him remember the rescue mission launched by Bianca.  Theo drummed his toes on Fleur’s pads, fleur describing what he was doing so Bianca could follow everything.  Bianca smiled when fleur said:

     “Theo’s now drumming his toes on the pads of my left forepaw.”  Bianca asked:

     “How do you do that Theo?”  For answer, Theo took hold of her paw with his left forepaw, and drummed her pads with the toes of his right, Bianca laughing merrily.

      “This feels wonderful!”  she mewed.

      “How did you rescue fleur?”  Theo asked.

      “How about if we show him fleur?”  Bianca asked.  Fleur looked scared:

     “I’m  not getting my paws tangled in a rug just so Theo can see how you got me out of there,”  she said, “anyway, he wouldn’t see anything.”

     “No, I didn’t mean that,”  Bianca mewed, “what I meant was that you and I could show him how we got ourselves out of that one.”

      “I’d like to know how it was done too,”  Elsa mewed.

     “Well, okay,”  Fleur replied.

    “Right Theo,”  Bianca said, “roll onto your back please.”  Theo, startled, looked at Fleur.

     “What?”  he asked, his eyes full of concern.

      “I know what she’s doing,”  fleur said smiling, “Bianca’s going to get you to lie like I was, and then show you how she rescued me Theo!”  Theo rolled onto his back and Bianca checked his position with her paws, then said:

     “right Theo, curl your toes slightly, oh yes, and extend your claws, please and thank you.”  Snowy padded in then, saw what was going on and was about to ask, when Elsa waved at her to sit and watch.

      “Bianca’s showing Theo how she rescued Fleur,”  Elsa whispered.

 

Theo extended his claws and lay there, his toes slightly curled as if his paws were trapped.

      “Now what?”  Theo asked.

     “You can try and free your forepaws if you’d like,”  Fleur replied, “or let Bianca do it.”  Theo knew what the cubs wanted, and bent his head towards his left forepaw, feeling with his whiskers to find his toes.  Finding them he applied his teeth to his claws, trying to imagine freeing his paw from a thick rug.  Once he thought he’d torn enough imaginary fabric, Theo wiggled the toes of his paw and then attacked his right forepaw in a similar manner.

       “Okay,”  he said, panting slightly, “they’re free.”

      “Now try and free your hind paws,”  Fleur mewed, knowing full well Theo couldn’t.  Theo tried hard to reach his hind paws, arching his back and stretching the toes of both hind paws, trying to get them close to his teeth so he could do battle with the rug, but he failed.  Giving up, Theo lay back, almost sobbing with frustration.

     “I never knew how difficult getting to my hind paws was until today,”  he gasped.  Bianca then crawled up to Theo and touched his tail.

      “I’ll try and help,”  she mewed.  Theo looked at her.

     “I’ll do anything!”  he said, “just get me out of here!”  Bianca felt with her tiny paw for Theo’s large hind paw, her toes brushing his pads.  Theo wanted to laugh and thrash about, but just about remembered he was meant to be trapped in a rug.

       “Can you free my paws?”  Theo asked.

     “I think I can,”  Bianca mewed, exploring Theo’s left hind paw with her whiskers, as her paws, sensitive as they were, didn’t give the detailed information her whiskers did.  Theo clenched his teeth to stop himself from laughing as Bianca explored his paw.

     “This tickles!”  he mewed, trying hard not to laugh.

     “I know,”  Fleur replied smiling.

       “Here goes,”  Bianca said, “hold still now Theo.”  Theo felt Bianca’s paws grip his left hind paw to steady it, her teeth gently rasping the pads of his toes, as she had no rug to bite through.  After a little time, she let go of his paw with one of hers, letting Theo move his paw slightly.

     “Nearly there little cub,”  Theo mewed, “just a little more!”  Bianca worked some more at the imaginary rug, then let go of Theo’s paw.  He flexed his toes, and moved his paw, sighing with relief.

     “That’s one paw done,”  he mewed, “now, now for the other hind, “the rug’s really tight round my toes too!  It’s horrible!”  Bianca worked on Theo’s right hind paw in the same manner as she had his left, and soon that was free.

     “Now Theo,”  Bianca said, “Fleur and I tried freeing her by having her curl her toes to stop her claws digging in  the rug while she was wriggling backwards on her back.  Try that, try curling your toes really hard for about five minutes.”  Theo tried, closing his eyes and curling the toes of all four paws as hard as he could.  Within a minute his paws were aching.

     “that’s really uncomfortable isn’t it,”  Fleur said to Theo.  Theo, struggling now to keep his toes curled, mewed that it was, and could he please be allowed to relax his paws?  Bianca smiled and patted the heel of Theo’s right hind paw, Theo breathing a sigh of relief as he relaxed each paw in turn.

      “Thank you Bianca,”  Theo mewed.

      “Your paws are becoming hot Theo,”  Bianca purred.  Theo smiled at her.

     “I’m sure we can sort that later little cub,”  he mewed, “I fancy a bath, yes, that sounds very good indeed!”  Theo turned to Fleur and asked.

     “You didn’t retract your claws at all during all this?”

     “No,”  Fleur replied, “it never entered my head to do so.”

       “fleur wanted to crawl about like a cub with her claws extended while Bianca was unable to walk or retract her claws,”  Elsa said.  Theo’s eyes told Elsa he  wanted to know why Fleur had done this, but she waved her paw, telling him she’d explain later.

     “You’re still trapped Theo,”  Elsa said, remember that.”  Theo mewed pitifully.

       “Now I’m going to cup my paws over your toes,”  Bianca said, and guide your paws out that way.”  Theo saw the method now, and smiled at the cub, reaching over to pat her paw.

     “Well done Bianca,”  he said, “now, can I ask you fleur, why crawl about like a newborn cub?  What’s the point in that!”

      “It’s all my fault,”  Bianca mewed, “I complained my claws were getting caught in the carpets and that when this happened, I couldn’t move my toes, which I hate.  So Fleur thought she’d help me by crawling about with her own claws extended until I learned to walk and retract my claws.  I can’t walk yet, but I can now retract my claws.  I told Fleur never to keep her claws extended again, as she’d only get them caught up in rugs.”  Theo looked at Fleur with tear filled eyes.

      “You are the best of cubs Fleur,”  he mewed, fighting desperately not to cry, “to do that for Bianca and put yourself in that position.”

      “So I had to help her,”  Bianca said, “because I knew she’d done this for me.  You see, Fleur thinks I forgot I’d ever touched her paws when she had her claws sheathed, but I hadn’t, I knew what she was doing for me.  As soon as I could, I told her not to.”

     “I enjoyed it,”  Fleur replied, “until I got my paws trapped of course.”

     “You just love crawling about like a cub,”  Elsa mewed, “in fact, here’s another secret of Theo’s, he does too.”  Theo snarled at Elsa in mock fury.

      “So what if I do,”  he mewed.

     “go on, show us!”  Bianca pleaded.  Theo rolled onto his paws and got down on all fours, crawling like a cub.

     “It’s the only way I can play with my youngest cubs,”  he mewed in defence.

     “It’s lovely,”  Elsa replied, crawling up to Theo and hugging him.

     “Mum does it too!”  Leona mewed, clapping her paws together with delight.  Leona and Simba’s eyes had been open for a few weeks now, and they could see everything.  Fleur looked at them.

      “though my eyes have been open for some weeks now,”  Fleur said, “I still think nothing can beat finding out about someone by using your paws.  I  love finding things out with my paws.”

     “You learn a lot more about someone that way,”  Elsa agreed, “the voice can lie, but the paws can’t.  I know when Theo’s relaxed and when he’s anxious just by touching him.”

      “I love working with my paws,”  Petra mewed, “it’s the best way.”  Petra reached over and touched the pads of Fleur’s left hind paw, the cross bred cub curling her toes round Petra’s.

     “Fleur loves her paws too,”  Petra mewed.  Fleur smiled.

      “I must admit that I do,”  she purred.  Petra tugged playfully at her paw which was caught in Fleur’s, the large cub holding onto the lion cub’s  white toes with her large spotted toes.

      ”Fleur likes my toes too,”  Petra mewed pitifully, “she won’t let go of them!”  Fleur released Petra’s paw, turned to her and hugged her tightly.

     “my whiskers and paws are the most sensitive parts of my body and I love using them to find out things,,”  fleur purred.

 

Petra snuggled into Fleur’s hug.

     “You can take hold of my paws any time you like,”  Petra purred, “for your paws are some of the softest, warmest and most gentle paws I’ve ever known fleur.”  Fleur buried her face in Petra’s shoulder.

     “I love you Petra,”  fleur whispered.  Petra purred in her ear.

     “You are beautiful Fleur,”  Petra mewed.

      “Some don’t think so,”  Fleur replied.

     “Not everyone will,”  Petra mewed, “but those who matter think you’re wonderful.”

      “I wonder if Bianca will think so when she finally sees me,”  Fleur mewed, “I look a proper mess, and it’s not my fault!”

     “You don’t fleur, you don’t!”  Petra said gently, “Please believe me dear Fleur, you look lovely!”

     Petra, do you seriously think that dirty coloured fur, washed out stripes, a banded tail, plus a spotted face, and paws with spots on the soles of all four of them is lovely?”  Fleur asked.

      “Now listen to me!”  Bianca mewed, crawling up to Fleur and taking her paw, “I don’t care what you look like!  I love you for who you are Fleur, and always will!”  Fleur threw her huge paws round Bianca and cried into her fur.

      “We all love you here Fleur,”  Petra mewed, “don’t talk like that please!”  Fleur dried her eyes.

      “I know my mum’s said she’s sorry,”  Fleur sobbed, “but I’ll never forget what happened when I was first born.  I was hated from the minute I was born Petra!  You don’t know how it feels unless you’ve been there!”

       “Ah Fleur my dear,”  Petra said gently, “I have been there.”

     “How?”  Fleur asked.  Petra and fleur lay down, and Petra told her at length what happened.  By the end of Petra’s tale, Fleur was crying.

      “Noone could be like that!  Not now, not here?”  fleur sobbed.

     “yes Fleur,  I was poisoned by my own adopted mother.”  Petra replied.

     “But, but why?”  Fleur asked.

     “Because she hated me, that’s all,”  Petra replied.

      “But you’re lovely!”  Fleur sobbed, “you’re a wonderful natured young lioness, you’re gentle, you’ve got the most beautiful white fur, blue eyes, and,”  here she picked up one of Petra’s paws, “the most beautiful paws I’ve ever seen!”  Petra smiled at fleur and hugged her.

      “but not everyone thinks like that,”  she mewed, “some fear me because of how I look, but I don’t let them worry me.”

       “but we’re not all strong like you Petra, I can’t let some comments go over my head like you can,”  fleur mewed.

       “Please Fleur, dear, sweet cub, listen to me,”  Petra said, “shall I tell you what is beautiful?  Beautiful people do things like help a snow tigress have her cub, and then when that cub is safely born they stand by that cub and her mother  through everything.  Beautiful people who are grown up and past crawling about, choose to crawl about like a cub so another cub doesn’t feel isolated, and beautiful people do things like educate a cub as to where her nose, her toes and her tail are.  That is what beautiful people do.  What makes them even more beautiful is the reasons why they do what they do.  Why did you help Snowy have her cub Fleur?”

      “I don’t know,”  Fleur replied, “I was interested to hear about the cub’s arrival, so I learned about cubbing, and was fortunate to see snowy have her cub and she was good enough to let me help her.”

       “but you stayed,”  Petra said, “even when Snowy was screaming with pain and kicking the water you stayed with her.  Even when Tigger came screaming in and demanded to know what was happening, you told him to leave you alone, not in those terms maybe, but you did.  Your concern was all for Snowy and her cub.  You helped Snowy by telling her she was doing well and encouraging her to push down against her cub, you helped her by cleaning the cub when it was born and looking after it while Snowy recovered from labour.  What you did that day and in the following hours tells more about yourself than does any coat of fur.  Why did a cub, who had never met you before, come to your rescue only fifteen hours after you’d first met?  Why did she crawl into a dark place and work so hard to save you Fleur?”

      “I don’t know,”  Fleur replied, “it’s Bianca you need to ask about that.”

      “She can’t put it into words yet, for she doesn’t know the words to express herself properly.  She may say that she loves you, and this is true, but what she can’t say is what she really feels for you.  Bianca shows her love for you in what she does when you’re around.  She knows a beautiful person when she finds one, and she’s found one fleur.  Bianca won’t care how you look when she sees you.  I’m sure she will say something like, “I love you from your spotted nose, to your spotted toes my dear friend.””  Fleur listened to this, knowing Petra spoke truth.

      “I do love you with all my heart Fleur,”  Bianca said, “and I know that when I finally do see you, I will love your spotted nose and paws, and your dirty brown fur, and your washed out stripes, and your banded tail, because they are part of you, my cub friend, fleur, the one who was brave enough to guide me into the world while my mum struggled to give birth to me in the bathtub.  The one who towelled me down, the one who shouted and wept for joy when she saw me.  Fleur, the one who tickled my paws, and didn’t stop tickling them until I was bored of it, you, who let me curl up beside you, and finally, fleur, it was you who crawled about with extended claws because I had complained I’d got mine caught in the carpet and hated it.  You fleur, you were willing to do that for me, just so I didn’t feel I was the only cub going through this.”

       “Oh, um, maybe Bianca can tell you how she feels, even at such a young age,”  Petra mewed.

     “I can,”  Bianca said, “for I really feel this, and I needed to tell fleur in a language she can understand.”

      “No Bianca my dear friend,”  Fleur replied, “you were already telling me, but I wasn’t listening.  You were telling me every minute of every hour I was with you, and though I knew you loved me, I didn’t realise how much until you came and rescued me from that rug.  Now Bianca little cub, please, come here, and if you will, let me hug you.”  Bianca crawled to Fleur and she embraced her tightly.

      “My mum and I love you dearly Fleur,”  Bianca mewed, “so do Petra, Theo, Elsa, Tigger, and in her own way, Perdy.  Shall I tell you what tells me you love me more than anything else Fleur?  It’s when you take me in your paws and hug me, when you touch my paws, when you wrap your tail around me to keep me safe, and when you let me, without question of my ability to do the job, nibble away the rug which bound your paws.  That is what love is to me.”  Fleur was crying again, indeed so were Elsa, Theo and Petra.

      “thank you Bianca,”  fleur sobbed, embracing the tiger cub tightly.

 

Snowy poked her head round the door, looking dishevelled, and rather guilty.

     “there you are Bianca,”  she said, “it’s now midday, and you left me at five in the morning!  You must be hungry little one!  I must confess, I’ve been asleep all that time!  I’ve only just woken up!”

      “I am hungry,”  Bianca replied, “but until you mentioned it mum, I hadn’t realised I was.  So much has happened here!  It’s been lovely, and sad, and happy, and funny and everything!”  snowy smiled at her cub, not fully realising what had taken place.

      “I’m sure it was,”  she said gently.

    “but mum, you don’t understand!”  Bianca mewed, stamping her paws for emphasis, something which had snowy growling deep in her throat, “it’s not just been an ordinary morning!”

       “Don’t stamp your paws at me!”  snowy snarled.

      “No Snowy!”  Elsa snapped, “now you listen!  Bianca’s right, things haven’t been usual here at all today.  It would take too long to explain, but we’ve been having some deep discussions here, around various topics.  Theo will tell you more I think.”  Theo patted the rug with his paw for Snowy to lie down, which she did.  Once she was comfortable, Bianca drank her milk, and Theo began his account of the morning’s events.

 

When he’d finished, Snowy was thoughtful.

      “Bianca,”  Snowy said gently to her cub, who was curled between Fleur’s paws while she listened to their talk, “I’m sorry, sorry for yelling at you my dear cub.  I know you were only stamping your paws for affect, to make me listen, for what you talked to fleur and Theo about was very important indeed.  I’m sorry Bianca.  Bianca crawled over to her mother and took her paw.

     “It’s okay mum,”  Bianca said, “we can’t all understand everything all the time.”  Snowy gulped hard at her cub’s words.

     “You’re just like my sister cub was when she was young,”  Snowy sniffed, “Bianca, your real mum was just like you when she was a cub, very advanced for her age.  Though I was the only one kicked out of the family group, Bianca, my sister cub would have come with me if she’d been allowed to.  She was really too young then to leave our mother, so she couldn’t go with me, but I remember her bitter tears the night I said goodbye.  Her paws clinging to my paws, her tears of grief wetting my fur.  now, now I see the same personality in my birth cub, and it moves me to tears of joy to know my sister cub’s cub is going to be as gentle and kind as she was.”  Bianca touched Snowy’s paw.

     “I will try to be kind to others,”  she said, “but it’s because I’ve been shown kindness and love by others that I know how to show it.”  Snowy choked on her tears.

      “I miss you Bianca, I miss you so much my sister cub!”  Snowy sobbed, “I want you to know your cub is safe, and she’s loved by all here, and that she’ll be loved forever!  Dear Bianca, I hope you can hear me, can you see your cub? Do you watch over her?”

     “snowy, snowy my dear sister,”  Petra said in Snowy’s sister cub’s voice, “I watch over your birth cub, I watch her every day, I play with her every day.  I know her from her nose, to her tiny toes.”

     “You know her from her nose, to her toes?”  Snowy asked, tears running down her face, “but, but, Petra, you’re talking with my sister cub’s voice, and that’s not your phrase, that’s Fleur’s, she says that!”

      “I use those words to illustrate the love the cub who’s phrase that is has for your cub, “  Petra said in Snowy’s sister cub’s voice.  “Fleur loves your cub, loves her as I loved you my sister cub.  Fleur will do anything for little Bianca, just like you’d do anything for me and I for you.  Fleur will make sure your cub is loved by all.  Fleur might not look much, but she’s loyal, brave, fearless, and best of all, she can roll and play like a cub, even when she’s no longer one herself.  Fleur has proven that to you and little Bianca, and she has my greatest gratitude and thanks for what she does, though I know she doesn’t need or want praise for what she does.  Let everyone hear my words, everyone Snowy!  That it is better to live life with closed eyes and an open mind, than it is to live with open eyes and a closed mind.  Let Fleur use her paws, let her touch every one of you, let her protect those who need protection, let her heal those who through fear of the unknown hate and ridicule others.  Fleur will play with a cub, help a new mother give birth, and comfort the dying.  Those who hated her at birth did so because they were of closed mind.  Those who hated on sight were few, but significant all the same.  One was her own mother, the other two, who don’t even know her, weren’t present at her birth, but hate and fear her all the same, are Amber and Stifftail.  Fleur’s mother is trying not to hate her cub, but she still feels wronged by the manner of Fleur’s birth.  Fleur’s birth was hard, very hard on her mother, but the birth was not impossible, as those who witnessed it found.  Perdy needs to find the strength to love her cub as easily as fleur can love a newborn Bengal tiger cub.  Perdy needs to push her fears away as hard, and with as much determination  as she pushed to deliver fleur into the world.  Perdy will make it, but, for Perdy,  to truly love her cub, will be a struggle as hard and painful for her as Fleur’s birth was.  It needn’t be this way, but if Perdy fears her cub, then it will be a long and painful process. Now I will go snowy my dear sister cub, for here is not my place.  Fleur is little Bianca’s good friend, and you must do your best to love them both.”

     “I love them both my sister cub, I love them both with all my heart!”  snowy mewed.

     “I know you do snowy, I know you do,” Petra, using Snowy’s sister cub’s voice said, “now I really must go.  Good bye for now snowy my dear sweet sister cub, and goodbye Bianca, mine and Snowy’s  darling gentle birth cub.”  With that Petra fell silent.

      “what on earth was that!”  Elsa asked.

      “I don’t know,”  Petra replied, “I just had an urge to say those things, and said them.  I don’t know what it means.”  Theo looked at Petra.

      “you spoke in a strange voice, not your own Petra,”  he said, “but you were deadly serious.”

      “I’ll bet she was just playing a horrid trick!”  Perdy snapped, bursting into the room, “I heard all that!  What a load of rubbish about fleur and Bianca!”

     “If it was a trick,”  Elsa said, “then I command you Petra to admit it was.  If you mimicked Snowy’s sister cub’s voice then, you can do it now, do it now!  Show us!”  Petra looked straight at Elsa.

      “I can’t do it mum,”  she said, I can’t mimic Snowy’s sister cub’s voice.”  Elsa dropped her gaze, for she knew Petra was telling the truth.

     “No Perdy,”  Theo said, “Petra was not playing tricks.  She, like me, has special abilities to communicate with the other side.  Maybe Snowy’s sister cub’s voice came to us through Petra.”  Perdy stared hard at Theo, spat with contempt,  whirled on her heel and stormed out of the den.

      “Disgusting manners she has,”  Bianca mewed.  Fleur looked into Petra’s face.

      Petra, I can’t, can’t do all this stuff!”  she mewed, “I’m just a cub!”

      “But you are doing it already fleur,”  Petra replied, “all that was said boils down to you being yourself.  Loving Bianca here, loving other cubs and adult animals, and also, loving yourself.  ?Before you can make peace with others, you need to make it with yourself.  For if you are not peaceful inside, others cannot be at peace with you.  Please Fleur, listen to me now.  This might sound very strange, but I feel you are already at peace with who you are.  You might not think you are, but if you look deeply, you will find you are.  You know that you are a source of comfort and love for at least two of us here, and while knowing this, you do not want or seek credit for that.  You get on with your life, because what you do is natural behaviour for you.  Fleur, please, love your coat, love your paws, love your tail.  Lie down beside Theo Fleur, and place your forepaws on his left forepaw.  Now, for a brief moment, I will make Theo a mirror image of yourself.  You will be able to feel your paws as others do, see your fur as others do, feel the love you give as others feel it.  Then maybe you’ll realise you are a lovely creature.” 

 

Fleur settled down beside Theo and placed both her forepaws on his left forepaw.  Noone other than Fleur saw or felt anything unusual.  But Fleur soon saw Theo’s body changing into that of a large, rather fat Bengal tiger snow leopard cross cub. The cub had a long banded tail like a raccoon’s, Bleu eyes, dirty brown fur all over its body, as well as ill defined stripes on its body, head  and legs. black spots covered its face, belly and paws.  Fleur could also see that this cub had spots on the soles of its paws.

      “so that’s what I look like,”  she thought.  Fleur felt no revulsion, just an overwhelming need to protect the cub she saw before her.  The need was so strong she threw her paws round the cub’s neck and hugged it tightly.  The cub began to purr, a sweet sounding purr, and its fur was so warm, so soft, so beautifully silky that fleur didn’t want to let go.  Then the cub took fleur in its paws, and Fleur, when she felt the paws envelope her, burst into tears of joy at meeting this cub.  The cub curled round fleur, tucking its tail round her hind paws. So  the cub’s thickly furred body and long, equally thickly furred tail acted like the most glorious and warm comforter.  Fleur’s body and paws felt warmer than they had in ages.  Snuggling down into the cub’s thick fur, she worked her forepaws into the fur, and then curled the toes of both hind paws round the cub’s tail, burying her toes in the thick warm fur, so the pads and soles of her paws were directly in contact with the warm fur of the cub’s long tail.

    “why not press your paws into my fur Fleur,”  the cub purred.  Fleur pushed gently with her hind paws, and the fur seemed to envelope them.  The same happened for her forepaws.

     “You don’t mind this little cub?”  fleur asked.  The cub shook its head, still purring and embracing her with its warm paws.

       “rest your head on the cub’s shoulder now fleur,”  Petra said, “go on, you won’t be harmed.”  Fleur did as Petra said, and she felt as warm and safe as she did with Theo or Elsa.

       “I love you little cub,”  the strange new cub purred.  fleur then knew for sure how others saw her.

     “I must go now Fleur my dear cub,”  the strange cub said.  Fleur found herself clinging to the cub’s fur with all four paws and begging it not to leave her alone.

      “I will never leave you alone,”  the cub purred, “all you have to do is look after other cubs and I’ll be here, for I am you fleur.  I am showing you how you are towards others.  Now, if you are to continue being the loving, gentle cub the community know, I must leave you.”  Weeping with sudden grief, Fleur kissed the cub on its spotted nose before releasing her hold on its fur.  fleur watched the cub as it gently pushed her away with it’s huge warm spotted paws.

     “Goodbye little one,”  Fleur sobbed as the cub disappeared.  Fleur blinked, and Theo was lying in the same position in which he’d been for the last few hours.

 

Fleur looked at Theo, her eyes still searching for the cub who’d taken her in its paws.

       “Where’s that cub!”  Fleur mewed, “I want to hug it forever!”

       “You are that cub fleur,”  Theo purred, “now you know who you really are, and that your coat is not the total sum of who you are, I think you know what to do.”  Fleur hugged Theo tenderly.

       “I will do my best to love and protect those whom I’ve been sent here to help,”  fleur purred.

 

Theo looked round at the sound of heavy paws entering the room, and smiled as he saw Leo settling down beside him.

      “Hello Leo my brother cub,”  Theo purred, touching the lion’s paw with his, “how are you?”  Leo looked at his brother.

      “I heard you wanted a bath,”  Leo purred, “I wondered, if, if, well,,,”  the huge lion’s voice trailed away, and he looked down at his paws, unable to continue his request.

       “You want to bathe him Leo? Like you did when you were cubs?”  fleur asked.

      “How, how did you know about that?”  Leo asked.

       “It doesn’t matter,”  Fleur replied, “now do you want to help bathe your brother or not?”

       “I’d like to,”  Leo choked, “to, to try and make amends for what I did to you Theo, to try to mend our relationship,,”  Theo knew how upset his older brother cub was.

        “I remember you washing my fur and paws when we were in the family den,”  Theo purred, “after a day’s play, our paws and fur would be covered with mud and leaves.  We would spend many hours grooming each other, and they were very happy hours Leo.”  Leo looked at his brother, tears rolling down his face.

       “take me back there Theo, please!”  Leo sobbed.  Theo embraced Leo in his huge, fat warm paws, Leo snuggling closer to his brother cub.  Leo breathed in Theo’s scent, the scent made stronger by the stress of Theo’s recent struggle to free himself from his imaginary physical prison.  Leo knew this scent, for Theo’s scent always became stronger when he was emotionally or physically stressed.

       “What’s wrong Theo my brother?”  Leo asked, stroking Theo’s paw with his.

      “Nothing,”  Theo replied, “nothing at all Leo my brother cub.”

      “But your fur is holding your scent more strongly than usual,”  Leo said, “are you really okay?”  Theo then remembered the demonstration Bianca and Fleur had directed him in.

      “Let me tell you a story brother cub Leo,”  Theo said.  Leo and Theo curled up together as they’d done when cubs, Theo burying his paws in Leo’s mane, and both settling  comfortably so Theo could tell his tale.

 

Fleur had never seen Theo and Leo curled up together like this, and the sight brought tears to her eyes.

 

Theo told his tale, and when he’d finished, Leo was thoughtful.

        “So fleur saw snowy give birth to her cub?”  Leo asked, “that’s wonderful!  What’s even more wonderful is that Fleur and Bianca have stayed close.”

      “As close as two sister cubs Leo,”  Bianca purred.  Leo looked round sharply at the sound of Bianca’s voice.

      “Where are you?”  He asked, “little cub, show yourself!”  Bianca extricated herself from the warm embrace of Fleur’s fur, where Fleur and she lay curled together not too far from Theo and Leo.  Leo stared as a tiny Bengal tiger cub crawled towards him, one so young her eyes hadn’t even opened yet.  Leo caught his breath as he noticed the cub curling the toes of both forepaws into the carpet to pull herself along, for she was still crawling, not yet able to walk.  Leo then noticed something about her paws.  This cub’s claws were retracted, but Leo knew, like lion cubs, indeed like he and Theo when they were very young, tiger cubs usually couldn’t retract their claws until they were about twelve weeks old.  This cub wasn’t even two weeks old, and her claws were retracted.  Leo felt a rush of emotion which he recognised, as he’d felt it when he’d first seen Portia.  He wanted to love and protect this cub as if she were his own birth cub.

      “Here I am,”  Bianca mewed.  Leo reached out with one huge paw to touch the tiny cub’s paw.

      “I’m glad to meet you little one,”  Leo mewed.

     “My name’s Bianca,”  the cub said straight out.  Bianca took Leo’s paw in hers, the lion’s paw dwarfing her own.

      “You have big paws Leo,”  Bianca said, “you must be a big lion to have such huge paws.”  Leo withdrew his paw gradually, Bianca crawling towards him, as she obviously didn’t want to let go of his paw.

      “You are huge Leo!”  Bianca mewed, “even bigger than fleur!”  Leo purred contentedly, his purr deep and comforting.  Bianca was about to ask if she could touch Leo’s nose with her paw when the huge lion leant forward and, his whiskers tickling her cheek, kissed her nose.  Bianca felt warm breath, and a gentle touch.  Theo, his paws and head resting on his brother’s shoulder, watched as Leo took Bianca in his paws, engulfing her in a lion sized hug.

       “You are so gentle for such a huge lion,”  Bianca purred as she felt Leo’s huge, warm, and very soft paws enveloping her.

       “I watched when fleur was born,”  Leo purred, “Bianca, let me tell you this my dear sweet cub.  Apart from my own brother, Fleur is one of the most gentle cubs I’ve ever known.  I know who you are, and where you came from.  Snowy is my mate, and I love her dearly.  Now little cub, would you allow me to love you as my cub?”  Bianca could feel Leo’s pulse beating gently in the huge paw she held between her tiny ones.

       “You want to love a cub don’t you Leo,”  Bianca said, “you and snowy have wanted a cub, but it didn’t happen because she used to be so unwell, that you were too worried about the affects on her health to consider her carrying and giving birth to the cub.  Now the higher power has made it so she could give birth to me safely, am I not your cub as well as Snowy’s and my real mother’s cub?  I can be loved by many, and for those who do truly love me, and whom I truly love, I am their cub, even if they didn’t actually witness my birth.  As you are Snowy’s mate, I am also your cub.”  ~snowy gulped hard, trying not to cry.

       “You sound just like my sister cub Bianca!”  she sobbed, giving up the struggle with her emotions.

       “I love you very much Bianca little cub,”  Leo purred.

      “Are we going to have a bath?”  Bianca asked.  Theo smiled and patted Leo reassuringly:

     “We will all go down there now, you, me, Leo, fleur, Elsa, Petra and Snowy,”  Theo said.

 

Fleur went to leave the room, turning so her nose pointed towards the door.  Theo quickly moved away from Leo, watching Fleur’s tail and hind paws.  When they were within range, he reached over with his left forepaw and tickled the sole of Fleur’s right hind paw.  Fleur squealed with surprise and tried to stop the tickling by trapping  Theo’s toes in hers.

      “You bully!”  Fleur laughed.  Theo rubbed the pads of Fleur’s paw with his, her attempt to trap his paw failing.  Fleur turned to Theo and hugged him.

       “time for your bath Theo,”  she purred, “then, would, would you massage me from my nose to my toes?”  Theo smiled and raised his paw.

       “From your nose,”  he said touching her nose with his raised paw, “to your toes little cub,”  he said, touching the toes of Fleur’s right hind paw.  Fleur wiggled her toes as a symbol of her love for the young lion.  Theo smiled, tracing round Fleur’s pads with his paw, Fleur grinning happily as she felt his touch.

 

Downstairs, Tigger listened to what Leo and the others had planned.

      “The bath isn’t big enough for all of us to get into,”  he mewed, “but I have a secret place, come.”  With that they followed him through the back door, into the garden, and round to the back of the house.  there Tigger opened a door into another room.  the animals felt soft flooring, which seemed to cling to the pads of their paws, something which Theo didn’t like much.

      “This stuff’s horrid Tigger!”  he mewed, “it’s clinging to my paws!”

      “You wouldn’t want to slip over and hurt yourself would you Theo?”  Tigger asked.  Theo mumbled that he wouldn’t wish to do that, but he still hated the feel of the flooring under his paws.  Theo noticed that even though the floor felt like it was clinging to his paws, there was no resistance when he lifted his paw, only if he tried to slide it along the floor.

 

The procession of animals made their way into the main part of the room, but it wasn’t a room, it was massive!  There was a huge bath, but it wasn’t a bath, it was a pool!

     “What is this place Tigger?”  Leo asked, his eyes wide with amazement.

      “It’s a place the boss built for us,”  Tigger purred,  “It’s a wonderful place, very secret, well, not so secret now.  Explore, have an adventure!  Here you can have fun, um, as long as you like water of course.

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