Facing their worst nightmares.
Leo woke slowly. His paws cramped, tail stiff and head aching, he wondered where he was. He looked down at his paws, they were warm and resting on a soft blanket. Leo looked round him, seeing his younger brother lying beside him, looking as nervous as usual. He lay, sitting up slightly, the pads of one hind paw visible as if he was thinking of rolling onto his side. The poor lion stared fixedly ahead, breathing rapidly.
“Where are we?” He asked. Leo looked full at him.
“How the hell should I know Theo, I’ve got a headache, my paws are stiff and all I know is that we’re somewhere different to where we were yesterday. Theo, full name Theodore, because his mother thought it suited him, looked down at his paws.
“We don’t know whether we are safe!” Theo whimpered.
“I feel we are,” Leo said.
“Oh yeah, wonderful that!” Theo scoffed. You were the one who told me we were safe in the other place, now look where we are!” he began to cry. Leo turned his head away, embarrassed by his brother’s display.
Clarence saw the large lion, and, feeling well disposed to the newcomer, crawled over to him. Leo and Clarence faced each other, the former stunned by the latter’s manner.
“”Can you tell me where we are?” Leo asked. Clarence thrust a forepaw towards the newcomer, who took the offered paw in his. Clarence felt Leo’s paw trembling slightly as he held his paw.
“Can you tell us where we are and what will happen to us?” Leo asked, “me and my brother Theodore were in a large place, and now we’re here with all these other animals, he expects me to know what’s going on, and I know nothing! Theodore’s shaking violently, whereas I’m not, though I want to. Oh by the way, my name’s Leo, or have I already told you that? I can’t remember!” Clarence felt Leo’s paw trembling as he held his.
“You can both relax,” Clarence said, “you’re both safe here, and so,” Clarence looked down at the cub sleeping between Leo’s forepaws, “can your cub.” Leo looked down at the cub lying on the rug.
“She’s mine, her name’s Portia.” Clarence stroked Portia’s head, the cub purring softly. Leo saw the affect his cub had on Clarence and smiled.
“She’s lovely isn’t she,” he said proudly. Clarence took the cub in his paws and hugged her.
“Portia’s lovely Leo,” he said.
Another lion crawled over to them. The first thing Clarence noticed was that this lion had fat paws, and as he watched, the lion tripped over his paws, sprawling full length beside him.
“You crazy thing Trip,” Leo laughed.
“Why do you call him trip?” Clarence asked.
“For the very reason he’s now sprawled on the carpet, he’s got fat paws and trips over them all the time. His real name is Tommy, but we all know him as trip,” Leo replied. Tommy, or Trip, regarded Clarence and Leo with bleary eyes.
“At least the carpet’s soft here,” he said. Tommy Trip waved one huge paw, “I never grew into my paws, it’s a real pest,” he mewed. Clarence looked at Tommy’s paws. They were huge for the lion’s body size. Leo let go of Clarence’s paw and Clarence hugged him, Leo blinking hard to disguise a rush of emotion which almost ended in tears. Tommy saw this and grinned, he knew Leo very well, and the huge lion was said to be aggressive, but in truth, he was prone to emotional episodes. Clarence took Leo’s left forepaw in both of his and began to stroke it. Leo looked surprised, but then relaxed as the paw massage had its age old affect. ?Closing his eyes, Leo relaxed all four paws, remembering how good he’d felt when his mother massaged his paws when he was a cub. Purring with pleasure, Leo drifted in a dream. Tommy Trip looked at Clarence:
“I could do with a bit of that,” he said, “would you?” Clarence grinned at the young lion.
“I will finish Leo’s massage, then attend to Theo over there, who looks in desperate need. I will then come to you, okay?” Tommy was about to protest when he caught sight of Theo looking close to breakdown.
“Okay,” he said.” Clarence finished Leo’s paw massage and transferred his attention to Theodore, who lay nervously beside his older and larger brother. Clarence massaged all four of Theo’s paws, the young lion unable to stop them from shaking. In the end, Clarence embraced Theo as if he were his own cub.
Elsa spat on the carpet with disgust. She’d rapidly become disillusioned with Clarence after his revelation about not liking procreation. She wanted cubs, but there were no eligible male lions in the place. Now not one, or two, but three had turned up, she was spoilt for choice. She’d chosen Tommy Trip as he was around her stature and she liked his looks, especially his gentle eyes and fat paws. Clarence heard his mate spitting on the carpet, and wondered what the boss would have to say about it. He knew how she felt about his stance on procreation, who didn’t, but Clarence was unperturbed about it. If she wanted to go with another lion because she wanted cubs, then that was fine by Clarence, he had his paws full with tending to his family, which numbered many cubs and adults, most of which weren’t of his own species. Finishing Theo’s massage, Clarence turned to Tommy, who rolled over eagerly presenting Clarence with four fat, and rather cub like paws. Clarence realised the lion hadn’t grown into his paws as he should have, and this endeared him strongly to him . Clarence liked massaging fat paws, as he could work more easily with them. Tommy wiggled the toes of all four paws as Clarence worked. Clarence ended Tommy Trip’s massage by gently hugging him. Tommy felt Clarence’s huge paws embracing him and it felt wonderful! Snuggling closer, Trip worked his forepaws deeper into Clarence’s fur, the huge lion purring with contentment.
“You have big soft paws Clarence,” Trip mewed. Clarence smiled, rocking Trip gently, causing the younger lion to close his eyes and fall asleep.
“I can’t believe what I just saw!” Leo whispered, for the atmosphere in the room had changed to a general mood of calming warmth. Clarence grinned at him:
“I could do the same for you if you want,” he invited. Leo looked at the smaller lion.
“I couldn’t,” he said, “a huge lion like me being rocked to sleep like a cub? What would others think!”
“The idea appeals to you I see,” Clarence replied. Leo looked down at his paws, embarrassed.
“Sort of,” he admitted gruffly.
“You like to think you’re all big and hard,” Theodore said, “whereas, in truth Leo, you like your paws stroked and tickled, and you would like nothing better than for Clarence to take you in his paws and rock you to sleep as he’s just done for Trip.” Leo stared harder at his forepaws.
“I think he’s trying not to admit outright that you got it in one Theo,” Elsa said. Leo looked at Clarence, his eyes pleading with him.
“Okay you big cub,” Clarence laughed, “your turn next.” Leo looked round him, to see what the other animals thought of his unspoken wish to be rocked to sleep like a cub. Most of them took no notice at all. Only Elsa looked disgusted.
“Call yourself a lion?” She asked, going close to Leo, “you’re a pansy! Just like Clarence!” Leo growled at Elsa,, bearing his teeth. Theo whimpered with fear:
“No Leo, don’t roar in here, you will deafen everyone!” Elsa, now almost dancing with fury, challenged the huge lion.
“Go on!” She yelled into his face, dancing on her toes in the most infuriating manner she knew, “roar at me you big woose!” Leo inflated his lungs and did as Elsa asked. The sound reverberated off the walls and sent most of the cubs diving for cover! It even alerted Tigger, who came skidding and tumbling down the stairs to see what had happened. When he saw Leo, Tigger stopped dead.
“Okay sir,” he said, now much afraid, “have it your way!” Tigger fled! Clarence looked at Leo:
“You’ve really torn it!” he said, “now go and apologise to Tigger. Leo, feeling dreadful, crawled up the stairs to talk to the tiger. After a while, Leo and Tigger came down together, Tigger’s eyes nearly starting from his head at the sight of the huge lion’s paws!
“This lion assures me he’s gentle,” Tigger said to Clarence, “am I to believe him?” Leo whimpered and rolled onto his back, waving his paws in the air, which made Tigger laugh, despite his reservations.
“You big cub!” Tigger laughed, reaching over and tickling the pads of Leo’s left hind paw. Leo laughed helplessly, scrabbling at Tigger’s paw with the toes of his right hind paw. This degenerated into both animals tickling each other’s paws. Something which Clarence thought impossible only five minutes previously. Once Leo and Tigger had thoroughly tickled each other’s paws, the two vastly different cats lay down together for a chat.
“I was thrown out of my pride by the females who wanted a more aggressive lion,” Leo replied to Tigger’s enquiry about how he’d come to be at the place, “the humans drugged me and brought me here. Thanks to Clarence I now have no headache and my paws are no longer stiff. My brother insisted on coming with me, so here we both are.” When Tigger told his tale, omitting nothing, Leo was moved to tears.
“I’m sorry,” the huge lion sobbed, “I know you don’t want pity n’all that, but I love my cubs, and I don’t know how anyone would carry on after that.”
“That is why I have adopted Whitie, Blanche and candy,” Tigger replied, “they are now my cubs. Leo clumsily wiped his eyes.
“Tell me Tigger,” the lion pleaded, “are we safe here?” Tigger took Leo’s paw and looked into the lion’s eyes.
“We are safe here Leo, I promise.” Leo took Tigger’s free paw in his and gently squeezed it.
“Your friend, Clarence isn’t it?” Tigger nodded, “he’s so gentle,” Leo said. Tigger smiled with pleasure.
“I’m glad you’ve met him,” he said, “he’s a wonderful friend to me, and I trust him with my life.” Leo was about to tell Tigger about wanting Clarence to rock him to sleep as he had Trip, but decided not to at the last moment. Maybe this tiger, though partial to having his paws tickled, didn’t go in for hugs and things like that. Tigger noticed the lion’s preoccupied expression and smiled at him.
“Being rocked to sleep by a lion with huge paws is nice isn’t it,” he said. Leo started with surprise!
“How, how did you know about that!” He demanded, now more embarrassed than ever.
“I know what Clarence did for you, and what you asked of him. I know now that if you hadn’t roared at Elsa, you would be asleep after Clarence had massaged your paws and rocked you gently into slumber.” Leo looked down at his paws, unable to meet Tigger’s eye.
“I’ve had Clarence do it for me,” Tigger said, “it’s nice.” Leo relaxed a little. Leo smiled, relieved someone else liked the same things he did.
Clarence stood off, listening to the conversation between Tigger and Leo. Even though he knew Tigger’s story like the back of his paw, Clarence was still deeply affected by the tale of the deaths of Tigger’s cubs and mate. While telling the tale, Tigger tried to be strong, but often he’d end up crying openly, which would upset Clarence, both friends ending up crying for the cubs and tigress who couldn’t be saved.
Tigger saw Clarence and moved away from Leo:
“Time for your paw massage I think,” the tiger said. Leo rolled onto his side, and was delighted when Tigger helped Clarence with the paw massage. The tiger and lion partnership worked well, Leo soon drifting into sleep.
“You didn’t need to rock him to sleep Clarence,” Tigger whispered, “he’s well gone.” Clarence smiled:
“Real teamwork that Tiggie,” he replied. Tigger took Clarence’s paw and began to stroke it.
“I like that Tigger,” Clarence purred. Tigger grinned and stroked the pads of Clarence’s paw.
“That feels even better,” the lion said. Tigger finished Clarence’s paw massage, and when it was over, Clarence repaid Tigger’s kindness, massaging his paws until the large tiger was lying comatose on the carpet. Leo looked over at Tigger.
“He looks so peaceful,” the huge lion purred.
Meanwhile, Trip and Elsa were arguing over Clarence’s behaviour.”
“That lion’s not right in the head I tell you Trip, he’s mad!” Elsa screamed.
“Clarence isn’t mad, he’s just a soft, gentle lion who wouldn’t hurt a fly!”
“All that paw massage and cubbish play he indulges in!” Elsa yelled, “it’s wrong!”
“It’s harmless fun!” Trip mewed, “Clarence never touches any animal’s paws without their permission, so it’s healthy play. I quite like having my paws stroked, tickled and massaged. Our paws are the most sensitive parts of our bodies Elsa, and if paw massage becomes an offence, I will go mad! Clarence has big, soft, gentle paws which he can, and does do a lot of good with. He knows his stuff, and I for one am going back for more paw massage!”
“I can’t believe Clarence can’t handle the subject of birthing cubs!” Elsa yowled, changing tack suddenly.
“Clarence needs to see a cub being born,” Trip replied, “then he might not be so scared of the whole thing.”
“Noone can have cubs here though,” Elsa replied, “so how on earth will he ever see a cubbing?”
“I don’t know,” Trip replied, “ask someone to re-enact one maybe? Ellie, that lynx Clarence is friendly with, I heard her talking to her cub about his birth, maybe she’d re-enact a cubbing for Clarence,.”
“I don’t know what his hang ups are,” Elsa snapped, “but I think he’s a woose! Cubbing’s no big deal!”
“To him it is,” Trip replied, “Clarence is so gentle, any pain upsets him.”
“Why then did he beat up Bruin twice in one week?” Elsa asked. News travelled quickly in the house, and Trip, though having only been resident for a few hours, had heard everything about Bruin’s misdeeds, from several sources too.
“he might have beaten the bear up,” Trip replied, “but he cried bitterly about it afterwards. I know what might help. When Ellie’s in pain, maybe Clarence can massage her paws, that would help her through cubbing, don’t you think Elsa?” Elsa, who’d had two cubs of her own, thought for a minute.
“Yes, it would help,” she replied.
Clarence and Leo listened to Elsa and Trip’s conversation.
“Maybe it would work,” Leo said to Clarence, “Ellie showing you a cubbing and you helping her by massaging her paws.” Clarence wanted to see a cubbing, for he desperately wanted to overcome his fear, but all the same, he couldn’t quite take the plunge and ask Ellie to help him.
Ellie, now noticing Elsa was off the scene as far as her loving Clarence was concerned, let herself go with the flow of her feelings towards the huge, but gentle lion. She saw he loved cubs, her cub in particular, and wanted to help him overcome his fear of cubbing.
Sidling up to Clarence, Ellie saw for the first time how large Leo was, as he was lying beside Clarence and was quite a bit larger than him.
“I thought Clarence was huge,” Ellie thought. Feeling eyes on her, Ellie looked up, straight into Leo’s eyes. The huge lion regarded her with mild interest.
“You must be Ellie,” Leo said. Leo’s voice was soft and gentle, not the kind of voice Ellie expected from such a huge lion.
“Yes, yes Leo I, I am,” Ellie replied, feeling herself beginning to shake with fear, her paws becoming damp with sweat.
“It’s okay Ellie,” Leo said, “I won’t harm you.” Ellie stared hard at her paws.
“No, of, of course not,” Ellie stammered. Leo reached out with one huge paw and touched Ellie’s. His paw was soft and warm, his touch gentle.
“Come closer, please,” Leo invited. Ellie felt her paws taking her closer to the huge lion, then felt his paws embracing her, enfolding her in a lion sized hug. The next thing Ellie felt was warm breath ruffling her fur, and then she heard purring, contented, soothing purring. Leo groomed Ellie from nose to tail, the adult female lynx submitting happily to the huge lion’s attentions.
“Clarence really would like you to help him overcome his fear of birth,” Leo purred, “Ellie, he can’t ask himself, so I am asking for him.” Ellie looked at Clarence, who nodded.
“Would you help me too?” Leo asked, “for I, like your dear friend Clarence, am frightened of the same thing he is. Would you help both of us?” Ellie considered Leo’s request, feeling the huge lion’s paws around her.
“I will help you both,” she said.
“You do have a choice,” Leo replied, “we’re not coercing you.” Ellie shook her head.
“I will help, and gladly too,” she replied.
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