Guiding paws.

 

 

Allie woke slowly, Orsa, her eldest cub snuggled close, the cub’s paw in hers.  Sam had charge of Bjorn, who seemed to be deeply asleep nestled between Sam’s forepaws.  Allie looked round her, her mind full of what had taken place over the last twenty four hours.

      “To think I wasn’t in labour this time yesterday, and now, now I’ve come through successful labour, have made friends with Arki in the most unusual circumstances, and now have two amazing cubs.”  Allie looked Orsa over from her nose to her paw pads.  She was a beautiful cub.  Orsa, waking from a deep sleep, used her free forepaw to scratch her nose.  Yawning, she cuddled close to her mother once more.

      “It’s nice and warm here,” she said.  Allie smiled at her, her emotions welling up.

       “You are safe and loved dear cub,” she replied.  Orsa, not knowing understanding her mother’s words, but catching their meaning, squeezed her mother’s paw as hard as she could with her tiny forepaws, Allie smiling broadly.

 

Meanwhile, Sam and Bjorn were playing together, each tickling the other’s paws.  Bjorn had hardly slept the previous night, so enthralled with the world was he.  Sam, kept from sleep, played with the cub pretty much all night, each tickling the other’s paws.

      “What are those two doing?”  Orsa asked.  Allie smiled:

     “They’re tickling each other’s paws, like this,”  she said, tickling the pads of Orsa’s left hind paw.

      “Hey!”  Orsa yelped, “That feels strange!”

      “That’s what having your paw tickled feels like,”  Allie replied.  Orsa grinned hugely.

     “My paw,”  she said, “I know what it is, but not much about it.”  Allie guided Orsa’s left forepaw over the pads and toes of her right, Orsa grinning with pleasure at the sensation this produced.

      “I will tell you what each part of your paw is if you like,”  Allie said.  Orsa smiled:

     “Okay,”  she said.  Allie did just that, pointing out Orsa’s heel pad, the pads on the ball of her paw, and those on her toes, Orsa laughing as her pads were tickled by her own toes.  This brought Bjorn crawling over to see what his sister was doing, and very soon, the two cubs were playing together, each stroking and tickling the other’s paws.  Allie and Sam watched them, loving every minute of their play as much as the cubs did.

     “Maybe we should play like Orsa and Bjorn are doing?”  Allie asked Sam.  Sam grinned:

     ?”Shall we?”  He asked, taking Allie’s left forepaw in both of his and stroking the pads on the sole,”  Allie smiled with pleasure.

      “Let’s do just that,”  she replied.  Allie and Sam played together, tickling each other’s paws, Sam and Allie rolling and playing like they were cubs again, both laughing helplessly.

      “Silly cubs we are!”  Sam whooped.  Allie grinned at him and kissed his nose.

       “cubs aren’t silly,”  she said, “playful yes, but never silly, unless they are trying to be silly of course, or have been silly, such as getting themselves or others into danger.  Now come, let’s be playful like Orsa and Bjorn are, tickle each other’s paws, and love each other’s playfulness.  Let’s carefully examine each other’s  paws, taking in everything from white fur to black claw and paw pad.  Then let’s use our forepaws to feel each other’s fore and hind paws, then each of us could use their hind paws to explore each other’s hind paws.  Then, like adults, we could trace each other’s bodies and paws with our forepaws.  How does that sound?”  Allie asked.

      “It sounds as good as I’m sure it will feel,”  Sam replied.  Sam and Allie did all they spoke of, enjoying the touch of paw pad on fur and paw pad on paw pad.  Allie then showed Sam how to use his forepaws to massage his hind paws, taking him gently through everything.

     “This feels wonderful,”  Sam said, his eyes half closed as he stroked the pads of his right hind paw with the toes of his left fore, “this would be good for pain relief too I don’t doubt.”  Allie smiled.

      “I can vouch for its effectiveness,”  she replied, “for Arki and I used paw play during Orsa and Bjorn’s births.  It helped me to keep calm and ease my pain.”  Sam hugged his mate.

      “I’m sorry for not being there when our cubs were born,”  he said, “I wanted to be there, but something wouldn’t let me stay.”

     “Could you cope with seeing the birth on DVD?”  Allie asked, “Snowy got it on camera, everything from me pacing about to the way my toes curled and pads bunched during contractions, to the arrivals of both cubs.  I could show you now how I played with my paws during my labour, but you can see it all on the DVD.”  Sam, now he knew his mate and cubs were safe, felt he could see the DVD.

     “I would like to see the births of our cubs Allie,”  Sam replied, rubbing the pads of her left forepaw, “Please, let me hold your paws throughout it.”  Allie smiled at him.

      “Stroke my paws, please Sam,”  she pleaded.  Sam kissed the toes of paw he held, Allie grinning.

 

The adult polar bears padded with their cubs to a place where they could view the DVD.  Sam watched as the births of his cubs unfolded on the screen in front of him, at first appalled at the sight and sound of Allie pacing and groaning with pain, then relieved as Arki came in and helped her, Allie and Arki soon settling down to playing with their paws and toes, rubbing pads and squeezing their toes when contractions came and mentally sat down with her cubs, who slept throughout the whole video.  Sam watched the action on the screen, glancing at the real Allie from time to time to see how she was coping with seeing herself on the screen.  Allie was unconsciously stroking the pads of her left hind paw with the toes of both forepaws, as if she expected to have more pain.  Once the video was over, Allie came to her senses and stopped stroking her hind paw.

     “Are you okay Allie?”  Sam asked.  Allie smiled.

     “I am,”  she replied.

      “Did you realise you were stroking your hind paw throughout all that?”  Sam asked.  Allie shook her head.

     “Was I?”  She asked, suddenly noticing the sensation from her right hind paw, “I suppose it was a reaction to what I was seeing.”

 

Bjorn woke suddenly, crawling to Allie’s right hind paw and taking it in his tiny ones.  He explored her paw, Allie grinning as his tiny pads worked their way over the sole of her huge paw.

     “Do you like this mum?”  He asked.  Allie smiled.

      “I do Bjorn, I really do,”  she replied.

     “I have a feeling you stroked your paws during our births,”  Orsa said.  Allie stared at her cubs.

     “How did you know?”  She asked.

     “We could feel it,”  Orsa replied.  While we dozed here, you stroked your hind paw, and this made you feel the same way as you did during our births.  We remember that feeling, so that’s how we know.”  Bjorn crawled to his sister and began to stroke her forepaws, Orsa grinning and curling up comfortably.

     “Do you know how to stroke your own hind paws Bjorn?”  She asked, “If you do, could you teach me?”  Bjorn smiled.

     “I know where my hind paws are,”  he said, “I could show you where yours are.”

     “That would be great,”  Orsa said.  Bjorn touched the pads on the soles of each of Orsa’s paws, the female cub laughing as her brother tickled her.

      “Here are your forepaws,”  Bjorn said, touching the pads and toes of his sister’s forepaws, “and here are your hind,”  he concluded, touching the pads and toes of her hind paws.

      “How do you know all this?”  Orsa asked.

      “I couldn’t’ sleep last night, so I kept Sam up all night teaching me,”  Bjorn said airily.

      “Poor Sam,”  Orsa said, “so you know about our paws then?”  She asked.  Bjorn tickled the toes of her right hind paw:

     “Yes I do,”  he replied, while Orsa laughed helplessly.

      “I am tickling your toes,”  Bjorn said, taking his role as teacher seriously, “they are the toes on your right hind paw.”  With that he in turn tickled the toes of Orsa’s left hind, left fore and right fore, telling Orsa which paw he was tickling.  She tried to take it all in, while laughing helplessly.

     “Now I tickle your paws!”  She said, whipping her right forepaw away and grabbing Bjorn’s left hind in both her forepaws and  tickling his pads and toes until the male cub was laughing as much as she’d done.

     “You knew all along where your pads and toes were!”  Bjorn whooped as his sister went to work on his other hind paw.  Orsa smiled, though Bjorn couldn’t see it.

    “I knew all the time, she said, “I’ve been taught by mum for most of last night.  It was real fun!  She couldn’t sleep, and neither could I, so we got talking about various things, I described the strange feelings I’d had during and shortly after my birth, and she told me what might have produced them, and showed me how they happened too!  It was all done when she massaged her paws during our births.  Mum showed me how she’d stroked her paws, then taught me how to stroke mine.”  Orsa stroked her brother’s left forepaw.

      “So it’s okay for me to play with my paws then?”  Bjorn asked.

      “Nothing’s going to stop me from playing with mine,”  Orsa replied.

      “Can we play with each other’s paws?”  Bjorn asked.  Orsa grinned.

     “If you don’t mind me tickling and stroking yours, I certainly don’t mind you tickling and stroking mine,”  she replied.  Bjorn, the massage of his left forepaw taking over, replied that he didn’t mind, in fact he’d be sad if she didn’t stroke his paws.

 

Sam and Allie watched their cubs playing, smiling at their antics.  By the time five minutes were over, Orsa and Bjorn had tickled each other’s paws so much they were desensitised and needed time to recover.  Allie and Sam rubbed the paws of the two cubs, Orsa and Bjorn exhausted, their paws flaccid in those of their parents.  Once the paws of the two cubs were massaged back to life, something which they and their parents enjoyed hugely, Orsa and Bjorn crawled with Allie and Sam, who’d also taken up crawling, as they felt it was a good idea at the time, to the bathroom where fleur and Kodiak, who’d been employed by fleur to wash the bears and other non feline animals while she concentrated on the cats, waited for business.  Seeing the polar bears, Kodiak approached them, grinning at the two cubs.

      “I saw the video of the births of your two cubs Allie, and it was amazing!”  Kodiak said, Allie smiling at the brown bear.

      “We came to consult the expert in paw play to see what you could do for these two cubs, which are hopelessly addicted to it already, they’re only two days old!”  Allie replied smiling.  Kodiak grinned:

     “I could get them more addicted,”  he said.  “I suppose they were born with a need to play with their paws, and your paw play during their birth confirmed it in them.”  Fleur smiled at the bear’s words.

     “Maybe that’s why I’m so hooked,”  she said, “Tigger stroked Perdy’s paws a lot during my birth, so maybe that rubbed off on me?”  The adult bears laughed at her poor joke.

     “What’s so funny?”  Fleur asked.  When Kodiak explained, Fleur looked down at her paws.

     “I didn’t mean it to come out like that,”  she mewed.

     “Now,”  Kodiak said, sitting back on his haunches and clapping his forepaws, “what can we do for you four today?”

     “We wondered if you’d be so kind as to introduce our cubs to water,”  Sam said.

 

So very gently, Kodiak and fleur introduced the cubs to the water, splashing them, then getting them to feel the water washing over their pads and toes in the shallow water covering the ledge used during water births, then, bit by bit, both cubs were coaxed into the deeper water.  Bjorn and Orsa didn’t mind this, for they were eager to learn.  Best of all, their paws got a real massage when the spar was turned on.  Kodiak got in with the cubs and their parents, and soon Orsa and Bjorn had found his paws as well as Sam and Allie’s.  Each cub took it in turns to dive down and stroke one of the adult bear’s hind paws, the other timing how long they could stay down for.  Of course, if the cub got into danger, say the frantic rubbing of tiny paw pads against larger ones was to slow, the adult bear, be it one of the polar bears or Kodiak, was always ready with forepaws poised to drag the cub to safety.  Allie and Sam kept their eyes on their own hind paws during these sessions, sitting in the water as they were.  Kodiak loved all this, his cubhood games with Billy coming back to him as he played games with Orsa and Bjorn.  During this time, Kodiak and Fleur learned the names of the two cubs, as well as the fact they liked having their paws and bellies stroked and tickled.  It seemed to fleur Bjorn and Orsa would never forget the feeling their mother’s paw play during their births instilled in them, and she hoped they’d never forget.  Now they knew how to cause the calming and soothing sensations for themselves, they’d self administer paw massage, as well as stroke each other’s paws, either for comfort or pleasure.

 

The hind paws of the adult bears thoroughly stroked, Bjorn and Orsa paddled round the bathtub, the toes of their tiny hind paws spread slightly to allow the slight webbing between them to propel them along.  Allie watched her cubs, catching and holding each as they swam past, the cubs paddling furiously while she held them.

 

The cubs soon grew tired, their paws refusing to paddle any more.  Orsa and Bjorn stopped paddling and began to sink, Sam and Allie catching the tired cubs and gathering them close.  Allie and Sam dried their cubs from nose to tail before they returned to the cubbing den to sleep.

 

Orsa and Bjorn slept for fourteen hours while their parents watched over them in shifts.  When the cubs woke, they were full of life, wanting to play with Sam and Allie, though the two adult bears weren’t up to it.

      “Later,”  they said, stretching out on the rugs to get more sleep.  Orsa and Bjorn, bored with trying to get their parents to play with them, crawled from the cubbing den, intent on exploring the house, Allie realising what they were about to do just in time to leap to her paws and block them.

       “You can’t go out alone!”  She snapped.

      “But we want to explore, not do boring things like sleep,”  Orsa complained.

       “Exploring is for older cubs, not three day old cubs,”  Allie replied.  Bjorn crawled sulkily back to their sleeping place, Orsa following miserably.

      “You two are so boring!”  The cubs complained.  Allie, satisfied she’d blocked the cubs escape, slammed the cubbing den door and settled back to sleep.

 

Orsa and Bjorn lay on their rug, bored senseless.  Paw play was all well and good, and they loved the games, but now they wanted to explore, paw play could come later.  Orsa lay miserably contemplating her lot, staring miserably at the wall, when she heard something moving, then a door opening in front of her.  Orsa flinched as a huge paw covered her own, then, quickly but gently covered her mouth, for the cub was about to scream.

      “Don’t worry,”  a voice said, “I’m here to help.  You and your brother cub want to explore don’t you?”  Orsa nodded, the newcomer’s large paw now removed from her mouth.

      “Say nothing, but follow me,”  the newcomer said, whose scent smelt of coconut oil.  Orsa and Bjorn followed the sound of the newcomer’s scuffing paws, for it was crawling like they were, towards where Orsa had heard the door open.  They felt rugs become cold metal beneath their paws, and when they were all in what seemed to the cubs to be a tiny room, the newcomer closed the door.  Petra closed an inner door, making the room almost soundproof.

     “Now speak quietly, don’t whisper,”  She said, “My name’s Petra, I’m friendly to cubs.  Where you are now is at the top of a spiral ramp, it is a quick way up and down to the cubbing den, it ends in the main living room, behind a concealed door.  Noone knows it’s here, the boss had it made as an experiment.  Now we can crawl down the ramp, and into the living room.

      “But what about our mum?”  Orsa asked, now feeling guilty, “she’ll go mad!”

       “Your mum won’t even know you’ve gone.  She’s in a deep sleep, and before she wakes, you’ll be back with her and Sam.”

      “Who are you?”  Bjorn asked.

     “My name’s Petra, I’m a white lioness,”  Petra replied, “please trust me.”  Orsa still felt nervous.

      “You don’t seem threatening,”  she said, “but aren’t we doing wrong here?  Our mum and sire will go crazy if they find we’re gone.  I don’t know if I want to go any further with this!”

     “You are free to go back to your den,”  Petra replied, “do you want to go?”  Orsa thought for a minute.  She wanted to go with the white lioness, whatever one of those was, but she also felt dreadful about leaving her parents with no knowledge of her or Bjorn’s whereabouts.

      “You say you can make them sleep,”  Bjorn said, catching his sister’s mood, “could you please tell them somehow that we are safe?”

      “Of course,”  Petra replied, “I was going to do that anyway.”  Orsa and Bjorn didn’t understand this strange creature, but her words seemed convincing enough.

     “I have a problem though,”  Petra admitted, “Allie’s open to my world, but Sam isn’t, that’s going to cause trouble, trouble I don’t really want to cause.  Allie will have to convince her mate you are safe, that’s if they wake up, which I hope won’t happen.”

      “Your magic isn’t so powerful then?”  Bjorn asked, taking magic to be some kind of therapy, like paw massage.

       “No, sometimes it’s not,”  Petra said, “now come, let’s go.”  They crawled down the ramp, Petra in the lead, Orsa following her by keeping in contact with her hind paws at all times, Bjorn following in the rear, keeping in contact with his sister’s hind paws.  Once they reached the bottom of the slope, Petra drew a door aside, then pushed another one open.  They crawled out onto the carpet of the living room, to be confronted by Rani, who stared in astonishment as a lioness and two polar bear cubs emerged from a secret door in the wall.

      “I won’t ask,”  Rani mewed, shuffling away hurriedly.

 

Meanwhile, Sam had woken in the cubbing den.  Petra’s magic hadn’t worked on him, and now he was awake, and realising his cubs were not in the den with him and Allie.  Panicking, he ran to the door, checked it for signs of the cubs having clambered up it to get to the handle and, finding no sign, ran back to Allie.

     “Allie, Allie!”  Sam yelled, “Our cubs have vanished!”  Allie didn’t respond.  Sam whacked her shoulder with his paw, but she still didn’t wake.  Sam screamed into her ear at close range, and this did something, Allie slowly surfacing from a deep sleep.

      “You idiot!”  Sam yelled, “What the hell did you take before you slept?  Allie, because of you, our cubs have vanished!  You are meant to look after them!”

       “You what?”  Allie asked, “Our cubs?  What’s wrong with them?”

      “They’re not here, they’ve gone, vanished, been abducted, been killed for all we know, and you’re acting like you don’t care!”

 

       “I do care,”  Allie replied, her head still pounding from Sam screaming into her ear, “but I know our cubs are safe.  They’re with Eohippus now.”

      “You mean they’re dead?”  Sam asked, “Someone killed them?”

     “No,” Allie replied, “Eohippus, or her representative on earth took them exploring.”

       “And you let that bloody lioness take them?”  Sam snarled, “You are no mother to your cubs Allie!  Petra’s a bad influence on young cubs!”

      “Now you can’t say that,” Allie replied, “and I didn’t let her take them, they made their own choice to go.”

     “How did they leave?”  Sam asked, “I would have noticed if the door had been opened, and especially if a bloody great lioness had set paw in here, dam Petra from here to eternity!”  I don’t know how they got out of here,” Allie replied, “all I know is they went with eohippus.”  Sam stamped about the den, angrily kicking the walls.  Allie watched him, her certainty over her cub’s safety undiminished.

      “Come back to bed,” she said gently, “they’ll be okay.”  Sam stormed back to the rug, Allie wrapping her paws round him and hugging him.

      Petra won’t let our cubs come to any harm,”  Allie said gently, “I promise they’ll be back here in a while.”

 

Snowy watched all from her control room, the whole incident captured on hard disc.

      Petra should have let Allie and Sam knows,” she thought, “but then again, Petra’s only responding to the cub’s need for adventure, early in their lives though that need arose.”  Snowy watched Petra and the two polar bear cubs arrive in the pool complex, fleur meeting them there.  Sam suddenly ran into the complex, saw Petra and charged at her!

     “You bitch!  You stole our cubs!”  He yelled.  Fleur spun round at the sound of his voice.

    “What are you on about?”  Fleur asked.

      Petra stole our cubs while Allie and I were asleep!”  Sam yelled, “Allie felt her cubs were safe, but I wasn’t so sure, so I came looking!  I want that lioness dead!  She stole our cubs!” Petra looked at Sam, and his fire died suddenly.

      “You wouldn’t hurt me,” her eyes said, “for you know why your cubs did what they did.  I didn’t force them to come with me, they chose to.”  Sam dug his toes into the tiles, skidding to a stop inches from Petra’s annihilation.

     “All right, all right!”  He moaned, distressed by what he’d seen in the lioness’s eyes, “you didn’t steal my cubs.  I’m sorry for accusing you of doing so, okay?”  Petra looked at Sam with disgust.

      “You are dreadful!”  She snarled, “I respond to a cub’s need for adventure and you accuse me of stealing them!”

      “Oh, and another thing,” Sam spat, “why did Allie take so dam long to wake?  I yelled at and slapped her paws, but she wouldn’t wake!  It was a job to wake her!”

     “Allie’s a deep sleeper maybe?”  Petra asked.  Sam turned and stormed off.

      “He’s not very happy,” Orsa remarked.  Allie padded in then, saw her cubs and grinned at them.

      “I thought I might come and join my cubs for a little fun,” she said.

      “Now we can go on the slide in safety,” fleur said, conscious that Allie and Petra would have to go down with a cub each while she supervised the top of the slide.  Allie grinned, bouncing and dancing on her toes like a cub.  Petra laughed at her.

      “You silly thing!”  She mewed.  Allie and Petra led Allie’s cubs up the slope to the slide, fleur following.  When the party reached the top of the slide, Allie showed her cubs the tops of the slides.

 

Very soon, Allie and her cubs were sliding down the slides, whooping and screaming with delight.  Fleur watched the goings on with her camera, grinning at Allie, or Orsa, or Bjorn, or Petra, or sometimes all four of them at once as they raced each other down the slides and up the slope, fleur having to slow their headlong rush from time to time to allow for a margin of safety.  Fleur listened to their play, the sounds of their laughter, the scuffing of their paws and clicking claws on the tiles, or just the thudding of Petra’s paws on the tiles when she came tearing up the slope after Orsa.

      “These cubs,” Petra panted, “was I ever like this Fleur?”  Fleur grinned:

     “You were,” she replied.  Petra cuffed fleur playfully on her way past to the slide.  Fleur smiled and watched her disappearing down the slide, the black tip of her tail vanishing down the slide.  Fleur looked down at her paws, wanting to join the bears and Petra in play.

      “Why not close the slide and join us,” Petra said, resting her paw gently on Fleur’s.  Fleur smiled at her friend.

     “I will,” she replied.  Petra took Fleur’s paw in hers, and the two friends walked down the slope, fleur closing the gate behind them.  Fleur looked at Petra, examining her from nose to tail.  Petra raised each paw in turn as she walked, letting fleur see the pads of her paws as best she could.

     “I’ll MASSAGE your paws in a bit,” fleur mewed, kissing Petra on her nose.  Petra smiled.

      “I’d like that,” she purred.  Padding down the slope, fleur watched Petra closely.  She was looking for any trace of a limp, of fatigue, of anything out of the ordinary.  Of course, when she laid paws on the lioness, fleur knew she’d know for sure if anything was wrong.  Petra knew she was being examined, and that if she tried to hide anything, fleur would know.  Petra was upset, mainly about Jinghua’s treatment of her, but she’d suppressed this feeling to a great extent.  Even so, Petra knew fleur was going to find out about her feelings.

 

Petra was correct.  The minute fleur took the lioness’s paws in hers while Petra lay in the warm water of the spar pool, Fleur knew Petra was upset, and knew the reason too.

      “Jinghua’s really rattled you hasn’t she,” fleur observed.  Petra felt like crying:

      “Yes fleur she has,” the lioness replied, her voice cracking.

       “Jinghua can’t do anything to you Petra,” fleur mewed, “she’s a horrid animal, but she can’t do anything to you.  She might hate you for no reason anyone can see here, she might speak unkindly about you to others, but everyone knows what she is.”  Petra felt her toes curling involuntarily as she thought about Jinghua.  She knew her paws would begin soon to ache horribly, but she couldn’t stop her toes from curling with anxiety and stress.

       “Come on Petra,” Fleur said gently, “let thoughts of Jinghua leave you.  The more you think of her, the more hold she has on you.  Didn’t you tell someone else that some time ago?”  Petra Whimpered in misery.

     “I know, I know!”  She mewed, “but can’t you see it from my point of view?  This panda hates me for no good reason!  I can’t work out why she hates me, and the worst of it is, she’s polluting the mind of her cub.  It’s Weici I feel sorry for.  That cub thinks I’m a horrid lioness!”  Fleur Massaged Petra’s clenched paws, trying to work her own toes between Petra’s pads and failing due to Petra’s tightly curled toes.

       “What can I do to relax you Petra?”  Fleur asked.  Petra mewed pitifully.

      “Nothing I would contemplate,” she replied, “the only thing that would relax me is the expulsion of Jinghua from the community, and you can’t do that.  Disliking someone is no grounds for expulsion.”  Petra looked dreadful.

       “Jinghua has said some dreadful things to and about you Petra,” Fleur said, “I don’t know if Theo would contemplate throwing her out for her words.”

      “Theo would,” Theo said, padding quickly over the tiles to look down to where his daughter cub lay in the spar, I have thrown her out, WEICI’s now with Yi jie.  As soon as WEICI’s weaned, we will expel Jinghua.  Petra looked up into her adopted sire’s face.

      “Are you serious?”  She asked.

      “I am,” Theo mewed, stepping down into the spar and lowering his head to kiss Petra’s nose.

       “I love you Petra my darling cub,” he purred, Petra’s eyes filling with tears, “I’ve tried to work out why Jinghua hates us.  For she hates me too you know, not just you.  I’ve even tried talking to her and a bigger load of rubbish I never heard before and I don’t think I will hear again.  Her objections to you were all to do with the way you worked with cubs, the paw massage we indulge in n’all that.  Her reasons were baseless and not worth airtime.  Now she’s gone in all but lodging space, and you can rest easy, uncurl those toes, relax and feel the benefits of the paw massage fleur is trying to give you.  Go on Petra, please try uncurling the toes of your left forepaw, take a deep breath and try.”  Petra did as her sire suggested, and found her toes uncurled easily.

      “Now for the other three paws, gently now Petra,” Theo purred, as if Petra was in labour about to give birth to a cub.  Petra concentrated on uncurling the toes of each paw, and when they were relaxed, she smiled weakly.

     “Good one Petra,” Theo mewed, massaging her left forepaw beneath the water.  Petra curled her toes round Theo’s, holding the pads of his paw hard against her own.

      “I love you Theo,” she mewed.  Theo hugged his cub tenderly.

 

Petra struggled from the water, her paws scrabbling at the tiles, fleur and Theo helping her from the water.

     “Thank you both,” Petra mewed, kissing fleur and Theo on their noses.

 

Sam watched Petra leaving the pool, feeling sorry for her as she struggled to clamber from the water.  Going to her, he hugged her tenderly.

     “I’m sorry I threatened you Petra dear,” he said, squeezing her paw.  Petra looked at him.

      “The sight of my paws scrabbling for purchase got to you didn’t it,” she mewed.  Sam sniffed, suddenly close to tears.

      “I know how that feels,” he choked, “I remember my paws scrabbling for purchase when I was in America and couldn’t get out of the pool.”  Petra looked at the polar bear, imagining him struggling in the water.  She threw her paws round him and hugged him.

      “I’m sorry Petra,” Sam sobbed.  Petra hugged him tighter, the bear weeping into her fur.

     “I love your cubs,” Petra mewed, “I wouldn’t hurt them Sam.”  Sam kissed her nose.     “Let’s go back to the cubbing den, you, me, Allie and our cubs,” Sam said.  Petra followed him to the den.

 

 

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