Trouble for Leo.
Night fell over the house, and Tembi couldn’t sleep. Shifting her weight onto the heels of her paws so her toes didn’t catch in the fabric of the sofa, she crawled off the sofa, careful not to alert Clarence, between who’s paws she usually slept. Tembi turned her paws on their sides so her weight was born by the fur on the sides of her paws. This made her movements even quieter than crawling normally. Tembi crawled away from the sofa, and then, when she was close to the door, she got to her paws and padded out of the room. Padding up the stairs, Tembi was glad her paws were small enough to fit on the stairs. Carefully placing her paws down, Tembi crept slowly up the stairs. Gently, Tembi made sure the pads of her paws were firmly on the tread of the stairs, her toes, claws sheathed, touching the riser of the stairs before she committed her weight to the tread of the stair, increasing the load born by her paw. Gently placing each of her paws on the carpet, Tembi went up the stairs, taking her time, listening for any movement from the living room or from the upstairs landing.
“I can see you little cub,” someone said. Tembi froze in mid stride, one forepaw in the air.
“Go back to sleep please!” Tembi silently implored. Tembi breathed slowly, trying to control her rising panic. Although she knew she wouldn’t get into a lot of trouble for creeping upstairs, the initial anger was something she could do without.
“Stop there Tembi,” the voice said. Tembi placed her left forepaw on the tread of the stair, her weight now evenly distributed between all four of her paws. Breathing deeply, Tembi tried not to panic.
“Who’s there?” She asked. Her answer came via a waved paw, a large, well padded paw it was too. Tembi could see the paw waving at her between the railings at the top of the stairs. The paw was tawny in colour, the pads black and claws retracted. Tembi recognised the paw as belonging to a large male lion, Leo Maybe?
“Go downstairs little Tembi and go back to sleep,” the voice said. Tembi hesitated:
“Leo,” she ventured, “I can’t sleep!” Leo, realising she’d recognised him, put one eye to the gap between two of the railings and gazed down upon Tembi, who looked up into his face uncertainly.
“Can I come up?” She asked.
“Oh all right Tembi,” Leo sighed exasperatedly, though in truth he was overjoyed to see Tembi. Once on the landing, Tembi was scooped up in Leo’s massive forepaws, the lion shuffling on the sides of his paws as Tembi had done to reduce noise. Once in the large bedroom with its rugs, Leo released Tembi, the little cub settling down on a rug, the warmth familiar, but always comforting to her. Leo knew Clarence would go crazy when he woke and realised Tembi had wandered off. He expected to hear Clarence’s yell of distress with every passing second. Leo soon settled down and fell asleep.
Leo suddenly felt something gripping his paw with amazing strength! Waking, the pain increased!
“Two can play at that game Leo!” Clarence snarled, “What have you done with my cub!” Leo tried to wave a paw towards Tembi, whom he felt Clarence must have seen, but he couldn’t wave any of his paws, what was happening! Leo woke with a start, and, seeing Clarence looking down at him, screamed with terror, lashing out with his hind paws!
“Leo, Leo!” Clarence yelled, “stop it!” Leo subsided, sobbing pitifully.
“I’m sorry Clarence,” Leo sobbed, “I told her to go back home, but she insisted on coming up here. I told Tembi, honestly I did!” Clarence had already seen Tembi, and realised what she’d done. What he couldn’t work out was why Leo was so upset.
Clarence had woken, and, realising Tembi had vanished, tracked her by means of her scent left wherever her paws touched carpet, up the stairs and into the main bedroom. There he’d found Tembi sleeping. He’d also found Leo sleeping with one forepaw under his belly, restricting blood to his paw. Clarence had tried shaking the huge lion’s shoulder, and when he got no response took hold of Leo’s free forepaw to check for a pulse in it. Leo had then woken, screaming hysterically.
“What’s there to be sorry for?” Clarence asked. Leo told all about his dream.
“The pain was caused by your paw being crushed under your weight you silly thing,” Snowy said.
“You were snarling at me Clarence,” Leo whimpered.
“I wasn’t,” Clarence replied, “I was talking to Tembi. I said to her that two could play at the game she’d played at, as she didn’t notice me until I was right beside her.
“you said that in my dream,” Leo sniffed.
“What did I say in your dream?” Clarence asked, now intrigued.
“You said that two can play at that game Leo, and then you asked where your cub was. I tried to wave a paw at Tembi, but both paws were trapped!”
“One beneath your body and the other held by Clarence,” Sam said. Leo flexed his now throbbing forepaw.
“I thought you were going to harm me for stealing your cub!” Leo sobbed, fresh tears overwhelming him. Clarence saw how terrified Leo was.
“I know you wouldn’t steal my cub Leo,” Clarence replied.
“I don’t know what would have happened if I hadn’t woken,” Leo sniffed, “It doesn’t bear thinking about!”
“Maybe Clarence would have imprisoned Portia?” Arki suggested. Leo screeched with fear!
“Oh no!” He wailed.
“You stupid idiot Arki!” Tigger remonstrated, “you’ve really torn it now!”
“Not Portia!” Leo begged, “Please, Not my cub!”
“Is Leo awake or is he going round the twist?” Brunetta asked.
“What I want to know is who’s cub the other lion cub is,” Brushtail said.
“Leo’s confused,” Clarence replied.
“You bet he is,” Arki said, “he’s rapidly losing it.”
“I think he’s lost it already,” Tilly remarked.
“Leo, Leo!” Clarence said sharply, smacking the larger lion’s paw with his, “are you awake?”
“I’m awake,” Leo sobbed, “just don’t hurt Portia, I beg you not to hurt Portia!” Clarence walloped Leo round the head with an open paw!
“Listen to me you bloody fool!” Clarence screamed, “you’d better snap out of this nonsense or I’ll really give you something to cry about! Now stop acting like a cub!”
“he’s as bad as Theodore,” Tolstuka said.
“I suppose being kept in a cage would drive anyone round the bend,” Brunetta said, “maybe Leo’s better at hiding his problems than Theo.”
Leo buried his face in his paws, his cheek stinging from Clarence’s slap.
“I always thought you were more tolerant than that Clarence,” snowy said.
“Inter species yes,” Clarence replied, “but not when another male lion is involved! At first I let it go, for we all are traumatised by our former lives, but now, now Leo should be sorting himself out!” Clarence looked with disgust at Leo.
“What! Is! Wrong! With! You! Leo!” Clarence yelled, rhythmically whacking Leo’s paws with his. Leo curled into a miserable heap, whimpering and mewing like a frightened cub.
“Now that’s totally uncalled for Clarence!” Tigger yelled.
“he’s a mess, a bloody mess Tigger!” Clarence shouted.
“And you weren’t when I met you?” Tigger replied, “Clarence, I remember you reacting in exactly the same way to your trauma as Leo is now to his. You are the most intolerant animal I’ve ever met!”
“I thought as Tembi was your cub Clarence,,” Leo mewed, “ when you realised she’d gone and then you found her with me, You’d want to take revenge on me for stealing your cub. I am a large male who’s come into your pride, and normally, the incoming males will try and drive off or eat the cubs of the other males to make sure they could mate with the females and make their genes successful. So I thought you would punish me by hurting my cub!” Leo mewed. Clarence suddenly felt very stupid. No wonder Leo had been so terrified, both in his dream and now. Now as upset as Leo, Clarence left the room as fast as he could.
Going downstairs, Clarence told Portia to go upstairs and see Leo, Portia only too glad to be told she could venture upstairs. Finding the room, Portia soon found her way to her sire’s side. Leo, feeling his cub’s familiar paw on his as well as catching her scent, gathered Portia to him, hugging her tightly. Portia knew her sire was upset about something, but didn’t know what could possibly upset him this much. She knew of his brother Theodore’s nervous disposition, for she’d felt the younger lion’s trembling paws, and now her sire’s paws were trembling like Theo’s had once done.
“What’s wrong Leo?” Portia asked, trying to stroke his huge left forepaw with her tiny one.
“It’s a dream he had,” Tilly replied, “it’s too long to go into, but the upshot was Leo thought Clarence would kill you as you and Leo had supposedly invaded his pride.”
“But Clarence’s a gentle lion, isn’t he? Have I got the wrong end of the stick about him? Will he try and kill me?” Portia asked.
“No he won’t try and kill you,” Tigger replied, “If Clarence even hints at it, I’ll give him such a walloping he’ll never consider anything ever again. It was just a huge misunderstanding between Clarence and Leo, that’s all Portia, you need not worry.”
Meanwhile, Clarence lay on the sofa, weeping as if his whole world had just fallen apart. How could he have forgotten how it was when he first came into the house. He was secure now, but back then he hadn’t known whether he would live or die. Clarence cursed himself fluently and out loud, banging the rug with his paws, making Isaac feel sick with the rocking motion set up by Clarence’s paws slamming into the sofa.
“Stop it Clarence!” Isaac said, “you’re making me feel ill!”
“I don’t like the words he’s using, they’re disgusting!” Tinka remarked. Consumed by his own misery, Clarence hardly heard their words.
It was only when Clarence stopped flailing about with his paws, that Ellie dared to go near him. When she lay down beside the sobbing lion, Ellie found herself taken in Clarence’s paws and hugged fiercely. Ellie soon learned what had taken place upstairs, and found herself feeling very sorry for Leo. Clarence hadn’t let the huge lion explain things, he’d just assumed he knew what was going on, and worse, Clarence had beaten Leo round his head and paws.
“You need to apologise to Leo,” Ellie said, “Clarence, you need to do it now, right now, no delay! What you have done is inexcusable! Leo was petrified after his dream, and you did nothing to reassure him, gave him no time to talk, to show his inner feelings. I’ve been talking to Tigger and,,,”
I know,” Clarence replied, “I know!”
“I will say my bit,” Ellie said, “I know how badly you took the memory of your time before you came here. I know Tigger spent hours letting you get things out of your system. The problem is that you forgot that you’d once been just like Leo is now. How would you feel if Tembi was in danger Clarence? Answer me that!” Clarence shook his head.
“I’d go as mad as Leo did,” he mumbled.
“Quite so,” Ellie replied, “so now Clarence, you have a lot of bridge mending to do, and the repair programme starts now!”
Meanwhile, back upstairs, Snowy, Portia, and Brushtail were trying to comfort Leo. Portia had heard of snowy from Leo, but had never until that day met her. The lion cub knew of Leo’s feelings towards Snowy Half tail, and told Snowy all about them. Leo looked down at his paws, embarrassed and fearful of Snowy’s reaction to Portia’s revelations.
“I wish you hadn’t told her Portia!” Leo snapped, rounding on his cub, “You’ve probably just lost me the only real friend I have in this place! I know it’s wrong to love a tigress, for I’m a lion, so I kept it under wraps!”
“No you didn’t,” snowy said laughing, “Leo, you all but told me yourself! I’ve known what your feelings were for me for ages. Portia’s just confirmed what I knew all along. Cubs are wonderful, for they tell it how it is.” Leo was still furious with Portia.
“Go away!” he yelled at her, “go on Portia, leave here! I don’t want to see you ever again! I’m disgusted with your behaviour!”
“Don’t say that Leo,” snowy mewed, crawling over to Portia and taking the now sobbing cub in her paws, “please don’t ever say that to your cub.” Leo knew how fragile the life of his cub was, for Portia had almost lost it once.
It happened one day in the zoo where he, Portia and Theo had lived for a short while. Portia, newborn then, had found her way into an overturned bucket left in their cage by one of the keepers. Finding the place to her liking, she’d gone to sleep in the bucket, only waking when the bucket rolled down a slight slope on which it was lying, and splashed into the pool at the bottom. Portia, being too small and too disorientated to get out in time, had almost drowned that day, Leo leaping in to scoop her out of the water.
Leo hugged Snowy tightly, Portia drying her eyes and laughing merrily as everything was confirmed to her.
“That’s lovely,” she said. Leo purred as Snowy stroked his paws. Portia smiled, nudging Snowy with her nose. Snowy smiled:
“You want your paws stroked too?” Snowy asked. Portia snuggled up to Snowy.
“I think that’s a yes,” Leo purred. Snowy, smiling broadly, left off stroking Leo’s paws for a moment to take Portia in her paws and hug her.
“Relax Portia cub,” Snowy said. Portia felt warmth spreading from her ears to her paws. Portia began to purr contentedly.
“This is wonderful!” the cub purred. Portia worked her paws into Snowy’s, pressing her pads against the snow tigress’s.
“Relax your paws Portia,” snowy said gently. Portia relaxed her paws, and things got better.
“I could sleep for a week,” the cub mewed. Snowy stroked Portia’s left hind paw.
“Settle down and sleep if you like,” she purred. Portia worked her paws into Snowy’s fur, snuggled closer to the snow tigress, and was soon sleeping peacefully.
“One very contented cub,” Snowy said to Leo, who smiled.
“I know I shouldn’t have said that about not wanting to see Portia ever again, that was a horrid thing to say, especially to her after what happened in the pool at our previous home.” Leo told snowy all about the episode with the abandoned bucket.
“I’m surprised she wasn’t killed,” Snowy said, “you say the bucket filled quickly with water?”
“It did,” Leo said, “I had to dive to rescue my cub.” Snowy looked at the tiny cub snuggled close to her.
“No wonder you went mad when you thought she was in danger,” Snowy said.
“I love my cub very much Snowy,” Leo choked, “Apart from Theo, she’s all I have in the world, and I nearly lost her! Portia’s mother died soon after giving birth to her. The keepers hand reared Portia, but it was clear to them whenever they took her away from me that I didn’t want her to leave, neither did Theo, but he was too nervous to put up much resistance. One day, I nearly attacked one of the keepers. I’d had enough of them, messing with Portia, as I saw it then. Now, having watched the bright box in the living room, I know they hand reared Portia, feeding her and such like. Snowy settled down to sleep.
“Leo,” she said, “I’m tired, I need to sleep.” Leo took Snowy’s left forepaw in his.
“Sleep well my sweet Snowy,” he said. Snowy wiggled the toes of her left forepaw, and Leo gently squeezed them.
“I can sleep properly now,” snowy murmured, “now I know my lion loves me, and he knows I love him and his tiny cub. I haven’t felt so good in ages.” Snowy closed her eyes, letting herself drift away.
Clarence watched all this, wondering if he and Ellie would ever be as contented. When Leo saw him, Clarence was greeted with unsheathed claws and hostile growling and snarling.
“Okay okay!” Clarence said, “I know I’m not flavour of the month at the moment,,”
At the moment?” Leo asked, “You don’t know the half of it Clarence! You said bad things here today!
“It was all a misunderstanding!” Clarence pleaded, “all that about me wanting to harm your cub n’all, that was your dream!”
“All that about me being mad, you smacking me round the head and beating on my paws!” Leo snarled, “that was totally unnecessary!”
“I know Leo, I know,” Clarence replied, his eyes downcast, “I should have listened to you. You were terrified.”
“We all have our problems, you included Clarence. I’ll give you one warning,” Leo said, “you hit me again for no reason, I will retaliate, and Clarence, look at me, what do you see? A lion who’s bigger than you, that’s what. I could suffocate you and hardly notice.” Clarence looked at Leo’s huge paws.
“Um, yes Leo, I’m sure you could,” Clarence said. Leo retracted his claws, raised a massive forepaw, curled and stretched his toes, then extended his claws.
“okay Leo!” Clarence whimpered. Leo placed his paw on the carpet, still snarling. Clarence turned and fled! Leo listened as Clarence’s paws thudded down the stairs. Leo turned and settled down beside Snowy. Tembi looked at the tigress and the other animals. She wanted to stay with them, but her loyalties were torn between her sire and her friends. Tembi decided she would hang about for a while and see what happened, and fell asleep soon after.
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