Ordinary goings on for once.

 

 

Little Arki woke slowly, the familiar feel of her mother and sire’s paws holding her own comforting her as she surfaced.  Opening her eyes, she saw Rowena, who’d fallen asleep in her den.  Smiling, Arki wriggled free of the comforting embrace of soft polar paws and crawled across to Rowena.  Embracing the lion in her huge paws, Arki curled up with Rowena, the white lioness stirring slightly and unconsciously pulling Arki close.  Arki fell asleep soon after.

 

Much later, Allie woke, saw her cub was no longer nestled between her and Sam’s bodies and tried hard not to freak out.  Looking round, twisting the toes of her forepaws together to calm her, Allie searched for her cub.  She spotted her, or thought she did, for the white bundle of fur in one corner looked like nothing she’d ever seen before.  Padding over to the bundle, Allie looked down at it and realised what it was.

      “Dear Rowena,” Allie thought, “she is kind to let Arki cuddle up with her.”  Allie touched Rowena’s nose with hers.

      “I love you both,” she whispered.  Rowena opened her eyes and looked at Allie.

       “You are so kind,” she mewed.  Allie massaged Rowena’s ears, the lioness purring contentedly.

      “Hey!”  Someone yelled, “Here are Rowena and little Arki!”  Little Nanuq and his sister came running into the room, cannoning into Allie and Rowena.  Rowena growled at the two cubs, biting her tongue as she was about to use very intemperate language towards them.

      “Get out of here!”  She snapped.  The bear cubs fled.

      “Who were they?”  Arki asked sleepily.

      “Little Brunetta and her brother Little Nanuq,” Rowena mewed.

     “You were angry with them,” Arki said shaking herself.

      “I was,” Rowena mewed, “because they disturbed my sleep.”  Allie watched Rowena and Arki.

      “Do I sense animosity towards those two?”  She asked.

     “No,” Rowena mewed, “but they are a bloody pain in the neck when you are trying to sleep and they come busting in.  Then is when I can’t stand them!”

       “Simba didn’t much like the boss stroking his paws yesterday did he mum,” Arki said to Allie.

      “No Arki he didn’t, or maybe he did, but didn’t want the human to realise he did.  Simba refuses to believe there are good humans in the world you see.  His mind is tainted by his first experience of the human race, and he takes no account of what we have here.”  Simba padded in then, saw the two polar bears and one lioness and smiled at them.

      “Hi,” he said, sitting down and beginning to lick his paws.  Allie looked at the white lion.

       “Did you make your peace with the boss?”  Little Arki asked.  Simba increased his concentration on his paws.

       “Answer her then,” Allie said.  Simba looked at the large cub.

      “I, I did, kind of,” he mewed, “very difficult it was, considering all things, you know?”  Arki smiled, crawled to Simba and embraced him, the white lion crying into her fur.

      “I’ve been so stupid over this!”  He sobbed.  Little Arki hugged the lion tightly.  Little Arki dried Simba’s eyes with tender paws.

      “Hi Simba, and you Rowena, and, um, little Arki?”  A voice said.  Arki turned and screamed!

       “It’s a hairy monster!”  Arki yelled.

     “No, that’s Leo,” Simba said, cuddling the cub.

      “Hi,” Leo mewed, the polar bear cub’s comments not concerning him.

     “Leo’s a lion cross bred cat,” Simba mewed.  Arki gulped hard, and crawled to Leo, touching his large hairy paw.

       “You are gentle really aren’t you,” Arki said.  Leo kissed her on her nose.

        “I won’t harm you,” the cross bred cat said rolling onto his side so he could hug the polar cub.

        “Come to me if you’d like,” he mewed.  Arki crawled towards him, Leo enfolding her in a huge feline hug.

       “You are as soft as fleur!”  Arki said surprised.

       “Fleur’s my mum,” he mewed.

      “But, but you look like a lion too,” she said.

     “My sire’s Samson,” Leo purred, “he’s the leader of this place, Simba’s deputy leader.”  Arki buried her face in Leo’s long mane, one of her paws holding Leo’s.

      “I think I like you,” she said softly.  Leo smiled and hugged her with his free paw.  Arki smiled with genuine pleasure.

      “Leo,” she said, “could, could I stroke your paws?”  Leo smiled:

     “If you can stand the sight of such big paws then yes, I’d love it if you did,” he mewed.  Arki smiled and began stroking Leo’s paws.  Leo was no longer little, so that prefix was dropped.  Leo mewed and purred as little Arki worked on his paws.

      “Where did you come from little Arki?”  Leo asked, “Wherever it was, you learned how to massage paws there, this is wonderful!”

       “I am miss clumsy paws two thousand and seven,” Little Arki said, “but I’m enjoying this hugely, and hope you are.”  Leo kissed her nose.

      “I am enjoying it very much,” Leo mewed, “please, don’t stop this!”  Arki laughed merrily.

      “I love this so much!”  She mewed.  Leo couldn’t wait to return little Arki’s massage.  Feeling the large cat’s need, Arki gave him one forepaw, then the other to stroke, then she settled down so he could stroke her hind paws.

      “These paws are massive!”  Leo mewed, “almost as big as Allie’s, and her paws are famous for being gigantic!”

     “It is true mums got bigger paws than Sam,” Arki replied, trying not to drift to sleep, “my paws might end up being as big as my mum’s.  Bjorn and bramble wandered in, saw Arki and dismissed her as just another polar bear cub, not realising that she was.

       “Whose cub is that?”  Bjorn said, waving his paw at Arki, “she’s enormous, but, but, well, she hasn’t been here long.  I might not be abreast of all events in the community, but I know that.”

      “Her name is Arki and she’s your sister Bjorn,” Leo said”

      “What’s that you mangy moggie?”  Bjorn snapped, for he hated Leo, and for no apparent reason it seemed.

       “I wish you wouldn’t call him that,” Bramble said irritably, “Leo’s got perfectly clean fur.”

      “Since when have you started examining this scruffy bugger’s fur?”  Bjorn asked.

     “Everyone knows he’s a frequent bather, just like his sire.  Leo’s fur is always squeaky clean.  Where some of us might go a few days without a bath or shower, Leo bathes every day.  His fur is always silky soft, his paw pads as soft as a cub’s.”  Bjorn stared at his mate.

       “How would you know how soft his paw pads are?”  He asked angrily.

       “You shut up,” Rowena snapped, “this is stupid talk and you dam well know it, so shut it!”  Simba growled deep in his throat, a warning to others that he was getting angry.

       “You two, please,” he said, “Bramble is quite within her rights, as is anyone, to stroke anyone else’s paws with consent.  You know this.  It is what separates us from other communities.  Now let’s just get on with each other.”  Bjorn spat at the white lion.

       “I still think Leo’s horrid!”  He grumbled.

       “I told you to shut it!”  Rowena snarled.

     “Oooh, big bad Rowena!”  Bjorn scoffed.

       “Stop this!”  Arki yelled, her own voice startling her, “this is so stupid!”  Allie, having watched all from where she’d been lying, suddenly got to her paws, padded up to Bjorn and belted him across his face with her paw.

      “Ouch!”  Bjorn yelled, falling on the floor.

       “Now will you shut your mouth?”  Allie yelled.  There was a sudden squeal from outside, and then raised voices echoed down the corridor, one screaming abuse of the most dreadful kind, and the other protesting and apologising at the same time.

       “What on earth is going on here?”  Simba yelled as he ran into the passage.

      “Tigger stepped on my paw!”  Nala yelled, “He’s heavy, and it hurt!  My toes might be broken now, and he says he’s blind, and I don’t believe him!”

         “firstly, you’re sounding like a cub,”  Simba replied, “until you can approach this without wining like a cub I’ll not talk about it, Tigger will go on his way and we’ll forget it ever happened.”  Nala spat at Tigger, who wiped his face with his paw where her saliva hit him.

      “Disgusting animal,” he growled.

        “Right,” Simba said, “letting that disgusting display pass, let’s discuss this.  Tigger is blind, he can’t see you Nala, and when he heard you coming, he probably moved out of your way to pass you on the opposite side, yes?”  Nala nodded.

      “But, but he trod on my paw!”  She whimpered.

      “Nala, I told you not to talk like a cub!”  Simba snapped.  Nala bit her tongue.

       “I will carry on,” Simba mewed, “which paw did he step on Nala?”  Nala raised her right forepaw.

      “This,” she started to say, but Simba cut her off.

      “No talking,” he said, “so Tigger hears you coming, and moves to pass you, but misjudges his path, and steps on your paw.”  Nala opened her mouth, closed it, and nodded.

       “Tigger can’t see you at all,” Simba said.  Nala stared at him, her eyes wide as saucers.

       “But how can an animal live without sight?”  She asked.

      “I do,” Tigger mewed, “and I’m big, rather fat, and very happy.”  Nala looked at him.

       “I’m sorry,” Nala said hesitantly.  Tigger placed his paw on hers, the lioness flinching away.

       “You knew where my paw was then though, didn’t you,” she said.

      “Yes,” Tigger mewed.  Tigger placed his paw on Nala’s.

       “Your paw is soft and warm!”  Nala said, surprise in her voice.

       “I have warm paws,” Tigger mewed, kissing Nala on her nose.

        “How did you know where my nose was, if you can’t see me?”  Nala mewed.

       “It was a bit of a guess,” Tigger mewed, “but I guessed right.”  Nala touched Tigger’s nose with her free paw, the tiger flinching away.

       “You couldn’t see my paw could you,” Nala said sadly.  Tigger shook his head.

       “I’m sorry,” she mewed again, kissing Tigger’s nose.  Tigger’s paw tightened on Nala’s, the lioness sniffing back tears.

       “I’ve got to go,” she choked, “must fly.”  She shook her paw free from Tigger’s and ran away.

       “I think we’ll let it go Tiggie,” Simba said.  Tigger smiled sadly.

      “One confused Lioness,” he mewed.  Arki crawled up to Tigger and tried to stand on her hind legs to embrace him with her forepaws.  Hearing her lose her footing and collapse with a squeal of pain and anger, Tigger helped Arki to her paws and then lay down, drawing her close.  Arki looked at the Bengal tiger.

       “You are so big!”  She exclaimed.  Tigger smiled:

      “You wait until you meet Hop along,” Tigger mewed, “he’s even bigger than me.”  Arki gently held Tigger’s massive paw in hers.

      “You have soft warm paws like Leo and fleur do,” she said.  Tigger smiled:

       “Fleur is my daughter cub,” he said.  Arki smiled broadly.

       “I knew it the minute our paws touched,” she said.

      “Following your paws at a very young age,” Tigger purred, “it’s nice to find that.”  Tigger embraced Arki tightly, the female polar bear cub snuggling hard up to him.

      “Nala didn’t much like it when you waded into her diatribe against Tigger,” Allie said to Simba.  Simba growled with anger.

       “No she didn’t, and who the hell does she think she is!  Tigger was trying to explain, trying to apologise, but Nala wouldn’t hear a word of it!  I know lions and tigers have historically not got along that well, but for Eohippus sake, Tigger’s the most inoffensive creature anyone could wish to meet!”

       “I think Nala’s now feeling very stupid indeed,” Allie replied.

       “And so she should be,” Simba said, “she’s only been here a week or so and she’s acting like she owns the dam place!”

 

Meanwhile, Nala lay in Petra’s lie up.  She was still upset by her encounter with Tigger.  It wasn’t so much that she’d come face to face with a tiger, but the fact she’d not listened to him and got soundly thumped for her folly without anyone raising a paw in anger.  In fact this wasn’t quite true, Nala could still feel the touch of Tigger’s paw on hers, and the sensation wouldn’t go away.  His paw had been soft with rough pads, but it wasn’t that which stayed with her as much as the message his paw conveyed to her.

       “One day you will understand me,” the tiger had said.  Nala felt Tigger was secure and happy in his life, where she thought he could not be.  Suddenly Nala felt a huge paw take hers and begin stroking it.  The paw was familiar.

       “I felt you thinking about me,” Tigger mewed.  Nala looked into the tiger’s sightless eyes, then dropped her gaze as she realised how useless that was.

       “I’m sorry, so sorry for what happened earlier,” Nala mumbled.  Tigger’s toes curled round hers and Nala felt the tiger’s pads stroking the fur on the top of her paw.

       “Do you think I would have come to you if you weren’t sorry?”  Tigger replied.  Nala found herself resting her head on the tiger’s shoulder.  Tigger didn’t seem to mind.  Indeed, he seemed to like it.

       “Your paw tells me a lot,” he mewed, “you’ve never met a blind tiger before, or any blind or disabled animal for that matter.  In the wild, where you come from, and I came from, there is no place for disabled creatures.”

       “Your paw told me you had cubs once,” Nala said.

      “I had cubs by a tigress, and one I still have, fleur, whose mother is a snow leopard.  My wild bred cubs though; they died because I couldn’t see enough to save them from hunters.”

      “Oh Tigger,” Nala said, appalled by his tale, “I’m so sorry!”

       “I heard them and their mother get shot by the hunters,” Tigger continued, his paw telling Nala he was grateful for her words, “I found my cubs dead in the grass after the hunters had taken their mother’s body away.  Two cubs there were, not three, I had three cubs.  I wandered for years looking for the cubs.  I met with a lion, Clarence, who lives here.  He and I are very good friends.  I wondered where my third cub had gone, what happened to him.  One night, I was having the same dreadful nightmare about the hunt and the shooting of my mate and cubs.  This nightmare ends with the scent of the lost cub lingering in the grass.  I knew he’d got away, but where to I did not know.  This nightmare still leaves me tearful,” Tigger said, wiping his eyes with his free paw.  “Well,” he continued, “My nightmare was ending and I woke, but the scent of the lost cub wouldn’t go away.  I freaked out because paws which smelt of my cub were holding me tightly.”

      “Your cub had returned,” Nala said.

      “Yes,” Tigger mewed, “you met him last night, and his name is Raja.”  Nala remembered Raja.

        “I’m sorry about your mate and cubs,” Nala said again, feeling awful.

       “If only I could have seen enough to save them,” Tigger mewed, very upset.

       “I sympathise Tigger,” Nala said, kissing his nose.

       “I must go now,” Tigger mewed.  Nala found her free paw reaching for Tigger’s paw which rested on her left fore.  Before she could stop them, her own toes were massaging Tigger’s in the same way his had hers.

       “That’s nice,” Tigger purred.  Nala started with surprise.

      “I’m so sorry!”  She said, withdrawing her paw.

       “I’m not,” Tigger mewed, “that was lovely.”  Nala looked up as snowy wandered in.

       “Hi Tigger, and you Nala,” Snowy said, padding towards them.  Nala glanced up, and then returned her head to rest on her paws.  Nala’s eyes were level with Snowy’s paws, and she watched them padding towards her.  Snowy saw this and raised a forepaw, wiggling her toes at Nala who grinned.

       “Your mind was thinking of another white cat and how you played with his paws earlier,” Snowy mewed.  Nala laughed:

      “Was it that obvious?”  She asked.

      “Yes,” Snowy replied, “but, well, I like my paws played with too.  Tigger does also.  In fact we all do here.”

       “Baingana was saying something about that,” Nala mewed.

      “It’s the way we communicate, by touch I mean,” snowy mewed, “here we all use our paws for more than just walking.”  Nala remarked that Snowy’s paws were the biggest she’d ever seen.  Snowy smiled, lay down and waved one of her forepaws at Nala.

     “Come and take a closer look,” she said, “or should that be come and get paws on with my paws if you’d like.”  Nala looked at Snowy’s face, the white Bengal tigress’s blue eyes looking kindly back at her.

       “Can I decline the invitation?”  Nala asked.  Snowy nodded.  Nala, ashamed to say she was scared, looked down at her paws.

         “I’d like to respectfully decline your offer,” she mewed faintly.  Snowy smiled:

      “That’s fine,” she said, “I understand.”  Snowy looked at Tigger, then got to her huge paws and padded over to him, leant down and whispered something into his ear.  Tigger looked mystified, then curious as Snowy lay down on his left, Nala being on his right.  Snowy lay on her side, her huge forepaws supporting her head and her hind outstretched behind her.

       “Put your paw on my belly Tigger and tell me what you feel,” snowy said.  Tigger did so, and he could hardly believe the evidence of his own paws.

       “You’re, you’re in cub!”  He mewed, “Snowy, dear snowy, you’re in cub!”  He exclaimed.

       “Yeah,” snowy said softly, “due to give birth in a few weeks.”  Tigger embraced Snowy tightly, the tigress purring and mewing with pleasure and contentment.  Nala didn’t know what to do or say.  Surely this was private stuff, or was it private here?

       “Congratulations,” she mewed, “but isn’t this private stuff?  Why tell Tigger now, and not when you’re alone in your den?”

       “The whole house is our den,” snowy mewed, “I told Tigger as soon as I could.  Now you know too.”

      “But, this, this, it’s usually family time this, and I’m not family,” Nala protested.

         “We don’t mind you knowing,” snowy purred, “let me tell you something Nala.  When Brunetta had her cubs, do you know who was there to witness the birth?”  Nala had heard of Brunetta’s cubbing, for the brown bear had met her in the kitchen and they’d got talking.  Nala knew the story and smiled:

      “Simba, Sam, Petra and a few others,” Nala replied, forgetting some of the names.  Snowy smiled:

      “My last cub was delivered with help from a cub who herself was only seven weeks old,” snowy mewed, “Fleur helped me deliver Bianca.”  Nala had spoken with fleur and Bianca.  Indeed, she found the white tigress very good company.

      “I didn’t know that,” she said, “how did the birth go?”

       “It was fine,” snowy mewed.  Tigger sighed heavily, remembering his anger at snowy for having her cub in the bathtub.

       “I wasn’t so calm,” he admitted, “I ranted at snowy for having her cub in the tub.”

       “A cub in the tub, how wonderful!”  Snowy laughed.

        “Oh ha ha,” Tigger said smiling.  Snowy got to her paws and started dancing on her toes:

       “A cub in the tub, a cub in the tub, I had my cub in the tub,” snowy chanted.  Nala bit her paw to stop herself from laughing, but couldn’t help herself.

      “You look so silly!”  She guffawed.  Tigger could not see the antics of his mate, so Nala told him.

      “Snowy got to her paws and began dancing on her toes!”  Nala said quickly, “she looked really funny!”

        “I heard the silly song,” Tigger said smiling, “all I hope is that we don’t have the cub in the tub this time.”

        “Water births are soothing things though,” snowy mewed, “it was great to have Bianca in the water.”  Fleur padded in and smiled at the group.

       “I remember Bianca’s birth,” she mewed, “I remember every last second of it.  Snowy padded over to fleur and hugged her.

       “Well,” she mewed, “you might be able to help me have more cubs.  I’m in cub again fleur.”  Fleur kissed Snowy’s nose.

       “That’s wonderful!”  Fleur mewed.  Snowy returned to Tigger, lay down and let the Bengal tiger take her paw.

        “You have nice warm paws Snowy,” Tigger purred.  He lifted Snowy’s paw and kissed the toes.  Snowy laughed merrily.

      “Do you remember Bianca’s birth?”  Snowy asked.  Tigger smiled:

      “I do, and I’m sorry for my conduct then,” Tigger replied.

      “Do you want me to help at the birth of our cubs?”  Tigger asked.

       “I would like you to,” she mewed, “I want you to be paws on with me and the cub.  I want you to feel me having the cub and the cub emerging into the world Tigger!  Feel me wriggling, feel my toes curling and stretching, feel my body tensing and relaxing, feel the cub emerging, touch my paws, my pads, my toes! Listen to me snarling and squealing, growling and panting.  I want you to hear and feel everything you can.  I want you to be part of the birth of our cubs Tigger!  Tigger knew fleur would help him prepare.

     “Thank you,” he mewed.  Snowy and Tigger massaged each other’s paws, both purring and mewing with pleasure.

 

Nala watched them, for it was clear they’d forgotten she was there.  Turning to fleur, Nala grinned, the funny furred cat smiling.

        “Let’s leave these two to it,” Nala suggested.  Fleur and Nala left the lie up, meeting Leo on route to Fleur’s bathroom, where Nala was to be bathed.

        “Hi Leo,” fleur said smiling, kissing her half grown cub on his nose.  Leo smiling broadly.

       “Who’s this?”  Nala asked.  Fleur grinned:

      “This is my cub Leo,” she mewed.  Nala looked at Leo, trying not to be too uncomplimentary about his coat.  Fleur looked unusual, but who was to blame for the long topcoat?

       “Hi Leo,” Nala said, cautiously taking the paw he offered in greeting.

       “Hello Nala,” he mewed.  Nala tried not to flinch away as the hairy paw rasped hers.  The Boss had got hold of clippers which the bears had used on Leo’s paws.  Nala could not look beyond Leo’s hairy miss matched coat and she thought he knew it.  He followed fleur to the bathtub where they both plunged Nala into the water.  Nala kept her eye on Leo, the cross bred cub shampooing her fur and paws.  Somehow she knew this was Fleur’s job, and because Nala herself hesitated in accepting Leo, fleur had let her cub work more closely with her.  Leo was gentle with the lioness, though she didn’t fully trust him, and Leo knew it.

      “It’s okay Nala dear,” Leo purred, “I won’t hurt you.”  Nala tried not to be frightened, but she couldn’t stop her paws from shaking.  Nala hadn’t felt so scared since Nuru had last attacked her.  Leo, feeling the lioness’s fear, got into the water with her and began to stroke her trembling paws.

       “You really are scared aren’t you Nala,” Leo mewed.  Nala knew that to lie would be stupid.

       “Yes,” she mewed pitifully.  Leo embraced her tightly, Nala whimpering with fear.

       “What can I do to make you realise I won’t hurt you?”  Leo purred.  Nala wriggled in his embrace, Leo letting her go.

       “Ah well,” Leo mewed, leaving the water, “I can’t connect with everyone.”

       “No, come back!”  Nala yelled.  She knew why she’d refused to let Leo connect with her, and it had nothing to do with his inner self.

       “Yes?”  Leo asked.

      “I’ve been stupid!”  Nala mewed, “come, wash me, for that’s what you do here isn’t it.”  Leo splashed into the water, swimming across to Nala.  Setting paw on her, he felt her flinch.

       “Say what’s on your mind,” Leo said.  Nala shook her head.

       “You would hate me for it,” she sniffed.

       “You don’t trust me because I don’t look trustworthy,” Leo said.  Nala looked down at her paws in shame.

       “Yes,” she mewed, getting ready to run for her life.  Leo looked so unhappy that Nala felt dreadful.

      “I might look a mess, but I’ve never done anyone any harm in my life!”  Leo sniffed.  Nala swam to the pool’s edge and clambered out of the water.  She was about to run when she saw she couldn’t, fleur blocked her path.

       “So you will trust me but not Leo?”  She asked.  Nala turned away, realising she was trapped.

      “You look okay, he doesn’t!”  Nala screamed.

        “I’ve got to go,” Leo sobbed.  Fleur stepped aside, while Nala wasn’t so quick, being flung aside by Leo, who was upset and angry.  Nala fell onto the floor in a heap of wet fur.

       “Screw you Nala!”  Leo yelled.  Fleur blinked with shock, but worse was to come.  Leo suddenly turned to Nala and used such disgusting language towards her that fleur nearly walloped him!  Leo’s paws skidded on the tiles as he fled.

       “I thought Tigger showed you how to follow your paws, Nala” fleur mewed.  Nala felt really bad now.  She ran after Leo.

      “No, Leo, I’m sorry, I forgot!”  Nala yelled.  Leo slowed, Nala colliding with him, both sprawling on the tiles, Leo catching her in his large paws.

       “I’m sorry Leo!”  Nala yelled, straight into the cross bred cat’s ear.

       “Show me,” Leo panted, “show me you’re sorry!”

      “How can I do that you stupid furball?”  Nala asked.  Leo kicked himself free from beneath Nala and stood up.

       “I don’t ask you to like me,” Leo mewed, “just to judge me as your paws, not your eyes find me.”  Nala closed her eyes and took Leo’s paw as she’d done when he’d first met her.

       “I feel you don’t mean me any harm,” Nala mewed, “I have been so silly over this.”  Leo shook his paw free of Nala’s.

        “You fought to find a white cub,” he mewed, “you risked your life to find a white cub, now you find him among others like him and you can’t cope.”  Leo said.  Nala knew what he meant.

       “Okay, I’ll, I’ll try!”  She whimpered.

      “I’ve suffered enough already!”  Leo snarled.  Fleur looked at her Son cub, wondering what the hell he was on about, and then she remembered.

       “I suppose it’s hard to forget your mum wanted to reject you when you were young,” she thought miserably.  Nala fought to put Leo’s appearance out of her mind, concentrating on what her paw was telling her.

      “I’m a cub when it comes to things like this,” Nala mewed.

      “Now let us go on from here,” Leo mewed, Kissing Nala’s nose, “come, touch me, and hold my paws in yours.”  Nala and Leo returned to the bath pool and plunged in.  Paddling about, the two cats often touched bodies, paws and noses, fleur watching them.

        “I’ll go I think,” fleur mewed, “I think I can leave you Nala in Leo’s capable paws?”  Nala smiled and nodded.  Leo and Nala played in the water, warmth growing between them.  You two look happy,” Theo mewed, padding into the bathroom.  Leo mischievously splashed the lion as he drew near.

      “Come in if you like Theo,” Leo invited.  Theo splashed into the bath tub, paddling towards Nala and Leo.  Nala reached out a paw and took Theo’s, her paw enfolding his.  For a male lion Theo had small paws, and this did not go unnoticed by Nala.  She looked at him, her eyes confirming what her paw was telling him.

        “Stop it you two!”  Leo laughed.  Theo and Nala jerked themselves out of their reverie.

       “We weren’t, were we?”  Nala asked.  Leo smiled:

       “You two were miles away,” he said.  Theo’s mind was in a spin.  He knew what Nala’s paw had told him, and this had been confirmed by the look in her eyes, not that it needed to be.  She was lonely as was he, and her paw holding his felt so warm and soft, despite her not yet having the benefit of the full wash.

       “Can I help bathe you Nala?”  Theo asked.  Leo laughed merrily.

       “I’ll leave you two to it,” he mewed.  Leo swam away to bathe alone.  Nala watched him go.

       “I was so silly about him,” she mewed.  Theo looked at Leo.

      “Leo’s lovely,” he said.  Nala looked at Theo, his paw held in her own felt wonderful, as if their paws had been made for each other.  Nala had never met a male lion like Theo before.  As far as she was concerned, all male lions were brutes that thought about, and did nothing but fight other males and impregnate their lionesses.  This male though, Theo, was different.  Very slowly, Theo and Nala explored each other’s bodies and minds, unlocking secret places, sharing stories sharing pleasure.  Theo told Nala about Petra and how he’d adopted her as his cub, Nala hardly surprised to find Theo was Petra’s adopted sire.

      “You and Petra are so much alike,” she mewed, “both gentle as gentle could be.  Now Theo, I wonder, would you please let me stay with you?”  Theo kissed her on her nose.

      “Yes Nala, of course,” he purred.  Nala buried her face in his mane, breathing in the scent of the oils and shampoos they’d used to wash their fur and paws.

       “Compatible minds and paws,” Theo remarked to Nala who hugged him hard.

 

Meanwhile, In Snowy’s lie up, Tigger and Snowy rubbed each other down.  Mewing and purring, Tigger worked his paws all over Snowy’s body, from her nose to her toes, missing nothing.  Snowy especially loved having her paws massaged, and let Tigger know it in no uncertain terms.  Tigger loved Snowy’s body, every inch of it, from her large ears, to her fat toes, which were longer than his, though not out of proportion to her paws.  Tigger felt the toes of Snowy’s right hind paw curl round his as he stroked her pads, her purring telling him she was enjoying his ministrations.

       “I must get used to this,” snowy mewed, “if you do me the honour of stroking my paws and being with me when I’m in labour.”  Tigger playfully tugged at the toes of the trapped paw, snowy massaging his toes with hers as she felt him playing with her paw.  Tigger kissed Snowy’s nose, paw pads and toes, the tigress laughing helplessly.

       “I love you Tigger!”  She mewed.  Tigger hugged snowy tightly.

        “I will do anything you want me to do to help you have these cubs,” Tigger mewed.

       “Do you remember how Bianca’s birth sounded?”  Snowy asked.  Tigger shook his head.

      “I was so angry I didn’t take much notice.”  He admitted.  Fleur padded in and grinned at the two tigers.

      “I can remember every last second,” she said, lying down beside Tigger.

        “Can you?”  Snowy asked, “How wonderful!  You see, I’ve forgotten the ins and outs of it.  Of course we didn’t have the cameras then, a pity really.”

       “I can even imitate the sound snowy made as she gave birth to Bianca,” fleur mewed, “I’ve been practising acting out a cubbing.”  Fleur suddenly smiled wolfishly:

        “I had Bianca believing I was having a cub until I’d been struggling with contractions and hadn’t given birth to one in over an hour.  She then got a bit suspicious and tickled my paws until I had to give up the performance.”

       “Arki’s been perfecting her cubbing act to show bears how cubbing is,” snowy mewed, “I’ve seen that.  Her act is scarily realistic!  You can hardly believe she’s not going to have a cub the way she carries on.”

      “From what I’ve heard, Arki loves play acting,” Tigger mewed.  Snowy grinned:

     “She does,” Snowy mewed, “she won’t give it up, even if you try to tell her she’s Bluffing, it just urges her to act more and more like she’s having a cub!”

       “That’s all well and good, but what if she really is having a cub one day and noone will know the difference between acting and the real thing,” fleur said.  Snowy suddenly shook herself out of her contemplation of Arki and Fleur’s acting abilities and sprang to her paws.

       “Fleur!”  She said excitedly, “did you know that we had a video of Leo’s birth?”  Fleur groaned with misery.

        “You want to remind me of that?”  She asked.

       “Well, it seems you want to be reminded,” snowy mewed, “what with you pretending to have a cub n’all,” snowy replied, “I thought you might want to see it.”

      “No,” fleur mewed, “for it would remind me of what I owe Simba, and I still don’t believe in his dreams.”

        “Maybe you will believe Simba’s dreams if I tell you about them?”  Rowena asked, padding into the lie up.  Fleur looked at the white lioness.

       “Not you!”  She said, now terrified.

       “So you do believe,” Rowena mewed, “you just don’t want to admit you believe.”  Fleur threw in the towel.

       “Yes Rowena,” she mewed, “I believe Simba had dreams and that they were about my cub.  The similarities between his version of my cub and mine scared me so much I denounced him.  Now I know who it was who saved mine and Leo’s lives.  The question is, will the video show Simba’s involvement. I couldn’t see him.”  Rowena smiled:

       “Watch it and find out,” she mewed.  Fleur looked at Rowena.

       “I’ve never seen this,” she mewed, “I didn’t even know a record of the birth of my cub existed.”  Rowena kissed Fleur’s nose.

       “It does,” she mewed, “and I’ve seen it.  You did wonderfully!”

       “No, I was a shit towards my cub,” fleur mewed.

       “I mean giving birth to your cub, it was a hard fight,” Rowena mewed.

       “Let me see the video,” fleur said.  So she watched it, the toes on all four paws curling involuntarily as she watched her own struggle to birth her cub and survive all over again.  When it came to her falling in the water, fleur covered her eyes with her paws.

       “There’s Simba,” snowy mewed, “helping fleur from the water.”  Fleur peeped at the action from between the toes of one forepaw.  She saw herself giving birth to Leo, Simba cradling her head in his paws while he lay on the tiles.  She saw herself being violently sick, and then straining hard to deliver Leo.  Once the cub was born, Fleur could watch no more, for tears of rage at her own conduct blurred her vision.  Fleur felt wretched, her remorse deeper than she ever knew it could be.  Fleur wanted to apologise to Leo, give her life to him to do with what he would.  Fleur would have gladly let Leo rip her to pieces if he’d wanted to, for she felt this was what she deserved.  A fresh look at her own wicked words and disgraceful and horrid actions towards a defenceless cub sickened fleur to her stomach.

      “I’m so sorry Leo!”  Fleur thought miserably, “I’m not surprised you can’t forgive let alone forget.  How can I show how sorry I am for what I said and did to you?  Show me dear cub, I’ll do anything!”  Fleur, now crying, tried to get to her paws to run to Leo, but felt a paw gently take one of her forepaws.  Then she felt something large and hairy

Cuddle up to her, something with big, no, huge paws.

        “I’m yours to do with what you will Leo,” Fleur mewed, “for I deserve no sympathy what so ever.”  Leo could feel his mum was ready to die if he wished her to.

        “Tell me everything,” Leo mewed, “everything you felt, everything you wanted to do to me mum,” Leo mewed.  Fleur told him everything, from her first dream about him, to Simba pleading for his life and beyond.

        “I saw a horrid cub,” fleur sobbed, “I didn’t take the time to explore the cub inside the coat.  I wanted to kill the apparition in front of me!  I was fine when it came to the cubs of other cats and bears looking strange, but I couldn’t cope with mine looking that way.  Now, Now, I know I was wrong.  Even though I know I am wrong, and I am remorseful and would give anything to try and rebuild your trust Leo, I would quite understand if you killed me here and now for my crimes towards you.”

       “No,” Tigger sobbed, “she can’t mean it; fleur can’t let Leo kill her!”

       “If she wants to,” Rowena said, “for fleur wanted to kill him.”  Tigger screamed with pain.

       “I can’t cope with this!”  He yelled.  Fleur and Leo ignored him, as did everyone else.  This was fleur and Leo’s business, noone else had any right to set paw anywhere near their affairs.

       “I won’t kill you mum,” Leo whispered to fleur, “For I know you are truly remorseful and will do anything to try and repair our relationship.  That was why I came to you here, I know how you feel now is genuine.  You’ve been feeling this way for a long time, and seeing the video of my birth crystallised this feeling into action.  Now you can express your feelings to me without hesitation.  Now mum, take my paw in yours, and tell me what you want to do.”  Fleur took Leo’s paw in hers, enfolding it in both her forepaws, feeling his pads and toes.

        “I want to hug my cub,” she mewed, “I want to show him I love him dearly and that I would never hurt him.”

       “Show me then mum,” Leo begged, he began to cry, “love me mum, please!”  He sobbed.  Fleur took her now half grown cub in her paws and hugged him for a long time.  Both knew this was different to all the other times she’d hugged him, for this time she loved him with all she had.

       “Let’s go on from here mum,” Leo mewed.  Fleur kissed his nose and forepaws.

      “Yes let’s do that,” she mewed.  Leo kissed his mum on her nose.

       “Let’s not speak of what is past,” he said.  Fleur nodded, still crying.

       “Tell me you didn’t want to die fleur,” Tigger begged, “Tell me you weren’t serious about letting Leo take your life if he wished!”

      “I can’t answer that one,” Fleur mewed.  Tigger knew what she meant and buried his face in Snowy’s fur, weeping inconsolably.

       “Why do you hold your life so cheaply!”  Tigger yelled.

      “Because I held the life of another cheaper still,” fleur mewed, “and for this, it was only right for me to give my life into Leo’s paws to do with what he wished.”  Tigger snarled with anger and went to slap fleur, snowy stopping him.

       “Her life is her own Tiggie,” snowy mewed, “and you will never understand why she did what she did.  Fleur felt it necessary to do what she’s done today.”

      “But what about me!”  Tigger choked, “didn’t she take into account for one second how her death at the paws of her cub would affect me, or anyone else?”

       “Why should she not die when she nearly took the life of her own cub,” snowy mewed, “Fleur’s intentions were serious.  Tigger, this is not your business.  As much as you love your daughter cub, it’s her life, her choice.  And I for one know fleur holds life dear, if she didn’t she wouldn’t have offered her own life to her cub.  Do not talk to fleur or Leo about this, for it is their business and theirs alone.”  Tigger got up and walked out.  When he was half way down the passage he screamed with pain and anguish.

        “How could you even consider it fleur!”  He screamed at the walls.  Kodiak suddenly exploded out of his and Arki’s lie up!

      “Arki’s having a cub, or it seems that way!”  He gasped.  Tigger swore and ran into the lie up.  He heard Arki moving restlessly and groaning with discomfort.

       “Give it up Arki!”  Tigger snapped, “I’ve got no time for you to be play acting!”  He struck Arki with his paw, the polar bear snarling with anger and whacking him in return.

         “I’m having a cub!”  She yelled, her teeth clenched and toes curled as another contraction built in her.  Fleur ran in, saw Arki lying on her side, her paws tangled in the rug she lay on as she struggled with her labour pain, and ran out again.

       “You’re bluffing!”  Tigger yelled at Arki.  Arki suddenly grabbed Tigger and crushed him in a huge hug.  The tiger, disgusted, struggled to free himself.

      “Let go!”  He snarled.  Arki puffed and panted hard.

      “I’m having a cub!”  She moaned.

      “No you’re not!”  Tigger yelled, swiping at her face with a deadly forepaw.  Arki, perceiving a real threat, stopped her play acting.

        “I was really getting into as well,” she spat, “you wet blanket Tigger!”

       “I was completely taken in!”  Kodiak yelled.  He was astonished by Arki’s acting ability, as well as relieved she was okay.

       “How will we tell the difference between a real cubbing and a staged one?”  Fleur asked, padding in with Leo.

       “We’ll have to arrange a code word,” Leo said, “but I’m interested to see this acting for myself, how does it work?”  Fleur smiled:

       “Its real fun,” she mewed, “I love acting out a cubbing.”  Leo looked at her.

       “I know how cats have cubs, but how do bears have cubs?”  Leo asked.

      “You mean you’ve never watched the births of Allie’s cubs?”  Arki asked.

      “No I haven’t seen that,” Leo mewed.

      “Want me to show you how a cubbing is for a bear?”  Arki asked.  Tigger growled deep in his throat.

      “I don’t know what you see in that,” he grumbled.

      “It’s challenging, and also a lot of fun,” Arki replied.

       “It’s dirty tricks to get attention,” Tigger snapped.

       “Arki pretending to have a cub helped me have my cubs,” Brunetta said, padding into the room, “Leo, come to my lie up, where Arki and I will show you how a bear gives birth to her cubs.”

       “We’ll let him get paws on too,” Arki said, “let him experience the cubbing with us.”  Brunetta smiled:

     “Sounds great,” she replied.

      “No it doesn’t!”  Tigger snarled, “I got grabbed by Arki and she almost crushed me!”

      “That’s what happens if you’re the closest thing to paw when a bear has a massive contraction,” Brunetta replied.  Tigger spat at her.

       “Are you ready to get paws on with a bear?”  Arki asked.

        “How paws on is acceptable?”  Leo asked.

      “We’d let you catch the cubs if we were having them for real,” Brunetta said.

      “We?”  Leo asked, “Am I going to see two cubbings?”

       “Yes,” Arki replied, “I’m teaching Brunetta a few tricks of the trade.  She’s quite good at acting now.  She was scared to let herself go with things at first, but now she’s fine.”

       “Shuang is also getting into the training so she can help Weici and other females when they have their cubs,” Arki said, “Shen is furious!  But Shuang wanted to do it.  She’s almost as expressive when she gets going as you are Brunetta.”

      “So acting out a cubbing isn’t a strict script then,” Leo asked, “it’s fluid, you can do what you like pretty much?”

       “Yes,” Brunetta replied, “the more paw contact there is though, the better it is.”

      “the better for you you mean,”  Arki laughed, “did you know Leo,”  Arki said turning to him, “the main reason why Brunetta chose to learn how to act out a cubbing convincingly was so she could get chances to stroke her own paws regularly.”

      “I don’t need an excuse,” Leo admitted, “I like stroking my paws for fun.”

      “So do we all,” Brunetta replied, “Now, I feel a cub’s on its way into the world.”  Arki grinned at the brown bear.

 

Leo and Brunetta left for Brunetta’s lie up, Arki following.  Tigger cursed them fluently under his breath, but they heard every word.

       “What’s eating him?”  Arki asked.

      “Mum and I had a little talk,” Leo replied, “It upset Tigger a great deal.”

       “Tigger can’t stop fleur talking to her cub,” Brunetta said.

      “No, it wasn’t the fact of mum talking to me, it was what she had to say and the opportunity she gave me that upset Tigger,” Leo replied.

       “What could be so awful that he’d be using those words about us,” Arki asked.  Leo shook his head.

       “Confidential,” he said, “not much is here, but that is between me, mum and Snowy, who was there but will say nothing, and Tigger certainly won’t talk.”  Arki nodded, leaving the subject alone.

 

Padding to Allie’s lie up, the two bears and one cross bred big cat found Allie, Sam and Little Arki playing together

            “Hey it’s big Arki!”  Little Arki whooped, ambushing her larger namesake.  Big Arki smiled, rolling the cub over and tickling her belly and paws, to Little Arki’s delight.  Leo, Sam, Allie and Brunetta watched Arki and Little Arki’s play.

       “Those two are having a lot of fun aren’t they,” Brunetta remarked.  Allie smiled at her.

        “Brunetta,” she said, “have you any idea why my Arki was three weeks overdue?”  Brunetta stared at Allie.

       “I don’t know,” she replied, “and why ask me anyway?  Surely it should be Theo you are asking, if anyone could know why Little Arki was born late, he would know.”

 

Meanwhile, Theo and Nala lay together in Theo’s lie up, Nala massaging Theo’s paws, which she’d been doing for a long time now.  She loved everything about Theo, from his face, those gentle eyes seeming to enfold her in warmth, to his soft mane and coat, to his huge lovable, rather cubbish paws.  Nala’s paws were fat like Theo’s, her paw compatible with his, her pads and toes working over his.

       “I love you Theo,” Nala mewed, gently massaging his right hind paw as the lion lay on his side.

        “I love you too Nala,” Theo mewed, “and I can hardly wait to massage your paws like you’ve been doing for mine.”  Nala smiled:

       “I love what I’m doing, that’s why I’ve not let you have control of your paws for a long time now.”  Theo curled the toes of his right hind paw; feeling the toes of Nala’s left forepaw caught in his.  Smiling, he gently squeezed her toes in his.  Nala leant forward and kissed his nose.

       “Do you have any idea why Allie’s cub was born later than she should have been?”  Nala asked Theo.  Theo shook his head.

      “No Idea,” he replied, “I know how Eohippus controlled her entry into the world.”

       “Allie said she had to push long and hard to deliver her cub,” Nala mewed.  Theo nodded.

       “Cubs?”  Theo asked.  Nala smiled, for she knew he’d felt her intentions.

       “If you want to,” she mewed, “for I want to.”  Theo kissed her nose and the toes of her forepaws.  Nala laughed merrily.

       “I will look forward to giving birth to and then looking after your cubs,” Nala mewed.  Theo kissed her nose once again.  Nala raised her left forepaw, Theo kissing the pinkie black pads on the sole of her paw.  Nala smiled.

       “Could I help you look after our cubs?”  Theo asked.  Nala looked confused.

       “But male lions, well, Theo, they just don’t do that!”  She replied.  Theo looked devastated.

      “You mean you have done this in the past?”  Nala asked.  Theo swallowed hard.

       “Yes,” he mewed softly, “please Nala.”  Nala looked into Theo’s face.

        “I forget how this community works,” she mewed, “everyone lends a helping paw, from the sire of the cubs, right to a tiger who had no part in the birth of the cubs.  Yes Theo, please help,” she mewed.

       “Let me show you a video of another regular occurrence you might find strange,” Theo mewed.  Nala smiled and took his paw.

      “Show me,” she mewed.  Theo padded to a wall phone, picked it up and got in touch with the control room.

        “Hop along, could you put the video of Rowena’s birth on the presenter in my lie up?”  Theo asked, “Thanks.”

        “Watch this Nala,” Theo mewed.  Nala watched with wrapped attention as the video of Sarafina’s labour and Rowena’s birth was played.  She saw how Theo helped Sarafina, and also how Petra helped Rowena.   

    “That was wonderful!”  Nala mewed, “yes Theo, yes, yes!  You can help me with the births of my cubs!  I didn’t realise this was how you worked.  I want to have the cubs now, right now!”  Theo laughed merrily.

       “You have to get pregnant before you can have your cubs,” he mewed.  Nala suddenly moaned and clenched her teeth, her toes gripping the rug.

      “I’m having a cub!”  She yelled.  Panting hard.  Theo playfully smacked her shoulder with his paw.

      “Stop it,” he mewed.  Nala moaned with pain and then rolled onto her side, her paws reaching for Theo.  He let her take him in her paws and hug him tightly.

       “Let’s have cubs,” Nala purred.

 

Meanwhile, back in Allie’s lie up, Allie and Brunetta sat on the rug, each massaging the other’s paws.  Brunetta enjoyed paw massage hugely, as Allie knew and was finding out afresh as the female brown bear’s toes curled round hers as she stroked her pads.

       “Are you enjoying your paw massage?”  Allie asked Brunetta.

       “Enjoying it?”  Brunetta mewed, the toes of her right hind paw curling round those of Allie’s left hind as the polar bear used it to stroke her pads, “I am loving it Allie, absolutely loving it!”

        “I am enjoying massaging your paws Brunetta,” Allie replied, “You have big soft, very warm and strokable paws.  You also can express your feelings with your paws, and I love that.”  Brunetta had shown Allie how, by using a mirror, she could see her own hind paws while stroking them; Which Allie had been impressed with.”  Now Allie was determined to describe Brunetta’s paws to her, tracing her pads and toes with her own toes.  Allie began tracing the pads and toes of the female brown bear’s right forepaw with her left, while she held it in her right fore.

      “Your right forepaw has brown fur on the top, with pinkie pads on the sole and toes.  You have rough pads, but they are soft and I feel can be gentle too.  Your toes can be powerful, but gentle also.  I like your paws; they are large and very lovely.”  Brunetta smiled.

       “I love hearing things about my paws,” she purred.  Allie smiled at Brunetta and kissed the pads of the paw she held.  Brunetta loved playing with her own paws, sometimes overdosing on paw massage until her paw pads could hardly register sensation.”  Now she sat with Allie, the Polar bear’s hind paws touching Brunetta’s, her toes curling round Brunetta’s, the female brown bear smiling as she felt Allie’s paw pads touching her own.

       “I love this,” Brunetta sighed, “paw touching paw feels so good!”  Allie smiled.

       “”Can I stroke your other three paws too?”  Allie asked.  Brunetta smiled.

       “You only have to find my paws,” Brunetta said.  Allie rubbed the soles of Brunetta’s hind paws one by one with her own hind paws, her toes massaging those of the brown bear.  Brunetta smiled and shook her hind paws free, taking the toes of Allie’s hind paws in hers and returning her massage.

       “We could play with our paws for a long time Allie,” Brunetta said.  Allie smiled.

 

Across the lie up, Arki and Little Arki played together, Arki stroking the cub’s paws, and little Arki stroking hers.  Both Arki and little Arki traced each other’s paw pads and toes with gentle care.  Little Arki tickled her larger friend’s paws, Arki loving every minute of the cub’s attention.

       “Stop using me like a climbing frame!”  Arki laughed, as little Arki continued tickling her belly and paws.  Arki wriggled and squirmed, pressing her paws into Little Arki’s, the cub smiling as she felt the pressure from the older bear’s paws.  Arki sat up from where she was lying, Little Arki now sitting in the space between older Arki’s hind legs.  Smiling, Little Arki reached forward with both forepaws and took hold of older Arki’s left hind paw, the female polar bear pressing her left hind paw hard against the cub’s forepaws which held her paw tightly.  Little Arki, her back to larger Arki, concentrated on pulling back hard against Arki’s paw, the female polar bear wiggling her toes and pressing her pads hard against the cub’s smaller pads and toes which were restraining her paw.  Exhausted from pressing her pads against little Arki’s while the cub pulled hard against her pressure, Arki relaxed, reaching forward to where little Arki sat in the space between her hind legs, the cub now gripping her right hind paw in both her forepaws.  Arki wiggled her toes, Little Arki smiling and letting go of larger Arki’s hind paw as the older bear’s forepaws enfolded her and lifted her up, turning her in soft warm paws.  Little Arki ascended as if in a lift, her eyes soon level with her older friend’s.  Arki kissed little Arki’s nose, the cub returning her kiss.

       “I love you Little Arki,” Arki said.

      “You didn’t mind me holding your hind paws with my fore did you?”  Little Arki asked.  Arki smiled and shook her head.

       “I loved every minute,” she replied.

       “What are you two up to?”  Sam asked, padding over to Arki and his cub.

       “I’m playing with Arki’s paws,” little Arki replied.  Sam grinned:

       “The question is, does she mind you playing with her paws?”  He asked.  Little Arki looked scared, glancing at her friend.

       “I would be sad if you stopped her playing with my paws,” Arki said.  Sam smiled at Arki.

        “I won’t,” he said softly.  Arki let little Arki go, the cub crawling to her sire and trying to lift one of his forepaws.  Sam grinned down at his cub and lifted his paw.

        “Stroke it if you like,” he said softly.  Little Arki did, Sam closing his eyes in bliss.

        “I think Sam likes that little Arki,” Arki said.  The cub let go of Sam’s paw and tried to get to her own paws.  She made it half way, and then her legs collapsed, Little Arki landing in a helplessly laughing heap.  Sam smiled, lay down and took little Arki in his paws.

        “I love you so much!”  He said to the cub, Little Arki snuggling close.

 

They were disturbed by Nala and Theo who padded into their lie up.

       “Hi!”  Allie said, caught in the act of stroking Brunetta’s right forepaw for the thousandth time.  Theo, catching onto the situation, smiled and padded over to Allie.

        “You two look contented,” he mewed.

       “We are,” Allie replied.  Brunetta, almost comatose with the affects of the hour and a half long paw massage, murmured that she was content, very content.  Brunetta, her paws feeding exquisite sensations to her brain, lay down and curled up while still letting Allie have access to her paws.  Theo looked at his mate.

       “I think I would like to stroke your paws Nala,” he mewed.  Nala smiled.

      “My paws want to be stroked,” she mewed.

     “Hey Theo, Theo!”  Little Arki yelled, “let me tell you about the game me and Arki played!”  Sam shook his head, gently covering Arki’s mouth with his paw.

       “I’m sure he doesn’t want to hear about that,” Sam said.  Theo looked annoyed.  Sam smiled at the lion, confident the big cat’s anger was not directed at his cub.  Theo padded across to Sam and whacked him with his paw.  Sam shocked and confused.

       “You weren’t angry with Arki?”  Sam asked.  Theo growled his anger.

      “No,” he replied, “my anger is with you!  How dare you cover your cub’s mouth with your paw!  She can talk for herself!  Let her tell me of her game!”  Sam flinched as his cub wriggled free and crawled towards Theo, who lay down and drew her close.  Little Arki snuggled up to Theo and told him of the game while enjoying his hug.

       “You can stroke my paws if you want,” she said, playfully dabbing at his nose with her paw.  Theo snarled with mock anger and playfully took the cub’s paw in his teeth.  Little Arki could feel the love for her radiating from this big cat, and she knew he wouldn’t bite her paw.

       “I like you Theo,” she said.  Theo released the cub’s paw, and then kissed her nose.  Arki rolled onto her back; Theo kissing the pads on the soles of the cub’s offered paws.  Arki laughed merrily.

      “I love having my paws touched, stroked and kissed.”  Arki said.  Theo purred contentedly, Arki letting him stroke and massage her paws.  Little Arki wriggled and reached for Theo with her forepaws.

      “Stroke my paws, explore them, kiss them, embrace them, and cuddle me Theo!”  Little Arki begged.  Theo embraced the cub with his fore and hind paws, loving her with everything he had.  Sam and older Arki watched Theo, knowing of his love for bears.

        “Love her Theo,” Sam choked, “give little Arki all the love you have for our kind.”  Theo ran his paws all over the female polar bear cub’s body; little Arki closing her eyes and letting her body tell her where Theo’s paws were.  Older Arki watched her younger namesake’s massage and wanted some for herself.

      “Theo, would you please stroke my paws like you are doing for little Arki?”  Theo smiled and looked up at the larger polar bear.

       “I will,” he mewed.

       “Maybe I can help,” Leo said, padding into Arki’s line of sight.

       “Why not,” Arki said, “show me what you can do Leo.”  Leo smiled and crawled to Arki’s side, the large polar bear watching him.

       “How can I describe paw massage other than pure pleasure,” Arki said as Leo’s large paws took hold of her right forepaw.

      “Your paws are lovely!”  Arki said, shaking her paw free of Leo’s and taking hold of his.  Leo smiled as he felt the female polar bear’s paw engulf his.

        “I love you Leo!”  Arki said.  Leo gulped hard, for he knew she meant every word.

       “Thank you,” he whispered, “thank you Arki!”  Arki kissed his nose, and then lifted the paw she held and kissed the toes of that paw too.

       “I’m losing control!”  Leo thought, tears almost choking him.

         “Ever had a real bear hug?”  Arki asked.

      “No,” Leo mewed, fearing his control was about to break.  Arki smiled, enfolding the hairy big cat in her forepaws before settling onto her back, gathering him to her as she would her own cub.  Arki then rolled onto her side and curled round Leo, enveloping him in sweet smelling, very warm, very soft fur.  Leo felt himself enclosed in endless warmth, and the feeling was wonderful!

        “I’m gong to lose it!”  Leo thought, feeling tears drowning him, “I can’t stop it!”  Arki held Leo tenderly, her paws seeming to wrap the young cross bred cat in warmth from his nose to his toes, Leo crying openly.  Sensing his mood, Arki gently wiped his eyes with her paw, Leo snuggling hard into her embrace.  Leo realised Arki loved him deeply and completely when she had no reason to do so.  Arki loved Leo from his long topcoat to the spotted soles of his muddy brown paws, and deeper too, much deeper.  Leo could feel Arki loved him from his coat to his core.

       “Why Arki, why love a scruffy big cat,” Leo silently asked her.

       “Do I need a reason?”  Arki replied, her paws tightening round him.  Leo breathed in Arki’s scent, his paws sinking into her luxuriously thick fur.

        “Just relax and enjoy the ride,” Arki’s touch said.  Leo relaxed and gave up analysing reasons why a polar bear should love him, accepting that she did, and he loved her.

 

meanwhile, Little Arki and Theo were playing, the polar bear cub demonstrating to the lion as best she could how she and Arki had played together, Theo smiling as the cub tried to show him how they played their game.

      “That sounds a great game,” he mewed.  Little Arki waved her paws at Theo, the lion making the cub squeal with laughter by tickling her pads and toes.

       Theo loves bears,” Brunetta said from where she sat beside Allie, who was still stroking her paws.  Theo grinned at little Arki.

       “I love your paws touching mine!”  The cub yelled, “Theo, are you sure you haven’t got a bear’s paws?”  Theo looked down at his paws; they were definitely leonine, if a little fat.

      “No,” he mewed, “I’m a lion through and through.  Though don’t for one minute think I haven’t dreamt of being a bear.”

       “Ah, how sweet!”  Little Arki said, rolling into a sitting position and reaching forward to hug Theo, “Theo wants to be a bear!”  Theo let the cub hug him.

       “Have you seen the video of my birth?”  Little Arki asked.  Theo shook his head.

       “I was patrolling that day, so I missed a lot,” he said, “and I haven’t had time to view the videos.”  Little Arki smiled.

       “Would you like to see it?”  She asked.  Theo nodded.  Little Arki crawled to her mother’s side and spoke to her, Allie smiling and hugging her cub.

       “Go on then,” she said, “show him the video.”  Excited, little Arki crawled back to Theo, grabbed his paw and tugged him to a video screen.

 

Theo and little Arki watched Allie giving birth to little Arki.  Theo was impressed at how calm Allie and Sam were.  Little Arki watched as Allie gently pushed her into the outside world.

       “Being born was strange,” the cub said, “I was all hot and slippery, and my whole body kept getting crushed!  I could hear mum whimpering and moaning with pain too!  I tried to keep still, but that didn’t help her much.  I know I couldn’t have done anything more for her, and that Sam was the one who really helped her.”  Theo listened to the cub’s words, unconsciously taking her paw in his.

      “Don’t blame yourself for your mum’s discomfort during your birth,” he said gently.  Little Arki watched the screen as her hind paws slid free, Sam catching her.

         “No, I don’t,” she replied, “but I was aware of everything.  I remember it all Theo!  I’m not scared by it, just fascinated.  Theo began to stroke the pads and toes of Little Arki’s left forepaw, the cub snuggling close.

        “I like that,” she whispered, “I like it when you play with my paws Theo.”  Theo smiled.

       “I didn’t even know I was playing with your paw,” he mewed, ~”do you want me to stop?”

        “No, oh no, don’t!”  The cub said quickly, “I like it, it’s nice.”

       “You have soft warm fur on the sole of your paw,” Theo said, “your pads are warm and slightly rough and leathery to the touch.”

      “your paw pads feel the same to my paws as mine do to yours, though your paw pads are smoother than mine,”  Little Arki said, “I think Sam’s and mum’s pads are the same as mine, rough that is.  I think it’s a polar bear thing.”  Theo nodded.  He knew it was.  He knew the polar bear’s paw pads have rough surfaces from cubhood so the bear could walk across ice and snow without slipping.

        “Do you like my paws?”  Little Arki asked.  Theo smiled and nodded.

        “I love your paws, and I love you,” he said, kissing her nose.  The polar bear cub returned his kiss.

       “I like your paws too, because, because they are soft and warm, but not only that.  I like your paws because they are the key to a cub, a big bear cub!”  Little Arki said, “You wanted to be a bear long before you knew you liked them,” the cub said, “I know this.”  Theo grinned:

        “I’m an honorary bear cub then?”  He asked.  Little Arki smiled and nodded.  Nala watched and listened to everything, smiling at the talk between the lion and polar bear cub.

        “No wonder Theo’s so good at helping mothers have their cubs,” she said, “he wanted to be a bear in a former life, so his paws are as gentle as a bear’s.”  Nala kept reliving the video of Rowena’s birth, marvelling at how gentle Theo and Petra were, the lioness and her sire were more than gentle with Sarafina and her cub, and Nala was looking forward to having her own cubs without fear this time.  Giving birth to Baingana was scary and unpleasant because of that.  Now Nala wanted nothing more than to go into labour in a safe place where she could concentrate on the birth of her cubs rather than looking for enemies between contractions.  Nala remembered both she and Baingana were hot sweaty messes by the end of her labour, both covered in birth fluid.  For Nala had curled her body round so she could catch her cub in her paws, getting her paws drenched with fluid as her water broke.  Nala had then endured labour curled up, pushing and squeezing as best she could so she could catch her cub, which she’d almost torn from her own body as soon as she could get hold of it.  Nala had pulled Baingana into the world, pushing as strongly as she could at the same time while pulling at the cub’s tiny body.  Nala wanted the labour over with, and didn’t care if she got covered in fluid from nose to tail.  Nala remembered rolling about from time to time during difficult moments, her body and paws soaked with sweat and birth fluid.  Then she’d curled up, got hold of the cub which was a little further along, and begun tugging and worrying at it as she strained to deliver it.  Nala didn’t want to deliver another cub that way again.  She was sure what she’d done was counter productive, but she was a scared first time mother.

        “Nala,” Theo said, taking her paw in his, “your cubbing will be fine my dear sweet lioness.”  Nala wasn’t surprised her mate had read her thoughts.

       “Baingana’s birth was awful,” Nala mewed.

       “I can see it was,” Theo purred, “but the births of our cubs won’t be like that at all Nala.  You won’t have to force your cub into the world.”  Nala looked at the now ended video.

       “Allie had to,” she said.

       “Little Arki was a large cub,” Theo mewed, “and Allie’s labour, despite all her moaning and panting, was strenuous, but not exhausting.  Allie managed it well.”

       “I’ll never forget it,” Allie said, “Your birth was wonderful Little Arki.”  The cub smiled.

        “I love watching the video,” the cub said, “I can see the love you and Sam feel for each other and me.  I can almost feel it, I know it sounds strange, but I could then too, while I was being born.  I knew I would be okay.”  Allie wiped her eyes with her paw.

        “Deep down I knew you would too,” she choked, “I knew we all would be fine.”  Little Arki crawled to her mum, Allie sitting down and gathering her close.

       “I love you mum,” the cub said.  Allie smiled, not hiding her tears from her cub.

       “I love you too,” she whispered, raising little Arki up in her paws and kissing her nose just as older Arki had done.  Little Arki sat cradled in her mum’s paws, feeling secure and loved.  Allie raised little Arki higher and higher, until the cub’s eyes levelled with her own.  Gazing into Little Arki’s eyes, Allie thought about her cub’s birth and all the life she had before her.  Little Arki kissing her on her nose brought Allie round from her thoughts.  Allie looked at the cub sitting cradled by her huge paws.  Allie’s paws were cradling her cub, the cub’s bottom cradled in the cup made by Allie’s forepaws, so little Arki sat secure as if she was sitting on a rather comfortable park bench.  Little Arki’s forepaws, which the cub held relaxed, rested on the tops of her hind legs, where the thighs on a human would be.  The cub’s hind paws stuck out into space, which she didn’t seem to mind.  Indeed, she was unconsciously wiggling, curling and stretching her toes as she sat and gazed about her.  Allie realised her Arki had complete trust in her, which humbled the large female polar bear.  Allie looked little Arki over, loving the way she sat cradled in her huge paws.  Allie blew gently on the pads and toes of little Arki’s outstretched hind paws, the cub laughing and squirming as the air tickled the soles of her paws.

       “Mum that tickles!”  Arki laughed her excited wriggling and bouncing about upsetting her balance.  Allie hadn’t realised until then that she’d stood up on her hind legs while raising her cub into the air, what made her realise was little Arki falling from her perch!  The cub screamed as she fell, Allie unable to get onto the carpet fast enough to catch her cub before she landed on the rug from six feet up.  It was Theo who caught little Arki, rolling onto his back and catching her in his huge warm paws, his feline reactions saving the polar bear cub from injury or worse.  Theo caught Arki, and held her tightly.

        “Are you all right little Arki?”  Allie asked.  The cub looked up at her mother.

       “I am,” she said, “but I don’t think I’ll be going as high as that in future.”  Allie felt dreadful, and her cub seemed to sense it.

        “It was noone’s fault,” little Arki said, “you blew on my paw pads mum, and I bounced about more than I should have done.  I wriggled a bit, that was because you tickled my paws with your breath, but I must admit I did bounce about a little too much.”  Allie looked down at Theo.

      “Thank you,” she said.  Theo looked up at the polar bear.

      “Sit down!”  He snapped.  Allie did, shocked and upset.

     “What?”  She asked.

      “Stretch out your hind legs, so that your toes point towards the ceiling,” Little Arki said, getting Theo’s drift.  Allie did.

     “Now we blow on your pads and toes!”  Theo and Arki said in unison.  Allie realised what she was in for and submitted happily, falling backwards from her sitting position when she lost her balance after the first few minutes.  Little Arki wasn’t so expert at blowing on Allie’s pads, but Theo was, making Allie lose it completely, laughing helplessly while rolling and thrashing about on the carpet as he launched a well deserved counter attack on little Arki’s behalf.  When Theo had pressed home his advantage, he let little Arki blow on Allie’s left hind paw, the cub doing her best to illicit the same response from her mother that Theo had.  Little Arki, though trying valiantly, could not master the art of tickling paws with air yet.

      “I can’t do it!”  The cub whimpered.

      “Use your toes then,” Theo whispered.  Little Arki did, and was soon exacting revenge on Allie and getting the reaction she wanted.  Allie knew there were no hard feelings towards her from Theo or her cub, but the revenge had to be exacted, it was all part of the game she’d started playing with her cub when little Arki was six feet above carpet level.  Theo and his polar bear cub friend left off assaulting Allie’s paws, Theo lying down and curling around little Arki.  Sam watched all, angry with his mate for endangering their cub.  When he saw the fun was at an end, he launched in on Allie, slapping and clawing at her!

       “You bitch, you bloody bitch!”  He yelled, “How dare you endanger your cub!”

      “It was an accident Sam!”  Allie yelled her nose bleeding and left ear torn.

       “Stop it Sam!”  Little Arki yelled, “Mum didn’t mean to drop me; it was as much my fault for wriggling about as it was hers for dropping me!  It was an accident Sam!”  Theo, sensing real danger to Allie, looked up at Sam.

      “I would stop if I were you,” he said softly.  Little Arki was about to ask him what good talking softly to the enraged polar bear would do when, to her surprise, she saw Sam complying.

       “It is stupid,” he said gruffly.  Allie, badly beaten up, crawled away to rest.  Incensed by his actions, Arki rounded on Sam.

        “You bloody idiot!”  She yelled, “anyone can see that Allie didn’t mean to drop little Arki!  You made a huge mistake!”  Sam launched himself at Allie!

      “You damage our cub, now I will damage you!”  He yelled.

      “No Sam, she didn’t mean to drop little Arki!”  Brunetta yelled.  Sam told her to keep her nose out in no uncertain terms.

        “I will kill Allie!”  Sam yelled.

       “Is that so?  Just try it!”  Nanuq challenged, padding into the room.  Sam looked at the huge polar bear, realising he was outgunned.

       “I would advise keeping your paws to yourself,” Nanuq replied.

       “Um, yes, okay,” Sam grumbled.  Allie lay curled in a miserable heap on a rug in the corner of the lie up, her paws covering her face.

      “Allie my cub,” Nanuq said, padding over to her and gently nudging her with his nose, “are you all right my dear?”  Allie looked through half closed, terrified eyes at her friend.

        “I dropped my cub!”  Allie sniffed.

       “It was an accident mum,” little Arki said.

                            “I know it was,” Nanuq said, “I saw the fall.  This is what Sam doesn’t realise.  Allie stood on her hind legs, and would have kept hold of you little Arki, but you bounced about a bit too much after she blew on the soles of your hind paws, and bang, you’re falling onto the rug.  It was accidental!”  Sam cowered in a corner, he knew Nanuq was furious!”  Allie lay with her forepaws covering her face.

      “I didn’t mean to hurt my cub!”  Allie yelled.

      “I know you didn’t,” Nanuq said, “and all accounts say that she had a soft landing.  Thanks to Theo, she survived.  Little Arki looked at Allie.

      “We know you didn’t mean to drop Arki,” she said.

      “I wish everyone would shut up!”  Little Arki yelled, “My mum didn’t mean to hurt me, she blew on my paw pads, and I squirmed a little, and then bounced about with excitement at the game.  I am as much to blame for what happened as my mum is.  While what happened to me was accidental, what Sam did to my mum wasn’t!  He deliberately hit her, he hit her Nanuq!”  Little Arki’s eyes filled with tears, “Sam was going to kill my mum!”  She screamed.  Nanuq looked at Sam and saw this was true.

       “I was maddened with fear for my cub,” Sam begged, “I didn’t mean to injure Allie!”  Allie struggled to her paws, stumbling away, her usually well adapted paws stumbling and tripping as she scrambled to get away.

      “I must, must get away!”  She gasped.  Nanuq looked at her.

      “I will find you later Allie,” Nanuq said.  Allie fell over, and then crawled away.

      “Let me go with you mum!”  Little Arki yelled, crawling with all her speed.  Allie and little Arki fled for their lives.  Nanuq and Sam faced each other as the two female polar bears fled.

       “You are a stupid animal!”  Nanuq yelled at Sam.

       “I didn’t mean to endanger Allie!”  Sam protested.

      “But you called her names, you hit her with your paws, you clawed at her, you threatened her life!”  Nanuq yelled, “It’s in my mind that you are a menace to Allie and her cub!”  Sam knelt at Nanuq’s feet and begged for his forgiveness.

       “I won’t hurt my cub or my mate again,” he begged.

      “You’d better not!”  Arki yelled.

       “Get up you disgusting creature,” Nanuq snapped.  Sam got to his paws and offered his left forepaw to Nanuq to stroke, which was forcibly slapped down to the carpet.

        “Give me your paw would you?”  Nanuq snarled, very upset, “I bite your paws before stroking them!”  Sam slunk away.  Nanuq went to Allie and embraced her, enfolding her in a huge hug which made Allie want to cry.

         “He was serious Nanuq,” Allie sniffed, “Sam wanted to kill me!”

        “I know he was,” Nanuq replied, “accidents happen.  You and your cub were playing a game and she lost her seat and fell.  That’s accidental.”  Little Arki crawled to Nanuq’s side and snuggled up to him, the huge male polar bear looking round at her.

        “Hello my dear,” he said softly, touching the cub’s head with a forepaw.  Little Arki rolled onto her back and took the huge paw in both her forepaws, holding it tightly.

        “Please help me and my mum,” the cub pleaded silently.  Nanuq gulped hard, deeply affected by the cub’s mood.

 

Meanwhile, Sam was stopped by Simba, who dragged the story out of him.  Furious, Simba remonstrated with Sam:

       “You stupid idiot!  Could you not see the whole thing was an accident?  Another thing, do you really believe Allie would harm her own cub?  Tell me!  Tell me!”  Simba yelled.

      “Allie dropped little Arki!”  Sam yelled back.

       “I saw the whole thing,” Simba snarled, “it was accidental!  Now I suggest you leave the subject alone, for I know you’ve upset little Arki more than her fall did.  Now get out of my sight!”  Sam fled!

       “Stupid polar bear,” Simba thought.  Padding into the bear’s lie up, he smiled at the ursine occupants.  Allie and Nanuq, still embracing each other, looked shaky.  Little Arki, now cradled by Brunetta, looked little better.

      “Has he gone?”  Allie asked.  Simba looked grim:

      “By, He, I assume you mean Sam?”  He asked, “Brunetta nodded.  Simba smiled and lay down by Brunetta, the brown bear passing little Arki to him, the white lion hugging the polar bear cub.

      “Hi Simba, Little Arki said, snuggling up to the lion.  Simba almost cried.

        “I love you little Arki,” Simba sniffed.  The large cub hugged Simba with everything she had.  Simba buried his face in her fur, loving her proximity.

       “That lion’s a real softy,” Theo mewed.  Nala watched Simba intently.

      “Simba looks so gentle,” she said.  Theo smiled, as if he were Simba’s sire.

       “He is,” he purred.

 

Meanwhile, in the concrete prison where Samson had ordered him to stay, Sam lay on his chest, his head on his forepaws, thinking hard.  Every time he closed his eyes he saw little Arki plunging to her death from six feet up.  He had to open his eyes and stare at a wall before she hit the floor, for if he didn’t, he was convinced the real cub would die if he let the nightmare continue.  Sam regretted losing his temper with Allie, but he was convinced until very recently that she’d meant to drop the cub.  Sam thought about little Arki.  He’d not really played with her, not like big Arki or Allie had.  He’d hugged her, and she him, but he’d not let her clamber over him and tickle his paws.  This was something Sam wanted little Arki to do very much.  Sam’s paws felt hot and uncomfortable, and he knew why.  This was punishment for using them in the wrong way.  Eohippus’s way of punishing him for whacking and clawing Allie.  Curling and stretching his toes told Sam his paws were damp with sweat.  Whimpering, Sam settled down to think.

 

Meanwhile, little Arki and Nanuq played together, each tickling and stroking the other’s paws.  Allie watched them, smiling at their antics.

        “Love every minute of it you two,” she thought.

 

It was hours later when Sam’s control on his emotions snapped.  He wanted to touch little Arki, take her in his paws and play with her, as well as give her a huge hug.  Beating his paws on the door of the prison, Sam waited for Aslan to come to investigate, and then charged past him when he opened the door.  The last thing Aslan saw was Sam running down the passage.

 

He burst into the lie up!   

   “I must talk to Allie and little Arki!”  Sam screamed.  Allie looked up at him, Sam sprawling beside her and taking her paw.

       “I’m so sorry,” he sobbed, “I just want to hug my cub!”  Allie felt his confusion.

       “I’ll show the video to you and then you might see,” she said.  Sam nodded:

      “Anything, anything!”  He gasped, “Just let me hug my cub!”  Allie got to her paws and led Sam to a screen where he watched the proceedings before, during and after little Arki’s fall.  Sam saw what Simba had, and realised he’d overreacted.  Turning to Allie, he looked at her through tears.

      “I’m sorry!”  He sobbed, throwing his paws round her and hugging her hard.

       “Look before you use your paws Sam, please,” Allie pleaded.  Sam embraced little Arki, then Allie.  Smiling, Little Arki kissed Sam’s nose.

      “I love you little Arki,” Sam said gently.

 

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