Snowy’s secret.

 

 

Samson was furious with Petra for associating herself so closely with the Boss.

     “We’re meant to be wild!”  He mewed.  Petra hardly glanced at him.

      “Wild?”  She asked, “No Sammy.  Look, do you think all this is wild?  Do you think the rugs we lie on at night are a feature of the woods?  Do you think those baths, which you enjoy hugely are available outside the house?  no, no no and no again!  Samson, the best you can do is try to accept that you, me and everyone else here are here because the Boss gives us a home, and be thankful for it!”  Samson padded from the room, Leo and Fleur staying behind with Petra.

      “I like the Boss,” Leo mewed, “he was so gentle with me when he clipped the hair on my paws.”

       “He dropped a stick on you though,” Fleur snapped, “that was inconsiderate.”

       “you didn’t’ watch did you,”  Petra  mewed, “the Boss didn’t mean to drop the stick, that’s what happens sometimes when he’s playing those barrels, oh yes, and they’re not barrels, they’re drums, and that’s a drum kit in the corner.”  Fleur’s eyes glazed over, she was fed up with Petra.

      “I’m going to run a bath,” she mewed, “I can’t stand the Boss and his barrels.”  With that she left, forgetting about Leo for a few seconds, enough time for him to slip away down the passage, his fore and hind legs going like pistons to get as much distance between him and the adult animals as possible.  Leo felt along the wall with his whiskers, until he came to a heavy door.  Clambering up it with extended claws and a heap of determination, he managed to drag down the handle, falling heavily to the floor in the process.  The door swung open under his weight.  Leo, ignoring the pain from his fall, crawled inside the room, the door closing behind him.  Feeling his way over tiles with one forepaw, the large cub crawled forward until his paws encountered a step.  Dragging himself up the step, he felt more steps in front and above that one.  Crawling up the stairs, Leo found himself getting higher and higher.  Once he’d reached the top, he felt his way forward to a door, which opened inwards to his touch, as if by magic.  The door opened into a corridor with thick carpet under paw.  The cub crawled forward, the smell of coffee and books strong in his nostrils.  This place was warmer than the stairway too.  Leo was getting tired; he could feel his paws getting heavier.

      “I must carry on,” he thought, “until, until I find someone, or I fall asleep!”  Setting his teeth, he ploughed on, crawling, crawling.  The warmth and the smell of coffee were making him sleepy.  Yawning expansively, Leo rested for a while.  This place was so warm and comforting to the newborn cub.

 

“Where the hell’s Leo!”  Fleur demanded of Petra.

       “I don’t know,” Petra mewed, “he’s probably gone exploring.”

      “In this place?”  Fleur snarled, “He could be anywhere!  I tell you Petra, if he’s gone anywhere near the Boss’s place, I’ll tear his paws off!”  Petra looked into a screen on the wall, seeing Leo apparently asleep in the main corridor in the Boss’s quarters.

       “He’s safe,” she mewed.  Fleur looked up to where she could see her son cub sleeping on the carpet of the corridor.

      “Where is that?”  She asked.

      “The one place where you didn’t want him to go,” Petra replied truthfully.

      “How did he get up there!”  Fleur demanded.

      “Crawled most likely,” Petra replied.  Fleur whacked her with her paw.

      “I didn’t’ want that answer!”  She yelled.

      “Sorry dear Fleur,” Petra replied.  Fleur watched as her son cub woke, sleepily stretched his paws in a cubbish manner which made her want to burst into tears, and crawled along the corridor.  He made his way to the first door, clambered up it to the handle and swung hard into the door while pressing down on the handle with all his strength.  The door gave, and another camera took up the story.

     “We must get up there and rescue him before he gets into danger!”  Fleur yelled.  Petra suddenly smiled, and Fleur looked back at the screen.  Leo had met a white tigress who was sleeping in front of a log fire in the room he’d just entered.  She looked at the lion cross cub then took him in her paws and hugged him.

      “Dear old Snowy,” Petra purred.

      “Snowy’s, a, a housecat?”  Fleur asked.

      “She’s been fond of her home comforts ever since I knew her,” Petra mewed.

       “Just look at her!”  Fleur snarled, “Hugging my cub as if he was her own!  Who the hell does Snowy think she is?”

       “The same Snowy who hugged you the minute you came in from the wood as a newborn cub,” Petra reminded Fleur, who, remembering, stared down at her paws in shame.

      “Yes, I’m sorry Petra, I remember now,” Fleur mumbled.

 

Meanwhile, in the Boss’s sitting room with its log fire and smell of coffee, Leo lay embraced in Snowy’s paws, the large cub warmer and feeling more contented than he’d done since he’d snuggled up to Fleur in the bathroom.  This tigress seemed to have milk for him, how she managed it he didn’t question.  Drinking busily, he drank his fill and settled to sleep.  Snowy’s deep blue eyes watched over him with motherly concern.

 

  Back in the drum room, Fleur and Petra watched the white tigress and little Leo.

     “It is almost as if Snowy gave birth to Leo,” Fleur mewed.

      “As ever was,” Petra replied, “Snowy’s like this with all cubs.  She loves them so much.  Leo worked his paws deep into Snowy’s fur, his pads becoming warm.

      “I’m sorry Snowy,” the cub yawned, “but I must, must,” before he finished the sentence, Leo was asleep.  Snowy embraced Leo in her paws, enjoying the cub’s presence.

      “I can’t believe Fleur could even think of not caring for you Leo,” Snowy thought as she stroked the cub’s long top coat.  Snowy stroked the cub from ears to paws, noticing the clip job done on the soles of his paws.

       “The Boss knows how to clip that’s for certain,” Snowy mewed.  She stroked Leo’s pads, the cub purring softly.

 

Fleur and Petra padded from the room they were in and made their way towards the part of the house where Snowy and Little Leo lay snuggled up together.  Reaching the corridor at the top of the stairs, and then the room with the open fire, Fleur and Petra looked down at Snowy and Leo cuddled close.

       “Let go of my cub!”  Fleur yelled, angry with the white tigress.

       “Your cub?”  Snowy asked, “Yes, he’s yours, but he’s also everyone’s cub.  You rejected him at first, and others made bonds with him.  If you’d taken a bit longer than you did, Portia wouldn’t have been able to let you have him back with you.  Be grateful and thankful for the community Fleur, that a white tigress can protect a cross bred lion cub and take him in her paws with nothing intended other than giving the cub genuine love and care.”

      “I know I’d like to be embraced by those paws,” Petra mewed, looking down at Snowy’s forepaws embracing Leo.  She had large, fat, warm paws, with long toes and soft pads.  Snowy looked up into Fleur’s face, and it was as if Fleur was a cub again, feeling the embrace from the white tigress for the first time.  It was warm and comforting, especially in her then vulnerable situation.

       “I will not steal your cub,” Snowy mewed, “he came exploring and found me.  You saw him I believe.”  Fleur saw Leo cuddled close to Snowy, the cub looking so peaceful she couldn’t bring herself to disturb him.

      “I’ll make sure Leo gets back to you safely when he wakes,” Snowy mewed.  Fleur had another question for the white tigress.

      “You, you fed my cub,” she mewed, I just remembered, you fed my cub!”

      “Did I?”  Snowy asked, her eyes telling Fleur she couldn’t remember doing so.

      “Yes you did!”  Fleur snarled, “There’s milk on his whiskers as proof!”

       “Didn’t I feed you when you were lost?”  Snowy asked.  Fleur couldn’t remember.  Looking down at Leo, Fleur lost it!

      “Give me my cub!”  She yelled, whacking Snowy’s paws, then her nose!  Snowy, whimpering with pain and fear, withdrew, Leo waking and bursting into tears.

      “What’s the matter Snowy?”  He asked, Fleur grabbing him and making a move for the door.

     “Nothing little one, nothing,” Snowy sniffed, rubbing her nose and massaging her paws.  Petra was horrified by Fleur’s behaviour.

     “You leave Leo right here!”  She snapped, “Snowy will look after him!  He’ll be okay!”  Fleur ran from the room, Leo dangling from her mouth.  Petra looked sorrowfully at Snowy and followed Fleur.

      “That white tigress tried to steal my cub by feeding him!”  Fleur sobbed.

     “No Fleur no!”  Petra mewed, “she didn’t, and she wouldn’t steal your cub!”

      “I don’t trust that tigress!”  Fleur snarled.  Petra laid her paw on Fleur’s.

      “She wouldn’t steal Leo,” Petra mewed.  Leo was shaking in Fleur’s mouth, sobbing and shivering.  He was so upset he was sick.  Fleur, embarrassed, hustled Leo away.  Petra, having dealt with vomiting cubs before, ran for some cleaning fluid and cleaned the mess up.  Washing her paws, she found Leo crawling away from Fleur.

       “Your mum’s not going to be very happy,” she mewed.

      “Mum’s gone to the pit,” Leo said.  Petra picked the cub up in her mouth and washed him in the bath before carrying him back to his rug.  Fleur returned, saw her cub cuddled close to Petra, and nearly lost it.  To her Petra looked like Snowy!

      “Leave my cub alone!”  Fleur yelled.  Leo crying hysterically.

      “It’s okay Leo,” Petra mewed hugging him.

      “Mum’s gone mad!”  Leo cried.  Fleur tore Leo from Petra’s paws, the white lioness snarling at and pouncing on her!  Fleur dropped her cub and fought Petra, the two cats clawing and biting.  Petra outfought Fleur, throwing her on the floor.

       “You dare to fight me?  I break your paws!”  Petra yelled.

     “No, Petra, Fleur, um, mum, stop!”  Leo yelled.  Petra and Fleur faced each other, both snarling and growling.

      “You and your white tigress friend heed my warning,” Fleur snarled, “you touch Leo’s head, or his paws, or any part of him, and I’ll break every bone in your bodies!  I don’t want you near my cub, is that clear!”

       “Lionesses feed and look after other lioness’s cubs,” Leo mewed pitifully, “I am part lion, look at me mum!”  Fleur glanced at her cub, and then cuffed him for speaking out of turn.

      “You know nothing about this, so keep your mouth shut!”  She growled, whacking Leo’s nose.  Leo crawled away crying with fear and pain.  He made his way miserably to the barrels and picked up in his mouth the stick the Boss had dropped.  The Boss had pushed the stool in towards the drum kit, the cub, by clambering onto the stool, able to reach the snare and high hat with the stick he held in his mouth.  Leo angrily smashed the stick down on the high-hat, the vibration and noise making him drop the stick in sudden confusion.  Petra and fleur whipped round at the sound.  Hearing fleur padding towards him, Leo leapt off the stool and landed hard on the bass pedal, the hammer striking the drum.  Fleur, wary now, paused, giving Leo enough time to crawl away to the door and escape.  Crying, the cub crawled quickly towards the stairs, intent on finding Simba.  His desperate crawling was stopped when a huge set of paws caught him.

      “Hey little’n, what’s up?”  Ahanu mewed.  Leo, not recognising the voice or the paws, turned to crawl away, but the paws easily held him.

      “Let me go, let me go!”  Leo sobbed, striking at the paws with his tiny ones.

       “I’m no threat to you,” the voice who owned the huge paws said, “my name’s Ahanu; I’m a lynx lion cross bred cat.  You look like you’ve got all sorts in you little cub,” Ahanu mewed.  Leo felt the huge paws holding him, and they had long hair like his did, but didn’t have hair on the soles of the paws.

      “Ah, there you are Leo!”  Fleur snapped, coming fast towards him, Leo squealing with fear.

      “What the hell’s going on fleur?”  Ahanu asked.

      “It’s a little local matter,” fleur lied.

      “No it’s not!”  Leo yelled, “I know what you’re saying mum, even if I don’t understand all your words, you’re telling him you’ll work this out aren’t you, well you won’t!”  Leo then told Ahanu what he knew, Fleur standing by bristling with anger.

       “Snowy’s no threat to your cub fleur and neither is Petra.  You seem to be a bigger problem for this little chap,” Ahanu mewed.  Fleur raised a paw to hit Ahanu, when someone caught hold of it and forcibly placed it on the floor.

      “No fleur,” Simba mewed.

      “Simba!”  Leo yelled, “Mum’s gone mad!”  Fleur leapt at Leo, Ahanu protecting the little lion cross bred cub with his own body.  Fleur slammed into Ahanu, Simba dragging the angry cat off him and throwing her on the floor.

       “You leave him alone!”  Simba snarled.  Whether he meant Ahanu or Leo he never said, but it worked.  Petra pounded into view, her huge paws making more noise than speed.  Panting, she skidded to a stop beside Simba.

      “What the hell’s going on here?”  She gasped.

      “this little furball nearly cannoned into me,”  Ahanu mewed, “I caught him and he fought me, then Fleur came busting in and demanded I give her back her cub, then attacked me.!  Simba attacked her and dragged her off me, um, that’s it.”  Petra was dreadfully upset by this news.

       “Fleur,” she mewed, “you must listen to us, to your cub too!  We don’t want to steal your cub!  Snowy doesn’t want to, neither does Ahanu nor do I.  We want to protect him!  Can’t you see that?  What did Ahanu do when you tried to grab Leo off him?  Think about it!”

      “He defended Leo with his body, just, just like he’d done when Rani went for Haimati,” fleur replied faintly, “but I’m not going to kill my cub!  I just want him back with me and for you lot to keep your paws off!”

        “You’ve gone from rejecting him out of paw to wanting to possess him in a day flat fleur,” Petra mewed, “you need to learn that if you restrict Leo’s movement, he’ll lash out.  He knows he can move about quickly on all fours like he’s doing, he’s done it!  He can escape, and he will if he’s upset.”  Fleur got up from the floor and looked down at Leo, protected between Ahanu’s body and the wall, the lynx cross bred cub’s body acting like a barricade.

       “I’ll let him go,” she mewed, “but if anyone harms him, I’ll break their paws!”  Fleur yelled.  Fleur stamped away, her anger plain to see.

      “Leo, Leo dear,” Petra mewed, padding up as close as she could get to the tiny cub.

      “Yes Petra,” he mewed in a frightened tone.

      “Why did you hit that cymbal earlier?”

       “I was frustrated!”  The cub snarled, really, really angry!”

      “I was lying here by a radiator when Leo here came blundering towards me,” Ahanu mewed, “what’s eating him Petra?”  Petra explained all about Snowy.

     “Snowy, dear sweet Snowy,” Ahanu purred.

      “If you all call her that, then why did mum get so angry?”  Leo asked.

      “Your mum, well, she’s not feeling to well at the moment,” Ahanu replied.

      “You don’t say!”  Leo spat, “my mum and Petra were fighting earlier, fighting over me!  I told them I didn’t mind who fed me, and that lionesses in a pride always fed each other’s cubs, but fleur wouldn’t have it!”

      “You want to see Snowy again?”  Ahanu asked Leo.

      “Not if it’s going to cause fur to fly,” the cub mewed.  He suddenly looked very upset.

        “If it’s going to cause two cats that I care about deeply to scrap until their fur is ripped out then I’d rather Snowy was on the moon!”  He sobbed, “But then, then again, she was upset when fleur took me away from her.”  Petra caught her breath at the cub’s words.

       “That’s horrible,” she thought, “Leo’s not meant to understand these things yet.  If fleur and I keep scrapping, he will become more and more distressed.

       “Let’s go to Snowy,” Ahanu mewed, “we can’t get Fleur’s promise that she won’t rip Petra to shreds, but sometimes we have to leave them to it Leo.  I know you’re stuck in the middle of all this, but I’ll make sure you don’t get physically hurt by it.”

       “His mental state can’t be guaranteed though,” Petra thought miserably.  With that Ahanu led Leo away, Petra returning to the drum room.  Fleur laid there, Samson with her.

      “Samson’s just ripped a chunk out of me for what happened,” fleur mewed.

       “Leo did nothing more than explore,” Samson replied, “I know I’m hostile towards the Boss, but that’s me, I’m a wild lion, and I need to change my views on this type of community living.  Maybe I need to go with Leo on these expeditions he has and see where he ends up.  Leo will explore, be it in the Boss’s quarters or in the pool complex, or wherever.  All we need to know is that he’s safe.  Now fleur, if you will let me go with him, I will make sure he’s safe.  How would that be?”

       “That would be okay,” fleur mumbled, “another thing Petra, “I told Samson about how I tore Leo from your paws earlier, and, and he, he told me, that, that I shouldn’t have done that either.  That you would have given my cub back to me.  That I shouldn’t have responded to a situation with violence.  The truth is, you looked like Snowy lying there, and I hate, no, hated, the way she hugged my cub, as if he was her own.”

      “Snowy’s always done that,” Whitie mewed, padding into the room.  Fleur looked over at the snow Leopard.

      “Yes Whitie, I know,” fleur sniffed, “I know now.  That’s Snowy’s way.”

      “Snowy’s her own worst enemy,” Whitie mewed, “gives herself completely to a cub, and then when that cub’s taken away she goes to pieces.  I was with her a few minutes ago, and she cried for a long time after Leo was taken from her.  Snowy loves cubs, that’s her problem, though it’s not a problem really.

     “Why doesn’t she have another cub?”  Fleur asked, “She had Bianca, so why not have another cub?”

       “She can’t,” Whitie mewed, “something to do with Eohippus I think.  Snowy was deliberately squirreling herself away in the Boss’s quarters and the control room to stop her coming into contact with very young cubs, so she didn’t get upset.  This worked fine until, while she’s dozing in front of the fire one day, a tiny cub crawls to her.  Snowy hugs it, has milk for it, and bang, she’s caught up in a world of trouble.”

       “Poor Snowy,” Samson mewed, “so she’s no danger to cubs, the danger is only to herself in getting too attached to them?”

     “Yes,” Whitie mewed.  Samson stretched the toes of each paw, then got to his huge paws and bounced on his toes a bit before padding out of the room in search of his cub. 

 

Samson scented Leo, and then followed it to the Boss’s door.  Leo was crawling rather than being carried, Samson could tell this, for the cub’s scent under stress was strong, and everything he touched gave off strong scent signals.  The huge lion got down on all fours and began crawling like his cub as a sign of Solidarity with the tiny creature.  Samson made it up the stairs and to the corridor, then along that to the room with the open fire.  There he found Leo, who recognised his scent immediately.

      “Have you come to take me back to mum Samson,” Leo asked suspiciously.

     “No Leo I haven’t,” the lion replied, “I’m here, to, to, to make sure you don’t get hurt on your adventures.”  Snowy snarled in sudden rage!

       “Are you saying that I’d harm your cub?”  She asked crossly.

      “No Snowy!”  Samson pleaded, still on all fours, “I didn’t mean that.  I’ll explain!”  Samson hurriedly told the tigress everything.

       “They’re right,” she mewed sadly, “me and cubs, I can’t resist looking after them, and when they go, I tear myself up over their departure.  I was doing so well to, avoiding contact with cubs, now, now though,” she sighed heavily, staring miserably at Leo, “I’m here, with a cub that just crawled in and found me.  I couldn’t just send him away, that’s not me.  Though embracing the cub for me is like heroin to an addict.  I need to look after cubs!”  Snowy’s eyes filled with tears and she sniffed hard, trying to control emotions she knew would shortly overwhelm her.

       “You love all cubs don’t you,” Leo said, kissing Snowy’s nose.  Snowy almost choked on her tears.

      “Yes little Leo, I do, I do!”  She sobbed.

       “Polar bear cubs? Otter cubs?  Lion and tiger cubs? Panda cubs even?”  Samson asked.

      “Yes,” the tigress cried.

       “We always knew her as the great protector,” Tigger mewed, padding into the room.

       “Who are you?”  Samson asked.

     “Tigger,” the Bengal tiger replied, “I run the cameras with Snowy.”

       “Good to meet you,” Samson said, holding out a paw to Tigger, which Tigger seemed to ignore.

      “Oh, you’ll have to tell him you want to give him your paw,” Snowy mewed,” Tigger’s blind.”  Samson touched Tigger’s paw with his, and the tiger enfolded his paw in a firm but gentle grip.”

      “You spoke briefly with Whitie I think,” Snowy mewed.

      “Whitie?”  Samson asked, “There was a snow Leopard, well not much of one, she’d got so few spots it was laughable.”

     “That’s Whitie,” Snowy mewed.

      “Whitie was one of the cubs Snowy fostered,” Tigger mewed, “she hated giving them back to their mother.  In hindsight, her feelings were justified, Amber was a manipulative and hate filled snow Leopard.”

       “So who, before me have you taken in your paws?”  Leo asked Snowy, stroking her whiskers with his paw.

      “In for a penny, in for a pound Leo,” Samson thought.

       “One arctic fox cub, two snow Leopard cubs, my own three cubs, Petra, fleur, and they are just the cubs.  Adult animals who I’ve taken in my paws include big Leo, and his brother Theo.  While Theo only came for reassurance, Leo stayed and I was his mate for a long time.  I had another cub, one of the three of mine I mentioned, Bianca her name is, and she’s sweet, really sweet.  Duke’s courting her at the moment, and I think she’s going to try this new tiger pride thing with Duke some of them are on about.”  Snowy laughed slightly, “tigers living like the lions sound great, but I don’t know how it will work out.”

       “We have stuck together,” Tigger mewed.

      “I know Tiggie,” Snowy said, genuine love for the Bengal tiger in her tone, “but we are unique, our experiences, what we’ve been through together.”

      “Can’t we all be your cubs?”  Leo asked, “All of us?  Including Samson?”  Samson looked shocked!

       “I’m not a cub!”  He mewed.

      “You looked like one when you came in,” Snowy purred, “crawling like your Son cub does.  Are you entirely sure you’re not a cub?  A large one yes, but you could still be a cub.”  Samson looked down at his paws.

       “So some animals came to you as a friend, someone they could fall apart with if needed,” Samson mewed.

      “Suppose so,” Snowy purred, making eye contact with Samson, the lion unable to take his eyes from hers.  She seemed to know everything!

       “How much do you know Snowy?”  Samson asked breathlessly.

      “Theo told me nothing,” Snowy mewed, “I know what your mother did to you, and all about your past life with your male partner.  I don’t’ hold anything against you Sammy.  I only wish your mother had treated you better.”  Samson gulped hard to stop a rush of tears, a dam which Snowy broke by touching the lion’s paw with hers.

      “You are still traumatised by what happened to you as a cub,” Snowy mewed, “take my paw, let it all go Sammy.”  Samson lay down and took Snowy’s huge paw, hugging it in both of his.

       “Weep for past times and then go on from here,” Snowy mewed softly, “you have a cub now, a wonderful handsome cub.  Love him Samson; love him with everything you have.  He’s your future.  Play with him, I’ll bet you’ve never rolled on the carpet with him in play yet.  I’ll bet you’ve never tickled his paws or let him tickle yours yet.”  Samson shook his head.

      “He’s only a few days old,” he sniffed, laughing slightly, “give us a chance!”

        “I know,” Snowy mewed, “just don’t shut your mind to it and think play is only for mums and cubs.  It used to be, but not any more.”

       “Thanks Snowy!”  Samson sobbed.

 

Simba, Fleur and Petra watched all this from Petra and Simba’s lie up, the cameras spread throughout the Boss’s quarters.

      “I’ll bet the Boss and one of his assistants is watching over the computers while Snowy and Tigger are in his sitting room,” Petra mewed.  Simba watched intently.

 

Samson and Leo left the sitting room, Snowy watching them go with an expression of infinite sadness.

      “That tigress is impossible!”  Fleur snarled, “She wants my cub for her own!  She steals cubs Petra!”

       “Snowy has an impulse to look after any cubs she finds,” Simba mewed, “its only destructive to her, for she can’t let them go.  I cannot help her with this.”  Simba padded from the room, making his way towards Snowy’s lie up.

 

Finding his way to the Boss’s sitting room, Simba found Snowy weeping into her paws.  He touched the tigress’s shoulder, making her look round.

        “I can only advise,” Simba mewed, touching the tigress’s wet nose with his.  Snowy grabbed Simba in her paws, embracing him tightly.

       “I don’t know what to do Simba,” she sobbed, “I, I can’t, can’t, let go of cubs when they come to me.  I tried, tried excluding myself from the community, so, so I didn’t have to inflict my impulse to look after cubs on the new mothers, as they were getting angry with me for, as they saw it, stealing their cubs!  Fleur hates me, I can see she does, but I can’t help what I am!  Simba, please, please help me!”

       “You have an impulse to look after all kinds of cubs,” Simba mewed, “and it’s uncontrollable.  You will go to hell and back for the cubs in your care, no matter whose cubs they might be.  This compulsion, impulse, or addiction needs understanding, not disgust.  You mean the cubs no harm, indeed, they come away more gentle cubs, knowing how to be still and enjoy just being with their parents.  They aren’t distracted from the old way of cubs.  When they’re with you they need no technology, no outside stimulation other than the touch of your paws and you the touch of theirs.”  Snowy hugged Simba tightly in her paws.

      “Can I love Leo like he’s my own cub?”  Snowy asked miserably.

       “Fleur needs to learn we’re a pride structured community,” Simba mewed, “cubs are primarily the responsibility of their mothers, but other big cats can give a helping paw if needed.”       “Bears can too I think,” Snowy mewed.

      “Yes they can, but they don’t normally get involved with the big cats do they?”  Simba asked.

     “No,” Snowy mewed.  Kissing Snowy’s nose, Simba left the room.

 

In the control room, the Boss turned to Arki and Kodiak.

     “Want to meet a fluff ball?”  The Boss asked the bears.

        “Little Leo?”  Arki asked.

      “Yup,” the Boss replied, “I’ll talk to fleur and Sammy about it.”  Fleur and Sammy agreed.  The Boss smiled and left the control room, waving at the bears, which waited for Snowy and Tigger to join them before they left.  Arki padded with her mate towards Petra’s lie up.  Reaching it, Arki was pounced upon by Leo, who’d heard the exchanges between the Boss and the bears and lay in wait, no fear of the polar bear. 

 

The large cub leapt upon Arki’s paws, the female polar bear rolling over as if stunned, to Leo’s surprise and delight.  He then set about tickling her paws, just as he’d done to Simba.  Arki laughed helplessly as the cross bred cat tickled her paws.  Kodiak laughed at Leo’s and Arki’s antics, his mate’s eyes shining with delight.

       “Cats and bears playing together?”  Fleur asked, “Whatever next?  Bears looking after lion cubs?”  Simba smiled as he watched little Leo tickling Arki’s paws.

      “You have nice soft warm paws Arki,” Leo mewed.  Arki turned on Leo and hugged him in her large paws.

       “Hugging me now Arki?”  Leo purred, snuggling up to her, “I love this!  This is great!”  Simba laughed and waved his paws in the air, Kodiak leaping upon the white cub and tickling his paws, to Simba’s huge delight.  Petra and fleur watched this, wondering what would happen next.  Leo ran his paws all over Arki, feeling her nose, ears, body, legs and paws.

      “You have the most amazing paws!”  Leo mewed as the toes of his left forepaw were caught in those of Arki’s left hind paw.  Arki smiled, massaging Leo’s toes with hers.

      “I like my paws stroked,”  she said, releasing Leo’s paws so he could continue stroking her pads, which the cross bred cub did with inbred gentility and care, as well as a slight knowledge of paw massage, which startled Arki.

       “Your cub knows a fair bit,” the bear said to Samson, who watched from not too far away.

       “I was going to find out in a bit,” he mewed, “but he pounced on your paws first!”  Arki looked into the lion’s face to see what his feelings really were, Samson was laughing helplessly inside.

       “You two are impossible!”  He laughed; grabbing Arki’s left forepaw and tickling it, while his cub tickled one of her hind paws, Arki incapacitated by the two lions.  Kodiak and Simba ran to Arki’s rescue, Kodiak tickling Samson’s hind paws, the white cub tickling Leo’s.  This ended in a rough and tumble game between two bears and a male lion and his cub, to everyone’s huge amusement.  Petra  and fleur watched with shining eyes as two bears and two cubs ganged up on Samson to tickle his paws, then Samson and the two lion cubs, helped by Arki, ganged up on Kodiak and tickled his paws, before Arki got the same treatment from Kodiak , Leo and the lions.  The five animals broke off their play, all their paws tingling from being tickled.

     “Now, now do we get our paws stroked?”  Arki panted.

     “Why not?”  Simba asked.  Massaging of paw pads and toes followed, the bears stroking the paws of the lions and the lions the paws of the bears.  Samson had never encountered an animal with such huge paws!  He traced round pads and toes with a sense of wonder, exploring Kodiak’s, then Arki’s paws, the bears holding onto Samson’s forepaws with their toes as they worked over their fore and hind paws.

       “These two bears love having their paws tickled and stroked,” Leo remarked to Samson.

     “It seems they do,” Samson replied, stroking Arki’s left hind paw, the polar bear wiggling her toes to make Samson catch and hold them in his.

      “I’m looking forward to stroking the lion’s paws,” Arki said, “Leo’s paws seem strokable, as do Samson’s.”  Fleur smiled at Petra.

      “Come on,” she said, “let’s get into the spirit of this thing.”  Petra looked at the cat who’d been scrapping with her only a few hours before.

      “Truce?”  Petra asked, holding   her paw out to Fleur.  Fleur nodded, padding over to Petra and embracing her.

      “I’m sorry,” fleur mewed, kissing Petra’s nose and paws, “I should not have done or said what I did.  I’m so stupid!”  Petra smiled at her friend.

       “We all make mistakes,” she mewed, picking up Fleur’s left forepaw and examining it, “you have a very strokable paw here,” Petra remarked.  Fleur curled her toes round Petra’s.

     “Stroke it please!”  She mewed.  Petra stroked Fleur’s paw, the cross bred cat stretching out on her side.  Fleur and Petra took their time, massaging each other’s bodies, as well as paws.  Petra and Fleur purred contentedly as they worked.  Hearing the peace breaking out among the two adult female big cats, Leo sighed with relief.

      “I can let Snowy and others take me in their paws after all,” he thought.  Leo padded up to Arki, who took him in her huge paws, her pads warm against his fur.

     “I love this,” he mewed, snuggling into the bear’s massive hug.  Arki stroked Leo’s long topcoat, running her paws down his back, careful not to dig her claws into the cub.  Her agile and mobile paws gave more of a massage than those of the big cats, and Leo was comatose within a very few minutes.  Samson watched Arki and his cub’s interaction.

     “Leo likes you Arki,” Samson mewed.  Arki, stroking Leo’s left forepaw with both forepaws, smiled at the huge lion.

      “I think he likes the touch of my paws better,” she said.  Samson smiled:

      “They say you can tell a lot by touching another’s paws,” he mewed.  Arki left off stroking Leo’s pads and toes and padded round to Samson.  Taking his paw in hers she held it lightly, the lion catching his breath as he felt unimaginable gentility in the female polar bear’s touch.

       “This is on a par with Snowy,” he thought.  Samson kissed Arki’s paw, the female polar bear grinning at him.

      “You big softy!”  She laughed.  Samson suddenly embraced Arki tightly, burying his paws in her fur and holding her close.  Arki felt the need in Samson to be hugged by her as one with big paws and a massive embrace.  She obliged, enfolding the lion in a huge hug.

       “I’ll bet these paws have worked magic,” he mewed, tracing the pads of her right forepaw with the toes of his left.  Arki thought back to the births of Allie’s cubs.

     “They have worked Miracles yes,” Kodiak said to Samson, “we could show you a DVD of the birth of two polar bear cubs.  Arki helped the new mother to birth her cubs with ease and lessened her pain and stress.”  Samson remembered Leo’s birth, and wondered if fleur could have done with some of that.  Her whimpering, screaming and crying still haunted him.

       “Would Arki’s paws have made a difference to fleur when she had Leo?”  He asked.

     “Yes they would,” fleur mewed, “though circumstances made sure I wasn’t able to benefit from any of that.”  Samson was upset.

      “I’d like to see how this works,” he mewed, “for next time”

       “Paw massage worked for you too Arki,” Kodiak reminded his mate, “Bramble’s birth would have been more difficult without it, or so you said.”  Arki smiled.

       “Yes Kodiak,” she said, “you did massage my paws during Bramble’s birth, and that was great.”

       “How can you massage a bear’s paws while they’re giving birth?”  Samson asked, “I couldn’t even imagine getting hold of Fleur’s paws during Leo’s birth for she was squirming and wriggling so much!”

      “Squirming because she was in pain no doubt,” Arki replied, “massage of the paws eliminates pain to a great extent, and therefore the mother is quieter, and does not move about so much during contractions.  Massage of the paws and belly starts when pain is bearable without pain relief.  Massage is cumulative, meaning that you have to build up to a peak, hopefully when the worst pain is being experienced, so that it is controlled.”  Fleur listened to all this, wishing she’d had Arki at Leo’s birth, but realising that the strange voice has helped her to give birth without pain, as her pain had eased after the voice held her in its paws.  Fleur heard from Portia that Arki had managed to keep her calm and focused during the worst bits of Ruslana’s birth, and that Gosheven had stayed throughout, even giving Portia a helping paw by massaging her forepaws while Portia bore her contractions and Arki checked on her cub’s progress.  Portia said she got to her paws and padded about a bit during Ruslana’s birth, but she didn’t move about half as much as fleur had.  Fleur wondered if she’d inadvertently put herself in danger through not having someone on call just in case she went into labour.  All this was speculation now, as she’d had Leo, and what was done was done.

 

Leo crawled up to fleur and she hugged him tenderly,

      “I’m sorry for what I did earlier,” she mewed.  Leo shook himself, his long topcoat flying in all directions.

       “They say you are good at paw massage,” Leo mewed, “please, would you stroke my paws?”  Fleur did as the cub asked, and he was soon purring contentedly.

 

Meanwhile, Snowy was trying to focus on her work in the control room, her mind consumed by thoughts of Leo.  Tigger noticed she was making mistakes when typing up the day’s journals, and offered to help her.  Frustrated, Snowy thumped the keyboard with her paw.

      “I’m bowing to my addiction again!”  She mewed miserably, “I can feel it!  Tiggie, I want to hug that cub!  My paws long to hold him!  It’s, so, so powerful!”

       “You can’t Snowy, and you know it,” Tigger mewed, “Fleur would go ballistic!  You have no right to hug Leo just because you want to, even if as we heard and saw the others aren’t too worried now.  You have to control your urge to take the cubs of other community members in your paws all the time.  If you don’t, you’ll alienate yourself with them.

       “I tried to eliminate the exposure I had to cubs by hiding away in the Boss’s place,” Snowy mewed, her paws becoming damp with sweat.  “I, I get consumed by this, it makes me mad!  Makes me want to cry!”  Snowy lay down on the floor and linked the toes of both her forepaws, pulling hard on them to distract herself.  She even bit down on the toes of one paw to take her mind off of her growing anxiety, but that caused her pain, which wasn’t the solution.  Tigger had tried massage to soothe her, but this was only a temporary solution.

       “How about if we try for a cub of our own?”  Tigger asked.  Snowy, now in tears, shook her head.

       “I can’t!”  She sobbed, “Eohippus only said I could have one cub, my sister cub’s cub!  I’m not destined to have one of my own!”

     “We can at least try can’t we?”  Tigger asked.  Snowy sighed:

       “I suppose so,” she mewed.

      “Only if you want to Snowy,” Tigger mewed, remembering Perdy’s near disastrous labour.  Snowy wiped her eyes with one huge paw.

      “I want to Tiggie,” she mewed, “but it will only fuel my addiction to cubs.  Having a cub won’t cure it.  It would keep me from taking the cubs of other animals in my paws and loving them, but only for a while.  I don’t know what to do Tigger!  I’m lost and more frightened by what I am than I can tell you!  I have no control, no will of my own when the desire hits me.  I must, at all costs, embrace and love a cub!  I’ve never stolen a cub from a den yet, but, but if I don’t do something about this soon, I might go so far!  I know though that if I did something like that, I’d be thrown out of the community for sure, or worse.  I’m asking for help now so that I don’t do something I’d regret.”   Tigger could just imagine the trouble Snowy would cause if she stole a cub.  Even though she was liked by almost everyone, and her compulsion to look after cubs, if not fully understood, was at least tolerated, if Snowy stole a cub that would change things totally.

      “You cannot even contemplate stealing a cub!”  Tigger growled, “You do that, you’d be in a world of shit Snowy!  Theo, Samson and the rest would hunt you down and kill you for your crimes.”

      “I’m asking for Help Tiggie!”  Snowy sobbed, “I’m not thinking of stealing a cub, it was just me thinking out the worst cases.  I don’t want to steal anyone’s cub!”

      “You make dam sure you don’t!”  Tigger snarled.

       “If I don’t do something soon,” Snowy mewed, “I’ll do it without realising I have done it, and then, then I’ll be for it!”

 

Simba slept uneasily, feeling Snowy’s torment.  He saw the white tigress in his dream, and she was padding noiselessly around the house on those huge padded paws of hers.  Simba saw her approaching Portia’s den and gently waking Ruslana.  Taking the cub’s tiny paw in hers, Snowy led her outside, Portia and Gosheven still sleeping.  Once outside, Snowy spoke a few words to the cub to soothe her, then picked her up in her mouth and fled with her!  Simba saw Portia and Gosheven’s distress at the realisation their cub was missing, and their search all over the house.  Snowy, hidden in the Boss’s quarters with Ruslana was keeping her head down, telling the cub that this was a game, that she was safe.  Snowy wouldn’t mistreat Ruslana, Simba knew that, but the act of stealing her from her parents seemed not to be beyond Snowy.  Simba had never met the white tigress, but knew what she’d look like, right down to her paw pads, He could see her sweating with fear as she played with Ruslana, her mind eased by the presence of the tiny female lion cub, but stressed by what she’d done.  Snowy would know what she’d done was wrong, but would still carry out her crime.  Simba then saw Snowy getting found out, Gosheven discovering her with Ruslana.  The puma’s anger was frightening!  Screaming, he attacked Snowy, ripping out great chunks of the tigress’s white fur.  Simba saw blood, and it wasn’t the puma’s.  He then saw Snowy lying dead on the sitting room floor, where Gosheven had left her.  Simba woke sweating and frightened, Petra holding him down beneath her paws.

      “What’s the matter Simba?”  She asked, “You were thrashing about, whimpering and screaming with terror!  What the hell’s going on?”

       “I had a dream, where, where Snowy stole a cub!”  Simba mewed; shaking so much Petra was concerned.

      “Tell me about it,” she mewed.  Simba did, and Petra was outraged.

      “That’s crap!”  She snapped, “Snowy might be mad about cubs, but she wouldn’t steal a cub!  You make sure you speak to noone about this!  I will not have you putting the wind up everyone just because your mind has gone crazy!  The dreams about Fleur’s cub I can understand, but not this, not Snowy stealing a cub!  Her track record is impeccable; she’s fostered many cubs in the past!  This is beyond crazy Simba!”

     “Are you saying you don’t believe me?”  Simba asked.

      “Exactly that!”  Petra snarled, “It’s impossible!”

      “I hope so mum,” Simba whispered, “I hope you’re right.  For if my dream does come to pass, there will be so much trouble!”  Petra lost her temper and struck Simba across the face with her paw!

     “Get out of my sight!”  She yelled.  Simba fled!  Petra  stood, snarling, her face hot with emotion and paw stinging from the impact of her smashing slap to Simba’s face.

 

Simba fled to Samson and Fleur’s lie up, Samson seeing the frightened cub and going to him.

     “What’s the matter Simba?”  Samson asked.

      “I, I think, think Snowy’s going to steal a cub!”  Simba mewed.  Samson looked concerned.

      “She said something about being addicted to cubs,” he mewed, “are you sure Simba?  She sounded pretty in control of the situation.”

      “I’m sure, or as sure as I can be,” the cub panted.  Samson patted the rug beside him:

     “Settle down here and we’ll talk,” he mewed.  Simba collapsed onto the rug, and Samson hugged him tenderly.

      “Does Petra know about your suspicions?”  He asked.

       “I told her, but she didn’t believe me,” Simba mewed, “she slapped me across my face with her paw!  It hurt!  So now, now I’m scared, scared for the cubs!  Which cub will Snowy go for?  I saw Ruslana in my dream, but could it be Leo?”

      “Not Leo!”  Samson exclaimed, “Please, not Leo!”

      “Who knows which of the cubs she’ll choose,” Simba mewed.  Samson looked sick.

      “She’s uncontrollable isn’t she,” he said miserably, “we must speak to her, tell her what is what!  She can’t steal our cubs!  Who the bloody hell does she think she is?”

      “The thing is, Snowy was always so good with cubs,” fleur mewed, padding into the room, “that noone will suspect her.”

      “That’s my fear,” Simba mewed, “she said to us, on camera too, that she’s got a problem.  We need to talk to her, and now!  Where is she fleur?”

      “She’s up in the control Room,” Fleur mewed, “go up there and you’ll find her.

 

Simba bounded up to the control room, the security systems having been temporarily disabled by the Boss so he could get to the control room at speed if Snowy needed restraining.  Snowy let Simba in.     “What’s up??”  Snowy asked, furious with the large cub.

       “You’re thinking of stealing a cub, you can’t do that!”  Simba yelled.  Snowy cursed Simba fluently and violently.

      “I’m not going to steal a cub,” she snapped, it was only a discussion Tigger and I had!  I won’t do it!”

      “You make dam sure you keep your paws to yourself!”  Simba snarled.

       “What if I can’t!”  Snowy whimpered.

       “Then you take whatever comes your way!”  Simba growled.  Snowy got down from her perch on the hot seat.

        “Since when have you become the protector of cubs?”  Snowy asked, swiping at Simba with her paw.  Simba dodged the slapping paw and returned fire, his paw landing with smashing force against Snowy’s cheek, the tigress screeching with anger and pain!  Snowy leapt upon Simba, her weight bringing the cub down.  Struggling beneath her, Simba gasped for air, while Snowy, angered beyond sense, balled her paws into fists and pummelled Simba’s head and forepaws.

       “You know nothing!”  Snowy screamed, “leave me alone Simba!  You think you’re so dam clever with your dreams, but you’re a nothing!”  Simba closed his eyes and took the beating, focusing his mind on switching off from the pain.  He blacked out after five minutes of battering from Snowy’s paws.

 

Simba woke in a world full of pain, feeling as if he’d been crushed beneath a steamroller!  Everything hurt, from his ears to his paw pads, which he could feel had got a real seeing to, either throbbed or was sore, or ached.  He couldn’t feel the pain of broken bits, but curling the toes of one forepaw told him they were bruised and painful.

      “What happened?”  He asked himself.  His eyes still closed, Simba tried to get to his feet, his body protesting strongly against any movement at all.  Simba worked to get into a crawling posture, but even that hurt like hell.

      “Now open your eyes,” he told himself.  When he did, the room swam into focus, and he saw the control room with noone at the console.

     “Snowy gone,” he thought, remembering the battering chaos before he lost consciousness.  Simba crawled to the chair Snowy had been sitting in and got into it by sheer will power alone, his body screaming in pain with his mind ignoring it.

       “Now what?”  Simba asked himself, looking blearily at the joystick, computer keyboard and buttons, as well as telephone handsets in front of him.  One of the phones was labelled, “the Boss,” Simba picked it up.  He heard a ringing tone, and then someone picked up at the other end.

      “Hello?”  A voice said.  Simba recognised the human’s voice from the encounter in the drum room.

       “I don’t know what to call you,” Simba mewed, his distress mounting, “but, this, this is Simba, the white cub Petra rescued,” the lion cub said.

      “You’re in the control room?”  The Boss asked.

      “Yes,” Simba replied, sniffing slightly, “I, I was attacked.”

      “It’s going to be okay,” the Boss said gently, “now let me get you secure.  I can’t see if there’s noone else in the room with you, can you see anyone?”  Simba looked about him, his eyes full of tears.

      “No, no,” he sniffed, almost choking.

       “It’s all right,” the Boss said gently, “I’m nearly with you.  Simba heard something, a door sliding open at his back.  Screaming, he whirled round, dropping the phone.  The cub saw the Boss coming across the carpet with the portable phone in his hand.  Switching off the handset, he reached across and replaced the handset Simba had been using, before stowing his own set on his belt and then gathering the cub in his arms.  Hugging Simba tightly, the Boss wandered over to the left hand wall and waved a tag which he had round his neck on a cord.  The wall slid sideways, and he walked through into a corridor.  Pressing another button caused the whole control room to lock down so noone could get in.

       “I backed everything up yesterday and cleared the main computers,” the Boss said gently, “We’ll be okay for a while.  Others far away from here are watching the house and wood for a bit.  Snowy’s in the doghouse after what she did to you.  I’ve incarcerated her in a special room in my quarters, one which I hoped I’d never have to use.  It’s got bare floors and nothing else in it.”

      “Sounds like one I spent time in,” Simba mewed.

      “Yes, I know,” the human replied, “now, let’s reunite you with Petra.”

     “She’s mad at me!”  Simba sniffed.

      “Not now I’ve spoken with her,” the human replied, “she’s calm now.”  Entering the living room, the human put Simba down on the floor, noticing how injured the cub was.  Petra ran to Simba, hugged him, lay down and gathered her injured cub to her in a huge embrace.  Fussing over Simba with her teeth, tongue and paws, Petra investigated her cub from nose to tail, grooming and stroking him with everything she had, the cub snuggling up to her for warmth.

 

Meanwhile, Snowy lay in the Boss’s isolation room, cursing fluently as she realised her cameras had worked against her.  The Boss had heard what was going on, and had sent Samson and salty in to drag Snowy out of the control room.  The two big cats had busted in after Snowy had beaten Simba into unconsciousness.  Samson, the stronger cat, dragged Snowy to the isolation room, the Boss and Petra keeping an ear and eye out for anything untoward.  The Boss locked down the control room, securing Simba so he wouldn’t be disturbed.  He and Petra had then talked together while waiting for Simba to stir.  When the white cub got up and called the Boss on his phone, the Boss was already walking towards the door in the wall.

 

Petra found a badly bruised and frightened cub, but that was all.  She reckoned that if Simba hadn’t made the choice not to fight back, he’d be dead now.  Snowy had gone crazy; all because Simba had dared challenge her about her issues with cubs.  Petra herself was feeling a little upset, knowing she’d struck her cub in anger, whereas he’d been right after all.

       “Simba Kizungu,” Petra mewed, “dear cub.  I’m sorry for hitting you, “I didn’t know how far gone Snowy was.”

 

Snowy lay in her prison cell, realising there’d be no rescue for her.  She’d be tagged, her movements monitored.  Snowy wondered how she’d be tagged, would it be by microchip.  Or would it be the more humiliating ear tag.  Snowy didn’t have long to find out.

 

Snowy was dragged out of her cell by Samson, with Salty and Hop along in attendance as bodyguards to Samson.  Dragged to the living room, Snowy was dumped on the floor, Petra and Simba watching her every move.  Samson even stamped on Snowy’s paws to reinforce the message that they were in control and she could do nothing about it.  The Boss approached Snowy with a tiny gadget in the palm of his hand.  Fitting it over Snowy’s ear, he looked into her face, snowy unnerved by the human’s sightless gaze.

      “I would usually use anaesthetic to sedate animals for this,” the human said, “but that’s only for safety and to keep the animal stress free.  As the pain is not too great from these, I will not use it. You have revoked the right to have pain relief for this.  You will be tagged like a convict.  I will do it because Simba cannot work his paws enough to perform the action.”  The human squeezed the trigger and the tag was pinned through Snowy’s ear, the snow tigress squealing with pain and shaking her head.

     “That’s horrible!”  She whimpered.

      “How will you get the tag out of her ear when she’s completed her sentence?”  Petra asked.  The Boss smiled:

      “It can happen,” he replied.  Snowy  watched through a mist of pain as the Boss got a reader off his belt and ran it over Snowy’s body, the ear tag showing it was active by beeping and displaying a green light.

      “Now you will be tracked wherever you go,” the Boss said.  Snowy began to sob with anger and humiliation.

       “I could have taken the injection of a chip easier,” she sobbed, “but this is too much!”  Everyone will know why I have this chip tag!”

      “That’s the point you stupid white cretin!”  Petra snarled, using the most disgusting and degrading language that she knew.  Snowy growled her anger, but could do nothing to the white lioness.

       “Now you will be released,” the Boss said, “but Snowy, you go anywhere near the cubbing dens, or try to steal a cub, you will be incarcerated again.”  Snowy, her ear still throbbing, mewed pitifully.

       “You will not get hold of a cub snowy,” Simba mewed, “the only way you will is by having a cub of your own.”

       “I hate you all!”  Snowy yelled, her paws clenched in anger.  The Boss threw her out of the house into the wood, Hop along and Salty chasing her into the trees.

      “You will be exiled out here for a few days,” Hop along snarled, “I don’t want to see you anywhere near the house snowy!”  Snowy ran from the snarling, snapping snow leopard and tiger.

      “I’m going, I’m going!”  Snowy yelled, her paws skidding on the wet leaves on the forest floor.

       “Got rid of her,” Hop along mewed.

 

Returning to the house, Hop along debriefed Theo and the Boss on what he and Salty had done.

      “Good one,” Theo mewed.

      “Fine by me,” the Boss said, leaving for his quarters and closing the door.

      “Now we’re back to normal?”  Petra asked, “Policing ourselves?”  Theo smiled:

      “Yes,” he replied, “with the Boss’s help of course.”

 

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Martin Wilsher © 2007

 

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