Theo leaps in with all four paws.

 

 

Theo returned to the rug where he and Tembi had spent so many happy hours together. Now Tembi was no longer there, Theo had to put away his feelings towards her.  The feelings he could not put away were those of guilt that he, Theo, had not listened to his instincts sooner.  Feeling very unhappy, Theo lay down, resting his head on his forepaws.  Feeling two cubs lying down next to him, one on either side of him, Theo looked round and saw Petra and Aslan lying beside him.  They each took one of Theo’s paws and began to stroke it.  Theo felt like telling them he was not worthy of their respect, let alone their love, but he couldn’t quite bring himself to tell them.

      “I have something to say to you both,”  Theo said hoarsely, “Tembi’s gone from here for good.  I sent her away my cubs, she did, horrid, awful things, and I didn’t see what she was doing until it was nearly too late!”

       “What things?”  Petra asked.

       “Oh Petra my dear cub, I can’t tell you those things, for they’re too horrible to tell anyone, let alone a cub.  I can’t, can’t say anything, because, it’s too horrible to think of.”  Aslan sighed heavily.

       “You don’t have to tell us if you don’t want to Theo,”  he said, “for there are some things that no cub should know.”

       “Especially what I know,”  Theo mewed.

      “I’m interested now,”  Petra said, still sensing no danger.

      “Please Petra, please my cub, don’t ask,”  Theo mewed.

       “what could Tembi do that could be so horrible as all that?”  Aslan asked, “she wasn’t all that bad, a bit misguided yes, but not all that bad.”

      “You are her cub Aslan, so you will love her no matter what.  But I can’t, not any more.  For, she, she did dreadful things, and would have done more dreadful things if Leo and I had not stopped her.”

       “What did she do?”  Petra asked, come on Theo, it’s surely not that dreadful.”

     “Petra my dear, dear cub, it is, it’s the worst thing in the world.  Tembi is the most horrible and did the most dreadful things a lioness could ever do.  I can’t speak of those things.”  Aslan suddenly remembered the upset over Elsa leaving Petra to fend for herself.

      “She didn’t throw out a cub she’d given birth to did she?”  he asked.

      “No,”  Theo replied, “look Aslan, Petra, I will tell you both, as you’re so interested, but I wish you hadn’t asked.  I wish you’d leave the subject alone!  I had to tell you Tembi had been expelled from the community and that she’d done bad things, but I didn’t want to elaborate on those things.  You two trust me don’t you?”  Petra and Aslan nodded.

      “Of course we do,”  Petra said, “but we’re interested in what Tembi did to be thrown out.  We’re a tolerant community here.  Whatever it is, it must be very bad.”

      “It’s so bad that neither of you would guess what she did, because your mind wouldn’t let you think of the things Tembi actually was attempting,”  Theo replied.

       “She didn’t, didn’t try to kill someone did she?”  Aslan asked.

      “yes Aslan my cub she did,”  Theo replied.

      “I hope whomever she tried to have killed is okay now,”  Petra said.  Theo touched her paw.

      “She is, but it nearly wasn’t the case,”  Theo said.

       “Who would Tembi wish to kill here?”  Aslan asked.

       “I didn’t want to believe it myself,”  Theo sniffed, “but, but, she wanted to kill a cub, a cub who did her no wrong.”

      “Who’s cub?”  Aslan asked.

     “Her own,”  Theo sobbed, “Her own cub Aslan.”

       “You’re saying she wanted to kill Aslan?”  Petra asked.

     “I don’t know,”  Theo replied, “but I think so.  She nearly killed another of her cubs though.”

     “The only other cub she had was me,”  Petra replied, “but I’m not her cub, not really.”

       “Yes Petra love,”  Theo replied, “Tembi wanted to kill you my cub.”  Petra stared at her sire.

       “How?”  She asked, completely stunned.

       “It’s a long story,”  Theo sniffed, “when you were very young, Elsa threw you out of her family.  Noone wanted you, but after Aslan persuaded Tembi to let you have some of her milk Tembi took you on. what I didn’t know was that she hated you Petra, from the very start she couldn’t stand the sight of you.  It was Aslan who talked her round to accepting you.  Then when you drank her milk, Tembi’s instincts kicked in and she mothered you.  When you refused her milk, as all cubs do in the end, Tembi began to hate you again little cub.  Your fish allergy only made things worse, and force feeding you the fish was a way of Tembi punishing you, not making sure you really had an allergy to fish.  She knew you did, she was just playing a horrid game.  Then you were poisoned little cub.  Tarker was the main instigator in this, but it wasn’t just him involved.”

      “There were two capybara too,”  Aslan said, his mind blank.

      “Add to that Tembi, who offered her services as taster for the fish oil to make sure you couldn’t taste it Petra.  Tembi knew what Tarker was doing, and aided him in doing it.  Tarker wanted to play a very mean practical joke, Tembi wanted to kill.  She knew what the fish oil would do to you Petra.  When she came running out with me when you were being sick in the garden, it wasn’t out of concern for you, it was to see if you would die.  When she hit you too my cub, that wasn’t out of fear, it was out of frustrated rage that someone cared for you enough to stay with you and help you.”

       “How awful!”  Aslan mewed, “so neither Elsa, nor Tembi wanted Petra?”

      “No,”  Theo sobbed.  The worst of it is, is that I felt there was something wrong, the minute Tembi force fed Petra, and then hit her when she was ill, I thought there was something wrong.  I’ve been as bad as Tembi, in that I let my love for her override my instinct.  I’ve been negligent in the care of my own cubs!  I saw Tarker’s involvement in the poisoning of Petra’s food, but I didn’t look to those closest to me.  I’ve failed you both, for I didn’t do my job.  I didn’t listen to my inner feelings, and now, now I’ve lost those who are most dear to me.”

      “you mean you suspected there was something wrong with what Tembi was doing, but you denied what you were seeing?”  Aslan asked.

      “Yes Aslan, I did,”  Theo cried, “I denied it all, until it was almost too late!  Tembi told me what she’d done, as she knew Tigger had all but shown me how to read the minds of animals.  She told me she tried to kill Petra!  I’ve been blinded by my own love for that horrid lioness!”  Theo sobbed.

       “so what are we going to do now?”  Aslan asked.

      “I will leave you two, to, to make your own lives,”  Theo said, “for I’m no role model for cubs.  I failed to protect my cubs from their worst enemy, and I can’t forgive myself for that.”

       “It’s very rare for mothers to kill their cubs,”  Aslan said, “so you weren’t expecting it.  You saw the best in Tembi Theo, it’s not your fault.”

      “I could have seen it coming, if I’d listened to my instinct,”  Theo said, “I nearly messed things up, and Petra was nearly killed because I didn’t listen!”

       “Theo,”  Petra said, “Aslan and I won’t leave you.  You’ve been our rock, our friend, the only parent we both have ever really known.  We all make mistakes, we all get things wrong.  You weren’t watching Tembi in case she started killing her cubs because mother’s don’t usually do that.  You can’t be blamed for what happened.  I know you intimately Theo, and you are not a bad lion.  You are young, and have special abilities which you don’t understand yet.  You are only tearing yourself apart now because you know of those abilities and are sorry you didn’t know how to use them, you know now that what they were telling you was the truth, but you didn’t know then.  Because of circumstances, you can learn, and I know you have.  You are a very special lion Theo, and Aslan and I will stick by you.  You don’t need to think of this any more.  Come, hug me, hug Aslan, take our paws in yours, stroke them, tickle them.  Do what you’ve wanted to do for a long time.  Play with us, your cubs.”  Aslan and Petra worked their paws beneath Theo’s.  Theo’s paws were relaxed, as he’d got no strength left to clench them in fear or rage.  Aslan and Petra curled Theo’s toes around their own, so his paws held theirs.

     “Come on Theo,”  Aslan said, “we want you to play with us.”  Theo looked into the eyes of his two cubs.

       “I love you both,”  he choked.  Aslan and Petra nuzzled Theo’s ears, the two cubs snuggling closer to him.

      “I want to hug you both, but I don’t deserve to,”  Theo sniffed.

       “You can hug us, we want you to,”  Petra replied.

      “Yes Theo,”  Aslan said, “Hold us tightly, stroke our ears, caress our paws, hug us forever.”  Theo looked at his two cubs.

       “Come to me if you want,”  he said.  Both Petra and Aslan went to Theo, and he embraced each of them.

      “Let me take your paw Theo,”  Petra said, taking one of his large fat forepaws in both of her tiny ones.

      “Let’s both massage his paws Aslan,”  Petra mewed.  Aslan smiled, licked Theo on the nose, and tickled the pads of the paw he held, making Theo laugh despite his mood.

      “time to tickle your paws!”  Petra laughed, tickling Theo’s paw until he rolled over, laughing and pedalling the air with his hind paws.  Aslan and Petra stroked and massaged Theo’s forepaws.

       “You have lovely paws Theo,”  Petra said, “lovely, fat, soft, warm, very strokable paws!”

     “Agreed,”  Aslan said, “in fact, the whole of Theo is pretty much that way.

       “I’m not fat!”  Theo mewed.  Aslan and Petra laughed merrily, stroking the young lion’s paws.  Theo purred contentedly, enjoying the loving attention of his cubs.  Theo rolled over and embraced his cubs tightly.

     “I love you both,”  he said, hugging Aslan and Petra tightly.

       “More hugs from those fat paws Petra,”  Aslan mewed.  Petra laughed, throwing her paws round Theo’s neck and hugging him.

       “When you hug us,”  Petra said to Theo, “Aslan and I can feel the love you have for us in the way your paws caress us Theo.”  Theo wiped his eyes with one of the fat paws under discussion.

       “I love you both very much,”  he said, “I’d go mad if anything happened to you.”  Aslan and Petra each took one of Theo’s paws in both of theirs and began to stroke it.

      “How’s that?”  Aslan asked.

      “that’s lovely,”  Theo purred, “both of you do a wonderful paw massage.”

       “Will you stroke our paws Theo?”  Petra asked.

      “I will Petra my cub, I will,”  Theo mewed.  Aslan and Petra tickled Theo’s paws, Theo laughing helplessly.

     “I love it!”  He whooped.

 

Theo caught hold of Aslan’s left forepaw with the toes of his hind, the cub surprised at how strong Theo’s hind paws were.

 

Their play was halted by frantic banging on the front door of the house.  Aslan patted the pads of Theo’s paw and his sire released him.

     “Let’s see who’s there,”  Aslan mewed, running for the door.  Leo joined him, and they put the door chain on and opened the door as far as the chain would allow.

 

Standing on the doorstep was a fat lioness.  She was huge!  Though Leo knew this was due to her being in cub.  She looked at them with desperate eyes.

       “Can we help?”  Leo asked, now very concerned.

       “I don’t know if you’ll want to,”  the lioness mewed, easing her weight uncomfortably from paw to paw, “I’m in cub, I think I’m about to give birth, and, and, well.  I was pointed here by a lioness who’d just been thrown out of your community, her name was Elsa I believe.  It so happens she and I have the same name, for Elsa’s a very popular name among lioness’s.  I won’t eat my cubs, I promise you that!  I’m just looking, looking for a place, secure place,  to have them!”  The poor lioness suddenly squatted on her haunches, closed her eyes and sat there, her teeth clenched with pain.

       “What’s happening?”  Aslan asked.  The lioness named Elsa was now gripping the raised step with her forepaws, panting and gasping, while digging her toes into the concrete as she fought to control the birth of her cubs.

       “Aslan looked at Leo, who’s face was stony cold.”

      “We can’t help her,”  Leo said, “I won’t have another lioness with that name in this house, do you hear Aslan!” Aslan drew himself up to his full height, which wasn’t much, and stared Leo down.

      “We can’t let her have her cubs out there, not now she’s begged our help!”  Aslan yelled, “this poor lioness can’t help her mother’s choice of name, nor can she help the conduct of the lioness whom we’ve just thrown out.  We need to help her, for, in case you hadn’t noticed, she’s close to having her cubs!”  Leo banged the carpet with his paw!

      “I’m not, not not!  Letting that dammed lioness in here!”  he roared, “she can have her disgusting cubs in the garden!  Escort her round there!”

      “She won’t be able to make it Leo,”  Theo said, for he’d followed Aslan and his leader out into the hallway.

     “How would you know!”  Leo snapped, “those lioness’s can cross their hind legs if they want to, she can cope!”  The poor lioness was panting and pawing at the concrete in an attempt to distract herself from the increasing pain and need to give birth to her cubs.  Claws extended, she scrabbled at the raised concrete step with both paws.

      “I can’t watch this!”  Leo yelled, “do what you have to, just don’t bring her into the house!”  Theo snarled at his brother, angry with him for the first time in years.

      “You horrid creature Leo!”  he growled, “how dare you turn away an animal in distress!”  Now Elsa’s distress was acute, she could feel her cubs coming, and she knew that if she didn’t get somewhere safe soon, she’d have her cub on the path outside the house.

 

Leo turned to Theo and glared at him.

     “You deal with this!”  he snapped, “if I hear anything, anything!  I will rip your paws off, as well as  the lioness’s, and those of her born cubs!  Do you understand?”  Theo wasn’t listening.  Pushing  past Leo, he took the lioness’s paw and guided her into the house, Leo and Aslan making way for them, Leo giving Theo angry looks the whole time.

     “Can I come and help?”  Aslan asked.

     “No Aslan, I’d rather you didn’t,”  Theo purred, “I will tell you when you can come upstairs.  Theo led Elsa into the house, the lioness finding walking difficult.  Panting and gasping, Elsa stumbled along the hallway and mounted the stairs.

      “My cubs are very close!”  She panted, “I don’t know if I can make it up the stairs!  What if I have a cub on the stairs!”

      “I will follow you up,”  Theo said gently, “that way I can catch the cub if it arrives.”  Elsa couldn’t help laughing at this, despite the pain.

     “Now Elsa,”  Theo purred, “one step at a time, take it easy, lift one paw, then another, then another until you are up the stairs.  If you need to brace yourself against the stairs and push, you do that, don’t worry about anything.  It doesn’t matter if you have your cubs here, or in the cubbing den, just take your time.”  Elsa started up the stairs, and now she felt calmer, her labour seemed to ease a little, making her climb easier.  Once she was up the stairs, Elsa crawled the rest of the way.  Theo didn’t walk beside her, he got down and crawled like she was doing, so he was nose to nose, paw to paw with Elsa, giving her support the whole way.  Elsa realised this lion must have done this kind of thing before, or if he hadn’t, he must have learned from talking to other animals.  They crawled along, Theo keeping an eye on Elsa the whole time.  When she stopped to allow a contraction to spend itself, so did Theo.  When she curled her toes into the carpet and clenched her teeth, so did he, encouraging her all the way.

      “You’re all but having a cub there,”  Elsa panted.  Theo smiled.

      “I’ve done this before,”  he said, “the cub you saw by the front door is my cub.  I helped my mate have her cubs, that’s how I know about all this.”  Elsa took Theo’s paw and held it.  While she was doing this, a savage contraction gripped her, forcing her to crush Theo’s paw in hers!

      “Go on, squeeze away!”  Theo encouraged as Elsa groaned her way through the contraction.  Once it was over, she and Theo began crawling towards the cubbing den, which had been moved into a disused large broom cupboard since Elsa’s cubs had been born.  Theo and Clarence had kept a permanent set up there, just in case.  Now it was going to be put to good use.

      “I’m sorry for putting you through all this,”  Elsa mewed between contractions.

     “that’s okay,”  Theo replied, gently stroking her paw. “Please promise me this Elsa,”  Theo continued, “promise me you won’t worry about me during the birth of your cubs.  You can crush my paws, stamp your paws, mew, yell, bang the carpet with your paws, kick the wall, even kick me if I get on your nerves.  Just do what you feel like doing while you’re having your cubs, don’t worry about me.”  Elsa hugged Theo, her movement triggering another contraction which she spent clinging to Theo, her face buried in his mane, mewing and crying.  Theo returned Elsa’s hug, the touch of his well padded paws comforting the labouring lioness.  Elsa panted and mewed as she came down from the contraction.

       “I tried, tried not to screech with pain,”  Elsa said, “as my mouth was inches from your ear Theo.”  Theo patted Elsa’s paw.

      “Let’s get into the cubbing den,”  he suggested, leading Elsa into the den by guiding her by one of her sweat soaked forepaws.  Elsa padded in, her whole body soaked with sweat, and the labour wasn’t even at its peak yet.

      “I’ve always been a wimp when it comes to cubbing,”  Elsa said, “I’m not good with pain Theo.”  Theo licked her ear.

       “I will help, or not, whatever you want,”  he replied.  Elsa lay down, settling herself as comfortably as she could.

      “I will stay here for as long as you want me,”  Theo said, “if you want me to leave you to have your cubs alone, I will do that if you want.”

        “|No,”  Elsa mewed, “let’s get through this together.  I’ve barged into your home, and feel bad enough about that.  You can stay while I have my cubs Theo.”  Theo stroked Elsa’s paw, it was hot, her pads damp with sweat.

      “There’s nothing to worry about,”  Theo said gently, “just do what you want to do.”  Elsa closed her eyes as another contraction tore through her.

      “It’s time to start pushing!”  She yelled, “I want to, want to push Theo!”  Theo held Elsa’s paw as she bore down against her cubs, all the while groaning and lashing out with desperate paws.  Theo felt her claws gripping his fur.

     “It’s nearly over Elsa,”  Theo mewed, “just a bit more!”  Elsa mewed and pawed at Theo, retracting her claws as she came down from her expulsive effort.

       “it’s going to be like this all the way now,”  Theo said to Elsa, who, in reply,  mewed with fear and pain.

      “I think I might know something that could help,”  Theo said.

      “Try anything, Anything!”  Elsa gasped.  Theo began to massage Elsa’s paw, Elsa immediately relaxing as her pain was dulled by the massage.

     “this is good!”  Elsa mewed, “but I must push again!”  Theo felt Elsa’s paw clench in anticipation of dreadful pain as the contraction built in her.  When she realised the pain wasn’t as bad, Elsa closed her eyes, took a deep breath and pressed down harder than she’d ever done before, bullying the cub into the world!  Elsa yelled with triumph as she felt the cub really begin to move.

      “that’s it!”  she panted, “more like that, and the cubs will be born soon!  I want to push like that again!”

        “You can,”  Theo replied, still calm, still massaging Elsa’s paw.  Elsa suddenly became tense:

     “I can hear someone coming up the stairs!”  she mewed, panting with anxiety.  Then there was fierce banging on the door!

      “I told you to keep that bloody noise down!”  Leo yelled.  Theo ignored his brother.

       “I warned you Theo, keep that bloody lioness quiet!  Muzzle her if you have to!”  Leo bellowed.  Elsa began to mew with fear, her anxiety bringing on a strong contraction, which she couldn’t control!  Screeching with pain, she crushed Theo’s paw, the young lion holding her close with his free forepaw, while Elsa buried her head in his mane in an attempt to muffle her cries of pain.

      “Tell him to go away!”  she pleaded when she could speak.

      “I don’t want to hear any more!”  Leo yelled, banging on the door with the flat of his paw.

     “Well shove off downstairs and you won’t have to will you!”  Theo replied, now furious with his brother.

     “You and that bloody lioness will pay dearly for disobeying my orders!”  Leo roared.

       “My first cub isn’t even born yet, and this happens,”  Elsa mewed, her whole body shaking with fear.

      “Nothing will happen to you Elsa my dear,”  Theo replied calmly, “Leo hates cubbing, he won’t come in here.”  Leo suddenly tore the door open!  Elsa screamed with fear and tried to curl into a ball on the soft rug.  This brought on contractions which had Elsa stretched out full length, screaming with fear and pain, pedalling the air and clawing at the rug with all four paws.  Leo looked into the cubbing den, his anger at Theo and Elsa peaking.  He strode in and stood over Theo.

      “You keep that bloody lioness quiet!”  he roared, the sound of Leo’s voice and Elsa’s screaming and clawing paws filling the small space.  Theo looked up at his brother, seemingly unconcerned by his outburst.

      “You don’t understand do you Leo,”  Theo sighed,, acting as if Elsa wasn’t there beside him, struggling to have her cubs, “you will never understand what cubbing is.  It’s painful, hard, strenuous work, and a lioness is going to make a lot of noise while she has her cubs.”  Elsa watched the two lions, her observation cut short by another crushing pain.  Squealing with agony, Elsa closed her eyes and groped with her forepaws for the first paw she could find.  Leo yelled with anger and surprise as Elsa’s forepaws closed over one of his, gripping and crushing it!  Elsa moaned and wriggled, for her first cub was close to being born and she was now more uncomfortable than ever.  ~Leo tugged at his paw, eager to get away, but Elsa’s paws gripped his with vice like strength.

       “Let go of my paw!”  Leo snarled, beating and clawing at Elsa’s paws with his free one.  Elsa was in a world of her own, a world of pain and fear.

      “I can see the cub’s forepaws Elsa!”  Theo mewed softly, stroking the lioness’s left hind paw.  Elsa no longer cared about the fact she had Leo’s forepaw gripped in hers, Theo massaging her hind paw and making sure she kept pushing hard to deliver her cubs were all that mattered to her.  Leo’s paw was a good anchor, and Elsa held on with desperate strength.

      “That’s it,”  Theo soothed as Elsa clenched and relaxed the paw he held, her toes scratching his pads, “you are doing very well Elsa.  Now let that cub come, don’t push, let it come gently, gently, gently.  Elsa panted, feeling the cub slide into the world.  Theo watched, ignoring Leo, who had closed his eyes and thrust his free paw into his mouth to stop himself being physically sick.

       “the cub’s body’s nearly out now,”  Theo purred, stroking Elsa’s hind paw as she panted and mewed with pain and fear.

      “I want to push Theo, I must!”  Elsa panted.

     “Just a little push then,”  Theo said softly, “that’s it, good one Elsa.”  Elsa felt the first cub slide completely free.

     “One cub Elsa dear,”  Theo said gently.  Elsa mewed a reply, but she was consumed with the urge to deliver more cubs.  Theo knew he had to clean the cub up, but Elsa needed him.  Looking at Leo, he said:

      “Leo, take the toes of that paw out of your mouth and help me clean this cub up will you?”  Leo shook his head violently.

       “Elsa,”  Theo said, “before you have that second cub, please, release my brother’s paw, I think he wants to leave now.”  Elsa took a deep breath and let go of Leo’s paw, the huge lion turning tail and bolting in a blind panic.

      “That’s got rid of him,”  Theo purred, making Elsa laugh.  Theo set to work cleaning Elsa’s first cub up, while Elsa concentrated on controlling her urge to birth another cub.  Once the tiny newborn cub was drinking busily from Elsa’s milk supply, Theo returned to Elsa, took one of her forepaws and began to stroke it, while the lioness got on with birthing another cub.  With help from Theo’s paw massage, Elsa gave birth to another cub.  She found that now she wasn’t frightened any more, the labour didn’t hurt as much, and she could obey her body’s will without fear.

      “Come on Elsa!”  Theo urged, “just one more push, make it a big one!”  Elsa settled her paws, one of which was in Theo’s, took a deep breath and bore down hard!  The cub slowly emerged into the world, for it was a large one.  Elsa kept pushing, bracing her paws against Theo’s and the rug, willing her cub to be born.  Theo saw that Elsa’s cub was too big for her to give birth to unaided.  All her effort had only brought the cub’s forepaws and legs into the open.  when Elsa exerted herself to her maximum, Theo could see the cub’s nose, but it would always slip back when she relaxed.  Elsa was now thinking the same thing as Theo.  She’d had one litter of cubs before, and knew by the feel of things that she had a large cub.”

      “I’m going to pull the cub while you push,”  Theo said softly to Elsa, who waved a weary paw in assent.  Theo dried the cub’s slippery paws on a corner of the rug and then grabbed hold of its paws.

     “They’re large like mine,”  he thought as he felt the cub’s paws in his.

     “Now Elsa, when you push, I’ll pull gently,”  Theo said.  Elsa mewed a reply, then pushed hard!  Theo pulled gently, Elsa’s hind paws scrabbling at his fur throughout, finally finding purchase on the rug with the toes of one hind paw and holding on to it with them for dear life, which indeed it was.  Theo pulled gently on the cub’s paws, then, when its head and part of it’s body emerged and he could grasp the cub’s body, Theo did, guiding the cub into the world while Elsa, with clenched teeth and the toes of all four paws curled into the rug, fought to have her cub.

 

Meanwhile, Elsa’s other cub had finished his drink and was eagerly listening to the goings on, fascinated by what was happening.  Lion cubs are blind at birth, so the cub couldn’t see anything, but he could hear, and could feel too.  Exploring with his tiny paws, he found Elsa’s left hind paw, the toes of which were curled into the rug.  Feeling something touching her paw, Elsa looked round, to find one of her cubs exploring the pads of her paw with his.  Elsa mewed to the cub to leave her paw alone, as he might get hurt.  The cub patted the pads of Elsa’s paw as if he understood and crawled towards Theo, who was easing the larger cub’s hind legs into the world under pressure from Elsa.  The cub’s legs came free, and then, with one final mewing, hissing, spitting effort from Elsa, so did the cub’s hind paws.  Elsa lay back, Exhausted and relieved while Theo cleaned up the second cub.  Elsa’s first cub crawled to her head and touched her nose with his paw.  Elsa smiled, licked the cub’s nose and took him in her paws, hugging him.  Theo was fighting with the larger of the two cubs, who objected to his attempt at grooming her, pawing at his nose and spitting at him when she felt his tongue on her fur.  Theo managed to clean the cub up, and she angrily spat at him and crawled over to Elsa, smacking her paw and mewing that she might have been born only a few minutes, but she knew one thing for sure, and that was that she absolutely hated the lion who’d licked her dry.

      “don’t say things like that,”  Elsa pleaded, “it’s not nice, and anyway, that lion’s the one who saved your life little one.”

       “yeah sister, so stop complaining,”  the first cub snarled, whacking his larger sibling with one tiny forepaw.  The female cub angrily drank her milk, Elsa looking over at Theo with a pained expression.

      “I’ll go find you a drink Elsa dear,”  Theo said.  Elsa stopped him with a raised paw.

     “Theo,”  she said, “come here,”  Theo went to her and Elsa hugged him tightly.

      “Thank you Theo,”  she mewed, nuzzling his ear and stroking his paws, “I couldn’t have done it without you here.  You are the best of lions, not just knowing your stuff like you do, but caring, caring so deeply for me and my cubs.”  Theo, now knowing everything would be okay, let the emotion of the last few hours take over, and wept into Elsa’s fur.  Elsa and Theo cried together for a few minutes.

       “That’s lovely to see,”  Someone said.  Everyone, including Elsa’s newborn cubs, turned at the sound of the voice.  Theo saw a white paw waving at him from a high shelf at the back of the cupboard.  Recognising the paw, Theo yelled:

     “Petra, what the hell are you doing here!”

      “As soon as |I saw what was happening at the front door, I knew you wouldn’t turn the lioness away, so I ran up here and hid.  I knew you’d both come up here, so I stayed and watched everything!”

       “Come down here!”  Theo snarled, though his heart wasn’t in it.  He knew Petra had wanted to see a cubbing for a long time, and now she’d seen one.

      “It’s a pity Aslan didn’t just take the chance and come up here too,”  Petra said, leaping down from her hiding place.

       “There you are wrong little sister,”  Aslan mewed, emerging from a pile of rugs at the back of the broom cupboard.

      “both of you?”  Theo asked.

      “Um, yeah, looks like it,”  Aslan mewed, making Petra and Elsa laugh helplessly.

      “I don’t know whether to cuff you both for disobeying my request not to come up here, or to be glad to see you,”  Theo mewed.

      “I’d take the second option,”  Elsa said.

     “Our Theo’s the best in the world when it comes to helping lioness’s give birth to their cubs,”  Petra announced, as if Elsa didn’t already know.  Elsa smiled at the way Petra spoke.

      “It’s as if he’s the only parent you have,”  she said, “where’s your mum?”  Petra looked upset:

       “That was why Leo got furious with you downstairs,”  she mewed Sadly, “my mum abandoned me and Aslan.”  Theo didn’t correct Petra’s misreading of events, for she was basically right, as far as she was concerned anyway.  He didn’t wish to tell why Tembi had been thrown out yet.

      “that aside,”  Aslan said, “being here while you had your cubs Elsa was wonderful!  Elsa smiled, remembering how Theo helped her through it all.

      “Your sire,”  she said, “is the most wonderful lion I’ve ever met.

     “We think so too!”  Petra and Aslan mewed in unison, falling about with laughter when they realised what they’d done.

 

Meanwhile, down in the living room, Leo was furious!

      “How dare they make noise like that!”  he blustered to snowy, who ignored him.

       “Are you listening snowy?”  Leo asked, shaking the snow tigress, who’d relaxed, letting her entire body go limp.  Snowy’s head lolled and her paws were flaccid as Leo touched her.  Now terrified, Leo began whacking Snowy and yelling at her.

      “Snowy! Snowy!”  While he was at this, Snowy suddenly whipped round and sank her teeth into his paw!  Leo screamed with pain and fear!

       “Your ranting about Theo and Elsa infuriates me!”  Snowy yelled, “You make me want to die of boredom Leo!  Theo’s right, you’re wrong!  Who cares whether the lioness has the same name as one we’ve just expelled?  She needed help, and Theo gave her help!  You are a horrid creature Leo!”

      “That lioness got hold of my paw and crushed it during her labour!”  Leo whimpered.

      “And why was that?”  Snowy asked, “because you interfered with what she and Theo were doing Leo!  I wish you’d left well alone!”

        “Where are Petra and Aslan?”  Nanuq asked.

      “Up with Elsa and Theo,”  Hop along replied, “I saw them run up to the cubbing den just before Theo and Elsa got there.”

     “I hope they hid well, or Theo’s going to be furious!”  Leo snarled.

       “I don’t think he will be as angry as all that,”  snowy replied, “he loves his cubs dearly, and won’t mind them seeing him doing what he does best.  He might be a little put out, but not unduly so.”  Leo looked down at his paws, now realising he’d put his paw in it with Snowy.  Maybe he wasn’t the leader he thought he was.  Maybe, just maybe, Theo was the one who should lead the community.  For he’d had the most sense in this matter.

 

Meanwhile, Elsa, Theo and their cubs were playing together, Elsa’s female cub having forgotten her dislike of Theo, and found him playful, rather like an overgrown cub really.  She rolled on the rugs with him, batting at his whiskers and tickling his huge paws, which everyone had a go at, as noone, not even Elsa, could resist the temptation to tickle the young lion’s fat paws.  A temptation which Theo was delighted to indulge, letting them tickle his paws until he was weak with laughter.

     “Now we’ve exhausted Theo,”  Petra said, “let’s start on Elsa!” The four cubs launched an assault on Elsa’s paws, tickling her until she was worn out.

 

Tired from play, the cubs snuggled down close to Theo and Elsa, feeling equally close to both of them. Elsa and Theo caressed the paws of whichever cubs were closest to them, neither minding if they were stroking the other’s cubs.  Theo slept with his paws holding those of Petra and Elsa’s male cub, Elsa sleeping with her paws caressing those of Aslan and her own female cub.  During their sleep, Tigger crept into the cupboard and removed all the dirty bedding from where Theo had rolled it up near the door before  replacing it with fresh from the pile in which Aslan had hidden.  Tigger knew what had gone on, and paused briefly beside Theo after completing his task, touching the young lion’s paw with his.

     “Well done Theo my friend,”  Tigger whispered.  Tigger left on silent paws, closing the door behind him.

 

 

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Martin Wilsher © 2006

 

 

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