Building bridges.


Theo, Elsa and their cubs slept deeply.  In the morning, Theo and Elsa were still exhausted by the events of the previous two days.  Their cubs however were full of beans.  Leona and Simba drank Elsa’s milk, and then wanted to go with Aslan and Petra to explore the house.  Elsa, still semi conscious, sleepily told them they couldn’t go.  Aslan took her paw in his and Elsa woke properly as she felt the same grip from Aslan’s paw as she did when Theo held her paw.  Aslan was a confident cub, and Elsa could feel it.

      Petra and I will look after our younger brother and sister,”  he said, “you need not fear for their safety.”  Elsa looked blearily into Aslan’s face.

      “you’re only a cub,”  Elsa mewed, “I can’t give responsibility for the safety of my cubs to you, much as I’d like to.”

       “He’s no cub Elsa my dear,”  someone said.  Elsa looked round, to see a strange lion lying in the doorway to the cubbing den.  He looked very gentle, but sad too.

     “Who are you?  What is your name?”  Elsa asked, her fur standing on end with fear.

      “My name’s Clarence,”  the lion replied, “I’m, was, the first Elsa’s mate.  I vouch for Aslan’s character and steadfastness.  He’s no cub Elsa.”  Elsa felt uneasy.  She’d heard some of the other animals say that the first Elsa was a cub killer, and that her mate, Clarence, had taken her back to be his mate after she’d got in cub with another male.  Was Clarence a danger to her cubs?

      “I would rather you left now Clarence,”  Elsa said sharply, “you are not wanted here!”  Clarence shuffled away.

      “You needn’t have done that mum!”  Aslan mewed.  Elsa caught her breath as the lion cub’s words sank in.

     “I’m not your mum,”  she said, “I’d like to be, but I’m not, not really.”

      “We think of you as our mum, me and Petra do,”  Aslan replied, “now, listen to me.  Clarence is no threat to you or us.  I know what was going through your head mum, and you’re wrong!  Clarence had nothing to do with abandoning Petra, nothing to do with Tembi poisoning her!  Clarence was there when Petra was born, and he did everything to save her!  Tembi was Clarence’s cub, and now he’s feeling dreadful because of that.  Clarence is a gentle, loveable lion!”

       “He is,”  Theo replied, having woken when Aslan started yelling at Elsa.

      “how could he not know what was happening to Petra!”  Elsa yelled.

      “I didn’t know, and I was the one looking after her full time,”  Theo mewed, “Clarence only put her onto Tembi and me.”

      “Clarence’s upset,”  Petra mewed.

      “Wouldn’t you be if your cub had nearly murdered her own cub?”  Theo asked, forgetting for a minute whom he was speaking to.

       “Theo,”  Petra said miserably, “I think I know more about that than anyone here!”

       “I’m sorry Petra!”  Theo mewed, “I forgot for a minute who I was speaking to.”

      “How can you forget!”  Petra sobbed.  Theo took the weeping cub in his paws and hugged her, near to tears himself now.

      Petra love,”  he sniffed, “I didn’t mean to say what I did.  I’m tired, confused and scared little cub.  I’m in a spin about this leadership thing, and I spoke without thinking.  I didn’t mean to upset you little cub.  Petra clung to her sire with desperate paws.

      “I thought you’d forgotten about that,”  she sobbed, “when you were with me n’all.”  Theo hugged her tightly.

     “No Petra no,”  he mewed, “I haven’t forgotten.”  Petra used Theo’s mane to dry her eyes.

      “We want to go exploring,”  Leona mewed.

      “What part of no don’t you understand!”  Elsa snapped, cuffing her cub.  Leona yowled with shock and pain.

      “Aslan’s a cub, and Petra’s even more of a cub than Aslan is, so I’m not letting him take charge of either of you, let alone both!”  Elsa yelled.

      “Aslan’s no cub!”  Petra mewed, stamping her paws with anger, “he’s a brave lion, a very brave lion!”

       “from what I’ve seen, all he likes to do is roll over and have his paws tickled!”  Elsa yelled, “you call that behaviour brave?  Another thing, the next time you stamp your paws at me Petra, I will slap your pads so hard you won’t be able to walk for a week!”

      “Now this is just stupid!”  Theo snarled, “We all like that here Elsa, touching paws, or paw massage, as well as tickling of the paws is what we call play here.  That’s all Aslan’s doing!  He can be very mature when he wants to be.  Please Elsa, let our cubs go exploring.  Noone will hurt them.”

      “Aslan’s still a cub!”  Elsa yelled, “I won’t have Petra stamping her paws at me again either!”

      “go and have a look round, all four of you,”  Theo purred.  Aslan and Petra marshalled the two younger cubs and led them out of the cubbing den.  When the sound of their tiny paws was out of earshot, Elsa fell into an uneasy sleep.


Meanwhile, Aslan and the other cubs had reached the main bedroom, to be confronted with a large brown bear who was just returning to the quilt on which he lived.  The bear spotted the four cubs and crawled over to meet them, throwing his paws round Petra’s neck with a cry of joy and embracing her tightly.


Petra snuggled into Kodiak’s hug, Aslan smiling at his sister.

      “I’m so glad to see you,”  Kodiak said, “to see all four of you that is.  Tell me Petra, where did you and Aslan find the other two cubs?”

      “We saw them born Kodiak,”  Aslan mewed.

      “Well I never!”  Kodiak said incredulously, “how did you get to see something as wonderful as that?”  Petra told the bear everything, and by the end of the tale, Kodiak was laughing with delight.

      “So you two really saw the sight of a lifetime!”  he whooped.

     “We did,”  Aslan mewed, “it was wonderful!”

       “I’m sorry Leo felt he had to put his paws where they weren’t wanted though, that’s a bad business that is,”  Kodiak said soberly, “I hope Theo knows what he’s doing with that lion, for Leo’s dangerous.”

     “I don’t think he does know what to do with him Kodiak,”  Petra said, “Theo’s terrified of the consequences of what he did.  He’s no leader, not yet anyway.  Theo’s just a big softy!”

      “He is,”  Leona replied, “for I should know, I fought Theo while he was drying me off after my birth, and I clawed at him big time, but he didn’t smack me with those huge paws of his.”  Simba hugged his younger sister tightly.

     “It’s cold here,”  he mewed.

      “Are you cold little one?”  Arki asked.  Simba turned his head towards the sound of her voice.

     “Who’s that?”  he asked.

     “Oh, that’s Arki,”  Aslan replied, “she’s a polar bear.”

    “She’s a what?  What’s a polar bear?”  Simba enquired.

      “I’m a polar bear,”  Arki replied, crawling over to the lion cub and taking him in her huge paws, “I have white fur from my nose to the pads of my paws.”

      “You have soft paws too!”  Simba mewed, snuggling instinctively into the polar bear’s hug.  Simba worked his paws deep into the polar bear’s thick fur.

      “Nice warm paws Simba?”  Arki asked.  Simba faintly mewed a reply, for he was rapidly falling asleep, as very young cubs will when hugged by anything as warm and inviting as the paws of a huge and very friendly polar bear.  Simba snuggled closer to Arki.

     “sleep well little cub,”  Arki said gently.


Meanwhile, Aslan and Kodiak played together, the cub tickling the brown bear’s paws as if his life depended on it.  Kodiak was soon too weak to fight back, lying as if dead.  Aslan hugged the bear as best he could.

      “You cubs are so funny!”  Kodiak said.  Aslan touched the bear’s nose with his, Kodiak playfully licking the lion cub’s nose.

      “Can I join in the fun?”  Petra asked.

     “Let’s both tickle Petra’s paws Kodiak!”  Aslan mewed.  Petra squealed with surprise as she was bowled over by Aslan, then Kodiak and the lion cub tickled her paws.  Petra squealed loudly with laughter, the sound waking Elsa and bringing her tearing into the room!

     “What the hell’s going on!”  She demanded.

      “Ko, Kodiak and Aslan,”  Petra mewed breathlessly, “they were, were tickling my paws!  It was wonderful!”  Elsa, furious with worry, stormed back to the cubbing den.

      “tickling paws, what are these cubs on!”  She thought angrily.  Slamming the door to the cubbing den, Elsa flopped on the rug as if exhausted.

      “Tickling each other’s paws?”  Theo asked smiling.

     “Yup,”  Elsa mewed, “I don’t know what those cubs get out of that pass time Theo.”

      “I could show you,”  he invited.

       “I don’t know,”  Elsa replied, “I love my paws stroked n’all that, but tickled?  Are you sure it’s safe?”

      “they say laughter is the best form of medicine,”  Theo purred, touching Elsa’s paw.

     “Oh all right, give it a try,”  she mewed.  Theo did, tickling the pads of her paw with the toes of his.  Elsa whipped her paw away, laughing helplessly!

       “You big cub!”  She mewed, her eyes shining with delight.

        “You want more?”  Theo asked.  Elsa nodded.

      “more of the same, but supplied in king size portions!”  Theo whooped, tickling Elsa’s hind paws this time.  Elsa rolled and twisted, but Theo kept at least one of his paws in contact with one of hers at all times.  Elsa realised Theo was a true professional at this game, and she’d never be able to beat him.

      “Even crawling away wont’ work, because you’ll tickle the pads of my hind paws!”  Elsa laughed.  Theo smiled:

      “that I will,”  he replied, hugging her.  suddenly the door burst open, and Aslan burst in with the three other cubs, all of them setting upon Theo!  Aslan and Petra pinned him down, while Leona and Simba began tickling his hind paws!  Theo mewed and wriggled, but couldn’t free his hind paws from the military assault on them.

      “Please,”  Theo gasped, “could you all leave my paws alone!”  he was now so weak from laughing he’d given up tickling Elsa’s hind paws.  The cubs stopped tickling Theo’s paws, and began to rub his pads instead.

     “Saved by my own cubs,”  Elsa purred, “Theo’s merciless when he gets hold of a paw you know.”  The cubs laughed.

       “I was set upon by Aslan and Kodiak,”  Petra mewed theatrically, “think how I felt!  My paws are still tingling now!”

      “come here, and I’ll rub them better,”  Elsa mewed, though she too could feel her paws tingling from Theo’s assault on them.  Elsa longed to tickle Theo’s paws, just as his cubs had.


Mewing, Elsa slipped her paw beneath Theo’s and picked it up in preparation for stroking it.  Theo relaxed, but not for long.  Elsa stroked his paw for a while, then tickled the pads!  Theo mewed with surprise and whipped his paw away!

       “You big bully!”  he mewed, swiping at Elsa playfully with the paw she’d just tickled.


Meanwhile, Leo lay in his prison cell, thinking about his lot.  He knew he’d lost the leadership, for he’d heard Nanuq say so.  Miserably, Leo thought about why he’d lost it totally at the lioness named Elsa.  He buried his face in his paws, the pads of which were freezing cold.

     “I’ve been so stupid, so stupid!”  he sobbed, “I’ve lost my status in the community, but worst of all, I’ve lost my brother!  I forced my own brother to defend his mate and cubs against me!  What kind of a lion am I?  I’m a loser, Theo isn’t!  I love you Theo, I love you my brother,”  Leo said aloud, “I wan’a go home!”  he cried.


Suddenly, with desperate strength, Leo leapt up at the metal door, battering at it with his paws and using his considerable weight against it!  Snarling, Leo tore at the metal door, but his claws skidded off the metal.  In frustrated rage he began to bang the metal door with both forepaws and scream hysterically.


“Theo heard the commotion from the cubbing den and, gently putting an end to the rub down his cubs were giving him, they all trooped out to see what was happening by looking out of the back window.  They saw the door to the concrete shed shaking with Leo’s attempts to get free, and heard the lion’s screaming entreaties to be set free.  Theo had an idea, one that would bring Leo back into the community but let him make reparations too.  Theo was in tune with Leo, he knew what the lion was thinking.

     “I’m going downstairs to let Leo go free,”  Theo said to Elsa, who gripped his paw with such force she nearly broke it.

      “No Theo, no!”  she pleaded, “he’s a terror, he’ll kill our cubs!”

     “I don’t think so,”  Theo mewed, “I have spiritual connection with my brother in the same way I have with you Elsa, I can see his mood and  read his thoughts.  I couldn’t do so when he was mad, because he wouldn’t let me.  Now I know what he wants to do, and killing you or your cubs is not on his list.  I will let him go, and let him talk to me.  Believe me Elsa, this won’t be easy for him.  In fact it will be harder for him than being locked up for the rest of his life.  Leo will have to articulate what he feels, for I know what he feels, but he must say it, to you, to me, to everyone!  I will make him talk to us.  Meanwhile, you and our cubs can rest easy.”


Theo walked downstairs, into the open air, and approached the concrete shed.  Leo, now exhausted, lay on his back on the other side of the metal door to Theo.  Leo heard someone padding up to the door, drawing the bolt and then opening the door.  Leo opened his eyes to see Theo looking down at him.

      “Leo,”  Theo said, “I believe you want to talk to me?”  Leo stared at his brother.

       “I have so much to say to you Theo, so much to say to Elsa, so much to say to everyone,”  Leo mewed, “I’m like a cub in your presence, for I have made myself so.  Take me in your paws Theo, please, hug me, touch my paws!  I’m yours, take me, take my life!”  Theo felt Leo’s paw, the lion was sincere in his remorse.

     “come,”  Theo said, “let’s go indoors, you have a drink, then we’ll talk together.”  Leo rolled onto his paws and followed Theo into the house.  On the way to the spare room, they saw Elsa standing watching for Theo.  When she saw Leo, Elsa growled and spat at him.

      “let me explain, please!”  Leo begged.  Elsa looked at Theo.

      “Leo’s one mixed up lion,”  Theo said, “he doesn’t understand what’s happened to him.”

       “I attacked my brother’s mate and cubs!”  Leo sobbed.

      “the question is why did you do that?”  Elsa asked.

      “My irrational mind made me fear anyone with the same name as those who’d done the community harm,”  Leo wept, “I am so sorry Elsa!  I can see you’re not the Elsa who plotted to kill Petra, nor is your cub Simba the lion who tricked Clarence and Tigger into the disused shop.  I don’t know why I thought the way I did, maybe it was because of not properly dealing with the cub killer thing with Elsa, and the anger I felt towards the grown lion Simba.  Elsa, please, let me say this,”  Leo begged, “I am not usually a violent lion, I have my own cub, Portia, she’s a wonderful cub, and the worst of this is I’ve probably done horrendous damage to her by my stupid actions.  I don’t like cubbing, but I wish I could turn back the clock so we didn’t have to start off things like this.  I shouldn’t have said what I did, let alone banned you from the house when you were in such pain and distress.  Theo is a wonderful lion, and he, along with Aslan his cub, were the best of lions that day.  I was the worst of lions, ranting and raving at you for things you couldn’t help, blaming you for another lioness’s actions, and in the end, threatening you and your cub with death.  I don’t know how to explain what happened to me other than to say that I, like my brother, am a very trusting lion, but unlike him, I hadn’t dealt with the realisation that others could deceive us, that they could plan to destroy our lives in ways we’d never contemplate.  Theo said he failed to protect his cubs from Tembi.  He thought he’d failed when he hadn’t really done so.  The problem is, I have failed, failed to deal with my fear of that lion and lioness who caused us so much trouble.  I don’t deserve your pity Elsa, for you have nothing to pity me for.  I am the one who caused all this, not you, not your cub.  I’m glad you had your cubs safely, I’m glad you’re with Theo now, for he will look after you with all he has.  Please Elsa, promise me this.  Please, look after Theo too.”  Elsa knew Leo had done his best to articulate his problems, and knew the lion was sincere in his remorse and apology to her.

     “Now for you Theo,”  Leo said, “what I’ve done to you by threatening your cubs and mate is completely inexcusable.  I was stupid to do what I did, whether I thought your Elsa was the cub killer or not.  I have lost you forever!  I don’t deserve anyone like you Theo, you have been the best of lions, my rock, my playmate when we were young, my friend.  Now this is how I repay your loyalty and love.  I cannot undo what I did yesterday, though I would give my whole life to do so now.”  Leo looked into Theo’s eyes, the young lion looking back at him with gentility in his expression.

      “Leo,”  Theo said, “I know you are very traumatised by what happened.  You can’t work out how anyone could do such a thing to their cub.  This is the root of your problem, you compounded it by not seeing sense when faced with an unknown lioness in labour, and again when she named her cub Simba.  That is your failing.  Attacking me was a dreadful thing to do, attacking Elsa and her cub was worse.  For your sake, because we all know you are a kind lion at heart, I, Elsa, and our cubs will forgive you your actions and words.”  Leo looked at Elsa, who nodded at him.

      “You have done your best,”  she said, “to describe to us what you feel now, felt then,  and why you are sorry for what you’ve done. I will forgive you Leo.  Leo wept into his paws, feeling his explanation had been totally inadequate to the amount of guilt and remorse he felt.

      “I want to go home, I want to go home!”  Leo sobbed.

     “But you are home,”  Petra mewed.  The cubs had been hiding behind the sofa throughout Leo’s interview with their parents.

       “What Leo means is he wants to be taken in a lion’s paws and hugged,”  Theo replied.  Leo felt empty without a pride, without a “home” as he called it.

       “I’m so confused Theo,”  Leo sobbed, “I can’t cope!”

     “Leo,”  Theo said, “forget that now.”  Leo felt his brother take his paw and begin to stroke it.

     “I can’t forget, not after what I did!”  Leo protested.

      “for now you can,”  Petra said, snuggling up to Leo, bringing tears to the huge lion’s eyes.

      Petra, oh Petra!”  he sobbed.  Petra hugged Leo as best she could.

      “Give me your paw Leo,”  Elsa said.  Leo gave her his paw, hardly believing his eyes as she began to stroke it.

       “Why are you all doing this for me?”  Leo sobbed, “I caused you so much harm and pain, and now, now you are all hugging me and stroking my paws!”

     “Because we know you are truly a kind lion who was misguided by fear and misunderstanding,”  Leona said.  Leo looked at her.

      “You are one of Elsa’s cubs,”  he said, “one of her beautiful gentle cubs.”

       “Here is my brother, Simba,”  Leona said, tugging at the paw of a reluctant male cub who peeped from behind the sofa.  Leo looked at Simba, his eyes taking in the cub from his nose to his tiny paws.

      “Theo and Elsa, please let go of my paws,”  Leo said gently.  Once his paws were free, Leo looked at Simba and beckoned to him.

      “Come to me little one,”  Leo purred.  Simba looked at Elsa, who nodded.  Simba went to Leo, and the lion hugged the tiny cub tenderly

      “I’m sorry Simba,”  Leo said gently.  Simba snuggled into Leo’s fur.

      “What about the leadership of the community?”  Salty asked.

      “I wondered when you’d ask that,”  Theo groaned, staring miserably at his paws.

      “I’m no longer fit to lead the community,”  Leo mewed.

       “I’ll take over for the time being,”  Snowy said, “for it’s not every day that within twenty four hours Theo gets a new family, and the community leader disgraces himself.  I think it’s high time Theo got on with what is obviously most important to him, strengthening links with Elsa and his cubs.  As for you Leo, you need to build bridges between you, your brother, his mate and cubs.”  Leo looked at Theo.

       “I’m so sorry Theo,”  he mewed.  Theo mewed to Simba to go back to Elsa, and when the cub was well out of the way, Theo went to Leo and embraced him.

       “What can I do to mend things between us?  Tell me Theo, and I’ll try, I’ll do anything!”  Leo mewed.

      “You could come into the cubbing den and help us and yourself by learning to play with cubs again,”  Theo mewed.

      “I’d like that,”  Leo said, “I’ll try Theo, I really will!”

       “Can you cope when a cub without warning, takes your paw and begins to stroke or tickle it?”  Theo asked.

      “I don’t know,”  Leo replied, “but don’t I have a say as to whether the cubs can take hold of my paws?  They’re mine after all!”

       “They will ask, or the older ones will most likely,”  Elsa replied, “the younger ones though, they sometimes don’t.”  Leo looked uneasy.

      “My paws are a private thing!”  Leo yelled, “mine to do with, and give to whomever I want! It’s not right for some cub to just come up and tickle my paws!”  he mewed, knowing he sounded weak.

      “Your paws are about as private as is the carpet we feel beneath our paws,”  Theo said, “yes you can withdraw your paws from adult animals, but not from tiny cubs.  They mean you no harm Leo.  Anyway, you rarely let anyone examine your paws for damage, let alone touch them, stroke them, or tickle them.”

      “You make me sound like the worst lion in the world,”  Leo mewed.

      “we don’t mean it to sound that way,”  Elsa replied, “but we would like you to try and unbend a little Leo.”

     “Tell you what I’ll do,”  Theo said to his brother, “why don’t we try it for a while Leo, you and me, playing together like we used to.”

      “But we’re adult lions now,”  Leo mewed, “we can’t play like cubs, not now!”

      “Wan’a bet?”  Aslan mewed, “Theo’s the biggest cub in the whole place Leo.  He’ll play tag and tickle paws with the best of the cubs.  He’s the one who mostly starts the games too!”  Leo looked at Theo’s face for confirmation.

      “Yeah,”  Theo replied, “unphased by having his cover blown, “I do.”

       “Theo’s got lovely, fat, soft, warm paws Leo,”  Leona mewed, “when you take one in yours, I’ll bet you you won’t want to let go of it.”  Leo took Theo’s left forepaw in his, gently stroking the lion’s pads and caressing Theo’s paw in his.  Theo’s paw was soft, warm and well padded.  Where as Leo had thin paws, Theo’s paws were fat, like a cub’s.  he was known as the big cub when he was young.  Leo used to tease Theo about his paws, while stroking them of course.  Theo and Leo had often curled up together during the cold nights, and now Leo wished he could do so again.  The weather forecast was set for cold weather all week long, and Leo knew a bit about that, as he’d been in the concrete shed for a good few hours.  His paws were only just beginning to thaw out.  Theo’s paw was like a mini heater, warming Leo’s pads.  Leo looked into his brother’s face, Theo smiling at him and licking his nose.  Leo smiled at his younger brother.

       “Do you remember when we used to curl up together Leo?”  Theo asked.  Leo nodded:

     “I do,”  he purred, “Theo my brother, I remember that so well.”

      “Rough and tumble games in the den, with the victorious cub tickling the other’s paws until the vanquished cub was exhausted?”  Theo added.  Leo smiled:

       “Those too,”  he said, “those too Theo.”

       “I remember that, because you had less fur on your paws, you’d tuck them into the space between us when we slept to keep them warm,”  Theo continued:

     “If there was any space,”  Leo purred, “for sometimes we were curled so tightly together that there wasn’t any.  Then we used to bury our forepaws in each other’s manes and try to tuck our hind beneath some bedding so they didn’t get cold.”

       “How can two male lions curl up together?”  Tarker asked, “it’s disgusting!”

       “I think it’s rather sweet,”  Leona purred, “now you wouldn’t say that about two sisters curling up together for warmth would you otter?”  Tarker mewed with fear, for he’d managed to anger a three day old cub, and he knew Aslan was her brother, and he was dangerous!”

        “I’d love to see that,”  Elsa mewed, “to see Leo and Theo curled together like they used to.”  Leo remembered curling up with Theo in the travelling crate they shared during the journey to the place they were now in.  there hadn’t been much choice but to curl up together due to the lack of space for them, but it had also been comforting too.  Leo decided to try it for old times sake.


Leo curled himself round Theo, the younger lion’s body fitting snugly into the curve of his own.  Theo rested his paws and head on Leo’s shoulder, Leo taking Theo in his paws like he’d used to do.  Leo felt the old feeling of security coming back, Theo’s body acting like the warmest most comforting blanket Leo could wish for.  Theo, feeling his brother’s huge paws enveloping him, purred contentedly, working his paws into Leo’s mane.  Leo looked sideways at Theo, and was astonished to see he’d closed his eyes and was almost asleep, his paws relaxed.  Leo realised Theo had only needed the right trigger to spark off old behaviours, which they had used to protect each other in the pride den.  Leo felt tears pricking the backs of his eyes as he looked at his brother cuddled up as if he was the tiny fat cub of old.

      “I suppose we never lose that instinct to find somewhere warm and safe,”  Leo thought, gently stroking Theo’s shoulder with one huge paw, “how is it that Theo can just switch into relaxed mode like that?”  he asked himself, “I couldn’t, or is it more like I won’t let myself do it.  I’m too much the modern, unattached lion, though I never used to be.  No Leo, once, long long ago, you could be moved to tears by the touch of Theo’s paw.  He knew when you were upset, and would touch your paw, causing you to break down completely and tell all.  Theo would hug you tenderly, holding you until you’d calmed down,”  Leo thought, sighing heavily with regret that these days could not be revisited.

      “Theo probably can no longer make me feel safe just by touching my paw with his,”  Leo thought sadly, “I’m too advanced for that now.”  Suddenly Leo felt a paw take his, a warm, soft paw, which he knew well.

      “How’s that?”  someone purred.  Leo, his whole world focused through that one paw, tried to open his eyes, but he couldn’t.

     “What’s happening to me!”  Leo mewed.

      “Go with your paw,”  Theo said gently, “what is your paw telling you little cub?”  Leo panted harshly, partly from fear, partly from shocked realisation that his wish had come true.

      “Believe in what your paw tells you Leo my brother,”  Theo purred.

      “I want to so much!”  Leo whispered, “but I can’t Theo, I can’t!  There are too many things going on around us, too many dangers, and we’re not cubs any more, and this is wrong!”

      “It’s not wrong to feel safe Leo my brother cub,”  Theo mewed, “there’s nothing wrong, noone can harm you, believe it Leo, take the warmth, and wrap yourself in it.  Take deep breaths, and let the warmth spread from your paw to the rest of your body.  Ready?  One, two, three, four, five.  Leo felt his tension and stress flowing in a torrent from the soles of his paws.  He felt liberated, alive, and most of all, at peace.  Feeling Theo’s paws enveloping him, Leo snuggled close to his brother cub, just like he’d done when they were younger, resting his head on Theo’s shoulder.

     “let it all go Leo, let it all go,”  Theo purred.  Leo wept, breathing in Theo’s scent, and burying his paws in his brother’s fur.

      “They look so peaceful,”  Elsa purred.  Elsa looked down at Leo and Theo, touching them gently with her paw.  Then, dropping to her knees, She planted a lioness’s kiss on Leo and Theo’s noses.

      “I never thought I’d see that,”  Aslan said, “you feared Leo only a day ago mum.”

      “I now know the real Leo,”  Elsa replied.  Elsa got to her paws and looked down at Leo, who’s eyes were on her.

      “I’m sorry for everything Elsa,”  he mewed.  Elsa took Leo’s paw in hers.

      “Now we’re at peace,”  Elsa said.  Leo gulped back tears.

     “yes Elsa, thank you,”  he choked.  Elsa looked up at Theo, who was half asleep.

      “There’re two more cubs here tonight,”  Petra mewed.  Leo laughed softly, conscious his brother was half asleep.  Leo took Theo’s paw, massaging the younger lion’s soft warm paw.


Feeling his older brother’s touch, Theo yawned and stretched.

     “Was I asleep?”  He asked.  Leo smiled:

      “You were,”  he said, “though I thought you were half asleep, for your eyes were half closed, but you were well gone.”  Theo patted his brother’s paw and gently extricated himself from his embrace.  Getting to his paws, Theo shook himself, looking round him.

     “Elsa,”  Leo asked softly, “can, can I hug you, then hug your cubs?”  Elsa padded towards Leo, and lay down beside him.

      “here I am,”  Elsa mewed, touching Leo’s nose with hers.  Leo wrapped his paws round Elsa and embraced her tightly.  Elsa touched Leo’s nose with one paw, Leo feeling Elsa’s paw touching him, it was soft and warm, her scent warm and comforting.  Leo sighed contentedly, relaxing into the lioness’s hug.  Theo wasn’t jealous, he was just relieved Leo now accepted Elsa.

       “Let’s go to the cubbing den,”  Elsa said, “there you can meet my cubs, and become part of our family.”  Leo mewed his ascent to Elsa’s idea and she released him.  Elsa got to her paws, then touched Leo, keeping her paw on him until he was on his own paws and was walking out of the door.  Theo and their cubs followed Elsa and Leo up the stairs and into the cubbing den, where there was fresh bedding, large drinking bowls full of milk and water, as well as bowls of cereal and vegetables.  Elsa lifted the bowl of cereal in her paws and tipped some of it into the milk, stirring the mix with her paw.

     “You now have wet paws mum!”  Leona laughed.  Elsa washed her paws in a bowl provided for this purpose, smiling at her cubs.  Once her paws were washed and dried, She settled down beside her cubs, who’d all but finished the veg and cereals.

      “You could have left some for us!”  Elsa mewed.  The cubs smiled, knowing they’d squirreled some away for their parents and Leo.

      “Look behind the rugs,”  Aslan mewed, “there you will find veg, milk and cereals.”  Elsa did, and there was plenty left for her and the two other adult lions.

       “let’s eat!”  Elsa mewed.


They finished their food, and Leo settled down with Elsa and Theo. 


Once they’d rested, the cubs approached Leo and took his paws in theirs.


Leo soon found himself drifting away as the tiny paws did their work.  Aslan and Petra directed operations, Leona and Simba not having much of an idea how to massage a paw without tickling it.


Leo drifted in a soft warm place.  He knew what was happening, so he didn’t panic.  Anyway, this was Theo’s world, and he wanted to be part of it.


The paw massage over all too soon, Leo lay, resting quietly.  Suddenly, Leo found himself thinking of Theo and he as cubs, and of what they used to do together.  Playing tag, rolling in the grass, prodding each other with their paws until one would roll the other over in a mock attack, tickling their paws for all they were worth.

      “Take me back there, I wan’a go back there!”  Leo thought, not realising he was speaking in a whisper.

      “Take you where Leo?”  Theo asked, though he thought he already knew.

     “nowhere Theo, nowhere,”  Leo replied.

      “Leo,”  Theo said gently, “you don’t need to hide from me my brother cub, I know what you were thinking.”  Leo choked back tears.

      “I was remembering the games we used to play,”  he sniffed, “and I want to go back there Theo!  We used to be in tune with each other, you and I, and now, thanks to me trying to be a,”  Leo put on a fake deep voice, ““big hard modern lion,”” who doesn’t need to be in touch with anyone, I lost everything Theo, for I lost my brother, I lost you.”  Theo touched Leo’s paw, and this broke Leo’s control on his emotions.  Hugging Theo tightly, he burst into tears.

      “It’s okay Leo, it’s okay!”  Theo purred, stroking his brother’s paw, “We’re together now.  You’re here now, so am I.  We’ve had our differences, now let’s try and get along.”

      “I’ve never forgiven myself for what I said to you when we first got here,”  Leo sniffed, “having a go at you because you were frightened!  How stupid of me!  Of course we were in a new place, of course it was scary.  I was terrified myself, but I masked it, taking some of my fear out on you when you asked me where we were and whether we were safe!  What kind of a brother to you was I being then?  Not a very good one.  I beat you up to mask my own fear, and for that I’m very sorry.”  Theo hugged Leo tenderly.

     “That’s all in the past now Leo,”  he said, “it’s all over, all done with.”

      “Hold me Theo, don’t let me go!”  Leo cried.  Theo held Leo tightly, gently stroking the larger lion’s fur.


Elsa and the cubs watched Theo and Leo’s interaction and listened to their talk.  Elsa didn’t properly understand the bond Theo and Leo had, but she knew Theo had a strong bond with her and her cubs, so why not an even stronger bond with his own brother.  Leo became calm, just lying on the soft flooring, his paws flaccid.

      “how are you feeling Leo?”  Elsa whispered.  Leo looked at her.

      “I’m okay, I think.  Though I have a lot to learn,”  Leo replied.  Leona began to stroke one of Leo’s forepaws with hers.  Leo watched her, gently turning over his paw and letting her touch his pads.

       “Does that feel good?”  she asked.  Leo, purring like an enthusiastic outboard motor, mewed that it felt wonderful.  Leo then did something which made Elsa’s fur bristle with fear.  Leo took Leona in his paws and began to groom her methodically from nose to tail.

       “Get your paws off my cub!”  Elsa snarled threateningly, she knew she sounded terrified.

     “Leo’s lonely,”  Theo said, “he’s missing his own cub, who doesn’t want to know him any more, and wants contact with cubs.  He won’t harm Leona, let him groom her Elsa.”  Elsa growled in protest, but made no move to rescue her cub.  Leona was enjoying being groomed by Leo, his huge paws gently held her, while he worked over her fur with his tongue, just like a lioness would.  Leona mewed at Leo, the huge lion stroking her with his paws, Leona loving every minute.  Elsa watched uneasily, certain that any moment her cub would be crushed in the paws of this huge male lion.  But Leo was gentle, and no harm came to Leona.  Patting her paw, Leo sent the cub away without a word to her, though his ministrations had spoken volumes.


Elsa grabbed Leona between her paws and began frantically to explore her body by sight and touch.  Leona mewed that she was fine and that Leo had done her no harm at all.  Elsa however was dreadfully upset and kept on fussing over her cub, prodding her with her paws and nose, until Leona, thoroughly fed up with the whole business, bit her mother’s paw.  Elsa spat at her cub and cuffed her sharply.

      “that hurt!”  Leona mewed.

       “I was making sure you were in one piece Leona!”  Elsa snapped.

       “I’m leaving,”  Leo mewed, “I’m not wanted here, I can see that.”  Theo held up a paw to stop him.

      “No Leo, no!”  He begged, “just, please, stay here a minute, and I’ll explain.”  Leo stopped, his protest only half genuine.

      “Elsa’s a new mum, her cubs are only a few days old, she’s going to be protective!”  Theo mewed, “don’t take it hard Leo, please.”  Leo lay down again, Elsa watching him.

      “I’m sorry Leo,”  she mewed, “it’s wrong of me to snap at you.  I know you don’t mean my cubs any harm, I just can’t get used to you handling them.  Theo yes, because he was there from the beginning, but you hated me Leo!  I can’t forget that quickly.”

      “I don’t hate you now,”  Leo said, “let me prove it, let me stroke your paws Elsa, please, then I will prove it to you!”  Elsa looked down at her paws, imagining them in those of the huge lion.

      “Please Elsa, do it for me,”  Theo purred, “Leo’s really gentle.”  Elsa hesitated:

     “He won’t, won’t harm me?”  She asked, regretting her words the minute they were out.

      “No Elsa love,”  Theo mewed, “Leo’s my brother, I think I know him better than that.”

      “Okay,”  Elsa mewed faintly, “I will.”  She rolled over onto her back.

      “Here,”  she said, waving a paw, “Leo, here are my paws.”  Leo approached, and gently took her left forepaw in his.

     “I don’t like this, I don’t like this at all!”  Elsa mewed.  Leo dropped her paw.

      “I won’t stroke your paw unless you really want me to,”  he said.  Elsa lay on her back, knowing Theo was furious with her.

      “I’m sorry,”  she said to the room in general, “I’ll try, try really hard, as hard as I did when having my cubs!”  Elsa waved her paw at Leo.

      “Don’t let go of my paw this time,”  she said, “just, just hang on whatever happens!”  Leo tentatively took the offered paw, it was delicate, well shaped, with nicely kept claws.  Realising her claws were on view, Elsa retracted them hurriedly.

      “Extended claws give the wrong impression, put them away Elsa!”  she thought.  Leo saw Elsa’s claws disappear into her paw, and patted her paw reassuringly.  Despite her fears, the paw massage soothed Elsa’s mind.  Leo looked into Elsa’s face the whole time he was stroking her paw, wondering why he’d not recognised she was a different lioness to the one named Elsa who’d caused the community so much harm.  He mentally kicked himself for mistreating this lioness.  He remembered her struggling to have her cubs in the cubbing den where they now were.  Leo wished he’d had the courage to dry Simba off when Theo offered the chance.  Leo knew why Theo had done what he had.  It was to get rid of him, and Leo knew it only too well.  The sight of Elsa’s sweat soaked body, and her cries of pain as she delivered her cubs haunted Leo, and for a few seconds, it was as if they were back in the cubbing den, with Elsa trying to deliver her cubs.  Leo could hear her mewing and panting as she pushed against her cubs.  This time, Leo wanted to throw his paws round Elsa and give her a hug.  This he did.  Leo’s vision cleared, and he was in the cubbing den, his paws round Elsa, hugging her as he’d wished to, with Elsa looking at him in bewilderment, Theo with understanding.

      “What the hell’s going on Leo!”  Elsa mewed, “it, it was, was as if well, you were talking to me as if I was having cubs! Saying it would soon be over and not to worry n’all that.  What the hell are you on!”

       “But, you were having cubs Elsa,”  Leo mewed.

      “No I wasn’t!”  Elsa replied, “you were stroking my paw, and I was frightened, so I mewed to you to be careful what you did.

      “You were panting and mewing, just like when you had Simba and Leona,”  Leo said.

      “You were panting with fear Elsa,”  Theo said, “you were mewing to Leo too.”

      “Maybe I was,”  Elsa replied, “but I wasn’t having cubs!”

      “I know what happened,”  Theo mewed, “now Elsa, this is a strange concept to grasp, but try and take it in both paws as best you can.  Sometimes reality and past events get mixed.  It happened to me once when I stroked Leo’s cub Portia.  I’d seen Portia born, and I was in such a state once that my mind told me she was a few hours old and that I had to protect her.  Portia was at this time about a year old, but as we community animals can never grow in stature, she looked, and still looks like a cub.  I began grooming her frantically, desperately fighting for this cub’s life.  I only surfaced when Portia hit me, and she wouldn’t have done that had Tarker not spat at her in disgust when he realised what I was doing.”

      “Grooming a cub isn’t disgusting,”  Elsa replied, “why would that otter think it was?” 

      “He’s strange like that,”  Leo replied.

       “So,”  Theo continued, “that’s what happened to Leo.  He was probably thinking how awful he’d been to you during your cubbing, and thinking of the scenes he witnessed.  During this, you mewed and panted with fear, but he took those sounds as mewing and panting with pain, as he was reliving what he’d seen, hence his comments.”

     “it’s a strange concept,”  Elsa mewed, “but I think I’ve got it now.”  Leo looked into Elsa’s eyes, the lion’s expression startling her.

      “You look desperate Leo!”  She mewed, now frightened, “you, you look wild, hunted, and, and very unhappy.”



Elsa was a kind hearted lioness, and despite her own fears, she could see Leo needed someone to hug him.  Not Theo, for he was assured of his brother’s support, but from someone else, someone outside his turmoil, but who was part of it all the same.  Elsa swallowed her fear, and, getting to her feet, padded closer to Leo, and, wrapping her paws round his neck as far as she could, hugged him tightly.  She felt Leo’s paws take hold of her, and Elsa knew by their touch that the lion was as miserable as she’d been when she’d arrived in pain and terrified.  Elsa buried her face in Leo’s thick mane, breathing in his scent, while Leo wept into her fur.

     “You are beautiful Elsa,”  Leo sobbed, “I’m sorry for everything I’ve done to you and your cubs, really I am.  The lion who threatened to kill you and your cubs, that wasn’t me, that was a different lion, he’s dead.  I’ll tell you something else too.  Something which also fuelled my anger, but it wasn’t anger in the true sense, for it was grief.  For Elsa, you remind me of someone I used to know.  Someone whom I deeply loved and cared for.”  Theo choked back tears, Leo was right, now Theo knew why he’d felt such affinity with Elsa when he’d first seen her.

       “of whom do I remind you?”  Elsa asked.

       “You, you remind me of my mate Allie,”  Leo sobbed.  Elsa touched Leo’s nose with her paw.

      “Allie was my mum,”  Elsa mewed, “before she got captured and sent to the zoo, she had one litter of cubs, and I was one of that litter.”  Leo gave a heart rending cry of despair.

      “What happened to her?”  Elsa asked gently, though she knew the news was of the worst kind.

      “Allie died giving birth to my cubs,”  Leo sobbed, “she was my mate, me and Theo, from another pride, were thrown in with Allie at the zoo, and she and I got close.  We mated, and she had cubs while I was at the vets having a check up.  By the time I got back to the cage, Allie was dead, and Portia was the only surviving cub.  Theo helped Allie as best he could, but she couldn’t be saved.”  Elsa nuzzled Leo’s cheek.

       “thank you for telling me,”  she mewed, reaching up with a paw to wipe away Leo’s tears, “I know it’s hard for you to talk about Allie.”  Leo gulped hard, fighting to remain in some kind of control.

       “now I know who you really are Elsa,”  Theo mewed.

      “yes,”  Elsa replied, “and as to how I got in cub, and then ended up with you, well, that’s another tale.  All tied up with a lion in a zoo, for I was rounded up when I was two years old.  He got me pregnant, and I ran away when the zoo was raided by animal rights extremists.  They liberated the animals in the zoo by opening the cages.  Now I know that’s a stupid thing to do, for there were lions, rhinos and other dangerous animals let loose into the surrounding town, but it gave me an opportunity to escape, which I did, hiding from everyone during the day and travelling at night.  Of course, when I came to you it was early morning.  I’d been suffering with increasing contractions for about five hours then, and when I spoke to the two lionesses, I knew things were getting critical.  I arrived at your home with more time to spare than I thought, thanks to you Theo.  I think I would have had my cubs very soon indeed had you not calmed me down.  As it was, we were together for about four hours before anything started happening in earnest.  Now I’m safe, my cubs are too, and I’ve met some wonderful people.”

      “I must go and talk to Clarence now,”  Theo mewed, “he needs my help as much as Leo did.”  Elsa looked at her mate:

      “Clarence was that lion whom I sent away from here wasn’t he?”  She asked.

      “Yes Elsa,”  Theo replied, “Aslan’s mother was Tembi, who was Clarence’s cub.  He’s as torn apart by what Tembi did as Leo is.  The thing is, everyone forgets poor Clarence as he all but divorced himself from Elsa and Tembi when one abandoned and the other attacked Petra.  Now he’s lost his cub and his mate, and needs a helping paw as much as Leo.”  Elsa nodded.

     “Go to him Theo,”  she said, “and tell him I’m sorry for driving him away.  In fact, no, I’ll come with you, Leo can look after our cubs, if he will.”  Leo smiled at Elsa, and releasing her, took her paw and held it.

      “I will look after your cubs Elsa dear,”  he said, “and I will guard them with my life.”


With the cubs in Leo’s care, “Elsa and Theo went downstairs to talk to Clarence.


Finding the lion lying on the sofa, Theo approached him.  Clarence watched him with empty eyes.

        “Clarence?”  Theo asked gently.  Clarence didn’t respond.  Theo touched his paw, Clarence withdrawing it.

      “It’s all gone,”  Clarence mewed, “my mate’s a cub killer, and worse still, so is my cub!”  I tried to save Petra, but the lioness to whom I gave her to also wanted her dead!  I’ve been in a hellish place these last few days Theo!  Now, now I hear Leo’s tried to attack and kill a lioness and her cub, Will the carnage ever end?  Do more cubs need to be put at risk?”

     “Clarence,”  Theo said gently, “the lioness and Leo worked things out between them, “no cubs were killed.  The lioness had two cubs and they’re fine, Petra’s fine, and is loved by everyone.  Don’t you remember you came to the cubbing den?  There you spoke to a lioness, the same one whom Leo threatened to kill.  She was scared then, but very much alive.  Now she’s here, look round you Clarence, and you will see.”  Clarence looked at Elsa, and she at him.

     “You, you’re okay?”  he asked her.

     “I’m fine Clarence,”  Elsa replied, “and so are my cubs, all four of them.”

     “four of them?”  Clarence asked, “I heard you only had two.”

      “I only gave birth to two,”  Elsa replied, “but I’ve adopted Petra and Aslan.”

     “thank you Elsa, thank you,”  Clarence sobbed.  Elsa touched Clarence’s nose with hers:

      “Don’t worry about them any more Clarence,”  she whispered, “they are safe, I promise.”

     “My paws are freezing!”  Clarence mewed, “I’ve been in a world of ice these last few days.  I’m tired of being cold!”  Theo knew what the lion meant.

     “Can I help?”  Elsa asked, feeling she was the one who’s help  Clarence needed.

     “yes, if you will,”  Clarence replied, “hold me, and tell me again what you told me earlier.”

     “About me adopting Petra?”  Elsa asked.

     “yes Elsa,”  Clarence replied.  So Elsa did as Clarence asked, holding him in her paws, and telling him over again that she’d adopted the white cub.

      “Thank you Elsa,”  Clarence mewed, “now, now I can sleep in peace.  Tigger needs your help now Theo, and yours too Elsa.  Take Leo and the cubs with you on this one, for Tigger doesn’t know anything other than Leo attacking you Elsa.  He will need a lot of reassurance.  More than me I’m sure.”  Theo and Elsa went back up stairs to get Leo and the cubs.


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