Coming to an understanding.
Kodiak and Perdy lay close together on the quilt listening to the wind and rain as it hit the windows of the house, Arki having gone downstairs for a while to talk with Leo and snowy. Perdy looked at Kodiak. The male brown bear’s eyes were half closed, his head resting on his huge soft forepaws. Perdy reached over with her left forepaw and touched Kodiak’s right, the brown bear turning his head and looking at her.
“You were so still,” Perdy said gently, “I wondered if you were still with us.” Kodiak stretched languidly, first stretching his spine, then all four paws. Perdy watched him doing this, watching him curl and then stretch the toes of all four paws as he worked the stiffness out of them.
“What was your former home like Kodiak?” Perdy asked. Kodiak left off stretching his paws and looked at the female snow leopard.
“if I talk about it, I’ll burst into tears,” Kodiak replied, “not because the place was horrible, but because of the manner of my leaving.” Perdy took Kodiak’s right forepaw in both of hers, feeling his warm pads against hers.
“You don’t have to tell me,” she said, “I was only curious, but if it’s too painful, I’ll not ask again.” Kodiak closed his eyes, willing himself not to burst into tears while he told Perdy his story.
“I’ve never told anyone this,” Kodiak said, “I know I should really tell Arki first, as she’s my mate, but she hasn’t asked yet. Maybe she doesn’t want to bring the subject up, for it would lead to me asking about her early life, and I know she’s terrified by the subject.”
Kodiak told Perdy everything. When he came to the four day struggle for freedom from the black sack, Kodiak broke down, weeping into Perdy’s fur.
“I’d done nothing to my previous owner,” the bear sobbed, “and they put me in there! I fought madly with all four paws and all my strength to free myself, for I knew what would happen to me if I didn’t get out of there.” Perdy didn’t want to ask further questions about what happened to black sacks. She’d seen the boss throwing them out, and it looked rather final.
“Once you got free,” Perdy asked, “what happened when you managed to free yourself from the sack?” Kodiak continued his tale, Perdy now embracing him in both forepaws. Snuggling up to her for reassurance, Kodiak continued his tale.
Once he’d told everything, Kodiak hugged Perdy gently, the female snow leopard nuzzling his cheek.
“You’re safe here now,” she purred. Kodiak smiled:
“I know,” he said, “and Perdy, thanks for listening to me.” Perdy lightly touched Kodiak’s nose with her paw, making the bear sneeze as her fur touched him.
“that’s all right,” she said.
Arki watched Kodiak and Perdy, digging her toes into the carpet of the hallway as she listened. Arki knew Perdy’s same question to her would result in her losing it totally. As it was, just thinking about her early life made Arki’s breathing quicken, her mouth dry, her whole body shake uncontrollably with terror and her paws begin to ache from digging her toes into the carpet. Just the sound of a stiff plastic bag crackling as someone screwed it up to throw it away made Arki want to scream with fear. She knew fear was a good thing, but uncontrolled fear wasn’t. there was no way she was up to controlling this fear yet. Arki knew it had total control over her. Rubbing damp pads against the carpet, she padded into the room and lay down beside Kodiak, who hugged her tenderly.
“You’ve been thinking of your early life haven’t you Arki,” Kodiak said gently. Arki shivered with fright.
“I couldn’t help it,” she sniffed, “I saw and heard you and Perdy, and it got me thinking about my own early life, and now I’m in this state!” Perdy watched Arki’s distress with concern. No wonder she didn’t like talking about her early life, If just thinking about it caused her to react like this. Perdy touched Arki’s right hind paw, feeling how hot it was. Feeling something touch her paw, Arki curled her toes around it for support as her panic attack continued. Perdy massaged Arki’s hind paw, the female polar bear shivering and sobbing into Kodiak’s fur. it was only when Arki’s toes relaxed, that Perdy stopped stroking her paw. Arki, realising what the female snow leopard had done, embraced her as tightly as she could, Perdy rubbing Arki’s back with both forepaws as the female polar bear snuggled close. Arki buried her head in Perdy’s thick warm fur, clinging to her with desperate urgency.
“It’s okay Arki, I promise,” Perdy said gently, gently hugging the female polar bear until she relaxed. Perdy gently brushed the shaggy fur out of Arki’s eyes, this tender gesture moving Arki to tears.
“Don’t cry Arki dear,” Perdy said gently, “you’re safe here now.” Perdy began to stroke Arki’s forepaws, the female polar bear’s tears wetting her fur.
While she was stroking Arki’s paws, Perdy accidentally tickled the pads of one paw. Arki laughed despite her distress, and this made Perdy tickle her paws even more, Arki’s tears turning to laughter as the snow leopard tickled her paws until she could laugh no more.
“You big bully, tickling my paws like that!” Arki laughed, hugging Perdy tightly. Perdy smiled.
“it was accidental at first,” she replied, “but when I found you liked it, I continued tickling your paws until you were laughing helplessly.” Arki knew this was the best thing Perdy could have done for her.
Meanwhile, Theo woke from a beautiful dream. he’d been running and playing with Leo. They were cubs again, and the games had ended with each stroking the other’s paws, which both enjoyed hugely. Now the games were over, and so was the dream. Theo was back in the real world, and neither he, nor Leo were cubs any more. Opening his eyes, he saw Leo looking at him. Theo’s older brother’s eyes were concerned, almost angry.
“What on earth were you playing at Theodore!” Leo asked. Theo knew Leo only used his full name when furious with him.
“Nothing Leo,” Theo mewed, hoping he wouldn’t have to tell his brother about his dream.
“You were pawing at me!” Leo yelled, “snowy and I were settling down for a quiet night together when you began pawing at me! Our night was Ruined! I couldn’t sleep! You were scrabbling at me with your paws, and whimpering from time to time. What the hell was going on!”
“I don’t know,” Theo mewed.
“You’re hiding something!” Leo yelled.
“No Leo, I’m not!” Theo protested.
“I know you are, because last night, you managed to get hold of one of my paws. You began to stroke and tickle it like you used to do when we were cubs! I’ve never been so embarrassed in all my life! Heaven only knows what Snowy thought!”
“I was asleep!” Theo mewed.
“Even so, keep your paws to yourself!” Leo yelled, slamming one of his paws onto the rug in sudden rage.
“I think you were cubs once more,” snowy said, “I saw what happened Leo. Theo’s dream was as clear to me as it is to him.”
“No snowy, don’t tell him!” Theo silently implored, curling his toes into the rug with anxiety.
“You dreamt we were cubs once more?” Leo asked his brother.
“yes Leo,” Theo mewed, freeing his toes from the rug and getting up in preparation for running for his life. Leo saw this and suddenly felt dreadful about everything he’d said to Theo. Theo and Leo had been very close as cubs, and were still close now. Thinking back to those days before either of them knew about death and pain, Leo remembered playing with Theo, running about, chasing him all over the place, and when he’d caught Theo, or Theo had caught him, they’d roll in the grass playing tag, each grabbing at the other’s paws, and whenever one got the better of the other, it would be the victor’s duty to tickle the pads of the vanquished cub’s paws until he was laughing so hard he couldn’t move for weakness. Leo remembered it was he who always started the games of tag, and being the larger cub, almost always overwhelmed Theo. Theo didn’t mind however, and it wasn’t always one sided, for Leo would often let Theo win the games, knowing his younger brother knew full well he wasn’t trying on those days. Leo missed those times as much as Theo did, and he sometimes dreamt of them too, but his dreams never seemed to stray into reality, always remaining distant, as if Leo were watching himself and Theo on a television screen, rather than being in the thick of the action. Theo’s dreams were obviously very real to him, for he’d almost physically involved Leo in them.
“We were playing tag, like we used to,” Theo mewed, now unable to keep quiet about his dream, for the dream filled his head, and he was afraid it would burst if he didn’t tell someone. “We were chasing each other through the wood Leo, like we used to. Once you’d caught me, we rolled on the grass in play, playing tag I think. That day, we called it a draw, so we both stroked and tickled each other’s paws. It was such a wonderful time Leo, so, so wonderful.” Leo’s eyes filled with tears as he watched his brother, for he knew that for a brief second, before his adult sensibilities kicked in, he’d enjoyed Theo stroking and then tickling the pads of his right forepaw.
“those were good times Theo,” Leo whispered. Leo looked down at his paws, his vision blurring as tears overcame him.
“Hug me Theo, please!” Leo pleaded. Theo embraced his brother like he had when they were very young, and still able to play together. Often, when they were cubs, Leo and Theo would curl up together, each holding onto the other’s paw for support throughout the dark nights. Leo had forgotten all this, or maybe he’d chosen to distance himself from those memories. Theo hadn’t, and still longed to play with Leo in the long grass as they’d used to do, before they were put into cages and knew captive life. Leo held Theo in his forepaws, feeling more dreadful than ever now he admitted to himself that he too wished for those far off carefree days.
“Shall we play Theo?” Leo asked, “once more, for old time’s sake?” Theo looked at his brother.
“we can’t,” Theo replied, “for all its realism, my dream was only that, a dream. I know we’re adult lions now, and can’t play those cubbish games any more.” Leo looked into Theo’s eyes, Theo’s gaze never leaving his.
“once more, please, then we’ll leave those games forever,” Leo said softly, his tone not pleading or coaxing.
“How does this feel?” Theo asked, stroking the pads of Leo’s left forepaw. Leo’s reaction was unforced, natural. His paw gripped Theo’s and Theo knew Leo was up for one last round of the games they’d played as cubs.
Leo rolled onto his side, presenting Theo with a good view of all four of his paws. Theo first stroked all four of Leo’s paws, the huge lion purring contentedly as his younger brother worked on his paws. Theo massaged all four of Leo’s paws, taking his time over every aspect of his work. Theo’s paws worked over Leo’s with as much care and consideration as he knew, massaging Leo’s pads with gentle care, Leo purring contentedly. When Theo had finished Leo’s paw massage, Leo looked at his younger brother through a pleasurable haze.
“Thank you Theo,” Leo mewed. Theo smiled at his brother, throwing his paws round Leo’s neck. Leo snuggled up to Theo, giving up to an irresistible need for his brother’s companionship.
“Theo,” Leo said softly, “please, if I ever get like that again, refusing to remember the times we had, tell me to let you stroke my paws so I can remember what those times were like.” Theo smiled.
“You won’t forget again, I’m sure of that,” he said.
“Please Theo, let me stroke your paws,” Leo pleaded. Theo rolled over and let Leo massage all four of his paws, just as he’d done for him. Leo took his time over each of Theo’s paws, stroking, massaging, and even tickling them. Theo smiled as he felt his brother’s paws working over his.
“Time for tag Leo?” Theo mewed. Leo smiled and patted Theo’s paw.
“Let’s play!” he purred. Theo sprang up and grabbed Leo’s left forepaw in both of his and tickled it, Leo laughing helplessly!
“Okay Theo, okay!” Leo laughed, hugging Theo tenderly. Theo smiled, releasing Leo’s paw and returning to his rug. Leo watched his brother leave, wondering why he himself didn’t automatically remember the games Theo held so dear. The game of tag hadn’t really begun, but Leo knew his and Theo’s time together had reinforced the bond between them.
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