Soothing shattered nerves
Morose realised his time was up. Struggling to his feet, he staggered up the stairs to have one last go at snowy Half tail. Entering the room he was stopped by Arki, who, snarling, threw herself at him! Landing on his back, she walloped him round the head, Morose collapsing onto the floor semi conscious.
“You listen to me horse,” Arki yelled at the dazed animal, “there are more animals looking out for snowy than ever looked out for you! Every adult, every cub, even the unborn cubs of all the animals are looking out for snowy! You picked the wrong target! Now we will kill you, and hang the consequences!” Arki levered herself off Morose, and Leo looked down at the disgraced horse.
“We were willing to give you a home, to protect you. Now though, you deserve nothing Morose, you have violated our laws and attacked one of those towards whom we hold great affection. Worse still, you offered to kill snowy half tail for Amber. Amber herself will be punished for her part in the crimes against snowy Half tail, but she will still have a home here due to her having cubs here. She understands this, and knows that she has to thank her cubs for being allowed to stay. We will try to reform her. Amber’s hatred towards Snowy is unfounded, and she will soon realise this I’m sure. You however hate Snowy for no other reason than she looks strange. Her blue eyes, big paws and shortened tail are her endearing physical features as far as some animals are concerned. But most of all, they see what’s inside her, a gentle, loving snow tigress, who had her problems, but is now coming through them. You Morose, you wanted snowy dead! Amber also wanted this, and in some ways, her punishment will be the greater because of her masterminding the whole thing. You will be asked to leave, and be banished from the house forever. The boss will let me do this, as he knows what you are, he took you in on your record, which was a false one. Now he has told me he will let us deal with you in the way we feel fit. It is down to us whether you live or die Morose.” Leo said.
“Snowy is a horrid creature!” Morose whinnied.
“We know that’s how you feel,” Tigger replied, “now Morose, you will get to your filthy hooves, Hooves which not even the capybara would clean if you asked them, and leave this place. If you are not out of the door within one minute, I give Leo permission to throw you down the stairs and leap on top of you, beating you until you are senseless or dead, Whichever comes first. Morose staggered to his feet and left the room, Leo following close behind.
“let him have his space Leo,” Arki warned, “we have to be fair to him, for we are a fair and just community.”
“I hate you snowy, you disgusting genetic freak!” Morose yelled. Snowy, still crying, didn’t reply to his parting shot. When Leo had followed Morose down the street and made sure he wasn’t coming back, he returned to the house, firmly closed the door, and padded up the stairs to where Snowy lay on her rug. Lying down beside her, Leo took Snowy’s paw in his and began to stroke it. Snowy, still sobbing, turned her head and looked at him through her tears.
“He’s gone,” Leo whispered to her, gently squeezing her paw, “Morose has been banished from this house, never to return.”
“Amber though,” snowy sniffed, “she’s the one who cooked all this up. She must be punished too.” Leo looked over at Amber.
“She will be punished, and snowy, you will punish her. Just be kind to her cubs, and to the cubs of other animals as you’ve done before. Amber’s punishment will be painful for her, but not in the way Morose’s was. Amber will learn, because her hatred towards you is born of misguided notion. She thinks you are bitter and twisted deep down, that you can’t possibly be the kind tigress everyone sees every day. She’s waiting for the time when your true nature comes to the fore.”
“My true nature?” Snowy asked bewildered, “but this is my true nature! Leo, Please believe me! I’m the one who looked after Brushtail when she was a cub, I’m the one who looked after Whitie and Blanche, who laid down my life for Whitie when Bruin attacked her!” Leo had heard all about Snowy’s run in with Bruin.
“I know, I know!” Leo replied, “snowy, I don’t doubt you, but Amber does. Show her over these next few weeks and months who the real Snowy is.”
“she can see the real Snowy every day, the paw masseur is me! I am the one who comforted Theo, I’m the one who looked after Tembi when she was lonely! this is the real snowy half tail!” Snowy yelled. snowy began to gasp for air as her distress mounted. Panting, she covered her face with her paws.
“I can’t do any more than I’m doing Leo, I can’t!” She gasped. Coughing convulsively, Snowy fought for breath. Once she’d calmed down and her breathing was easier, she lay down properly, her whole body weak from the fight for air. Struggling to regulate her breathing, snowy closed her eyes.
Feeling a paw on hers, snowy opened her eyes and looked at what was touching her paw. Tigger’s tiny adopted cub was stroking her paw with his tiny one. Snowy hadn’t met the tiny cub, and looked closely at him.
“I can see you’re interested in me,” the cub said, “go on snowy, take a look at me. From my ears to the soles of my paws, I don’t mind. First though, Would you hug me?” snowy looked desperately round for Tigger, but he was nowhere to be seen. She couldn’t see if he was willing to let her touch his cub or not, so she’d have to take the chance.
“Are you sure you want to be hugged by a snow tigress with fat paws little cub?” snowy asked. The tiger cub smiled:
“Either you hug me,” he said, stepping closer and trying to hug snowy, “Or I’ll hug you.” Snowy felt the cub’s paws try to embrace her, and the feeling of the cub’s paws on her neck fur brought tears to her eyes.
“You can’t hug me little’n,” she sniffed, “you’re not large enough to-do that yet.”
“But I want to,” the cub replied, “Snowy, please, if I can’t hug you in the normal way, show me another way that I can.” Snowy, her vision blurred by tears, took the tiny cub in her paws.
“Okay little cub,” she replied, “why not come and lie between my forepaws? That’s it. Now take my right forepaw in both of yours, and I will hold you with my left.” The cub lay down on his chest with one of his forepaws on top of Snowy’s right forepaw, the other beneath her paw, his pads touching hers.
“Like this?” He asked. Snowy nodded, smiling.
“Now,” she said, If I bring my left forepaw off the rug, what happens?”
“You can hug me like I want you to, and I can hug you as best I can!” the tiger cub said excitedly.
“Yes little cub,” snowy said, bending her left foreleg until her paw touched the cub’s back. Then she drew her paw down his back, feeling the cub shiver with pleasure as her pads ruffled his fur.
“And if I lift a hind paw,” the cub said, “and you snowy put your forepaw pads upwards on the rug, I can place my hind paw in your paw, then if you could stroke my paw, I’d like that a great deal. Snowy did as the cub asked, and soon she had his tiny left hind paw in her left forepaw, the cub drumming with his toes on her pads. Snowy laughed, drawing the cub close to her.
“Now you can hold my paw, and I can hold yours,” snowy said. The cub looked at her.
“I like this,” he said, “please stroke my paw Snowy.” Snowy did as the cub asked, and he was soon purring contentedly.
“I knew you weren’t the horrid tigress Morose said you were,” the cub mewed. Snowy stroked the cub’s tiny paw, concentrating on her work. The cub rubbed back against her paw, drumming even faster on her pads with his toes, snowy grinning at him.
“Keep those toes still little’n,” she said gently, “and enjoy the massage.” The cub released Snowy’s paw and rolled onto his back.
“now you can massage all four of my paws!” he said. Arki looked sternly at the tiger cub.
“Please snowy, would you massage my paws?” the cub asked, catching Arki’s eye. Snowy, smiling broadly, began her work afresh, stroking all four of the tiny tiger cub’s paws.
“Do you think that’s the mark of a spiteful, vindictive tigress Amber?” Leo asked. Amber mewed that she knew she’d done wrong, that she hadn’t a hope of seeing the back of snowy, and that she was silly to even think of employing morose. Amber looked at Snowy, still stroking the tiny left forepaw of Tigger’s cub. She’d not seen Tigger’s adopted cub up close, and he was tiny, everything about him was miniature, from his ears, right down to the three tiny pads on the sole of each miniature paw. Snowy was impossibly massive when compared to the cub she was stroking, and Amber could see for herself, the cub wasn’t the least bit concerned Snowy might hurt him. Letting her stroke and massage his paws as she wished, willingly giving her whichever paw she wanted to work on, and purring throughout for good measure.
“I never want this to end,” the cub mewed.
“neither do I little one,” snowycried, her tears born of joy and relief. Snowy, now working by touch alone, as tears obscured her vision.
“I want to stroke your paws now snowy!” the cub mewed. Arki raised a paw in the tiger cub’s direction, and he, like before, changed his form of address.
“can I stroke your paws later Snowy?” snowy half tail laughed at the cub’s reaction to Arki’s signals.
“he must learn manners,” Arki said, “he knows how to be polite, but he forgets himself sometimes.”
“He’s also only a young cub Arki,” snowy sniffed, “don’t be too hard on him.” Arki patted Snowy’s shoulder with one padded white paw.
“he’s a wonderful cub snowy,” Arki said, “you have found a good friend there.” Snowy looked down at the tiger cub, who looked back at her.
“You can stroke my paws little one,” she said, “I would be delighted to let you do that.”
“Like Tilly does?” The cub asked.
“He’s learned a lot already,” Brushtail said, “Tilly’s been teaching him, they’ve been practising on each other for hours on end! I can’t separate them!” the tiny tiger cub and Tilly laughed helplessly at the vixen’s words.
“We even asked Clarence to let us stroke his paws,” the tiger cub mewed, “and he did. He liked it too!” snowy smiled at the tiny cub.
“that’s wonderful,” she said.
“Brushtail hid her head, for she knew what was coming.
“We even stroked Brushtail’s paws,” The cub mewed, “tickled them too we did!” Brushtail, now hiding her face in her forepaws, nodded:
“they tickled my paws the little scoundrels!” she wined, “I was enjoying the massage when first Tilly tickled my left forepaw, then the tiger cub my right hind! I could have walloped them both!” snowy saw Brushtail’s eyes were sparkling with delight. She’d enjoyed the change of plan as much as the cubs had.
“Of course, we wouldn’t tickle Clarence’s paws the way we did mum’s,” Tilly said, joining in with the conversation, “his paws are too big! Have you seen how big his paws are snowy? They’re massive!”
“I wish someone would stroke my paws,” Leo said. Brushtail, Tilly and the tiger cub looked at him.
“No way!” Tilly barked, “you’ve got huge paws, even bigger than Clarence’s! We’re not massaging those without you being tied down, and each paw held by two adult animals. You’re too big Leo!”
“I’ll stroke your paws Leo,~” Whitie said.
“You’ll do nothing of the sort!” Amber snapped.
“I will, and you’re going to do nothing to stop me!” Whitie replied, crawling away from Amber’s side. Amber tried to follow her cub, but Stifftail stopped her.
“Let her go,” he said. Whitie crawled up to Leo, who rolled onto his side and extended a forepaw towards her. When Whitie’s paw touched his, Leo relaxed. Whitie began to stroke Leo’s paw, the lion closing his eyes and beginning to purr with contentment.
“Now tickle the pads of his paw Whitie,” Tilly whispered. Leo’s free forepaw shot out and the lion soon had the toes of his huge paw entwined in the scruff of Tilly’s neck.
“I heard that,” Leo growled softly. Tilly began to shake with fear.
“I didn’t mean it Leo, honestly!” The fox cub pleaded.
“You meant it all right!” Brushtail barked, “Tilly, what you are doing is serious work! You can’t just tickle the paws of any animal on whom you are working! You mustn’t do that again, nor incite others to do so. I hope Whitie’s of sound enough character that she wouldn’t have carried out your instructions! That behaviour is how we lose customers!”
“I don’t mind cubs tickling my paws,” Leo replied, “but, please, not during a massage. Afterwards, then yeah, sure, but not before a massage, and please, let me wake fully first.” Tilly knew she’d been well and truly told off.
“Please Leo,” Brushtail pleaded, looking with horror at the lion’s paw entangled in her cub’s fur, “let Tilly go.” Leo let the fox cub go, Tilly bolting for cover.
“Tickle your paws?” Whitie spat, offended, “who the hell does Tilly think I am? I want to do this as my profession, as my full time work! I want to make something of my life, give this my best shot, and she thinks I would throw it all away for a bit of frivolous and dangerous fun? Definitely not!” Leo looked at the blind snow Leopard cub.
“You do a wonderful paw massage Whitie,” he said. Whitie patted the paw she still held in hers.
“Thank you Leo,” she replied. Leo settled down once more, Whitie working her agik over all four of his huge paws. Soon Leo was purring with deep contentment. Then the purring stopped, changing to deep regular breathing as the huge lion, relaxed by the snow leopard cub’s ministrations, fell into a deep untroubled sleep.
Meanwhile, the tiny tiger cub was having less success in his attempt to massage Snowy’s paws. He didn’t so much massage them as tickle them, not knowing the correct way to stroke a paw. This ended up in total chaos, snowy weak with laughter, and unable to teach the cub. Every time the tiger cub touched her paw he somehow managed to tickle it! Snowy, wiping her eyes with a huge paw, looked blearily at the Bengal tiger cub.
“You need to learn a lot more my friend,” she said.
“At least he can tickle someone’s paws,” Brushtail said, “I couldn’t even do that. You had to teach me Snowy.” Snowy grinned at the vixen.
“that’s true,” she replied, “now he has to learn how to stroke a paw rather than tickle it. I don’t think he’ll be massaging larger animals paws just yet.”
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