Troubled minds and family time.



Petra and her immediate and extended family settled down for the night in their lie up.  Kamchatka brought them tea and food, the adult big cats eating their fill, little Theo upset when his mum walked out of the lie up to eat her vegetables.

       “Why are you leaving the rest of the family to eat alone mum?”  He asked, crawling after Petra.

      “Meat makes me sick Theo dear,” Petra replied.  Eating her vegetables, which were slightly underdone, just as she liked them, Petra finished her meal with a sweet corn, one of her favourite foods.  Her cub sniffed at the various foods, the scents of the various fruit and vegetables making his mouth water.  He knew he could not eat what his mum was eating, but the stuff she was eating smelt so good!

        “Mum, could I have some of that?”  Theo asked, as Petra finished off with a few strawberries as an after thought.  Petra nipped the stalk out of a strawberry and gave the strawberry to her cub; little Theo taking it in his paws and nibbling at it, the firm fruit sweet and very juicy.  Juice running all over his paws and down his face, Theo ate with evident enjoyment.

       “I could get used to this food,” he said, licking his lips and then his paws, trying to get the remains of the juice off them.

       “In time you will eat meat,” his mother said.  Little Theo touched her paw with his, his pads still wet with juice.

     “But it will be without you to share my meal,” he said sadly, “I know this already mum.”  Petra gulped hard, for she could feel how her cub was affected by this, it hurt him deeply.

       “I know,” she said, “but you’ll get used to it,” Petra mewed.

      “Have you got used to your cubs not eating with you?”  Theo asked, knowing the answer.

     “No Theo, I haven’t,” Petra replied.  Theo kissed her nose, Petra gulping hard.

     “This cub’s going to be the death of me,” she thought, “he’s so in tune with my emotions it’s scary!”  When she’d finished her fruit, and Theo had searched the baskets for more strawberries without success, Petra helped her cub to wash his face and paws, then washed her own.  Theo yawned expansively.

      “I’m tired mum,” he said, “can I go back to the lie up and get some sleep?”  Petra smiled and picked up a phone nearby.

        “Have you people finished your meal?”  She asked Samson.  Samson replied that they had, and Petra put the phone down.

       “Let’s go little one,” Petra mewed, picking her cub up in her mouth and carrying him back to the lie up, Theo’s large paws dangling limp below his relaxed body.  Petra gently placed her cub on the rug, curling her body round his.  Sighing contentedly, she looked over at Kamchatka, who brought her a bowl of tea.

     “Thanks Kamchatka dear,” Petra mewed, drinking deeply.  Theo raised his head.

     “What’s that?”  He asked, his nose twitching.

      “Tea Theo love,” Petra said, “it helps me sleep.”

      “Can I have some?”  He asked.  Petra smiled and Kamchatka dipped a coffee cup into the bowl, filling the cup with tea.  Little Theo drank from the cup; lapping the hot liquid as if he’d drunk tea from before he was born.

     “Lovely,” he mewed, curling up.  Soon Petra and her newborn cub were asleep.  Kamchatka gently smoothed her paw over Theo’s back, the cub purring as he fell deeply asleep.  The grizzly bear’s eyes filled with tears as she gazed down at Petra’s new cub.

      “Is it wrong to love a lioness and her cub so much?”  She asked herself, “I hope not, dear Eohippus I hope not.  For I love them with all my heart.”  Kamchatka turned and walked away.


Petra and her family slept for a long time, fleur the first to wake.  Looking round her, she took in the tigers and lions, her eyes falling finally on her own cub.  Clarence was vastly different to how Leo had been his fur long and multi toned, with long brown fur with black stripes and spots, his paws well furred with spots on the tops and soles of each one.  Clarence’s tail was also longer than a lion’s, but had a tassel on the end, just like Samson’s.  Fleur stroked her cub’s head with one paw, remembering his birth.

       “I hope he has a good life, I will do anything to protect this cub, I promise,” she thought.  The sound of heavily padded paws entering the room made fleur look up.  Kamchatka padded in, sitting down and watching the big cats and their cubs.  She looked contented, and, taking her right hind paw in her right fore, began unconsciously to use her left forepaw to play with the toes of her right hind paw. Smiling, fleur watched the bear enjoying her paw play.

       “I’ll teach my cub some of that,” she mewed softly.  Kamchatka came out of her trance, staring at Fleur, her eyes then flicking to her hind paw and the toes of the forepaw playing with it.

     “Um, er, sorry,” Kamchatka grunted.  Fleur smiled and wiggled the toes of her left forepaw at Kamchatka.

     “No problems,” she mewed, “play with your paws as much as you want.  I love seeing bears feeling at ease enough to be able to play with their toes.  It’s sweet.”  Kamchatka smiled broadly.

      “I like it,” she replied.

      “How does a bear stroke her paws anyway?”  Clarence asked sleepily, “and more to the point, what is a bear?”  Soon fleur Had Kamchatka lying on her side, little Clarence clambering all over her like the grizzly bear was an animated climbing frame.

      “Fleur guided Clarence’s paws over Kamchatka’s head, body, legs and paws, describing everything.  Then fleur asked Kamchatka to sit down and take her right hind paw in her right fore as before and play with the toes of that held paw.  Kamchatka did, and Clarence got an idea of how a bear could use her forepaws to stroke her hind.  Clarence smiled as his paws ran over the pads and toes of Kamchatka’s right hind paw, the bear curling her toes round the tiny cubs.

      “I love this,” Clarence mewed.  Kamchatka released Clarence’s toes and gently covered his paw with her right forepaw, holding his pads against the large sole pad of her right hind paw.  Clarence smiled and drummed his toes on the sole of her paw; Kamchatka smiling with such pleasure fleur was choked up.

       “You love that so much don’t you,” she mewed.  Kamchatka smiled broadly.      “Any paw contact is lovely,” she replied.

      “Your paws are huge!”  Clarence mewed.  Kamchatka laughed as fleur tickled her free hind paw.

       “You rogue fleur!”  Kamchatka yelled, waking little Theo.

       “Tickling paws wakes the world,” he mewed, crawling towards Clarence.  Theo felt his way carefully over the carpet, until he found Clarence’s furry left hind paw.  Touching his brother cub’s pads and toes, Theo began to tickle the sole of the cross bred cub’s paw, Clarence laughing helplessly.

      “Theo, stop it, stop it!”  Clarence pleaded, wriggling and squirming.  Theo giggled cubbishly and caught his brother cub in a huge hug as he turned from Kamchatka.  Clarence smiled and snuggled hard into his brother cub’s embrace.

       “I love you Theo,” Clarence mewed, Theo kissing his nose.

       “You two are so lovely!”  Kamchatka said laughing.  Petra mewed softly as she woke up:

      “I can’t sleep with you lot tickling each other’s paws,” she mewed.

     “What?  You can hear the sound of paw pad on paw pad?”  Kamchatka asked.  Petra smiled sleepily.

       “Yes,” she mewed, “the sound of paw tickling sounds like laughter.”  Theo crawled back to his mum and took her paw in both of his.       “Mum,” he said, “have you touched my paw pads yet?”  Petra smiled at him.

      “No not yet,” she mewed, “but I would like to soon.”  Theo realised his first grooming had been done by Samson, and not his mum.

      “Oh, mum,” Theo said shame faced, “the lion who stroked my paws first was not you, it was Samson.”  Petra smiled and nodded.

      “I know,” she replied, “that was why I said I’d like to stroke your paws soon.”

       “I want them stroked by you too,” Theo mewed.  Petra gathered her cub to her, Theo snuggling close.  Petra examined her cub from nose to tail, loving every inch of him.

       “I love you Theo dear,” she mewed.  Theo kissed her nose, Petra catching her breath.

      “Mum’s gone all soppy,” Theo teased, cuddling hard up to Petra.  Simba padded into the lie up, saw Theo cuddled up to his mum and remembered what had taken place the day before.  Petra and Fleur’s labours had started early one night, their cubs born in the early morning of the next day.  Now it was twenty four hours after the births of the cubs, and Simba was rapidly getting used to the fact he now had a younger brother.


“I wish I could cuddle up to mum like that,” Simba thought miserably, “but I can’t.  I’m too old.”

      “Why can’t you cuddle up to your mum Simba?”  Little Theo asked.

        “How, I mean, because, because I’m too old, I’m no cub any more Theo,” Simba mewed.

       “Rowena has been trying to re-educate you hasn’t she?”  Theo asked.  Simba’s eyes blazed.

      “Confidential my paw!”  He screamed, “What has she told you?  Tell me!  Tell me now, before I tear your throat out!”  Theo crawled over to his older brother, Petra pouncing on him to stop him.

      “No Theo, he’ll kill you!”  She gasped.

       “Too right I will!”  Simba shouted, “Who told you Theo!”

        “You did,” Theo mewed, “its plain for all to see.  Simba snorted:

       “No it’s not, I’ve told noone, and if Rowena’s told noone, then who has told you!”

      “You did Simba, you’ve told me everything.  I can feel it,” the cub replied.

       “When!”  Simba asked.

      “When did you last have paw contact with me?”  Theo asked.  Simba thought back to just after the white cub’s birth.

      “I let you play with my paws didn’t I,” he said, everything becoming clear.

      “Yes,” Theo mewed, “your paws tell me a lot you know.  They don’t know not to tell.”

     “But I would be leaking information all over the place!”  Simba protested.

      “No you wouldn’t,” Theo mewed, “you only tell those whom you really want to know, and one of those was me.”

       “You mean you didn’t ask?”  Simba asked.

     “No,” Theo replied, “why should I want to pry?  Your paws told me everything, you were desperate Simba.”  Simba remembered his paws burning slightly as the cub played with them, but he’d been so carried away with everything he’d not given it much thought.

       “So you want to be a cub again,” Theo stated, “well come on, cuddle your mum.

       “No, No I can’t,” Simba mewed, shame faced.

       “Simba too afraid to come for a hug?”  Petra asked, releasing her hold on Theo, who went straight to Simba.

       “No, I mean yes, I don’t know!”  Simba replied.

      “Would it help if I guided you by the paw?”  Theo asked, taking Simba’s right forepaw in his left.  Simba looked down at his paw in that of the tiny cub.

       “I can’t walk like this,” he said, “it’s impossible.”

        “Crawl then,” Theo mewed.  Simba looked surprised, but got down on the floor with his brother cub and crawled towards his mum, Theo guiding him.

     “Here he is mum,” Theo said to Petra as he and Simba reached her.  Simba, his eyes closed since his brother cub had begun gently to lead him over the carpet, now felt warm paws envelope him.

      “It’s the same warmth, like I felt when I was first here!”  Simba gasped, “You can’t forget that!”  Petra kissed her eldest cub’s nose.

        “Stay a while,” Petra mewed.

      “No, mum, I can’t,” Simba protested, “This is Theo’s place now, not mine.”

      “But you are my cub as much as he is,” Petra mewed.

       “No mum,” Simba choked, “I’m not really your cub.  For your cub would not have wanted to kill defenceless creatures.  I did!  I wanted to kill Kamchatka!”

       “My cubs aren’t born infallible,” Petra mewed, “it is only they who sometimes think they are.  Simba, put that aside now and let me hug you, please.”  Simba let his mum embrace him.

       “Now go from here,” Petra mewed, “and be yourself Simba, the lion I, Rowena, Theo and you know you are.  Not some false lion.”  Simba opened his eyes, turning to see a huge white lion beside him, it was enormous!

       “Baingana?”  Simba asked automatically.

      “No,” the lion said, “come, and I will lead you from here as a lion.  Simba looked into the white lion’s face, but caught only a fleeting glimpse of his eyes, the lion had a very shaggy coat, with hairy paws, and a very long tail.

”Now I have come to take you back to your lie up,”  the strange creature said, “for I have a meeting with your sister.”

       “Scruffy Leo!”  Simba said, “no, you’re not getting anywhere near my sister!”

       “But she wants a meeting.  She wants to talk, and who ever said anything about scruffy Leo?”  The creature said.  Simba spat at the white creature.

      “I hate you!”  He yelled.

       “How can you hate a cub?”  The creature asked, taking Simba’s right forepaw in his.

       “But you are no cub!”  Simba screamed.

       “Try letting your paws tell you who I am,” the creature said.  Simba shook his head and tore his paw from that of the white lion.

     “Oh no, not again!”  Simba shrieked.

       “What?”  The creature asked, “Are you refusing to let your paws be your guide?”  Simba snarled:

      “Where you are concerned, yes!  You are a piece of dung!”

       “I will leave you now then,” the white creature said, and Simba felt sudden sadness, where there had been reassurance.

        “You really do let your eyes guide you it seems,” the creature said, turning and padding away, its head hung in sudden grief.

       “Oh, oh no!”  Simba choked, as he saw his mum bury her face in her paws, crying like a cub.

        “Simba,” she sobbed, “you knew who that creature was, you knew, but you denied the evidence of your paws!”

     “Theo, big Theo, he tricked me!”  Simba yelled, now furious!

      “He tricked your eyes, he put on a coat, that’s all he did.  Do you think scruffy Leo would even think of going to Rowena after what he did?”  Petra asked.

     “No,” Simba mewed.

        “Now you’ve busted it,” Petra said, “even I could tell who that lion was!  Yes he wore a coat, a white coat and he looked like scruffy Leo, but his paws, they were Theo’s paws, not Leo’s!  You thought he was Baingana at first, and he corrected you.  You then used your eyes to judge him!  My sire Theo wanted to put you to the test, to see how good you were at letting your paws guide you, and you failed it Simba!”  Simba fled for Rowena’s lie up!  Bursting in, he found Rowena talking to the white lion.  Simba could see he was a lion, though hadn’t he looked like scruffy Leo?

      “Leo!  I mean Theo!”  Simba yelled, the lion turning his head to him.

      “So you worked out who I am then,” the white lion replied.

      “I think I have,” Simba mewed, “but you looked like scruffy Leo!”

      “I disguised myself to make your eyes tell you one thing, and your paws tell you the other,” Theo replied, “I wanted to test you Simba.”

      “My paws were telling me,” Simba mewed, “but, but, I, I ignored them Theo.  I am so sorry!”

     “Your mum knew who you were talking to,” Theo said softly, “she is very upset now.  I cannot go and comfort her, but maybe a cub can.”

      “I’ll go now, I’ll go to her,” Simba said.  The shaggy white lion lifted a paw to stop him.

      “I said a cub,” Theo mewed, “you are no cub, even though you might think yourself one.”  Simba stepped back from the restraining paw.

       “You meant little Theo,” he said faintly.

       “Yes,” the white lion replied.

      “Why pretend to be scruffy Leo?”  Simba asked.

      “I wasn’t pretending to be anyone,” Theo mewed, “yes I now have a white coat, which is slightly thicker than the one my earthly body had, but I’m not scruffy Leo.”

      “But I couldn’t see your eyes, and his were always covered by hair,” Simba mewed, “and your tail too, that was longer than a lions, explain that if you can.”  Theo smiled, got to his paws, shook himself, and showed Simba the result.  Theo’s tail did look longer to Simba, but not by as much as his eyes had at first seen.

      “You looked like scruffy Leo, even mum said you did!”  Simba mewed.

      “All you saw was a scruffy coat and a long tail,” Theo mewed, “it so happened that I had a rather long tail when I was of earthly form.”

      “But why hide your eyes from me?”  Simba asked.

       “So you did not get any idea as to my real identity,” Theo replied.

     “I would have recognised your eyes, for they are like my mum’s,” Simba mewed.  Theo turned sad eyes on him, and Simba saw the same expression he’d far too often seen in his mum’s in recent times.  He realised this was what he would have seen if big Theo hadn’t hidden his eyes from him.

       “I’m sorry,” Simba mewed.

      “I am not scruffy Leo Simba,” Big Theo said.

      “No, Theo, I’m sorry for mistaking you for him, the long coat fooled me, but then, then, scruffy Leo would not be accorded a white coat, not after what he did.”  It was known that any animal that had performed good deeds in their earthly life would be accorded a white coat when they passed to the other side.  Baingana, if he’d not reformed, would have been accorded no coat at all, keeping his old colouration as in life.  Theo had gained a white coat, a shaggy, long white coat.

      “I am sorry for confusing you with scruffy Leo!”  Simba mewed, begging big Theo for forgiveness.

       “You need to really become a cub again,” Rowena said to her brother.  Simba threw himself on the rugs and grabbed big Theo’s paws, squeezing them hard.  The white lion growled, tore his paws out of Simba’s grasp and took the distressed Lion’s paws in his.

       “Go back to your cubhood Simba,” Theo mewed, “You need to learn to take things at paw value.”  Simba closed his eyes, trying to feel all Theo could, but he got nowhere.

      “You’re trying too hard,” Theo mewed.  Simba let himself go with his paws, and could recognise Theo immediately, even though he could not see him.  Theo’s paws were similar to his mum’s, loving, caring and warm, just like her, and of course like Theo himself.  Simba cuddled Theo hard, burying his face and paws in the lion’s thick warm fur.  Simba felt Theo’s tongue licking his ear, and the feeling was so good, so very good.  Simba began to purr, his body relaxing into Theo’s embrace.

       “Take me home, Theo, take me home!”  Simba mewed.  Theo’s paws worked over? Simba’s body, Simba closing his eyes and sleeping.  Ages later when Simba opened his eyes, Theo had vanished, and the paws working over his body were not those of the white male lion, but Rowena’s, the white lionesses paws warming him from nose to tail.

      “I must, must learn to be paws on, more paws on, totally paws on!”  Simba mewed to himself.

      “Paws on sounds good,” Rowena mewed, kissing her brother’s

      “Where is Theo?”  Simba asked.  Rowena rested her head on her brother’s shoulder, purring into his ear.

       “Theo left me in charge, he had to go,” she mewed, “you’ve been unconscious for days Simba,” Rowena replied.  Simba choked with emotion.

       “He, he tried, tried to show me the way, and I failed!”  Simba wept.

      “No, you haven’t failed,” Rowena mewed, “only when you give up wanting to try having you failed.”  Simba wanted to cuddle his sister with everything he had, with all four paws if he could.

        “I’m so tired,” Simba mewed, drifting into unconsciousness once more.  Rowena looked down at her brother cub.  He’d drifted away with his eyes half open, and this scared her.


Simba saw a form coming towards him; it was large, with a scruffy coat, a horrible coat.  The creature had no eyes, or none Simba could see, and it reached out with its paws to touch him.  Screaming, Simba fought it off.

      “Scruffy Leo, you aren’t taking me into your horrid world!”  Simba screamed, “I belong to Theo, to Rowena and Petra, not to you!”  Simba extended his claws and smashed the vision of scruffy Leo aside!

        “Simba no!”  Someone yelled, and the next thing Simba felt was claws tearing at him.

       “I told you Clarence, I told you not to touch him!”  Someone screamed, then, “you hurt my cub you bastard, you horrid bastard Simba!”  Simba floundered about, trying to tell whomever was screaming at him that the creature he’d attacked was no cub, that it was scruffy Leo, but noone heard his protestations.

       “Scruffy Leo leaves me alone, dam you, and leave me alone!”  Simba roared, “Get your filthy paws off me!”

       “I’m not scruffy Leo!”  Clarence pleaded, his nose already bleeding from Simba’s slashing swipe at his face, “I’m Clarence, the cub whose paws you played with Simba.  I’m not scruffy Leo, I promise I’m not!”  Fleur, horrified by what she’d just seen, ran in and grabbed her cub, lifting him off his paws and dragging him from the room.

       “He attacked you once Clarence, and you went back in there, you stupid cub!”  Fleur yelled.

      “Rowena says Simba doesn’t know his mind, he’s crazed, I thought I could help!”  Clarence mewed.  Fleur looked at her son cub’s scratched fee and bleeding nose.

      “He will kill you Clarence, for he thinks you are someone else!”  Fleur mewed.

      “Scruffy Leo was your cub wasn’t he,” Clarence said, “and I look enough like him to make Simba think I’m him.”  Fleur hesitated:

      “You’re not like him at all, but yes, your fur is long and shaggy like his, and that’s enough to make him think you are Scruffy Leo,” fleur mewed, “that is why I want you well away from him Clarence.”


Meanwhile, Simba woke, his whole body covered in sweat and claws bloody.  Simba looked dumbly down at his paws, wondering why there was blood on his claws.  Who had he attacked?

       “I feel like I’ve been in a fight,” Simba thought miserably, “but who did I fight?”  Getting to his paws, he stumbled from the room, almost tripping over his own paws.  Nearly crashing into fleur in the passage, Simba mumbled an apology, and tried to pass her.

       “You attacked my cub!”  Fleur yowled.

      “I attacked your cub?”  Simba asked, “When?”

       “About three hours ago,” fleur mewed, “you accused him of being scruffy Leo!”  Simba closed his eyes and shook his head.

       “My dream,” he mewed, “Oh no!  I, I attacked a creature which looked like scruffy Leo,” Simba mewed faintly, “but, but, it wasn’t, was it.”  Fleur shook her head.

        “Clarence,” she said, “you attacked Clarence.  Slashed at his face too!  He’s got a bloody nose, but that’s about it.”  Simba was already crying.

       “I wouldn’t hurt Him!”  The lion sobbed, “I wouldn’t!  Why would I hurt a defenceless cub?”

      “Clarence even pleaded with you, told you he wasn’t scruffy Leo, but you wouldn’t listen!”  Fleur spat.

       “I wasn’t in my right mind,” Simba sobbed, “I wasn’t attacking Clarence, I was attacking who I thought to be scruffy Leo.  I promise!”

      “Give me your paw and say that!”  Fleur demanded.  Simba did and said all she wanted, fleur shocked to find he was truthful.

       “Your mind was upset,” she mewed softly, “you truly didn’t know.”  Simba, distraught, tried to bury his face in her shoulder, fleur letting him.

        “I’m sorry!”  Simba screamed.

        “Come, and I will show you what you did to my cub,” fleur mewed.  Simba followed her to where Clarence lay cradled in Kamchatka’s paws.  The sight of the grizzly bear cradling the shaggy cub made Simba want to cry even more.  He could see the damage his claws had done to Clarence’s face, and also that the cub was shaking.

       “I’m sorry Clarence,” Simba mewed softly, unable to believe what he’d done.

        “You hurt me Simba,” the tiny cub mewed, “why did you do that?”

        “It wasn’t you I was attacking, my mind played tricks on me,” Simba mewed, realising how lame and inadequate he must sound, “it wasn’t you I saw, it was scruffy Leo.  Clarence, I’m sorry, so very sorry.”  Simba padded towards the tiny cub, stretching out his paw to touch him, but Clarence batted it away.

       “Leave me alone, don’t touch me!”  He mewed.

       “But, but, I didn’t mean to attack you, it wasn’t you I saw!”  Simba begged, “If I’d seen you, do you think I would have attacked you?  I saw a male adult cat, not a cub!  If I’d thought it was a cub, I wouldn’t have attacked it.  I promise!”

      “But you can’t undo what you did,” Clarence said, “I’m hurt, and it was your fault!”

       “I wasn’t in control of my paws!”  Simba pleaded, “Something else was, something told me you were scruffy Leo!”

       “How can I be scruffy Leo?”  Clarence asked fleur.

      “Your general body shape is the same as his,” she mewed, “but your colouration is not.  When you’re able to see, I’ll show you pictures of my first cub, and you will see.”  Clarence had to be content with that.


Meanwhile, Samson lay in his lie up, crying into big Theo’s white coat.  They’d both seen what happened to Simba and Clarence, and Samson was horrified!

       “But, but Simba thought my cub was scruffy Leo!”  Samson sobbed, “He’s not Theo,”

      “Simba’s confused Sammy,” big Theo said.

     “During the days he was unconscious, where did you take him?”  Samson asked the white lion.

      “I tried to take him back to his cubhood, but he wouldn’t come,” Theo mewed, “he protested that Rowena had taken him there once, and what good would another visit do?”

     “But he needs to go back to his cubhood to learn to play again,” Samson mewed, “Clarence is trying to take him back, but he won’t go.”

      “Simba will,” Theo mewed, “just give him time.”


Meanwhile, Simba was thinking about what Samson would have to say about him attacking his cub.  Simba knew Samson would be angry, not just angry, but murderous.  Simba knew that to go to Samson and confess all would be the best thing to do, rather than let the huge lion learn of his attack on Clarence by video.


Simba ran into Samson’s lie up, Samson treated to the kind of look in a lion’s eyes which meant the lion knew he was about to die.

      “Samson,” Simba mewed, “I’ve come to confess to you that I’ve attacked your cub.  Do with me what you will!”  Samson stared at Simba, his mind confused.  He knew the pride would expect him to kill Simba right now, but could he?  Samson got to his paws, but couldn’t even get so far as raising a paw to hit Simba.

        “No Simba, I won’t kill you,” Samson mewed, lowering his head.  Simba stared at Samson, knowing this could be a chance for him to take advantage and depose his leader.

       “Don’t even think of trying to depose Samson,” Theo warned.  Simba looked into Samson’s eyes, and realised what his expression meant.  He wasn’t weak; he was just concerned for Simba.

      “Simba, let me touch you,” Samson mewed, going to him.  Simba felt Samson’s paw touch his, and realised his leader wanted to comfort, not kill him.

        “You did not attack my cub deliberately,” Samson mewed, “I know he went to you, to comfort you.”

       “I am sorry for hurting your cub Samson,” Simba mewed.  Samson knew that to hit Simba would do no good.

       “I’ll go with you to Clarence and speak with him,” Samson mewed.  Simba and Samson padded to where fleur and Kamchatka were still trying to comfort Clarence in the grizzly bear’s lie up.

       “Clarence, please,” Simba mewed, lying down so he was more on the cub’s level, “I would like to talk to you about what happened earlier.”

       “You attacked me, and that’s horrible!”  Clarence spat, “I thought we were friends Simba, but you fall asleep, and you hate me!”

       “But I don’t hate you!”  Simba choked, “I don’t hate you Clarence!  Look, I’m confused, I’ve got issues, now, now, I, I’m trying, fighting to overcome them!”

       “What you need to do is let your paws be your guide,” little Theo said.  Simba looked at him.

       “Everyone says to me to let my paws be my guide n’all that crap!”  Simba yelled, “Well I can’t!”

       “You think you can’t,” little Theo mewed, “but Simba, you can, if only you remember what your paws are meant for.  When you were blind and helpless as a newborn cub, what did you use to find your way?”

       “My paws,” Simba mewed, “but I’m all grown up, I’m not a cub!”

      “Have you recently seen any other adult creatures playing with their own paws or with the paws of others?”  The white cub enquired.

       “Yes,” Simba replied, “Kamchatka does, she plays with the toes of her hind paws quite a bit.”

      “Where did she learn that skill?”  The cub asked.  Simba was about ready to hit him, and it seemed the cub knew it.

       “Violence won’t get you anywhere Simba,” Theo mewed, “now answer my question.”

       “When she was a cub,” Simba mewed, “but it’s a stupid game, all the paw play stuff is stupid, is cubbish!”

       “You didn’t think that when you played with Rowena’s paws and she played with yours,” little Theo replied, “you wished her to keep playing with your paws I think.”  Simba screamed with rage!

       “You know too much!”  He yelled, “I’m going to kill you, right here!  Right now!”

      “Try it,” the cub said, “Samson, fleur; let him have his head, and Simba, just try killing me.”  Simba strode forward, his eyes blazing with anger!

       “You’ve pushed me too far!”  He yelled at little Theo, “now you will die!”

       “So be it,” the cub replied.  Samson shot a look at Petra, who stood as if her paws were glued to the carpet, staring in shock.

       “Come on Simba, kill me,” little Theo said calmly.  Simba tried to extend his claws to tear the cub apart, but they wouldn’t obey him.  Simba tried lashing out at the cub, but his paws hit carpet.

        “You can’t even aim straight,” little Theo mewed, “or is it that you really, truly, don’t want to kill me?”

        “I want you dead!”  Simba screamed.

      “You don’t want me dead,” little Theo mewed, “you want the adult Simba dead.  You want to become a cub again, but you can’t let yourself go.  Let your paws be your guide Simba.”

       “You use that dam phrase one more time; I’ll tear your tongue out!”  Simba shrieked.

       “Theo, no!  Leave it!”  Petra begged.

       “come, come and take my life if you want it, for you fancy yourself a hot blooded lion,”  little Theo said, “you wanted to overthrow Samson earlier, so why not start it now, kill his cub.  I’m here, and I’m willing to die.  So come on.  Simba, it’s easy, just step on me, and crush me under your paw.”  Petra watched in horror as little Theo padded up to Simba, touched the toes of his right forepaw with his nose, and lay down within half a pace.

       “Come on,” the cub encouraged, “just lift your paw, bring it over a bit, and press down.  Or don’t you want to.  Is it too hard?  Can you not be bothered?  Or is it that you don’t want to kill me after all?”

       “Don’t do it Theo, don’t be so stupid!”  Petra screamed.

       “Simba wants to be a great leader mum,” little Theo said, “So it is only right that he goes about it in the proper manner.  Let him kill me, if he can, and take the leadership cub by cub.  Then he gets to one pissed off and grief stricken lion and has to fight him.  Samson won’t hit Simba, but Simba can’t see the reasons why his leader doesn’t put down a rogue male.  Simba wants to kill cubs, so let him, let him kill for no reason, and see what happens to him.  I will die knowing I’ve been loved by gentle parents and have done no wrong to them or to my fellow creatures.  Simba will have killed me, but he will realise in the end he’s done wrong to those whom he should hold so dear that they are untouchable.  He will have violated his own family.  Now if he’s prepared to do that, I offer myself in the full knowledge of the consequences.  I love my mum and sire and brother cubs dearly, the only thing that |I regret is that one of my brother cubs wants to kill me before my life has really begun.  So come on Simba, kill me now.”  Petra threw herself on the rugs, weeping tears of grief.

       “I can’t do it,” Simba mewed, walking away, his future uncertain.

        “Coward!”  Clarence yelled, “you coward Simba!”

       “He’s no coward,” little Theo said, “He’s a terrified little cub who’s lost his way and has finally admitted it.  Let him go, let him cry and wring his paws for his foolish words.”

       “You knew didn’t you,” Kamchatka said to little Theo, “You knew he wouldn’t harm you.”

       “I hoped he wouldn’t,” the cub replied, “I hoped my reading of his emotions was correct.”

       “You were willing to take that risk,” Petra sniffed.

        “I had to test him,”  little Theo mewed, crawling to his mum and hugging her, “mum, it is better one who knows the consequences offers his life to save others, others who mean him no harm, but may look similar to one who he hates more than anyone else.”

       “You mean Simba wanted to kill Clarence?”  Kamchatka asked.  Fleur, hearing this, squealed with pain and threw herself at her cub.

        “He wanted to kill scruffy Leo,” little Theo mewed, “but he didn’t get the chance.  Simba wishes more than anything that you’d aborted your first cub, but he won’t say it fleur.  Simba tried to love scruffy Leo, but scruffy Leo hated himself so much, no love would help him.  Simba wanted to end the life he’d fought to save, to finish the job, but he didn’t get the chance.  Simba is so messed up now that he’s taking his frustrations out on those who look most like his enemy, even if they be innocent cubs.”

        “If Simba had killed you, what would have happened to him?”   Petra asked.

       “He would have killed Clarence, then, he would be killed,” |little Theo mewed, “but he won’t kill Clarence, even though he wants to, for Clarence is what he wants to be, a cub.  Simba would love to play with Clarence, but he can’t bring himself to roll over, stick his paws in the air, and let a cub clamber over him like he’s an animated climbing frame.  Rowena can do it, so can Samson and you mum, “but Simba can’t.  He’s a vain and proud lion.  The day will come when he rolls over and lets the world hold his paws once more.  He’s forgotten that art, forgotten the art of play.  And he cannot bring himself to let bad spirits go.  Simba needs to learn who’s beyond the coat, learn the easy route to play and to freedom.  He’s trapped in his body, not even able to play with his own paws, but if he let go and held out all four paws to others, then he could learn.”

       “You’re saying his paws wouldn’t let him kill Clarence?”  Fleur mewed.

       “Yes,” Theo mewed, “deep down, he didn’t want to kill your cub, even though he thought it would solve his problem.  To kill your cub he’d have to kill me, and he could do that even less.”

       “If he’d followed his paws, none of this would have happened,” Samson mewed.

       “Yes,” Little Theo replied.


Meanwhile, in a small room far from the main part of the house, Simba lay curled up, his face buried in his paws.  Shaking with fear, he thought about what he’d nearly done.

        “I can’t let scruffy Leo go!”  He thought, “He’s in my thoughts, in my dreams even!”

       “Simba,” a voice said, “I was killed because I broke leonine law.  I went for the cub of another.  You nearly were killed because you threatened to go for another’s cub.  You blame me for your temper, for your misbehaviour, but what have I done to be blamed for this?  Nothing.  You saved my life Simba, are you blaming me because I threw the life you saved away?  Do you feel angry because I did with my life what I wanted to do, even though it led to my death?  Do you feel that because you saved my life, my life is now your property?”

       “Scruffy Leo, go away!”  Simba yelled, “Yes, yes I was disappointed in you for not listening to Rowena and taking Nuru at paw value.  You then ran into a fight with Nuru and killed yourself.  I can’t forgive you for that!  We told you, we tried so dam hard to help you, and you threw it back at us in spades!”

      “Simba,” scruffy Leo said, “my life was mine and mine alone, to do with what I wanted.  As for taking Nuru at paw value, well, my white friend, isn’t it time you learned a bit about that yourself?”  Simba leapt to his paws and lashed out, his paw striking the wall!  Screaming in agony, he collapsed onto the rug.

        “Go away, leave me now!”  Simba screamed.

       “Simba,”   Rowena asked gently, “do you truly believe scruffy Leo’s life was yours to direct once you’d pleaded with fleur to let him live?”  Simba looked up at Rowena, the expression on her face making him want to cry, for she knew his reply.

        “I wanted to save him from himself, so yes, I wanted to direct his life,” Simba mewed, “now, now he’s dead, I want to punish him, to destroy him like he destroyed my faith in him.  I loved that cub Rowena, and I wanted him to be a good cub, but when he went wrong over Nuru, I couldn’t cope.  I wanted to take him and shake him until his teeth and claws rattled, but I couldn’t.  So yes, I wanted to direct his life the way I wanted him to go.”

      How can you direct his life when yours has no direction?”  Rowena asked.

      “My life had direction,” Simba mewed, “but I lost it when I was demoted.”

       “So your job was everything?”  Rowena asked, “There was nothing else in your life?  No mate, noone other than your job to live for?”

        “I lost direction with my mate,” Simba mewed, “I lost direction with my life.  I’m confused Rowena, and noone but me can set my paws on the path to clarity.  You have tried, as has Clarence, but only I can follow the signs.  All the signs are telling me to use my paws, but my mind says no to that.”

      “Privately you will obey the signs, but not in public,” Rowena said, “you can’t be seen to let go when everyone else is.  Kamchatka was embarrassed to be caught out playing with her toes in Fleur’s lie up, but she still loves those games.  Now she’s showing other cubs how to play with their paws and enjoy it too.  Simba, you were once a paw play loving cub, I hoped you’d turn into an adult who loved paw play, but you haven’t.”

        “I want to,” Simba mewed, “but I can’t enjoy it any more.”

       “Why not?”  Rowena asked, “When everyone else is playing with each others and their own paws, why not?”

       “Because it would show me as weak, as less than a lion,” Simba mewed.

      “I think you know what action made you less than a lion more than all the public paw play and tickling in the world would ever have,” Rowena said.

     “Biting your paw, thus denying you paw play,” Simba mewed.

      “Yes,” Rowena replied, “my paw is soothed now, but that is thanks to the paws of loving cubs and adult animals playing with it and soothing it.  Shuang, when she crushed it and stamped on it in pain, cured it because she was in the throws of a labour of love for her cub.  Now, the love she has for her cub and for me soothes my pain.  Kuan-Yin can play with my injured paw all he likes and it won’t hurt a bit.  You even played with it, and when you are willing to let your paws lead you, it is lovely, but when not, my paw hurts like it was crushed under a truck.”

       “I want to play Rowena, but I can’t do it!”  Simba sobbed.

       “Why not?”  Rowena asked, “you love my paws, I love yours, let’s play with each other’s paws.  Then, then maybe, play with Kamchatka’s paws, then with Fleur’s, then, maybe, with little Theo’s.  Then, then, well, maybe, just maybe you could play with Clarence’s.  Simba, I struggled to save your sanity, but I don’t own your mind.  I am trying to encourage you to do what I know you desperately want to do, which is play with your own paws, but you physically can’t do that, so you need to find others who can’t play with their own paws and help them to play, helping yourself to play too.  Come on, show me those paws, let me hold them, embrace them, love them so their owner can be uninhibited in his expression of who he really is.”

       “You never stopped loving me did you,” Simba choked.  Rowena kissed his nose.

      “Never,” she replied, “never Simba.”  Simba coughed as he nearly choked on tears, Rowena cradling him until he got control.

        “You were loyal to me throughout all this,” Simba sobbed, “Rowena, why, after I crushed your paw, after I was so mean to you.”

       “I wanted my brother cub back with me,” Rowena replied, “and little Theo and Clarence want their brother cub back with him, the one who played with their paws when they were newborn.”

       “I was carefree then,” Simba mewed, “and little Theo wanted to keep me that way, but I took his guidance as false guidance.  I nearly killed what I want to be!  I nearly killed little Theo!”

       “But you didn’t kill me did you,” a voice said.  Simba looked down at a tiny white cub.

      “Come here,” Simba said gently.  Little Theo went to him, and Simba embraced him tenderly.  Little Theo took Simba’s left forepaw in both of his and began to play with his toes.  Simba smiled with genuine pleasure.

       “That’s better,” little Theo mewed.  Simba gulped hard as his paw told him everything he wanted to know about little Theo’s mood.  The cub was relaxed and happy.

      “Your sister loves you so much Simba,” little Theo mewed, “it tore her apart to see you in trouble like this.”  Simba knew a bit, but not everything.

        “I’m sorry to all I’ve hurt or threatened,” Simba mewed softly, “I must try to make amends for my actions.”  Simba hugged little Theo with everything he had”

      “Just follow your paws,” little Theo mewed, and this time, Simba felt no ranker towards the cub for his words.

      “Come with me,” little Theo mewed, taking Simba’s paw.  Simba, having to crawl like a cub, which he found rather refreshing, followed little Theo to Petra’s lie up where Rowena and Petra lay together, Petra distraught and anxious.

      “Simba,” Petra choked, “why Simba?  Why threaten your own brother?”  Simba looked down at his paws, very ashamed.

       “I was visited by scruffy Leo,” Simba mewed, “we had time together, and, and, he, he told me where I’d gone wrong!  I admit I felt scruffy Leo’s failure to be a good cub was a personal affront.  I thought of his life as mine in a strange sense.  I know now that it wasn’t, and that I saving his life did not give me the right to rule it.  I now wish I’d forget about my fight to save him, and just let him die with his earthly body.  He told me, told me he’d made mistakes, but those mistakes were for him to make.  He said he’d ignored my guidance, and that it was for him to choose to take or ignore, and for me to leave him to die if he wished.  I know now that Clarence is not scruffy Leo.  I want, want to make amends, to be the cub that I nearly destroyed!  Mum, Rowena, little Theo, Clarence, Kamchatka, everyone, come, take my paws, hold them, play with them, massage them until I’m back to where I want to be.  Force me down that path!  Kick me like I kicked Rowena’s hind paws until I’m back where deep down I know I want to be.”

      “We won’t use violence to enforce your will,” Rowena said, “but follow your paws, and you will be fine.”  Simba looked at little Theo, who’d gone to Clarence and seemed to be whispering to the cub, pleading with him to give Simba another chance.

       “Even a newborn cub is fighting for you Simba,” Kamchatka said, padding into the lie up.  Simba looked into the grizzly bear’s eyes, and wished he hadn’t.

       “It’s easy for you Kamchatka,” Simba moaned, “you’ve been following your paws ever since you were a cub!  I, I used to, but then, then I lost touch, and it has been awful ever since I lost touch with my paws.”

      “Get back in touch then, Kamchatka said, “here, come and find out what paw contact is like, touch my paws, explore them, tickle them, play with my toes, stroke my pads.  If you’re serious about learning how to keep in touch, then maybe I’ll touch your paws, play with your toes, and stroke your pads.  Come.”  Simba found his paws taking him to Kamchatka whether he wanted them to or not.  Soon he was holding her right forepaw in both of his, exploring her pads and toes with his.  The bear smiled encouragingly at Simba, but the main drive for him to go on and explore her other three paws came from the paw he was stroking.  Scanted to explore Kamchatka’s other three paws.  Kamchatka could feel his need, and smiled.

      “My paws are there when you want to take them in yours,” she said gently.  Simba could feel the pleasure he was bringing to Kamchatka, and it made him feel good.

       “This is wonderful,” the grizzly bear said softly, Simba smiling at her, gently squeezing the toes of her right forepaw to acknowledge her.  Kamchatka laughed at Simba’s urgency, which she could feel.  The male lion tried to slow his fumbling exploration of her fore and hind paws, Simba desperate to please her, as if he himself was desperate for a hit from some kind of drug.  Kamchatka laid her left forepaw on Simba’s left fore as he felt his way over her left hind.  Feeling her larger forepaw gripping his, he looked up into her eyes.

      “Slow down Simba,” Kamchatka said smiling, “my paws won’t disappear.”  Simba grinned.

     “They’re big enough,” he mewed.  Kamchatka rubbed the toes of Simba’s left forepaw, covered by her left fore, Simba smiling broadly.

      “That’s lovely,” he mewed, and then, quite naturally, he leant forward and kissed Kamchatka’s nose.  Simba found himself looking into the shining eyes of a female grizzly bear who knew she’d found a new friend in him.  Simba, taking a risk, shook his paw free of the grizzly bear’s and looked down at her left hind paw.  Then, very gently, he blew on the pads of her right hind paw, the bear laughing helplessly.

      “I love that,” she said, then, quite suddenly, Simba found himself being hugged by Kamchatka.  Simba felt tears welling in his eyes; he’d thought others to be a little strange when he’d seen the affect a hug from a bear had on them.  Petra was forever becoming tearful after an encounter with a bear.  Now Simba knew why.  One day, Petra had tried to tell him of her encounter with Kamchatka after Theo’s funeral, but Simba wouldn’t listen.  He remembered something about Petra getting emotionally connected with Kamchatka in a way she’d previously thought impossible, but now it was happening to him, Simba could feel it.  He loved this bear from her nose to the toes of her huge well padded paws, and he wanted to shout it from the rafters, best of all, it seemed she loved him too.  Simba mewed to Kamchatka, the bear rocking him gently in her paws.  How she managed to caress and tend to a huge male lion Simba didn’t know, but Kamchatka did, and Simba was grateful for her attentions.

      “Would you mind if I stroked all four of your paws once more?”  Simba asked.  Kamchatka smiled.

      “I’d love that,” she replied.  Simba set to massaging Kamchatka’s right forepaw, but soon he found himself playing with her paw, rather than massaging it.  Kamchatka, feeling the change, smiled at the lion.  Relaxing her paws, Kamchatka let Simba play with her paws, the lion playing with the bear’s toes and stroking her pads.  Kamchatka closed her eyes, focusing her mind into what her paws were telling her.

        “This is lovely,” Kamchatka said dreamily, “I could get used to this.”  Simba caressed each of Kamchatka’s paws in his, rubbing pads and toes with gentle care.  Petra watched her grown cub and Kamchatka, wondering if Simba really had turned the corner.  It was when Kamchatka started playing with Simba’s paws that Petra got her first real hopeful sign.  Simba, relaxed and happy, let the bear take each of his paws in hers and play with his toes and stroke his pads, purring all the time.


Meanwhile, a little way off, Namrah and Tigger were playing with Clarence and little Theo, the cubs loving the paws on manner of the two blind tigers.  Tigger loved being clambered over, like his body was a huge climbing frame.  He felt the cub’s paws on his back and neck, then gently playing with his ears.  Fleur watched with slight concern, as little Theo put his paw in Tigger’s mouth, the tiger gently closing his teeth around the cub’s paw.  This was only for a few seconds, but little Theo loved it.  Then Tigger released the white cub and rolled onto his back, gathering little Theo up in a tiger sized hug.  Kissing the cub’s nose and paw pads, Tigger cemented his relationship with little Theo.  The blind cub and tiger ended up curled together in a warm embrace, the white lion cub’s tiny forepaws engulfed in Tigger’s huge striped ones.  Little Theo snuggled up to Tigger, loving the tiger’s warmth and general willingness to be a living heater to warm a tiny cub.


Meanwhile, in another part of the house, Nala lay in her lie up, still trying to come to terms with Theo’s sudden death.  She had withdrawn from the rest of the community, not even watching the births of Clarence and little Theo on the screen in her lie up.  She had problems accepting the paws on community.  A wild lioness, Nala had never had time to herself, having to fight Nuru or other lionesses for food.  Now though, well fed and watered, she had time to think.  Nala hated it, for she missed Theo and wanted to cry, but she couldn’t, for that wasn’t the wild way.  Eating little and sleeping less since Theo’s death, Nala was exhausted.  The idea of going to another lion and letting them take her paws in theirs and then hug her was appealing, but Nala couldn’t bring herself to do it, to cry openly for Theo.  Nala wanted someone to come to her and almost force her to open up, for she didn’t have the will to do it herself, though she was ready to burst inside.  Nala, though not witnessing the births of Clarence and little Theo, had seen community members weeping for Theo, swapping stories and loving his memory then going to eat good meals.  How could they eat and swap tales about a dead friend so soon?  Nala, now spending most of her days in a weary half comatose state due to lack of food and physical exhaustion, probably brought on by the lack of food and sleep, felt a paw touch hers.  Opening her eyes, she saw Rowena lying beside her.

     “I thought you didn’t tout for business,” Nala snapped.

      “You called out to me,” Rowena mewed.  Nala was about to deny this, when she realised she had, only in her own private thoughts, but she had cried out for help.

       “I want to do what everyone else is doing,” Nala said faintly, “but how do I do it?”

       “First of all,” Rowena said, “the community are here to help you up with gentle paws if you fall Nala, so don’t feel you need to bottle up your emotions.  We might be a bit crazy sometimes, but we’re not unemotional.  Now let’s get you some food, then if you want, you can talk to me, or to anyone, it doesn’t matter who.”  Rowena led Nala to the kitchen where Kamchatka and Kodiak were preparing the fish vegetable mix.  Bramble, Arki’s first cub, now grown up, was preparing Petra’s meal, careful to wash her paws more than usual, so no meat scent was present.  Nala watched this ursine team with fascinated eyes.

      “I didn’t know Petra was vegetarian,” Nala mewed.  Rowena smiled as little Theo crawled into the kitchen and  touched Bramble’s right hind paw, the female polar bear looking down at him and surreptitiously slipping him a strawberry.  The white lion cub crawled away quickly, Kamchatka grinning into her mushrooms as she chopped busily.

       “Bramble’s not meant to slip little Theo strawberries,” Rowena mewed to Nala, “but she does, soppy old thing that she is.”

       “Ah Nala,” Kamchatka said, turning from chopping mushrooms, “you look like you need feeding up my dear.  You had cubs or something? For you look underweight.”  Nala bit her tongue to stop herself from speaking her mind.  Kamchatka was a grizzly bear from nose to tail, and Nala hated the sight of her.  Kamchatka was fat in Nala’s eyes, too fat.  It was said around the community, that most lions, Rowena included, loved the rather Roly poley bears, but Nala didn’t.  She hated to admit that it had been a bear that’d saved her from Nuru’s attack on her in the garden.  Nala just didn’t like bears.

      “I’ve been a little unwell,” Nala mewed, trying to hide her distaste.  Even the thought of the bears preparing the meals made her feel ill, and Nala had to turn away.

       “We’ll go now, I think,” Rowena said.  Nala glanced at the white lioness, and saw her flash of anger.

        “I’d keep your mouth shut Nala,” Rowena advised when they were out of earshot, “you’ve been known to make stupid judgements before I believe.  Kamchatka’s a gentle bear, and it is she who prepares some of the vegetables which go into the mix we all eat here.  Kodiak does the meat and Bramble prepares Petra’s food.  You misinterpreted Kamchatka’s words.  She was concerned for you.”

      “I don’t want her concern,” Nala mewed, “she’s fat and horrible!”

       “Whatever you want to think Nala,” Rowena said, “its fine by me.”

      “No it’s not fine by you, I saw your anger,” Nala challenged.

       “You did,” Rowena mewed, “and I’m sorry for that.  Yes I am angry, but I also see you have a right to your views too.”  Nala spat at Rowena.

        “I don’t need you or your fat pawed friends!”  She screamed.

       “First you want me, and now you don’t,” Rowena mewed, “ah well, by for now then.”  Rowena padded away, dismissing Nala from her mind.  For Rowena, it was as if their encounter had never happened.  Padding back to the kitchen, Rowena talked to Kamchatka, the grizzly bear still chopping away, but at carrots this time.

        “I could see what Nala thought of me,” Kamchatka said to Rowena, “she doesn’t like bears much do she.”  Rowena was angry:

      “Nala’s awful!”  Rowena said, “She’s judgemental and silly.”

       “Aren’t you meant to be impartial?”  Bramble asked Rowena.

       “In matters of the spirit I cannot tout for business, or judge others spiritual belief, but I can say when someone’s being unreasonable!  Nala’s just that!  Bloody unreasonable!”

Nala lay down and tried to think of nothing, but images of Kamchatka playing with her own hind paws, her left forepaw holding her left hind, the toes of her right forepaw playing with those of her left hind.  Nala felt sick with the thought of Kamchatka’s fat forepaws playing with her even fatter hind.  Nala felt physically sick, and felt an uncontrollable urge to vomit.  Shaking herself, she opened her eyes, finding she’d thrown up all over her paws and the rug.  Embarrassed, she looked up into the camera, realising everyone had probably seen her disgrace.  Nala felt another urge to vomit, and obeyed it, but there was precious little to show for it apart from total body exhaustion and a headache.  The sour taste in her mouth revolted Nala and she realised she was one sick lioness.  Her reactions to scruffy Leo, then to Kamchatka had been physical revolution, leading to a need to vomit.  Nala looked into the screen on the wall, then at the telephone which would connect her to any lie up or even to the control room.  This place was wired beyond anything she could comprehend.  There was even an emergency button, she’d been told, press that, and someone would come to help her.  Nala felt sick and sad too.

      “I need help,” she thought miserably, closing her eyes, the image of the grizzly bear coming back to her, “I need help before I go mad!”  Nala remembered the bears in the garden, fighting for her life, one throwing a hammer at Nuru’s head, knocking him out cold.  Now Nuru was in leadership, a changed lion, a friend of this crazy community, this beautiful community.  This community where the touch of a paw could soothe a mind, or bring tears to one’s eyes, where a lion who’d threatened death to all could be rehabilitated, and then loved and respected.  Nala looked down at herself, at her vomit covered paws and thought of how stupid her fears were.  She feared scruffy Leo, and she feared Kamchatka, wasn’t that the bear’s name? Something likes that.  Nala’s eyes welled with tears, and she choked, tasting salty tears and her own stomach acid.  The taste made her sick, and she retched convulsively, crying like a cub.

       “I’m falling apart!”  Nala thought, her tears choking her, the taste of her own stomach acid choking her even more.  Nala roared with pain, pain equal to that when Baingana was born, but worse in some ways, at least she knew how to control that, she could push against the cub to give birth to him, there was some end to it.  This other pain though, it could not be helped by straining hard, panting, pawing and crying.  Nala wished for labour pain, at least she knew it, this pain though, this fear, was uncontrollable and seemingly endless.  Coughing, Nala wept, crying into her vomit drenched paws, the smell disgusting, her whole body and mind disgusting to her.

      “I want to die, to sleep, and to leave this horrid situation!”  Nala begged silently.  Nala began to shiver with fear and cold, even though the heating was on.  Nala felt dreadful.  Crawling to the emergency button, she pressed it with her nose, too exhausted to raise her paw.  Collapsing, Nala screamed out loud, a dreadful sound, full of pain and torment.  Nala passed out, her body giving up the fight to keep her alert.  Nala woke up in another lie up, her paws and mouth washed out, her body totally drained of strength.

       “Nala?”  Brunetta asked, gently touching Nala’s forehead with a cool padded paw, “how are you feeling?”  Nala could smell Brunetta’s scent, not ursine in any way, but warm and strangely comforting.  Nala breathed deeply, trying to control her emotions.

       “How, how long have I been here?”  She asked.  Brunetta, feeling Nala’s forehead hotter than she’d like, placed a cold towel on it, Nala’s sigh of relief telling her all she needed to know.

       “Better, better now, thank you,” Nala could not believe she was thanking a bear.

       “You’ve been here for days,” Brunetta replied, “you were very sick when we found you.”

      “We?”  Nala asked.

      “We are I and Nanuq Junior, my son cub.”  Brunetta replied.  Nala felt awful, though she knew the bears had been gentle with her, gentle and caring.

       “Nanuq Junior?”  Nala asked, her mind looking back to a time when she’d found a young male polar bear cub playing with the paws of a smaller female brown bear cub,.  They had been playing in the wood.

      “My son,” Brunetta said with pride.  Nala heard large paws coming into the room, large soft padded paws, big, soft, well placed padded paws.  Nala looked up and saw a large male polar bear.  Nala’s fear of the bears was gnawing at her mind, but she knew her life was in the paws of these two.

      “We found you drenched in sweat, covered in vomit and screaming hysterically,” Nanuq Junior said.  Nala looked blearily round her at the two bears, one of which was mixing something in a bowl.  Pushing the bowl her way, Nanuq smiled gently and said:

      “Drink this,” Nala lapped warily, the liquid was warm and sweet.  Drinking eagerly, Nala soon finished the drink and settled down once more.

      “What was in that?”  She asked, feeling stupid for not asking before she’d drunk the liquid.

       “Warm tea and a little sugar,” Nanuq Junior said gently, “great to settle a stomach and help sleep.”  Nala smiled to herself, these bears weren’t so bad after all, but then again, the big fat one wasn’t here.  Nala woke in the early morning of the next day to see the big fat grizzly bear watching over her.

       “So you’re guarding me now,” Nala said unkindly.

       “Guarding you?”  Kamchatka asked, “You’re free to leave whenever you like, I’m not stopping you.”  Nala kicked herself.

       “These bears have saved your life you ungrateful fleabag,” she thought crossly, “keep your filthy mouth shut!”

       “I’m sorry,” Nala said out loud, “I didn’t mean any fence.”  Kamchatka looked unconvinced.

      “She saw my reaction to her in the kitchen,” Nala thought, “I can’t blame her for being angry.  Her concern for me was genuine, and I react with physical disgust.”

       “In the kitchen,” Nala said, “I’m sorry about all that.”  Kamchatka looked down at her paws, very upset.

       “You looked, and still look awful,” she said, “I was only showing concern.”  Nala looked over at the prostrate bear, then at the bear’s face, now almost buried in her forepaws; it looked as if she would cry any moment.  Nala got quickly to her paws, the room spinning horribly.  Staggering, she managed to keep on her paws, just.

      Kamchatka, that is your name I believe,” Nala said, “I’m sorry, I really am sorry!”  stumbling over to the distressed bear, Nala found herself resting her forepaw on the bear’s, then she realised this was stupid, for if she didn’t believe in comforting the bear it wouldn’t work, this bear was a sensitive creature, and would feel her real emotions.  Could she bring herself to really comfort this bear?

      Kamchatka,” Nala mewed, “please, let me, could I?”

      “Could you do what?”  Kamchatka asked, her voice quavering slightly.

       “Could I stroke your paws?”  Kamchatka lowered her head.

       “You’ve never stroked a bear’s paws in your life,” Kamchatka replied, “you hate us, I know it, everyone knows it.  My paw play habit disgusts you, you have nightmares about me playing with my paws, and you now want to stroke them?”

        “I know, Kamchatka, I want to change, please, let me try, let me communicate with you in a way you understand.”  Kamchatka gave Nala her right forepaw, the lioness taking it in both of hers, trying to forget the stories she’d been told of bears rampaging through the woods, killing all they met, of them tearing cubs from their mother’s side and destroying families of lions.  Nala closed her eyes, trying to put Kamchatka’s physical form out of her mind, to concentrate on her spirit, on the spirit inside the body of a bear.

        “I want to live here, I want to learn,” Nala said, and she was truthful, more truthful than she’d been in her whole life.  I want to learn the ways of this community; I’ve got to learn their ways, your ways of doing things.  Kamchatka, things were different where I came from, there was one way, and one way only, I obeyed my lord, my pride, I let my lord mate with me, and had his cubs, then raised those cubs until they were weaned and then trained them until they were able to hunt for themselves.  It was a simple life.  Now though, I’m here, and everything’s different.  I have no food worries, not like then, I am warm, safe and well fed, or have the opportunity to be well fed.  I need for nothing.  But I alienate myself am scared, scared of letting others into my life, others who fought for me when they didn’t know me.  Those who loved my white cub.  I owe them so much, so very much.  Instead of getting to know these people, I hide away when my lord dies; I cannot stand on my own four paws, for I have no courage to.  I want to, but I can’t.  I want to know about this community, to cry like a cub and pour out my troubles, but I can’t.  I know its easy Kamchatka, I could just join paws with Rowena and tell her everything, I nearly did, but my stupid mind told me no, don’t, for she might see you as less of a lioness.  I want to cry and tell all, but I can’t, for Rowena would not listen.”

       “How do you know Rowena would not listen?”  Someone asked.  Nala opened her eyes, she’d not until then realised she’d closed them.  Staring, she saw, not Kamchatka, but Rowena!  The paw she was holding was Rowena’s!

       “I held the paw of a bear,” Nala mewed, “but you are a lioness!”

      “Tell me what you want to,” Rowena said.  Nala poured everything out, and after the flow had dried up, Rowena hugged her, hugged her in huge warm paws, big soft warm paws, paws, like a bears.  Nala woke with a start, and there was Kamchatka, her right forepaw still in Nala’s, but the bear was smiling now, and as Nala watched, Kamchatka kissed her nose, Nala wanting to cry.  Nala wept unashamedly, while the bear held her tightly in those same warm paws.  Nala sobbed into Kamchatka’s coat, the grizzly bear letting her cry.

       “Now are you ready to set paw from this lie up and take things at paw value?”  Someone asked.  Nala looked up, and saw big Theo in his white coat.

      “I am ready Theo dear,” Nala replied, “but why have you come to me?”

      “You asked me to,” the lion replied, “I have been watching your anguish with great pain, but you’ve never asked me for help.  You asked me for help when you asked Rowena for help.  I, like she, will not come to you unless you ask.  You have not asked for so long, and this has pained her and me.  Now you have asked for help.  Follow your paws Nala dear and they will guide you home.”  Nala smiled as the image of Theo faded and she was back in the lie up with Kamchatka.  Nala let Kamchatka lead her to the kitchen, where they both got food and returned to the lie up.  Nala wanted to thank Brunetta and her cub for helping her, and told Kamchatka as much.

      “You can thank them in a bit, for they are coming here,” Kamchatka said.  Sure enough, Nala and Kamchatka were met by Brunetta and Nanuq Junior, the female brown bear and her cub embracing Nala in their paws.

      “I love this,” Nala thought as she was embraced by each bear in turn.

       “I want to embrace these bears, but I’m not large enough to,” Nala thought.  Nanuq Junior smiled as he felt Nala’s need.

      “Embrace our paws Nala,” he said, hold them in yours, and we will know.”  Nala took the bear’s forepaws in hers; trying to show them she no longer feared and loathed them.  Kissing Brunetta and Nanuq Junior’s noses and paws, then turning to Kamchatka and kissing her nose and paws was the only way Nala could express her gratitude for what they’d done for her.

      “I want to learn all about the bears and all the other community members here,” Nala mewed.

       “Follow your paws and you will find,” Kamchatka replied.  Nala smiled.

       “I will,” she mewed.


Meanwhile, Simba, little Theo and little Clarence lounged about in Petra’s lie up, the three big cats playing with each other’s paws.  Simba had been talking at length with little Theo and Clarence, the cubs touching his paws, realising he was sincere, and desperate to change his ways.  Simba could feel the willingness of the two cubs to let him show how desperate he was to mend bridges, so badly damaged in previous weeks.

       “I’m determined to sort myself out!”  Simba thought, his toes curling involuntarily.  The cubs noticed this, and began massaging Simba’s pads.  Simba relaxed.

      “Don’t stress yourself,” Clarence mewed, “Simba, you have been stupid, but, but now, you are coming round to the right path.”  Simba smiled at Clarence, and hugged him impulsively.  Clarence smiled and cuddled up to Simba.

      “Pity there’s only room for one cub at a time,” little Theo mewed.  Simba curled his body round little Theo and Clarence, the cubs snuggling hard up to him.

      “Lovely warm place this,” little Theo mewed, cuddling close to his brother cub and Simba all at once.  Simba began to purr, a deep sound it was, which vibrated his entire body.

       “One very happy lion,” Rowena mewed, padding into the lie up.  Simba, his eyes closed in bliss, mumbled something about him being happier than he’d been for ages.  Rowena padded to Simba and leant down, kissing his nose.  Feeling Simba’s intake of breath as she kissed him, Rowena knew he was close to tears.

      “Love those cubs Simba,” Rowena said.  Simba nodded.  Rowena and Simba carried Clarence and little Theo to the bathtub, where they met Petra, fleur, Nala and Kamchatka.  Nala looked at the two cubs, then at Petra.

       “Ritual bath time!”  Fleur announced.


The lions, one bear and cross bred cats took turns to bathe, while Androcles and Nuru helped with the drying of ears and paws, for the big cats could dry other parts of their bodies themselves.  Nuru, lazily counting the number of paws he’d dried, realised he’d dried the paws of one more lion than had been in the original group.  Nuru looked at Androcles, and Androcles looked at Nuru.

       “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”  Androcles asked.  Nuru nodded.

        “Another lion’s found his way here, has got bathed and dried without us knowing, and has slipped past us.

      “But how could that happen?”  Androcles asked, “We’ve got red hot security here, or at least I thought we had.”

       “The wood is full of creatures,” Nuru mewed, “this bathroom is open to the outside world, and who’s to say Allie or any of the security team know all the community now?  We’re larger than ever numbers wise, and growing.  Even Samson forgot the grandsire of his cub was blind, so how do you expect Allie or anyone else to know who’s who these days.”

       “I remember you drying the paws of a fat young lion,” Androcles mewed.

      “Yes, come to think of it, I did,” Nuru mused.


He cowered in a tiny room off the main passage, the lion, a young male, cowered, his stomach churning with fear.  He’d crept in while the door had been left open to vent the steam coming from the bathtub.  Many cubs and adult lions, a bear too, all getting bathed, and he’d slipped in among them, been bathed by a funny furred cat, who hadn’t realised she was bathing a non community member; she’d been so engrossed in her chat with a white lioness.  Many eyes looked at but didn’t see him and paws were gentle. Now he was committed, for his paws had been dried by a leader type lion, and even he’d not realised he’d dried the paws of an intruder.

        “I must get away from here,” the lion thought, “this is too much!  I want a home, but I’ve broken in!  They’ll kill me for this.”  Slinking from his refuge, he padded over the warm tiles, so warm, such a warm place, and the paws which had washed him from nose to tail, well, they’d been warm too, so warm, so loving, even to him, an intruder.

     “Stop!  Hey! You!”  Someone was shouting.  The lion froze, his paws now freezing cold with fear.

       “Who me?”  He asked dumbly.  A huge bear came lumbering towards him, she was enormous!”

        “Who are you?”  Kamchatka asked.

      “My, my name’s,” he paused, he didn’t have a name, his mother had never given him one, “My name’s Leo!”  The lion blurted.

     “Every lion’s called Leo, so what harm would one more added to their number do?”  He thought.  Kamchatka could smell a rat, and the newcomer knew it.

       “Your name isn’t Leo,” she snapped, “You’re a vagrant, an intruder!  I saw you getting washed.”  Kamchatka lied through her teeth:

     “The truth is,” she admitted to herself, “noone had seen this lion’s entrance, and if Nuru hadn’t been a perpetual counter of paws he’d dried, silly lion Nuru, this lion would have been undetected.”

       “That’s him!”  Nuru panted, having run from Allie’s control room, “those are the paws I dried.”  The lion looked scared.

       “What do you want with us?”  Nuru demanded, though the lion’s eyes pleaded with him, and Nuru, having been a sorry lion once, softened his tone, he couldn’t help it.

       “Well Leo,” Nuru mewed, “I’ll call you Leo for now, as you have no other name, “you are an intruder here, and I can’t let you stay.”

        “But, but, I’m cold, frightened and hungry, please,” the lion pleaded.  Nuru looked at the lion’s face, staring into his eyes.  A high pitched scream of terror made Kamchatka, Nuru and the lion named Leo look round.  Nuru looked about, confused.  Leo ran down the passage!

      “Come back!”  Kamchatka shouted, lumbering after the lion.  Leo ran into the pool complex, seeing a panda standing on the side of the pool, a tiny cub in the water, the mother panda’s mouth open in a scream of terror!  The panda cub, struggling in the water, filled the lion’s eyes.  That cub was his goal.  The mother panda, still screaming, hardly noticed the lion as he plunged into the water, dragging the cub to the side and pulling him out.  Clambering from the water, the lion stood panting at the edge of the pool, carefully placing the cub on the tiles.

         “Is he all right?”  Shuang asked.

      “Your cub?”  Leo asked, gently exploring the tiny creature with his paws, Kuan-Yin coughing and spluttering.

      “He ran away,” Shuang said, “then this happened.”  Leo looked down at the cub, which was now getting to his paws.

      “Thank you,” he said to the lion, Leo looking into the clear but frightened eyes of the first panda cub he’d ever seen.

        “No problem,” the lion mewed.  Shuang went up to the lion and tried to throw her paws round his neck, Leo lying down to allow her to do so.

       “I’ll go now,” Leo lion said, getting to his paws.  Samson, arriving after being alerted by Nuru, looked at the newcomer.

        “You saved one of our own,” he mewed.

       “I suppose I did,” the lion mewed.  Samson looked over the bedraggled young lion.  A similar breed to his dead friend Theo, Samson smiled at him.  Leo, for that’s the name Samson knew the lion by, began to relax.  Leo rolled onto his back, showing Samson his belly and the soles of all four paws.  Samson took the newcomer’s paws in his, each one, each of his paws, first his left fore, then right fore, then left hind, then right hind.  Samson handling each of his paws, much to the lion’s amusement.  Samson smiled at the new lion, feeling the lion’s toes curling round his, holding them tenderly.

      “You are gentle aren’t you,” Samson laughed.  The newcomer smiled.

      “I’m sorry I invaded your community,” Leo said.  Samson smiled and kissed Leo’s nose, the newcomer gulping hard.

       “You are tactile aren’t you,” Leo mewed.  Samson smiled and gently kissed the pads of Leo’s right forepaw, the lion becoming tearful.

        “Stay here a while,” Samson said, “For you deserve to stay after what you did for us.  You saved our cub and we are very grateful.”

        “Thank you,” Leo mewed.  Samson called Kamchatka over, directing the bear to give the lion food.

      ~”So you’re not going to punish him for trespassing?”  Kamchatka grunted.

       “No,” Samson replied, “the method of his arrival and how he’s conducted himself afterwards has stayed my paw.  I will let him live here.  I can’t believe Nuru didn’t see the lion whose paws he dried,” Samson laughed, “his obsession for counting things was the only thing which discovered him.”

      “You admire Leo for breaching our security!”  Kamchatka said, completely astonished.

      “Leo managed to get in, get washed, and would have managed to get fed if he’d not showed his paw.”  Samson smiled at Leo, the lion scrambling to his feet and dancing on his toes like an over excited cub.  Then, to the amazement of all, he ran to the edge of the pool and somersaulted into the pool.  Laughing helplessly, Kamchatka forgot her reservations about the new lion.

        “Crazy cat!”  Kamchatka laughed.  Leo swam to the pool’s edge and hauled himself out.

       “I must eat something,” he said, “where does one get food here?”  Kamchatka waved for the lion to follow her, which he did.  Smiling to herself, Kamchatka padded down the passage, the sound of the lion’s paws almost inaudible behind her.  Kamchatka was thinking of how to impress this lion with food when she felt him sidle up to her, and then felt him kiss her nose.  Kamchatka turned to Leo and raised her paw to touch his nose, the lion kissing her pads.

       “Isn’t that how you express yourself here?”  Leo asked.  Kamchatka smiled and nodded.  She’d enjoyed being kissed by a lion, and Leo knew it.


Now dear Leo, let’s get you food,” Kamchatka said.  Leo grinned:

      “Dear Leo now is it?”  He thought, “a few minutes ago, you were all for giving me the boot.  Now though, ah well, things change so fast.”  Kamchatka and Leo ate together, Leo amazed at the type of food the community ate.  It was fish, but slightly spiced, with the strangest things, beans, shoots, sweet corn, all sorts of stuff he’d never heard of before, or tasted before for that matter, but he liked it.  The food was good solid stuff, which Leo thought he might grow to like.

       “You can really cook,” he mewed, finishing his meal with as much dignity as a lion can.  There was no wolfing the meal here, Kamchatka took her time, and Leo, taking her lead, took his, even though he was ravenously hungry.  Kamchatka offered him more, but he dared not seem greedy.  Kamchatka saw through his reluctance.

       “You’re hungry, come, there’s plenty more.”  Leo ate his fill, and enjoyed it hugely.  Kamchatka, wise to leonine ways, knew that shortly after Leo had eaten, he would want to sleep, for hours and hours.  She could even see it now, the lion fighting to keep awake and alert.

       “Go to bed you silly thing,” she said playfully.  Leo looked sleepily round him.

     “Where?”  He asked yawning, “Where, where can I sleep?”

      “Come,” Kamchatka said, leading Leo to her own lie up, where she knew he’d not be disturbed.

       “Go to sleep sleepy one,” Kamchatka said, kissing Leo’s nose once more.  Leo could have cried.

       “I’ll make sure noone bothers you,” Kamchatka said, “come down whenever you want.”  Leo lay down to sleep, wondering about this strange community with its strange customs.  Leo slept for hours, so exhausted was he from walking for ages from the place where his mate had died giving birth to another male lion’s cub.  The labour had been awful, Leo’s lioness in horrendous pain and trouble.  The cub, a huge thing, had caused her a lot of bother, the lioness only able to push enough to get the cub’s forepaws out into the light of day.  Leo had pulled at the cub when she’d pushed, but it wouldn’t come out much further, and when she told him to pull no matter what, he’d done so, his lioness pushing, snarling, roaring and straining, but she could not give birth to the cub.  Leo had blocked this from his mind, also the hours he spent afterwards, his lioness straining and heaving in an attempt to free the cub, trying to give birth to it, no matter the risk to herself.  In the end, she’d asked him to end her life, so exhausted and in so much pain was she.  Leo had done her bidding, biting her neck like he was biting the neck of prey.  Elsa’s final body spasm, a terrible thrashing convulsion freed the cub, and it was then Leo cried for a long time.  When predators came to investigate the dead bodies of his mate and still born cub, Leo defended them, but he knew he could not go on doing so.  A day later, he looked at the faces of his mate and cub, kissed their noses, then left.  Leo could not do what some lionesses did with dead cubs, eat them, he just couldn’t.  All these thoughts had him moaning and crying, screaming in pain.  He remembered apologising to his mate before he’d helped her to die, then hating himself, had done the necessary deed.  Her death had been quick; the cub was probably already dead before the convulsive contraction which brought it into the world.  Leo woke, covered in sweat and crying.  Indeed, it was only when he’d choked on his tears that Leo had woken.  He stared round him, his face hot and wet.  Burying his face in his paws, Leo preyed for his mate and the cub of the other lion.

      “I would have looked after you, if only you had lived!”  He cried.

      “Would you have looked after another lion’s cub?”  A white coated lion asked.  Leo looked up at him.

       “I would, yes, yes I would,” Leo mewed.  The white lion took his paw and smiled.

       “You were merciful to your mate,” the lion said, “for that you will be rewarded.”

      “I don’t wish reward for that,” Leo protested, “I tried the best I could, and so did she, then, then, she asked me to help her die.  I carried out her wishes, but, but I don’t know if I did the right thing!”

      “You did,” the white lion mewed, “Elsa would have thanked you if she could.  You even defended her body and that of your cub from those who would take it. Talking to her and the cub, another’s cub.  That was merciful too.  I know you do not expect reward for what you did, but you will be rewarded.  Please, also, if you can, bring light and hope to a name badly tarnished in these parts.  Leo, do your best, love the cubs of all in the community.  As I know you’ve already started to touch the paws of some here, just like I did.  Go from this lie up, go knowing Elsa and her still born cub go with you paw print by paw print.  You need not say you will never forget them, for I know and they know this.  Get to your paws, shake your mane, and pad out into the community, feeling the ground beneath your paws with every step.  Let your paws be your guide Leo, for they will guide you.”  Leo closed his eyes, and the white lion vanished.  Shaking himself, he opened his eyes, seeing the bear who’d fed him seemingly hours, no, days ago.

       “Thank you for everything,” Leo said.

       “No problem,” Kamchatka said gently.  Leo looked down at his paws, thinking of his mate, his Elsa.

      “I miss you, Elsa love, I miss you.”  Leo whispered, “Rest in peace my love.”  Padding from the lie up, Leo let his paws do their own thing, taking him where they wished.  Leo’s turbulent time had not gone without note.  Everyone was concerned about the screaming, thrashing lion in Kamchatka’s lie up.  Samson stopped Leo’s restless pacing about the house, for Leo had walked twice round the house, from Kamchatka’s lie up, to the bathroom, along the corridor to the front door, through the main room of the house, into the kitchen, and then into the passages leading to lie ups and the stairs to the first, second, third and bosses’ floor.  It was on the third floor, by Shuang’s lie up that Samson found Leo sitting quietly, staring into a mirror on the wall, thinking deeply.  The lion looked worn out, totally beaten.

       “Elsa told me of this place,” Leo said, catching Samson’s reflection in the mirror, “she told me of the community she once knew, of course it’s changed now.  She told me of Petra, her white cub, one of her white cubs, for she also told me of Simba.  I know they are both here, and I know of Elsa’s abandonment of both her white cubs.  She knows I never held with her abandoning those white cubs, but she did, long before I knew her.  I just hope, hope Petra and Simba are safe, Please Eohippus let them be safe.”  Samson saw terrible pain in Leo’s eyes, the lion looked as if he were about to cry.  Curling his toes into the carpet, Leo fought for control, beating the carpet with his paws.

       “I heard, heard Elsa tell me she threw Simba out onto the track.  He was just weaned, just, just a little cub,” Leo gave up the struggle.  Crying quietly, Leo sat there on the rug by the mirror.  Thoughts of the lost cub rekindling thoughts of his own lost cub.

        “That cub is no longer lost,” Simba said, padding up to Leo and resting his paw on the weeping newcomer’s.  Neither Petra nor Simba are lost Leo.”

      “I know who you are,” Leo sobbed, “Simba, Simba, I, I, I had to help your mother die.”  Simba knew Leo didn’t know about Petra adopting him, and why should he know anything.

      “How?”  Simba asked.

       “How did I help her die?  Or what did she die of?”  Leo asked.  Simba took Leo’s paw.

      “How Leo, how did she die?”  Leo told Simba everything.

       “I killed your mum and your half sister,” Leo sobbed, “I killed them Simba.”

       “No Leo,” Petra said, padding up to him on his other side to Samson and Simba, “what you did was merciful.  You fought with Elsa for the life of her cub, and when it was lost, you did for her what was the most merciful thing anyone can do.  She asked to die to spare her pain, and you carried out her wish.  You did not turn away; you did not run when your mate was in trouble giving birth to another’s cub.  You helped Elsa Leo; you helped her, got your paws dirty and fought for her and the cub!  You could have done nothing more for Elsa or the cub.”

       “Killing them was horrible!”  Leo mewed, “I bit my Elsa’s neck Petra, broke her spine like she was prey!  I couldn’t do anything else, not the death hold not that, so I made a thorough job of the neck bite, and Elsa died.  I then Cleaned her up.  The awful thing was, and I think you aught to know this. That just before Elsa’s life force left her, when she was deeply unconscious; a massive contraction pushed the cub into the world.  I’ve been pretending to myself the cub was unborn, that I never saw her, but, but I did.  The cub was dead, too longer fight to survive.  I cleaned the cub up, she was beautiful!  Just too big to be born naturally.  After, after a day, I left her and her mum.  The cub was warm, even after all that time, though I suppose it was because I held her in my paws, I held both Elsa and the cub tightly, crying, defending them like they were alive.”  Leo looked as if he would die of grief.

       “How long ago was this?”  Petra asked gently.

       “Five days ago, maybe six,” the wood is big.  Elsa was private, and your security only monitors the bit by the house.  Elsa’s body is probably still there, that is if the predators haven’t got to her and the cub.  I left the cub nestled in her mum’s embrace.  Let them go to Eohippus together,” Leo mewed, his eyes full of pain.

      “We must find her,” Petra said.  Simba agreed.  Leo looked at them.

      “Find, find Elsa?”  He asked, “Find her?  Why?”

      “To bury her properly,” Samson mewed, “we’re not barbaric here Leo.”  Leo shook his head.

      “I know Samson, I know that.”  He choked.  Petra and Simba got to their paws.

      “Let’s go,” Simba said.  Leo got up to follow them.

      “No Leo, stay here,” Samson mewed, “you don’t need that shit.”

      “I must, must go,” the lion sniffed.

     “No, Leo no!”  Samson begged.

       “But she’s my mate, Elsa’s my mate, and the cub was almost mine too!  Please Samson, let me go.”  Samson went with Leo.  He followed Leo and Petra and Simba out into the wood, into the thick forest, into grounds not covered by cameras, to the place.  Elsa’s body was undisturbed, a little dirty from rainwater, but undisturbed.  Simba looked back at Leo.

      “You said six days,” he mewed, “she’s not been dead more than two.  Here, Sammy, come look, touch her.”  Simba was remarkably calm.

       “Still warm, sort of,” Samson remarked.  Samson then saw the cub cuddled up beside her dead mother’s body move its paw.  Leo screamed!

      “That was not how I left the cub, someone’s playing games!”

        “Sammy, Sammy look,” Petra mewed, “look at Elsa’s teats.”  They were full of milk, the cub was weak, but it had drunk some milk.

       “Leave them alone!”  Leo pleaded.  Then he heard something.  Samson, not usually given to prayer, muttered something that made Leo’s ears prick up.

     “Eohippus be praised.”

       “You lost track of time Leo dear,” Petra mewed, “the walk from this spot to the community is only an hour or so.”

      “It felt like days, days and days,” Leo replied.

       “Hours felt like days I don’t doubt,” Samson mewed.  Simba picked up the tiny cub in his paws; it wriggled, spat, and then began to nuzzle his paws for milk.  Simba looked at Elsa’s dead body, but saw the milk was dried up.  Petra then padded up to Simba, a wild look in her eyes.  Before Simba knew what was happening, Petra had snatched the cub and was running, she went like the wind!  Samson looked at Simba.

      “The last time I saw your mum do that was when she rescued a frightened white lion cub from a string bag,” he said.  Simba ran after Petra.  Leo staying with Samson, unable to move.

      “My cub, she’s still alive?  Please Samson, tell me!”  He begged.

       ”Your cub is weak, but there is hope,” Samson said, “Leo, please, do not get excited, do not visit Petra.  She will tell you when you can see the cub.”  Leo looked up into the sky, praying for his cub.

        “Let her live, eohippus, please let her live!”  Leo turned and padded back to the house, Samson following him, going to tell the badgers to bury Elsa.


Leo got back to the house, and fleur told him that Petra would like to see him.  Leo made himself walk slowly to the lioness’s lie up.  Then, when he was at the door, Petra waved her paw for him to come in.  Leo lay down beside Petra, the lioness smiling at him.

      “You have one strong cub,” she mewed, “she’s full of life, she wants to live.”  Leo wanted to touch his cub, to hold her, and Petra saw this.

      “Be gentle,” she warned.  Leo’s paws enfolded a large cub, and he felt her paw pads on his, then her claws scrabbling at his pads, then her tongue licking his pads, then, quickly, the cub was crawling towards his head, then her tongue was licking his nose, then her paws were in his mane, and she was cuddling up to him, pressing her paws and face into his mane.

       “I know you,” the cub mewed, “I know you!”  Leo cried, he cried like a cub, weeping, holding the tiny form in his paws, his tears wetting the cub’s head, the cub drying her face on his mane as his tears wet it.

        “You’re crying on me!”  She mewed.

      “I name you, name you Elsa,” Leo choked.”  The cub snuggled up hard.

        “I’m hungry,” the cub mewed.  Petra fed Elsa with milk, for she was still producing milk for her own cub.  Little Theo crawled in half way through, having heard everything.  Overjoyed by the news of another cub to play with, he crawled up close to investigate.  Finding a strange smelling cub drinking his milk, little Theo explored the cub with his paws; little Elsa laughing helplessly as his toes tickled the toes of her hind paws, milk spraying all over Petra.

     “Stop tickling my toes!”  Elsa mewed, though Petra could see Elsa loved Theo’s attentions.  Leo laughed merrily, feeling better about things.  Yes his mate was dead, but his cub was alive, very much alive!”

       “Thank you Eohippus, thank you!”  He mewed.

        “Thank Petra too,” fleur mewed.

      “How could you have survived a day without food little one?”  Petra asked.

      “I woke in my mum’s [paws,” Elsa mewed, “my mum wouldn’t move, so I crawled to her milk and drank, I had to drink.  Mum never moved, and she was cold, so cold!  Not warm like you are.  I knew she was dead, but I couldn’t move far, so I drank all I could, then lay down, hoping for rescue.  The night was cold, so cold.  Then, when I was asleep, you came to me.”

      “You must have got really confused about time Leo,” Petra mewed, “Elsa wouldn’t have survived a day without food.  You must have left her soon after big Elsa died.”  Leo didn’t care about his time keeping, his cub was here, alive, and warm.  Soon little Theo and little Elsa were drinking together, before they curled up holding each other’s paws.

       “I will keep you safe!”  Little Theo promised, “I promise, I promise to keep you safe!”  Little Elsa cuddled Theo hard.

      “I love you Elsa, I love you so much!”  Theo mewed.  Theo and Elsa kissed each other’s noses, and then Theo kissed Elsa’s paws.  Elsa cuddled Theo hard, the two cubs sleeping in the hollow between Leo’s and Petra’s bodies, the lion and lioness holding each other’s paws and purring into each other’s ears.  Petra smiled at Leo and kissed his nose, the lion grinning at the white lioness.

       “Got to love those cubs,” Petra mewed.  Leo nodded.

      “I love those cubs,” he mewed, “I love all cubs Petra.”  Petra smiled and took Leo’s paw in hers.

       “Love those cubs Leo, and could you stroke my paws too?”  Leo grinned:

      “Stroke the paws of another cub you mean?”  Leo said smiling.  Petra laughed merrily.

       “We’re trying to sleep!”  Elsa complained.

       “Oh sorry sorry sorry,” Petra said, gently kissing Elsa’s nose, the cub smiling at her.

        “I think I can sleep now, sleep in comfort,” she mewed.  Once the cubs were asleep, Petra ran to the shower, washing the milk from her fur before padding back to the lie up.


Elsa and Theo slept for a long time, and when they woke, Petra and Leo were still with them.  The two cubs drank their fill of Petra’s milk, while Petra herself drank tea and ate her vegetables.  Theo, smelling the vegetables and fruit, nudged his adopted sister and led her to Petra’s bowl, where the two cubs helped themselves to two strawberries.

      “You cheeky things!”  Petra mewed, grinning hugely.  Leo laughed helplessly.  Elsa and Theo, Juice from rapidly consumed strawberries running down their faces and all over their paws, smiled at Petra and licked her nose.  Petra cleaned the cubs up by licking them just as a wild lioness would, Theo and Elsa loving her attention.


Allie and her team watched the goings on in Petra’s lie up.  Smiling, she turned to Tigger who’d listened to everything, tears in his eyes as he heard the cubs playing together.

      “I’ll ask Petra if you can meet little Elsa,” Allie said, picking up her phone.

      Petra?  Yes, Allie here.  How are you my dear?”  Allie spoke to Petra for a few minutes about inconsequential stuff, and then said:

      “Hey Petra, I wonder, well, Tiggie does too, if you would let him meet little Elsa?”

       “Leave us alone!”  Leo yelled, for the phone was on conference at Petra’s end, “this is a family, not a bloody circus!”

       “Yes, Allie, that would be fine,” Petra said, motioning with her paw for Leo to lie down, for he’d sprang to his feet.

       “I don’t know why you’re letting any old creature in here to meet my cub!”  He snarled.  Petra ended her call with:

      “Yes, Tiggie, don’t worry about Leo, he’s a little stressed, come, please.”  Then she put the phone down.

       “Leo,” Petra said, “just watches what happens.  I think you might realise why Allie asked if Tigger could meet Elsa.”

       “I don’t see why one tiger should get the first paws on with her,” Leo said, “He’s got no right to lay paws on her, none at all!”

       “Just wait,” little Theo said.  Leo stared at him.

       “Right,” the angry lion said, “I wait, but if the reason for this fuss is not a dam good one, I’ll rip your paws off young sir!”  Petra growled, but Theo looked unconcerned.

      “You will not be waiting for long,” little Theo mewed, cocking his head to one side, listening, “I think that’s the sound of Figgie’s paws now.”  Sure enough, a large orange tiger padded carefully into the room, his ears twitching, and paws carefully placed.

       “You walk as if you’re on the dam moon!”  Leo snapped.

      “I’m not near any cubs am I?”  Tigger asked, “I can sense they’re here, but the scents are all so strong at the moment, I can’t tell if one’s here or not.”

       “Tiggie,” little Theo said, “I’m crawling towards you now.”  Leo stared as the cub crawled quickly to the tiger’s side and took his paw.

      “Now crawl with me, and we’ll go say hi to my sister.”  Tigger crawled with the white lion cub to where Petra waited with little Elsa.

       “Is Tigger a nice tiger?”  Little Elsa asked.

        “I trust him,” Petra mewed, “but I will let you decide when you touch his paw Elsa dear.  He’s safe, so you are not in danger, but as to whether you like him or not, I’ll let you decide.”  Tigger was now almost paw to paw with little Elsa.

        “How do you want to play this,” Tigger asked Petra.

      “Just lie down and let Elsa come to you,” Petra mewed.  So Tigger did.  Little Elsa went timidly forward, crawling until her paw encountered something soft and slightly cold to her touch.  Air was warming her paw pads, and as she felt her way over this new object, she found whiskers, just like her own.  Tigger, the cub’s paw tickling his nose, was trying not to sneeze, suddenly he couldn’t help it.  The sound made Elsa jump.

      “Sorry,” Tigger mewed, “your paw was tickling my nose.”  He raised a paw to scratch his nose, Elsa’s paw still within range of his nose.  Tigger’s paw brushed the top of Elsa’s, and the cub felt strong toes holding her paw in a gentle embrace.  Elsa thought this tiger must be huge, for his paws were gigantic.

        “Do you still want to touch me?”  Tigger purred.  Elsa could feel Tigger’s warmth, his inner gentility, though she had no words to describe what she was feeling.

      “Yes, if you want,” Elsa mewed.

      “No Elsa, not if I want, if you want,” Tigger replied.

      “But you said you wanted to meet me,” Elsa mewed, “how can I want to meet you if I don’t know of you.”

       “Good point,” Tigger mewed, “but what I meant was, now you can feel the toes of my left forepaw holding your paw, how do you feel about me touching you now?”  Elsa thought for a minute.

      “Tiggie,” she said, “I think that’s your name, “what I want you to do is hug me, but if I say let go, let go right away.  Okay?”  Tigger replied:

      “That’s okay, yes; I will do as you wish.”  Tigger let go of her paw, and Elsa crawled forward, Tigger gently enfolding her in a huge tiger sized hug.  Elsa cuddled close, the tiger’s warmth calling her strongly.

       “Hug me Tiggie!”  Elsa begged, “Hug me tightly, go on.”  Tigger embraced the female lion cub with as much love and affection as he had Clarence.  Elsa purred and purred, pressing her face into his fur, working her paws deep into his coat.

         “What the hell’s going on?”  Leo demanded, Tigger making a very tiger like chuffing sound through his nose and mouth, a sound Leo had never heard before, but Petra knew well.

      “What’s he saying?”  Leo asked, staring at Tigger.

       “I don’t know,” Elsa mewed, “but it sounds nice, whatever the words are.”  Petra smiled.

        “Don’t worry Leo,” she said, “Elsa’s going to be fine.”  Little Theo crawled to Tigger’s hind quarters and pulled the tiger’s tail, Tigger reacting instantly by pushing Elsa away, a growl starting deep in his throat, the sound growing.

        “Don’t roar Tiggie, please!”  Petra begged.  Tigger’s growl increased in volume as he got to his paws and turning too little Theo, the white lion cub terrified beyond words, Tigger roared!  Petra felt the air move, her whole body paralysed with fear!

      “Tiggie, Tiggie no! no! Tigger!  Petra screamed.  Tigger placed a huge paw on Theo, the cub screaming with terror!

        “You never, ever pull my tail!”  Tigger growled.

        “Theo, that was horrible!”  Petra snapped, turning her anger on her cub.

       “Wow, Tigger,” Elsa said, laughing nervously, “You can really roar.  Leo looked uncomfortable.

      Petra,” he gasped, “I, I, I need to relieve myself, and now!”  Petra ran with Leo to the relieving place, and the lion got on with things, his whole body shaking with terror.

      “I might be needing to do the same,” Petra mewed, and sure enough, she did.  Petra knew her cubs probably would have soiled themselves too.  A tiger’s roar filled her with dread, and Tigger had let fly.  Little Theo wasn’t going to forget his first lesson, never tug a tiger’s tail.


Back in the lie up, Elsa and Theo had indeed soiled themselves.  Tigger’s roar had made them lose control and they were very embarrassed by it.

     “We can usually make it away from the bed, but we had no warning!”  Elsa mewed pitifully.

       “Mum will go mad!”  Little Theo mewed.  Tigger stood over the cubs, still growling and very angry.

       “You over reacted Tigger!”  Leo screamed as he entered the lie up, his nose and eyes telling him his cubs were very frightened.

        “I just can’t stand anyone pulling my tail!”  Tigger snarled, “It’s been something I’ve hated ever since I was a cub.  Theo didn’t just tweak my tail, he yanked on it.  Did you think it funny Theo?”  Tigger asked, the white lion cub cowering away from him.

       “No, not now I know it hurts you,” he gabbled.

       “I should try pulling your tail, see if you like it!”  Tigger screamed.

      “Tiggie, please!”  Petra mewed, rolling up the rugs to be washed, “Theo’s only a cub, he didn’t know!”

      “Didn’t know that to pull a tail is horrible?”  Tigger asked, “He’s all wise to other things, but no common sense then.  I’d show him some common sense!  A good hard slap is what he needs!”

       “No, Tigger, I won’t let you punish my cub!”  Petra yelled.

       “You make sure you do it then,” Tigger snapped, “for he needs to learn that the next time he pulls my tail, he’s dead!”

        “Please Tigger, no, please stop, calm down!”  Fleur mewed.  Tigger was crying now, crying with pain.

        “Shit this hurts, shit shit shit!”  Tigger sobbed.

       “Tigger’s anger was because you hurt him Theo,” Elsa said faintly.

       “Tiggie, dear Tiggie,” fleur mewed, the tiger crying with pain and anger at himself.

        “I know it’s not Theo’s fault, well not entirely,”  Tigger sobbed, “okay, he shouldn’t have pulled my tail, but the pain that causes, ever, ever since, since I got it caught in a trap and the nerves were compressed, if anyone pulls my tail, or even moves it roughly, I go through the roof!  My mother freed me, but my tail was damaged.  The tail damage slowed me down as a hunter, but then, then so did my sight problems.  I can’t hunt now, can’t even see my own paws!”

       “How can we help?”  Theo and Elsa asked, genuinely concerned.

       “By leaving me alone, just leave me alone!”  Tigger mewed.  Fleur led Tigger away, and Petra returned with fresh rugs.

        “Poor Tigger,” Elsa mewed.

       “So that’s why he asked to touch you Elsa,” Leo said, “the tiger’s as blind as a bat.”

        “I don’t know,”  Elsa mewed, “but he was gentle with me, even when Theo pulled his tail he was gentle with me until I was far away from him, then he flipped out!”

       “Tigger is blind Leo,” Petra said, “please, don’t be angry with him.”

      “But he Threatened Theo!”  Leo snarled, “You condone him for that?”

       “If the pain in his tail was a tenth of the pain I went through during Theo’s birth, then yes I understand his anger.  He had noone to bear his pain with him, for his pain is unique.  Labour pain is not unique because everyone who has a cub experiences it.  Please Leo, let it go,” Petra pleaded.  Leo stamped into Tigger’s part of the lie up, swearing outrageously at him.

      “Leo, please!”  Fleur pleaded, “Tigger’s tail is painful.  He had the self restraint to stop himself from killing Theo.  Leo looked down at Tigger.

       “You are a fraud!”  He screamed, “how could you be blind and react like you did?”

      “Don’t push him Leo, don’t push him!”  Petra mewed.  Leo prodded Tigger with his paw, outraged beyond sense with his reaction to Theo pulling his tail.  Tigger lost it totally!  Screaming and roaring, he leapt to his paws, lunging at Leo!

      “Stop it Tiggie, stop it!”  Petra screamed, sobbing and begging.

        “Right Leo!”  Tigger snarled, landing on the lion, Leo collapsing under his weight, “you stop your stupid antics!”

      “Okay Tigger, I hold my paws up to you, that’s me done!”  Leo mewed.

       “How dare you call me a fraud?”  Tigger mewed, trying not to lose his cool again, “You will hopefully never know what it is to be unable to see a dam thing!  I miss my cubs, I missed seeing their birth, I miss seeing their faces, and I miss so bloody much of everything now!  Sometimes I just want to go crazy, and your bloody cub pulls my tail!  I’m going mad! Bloody mad!”

      “Tiggie, please!”  Petra mewed, upset by his words.  Tigger threw himself down on the floor, crying into his paws.

       “Tiggie, please,” Fleur mewed, “let it go, calm down please, come on, let me take your paw in mine.”  Fleur tried to take her sire’s paw, but he withdrew it.

      “Please Tiggie,” fleur pleaded.  Tigger gave her his paw.

      “I didn’t mean what I said about wanting Theo dead,” Tigger whimpered.

      “We know you didn’t,” Petra mewed, “You’re in pain and stressed.”

      “I don’t want to cause anyone any pain,” Tigger mewed, “just let me recover in peace.”  Petra nudged little Theo, and the white cub crawled shame faced to Tigger.

       “I’m sorry Tigger,” he mewed, “I’m sorry for pulling your tail.”  Tigger kissed Theo’s nose and the pads of all four of his paws, Theo upset by how gentle the huge tiger was with him when he’d been so aggressive.  Theo buried his head in his paws and cried.

      “Let’s go on from here,” Tigger mewed, “Theo, Leo, let’s take things from here having learnt the following.  One, I am blind, and wish every day I was not, two, you pull my tail, I get angry and violent.”  Leo looked down at Tigger.

       “I’ve learned another lesson,” he said, “don’t piss off a tiger.”  Tigger and Fleur smiled.  Little Theo, still frightened from Tigger’s outburst, cuddled close to Petra, whimpering and mewing.  Petra, still annoyed with her cub for pulling Tigger’s tail, ignored his whimpered protestations that he didn’t mean to cause Tigger pain.

       “You knew not to pull tails,” Petra snapped, “I told you the first time you pulled mine Theo!  Tigger’s very gentle, but if you hurt him, he’ll hurt you ten times more.”  Theo whimpered his apologies to Petra and Tigger.

      “Just don’t do it again,” Tigger mewed, “and Theo, what I said about what would happen if you pulled my tail again, I’m sorry for that.  I wouldn’t kill you.  I can’t think what came over me then.”

       “You were in pain,” Namrah said, “we all say horrible things when we’re in pain.  I remember calling you all sorts of horrid shit when I was in labour with our cubs.  Stuff that I would never mean if I were of right mind.”  Tigger smiled and kissed his mate’s nose.

       “I love you so much Namrah,” he mewed.  Clarence crawled over to Tigger and took his paw.

       “I like your paws Tiggie,” Clarence mewed, “all big and soft.”  Tigger grinned and curled his toes round Clarence’s tiny ones.

      “I like the feel of your paw pads against mine,” Clarence said.  Tigger gently rubbed paw pads with Clarence, the cub laughing merrily.

       “Love your paws Clarence,” Tigger mewed.  Little Elsa crawled up to Tigger and touched his nose with hers.

      “Ah, Elsa,” Tigger mewed, kissing her nose.  The little cub lioness laughed and lifted Tigger’s left forepaw to play with his toes, Clarence playing with those of his right fore.  Leo watched his cub playing with Tigger’s paw, marvelling at how unconcerned the tiger was.  He was even smiling, Tigger enjoyed when cubs played with his paws.  Clarence released Tigger’s right forepaw, the tiger using it to embrace little Elsa in a huge hug.  Tigger made the same chuffing sound Elsa had heard earlier, the cub snuggling hard into his embrace.  Her toes curling into his fur, Elsa held Tigger tightly.

       “I’m going exploring, coming with me Elsa?”  Theo mewed.  Elsa grabbed his paw and they crawled away.

      “Will they be okay?”  Leo asked.  Petra smiled:

      “They will be,” she mewed, “your cub is safe here Leo.”  Leo padded after the cubs, not interfering, but watching.  Leo trailed Theo and Elsa to another lie up, where they found a large female grizzly bear playing cubbishly with her right hind paw.  Taking her right hind paw in her right fore, she was using the toes of her left forepaw to play with the toes of her right hind, stroking the sole pad of her right hind with the toes of her right fore.  Leo saw the bear liked this paw play thing; in fact it looked so cubbish it made him smile.  Even though there were two cubs and a huge lion in her lie up, the grizzly bear didn’t seem to notice them.  Clarence joined his brother and sister and whispered to them.  Then, as Leo watched, Clarence crawled to the grizzly bear and raised a paw to tickle her left hind paw, the sole of which was accessible to him, her large toe and sole pads just right for a mischievous cub to tickle.  Clarence’s own toes were just about to touch the large wrinkled black sole pad of Kamchatka’s left hind paw, when the bear suddenly pounced on the cub, rolling forward, her hind paws suddenly inaccessible, and her forepaws lunging downwards to catch the cub!  Kamchatka ended up on her side, Clarence screaming in the grip of her forepaws!  Theo and Elsa fled screaming also, Leo transfixed and then panicking!

      Petra, Petra!  Fleur, anyone!”  He shouted, “It’s all gone awful in here, a bear’s just attacked Clarence!”  Meanwhile, Kamchatka was licking Clarence’s nose, the cub realising he’d underestimated her.

       “I thought, thought you were out of it,” Clarence mewed, “I knew you were stroking your hind paws, so, so, I tried to tickle your free hind paw, and you caught me!”  Kamchatka smiled:

       “I watched you come in,” she said, “I had half closed my eyes, though I was still enjoying my paw play.”  Clarence still felt a little scared.

      “But, but you waited until I’d nearly touched the pads of your hind paw before you sprung on me,” he mewed.

       “Just to show you how quick I can be when I want to be,” the grizzly bear replied, “I’ll bet you were going to tickle my toes.”

      “Yes,” Clarence mewed.


Meanwhile, fleur, Raja and Rani were trying to calm Leo, the lion still screaming about Clarence’s attacker.

       Kamchatka won’t attack him,” fleur said, “he’s probably tried to creep up on her and tickle her hind paws; he threatened to do that one time.  She’s pounced on him and is now probably giving him as good as he was about to give her.”  Indeed, laughter issuing from Kamchatka’s lie up told its own tale.  The grizzly bear was indeed tickling Clarence’s toes, the cub wriggling and shrieking with laughter.  Theo and Elsa crept back, Clarence’s yell of:

       “Stop tickling, tickling my toes!”  Making Elsa smile.

       “I know whose toes I want to tickle,” she said, nudging her brother.  Little Theo smiled at her.

        “I’ll let you tickle my toes soon, very soon,” he mewed.  Leo and fleur had reached the lie up by now, and were watching Kamchatka and Clarence tickling each other’s paw pads and toes, the bear letting the cub crawl over her body, finding her paws, and tickling them until she was exhausted, then her turn came to tickle his.  Leo realised the bear and big cat cub were enjoying themselves.  Leo watched as Theo and Elsa attacked Kamchatka as one, the cubs scrambling over the bears’ body, Kamchatka loving their attention.  Little Theo took hold of Kamchatka’s left hind paw in both of his, while Elsa tickled her pads and toes, Kamchatka laughing helplessly.

      “I love this!”  She whooped.  Elsa stopped tickling Kamchatka’s paw and explored it with her tiny forepaws, running her paws over Kamchatka’s toes and large rough sole pad.  Kamchatka’s paw was enormous, Elsa unable to believe how large her paw was.  Theo let go of Kamchatka’s paw and led Elsa to Kamchatka’s head, touching the bear’s nose with Elsa’s paw.

     “Now work your way back from her nose to her hind paws,” Theo said.  Kamchatka smiled and lay flat out on the floor, letting the cub crawl all over her, feeling her way from her nose to the toes of her hind paws.  Elsa amazed at how large this bear was!


     “No wonder you’ve got huge paws!”  Elsa exclaimed when she’d finished her exploration.  Kamchatka smiled, took Elsa in her huge forepaws and kissed her nose, Elsa laughing and cuddling up to the huge grizzly bear.  Leo watched all this, amazed the bear could be so gentle with his cub, and that she actually enjoyed it when Elsa tickled her paws.  Once Kamchatka had hugged Elsa for a while, Elsa settled down and let the bear stroke and tickle the soles of her paws.  Kamchatka tickled the lion cub’s toes, Elsa screaming with laughter.”

       “I love this!”  Elsa whooped.  Kamchatka gently kissed the pads and toes of all four of Elsa’s tiny paws, the bear’s action bringing tears to Leo’s eyes.

      “She loves my cub,” he thought, “The bear loves my cub!”

        “I love that,” little Elsa mewed, “I like playing with your paws Kamchatka, and I like you playing with mine.”  Kamchatka smiled broadly.

      “I love you playing with my paws,” she replied, “you can play with them as much as you want, within reason of course.”  Elsa smiled and blew on the pads of Kamchatka’s right forepaw, the bear smiling with delight.

       “Can I have my paws stroked and tickled?”  Theo asked.  Kamchatka put out a forepaw and drew Theo towards her, her huge paw wrapped around the cub, pulling him gently towards her.  Theo wriggled until his hind paws were within range of the toes of her own larger forepaw, and then Kamchatka tickled his toes, Theo laughing helplessly.

      “I want to tickle Theo’s toes now, get him back for tickling mine!”  Elsa mewed, crawling over to her brother and tickling his toes enthusiastically.  Theo wriggled and squirmed, laughing with delight.


Samson padded in, saw what was going on and smiled broadly.

       “You are so gentle with our cubs Kamchatka,” he said.  Kamchatka smiled and released Theo, the cub crawling to his sire and allowing Samson to hug him.

       Kamchatka’s so gentle with us Sammy,”   Theo mewed.  Samson kissed his son cub’s nose.

        “I know,” he purred.  Leo, watching all this, realised he’d made a big mistake when he’d tried to bring fleur to the aid of little Clarence.  Leo looked into Kamchatka’s face; the bear’s eyes making him want to cry.

       “She’s so gentle,” he thought, “no cubs could be in danger with her or endangered by her.”  Little Elsa crawled up to Leo and patted his paw with hers.  Leo lay down, and his cub cuddled up to him, right then and there, in the lie up of a huge grizzly bear.  Leo hugged little Elsa, how he hugged her, kissing her nose, belly  and paw pads, stroking her head and back with his paws, while the cub snuggled up to him, burying her face in his warm mane.  She wanted to be close to him, enveloped in the warm scent of the lion that’d fought to save her life.  Leo thought of the lioness that’d died giving birth to the cub that now cuddled so close to him.

      “Elsa, my dear Elsa,” Leo thought, “Do you know you’re cub is safe, that she lives?  Your fight to give life to her was not in vain, all the pain you suffered and effort you made was not wasted.  Your cub is here, and she’s beautiful, so beautiful, and I love her Elsa.  I love her so much I named her after you, to remind me of the lioness who fought so courageously for her life.  Now she’s found a friend, a white cub who loves tickling her toes.  It’s so funny that.”  Leo held little Elsa tightly in his paws, his tears wetting her fur.

        “You’re thinking of my mum aren’t you,” little Elsa mewed.  Leo wiped his eyes with a paw.

        “Yes Elsa love.  Yes I am.”

       “Do you think she knows I am here now?”  Little Elsa asked.  Leo hugged her tightly:

       “I hope so little Elsa, I hope she knows,” Leo sobbed.


“Hey!”  Someone yelled, “Here’s a new lion cub!”  Leo and little Elsa turned their heads to look in the direction of the sound.  A juvenile male liger cub bounded into the room, skidding to a halt by little Elsa.

       “There’s a new lion too,” the liger said, “what are your names?”  Tigress Tess ran in then, spotted little Leo and ran to him, spanking him with her paw.

      “I told you not to look for the new lion and his cub!  Didn’t I tell you that?”  The white tigress yelled.

        “But mum!”  The male liger mewed piteously.

      “Mum nothing!”  The tigress screamed, “You were to leave these two alone, I forbad you from going anywhere near them!”

        “But, but, they’ve been all over the news!”  The liger mewed, “I can’t resist meeting new community members, what with this lion saving Kuan-Yin n’all.”

      “So he must know my name,” Leo thought, “and this liger’s called “little Leo?”  Why is this?  Was his sire named Leo?”  Leo lion could see all kinds of confusion in the future, what with two cats named Leo floating about the community.

        “What are your names anyway?”  Tess asked.  Leo lion and little Elsa told her.

        “But we’ve already got one Leo here,” Tess mewed, “this is going to be confusing.”

       “Younger Leo and older Leo then,” little Elsa said, “It’s easy really.”

      “My name is Tess, so if we went down that line of naming, it would mean I would be named Older Tess, as I have a cub named Tess.  I’m not old!”  Little Elsa smiled and touched younger Leo’s paw.  The liger looked down at her, then lay down and offered her his paw.  Taking it in hers, Little Elsa tickled his toes, Younger Leo laughing helplessly.

        “You just wanted your toes tickled,” Elsa mewed.  Younger Leo smiled and kissed her nose.

       “Yeah,” he replied, “and very good it was too.”  Elsa grinned and kissed the liger in return.

       “Do I get my toes tickled too?”  Tigress Tess asked.  Elsa turned her ear to the tigress, then crawled to her, Tess lying down on her side leaving her paws available for little Elsa to find.  The lion cub found the tigress’s left forepaw, holding it gently in hers.

       “I can only tickle two toes at a time,” Elsa said to Tess, “my toes aren’t big enough to reach all five.”  Tess looked thoroughly fed up.

       “Oh dear,” she sighed, “I forgot I am no cub now.”

      “Your son cub’s toes were just about reachable, but your paws are enormous!”  Elsa mewed, “I’m sorry, but |I can’t tickle your toes very well.  I could tickle your paw pads, how would that be?”  Tess hugged Elsa tightly.

        “I’d enjoy that,” she mewed.  Leo looked at tigress Tess, then at Samson, the lion leader catching onto his apprehension.

       “Tigress Tess and her cubs have all got friendly paws Leo,” the lion said, “we don’t have any unfriendly paws here.  We have some troublesome paws, such as Panja’s, their owner getting them into all sorts of trouble, but on the whole, the paws here are friendly.”  Leo smiled.

        “By “friendly paws,” you mean the paws have friendly owners,” he mewed.  Samson smiled.

       “I saw a video of Rowena helping Shuang give birth to Kuan-Yin!”  Younger Leo said, “It was amazing!”

       “I’ve never seen the births of any bears,” Leo mewed, “though I’ve seen a lion cub being born, twice.”  Younger Leo looked mystified.

      “How can a cub be born twice?”  He asked.

       “Never mind,” older Leo said, “just trust me, I’ve seen it.”  Younger Leo wasn’t interested enough to continue his questioning and left it.

       “”a bear in labour makes a lot of noise and plays with her hind paws a lot,”  Kamchatka said, “well, I crushed my hind paws quite a bit, rather than playing with my toes or massaging my pads.  I kind of lost the plot during big contractions, crushing my hind paws with my fore.”

        “Painful,” Younger Leo mewed.

       “I needed something to hold onto, and my hind paws were nearest,” Kamchatka replied.

       “Did you hold onto your hind paws like you did when playing with them earlier?”  Clarence asked.  Kamchatka shook her head:

      “No,” the bear replied, “I wasn’t playing with my toes much during contractions; I was squeezing the toes of my hind paws with my fore as hard as I could, curl my toes too.  I was even crushing my hind paws with my fore, wrapping both forepaws around a hind paw and squeezing it hard during a contraction.  My paws ached horribly after, and I think I might have broken some small bones in my hind paws, but they’re okay now.  Cubbing was horrendous, not because of the pain, pain is part of it, but because I was alone during my cubbing.  I could almost have enjoyed the birth of my cub if someone had been there to share it with me.”  Tigress Tess thought back to the births of her own cubs and smiled:

       “Yes Kamchatka,” she said, “a birthing attendant helps a lot.”  The grizzly bear looked sad.

      “I wish I’d had someone there with me,” she replied, “at least then I’d remember Boris’s birth for more than just the struggle it was.  I could have slowed things down, given him an easy passage into the world, and eased my own pain too.”

        “Sometimes birthing attendants cannot help much,” Older Leo mewed, “I know this more than most I think.”

         “Oh, yes, sorry Leo,” Kamchatka said, “for all now knew of his fight to save little Elsa and her mother.”

        “I want to see a birth go well, a loving, caring birth where noone gets hurt unnecessarily,” older Leo said.

       “Watch the births of Theo and Clarence,” Tess mewed, “they’re problem free births, and as it seems Elsa is Theo’s adopted sister, and then it’s only right you witness his birth.”

        “If Petra will allow me to watch the video, then I will,” Leo mewed.

        “Leo,” Elsa said suddenly, “my mum’s dead isn’t she.”  Leo’s eyes registered shock, and then he buried his face in his paws.

        “Answer her then Leo,” Younger Leo said.  The lion gulped hard.

       “Yes Elsa, she is,” he choked.  Elsa touched his paw.

        “That was why the night was so cold,” she replied.  Older Leo sniffed hard.

       “Your mum fought hard to give birth to you,” he mewed, “she didn’t survive though.”  Elsa cuddled up to him.

       “You helped her and me,” she mewed, “I could hear you helping me and my mum.  I know what you did for her.  It was merciful, and also, if you’d not done that, she’d never have given life to me, for I’d have been stuck forever.”  Leo held her tightly, loving Elsa with everything he had.

       “You are as beautiful as your mum was,” Leo mewed.  Elsa smiled:

       “I know you could not destroy her beauty,” Elsa mewed.  Leo gulped hard.

       “How much do you know?”  He asked.

       “I remember being squeezed and forced into the world, my forepaws getting cold, there was horrendous roaring, screaming and crying.  Then I felt you take hold of my forepaws, you pulled while mum pushed, but she was not strong enough to get me out.  then mum’s strength failed, and she suddenly convulsed, throwing me about, then, then I found myself entering the world very quickly indeed.  I blacked out then, and woke later in my mum’s paws.”  Leo was crying, unashamedly crying into his cub’s fur.

        “I can’t imagine what that was like for you dear little Elsa,” he sobbed.

       “It’s all over now,” Elsa said, “my mum’s dead, but you’re here, and I can give you as much love as I can.  Please Leo, love me to, for you’ve all I’ve got left!”  Leo choked on his tears.

       “I’ll love you with everything I have Elsa, I love you dear cub, dear, sweet, lovely cub!”  Elsa snuggled up hard into Leo’s hug.

        “I will love you with everything I have,” Elsa mewed softly.  Elsa cuddled so tightly up to Leo, burying her paws in his mane.

      “My paws are cold!”  She mewed.  Leo took her paws in his, enfolding her tiny paws ever so gently in his huge ones.

       “I love your paws Leo,” Elsa mewed.  Leo gently picked Elsa up by the scruff of her neck, carrying her into Petra’s lie up, where the lioness was playing with little Theo.

        “I think it’s time for food,” Elsa mewed.  Petra smiled and beckoned to her with a paw.

       “Come,” she said, “and Leo, stick around a while.”  Leo laid his paw on Petra’s shoulder as she fed her cubs.

        “I can’t get her mum out of my mind,” Leo mewed.  Petra looked at Leo out of the corner of her eye.

       “You’d be with her twenty four seven if you could,” Petra mewed.  Leo nodded, his toes curling into the rug as he watched Elsa drinking her milk.

       “I would feed her if I could,” he mewed.  Petra saw how the sight of Elsa drinking her milk affected the lion.

        “I want to hold Petra in my paws,” he thought.  Petra smiled at Leo, Elsa finishing her milk and curling up to sleep.

       “Your turn for a hug I think,” she mewed to Leo, the lion lying down beside Petra and she took his paws in hers.

       “I love Elsa Petra,” Leo mewed, “I’ve got noone else.”  Elsa smiled at Leo and crawled up to him.

       “I have a new family now Leo, and so do you,” she mewed, kissing his nose.

         “You have a mate though Petra, I can’t hold your paws or hug you can I?”  Leo asked.

        “Just try it,” Petra mewed.  Elsa crawled out of the way and Leo embraced Petra, the feel of a lioness’s warmth in his paws making him want to cry.  He’d hugged his mate like this when she was in labour, feeling her paws scrabble at his fur as she strained and pushed to deliver her cub.  Petra felt his anxiety, and smiled at him.

       “? A lioness can enjoy her labour,” she mewed.

       “You mean you enjoyed your labour?  You Enjoyed cubbing?”  Leo asked.  Petra smiled:

        “It was painful, strenuous work, but it was wonderful too,” Petra mewed, “I’ll show you the video of little Theo’s birth,” the lioness said, “then, maybe, I’ll introduce you to fleur and ask her to show you her hidden acting talent.”  Leo looked nervous:

       “You mean fleur can re-enact a cubbing?”  Leo asked.  Petra grinned:

      “She’s wonderful at it,” Petra mewed, “so realistic.  Though I want you to see a real cubbing first, to show you that a lioness can have a cub safely.”  Leo smiled at Petra and tickled her paws.  Petra laughed and got to her paws to start the video.  Leo watched little Theo’s birth, observing everything.  After the run through, Petra showed him shots of her in pain over and over again, her face contorted, toes curled and paws pedalling the air.  Then she showed the results of all her pain, the emergence of a tiny white cub.  Leo cried into Petra’s fur.

      “Tell me, Tell me you were in control of your own labour,” Leo mewed.  Petra smiled:

      “I was in control every minute,” she replied, “I didn’t have pain relief, because I didn’t want it.  I wanted to feel everything, and I did every little movement, every little contraction.”  Leo watched on the screen as a close up of the sole of Petra’s right hind papaw came into view on the screen, her pads bunching and toes curling as she bore another contraction.  Leo listened to Petra’s groan of effort as she pushed down against her cub.

        “You would do it all again wouldn’t you,” he said to the real lioness.  Petra smiled:

      “I would,” she mewed.


Meanwhile, Tigress Tess and her cub Leo were playing together, each catching and tickling the other’s paws.  Kamchatka, still watching them, smiled and wished she was involved.

       “Someone stroke Kamchatka’s paws,” Tess mewed, “she’s pining for it.”  Kamchatka hid her eyes behind a paw.

       “Was it that noticeable?”  She asked.  Little Theo crawled up to Kamchatka and took hold of her right hind paw.  The bear, lying on her side, pressed the toes of her right hind paw into Theo’s paws.  The white male lion cub stroked the bear’s toes, Kamchatka smiling broadly.

       “Can I stroke your paws Theo?”  Kamchatka asked.  Theo dropped Kamchatka’s paw and crawled up to where her forepaws lay relaxed.  Theo squirmed between the bear’s paws, wrapping them beneath and over him like big soft blankets.  Kamchatka smiled and embraced the cub.  She then took each of his tiny paws in her larger ones and began massaging and stroking his pads and toes.  Theo’s purring told Kamchatka she was doing well, the bear kissing the lion cub’s nose as she worked.  Little Theo felt warm and safe, loving his ursine companion’s attention.  Petra padded into the lie up in search of her eldest cub.  Finding him snuggled up to Kamchatka, both sleeping peacefully, Petra felt she could hardly wake them.

        “I love you both,” she whispered, kissing Kamchatka’s and Theo’s noses.  Theo mewed softly in his sleep, his left forepaw held in Kamchatka’s huge right forepaw.  Petra remembered her own experience of Kamchatka’s hug, an all enveloping embrace which seemed to warm her from her nose to the end of her tail and the pads of her paws.  Petra sometimes had cold paws from bad circulation in them, which she hated because they became stiff and painful.  Petra could not imagine Kamchatka ever having cold paws.

       “Is it wrong to love a bear?”  Petra asked herself, “For I love this one so much.”  Petra rested her paw on Kamchatka’s shoulder, then, because she couldn’t reach any of her forepaws, Petra briefly held and stroked the grizzly bear’s right hind paw, and after a while, let go of the paw, padded to Kamchatka’s head and leant down, kissing the bear’s nose.  Petra felt an attachment to Kamchatka she could not explain, and it was so strong it frightened her sometimes.  It seemed Theo had picked a love of bears up from his mum, something which Petra was glad to pass on.  Petra could hardly see her eldest cub so tiny was he in Kamchatka’s paws.  Cuddled close to her body, Theo was held by the bear’s huge paws, and Petra knew their embrace was gentle and loving.  Love poured from Kamchatka’s paws in warm waves of glorious sleep inducing pleasure.  Petra knew she could become addicted to Kamchatka’s brand of hug.

       “I love her, and I don’t care who knows it,” Petra thought.  Kamchatka, her eyes closed, looked so peaceful lying on the rug.

      “I wish I could sleep like that,” Petra thought, “for I’ve not been getting the best sleep lately.  Petra lay down beside Kamchatka, trying to sleep.


Meanwhile, back in Petra’s lie up, Leo and Elsa lay together, the former holding the latter’s tiny paws in his huge ones.  Elsa snuggled up to her adopted sire, loving his warmth and the feeling of security it gave her.  Leo Explored Elsa’s body with his paws, running them from her nose to the pads and toes of all four paws, the cub making sure her paws got well explored by his.  Elsa made sure each of her four paws got embraced and massaged at least twice, Elsa rubbing back against his touch as he played with her toes and stroked her paw pads.  Once Leo had massaged Elsa from nose to tail twice over, Elsa set to clambering all over Leo, exploring him from nose to tail before settling down to massaging his paws, Leo loving every minute of her attention.  Leo held each paw still while his cub ran her tiny paws all over it, exploring everything, from furred tops to powerful toes and roughened pads.  Leo could tell Elsa loved stroking his paws very much.

       “This is lovely,” Elsa said, snuggling close to her sire after finishing her exploration of his right hind paw.  Leo smiled:

        “I think so too,” he mewed, kissing her nose. “I love you Elsa.”  Elsa buried her paws in his mane:

        “I love you too Leo,” she mewed.  Leo could smell his daughter cub’s scent, a scent he loved.

        “I got washed when I first came here,” he mewed, “so I suppose you’ll be washed too.”  Elsa didn’t know what he was talking about.

      “But mum, I mean Petra has washed me several times,” Elsa mewed.  Leo smiled:

      “Do you call Petra mum?”  He asked.  Elsa replied:

      “Yes,” Leo hugged her.

      “That’s good,” he mewed, “No, I wasn’t referring to that wash, and it’s a big thing here, where you get scrubbed from nose to toes.  It’s lovely.  I suppose little Theo and Clarence will soon be given a ritual washing.  It’s nice.”

      “Will you wash me?”  Elsa asked.

     “When, now? Or during the ritual washing?”  Leo asked.

      “Now,” Elsa mewed.

      “I could, I suppose,” Leo mewed.  He saw Petra padding in to the lie up and hesitated, looking up at her.

       “Wash your cub Leo,” Petra mewed, “she wants you to wash her, and you want to wash her, so wash her.”  Leo set about his task, his cub purring and cuddling up as best she could as he worked his way over her body with his tongue and paws, the sensation strange but pleasant .

      “I liked that,” Elsa said when it was all over, “it was nice to be washed by my sire.”  Leo kissed her nose.

      “I loved washing you,” he mewed.  Petra lay down and took Leo’s paw in hers.

       “I loved watching you wash her,” she purred, “that was lovely to see.”  Leo smiled.

       “I would do anything for her Petra,” he mewed.  Petra knew it only too well.

       “You fought for Elsa’s life and that of her mother with all the love and commitment of a pride male,”  Petra mewed, “and I know you are not little Elsa’s sire.  What you did was beautiful Leo.”  Leo looked down at his paws, unashamed to show his emotions.

      “I wish I could have saved Little Elsa’s mother,” he sniffed.

       “I know,” Petra mewed, putting her own feelings towards that particular lioness aside.

        “She’s got a mum now,” Petra mewed, “did she tell you?”  Leo nodded, smiling tearfully:

       “She let the mum thing slip,” he said, “but I don’t mind, for she needs her family.  I’m not her sire, but she treats me as if I were, so why not treat you as if you’re her mum?  By all accounts, you’ve done a dam good job with two adopted cubs and are doing a good job with your own cub.”  Petra smiled with shy pleasure.

      “Thanks,” she said, “though it’s not been all plain sailing with my eldest.  Simba, he, well, you know, got power too soon, messed up his life, his relationship with his mate.  Taws all very messy and dreadful.”  Leo touched her paw.

       “How about if you and little Theo join me and Little Elsa in our lie up tonight,” Leo said, “we’ve been allocated one I think.”  Indeed they had, just along from Kamchatka’s.

       “I’d like that,” Petra mewed, her relationship with ginger well and truly over after the truth about his infertility had come out.  Completely ashamed, ginger had asked Petra not to see him again.  Even though she told him it was not his fault, ginger was too ashamed to continue seeing her after the truth about him had emerged.  Petra was devastated, but had to accept his decision.  That had been weeks ago, and now she was free to choose her own mate.


Later that day, as night fell, Petra and Leo met in his lie up.  Lying down together, Petra asked Leo to hug her, the lion embracing her with genuine affection.

        “Can I kiss your nose and paws?”  Leo asked.  Petra smiled and nodded.  Leo kissed her nose, then, taking each one of her forepaws in turn, kissed her pads and toes, Petra catching her breath as she felt his touch.

        “You like it?”  Leo asked.  Petra nodded.

      “Like it?”  She replied, “There’s no liking it, it’s gone beyond that!  I love it!  Leo, please, kisses my paws, my nose, my belly, my toes, ears and tail!  Take me like a lion Leo!”  Leo caressed Petra’s paws in his, massaging her pads and toes.  Little Elsa, catching on fast, smiled and said:

        “Will I have a brother or sister soon?”  Leo and Petra laughed.

      “Give us time,” Leo mewed.

       “Take your time,” Elsa mewed, “for I don’t think Petra wants to go through labour for a few weeks yet.”  Petra suddenly groaned, panted, and pretended to bear down against an imaginary cub, Elsa and Leo laughing at her antics.

       “Labour was great last time,” Petra mewed, “and will be even better when and if we have a cub.  Leo knows what he’s doing, and it will be lovely to have him helping me,” Petra mewed.  Leo kissed her nose and paws once more, then it was Elsa’s turn to clamber all over Petra, followed by little Theo, who’d listened to Petra’s antics with a huge smile.  Then it was time for little Theo to clamber over Leo, using his paws to explore the lion from nose to tail.  Leo grinned as Theo’s paws worked through his mane and then ran down his back and legs, finding his paws.  Theo grinned as he found Leo’s paws; the lion relaxing his paws, letting the cub manipulate his toes and stroke his pads.

      “My paws are yours,” Leo mewed.  Theo played with Leo’s toes, the lion purring contentedly.

      “He just wants to have his paws played with,” Petra mewed.  Leo laughed helplessly.

       “I love you all,” he mewed.  Petra and Elsa took hold of Leo’s forepaws, Theo holding his right hind.  Leo pressed his toes into Theo’s paws, the white cub giggling cubbishly and kissing his pads.  Leo smiled as Theo tickled his toes.

       “I’m going to get addicted to all this paw contact,” Leo mewed.  Petra smiled and squeezed the paw she held.

       “How can I express how much I love you three?”  Leo asked.   Smiled:

       “Your paws tell us,” she replied.

       “”you don’t need to say anything,” Elsa mewed.  The sound of heavy paws on carpet made the cubs and adult lions look round.  Kamchatka padded in, sat down and watched the lions.

      “Carry on with what you’re doing, don’t mind me,” Kamchatka said.  Despite Petra’s entreaties, two cubs were soon all over the grizzly bear, clambering over her body and tickling her paws.  Kamchatka realised these two loved her as much as they did Petra and Leo.  She’d become family, and loved everything about it.

       “Shall we give her paws a work out too Leo?”  Petra asked as her cubs clambered over and tumbled off Kamchatka’s body, the bear having lain down to allow them to use her as a plaything.  Elsa and Theo played with the bear’s paws, clambered over her body and tickled her belly and toes, the bear laughing helplessly.

        “If this is what two cubs can do, I can’t wait to see what you two can achieve,” Kamchatka gasped.  Leo and Petra waited for Elsa and Theo to slide off Kamchatka’s back before going to the bear and embracing her, Kamchatka laughing merrily.

        “I don’t care if I sound strange when I say I love lions!”  She yelled.  Leo, Elsa, Theo and Petra kissed her nose and paws, Kamchatka almost crying.

       “I love you all,” she said, embracing cubs and adult lions with everything she had.  Leo had never played with Kamchatka’s paws before, and at first he was hesitant, but Kamchatka’s smile and the touch of her forepaws on his brought him round.  Leo and Kamchatka soon let go and were roughhousing like they’d been together since they were cubs.  Petra smiled at Leo and Kamchatka’s antics, the lion roaring with laughter as the bear tickled his paws.

         “You, you’ve got more than four paws, I’m sure of it!”  Leo shouted as his hind and forepaws were tickled by the huge bear.  Leo was soon exhausted, having lost the rough and tumble game paws down.  Leo, dragging himself off the floor, could hardly stand on his well tickled paws because of the tingling sensation in his pads.

     “Time to recharge those paws,” Kamchatka said, massaging Leo’s paws with gentle care.

      “You won that one!”  Leo panted.  Kamchatka smiled at the lion, kissing his nose.  Leo felt contented, this bear was part of the family, and he need not have felt any need to be afraid of her.  Kamchatka loved the lions, and seeing Petra and Leo making love was no shock to her in the least.  She wanted them to be happy.

      “Don’t mind me sitting here,” Kamchatka said.  Leo looked into her eyes.

       “You could find us deeply in the act of making love and you’d just sit and watch wouldn’t you,” he said, “you want us to be happy with you around.  Petra is, as are our cubs, and now, I am too.  You love Petra and her family, and as I am part of this family now, I need to accept you.”  Kamchatka smiled and hugged Leo tenderly.

      “I love you lions,” she said.  Petra, little Elsa and little Theo each hugged Kamchatka in turn, the bear laughing with delight.

     “Time to tickle your paws Kamchatka!”  Leo mewed, pouncing on the bear’s hind paws and grabbing her right hind paw in both of his, Petra tickling the bear’s toes.  Kamchatka screamed with laughter and a mock fight with the lions began.  Little Theo and his sister sat back, wondering which side to wade in on.  In the end, they chose Kamchatka’s side, leaping onto their mother and sire’s backs and pawing at their ears and necks, Leo and Petra rolling over and playing dead.  Kamchatka crawled away, seemingly exhausted from the fight.  Sitting in a corner, she anxiously licked her forepaws and rubbed them over the pads of her hind, pretending injury.  Meanwhile, Theo and Elsa prodded their mother and sire with their paws, Petra and Leo struggling to keep up their act.  They managed it very well, until the cubs started tickling their paws that was.  First Leo cracked, then Petra, the lions rolling over and embracing a cub each.  Elsa Kissed Petra’s nose, the lioness’s whiskers tickling her face.

       “I feel so safe mum,” Elsa mewed.  Petra kissed her nose, then, when Elsa placed her paw over Petra’s mouth, the lioness kissed the pads on the sole of the cub’s paw.


The lions and their cubs went to Kamchatka and made a huge fuss of her, patting her with their paws, rubbing her back and playing with her hind paws, much to the bear’s delight.

       “We all love you dearly Kamchatka,” Theo said, his parents and Elsa agreeing with him.


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