Unusual bath time.
Tigger padded towards the pool, Theo, Simba, Elsa, Aslan,
Leona and Snowy following with Leo trailing uncertainly behind,
Meanwhile, Fleur and Bianca went the other way, Fleur leading Bianca up a slope, through a door, and into a spiral corridor with a sloping floor.
“Where are we?” Bianca asked. Fleur looked up the corridor, which twisted away out of sight.
“I don’t know,” she said, “but I can hear a rushing sound, like water. Let’s make for that.”
“I’m scared!” Bianca mewed, “it’s, it’s strange in here!” Fleur patted her paw reassuringly.
“I know this place,” she said, hoping her friend didn’t realise she was being untruthful. Fleur hated to lie to Bianca, but knew that if she gave way to her own fear, nothing would be discovered about this new place.
“Okay,” Bianca said, “I trust you Fleur.”
“You wouldn’t if you knew the truth,” Fleur thought miserably, angry at herself for deceiving her friend.
“Bianca,” Fleur said, “I’m sorry, I lied to you. I don’t know these places, and I’m as scared as you are.”
“Do you want to leave?” Bianca asked.
“No,” Fleur replied.
“neither do I Fleur,” Bianca said, “and Fleur, please, don’t lie to me again. If you don’t know something, tell me, and if you’re scared, tell me too, promise?” Fleur felt dreadful.
“Yes Bianca,” she replied, “I promise.”
“So do we go on then?” Bianca asked.
“We do,” Fleur replied. They padded up to the top of the slope, the corridor twisting all the time. When they reached the top, the sound of rushing water was close, and rounding a bend, Fleur saw the source of the sound.
It looked like a hole in the wall directly opposite them, with water running into it. Fleur turned to Bianca and had to shout to make herself heard over the noise of the water.
“It’s a hole in the wall with water going into it!” she yelled.
“What’s in the hole?” Bianca yelled in reply.
“Nothing!” Fleur shouted, “it’s just a hole!”
“Let’s take a look!” Bianca yelled.
“Careful though,” Fleur said. They padded forward, stepping down into a small half box made of plastic. The soles of Their paws soon became damp from the water flowing past their legs, the noise of the water becoming louder as they were quite close to the hole now. Fleur padded forward, Bianca still keeping in contact with her by touching her with one paw. the pull of the water flowing past their paws was becoming stronger the closer they got to the hole. Suddenly Fleur’s right forepaw slipped! Fleur fought to regain her balance but couldn’t, ending up being carried into the hole! Bianca, feeling Fleur slip, tore her paw free of the larger cub’s! Fleur screamed as she shot into the hole!
“Bianca! I can’t grip with anything! I’m done for! Bianca heard her friend’s screams of fear as she was carried away from her.”
“Fleur!” Bianca yelled, The sound of Fleur’s screams and banging paws becoming more distant. Bianca felt alone for the first time in her life, and she hated it. Still unable to see what her friend had vanished into, Bianca thought about exploring with her paws, but remembered Fleur had been taken away quite easily, and she was much larger than herself. Bianca crawled away from the hole, the sound of the water reseeding a little every time she pulled herself forward with her forepaws or pushed with her hind. Crying hysterically, Bianca dragged her body down the twisting passage, her face hot with emotion and wet with tears. About half way down, Bianca gave up the struggle and collapsed onto the soft flooring. Fear overwhelming her the tiger cub screamed with fear,! it was a dreadful sound, full of fear for her lost friend and for herself.
Snowy, having splashed about in the pool with Tigger and the others, had just got out and shaken herself dry when she heard Bianca’s yell of terror. Streaking up the corridor, she found her cub lying sobbing on the soft flooring.
“Where’s Fleur?” Snowy gasped, “dam that cub! Where’s Fleur Bianca?” Bianca, crying inconsolably, waved her hind paw, indicating fleur was further up the passage.
“She, she went down the hole!” Bianca sobbed.
“What hole?” Snowy asked, now terrified.
“I don’t know what hole!” Bianca sobbed, “there’s a hole up there, with water running into it, and Fleur slipped and fell into it! She’s gone!” Snowy was frantic with worry!
“We’re going to find Tigger!” Snowy yelled, dragging poor Bianca onto all fours, then, taking the cub’s paw, she dragged Bianca along, Bianca still crying as she crawled beside her mother.
Bursting into the pool area, they found Fleur, who was lying on the floor, sobbing and shaking, with Elsa and Theo trying to comfort her.
“What the hell’s this!” snowy snapped.
“Don’t make me go back into that hole!” Fleur sobbed.
“what hole?” Theo asked. Tigger, standing nearby, his paws sweating with fear, toes curled into the floor, took a deep breath and replied.
“It, it’s a, a water slide. I know how to use it, but it needs to be supervised at all times! I thought I’d closed the gate to the passage, turned the water off, all that!”
“What on earth is a water slide?” Snowy asked.
“It’s a tube,” Tigger replied, now shaking as much as Fleur, “it has water running in it, and, and you get into it, and slide down it with the water aiding you. It can be pretty quick, the one I have here can be. I don’t know why the boss installed it. It came with the package, or so it was said. The boss showed me how to use the thing, but, but he said there should be strict adherence to the lights and bell, whatever that means.
“the boss didn’t tell you what he meant by the lights and bell?” Theo asked, now ready to clout Tigger.
“he did, but, but I can’t remember what he said!” Tigger mewed pitifully.
“Take me to the hole!” Theo snarled, “I’m not afraid of this!”
“Okay, okay Theo,” Tigger sniffed, now close to tears, “I will, come on.” Theo padded after Tigger, the Bengal tiger dragging his paws.
“It’s up here,” Tigger sniffed.
“I don’t see any gate on this bit,” Theo said, mounting the slope, his fat paws leaving wet paw prints.
“No, not here,” Tigger replied, “up at the top of the slope.” The lion and tiger padded closer to the top, the sound of water rushing down the tube getting closer. When they reached the top, Theo looked round him. He saw a white plastic tray in front of him, which had in front of that a tube lying on it’s side, which disappeared into the wall in front of him. The tube wasn’t quite flush with the wall, having been chopped off at an angle to allow the tray to fit into the bottom of it. There was a light, but it was red at the time they arrived. As Theo watched, it turned green, and a bell sounded. Theo guessed what must have happened to Fleur.
“It looks like poor Fleur stepped into the tray and her paws got carried away by the water, ending in her hurtling down the slide,” Theo said, “Tigger, where does the slide end up?”
“It ends in a tray, much like this one, but a bit flatter, the water is reused, pumped up here and back down the slide it goes. The end of the slide is a little way from the rest of the pool, it’s by the door into the house. there’s another way into here from the house you see.” Theo looked into the hole.
“When you mentioned supervision,” Theo asked, “does that mean this is dangerous?”
“No, not in itself Theo,” Tigger replied quickly, “it’s to stop people from going before the light’s green. If they do, you can run into one another, and there are other safety issues, such as there being too many people on the slide at once. The boss was very insistent on this, “obey the bell Tigger,” he said, “if noone goes down the slide the instant the bell goes off, then wait for the system to sound the bell again.” That’s what he said.”
“Who are you training to use this?” Theo asked.
“I know how to,” Tigger mewed, “or I do now I think of it.” Tigger was still shaking with fear.
“Anyone else?” Theo asked.
“Arki, Nanuq too,” Tigger replied.
“Right,” Theo said, “now show me the gate you were meant to close.” Tigger walked back to the top of the slope and pulled at a handle in the wall. A trellis type gate slid across the passage, blocking access to the steep slope.
“It was this I was meant to close,” Tigger mewed, “now I’m for it!”
“Open the gate,” Theo snapped, “now show me where this slide ends.” Tigger opened the gate, then padded across to a door set into the right hand wall at right angles to the tube which Theo hadn’t noticed before.
“through here,” Tigger said, “it’s a service entrance, for staff.” Theo padded through the door, which was made of reinforced glass. They found themselves in a room with stairs and what looked like a set of double doors set into the wall.
“That’s a lift for disabled animals,” Tigger said, waving at the double door set into the wall, “the stairs are a fire escape, but also lead directly down to the end of the slide. In fact so does the lift.”
“What on earth’s a lift?” Theo asked, his curiosity aroused. Tigger crawled over to the double doors and pressed a button on the wall. The doors opened, and Theo looked in.
“it’s just a room,” Theo said, but it’s made of metal. He stepped closer, and there was a high pitched wine.
“what’s that!” Theo yelled, leaping backwards.
“that means the doors won’t close on you,” Tigger replied, “it’s safety again.”
“Yes, safety which you ignored by not closing that dammed gate!” Theo snarled.
“I’m sorry!” Tigger mewed.
“Try saying that when someone gets injured!” Theo snapped. Tigger mewed piteously.
“show me the end of the slide,” Theo mewed.
“Get in the lift then,” Tigger said. Theo stepped in, doing his best to ignore the high pitched noise as he stepped through the beam of infrared light which stopped the doors from closing. Tigger joined Theo, and pressed a button inside the lift. The door closed, and Theo instantly wanted to get out!
“let me out, let me out!” He yelled, banging the doors with his paws.
“the lift will start downwards in a minute,” Tigger said. Theo hated this lift thing.
“Just get it over with!” Theo snarled. Tigger pushed down on a lever, and the lift descended slowly.
“can’t this go any faster?” Theo asked.
“No,” Tigger said, accidentally taking his paw off the lever, the lift stopping as it was meant to do. Theo, realising what he’d been seeing moving past him was actually part of the lift shaft, freaked out, screaming and hammering on the reinforced glass doors.
“I hate this!” Theo yelled, “take me down!” Tigger pressed the lever and the lift continued its journey. Theo sighed with relief when he saw the electric light of the floor below. The lift came to a sudden stop, and Tigger took his paw off the lever. The door opened, and Theo was straight out.
“don’t ever, ever! Put me in one of those things again!” Theo yelled. Tigger followed him out into the passage and along to the pool area where the end of the slide was. Theo looked at the slide, then stepped into the tray, feeling the water wetting his paws.
“Right,” Theo said, “now, I want you to do something for me.”
“What’s that?” Tigger asked.
“Go up the stairs , and come down the slide, that’s all,” Theo said. Tigger mewed in protest, but Theo squeezed his paw.
“Stop mewing little cub,” he said, “for you’ve done enough damage as it is. Do what I tell you!” Tigger made his way up the service stairs with Theo following and watching him. When he got to the top of the slide, Tigger stepped down into the tray ready to lie down and push off. Theo looked up at the lights, they were showing red. Even though he knew noone was on the slide, he still respected the rules and waited for green and the bell. The bell went, and Tigger pushed off, disappearing with alarming speed! Theo watched him go, then ran down the stairs to the bottom of the slide, just in time to see Tigger come flying out of the slide and into the tray at the bottom. The tiger looked terrified!
“I’ve never ridden that before!” he yelled.
“Nor had Fleur,” Theo snarled, “maybe that will be a lesson to you!” Tigger got off the slide, his paws shaking.
“Right, I vote we go back to Fleur and find out whether she’s suffered any lasting damage,” Theo said. The sound of heavy paws made them turn. fleur came round the end of the slide and headed towards them.
“I know what happened,” she mewed, “Leo told me.” Theo could feel his brother was close, and now knew why.
“Have you forgiven Tigger fleur?” Theo asked.
“I have,” she said, “for it wasn’t just his fault, it was mine. I know he should have closed the gate, but I shouldn’t have gone anywhere near the hole.”
“It’s a water slide,” Tigger mewed.
“Whatever it is,” fleur said, “Bianca’s eager to have a ride.”
“No!” Theo snapped, “no fleur no!” there was a sudden scream of delight and then a whoosh as Bianca came down the last part of the slide.
“It’s too late to stop her I fear,” Fleur said. Theo looked at the bedraggled tiger cub, while Tigger helped her from the bottom of the slide.
“the bell’s just gone off again,” Tigger said, and sure enough, snowy came barrelling down the slide screaming with delight the whole way! She arrived much quicker than her cub, as she was heavier. Snowy and Bianca came down hind paws first, whereas Fleur had gone head first, something she didn’t want to repeat.
“It’s wonderful!” Bianca mewed.
“It’s hell,” fleur spat.
“What a ride!” Snowy laughed, “coming for another run Bianca?” her cub was up for it.
“yeah, let’s,” Bianca said. She looked round at the rest of the animals, making eye contact with each.
“Oh, um, Snowy,” Theo said, “um, Bianca’s, Bianca’s eyes, they’re open, and, and she’s looking at me! She’s only three days old!”
“I know,” snowy said, seemingly unruffled by this unusual event for a cub so young, “my sister cub Bianca was the same. Wonderful isn’t it!”
“So nothing surprises you?” fleur asked.
“I’m glad for Bianca, but not surprised at anything,” snowy purred, “for Bianca’s already done amazing things for her age.”
“We came here for a bath Tigger,” Bianca said, “when are we going to get that?”
“Um, as soon as you and your mum have had one more go on the slide,” Tigger mewed.
Theo, fleur and Tigger followed Snowy and her cub up to the top of the slide. There first Snowy, then Bianca slid down. Once they’d gone, Theo looked at Fleur and Tigger.
“what are you two going to do?” he asked, “for I’m not going down that!”
“Oh yes you are,” Fleur said, smiling, “we all have.”
“You said you didn’t want to go down it again!” Theo mewed.
“I will if you do,” Fleur replied. Theo lay down in the tray, ready to push off. Making sure his claws were retracted, he waited for the bell. When it went off, Theo pushed with his hind paws and pulled with his fore, shooting down the tube! Theo then realised why Bianca’s eyes had opened, they’d got the best washing they’d ever get! He couldn’t see a thing because of the amount of spray! Theo then realised he was speeding down the slide head first! Screaming, he hurtled down the slide, and it was almost straight down! Theo felt the slide flatten out, his speed dropping rapidly, and then paws were helping him, dripping and weak, onto dry land. Leo, Elsa and the cubs had joined them, having wondered where they’d got to.
“I don’t like the look of that thing Theo,” Leo said.
“The lift is worse,” Theo mewed.
“What is a lift?” Petra asked. Theo jerked his head at the lift’s smoked glass doors. Petra walked across to the lift, pressed the button, and walked in. The doors promptly shut behind her, and there was the sound of banging and yelling to be let out.
“It’s a trap!” Petra mewed, hammering on the door with clenched paws. Theo walked over and pressed the button to let his cub out.
“I can see why you don’t like that thing,” Petra mewed.
They returned to see Bianca and Snowy examining Fleur’s paws.
“Her pads are all wrinkled up!” Bianca said of Fleur’s paw pads.
“that’s because we’ve been in water for a long time,” Leo said, “once we are back on dry land Fleur’s paws will go back to normal.”
“I think it’s a pity noone but us knows of this place,” Petra mewed.
“Well,” Tigger said, “the horses wouldn’t like to come here, nor would the badgers. The polar bears and brown bears might, and so would the otters and capybara.
“Talking of otters, “I heard that Winifred was dating with Tarquil. Tarquil was one of only two male otters in the house.
“Maybe if they have a cub, it won’t be as disagreeable as Tarker was,” Leo grunted.
“I’m up for getting my paws even more wrinkled than they already are!” Bianca mewed, “where’s that bath you promised us Tigger?”
“come on then,” Tigger replied, “let’s go for that bath.” They walked away, but Elsa lingered, looking with interest at the slide. She’d been interested, but nervous. Dipping a paw into the shallow water which ran into drainage ducts, she closed her eyes and thought about hurtling down the slide, could she bring herself to do it?”
“Come on Elsa love,” Theo said.
“I’m feeling a bit of a wimp,” she mewed, not going on the slide. I should have gone to the top with you.”
“come Elsa love,” Theo said, “we’ll go up together.” With that he took her paw and led her up the stairs to the top of the slide. Elsa looked into the hole, sniffing at the water. She lay down, and Theo patted her paw reassuringly.
“the soles of your hind paws are wrinkled up Elsa!” Theo said laughing, tracing the pads of Elsa’s paw with the toes of one of his forepaws, in turn making her laugh.
“I’ll bet yours are too Theo love,” she replied.
“Undoubtedly they are,” Theo mewed, “though, as I found out in the cubbing den, I can’t see my hind paws.” Elsa curled the toes of her right hind paw round those of Theo’s right fore, as he was standing directly behind her, holding her back by placing his paw on hers, his toes curled into hers.
“When I let go of your toes, just relax,” Theo mewed. Elsa mewed a reply, for her fear was back with her. Theo could feel it in her trembling paw.
“It’s going to be okay Elsa love,” Theo purred.
“If something does happen to me,” Elsa said, “I want you to know that I love you Theo.” Give my love to Simba, Aslan, Petra, Fleur, Bianca and Leona.” Theo knew nothing would go wrong, but Elsa’s words still tore at him.
“I will,” he said, “I love you Elsa.” Elsa closed her eyes, waiting for the bell. When it rang, Elsa felt Theo release her toes from his, and she was off down the slide. Elsa kept her paws over her face the whole way. When she got to the bottom of the slide, she felt fat paws take hold of hers and squeeze them. It was Theo.
“come Elsa my love,” Theo purred, “let’s go and get a proper bath.”
Elsa padded after her mate, both of them meeting Tigger in the main pool area, where he led the group towards another part of the building, in which they found a bath with a whirlpool. This whirlpool bath was large, large enough for all the animals to get into. The cubs and adult animals padded into the bathtub.
“Now I add herbs and oils, and we all get in and massage each other, a huge free for all, okay?” Tigger purred. Elsa mewed her assent, and everyone else showed their agreement by getting on with things.
Tigger first stroked Leona’s paws, the soles of the female lion cub’s paws as wrinkled as his own. Leona laughed as Tigger tickled her forepaws before he massaged them.
“Right! She mewed, “I get to tickle your paws now!” Tigger smiled:
“Of course you will, in time,” he said. Suddenly Tigger wriggled and twisted, squealing with surprise!
“Something’s got my right hind paw!” he yelled. Leona began to laugh as she saw who’d got the tiger’s paw in theirs. Simba let go of Tigger’s paw once he’d tickled it, and rose to the surface like an emerging sea monster, growling and snarling theatrically. Tigger, terrified, tried to grab Simba to duck him for frightening him, but the cub was too quick for him.
“that’s not fair on Tigger Simba, and you know it!” Leona mewed. Simba prodded Tigger and swam away, the blind tiger striking out with his paws at nothing.
“That’s bloody unfair!” Tigger mewed. Simba teased Tigger, until Aslan saw what was happening, grabbed hold of Simba and let the Bengal tiger have his revenge, which wasn’t to tickle Simba’s paws, but to cuff the cub with considerable force! Simba yowled with pain, slinking from the pool and going back to the house.
“bloody cub!” Aslan mewed, “I know tickling your paw was a game, but that last bit wasn’t! he was teasing you Tigger, and that’s what I can’t stand! I hope he doesn’t have to go through what you do every day!”
“Calm down Aslan my dear cub,” Theo mewed.
“You know how I feel about things like this!” Aslan sniffed, his eyes filling with tears, “I can’t stand it Theo, and I won’t!” Theo stopped stroking Petra’s right hind paw and paddled over to his upset cub.
“Aslan my dear sweet cub,” he mewed, “come here please.” Aslan let Theo take him in his paws.
“it’s so wrong, so bloody wrong!” Aslan wept.
“I know Aslan, I know,” Theo purred.
“I know you’re being kind Theo, but you don’t know what it’s like, you can’t know what it’s like! I hope you never will either. It’s so crap!”
“Hey! Don’t use that language!” snowy snapped.
“Aslan my dear cub,” Theo said gently, “I don’t truly know what it’s like for Tigger, that’s correct, but please, try and let it go over your head sometimes.”
“I can’t Theo, I can’t!” Aslan snarled, “it’s wrong what Simba does, bloody wrong!”
“Right!” snowy snapped, “we’re leaving Bianca! If that cub can’t keep his language down, I’m never letting you associate with that family ever again!”
“No Snowy, don’t go,” Petra said. Snowy turned to Petra, intent on telling her to mind her own business, when the look in the white cub’s eyes stopped her.
“Aslan knows more than you will ever comprehend,” Petra’s eyes said.
“Oh, well, yes,” snowy grumbled, still furious at Aslan for using bad language.
“I don’t really blame Aslan,” Leo said, “he’s had it tough, and he could be a lot worse. It’s only this kind of thing which gets him really fired up.”
“Come on Aslan,” Theo mewed, hugging the weeping shivering cub close, “it’s not worth getting this upset about Simba’s actions.”
“Tigger doesn’t need it Theo,” Aslan mewed, “he really doesn’t need that. Simba should have let Tigger take his revenge on him in a playful manner, which Tigger would have done. But no, Simba teases Tigger, making it near on impossible for him to get his own back. It’s wrong, and I won’t stand for it!”
“I’m going to Tigger mum,” Bianca said. Snowy waved her paw at her. Bianca swam across to Tigger, who took her in his paws.
“Hello little one,” Tigger purred, stroking Bianca’s back with one paw while holding her suspended in the water with his free paw. Bianca let her paws dangle in the water.
“I thought I’d come over and see you Tigger,” Bianca said. Tigger, usually not one for reacting to turns of phrase, gulped hard, tears rolling down his nose.
“I’m sorry Tigger!” Bianca said, almost crying herself now, “you usually don’t mind us using words like that.”
No, not usually,” Tigger sobbed, “but what with Simba’s behaviour, and your talking about coming to see me, and you having just opened your eyes n’all, well, I’m glad you can see me Bianca, for it’s a wonderful world.” Bianca, now realising fully what connections her words had made for Tigger, hugged him as tightly as she knew how, holding him close in both tiny paws.
“Oh Tigger, Tigger!” she sobbed, “I’m so sorry!”
“It’s okay, it’s not your fault little one,” Tigger sobbed, “just sometimes though, sometimes I feel so useless, so lost, that I don’t know what to do!”
“You aren’t useless,” Bianca said, “you are loved, and respected.”
“Respected?” Tigger sobbed, “how can I be respected when I storm in to the bathroom and scream at a labouring tigress? How can I be loved when I put Fleur in danger due to my negligence in not closing a gate! No Bianca, I’m not worthy of your respect.” Tigger soon found Elsa, Theo, Petra, and Fleur round him, every one of them touching him with their paws.
“Let Simba be dealt with by someone in the house,” Bianca purred, “you have others to think of Tigger, Fleur for one. She’s your cub, and I’m sure she wants a paw massage. Tigger felt Fleur swim up to him and place her paw in his.
“My paws are yours, my tail’s yours, my belly’s yours, my body’s yours to massage Tigger,” she purred. Tigger felt the cross bred cub’s thick warm fur against his, and this brought tears to his eyes.
“I love you fleur!” Tigger sobbed. Fleur touched Tigger’s nose with hers.
“forget what happened today Tigger,” she said, “I want you to show me where my heel pads and toes are.” Tigger realised what she was saying.
“back to basics?” He asked, “stroking your paws like you stroked Bianca’s?” fleur smiled and replied:
“Yes please.” Tigger smiled and took Fleur’s paw, stroking it gently.
Tigger massaged Fleur’s paws for a long time, while the other animals took turns to stroke each other as the mood took them.
Once they’d finished, the soles of their paws were as shrivelled as prunes, and when Bianca challenged everyone else to a, “how prunish are the soles of your paws?” contest, there was no contest, as they all had wrinkled pads. This type of antics made snowy and Elsa laugh with merriment.
“Let’s all go into the house and get dry,” Elsa suggested. With everyone in agreement, they all trooped into the house via in indoor route, one which they’d not taken before. This one led past racks of towels, which were liberally used by all.
“Don’t forget to dry behind your ears and between your toes,” Tigger reminded everyone, promptly forgetting to practise what he preached, Fleur reminding him by catching his paw and rubbing it vigorously with her towel.
“thanks Fleur love,” Tigger mewed, at which he was promptly set upon by Theo, Elsa and Aslan, all bearing towels, and all taking a paw each. They dried Tigger’s paws, while Bianca and Petra dried his ears.
“Fancy forgetting to dry between your toes and behind your ears Tigger,” Fleur said playfully, “you are a silly Tigger tiger.” Her little slip had everyone laughing uproariously. Fleur, suddenly realising what she’d said, hid her face behind one huge spotted paw.
“Let’s go home fleur,” Tigger purred, hugging his cub.
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