God, I'm effin' desperate. e.o

Well, as the summary blatantly pointed out, I would be a terrible fan if I missed this date, as today happens to mark the twentieth anniversary of TLK! Pretty damn exciting, and such a milestone only comes around every once in a while, right?

Now, I was going to write some cutsie birthday-ish fic with Simba and Nala (shocker for me, I know x.x), but I simply haven't had the time. So I rummaged into the depths of my body of work for something to publish that was already written, and I came up with this.

I don't remember how old it is, exactly, except that it's over a year at this point, so if any of the writing seems slightly clunky, keep that in mind. I wrote it as an AU story to fit a prompt over at MLK a long time ago - the prompt was "what if Simba left the Pridelands, but not due to Mufasa's death?" The reason I didn't publish it here was that it was set to take place in the TA!universe (which, for those of you unfamiliar with that story, explains the characterization of Scar, Simba, and Mufasa in here) and I was naturally worried about spoilers. However, I've since decided that I'm not going to use this in the story, and the stampede scene will actually happen differently, so there's not much point in me hiding it anymore.

(By the way, speaking of Thus Always... I actually did write and finish the stampede scene for that story some time ago, but that was when I had my computer meltdown. It was one of the longest, best, and most exhilarating chapters I've ever written, so losing it made me lose a lot of motivation. I feel bad, though, because it's been about a year since I updated. But I promise I will continue once Trampled is finished, so no worries, right? ... Right...? o.o).

Anyways, hope you enjoy it. Even if it's not specifically anniversary themed.

Happy birthday, TLK! :D

It was quiet in the gorge. The dust cleared, all was deathly still and something in the air seemed to be amiss. Thick clouds hung—the remainders of the stampede, the rowdy hordes of frightened animals which had, due simply to fear rather than any sort of premeditated malevolence, trodden the ground into a uniform, beaten swath of dry, dusty earth which hung there, parching the narrowing, winding throat of the land.

Once there had been wide rivers here, but now they were no more.

Once there had been lush grass and herds of animals here, but now they were no more.

… Once there had been a king living and breathing here, but now he, too, was no more.

The dark lion stood in the middle of the gorge looking guilty, for he had nothing to hide. There was no one here to witness him, no one but himself and the spirits which were said to inhabit the gorge… including one just separated from its body: that of his brother, no doubt occupying the space around him as he set down his paw. Blood tipped his claws, which accounted for the gaping, crimson wound amid his older brother's auburn mane.

He licked it off, but it was useless. He still had the uneasy sensation of caked blood under his fingernails, and no matter how many times he inspected it, it seemed to linger there, much like the last, ragged gasps of the golden lion before he'd fallen.

Fallen off the ledge. So far. A precipitous drop to doom. To destiny. For his destiny was, surely, to die. The Pridelands could not bear him forever.

He told himself that, that he was the instrument of inevitable change, and that he was justified… but no matter how many times he repeated it, there was no sense that that was what he truly felt. There was only a gaping uncertainty, a vast pit of doubt inside him. The truth was that he didn't know, and that the line between right and wrong had been permanently, irrevocably blurred.

One more uneasy, silent glance at the cooling, outstretched body, and he turned away, putting his back to it. No use in mourning the dead when he had yet to attend to the living. His twig-like limbs tread the distance across the gorge, slowly creeping. Slowly moving. Yet each of his limbs creaked under bearing the burden of his body, skinny as it was.

"Simba?" he whispered as softly as he could manage, voice hoarse from dust, "where are you?"

He approached a grotto, dark and hunched under the massive rocks of the gorge, with a figure equally doubled over and huddled towards the back wall. Shadows covered his face, making his soft, cub-like features jut out and give him the appearance of being older than he really was. His eyes especially bore into him from the depths of their sockets, a frightened glint invading them like a phantom.

Simba had stayed here, as he had told him, through it all, too shocked and afraid to move. And in this moment, despite his appearance, the absence of his usual swagger and princely air revealed a normal, innocent cub inside.

There was still a chance.

"Thank the spirits…"

His voice was surprisingly strained, which seemed to tip the cub off that something was wrong. He backed away, back into the wall.

"U-u-uncle… where is he? Where's Dad? He's here with you, isn't he? Uncle?" His face dropped, energy and hope fading. "… Uncle?"

"Simba…" he repeated, arm reaching out. His limb twisted, hoping to embrace the cub in a hug. He felt him for a moment, felt the golden lump of fur and the heartbeat in his arms… at first slow and soft, but in a moment hammering and furious. He felt those claws yet again—still small, yet already sharp—digging into his arm, near where the evidence from his last scratching had not yet healed over. He leapt back, exclaiming in pain, though the fury of the little cub before him was inherently enough to pry his attention from his troubles.

"No! NO! He can't… he can't be!" He cried out, whirling around the cave as he looked about, panicked, searching for his father as he bolted out into the merciless sunlight shining down on the gorge. Scar followed listlessly with his silent, weary tread, knowing from the start that this would happen. He expected it… yet it was easily ten times more disquieting to witness it firsthand, as it only augmented his guilt. There was nothing he could do to soothe him as he cuddled under his father's paw, sobbing into the golden, chilly fur. He stood for a moment, distant, unused to seeing the cub cry.

It was clear that it touched him deeply.

"Simba… Simba, no need to cry. He's gone," he grunted absently, trying to ignore his own pricks of emotion as his nephew waited there momentarily, simply letting the tears flow softly and steadily down his face in gentle streams. He sniffed, nose contorting into a wrinkled shape before he wiped it with his arm.

"You… you don't understand… this is my fault. I could have done something. I could've warned him… I could've… I could've…" he began to rave, retreating from under his father's paw as the intensity grew in his voice. "I could have saved him, Uncle Scar… if it weren't for those cursed hyenas!"

His voice swelled with anger, and Scar saw briefly, in that flash of a moment, the coming true of his worst fears. He saw Mufasa in that little cub. Mufasa, his brother, his greatest oppressor. And as of now, that little cub, that possible future despot, was leaping about the gorge without care, swiping at the rocks, screaming at them, the distraught emotions playing out second after horrifying second.

"When I'm king, I'll kill every last one of them! I'll… I'll… make them pay. I could've saved him."

Simba was blaming himself, but Scar would have none of it, for he knew where the guilt truly lay. He saw the hyenas perched on the cliffs like vultures, waiting for the king to climb to refuge before they swooped down and threw him to his doom. And he saw himself, after his brother's fall, swiping his claws down his throat. He instinctively looked down at them, expecting to see them dripping with the sanguine blood he knew had been attached to him… but there was nothing. Both paws had already been licked clean during the hazy moments following his brother's last breath.

"Simba…" he squeaked, slightly choked and unsure of how to comfort him without giving away the truth, "… this was bound to happen. There was nothing you could have done. Now come, we're going home."

"No!" he shouted in between his watery sobs, rebuking him, "no, you're going home! You're going to go home and forget this ever happened! You don't understand, Uncle Scar." He turned away, and Scar thought that perhaps he was calming himself… until he looked to find the cub hunched over, teeth digging deeply into his own paw and face scrunched into an expression of deep, self-imposed pain.

"Now that's enough of that!" Scar cuffed him, paw clenching his scruff protectively, "go home, Simba!"

The cub whimpered, the anger dissipating and dissolving in his wet, salty tears as he stay there silently, still clearly innocent and vulnerable… no matter how much alike he and Mufasa appeared. After a moment Scar released him tentatively, pity overtaking him.

"I won't forget your father," he muttered softly, tail lashing as he turned to face the mutilated body, "but I must stay. Go back to Pride Rock—I'm sure your mother and Nala would love to see you, hmm?"

He nodded, for he had no strength to do anything else. Slowly, and with a slowness and weariness that deeply worried the older lion, Simba gathered his strength and walked on down the gorge, head hung in a way Scar had never seen it.

And suddenly he felt ashamed.

Alas, it wasn't like that was anything new, but he still couldn't shake the feeling that this… the pain he had caused his nephew… meant that the effort he had made, and the cold corpse lying by his side, were not quite worth it. He looked out sadly, unsure, eyes laced with worry.

"What in spirit's name am I going to do with you, boy?"

"Good question," a rough voice sounded from his rear. He spun around. "… but I think we've got an answer. Whadda you think, Banzai? You agree?"

"What do you want?" He spoke bluntly, eyes half-closed and his mindset clearly not in the mood to deal with the hyenas, his companions and accomplices. This was too much at one time to deal with… not to mention that he didn't want to be seen with them, no matter how much their dirty little selves interested him or how long he'd had dealings with their kind.

"Oh, I'm sorry, King Scar, is it so wrong that we would want something, after what we've done?" Shenzi cooed, malice shining in her eyes as it usually did.

"Yeah!" Her brother spoke up, expression careless and irritated, "we got rid'a your brother for ya! Aren't we gonna get somethin'?"

"Hush, now, Banzai. That ain't necessary… perhaps he'd rather've had him escape. Mufasa prob'ly would've had his hide tanning on the top of Pride Rock by now."

The third of their trio, Ed, laughed absently, approaching Scar until he was uncomfortably close. A trickle of saliva flopped about limply at the edges of his jaw, one hanging rivulet flying off and landing square on their leonine ally's nose. He scrunched it in distaste.

"What do you want?" He repeated more emphatically than before, expression unchanged.

"I want the cub," she spoke with an equal flatness, teeth bared in a slight growl. "How's that sound? Fair enough?"

"I can't do that, I'm afraid," he spoke without hesitation, "he's mine. I'll take him as my own, and teach him what Mufasa failed to."

"How nice." She moved closer, something in her posture slightly threatening. "I never thought of you as one ta leave a job unfinished, Scar. Why, that'd be… shameful. You got rid'a the father… now finish what you started."

"Why are you so intent on this?" He shot back, uncomfortable. "I have no cubs of my own. He shall be my heir and keep his position."

"Keep his position as our oppressors! I'm not gonna have a spawn of Mufasa sittin' on your throne—that's goin' too far!"

He backed up slightly, her voice carrying a vehemence which was unusual for her and rather grating. His nerves frayed, though his expression was still blithely indifferent in the midst of their uncouth levity.

"What does it matter to any of you? It's not as if you're living here." His eyes darted towards them sharply, the glint there showing his inability to back down on the subject. Indeed, he knew about oppression—far better than they did. It wasn't as if Mufasa was literally breathing down their necks… he simply sent spies to watch the Elephant Graveyard every now and then. The hyenas didn't exactly fight against him: they simply lived on their own, autonomously, in their ancestral home. Why should they care, and why did they see fit to lecture him?

"Leave me be," he turned away, ignoring her attempts at arguing back and the ferocious, indignant glance she sent as he dismissed them. But there were no more words from her throat—at least not to him. She watched him slink away quietly, and turned to Banzai once he had withdrawn from the range of hearing.

"Bastard. I dunno what Mother saw in him sometimes."

Ed began to giggle, though as his laugh continued, his face—previously staring in no particular direction and flopping about in laxness—tensed, his eyes becoming intensely lucid as his crazed giggle became a dark chuckle. He looked to her knowingly, expression brutal and rather angered.

"Guess it runs in the family," he spoke simply, "I'd recommend finding that cub. If he won't repay the good turn we've done for him, we will have to do so ourselves."

He took a few steps forward, paws tapping against the ground and walking, without pause, past the dead body of the monarch they'd helped destroy. Banzai grumbled, trying to keep up with the increased pace the bold hyena set, though finally he glanced back at them, expression questioning.

"You two coming?"

Simba lay at the edge of a gulley, his visage bored as he studied the dry, desiccated landscape.

Dry weeds blew in the wind, which ruffled his soft, golden fur. His head lay on his paws, eyebrows a flattened line over his sunken, melancholic eyes. There was little life in them, and this was expressed simply by the wistful sigh he gave as the wind stopped.

Pride Rock towered in the distance. He should have been over there instead, but alas, he didn't want to go home, despite himself. He couldn't bring himself to do it, even though it was what his uncle told him. His uncle, who had leapt in and saved him from the deadly stampede. But he couldn't go back and see the lionesses, his mother, or Nala… he didn't feel like playing, or talking about what happened. He just wanted to be alone. It was unlike him, true, but his thoughts demanded that he stay by himself, sitting quietly to ponder everything over again at the very edge.

The Pridelands were quiet. They always were. Thusly, it didn't matter much where he stopped to rest, although this place was one of his favorites. Far in the distance he could see the sands of the desert, the greenery of the jungle, the snowcapped peaks of the mountains. Lands beyond where his father ruled, and beyond where he would rule one day. Yet they looked so beautiful, so pristine, so perfect in the distance. He almost reached out, almost extended his paw out to touch it…


His head jerked, sharp ears pricking as they recognized the sound of one of the many dry twigs of the land being cracked under the weight of a paw. Instantly he stood up and whirled around, claws extended defensively as he continued to listen, although the intruding forces made no efforts to conceal themselves.

"… H-hyenas…" he backed up, terrified face belying his inner anger despite himself as the air around him became alight with cacophonous, crazed cackles. "Stay back, I'm not afraid of you!" His ears were pinned back, countenance becoming determined as he planted himself to the ground, refusing to show his fear.

That was what his father would have wanted after all, even if it didn't stop her from laughing at him.

"Wrong choice, kid." The normally crazed hyena spoke up, a brutal grin appearing across his maw as he leapt at him, claws extended and teeth closing in, aiming for his neck. Simba sidestepped, dodged, did as he was taught… and was able to scratch one of them across the eye. He heard a yowl of pain and tried to leap through the trio jumping at him. If he could escape, if he could get back to Pride Rock, then maybe he could get help. Maybe Uncle Scar would be there, maybe—

"Ack!" He felt something on his tail, body jerking back and refusing to sprint forwards as he was pressed to the ground by a hyena. Banzai growled as he clawed his prey across the face, Simba wincing as the hyenas continued to laugh and giggle in fits of mirth.

"We killed your father… and now we're gonna kill you! Ahahahahahahahahaha!"

Simba gritted his teeth before turning and sinking both his claws and his incisors into the hyena's foreleg. He may have been small, but it was enough for him to draw back his paw, enabling him to run. To sprint and bolt and lope across the ground as he sought refuge, just long enough to lose sight of them.

Shenzi, however, unbeknownst to him, hid behind a nearby boulder, somehow knowing that Banzai would not be able to hold him and repositioning herself accordingly. And as the cub ran towards the dazzling heights of Pride Rock, he unwittingly ran closer to his doom.

He made his way towards the looming figure that encompassed him, greeting his body with a harsh collision. A short scrapping of claws and he was already falling to the ground, head throbbing, heart pounding as his blood frothed and gushed from new, open wounds he was barely aware of. He lay there, writhing, trying to get up, though all he could see were the two, then four, then six beady, yellow eyes, which in their seeming evil appeared like demons inside his field of view. He continued to growl and struggle, though it was but a moment before he was briefly aware of the smacking sound.

The blow to his head knocked him out shortly, his vision turning completely back and the last thing he heard being the harsh, merciless cackling of the hyenas who had so pitilessly attacked him.

"Hurry up. We don't want the lions to know what happened."

Banzai and Shenzi walked across the parched earth carefully, neither responding as they both clenched their teeth around one of Simba's hind legs. They dragged his body across the ground, trying to avoid leaving a trail of blood as his ragged, unconscious self neared the edge. The three looked down.

"Think this'll do the trick?"

Each of them pondered it a moment, noticing the jagged, brush-studded boulders and taking the height of the drop into account. For below—far, far below, it seemed—the land opened up from its narrow, rocky gulch and spread out into the wide, dusty plains bordering the desert. Even if he lived, disoriented, injured, and unable to find his way home, he would likely wander into the desert and to his death.

And so Shenzi nodded.

"Alright… on three we're gonna throw him off the cliff… like father, like son." She shrugged, picking up one of his legs and gritting her teeth around it. The other two prepared themselves briefly, and then did so, hoping that the lions would not find out of their crime. After all, Simba was so close to the edge… it looked so much like an accident. They watched the golden body tumble and fall, smacking into some of the rugged, ragged landscape as he did so. The trio winced despite themselves, and after several moments of studying his still, seemingly dead form lying placidly on the edge of a tuft of grass, they turned around and fled without another word.

Moments passed. Then minutes, then hours. The sun flew its course across the sky, distant vultures perked up and charted their course towards the cub in expectation of a free meal. The day crept slowly onwards, no creatures moved about and nothing batted an eye in the heat of the desert day.

What they didn't realize was that the cub would open his eyes. And as he did, struggling and standing on shaky feet as he battled with his own band of vulture followers, he looked to the horizon. Remembering nothing. Seeing, but not understanding.

And in that moment he set off, unknowingly leaving his home and his world behind. For he would be back and he would find the truth—one day, some day, despite what they thought. But for now, like his father, he was no more than a dead lion walking, aimlessly wandering the deserts as he sought the home, memories, and purpose he'd now long forgotten.

A little sad, I guess. Anyways, I have to admit that this is not my best one-shot by any means, but I guess it feels good to put a little something out there for you guys. ^^ Hopefully you all are interested to read a bit more of me from the past - I suppose you could call it a deleted scene, or a bit of history, or something like that.

But enough about me. This is about the film. Here's to a happy 20! Cheers! *clinks champagne*

As always, be sure to R&R or F&F. I read and appreciate all of your comments, faves, and follows. :3

Twin ;P