A/N: A little something in between projects. I saw a picture that dyb on dA created on the theme of Nala and Simba's early relationship and this sort of came out of that. It's three chapters total, and is a bit of a prequel to Pound of Flesh but it can stand alone. Enjoy!


Speaking To You

"No disrespect to Timon and Pumbaa, but Simba, you're no longer a cub. You're our king. They can afford to do nothing. You can't."

"I won't stop being friends with them."

"You know I'm not asking that you—"

"Then how many times do I have to tell you that—"

"'Timon and Pumbaa aren't getting in the way of my duties,'" Nala quoted. She blinked harshly. "Well, they are."

Simba clenched his teeth. How could Nala be so unfair? Get so upset about his friends? Sure, he spent a few hours during the day with the meerkat and warthog who'd raised him from a cub, but was that so terrible? He flicked a pebble with his paw. He wouldn't abandon his friends now that he was back in the Pride Lands. And Nala owed Timon and Pumbaa everything. Pride Rock had a king because they'd saved him from dying in the desert. Without Simba, the lionesses would still be at Scar's beck and call.

"You're never around." Nala lashed her tail. "I can't talk to someone I can't find. I just chased you down so I could talk with you. And now you're ignoring me. Great. Don't listen to me, Simba."

He rolled his eyes. "I am lis—"

"You don't check in with any of us. You don't help with hunting—"

"You know I patrol to keep the hyenas away. And it's a lioness's job to hunt."

Nala's eyes widened. "Not when the land's dead and everyone's starving." For a second, her lip curled. "C'mon, Simba. You're not in the jungle anymore."

He'd lived in the jungle with Timon and Pumbaa longer than he'd lived in the Pride Lands as a cub. He'd gone to sleep with stars peeking through a thick canopy of leaves and branches. He hadn't been able to get the crick out of his neck since the first night he'd slept the stone floor in the family den. In the morning, he craved the scent of damp leaves and earth.

"Do you have anything to say?"

What did she want? What could he say? For her, he'd only existed barely a moon now, and this wasn't an argument over who could climb to the highest tree branch, or who was better at catching mice, or who got to play with the tail of the pride's kill. Those were arguments between cubs. This fully-grown, sultry, bitter, beautiful, angry Nala was a stranger.

"Learn some responsibility, Simba."

"Because I haven't?" Simba scoffed.

Nala narrowed her eyes and stared him down. "You have no idea what I've done to keep this pride going." She lowered her eyes. The all-to-familiar fire in the pale-furred lioness's aqua eyes diminished. Nala turned away from him. Simba raised an eyebrow.

"You're here in the Pride Lands, and you're part of our pride. We're still rebuilding and need everyone's help right now." She muttered something else under her breath before she jogged away.

Should I follow her? Simba had told Timon and Pumbaa he'd meet them at sunrise at the small watering hole they'd found a few days before. After he walked the border, they were going to go swimming, and the last thing he wanted was to be around an angry Nala.

She did look really unhappy…

Shuffling his paws, he turned and decided to meet his friends. The lionesses didn't need him as much as Nala thought.

New grasses were beginning to take root, and the trees had little buds on them, but the land had been ravaged by the hyenas, and time was the only thing that could heal what had been done to it. Word would also have to get to the herds that the Pride Lands were safe for grazing again. Simba's stomach growled at this observation as he walked. Now that he thought about it, he had yet to see more than a small cluster of skittish impala rooting around in some undergrowth.

But even if Nala wants my help, I'd be useless… The biggest thing I've ever caught was a chameleon that looked older than Rafiki.

Simba found his friends. As they walked the border, Timon and Pumbaa bickered like usual. Simba did his best to play along, but his heart wasn't in it. At the end of the walk, he felt like he might need some time to himself.

"You know, guys… I think I'm gonna call it a day."

"What? So soon?" Timon watched Simba's face. "Hey, what's goin' on? You sick? You look sick."

Simba shook his head. "I'm not."

"What's wrong, Simba?" Pumbaa questioned.

Simba looked away. "Nala's mad at me."

"Ah. Well y'know I've seen the toothy end of that lioness when she's angry." The meerkat flinched. "Sheesh. I still have nightmares."

"But that's only because she was starving," Pumbaa put in.

"We've… been upset with each other. Her and I. We fought this morning."

Timon's eyes widened. "She didn't lay a claw on ya, did she?"

"No! Of course not!" Simba pursed his mouth. "It's just… I-I just don't know what to say to her anymore. I don't know what she wants."

"Did you ask her?" Pumbaa tilted his head to the side.

"Well…"

Timon waved dismissively. "He can ask Nala all he wants. Ladies don't know what they want. Simba, if I were you, I'd just keep up the good work. You're doing fine! I mean, you killed that uncle of yours, right?"

Simba's face flushed. He muttered, "I didn't kill him… the hyenas did."

"Either way you're doing a heck of a job being king, eh?"

As he listened to Timon's empty praise, Simba wasn't so sure. But, he did feel like he was doing the job of his father. Someone had to make sure the pride was safe. His father had never helped with the hunting—his mother had almost seemed bothered at times when he'd poked into her duties. Didn't Nala have a handle on things?

"I don't know… Maybe—"

"A swim will pick you right back up, buddy!" Timon jumped onto Simba's shoulders and attempted to massage his neck through Simba's thick mane, but quickly gave up. "What's one afternoon? And it'll give her time to think up an apology."

Simba doubted that Nala would be the one to offer an apology, but perhaps she needed a breather to relax; he still felt agitated, too. He sighed and gave in. "All right. But only for a little while. I'm serious." He turned towards their new watering hole.

"Oh, boy! You made the right choice, pal!" Timon leaped onto Pumbaa's back, and the warthog reared up and trotted after Simba.