Since I Found You
Author's Note: This story features Regal Heart Lioness, my custom character, and she is Brave Heart Lion's twin sister. On a side note, I know very little about hypnosis, so what I'm writing about is from bits and pieces of things I've read on the net, so bear with me…*big grin*
"There!" the cream colored bear pointed, and she and her traveling companion, a small purple horse, broke into a run.
Trying to find anyone in the tall grass of the African plains was like trying to find a needle in a haystack, but that was only if one relied on their sense of sight alone. A high-pitched wailing carried over the tops of the grass, borne on the wind to their ears, and they soon came across a solitary lion cub and his mother.
The lioness was clearly dead, her wounds horrible, and her little son was trying in vain to wake her; he was shaking her, and trying to lift her enormous head in his little paws. He looked up when the bear and the horse arrived, and screamed even louder, pointing to his mother with a tiny orange finger. The bear picked up the frightened cub and cuddled him tenderly, shushing him and patting his back as he sobbed into her chest, while the horse stooped to examine the lioness.
"I don't understand…" he said quietly, "Just like the other cubs, he is very like us…his mother is not. She would have gone on all fours, and she's huge. And look," he reverently lifted one of the lioness's massive paws and pressed on the pads, causing the claws to extend, "none of us has nails like these…"
"Friend horse, there is no time to think about that," said the bear, "we have to get this little one back to the ship. He's probably hungry, and he needs a bath…and he's been traumatized by his mother's death. It's not fair to expose him to such a sight…"
The horse nodded, and stood back up. "You're right, of course…what shall we name this one?"
The bear thought for a moment, and said, "Well…after getting such a rough start, he needs a name that will give him strength…I think we should call him 'Brave Heart'."
The horse nodded again. "Brave Heart it is."
"Do you…do you think we should just…leave her here?" asked the bear.
The horse nodded sadly. "I'm afraid there's nothing we can do for her…and whatever killed her might still be here. Her son's still alive, and he needs us now." he looked once more at the lioness, then turned resolutely away. "Let's go."
And so they left, the newly-named lion cub pointing over the bear's shoulder and wailing loudly. "Maa! Maaaa!"
It wasn't until hours later that a female lion cub made her way through the tall grass to the lioness's body…
* * *
"This way." Tender Heart whispered, leading the way through No Heart's castle. Brave Heart Lion, Bright Heart Raccoon, Grumpy Bear, Friend Bear and Secret Bear were following close behind.
No Heart had captured Gentle Heart Lamb in yet another attempt to lure the other Care Bears and Care Bear Cousins to their doom, and this was getting to be something of a routine...
"This is really getting old." Grumpy Bear folded his arms. "Every time you turn around, he's either kidnapping one of us, letting his shadows run amok on Earth, or laughing like a loon! You'd think he'd get tired of the same old thing…"
"I wouldn't complain, Grumpy." Bright Heart cautioned him, "At least this way, we know what to expect from him. Heaven help us if he ever gets his hands on a weapon of mass destruction."
"He is a weapon of mass destruction!" Grumpy snorted.
"All right, you two, knock it off." Brave Heart looked back at them, then pointed ahead of him; the hallway that they had been following branched suddenly into two different directions. "We'll have to split up here. You two, come with me. Tender Heart, you and the others head that way."
"Right." The brown bear lead Friend and Secret to the right, while the others took the left path.
Some time later, Secret Bear whispered something in Friend's ear, and Friend Bear piped up, "Secret Bear says we've been walking forever; why don't we start trying out different doors and see where they lead?"
"That might not be such a good idea…" Tender Heart began, but Secret Bear had already opened a door and disappeared into it. The next moment he poked his head back out, and motioned urgently for them to follow him. "What is it, Secret?" asked Tender Heart, but as usual he got no answer other than excited hand gestures. He sighed and followed Friend Bear, then stopped short and gasped at what Secret Bear was pointing to.
"I…don't…believe it!" he whispered.
Secret Bear had led them into a broom closet, the most mundane of rooms…but lying on the dusty floor, covered in cobwebs, was a lioness. This was no ordinary lioness, that much was obvious; she would have been no taller than Tender Heart himself, had she been standing up. In truth, she looked a lot like Brave Heart! She was just like them in every respect except one; she had no tummy symbol. Secret Bear was brushing her free of cobwebs, and shaking her gently by the shoulder. She didn't move.
Tender Heart approached them and knelt down beside her, shaking her gently, just as Secret Bear had done. "Miss? Are you all right? Wake up. Come on, wake up. Miss?"
She still didn't move. She was alive; she was breathing and had a pulse, and she was warm. She just would not wake up. "Huh…" Tender Heart frowned. "I wonder how…"
"Charge!!" came Brave Heart's voice.
"Whoa!" Tender Heart jumped. There was a clattering noise not far away from where they were, and Tender Heart scooped the lioness up in his arms. "That's it! Everybody run!"
They streaked out of the room, nearly colliding with the other three, who had Gentle Heart in tow. There was no time to speak; they ran at top speed as No Heart chased them, having taken on the form of a bull.
They barely made it out; No Heart had blundered into a trap that he had apparently not known about. "Beastly!!" he roared, to the laughter of the escaping Care Bears and Cousins.
"Ohh…" Grumpy Bear groaned, clutching his head, which had a sizable gash in it. Gentle Heart used her tummy symbol to produce a wet cloth, and rather than dabbing at the cut herself she handed it to him.
"Thanks." He mumbled. He normally preferred to take care of his own injuries, but he had a suspicion that this one would need stitches…it was off to Take Care Bear's office for him. "This is great…I'll probably have a scar now…"
"No, you won't," said Friend Bear, who had the lioness stretched across her and Secret Bear's laps, "I had my appendix out three years ago, and there's no scar."
"On the other hand, a scar might make you look tough." Joked Brave Heart, who did a double-take after smirking at Friend Bear, and asked, "Hey, who's that?"
Bright Heart glanced briefly over, then returned his attention to his driving. Tender Heart shrugged, not looking over, since he was driving the other Cloudmobile. "We don't know." he said, "We found her in one of No Heart's broom closets, of all places."
Brave Heart squinted, trying to get a better look at the lioness's face. "Well…she looks real familiar…"
"Wishful thinking?" Grumpy Bear raised an eyebrow, giving Brave Heart a wry smirk.
Not much was said after that, and soon they were flying over the outskirts of the Forest of Feelings, where Take Care Bear lived and practiced medicine. She had originally lived in the forest itself, but now she lived where she could help both the Care Bears and the Care Bear Cousins with their illnesses and injuries. As Bright Heart and Tender Heart touched down, the red bear with the apple tummy symbol ran out of her house and embraced Gentle Heart as she climbed out of the Cloudmobile. "You're okay!" she exclaimed, before catching sight of Grumpy Bear, who was holding a cloth to his bleeding forehead…then she noticed the comatose lioness. "Come on in."
They followed her in, Tender Heart carrying the lioness, and Brave Heart walked directly beside him, still looking at her face and wondering. When he was a cub, he used to have dreams about another lion cub…a female…He had thought they were just that…dreams. Even so, deep down, he always wondered…was there ever a sister? Or was she just a dream? And now, here was this lioness, who looked to be about his age…maybe…just maybe…
"Set her down here…" Take Care was saying. "Grumpy, can you hang on a few minutes?"
He nodded, and indicated with a wave of his paw for her to get on with it. Tender Heart set her down on the exam table, and Take Care washed her hands and grabbed her stethoscope and blood pressure cuff. She listened to her heart and took her blood pressure, then she shined a pen light into the lioness's eyes. "Hmm…" she frowned, and got an ear thermometer out of a drawer and inserted the ear piece into the lioness's ear and pressed the button. "Normal…" She then checked the lioness over for broken bones, and found none. "Huh…"
The others exchanged several glances, and Friend Bear asked, "What's wrong with her? Why won't she wake up?"
Take Care shook her head, and said, "I'm not sure…no broken bones…everything seems normal…all I can think of is that she might have been drugged. Bright Heart, can you go get me my H.P.I.D.?"
The raccoon nodded, and came back with a strange looking contraption that made several of them wince. H.P.I.D. stood for Hemo-plasmic Indicating Device, and basically its function was to run blood samples in a fraction of the time it would have taken on Earth with the human's machines. Brave Heart looked away as Take Care drew a blood sample; due to a previous event in his life, the sight of blood still turned his stomach…He pulled up a chair and sat down, feeling dizzy.
Moments later, the machine spat out several sheets of paper, which Take Care Bear quickly tore off as they emerged. She pulled up a stool and straddled it as she read…and her jaw dropped. "Oh…my…gosh…"
"What? What's wrong?" several of them demanded at once.
"Nothing…nothing's wrong with her at all, but…I don't believe it…" she looked from the lioness to Brave Heart, then back again, shaking her head in wonder. Bright Heart took the papers from her, and after a minute he sat down hard on one of the beds.
"Well?" Grumpy Bear put his free paw on his hip, frowning. "Are you going to tell us, or are you going to just sit there all day?"
"Well…" Bright Heart said, glancing at Take Care, who seemed to be unable to speak, "The machine ran a DNA search, looking for imperfections and whatnot…and incredible as it seems…this lioness is Brave Heart's biological sister!"
Several of the others followed suit, and sat down quickly. Brave Heart stared open-mouthed at the lioness, a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. They weren't just dreams after all…"Sis…" he reached out and took her hand, and suddenly she began to glow yellow. He quickly tried to let go, but it was like their hands were glued together…then he realized that this was because she was squeezing his fingers in a vice-like grip that made his knuckles crack. He winced, and the glow faded as suddenly as it had come; her eyes flew open, and she sat up quickly with a yell.
"Whoa!" Brave Heart jumped, and Take Care gently forced her to lay back down.
"Easy, now…" the lioness was too shocked to resist the hands that held her down, and she stared up at Take Care, panting.
"What…who…" she gasped.
"I'm Take Care Bear. These…" she waved a hand to include the others, "are some of the Care Bears and Care Bear Cousins. You're in the Kingdom of Caring."
"Never heard of it…" the lioness mumbled, trembling. Oddly enough she didn't look like she was frightened, but she did look very confused. Her trembling was most likely a side effect of her being awakened from the sleep spell, for that was undoubtedly what it was.
Take Care cleared her throat, and said, "I know this is a lot to take in right now, but there's someone here I think you should meet." She indicated Brave Heart, who was rubbing his aching paw and looking down at the lioness with a little half-smile, suddenly shy. Take Care continued, "This is Brave Heart Lion…your brother."
The lioness stared up at him, and opened her mouth to speak. At first, all that came out was a raspy croak, a sign that her voice had suffered a bit from disuse. Finally, she managed to whisper, "I…I remember you! I thought you were…"
She stared at him for a moment more, then she suddenly launched herself at him, hugging him and crying loudly.
He patted her awkwardly on the back, getting a bit choked up himself, and said, "It's okay…whatever happened, it's over now. You're back!"
The others, feeling like intruders for witnessing such a personal moment, left for the waiting room. Grumpy Bear didn't even complain that his cut would have to wait even longer than he had expected…he wasn't overly fond of needles, so it didn't bother him as much as might be expected. However, Take Care offered to stitch it up in the waiting room, so he was stuck having it done anyway.
Finally the lioness pulled back, laughing and crying at the same time. "Just my luck! A boy lion turns up, and I find out we're related!" she said, winking to show that she was kidding. Brave Heart snickered and handed her a tissue from the bedside table, getting one for himself too, and after she had used it she noticed something. "What's that, a tattoo?" she asked, pointing to his tummy symbol.
"Huh?" he looked down, bringing his paws self-consciously to his belly. "Oh, no…it's my tummy symbol."
"Your what?" she asked.
"Every member of the Care Bear Family has one. See, each symbol describes the bearer in some way…they have other uses, but I think True Heart and Noble Heart would be the best ones to tell you about those."
Almost as if on cue there was a knock at the door, and True Heart peeked in and asked, "Can I come in?"
Brave Heart nodded, saying, "True Heart, I know you won't believe this, but…"
"I know," True Heart interrupted, looking very upset. "She's your sister. But…but how we didn't see her…I'm so sorry…" she shook her head at the lioness, who looked puzzled.
She glanced at Brave Heart, then smiled at the cream colored bear he had called 'True Heart.' "It's okay, really. I was found and raised by humans…" she frowned, looking down. "Though…I'm not sure how I know that…"
"Well…my name is True Heart. We were obviously meant to find you, even though we didn't…I'd be very happy to welcome you to the Care Bear Family…if you want to join us."
The lioness smiled at Brave Heart, whose eyes were practically begging her to say yes, and she nodded at True Heart. "Yeah…yeah, I do."
True Heart came forward, and they embraced. "Welcome to the family!" True Heart whispered, sounding like she was almost crying. The lioness didn't know how to respond to being hugged by a bear she hardly knew, but for some reason it made her feel safe. It almost felt like she had just come home. True Heart opened the door and beckoned, and a brown bear with a heart on his tummy stepped in. "This is Tender Heart, the leader of the Care Bears. He'll be giving you your tummy symbol."
"Um…what exactly does that involve?" the lioness asked, looking apprehensive; she knew that tattoos were applied with needles, and the idea didn't sit well with her. Still, Brave Heart had said that they weren't tattoos…
"Don't be afraid," said Tender Heart, reading her expression. "It won't hurt at all; it'll just feel warm for a minute. Are you ready?"
She nodded uncertainly, and Tender Heart grew tense for a moment as his tummy symbol began to glow. A glowing heart hovered in the air between them for a moment, then adhered itself to her tummy and flared with a blinding white before disappearing, revealing a brand new symbol on her belly. She looked down at it, as did the others in the room. It was a heart, like Brave Heart's, only instead of having a crown perched on the left side of it like his did, hers had a tiara on the right side. She touched the symbol with her palm; it was still warm. "Cool…" she breathed.
"What's your name?" asked True Heart.
The lioness's expression changed from happy wonder to sorrow, and she said haltingly, "I…I can't remember much from before I went to sleep…"
Brave Heart put a protective arm around her, and True Heart bit her lip. There was a certain quiet dignity to the lioness's sorrow, and it gave True Heart an idea. "Well…if I might suggest one…" When the lioness nodded, she said, "What do you think of 'Regal Heart Lioness?'"
The lioness looked up and smiled. "I love it! That can be my name."
* * *
The rest of the day was taken slowly. Take Care Bear had let them stay in a spare exam room so that they could talk, and had left them a pot of chamomile tea, which she said was good for the stomach. Since Regal Heart hadn't had anything to eat in a who knew how long, Take Care didn't want to push it and have her getting sick. Regal Heart sipped her tea quietly, and said to herself, "I think I've found my favorite drink."
Brave Heart shrugged. "I prefer Pepsi, myself…"
"That's good, too." said Regal Heart, who frowned briefly, then went back to her tea. She didn't seem to be shy at all, but she still got these faraway looks on her face, as if she was trying to remember something, but that something was always just out of reach. "So, how did this…this family get started?" she asked.
"Long story…" Brave Heart sighed, pouring himself some tea and using his tummy symbol to produce a plate of cookies. He gave one to his sister and took one for himself, then sat back. "I guess you could say it all started with True Heart and Noble Heart, but it really started with The Great Wishing Star. He's the one who led True Heart and Noble Heart to each of us, but they didn't know it at the time. We were brought up to the Kingdom of Caring, and we grew up here. Well, the Care Bears grew up in Care-A-Lot, and us Care Bear Cousins grew up in the Forest of Feelings. You know, I'm really not very good at this…I think I better leave that to them…but I can tell you what we do. We go down to Earth when the Caring Meter lets us know there's trouble. We help whoever needs help."
"Yes, but supposing you can't help everyone?" she asked, and was appalled when his face fell and he turned away, bringing a paw up to his face. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean…"
"It's not you." he said, turning to face her, and he looked very sad indeed; in fact, she could have sworn that he was almost on the verge of tears. "Yes, caring missions sometimes do fail…that happened with me a few months ago, in fact…the girl I was trying to help…well, she died."
Regal Heart didn't know what to say. She shook her head mutely, and placed her hand over her brother's.
"It's okay," he said, "I mean, it's not okay that she died, but…well, it's over now. I just don't like to talk about it, that's all."
"Then we won't." said Regal.
Brave Heart nodded his appreciation, and asked, "So, how did you get inside No Heart's castle?"
"I don't even know who this No Heart is…I can only remember little flashes of the past before waking up here. None of them makes sense." She shrugged. Then she asked, "Um…do you remember our mother, Brave Heart?"
He shrugged, and said, "I wish I could. I…I kinda remember being carried by the scruff of my neck, and that's about it." He snickered, and said, "I also remember you pouncing on my tail and biting it! I used to dream about you when I was a cub, and I thought that was all they were. Dreams..."
Regal Heart neglected to mention that she remembered dreaming about a dead lioness at one point in her youth, but it was a different sort of lioness; she would have gone on all fours, and could not talk. Out loud, she said, "I don't know…I feel like I should be able to remember more than I do."
"Well, we were both so young…it's not surprising." He told her, and she shook her head.
"It's not just that…I can't understand how I'm able to speak and understand words, when I can't even remember being taught English! I don't understand how I know what pizza tastes like, when I can't remember ever having eaten it. And how is it that I can talk to you so easily, and love you like a brother as if we'd never parted, when I can barely remember you at all?" she put her head in her paws and sighed, rubbing her temples.
He put an arm around her, and said, "Well, if you were under a spell cast by No Heart for so long, it's not surprising that you have a lot of memory gaps. It'll come back, and in the meantime you have me, and a whole family to rely on."
She looked up, and asked, "How can you be so…so generous to a total stranger?"
He laughed, and gently rumpled the fur on top of her head, "You're no stranger; you're my sis!"
* * *
That evening, the Hall of Hearts was buzzing with activity. A feast was being prepared in Regal Heart's honor, and everyone was curious and eager to meet the newest member of their family. Grumpy Bear, who now wore a bandage around his head, stood by the punch bowl and ladled himself a cup of punch. He popped a small object into his mouth, and washed it down with a grimace.
"Whatcha doing, Grumpy?" asked Playful Heart, peeking out from under the table cloth.
"Taking an aspirin…what are you doing under there?"
Playful Heart giggled. "It's a surprise!"
"You and your surprises…" Grumpy mumbled, ambling away; he still didn't feel very well. He spotted Tender Heart, who was supervising the decorating, and approached him. "Hey, Tender Heart, can you do me a favor?"
"Sure, Grumpy. What is it?"
"I'm going to take a nap. Wake me up before it's time to start?"
"No problem." Said Tender Heart, "Are you feeling okay?"
Grumpy Bear shrugged. "I guess so…that numbing stuff of Take Care's wore off, and I just want to lie down."
"Okay. Call me if you need anything." Said Tender Heart. Grumpy nodded, and headed for one of the spare bedrooms. His head was pounding…
Two hours later, way too soon for his liking, Grumpy got his wake-up call. He yawned, and ran a paw through his head-fur.
Brave Heart and Regal Heart entered the Hall of Hearts just as the food was being laid out, and the room burst into applause. Brave Heart smiled proudly, and Regal Heart said, "Man oh man…this place is huge!"
"Yep. Come on, let's sit down. True Heart'll introduce ya, and then we can eat. It won't be so bad."
Regal Heart smirked at him, and said, "I never said it would be. I'm just not used to being stared at."
"They're staring 'cause you're new, that's all." He shrugged, leading her to their seats. "They'll get over it."
Regal Heart was sitting between Brave Heart and a purple bear with three hearts on her tummy, one big and two small, who she would later know as Harmony Bear. Just as Regal Heart's stomach was beginning to growl, True Heart raised her arms for silence. When she had everyone's attention, she began to speak. "I am pleased to announce the arrival of our newest family member," she indicated that Regal Heart should stand up, and the lioness complied, blushing furiously. "This is Regal Heart Lioness, our newest Care Bear Cousin, and sister to our own Brave Heart Lion!"
The applause that followed was deafening, and Regal Heart found it impossible not to smile. True Heart continued, "When Noble Heart and I found Brave Heart he was alone, and we thought wrongly that he was the only one the Great Wishing Star led us to that day. It is with a heavy heart that I apologize to you and to her, but it is with a happy heart that I welcome her to our family! Regal Heart, I hope you will be very happy here."
Regal Heart felt obligated to say something, but all she could manage was a simple, "Thank you!"
She sat down, and Brave Heart offered her one of the many bowls of spaghetti. The feast was underway! Actually, it was more like a pizza party than a feast; in addition to spaghetti, there was an assortment of vegetable platters, pizza, chips and dip, and pretzels. To drink there was chocolate milk, white milk, RC Cola, Coke, Pepsi, water, Sprite, and punch. For dessert there were cookies, cakes, and ice cream. Regal Heart, who had had nothing to eat in years but was sustained by the spell, was suddenly ravenous. She ate politely, but the quantity of food that she consumed was mind-boggling. Brave Heart, who also ate a lot as a rule, was privately astonished by her appetite.
When everyone was picking at the leftovers, True Heart and Noble Heart approached Regal Heart to tell her that a house had been prepared for her next to Brave Heart's cave. "Thank you…you didn't have to do that…"
Noble Heart winked, and said, "Well, if you'll be joining the family, we can't very well leave you to sleep outside!"
Regal Heart laughed, and everyone in the immediate area noticed how similar her laugh was to Brave Heart's. "But wait," she said, "how did you build a house in a day?"
Noble Heart replied, "The other Cousins and I used our tummy symbols…but you'll learn how to use yours in time. It's great to have you joining us, Regal Heart. I hope you like it here."
Regal Heart was only slightly embarrassed when he shook her hand.
"She will." Said Brave Heart.
Baby Hugs and Baby Tugs came over, and climbed into her lap; she barely had time to say, "Well, hello the—" before Hugs gave her one of her famous hugs. "Wha…huh?"
"Welcome to the Care Bear Family!" Hugs cried, flinging her little arms wide and almost toppling off before Regal Heart instinctively slipped an arm behind her.
Tugs said, "I'm Tugs, and that's Hugs. Are you really Brave Heart's sister?"
"Easy, you two." Brave Heart intervened, almost laughing. "Yeah, this is my sister, Regal Heart…I never thought I'd be saying that." He smiled, and she smiled back.
"You're real pretty." Said Hugs, "You kinda look like Brave Heart, though."
"Thanks…I think…" Regal Heart's smile became rather forced. Saucy little cub!
"Hey, Regal Heart, can you roar like Brave Heart?" asked Tugs.
"Um…I don't know." she chuckled, "I've never heard him roar, so I don't know how he sounds."
Brave Heart stood up, and said, "I sound like this…Rrrooooaaawrrr!" The sheer force and surprising nature of his roar caused many of the people in the room to jump, and Grumpy spilled his drink in his lap.
"Oh, fiddlesticks!" he groaned, "Did you have to do that?"
Brave Heart tossed him a napkin without looking, and asked, "Can you top that?"
His sister grinned, put the cubs down, stood up, and blasted a roar twice as loud as his. Brave Heart sat down in his chair as if he had been shoved, his face a mask of shock. Playful Heart put an arm around each of them, saying, "I think you've got competition, Brave Heart!" He kissed Regal Heart on the cheek, ruffled Brave Heart's mane, and made a quick getaway. Brave Heart snarled and chased him twice around the table until the monkey dove underneath it, much to everyone's amusement, and when he sat back down he shook his mane back into place and laughed.
"I'll take care of him later!" he grinned at his sister, who was laughing so hard she could barely sit up. "Playful Heart's always laughing or joking about something…"
At that moment "The Electric Slide" began to play, Playful Heart's hands pushed a boom box out from under the tablecloth. The monkey somersaulted into sight, and in less then five seconds he was on his feet and dancing. Others got up and followed suit, and Regal Heart raised an eyebrow.
"See what I mean?" asked Brave Heart, "Hopeless…"
Playful Heart scampered over to Regal Heart, grabbed her by the paw, and dragged the protesting lioness onto the dance floor. Brave Heart shook his head, and joined in. "Oh well…I prefer line dancing, but this isn't bad I guess…"
Playful Heart, meanwhile, was teaching Regal Heart the dance steps, and soon she was actually the second best dancer on the floor, second only to Harmony Bear. Pretty soon she and Harmony Bear were involved in a good-natured competition, adding things to the dance and making it better, so that after the song was playing through a second time they were the only ones dancing. Everyone else was watching them.
After "The Electric Slide" came "The Chicken Dance," then "The Macarena" and the "Limbo." Obviously, Playful Heart had picked out the music. Swift Heart Rabbit finally got tired of all the fast stuff and popped in an Air Supply CD. "Now and Forever" began to play, and everyone paired off.
"Wanna dance?" Playful Heart asked Regal Heart, and she shrugged and said sure. They slow-danced until "Even the Nights Are Better" came on, and Brave Heart, who had been dancing with Cozy Heart Penguin, said something to Cozy and she nodded.
He approached Regal Heart and Playful Heart and said, "Mind if I cut in?"
"Sure." Said Playful, intercepting Cozy Heart as they traded partners.
"So," said Brave Heart, "How do you like it here so far?"
She shrugged, and said, "Well…it's a bit overwhelming…" seeing his concerned look she sighed and shook her head, saying, "One minute, it's almost like I don't exist, and then bang! I'm dancing with my brother, and I have this big, huge family. It's fun until I actually stop and think about it…then I'm just confused."
"Don't think about it tonight," he advised her, "There's plenty of time for that later."
She nodded, then her look turned mischievous and she said, "So…you and that purple penguin over there…" she let the question hang in the air between them, and he laughed.
"Oh, that's Cozy Heart. We're just friends. And what about you and Playful Heart?" he returned her teasing grin.
"I barely know him!" she laughed. "He's very funny, but I definitely don't see anything happening between us."
Playful Heart had overheard, and he winked. "Aww, shot down again!"
The song ended, and Harmony Bear popped in the "Top Gun" soundtrack.
"All right!" Brave Heart yelled when "Danger Zone" began to play. Regal Heart just had to laugh as he began dancing like a maniac and singing along. " 'Revvin' up yer engine, listen to her howlin' roar! Metal under tension, beggin' you ta touch and go! Hiiighway tooo the danger zone! Riiide intooo the danger zooone!"
Regal Heart giggled and shook her head, then she was pulled aside by Playful Heart, who apparently wasn't done dancing with her yet.
* * *
When the adult dreamed, she dreamed as a cub. Two lion cubs were playing on the African Savannah, unaware that they would soon be in mortal danger. They were young, barely three weeks old, and their mother had not yet brought them out to join the pride. She knew that one of the cubs was her; it was like watching a family movie.
Then four hyenas appeared out of nowhere and tried to attack the cubs. The mother lion killed three and badly mauled the fourth, but was herself mortally wounded. She carried her cubs to another thicket she had picked out beforehand, and collapsed. The cubs changed form, and were recognizable as a very young Brave Heart and Regal Heart.
Time jumped ahead, and Regal Heart saw two kind human faces that seemed to hover in the air in front of her…then a tornado sucked the faces into oblivion…the tornado had eyes…large red eyes…a woman's shriek was heard, as well as No Heart's laughter. She knew who this No Heart was! She woke up screaming.
* * *
Regal Heart reached Brave Heart's door just as he was throwing it open, having heard her. His mane stuck up in comic tufts, and he was clutching a powerful flashlight in his left paw. He took a defensive stance and his tummy symbol glowed briefly, but then he saw that it wasn't some hideous apparition standing on his front porch. It was his sister, who was shielding her eyes from the white beam of the flashlight, her ears tucked so far back that he could barely see them. She was crying. He lowered the flashlight, and she hugged herself and shook.
"Gosh, I'm sorry!" he said, putting an arm around her shoulders, "Come in!"
He led her inside, and sat beside her on the couch and held her until she had calmed down enough to explain. It only took a minute to tell him, and she was plainly embarrassed that she had bothered him with it. "It wasn't very clear…you must think I'm real silly…"
"You're not silly at all. That tornado sounds a lot like No Heart; he can change his shape." He told her.
"So…so it wasn't just a dream?" she asked.
Brave Heart looked uncomfortable, and said, "I don't know…tell you what, maybe you better spend the night here, and we'll go see Take Care Bear in the morning. She might be able to help you with that…I think she studied dream psycho…something a while ago, just for something to do. She might know."
"Okay." Regal Heart lifted her head and looked around.
Brave Heart's cave was unnaturally bright, lit by several lamps, and there was a night light in almost every available socket. He seemed to notice her interest, and avoided questions by saying, "Those are just in case I have to get up at night…you know…" he shrugged and blushed, and she deduced that he was afraid of the dark.
She chose not to mention it, however, and said instead, "Do you collect night lights? I used to collect bottle caps for a while…" she frowned. How had she known that?
Brave Heart cleared his throat, and said, "It's not something I brag about…but yeah. Here, why don't you sleep in my bedroom tonight…you can turn off the lights there if you want…I'll sleep out here on the hide-a-bed."
"The what?" she blinked.
"This couch. It folds out into a bed." He patted the arm of the couch.
"Oh. I don't want to take your bed away from you."
He smiled. "I wouldn't have offered if I didn't want you to have it. Take it, I'll be fine out here."
* * *
The next day, Brave Heart drove Regal Heart in his Cloudmobile to Take Care Bear's clinic/house, and he was just raising his paw to knock when the caring beeper he had left on the car seat began to beep. "Shoot…hang on a sec…" he checked it, and saw that it was only blinking green. Most likely, someone was getting teased. "I better take this…" He knocked on the door, and Take Care opened it a moment later.
"Hi, Regal Heart. Hey, Brave Heart. Come on in." she said.
"I can't stay; I just got a caring mission." Said Brave Heart, "I'll be back as soon as I can." He turned to Regal Heart, and asked, "Will you be okay without me?"
"Go, I'll be fine." she replied with more conviction than she felt. Brave Heart waved to Take Care, who waved back in mild bewilderment as he got into his Cloudmobile and drove off. Regal Heart had seemed healthy the day before…what could have happened since then?
"Come in." said Take Care, standing aside, and the lioness passed her. Her tail was lashing from side to side, and she was looking at the floor. Seeing how nervous she was, Take Care washed her paws and prepared a pot of chamomile tea, which Regal Heart had seemed to like the day before. Then she noticed that the lioness was still standing. "Oh, sit down. There's nothing to be nervous about. Why don't you tell me what's bothering you?" she handed Regal a cup of tea, and the lioness had to set it down on the tray when she spilled some on the floor.
"Sorry…" she grabbed a napkin and dabbed at the spill, and Take Care hid a smile. Brave Heart was never this nervous…of course, she had known him since he was a cub…
"Don't worry about it. And relax. I'm the Care Bear Family's doctor, but I'm also a member of the family. If you need help with something, you can tell me."
"Well…" Regal Heart placed the dirty napkin in the waste basket. "It's silly. I had a nightmare last night, and Brave Heart said I should tell you about it…said you know something about dreams."
"Well…sort of. Tell me your dream, and I'll tell you what I think."
So Regal Heart did just that. She also added, "The thing is, I'm not sure it was just a dream, and Brave Heart doesn't think so either…Yesterday he said he remembers bits and pieces of when we were cubs that day…if that day actually happened…"
Take Care nodded, saying, "If you and Brave Heart are remembering some of the same things, it's pretty likely that it really happened. Also, since you were found in No Heart's castle, and No Heart was in the dream, he fits into your past somehow."
Regal Heart frowned, and said, "But what is my past? I can't remember much at all, and what I can remember doesn't make any sense to me!"
"Hmmm…" Take Care looked down and was silent for a while, considering something. Finally she looked up, and said, "Have you ever heard of hypnosis?"
Regal Heart nodded, immediately looking disappointed. Was this bear some kind of witch doctor? "Just a bit. Why?"
"Well, I think it might help you get your memory back…not just bits and pieces, but all of it. Will you let me try it?"
Regal Heart looked down at her paws, and nodded. What did she have to lose? Just then someone knocked on the door, and Take Care went to get it. It was Brave Heart.
"That was quick." Observed the red bear.
Brave Heart nodded, coming in and sitting down. "Yeah. It was almost directly below us. Some kids were teasing a stray puppy." He looked disgusted, but then he smiled, and said, "When I explained to them just why it was wrong, they were sorry. They even returned the missing puppy to its owner; it was wearing a tag, and it had just gotten out last night. So it worked out great." He held out his paw for a 'high four,' and Regal Heart laughingly obliged. "So, how did everything go?" he asked.
"Well…" Regal Heart looked embarrassed. "She wants to hypnotize me."
Brave Heart snickered, but then stopped when he saw that they were serious. "Oh." He said, clearly skeptical, "That's…great."
"I think it'll help her get her memory back, and she agreed to try it." Take Care explained.
"Well…" he looked at his sister, "If you want to try it, it's up to you."
"I do…I think." She said.
Take Care stood up, and led them out of the waiting room. "Less chance of interruption back here. Maybe you should stay with her, Brave Heart…you know, for support." She sounded serious, and both lions swallowed hard. Support for what? How bad would this really be?
"Okay." said Brave Heart.
* * *
Regal Heart was laying on a couch, and feeling very silly. Take Care and Brave Heart were sitting on chairs beside her, and the room was almost totally dark. Brave Heart had insisted on a candle, saying that they should at least be able to see where they were going, and Take Care had agreed without asking any questions.
Take Care took out a pen light, and shined it into Regal Heart's eyes, saying, "Focus on nothing but the light and the sound of my voice." She moved the light from side to side, and Regal Heart followed it with her eyes. "Imagine that you are sinking down, down into the couch…the cushions are surrounding you…you feel very warm…it is very hard to stay awake…"
Brave Heart raised an eyebrow, but when he looked back at Regal he noticed that her eyes looked glazed, and she was no longer following the light with them.
"Can you hear me?" asked Take Care.
"Yes…" Regal Heart answered in a soft voice.
Take Care Bear put the flashlight down, and said, "You are now under my power, and must do exactly as I say."
"Yes…" Regal Heart said again.
"Regal Heart, I want you to go back to the point in time where you became a Care Bear Cousin cub. You are now able to remember how this happened…I want you to tell me what you know…"
Regal's eyes grew even more unfocused, and she began to speak. "I…I am stalking something…I am pouncing on my brother's tail…he turns and tackles me…we play while Mother watches…" she tensed up, and her voice began to grow distressed, "Four big dogs attack, and try to take us…Mother kills three, hurts one, and chases it off…she's limping, and her…her belly…She carries my brother away, and comes back for me…she puts me down, and falls over…"
Brave Heart shivered briefly as some of this story began to ring true for him, and Regal Heart moved her head from side to side once, her mouth slack.
"Go on," said Take Care, "What happens next?"
"I feel…warm, and I'm changing…my brother has a mane! But boy cubs don't have manes, those should come later…I'm running away…when I come back he's gone…" she shivered. She was quiet for a moment, then went on, "Mommy found me…"
"Do you mean the lioness?" asked Take Care, who wished she had thought to use a tape recorder…
"No…" Regal shook her head, "Not Mother…Mommy. She and Daddy take me to America with them, and quit their jobs as nature show hosts…they take care of me instead…"
Take Care was becoming more and more curious, but she was also apprehensive…what had happened to these people? "What were their names?"
"Eric and Danica Green…they called me Elisa…they…" she stopped speaking, but Take Care urged her on again. "I was fully grown in a year, but then I just stopped aging…" Both Brave Heart and Take Care nodded; it was the same with everyone in Care-A-Lot, except for Hugs and Tugs, who were still cubs and had been for a long time. Regal Heart continued, "They keep me a secret for my safety, and I'm bored all the time…I want friends…like me or humans, it doesn't matter…They do their best to keep me happy, though…They love me…They…NO!" she screamed suddenly, making Brave Heart and Take Care jump.
"What's happening now?" asked Take Care, refraining from reaching out to the lioness. This was the critical point.
"We're having a picnic in the back yard, and the sky gets dark…a man in a hooded cape is demanding my name, and I don't answer him. Who is he to come to our house and demand names of us? I roar at him, hoping to scare him off…Mommy and Daddy are scared…they're telling me not to make him mad…he grabs me, and I hiss at him…then he lets me go, and…" she trailed off, and began to cry. Brave Heart moved to comfort her, but Take Care put a paw on his arm and shook her head. Brave Heart sat back, looking mutinous.
Take Care, fighting back tears of her own, asked, "What happened next?"
Regal Heart continued, unable to do otherwise while she was under Take Care Bear's power. "He turned into a tornado, and they…couldn't get away! He…he grabs me again, and he…he wants to use me to…to lure the C-Care Bears, but I don't know what he means…he's angry with me…he touches my forehead, and I'm…I'm sleeping…forgetting…but I don't want to forget…I don't…I don't…"
Brave Heart couldn't stand to listen to it anymore, and he turned to Take Care. "That's enough! Wake her up!" His anger wasn't directed his friend, but at the one who had done this to his sister and the family she had loved.
Take Care, who had given up fighting back tears, cleared her throat and said, "Regal Heart, when I clap my hands you will wake up, and you will remember everything."
Take Care Bear clapped her paws twice, and Regal Heart covered her face, sobbing. Brave Heart sat down on the edge of the couch and held his sister close, whispering something that Take Care Bear couldn't hear.
Take Care left the room to brew more tea and blow her nose. When she heard that Regal Heart had stopped crying, she brought in the tea and put the tray down on her desk. "I'm sorry…" she apologized, pouring them all a cup.
Regal Heart sniffled and shook her head, saying, "Don't apologize…I'm glad I know."
"Yeah," Brave Heart nodded, "You were only doing what we asked you to do…No Heart's the one who has a lot to answer for."
Regal's face contorted briefly into a sneer, and a low growl pulsed in her throat. She got up and paced the room for a moment, then sat back down. "Now what?" she asked, "What can we do about No Heart?"
Brave Heart and Take Care exchanged a look, and Brave Heart said, "Well, we've been trying for years to do something. You have to understand this, Regal, he's about ten times as strong as Dark Heart was…"
"Who's Dark Heart?" asked Regal, looking up.
"Well, these days he goes by the name David Hall." Said Brave Heart, "He isn't evil anymore, and he's been our friend for years now. But when he was evil, he tried to destroy us…he tried more than once, actually. It was because of his love for his friend Christy that he lost his evil powers and became human."
"And he married her twelve years later!" added Take Care, grinning.
Brave Heart nodded, smiling at the memory of Grumpy Bear dropping the rings, and Cheer Bear telling him she told him he should have let her tack it down to the little pillow with a stitch…then he realized that the other two were looking at him, and he cleared his throat and continued, "Well, anyway, No Heart's different. We're still not sure just what he is, but all of our Care Bear Stares and Cousin Calls haven't been able to make him care. They just seem to hurt him for some reason. And we can't seem to crack that shell he's built around himself."
Take Care nodded. "He's purely and simply evil. All we can do is keep up the fight."
Regal looked up angrily, and said, "But I want to stop him! I want to make him feel what I felt when he took my parents away from me! I want to get him for this!"
Take Care shook her head sadly, and sighed. "I don't blame you for being angry; I'd be furious…but our powers don't work that way."
Regal Heart was genuinely perplexed. "What do you mean?"
"Well…" the red bear scratched her head, "You'll learn all about Stares and Calls later, but…Well, basically, the more you care, the stronger the Stare. If you let anger and bad feelings take over, you'll hardly be able to Stare or Call at all. I guess you could say that we take the saying 'Love thine enemy' to the next level." She shrugged.
Regal Heart shook her head slowly, her eyes filling with tears again. "But how can I love someone I hate? Don't get the wrong idea…I don't like to hate, but I can't help it…I hate him!"
Take Care frowned slightly. She knew this was a touchy subject, so she chose her words carefully. "Well…you don't have to love him per se…instead, you can direct your love for others at him. Don't even think about hate…Remember your love for your human parents, and your love for your brother, and let that be your strength."
Regal Heart nodded with a little smile, obviously impressed by this explanation.
There was a knock on the door, and Regal hastily wiped her eyes as Take Care Bear got up. "I better get that…"
Take Care opened the door, and Treat Heart Pig walked in, clutching a burned hand. "Why's it so dark in here?" she asked.
Take Care flipped the light switch, and avoided answering by asking, "What happened to your hand?"
Treat Heart blushed. "Well, you know…I was taking some cookies out of the oven, and the pot holder slipped. Maybe I should start using oven mitts!" she gave a rueful laugh, and while Take Care was washing her paws she introduced herself to Regal Heart, who liked her immediately. Take Care examined Treat Heart's hand, and there was a blister forming near the palm.
Regal Heart winced in sympathy. "Ow…"
"Mm-hmm!" Treat Heart agreed. Take Care cleaned the burn, then applied some antibiotic ointment and wrapped some gauze around her hand. Then she gave Treat Heart some ice wrapped in a towel, and told her to come by in six hours so that the dressing could be changed.
"Will do." Treat Heart smiled, then turned to Regal Heart, and said, "It was nice meeting you. Bye all!"
"Bye." Said the three of them in unison, then Brave Heart stood up.
"Well…I think it's about time you learned how to use your tummy symbol.
* * *
Brave Heart and Regal Heart were standing about twenty paces away from a target, and Brave Heart turned to Regal Heart and said, "Did you get all that?"
"Yup. 'Face the target, then let it go.' Got it." She turned to face the target, and Brave Heart braced himself for what he knew would happen; it happened with Perfect and Polite Panda…
A beam of light shot out of Regal Heart's tummy, and the kick of it knocked her back into Brave Heart's arms. "Whoa!" she gasped. Unlike Perfect and Polite, she was able to turn it off at will, but though she was better able to control it than they had been, she was still aware that it had been a far cry from the desired result. "Sorry." she said, blushing.
"Don't be! That was pretty good for your first Call. Wanna give it another go?"
She snorted, and said, "No, wanna sit down…but if I have to learn this it might as well be now."
"Good attitude." He said, nodding his approval. "Just this time, maybe you should brace one leg a bit behind the other; more stable that way. Now that you know what to expect, it should be a lot easier."
Regal Heart braced her right leg further back than her left, and let her Cousin Call loose. This time she didn't fall over; the target, however, fell over and caught fire.
"Yes!" Regal screamed, doing an impromptu victory dance, singing, "Go Regal! Go Regal! It's my birthday! Go Regal!"
"Hah!" Brave Heart nearly fell over laughing, and she turned around with a smile.
"What?" she demanded.
"No-no-nothing!" he gasped, "Do that again, will ya?"
She shook her head. "Forget it, Big Bro! I'm here to practice, not to amuse you."
He gradually stopped laughing, though he still wore a smirk, and said, "Okay…now turn towards that boulder over there. This time, try holding the Call for as long as you can, since you'll have to use it sooner or later. It may save your life one day."
Regal Heart clicked her heels once and saluted, then did as she was told. She lasted longer than either of them thought she would; thirty-seven seconds. Then she dropped to her knees with a sigh. Brave Heart helped her up, and asked, "You okay?"
"Yeah…boy that really takes a lot out of you." Regal gave her head a shake, and offered up a lopsided grin.
"Yep, it can. Come on, let's go get some lunch."
* * *
Two weeks later, Regal Heart was doing well. She was learning the finer points of "Tummy Symbol Training," and she had accompanied her brother on several caring missions. One night she was sitting alone by the Rainbow River, pondering over her new life and family. What she didn't know was that she was being watched…
A twig snapped, and Regal Heart turned her head and saw a strange creature, who was frozen in appalled surprise.
"Who are you?" she asked, scrambling to her feet.
The strange, pig-nosed, furry creature turned and bolted, and she got up and ran after it.
"Hey, wait a minute!" she called, "I'm not gonna hurt ya, come back!"
"Oh, boy…oh, boy…No Heart's going to kill me!" the creature stammered.
"No Heart?! Hey, stop! Get back here, on the double! I have some questions for you!" she ran faster, her expression suddenly angry. She finally cornered him, and pushed him up against a tree. "How do you know No Heart?!" she demanded.
"D-d-don't hurt me! Pleeeease! I wasn't doing anything!" he begged, dropping to his knees and putting his long-nailed hands together.
"You were sneaking up on me, weren't you?" she poked a finger at his shoulder. "You work for him, don't you? Answer me!"
The creature reached under his aviator hat, and took out a tarantula. "Back off!" He held it under her nose, and it raised its forelegs and made a little hissing noise.
Spiders…the only thing she absolutely could not stand! Regal Heart screamed at the top of her lungs, and fled. Empowered by this revelation, Beastly (for that's who it was) ran after her. "Oh, Caaaare Beaaaar…Care Bear Couuuusiiiiin…here, kitty kitty kitty!"
"No! No! Stay away! Brave Heart! Help!"
Somehow, Beastly cornered her. He approached her slowly, giving a strange-sounding laugh, and holding out the huge spider. "What's the matter, kitty? You don't like spiders?"
Regal Heart slid down the tree she was backed up against, and curled her arms around her knees, shaking like a leaf. Beastly was suddenly knocked back by a Cousin Call, and it hadn't come from Regal Heart.
"Get away from my sister!!" Brave Heart roared, hitting him with another Call that was so strong that it blasted him right out of the Kingdom of Caring. Brave Heart hurried to Regal's side, and put an arm around her. "You okay? You all right?"
"Y…Yeah." she looked up and smiled weakly. "Who was that? He mentioned No Heart…"
Brave Heart sighed, and settled down beside her. "That was Beastly…and he works for No Heart. How did you get mixed up with him?"
"I was sitting by the river, and I heard him sneaking up on me…" she looked down.
"Oh…I see. Did he hurt you?"
Regal Heart shook her head. "No, but…he chased me with a tarantula…I hate spiders…"
"Oh." He helped her up, and they headed for their homes. "You know, maybe I should work with you on your fear of spiders…if he tries that again, you'll need to be able to defend against it."
"Yeah…I think you're right." she shuddered, "But they give me the creeps…"
"Well…I ain't too keen on the dark, ya know…" he told her confidentially.
"But it's dark now…" she remarked, looking around her.
"Well, it's not too bad if I'm with someone…and I heard you calling for help. Even the worst fears can be conquered, if you make the effort to overcome them."
Regal Heart looked down, and said in a small voice, "Even my fear of No Heart?"
Brave Heart thought for a moment, and said, "Yes, even your fear of No Heart…though, I think it's more of a grudge you have than a fear."
"You're right." she frowned, and looked over at him. "I'll do whatever it takes to keep him from hurting anyone else like he hurt me. Even his little henchman doesn't deserve what I had to go through."
"I understand…but remember, don't let your anger get the better of you. If you can't hold back for yourself…then do it for me. I couldn't stand to lose you again, Sis…" he looked down at his paws.
She put an arm around him, and kissed his cheek. "Don't worry, you won't lose me. He might not have killed my human parents if I hadn't lost my temper all those years ago. I'm a bit smarter than that now."
Brave Heart was still concerned, but he nodded his head and gave a small smile. They parted as their houses became visible, and Regal Heart crawled into bed with a yawn. "Mom, Dad…he won't hurt anyone again…I'll make sure of that." she whispered, looking out the window at the night sky from her bed, "I promise, I'll do whatever it takes…he will be stopped…I love you…and I'll never forget you…"