A/N: The style of this fic is different from my others; I borrowed a lot of phraseology from Lemony Snicket. The result is definitely not your run-of-the-mill Lion King fanfic.
All the Tai Chi moves mentioned in this fic are real, although they're not all the same type of Tai Chi. Google is my friend.
Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters or settings.
Max Does Tai Chi
It was a peaceful day at the Oasis, and Rafiki was swinging through the trees, despite the fact that most mandrills prefer to walk on the ground on their knuckles. Rafiki, being the nosy creature he is, liked to climb in trees because it gave him a good vantage point for spying on animals below. However, we must forgive Rafiki for being a nosy spy because, after all, monkeys are naturally inquisitive. Rafiki was indeed interested about all the interesting events that had occurred over the last few days. Interestingly enough, he had discovered, with a little help from the Great Kings of the past, that Simba was alive. Then, with just a tiny bit of help from King Mufasa, Rafiki had made Simba realize that he needed to return to the Pridelands and set his people free.
The current situation was thus: isolated packs of hyenas were hiding out in the Pridelands, and hooved animals were hiding out of the Pridelands, and a group of lionesses loyal to Scar was on the prowl. This was all very fascinating and made a decent set up for a sequel, but there was yet another situation that fascinated Rafiki. It had come to his attention that a large colony of meerkats had moved to the Oasis, and he wanted to observe ("observe" here means "spy on") the jittery little creatures to see how they were adjusting to a predator-free environment.
As it happened, the first meerkat he saw was an older fellow, although not as old as Rafiki (but of course, no living meerkat could possibly be that old). Rafiki didn't know it then, but this fellow's name was Max. It had been an extremely long time since Max had been alone for more than thirty minutes, thus he wandered off by himself to see what it was like. After about four hours he decided he didn't much enjoy being on his own, in spite of the fact that he could hardly stand to be around other meerkats most of the time. Therefore, he began to look for them, but he was afraid to call very loudly because normally such an activity would attract unwanted attention - namely a hyena, jackal, or eagle looking to supplement its diet with suricate ("suricate" being another word for "meerkat"). It would be incorrect to describe most meerkats as paranoid because, after all, you're not paranoid if they're really out to get you. But we all know that the Oasis is probably the safest place on planet earth, so a meerkat in the middle of the Oasis who is anxiously looking over his shoulder and afraid to call his family and friends over could reasonably be called paranoid. But of course we must forgive Max for being paranoid because he had spent his entire life near the bottom of the food chain, and that is not something you instantly forget...Or is it?
Wow...that was one seriously long paragraph.
Anyway, Rafiki, being the astute monkey he is, noticed that the meerkat had that "I'm looking for something and I hope I don't get eaten" look. Therefore, the shaman decided to tactfully and gently make his presence known by dropping out of the tree and almost giving Max a heart attack.
"I'm sorry to frighten you," Rafiki apologized.
Max was not stupid; he could see that the baboon did not intend to rip his limbs off. Nevertheless, he still didn't relax. "I'm not frightened. I'm terrified. I haven't seen anyone from my colony in four hours. What if something ate them?" He shuddered.
"No, there are no carnivores here," Rafiki said soothingly.
"That's what my great nephew and his warthog friend said, but it's hard to believe," Max replied, glancing around nervously.
"Hm..." Anyone who knew Rafiki well would have known that he was deep in thought, because he was stroking his little beard. He always found it easier to think while running his fingers over his whiskers. "I think," said Rafiki, "that you would benefit from Tai Chi."
"Bless you," said Max.
"No, it is not a sneeze. It is an intermediate between yoga and martial arts."
"Ya lost me, monkey."
"Please, call me Rafiki," said Rafiki, leaning on the staff that he took wherever he went.
"All right, Rafiki. I'm Max." Max was so curious that he nearly forgot to be afraid of the nonexistent leopards that lurked in the lush trees of the Oasis. "Now, can you explain this Tai Chi thing?"
Rafiki nodded. "Tai Chi is a series of slow, graceful movements. It is very relaxing and improves the health. And," he added, "anyone who can stand on two legs can do it - even you."
Max narrowed his eyes. "What's that supposed to mean?" Then he seemed to come to himself, shaking his head and putting his hands on the sides of his face. "And why am I even worried about this when the gang's probably being devoured by leopards as we speak?"
"I have spent some time in the Oasis, and I assure you that your gang is perfectly safe wherever it is." Rafiki propped his stick against a tree. "Come on, why don't we have our first Tai Chi lesson right now? It will make you feel better."
"I don't know. . . I guess it couldn't hurt," Max said reluctantly ("reluctantly" here means "unenthusiastically, because he would prefer to quietly look for his colony").
"Good," said Rafiki. "I'll demonstrate the steps."
"Steps? Would this involve scurrying, sniffing, and flinching?" asked Max.
The mandrill rubbed his beard sagely. "Scurrying would require fast movement, so we won't be doing any of that. I suppose you can sniff if you want to, but there definitely won't be any flinching!" He wagged his finger at the meerkat. "Now, first of all, you must focus on the present. Do not worry about the past or the future or what is happening somewhere else. Just focus on here and now," Rafiki said calmly, because you are supposed to speak calmly during Tai Chi.
Max focused as hard as he could, shutting his eyes. "Got it. Now what?"
Rafiki laughed softly. "Well, you need to keep your eyes open...At least for now."
"Oh." Max opened his eyes and looked up at Rafiki.
"Plant your feet firmly on the ground and breathe deeply," the shaman continued. "Feel the tips of your fingers and the palms of your hands...Feel your head suspended from above."
The meerkat glanced up at the trees, then back at Rafiki. "Okay, now you're getting a little weird."
"Bend your knees," Rafiki instructed, ignoring that comment. "And the crane spreads its wings..." He raised his arms. "...And takes flight." Slowly he lowered his arms and lifted them up again, looking something like a bird trying to fly underwater.
Instead of raising his arms, Max raised his eyebrow. "How is pretending to be a crane supposed to help me relax?"
"Does taking metaphors literally run in the family?" asked Rafiki.
"Maybe...Hey, how'd you know? What a minute..." His eyes widened as he stared up at Rafiki. "So you're the one!"
"Beg your pardon?" Rafiki asked innocently.
"You're the one who told Timon to look beyond what he sees! Do you know that his mother and I spent over two years looking for him because of you!"
"Ah, you are a dedicated family," said Rafiki, still flapping his arms in slow motion. "And the strength of love is proven only through adversity."
The meerkat crossed his arms. "If that was supposed to make me feel better, it didn't work."
"That's because you're not doing the steps. Come on!" he urged. "Be a crane with me."
Hesitantly, Max bent his knees and began to copy Rafiki's motions.
"This next move is called the basic bear," Rafiki said after a few moments of pretending to fly.
"What, are we going to carry something?" asked Max.
"Bear" is one of those fun words with many different, unrelated meanings. It can mean "carry," as Max mentioned, but it can also mean "tolerate," "support something," and "give birth." But when Rafiki said "bear," he meant "the largest predator on land."
The shaman paused, looking a little guilty. "Maybe we should skip that step."
"What? Tell me."
"No, I do not think you are ready. The next step I will teach you is holding the moon." The monkey held his arms in a circle in front of his body and slowly turned from side to side, twisting his legs slightly and shifting his weight.
"Do you ever feel stupid doing this?" asked Max while trying to imitate the movement.
"Not really. Why do you ask?"
And so they went on until the sun began to sink between the tree trunks. You must understand that it usually takes a few months of practice to become good at Tai Chi, because it is rather complicated and involves moves like "needle to the bottom of the sea," "cross hands," "white snake sticks out its tongue," and "fist to elbow." However, because this story is long-winded as it is, let us say that Rafiki was such an exceptional teacher that in a matter of hours Max could do all the moves with ease.
"This is amazing!" said Max with a relaxed (and slightly goofy) grin. "I feel better than I've ever felt in my life!"
"I told you it would work," Rafiki replied with a chuckle. "Keep practicing the steps and you will truly find Hakuna Matata."
Max folded his arms lightly, and the grin never left his face. "Oh, I've already found it. In fact, I think I'll teach the other meerkats Tai Chi so they can find Hakuna Matata too."
"Good for you," Rafiki said sincerely. "I must be going now, it will be dark soon. But I'll visit again." He picked up his staff, preparing to leave.
"Well, you're welcome any time, Rafiki." The meerkat held out his hand to shake, and the mandrill held out his finger, which Max grabbed firmly and shook. Then he waved goodbye as Rafiki sprang up a tree and into the jungle canopy, which no longer seemed menacing and full of leopards. Smiling and humming tunelessly, Max began to stroll through the Oasis. He hoped he would find his friend and family soon, but he wasn't worried about them anymore.
Finally, just as Max was thinking about finding a spot to turn in for the night ("turn in" is an expression that here means "go to sleep" and has nothing to do with giving a teacher your homework at school), he heard familiar voices calling through the dim twilight.
"I'm over here!"he shouted, walking toward the voices. It wasn't long before he saw Pumbaa rustling through the foliage, and naturally Timon was sitting on his head because they liked being alone a lot less than Max did.
"There you are, Uncle Max," said Timon, sliding down Pumbaa's side. "We've been searching for almost an hour!"
You might be wondering why they have spent less than an hour looking for Max when he was gone for almost the entire day. Well, Ma had gone off by herself shortly after Max did, and the rest of the meerkats were so used to Max not being there that they didn't notice his absence until Ma returned five hours later. After that, it took them another three hours to decide to search for him. Can you feel the love tonight?
"Good to see you, Timmy," Max said good-naturedly.
Timon gaped. Max never ever called him Timmy (and he almost never spoke good-naturedly, either). He noticed his uncle's odd ("odd" here means "goofy") grin and wondered what on earth had happened to him. "Are you feeling okay?" he asked with concern.
"No. I'm more than okay. I feel so good I can hardly stand it."
Timon and Pumbaa looked at each other with raised eyebrows.
"And it's all thanks to Rafiki," Max continued, "for teaching me Tai Chi."
"Who?" asked Pumbaa.
"What?" asked Timon.
"Rafiki is a wise blue-faced monkey," explained Max, "and Tai Chi is a series of slow, graceful movements that loosen you up and make you feel alive!"
"The monkey..." Timon frowned. "I shoulda known he was behind this."
"You should try it, Timmy." Max went up beside Timon and patted his back. "You seem high-strung."
Timon pulled away from him a bit. "Could ya stop with the 'Timmy'? It's weirding me out."
"Sure, if that's what you want." Max shrugged. "But anyway, I'm planning on teaching the gang Tai Chi tomorrow morning. I tell ya, it'll change your life!"
"Thanks, Uncle Max, but I'd like to keep my sanity, if it's all the same to you. Now climb onto Pumbaa and we'll go find the others."
Pumbaa lowered his head cooperatively, but Max put his paws on his hips. "I've been walking on my own my whole life and I can walk on my own for the rest of my life." He didn't sound angry, but rather proud and determined ("rather" here means "on the contrary").
Timon shoved him forward. "Just get up there," he said firmly, pushing Max onto Pumbaa's snout. "Maybe Ma will know what to do with him," he muttered, mostly to himself.
And so, Max began his first Tai Chi lesson the next day, and it quickly gained popularity among the meerkats, who became mellower than anyone thought possible. Timon remained skeptical, however, which is really a shame because it would have benefited him while he was helping to raise Kiara. As for Rafiki, he lived up to his name and visited the Oasis often, giving the meerkats tips and pointers. And...Well, what more is there to say? Everyone was happy. End of story.