A/N: I have a bad habit of not updating stories for several months. But I'm finally finished with this little thing. You might want to read the last couple of paragraphs of Chapter 1 to jog your memory.
I think most of us can relate to Timon. Actually, as I told one of the reviewers, I fell for "I'll be your best friend" when I was about seven. Honest to goodness. It took me a day or two to realize the kid didn't mean it.
When the twins arrived at their family's chamber, they flopped down on the nest, a flattened pile of old, dry grass. Timon walked in after them and lay at Kijio's left, and after a few moments of staring at the roof, he said, "Well this is relaxing. I could lie here all day."
"Yeah, right, let's just lay here and wait for the grass to magically clean itself," said Kumbwe.
Timon processed this statement. "You're being sarcastic, right?"
"Very good, Timon."
"Are you still being sarcastic?"
Kumbwe didn't answer, but after a moment, he said, "Okay, we should really get up now."
The kits reluctantly stood and gathered armfuls of dead grass. "Ya know," said Kijio, "if we had a really big leaf, we could just put all the grass on it and drag the whole thing up. That way we'd only have to make one trip."
Kumbwe rolled his eyes. "That'd be nice if leaves grew that big."
"You wouldn't even have to get new grass," said Timon. He turned to look at a few blades of grass which slipped out of his arms, but he didn't bother to pick them up. "You could just lie on the leaf instead."
"That wouldn't be comfortable, though," said Kijio.
"It would if you could figure out some way to hang it above the ground. Then it would feel like sleepin' on air." Timon sighed happily.
"Sleepin' on air?" said Kumbwe, furrowing his brow. "I don't get that one."
Kijio leaned toward him and muttered, "Neither do I. Just smile and nod, brother."
The three boys trudged up to the surface, where they stopped to gape. In front of them was a huge leaf, as long as an adult is from nose to tail and very wide. It was draped over four sticks stuck upright in the ground, and underneath this structure three smaller kits were playing. Their elder sister sat nearby, looking extraordinarily bored.
"Speak of the hyenas and they will appear." Kijio dropped his clump of grass. "You guys thinkin' what I'm thinkin'?"
"Yeah," said Timon, "I wonder if I can lie on top of that thing."
"That ain't even close to what I'm thinkin'."
"Well how am I supposed to read your mind? Ain't that Kumbwe's job?"
"Good point. Okay Kumbwe, tell him what I'm thinkin'."
Kumbwe blinked. "What did you say?"
"Never mind." Kijio put a paw over his eyes. "Let's just get the leaf and use it to move the bedding."
"Oh! Right," said Kumbwe, grinning at the prospect.
"Mind if I lie on it first?" asked Timon, his brown eyes shining.
"I guess not. But make it quick." Kijio, Kumbwe and Timon walked toward the smaller kits, who chatted excitedly.
"Yook what we found!" said a kit who had trouble saying some of her consonants. "Da wind byew it here from far 'way."
Her brother nodded. "Uh-huh, and look what we made! It's called a hema."
"That's silly," said Timon. "Why don't you call it a tent?"
The younger kits glanced at each other. "We like hema."
"It's nice, whatever it is," Kijio tried, but he had a difficult time saying anything more as the little kits babbled away. They pointed out that the light shining through the leaf made them look green, and they were pretending to be frogs, and the older boys were standing in the water and should watch out for crocs and water snakes, and then they mostly just said, "Ribbit!"
"So you're frogs…in a tent?" asked Timon with a raised eyebrow.
"No, we're frogs in a hema," said one of the smaller kits, bouncing up and down.
Timon shook his head. "You guys are weird."
"Okay, listen to me," said Kijio. "We need to borrow your leaf for a little while. We'll bring it right back."
The small kits shared another look. "You can pay wif it yater."
Kijio scratched his blond head. "Can you run that by me again?"
"She said you can play with it later," said the big sister, narrowing her eyes at Kijio.
"Yeah, when we're done wif it."
"Okay," said Kijio, "so when will you be done with it?"
Her brother shrugged. "I dunno, probally when it's time for dinner."
"By then it'll be too late," said Kumbwe. "We really need it right now."
"Okay, you can have it when we're done," the kit repeated calmly, and they went on playing.
"But we-" Kijio began to object, but Kumbwe cut him off.
"Hey, I know a fun game you guys can play with the leaf." He gave the little ones a smile that could cut iron.
"Really? What kind of game?"
"It's called, uh, leaf race. You grab the leaf and run as fast as you can to my nest, put all the grass on the leaf, take the whole thing outside and jump in it!" He tried to make this sound exciting, and, strangely, it worked on the younger kits. They leapt up and clasped their tiny paws.
"That sounds fun!"
Timon was disgusted. "That's not fun! That's work!" He took no notice of the twins' sharp looks.
The elder sister was disgusted for a different reason. "My brother and sisters are not going to jump in your soiled bedding! Ugh!"
"Aw, but I wanna!"
"I'll be your best friend."
Timon blinked and shook his head. "Why would you say that to your sister?"
"Oh, that's just what you say when you want someone to do something for you," the smaller kit said offhandedly.
"What?" Timon turned toward the twins with a glare that would have been steely if Timon had only known what steel was. The brothers tried to fend it off with guilty grins.
"You know what? You two are nothin' but a couple of mooches!" He threw his armful of grass at Kijio, but unfortunately the pile fell apart before it reached him. Then he stormed off in a random direction, which happened to be east.
Nothing escaped the watchful eye of Timon's mother on sentry duty. It caught every working adult, wandering kit, wayfaring grazer, and oh what a pretty cloud…
It also spied a leaf of unusual size, and the kits standing around it, and the redheaded one who threw grass at one of the others and stalked away. Nina wanted to talk to him and find out what made him angry, but she couldn't let anything distract her on her watch. Feeling torn, she turned away from her son and stared at the grass and sky.
Because meerkats have very little weight, it is difficult for them to stomp, but they sometimes try it anyway - especially the kits. Timon slammed each foot down with all his might, raising up a little dust cloud but making almost no noise. As he pounded along, he heard a familiar voice.
"Hey Timmy, what's up?"
He looked up at his dad. "You, I guess." Just because he was angry didn't mean he had completely lost his sense of humor.
"Yeah, that's better than the alternative," Nate said with a little laugh.
Timon didn't know what the alternative was, but he put that out of his mind for the moment. "Ma said you were in the lower something-or-other tunnels."
Nate chuckled again, not unkindly. "I was, but I'm taking a short break."
"Is your ankle bothering you again?"
"A little." He shrugged. "So what's going on with you? I see you stomping over here like a furry little elephant."
Timon glared through the cloud of dust. "You were right about Kijio, Dad. He never wanted to be my friend. He just wanted me to give him my grub and do stuff for him."
His father winced. "I'm sorry, Timmy." He felt guilty for leaving his naïve son alone with the little brats. "What did he do?"
"He wanted me to clean out his nest, so I started to help him just to show him I was a nice guy, and then when we went outside he tried to take this huge leaf from the three little kits. If that wasn't enough, Kumbwe tried to make them clean out the nest. He told them it was a game, and they actually fell for it! Can you believe it? I'm glad I'm not that much of an ignoramus."
"Where did you hear that word?" asked Nate.
"Ah, I should have guessed. So then what? Did the little kits clean out the nest?"
"Nah, their sister wouldn't let them." He put a finger to his chin. "At least, I don't think she'll let them."
"Why don't we go check on 'em?"
Timon shrugged. He was feeling somewhat better now that he had talked to his dad. "I dunno, why not?" The kit led his father back west, although he was not consciously aware of the direction he was heading.
When they came to the leaf, Nate marveled at its size, while the little kits began to babble again. But Kijio and Kumbwe were gone.
"They took off for the tunnels right after you left," said the older girl. "Hopefully the Terrible Two won't give us any more trouble."
"So what's the plan now?" Kijio and Kumbwe scurried in the long, dark tunnel that led to their burrow, although they had no reason to hurry other than the fact that they were agitated.
"I don't know," said Kumbwe, clutching his head. "Lately it seems every time we try to get out of work we end up having to do more and more!"
"Our plan would have worked if the kits' older sister hadn't been babysitting."
"Yeah, why can't kits be free to run around by themselves?"
"Maybe it's to keep them from getting into trouble."
The brothers winced at the sound of their mother's voice. "Oh hi Mom, we were just on our way to get another load of grass."
Their mother tapped her foot. "Only because you couldn't get the other kits to do it, I'm sure. Don't think I didn't hear what you just said." She grabbed her sons' paws. "Now I'm going to watch you finish your chore, and then you're going to spend the rest of the evening digging with me."
"We have to dig the rest of the evening?" Kijio groaned. "But aren't we going to eat?"
"Of course we'll stop to eat," said his mother, a little surprised. "Don't take things so literally."
At dinner, Timon was disappointed to discover that his mother had not found any more ant grubs, so they had to settle for some locusts and millipedes. After their hunger was satiated, Timon brought his parents to the gigantic green leaf that provided the answer to his daydreams. The leaf was now deserted, so he rushed toward it and tried to pull himself up onto it, but he only succeeded in pulling the leaf down to the ground.
"What are you doing, honey?" asked Nina.
"I was trying to get on top of it so I can hang above the ground."
Putting his hand to his chin, Nate walked up to the leaf. "I think I see what you're trying to do. Here, lemme see if I can fix this up for ya." He tied the leaf's stem to the top of one of the sticks; then he found a long white root and used it to tie the other end of the leaf to another stick. Timon climbed onto the suspended leaf and grinned when it held. Then he lay back and sighed. It felt even better than he imagined – almost like he could float away.
"That is so creative, Timmy!" Nina said with feeling. "I could never think of something like that." She ruffled his hair; then began to comb it with her fingers.
"Ma," Timon complained, sitting up.
"Well you've got half the desert in there." She leaned closer to Timon's head as he pulled away.
Nate smiled. "Is your day getting better, Son?"
"I guess so. But I wish I could make a real friend." The kit looked down, ears drooping.
"You will, believe me," said Nate. "You're a good, straightforward kid, and soon people will learn to appreciate that."
"Ya really think so?"
Nate gave him a confident grin. "I don't think, I know."
A/N: Hema is Swahili for tent, in case you were wondering. Anyway, that's the end; hope you liked it.