Title: Thicker Than Water
Summary: Scar was never Ahadi's son in the sense that Mufasa was. A series of vignettes focusing on the events that turned brothers into enemies.
He barely remembered the days when his name hadn't been "Scar." Sure in the deepest recesses of his memory he had vague flashes of the days when he was known as Taka, but they were just flashes really - a spark of memory here, a faint spiral of colors there. He had long since tried to bury those days behind him. In those days, he'd been young, foolish. Back then he had been too impudent for kingship.
His new name, Scar, was both a curse and a blessing. It would forever be a memory of his hasty actions on that day, but it was something more. It was a rebirth.
In the old language, Taka meant trash. Taka was weak. Taka was worth nothing.
But Scar – no, Scar was strong. Scar was feared. Scar was a name worthy of a king.
Scar was never Ahadi's son in the sense that Mufasa was. It was true enough that their father loved them both, but it was clear that the love came in unequal proportions. Ahadi reserved his special lessons for his heir. He was always willing to listen to Mufasa, to counsel him in all the ways of the world. His eyes sparkled with pride when he looked upon his firstborn.
It had been a very long time since Scar had seen his father look with that same pride at him. Even on the day of his first hunt, there had been nowhere near the fanfare there had been at Mufasa's first hunt. Scar had been crushed. After all, he had brought down his prey faster than Mufasa had (he had always been better at sneaking from downwind, at outwitting his prey), but nobody had cared. Mufasa had already done it a year ago. He'd already done it all. Mufasa had been firstborn and would remain first, always.
There were good moments, like the time Mufasa invited him to hunt with himself and a group of lionesses. "Males shouldn't hunt with lionesses. That's their job," Scar scorned, pleased with the invitation but wishing to present an aloof front.
"You might be surprised what they can teach you," Mufasa said idly. The two brothers were a lion's length apart, with Scar pacing a bit back and forth, and Mufasa watching him amusedly.
"I'm a better hunter than all of them combined."
The defiant statement surprised neither of them, but Mufasa smiled a lion's smile. A second later he bent his forelegs and sprang, the leap taking him directly into the path of the unsuspecting Scar and pinning him to the ground. "All right. You are a good hunter, brother. A terrible wrestler, though," he teased.
Scar rolled to his feet and gave a playful snap of his jaws. "We're not cubs anymore, wrestling at any given opportunity."
"Only at opportune ones," Mufasa watched him intently, his tail twitching with anticipation, his eyes sparkling with a light that made it clear this was only a game.
The invitation was understood. Scar circled. "You will find it harder to knock me off my feet when I am expecting it," he warned.
Mufasa lunged, and Scar sidestepped. "Yes, you will." Even as he spoke, however, his mind was processing the details of the fight. Mufasa was now standing on the lower ground, weight evenly balanced on his hind legs, with a stone by his left foot that would hinder a dodge. The opportunity was ripe and Scar seized it. With a growl he surged forward, and suddenly Mufasa was before him, looking surprised, and Scar extended his right paw, claws retracted, and –
Swiped at air.
"Too slow, brother," Mufasa said lightly.
"Really now? I hadn't noticed."
They circled again, and this time Scar's leap was successful. He drove into Mufasa's side, kicking at his hind feet to knock him off balance. Startled by the unfair move, Mufasa didn't have time to regain his footing, and Scar found his older brother underneath his paws.
He had pinned Mufasa. He had pinned Mufasa!
Oblivious to the significance, the great glorious significance, of the moment to Scar, Mufasa merely commented, "That is a new move."
In the back of his mind Scar thought it a bit strange that his brother was not jealous. He was certain that if there positions were reversed, he would most certainly be.
"It's a good move."
"A good move," Mufasa agreed.
Feeling immensely lighthearted, Scar's face split into a genuine smile. He felt like leaping up and jumping for no good reason at all, for running around in circles and stalking grasshoppers through the plains.
"I suppose I can take the time to teach you and the others how to hunt," said he.
Again Mufasa's gaze was not jealous, but merely thoughtful. "Come, then. Let us have the wisdom of a Scar."
"Mufasa is wise," the whispers went. "He will be a just king."
"A charming lion," the older lionesses said fondly.
"Handsome," the younger ones giggled.
As Mufasa grew out of adolescence, all the awkwardness of cubhood melted away, replaced with a deadly grace. His charisma knew no bounds, and even his quiet, contemplative nature lent him an aura of authority. His muscled body gleamed as he leapt and twisted through the air, as agile as an antelope and as powerful as a rhino. His voice grew deep and warm, and with every word he exuded confidence. Mufasa was noble, and noble was Mufasa.
Meanwhile Scar's clumsiness continued to dog him like a thundercloud into adulthood. His body was lanky, his limbs seemingly too long. With his dark coat and black mane, he resembled a shadow – Mufasa's shadow.
When others whispered of him, it was never of praise.
Scar knew he was cunning. Ruthless, even. He could make decisions without spending days justifying the potential consequences and brooding over the moral implications. He was a strategist; he saw the beginnings and the ends, and nothing in-between. It made him efficient.
But he could not understand why others valued Mufasa's intelligence over his own. His brother made decisions based on instincts, and what were instincts but mere feelings? Feelings were not reliable! They were weak and whimsical – flawed, utterly. Yet everyone followed Mufasa like hapless moths drawn to flame.
Scar's cunning was his greatest strength, his mind powerful where his body was not, and nobody recognized it because of Mufasa – Mufasa the Wise, Mufasa the Heir. Some days Scar's bitterness gnawed at his chest until he thought he would explode from the sheer unfairness of it all. Other days he swallowed it back down, plastered the false smile on his face, and went on pretending to be the dutiful brother. Yet ever in the depths of his heart, the bitterness grew, and he nursed it with a hatred that was almost love itself.
Early in his life, when he was still known as Taka, he took Mufasa to see the latest treasure he had discovered. And by 'took', he actually wheedled and pled until Mufasa agreed to sneak away from their caretaker with him. However their efforts proved worth it; his treasure was quite a sight to behold.
"Wow," Mufasa was plainly awed.
"Isn't it great?"
Mufasa surveyed the mountain of yellowed bones with an appreciative eye. "They look like zebras," he finally decided, the words pronounced with a solemnity one might have used in announcing an upcoming famine.
"Nut-uh! They're antelopes." Scar actually had no idea what he was talking about, but he figured Mufasa probably didn't either.
"They're too big to be antelope bones!"
Scar growled playfully and shoved at him. "No!"
"A thousand times yes!"
"A bazillion times no!"
"A bazillion times yes…plus one!"
"Well I bet you can't climb up to the top!" Argument already forgotten, Scar was already scrambling up the pile, his eyes shining with happiness at having made such a find.
"I can too."
"Oh yeah? Prove it!"
"Taka! You had a head start," Mufasa protested good-naturedly, but nevertheless bounded forward. His paws scrambled furiously for a hold, and he utilized his small but sharp teeth to maintain his grip. The two cubs grunted and sweated as they ascended their little mountain, pretending they were great heroes, heading off to vanquish some great and doubtless terrible foe at the top of the mountain.
That was when it happened. Scar's foot slipped on a bone, and for a moment he hung there precariously, clinging by his paws to a bone. His feet kicked desperately, trying once again to lodge somewhere, but the momentum of his swing was too much. His left foot slammed into the bone pile, and found hold, but the pile shuddered under the force. Somewhere a bone broke free and tumbled to the ground.
The rest of the pile soon followed.
The distance to fall, fortunately, was not very great. Both Mufasa and Scar tumbled to the ground, twin yelps of surprise breaking through the sleepy summer day. Then there they both were, coughing in the dust, bones all around them.
"Oops," Mufasa said very quietly.
Guided by the fatherly instincts that told him his children were up to mischief, Ahadi was waiting for them when they crept back. "Hi Dad!" Mufasa said brightly, fixing a large and innocent smile on his face. Both cubs ran to their father and pounced playfully on his back.
For his part, Ahadi looked amused as he easily pinned them both. "I saw something interesting on my way to the waterhole today."
The brothers exchanged guilty looks that were impossible to miss.
"What was that, Dad?" Mufasa said nervously.
"Oh a stray pile of bones."
Feeling that they were being maneuvered into a carefully set trap but unable to think of any way to retreat, Scar cast his gaze anywhere but his father's eyes and said, "That's good."
"Would you happen to know anything about them?"
"Um – no, Dad."
"Well I'll tell you. They were antelope bones."
Scar threw Mufasa a triumphant look. "I told you so!"
Belatedly he realized his mistake.
"Ah so you did already know," Ahadi said, his voice still pleasant. "What else can you tell me about these bones, Taka?"
"Um…" the cub flushed.
Ahadi now let both cubs up. "You both snuck away from your nurse and gave her a terrible fright. She was very upset at the thought of losing both of you. And," he paused a moment, his eyes lingering on Scar, "You lied to me."
The weight of his father's disappointment was so heavy that Scar thought his chest would burst. Suddenly he wanted nothing more than to take back the lie, to spring on his father's chest and beg for forgiveness. He felt very small and very insignificant.
"Dad, we're sorry," Mufasa said in a very small voice, and relief swept through Scar as his father turned that terrible gaze from him and onto his other son. "I accept the blame. We didn't mean to upset anyone."
Ahadi's stern gaze softened slightly. "I know you didn't, son, but you must remember all that I've told you about the Circle of Life. It is in balance only because there is trust - " he continued on, but Scar's mind was already tuning out.
He had never before heard about the Circle of Life. With a jolt he realized it must be one of those special lessons Ahadi had taught Mufasa. Even now he was excluded. His own guilt, his shame, were rapidly draining from him and leaving only a sickening void in their wake.
Once Scar overheard his parents talking. He hadn't meant to – really! But he had been plagued with nightmares and hoped that cuddling up next to his mother and father would help. So he had crept through the cave, to where his parents slept, only to discover that they were outside.
" – should spend more time with Taka," his mother was saying. "I've seen him. He's lonely, dear. He never engages in games with the other cubs like Mufasa does."
Ahadi sighed. "I've tried, but Taka never seems interested. He doesn't like learning to hunt or pounce."
Scar slunk back into the shadows of the cave before he could hear more.
Ahadi did try. The following day he invited Scar to hunt with him. That was the same afternoon that Scar hurt his leg while chasing and spent two weeks in convalescence. After that incident had passed, they went to the waterhole together. Scar refused to enter the water and splash around. They went to the cliffs. Scar complained of exhaustion before they reached the top.
After that, Ahadi never asked again.
The breaking point came with Sarabi. She was the most beautiful lioness in the pride, and though for many months both Mufasa and Scar had ignored her as they focused on their impish games, that changed when they approached adulthood. Suddenly Mufasa was declining more and more of Scar's invitations in favor of talking with Sarabi. He spent evenings staring dreamily at the sky. He spoke of her always with a loving lilt of his voice. "She's a lovely hunter," he said one night, as the brothers lay sprawled side-by-side. "I've never seen one better."
Scar gave a noncommittal grunt.
"I can never look away from her eyes."
With a sigh, Scar rolled to his feet. "Your lovesickness is disgusting."
Mufasa was smiling. "We need to find you a girl, brother. There's nothing like it. She's the better part of myself, the part I can indulge and spoil."
"No we don't," Scar said shortly, and stalked off.
He found Sarabi resting on the edge of the cliff overlooking the entire kingdom. He knew that only earlier that very same day, Mufasa had taken her here and spoken with her. Scar didn't know what words they had exchanged, only that they had kissed.
"Good evening," she said abruptly, interrupting his thoughts.
He jumped in surprise, and then scowled. "Sarabi."
She rolled gracefully to her feet. "I didn't know you were also fond of late night wandering, Taka," she said, and smiled at him.
Something stirred in his chest. "My name is Scar."
"That's a dreadful name."
"Taka is worse."
She walked slowly toward him until the two were only inches apart. Her eyes were mesmerizing, Scar realized, as he gazed helplessly into those blue depths. There was some spark of life there, some trance that he was powerless to overcome. They were just eyes, but they were something more.
"Well I like it," she said quietly, and then swept past him. He could feel the gentle brush of her body against his, a tenderness that awoke something fierce deep within. His paws trembled with this newfound electricity, and Scar could only stare at her retreating back, stunned and bewildered.
Scar began making a point of seeking her out more and more. He woke long before dawn to grasp a few minutes of conversation with her before Mufasa awoke. He laid awake at night staring at where he knew she rested. He crouched in the reeds by the waterhole, waiting for a second alone with her. She was always friendly in response, and Scar realized it had been a long time indeed since anyone had paid him this sort of attention. She was willing to listen. Her heart seemed immense. Being around her made him feel lighter, happier.
One evening he went outside the cave and waited outside. He knew that Sarabi spent a few minutes each night simply strolling around.
"Scar!" she gasped when she saw him. "Why are you up?"
"I enjoy your company."
Her expression relaxed. "You didn't have to stay up. It's just a strange habit of mine, that I need to walk before I sleep. It helps with the nightmares."
"I have them too," said Scar, falling into pace with her.
"What are yours about?"
Hyenas, fire, blood – Scar dismissed the answer before it had fully formulated. "I don't remember exactly," he lied, "But I can never go back to sleep right after one."
"I know what you mean," said Sarabi. "I feel so foolish after a nightmare. I always try to remember that they aren't real, but sometimes the images are so frightening that they feel real. I'll wake up feeling the echo of pain."
"I'd never let anything hurt you."
There was a long pause. "That is very sweet, Scar," Sarabi finally said, and she suddenly looked uncomfortable. "Look, I should be getting back to sleep."
"Wait," Scar moved in front of her.
"Come away with me." The words were out before he could think.
"What?" she gasped.
"Come away with me," he repeated. "I meant what I'd said. I'd take care of you."
She was stepping away from him. "You're tired. You don't know what you're saying."
"I'd give you a kingdom," Scar said desperately, matching her steps with his own. Why was she looking at him this way? Why did she recoil from his offer? The two were so alike, they both had nightmares, and she was so beautiful, so beautiful. "Anything you want."
She stared at him in disbelief, turning her body so that she was perpendicular with him and could meet him face-to-face. "Scar, you are my friend. But Mufasa is – "
With those words, with that name, years of pent-up anger, disappointment, jealousy suddenly roared free, like a monster ripping free from its chains. He had already lost a father and a kingdom to Mufasa. Would he take away her too? She was the one, the only one who had ever understood him! "Don't you know?" he pleaded, feeling like he was being torn in two. "Don't you know I love you?"
She was backing away from him quickly. "Scar, no."
But he was shaking his head before she had finished speaking. "I need you. More than I need anything. Please…"
She turned and fled back up the rock.
With a roar that he did not recognize as his own, Scar leapt after her. In two strides he was by her side, and with a paw he knocked her to the ground. She slid wildly, her paws clambering for hold on the solid rock. Scar advanced, his muzzle low to the ground. "I have never, ever, begged for anyone," he said, "No one except for you."
Sarabi's left paw moved, but she seemed too stunned by her fall to rise.
"SCAR!" the roar came from above him. Another second and Mufasa sprang bodily from his ledge, landing a few feet away from his brother. "What are you doing?" Mufasa hissed, his eyes burning with a fire Scar had never before seen. His claws were extended, his teeth bared and gleaming in the moonlight.
Scar looked at him steadily. "You have already taken everything from me. Will you now take my life, brother?"
"By rights I should."
Sarabi stirred weakly, turning her lovely face to Mufasa. "Mufasa, no! Don't. He's not himself. He's unwell."
"On the contrary," Scar said, his head whirling from Sarabi to Mufasa to Sarabi again. "I've never been better!" And he laughed crazily, over and over, laughed until he sank into the ground. Only then did the laughs become tears.
When he awoke he saw Ahadi staring at him.
"I'm not sorry," Scar said.
The disappointment in his father's eyes would have crushed him, once, long ago, but those days were past. "I did not expect you would be." There was a long sigh. "I have spoken to Mufasa. He will not cast you away. The life of a solitary lion is too harsh."
Scar shrugged. He didn't care. He wanted to die.
"You are still my son - "
Now Scar smiled, utterly mirthless. "Was I ever really that?"
And Ahadi did not respond.
In the miserable shadow of the life he leads, Scar schemes. Mufasa has forgiven him, or so he says, and none in the pride ever speak of the offense he committed. But things have never been quite the same. Mufasa is always careful to be fair and polite, but there is no mistaking the distrust in his eyes. Sarabi and the other lionesses avoid him whenever they can. His is a life of tacit exile.
But none of that matters, because Scar knows he is smarter than any of them. He knows that his day will come when he will retake all that has ever been stolen from him. And so he schemes. He schemes for the day he will take life, kingdom, and Sarabi, and call them his own.
This is Scar.