As for Kovu, he and Kiara grew up together as best friends, often getting themselves into trouble in the process of exploring the pride lands, but whenever Simba tried to scold them, his uncle was never far away to point out all the trouble Simba had caused as a cub.

Kiara became more beautiful each day, pale gold in colour, her mothers face and father's eyes lent themselves well to turning her into a queenly lioness, even if she did much prefer playing to learning to rule and point-blank refused to listen to Zazu.

And Kovu took his fathers looks, but with the nurturing of the pride he became far stronger than Scar had ever been in his youth, the young lion's black mane grew thick and lush, his brown fur shiny with health, green eyes so similar to Scar's, but with an inner intelligence that was completely Zira. Handsome as he was, whenever the young lionesses of the pride approached him, he acted as though he could not care less, instead choosing to stay by Kiara's side. He often claimed that he was merely trying to teach the clumsy lioness to hunt as well as he did, though it was plainly ovbious to all the parents involved what was happening between the two.

The heat was almost unbearable the day that the two were finally caught. Scar, Zira and Simba were laying in the den, watching the young Kiara playing with her mother on the prow of pride rock. Zira pointedly refused to go and play with them, she much preferred to be at Scar's side; her devotion really was touching.

Kovu had walked into the den looking much more cheerful than the adults, he was dripping wet, obviously he'd been for a early morning swim to hold off the heat. Grinning he lay down on his father's right side, "Hot?"

Scar raised an eyebrow at his son, then turned to Zira, "Dearest, notify everyone in the pride, the boy's obviously a genius!" he spoke sarcastically.

Kovu laughed, he knew his father didn't mean it, and rubbed his damp head against his father's, "Sorry. Hey! Why don't I take Kiara out for a hunt and we'll bring back a zebra for the pride?"

The three adults instantly brightened at the idea of fresh meat without having to go hunting themselves. Simba nodded his head against the cool floor of the den as he was laying on his side, "Go ahead, more fool you two trekking all that way and dragging a kill back."

Kovu stood up, still with that lovely smile that none of the lions could identify as being from his mother or father. "Ah, it's not so bad if you're still young and fit." He replied cheekily.

Simba made a half-hearted growling noise, but he wasn't mad, no-one could ever stay mad at Kovu.

It was Scar who gave the boy an icy look, "You watch your lip, you may be a bit older but you're not so old I can't give you a good whack." He lifted one paw to prove it, though he would never ever strike one of his cubs, the threat always put them back in line.

Kovu's ears flattened and his tail drooped, "Sorry Simba, and to you too dad."

Scar nodded, "Good enough, now go catch us something, there's a good boy."

Kovu grinned and ran back outside, within moments he and Kiara were joyfully scampering through the gross towards the thicker grasslands where the animals grazed.

Around noon, Scar and Simba made their first real effort that day to get outside. They made it to the end of pride rock and stopped, the heat was too much to go on.

"The cubs must be enjoying themselves, at least." Simba commented, looking at the sky, "They've been gone a while."

Scar smiled, "You know Kovu, he won't stop until your girl's got her technique right."

"True enough. I love Kiara to pieces, but she is such a klutz sometimes…" Simba muttered, and the two lions chuckled together. "It's good of Kovu to try and teach her, especially when he could be concerning himself with finding a mate."

Scar nodded, taking a moment to stretch, "He's a good boy, loves it here, loves his family." He paused as he went through his son's actions with the pride. That wasn't quite right, yes, the boy was respectful to Simba and Nala, and he adored his mother and presumably Scar too, the boy pined away for his brother and sister, but when it came to Kiara.

"You're wrong, you know." Simba answered before Scar could speak, "Kiara's a special case. He'd never spend this much time on any other lioness, not even Zira or Vitani. I'm not saying he doesn't care for them, but-"

"He cares for Kiara more." Scar finished. He breathed in, "Well, this is a fine mess, eh? What do you think Kiara feels for him?"

Simba laughed in his deep, rumbley way; "She thinks the world of him. Nala says that sometimes all she'll talk about to the lionesses is Kovu." He sighed, "I don't think we have to worry about it being one-sided, what we have to worry about is if it's just a teenage infatuation."

Scar nodded, it was astonishing how often Simba was so right about things. Not that he'd ever tell the boy that, old habits died hard, and Scar didn't like to give Simba the impression he respected him. He breathed in again, meaning to ask what they ought to do, but caught an odd scent and sniffed again.

"Do you smell that?" he growled, not liking the strange scent at all.

Simba frowned in confusion, sniffing a few times, then muttered, "Smoke. The heat must have set off the grasses. Bugger, now I'll have to sort out some new grazing lands and-"
Scar head butted Simba hard, "I think you're forgetting something, you royal ignoramus."

Simba blinked twice, then his mouth dropped open, "The cubs!" he ran to the ledges that allowed the lions access to the ground and turned to look at Scar, "Come on! We have to find them!"

Simba and Scar searched as best they could with the flames still licking higher, calling for the two youngsters and hoping beyond hope that somehow they might have survived. They spent hours out there, until it was too dangerous for them to continue looking and in any case, there was no way they could be hard over the roaring of the flames. The two went back to pride rock looking disgraced, but as both their mates assured them, perhaps Kovu and Kiara were alright, there was still a chance, after all.

It turned out they need not have worried so much. It only took an hour for Kovu to appear at pride rock with Kiara unconscious on his back. Both smelt of scorched fur and Kiara had acquired a cut on her back that looked rather like a set of teeth marks, but both were very definitely alive.

While the princess was being cared for by the other lionesses, the three males sat out on the jut of pride rock, watching the fire die.

"So, how did you say she got that cut?" Scar asked calmly, not moving his gaze from the fire.

Kovu noticeably blushed, "I didn't. I think something bit her."

"Really?" Simba muttered, raising an eyebrow.

Scar prodded the boy in the side, "You know, now that I think about it, I don't remember seeing any herds in the grasslands recently."

Kovu was by now bright red, and clearly considering legging it. "Well, we saw a rabbit, and-"
"Kovu, stop it, you're a bad liar and it's obvious to everyone but the completely stupid what you and Kiara have been up to." Scar muttered.

Kovu looked at Simba in blind panic; "It's not like that! Dad doesn't know what he's talking about!"

Simba actually started to laugh at that, "For goodness sake Kovu, you're digging a very deep hole for yourself."

Kovu sighed and lowered his head, mane falling around his face for a second, "It's not like it's just cuz of mating season…. I love her." He mumbled, "And if you want me to leave the pride I won't go anywhere without her."

Simba and Scar looked at each other for a second, identical smirk on their faces, then Simba patted the boy's back, "I'd better get Rafiki to arrange a wedding then, I suppose."

Within a week the cubs were wed. It was a lovely procession that made its way up the jut of pride rock that day, Scar and Zira leading, as the eldest members of the pride, then Simba and Nala, then finally the newlyweds.

The three couples stood there for a moment, allowing the animals below to view them. Then Simba muttered to Kovu, "Ever shown yourself as a king before?"

Kovu blinked in confusion, "eh?"

Scar smirked, "He said, have you ever shown the lands you're a king before?"

Kovu shook his head, wondering why Kiara'a eys had lit up with joy. "What does that mean?"

Zira chuckled and nuzzled his forehead, "It means you're about to be named the next in line for the throne."

"You do it like this." Simba hissed, then threw his head back and let out a magnificent roar, followed closely by Scar's own deep rumble, their mates joining them to create yet more noise.

"Your turn." Kiara whispered to her mate.

Kovu grinned, then let out the loudest roar of his life, feeling his body swell with a strange and joyous feeling. He knew it at once; this feeling was pride, the pride of a Lion King.