Early one morning, a cute lion cub was baptized with juice and christened Kiara. And a certain meerkat and warthog were extremely confused.
"Girl?" asked Timon, his eyes huge with shock. "It can't be a girl!"
"What do you mean, Timon?" Simba raised an eyebrow. "What's the problem?"
"That kid had whiskers before the ceremony." Timon pointed emphatically at the cub. "And you know as well as I do that whiskers are code for, well…" He let the sentence dangle awkwardly.
"Mustaches?" suggested Pumbaa.
"Mustaches, yes! So tell me what happened! What did you do to the cub, monkey?"
Rafiki looked at the cub cradled in his arms. "I did nothing. She did not have whiskers when I first saw her."
"I don't believe it." Timon turned to Pumbaa. "You saw them, didn't you?"
"Plain as the nose on your face," Pumbaa said loyally.
"How about you, Zazu?"
"You guys have been up all night," Simba said with a crinkled brow. "I think you should get some rest."
"Get some rest," Timon scoffed. "I know what I saw."
Pumbaa peered over the crowd as he heard a familiar voice shouting. "Hey, Timon, I think I hear your ma calling. I bet she'll back us up."
Timon's mother did back them up, in a way. Her exact words were "I was too busy staring at the big lion in the clouds to notice, but I believe you, Timmy."
Despite the initial gender confusion, Kiara grew to be a normal she-cub - at least as normal as one can be with an outrageously overprotective father and a mild, dutiful mother. If Simba had shut Kiara in a ribcage, Nala would have smiled and said, "Mind your father, Kiara."
There was never a sliver of doubt that the king's word was law. Even Zazu, who had bossed Simba as a cub, now treated him with deference.
Zazu was an odd case. He had contracted a severe strain of avian laryngitis soon after Simba's return to Pride Rock. The majordomo completely lost his voice for three weeks straight.
Timon and Pumbaa filled in during his sick leave. They were simply terrible, taking little notice of the big herbivores and going on about the best places to find each kind of grub.
When Zazu regained his ability to speak, his voice was astonishingly different. It was smoother, more posh, and devoid of humor. Because Zazu hated his new voice, he spoke only when he felt it was necessary. Never again would he sing ditties about coconuts.
Suddenly "Mr. Bluebird on my shoulder" didn't have such a cheery ring. Simba didn't want his daughter to spend all her waking hours with such a downbeat fellow, so he sent Timon and Pumbaa to take over the all-important babysitting duties.
"Keep a sharp eye on Kiara," Simba told them. "Don't let her wander off."
"Yee-haw!" Timon hollered uncharacteristically. "We're on 'er like stank on a warthog!"
"Hey!" Pumbaa glared up at Timon, who was sitting on his head.
"Sorry, Pumbaa, but the Powers-that-be decided that 'yee-haw' is my new catchphrase, so I just ran with it."
"Guys, listen to me. Danger could be lurking behind every tree."
"What, poison ivy?"
"No, Timon." Simba groaned and lowered his head to their level. "I mean the Outlanders."
"Then say what you mean and stop being so vague."
"That reminds me," said Pumbaa, "when are you gonna tell Kiara what the Outlanders did to get kicked out?"
"I…don't know." Simba looked away. "I don't like talking about it. And she doesn't need to know yet. I just want her to enjoy being a kid."
"And that's why you're controlling everything she does?" asked Pumbaa.
"Exactly. If I can just keep her from getting hurt, she'll have a happy childhood. Now are you gonna watch her or not?"
Timon and Pumbaa shared a significant look. "Sure we will," said Timon. "You da boss. But remember, you can't always run from the past."
Although the king's best friends were lockstep on most important issues, they fought like lions and hyenas over trivial matters like which bug had the best taste or which song was the most annoying. Even Kiara, with her Vader-like breathing and plodding footsteps, could slip away unnoticed during these rowdy debates.
When the royal babysitters came to their senses and saw that Kiara had left, they panicked and sounded the alarm. It didn't take long for Simba, Nala and two rank-and-file lionesses to track Kiara to the river bank that formed the border between the Pridelands and Outlands. There they found her and a male cub playfully growling back and forth.
Simba burst out of the grass and thumped in front of the tiny outsider.
"How dare you growl at my daughter, snotnose!"
A beefy, angular lioness sprang out of the grass in front of Simba. "Touch him and I'll rip your lungs out through your throat!"
"Uh, I'm not sure that's possible," commented Pumbaa.
A sinister grin spread across Zira's face, but her eyes stayed on Simba. "I assure you, I've done it."
"Git the heck outa Dodge, varmint." Timon jerked his thumb. "Yew ain't welcome round these parts."
Zira whipped her head toward the meerkat. "Are you calling me a varmint?"
Timon wanted to explain about the Powers-that-be, but his answer was inadequate with the monstrous maw growling in his face, so he merely whimpered.
"Usurpers," hissed Zira. "These lands belong to Scar."
"Noooo," said Simba, as if he were speaking to a stubborn three month-old cub. "Scar is dead. Now take the snotnose and get out!"
Then Zira uttered one of the most illogical expository lines in history, a statement that has puzzled outside observers for a full decade.
"Oh, haven't you met my son Kovu? He was hand-chosen by Scar to walk in his paw prints and become king. Kovu was the last born before you exiled us to the Outlands, where we have little food-"
"Whoa, back up for a second. I've never seen this cub before in my life, and you're telling me he was born in the Pridelands?"
"Yes, well. My memory has become fuzzy on the sequence of events. But I have not forgotten the misery and disgrace of my banishment."
"Cry me a river. You know the penalty for returning to the Pridelands."
"This is true." She glanced down at her son. "Goodbye, Kovu. I hoped you would grow big and strong, but it can't be helped." Her shoulders rippled.
"What happened to touch him and I'll rip your lungs out?"
"I'm fickle that way."
Simba stared at Scar's wide-eyed, trembling successor. "All right, I get it. You knew I wouldn't harm a cub and you think I'm weak for not enforcing my own law. Whatever. Just take him and get lost. We're finished here." He bent to grab Kiara by her neck scruff.
"That's what you think." Zira picked up Kovu and slunk back over the log bridge.
Simba carried Kiara well into the Pridelands, plunked her onto a hunk of granite, and launched into a lecture. "Now do you see why I told you to stay within sight of Pride Rock? You could have been killed!"
"But Daddy, I-"
"You are grounded for a week, young lady."
"No chasing butterflies, no trips to the waterhole, no loitering at the mall…"
"It's for your own safety, Kiara. I don't want to lose you."
"But a whole week? That's not fair."
"Hey, I'm the king. I get to decide what's fair."
Kiara scowled and turned away. She was glad her father didn't know about the crocodiles. If he knew about that incident he would freak out and tell Pumbaa to literally sit on her so that she couldn't move a muscle for the rest of her life.
Then, to Kiara's surprise, Simba head butted her, causing her to slip off the rock.
"You know I love you, right?"
"Yeah," Kiara said begrudgingly.
"I know what will cheer you up. How about a song?"
"If you sing Hakuna Matata again, I'll go crazy."
"That is so last movie. Timon and Pumbaa were wrong: there are plenty of things to worry about. No, I'm going to teach you a new song."
Bobbing his head to a disco beat, he sang:
"We are family! I got all my sisters with me.
We are family! Get up everybody and sing…"
Meanwhile, in the Outlands, Zira had a talk with her own cub.
"Kovu, you're given me a wonderfully horrid idea. If I were capable of love, I would love you."
"Um…Okay," squeaked Kovu. This was always a safe answer.
"Heyyy, how come you never like my ideas?" whined Nuka, a neurotic alley cat blown up to lion size. It wasn't his fault.
"Your last idea was using a porcupine as a hairbrush. You tell me."
Then Zira took Kovu into the termite mound cave and tucked him into his tree stump. Kovu proved to be the soundest-sleeping cat of all time, for he snoozed through his mother singing, nuzzling and licking him; Nuka screaming; Vitani shouting; and the other lionesses growling. Most felines would have been not just wide awake, but wild and wound up. But Kovu was dead to the world.
A/N: Happy New Year! If you're wondering why I brushed over the thrilling crocodile scene, it's because I couldn't come up with any witty comments for it. I'll do that with a few other scenes too.