Disclaimer: The Lion King 2: Simba's Pride is © Disney. Lyrics in this story are based on We Are Family by Sister Sledge, Loser by Beck, and Ring of Fire by Johnny Cash.

Improbably, Simba failed to notice that his daughter had run away until early the next morning. By then it was too late to organize a search party, because Zazu brought news of a full-scale Outlander invasion.

Vultures watched from the trees as the two prides stalked toward each other. "Looks like a big fight coming up. Let's circle overhead."

"In this storm? No thanks. I'd rather wait it out from this branch."

"We have to make a more dramatic appearance than this. It's our obligation as symbols of death."

"Dang, I hate it when you're right. Okay, I'll fly, but I won't like it."

The prides stopped about forty feet apart to size each other up. Then they fell to it, clawing, biting, kicking and tumbling. All hell broke loose - or it would have if anyone had drawn blood. Zira imagined she saw it once or twice, but it was really just splashes of mud. She stayed out of the fray, letting her underlings weaken her opponents until a dozen Outlanders had Simba backed against the rim of the Gorge.

"Simba's mine!" Zira stalked toward him with bared fangs, and the rank-and-files backed off to form a tidy ring around this pivotal confrontation. The beefy lioness knocked Simba to the ground and then sportingly waited for him to get up. Then they wasted a good ten seconds prowling and snarling, before they raised their paws to strike. And suddenly the gritty faces of their children appeared.

"Kovu, what are you doing? Haven't you ruined enough of my plans?"

"I have to ruin this last one," said Kovu with a thin frown.

Kiara nodded. "Father, you once told me that we are family. Families shouldn't kill each other."

"I grounded you."

"Dad, forget about that, okay? I know that deep down, you and Zira don't want to hurt each other. I saw how you both waited before attacking."

"Ha!" Zira threw her head back in a humorless, slightly mad laugh. "I have no qualms about taking Simba down and avenging Scar. I simply want him to die a slow, painful death."

"Not while I'm around," said Kovu, lowering his head. "I'll do whatever I can to protect Kiara and her father."

"See, Daddy, I told you Kovu was a great guy. And I know the other Outlanders aren't so bad either. They're just victims of circumstance trying to make a better life for themselves the only way they know how. If we try to understand where they're coming from, and put our differences aside, we can become a better pride."

Simba blinked slowly. "Wow. Kiara, you're starting to make a lot of sense. It's like scales are falling from my eyes."

"Nah, that's just the sun coming out," said one of the rank-and-files.

"Put our differences aside!" Zira sneered. "Of all the bleeding-heart rubbish! Let's finish them, Vitani."

"No, mother. They're right. I've been watching them for two days, and they seem so happy, so loving! I want to be part of it, if they'll have me." Vitani padded next to her adopted brother.

Zira's red eyes glinted. "Traitor! You'll die with the rest of my enemies."

The other Outlanders grimaced in disgust.

"For shame!" said a freckle-faced lioness. "And after that Oscar Clip performance over your son's death. Unbelievable."

"What is this?" shouted Zira, as her minions sauntered over to mingle with the Pridelanders. "I didn't train you to sit around and sing Kumbaya!" In a last-ditch effort, she roared and flew at Simba, but Kiara pounced to push her out of the way. Together they somersaulted into the Gorge, and the others ran to look over the edge.

"I swear this gorge is ten times deeper than it was yesterday," said Kovu.

"Yeah, boy, that erosion is crazy," said Vitani.

Kiara grabbed a ledge and scrambled onto it, but Zira could only dig her claws into the sheer wall below the ledge. Then the log dam burst, flooding the ravine. It looked dramatic, but, if anything, it made Zira's position slightly less dangerous. Still, Kiara nobly offered her paw to Zira, but the Outlander refused, lost her grip, and fell into the rapids. As soon as Zira splashed under the surface, the water level plummeted for no apparent reason.

After Simba helped his daughter climb out of the Gorge, the conglomerate pride shared a group hug. Timon, who had kept his head down for the worst of the battle, snuck in a "Yee haw!"

"I'm sorry about the whole banishment thing, Kovu," said Simba. "Will you forgive me?"

"Sure, no biggie." Kovu smiled and nuzzled Kiara. "I'm just glad we're all friends now."

"Not friends - family," said Pumbaa.

Vitani slunk toward Simba, hanging her head. "I have a confession, Sire. I started the fire. I'll understand if you don't let me join your pride now."

Simba was stone-faced for a moment. Then a twinkle shone in his eyes. "Hey, it's all good. Just promise you won't do it again."

"I promise."

"Great! Wow, all my hatred is gone. I feel light as a feather!"

"Speaking of feathers," said Timon, "look who it is."

Zazu, who had gone off alone to search for Kiara, landed near Simba's feet and glanced around at the impossibly happy lions.

"Good heavens, what have I missed?"

Simba filled Zazu in while they made their way to Pride Rock. Then the majordomo flew again across the Pridelands, this time to announce the ceremony for the future king. As animals of all sizes surrounded the landmark, a flock of gray hornbills headed for the termite mounds with hopes of a hassle-free, food-rich habitat.

The lionesses sat watching Rafiki shake his staff over the two heirs' heads. Suddenly, four of the ex-Outlanders leapt to their feet and shied from the puff adder slithering in their midst.

"It's okay. He's my attorney." Kovu grinned. "Hey, Jeff, thanks for standing up for me yesterday. So to speak."

"I was just doing my job. I'm so pleased to hear about your pardon. Although," he added with a glance toward Simba, "one could argue that you never should have been convicted in the first place. The case against you was extremely weak."

The lionesses looked expectantly at Simba, but it was Rafiki who tried to smooth things over. "Kovu has forgiven Simba, and dat should be good enough for you," he said in full sage mode.

"Indeed," said Zazu. "You don't want to step on anyone's toes on this joyous occasion."

The snake's eyes were widely sincere, but it was probably his lack of eyelids that gave him this expression. "I would never step on anyone's toes, even if I had feet." He turned back to Kovu. "Anyway, if you or your relatives should ever need legal counsel, I'll be happy to assist."

"Thanks," replied Kovu, "but I hope I won't need your help again."

"Understood."

Vitani's eyes flickered between Kovu and Jeff. "Wait a second. I thought snakes were deaf."

"We are. But we're excellent lip readers." Smirking, the adder bade them farewell and wove into the grass.

Then the two lion couples walked onto the ledge of Pride Rock and belted out their mightiest roars. The crowd of animals whooped, chirped and trumpeted in response.

One of the flamingos peered up at the lions. "Hey, isn't that the guy who tried to kill the king yesterday?"

Another flamingo shrugged. "I don't know. I don't keep up with politics."

Golden light splashed the lions, and Simba heard Mufasa's voice from on high.

"Well done, my son…For surviving this mess of a script."

Timon frowned at the sky. "Hey, pal, leave the wisecracks to me."

THE END