Disclaimer: I own nothing but this oneshot. The characters belong to people who are not me and are awesome beyond all comprehension.
A/N: This was inspired by a video on YouTube, Disney Crossover - Bambi & Kovu - Lion (Angel) by the wonderful, wonderful xNightshadex. Go watch it. Seriously. You must.
Against All Odds
The first time they met, it was quite by accident.
The fawn had grown curious of the new world Sora had summoned him to and, in an act of childish impulse, wandered away from the trio. He knew it was likely to be a very bad idea, considering he was in a world full of predators far worse than the dogs of man, but he could not help himself. The African plains were so vast compared to the condensed forest he was used to, and even though the land was ashen and fouled, struggling to start anew, it still captivated the young prince greatly.
He heard Sora's call, along with Donald's shrill, strange squawk and Goofy's worried shouting, the trio pleading with him to show himself, to come back so they could leave and get him home safe and sound. He had stopped dutifully and contemplated the presented situation. Of course it was dangerous, but who knew when he would be able to see another land like this one? He may have never been able to visit another world, and he just couldn't let this opportunity pass him by. Furrowing his brow and taking a breath, the fawn ran off blindly, uncaring where his hooves took him, so long as they took him somewhere.
An object in motion does not always stay in motion, especially when it collides with a force so stubborn it refuses to move. The fawn stumbled backwards, flipping over onto his back after colliding with a sturdier, stronger body. Groaning, he looked up to see what, or who, he had run into and found himself staring into the face of a lion cub. His instincts screamed at him to be afraid, to get up and run as fast as he could back to Sora, but he remained on the ground, wide-eyed and panting. The cub stared at him curiously, arching a brow and cocking his head to one side.
They stayed like that for a few seconds, or perhaps it had been minutes, neither could tell – neither cared. The fawn was the first to make a move, turning over and hoisting himself up on trembling legs. But those uneasy legs still knew how to get the better of him, and it took the slightest movement to send him stumbling forward again, this time knocking the lion cub over as well. With his heart pounding, the fawn scrambled away.
"I – I'm sorry!" he blurted out, watching with wide eyes as the predator rose up on his feet again, scowling at him as he shook the dirt from his fur.
"What are you doing?" the cub asked, having ignored the apology. No one apologized where he came from, he had not the slightest idea what to do with the fawn's words.
"I was – I was just – looking around," said the fawn honestly, backing up as the cub approached.
"Looking around?" the lion asked with a quirked brow and a smirk tugging at his lips. "What's there to see here?"
"You'd be surprised," the fawn murmured. "Where I come from, we don't have wide open spaces like this. Well, not safe ones, anyway."
"And you think these plains are safe?" the cub chuckled. To the fawn's surprise, he sat back on his haunches.
"Uh... No," the fawn replied sheepishly, "I guess not."
" Anyway," the cub drawled, already bored of the conversation, "who are you? And what are you?" He had never seen an animal like this little one before; he resembled the antelope and the gazelle, but he was clearly not one of them.
The fawn perked up, then did the strangest thing. He extended a foreleg and scrapped a hoof against the ground before he bowed in a fluid motion. "My name's Bambi. Oh, I guess that's actually Prince Bambi," he said, wrinkling his nose, looking up through his lashes as he stood straight once more, not at all used to addressing himself as such. But the Great Prince had taught – no, insisted he introduce himself so. "And, I'm a fawn. A deer."
Paying no heed to the prince part of the introduction, the lion cub cocked his head to the side once more. "A deer?" he inquired, having never heard of this species. It must have been because deer didn't belong in the Pride Lands, which meant this fawn was from another world. "I see."
Nodding, Bambi tried a smile on the predator. "Who're you? And what?" he asked, obliged to mirror the latter question since he had never seen anything quite like him before.
"Kovu," he replied, "and I'm a lion." While Bambi stared at him in sudden awe, as though knowing what he was made him all the more interesting, Kovu felt the need to add, if only to impress, "I'm a prince, too." Even though he certainly did not feel like one, but his mother insisted.
Bambi's delighted giggle could not be suppressed. "Really? That is so cool," the fawn said, ears perking up as he dared to edge closer.
Kovu rose a paw once the outsider had come to close. "I guess," he replied with less than half of Bambi's enthusiasm. Try as he might, he could not see the glory in being royalty. Possibly because for the time being it looked as though he would rule nothing more than a ragtag pride and termite mounds. His mother's expectations were too high; he would never be able to overthrow Simba.
"So, what do you wanna do?" Bambi asked all too brightly, as though oblivious to Kovu's indifference.
"Huh?" the cub quirked a brow.
"Come on," Bambi giggled, "what do lions play? I'll play with you!"
Kovu was quick to assess that the spindly fawn would not hold up well in one of the rougher games his older brother had introduced him to. Concluding he only knew how to play with lions, he opted for another uncouth "huh?"
Bambi cocked his head to the side, one brow arched and face scrunching up in disbelief. "You know, fun?"
It was Kovu's turn to make a face. Fun never had anything to do with the play-fights he and his siblings often took part in. Nuka seemed to only goad him into baring fangs and claws so he had a reason to smack him around a little, and Vitani, though she was gentler, was far too merciless, leaving Kovu scratched up and bleeding when they were through. The cub stared ahead blankly as though Bambi was speaking of the strangest things.
Realizing Kovu was at a loss, Bambi knitted his brow together and slowly ducked down, his backside swaying mischievously. He only had a feeling an instinct to go by, but something told him if he ran, Kovu would chase. Taking a deep breath, he turned around and made his way across the Savannah hastily. Sure enough, he heard claws scrapping against the dry, cracked ground, followed by the rhythmic pounding of padded paws.
It did not take long before Kovu caught up, swiping at Bambi's hind legs with a paw, trying to knock the sinewy fawn down. Bambi was able to evade the blows for a few moments, but he most definitely could not avoid being tackled to the ground by the stronger child. They tangled together, rolling across dirt and sand and dying brush until they skidded to a halt, laughter spouting from both mouths.
Kovu was the first to heave himself out of the strange knot they had formed, chuckling still. On his back once more, Bambi beamed at the young predator, "wasn't that fun?"
"Yeah," Kovu replied quietly, finally catching his breath. He cleared his throat. "Why did you do that?"
"'Cause I wanted to play with you," Bambi stated, flipping himself over to stand, craning his neck as Kovu ducked his had. Wrinkling his brow, he asked hesitantly, "were we not supposed to play together?"
Kovu shook his head. "No! You're a – and I'm a – and it isn't right!" He remembered his mother ranting once about how Simba broke the laws of nature, erasing the line between predator and prey, befriend and protecting that damned meerkat and warthog. "If someone saw..."
"But no one did," Bambi said reassuringly, daring to stand beside Kovu, brown eyes truly meeting green for the first time.
The notion was so simple-minded and yet it brought some comfort to the Prince of the Outlands, and whatever passing thought of defining that line Simba had crossed were vanquished in an instant. Sighing, he nodded. "You're right."
Bambi nudged him, shoulder-to-shoulder before he ducked his head and nuzzled Kovu's neck. This took Kovu by surprise, but he could not move, too entranced by the strange show of sudden affection by a total stranger. When Bambi pulled back, he was bright-eyed and beaming again, white-tail swaying back and forth contentedly.
"Bambi!" called a familiar voice, fast approaching, causing both lion and deer to snap their attention in the direction the voice had sounded from.
"Sora," Bambi whispered, ears suddenly falling flat against his head as he ducked down and backed up slowly. Sora was a friend, and he was sure he would understand, but warning bells were sounding in his mind. Kovu was right, if they were caught together right now, it would not end well.
"You better go," Kovu warned, already making a beeline for a part of the land covered in shadows that lay in the distance.
Bambi had little choice. He nodded, but called for Kovu before the lion had gone too far. "Wait! Kovu?"
Looking over his shoulder, tail swaying impatiently, Kovu called back, "what?"
Bambi's question made little sense in Kovu's mind. Shaking his head and making a face, he asked again, "what?"
"Are we friends?" Bambi pressed on, hopeful.
Never having had a real friend before, Kovu was not sure how to respond and Sora was dangerously close now. Groaning inwardly, the young lion shook his head and took off without looking back. The chances they met again were slim anyway, so what would have been the point?
Bambi watched him disappear in the distance, not noticing Sora until he stepped in front of him and obscured his view.
"Where have you been?" the Master of the Keyblade asked, eyes wide with worry. It was one thing to look after himself, but to keep an eye on a headstrong, naïve deer-prince was another. And, personally, Sora had not felt up to facing the Great Prince had Bambi wound missing, or worse.
Looking to the ground, Bambi replied, "nowhere. Just looking around."
Sighing, mostly out of relief, Sora managed to form a smile on his lion's muzzle. "Don't do that again, okay? Who knows what could have happened to you out here. There are lions!"
"I know," Bambi replied, stealing a glance passed Sora.
Having the feeling the young prince was not all there at the moment, Sora nudged him, urging him to turn around to head back to the world's exit where Goofy and Donald were waiting in the Gummi ship. "Come on, let's get you home."
The second time they met, it could have been coincidence.
Another trip to the Pride Lands, another battle, another summon and Bambi was back in the world he had sorely missed for what had felt like forever. In reality, only a matter of time spanning just a few weeks more than a year had passed. When he was no longer needed, presented with the chance to return home to the forest, the deer-prince asked if he would be able to stay with Sora just a little longer. Figuring Bambi could handle himself well enough now should he run into any trouble, Sora agreed as they walked toward Pride Rock.
The Pride Lands were not as Bambi remembered. These lush, lively plains were not at all like the drab, grayed ruins he had run through a year ago. It was a nice change, he had to admit, but even with the land replenished and thriving, he felt as though something were missing.
As Sora, Donald and Goofy became busy with Nala and Simba, Bambi excused himself without notice to wander the Savannah. It did not take long at all before he found himself standing in place that felt familiar, and he knew this was where he had last seen that lion-prince.
Allowing a lopsided, half-hearted grin to curl his lips, he let his mind wander back to that day. To awkward legs and uneasiness and promises never made. He liked to think that maybe Kovu had run off, scared to be found with someone he obviously should have slaughtered. He liked to think that, maybe, from time to time, Kovu thought of him, too.
Shaking his head, Bambi sighed and turned around, ready to head back to Pride Rock and wait for Sora to take his leave, to bring him home. He never did learn to watch where he was going, and so he was knocked down to the ground after walking carelessly into a body that felt oddly familiar.
"I'm sorry!" he said quickly, staring up at the young lion that loomed over him. He cocked his head to the side. It could not have been –
"What are you doing?" the lion inquired, one brow arched as he looked down at the deer lain out before him. A second or so passed before he, too, recognized the other.
"Kovu?" Bambi asked, hoisting himself up onto his feet. He had not known why he asked, he knew for certain this lion before him was, in fact, who he thought he was. The cub had grown into a fine adolescent, strong and pure raw muscle pulsing beneath his fur. His mane was coming in, tufts of black fur lining the back of his neck. And there was something about his eyes that had changed as well, they seemed darker, secretive.
"You again," Kovu replied, sitting back to watch the buck smirk crookedly. He had to admit, the fawn he had ran into a year ago was growing nicely. The white spots were gone from his back, and the spindly legs were now thick with well-worked muscles. His antlers were coming in, two horns with short prongs sticking out atop his head.
"Kovu!" Bambi exclaimed a little too loudly for Kovu's tastes. Kovu wasted no time in pouncing, pinning the smaller male to the ground, a paw on his mouth, teeth gritted in aggravation.
"Shut up," he hissed, slowly releasing the buck. "They'll hear you," Kovu continued, narrowing his eyes as he surveyed the area.
Bambi was frozen on the ground for a moment, heart thudding away inside his chest. He had never been caught beneath such raw power before and it frightened him to say the least. Once he regained his composure, he spoke in a whisper, "who will hear us?"
"The Pride Landers," Kovu muttered.
"So, I'm not supposed to be here," Kovu went on.
Bambi rose a brow as he flipped over and stood, shaking the dust and dirt from his body. "Why not?" he inquired, childlike innocence still clinging to his maturing voice.
"Because," Kovu said, but did not finish as he heard movement coming from nearby. He lowered himself to the ground slowly, urging Bambi to do the same.
"Because why?" Bambi persisted.
"I'm an Outlander," the lion replied simply enough.
It had never crossed his mind that Kovu was not part of Simba's pride, but now that he knew, a lot of their first meeting made sense. He had not wanted to be seen with him not because they were blurring the line between predator and prey but because they had been in the Pride Lands and Kovu had not belonged. Bambi knew how dangerous trespassing like this must have been, so he had to wonder just why the lion-prince would continue to risk his life like this.
"Then, why are you here?" he asked in a hush, brow knitted together.
Kovu was quiet, and Bambi felt the lion had not even heard him as those intense green eyes stared ahead, watching something in the distance dart back and forth through the tall grass. Eyes untrained, Bambi could not see exactly what it was Kovu was watching, but he could hear shouting. Familiar shouting. Timon and Pumbaa.
"Princess! Puh-lease!" Timon cried out, "enough with the running around!"
"You wouldn't want to wear yourself out, Princess," Pumbaa chimed in.
"You kiddin'?" he heard Timon chuckle sarcastically, "the only thing wearin' out 'round here is us. You'd think after Simba, we'd be able to keep up with her."
Bambi looked to Kovu for answers. The young lion shifted and spoke in a whisper, "Kiara. Simba's daughter."
This came as a surprise, and Bambi could only imagine the shock it would be to Sora and the others when they found out. Clearing his throat, he pressed on. "And you're here... because of her?"
He felt Kovu tense beside him. "Yeah," he replied hesitantly, "something like that." The buck did not need to know the extent of his intrusion, why he was spying on the Princess.
"Have you met before?" Bambi asked, a smirk tugging at the corner of his mouth.
"Briefly," Kovu said, not daring to give any more details. Bambi did not need to know of their last encounter, nor did he need to know of the devious plans that followed thereafter.
"Are you friends?"
Kovu's gaze went downward. "Not exactly," he said, though he was unsure. He had felt that connection between he and Kiara, but something else, something raw and unable to be ignored, told him to get that close would be a bad idea. Sighing, he slunk back before rising to his feet and walking away, head bowed in a shame Bambi would never understand. Regardless, the deer followed.
"Does she – "
"I don't want to talk about her anymore," Kovu snapped, turning his intense green stare on Bambi. When all was said in done, there was nothing to say about he and Kiara. Nothing he felt like sharing, in any case.
Bambi's ears fell back against his head. "Sorry," he apologized, looking to the ground now as they trekked across the plains.
For some reason, seeing the deer looking so lowly, so pathetic for what he thought of as nothing, he rolled his eyes, came to a halt and stopped the meandering buck with a paw to the chest. "Look, it's nothing, alright? I just don't want to talk about her," he said, mumbling somewhat. "But," he paused, clearing his throat as he looked down at Bambi's hooves, "we can talk about something else if you want." Another pause, and then he concluded, "just stop looking like that."
It made Bambi's heart soar inside his chest to hear the lion welcome conversation, as long as he did not speak of Kiara. That was fine, he could do that with ease. His ears perked up once more as they resumed their aimless walk. "I was wondering," the deer-prince said quietly, "how you've been since the last time we met."
Kovu's ears twitched. "Alright, I suppose," he said vaguely. The truth being he could have been worse, but he could have been better – but Bambi did not need to know. "And you?"
"Good," Bambi said, nodding to himself. "I've been busy learning royal protocol," he rolled his eyes and made a face. It was fun once upon a time, when he was not the one in charge, but now it was time to take his role as Prince seriously. He could no longer race through fields with the does, he was to merely watch them from afar and guard them, along with the forest itself.
"Oh," Kovu crinkled his brow, nodding as well, understanding a little. "Yeah, same here," he murmured. However, his training was not at all like Bambi's. His royal upbringing was stained blood red and promised greatness in exchange for a life.
"Have any fun with that?" Bambi inquired, head cocked to the side.
Kovu gave him that look, the one that made him feel as though he spoke nonsense. "Uh, no," the lion said as though it should have been obvious. "In case you haven't noticed, Outlanders don't do the whole fun thing."
"Why not?" Bambi asked, genuinely curious.
"Because," Kovu muttered his short response, hoping if he was too vague, the buck would give up on that topic.
"'Cause why? Don't you have friends?"
Kovu actually laughed, hollow and forced. "No," the lion said in all honesty. Friends were liabilities, things that could not be afforded in times like these. Even the bond between family was frail and to be questioned.
Once again, the deer's ears fell back against his head. "Oh," he said in a hush.
Heaving another sigh, Kovu asked, "what's wrong now?"
Smiling sheepishly, Bambi ducked his head as they walked. "I guess it was silly of me to think that maybe we – "
"That we were friends?" Kovu cut in, stopping the deer in his tracks as he stepped before him. He looked up into Bambi's face, shaking his head a little. Bambi nodded and Kovu fell silent for a few moments. With a roll of his eyes, he started to walk again, the buck reluctantly in tow.
"I suppose," Kovu said quietly, unable to believe he was about to say such a thing, "you're the closest to a friend I've ever had." He did not think of Kiara in that way, considering he was caught up in his mother's wretched plot to overthrow her and her father.
"Really?" Bambi asked, pleasantly surprised.
"Yeah," Kovu responded honestly. He had no quarrel with the buck, and he was not scheming against him in any way – and back then, even he could not deny that they had had fun, even if it was short-lived.
This pleased Bambi to no end, and he showed it by prancing and kicking and whooping in a way that would certainly shame his father had the stag been around to witness such a sight. Kovu stopped walking and eased back when those strong back legs came too close for comfort, nearly making contact with his head more than once.
"Will you calm down before I take it back?" he said, chuckling quietly.
"Sorry," Bambi replied with a chuckle of his own. "I'm just really glad to hear that."
"I don't know why," Kovu said, deciding to lay himself down, curling his tail around his hind legs, tip swaying ever so slightly. "I'm not that great, and yet you're all over me. Even the last time, you were like an oxpecker. A really, really stubborn oxpecker."
The comparison was lost on Bambi, he had no idea what an oxpecker was, but he understood what Kovu was trying to say and he laughed sheepishly as he laid down beside the lion. "You are too great," he said, nodding a little. "There's just something about you – I dunno how to explain."
"Animal magnetism as its finest," Kovu joked somewhat bitterly, because the only thing he could think of that Bambi may have seen beneath his placid surface was the cold-blooded killer he was being made out to be.
"Yeah," Bambi agreed with a chuckle, "something like that, I guess."
Something in the way the deer spoke calmed the lion, and he knew he had assumed wrong, that Bambi was not gazing at that monstrous thing when he looked at him but something else. Possibly something only Bambi could see – probably something he was imagining. Either way, Kovu was not complaining.
They shared a silence for a few minutes, watching the hot Savannah wind stir up dust and rouse birds from their resting places. Kovu was the first to speak up again. "So, what are you doing out here, anyway?"
"I'm with Sora and Donald and Goofy, just like last time," Bambi said, looking to Kovu.
"Oh, I see," Kovu nodded. He looked to the ground, scrapping at the cracked earth with his claws. "How much longer do you have before you have to go?"
"Not very long," the deer-prince said quietly. "In fact, I should go before they come looking for me. I doubt it'd do either of us any good if they found us together."
It would not have been so bad to find the two together, had Kovu and his pride been welcomed in the Pride Lands. Agreeing, Kovu stood and said, "You're right. Go."
And this time, as they went their separate ways, hooves treading across grasses and sand, paws padding harshly over cracking earth and rotting roots, they both looked back and wished they had not. Realizing they shared that dreaded connection, friendship, they also came to understand how little that truly meant when there were worlds keeping them apart.
Despite what Sora said, what Sora seemed to live by, love and faith could not overcome everything.
The third time they met, it was rather intentional.
It was cold as he entered the strange, new world, the heat that clung stubbornly to his fur easily vanquished by the chilled breeze that swept over him. He shivered and shifted uncomfortably on his feet, not at all used to the frigid, wet white powder that swallow up his paws. Realizing the longer he stood in place the colder he would become, he moved quickly, head bowed against the fine dusting of snow the wind carried, a twisted mockery of the sand storms he was used to.
He had come with every intent to find that deer and make the effort to spend some time with him, since Bambi had been the one to visit his world twice already. He owed it to him, and with nothing better to do as of late, he took the opportunity to visit the other's world. But he had never expected to step through the gateway and into this, a land frozen and ghostly.
It did not take long before he found who he was looking for, colliding with him in a fashion familiar to both princes. However, this time neither stag nor lion wound up sprawled across the ground, the collision merely causing them to stumble on experienced legs then gain their footing once more.
"Kovu! What are you doing here?" Bambi exclaimed, wide-eyed and neck craned to get a better look at his friend. Kovu was grown now; big and strong, with a thick black mane. There was also a scar across his left eye that sent shivers down Bambi's spine.
"I c-came to s-see you," the lion said through chattering teeth. "Let me tell you honestly that I r-regret it," he managed a laugh, taking a moment to look the stag over. Bambi had grown tall and lean, many prongs standing proud atop his head like a crown.
Bambi laughed as well, then, noticing the way the lion was tense and shivering, he gasped. Of course Kovu would not be used to this kind of weather. "Come with me. We'll get you out of the cold."
He led Kovu to his den, a hollowed hill pillowed by dried leaves, grasses and worn dirt. As the lion laid down, huddled, Bambi laid beside him, pressing their sides together for warmth.
"Why is it so cold?" Kovu asked, laying his head down on his paws.
"Because it's winter," the stag responded as though it should have been obvious.
"It doesn't get like this in my world," Kovu shivered again. "And that white stuff, what is it?"
"Snow," Bambi said.
"I don't like it," Kovu made a face.
The stag chuckled and looked to the snow falling outside. "It takes some getting used to," he said, then slowly looked back to Kovu. "You really came all this way just to see me?"
Kovu decided it was easier to look at the dead leaves than the deer at his side suddenly, feeling his cheeks become warm beneath the fur there. With a slight nod, he said, "yeah. It'd been awhile and, well... You know how it is."
Bambi smiled. "I missed you, too."