Summary: "Not only had she suddenly appeared right in front of him, but at his heads current position, their pale pink noses were pressed together....Needless to say he had turned red again." A meeting for the first time ficlet.
Characters/Pairings: Theo/Cleo (pre pairing)
-Theodor (believe it or not, it's actually spelled this way!) and Cleopatra Lion and all related trademarks are © to Lou Berger, Christopher Cerf, Michael Frith, Norman Stiles, Kathryn Mullen, Linda Rath and PBS, I believe. No copyright infringement intended.
Author's Note: Yay! A Between the Lions fic! Couldn't find a category, so it will just rest in the Misc. section fo now.
Roughly inspired by several of my library trips when I was little. (Including the huge stacks of books X3) and this picture that I drew: http:// rfr67gal . deviantart . com /art/Hey-Is-This-Yours-136413516
Just take the spaces away from the URL and you should be good.
Theodor Lion, better known as just Theo, was in a bit of a pickle. A tall selection of books were balanced precariously in the cub's large paws, a result of a day at the library. Most of the material was small and thin, but plentiful. His cheeks were warm, his knees were shaking, his glasses had migrated down his nose and his elbows buckled slightly, the weight making them sore.
Theo knew, in the back of his mind, that he may have taken one too many. But he couldn't help it! He really couldn't! So many interesting titles and beautifully illustrated covers had swam before his eager eyes, he couldn't help but want to read them all!
He supposed that his aching arms and clumsy step was the price he needed to pay for that.
The small cub walked slowly down a row of full shelves, trying so desperately to look around the stack to make sure he wouldn't bump into any stray readers. It was a humorous sight to behold, the small boy hidden behind the multicoloured spines. A few older library wanderers cracked smiles and some children giggled as he carefully avoided each one.
But no one offered to help him.
How was he ever going to make it?
At the very top of the cub's burdens, sticking out teasingly over edge, lay a crudely woven, African style bookmark. His Mama had given it to him the day he had printed his first letters. The base was thick and stitched in dull golden thread with bits of green and red striping it. The very top displayed an oddly shaped circle with the firmly sewed face of a lion, a shaggy collection of tassels lining the outer circle for his mane. Theo carried it everywhere. Despite it's age and it's tendency to get lost and cause trouble, he thought is was beautiful. It was his favourite thing to mark his place with. Even if his place was at the dinner table or the piano bench or his Mama's old writing desk, guarding his other brothers and sisters from taking it.
That happened a lot in his family, so the mark was put to good use.
Not to mention the number of book pages it had nestled in.
Theo tripped slightly over a loosened piece of rug, the bookmark teetering more violently, threatening to fall. His heart thumped quickly, but it didn't move any farther. It was as if it was playing a trickster game with him, seeing how many times it could frazzle him before he just gave up and carried it around in his mouth like he used to.
Which he wasn't going to do, by the way.
"Oh, please, please do not fall." he thought silently "Please do not fall."
The repeated, prayer like begging worked. The bookmark teetered for a moment more, baiting the cub's breath, then settled. The bespectacled cub heaved a soft sigh of relief and readjusted his books. Maybe it wouldn't be so hard after all! If he could balance a large stack of reading material, and his slippery bookmark, he could surely make it through to the other side of the library without dropping anything!
With a new sense of determination he stepped forward.
And bumped right into a bookshelf.
Startled, Theodor back tracked, thinking he had knocked into a person. His book pile took a gentle lurch, bouncing off his nose, and clacking against his thick, black frames. He managed to save himself from falling over and keep the books in order too. Slightly embarrassed, he took a quick look around to make sure he was not being stared at.
"That was close," he whispered to himself, blowing a sweaty strand of hair away from his eyes. The beads braided in clicked with annoyance.
Had it always been this hot in the library? He never noticed before. He was feeling really warm now that he thought about it. Hmm. There weren't any windows open that he had seen, maybe that was it.
Or maybe because he was getting a workout just crossing the building!
On the bright side though, he had survived a bump in without falling in front of everyone! It was winding down to be one of his lucky days.
Proudly, the dark cub stumbled forward as gracefully as he could, flicking his large ears. Then, with a sound no louder than a laughing butterfly, the raggedy, trickster bookmark fell to the carpeted floor.
Theo huffed with defeat and frustration, his cheeks flushing red.
Even worse than dropping everything, was dropping only one thing. At least when everything's on the ground, you can just bend over and pick it all up. But when just one lowly object falls, especially if you have many other things in your hands, bending over becomes extremely difficult. Everything else would fall, then you'd make a scene right in the middle of the library!
And that wasn't on his to-do list today.
Theo managed to bend forward slightly, trying to peer toward the floor to see where it had fallen.
It was a lose/lose scenario for sure.
Almost as if to prove a point, the stack of precariously piled books in his arms wobbled, several of them falling to the ground, drumming in muffled thumps.
The lion cub grumbled under his breath, awkwardly kneeling, setting what was left of his pile to the ground. Why? That was his only question. Why? He gathered the troublesome reading material back into the pile, straightening it just so. He did a brief once over, counting them silently in his head.
The books were all there, now where was that bookmark?
With a sigh, he rubbed at his sore arms. At least they were getting a break. That was good.
Adjusting his loose glasses to fit over his nose, he got lower to the floor, searching around for the original trouble maker. He would be sure to give it a good talking to when they got home, maybe even give it a time out and put it in the closet for a while. Actually, he probably wouldn't even be mad at it. He'd pretend, but he wouldn't mean it.
Although worn and old and only a large bookmark, it was his friend.
It was his only friend.
It couldn't have fallen far, right?
Theo looked around the floor where he had heard it drop. He was sure he heard it drop. He peered under shelves, stood up to make sure it hadn't gotten trapped under him, scanned the tightly packed books on the rack, even sifted through his pile a few times, hoping he had just accidentally wedged it between some of them..
It wasn't there! It wasn't there! It wasn't anywhere! Where was it?!
Oh no, oh no.
He couldn't have lost it! He couldn't have!
Theodor felt his eyes water and his vision go blurry. Tears ran down his panicking features, his nose filling. His friend was gone! And he felt just awful! Crawling around, he whispered a promise to his bookmark, over and over. If it showed up, he'd carry him in his mouth again. He'd never let him get lost ever again! Theo missed it. He missed it so much!
With a hiccup, he desperately held his tears back, putting a brave face on. He couldn't start to bawl in public, that wouldn't look good at all. Only babies cried in public! He wasn't a baby anymore! But what was he going to do? His Dad was waiting for him near the reading room, and he had promised that he would come right back when he was finished.
But he couldn't leave without his bookmark! It was his special bookmark! He carried it around as a child would a bear or a blanket. It was his friend! His best friend! He loved that raggedy scrap!
Oh, what was he going to do? What was he going to do?!
"Hey," a pretty voice spoke up "Are you okay?"
The cub froze when he was, paws pressed on the carpet, tail in the air. Oh not now! he thought silently.
Not now! Not now! People couldn't see him this close to a breakdown!
"Hello?" the effeminate voice came again "Are you okay?"
Hastily, the bespectacled cub dusted off his paws and front, rubbing under his glasses, wiping tears away with his arm. Pressing his eyes closed, he cleared his throat and sniffed, riding himself of all traces of crying that there had been.
"Umm.." he started, horrified by how nasally his voice sounded "Yes, I'm okay miss...I just..just..lost something, that's all. But I'm sure it didn't go far. I probably just left it...somewhere else"
Oh great, now he was lying too!
Theo looked up from his kneeling position, expecting a librarian or some other adult female standing over him. What could she be thinking of him, a six year old boy, upset on the floor? Perhaps she thought he was just a whimpering little one who missed his Mama. How humiliating.
With the last remaining shreds of his dignity, he squinted up at her through his fogged lenses.
But she wasn't a grown up.
One could only imagine his surprise when he met eye to eye with another lion cub.
Another girl cub!
Theodor felt himself flush again, but this time, out of embarrassment. He stared, mouth slightly agape.
The young girl looked down, her hands and arms curled cozily behind her back, her bracelet clad tail flicking humorously. Extravagant bands and beads decorated the cub's neck and ears in pretty golds and greens and blues and...well...all kinds of colours! Her fur was gold-ish with tufts of white and cream on her cheeks, dusted with just the slightest trace of spots. She seemed about his age, his foggy mind thought.
Had she been there the entire time? Watching him trip and tumble and crawl around like he was crazy?
The thought crossed his mind, but was quickly replaced by an unfamiliar blurriness. The young female gave him a smile, her amber eyes sparkling, and offered a paw to him. He didn't notice it.
Everything was blurry, so blurry. Only she came into focus.
His glasses were on, weren't they?
Yes they were.
Then what was the problem?
With his legs feeling like gelatin and a stomach turned in an impressive knot, the lion cub managed to get off his knees and up into an upright position, ignoring her hand. For lack of better, or more intelligent, thing to do he hastily gathered the top few selection of books in the still floor bound stack, and pressed them to his rapidly thumping chest. Then, there was nothing left. All he could do was stand frozen, under her gaze, and remember to blink. Blinking was important.
This cub was not familiar to him. At least, he had never seen her around before. She wasn't from school was she? He couldn't remember seeing her anywhere. Was she there to laugh at him? Oh please don't let her laugh at him! He was already embarrassed and sad as it was.
Theo looked back at the ground, tracing the elaborate carpet pattern with his eyes. Well, at least he could see again. Gathering his already shaky courage and trying to calm the rosy warmth that stung his cheeks, he risked a peek up at her.
His mouth fell open again.
Not only had she suddenly appeared right in front of him, but at his heads current position, their pale pink noses were pressed together.
Needless to say, he turned red again.
"Is this what you lost?" the cub asked, holding up the worn mark between her fingers. Theo's heart soared. She had found it! This strange girl had found it! She had found it and was now playing with it between her hands! But he didn't move to grab it, he was too preoccupied on how close she was. She didn't seem to be phased by the fact that their noses were touching or that Theo was ruby in shade. But he was still frozen, focused on his shallow breathing....and the wide eyes that were staring expectantly at him.
They were very pretty, he thought. And an interesting colour and-what was he saying? He should be thanking her for his bookmark!
"I founded...er..." she rolled her tongue around in frustration of the mispronunciation "Found it on the floor over there" Theo stared at her hand, the other pointing in some other direction "It's neat! Is it s' posed to look like a lion?"
With a dry gulp, Theo nodded.
"Nifty!" she held it under his nose , the tassels tickling their chins. Her ears flicked merrily, sending her earrings clacking. For a split second, it seemed that everything had gone silent.
"Y'know," she said slowly, breaking the silence, putting her free hand up to her lips "I've never seen you here before, I don't think. And trust me, I've seen everyone in this whole library at least once. And maybe everyone in this whole town, probably! What's your name?"
The dark cub swallowed again, searching for his voice or mobility or....something. Something that didn't make him look stupid. Then again, he probably already did look stupid. With a rough jerk and some adjusting, he managed to move his trembling arm enough to reach out and grab the burdensome comfort object. The knot in his stomach calmed slightly when the familiar cloth rubbed up against his palm. He needed to thank her. Or at least, he tried to thank her.
But all he could push up with his voice was a squeak.
She giggled and stepped back.
Theodor tried again, suddenly feeling as if someone had stuffed cotton in his mouth. "T-t-theo," he finally coughed up, just below his library whisper. "That's it. M-my name i-i-is Th-eo. And....t-hanks"
The golden cub frowned slightly, stepping back from him. Her eyes scanned his face as her ears flattened.
"What? What was that?" the young girl tilted her head. "Did you say Leo?"
Theo winced. Everyone made that mistake in his class. He went to an all animal school, but for some reason, he was the only lion cub in his class. Many of them had trouble reading the "th" sound and ended up settling with Leo instead. That they could pronounce, and even if hew corrected them, they still called him Leo. And that was his school given name.
Theo didn't like that. Just because Leo meant lion, didn't mean that it was automatically his name. Even though he knew that she hadn't heard him properly, it still stung his chest slightly, having such a pretty girl say his name wrong.
With a twitch of his nose, he shook a shaky no.
She shook her head side to side with him. "No, that wasn't it, huh?..."
The beads that decorated her upper body, clicked together merrily as if they had started to dance.
"It was..." she scrunched up her nose, sounding out the syllables he had given her, "L-no-Thr-nope-Th-ee-o, Thhh-eeeo....Theo?" His heart lurched at the sound. "Did you say Theo?"
She had said his name! She had said his name!
He nodded awkwardly trying to hide how happy he was to hear her say that one syllable.. He was sure that his cheeks were now a permanent red colour. With a nervous smile, he shook his whiskers, huggling the bookmark to his chest, hoping it would comfort him somewhat.
"Theo! 'at's a nice name! Short for Theodore, right?"
"Theodor" he whispered in agreement.
"Cool!" she grinned fully, revealing a cute, gaped tooth smile "I'm Cleopatra!"
An airy shush echoed from the aisle nearby.
"Oops!" she laughed, adjusting her voice "Forgot! Sorry Mrs. Gruidae! See? I told you I knew everyone! And everyone knows my voice too!"
Theo looked her over, slightly taken a back at her volume level. Were you even allowed to talk that loud in a library? Wasn't it against a law or something? She was a touch on the loud side for a library if you asked him. But nobody did.
Besides, he kind of liked it.
"Yup! Cleopatra Panthera. It's 'practically perfect in every way' to meet you!" she curtsied low to the ground, her Mary Poppins reference hanging in the air.
Well, that explained the necklaces around her neck and tail and ears, not that he was thinking stereotypically or anything! He had read about an Egyptian princess...or was it pharaoh?... named Cleopatra before. She had ruled over Ancient Egypt for a while, he thought.
The book he had read was his thickest one to date, complete with glossy pictures, that sat proudly on his lower shelf. She had often been drawn with beautifully crafted, large jewelry pieces, and multicoloured fabrics, with coffee coloured skin and raven black hair.
But despite that, he thought that this Cleopatra was much prettier than the one in the book illustration!
"Actually," Cleopatra continued, rocking back on her heels "just Cleo for short. Cleopatra's too long! And some people find it hard to pro..pronounce. Hey, y'know what?! Our names rhyme! Well, our short names anyway! Theo and Cleo! See? Isn't that neat? Cleo and Theo!"
"Y-y-yeah, Cleo and T-t-theo" Theodor agreed, running his fingers over his bound books. He tried it on his tongue. Cleo and Theo, Theo, Cleo.
He liked the sound of that.
"So, I see you got a lot of books today, Theo! That's good! Do you like to read lots? I love to read lots! Everything I can get my hands on , as a matter of fact! What 'bout you?"
Before he could answer, Cleo turned on her heel, raising her left ear up. "What?" she whisper called seemingly to nobody. Theo gave her a strange look, tilting his body to the side. Who was she talking too?
"What? Say again?"
She wasn't crazy, was she?
Suddenly, an older voice called out from farther back shelves, a little louder this time "Cleopatra. Cleopatra?"
Theo's eyes widened, his black frames slipping down again.
Cleo caught his look this time, and chuckled. "That's my grandad! He calls me Cleopatra allll the time, not Cleo, even though I told him it's too long!"
"Cleopatra?" the voice, apparently Cleo's grandfather spoke out again "Where are you? Wouldn't you like to help with story time?"
"Oh!" Cleo spun on her tip toes, her tail gently brushing his arm. "That's right! I forgot! I get to pick the book this time!"
She pranced off.
That was a little sudden.
Theodor sighed slightly, feeling as if he had just woken up from a dream. His body finally loosened, and his arms unlocked, dropping their contents to the floor again, including the bookmark, which was under his hawk eye of vision this time.
He began to bend down, realizing how long he must have been keeping his dad. At least he had gotten his bookmark back. He was sure his father would understand.
"And, oh yeah!" Cleopatra twirled back toward him, giving him a smile again "It was nice meeting you! Make sure you take good care of that mark! You wouldn't want to actually lose it! Buh bye! Hope to see you again!"
And with that, she skipped away.
He wondered if the strange feeling that burned inside of him was what happened when somebody made a friend. Theo kind of liked the flurry tickling that rolled around his insides as he watched her go, smaller and smaller, until she turned a corner and was gone. The bespectacled cub slowly gathered his spilling, piling it up, pausing only to glance at the worn weaving scrap in his hand, before securing it snug between two book covers.
He may have just made a friend. He may have just made a real friend.
Hey, maybe it wasn't so troublesome after all!