Fun fact: FanFiction won't let you upload documents at three at the morning. Or at least, it didn't last night...
Yeah, so, anyway, this was a product of both a severe bout of writer's block with Chapter 16 of "The Pridelanders" and also a strange bit of unexpected inspiration in the form of a story called "Attack of the 50 Foot Lioness" (which is not on this site, and is by a guy named Sam Simpson). It's kinda funny, 'cause this story is pretty much the polar opposite of that one, but I got an inkling of an idea for this a while ago and that story brought it all back. Go figure.
The status of this update is officially "side project", which means that unless I get some really positive reviews on it, I'll be focusing on "The Pridelanders", and as such the update schedule for this story will be sporadic at best. But maybe it'll be popular. I don't know. It's totally impossible to tell whether something you wrote is funny, because after you reread it editing for the fifth time it always sounds stupid. So I just left it in and assumed it was all right to begin with. Obviously, reviews on that would be appreciated.
So, without further ado, here's Chapter 1: "In Which Nothing Really Happens, but Also In Which Aquaman52 Manages To Write Less Than Four Thousand Words In An Update For The First Time In His Life". Booyah.
(Wait, but this author's note adds about five hundred so...well, that figures. Never mind.)
Chapter 1: Breaking and Entering
Twilight in the Pridelands is for many the most peaceful time of the day. The sun, having nearly reached the end of its daily trek across the cerulean sky, wanes into the horizon, brilliant tendrils of silver and gold seeming to reach back towards the blue as if to catch hold of a passing cloud and hold the glowing orb aloft for just a few moments more. The bountiful grasses below reflect this change as well, the iridescent blades tinged with silver in the fading light and the sprouting springtime trees glistening with fresh life. Yet the animals inhabiting this haven of tranquility are perhaps the best indications of its true nature. The mighty bull elephant with his beady black eyes, swinging his wrinkled trunk to and fro. The spindly antelope with her nose in the air, ready to flee at a moment's notice. The loping wildebeest with their sharpened horns, polishing off one last mouthful of grass.
And of course, the red-maned lion, limping through the grasslands and cursing like a drunk baboon.
"Gods damnit, that hurt!" the king of the jungle roared, his pained glare zeroed in on the purplish bruise pulsating under the fur on his right shoulder.
"Oh, would you quit complaining already?" his cream-colored companion replied with an eyeroll and an exasperated sigh. "It's your own damn fault, anyway."
"My fault? Whose genius idea was it to hike up half a mountainside at sunset?"
"I just suggested it. You were the one that agreed."
"What was it you said? 'Oh, come on, Simba! It'll be so romantic up there!'"
"And it was. Until you decided to pull a triple klutz off the peak and slid halfway down ass-first."
"Excuse me: shoulder-first. If you're gonna insult me, do it properly."
"How thoughtless of me. Would it be better if I just called you an idiot again?"
"Depends. Would that be the seventh time today or the eighth?"
"I only had six, but whatever works for you."
"Okay. You're an idiot."
"True. And you're lost."
"We're going the right way."
"We've been going the right way for an hour."
"Well, maybe if someone hadn't insisted we not stop for directions, we might be there already."
"Hey, I just suggested we keep going. You're the one that agreed."
"Why did I marry you again?"
"Something involving true love and a deranged monkey, I believe."
"Hmm…should've gone for the monkey. He's probably more light on his feet, in any case."
"Ow…you hurt your paw giving me that sucker punch to the gut?"
"I'll be fine. But thanks for asking."
"Sure thing. Are we there yet?"
"How about now?"
"Please stop talking."
"Nothing wrong with a little backseat driving."
"That wasn't a suggestion."
"All right, then. Lead on, Dr. Livingston."
Finally, the dusky grasslands were silent once more, only the whispering wind and an occasional grunt of pain from the larger of the two lions disturbing the scene. As the far corner of the sun began to slip underneath the earth, the pair of lions at long last reached their destination.
"Rafiki?" the larger one yelled, keeping his right forepaw completely off the ground. "You got a minute?"
The rustling leaves of the majestic baobab tree in front of him were all that replied. "Oh, he better be home," he growled under his breath as he limped forward to the base of the tree. "Rafiki! Come on, Rafiki, I just need some painkillers!"
"I don't think he's here, Simba," the other lion said as her mate continued to stare up into the lofty heights of the baobab. "He's probably over at Pride Rock or someth…wait, what are you doing?"
Simba didn't answer, seeing as he was halfway up the tree trunk at the time. With another leap and one last groan of agony, he had disappeared into the leafy depths high above the ground.
"Simba, get down from there!" the lioness shouted, a tiny bit of concern punctuating her angry tone. "If you fall out, I'm not dragging you back home!"
"Don't worry," the lion in the tree yelled back. "I'm just gonna grab the painkillers. I'll be out before you know it."
"Oh, come on, your shoulder can't possibly hurt that bad."
Suddenly, Simba's head popped out from between two branches. "No, it can't, Nala," he agreed. "But I highly doubt the representatives from the Mountain Pride that're coming tomorrow to finish the boundary talks are going to be convinced of anything if every other word out of my mouth is four letters long. So I'm just gonna grab a few painkillers and solve that problem before it starts."
"Do you even know what they look like?" Nala yelled after her mate as he faded back into the interior of the tree.
"Of course I know what they look like!" came his indignant reply. "I've seen the bag a million times!"
Nala rolled her eyes and sat down, extending her paw toes in front of her and putting one down for every second that passed. When she ran out of toes, Simba spoke up again.
"Hey, was the painkiller the red powder or the blue?"
"I thought it was green," Nala replied with a shake of her head and a tiny smile.
"No, the green powder was the cough medicine. I know that, at least."
Nala sighed and shook her head once more. "I'm coming up there."
"I don't think that's such a good idea…"
"Oh, relax," she interrupted, dipping into a crouch as she reached the spot on the trunk where Simba had gone up. "I won't tell anyone you needed help from a girl."
"No, Nala, wait a second!"
But it was too late. In two bounds, Nala had clawed her way up the trunk and entered the tree, where she quickly realized exactly why Simba hadn't wanted her to come up.
"Well, this is cozy," her mate mumbled with a grin as their pelts ground together in the cramped space. There was barely enough room for her to turn her head and raise an eyebrow at him.
"I did warn you," he continued a moment later, maneuvering himself around so that he was facing in the opposite direction as his less-than-jubilant mate.
"Let's just find the painkillers and get out of here," Nala grumbled. "And you better not be staring at my ass the whole time."
"Oh, don't worry, babe…" Simba said with a smirk as he pinched a bit of her flank in between his claws, making her yelp in surprise. "I promise I'll look for the drugs some of the time."
The two lions began to circle around the tiny treetop, both searching diligently for the elusive relief powder. Well, at least, one of them was. Mostly.
"Found it!" Nala said a minute later, dragging out a small lump of something from behind a pile of dirty carved wooden bowls. Simba craned his neck and caught a glimpse of the small brown bag knotted with a small weaved string, immediately recognizing it as the one he had seen Rafiki carry with him when one of the lionesses got hurt during a hunt.
"Nice going, Nal'!" Simba grunted as he began to squirm back around to get to the bag. "What color is it?"
"Figures. Lemme just get a bit of it, and we can get out of-"
Suddenly, Nala's eyes went wide. "Simba, look out!" she shouted, but by the time her mate heard her he had already bumped the gnarled branch stocked with various bowls and bags containing, as Simba often said, "Aiheu-knows-what". As Nala watched in horror, the entire branch swayed from the impact of the lion's bulk, sending the contents of the containers careening around about them. Simba watching with equally wide eyes, realizing that he was stuck right behind the towering display of medicinal prowess that was seemingly in the process of spilling its contents all over his back. But as Nala cringed and Simba shut his eyes, the branch slowly began to steady again. By the time Simba cracked his eyelids open a moment later, the branch was completely still once more, with all of its various contents still firmly in place.
Simba let out the breath he had been holding in with a heavy sigh. "Whew," he said, giving his mate a shaky grin. "You know, for a minute there I thought one of 'em was gonna fall off and hit m-" At that moment, Simba fell silent again as a flimsy-looking wooden bowl, which had been teetering right at the very top of the branch, finally slipped off and shattered against his head.
"Ow!" he screamed as the liquid inside the bowl soaked through his mane and dripped down his face, a few drops entering his nose and mouth.
"The bowl…" Nala whispered as she eyed the shattered remnants of the hand-crafted container.
"My head!" Simba retorted as he tried to shake off the viscous substance to no avail. "Gods, what is this stuff?"
"I don't know," Nala replied worriedly, finally remembering her mate again. "Don't drink it."
"Oh, thank you, Captain Obvious," Simba growled. "And the sky is what color again?"
Nala scowled and looked away. "Excuse me for trying to help," she muttered as she pushed past Simba and began to climb back down to the ground. "The painkiller's over in the corner."
Suddenly, Simba's shoulder didn't hurt as much. After a minute or so of deliberation, he slid back down the trunk and padded over to where his mate was lying a few yards away, facing into the sunset with a frustrated look still encompassing her face.
"Hey, I'm…I'm sorry I snapped at you back there," Simba said softly as he lay down next to her. "I didn't mean to hurt your feelings. I just got kinda frustrated and…I shouldn't have said that. I'm sorry."
Nala glanced over at him and met his eyes, her brilliant green orbs seeming to give off their own light in the dim radiance of the evening. After a long moment of contemplation, she sighed and put on a faint smile.
"I forgive you," she said. "Just think about what you say next time, okay?"
Simba smiled warmly back. "Okay," he whispered as he scooted closer to her and gave her a gentle lick on the cheek. He moved to nuzzle her, only to have her lean away with a knowing look in her eyes.
"What?" he asked a bit worriedly. "I'm just trying to…"
"Oh, I know," she replied quickly. "But aren't you forgetting something?"
"I'm sure I am," he chuckled. "What did I forget?"
"Two things: first of all, you've still got all that goo in your mane, and I'd rather you not smear it all over me too. And second of all…we never did make it up that cliff today."
"Meaning…" Simba continued, beginning to have an inkling of an idea what she was playing at.
"Meaning there's a pretty empty watering hole over there," she finished, motioning back behind her with a jerk of her head. "And you still owe me a romantic moment."
Simba got to his feet, the bruise on his shoulder utterly forgotten. "Well, then," he murmured into her ear as he came up beside her. "One romantic moment coming right up."
With twin secretive smiles on their face, the two lions made for the watering hole. Behind him, the baobab tree stood just as tall as always, unflinching and unchanging. Except for one spot, right in the center of the secluded clearing at its core, right where the last few drops of the liquid that had spilled all over Simba had fallen. And as the two lions reached the deserted lake, they had no idea of the miracle occurring just a few hundred yards away, for right where the liquid had fallen, the ancient wood of the baobab tree was growing steadily brighter and cleaner, until by the time several hours had passed, the spots gave off the scent of fresh sap. The potion had been completely absorbed by the tree, and before long there was only one remaining trace that it had ever been there at all.
In the exact spot where the drops had come to rest, where old, gnarled tree bark had once been, there was only clean, fresh, seemingly new wood.
• • •
Thirty minutes later, the sun had nearly sunk entirely beneath the far-off horizon, only a think sliver of orange still looking out upon the Pridelands. This fact went unnoticed by the two lions wrapped up in each other's forelegs by the side of a picturesque watering hole, both of whom were still damp from their romp in the nearby lake. They were also slightly out of breath, since they had been playing in the water together and, well, one thing had led to another. Actually, one thing had led to several anothers, but that's hardly relevant.
"So did I make up for my triple klutz yet?" Simba murmured, continuing to absentmindedly stroke the back of his mate's neck to her obvious enjoyment.
Nala thought for a moment as she shifted a bit closer to the rumble emanating from her partner's chest. "I'll let it slide this time," she muttered back as she weaved her forepaws into his mane and placed her muzzle right in front of his, putting her just close enough to lovingly slide her tongue across his nose. Simba smiled and returned the favor, continuing to purr as she played with his mane hair.
"So you think we should start heading back any time soon?" Simba said as he began to gently groom behind Nala's ears, drawing a particularly ecstatic purr from deep within the beige lioness.
"I suppose that would be the responsible thing to do," she mumbled, her voice slurred by a deep fatigue brought on by her mate's affection.
Simba stopped for a moment. "That's a no, then?"
"That's a no."
"Good," he said with a grin. "'Cause I'm not finished with you just yet."
Nala's smile grew as Simba began his grooming again, and she shifted a bit to allow him easier access to the backs of her ears. Her paws seemed to move of their own accord, stroking back and forth along the almost invisible valley between his shoulder blades, in the way that only she knew he adored. Suddenly, she stopped and pulled her paws free, her brow creasing as a strange thought occurred to her.
Simba was quick to pick up on the change in his mate's mood. "What is it?" he asked, moving back to look her in the eyes. "Is something wrong?"
"No, it's just…" Nala muttered, trapping a few strands of his mane hair in between her paw toes and extending them out to their full length. "I swear your mane was longer earlier."
Simba glanced down at the only part of his mane he could see, on his chest. "Doesn't look any different to me," he said with a shrug. "What makes you say that?"
"I don't know," she replied, sounding just as confused as her mate. "I just can't help thinking it looks different somehow…"
Simba looked at his chest once more, but still didn't see anything out of the ordinary. "Maybe it's just the light," he suggested tenderly. "I'm sure it's just as long as always."
"Yeah, you're probably right," Nala agreed before turning her green eyes up towards the auburn set beside her. "So what was that you said a second ago?"
Simba's eyebrows shot up. "What, about heading back? We can leave any time you want, y'know."
Nala only blinked in reply, her deadpan expression providing endless amusement for the red-maned lion at her side. "Oh, that," he continued a moment later with a sly smirk. "Well, I guess it doesn't even matter if you're still too tired…"
Nala's lips curled into a knowing smile of her own. "I think the better question might be…" she whispered as she pulled herself back in close to her mate and licked his cheek, her heart beginning to race as her creamy underbelly ground against the deeper yellow pelt of her mate. "Are you still too tired?"
"Actually, I'm not," he said, an excited air of curiosity overtaking his once passionate inflection. "It's kinda weird. I was tired a while ago, but now I feel like I've got even more energy now than I had earlier…"
"Simba?" Nala said suddenly in a bright voice. "Do you remember that conversation we had a few days ago about 'ruining the moment'?"
"Am I doing it again?"
"I see. And how do I fix that again?"
"Well…" Nala said pensively as she rolled onto her opposite side and faced away from Simba. "You could start by rubbing my back."
"And then we'll work from there?"
"That sounds about right."
"You know, I might not even be in the mood anymore after that."
"Oh, I think you'll manage."
"You're enjoying this, aren't you?"
"Immensely. Start rubbing."
With a playful sigh, Simba gave in and laid his paws back on his mate, this time kneading his paw toes against the firm muscles lining her spine. As Nala purred and wriggled with delight, Simba began to smile as well, drawing himself in closer and closer until he was near enough to give her a gentle nip on the back of her neck. Nala gasped slightly and felt her heart flutter at the contact, and almost involuntarily she shifted closer still, inviting Simba to continue peppering her neck and back with a heavenly mixture of licks and love bites. Both lions were fully intoxicated with the other's presence, the heat of their bodies quickening their breaths and sending tingles of desire all the way down to their tails. As Simba finally slid his paws back over to his mate's front, Nala's own forepaws snapped up to cover them, her paw toes finding the creases between his and effortlessly slipping inside. As Nala's paws slowly began to pull Simba's paws down her chest and towards her belly, Simba nipped at her ears one last time, finally hearing an impassioned moan sneak out from between his lover's lips.
And as Nala rolled onto her stomach and beckoned her mate forward, Simba's mane, unbeknownst to either of them, continued to shorten.
• • •
By the time Simba and Nala finally returned to the den inside Pride Rock, the sun had long since retreated into its own abode deep beneath the soil to sleep and wait for the morning, leaving only the moon and its tapestry of accompanying stars to guide the two lovers home. But despite Simba's earlier wisecracks, Nala was indeed more than capable of leading them back to the den, and before the red-maned lion could even think of questioning her judgment again they were back within the familiar shadow of the majestic monolith.
"You think anyone stayed up to wait for us?" Simba whispered as he followed Nala up the narrow path to the base of the promontory where he had once been presented to the kingdom so long ago.
"Not after the hunt today, they didn't," Nala replied in a low tone. "I'm surprised I stayed up to wait for you."
Simba chuckled softly and bumped his head against his mate's. "Well, I'm sure glad you did," he muttered. "And it was worth it, right?"
Nala turned and nuzzled him back, giving him a quick lick under his chin for good measure. "I'll say so," she replied warmly, pulling back to meet his eyes again. Only a moment later, though, her heartfelt expression fell away, once again replaced by one of intrigue.
"Okay, now I'm sure it's shorter," she said confidently.
"What, my mane?" Simba said, rubbing a forepaw against the back of his neck self-consciously. "You really think so?"
"Yes. Or…oh, I don't know," Nala answered, once again sounding more than a little unsure of herself. "I can't even see straight right now. I'm probably just tired. I mean, how could it be getting shorter?"
Simba smiled and nudged her towards the darkness of the cave. "Well, if it's all fallen out by morning, I'll let you say 'I told you so'. Deal?"
"Deal. But I would've said it anyway."
"Touché. Let's go to bed."
With that, the two made their way inside, stepping over and around the motionless bodies of their fellow pridemembers until they reached the unoccupied pedestal at the center reserved for the king and his mate. Nala reached it first and lied down on her stomach, only to have Simba lay down beside her a second later and pull her gently onto her side and into his warm embrace. Nala chuckled quietly, secretly relishing in her mate's affection, and wasted no time in rolling over to face him and tucking her head under his chin.
"Good night, Nala," Simba whispered as his paws settled around the center of her back. "I love you."
Nala yawned. "Good night, Simba," she replied in a voice already heavy with sleep. "I love you too."
Fatigue hit both lions like a charging rhinoceros. Nala nestled her nose into Simba's chest, his muted scent filling her senses and lulling her to sleep the same way it had every night of the last six months. The Pridelands had grown so much in that time, and so had Simba. He had gone from being a determined, yet unsure adolescent to a strong, capable leader…not to mention, a pretty good mate on the wayside. And as she let sleep overtake her and whisk her away to a night of sweet dreams and peaceful slumber, she remembered one last time how lucky she was to have so much.
Little did she know how quickly all that could change in just a single night.
Well, I did say that not much happened...or did it? o_0
...yeah, nothing really happened. Sorry. But on the plus side, I did get to throw in a bit of some more mature Simba/Nala stuff, so that was...interesting. To write, I mean. And we're all done with the exposition, so next chapter is when it gets really interesting (assuming you like crazy sci-fi stuff that starts out with a tenuous grip on reality and goes down from there). So let's be optimistic with that.
As always, reviews are appreciated. And if anyone at any point has an idea for a better title to this, I'll love to hear it, because quite frankly I hate the one I have now. So, with that in mind, Aquaman out.