".....what's wrong with him?"

" Nothing's wrong with him, what do you mean what's "wrong" with him?" The female meerkat glared, craddling her amrs more closely to her chest. Frowning, Uncle Max peered to get a better look at the tiny bundle that she held----a creature so thin and frail that it it looked more like a fuzzy twig than a proper meerkat. The pup shivered, sneezed, then gave a weak, squeaky wail as its face became completely burried in its mother's fur.

" Stop squeezing him like that, he can't even breathe to cry!" Startled, she eased up,gazing down at the pup with concern.

" He's still breathing funny, " Uncle Max remarked. The mother shrugged, though worry was still reflected clearly in her eyes.

" He's just little. He'll be fine, Uncle Max. You gotta give him time to get strong!"

" Pfft. Strong? He looks like a stick with legs! " Carefully, Max lifted the baby's small hand. It was like holding a feather. " And that hair. It's red---like the sun! He's gonna get eaten for sure----"

" You leave him alone!"

" How can he blend in? Hide from prededators? He's like a beacon for the hyenas! FREE MEAL---COME AND GET IT!"

" You STOP it!" max fell quiet, silenced by the ferocity in his niece's voice. " He's beautiful, there's not a thing wrong with him! He'll be fine, you hear me? You leave my baby alone!"

For a moment, neither meerkat spoke. Max watched grumpily as his niece stroked her baby's fur, trying in vain to smooth back the offending red hair.

" So. What's his name?" Max asked at last. His tone had softened, somewhat.

" ....Timon." She spoke the name lovingly, smiling down at its owner. " My little Timmy."

Timon's eyes opened at this and he stared up at her, as if sensing that he was at the center of the grown ups' discussion. His eyes seemed to take up the majority of his het had.

" I guess that's about as good a name as any," Max mumbled. He patted the fur on Timon's tiny chest, feeling the pup's heart beating wildly beneath. Now fully awake, he seemed incredibly alert.

" Look, Timmy! It's your Uncle Max!" Timon's ma whispered affectionately. But Timon's interest was already diverted, to a few thin rays of sunlight that streamed in through a crack in a tunnel entrance. He stretched a tiny paw towards it, wriggling and cooing excitedly.

Uncle Max sighed, crossing his arms in a huff.

" That Timon doesn't have the sense he was born with. If he even had any at all."