The sun shone brightly overhead as Vitani, Aunt Vunja, and Aunt Kuuma made their way through the Pride Lands. Vitani had been spending most of her time with Segyena over the last few weeks, and as much as she was enjoying having a friend in the Pride, it was good to be around family again.

Aunt Kuuma was walking rather stiffly. She was the oldest lioness in the Pride, and it was really starting to show. Aunt Vunja was old too, but it didn't show as much on her. Meeting Kinga seemed to have brought out the youth in her as well. Not long after Segyena told Vitani about her cubs, Aunt Vunja and Uncle Kinga now had gotten together officially. The lioness had finally gotten over her memories of Zira and Khali and had let herself be happy. Vitani was happy for her, but she couldn't help but notice the pang of pain and jealousy in Aunt Kuuma's eyes every time she saw her sister with her mate. Vitani didn't fully understand it. She figured Aunt Kuuma must have been in love once and that it had gone badly.

They wandered aimlessly for a while, just enjoying each other's company, before Aunt Vunja finally spoke. "There's something I've been meaning to tell you guys." Vitani and Aunt Kuuma turned to her, listening with interest. Aunt Vunja's voice sounded shyer than they had heard it before.

Aunt Vunja dipped her head shyly before admitting, "I'm having cubs."

Vitani stared at her aunt in surprise for a few moments before her face broke into a huge grin. "Congratulations!" She said brightly. The lioness would have thought that her aunt was a little old to be having cubs, but Aunt Vunja deserved this after the harshness in her life.

Aunt Kuuma too looked happy for her sister, although there was still a hint of jealousy in her eyes. "You and Kinga will make wonderful parents." She said, her voice not quite as happy as it could have been.

Aunt Vunja looked sympathetically at her older sister. In a quiet voice, she murmured, "Kuuma, I know that you haven't had very good luck, but that's over now. You don't need to be heartbroken for the rest of your life because of some idiot lion from years ago."

Aunt Kuuma looked away quickly. "It's not just that!" She snapped. "Zira was in love too, twice. I had to watch while two of her mates were lost to her." She turned back to Vunja with grief in her olive green eyes. "I don't want to watch you get hurt too."

Aunt Vunja looked grave as she said, "Those are risks I'm willing to take. I'm not going to curl up in the cave, afraid to live. I won't be like Shari."

Aunt Kuuma seemed shocked by Aunt Vunja's words. Vitani pricked her ears in interest. Zira had not told her a lot about Shari, but she knew that she was her grandmother and that she had been Queen alongside King Nyeusi when Aunt Kuuma, Aunt Vunja, and Zira had been very young. Zira had never talked about her.

Aunt Kuuma lowered her head in defeat. "You're right, of course. Congratulations. I mean it." She gave her sister a smile. "And of course, I'll be there to help raise them."

Aunt Vunja gave a look of mock outrage. "You better be! If you leave me alone with those cubs, I'll claw your ears off."

Aunt Kuuma laughed good-naturedly, and Vitani knew that all was forgiven. She left the sisters to their conversation and continued her wanderings. She felt a little sad as she thought about Aunt Vunja having cubs. It did seem like everybody in the pride had somebody in the Pride had somebody. Kovu had Kiara, Aunt Vunja had Uncle Kinga, and most of the lioness had rouge mates. But not Segyêna. She was one of the few lionesses without a mate. The former outsider had loved and lost.

Uncomfortably, Vitani remembered that Jua and Okoa were alone as well. The two were, however, mixing in with the pride fairly well. Jua's leg still had a few days to heal, but her spunky attitude wouldn't let that stop her from socializing with the pride. The lionesses liked her outspoken personality. Vitani herself couldn't understand it. Jua was spoiled, nasty brat as far as she was concerned.

Okoa was a much calmer lion than his sister, and was popular because of his quiet kindness. The young male just put Vitani on edge. She still felt like he was studying her every time she went by, with that stupid look of pity in his eyes. Vitani didn't need some rouge's sympathy, and she certainly didn't want himinterested in her.

She would have continued with her inner rant, but she was interrupted when Segyêna's voice sounded behind. "Hi Vitani!"

Vitani turned to smile at her friend. "Hi Seg. I was just thinking about you." She sat down, soon followed by Segyêna. "Aunt Vunja just told me that she and Kinga are having cubs!"

Segyêna looked surprised for a moment. "Really?" Then she grinned. "Good for her." She laid down slowly, taking care of her stomach. Vitani was just able to discern the slight roundness of her belly. It was still a month or so until the cubs were to be born.

The older lioness hesitated before saying, "Vitani, have you spoken with your brother recently?" When Vitani shook her head, puzzled, Segyêna continued, "Could you talk to him for me? He saw me talking to my brother on the border the other day, and I think he might have taken it the wrong way. I just don't want there to be any misunderstandings."

Vitani tipped her head in question. "What do you mean 'in the wrong way?'"

Segyêna hesitated before answering, "Kovu was trained by Zira to see enemies everywhere." She said reluctantly. "He might have thought that I was trying to bring someone in to dethrone him."

The younger lioness had to admit that her friend might be right. Zira's training had been driven deep into Kovu's mind. He probably would take it like that. "Don't worry, I'll talk to him." Her voice took on a bitter note as she added, "Not that I see him that much anymore. He spends all his time with his Kiara." Vitani let out a low growl. "Perfect miss Kiara, who can do no wrong. What's so special about her anyway? She wouldn't last a day in the Out Lands."

Segyêna gave a shrug. "She makes him happy, I guess." She suggested.

Vitani snarled, her rage building. "She's useless! And she takes up all of Kovu's time. He doesn't pay the rest of the pride any attention anymore, and he certainly isn't fulfilling his duties as a Prince." Deep in her heart, she wasn't sure whether she believe these words or not. Kovu was busy with Kiara, certainly, but he still went out on official business when called for. She steeled her hurt stubbornly against these ideas. Kovu should be devoting all his energy to ruling the kingdom, otherwise it would be stolen from him in a blink. He was being foolish.

The older lioness let out a sigh. "I really don't know much about it. I've been keeping pretty much out of Pride news for a while, since I found out I was expecting. All I know is that I don't want anyone turning on these cubs because of who their father is."

She looked so tired that Vitani let her anger drain, to be replaced with sympathy. "I wont let that happen." She vowed. "I'll be defend them tooth and claw if I have to."

The two lionesses said their goodbyes, then Vitani bounded away again, determined to bring Segyêna's message to her brother.

Yay for Kinga and Vunja! But then, if you've read the end of Fall to Hatred, you already knew they got together and you know about their cub. More of Segyena as well. Anyone want to guess what she's up to?

Also, if you want to understand who Kuuma's old boyfriend was or who Shari was, you'll have to have read Fall to Hatred, the prequel to this series.

I didn't realize how oddly Valentine's Day appropriate this story was until today - I wasn't exactly planning to release it on V-day, but it worked out. :) Happy Valentine's Day to everyone out there!

Vitani, Kovu, Kiara, Nuka, Kuuma (design), Vunja (design) (c) Disney

Kuuma (name), Vunja (name), Segyena, Okoa, Jua, Kinga (c) Me