Uh… I thought I finished this story. I really did. But most of you weren't really satisfied with it and I agree. Besides, I might someday (in the distant future) decide to work on a sequel. Thus, I have to adjust a few loose ends. Nothing dramatic, but I hope you'll like it regardless.
The pride of lionesses finally dragged their paws across the last stretch of dried grass that separated them from their territory. The loss of Kondo weighed heavily on them, as did the failure of taking over Simba's land. Without their leader, they were vulnerable to other lions that might wish to take over. Aziza ignored the irony of the situation.
She glanced at Faika. Until Sabra was older, Kondo's mate would be in charge. She would have to keep them together and united against any possible dangers. They wouldn't be in a position to try conquering another pride for a while. The lush Pridelands were beyond their reach all because of that stupid pig dividing their forces.
Aziza forced down a growl. She wanted that dream of a vast and unstoppable pride and all that land. She wanted to see Kondo ruling from the top of Pride Rock, a place that she'd only seen at a distance during the attack. The lioness could practically taste victory before it was snatched away because of Simba and his pet prey animals. Especially that reeking swine.
Catching sight of the small pile of stones they called home, far less impressive than Pride Rock, Aziza could see Sabra and two lionesses watching their approach. The adolescent, his fur darker than his father, was already showing the start of his mane. The wild hair starting to surround his head matched Kondo's. He wasn't quite grown yet, but Sabra was getting close.
An idea began to prowl around her mind. She wanted the Pridelands and the unstoppable pride that Kondo spoke of. She also wanted revenge for the plan being ruined. But the only way to have those goals accomplished would be for either Faika or Sabra to order a second attempt. And while the mate of the late leader apparently didn't care enough about the need for vengeance, the future ruler was more moldable. He was young enough to be influenced… but old enough that a pretty lioness could catch his attention.
Aziza smiled to herself. He would be full-grown soon enough and he would need a queen. Faika was in charge for now, but that would end when her son took over. Sabra and his mate would be the ones making the decisions. Perhaps she could fill that role.
Of course, there were other options if necessary. An arranged marriage with another pride's future queen could double their forces after all. But she needed to be close to Sabra either way. She needed to be indispensible, the one he turned to for advice. Queen or advisor, she would be the one to help guide the younger lion. And once she had his ear, she would make sure that Kondo's death wouldn't be in vain. Simba, his mangy meerkat, and the annoying warthog would suffer.
The adolescent lion leapt off his perch on the rocks and broke into a run towards the returning pride. A look of confusion flashed across his face as he looked for his father before Faika took him aside. Aziza made certain to hurry over to Sabra to offer support. And if he was anything like Kondo, he would certainly grow into a handsome feline.
If Timon needed any further reasons why directly attacking a full-grown lion was a bad idea, his recovery time gave him plenty.
He'd barely been awake by the time Simba reached the lionesses and Pumbaa. The group apparently was searching for them after the late Kondo's pride left. The first hint the injured meerkat had of his friend's presence was the warthog yelling. What started out as a relieved call to gain Simba's attention quickly became a more worried one after he noticed the smaller mammal in the lion's jaws. Of course, Simba couldn't immediately assure Pumbaa that Timon was all right since the meerkat was in his mouth and Timon couldn't because he was too tired to try. Thus, the injured mammal had to listen to his frantic best friend trying to find out what happened for several moments until the lion could set him down gently. And a worried Pumbaa was just plain depressing to hear.
By the time Simba recounted the events at the gorge for his audience, the meerkat was already drifting back into unconsciousness. He wasn't even certain if the lion was the one who carried him the rest of the way to Pride Rock or if Pumbaa decided to balance him on his snout instead. Either way, he ended up waking up the next morning lying injured in a cave filled with lions: a prey animal's worst nightmare. Timon barely reacted.
Somehow, Rafiki managed to appear just as the meerkat woke up, adding further evidence to Timon's growing theory that the crazy old monkey spied on everyone so he could show up out of nowhere. The appearing and disappearing trick was almost as annoying as the primate's habit of dispensing advice with a whack to the head. Thankfully, Rafiki didn't provide his usual dose of percussive maintenance since the meerkat, while feeling better than he did the night before, already felt enough pain without the addition of head injuries.
Instead, the primate slathered some type of green goo across the scratches on Timon's back that smelled like it could be related to Pumbaa. The injured mammal struggled not to cringe at the texture, scent, and the fact it initially stung when applied, but managed to keep his complaints to a soft grumble. After all, it wasn't smart to argue with a shaman when he's trying to apparently fix some rather painful damage. Not to mention Timon was half-way convinced Rafiki would still smack him with his stick if necessary.
The next important step was trying to make sure that no one informed Ma what happened. He didn't think that Pumbaa would try such a thing since the warthog seemed determined not to let Timon out of his sight for even a moment. The idea of Simba sending Zazu or one of the lionesses out to the oasis, however, was a little more likely. After all, it was only logical that someone would think his family should know when something bad happened to him. But Timon argued against it whenever the topic came up.
He didn't even want to imagine what would happen if his mother was told he was stupid enough to attack a full-grown, aggressive, and angry lion. Uncle Max would complain loudly to anyone who'd listen that Timon was absolutely out of his mind and this was exactly why meerkats live underground in the first place and Ma would undoubtedly panic about her "little Timmy." And simply being informed that her son survived wouldn't be enough to calm her. She'd try to see for herself that he was alive. She'd march herself all the way to Pride Rock if necessary and that journey was far too long and dangerous for a meerkat her age. Especially since she didn't even have a certain warthog to help keep her safe while wandering outside the oasis. No, it was best for everyone if she never, ever, ever found out her son decided to try attacking a predator and ended up nearly filleted for his efforts.
Recovering in the den of a pride of lions did have some perks though. Most prey animals tend to be in far more likely to end up on the menu if they're already injured. Granted, the colony tried to help their fellow hurt meerkats, but they were still more likely to be picked off by hungry predators. Timon, however, was surrounded by the only lions that didn't think of him as a tasty appetizer. And other carnivores wouldn't be stupid enough to hunt for dinner in the middle of the pride. He was perfectly safe. And even the few ex-Outlanders who held any remaining doubts about Timon and Pumbaa's continued presence were convinced of their importance. After all, saving the king tended to be impressive regardless of how it was achieved.
By the time he'd recovered enough to be mobile again and the lacerations across his back were healing, Timon was really starting to sympathize with Kiara's childhood. Pumbaa worried about him constantly and probably would have kept him in that cave, stuffed with grubs brought by the warthog, until the day he died of old age. The only reason Simba probably wasn't as bad was because he still needed to rule over the Pridelands, but Timon had the lion checking on him frequently. And while getting all that attention and food without lifting a paw was kind of nice initially, it began to make him feel trapped and sheltered to the point of suffocation. And those feelings sparked far too many memories of living in tunnels that he didn't want to explore.
Thus, his current plan of action. The meerkat managed to sneak away from his best friend momentarily, searching for Kiara among the lionesses. If anyone could convince his over-protective baby-sitters to stop smothering him so much, it would be the rebellious princess who already pulled off that particular trick. Maybe with her help he'd be able to make Pumbaa (and to an extent, Simba) believe that he wasn't going to keel over any moment and have the buzzards start circling.
Slipping from rock to rock, Timon ignored the slight ache in his back. The cuts were mostly healed by this point, though he could already feel the scars running parallel to the camouflaging stripes left behind. It could have been far worse, after all. And his fur would hide most of the damage, so his Ma might never know by the time he visited her again. That was more than what Kovu, and Scar before him, could claim about their old injuries.
Speaking of a certain ex-Outlander, the meerkat could see Kiara and her husband sneaking away from the rest of the pride. Only momentarily debating whether or not to follow, Timon hurried after the pair. A little spying wouldn't kill anyone. Besides, he needed to talk to the princess about getting her help and this might be the ideal time to get a little blackmail if it became necessary. He was that desperate to get out of the den without a worried warthog hovering over him every moment.
"So when are you going to tell him?" he heard Kovu whisper as he drew near. "I mean, shouldn't he and your mom be told before we tell the rest of the pride?"
Kiara responded in an equally quiet voice, "Yes, I'm just trying to think of the right moment. It's not like I've ever done this before."
"I'd hope not," her husband chuckled.
Timon didn't even have to look at the pair to know that the princess nudged Kovu for that comment. But she did also laugh, so she clearly wasn't to upset about whatever they were talking about.
"I just want to do it right. I mean, how do you think Mom broke the news? Should we tell her first and ask her advice?" Her tone sounded like a mixture of nervous and excited, suggesting the news was probably something good. "Or we could ask your sister."
"Vitani? Really? There are a lot of things I'd ask her advice on. Hunting and stalking a particularly dangerous prey. Fighting moves to bring a lion down. Spying in enemy territory without being detected. How to insult someone in three words or less. But I somehow doubt she's an expert in how to inform your mom and dad that they're about to be grandparents."
"What?" shouted Timon, instantly alerting the pair that he was present. He didn't care. His mind was too busy going over the implications of Kovu's words. Another generation of cubs on the way? "Already? I barely survived Simba and Kiara's childhoods with my sanity intact and there's another one on the way. Oy…"
"Or," Kiara remarked, giving the meerkat a slight glare, "we could simply let Timon tell everyone for us."
He chuckled nervously, "I guess now would be a bad time to ask you a favor, wouldn't it?"
It's the Circle of Life! Hehehe. Yep, the next generation is on the way. I know this isn't much of an epilogue, but I figured it might be mildly more satisfying than the last chapter. Plus, it sets things up if I ever want a sequel. Thanks for all the feedback. I appreciate every review.