"Roxas...you know what that is, right?"

"Yeah..."

"Good."

"It's a...mountain lion, isn't it?"

"Sure. Mountain lion, puma, panther, catamount...there are a lot of things you can call it. But what I was really asking was more like...you know that thing is a large wildcat capable of breaking our necks in one jump, right?"

"Yes, Axel. I know that. You didn't need to point it out."

"Well, it is the important part."

"I know."

"I'm just saying."

While the two of them talked, the subject of their conversation remained on its perch, atop a boulder not nearly far enough away for their comfort, its eyes fixed unwaveringly on them, never moving a twitch. Most people would have called its gaze "predatory", but when it was focused on you, the word "predatory" suddenly seemed incredibly weak and inaccurate. There probably wasn't a word in any language either of them spoke to encompass the dispassionate, calculating hunger in its eyes. "...What do you bet it's a female and we're between her and her cubs," Roxas whispered, his voice shaking just a tiny bit and his gaze never leaving the cat on the rock.

"I don't think so," Axel said, trying hard to keep his tone light and casual while never glancing away from the mountain lion for a second. "I mean...not like I know a whole lot about mountain lions, but...it does look like an awfully big one. Which I think means it's probably a male and isn't going to have cubs to get defensive about."

"Thanks, Ax. That totally makes me feel better." Roxas's voice was shaking more now, a little higher than usual, and that damned cat was just not looking away, and it wouldn't even not look at them as though waiting for them to look away so it could pounce.

"Well, you were wondering," Axel said, trying hard to keep his own cool. "I'm just saying what I think."

"Shut up, Ax. You're totally not helping." It wasn't like Axel was actually looking at him - he didn't dare, because that would involve looking away from the mountain lion - but he was pretty sure Roxas was starting to shake physically now. "Can we...get out of here? Please?"

"Don't run, Rox," Axel ground out, grabbing Roxas's shoulder without looking away from the mountain lion. "If you turn around and run, it'll be convinced you're some kind of prey animal and go after you. And no way are you gonna outrun it."

"You know, for not knowing a whole lot about mountain lions, you seem to have a lot of advice..." Roxas's voice was climbing ever higher, and Axel could feel how tense he was - probably ready to panic and run, which would get him killed, and Axel completely did not want to have to physically restrain him, because the mountain lion could probably kill them both and looked like it would if it had an excuse...like if he looked away for a second... "If we can't just leave without it killing us, then can't you, you know, find some way to scare it away?"

"How?" Axel spat, coming that close to taking his hand off Roxas's shoulder and slapping him. Dammit, Roxas's panicky mood was starting to affect him, almost as much as that damned stare... "I mean, does it look particularly afraid of us right now?"

"It's a wild animal, dumbfuck. Aren't most wild animals scared of fire?"

...Why hadn't that occurred to him in the first place? Axel didn't know, but hell, it wasn't like he had a better idea. Summoning a ball of fire in his free hand, he flung it at the wildcat on the rock. Unfortunately, using his off hand, his aim was off; the fireball splattered against the rock...and the mountain lion yowled and vanished over the other side of the rock, before Axel even realized it was leaving. He just stared fixedly at the rock it had been on for a second, before he caught on that there was no longer a wildcat sitting on top of it staring back at them. "Oh...well," he said, shaking himself off and feeling as though some terrible spell had been broken. "I guess that scared it off. All right. Axel one, mountain lion zero."

Roxas gave him a light shove for that; Axel noted that his hands were still shaking, then looked down and realized that so were his own. "Don't bullshit me; you never would have thought of it on your own."

"Hey, if you'd been out here on your own, that thing would have eaten you, got it memorized?" All of a sudden, Axel started laughing, simply because the danger was over and the tension was broken and neither of them had been eaten, while Roxas looked at him like he'd lost his last IQ point. "What?" Axel choked, unable to stop himself. "Don't look at me like that. I mean, it's gone, we're not dead, that's good, right? Come on; we just spent ten minutes trapped by a wildcat that got scared off by one fireball. One stupid fireball. I didn't even hit it; I just hit near it."

Roxas's you're-an-idiot stare was as unwavering as the mountain lion's had been, but eventually, he started to crack the tiniest smile. "One fireball, yeah - one fireball that it took you ten minutes to throw, and then only because I told you to."

"Hey, I threw it eventually, didn't I?" Axel countered, ruffling Roxas's hair just to annoy him, and to ease the remaining tension. "Besides, the ten-minute delay is not the important part; the important part is that the mountain lion is gone and we can actually move without getting eaten. Rejoice in that."

"You're full of it, Axel, so you know," Roxas said, but his smile got a little bit wider. "All right, fine. The mountain lion is gone and we didn't get eaten. Yay. Now let's finish this mission so we can go home, and you can tell Demyx all about how you bravely fought it off in hand to hand combat."

"Hey -!"


AN: Granted, having a mountain lion staring at you like that doesn't do wonders for your thought process.

Prompt: This story must have a cougar in it.

And, you may note, "cougar" was the one thing Axel did not call it.