Disclaimer: I don't own ThunderCats or any related character. Story is written for the enjoyment of the readers, and written in hopes that Lion-O/Cheetara pairing isn't as defeated as it appears… takes place shortly after "The Pit"

Reality Check

Cheetara sighed as she laid back in the hot waters of the hot springs they discovered in route to Mount Plundarr. It would have been faster with the Tank, but they had agreed that it would be easier to sneak up on the mine and fortress on foot, and guarding the tank was a good idea to keep the kittens from throwing themselves into the dangerous mission to save their fellow Thundarians. Good idea at first, but her throbbing feet questioned the idea now.

The hot spring was a gods sent. She wiggled her toes in the bubbling water and made a mental note that they needed to mark this on the map. Kit especially loved soaking in hot springs.

Her eyes widened when she heard motion behind her and dipped her naked body farther in the water to hide her modesty.

"It's just me, Cleric," the gruff yet feminine voice of Pumyra spoke as the puma came into visual range of the cheetah. "Hope you don't mind me joining you. I haven't had a relaxing bath since the city fell."

"Be my guest," Cheetara replied, nodding to the new comer. Pumyra nodded and let her dress drop to the ground then removed her wrist mounted weapons. Pumyra chuckled as the Cheetah averted her eyes.

"I keep forgetting you free cats still have a sense of modesty," Pumyra said as she gracefully climbed into the hot springs across from Cheetara. "That was the first thing to go in the mines and then finished off in the Pit."

"You've had a hard journey, perhaps even harder than our own," Cheetara smiled tightly to the hardened ThunderCat. "I don't think I'd have made it in your situation… I still don't see how you survived all you've been through."

"It wasn't easy…" Pumyra smirked, "The dream of jumping on the Little Dreamer King kept me going…"

Cheetara frowned, "Lion-O was trying to find the Book of Omens, and then it showed him…" Cheetara tried to explain, but was cut off by the puma holding up her hand.

"That he needs to find rocks like the one in the Sword of Omens to give him some kind of armor to allow him to whoop Mumm-Ra, His Highness explained," Pumyra said, "That's why I don't want to jump on him anymore… at least not in the same sense." Something inside Cheetara didn't like the way the puma said that.

"By the way, you refer to our King by his first name only," Pumyra leaned forward, a curiousness in her hardened eyes, "Never heard a Cleric refer to a king by his first name only, not even Cleric Jaga and King Claudus and tales say they were childhood best friends… Something going on with you two?"

"We're…" Cheetara paused. What was she and Lion-O? Their relationship hadn't been defined since their confrontation in the canyon, and since she had only spoken with him in the company of Tygra. She mentally made a note to make time for them as while angry words haven't been spoken since, that bridge between them remained unpatched and damaged. "We are friends…" She said with a tight smile.

"Just friends?" Pumyra asked, raising an eyebrow, "He keeps sending you looks while we were walking, you sure there's nothing to tell?"

"I had attempted to… show support and may have been a bit… too affectionate," Cheetara explained awkwardly, "He misread my intentions and it led to some… confusion. I care for him dearly, yes, but I'm with Tygra." She said with a proud smile.

"Huh… for now anyway," Pumyra chuckled, "So you don't mind me trying my luck with our handsome, selfless King?"

"What?" Cheetara blinked as she felt a wave of cold wash over her, even in the hot water.

"What, what?" Pumyra blinked, diving under for a moment to wash her long hair, then popping back to the surface. "You look confused, Cleric."

"What did you mean?" Cheetara asked, staring blankly at the former slave.

"What's not to want in King Lion O? Not only is he royalty, but he's brave, selfless, willing to take a beating to save someone he just met, and I don't care how hard you get, a tabby always dream at one point or another a handsome hero to come and save her. And after seeing how his brother has treated women, I have no doubt Lion-O would be amazing with whoever he lets that big heart hold."

"How his brother treated women?" Cheetara asked tilted his head, "Tygra's always been sweet and noble…an upstanding prince and his father's right hand, but struggled under his brother's shadow… after all only a lion can be king and wield the Sword of Omens…" Cheetara frowned when Pumyra laughed hard and slapped the water.

"Was Cleric Jaga a lion?" Pumyra asked, and Cheetara shook his head, "He used the Sword of Omens with greater skill and ability than King Claudus himself, and he's no lion. Tales even say he was offered the crown before King Claudus but passed it up for the Clergy. It doesn't matter what type of Cat you are, as long as the Sword deems you worthy of using it." Pumyra smirked toward the cleric, "But of course, you, being a Cleric, was already well aware of that fact."

"It was discussed many times in the mines what doomed the kingdom, among the topics were that both of the princes had near unforgivable faults," Pumyra said, glancing away in thought. "Prince Lion O, he was the youngest and was never expected to be chosen at all. He was a dreamer, his head always in the clouds, never really thought about the here or now. No one saw that as a good persona in a King. And then there was Prince Tygra… good old Prince Tygra…" Pumyra shook her head.

"Tygra's fault?" Cheetara asked softly.

"Arrogance, and one tempered by his father and the women of the Kingdom," Pumyra said, "myself included…" she added softly, before speaking up again. "I was among the armed guard unit that was present when Cleric Jaga offered the Sword of Omens. King Claudus knew he was the one chosen to lead the people. I won't ever forget the cocky look on his face when he lifted the sword from Cleric Jaga's case… How we all learned the Sword of Omens was sentient? The Sword got PISSED."

Cheetara's eyes widened, Tygra never told her that he was offered the sword. But it made sense for her not to be present, she was among the Cleric guard assigned to Lion O, Tygra's own assigned Clerics would have been at his presentation ceremony. "The Sword sent energy through Prince Tygra and he squealed like a girl before the blade flew from his hand back to the case and closed its own case… If it wasn't for the severity of the situation the looks on Prince Tygra and His Highness' faces would have been laughable." Pumyra sunk back into the water, "Cleric Jaga foresaw that the next King of Thundara would be raised by King Claudus… so with Prince Tygra obviously rejected by the Mighty Sword of Omens, it fell on the Dreamer Prince of Thundara… seems to have worked out despite all of our fears."

"So back on topic, you don't have any qualms with me making a play for King Lion-O?" Pumyra asked, eyeing the cheetah, and giving her ample opportunity to make an objection.

A part of her screamed at her to loudly tell Pumyra to stay away from Lion-O, but she simply nodded, "If you feel you can make him happy as Tygra makes me happy, go ahead. He has been hurt… many times since Thundara fell. He… deserves the happiness I've found in Tygra."

"Oh, it's easy to beat the happiness Tygra gives," Pumyra laughed, "That's easier than a fight with an elderly pig."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Cheetara frowned deeply.

"Tygra never mentioned me?" Pumyra asked, and then smiled, "I'm not surprised he hasn't. He probably has forgotten all about me; just another face and body to add to his list."

"Tygra and I were lovers for a time when we were younger," Pumyra continued, and Cheetara's eyes widened. "He swept me off my feet when I was struggling the hardest with the Guard training… but once he got what he wanted out of me he cut ties and moved on to the next tabby to catch his eye."

"He's… that may have been in his past but he's changed," Cheetara stammered, looking at her reflection in the bubbling water, "I'm special to him…"

"He made us all feel that way, honey," Pumyra replied, "I remember when he gave me gave me that flower, a Day Astrid, supposedly a rare flower, but I found out afterwards that the late Queen had a massive garden of um. Apparently the Noble Tiger Prince used um as a pick up tool."

"When I was the most beaten down, he left the Day Astrid on my foot locker, and we started a somewhat shy friendship. He gave me this sob story that he was always in his brother's shadow; that his father always compared him to Prince Lion O. and I bought it. Why wouldn't I? I was from the farmlands outside the city so I didn't know how things went on in Thundara," Pumyra laughed as she sat back in the water again, "Come to find out, Prince Tygra was the apple of King Claudus, General Lynx-O, General Grune, and General Panthro's eyes, and he made sport of embarrassing Prince Lion-O at every turn."

"I… he loves me," Cheetara said, in a tone she didn't buy even herself. "He does…"

"Hope he does, but looking at the odds, Cleric," Pumyra said, getting out of the spring and dried herself off. "Lord Lion O would have without a doubt made you a queen and treated you as such," She shrugged as she slide her dress on, "Chances are though you'll be nothing more than another notch on Prince Tygra's bedpost. Hope you beat the odds, Cleric…"

She smiled back at her, "Wouldn't stay in the bath long, we'll be at Mount Plundarr tomorrow." And with that she left the cheetah in the spring, with a million thoughts racing through her mind.