"Maybe it's time you move on to someone else..."
These words echoed in Lion-O's head as he walked the halls of the Sabertank's living quarters. Pumyra's words had hung with him all throughout their struggles in Mount Plundarr, the obvious meaning was clear but he couldn't tell if there was something more... personal to her advice.
Before he could ponder this mystery any further he found himself at his destination: The showers. When he knocked a throaty voice called "Come in!" He obliged.
Pumyra was sitting on the sink with a towel wrapped around her brushing her long brown and white-streaked hair. For a second he thought her eyes widened at bit as he entered, but it was probably just his imagination. "I've brought your clothes, I had them cleaned and mended for you."
"Oh, Thank you." She smiled. A genuine smile, not the predatory smirk he was used to seeing on her. "... Well? Are you just going to stand there with them?"
"Oh! Sorry." Lion-O jumped a little when he realized he was staring at her. He stepped over and offered the folded dress to her, she brushed his hand gently as he handed it over. He immediately made for the door when she stopped him.
"Don't run away," She snickered, "I might need help finding my way back."
"Guess I'll wait outside then." Once through the door he breathed a heavy sigh, what the hell was wrong with him! He knew what was wrong, Pumyra had gotten under his skin. He'd known it ever since the moment he set foot inside the tunnels under Plundarr, ever since he'd gone along with her terrible plan to use the Sword as bait... Well, at least the refugees got away safely. If there was a silver lining to that particular cloud, that was it.
That might not be the only good thing to come out of it though. There had also been a change in Pumyra, while the fire in her remained she was no longer like an out-of-control blaze, more like a warm fireplace on a cold night...
Lion-O shook his head and smirked sourly. Great, now he was trying to be poetic. And failing miserably.
Pumyra tied her hair back and slid back into her familiar brown dress. Lion-O had insisted on getting her a new one but she refused. He had been far too kind to her and she far less grateful to him already. True to his word, he was waiting for her when she was finished. The two of them walked in silence to the galley. Tygra and Cheetara were there, apparently sharing an intimate moment before they walked in.
"Hello, you two." The older woman greeted them while Tygra just gave his brother the stink-eye. "What are you up to?"
"Beats me, I was just following him." Pumyra jerked her head towards Lion-O, who's half-lidded eyes seemed fixated on the floor.
"Lion-O, are you all right?" Cheetara asked.
"Huh? Oh, yeah... I've just had a lot on my mind lately."
"You're not still beating yourself up over the sword?" Tygra said, his annoyance turning to concern, "If Mumm-Ra could track the sword any plan was doomed from the start."
"It's not that," he assured his brother, "It's something else, something I have to work out for myself. Sorry if I interrupted." Without another word he wandered out of the galley.
Both of the other cats turned to Pumyra, "What happened in there with you two?" Tygra asked.
"He didn't tell you?"
"Only what he told us as you were coming out of the mountain, that Mumm-Ra got the sword." Cheetara explained.
Well, that's half-true." Pumyra said bitterly, "The other half is I cost him the sword. Once we knew that Mumm-Ra could track us using the sword I insisted we split up. I thought the Sword of Omens was too important to part from Lion-o, so I took the other one and ran down an alternate path."
"And?" Tygra demanded.
"And I got about two steps before Mumm-Ra himself found me. It was no contest."
"Why didn't Lion-O tell us this himself?" Cheetara wondered.
"Because he was trying to protect me!" The younger woman spat. If the two of them didn't know better they thought she might even start to cry. "That's all he's ever tried to do since the moment we met, and all I could do is throw it back in his face."
"I'm sure he doesn't blame you..." Cheetara began.
"I know he doesn't," The young puma interrupted, "and that's the worst part." she stalked out, leaving them alone again.
"Well that was... informational, but odd." Cheetara said.
"Anyone else think they're perfect for each other?" Tygra snarked.
Trying to find a quiet spot in this tank was like trying to keep food away from a Snarf. The Berbils had added a good half-dozen rooms in their last upgrade and it seemed like it every single one Lion-O looked in already had someone in it. Finally he decided he'd had enough and just went outside to stretch out on the hood of the Thundertank, nothing but the night sky above him.
He was just starting to calm down and organize his thoughts when the sound of the dorsal hatch opening and slamming shut sent all that crashing down again.
"Oh, didn't know you were out here." Pumyra said shortly, "I'll go..."
"No, don't." Lion-O insisted, "I'll go."
"But you were here first."
"Why can't you just-?" Pumyra caught herself before she started yelling. "Nevermind, how about we both go?"
"How about we both stay?" Lion-O suggested.
Pumyra smirked. "Fine." So they say back to back. After a long silence Pumyra was the first to speak up. "I never said I was sorry. For beating you up, I mean."
"I never asked."
"I know. But still, I want to apologize. I should have heard you out."
"Apology accepted." She couldn't see, but from the sound of his voice she knew he was smiling. "I'm sorry I took so long to come for you."
"It was well worth the wait."
Another long silence.
"Do you mind if I talk to you about something?" He asked
"No, go ahead."
"It's about Cheetara and myself,"
"You said you were over her."
"I am," He insisted, "but I wasn't always. Whether I misread her signals or she sent the wrong ones doesn't matter. What does matter his how I treated her, I was a jerk. I was petty and immature, I wanted to make her feel as bad as I felt just because I thought I lost."
Pumyra was stunned, she never knew he could be so selfish. It went against everything she'd known since she met him.
"It was a hard lesson to learn..." He continued, "Now? I don't know how much I was really interested in her so much as it was just another competition with Tygra. Either way, now I'm just trying to make things right between us."
"Why are you telling me all this?" She asked.
"Because I don't ever want to hurt someone that way again, and because I need to make sure of something before I make another mess."
Pumyra's heart leapt into her throat, there was no way he was about to ask her what she thought he was about to ask her. That was impossible! They'd only just met, and after the way she'd treated him there was no way he would ever want...
"You told me that I should move on to someone else. You didn't have anyone specific in mind, did you?"
Oh gods, oh gods, oh gods! He was! What should she say? She didn't know why she even said that! She was just teasing, wasn't she? Whiskers! She had to say something! She couldn't just sit there with her mouth open like a slack-jawed fishman!
"You know what, nevermind. Forget I said anything" Lion-O stood up and made his way back to the hatch. He gave her a sad sort of smile. "I'm going to bed, goodnight."
Pumyra lay back on the hood of the tank and threw her arm across her eyes. I'm such an idiot. She thought to herself, Why couldn't I answer him? Deep down she knew why: She was afraid. She'd was afraid of being hurt. Her heart had been broken so many times already since the fall of Thundera, she wasn't sure she could take another one. Especially not from him. Because in spite of everything, no matter how badly she treated him she still wanted... Oh gods, she really was an idiot.
Lion-O lay in his bunk staring at the ceiling. How can I learn so much and still be so stupid? He asked himself. He should have know she was only teasing him, you don't go from wanting to kill someone to nibbling on their neck as they purr overnight, if at all.
It's time he grow up and face the facts, there are more important things to worry about than romance, like getting those stones, uniting the animals of Third Earth and defeating Mum-Ra once and for all. No more excuses and no more distractions, all they ever lead to is heartache. He was just about to roll over and get some sleep when a knock on his door forced him out of bed. Being careful not to step on Snarf he shuffled over and opened the door. It was Pumyra.
"Hey, what's-" He never got any further, Pumyra wrapped her arms around his neck and pressed her lips to his in a kiss so fierce Lion-O practically had the wind knocked out of him.
"Yes." She said when she finally let him come up for air, "I did have someone in mind..." Gently she pushed him into the room and closed the door behind her.
"Pumyra, wait!" He protested as he tripped backwards and landed on his bunk. Before he could get out another word she was on top of him, nuzzling at his neck.
"Hush now," She purred into his ear, "Say nothing, forever. Just be like this." Once again her lips were upon him. As good as it felt and as much as he didn't want her to stop he knew he had to.
"Pumyra, enough!" He snapped as he shoved her off of him. She toppled off the bed and onto the floor.
Her big amber eyes shone with angry tears. "I don't understand, I thought you wanted this."
"I do, believe me," He said as the slid off the bed and knelt before her gently wiping her eyes. "But can't you see this is way too fast? There are so many things I don't know about you that I don't want to miss out on. Like where are you from, what's the story behind your necklace, or are the bottoms of your feet ticklish. There is so much you don't know about me either."
"I know enough." She insisted, "I have never met another cat like you in my life. You have compassion even for those who hate you. You will help anyone in need and ask nothing in return, no matter how much pain you suffer. How could anyone know that and not... not..."
"Hey," He said, rescuing her from her sobs, "I'm still figuring this out for myself. Until recently I thought I knew what love was, I'm only now figuring out how wrong I was." He shifted around to sit beside her, she cuddled up next to him. "I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to be with you, but there's no reason why we can't take our time and enjoy getting to know one another. I know in this war it feels like there may never be a tomorrow, but no matter what happens it can't take away what we already have together."
"I'd like that." She said dreamily. It sounded like she might fall asleep any minute
"Besides," He went on, "Just because we're taking it slow doesn't mean we can nibble on each others ears every now and then."
She laughed quietly. "And for the record, my feet are ticklish..."
"Good to know." He smiled. "I'll use that the next time you decide to go off on me." He got no response that time, she was out like a light. He turned his head and kissed her temple softly.