Before sunrise one morning, in the calm, sleepy depths of Pride Rock's cave, Kovu was uncomfortably being stirred from his sleep.
He could feel someone repeatedly pushing him, whilst muttering something that he couldn't quite make out, but in his semi-conscious state, he just ignored it. After six or seven ever-increasingly firm blows to the side of his head, however, he could tolerate it no longer.
"What? Stop," he grumpily moaned.
"Get up, then," a familiar voice eagerly whispered into his ear.
Kovu blinked slowly and looked around. His vision was quite fuzzy right now, and would only allow him to see someone's beaming, golden-coloured face with reddish-looking eyes peering straight at him.
"Hey, Simba," Kovu mumbled. "What's up?"
Looking around the whole den now, no one else that he could see, apart from Simba, appeared to be awake.
"You'll soon see," the King of the Pridelands replied, seemingly unable to contain his glee.
"Kiara," Kovu loudly whispered into his mate's right ear. After much encouragement, she finally opened her eyes, yawned and blinked a few times.
"What's happening? The sun's not even up yet," she sighed, struggling to hold her eyelids up.
"Come over here, quickly," Simba whispered excitedly. Kiara and Kovu obediently dragged themselves to their feet and trudged over to the king and queen's corner of the den, where Simba was leading them.
The king stopped in front of where his queen, Nala, lay, appearing to be asleep, like most of the other members of their pride. Simba, however, just approvingly ushered his daughter and son-in-law over.
Upon closer inspection, Kovu could see clearly that Nala was, in fact, awake. She had a gentle, loving, motherly smile on her face- it was a smile she displayed often, in quite contrast, Kovu thought, to his own deceased mother, Zira, whose smiles were always lurking with desire and malice.
"Good morning," he and his mate cheerfully greeted his mother-in-law. She sat up, and warmly nuzzled them. Kovu couldn't help but notice how common such an affectionate gesture was now between pride members, unlike when he had lived in the Outlands.
"Hey, you two. Sleep well?" spoke Nala.
Kiara uneasily replied, turning her head to gaze at both her parents, "Yeah, umm, just fine. So, what's the matter?"
"Don't look so nervous. Today's going to be a busy day," the queen calmly whispered. With that, Simba sat behind his mate, and they both wordlessly looked down. "Come closer, so you can see."
The pair did as they were told, and were soon staring speechlessly at it. A small, silent, sleeping lump of moist fur, fixed against Nala's side. It was irresistibly cute, and reminded Kovu of Kiara when he first met her, as cubs.
"This is our baby son. His name is Kopa, and he was born last night. You two are the first ones to see him," Simba explained, not removing his beaming eyes from the cub.
Kiara displayed mixed emotions. Her perky, round eyes seemed confused, but her narrow lips were fixed into a proud smile. After a few moments of silence, she spoke.
"He's adorable. Absolutely adorable. How come you never told us that you were having another baby?"
"We wanted him to be a surprise," muttered Nala.
"Welcome, Kopa. My new baby brother," Kiara sighed warmly.
Kovu said nothing, and his expression, completely different to Kiara's, revealed mostly wonder. He'd never seen a newborn cub before, having been the youngest member of the Outlands pride. He stared at his baby brother-in-law, unable to believe how tiny and precious the little ball of fluff, "Kopa", was. Kovu was lead to wonder if he and Kiara would ever have children. It was quite a confronting thought, but one he felt that he would soon be ready for, if that's what she wanted. Of course, she would be a terrific mother, but how would he fare out as a father, given his rough, loveless upbringing? Was he worthy to father royal cubs? And was this miniature Simba, lying helplessly at his feet, to be his future king? Or was that a responsibility that he himself would have to take on? Kovu realised how much there was to be discussed and considered, and began to feel a little like he had after dinner the day his mother brought home part of three-week-old kudu carcass.
"Today's going to be a very busy day, indeed," he thought aloud.