Author's Note: Well, this isn't a fandom that I usually write for, so I'm a little nervous about this piece. To be honest, I usually find it rather difficult to sympathize with Scar, but since I started working at a big cat rescue, I've been in "big cat mode" a lot lately. We recently lost one of our older male lions, Stormy, to cancer, and this story just kind of came to me. I should note that Scar and Mufasa's backstory in this fic is NOT cannon. Though I tried to stick with the cannon names, the story itself is just something I came up with on my own as, sadly, I have never had the chance to read any of the books. :( And, of course, as you all know, I OWN NOTHING! Well, hope you guys enjoy! Please leave a comment if you like it! :)

~CaptainHooksGirl~

~In Loving Memory of Stormy~

His Brother's Keeper

Nightfall in Africa, and all is still. No wind whispers through the canyon. No prey rustles in the grass. Even the wild dogs and the jackals have gone silent. Nothing stirs. There is no moon tonight, but the earth is bright with the light of a thousand tiny stars that stud the African sky, each a great king of the past watching over the world below.

A single male lion steps hesitantly out of the shadows, paws treading silently on the soft desert sand still warm from the heat of the Serengeti sun as he approaches sacred ground—the final resting place of a fellow king. Bones bleached white and brittle with age stand out starkly against the blackened earth scorched by the flames that consumed everything within their path. He remembers when those bones had breath, had life—the quirk of a golden brow, the curve of a gentle smile, the deep rumble of a distinguished voice. Slowly, he lowers his muzzle to the ground and reverently sniffs at the remains, inspecting them for any trace of the familiar scent that he once knew—memories of a time and place when he was still small and the world was still big and the burdens of being a king were still far from his young, innocent mind. But the scent is long gone, the bones' stories are silent.

A small rock clatters down the canyon wall a few feet overhead, and a golden ear swivels to catch the sound, magnified by the echoes of a sea of hooves and horns and suddenly there is a rushing in his ears and pounding of his pulse and for a moment he can almost hear the horrified roar of a lion plunging to his death. He jerks up his head, glancing around for the source of the sound, ears flattened low against his mane. In the shadows, he catches a faint flicker of movement and a pair of green eyes glittering in the starlight.

"Show yourself."

But the moment the newcomer steps into the light, he takes a step back, eyes widening in shock as if he'd seen a ghost. And, indeed, it would seem that he has, for the dark-maned lion who comes forward should have been dead.

"Hello, Simba," he purrs.

The ears flatten again, a soft growl rising in the back of his throat. "What are you doing here?"

The dark lion shrugs, still half-hidden in the shadows. "Call it an old lion's sentiment."

And indeed, he has aged. The scarred left eye leaves no doubts as to his identity, but the haggard figure that emerges from the darkness is hardly the proud lion Simba once knew. Though out of habit he still holds his head high, there is a limp in his gait.

"Rather poetic, don't you think?" he smirks. "Justice at last brings the villain and the victim together again. Death, you see, is a great equalizer. No one can escape it."

It's been weeks since he's had anything to eat aside from the occasional carrion, and it shows. His ribs are nearly piercing through the skin, his naturally slender form further emaciated from the lack of food. What little is left of his mane hangs in matted clumps and tangled tufts so thin that the dim light of the stars easily penetrates to the skin, the shame of nakedness overshadowed by the tiredness in his eyes. His sleek coat is now dusty and dull, its former glossy sheen hidden beneath a layer of dirt and dried blood from the many burns and bite wounds that will never heal over. The fetid stench of rotting flesh, its owner still warm and breathing, has already attracted a small following of carrion flies. Scar smiles bitterly at the prediction their arrival heralds, lying down in the dust beside his brother's remains. It won't be long now.

The younger lion's expression softens to one of pity, but he is swiftly reprimanded.

"If you're too noble to kill an enemy," the dark lion sneers sourly, "you could at least have the decency to let him die with a little dignity."

Simba pauses for a moment. "Why did you come back?" he asks quietly. "Of all the places you could have chosen…why here? Why…" He shakes his head, long brown locks of mane falling softly over his eyes. "He trusted you. I trusted you." He looks up, daring to meet the green-eyed gaze of his father's killer. "He was your brother."

"Half-brother," Scar snaps. "Ahadi was not my father."

The bewildered look on Simba's face brings another smile to his lips that is anything but pleasant.

"Ah, I suppose dear old Daddy didn't tell you about that, either, hmm?"

The young lion glares. "My father was not a liar."

Scar shrugs. "I never said that he was. Merely that there were certain details he neglected to tell you."

The king soberly accepts this new information. "Did he know?"

"Oh, I suspect he knew well enough. He certainly had his suspicions—though it was never discussed."

Golden eyebrows furrow in confusion, and for a moment, Scar swears he's looking at Mufasa, the dead, dry bones restored to life. Though the night air is warm, the light breeze that has arisen sends a shiver down his spine.

"If no one ever told you…then…how...?"

"Oh, it wasn't that difficult, really. Mufasa was always the favored one—the chosen one—even though I was the queen's firstborn. Uru treated us as equals, but Ahadi and the rest of the pride...they were civil but distant…. And for the longest time I couldn't understand why…."

He glances up, Simba's captivated stare encouraging him to continue. In any other situation, he'd never repeat the tale he is about to spin, but the end is near and then, he supposes, it won't really matter anyway. After all, he supposes he owes the little hairball an explanation. Sighing, he crosses his paws and rests his chin on top, wincing slightly at the discomfort the pressure brings to his fractured right leg before shifting into a more comfortable position.

"One day, the pride was attacked by a group of rogue males. Mufasa was just a cub then—barely older than you when…." He trails off, eyes drifting guiltily to the heap of bones beside him. "He'd wandered off by himself that day, and naturally, since I was the eldest, I was held responsible for his disappearance. Uru and I headed off in one direction while Ahadi searched in the other. We found him near the border of Outlands, hiding underneath a rock surrounded by a ring of strange males I didn't recognize, though I could tell by my mother's fear that she knew them…." He pauses. "I remember thinking how strange it was that one of them had dark fur like me…. I'd never seen another lion with a coat like mine…."

There is a distant look in his eyes now, a small, sad smile on his face. It's the first real smile Simba ever remembers seeing from his uncle, and it unnerves him.

"Uru was quick to put herself between Mufasa and the males. She told us to run and not look back, not to stop for anything. But Mufasa tripped…."

Simba audibly gasps, thoroughly captivated. Ordinarily, the old lion would have relished the attention, but now it seems as though he has forgotten his audience.

"When I realized he wasn't following me, I turned back. I'd never been considered a strong lion—I prefer brains over brawn—but when I saw the dark lion moving in for the kill, I was fully prepared for a fight. It didn't last long, of course. He was a full grown male, and I was barely more than a cub. In seconds, he had me pinned to the ground. I looked up to see if Mufasa had escaped…and then I saw his eyes…green eyes…like mine…. And then I knew."

Scar lapses into silence, eyes closed in something akin to pain—though whether it is physical or emotional distress that plagues him, Simba doesn't know. The moment drags on, and for a brief instant, the young lion fears that his uncle will take the rest of the story to his grave. But the eyes open again, and Simba is surprised to find himself breathing a sigh of relief.

"By the time Ahadi reached us, it was too late for Uru and would have been too late for me if he hadn't come sooner." His voice suddenly grows softer, gentler—as if he was whispering a prayer. "I remember watching the life drain from her eyes, watching Ahadi grieve in stoic silence and Mufasa weep like a newborn cub…and all the while thinking that it should have been me instead of her." He sighs. "I hated him after that."

Simba frowns. "You blame him for what happened?"

Silence.

"Is…Is that why you killed him? Because you were held responsible for something that you thought was his fault?"

The old lion suddenly leaps to his feet, snarling. "I was the eldest! I the smartest! I risked my life to save that pathetic excuse of a whimpering cub, and all I ever received was a scar and a reputation for being the irresponsible, illegitimate brother of the future king!" He rumbles a low, menacing growl. "I am NOT my brother's keeper."

"No," Simba replies slowly, "you were something much more than that." His gaze wanders from the hollow eye sockets of the skull to the living face of his uncle, a mixture of pity, anger, and understanding in his own brown eyes. "You were his hero."

The dark lion watches his nephew leave, stunned into silence for what seems like an eternity, an unfamiliar weight hanging heavy on his chest, the empty eyes burning a hole into his back. At long last, he sighs, sinking back into the dust. Soon he, too, will be dust—just another link in the circle of life, just another speck of sand. Lifting his chin to look up at the stars, he rests his head gently upon his brother's brow and closes his eyes, his final breath a silent plea that only the wind will hear.

Forgive me.

From the top of Pride Rock, another lion watches the sun's first rays stain the early morning sky a rosy shade of red. In the distance, a single bright star lingers over the horizon. And Simba smiles. Another king has come home.