Back in the Lion Guard lair, the air had become cool and quiet. The Guard was out on patrol, led by Fuli. Only Kion, Jicho and Kwaheri remained in the lair, not a single murmur came from any of their lips or beaks as they all rested, awaiting the arrival of some special guests.
Jicho, nestled high above the others, rested her wings in a small nest made of twigs and her own feathers. Her eyes pasted open as the morning's bright blue-sky crept through the large opening in the lair's ceiling.
Her trail of thought was cut off however when a certain hyper, energetic monkey leapt up the irregular, rocky walls of the lair, swinging between the strands of roots and vines that protruded from the roof's opening.
"What are you doing?" Kwaheri hung down in front of her face, gripping the end of a short, sturdy vine with the end of his tail. An upside-down, face length smile flashed in front of her, staring right into her eagle eyes. He hung there for a few seconds before the large strain on his tail became too much. His tail’s grip failed, forcing him to fall onto the rocky floor below with a sudden, bony crash.
Hearing her annoying, energetic, yet rather funny monkey companion fall to the ground, she poked her head over the side of the nest, staring down at the small, widespread monkey beneath her on the floor of the lair.
"Are you, erm, ok?" She arose to her talons, flicking her wings out ready to glide down to the unintelligent blob below her. As she gracefully floated down, the rather muscular, stretched out young lion lay in the centre of the room, watching her, with one eye closed. His eye glistened with a look of intrigue and wonder before closing once more, returning him back to his resting sleep.
As Jicho approached Kwaheri, he sprung up to his hind legs, forcing the eagle to flap backwards, perching the ground with her razor-sharp talons, known for slicing through the flesh of her enemies, whilst also tickling the bellies of her allies.
"I'm good!" The monkey screeched between his sloppy, saliva-drenched lips. He arose to his feet, still a bit sore from the fall.
"Why did you even do that anyway, you brainless monkey?" Jicho fluttered her feathers towards the monkey, forcing him to cower in a corner of the lair surrounded by walls and the feathery embrace of his eagle companion. As the monkey trembled under his shaking arms, the eagle leapt at him, spreading her soft, cushioning wings around him.
Her softness shocked him at first. In all these years unintentionally living in the presence of her company, being eternally watched and protected by her when he and Kopa were only little, he had never really considered the softness of her body apart from the softness of her soul.
Their embrace lasted mere moments. The maternal embrace seemed to comfort the monkey, harkening back to days when she was the eye in the sky, above a young Kwaheri, Kopa and Karimu. As the eagle's wings shuffled back into their resting position, Kwaheri noticed something, a look of deep, intense thought across the eagle's beak. Something was troubling her.
"What's wrong, Jicho?"
"It's nothing." The eagle's keen eyesight shot away from her younger monkey accomplice, turning instead to the resting adolescent lion lying in the centre of the lair.
"Come on, I can read that beak." Kwaheti shot towards her, his face puzzling across her beak, trying to figure out what was wrong. The mix of warming brown and soul-piercing black illuminated from his sockets, clinging their emotional claws into her heart and mind. She knew there was no escape. She had to come clean.
"Okay." Jicho fluttered her feathers, spring loose ones all over the lair. "But if I tell you... you must NEVER... EVER tell Kopa!" She practically squawked at him, her feathers rustled out of place as her wings shot out, spread out towards the monkey.
She took one larger sigh, before ushering Kwaheri into the corner of the lair nearby. "There's something about Karimu that I know that Kopa doesn't." Her eyes flickered around the room, scanning for any overhearing ears. "Before she left, she spoke to me, told me why she was doing it. She had a good reason. And Kopa might be heartbroken if he finds out."
"What are you on about?" Kwaheri stared at his eagle 'friend', his face puzzled.
"She is... was..." Her beak slipped away. A ripple of small, uncontrollable tears rolled down her facial feathers, forcing her to wipe her face with her wing tips. "...she was 'expecting'."
The monkey before her seemed to not understand, staring back with a quizzical frown. "Expecting what? The attack?" His mind had connected the dots but in completely the wrong order.
"No, you baboon!" Jicho's talon-sharp eyes rolled in her small, aerodynamically forged skull, the weight of their movement ground through the air, like a pair of large, rounded stone boulders rolling down a hill, crushing everything in their path.
"Hey, I'm not a baboon!" Kwaheri retaliated, wiggling a single finger on his right hand towards the older eagle. "I'm a monkey. There is a difference!" His brows raised over his face, nestling into the heights of the fur brushed over his head.
Jicho slowly approached him, her talons fully sprung. The sound of them clinging to the stone floor, screeching and screaming as she walked slowly forward, sent sonic ripples through his spine. Even Kion, who up until now had slept rather peacefully, suddenly leapt into the air, his scruff shot up like a small, electrified mohican.
"You really don't understand, do you?" Her eyes shot a dark, thunderous shade, streams of tears barely breaking their rims. "She was pregnant!"
A silence nestled between the two. Kwaheri was speechless. Even when he tried to speak, the shock of this revelation had melted his brain, forcing any words to mumble into a sunken mess of consonants and vowels.
"You mean... like having cubs pregnant?" His mouth froze in place, as open as the savannah that surrounded the lair they stood in. Jicho could only nod, tears still flowing down her face.
"Ajabu!" The monkey leapt into the air, a shine of excitement, wonder and amazement spread across his face. "I'm gonna be an uncle!" This comment forced Jicho to swipe her wing across his mouth, wiping the amazed, wonderous look from his face.
"Probably not anymore!" Tears still continuously flowed down her face as she squawked at him. "She's been gone for months!"
A silence fell between the two. As Jicho turned around, she noticed Kion lying not far away. He had returned to his sleep, his short, soft-furred belly clearly visible between his stretched-out legs. A quiet, irregular noise rumbled from outside, mumbling broken by the occasional ripple of calm, pleasant laughter.
Jicho turned back to Kwaheri, her wings nudging the monkey into the shadows surrounding the outlines of the lair. The murmurs became louder, followed with the oft, rhythmic patting of fur filtered footsteps. She whispered into the monkey's ear.
"Shhh, someone's coming!"
"Hahaha!" Kuwinda giggled as she nudged against Kopa's messy, yet soft and succulent fur. "That was a good one Kopa!" She proclaimed, her eyesight never swaying from Kopa.
"Well, that's zebras for you." A slight giggle escaped his lips as his muscular, once tensed body nudged back at the young lioness next to him. Kopa knocked Kuwinda slightly away before she returned to his side, slightly rubbing against his own soft-furred side.
"Yeah, they certainly aren't." Kuwinda relaxed, coming down from her laughter filled high as she, Kopa and Nala took the first steps on to the path up to Pride Rock. The older lionesses’ head remained lowered towards the ground, her ears pinned down by the force of doubt, fear and anticipation.
As they approached the entrance to the Lion Guard's lair, Simba came into view, slowly walking towards them from the path leading further up to Pride Rock's peak. A small, proud smile grew across his muzzle as he saw his mate approach. Nala approached him, nuzzling through his mane, and Kopa saw a small, lightning fast spec of feathers flying off into the distance, the white spec seemingly scanning the land beneath it.
"Nala?" The king brushed across his mate's smooth, fur-warmed side, his mane cushioning the force of their embrace. Nestling his head on her shoulder blade, a slight hum erupted from his lips. "Are you ready?"
"As ready as I'll ever be." Her heart skipped a beat. The thought of seeing her only son, conscious once more, brought a shudder to her body, a pleasant shudder. The heat in her heart rose, her front paws shook with intense nervousness.
It was time.
All four lions entered the lair. Simba and Nala took the lead, their eyes focused on the small patch of yellow-golden fur lying in the centre.
"Kion?" Nala’s voice became nothing but a whimper. Her sky-blue eyes grew as she stared at her son, hoping, waiting for any sign of life. She didn't have to wait long. On the call of his name, he awoke. His soft, feline head raised off of the floor as a shot of auburn brown glimmered from two cracks on his face.
"Mom?" His voice was unstable, hazy still from an age of sleep. His eyes lit up in the majestic presence of his parents. Nala and Simba leapt towards their son, only stopping once they reached within nuzzling distance of their worn-out son.
"Kion!" A stream of tears erupted through Nala's eyes as she nuzzled her son. His smaller, tenderer body seemed warmer than the last time she felt it, as well as slightly bruised, scarred and hurt. A piece of innocence was lost to him.
As Simba and Nala embraced their son, Kopa and Kuwinda remained some distance, not wanting to intrude on this precious, delicate family situation.
"They're kinda cute together, don't you think?" Kuwinda rested her head on Kopa's shoulder. The weight of her head seemed comfortable, warm even.
"I guess." Kopa's eyesight never broke from the royal family’s embracing moment before him. A part of his chest stung slightly but was quickly shocked out of his system.
"Kopa?" A fluttery squawk came out of nowhere. Its source zoomed across the lair, landing on Kopa's back. "Look at your fur!" The voice was all too familiar to the lion. He lowered his head, trying to hide the swarm of red consuming the surface of his face.
"Jicho!" The eagle had latched herself into his mane, her beak prodding and pecking through his thick, youthful mane, cleaning and straightening it out. "You're messing up my mane." He tried to kick the eagle off of him with his front paws, to no avail.
"Oh, stop budging. You're in the presence of royalty and you look like a hyena that's been dragged through a bush." Jicho continued to clean the young lion as a wave of laughter exploded from Kuwinda's lips.
"You have an eagle? To clean your fur?" A small, kinda cute giggle came from her muzzle. Her ears flickered up at the sight of Kopa struggling to knock his 'cleaning bird' off of his back.
"Trust me." Kopa struggled to get any words out, his attention focused on trying to rid himself of this constant leaning. "It's... not... my... idea."
"Maybe you need a bit of help?" Kuwinda nestled herself up to Kopa, her tongue bushing the lower part of his mane into a straight, streamlined pattern. Within a few minutes, she and Jicho had finished their work.
"Have you two quite finished now." Kopa, who for the past few minutes had just accepted his fate and sat still, allowing the two to brush and lick his fur clean.
"I think so." Kuwinda smiled at her new friend, admiring her work. She was incredibly proud of the little flicks she had given him at the bottom strands of fur nestling in his mane.
"Indeed." Jicho leapt off the Mlinzi's back, her talons retracing as she landed on the rocky ground. "Now you're fit for royalty." Even Jicho couldn't help but smile at the lion. He just had a certain charm to him. A charm she knew all too well, being his cub-sitter for most of his cubhood.
In the distance, Simba and Nala had finished nuzzling their son. Their eyesight had changed to look at the commotion behind them. Nala turned to Simba, whispering a few words into his ear as Kopa watched them, a weird, falling feeling corrupting the lower portion of his chest.
Were they speaking about him?
Simba wandered up to them, his smile, calming and charming. His mane blew softly through the lair's open-air, swaying and swishing as he walked. As he approached, Kopa and Kuwinda bowed.
"Your majesty." Their voices remained placid as they came out of their bow.
"Ah, Kopa." Simba approached his nephew, sitting just in front of him "Would you like to come with me to Kilio Valley? I've got to meet Ma Tembo there whilst Nala stays here to care for Kion."
Kopa was taken back by this request. Simba, the king, wanted him to accompany him? He never thought Simba would be so relaxed, so calm about having another nearly fully grown male lion wandering around within his pride.
"Erm, sure, Sire." His still rather shocked, dazed brown eyes grew as he watched the king arise to all fours. A slight amount of movement brushed past him, just on the edge of his eyesight.
"I'd better get going." Kuwinda had moved away from Kopa. "I'll see you later." A rather soft, flirtatious tone overcame her voice as she brushed her tail across Kopa's face. Her scent clung to his nose, forcing him to sneeze several times. As she left the lair, a barrage of giggles fired from her lips, only silencing as she disappeared.
"You seem to have an uncanny effect on lionesses, Kopa." The king continued to walk towards the exit of the Lion Guard lair. His muzzle flinched at the source of a small, uncontrollable giggle fuelled by his nephew's apparent lustful aroma. "Come on, we'd better get going."
Still rather star-struck, Kopa slowly wandered behind his uncle, his tail swinging side to side, at least until something heavy grasped onto it, holding it in place, Kopa turned around and saw Kwaheri kicking and sliding across the floor, her paws holding onto the lion's tail.
"Kwaheri?" Kopa's raised eyebrows fell as his cheeks flew upwards. He flicked his tail towards the walls of the lair, forcing the monkey to fly into it. Beside him, Jicho hopped along, waiting for an opening to take to the sky once more.
"Come on you two, we've got royalty to protect."