Disclaimer: I do not own ThunderCats.
Author's Note: This story is AU. Cheetara did not choose between Lion-O and Tygra. It takes place approximately 8 years after the current episodes of TC 2011. It is rated T for now, but that may change in later chapters.
Special thanks to bronwynn! She gets a lot of credit for this one!
Summary: The king of the Cheetah Clan is used to getting what he wants, and what he wants is Cheetara.
A Matter of Trust
Prologue (8 years prior to chapter 1)
It was a tired group of travelers that had stumbled upon the cheetah camp early yesterday morning. The ThunderCats had all been surprised at the sight of the sleek, handsome king and the cheetahs that obeyed him as if terrified of his power. Velox stood tall and slender, handsome with sleek spots dotting their way down his neck, arms, and legs. He wore the richly ornamented robes of a successful monarch, but there was no compassion in his body language. He ruled with an iron hand.
From careful questioning, Lion-O had gathered that the cheetahs had always been a wealthy group of people, prosperous under their former king. Then Velox, who had been that king's advisor, poisoned the king and seized the throne. The thought sent a chill down the lion king's spine. Tygra had whispered to him that Velox was known to take anything or anyone he wanted, and that included women. He kept them at his disposal at all hours of the day and treated them as less than Cats.
Lion-O surveyed the situation before him uneasily. Cheetara kept her shoulders straight and proud before the cheetah king, but had her head bowed out of respect. The royal cheetah held out a golden arm circlet before him as his eyes scanned her body hungrily.
At Lion-O's side, Tygra grunted. "I don't like this. He's paying too much attention to her."
Finally, the brothers agreed on something. "Yes," Lion-O commented. "He's had his eyes on her since we arrived. I don't like it either." His fur bristled at the thought of Velox treating Cheetara as a plaything, using her for his sex slave and then disposing of her. He clenched his mouth shut to suppress a growl. Velox would never get his hands on their cheetah.
The brothers exchanged a glance as Cheetara stepped back and gave her head a slight shake. They knew she was denying his gift.
The cheetah king, Velox, growled low in his throat and his voice carried over the wind. "We'll see about this."
He stalked toward Lion-O angrily. Cheetara looked up and caught the lion's gaze, her expression unreadable.
"How much?" Velox asked, gesturing toward Cheetara.
Lion-O's brow crinkled in confusion. "How much for what?"
"Her, your cheetah," the king commented as he nodded toward Cheetara. "She has refused my gift, but I must have her. She will be mine."
The lion's mouth dropped open. "Cheetara isn't for sale," he answered, his words punctuated with a low growl in the back of his throat. "Royalty can't buy you anything you want; it doesn't work that way."
Cheetara moved quietly across the cheetah camp to stand next to Lion-O as her stomach knotted with nerves. Velox struck her as a man who knew how to get what he wanted. She knew Lion-O was also agitated as she watched the muscles in his shoulders bunch with tension.
"She will make me the perfect bride; I must have her. You can have any of my women you want in return." Velox nodded toward the line of scantily dressed women his advisor pushed before Lion-O. They all looked dazed and their faces were painted in startlingly bright patterns representing the colors of the cheetah clan.
Lion-O felt his stomach churn with distaste. "Cheetara isn't for sale or trade! She's her own person; you can't buy her." Anger flashed in the lion king's blue eyes and his nostrils flared as he glared at the royal cheetah, his fingers itching to wrap around the hilt of the Sword of Omens.
Velox switched tactics. He stepped toward Cheetara growling under his breath as Lion-O and Tygra moved to flank the cheetah woman on each side ready to defend her should the need arise. Panthro, the kittens, and Snarf moved closer as well keeping their eyes pinned on Velox. "What will it take to get you to stay with me and be my mate?"
"I'm flattered by your offer," Cheetara answered quietly, "but I am unable to accept. I have a duty to my king and Thundera."
Velox snarled. "You are a cheetah. That lion is not your king."
Cheetara hissed slightly, agitation becoming apparent in her stance. "Lion-O is my king and my loyalty lies with him."
"Traitor," Velox hissed, bringing his hand out to caress Cheetara's blonde hair.
She flinched and Lion-O stepped between her and the cheetah king, forcing Velox to drop his hand. "We will be leaving now," Lion-O announced. "Thank you for your hospitality."
Velox watched them leave with a sneer on his face. "Mark my words," he growled to his bodyguard, "I will make that cheetah mine one day."
It was an uncomfortable group of ThunderCats that left the cheetah camp. Velox's anger and his uncommon interest in Cheetara stayed in their thoughts in the days to come. The cheetah was quieter than usual, the encounter having bothered her more than she cared to admit. Lion-O vowed to himself that Velox would never get close to Cheetara again.