"Come on, Nala!"
The shrill cry of the cub he was supposedly watching drew Scar out of his doze, forcing him to glance up at the two again. The devious duo in question were currently racing out towards whatever they discovered this time.
If he didn't feel like following them to make sure it wasn't a poisonous snake just yet, then that would be someone else's problem.
He really wished Sarabi hadn't dragged him into this. Yes, Zazu was busy today, yes, there was a big hunt and it wasn't like the he did much around here anyway, but the last thing he wanted to do was be stuck with cubsitting.
(Past kings forbid the brat take ten steps unsupervised.)
With something that might have been a sigh, might have been a groan, the dark lion rolled over, deliberately facing away from the cub. Maybe it would suppress the flare of resentmentirritationhate curling around his chest.
He wished that cub had never been born. Oh, he was a decent brat, and he probably would have gotten along with the scrap if things were different. But things weren't different, and now everything was getting worse by the day. It was the middle of the dry season, and keeping as many of the hyenas alive as he could was as much a struggle as ever. He couldn't wait much longer.
The job of king had never been a safe one. Eventually, some spat or other would get violent, and someone would be careless and Mufasa would be killed. When he was next in line for succession, he was happy to wait, and the hyenas were willing to let him. He didn't want his family's blood on his paws, and his promise that he would help, his attempts to keep them alive, were so welcomed they could wait just long enough.
He didn't want to be a murderer.
While he would likely outlive his brother, he was much less likely to outlive the spawn. And if he managed to breed before he died? He'd never get the throne, and all his plans, years of carefully laid and tested ideas would go to waste!
He could not let that happen.
So, the answer was simple: the spawn had to die. And if Mufasa got in the way…
The cub, his tail tip black as a winter night and his fur dusky brown, growled at the dry bones around him. He heard something. He just knew he had.
He should never have taken that dare.
A few moments later, various bones fell down the slope with a clatter, followed shortly after by a hyena pup. The pup and cub met gazes for a minute before the pup yipped, hiding his face in his paws as though that would hide him from the feline.
He tilted his head, aggression fading. The pup was scared of him? But... weren't hyena the scourges of the Pridelands? The greedy, mangy creatures that stole prey from those who rightfully belonged? He reached out a paw and poked at the pup, which jumped away from him with another yip. How curious.
As he padded forward, ready to prod at the other animal again, more clattering drew his attention back to the slopes, where another pair of pups were sliding down towards him, puppy fangs bared in snarls as they leaped between him and the first pup. One stepped back to nuzzle at the pup, but the other didn't take its eyes off the lion.
"Who are you?!" Came the shrill yap from the (female?) pup.
"I'm Taka. I wasn't gonna hurt him." He tilted his head again, sitting back on his haunches. He was bigger than them - he had nothing to worry about.
She glared at him. "You're a lion. Lions are always trouble."
"You've never met me. How do you know I'll be?"
"Hippo, meet Elephant. You're both fat."
He winced. "Can we play if I bring you some food?" That was what hyenas were always after, wasn't it? Food? These pups did look kinda thin...
That got the attention of the other pups. After a moment, the girl nodded. "We'll see."
A king always did have to put the needs of the many above the needs of the few.
A friendship was born.
(He would never forgive the cub for forcing his paw.)
A/N - My personal headcanon for the Pridelands has for years been a depressing one. The hyenas were willing to rally behind a single lion for the promise of food. While this was probably because they're animals, and unlike humans, animals don't need much that isn't food, it still doesn't imply good things.
So, here's my idea of the story: The lions, at best, used to be power hungry assholes. They kicked the hyenas, the only other predator that were known for group tactics, out of the pridelands on the pretense of worries about overfeeding, conveniently removing the only other faction that could contest them from the equation.
A few generations later, and the place the hyenas had relocated to is now a wasteland that can't support their much larger population. Scar meets them and tries to help, but the stress of trying to keep them alive long enough to impliment his reingtegration plans drives him insane. A drought thoroughly screwing over those plans results in the state the Pridelands are in when Simba returns to retake the throne, and the lions would be unhappy with Scar for inviting an enemy they've taught themselves to hate for generations into their home, and basically doing the exact opposite of what they feel their rule stands for.