I've decided to lighten up on all this drama for awhile. After all the trio have humor in their lives and that is needed in this story too. And my HUGEST apologies for the long period between chapters, I had some trouble with the internet. A big thanks to my awesome boyfriend Jagabor for alerting my readers.
It had been about a week since Afua's death, so albeit there were still occasional mourners, everything was in the process of getting back to normal.
Shenzi was sitting with Banzai in yet another desolate part of the graveyard, staring off in deep thought while he eagerly gorged himself on the young antelope they'd brought down in the Pridelands. So they trespassed for a meal, it wasn't like they were the first; they had hunted it only slimly outside of their borders, and neither of them tried to officially kill the prey until they had chased it into the Elephant Graveyard.
Noticing his friend was being abnormally quiet today, Banzai looked up from their meal and took notice of her solemn expression.
"Hey," he chewed, "what's eatin' you?"
Shenzi, remembering the sorrowful words her mother had spoken to her at Afua's funeral, still kept them deep in mind ever since that fateful day. She kept her gaze forth, and her tone was completely regular, but there was something clearly more significant behind her words. "What're you n' Ed gonna do when I become matriarch?"
Banzai swallowed down the mouthful and gave her a confused look. "Uh, same-old same-old, I guess."
She turned her head to meet his gaze. "Even if we don't hardly evah see each othah again?"
At that statement however, the male's face turned slightly pale. "Uh…there's a chance 'a that happening?" He asked.
Shenzi stared, "Well don't have a heart attack on me." Though she too felt a few butterflies in her stomach at the mere thought of parting from her friends for matriarchal duties. Banzai gulped, for what reason she couldn't figure out, because he'd already swallowed down that piece of antelope.
"Uh, h-hey, about that… thing about gettin' a mate right after being leader…" he chuckled nervously, "that's just a big dung heap, right?" The would-be matriarch thought she could see a bit of hope in his eyes, but she shook her head resentfully.
"Nah, it's the truth."
Banzai's expression only went downward after that reply. Shenzi raised an eyebrow.
"What's goin' on with you?" She asked him obliviously.
"…Eh…y-you…uh…" She stared at him with his mouth half-open, eyes darting back and forth; struggling to get something out. But finally after a moment he gave up, sighed and just said, "You gonna eat that last half?" Shenzi casually smacked it in his direction, he mumbled a "thanks", and took a large bite, chewing dejectedly.
The 15 year-old female hyena simply went back to her thoughts after that; Banzai wasn't usually one for good conversation anyway, especially when he was eating. But the idea of losing her friends to leadership, made her do some thinking about how connected they'd become; even their families seemed to click more because of their friendship.
Ed's parents already had no trouble with the leaders of the graveyard, or anybody else for that matter; the two hyenas were about the kindest married couple you could find around. Neema even helped Raziya give birth to Banzai, and Rashid was the first to find out about Safia and Bakari's engagement. And though Shenzi was young at the time, she could still remember how delighted Rashid and Neema were upon learning of Ed's new friends; she partially couldn't blame them, since first sight at Ed most would turn-tail and run away, but that only proved how good friends she and Banzai were.
Raziya, though usually modest and humble, could be as lively and humorous as the next hyena if she wanted to; she always put on a smile whenever Banzai had friends visiting. She got along with Ed's parents very well, even still believing she was indebted to Rashid for taking Banzai under his wing; ever since that occasion her son's quarrels with other members of the clan had near completely extinguished. Of course she got along with Safia, and was very polite with Bakari, as was he to her. But for some particular reason every now and again…she would give Shenzi this weird look. The young matriarch didn't know what to think of it; sometimes she'd catch the mother hyena just staring at her with her head tilted sideways, right before she realized she'd been discovered and quickly look away. Go figure.
As for Shenzi's own parents, they seemed to take to her relationship with Banzai and Ed pretty well. Safia treated both males with the utmost respect, for some reason smiling at Banzai every now and again. He knew what to make of it about as much as Shenzi did about Raziya's strange glances, so like his friend he merely shrugged it off…even though later, on occasion, the young female would sometimes hear her two friends cackling to themselves about how…"attractive", her mother was. Shenzi rolled her eyes at the mere thought.
For Bakari's opinion, the father hyena had no problem with Ed as far as he was concerned, Shenzi couldn't figure out whether it was because of his friendship with Rashid or that Ed just seemed like the non-threatening type.
But it was obvious, for some unknown reason, that her father seemed less than thrilled whenever Banzai was around. It seemed nearly everything her oldest male friend did irritated her dad. Once, after merely grinning at Shenzi, the second-in-command immediately bared his teeth and fixed him with a blood-chilling glare. Bakari was behind his daughter at that moment, but she looked back just in time after seeing her friend turn pale for some reason, to see her father become surprised and quickly turn away.
And over the years, Banzai had developed a slight wariness around Bakari himself…
Reminding herself that she was just reminiscing about this to bury her sorrowful feelings about parting from her two companions, Shenzi now wanted to take these rapidly-turning-depressing thoughts from her mind. The young to-be matriarch saw Banzai gazing off somewhere, still not pausing in the least in his eating, and followed his stare to look in the direction of Ed.
Speaking of which, there was something quite different about their friend today, something that had become very well-known…
Not far off, the male was happily licking up the remains off some bone… then smiling up at someone across from him. She smiled back and playfully licked off a bit of meat that gotten onto his nose. Shenzi saw Banzai roll his eyes peevishly and look away for some reason.
As of not long ago, it had became official that Ed and Abeni were a couple. And if one saw the two now, in all their…lovey-doveyness, that fact could be almost painfully obvious. Ed's grin only became wider after what Abeni did, and he leaned closer to lick her back, though Shenzi couldn't really see anything on her muzzle…
It could be imagined how Gituku's gang reacted; Bujune blinked before looking at everybody nervously to see how they would take it, Monifa was disgusted that she was dating one of Shenzi's friends, and Gituku just called her crazy…then made a crack about how that was something they had in common. Kamau's reaction though, for some reason, was more intense than anyone's; a rarity for someone as cool and collected as him.
At first he looked completely taken aback, surprised even; again it was astounding to see since anybody, even Gituku, hardly ever witnessed Kamau showing any emotion. After a moment of letting it sink in, he clearly tried to regain his usual unreadable composure, but obvious traces of depression lingered on his face.
Shenzi and Banzai themselves didn't think much of it, seeing as how they didn't really have a problem with Abeni. Just as long as she kept her regular crowd under control and no harm came to their friend.
Seeing them now though, it was evident that wouldn't be happening. Shenzi rolled her eyes as Ed made another move, making Abeni giggle as the two started necking. The would-be matriarch looked away in disgust.
"Man," Banzai cackled after he saw her turn her gaze, "those two need ta get a den!"
"They could at least not do that in public; there could be small pups watchin'!"
"Ed scaring kids? Like that's anything new." He snickered again.
Meanwhile, with Ed and Abeni, Ed was truly enjoying himself; things with his new girlfriend were really getting off to a great start, even when her usual crowd had kept their feelings unchanged on him and his friends. But despite that, they managed to keep their relationship afloat. He nuzzled a bit closer to her, but after about another minute of their affectionate moment had passed, he heard Abeni sigh and gently push him away. Ed stared at her curiously.
"I need to get back home," she explained, "promised my parents I'd help hunt this afternoon."
He smiled and nodded in understanding, before the two gave a last nuzzle, and she quickly turned around to venture in the direction of her parents. After she left, Ed got to all-fours and made his way back to Shenzi and Banzai, both of whom, were giving a look when he reached them; Shenzi was raising an unamused eyebrow, and Banzai simply smirked at him in the middle of his eating. Speaking of which, Ed couldn't help but notice the young antelope that lay at their feet and licked his lips to dig in.
"Surprised you're still hungry after what you two were doing." He heard his female friend say. He merely glanced up from his chewing and gave her a look of his own, before continuing to rip another piece of meat off.
"Hey, don't go too hard on 'im Shenz'," Banzai cut in, "I'd be hungry too if someone was tryin' to suck my face off all day!"
Ed snorted at both of them, bits of meat sticking to his muzzle. His male friend slapped him on the back. "C'mon man, you know we're just messin' with ya."
The third member of their trio said nothing and simply went on consuming the half-eaten herbivore. Shenzi laid on a nearby rock and watched both her friends devour the meal, but after a moment, she gazed up at the sun's position in the sky. And noticing the particular location it was in, she got to her paws and stepped off the rock. Banzai and Ed glanced up at her, mouths full.
"I should probably go see if momma n' daddy need any help findin' lunch too." She spoke, looking in the direction of her own home. Banzai swallowed his mouthful.
"But you didn't eat any." He said.
"So I'll be as hungry as my parents when I find 'em." She concluded, before leaving the area for her elephant skull. Ed looked back and saw his friend sigh in ennui, not even bothering to grab another piece of antelope. He chewed as he watched him look around, a bored expression on his face.
"So whadda you wanna do?" The tedious male finally asked. Ed looked up in thought for a minute, a paw rubbing against his chin, before he nonchalantly smiled and gave an overly done shrug, tilting his head to a sideways angle. Banzai stared at him for a moment, blinking at that disturbing gaze of his, until after some uncomfortable silence decided to speak up.
"Not much help, are ya Ed?" His friend merely kept the unsettling appearance, and giggled. Banzai lowered his eyes at him. Subsequent to another minute passing by, Ed soon returned to eating the carcass whilst his friend glanced up at the sun's position as Shenzi had done awhile ago.
"…Maybe I oughtta go check on mom now." He stated. The other male licked his maw of blood and bits and gave a whine of complaint. Banzai raised a brow at him.
"Sheesh, I ain't leavin' ya for dead; lighten up."
Ed merely snorted again, and decided to make fun of his friend's statement. He groaned, clasping a paw onto his chest and gave a loud, high-pitched, ironically placed guffaw, before yelping suddenly and plopping onto his back, motionless, letting his tongue hang out. Banzai cackled at his antics.
"Look, I'm just gonna go check on mom and if she ain't home…well I'm not makin' no promises."
The 15 year-old male blinked in consideration, before shrugging and diving face-first into the antelope again. Banzai snickered.
"See ya Ed."
It was a long walk to Raziya's den from that area of the Elephant Graveyard, but Banzai was never one to rethink decisions when it came to his mother. And checking up on her every now and then had become so much of a routine of his, Raziya was starting to get a little peeved about it, saying…more like insisting, that he was worrying over nothing. And on top of that…it made her feel like she was getting a little old. Her persistence in telling him that she could take care of herself, always made Banzai think about how she was so overprotective of him as a pup, but he never said it aloud.
By the time the 16 year-old male reached her den, it was about two hours past noon. Despite the fact that he was now too large to even fit inside, he poked his head through the entrance and called out, "Mom?"
His eyes scanned his former residence, but there was no sign of Raziya whatsoever; just the same shallow hole he grew up in, with a few bones here and there. "Guess she's still out huntin'." He mumbled. As he began to leave, he made a mental note to come back and check on her later…until the sight of something familiar, interrupted his thoughts.
Lying there in its usual place, the same place it had been ever since he was a young pup, was the stick Raziya used to tell him if she was at home or not. And even more to his bewilderment, it was pointing toward the mouth of the den; indicating she was out.
Banzai didn't know what to think, but undoubtedly he was surprised. He stared at the object, raising an eyebrow as he grew more and more puzzled. Why would she still be doing this? Her son had moved out months ago; there was no use for that stick anymore…was there?
Finally, after moments of sinking this in, the now grown hyena shrugged it off, and once more reminded himself to check up on Raziya later as he departed.
He considered returning to Ed, but the hyena would probably be too busy eating to talk, and might even try to make creepy smiles at him again if he tried talking to him. Or even worse: Abeni could show up and Banzai could unwillingly be witnessing a full-out smooch-fest.
Then again, he did partially say he would return to his friend if his mother wasn't there…
While he was trying to make up his mind, the male looked over and abruptly noticed Shenzi alone outside of her home. Curious, and figuring that this would be much more pleasant than seeing Ed suck muzzle with Abeni, he ventured toward her to see why she hadn't joined her parents yet.
"Hey! Shenz'!" At that nickname the matriarch could only take one guess at who was addressing her, and looked in the voice's direction to see none other than Banzai headed her way. "How come ya ain't with your folks?" He asked once he got to her. He observed Shenzi growling irritably and roll her eyes.
"Daddy thinks I can't handle a simple hunt, that's why!"
Banzai blinked; carefully wary of her anger. "Uh…wha'd your mom say?"
"She wasn't here. …Shouldn't you be with Ed?" She asked.
"Left to go check on my mom; wasn't there either. 'Sides Ed's fine; Abeni could be back any minute. I dunno 'bout you but the last thing I wanna do is walk in on another-"
"I get it." Shenzi cut him off.
Banzai raised a brow at her quick reaction…and then slyly grinned to himself whilst he thought this could be a little entertaining. He smiled "innocently" and continued, "I'm just sayin' he's cool if wanna stare and him an' his girlfriend-"
"Cut it out."
"Well wouldn't it be kinda obvious? I mean they're a couple and that's usually what-"
"I said knock it off, Banzai!"
"What? It's not like you've never seen two hyenas-" This time Shenzi did not merely command him to stifle; instead she did something that…effectively made her joke-making friend shut up.
Banzai stared as she snarled above him, too busy feeling the lump in his throat to notice her claws digging into his shoulders. He didn't notice her irate growling as she lowered her head to his level; making him grow uncomfortably aware of those enchanting, yet menacing eyes.
"As I was sayin'," she began, "knock, it off. Got me?"
He nodded meekly, before she climbed off of him. He staggered to his feet, trying to slow his heart rate while Shenzi dusted herself off.
"So," Banzai heard her say as he tried to calm himself down, "my momma's been gettin' her fur all in a knot about Ahadi lately."
"No kiddin'." The hyena replied, trying to keep his voice from shaking.
"Word through the treevine is, he convinced Mufasa ta let a bunch a' rhinos graze around the border of the graveyard."
"Why'd he do that?"
Shenzi lowered her eyelids cynically. "'Cause he couldn't get elephants to keep their appetites around their own gravesite. It's ta keep us from gettin' in, genius!"
"Whoa, whoa, whoa! You're tellin' me, his royal hindness just made a bunch 'a half-blind cud-chewers change their dinner plans to between there and this place?"
"If it weren't for the half-blindness they probably wouldn't 'a agreed either; not that I can blame 'em." Shenzi added, looking at the unattractive scenery around them.
"And it's all to keep us, from gettin' in the Pridelands?"
"Them's the breaks."
"And," Banzai added boastfully, "you just called me a genius."
She rolled her eyes, "That was sarcasm, lame brain."
"Sarcastic or not, you said it babe."
"What did I say about callin' me 'babe'?"
"Sorry chica." He smirked. Shenzi growled again, to which he backed down. After that she just looked away cantankerously, while he rubbed his neck in the awkward moment.
"Well…we could crack up about how old his hindness is gettin'. Talked to Scar the other day; says the guy could drop dead any minute! He's gettin' so steamed up about it, he says he might just off the guy himself ta get it over with!" He cackled.
"Please, ya can't kill what's already dead."
"Yeah, gotta have a brain to be alive." Both hyenas laughed.
"Maybe that dead grass on 'is head tried to use it for fertilizer! Guess it didn't work!" Banzai guffawed.
"Wait, wait, wait, listen! Listen ta this: if all them 'burdens of the kingdom'," she made her voice overly dramatic, "wasn't weighin' down on 'is shoulders, that air-head 'a his would take him right up an' save the vultures the work!"
Soon the two were making joke after joke, and by that time they were getting hysterical. Shenzi was really enjoying herself, and trying her best to hold her aching sides in laughter. Banzai was having a lot of fun too, but also did what he could to make sure she couldn't see him; for the moment, he was taking his time just watching her laugh. He liked to see her smile, especially since she'd been so down lately about the funeral and leadership and whatnot. Plus…if what she said about the trio going their separate ways was true, then, the least he could do now was make sure she'd have all the good times she could get before then. …And, to also get in as much time with her himself.
After awhile, their hysterics had to die down a bit, since the two of them vitally needed to catch their breath.
"So," Shenzi panted, "anymore ideas mistah hilarious?"
Banzai raised an eyebrow. "Hilarious, huh? I thought maybe you'd stop at 'funny', but hilarious? I'm flattered." He grinned teasingly.
"Don't start that again." She warned. He chuckled awkwardly a bit and started to rub the back of his neck again. "Besides, it ain't enough for you to get treated like any other male if you walked outta the graveyard?"
"We female hyenas may be the dominant gender in this society, but to the rest of the world, we're as second-rate as the rest of the species that ain't male."
"I asked momma one day, why we couldn't just leave this place; she said with all the elders and pups to watch over, if any trouble evah came, we might be in some real hot geysers. I mean imagine; the rest of the food chain actually believing that a decent society can be ran by females, ain't that a laugh?!" She ended cynically. Banzai watched her sulk, almost regretful he even spoke up after what she said when their laughter ended; to think he might actually be treated superior to a female if he ventured from the clan. Normally, that wouldn't even be a thought to most species but to a hyena it was a shock.
Thinking about why most animals thought males were more responsible than females though…made a familiar event arise inside his mind. His vacant expression shelled his astonishment at why he'd even remember something from so long back; it'd happened years ago! But then, Banzai took a second look at Shenzi, and seeing her like that made him wonder if he should go ahead and bury that day back into his brain again.
She was obviously in a huff, and he wanted to cheer her up badly, but the male still considered whether to tell her or not. It was a very, very personal matter, between Ed and Maumbu to be exact; only those two, besides him, knew of it, not even their parents were aware. Although, since Shenzi was in the mood she was in, and would be very understanding after hearing it, and was very close to Ed herself, Banzai decided that she wouldn't break to anybody about something as shocking as this.
"…You're sayin' we can't leave since nobody thinks guys…uh, chicks, like you can't handle things like a male?"
"Maybe they'd make an exception if they saw you." That stung a little, but nonetheless Banzai tried to continue, until she spoke up again. "Thinkin' 'bout it, daddy might even think that way too. I mean, I don't see 'im talkin' 'bout hyenas like…Maumbu bein' inadequate or nothin'."
At that however, the stinging from that insult faded, and Banzai cackled. "Is that right? Well if he don't I do; wouldn't say… 'inade-whatever' though."
She raised a brow again. "Whadda you talkin' about?"
"'Member when Scar became an actual part-graveyarder?"
"Yeah, Maumbu took Ed for his first real hunt that day." She replied. Her friend chuckled.
"So ya thought."
For once in a blue moon, the rare occasion had come when Shenzi was getting confused from something Banzai was saying. "Ya lost me."
"I could give ya 10 reasons why Ed's still got problems with 'is bro, 6 ya wouldn't know 'cause I know the guy's family personally." He put a paw to his chin in thought. "…Probably one 'a the biggest ones, would be what happened when we were just startin' out as teens."
"Alright, then what really happened while everybody thought those two was out 'bonding on a right of passage'?"
"…It ain't a happy story." Banzai shook his head. Shenzi blinked intriguingly, before settling on a rock. "I got time."
"…If ya think ya can handle it…" He began.
An unusually bright sun shone over the Elephant Graveyard, as an eager young hyena scampered across the dirt, not giving a care in the world that he was in such a dreary, desolate place on such a hot afternoon. This was the day that would change his whole life; the day he would prove that he had officially become a legitimate teenager. And he was more than ready for it.
Lagging behind, a somewhat, less-than-enthusiastic hyena grumbled to himself, trudging after his little brother. "'Bonding' they say, 'right of passage', they say." The dragging of his paws rose dust on the ground, forming tiny clouds around his legs. "How the heck are we supposed to find anything around here?" He huffed. All around them were bones, bones, and more bones, and yet not one sight of any living creatures but them.
"Only reason I moved out was so I wouldn't have to baby-sit all the time. But I pay one quick visit to the old skull, and here I am on this lousy excuse of a hunt, with a guy who chews on his own foot!" Maumbu spat.
Meanwhile, quite ahead by now, Ed was really starting to get the hang of this venture; too busy enjoying himself to even pay heed to his elder sibling's complaining. But just as he'd pressed his nose against the ground to pick up a scent, something made him gaze up, and take notice of a peculiar aura in the distance…before his lowered his ears in fright of what he saw.
Maumbu lifted his stare from the ground when he heard his brother whimpering, and glanced in his direction to see him upset for some reason. "What is it?" He peevishly demanded. The 13 year-old hyena whined and pointed to the sky in response. Following his gesture, the adult hyena saw exactly what his sibling was trying to tell him. In the sky, was a ferocious sight to be seen; black, dreary storm clouds, covering the upper landscape of the savanna, the sinister-looking forecast hung in the air, omens of weather truly monstrous. That is…if they could even be seen beyond the horizon.
Ed's brother snorted and looked back in his direction. "Those things are like a million miles away from here! Ya wanna finish this hunt or not?!"
Ed glanced back at the clouds, still reluctant to continue any further after what he'd seen. Although, if he was to prove his growing up, he'd have to succeed in this hunt he'd prepared for; having to imitate the procedures of any adult, and put all this worries and fears aside, in order to concentrate on his objective. So, giving the menacing, overhanging weather one last glance, he took a deep breath and raced ahead once more.
Banzai could only stare as he took in the sight of so many numerous storm clouds headed their way. Ever since he was a pup he'd had this massive fear of thunderstorms. For what reason, he never knew, but it was embarrassing nonetheless. He could handle his "right of passage" hunt, but cue in a storm and the male would be as nervous as any hyena sitting on an active geyser.
Back in the end of the den, Raziya took note of her son's gaping at the ominous climate.
"Hijo?" He glanced back at her voice.
"Would you like to come lie by me until it passes?" She asked. Banzai inwardly groaned; it was humiliating enough for him to be afraid like this in a little wet weather, now his own mother was offering him comfort from his foolish phobia. Keeping his discontent inside though, he gazed up at her and said, "Nah, I'm good mom."
Raziya blinked, before casually shrugging as she laid her head in her paws. "Suit yourself."
Banzai waited until she had drifted off to sleep, a common habit of theirs whenever it rained, before looking back at the ever-nearing storm clouds again; leaning against the mouth of the den while he inwardly disparaged himself for being afraid.
"Hey! Don't get killed before we even catch it!" Maumbu shouted as Ed seemed to pick up a scent, then recklessly dart to a nearby pile of bones. He immediately began digging at the massive hill of skeletal remains, before his ear twitched as he detected a tiny squeaking sound. Jerking his head up, his face grew into a wicked grin when he saw the creature perceived by his skillful tactics; a small rat clawed its way over an aged elephant tusk, prior to glancing back and crying in fear once it saw Ed had already caught sight of it.
Quickly the tiny rodent fled from the mound of bones, just barely dodging a pounce by its predatory pursuer. Maumbu, seeing his brother had found something and was racing hot on it, swiftly began to follow…before a low rumbling sound halted him in his tracks.
Meanwhile, Ed was right on his prey's tail; metaphorically of course, albeit he did snap at the rat's tail every now and again, it always managed to be a near miss. No matter, it was only a concept of time before his maturity as a teenager was sealed…and he quickly spotted it none too soon.
The rat realized what was happening as well; Ed was chasing him straight into a dead-end! The minute he ran out of places to run, his fate would be made. Finally, after an exhausting chase for the prey, the to-be teenage male victoriously licked his chops and moved in.
But just as Ed had cornered his target, a shadow swept over the surprised hyena. He looked up, and just then, a low rumble emitted all around the area. Both hunter and prey froze in place…before the sound was followed by an even greater reverberation, which subsequently accompanied a flash of lightning. Ed's heart jumped and, forgetting all about the rat, he fled back in the direction he came, searching desperately for Maumbu as rain began to pour from the sky.
As he began to get pelted repeatedly by the strengthening storm however, he sought everyplace he could think of, before grasping the fact that his brother was nowhere near the place they'd started hunting to begin with; in fact, he wasn't anywhere near this place at all! Another round of thunder clapped as Ed's heart began to race, and again he frantically looked for his brother, calling out for him, jumping over bones, rocks and anything else in his path.
Suddenly a blinding streak of lightning impacted a boulder on a ledge a few feet above him, blasting large shards of the humongous rock right off and sending them Ed's way. He ducked, then dove for shelter like mad; fortunately there was a hollow in the cliff nearby, and he sought to its refuge just before a large chunk of boulder smashed into a thousand pieces on the ground nearby.
As the thunder chorused and the lightning blazed, Ed curled up in a ball; filled with terror beyond belief. He shook as the storm continued on, near paralyzing him with fear; how could he behave like this when he was supposed to act like an adult?…How could Maumbu call himself an adult, when he abandoned his only brother in a lightning storm?! The elder hyenas were supposed to be mature and always do what was right. At least, that was how it was thought to be. If the standards for being an full-grown male were to be a thoughtless, cowardly, despicable excuse for a living creature—willing to do anything to save their own hide, then the honest truth was Ed wasn't even close.
He growled, remembering the other hyenas who'd called themselves "mature, and grown-up", telling their offspring they needed to be more adult like and yet still laughed about him when he or his family wasn't looking—like pups teasing the different one amongst them; pups teasing him. Their parents teasing him.
The young male at this point could care less about the hunt now, he refused to be like them; an emotionless, fully-grown creature, utterly repressed of fear, pain, weakness, and refusing to feel any type of sentiment whatsoever. He refused to be fake as well: no living creature could always be strong, no mortal thing could never be afraid of something in its lifetime. No such creature existed. And he was no exception.
…And more than anything right now, he needed something that possibly expunged all characteristics of being a so-called young adult; he didn't want to be lonely. His father, his mother, wherever they were, he wanted them badly. And Maumbu, he…Ed growled at the fact that his older brother had deserted him. He was probably the reason he was trapped under here in the first place. His own flesh and blood, leaving him to save his own skin, even when Ed had practically warned him this could've happened!
Another bolt of lightning jolted Ed from his thoughts, and he realized…if he was left here alone, then he didn't know what would become of him.
So, seeing that no one was here, and no one would be…he stripped away his last dignity of adulthood, and curled himself tighter to cry.
Banzai, finally managing to relax the best he could in this ruinous rainstorm, twitched his ear up when he suddenly heard a noise. Heaving a breath as he lifted his head from his paws, his lethargy was soon to turn into surprise upon seeing Maumbu shakily walking by his home. At first he thought either Ed had succeeded in his hunt and the two brothers were returning home, or the rain had proved too much and they had given up. But as Banzai looked near Maumbu's legs …he couldn't spot his friend anywhere.
Confused, he got to all fours and took a few steps out the mouth of the den; still no sign of Ed. Beyond perplexed at this point, he looked back at his friend's brother for some answers.
The older hyena didn't seem to hear him over the raging downpour, and continued on. Banzai began to follow him, until a large boom of thunder paralyzed him with fear. He bit his lip as he looked up at the sky. Managing to avert his gaze for a moment, Banzai glanced back at where he last saw Maumbu, only to see that he had long walked off. Seeing he was alone, the 13 year-old male's first instinct was to dart back into his home…until he noticed something peculiar about the tracks Maumbu had left when he ventured by.
Albeit they were disappearing quickly due to the rain, Banzai could clearly make out two sets of the adult male's tracks; one, more worn-out than the other, had a smaller set of paw prints right next to it, so that must've meant Maumbu and Ed came by here earlier. If that was true then, why had the caretaker of his best friend come back home alone? Banzai was getting a bad feeling about this, along with the already present fear he was experiencing because of the harsh storm, he was becoming more anxious by the minute at the mysterious absence of his best friend.
Deciding that if he was going to try and find Ed himself, time would be of the essence; as the rain was rapidly washing away his only clue to Ed's whereabouts. But it would be a chance he would have to take…
Ed shook with a mixture of fright and the frequent chill of a drenching wind every time it found its way into the crevice he was in. He growled again at the thought of his brother, cursing him for abandoning him like this. As rainwater drenched his coat, he began to doubt if he'd ever be found; nobody ever ventured outside in conditions like this, and who knew when the clan would start to get wind of his disappearance. And who knew what would become of him by then…
Just as Ed's hopes began to sink with the droplets clinging to his body, a familiar voice made his jaw drop in awe.
"EEEEEEED!" His name was drawn out loudly to ensure it'd be perceived. The 13 year-old hyena cautiously poked his nose out of the gap to see if he'd really heard right, or if he was hallucinating from his panic. But there he was, his best friend, struggling against the pelting rain to find him; Ed could hardly believe his eyes.
"EEEEEEEEEEEED!" Banzai called out again, just before yelping and jumping out of his fur at another thunderclap. Ed, unbelievably happy, forgot all about his dread and raced out to meet his friend, laughing at full volume in his direction. Upon hearing that familiar sound of hilarity, Banzai turned his head and was both glad and relieved at the sight of his companion running at him. As soon as the two reached one another, the oldest of them had only one thing to say:
"Let's get outta here."
Ed nodded and they both made their way back to the clan.
A few minutes later…
The two males, soaking wet, shook water from themselves as best they could as they rested in half of what used to be an elephant skull. Banzai tapped on his head while tilting it sideways so the water in the ear on that side would drain out. Ed, meanwhile, seemed to be trying to get rid of access water with his overly-salivating tongue, go figure.
When the friends became dry enough, they thought about braving the storm until they reached one of their homes; hopefully Ed's so Maumbu could get what they both wanted to come to him. But the weather appeared to have other plans in store for them, so the two tried to pass the time until it let up. Banzai sighed in boredom as Ed noisily scratched at one of his ears.
"Dude," his friend said, "keep that up and you're gonna get more dents in those."
Ed was about to make a comeback, when the two heard a small noise coming from the corner of the skull. They exchanged puzzled glances, before venturing in that direction to investigate. And what they found…they were equally glad to see. The rat Ed had chased earlier was struggling to get out of a tiny ribcage, and since neither male saw a reason to let it suffer, the younger of the two fulfilled the purpose he came here for in the first place, and officially christened himself a full-fledged teenager.
Banzai grinned as he watched the rat dangle from his friend's mouth by the tail, until an unexpected sound reached his ears: silence…complete and utter silence. He quickly twisted his head in the direction of the mouth of the skull, and was awed to see the rain had stopped. Just as he was about to jump to all fours, alert Ed, and dash out of there, a thoughtful gaze slowly emerged upon his face, and he turned directly to his friend. Ed looked up, and raised an eyebrow at his companion's expression.
"Hey…" Banzai realized, "I got over my fear." The younger male's eyes became larger than usual for a moment, until he too comprehended that what he said appeared to be the case, and he laughed a congrats.
"Thanks man!" The oldest playfully punched his friend on the shoulder.
Ed smiled at him, drenched fur and all, thankfully as if to say "Thank you."
Shenzi stared, "So…the next time my daddy tells me I can't go huntin', you expect me to tell 'im that?!"
Banzai scoffed, "No! I expect ya to learn from it, and be as pushy with him, as ya are with me!"
After that, Shenzi looked like she was about to get mad at him again; by the look on her face, the unfortunate male prepared for the worst. But…after taking in what her friend had said for a moment, the would-be matriarch just gave him a simple look and said,
"Lions are pushy."
Then Banzai watched her venture back inside her home.
Banzai yawned and comfortably stretched out as he settled for the night in his ample-spaced den. His new home was just what he needed and more; apart from the lack of shared body heat, the rest of the commodities were as perfect as the given situation could make them. There was of course adequate spacing, which was cool in hot weather and balmy in cold, an entrance sized enough to let him know if someone was intruding on him, and he wouldn't have to clean up after every single meal he ate, as were the conditions when he still boarded with Raziya.
He chuckled at the thought that the only possible female that would be nagging him about his unkemptness from now on would be Shenzi…until he started thinking about how there might be a solution to the lack of shared body heat in his den… then just as quickly shook it away from his mind. Thoughts like that weren't even meant to happen in his dreams.
Or were they?
Banzai was contentedly dozing off on the floor of his den. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary for tonight; the same exotic quietness that only the Graveyard maintained in all the savannah—no crickets would ever chirp here with no greenery for sustenance, the same thin, shafts of moonlight were leaking in from the entrance…until a shadow washed them out. Then the exotic quietness was suddenly disturbed by a sound from the entrance of his den.
His ear twitched in that direction, and sure enough there was the scraping of paws nearby; someone was trying to make their way inside. Immediately, the adult male rose to all fours and jerked his head toward the mouth…until he became too thunderstruck to even move. Shenzi's condition was no better than his; caught off guard by his unexpectedly hasty reaction, she about jumped out of her fur the minute he stood his ground.
The two hyenas just stood there, gawking at the other, until the would-be matriarch finally broke the silence, chuckling uneasily. "Not half-bad reflexes ya got there."
Banzai blinked. "What the…? What're you doing?"
She shrugged, "I was in the neighborhood; didn't think it'd hurt to stop by."
"At night?" The male raised a brow skeptically.
This time the 15 year-old female smirked. "Nah, I didn't think it'd hurt at all ta stop by at night."
That made Banzai's blood rush, he choked down a lump in his throat before speaking again. "Uh…so, why come here?"
"Well, I figured it wasn't easy for you to tell me what you did today, I could tell by how reluctant you was. You really wanted to help me out though, huh?"
Banzai couldn't say much, but simply nodded. She smiled.
"Wish I could be as carin', but sorry, showin' affection is kinda forbidden in my position. …At least, in public."
"Whaddya mean?" He raised an eyebrow.
"You said when Ed wasn't around you'd give me a better look at the place. So," she smirked and came closer, "when's the next tour?"
The 16 year-old honestly didn't know what to say, do, or think. He couldn't make out any logical explanation of this predicament, although one thing was for sure: he loved every minute of it. He gulped again. "Uh, well, if ya think you can handle it." He chuckled nervously at the statement he said to her earlier that day.
Shenzi moved in closer, Banzai instinctively took a step back, but she firmly put a front paw on his to make him stop. That look she was giving him…made him forget everything else in the world but them. His long-adored, secret love, willing, wanting to be with him and, judging by the hour of the night, obviously at any time. She leaned in again, and he did not restrain himself…
He held her close. At first it was just nuzzling, then it led to slight licks here and there. The night couldn't get better—time stood still as the two indulged in the affectionate moment together in each other's embrace; it was tender, it was sweet, it was love.
One particular peck on the cheek was delivered by Shenzi, and at first Banzai was surprised. …Until he saw that same caring look she was giving him did not fade. And grinning, he moved forward to kiss her.
Banzai jerked his head up again, panting loudly; partially from the dream, partially from shock. He hadn't dreamt about that since he started puberty. Quickly he got up to his feet and found the nearest shallow puddle he could, and dove his head face-first into it.
Bad move: turned out it was more shallow than he thought. The male cursed loudly as he brought his head back up, nose now bleeding. He growled at his reflection in the pool, settled in the curved-in rock floor. After a few moments of trying to stop the bleeding, Banzai looked up and saw the moon was almost halfway gone; that dream had kept him busy almost the whole night. Groaning, he rolled his eyes in embarrassment, before lugging back into the den.
Shenzi raised an eyebrow as she watched her oldest male friend casually inspect his claws…at least 10 feet away from her. For some reason he'd been trying to be very distant ever since they found each other that morning, and it was a mystery to the young female. What was even more perplexing though…was why it bugged her senseless. Blowing a bang from her eye, she scanned the horizon for Ed, who had promised to meet them there shortly after breakfast…if there was.
Banzai meanwhile, was doing his best to keep himself preoccupied. He couldn't and wouldn't let his hormonally-crazed dreams ruin his friendship with Shenzi, and the most effective way he could think to do that…was to keep just within minimum distance of her, until that dream was as deeply buried in his mind as the incident with Ed.
A familiar laugh reached both their ears as they looked over and saw the humorous hyena walking their way. Shenzi half-smiled as a greeting, Banzai gave a weak nod. Ed, puzzled with their friend's behavior, gave his future leader a questioning glance. She shrugged.
"I've got about as much of an idea as you."
While the two were conversing Banzai continued to keep his mind off the obvious. He caught himself stealing quick glances at Shenzi, and angrily scolded himself for it. He tried to stop himself, but he couldn't help but want to recollect on how close they'd gotten; bitter combatants and best friends all in one relationship since the day they met. They'd shared almost everything together—their worries, their hopes, their plans for the future.
He also noticed how she'd grown over the years. Those pearly, white, sharp teeth, that strong yet limber body, the way that fringe came just over her face…he felt his own self getting uncomfortably heated already. He licked his lips to distract himself but nearly recoiled at the feeling of his parched tongue scraping against his muzzle from his dry mouth. Trying not to let his gaze travel anymore over his friend's, and future leader's, form, he directed his head to the left…and saw something that was certainly just enough to get his attention away from Shenzi.
Speaking of which, she noticed the look and spoke out to him.
"Oh, by the way, that lil' advice you gave me yesterday, actually worked; helped my folks get 3 rats this mornin'. Guess I owe you one, thanks." That smile she gave him would've made him catch his breath, if not for the fact that he was too busy staring unexpectedly at something. Shenzi, by now starting to get fed up with his aloofness, began to approach him…until she noticed what was catching his eye. Ed too followed his friend's gazes to see what was so interesting to them, and found himself utterly surprised.
It was very far from where the trio were standing, but just close enough to make out: there, in front of a shoddy-looking den, was Gituku approaching, and his father was by the entrance. The son of the family was, without hesitating, venturing towards the mouth of his home. That however, was not why the three were so astounded.
Rumors circulated around the clan that Monifa wanted to leave home after her mother's death, but residences that were actually non-hazardous to one's health were in short supply. In that case one usually moved in with someone they were close to such as a relative, a friend…or in this case a boyfriend.
Not far behind Gituku, Monifa walked with him towards his home. But then, catching the trio off-guard further, she abruptly stopped in her tracks upon seeing her boyfriend's father. Albeit the female continued to believe her own father's death was a wrongdoing, she did always suspect there was something that unnerved her mother about him. She knew very well how Gituku's father was, it was how the two had broke the ice as pups after all, and realizing that living with her boyfriend meant living with his father as well…Monifa was a bit reluctant.
Gituku read her mind and casually turned back, stood beside her, and softly nudged her on the shoulder to assure her forward. Cautiously, his girlfriend moved on. He stopped near the mouth and let her pass inside, before stealing a bitter glance at his father.
Gituku was no idiot; true, he tended to be reckless and too cocky for his own good, but if there was one thing he never did, it was forget. Over the years, the near fully-grown male clearly remembered all the abuse suffered by him and his mother at his father's paws. He'd been beaten, clawed, and bitten by him countless times. He clearly understood why his girlfriend began to have second thoughts about moving in, but he strongly intended to put her worries at ease.
Making sure Monifa was inside, he lowered his head to see through the entrance better. Seeing she was conversing with his mother, who had always liked her, Gituku glanced back at his father again. His cold gaze was not to be taken lightly.
"Get mad at me all you want, but if you ever hurt her, I'll make you regret it."
Speaking not another word, he joined Monifa and his mother inside.
In all honesty, I'm unsure of when my next chapter will be up. But I never leave a story unfinished, so you can look forward to a new update, I just can't promise it will be soon.
Much appreciation for you're reading!