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Vermillion: part one

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“Zira, please!” Tojo cried, his eyes wide with horrified disbelief as he stared at the lioness before him, “Tell me it’s not true!”

She seemed dressed in all of me
Stretched across my shame,
All the torment and the pain
Leaked through and covered me.

His azure eyes were frantically searching her face, for a sign that she was lying—pulling his legs as payback for all the trouble he put her through in their youth. Anything….anything at all wound have been better than what she’d told him.

But he found nothing. Nothing at all.

Tears were forming in the corner of his eyes, threatening to fall down his already tortured features. It couldn’t….she wouldn’t….

“Tell you what, Tojo?” Zira echoed, a sickening smile tugging at the solumn grin she forced on her face. This time, he recognized the mockery in his voice, and his heart sank.

“That….that the king’s son is….” He murmurmed, a hollow feeling creeping into his chest.

“….dead?” His mate finished coldly, the much needed sympathy absent in her voice, “Yes. I killed him.”

Tojo’s jaw dropped, each word impaling his already breaking heart as the news sank in. Dead. Simba's son was dead. The little boy he’d met only months ago….was gone….

“Dammit Zira!” Tojo suddenly roared, the barrier he’d held up breaking as the tears began to fall, “Why?! Why would you do this?!” His breathing had become erratic; anger and remorse meshing themselves in each angry sob.

Unfazed by her mate’s abrupt breakdown, Zira’s tail swished nonchalantly. “Why?” She repeated, her tone taking on an almost emotionless air, “I just did what needed to be done. That’s all.”

“That’s all?!” Tojo shrieked, unsheathing his claws, “Kopa was a child! The same as your own son, save for a few weeks! What the heck would EVER make you think that—”

“How dare you!” Zira shot back, springing to her feet “Nuka is nothing like that brat! He shares the same blood as Scar!” Fury taking older, Zira’s next words were filled with venom, “Kopa had nothing but traitor’s blood flowing through his veins!” Her teeth were bared; head lowered in an attack stance.

“So he needed to die?! Is that how it works?!”

“That fool Simba need to pay for Scar’s death! I was merely taking settling the score!” Zira raised her head at this, turning away from the stunned rogue as if to end the conversation.

Suddenly, she found herself on her back, pinned to the ground.

“What the hell are you—”

“Shut up!” The familiar growl of her mate ringing in her ears, “we’re not finished here!”

She squirmed uncomfortable at his breath on her neck, but kept her eyes locked with his. “No….I guess we’re not.” She muttered.

Zira waited for Tojo to make a move—to say something—but he seemed to be struggling with himself—unable to find the right words. A wicked smile graced her lips, recognizing the uneasiness in his eyes. “What are you going to do, Tojo?” She asked, her voice barely above a whisper, “you can’t kill me; you’ll orphan three poor children. And don’t for a second think you can raise them by yourself. Kovu and Vitani are far too young, and the son of Scar will never listen to yo—ARGH!”

The pressure of his paws on her upper front legs increased, grinding her back further into the rocky surface. Her eyes tore away from his for a moment out of pain, but when they’d settled back down, she nearly jumped upon realizing he was now nose to nose with her. “I don’t want to hear another word about Scar!” Tojo snarled, his claws only centimeters away from piercing her flesh, “Scar is dead! He’s been dead for months! You and your sick obsession with him need to stop NOW!”

“Obsession?!” Zira cried shrilly, “Scar is the true king of the pride lands! The father of my eldest child! The love of my life! And the victim of a savage attack I needed to exact revenge upon!” She let out a scream, channeling her strength into her upper body and pushing her mate off her. Panting hard, Zira rose to her feet once more, striding over to the defeated Tojo; a turmoil of emotion blazing in her amber eyes.

He tried to growl, tried to regain his authority; but all that escaped his lips was a half-hearted squeak….a sound he hadn’t made since cubhood.

I’d do anything to have her to myself,
Just to have her for myself.

“I thought….” He half-reminded, half-pleaded with her, “….I thought you loved me.” Once more he searched her eyes, hoping beyond all hope to find some of that….passion….that devotion….was directed towards him. Yet, as before, he found nothing, and the blue-eyed lion died a little inside.

“I will always. Love. Scar.” Zira hissed, glaring at him with a hatred he’d never thought her capable of. This wasn’t the lioness he’d known in his youth. And it wasn’t the on he’d fallen in love with.

“K….Kovu….Vitani….” he choked, the names of his children rolling off his tongue in result of a sudden thought. Zira cocked her head.

“What about them?” She questioned.

Tojo drew in a breath, trying to steady himself. “Why….with me….when you?” He managed, only half-succeeding in gathering confidence. Everything was happening so fast….falling apart right in front of him….

….and he knew, even before his mate spoke the words he never wanted to hear, that there was nothing he could do about it.

“I was told my next eldest son would be Scar’s heir.” Zira said simply, as if this were an everyday explanation, “Since his own son….lacked much to be desired.” The last word ended with a snarl, the lioness casting a frustrated glance at the cave mouth in which her—their—cubs slept. Tojo knew all too well of Nuka’s unusually friendly nature towards the pride landers—he was the one who told Simba of his mother’s plight to kill Kopa, after all—but that was no reason to consider the boy a failure. If anything, it would make him a much better and acceptable king. But in the eyes of a lion like Scar….and….Zira….that kind of behavior meant he was flawed. No, the heir they needed had to be trained from infancy to hate the king and all his supporters….

Now I don’t know what to do,
I don’t know what to do
When she makes me sad.

Tojo gasped, everything clicking together. “That....That’s the only reason you….you came to me?! Because you needed a successor for a lion that isn’t even alive?!”

Zira said nothing, but there was no mistaking the glint in her eyes.

“NO!” he suddenly shrieked, his long lost confidence returning, “I won’t let you use my son for something so—”

“You will do nothing!” His mate retaliated harshly. “Kovu is my son, too. And he is far too young to be torn away from his mother.”

He would have responded, would have continued to defend the innocent cub. But something in Zira’s response caught his attention. “What…what are you say? What do you mean….‘torn away?’”

Seeing his expression, Zira sighed, though he expected it was from irritation, rather than sadness. “In a days’ time, I am to be banished from the pride lands.” Fury flickered across her face, but she kept her emotions in check. “The other followers have already left. I remain only because of the age of my cubs. And to let their father know what was about to happen.” She gave him a slight nod, and for a moment, it seemed she had been lying about not having feelings for him.

It lasted only a moment thought; the reality of the situation sinking in. “Well I’m here.” He stated callously, “and I know. That’s all you need isn’t it?”

She is everything to me,
The unrequited dream,
The song that no one sings,
The unattainable.
She’s a myth that I have to believe in,
All I need to make it real is one more reason.

Her lips pursed. “You….Simba gave you a choice.” She said after a moment. “Because you’re his friend.” She ignored the shocked expression on his face and hastily continued. “Either you come with me—your family—as king of the outlands and be forever banished from his pride….or stay your original course and go wherever it is you were headed. As a rogue. As a lion with no family—no home to return to.”

I don’t know what to do,
I don’t know what to do when she makes me sad.

Tojo was unsure whether her words were meant to let on that she wanted him to accompany her, or try to turn him against the king.

When it all came down to it, neither answer mattered.

Because he’d made his decision.

“I will never betray this pride.” He informed her, his voice ringing with authority and determination. His brow furrowed, and in that instant, he was taller, stronger, and much more powerful than he’d ever felt in his life. “And I will never follow Scar.”

A short silence followed then, both lion and mate locked in a death glare, daring each other to break it, to look away.

Though her gaze never left his, Zira was the first to speak. “So be it.” She acknowledged, each word dripping in disdain, “you will never see your children again.”

He gulped, but held his ground. “I know,” he replied thickly, a dull ache in his chest, “and I’m prepared to deal with that.” A hard swallow before adding, “on my own.” Tears were prickling in the corners of his eyes, but he held them back. Instead, he turned from her, for what he knew would be the final time. “Good night, Zira.” He said softly, jumping down the remainder of the rocks onto the dusty surface of the savannah “and good-bye.”

She watched his gaunt form take off; his head held high but body shaking subtly. She thought she heard him sobbing, but it was hard to tell without seeing his face.

“Good-bye, Tojo.” She whispered, before heading into the cave to join her cubs. Just before entering, her head turned back in the direction she’d last seen him. In a voice so quiet, not even she could fully hear it, Zira added “and I’m sorry.”

But I won’t let this build up inside of me.

I won’t let this build up inside of me.

I won’t let this build up inside of me.

I won’t let this build up inside of me….

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