Inspired by Alean and Two Tigers by Herio13 on DeviantArt.
“Look how cute he is, all curled up like a little baby!” Prisca smiled down at the sleeping Vespian.
“I’m not sure he’s supposed to be curled up like that.” Pascal said. He narrowed his eyes. “Aren’t humans only supposed to sleep for a few hours at a time?”
Prisca sniffed at Vespian’s face. “I don’t know. I didn’t think so. Why would they do a stupid thing like that?”
Pascal sighed, his ears flattening. “It’s just the way they are.”
Prisca pulled her head back up and looked around the cloth den. “Well, maybe he’s catching up? We have been kind of busy.”
Pascal huffed and lowered his head. “I suppose.” They sat in silence for a while, Prisca resting her head on Vespian’s small shoulder. After a bit Pascal rolled over onto his other side.
It was no more comfortable.
He rolled over again, but he couldn’t find the spot he’d been in before. Pascal huffed and slid off the raised platform with the soft things on it. “Do you think I can go outside?” He asked. He paced across the fluffy moss-stuff on the floor and sniffed around the entrance to the den. It was quite clever. The cloth came down over the opening, so that you could hide from things that didn’t know where you were.
“I don’t see why not.” Prisca said, lifting her head again. “Are you hungry?”
“Yes.” Pascal grumbled. But he wasn’t, not really. He just didn’t like it.
She lowered her chin back to Vespin’s shoulder. “Well, don’t kill any humans. Vespy would get really upset. These ones are his. You remember? He said.”
“Alright, alright.” Pascal could smell pig anyway, which was much tastier. And horse. And the forest, not far after that. Mostly though, it smelled like humans. A big group of humans. Pascal looked back at Prisca and the sleeping Vespian. “You sure he’s okay?”
Prisca licked Vespian’s face.
“No, I didn’t mean—” Pascal stopped. Vespian hadn’t woken up.
Prisca licked his face again, harder this time. His face twitched, but that was it. She transitioned from ‘wake up lick’ to ‘my cub fell in a rotting pig’ lick.
Vespian whimpered, but he didn’t raise his hands to fend her off.
“I’ll get help.” Pascal said, as Prisca began to chuff comfort to the little human.
Pascal pointed his nose to the fabric and pushed through. It was frightening, because there was a moment where he couldn’t see the other side, but he could smell the humans standing on either side of he opening.
One of them cussed. The other froze.
Pascal looked at them. Fear washed from them. Other things to, the sour taste of stress, the rich smell of the herbivore mixed with the rotten smell of carnivore. They were both wearing metal and cloth, looking like trimmed down birds of paradise with all their shades.
Pascal picked the taller one, the one who had made noise, on the basis that bigger was better. Pascal stared at him.
The human dropped its eyes.
Pascal muttered deep in his throat, a sound he knew came off as a grumpy approval to Vespian, when he wasn’t ‘listening with his tiger ears’, as he said it.
Pascal gauged the human’s size. Couldn’t weight more then a pig. Probably less. It looked big, because it was so tall. Like a vine, all height and no strength. And it was terrified of him.
Pascal grumbled again and then backed into the den. It did have a spear, after all. No need to tempt it. As he passed the cloth cover he grabbed it with his teeth, drawing it back with him.
The shorter human said something, a question maybe. The taller human shook its head, which meant no, right?
“Hey, Prisca. What’s that head shake thing mean?”
“Uuuuh, depends.” Prisca said. She sounded like she was trying really hard to not sound worried. “I think it normally means no, but Vespy uses it when he’s confused or he doesn’t know or he’s really surprised.”
“Did you find help?”
“Well, I have to get the human inside so I can get it to look at him.”
Prisca made a mewling noise, like a scared kitten. Pascal nearly dropped his cloth in shock, but the short human looked in the tent. Prisca made the noise again, and licked Vespiy’s face.
The humans were talking rapidly now.
The tall one looked in.
Prisca looked at the humans, then very deliberately looked at Vespian.
“Wow, they are stupid.” Pascal said, as they went back to talking to each other.
“I think they’re scared of you. You should sit down.”
Pascal sat, but he had to stay on his haunches, because he wanted to keep the den open.
The tall human called into the tent, quietly.
Vespy, of course, didn’t stir.
The tall human tried louder.
The short human ran off. Pascal couldn’t tell if it was going somewhere, or just running.
The tall human looked at Pascal, as if trying to gauge how likely he was to die.
“Nod.” Prisca said, sharply. “Like Vespy taught you.”
Pascal nodded. The tent cloth ripped a little.
The tall human’s eyes got huge. But it stepped into the tent. It froze, but when it wasn’t instantly mauled it kept going. It called again. Then it stopped just out of Prisca’s reach and peered intently at Vespian.
More humans were coming. Pascal got a better grip on the cloth and then jerked away hard, ripping it. The tall human jumped, but relaxed when it saw that Pascal had just made the den unhidden forever. Pascal wasn’t so sure it had been a good idea, but he’d wanted it open and he’d wanted to be able to move.
He stalked back to the raised platform and sat down next to it.
Other humans came in, cautiously at first. The tall guard said something to them, turning around to face them. It still smelled of fear, but the appearance of the shorter humans clearly was a relief.
Maybe humans did it backward. Maybe the smaller ones were in charge.