Two Squared: 4
They were twenty two months old when it happened. One day they were happily hunting together, arriving back sated and praised by the handlers, and the next they were in a container headed for… who knew where.
Neither could eat, they were air sick and confused, and it was cold… very cold… The two distressed tigers huddled together shivering and semi drugged, the cursory covers hardly adequate for two felines who had grown up in the heat of Dubai.
They landed and were pushed into another container. Spike felt the sting, they both did, tranquilized by someone with a gun… Humans had never been so cruel before (?!). Xander was on his way down, the last thing he saw in distress was that his partner was on his side, tongue hanging out as though dead. He couldn’t feel him… he couldn’t feel him… his last thought was grief, then all went black.
Spike woke first and whimpered as he reached for his lovely partner. Xander roused eventually, both were disorientated and uncoordinated for many minutes. Spike managed to lift his head and flop it over Xander’s torso. Even that act was reassuring. They were still together. But both knew … they were ‘somewhere else’ but where was their young master? They passed out again.
Xander was car-sick and air-sick when not unconscious. Something about lying in a cage, swaying and lurching then being pumped full of tranquilizer just did not agree with his constitution. On the second day of their travels he lay miserably at the bottom of their tiny enclosure, trying very hard not to soil their straw. Eventually he crawled to the far corner and coughed up the remains of their last meal. It had been two days previous that they had fed properly, though substantial at the time, it was erring on the lean side as they approached their new home. Though for his part, Spike was somewhat grateful of the limited intake, as his own stomach rolled, the stench of regurgitated meat hardly helping.
Umbahla had been asked to travel with them, albeit rather reluctantly, initially, but the Sheikh had compensated him richly and allowed his family to accompany him for the duration. The latter was a great relief, and in the end the large African was mightily pleased. His children would attend school in England, and his wife was delighted, having trained as a doctor in London, she was to back amongst friends and would attend the Sheikh’s extended family in London as their private physician.
A day or so after their arduous journey they woke fully to strange smells but a familiar voice. Ahmil was caressing them both and they could smell tears…
“My dearest… my Bahir [the brilliant] and Fadi [the redeemer]… oh Please! Come back to me!”
Spike felt his young master sobbing into his lax neck. The boy’s knees were close enough to lick without too much vertigo, so the young tiger moved a little and attempted a pass with a still rather dry and uncoordinated tongue.
He was rewarded by a hearty hug and wet nape as his young master cried into his neck with relief. “Oh Bahir… Bahir… I thought you were dead… Oh thank Allah!”
A similar scene was played out as Xander awoke.
Sadly they were still in quarantine and it would be a month at least before they would be allowed to be moved to their new home. Ahmil had to go to school and was distressed that his pets were to be kept caged, but had been told that a month was very reasonable and that it was only that they were to be housed in a private facility that the time was so short. The two tigers simply flopped down dejectedly and accepted their fate.
A month later and still a little groggy from their trip, the two tigers explored their new quarters while Ahmil watched. The warmth was now artificial, the water warmed by a heating element and the air likewise. Most of the plants were foreign if the view from their windows to the outside world were anything to go by. But then the vegetation on the game park in Dubai was nothing like that of their enclosure either, so there was no surprise in that. It was all very green though. The heated bed was a welcome surprise and they both snuggled down that now formed the underlay of their sleeping space.
They both made sure to rub against their young master. His presence made things right and when Umbahla entered with some water and fresh meat, they gave him a similar greeting.
Their first night of pleasuring each other in their new abode was strictly for reassurance… and family… and to mark their space. They slept a little uneasily, the smells still were not quite familiar.
The following day they were shocked as their handler led them from their heated new home. The temperature difference was extraordinary, causing both cats to pause. Luckily Umbahla understood and gave them a moment, then took them for a brisk evening run that entailed very long leads, a quad bike and the perimeter of the coven holdings. The Sheikh had funded the improvement of all the fencing to accommodate their new charges, but Spike and Xander were familiar with enclosures and took little notice.
Spike was distracted toward the end of their run. He kept recognizing scents, and sounds and … he knew they were memories of his other life… or was it lives?. It was all so muddled these days. Xander bit the ear of his inattentive friend affectionately as they entered their enclosure again and a tussle ensued. Umbahla let them play. They had been confined for days, the least he could do was let them spar.
They did miss the hunt, and they missed Ahmil… desperately.
On the Friday afternoon of the boy’s first visit, almost a month after their arrival at the coven’s estate, they became frantic as they caught his scent when Giles opened the rear of the building that housed their sleeping quarters. Both began to pace nearby the door, growling, pawing the entrance and snorting in frustration.
Ahmil entered with Umbahla and Giles, the older gents fearful that the excitement of seeing him after four weeks would be too much for the youthful tigers. They need not have worried. The two immediately rubbed against their young master purring, then dropped to roll onto their backs in a display of submission, eventually rolling back to lie by his side and lick his hands as the young man sat on the ground with them and moved to embrace his furred friends passionately in turn.
“I’ve missed you both *so* much… and do you know… No one at school believes I own two tigers… no one! Hah!”
Spike had an odd niggle in the back of his mind, an old memory from his own school days. Something about a cockatoo and his uncle and the boys guffawing… But it was a rather painful and very human memory… It was fuzzy and he couldn’t imagine… was that even possible? Had he been human? Ever? He gave up worrying in preference to purring and rubbing contentedly against his young master’s side.
Willow watched the interaction through the one way glass. They were no closer to bringing her friends back, but watching them with the young Ahmil… at least they looked… happy?!
After attempting to reach her friends herself, by the third month of their stay Willow brought in two wiccans who were supposed to be expert animal communicators. Rhonda and Diane were led into the enclosure, and for witches who had allegedly communed with all manner of species, Willow could not help but notice their nervous demeanor.
The tigers were now over two years old and had begun to develop their true male musculature. When they stood tall their heads were at Willow’s shoulder. They were spectacular animals and their peak condition was in no small way a tribute to their wonderful handler. But the nervousness of the ‘tiger whisperers’ might also have been due to their arriving just as Umbahla was exercising them.
On fine days, he led the tigers into one of the unused paddocks on the property unclipped their leads and ordered them to ‘down’ until he had tied an old string bag stuffed with hay and a small piece of raw meat to the rear of the quad bike. He would then ride away some distance before calling ‘hunt’ and accelerating away as fast as possible. He would always release the ‘animal’ just as the final pounce was felt. It was split second timing, but flipping the quad bike was not on the agenda, so Umbahla had yet to make an error.
What ensued was usually a tearing apart of the bag and minor altercation regards the meat. The speed of the two was quite extraordinary over short distances, so to challenge them their handler had begun to call them from farther and farther away. Umbhala had a habit of doing it again, and again, until they either ran out of bags or ‘puff’. Inevitably it was always the former, meaning that the lovely trainer was compelled to clip on their leads and run them around the property three or four times until they really were ready to return to the enclosure.
The wiccans had arrived just as one of the pursuit games was occurring. Watching the two full grown tigers sprinting at top speed, leaping onto the ‘prey’ then tearing it apart, was magnificent, but also rather daunting, given they were to be in the same enclosure the very same afternoon.
It was Willow’s confidence and the utter affection the two tigers displayed for her that gave them courage. Diane dropped to her knees and waited for the two big cats to scent her. Rhonda waited back a little.
Spike and Xander both dropped in front of her, drawn to the magic she embodied. She placed a careful had on top of both their heads and began to chant.
She was in his head. For the first time in well over two years someone other than Spike was actually speaking to him directly. But the images she sent were all jumbled. And what she said was utterly confusing. She kept talking about “coming back” and “discovering yourself” and “not giving up hope”. Hope for what? Ahmil to return… well the young master had promised so no problem there. Hope for a return to their warmer climate… well master would decide. Hope for… wait… she says a return to being human. Was he ever human? Why would you want that anyway? He reached for Spike instead of listening to her any more, and found love and acceptance.
Spike for his part, was exploring the thoughts of the wiccan more thoroughly. She considered them to be less than she. That annoyed him. She knew they had been something different ‘before’ but was not family so how could she know. She kept upsetting his mate. That was unacceptable. He stood and growled. Umbhala called him and he dutifully moved to sit by his handler, glad to be rid of the intrusive questions. Xander followed.
The young witch was a little shaken. She had never been tossed out of someone’s mind before. Spike’s spirit was amazingly strong. Retreating out of the enclosure the three witches debriefed.
The two tigers flopped down after the witches left. Both felt uncharacteristically unhappy. They had a good life, why was this human trying to change that. They groomed each other and eventually fell into a rather restless sleep.
Two Squared: 5