Even from a distance it was easy to tell the mountain lioness was shy, painfully so in fact. Over the weeks Moyo had never once seen her play or engage in conversation with someone, a fact that both pleased and saddened him; for one thing, it meant that the female wasn’t involved with anyone, but it also meant she had to be lonely. Or at the very least bored. Her expressions were a bit difficult to read.
The first time he had seen her, he stumbled across the cougar quite by accident. His early morning walk had taken him down a new path as was the usual each day, but it had yet to show him anything more interesting than the uppermost branches of a leafy tree in the distance. Deciding to use it as a landmark, the two-tailed tiger let his feet carry him forward until only a curve in the path blocked the full view of the tree. A sense of anticipation had fallen over him as he walked, so he rounded the bend eagerly- only to come to a half followed by a few rapid steps backward. Near the trunk of the tree was a young mountain lion, a female if he had guessed correctly after his brief sighting. Though she wasn’t particularly intimidating to him, Moyo had hidden anyway, not really understanding why himself. After a few long minutes of thought, he backtracked down the path and climbed atop a large rock to get a better look.
She was still there, lying against the base of the tree, and to the tiger’s great surprise, completely alone.
Time and again the Moyo returned, always to find the same lone cougaress under the tree. She was always alone like the first time, which he considered a little strange. The tiger was absolutely fascinated by her. A few days turned into weeks and he had yet to speak to her, finding he was unable to muster the courage he needed to do so. With anyone else, any other female, he had no problem walking and talking and getting to know them; but this one was different in a way he couldn’t fathom. Each day when he watched her under the tree the pit in his stomach would grow, nearly overwhelming him. At first he thought he might be sick, but soon realized that the pit was…nervousness? Longing? Love perhaps? Whatever he was feeling the tiger was determined to finally meet her for real and this day would be the day.
Moyo had spent the better part of the morning sitting atop his stone perch with a perfect view of the tree trying to convince himself to approach. At some point he had found himself standing and jumping to the ground, his paws seeming to have minds of their own as they ushered him forward drawing him ever closer the female. Forcing away his nervousness, the tiger regained control of his paws and continued on, only pausing briefly to slow his pace when he came into full view; startling her was not something he wanted to do. Even though he was clearly in her line of sight, the cougar did not react to his presence, just continued to study her paws and the dirt between them. Careful to keep his pace and demeanor non-threatening, the tiger smiled, a greeting on his lips as he stopped only a few more steps from her side.
“Um, hello.” He said softly, keeping his voice gentle when he spoke. Even so, a surprised squeak left the mountain lion as she looked up at him then looked away just as quickly. Her eyes traveled from his face to her own paws several times; she turned her face down, looking up through her eyelashes as if she were afraid to look at him straight on. Still the tiger smiled. “Hi. I’m Moyo. May I sit with you?”
The cougar’s mouth opened and closed before she simply nodded, tucking her paws and tail in around herself. Moyo sat, smiling all the while, and flicked first one tail and then the other, the perfect picture of cheer and interest. He thought about introducing himself properly, but decided against it; sharing names with a stranger might not be the best idea and could possibly make the female uncomfortable – another thing he didn’t want to happen.
“So… what are you doing out here, if you don’t mind me asking?” He asked as a conversation starter. He’d been curious about it the last few weeks.
Only a minute passed before he realized she wasn’t going to answer.
“Not a big talker huh? That’s alright.” He smiled yet again and flicked his ear. “I’m out exploring. There’s always something to see out here.” After a brief hesitation his smile morphed into a grin. “I lived in a pride once. The whole thing was made of females before I got there.”
The tiger then launched into a few tales of his adventures so far, watching her reaction intensely. Talking was the easy part, but he found himself having a hard time keeping his train of thought while looking at her, but he kept his eyes trained on her face unable to look away all the same. She was reserved, as she had been since he approached, barely able to look at him; even when she was turned towards him her eyes lingered anywhere but on his own. Casually he reached out one paw and laid it next to hers as spoke. As he expected, she looked up at him quickly, but to his relief left her paw where it was.
“I’ve forgotten my manners. I don’t even know your name.” Moyo said quietly, tilting his head to one side looking at her curiously, hoping she would say something this time. His tails brushed through the grass beneath the tree. His patience was rewarded as she slowly opened her mouth.
“Sanaa. My name is Sanaa.” Her voice was quiet and still hesitant, but she seemed to open up more, lifting her head completely even though she still avoided directly meeting his eyes.
“Well it’s nice to meet you, Sanaa.” Moyo replied, a soft purr bubbling in his throat before he resumed another story, afraid of leaving the spotlight on Sanna too long for fear that she would retreat again. The longer he talked, the freer she became – smiling, laughing, gasping, and then offering a story of her own. Moyo was astounded as she told him of her capture, a daring escape, and the new home she had found with a pride nearby. It hadn’t truly felt like home though, so she set off on her own at the start of each day as well. The story, though brief, seemed to sadden her and on impulse, Moyo leaned closer pressing his nose against her cheek, giving the mountain lioness a mild shock. Thankfully she didn’t pull away – in fact it felt as if she moved closer if anything. They passed the afternoon that way, trading stories and the occasional light touch, and soon they were both tucked against the tree together as if they were old friends. Early evening came upon them, surprising the pair; they had managed to spend an entire day talking and still had yet to run out of things to say.
The sun had taken its warmth along with it, much to Sanaa’s dismay. She loved the feeling of basking in the light and letting it warm her pelt; without it now, she felt a shiver run up her spine as a light breeze tousled her fur. The shiver hadn’t escaped Moyo’s notice and he felt his mouth go dry, the nervousness from earlier returning in full force.
“Um…Sanaa?” He asked quietly, his face twisting into a look of concentration as if he were trying very hard to make up his mind about something.
“Yes?” Sanaa answer his question with her own, feeling her heart skip a beat at the sound of his voice. She had grown used to it over the day, but he had been quiet for several minutes, making the sound momentarily startling once again. Instead of the verbal answer she had been waiting for, Sanaa watched with a curious confusion that quickly turned to dismay as Moyo stood up, shuffling his paws just a bit. She could feel her face fall, her disappointment clearly displayed. “Are you leaving?”
Only a few moments passed, but to Moyo it could have been hours as he looked back at her then simply shook his head. Without another word he stepped over her and lied down so that he was resting between her and the tree, wrapping his tails around them both. Sanaa’s mouth opened and closed as if she were going to say something in reaction, but no sound came out; instead she simply touched her nose to his shoulder, a light blush flooding heat into her face and ears. Moyo returned the gesture and then set his muzzle against her ear. “You looked cold.”
“…thank you.” Sanaa whispered, turning her head to look at his tails where they rested against her back, but didn’t pull away from his touch. Almost involuntarily she lifted one paw and twined it with his, a purr starting to build in her chest along with a fluttery feeling she couldn’t quite name. “This is nice.” Was all she could manage to say.
Moyo chuckled softly and rolled to his side slightly to reach around her with one paw, wrapping his foreleg around her in a gentle embrace that had warmth spreading through both of them. Shyness was starting to come over the female again, but she did her best to push it away, hiding her face in the tiger’s chest, the rumble of his laugh echoing pleasantly in her ears; he continued to chuckle until he leaned down to lay his head against the ground, making them eye level when she peeked at him from under lowered eyelids, turning to rest only one cheek against his chest fur.
“I like this too.” Moyo purred, reaching forward to lick the bridge of her muzzle up to between her ears before he set his head back down, once again anxiously awaiting Sanaa’s reaction to his bold action. For a moment he feared she would pull away from him entirely, making him all the more relieved when she scooted herself closer to press her muzzle into his throat, offering a gentle lick of her own. A spear of excitement shot into his stomach, banishing any feelings that were even remotely unpleasant; there was no room for them here. He didn’t even hesitate to speak again, only needing to clear his throat. “Can I see you again tomorrow?”
“What do you mean?” He froze, feeling Sanaa pull her face away, making him anxious as he angled his head to look at her face. She was frowning at him, once again looking disappointed. “I thought you were going to stay with me.” Instantly Moyo relaxed, tightening his hold on her and hauling back against him as he laughed a joyous laugh.
Never before had either of them felt so happy.