All characters are owned by Disney – this is an interpretation of what the first night back at Pride Rock after SimbaÕs return may have been like.
How do you turn away from a moment that's perfect? How can you step away from a position that's monumental?
That's what everyone on Pride Rock was thinking at that point.
For years things had just been so bad, they had completely lost all hope. It had came to the point that their youngest lioness had set out on her own quest, in hopes of finding just somebody.
And here he was.
To Sarabi, a son. To Nala, a long-lost friend that she now had unfathomable feelings for. And to Timon and Pumbaa, well, a son also.
And what a display, what a comeback it had been! To stand over the rest of the Pridelands, with the bad times behind them, but the wreckage still there to remind them what had been.
Less than half an hour ago, it was what was. Only Simba, Nala, Timon, Pumbaa and Rafiki had any idea that change was so inevitable. But even then it seemed distant.
But the roars had resided now. The lions had made their point. Simba was king. They were his followers.
But now, as they closed their jaws, got their breath back, and beamed up above them, the question returned.
How do you turn away from a moment that's perfect?
Zazu looked around. It was evident that everyone was thinking the same thing he was. He had only just been freed from his long-term jail cell. Upon Simba's return, he had been able to hear the voices outsideÉbut he had had no idea of what was going on.
It wasn't until he was busted out, and could go and start a revolution, that he realized he was already in one.
As far as he was concerned, he was the only one who had yet to express to Simba his welcome-back jubilations.
Thus, Zazu flew up through the rain and to the promontory where Simba stood, and landed on the lion's back.
"Welcome back sire," said Zazu.
Simba couldn't see him, but he knew who it was.
"I believe you fired me a couple of years back," continued the hornbill.
Simba smiled. Yes, he di, didn't he? "You're rehired," he replied.
Zazu smiled briefly as a response, but then saddened. Simba was evidently not as cheerful as what the rest of them were right now.
"May I ask what's wrong, sire?" asked Zazu.
Simba didn't reply at first. Too many thoughts were rushing through his head. He simply couldn't answer a question right now.
Finally though, Zazu's question seeped into his mind, and Simba sighed. He closed his eyes.
"I really messed this place up, didn't I?" he asked.
Zazu looked out to the horizon. Where Simba must have remembered grass, water and herds, had now been turned into rock, dust and skeletons.
Zazu smiled and shook his head. "It's not your fault sire. You're the one who got us out of this mess."
Simba finally tilted his head around to see Zazu. He wanted to see if he was being serious.
He wasÉbut then again, Zazu didn't know the whole story.
"You knowÉit means a lot to have you here, Zazu," said Simba.
Zazu puffed his chest out, chuffed. "Glad to hear, sir," he replied, "what makes you say that, though?"
"Well anyone can stand here on this promontory and roar," explained Simba, "Scar could do it. I'm sure he did. But kings and queens will come and goÉa trusted majordomo won't."
"There are a lot more things that connect you and Mufasa than me, sire," replied Zazu, although he did enjoy being recognized.
Simba saw this in Zazu, and smiled.
Still the same old Zazu, he thought, I wouldn't have asked for anything else.
Simba finally glanced down the slope down from the promontory. The rest of the group had crowded together at the bottom, all waiting to get their own personal congratulations in with Simba.
Nala was the first to move, putting her paw up on the rock. Sarafina, however, stopped her in her tracks, reaching across in front of her to stop her from advancing.
"Uh-uh," she whispered to her daughter, "let him take his time."
Nala moved her paw back and nodded. "Of course," she replied.
Sarafina smiled as the two met each other's glances, but that was quickly broken as one character charged through them and up towards Simba at the top of the promontory.
Zazu was able to escape just in time before Sarabi reached her paws out and pulled her son into a massive hug.
The lioness ran her head up alongside his with her eyes closed and her arms wrapped around his neck.
"Oh Simba," she said, tears beginning to fill underneath her eyelids, "how I've missed you." She sniffed. "But I never got to see you grow upÉ"
"I think he's trying to tell us something."
"Ooh, charades!" exclaimed Pumbaa. "I love this game. Let's see – eh – fist wrapped around neckÉehÉnecklace? EhÉneck brace?"
Finally, Sarabi released her grip on his son, and Simba took a deep breath of fresh air.
"Thanks Mom," he whimpered.
"Ooh!" exclaimed Sarabi, looking at her arms. She chuckled. "EhÉsorry about that dearÉI guess I don't know my own strength."
"It's okay," Simba replied. He looked up at his mom. "WellÉ" he said, "Éit wasn't true."
Sarabi smiled sadly. "I knew that," she replied. "I always knew that."
Simba looked disappointed with himself. "Sorry I ran away," he replied.
Sarabi rolled her eyes. "You think you would have lived if you hadn't?" she asked. "Don't get me wrong, it was stupid of youÉ" she then smiled, and relaxed the authority in her voice, "Ébut it's over now. It's the past. It's a lesson learned."
"I know," Simba replied in acknowledgment. "SoÉdo we need to leave Pride Rock?" he asked, referring back to the statement she had made to Scar earlier.
Sarabi smiled. "That's up to the King," she replied, "and how confident he feels he can feed us in time."
Simba looked back out at the ruined plains. "Guess we'll be leaving soon then," he said as a reply.
"So where's everyone's spot?" asked Simba, now that the rain had stopped and the sun was setting outside.
"Scar's was at the back," said Nala, pointing to the back of the cave, "just like your father always was. EhÉyour mom spent most of her time as far away from Scar as she could getÉso she's always slept up front since, andÉthe rest of us just crowded the middle."
Simba looked around. "Speaking of MomÉwhere is she?" he asked.
"I—I don't know," replied Nala, not really interested. "I think she was talking to Timon and PumbaaÉ"
"Then there was that one time he chased a lizardÉ" continued Timon, "Ébut, you don't really want to hear that. Honestly, these aren't very interesting stories."
For emphasis, Pumbaa yawned. It was getting late.
Sarabi chuckled. "They are to me," she replied. "I'd like to know everything," she said.
Timon and Pumbaa both heaved a sigh.
"Well the lizard was crawling on a fallen treeÉ" began TimonÉ
"EhÉumÉSimbaÉIÉehÉI want to apologize for ehÉfor seeming like a complete jerk earlier, but youÉehÉyou must understand SimbaÉthis fixer-upper, as Timon calls it, yeah, it's your homeÉ" Nala chuckled, "Ébut it's been my home for the past three years. We really needed help. We really needed you," she turned away, "and I really wanted you. This is where you belong, this is where we all belong. We're family. ButÉbutÉI just wanted to make sure that I didn't go overboard. I never would have imagined that that was what you were holding back. I knew you were holding back something, but never that."
"Now, come on Nala," replied Simba instantly, "don't do yourself injustice. You were right, it was my responsibility. You tried to convince me reasonably, and I didn't pay attention, so you got more aggressive. That'sÉthat's what you're meant to do."
Nala looked up as Simba. "I just hope I didn't hurt your feelings too much," she replied.
Simba rolled his eyes. "If you hadn't, Scar would still be aliveÉand my mom might not. Nala, I was the jerk. Don't discredit yourself."
Nala smiled. "Thank you Simba," she replied. She then closed her eyes and stuck her tongue out, moving in to lick him, but Simba moved away and began walking out.
"I've just got to go for a walk, Nala. I need to see how bad this place really is."
"Alright," replied Nala, "well just don't be too long. Even the greatest kings need sleep."
Simba took Nala's words to heart, and then left the cave. Almost instantaneously, Timon and Pumbaa entered.
"Thank you guys so much for coming back," she said, "I hope you do realize why I had to drag him away."
Pumbaa opened his mouth to reply, but Timon placed his hand over Pumbaa's snout, allowing himself to have the first word.
"Sorta," replied the meerkat, "but perhaps you could explain a bit better."
"WellÉ" began Nala, knowing she had to choose her words carefully here. She knew Timon was a bit bitter about the whole situation. If she couldn't make him see it now, they may not ever be friends, "Éif Simba hadn't returned, we all would have died. So there's thatÉfor oneÉ"
"So you couldn't have started a revolt yourself?" asked Timon. "Just one lion less?"
Nala sighed. "You know who Mufasa was, right?"
"Simba's dad, sure."
"Do you know – anything else about him?"
Nala's mouth fell. "SimbaÉSimba never told you."
"Never uttered a word about his father, no."
"You never asked him?"
"He said he didn't want to talk about it."
"Well you should have forced him to talk!"
"Why worry?" asked Timon, "it's Hakuna Matata – we don't worry about stuff that happened in the past."
"What in the world is Hakuna Matata?" asked Nala angrily.
"A philosophy," replied Timon.
"Well it's the stupidest one I've ever heard," stated Nala. "You mean to tell me that you captivated Simba in a wonderland so that he believed that if he simply forgot about his father's death, he would never have to worry about anything ever again?"
"Well we didn't know about the death part," replied Pumbaa.
"Was Simba ever upset?"
"Did you ever ask what was wrong?"
"And what did he tell you?"
Timon shrugged. "He didn'tÉjust didn't want to talk about it."
Nala hammered her paw across her faced and dragged it down.
"Oh brother," she said.
"What?" asked Timon.
"Never mind," replied Nala, shaking her head.
"You know, things don't have to be responsibility this and responsibility that," argued Timon, "you ever heard of a vacation?"
Nala's jaw dropped. "Not a three year one, no," she replied. "That one night I spent alone with Simba in the jungle, that was just for fun. Some bonding time between old friendsÉbut vacations end guys, get a gripÉplease."
"If we had never met Simba, we never would have had to have ended our vacation," replied Timon.
"I'm starting to wish you hadn't," blurted Nala out, instantly wishing she could those words back. "SorrÉ"
"If we hadn't?" asked Timon. "You do understand that we were the ones who saved him, right? The ones who raised him?"
"And you did a fantastic job," replied Nala. "But do you really believe that had you lived in that jungle for three years without SimbaÉthen you would have gone insane?"
"What is this?" asked Timon, "hypothetical questions? It's that really how low we've sunk in this discussion now? Can we just accept the fact that Pumbaa and I kept Simba away, and now he's back, wa-heey?"
Nala sighed. "We can," she replied, "but I just want to make sure that you see that it is the right thing."
Timon crossed his arms. "And Hakuna Matata is the wrong thing, gotcha," he replied. "It's going to take a lot more arguing to convince me of that."
"One day we'll have Hakuna Matata!" exclaimed Nala in response, "I promise you we will. But right now, if this pride is going to be saved, we need a male role model to protect us from other predatorsÉand that's Simba. That's his job right now. When that job is over, he can party with you all he likesÉuntil his next crisis arises."
"Ha!" replied Timon, "party with us, that's what you think is it? He's gonna party with you – you won him over from us!"
Nala's eyes grew wide. "That's not what this is about at all – you don't even know if that's true!"
"He left us and followed youÉhe never came back to tell us he'd leftÉ"
"I'm pretty sure he knew that you'd find out."
"No! You've just selfishly ensured that he will devote his life from here on out, to you and his other friends. Bonding time in the jungle? More like, hey Simba, I'm your better friend – come with me. Well thank you, misses, but no thank you!" exclaimed Timon, walking out of Pride Rock.
Pumbaa groaned, but then, hesitantly at first, turned around and followed.
Nala was left on her own as she hung her head, and watched as a tear rolled down onto the rock floor below her.
It was late at night now. Everyone was in Pride Rock. Why? Well, because Simba wasn't. In fact, nobody knew where Simba was, and they all wanted to. Did he think they should stay? Did he think they should go? And even if he didn't have an announcement to make, they all wanted to say their final words to him before the night.
Finally, all the chatter within Pride Rock came to an abrupt halt. Simba had taken his place in the doorway, and it looked like he had something to say.
The lion king scanned the heads in the room, and realized what everyone else already knew. Everyone was in Pride Rock. Rafiki, Zazu, Timon, Pumbaa and all of the lionesses. Everybody.
Simba smiled. "Guess you're all here to see me?" he asked, noticing that everyone was staring at him.
The group chuckled.
Simba shrugged. "I'm just one lion, guys," he replied, "just one stupid, selfish lion that made one good move with my life. If it weren't for you all, none of this good stuff would have happened."
One of the lionesses from the middle of the cave, Julia, smiled.
"I know I couldn't have defeated Scar on my own," she said. "None of us could have. Not without the motivation that he was a murdererÉof Mufasa, his brother of all lions!" she tacked on angrily. "And even if we could have, we would have had to have found a good lion to help protect our boundaries. It's so hard to find a good male nowadays though – most of them are dubious. But what can I say?" she asked rhetorically. "Nala found you – we got lucky. We know we can trust you."
"Here, here," said a lioness sitting next to her.
Simba shook his head. "I still couldn't have done it on my own. I had to get a lot of help."
"Really?" asked Sarabi, with an eyebrow raised. "To whom do we owe our lives too then, Simba? Come on, tell us."
Simba looked at his mother, wondering why she was putting him on the spot like this. However, he had an answer.
"WellÉpart of the credit definitely goes to Rafiki," he began, looking over at the mandrill, "for reminding me of who I am, and teaching me that often you have to confront your challenges."
Rafiki bowed but inadvertently had to swing his stick. His stick hit Nala hard across the head.
"Ow!" exclaimed the lioness. "Geez, what was that for?"
Rafiki rolled his eyes.
"And part of it has to go to Nala," continued Simba, looking down at the lioness.
Nala smiled and tried to avert everyone's gaze. It is difficult to be proud of yourself and to not let anyone else know it.
"For reminding me what my responsibilities are, and teaching me that I was turning the wrong way for my solution."
Nala blushed. "Thank you Simba," she replied.
"Then part of it definitely has to go to Timon and Pumbaa," continued Simba, turning in the direction of the warthog and meerkat, "for saving me and teaching me that there's always a bright side to turn toÉwhen I can."
Sarabi chuckled. "You still didn't answer the question son," she said. "Who do we owe the most credit too?"
Timon straightened up, Pumbaa put on a beaming smile, Rafiki fixed his back and Nala checked to make sure her fur wasn't scruffy.
"Sarafina," said Simba.
Everyone blinked and stared towards the lioness. Sarafina stared at Simba.
Sarafina looked around and saw everyone's gazes. She wasn't used to being in the spotlight like this.
"UmÉokayÉ" she said, "Émind telling us why?" she asked, "cos I really didn't do much."
Simba chuckled. "You raised Nala! And stopped my mother from going insane" he replied. "Rafiki led me to the same message Nala did – almost identical actually. She thought the same way as my dad did, stressed the same values my dad did. How did she know what my father valued though? I can only imagine she learned it from you."
"Well, yes, I did correct her on a couple ofÉ" mumbled Sarafina.
"Then you had to balance out reassuring her and Mom that everything was going to be okay after that day. Then somehow, I don't quite know how, but somehow, you were able to stress to Nala my dad's values enough, that she worked out that it was best to leave, even if you couldn't stand the thought of letting her go. But yet you held on strong and helped her escape, knowing that it was for the bestÉand if you had never raised her orÉorÉkept sanity within her and my mother during those dark yearsÉthen Scar would be sleeping in that back section, and not me."
Everyone turned back to face Sarafina, now wearing a smile on their face, whereas before they had all been a bit confused. Simba was right.
Sarafina was reacting much the way her daughter was earlier. "WellÉehÉthanks Simba," she said, smiling back at him.
Simba noddedÉbut then yawned. It was late. "WellÉ" he said, "Énight everyone," and with that he made his way to the back of the cave.
Pumbaa began to make a move back there to join him.
"Wa—waitÉwhere you going?" asked Timon, who was riding on the warthog's back.
"We're still his bestest friends, Timon," replied Pumbaa, "I'm sure he'd still like to sleep with us."
"Whoa, whoa," replied Timon, jumping off of the warthog's back and walking up to Nala.
He put his hand on her side.
"This girlÉshe's the one sleeping with Simba, now."
Nala frowned. "Pardon?" she asked.
"You love him. We know it. AndÉwho are we to break up true love?"
Sarafina laughed. "They're just good friends, Timon," she replied, "they're notÉthey're notÉ" but then, she realized that there was a bit of a gleam in Nala's eye. Sarafina gasped and placed her paw over her mouth. "Oh my goodness!" she whispered. "You do love him."
"Maybe a bit," replied Nala timidly. She hadn't really been too open to the rest of the pride about the feelings that she and Simba had expressed to each other since their reunification.
"Well what are you doing here then?" Sarafina asked her daughter. "Go on, go to the back of the cave. I'm sure Simba would appreciate your company."
Nala looked back over towards Timon and Pumbaa. They were both smiling.
"You sure you're okay with this?" she asked Timon.
"Heh," replied Timon, rolling his eyes, "Hakuna Matata."
Nala smiled back. "Hakuna Matata indeed," she replied. And with that, she got up.
She made her way around and found Simba lying down with his eyes open, just waiting for her.
"I hoped you'd be coming," said the lion.
Nala just beamed down at him as a response, and then lied down on the inside of him.
Simba pulled her backwards and wrapped her in his paws.
Simba licked her on the head, causing Nala to tilt her head upwards and look into those fiery red eyes of his. Simba looked down into her glistening green ones.
Nala chuckled and then settled her head down on the floor. This was just perfect.
Simba, now knowing that everything was back in its rightful place, lied his head down onto the top of hers.
"Night night," he said.
"Sleep tight," replied Nala.
"Dream of bed bugs, tonight," Simba finished up. And with that, he closed his eyes.