Author: Kat Lee
Fandom: The Lion King
Character/Pairing: Simba/Nala, Rafiki
Challenge/Prompt: fffc r18.08: Bridge and my own challenge to write a Christian fic every month
Warning(s): Future Fic, Character Death
Word Count: 2,053
Date Written: 28 April 2018
Disclaimer: All characters within belong to Disney, not the author, and are used without permission.
The day had been beautiful, but now as night began to fall across Pride Rock, it was quickly becoming more painfully clear than it had been all day that the King’s most loyal advisor was gone. Simba hung his head, his claws digging into the rock, as he looked across his kingdom. His amber eyes continued to cast longing glances at the place where Rafiki had stayed by himself in the jungle for seemingly Simba’s entire life. Of course he had ventured out of it many times, but every night as Simba had been learning to become King, he had looked at that area of his kingdom, known his friend and his father’s friend was there, and been reassured that no matter what happened or what troublesome decision he had to make as King, he would always have old Rafiki to reassure him he was doing right or, if and when he did make the decision, to bonk him across his head with his gourds until Simba finally listened and did what was right, did what his father would have done before him.
The night wind whistled over Simba’s thick fur, combing invisible fingers through it. His mate stepped even closer to his side, where she had been all day, eagerly trying to help him in any way he could. Simba turned his head and met Nala’s concerned gaze. She knew the mourning period was far from over -- it had just begun this morning when Zazu had found Rafiki’s still body on his morning route --, but she also realized that some things her beloved Simba had to do on his own.
She touched her nose to his, then nuzzled his neck for a moment that, for both, could not last long enough. Eventually she pulled away, pressed her nose to his furry cheek, and walked back to the cave. Their family was waiting just inside and at the mouth. She nodded to them, indicating that they should follow her. Timon and Pumbaa went first behind the lioness into the cave but not without a respectful look in Simba’s direction. Timon even bowed before walking glumly, his head and tail hung low, into the cave.
Kovu and Kiara took a moment longer. Kiara rushed to her father, tears in her eyes, and embraced him quickly. Then, knowing as her mother did that he must talk the next part of the mourning walk by himself, she pressed her nose to his cheek, walked back to Kovu’s side, pressed her nose to his cheek as well, and finally, side by side with her mate, walked into the cave.
Reassured that his family was safe for the night, Simba began the journey. He wasn’t sure where it would take him, but with every step he took, he found himself feeling ever more alone. Rafiki had nearly always been there for him except during the time he had gotten lost in the desert alone after Scar’s hideous attack and had grown up with Timon and Pumbaa. That time had nearly broken everybody’s hearts, Simba’s included. He had later seen the markings Rafiki had made on his walls, erasing his picture and then later retracing it with juice and making a quick mane around his neck.
He had only realized upon seeing him just what a toll that grieving time had taken upon his old friend who, in some ways, had been like a second father to him. He had certainly helped him to find his own father again. Simba lifted his gaze to the stars filling the night sky. He had found himself out in the long, tall grass where Rafiki had first led him to find his father. Near here was where he had first mated with Nala, where she had become far more to him than just a friend, and where he had reunited with his dad and made the decision to go back to his home and do all within his power to finally make things right -- where he had made the decision to stop running.
The rising wind whipped along Simba’s body. It seemed almost to have a song inside it tonight, and Rafiki had often told him to listen to the wind. He could hear leaves shaking in the breeze; they reminded him of the old monkey shaking his staff. But Rafiki was not a King, Simba thought, looking forlornly up at the sky. He was a wonderful friend and a safe mystic, but he was not a King. It was the Kings who looked down upon them to guide their footsteps.
Suddenly, something struck Simba’s head. “Ow!” Rubbing his head with his mighty paws, he looked around for the culprit but saw nothing. The shaking leaves came at him, and again Simba felt something invisible strike his head. He frowned, his furry brow drawing down in confusion.
On the third time, Simba immediately reached up and yanked at whatever unseen force was striking him. He still couldn’t see anything, but he felt a stick and heard gourds. Then, for just a second, through the night breeze flashed a vision of Rafiki. His howling laughter echoed on the wind even as he vanished. The grass parted, and Simba, as confused as he had been on the night when Rafiki had at last found him again, took off running along that pathway.
He was trying to catch the breeze, and it seemed every bit as impossible as it had on that fateful night so many years before. From time to time, he could hear the unmistakable sound of Rafiki’s laughter echoing on the night wind. When the grass finally parted, Simba had to slide to an abrupt stop. He found himself on the edge of a cliff looking up at the night sky. The stars were beautiful and stretched for as far as the lion’s wide eyes could see, but there was no monkey in sight.
He sighed, his heart pounding, and let his head hang. He was an old fool, just as he had mistakenly thought Rafiki when he had been a mere cub. That time seemed like so very, very long ago, but he knew that soon he would be passing his mantle to Kiara. He was growing too old to lead their pride, and Rafiki was only the most recent and closest friend in a long line of animals he loved who had been passing in the last several years.
Again something struck him on the head. “OW!” Simba grabbed his head, looked up through his paws, and almost toppled off of the cliff in shock. Some of the stars had come together, and they were twinkling in shining auras of red, blue, purple, yellow, and orange. A multitude of lights shimmered between them. Simba realized he was looking at a powerful, magical bridge of some sort that was made to bridge the gap between the mortal living and the spirits who had parted from them. He could see his father’s silhouette as well as others higher up in the sky, but right before him on the bridge sat a certain monkey, shaking his staff.
“RAFIKI!” Simba leapt for joy. Rafiki moved his staff swiftly, and Simba crouched back on the ground, quickly defending his head with his paws.
“No, Simba,” the sage, old mystic said, “it is not your time. You must not join me here.” He drifted lower on the rainbow colored lights until he was right beside Simba and was able to place his thin, furry arms around him.
Simba attempted to pull him closer as he returned his hug, but his paw passed right through him. The monkey laughed. “You still have so much to learn!”
“But how will I learn it,” Simba asked earnestly, “when you have left me?”
“Ah, Simba!” Rafiki hit him with his stick again. Simba rubbed the spot on his head with his free, front paw but did not complain. “You deserved that one!” Rafiki shook his gourds at him. “How many times do I have to tell you the dead are never truly gone?!”
“You never said that before,” Simba corrected him. “You said the Kings of the past look down upon us. You said they would always be here to guide me, but you are not a King.”
“That’s right! I’m not!” Rafiki grinned. “But I am a true friend and a member of your pride even if I am not a lion!” His laughter echoed out over the land. “And what a pride that has grown to be! A warthog, a meerkat, and a bunch of lions! But you made it happen, Simba!”
“With your help,” Simba was quick to acknowledge.
“That’s right, and I will always be here to help guide you! It is part of my duty and my pleasure as your friend!” He hugged him again and then, in gentler tones, explained, “The stars may be made of the Kings of the past. They may stay closer to the Earth so that they can look over you. But the Maker of us all wants us to be happy, Simba, and to do right with the tasks He sets us in life. To do right you must be guided, but to be happy, you must know that all those you love, all those you really love,” he emphasized, pressing his hand over Simba’s beating heart, “never leave you! We are still with you! We will always be with you!”
“You may not always be able to see us, but we are here! Listen with your heart. Listen to the wind and to the spirits in it, the spirits you can not see, and you will know we are there.”
“That was you earlier too, wasn’t it?” Simba asked, peering up at him.
“Yes, my friend, it was I!” He howled with laughter again. “Who else but old Rafiki would dare to beat the King of the lions over his head?”
“You have me there,” Simba admitted. As Rafiki lifted his stick high again, Simba moved to catch it, but of course, his paws passed right through it. Before he could protest, Rafiki jumped backwards back onto the glittering bridge. Still holding his staff high over his head, Rafiki howled, “Remember we are always here!”
His words echoed on the night wind even, as with one great snap, the bridge vanished. Simba could still hear him, and though there tears filled his eyes, he smiled as he looked up at the great Kings who smiled back down upon him. He should have known, he thought. How many times had he come out here seeking advice of his father and the other Kings before them? How many times had he communed with the dead for an answer? How many times had his father’s loving, majestic spirit visited him? Now Rafiki would visit him at times just the same, and even when he could not see him, his old, trusted friend would still be watching over him, just as he had been since Simba had been only a cub.
He let his tears flow and, with a smile, turned back to retrace his steps. He could hear Rafiki singing in the night wind all the way home. Upon arriving at Pride Rock, Simba looked up one more time for the night at the great Kings and saw his father smile lovingly down upon him. He smiled up at him and at Rafiki although he could not see the monkey and padded on into his home. All the lionesses except for Nala and Kiara were already asleep, but he smiled at his daughter as he walked past her and her mate and finally laid down beside his own better half.
“Simba?” Nala whispered.
Simba beamed happily at her. “He’s still with us, Nala,” he whispered back, his tail swishing joyfully. “He’ll always be with us.”
“Of course,” Nala said, not doubting him for even a second. She pressed her head against his and purred as she embraced him. Her tail entwined with his. “Those who love never truly leave us.” She smiled as they cuddled together before falling asleep. Tomorrow would be a new day, but they would still be guided by all those they loved just as they always had been since they were old and wise enough to listen.