The far part of the Oasis might have seemed normal but for some, it held a pond which acted as a gateway to a place where the trees are thicker and their leaves a different shade of green. The gateway could also have strange effects for those who pass through it, as Simba and Bambi knew all too well.
Ever since they told Rafiki about the gateway, the baboon wanted to study it more. He ventured to where it was claimed to be countless times; of course, nothing was ever there and to anyone that might have seen him, he would've just seemed to be an old coot, wandering from nowhere to nowhere.
He couldn't deny that there was a flow of energy; he recognized it from when he encountered the newly transformed (or "exchanged", as he called it) lion and deer. This was why he was doing this; as much as he loved the prospect of knowledge, it was for the two he failed to help.
Despite this energy, all his attempts to understand it came up blank. The samples of the foliage and soil he brought back to his tree didn't yield anything. He brought what he could to the site but that did no good. The energy just didn't seem to want to be tapped into. Rafiki was running out options but he wouldn't stop until he tried everything. It got to the point where he ventured out nearly every day, even after Scar sent his "protege" on a mission he was certainly doomed to fail.
Bambi felt off since his second encounter with Simba, with thoughts swarming in his head. Scar never mentioned anything about respect. Could it be that... he paused. He no longer felt like he was alone. Suddenly, there was a battle cry and a meerkat came running towards him.
Bambi flinched in surprise. "Hey, take it easy there," he said calmly.
"What were you doing there?!"
Bambi was confused. "I... what?"
"There! Over there!" Timon gestured to where the gateway would've been.
"Oh that. You wouldn't believe me if I told you."
"Listen to me, lion! We know something is going on here and that Simba is involved somehow. And you're going to tell us what that is!" Timon seethed with steam practically rising from his head.
Bambi didn't know what to make of it. "Uh...?"
The meerkat sobered in an instant. "You're not gonna eat me, are ya?"
"Perhaps we got off on the wrong foot," came a different voice. A warthog appeared, seemingly out of nowhere. "I'm Pumbaa and this is Timon. Sorry about him, he's just worried about Simba. We both are. We just want to know what happened to him, that's all."
Bambi felt slightly overwhelmed but tried to be polite. "I understand that, I really do. But you wouldn't I wouldn't believe me if..."
"Look, kid," interrupted Timon blatantly, "you're the first new guy around these parts since he vanished and we're desperate. We're not exactly in a position not to believe ya."
Bambi looked intently at them. It was clear that they were serious (despite Timon's tone). He took a deep breath and slowly began. "Simba's kind of... somewhere else that only I reach, apparently. And... when I came here, it caused us to... swap species?"
For a moment, Timon and Pumbaa only stared. They looked at each other as broad grins formed on their faces. They couldn't contain themselves and burst into laughter.
"Oh, oh, I needed that!" spluttered Timon, when he could speak, "But, no, seriously, what happened to him?"
"It's the truth!" said Bambi, offended. "I used to be a deer!"
"Sure. Kid, if you want people to believe your stories, you can't just make up animals."
"He is not!" All three jumped as a baboon, one very familiar to Bambi, appeared.
He wasn't exactly pleased to see Rafiki. "You!"
"Yes, Bambi, I realize I..."
"You left me on my own with no idea what to do!"
"I had nothing to offer you. I could not exactly teach you how to survive as a lion, could I?" Bambi rolled his eyes and softened his expression. "But," continued Rafiki, "I may be able to help you now."
Bambi's expression changed completely. He was interested but before he could respond, Timon interjected. "Wait, wait, wait, the monkey's in on this too?"
Rafiki took no notice. "I have been trying to study this... energy that has done this to you. I believe I can use it to change you and Simba back but I cannot go further without you. Will you help me?"
Bambi didn't respond for only second, taking it all in. "Uh... yes. Yes, of course!" he said enthusiastically.
"And we'll help too!" All eyes turned to Pumbaa.
"Uh... Pumbaa, a word," said Timon. They turned, facing away form the Baboon and lion. "What do you think you're doing?!" he said in a harsh whisper, "Did you just volunteer us (and more importantly, me!) to help this old coot?!"
"What choice do we have?" questioned Pumbaa, "This is the closest we've got to finding Simba. It can't hurt to try."
"How could you possibly know that?"
"You can get mixed up in all this mumbo jumbo, if you want," Timon finished, "I ain't buying it."
"You know as much as I do that something strange is going on. If you didn't, then why would you come here?"
Something sparked in Timon's mind. He began to seethe and grumble.
"Come on," urged Pumbaa, "for Simba."
"Oh, alright!" Timon conceited, "For Simba." They turned back to Rafiki and Bambi. "Ok, we'll..."
"We heard," said Rafiki simply. Timon and Pumbaa, taken aback, avoided eye contact. "I understand your doubts but if you are serious, I would appreciate the help."
The pair, still feeling awkward, nodded in agreement.
"So, what do we do now?" asked Bambi.
Rafiki produced half-a-coconut. "If my theory is correct, only you can see the gateway pond..."
"This was a mistake," Timon muttered, pinching the bridge of his nose. Pumbaa nudged him harshly and the meerkat subsided.
"I was going to use this for different samples but I think it would be more useful if you were bring its water back to my tree." Rafiki crafted a make-shift handle for it, so Bambi could carry it easily. "Now, you two, come with me and we'll see what we can do, in the meantime."
"Again, mistake," said Timon as they walked away. Pumbaa gave him another harsh nudge. "And will you stop doing that?!"
Bambi watched them as the left then went back to the "gateway". He filled the half-coconut and stared into the forest. He thought about his old life. This could very well be the first step to return to it and getting away from Scar and his wrath. At the very least, he might not recognize him as a deer. If all of this was true, then why wasn't he moving? He shook himself out of it, picked up the coconut and started to make his way the baobab tree.
Simba's encounter with Bambi got him thinking. All these new things just kept building up, with no end in sight. He didn't want to be overwhelmed by it all but that wasn't really up to him. Was it?
He was trying to sort everything out in his head when he felt someone bump him from the side.
"Whoa, hey!" he exclaimed. In a conflict of instincts, he jumped away from the bump and turned to face whoever it was. Luckily for him, it was a very familiar doe.
"Hello, again," she said, "Just wanted to see how you were holding up."
Simba, filled once again with infatuation, still didn't say anything.
"So what should I call you?" the doe continued, "You do have a name, don't you?"
Simba tried to speak but the only thing he could say was, "I... uh..."
"Iya?" the doe interjected, "I can see why you were so reluctant..."
"No," Simba finally found his voice, "It's... Simba."
"Simba, huh? Well I suppose that's a little less ridiculous."
Simba was indignant. "Hey, watch it! I'll have you know..."
"Okay, calm down, I didn't know you were so sensitive."
"It's not that," said Simba calmly "I just feel... (there's no other word for it) overwhelmed."
Simba paused. "With... everything! You have no idea what it's like to go from predator to prey! I already had everything taken from me and now I'm... this! I... just... don't..." He didn't continue. He didn't know how. It was just as well, he only now realized what he was saying.
The doe broke the silence. "Are you okay?" she asked.
"Yeah, I'm fine. Um, sorry about all..."
"Hey, its fine. Maybe we should start with introductions."
"Yeah, that sounds like a good idea."
"Yeah, you already told me." There was an awkward silence. "So," said Faline at last,
"what you're saying is... you lost everything?"
Simba nodded, relieved that she wasn't dwelling on "predator to prey".
"...is that all there is?" she asked.
"Well, did you ever think about... I don't know, talking to someone about it?"
"I just told you..."
"I know, 'its complicated' but talking can't hurt, could it?"
Simba looked intrigued.
"Just think about it," said Faline, "and if you ever want to talk, I can listen."
"Thank you," Simba replied, "I'll, uh, keep that it mind."
Faline gave a friendly nod, wished him well and left Simba to his thoughts. "Wait," he called. Faline stopped, she expected this. "Do you promise not to freak out?"
"I make no promises."
"At least don't laugh."
"No laughing, but I have the right to stare."
"Deal." So Simba told her the whole story. Neither seemed to notice that the wind had picked up.
As the title suggests, This is a continuation of "Exchange". This turned out to be a much bigger project than I anticipated or at least, longer. Regardless, I hope you all enjoy!
Initially, I wanted to be vague about how much time had past between both stories. While the final product is never specific about it, it does imply that it takes place shortly after "Exchange". I guess its not the biggest loss in the world.
I'd love to hear (read?) what you have to say. Please leave a comment/feedback below.
I'd like to thank Sirzi (https://www.deviantart.com/sirzi) for inspiring me to continue this idea.
The initial concept (https://www.deviantart.com/sirzi/ar.....ange-718964688) was by him.
Characters are owned by Disney.