“Well, that’s it then,” Eran sighed, ducking out of his den and back into the sunlight as he stretched the tight muscles in his back. The morning had been spent in the company of several baboons – Abil included, of course – as they worked to replenish his stock of dlo benit. Though Eran had made it a habit to brew additions of the concoction every so often, he had come across a rare period in his life when he had been a tad too busy for a tad too long, and by the time he had found the time to make more of the water, his stock had all been emptied by pridemembers’ requests for personal refills.

Because the dark lion preferred to be prepared for the worst scenario, he had made the (frankly somewhat silly) decision to brew a large stock at once, a task that required more than his usual aide, Abil. The baboon had certainly stepped up to fulfill his duty in their unusual partnership, and had managed to rally together a sizeable group from his home troupe to pitch in that morning, though not without almost tripling his usual charge. Still, it was a mistake that Eran had gladly paid to rectify, for he much preferred to spend hours laboring in the company of sneaky baboons than be caught unawares by an unexpected heightened demand for dlo benit.

They had spent the greater part of the morning brewing the water, slowly bringing it to perfection, as was demanded by Eran though the baboons had found themselves mildly irritated by his fairly tyrannical brand of quality check. The Medsen Fey had earned himself a reputation by being the stickler that he was, and nothing went into the dlo benit without his painstakingly thorough examination.

What little of the morning they had left once the dlo benit had been completed had been spent transporting the entire stock back to Eran’s den, and by the time they had finished, the baboons were more than happy for the chance to return home, and Eran was eager to finally be rid of their raucous chatter. Baboons – or at the very least, Eran’s baboons – were notorious for their inability to work without constantly gossiping and laughing, and every so often they even broke into song, though Eran seriously questioned whether their verses could be considered music at all.

“So, Leaf Doctor, where you go after dis, eh?” There was a light hoot, and Abil emerged from the darkness of Eran’s den, blinking in the sunlight before loping his way over to the dark lion. Eran regarded the creature without answering, silently wondering what forces had compelled the primate to remain when all of his friends had gone. Certainly, they had had no desire to spend any more time than necessary with the moody Medsen Fey. But then again, Abil had known Eran for much longer. “Whatchoo do widdout brews, eh?”

“Once I’m done?” Eran shrugged, a small frown creasing his brow. “Similar to what you do, I suppose.” He ventured, though a brief second thought made him realize that he had little idea what it was that the baboons did out in the forest. Perhaps they partook in bizarre sacrificial rituals and hooted to drums and crackling fires. That was an extreme version of the countless possibilities.

“You pick flies? In other li-uns?” Abil queried, imitating the grooming that baboons gave each other by picking imaginary flies off an imaginary baboon and putting them into his mouth.

Eran blinked, shaking his head. “No.” Some lions did groom each other, he knew, but Eran neither felt comfortable enough with anyone to do so nor had any desire to. His concern for most others went as far as knowing that they would have dlo benit should they find themselves in need of it. Beyond that, their lives were of no consequences to him, and more than anything he wanted it to stay that way.

It was for the best, he figured, and it applied not only to lions, but to all other creatures. There was a reason he knew nothing about Abil’s life or the lives of any of the other baboons – he wished to keep their relationship strictly business. It had worked fairly well, if he didn’t say so himself, and if Abil had decided to leave another baboon in his stead the very next day, Eran doubted he would have felt much of the difference. Relationships were just… cleaner when they were uncomplicated.

“Ah, you no like dem, eh?” Abil said sagely, nodding his head. “S’okay, huh? Abil also.” The baboon laughed shrilly, for it was entirely untrue. The baboon didn’t have it in him, really, to dislike anybody, though it was true that he trusted few other creatures, Eran included. They both understood that their partnership was grounded in their mutual desire for something the other had, and nothing more. The baboon was certainly under no illusions that the dark lion would trade him in for another if there were benefits, and the same could be said for Abil concerning the Medsen Fey. There was no love between the two – nothing, really, other than the token leaves and the dlo benit.

“That’s not really for me to say,” the green lion answered warily, knowing full well how swiftly the baboons could spread gossip, and how far. There was really no trusting the primates, even if Eran had wanted to, and it was just as well that he didn’t. He had learned the hard way how easily they could turn on him, a lesson learned as a young lion just entering into the line of work. It was after that first contact had all but betrayed him that Eran had found Abil, and the two had struck up a surprisingly long-lived partnership.

“Abil understands, eh?” The baboon chuckled, shaking his head. “I go now, I go.” He hooted, and ran skillfully through the dark lion’s legs, chasing after his long-departed friends and family.

“s**t…” Instinct had told the green lion to glance down at his forelegs – and sure enough, it was bare. “Damn it all to hell.” Another one of his bracelets stolen.

WC: 1029