Iron on the Outside, Father Within @bluerowley
Little Lost Ape

For the record, Tarzan is eight years old now, and Kaphi is two.

Two years passed quickly, and Kaphi grew quickly, looking more like a miniature version of her mother every day, and growing bolder the bigger she got. She'd venture away from Kala more each day, and as the toddler years came, she'd follow anyone in her immediate family, including Tarzan. Which, at first, amused the proud big brother, who was more than happy to show her off to his friends. He would help her toddle over to the other gorilla children, holding her small fists in his hands or helping her climb up a tree to sit on a higher branch. The first few times she followed Tarzan, she always tired after an hour and wandered back to Kala ready to nurse or nap, giving Tarzan plenty of time to play with his friends without her presence. But as she grew older, the time she spent away from Kala lengthened, and the time she spent stalking her big brother also lengthened.

Today was a fine example, as Tarzan leaped after Terk, Flynt, and Mungo to head to the falls for some dare challenges.

"Last one there has to lick a beehive!" Flynt announced as he managed to take lead, swinging through the trees quickly.

"No fair, guys," Tarzan said as he took up the rear, balancing on a thinning branch before jumping for another one. "You know I'm always last."

"Don't worry, buddy," Terk said, comfortingly, slowing down to swing on branches near Tarzan. "I've got your back. First one there has to kick it!"

Tarzan smiled at Terk, who winked at him.

"Tarzan!" A voice squeaked behind everyone.

All four ape children slid to a halt and looked back.

Little Kaphi was slowly crawling along a branch toward the older apes, her long lashes batting at the group as she inched her way closer to them. Tarzan winced while the other apes groaned.

"Not the pipsqueak again," Flynt complained.

"Why is she always following us?" Mungo added.

"Kaphi," Tarzan scolded. "What are you doing all the way out here? You're going to get hurt. Go back to Mom."

"Tarzan play!" Kaphi said, smiling happily at her brother as she clambered over a small branch.

"She's always slowing us down," Flynt said. He glared at Tarzan. "Hairless wonder here does that enough, we don't need a baby doing the same."

Tarzan hunched his shoulders, his cheeks reddening while Terk lightly punched Flynt in the arm, earning a small "ow."

"Come on, guys," Terk said, "we're all pals here."

Terk jumped down to the branch Tarzan was on and wrapped an arm over his shoulders. She leaned against him while pointing at Kaphi, saying "You might want to take the stowaway back home before she gets herself hurt. Catch up with us when you manage to lose the baby, okay, pal?"

"Yeah, okay," Tarzan agreed with a sigh.

Kaphi laughed and clapped her hands, which resulted in her slipping off the branch she was on.

"Kaphi!" Tarzan cried, lunging forward and snatching one of her legs. Kaphi giggled as Tarzan pulled her up and set her on the branch next to him.

"Tarzan play!" she cheered.

"Have fun babysitting!" Mungo laughed as he followed Terk and Flynt to the falls, the three apes disappearing deeper in the jungle.

Tarzan sighed, looking down at his sister, who grinned up at him with her small baby teeth, blinking endearingly. Tarzan lifted her by an arm and swung her to his back and she clung to him naturally. Tarzan carefully descended from the trees with his sister, sliding down trees and swinging on a vine to the ground. He shuffled back to the colony, which wasn't too far away, and made a beeline for the nest he shared with his parents. Kala was busy talking to a couple other ape mothers, but when she saw Tarzan and Kaphi, she excused herself and walked over to the nest, meeting Tarzan there.

"Where were you two?" Kala asked.

"I was playing with my friends," Tarzan said. He pulled Kaphi off his back and handed her to Kala. "Kaphi followed me again."

Kala chuckled as she accepted her daughter, and they exchanged butterfly kisses before Kala set Kaphi down in the nest. Kaphi playfully wrestled with her mother's arms, chomping down on her mother's fur.

"She is learning to socialize and is finding her place in the family," Kala explained. "It's a big world and she is just looking for security from her family, especially from her big brother. And I'm sure when she sees you playing with your friends, she wants to play with you, too."

"I know," Tarzan said, "and I love playing with her. But not all the time."

"I understand," Kala said. "I had two big brothers when I was your age, and they never wanted to play with me, but they were always there when I needed their protection. It's all part of being an older sibling, you know, watching out for your baby sis."

"Can't I watch out for her when I'm not playing with my friends?"

Kala smiled at her son while Kaphi yawned and stretched against her mother.

"I understand it can be annoying having someone following you and wanting your attention all the time, believe me, I've been there. A few times, actually." Kala tapped Tarzan's nose, earning a small laugh. She tilted Tarzan's head up with a finger, so he was looking at her. "Give it time. She'll be finding her own favorite things to do and friends to play with soon enough, but for now, she looks up to you. She loves her big brother and is learning a lot from following you around the family. You are a very good teacher."

"You think so?"

"I know so."

Tarzan crawled up into his mother's arms for an embrace. He smiled when Kaphi did the same, snuggling up next to him in his mother's hold. She squeezed them both lovingly. Tarzan nuzzled his sister before jumping down from his mother's hold.

"I'll take Kaphi over to the other mothers with young ones for a playdate," Kala said. "That should give you some free time with your friends."

Kala winked at Tarzan.

"Thanks, Mom," Tarzan said, "you're the best."

"Don't you forget it," Kala teased. "And be sure to let your father know that on your way out."

Tarzan laughed and took off, hoping he wasn't too late to join in his friends' games. When he arrived at the falls, he was teased, of course, about having baby duty, even by Terk, but it was all in good nature, and the kids quickly went back to their games, and they included Tarzan in a game of freeze tag and a couple games of double dare. When he finally returned home for dinner, he wasn't surprised when Kaphi ate every fruit he ate or fell asleep on top of him while he was snuggled up against Kerchak. He didn't mind at all, especially since she provided him with some extra warmth through the night.

However, when she continued to step on his toes and do everything, he did the next day, Tarzan grew annoyed. Kaphi tried to follow him and his friends again, and when he tried returning her to Kala, Kaphi cried when he tried to leave again, and he moodily stayed nearby to amuse her with light wrestling.

When Tarzan thought he had managed to sneak away to play with Terk and Tantor, Kaphi appeared behind him, swinging on a vine upside down and giggling. Tarzan took her back to Kala, but a half hour later, while Terk and Tarzan were chasing Tantor through the swamps, Kaphi dropped down from a tree and landed on Tantor's back, startling the poor, young elephant, and he squealed and bolted, fearing the worst. Tarzan managed to remove the giggling toddler from the stampeding elephant's back before Tantor ran face first into a tree hollow, getting his head stuck. Terk tutted at Tantor while Tarzan once again returned Kaphi to the family grounds.

Tarzan decided to go to a waterhole for a drink, looking for some peace and alone time from his annoyed friends and annoying sister. After a long drink, he stepped into the water and decided to swim for a bit to cool off in the intense heat of the summer day. He pushed himself through the water, closing his eyes and relaxing his muscles, allowing himself to float. Maybe he could just stay in the water for the rest of the day. At least he'd be away from Kaphi for a while.

"Tarzan!" Kaphi's voice cried from the bank of the small waterhole.

"Kaphi?" Tarzan growled under his breath. "What are you doing? You're not supposed to go this far away from the family yet. Go back to Mom."

"Tarzan play," Kaphi said simply, stepping closer to the water and peering down at it curiously, sniffing it.

"No, I'm busy. Get away from the water! You can't swim."

"Kaphi play with Tarzan," Kaphi said.

"We can play later. Go back to Mom."

Kaphi dipped a hand in the water, frowning at the strange sensation.

"Do not get in the water. Don't make me come over there."

Kaphi pulled her hand back out, then smiled as she backed up.

"Kaphi play with Tarzan," she said as she ran forward and jumped into the water after her brother.

"Kaphi!" Tarzan cried, swimming forward to where his sister was frantically splashing and kicking in the water. He grabbed his sister and she clung to him tightly, her small nails digging into Tarzan's back and scratching him as she tried to grip to his skin. She coughed and spluttered as Tarzan brought her back to land and set her down. He patted her back and she coughed up a small bit of water. She shook herself off then shivered, her fur soaked.

"Water bad," Kaphi sniffled.

"I told you not to go near the water," Tarzan scolded, frowning at his sister. "Why don't you ever listen? You're going to get yourself killed."

"Kaphi play with Tarzan," Kaphi pouted up at her brother, batting her eyelashes.

"Well, I don't want to play with you," Tarzan snapped, turning away from his sister angrily. "Just go away and leave me alone!"

Kaphi sniffled again before slowly slinking away.

Tarzan didn't spare her a glance; glad she was finally going back home herself without his assistance. He sighed, suddenly feeling bad for yelling at his baby sister. He probably hurt her feelings, and she was a baby still, she never meant any harm by what she did. She probably didn't know gorillas didn't swim and she didn't know Tarzan was an oddball. She never once questioned her brother's differences, unlike everyone else in the family. She was a lot like Kala in that way. Still, did she have to follow him all the time? It was so annoying.

Tarzan looked over his shoulder, but he didn't see Kaphi. She probably went home crying to their parents, and Tarzan swallowed nervously. He should probably go home as well and get the scolding over with.

Tarzan slowly walked back to the family, and when he returned to the grounds, he looked around for his parents. Kala was busy talking to the other female apes while they groomed each other. Kerchak was playing with some young infants who were crawling all over him, but none of them were Kaphi. Tarzan looked over at their nest, but Kaphi was not there. He scanned the rest of the grounds, climbing a tree higher and higher as he tried to spot his sister among the troop somewhere.

Kaphi was nowhere in sight.

"Oh no," Tarzan muttered.

He jumped down from the tree and ran back toward the waterhole.

"Kaphi!" he called, looking around the water. He spun as he eyed the surrounding trees, his head swiveling. "Kaphi! Answer me!"

There was no response.

Tarzan remembered which way she had gone, and he took off in that direction. He frantically ran through the trees, pausing now and then to look around while calling for his sister. He felt his heart pounding in his ears, the drumming roaring out all sense as he ran circles through the trees. He looked for any sign of light brown fur among the trees, the sound of her joyous laughter, or the squeal of his name from her voice.

"Kaphi! Where are you?"

There was nothing.

Only a rare kind of jungle silence answered Tarzan's calls.

What if she's gone forever? Tarzan couldn't help but think. What is something got her? I've lost her—it's all my fault. If I didn't push her away, or yell at her, she'd still be with me. What have I done?

Tears welled in Tarzan's eyes, blurring his vision, which didn't help him see clearly while he still looked for Kaphi. He was the worst big brother ever. He decided to run back toward the family, in case she had been slow in going home and was there now. As he dodged branches and bushes through his blurring tears, he ran into something firm but soft, and he fell back with an oof.

He glanced up and his eyes widened, clearing his vision.

Kerchak was staring down at him with a concerned look.

"There you are," Kerchak said. "Where have you been? Have you seen your sister?"

Tarzan took a few steps back, his body lowered submissively as he stared up at his father with glassy blue-green eyes.

"Hey, are you okay?" Kerchak asked, tilting his head curiously. "What's wrong?"

"It's my fault," Tarzan whispered, forcing Kerchak to lower his head so he could hear his son. "I didn't mean to, but I was angry, and wanted some to be alone, so I went a little farther than I should have, but she followed me to the waterhole and jumped in the water—I saved her, she was okay, then I kind of . . . yelled at her and told her to go away. And she did. I've been looking for her, though."

"You mean to tell me that you knew Kaphi's been missing this whole time?" Kerchak growled.

Tarzan nodded.

Kerchak unleashed a loud roar and Tarzan sank lower in the ground, wincing at the volume of the noise as he swallowed nervously. He stared up at Kerchak, a tear escaping an eye.

"I'm sorry, Dad," Tarzan choked out.

Kerchak bared his teeth as he glared down at his son, but worry was quickly replacing his brief spike of anger. Besides, Tarzan looked apologetic enough, and he knew Tarzan would never intentionally let any harm come to Kaphi. He would have a word with Tarzan later on what classified as an urgent matter that needed parental attention, but right now, he needed to find his daughter.

He grabbed Tarzan a bit roughly by his arm and settled him on his back.

"You are helping me find your sister," he growled. Kerchak felt Tarzan tensely grip the fur of his shoulders, his hands shaking the slightest.

Kerchak sniffed the air, focusing on his daughter's scent. He had used the same trick to locate Tarzan, thinking he might find Tarzan and Kaphi, but clearly that was not to be the case. He picked up a faint hint of Kaphi's scent, and now that he knew she had been drenched, it would explain why her scent wasn't so strong at the moment. He followed what he could smell, moving deeper into the jungle, which slowly seemed to come to life as the day faded to dusk. Nightbirds began their chirps, monkeys started to migrate through the trees, and snakes inched along branches. Tarzan sank against his father, his hands tightening their hold.

Kerchak was not deterred by the activity, however, and he followed Kaphi's scent, pausing to sniff the ground and then the air around them. There was still enough light to see without needing to squint or focus his eyes too much, so Kerchak scanned the surrounding area and listened with his ears.

No baby ape.

With a worried grunt, Kerchak pushed forward, his mind having flashbacks to the loss of his firstborn, and his breathing picked up the pace. He closed his eyes and shook those images away. Letting out a deep breath helped, and he stopped and sniffed the air once more. There was just a hint of Kaphi's scent wafting through the air, but he couldn't pinpoint where it was coming from. She had to be close, but where was she? Kerchak needed to find her quickly before the dusk turned to night, where sight would be difficult, and when predators would be on the prowl.

"Climb down," Kerchak told Tarzan.

Tarzan hesitated.

"Now," Kerchak ordered.

Tarzan swallowed and slid off his father's back.

"Stay low," Kerchak said to Tarzan, "do not go too far, and if you don't see Kaphi, come straight back to me. Go that way. I'll go this way."

"No, I want to stay with you," Tarzan pleaded, following after Kerchak as the ape turned away. Kerchak stopped and looked down at his son.

"We need to find Kaphi before it gets any darker than it already is," Kerchak said. "We can cover more ground if we split up."

"I'm scared," Tarzan confessed.

"Me too," Kerchak admitted. He nuzzled Tarzan. "But I can't be brave if I'm not at least afraid. I need you to be brave as well. For Kaphi. And for your mother and I. Can you do that for me?"

Tarzan took a deep breath then nodded.

"I can be brave," he said.

"Go that way," Kerchak said, nudging Tarzan in the direction he wanted him to go. "Take a sweep around and come back. Stay low and be quiet."

Kerchak veered off to the left while Tarzan slowly slinked toward the right, glancing around, jumping at a loud cackle he heard above him. He sniffed the air, trying to pick up Kaphi's scent as Kerchak had done, but he couldn't catch anything. It was easier for him to detect scents if he was directly in front of what he was smelling. He figured he'd never have that gift.

A loud rustle startled Tarzan, and he froze. After a minute, he moved again, looking around for his sister.

"Kaphi," he whispered. "Are you here?"

He did not get a response.

He licked his lips and inched forward, glancing left and right as he did. He tried to focus his ears on any gorilla sounds, but any small noise was drowned out by the growing nightlife. He hesitated as the nightlife suddenly fell silent. That was never a good sign. He scanned the area for any sign of a predator, but the sky was darkening by the minute.

He took a few steps back, ready to run back to his father.

"Butterfly, butterfly!" a little girl voice cheered.

"Kaphi?" Tarzan shot up, looking in the direction he heard the voice.

"Pretty butterfly."

That was definitely Kaphi. And she was being very loud. Throwing all caution to the wind, Tarzan darted in the direction he heard the voice. He jumped over a bush, ran around a tree, and drew to a halt, staring straight ahead.

Kaphi looked unharmed. She was jumping after a large, colorful moth, laughing all the while. The moth slowly fluttered down toward a plant and felt it with its thready antennae before crawling along the plant. Kaphi smirked as she stalked the moth, standing up on two with her hands ready to grab the unsuspecting insect.

Suddenly, the plant the moth landed on snapped shut, trapping the moth in its jaw like trap, and the creature struggled before going limp.

Kaphi gasped, then screamed.

Tarzan bolted forward and covered a hand over Kaphi's mouth. He held her still as he listened to the dead silent forest. Something moved in the bushes, and Tarzan pulled his sister closer to him, watching the movement closely. He heard a snarl, and it was a snarl he was very familiar with.


The leopardess slowly stepped out of the bushes, a smile on her lips as she confidently marched herself toward Tarzan and Kaphi, two small ape cubs with no defense in sight. It would be too easy. She licked her lips and lowered herself to pounce.

Tarzan hugged Kaphi to his chest, and she buried her face against her brother, whining in fear.

Thundering feet echoed through the trees.

Kerchak burst from the jungle and grunted aggressively. Sabor decided she did not want to take her chances with the ape that night, so she turned and ran with a loud yowl. Kerchak made sure she disappeared into the bushes, baring his canines and snorting.

Tarzan felt relieved, then looked Kaphi over.

"Kaphi," Tarzan started, holding his sister out, "why didn't you go back to the family?"

"Kaphi sad," Kaphi said, puckering her lower lip out. "Tarzan no like Kaphi."

Kerchak slowly walked back to his children, watching their interactions.

"No-no," Tarzan said as he hugged Kaphi and rested his head on top of hers. "I love Kaphi. I'm sorry I yelled at you. I didn't mean it. I love having you around. I don't want to lose you."

"Kaphi love Tarzan," Kaphi said, squeezing her brother back.

Kerchak cleared his throat, and Kaphi and Tarzan looked up at him.

"Daddy!" Kaphi greeted with a smile, giving her father her cutest pose.

Kerchak shook his head at her.

"Young missy, you know better than to wander so far away from the family," he scolded. "Your mother and I have warned you many times. We were both very worried about you when we couldn't find you earlier. You know you're supposed to stay where you can still see us or your brother."

"Kaphi sorry," Kaphi said, sniffing as her eyes watered up.

"You can consider yourself grounded," Kerchak said.

Kaphi sniffed again. Tarzan patted her shoulder.

"It'll be okay," Tarzan said. "I'll be grounded with you."

"Kaphi and Tarzan grounded together," Kaphi squealed happily, hugging her sibling. Tarzan laughed.

"I never thought I'd be so happy to be grounded," Tarzan said, ruffling his sister's hair.

"Oh, don't worry," Kerchak said, lowering his head to Tarzan's, "I'll change that."

Tarzan offered a submissive smile to his father's stern look. Kerchak sniffed both kids for any signs of injuries, and when he found known, he lifted them to his back and began walking back to the family. Just in time, too, as night was finally upon them. Kala was quick to rush up to him as soon as she saw him approaching the family grounds. She had still been looking for her kids. She sighed visibly when she spotted both kids sleeping on his back.

"What happened today?" Kala asked as she helped Kerchak remove the kids off his back and settle them in the nest. "We've been so careful. We could have lost her so easily today."

Kerchak settled in his nest, curling around Tarzan while Kala curled around Kaphi.

"It appears," Kerchak began, "that someone needed a break from his little sister and went just outside the family boundaries to the waterhole. Kaphi followed and tried to copy Tarzan by jumping in the water."

Kala gasped but Kerchak continued.

"She's okay, Tarzan pulled her out. But he also yelled at her to leave him alone. So Kaphi wandered off. Tarzan was looking for her when I found him. They've both made up."

Kala sighed, looking between both kids.

"I heard you roar," Kala said. "You must have found Tarzan first."

"I was just so . . . angry at his carelessness," Kerchak said, even as he lowered his head to rest it against Tarzan's sleeping form. "He should have come to us right away when he realized Kaphi was missing. It made me think of . . . I lost my temper."

"At least our kids are safe now," Kala said. She hugged her daughter. "They won't be leaving my side for a long time."

"Nor mine," Kerchak said softly. Tarzan stirred, rolling over in his sleep. Kerchak rested his forehead against Tarzan's, who's eyes fluttered open long enough for him to smile and briefly push back against Kerckak's forehead before he snuggled against Kerchak's warm fur and fell back to sleep.

Kala fell asleep with Kaphi secure in her arms. Kerchak had an arm draped over Tarzan, but he did not sleep. It was a long night for Kerchak, but he was afraid that if he closed his eyes, his kids might disappear, just as his first son did all those years ago. He was not about to let that happen twice.

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