Iron on the Outside, Father Within @bluerowley

Thank you to all the great reviews, new follows, and new favorites. I apologize for a long wait, but I hope this chapter is worth it!

The trip through the dark mountains took most of the day, with Tarzan traveling mostly on Kerchak's back, walking when the ape was tired of carrying the boy's weight every few hours. then they found a clearing near the river and made a nest for the night. The two curled up together as was becoming custom to keep each other warm (mostly Tarzan). Kerchak found that he did not mind the added weight of the small boy. He had spent many lonely nights in his nest since the death of his first son. And when Kala had taken in Tarzan, he had lost her comfort at night as well. Having a child cling to him for warmth and comfort made him feel needed again. And Kerchak was starting to feel less lonely with each passing night.

The next morning, Kerchak woke up first, as seemed to be the usual routine. He sat up and stretched, then carefully stepped over Tarzan and began foraging for breakfast. He collected what fruit and roots he could find, as well as enjoying the small termites he found in a mound. He should really encourage Tarzan to eat more termites. They were very nutritious, and the boy needed all he could get.

Speaking of the child, Tarzan had woken and found the small fruit pile Kerchak had collected. The boy was already biting into a tangy, juicy fruit.

"Tarzan," Kerchak called to him, motioning to him to come with a jerk of his head. Tarzan shuffled over with a confused look.

"Eat as many termites as you can," Kerchak said, leaving no room for argument.

"Oh," Tarzan said, frowning at the bugs. "Do I have to?"

"Yes. They are good for you."

Tarzan gulped, then tried to catch the crawling bugs that were busy burrowing into the mound. Kerchak assisted by digging into the mound, crumbling it and exposing several termites. Tarzan snatched one and slowly dropped it into his mouth. He made a face as he chewed a swallowed.

"Eat at least five and you may come join me by the fruit," Kerchak said, walking away from the mound. He had eaten his fill of the termites and left Tarzan to feed himself. The boy had to learn the ape way if he were to survive to adulthood.

Kerchak could watch Tarzan from where he ate some fruit. The boy picked through the termites, snatching one when he could and slowly putting it in his mouth. Kerchak resisted shaking his head at the boy. The child would learn to at least tolerate the taste. Finally, Tarzan managed to eat five termites before he shuffled back over to Kerchak, picking up his neglected fruit and taking an appreciative bite. Kerchak gave an approving nod as he continued eating.

Once Tarzan had his fill he excitedly ran about as he waited for Kerchak to finish eating. The boy was very excited to be so close to home, which was just another day trip away. They would be home by tomorrow morning at the latest, late this evening at the soonest. They had to get moving. Tarzan was just too anxious. He would see Kala again. He missed his mother dearly.

"Can we go now?" Tarzan asked, trying to balance himself on a large fruit.

Kerchak narrowed his eyes as he bit into a bamboo shoot. He chewed and swallowed before scolding the boy. "Quit playing with the food. We'll be leaving when I'm finished. I would like to rest a bit longer before I start moving again. We've a long way to go still, you know. You shouldn't waste your energy."

"I know. I'm not, though. I'm just so excited. I can't wait to see Mom again." Tarzan jumped off the fruit. He was distracted by a frog jumping in the water and he jumped in after it, splashing in the calm river.

Kerchak returned to eating, ignoring the child's explosive energy. When the boy splashed in the water, splashing him inadvertently, he growled under his breath, trying not to let his temper get the best of him. He finished his shoots and finished his breakfast with a banana. Tarzan was an odd kind of ape who enjoyed the water and swimming. Kerchak was surprised the boy even dove in, especially considering what the had been through with the whole rainy season.

The boy finally climbed out of the water and shook himself off, spraying Kerchak and the banana, to the silverback's annoyance. He dropped the soggy banana and glared at Tarzan.

"Sorry," Tarzan said, offered a small smile.

"Calm yourself," Kerchak said, grabbing another banana to eat. "I will not travel with a young ape who cannot contain himself and causes trouble."

"It was an accident." Tarzan sat near Kerchak while the ape continued to eat. The small boy huffed. Obviously, the bigger ape needed more food than he did, but Tarzan was growing bored quickly waiting for the ape to finish eating. After riding Kerchak's back most of the way through the dark mountains, the boy had a lot of pent up energy to burn off.

Tarzan distracted himself by climbing up a vine and swinging to another one. He was getting the hang of that trick as well. He jumped to another vine and another. He reached for another vine, belatedly realizing it was a snake. Tarzan yelped as they both fell to the ground, the snake rising up and hissing at the boy. Tarzan dodged a strike from the snake and backed away from it.

"Sorry," Tarzan muttered before leaping away as the snake struck out once more before hissing agitatedly as it slithered away.

"What have you done?" Kerchak asked as the boy ran over to him.

"I was just playing," Tarzan said. "I kind of though a snake was a vine."

"Enough playing for the morning," Kerchak snapped, now annoyed with the boy. He snatched the child by an arm, lifting him and carrying him over to a large rock, setting him down on it. "You've been causing trouble all morning. Now sit here and be still. Do not move until I am ready to go."

"I didn't mean to cause trouble. I'm just excited. I'm sorry, Kerchak."

"Stay here," The great ape said sternly before turning around and walking to the river. He took a drink, trying to keep his annoyance from turning into anger. He had forgotten how frustrating children could be sometimes, with their hyperactivity and playfulness. He slurped more water so he would be set for the final trip home.

Meanwhile, Tarzan crossed his arms and huffed. Kala would sometimes give him a "time-out" when he was annoying her, though it rarely happened. This was the first Kerchak had chosen a more parental approach to disciplining him instead of just scolding him and blaming him for every little thing. It made Tarzan feel . . . warm on the inside, oddly enough. He wasn't sure why, usually when Kerchak scolded him in any way, it left him feeling dejected and detached from the only family he had ever known. But as he sat there on the rock waiting for Kerchak to release him, he felt none of that, just warm, and slightly guilty for being a bother.

When Kerchak returned, he would apologize for his behavior and try better to remain at the older gorilla's side. He could impress Kerchak with perfect behavior. That's what he would do.

Suddenly, large hands grabbed Tarzan and pulled him up into the trees.

"Ahh!" Tarzan cried as he was dragged up. "Kerchak!"

Kerchak spun around and his eyes widened as Tarzan's feet disappeared in the trees. He charged the tree and looked up it, trying to spot what had snatched Tarzan.

"Tarzan?" Kerchak called, pulling himself up on a lower branch to see more into the trees. But he couldn't see the boy or even hear him. "Tarzan!"

"Looking for this?" a voice said from behind him.

Kerchak spun around to see a gorilla hanging upside down from a tree, a struggling Tarzan in his grasp. The buff brown-furred gorilla had Tarzan in a football hold to keep the boy's flailing arms pinned, a hand over the boy's mouth, and the gorilla taunted Kerchak. "Come and get him!"

Kerchak let out a roar and charged the gorilla, who pulled back up into the trees. Kerchak looked up the tree, frowning when he saw nothing. He heard Tarzan cry out before another voice called to him from behind. Kerchak looked back.

"Over here, ya big oaf," a blackback called, holding Tarzan in is feet as he swung on a branch of a tree. Tarzan squirmed in the gorilla's hold, but his arms were once again pinned to his sides by the gorilla's feet.

"Let me go!" the boy cried.

Kerchak grunted and charged the other gorilla. Before he could reach him, however, the blackback swung forward and threw Tarzan through the air. Kerchak felt his heart stop as he slid to a halt and watched Tarzan fly above him. He turned and followed Tarzan in the air, only for the brown-furred gorilla to catch the boy mid-air in the trees.

"Here, papa," the brown-furred gorilla chanted. "Come get the baby!"

Kerchak let out a roar of frustration as Tarzan was kept away from him. He should have kept the boy close so no predators could have sneaked up on them. Or other gorillas. He had just gotten so angry and needed a minute from the child. How was he to know these buffoons would ape-nap the boy. How could he get the boy away from them? The child's cries did not ease his worry.

"Kerchak!" Tarzan cried as he was tossed above the trees to the other ape. The two were now moving away from the river and back toward the mountains. Kerchak ran under them, trying to keep Tarzan in sight. The gorilla's tossed Tarzan through the trees and moved swiftly for the dark mountains, leaping for a cliff high above Kerchak.

The great ape drew to a halt at the bottom of the mountain, watching high above as the gorillas disappeared with Tarzan.

Kerchak grunted and was about to run through the passage and climb the side of the mountain, but he looked back in the direction of the colony. It had already been too long for the colony to be left alone without his protection. He was so close and going back for Tarzan would keep him away even longer, opening up the opportunity for another silverback or predator to attack them.

But he couldn't let those apes harm Tarzan.

Perhaps he could head to the family first, make sure they were all right, then backtrack for Tarzan. But what if those apes hurt Tarzan before then? What would Kala think if he returned without the boy? Kerchak looked back at the mountains, then the other way, then back again. He needed to make a decision, and fast.

"Hey, let me go!" Tarzan growled as he was roughly carried through the mountains to a large cavern where the two apes finally slowed down, but they had not released him yet. They carried him to a flatter section near the top of the mountain, a bowl shaped valley, so to speak. It was dark and dry, with a small colletion of rain water in the middle. Tarzan gulped and wondered how he could escape these two brutes.

"Ma," the brown-furred gorilla, Uto, announced, holding up Tarzan by a leg. "I got the baby gorilla."

"I got him first," Kago said. "It was my idea to sneak up on them through the trees, banana brain."

"Don't call me banana brain. I'm the one who brought him to mother." Uto poked Kago in the shoulder.

"Don't poke me! Don't poke me!" Kago snarled, followed by a couple of hiccups.

"Boys!" Mama Gunda shouted, crawling down from an upper overhang. "What has mama told you about fighting?"

"Sorry, ma'am."

"You both did very well," Mama Gunda said, smiling as she walked over to the Tarzan who was still captive in Uto's hold. "Let's see the cute little sweetums you've captured?"

Uto held Tarzan out to his mother. Mama Gunda narrowed her eyes at Tarzan, pinching his cheeks and turning his head this way and that. "This is the baby gorilla you were talking about? Are you sure it was a silverback you saw, Kago?"

"It looked like a silverback," Kago said, scratching his head as he studied Tarzan closely. "He acted very protective of this when we took it."

Uto held Tarzan up higher to look at him better.

"I saw it, too, Ma," Uto said. "It was a silverback. But maybe this is a baby bird?"

"I'm not a bird!" Tarzan said indignantly.

"It hasn't got any feathers," Kago countered.

"We could throw it off a cliff and see if it flies!" Uto said.

"It doesn't look like any bird I've ever seen," Mama Gunda said.

"That's because I'm not a bird!" Tarzan said. "I'm an ape. Like you!"

That statement had all three apes laughing. Tarzan felt uneasy and bit ashamed, but he glared at the other gorillas and struggled in Uto's hold. He managed to grab a hold of Uto's arm, pull himself up, and bite down on it.

"Ouch!" Uto dropped Tarzan and cradled his arm. "Mother, it bit me!"

Tarzan scrambled away from the gorillas, trying to find a way out of the mountains, yet he had no idea which way he should go to get back to Kerchak. Kago roared and charged after Tarzan.

"Nobody does that to my brother!" Kago said as he raised his fists to smash down on the boy.

Tarzan was too quick and managed to turn sharply just as the gorilla brought his fists down on a rock, smashing it to smithereens. Tarzan ran away from the enraged gorilla, only to run into Mama Gunda's outstretched arm, effectively stopping him.

"If you're an ape, then where's your family?" She demanded him, stepping forward intimidatingly. Tarzan backed up a few paces, then stopped and glared.

"I got separated from them during a flood. Kerchak and I are trying to get back to them. And he won't be happy with you when he gets here." Tarzan puffed out his chest in the manner he had seen Kerchak do before.

"Kerchak?" Mama Gunda tapped her chin. "The name rings a bell. Where have I heard that name before . . . ah, yes—he lost a baby a few years ago to Sabor, didn't he? Word travels fast in the jungle."

"Well, yeah, he did . . ." Tarzan looked off to the side, an uneasy feeling rising in his stomach. Kala had told him the story of his brother and how Sabor had killed him. Apparently, Kerchak had been much more affectionate before then. He felt bad for the silverback, but he couldn't also help but feel jealous that his brother had been a normal looking ape. "That was my brother."

"I see," Mama Gunda smiled sadly. "It must be hard to lose a brother. I would hate to lose one of my sons, they are my little treasures, after all. But you still don't look like an ape. It is strange that Kerchak would allow something freakish like you to remain in the family."

"He'll come for me," Tarzan said, though his voice evidently lacked confidence in his words. Although he and Kerchak had been getting along better in the last week, they had never been on great terms before the flood. What if Kerchak used this opportunity to abandon him completely. What if this just proved to the great ape that Tarzan was too much trouble and went home without ever looking back. Tarzan felt queasier, and he swallowed dryly. He nodded more to himself as he said, "I know he'll come. He protects his family."

"I guess we'll find out if he considers you family when he gets here, won't we?" Mama Gunda laughed, her sons joining in.

Tarzan tried to run around them, but Kago snatched him and held him upside down. Tarzan felt blood rush to his head at the sudden movement, and his eyes saw lights for a few seconds. When they cleared, Mama Gunda was smiling evilly at him.

"If Kerchak doesn't get here by this evening, we'll know for sure how he truly feels about you, then Uto gets to see if those hairless arms of yours are any good at flying."

Tarzan gasped while Uto clapped with glee.

"Don't worry, deary," Mama Gunda said, pinching his cheek again. "If you are Kerchak's son, then there shouldn't be any question about whether he'll show up or not. All we'd like to do is exchange you for the rest of your family. Kerchak will have you back, safe and sound, while my boys will be leaders of a whole new colony. It's a win-win, isn't it?"

Now Tarzan was sure Kerchak would never agree to such terms. He felt tears in his eyes. Kerchak would choose the family over him any day. Protecting the family came first, and Tarzan would agree for the sake of Kala. He wasn't like the rest of them any way, as Mama Gunda had pointed out. And as Kerchak had once said, he would never be one of them. He was as good as abandoned now. And to think he never got a chance to tell his mother goodbye.

I will try to update soon! Please share your thoughts!

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