Blacksnake never bothered to fully hide his disappointed expression when he arrived at the chief's den to claim his squalling granddaughter once more. In fact, he allowed the exchanged look to speak most eloquently for a moment before he bent to lift the red-faced cub from her nest of furs. Windburn held the stare briefly to prove his own point before he looked to the squirming toddler in his father's arms and released a huff of exhausted frustration. Blacksnake wondered how long his poor granddaughter had been howling to the moon; Whispersilk was nowhere to be found which made it a safe assumption she had lost herself in a detailed project, trusting her lifemate to care for their cub. He shook his head a bit, the barest of movements, and then returned his focus to the task at hand. Foxtail's fiery curls were a messy tumble over her forehead, her face nearly matching the shade, and her mouth opened wide to show sharp milk-teeth as she bawled. He made a vague, disapproving noise with his tongue.
As he brought Foxtail to his shoulder, free hand rubbing gentle circles over her back while his other hand supported her bottom, Blacksnake further dismissed Windburn from his immediate attention and murmured a short string of nonsense under his breath, just for her. She went quiet within moments of the prescription being administered and only released a few tear-muffled hiccups intermittently against his neck. His superior cub-handling thus proved to his audience, Blacksnake turned on his heel and carried his precious cargo from the den and out into the cool night air.
The moment they were outside, Foxtail’s head popped up from his shoulder and she blinked owlishly at the scenery change. Her mouth first rounded in a pleased “o” before relaxing into a broad smile. Instinctively, Blacksnake shifted his hold on her as she began to squirm, small hands pushing at his shoulder and catching in his hair as she attempted to push herself into a better position. “Up!” she finally demanded, impatience and interest getting the best of her.
“Up where?” he asked mildly. For all that his voice showed only bare interest, he still drew his head back and turned to look at her. The slightest of smiles tugged at the corners of his mouth. He paused their walk in the middle of the clearing between the dentrees, dry leaves crunching beneath his feet. “Where do you want to go, cub?”
“Up!” she repeated insistently. When he showed no intention of reading her mind, the redhead huffed to show her annoyance and lifted one arm to point skywards. “All the way up.” She dropped her arm then to brace both hands on his broad shoulder and pushed away slightly, arms going stiff to hold her far enough way that she could look at his face. Her bottom lip stuck out in a parody of tragic misunderstanding, helped along by the lingering redness in her face from her earlier, forgotten bout of tears.
Blacksnake laughed and gave her a little jar in his arms. She squeaked and grabbed at his neck. As her fingers pulled at his hair, though, he growled at her teasingly. “Foxtail,” he muttered, “you’re going to snatch me bald if you keep that up. Are you afraid?”
A thoughtful silence greeted his question and he felt her shifting in his arms again. Her hold on his hair loosened and he tucked his chin to catch a glimpse of one brilliantly green eye peering up at him, the rest of her face still hidden. “No” came the muffled answer finally.
He smiled. “That’s good. If you want to climb all the way up something, you can’t be afraid.” As if to demonstrate, he gave her another jarring bump and lift. This time, she squealed in delight, pulled her hands from him, and threw them above her head. Neatly, he adjusted his hold on her small body for better mobility. “So where do you want to go?” he asked again.
“Up!” Foxtail dissolved into a waterfall of childish giggles. Her eyes scrunched up and she covered her mouth with both hands as if to keep the laughter inside. She soon became red once more but, this time, the cause was very different. Eventually, she moved her hands to reveal a bright smile and she moved her arms straight out on either side of her, parallel to the ground below. She gave them a little flap in mimicry of the birds which they had watched together on other outings. “Wanna go up,” she explained with careful enunciation. “Wanna go up the tree. All the trees!” She cocked her head to one side and regarded him with a look of melting adoration. Her hands returned to pat the sides of his face. “You come with,” she suggested hopefully.
Blacksnake held still for her little claiming touch and then ducked his head forward to press his forehead to hers. "Alright, then," he agreed solemnly. "But you're going to have to keep up, Foxtail. How high do you think you can go?"
She brought a small fist to her mouth and chewed thoughtfully on a knuckle. Her green eyes rolled upwards to study the leafy boughs above them. She lifted her other hand to point upwards for a moment before spreading her hand wide, fingers out-flung and thumb nearly at a right angle to the rest of her hand. "Wanna go to top."
"Very good." His smile this time was wide and proud, moving beyond fond indulgence into new realms. He gave her a final, quick squeeze before lowering her to the ground. She wavered for a moment and then found her balance, looking up at him with a smile as bright as sunshine. When he did not immediately offer a hand, she frowned a bit and then shrugged, holding out her arms to better balance her steps. Under his watchful eye, she began a swift toddle towards the opposite trunk. The moment she reached it, she glanced over her shoulder to find him close behind and her smile reappeared as she attempted to dig her little fingers into the bark. He tilted his head. "Ready to climb?" he asked mildly.
Foxtail nodded furiously and scrabbled at the bark determinedly for a time. Finally, she pulled back and dropped herself downwards to land on her rump with a nearly audible thump. He watched as she studied the trunk with a small scowl, head cocked to one side. Suddenly, she brought both hands up and rubbed vigorously at her face before releasing an enormous yawn. "Go up later," she mumbled, half-turning to keep him informed of her clearly momentous decisions. "Gonna sleep now."
That said, Blacksnake watched in amusement as his granddaughter did just that; with another huge yawn, she lowered herself to the hard-packed ground and curled up in a tight ball against the rising trunk, instinctively making herself as safe and protected as possible. Nearly nose to tail, she brought a fist up to her mouth and the quiet noise of her suckling on her thumb reached his keen ears. Soon her breathing slowed and he knew for a fact that she was well and truly asleep.
Shaking his head, Blacksnake approached her quietly and crouched to pull her into his arms. He needn't have moved so carefully as she came readily and rested, boneless, into his hold. He adjusted her a bit, fidgeting until she curled perfectly in his arms, and sighed faintly. For a moment, he considered returning her to his son but dismissed it in short order. Turning towards his own den, he decided that it would be best to keep her close at hand. Though there was no telling how long she would sleep, no knowledge of how much or little Windburn had coaxed her into sleeping already. The night was warm enough despite the settling cooler season and the moons shone brightly through the thinning leaves above. A faint whistle brought a dark shadow from behind his own tree and Moonchaser trotted to the edge of the clearing, head cocked. Blacksnake nodded a bit, gesture accompanied with a clearly sent instruction. **Wait here.**
Order given, he ducked into his den. He had some spearheads that needed finishing; they would keep him safely occupied for however long little Foxtail slept. Moonchaser would serve as a nicely warm wind barrier as they sat under the open sky. Then, when she awoke from her nap, they could start her climbing lessons in earnest.