Foxtail looked at her little brother and bit back a sigh born of frustration. He was making that face again. Either he was about to be sick or cry. Again. She heard her mother moving about in the larger den, though, and knew better than to give him the shake she so badly wanted to give him. It would make him sick and cry and that would just bring her parents' anger down on her head once more. She just knew that none of the others had these problems with younger siblings. Notch adored Beetle, after all, and she was sweet as honey. Willow had Pathmark who she could not even begin to imagine crying. Evervale's little sister Crackle burst with so much fun and energy that Foxtail momentarily wondered if the plantshaper would consider a barter. One slightly used baby-chief for her much more interesting little sister. Better yet, it would give Evervale's really little brother Rill someone else to howl at... And keep both crying infants further away from her.
A slight hiccup broke her distraction and Foxtail returned her focus on Cinder who had decided to do neither thing she feared and instead was sucking busily on his fist. She hid a giggle behind her hand, surprise touching her at the reaction. But how could she not laugh? He very nearly had the entire thing shoved into his little mouth! His cheeks pouched into like a chipmunk's.
Schooling her face back to blandness, Foxtail crouched in front of him. "You look ridiculous," she whispered.
He blinked owlishly at her, gave another suck, and then removed the fist. He held it out to her with a placid expression.
She inspected the damp, drooly offering. "Am I supposed to say thank you?" she asked. Allowing herself to flop down more completely, she braced her weight on one straight-braced arm. "I don't think so. I mean, I'm glad that you came out all right with the right number of toes and fingers and all and you didn't kill Mother on your way out but..." She sighed and scowled at him, feeling a prick of discomfort and guilt in the face of the little innocent. She shook her head and fixed him again with a narrow-eyed gaze. "But you don't have to think you're so very special. I was here first, you know."
Cinder responded with a sympathetic burble.
Foxtail groaned as she dropped back to lay atop the furs fully. She stared up at the gnarled wood above her for long moments, her mind barely registering the various noises made by the baby beside her. "I was," she repeated quietly. "And it's really not fair that all you do is drool and they already like you better. I spend all my time chasing my tail to get them to notice but all you have to do is burp. Mother talks to you all the time. Alright, I think she still only talks about weaving to you but it's something. You'll find out what that means soon enough." She squirmed a bit into the furs and shifted to tuck one hand behind her head, the other playing with one of the laces hanging from her top. She chewed on her lower lip for a few moments, thinking. It was all true but, at the same time, Whispersilk talked to her as well. More now that she had been showing interest in the weaving and dyes. She rather liked the dyeing part of her mother's tasks. The colors that came from the little flower buds made her wonder what else could be used to make things beautiful. Only the other day, her mother rewarded her with a smile at her absent question on the subject of tailoring. Her father may be impossible and oak-headed and narrow but Whispersilk...
Finally, she wrinkled her nose and rolled abruptly to face Cinder. "But don't start thinking this puts you ahead of me. I'm trying. I really am. I'm going to prove that I'm the best choice. I'm clever and fast and sneaky and..." She trailed off, unable to continue her righteous declarations with Cinder's fist in her mouth.
He giggled when, after a very long, dangerous moment, all she did was gently nibble his fingers. Reaching up, she gripped his wrist and drew his hand away. He flexed the fingers of his trapped hand in and out for a moment and then suddenly, before she could shift her weight and free her other hand, he flailed out and tangled chubby fingers in her soft curls. She squeaked in surprise but quickly bit down on the shout and her green eyes darted to the opening to the other dens. When no one came in, she drew a slow breath and released Cinder's hand. "Don't do that," she hissed. "You're going to pull my hair out, you little..."
Gripping her hair more firmly, Cinder responded with a sunny smile and a tug.
Foxtail bit back an expletive and her mouth screwed itself into a tight knot as she fought the urge to lash out at the cub. Instead, she held herself very, very still as her little brother felt his way through her flame-colored hair. His touch gentled until his attention took the form of awkward, uncoordinated pats of approval. Her expression eased as she took his admiration as her due. When he pulled again, instead of yanking back, she squirmed closer until she was near enough for his scent of milk and cub-warmth to invade her nose. She froze, having avoided such nearness since the first, humiliating time she had held him. Out the corner of her eye, she watched Cinder adjust his hold and bring his other hand up to play with her curls. Then he buried his face in them and giggled again.
"What are you..." Foxtail paused her own question as her little brother flopped himself down amongst the furs beside her, curling up with his hands and face against the soft silken mass of her hair. He gave a tiny little sigh and, before long, his breathing slowed. She stared at him in disbelief. "Why you little..."
She watched him for another handful of moments before scowling and arranging herself in a more comfortable position, careful not to dislodge Cinder's hold. At least he was quiet, she told herself. At least he was sleeping. He could be doing worse things, she supposed. For now, though, the den and they were at peace.
"I guess I should take it where I can get it," she muttered. Closing her eyes, she listened to little Cinder's breathing until she matched him and slipped into a matching, dreamless sleep, a faint smile appearing on her lips.