Kayla: Green Vacation
In the 28th century, the technology of rejuvenation allows for immortality. This device is also used for sentencing as well. A penitatas; a criminal that is sent back to childhood to live a highly strict and disciplined life to start anew. (Story Fifty-Six)
Concept by Lurking Dragon
Kayla and story by Professor Bob
More Kayla Stuff!: www.Professor-Bob.net
The sky filled with the puffy white clouds of an aging summer, devoid of the hustle and activities of the tall city of Calleet, the sun was free to shine over lands left untouched by civilization and boundless advancement. The light touched blades of green and the earthen tans of rock, reflecting brilliantly off of rippling waters that moved with the warm air that day in late July; standing as a splendor of Earth and the things it had to offer, when not long ago it had been threatened with it's extinction. Where it was likely to not see another soul for miles amidst rolling hills and sharp cliffs, surrounded by trees that danced with the constant mountainous breeze, it was possible for one to find calm of body and peace of mind. Tiny dots of colors scattered along the ground with the tall flora and endless stones, where the flowers flourished with the lush fertility of the preserve they were protected within. Skies lacking the planet's typical invisible highways, and tree canopies stretching to the horizon without a structure in sight, the view in any direction went unabated; with only one single glint of metallic alloy coming from one tall, flattened hill that overlooked all of it. Sun shining off of a set of closely parked hover-cars, this serene location in the middle of the wilderness was the centerpiece of the Targate family's first vacation, and Kayla's first explorative experience into a world she had so long lived upon, but never really seen with her own two eyes.
Her back against the nose of her parent's hover-car, the Aspatrian girl's tail was locked in a slow, flowing wag from side to side like a fluidic wave, highlighting her distracted, yet soothing daydreaming. Like her tail and the blue of her eyes, the Penitatas was staring into the sparkling flashes of light coming off of the lake below her, some distance from their hill, enveloped by trees and cliffs overlooking it's splendor. The breeze that rolled across the grass of the hill, laying down the blades in waves, graced Kayla's nose with the sweet smell of plant sugars and clean water, bringing her often clambering mind and sensitive ears to a merciful silence. Though her parents and Ki`rene were busily gathering and preparing their camping supplies out of the backs of their two hover-cars, clanging objects and working diligently, the fox was numb to the artificial ambiance. Her friends Ninne and Anne might have been at play, loudly talking and darting about around the two cars in their young jubilance; formidable Drakonian footclaws stamping the rich soil with each beat of their stride; but her mind tuned out even them, as if to shut off the sometimes intrusive ability that was her keen hearing. During those moments it was her and the lake, standing with her arms crossed and an idle, soft smile across her orange furred muzzle.
It had been nearly a month since she had seen her partner Jacob, having grown so close to him and comfortable with the concept of a relationship, only to have the circumstances of her sentence come between them and the companionship they sought. These many days had been marred with guilt over her perfectly behaved man being thrown into a "child's" punishment, confined for so long, as if his misdeeds could ever compare to the things she had done during her lifetime. In the end, it was the mere fact she was a Penitatas that caused him so much harm, and left the normally positive Aspatrian in a world of depression; broken off from the love she had come to cherish and rely on during these troubling times, looking towards a future that was not ready to accept her.
Time passing by, the lack of any phone call from the Justice Department shrank the possibility of her receiving a lighter sentence, or her freedom, to absolutely nothing, all while she handled the stress and formalities of being called a heroine. In public she found herself being given so many kind words and praise, shaking the hands of people she had never before met while out shopping with her mother, smiling in her friendly ways until she returned home to face the four walls of her Penitatas prison. Everyone had been so good to her, and the fox appreciated it immensely, but at the end of the day when she was in bed alone, her mind wandered into different realms of imagination as the moonlight illuminated her bedsheets. She wanted Jacob back at her side, released from the punishment he was destined to in the gardens of Starfleet Headquarters, and she wanted to be the woman she wished to be; not looking into the future, but stepping into it with her best foot forward. Unable to start a business and continue her trade, pushing her efforts further into a new life of her own choosing, the adventure she was thrust into by Starfleet and the acts of Velius became nothing more than a memory. Kayla remained a Penitatas, stuck right back where she had been, with the light at the end of the tunnel being little more than a faint glow against a backdrop of black with so many more years to go, unable to prove herself and move beyond the damning silver 'P's she spent decades earning. The bitter fox of yesteryear; the Packet-Storm of old; remained her shadow without the forgiveness and leniency she felt she had earned, bleeding her heart out for the life of her planet.
Against her forearm, warmed by the day, her right paw's thinned, fresh new fur spoke to the sacrifices she had to make, just to do the right thing. Kayla knew she was far from perfect and quite often put herself down in private, but through the confidence she found and the things she managed to do with her abilities, she was aware of how much she could accomplish. She earned something - anything - and it pained her to leave San Francisco as if she had been a passing blurb on her new world's history books. If the counsel that once punished her so sharply would give her good deeds as much attention as her bad, even if just to commend her for her progress, the poor girl might have felt less ignored.
In terms of fairness, it was her adoptive parents that had been there for her since the incident that rocked their lives. Getting to stand on this plush hill, senses cradled by the wind flowing through her silken strands of fur, was all a part of Emily's sheer adamance to remove the dark cloud that descended upon their fair family's home. Choked by their staunch surroundings and the mecca that was Calleet, taking Kayla away from it all into the open independence of the grand outdoors was meant to quell her uneasy mind. It had been a feat to gain permission to take a Penitatas out to a nature preserve, considering the implications, but with Emily's effort and Kayla's positive notoriety with the Justice Department, they were allowed to even take other Penitatas beneath their wing; turning their camping trip into a group expedition, filled with social delight before their summer came to a close. It was a generous gift from Emily and Alex; now finally surrounded by her friends after so long, and in a place that comforted her wounded spirit. Bonding with the lake's waters, she was in a world of her own, envisioning life beyond the hard time she was serving to the extent that she was audibly blind to the footfalls around her, and those made by young, gauze wrapped claws.
"Is this view taken?", a small, tender boy's voice graced her ears softly enough to make them flick into a sharply erect stance.
Pupils shifting in the light, Kayla turned her head away from the brilliance of the lake and her inner dreams to meet with a pair of brown eyes, and a weak, shy seeming smile across a green reptilian muzzle. Sun shining across his loose brow and short black hair, he stepped slowly towards her with a dark gray medical backpack slung over his right shoulder; strap held with his right hand in that quiet, sudden moment; unable to immediately overcome the fact this was his first time out of the house in a month, barred from speaking to so much as a fly these arduous days. He had missed Kayla dearly, plagued with the same insecurities, but the good doctor didn't have to wait for any reassurances or kind greetings. The fox's blue eyes lit up brightly, turning her calm expression into excited cheer.
"Jacob!", she exclaimed with a sharp feminine glee, thrusting her back from the blue metallic nose of her parent's hover-car to lunge herself into a strong embrace; throwing her arms around the Karrian partner she was no longer truly allowed to have. Kayla's paws pressed longingly into the thin muscles of Jacob's upper back as her muzzle tucked against the base of his neck, firm to his left shoulder and the collar of his light gray shirt.
The boy's pearly white claws dug into the soil, displacing a few loose pebbles amidst the grass to brace his stance from the abrupt grasp of his body; feeling a warmth and closeness he thought he never would have again. His arms flexed and held outwards nervously, knowing well that they should not have been showing any kind of affection after what they had been through, but as his hands curled and hovered away from her, the thoughtful lad's tense expression faded and drifted away along the hill's calming breeze. It had been a long time for him too, as could be seen in the lonely, almost somber look in his eyes. No longer gritting his teeth from the startle, Jacob's fingers broke free of what held them back, pulling his arms close to cradle Kayla. His soft scale slipped through strands of fur, hand lovingly open behind her head to grant her the moment she seemed to want more than anything. Having been punished once already, excessively so, he resigned himself to getting walloped upside his head if that was what it took, should they be seen. In the gardens of Starfleet Headquarters, the day he shared his last goodbye, Jacob had been forced to turn his back on her; pulled from her life, knowing she faced a far worse consequence for their relationship than he did. If Kayla needed a hug after a month of being alone, facing things he could only imagine, he would not deny her again. In truth, he needed it as much as she did.
Thankfully shielded from sight with their parental figures looming around the rear of the two side by side vehicles, their time together, if only brief, had been theirs for one more time. Once Kayla's eyes cracked back open to contented slits, the smile on her muzzle grew as she slid it from her boyfriend's shoulder, slipping her paws free of his back to hold his upper arms for a moment; eye to eye, ending those long days and woesome nights. They would take what they could get, even if it limited them to only being friends, as Kayla's continued status as a Penitatas demanded of them both.
"How have you been? I can't believe how long you've been gone.", the girl asked promptly with speed and energy in her voice from being reunited, allowing her orange furred paws to fall free of Jacob's upper arms and shirt sleeves. She had been racked with guilt and worry over his lengthy punishment and it was easy to hear in her underlying tone, the way she asked with sympathy and tension. Hearing it, and so comforted to see her again, Jacob too took a risk, reaching out with his hands to hold her paws lightly at their sides; stroking his thumbs against her knuckles.
"Miss Lory made sure I was miserable, but she at least took care of me. It figures, only after I quit Starfleet do I find out what it's like to be confined to the brig.", Jacob answered honestly with a loose, rattling sort of sigh in his prior frustration. Letting Kayla's fingers slide free of his own, he thought it would be best if he behaved himself; taking a couple timid looks around to make sure they weren't being watched.
"Spent most of the time in my room, and she took away most everything I could have possibly done. All she left me with were a few archaic books.", he came to gripe with a roll of his eyes, looking looser than the typically conservative and prideful Karrian normally did. Kayla could spot the nervous, shy body language coming from his green reptilian tail, swaying to and fro not far from the protection of his denim-clad legs. The fox didn't think she'd ever see the day when he'd be wearing jeans and looking so casual, but after being alone for so long, he did seem desperate for a social atmosphere.
"Well... you like reading, so at least you had something.", Kayla gingerly adopted his lower tone, trying to add a positive spin to his few books. She had been wondering for so long how he might have been trying to pass the time, and it didn't much help her guilty conscience to know he was left in such harsh, boring conditions. While her partner didn't appear too worse for wear, he still came to nonchalantly scoff under his breath, grinning weakly with an odd note of amusement beneath it all.
"Actually the books were horrible. I found an old pencil and some paper, so I spent most of the time working out chemical structures for some new home-brew pharmaceutical applications. I'm sure that sounds like a punishment in itself, but I promise I had enough fun to crack at least a few smiles.", Jacob's face seemed to plead for a little laugh after his long month, all too happy to be free of his quiet house and stern parental company. At least his rocky past with Lory spared him from getting the belt on top of it all, escaping the spanking even a part-Innocentatas like himself would have surely gotten at his age. It wasn't easy to endure, as demeaning as it was on his older sort of mentality, but it was over; letting him seek answers to the questions he had pondered while facing his own sort of incarceration. Expressions so soft and airy, the two stared in the quiet of their company, as if just to pause and gather their young thoughts.
"I was afraid you'd be mad at me, Kayla. I was going to offer to let you punch me in the nose, for what I'm sure you had to deal with because of me.", the Karrian boy's tone shifted, losing a touch of it's vigor as it fell to something deeper; hinting to the sort of inner tensions he had been facing underneath his urge to joke and share. Kayla could see that the ends of his muzzle wanted to curl and retain his relaxed smile, but her partner didn't notice that it had slipped away from him to show a taste of what his facade had been hiding from her. The sight calmed the chipper sway of her tail, slowing it down as she gently tipped and shook her head.
"There is no way I'm letting you accept responsibility for this.", the girl tried to speak plainly in her effort to quell his worries, understanding why he must have felt guilty. The events that broke down on the Tillman came to existence because Emily prodded him for information he didn't know how to conceal, but it was never his duty to lie for her. There was an untapped sadness behind his eyes, standing there on top of their hill, but with an uneasy spirit she followed through on her thought.
"You're loyal to a fault, you know. I'm pretty sure I can be something of a jerk when I want to be, but I'm not so selfish that I'd blame what happened to us on you. We got in trouble because of my rules, not yours. I'm the Penitatas, and... I'm here for a reason.", Kayla spoke softly, as herself, keeping her tone and voice down as her paws toyed with the hem of her red t-shirt; brightly dressed up top, while a pair of black shorts finished up her attire on the bottom. Her muzzle had loosened to take the more serious stance, pressing the truth of the matter out of her affection. It had come to the point that it hurt a bit to remind herself she was still a prisoner, much less to say how she had earned it, but she wasn't willing to let Jacob punish himself for things he could not control when the things they shared had been so incredibly worth it.
Shown that he was loved no differently behind the wall of friendship they would be forced to obey, a calm expression of shame washed over the reptile's visage. He seemed to hang his head in thought, reaching up with his right hand to idly adjust the strap of his backpack while nature moved all around them; a gust ruffling their shirts as a cloud passed by the sun, rolling a shadow over the grasses they stood upon.
"I would have made a terrible 'penny.", Jacob uttered with a subdued chuckle towards the ground, picking up his brown eyes once the words had passed to show his sultry thankfulness. Such words forced Kayla to brighten her smile, breaking her serious tone with a single, muffled feminine laugh as her paws left her shirt and went behind her back; shifting her weight to her opposite shoe.
"I hope you stay that way.", the soothed girl offered to him, hearing a fresh thud come through the outer shell of Ki`rene's car as someone went about making a racket in the trunk. It distracted her ears for a moment as she made a quick scan to see where everyone was, finding Lory's hover-car in the near distance through the tinted windows of the silver, streamlined Drakonian's vehicle in front of her; over Jacob's shoulder. She could have sworn there were two faint figures by the driver's side door that looked like Lory and Emily; a notion which struck her with some worry; but that came to a prompt hold with Jacob's unknowing interruption.
"Tell me though... you're not going to make me wonder forever, are you? I mean, are you going to tell me what you got, on your end of all this?", he attempted to ask with a distinct hesitance to his voice, as if he was inquiring into something he had been thinking about for a long time. His face was loose but his tail was motionless, tucked up against his right pant-leg to ask with such disquieted curiosity. Based on how he asked, it sounded like he had been hoping she'd share on her own, so that he'd know the truth of what it all had cost her without having to intrude.
It took Kayla a moment, thinking of Jacob placing himself in her shoes to re-imagine life as a Penitatas. That wasn't something she wanted to do to him, and it made her unwilling to utter painful stories from days gone by. So, instead, she lifted her right paw and gave it a dismissive wave, keeping to her same expression while a tone of confidence came through her small voice.
"Oh come on, it's nothing I couldn't have handled. This is an expert 'penny you're talking to.", Kayla tried to follow her companion's humorous notes and casual banter to relay across with an air of personal strength, gesturing to her chest with a thumb. It was executed with seasoned prowess, but as she smiled, she found the Karrian boy merely squinting at her in disbelief. She blinked, soon turning her eyes away from what felt almost like a silent scold. Okay, so perhaps Jacob was used to all of her tricks of the tongue.
The fox had already been watching her mouth very carefully since her mother promised to soap her maw for as little as a tiny fib, and she was already uncomfortable with hiding things from Jacob to begin with. He had suffered right along side of her, in a different place and a different way, and surely must have earned the right to know the discipline she met with that rainy afternoon those few weeks ago. Taking a candid approach, defeated, Kayla's paws came back around to her front so she could hold up her once burned right paw, extending her index finger and thumb to generate a small size example between the two digits.
"One of the blisters I had paddled into me ended up between my butt and my thigh, like this, and it got pinched whenever I did so much as sneeze.", the poor girl summarized into a single sentence, figuring such a detail would be more than descriptive enough to explain that she'd curl up into a ball and squeal if she ever faced such a thing again; keeping to a low key about it. At least that way she could say that yes, she was punished very badly, without actually telling her caring partner that it was without a doubt the worst single spanking she had ever gotten, and no amount of experience in the world could have prepared her pain tolerance to receive her blistering-capable paddle at that speed and sheer force. Expectedly, Jacob came to softly, but visibly wince before swallowing; lightly nodding his head as he accepted what he had been told. Knowing was better than guessing, considering those tears had already been shed and dried for quite some time now.
"Mom made me let it heal naturally. But, as you can see... ", Kayla followed up while Jacob took a deep, slow breath, watching as the fox lightheartedly tossed her bushy Aspatrian tail from side to side; something she would be incapable of doing with a straight face if her muscles were bruised in any way.
"I'm fit and fine.", she let her calmer smile and voice bleed in and take over as she pressed with a more honest kind of confidence, always believing a spanking was never the end of the world. It was one of her older sayings, but it held true more than usual when it came to the more recent severity of her discipline. Jacob could live with the knowledge, understanding her place as a Penitatas, but if you ran the phrase "fit and fine" through a universal translator and set it to 'Penitatas Parent', it would sound more like, "ready for another dose."
"I wouldn't say that too loud around here.", the boy quipped jokingly as soon as he could, using an open hand to sweep the area off to their side; essentially gesturing towards the obscured rear of the two vehicles. Feeling better with a couple of weights off his chest, getting to see Kayla in such better spirits brought back his happier notions to be out here. Tail lifting from the back of his calf, it's lizard-like tip began to flick about slowly as he wished he could have given her a peck on the forehead, if only to show his support. It must not have been easy for anyone that month, but with Velius' capture and subsequent tribulation, he could at least say the person who caused it all was getting his own share of displeasure.
"But I'm glad you're alright. Neither of us have been in very relaxing company the past while I think. I've been wondering if I might have had a few less restrictions if I didn't practically make out with you in front of my mother, for one.", Jacob held to his humor, finding it was too good to be out of his room and back with his friends to not be a little open in his friendly demeanor. Kayla smirked toothily in the quiet of their moment as soon as he said it, but the Karrian unintentionally caused an additional rustle behind himself; ground vibrating faintly.
Turning his torso around towards the distinct and distracting thump of a Drakonian footclaw, Jacob squinted suspiciously over his shoulder to find the swaying grasses behind him unoccupied; moving only with the wind, and again quiet. Sharing a conspicuous glance with Kayla, the Karrian decided to follow an uncomfortable hunch as he took a couple of cautious steps out into the narrow niche between the two hover-cars to merely cross his arms and stare. In his peripheral he could see the adults going about their business as bags and packs accumulated on the ground around their feet; being Alex and a large Drakonian woman Jacob didn't recognize; but his attention was over the benign nose of the silver vehicle, between it's forward windscreen and it's front landing strut. For a couple of moments he stared with little more than a tense look across his muzzle, before again another sound cut into the gentle stream of the summer breeze; this time sounding like a hissing, muffled expression.
"Kayla didn't tell us about that little part there, Commander.", a different tone of voice came over the streamlined metallic shell, lacking the more reptilian air of it's hissing counterpart as a lump of brown scale and yellow-green hued eyes appeared over the crest of the car's nose. Hearing such a thing struck Jacob with a powerful note of embarrassment, taking a sheepish step back as the two poorly concealed Drakonian girls made their own particular sounds of young laughter; damn near giggling, if their vocal cords could process a reflex so sophisticated.
Standing stiff and taken aback, the surprised and timid boy experienced one of the lesser realized faults of having mostly female friends as Ninne was shoved out of her eavesdropping spot by Anne, sending the two larger reptiles into a playful, raptor-like stride around the front of their guardian's vehicle. Barreling and clambering over each other, Ninne wore a sly grin across her snout and apparently nothing more as her bare scaled body came into full view; sun shining off the dull brown scales of her sloped back, with Anne following up over her fellow drake's shoulder with an expressive crane of her neck. The poor boy was anxious and dumbstruck in having to possibly explain what came out of his mouth, causing his initial syllable to stammer out in his haste.
"You, ah... I sort of retired from Starfleet before we left San Francisco! That title is out of date there, Ninne.", Jacob tried to change the subject away from his personal romance, sounding terribly awkward in his feeble attempt. Both partially crouched raptors made quite the face, but it was Anne to first tilt and lift her neck with a chipper, typical attitude for the slightly older drake.
"[If I can't call you Commander, I'll have to start referring to you as something more embarrassing.]", Anne took it upon herself to lightly tease, falling right in line with the sort of mutual ribbing they were all fairly good at. It elicited a teeth gritting wince from the smaller boy, gripping the shoulder strap of his backpack while he looked like a deer in the headlights.
"I think Commander will suit as a pet name.", he relented promptly with a shy smile, nervously chuckling as he made an open-handed gesture with his unoccupied fingers.
"Come on now.", Ninne spoke with a slight stretch of her neck to cut in on Anne, refusing to let their prior subject slip through her claws. Like any young girl with a distinct size advantage, she smirked as much as her snout could allow in her mischievous delight.
"Kayla apparently left out one of the ceremony's good parts. In a garden of all places! Was it a good kiss?", their resident Earth drake teasingly milked for details while Anne clasped her claws together and batted her eyes; not quite looking right, being that a traditional drake was attempting the expression.
Trapped in front of the two smooth-scaled girls, Jacob had to resist the urge to groan at the shameful display and prodding. He may have felt bashful at the time, but with a tip of his muzzle towards his side to sigh, he found that Kayla had joined him sometime during the two girl's antics. The fox's paws were plastered over her muzzle, likely covering up a blush beneath her orange fur, but in the shadows cast by her fingers he could see that Kayla was wearing an embarrassed, shy smile similar to his own. At least she could kiss and not tell, seeing as she and Ninne had apparently gotten to talk already today in his absence.
"I believe I will counter your question with one of my own.", Jacob muttered in slick insinuation with one of his deeper, more sophisticated tones as his focus locked on the Drakonian's bare scales; allowing it to be obvious that he was giving Ninne a casual once over with his eyes.
"Where exactly are your clothes?", he asked curiously with the squint of a single brow, as if to fire back with his own uncomfortable, yet simple observation. Ninne was well known as an Earth drake, following human customs and wearing clothing in stark contrast to her traditional counterparts from Drakon; never willingly baring her tail, especially to have it paddled or chewed upon. It may have been a while since he had seen his school lunch-table friends, having lost so much of his summer, but it was easy to fall right back into their friendly rapport with one another; finding his more intelligent retort to work promptly on Ninne. Caught off guard the drake seemed to flinch, curling some of the scales of her snout; made worse by the hissing sort of laughter that burst from Anne's throat.
"Hey, it's not like I got in trouble already or something! It's nothing!", Ninne raised both of her claws, waving them off as if to dismiss the whole thing entirely, now that the eyes were on her instead of Jacob. Though with her slightly older, normally bare scaled Drakonian friend at her side, she wasn't soon going to be able to forget her precarious clothing issue.
"[Ninne is trying things my way! The normal way, I should say.]", Anne twisted her young, growling snarls in an elegant manner for a drake, to mock the fact that she finally got the shirt off of Ninne's back. Not used to being without her clothes, feeling the fresh mountain breeze in every wrinkle of scale, Ninne's teeth showed in her sheepish discomfort as her claws held one another; tilting her dinosaur-like neck towards her commonly playful colleague-in-scale.
"There is nothing normal about walking around like this! This is Earth!", the naked-feeling drake snapped to correct Anne before raising the posture of her neck, directing herself back towards the questioning Jacob to save face.
"It's my mom's idea. Cultural horizons and stuff.", Ninne went on to finally answer, vaguely and stiffly, as she blamed the lack of her usual attire to her mother's sudden whim. The way she acted certainly noted her initial distaste, which had undoubtedly been the topic of discussion between Anne and herself their entire ride out here. Jacob wasn't one to rub things in others faces like Anne tended to enjoy doing, but a larger, new voice broke the air within their circle of friends as Kayla slid her paws from her grinning maw, apparently pleased with her boyfriend's wit.
"I haven't been in the scale like this for well over a hundred and fifty years. How do you think I feel?", Ki`rene tipped her neck around the side exterior of her car, down a ways from the cluster of rejuves; sounding mildly weary as the light of the sun lit up her own bare, smooth brown scales in midst of her preparatory work with Alex. Right shoulder and upper body shaded by the lid of her trunk, it would have been hard to miss the casual, motherly allure to the big drake's overall tone as liberally as she put it out; keeping herself in earshot of her kids.
For what she was known for, minus the sensible clothing, the elder drake was still in good spirits with a positive smile across her snout, even if she was far outside of her comfort-zone; just like her daughter. While Jacob raised another brow, realizing this was the Drakonian woman he had always heard about for being older than he was, Kayla glanced in her direction only to turn her muzzle away, shaking her head with a bashful, awkward smile similar to Ninne's own. Apparently the fox wasn't used to seeing the eight foot tall parental figure's scales like that either, but since the drakes were off in the wilderness by themselves, it was as good a time as ever to try embracing their roots; trying out a different way of life from their own heritage. Lifting her head high with a curl of her neck, Anne tried to speak in the open expanse for both Ninne and Ki`rene's benefits.
"[You know nobody can see anything anyway. Unless you really squint!]", she spat energetically in their native reptilian language, clarifying herself in the end with a sound to her snarls that came off vaguely like a snicker. Anne went as far as to tighten up her face, curling her eye ridges to demonstrate as she tapped on her snout with a claw; all while Ninne sighed and Kayla tried to not outright laugh.
It was difficult to see Drakonian "parts" unless you tried fairly hard, without there being any obviously distinguishable creases in their hide. It was what made clothing useless to a typical drake to begin with, walking with such a natural sense of modesty. Regardless of that, across the narrow niche the two hover-cars formed, Ki`rene lifted a small bag into her left claw and swung it out to her side, bouncing it off of Alex's shoulder while he stared obliviously down into a data-pad; looking over his personally abridged map.
"Hear that? No squinting.", Ki`rene remarked towards her fellow parent as she maneuvered around behind him, carrying the bag towards the other side of his car to deposit it. Having been leaning on the rim of his trunk at the time, the blond hair, Hawaiian-shirt wearing man continued to stare into his map contently while he gave a prompt 'yes ma'am' in reply to their casual banter. It was playtime even for the adults it seemed, though it helped that both Alex and Ki`rene were already humorous, kindred spirits; the human easy going, and the drake wise and thoughtful. It took courage to try something so new, but the warm massage of sunlight against her normally cool back was quite the reward when there wasn't a strange soul around for miles to see her enjoyment of it.
"It'll be healthy for Ninne and I though, I think. That sun is superb.", she went on to comment with her eyes peering up towards the sky; needing the vacation away from Calleet as much as anyone else, as could be found in the thankful expression she carried on loose, visible Drakonian leg muscles those few steps to Alex's side.
While there was nothing more than an air of contentment expressed by her nature and calm mannerisms, observant eyes saw more in the body she bared once the light of the sun crested over it. It drew Jacob forward a few small steps, having caught a glimpse of a medical sign well out of place, in the form of a jagged discoloration etched irregularly through the scales across the large woman's raptor-like breastbone. The lighter brown line cut beneath her underarm before reaching across her broad side; terminating suddenly as if stopped by a rib, the day the scar was born. Long since healed, it was all that was left of an event that confused and rattled the lad's sensibilities, understanding that such physical remnants remained from only untreated wounds in their modern time; leaving him to wonder if the friendly drake was truly alright, or at least what had happened to her.
"You still felt the need to bring your old badge with you?", broke Jacob's unintentional stare as the drake went back to the trunk of her car, hearing Kayla speak just behind him. Those few distracted steps of his had placed the rear of his backpack almost in her face, where the gold and silver metals of his tarnished Starfleet communications badge graced her with a dull ripple of sunlight. Turning his head with his concerns still first and foremost on his mind, the boy stumbled momentarily over his response once his focus returned to the three girls closer to his own age.
"Oh, that? I thought I'd play it safe. I brought all of my supplies with me actually, and some base proteins and enzymes in case I had to create antivenin.", Jacob's mind returned to his group of friends only partially, disguising his absentmindedness behind his casual voice. Always thinking ahead, he had tacked the worn device on his bag as soon as he got it back, in light of the Targate's camping invitation. Needing to prepare his equipment was the easiest excuse he could have concocted to end his punishment early, considering everything right down to his badge and physician's tools themselves had been confiscated when his restrictions first began earlier in the month. It was good to be back in the saddle, and it turned the most mundane of preparatory tasks into something foolishly fun.
"My dad brought a phone, but I didn't think of bringing my own badge as a backup.", Kayla mentioned with a look of thought, surprised that she didn't catch such a fine opportunity to take her fresh new Starfleet com-badge out of the house. While the thought had slipped her mind, nothing had slipped Ninne's as she went on in regards to their prior conversation; letting a rough sigh through her reptilian nostrils.
"Geez, so everyone points out that I'm naked and just leaves it at that?", the drake griped in her young, crude tone to interject under her breath; rather fully cut off and set back from the teasing questions she was poising before.
Feeling as if this would be the best opportunity he would get, hearing Anne break into yet another series of hissing snickers at Ninne's follies, Jacob reached out to tap Kayla on the upper arm as he began to turn on a single claw. The doctor inside of him wanted to investigate the scar further, for the elder drake's benefit, but the child in him understandably wished to mind his own business; still fairly gun-shy from being grounded. As the trio of girls returned to their playful banter and friendly ways, the smiling fox gave him a nod once he mouthed to her that he'd be right back.
Walking the narrow space between the two cars away from his friends, an apprehensive feeling came over Jacob as he sought to rationalize what he was doing inside of his mind. His wrapped and protected feet traveled across uneven grass and soil, feeling unsure of himself as he faced endangering the privacy and comfort of someone he hadn't yet met. The old Jacob Vasse surely wasn't this brash either, but he wouldn't have been so skittish about doing the right thing for one of his patients, the small Karrian in his shadow had to accept as he came up alongside the rear of Ki`rene's car, where the woman had been working diligently with her human neighbor.
His first task as the drake came into view was to check on Alex, finding him at least as lost to the world as he was before in that data-pad he clutched so enthusiastically. That was good for the sort of conversation he was looking to have in the man's earshot. Hearing various thumps and rustles radiating through the frame of the larger silver vehicle, Jacob moved forward those last few crucial steps to commit himself to what he was doing.
"Excuse me, miss?", Jacob turned his head upwards to meet the Drakonian woman as her face and yellow eyes returned to his sight somewhat high above his vantage point. To his personal comfort he was shown an expression of greeting without hesitation, right down to a respectful tip of her head to place it at a slightly lower level for his height; looking down at him through the open gap created between the raised lid of her trunk and it's shimmering silver frame.
"I'm sorry to intrude like this, but I noticed the scar under your right arm. Is everything okay?", he inquired cautiously with a lift of his hand, keeping his volume down as he spoke up; making sure he did so before his younger self won over and he lost his nerve to question the eight foot tall Penitatas parent. Unsure if he was prying into forbidden territory by getting into her medical history, there was no prior way for him to know if she had been suffering from lasting pain or ailments, or was the victim of undocumented abuse. They were clear reasons to watch his tongue, but at the end of the day it wasn't really his way; putting duty before fear of repercussion. In a way, that's how he became a Medicalos to begin with.
But, in a manner that made him blink abruptly, shattering his doubts, the woman hummed curiously with a faint tilt of her head. Seeming honestly uncertain of what Jacob was referring to at first, it took her a split second before she finally went, 'oh!'; turning her torso to bare the right side of her body, arm raised as she craned her neck to try and look down at herself.
"This, you mean?", Ki`rene asked as she showed him the aged scar, figuring that had to be what he saw. Lowering her arm back down after a moment, clearly used to the blemish's presence, her expression returned to one much more relaxed; if not surprisingly lighthearted for the subject, over the black-lined interior of her trunk.
"We had a little issue with Ninne's biological mother last year. She got a lot of gashes in me and severed a few too many blood vessels, but fortunately I have good friends, and managed to survive to see the damage we did to my living room walls.", she struck up conversationally as she explained what had happened, noting how the scar got started in a candid manner. Jacob was well aware of the brutality two Drakonians could inflict on one another, and the kind of damage their bodies could do to their surroundings in a fight. The sadly accurate image of spattered blood flashed through his knowledged mind, making him feel horribly callous to have made his inquiry when he had no idea there had been an attempt on the friendly woman's life.
"Everything was going well after I was released from the hospital, but this one here didn't finish healing right after it was treated. It got pulled on whenever I lifted my arm, but I'm a single parent; it just couldn't be helped if I was going to take care of my daughter.", she came to openly admit with her usual warm attitude, though softened due to what she spoke about, as she held the remnants on her chest with her left claw. At least from what all Jacob could see, she still remained in the same high spirits, undeterred by having someone point out the blemish left by another woman's claws. The fading at the edges of her past wound supported her story without fault, bringing the Karrian to remove his hand from his bag strap to hold his muzzle in thought. At least she had been treated and pain wasn't an issue after that, but there was still the issue of the scar itself, the old doctor was left to consider upon their wispy, open field of green.
"It just sort of caught my eye, because it doesn't have to be permanent. I'm actually a physician, I could remove it for you right now if you'd like. It's simple and doesn't take long.", Jacob openly offered to perform as he gave his right shoulder a toss, allowing the backpack to slide down his arm with the grace of gravity. Finding it's way into his waiting hands, he turned the dark gray bag around to bare it's white embroidered caduceus set into one of it's rear pockets, and the Starfleet badge that looked aged enough to denote his experience. It was his willful wish to help and perform his trade when it came down to something an individual his age could do, and this fell well within those parameters with it's sheer simplicity. All the large drake really needed was a dermal re-generator in the hands of a doctor in order to see a significant cosmetic improvement, taking away something she neither asked for, nor deserved, to have so violently sliced into her.
The elder drake seemed well poised to continue surprising him however, even though this one wasn't as pleasant as the last; doing little to ease a sudden ache inside of him that stilled his green tail against the seat of his fresh new jeans. Jacob's brown eyes didn't blink when the woman merely smiled appreciatively, declining his offer with the simplistic grace of a single open claw; sun catching the tips of her sharp, preened nails.
"Oh, you don't have to do anything like that. I always wear clothes, like Ninne, so you're the first person to ever ask about it. Nobody has known it's there but me, and I've made my peace with it.", the woman spoke to him no differently, turning him down as if her scar wasn't worth the effort. Jacob could barely keep his maw closed, unable to think of any immediate good reason to keep a physically marring accessory from an event someone would be wanting to forget. Holding his medical bag loosely in his hands, the boy leaned forward ever so slightly as his tone changed greatly; sounding insecure as it gingerly pressed deeper into why she didn't want the procedure done.
"Peace? I mean, if it has something to do with my age, I can assure... ", the Karrian lad attempted to question, but the motherly woman he stood before would have nothing to do with any possible misconstruing of her intentions.
"Not at all - being a doctor you must be Jacob! I'm Ki`rene, it's a pleasure, actually.", Ki`rene went on to introduce herself with her liberal Drakonian smile, feeling not a single need to be rigid or heavy toned in the presence of a Medicalos; as revealed by Jacob holding his medical backpack the way he was, showing the backs of his hands and a radiation-singed token of his prior life. Over the silver rim of the car's trunk, the boy was met promptly with an open claw, showing that his impromptu patient had been made aware of who he was, likely thanks to Ninne or Kayla. Cracking the worried look off his muzzle, the old boy clasped her smooth, brown scaled claw with the soft texture of his own; giving it an awkward squeeze and shake due to their distinct size difference. Seeing her treat him so kindly, and fairly like an adult, Jacob found himself no less confused by her decision to retain the scar than before.
"So I couldn't talk you into it, huh?", he changed his tone of voice, calming it, to ask Ki`rene directly now that he had a better idea of the mother's character and personality.
The firm grip of her claw and the way she spoke felt different from the other Penitatas parents in a way he couldn't personally identify, finding her to behave in ways not quite like the rest, or his own mother. And then, to be taking care of Ninne alone, she was most certainly a dedicated person on top of it all. He really wished to help her in any way he could, but the woman he just met wasn't oblivious to to his genuine eagerness, and the discomforts his age could occasionally bring.
Placing her claws loosely against the back edge of her trunk, Ki`rene leaned against it as she eased her voice into something softer; hoping to quell any uncertainty he held over the matter. She had been there, and done that, and didn't wish to leave him feeling small during these unfair, medically induced young years of his, by not explaining herself properly.
"Not everything has to be erased like that. Sometimes it's nice to look back and see what you've overcome, and I appreciate the scar for that. I forgave Dianne, but I didn't forget what happened.", Ki`rene reached into the wisdom of her long life to describe to her fellow in a way she was sure he'd understand in his short stature, having been told that the reptilian boy was the closest to her own age within her daughter's circle of companions. As she spoke to him over the rear edge of her car, she tapped her claw against the trailing, faded light brown edge of the scar upon her chest to the effect that it sounded like she took a degree of pride from it. To the aged and seasoned woman, the scar was little more than a biological tattoo that would one day disappear when she stepped into a rejuvenator to try out being a child once more, and given no further thought than that. Assuming a light, toothy sort of smile, Ki`rene changed the angle of her snout; tilting her head down towards the padded lining of her trunk, while standing in the sun so motionless deeply warmed and massaged her back.
"Actually, Kayla is the forgiving one out of all of us. I'm just sort of following along with the things that have come out of her mouth these past two years. She tends to rub off on you like that.", her voice rang with a note of fondness, having been in the company of an individual that always smiled and turned the most rotten lemons into lemonade. Watching her challenge hardships and place herself in harms way for others, calling this whole lifestyle they took part in a 'second chance', spread her optimism and broad outlook on existence like it was contagious. Lifting his bag to give it a toss over his shoulder, the weight of Jacob's medical equipment found it's way back to the base of his neck as he turned it to look down the length of the two cars, listening to Kayla and the drakes joyfully converse, just out of the range of his audible understanding.
"You're telling me.", Jacob found his small muzzle barely opening as he concurred, uttering the words as soft as they would roll off his tongue.
Over the patchy grass and pebbles, Kayla broke out one of her single, small laughs that inadvertently bared a few of her canine teeth, curling her muzzle in a way that looked so carefree; though you knew just what all she faced under that bright expression. The old Karrian wasn't aware he'd so promptly find a common understanding with a Penitatas parent, but he did recall Kayla telling him one day that she considered Ki`rene to be a friend. She had never said that about any of the other parents, allowing those passing words to stick with him to this moment, along with the descriptive tale of how much it utterly stung to have your rear belted by this tall woman's tongue, and just how strict she had the capacity to be.
"My daughter is lucky she is so forgiving, as stubborn and thick-headed as she could be; the scaly mule. Ninne is sweet, but also prickly if you venture to the wrong areas.", Ki`rene openly conversed with him like he was one of the other parents, adding a humor to her snout's grin before finishing with a deep, but quiet laugh that lacked any of the other drake's natural vocal sounds.
"Like a cactus?", she gave as an example with a hesitant gesture of a claw, showing through her voice that she cared strongly for those beneath her wing. Jacob had only met Kayla because of she and Ninne's fighting, leaving him to imagine the sort of quarreling that could have come between them. Nobody wanted Kayla to relapse, especially her friends, and the escapade that occurred with her captors and DeltaStar two days before his rejuvenation must have hit Ninne's young mind hard. Seeing them having fun again like they must have before his arrival had been a nice treat, giving him a glimpse into the early days of her sentence and her very first friendship.
"If it wasn't for that trait, I would have ended up in the Principal's office during my brief time as a Penitatas. It doesn't always serve to be a bad thing.", Jacob returned his attention to Ki`rene to speak, just to finally express to the woman how grateful he was that Ninne stepped between him and a certain merciless caning by beating up his would be assailants; Markus and Davis. It was an interesting way to get acquainted with Ninne, considering he hadn't really spoken to her until then. Similar to his elder's sentiments, Kayla was the sole person to give him enough optimism to walk away from those painful days as a Penitatas without becoming too horribly scarred; having been made such a demon by his peers, only to be supported by his friends and a single drake he had barely known.
"I do recall going easy on her because of that. We've both been around long enough to appreciate when someone sticks their neck out for us.", Ki`rene said in a manner that felt cryptic with underlying meanings, as if she was trying to insinuate that she agreed with her daughter while avoiding verbally condoning Ninne's battering of the two fouler Penitatas. Jacob had become so engrossed in their casual chatter that he didn't realize his tail was slowly swaying in contentment, all while Ki`rene gave a quick gesture towards her Drakonian breastbone.
"Two-hundred and thirteen next month!", she decided to throw out there with a sort of pride after mentioning the length of her life, knowing the young Medicalos to be somewhere around her age. Jacob's brows curled, not having considered that she could be that much older than he was. It wasn't as close as everyone told him, with himself only being one-hundred and eighty two years old, in grand total. Ki`rene was old enough to be his mother, and the rarity of that actually made him happy to not be the group's eldest for once. Though as he opened his maw, the boy barely got out a single syllable of his reply before a loud voice interrupted him with nearly a startle; sounding flamboyant enough to feel like it came from right behind his head.
"Are you two about ready?", Alex had called out, bringing Jacob's sharp white teeth to faintly expose themselves in his tiny wince. Unsure as to why the human man would interrupt he and his new-found elder so abruptly, the Karrian spun around with the intent of at least giving him a dirty look for his lack of a softer intrusion. Hand on the strap of his bag to keep it on his shoulder, gauze-wrapped claws sliding in the loose dirt, the lad's brown eyes instead loosened in dread once his muzzle was turned back towards the Targate's car. It wasn't he and Ki`rene he was speaking to, but rather Emily and his mother, Lory, who were returning together from across the grassy expanse.
Bringing him to suspect something had been going on behind his back that involved him, Jacob swallowed stiffly, imagining the sorts of things those two women had to talk about in wake of he and Kayla's disallowed relationship being drug through the mud. It didn't help that neither of the two looked entirely pleased; tense in the face as if their small smiles were farces to disguise the subjects they might have been discussing. The mountain breeze rolling through his mother's long black hair, she stopped at the rear edge of the Targate's car while Emily continued forward with focused intent.
"Just about.", Emily followed through with answering her husband in a plain but energetic tone, giving him a confident and social pat on the upper arm as she stepped by, crunching the grass beneath her shoes with a purpose. Light-blonde hair touching the tops of her bare shoulders, the blunt thirty-something looked comfortable and casual in a white, feminine tank-top and long shorts; oddly contrasting with the sinking feeling boiling in Jacob's stomach from her approach, seeing her so gentle, yet distant.
Unable to do anything but stare with his head slightly down and his brown eyes pointed clear upwards, Jacob surrendered himself to what he had long since considered to be the inevitable; having had a feeling Emily would confront him on the first day he was permitted back in their life, from the exile he thought would have been permanent. As nothing more than a small boy beneath her complex gaze, he understood that she was a parent, and duly angry with him he was sure. Kayla may have already faced her wrath, but Jacob himself had not yet been yelled at by the human woman for his part in starting the whole mess that thumbed itself in the face of her daughter's rules and regulations. He wasn't sure if it was from sympathy, or preparing her nerve for what was to come, but Emily stepped up to him with a light, somber look to place her right hand on his shoulder; retaining her eye contact as Jacob stood there nervous, and silent, like an officer preparing to be stripped down by his superior. Despite his inner epiphany providing him with due warning that this was going to happen, the calm touch nearly made him flinch while he tried to avoid shrinking in her presence; meeting with his embarrassment, guilt, and shame in the flesh, to rightfully answer to the person he knew he had wronged.
"Come on Jacob. You and I need to have a talk away from everyone, in private.", Emily spoke over the quiet, heavy mood that loomed over Jacob like an ominous cloud, all while the boy knew there were several eyes on him.
The confirmation of what he feared weighted down his heart, but for the sake of everything that had happened between them, he would place himself at Miss Targate's mercy. Though, before he could say anything to her, slowed by trepidation, the mother's hand slid limply from his shoulder as she resumed her walk right past him; slipping by Ki`rene's bulky Drakonian tail with the two parents sharing little more than a passing glance of greeting, in Emily's distraction. Once the drake turned her neck back in Jacob's direction and noticed his sullen, timid stance being left behind, Ki`rene made a quick, ushering motion with her claws to encourage him to follow Emily without dawdling. Getting the impression that she might have been aware as to why he was being swept away granted him no additional comforts as he briskly removed his backpack, sliding it down his arm and to the ground so that he could go with the soft faced parent to places unknown; smacking his claws several steps to catch back up with her.
"You'll be fine.", Ki`rene swept her neck back around to her other side to follow him in haste, whispering loud enough for him to hear by using her throat as he stepped by. Tilting his muzzle over his shoulder, he made sure to at least grant his elder a look of appreciation before he turned it forward and hung it, like he felt he should - starting a Penitatas' march.
With his eyes intently and obediently on the ground, Jacob followed Emily's worn trail of flattened grass just a pace behind her as they slowly made distance from the entourage of parents and the silver sheen of Ki`rene's hover-car. Descending upon the steep side of the hill, stepping cautiously over lumpy spots of soft soil and loose grass roots, it wasn't long before he could no longer hear the sounds of the others left atop the hill, and the only sound to awkwardly grace his ears was that of the warm breeze rolling up the edge of the land; sweeping between his Karrian toes and across his muzzle. Anxiously he placed his hands behind his back as he trudged along, watching and listening to the crunching sounds of he and Emily's footsteps as he tried to envision what all he was about to face, and whether he'd have any pride or dignity left when he was done pouring his heart out to the woman. Hugging his tail to the seat of his jeans firmly enough to wrinkle the firm fabric, he had enough stoic fortitude left to ignore the plights of his current young age. They may not have always agreed, but as he thought to himself those few weeks ago in San Francisco, he really meant her no disrespect, and nor did he think she deserved it. Breaking eye contact with the green foliage being trampled beneath his draconic claws, he peered up softly to meet eyes with the rolling landscape.
With Emily's back firmly to him, the old boy slowly looked around at all of the colors and splendors that made themselves apparent. Many shades of wildflowers dotted the hillside all around them, clustering into patches while the wave of grass thickened at the base of the hill below, where swaying trees and plants framed an image of parting rocks and broken cliffs, embracing a majestic sea of rippling blue in the near distance. Jacob's nostrils picked up every sweet scent as the sun shone brilliantly above, leaving a white twinkle of light against the lake's surface. It was soothing, but most of it was lost on his heavy heart; waiting for what he expected could be the swatting his own mother refused to lay down upon him.
But, in an abrupt act that nearly made him run into the back of her, having had his focus everywhere but forward, Emily stopped short her decent and suddenly motioned to sit down; crouching to a seat in the flowing, half-flattened grasses as a fresh wind blew. Watching without a word or twitch, shirt lightly ruffling from the rush of fresh air, Jacob's saddened sort of face found no reassurance or comfort as the motherly figure merely stared out over the lake, like Kayla had been doing when he arrived; paying him no mind. They were alone in the wide open seclusion the hillside provided, leaving the youngest of the pair to face what was to come with the sort of privacy Emily seemed to be granting him.
"You don't have to stand there, you know.", Emily's voice spoke up unexpectedly over the distant rustling of branches and leaves, cutting into Jacob's weary thoughts over what she might have been silently contemplating. Her legs loose, parting the grass she sat upon as they stretched out down the hill, she sounded tired and weary herself, despite being away from the others and able to skin him as she pleased.
Hands limply breaking free of one another, Jacob took the single step needed to place himself at her side, sighing shakily at the thought of just how upset Emily might have been to be so verklempt. It was awkward and admitably gut wrenching for a rejuve of his age to be placed in such a position, aching to take the initiative to say that he was sorry. What kept his muzzle closed was the subtle notion that the human at his side knew what she was doing, and was at least trying to keep composed. Tail curled against the soft earth, feeling a radiant cool from the grass and soil, he lifted his knees slightly and settled his hands into the crests of those blue denim hills; leaving them an odd pair, seated on the side of a hill in the middle of nowhere.
"Dragging you all the way down here, I thought you'd have said something by now. I'm so used to the Penitatas and how things usually go down, I guess. Kayla can bite her lip better than the others, but even she would have been trying to feel me out.", Emily spoke up candidly with a light, low tone that let off a strange sense of serenity and calm, as she seemed to admit that she didn't truly want the first words. It made Jacob tilt his head away from the twinkle of the lake, peering off towards his shoulder to find that Emily had done the same. Face to face she looked somber, but there was something in her eyes that told him to still be cautious; understanding her to be a bold and forceful younger woman. Wearing a tank-top, it came as no surprise to see that she had some muscles in those thin arms of hers.
"Shame tends to still the lips. I don't typically wear jeans as it is, so I'm wondering how much longer I have to wear these things before they're around my ankles.", the old doctor noted back the cause of his hesitance, following her tone while the subtle shift of his tail created a faint rustle in his voice's wake. The words were slow and articulate, as to be expected from such an intelligent rejuve, but they still opened the door for him to hear things that he didn't wish to; clearing the air for Emily to speak her mind, regardless of his reservations.
"Yes, well, there would certainly be a strong poetic justice in tanning your hide, Vasse.", the human turned to a voice with more vigor behind it, keeping it's volume low while still bleeding out a strict allure from her slightly stiffened face. For a few seconds Jacob had to endure her scolding glare in painful silence, until Emily intentionally severed eye contact and turned back towards the exuberant landscape painting before them. Small, with his heart skipping tensely, the lad in her shadow turned his head down in a child's remorse.
For meddling as he did, he came into the affairs that intertwined a parent and a Penitatas; the things which Kayla accepted, and Emily enforced, as a unique mother and daughter pair. What was once a simple caress of scale against fur eventually escalated into a disciplinary trial he could only witness from the sidelines, having forced Emily's hand when he came between her and her Penitatas. Already feeling guilty, the notion that there would be justice from his potential welts bit into his heart, imagining what all Kayla experienced in the paddling that she received for committing the same infraction that he did.
The deep elongated sigh that erupted from his nostrils, without saying a word, told the woman beside him the sort of weight he had been carrying alone this past month. Encumbered by these burdens, he couldn't much look her in the eye, nor speak an utterance of selfish self-defense. It brought Emily's eyes back to her peripheral, to stare below at Jacob's sulking expression turned down towards his blue, denim-covered legs.
"But, exactly what lesson would you learn from someone like me turning you up over their lap? When I did it on the ship, it was because you disobeyed and took advantage of me. I gave you my hand, and corrected you; being a parent.", Emily's heavier tones all but faded away as she eluded to an answer different from what the guilt-stricken Karrian expected to hear. It caught his quiet attention, bringing a curious curl of his brows as the woman gently shook her head to herself; blonde hair flickering from a puff of wind.
"You've had more than enough. The only thing vengeance like that would teach you is that it's wrong to love or like someone, and I'm not going to condone that sort of so-called parenting. You're not a Penitatas, and I just spent too many breaths trying to drill that into your guardian's thick skull.", her face remained resolute, showing more of that tone and it's underlying irritation until she rather bluntly eluded to what her mood was really about. Discovering he wasn't the reason for Emily looking like she did brought Jacob to snap his muzzle towards her with a look of profound shock, having not even guessed that she and Lory could have actually been arguing. The mental scene of them chattering and conspiring behind he and Kayla's back collapsed like a house of cards, forcing the unsuspecting lad to shake off his timid fetters to speak.
"Miss Lory doesn't usually take very well to being told she's wrong.", Jacob shot back as if it was a belated warning, not knowing how his parent would have taken a confrontation like that. Taken aback to the point he looked shaken, the irony wasn't lost on him that the woman who apparently spoke up on his behalf was the one who not long ago appeared to be shunning him, back in the confines of Starfleet Headquarters. Beside him, cracking a faint grin, Emily scoffed fairly openly at the concept he posed; something he had never seen a Penitatas parent say or do in regards to another.
"I'd like to see her pick on someone her own size! A week would have been enough to tell you that you screwed up, but a month? That was unacceptably too far, and I told her that up front.", she completely turned her head towards Jacob to vocally gripe, turning the reptilian boy's butterflies into a warm glimmer of thankfulness. He didn't think anyone would vouch for him that strongly; especially the mother he had been so directly defying, to have earned that lengthy stint in his room. In his mind, so trained by Starfleet, his confinement was little different than that employed by senior staff when officers broke regulation. Shown the other side of the coin like that, knowing well how much it hurt to be alone when he really needed the company of others, Jacob went quiet for a moment to take a breath. It did feel unfair at the time, sitting on his bed in the dark, but he had thought that it was his age talking.
"I... ", he stammered for a moment, before closing his muzzle. It was so much at once to be given such support, and it showed in how dumbfounded he looked trying to gather an intelligent thought. Looking up into the kind human woman's face, sizing up her feelings, Jacob tightened the ends of his maw and exhaled through his nostrils.
"That was the most lenient thing anyone has said to me in a month, and I don't have a clue how I possibly earned it from you. I thought you wanted to get rid of me.", the sentiment pressed his young mind to push forward, speaking much more softly as he went into something that had weighed on him naggingly; ailing him during his solitude. All of that time without the company of others left him feeling vulnerable and out of sorts, making him want to get to the very bottom of how he was allowed back at this woman's side without so much as a slap across his muzzle.
Surrounded by life and open skies, Emily assumed a look of sympathy and regret before he even finished speaking. Reminiscent of how Kayla would be unable to still her paws when she was nervous, Jacob noticed the woman's fingers idly toying with the white fabric of her shorts against her thigh; bringing him to wonder if she had acquired that trait from her daughter. In a manner he wasn't used to from a Penitatas parent; a person who always stood confident and tall over those they took care of; Emily struck him as being...
"Sorry. I brought you down here to apologize and talk things over, but that dingbat got me all riled up.", Emily mentally shifted gears to keep herself on track, referring to Lory disparagingly as she dulled her harsher tones to better relax. Jacob released his legs from the light hold of his hands, allowing them to flatten out against the hillside as he tried to prepare for the concept of "talking things over" with a parent more used to simply spanking. Seeing Emily's hands come up like she was about to raise a point, freezing in thought, he made sure to sit still without slouching, at least.
"There are a lot of things the parent of a Penitatas can't do, and one is to show weakness in their ability to make decisions. I can't wobble or wane, or constantly second guess myself in front of them. We have to mean what we say, and say what we do.", she explained her precarious position with chopping, open gestures from her hands, describing a position of great responsibility when those under their care needed them to be unflappable sources of solidarity.
"So one thing I can do down here, is admit that I was wrong. I felt like crap after nearly dying, and having your relationship thrown in my face in the wake of it all, so I may have... ", Emily worked out with a slight turn of her head before suddenly closing her eyes, looking annoyed with herself as she corrected her words; seeming uncomfortable and out of her norm.
"... Did - say things I regret, to you and Kayla both. No matter how I felt at the time, I should have remembered who lead me through the corridors of DeltaStar, and who made sure my daughter came back with all of her fingers. I could talk about how I was scared over the violation, and upset, but that doesn't excuse the cold shoulder I gave you. I wasn't the adult, and I'm sorry.", the mother apologized on her own behalf, wanting to promptly set the record straight that Jacob was neither a burden, nor a problem, and never should have been treated like one. The quiet, respectful Medicalos physician had been so good to she and her daughter since he arrived into their life, and Emily wasn't prepared to forget that just because he made a mistake; no matter how big. It had simply been too emotional of a time for her, and by her own humility, she acknowledged that she was imperfect and fallible; trying her best, the only way she knew how.
"Do you hear yourself? You're the one who's sorry?", Jacob tilted his head towards her with a tense, uncomfortable expression across his muzzle as he returned a tone of disbelief. While her words and regret were meant only to reassure him that he hadn't been at all rejected, they also unintentionally gnawed on his aching sense of personal responsibility. Lifting his fingers from his legs, he outstretched his arm and opened his hand in a pressing gesture; taking a serious, harsh stance against himself as the adult within his young, worn mind urged him to do.
"The only reason we're down here is because of the trouble I put you and her through! I knew exactly what I was doing, and I expected you to punish me - like she had to suffer! You said it yourself, you were scared and upset. Well, who caused that?", the seven year old Medicalos barked with an underlying inability to accept such sympathy, referring to Kayla when he said 'her'. His brows curled into a squint, trying to make his point that Emily should have passed more judgment than she did, to hold him accountable for the long faces that came after the fall of Velius. Much to his surprise, the human turned down to him and returned a stare of her own; lifting her right hand, palm flat to him, with a pointing gesture towards it.
"I know this can wash guilt off of someone your age very quickly, but I promise you that this isn't what you need. You feel that strongly because your mother was overzealous to begin with, instilling that degree of shame into you. All you really did was break a rule - there is nothing shameful in wanting to take care of someone!", she corrected him with a loving sort of sternness to her voice, being quick to snap, and quicker to deny him the swatting he thought he'd receive from her.
Lowering her hand, leaning slightly as her fingers found their way to the soil beside her hip, Emily kept her eyes on the now quiet, sulking sort of lad at her side. His face, arms, and tail all looked considerably more limp in wake of her firmer stance, but as he breathed and calmed the lump out of his throat, Jacob tried to be more receptive of her good will. Given a large enough consequence, a child, even a rejuve, could be harder on themselves than they truly deserved; convinced that they were miscreant, or inadequate.
"I just never wanted things to turn out the way they did.", Jacob's brown eyes peered back up, sounding much weaker and more solemn as he tried to say that he held regrets of his own. It was something they universally shared in common, though their roles were so much different. There was a tension between them that couldn't be avoided, pushing into realms that they were both uncomfortable with, to calmly rectify what had daunted them from their own angles. Tree leaves swirling below in a dazzling array of green and light amber hues, knocked into the air by a brief gust, a solitary leaf skittered between the boy and his adult figure; catching on blades of grass, followed in the air by Emily's careful, feminine voice.
"I understand. Kayla laid into me, and made sure I did.", she tried to assure before going forward, recalling her daughter's willful backtalk and forceful words from the day they returned home to Calleet. The fox had acted far out of line, but thanks to her willingness to talk things through, Emily at least got on the same page as her Penitatas before the holes of her glossy, wooden paddle made their distinctive whistles. From it, Emily could only further respect her furred child, seeing her to be an iron-clad, growing woman within that small frame of hers. Normally, a Penitatas wasn't the one who stopped their parents from making errors in judgment, and it spoke volumes to the girl's new-found social backbone; a world apart from the shy, timid child she was when they met.
"But you have to think - these rules don't come from me, so they are what they are. It can't be debated, because it was never my decision to begin with. I sympathize with you two two lovestruck kids, I really do, but neither of us would want to see Kayla taken away. You and I should both be able to agree that the department's guidelines need to be followed from now on, for her own good; if you are to stay in her life.", she cited in a parental way as a call for their unity, bringing the rejuve pair's affectionate relationship to the forefront of their needed talk. While still sort of a lecture, it was light and merely pleaded to Jacob's elder reason that things would have to be different from here on out. There was nothing wrong with him liking her daughter, giving her a friend she probably thought she'd never find, but the fact of the matter was that she couldn't have an adult-leaning relationship; trapped in the younger mindset the justice department wanted her to have during her sentence. Their actions risked Emily, and the counsel would undoubtedly pull Kayla from her home if she could not ensure compliance and control; making this discussion one of urgent necessity. Getting the picture that he'd have to keep a certain distance, following the same set of behaviors as her other companions, Jacob swallowed uneasily before providing an unhesitant response.
"Yes ma'am.", the Karrian boy uttered airily as he stared down over his claws and the grass that touched them, keeping his tone submissive and polite as he had learned from the Penitatas, when told something that carried so much weight. Looking down the hill, already appearing stiff and worn, there was no way Jacob could have been prepared for what came down to him in reply.
"I'm afraid 'yes ma'am' isn't enough today.", Emily warned with a quieter voice, staying with her calm and ease as her underlying mood took an abrupt turn for the strict. It brought Jacob's muzzle back towards her with a slight tilt, met again with his brown eyes, which looked uncertain of her intentions. He was nervous; seeing the type of motherly glare being pointed at him, right at the base of his sun-lit maw. There was something in her tone and face that told him she didn't want to be that hard on him, but as parental duties typically were, it was something inevitably for his own good, no matter how much it hurt either of them.
"I need you to know how serious I am, so in order for you to stay with us, I have to know that I can hold you accountable. Kayla's new paddle; the one with the holes? It's yours now, too. I'm counting on you to be the instrument of change, seeing as I found out you two were up to more than I first thought.", the woman's tone continued to shift as her head turned down to Jacob, making strands of her blonde hair bunch up against her shoulder. Speaking firmly, but with restraint, it was said strongly enough to get the entirety of her message across to the green scaled boy; finding his eyes widening as if his scale would allow him to go pale, discovering that she knew of the intimacy he and Kayla mutually shared. There was muscle tension across his muzzle, as if he wanted to open his maw and begin stammering some kind of hasty reply, but as she learned on-board the U.S.S Tillman, Jacob was a poor, inept creator of fabrication when he was pinned against the wall. Dishonesty wasn't in him, and the pain of that looked to be cutting deep as he slouched forward and gave a tense, stressed whine through his closed muzzle; lifting his knees to hide his face in wake of the saddened, young sound. Black hair slightly dangling, and his eyes shut, he held his legs and breathed awkwardly for those few quiet moments Emily allowed him; giving him time to accept the fact that she knew about the existence of follies he still thought were personal. It didn't feel good to so roughly end a Medicalos' sense of privacy, but this was how it had to be.
"I don't know what you did with her, and I'd honestly rather not. What I do need to know, is that it will never happen again. I need your word, and I need to hold you to it.", she explained her position firmly and with a dire passion, emphasizing several key words which made Jacob visibly flinch or stiffen up; curling his tail around to his side as he listened without granting her his eyes, so filled with embarrassment and shame. It was now all too clear as to why she had threatened him with Kayla's blistering-capable paddle, and what sort of behavior would earn it's crimson blaze. He had no idea how the parental figure became aware, but since she knew and still allowed him to return, he'd do nothing more than acknowledge his guilt before her.
"You have my word - I promise! I'm not going to let you down twice!", Jacob found the courage to spit out, sounding shaky and of a higher pitch as he lifted his muzzle from the darkness of his denim knees. Hugging onto his lower legs, he essentially pleaded as he finally gave the woman his eyes, as well as the assurance she needed. Willingly bottling up his affections would at least allow him to keep his partner, the girl he treated as his mate, to see their childhoods through to their end. It was a hard thing to ask of such a distraught rejuve, but feeling a familiar sting in his eyelids, the old doctor too understood that this would be the only way. Their kisses, intertwining of fingers, and sensual touch had instantly turned to the dust of memories; carried away from his body, over the lands on the warm, summer's current. Finding silence, and a loose sympathetic expression staring back at him, Jacob turned his head away to rest the tip of his snout against his kneecaps; reeling, and forlorn, while the grasses continued to lap at his feet.
"Please don't be gloomy. As long as you've been around, I thought maybe you'd pick up on the silver lining underneath what I told you. It wasn't meant to be all bad.", Emily decided to note as a hint of a smile crept across her face, breaking the awkward silence with something that sounded much more pleasant, and gentle. Unsure as to what she could have meant by that, considering illicit deviant behaviors and severe paddlings were not positive subjects, Jacob didn't think of much anything he could say or do; choosing to instead keep his eyes on his blue jeans, and his smooth, tiny scaled hands. His younger half had been too far in place for his more experienced, older side to pick up the subtleties she had given him. Indeed, there was something in her words for him to find, and Emily didn't mind bringing it to his attention in larger words.
"Jacob, you're not a Penitatas. I would never in my life hold you to such harsh consequences, like one of my daughter's paddles, if I didn't consider you to be family. Kayla adores you, and so do I. I'm afraid you're stuck with us, and you have taken care of her in ways that I can't. If you're as patient of a man as you seem to be, I believe Kayla will be waiting for you when her time is up.", the motherly woman's smile turned up into a grin, moving about her language slowly as she brought the brighter side of her rule and subsequent threat to light. As she spoke, the old lad at her side lifted a brow before he returned his head to her; muzzle pointed up toward her face in quiet, dignified appreciation. For simple words, they came with a lot of power, and she still wasn't quite done.
"I think you both have good taste, and you, doctor, have my blessing. Treat my girl right, because I know where to find you.", Emily relented all of her walls and parental barriers to share her mind in private, essentially welcoming the boy who saved her life and became tangled into their lives a second home; loved, and protected, with the unsung promise that he would never face being turned away again. That his love for Kayla was known, and accepted, with the expectation that there would be no further foreplay, or private endearment of any kind, so long as the orange furred fox wore the mark of penance on the backs of her small, capable paws.
Such acceptance brought no words, nor shy whines; bringing to Emily's mind the complicated nature that was a rejuvenated person's psyche, as she caught a faint twitch in the Karrian's jaw. Rejuves were individuals that she had only just begun to understand, holding the mentality and needs of a child, all while keeping such profound memory, intelligence, and an urge for self sufficience. Never having been through a rejuvenator to experience what it would be like to be a grown person in a child's mind and form, she didn't know what it meant to them to be an adult, and a kid, both at the same time. Their emotions amplified, she had so often seen frustrations come over them when they had to process matters inside of a mind already too taxed and worn. She had seen her own daughter stand firm and mature, facing death with a courageous and defiant snarl across her muzzle, only to also see her play, weep, and seek her mother's comfort and approval. They all tried to be themselves, doing the things children loved alongside of their old hobbies as they made the best of their time; trying to better themselves as they grew beside those who would guide and shelter them back towards adulthood. Balancing the person they knew they were on top of an immature thought process was daunting, and it showed their fragility at times; even in the most stoic, strong, and willfully dignified of people. Sometimes it couldn't be helped, being who they were.
"You're not going to cry on me, are you?", Emily asked of the young boy at her side with a loose, half chuckle to break the mood in a teasing manner; knowing that would likely place some ease into the face she was looking into. She could see and feel that it had all been a lot for him this past month, only to be brought back into open arms, and told he wasn't as bad as his mother's punishment made him out to be. Though Jacob was her bold leader through DeltaStar, dealing with things too dire for herself to handle, there was no forgetting that he could only be so strong, for so long; needing the same love and fellowship as any child, with a spirit that could be easily squashed beneath the weight of his own feelings, or worries.
And Lory had the nerve to tell her she had "guided" him? The nearly tearful look across Jacob's two brown eyes told her that he hadn't truly been guided anywhere at all.
"No, I'll be fine... It's just the brain talking.", Jacob casually dismissed his emotional state, having enough sense and experience with the matter to know just why his eyes had watered slightly; burning at his nerves. In fact, with a quick breath that sounded like a sniff, it had cleared away as soon as he tipped his muzzle forward and wiped at his eyes with a sheepish, weak, but honest smile across his young muzzle. It was at least one way to soften the air, finally having a mutual understanding between one another that everything would be okay, and how it would proceed from here out. The hillside and surrounding cliffs suddenly looked much more pleasant and relaxing, now that the foreboding sense of their awkward meeting had left their company. Flicking his thumbs against his eyes and rubbing his muzzle's scale firm enough to massage, staring over his moving fingers with squinted eyelids, he got to see a white, human hand tweak him on the tip of his snout - an act unexpected enough to elicit a brief, though sharp snicker at his age. He nudged the hand away out of instinct, lightheartedly indulging in the closer sort of affection his own parent lacked. It didn't feel all that bad to play like that, as rigid as he could be at times.
"Well, we don't have to go over this stuff anymore; it's all said and done, and we're here to have fun. Kayla needs it, as gloomy as she's been. She looked so calm though while she was looking out over the water, waiting for you to arrive... ", Emily spoke more loosely as she placed her hands into the soft earth at her sides, giving a tip of her head towards the lake in gesture before she began rising to her feet with a light, energetic feminine grunt. Having struck their conversation from the agenda of her day, she was able to stand back up and focus on matters more positive, motioning out over the tips of the swaying trees.
"So Alex and I decided that we'd all travel to the lake, and find a nice spot next to it. It was the best thing we could think of, seeing her stand there with such a lost little smile. We haven't seen a lot of those since she got rid of Velius, and started sulking in her room.", she added with a warm, prideful hope, looking towards the shining lake over the trees below. Doing anything for Kayla was kind, surely, but the other bits of information that came along with her plans made Jacob slowly stiffen his hands. The girl she described wasn't like the bright eyed one he had just seen, who leaped into his arms for a hug without concern for repercussion.
"She didn't tell me any of that.", Jacob hummed low and deep at the idea of Kayla isolating herself while he was away, distracted by the prospect as he rolled his weight onto his left hip in preparation to get up. Turning his gaze upwards, the Karrian boy found a hand opened to him, ready to help without being asked.
"I'm not entirely surprised she didn't show you that face. You know how she tries to be; little miss stoic.", the generally forward-looking Aspatrian's mother highlighted with precise accuracy while she took Jacob's hand, giving him a pull to get the soles of his wrapped claws back against the hill's loose soil; tail shooting out in a brisk swing to assist in counter-balancing himself. Right away his hands began batting at the seat of his new jeans, clearing it of dirt and bits of decayed grass, making loud patting and smacking sounds that reverberated irregularly across the hillside.
"The gist of our conversation was her trying to convince me that she was fine. What exactly is she neglecting to tell me?", he asked with a tender grump of a tone, shifting his tail from side to side to make sure he got all of the little bits and flecks of hill off the base of his tail and surrounding denim. Emily raised her eyebrows and made something of a face as she turned, starting a slow walk up the side of the hill to lead them back. Able to again see the faint glint of Ki`rene's streamlined hover-car, Jacob started himself off with a bounce of a hop before his claws found pace with Emily's feet; slipping his thumbs into his jeans pockets while looking up at his side, often how Kayla would walk.
"Poor thing feels ignored, and she rightfully should. But what she really wanted, and what she probably sees in that lake out there, is freedom. Freedom of choice, and expression. She wanted to be pardoned, and even though that wish was sort of a stretch, the Corrections Counsel didn't even have the common decency to at least acknowledge what she did in some little way. Now she feels trapped.", was a simplified viewpoint from Emily's perspective, coming to see how riled Kayla was to be confined to her life without any chance of her good deeds outweighing her bad; hoping that there would be rewards for grand acts, if there were terrible punishments for mild errors. The mother would not hide the fact that she believed her daughter should have gotten something, even if it wasn't what she wanted. Anything to lighten up on her, and tell her she did a good job.
"That explains why you took her so far from walls.", Jacob sighed knowingly, getting a little bit of insight into how this camping trip came to be, and for what greater purpose. In the gardens of Starfleet Headquarters those many days ago, he remembered Kayla's staunch, hopeful optimism that everything would be okay, so long as she was granted a reprieve from her sentence. Her relationship, the future she envisioned, and the adventure she had only begun, would have been able to continue living on, she had said. But, alas, that wish obviously did not come true, leaving her to answer for the sins of her past a while longer.
"My daughter can handle a lot, knowing the different sorts of hells she had been through. When that other Aspatrian... violated her the way he did, she put on her best face while she worked through what happened. She bottles things up and deals with them alone, brave in ways I couldn't remotely begin to endure. But, at the same time, you can tell she is in a great deal of pain.", Emily slipped her hands behind her back, keeping her head down to speak with a subdued, hushed voice; stumbling over harsher words like 'rape', and replacing them with things that were easier for her sensibilities to handle.
"Finding her spanking her Aspatrian plush, Melissa, was a metaphor if I ever saw one.", she added with a lower, more solemn tone, thinking back to the other many events that impacted their lives and harmed her child; squinting beneath the sun as she looked up the length of the hill. As much as Kayla liked people, there was still a strong loner inside of her. One with wavering self-esteem at times, and a potential for self-loathing.
"After the horrible things that man did to her, she got to play a role in the little girl's discipline, and eventually forgave her. She usually does choose to forgive others, once she understands and accepts what happened, and moves on without dwelling too much on the past; so focused on the present. It's how she'd like to live her life, but this time isn't as easy for her. She was maimed - tortured even - by a man who's face she never even saw... only to lose the drive that gave her the optimism to overcome it.", the sound of grass rustling and crunching came as the accompaniment beside her softly spoken words, talking about the furred blessing she considered to be her own. Freedom was too sweet a dream to forget about, after what she had been through.
"She knows what she wants and it must feel like it's out of reach, just beyond the tips of her fingers.", Emily's voice attenuated from how she empathized with Kayla, thinking she understood her daughter enough to envision what was going on inside of a mind the fox wasn't exactly sharing. Moving on was her way, but blocked from the pardon she desired, she had to have felt helpless; unable to continue forward. It was as if she needed to re-accept being a Penitatas all over again.
Once he could again hear the sounds of the others, coming upon the peak of the land, Jacob set his tail into a soft sway to serve as a subtle visual signal that he was just fine, in the event Kayla that found him missing and became concerned. Their deeper understandings and affections aside, groups of Penitatas in general used a lot of body language to convey their thoughts to others; as often as speaking out of turn could earn them a bad afternoon. Though as colorful as their preserved scenery was, right down to the island-reminiscent swirls on Alex's shirt, no shades of orange came to grace his sight; coming to suggest that Kayla hadn't been given enough reprieve from the drakes to even notice he had disappeared yet.
"I'm sure we'll get her through it. She's really happy to be out here.", Jacob decided to bring out a little optimism of his own, appreciative and thankful that he was still able to walk with his dignity; posture upright and hands not rubbing his backside, while returning to the presence of the other adults.
Things could have been a lot worse, if not for the type of parents Kayla came to receive after her first trip through a rejuvenator. He understood that much about the Targates, and held on to the hope that their efforts and family ties would be enough to set things back to the way they were before Velius.
At least returned to grace within his extended family, a long standing weight had been lifted off of Jacob as the group again became a whole; Alex calling out to them as they approached, like an excited rejuvenated child in his eagerness to leave for bluer pastures. He, Ki`rene, and Lory had been patiently waiting where they had been left, with various packs of supplies dotting the grasses at their feet, now finished and ready for their travels. Finding matters upon the hill returning to loud voices and benign commotion, getting down to new business with Emily's promise that her affairs were now in order, the short statured Karrian kept his eyes turned up slightly to watch the others while he went to collect his medical backpack from the spot it had been abandoned. As he knelt down and pulled it's straps into his hands, the quick zip of a brown claw appeared within his vision; fingers curled into a familiar 'okay' gesture as they passed by his face. Ki`rene busily stepping by, Jacob had just enough time to lift his head and catch the faint glint of her yellow eyes high above in passing, along with her knowing smile; apparently having been the only one to catch the message within the subtle, calm sway of his tail originally meant for Kayla. Her gesture was discreet and private, acknowledging his personal victory to say she was happy for him, and did promise that he'd be fine. It seemed she knew better than he did.
Finally, some good spirits, and things to be happy about.
Though before he could rejoin his younger companions and reintegrate quietly, planning to keep he and Emily's conversation between just the two of them for the moment, Alex called for the girls to come and line up as he threw his backpack over a single shoulder once more. Uncertain of what was going on, and omitted from this sudden affair, Jacob eased the seat of his jeans upon the rear bumper of Ki`rene's hover-car with a lazy toss of his tail; mere bystander as Kayla and his Drakonian friends came promptly, as demanded of them. The girls walked the space between the two cars still locked in their conversation, covering their maws and slipping in hushed feminine tones as they tried to continue their chatter in the presence of others without getting into any trouble; assembling and forming obedient file before their guardians, just behind the Targate's car. Facing their elders, Kayla went out of her way to try and quiet the other two down with a few downward waves of her paws to ensure their unexpected formality would go well, seeing as their parents initially did little more than look down and wait for them to settle in.
Such displays involving his Penitatas friends would have normally placed a degree of nervous tension in Jacob's chest, but coming to sense that nothing was immediately amiss; Kayla still smiling as she turned her muzzle forward and stood straight; he curiously crossed his arms from his neighboring observation point, to see where this was going. She stood just a few feet away from him with the two drakes lined up beside her, holding their claws plainly against their chests as their parental figures shared a few glances and set Emily into motion; wandering to Kayla's side to gather a couple of unseen, though surely small articles from the trunk of her car. The company he was in always caused Jacob to wearily anticipate the loud, sharp cracks of various spanking implements, feeling such an empathy for the girl's positions, but not getting to see what sort of objects the human woman collected made his fingers curl tensely against the front of his jeans. Kayla peered back over her shoulder, sharing the same conclusion as she met eye to eye with her old partner; bringing her to quietly snap off to her side at Ninne, who was still trying to have a quick whisper with Anne. There was some sort of duty to be had, and it left a lingering air of suspicion amidst the rejuves as Emily and Ki`rene took the forefront, with Alex and Lory remaining accessories to the event.
Her right hand cradling itself idly beneath her breast, an unfamiliar hint of semi-soft black material hung from both sides of Emily's closed fist as she announced that there was something they needed to do and discuss before they went on their way, courtesy of the Penitatas Justice Department. The words ensured even Ninne would keep her snout closed, with the three taking a stiffer, uncertain sort of stance beneath the shadows of their adoptive parents. Trying not to squirm and appear uncomfortable, Jacob forced his tail to dangle freely at his side without shifting against the breeze, while his mother too watched from her own place next to the Targate's trunk; just behind Anne. There was little the younger members of the camping expedition could do to conceal their worry when an order was given, as simple and concise as it came to be from Emily's dutiful mouth. She told them all to lift their left paw or claw up, and hold it out for her.
Each turning their head slightly to glance at their fellow, the trio of girls seemed to share their thoughts through their eyes; finding a timid, reluctant dread between each other from the sudden uneasiness of Emily's request. Quickly returning their eyes forward, blind to what they were getting themselves into, all three looked up with meek expressions as they lifted their digits into the air as they were told; not knowing whether their knuckles or their palms needed to be facing the bright blue sky, for whatever the mother might have had in mind. Either from their similar bewilderment, or their own force of habit, all three held their arm out with their fingers up and palms exposed; be it fur or scale. Jacob squeezed his hands, rubbing his fingers together as their tips throbbed with an imaginary pain, seeing Emily reach out and gently hold Kayla's fingers across their joints, as if to brace her paw for a spanking. Then, without saying a word, she merely turned the fox's paw over; sliding her hand up to drape what looked like a slightly thickened and somewhat tough piece of ebony cloth over her wrist. It allowed Jacob to swallow, letting off a nearly silent huff through his Karrian nostrils from the scare as the drakes did something similar. Being Penitatas, sometimes they didn't know they had even done anything wrong until after they had already been given a few welts to fit their crime.
Hearts not having yet slowed down, Emily explained what she was doing as her fingers danced and curled diligently, holding onto the other strips of black as she wrapped the first one around Kayla's bare furred wrist; showing it's somewhat stiff construction to be a band or bracelet of some kind, without any distinguishable purpose or visible clasp. One end of the band slipping into the other to leave no noticeable crease, the group had to be told it's invisible function; that they were active tracking bracelets, and a requirement by the department to be allowed so far into the wilderness with limited nearby supervision. With that knowledge shared, all it took was a firm press of Emily's two thumbs against the bracelet to snap the interior of the band against the bit she slid inside, creating an audible electromagnetic click as it locked securely into place. It was an uncomfortable business, but once her mother's hand left her paw, Kayla raised her wrist towards her muzzle to stare with questioning eyes while her Drakonian friends did the same; waiting for their own tracking bracelets, as it were. Emily shared one with Ki`rene to do the both of them at the same time, now that Kayla had served to be their demonstration.
Created by hardened cloth-like fibers, laced and interwoven together into an intricate lattice, the simple bands had their pliable circuitry formed into the fibers themselves to create a stealthy, discreet device that offered a degree of freedom and comfort, complete with water-proofing for their active young wearers. The adults were not bothered by this tense formality with so much else to do this day, focused merely on making sure the bracelets weren't too tight before locking them, but their charges had a much more distant look on their faces while their trusted parents clicked the devices into place with the presses of their fingers. Ki`rene was busily promising that the bands would not be intrusive to their fun as she finished with her daughter's bracelet, but there was a glaring truth behind them that the three Penitatas could not escape.
They might have been made with some sense of kindness in mind, considering they didn't scream their purpose, but all of the rejuves right down to Jacob understood that these bracelets were essentially shackles. The cuffs stared back at their wearers to remind them that they were Penitatas; prisoners without free reign, even so far from home. That understanding was mutual between them, feeling like a chain-gang; all just in case somebody decided to disappear into the woods to escape their sentence and abandon their family. Such things never came across their minds, and at least from the idle smiles of their parents, their guardians did not seem to question their intentions or loyalty either.
The only thing that sounded like a true warning came from Ki`rene, who was sure to remind her two drakes not to pick at the bracelets with their claws, due to the danger of accidentally transmitting an anti-tampering alarm should their nails sever any internal fibers with repeated digging. Explaining such a thing to the authorities could be uncomfortable in more ways than one, leaving Ninne and Anne to respectfully acknowledge their guardian's useful tip - knowing to leave the tough little bracelets well enough alone. They were best ignored, and their silver 'P's forgotten for a time, if this was to truly be a vacation.
But, just as the way Penitatas matters usually came and went, either by word or by paddle, the tension of the moment ended once it's formality fell to the wind. Wisdom and warning quickly replaced by Alex's particular brand of parental cheer, the once quiet line of girls were allowed to disperse as the many bags began disappearing from the ground; side-saddle bags for the drakes, and backpacks for the others. Anxious and unwilling to risk further delay, with a fanfare all of his own, the proud holder of the map ushered their first steps and lead the group forward as one large family to leave the shimmering hover-cars and stiffer business behind; starting off for places unknown to Kayla and her friends, aside from the Karrian that accompanied her down the hill at her side.
Especially after such a distraction, Jacob was able to seamlessly slip back into their company as the trio of girls whispered and griped to one another with an off-beat note, gesturing to their tracking bracelets amidst the scattered company of their guardians. It came as a comfort to find their complaints were still coated with an awkward smile, and that there was plenty of conversation and commotion in the air as their hike pressed against the sweeping breeze; adding the sound of footfalls to the idle ambiance of the hillside and approaching woodland. It was the first adventure of the day, and a literal breath of fresh air for most of them.
"Well, we have these cuffs, and Jacob has those funny bandages on his feet. At least we're all being made to wear stupid things, and not even our resident man-boy has been left alone.", the lad was pulled right back in with another one of Ninne's familiar quips in his direction, continuing off as if he had never been gone, with a waving flick of her right claw. Catching the wise smirk she had over her 'man-boy' remark, seeing as he was the eldest fellow inside of the shortest frame among them, it left the younger half of Jacob's mind eager to retort as all three girl's eyes shifted to him in the midst of their mobile conversation. Bright Drakonian eyes craned around Kayla's other side, his furred companion left her muzzle tilted to him expressively as her tail flowed in the breeze with her relaxed steps; holding to a playful but light, subdued face, surrounded by her friends.
"I put the bandages on for my benefit, considering the walking we'd end up doing. My scales are soft, but if even you step on enough of these little stones, you're going to be whining about how it feels like your claws have been chewed on.", the 'man-boy' commented alongside his friends with a squint and a soft flick of his reptilian tail behind himself, seeing as the bandages were meant to act as footwear for someone like himself who couldn't wear shoes; like Kayla could.
Walking along with her side-saddle bag bouncing with each fluidic reptilian step, Ninne came to slightly lift her head as she rolled her eyes and expressed her disbelief; putting more credit in her armored scales than he provided, even if her cohort Anne didn't appear to be as distrusting of their doctor's knowledge. The slightly older drake craned her neck downward to look down at her claws as she walked, making something of a face as she started making a conscious effort to avoid pebbles and hard objects hidden in the grasses within the wake of their human vacation organizers. Alex and Emily shared their own company at the head of the scattered pack, while Ki`rene walked a short distance away, off to the Penitatas' side as she enjoyed the sights, air, and sun; obviously distracted by the different things to look at, and the occasional tree branch impeding such a tall person's forward progress as the hill began to fade to flat land, and the sea of green leaves began to sparsely cover their heads.
"You can make that face now, but I have more gauze in my bag if you change your mind.", Jacob couldn't help but make a face similar to the Drakonian's own, having become used to the sort of social atmosphere they had all shared between themselves; where not everything had to be taken so seriously. Besides, it was one of the easiest ways to get along with Ninne, if you simply went with her flow instead of against it.
"It's fine. We make these things look good.", Kayla added to the prior light of their conversation, lifting her left wrist with a gestural wiggle to show off the band temporarily locked around it, adding it's black hue to her vibrant orange Aspatrian fur.
"[What things? I'm not wearing anything; you're all crazy.]", Anne decided to follow up the thought with a fairly sarcastic and dismissive tone for a drake's natural speech, rolling a sound off the end of each snarling word while her eyes changed focus between their surroundings and her carefully placed footing - balance not always as easy for her on such untraveled land as it was for her counterparts more used to Earth and it's gravity.
It was a simple fun that they so rarely got to share at times, separated by their discipline or the short distances that came between them when it was expected that their maws remain firmly closed. Structure was their lesson and blessing during these strict periods of their sentences; their hard time; but it also served to create discomfort and unrest, alongside the great good that came from their being re-raised. These rigid confines were what gave a growing rejuve boundaries, but it always felt good to escape them and stretch their limbs, and their minds. Not everyone could do such a thing though, and be it fair or otherwise, the one who couldn't find such rest was inevitably the one who wasn't a Penitatas to begin with; but a delighted, finally contented Karrian that wanted nothing more than to share a time with those he had grown to trust, when even they had been granted a longer leash by their correctional guardians.
"Jacob? A word dear.", the small line of rejuves heard spoken behind themselves a short ways, keyed in one of Lory's deeper, more serious tones to interrupt their enjoyable banter and camaraderie. Without yet turning his head, the young Karrian tilted his muzzle forward and glared into the distance of woodland ahead with a child's general annoyance, while the girls to his side turned their heads and blinked more readily; knowing parental tones far too well, and when to jump at their beckoning. Kayla had little more than a split second to share a brow with him before he too turned his head, hesitating a moment before slowing his walk to join his adoptive mother some paces behind at the rear of the group. Keeping a good hold on his backpack, he broke off from from the others to turn and answer her request with the obedience he was known for; claws almost silently beating against the firm woodland soil and patches of moist, decaying leaf.
His mother's long, raven black strands of hair twitched at their tips as she drew closer to him; teased by the small wisps of air that made it through the swaying branches and tree canopies, while Jacob eyed up at her somewhat stiff expression, walking with her hands at her sides. Shadows flowed all around them from the ever moving treetops, shading against the fertile forest floor as bushes and other bits of denser plant life began to surround them, and the bright edge of the tree line began to fade away on their radiant summer's day.
Reaching the middle-aged woman's side with a fluid sway of his tail in turning, Jacob began one of his taller, more headstrong walking postures, as if this natural corridor between the trees had been a familiar place to him. Emily's conversation and his groundation still fresh in his mind, he made it a point to avoid playing the role of the meek child - holding to his usual mature ideals of strength and pride so soon after his release from beneath everyone's thumbs. He was feeling well enough now that he could keep to his confidence, at the very least.
"Yes miss Lory?", Jacob asked tepidly with a raise of his head as they walked together, keeping to his typical mannerism of politely calling his guardian "miss", rather than anything too stiff from the background he had come from. With a tired, distracted seeming blink, she turned her eyes down to him as a glint of light appeared and disappeared from the tip of her human nose. Dressed in the same attire she would be gardening in at home; her primary pastime in the realm of simple biology; she walked in a lazy, unsure manner, with body language that came off as disquieted as her long, baggy khaki shorts flowed and fluttered against her thin legs.
"You behaved for the Targate woman now, right?", she came to ask in a slightly quieter manner, still holding to her lower style of parental overtone as she raised a hand and flattened the wrinkles out of her green and tan outdoor vest caused by the wind.
Stiffening his brow, Jacob was forced to think about the question for a moment before coming to realize what Emily might have said to his mother in order to get a moment of alone time with him. She probably insinuated that it was to scold or reprimand him, and not so much as to tell him about how his mom's month long punishment had been a topic of heated discussion. It became promptly clear through his deduction why his parent would be looking fatigued, yet a little edgy and distant from the other parents, if the two's meeting had been bordering that closely on being unfriendly.
"Yes. I agree to what's expected of me.", Jacob let go of his innocent frustrations for the time being to speak in his normal voice, looking up from Lory's right side as they shared the same stride together. She was only aware of the heavier business he and Emily discussed, and that was all he would answer to; needing to place the matter aside, and make everyone involved understand that he will obey any directive involving he and Kayla. He understood why she would want to check up on these things of course, but at the same time, he didn't want to imagine that he could so quickly become untrustworthy in the eyes of those around him. After all, he had been as quiet as a mouse for her while he was grounded, and accepted it all without complaint.
"I'm glad it went well. She can be a real meddling... ", Miss Lory began with an awkward, gentle sigh as her overtones faded in light of her personal commentary; taking her eyes off of her adoptive Medicalos son to focus on the woodland and talkative individuals in front of them. Though, like a sudden jolt, she stopped speaking quickly enough to scrunch her forehead straight into a corrective scowl, having laid eyes over the trio of tails a short ways ahead.
"Young lady, get those ears facing forward!", the ebony haired woman fired her tone back up, commanding loudly enough to be easily heard by Kayla's acute hearing; having noticed that the fox's directional ears were pivoted toward her rear, slyly keeping tabs on what was going on behind herself. Never liking to hear his guardian's Penitatas parenting voice, for obvious reasons, Jacob came to flinch along with Kayla herself those paces away, whom shrank as her fur went on end for a split second. Ears snapping forward, she discreetly and embarrassingly replied to the licensed mother through the mere raise and wave of her right paw over her shoulder; flittering bits of passing sunlight shining against the thin orange tips of her knuckle's fur, and the partially shadowed silver classification letter below.
Never having turned her head, Kayla didn't get to see just how uncomfortable she had made Lory, having nearly heard her gripe over Emily's intrusive parental tactics. As Jacob so pointed out earlier, just by knowing her, she didn't much appreciate having to justify her actions to another parent. The woman glared at the back of the Aspatrian's head for a brief time, watching until she was sure the girl was back to talking to her friends, and wouldn't be able to so rudely eavesdrop any longer. Crossing her bare lithe arms and tipping her head, Lory returned her eyes to her son, looking particularly stiffened until her face fell soft with a rippling exhale of breath.
It was a quiet, odd moment between the two, passing through the shaded woodland with the sounds of their company dancing loosely about their ears.
"I really don't know if you've picked the best friends for yourself, young mister Vasse.", Lory broke her own apprehension with a sudden, softly spoken blurt as she shared an abrupt thought with her child; sounding both accusing and strangely gentle in the way she approached the subject with her tone. Short as it was, the single sentence implied many things, and provoked an anvil of a weight into the air between the human and reptile. It forced Jacob's eyes wide as his muzzle flung upwards, scrunched in very open irritation and offense that she'd dare say such a thing, knowing how he felt about Kayla. Shocked and rattled out of his plan of remaining short spoken, gritting his teeth, his small brown eyes pierced up at her in their demand for an explanation as to why such a thing would ever be insinuated; traipsing so carelessly over what limited independence he still held at his age. He thought he'd have to answer a thing or two, and then be let on his way - what the hell was this, being thrown in his face like a passing statement?
"What exactly is that supposed to mean? There's nothing wrong with my judgment, or my friends.", the angered Karrian reined back his volume to keep their exchange private, promptly lashing out in the defense of himself and those who had been by his side these past few months. Minutes ago he wouldn't have fathomed speaking so harshly to Lory, stepping on egg shells like he had been, but criticizing he and the others clashed too strongly with the ideals he cherished. There weren't many better ways to get beneath his scale than to pass such unwarranted judgment, and it came out through his expression and the haste his wrapped, lightly sullied claws made against the forest floor.
"Oh?", Lory rolled off her tongue in the rapid-retort of the moment, again leaning heavily on the feminine, snide note of her voice to convey that she knew better.
"So your judgment has been infallible since your rejuvenation? You didn't disobey the only significant rule I ever gave you - to keep out of Penitatas affairs - and you didn't go and fool around with one of those girls?", the woman's brows narrowed as they curled, walking with the slight hint of a slouch as she sarcastically drilled her thought's points down to her son; who's tail seemed unable to still itself from his agitation. Backpack's contents clanking as they shifted over his single shoulder, Jacob turned his torso more sharply as his face turned to an outright sneer against this sort of verbal attack. It wasn't something he was used to, nor would have tolerated as an adult or commanding officer.
"A mistake I admitted and-... !", Jacob's green scales wrinkled against the ends of his maw, trying to get some sort of word in before he was quickly cut off by a firmly spoken reply; muffled in their exchange outside of prying ears.
"A child's mistake!", Lory nearly rushed to correct the smaller boy, walking uneasily at his side as a rogue leaf wafted by her left shoulder on it's final journey towards the cool soil. To her, those words were key - and meant just as they sounded.
"It's my duty to make sure you don't do foolish things in your young age, or let you go down a wrong path! If rejuves didn't need guidance, they wouldn't need parents. You're a physician, you know about these things.", her voice changed gradually as her scolding focus turned to more of an explanatory one, trying to convince her adopted Medicalos that she wasn't merely spouting nonsense. Lory's arms uncrossed, and with her right hand, she gestured to the stiff muzzle and twitching tail traveling beside her.
"When I first met you those months back, you were a very reserved man in that body of yours. You kept to yourself and never acted out of line, with pride and principle as your conscience. Things have changed since then and I can read it right off of that snout, with the way you're looking at me. I may have introduced you to them, but I think being around Penitatas all the time hasn't been healthy for you. They're bad influences by nature, Jacob.", came the bulk of the human woman's reasoning with a firm parental overtone all of her own, slowing down her speech as she calmed down from the faster paced nature of her prior heated retorts.
No matter how she said it, the note she ended on struck a hard chord with Jacob, who's tail flicked outwards in immediate disagreement. Around the lunch table at school, he and the others all talked, laughed, and shared their minds within their personal circle, just like any other group of friends. The Penitatas had their pasts and their problems, along with the occasional slanted personality, but that didn't make them inherently evil. There were good ones and bad ones, and he knew what group the ones he associated with fell into! If she didn't want to see him get agitated and verbal, she shouldn't have given him such a reason to be defensive!
"They made big mistakes to get here, but that doesn't automatically mean they aren't decent people! They're always trying their hardest, and we all have the right to make mistakes while growing up again. I made up for mine this last month, didn't I? Aren't they making up for theirs, as best they can?", he started stumbling over his own discomfort and shaken mind, trying to keep rationalized and on the same tone plain as someone much physically older than he was. If he didn't keep himself in check, allowing the tremble from his fingers and tail-tip to command his actions, he wouldn't look like the older individual he was trying to portray; eager to be given a longer leash better suited to a Medicalos who was already on his fourth trip around the block. He knew he was a great judge of character, and had a constitution strong enough to follow his own path, knowing that all of his actions and errors were his own - and in many ways, the partnership he and Kayla founded was surely not an error. Emily was right about one thing; it was not a crime to merely love, or like someone!
"And still they get into a lot more trouble than you. Take it from someone who's actually raised a Penitatas.", Lory let off with a begrudged sigh, allowing a softer voice to take the forefront; knowing well that she needed to ease up on her son, and not press an issue that was upsetting him so readily. It wasn't her mission to make him mad, or disparage his friends either. It was why she originally uttered the start of this subject with that uneasy, gentle voice before it became a brief battle of opinions. With a pressing, waving gesture from her right hand, she dismissed the entire conversation for a closing statement; wanting to calm Jacob, and set him at ease, seeing the heat in his glare.
"All I'm asking for is an open mind, because I really care about what happens to you. When you take a criminally minded adult and roll back their age, you're left with a brat; no matter who they are, or what they did, and it doesn't change overnight. I believe balancing your friends with some non-Penitatas would be best for you.", her words crept along at a careful speed, explaining exactly what she meant without the excess stress once imbued into her from Emily. It wasn't easy to keep her eyes on her son, stepping ungraciously against the root-laden ruts in the ground she wasn't looking at in order to avoid, but Lory was compelled to parent, when for so long she had hid at the sidelines in shame.
"... Maybe you'd find yourself not getting grounded for such long periods.", the long haired woman placed between them as food for thought, ringing with a sort of motherly sympathy as she suggested that having more rounded friends would keep him out of trouble in the long run. The wrinkled muzzle beside her failed to open, finding Jacob to have gone quiet with his look of contempt; drifting his eyes away from her own and off into the woods beside them as they walked. Hands balled into fists, he clenched the shoulder strap of his backpack in the silence that came between them, roughly curling the tough, dark gray material against his dim white claws. He didn't like hearing what she had to say, but at least Lory could tell that she wasn't being ignored by his young, bothered outward reaction.
"When we get home, I'll see about finding you some Voluntarus or Medicalos companions. I'm sure you'd find common ground with another retired officer. You'll see - it'll be nice.", the right side of Lory's mouth turned up with a tiny smile of optimism, thinking out loud the sort of friends she'd like to see her adoptive son have for himself; regardless of his own desire or input.
She might have been chipper with the subject, but displeasure and sobering realities had come to still Jacob's maw, even as a few soft pats to his left shoulder washed their signs off his green scaled muzzle. Taking his anger inside, the old boy's willingness to argue faded as he mulled over the simple underlying notions his guardian made; finding indirect meaning through very direct words. Apparently she didn't think he was as well behaved as he used to be, and that his friends, including Kayla, were the at root of his so-called disobedience. Had he really changed all that greatly? He didn't think his behavior was anything less than exemplary with he and Kayla's hidden relationship aside, and that even the girls didn't deserve such anti-Penitatas sentiment to be uttered behind their backs. They had all been so important to him since coming out of his shell, breaking his loner tradition to find a special partnership in the Aspatrian that first extended the olive branch to him. It was far too critical and short sighted of Lory, and it left him feeling as if his adoptive parent didn't understand him at all. He knew he wasn't the same boy she met, but... he wasn't bad, was he?
Jacob raised his sight from the dry leaves rolling by his claws to look up at Kayla and the others, having come to think about them in his self-questioning, only to find that they had abruptly stopped walking; now several steps closer than they were before. Everyone right up to the other parents halting their forward trek, all of their heads turned toward the tense muscles and deeply focused expression across their resident Aspatrian's face, looking confused and curious over her unexpected stop; freezing into the stance that she did, with her twin ears fully erect. The orange fur of Kayla's exposed calves twitched and flowed with a puff of breeze along the ground while her body remained rigid, sending leaves skittering around the white, faintly stained tips of her shoes as her nose pointed straight out off the unbeaten path and into the woodland beside her. It was a face that Jacob himself was used to, knowing when she was leaning on the gift that was her hearing; something which usually kept the two of them out of trouble, back when they were alone in each others company.
Seconds of silence passed with the wind taking dominance over their once commotion, where all either looked into Kayla's scrunched blue eyes or over the green plants and dense foliage she so intently stared into, out between the scattered trees and bits of exposed stone.
"[Kayla? Something wrong?]", Anne cautiously spat from behind the fox, stepping forward beside Ninne while their parents stood and watched from their prior places just ahead; backpacks and bags hanging weightily. It had left Jacob and his mother just as still as the rest, at least wanting to know what was going on until Kayla's straight, canid ears gave a flick. Like a restrained sigh, a puff of air escaped the girl's ebony nose just as her tail grew limp; parting her muzzle's lips and relenting the solid, serious stance she had taken, even if her gaze never left the rustling, flailing leaves she had unwaveringly locked upon.
"I thought I heard something kind of big creeping along out there... but when I tuned out the wind, I couldn't hear anything at all.", Kayla raised her right paw to her neck, rubbing through the fur along the edge of her shirt's collar and the strap of the dark blue backpack she occasionally used to bring to school. She sounded genuinely startled and concerned, never having been lead astray by her acute sense of hearing before; much less fooled in such an embarrassing way, making everybody stop short like that. There was certainly a much deeper audible frequency carried on the air those few moments before she stopped, considering the sound of the wind and leaves created such a distinctly higher pitched ambiance. But, so faint, and suddenly not being there any longer, it left her puzzled; something Ninne could understand, as the slightly older drake craned her neck over her short, bipedal friend's shoulder.
"Well, I can't say I see anything either.", she commented, placing her slitted reptilian eyes alongside Kayla's ears; curling her neck as she spoke to look back across her own side, and the gray saddle bag of supplies that hung off her back.
"Not that I've seen so much as a squirrel yet, anyway.", the panglish speaking Drakonian followed up with a conversational addition as she looked through the sea of empty tree branches on the other side of the natural pathway they stood within, up and over the twin pair of bulky bags Ki`rene encumbered her broad, sloped back with. Strong for a drake, and willful, it was an easy choice for the scaled mother to carry the largest assortment of the party's equipment; being that of their tents, and packed food.
"Unsettling noises are typical of the outdoors, Kayla honey.", Ki`rene said with a mildly strained voice, sending a raspy note off of the occasional syllable as her frame tolerated having so much pressure upon her raptor-like legs; forcing her neck and head to tip lower from their usual center as faded bits of light shined against her bare brown scale.
"And you'll hear a lot more of them than the average person with those ears of yours. Try not to let those things spook you like that.", the fox's own mother, Emily, spoke up from the head of the pack beside her husband, tapping the lobe of her exposed right ear to use it as a gestural prop. While Kayla's embarrassment had extended to the realm of fearing that she had made herself look foolish in a discipline-worthy sense, the light and calming way her parent approached her apprehension at least took a load off her nerves; freeing her gaze from the swaying, yet lifeless mounds of green she had been scanning. Turning her muzzle over her shoulder, the Aspatrian tried to make herself look little more than distracted as the ends of her maw curled into a stiff smile.
"I think I've still got some DeltaStar jitters.", Kayla said aloud much quieter than she normally would have, trying to conceal a shaking, nearly frightened quiver within her small, eight year old voice as her feet took a single idle step toward her guardians, holding her left arm with her right paw. It wasn't so much her usual character to be skittish, but finding herself making awkward mistakes while surrounded by so many people did make her self-consciously question why her ears would be darting about at every foreign sound. Not even a full month ago, that sense was overwhelmed by the gnashing, grinding explosions of metal and alloy; be it by weapons fire, or an invisible person's hand; to be replaced time and time again by periods of dead silence, where anything could leap from the darkness.
Unwilling to let his daughter stand there, uncomfortably rubbing down her arm and feeling unjustly as if everyone was staring, Alex motioned forward with a loose, open hand, to relieve Kayla of all the eyes centered on her shrunken stance.
"Not for much longer. So long as you keep breathing this fresh air, and explore the things you feel like doing, your chest won't feel so tight by the end of the day - and that I can promise.", the brightly dressed man brought positive thought back to the air as he began walking, seeking to cue the others' feet into following suit. Keeping to his particular mannerisms, he spoke with confidence, making blind promises if only to just ease some of the pain that had been welling around his adoptive Penitatas' heart these past weeks. It might have been brief, and it might have been shallow with the tracking bracelet she was wearing like a shackle, but it was still freedom; giving her and the other girls a much more open atmosphere for them to play and do as they pleased, should they truly treat it like a vacation from their everyday lives. There wasn't a scheduled spanking to be had and nobody itching to lay down any particular law, leaving the girl's backsides safe so long as they behaved within the furthest limits of their leniency.
Turning his focus down to his data-pad for show, Alex's blond bangs shifted above a tranquil smile, hearing the sounds of footsteps resuming in slow chorus behind he and his wife. The light crackle of dry woodland beneath shoes and the deeper, subdued thud of a fallen Drakonian claw meant that his dismissive haste had actually worked for once, and that Kayla would be able to release a sigh of relief - to which she did. Returning to the line formed by her larger scaled companions, the girl's head tipped as a rough bit of air erupted from her slightly opened muzzle; curing her tense fetters, and keeping her ears from going too wild on themselves. Even so, the fox still kept her tail close to her legs.
It was an uncomfortable thought for her, imagining the old Earth tale she learned about the child who cried wolf, and how it could apply to a Penitatas in her own time whom shamefully acted as if there were still monsters beneath her bed. Sometimes she never entirely understood why Jacob was so quick to resent his age, right down to the free-spirited child's play she adored, but such a moment like the one she just experienced made her turn on the young, weak form of her eight year old mind; cursing it. Paws feeling the need to hold something while she walked beneath the light and shadows, her fingertips slid from her worn backpack straps to curl against her crossed arms; keeping her expression neutral as her head stayed down among the lack of a conversation her prior halt caused.
"[Say... ]", rolled tepidly off of Anne's forked tongue without much opening her maw, having been moving her amber colored eyes about the forest floor in wake of her furred cohort's quiet step. With two faster bounds of her big claws, bouncing off of a stray, chalky root exposed above the leaves and soil, the drake took a stronger lead to talk more freely, without having to lift her neck above Ninne's. It brought her saddle bag to accidentally bounce off of her fellow drake's, jingling their zippers from the mild contact; Ninne dipping and turning her neck with a squint from it, trotting between the two other girls.
"[You could tell us about it... I mean, if you want. The station, and your day with Starfleet? I bet you have all sorts of stories, with your paw being all-... !]", the eldest of the two Drakonians started out with a gentle, careful snarling voice until losing track of her restraint; letting a slightly eager and nosy growl into the air before the snap of Ninne's teeth and subsequent glare cut her off in a panicky haste. Sharp white teeth coming close to the side of Anne's snout, causing a hard flinch, her fellow Penitatas had swung her head toward her in disbelief that she'd spew something so careless from her mouth. While Anne was generally so absentminded and outgoing, and particularly social, that attitude sometimes made her say the wrong thing - scoring a point for Lory, or so the woman thought, as she raised an open hand to her face much fewer steps behind than before.
"Or you could just tell her how you punched that other hacker in the face - right Anne?", Ninne sought to correct with quickly spoken words, grasping an annoyed, hinting sort of tone to get her message across that Kayla might not have wanted to discuss the more grim details, but could do for a little self-confidence in the form of being reminded of her own victory. Yellow-green reptilian eyes squinting sharply into hearty orange, like hot daggers, Anne swallowed and curled her head and torso away from Ninne in mid stride, making a loose hiss from her throat that equated to a Drakonian's natural stumbling.
The fox walked with only her eyes upon the two drakes, not changing her lacking expression, despite the controversial subject and mentioning of her thin, regrowing fur. She may have discussed the ceremony once they first arrived on the hill, but Kayla very intentionally stopped short of highlighting the trials she endured before it, or the anguish and seclusion that came after it. Not having seen her friends up until now, they knew nothing aside from what was told to them in the news, and it was bound to come up eventually - Kayla Ackart, the decorated heroine they saw in front of a clear, shimmering podium on their holovisions. It was a big thing to most, no matter how much she downplayed it in public, or really only imagined those who died when others praised her. The only people she wanted to impress, didn't seem to care, as spoken through their inaction.
"[I... - yes, exactly!]", Anne chirped loudly in agreement, taking Ninne's haste before shooting her snout back toward the one so rightly pointed at her; starting a hushed exchange that really couldn't keep itself under Kayla's all-hearing radar.
"[I was just asking!]", she sounded as if she was whining in self defense, trying to let her other friend know that she didn't mean any particular harm as they stumbled clumsily along so close to one another, bumping saddle bags and snarling tiny Drakonian whispers. At least, until Kayla rolled her eyes and lightly shook her head, sending her tail into a soft sway to calm her own tattered nerves; struck by a light, damp pine scent as she took a breath to speak.
"It's fine you two. Velius is rotting somewhere while I'm on a camping trip, so I think I'm alright with talking about it. I mean, I didn't exactly shave my paw, so it's all the better I explain why the fur is so thin and ratty.", Kayla decided to stop her friends short of scolding one another, as younger girls of any species could do easily; although assertive and dominant drakes tended to do best.
The fox's right paw came up to muzzle height for a subdued, disquieted gesture to the varied lengths of fur and exposed black canine skin that began in spotty patches around her wrist, exposing her silver 'P' without the wounds and burns that once shattered her outward appearance. She knew telling her stories was the best thing she could do, now that she was dreadingly mulling over the possibility that she was experiencing loose symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; one of the plethora of things she researched at great lengths in her solitude, lost in her music and modified pink Kindern's data-pad. She was well aware of how she had been acting, and now hearing phantoms had fallen into the mix of personal concerns. That knowledge, though, didn't make her sound the least bit excited about recounting things filled with pain, blood, and untold levels of regret; from a situation that should have never been allowed to happen to begin with.
Then, if scales could stand on end, they would have. With both drakeling's heads turned toward Kayla, a larger, most familiar voice unexpectedly erupted from a throat craned just above their shoulders.
"I wouldn't mind hearing about what happened to you myself, if that is any sort of consolation. We'd be all ears for you, and respectful.", Ki`rene suggested that she wouldn't object to hearing a story or two for the timid Aspatrian's sake, having stepped closer to discover just how the little rejuve managed to survive what had to be a harrowing, frightening ordeal, after overhearing and creeping up on her kids. It was no secret to them that Kayla nearly died, considering the Starfleet Admiral that spoke of her after the incident, and introduced her to the podium that would stay with the fox for the rest of her life, had told them in so few words that Kayla barely escaped with her breath. However, though much more skilled and controlled than Ninne in her approach, she too added a hinting tone for her two Penitatas; signaling that they both had best behave themselves and employ a little tact. Simply put, they were to keep quiet and be polite, and it was well understood by Ninne and Anne now that their guardian-in-scale was literally bearing over them as they walked.
No stranger to one anothers glances, Kayla gave one of her thankful expressions as soon as she was shown the calm, welcoming gesture of Ki`rene's claw for her to begin whenever she was ready, on her own terms. Having stopped any potential badgering and set her at ease, this felt much less like an interrogation, and something more among family. She had missed her friends and additional parental figure alike, never having minded when she was beneath the large woman's wing - even if it stung more fiercely than most others. Those calm gestures could turn to snap commands in an instant, and it helped the two smaller drakes walk with a sheepish smile; maws closed.
It wasn't long before the voices carried through the woodland lost their discomforted notes, keeping to their semblance of normality as relaxation and needed talk became the cornerstone of their trek; thanks to the kind, yet simple interventions Alex and Ki`rene imposed to let Kayla feel less obligated to bury her tensions. If eyes were to be on her, those watchful individuals above the black tips of her ears would ensure that she wasn't made to feel self-conscious during her time of recovery, and could confront her experiences one attempt at a time. They had a good enough clue as to how she must have felt, coping with the aftermath of Velius' torment; evasively shrouding what was truly going on in her head.
While known for being stoic, being given the opportunity to speak without commentary and outside remark soon allowed a looser, more contented mood to take over the Aspatrian's demeanor; losing track of her tail as it returned to a sway and abandoned the fabric of her shorts. The line formed by the three drakes and one fox remained as quiet as promised while stiff, slow words of recollection turned to ones more open and forthcoming as Kayla's eyes wandered amidst her speech, making action-insinuating gestures with her posture and paws once she got into her storytelling; detailing only the things she felt most comfortable with, for now. Walking behind her, Jacob saw the apprehension in his partner's muscles silently disappear as she finally got to tell the personally haunting tale of DeltaStar and it's hateful Peretti precursor, all while he merely listened, away from her side where he belonged.
Instead, the man who had lived two full, rich lives, only to have his third one cut tragically short through a selfless act, had fallen victim to his young mind's concern and protective mannerism, as so demanded by his adoptive parent's broad, damming perspective. Split into three small groups with the Penitatas sandwiched in the middle, alongside Ki`rene, Jacob followed up the rear with his mother as he made what was supposed to be an enjoyable journey with his mouth closed, and his head halfway down. Of anyone present, even if his own ideals never stoked notions of heroism or concepts of grandeur, Jacob Vasse had surely long since earned a fun, delightful childhood, to take an excursion from the often serious and intrepid existence that had been a long Starfleet career and active life, serving others as a gentlemen of medicine. As cruel as fate had been to him in the aftermath of the Apollo, shoving him into a tiny white room to face gut wrenching charges beneath a farce of an Admiral, the parent that had tenderly taken care of him; ensuring there was always a pancake available for her quiet, weary son; had placed the seed of doubt and fear into him during those terrible days. Having witnessed and felt the full brunt of her scorn, awakened by her prior days as a Penitatas parent, Jacob didn't want to further displease her after being told that he wasn't "as he once was"... now that she had fingered the once-criminals he surrounded himself with as the culprits, not being entirely accepting and trusting of them, just because of who and what they were.
Because of it, she had poised herself to become a wedge between he and Kayla, as another entity with the power to separate them if he didn't walk a fine line. He would not dare light Lory's fire any further with sharp, defensive language, or anything less than the quiet acceptance she seemed to want from him - as if he was a Penitatas himself. Obviously she didn't bless the relationship he experimented with, unlike Emily, and related better with his older, more isolationist attitude; Jacob mulled as he cocked his head just slightly to look up at his long-haired parent out of the corner of his eye, whom always seemed to keep a distance from the other adults. It left him unwilling to run back to Kayla and his friends, fearing that leaving his mother's side would make her feel that much more right, and come to press separating them even harder. Like a timid seven year old boy, afraid of loss, he wanted to walk along at her side like a respectful little puppy dog, if only to just prove that he was still as finely behaved as he had always been. If he could do that, she might not blame his Penitatas companions, and in turn, allow him to keep them without barriers or limitation. To keep Kayla - his special, furred treasure, that leaped into his arms the moment she laid eyes on him again. He'd do anything to stay in her life after the pain burned into them from the gardens of Starfleet Headquarters, already having faced the near extinction of all they had built, side by side, as wounded adults experiencing their youngest days. Feeling helpless, and at Lory's mercy, he remained withdrawn at the sideline to watch Kayla's tale and the drake's subsequent, body twisting grimaces from a distance; held back by his own reservations.
The shadows fluttering against clothing and brown-hued scale soon began to thin with the trees scattering further apart, lighting up a world beyond the forest's reach as it's edge drew near in time. Like a call through the treeline, a tiny, lively white and blue tinged sparkle reached through the shrubs and creeping plants, beneath the branches of their shading trees. Bringing a change to the air around them, the scent of water began to mix with the present smells of dirt and pine until it came through clear as day, carried on a breeze that rushed over Alex and Emily's heads. As soon as the lake itself erupted into view, unveiled by the shrinking and receding of woodland plant life toward the cool protection of the trees and forest floor, the Penitatas' conversations were revived into exclamations anew; enthralling Kayla with a joyous, open mawed smile while her parents gave each other a pleased grin. Sure enough, having picked a special destination just for their daughter, the fox's muzzle and pert ears bolted between them as they stopped at the top of a rocky, gentle gradient slope at the exit of the forest, overlooking the tan colors and damper, looser sand soils below. Wedged between her guardians, Kayla scanned over a place she was hoping they would at least visit; taking in the sight of her very first natural body of water, along with it's pristine, cradling surroundings.
Lined with sandy, thin rocky beaches, it sat as the lowest point between the rock faces and cliffs that rose up around it's expansive, flowing body. Unlike the hill they began upon, these lands rolled more sharply and erratically, forming the lake into it's own, etched bowl as the horizon in the distance turned into a small mountain range; feeding the lake through a creek that rolled between the endless pine and evergreen on the other side. It made Kayla's blue lake feel like it's own special place among the enveloping, rising rocky landscape, where green hills and curved cliff-sides mingled beside forest and mountain. With so many tall places to climb and explore, it was no wonder people came here to hike, and why the data-pad dangling from Alex's hand had so many noteworthy way-points added to it's map display.
Up just ahead from their rocky slope, a wide-open clearing stretched out between the waterside and the forest with it's back-end half enveloped by a short, tree-laden cliff, formed by the rocks and roots of the same woodland they just stepped out of. Closing it on the other side, furthest from them, the sandy, stone-filled lining of the lake gently turned back into grassy, rich soil, and reached out toward the water's edge until the smaller rim of thin brush and decayed plant life faded back into the woodland; crawling slowly uphill to display shallow ridges of red and tan eroded stone in the lake's encompassing, varied landscape. From loose sand to a touch of green - it was all theirs!
"I don't think you'll mind if we set up shop here, will you bright eyes?", Alex spoke up above Kayla's head with a pleased, tender, and calm allure to his voice as the wind swept lightly against the small rejuve's fur and clothes. While he was a bright and energetic sort of man, the eased note of a father's pride melted into his words to slow his normally fast speech; caught by Kayla as her eyes broke with surprise from the lake to look up at each of her sides, finding the knowing smiles of her two parents already looking down upon her. With her friends clustered behind the silken strands of her stilled tail, the sudden warmth she felt between her two adoptive guardians made the young fox feel that much more important and cared for, and reminded at just the right time that she was legitimately loved. They had formed a real family during these past two years, bonding beyond the paddles and switches that originally joined them together.
In the light of the sun, standing before the twinkle of blue that soothed her tumultuous soul, there was a happiness in Kayla's limp face that her mother and father had come to miss since she returned home earlier in the month. Considering Alex wasn't a strict sort of parent to begin with, he always preferred to see Kayla's toothy canine smirks above the swish of her bushy, white tipped tail, over anything less joyous; regardless of the things she had done. From the question he had presented, insinuating that they would be staying here to camp, he got to see a certain orange muzzle curl with a bashfully thankful smile as the small girl tried to give both of her guardians a quiet look of approval.
"... You guys are awesome.", Kayla gave her appreciation in so few words, meaning more to the adults above her than she might have known. For the longest time, she had been known for being able to read into human body language and expressions. It seemed Alex and Emily had gotten to know their little fox well enough to do the same thing right back to her; discovering her wishes without her having spoken them.
"I doubt Penitatas say that to their parents on a regular basis.", Emily turned up an amused grin, standing with her hands against the waistband of her shorts to keep a decent posture for the weight on her back. It was nice to feel as if she had done something right, and could still make up for the bruises she left upon she and Kayla's personal bond. Wanting to laugh himself, Alex lightly shook his head as his sight turned over to his wife, speaking above and over their daughter.
"I'll definitely take it, that's for sure.", the tips of his white teeth showed faintly in his outward expression, sending vigor and colorful speed back into his voice. With a tip of his forehead and a cock of his eye, Alex looked over his shoulder and camping sack's thick strap, bouncing one of his blond bangs from the little bit of movement toward those who had been following behind him. All of those different heights, sizes, and brown scales, with the hints of green and white peering around their stout, saurian bodies.
"Well, don't just stand there. Go play!", Alex paused to cheerfully invite, raising his right hand in an open wave out toward the lake and natural clearing ahead of them. Ninne and Anne had been looking around patiently beside Ki`rene, but with such an enthusiastic offer for them to take off and have fun, both young Drakonians turned their necks up to their side, eager for their overseeing parent to give her own green light. Two rows of sharp little Allosaurian-like teeth gleaming at her, along with the blinks of amber and yellow-green pools behind thinly scaled eye-lids, Ki`rene was all too happy to reassure them that Alex's word was as good as her own. Taking a step forward on a single footclaw, faintly crunching the tiny pebbles and stones beneath her burdened weight, she motioned forward with the tip of her snout; using her head and neck, as their kind could, when their claws were too busy with other tasks.
"You heard the man. Don't stray too far!", the largest of the mothers called out from the middle of their loosely knit congregation, causing it to erupt and burst from it's center. As rejuvenated children were known for, the more matured and organized conversation they had held beside Kayla fell to the elated cheer of those much younger, as Ninne and Anne took to a brisk stride on their powerful looking legs. Their footclaws beating against the rocky slope, passing around Alex, Emily, and Kayla on both sides, the pair's sprint kicked up tiny, water-smoothed pebbles and gravel into the air, clacking noisily as they fell back to the slope; following the two girls' winding movements. A resounding 'tch!' hissed from Ki`rene's mostly closed maw as she too began walking, squeezing her face into the look of a mild scold as her Drakonian toes sank into the gravel.
"Hey - hey, don't run like-... !", was all she got to call out to the two smaller drakes, lifting her neck with strain due to the things she was carrying upon her back, until the need for cautionary directives became unnecessary.
Reminiscent of a few shared words from the other side of the forest, Anne's flowing, bouncing sort of motions on the stones were paired beside the heavy-footed, aggressive young nature of Ninne's own, which didn't work particularly well on the surface which she crossed. A brief time of her sprinting, keeping in step with Anne like a pair of raptors from Earth's own past, turned the ten year old's expression into one of a steady, teeth-baring wince as a distinct discomfort caused her speed to drop; turning her stride into stiffened hops to slow down and apparently spare her footclaws the treatment they were receiving from the layer of pebbles. Remaining still beside his mother while everyone else began to move, Jacob crooked his mouth, mentally calling out to Ninne that he had told her so. The sting seemed to leave Ninne stepping more carefully and eager to keep her claws off the ground, looking dumbfounded and awkward up ahead while her parent merely hummed at the sight.
"That works too.", Ki`rene mumbled mostly to herself as she went, lowering her head and neck as the large reptile fell out of Jacob's earshot, slowly making way down the rocky slope beside the scattered company of Kayla and the Targates.
All that was left was the generally displeased and hesitant Karrian, whom still felt he could only watch from the rear, without his mother's approval. Seeing his friends go off to play, with him standing atop the slope to be left behind, hurt the part of him that was a seven year old, no matter how reserved and elder-like he usually tried to act in front of everyone. Like any kid, rejuvenated or Kindern, there was something that stuck in his chest, feeling as if he was grounded while others were enjoying things. Green scaled hands going for the denim protection of his pockets, keeping to those old mannerisms of his lover and companion, Jacob's claws brushed up against the inside of the blue fabric as he took a step forward and turned on a foot; pivoting his torso to look back and up at his mother. It may have been weak, and not the sort of thing the good doctor had earned for himself as a Medicalos, but his brown eyes and muzzle adopted a somber, nearly pleading sort of look, to quietly ask without words if he could go and rejoin the others. To be with his friends, and maybe... for once... play, even? Instead of gracing Lory with his puppy-dog eyes and calm behavior, he ended up staring into the back of her fluttering, waving black hair, finding her looking off into the woodland from whence they came, rather than the inviting lake and social affair below.
"Say, Jacob, why don't you head down with everyone? I'm going to backtrack and look around a little, and see if I can hunt down some wild mushrooms for dinner later. The reserve is a lot bigger than our backyard.", the human woman began to speak before she turned her head back to her adoptive son, whom wiped the questioning look off his face before she laid eyes upon him again.
"Just don't do anything to merit the Targate woman's attention, alright? I don't want to hear any more of her two-and-a-half cents.", Lory added to her suggestion a directive of sorts, sounding lightly like a warning and a discomforted gripe all at the same time; something flighty women seemed to be adept at, caring about what other women thought of them. Basically, don't screw up and make me look silly, is what Jacob took from his mother's preemptive complaint. It was exceptionally hard not to say something back to her with the way she was acting and making him undeservedly feel, but with a nervous twinge in the tip of his young tail, Jacob managed to still his tongue. He had taken a small breath, but he still couldn't bear to spurt anything that could risk his time with Kayla, as much as he had missed her, and felt loyal to her.
"It... won't be a problem, Miss Lory. Be safe.", the prideful lizard humored her treatment and expectations of him with understandable discomfort and hesitation, trying to grasp at his older side to keep his tones in check as he simply wished for her to be well, out in the wilderness by herself. Jacob was sure that she wouldn't venture too far, but even as a child and having a lacking ability to fully see every picture, he was fairly certain that she didn't think things through well enough before acting at times. Coming upon some time without being in her shadow, he managed to crack his parent a soft smile as they both gave one another a little wave to turn and head their own ways. Bandaged claws taking to the rough, hard layer of sandy gravels, he walked softly until he could no longer hear the sound of Lory's shoes, before allowing his tail to snap out into a relieved flick; aiding his feet into a hastened jog, to reach the Aspatrian tail swaying just down a ways below. Free from oppression and opinion, Jacob could at least return to the others and try to recoup what was left of his happy mood, so long as he could get his mind to stop mulling over the judgmental things Lory said about him - and supposedly, what he was becoming, beside those he trusted and adored during these youngest, impressionable years, fated to him in blood upon the U.S.S Apollo.
The points of the multicolored stones being pushed away by the gray, fibrous gauze wrappings on his feet, it took only a few moments for Jacob to catch up with the sweet, clean scent of Kayla's fur shampoo, creating enough of a rough sound against the gravel to make the fox turn her head; automatically wearing a calm, cheerful little smile across her muzzle. She could tell who was approaching her on such a noisy surface just by estimating their size and weight, and it didn't seem to take any effort either, seeing how distracted she must have been. While Jacob knew now that some of her dismissive, chipper behaviors were a front, he could at least see that the docile girl wasn't any worse for wear after telling the drakes about fighting for her life on board DeltaStar station. Her expression came off to him as genuine as he came up along her right side, noticing the sheepish behavior she held while turning her head to greet her old mate.
"You've been quiet!", Kayla struck up the moment the two were a pair again, with Jacob's feet slowing down to fall into step with her own; reuniting their fellowship without outside commotion for the first time since they initially came to the preserve. Some feet behind Kayla's family, and Ki`rene, the both of their tails began loose movements, as something they comfortably did in one anothers company without even really coming to notice the lack of pressure slacking against the seat of their pants. With Kayla's perspective having been limited by a pair of somewhat rowdy drakes, preoccupying her ears and her time, she wasn't completely aware as to why Jacob had been away from the group for so long; prompting her quick statement, having not seen as much of him as she would have liked. Not wanting to let Kayla even imagine that she was to blame, the tired and still slightly irritated Karrian ran his right hand's claws through his black hair to brush out a few bits of debris left there by the wind, during their hike.
"Not by choice. Miss Lory is being overbearing, but thankfully I won't have to deal with her for a while.", Jacob kept his expression and his voice suggesting that he didn't have a fun time away from his friends, griping with a soft underlying growl as the sunlight shined upon the tops of their muzzles, lighting up and accentuating their curvatures; warming fur and scale. It had already been a month, and Jacob saw no reason for anyone to punish them any further by keeping them apart; the way Lory was interloping. There were only so many apologies and promises a Medicalos or Penitatas alike could make. As flecks of tiny flower pedals fell from his head, with one landing on the back collar of his shirt, Kayla's own grin turned a bit awkward as she crossed her arms.
"Yeah, sorry - I'm surprised I got caught like that. Most people don't pay any attention to my ears. Not that they're on my good side at the moment anyway, after making an idiot of myself back there in the woods.", Kayla thought of herself being reprimanded by Lory when Jacob said what he did, having honestly stopped her eavesdropping once she turned her canid ears back to Ninne and Anne. She wasn't aware of just how overbearing Lory ended up being, or what the woman said of her behind her back, but considering where her comment went, followed by a rougher nudging gesture over her right shoulder back toward the woodland, Jacob squinted slightly at the wording as his reptilian claws came free of his short black hair.
"You didn't. I know you must have heard something; you just didn't know what it was, that's all.", the thoughtful Karrian attempted to gingerly disarm Kayla's passing critical statement as quick as she had thrown it out, knowing the self-directed pot-shots to be one of her bad habits when she was feeling stressed. It didn't take much to notice and consider the hint that was within her tone when she spoke about herself at times, and it was beginning to look like the duress of tragedy made her take things out upon herself even more than usual. When Kayla was a younger Penitatas, faced with coming to terms with the heinous acts of rape and abuse she had fled Aspatria to escape only to meet again during her 'second chance', Emily described a child that hid behind walls of cheer and woe - whom spanked and scolded a toy molded in the image of herself. It was a broken means of coping with regret and injury, and it was one that Jacob wanted to mend as best he could.
Kayla Ackart wasn't the softest of the field's flowers and Jacob adored and respected her for that, seeing a hardened girl keep such lush pedals above a few frayed thorns. But, she was still a lonely flower with thin roots, trying to learn how to handle life beyond the single niche she had grown and lived within. To attack one's self, rather than lashing out, was a social defense mechanism to make things "easier", all while punishing herself for things she couldn't stop. She was strong, willful, and had the ability to be defiant to the core; but the things that would make your average girl bawl in distress, made Kayla break down in ways that were harder to see.
"Be good to yourself. Please? Do it for me?", Jacob couldn't really help but plead with a subdued, intentionally hushed voice as his wrapped claws took a single side-step closer to Kayla, tipping his head to keep his closer sort of encouragement private. Taking to a note they were both more familiar with, he tried to be there for his lightly smiling, currently timid feeling older partner as they walked through the summer's air. Correcting his posture to something more upright, the green scaled boy took hold of his medical bag's strap to re-secure it on his shoulder as he managed to get at least a bashful, calm look from Kayla in immediate reply, seeing her ears dip slightly in a meek, lightheartedly expressive way.
"We were both pretty... distracted, after your speech in San Francisco. I've still got a lot of praise to shower you with, you know. I know things have to be different now, but that won't stop how I feel, or how much I'll be there for you.", he tried to be purely positive as his tail took to a gentle swing in step with his weight shifting down the shallow gradient of the slope, holding to the quieter volume he had adopted to keep words that threatened to go beyond friendship away from prying ears. It wasn't too hard with Ki`rene so many steps ahead, displacing enough of the thinning gravel with each press of her footclaws to drown out the softer sounds around them with a rocky crunch. His brown eyes much more limp than they were with his mother, the long haired human had stoked his own urge for independence; acting as he pleased, as one his age would.
"Even I like the idea of settling down.", Jacob's voice slowed slightly with a faint upturn at the ends of his reptilian maw, highlighting his own belief for her benefit, knowing now the dream she continued to hold. Those last moments on the grounds of Starfleet Headquarters, seeing fear and tension coursing within her, she shared her idea of parole and the start of a new life. She never let go this whole time, and from where the Karrian stood, even he could get behind the serene future she envisioned - the next leg of her second chance, as well as his own.
"Try telling that to the people who slapped this shackle on my wrist, like I'm going to run off somewhere. I'm still a little scared of forests; where the heck am I going to go, I should ask?", Kayla began speaking with a small feminine chuckle, appreciating the support as she lifted her left wrist to wiggle it and it's black woven band, showing it to be tight enough to not move upon her fur. Looking for her freedom and a chance to redeem herself was a world away when the entities far above her felt they had to make sure she didn't escape into the middle of nowhere; reminiscent of the taller, denser woodland she traversed without her legs, after Maxwell and Tyson left her for dead. As their steps softened and turned quieter, the slope smoothed out into lightly gritty, moist feeling sand, making it easier and more comfortable to walk for Jacob and Ki`rene both, now that their bare scaled toes and claws had a freer range of motion to sink into.
"I suppose they don't want to let me go. Fine, I understand, but... ease up on me. I'm just some overly optimistic eight year old; sure; but to me it's a really big deal. My throat and chest hurts when I think about what I could be doing right now, knowing how worthwhile it could have been to stay a productive hacker.", the fox dropped her tone as she went further on into her thoughts, which revealed a faint inkling to continue railing on herself despite her partner's request. Letting go of what she began during her fight against Velius was a daunting task for someone so young, and bringing it all to the forefront made both Kayla and Jacob pause their conversation; feeling sympathies and tensions fluttering like butterflies in their stomach. It was hard on both of them when she discussed her incarceration, and her punishment. Being rightfully earned, but still so harsh at times, there was often very little to do but acknowledge it - set onto her by a gavel over two years ago, after her final act of malice went awry.
"Someday. We just have to be patient, and hang in there. Keep showing them what you're made of; I'm sure things will look up again soon, and I don't know anyone who can take their licks better than you. No matter how things go, I'll still... you know... ", Jacob started off with a light breath as he tried to include himself into Kayla's picture of life as it was, rather than life as it could be, until his caring thoughts made his tongue numb; stumbling over a near slip. Brown eyes taking a quick glance forward to make sure nobody was giving him any looks, he turned his head back to Kayla with a single, boy's laugh, with his tail a little closer to his legs than before. Between them, the last bit he spoke still made sense, in that he was about to say that he still loved her. That silence was a lot more comfortable, simply staring at each others bashful smirks to indulge in what little of their relationship was left; starting to hear the faint sounds of the younger drakes beside their own footfalls, so close to the lake's edge.
San Francisco had left some things unsaid and unfinished as suddenly as the two parted, and neither of the suppressed love-birds really knew how to handle such things after they had so casually just began exploring their intimacy. Rejuves were surely not the best at restraining themselves. As they walked side-by-side, like they had done so many times in the past, that familiar spark they shared was nearly impossible to ignore, even after being forced to "take a break", as two teenagers would have called it during their phase of courtship. Locking eyes, they at least could tell that they'd be alright, and that their union would live on through the wall that came between them.
"I know you will, and I'm counting on it. You should know what to expect from me, too.", Kayla spoke her own neatly shrouded sentiment with an ever so light, soft tone that rang a tender allure through her voice. Walking with her head turned toward the one beside her, the orange furred Aspatrian found no trouble in gracing the moment with an honest smile as she tried to hide special meaning inside of her ordinary words; trying to say that she loved him right back, and appreciated his generous care, without anyone else being the wiser to their nearly shy, hushed exchange.
Without the racket generated by Ki`rene's footclaws, having left the water-smoothed stones behind, Kayla's private social mindset returned to life with that little bit of sly tact, following the footprints her parents were leaving in the coarse sand. Such things did make her tail swing further to each side, faintly pulling against her shorts' buttoned hole amidst her distraction; hoping she wasn't misbehaving too badly by playing with their endearment the way she was. It came with the territory as a growing Penitatas, holding a side that wanted direction, and another that liked testing boundaries. At least content within the personal bubble she created with Jacob, smirking toothily, the fox came to shake her head as her mind more easily opened up; analyzing her Karrian's happier expression and the slight slouch his backpack caused, being thrown over one shoulder the way he wore it.
"So maybe I haven't been feeling as 'fit and fine' as I first told you, but really, I'm hoping it'll pass too. I've had a hard time adjusting back to the way things were after seeing the world, sort of speak, especially with people coming up to thank and talk to me.", the weary, forward-thinking fox admitted with a lighter airiness to her voice, trying to share some of the things she had kept bottled within while they were apart; thinking of life's new differences, and old sames.
"Even some Penitatas that liked the little bit at the end of my speech.", Kayla took to a tiny amused smirk as she mentioned, letting off a huff of air from her muzzle; being a chuckle too weak and loose to begin as her eyes drifted in thought.
"It's been nice to feel... welcomed. It's just that it feels weird to hear such things, and then watch them walk off, knowing that I can't join them in that freedom. I lost you, and I couldn't play with Ninne because she was grounded too. I guess either way, I still would have spent a lot of time by myself; trying to be alone in my stale 'penny domicile I happen to call a bedroom.", she tried to explain as best as she could, becoming candid in the way she spoke. The girl's muzzle never quite opened too far, staying quiet throughout her limp feeling words as they fell into the realms of her emotions and inner views; noting a disdain for the blander portions of her punitive lifestyle.
"I hate standing in the corner, but boy did I reacquaint myself with those walls. Nursed my blisters and thought about everybody, and everything that's happened. The stupid things I've done to deserve all this, and all the crap I have to feel guilty for; right up to dragging you down. Might have cried a little, here and there, feeling frustrated or... you know, thinking about Captain Ti'Krex, or any of the other people we met and I can't see anymore, just because I am who I am.", Kayla dipped her head and turned it toward the lake in mid-speech, becoming fairly critical of herself again, even if it lacked the pot-shots that came alongside her description of weight and sorrow. The best Jacob could do was lend his ear, walking beside Kayla and her softly uttered tale of truth. Such things faded the smiles they both had worn, and stilled the tails they had forgotten in their young distraction. For the life Kayla had lived, experiencing the worst existence had to offer, she still had a lot to regret and cope with; being a girl of love and empathy, as well as a woman of hate and selfish anger.
"I guess it's always a little tough when you don't get what you want. There's nothing I can do about anything, and I have no idea what my apologies are even worth these days. So, here I shall stay.", she deduced and contemplated on the spot with a plain, solemn little voice, with a shift of her gaze down to her feet. Kayla knew she was a Penitatas, and that couldn't be changed by her whims alone; keeping her grounded in reality, as her older side could understand and allow. However, it often did little to quell her mind's many questions when they involved opinions and interpretation - like if she should be granted leniency, and what that leniency should be, going into her next years of hard time.
"Though, I guess you know about this stuff, since you mentioned 'settling down' without me bringing it up. I'm pretty sure my ears weren't playing tricks on me when I overheard that you spoke with my mom.", Kayla's blue eyes came up though her muzzle did not, turning the ends of her maw into a slick, faint smile as a piece of her tone relented it's somber note. Having been able to pick up a single piece of useful information from Lory before being stopped, she revealed her knowledge of the likely conversation through the sneaky manner which she approached her partner with; whom lifted his left hand to his muzzle with a cornered look on his face, scrunching his mouth with concern. It was Jacob's plan to keep he and Emily's "talk" a private matter, keeping it's sticking points away from Kayla, especially now as they were branching off from the adults in their slow wander toward the lake, and Ninne and Anne up ahead.
Though, coinciding with a dulled thump against the gritty sand, a voice caused both of their muzzles to snap away from one another. In an instant Jacob flinched, curling his tail, while the fur down Kayla's back stood on end, right down to a visible baring of her grit teeth in a nervous sense.
"That's right. Jacob and I talked about our new rules and expectations; like you and I did when we got home from our trip.", Emily herself didn't seem to feel timid about admitting, catching Kayla's remark in the pair's passing as the woman set her camping sack down to stretch and settle in along with the others.
Alex having picked a spot right in the middle of the natural, uneven cove, the adults had set the short tree-covered cliff to their backs, poised to face out over the water and into the rest of the preserve. With sand and lakeside all around, the view in every direction eventually melded back into soil and plant-life, seated beneath the taller splendors rising in the distance beyond their large sea of sunny blue. The spot was ideal and had a lot of elbow room, but even though Kayla and Jacob had stopped following their taller counterparts for a destination of their own, it seemed Emily was still keeping her ears open as the pair of tails slipped by her; watching her daughter's shorts gently flutter against her knees with each step. Her semi-parental tone's sudden nature was more than enough to stop the fox and reptile dead in their tracks, turning slightly to address their overseeing guardian when they had been saying so many things they were fairly sure they'd get in trouble for, if they were caught.
"I think we have a general understanding as to what'll land the two of you over my knee, so you can consider that to be the 'end of discussion'. It's for your benefit and mine... like I told Jacob, we don't have to go into it anymore. Just keep the hands and paws to yourselves. It'll be alright.", soon melted into something more relaxed and reassuring from the original tone Emily had begun with, standing up straight with a sharp squint of her eyelids beneath the bright afternoon sun. If her meeting with Jacob was to be revealed like that, she preferred to slip in a degree of her own authority; adding a warning of consequence before saying anything that would place her daughter at ease. The subject warranted it in wake of the blistering Kayla had already suffered through, with the promise of more, plus some, for any kind of repeat offense out of either of them. Despite acting almost like a normal mother out there in the wilderness, strict behavior and bare paddle-swinging upper arms aside, the reminder made Jacob's tail stiffen and Kayla swallow uneasily, until the authoritarian notes broke away from the human woman's voice. Behind her, Alex and Ki`rene were setting their gear down where they would need to go, coordinating their efforts amidst their own discussion; the heavier bags relieving an ache from the eldest drake's tiring haunches.
"Tonight, I expect everyone to sleep where they are told. We've got three tents, so all of us are going to take the big one together... ", Emily gestured over her shoulder with a thumb, meaning to say that the other parents would be sharing a tent.
"... And you, and the other two girls, are going to get one to yourselves. Jacob is going to have his own place to sleep, so when I call for everyone to hit the hay, I expect all of you to stay put - including Ninne and Anne. We're doing this gender-segregated between you kids, so you know this goes double for the two of you.", she made sure to explain firmly enough to be taken seriously, speaking to Kayla with a light point of a finger; not wanting to have any sort of foul-play or mischief happening in the dead black of night, with people sneaking around alone. When it came to the two rejuve's less-than-private relationship, hearing that things were to be implicitly set up to keep them apart at night was an embarrassing thought for them both; if not more so on Jacob, who's green scales along the sides of his muzzle went flush with a slight tinge of red as his eyes wandered downward to the sandy gray beach below. It was an understandable thing for her to have to explain, but that didn't make the moment any easier to swallow. Kayla had just begun to nod her head slightly when Ki`rene's voice jumped in behind her mother, moving with the woman's footsteps past the group as she worked on releasing her right-sided saddle bag.
"Then if you happen to need me, I'll be resting on the shore of the lake. There isn't a tent big enough to fit all of this, so I'm going for the full 'roughing it' experience.", she spoke as she reached back along her side with a claw to release her Drakonian side-bag's straps, flexing her legs a little in the way Ninne would look like if she was trying to shrink her posture to rub her tail. Scaled fingers having trouble with the straps and clasps with each tiny step she took in multitasking, the larger mother made an idle gesture toward the water with her neck and snout when referring to her own size, and the old-style cultural ways of her people she was dabbling in. It didn't relieve the young pair that she had been listening to Emily's dutiful instructions, but it wasn't so bad with the drake openly smiling and keeping to her playful-sounding tones; leaning to one side to drop one of the group's tent bags from her tired back with a subsequent breath and long, raptor-like stretch, digging her claws into the sand.
"No worries mom.", Kayla took the moment of partial silence to slip her reply in, making sure to give more than a simple nod of her head. Spoken with a lower, slower sort of young tone, she made certain that it sounded like a respectful assurance in light of the look Emily had on her face; painting a picture of a relaxed woman who still meant business. While the sounds of ambient nature mixed with the other close-by footfalls and rustles of clothing and equipment, Jacob merely mouthed his own promise, discreetly relaying over the fox's shoulder a few words Emily had spoken to him not long ago in private; noting his place as the "instrument of change."
"Oh, hold up - at least let me help you with one.", Alex suddenly spoke up for a different purpose, making a hasteful jog from the sprawled few items he was working with to assist Ki`rene in getting the last of her packs from her back; seeing the drake release the bag's breast-strap and resume a similar tailward reach for the other. Hearing the chivalry going on behind her head made Emily roll her eyes a bit, bringing back the gentle grin she was suppressing in order to have a firm parental moment. It tripped her up, if only for a second.
"If that's the case, feel free to drop your bags off here. Go have some fun - the two of you deserve it.", the blonde haired woman followed her mood, shifting her tone and outward expression of authority for something more motherly, and empathetic to what she knew her daughter and Jacob had gone through since their voyage through the stars.
"We'll handle the work. No chores on this vacation!", Ki`rene added with a turn of her neck, making a flick of her right claw toward the tent bag at her feet while Alex pulled it's weighty counterpart from her opposite side; sliding the strap in front of her hips free.
"Firewood, food, and all! Take it easy for a while; we'll have our own... f-f-fun!", Alex called out over Ki`rene's back and it's dulled brown scales, abruptly grunting and breaking up towards the end as the saddle-bag fell into his hands; sending his spine into an immediate hunch as he caught the weight of the adult's tent once it slid off the elder drake's smooth, lithe side. Ki`rene's eyes closed a little, tipping her head and neck down with an airy, soft sort of chuckle as Alex worked to set the bag down beside her.
"My knight in shining armor.", the well-made sound of amusement rolled into a teasing, snickering note of sarcasm; taking to a playful jab as she rested with a claw over her breastbone, covering a small part of her sweeping scar with the ends of her fingers.
Already liking the woman's attitude and motherly behaviors, having had such a positive first impression, the brief scene was enough to wipe the sheepish expression off of Jacob's face; replaced with a humored smirk. Beside him, Kayla had already been sold at her mother's surprisingly kind and unhindered sentiment, having lit up from acting like a restrained Penitatas to looking more like the matured, chipper little girl she felt like being, finally back to life and family. To be told she deserved to have some fun meant a lot indeed, when all a part of her really wanted was to be told she had earned something nice through her actions - validating her efforts. Her parents, right down to Ki`rene, wanted to take care of her, and the whole thing elated the fox into feeling genuinely sated for the first time in a while. With a big smile that barely hid the tips of her canines, Kayla grabbed her backpack's right shoulder strap and hastily began removing the bag from both her arms.
"I'll take you up on that!", she fired off with young energy, looking ever so happy to have been cut a break by at least those who raised her; setting a seed of optimism back into her shaken inner world. Things might have been rough for her, but kindness and care was rarely lost on the Aspatrian whom swung her dark blue school bag off her back and into her paws with a carefree speed, setting it down with a soft thump into the sandy beach between her and her mother.
"Thanks again - I'll see you later! Come on Jacob!", Kayla came to call out fairly quickly in her personal jubilation as her shoes twisted in the coarse cove's sand, finding their traction as she bolted off for the water's edge and the two drakes that had left everyone behind; all while she got a step ahead of Jacob herself. She sounded quite like a kid with her tone taking such a route, calling back over her shoulder for her friend to assume her haste and follow. It was funny to him, but at the same time, the Karrian boy stumbled and needed to awkwardly get his bearings, grasping for his medical backpack.
With a finesse all of his own, Jacob took a quick step forward and swung his bag up against Kayla's, causing a slightly louder clatter from it's metallic contents slumping up against the rear of the backpack. In motion, the sunlight caught his old Starfleet communications badge like a signal beacon, making a tiny flash of light fly past the lad's eyes until the worn surface of the com-badge, upon the upper face of his bag, reflected a duller, simpler blue; mirroring the sky from the care he had shown it, despite it's pitted, radiation tarnished exterior. Taking a hop back on his semi-bare claws, the old doctor at least shared a friendly, motionless raise of his hand with Emily as he too turned and made a light sprint behind Kayla's flowing tail, leaving their present worries behind for the freedom Alex had envisioned for them when he chose this place.
Making a bee-line for Ninne, the young drake lifted her neck and turned from the gentle motions of the water beside her footclaws to turn and speak to the flurry of steps approaching; looking as if her mind was full of all sorts of imaginative ideas. Her toes feeling somewhat sore from barreling across the small stones sloping toward the cove, just as Jacob had warned, she had stopped to soak her large reptilian feet in the cool wet sand while Anne made a curious inspection down the length of the lake's calm shore.
"We should all go swimming! I can't think of anything better to do with a lake!", Ninne openly suggested with a zip of encouragement in her voice, calling out with a young cheer similar to Kayla's own as the fox's shoes bounced to a halt beside her friend's scale, leaving small portions of her exposed fur looking wind-blown from the breeze and her sprint.
"[Yeah, some of these spots look pretty deep!]", the group came whole with Anne's hastened footsteps coming together with Jacob's, returning from her trip down the cove a short ways as everyone's bustling, child-like motions came to a halt with the re-creation of their social circle. All accounted for, and left to their own devices, the rejuves did what they did best - enjoy their young lives, while holding to that spark of remaining adulthood in their voices and actions. Their parental figures several meters away, it was just them, surrounded by large open space and sky. The air was warm and clear, breezing by with the scent of fresh, clean water as the lake rolled tiny ripples from the Earth's breath.
"Saves me the trouble of having to ask. We took that swim class together, so we ought to put it to use for once!", Kayla chimed in with a smirk of agreement, placing her right paw against her sternum through her ruffled shirt for moment to take a relaxing, deep breath after her quick little run to meet up with her friends; Jacob taking his place at her side with a simple few steps, thumbs in his pockets with a more subdued, chipper attitude compared to that of his female counterparts. Reserved in his ways, but at least calmed from his mother's hounding of him, he was eager to speak and fall back into line with his friends.
"The three of you got to take a swimming recap course together? That must have been fun.", the Karrian added to the circle as his legs stopped, settling his sullied bandages into the wet ground with a slow, faint sink. Though, as it came to befuddle him, his innocent words were met with the three girls all turning to him with a squint; expressively staring at him in unison, as if to ask if his statement had been serious. Unsure of what he might have stumbled into, Jacob stammered with a twitch shooting down his tail as he timidly broke the silence with his own voice again, hoping to correct what he might have uttered with an awkward, though humored look across his green scaled maw.
" ... Or not?", he tried to throw out, lifting his right hand from his jeans pocket to aid in a half-shrug.
"A Penitatas swim class?", Ninne was the first to ask with a low note of sarcasm ringing in her tone, making the event sound like it was anything but enjoyable in hindsight. It had been about two years since the three of them had become a group, diving into their school's athletic pool for their annual round of swimming recaps for rejuves. Despite having come a long ways since that day, feeling as if it was ancient history in the drawn out nature of their punitive lives, the lessons learned did stick with them. In fact, it was one of Kayla's earliest memories beside the traditional drake, Anne, as a six year old, newly acquainted Penitatas.
"[I think anything with 'Penitatas' in it's name is destined to suck, Commander. None of us came through that one without having eyelids as wet as the rest of ourselves, if you know what I mean.]", the eldest of the group spoke up through her bemused snarls, though Anne explained what happened in her own, particularly colorful manner; followed by something of a face and what seemed like a Drakonian roll of her eyes. For a traditional drake, she had quite a few expressions tucked into her eccentric personality.
"[So, hey, lets hop in and play! We could give you guys drake rides and everything! There's two of us and two of you, so Ninne and I could be like... horses, or something!]", that maw of her's turned into a toothy smile, making a tiny bounce off a single, dinosaur-like footclaw toward the water's edge; landing with a full bodied gesture toward the lake, all while keeping her eyes on her friends.
"Yeah! Water stallions!", Ninne crouched down and expressively curled her claws beside her Drakonian fellow, trying to make herself look entirely enthused and fired up with the fluidic stance her body assumed; head to tail, like a true raptor. Tone forceful in it's playful allure, it still didn't stop Anne from tilting her head with a faint, limp dip of her neck.
"[I think we'd be mares, Ninne... ]", the correction merely fell out of Anne's maw, sounding monotone even for a Drakonian's rough reptilian means of speaking. While Jacob and Kayla could only enjoy the show, absorbing their social time any way they could at this point, Ninne still came to curl the top of her snout; wrinkling her scales as she opened and waved her claws to dismiss the whole thing on a moment's notice.
"Oh who cares. You in, Jacob?", Ninne brushed off with a lack of concern, moving right along like the young, attention span lacking rejuve she was; speaking with a child's haste, and the tone of a small woman, the way she extended a single claw to question and ask for Jacob's company. It was clear that Kayla wanted to dive in just like she and Anne, but other than Jacob's conversational addition, their doctor had been quiet on the subject, just listening from his side of the tightly knit circle. Drakonians loved and thrived in water, but a Karrian, she wasn't all too sure about.
Again finding all eyes turning to him, Jacob's maw released a bit of his grin into something more somber looking, to go with his subdued, boy-ish tone of voice. The core of the question made him a tad tense, thinking he wouldn't be able to attend their impromptu fun and games; held back by a nervous, shy emotion that boiled up from his thin, smooth scaled belly.
"I don't have anything to wear. The lake was a bit of a surprise.", he answered by his lack of a swimsuit, trying to gently decline based on his timid notions of privacy on such short notice. If he tried to swim in jeans and a t-shirt, he'd have one hell of a time attempting to float, much less tread water. Besides, this was one thing he'd usually sit out for, not being the most outgoing of people even in his younger years. Though, by then, Kayla was already working on removing her shirt at his side, giving her tail a quick swing as the garment popped free of her ears.
"I'm going in my underwear. Just follow my lead; nobody is going to care. The rest of us don't have the luxury, as often as people yank our pants down in front of each other.", Kayla's vocal nudge went straight for the candid, pressing the lack of a need to worry about the little details as she leaned to her side and tossed the wadded up lump of red fabric toward a small nearby rock, away from the water. She may have been steadily becoming bodily conscious and hungry for personal privacy as she grew up, not quite as uncaring about being in her bare fur as she used to be, but with the two of them being so young, with ages remaining in the single digits, she saw no reason to hold qualms over using her panties as swim bottoms. It was more than the present group often saw her in, and because of that, she didn't feel like Jacob needed to worry about a little bit of modesty in the company of acceptant friends.
The preserve's constant flow of air running across the fox's generally curveless bare chest, ruffling the white tuft of fur between her faintly bared nipples, her statement of unabated comfort was cut into by a loose, rough snicker from a strong throat. Ninne's snout turned to one of her more teasing, taunting smirks as her yellow-green eyes peered down at Jacob's shorter bipedal form; accentuated by the sudden gleam of her sharp Drakonian teeth.
"Besides, I bet you're just as flat-fronted down there as Kayla.", their resident snarky reptile decided to slip in as an inappropriate comment within their circle away from prying ears; even though she still lowered her neck and her voice to playfully badger. Coming off as a little abrasive, and exceptionally blunt in a shocking sense, Jacob visibly winced and nearly took a step back as his muzzle threatened to turn red beside Kayla's covered maw and Anne's sudden outburst of hissing laughter. Made worse by a slow, gestural point of a single sharp claw down toward the front of his blue jeans by the sly drake, Jacob grit his teeth and balled his hands into irritated fists; uncharacteristically taking offense, considering what part of him was being mocked in such a way. Seven or not, he was still quite male, and even Kayla looked taken aback by her friend's choice of personal jabs.
"Hey, come on, you know that's not true! I had my turn in front of the class, just like everybody else... remember?", Jacob snapped in his own defense, trying to point out that everyone had seen plenty of him just a couple of short months ago during his brief, but traumatizing stint as an undeserving Penitatas. Hauled in front of their school classroom and paddled like a liar, he had been stripped of his clothing and dignity in front of those he had called his friends; showing off the same parts Ninne chose to torment in his fairly short, young age. The Karrian might have sounded upset, and had something of a glare within his brown eyes, but the serious nature of his complaint was met only with the older drake's slick smile.
"[Anthony'll never let that down.]", Anne came out of her personal bout of laughter to interject a small addition, following Jacob's line of conversation as she too pointed out their other male friend's curious infatuation with the Karrian's physiological masculinity that day; looking not quite like a human, though the other boy claimed to have respectfully not watched his fellow's spanking. Listening to Anthony contrast a scaled sheath to other male components had been an embarrassing, though lighthearted thing, and from the way the girls took the subject, it wasn't too major of a thing to them either. In wake of Anne's mentioning, Ninne lightly closed her eyes and gave a few shakes of her head, looking comfortable and confident, despite the reaction her tease had caused.
"I figured it was better if you remembered that yourself. It's just a benefit to having us around, so come have some fun.", the Drakonian's words softened, though her sly, knowing smile faded only to the point of putting away her sharp teeth in midst of her encouragement. Giving a couple of quick blinks, Jacob was again struck by realization, though much more gently than before as Kayla's paw fell from her muzzle to reveal a thankful, amused look. His sudden spurt of inner anger disarmed, the purpose of Ninne's words became apparent with a strange sense of feeling silly; knowing the larger reptile to be right, though sometimes too direct.
They had all seen him bare before, and Ninne merely wanted him to recall that he had nothing left to feel insecure about in the presence of Penitatas; much less his own adoring friends. Rather than tell him that and let him dismiss it, she made him recall that day on his own, to show him how little he had to be concerned with when it came to their passing judgment. He might not have been a Penitatas, but when it came to their growing up, they were all in this together, and Jacob was no exception to the attitudes they showed one another. While childish, and purely Ninne, it still struck the old doctor as being profound, and an odd way to get him to feel more free and open around them. Relenting, Jacob sighed and placed his closed right hand to his chest.
"That's alright. I'll just relax here.", the smaller boy assured, letting the tone of his voice convey his understanding and appreciation for Ninne's special brand of backwards comforting. He had never known anyone quite like that during his few lifetimes, and it was good to still be caught off guard from time to time with new means of approaching matters. The military didn't prepare him for such unique social situations, that was for sure, but in the end he figured he'd be most comfortable doing what he did best at his age - watching and listening, as a quieter fellow amongst his companions. It let him still feel as if he was part of the group, though he didn't have to break outside of his boundaries. And, in this case, it let him keep his clothes on!
"[Suits yourself! Just make me a sand castle I can trample, okay?]", Anne accepted before her fellow drake could prod Jacob any further, itching to hit the water as she half-turned on a footclaw. They would have loved to have him along, but they weren't strangers to the old Commander's personality and his inklings toward being reserved; so often keeping to himself.
It left Ninne to lift her claws in a partial shrug, making a face to say, "Hey, I tried.", before turning tail and making a bolt for the water, smacking Anne's saurian shoulder in passing. Anne's footclaw sliding through the wet, coarse sand, she took to a similar run at Ninne's side with a sudden lack of grace, all while Kayla opened her muzzle out of surprise; making a couple of hops as her paws tried to undo the button behind herself, tucked up against the base of her tail to free her black shorts as she too tried to follow the spirited entourage.
Ready to take a seat and find his own sense of peace, an abrupt thought shot the enthused, light allure Jacob had across his face into something more alert. With little more than a tepid blink of his eyes at first, a powerful flinch of muscle hit his chest and went clear down to his tail as he was overcame by a sense of restrained worry.
"Wait a sec. You did ask somebody for permission, right?", the watchful lizard questioned the girls and their commotion before their feet could splash into the lake's shallows, speaking only loud enough to be heard, as to not draw undue attention. As one could expect, Kayla, Ninne, and Anne all stopped fairly short; the drakes backs all curling into a hunch as their precariously distributed weight shifted forward, with their sharp nails digging a firm footing into the wet ground. Craning their necks around with a pivot of their bodies on their large hips, the two drakes seemed to look at one another while Kayla lifted a curious paw, standing still with her shorts loose around her legs, hanging on by the black garment's waistband. Ninne's eyes turned to Anne with a couple of uncertain blinks, but that questioning look she had made Anne shrink her saurian stance; flinching like Jacob had done in her expressive way.
"[Don't look at me, she's your mom! I thought you asked!]", the eldest Penitatas broke the silence with a sharp correction, still managing to keep an awkward sort of defensive whine inside of her growling spits. It made Ninne bare a few teeth from her closed snout, smacking her face with a claw.
" ... Oh hell.", she came to quietly, though firmly utter, before again taking to a brisk motion; this time away from the water as she hurried toward the encampment their parents were busily working to set up. Both drakes had gotten ahead of themselves, and both thought the other had requested permission from Ki`rene, since they had split up for a brief time before Kayla and Jacob joined them. Thankfully, Jacob for one knew that couldn't have been possible, having just left the mother drake without any exterior interruption from either of the young Drakonians.
"Nice save. I'm glad one of us was paying attention.", Kayla looked over her shoulder with a light sway of the fur on her head, giving her partner props where they were due; sounding as if she took a scare. If the three of them went out into the lake without asking, or so much as saying a single thing, Jacob would have been the only one with dry eyes in the group. Even worse, it would have been an honest, preventable mistake - the kind they hated the most.
Able to take the moment to finish getting ready while Ninne ran up the beach to her mother, Kayla flung her tail up slightly to throw her short's loose tail-strap out of the way as she bent over and worked the garment down her legs, baring the plain white cotton panties she wore up against her fur and form underneath. Standing with his arms crossed, the sight after so long made Jacob's eyes wander with a tiny smile, but it was quickly obscured by a mask of dull brown with Anne stepping between them; getting away from the water with a bit of a wander. Much outside of Jacob's expectations, catching glimpse of the girl's orange gaze, he saw something much lighter out of her than he was used to, being that of a calm, soft look. A little vulnerable, even, as the drake tipped her neck and stroked by the Karrian's right shoulder with the end of her snout as she stepped by.
"[Penitatas' best friend. I owe you one.]", Anne spoke to him quietly in passing, clearly appreciating what he had done. There weren't many things more endearing to a Penitatas, than to save their hide. It meant a lot, and the relief surrounding the trio of girls definitely showed it, having a Medicalos check-and-balance at their side. Strangely enough it gave Jacob a sense of pride on top of it, although the situation and affection shown toward his concern for their well-being made Miss Lory's voice echo through the Karrian's distracted mind; recalling the sour sentiment she preached, insinuating that he had been around Penitatas for too long. Protecting his friends and being a part of their circle, as if he was a 'penny himself, resounded a degree of substance into his parent's accusation.
Again, it forced a huff through his nostrils, and an uncomfortable shift of his tail, even though his face stayed calm and cheerful; the way he wished to be, beside those he cared about. He wouldn't be clouded into such things when the sky and lake beyond himself were so tranquil and clear, set within the freedom which his love yearned for, and he himself cherished. Sharing little more than a bashful sound at Anne's 'thanks', Jacob gave his fellow scaled friend a two fingered salute off his forehead before turning his eyes over her thick passing tail to slip that one last, longing look in, as Kayla happily went about shedding her shoes and socks. One item at a time joined the crumpled red shirt, draped over the tan rock set into the cove's beach, until the sand was between the fox's bare, canid orange furred toes. Seeing her careful, modest movements, reminiscent of the woman she was inside of her small, fur swept frame, stirred pleasant memories in the old doctor's head. Her touch, and what it felt like to slide his fingers through her fur; watching the strands flow and dance gently with the passing breeze, catching her tail as she looked out over the water with her paws settled cozily against the band of her underwear - clearly without a care in the world. If only he could be so comfortable and confident while standing in his underwear, Jacob laughed inside of his mind, while his exterior remained quiet and still, so often keeping such things on the inside.
"I wish I could tell you how pretty you look today.", the elder Karrian whispered to himself, muttered slowly, far below the lowest audible range of Kayla's tall, attentive ears.
"Me first!", Ninne blazed by him with enough force to feel the vibrations up his legs before a faint rush of air caught his short black hair on his left side, startling him out of his romantic frame of mind with a surprised grit of his teeth. Her stout claws barreled through the gritty sand, turning the other rejuve's heads just as they began to strike the water's edge with sharp splashes and sprays of droplets rising up around her legs; all following a lowered head and huge grin. Obviously she got the approval she sought from the adults, and wasn't about to share it with anyone else before she hit the water.
"[Oh - you bitch!]", snarled by the other side of Jacob's head, muffled as Anne exclaimed aloud in realizing just what Ninne was doing. Having swung her tail and dived her stance toward the ground, the older Drakonian took to a rapid sprint with the muscles in her hips launching her forward; following suit with Kayla as the two remaining girls turned leaping into the lake into adversarial child's-play, filled with sly, toothy smirks as Jacob's older, bemused smile was left behind to watch as he wished.
As the first splashes took to the air and the smooth white hugging against Kayla's backside disappeared beneath the wrinkled surface of the water, the youngest, yet oldest of the group tossed his growing tail off to the side and fell back into the soft sand. Above the relaxed slouch of his semi-crossed legs, with a worn bandage starting to hang limply off of his right claw, Jacob settled his muzzle into his hand to smile and idly participate in his own little way; finding a dash of peace in watching his friends, and his closest companion, frolic out into the lake's waters to act their age and play for a while, even if he was too stiff and shy about joining them. It was good to see them enjoying themselves, having gained an understanding within his empathetic heart as to just what they faced and coped with on a daily basis, as Penitatas. Beads of clear water flying off their black woven bracelets with each fling of an arm, or playful reach of a claw, the first order of business was to apprehend the ever elusive Ninne; bringing about a lot of flopping and leaping that looked like anything but swimming. Thankfully it seemed like Anne and Kayla had that well enough under control, with the traditional drake trying to grab her fellow's tail, slowing her down so that their furred cohort could make the tackle her smaller, more wiry physiology better allowed - filling the once tranquil lake with loud, playfully girlish calls and sprays of water. Up the beach, bathing in the sun as they worked, the adults too kept an eye on things; with Ki`rene looking particularly pleased to see the ruckus, Jacob could tell with a peek over his shoulder, finding her watching contently beside the tent she had started to construct.
"And where did you think you were going, water stallion?", Kayla took to her own type of snarky teasing, drawing back on Ninne's earlier gender-mangling mistake as she tried to grasp at the smooth, slickened scales lining the base of the drake's neck. Moving out into the water, bobbing and kicking her legs, poor Ninne even had to contend with the odd feeling of Anne's teeth nipping at the middle of her tail, following her like some sort of carnivorous fish in her own version of aquatic Drakonian play; and boy did that leave Ninne feeling cornered, laughing and desperately trying to dart away using the trademark 'snap' their kind utilized when under water. It was just too hard to get far enough away from the surface, with Kayla trying to pounce her and Anne keeping her tail preoccupied.
"Sttrr-fff! Da'-grrr-a-ph!", came from Anne's closed maw as she tried to speak around her friend's tail, broken and garbled in any language as she lifted her snout and the center section of Ninne's stiff reptilian tail from the surface of the water; humorously going about her typical behavior of being lewd by insinuating that Ninne was hiding her masculinity as a large male drake in disguise. The sensation of little sharp teeth grasping at her tail made Ninne's legs not work as intended, and with a pounce by her sopping wet, fur-matted friend; getting her arms around her shoulders and neck to hang on; the double-teamed drake reared her neck up and grit her teeth in submission.
"Crap! Crap! Alright - you win!", Ninne called 'uncle', flailing her claws through the water to do a brisk, desperate version of the doggie-paddle in a Drakonian sense, trying to tread water to stay afloat. Kayla's tail half-floating upon the lake's wavy, shimmering surface, spreading her long strands of orange fur out, a hint of her white underwear stood above the water in the form of the embroidered Velcro-backed strap that went across the base of her foxy appendage. Sputtering out a child's snigger, Kayla caught her breath and leaned up against Ninne as a splash came from behind them; Anne taking a dive to release her companion and emerge up ahead, running the cool lake's waters through every crease of scale with slow bodily motions - weak, controlled snaps of her frame.
"Well, you caught me. Care to try and hold on?", Ninne craned her neck around toward her shoulder to ask with a playfully sadistic, tooth-laden smirk as she kept the two of them afloat with the strength of her legs. One arm thrown over the drake's shoulders, paw dripping against the opposite base of her raptor-esque neck, Kayla raised a brow and made something of a face.
"A drake told me once that she swam like greased lightning. You think you can pull that off, smart-ass?", was the seasoned Aspatrian's response of choice when it came to Ninne's sense of verbal horseplay, trying to match her friend's loose, outgoing demeanor when nobody else could hear them out in the water; a fair distance from the center of their family's chosen cove. Her young attitude gravitated to such activities without giving it thought, especially having seen Ninne and Anne zip from one end of the school pool to the other in a flash during that special time they spent together those hundreds and hundreds of days ago. With so much more meat in their hips and legs compared to then, having grown as much as Kayla had, she expected it to be something like one of those Earth horses indeed, darting through the vast sea of clear blue surrounding them.
"Try me!", the ten year old drake both invited and challenged with an enthusiastic voice, looking forward to giving this a try for the very first time. As she spoke, Ninne sank into the water just enough for the gently flowing lake to spread across her back's scales, providing enough of a height drop for Kayla to pull herself up and over. Tossing her left leg over the crest of the Drakonian's spine, Kayla mounted and huddled her chest up against Ninne, wrapping her arms loosely around the base of the larger, saurian girl's durable neck with little more than a few motions; upper body mostly out of the water while her wet, ratty tail slumped weightily against the drake's right hip. Her orange fur soaked right down to the cotton underwear she wore, now wrinkled and slopped against the curve of her hips, she took the small bit of knowledge she had of horse riding and gave Ninne a nudge against the thinnest, smoothest part of her side with the edge of her footpaw; signaling, as a joke, that she was saddled and prepared.
"Hit it, stallion!", Kayla snickered quickly, following the same tease she and Anne had hung onto before the words broke down into a fairly young, feminine sort of laughter, just shy of an outright giggle as Ninne stuck her forked tongue out a tad and wiggled her haunches before taking off.
The initial thrust of force against Kayla's body made it lurch backward, bringing the fox to reflexively pull herself tighter to Ninne's back with her teeth clenched to compensate; hunkering down to become a part of the drake's lithe, dinosaur design. Water splashing clear across her face and slightly up her ebony nose, the adventurous fox made it through the 'challenge' portion of her ride with the locked limbs one would get on a roller coaster, trying to hang on as Ninne showed off her innate ability to launch and accelerate. Sending her large, young form into a fluidic, loose posture, the drake had made a hard snap downward with an upward curve to kick up some speed without completely submerging her passenger; making a 'snap' motion with her entire frame. Upper body's muscle flow rocking down into her tail and legs, the Drakonian swimming technique cut through the water to be repeated over and over, rapidly, in the way a dolphin or whale would propel themselves beneath the waves. Coming up to a heavy speed for a ten year old drake, brought on by Ninne's aggressive nature and eagerness to impress, the strong girl pressed her muscles as much as she could while keeping her nostrils just barely out of the water most of the time as she darted through the lake, winding and waving.
After some moments of feeling a weightless weight against her insides, as awkward as that felt in an inexplicable way, Kayla slowly opened her eyes to squints with her paws squeezing against the top of Ninne's breastbone beneath the rolling, splashing waves she was creating against her body and snout. Pressing against her knuckles firmly enough to still her fur, the sensation of rushing water flowed roughly by her arms and through the faint gaps in her fingers, forced up to become the twinkling sheen of droplets streaming by both sides of her face. She had held on to her horse's reigns and the reward was quite the ride, as she lifted her head slightly to see just how fast they were going. The forces under the surface of the water pulling on her tail, making it flap and wobble with her white strands of fur streaming, it went without question that they were going much faster than she had seen in the school pool that long time ago. Unhindered by the size of a pool, or the scorn of rigid instructors, Ninne was free to push herself; arms and claws tucked against her side. Even so, being so tight up against the drake's back, Kayla could feel sudden jerks and unsteadiness coming up through Ninne's body from the water, brought on by turbulence.
"Like?", Ninne called back with a quick lift and drop of her neck, jumping slightly out of the lake to ask her question without getting a maw full of water; rocking Kayla's body back until her chest thumped up against the drake's spine again. Before she could even answer, the abrupt act already had the water-ignorant Aspatrian laughing and howling from the sheer thrill, never having experienced a body of water bigger than her bathtub. Not an amusement park ride, or any sort of vehicle without an inertial dampening field. A week ago the old hacker wouldn't have imagined that she'd be riding on the back of her best friend, much less doing something with more gratifying substance than running in circles around Ki`rene's backyard sprinkler.
"You kidding?", Kayla spoke loudly above the rush of the waters around them, trying to raise her head up enough to catch a glimpse of the wake they were leaving behind, over her shoulder. Some water struck her muzzle as a result, but that was promptly remedied with a huff of air through her nose before settling her head down just beside Ninne's right ear-slit.
"This makes up for getting bent over the side of the school pool! I love it!", she happily came to shout out against the scale of Ninne's neck behind her jaw, where her muzzle was lightly indenting the firm, armor-like hide. The positive response sent the pair into a sharply banked curve, making a turn for another pass across the width of their family's cove before they got too far away; Ninne's quick actions forcing Kayla have to raise her body and lean like a motorcyclist to keep above the water, crouched down tightly. The sight, the sound - it was all quite fun for someone who was merely eight and never had much of a childhood to begin with. Accompanying an adjoining splash of water, another lump of speeding brown came alongside, roughly a foot beneath the water as Anne darted about in elegant pursuit; performing her own snaps slower, but more precise it seemed, the way she could nearly out accelerate Ninne without putting so much balls-to-the-wall effort into it.
Then, reminiscent of something she had been told, and invoking that drake's memory fondly, one of Anne's snaps came hard and fast with her snout pointed upward - taking to the air like a dolphin leaping from the water, coupled with a cheerful, highly reptilian squeal of sorts before she struck the water and continued at her speed. She didn't stay down long either, using the motion of her dive to fire herself upward with even more force than the first time; bringing a spray of water up with her clumsily flailing, grasping claws.
"[Da'-ha! Fish!]", the drake snarled out energetically as she flung one of the lake's fish up with her, apparently trying to catch it as it eluded her maw and fumbling digits. It didn't last more than a second before the silvery lake creature and its carnivorous reptilian playmate struck the water without much grace and disappeared, making a short but fairly offbeat spectacle. It might have been even more fun swimming as a group like that, but when it came to Ninne's aggressive water-breaking style, all it took was a raise of the drake's brow and the attention of her eyes to break the engine running on one too many cylinders.
Just beginning to straighten out from her elaborately banked curve, racing toward calm and open waters, an abrupt error in her terminal snap caused an event that felt like she had run into a pocket of hardened fluid. In a way, that was exactly what happened. Too forceful with her legs and tail so close to the tension of the lake's surface, Ninne's mindless powerhouse of muscle movements had gotten away from her; collapsing the water-piercing momentum of her own shape by becoming too out of sync with her own body and inertia. Like tripping, her own sheer weight created turbulence against her shoulders and the tip of her snout, and before either Ninne or Kayla knew it, feeling only sudden g-forces, the drake's head and neck were suddenly swept down under the water and beneath her, swinging her body and haunches straight ahead as her lithe frame attempted to roll; crumpling up against the wall of water which she created by becoming less streamlined at her speed. Like hitting the brakes, Ninne went from all-out to zero, essentially launching her passenger like a catapult as she flipped over. There wasn't much any time to yelp for the smaller fox before her rapid ejection made her smack the blue water, striking it with great force. It was enough to have both sharp and deep sounding notes, generating a small mushroom cloud of explosive droplets in her impact's wake.
It's violence, coupled with the fact that Kayla disappeared from sight in the blink of an eye, caused all of the event's witnesses to jump all at once; setting forth a series of dropped jaws and hastened actions. Anne had surfaced from the lake with a fright, nearly leaping from the water in her flinch prior to diving in a flash, coupled with Jacob's scramble and swing of his tail to get to his feet, back on the cove's shore. The moment was brief and chaotic, Ninne barely getting enough of her bearings to upright herself and get back above water before their Karrian physician had taken to a galloping run into the wet sand; eyes on the lake, and not his own claws below. Rippling waves faintly flowing away from the spot Kayla ended up were the last thing Jacob saw, eyes squinted and teeth clenched, before taking an unintended dive of his own; tripping over his right foot's loose bandage to have his body spill unceremoniously into the muddier part of the cove's shore, with it's shallowest water lapping against the ends of his fingers. Growling in haste, right knee quivering from his fall, the Karrian pushed himself up with the wet sand sticking to his clothes, looking out just in time to see a fresh, new splash of water emerge from the lake.
Brought up quickly enough to lightly toss her, though much more cautiously than her fish, Anne had no trouble locating the dazed fox she had dived for with her own adept ability to traverse water. Having hooked beneath Kayla's sinking body with her forehead and snout, she took her friend back up to the surface with her in the split-second nature of the moment, easily snapping her body with a water-treading wave of her thick tail. Returning the dulled, soaked orange color of the Aspatrian's fur to the open air and sun, Anne had slipped her body in motion beneath Kayla's; guiding her body down her neck to use her back as a life-preserver before craning her neck around to check up on the smallest of the trio's girls. Thankfully for Jacob, and Ninne beside the pair, Kayla came up coughing - ears down, and about as ratty as she could possibly look. Swallowing as he came down from the scare, Jacob's lizard-like tail slumped weakly down against the shore alongside a tepid sigh, mixing his relief with his discomfort now that he was on his hands and knees.
The boy's ears heard little of what might have been said out over the lake, coming to instead hear a pounding that resonated through the packed, moist sand beneath his palms. Louder and harder in an instant, an additional startle forced Jacob to lean off to his right side and pull his hand away from the ground as Ki`rene blazed to a halt beside him in the full power of an adult female drake's body; sliding on her footclaws as one went back, crouching her into a stance that swung into the sand and stopped her from diving into the lake head-long. Tall above him with his vision so low to the ground, encompassed by her shadow, Jacob peered up as he caught his breath to see Ki`rene was doing something of the same, gasping for air with a frightened, deeply anxious look across her face. Slitted yellow eyes wide, the elder drake was still coming down from shock, claws trembling in their half-curled states. Clearly she had taken off like a bat out of hell, and from all Jacob knew about Drakonian physiology and gravity tolerance as off-world creatures, she was an exceptionally quick and limber woman - far beyond that of average.
But, as seconds ticked, that bullet-sweating expression melted into one much more dire. Her eyes scrunched and wrinkled in anger, and her teeth bared as they clenched together above her tightly balling claws. Glaring out over the water, her need to be a lifeguard and protective guardian was replaced with the profound need to parent in a different, sharper sense.
"Ninne Sak`kral!", Ki`rene lifted her neck and thrust her claws downward to shout from the depths of her throat, bellowing the sort of thing any child dreaded to hear, being that of their last name. Invoking butterflies and flinches from even those who did not share in the mother's directed scorn, the sudden snap caused Ninne to jump; dipping beneath the water and turning her head back toward the shore. Baring mostly her eyes, she was a meek, cornered looking sight as the ripples of water left behind by her mishap washed up against the curves of her eye-ridges.
"Get back over here! Right - now!", the loud, forceful words of the group's largest parent split apart for emphasis, leaving there to be no question of what was about to befall her daughter from a Penitatas' standpoint. For endangering Kayla, and even herself, Ki`rene was obviously mad; something Jacob had not yet seen out of the woman, hearing such upset tones coming from her voice above him. She was so kind, cheerful, and even playful; something that continued to surprise him; but when it came to her duty, she was as up front and stern as the reputation she had carried among the Penitatas described, having rushed forth to leave the Targates behind.
Able to see and hear just how she felt, rattled by her child's actions, it left no doubt in Jacob's mind that Ninne had gone and blown it.
Long ago, Ninne had her tail chewed upon beside the school pool for doing 'snaps' incorrectly. She squeaked by the recap class, but out in the real world, it became wildly apparent that she was still inept, and hadn't gotten any better with age and it's subsequent arrogance. Not having learned this until it was much too late, the smaller drake looked once over her shoulder to check on Kayla, sad and regretful, before taking a slow dive to swim up toward the cove and the person she'd have to answer to.
"Hey! ... Kayla, are you okay?", Jacob eyeballed up once before he called out, not wanting to impede upon what Ki`rene was doing as he slid up onto a single knee; getting himself off the ground.
"I'm sure Ninne gave her a nice headache.", came as a low, disapproving grumble from Ki`rene, though her maw barely moved and her eyes never deviated from the approaching underwater spot of brown. She sounded none too happy, but once again, the gripe showed a piece of a Penitatas parent that he wasn't used to being shared with him; being given her commentary, and hearing her actual worried tone, as if he was an adult she didn't have to hide her thoughts from. Even though it caught him off guard more than once now, he was at least relieved to see Kayla lazily lift a paw and give a wimpy wave, slumped over the apex of Anne's back. Knocked for a loop, for sure, but...
"Ma', please, that was a total accident! I really didn't mean to do anything dangerous - it won't happen again!", Ninne's maw lit up into a flurry of quickly spoken words as her meek swim ended and her legs took to the sand beneath the lake's surface; stepping her shrunken, slinking raptor form very cautiously onto the shore with both of her claws coming up in a moment of young, pleading defense. Her smooth brown scales twinkled with light as water flowed off her body, creating silent streams across her curves and down the lightly defined muscles of her immature Drakonian legs. The rest of her dripping copiously to the ground, off her neck and tail, Ninne's exceptionally stiff and reeling stance was met with a harsh grasp of the hide on the upper part of her neck; Ki`rene hauling her daughter's intimidated, backtracking legs out of the last bit of water with a couple of rough splashes. Neck craned in such a way as to keep a hold on her Penitatas and still look her in the eye, she went right into snapping at her drakeling as she walked her further onto the beach, adjacent to their Karrian company.
"If I thought you were trying to drown Kayla on purpose, I wouldn't even be bothering with this! What I saw was just plain careless, and you know better!", Ki`rene sought to drill into her daughter's thick skull, releasing the scruff of her neck without any sort of shove or release of anger, despite her sharp, cutting parental tone. Just feet from Jacob, whom sat back down onto the sullied seat of his jeans just to stay quiet, the larger of the two saurian reptiles turned her body around, following the inertia from her tail until her footclaw dug in and left her facing the small, claw-wringing form beneath her. Yellow eyes piercing and hot, and yellow-green subdued and fearful for her hide.
"How many hundreds of times have you been told? She is a fraction of your size, and you have to make sure you don't hurt her! You had to have known that you were having trouble out there, but instead you just tried to push harder; being a thickheaded showoff. But, with someone on your back? Ninne, hitting the water hard enough is like hitting concrete!", the mother drake's neck sank through her firm words, following the shameful withdraw of Ninne's head as she threw her right claw open and out as a wide gesture at the end. Breathing quickly through her nostrils, Ninne managed to stand with a light tremble as she was so sternly berated, knowing how badly she was going to cop it if her mom was this irate with her. Though, before she could put her own claws out again, barely having enough time to open her maw to release the air she would have uttered another hide-saving plea with, Ki`rene stopped her with a curl of her snout and the baring of a few teeth.
"Don't you dare, honey. Not after what you could have done! If my word isn't good enough, we happen to be good friends with a doctor, now aren't we?", she had started right off with a slower, calmer sense of motherly authority in the face of explaining to Ninne just how inexcusably far out of line her behavior had been, until coming to stand up straight with an unexpected tip of her head in Jacob's general direction. Being referenced so abruptly made the discipline-shy Karrian swallow uneasily, especially when his friend's saddened, weak look peered over to him.
"Jacob took off running, just like I did. I'm sure he didn't do that just because you and Kayla got a little wet. She could have broken her neck, or been knocked out to sink and drown, and it would have been your fault - all because you didn't think! It's a level of carelessness and thoughtlessness that I'm not going to tolerate out of you, and you'd better believe that we're going to do something about it.", Ki`rene drilled into Ninne for parenting's stake, drawing her deeper into just why she was in so much trouble, having threatened Kayla's being, and the sort of fright her foolish over-aggressiveness had caused all those around her. That she had legitimately done wrong, and harmed a friend. Her yellow eyes firm with resolve, having spoken her mind to prepare Ninne, Ki`rene's last sentence had her center of gravity shifting backward onto her tail, ready to instill correction for what she had accused; the harsh consequences a learning, troublesome Penitatas' ill-thought actions merited.
Seeing her mother lean back and curl her stiff tail to prop her weight up, settling into the Drakonian disciplinary position she had seen so many times before, Ninne's maw let off the faintest vibration of a quiver as she silently and softly lifted a single footclaw to settle it back down; squirming in disappointed discomfort. Every so often she could swallow her feelings down and accept punishment the way Kayla could, emulating her attitude and obedience under pressure, but most of the time, she could never give her tail up for chewing without a good couple of explanations and pleas to take the edge off the situation. Though as Ki`rene settled back and stopped, arms crossed, she couldn't have looked any more serious, or solemn, in what she was about to do. Sitting like she was in her bare scales, exposing her tail and normally unseen underbelly to form her lap, Ninne imaged how difficult that had to have been for her mother, so unused to being without her saurian-tailored clothes. For Ki`rene to swallow down her Earth-drake sense of modesty, running the risk of losing her privacy without so much as a twitch in her snout, it was quite clear that there wasn't anything she could say or do to help her poor scales, in the face of true conviction.
"I screwed up. I'm sorry ma`ma - I'll... I'll be good.", Ninne's voice turned smaller and lighter, just barely serving to mask it's timid, tearful undertone, as her eyes threatened to water in having to accept what she had done as being written in stone. She didn't want to injure Kayla, surely, but few things cut Ninne deeper than the disappointment or anger of her mother, when the pair so casually shared the affection of a loving family. Her parent's approval and acceptance was something she couldn't do without; revealing her vulnerabilities in her younger years, especially having been originally raised in such poor conditions.
"Then I shouldn't need to pull you into my lap by the scruff. Come on.", the deeper, older voice above her diminished stance directed with the offer of an open claw to assist, rather than force. Saving Ninne those two or three tiny, clumsily stumbling steps while having the hide atop her neck pulled upon, she gave her daughter ample opportunity to make good on her words - and was rewarded with her quiet, sullen cooperation.
Stepping herself into Ki`rene's lap with the help of a claw larger than either of her own, Ninne's lower belly and the curve of her body into her raptor-like legs were settled against her mother's flexed right thigh, bolstering her up before Ki`rene's legs clamped around her own. Her legs pinned straight and immobile between her mothers', leaving her hindquarters and sensitive tail-base fully positioned without defense, the simple press of Ki`rene's claw forced the weight of Ninne's head to lower her upper body; bending it perfectly over her single hind-leg, ready for a tail-chewing. The ends of her maw tight, Ninne squeezed her eyelids shut as she was situated into place, uneasily moving her fingers as a nervous reaction until her Drakonian eyes slowly came back open, pointed away from the gleam of the sun above. Staring down into her mother's shadow, seeing the moist, colorful sand below, the slight raise of her sight brought her clouded vision to look at Jacob; sharing nothing more than a glance in the silent nature of something they were both used to. Facing the lake, Jacob wasn't one to watch or gawk, but with Ninne's sad, submissive face so close to him, he couldn't help but share in her frown, as an act of empathy. The good doctor might have felt for Kayla in this case, and strongly agreed with Ki`rene, but that didn't make him want to forsake someone whom he called a friend - especially when she mouthed a simple word to him. 'Sorry', she created with the scale of her snout, showing her stiff jaw as Ki`rene took hold of her tail and gave the upward pull necessary to deeply expose it's sensitive base and all to be punished. Ninne knew what Kayla meant to him, but for her silent sentiment on his behalf, Jacob could only think to raise a hand, just to let her know it wasn't needed.
The fleeting moment they shared ended with an abrupt, sharp contraction of muscle that shot Ninne's eyes closed, tensing up against her mother's leg as she took in an audible zip of air through her gnashed teeth; rolling it's pained sound into a warbling, shrilly sad whine that quickly averted Jacob's eyes with a flinch. Following the infliction of Ki`rene's initial bites, bringing Ninne's trembling, balled claws up beside her hanging neck, the drakeling expressed what she felt through her lament, straight down to the sand in her attempt to swallow down the sudden piercing ache. Having dipped her maw in, the steadfast mother started with a bang for a warm-up, biting steadily down the underside length of Ninne's tail-base; moving a little further down, and inward, with each subsequent bite from her sharpened, mature teeth. It got the bottom-side of Ninne's tail from it's widest point inward, moving between her legs ever so slightly as the bites shrank smaller and smaller, turning the last three into pinching nips that 'ticked' dully as tiny points impacted saurian scale - coming over the girl's generally blended-in slit of her anus. Just as Kayla had to deal with such agonizing and embarrassing things when her tail was yanked upon, baring and pulling on bits of tight skin she wished she could have kept to herself, a drake's discipline was not exempt from it's own personal discomforts. The pointed tips of Ki`rene's teeth wrinkling and folding semi-hard scale, tenderizing it, the tiny hidden gap between four little scales took the final, sharpest pinch with the sensation of hot needles; combining spine-curling sting with the feeling of heated, moist breath. It's harsh jolt got her quivering toes to tense the greatest amount, and that was only Ki`rene marking her scales from front to back, and side to side, to wake up her entire raptor-ish under-tail.
Getting down to business like any of the other parents would have done in spanking their charge, the chomping, nibbling strikes of her teeth-tips against her daughter's under-tail turned right into a grasp, now that all of Ninne's saurian bottom had some heat to contend with; showing light marks against her cool brown. The thinned, nerve-laden hide having experienced the equivalent of a few firm whacks from the flat of a wooden brush, just to get going, Ki`rene's taking of the tender scale between her teeth started what would have been the sound swatting that followed their disciplinary 'acquaintance'. As the name of their act came to be known for, the two large rows of bony points began to chew upon scaly hide, moving only small amounts as she caught, squeezed, and rolled on like an aggressive championship bubble-gum chewer. Scales indenting and flexing from the press of her teeth, forcing an armored exterior against hard, sharp points, Ki`rene's efforts made quiet work of her daughter's backside, all as it's pain experience burst into a steady, constant blaze; causing Ninne's snout to wrinkle, growling out a tearful sound before popping open into a sharply expressed, half-sob. It was the sting of a quick slapping coupled with the heavy bite of a belt across her outermost nerves each time her mother's jaw grinded and pinched, so carefully and meticulously punishing clear through her scales without ever breaking them. Instead they bruised, with each harshest press of a tooth creating an indented wheal and spot of purple. Like times before in class, Jacob kept his eyes away while he merely listened with a lump in his gut from Ninne's growing, yet still tiny whimpers carrying out over the cove.
A warningless yell made the Karrian's tail curl, sweeping sand up against the side of his tense appendage as he lowered his brows and tried to keep his eyes straight forward, locked over the water, as to not stare at what was going on right beside him. In his left ear-slit, the yowl of acceptant, growing agony came with a childish feminine tone, piled on top of a gradually aging drakeling's throaty saurian roar. Jacob didn't need to turn his head to know his once savior was in tears, crying in restraint, from the faint hiccups and sputters he could hear between her other sounds of lament and endurance. Ki`rene was a particularly adept tail-chewer, if not uncharacteristically knowledged at what she did, and it lent well to the quality and variance of techniques at her disposal. Marked and reddened scale showing unevenly, reaching outward from under the base of her tail toward the curves of her hips and tail-sides, the grown maw that bit at the shadowed personal crevice at the meeting place of Ninne's haunches was met with many sensations beyond just one trick - facing scorn for what she had done.
Aside from her chewing and abrasive gnawing, making rough pops and leathery sounds within her maw which only she and her daughter could barely hear, Ki`rene would stop her dutiful hide-gnashing every so many random moments to apply a new burst of ache elsewhere; ensuring her "spanking" would stay fresh and full of unexpected twists, rather than something Ninne could plainly tolerate. Her special additions caused jumps of the younger drake's back, quivering wiggles of her hindquarters, and jerks in her legs which she could feel between her own, all while hearing their resulting shouts and cries from their quick 'pin-prick'-like natures. Releasing her daughter's under-tail from the harsh, continuous punishment of her jaw's effort, the elder drake would zip her front teeth to wherever she felt would hurt the most - be it a spot she had chewed on deeply, or a spot that often didn't see such abuse, due to it's location. She'd chew, and chew... then unexpectedly snap upon a new spot with a single chomp before zipping right back to where he had been, like a parent adding a heavier, slower swat in the middle of a brisk paddling. Experienced, the mother drake could snap her jaws hard and fast, but only sink so far as to indent her child's little scales as far as they would allow before deflecting right away, leaving them intact, but with a pin-hole sized spot of outer damage that compromised a thickness of her hide; creating the Drakonian version of a blister, and the sign that this was a full-on chewing, and not something to be shrugged off any time soon.
Those unwelcome surprises shot deeply jarring pulses down Ninne's tail, mixing the pounding sheer pain of a blistering paddle's severity with the shrill sting of something so much more concentrated. It struck the firmer musculature on the backs of her haunches, just behind her hips, that normally could not see the tenderizing motions of any chewing. At the base of each leg, on either side, she felt the sharp bolts of her mom's teeth snap into her hide like a spanking implement sending a shock-wave through flesh. Against the under-side of her tail-base and even nipped against the side of her long, stiff appendage where it flowed into the rest of her saurian form, like spanking the base of a bipedal girl's bottom, the abrupt and unstoppable snaps between the chews upon her under-tail brought honest, forceful tears in a short amount of time for a Penitatas' seasoned ability to grit and bear. There was little of that left within Ninne, who's eyelids' thin scale wrinkled and held tiny specks of moisture as she cried out, sending her rolling tears down the smooth scale of her snout. They fell without a sound to disappear against the sand, making their final twinkles only just as they dropped off the end of Ninne's tightly stiffened, hanging maw. She jumped, tried to buck her immobile legs, and cried wholeheartedly as the tissue and defenseless meat protected by her marked and wearing scales felt the brunt of her discipline; taking the harsh chomps far above the massive growing fire upon the lowest, most tender portion of her tail. Battered from her tail-hole on outward, bruised and crimson against her very now un-smooth scale, she was far too busy absorbing the energetic and constant array of teeth against her to even try to form any sentences; forced to cry it out, should she want any outlet for what she felt.
And, as could be a tail-chewing, it wasn't the shortest spectacle either; trudging forward no matter how hard Ninne's once stoic attempt at bottling up her tears turned into hefty cries. Her claws swinging to try and reach back to cover herself, like any child taking a stern spanking, the tips of her preened, trimmed claws would occasionally brush by her mother's snout. With a reach hindered by her being bent over Ki`rene's leg, the ends of her fingers were blocked without effort, just by the mother drake's maw being in the way. It hurt so badly, and so intensely, but unlike the nature of a true spanking of hand to skin, there was little sound; making a tail-chewing into a trial of endurance with nothing to distract your ears, or drown out your own calls, no matter how faint or muffled. The only reassurance and touch came from the claw the pulled her tail, baring what she hid beneath, and the one that rested atop her fallen neck without so much as an angry press. It was an intimate form of discipline, and considering what an adult drake's jaws could do, a significant token of trust - and family. Ninne's blisters forming in scattered little patches within her brown scale, usually in pairs of two side-by-side from her mother's leveraged upper teeth, they filled with clear fluid; like any creature; from the cellular injury occurring between hide and flesh seeping into the break within the scale. While those points stung the most, surrounded by circular bruises and teeth-marks, Ki`rene's means of punishment brought all of those pains together - organized, and direct. As a Penitatas, and one that had done wrong, she was pushed far beyond what any child could handle, and into the realm of an ex-convict serving time in the small body and mind of a whelp.
Jacob held out as best as he could at his young age, trying not to look and risk the disrespect he feared, or indulge in the gawking he felt to be embarrassing. It became harder in time, having Ninne bawling so close to him, sounding so desperate and tearful. She howled, roared, and screeched, and all he could imagine were her sad, regretful, salty drips falling from the tip of her snout. Even when you were not involved, as a child, seeing or hearing the crying of another as they were punished, no matter how so, invoked a stiff jaw, and the urge to sniffle. The prideful boy, in all his years, couldn't grasp tightly enough at his maturity to ward off those feelings either as he stiffly kept to himself, repeating over and over inside of his mind that he agreed with Ninne's discipline and shouldn't have taken to misty eyes. Ki`rene was clearly fair, and wise, and his friend had well earned her lesson and correction. It couldn't be helped, and was for the better. For all it was worth, all it took were a series of drawn out, weakening and tired sobs with a lighter, girlish tone, to turn Jacob's head with sympathy failing to avert his gaze.
As soon as his brown eyes had turned, faintly damp in listening to the tearful, submissive sounds of someone who was pain-stricken and worn, the brown saurian head hanging just feet from where he sat opened it's drenched eyes to dimly colored slits in the shade of her parent. She right away clenched her teeth and flinched, tensing hard with a deeply pained and tearful whine following one of her mother's special, punishing bites, but with a little will, her squeezed eye-ridges failed to close all the way as the two rejuves met looks; much against Jacob's shy, tense expectations. The lines of tears down Ninne's snout caught bits of sun and lit them up, from her eyelids down to the beads they formed at the end of her snout, just as he had imagined, but tried not to see. Struck with the uncomfortable sense of intrusion, not wanting to be a spectator to Ninne's public discipline, his first response was to turn away... but it wasn't what happened. Ninne's claws shaking, streaked with spots from fallen and wiped tears, her sobbing but stoic facade squinted at him as her right claw lifted, unfurling it's fingers. In her pain, and in a repentant child's sorrow, she had reached out to a friend, if just barely.
Understanding the want and need within the bit of wet yellow-green he could see, Jacob found a little bit of that adult left in him as he recalled his own feelings as a Penitatas, having been eager for support like that too. Not to mention, just who gave it to him, shedding these very tears so he didn't have to. While sympathetic in it's allure, his small green muzzle slowly turned to a faint, encouraging smile; curling the ends of his mouth as he lifted his left hand and took her claw's fingers, sliding his own into her palm. Ki`rene's eyes were busy and she wouldn't see, nor likely mind, the bit of silent cheering going on by the lowest part of her big leg; Ninne getting to hold Jacob's hand, and squeeze it, through the last of her tail-chewing. Ninne's head curling back against the bottom of her mother's upper leg, she reserved herself to a good cry; closing her eyes to take the last of what she had coming.
Gnawed raw and bruised, worked over like the best of paddlings, Ninne's maw stayed open with a hint of Drakonian spittle coating her lips, crying and wailing with the stronger female throws her race was known to snarl aloud. Tiny pin-like spots littered in pairs across the base of her well-tenderized tail, with one coming up against the rim of her swollen, battered anal slit; half-encompassed in it's tight, sensitive opening. Others spread into places less bruised, without the marring effects of her mother's chewing. They cropped up with red marks against her haunches, dotting sparsely around the backs of her big hind-legs, and very intentionally placed within the folds of scales. Where tail met the curve into limb saw those faint dots of red-purple, surrounded white, and everything that could have been safely nipped had been, creating the balance of a Penitatas-grade punishment. And, when it was done and Ki`rene's maw let go of her heated, blazing hide without diving in with any extra snaps of her jaws, Ninne's claw slid hesitantly from Jacob's hand to ball up beside her snout; having eased her spirit through camaraderie, howling down toward the sand.
Left pinned in her mother's lap for a brief time, the girl calmed herself into a steady cry, keeping her teeth visible and clenched all the while as Jacob took to quietly keeping an eye on her, and Ki`rene stroked the scale of her neck and shoulders. Solemn and motherly, the elder drake looked very observant of how her child was acting and lamenting; watching without a word as she ran her cool scale softly across the base of her daughter's neck, where it would calm her the most in wake of the trial she put her though, and the pain she was still experiencing. It didn't seem like she was at all detached from the act she performed, taking responsibility for that ache through her own beliefs. No matter how thorough she might have been, or how strict she sought to be, Ninne's feminine privacy was never violated; not seeing a hint of red or lost drip of saliva come toward her belly past a certain point. It was done Ki`rene's way, and a labor of love.
The water of the lake washing against the packed sand some steps away from Ki`rene's footclaw talons, the sounds of other creatures and their idle breeze came back to them as tears slowed and tensions faded - bringing all of them back to the world, and out of the punitive chaos that was corporal punishment.
"Okay Ninne, I think your legs can hold out now. Up and out.", Ki`rene pondered aloud, speaking lightly and with care as she kept her head craned down toward her daughter; coming to turn her words into a gently expressed directive.
'Up and out' being a way of saying to step out from between her legs, the mother drake offered the help of her claws as Ninne begrudgingly lifted her head and began working her way down from the spot of Ki`rene's hind-leg she had been plastered against, reaching down with a single footclaw till her toes again found the wet sand she had left. Naturally shrunken, the girl's legs flexed as she turned and accepted her own weight, feeling all sorts of throbbing, pounding pains leaping through the muscles around her hind. Head down, and jaw still shaking as she softly hiccuped and sputtered through her breaths, her normally greenish yellow slitted irises were tainted a stained hue of red; puffy and shimmering as the light of the sun reflected off the pools formed against her lower eyelid. It had been a strong cry, but at least with the help of a small green hand and some boisterous strength she had lasted long enough to still hold back some of her screams - unlike the loud, brisk water-works of her fellow drake Anne, when she had a punishment shatter her limited pain tolerance.
Frowning in discomfort, clearly feeling uneasy as her mother's claws left her body, Ninne gave Jacob a glance before turning her sight up toward her tail-seated parent. Her claws unsure of where to go, wanting to grab her hindquarters and squeal, the drakeling gathered her words as quickly as her tired throat could form them, now that she was standing on her own.
"Does... does this mean-... ?", Ninne attempted to speak in her trained and acquired panglish, starting off terribly tearful only to try and ask her question again with even worse of a vocal sound; trying to choke back her chest-jumping sobs and completely stiffening her jaw from not just the personal ache, but also what she was trying to ask her mother. Working a quiver through the lips of her maw, showing off a couple of her teeth as she paused to wipe at her snout, the girl took a firm swallow as she formed enough of a resolve to more calmly say what she wanted.
"I have to sit out now, don't I?", she rephrased her question without much raising her head as she faced her mother's open, bare curved underbelly, looking up only with her wet, drooping eyes. To her it must have been a given, knowing the penalty for abusing the good graces you were provided, but seeking the confirmation left her sounding so meek and sad - already feeling bad for what she had done, and disappointed she was about to lose her privilege to enjoy the lake with the others. With Ninne's words, seeing the drake look back over her shoulder with a longing face to check on Kayla and Anne, Ki`rene had started to get up from her special tail-propped sitting position with a stroke of her firm tail through the sand; kicking a bit into the air as it came free of the beach and returned to the air behind herself. Footclaws flat in the damp sand, feeling it's coarse bits pressing against her scale as it did her tail before, the solid parental expression that stayed over her face didn't bode well to Ninne's worry.
"Oh no - you're not getting out of this that easily!", the tall mother drake spoke with emphasis and vigor, reaching out with her claws to again grasp her daughter; whom merely but harshly winced, clenching everything she had as Ki`rene's fingers took hold of both her bony shoulder and the softer scruff of her neck, as if she was about to tug her into another round of discipline. Claws tight up against her breastbone, eyes and mouth snapped shut, her throat made the tiniest high pitch whimper under her breath, while Jacob nearly froze where he sat; taking the blow just as Ninne did.
In a second's motion, those large, able claws turned Ninne around with a spin on her stiff legs, digging her footclaws into the ground to brush a bit of sand aside and over her toes. Turned away from her mother, the warmth of the sun again against the streaked scale of her face, the young girl's tremble was met not with any sudden pain, but a light, easy nudge against the un-chewed, hard scale against the top-side base of her rigid Drakonian tail. Being scooted forward enough to force her to take a step on her own, the unexpected repositioning brought Ninne to open her eyes and peer behind herself without completely turning her head or curling her neck; quiet and surprised, if not a little confused, until her mother spoke up.
"Hit the lake and practice while you play with your friends. There's nothing for you to learn out here on the beach, so go cool your tail off honey, and please - be safe this time, alright?", Ki`rene offered as an instruction of a different kind, brightening up her voice to the friendly and less-strict mannerisms she typically carried; no longer appearing stern as she relented toward the lighter side of parenting. If anything, she sounded fairly soft spoken now that her duties had been done, and the air between them had been cleared, sharing a general understanding. She trusted her child wouldn't go and drown her friends at this point, and wasn't all too willing to take away Ninne's vacation over one forgivable mistake; the clear difference between the elder drake and other parents of her caliber.
Ninne's maw had reopened and curled itself into a gleeful smile despite her her jaw not quite cooperating, trying to quiver regardless of how thankful she was to hear that she could still swim and not have to sit out. Just the thought of being huddled up by her lonesome was enough to keep the tears fresh, but at least now she just had her hurting, raw tail to contend with. And for that, she had a cure!
" ...'kay.", the Penitatas accepted with a tiny voice, uttering it out with an airy breath at just above the volume of a whisper over her broad young shoulders before shyly and appreciatively taking her leave. Short on words and trying not to speak with her jaw still locked in the fetters of her emotional state, Ninne sniffed once to clear her nostrils and launched off a single footclaw with a hard jut of her leg; sending her crouched, meek stance back to a throttled run against the sand with a raptor's posture. Leaving her single Penitatas mother and Jacob behind, relief spread like it was contagious among the trio as Ninne's sprint sped up through the lake's shallows, leading up to her saurian leap and dive. Going streamlined in mid-air, like a professional diver, she had burst into the lake with a showing of her dark red and purple-laden backside to disappear without too significant of a splash; darting beneath the shimmering ripple to roll once and rub her tail briskly in passing. Standing upon the beach beside her new Karrian acquaintance, arms loosely crossed, Ki`rene softly chuckled to herself now that things were falling back into the norm of their family business, right before her eyes.
"She thinks I didn't see that.", Ki`rene tilted her snout down to Jacob to note with a lighthearted smirk across her face, obviously choosing to pay no mind. Unable to help his soft smile, sitting with his legs still and sprawled ahead of his lazy tail, the observant boy took a breath in wake of all that he had seen, heard, and felt between the two drakes - large and small, behaved and non. Despite it not being his own rear, Ki`rene's actions and choices of words struck him with the warmth of gratitude on Ninne's behalf, and even his own. While the mother drake tall and strong above him smiled out over the lake without a weary eye, presenting comfort and confidence in all that she did, she too seemed to hold an empathetic aura about her; reminding the doctor of himself, and just how he felt when he was beside the discipline of his so-called miscreant friends - the Penitatas.
"That was... unbelievably nice of you.", he complimented with a low, slow, pleasantly surprised ring to his young vocal pitch, looking up with his hands slacking against the denim of his lap. Jacob was sure he didn't look or sound perfectly composed, but after everything he sat through and contended with beside Ninne, nothing was going to stop him from speaking his mind; truthful, but ever so quiet. For his words, while the smaller of the two drakes swam beneath the water toward her waiting companions, Ki`rene turned her yellow eyes to him with an extra dash of thoughtfulness in her saurian facial expression.
"I like to imagine that I do a decent job. I mean, she is my first. Though, I guess I'm technically giving her another opportunity to act out, but at least this way it's up to Ninne to decide whether or not to behave. A chance to try again and prove themselves; that's all the girls really ever want most of the time.", she spoke with a relaxed air about her now that her nerves were settling back into place, raising an open claw with her palm toward the sky to fondly talk of her one and only Penitatas, and the job she carried out since taking her in. It was as much an adventure for the parents as it was for the girls, in light of their children's special correctional needs, and the things that made their bonds unique as they got to know one another.
Just as chatty and warm as he remembered, hearing the woman go right back to being herself, Jacob found what she had said to be very true, and even similar to the opinions Kayla had shared with him. That casual, caring attitude she carried with her easily comforted a young heart; assuring those around her that all was well, even without speaking those very words. A deep conviction fueled her disciplinary duties, clearly believing in their worth and parental importance, but it was a tender personality balanced beside it that made the old Karrian find the woman so intriguing and pleasant. So casual in conversation with a Medicalos she hardly knew, setting aside the fetters for a friendly word, made Jacob's half-smile a lot more honest.
"And now it's time for Kayla to work her magic... ", Ki`rene's attention returned to the lake with a knowing grin, sounding more contemplative and quietly observant as she lifted that same claw to her snout, seeing her daughter gently surface from the water's depths to face her friends and residual guilt; the other half of fixing what she had done, aside getting her tail chewed for it. The mother drake's decision placing Ninne and Kayla back together, Jacob joined in his elder's focus to see what would unfold between them in wake of Ninne's carelessness.
Left out in the shining blue to rest and wait, Kayla had eventually peeled herself off of Anne's scales to better prop herself up against the buoyant drake's back; gradually feeling less like her world was spinning as she recovered from the hard blow she received to her head, and the bucket of water that got into each of her ears. Drying out in the sun, floating in the water up to her waist, the Aspatrian's ebony ear-tips had returned to their usual point toward the clouds amidst she and Anne's light chatter. Together the pair had killed some time while Kayla caught her breath and dulled her pains, taking it easy for a time, while they waited to see what would befall their other friend-in-scale. Surely enough, once the roars and other cries ceased their tumultuous echoes off the lake and it's encompassing, far away cliff-faces and hills, they were faced with a hanging, meek head coming up beside them with a pair of tired, regretful Drakonian eyes. Clear water rolling off of Ninne's scale in thin waves, making her dull scale shimmer with vibrance, none in the group appeared to speak as Kayla stared down at the friend who harmed her with a long, damp face.
For a moment the lake looked tense and silent, lacking in any sort of movement; Ninne willing, but unready, for another round of berating. Instead, the flick of a paw made her faintly flinch, taking a small spray of water across her face.
Leaning against Anne's back with a light smirk, Kayla's right arm slumped down the older drakeling's side with her fingers in the water; silver 'P' clear from the moisture matting down the thin, immature fur on her once injured paw. Rather than say a word, with those on the beach coming to see not a single maw open, Ninne's apologetic return and meek look was met with nothing more than a playful, dismissive, and lighthearted splash to clear the air. As she liked to, choosing not to dwell when it wasn't necessary, Kayla offered her forgiveness without having to say it; creating a personal peace and comfort, just like Jacob noticed Ki`rene to radiate. It made the boy tilt his head to the side with a single, slow blink, pondering the characteristic similarities between them as Ninne's uncertainty turned to a tiny near-smile, bringing about a small retaliatory backhanded splash up and off her black tracking bracelet; waving it's array of droplets in a sheet up and over Kayla's head - catching the side of Anne's snout in the process. In seconds, the tension surrounding them had turned to play that left it all behind, filled with laughter and waves of flying droplets. Ki`rene and Kayla were both sort of... naturally motherly in the way they handled certain things, weren't they?
"Atta' girl.", the deeper voice above him whispered quietly, cheering Kayla's ability to set things right. The way she looked out over the water, smiling so loosely in the sweet air of the preserve, made Jacob's eyes squint just slightly as he peered up toward her. It was a curious, if not staunch and puzzled expression; dark hair shading his brows.
" ... Just like that, huh?", he spoke of the girls and how quickly they could move past the things that happen to them, going back to playing without needing to make one another miserable. Ki`rene had faith in that too, apparently, considering her remark about Kayla.
"That would be our fox's gift; that happy spark of hers'. She picks her battles wisely, forgives, and cuts my daughter a lot of slack she doesn't always entirely deserve.", Ki`rene ended on a little laugh, managing to maintain a deep feminine pitch, despite it coming from the throat of a Drakonian. In the past she had seen Kayla take nasty swattings and still manage to find the brighter side, and that same joyous optimism and view of the world was how she came to interact with others; granting confidence, or at least taking the edge off a bad situation, caring for those around her. Shaking her head a little at a thought, the tall drake took her eyes off the rejuves to properly address her total age's near-equivalent.
"Besides, my little doctor - if it weren't for classification letters being on the backs of young people's hands, I think just about everyone would find your sweetheart to be a fine role model.", she directly commented with a proud parent's warmth, though her facial expression was chipper, if not somewhat sly, in approaching a few things the way she did. The fact she touched upon he and Kayla's relationship made Jacob a little rigid, but beyond the woman's playful nature, what she had said was wise to the core; clashing epiphanies within his heart, based on the sorts of things his mother had left to weigh on him there.
If it weren't for their silver labels, would you still be able to tell a well behaved Penitatas from a Voluntarus? Philosophical questions arose, and it left him staring out over the lake and his handful of friends.
" ... She is such a total cactus.", he heard humorously spoken above him, Ki`rene thinking aloud about her daughter after watching Ninne's sulking turn back into childish fun with her follow Penitatas companions. In step with her commentary, the lightly smirking parent craned her neck and had her large body follow in a motion to turn around, heading back up the beach to let Ninne and the others do as they pleased with her continued supervision granting them a cozy, long leash.
Watching the big drake step away over his shoulder, leaving imprints in the sand from her weight and claws, Jacob figured she'd head back to work and report Kayla's perky condition back to the Targates, whom left these matters in her capable claws likely to keep there from being too many disciplinarians and not enough tails. His jeans sullied with sand, as well as the chest of his shirt from his fall, Jacob was again left alone in the summer sun; tranquility returning to what was once his private relaxation, simply watching the girls horse around in his vacation from thought and worry. However, now that his mind was going, sitting in a slouch so close to the water's ever moving edge, those prior expressions he wore did not return. Rather than romance or young fancy, his seven year old brain was forced to contemplate what all he had been shown; returning stress to his world, and little more than a blank, distant look across his face, while his brown eyes stayed longingly, and yearningly, over those his thoughts surrounded. Kayla, and all those he held close as important, who wore the symbols of penance upon the backs of their hands. The people his mother wanted to take away, because they had already poisoned his impressionable behavior, changing him - so he, and they, had been accused.
Every second of every day was a part of a long, highly structured punishment that forced them, involuntarily, to be children beneath a brand new parent's roof; paying a debt to society for infringing upon it's laws, and committing crimes upon it's people. A Penitatas' life was rife with intentional hardships as they were re-raised "the hard way", finding strict rules that kept them confined, and many hands to provide consequences for their wrongs; the things their behaviors and personalities turned into, when made so young. Those predispositions to fall into trouble were where his adoptive mother grounded her beliefs regarding them, but as Jacob got to watch such carefree fun; Kayla stopping the splash fight with a few waves of her paws, water dripping off her muzzle; he failed to see any true evil within any of them. His choices of friends were nothing more than wayward souls - still able to love life and have the capacity for good, despite the pains and trials they faced.
The breeze kicked up, filling Jacob's reptilian ear-splits with the faint roar of air as a cooling sensation came over a few of his tiny green scales. Dropping his sight with the lift of his right hand, bending his wrist, he looked over a moist, shining line that cut across the leading edge of his silver, Medicalos 'M', to find an insignificant bead tucked against the crevice his hand made at the base of his thumb. A lost tear, left behind by Ninne as she held the very hand and cried aloud, sharing with him each pain she experienced through the squeeze of his fingers.
Ninne... she was a good example, the elder part of Jacob's mind thought. While not having known the bold Drakonian for very long, Kayla had told him a great deal of things after he had met her, during the rocky part of the two's ailing friendship. Because of that, what she shared tended to be fairly revealing and critical, if not also kind of honest, trying to deal with the loss of her best friend; no matter how badly the drake had hurt her, twisting a blade into her without conscience.
As an adult, the single-and-loving-it Miss Sak`kral lived a selfish existence of hedonism. Poorly raised and heavily abused as a Kindern, she grew up into an adult that did what she pleased, indulging in things at the cost of others. Promiscuous and immature, Ninne was the life of her own party; filled with racy stories of casual sex that she even now, didn't mind sharing with her close gal-pals. Such things made her a blemish on society, but it wasn't until she began breaking into people's homes to rob them of their valuables, did she become one of its criminals. Overconfident, and never thinking ahead, she was caught after her fourth house; trying to fund her illustrious lifestyle, for any edge she could get on the world. The 'bad girl' she was, literally became just a bad, small girl. Rejuvenated, and lost, she was met by a Drakonian woman who wore clothes, just like her, and brought her home to help her find her way.
But, that was then, and this was now. The socially strong Drakonian woman inside of that small, growing body, had made personal improvements that even he could see, in the short time he had known her. From someone who was purely vulgar and self-centered, whom allowed Kayla to take a hefty paddling for throwing a memory chip she didn't throw, she ended up being the one to take a punishment in his place - defending him during his darkest hour when she had nothing to gain but a blistered tail. She had even gone as far as to turn against her own friend, only to find the errors of such misplaced judgment and return with apologies and regret. This, her time as a Penitatas, has been her lesson in self-control, and humility. She might have been rough around the edges and somewhat sweet, like a prickly cactus, but she had learned how to be a decent friend and individual in just over four years, understanding things like guilt, fellowship, and honor, beside people like Ki`rene and Kayla. With her strength and fairly offbeat personality, what Jacob actually thought of her didn't come anywhere near the notions of 'evil'.
After all, there were also people like Miss Di`sherek - Anne. Blindly excitable and energetic, leading through even her incarceration with a dash of spirit, Jacob found it hard to believe that she could have ever been a bad person to begin with. From their conversations and banter in school, he seldom heard the older, eleven year old drake speak of her conviction and what she had done, often choosing to be vague when making mention to the past. All he knew is that she tried to scam a casino, invoking the mental image of a young woman looking for a little easy money in the form of rigging a game. Rather than acting on malice, her crime was a mistake brought on by ignorance; the misguided act of a spoiled child. Sharing a trait with Ninne, she too ended up with a weak moral compass, even if she managed to live an upstanding life up until that one, sad error. Perhaps, the old boy had to wonder, their outgoing Anne used to be too outgoing for her own good; this being her lesson in restraint, and penalty for doing something unconscionably foolhardy.
Unwrapping his claw's worn bandages to relieve himself of the sloppy white and browned strips, allowing them to collapse into soft coils beside his sharp nails, nestled against the sand, the Karrian's troubled heart kept his eyes wandering; fearful of losing those friends he could see, now that he was coming to realize just how well he had come to know them. In lieu of soaking one another, it came to look as if Kayla was telling Ninne and Anne a story; noticing her vibrant gestures, even if he couldn't hear an intelligible sound at his distance. Orange paw cutting up into the air, as if to describe a leap as her black tracking band followed her open chop, she was retelling the situationally relevant tale of Za`kira and the Vulcan - a tale even Jacob didn't know yet. Propped up against Anne's back, she looked from side to side with a delighted, fond, and toothy allure to her bright face, making the two necks craned toward her rumble with snickers and laughter. Hands working on his feet, the Karrian's once glum, near lack of an expression was graced with a tiny, silent smile.
His Kayla. Now that was a lovely woman if he had ever met one, and to him, she was surely a diamond among the Penitatas - the legendary hacker, and now heroine, Packet-Storm. She was his like-minded opposite; finding so much common ground and camaraderie, despite truly being much different from him. He knew her to be generous, loving, calm, and outgoing in these days beyond her old shy ways, before he had met her; managing to hold a sort of confidence unique to her and her outspoken mannerisms as a solid, self-standing individual. Sure, Kayla wasn't always perfect, he could honestly admit; having spent so much time with her, and even slept with her. She had the capacity to be innately arrogant; jumping to aggression without even looking before she leaped, when all else failed. He had even gotten to see bits and pieces of her old, outright malicious attitude, due to Velius stripping her soul of it's joy - urging forth her will to obliterate him, for all he had done. Hells and trials had tainted her when she was a Kindern, leaving the wounds of rape and abuse behind to mar her to this day, but even in the face of all she wrestled with, she could still jump into a lake and have the time of her life. Good to everyone, and loved by those closest to her, the mess of a personality she carried was something to admire - not discount.
Above all else, she was one hell of a friend.
The evidence in his heart stood against the aged, tired sentiment his adoptive parent pushed onto him - that Penitatas were doomed to spread their misbehavior and poor upbringings; bending others' pliable minds through their misdeeds. It was a belief that had survived centuries, and older than even he was. It was what made parents turn their Kindern's heads, and even have adults come to ignore them... the very thing Kayla spoke out against, and it was becoming increasingly clear to an outsider as to why.
In her speech before the galaxy, standing in front of Starfleet Command's splendor, Kayla herself uttered the words that bled truth and rebuttal into this timeless debate; so often heralded by those who passed snap judgment without ever stopping to look at the complete picture. Those words she spoke, even while intimidated and shy before a glass podium and so many people, unmasked the heart of a Penitatas from their own perspective.
A Penitatas doesn't wish to be ignored as if they don't exist, or have others turn their heads away the moment they see their emboldened classification letter. They still want to be members of society; seen and heard, to be judged by who they are, and not only what they have done. And, at the end of the day, or another year served, a kind word of acknowledgment could never undermine their discipline, but instead reinforce it, by setting an example... essentially saying, by one's own words that you believe in them, and accept that they have the potential to be good. That it's all up to them - pass or fail - but at least they were still people, and still felt wanted by the populous that demanded them be reformed, and punished. After all, if other children were so impressionable... weren't they, too?
"To hell with her... ", Jacob mumbled at the tone of a growl to himself, thinking of his mother's harsh, snapping voice, and the declaration that she'd go and find him new companions of her own choosing. A part of his child-like heart was terrified of what she could do, running the risk of losing his friends entirely, but as his hands balled up against the shore of their cove, the Karrian made a choice - his age be damned.
They had each done things to earn his friendship and respect, and all had rich personalities beyond any mere generalization. Those were the same people who played with him like an equal, and showered him with reassurances when he started acting staunch or bashful; wanting him to have fun, and be with them without worry. They were the ones who pulled him from the wreckage of Radiation Lab One, trapped within his mind and own past, to join them in their reality; showing him their own brand of loyalty, but still filled with all their own quirks. In the face of all the things Jacob felt, gnashing his teeth suddenly, he dashed the remains of his concerns against the rocks; choosing fight over flight, and abandoning his stilled tongue.
"You're damn right they're influences. They've been great ones, and if she disagrees, she'll have to answer to me!", he announced against Lory while talking to himself, providing a bit of heated encouragement as his hands slid into the sand and helped to push him up; settling himself into the resolve needed to confront the someone he feared, and stick up for the things he wanted in his new life.
For all that he had experienced beside his friends, he knew his heart not to be mislead, but guided by truth, that he was a very lucky man indeed. Since coming into their lives, he had learned how to enjoy living again - changed, just as his mother accused. However, what had changed, was his ability to drop his ever-risen guard; breaking out of his shell to explore new horizons and attitudes. From staunch to lively, the once rigid, reserved reptile who hid from his own welcoming party had shed the remaining dead skin of his Starfleet career and aimed for something he could never attain in all his years... the chance to settle down. For the first time, he shattered his quiet mannerisms and gained a relationship, dabbling in the sort of love that he never let himself have in past lives. He became social when he was once a loner, and learned how to let go, when he used to only dwell. For the comfort and clarity he had attained since his near-death experience, Jacob couldn't see himself as anything but a better person, thanks to Kayla and those she surrounded him with.
Rising to his bare feet, trampling the crumpled piles of his sullied bandages, the doctor followed his heart, rather than his mind, to freedom. Lengthening his own leash with the vow that he would stay at his partner's side, as promised, Jacob shattered one of his final, tallest walls; sending it crumbling to the ground in the form of a fluttering light gray shirt, and the metallic jingle of his jeans' rear button bouncing off the side of his lithe tail. His friends having been right all along, his staunch old modesty ended up around his ankles to be briskly shaken off of his claws and left behind, leaving the simple sight of a young boy acting his age and appreciating life's graces. In just a pair of gray cotton briefs, lined with white and leaving little to the imaginations of those who had already seen him bare once, Jacob's carefree smirk over the matter was quickly beneath the lake's inviting and cool waters; sending droplets of water into the air to join his friends, without sitting out or needing to pretend he was somebody older, for once.
It was peace, and harmony. And it felt right.
Though as the preserve fell into tranquility, resolving the matters left unspoken in the wake of Richter Saccard's tyranny to bring unity, and a sense of family, a profound hostility was set to brew around them that not a rejuve nor a single adult would be able to escape. Now that matters had come together, they would soon come to a head; the threat of violence lurking, unbeknownst.
Their peace, so cradled by the sun above their heads, would not soon survive the night.