Kayla: Willful Disobedience
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-Seven)
Concept by Lurking Dragon
Kayla and story by Professor Bob

Barely illuminated by the dim light of a modern lantern at his side and the screen of his data-pad, Jacob’s blanket rustled against the bottom of his sleeping bag as he pulled it more snugly to his chest, sitting cross legged in the corner of his own child-size tent. The green plastic-like tarp that surrounded him was blackened by the darkness of the night, with only the moon and stars above now to light the hills and shimmer off the lake he spent hours playing with his friends in. Air crisp in his reptilian nostrils, it had chilled more than he would have expected in their late northern summer after the sun had set on their day of fun, soaking up the moisture and scent of the lake as their campfire smoldered into used, tired embers. He got to have dinner at the fire with those he cherished and the company of the other parents, keeping distance from his own to better focus on exactly what he and his own little heart wanted to do; unaccepting of what she seemed to want for him – to be yanked away from those who wear silver ‘P’s, influencing the choices he may have made. Gray boy’s briefs splayed in the other corner of his tent to dry privately after swimming in them, the seven year old Karrian had been relaxing only in a set of soft, off-white cotton pajamas and his checker-quilted blanket in wake of all the uncharacteristic horseplay and sociability he allowed himself to have. Considering his age and the time of night, not to mention how much energy he used up getting to swim and play, Jacob’s eyes were lazily squinted half closed with an idle, calm look of contentment etched across his green scaled snout.

It had been so long since he could say he had a time that made him this happy, or calmed his soul the way it did. Though he got to meet the unique ball of fur named Kayla Ackart in his fateful encounter at his new home, that was the only saving grace to what were ultimately several months of hardships. He became a Medicalos, losing everything but his life. He was falsely accused of attempting to destroy the Starfleet vessel he served and all those he was loyal to, tearing his heart apart while another literally lashed at his scales. He squirmed and struggled against all the harsh punishments he saw befall his friends, and the life it made up for the person he found love in; himself intermingled into their rules, as close as he became. Then, with the Velius incident, experienced emotional turmoil one after another. Never would he forget the sticky feeling of Kayla’s blood, and the bony, mangled feeling of her paw – thrust in and out of life and death experience. And, for it all, to be grounded to his room for weeks on end, finding out he got far less consoling and comfort than even the actual Penitatas in his life. Jacob may have been a strong man desperate to be mature and calculated despite his young mind and the small, tender scales he sported; more worried about how everyone else but him was fairing; but the honest truth was that life had been difficult, unfair, and punishing, after all he had been through. Not even allowed to express the love he had manage to kindle, Jacob’s heart had been a heavy one when others weren’t around. This treat that the Targates prepared for Kayla ended up helping him as much as he hoped it helped her. It let them be kids – that thing Jacob would normally avoid.

He chose a Penitatas neighborhood to live for the peace and quiet after the accident last Christmas. Well, he was at least feeling some peace finally, after that was all said and done. Like the Aspatrian he met and came to adore with loyalty, he too got to discover what it was that he wanted from his future, letting his wild young imagination paint pictures for him. A partner – one with a fluffy, lovely tail. No more Starfleet, after all these years of his long life. Silly, rowdy friends with their rigid yet oddly playful “paddle-wielding” parents, as Kayla would so often quip. Maybe be could be a teaching doctor, he wondered, being the sort of mentor he strived to be for Cameron and his old subordinates. It felt so realistic and tangible, he could understand why Kayla wanted to reach for her own so badly.

Feeling a nagging at his eyes from his fatigue, suppressing yawns as he checked for things to flip through on his pad, Jacob began to figure he should turn down for the night. All he could hear was a light breeze continuing through the preserve and nothing else, making the world around him sleepfully still. Tipping his snout to his side, Jacob slid the thin datapad on top of his medical backpack he had been keeping his things in, shifting about all the equipment and old articles he had attached to the outside; medical grays and silvers with a hint of tarnished, radiation pitted gold dull to the lantern’s glow, dialed back so far as to just be a night-light.

But then there was a faint brush of the lakeside sand that he would have never noticed unless a vibration hadn’t come from the ground below to be felt in the claws of his reptilian toes. Opening his eyes to being curious and alert, Jacob looked up at the flap of tent fabric that served as a doorway to see a dim hand slide into view. A jarring shock of surprise startled the Karrian, smacking him square in his chest, but the figure pushed the flap aside with a slow, cautious lift, and a familiar muzzle came into view that he could recognize even without turning his lantern’s glow up.

Hey. It’s me.”, Kayla greeted quietly, above the volume of a whisper. Voice kept low, it sounded young and feminine, as well as a tad meek in it’s greeting. Even knowing who it was, Jacob’s initial startle didn’t get to fade. No, especially knowing who it was.

What are you doing?!”, Jacob snapped with restraint as the fox slipped part way into the opening of his tent, shoving the bit of blanket he had cuddled to his chest off to jump forward on his hands and knees. The fox instantly winced.

Shh, Ki`rene is curled up next to the lake, I don’t want to get caught.”, she came to hastily reply with more of that meek, knowing caution, ears shifting back with a startled fold; paws coming up to make a quick downward motion together for them to keep their voices down as Jacob’s little scurry out from under his blanket got him up to the door flap of his tent. That thought of getting caught was exactly why he sounded rattled!

We can’t be fooling around this time of night, this is what we promised we wouldn’t be doing.”, he urged with a lower voice that retained it’s young tension, trying to be firm as his body came to block Kayla from coming any further into the tent, raising his hands in protest to what she was attempting to do. There was the big rule for he and Kayla to begin with that Emily drilled into them both, backed up by a glossy paddle with holes, not to mention the fact they were told to keep separated in their tents.

The slightly older fox slid on her knees, coming to sit on them in the spot she occupied in the doorway to the tent, better coming into Jacob’s view. From what he could see of her fur, Kayla wore a mottled red t-shirt and a pair of underwear he couldn’t quite see in the dark of his own shadow blocking the small bit of lantern light he had; obviously not bothered by the chill, per usual. The form of her plush Aspatrian fox, Melissa, came into her lap as she sat, settled below a hopeful but weakened smile. Eyes and expression coming off as timid and unsure, seeming shy over what she was doing, she still seemed eager to look her Karrian partner in the eye despite what felt to him like awkward fetters holding her back.

I wasn’t really planning on fooling around… I mean, unless-…”, Kayla traipsed about sheepishly, taking the phrase in an entirely different direction until Jacob brought one of those raised hands to his snout, cutting her off.

That-… That’s not what I meant.”, he corrected with an awkward curl of his tail to his side, through his checkered bedding. That was to be interpreted behaviorally, not sexually.

I wanted to come see you alone for a while. We hadn’t gotten to see each other in weeks, so I was hoping you wouldn’t mind me sneaking by to talk for a few. Maybe quietly play?”, Kayla tried butting in as soon as she could, explaining herself with hurried, quiet sweet talk. There was more of that timid expression that let Jacob know she understood she was doing something wrong, coupled with an apprehensive tone under her breath; her head tipping a little as she said ‘play’.

Kayla-...”, Jacob tried to speak as his hands dropped, ringing with an air of sternness that was interrupted by a still-eager muzzle upon hearing it.

I wish I had some of our toys with us. You know I like action figures – I was thinking you might be more okay with joining me after today.”, Kayla’s head turned and dipped faintly, eyes breaking from Jacob’s as he stared with this almost parental look across his face, ends of his maw curling uneasily. She did tend to prefer boy’s toys, so if Jacob was still feeling young and playful after the day he got to have with her, she did want to jump in and share that with him.

Don’t change subjects. You have to get back to Ninne and Anne before you get us both in trouble. This isn’t okay.”, the young lizard’s brows curled to press, feeling in his chest that this would surely upset Kayla and quite likely raise some of that anger she could get; voice stressing on the ‘isn’t okay’ with one of his more grown-up, Commander Vasse tones. It felt terrible to do and wasn’t what he wanted either, but as the group of Penitatas pointed out, he was the check-and-balance. It was up to him to push right-and-wrong when one went astray, and it was so rarely Kayla, and unheard of that she wouldn’t respond to his pleas.

Though as he finished speaking, putting his claw down, as it were, Kayla didn’t snap back as he anticipated in his heart. More used to the lower light, his eyes noticed her fingers cradle around Melissa in her lap more tightly, showing discomfort as she came to look down. Her narrow vulpine muzzle’s awkwardly sweet-talking smile faded, turning almost to a frown the way her furred cheeks seem to droop off the ends of her maw. She moved just enough to make the messier bangs of fur atop her head twitch above her brows.

It’d be nice.”, the Aspatrian said more plainly in her voice, dropping the chipper allure she had been using after a moment of silence between them. A passing breeze through the rocks and hills of the sprawling green expanse caught individual strands of her tail fur outside the tent, wafting in the air weightlessly as it laid still upon the ground.

Please don’t send me away.”, Kayla’s rich blue eyes did not look up to give as a final plea, coming off as sad, but acceptant. The kindly uttered request conveyed through tone that she would leave if Jacob insisted, but wasn’t what she wanted from him.

The words stiffened Jacob up, teeth pressing lightly together, leaving him quiet, but put on the spot. To protect her meant to callously turn his back, and spending private time with her meant allowing her to misbehave willingly. That worried lump in his chest kept changing shape, originally from being startled, to punitive fear, and now to a heavy guilt. Both answers were wrong, and that wrong would find no right. Jacob swallowed with a sigh, bringing that feeling in his chest to his throat.

Come on… out of the drafty flap.”, the tension that crept northward deepened and rasped his voice as it relented out of trying to be firm, lifting the weight of his tail to turn around on his knees and crawl back into his makeshift camping bed; clearing the way to welcome her in.

The black tips of Kayla’s ears eased from pointing toward the lake to finding the sky, making some haste on her bare knees to get inside the tent and clear her bushy tail from the flap that kept the tent closed. Having already gotten ready for bed herself when originally ordered, she had collected her old plush emotional support companion from her things, leaving Melissa pressed to her sternum with a single paw. Kayla and the soft crafted fox had been together a lot this past month, spending all that sulking time in her room with no friends to lean on. Jacob settled back into his makeshift bed and pulled up his checkered blanket the same as he sat before, tail brushing the side of the tent as Kayla gently flopped down beside him, grabbing a bit of blanket to join in. She had to nudge and slide Jacob’s medical bag of things aside to make enough room to get comfortable, but at least this way she was closer to him and not pretending to keep distance as they were when the sun, and her parents, were overhead.

Are you okay?”, Jacob asked as they finished getting comfortable in the cool air, keeping his voice down. It felt like a silly question, knowing very well how frustrated Kayla had been since coming to the aid of Earth with Starfleet, and all the emotional baggage she had admitted to him to be carrying. Not “fit and fine” as she so put it on their walk to the lake earlier, in ways that would undoubtedly take time to mend and come to terms with. Kayla took a long breath as if she was loosening up her chest, relieving those nagging nervous fetters now that she had gotten to stay with him and was safe from getting caught out in the open by any of the adults. The two of them were good at speaking softly and using body language, making her feel at ease that no one would come to hear them and she’d be safe from here on out.

Just anxious. The other two were going to get to sleep like we were told, but I didn’t feel very… ready. I missed you still.”, Kayla pulled her thoughts together to try and put out there for him, as worried as his question sounded. Paws and Melissa tucked into her lap with an idle hug, the fox did tip her muzzle and make a light face.

Everything on my mind is stuff I told you about already. Happy things I can’t get for myself, and sad things that don’t feel like going away. Only difference is that it’s dark out and it’s not just me and my little fox here, like it has been. I wanted this more than you’d think.”, she didn’t try to hide from him, if just to explain her reasoning and why she seemed pushily eager over the idea of getting to be with him for a while. A part of getting that freedom she wanted and finding that internal peace, when all she had for a month was a deathly quiet bedroom with it’s four naked beige walls once night fell and all good, and bad, Penitatas were sent to bed, and she was no longer in her bedroom by choice. Jacob sighed softly through his nostrils, knowing just how bad of an infraction she was making – and now he.

Glad to have a place in your support structure next to Melissa.”, he scoffed out as a little joke, seeing as this was a thing he had already let happen. But, once he let his sentiment loose, he raised his left hand in gesture to Kayla at his side; silver ‘M’ catching the subdued glow of his lantern.

I know the past month was awful, I’m sorry. Can’t stand thinking about what that paddling you got must have been like, mixed in with all the other little… ‘Penitatas moments’ I’m sure came up. I’m still trying to get over feeling so guilty, even for the things I didn’t help cause you to get in trouble for.”, Jacob empathized, providing his sympathy and regret for the time that they lost together, especially for the physical pain he know must have lasted the larger majority of it. Something so severe made to heal naturally, was a concept hard to grasp for someone not in the system of raising a hard time Penitatas. Kayla’s mouth crooked, lifting her paws a little off Melissa’s shoulders as her own faintly shrugged.

The Penitatas moments are just because I’m a Penitatas, which is the part that sucks the most and isn’t something anyone can help me with. Really, my parents were forgiving and lenient this month for how things could have gone, and they both tried to cheer me up. It was all the normal spank-y stuff and occasional, ‘young lady!’ business.”, she explained somewhat creatively, letting a bit of that idle smile creep back as she began speaking freely, getting to share. As a Penitatas, her parents could spank her every single day if they so wanted.

I got cut a ton of slack. Like, you remember that pink, Kindern datapad I modified over at your house to sneak past my old technology restriction? The uh, one you got a few smacks for, because of me?”, Kayla began with a quick wave of a paw, asking rather normally until she added the bit about Jacob getting into trouble with Lory. That was quite some time ago, but he did get his earliest spanking from his mother that day when he took the fall for it being connected to his computer console. His brow raised questioningly.

Emily found out about it only after I didn’t even have the restriction anymore and didn’t need it, as my luck went, about a week after we got home and I got blistered. Didn’t think to try and undo what I did to it since I was still playing around with it. I don’t think I’ve ever been grabbed by the ear and thrown over her lap faster once I admitted what I did, and she knew how far back I did it.”, the seasoned Penitatas managed to both faintly chuckle under her breath and sigh with the memory of what happened at the same time; having stories of getting punished being so commonplace to being a Penitatas, but still so awkward to tell sometimes. The ends of Jacob’s own reptilian muzzle turned into a knowing frown, guessing what happened next.

Seriously – she slapped by butt for almost fifteen minutes with just her hand, and I’m not even kidding about the time. Her palm was as red as my face under my fur.”, Kayla dipped her ears back in expression, making quite a face with a lift of her right paw, flat and open, to point to her palm animatedly. It was actually a pretty harsh spanking because of the length and her healing paddle bruises, and she cried through the whole thing, but she wasn’t about to drop the more chest-tightening descriptions on her Medicalos partner. If anything, she sort of hoped he’d think it was light just because her mother used her hand. Her fast, ridiculously experienced hand.

Once she let me down from her lap, I was kind of upset thinking about it being taken away for good. You know how I am with stuff like that, I enjoy making things mine. Custom this and that. It’s how I play, even at my current age. But after I finished saying my sorries, not wanting to be anymore of a bother, she… ”, the fox went on with her tale until she just sort of paused. Even her body language just stopped for that moment.

She handed it back to me.”, she said, still sounding surprised the way her eyes came up to meet Jacob’s. That odd smile of hers slipped back in until she broke into a muffled chuckle.

I’m taking it apart now, seeing what all I can do with the primitive, pink lil’ eyesore now that I don’t have to hide the fact I already messed with the thing. She didn’t have to give it back, and my parents have been good to me like that. Of all the things I have on my mind, it’s the one thing I can’t complain about.”, Kayla seemed to reflect happily, talking about dissecting the pad in a ‘of course I’d do that’ sort of way, until a somber note at the end made her sigh through her black, vulpine nose. Her eyes peered down, even if her little smile seemed to begrudgingly stay, though suppressed.

It’s everyone else ignoring me that bothers me. This deaf world that can’t her me screaming and crying in my head to not be forgotten, and be let go. Let me go so I can be happy, and I can be good for you. If they knew how sorry I was for the cyber-terrorism and stupid vandalism I used to do, I’m sure… ”, Kayla went on to speak, softening her voice as she let some of her heart out, sounding disquieted until she lost the words for what she wanted to say in her eight year old frustration.

I’m really not proud. I grew up and I’m over it – and I’ve been over it.”, that once soft, smiling expression faded further away on the young girl, closing her eyes to slits as her irritation toward her inner self bubbled into the open, seeming to want to convey her worthiness for forgiveness to the world. The grand dream of proving herself, and this long punishment coming to an end. Jacob’s fingers tensed the more forceful she ended her syllables with in her hushed voice, coming to reach over with his hand. It slid onto the back of her right paw, cradling it in such a way his fingertips ended up over Melissa’s fuzzy shirt.

I know you’ve changed. You’d do great starting your life over again.”, Jacob figured he’d finally jump in, wanting to say something encouraging in the face of Kayla possibly getting ready to rail against herself again; that thing he worked to stop her from doing earlier in the day. Thankfully, Kayla didn’t start being unfair to herself or running herself in circles with a fresh rant, but at the same time…

Jacob just saw her stare down at Melissa. The look on her face didn’t seem to know what to do with itself, and the encouraging look across his snout softened with the silence between them, feeling as if it didn’t do anything to help at all. His hand could feel how she held her old toy companion tightly, thick rounded plush arms and legs made in Aspatrian image.

I’ve never had anything I’ve wanted so badly that it hurt.”, Kayla hardly parted her muzzle to speak, whispering off the front of her vulpine lips. It sounded sad; an honest admission from a heavy heart. It’s simple, heartfelt sentiment stung the old man in his small body, making him just wish he could help. Anything he could say to calm her heart and mind, at least for a while. Dull the pain and make it easier to be a Penitatas for another night.

I can’t think of…”, Jacob’s black hair shifted upon his head as he tipped it down at the lap Kayla too stared into, at the hand he held over her Penitatas classification letter; thumb brushing up against the black, cloth-like wristband she was forced to wear.

Can’t think of the words to say, huh?

The sentence he tried speaking came to stop from an inspiring thought, so realized through the warmth of Kayla’s paw and familiar feeling of her fur taking his mind to the times they shared in her bedroom, hanging out together. His attraction to her started long ago, and it was a thing they kindled into something incredible for one another until it became taboo. From that love and care though, a sparkle came through young mister Vasse’s mind, knowing what the things Kayla loved most in this world, and the life she lived.

An abrupt smirk shot across his mouth in their private moment, playful and knowing, bringing the Karrian boy to stand up with a stretching flick of his tail, freeing it from the blanket that kept it warm. Kayla didn’t seem to know what to think of it; the tent being small enough to not leave a lot of standing room in the middle; but the sudden leap to his feet came with a turn on his claws to face her. With an enthusiastic look across his face that looked suited to his age, the pajama-clad seven year old reinforced what he was doing with his affection, if what they were doing this night was already bad anyway. One knee in front of another, tail curling into a formal arch from the seat of his nightwear, he bent forward and offered his hand to the sitting fox.

Miss Ackart, could I take your hand in a dance?”, Jacob asked with a quiet confidence – the sort you would expect when he was learning on his older side, intermingling his younger and older behaviors in ways he wasn’t known for. That certainly opened Kayla’s eyes wider than they were, brows curling with both puzzle and amusement. He managed to pull a shy expression onto that muzzle of hers, erasing the frown of uncertainty even if he couldn’t get her to right away speak. In the shifting mood of their little tent, surrounded by the dull green, Kayla set Melissa down against the side of Jacob’s pillow and took his waiting hand, helped right up to her vulpine-like footpaws despite being bigger than he was. The pads of her toes sinking into the bit quilted blanket she stood up on, the fox’s other paw came over her face, crossing her muzzle in a way that looked outright bashful.

I don’t know how to dance.”, she said with the vocal tone of someone her physical age, half on the verge of giggling at a sort of silliness she wasn’t used to from her dear Karrian. It was half childish, and half making her blush from the more adult aspect of the intimacy he seemed to be trying to do. As she made her comment, Jacob already seemed to be trying to take her paw into his hand.

Me neither, but you move your hips and swish your tail to your music all the time. That’s dancing to me.”, he announced with a steadfast, ‘we are doing this’ sort of chipperness and tone, being quick with his words as he was with his hands. Fingers of his right hand interlacing into her left at the height of Kayla’s waist, his left went under her right arm to embrace her back, rested upon her shirt. Wearing just simple cotton panties underneath it, she had a lot more figure to show than the crumpled, loose fit of Jacob’s pajamas; orange footpaws and the white of the end of her tail more brightly illuminated by the lantern beside her.

There’s also no music.”, the fox, smiling bigger and seeming more bashfully amused seemed prudent to point out, looking around and shifting her tail at an odd butterfly or two in her belly.

Jacob’s smirking expression disappeared from view as her eyes closed a little, easing his head upon Kayla’s chest – where he came up to on her at his smaller height, for now, in their young lives. Kayla felt his reptilian muzzle, broad and smooth, slide across her breastbone and tuck into a soft spot near her side and shoulder, held close to her as they stood. A quiet sort of happiness washed over the fox from the reassuring contact, but the quiet ceased with a softly, quietly uttered chorus.

I’m sorry but I’m just thinking of the right words to say~… ”, Jacob airily sang from memory words that were relevant, causing Kayla’s eyes to widen and her free paw to return to her muzzle. At first she wasn’t sure what he was trying to do, but those lyrics she’d know anywhere.

I know they don’t sound the way I planned them to be~… ”, the boy serenaded in his small voice, not caring what it might sound like. Each breath crossed Kayla’s shirt, and the sentiment of even knowing the words made the fox’s jaw want to tremble. ‘The Promise’ by When in Rome, her favorite nineteen eighty’s love song. He learned it just by hanging around with her, playing it on her music player at home.

But if you wait around a while, I’ll make you fall for me~… ”, the words began to make Kayla’s eyes want to water, feeling special in their moment. Her neck craned down, putting her muzzle near Jacob’s own; parting her lips to quietly sing with him.

I promise, I promise you, I will~… ”, the pair joined in for the last piece of the chorus; tiny male and female voices hitting pitches better than Kindern could; the butterflies Kayla held flittering their wings in a way that felt warm, and right.

Choosing a verse to pick up on, Kayla continued the words and the tempo with Jacob jumping into sync for their hushed duet. They sang the song together until the fox was following along with it using her tail, moving her hips to brush it in wide, graceful motions. Mature love mixed with their young play, losing them in a joy of the moment.

And if I had to walk the world, and make you fall for me~… ”, she playfully sang down to him at the end with all the emphasis of the original song, being a line that felt close to her at the moment; Jacob emboldening it with his own pitch. It was so sweet of him to try and cheer her up with, feeling him so warmly tucked against her in this tiny space they shared, just for this moment. Like the night they spent in bed together after Jacob’s innocence was declared, it was one of those fleeting moments that made them feel independent and a little older.

Kayla’s muzzle motioned to continue, but her ears not only twitched – they outright jerked.

I pro-… ”, the smaller of the pair tried to slip in the ending lyric, stopping short as the fox swiped her paw free of his back and snapped it to his snout in a rough, sudden bolt as fast as her body could perform. Her tail thrown to her legs, her muzzle barred her teeth, gritting them with the squinted expression of a person waiting to be shot and hoping the bullet will miss.

She heard footfalls in the moment of urged silence, startling Jacob into realizing something was wrong. Paying attention, still as logs where they stood, he could feel vibrations through the sand below as he did when Kayla drew close earlier. So close to his eyes, hugged against her, Kayla’s tightened, dire expression made his heart sink into his tail.

Kayla?”, Emily’s voice called out, sounding what could either be agitated or simply parental. Kayla’s eyes squeezed firmly closed, flattening her ears hard enough to wrinkle and fold bits of fur it was so twisted under her fright. Jacob could feel her pulse suddenly pound in the fingers of the paw he held, and his own body tighten till his gut felt ill. She mouthed a desperate plea – just please don’t be found, she could fix this if she could slip away and pretend it was just a bathroom visit, just-…

Playing silent just makes you more guilty Kayla, I already know you’re in there!”, that older female voice returned even closer to the outside of the tent, raising from the tone of stern parent to that of an outright snap.

Cornered and knowing it, Kayla’s embrace of Jacob broke with a hurried swing of her arm, snatching her fingers back with a half turn on her feet – tail thrown hard to the side in frustration. Before poor Jacob could even hope to calm the stabbing pain that must have hit her stomach as well, looking already like she wanted to cry, the fox’s right leg came up and slammed her footpaw down from how she felt; stamping the corner of the reptile’s quilted blanket before the flap to the tent made a rustle of being grasped. Shrinking where he stood, Jacob reserved himself to sitting down on top of his bed as Kayla stayed where she was, squirming from any number of woeful, sorrowful discomforts.

They could never be ready to answer to what they just did.

The Karrian lightly fell back onto his seat, tail coming to a crumple. Hands coming up to his face in the same sort of young shame Kayla was handling differently, the opening to the tent was flung open by Emily’s hand, taking her place crouched in it’s thin, fabric doorway like her daughter had done earlier; long blue robe protecting her body from the cold. The light low or not, the expression the woman had was still clearly none one you wanted pointed at you.

How?!”, Kayla barked, voice wobbling as she nearly cried, letting much of her frustration and tension out with the single word; the opening of the tent coming to be further pushed aside as even Alex came into the pair’s sight, joining his wife and adoptive daughter, escalating the moment for the fox and lizard even further.

Reaching her hand into her pocket with a brisk snatch, Emily pulled something from the loose velvet that identified itself with it’s colorful glint of light. Flicked into view between her index and middle finger; fingernails giving off a shine; was that of a Starfleet communications badge, polished and new. Kayla’s forearms lifted faintly at the sight, staring in sickening realization and disbelief, before Jacob and she both made a slow turn of their heads to the medical backpack shoved into the back of the tent. Jacob’s old com-badge, pinned to the outside.

When-… how did you-… ?”, Jacob caught himself stammering out his question more slowly than Kayla had been riled into, lifting his face out of his hands to be sharply answered before he could finish.

I had the wherewithal to grab it from her desk, knowing you always left home prepared. I came in here and opened a one-way line while the four of you were preoccupied before bed, so I could hear if my one biggest rule for you both was going to be followed, and my daughter actually had the audacity-… ”, Emily held Kayla’s Starfleet com-badge badge as she began like a piece of evidence, coming to shove it angrily back into her breast pocket; stopping short of snapping further into that rant by Alex’s hand on her shoulder. Kayla and Jacob winced at the sharpness of her explanation and how it began to roll into a lecture.

I couldn’t keep being so technologically ignorant if I was going to keep being a decent mom to the quadrant’s biggest expert.”, Emily only momentarily grit her teeth before speaking, sounding more like the strict parent she was trying to be. Be it watching her six year old new daughter program code or all the contraptions she came in contact with only recently, she never understood anything well enough to keep up with the fox. Learning about Kayla’s communication device was one way to start her homework.

So you spent that whole time listening to everything I said?!”, Kayla shot back defensively, ears still pinned back and face distraught. She even spoke about her parents, that was all supposed to be private!

Kayla!”, a harsh male voice cut the space of the tent, making the fox flinch from surprise, along with Jacob. Alex never snapped that sharply at anyone.

This isn’t one of those times you have a point to argue, young lady.”, Emily dialed her voice down to be even firmer, the low tone being a threatening one for Kayla to calm down for sure; an odd emphasis ending up on ‘young lady’, undoubtedly due to her daughter mentioning the phrase earlier. The girl known for being bright and apologetic, accepting of her punishments, had drilled her when they got home from San Francisco with good reason. This wasn’t one of them.

You don’t have a leg to stand on, so stop your tone.”, Alex scolded harshly out of the blue, taking Kayla aback. She didn’t think he’d ever heard him be that firm with her before… or need to be. The fox trembled in her short frame and stature, quickly rattled into shutting her upset maw.

The black of her ear-tips frozen where they were, limb movements stiff and weak from tension and emotion, Kayla made a soft yet audible sob, turning her head and averting her eyes from her parents as she gingerly sat down in the middle of the tent. Settling down practically on top of her own tail, the bushy appendage stretched in front of herself rather than behind; jaw quivering and face tight. Seeing and hearing it made Jacob’s eyes start to sting out of reflex.

I’m being scared and stupid, I’m sorry.”, the poor fox, so stuck between a rock and a hard place, hiccuped, speaking somewhat quickly. Letting off a wet sniff, she reached up and wiped at her eyes with the biggest frown her muzzle could form. The pair had been so good to her, and she was being defiant over getting caught doing something she knew not to do. Breaking the rules was on her, not the means of how they caught her. If even her father felt the need to lay down the law, usually separated from her discipline, she had really screwed up. It felt terrible to upset the happy, playful guy – still wearing his Hawaiian button-down shirt under a jacket he had thrown on.

I know you’re upset because you know how much trouble you’re in, but right now I expect you to listen. You deliberately disobeyed your mother.”, Alex’s voice softened greatly once his point was well across, reacting in his heart to seeing his adoptive Aspatrian girl calm her temper and let the tears loose. Jacob, cross legged on top of his bedding, stayed quiet and down, if only to just be respectful until spoken to.

The rules about you two couldn’t have been any clearer – especially the consequences. You like trying to get Jacob spanked with the paddle you made Kayla?”, Emily took the speaking role back, still as hard and harsh as she was before as she tilted her head and furled her brows with her ‘knowing’ question. Jacob’s tail curled toward himself and a phantom pain stroked across the backside he sat upon, stiffening the lip of his muzzle. Sniffling again, Kayla kept her head down and her paws close to her cheeks, shaking her head slowly.

No ma'am.”, the weight and guilt on her kept her teary voice fresh, and this time prim and proper with the respect Penitatas are expected to provide.

Ninne and Anne? Possibly getting them in trouble with Ki`rene for not coming to get us when you ran off?”, she again probed, reminding of how far Kayla’s judgment went to affect others. Mixed in the lament the Penitatas was trying to choke back, Jacob noticed a tiny, sad growl.

No.”, Kayla seemed to have a harder time speaking.

We’re disappointed in you. I know, and you know, that you know better.”, her father followed up the lecture, still so much softer spoken. Emily’s eyes shifted to him for a split second, arms crossing in her doorway crouch.

And along with disappointed, I’m outright mad, and I’m going to be good with what I learned in San Francisco and not spank you right this second. If we were home you’d be getting a whole punishment weekend for this one promised to you, plus some!”, Emily took the baton back, noting why she was using restraint while still speaking of the more lengthy, harsh punishments she would dole to her Penitatas. After the inappropriate spanking she tried to give Kayla below Starfleet Headquarters turned into a scuffle, Emily took steps to make sure she’d never do something so mean-spirited while angry again.

Instead, I’m going to sleep on it, and make you do the same. First thing tomorrow morning, I’m going to make you take responsibility for what you’ve done. Special punishment – no breakfast, no nothing. I’ll decide what more you might have earned after, when I’m calm.”, the mother sentenced for Kayla’s crime, making it sound like the upper tiers of severe from the way she spoke and compared it with being deserving of a whole special weekend of punishment before. Kayla couldn’t shrink any further than she already had, pulling her knees and legs closer; tail covering her exposed underwear in her loose, sullen seat. Watching her with just his eyes, snout still down, Jacob saw the messy fur on the back of her head come to nod uneasily, paired with another guilt-ridden sniffle.

Okay… I understand. I won’t make any more trouble – I’ll do as I’m told.”, Kayla spoke acceptantly, easing some of the misty-eyed shakes from her voice despite the dread of what she knew was coming. Reassuring she would be good, it was the fox’s more repentant side, ringing with regret. It was hard not to be after such a scolding and lecture, sorry for her back-talk, and knowing that she’d possibly got every single person around her in trouble. Her chest knotted into her throat and down into her stomach, feeling bad for what she did in quite a few ways as it was. Even Jacob couldn’t bring himself to speak.

You won’t be going back to bed with nothing, though.”, Emily declared after a brief moment of stillness; breeze lapping at the outside of the tent with an eerie nighttime calm. Spoken softer than her lecture, the meaning of the words made Kayla whimper a breath through her nose that could hardly be heard, lifting her damp eyes to her mother.

When I told you of the tent arrangements and the rule to stay where you belonged, you agreed to it. ‘No worries’, I think you said. Well, it turns out that wasn’t an honest thing for you to have said, and you know the punishment I’ve promised for lying.”, Emily settled further down onto her knees as if to get comfortable, explaining slowly and without her anger, letting this part of the lecture sink in, seeing as something was going to be done about it this very moment and there was a lesson to be learned. Kayla’s tongue slid hesitantly across the roof of her muzzle, swallowing as her sense of taste became unnerved. The new rule for lying meant soap, no matter how small or dishonest.

And that’s where I come in.”, Alex chimed in as if on a pre-planned sort of cue, reaching into his jacket to produce a thick, glass-looking vial with a ribbed black cap; emboldened by a ‘P’ upon it’s flat top. It was one of the Penitatas Justice Department’s easily portable versions of their crafted disciplinary soap, filled with a mostly clear, viscus substance – an item for any diligent ‘penny parent’s purse. The purpose of Alex joining Emily as a second disciplinarian came clear, seeing as Emily didn’t want to do any punishing right now to be responsible, not wanting to be too rough. It managed to also let Kayla know why it might have taken so long for them to confront her, making her prior snaps feel more foolish and wrong than they already felt.

Come here, Kayla.”, Alex directed as a somber, but direct parental order as he sat down, crossing his legs in his niche of the tent’s open doorway. The man wasn’t one to take pride in his duty or ever wish to see Kayla looking so sorry, making the command a hard one for him as well as her.

The fox came forward and crawled the small distance from the middle of the tent to her father as his thumb unscrewed the cap to the soap vial. On her knees, Kayla sat back onto her footpaws, tail wrapped close, head coming to lift and her maw to open wide as she so many times these past two years needed to do to have her muzzle punished in some form. Worst part to only seeing the vial in her father’s hand meant there was nothing to scrub her with, meaning she was being made to take the liquid soap straight without lathering – the slop thick and potent enough to be incredibly intense without being diluted with water. That obedient and expectant waiting vulpine maw; rows of fox teeth white and pointy, exposed; squicked poor Jacob at the mere concept of what was about to happen, seeing her tongue slightly extend, flattening and cupping it’s canine-like edges, experienced at forcing it down and out of the way. It was no secret this was her more hated form of punishment.

Following the backward tilt of her head bringing her muzzle upward to him, Alex’s left hand cradled the back of Kayla’s head through her mess of nighttime fur and raised the vial within the vision of Kayla’s misty blue eyes. Just ahead of her ebony nose, looking up at her father, the butt-end of the vial came up with it’s upturn; her paws balling up in her lap as her face tensed up. Being such a cool evening in the outdoors, the soap ran even thicker and slower than usual, creeping toward the rim until the syrupy soap finally poured with a sudden initial gob, rushing with it’s own weight toward gravity. Kayla winced as soon as the soap struck her tongue; cold and wet; rolling down it toward the back of her maw with the aid of her own warmth and saliva. The taste of the punitively-made substance struck her quickly as it coated the soft, red appendage between her teeth, bringing her cheeks to raise and the ends of her muzzle to curl in a disgusted grimace; striking her Karrian accomplice with fresh sympathy pains. A quiet, motionless sort of punishment when done this way, feeling the soap filling the void under her tongue and the waiting recesses of her mouth, getting worse and more desperate to remove by the second.

Disciplinary type-two, the classic punishment-soap staple Emily essentially turned into a tradition long ago, who’s name Kayla learned when she was a guinea pig for a Penitatas Parenting License class, was one of the worst tastes the sorry fox could ever describe. The flavor of type-two was profoundly bitter, doped with something that was something as sour and nauseating as vinegar, all wrapped into a goopy package that lathered and bubbled like a champ. There was this odd chemical taste, as well as a flowery note that fumed and stung the nose like a bad perfume, forcing all the other flavors to be that much more pungent and deeply assaulting on the senses even beyond that of just taste. It felt awful running sloppily through her maw, lathered or raw, and had this tenancy to lightly burn from the mixture of all it’s volatile ingredients, like it’s sucking the moisture right out of her mucous membranes. All she could do was clench her eyes shut and keep her maw open, trying to be as good as possible after everything that had already happened and been said, feeling the slimy creep of more and more of the fluid running through her mouth, waiting and hoping it would stop. Her ears had been folded back so long, and so hard, the muscles that controlled them ached.

But, seconds ticking and ticking in the silence, breeze alone in making it’s faint sound across the lake outside, Jacob watched the stream of stomach-knotting syrup from the clear tube remain steady with the twist of Alex’s wrist; it’s inner walls copiously coated as the bulk drained. Kayla was being given more than just a taste, or even a usual big gob of the soap as the vial continued to tip further, forcing the fox to lift her own head a little more as her muzzle filled.

G’leh… !”, Kayla spouted in reaction to the awful, punishingly powerful taste as it coated everything it touched through the entirety of her maw, drowning her tongue. The space between her lower teeth glistened from the low light, pooling generously with a sea of soap that was getting to be too much for her little mouth to hold. The girl’s face twisted, muzzle curling in a way that made the whiskers at the end of her muzzle puff to look even more fox-like. Poor thing’s paws shook, obviously holding back the feelings of wanting to be sick; stomach going queasy from the feeling and flavor.

Just as the entirety of the vial began to finish, thinning out the stream of bitter syrup coming from it’s glass walls, the soap’s quantity swelled over the Aspatrian’s teeth and managed to crest over the ends of her maw, spilling over the bit of black lip the fox had; a lake of punishment soap cupped in the back of her mouth, now full. She whined tearfully, raising those paws halfway up, open, seeming distressed that she wasn’t holding the whole thing – or maybe that it was too much in general for her. Alex shushed her calmly and gently, letting the last of the soap slow to a viscus halt as the remnants clung to the insides of the vial.

I know dear, I know… ”, he comforted, knowing well what he was doing and that the soap was running from using the whole travel tube in one go, as much soap as that was. That rounded butt-end of the vial tipped away from the sky with a flick of his wrist; Kayla opening her eyes to watery slits in her distress over how much soap she had in her maw, and what was to happen now that the pouring had stopped. Tongue curled awkwardly, her maw salivated from the horrible taste and burn, struggling to hold the soap as it wanted to mix and run. Her eyes managed to drip once into her fur, holding back chokes or sputters to retain what her muzzle had been given.

Swallow for me now Kayla.”, he commanded her as the next step, being more firm than his soft voice had been to convey it’s authority considering the weight of the direction and it being something his daughter would not be okay with doing. His wife had the fox swallow her lather all the time as the climax of having her muzzle washed out, but this was a lot of raw, liquid soap, and Kayla expectedly came to whimper; as much as she could with her mouth full and open.

Ah… ”, Kayla whined in her attempt to close her maw, bubbling the soap away from her throat for the air to escape her muzzle, displacing more of the clear, shiny fluid to run down the ends of her muzzle and into her fur.

Muzzle shut with an intense grimace, her lips and jaw quivered in her need to cry, cheeks bulging from all she held. Jacob saw her steel her nerves and stomach in that instant with the fox fighting the natural, instinctive refusal of her throat to do as she needed to a “medicine” that tasted so sickening; physically resisting eating something so vile. Tipping her head down, her paws balled into fists in her lap; tongue rolling as she made a single, difficult and punishing gulp. The soap slimed down her esophagus, coating it the whole way down, and that wasn’t even all of the terrible goo. After the orange of the front of her neck rolled; fur on the back of her neck standing on end; the eight year old retched, sounding ill and so sharply teary as her muzzle opened back up to the sight of it still filled with soap. Her tongue licked the roof of her maw, forming long, syrupy strands and globs between it and the rest of her mouth for all to see in her desperate attempt to collect so much of the stuff when it stuck to everything the way it did. It was in between her teeth, her lower lip and gums, flowing around with her efforts to swallow the foul sludge and making the assaulting taste way worse even after forcing so much down as it was. She swallowed so roughly at first to relieve the taste, wanting it out of her maw so badly, and having it stay made trying to swallow a second time so daunting, forced to do it herself in contrast to something like a spanking where everything was done to her. Behind her, Jacob covered his mouth, getting queasy himself; a quiver trembling through the fox’s tail all the sudden, swallowing a second time onto a belly that already wanted to throw up.

Stomach soured and tightened into knots, that time Kayla’s muzzle parted it’s lips to little more than a thick coating of the shiny astringent glue in her lower jaw, being the stuff that didn’t slide away with her thrashing tongue and spit. Alex raised his hands and wiped both sides of his girl’s muzzle with his index and middle fingers, getting the thick run-off that originally crept out of the ends of her maw from the quantity of soap exceeding it’s capacity. As her mouth slapped, tent ringing with wet, sloppy licking sounds, Alex gingerly and without warning slipped his fingers under the upper side lip of her muzzle. Kayla’s whiskers coming to lift and puff from having a pair of adult human fingers shoved between the hug of her muzzle and her upper teeth, the fox squealed with a quick thrash of her tail, tasting and feeling even more of the soap in a place she didn’t want it – purposefully rubbed into the outside of her back, vulpine teeth, where it could never be removed without attentive, grueling work of her tongue. She’d be tasting the soap all night, picking her teeth out until her tongue was too sore to keep going!

G’ad!”, Kayla tearfully protested in her punitive desperation, a wet, sloppy pop from her throat, trying to say ‘dad’ with her maw open and his fingers jutting the upper sides of her muzzle outward with his careful massage against her fox version of molars and her worn cheeks.

Sorry not sorry, sweetie. The whole vial, even what spilled.”, Alex kept up his gentle demeanor through his parenting, showing that his wife was a very good teacher indeed, despite his inexperience in being this strict. Soap shoved deep between her upper back teeth; sharp bits and points against the man’s fingertips; he withdrew his masculine digits with a drag back toward himself, removing remaining soapy residue as far forward as her fangs before his fingers came free. Coated thickly in childish Aspatrian saliva; a strand of spit forming and breaking on each side of her maw; Alex wiped his fingers dry on his jacket while his daughter clamped her maw shut and roughly gulped down looser, more watered down soap in her fight to get it out of her mouth and off her tongue. The mess frothing in her stomach, Kayla ‘urp’ed up a faint burp of air from her belly; a tiny retch from her abdomen; finally breaking her maw’s stiffened efforts into a chest-jerking series of sobs, not able to keep from properly crying any longer. She couldn’t stand the taste, now greasing her cheeks as her throat burned.

You can work on lapping your teeth clean in your sleeping bag. Up you go, I’ll march you back.”, Alex in a way sentenced her to, now done with the actual application of the punishment. She couldn’t sit here and lament, tiring her tongue out all night when she had a place she was supposed to be. The man stood right up, pant legs straightening while Kayla more slowly rose to her footpaws, one before the other. Her paws came up as she stood and wiped firmly at her mouth, trying to remove residue and wetness from her lips and where the soap had dribbled, still gagging and sputtering on all the soap she ingested and was still contending with. Her fangs and nearby teeth came bared with her expression and tears, sniffling and crying beyond what could be held back.

Without fanfare the man directed the fox from where she came to stand with the guidance of his hand on her shoulder, moving to her back as she stepped by, tail tucked. Jacob left with Emily in the doorway of the tent, it’s flap slid part back into place with a weak droop, hearing footfalls in the sand off to his side. The Karrian could hear Alex’s voice as it moved further away, but he couldn’t understand what sort of order or scold he was giving any longer, much less the words of Kayla’s, coming off as what was likely a hasty apology. But that was fleeting and passing, as he had Emily staring at him where he slumped, hands tucked into his lap to look like a puppy that wet the rug. Hating seeing things happen to Kayla, he knew his eyes stung enough to look wet at his age, reptilian snout stiffened in his reluctance to speak. In time it came to seem he’d be made to, watching the human merely stay quietly with him at the mouth of the tent; forgotten, mostly empty vial by her knee.

Is it my turn?”, Jacob reserved himself to asking, pulling his tail as close as he could; tip coming around to his front. It couldn’t be avoided, he had to answer to what had happened and couldn’t stand the matter being held over him. Emily’s response was just a sigh of air through her nose.

No Jacob, you aren’t having a turn of anything. You’re not in trouble.”, she admitted readily despite her prior scold to Kayla about getting him into a potential punishment of his own, talking of the special promise they agreed into of being held accountable for their actions as a pair – with consequences. Jacob didn’t move, or look any less on the spot, despite the astonishment of being told such a thing. He held guilt beyond just the pinch of thinking he’d be spanked as a seven year old delinquent, especially knowing his partner was not as well off.

When she asked you to not send her away, you did what you thought was best. If I thought you were the sort to ignore her pleas, I wouldn’t have given you my blessing so easily. You’re a Medicalos, I can’t expect you to enforce things at the level of a Penitatas parent. I’m the one who’s supposed to deny her things against the rules, no matter what – not you. You have the good judgment to know when Kayla needs to be stopped, and not do as she pleases. Besides, it wasn’t any of the… other behaviors, between you, that came up. You were as good as you needed to be, and none of it is your fault.”, Emily explained to him with the parental tongue of one familiar with Penitatas and their needs, understanding there was a fine line between Jacob’s involvement within their rigid punitive structure that she ought not cross. Though, speaking of matters he could clearly imagine were the pair’s sexual follies, Jacob couldn’t help at getting embarrassed again, still having no clue how she could have came to the knowledge. The kind words and explicit way of telling him he held no fault in the matter did at least let him feel more at ease in his own conscience.

And the drakes?”, he carefully questioned, caring about their own hides as well. Emily shook her head a tad.

That’s up to Ki`rene.”, she continued to admit, noting that the issue wasn’t hers to decide and surely wasn’t set in stone. Her fellow parent could be very strict, so she wasn’t sure if the pair would get away with nothing, even out here on vacation. Jacob made a bothered face, holding his butterflies for his friends.

You’re just shaken up because of Kayla getting punished. It was a bad one, I’m sorry you had to sit through that. She’s in a lot of trouble come tomorrow, but it’s a part of being a hard timer and she’s safe with me no matter how miserable I make her.”, Emily tried to ease the discomfort she could see, wanting to add her own assurances things would still be alright once the events to come came to pass.

She’ll be good and sorry. Really sorry. But she’ll have you to help her feel better.”, getting to parent on a positive note seemed to make her calmer and happier, breaking that face she had been idly holding onto to smile a bit for the poor boy. She didn’t mean to upset him, feeling bad for those rosy eyes he had in the corner of his tent. Mind still flustered from everything, forced by his mind’s age to feel quite literally seven, Jacob managed to nod his head without words coming to his mouth.

Unwind and get some sleep, you’ll be able to take care of her again tomorrow. Good night Jacob.”, the older human woman suggested and wished of him, wanting to give him space to cope and feel more comfortable. Jacob took a deep breath, shaking off some of what his body’s muscles were holding onto as Emily began getting up from her spot, hand on the tent.

G’night.”, he said back before she could go, not wanting to be so small and meek after all that he’d give her the silent treatment for no reason besides being choked up by tension. He understood the whole Penitatas thing and their punishments, he just didn’t like them. He did, however, like it when Kayla was good and at her best, so… his fox, learning her lessons, couldn’t be helped.

As the flap to his tent fell closed to the idle winds of the preserve, the old commander was one again alone in the dim of his tent as he was shortly ago. Turning to crawl back under his covers, bumping his pillow, a forgotten article tumbled onto her side. Brown eyes catching it, Jacob couldn’t help but frown sympathetically, feeling a lump in his heart. Scooping it into his hands, he brought Melissa up to the level of his snout, seeing that Kayla’s supportive friend in the dark was no longer with her when he was sure she was needed. Orange like the real fox herself, right down to the black ear-tips and the white brush at the end of her tail, she was like a teddy bear in the image of a fox. A teddy-fox. Her narrow little muzzle featureless aside from it’s tiny black nose, stitching subtle, she stared with big, friendly blue eyes. Thinking of his companion, the boy while none could see, gave the stuffed toy a kiss on the end of it’s nose.

I’m sorry.”, he apologized to Melissa, while his words were truly meant for a different Aspatrian.

Some paces away, out in the moonlight, Emily had come to stop and take a breath now that she could come down from being agitated with her daughter’s actions. It had been hard to initially swallow, putting forth all the effort to get Kayla out here to the preserve to help her feel better about life, only to have her so brazenly try to pull something behind her back on the very first night. She understood being bad wasn’t her daughter’s goal, but not being able to be perfectly good in the face of getting to do something most Penitatas never would did mar her feelings a bit. The reaction was only human. Cold air biting at her bare feet in the sand, she felt fortunate the night was at least very pleasant, and the sight over the lake was pretty with the moon and stars to make it dance in a wind that never seemed to die here. Trees rustling back where the sand of their cove met it’s grassy encasement, she took a moment to look around and absorb the sleepless nature to become duly reminded that she wasn’t alone in that. A ways away a brown lump of scale was curled up like a restful dinosaur with a far too small blanket over her back as she stared over the lake to admire the stars you could never see in the brightness of Calleet. Like a giant reptilian cat, Ki`rene looked balled up for comfort and warmth without a tent to fit her adult size as a Drakonian, “roughing it” as much as she could. No better place to be, Emily slipped her hands into the warming pockets of her robe and made a casual walk down the beach to the lake’s edge; the mother drake using the farthest dry sand she could to be close to the water, wanting to listen to it as she slept.

It’s beautiful, isn’t it?”, Ki`rene lifted her saurian neck, craning it around toward her back to greet from where she laid, facing the lake. She sounded like her mind had fallen into a serene sort of zen, and also just plain tired. Emily wasn’t sure if she wanted to say anything about their kids and ruin it, causing her to look up and join her parental neighbor and friend, soaking into the moment to relax her mind.

Imagine World War Three – fireballs raining down from this night sky as things fell out of orbit, burning up and cratering the ground through these hills. All the synthetic magnetic compounds from their old style weapons scattered and buried everywhere, ruining electronics of the time so that no one would live here. Nature took it back, and gave us a place of peace in return.”, the drake spoke like an imaginative teacher, lifting her right claw to make gestures of falling stars soaring through the sky. Magnadroxide deposits, like the same Maxwell and Tyson hid their fox upon when she was kidnapped, less than a hundred miles from where they were. It was easier to turn the old scars into nature preserves than it was to ever recover the ancient battlefields. Emily had to make an odd grin at such a description, taking a spot next to the lounging, bare scaled larger woman. Thoughtfully, she reached down and pulled the corner of the tasseled red decorative blanket Ki`rene was using and tried to cover a bit more of her with the inadequate thing.

You know your history.”, she quipped with her tug, unfolding the corner so it would reach better toward Ki`rene’s tail, especially as bare as it was. Still felt so odd to see her without clothes for these few years she had known her.

Eh, I’ve been to school quite a few times more than you have.”, Ki`rene dismissed with a wave of that same claw as if a note to her significantly greater total age, taking her attention from the sky to what Emily was doing to help her.

Should just be a couple of times at your age I have to imagine – I’ll catch up in time, when I get to find out what getting rejuvenated feels like. Hoping I’ll make it to ninety before then.”, Emily commented in bantering rebuttal as she finished reaching over the drake’s back and correcting the bit of blanket that would have been difficult for her raptor-like arms to get over herself. Drakonian bedding was usually bigger and longer for that purpose, needing to be able to pull a lot over themselves. Ki`rene made a chuckle of a huff through her nostrils as a subdued, fatigued reply.

Aren’t you freezing? This is supposed to be draped over the back of a sofa… ”, the younger and much smaller of the two women had to ask, coming to think she had figured what the blanket’s intended use was.

Drakonians are only so warm blooded. I’m horribly cold.”, Ki`rene lowered her neck and gave a more wholehearted laugh, closing her eyes a bit.

But it puts us to sleep. I’m safe, otherwise. It’s the biggest reason I love sending Ninne out to play in the snow with Kayla. She’ll nap for two hours afterwards without so much as a pout. Feeling this chilly does make me feel a bit guilty about giving her the occasional cold bath – or, you know, at least making her sit in it for a while. My claws are numb.”, the chipper woman continued to speak with amusement and playful anecdote, taking a moment to speak of the duty as Penitatas guardians that they shared. Having already knelt down against Ki`rene’s back, Emily leaned forward part way onto the big drake’s side, face to face from the crane of the larger reptile’s neck.

Boy did Kayla hate that one. Had a hard time watching her shiver though, so I didn’t employ it much further then after I tried it. She was afraid of getting punished with it, so it made a great deterrent. I’m glad you shared the idea with me when our girls were fighting.”, she joined in reminiscing, admitting the creative concept didn’t enter her common rotation of disciplinary measures. There was much they never told the Penitatas in their care.

I am a library of methods to make a ‘penny squirm.”, the elder drake seemed to smirk bemusedly as a quip in the moonlight, catching a nudge along the same scruff of her neck she’d pick up Ninne by.

You’re too gentle to be filled with all that, quit it.”, Emily was forced to laugh a little in return, knowing of the woman to be so motherly and sweet with Ninne. Boy was she a heck of a disciplinarian, an odd balance Emily felt like she was too young in her own total years to fully grasp, but she always seemed so loving and positive. She was like another mother to Kayla, as close as the pair seemed to be at times. But, for all that, as the lake rippled it’s tiny sounds and sights, a moment of quiet between them made her sigh a tad.

You missed some Penitatas business. A certain person with fur snuck away from the other girls and went to stay with Jacob.”, she figured she might as well declare for her fellow parent, whom opened her claws up in expressive frustration before Emily could finish speaking.

My kids need to misbehave when I’m on duty, I’m too cold to rail on them for not getting an adult.”, Ki`rene dropped her neck and griped at the lake, sighing roughly through the length of her neck. Even as a joke it still rang of disappointment and parental concern, and her face thoughtful as to what she’d do about it. Penitatas were expected to demonstrate morals and ethics at all times, including ratting on their peers if they know something needs a guardian to put a stop to; their inaction making them accessories to the original infraction. Less like a joke, the drake lifted her right claw and buried her face in it with a reptilian groan.

Oh that is such crap. Kayla would be mad at me if I punished them for something she did, and the girls would be mad at her for getting them in trouble. Big ol’ circle of agitated Penitatas.”, Ki`rene was blunt in speaking, seeming in tune with how the dynamic everyone shared would make any disciplinary action pan out. Emily crooked her mouth, looking down over the drake’s side and half-useless blanket. She hadn’t considered that from the kid’s perspective. A circle of agitated Penitatas sounded like a bad thing, so eloquently put, but they still had to balance things for the girls somehow.

I think I’ll just scold them in the morning. Make it sound like a warning. Ninne is already furiously rubbing the base of her tail every second my back is turned I’m sure – they’ll reciprocate the slack by being more careful.”, the drake sighed back into relaxing, showing off more of that soft, gentle nature Emily had just prodded her with. Ninne had already had her tail chewed earlier, and it didn’t feel like being strict was worth it in this case when a better outcome was possible through other forms of parenting.

Jacob was worried too, so a happy Medicalos can be added to the mix.”, Emily added since she had just finished trying to console the shaken little gentlemen. Ki`rene made a click sound from her large maw, lifting her claw to make an ‘ok’ sign between her fingers and long, sharp nails.

Perfect.”, she declared with a little smile.

But, things didn’t get to be perfect for everyone. While the lakeside eventually eased into sleep, not everyone rested comfortably.

When the moon came to pass and the first light of day broke, Kayla’s eyelids cracked groggily as she roused from her sleep. Face half in her pillow, it felt strained and sore from how long she ended up laying there earlier in the night, licking her teeth and trying to quietly spit the frothed, tainted saliva into the sand in the privacy of her tent corner. Chided by Ninne and Anne for having gotten caught to begin with, she had to contend with her stomach ache on her own after they passed out for the night. Punishment soap might have been safe to swallow, but try telling her insides that when the sticky mess tasted and felt like an industrial cleaner. Something of an aftertaste left behind, Kayla licked her chops as her eyes noticed a glow of fresh sunlight starting to color the yellow fabric of her tent just a few inches from her muzzle, as shoved up against it she was. Maw crooking expressively on one side, Kayla groaned under her breath, huffing it from her nose into her pillow.

It was morning. She knew what was coming, and she wasn’t looking forward to it.

Kayla crawled as gently out of her bedding as she could, trying not to disturb the large lump of blanket beside her; the two drakes sharing a properly sized one for an adult, limbs and snouts sticking out from under it in places. Pre-swatting jitters and anxiety weighed on her, making her stick her head through a corner of the tent’s door flap to check to get a gauge on what time it might have been and who might have been rousing aside from her, waiting to be punished as she was. The horizon in the distance, over the hills and cliffs was a brilliant spray of red and orange to light the sky into the dull blue of dawn; a pretty sight if not distracted. But, while seeming so early and no one else sounding to her ears to be awake, Emily was fully dressed at the side of their spent campfire looking ready to start the day. With an orange, checkered plaid button-down shirt and a pair of blue jeans, the fair skinned human brushed her walnut hair as she sat in the sand, watching her tea kettle lightly steam over a tiny fire she kindled. Knowing what needed to be done, Kayla sighed with a submissive frown.

It felt like she hadn’t played the role of “very sorry Penitatas” in a long time, and the reality of her still being a hard timer was sobering in that moment. Coming home from San Francisco to be confronted by the “big girl” paddle she helped to craft with her own two paws felt different at the time with so much else going on, cherishing the acts for which she was punished too much to regret them entirely. Her mom hadn’t given her a hard weekend in a while, now that she mentioned it, and she hadn’t felt like she had done anything quite so bad as she used to when she was six or seven to earn it, at least until now. The lump of childish dread that made her stick her head out the tent flap and not hide under the covers was the guilt of having simply been miscreant, something she hated doing since the day she became a small kit again. Even when she was younger, facing tough rules when she used to have none, she regretted being anything but good. Acting out and troubling others, especially her adoptive mom and dad, had always been something she’d fold her ears back for.

So, again, she did.

Reacting to the faint sound of movement, hands working a black hair-tie behind her head, Emily leaned her body back slightly with a turn of her head to find her young charge standing a couple paces away in nothing but her bare fur with a long, sorry look across her face. Right paw holding her left arm, Kayla’s ears were folded back more gently than they were last night, looking more like a worried apology from her vulpine anatomy. Submitting herself as she was, having left her clothing behind in her bedding as a show of obedience and pragmatism, she looked uneasy for a moment until the lips of her muzzle cracked.

Good morning.”, Kayla wished in particularly quiet greeting from where she stood, like she was waiting for instruction before doing anything else. Regretfulness was something she’d expect from her daughter, but Emily wasn’t used to the willful fox being quite so meek. For it, the young sort of middle-aged woman tried to put on a good face.

Morning Kayla. Come sit with me a moment.”, Emily welcomed, intentionally trying to ensure it sounded more like an invitation than a command.

Keeping to remaining stiff and quiet, Kayla stepped over on the lithe canid shape of her footpaws, claws gracing the tan kernels of grit below to settle her bottom’s fur into the sand at her mother’s side. While her muzzle never came to point at her parent, the fox’s blue eyes followed Emily’s face and every movement of her body as she took her kettle off the fire and poured the hot water into a travel mug with her waiting tea bag. The scent of earl gray came across the fox’s acute nose, figuring her mother was looking to get some caffeine in herself for their “special punishment.” As the tea began to steep, Emily’s newfound ponytail bounced and shifted along her neck and shoulders with the movement of her figure, collecting her hairbrush back into her hand. Without her daughter’s furbrush nearby and handy, she didn’t seem to mind making due with her own, raising onto her knees with a turn on her hip to brush at the slept-upon fur atop Kayla’s head; bristles lightly scratching through the rusty orange between her ears.

Are you still mad at me?”, Kayla managed to ask wearily and with a strong note of discomfort as the woman did her motherly duty in preening her morning fur, swiping the brush through her furry bangs with short, gentle strokes to make up for the lacking number of bristles. Emily’s mouth puckered faintly in expression, shaking her head a little as she brushed.

I’m not. It was what it was, and we can fix it together.”, she reassured, leaning on a note that sounded parentally positive despite what it meant. Having had something of a history with her furry daughter of sometimes being too strict when upset, or just outright unfair, Emily was proud of herself for having learned to control her “urges of duty” better, wanting to make sure she never spanked in anger again. The question did explain some of her girl’s meekness as well, not wanting her guardian figure to be upset with her to the degree Emily knew she had to have sounded before. As her attentions with her hairbrush moved from Kayla’s head, she gently picked up Kayla’s tail and drew it toward herself and a bit around the fox’s side, wanting to get any knots out of the bushy appendage.

I feel terrible.”, Kayla admitted lightly, back leaned forward as she looked down at the sand, seeming more poised to talk; feeling the bristles of the human hairbrush part and stroke through her longest strands of fur in their brief mother-daughter moment.

I want to beg you not to punish Jacob, but I don’t know how without sounding like a brat. He’s had such a horrible month, if I did something even worse to him… I’d just die.”, she couldn’t think of any other way to say, so she let the weight off her heart as plainly as her young mind could formulate. Spitting up her half lathered soap alone without so much as even Melissa after she realized she forgot her comforting friend, the fox had a lot of time to think about what she had done. It was such a short and sudden thing to say, but Emily understood her daughter was trying not to get into further trouble or otherwise make things worse by snapping or making it sound like she was giving demands – especially if it were to be transferred to someone she was trying to protect.

I’m happy to hear you say that, because what you did was selfish of you to try and do. Jacob isn’t responsible for your own individual actions though, and he behaved himself, so he’s in no trouble. It’s just you this morning Kayla, not even the other girls.”, Emily sighed through her voice initially, speaking of Kayla’s misdeed to roll it into a calm lecture of sorts – letting her know that everyone would be having a normal morning of their camping, and the only punishment was her own. Finishing with the white end of Kayla’s tail as the pair sat together, tea steaming in silence at her side, the mother made a more stern, though subdued and disappointed face; Kayla’s head tipped, looking on.

You were very bad, Kayla.”, Emily felt responsible to tell her, collected and calm, as rare as it was for her girl to do something above the level of ‘mistake’. The words of parental disappointment made Kayla frown, visibly stung, lifting the end of her tail from Emily’s palm once the brushing stopped.

I-… I’m sor-… ”, Kayla drooped with her guilt, thinking she’d apologize, but her effort to utter the words were met with a quick lift and zip of the hand that had just cradled her tail, and an interrupting shush.

No, not right now. Hold onto it, and you’ll mean it more when you and I are done.”, Emily spoke of the time they were about to spend together, wanting ‘sorry’ to come only after. It was a fairly telling thing to say, and brought their moment together to a wordless halt.

Knowing what needed to be done; things having been earned, and duties to be done; Emily tightened her face as she set the black hairbrush in the sand to switch from being one kind of mother to the other. In their relationship of Penitatas and parent, the human woman rose to her shoes and picked up her now darkened tea from it’s restful tuck into the beach – calm, but abrupt in shifting gears.

Come with me. We’re going for a walk.”, she instructed with a low tone of voice as she moved, sounding more serious.

Going from the comfort of having her fur brushed to hearing her mother get down to business, Kayla wouldn’t be able to ease her nerves any further as she forced her legs to lift herself back up. Emily holding her large travel mug, her shoes tread the sand leisurely while Kayla’s legs picked up behind her with a hesitant sprint, getting back into pace with her smaller frame and bare feet. Her ears were able to stay lifted, listening to the world around her, but her freshly cared tail was still and close like a properly scolded kit. The two walked one in front of the other like warden and prisoner, leaving their family camp as Emily occasionally lifted her mug to sip a sample of her tea while she waited for it to cool.

Kayla’s left paw coming to nervously toy with the black tracking bracelet on her opposite wrist, she looked up at the back of her mother’s head for anything she could feel out, but the woman said nothing and didn’t look back at the light, soft steps following her as the sand eased beneath their steps back into rock and soil. Sunrise in full swing around them, the trees lit up in morning splendor to motionless leaves and branches in wake of the wind that blew through the preserve all of yesterday to bring that northern chill overnight. Without it and coupled with the rising sun, the air was temperate and mild again through what could slip in between her strands of fur, walking as naked as the nature she communed with. It just felt tense to be walking so long without saying anything, leaving the campsite behind in the distance as they walked into the clearing that was next to it, surrounded by big brilliant trees and a scattering of the occasional log covering the grasses that began beneath the fox’s paw-pads. All she could see of her mother though was the sway of her new ponytail, figuring her mom thought her hair had gotten long enough to give it a try.

“… I like your ponytail.”, Kayla tried to break the heavy air, gripping at her tracking bracelet more tightly. But, as the rustle of footfalls to grass and ground got a little louder in their trek, Emily didn’t so much as turn her head. It was unnerving to see Emily so collected and serious, obviously ready to be strict with her, but still walk so casually, relaxing with a cup of tea. That silence was deafening, and suggested to the poor Penitatas just how much trouble she was in. Stepping by an old log in the midst of decay, dusty and breaking down, the treeline drew closer with Emily taking a bigger sip of her morning beverage, head tipping forward.

There was something I got to enjoy last night, sleeping on the idea of spanking you until I cooled off. It gave me time to think about what I would do, as bad as what you did was. I thought about the punishments you dreaded the most, and how well I’ve gotten to know you since you came into our home.”, Emily broke the silence with the same low, serious and contemplative tone she used when she asked Kayla to follow her out this way, many a yard away from the colors of the tents pitched toward the lake behind them. Marching her daughter along, the pair came up on another, larger felled log, and the shade of the trees above.

My mind had a proverb for you. Little girls that don’t like getting spanked with sticks, shouldn’t misbehave in a forest.”, she looked over her shoulder to speak the wisdom that came to her late last night as she laid in her sleeping bag. Kayla’s ears couldn’t stand erect any longer, staring at the ground and watching her footpaws trample the grass and pebbles below; heart sinking with the knowledge of what kind of spanking she was about to get. Just as her parents knew she couldn’t stand any form of oral discipline, be it soap or spice, they knew her most hated spanking implement was but a simple, whippy switch. She remembered the all too familiar, organic sort of sting, making her wince at her mother’s creative wording.

Just as they stepped by the base of the log, it’s sides an ashen gray and ribbed with hard strips of bark, Emily stopped walking and turned on her footwear to face Kayla. With not a smile nor a frown, mug held near her chest with a nary visible puff of vapor from it’s mouth, the woman looked steadfast and with purpose. She was going to punish not only her Penitatas, but her beloved daughter, and she was going to make her earn that ‘sorry’ she wanted to say. In no rush and ready to do as she must, the pair shared a quiet stare, eye to eye.

Just like errant Kindern for centuries before rejuvenation, out here you get to experience the old Earth tradition of having to fetch your own switch. I’m making you go find a branch that looks like it will make a good one, break it off, and then remove any twigs before bringing it back to me. And, when I say ‘good’, I mean I have to find it to be an acceptable switch. Bring me back something that would get you off easy and I’ll give you a taste of it before sending you back for a better one.”, she condemned, directed, and explained all in the same thought, turning a little back to the direction they were just walking in to gesture to the trees next to them. Full and with big leaves, considering they lived in they lived in the far northern part of America, the clearing was surrounded by maple trees – acceptable switch producers. Kayla’s eyes looking through the morning light at the darkness of the stick-y looking branches hanging in front of her, the idea of having to pick the thing she was to be lashed with made every last bit of her comfort go out the window.

“… And then I’m going to turn you over this log.”, Emily turned her head down to the ashen remains of the maple tree beside them, denoting how old fashioned this was going to be, taking advantage of their environment.

Kayla tried to swallow her butterflies, dreading getting switched enough to audibly whimper. She would even normally, and this was a step beyond. The fox wasn’t the sort of Penitatas to plead against punishments she hated, accepting of discipline as she was, but as she stood there with her feet together and her paw fidgeting with her bracelet, shrunken with an anxious quiver, she looked like she wished she could. Her sorry, blue eyes looked up as if to say, “Please mommy?”, the way she used to when she was six.

Switch, Kayla.”, Emily ordered her to get moving with a low, “reminding” sort of tone for her to fetch what she was told to get – watching with her mug, and not taking any drink of it. Stern and direct, it urged Kayla’s legs to cooperate and obey.

Yes ma’am… ”, the eight year old sullenly whispered as she began to walk, reserving herself to taking what was coming.

Stepping past her mother with her head hung, she made her walk over toward the trees with Emily remaining at her back, enjoying her tea where she stood. The dawn sunlight making the shade under the maple trees much dimmer, Kayla looked up through the mess of maple leaves and branches hanging just above her head and down at the scatter of loose sticks already covering the ground as she slowly stepped; Aspatrian feet crackling dry leaves and twigs with each uneasy step. Even though she wanted to prove she was willing and grab a fine switch, she quickly came to realize why being made to pick your own was considered a part of the punishment itself. She wasn’t sure what was going to be considered a good one, and she certainly didn’t want to pick one that was too harsh; a dilemma faced by rejuves and Kindern alike before her.

Ears filled with the woodland sounds of her own movement and nose graced with the scents of wood and lavender, Kayla’s uneasy wander brought her to the trunk of the tree closest to she and her mother, looking over a cluster of small branches that were sticking up out of the base of the tree. The new growth didn’t look particularly thick, but had the right length and shape at a height she could easily snap. Chest tight thinking about what was going to be done with the stick she came to place her paws upon, forced to look down over her own Penitatas classification ‘P’s in her efforts, Kayla wearily took a deep breath and wrenched the young branch into a bend at it’s base. Her ears caught a crackle, then a snap as it broke cleanly into the grasp of her fingers. She snapped and plucked each twig as she was told, making sure to get all the leaves and extra bits off she could until she was left with a rough, naked example of a fresh stick. Running her fingers down it, she sighed a self-pitying whine to herself and began crushing the dried, fallen leaves beneath the pads of her footpaws again.

I have one.”, she returned to her mother’s side with, holding the switch across both her paws to offer up. Finishing taking a good sip of her morning tea, Emily moved her mug to her left hand and picked the selected stick up by it’s wider end; Kayla standing in front of her with her paws coming together politely in front of herself as she waited. She watched her mom lift and swing the switch to test it, moving it around in her hand; ears graced with a familiar, unwelcome high pitched swish. With it, and still with her tea in her other hand, Emily took just a few small steps toward Kayla’s left side as she stood patiently for her next instruction.

Stand there just like that. Move your tail to your other side.”, Emily came to order fairly plainly as concise as her directives were, and how obvious they were to what they meant. Kayla flinched, ears going back for a split second in her confusion as she turned her head.

What-… ”, Kayla tried to question, having thought the switch was surely passable.

Now.”, her mother cut in sharply, reminding Kayla that this wasn’t the time – do as you’re told.

Resisting the urge to outright bite her own lip, ends of her muzzle curling with a tense quiver, Kayla faced back forward with a pivot of her just-brushed tail, curling it toward her right side behind her. She had no idea why her mother would ask her to do that rather than tell her to lift it out of the way, but Emily didn’t make her wait. As soon as her intended target was clear, fingers holding the switch with a Penitatas parent’s expertise, the human gave her arm a swing and her wrist a crisp, authoritative flick with a result that made Kayla flinch even harder than when she was told to stand that way. A quick, shrill sting whipped low across both of her legs only about an inch below her knees as soon as her ears even detected the lash, catching her off guard right over the thick of her calf muscles. Kayla squealed, face tightening from the swat, and that expression only got more pained as the switch returned with a whole series of rapidly applied licks, making it’s airy wooden lash against both her taut lower leg muscles; a light, sharp yet quiet ‘tip!’ sound from each smack.

Ah! Ow!”, Kayla outright yelped from the punitive surprise, going onto the tips of her small toes as her paws bunched into fists. The flurry of swats all over the backs of her calves had her frame tighten reflexively, shooting nagging, grating stings up her spine.

What’s wrong with it?!”, she cried out as a frustrated, upset sounding question, shot from her stiff maw as quickly as she could get the words from between her teeth. Paws balling up against her pelvis, she gripped and pulled the fur of her groin to tolerate the lashes as the quantity heated up clusters of light little lines across her calves, making a rough cross-hatching of tiny, fine welts.

As suddenly as the stick first snapped against her it came to stop, leaving the pained, frowning fox to make a long whine from the sharp stings that glowed against her legs, not seeming to want to die down from the radiating sharpness they first appeared with. The lashes weren’t the most painful, but that sting! The quick event had milked her tear ducts, placing puddles in her eyelids as her teeth clenched, partly bare. Footpaws scraping the earth, her right one lifted out of instinct to rub it’s top-side and toes down the embers of her left calf.

Et’-et’! Hey!”, Emily called out above her in admonishment, turning her wrist to bring the switch back up. She gave the exposed bottom of her daughter’s right footpaw a harder lick with the thin tip of the stick than she did her calves, whipping across it’s pink pad, and able to be fast enough to drive a second across the base of her toes before the girl could get her yelp out and smack her vulpine foot back against the ground to protect it’s sole; leaves gnashing. Back coming to something of an arch, Kayla whimpered pitifully at the extra lashes, especially being ones in such tender places she had never experienced before.

It’s still rubbing, even if you don’t use your hands.”, her mother was prompt to remind, noting why she smacked and stopped her errant attentions. Lifting her arms to cross them defensively, Kayla made a light, faintly wet sniff as she made a face that felt bad for itself – tail not moving from it’s curl to her side, too afraid to break position without being told after she was given that ‘unexpected taste.’ A tap of the switch to her shoulder got the attention of her eyes, bringing her face back around to find it being offered back to her paws.

There’s two things wrong with this switch. One, you’re eight, not six. It’s much too thin and light – perfect for your calves though if you’re going to pull that. Second, you were bad, and the switch needs to reflect that. Please try again for me.”, Emily offered up as explanation for why she did what she did, and what needed to be done to correct it. Rattled by her own mistake, now feeling the pinch she was in even more acutely, Kayla took the switch back into her paws with the weak snatch of a shaken rejuvenated child that was slowly realizing she underestimated just how much trouble she really was in.

Muzzle curled with a shaking sort of frown, wanting to cry at the idea of needing to get a switch that looked worse, Kayla’s tail flicked to stream behind herself as her footpaws walked more quickly back through the mess of fallen leaves and odd scattered herb on the fertile floor below. Calves feeling a hot, venomous burn like insect bites, there was a bit of her willful attitude she couldn’t suppress with all the feelings racing through her young mind. Her paw being forced to bring her most feared sort of punishment against itself, those footpaws smacked at the leaves as her head shot from spot to spot, looking around as if wanting to grab a switch quickly to get this over with. The disused switch fell to the ground with a simple drop as her moist eyes spotted a branch that reminded her of the thickness of the last cane her backside had felt. Hanging just above her height from an older branch, Kayla jumped to catch it between her sharp teeth, holding it between a few front ones and her fangs to pull it down just enough to get that extra bit of torque on it with her paws. It bent resiliently, but snapped free of the tree with enough effort, leaving the poor girl to stare at the severity of the fresh, flexible stick as she plucked it’s adjoining twigs and pieces, taking longer this time around.

With but a drop of missed earl gray left in the bottom of her mug, Emily sat it down in the grass as Kayla came slinking back a second time; formidable looking switch in her hands, held across her chest to indent it’s white tuft between her nipples. Having had time to calm down while cleaning her switch, Kayla’s eyes were simply misted and her agitation with her mistake had faded into a face and drooped ears that looked sorry and scared to mess up again. Knowing in her heart that it was a proper switch this time, Kayla timidly held it up to give to her mother without any words or fanfare this time around, just looking like she wanted to make this right and take her licks before her nerves frayed to making her have a tearful tantrum for an eight year old rejuve.

Oh… ”, her mother came to comment as just an approving sound as soon as her hand slid the stick from Kayla’s paws. Not bothering to swish it, she tested the weight just by wiggling it, finding it to be perfect. Standing with her paws in front of herself as before, and tail more guardingly down over her legs this time, Kayla watched Emily take a pocket knife with the monogram ‘A.G.T’ from her jeans and quickly shave down a few rough places and notches on the healthy, still live branch. It was a long several moments for her having to watch the implement of her coming tears be finished, but all waits did come to an end. The blade of the knife clicking back into place, Emily was ready; the switch thick at it’s base where she held it, tapering very gradually over it’s roughly three foot length. Brown wood with a slightly whited exterior, looking proper and with bite, it came to be pointed at the ashen log upon the ground beside them in directive gesture.

While anything but relaxed, Kayla still accepted the final direction without protest or hesitation, having been instilled with the lesson that this was all well earned no matter how much she wanted to scream her apologies and hide behind a tree, tail covering her face. The two lashes of the lighter switch leaving a faint ache through her right foot’s fox-like pad and toes, it helped her over the rough, almost sharp feeling curve of the log with a thrust, crawling over it’s bark to position herself with her bottom where it was needed to be. The fell trunk being big enough for a young girl, it was like crawling over a barrel; only the claws of her toes touching the dirt, dangled in the grass once she was up and over, head naturally hanging with the downward slope of her upper body over the log. Wiggling to make her awkward position comfortable, bark coming through her fur to jab her all over the belly, Kayla’s submissively lowered ears raised a bit as her mom spoke behind her, sounding fairly light in the way the words rolled off her tongue, lacking their strict, punitive tones.

You never wanted something so bad it hurt. I know, you shared your feelings with me too, and I think you should get something for your good deeds just the same as you do your bad. I’ve even stressed it on your behalf as best I know how. But… you can’t use how you feel to disobey me, or your dad. We still have to be a family, and you our Penitatas. Coping with having freedom and adulthood taken away is natural and expected for a Penitatas’ first month – I’m sorry its taken you until now to face it.”, she spoke of the sentiment she heard uttered so helplessly and small over the com-badge she held in her palm last night, and the reason behind her daughter choosing to defy rules. Times had been hard for a multitude of reasons, and Kayla still had to be good. She still had to be strong. They were in this together, after all. And while they were words for Kayla’s comfort, they still stung her eyes with guilt and sorrow, closing them to make the tears they held slip in silence; arms bending to ball her paws by her muzzle, in the way the rested upon the other side of the log.

Please raise your tail.”, came solemnly, tone soft, yet heavy with duty – a mother’s will.

Feeling that determination to deliver her punishment, Kayla complied. Her tail came to lift from it’s base, curling the vulpine brush of long orange and white fur strands into an arch that reached over the bend of her body, down toward her head. The log placing her body into an exposed and vulnerable position, especially for a spanking, the removal of her tail from her legs exposed the way it’s underside base held the curled pink of her anus, tucked half between it and the start of her bottom cleft and how her anatomy molded from there into her fox-like bottom, forming it’s shapely young cheeks above what hint of vulva showed in the shadow of her own frame. Her tail’s hole devoid of any fur, wrinkled in it’s natural tuck, stood out like a sore thumb; Kayla feeling the morning sunlight against naked skin, feeling a twinge of self-consciousness.

But, then came a flick.

The switch cut the air with a throatier sound than it’s predecessor, landing with a sharp whip and an impact to fur and skin that rang out with a ‘whop!’. First lick of the stick biting the old hacker up high and harsh, Kayla winced her eyes closed and teeth bare from the blast of whippy hurt crossing her hind in a straight line, tightening her shoulders. Her muzzle cried out a zip of a whimper through her clenched teeth; the pain of the stick’s brisk spank against the base of her tail turning from sudden stab to searing sting of welt. It seemed her mother was starting from the top to work her way down, catching the fox across the top of her bottom and the southern perimeter of where her thinnest fur disappeared into her tailhole; a red bump raising just underneath. A singular yet intense sensation, Kayla’s breaths sped up the rise and fall of her back to cope with how much it smart.


Kayla squeaked a shrill, quick cry, whole face scrunching all the way back to her ears as the second flick of the switch licked her hard right over the furrow of her tailhole, crossing entirely over it and it’s soft, delicate inner gnarl. The stroke landing up high again, it was enough to jolt her tail half out of position from the piercing sting at it’s base, flicked like a hand that had it’s palm slapped, before going back up with a Penitatas’ trained obedience. The branch’s weight whacked a strong ache, and the sting of it’s flexible whip and rough, natural texture got the fox to rapidly tear up, tense from the surprise of the location of the stroke – the stabbing, gnashing sort of switch welt raising to be hugged by the inward, reflexively hard clench of her anus in response to the blaring heat. As her tail tried to lock itself back into position, frustrated by the intrusive and unfortunate landing of the switch’s punishing first two lashes, Kayla curled the thinner, more muscular start of her tail coming off her back downward to just use the rest of her long appendage’s muscles in bringing it back up, using that hint of lowered tail to cover her embarrassingly exposed Aspatrian anatomy with a painstricken twitch. It still left her backside exposed, after all.

Lift it higher, Kayla.”, she came to hear as she contended with what she already felt, making a sudden gasp of air through her nose. Eyes trying to open, they parted to slits as her head turned where she laid. There could only be one reason to be told that.

“… On purpose?!”, Kayla whimpered out of uncomfortable surprise and disdain, sounding teary and scalded at the thought her mother was targeting the tuck of her tail intentionally. The long switch dancing in Emily’s hand, she raised it with just a motion of her wrist and shift of her fingers, quiet and soft spoken in the moment.

I know what my daughter hates. Again, I’m sorry.”, came slowly from her mouth, repeating what she said on their way out here to the clearing – apologizing for what getting to know Kayla so well meant for her. The fox didn’t exactly hide her expression of shy discomfort when her tail was tugged to be paddled in a lap, or the strong, bucking sort of winces she could make if it was crossed during a good spanking. Depending on the infraction and implement used, that spot of pink had seen some tenderizing before at least in the form of one-off swats. She understood it was disquieting as well as harsh, to actually do so blatantly.

Tail.”, Emily directed, emphasizing what she was sentencing her Penitatas to. Kayla whined aloud, rolling it with the jumping shudder of her back as she came to sob at what she was being made to accept. Base of her tail already feeling a kindling of a fire it never would have wanted to experience, she loosened it’s base’s awkward defensive arch and lifted it back up high, exposing a wrinkled pink with a mark mottled across it’s small shape. Her entire bottom half clenching in anticipation, it at least didn’t come as a shock when she was again licked where the sun didn’t normally shine.


The thinner tip of the switch crossed her tailhole at a slight diagonal, lashing along the right side base of her tail, right down and over her pucker to where orange fur resumed below. Sounding lighter and airier from using just the thin end, the flexible rod literally whipped against her to instill a blaring sort of sting beyond what Kayla could accept quietly – her tail jerking back down with a swing, trembling with her pitiful, long sobbing whimper. It was like a hot metal spoon was briefly touched to the private spot of her tail. Her legs rubbed against one another, toes crossing and curling together for longer as the stinging flame stiffened and shook her fluffed, majestic young fox tail.

Tail.”, Emily requested again of the dropped vulpine appendage, getting a teary, shamed growl in return.

I can’t help it… ”, Kayla covered her muzzle and most of her eyes with her paws, lightly crying with a note of self-pity; the sting so uncomfortable for more than one reason. The inability to still her bushy tail was an involuntary reflex from the strikes to it’s underside and having the thinner, more delicate skin it protected treated to such a sear. It’s not every day a human had their cheeks spread to whip at the soft of the valley in between, but the fox had to imagine it’d be similar – or at least just as personally frustrating.

I know, but I won’t lift it for you.”, she was acknowledged for the impossibility of stopping the natural impulse, but given no quarter on the fact she had to bare her tailhole. The fox’s back raising and falling with rattled breaths, Kayla stretched the base of her tail out again, hiking her orange and white brush high to drape toward her neck; movement slow from apprehensive young muscles. Her muzzle frowned has hard as it could go, lower jaw wanting to tremble. She hid her face in her paws and waited for the next red-hot poker to jab her tail.


The sound of the lash made a deeper pitch against her, crossing the entirety of the top of her butt and that lower, raised bit of anal ring her mother spanked just below the first time, inciting a tearful yeowl and another thrash of the fox’s tail. Visibly squirming upon the log she laid, the special, deep and personal sting made Kayla let loose a series of soft, lamenting sobs; just a bit of her teeth bared behind her paws, trying to be good for such a difficult to tolerate punishment. The quantifying strikes of the stick adding a throbbing to the sting, the creeping, meandering skitter of prickles went way up her tail-pipe with it’s heated, chalkboard-scratching ache.


Out of the blue, not even having entirely raised her tail back to where it needed to be, wholly unready for another lick, Emily flicked her wrist in such a way that the switch reached up into the bend of her tail-base from part way below. Firm, the slap of the flexible stick whacked her square across the bulk of her muscular ring, indenting and deflecting so softly to the harsh rod. That one hurt badly enough for Kayla to let off an open mawed yelp through her paws, crossing her legs and bending her knees to come halfway out of position, almost rolled toward her side. Her muzzle didn’t close after the sound she made, staying open to a difficult, quivering sort of cry, feeling the entire puckered surround at the tuck of her tail wanting to raise and swell into tiny welts; the sensation of her heartbeat throbbing against her bottom.

Though her tail fell most of the way down, arched into a painstricken curve toward her feet; base lifted away from her anus, sparingly; the sobbing and discomforted girl did not get scolded or warned any further. Squirming so awkwardly on the log, footpaws huddled together in a rub from the burning sensation tormenting her legs and tail above, Kayla got to hang her head and compose herself. Even so, the welts only felt like they were raising bigger through the wrinkles of her tail’s special place, knotting, blazing and throbbing in a way that made her feel like she would never be able to allow herself to go to the bathroom today.

Five of those is enough. I’ll leave your tail be for the rest of your spanking.”, Emily promised aloud from where she stood, making sure to let her daughter understand that those lashes were not normal, and were not going to be repeated – perhaps the “special” of the special punishment.

To the relieving words Kayla made a whimpering whine, long and teary, letting her mother know just how much that stung and how bad that was going to hurt later, as creative and direct of a licking that was. The base of her tail itself was even starting to hurt, making it harder to control her unique limb; knowing well it still had to be lifted, reddened lines crisscrossing it’s underside base or not. Settling her stiffened hips against the log, Kayla let her feet resume their dangle toward the ground with a quiet, restrained sort of sobbing, opting to cry that one out than try to hold it in, and with time her tail was able to reach back up for her head. It’s base shook at a point of the lift, weak and tired, leaving the reddened hint of exposed skin peeking out from under the fold of personal wrinkle and orange fur. The experience made her wish there wasn’t more to come.

All the way down your thighs. Hold still.”, Emily warned as if she was about to begin, saying how far she was planning to go; the stick in her hand going behind her head to flick her ponytail off her shoulder. Kayla gripped her paws at the rough bark of the log expectantly, whimpering to herself… it sounded like this was going to be a long one.

And, with the first fiery lap of the switch in the solitude of their woodland clearing, mother and daughter began the spanking they were to share. Much harder than what she gave a place so personal and delicate, very careful with Kayla’s tail, the haunches of Kayla’s backside were lit ablaze with deep lines of both bruising hurt and cutting, terrible sting with a consistent sound in her ears; high pitched swish turning into fleshy, low pops of moist, live wood to flesh and muscle. Lighting up in the middle of her rear, Kayla’s legs stretched out before turning to tiny restrained kicks, feeling the need to bend her knees while her bottom and thighs remained in place. Switched so soundly, she was unable to quiet herself under the duress of a serious switching. Poor thing never could.

Ow! O-oow!”, Kayla yelped with tearful urgency, not being the only one to cry out like that as she slumped over her log, blubbering into a mess of crying and forced repentance – the hard timer way.

In those hundred and fifty some-odd yards back the way that the pair came, the other cries came in the form of hushed, submissive and subdued sobbing. Crying and hiccuping in a way that was outright sad, it was paired with the slow, moderate crack of a synthetic leather belt against cotton and scale. As it came to be, Kayla wasn’t alone in her discipline, even if the other person did not answer to the classification of Penitatas as she had to. The adult’s tent that night, listening to Kayla’s Starfleet communications badge, had three occupants – not two.

Not long after Emily had left the campsite with Kayla, Lory left the tent she shared to perform a similar parental duty while her peer wasn’t around to comment any further on her decisions. In the clothes she slept in, black hair hanging along with a folded belt clutched in her hand, she went to see Jacob. Not taking kindly to being woken up by someone he still wasn’t in the mood to deal with after the sentiments she shared with him the day prior, much less for what she wanted to do and why, the pair’s heated exchange was brief, as forced by the serrated lining of the human woman’s words. Sitting down in the middle of his green tent, all she had to do was tell him they’d leave right that very moment and “that would be it with Kayla” if he didn’t crawl over her lap to answer to what he earned – becoming a part of Kayla’s misbehavior, now owning his own part of it himself, as she so lectured. Threatened to be taken away from the person in this world he cared about most in his new life, wanting nothing but to have fun and enjoy his childhood with his friends, now that he knew how, the seven year old in Jacob couldn’t say no. So young and not as willful as Kayla in these matters of guidance, feeling obligated to obey, the mother’s coercion got the pajama-clad rejuve to do as told when his mature side told him to fight.

His reptilian tail raised and held out of the way by the press of Lory’s hand and forearm, Jacob didn’t squirm or plead as the brown of the belt blurred to a stop against the seat of his pajama pants and upper thighs, cracking muffled snaps. While slow and very controlled for his age, he had gotten quite a few strokes of the strap, and it wasn’t easy for any child to handle even if it wasn’t delivered at Penitatas strength. Under the cotton of his bottoms, his scale was striped in sections of red. It was worse feeling like he didn’t deserve it, and would be taken from Kayla against his will if he didn’t take this spanking to appease the person whom had control over his young life. It left him as sullen as his crying sounded – robbed of his freedom of choice, when his parent thought to know better than he did.

Do you think that’s enough, Jacob Vasse?”, Lory questioned of him with a stern tone as the belt fell across his backside without a disciplinary lash, resting against his well warmed scale. His hands loosely balled near his muzzle, snout-tip tucked into his bedding during his shameful, childish cry, Jacob looked into the checkered pattern of his blanket with the shimmer of shiny tears down his cheeks.

“… Yes.”, the Karrian spoke for his own benefit to keep the belt from swatting him any further, sounding choked up when he tried speaking. It wasn’t easy for him to willingly give up feeling older and content, to take the shame of being punished like a kid. He was a good man no matter his age though, and hoped to set things right.

Good. Now if you’re not going to behave with Kayla like you were told, you’re going to take another month to think about how to act when she tries to get you to do something you know isn’t right. Pack your things.”, Lory spoke in a harsher sort of motherly way, leaning on those lecturing tones her voice was so attuned to as she began a new order.

Jacob outright jumped.

Small Karrian frame bolting from the human woman’s lap as if his hand had touched a stove, he threw himself into the bedding in front of her with a clamber of his hands and heels. Hardly caring that he came to land on his bottom, belt welts smacking the ground, the look across his teary face was that of shock and anger. A flame lit.

You said-… !”, he began to snap back at her, getting interrupted with expertise.

And I’m giving you an opportunity to make things right with her again, just not now. You need another time off.”, she rephrased the terms of her initial threat and deal in regards to Jacob accepting his punishment, in that there would still be further consequence to disobeying her personal directive of staying out of Penitatas affairs, but Kayla would be able to return after another form of groundation – specifically being unable to see her.

Wounded by his guardian and frightened by the mere concept that things would still go badly, Jacob slid backwards with a tiny sound through his muzzle; hands coming to his face in both aggravation and torment. The lump in his chest outright hurt, and he didn’t want to keep trying to dance over hot coals with his mother every time she tried to do what she thought was the right “mom” thing to do. At his young age, it was so emotionally draining. Where he slid though, tail thrown and curled haphazardly in the way it left Lory’s lap with the rest of his body, it came to bump a soft, familiar shape of velvety fur. Warmed with him in his bedding overnight, protected for the person he loved, Jacob fingers clutched Melissa and pulled her to his chest; tail dangling with her limbs. Wanting to speak up for himself, as well as to do it for her, Melissa got to be the supportive friend to a second person in their time of young need; a conduit to lean on some of the old Commander Vasse, holding something that he wanted to keep in his hands. He never realized how harsh being grounded for a month last time was, too much of a good boy with his parental figure to question that it might have been wrong. It was everyone else around him that had to tell him he wasn’t bad, and that his punishment wasn’t right. The lashes of belt lingering, Jacob huffed through his nostrils, misty eyes be damned.

I have no intention of letting you do that again! You always do things like this, being harsh with me or telling me I’m being bad when I’m just… being!”, Jacob pulled his will and wit together to help him fire back at the directive, making it clear that he would absolutely not comply or even let that belt touch him again. Rejuves were children, and needed their parents with a reliance similar to that of even a Kindern. It was gut wrenching to have her nitpick, question or demean everything he held dear, or feel like he was helpless to stop her from being this way with him. The childish fear that sat in his stomach was too real, and hurt too badly.

I apologized for what happened when you were a Penitatas, but that’s different. You know that.”, Lory flopped the belt into her own lap, lowering her voice to try and be more reassuring as he got upset, thinking this had a lot to do with his stint as a ‘penny with her. Baring a few of his teeth, lower lip of his maw quivering, Jacob tried to push his heart past those tones to be authoritative and honest in his own way; Melissa coming hugged to his torso.

No, you’re always like this! You never have my back – ever! You only disagreed with me being a Penitatas when someone else told you I was innocent, you didn’t care what I had to say! You keep thinking I’m some kind of bad kid just for the people I picked to be my friends – friends you helped me meet! I can’t ever make you happy with me, and you have no clue how bad about myself you make me feel with the stupid things you say!”, the usually collected and mature Karrian took to his young voice, shaking with teariness, raising it in defense of his younger side for all the different things it tried to “behave” and cooperate with, all the while having his mother try to calm him with slow motions of her hands. She could see and feel the emotional duress, but couldn’t grasp where it was coming from.

Jacob! You know very well that I care for you, I try very-… !”, this black haired woman tried to speak on her behalf, putting an open hand on her chest. Those relaxing days he always liked, pancake breakfasts, and access to all the things his Medicalos heart could have wanted from the care of a fellow military household.

But, his heart was starved for the one thing it wanted most. Something she couldn’t seem to give.

I know you do, but you only know how to be a Penitatas parent – not a real one!”, Jacob condemned, speaking what he knew to be a truth in his still heartbroken voice. His mother looked like she had been slapped; the tent falling into a heavy silence in the moments after the snap that came out of his mouth.

That’s a really hurtful thing to say.”, Misses Rich spoke more somberly, sounding taken aback in a hurt sort of way, rather than insulted. Jacob looked down at the stuffed Aspatrian he held, wanting what was best for himself.

“… You were never on my side when I needed you most, but I was too scared to hurt your feelings. All you know is how to judge and be hard on people. Taking care of me doesn’t stop that from being true. You don’t give me any support. It’s like I’m alone, but still have to answer to you.”, Jacob lowered his voice to be less harsh, looking a little off to his side as a long time thought in the back of his mind was allowed forward. He’d stand on his own two feet in this moment, if his guardian wouldn’t.

This isn’t what I need.”, he uttered with a hushed, seemingly nervous voice. His mother lifted the belt she still had in her right hand, using it in wagging, loose gesture, drumming up words Jacob had heard too many times before.

Jacob, you’re a child now, I keep having to explain to you that you don’t know what it is that-… ”, she attempted to get out as a parenting explanation about his ‘needs’, only to be stopped by the plainest of sad commands.

I want to be refiled.”, Jacob requested. Like a light switch had been flicked, it made his parent stop where she sat; the small green enclosure, messy with bedding, going motionless and dead.

To be refiled, meant that he wanted to be sent back into the adoption system for rejuvenated individuals. He didn’t want her to be his parent, and to request, was his right.

It had been a thing he wanted to ask since his time as a Penitatas under her care, wanting a parent he could better trust and be loved by after everything they went through together, and her not being his advocate when he needed one most. She was there to feed him, but never when the poor boy actually needed his mom, unless it was to chide him, or just make him feel inadequate. Motherly enough to get by, but not be the person he needed in his life. She twisted the perception of his own moral compass, making his impressionable mind worry that he was misbehaving when all around him couldn’t see it. She stormed over here to punish him for something even Emily excused him for! Kayla, stuck in the middle of an invisible tug of war, was going to be the thing he chose if Jacob had to make this hard choice in life.

You… you don’t mean that, do you?”, Lory had to ask, sounding as if their conversation had derailed to cut her deeply; the past several months flashing before her. She really seemed to have no idea how Jacob had felt, but in some ways that helped Jacob through the painful moment. Knowing how he felt was her one true job, and she blew it!

I mean it!”, Jacob had to assure, hugging Melissa like he’d never allow her to be pulled from his arms. He wouldn’t be guilted into compliance again just for the sake of keeping the peace, sorry he ever accepted her belt to begin with. Lory sighed very uncomfortably, sounding choked in the way the air rolled out of her mouth. The look on her face was one that wanted to scold, but it didn’t seem like she was finding any words, looking into a face that rejected her.

“… I will. I’m sorry for disappointing you.”, the older human woman nearly whispered, sounding as if she would cry. It bit Jacob’s youngest sensibilities the hardest, making his eyes clench shut and Melissa come up to his neck in the odd position he sat in; ears folding against his jaw. Bedding rustling along with the tent fabric, Lory turned where she sat and crawled out of the child sized tent, taking her leave without another word; her will to parent defied, and so terminated, Jacob would be allowed to do as he pleased.

Never having wanted to do that, so conflicted with the feelings in his head and the simple desire to be good for the woman who took him in, Jacob was now obligated to see though his request and what it would do to his newfound life. While his endearment and love for Kayla helped him muster the older sort of bravery it took to do that which he had long since thought was the right thing to do, Jacob’s expression melted once he became alone. Feeling no joy in what he had done, the poor old boy turned Melissa around and buried his face into her chest.

He sobbed, and not with his normal repressive restraint. He was seven, and his sorrow and uncertainty couldn’t be helped. Wanting their guardian to love them was just a law of nature, rejuvenated or Kindern. The bedroom he called his home would no longer be his, and he had no idea where he’d go, or with whom. He could have just ruined everything, for all he knew.

Life was not grand, in that moment.

Outside under the clear morning sky, the reds and oranges that once graced it had eased into that of an artful mixture of brighter blues and yellows with the passage of time. Stepping from his tent with a wave of his hand to shove the flap aside, still holding his phone as it left his ear, Alex looked fairly jarred awake as he took a look around the campsite for his wife or daughter. It wasn’t far from his bare feet in the sand that he could see the remains of a huddle of sticks and kindling looking to have been recently burned, and the prints of small paws following shoe treads in the beach. Wearing the pink shirt and baggy black lounge pants he went to sleep with, he hummed an uneasy sound at the sight, seeming bothered to not be able to speak to them before the pair ran off to do what he knew Emily was destined to out of parental duty. The two girls in his life were an awfully diligent pair. Modern black smartphone thin as a datapad, Alex slid it through his fingers to deposit it in the loose pocket of his pants as Lory came back by him, headed for the tent they had shared. It seemed fine until he noticed the awkwardness of her brisk walk, disquieted look across her face, and the all too telling sway of the belt she carried, folded over in her hand. His brow raised, jaw tightening.

You didn’t.”, Alex poised as both a question and a fairly damming note of disapproval. There was no need for that, and was more than poised to treasure Jacob as much as Kayla and Emily both did. Unable to make eye contact, Misses Rich passed him by, pushing the flap of the tent out of the way.

I wish I didn’t.”, she snapped seemingly at herself, upset and rattled, throwing the belt into her things inside the tent; buckle making a metallic jingle in it’s fabric confines as she disappeared from over his shoulder. Words so tainted by regret, it seemed she may have came into that regret too late to change things.

Alex lifted his arms, crossing them with yet another sighing, further bothered hum. There was all this going on, but something even bigger the others didn’t even know about yet – his mind desperate to be able to talk to his family. Getting a few of those butterflies he was sure Kayla felt very often in her disciplined life, his feet trudged through the sand with slow, contemplative steps, pacing when he didn’t know what else to do with everything he was suddenly thinking and worrying about. There was about to be so much needing done, and he didn’t even have Ki`rene at his side to join him in it yet while everyone else was either laying down law or simply wanting to rub their backsides.

Oh, hey. I’m back.”, broke the man unexpectedly from his idle trance, turning to find his wife stepping back around their tent with an empty travel mug in her hand. Fully dressed and seeming to have been up for a while, the lack of anyone following her upon return to the campsite struck him with curious, fatherly pause.

No Kayla?”, Alex came to ask right away before even greeting in return, taking a couple of steps further to meet Emily half way. Though, once he could see around the side of their own tent toward where she came from, a familiar spot of orange in the distance answered his own question. Not being too far away, it was easy for him to tell she was seated on a log, back to him with a loose, hunched forward curve, figuring she was left to cry it out even if he couldn’t hear any soft bits of lament at their distance. Just a drooped, sorry lump of daughter. A butterfly came free of his stomach and tickled his throat with his own parental feelings.

Couldn’t she at least be allowed to face us?”, he wondered with a light, sympathetically questioning tone. Joining her husband, Emily turned back over her shoulder to look at the same spot of orange she left behind.

Honey, that’s how a time-out works. She can think about what she’s done until I get her later.”, she tried to remind with some reassurance, seeing as being made to face the tree line and be alone was part of the punishment, just as if she was placed in the corner with her nose to the wall. It was normal for Alex to speak up for his daughter behind the scenes, balancing the positive and negative reinforcements in her life – or, like in this case, just feeling bad for her, despite knowing well that she earned being punished. Quite deserved, at that.

She’s quite the sorry thing at the moment. I was hard on her… but she was good for me, as she always is.”, Emily added as to the outcome of their ‘talk’ that morning, still looking out past the rocks and grass away from the beach with a gentle allure to her voice. She didn’t hide when she was harsh, nor when she appreciated Kayla being her usual self.

We got lucky.”, Alex quietly commented, knowing well that they had gotten a model Penitatas, no matter her notoriety or the poor choices and attitudes she’d sometimes show them.

If I could have swatted her a few times and had a talk with her, that would have been fine with me for what she did after everything we’ve been through together recently. I know she’s just going through a bit of a time right now, I still trust her, but… it’s how things are.”, Emily came to relent a little further in retrospect, thinking of how things could have gone if Kayla wasn’t obligated to be punished for her trespasses as a Penitatas. Being spanked and kept on a short leash was all a part of her sentence, making her pay for the things she was arrested for while giving her the opportunity to rehabilitate. To the thought, Alex turned his eyes back to his wife.

Maybe not. I got the call.”, the man got to announce what was weighing on him, sounding more serious and airier than he normally would as he noted something that challenged the reality of their daughter’s pair of filled in, silver ‘P’s. Emily’s head spun around as if she had been hit by something, losing her relaxed face and tone – ponytail taking a swing.

Was it that secretary with the P.J.D I was harassing? The Council? What did they say?”, Emily rattled off quickly with a degree of anticipation and heavy shock to her voice, knowing of what Alex had to mean; speaking of the Penitatas Justice Department and Corrections Council in their shorthand. It was what Kayla had been hoping for – that ‘something’ to be said and done! Oddly calm in face but tense in body, Alex made a single chuckle under his breath, cracking a faint smile that denoted how violent the butterflies in his gut began to flail.

Oh, it’s more than that. It was the courthouse. Kayla has a parole hearing.”, Alex got to have the pleasure and anxiety of saying, the message being so huge. The person he spoke to was not a bureaucrat, but a court scheduler. Just as if Kayla had turned twelve and reached the end of her cycle, she was going to have her day in court to plead her case for leniency. Emily’s eyes widened, taking in some of Alex’s wandering, contagious butterflies – looking far more excited and energetic as the mother normally did in her day to day affairs.

When?”, she shot the word out, mug and free hand coming up at the joyous news. That was when Alex’s strange expression and nervous way of speaking didn’t seem to change, half looking down at his wife’s feet.

“… Um, noon. Today.”, rolled off his tongue with more difficulty under the mess of his slept-in hair. The news already having been enormous, that was the part of it that made it much more dire, away from home and unprepared for it.

Holy absolute hell.”, Emily tightened up, speaking loud and rough with hastened necessity instead of cheer with a clench of her hands; empty mug tipping in her grasp. They only had a couple hours to get home and get ready! Kayla needed a shower, proper clothes… !

Gears inside her head going from a tepid tick to a full-bore grind, Emily looked around and stepped awkwardly on her feet, processing what needed to be done. It was a thing, and it was happening! Ponytail coming to fling with a swing of her arm, she pointed at her husband with her empty hand while the other discarded the mug it carried with a flick toward the front of their tent; eyes all business, shifting hard into mother-mode.

See if you can wake Ki`rene, she might still be out from how cold it got last night! We’re going to have to get going as soon as we can, so get the girls to help you! I’m going back for Kayla - ‘gonna talk to her!”, she started giving orders as authoritative as she was on your typical day, organizing the world around her to flow as it needed. Full of a fire, Emily bounced off the soles of her shoes and began quickly off to where she came from, looking over her shoulder to see Alex bolt off for the shore of the lake to start her directives from the top as a cooperative unit. The news being so incredible but also so heavy, it was a strong encouragement to get quickly to work once it was out there in the open and off their chests.

Jogging until her legs began to slow, clatter of rocks beneath her feet fading into that faint rustle of grass as before, Emily eased back into a walk once back within the clearing she brought Kayla out to. Out in the calm of the nature all around them, the race in her mind slowed down with the motherly thoughts and reminiscence that came through her head, thinking of her daughter and the last two years they had shared as a family. Getting to spend a quality moment with Kayla after the news she heard warmed her heart, but as much as she wanted to give it, it still had a bittersweet notion underneath it all. If her Penitatas got one of the options for leniency she was trying to get, it was entirely possible she’d end up leaving her. It was commonplace for a Penitatas to be moved to a different household when their classifications changed or cycles ended, making Emily wonder if she’d have many of these moments left where she could just talk with the furred girl she came to know and love.

Once she had returned to Kayla, stepping up on her from behind where she sat, she could see from the young fox’s back that she was still lightly crying. Sitting her on the log was a punitive twist to her time sitting out on breakfast, seeing how rough and bumpily sharp it’s bark was, akin to the wooden punishment stool and it’s pointed, tenderizing pyramids back at home. Emily had given Kayla a few dozen strokes of the switch she picked, bottom to thighs as promised, stopping just above the hollows of the Aspatrian’s knees to give her thin, girlish legs a harsh stinging. It had to have been hard to sit on the log, and harder not to squirm on her switch welts. Sitting with a sorry and well-punished forward lean, perhaps distributing her weight to spare some of what she sat on, she could at least notice Kayla’s ears cautiously pivot, noticing her there behind herself without turning her head. Sounding a bit wet still in the way she very softly and quietly sobbed, she sniffled with her breaths, not saying a word with her arms crossed and her ears part way back. Not seeing her front, Emily could tell her daughter was feeling a mixture of post-spanking repentance, the part of her willfulness that made her a good girl, as well as irritation, ever so faintly peeved, in the form of her willfulness that simply made her Kayla Ackart; that seasoning of the spiteful pest Packet-Storm was.

Seeing Kayla sit there in her bit of lament, Emily cracked a half smile and decided to sit down right where she was. A rustling and falling of grass came through the fox’s ears as her mother came cross-legged behind her and the drape of her tail; curled along the log to have it’s tip come up and over to it’s top at her side, as if to give it’s base relief from it’s weight and a way to let air cool her more personal welts. Settling her hands into her lap, Emily looked at the young fox’s back and the way she sat, letting the initial moment be just quiet between them. She wasn’t expected to return for what was likely going to be two hours or more, letting her calm seat behind the girl seem nothing more than a relaxed, abrupt visit as her mind let flow some happier thoughts.

Thank you for complimenting my ponytail.”, Emily broke the air the two shared, replying to the comment Kayla made earlier with a friend-like tone to her motherly words. Kayla made a sniff, lowering her head enough to wipe at her face with her right paw, she could see.

It helps the two of us match – a little.”, she added with a light smile, so much actually on her mind that she wasn’t saying off the bat, joking about both of them having a tail of some kind now. The fox cracked an amused sound over her wrist and it’s tracking bracelet, wiping her nose following her tears. Giving some attention to how her daughter’s tail used the log for support, Emily looked at it’s pretty strands coming off her back.

Are you sore about your tail?”, Emily found it in herself to ask, considering the lashes she gave around the bottom of the flowing piece of Kayla’s self-identity. Distinctly embarrassing, she had to know, figuring that was lending to the faintly pissed off look what hints of her eyes and brows were making that she could just barely catch around the fox’s sides. There was a pause, Emily catching the hesitation and what it meant, but still the little lady she called her own lightly shook her head. Obviously she more than didn’t like it, but was trying to not hold a grudge; tail stiff and bothered.

You know… you’re almost as tall as the bottom of my chest these days. Would be if I counted your ears. You’ve gotten so big since we met, and you’ve grown a lot.”, the human woman thought of the present, and the past, making a distinction between physical growth and another kind. The leaves of the maples around them fluttered with a new breeze that was too faint to be felt, and a bird sang it’s call to the rising sun up inside of a tree nearby.

I got to see what all you could do with that old ‘baby’ of yours. You outdid the legends you made for yourself on the other side of the moral line. It’s funny how that middle-aged hacker you admitted did nothing but cry during her trial, after all those years of challenging computer systems, turned into such a sweet little thing for your father and I to meet, standing there in a little dress with a hole cut in it for her tail.”, Emily thought aloud of Kayla, sounding content, relaxed, and so gently loving in the way she shared what was on her mind.

There was that bit I said to you earlier, about typical coping behavior for a Penitatas. Coming to accept being incarcerated was a normal thing for one’s first month, while we’re still adjusting a Penitatas to the life of being spanked and corrected, but you never really did go through that. You were happy with your home, and did all you could to get your father and I to like you. That second chance, you always called it. It was like you gained more freedom than you lost. Tells me a lot about what you thought of your life at the end, when you were caught.”, her musings grew more thoughtful as she delved into when Kayla was a fresh ‘penny at six years old, and how the little girl in her new body greeted the unfamiliar world and challenges around herself. They eased to be more somber, thinking that Kayla must have held little endearment for life in the past. Out of sight, Kayla’s brows eased and her eyes silently blinked.

You’re not wrong. I wasn’t happy.”, Kayla spoke up with a raspy sort of quietness, voice worn from how much she came to bawl during her switching. It was incredibly painful; as much as she dreaded; and it still was, sitting on the rough bark. Behind her, Emily slid her hands more toward her knees.

And, considering all of those moments of brilliance and expertise I got to see from you since we met, your performance last month was some really thick icing on that cake. It makes me wonder, all that put together… why did you get caught, Kayla? I’m trying to follow technology better, you can go into detail without me being too dumb, I promise.”, she wondered, linking that skilled master’s darkest day to becoming the bright eyed little fox that she did, easing into the subject lightly with a motherly, curious sort of nudge. Kayla came to look part way over her shoulder, white tip of her tail shifting against the log, but her muzzle went back to facing forward, not wanting to get in trouble for looking away from the ‘corner’ she was put into.

It’s not really technical. It just didn’t go that well. I was slowing down by then, and I was traced kind of quick, same as we tried to do with jerkface.”, Kayla spoke with her worn cords, eyeing down at the ground and the switch that spanked her resting in the grass before her, using their attempt to locate Velius as an example of how that would have went on her fateful day. Emily held back the urge to hum, tilting her head behind her daughter.

You were slowing down?”, she questioned with a note of puzzlement, not sure what that meant. Kayla sounded like she tried to laugh, but it came out as a teary hiccup from how she was feeling. There was a pause, with her paws coming up to wipe again.

My paws. Well, my fingers. They hurt back then, and they were getting harder to move.”, she seemed awkward to admit, making Emily’s eyes squint and her mouth part slightly open. It made sense in a way, knowing Kayla was a total hermit in hiding; both as a criminal and an illegal alien. She had never seen a doctor in her life, not being available in a scrapyard to scavenge.

“… You had arthritis.”, Emily blurted with a mumbled air of realization. It was entirely curable, but Kayla didn’t have that opportunity. She imagined the way Kayla’s paws would dart and fly across a computer console with surgical dexterity and literally inhuman speed, and then imagined the pain that would have caused.

I guess.”, Kayla replied more quietly, rolling out of her muzzle like a lost whisper.

You never mentioned it before.”, the mother behind her noted, thinking back at all the times Kayla told stories. The pair unmoving in the places they sat, back to face, Kayla let a breath from her nose as she continued working on calming her eye’s perpetual slow leak; ignoring the painful lines of burning welts all down her backside the best she could.

Wasn’t important.”, Kayla dismissed the thought. Emily would have begged to differ, having put a few scattered pieces of the hacker’s scattered tales and feats together. While Kayla couldn’t see, Emily’s brows furled inquisitively. She knew her daughter well, she knew in her heart, and it went beyond just knowing what punishments she hated the most. Her favorite food, favorite color…

Honey… so tell me. Why did you attack a military-grade system you don’t sound like you were sure to defeat, all while being physically handicapped, making it an even worse idea?”, that soft, curious sounding voice pressed in grand question, seeing as that terrible decision made her a warm child that said ‘sorry’ as much as she could. To it, the tail draped upon the log curled closer to it’s owner’s hip. The way she bent over, seated uncomfortably, looking down, didn’t change from what Emily could see. There was quite the pause though, with the fox’s ears uncharacteristically still.

“… I still might have been able to do it.”, Kayla answered to the thought, holding a tone in her tired, hushed voice that suggested it wasn’t entirely impossible. Emily took an uneasy breath, feeling a tightness in her chest that intermingled deeply with the news she hadn’t yet provided.

It’s like that silly little cover-up you told me about underground when I upset you. You always told us your sentence was light because your skills could be useful, but that was just to make you sound good when in reality you thought they took pity on you and wanted no one to think of you that way. It’s even like when you hate wearing dresses because it doesn’t match the tomboy you want to show off. You’re a very prideful thing.”, Emily returned to musing aloud, sharing the deductive thoughts she had be running through her mind. Being less concealing of them, Kayla’s brows curled and her head turned slightly.

You were done, and you let fate sort it out. You weren’t ever going to tell anyone that, were you?”, Emily let loose as her final answer. Kayla’s head turned further, letting her mother see a moist blue eye.

“… It had to end someday. It just happened to be then.”, the once Packet-Storm replied, not saying one way or the other if it was a flip of a coin, speaking tiny words from a tired heart.

So here I am.”, that voice picked up, airy as a whisper in faint greeting.

Emily lifted her hands from her lap, lowering her forehead into the waiting catch of her wrists with a shaking sort of sigh; ponytail falling onto her shoulder’s bright orange plaid checkers. The idea that Kayla might have played a role in her own capture by being intentionally brazen against logic made her eyes burn, understanding that it could have just been “a way out.” Of course that ridiculous bundle of prideful fur would never admit something like that.

You’re… arrogant to a fault, my furry blessing.”, Emily’s voice collapsed into something closer to her daughter’s, loose and sprinkled with low, quiet emotion. Picking her head up, those hands parted to open arms behind her fox.

Get off that stupid thing and give me a hug.”, she so invited and welcomed, rejecting the log’s bite through her daughter’s fur – wanting to hold her and be a loving mom, if just one more time for the wonderful enigma she got the privilege to care for.

Kayla’s eyes opened slowly a little wider over her shoulder, and with just a moment’s pause, muzzle cracking a teary but elated little smile, the young fox flung her quick and wiry frame from where she sat. Almost like a fox that would have belonged in the same woods they were in, she leaped over the ashen maple log with a thrust off a foot and forward with another to land square against Emily, knees spread and her arms around her guardian’s torso, muzzle planted atop the human’s breast. Not sure why her mother so much as came back when she was supposed to be off crying by herself, she even less understood why she was suddenly let off the log and given such a hug; ears keen to the odd, wet sort of breathing Emily was making from her nose and chest, like she’d cry. But, as the pair embraced, a loud hum approached that the fox’s ears pivoted to follow. Just overhead, Kayla’s damp eyes saw the silver shine of their hover-car pass over under automated maneuvers, seemingly summoned by Alex’s key-fob as it’s engines began slowing it to a halt near their campsite. Looking over Emily’s shoulder, back at the colors of the tents, Kayla looked on with surprise and confusion that they had all collapsed; colorful motions of clothing and brown of drake moving in hurried unison all around the beach.

I have something to tell you Kayla.”, Emily whispered beside her pert, black tipped ear. The human allowed a knowing, bright smile across her face beneath a pair of seemingly damp green eyes.

Today is the day.”