Redhawk Caldera Michael Bolton, we're really gonna need you to focus up
Loner
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#1
All Welcome 
According to Ye Olde Guidebook, Killdeer's ears were now perky as [insert non-innuendo simile here]. And he, too, with them. He was a jovial child, growing like a weed—in all directions. Taller, broader. . .okay, let's face it, fatter.

Fat and happy was young Killdeer Redhawk. Except not today.

Normally, he'd go outside and stay there, or at least just outside the den, playing with sticks and chewing on hapless insects. Today, though, he'd remained inside, sprawled out in the shade, looking balefully out at the sun-drenched ground.

He'd tried to go out, earlier. It was too hot. Like it didn't even get this hot next to Mom's belly, nestled in close, when he was too curious to sleep.

Even the birds and bees seemed to know it; he saw less of them than usual today, and when he did, they fluttered around slower, as if they were worn out, too.

His ribs rose and fell in an enormous sigh, escaping through his muzzle in a huff that stirred the dust.
Moonglow
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#2
Sorry 'bout the sloppy tags, y'all.

Towhee's life was a dumpster fire. @Wraen was dead, @Reyes was gone, @Ruenna was away and Meerkat was missing. She was pretty sure @Caracal wasn't rabid—which meant his father hadn't been ill, just psychotic—but some days, she swore all three of her youngest kids hated her. And now the air was literally scorching.

She moved Caracal, @Tierra and @Sphyra downhill to stay closer to Tailfeather Creek, choosing a spot near a shallow bend for safety's sake. Towhee spent a lot of time ankle deep in the water, alternating between drinking and panting in an effort to stay cool. She didn't patrol as much, in part because of the weather but also because there was no one readily available to watch the trio.

They were definitely old enough to be left alone for a few hours at a time, Towhee knew, but it was kind of difficult after everything. And Tierra's penchant for sneaking away didn't help. So she let her duties fall by the wayside and just tried to keep her shit together enough to be there for her kids... even as she reminded herself every damn day that it was only a matter of time before they left too. And not just for a few hours or days or weeks: for good.

Just now, it all became a bit too much. Calling for @Āzon or @Sifaka to please come keep an eye on Caracal and the twins, Towhee sloshed out of the creek and gave herself a break to go visit @Fennec and Killdeer. Those moments where she could steal away to snuffle her grandson's little forehead were some of the only times when everything didn't hurt.
-Signing.- | "Speaking." | -"Signing & speaking."- | "Mouthing (inaudible)." | Thoughts.
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Loner
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A shadow appeared at the edge of the clearing, and it was only as she came closer and her scent emerged that Killdeer recognized the woman through sleepy, half-lidded eyes. He scrabbled to his paws, half-tripping over himself in the effort to get to her.

OHH-EEEEE! he exclaimed, sending dirt flying in his wake. That was what everyone called her, anyway, or so he'd observed. He flung himself at the dark-pelted wolf, then almost immediately flopped onto the ground, panting.

UGH. It was even too hot to be HAPPY.

He pouted up at her, letting his tongue loll out and to the side. Oh-ee, Killer said, in much different tones. Then he rolled onto his back, little legs curled up like a dead bugs. Busttsts, he murmured meditatively, staring at the cloudless blue sky.
Moonglow
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If she could've heard her grandson's attempt at her name, Towhee would've smiled despite everything. And then she would've poked him in the chest and said something like, "That's 'g-ma' to you, bucko," before giving him a noogie. She did that last bit (the noogie) but remained utterly deaf to all his endearing babbling.

She quickly let go of him when he slumped to the ground, clearly exhausted by this heat. -"Yeah, it's hot as balls, isn't it?"- she said signing slowly so he could eventually learn how the gestures associated with the words coming from her mouth, as she did with all puppies. -"Think your mom would let me borrow you for a bit and plunk you in the nearest puddle?"- she mused, eyeballing the nearby den mouth speculatively.
-Signing.- | "Speaking." | -"Signing & speaking."- | "Mouthing (inaudible)." | Thoughts.
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Loner
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#5
His gaze slid sideways, mouth slightly agape as he watched the movements she made along with her speech. He wasn't quite old enough to grasp it yet, though some of the symbols made sense in ways he couldn't really explain. She talked different than the other adults, too—but that just made her all the more special.

Because she was special, really. Killdeer already looked up to the woman, and was pleased, as his coat began to grow in more, that some of the patterns upon his own pelt resembled her.

When I grow up, I wanna be like Ohhh-ee.

Punnh! Killdeer exclaimed, latching onto the only word that sounded remotely like what Caracal had said. Punh, fuhhh, busszz. . . He lapsed into a sing-song rendition of the nonsensical trio, rolling slowly over before he was distracted by Towhee's large left forepaw.

Whether it was in motion or not, he pounced, gnawing on each toe in turn. Rrrrrr, he growl-mumbled, slobbering over his poor, patient grandma's foot.
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Little kids' lips were simply impossible to read—probably because they didn't usually use real words—though their faces tended to be so much more expressive than adults'. Her lips twitched as her grandson followed her movements with a look of wonder, her tail moving slowly as she saw his mouth move. A happy little sigh escaped her when the tyke rather abruptly pounced at her paw. She happily indulged him, making no attempt to withdraw it from his grasp.

"Hey, that tickles!" she protested insincerely, shaking her leg a little to give Killdeer a different kind of movement. With an easy, practiced movement, she then slipped her leg away from him and gently flipped him to get at that fuzzy little tum while crowing, "Payback's a bitch!"
-Signing.- | "Speaking." | -"Signing & speaking."- | "Mouthing (inaudible)." | Thoughts.
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Loner
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#7
EEEE!! he squealed as Towhee flipped him over, diving right in to tickle his very ticklish belly. He writhed in a strange mixture of anxiety and ecstasy, wriggling to and fro and coating himself in dirt, leaves and a bit of mud. 

Before long, he was filthy, the white bits of his coat thoroughly stained brown to match everything else.

Giggling, he struggled to his paws and tried to attack her feet again, even though he should have known by now it was a suicide mission. He pounced on the row of toes, biting a little harder this time, putting what milk teeth had come in to good use.
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#8
She couldn't hear his vocalizations, though she could see that he was laughing while he squirmed. Towhee wondered what it was like. It was pretty much impossible for the deaf Sovereign to conceptualize sounds, though she imagined it was a lot like sunshine: bright, pleasant, warm. And that was her Killer: a right little ray of sunshine against a bleak horizon.

She indulged herself as much as her grandson by letting him right himself and go after her toes again. Sure, it pinched, but she couldn't help but feel proud of his fighting spirit. He was kind of like the twins that way: feisty from go. Knowing how critical play was for puppies his age, she wriggled her foot enticingly to help him keep sharpening those skills so that one day, his nickname might suit him.
-Signing.- | "Speaking." | -"Signing & speaking."- | "Mouthing (inaudible)." | Thoughts.
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Loner
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#9
Man, she was a good sport. Her toes wriggled like tiny bugs in his mouth, and he spat her away with a delighted giggle-shriek and rolled over, waggling his paws.

He kinda wanted her to go for the tummy tickle again. It felt good, but not? 

Oh-ee, Killdeer crooned, gazing up at her, then stuck out his tongue. Buttz. 

OMG! He had gotten it right! If only Caracal was here to witness his great triumph. Heeee, he breathed, then went on, Buttz buttz bussz butts bussz buttz. . .
Moonglow
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#10
She peered at her foot once her grandson was done with it, spreading her toes apart to reveal a webbing of saliva. Towhee snickered at that, then glanced down at him. When she realized she could tell what he was saying—the chanting repetition certainly helped—the Sovereign's entire face lit up.

"You're saying 'butts'!" she exclaimed joyfully, then realized what she'd said and grinned like a Cheshire cat. "Really, Killer? All the fun swears in the world and you go with something lame like 'butts'? Why don't you try out 'ass,' at the very least. Better yet, you know what comes out of assbutts? Shit."
-Signing.- | "Speaking." | -"Signing & speaking."- | "Mouthing (inaudible)." | Thoughts.
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Loner
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#11
Oh, what a delight!

Perhaps any other grandma would have shut this shit down, but luckily for Killer, Towhee was a "cool mom" (insert Mean Girls gif here). He giggled at the varied words she gave him, some he already knew, some he didn't.

Ssssit, he echoed, grinning back at her. Sit, ssit, buttz, sit, butttzz. . .

Ass hadn't caught on yet, but he was almost there. Thanks, Grandma! Next week on "Lessons from Your Elders" — the indefatigable F word!
Moonglow
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#12
It was a little hard to tell but it seemed like he was trying out a few of the words for himself. Towhee grinned, then realized she'd stopped signing and decided the only remedy was to repeat every word she'd just said, complete with the accompanying signs. She both spoke and signed slowly to give Killdeer the best opportunity to get the hang of both verbal and visual words.

-"Okay, you adorable little chonk,- Towhee said after the brief lesson, -"it really is balls soup out here. Let's go find some water, yeah?"- Louder, she added in the general direction of the den's mouth, "Fen, if you're in there, I'm kidnapping your child, brb."

Snickering, she lowered her head to nudge at Killer. -"You wanna walk? Or be carried?"-
-Signing.- | "Speaking." | -"Signing & speaking."- | "Mouthing (inaudible)." | Thoughts.
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Loner
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#13
Bawwwz, he cooed dreamily upon hearing balls soup, then his ears canted sideways as Towhee called toward the den. Maybe once he'd had a chance to hear other wolves talk, he'd notice that his grandmother sounded, well, different.

But for now she was cool, the imparter of new and naughty words, and he bounced at her paws and then surged forward.

Killdeer was walking, baby. At least until he walked straight into a gorse bush or a mud puddle.
Moonglow
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Speaking of mud puddles, Towhee saw one over yonder as they began walking in search of water. It wasn't going to be fresh, though she imagined it might be cooling to roll around in some mud. There was really only one way to find out for sure. And if it didn't pan out—or if it did and the two of them slathered up from head to toe—they could always resume the search for water in order to clean up.

-"Yo, Killer,"- the Sovereign called, clicking her tongue to snag his attention, -"look."- She pointed at the shallow sink full of goop. Heck, there even was a little bit of standing water, though it was far from fresh and clear. She exchanged a look with her grandson. -"Last one there is a wrinkly moose scrotum!"-
-Signing.- | "Speaking." | -"Signing & speaking."- | "Mouthing (inaudible)." | Thoughts.
Members of Moonglow are welcome to power-play Towhee (excepting injury or death) for cohesion and continuity, whether or not she's an active participant in a thread. Just tag me!
Loner
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#15
MOOOOS! he shrieked, and took off toward the water, sailing into it with a tremendous splash. It may not have reached Towhee by that point, but it certainly reached him, and by the time Grandma came to join him at the water, he was well and thoroughly soaked.

And happy. Rolling, paddling, giggling, cursing, oh-so-happy. Ah, the halcyon days of youth.

last from me!