A Measley Little Tale

Chapter 4

Took me forever to figure out what should happen next! XD

Sorry for the wait!

Thanks so much to Remnant and Contemperina! You guys are the best! /love

Flint felt it was a great time to start teaching the kits how to climb trees. Jessamine, of course, was reluctant, but she soon agreed that it was an invaluable skill. Sometimes a weasel would be cornered and would have little hope of defending itself; the only way to escape that kind of situation was by bolting up a tree.

The large family of weasels walked near the pond they had visited just a few days ago. Flint instructed the eight kits to sit around him, while Jessamine watched from her seat on top of a large stone.

Clearing his throat, Flint began. "All right, weasels. Today, you learn a very important lesson."

"Like chasing rabbits?" Breeze offered eagerly, unable to keep still.

"Or beating up one of those silly, slithery snakes like Shade did?" Dusk asked, punching the air with his tiny paws.

Jessamine raised an eyebrow. "What? Shade didn't beat up any snake." She glared down at her son, who was looking away. "Shade…"

Shade rubbed the back of his neck nervously. "I—I'm sorry. I might have stretched the truth a bit…" He giggled uneasily.

Jessamine wagged her finger. "I do not tolerate lying, Shade. Not at all! And don't joke about adders. They are extremely dangerous!" she added. "Do you understand?"

Shade lowered his head, much to Measley's satisfaction. "Yes, Mother."

Flint rolled his eyes. "As I was saying," he pressed on, "today you learn an invaluable lesson: climbing trees."

"Oh! Silver climbed a tree the other day, Father!" Measley quipped, pointing to his sister. She wore a proud smile. "She was really good at it!"

Flint regarded his daughter with bored eyes, clearly not impressed. Or maybe he was disappointed his favorites had not caught on first. "Yes, yes, that's good and well. But you need real training," he insisted.

Silver glared at her father, folding her arms. Measley gulped and looked down at his feet.

"Now, follow me to this tree," Flint ordered. His kits obediently trailed behind him, stopping at a large oak tree. There were a few birds high above, looking down at the family with inquisitive eyes. Flint firmly dug his claws into the side of the tree, making sure all eyes were on him. "First, make sure you have a firm grip on the tree."

The young weasels nodded their understanding.

"Then," Flint continued, slowly pulling himself up, "you quickly climb." He swiftly scaled the tall tree, making it onto one of the lower branches (which was still quite a distance up). One of the nosy birds chirped and immediately flew up to a safer spot. Flint paid no attention to it as he looked down at his students, who were equally amazed at his climbing prowess.

"Wow, Father, that was amazing!" Dusk cheered, jumping up and down.

"We want to try, we want to try!" Fawn told him excitedly, bouncing up and down beside Faith. Faith giggled at her little sister's eagerness.

Flint smirked and easily descended the tree, landing gracefully beside them. "Give it a try, one at a time."

Fawn immediately came forward, clawing her way up. At first, she perfectly mimicked her father. However, after she'd climbed sufficiently high, she picked up too much speed and lost her footing, falling a great distance. Flint gasped, reaching out to catch his daughter.

She landed in his arms with a thud, giggling. "Oops. Sorry, Daddy!"

Flint sighed in annoyance, setting her down. "You moved too fast. If you had been chased by one of those mangy foxes, you would have been torn to shreds," he said flatly.

Fawn gasped in terror, clasping her paws over her mouth. "I—I didn't mean to..." She struggled to think of appropriate words.

"Make sure you concentrate harder next time," Flint said coldly, pointing towards the other kits. Fawn tearfully trudged back, trying her best to mask her hurt feelings.

Measley placed a hand on her shoulder, trying to reassure her. "It's all right, Fawn. I'm sure you'll get it next time."

Too choked up to speak, Fawn only nodded her thanks. Silver, who'd watched the whole scene, as had all the others, glared furiously at her father.

Flint noticed the angry gaze and called her forward."Do you have a problem, Silver?" he asked severely, folding his arms in a similar manner to Silver.

Silver stared back at him evenly, not blinking or flinching. "You're being awfully mean, Father."

Flint growled at her, but Jessamine was quick to agree. "She's right, you know. I've not known you to be so cruel and short with others," she said, watching him. "You really should learn to have more patience. It's essential if you want to be a good father."

Flint flinched at her words, finding some truth in them. "All right," he muttered. "Silver, you can give it a try."

Silver smiled triumphantly, rubbing her paws together. She steadied her grip on the rough bark, quickly pulling herself up. Unlike Fawn, she took care to secure herself to protrusions before progressing any further. In no time at all, she'd made it to the same branch their father had sat on minutes earlier. Measley, Fawn, Faith, and Purity cheered loudly for her as she gave them a thumbs-up. Dusk, Shade, Breeze, and Flint, on the other hand, looked on in dismay.

Jessamine couldn't be prouder. "Excellent, Silver! You'll be a pro in no time!" she praised, clapping for her adept daughter.

Silver beamed down at her, carefully descending the broad tree. "Thanks Mother, guys! It's really fun!"

"This is serious business," Flint said, tapping his foot. "Not fun."

Silver silently rejoined the rest of her siblings, settling down beside Purity.

Breeze ran up to his father, eager to prove he could be much faster than his sister. "Me, me! I want to go!" he insisted, scurrying over to the tree.

Flint smiled brightly at him. "Give it your best shot!"

Jessamine called out to him in concern. "Be careful! Don't go too fast!"

"I won't!" Breeze reassured her, brushing her off and beginning his climb. Measley watched intently. Breeze was the fastest of them on the ground, and he wondered if he would also be the swiftest climber. Breeze's climbing time did not surpass Silver's, however, and this greatly frustrated him.

This was only made worse by Silver's teasing. "I guess you're only the swiftest on land," she called out. "I'm the fastest in the trees!"

Breeze growled, glaring down at her. There was no way he was going to be shown up by some girl."I can make it higher, though!" he shouted with indignation, turning around and climbing even higher.

Jessamine gasped, jumping off the stone and making her way towards them. "Flint, he'll hurt himself! Get him down now!"

Flint, who was watching Breeze with a fascinated smile, quickly snapped out of it. "Breeze! Breeze, get down from there this instant!"

"I can do better than her, Dad!" Breeze yelled back, not stopping until he reached his goal to climb the entire height of the old oak tree. Jessamine gasped, preparing to climb after him. Measley, however, dashed in front of her and hurriedly climbed up before she could, for reasons he couldn't even name.

"Measley, get down from there!" Jessamine called.

But Measley clumsily followed Breeze through the leaves, trying his best to keep a firm grip on the brittle bark. Breeze finally stopped at one of the highest branches, hopping onto it and walking along it precariously. Measley gulped as he sat on the branch, glancing down. O-Oh, we're up really high! If we fall...

Swallowing his fear (for the moment), he shakily crept towards Breeze.

Breeze, unlike Measley, didn't seem to fear the great heights, glancing down with little care. "Dad, look at me! I made it to the tippy-top!" Breeze cried triumphantly, puffing out his little chest. Measley could faintly make out a cheer from their father far below them.

Stuttering, Measley attempted to reason with his brother. "B-Breeze! Mother says you have to come d-down n-n-now! W-we might get hurt!"

Breeze rolled his blue eyes at his brother, disgusted with Measley's cowardly position. "Oh, grow up, Measley! Real weasels aren't afraid of a little height."

His feelings hurt a bit, Measley continued to edge towards him. "I-it won't d-d-do much i-if you f-f-fall!"

Jessamine suddenly appeared behind them, holding out her hands. "Measley, Breeze, get back here right now!You're going to get yourselves killed!"

Measley held out his hand to Breeze, who reluctantly took hold of it. The two slowly made their way back towards their mother, who carefully held them as she descended down the tree and safely back on the ground. Measley, pressed against her, could feel the light trembles racking her body. She shakily let them down, sighing in relief.

Flint and the other kits immediately came to their side. "Jessamine, are you all right?"

Jessamine placed a hand over her heart, feeling it race. "Yes, I'm fine." She then placed her hands on her round hips, glaring down at Measley and Breeze. "As for you two, you two better not ever disobey us again! You could have been hurt, or worse!"

Measley put his hands behind his back, feeling extremely guilty for making his mother worry. "Sorry, Mother."

Breeze kicked at a small pebble. "Yeah, we're sorry," he agreed.

Jessamine exhaled deeply, but then smiled. "It's all right. I'm not angry, darlings," she told them. "I just don't want anything to happen to you."

Flint sniffed the air, his tail stiffening. Jessamine looked over to her husband, worry clouding her face. "What's wrong, Flint?" she asked, unable to pick up the scent.

Flint snapped his head around. "Foxes."

Jessamine gasped, gathering all four of the boys as Flint gathered all the girls. The two quickly ran towards their earth, not bothering to look back.

Faith looked up at Flint, bouncing slightly in his arms as he ran. "Dad, what's going on? What's a fox?"

"Not now, Faith," Flint panted, trying his best to keep up with Jessamine. The family soon reached its den, scurrying inside the familiar safety. Once inside, the parents finally set them down on the nest. Jessamine and Flint then crept over to the entrance of their den, peering out of it silently.

The kits all looked at each other questioningly, some shrugging.

Measley timidly walked in-between his parents, but not ahead of them. "Mother, Father? What's wrong?" he asked softly.

Jessamine's slightly notched ear twitched, letting him know that she acknowledged him. "Just a minute, Measley. Stay back."

Measley stood where he was, hoping he would be allowed to sit this close. "Right here?"

"Yes, that's fine." Jessamine turned, nodding, before returning her attention to what was outside. Flint didn't move a muscle the whole time, completely focused on whatever was happening outside their earth.

Measley signaled silently for the others to join them. The other kits quietly scurried over, some laying down on top of their parents' heads. From what Measley could see, he saw a large group of strange, blue animals. They were a similar color to those peculiar bluebirds he'd seen so often. Other than that, though, they look nothing like them!

He saw the biggest one sniff around, barking at the others. A slim, light blue female barked as well, leading the pack to another location away from their den. The weasel family silently watched as the pack of foxes left, likely in search of a bigger kill elsewhere. Sighing in relief, the two adult weasels turned towards the nest.

Measley twitched his nose, following close behind. "What funny bluebirds!"

Flint twitched in irritation. "Those aren't bluebirds, Measley. Those are blue foxes."

"Foxes?" Measley repeated, snuggling down beside Silver.

Silver was also curious about the creatures. "What are they like?" she asked.

Jessamine gently licked along Faith's back before answering. "Foxes are big animals," she began. "Much bigger than us. They have sharp teeth, run fast, eat meat—"

"Why, they sound like big weasels!" Dusk laughed.

Jessamine smiled, shaking her head. "No, my dear. They're very different. We are no match for a fox. They are quick and clever, and very powerful. It's best to avoid them at all times."

Measley nodded his understanding.

Shade rolled his eyes. "I don't think they're so tough! After all, I—"

Jessamine shot him a warning look, cutting off his sentence.

"I, uh... You're right, Mother. They're far too dangerous," Shade amended, nodding his head repeatedly.

"Good boy." Jessamine grinned, rubbing his head playfully.

Flint's deep scowl caught Measley's attention. He timidly asked what the matter was.

"With those mangy foxes out there, we won't have a chance to catch dinner!" Flint growled, his anger terrifying Measley.

Jessamine rolled her eyes, losing more and more patience with her mate's short temper. "Stop your belly-aching," Jessamine said, standing up and shaking off the small bits of bedding in her fur. "I'll catch us something."

Flint lifted his head. "I'll go with you."

"Flint, we can't leave the little ones alone," Jessamine said, nodding her head to their children. "I doubt they're ready to be left alone just yet."

Dusk puffed out his chest, beating it. "I'll watch over them!"

"So will I!" Breeze nodded.

"And me." Shade said.

"Me too!" Measley said cheerfully. Three glares from his brothers made him shrink back.

Jessamine glanced back at Flint, still doubting the situation.

Flint smiled warmly at her. "They'll be fine, Jess. Besides, this will give us some time alone," Flint said suggestively, wiggling his eyebrows.

Despite her earlier anger towards him, she smiled, easily convinced. "Well, all right. Kids, stay in the den. Do not go anywhere. Okay?"

All eight kits nodded their heads.

Satisfied, the pair walked out of the earth in search of prey. Now alone, many of the kits wondered what to do next. Their playtime was cut short due to the sudden appearance of the blue foxes outside their den, yet they still had plenty of energy to spend. Trapped inside, they grew impatient quickly.

"I'm bored," Breeze whined, kicking at some stray bedding. "What are we supposed to do now? I want to go hunting!"

"Hey! I'm the boss, and I say, you lot be quiet!" Shade demanded, stomping his foot.

Silver and Purity blew a raspberry at him. "You aren't the boss of us!"

"Says who?"

"Says us, you big bully!"

"Mom and Dad said I was in charge, so you have to do as I say!"

"No, they didn't!" Purity argued, crossing her arms. "They expect all of us to stay here and behave!"

"But I'm one of the oldest, so I say you do as I say!" Shade said in a final tone.

Purity rolled her eyes, grabbing a handful of bedding and throwing it at his head. It hit him square in the face, making him fall back from the impact. The rest of the little weasels laughed at his expense.

Shade noticed Measley laughing the hardest, and snapped at him. "What are you laughing at, twerp?"

Measley quickly shut up, gulping. The other boys found the insult intriguing.

"Twerp?" Breeze said, looking back to Measley.

"Yeah, a measley little twerp!" Shade laughed, pointing at him.

Breeze and Dusk joined in, chanting, "Twerp! Twerp! Twerp!"

Fawn gasped, jumping up. "That's not nice! Stop picking on him!"

Purity nodded in agreement from where she stood off to the side. "Yeah, where do you get off?"

"If it weren't for Measley, you wouldn't even be here, Shade!" Silver reminded him, narrowing her eyes.

Measley shook his head, feeling guilty that his sisters defended him so eagerly. "Oh, no! It's all right," he said. "I'm sure it's all in good fun."

"Oh, Measley, don't let it slide!" Faith protested, waving her arm at the three boys. "They're terrible for treating you like this!"

Shade sneered at him. "Oh, poor Measley! Always needing help from a bunch of silly girls!"

"WHAT!" the girls bellowed, shaking the den slightly. They'd had enough: the sexist way their father treated them, the way it seemed to be influencing their brothers, everyone always treating them like they were somehow inferior. The girls charged at the boys, tackling them and taking them down easily. The boys yelped, fighting off the girls with little success. Measley watched, unable to decide which team to join. He watched the group roll around in the nest, rustling the bedding all over the place.

Measley did his best to stop the fight, which the girls were easily winning, but it wasn't much. "Um, guys? Err..." He coughed as some straw landed on his head, shaking it off. "I think you should stop now! Please?"

Suddenly, sharp barking sounded from outside their den. Freezing, the bickering weasels looked towards the entrance. To their shock, two black noses poked in, sniffing at them. All of them retreated to the far end of the den, backs pressed against the earth.

"Phew!" one of the foxes barked. "What smelly creatures, don't you think, Scarface?" a snide voice said.

The one called Scarface laughed. "Smells worse than you!"

The two unknown visitors guffawed. As they laughed, Measley spotted a row of sharp, pointed teeth in each mouth. Oh dear! These must be those awful boxes! Or were those soxes?

"Scarface, Ace! Get away from there!" a gruff voice called from a distance.

The terrified kits watched in fear as the two snouts disappeared, the two fox pups going back to their father. Measley kept an ear out, wanting to make sure they were really going away. Luckily, his ears picked up on the light crunches of snow as the foxes left the area.

Sighing in relief, the kits slumped onto the disheveled nest.

"Oh, that was close," Measley said. "Those must have been those, um... foxes!" He'd suddenly remembered the name.

Dusk shrugged. "Aww, I would have handled those stupid foxes if they came any closer!"

His brothers and sisters stared at him, not believing a word.

"He said we're smelly!" Fawn said, offended. "We don't stink!"

"I know, right?" Purity folded her arms. "The nerve!"

Measley looked around at the mess their fight had made. "We should clean up before Mother and Father get home!"

The others hopped up to help fix up the den. After a couple of minutes and a great display of teamwork, Faith looked outside with a worried expression.

"Measley, do you think they're okay?" Faith asked, writhing her hands.

Measley smiled encouragingly, patting her back. "Of course they are! They're probably just having trouble finding dinner!"

Sure enough, Flint and Jessamine arrived a few minutes later. In each of their mouths was a large rat, its neck snapped. Their parents set their catches on the ground, letting the kits come over to feast.

Jessamine licked her lips, already having had a nice meal out of a few mice. "Was everything okay?" she asked Measley.

Measley nodded. He'd long since decided to not tell her about the foxes they had seen earlier. It'll only worry Mother, and we already gave her such a scare today…

Jessamine settled down beside him as they all ate, yawning. "I'm glad."

Flint rested on the opposite side. "Sorry it took us so long. Damned foxes, everywhere you turn! It's getting to be even more of a hassle to find food than it used to be."

"Tell me about it. And what if they have more kits? We'll be overrun!" Jessamine exclaimed, shivering at the thought of so many foxes inhabiting the park.

Measley patted his belly, thankfully full from his meal. He lay down on the nest, burping loudly. "Oh! Excuse me."

Jessamine laughed, but Flint simply narrowed his eyes at his son.

Measley stayed quiet for the rest of the night, thinking. He became determined to look good in his father's eyes. But how do I do that? he was forced to wonder.

Measley quickly found the best opportunity to prove himself to his father: beating his other brothers at swimming. That was the day's lesson, and Measley was confident he would do well. He had always wanted to explore the water. He had seen so many strange yet wonderful creatures dart around in the clear, clean waters, and he was eager to emulate them.

Flint led the band of weasels to the edge of the pond, stopping and turning to face them once they'd arrived. He looked down at his kits, who were all staring up at him with curious eyes.

"All right, weasels. Today, we're learning how to swim," their father announced, looking each of them in the eye. After making sure he had their complete attention, he continued. "You must practice hard at it, and—"

"Oh, Flint, this is supposed to be fun!" Jessamine said, strutting up to the front of the class.

Flint looked at her with an uncertain expression. "But... but this is serious business!" he protested.

"Everything's always 'serious business' for you," Jessamine giggled, poking her husband's puffed-out chest. She grinned as it deflated at her touch, the children giggling at their parents' interaction.

Flint blushed, half-heartedly shooing her poking finger away. "J-Jess! I'm trying to teach."

"I know, Daddy," Jessamine cooed, causing Flint's blush to deepen.

He coughed gently, embarrassed as all the girls 'ooo-ed' at him. "Anyway, watch your mother. She'll perfectly demonstrate the proper way to swim."

Jessamine nodded, gracefully diving off the high perch of a stone and into the glimmering waters below. Her diving technique barely caused a splash as she dipped underwater. The kits gasped and ran over to see if their mother was unharmed. To their relief, she ascended quickly and broke the surface, spitting a thin stream of water from her mouth as she floated on her back. The kits, amazed, clapped their hands.

Jessamine smiled at her audience. "It takes a bit of practice, but I'm sure you'll get it in no time!" she encouraged them.

Measley walked over to the edge of the pond, nearly unable to contain his excitement. "Oh, this looks like so much fun! Can we go in now?"

Flint glared at him. "Not yet."

Measley flinched, taking a few hesitant steps back. Breeze snickered at him, pointing a finger.

"Now, I want you all to—" Flint began.

"Oh! Oh! Can we dive off the big rock?" Fawn cut him off, already scurrying towards the large stone.

Flint quickly stopped her by grabbing the scruff of her neck. "No, no, that's not for beginners! You guys will start by just going into the water."

Silver and Purity looked at each other reluctantly. Silver reached out her paw and gently touched the surface of the water, shivering and snatching her paw back.

"It's cold!" she cried, glaring at the water as if it had offended her.

Dusk pranced past her, jumping into the shallow part of the pond. "Sissy!" he called.

"I am not a sissy!" Silver snapped, splashing water in his face. The two proceeded to bicker, much to Flint's frustration.

Measley eagerly waded into the water, followed by Faith and Fawn, nearly oblivious to the cold. His sisters gripped both of his arms, unwilling to let go.

"Aw, it'll be all right!" Measley said reassuringly, kicking at the water. "It's just a big puddle."

Fawn shivered, carefully edging closer. "But we might drown."

"Or get eaten by a monster fish!" Faith gulped, watching one of the larger fish swim by under the ripples.

Measley gulped, jumping slightly. Monster fish? There's no such thing... I hope!

Jessamine easily swam towards the trembling trio, smiling at them encouragingly. "Come on, loves! The water won't hurt you. I'm here."

The three kits instantly felt a bit better, slowly wading towards their mother. Measley felt the ground beneath his feet clear off, and he immediately waved his arms to keep afloat, his sisters doing the same. Jessamine quickly caught each of them, holding them close.

"Oh... This isn't so easy, is it?" Measley sighed, frustrated and embarrassed that he hadn't reacted correctly.

Jessamine shook her head. "It's not. But no one gets this lesson on the first try! Take your time. Relax. Mother's here to make sure nothing bad happens."

Faith clung to her mother's chest, shaking her head. "No! Nu-uh!"

Fawn shook her head in agreement. "It's much too dangerous!"

Measley turned and watched as Breeze, Dusk, and Shade easily emulated their father. They were paddling (albeit a little clumsily) in a neat line after their leader. Silver and Purity seemed to have given up, sitting back on the edge of the pond and watching with saddened expressions.

No way am I going to let those three show me up! And I don't want the girls to miss out because dad won't pay attention to us! I'll show the way, and maybe the others will want to join in too!

"Mother, can I try again?" he asked, not wanting to leave her if she didn't want him to.

Jessamine nodded. "Of course, Measley."

She carefully released him, but kept a steady arm under him just in case he sank again. Fortunately, it seemed that Measley didn't need the precaution; he paddled around quite easily the second time! Seeing Measley swim with ease, Faith and Fawn cautiously followed. Though a bit clumsy, they imitated their older brother with confidence.

Jessamine looked on excitedly, waving to her husband. "Flint! Look! They take to the water like ducklings," she said proudly, watching Measley, Faith, and Fawn swim circles around each other. "Isn't that wonderful?"

Flint looked on with distant eyes, seemingly unimpressed. "Yes, yes."

Purity and Silver, now encouraged to try the same, hopped into the water and slowly paddled over to Jessamine. Storm, Breeze and Dusk waded in the water, watching their siblings.

Flint glared down at them. "Don't let them show you up. Get to swimming!" he growled at the boys, low enough so that his wife would not overhear.

The three boys flinched at their father's words, doing their best to swim even better.

Measley, much to the other's surprise, flipped onto his back and began to back-paddle. He did this seemingly with little effort, swimming in tight circles around his sisters. The girls clapped for him, praising his quick mastering of the water.

Breeze growled softly, jealous. He was supposed to be the fastest at everything! He refused to let the runt of the family best him at anything that involved speed. Breeze furiously paddled toward the group gathered around Measley, intent on grabbing their attention. He watched as Measley dived underwater and come back up. He did the same.

Only this time, he did not come back up.

Jessamine gasped, quickly diving to save him. The tiny weasels looked to each other with worried expressions. Thankfully, a few tense seconds later, Jessamine resurfaced with a coughing Breeze in her arms. She held him, gently patting his back as he spat out water.

"I've got you, Breeze. Don't worry—you're all right," Jessamine murmured reassuringly.

Measley swam over to the two of them, genuinely concerned. "Are you all right, Breeze?"

Breeze glared at him furiously. "Shut up, twerp!"

Measley cringed, hurt. "I was only asking," he sulked.

"Well, mind your own business!" Breeze snapped, folding his arms.

Jessamine frowned. "Breeze, I don't know why you're being so nasty. Measley only asked if you were all right. There's no need to get angry at him. He's not the one to blame, now is he?" she asked, reasonable as always.

Breeze continued to sneer at his brother. "It is! If he wasn't such a show-off!"

"I'm not a show-off!" Measley argued. "All I was doing was swimming!"

"Yes, you are! You're always trying to impress mother or our sisters! Because you know they'll always come to your defense!" Breeze accused, glowering down at him. "You can't fight your own battles!"

Measley hated how his brothers chose every opportunity to belittle him. He'd only been concerned about Breeze's safety, and he was quickly blown off.

Hurt, Measley swam back to the edge of the pond. He didn't have the heart to continue with his swimming, feeling that he would, somehow, only cause more trouble. He placed his head in his hands, letting his feet dangle in the water. Oh, I'm such a nuisance. It seems no matter what I do, I mess up somehow. So much for impressing Father...

He saw a few ripples come from the opposite direction. Lifting his head, he saw Jessamine come towards him.

Oh no! If Father or the others see her helping me, they'll think I'm a wimp!

Before Jessamine could say anything, Measley bolted away from her. She called out to him, pleading for him to stop, but he didn't listen. He didn't want anyone to think he couldn't handle problems by himself. No longer would he let someone think he was a wimp. A twerp.

Measley ran a short distance, far enough until the cries of his mother were a good distance away. He quickly jumped into the bushes, not wanting to be found. From his hiding spot, he saw the paws of Jessamine as she appeared in the clearing, turning in circles as she searched for him.

He thought she wouldn't find him. However, he was proven wrong as she easily sniffed him out, pushing apart the branches of the bush to stare at him inquiringly.

He moaned, curling up. "Don't try and defend me, Mother! I can do that by myself," Measley groaned.

Jessamine looked down at him. She didn't want to coddle him; she believed in raising children with a bit of independence. But she also did not want him growing up thinking that he couldn't rely on others—especially family. Picking him up carefully, she lifted him out of the bushes and into the clearing again.

"Measley, I have no intention of babying you," she said gently, stroking the top of his head. "But I'm not going to sit idly by and let your brothers bully you!"

Measley sighed. He had been reckless, running away from her when all she'd done was want to help. It's almost the same thing Breeze did when all I did was worry about him. That wasn't fair at all!

"Sorry, Mother. I didn't mean to run off like that," he said, kicking a bit of dirt. "It's just... I don't want you or anyone else to fight for me. I want to do it on my own. I can be tough!"

Jessamine smiled kindly. "Measley, I don't want you to behave like Dusk, Breeze, or Shade."

Measley looked up at her, confused. Flint always encouraged that type of behavior, but here Jessamine was telling him not to!

"Why not?" Measley asked.

Jessamine shook her head. "Because it's rude. You won't make any friends like that. Only enemies. And we weasels have plenty of enemies as it is," she explained, leaning down on one knee to look him in the eye. "There is nothing wrong with the way you are, Measley. Don't go thinking you have to be 'big and bad' like your father tries to teach you. You can be a fighter and still have a gentle heart."

Measley nodded slowly. He was happy his mother liked him just the way he was and how she encouraged him to stand up for himself. He didn't yet understand what she meant by a "gentle heart", but he had a feeling he'd learn its meaning sometime in the future.

Jessamine took his hand, leading them back to the pond. The others were out of the water by this point, shaking themselves off. It was past sunset, and darkness was beginning to fall all around them.

Flint was eager to get back home, and he voiced this to his wife.

"I agree," Jessamine said, looking around at the shadows with a weary eye. "It's not safe to stay out at night. Let's get moving."

The family swiftly scampered through the darkness, back toward their earth. Thankfully, they returned without any complications. Out of the corner of his eye, Measley spotted a long, lithe form slither along the grass from the base of the hill their home sat atop. He wondered if it was the same adder who had helped him a couple nights ago. He also wondered if her eggs had hatched, and if he was likely to see baby snakes around.

Maybe one of them could be a friend of mine one day, Measley thought with a happy smile, following behind Silver and into the warmth of their den. But for the time being, he was eager to get a full night's sleep.

Thank you all for reading!

I hope you liked this chapter. :D There will be a couple more chapters that will deal with the kits being... well, kids. But soon after that they will grow into teenagers.

Stay tuned for the next chapter!