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"MOMMY!" Dawn heard Lily's cry for help, but she couldn't find her. She had been standing right next to her, holding her hoof. Dawn had looked away for just a second... and then she was gone. Panicking, she started to look around for Lily. They were at the park, which was empty. The sky, in which a few clouds were lazily drifting by, was growing darker.

 

"LILY!" Dawn called out, becoming frantic with worry as she dashed all around, looking for any sign of her daughter. And then she spotted her. The little mostly furless mammal that had become her littlest girl, her baby, was near the parking lot, being dragged away by a pair of rams. She was struggling and crying. She looked back and saw Dawn, her big blue eyes filled with tears and terror.

 

"MOMMY!" she cried as they dragged her towards an idling white van. Dawn ran as fast as her legs would allow, racing towards the van. Tears were streaming down her face as Lily was forced into the van, the door shutting behind her. As she got closer, she recognized one of the rams as Doug Ramses, who just winked at her. She came to a halt as recognition dawned in her mind as to who the second ram was. Her father... the late Aster Bellwether. He looked back at the ewe with contempt.

 

Dawn was broken out of her stupor by the clap of thunder and, tossing aside the horror of seeing her dead abusive father, she started sprinting to close the gap on the van. Doug and Aster had climbed inside and shut the doors behind them. Dawn got up to the side of the van, and saw Lily crying and beating on the glass. Dawn gripped the handle and tried to open it, jerking and jerking, but the door stayed firmly shut. The van then drove off, knocking Dawn down. She reached out towards the van, sobbing.

 

"NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!" she cried out as the rain fell. And then she started awake. Dawn sat up in bed, feeling Vernon holding her close in his arms. She reached out to the nightstand and grabbed her glasses to put on before she looked up at her mate.

 

"Bad dream, darlin'?" Vernon asked. Dawn lifted her glasses to wipe away some tears as she nodded.

 

"Oh gods, Puppy," she let out a shuddering breath before hugging her wolf, "it was horrible! Me and Lily were at the park and Doug and my father were there and they kidnapped her! They just took her! I t-tried to get her back, but I failed and... and..." Dawn let out a sob and clutched Vernon tightly.

 

"It's okay, Lamb Chop, Lily's safe and sound in her bed, and our other pups are safe and asleep as well," Vernon said in a soft and reassuring voice. He gave his ewe an affectionate nuzzle, smiling as her trembling tapered off. Dawn kissed him on his nose, prompting a tail wag. They ended the embrace, and Dawn quickly scrambled out of their circular bed.

 

"Honey Lamb?" Vernon asked, his ears perked in confusion while Dawn took a moment to adjust her pajamas.

 

"I just wanna check on our lambs," Dawn said, giving Vernon a smile that he was quick to return. He slipped out from under the covers and followed her out into the hall, padding softly. They navigated through the twilight of the darkened hall towards Lily's door. Dawn quietly opened it and looked inside. There was a soft glow from the Prism Bolt nightlight near the bed, Dawn having selected that particular one for Lily since that was her favorite Our Mini Ostrich character. The nightlight illuminated the bed where Lily lay curled up with Alice, the wolf pup having apparently also had a bad dream earlier in the night to come and sleep in her sister's bed.

 

Unable to help herself, Dawn crept quietly into the room and up to the bed. She reached out a hoof to gently stroke Lily and Alice's headfur, and then lightly kissed their foreheads. Alice made a murring sound in her sleep, and smiled. Vernon watched as Dawn padded back out, smiling down at her. They then moved down to Trevor's room, where they found him sleeping peacefully. His blanket was strewn a little, and Dawn padded over to his bed to pull it back up and to also give the little black lamb a kiss on the forehead as well. Vernon quietly shut the door behind the ewe, and the two headed back to their room. They both climbed back into bed, and snuggled together. Dawn placed her glasses back on the nightstand, and buried her face in Vernon's neck ruff, falling asleep surrounded by his scent, taking comfort as she drifted off.

 

 

***

 

 

"Nick's really starting to warm up to the idea of us having kits," Judy said as she and Dawn casually strolled through Savanah Central. They were on their way to a new cafe that Judy had heard about from Fru Fru. Today was Judy's day off, and on a whim she had called up Dawn to invite her to lunch. With the kids at school and Vernon at work, and the nightmare from the previous night making focusing on writing her newest novel an impossibility, Dawn had jumped at the chance. It was a bright and sunny day out, with crystal clear blue skies, as they started to pass a park.

 

"Oh, really?" Dawn said with a grin, knowing how the red fox had been dragging his feet over the subject.

 

"Yup! I mean, he still has his reservations, but he's actually willing to talk about it!" Judy practically jumped for joy, the rabbit officer's enthusiasm and energy always making her company a delight to the ewe. Judy continued talking about them possibly adopting two kits, a rabbit and a fox, when Dawn was distracted by the sight of a nearby playground. Since it was a school day, it was mostly deserted, but what drew Dawn's attention was how similar it seemed to the playground in her dream. Dawn's heart quickly raced and she took in a sharp breath as the thought of Lily being abducted flashed into her mind. Judy took notice of her friend's distress, her ears drooping.

 

"Dawn? What's wrong?" she asked worriedly. Dawn looked back up at Judy and flashed her a nervous grin.

 

"O-oh, it's nothing, Judy," Dawn said, "I just had a bad dream last night that I suddenly thought of."

 

"Oh?" Judy asked, now curious. They continued on their way just as Dawn started to continue.

 

"Yeah, I dreamt that I took Lily to the park, and that Doug Ramses and my f-father kidnapped her, and took her away before I could rescue her." Dawn hugged herself a little. "I know that it's silly though. Especially since my f-father... w-well, you were there..."

 

Judy nodded and reached out to rest a paw on Dawn's shoulder.

 

"It's not silly, Dawn. Having a child abducted is one of the worst nightmares for a parent," Judy explained as they came to a crosswalk, waiting to cross.

 

"True... I g-guess that I'm especially worried about Lily, though; we still haven't been able to find anything about her species. I think that part of me is thinking that someone might try to take her to study in a lab... or worse..."

 

"You haven't been able to find anything?" Judy asked, curious. She and Nick had gotten the file of the pictures taken after Dawn had sent them, squealing in pure joy at the adorable pictures, as well as taking an interest in Lily.

 

"Nothing, I haven't been able to find any record anywhere of a species like her..." Dawn said. They started to cross when the signal changed. Dawn waited until they reached the other side to bring up another worry she had been having. "I can't help but feel that it must be pretty lonely for her."

 

Judy nodded as she considered this. "That does sound like it could feel pretty lonely, especially for a little kit."

 

"A-at first," Dawn gulped and looked at her hooves guiltily, "Vernon and I were worried about how we would relate to her. I mean, th-that's why we were primarily looking to adopt a lamb and a wolf in the first p-place."

 

Judy nodded. "But she's your baby now," Judy said, resting a paw on Dawn's shoulder.

 

"They all are," Dawn said, "but it's just a little frustrating. Part of me feels like there should be something out there, some kernel of information, anything!"

 

"Dawn, I'm positive that you'll find it. Even if she's a member of a newly discovered species that's been in hiding in some remote location in the world, there's going to be something to dig up. She had to come from somewhere, after all."

 

Dawn looked up at her rabbit friend and gave her a sudden hug.

 

"Thank you, Judy," Dawn said as she let go.

 

"Anytime, Dawn. So, what about your other kits? They start giving you two heart attacks yet?"

 

"Don't get me started," Dawn said with a roll of her eye. "So it turns out that Trevor, for all his skittishness, likes to go rooting around with glass jars to collect bugs in, poking holes in the top. And Alice likes to climb things."

 

"I take it that those two traits came as a bit of a surprise then?" Judy asked with a giggle, glad to see Dawn perking up.

 

"Oh yeah, which we found out about both of them on the same day. That's also when we found out that Lily has a bad habit of wandering off when you take your eyes off of her. I had just realized how high up Alice had climbed the tree in our back yard and just before I started to think about getting a ladder, Trevor pops up from a hedge he had been in, covered head to hoof in mud, holding up three jars of creepy crawlies, one of which had the largest tarantula in it I've ever seen."

 

The two started laughing, only stopping just as they came upon the cafe that had been their destination. After they were seated and waiting to order, Dawn described how Vernon had been relaxed and trying to keep a cool head, until he had seen his oldest pup up in the tree. He had immediately scrambled to find a ladder and quickly scaled it to carry Alice down. While not afraid, Alice had looked guilty, like she had been preparing herself for a scolding.

 

"She actually looked almost shocked when we both hugged her to us," Dawn said, setting down her menu. "I think that she was expecting to be punished."

 

"Poor kit," Judy responded.

 

"And then, after we explained how we were not mad, just scared of how she could have hurt herself, she looked so guilty." Dawn stopped long enough to place an order for the clover tea, her appetite having dwindled a bit from the recollection of her nightmare. Judy placed an order for a fruit salad and some carrot tea.

 

"She puts on a brave face," Dawn continued once the weasel waiter had scurried off, "and so we're encouraging her, gently of course, to open up. I think that she's spent so long being the rock for Trevor and Lily that she's built up a wall."

 

"That sounds like my little brother, Julian," Judy said, giving Dawn a sympathetic smile. "My mom and dad adopted him and the rest of his litter when they were just little kits. He had been their protector, and he kinda stayed that way even after they became a part of our family."

 

"I had no idea that your parents adopted a litter of kits," Dawn said, surprised. Judy nodded solemnly.

 

"Their parents and mine had been friends for a while, the Leapingtons. Unfortunately, their mother passed away during birth, and their father just couldn't handle it. He tried to raise them, but he started drinking just to cope. When they were five, he got so out of control that the Sheriff had to come down and arrest him. He ended up going away for assaulting an officer."

 

"That's terrible!" Dawn said, shocked.

 

"It was. Anyway, we made them a part of our family. They all integrated pretty well, after a little time had passed. But Julian, he had always seemed so... vigilant, when it came to his brothers and sisters. Like he was just waiting for the other hammer to drop."

 

"D-did he ever come out of his shell?" Dawn asked, leaning forward. Judy smiled brightly and nodded.

 

"He sure did. It took a while, but he slowly started to relax, and learn to enjoy himself more. Mom and Dad made sure to take the time to really encourage anything he started to show an interest in, which it turns out was chess. It really seemed to help."

 

"Patience, showing an interest in their interests; and of course, a safe and loving home; all sound as though they helped to do the trick." Dawn smiled down at the cup of tea placed before her.

 

"Which I'm sure Alice is already starting to receive a lot of with you and Vernon. Plus, coming from a family of law wolves probably adds some additional sense of security. Well, that and having the largest wolf ever for a dad." Judy took a few bites from her fruit salad, the blueberries making her think of her mate.

 

"I'm sure you and Nick could probably make some little ones feel safe and loved too," Dawn said, earning a giggle from Judy.

 

"I'm almost positive that when we do get some kits of our own, Nick is immediately going to teach them how to pull off his 'Pawpsicle' scheme." That made Dawn laugh.

 

"What about Trevor?" Judy asked as a sudden thought popped into her mind.

 

"Trevor? Well, he's a little sweetheart."

 

"I'm sure. But he's also the middle child," Judy said. Dawn nodded in agreement.

 

"Vernon and I discuss ways we can include all of our lambs, as well as make sure to praise them all equally. Vernon especially. He wants to make sure that they all know that they're loved equally, and tries to find ways for us to show all three of them how special they are to us."

 

Judy cooed at the sudden mental image of the pictures Dawn had sent. There wasn't one where Dawn and Vernon weren't both hugging the kids, everyone looking happy in the pictures.

 

 

***

 

 

"Tag! You're it!" Lily squealed in excitement as the little panther boy touched his paw to her back. Giggling, she turned and spotted Emma, the little fox kit laughing as she turned to run. Lily gave chase, spotting Alice out on the playground. She waved to her big sister as she passed by, Alice's tail wagged a little, before she saw another wolf pup approaching her. He was the one seated next to her in class, and every day he had been bugging Alice with questions. She had recently learned that his name was Mike.

 

"So that's your little sister?" he asked, staring after Lily as she finally managed to tag Emma, who in turn started to chase after a little squirrel boy.

 

"Yeah, that's my baby sister Lily."

 

"So... is she adopted like you and your brother?" Mike asked, his ears perked and his head cocked to the side.

 

"Yes, Mike," Alice said, looking for Trevor and spotting him reading one of the books that he had gotten as a gift under a tree.

 

"S-so... what is she?" Mike asked, shrinking a little under the serious look he received.

 

"My little sister," Alice said, a little tersely. She saw how nervous Mike seemed, and part of her felt a little bad. She wondered if maybe he was having difficulty making friends. But her more protective side was ever vigilant and protective of her brother and sister, the memories of them having both been mercilessly teased back at their old school still fresh in her mind. Lily had gotten it the worst.

 

"'Kay... w-wanna go... uhm... p-play tetherball?" Mike asked. Alice looked him over and thought about it for a second.

 

"...Okay..." Alice noticed how the other pup's tail started to wag. "But if I see anyone messing with my brother or sister, I will have to cut our game short to go deal with them. Got it?" Mike's tail continued to wag as he nodded and then raced off to an unoccupied tetherball pole. Alice followed after him, looking over her shoulder to check on Lily and Trevor.

 

Lily was running along, trying to avoid being tagged by a raccoon girl in her class. She was laughing and looking over her shoulder, not watching where she was going. Suddenly she found herself crashing into someone. She let out a squeal as she and the black figure tumbled over. Lily immediately extricated herself from what she recognized as her brother.

 

"Oops! Sorry, Trevie!" Lily said, reaching down to help him up. The lamb smiled up at his sister and took her hand.

 

"That's okay, Lils," he said, earning a giggle. She spotted Trevor's book and handed it to him, making sure to wipe off the dirt that gotten on the cover. She looked at the title and started to sound it out.

 

"Bee-asts annnd bat-tal-lyons," Lily sounded it out. Trevor gave her a hug.

 

"Good job, Lils," he said. Despite their height difference, with the little black lamb being a head shorter than his little sister, Trevor never had any difficulty viewing her as his little sister.

 

"Beasts and Battalions," Trevor said, accepting the proffered book.

 

"What's it about?" Lily asked, the game continuing in the background.

 

"It's a game!" Trevor's voice started to fill with excitement. "Daddy said he and Mommy would play it with us, if we wanted."

 

"Oh!" Lily said, starting to share Trevor's enthusiasm. "What kind of game? Do we play it on the Shift?"

 

Trevor giggled and shook his head. "No, Lily, this is a game played on paper, imagining a world to explore and go on adventures in!"

 

Lily cocked her head to the side as she looked on in confusion, a habit she had picked up from Alice over the years. Trevor smiled up at his little sister.

 

"Don't worry, Lils, when we get to play with Mommy and Daddy, they can probably help explain it better."

 

"Okay!" She saw Andrew out of the corner of her eye. The little panther boy was trying to creep up on her, looking ready to pounce. Lily squealed and turned to run, just as Andrew pounced. He missed her, but only just barely, and gave chase, the two giggling. Trevor watched, feeling a little worried at first, but relaxing after the panther tagged her and turned to run, only for Lily to pounce on him. Trevor then noticed the little tiger girl from his class sitting on a swing. She was staring at him again, and Trevor started to feel a pit of nervousness form in his stomach. He smiled nervously and gave a wave, but she in turn gave an audible huff, and turned away.

 

 

***

 

 

Vernon was seated at his desk at work. He was hunched over his plans for the library that he was presently working on. The big pitch was coming up in a few days, and the large wolf felt simultaneously nervous and excited. He knew that the building was going to have to match the general theme of the rest of the structures in Sahara Square, but he was also working out how he was going to go about making it his own. Vernon was humming a little as he went over his current design, and decided to make some adjustments, when his phone started to buzz. Vernon let out a sigh as he fished it out and held up the vibrating phone, an eyebrow quirking at the picture of his father that came up.

 

"Hey, Pa, how're things?" Vernon asked the older law wolf, a little confused.

 

"Heya, Vern," Dorian's voice rumbled on the other end. "Just callin' ta check in on you and Dawn and the pups."

 

"Oh, well, we're all fine. The kids are all at school, and Dawn sent me a text earlier sayin' that she and her friend Judy were going out to a cafe. I'm actually at work right now," Vernon trailed off as a sudden thought came to him and, his tail starting to wag, he resumed sketching on the paper before him.

 

"Oh, right, well, I'll try to keep this short. I was just curious about whether or not y'all have been able to dig up any information about the youngest pup."

 

Vernon continued to sketch on the plans as he spoke. "Well, no. I mean, we know that she was picked up when she was four or so, all alone on the streets, but that's about it."

 

"So her species is a bit of a mystery then?" Dorian asked. Vernon paused, and his tail slowly tapered off the wagging.

 

"So far," Vernon said, slowly, "why?"

 

"Oh, well, it's the strangest thing, Vern," Dorian said, sounding uncomfortable.

 

"What is, Pa?"

 

"I just have the strangest sense of deja vu is all. I mean, when I first saw her in the pictures you sent over, finally, I just got this odd feelin' of familiarity."

 

"Like you've seen Lily before?" Vernon asked, leaning back in his chair.

 

"Oh, no. Not, eh, Lily. I just got this feelin' in the back of my mind is all. And that just made me curious. I'm sure that it'll come back to me sooner or later."

 

"Okay," Vernon said, holding up a paw to forestall Robert who had been approaching him, opening his mouth to speak. The beaver looked initially confused but nodded and decided to wait. "If it does come to ya, you'll let us know, right?"

 

"Of course, Son." Dorian let out a rumbling chuckle.

 

"Thanks Pa... she's actually a pretty happy little pup, but we both get a little worried for her."

 

"Welcome to parentin', Son." Dorian let out another chuckle, and Vernon was certain that his father could tell that he was rolling his eyes. "Granted, this here's a bit of an... unusual case, but regardless, a large part of parentin' is worryin'. I can't even begin to tell you how much you boys scared the ever livin' daylights outta me and yer ma, and that was before y'all could even walk! And don't even get me started about how much worse it got when the last of ya was toddlin' around. I swear, it was like y'all were just tryin' to go and get lost in the corn fields."

 

"O-okay, Pa," Vernon said, noticing Robert who was pointing to his watch and circling it with his finger, repeatedly, "I gotta go."

 

"Oh, wait Son, yer ma wanted me to ask when you and Dawn were gunna bring our grandpups up here fer a visit? We know y'all wanted to acclimate 'em slowly and everything, but we, yer mother especially, are just itchin' to meet 'em."

 

"O-oh, uh, me and Dawn were thinkin' maybe in about two weeks. Would that be a good time to come in for a visit?" Vernon offered.

 

"That's perfect. I'll go tell yer ma and let you get back to yer architectin'," Dorian joked, making Vernon once more roll his eyes before they said their goodbyes. After Vernon had hung up, he looked down at Robert.

 

"Yes?" he asked the beaver.

 

"Well hello to you too, Vernon," Robert said with a smirk. "I just wanted to let you know that today is Tony's birthday, and that they're serving cake in the break room."

 

The wolf let out a sigh and rolled his eyes. "I really gotta get this design done, Robert."

 

"Alright, alright." The beaver smiled as he held up his paws in defense. He turned to go, while Vernon started to mutter to himself, picking up where he left off, his tail soon slowly resuming its earlier wagging.