Bear had settled onto the rag rug in the great room at the end of the day and was starting to drift off to sleep, when he thought he heard something. He perked his ears up.
There it was again.
He lifted his head and turned towards Girl's room, and this time heard it clearly.
He lumbered up and padded quietly down to her door, then stood and listened.
The sounds were…intermittent. It almost sounded as if she were talking to someone. Her voice got louder and more strained.
Bear pushed the door open softly with his nose and stepped quietly into the gloom.
He could see that her bedclothes were twisted, and her covers were only partially covering her
She turned her head away and mumbled something that sounded anguished. Her head turned back towards him, and he saw her eyes were closed – but her face was twisted up and almost scared.
She started speaking more loudly. "No. NO. I didn't. I wouldn't! NO! I'm sorry. I said I'm sorry! Don't! Please don't…PLEASE!"
Bear moved to her shoulder and started to speak into her ear.
"It's okay, Girl. Bear is here. No one can touch you now. No one can hurt you."
Her head jerked towards his voice, her eyes slitting open. "Bear?" she said, almost puzzled. "You're here?"
"Yes, Girl. I'm here. No one can hurt you when I'm here. You know that."
"Yes, Bear. I know that." Her hand came up and brushed his muzzle as if to check that he was actually real.
Her face started to smooth, and her body moved to a more neutral comfortable position.
Her breathing started to even out, and gradually slowed.
Bear stayed where he was, then lowered his muzzle onto her stomach.
Her left hand came up and landed gently on his head, stroking his fur.
Her eyes opened, just a slit. "Bear?"
"Shhh…it's okay, Girl. I'm here."
Her mouth moved into a smile, "Bear's here. No one can hurt me."
And she fell back asleep, quiet and calm.
Bear stayed there for a long time, then, when her hand slid down to her side, he lifted his muzzle, curled up on the floor next to her bed, and finally went to sleep.
Bear awoke the next morning and stretched out on the rag rug. He wondered why he felt displaced – then remembered that he had fallen asleep next to Girl's bed. She had been having a nightmare – and he wouldn't allow that. So how had he moved from there to here?
He looked down – and saw Girl snuggled up next to him. He remembered that he had gotten up to return to the rag rug late in the night, and shortly afterward she had followed him. He remembered that she looked dream-eyed, not fully awake. She had snuggled up next to him and huddled into herself.
He had been concerned she might be cold, so stretched out and snagged the threadbare blanket from the couch, then had thrown it over her. It covered her still.
He looked fondly down at her, thinking, "Silly Girl. I do like you."
As if she had heard his thoughts, her eyes opened, and she looked directly into his, looking puzzled for a moment. Then she stretched, eyes still on him, "Good morning, Bear."
His laughter rumbled, "Good morning Girl. How did you sleep?"
She giggled, "I closed my eyes, silly!" and demonstrated, eyes clamped theatrically shut.
He chuckled and cuffed her head – gently. "Smart ass."
Her smile broadened, but she just nodded, eyes on him.
Bear curled his body around her. "Do you know how precious you have become to me, Girl?"
She smiled and shrugged. "Of course. You're only human…"
Her hand flew to her mouth, "Oh, BEAR! I’m so sorry!"
He chuckled again. "Silly Girl"
He lumbered up. "Walk?"
She rolled over on the rug, pulling the blanket around her. "No. Sleep!"
He stood over her for a moment, then walked over and collapsed down next to her with his muzzle on her stomach. "You really are a bad influence, do you know that, Girl?"
"I'll be you say that to all the girls, Bear," she said, drowsily with a smile. And she snuggled back into his tummy.
Bear's rumbly laugh echoed through him. "As a matter of fact, I do – all of the Girls who sleep here."
Girl's eyes closed, but her smile brightened. "Good," she said.
And they went back to sleep.