When Girl awoke the second time, she stretched, then quickly got up.
“Are you okay, kid?” Bear asked.
Girl stopped, looked at him, and said, “Yes, but I really need to pee!” and hustled out of the store room.
Bear gave his deep, rumbling laugh, then got up, unbolted the front door, and trotted out into the woods.
Shortly thereafter, both friends were reunited, refreshed, and ready for the morning. Girl made some breakfast for herself…plus some bacon she cooked up for Bear, which he really enjoyed and hardly ever got…and the two friends chatted companionably about nothing important. It was as if they had used up all the heavy subjects earlier…or were postponing them, at least…and just wanted to enjoy each other’s company for a while.
When Girl had finished breakfast, washed and cleaned up, and hung the dish towel on its appointed rail, she turned to Bear, and said, “We need to do something fun today, something to wash away yesterday’s stink. Any ideas in that vast, trove of treasurers trapped in that tête?”
“OOhhh…alliteration! I like it. Lemme see…” and he turned his head up and to the left for a few moments, thinking. “Okay, I’ve got it. Get your boots on, mate, we’re goin’ adventuring.”
She smiled at him, skipped into the bedroom to get socks and her boots, and returned quickly. By this time, she was wearing mostly the clothes from the dresser and closet in the bedroom – all except for the bras, which were too small. But she decided that today she would skip wearing her only bra, and let the girls bounce free for a change. She smiled at herself. She never did things like that…until now.
She returned to the great room, then went to the storeroom, picked up the day pack hanging there, the canteen, plus some ad hoc trail mix, and returned to Bear, skipping the last few paces to stop, quivering, before him.
She saluted smartly. “Adventure Girl reporting for fun, Captain Bear!”
Bear dropped his head, laughing, then raised his right paw to his eyebrow – or where his eyebrow would be – and saluted back. “Excellent work, Adventure Girl. Now, quick march…ho!”
He pivoted, and walked smartly through the door, down the porch steps, and off to the left side of the meadow. Adventure Girl followed, pausing only to close the door behind her, then hurried to catch up.
The two friends started singing through the woods after about a whole ten paces, with Girl leading with “I love to go a-wandering…”, and Bear joining in with a deep baritone. Girl was a bit surprised that he knew the lyrics, but raised her voice even louder in celebration.
The two crashed through the woods, scattering birds, squirrels, chipmunks, and a family of deer, who stood transfixed for a moment by the sight of a polar bear and girl singing together, before dashing off into the woods, fleeing from their most feared predator – and the bear accompanying it.
Song led to song, and sooner than she would have credited it, they arrived at their destination. “Well, here we are!” Bear commented.
Girl looked around. There was a smallish waterfall, not as dramatic or anywhere near as big as the one they had visited the day before, plus a series of pools off to one side. Two of the pools had what seemed to be mist hovering over them.
“Now, you need to be careful here. These are hot pools, fed by hot springs from underground. Those two over there…” he nodded towards the two steaming pools, “…will parboil you in seconds, but the three closer to the waterfall are a tad more comfortable, and you can pick your temperature. The one closest to the waterfall is cool-ish, the one next to it is warmer, and the third is pleasantly hot. And, of course, the waterfall is rather cold – glacier-fed. And don’t say I didn’t warn you this time, okay?”
Girl looked at the pools and waterfall, then back at Bear with distinctly mixed feelings.
He swiveled his head to look at her, “Uh, Girl?” he mimicked.
“I…I don’t have a swimsuit.”
He looked at her and smiled, “Oh my goodness!” He put a paw to his cheek, “I totally forgot!”
He shook his head. “Look, Girl, the air is warm, the water is lovely, and…well…if it bothers you to have a naked Bear look at a naked Girl, then I will turn my back. I’ll even promise not to peek…too much!” And he chuckled silently.
She stood, uncertain, for a moment, then swatted him on his back. “You sneaky critter! This was your dastardly plan all along, wasn’t it?
“Okay, then; turn your back!” And she eagerly started unbuttoning her plaid shirt, dropping it on a nearby rock, then awkwardly unlacing her boots and hauling them off, then her socks, and finally pushing her jeans and panties down to her ankles before hopping out of them, one leg at a time.
Meanwhile, Bear studiously turned away, facing the nearby mountains, and humming, loudly and deliberately off-key. Every once in a while, he chuckled to himself, then returned to humming.
When she was done undressing, she picked her way carefully over the rocks to the coolest pool. She dipped her toe in it, shivered, then moved to the second pool, repeating the process. Finally, she dipped her toe in the third, hot pool, then slowly and carefully, walked into it, finally sliding down into the water until it was up to her neck, resting on a convenient ledge.
“Okay, you can look now!” she called.
Bear turned back, then padded over to the pool, looking at her bare form through the water. She smiled coquettishly at him, then splashed him to make ripples in the water, distorting his view. “Pervert.”
“Ecdysiast!” he chuckled back at her. “Move over, I’m a-comin’ in!” And he waded slowly into the pool, which was easily large enough for the two of them, plus five or ten more as well. Finally, he settled into the deeper part of the pool, with just his head out of water, and gave a deep sigh of contentment, closing his eyes and turning his head up. After a while, he tilted his head back to get the top of his head wet, then slid under the surface, making a bit of a splash.
Girl smiled at the circle of ripples spreading from where his head had vanished. “Silly Bear.”
Shortly thereafter, he re-emerged, then started to walk back out of the pool. “Much as I love the heat, this body can’t take it for long. I’m going to cool off.” And he padded out of the hot pool, water streaming from his fur onto the rocks.
Girl lay back, eyes closed, and let the warmth bake into her bones, feeling herself relax, and her muscles unkink in the heat.
Bear trotted over to the waterfall, and stood under it, moving to cool different parts of his body under the gentle splatter of water from above. Finally, he stood with his head bowed, letting the water fall gently onto his head, and lapped at it from time to time, drinking.
When he had done, he walked slowly up to a wide, flat rock overlooking the scene, and settled down, watching the Girl, but also keeping an eye out for any potential dangers. He doubted any other predators would come near his scent, but he wanted to make sure.
Eventually, Girl, opened her eyes, looked around, then started to emerge from the pool.
“I’m not looking!” Bear called out.
Girl dropped back into the water. “You…you sneak! I didn’t see you up there! I need to cool off in one of the other pools. Avert your eyes!” she said, imperiously.
Bear ostentatiously covered his eyes, peeking just below his left paw. “You’re absolutely safe. Come on out!”
Girl looked at him for a moment, snorted, then said, “Fine!” and marched out of the water, sloshing through the shallows as she emerged. When she was completely out of the water, she stopped, hands on hips, facing him, and said, “If you’re going to cheat, then go ahead and take a good look – pervert!”
Bear slowly removed his paws from his eyes and looked at her, first into her eyes, which were blazing with defiance, then letting his gaze travel slowly down her body. “You are a beautiful woman, Girl. Truly.”
She stared up at him. “I’m sixty-frickin’-three years old, Bear. I’m not beautiful!”
Bear looked her in the eyes, and said, quietly, “Yes…you are. Now, go cool off.” And he nodded toward the waterfall.
Pausing, made uncertain by his remark, she looked at him, then turned and strode unselfconsciously towards the waterfall. She cautiously stuck her hand in the water, pulled it back quickly, then stepped into the water flow.
She screamed, but stayed there for several seconds, before jumping out of the flow. She wrapped her hands around her shoulders, and gingerly picked her way over to the cool pool, slipping into its waters, then sighed deeply.
“Oh, my. That feels SO good! The hot, then the cold, now this…it feels almost hot, but it’s really barely warm.” She lifted her head and looked at Bear. “You were right, this is lovely. Thank you…again…Bear.”
Bear rested his head on his crossed paws and said, “I had hoped you would like it. You’re welcome, Girl.” And he gave a deep, contented sigh as he watched her lolling in the pool.
The two friends eventually agreed it was time to head for home. Girl slowly pulled herself up and out of the cool pool, shook herself to get the excess water off, wrung out her hair, then used her shirt to partially dry herself before putting all of her clothes back on.
Bear kept watch, not to ogle, but merely to ensure they were safe from other critters – or humans. When she was finally dressed, he heaved himself up, lumbered down to where she was standing by the path, and said, “Hop on. I’ll give you a ride home.”
Girl patted his back, then grabbed a handful of fur and hauled herself aboard. This time she sat up as if she were riding a horse.
After a few steps, Bear began to chuckle.
“What’s so funny, you perverted furball?”
Bear continued to chuckle, then said, “Can you imagine if someone saw us? It would start a whole new, Loch Ness monster-type of thing. You know: naked girl seen riding a polar bear in the Canadian Rockies?”
“Hey!” she smacked him, “I’m not naked, okay?”
Bear continued to chuckle, “I know…but it makes for a better myth that way, don’t you think?”
Girl thought for a moment, then laughed. “It almost makes me wish there were someone around. Almost.”
And the two friends continued to chuckle and talk as they rode along.
After a while, Girl fell silent. She was feeling good from the hot springs, the cold waterfall…and, if she were to admit it, from the close contact with her friend. Her grip tightened on his fur, and he swung his head back to look at her. “What’s up, buttercup?”
She smiled, but just shook her head. “Just feeling…uh, good…is all.” And she shifted around on her legs, clasping him with her knees, leaning forward slightly, and settling closer into his back.
Bear sniffed deeply, smiled to himself, and started into a slow trot that jostled her up and down more vigorously.
By the time they arrived back at the cabin, both were sweating slightly, although for different reasons. Girl slid off his back, moved quickly into the cabin, then the bathroom, and closed the door, quietly but firmly.
Bear settled into his favorite perch on the porch, panting slightly from the exertion, but chuckling to himself.
He’d enjoyed that!