She squeaked when she felt a weight depress the mattress next to her. She started to panic when she heard him breathing heavily, grunting and groaning. She rested her hand on him, feeling him rock and squirm a little. “Wh-what's wrong?” She asked.
”Nnnnngh-othing,” he groaned, curled into a ball. “I-It was...” he gasped, “an accident.”
Her hand found his elbow, and she traced it down toward his hands. But as she realized where it was leading, she paused at his wrist, covering her muzzle with her other hand. “Oh my gosh... did I hit you. in the... the balls?” She finished the question in a timid murmur.
”Ffffffgh,” he sucked in a breath amidst the thunder.
”I'm so sorry,” she whimpered, rubbing his shoulder in a vain attempt at soothing him; more to emphasize her sympathy.
”Sssss'not your fault,” he hissed, “it was a loud noise, we both jumped.” He took in another breath, letting it out in a way that tried to let her know he was mostly recovered. “'Sides, it was only the left one.”
”Kids?” They heard Momma R. calling from downstairs.
”C-Can you go?” He asked. “I'm... gonna need a little longer.”
She stood up. “Y-Yeah, of course,” she replied, and put her hand in front of her, walking toward the direction of the door. “Hello! We're upstairs!” She found the frame, and stepped more into the den.
”You guys okay?” The mother called back.
”Um...” She glanced back, despite not being able to see; she imagined him, pitifully curled up in a fetal position, protectively holding himself. “No real casualties,” she replied; and then muttered under her breath, “'cept the thousands of poor little spermies I murdered with my knee.”
”Why don't you guys come on down,” she hollered back, even as Emeral was muttering to herself. “Afraid I don't have any popcorn, though...”
”We'll be down in a sec,” she called back, and turned around. “Are you gonna be able to walk?” She asked, stepping back into the room. She held her hand out in front, gently waving it about. “Hello?” Lightning flashed, and she flinched, her hand smacking into something.
”Mfgh,” he reached up and caught her wrist.
”Ack! Sorry,” she whimpered. Then, the hold on her wrist went up her arm, the fingertips brushing through her fur. The hand went over her shoulder, and down her back. Though the tremor of the house hid it, she shivered under his touch, and scrunched her shoulders up when she felt a press against her cheek. She tentatively felt where he was, hugging him.
”You guys need me to help get you down?”
She heard him growl with a bit of frustration. “We're coming,” he half-barked in agitation, “just looking for a flashlight,” he let her go.
”I got plenty down here, let me bring you one.”
”Nah, that's... ugh...” He started to decline, but gave up once he heard the footfalls. A moment later, the caste of light swept over the carpet, heading toward them.
”I was thinkin' I'd have to help you get Emmy out from under the covers,” the voice teased behind the light.
”Why?” She asked, and realized that it was a little dumb to do so only after it had already left her muzzle.
Momma R. laughed, the beam of light casting shadows behind her as she turned the flashlight handle toward her son. “Where were you a minute ago?”
”She's not that scared, mom. Sheesh,” he spoke up, partly in her defense and partly to cover for her.
”What happened?” Emeral questioned, a little genuinely; she had, in truth, been paying more attention to her boyfriend's romantic gesture than the world around her. “I mean, it just went dark...” She was taken by the hand, guided.
”The loud bang we heard,” Ket replied, “something must've blown the transformer.”
”Yeah,” his mom agreed. “Sounded like an explosion. Hope nobody was hurt,” she said, in a rather somber tone.
Downstairs, Emeral saw a splash of light to her left. On the kitchen table, a small kerosene lamp had been set and lit. The wick was still in the glass vase, a thin strip of smoke rising up from its tip.
”Better turn this down,” she said, moving to the lamp to temper the wick. It shrank to about half its size, letting off a faint amber glow.
On the floor to her right, the circle of light vanished to the sound of the button clicking. She heard the flick of a lighter, and saw another spark of flame come to life. It touched the wicks of a few small candles, breathing life into them.
“Put this one on the table by the couch, hun,” Momma R. instructed her son, handing him a candle.
Quietly, Emeral followed him back to the living room. The candle lit the room just barely enough to see by. He went to the wooden table at the other end of the couch, setting the glass candle tray upon it with a slight tap.
Thunder shook the air once again, and she snatched his arm out of reflex. She was calmed when she was met by his eyes. The soft amber glow of the candle made them a sandy gold, when the light caught them just right.
She parted when she heard the sound of his mother's footfalls coming their way. It was eerie just how quiet everything had become. She was acutely aware that the buzz from the fridge and the soft hiss of air circulating through the ducts was missing from the ambient noise of the home. The lack of those sounds gave her the impression it was a new place, as if her familiarity were based more on them than the layout of the rooms.
”Agh,” Ket smacked his hand to his forehead. “I forgot to grab my pillow.”
”Mission failed,” his mom said, passing back into the room. “I put a candle in the bathroom, just in case you forget the flashlight in there or something.”
”Here,” he said, handing Emeral the mentioned flashlight. He walked toward the stairs, pausing when he reached them. “I'll be right back. You can wait at the table.”
”Don't you need this?” She questioned, proffering the light.
”Nah, you hold onto it,” he told her, taking a few steps up. “I know where I'm going in the dark.”
A flash of lightning made her wince. She turned toward the light of the lamp, and approached it. The gently pulsing flame was rather calming, even as it trembled with the sound of the thunder that followed.
”Hey,” Momma R. began, as she stepped into the kitchen. “You got the flashlight?” She asked.
Emeral held it up.
”Cool. Mind helping me?”
”Um... Sure,” the tigress said, turning it on with a click and following when the mother tigress beckoned. She aimed the light where his mother instructed, and she went further down the kitchen.
There was a scrape and a metallic clatter as Micah tugged the step-ladder out from between the fridge and the counter. She held it out in front of her just a bit. She tried, and was only marginally able, to keep it from swinging and hitting the drawers. “Lead the way,” she instructed, motioning toward the corner.
Emeral swept the carpet with the flashlight as she tentatively led her secret-boyfriend's mother into the living room. When she entered the room proper, she stepped a further ways beyond the middle, letting Momma R. pass her up.
Micah went to the closet at the very back, looking behind her to see that Emeral was only a few steps behind. She opened the closet door. “Can I borrow that?” She asked, extending out her hand.
She saw another flash of lightning from the rift between the curtains on the back window, and at first she thought the thunder had struck uncomfortably quickly, until she realized that it was Ket, thundering down the stairs.
”Hey, I got—” Just then, the thunder had struck, interrupting him.
Emeral saw the flame of the candle on the table nearby flutter with the shaking of the house—or her own nervous vision.
”Need a hand, here,” Micah called, even while the booms were still going on.
Setting his pillow down on the couch, Ket traded places with his girlfriend to stand nearby his mother. His hands were poised as if to spot her in case she fell. He was first handed the flashlight, which he tossed onto the couch.
Emeral went to grab it, and clicked it off.
”Got it,” the tiger confirmed, as a long bag, its color tinged dark in the shadows, was lowered into his hands. From within, a metallic rustle could be heard when he bore its full weight.
Amidst another boom of thunder, the tiger set the bag on the carpet, and his mother noisily collapsed the step-ladder.
Micah retrieved the flashlight from Emeral, taking it and the ladder back into the kitchen.
Ket started to undo the fastens at the mouth of the bag. Going mostly by feel in the dark, it took him until after the next boom of thunder to finally untie the knot his mom used to secure it shut. Once it was loosened, the long string went slack and he tugged the scrunched mouth apart.
With her eyes more-or-less adjusted to the dim light, Emeral took hold of the foot of the bag, and helped pull it off. When she did, she got a chance to heft the cot; it was pretty heavy. Once it was out, she watched as her boyfriend stood it up on its black legs, which reflected bits of the candle-light.
He spread his arms apart with one end of the cot in each hand, expanding the collapsed frame most of the way. He set it down, stood up, and stretched it taught by pushing on its joints from the top.
”Hey, yo—” Momma R. huffed as the thunder roared. “I was gonna say,” she remarked with an inflection of irritation at the storm's rude behavior, “don't forget, you guys have sundaes in the freezer. They might not have kept cool enough, so may want to eat 'em, in case the power's out for a while.”
”Okay, sounds good,” her son replied.
She gave them a thumbs-up. “Emmy, I'm gonna find you a toof-brush.”
”I've got one,” the tiger replied. “I... haven't switched to it, yet.” He admitted.
”The dentist says every three months,” his mom reminded him. “Don't got any baby teeth to lose, so gotta take care of 'em.” She waved at them, heading towards her room. “Gonna go change,” she told them, from the shadows.
Emeral giggled when she saw Ket's head lean forward at the maternal admonishment. “I'm gonna eat my sundae,” she told him. “Plus it'll—” She flinched when she saw the lightning flash, and let out a calming exhale. “It'll help,” she said, simply, and winced when the thunder hit.
He extended his hand, quietly, and held with a secure grip when she took it. He led her to the kitchen table, pulling her chair out for her. He looked with her when a flash of lightning caught their eyes, but the attention they gave was fleeting; she sat down just after, and he helped her scoot in.
”Never realized how many windows your house has,” she chuckled, a moment before the thunder rumbled. She watched him as he started to fade into the darkness, his stripes doing well to make it that much harder to see him. Even for a moment, despite knowing full well it was her boyfriend, she managed to trick herself into being scared of him enough to send a frisson of fear down her spine.
The freezer light did not blink on when he opened the door. A puff of chilled air still hit him, though. He tentatively felt around until he found the cups, taking them both and shutting the freezer door with the back of his hand. He carried the sundaes back to the table, tilting the cups toward the light to see in them. He saw that one had nuts and the other did not, and gave his girlfriend the more decorated one.
She thanked him as he sat at his spot, and scooted his chair closer to her. They took up the corner of the table, with her facing the wall and him facing toward the front door. She waited for him to get settled, before pulling off the domed lid of her sundae.
He plucked the cherry out of his. “Here,” he said, holding it over hers and dropping it in, as another boom of thunder shook the house.
”You don't want your cherry?” She questioned, with an inflection of concerned disbelief.
He shrugged. “You can have it,” he said, taking his spoon.
She looked at the two cherries sitting in her cup. Wrinkling her nose, she pinched the stem of the cherry that came with her sundae. She lifted it up, and plopped it down into his cup as he took his first bite. “Then you can have mine,” she said.
His yellow eyes, tinged gold from the amber flame of the kerosene lamp, looked at her for a moment. He looked back down at his sundae, and picked up the cherry, popping it into his muzzle and yanking the stem out between his teeth.
She smiled, doing the same with his.
From the outside, the whine of a siren could be heard.
”There's an ambulance...” He said, looking toward the window. “Wonder if it's heading toward your mom.”
”Hm-mm,” she pulled her spoon out. “Fire-truck. Hear the dog-whine?”
He perked his ears up, and did hear something that sounded like a dog howling amidst the long call of the siren. “Huh,” he said, “I... never knew there was a difference.”
She smiled. “Fire-truck has that kinda dog-whine with it, and it's kinda the same tone,” she explained. “Ambulance have the why-now that goes up and down.”
He chuckled. “I learned something new.”
She stuck her spoon in her sundae, swirling it around. “See? I... I know some things,” she remarked.
”You know lotsa things I don't know,” he said, smiling.
She said something after that, but he couldn't hear between the rumble of thunder and her mumbling.
As they continued to eat their sundaes in silence, they could hear the wind rushing by the incorrectly-set window frame, and the rain as it splattered against the glass and on the roof, tapping on the gutters. Now and again a flash of lightning would light the room for a split second, and a roar of thunder would follow.
But Emeral would enjoy her sundae despite it all. Especially since she got to share the moment with Ket. That he showed no sign of even acknowledging the storm that threw a temper-tantrum all around the house and skies was becalming to her. If he had no reason to worry, then neither did she.
”You guys look like you're having a candle-light dinner.”
Emeral let out a squeak of surprise, just a fraction of a second before a particularly shattering clap of thunder struck the sky. When all had settled a few seconds later, she could tell that her cheeks were a bit red, and that her fur was frazzled from nape to tail.
”You want me to turn off the lamp?” Ket replied, without taking his eyes off his almost-finished sundae.
”Nah,” his mom replied, patting him on the head. “But, I'm gonna go to bed, so... You know how to turn it off?” She watched as he reached for the valve turner, and twisted it to dim the lamp just a tad. “Okay, then. I think I'm gonna go to bed.”
”Really?” Emeral asked. “How can anyone sleep at a time like this?”
”Hey, when I was your age,” Micah responded, in an old-lady voice, “I slept in storms worse than this under a tin roof!”
”Okay, Lady,” her son said, a little bit like Mindy, “I love you, buh-bye.”
She lightly swatted him with the back of her hand, “you stop it.”
He chuckled, predicting the swat and parrying it away with his own hand. “Go'way so we can tell ghost stories and not scare you.”
She stuck her tongue out at him. “Anyway... Blow out all the candles before you go to bed. G'night, kids.”
”Will do. Night mom.”
”Nigh'-nigh' Momma R.”
After his mother went into her room, and the door creaked shut, he looked to his girlfriend. Her white fur was tinged to a pale tan in the weak light of the lamp. He leaned over it, and blew it out. “No sense wasting the gas,” he said. “Want to come with me to get the toothbrushes?” He asked, getting up.
The creek of his chair startled her, but she pretended like her shiver was a stretch and a yawn. “I think I can stay down here,” she said, standing up herself while he caught her yawn.
”Okay,” he extended his hand.
She took it, amidst a flash of light. She walked with him back into the living room, where he retrieved the flashlight from on the couch. She winced when it clicked on, her eyes used to the low lighting.
”Sorry,” he said, covering the light with his hand to block it, and his palm glowed red a little. He looked around as the thunder hit, the tinny rattle catching their ears again. “I'll be back quick as I can,” he assured.
She smiled, giving him a shrug as she sat on the couch. She smiled, “don't be surprised if I'm hiding under the sheets with my tail stickin' out like Garfield,” she said, giving him a chuckle. Just as he left, a bolt of lightning struck. She counted the seconds until the boom, calculating about two miles.
She looked to her left, and saw his pillow. She picked it up, fluffing it, and put it on her lap. She stroked it, as if it was a kitten. Tentatively, she got up and peeked around the corner, up the stairs. She didn't hear him at all, but she probably didn't have much time.
She went back to the couch, and picked up the pillow she had been given. She placed it on one end of the cot, and nestled his pillow into the vacant spot against the armrest. She draped the sheets up on it a little, as if to hide it. Just as she stood up and turned about, she saw the circle of light lick across the wall opposite the base of the stairs, before it disappeared with a metallic click.
A few seconds later, he approached her, hand extended. She once again retrieved it, and he took her toward his mother's bathroom. She had only been in this bathroom a few times, each time while watching a movie. Though it was clean, spacious, and white as a doctor's smock, she preferred his cramped, gray-tiled and blue wall-papered bathroom.
Given the circumstances, the bathroom was rather dark at the moment; only the glow of a meager candle lit the room, and barely. Just enough to see the sink and toilet by.
The light-switch flicked.
”Oh... right,” he muttered, flicking it back down.
”S'not funny,” he mock-grumbled, amidst a crinkling, and then a tearing; the butt of her toothbrush, colored green, burst through the plastic wrap. It was handed to her, and she pulled it out all the way. Its bristles were stiff; she pressed them against her tongue to loosen them.
The cap of the toothpaste clacked on the marble counter-top, and the sink was turned on. He rinsed his toothbrush in the water, and started to put a bit of toothpaste onto the bristles. “Poot,” he said, as the dab of paste squeezed out of the neck of the tube.
She giggled, taking the tube and wetting her toothbrush. She didn't much like the strong, minty flavor of most toothpastes. She always used a gentle, bubble-gum flavored paste. But, tonight, she wasn't really in any position to complain. She would bear the way the mint tingled in her mouth long after the paste was out.
After the two minutes, she watched as he leaned over the sink. She looked away just as she heard him spit, and turn on the water. He pulled up one of the little cups, filled it, and swished the water about before spitting it out. After he was done, he pulled a cup for her, and moved the candle closer to the sink. “I'll be just outside,” he said, leaving the room.
After she finished her teeth, she didn't quite know what to do with the candle. She decided that Ket would have told her to blow it out, or would go back and blow it out himself.
When she emerged from the bathroom, she could see him sitting on the couch, thanks to the candle on the table just beyond the arm-rest where his pillow was hidden. She approached him, pausing as a flicker of light caught the corner of her eye from the window.
She was met halfway, arms wrapping about her as the thunder clapped above them. His arms braced her, keeping her still even while she felt everything around her shake.
”I just realized...” He said, loosening his arms to hold the backs of her hands. “I grabbed the green toothbrush.”
”Eh,” she shrugged, “I'm not that picky. Besides, if it's your favorite color...”
He shook his head. “It's not.” He replied, taking her by the hand to the couch. He offered her the spot nearer to her pillow, and sat beside her more to the center of the couch.
”What is your favorite color, then?”
”You know my middle name,” he pointed out, “and you don't know my favorite color?”
”Hey you didn't know mine before earlier, I bet,” she retorted.
He cocked his head. “Touché,” he said with an acquiescent nod. “So... Wanna guess?”
”Hmm...” She leaned against him. He was warm; she noticed just how chilly it had gotten, now that she was able to be so close to him. Though, she did glance toward his mother's bedroom door. It was mostly shut, but she was alert that it could open at any moment.
He started humming the Jeopardy theme.
”Psh,” she bapped him with the back of her hand. “Purple,” she said.
”Purple!?” He questioned, amidst a flash of lightning. “Why purple?”
She shrugged. “It's Donatello's mask-color, so I figured it was a good guess.”
He chuckled. “Well, it is the color of royalty,” he remarked.
”Oh, yeah. Of course. That too, obverousleh,” she said in a mocking manner, before flinching as the thunder smacked and banged. She pressed closer to him when his arm wrapped around her.
”Take another guess.” He offered. “But... You won't get it.”
”Blue.” She declared.
”Hmm... And?” He asked.
”And...?” She repeated, in question.
He nodded. “I don't actually have a favorite color. It's more... the combination of colors,” he explained. “Imagine a vivid blue sky. And...”
She didn't need to close her eyes. She rested her cheek against his. “The bright yellow sand of the desert.”
”How'd you know?”
Another lightning flash flickered across the room. He felt her tense against him, shaking as she anticipated the thunderclap. They had gotten rather loud since the power-outage; the storm must be dancing all around them. The rain pounded in a susurrus that rose and receded, like the waves of the ocean.
He turned toward her, sitting on one leg so he could turn. He held her, as tightly as he could, when the storm banged the loudest yet. So loud, she let out an impulsive scream.
When the moment passed, the hand holding the back of her head sifted down her hair, still just the faintest bit damp. “It's getting worse,” she muttered, when another flash of lightning made the room glow like a camera taking a picture.
He stood up, pulling the slack in the sheets up. “It'll be over by morning,” he told her, though without really knowing for sure.
She lifted her rump up enough so that the top half of the sheets pulled up all the way.
”Let's go to sleep, and then we can wake up early tomorrow,” he suggested.
She pulled her feet up, pausing as the ripple of thunder was accompanied by another flash of lightning; they were coming faster, now. “Easy for you to say,” she said, though it was with a smile. “You're not a'scared at all.”
She reclined on her back, looking up at him as he draped the sheet over her and started tucking her in. She pulled her hand out from under the sheets, placing it over his. “You're just gonna... Go to the cot?” She asked.
He paused, and looked toward the door. “Well... I mean...” He moved his hand atop hers. “I can't... Mom would probably...”
The room flashed again. She balled a fist, closing her eyes. She was startled, but not because of the boom of thunder that ripped across the sky; the covers were lifted, and he made to lie beside her.
She shimmied and squeezed into the crook of the couch, giving him as much room as possible. The couch was long, but not very wide; just barely big enough to fit the both of them if they lied side-by-side. His arm would have had to swing free or brace himself if they did that.
But She turned to lie on her side, the downward half of her almost sinking behind the cushions, and that gave him enough room. She saw a still-frame of him pulling the sheets over them both when the room flashed, and then felt his foot hook over the back of her heel. When she opened her eyes after the rumble, her left met his right.
They were in the shadow of the candle-light, cheeks and ears pressed into the pillow.
She shivered when his hand bumped the sheets up so that he could wrap his free arm around her, and nudged himself a little closer. Her hands were clasped at her chest, and she moved one behind her and the other under his armpit.
She didn't see the flash of light, but the boom shook, and then banged. But, she didn't wince. While her nose snuggled between the pillow and the crook of his neck, the storm was far away.
She sighed, feeling warm and fuzzy. Her toes traced along the top of his free foot, and felt a slight tug as he caught her tail between his toes. She tried to find his, but couldn't, so she settled on snaring one of his toes in turn.
She giggled, pulling her nose from its comfortable nook. “Hey,” she whispered. “Can you... do that thing?”
His gaze flitted toward his mother's door for a second, before his hand moved.
At first, she was excited. But, then, his fingers sifted through her hair. “Oh...”
”Hmm?” He asked. “Did I catch a knot?” He asked.
”No, I just meant...” She flattened her palm on his back. “I meant that other thing... Where you rub my back, under my shirt?”
”Under your shirt?” He questioned, like it made him nervous. “When... Did I ever do that?”
She chuckled. “You've... done it a few times, now, silly.”
”Like when?” He asked.
”Like... when we watched the sunrise at the beach,” she replied. “You don't remember?” She asked, rubbing her hand in circles over his shirt. “It was like this, just... under my shirt.”
To her, he sounded a little uncertain.
”I guess... I didn't realize what I was doing,” he admitted.
”Well, now you know,” she said. “So...”
His breath hitched, and he looked over to his mother's door once again. But, after a moment of the rain pelting against the house, and the thunder rumbling overhead, he relaxed. “Are... you sure?”
She giggled. “Whaddaya mean?” She wriggled a little. “C'mon, I like it. What's the big deal?”
A thunderclap startled them.
After she relaxed, she felt his hand slide down to the lip of her borrowed shirt. “Wait,” she said.
”You don't have to, if you don't want to.”
She watched as his pupil flicked toward the pillow, as if bothered by something he thought of. Had it happened during the flicker of lightning, or the crash of thunder, she would have thought he was just startled.
”Just...” He slipped his fingers beneath her shirt, touching the small of her back. “Feels... weird...”
She could tell he was sort of struggling to put thoughts to words.
”It does,” she agreed. She smiled when he relaxed a little. “But, in a tingly way,” she added. “Like... how wearing your undies is weird, but...” She blushed, and buried her muzzle between pillow and neck.
He chuckled, trying not to reflexively pin her muzzle down with the side of his chin. “But... Comfy?” He finished the thought, his hand slipping beneath her shirt, fingertips sifting through the soft fur as he flattened his palm out over her lower back.
She let out a relaxing hum, going nearly limp as he gently rubbed back and forth across her spine. She squirmed again, trying to snuggle as close to him as she could.
He rested his head upon the pillow, trying not to let her breath or her whiskers tickle him. He breathed in, closing his eyes. And then, he realized. “Hey,” he paused.
”Hm?” She opened her eye and looked up, a little worried.
”This is... my pillow,” he said.
She exhaled. “Mm-hmm,” she admitted.
”I'll swap 'em rea—”
”Hm-mmh,” she held him tight as he started to roll onto his back. “I... want it,” she said, her cheeks burning. Her fur a little puffed when his hand returned to the small of her back.
”But... It's dirty,” he stated.
”I don't think it's been washed, since...” He paused. “Since... before the tests. It's... actually probably got some snot on it, y'know?”
She pulled away, lifting her head up. For a second, she had a grimace on her face, her eye squinting. Then, she let out a breath. “Still don't care,” she resolved, and went back on the pillow.
”Couldn't you get sick?” He questioned.
She mewed. “C'mon... If I can't sleep with you here, I need something to make it feel like you're with me.”
”But I'll be on the cot,” he chuckled back.
”Too far away,” she said. “I'm a'scared, y'know?” She feigned whimpering.
He rubbed her back, his hand sliding up to her shoulder-blades. He marveled at the way she sort of relaxed at his touch, almost going limp. “I know,” he replied. “I'm just as scared as you are.”
”Hm?” She wrinkled her nose in disbelief. “Are not.”
A thunderclap struck.
”You didn't even flinch,” she pointed out.
He gently pressed the heel of his palm against a shoulder-blade. “I'm trying really hard not to,” he told her. “I figure if I don't show I'm afraid, maybe you won't feel as afraid.”
”Am I not doing this right?” He asked.
She hugged him as tightly as she could with one arm. “Keep going,” she requested. “Unless you're getting tired,” she added.
His hand kept moving.
She was tense for a moment, but then the gentle rubbing of twinges and spots scarcely-touched coaxed her to relaxing once more. She sank into the comfort of the couch, his pillow, and his arms.
She purred heavily; he could feel it against his clavicle. Amidst the flashes of lightning and the thunder, flutters stirred in his chest. Not because of the storm, but because of her responses. Now and again, she would twitch or her breath would catch, and he would worry he'd pressed to hard or pinched her between his fingers, but she would always settle by the next second.
When her muzzle drifted away from his neck, to rest more into his pillow, a cold longing was left behind. Her purring slowed, and his rubbing changed to long strokes from shoulder-blade to small. The hugging hold on him slowly loosened.
Despite a loud clash overhead, she remained still and calm.
He eased his hand from underneath her shirt, very slowly. With similar, careful pace he disentangled his feet from hers. Holding his breath, he half-lied upon his belly and navigated his left foot out from under the sheets and down the side of the couch. From there, he was able to use that as a balance-point to withdraw from her.
The cold longing that was felt on his neck was felt all over. Even seconds after standing, a shiver ran down his tummy and legs. He shuffled over to the table, where the candle and her phone were. The little flame remained vigilant as another boom of thunder struck, and he barely heard the tinny rattle that he had grown so accustomed to over the many storms.
With a puff of air, the flame had no chance to cling to the wick before darkness greedily devoured it.
He went to his cot. When he pushed down on the joints to make sure they were taught, the popping of the fabric stretching out caused him to glance to the sleeping tigress with concern for waking her. But, after a few moments, her peaceful breaths of slumber remained.
With naught but a pillow, he made a bed out of his cot. It was uncomfortable, protested at so much as too heavy of a heartbeat, and he couldn't find a comfortable spot for the median bracing bar to settle against back, on which he was accustomed to sleeping.
Deciding to sleep on his side, he turned toward her. In the flickering strobe of lightning, she was still contentedly adrift. He resolved to join her as quickly as he could, perhaps find her in the same dream—and hold her there if it was a nightmare.
She opened her eyes. A moment later, thunder vibrated through the house. She yawned, feeling the slime of sleep in her lids. She sat up, and in the hazy light could see him. He was lying on his back, head tilted toward her and muzzle open, bit of drool probably leaking from the corner and onto the cot.
She noticed that his pillow and been pushed up, almost falling off. She also saw his hand, which hung off the side, was twitching. The air did feel cooler than it had... before she slept? What time was it? Though she reached for her phone, she decided against checking it.
She wanted to believe no time had passed.
Standing up, she wondered if she could go upstairs to get his sheets; to at least cover him. But, as she searched around for the flashlight, she felt the duvet in the seat of the lounger. She gathered it, and carefully draped it over him, doing her best not to smother or disturb him.
Satisfied that he was no longer miserable, she stepped over to the window. Peeling aside the curtain, she glanced outside just as a bolt of lightning struck, the impression of it burned into her eye for a few seconds after, spreading into an amorphous blob of light. As the thunder rattled the sky, she bore her teeth and hissed at the storm in defiance.
She let the curtain drop, and her hands mindfully touched the shirt she wore. She thought of it akin to armor. She sucked in a steeling breath through her nose, lifting up the shirt to grasp the waistband of her borrowed shorts and underwear, to pull them up a little.
She covered her mouth to muffle a startled squeak. She glanced to her left, and was relieved to see his mother standing at the frame that led to the vestibule between her room and the bathroom.
”Is he asleep?” She inquired.
The young tigress put her finger to her lips and shuffled over to his mother as quietly as she could. She nodded.
Momma R. mocked a scoff as she squatted down. “You mean he conked out and left you with the storm?”
Emeral covered her muzzle with a few fingers to stifle her giggle. She shook her head. “He—” In her still half-startled state, she was nearly honest. Thankfully, a flash of lightning happened not a second after she bit her tongue, covering for her. “He... promised he would wait till I fell asleep first.”
The mother tigress smiled. “Storm woke you up?” She presumed.
The white tigress shrugged. “Guess so.” The thunder hit. It was a loud one. Despite it, she didn't pay any mind to it.
”Not scared no more?” His mother asked, straightening up.
”Huh?” Emeral's eyes pulsed. “Uhm... Well...” She glanced back at his direction. “He said... he was scared of the storm, too. That kinda made me feel better.” She looked back up at his mother. “But... Is he really?” She asked. “Or was he just telling me that to try and make me feel better?”
The mother's cheeks puffed as she shrugged. “I know I should be able to answer that, but he's kinda kept me out of the loop on stuff like that, lately.” She admitted. “But, he's never been much of a liar.” She added.
The young tigress pondered this for a second.
”Anyway, I just came out to use the little girls' room,” Momma R. pointed to the open door, with a soft glow coming from it; the candle inside was still lit.
”Oh, sorry,” Emeral took a step back.
”It's okay,” the mother tigress waved her hand in a dismissive gesture. “Wanted to check on you two, anyway.” She stepped one foot onto the tile, and her hand flicked the switch.
Emeral watched as his mother paused for a second after the action.
”Oh... right,” she muttered, flicking it back down.
Her son's friend giggled.
”S'not funny,” she mock-grumbled, before closing the door with the knob twisted so it made less noise.
Smiling the tigress went back into the living room proper, where the lightning still flickered. She still felt no need to be bothered by the storm, wrapped in his garments and standing beside him. She glanced in the direction of the bathroom, even though it had only been a moment since his mom had gone in. Before there was any chance for her to get caught, she leaned in, and gave his cheek a quick peck.
She snuggled back under her sheets. Though a part of her impulsively wished she had the duvet, as now her bedding had gone cold in her absence, another part of her reasoned that she preferred he have it. She heard his mother go back to her room.
Sometime in the wee-hours of the morning, when the storm was but a distant tantrum, light burst throughout the room, along with the rousing crackle of the air-conditioning. With a drowsy grumble, she sought darkness by way of draping her arm so that the bridge of her nose rested in the crook her elbow. Some light still made its way to her, until it was mercifully extinguished.
While she was slipping back into the depths of sleep, she felt a pressure against her cheek, followed by a gentle tug.