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Pad, pad. Sniff, snuffle.

Pad, pad. Stair creak, sniff, sniff.

Pad, pad.

Creak, creak.

Jack rose slowly to the surface of being awake, a vague feeling of warning in his mind. What was it, what had he forgotten? The warmth of his bed and softness of his pillow distracted him back down to sleep again. Can't have been that important.

Pad, pad, creak, snuffle.

Pad, pad.

Creak, creak.

Sleep muttering from - was it Charles?

Joey blinked her eyes open, frowned slightly to listen, and decided all was well. She had at least a couple more hours sleep hopefully, and all was peaceful in the Maynard household.

Only, she had the strangest feeling there was something...

Something they had forgotten.

It had been a late night, the first one after most of the family returned from school. Bedtime habits and times were always relaxed on that day, as a term's worth of chatter and gossip, sporting triumphs and little personal problems or victories had to be got through. She had heard murmuring and stifled laughter from the Triplets, Steve and Charles well into the night as they sat up downstairs exchanging gossip about their terms that parents might not approve of, and reaffirmed their closeness as a group.

There, that was probably the thought she'd been chasing. Mike was still just as much boy - nearly man really - in the middle as he had ever been. She must take some time to talk with him tomorrow, see how Dartmouth was working out for him. Remind him that the older ones would listen and include him if he approached them properly. Teasing and jokes about bodily functions only went so far in adult conversation, and she knew Mike gave up too quickly, assumed they were all too academic to be interested in his term time. The younger ones would listen admiringly and laugh at his stories, but it wasn't the same.

Pad pad, sniff, squeak.

Pad, pad.

Creak, creak.

Len rose up in her bed and squinted towards the door. She knew what the sounds were, but thankfully Con had been last up, and ever a creature of routine, had made sure their door was firmly shut. There was no danger of a rude awakening, whether from Bruno or overexcited younger siblings when they woke.

She burrowed back into the soft pillow and gave her mind back to sleep.

Pad, pad, creak, squeak.

A pause.

A nose on a door.

A gentle push.

The hinges were well oiled, otherwise there would have been more warning. Jack and Joey both vaguely surfaced again as claws click-clacked across the floor to their bed. A nice wide but low bed, chosen for the ease with which successions of children could come and wake a parent in need, or even climb on and snuggle in themselves. They would be returned to their own bed if noticed, but there was always a short time before Jack or Jo woke to a little foot in an eye or tickle of fine hair from a head snuggled close beneath a chin.

The youngest particularly knew they could get away with it, for as the family drew to a natural close and no more babies were likely, Joey savoured those last moments of warm child snuggling in, didn't remove them back to their own rooms right away, for they would stop the visits themselves soon enough, become 'grown up' and independent. Easier to look after perhaps, more interesting to spend day time with, but still those unrestrained launches on her for a cuddle would be missed.

Clickety, clack, clickety clack.

Jack was nearly awake. There was something different. Something was wrong, but what? He wished he could fight his way back properly from the depths of sleep, but it had been a long month with many sleepless nights with patients. He couldn't help but feel that if it was really critical, really important he would remember enough to wake him up.

Clickety, clackety, stop.

Snuffle along the edge of the bed.

Deep breath.

All too late, both of them remembered what it was, recalled a door downstairs left ajar, and their own always open bedroom door.

Remembered the lowness of the bed, and the mistake made years before when Bruno was a sweet and tiny puppy.

Remembered just how big and heavy Bruno had grown now, and how he could never quite stay in between them, but leap heavily onto the ends of both their legs, enveloping in a huge St Bernard hug and looking hopeful to be able to shuffle up between them and get his head near the pillow.

Rufus had never been an issue, for he had slept apart from Joey most nights while they were both growing up, and even later the old fashioned beds had always been high enough that they had never woken to anything more than an occasional lick on the nose in morning greeting, or a weary sigh and noise of him getting up from the corner and leaving the room if any bedroom activities other than sleeping were attempted.

Pause...floorboard creak...gathered for a spring...

It was too late now, all they could do was brace themselves.

LEAP!

Creeeeeak! From complaining bedsprings as they both tried to get out of the way.



and



LAND...

Morning Mama! Morning Papa ! It's me, Bruno! Did you forget me in the night? Did you know it's morning? Do you need a lick on the face to help you wake up? Did you know there's birds singing and it's nearly light? Did you know I've held on for aaaaaggggeeeees and I'd really rather like to go out and visit my favourite tree. And while we are out there we could go for a walk too, whatcha think?

Mum? Dad? Why are you glaring at me like that? Do you want to play the dead weight game? Ok then, you start, try to push me off, I'll bet you can't ! And when it's my turn I bet you I can push you out...

Heee hee, that didn't take long, you both look so funny on the floor. This bed is lovely and comfortable, you know...

Ahhhhhh. I like mornings, don't you? Such a good time to be a dog...



The End.



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