Rick’s mind drifted back to the small tree house he had lived in as a child.
He lived with his family in the countryside, deep in the mountains. It was a place where summers were cool but had lots of mosquitoes, and winters were snowy—so much that the nearby lake froze every year.
It was more than ten years ago, so his memories of the place had faded considerably, but he still remembered a few things; small things from his childhood.
I remember the deep, dark, and scary well at the back of the house, wanting to touch the fishing rod that my father kept in a box away from me, the beautiful embroidered pictures made by my mother on the wall, the smell of the fireplace when it was lit, and the warm and kind words, ‘Welcome home.’
These days, Rick doesn’t have many opportunities to be greeted by people. The only thing that greeted him in the room where he lived alone was a quiet empty bed.
For some reason, ‘Welcome back’, which Davis must have said without thinking much about it, shook Rick to his core. Maybe it was the warmth of the room, maybe it was the fact that he was in the middle of hibernation. Whatever it was, it triggered a rush of nostalgic memories.
He was going to say that he was going back to his room, but the words he had prepared earlier disappeared before he could get them out of his mouth.
Or rather, even the feeling of, ‘I’ll tell him,’ withered as soon as he heard the low rumble of the bear beastman’s voice.
“Mr. Davis, I…uh-ah….”
Still, Rick muttered a few words, trying to somehow squeeze them out yet feeling like he had to do so through a straw.
Davis tilted his head more towards Rick.
Rick hesitated even more whenever he was told he was acting strangely.
“Oh, no, you know…..I just remembered something from….a long time ago”
“A long time ago?”
Davis closed the book he was reading and threw it onto the bedside table. He then remained silent for a moment, as if thinking about something, before beckoning Rick over.
Rick hesitated for a moment, but then decided to obey Davis.
Just as he was asked to do, he climbed onto the bed and sat beside Davis. He then leaned back against the soft cushions and pillows that Davis placed for him, burying his body in their plush warmth.
“We’re both awake, so let’s have a little talk,” Davis said, kind face peering down at the smaller man.
Certainly, it was rare for hibernating people to be awake together. Rick wasn’t sure if it’s because he had never been with a hibernating person before.
Whether he ate or took a bath, he’d usually be asleep or dizzy.
It was rare for him to be able to stay awake and have a conversation like this.
I don’t know when or if I’ll fall asleep again, though.
“I don’t know anything about you, Rick,” Davis spoke, gently running a hand through his bed partner’s hair. I want to know a little more about you.”
“That’s too direct. Isn’t it!?”
The request was so bold and straightforward that Rick almost collapsed.
Davis had been very straightforward and honest since the moment he met him.
“Me, about me….”
“Earlier, you said you remembered the old days. What kind of child were you, Rick?”
As Davis finished asking his question, Rick crossed his arms, blinked twice, and then looked up at the ceiling, wondering what to say.
“I was just a typical rural kid…” Rick began. “I used to climb trees and collect bugs in the summer and swim in the lake….and skate in the winter.”
“Countryside? Rick, you aren’t from here?”
Rick nodded at Davis without looking at him.
“I lost my parents when I was little and I didn’t understand what happened. But when I finally realised it, I found myself in an orphanage in….the city.”
Davis took a breath sharply.
Rick, still not looking at him, jerked upright at the sudden noise.
Rick sat down hugging his legs in front of him and rested his chin on his knees.
“Well, you know….it was a long time ago, so I’m not going anywhere now. Besides, there are a lot of people out there who don’t have families.”
Rick said quickly, then fell silent.
Whenever Rick talked about this, people usually looked at him with pitying eyes. He was tired of hearing, “I’m sorry; It must’ve been hard; I’m sorry you had to go through this; poor you…”
Rick had enough. He didn’t need people to feel sorry for him or anything. He had a job, he was making money, and he was living on his own. There was no reason for anyone to feel pity for him.
Well, in this case, due to the accidental fire, I was in a situation where I couldn’t do anything on my own…
The low, short words tickled Rick’s earlobe as he dropped his gaze, ready for the pity party to begin.
“I wish I could have seen Rick as a child. I bet he was cute.”
Rick was about to say, ‘Is that what you’re worried about?’ He then looked at Davis, who was sitting beside him.
He was staring at Rick with a surprisingly straightforward stare.
Rick’s eyes popped open in surprise before he realized what must have been going on.
“…Are you sleep talking?”
Rick waved his hands in front of Davis’s eyes as the large man stared at him with a subtle, heated gaze. it was apparent that Davis was wide awake—or as awake as a beastman could get during hibernation. He shook his head and crossed his arms with a serious look on his face.
“You’re cute and awesome, Rick.”
What the hell was that? Rick wiggled his tail, unsure of what he meant. Seeing this, Davis raised his lips slightly, and laughed.
“Awesome,” he repeated, as if it were an irrefutable fact.
Without saying what he meant by awesome, Davis grabbed Rick by the waist and pulled him towards himself.
“Oh my God, you’re so cute and amazing.”
“Whoa, whoa…! Mr. Davis? I’m sure you’re sleepwalking,” Rick insisted as he felt strong arms wrap around his torso.
Rick shook and raged as Davis caressed his head. He then snuggled up to Rick from behind, regardless of the squirrel beastman’s protests.
“I was a bratty kid.”
Rick, groaning in a tight embrace, opened his eyes to the unexpected words. Then he tried to look back at Davis, but his arms were tightly entangled, and he couldn’t turn around.
“I was a big beastman,” he explained. “I could do almost anything, and I’ve never had any trouble with my studies or sports.”
“I was born and raised in a rich, well-to-do family, and I never had any problems.
“I lived my life thinking it was boring.”
“….How old were you?”
He didn’t say, “You were a bad kid.” Because Rick couldn’t say that he wouldn’t have felt the same way if he’d been born under the same conditions. Yet, although he didn’t say it, somehow what he was thinking was conveyed to Davis. He could tell by the soft breeze around his neck when Davis laughed.
“It was during this time that I stumbled upon a firefighter.”
“You met them?” Rick asked.
“Oh. There was a fire in my neighborhood, and I saw these guys risking their lives to save people and fight the fire, and I thought….this is it.”
The arm around Rick’s stomach tightened. It was as if he was remembering the passion he felt at that moment.
“…well, my parents, and all my relatives objected to it.”
“Oh my God…”
It was true that if you came from a good family, that might be the way it was. I wonder if he was asked to pursue a career where he could earn more money, status, and honor than to help others in a difficult spot. Unfortunately, Rick’s world was so different that he could only imagine it.
“I left home and became a firefighter,” Davis continued on, unaware of the turmoil going on inside Rick’s head. “My grandmother, who was the only one who supported my dream….gave me this house.”
“Oh, I see.”
Rick nodded his head in agreement.
Rick had wondered before why Davis, who seemed to be single, was living in a house big enough for a family. But it made sense if he said it was given to him by someone else. He himself was single, so he didn’t think it was strange to live alone.
“….The world has a soft spot for large beastmen.”
Rick’s heart thumped in his chest.
It was not that Rick hadn’t thought about it before. The range of jobs available to medium-sized and even larger beastmen increased according to their race. Rick would never be able to be a fireman. Even in the same profession, there were many cases where you could get extra benefits just for being a large beastman. It was only natural, because they were born with different things. Rick thought it was only natural that a large beastman with high strength and intelligence would be valued more than a small, useless beastman like himself.
“On the contrary, maybe….the world is not so kind to small beastmen.”
Again, Rick’s heart rumbled. Davis’s words stung whether he meant them to or not.
Yes. That might be true. But even if it was true, it was no one’s fault. It wasn’t even Rick’s fault, much less Davis’s. It couldn’t be helped, it was the way of the world.
“…..I’ve been encouraged and helped by others to finally fulfil my dreams and be able to live like this on my own.”
Rick blinked slowly and listened to Davis’s steady voice.
“Rick, you’ve been living on your own, finding your place in the world, living properly by yourself…”
Davis’s words might sound arrogant to some, but Rick knew that he meant what he said. He knew that Davis was only being honest and straightforward with him, showing his full authentic self.
“You’re amazing, Rick.”
His voice was so sweet it was almost addicting. So gentle and so straightforward that it made Rick want to cry.
Rick didn’t think he was particularly great or important. He had always lived his life as if this was the norm. Even if someone said to him, “You must be having a hard time,” he said something self-deprecating like, “Well, I’m an orphan, so it makes sense,” and smiled to cover it up.
In this way, he had put up a precautionary line. He didn’t want to be hurt by the words of pity that would follow.
The more others looked at him with pity and sympathy, the more they spoke to hmi, the more Rick was reminded that he was an orphan—that he was alone. And every time he was confronted with this his heart ached inexplicably.
Even now, my chest hurts, he thought. It hurts so much but it’s not a sharp pain. It’s very soft, comforting pain. It’s the same as Davis’s arms hugging me.
“No, it’s not….”, Rick refuted.
His words contained no pity. They were just straightforward and simple.
“No such…thing.”, he added.
Rick looked down at Davis’s arm and shook his head. He couldn’t face Davis like before.
Rick knew that if he did, he would probably burst into tears.
“There’s so many of them.”
Rick choked on his words a little, because he had to sniffle. He hoped that Davis would not notice that he was crying a little.
He bit his lower lip in a desperate attempt to cover it up and pinched the flesh of his own thigh with his fingertips.
“You’re the first squirrel-beastman I’ve ever met, Rick.”
Perhaps it was because he was being held so tightly, but Davis’s voice echoed directly from his back. The smooth timbre of his words slowly seeped in and melted Rick’s heart.
“Such an awesome and cute squirrel beastman,” he continued. “I only know…you, Rick, so…”
I can’t do this anymore, I’m going to cry, I can’t hold it in anymore…..
Rick choked, his throat making a pathetic sound. He then hurriedly clamped his mouth shut.
I’m not sure if he heard me.
Davis’ body slipped sideways, and Rick’s body, which was still trapped in his warm embrace, fell along with him. Rick wriggled and turned around.
Looking back, he saw Davis’s face sleeping comfortably.
Without thinking, he opened its mouth a little more comfortably, raised its corners, and breathed a sigh of satisfaction.
Rick instinctively touched Davis’s cheek. Surprised at how much softer it was than he expected, he withdrew his fingers but pinched his cheek again.
“Thank you…” Rick uttered.
Rick wasn’t sure what he was thanking him for but he figured it didn’t matter.
Whatever, I just wanted to thank him, so I said it. That’s all right.
It was surprisingly not a bad feeling to say the things he wanted to say honestly like Davis.
Thank you, Mr. Davis.
Wrapped in his host’s big arms and listening to his gentle breathing, Rick was also slowly lulled to sleep.
Rick woke with a rustling noise. His consciousness was as hazy as ever, but he knew he was clutching something desperately.
Thick and muscular… It was Davis’s leg. For some reason, Rick was clinging tenaciously to Davis’s shins.
So, that was why he was dreaming of being swept down the river while clinging to a log.
“Sorry, did I wake you?”
Rick looked at Davis as the words of apology rained down on him. Davis looked half-awake with his legs sprawled out. He was holding a smoked fish in his hand and was apparently chomping on it.
Rick, in a daze, shook his head lazily.
Davis gobbled down the fish and put a few nuts on the bedside.
“Rick, you might want to put something in your belly.”
Rick was beckoned to come over, and he crawled over to Davis on all fours. He then wobbled to his feet and sat down.
With a snap, Davis cracked open the shell of a nut and held it out to Rick’s mouth.
Rick instinctively opened his mouth to say, “Ahhh.”
I’m not sure what to do
Rick chewed the nuts well, swallowed them, and then was given another batch of nuts. In the middle of the repetition, Rick heard laughter, and his eyes, which were still half-closed, fluttered open.
“Your cheeks are all puffy.”
Davis poked Rick lightly on the cheek.
“I knew squirrels had cheek pouches, but they really do have a lot of room… It feels like I’ve tamed a wild squirrel.”
“Here, this is the last one.”
Davis smiled, dazzling and gentle as the spring sunshine filtering through the trees, and then put the last nut in Rick’s mouth. Rick squirmed and chewed on the nut, unconsciously admiring the gentle smile.
After seeing him chomping on the last nut, Davis simply got out of bed and said, “I’m going to take a shower.”
After checking that the door was closed, Rick plopped onto the bed in a daze. He hugged a large pillow nearby. A question mark appeared on his head as he mulled over something.
Oh, what the hell am I doing?
It had been a few days since Davis had tucked him in with his pats–Rick called it the “magic pat”.
Rick had been staying in Davis’s room. Yes, he had been there ever since. He had eaten some food, bathed a few times, and he was still there.
Of course, when he woke up after the first time, he had wanted to leave the room right away. But…
It’s too comfortable….!
Yes, when he slept with Davis, everything was too comfortable.
The “magic pats” feel so good that I fall asleep within a few seconds. And when I’m hungry, he breaks open nuts for me to eat, and above all, his body is much more comfortable than a cushion. To my annoyance, I’ve been sleeping while hugging Davis more often than with my own tail lately. He has just the right amount of firmness and muscle, and a big, solid body. He makes me feel so safe.
Hugging, cuddling… Rick was enjoying one of the most wonderful hibernations he had had in recent years.
I don’t know when I’ve had such a happy hibernation…
As he laid on the bed, Rick stared blankly at the ceiling. He hadn’t slept in someone’s arms since…well, since his parents were gone. It was the same warmth that he felt when he slept on his father’s big back as a little boy, but they were somehow completely different.
I wonder if this is what it would be like to have a partner.
Someday, I will find someone who’d love me just like my parents. And if that person is also a species that needs hibernation, I wonder if we’d sleep like this: hugging and keeping each other warm.
Holding each other like this…..
Rick held the pillow close to his chest and hugged it tightly. He looked at the pillow as if it were his future partner.
He’d stroke her back gently, kiss her on the forehead as she’d giggle, and before they knew it, they’d be asleep. Then spring would come.
When I have someone to love one day, I’m sure it will be like this….
A low, gentle voice echoed in his ears. Yes, the fuzzy lover with small features suddenly had transformed into a handsome bear beastman.
Rick got up in a panic.
He had accidentally closed his eyes and dozed off. He wiped his drooling mouth and felt his throbbing chest.
I thought I was imagining a cute little beastwoman of the same species as myself, but why, oh why, had it turned into that big Davis?
Why? Why Mr. Davis?
Rick couldn’t understand what he was dreaming about, so he clutched his head and slumped against the soft pillow.
A voice called out from behind him. Rick jumped up and turned around to see that it was of course the owner of the room, Davis.
He looked as if warm steam was rising from his body. Apparently, he had come straight back to the room after taking a bath.
“You’ve already finished your bath, haven’t you?”
“Oh, yeah. Rick, you got up and waited for me the whole time?”
It’s not that I was waiting for you…
But Rick nodded vaguely anyway. He thought it would be weird to get pissed off and deny it.
Just do it normally. Normal, normal…
Don’t smile so happily…!
No, that was okay. There was no problem with Davis. If there were a problem, it was with Rick. Rick’s heart was fluttering at the sight of Davis’s smile.
“You should go take a bath, Rick. I’ll change the sheets while you’re in there.”
Rick looked over to see a fresh set of folded sheets hanging in Davis’s hand. He knew he needed to wash up but couldn’t just leave it all up to Davis. He had been taking care of Rick for a while now, so Rick thought he’d at least help with this.
“If you don’t take a bath soon, I’m going to put you back to sleep.”
With a mischievous face, Davis put his hand under Rick’s waist and lifted him up.
After hanging in midair, he was slowly lowered to the floor. His feet slipped into a pair of slippers, and Rick wondered when Davis had brought Rick’s slippers to the room. But before he could ask anything else, Davis pushed him on the back and urged, “Come on.”
Unable to say anything else, Rick nodded, “Yes… yes.” and slunk out of the room dejectedly.
He took a bath and felt refreshed. As his mind cleared up a bit, Rick crossed his arms and lumbered down the hallway.
No, no, no…It’s not the time to say that it’s comfortable.
I can tell that Davis is a very kind man, despite his appearance. I must have accidentally snuck into his bedroom–into his bed–and he accepted me as a guest and even tucked me in.
You can’t just take advantage of that kindness. I mean, there’s something wrong with…
It’s strange, isn’t it? It’s funny how two men fell asleep together in one bed.
It’s…strange, isn’t it? It’s kinda crazy, right?
Rick bit his lower lip, not sure what to say, but he was going to say it. Because crazy was only subjective, and it didn’t even include how Rick actually felt about the situation.
What do I want to do?
It’s that just…
His feet, which had been moving hurriedly, slowed down.
No matter how lost in thought or sleepy you are, you will never take the wrong road to your room again. And by “your room,” I mean Davis’ room.
The next thing he knew, he was standing in front of Davis’ room.
The hand on the doorknob was slightly hesitant to open the door.
“I’m going back to the room I’m renting,” he mumbled.
It’s not Davis’ legs, arms, or neck that I should be hugging. It’s my own tail and stuffed squirrel.
He took a deep breath and pulled the door open with all his might.
The warm, fluffy air enveloped Rick’s entire body.
Davis was sitting on the bed, flipping through a magazine. When he noticed that Rick had come into the room, he raised his gaze, and his eyes lit up.
The off-white color of the walls matched well with the light brown pillars.
Feeling less uncomfortable, Rick’s steps were much lighter than before as he walked down the corridors.
I thought I was going to be his emergency rations the moment I saw Mr. Davis, but something tells me that is not the case at all.
Rick sniffled as he made his way towards Davis. His movements were still a little slow and cautious, but he felt more optimistic and enthusiastic than before.
The house is warm, and Mr. Davis seems like a nice guy… Well, he’s a little scary, but…
…this could be a good hibernation.
Maybe it was a bit calculating and self-serving to take advantage of Davis’ kindness, but it was an indisputable fact that the inexplicable excitement of hibernation had finally returned to Rick’s mind.
After looking around the rooms, they finally arrived at the pantry–although, it was really far too big to be called a pantry–which was located at the back of the kitchen.
“All the food for hibernation is packed in here. You are welcome to bring some of it into your room. It’s not locked, so you can eat whatever you want, whenever you want.”
Looking through the open pantry door, Rick’s eyes widened. There was a refrigerator that looked like it belonged to a five-star hotel and shelves full of food, food, and more food. Perhaps even the restaurant where Rick worked didn’t have this much food.
Even if it was for the next few months, it was still a lot of food. It seemed that the amount of food consumed by a bear beastman was completely different from that of a squirrel beastman.
“I’m not sure what to say… Oh, uh, Mr. Davis.”
“I actually work in the kitchen of a restaurant…”
Davis looked surprised at Rick’s words.
“Well, if you want, I can cook for you sometimes…”
Rick had just asked if he could cook when something caught his eye. He broke off and muttered, “Oh…”
Davis followed Rick’s unnatural gaze and looked in the same direction.
In one corner of the room, there was a pile of boxes filled with nuts.
These were not small boxes; rather, they were so big that Rick could barely hold one of them in his hands. There was a logo written on each box, which looked like a very luxurious brand to him. Yes, even more expensive than the nuts he brought as a gift today. These nuts were definitely something that Rick could not afford, and there were heaps of them.
“Oh, nuts, so many…”
Rick tried to laugh, as he didn’t know how to react.
“Sorry, the ones that I brought with me…”
Rick’s cheeks flushed slightly, but he managed to form a smile.
“It’s only a small quantity, and…. it’s cheaper than the one here…”
Embarrassed and ashamed, Rick scratched his head as he looked away from Davis.
His shoulders slumped down.
“I’m sorry… I thought I bought a good one, but…”
In the end, after saying this honestly and realizing that it was too self-deprecating, Rick laughed–“Ha ha…”–in a pathetic voice to cover it up.
Davis stared at Rick for a moment, then turned his attention back to the paper bag that Rick brought. He reached into the bag and pulled out a small box of nuts.
As Rick looked at him, wondering what he was going to do, Davis walked through the pantry and stood in front of a shelf that was relatively empty except for a few nice-quality items. Then, using a small stepladder, he placed the nuts on the highest shelf.
“Um, Mr. Davis?”
“These are special nuts.”
Davis climbed back down the stepladder and stood in front of Rick.
“I think I know a little bit about what it’s like to lose everything in a fire… I’m a fireman after all.”
He then paused.
“Your house caught fire…” he said, his tone slow but clear, “but you took the trouble to bring me some nuts.”
“So, it’s special. I’m going to make it my first meal when my… hibernation is over.”
Rick realized he had forgotten to breathe and was looking up at Davis dazedly.
He hurriedly sucked in some air and then bowed his head.
It was a very short reply, but it seemed to be enough for Davis. He smiled contentedly and walked off, saying, “Let’s go back to the living room.”
After turning to follow the large man’s retreating figure, Rick glanced back into the pantry once more.
When spring comes…
On the highest and best spot, clearly visible from the entrance, sat the nuts that Rick had brought. They looked much more splendid than when he had brought them in his arms.
“Are you okay?”
Davis called out from across the hall.
“Yes, I’m fine. I’m fine…” Rick replied, his lips involuntarily turning up into a giddy smile.
“Then you can do whatever you want with the rest.”
“Okay, Mr. Davis. Well, thank you for everything.”
I’ve been fed, bathed, and given a glass of hot milk. I am now ready for bed.
Rick patted his warm belly and smiled.
“I’m sorry you had to… get pajamas for me.”
The pajamas were made of a fluffy material, and the top and bottom were all brown; it made him look like a stuffed bear at first glance.There was even a bear patch embroidered on the chest of the pajamas. It was a rather juvenile design, but that can’t be helped.
Davis said that he didn’t know what kind of clothes the small beastmen wore, so he bought Rick the large beastmen’s kids’ clothes.
Of course, I am not going to complain about that. After all, Davis went out of his way to make sure that I wouldn’t have to sleep naked and cold. What else can I say but thank you?
“It looks good on you.”
“Ha, ha, ha… Thank you.”
Rick was about to turn twenty. He was embarrassed to hear that he looked good in these cute pajamas at this age, but it was okay because the person who bought them for him looked happy.
Looking at Rick’s embarrassed smile, Davis cocked his head to the side.
“Are all squirrel beastmen as cute as you, Rick?”
Rick thought Davis was joking, but he looked extremely serious. Rick was not sure what to make of it.
“You’re so sweet, you’d probably melt in the rain.”1
“Ha, haha, hahaha”.
There was nothing more to say; Rick just had to laugh.
“I’m going back to my room.”
“Oh, yes, good night.”
In the end, the conversation remained vague, with Davis saying good night as he lazily walked out of the living room. He didn’t seem to be expecting any particular response from Rick. It seemed like he was just saying whatever came to his mind.
Rick didn’t understand what Davis really meant, but Davis was definitely not a bad person.
Rick scratched his head and decided to retreat to the room provided for him.
Hasr: Here’s a cute lil’ drawing that clover drew~ Just look at these two cuties