He took the night watch. Paced from room to room, checking windows and doors, and listened for footfalls. Checked the humans' beds again and again, listened to them sleep a noisy, self-abandoned slumber. Their mothers never taught them to breath quietly, to never sink so deep into sleep that they could not smell intruders.
They didn't have to. They had him.
He took a drink from the water dish, noting a passing cat.
She glared at him, eyes dilated, a corona of gold around them. No.
No. He agreed. It was funny to make them run, but not now. Not with the Many at the borders.
A sound from one of the boys' rooms.
He loped across the house, pushed open the door and peered in. The boy was stirring, murmuring, at war.
Just above the bed, on the railing, it hung.
It moved closer spreading its limbs wide.
He approached the bed, stiff legged. Get out while you can. We are hungry tonight.
It raised its head and in the darkness he could see the redness of its mouth, its teeth, and holes where the eyes should have been.
He emitted another growl, louder this time. In another part of the house, another dog growled. And another. We are here. We see you.
The thing paused, clearly not wanting to give up the still-sleeping boy. But it did not make up its mind fast enough.
He began to bark and was quickly joined by the others.
The boy awoke. The woman emerged from the depths of a distant room. She turned on lights as she came like some god emitting the sun from her fingertips.
The thing left as though it had not been there in the first place.
The boy peered at him, glanced around and looked relieved. He was still small enough to smell the vapor. He closed his eyes as his mother entered.
"You idiot. It's just Sam asleep in his own bed!" the woman fussed in half-whispers.
He wagged his tail, head low. I am sorry about the disturbance. I see things that aren't there, you know.
She dragged him out of the room by his collar and pointed toward his bed. "Sleep. There. Now."
She returned to her own bed where she was watched over by the Old One.
The house was silent.
Small feet came padding in. The boy and his blanket. They crawled onto the cushion beside him, threw the blanket over them both.
Sighs of relief escaped them both. The boy stroked his head and fell back asleep.
He slept too, but not noisily and not with abandon.