"Uh, there's a problem," Soren said as he hobbled through the doorway of their room. "There's only one bed."

Claudia stepped past him. "Oh yeah," she said thoughtfully, resting one finger on her chin. Then, after about two seconds, "DIBS!"

She immediately threw herself on top of it, spreading her arms and legs to take up as much room as possible. Soren sputtered indignantly.

"No way!"

"Way! I called it."

"I can't sleep on the floor with all these injuries!" He motioned down to his bruised and bandaged body, a small movement that still caused him to wince in pain. "Do you have any idea how much that'll hurt?"

"Yeah, but—ugh—"

Claudia was at a loss. Under normal circumstances she could have easily wheedled Soren into surrender, but now her Youngest Child sense of entitlement was battling with her basic sense of human decency. It was a tough fight, but in the end entitlement didn't stand a chance.

"Alright, fine," she pouted, climbing to her feet. "I'll sleep on the floor. Like a big brother or some other kind of domestic animal."

"Thank you."

Claudia grabbed some blankets and started making herself a place to sleep. Soren leaned his crutches against the wall and took off his armor, hissing in pain as he moved. Several pieces clattered to the floor despite his effort to carefully place them down. Claudia wished that she could finish healing him, but she didn't have any ingredients—she already had a mental list of everything that she would need to buy at the next town.

Soren dropped heavily onto the bed, then fell on his back, panting a bit. He didn't bother getting under the covers. Neither of them undressed, obviously, nor did they even have spare outfits to change into. "I really need a change of clothes."

"You're telling me," Claudia said, pinching her nose as she climbed into her not-bed.

"AND MY OWN ROOM." He only winced slightly as he crossed his arms. "I hate sharing with you."

"Aw, too embarrassed to take out your teddy bear when I'm around?"

"You are so annoying." He pouted, still staring up at the ceiling.


They turned in early that night, hoping to make an early start the next morning. Claudia had a hard time making herself comfortable—the floor was so hard. She missed her bed at home. It had a mattress stuffed with moon-swan feathers. She sighed longingly.

Despite being a greedy bed-hog, Soren seemed to having a rough night too. He kept groaning, trying to turn over but finding himself in too much pain. His brow furrowed. Then, around midnight, Claudia heard a moan that sounded very close to "No."

"Soren?"

"Ugh—get away—"

"SOREN?!"

"Uh! Wha—"

He tried to sit up, gave a groan that was almost a scream and then laid back down, putting a hand to his forehead.

Claudia hesitated a moment before saying "Sore-bear? You alright?"

"Yeah."

"You sure?"

"Yeah, I just—I was having a bad dream. I couldn't move again, and the dragon..."

He trailed off. Claudia sat up, trying to peer at him in the darkness.

"You...want to talk about it or something?"

"No."

"You sure?"

"Yes, I'm sure," he said with uncharacteristic anger. Then, more softly, "Just go back to sleep."

Claudia hesitated. Then she got up, sat down on the bed and laid down with her arms across Soren's body.

"Uh...Clauds, what are you doing?"

"Hugging you. Vaguely."

"Oh." His eyes darted off to the side, then back towards her. "Why?"

"Because you had a nightmare, you big goof. Don't you remember back when we were kids? And you'd let me come sleep with you whenever I was scared?"

"Oh. Yeah. After Mom left."

"Yeah." She blew a stray lock of hair from her face. "Before that I'd go to her and Dad, but it felt...weird doing it with her gone."

Soren snorted. "Dad was always terrible with stuff like that."

"He'd try to be logical about it. 'The thunderstorm can't hurt you, Claudia. We're inside.'"

"Yeah, unless you somehow manage to bring it in!"

"Hey!" She gave him a playful slap on the arm. "I think that was a very good piece of magic for a six-year-old! Even if it was the exact opposite of what I was trying to do."

"It made so much noise that everyone thought the castle was under attack!" Soren was cackling now, despite how much it hurt his ribcage. Claudia joined in.

Slowly their laughter petered out into a long silence. Claudia hugged Soren tighter. He grimaced.

"Okay—I know this is supposed to be comforting, but it actually kind of hurts."

"Sorry."

Another long pause. Then, "You're not going back to the floor, are you?"

He stubbornly snuggled closer. "Nope. I'm going to stay right here and keep the nightmares away."

"Fine. But no telling anyone about this when we get home."

"Well, duh."

"Best case scenario, all the other Crownguards will laugh at me. Worst case, people'll get weird ideas."

Claudia gave him a soft, affectionate pat on the shoulder. "Just shut up and go to sleep, Sore-bear."