All characters © Michael Fry, T Lewis and Dreamworks.
It was late when RJ finally shuffled off to bed.
The moon was already beginning to sink in the sky and it cast dim bars of light on the ground as he made his way through the foliage.
It had been another peaceful day with his new family in their little hedged sanctuary, thriving off of all suburbia could offer them. So peaceful, in fact, that the raccoon worried he might eventually get bored with the monotony of it all, but for now he was perfectly content to spend some time away from excitement like over the top exterminators and psychotic bears.
He made his way to the little "home" area the group had set up for him, thinking it would be nice to curl up in his chair.
Most of the others were already situated here, the log still being occupied by Hammy's acorns, in various states of consciousness and were taking up almost all of the available space. Seeing Penny and Lou's kids already fast asleep in his preferred spot, RJ decided to just give it a miss.
He continued on a short distance farther until he came to a notch in the base of a nearby tree.
Leaning back against the trunk he sighed contentedly, breathing in the cool night air as he slid down the smooth bark.
He yawned widely, the moonlight glinting off his teeth, and closed his eyes. He let his body relax as he breathed in the familiar scents of the forest, and was just nodding off when an odd noise reached his ears.
"ScratchScratchScratchScratchScratchScratch", like something scraping against wood.
He ignored it at first, intent on getting to sleep.
There was a pause, then it resumed again at a slightly more rapid pace.
Still he kept his eyes closed.
Annoyed, he opened his eyes and cocked his ears for the source.
It sounded close, but it didn't seem to be coming from anywhere in particular.
He looked around, then up into the braches of the tree above, but he couldn't see any sign of movement.
The noise stopped.
As he leaned forward and strained his ears in the dark, he could just make out the sound of breathing nearby.
"Hello?" he called quietly.
No one answered.
"Is someone there?"
Again no response but the continued sound of breathing.
RJ's fur began to stand up as his prey instincts automatically kicked in.
The scraping noise resumed.
Something fuzzy smacked into the back of his head, making him jump a little more than he would have liked and let out a muffled yelp.
He wheeled around to face his assailant and saw nothing. His heart beating wildly, he looked left, right, up and finally down.
Laying curled up next to him in the shadow of the base of the tree, illuminated slightly by the light from the waning moon, was the small sleeping form of Hammy.
The squirrel was tossing lightly in his sleep, his tail thrashing about (now RJ knew what it was that had hit him). His legs were twitching repeatedly as though he was dreaming about running, and his claws were raking the bark of the tree, making the scraping noise.
RJ's entire body relaxed as he breathed a sigh of relief.
"Don't you ever stop moving?", he inquired quietly of the sleeping form, watching his ears twitch as he started to make little squeaking noises.
As his pulse returned to normal he continued to watch the other guy toss about, wondering briefly why he was over here all alone.
"mmmprfff" muttered the squirrel suddenly. "Said…"
RJ swiveled his ears forward to listen.
"I said…", continued Hammy. "I said I like the…cookie."
RJ smiled and reached down to scratch him affectionately behind the ears, causing his leg to twitch so fast it became a blur, before he laid down and closed his eyes once more.
He was just on the verge of drifting off again when he felt a sudden weight on his back.
Turning over, he saw that the squirrel had rolled into him, and as he shifted the sensation of his fur against Hammy's own caused the smaller guy to automatically wrap his arms around the raccoons neck.
Trying not to laugh as Hammy started to unconsciously nuzzle into his ticklish chest fur, RJ reached down and tried to push him gently off of himself. As soon as he did this, however, the squirrel responded by doubling his grip around his neck, nearly strangling him.
"Ack….Hammy!" RJ choked out. "Hammy, let go!"
He shook his shoulder.
The squirrel gave no response and didn't lessen his grip.
"Hammy, wake up! Cant breath!"
He shook harder, causing Hammy's head to loll to the side slightly, but he still didn't wake up.
He tried to pull the arms off of his neck, but every time he gained a little ground Hammy would tighten his grip again, and to make matters worse his leg was now digging painfully into RJ's stomach.
"Great", he thought, "Now what?"
He knew a lot of different tricks to get out of almost any situation, but nothing about how to dislodge an apparently comatose squirrel intent on strangling him.
Thinking Hammy might respond to touch again, he tried tickling his side lightly.
The squirrel giggled quietly in his unconscious state and at last loosened his grip on the poor raccoon.
Pulling in a great gulp of air, RJ relaxed and began to catch his breath.
He chuckled quietly to himself.
"Jeez Hammy, when you hug someone…"
It was then that he noticed something.
For the first time that night the squirrel was completely still, a tiny smile framing his features as he pressed his muzzle into RJ's chest.
Seeing this, and not wanting to risk another death hug, the raccoon thought it best just to leave him be.
Draping an arm gently over his shoulders, RJ rested his chin between Hammy's ears and finally drifted off to sleep.