The cougar rested a paw on the small dog's shoulder. It had taken a long while for the canine to fall asleep. The cat had heard him sniffling from his own room, and his heart went out to the poor German Shepherd. Even now, he could see the lines of matted fur where the tears had been flowing. The cougar stayed sitting on the edge of the bed, paw on the younger dog's shoulder, just staring at the unfortunate pup.
He, too, had heard the argument. His parents hadn't exactly been quiet. He was old enough not to succumb to tears, but young enough to want to. Still, he wanted to be strong for the pup.
He hadn't known the Shepherd for long. Only about three months, actually. Still, he cared for the canine. Everyone else called him Trouble with varying degrees of affection and annoyance, but the teenage cougar called him Niko. He wasn't even sure if anyone else knew the dog's real name: Nikolaos. Niko seemed almost resigned to his sometimes not-so-affectionate nickname, but the feline felt it was important for him to remember he had another name.
Niko let a small whimper in his sleep and curled up reflexively. The cougar rubbed Niko's arm. "Shh."
A tear finally slipped from the cougar's eye--not for his parents, but for the young pup sleeping in front of him. The pup really didn't deserve his nickname. He wasn't trying to be trouble. He simply had never had a chance to learn. He had been through a few foster homes, the feline knew. He also knew it wouldn't take many more before Niko gave up entirely. Niko didn't really try to live up to expectations because he didn't think he ever could. Getting a smile out of the pup was a difficult task. The cougar did his best, and Niko seemed to be warming to him. Now, though, the feline wasn't sure what would happen.
It sounded like this was it. His parents were finally fed up. It didn't bother him as much as it should have. They had fought a lot, though, and he had never been to close to them. He thought he remembered them being better when he was younger, but it was so long ago that it blurred in his mind. Niko was taking it hard, though, and the teen wasn't sure what would happen to him.
His name had come up a few times in the argument: Roger was supposedly better off with both of them over the other. Niko's name hadn't come up once. Not even his nickname. The antique china cabinet had caused more debate than Niko. Roger absentmindedly rubbed his brother's shoulder. At least, that was how Niko felt to him: a brother. He was really opening up around Roger, and he was actually a decent kid. He also made Roger feel a lot less lonely around home. If things kept up like this, though, Niko might end up somewhere else. Maybe the next home would be better, but the last few hadn't, it seemed, and Roger really cared about the dog.
Niko whimpered again, clinging to his blanket. Roger sighed and laid down behind Niko, sliding under the covers. He wrapped his arms around the pup and closed his eyes. There was no telling what would happen tomorrow, but he could at least comfort Niko tonight.