Sam had shifted into his collie form, likely to give me some feeling of privacy. I could appreciate that. I hesitated for a bit. I might have worked out how I felt about using the cluviel dor on Sam in my head while talking to Gran’s grave, but I wasn’t quite sure I was ready to have that talk with him yet.
Since Sam had shifted, maybe he wasn’t ready for that either. Even in his collie form, Sam looked sad. I couldn’t shut him out now just because this was going to be awkward.
I straightened my back and took a few tentative steps toward him with my hand outstretched. When Sam was a dog, I wasn’t ever really sure how much he understood or if it was rude to treat him like he was any old dog, but he sure liked to be scratched behind the ears.
He took a couple tentative steps in my direction and then walked over slowly. He nuzzled my hand gently, and I began scratching behind his ears. He looked up, unmistakably enjoying being pet with his tongue lolling out a bit.
I sat down next to him and put my arms around his neck and felt a quick lick on my check. I hugged him so tight I thought I was going to squeeze the stuffing out of him. Against my will, the tears just started all over again, as I felt his heartbeat against my chest.
It was strong and reassuring, where last night there had been a few terrible moments were there had been nothing. Just silence under my hands as I tried to staunch the blood, as Sam bled out. The vision of the sword striking him played over and over again, as I hugged him tighter. Sam made some whimpering noises and I relaxed my grip, but couldn’t seem to stop crying.
He wriggled back a bit and burrowed his snout under my chin to tell me everything was going to be ok. Here, he was trying to comfort me despite the fact that his girlfriend had almost killed him (albeit mistakenly) and then was summarily beheaded. In fairness, he had missed that part, but saw the aftermath once he’d recovered thanks to my wish. I should be comforting Sam. What kind of friend was I?
I gave him a kiss at the top of his head, gave him another squeeze, and told him, “I love you, Sam. I am so thankful it worked to save you. I wasn’t sure if I could do it, but just couldn’t lose you. You’re my best friend. I know I owe you an explanation, but it is a long story and I don’t know if I have the energy for it now.”
He looked up at me with his intelligent eyes (which were the tell-tale that it really was Sam in there) and let out a little yip with a nod. Okay, we’ll deal with this later.
“Thank you, Sam.” I meant it sincerely. To lighten it up, I tried to joke a bit, nudging him. “Besides I had to save you since you’re my business partner. I wouldn’t want to run the bar without you. We’re a team. Not to mention, I couldn’t afford to buy your part of the bar.”
I got to my feet and started back toward the woods. The walk home took quite a bit longer. I wasn’t sure what would be waiting for me when I got back. I wasn’t sure if I wanted Sam to stick around for breakfast or not, but it would certainly be his right after the day he’d had.
My gran would have wanted me to cook up some hot cakes and put the coffee on. I could do that. As we got closer to the edge of the woods though, I could see I still might not get my cup of coffee. This time I had a different set of visitors. This time it was the cops. Now what.