By the time Sarah brought him dinner Sam had run out of things to talk about. Jerret steadfastly continued to ignore him, growling at Sarah as she set a plate down and slid it into his cell.

“Why are you feeding him?”

“The men took off to avoid doing just that. Besides, he’s our guest, even if he’s being rather hostile.” She frowned at Jerret, who backed away a bit, still growling, “You can figure out how to get the plate back for washing.”

“Fine, but if he takes my hand off I’m bleeding all over the carpet.” Sam made a face at her and she made one back.

“Goodnight, Samuel.”

“Night, Sarah.” He waited till she left to eat. Jerret sniffed at the plate warily before eating most of it in a few bites and lapping up the rest. “Well at least you aren’t trying a hunger strike.”

Jerret huffed and paced around the cell a little, his nails clicking on the hard floor.

“If you would just change back and cooperate for a while I’d let you out of that cell. I’m sure you don’t like it in there.” Sam resumed eating as the man in the cell flopped down on his side again. Once he’d finished he set his plate inside and, on a whim, reached through the bars, sliding the other plate out.

Jerret lifted his head warily but didn’t move to attack him.

“Well I know you’re not feral or I would’ve lost a hand just now. So you’re just being stubborn at this point. Normally I’d offer you a drink but I don’t know if you can process alcohol in that form.” Sam scratched his chin, “The other option is to keep talking until you say something just to shut me up.” He waited but Jerret didn’t respond, “Right then, tales of my youth. But first…” He stood up, stretched and disappeared into the hallway, returning with a set of clothes and a worn, filthy book, “I noticed you seem reluctant to wander about Au Natural, so to speak. I appreciate that considering the amount of time you spent around my daughter. And that’s your book. I could see about getting it repaired if you like, or replaced. It’s in rough shape.” He grinned a little as Jerret sniffed at the book. “So what to talk about…”

Jerret sat and stared at him, blinking slowly.

“Well, once you decide to change back we’ll move you to a room in the house… we were planning on a regular room but given your reaction to Sarah I’m thinking the hospitality wing with Mr. Sutro will be the best bet.” He paused as Jerret tilted his head at the name, “Yeah, I guess I didn’t mention that. Young Mr. Sutro is recuperating in our hospitality wing since he’s not fit to stand trial yet. He has yet to answer any of my questions either.”

Sam paced a little, trying to wake up his legs, “You’re not the first shifter we’ve had here, not even the first ex-fighter. Before Jessie we tried a few times… to help. I’d come across someone from time to time and the few I could convince I’d give jobs and try and get them on their feet in the city.” He stopped pacing and glanced at Jerret, who was watching him, “Never stuck. Every time they’d just disappear one day and we’d never hear from them again. You’ll probably do the same once you get a chance.” He squatted down in front of the cell at eye level, “I’m honestly afraid at some point Jessie’s gonna do the same thing. Just disappear on me and we’ll never hear from her again. Sure she’s little now and needs us but she’ll grow up.”

Jerret let out a soft “woof” and shook his head.

“Was that a no?” Sam waited for another response but Jerret walked to the far corner of the cell and curled up on the floor again, “Fine, keep denying me any peace of mind. I’ll get you some water but I’m staying here all night if I have to.” He left for a moment and returned with a bowl of water, sliding it into the cell carefully. He sat down against the wall again and closed his eyes. “Sometimes I hate being here.”

Jerret huffed again but didn’t move.

“No, you don’t really have to listen to this, I’m just venting.” Sam sighed, “I love my sisters, and my mother, and even the estate. I grew up here after all. I just get stir crazy when I have to stay here for too long. It’s been hard with Jessie. She won’t stay behind but she get’s homesick when we’re gone for too long. I try to stay as long as I can but… you know the first time I came back from serving I was only on leave for a week. The very first night Sarah walked up behind me at night and I shoved her down the stairs.” Sam exhaled loudly, “I wasn’t startled, or scared, I just realized someone was behind me and attacked. She broke her arm and had to get five stitches on her forehead. Only her, mother and I know what happened. The rest of the girls think she fell on her own. I switched to a basement room after that so it wouldn’t happen again.”

Jerret was watching him again, with his head on his paws.

“Yeah, being a soldier was disturbingly natural for me. I got promoted quickly, was put on special teams, lead my own… After the incident with Sarah I didn’t come home again for a while. When I did I only stayed for a few days before leaving again. Once I got discharged I tried staying here again but I couldn’t make it past a month. So I started a salvage company and ran off and got up to whatever reckless mischief I felt like for a long time.”

He stopped talking for a little bit and Jerret closed his eyes finally, “Then I found Jessie, and I had to go home. I spent a terrifying month traveling with her and checking if she was breathing every few minutes and by the time I got home I thought I’d never want to leave again. For a while I didn’t. I stayed for a few years, and then when I tried to leave she refused to eat unless I was there. She cried for hours and hours and my mother begged me to come back. Only solution I could think of was to take her with me. You’ve seen how that ends up, I’m a terrible caretaker. She’ll be lucky to survive long enough to leave me.”

Jerret exhaled loudly and Sam laughed a little, “I’m surprised you didn’t change back halfway through that to tell me to shut up. For that I’ll let you get some sleep.”


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