Imagine Steve going to an animal shelter to help someone pick out an emotional support animal and finding one for himself too
For all that Sam’s an Adult Who Copes With Things, Steve thinks, there are moments where it seems glaringly obvious that he’s not handling something well.
They’ve been back from a particularly harrowing mission in the Amazon for an entire month, and Sam’s still struggling.
It seems, in a way, like they should have thought of this three weeks ago; three months ago; maybe even three years ago, Steve thinks, watching Sam sit on the floor next to a giant dog and braid its thick fur. Something in the way Sam’s holding his shoulders looks different, more relaxed maybe, than he’s ever seen.
The trainer is a nice older woman, her house a menagerie of animals, including a trained service duck that Steve’s avoided thus far, because he hates ducks and ducks hate him. She’s given both Steve and Sam big mugs of coffee and left them alone while she finishes baking dog biscuits.
Relaxing into the couch, Steve puts the coffee on the side table and picks up a magazine. He’s deeply entrenched in an article about some new young adult dystopian thriller book when a cat climbs into his lap and worms its way under the magazine to interrupt him.
“Oh, hi,” Steve says. It meows. “I’m Steve. Nice to meet you.”
The cat slides further up, its paws on his chest, and levels its face with his. It meows again, loud. “Your breath smells like cat food,” he tells it.
The cat smacks its lips and rubs its face against his neck, starting to purr.
“Okay,” Steve agrees, and goes back to his magazine.
Sam turns to him nearly half an hour later, the dog lying across his legs, braids all along its neck. “He’s my guy,” he tells Steve, scratching behind its ears. “His name’s Penguin. Who’ve you got there?”
The cat is still lying on Steve, its head on his shoulder. Steve finds the tag on its collar, craning his neck around so he can see it while the cat mrrps in protest. “This is Sammy,” he says.
“And you’re taking her?”
“I–” Steve hadn’t even considered it. He blinks at Sam for a second. He feels…the knot of tension at the base of his skull feels smaller than usual. “I guess so.”