Sam slipped away during all the hubbub of the Naylor estate welcoming their master home. He let himself into the stables, quietly closing the door behind him.
The horses were all new, of course, after more than two decades away. But the building itself was largely unchanged. Stabling was not an area that invited rapid innovation, after all. Sam hooked his hand around a familiar wooden beam, worn smooth by generations of stable hands taking a moment's pause.
He found he couldn't remember the last time he'd felt so at home, more than simply bedding down for a night or two. No, he quickly corrected himself, he could; here, with Rich and Ros, before he left. But it wasn't the building. It wasn't even the estate. He'd been home long before they'd crossed the boundary, before they even began the long journey. He could, in fact, pinpoint the exact moment he'd felt that rush of belonging, of returning to the place that would always be home, no matter where it was.
"Where did you get this?" he'd demanded, pushing up against the so familiar stranger, a knot of emotion tangling his insides. Fear, rage. Hope.
"I've always had it, Sam," the other man had replied, and that was when Sam knew. The crease of his brow, the flat calm of his voice, the angle of his jaw. How had he not seen it sooner?