Chapter 29 - Good Bye
They had stayed for only one night at Tully's Tavern. Though, it was a long night. They had slept almost till noon, Jack on his back and Sis on top of him. Apparently the booze had taken a bigger toll on the human than the previous evening had showed. He had quite the hangover. After some more chit-chat with Tully over a breakfast, the two had left the town short after midday.
It was a particular nice day, today. Still cold and snow covered, but it wasn't snowing and the wind was quiet too. Plus, the clouds let some sun rays through. During the walk, Jack noticed Sis marveling over his Naturalization Certificate again. 'He is so cute', he thought and smiled. Jack knew that it was highly unlikely, at this point that the fox would ever have to use it, but it was a good thing for him to have it. For the fox it must have been something like a symbolic gesture, as in, a tangible proof for his freedom. Jack was happy to have been able to provide him with it, even if it was quite pricey. But the fox was definitely worth the money.
When Sis noticed Jack looking at him, the human smiled. The fox folded and stored the document again. "Thanks again for this, Jack," he said and sprinted up to his friend.
"Better safe than sorry, right, foxy?" he answered and then added, "Or in your case, better safe than slave, huh?"
"Yeah..." he sighed. For a moment he thought back to the time where he was still kept as a possession, then to the first time he met Jack and the hard time he had had when he and the human sneaked their way through the south. "Man, I hope I never see that fucking place ever again."
During the next days, Sis saw more and more short ones amongst the humans. The bigger the places were the more of them were around. They lived and worked in peace next to and together with the humans around them. It was almost a little strange to the fox: Before Jack he had never met a human that wouldn't treat him like dirt. From his childhood on he had always been told to stay away from them, to fear them, and when the day of his capture came, he had learned why. And now he found himself in a completely new culture, a whole new world. No one beat him, no one told him what to do, no one looked odd at him for not wearing a collar, no one hated him for what he was born as. Still the little fox wasn't as happy as he should be. He had always wished for this day to come, but then it wasn't this day he was concerned about. It was the day that drew nearer with every step he made that he feared; that 'one day' he knew would eventually come. And he knew it was close now.
Sis didn't want to think too much about it, so he shoved it aside. But that wouldn't cross that day out of the calendar, of course, and eventually the day came.
It was yet another nice, almost sunny day. They had gotten a lot of these in the last time, as if the heaven wanted to say, 'Great! You've made it!' The two were far from the border to the south, now, on an empty street somewhere between where they had come from and where they would go next, or so Sis hoped. It was at a crossroads when Jack stopped and lit a cigarette, smoking for a few minutes and staring into the near forest and over the far away mountains.
"That's our destination," he said and snapped the half-burned stub into the snow off the road. "You're safe now."
Sis knew what this was going to be. And he found it hard to cope with the idea of it. This was a farewell.
"...yeah..." he said at length and followed the snowy road with his eyes. He was afraid to ask this question, and he almost didn't do it, but after a long moment to collect his words he spoke, "...and what now, Jack?"
Jack gestured to the way to their left, "A few miles in that direction there is a town with a big market, lots of farms in the area and a lot of merchants. You'll be able to find work there to save some money. From there you can go even further north, if you want. Maybe to the capitol?"
"And... what are you doing?" Sis asked sadly.
Now the human pointed to the right way, "I'll be going to Seewahstown. I've stashed some money there. Then I'll be lazy and stay there until the snow melts. After that...?" he shrugged. "Hmm, maybe I'll go east to the coast."
Sis wondered why Jack seemed so easy going about their imminent parting. Maybe he had done this before? Or maybe he was just a good enough actor to hide his emotions. From what Sis knew about the human, that could very well be the case. "So, it's time to say goodbye then?"
The human looked down at the fox and for once there was no smile on his face. "Looks quite like it," he said.
Turning away for a moment, Sis tried to get the shaky feeling out of his legs. He swore himself that he wouldn't start to cry like a whelp. Pulling himself together, he turned and went over to Jack. The human moved down to meet the fox. "Thanks again, Jack. For everything," he said and embraced the human.
Jack closed his arms around the smaller creature like he always did. "No problem, foxy," he said. "'T was an awesome time! We've had lots of fun, huh?"
"Yeah, we HAD," Sis answered with his face pressed to the human's chest.
Eventually Jack parted from the embrace and stood. He lit another cigarette.
Sis took a few steps back. "So then," he said. "Take care, Jack."
Sis turned and went on. This was certainly not what he had imagined when he had thought about leaving Jack's side. He'd come only a dozen steps when he heard his voice behind him, "Hey, foxy! Wait a second." Sis stopped in his motion and turned.
Jack closed the distance between them and said, "I just remembered: Now that I'll settle down for the winter, it sure will become terribly boring. And, I mean, so, I know you don't dig this whole being-a-thief-thing and such, but practically I'm not a thief over the winter and... So, what i wanted to say is: If you ain't got something better to do, I might could get roped into dragging you around with me some more. ...Only if you want, of course!"
At this time, Sis was smiling widely over his cheeks again, because he had seen through Jack's game with him. Crossing the last step between them, Sis embraced the human once more. When he parted, he hit his friend hard into the side, "How can you dare to pull off such a show, human?!"
"Hey, hey, foxy!" Jack said, sounding super serious again. "Don't you get all cheeky on me, or I'll reconsider and leave you here after all!"
Sis beat him again, "Stop talking and get moving, human!!!"
So the both of them took the right way. And once started Jack said, "Ya know, foxy? We're a pretty good team. What would you say about a partnership after the winter?"