The first time Trusty woke after the accident, after Jim Dear and Darling had brought him back to his family and the veterinarian had come by to set his leg and the maid had made him a bed out of a pile of clean but ragged quilts by the fireplace -- the very moment he woke up, Jock was there.
"Miss Lady's boy," Trusty said in a dry voice, feebly licking his lips. "Did we get 'im?"
Jock was up on his feet in moment, nosing the bloodhound's ear solicitously. "Aye, laddie. You tracked him down for us."
"That's good. That's real good." Trusty started to pick himself up, stopped with a whimper when he felt the weight on his injured side. "Looks like the old leg finally gave out, didn't it?" He dropped back to one elbow, panting out a little with the pain. "Must've hit my head in the fall, 'cause I can't -- I can't rightly recollect what happened. 'Cept for you standing over me, setting up some kind of a ruckus."
"That I did," Jock said with an unapologetic chuckle to break the worry and awkwardness around them, almost thick enough to smell. "You were in a bad way, and needed seeing to."
"Aw, just a mite roughed up is all." Trusty looked around, blinking vaguely at everything in the room as though it were suddenly unfamiliar territory. "That and my head. Must have jarred loose my sniffer mechanism -- only temporarily, you understand." He waited for Jock's slow nod of acquiescence. "I can't tell, is there some water in that bowl yonder?"
"Och, aye." Jock went and fetched the bowl over to him, nudging it smartly across the floorboards. "Drink your fill, man."
Trusty thumped his tail once, twice. "Delickerous." With sideways swipes of his tongue, he lapped it up to the last slurp, then shook his heavy head, flopping water drops everywhere. When Jock judged it safe to lift his eyebrows again, he found himself pinned on the other end of a singularly shrewd though droopy-lidded stare. "How long you been setting here for?"
"Three bonny soupbones, all told." Like most dogs with collars and licenses, Jock counted time by feedings.
"Well, now, you didn't have to go doing that." The old hound dipped his chin, obviously embarrassed. Stiffly, carefully, he sat up again and turned himself all the way around, circling out a comfortable place in the pile of rumpled fabric, then sprawled out as best he could with a ponderous sigh. "Go on home now."
The terrier snorted. "Dinnae give me orders." He trotted all the way around the other side of the bedding and settled himself where Trusty couldn't reach to shove him away. "I'm Heather Lad of Glencairn, kin to the old blood of Aberdeen and Greyfriars. And I'll nae be leaving."
Jock could feel Trusty's sides rumble in one of his deep chuckles, could just see over the slope of his shoulder the old hound's mouth draw back in a saggy, broken-toothed grin. "Well, what do you know. I just now recollected it," he said softly, almost in wonder.
"When you're tracking 'em down," Trusty said, and yawned a yawn wide enough to walk inside. "I say when you're tracking 'em, it don't matter if they dropped black pepper or beefsteak behind 'em to throw you off. It don't matter if they swum a creek or clumb a tree or vanished their smell into thin air. You don't leave off searching for their trail for nothing on earth. That's what Ol' Reliable used to say." He dropped his head, his voice dropping off to a sleepy mumble. "You don't leave."
"Aye," Jock said, and laid his nose on his paws, the firelight warm on his side and the quilts soft under his belly, but he didn't shut his eyes for more than a blink. Not when his oldest friend needed him there to keep watch. "Your grandpappy was a wise one."