Journey to Compromise Sample

The figure on the ground had still not moved or made any sound. Mitch bit back an angry growl as his eyes picked out more details. The kid’s eyes were still open despite the bruises and torn clothes. For a moment Mitch worried that he was too late. But the eyes flinched when he reached out a hand.

“We got to get out of here, kid,” he said softly, his voice barely a breath of air. The kid heard and stiffened in rejection, readying himself for more punishment, the eyes wary but defiant.

“Hey, I’m one of the good guys!” Mitch tried to grin, but it made his lip hurt more. “But I reckon this lot have friends hereabouts. So we best not be here when they show up.”

There was the faintest hiss of disagreement from the huddled form on the ground.

“You want to stay here? You were enjoying that?” Mitch drew back slightly as the thought occurred to him.

A breath of a growl answered that.

“Okay. So it is me you don’t want to leave with.” Mitch sighed and raked his hand through his hair. “I don’t have time to talk this through. We’ve got to go and I don’t think you can get yourself out of here.”

A slight movement and a stifled whimper.

“That’s what I thought.” Mitch nodded. “I’m not going to do any more damage to you, but I can’t say I’m not going to hurt you. I don’t reckon I can move you without hurting you. But look on the bright side, there’s only one of me, so I’ve got to be a better bet than waiting for the four of them to wake up.” Mitch took the slight flinch of the eyelids as agreement and gathered the kid into his arms as gently as he could. He stood up and wiped his feet thoroughly on the wolves. He could feel the question in the rigid body in his arms.

“Might slow them down a bit when they come to follow us,” he explained walking as smoothly as he could toward the mouth of the alley. “I’ve got a room at the motel,” he went on as he slipped into the shadows of the main street, “Unless there’s somewhere else you’d rather I took you?”

Silence was his only answer.

“Yeah, that’s what I figured.” Mitch sighed and just concentrated on getting the kid back to his room as quickly and quietly as he could. He didn’t want anyone who just happened to glance at the street to remember seeing him carrying a battered and beaten kid back to his room. He really didn’t want to try and explain that to the authorities, any more than why he was taking the kid to his room rather than trying to get medical attention for him.

Once they were in the room there was a short battle to separate the kid from his clothes and get him into the tub. The kid hunched up at one end of the tub, the one furthest from Mitch, and glared at him.

“You need to get cleaned up.” Mitch pointed out. “You know we can’t stay here for long. The less blood on you the less likely they are to be able to track us into the forest.”

Insolent eyes ran over Mitch’s blood spattered clothes.

“Yeah. I’ve got to get cleaned up, too.” Mitch rolled his eyes and stripped off his shirt, ignoring the sudden increase in tension behind him. “I haven’t got the time or the inclination to take advantage of you right now,” he muttered. “You aren’t at your most attractive with blood, snot and wolf stink all over you.”

That gained him a flash of anger. Mitch chuckled and put the soap and a clean flannel on the edge of the tub. He had revised the kid’s age upwards during the struggle to get him in the tub. His unwilling guest might be small and slender, but he wasn’t a child. He might even be legally adult, as well as physically. But that still made him way too young for Mitch to be thinking of him as anything but an abused kid.

“Get yourself cleaned up, kid, or I’ll have to do it for you!” Mitch glared at the defiant form in the tub. “I’m going to get us some clean clothes. I know mine won’t fit you, but we aren’t going to be wearing them for long once we get into the forest, are we?”

There was a sort of wary agreement in the posture, and, maybe, just a hint of hope.

“Don’t know about you, kid,” Mitch said. “But I’d like to live to see if next year will be any better than this one.”

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