- Please don't do this. I can give you money, - said King-Lu.
- I'm paid well enough, - Thomas answered without moving his gun not even a bit. - Enough to buy all of your stupid oily cakes.
King-Lu couldn’t think of anything that could reason with the boy. He didn’t know him at all. He didn't even remember seeing him in the Fort.
He heard Cookie’s faint breath.
- Look, this man is going to die anyway. Let me try and save him, please.
He had already lost Chenamus to the violent Russians, he couldn’t let these rich bastards kill Cookie too. It was his fault again. His business acumen. “For a poor man to start, you need a crime”, he once said. He wasn't that wrong but life isn't forgiving.
He saw hesitation on the boy's face. It was a spark he needed to blow up.
- Please, - he said carefully. - We will just leave and no-one will have to know.
- What is in it for me?
- I swear, I can only give you money.
To pick up the bag, King-Lu had to let go of Cookie's hand he'd been holding all this time.
- D-don't, - the boy said suddenly and lowered the gun. - Go, now. And don't you dare tell on me if you get caught.
King-Lu finally saw the port. He had been walking along the river for many hours now. He was carrying Cookie like a baby and was very angry at himself for not doing it since they left their house. He didn't think then that Cookie's wound was so serious and tried to cheer him up by not helping. So stupid. At least, he should've given him a shoulder to hang on.
Cookie was sleeping, though, not unconscious. He woke up soon after they left the resting spot but he wasn't strong enough to walk. Now his breath was regular and not as weak as before.
King-Lu was still worried. He hadn't eaten since their last evening at home and Cookie, probably, too. They needed energy.
They entered the port both on their feet. However weak and pale, Cookie was quite convincing and King-Lu let him walk on his own.
It didn't take long to find a doctor. King-Lu left his friend there and went to buy tickets and, the most important, find some hot and nutritious broth. He remembered to be discreet. He actually came up with a kind of a plan: it would be better for them to lay low for a while and stay in a hotel until Cookie gets at least a bit better.
King-Lu managed to arrange everything just in time to meet Cookie at the doctor’s. He’d been given something to eat and looked quite better.
- You need as much rest as you can get, - prescribed the doctor.
- I guarantee that he will follow your advice, - King-Lu answered, hoping that such a thing wasn’t too much to say as a friend and nothing more. He promised himself firmly that he would care for Cookie no matter what and swallowed the wave of guilt that came at him again.
Cookie smiled faintly at these words (and at King-Lu’s thoughts as if he could hear them). Another wave swept over King-Lu. This time it was realization that whatever happened, Cookie would be ready to forgive him. Did he deserve it though?
After getting to their room, they ate some more. They called this meal a dinner as it was quite late and King-Lu urged Cookie to go to bed.
He’d held onto the last available room. It didn’t cost that much, fortunately, and it had a respectable number of beds (namely, two). He gave up the chance to sleep next to Cookie with a heavy heart, but it was for the best: he wouldn’t disturb Cookie’s rest. Cookie, however, was reluctant to accept it.
- I want to be next to you, - he said in a low voice. He lied in his bed with a blanket up to his chin.
King-Lu’s heart kept aching and aching. He knelt next to the bed and carefully touched Cookie’s hair.
- I won’t leave you. I swear.
The same faint smile appeared on Cookie’s face again, but his eyes still were so, so sad.
- We will not stay in Oregon long, - King-Lu said reassuringly. - Our dreams await us. And I’ll be with you till the very end.