Chapter 5 - Lend me a Hand
The first thing Sis felt, when he awoke was a cold stinging in his left toes. With a quick motion he tried to get his paw back under the cover and as he did so, he felt Jack's warm body against his back. The fox was curled to the side and didn't move but tried to open his eyes. The inside of the bothy was still dark so his eyes adjusted quickly. Next he noticed the smell of burned wood and smoke. The fire burned down during the night and the room was freezing cold again. Through the gaps of the old booth he saw sun rays lighting the room in a dusty light. It was already morning and bright daylight.
Sis sat up and felt something heavy slip down his side. He turned and saw it was Jack's arm. "Urgh," Sis yawned and shrug off the limp arm. The human was still sleeping. Thanks god he woke up first. The fox stood up and stretched himself from head to tail, then nudged the human with his paw, "Get up Jack! It's morning."
The human moved under the blanket and sat up, his eyes still closed. He drew his hands over his face and murmured, "Uhgm, I 'ate sleepin' in da wild." The human yawned deeply and looked through the room, than shoved the blanket aside and stood. The next thing he did was to light a cigarette. 'He sure smokes a lot of those' Sis thought. Jack walked over and took a look through the door. The light that shone in told Sis it was indeed quite late. Jack ducked his head back in and said, "You up for breakfast? 'Cause I'm not."
The fox didn't feel very hungry so he shook his head. "Good. We can do that later. I'd rather get going. Don't wanna sleep 'nother night outside," he said as he started to put everything together. And soon the two were back on their way.
The cool morning air eliminated all remnants of sleepiness from their faces. To keep warm Jack was already through his third cigarette. Even the fox felt the cold through his fur and it would very soon become even colder. If he couldn't get any thicker clothes by then, he wouldn't make it too far.
At half point through the way they took a little break and eat the leftovers of their provisions. Other than that nothing special happened. They saw no guards, or anyone at all for that matter, and both of them stayed silent during their walk. And as the night dawned the lights of the town came into sight.
"So um," Sis spoke up and broke the long lasting silence, "How do you think on getting me into the town?"
"Eh, shouldn't be too hard," Jack answered, he sounded a bit tired, "It's almost dark and the streets won't be too busy. 'Sides, the inn's at the edge of town."
It was only a few more minutes to the entrance of the small town. The streets were almost completely empty from what Sis could see. Only the illuminated houses lightened the streets since the sun was almost completely gone by now. "See that house?" Jack pointed towards the left side of the town. It was a three story building. "This' the inn. You go there and wait at the back while I get us a room and then you'll get in through the window."
Sis looked at the house again. It wasn't too far away and several trees provided coverage. With the darkness he could make it easily, "Ok."
"Good. See you," was all Jack said before he entered the town.
Being suddenly alone after two days of traveling, with the human always around him, felt strange, but Sis made his way towards the inn. He didn't had to be particularly silent, no one could hear him or see him since the buildings blocked the view from the inside of the town. He made it safely to the backside of the house and waited behind a tree for the human to show up.
The town was empty. Jack didn't think that the fox would have any trouble getting to the inn.
When he entered the inn he found it not too frequented. Only a few workers and their drinks. He approached the waitress behind the counter, "Evenin' ma'am. You got a room and a good drink for me?"
The wife smiled at him and said, "Sure! What may it be?"
"Whiskey," the human answered and placed his backpack on the floor before he sat himself onto the bar stole. Soon he found a glass with brown liquor in it placed in front of him. He took a big sip and felt the Whiskey warm him from the inside.
"You're not from here, are you?" The waitress asked while she drew a wet cloth over the counter next to Jack, "On a transit?"
Jack emptied the glass, "Yeah. Probably staying two or three days," He pushed the glass over the counter back to the wife, "So how much's the room?"
"Six coins a night. Forty if you stay all week."
"Sounds good," he fished the money out of his bag and placed it on the counter. The waitress stored it away and returned a moment later with a key.
"Up the stairs and the second door to the right," she said as she handed the key over to Jack who thanked her. "Where're you from in the middle of the winter?"
"Came down here from Eesonon to do some business here and in Eesom," He actually came from Eesgolen, but it's always a good thing to not leave a track. Especially not with a waitress that chatty. "So what's for dinner today," he tried to change the topic, "I'm starving."
"Pork stew," she announced and Jack ordered a bowl. The next moment he was served a wooden bowl full of steaming stew. "Here ya go," the waitress said.
Jack took the bowl and thanked her, "I'll just go and store my stuff away." He lifted the backpack but was held up by the woman.
"No eating on the rooms, sorry."
"Oh c'mon," Jack flattered her and reached into his bag, "Make an exception for me." He placed another coin on the counter to show that he was generous. The coin made up easily for the Whiskey and the stew.
She took the money, "Get going already. But bring down the dishes."
"Gods what's taking him so long?" Sis whispered to himself while he kept a look on the building. Only a few windows were illuminated, but he couldn't make out any movement. With some luck, he hoped, the inn isn't too crowded and he would stay undiscovered.
Finally one of the windows opened and a familiar human poked his head out. He was looking for the fox, but since his night vision wasn't nearly as good as the one of a fox, Sis approached the building. "Took you long enough, man. I'm freezing out here," he whispered up to him.
"Don't be such a pussy," he threw back, "You got a thick fur."
Sis glanced from side to side, "Couldn't you get a room on ground floor?" he spread his arms in a questioning gesture.
"Stop complaining and get your ass in here," Jack said and lowered the rope from his backpack down to the fox. Before Sis started to climb the wall, the human whispered down to him, "And stay quiet. Even if you're not recognized as runaway here, they don't like it when you don't pay for a room you're staying in."
Sis wrapped the rope around his wrist and made sure Jack held it tight, than pressed his right paw against the wall. He kept his claws from the wooden surface to prevent them from making sounds, the people inside the building might hear. This made it harder to climb but with Jack helping to pull him up he managed to reach the window.
Jack grabbed his hand and pulled him into the room, than took a glance outside again and closed the window.
"Just one bed?" Sis asked as he looked around the room. It was barely bigger than the bothy they stayed in the last night, but warmer. It bore merely the bed, a small table and three metal hooks on the wall to serve as a place to store some clothes. A large candle on the table illuminated the room somewhat.
"Well," Jack answered, "What did you expect? Should I get a room for two, while I showed up alone down there, or what?" He stuffed the rope back into the leather backpack before he headed for the table and handed a bowl to the fox, "Here eat up."
Sis took the steaming bowl and sniffed at it. Meat, potatoes, carrots, peas, bacon... All warm and fresh. He dug right into it as he sat down on the bed.
He let the rich flavor spread over his tongue and felt the hot stew warm his empty stomach. The last time he ate something that good was ages ago. He couldn't even remember the last time he had a warm meal for that matter. Jack just watched the fox with a smirk on his face. Sis ignored it. He ate up the last bit of it before he gave the bowl back to Jack.
The human walked for the door, "Stay quiet for a while. I'll be back soon."
"Where are you going?" Sis asked before he could turn the doorknob.
"Gettin' 'nother drink and probably some diner myself."
"Will we be going in the morning?" Because if so, he'd go to sleep right away.
Jack shook his head, "I'm gonna stock up the supplies tomorrow. And then we'll go in the middle of the night. It's almost two days till the next bothy to stay in, and we can't shelter in Eesom. So this is going to be a long day."
The fox was curious, "Why can't we stay in Eesom?"
"It's a little trading post on the river," Jack explained, "There are barely five houses. You'd stand out." He gripped at the doorknob, "'Sides that, I'm not welcome there anymore, so...."
"Why," Sis wanted to know.
"Ain't telling," and with a smile on his face he left the room.
The room went silent, and as Jack's footsteps got out of earshot, it was still outside as well. Sis wondered for a moment why the human wouldn't be welcome in the trading post. Well, since he isn't welcome there "anymore", that would imply, that he already visited the place, and if the settlement indeed only consisted off a few buildings, it was likely he got caught stealing something. Jack said Eesom was a trading post, so there must be some things of value that are worth stealing.
Sis leaned back, on the bed he sat on, and rested his head on the wall behind it. 'But if it is as simple as that, 'the fox thought, 'why wouldn't he tell me'?
He closed his eyes and relaxed. Maybe he didn't want to tell because Sis himself refused from revealing his past? However. 'It doesn't really matter', he thought and folded his paws over his stomach. Then he slowly dozed off.
He hadn't fallen into a deep sleep but the rest he took really felt refreshing. It has been a long trip. However, his nap was disturbed sometime later in the evening, by a dull slam at the door. The fox opened his eyes and glanced at the door. He stood when he saw the doorknob turning.
It was Jack who stumbled into the room. He looked tired, with glassy eyes, but he still smiled bright over his reddened cheeks. "'verything a'ight, foxy?" Jack babbled as he made his way towards the bed.
The human didn't speak particularly quiet, so Sis hushed him and went to close the door, the human had left open. Jack had plopped himself on the bed and threw off his shoes. "Are you drunk?" Sis asked while Jack continued to take off his jacket.
Jack paused from disrobing, "Uhrg... Yeah." He blinked at the fox then started to pull his shirt over his head. As his upper body was naked, Jack began unbuckling his pants and as soon as he was done, slipped under the covers of the bed.
"So...," Sis began, "Where am I supposed to sleep?" Jack looked at the fox, than lifted the edge of the covers and smiled at him. "Hell no," the fox protested, "You're drunk... and naked! I'd rather sleep on the floor."
"What's the big deal?" Jack asked and lowered the blanket again. "We already did dis." But Sis already rummaged through the backpack for the woolen blanket. "You'd rather sleep on da floor than a warm bed?"
"If you're that concerned about me why don't you sleep on the floor and I take the bed?" Sis snapped at him with a sarcastic grin.
Jack frowned at him, "Imma payin' and imma gonna sleep in de bed!"
"Whatever," he placed the blanket at the inner wall of the room, to catch as much warmth of the house as possible, and folded it in the middle. Since his much smaller frame, compared to a human, he could fit himself on one quarter of the folded blanket and cover himself with the other one. Sis blew out the candle and nestled himself into the blanket, "Night."
"Night, foxy," Jack giggled.
"Don't call me that," Sis replied and stuffed the overlapping end of the cover under his legs.
Soon the cold of the floor crept into the little fox's bones and he ducked his head as far under the fabric as he could. This wasn't exactly the life he had planned, after his escape, but it was better than everything that awaited him back at the Dolemans. He was actually very thankful that the human had helped him. Most everyone else wouldn't have. For sure. For a moment he considered to take Jack up on his offer and share the bed with him...
A cold shiver run down his spine. No, not while he was almost naked and drunk and so... affectionate. 'I've slept in worse places' the fox thought to himself 'a few nights on the floor ain't gonna kill me'. Sis wriggled himself even tighter into the blanket and tried to get some sleep.
He closed his eyes and thought of the last few days, and the days before that. He thought of the things he had done, and of what he would do in the future. How things would go with Jack. Sis was sure that the human wouldn't tolerate him forever, so he had to do something. Get some money, some food, a place for the winter maybe. But this would be tough in a place where free 'short ones' get enslaved every day. No one would hide him a whole winter long, let alone share their supplies with him. Not even if he worked for it. The only work 'short ones' can do is to serve as slaves. Fetching firewood till they break down. Working the fields till their paws are bleeding. And when they're done it's thanked to them with countless whiplashes to remember them, that they are just living property for....
A quickly rustling noise broke his train of thought. It was a frequently, damped sound, as if it were under a blanket. ....And it was coming from Jack's direction.
Sis turned his head and looked at the figure under the covers, "Jack? What are you doing?" He saw that the noise indeed came from under Jacks sheets.
"What? Changed ya mind?"
The fox rolled around, "Seriously man, what are y..." When his eyes adjusted to the darkness it dawned upon him. What caused the sound were Jack's hands under the covers. And he apparently couldn't keep them from.... himself.
"W-what the hell are you doing there?" the fox asked whispering.
"What de hell's it lookin' like?" Jack replied. And he wasn't going to stop, whatever it was he was doing. In fact, the speed of the noises seemed to increase.
Sis was slightly shocked by the lack of restraint of the human. How the hell could he do this in the same room as the fox? Even if he's drunk? "How about you put this off 'til you're alone?"
"How 'bout you lend me a hand 'ere," Jack mumbled still drunk.
"Are you crazy? No way!"
Jack let his left arm hang out of the bed, as if he were longing for the fox. Whether it was on purpose or just out of drunkenness he didn't know. "C'mon, man, Imma doin' ya too. There's no prob'm isn't ther?"
Now the pure alcohol was speaking out of him. "Just go to sleep," Sis spoke annoyed and rolled himself up in his blanked again, "And in god's name, please get sober."
This didn't seem to impress him that much, since he just continued until he was done and then fell right to sleep. 'Oh well' Sis sight 'another memory I'm not going to forget soon'.
25 September 2015 at 13:23:22 MDT
Jack is a real charmer. Isn't he? But all jokes aside, he was just scratching his leg. I mean, what were you thinking he was doing?
The next chapter (going up on the 9th of October) will contain some background information about our small fox, so stay tuned!
Leave a comment if you like the story so far.