George slowly turns his back to the group with Slim trailing after him. The sun starts to sink below the crests of the hills, and after a while, Carlson turns back. He can vaguely make out the two figures walking in the sunset. George and Slim are momentarily illuminated with bright gold, but neither of them notices the beautiful moment, both too caught in their own emotions.
The two figures walked and walked and walked, and after a while, as the sky turned dark and wolves began howling in the distance, George finally came to a stop. His mind had refused to take in the entirety of what he had done, and it was at this moment that the emotions finally hit him.
He was never going to see Lennie again.
His face crumpled, and he tried to turn away so that Slim wouldn't see, but Slim wouldn't have it. He wasn't going to let his friend deal with this alone. The two figures sink to the ground, the dim moonlight casting a solemn glow over the two.
"I din't mean to." George struggled to form words. "Oh Slim, I din't mean to do it- I coulda saved him! We coulda run away, swum acrost the river - oh god - I shoulda told him to run, shoulda told him to hide-", sobs wrack his body so violently that for a moment he can't do anything but look at Slim and cry.
Slim can't find the words to comfort him or make George understand that there was truly nothing else he could've done. He also knows that for his entire life, George will never be able to forget Lennie's death or stop the onslaught of pain and grief that comes along with it. So instead, Slim does the only thing he can do, he holds him close and hugs him, trying to show his understanding and condolences in a way that no words will ever be able to capture. At the feeling of George's small, shaking body, Slim feels a lone tear travel down his face.
George's grief is impalpable, and it shows as silently they make their way back to the cabin. Tear tracks run down George's face like the soft river and Slim tries to cover him from the others' judge-mental gazes. As they walk past, they hear triggering rumours about the cruel ways in which George might've killed his friend.
Slim suddenly sees a flash of white in the corner of his eye. Just as he is turning, Curley’s fist connects with George’s face in a resonating smack. The cabin falls silent. George is on the floor, blood pooling at his nose and trying to stand up.
“It’s alla your fault!” Curley screams. The thick veins of his neck bulge and spittle flies from his mouth. His bulgy hands reach to grab George’s collar and he lifts him so that they are at eye level. “You’re the one that brought that idiot here! And now my wife is dead!”
Slim tries to hold Curley back from giving another punch. He doubts George, with his skinny bones and small frame, could survive another one.
Curley is delirious now. He doesn’t show a trace of sadness, just intense anger at whoever happens to be in front of him. As he waves around, he throws George to the ground and jumps to wrestle an equally large man. The two fall to the ground and shouting breaks out in the cabin like sparrows cawing.
Slim takes this opportunity to take George by the crook of his arm and drag him to his shack. George stares into space as Slim carefully takes care of George’s bleeding face and neck.