For the fourth night in a row, an awful howling fills the still, desert night and Furiosa sits up in bed, Max mysteriously missing, and listens to it in dead silence. It's a silly thought, a childish one, but she hopes the creature-- she assumes it's some sort of dog; a dingo maybe?-- isn't hurt. But something about it makes her think of Max. Perhaps he mentioned something about having a dog to her once? He seems like he'd like dogs. And something about the fact it sounds like only one animal makes her think of him too.
But he isn't there for the fourth night in a row.
By the time she wakes, she can feel warmth next to her, the kind of warmth only few things can create, one of those things being another human being, and she opens her eyes to see Max curled up into her side. (He's a cuddler.) She lightly smiles at him. He appears younger in his sleep, less tortured, and smaller too. But duty calls and she has to quietly crawl out of bed and prepare for the day without waking him.
By the time Max stumbles into the mess hall, still half asleep, Furiosa is almost done with her breakfast, and listening to Nux and Capable explain the successes of the clean-up effort led by the War Boys, now just the Boys, and their efforts at medical treatments for the sick, including Nux whose windpipe is still under assault from Larry and Barry, which occasionally renders him unable to work. With a good-morning grunt, which is slightly more cheerful than his usual greeting grunt, he settles down next to Furiosa and across from Nux with his porridge.
"Did any of you hear the baying last night?" Capable asks. "That dog, or whatever it is, was at it again."
"I heard it," Furiosa answers. "If it continues for another night, I'll lead a patrol to search for its source."
Max blinks a few times, carefully considering his words for a few minutes, and making his usual odd faces, often mouthing his words before speaking, and grunts that mean he's really really thinking about this. "Dog!" he shouts a bit too loud, attracting the attention of nearly the entirely mess hall. "There's a dog? Did you-- did you see it?"
"Dog? It is nice? Can you eat it? What's a dog?" Nux squints, thinking about this "dog" and why one could possibly excite someone like Max so much. It must be important, he decides, Dog must be very important if Blood Bag thinks so highly of it.
Max looks like someone has personally insulted him and visibly struggles to find the words he needs to speak. "No!" he ends up yelling, and Furiosa buries her face in her hands because now the entire mess hall is staring at him. "Dogs aren't food; they're friends." He shakes his head and she swears there are tears in his eyes. "Dogs are such-- such great-- I love dogs."
"Max?" Capable softly asks. "Are you feeling alright? Do you need to go back to bed?"
She masks her fear, but Nux shows his very plainly on his face, the absence of face paint only serving to make his facial expression even more apparent. He nervously pulls of Capable's sleeve a few times, and then whispers to her, while Max looks to Furiosa with his head tilted a bit to the side.
"Well." Furiosa stands. "I'll be going."
Stumbling to his feet, Max quickly follows without any sort of goodbye, not even a grunt.
"What was that?" she asks once they're further down the hall and on their way towards The Dag's gardens. "You yelled in the mess hall and--"
"I like dogs," he interrupts. He's smiling and it warms her heart a little because it's such a light, content grin. "If there's a dog-- a dog, I...." He trails off, staring off, and she's lost him.
The howling continues that night, the fifth night in a row, and Max is gone, also for the fifth night in a row.
Furiosa mounts her motorcycle and checks that her gun's loaded before riding off into the night in search of the lone-- at least she hopes it's only one; a pack might mean trouble-- dog in the desert. The cold night air whips around her and soothes her nerves. For as damaging as silence can be, that night it calms her. The dog is noticeable from a distance among the smooth sand dunes and it's not much of a dog than it is a rather large dingo, the largest she's ever seen.
Its gaze pierces her; she feels its eyes boring into her even from a distance, but it doesn't move. Glued to the spot by the intensity of the dingo's gaze, she doesn't move either. Time passes, but she doesn't know how much; it feels like she spends an eternity being speared by the dingo's eyes, but it might have only been minutes or even seconds.
Suddenly, the spell is broken by a long, sorrowful howl, almost like a song, like the dingo is lamenting some sort of loss to the night sky and to Furiosa. And then the dingo runs away, its tail between its legs, its head held low, and its limp very apparent.
When she wakes, Max is curled up next to her, much more sandy than he ought to be, and she sighs because she still hasn't the slightest idea where he goes at night. It's not like there's really anywhere he can go in such a short amount of time, but he's left for the past five nights now. As she ponders her situation with the dingo, the dingo's motives, and Max's disappearances, she scratches his head and behind his ears, something he loves, something that makes him putty in her hands, and he pleasantly sighs.
The third night of sneaking out to find the dingo, the eighth night of howling, the eighth night of Max disappearing at night, the dingo sits barely an arm's reach away from her. Slowly and cautiously, it moves closer, its eyes flicking from place to place, seemingly unable to focus on one object for too long. With its wild eyes, bad leg, fur that sticks up at an odd angle on the back of its head, and overall caution, it reminds her of a certain Fool and, if he were there, she would certainly bag on him for it, ask him if he happens to be related to any dingos; maybe you're brothers?
"Max," she says out loud to the dingo, who tilts his head to the side in a very Max-like manner. Hell, the dingo even squints and shakes like he does. "I'll name you Max after a good friend of mine."
Dingo Max's tongue lolls out of its mouth and it wags its tail, seemingly happy with its new name.
She runs her hand over the dingo's head, smiling as it wags its tail faster and it rolls onto its back. It makes a sound, almost a grunt, a rather familiar grunt, in the back of its throat and carefully watches her hands, but makes no effort to move or fight or run. Her hands find their way to dingo Max's stomach, particularly to a spot on his side that makes it kick its good hind leg and blissfully close its eyes: the picture of happiness.
And when she didn't think the dingo could be any happier, she scratches its head and then behind its ears, and it sighs. She pauses, stares at the dingo, seemingly unaware of how familiar that noise is to her, how well she knows that particular sigh because it's Max's.
She leaves before the dingo does because she just can't take this, not so damn late.
"You're coming with me tonight," she says to Max the person on morning after her eleventh night in a row with Max the dingo.
He looks up from his food and tilts his head to the side. "Hm?"
"To see the dog," she explains. "I've befriended it."
"Really?" He lights up and it's possibly the happiest she's ever seen him aside from the first time she suggested there might be a dog. "Really?"
She smiles and nods.
It's an unusually cold night and the two of them sit close in the sand in their coats. He's shaking next to her, even more than usual, and she hopes it means he's excited because he certainly looks excited as he scans the sand dunes; it looks childlike, almost innocent if Max could ever be described as such. His grunts have meanings, his various squints and head tilts do too, but she hasn't decoded his shakes; she assumes they must mean something too. Hoping to calm his shaking a little-- it's starting to worry her a little how he's moving so much-- she reaches over and scratches his head, and there's that sigh again, the one he shares with Max the dingo, who hasn't shown up yet.
He leans into her touch and she stops scratching. There's a rustling sound next to her, the sound of very quietly movement, and then his chapped lips are being pressed against hers.
She wakes up in the sand still, more tired than one ought to be after sleeping, but then again, she didn't sleep much the night before. Max the dingo didn't show, much to Max the person's disappointment, but Max the person, her favorite Max, was enough, more than enough, for one night. Slowly, she sits up and surveys their surroundings, not speaking a word until Max stirs next to her.
"Fuck," he breathes. "We're gonna look so suspicious going back together like this."
His hair is messy, messier than just sleep-mussed, messier than his normal messy because, let's face it, he doesn't have the neatest hair even when it's freshly cut, and the Sisters will definitely know what happened, especially if they return together. He'd joked about talking a "walk of shame" from her room to his one morning before they shared a room, but this is on an entirely different scale; the entire Citadel could possibly know. And not that she's ashamed of Max, of herself for being in a relationship, but she doesn't want that. Mainly for Max's sake since he shies away from the spotlight. She can handle it; him, not so much.
Luckily, it's early enough that the only coherently awake person they bump into is Dowel, an excitable and young former War Boy who volunteered to take the early shift, who smiles, which seems to exaggerate a deep scar across his cheek, and waves at them from his station, but seems to think nothing weird of their entry, of if he does, he makes no indication of it.
"Thank god," Furiosa mumbles, thankful it's just a Boy.
He hums in his agreement.
However, breakfast is a different story as Capable and Toast corner them as soon as they sit down, Capable sitting on Furiosa's other side and Toast sitting next to Max. Nux, innocent and friendly as ever-- well, for a former War Boy and in the ways of women, at least-- sits across from Capable, while Cheedo and The Dag sit next to him. Max grunts, searching for a way out. Furiosa, having accepted her fate, sullenly picks at her breakfast.
"So," Capable begins. "We noticed you guys weren't in your room last night. Where were you?"
"Dog." And then Max grunts by way of an answer before staring to eat, and the Sisters (plus Nux) turn to Furiosa to explain.
"We were looking for the dog we've been hearing at night," she explains. "I've befriended it and it's a nice, but very large, lone dingo. He wanted to see it since he likes dogs, but it didn't come last night. We fell asleep in the sand."
Cheedo snorts. "Sure, he got his hair that messy just sleeping."
"I swear we only slept," Furiosa replies. "Nothing more."
"We didn't see the dog," Max offers, not really contributing much to the conversation, but talking nonetheless, before dropping his knife and trying to catch it with shaky hands, resulting in a cut across the back of his right hand.
The next time Max the dingo very carefully approaches Furiosa much like Max the person once did when Max the person isn't present, she notices something peculiar: it has a cut across the top of its right paw.