They can hear the band of scavs getting closer, and Max doesn't say anything but he tilts his head in their direction, eyes hard, and she nods. Furiosa knows it's going to be bad when he tips his forehead to meet hers, a press of skin before he slinks off into the dark alleyway between the rotten crumbling houses of the old-world city they're in.
She grits her teeth and decides not to try and take her boot off, instead wrapping the scraps of cloth right around the dusty leather, tight enough to stabilize her ankle if she's lucky. It's a sprain rather than a break, but it's still going to slow her down.
Keep moving, she thinks to herself, and when her ankle is as good as it's going to get she grabs the bag of loot and starts hobbling towards their hidden car. The scavs haven't found it, or else she'd be hearing its engine roaring alongside their wild yelling, and though she keeps a sharp eye out and her hand on her gun, they haven't found this route of escape either.
Furiosa stashes the bag and listens to the sound of gunfire, distant yelling. The smart thing to do would probably be to get in the car and drive away now that they have the salvage they came for.
She grabs her rifle from the holster on the dash and starts moving towards the noise as quickly as her hurt ankle will let her, mentally counting her bullets against the number of scavs she remembers. When she creeps in close enough to get a bead on them she can't see Max and she can't hear him, but the scavs don't look triumphant and relaxed as if they know they've gotten a kill. It takes two headshots for them to start shooting in her direction, but she's already moving.
There had been nine originally, and Max has left her with five. Now three.
A small explosion takes out one of the rickety walls of the building ahead of her as well as another scav, and she bares her teeth in something that tries to be a grin because they'd only had grenades with them, nothing with pressure or timed triggers, so he's definitely still lurking. The scavs are wasteful with their bullets and her ankle keeps her from moving as well as she'd like, but she drops one of the last two without taking more than a graze on the arm herself.
Max appears from the shadows and stabs something rusty and metallic through the gut of the last, but not before the scav jerks around and squeezes off one last round of bullets. They both collapse in a heap and Furiosa feels extraordinarily detached and calm as she limps her way over to them.
The scav's twitching, dying slow, but their gun's out of bullets and only clicks uselessly. She wastes a bullet of her own so she can see their brains leak out onto the cracked and ruined pavement, then dismisses them entirely.
"Max?" she says, crouching down next to him. He missed being impaled on the spike and his chest is moving; she puts the back of her fingers against his throat, unwilling to put down her gun but needing to feel his pulse.
At the touch he stirs, eyes blinking open, and then he's forcing himself upright with a deeply pained groan. He shakes his head. "Only clipped me."
Furiosa is far from convinced- a graze shouldn't be enough to drop him- but he's upright now and looks coherent, so she lets it go. "The rest'll be here soon," she says, as if it really needs to be said.
He nods, and they make their way back to the car, leaning on one another for support.
It takes about three hours of driving before Max collapses. Her attention has been divided between him and the jungle of buildings and car blockades that they have to navigate to get out of this wretched dead city, so she hasn't noticed him fading as quickly as she should have.
She says his name sharply and he stirs, but now that the sun's started rising she can see the sheen of sweat, how his face is going pale. Furiosa slides the car into the first open alleyway she sees and cuts the engine. Whatever calm detachment she was feeling before has abandoned her; she can barely think for the anger and fear surging up through her.
"You weren't just clipped," she says, not a question.
Max mumbles a vague protest. There's some blood soaking through the bandaging he'd put over the wound on his abdomen, but nowhere near enough to earn this level of shock- unless it's internal, but his skin doesn't look bruised enough to her for that. Likely a stabbing or a second gunshot then, one he didn't notice or didn't tell her about.
She checks their surroundings: quiet, for now. Plenty of places for a sniper to be hiding- though she doesn't think this band of scavs has that sort of equipment, and they'd have been shot at already besides.
"Strip," Furiosa orders, pivoting in the driver's seat so she can get a knee up onto the edge of his seat, straddling the center console to get close. "Jacket, now."
He frowns at her, but his attempt to hunch in on himself results in him grimacing and letting out something like a whimper. She doesn't wait for his cooperation but grabs at the front of his jacket, tugging it back to reveal that the fabric over his shoulder is dark and sticky with blood.
"You fucking idiot," she says. There's bandaging wadded up against his shoulder that's clearly not done nearly enough, and she would wonder when he even had the time to get it packed in there except her vision had gone gray for a bit when she finally got her foot out of her boot to wrap her ankle properly.
"Nn, was fine," Max says, words slurring around the edges.
She doesn't bother responding and instead starts tugging his jacket off, as careful as she can under the circumstance. It's his right shoulder, which is slightly less likely to bleed out but worse if there's any nerve or muscle damage.
There's no exit wound.
"The bullet's still inside," she tells him, ripping his shirt away from his shoulder so she can see his bare skin and tell if there's a pumping artery to worry about. The wound is small, which hopefully means the bullet was already slowing down from traveling through the air and didn't do as much damage as it could have.
"Leave it," he says.
Furiosa shakes her head. "You've probably got bits of your shirt in there too."
They shouldn't be doing this in the car, and the buildings on either side had looked sturdy enough to not fall down on them without encouragement, and they'll have more floorspace than there is in this alley.
She rifles through the back of the car until she finds the med kit, and then she gets out of the car to walk to his side. "Come on," she says, "I need you flat for this."
Max lets out a growled breath but starts heaving himself out of the car, right arm held protectively close to himself. She feels the strain in her ankle keenly as she slings his uninjured arm over her shoulder, helping support his weight while they stagger towards the building.
The city around them is still empty, dead, but she's bracing herself for that to change.
Inside the store there's a little half-wall partition that keeps them out of sight if she crouches, but is close enough to the front windows and the ‘skylight' punched through the rotting ceiling to give her enough light to see by. She'd prefer more, but she doesn't have an electric torch with her and lighting a fire would be far too likely to draw attention.
"Easy now," she murmurs as she lowers him to the remains of what had once been a carpet, trying to be reassuring.
Max looks out of it almost entirely, a vague frown on his face and his eyes only partway open. If he passes out they'll be stuck here until he's up again- she can't carry his bulk all the way to the car with her ankle jacked up like this- but it'll also be easier to work if he isn't squirming and jerking all over the place.
The med kit is pretty well-stocked; the girls had seen to that. Nothing is sterile but the tools had been boiled before they went in, and she hasn't had to crack open the case since getting it. It should be alright.
She pulls out the long tweezers, the sharp little knife, the precious bottle of poppy extract. Most of the other medicines that they use now don't travel well, so she has only a few dried herbs she doesn't really know how to use.
Furiosa grabs the poppies and sets the rest on top of the case besides her, within easy enough reach.
He rolls his head to look at her, misery and pain on every line of his face. But he nods when he sees the bottle, and lets her put a few drops onto his tongue before turning his head the other way and squeezing his eyes tight.
She kneels down on top of him, holding his trunk steady with her legs and bracing the rest of her weight on her metal hand to keep his shoulder still. She peels away the dressing and then she starts probing the wound with the tweezers, needing to ignore the way he jerks and groans in pain under her. The bullet went deep and might have nicked a vein, but it's hard to be sure in the dim light.
Max thrashes and she presses down harder; the more he moves the more pain the tweezers cause as they're jostled, but between the pain, bloodloss, and whatever effect the poppies are having already, he isn't coherent enough to make that connection.
"Easy," she tells him, voice as gentle as she can make it under the circumstances, "Easy, Max." She isn't entirely sure whether she's speaking in order to calm him, or herself.
He whimpers pitifully and then goes slack, unconscious at last. Furiosa breaths a sigh of relief, no matter how much more precarious some things are now that he's not awake. It's unlikely that she overdosed him but it's possible, and if he went under on his own it's also possible that he won't wake without more care than she can give him in his derelict building with her bare-bones medical knowledge.
She finds the bullet smashed against his scapula, a lead weight against cracked white bone. It needs to come out; she can see threads of cloth tangled in the area, and she thinks it might be in a place he'll feel if it's left in, anyway.
She has to hold the handle of the tweezers in her mouth- even unconscious Max's body twitches, needing to be held down with her left arm- and grabs for the scalpel to open the surrounding flesh up enough for her to get it out. She can't look at him while she does it, can't let herself think about how this is Max's body she's cutting, Max's blood on her hands. If she's doing this wrong, if he doesn't wake back up…
Furiosa holds her breath the entire time, tweezers clamped cold and metallic between her teeth as she concentrates. As soon as she thinks she has enough clearance for the flattened bullet to come out she switches the knife for tweezers again.
They're slippery with blood and she can't get a grip on the small chunk of metal; she grinds her teeth so hard her jaw aches and focuses, stopping the tremor that wants to shake her arm by force of will.
The bullet comes out with a sucking noise that nearly makes her gag, then falls silently to the threadbare carpeting beneath them as she discards it.
She has to dive back in, parting his damaged flesh again to get out as many scraps of cloth and leather as she can find; she knows she's missing some, maybe enough to cause serious problems, but she doesn't dare keep the wound open much longer when he's still bleeding like this.
Furiosa splashes some of the kit's ethanol over the wound haphazardly, his body spasming at the burn, and then presses down with the already-bloody bandage again. Like this she has enough leverage to get some good pressure, should be able to stop the bleeding in a few minutes if it really wasn't anything worse than just a nick.
If he doesn't stop bleeding she'll have to stitch it closed and she doesn't want to do that, not when it's so deep. She counts the seconds in her head, gaze still turned away from his face.
Between the drugs and the shock he's been relatively quiet, not shouting and screaming, and she hopes that's enough to not draw attention.
Three minutes, four. At six she cautiously lightens the pressure and checks under the bandage; it's still bleeding, but sluggishly. Either because it's clotting or because the damn fool's lost enough blood that there's not much left to bleed. She puts pressure back on his shoulder and counts another five minutes, staring at the bullet and the small pile of bloody fabric threads she'd removed, staring at the little bottle of poppy extract. Anywhere but at his face; she can't do it, can't watch him if this is it.
Max starts coming around when she takes away the bandage for the second time. The flow of blood has been severely lessened and she breathes out in relief because he wouldn't have woken if it was slowing from bloodloss, which means his blood must be clotting after all.
"Furi…" he rasps out, wavering but too strong to be his last, and she finally looks at him now that he isn't a corpse. He's still pale, still shocky, but his eyes focus on her for a moment.
"Stop doing this," she snaps without meaning to. Injuries are a fact of life and she can no more imagine him settling down to a safe life in the Citadel than she can imagine herself doing so, but if he was less stubborn, if he remembered that she's on his side, that he can rely on her…
"S'rry," he slurs.
Furiosa feels for the pulse in his neck with her red-stained hand despite being able to feel his chest moving beneath her. When she has it she brushes her lips against his forehead before resting her forehead there, breaths coming in shaky as she collects herself. His left hand hits gently against her arm like he's trying to get a hold on her but can't coordinate himself. She allows herself a count of thirty, timing it on the beating of his heart under her fingertips, weak but steady.
"Come on," she says when she pulls away, "We've got to keep moving."