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Tripod

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Their conversations were always short, clipped to pleasantries and quick questions about the weather outside. Normally they made Matthew promise himself that he would let Will out of his therapy cage to get a view of the outdoors, but sometimes the conversations were different.

Will would speak about his dogs, telling him all the names and how he had found each one. There was always real warmth in his face when he talked about them. It had stuck in his mind.

Matthew wanted to be the reason that Will filled with warmth like that, and it frustrated him that he couldn’t be.

His mind was chasing the idea of freeing Will his whole walk home when he heard the sad whine.

At first he couldn’t place the noise, the high pitch dragging out and the small yowl that followed. Normally he would have ignored it, just continued home and got a full night of sleep, but it made him think of Will.

It took him ten minutes to find where the noise was coming from, and by that time his shoes were covered in mud from the ditch. The puppy was hard to even see, it was so covered in filth that it almost looked like a disregarded rag except for the little mouth that kept crying out.

Even as he tried to pick it up it squirmed and wiggled in his grip. Matthew could see why it was crying as soon as he had it in his hand, its right front leg crushed to the point that it looked like a flap of flesh rather than a limb.

When he tried to get a better look, it ruthlessly nipped him, the pain from the tiny teeth in his thumb almost making him drop the pup.

“Shit little guy, watch it.”

Matthew knew it needed medical attention just by looking at it, and was instantly glad it was small so that he could hold it in one hand while he used his phone to look up a veterinary hospital that would have someone on call.

It was going to eat into his saving, but he wanted to save the dog, even if it was just for Will.

The transit was long since closed and as he sat in the taxi with the muddy dog trying to fight his hand he felt his frustration grow. Matthew was just trying to help for once and he was going to end up with a dozen little teeth marks in his hand.

By the time he arrived at the veterinary hospital his hand was sore and the dog was starting to realise he wasn’t trying to hurt it.

/

Matthew could hardly keep his eyes open; they ached from the lack of sleep. He had been up most the night waiting for the dog to go through surgery to amputate his leg, and then the rest of it making sure that the little guy got his medication and pain killers on time. When washed the dog was actually a fuzzy white, looking much cuter than the mop he had found.

Matthew had eaten breakfast while looking for a recipe online that he could feed it, and was surprised at how complicated dog food could be. He had packaged up enough for it with his lunch, keeping the food and the dogs pills in his jacket pocket.

He couldn’t even leave him at home, the dog needing to be medicated every four hours. So the pup had gone in his coat and even though he was sweating, the dog was curled up against his body finally asleep and he wasn’t about to try and move it. Matthew already had to get shots before he came in just in case, and the rabies one was making his arm ache. His hand was even bandaged where the little teeth had broken the skin.

The morning started like it always did, handing the different inmates their breakfast, Will waiting in his underwear still looking shaken from sleep. Matthew wanted to see a different expression, so as he passed through the tray he paused and unzipped just enough that Will would get a peek at the furry body hidden inside.

“What’s that?”

Matthew knew that the recording devices would catch everything; he needed to come back on his break. He mouthed ‘I’ll show you’ before walking on. He had the rest of the ward to feed.

It was almost two hours later before he could make it back, Chilton wasn’t in his office to watch over the recording so a few minutes missing would not be missed. As long as he kept it short.

The guard let him into the ward, used to him having his breaks in the hallway chatting with the inmates. Matthew was good at his job, so he was given curtain allowances that might have been otherwise looked down on.

Will was in his jumpsuit; sitting on the bed looking like he was somewhere else.

“Mr. Graham.”

Will blinked a few times, shaking out of wherever he was.

“I have a visitor for you.”

Will looked interested, walking a little closer to the bars, an eyebrow raising.

As soon as he zipper was down the pup tried to fling himself out, it was a fight to get him into his hand. Matthew tried to turn his back to the guard, hoping to cover the sight of the puppy getting passed through the bars.

Will’s face had lit up like he had never seen before and he only paused for a beat before carefully taking it.

“Be careful he’s vicious.”

The puppy wasn’t trying to bite at all, docile as Will looked him over and rubbed his belly.

“What happened to him?”

“I don’t know, the doctor thought maybe a car hit him. I rescued him.”

Will was grinning as he gave it gentle pets, cooing to the dog about how good he was.

“Can you keep him in here? I can’t have him in my coat all day and he needs someone to look after him. I have some food and meds, all the instructions are on the bottle.”

He could have kept him in his coat; he just wanted to keep that look on Will’s face. Matthew wanted to know that Will was smiling all day because of him. Will didn’t hesitate; he quickly nodded and held out his other hand. Matthew passed him all the things he would need to care for the dog when the guard was looking away.

“You’re going to need to keep him quiet, I have to turn the recording back on.”

“I think I can do that.”

He couldn’t linger too much longer, and he scanned Will’s face trying to memorise the joy outlined in it.

As he started to walk away he heard Will call to him.

“Wait!”

When he turned back Will continued.

“What’s his name?”

Matthew hadn’t thought to name him; his mind was more on how he was going to get through the day while so tired. He looked at the three legs dangling from Will’s hands and said the first thing that came to his mind.

“Tripod.”

/

Matthew couldn’t risk turning the recording devices off a second time, if he spent that much time in Chilton’s office someone may notice. Then he could get in real trouble, Matthew couldn’t risk any of the liberties he got now, not while Will was kept in the hospital.

When his shift finished Matthew waited to get let in again, walking to the cell he knew so well. Will had the dog hidden in his jumpsuit only taking it out when he saw Matthew. Before he could open his mouth Matthew held up a finger motioning for silence.

Will set the dog down, walking a few steps and showing Matthew how the dog stumbled after him with enthusiasm. He could hear soft laughter from Will as he picked him up. They didn’t need to speak for Matthew to know that Will was proud of the little dog’s clumsy steps.

Matthew could only watch in wonder at how much the puppy seemed to like him. Will held him carefully, gesturing that he was going to give him back, but when Matthew checked the guard was still watching.

He couldn’t stay much longer and he couldn’t be seen passing a puppy through the bars.

As they stood looking at each other Will quickly understood his problem, he waved him closer. Matthew trusted him and stepped over the line. Will’s hand darted out, grabbing the front of his jacket.

Matthew felt the cold bar contact painfully with his jaw at first as he was pulled to the bars. The soft warm lips pressing against his own made the pain worth it. He only felt the flick of tongue asking permission before he felt the hand in his jacket and the wiggling body trying to escape. As Will’s tongue slid against his own he felt his hand entering a second time with what he guessed was the medication.

“Step away from the bars. Step back Mr. Graham!”

“Thank you.”

Will mumbled into his mouth before stepping back, his hands raised to show that he wasn’t trying anything as the guards rushed forward.

Matthew could feel the squirming in his jacket and he put his arm on the side to hide it. The guards were too focused on Will to notice that the puppy.

“Are you okay Brown?”

“I’m fine. Just shaken up.”

He said, meaning every word. Matthew could feel his stomach flop in excitement as his eyes met with Will’s for a moment. Matthew was warm to his toes as they shared a smile.

“We’re going to have to make sure he didn’t take anything. Hands through the bars Mr. Graham.”

Will moved to obey and Matthew took the chance to leave without being noticed. He would have to write an incident report tomorrow, but for now Matthew and his dog had both had a day that made all the paperwork worth it.