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Healing Wounds

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Things have gone completely sideways, upside-down, south, all the possible bad ways they could go. Usually, that was what made things fun, but today it’s just bad for their blood pressure. Particularly when their absurdly-garbed villain-du-jour punts Max to the opposite side of the room like a shark-toothed soccer ball—that level of disrespect makes Sam’s blood boil and, without thinking, he rushes forward with an embarrassingly animalistic snarl, lifting his gun with the intent to smash it against this jerk’s head. Unfortunately he never saw the villain’s toolbelt or what was on it, hidden by their obnoxious overdramatic cape, and he severely underestimates their speed, as well.

The hammer strikes Sam’s shooting arm before he can maneuver out of the way, and the sickening crunch that ensues almost drowns out the immediate sharp pain, nauseating, a strange sort of burning sensation on the inside but a deathly cold on the outside. He reels back with a yelp, arm now limp and flopping at his side—knocking it into his torso sends another jolt of pain seemingly throughout his entire body—as his revolver falls to the floor with the loud sound of metal on concrete. The hammer rises again as he stumbles back almost desperately, panicking now, but before it can hit him again a blinding blur of white slams into his assailant. It takes him a second to register that the ungodly screech he’s hearing is coming from said white blur, who is now, most definitely, going to murder this villain, if the questionable red fluid splashing slightly through the air is anything to go by. Time for Sam to do his job as the resident level-headed dog of the team; keeping his injured arm as still as he can, he uses his other to grab Max by the ears to pluck him off the villain. “Max, no—You’ll kill him!”

“I don’t care!” Max yells in a strangely gruff tone, thrashing around, and Sam drops him with a yowl when an errant foot strikes his broken arm. The pain is bad enough that his knees and lungs give out and he falls on his ass as well, gasping and clutching at it. That catches Max’s attention. “Shit, Sam, are you okay?” He sits up straighter, eyes wide.

“I think my arm is broken,” Sam whines pitifully, squeezing his eyes shut and grinding his teeth. “Pretty bad, too.” He takes a few deep breaths to try and ignore the pain. Max stands up, frozen for a moment. Sam is hunched over his arm, still whining in the back of his throat, and all the lagomorph can think is, The asshole lying unconscious behind me is the one who did this. He hurt Sam, he could’ve killed Sam. The blood-boiling anger rises again and he grinds his teeth, turning around, but Sam lifts his head and says sharply, “Max, don’t. The Freelance Police aren’t supposed to kill people.”

He sounds the same as when he’d admonish Max for biting the classmates who bullied him when they were kids. It’s not something the lagomorph wanted to remember in this context but the comparison’s risen and it won’t go away; the anger now is just the same as it was then, but stronger: a strange sort of protective, possessive rage. Max clenches his fists so hard his arms shake, but he turns back to Sam, who gives him what’s meant to be a reassuring smile. It’s much more pinched and wobbly than his usual grin and Max has to really fight back a second tide of anger. All he can think about is how familiar that wavering smile is and how many times he’d gladly gotten detention for fighting his battles. Somewhere along the lines, that ended up translating into being willing to murder for him, too. “Fine.” He manages, sounding much more curt than he’d ever want to be to Sam; he wipes off some of the blood staining his knuckles on his chest, then looks around. Times like these, he really wishes either of them carried a phone. “Don’t move, there’s bound to be something we can use as a splint…”

“Neither of us knows how to do that, Max.” The dog points out, shifting a bit. “We’d be better off getting back to the DeSoto instead.”

There’s a pause wherein Max wants to insist they try something, but he can’t think of anything, and Sam is right (as he usually is)—they’d be better off driving somewhere they can get help. “Alright,” Max relents, still fuming a little, “I’ll cuff the guy and we’ll drop him off after we hit up a hospital.”

Sam stands, wincing, and in a flash Max is right next to him with a small but strong hand of support. “Thanks, little buddy,” Sam smiles down at him, but Max can’t seem to return the gesture like usual, earning a raised eyebrow from his partner, but before a comment could be made the lagomorph whirls around, withdrawing a pair of cuffs from who-knows-where, stomping over to their villain.

He drags the villain, with extreme prejudice, back to the DeSoto, Sam trailing behind almost nervously. Max drags the man facedown, gravel likely getting lodged up his nose and in his eyes, leaving a trail of blood behind him that Sam takes care not to step in; Max doesn’t even glance back, silently fuming. It’s a little petty to scrape the bad-guy along the floor facefirst, and it’s hardly sporting when they’re already unconscious, but he’s pissed enough that it doesn’t matter. If Sam won’t let him kill this one (which is fair, he supposes), he can at least make the recovery even more miserable. When they reach the DeSoto, Max unceremoniously flings the guy into the backseat, then springs in front of Sam as the dog is about to step over to the driver’s side door. “Like hell am I gonna let you drive with a broken arm.”

“I don’t really want to be shrieking like a grandma in a horror movie all the way there, little pal,” Sam replies, bemused, but his smile falls when Max, in a shockingly authoritative display, glares up at him and silently points to the passenger side of the car. Sam winces, then drags his feet as he plods to the passenger door, acting like he’s been smacked on the nose with a rolled-up newspaper. Metaphorically speaking, he has, to be honest—Max has never been this angry at him before and it’s upsetting—but he clambers into their car anyways, grimacing any time his arm moves. He isn’t paying attention, too fixated on the pain, but Max is watching him with wide eyes, visibly upset. He blinks it away before Sam can notice, shoving the key in the ignition, which he’d pilfered out of Sam’s Inventory earlier, meaning to make a joke out of it after the fight. The engine starts and Max does his best to drive carefully, using the cinderblock they keep under the passenger seat to keep the car moving while he stands on the seat, steering as best he can at top speed. He stares at the road ahead like it owes him money and is trying to beg for more time even as he raises a knife to its neck, sharply focused.

It’s way too quiet, other than the roar of the engine. The air is weird and tense and yet somehow kinda familiar, but not in a pleasant way. It reminds Sam of sleepless nights and rain and neon lights and…

“I never figured you’d be so protective of me, little buddy,” Sam quips without really thinking, trying to lighten the mood a little.

Max glares down at the steering wheel, gritting his teeth for a second. “You don’t know the half of it,” he murmurs just loud enough for Sam to hear. He doesn’t seem to realize he’s said it aloud, though, and Sam can’t think of a response in the time between that muttered confession and him lightly returning the banter, “Well, somebody’s gotta drive me places, Sam. Can’t drive if you’re dead!”

Still caught a little off-guard, Sam chuckles hollowly, staring at Max almost warily, then tries for humor again. “I wonder if that’s why we’ve never seen zombies driving around.”

Finally Max cracks a more genuine smile. “Maybe. I don’t remember you having trouble driving when we were zombies, though.”

“Yeah, but that’s us.” Sam relaxes a little. “The only laws that apply to us are the convenient ones.”

“Good point.” Max turns right, doing his best to not crash into anything. His unusual mindfulness is pretty unnerving and Sam has to restrain himself from saying jeez, Max, it’s just a broken arm, because somehow he feels like maybe it’s not just a broken arm to his partner. He has no idea what else it could be, but he’d rather not ask. Some part of him is a little afraid of the answer.

The hospital trip is less eventful than they’d thought it would be. Sam manages to convince the staff to let him go after they’ve put the cast on despite his other injuries—which was not nearly so difficult given the amount of yelling he’d done when they’d had to take off his jacket and shirt to even get at the arm. He’d always been a bit of a weenie (Max could testify) and the hospital staff were definitely not pleased to be dealing with a rather strong six-foot-tall dog with the pain tolerance of a five-year-old, and they were even less pleased to deal with the sharp-toothed lagomorph who refused to leave his side, though they did appreciate that him holding the dog’s hand made him shut up for a minute when they were working on re-setting the bone.

He’s still a bit loopy from the painkillers they’d given him in a vain attempt to make him quiet down a little, so Max drives them home, seeming a lot calmer than on their way there. Sam tries to insist on sticking his head out the window, but Max adamantly refuses, not entirely sure his partner wouldn’t flop out onto the road. The lagomorph has already had one heart attack relating to Sam’s wellbeing tonight, and he’s not keen on a second.

“C’mon, Max, stop bein’ so…” he searches through the brain-fog of fatigue on possibly-illegal painkillers for the right word for a second before settling on the rather ill-fitting, “fussy. It’s weird!” Sam gripes, though he’s not as annoyed as he’s pretending to be.

Max stifles a sigh, gripping the steering wheel. It had been night when they’d gone out, but now dawn is beginning to bleed over the horizon, and he’s too damn tired to deal with a whiny dog who he cares way too much about but is too much of a coward to inform of that fact.  “You’re not allowed to die before I do, Sam!” He says in a fake cheerful tone, “I’m supposed to drag you down with me, remember? And it better be exciting!”

Sam shuts his mouth, thinking for a moment. Was that why Max was being so weird? He’d never really considered the lagomorph to be particularly soft-hearted; most of the time, he’d laugh when Sam got hurt, or just seemed unfazed entirely... Or was the one who was hurting Sam, out of what he claimed was some kind of affection. Not like Sam hated that or anything, but that’s a, er, another issue. “Whatever you say, little buddy,” he answers kindly, leaning back a little in his seat (though he keeps a stern grip on the dashboard with his free hand). He feels oddly touched. It’s sweet that Max would rather die first, but it’s a little uncomfortable to remember how that technically happened once.

They skid to a halt in front of their house, and Sam hops out easily, keeping his arm close to him despite the cast and sling effectively doing that for him. The neighbors were likely asleep long ago, though the DeSoto’s screeching tires would be a lovely alarm clock to the entire neighborhood. They don’t much care, of course; the odd hours of their job often put their working schedule (or, really, lack thereof) at odds with the neighbors’, so they’ve barely talked outside barbecues they were grudgingly invited to and only occasionally could attend. Those usually ended… poorly.

Their morning—it still feels like evening to them—is a return to some semblance of normalcy, after Max helps Sam haphazardly patch himself up; Sam trying to brush his teeth with his non-dominant hand ends up a hilarious mess, and Max almost chokes on his toothbrush with hyena laughter when the dog finally gives up, glaring at his toothpaste-covered muzzle with an irritated sigh. He rinses off his face as Max finally recovers enough to wheeze, “Gee, Sam, you could be a dead ringer for doggy Santa Claus!”

“Shaddup, or I’ll use you as a hand-towel,” Sam snaps, but there’s a smirk on his face.

Max springs off the stool he uses to reach the sink and giggles. “You’d have to catch me, first!” He hops out of the bathroom cheerfully, headed for the living room to wait for Sam to be done getting dressed for bed.

The lagomorph flops down on the couch, clicking the television on. It’s six in the morning now, he’s damned exhausted, but morning cartoons might be starting soon. That’ll keep him occupied for a little while, he figures, setting the remote down on his stomach as he stares with bleary eyes. The weight of the night is finally truly setting in—their lives are usually a wonderful action-packed whirlwind, but this is the first time in a long time that they needed to go to the hospital for anything other than something they did to a suspect. He’s more than a little surprised at himself, too; he looks down at his hands even though he rinsed the blood off before brushing his teeth. His knuckles hurt a little, pinkish in colour even through his fur (likely pretty bruised, but hey, Sam doesn’t need to know that), but he hadn’t even noticed, too concerned with Sam’s arm. At least nothing worse happened. A little shiver runs up his spine as he thinks about what might have happened if Sam hadn’t flung his arm up—that asshole had been aiming for the dog’s head, after all. And he hit hard enough to break bones…

The door to the bathroom creaks open, yanking Max from his frankly very unnerving thoughts, and he turns to look, puzzled.

“I… don’t think I can get this shirt sleeve off, it’s stuck,” Sam admits, standing sheepishly in the bathroom doorway, haloed by the flickery yellow light behind it. He’s already wearing his pajama pants, and his shirt is unbuttoned and off of the other arm, but it’s a little tangled around the cast.

Max sighs and slides off the couch, trotting over. He’s not frustrated, just tired and a little emotionally-fried. The adrenaline and anger melted away when they flung their perp out of the car at the police station, replaced by a relieved melancholy of sorts. “Here,” he says in an uncharacteristically gentle tone, “Allow me…” Sam sits down on the little stool they keep in there for Max to more easily reach the sink, then glances away when his partner gets close. He feels pretty exposed without a shirt on (hell, he even feels out-of-place in just a short-sleeved shirt) given that his figure is, as he usually says, not the best it could be. Max doesn’t seem to care, or maybe he’s just politely not looking, but either way, he carefully slides his hands along the cast to figure out where in the sleeve it’s getting caught. The snag is at a weird angle, one Sam probably couldn’t’ve figured out on his own without a lot of frustration given he's clearly a bit sore from the fight, but Max can get at it easily with his little paws. “Does it still hurt?”

“Not really. At least, not right now. I hope it won’t hurt in the morning. Er, evening.” Sam scratches his nose with his free hand, still not looking at Max as the lagomorph straightens out the sleeve before sliding it off. “Guess you’re going to have to do the sharp-shooting for a little while, pal.”

Max hums, but doesn’t seem quite so happy about that. He loves shooting things, sure, but it’s not quite the same without Sam by his side, doing it too. “Sam, how long do broken arms take to heal?” He drops the shirt unceremoniously on the ground, eyeing his partner, who still seems too… shy? anxious? to look at him.

“Thanks, little buddy. I don’t know, really, maybe a couple months? That’s when they said to come back.” Sam moves to pick up his pajama shirt, still sitting on the floor, and shrugs it on his good arm before turning to try and wrestle with the bad one.

Without really thinking, Max grabs the sleeve of the shirt and starts to help him put it on. “Ooh, is your arm gonna be all weird and wrinkly? Or does that only happen to humans?”

“I think maybe the fur will be paler and a little flat, but that’s probably about it.” Sam chooses not to address the strangeness that is Max trying to help him put on a shirt. He also does his best not to think about the fact that they’re definitely going to be doing this nearly every day for the next month at least.

“Aw, that’s boring.” Max replies, still grinning, as he tugs the end of the sleeve to smooth out any wrinkles.

Sam chuckles and reaches to start buttoning his nightshirt, which he abruptly realizes is going to be a little difficult—he’s not used to the cast at all, and it does limit the bend-ability of a couple of his fingers, which is important when you’ve only got four of ’em. Three, if thumbs don’t count. Taking off the last one had been tough enough, but maneuvering the buttons into the holes would be time-consuming. He’s content to just struggle with it alone when suddenly Max reaches toward his neck, and his instinctively flinches back, not sure if the lagomorph is about to start an ill-timed wrestling match. He starts to protest, “Max, what—” but stops himself when he realizes his partner has just decided to start buttoning the shirt for him as well. A little embarrassed, he huffs, “You don’t have to button my shirt for me like I’m some kid.”

“I’m tired and I wanna go to bed already, ya big lug,” Max snaps a little harshly in response, but Sam knows he doesn’t really mean it, he’s just matching Sam’s brattiness. “The faster you put a damn shirt on, the faster we can go to sleep.”

At that, Sam decides to shut his mouth and they work together on it. He tries to ignore the invasion of his personal space to the best of his ability—while he usually doesn’t mind Max getting up in his face, this prolonged exposure is kinda weird. To his credit, Max seems aware of this, too, and leaves the last three buttons for Sam to do on his own, hopping back and then up onto the kitchen sink to pick at his teeth without any comment. A weird sort of tension had settled, but once Sam finishes up those last three buttons and swats Max off the sink (he knows he’s not supposed to put his big dirty feet on it, dammit), it’s gone and he thinks nothing of it. They then plod to their shared bedroom, where Max quickly springs for the top bunk. Sam smiles as he watches the lagomorph scramble up the ladder with an amusing amount of vigor for someone who’d been griping about being tired, before walking over to the bottom bunk, kicking over some rubbish on his way. He settles down in his bunk with a little groan, exhausted. It’s been one helluva day. Pretty much the instant his head hits the pillow, he’s snoring.

Max, however, is not so lucky, despite his exhaustion. He’s curled in a ball around his pillow, staring at the wall; falling asleep has always been a bit of a trial for him. He tends to just go until he drops, wherever that may be, no sense of schedule, so now that he has a moment truly to himself he’s just still a little too adrenalized to pass out. Instead, he decides to sit up, stare at the ceiling for a second, then slide down the ladder of his bunk and plod to the window. He’s often seen Sam staring out the window, and in the past he’d never really understood his partner’s penchant for self-reflection—particularly since it seemed to really get to him sometimes, leading him into a little spiral of self-deprecation, which Max hated to see (even if he’d never openly say so)—but lately the idea’s made a bit more sense, grown to have a bit of appeal. He leans against the windowsill, propping his head up on his crossed arms, swinging one leg aimlessly back and forth but taking care not to kick the wall, more out of concern for waking Sam up than doing any damage. The poor guy deserves some shut-eye after the night they’ve had, and Max would rather not deal with a grumpy dog. He growls a lot and it’s almost something frightening when directed at him, entertaining though it may be when directed at virtually anyone else.

As if on cue, he hears a very sleepy growl to his left, where the bed is. He turns, curious, to see his partner twitch slightly in his sleep, and he sneers a little bit, bemused. He’s always done that when he sleeps, and the funniest thing Max ever saw was Sam barking loud enough to wake himself up one night. He’d looked so hilariously, adorably confused, entirely unaware that that was what had woken him up, and Max was cackling too hard to tell him. Sam only ever barked when he was sleeping, for whatever mysterious reason. The lagomorph leans back from the window to loom over his partner instead, shutting the blinds with one hand to keep the growing dawn light from bothering Sam. “What’cha dreamin’ about, Sam?” he hisses, trying to start a conversation without waking the dog up. Sam mumbles unintelligibly, and Max leans a little further forward. “What?”

“—On fire,” he mutters.

“What’s on fire?” Intrigued, Max tilts his head to one side.

Sam furrows his brow. “No.”

“No?” He restrains a giggle.

More unintelligible mumbling, and Max crawls over the head of the bed to crouch like a gremlin next to his partner’s pillow, careful not to shake the bed. “... know he’s still in there, just gimme a…” He cuts himself off with a growl, grimacing, and now the amusement has faded to a mild concern. Whatever he’s dreaming about doesn’t seem as fun as arson.

Max gently reaches over and pats Sam on the head. “Shh, relax, big guy. It’s just a dream, shut up already.” He means it kindly, in his own way.

Sam jolts slightly with a little grunt, half-opening his eyes. “Max?”

“Go back to sleep,” the lagomorph puts his hand over Sam’s eyes.

Usually that’d just piss him off, but he’s tired enough that he just mumbles something else that Max can’t decipher and sinks back into his pillow again. The lagomorph takes his hand away with a grin, then moves to crawl over Sam and out of the bed when the dog suddenly drapes his good arm over Max and sleepily slurs out, “Don’t go anywhere, Max.”

“Jeez, Sam, you’re gettin’ all clingy on me.” Max teases lightly. Oh, Sam is going to be embarrassed as hell about this in the morning, but that doesn’t mean Max won’t take full advantage of this opportunity while it’s here. He lets the weight of Sam’s arm drag him down.

“I know.” The dog yawns, eyes still closed. He’s snoring again almost immediately afterwards, and Max wriggles a little bit to lie on his side, looking up at his partner with an amused grin. Sam definitely won’t remember any of this, but at least he seems less distressed about whatever that was. Hell, given the way Max’s brain is, he won’t remember either, but he couldn’t care less.