1. "It's July."
"Yeah." B.A. didn't look up from the magazine he was reading.
"And it's Saturday."
"Why are you here?" he asked, turning a page.
"The first Saturday of July."
He sighed and put down the magazine when he realized Murdock wasn't going anywhere. "You gonna get to the point any time soon?"
"So it's International Free Hugs Day," Murdock said, looking at him like that was something everybody knew, and not something that B.A. was pretty sure he just made up. "And you owe me a hug."
"It ain't free if I owe it," he pointed out.
"That's okay," Murdock said, stepping closer and patting his shoulder, "you can give me a free one next year."
He picked Murdock's hand off his shoulder and let it drop. "Go bug Face or Hannibal."
"I already did."
Murdock had the look on his face that he got when he wasn't going to give up, no matter what. This didn't even make the list of the weirdest things he'd demanded, so B.A. sighed and opened his arms. "Hurry up."
Murdock grinned and pounced on him, wrapping his arms around B.A. and burying his face in his neck. B.A. hooked an arm loosely around him, half-heartedly returning the hug. Just when he was about to push him off, he let go and stepped away.
"You should probably practice for next year," Murdock said.
He was not going to practice for next year.
2. "I love you." Murdock fell against B.A. in a way that he was fairly certain was supposed to be a hug, if Murdock weren't incredibly drunk.
"I know," B.A. said while trying to move him toward the couch. He was maybe a little more drunk than he thought, because the couch hadn't looked that far away a second ago.
"No, I love you," Murdock said again. Maneuvering him was hard when he was too busy trying to wrap himself around B.A. to help.
"Uh huh," B.A. said, concentrating more on figuring out which of the couches was the real one than what Murdock was saying.
"A lot," he added. "More'n- Almost more'n flying. I think."
"Okay." He pushed Murdock back and hoped for the best.
The couch was there, but Murdock had a hand wrapped in B.A.'s shirt sleeve, and ended up pulling him down on top of him. He almost impaled himself on the fool's hat. Murdock wrapped his arms and legs around him and held him there, which was okay because B.A. wasn't so sure he could actually get up.
"Now you tell me you love me too," Murdock prompted, sounding less drunk than he had thirty seconds ago, which wasn't fair because B.A. felt more drunk.
"I love you too," he said into Murdock's hair. "Almost as much as my van."
He felt Murdock's arms tightening around him before he passed out.
3. B.A. knocked on Murdock's motel room door and called his name one more time, before trying the knob and going in. Murdock's cellphone and wallet were on the nightstand, and there was no sign of a struggle, so he had to be there.
"Where are you, fool?" B.A. called. "We were supposed to leave half an hour ago."
"Go away," came a small voice from between the edge of the bed and the wall. "Nobody's home."
Aw, fuck. "Do you want me to get Hannibal or Face?"
"No," Murdock said, with enough force that B.A. put his phone back in his pocket. "Just go away. I'll fly back."
Instead, he walked around the bed until he could see Murdock, huddled against the wall and the edge of the bed. "What's wrong?"
"I don't want to talk about it," he said to the floor, and then looked up at B.A. and glared. "They always make you talk about it. But I'm not gonna."
"You gonna come out?"
"No," Murdock said, looking at the floor again. One of his fingers was rubbing the leg of his jeans.
B.A. sighed inside. He couldn't just leave him there, but he wasn't about to drag him out or go get someone else if he didn't want someone else. "Can I come in?"
Murdock though about it for a moment, then nodded.
"Scoot forward," he said. When Murdock did, he stepped over him and slid down the wall behind him. "You don't tell no one I did this."
He pulled Murdock back against him and wrapped his arms around him, holding tight. He could feel fine tremors running through his body. After a moment, Murdock leaned back against him, and brought his hands up to cover B.A.'s and hold them in place.
"I'm not letting go," B.A. said, rubbing his thumbs over Murdock's shirt soothingly.
"Okay," Murdock said, but he didn't move his hands.
They stayed like that for a while.
4. Murdock was tired. He was tired and hungry and sore and he couldn't stop jittering and everything sounded funny because his ears were still ringing from the explosion. He wanted someone to make him feel better, and if he couldn't have that, then to go shower off the dirt and blood and go to sleep for a while.
"You don't look so good, buddy," Face said, which, thank you, Face. He was pretty sure Face wouldn't look so good either if he'd been locked in a grimy cell for most of the day and then almost blown up.
"Geez, sorry," Face said, looking miffed.
Oops, he hadn't meant to say that out loud. "Can we go back to the hotel now?"
"B.A.'s bringing the van around," Hannibal said. "How're you doing, kid?"
"I want to get off the merry-go-round now," he said. He hadn't felt this dizzy since the job at the amusement park where they let him ride the carousel for three hours when it was over. He was pretty sure the floor wasn't supposed to be moving like that, unless maybe they were in the fun-house and he just hadn't noticed.
He made it to the van mostly okay. He tried to make reassuring faces at Bosco, who kept checking him in the rear-view mirror, but he was pretty sure the split lip and dried blood up around his hairline was ruining the "I am totally one hundred percent fine" effect.
Back at the hotel, the boss told him to get some rest, and Face told him that he was next door if he needed anything, like Murdock didn't already know that.
"C'mon." Bosco was standing by the van door, waiting for him.
"I'm pretty sure that last round on the tilt-a-whirl was a bad idea," he said, trusting that Bosco would keep him from falling over.
"You weren't at a carnival, fool," Bosco said.
"Whatever you say." The hotel room door was way further away than it looked.
"You need any help?" Bosco asked after he dropped Murdock to sit on the bed.
No. He didn't need help. He needed a shower and a hug and someone to bring him the lunch that he'd missed, not necessarily in that order. He wanted a whole lot more, but he'd settle for those three things.
"Give me a hug," he said, because Bosco wasn't going to do it unless he told him to.
"A hug. I want one." He thought he was going to have to tell him again, but Bosco abruptly sat down next to him and pulled him into an awkward hug. It wasn't going to make everything better, but it would make the next couple seconds okay. He held on tight so that Bosco would maybe not let go as quickly. A shower and food could wait.
5. B.A. waited until they were alone before grabbing Murdock and pulling him into a quick hug. It took a second for Murdock to get with the program, but then he hugged him back.
When he let go, he had stopped grinning and was eying B.A. mistrustfully. "What was that for? Did you run over Billy again?"
"I said I ain't gonna practice, not I ain't gonna hug you again," B.A. explained, ignoring the part about the imaginary dog. This was gonna get awkward in a couple seconds.
Murdock looked confused for a second, before it dawned on him what was going on. "You hugged me because last year I told you this was free hugs day."
"Yeah," he said, relaxing. He knew Murdock had made that up.
Murdock stared at him for a second, and then said, "The first Monday in July is free kisses day."
"I'm not falling for-" He stopped when his brain caught up to what Murdock was saying, and rolled his eyes. "Every day can be free kisses day, if that's what you want, fool."
And every day was.