Thanks to The Beta Branch for their ongoing support and critical eyes with the ficlets I keep churning out. There's more of this story to come, guys. Hope you enjoy.
The dog went down with a shrill yelp that startled all of them.
Brandt and Dunn, being the two self-confessed animal lovers of the group, were by its side in an instant.
"Where'd she get hit?" Hunt asked when he joined them, one hand pressed to an injured hip while he ran the back of the other across his face.
Brandt ran a hand along the dog's flank. The constant low whimper became a high pitched whine when he crossed the spot above its hind leg, and Ethan had his answer.
"She'll survive that," he said with confidence. "Put her in the trunk."
Will looked at him as if offended. "The trunk?"
Instead, they made the journey with Brandt in the back seat, the dog across his lap and Benji peering over the passenger side head rest at irregular intervals to check up on them.
Will carried her into the vets office in his arms, offered a mumbled excuse about jogging and cattle and farmers, and allowed himself to be ushered out into the waiting room while the dog was taken into surgery.
"Where did she even come from," Benji wondered, breaking the silence of the room and earning a stern look from the elderly secretary.
Will shrugged a shoulder and leaned against the wall by the plastic seat Jane occupied.
"She's a cute dog," Jane commented.
He just nodded and pretended to be suddenly interested in the pile of month-old magazines on the window ledge.
They waited patiently for two hours; several people had come and gone since their arrival, but no vets or nurses came out to update them.
They were nearing their fourth hour of waiting when the veterinary surgeon walked out of the backroom that the dog had been taken into, still wearing aqua scrubs and a surgical mask that he pulled hastily from his face as he approached them.
"You're the ones who brought in the dog who'd been shot?"
Brandt was on his feet in seconds, nodding and shaking the surgeon's offered hand. "How is she?"
"The bullet just missed her left femur," he said. "She was lucky."
Benji looked down guiltily at the same time that Jane stepped forward. "Is she alive?"
"She's alive," he confirmed. "But she won't be walking on that leg for a long while."
"Can we see her?" Will asked.
The vet nodded, and gestured toward the door that he had come through. Will led the way, and took his place at the unconscious dog's side. The fur above her hind leg had been shaved, revealing pink skin stitched together with thick black thread.
She was a stocky animal, with a broad chest and short stubby ears. Her black coat seemed dull under the light of the surgery, and the way her ribs were visible through a flea bitten coat left little wonder as to how long she'd been roaming.
It was a look exchanged between Jane and Ethan behind Will and Benji's backs that seemed to make the decision.
When the dog groggily awoke hours later, her injured leg in a stiff pink cast covered in patterned paw prints, it was to Hunt stroking the ruffled fur of her neck. She raised her head, stretched the three legs she could still move and yawned loudly, revealing an impressive set of pearly canines.
Ethan smiled a little, reached down and scratched her neck again. "Welcome to the team, dog."