Max hasn't been sleeping since those wood scouts took Mr. Honeynuts. Without the bear the boy had constant nightmares about his home life. On day 4 of no sleep Max passes out on the pier during one of their activities. Things seem to be fine until David tries to wake the boy up for lunch. Max screams in fear and flinches backwards away from the counselor and straight into the water.
Max was sitting quietly in the corner of his tent next to his coffee maker. He has been sitting in that same spot since everyone went to bed. Since the Wood Scouts had raided the camp and stole his bear, Max has been struggling to get a full night's sleep. The only other people who knew what was taken from the cynical boy were Nikki and Neil, but he tried to downplay the importance the raggedy bear had to him.
Neil groaned as he rolled off his cot to get ready for another morning at Camp Campbell. Max is already awake and nursing a cup of coffee. It wasn't unusual for Max to be the first to wake up out of the two of them. However, judging from the bags under his eyes and the way he held onto his coffee like a lifeline, Max hadn't actually gotten any sleep.
Getting ready was easy for Max since he only had one outfit plus a spare hoodie so he would usually spend an extra 10 minutes drinking coffee and staring off silently into space while Neil left to join Nikki for breakfast. But since he hadn't actually slept, Max was ready to leave after Neil finished getting dressed for the day.
Once the boys made it to the Mess Hall for breakfast, they were bombarded with questions from Nikki about whatever adventure she wanted to do today. Max was trying to drown her out by focusing on the coffee he had brought with him. He would normally love to think of an obnoxious scheme in an attempt to drive David closer to the brink of insanity but being so exhausted was making the simplest tasks impossible.
Without Mr. Honeynuts, Max struggled with nightmares about his father. His mom left when Max was 4 and had given him the bear as a way to remind him of her. Afterwards, his father had begun to blame Max on her leaving. Eventually, his dad couldn't stand looking at the boy because of how much he looked like his mother.
By the time Max was 7, he had grown used to being hit by his father and being locked in the closet for days on end. He would sneak food from school to home in order to have something to eat on weekends or holidays. Occasionally, a teacher or adult would question Max about the bruises on his arms, but he just started wearing a hoodie constantly to prevent anyone from being too nosy. It came in handy on days his father would treat him like an ashtray and put out his cigarette butts on Max's skin.
His dad had sent Max to Camp Campbell, trying to get away from him. Not that Max blamed him for it. He wished he could get away from himself, too. Everyone in his life usually ended up leaving him in some way or another. Honestly, Max wondered if his dad was going to come back at the end of the summer to pick him up.
Being taken out of his depressing thoughts suddenly when a glob of potatoes hit him in the cheek. Max groaned before swiping the mess away and chugging what was left of his coffee.
"Did you get any sleep at all?" Nikki's head cooked to the side, staring at Max from around her potato launching spoon. "You didn't even try to dodge that. Plus, you haven't told me what you think about trying to make our own Atlantis! I have so many cool ideas about how to create fish based government!"
Max sighed as he stared at her with half lidded eyes. "Normally I would explain everything stupid about your idea but given the fact that I'm on my third pot of coffee and I have yet to feel something resembling alive I couldn't give less of a shit."
"Language Max." Max actually growled at the redheaded counselor who appeared behind him. "A water activity on the lake sounds like a wonderful idea. Why don't we all go swimming today? After all, it is supposed to get hotter throughout the day, and it'll be refreshing."
The campers all seemed to mildly agree that swimming could be fun. Even in the bacteria infested water that was Lake Lilac. Everyone went back outside to change into their swim attire and prepare for what would hopefully be a relaxing day.
Max decided to go ahead and sit on the docks and wait for his friends. Leaning against one of the posts, mint green eyes looked out over the water. Without everyone else around being stupidly annoying, the lake actually looked peaceful for once.
All that was ruined in a few moments by Nurf running by him and cannonballing into the water. Max sighed and put his sunglasses on to sheild his eyes from the light and not at all to hide the dark circles under his eyes from David.
"Max!" Nikki was shouting at him from the water. Somehow, she had already managed to cover herself in green sludge. "Aren't you going to get in? The water feels really nice."
Rolling his eyes, Max thought bitterly about how he didn't even own a bathing suit since no one cared about him enough to actually teach him how to swim. "Nah, that shit looks like it'd give me STDs. I don't know how this could be safe to let kids swim in."
David looked up from where he was teaching space kid how to swim, and frowned at Max. "Language, Max. Lake Lilac is perfectly safe to swim in and only carries a few diseases, all of which every camper has already been vaccinated for." David smiled at him as if that made it more appealing to swim in.
"Fuck off, David" Max looked away from the man's blindingly bright smile. He was too tired to truly deal with the amount of happiness that seemed to radiate off David's body. It was much easier to stare out at the lake and ignore everyone around him.
At some point Max had fallen asleep against his will. No one had noticed because of his sunglasses and everyone just figured he was ignoring them. Eventually David noticed that Max wasn't moving when he was calling everyone out of the water for lunch.
The redhed went over and grabbed Max on the shoulder planning on waking the boy up gently. He was shocked when Max screamed as he woke up and flinched so hard away from David that he fell into the water.
Max was choking on the lake water and he struggled to keep his head above water. He was terrified and thought for what felt like the thousandth time in his life that this would be how he died. Just as his arms were beginning to give up on keeping him alive he felt himself being lifted out of the water.
David had dove in after getting over his shock. He was holding a shivering Max against his chest as the boy coughed up the remaining water onto his back. The counselor didn't seem to care as he rushed them both out of the water.
The campers and Gwen were surrounding the two of them and staring at the scene playing out in front of them with a mix of shock and curiosity. Once David had gotten them a safe distance away from the water and everyone seemed to catch their breath, they started questioning what just happened.
"Why does David scare Max?" Space Kid's question breaks the tense silence. Everyone seems to hold their breath waiting on an answer from someone.
However Max refused to let anyone think that anyone scared him. He couldn't let them know how weak and terrified he usually felt outside of Camp Campbell. Pinching David's side and forcing the man to drop him onto the ground with a hiss, Max turned and faced everyone with the most pissed off glare he could muster at 10 years old before answering the question.
"No one scares me. David grabbed me while I was asleep and fucking startled me. David couldn't scare a damn baby if he tried." His cold tone had everyone giving each other apprehensive looks. A few kids had even started to back away. "Now if you don't mind I'm gonna go fucking shower before I die of AIDS or cancer."
"But Max, we really need to-" David was cut off almost immediately after he took a step towards the boy. Max had turned around to face him with a snarl on his face.
"No David! We don't fucking need to do shit!" Max barked the words out before his face slowly fell. David was the only one who was able to see the sadness in those mint green eyes before Max sighed and turned away. "Just fucking leave me alone."
Max started walking towards the showers. His feet squelched as he walked and he felt heavier because of his clothes. Max sighed as he realized his only outfit had gotten possibly ruined. He would have to see if David could clean it for him. After all it would be the least he could do given that he is the reason it got dirty.
Thinking about how he woke up terrified thinking he had fallen asleep at home in front of the TV and his father had found him. But it was only David. For some reason Max hadn't been able to decide how he felt about the man. Normally he was distrustful and hated adults because they were all idiots just filling their time to distract themselves from the shitiness of the world. While David definitely met that criteria he also tried to make everyone else happy and genuinely cared about everyone at camp. Even Cameron for some reason.
Just as the poorly made shower house came into view, a hand lightly landed on his shoulder. Flinching away again though it was significantly less noticeable than it had been the first time. Or it would've been had David not been looking for it. Max stopped but refused to look the redhead in the eyes.
"Gwen and I got the other's into the Mess Hall for lunch if you would want to use the counselor's cabin to shower. It has hot water." David was trying to give Max an cheerful smile but it seemed more strained than usual.
Despite the little rest he managed to get Max didn't have the energy to be petty and tell David off and go shower in the cold. A warm shower sounded really nice right now and he couldn't think of a reason why he shouldn't at least enjoy the generosity while David still felt guilty.
"Fine but I'm still pissed."
Turning around and going in the direction of the counselor cabin, Max purposefully walked behind David so the man wouldn't be able to look at him with concern. The walk wasn't far but it felt longer than usual due to the heaviness in the silence.
By the time they actually got there Max was exhausted and his feet were sore from walking around in wet shoes. Max opened the door and walked straight towards the only bathroom at Camp with hot water. Gwen wasn't there so she must've been busy giving the other campers their lunch.
"Uh- before you go in do you want me to go grab you a spare set of clothes from your tent?" David was hoping he was being helpful since he did feel guilty for causing all this trouble. Plus there were things he needed to talk to Max about.
"This is my only outfit." Max mumbled. He realized how embarrassing that is and was hoping that when he asked him to clean his clothes that the subject wouldn't of come up. But of course the idiot had to go and make things more humiliating for him.
"Oh. That's alright. You can borrow some of my clothes if you want while I wash those and throw them out to dry." David kept his smile on his face despite the questions he had about why Max only had one outfit at a 3 month camp. It was obvious the boy didn't want to talk about it right now so he wouldn't bring it up.
"Fine I guess I'll wear one of your dumb camp shirts." Max grumbled as he slipped his shoes off in the bathroom. Pulling his wet socks off to try and relieve some of the pain on his feet, Max didn't notice when David returned with a shirt and a pair of shorts that were way too big and a towel and wash cloth.
"I will set this here and leave you alone. Just leave the clothes outside the door once your done and I will go and wash them." He noticed Max jumping almost every time David got near him. It was starting to make him worried.
"Alright, fuck off already." Max turned away from his counselor and acted like he was trying to take off his hoodie while he waited to hear the door close behind him.
Once he was alone in the bathroom, Max pulled his hoodie off along with his shirt. He couldn't help looking in the mirror and examining his scars under the fluorescent lighting. The pale burn marks on his arms and chest stood out against his darker skin. The ones on his arms were more faded before his father started burning his chest to hide the abuse better.
Turning away and forcing himself to avoid looking into the mirror again, Max struggled out of the rest of his soaked clothes. He cracked open the door slightly and dropped them on the floor like David had asked. The hot water did make him stop shivering and washed the gross lake water out of his hair. Despite there being hot water in the counselor bathroom there was a limit to it. By the time he had felt clean again the water was as freezing as the campers showers.
Drying off with the fluffy green towel that David had provided for him, Max focused on trying to get as much water out of his thick dark curls that he could. Giving it a final squeeze before giving up his efforts, he moved on to the clothes David had left on the counter for him.
He wondered idly if the man realized the clothes he gave Max were way too big to fit him properly. Still it was better than wearing his soaked clothes so he begrudgingly pulled the ugly green camp shirt over his head. The shorts were basically baggy pants on him and the shirt hem was at his thighs. His collar was more visible than he would like, exposing burn mark that only recently scarred. It was more red and raised than the ones on his arms.
Sighing as he looked down at himself in clothes that basically exposed everything that proved he had a shitty home life. David and Gwen was sure to question the scars once they saw them. Hopefully he was alone in the cabin so it'd be easier to sneak out and wait til he had his usual outfit.
Cracking open the door slightly to check, Max was surprised to see that the cabin was empty. Not believing his luck Max grinned for the first time since Mr. Honeynuts was stolen from him. Taking his chance, Max ran for the door. He yanked it open before freezing when he almost ran into David's shins.
David looked down at Max in surprise. He was coming back from the Mess Hall to bring the boy a sandwich since he missed lunch. He wasn't really surprised that Max was trying to escape so he just smiled at the boy before ushering him back inside the cabin with his empty hand.
"Now, Max you missed lunch and skipped breakfast. Your body needs nutrients to provide you with energy and to help you grow." Setting the sandwich on the coffee table in front of the armchairs, David offered the shorter boy help in the chair.
"Fuck off, David." He turned away and climbed awkwardly into the overstuffed armchair. It was harder than usual because of the over-sized clothes. But he would be damned if he was going to let David help him after what happened this morning.
He was kinda surprised when he didn't hear any reprimand for cussing. Looking at the tall redhead in confusion, Max realized that David was looking at his arms. Fuck he figured he would have at least another few minutes before the counselor noticed them.
They sat in a heavy silence for the second time that day but this one was way worse. Max refused to look at David again while David couldn't stop looking at Max. Both refusing to move or acknowledge what was on their mind.
David was the one to break the silence. He plastered on a strained smile and pushed the sandwich closer towards the scrawny 10 year old. "Go ahead and eat up. Your clothes are drying on the line outside so you can just hangout here until they are finished. How does that sound?"
Max rolled his eyes but grabbed the sandwich anyway. It was just a pb and j but it looked really good give that he hasn't eaten yet. This totally wasn't him trying to avoid the conversation that David was wanting to have.
Max had managed to get half of the sandwich down before his stomach started to hurt signaling that it was full already. Not being used to a full meal had made regular portions almost impossible for the boy to actually keep down. Normally he would hand his leftovers to Nikki to finish but that wasn't an option. Awkwardly setting the rest of the sandwich down, Max focused on the floorboards in order to avoid David's stare.
Fortunately he was saved by Gwen busting into the cabin looking disheveled and stressed out. Her breathing was ragged and uneven as if she had ran here. Brown eyes narrowing on David as she stalked forward and grabbed him by his shirt. "Where the hell have you been?! I have been dealing with Nurf trapping Space Kid in the bear cave and Neil started a black market firework operation! We agreed that theses kids are a 2 counselor job!"
David looked terrified as Gwen shouted at him inches from his face. Putting a hand on her shoulder and gently pushing her a few inches away before answering her original question. "I had to wash Max's clothes and I made him a sandwich since he missed lunch. After all it is important for children to have nutrients to grow and have the energy to conquer the day."
Gwen seemed to just realize that Max was sitting on one of their armchairs wearing one of David's outfits. The sight caused her to forget her previous stress that the others had caused. "The fuck is the little shit doing in your clothes?"
"Well he only has one outfit and it is still drying outside. I loaned him some of my clothes while we wait."
This made Max look away and again not wanting to see the look on Gwen's face. David at least tried to hide the pity with a smile. Gwen was not as skilled at putting on a happy face and pretending everything was okay.
"Who the fuck sends their kid to Camp with one outfit?" Gwen's question was directed towards David but Max decided to answer for him.
"The kind who don't give a fuck about their son." Max was glaring at her daring her to say something back to him. If he was gonna talk about his dad then it would be on his terms. "If you haven't noticed by now Gwen, I haven't gotten a single letter or phone call since I have been here. No one gives a shit about me."
Gwen and David were both stunned into silence. Neither of them had no clue how to respond without making things worse. Still it wasn't like they haven't noticed that every other camper has heard from home in some way or another.
"Max, I am sure that's not true. Your parents must care about you." Even David seemed to have trouble believing the words. The evidence against Max's skin was enough to make him worried about the extent of the abuse.
Max gave what he hoped was an angry glare at the redhead but it lacked any of his usual hate and it made him look even more drained. He curled in on himself to try to hide from their pitying gaze, wishing the chair would just swallow him out of existence.
"Gwen why don't you go let the other campers know that the rest of the day is a free day in the activities field? I can stay here with Max and watch a movie while his clothes dry."
Gwen numbly nodded and turned towards the door. It seemed that dealing with everything else alone was easier than having this difficult conversation with Max. This was not what she had signed up for when she applied for this job.
Once it was just the two of them the silence felt deafening. Max felt like a David could hear his heartbeat from across the room. Deciding to risk it he glanced in David's direction.
David was still looking at him but he wasn't smiling for once. His face looked thoughtful as his forest green eyes searched mint green eyes for answers to an unspoken question. They sat like that for a few seconds before David gave Max a soft smile. "Wanna pick out a movie?"
Max was surprised at the question but welcomed any sort of distraction from the tension of earlier. "You got any horror movies?"
David let Max go through Gwen's horror movie stash while he waited by the TV for his decision. Max came back with a old slasher movie where teens get killed in the woods. Normally David would comment that a horror movie based in the woods was inappropriate for camp but since Max seemed more relaxed than earlier he decided to let it go.
David put the VHS inside the TV and started the movie. They watched the first 15 or so minutes in the first comfortable silence all day. However only one of them was actually paying attention to the movie.
David was too busy trying to not stare at the boy sitting in the armchair next to his. He had definitely noticed the burn scars on his fore arms and he thought he saw one that wasn't as faded on his collarbone. If he was right then Max was suffering on going abuse at home to levels he had never imagined. Of course when Max mentioned he didn't have any other clothes David thought he might have been neglected but this was worse than what he had in mind. He had no clue how to address a problem this big especially with a child like Max.
A yawn broke David out of his thoughts. Looking over he saw Max holding his head up on his arms, drooping eyes staring intensely at the small screen in front of them. It was obvious that the boy was still exhausted despite everything that's happened.
"You tired?" David's voice was gentle but Max still jumped slightly when he was taken out of the trance the movie had put him in. He had seen it on TV before but wasn't able to finish it before his dad came home.
"I'm always tired, David." He had tried to sound harsh but it didn't really work when he ended up yawning again almost immediately.
"Haven't you been sleeping? It is important to get at least 8 full hours of sleep, especially at your age." David couldn't help himself as he felt the instinct to remind the boy of healthy habits.
"You try getting a full fucking night's sleep when you're constantly woken up by nightmares." Max felt his entire body freeze once the words left his mouth. He immediately regrets it and wants to take it back despite knowing that was impossible. Hoping David didn't actually hear him, Max tried to focus back on the movie.
"Have you tried talking about them to someone?" Of course the redheaded idiot heard him. Before Max could retort and tell David to mind his fucking business David continued. "It helped me to talk mine out with Gwen."
That made Max look up at the man. He would have never imagined that happy go lucky David, a man who was genuinely happy to be a camp counselor, had nightmares. It made Max look at the man next to him in an entirely different light.
They both sat there for a few moments looking at each other and reading the other's expression. David wasn't going to push Max to talk to him about anything that he wasn't ready for and Max wasn't sure if it was actually okay to trust David with something he refused to tell anyone.
Eventually it was Max that broke the silence. "They're about my dad. They started to get worse a few days ago."
He had said it so quietly David almost didn't hear him with the horror music playing from the TV. He decided to stay silent and let Max tell him at his own pace. David wasn't going to pressure Max to talk about anything if he didn't want to.
"My dad has told me before that he doesn't care about me. He blames me for everything that went wrong in his life. Mom leaving, his addiction, his job." Max didn't notice he was crying until one of his tears ran down his face. He got angry at himself for being upset that his assholeof a father didn't love him. Squeezing the arm of the chair til his fingers turned white, the boy continued "He would lock me in the closet so he wouldn't have to look at me and would burn me with his cigarette because my skin reminds him of my mom."
Curling in on himself, Max choked out a sob. His fingers gripped his dark curls and tugged hard enough to cause his scalp to feel a dull ache. He felt like he couldn't breathe for the second time that day except this time there was no water around. His throat ached from breathing so fast and sharp and his vision was starting to blur from his tears.
Suddenly he was being picked up and before being gently set down on David's lap. He couldn't stop crying despite how humiliating this situation would usually be. Max released his hair and started to cling to David's shirt as he continued to cry into his chest.
Wrapping his arms around the boys small frame, David rubbed small circles on Max's back. For once Max didn't flinch away from the contact, instead it seemed to make him sob harder. It made him wonder how long the boy has went without someone to comfort him.
They stayed like that for a while. Long enough that movie seemed to be nearing the climax. David could only assume since he hadn't been paying attention at all. The teens were being chased through the woods by the murderer. It was one of the most cliche horror movies he had seen.
Eventually David noticed that the sun had gone down. Max was sniffling on his chest. His shirt was covered in snot and tears making David feel a little gross. It seemed David would be doing another load of laundry later.
The movie finished right as Gwen walked back into cabin, looking tired. Collapsing on the open armchair, she looked over at the two lazily. After everything that's happened today, Max curled up on David's lap wasn't so surprising.
"How long has he been asleep?"
David looked down in surprise. Max had fallen asleep on him sometime while crying. The kid must of been more exhausted than he had been letting on.
David sighed before answering. "Honestly I had no clue he had went to sleep. He started crying after he told me about his dad and I didn't know what else to do."
"That bad, huh? I mean, I have suspected something was off since he got here. No 10 year old should be as cynical as Max." Gwen let her head hit the back of the armchair. She felt as lost as David about this whole situation.
"What are we going to do, Gwen? We can't let him go home after what he told me." David felt sick at the idea of Max leaving with the man that haunted his nightmares.
"I have no fucking clue. We still have a couple months before Camp is over. We can figure it out before then." Gwen looked over at the boy who was curled up against her co-counselor. His little hand was still curled around David's shirt. They looked really cute, especially with Max looking like a mini David in those clothes. It gave her an idea.
"Maybe you could adopt him. Looks like he feels safe with you and you would probably be the perfect dad." Gwen grinned slightly at David's face. His mouth was hanging open in shock and his ears were flushed with embarrassment.
She stood up and stretched her back out a bit. Someone had to do a bed check before they could go to sleep. She looked over at the boy again and couldn't find it in her to wake him up and send him to his tent.
David seemed to read her mind as he stood up with Max still in his arms. Carrying him over to his bed and pulling the blankets back, he tried to lay him down on the mattress. But even in his sleep Max still refused to let go of his shirt. David wasn't sure what to do and looked over at Gwen for help.
She snickered behind her hand to muffle the noise. She pulled on her jacket and smiled at him. "Guess your his pillow for the night. Have fun, I gotta go check on the other little shits." With that she turned and left the cabin.
David sighed and climbed into bed. He had planned to lay him down on the bed and go sleep on the couch. But hearing how hard of a time Max has had going to sleep made it hard to force him to let go.
Pulling the blankets over them as Max settled on his chest, David thought back to what Gwen had told him. Maybe adopting Max wasn't that crazy of an idea as he first thought. It was a better option than sending him back to his father. Thinking of the scars he saw and the things Max had told him made David pull the boy closer. Before going to sleep David made a promise to a sleeping Max.
"I promise I will find a way for you to feel safe. I will not let anyone take you back to your father."
With that David closed his eyes and fell asleep thinking of what he would need to do to adopt Max.