One would never guess that anything has changed between them.

The steady camaraderie that existed before, the easy understanding, are still there, unaltered.

If anything the edge that formed between them over the last day has disappeared, making them more relaxed.

They go about their days separately once again, and this time he seeks out Tessa and asks if he can be of help. She quirks an eyebrow at this, but he is making an effort, so she gives him a thorough tour of the Green, pointing out and naming plants and flowers and trees. She tells him the names of those tending the crops, and shows him the chicken coop.

The animals were a welcome addition to Citadel, and their population is being carefully cultivated. He grins as the woman who'd brought them comes out to speak proudly of her poultry and she recognises him.

It is a brief reunion, and she doesn't call him Max. Tessa notices. "If you plan to live here, perhaps you could start telling people your name?" she teases.

He remains close-lipped on the subject.

Baby steps, the Vuvalini thinks to herself.

He is trying.

She shows him all the work they've done converting the dome to a greenhouse. Most of the plants within are the ones that the Keeper of the Seeds brought.

Not quite all the way. Dag had to take on her treasures, leaving the older woman smiling and lifeless in the War Rig.

The legacy of the Many Mothers lives on here, where the newest of their ranks conceived her child in slavery.

A child she now raises in freedom, among the plants of her foremothers.

Plants aren't really Max's thing, but it is a peaceful day, and he understands more of his new home.

Once more he makes it to bed before her, though this time not by much.

xxxxxxxxxx

Sometime in the night, one or the other wakes and the casual touch they shared while sleeping turns deliberate, and they retrace the steps to the dance they performed that morning.

They are lovers now, their bodies not only for themselves but each other, and they are eager to share.

During waking hours, they are the same as they were. There are no little touches or heated looks. No public kisses of possession or even affection.

This part of themselves they only show each other within the confines of their room.

It is theirs now. A place to touch and be touched. A place of comfort and closeness and surrender.

They work, often separately, during daylight hours, and in the faded light they come together. Often they fall asleep clothed, too tired to do anything but tangle their bodies together and succumb to exhaustion.

But some time each night their clothes come off, sometimes achingly slowly, sometimes in a heated rush of teeth and nails, as their bodies claim pleasure long denied them.

Every night.

It is like this for a handful of days.

xxxxxxxxxxxxx

Max wakes thrashing, a rare occurrence for him within these walls.

Fury's eyes snap open and she is sitting up, grabbing for his flailing hand and saying his name.

He stares wildly around the room, searching desperately for something. His eyes alight on hers, and he takes a long, shuddering breath.

She cups his cheek and leans her forehead to his. "I'm here."

His breath hitches on a sob and she finds herself crushed to his chest. He buries his face in the crook of her shoulder and he is shaking.

She holds him tightly, letting him fall apart in her arms. Her chest aches in the face of his anguish.

"Hey, hey. I've got you. I've got you, Max. It'll be alright," she says as the words tumble from her mouth, soft and gentle.

His choking words come back to her, "I thought I lost you."

xxxxxxxxxxx

All he can see is blood. It stains his hands and spreads in an ever-widening pool beneath her still form. Her eyes are open and staring, though nothing remains behind them. Her skin is pale and sallow, and her arms flop lifelessly as he holds her, pressing his face to her neck and screaming his pain into her cold, clammy skin.

Except he's not. His arms are around a warm, vital, breathing person. And her arms are around him. She murmurs a string of soothing nonsense as though he was a child with a nightmare.

In this moment, isn't that precisely what he is?

The dream was so real. An amalgamation of his worst memories and his greatest fear that leaves him reeling.

She is not his dead wife. She is not his dead son. She is alive and warm and holding him like she thinks he's going to drift away.

Sometimes he thinks that too.

So he clings and tries to convince himself that this is reality and the other is the dream.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

She clings and tries to tell him with her words and her voice and her arms and her smell, that he is home, and he is safe, and this is the one place in the world that he is allowed to fall apart.

He spills out the grief he's held in so fiercely, and it soaks her shoulder.

He shakes, and shudders, and murmurs incoherently into her neck.

He has held in so much, for so long. It takes time to get it all out.

She is patient, rocking him gently back and forth as she strokes her fingertips through the hair at the nape of his neck.

This is good. This is right. He has needed this so badly.

She holds him long into the night until his sobs subside and exhaustion reclaims him.

xxxxxxxxx

In the morning, she asks him the question that will break them both.

They eat in companionable silence, both perched on the bed. When they woke this morning, she wordlessly told him with gentle touches and soft smiles that she thinks no less of him for what transpired the previous night.

The dream has left him raw and shaken, and he is on edge.

She hates herself for the words she is about to speak.

"Max?"

Her tone has his shoulders tensing as though for a blow. She sees his reaction but asks anyways.

"What would you do if I died?"

His eyes close and he hunches in on himself. "Don't ask me to think about that."

The memory of the dream is too fresh, too painful. How can she ask this so soon after…?

Before this moment, he would never have described her as cruel.

She puts her hand on his knee and he jerks away and backs against the wall, out of reach. "It's important."

"Why?" he asks, and his eyes are angry and bore into hers. "Because it hurts?"

Her eyes flash as she replies, "I need to know that if something happens to me, you will be alright. That you won't just up and leave. The people here need you."

"They've gotten on fine without me so far," he shoots back.

"How many lives did you save by taking out that rig, and the other cars before it?"

His eyes slide away from hers and she watches the muscles in his jaw flex.

"All that time you were out there I didn't know if you were alive, or dead, or ever coming back. You got to leave and know that me and the Sisters and everyone here would be safe without you. You never had to wonder if I was alive. I had to do it for three hundred days!" Having finally given voice to the fear she's had since he left the first time, she lurches off the bed and starts to pace the room.

She looks at him again and she is livid. Enraged like the time she tried to blow his head off. Twice. "If you die, I will survive. I will continue on, because there are thousands of people who depend on me and that doesn't change just because I feel like the other half of me is gone. These people look to me for hope, and that is more important than how I feel about you."

He opens his mouth to speak and she interrupts. "One of these days you're going to have to stop surviving and start living. I want to be your partner, not your addiction, Max. So if I die I need to know that you will stay, and you will be hope for these people, instead of running off and getting yourself killed."

She stands in the center of the room, clenching her teeth and breathing hard.

He stares at her, and the weight on his chest is threatening to crush him. He can't stay at the Citadel if she's dead, and he sure as hell couldn't be hope for anyone without her.

She is his hope. Without her, there is none.

He meets her eyes, and despair has replaced his anger. "I don't know if I can do that," he replies honestly, quietly.

Best to do it quickly. Get the pain over with.

Never mind that it's already making it hard for him to breathe.

She rebuilds herself before his eyes as anger fades to resignation, and she squares her shoulders. "I have work to do," she says, looking straight into his eyes. Then she turns on her heel and leaves the room.

xxxxxxxxxx

Furiosa stays away for as long as she can, keeping herself busy well into the next morning. By the time she makes it back, she is so exhausted she can barely walk.

His things are gone from their room, and it is solely hers again when she returns. As she knew it would be.

For the first time, she is not sure if she will see him again.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Always before, there was this little hollow place in her chest that told her he was gone. Even from the time they took the Citadel. Just an empty space she carried with her wherever she went.

That space has turned to an aching, bleeding wound, and she wonders that no one seems to see it.

The Sisters notice his absence from her room, and she informs them that he is gone. They do not pry, but each of them aches for her.

Dag is angry. Capable is sad, but understanding. Cheedo is confused. Toast is resigned.

For a few days Furiosa was happy, and she deserved to be. Still does.

Life goes on.

She takes his bracelet off and leaves it on her dresser where Max left it before, not sure if she does it so some part of him is still there in the room they shared, or because she no longer wants to carry it with her.

By the end of the third week she is all but climbing the walls, desperate to escape the emotions that are eating her alive from the inside.

She is arguing with Toast as she enters the garage. "I haven't been on a run since we took over, and if I don't get to drive something soon, I'm going to snap and kill someone."

"I get that," Toast replies, "I'm just concerned that in your current state of mind…"

Furiosa flashes a warning look that could peel paint. Her temper has been particularly sharp lately.

"My current state of mind is exactly why I need this. I need to get it out of my system."

Toast nods. "Alright. You want to drive the Rig?"

Furiosa smiles, and it is genuine. "No, Toast. I'm not asking for your baby. I'll drive escort. I just need to get behind the wheel again."

Toast's posture relaxes noticeably, and Furiosa realises that the real reason for the argument is that she was afraid that Furiosa would take her old job back.

"Why don't you go look over the tanker, and I'll see if I can't find a War Boy willing to loan me his car."

Toast rolls her eyes as she makes her way to her rig, knowing as well as Furiosa did that every man in the place would fall all over themselves for the honor of having their leader drive their car.

Furiosa looks over the fleet without announcing her plans. The War Boys proudly tout the magnificence of their vehicles, and she is suitably impressed. She doesn't consider Immortan Joe's Gigahorse. It is massive and impressive and not what they need for a simple supply run.

She spies the car in the back, and immediately is drawn to it. Clean lines. Not a lot of modifications. It looks like it was designed for speed, not assault. It is perfect. She opens the door and slides behind the wheel, asking through the still-open door who it belongs to.

It is the first vehicle she's looked at that didn't come with its own walking boaster.

A voice comes from the back seat, and it is so achingly familiar that a lump rises to her throat. "Mine," it says.

xxxxxxxxx

Her words ring through his head as he packs up his stuff. It doesn't take long: he just has to drag his duffle out from under the bed, unwind the belt from the headboard and toss the gun and knife into said duffle bag, and retrieve his jacket from the chair.

It is done in minutes, and he makes a beeline for the lift, taking it down alone.

He has every intention of taking his car and leaving, but his car has been jammed into the back of the garage and is completely blocked in.

He is not about to ask them to move twenty vehicles just so he can leave, and he's not leaving the car behind.

At first, this is why he stays.

He folds down the back seat, and finds it a comfortable enough place to sleep.

The War Boys are proud of their vehicles, and he begins to help them tweak their rides. He doesn't give them his name, and they seem fine with that particular quirk. He stays well clear of the semis where they are parked on the open side of the garage, knowing Toast drives one.

For some reason, he doesn't want anyone to know he hasn't left. In any case, he needs to forge his own place in the Citadel if he plans to stay.

He's still not sure if he is staying or going.

He stands in the food line with all the former Wretched, and is careful to never stand in one where any of the Sisters are distributing.

He is recognised, but only by the family that brought him in with the bullet in his back all those months ago. They thank him profusely for saving them, and greet him like a long-lost friend.

Their blonde little girl is growing so fast, and is all smiles.

He thanks them for bringing him in, essentially saving his life, and finally gives them his name.

For weeks, he works in the garage and tries not to be noticed. He would volunteer for a shift on the wall if he wasn't afraid to be recognised by Toast or Cheedo. He is itching to go on a supply run, but that would out him as well.

All the while, he tries to forget Fury.

The sound of her voice.

The green of her eyes.

The feel of her skin against his.

The words she spoke last.

He is utterly unsuccessful. Her memory follows him like a ghost.

The last thing he expects is to be discovered while sleeping in his own car.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Her eyes flash to the rear-view mirror, and she sees blue eyes in a tanned face. He is half-covered by a blanket, lying across the flat deck in the back.

She blinks and turns to peer around the edge of the driver's seat.

Yep, it's Max.

It is a relief that she hasn't lost her mind. She turns back to meet his eyes in the mirror once more.

A furrow appears between her eyebrows. "I thought you left."

A matching furrow appears on his forehead, followed by the faintest twitch of the corner of his mouth. "Couldn't get my car out."

Her eyebrows shoot towards her hairline. "You couldn't fix the car in three weeks?"

The twitch spreads into a half-smile. "Runs fine. I said I couldn't get it out."

"You do know the others move, right?"

He reaches up and hits the lever that slides the passenger seat forward, somehow gracefully crawling around it to get out the passenger side, before sliding the seat back and sitting down.

They both stare out the windshield at the carved rock that is the back wall of the garage. "Thought I'd give being here another chance. On my own."

She understands that this is his way of telling her he took her words to heart, and he is trying. For himself this time. And that he needed to be anonymous for a while to see where he fit here in the Citadel.

"What have you been doing these weeks?"

"Helping with the cars. And hiding. Hiding, mostly," he admits with a wry twist to his mouth.

"You should ride out with the supply runs," she says seemingly out of the blue. Neither looks at the other in the close confines of the car.

"Been thinking about it. Hard to do without being noticed, though."

"There's a run tomorrow, to Gas Town. You should go."

"Is there room in the rig?" he asks.

"Yeah. Toast usually has the cab to herself."

"If she can stand the company, I'll ride with her. You take the car."

She turns to examine his profile, tilting her head slightly. "You sure?" she asks.

"Overheard you talking. You should drive. Have some space to yourself."

"Thank-you," she replies.

They both climb out and make their way to where the rig is parked on the other side of the garage. Toast is looking over the controls inside.

"Found a car," Furiosa calls out from the ground. "I'll be joining you tomorrow."

"Need a wingman?" asks a male voice.

Toast blinks twice before leaning out the window. "Thought you were gone."

"Been down here," he replies.

"Yeah," she replies to his earlier question, "You can ride with me." Her eyes go distant as she flashes back to the day they met. "I seem to recall you being handy in a fight." They share a look that is not quite a grin.

The next day, they ride out together. The run is uneventful, and Max and Toast share the drive in companionable silence. Either she is unwilling to pry into what went on between Furiosa and himself, or she doesn't care. Either way, he is grateful for the lack of interrogation.

Fury takes his car and rides escort, and no one criticises her for splitting from the group for a few minutes to open up the Mach 1 and blaze across the sand. The speed and the sound of the engine and simply being in her own company restores her sanity and soothes her soul.

Max smiles as he sees the cloud of dust she and his car raise as she enjoys her first taste of freedom in ages.

Those who know her can see the difference immediately when they return, and it is decided by general consensus that she will ride out more often.

The Dag seeks him out, punching him hard in the arm. "That's for pretending to leave!" she yells before storming off.

It takes days before she speaks to him again, and weeks before they fall back into the easy amity from before. It becomes a regular sight to see him holding Verdant while her mother is trying to get things done. Max doesn't mind. He doesn't mind at all.

He gets himself added to the watch rotation on the wall. Slowly, he becomes known in wider and wider circles. He is Max to more than just the Sisters and the Vuvalini now. He still sleeps in his car. It allows him a measure of privacy that he still craves.

For those he returned with in Immortan Joe's car nearly a year ago, his continued presence is no longer a novelty. They smile, and speak a few words, and go on their way. He becomes like any other person who lives within the walls.

He stays, and becomes more a part of the Citadel than he is adjunct to Furiosa. They speak on occasion, or nod across a crowd, but rarely does either seek the other out.

The ache that settled into her chest with his absence is gone, as is the hollow place he left. He is near, and safe, and that is enough for her. She wonders how she possibly managed to not see him for those weeks. Now she can find him unerringly in a crowd without ever having to search. She somehow knows precisely where he is whenever he is near. She feels him like her metal arm: separate, yet a part of her.

The only time she truly misses him is in the confined space of her room at night. It feels too-large and empty without his steady presence within.

She doesn't know if he will ever return here, and that is the only thing that makes her sad. She feels peace that he has stayed. Relief that he is alive, and that she knows this every day. Pride that he is forming his own connections here in the Citadel.

And sad, only for brief moments, that what they briefly shared in the deepest recesses of her soul, she cannot have.

xxxxxxxxxx

Max hasn't returned to the upper level since he moved himself out of Fury's room. He belongs down here in the sand with the former Wretched, not up there among the green. He works hard, every day, and does his part for the people here.

He even went to the infirmary and offered his services as a blood donor, giving Furiosa's continuing health as a reference. Addams has taken him up on the offer a couple of times, and he and the gruff doctor have formed a tenuous, snarky friendship.

Capable thinks it's hilarious.

At least the doctor has stopped threatening to have him restrained.

On a day like any other, one of those manning the wall alongside him mentions that it has been a full year exactly since the liberation of the Citadel. There is no grand communal celebration, but small pockets of those who live here gather and tell the tale of the triumphant return of their Furiosa.

He listens from beyond the circle, and remembers.

He remembers it all: Being strapped to the front of a car. Escaping his fate as a Blood Bag. Stealing the rig. Angharad's death. Finding the Vuvalini. His insane plan to return and take the Citadel. Furiosa's near-death. Speaking his own name in hushed tones over her too-still form.

And he knows it is time.

He pulls his gear back together and stuffs it in the green duffle. Running an affectionate hand over the fender of his Mach 1, he whispers a promise to return. In the fading light of dusk, he skirts the celebrating groups of people and makes his way to the cage, riding it up to the top. He skulks through the dim passages, trying to avoid people on the way. He'd rather leave the questions for later.

He passes the hanging troughs and walks down the round tunnel. There is no one in the vault at this time of night.

Good.

He drops the bag from his shoulder and takes a seat next to the doorway to the room that was theirs.

He waits.

She does not keep him long; only minutes later she strides through the opening with purpose, turning sharply to her worktable and riffling through the detritus there, muttering to herself all the while.

She nearly misses him, turning to head back the way she came. She registers something off about the room just as she is exiting and turns slowly from the circular opening.

His form is still in the dim light, but his eyes are open. He is watching her.

"Max?" she asks, distantly afraid her subconscious has dreamed him up in her current state of exhaustion.

"Mmm," he replies.

"Why are you here?" The words hold no accusation, but she needs clarity.

He pushes to his feet and comes to stand before her. "I thought about what you said."

She cocks her head. "Which part?"

It has been a couple of months since that conversation. She remembers, but wonders if the words she found relevant were the ones he does.

"You asked me what I would do if you died."

He says the words calmly, softly, as though it is something he has been considering for a while.

Because he has.

She stuffs the object she retrieved from her worktable into a cargo pocket on her thigh and turns to walk among the plants beneath the dome. He keeps pace next to her.

"And…"

He takes a deep breath and drags a hand through his hair. "It wouldn't be easy. I would be devastated." He makes the admission calmly, as though he was speaking of the weather. It is a simple fact of his existence. "I would do anything in my power to protect you, or to save you." He holds up a hand when she makes to interrupt. "But if you die, I will stay here. I will protect your people. I have a place here now, and that doesn't disappear with you." He stares out through the glass at the stars. "What you've made here, it might be gone tomorrow, or in a week, or a month or a year. But it's good. Worth protecting. And if it brings people hope it was worth it, however long."

"I thought you said hope was a mistake."

"You showed me otherwise. Not to mention, if running this place for a year hasn't driven you insane, nothing will."

He made a joke. Max has made a joke. Fury stares at him, gaping.

He spies her expression out of the corner of his eye. "What?" he asks.

He finds that she is standing in front of him, with her hand at the back of his neck. Their foreheads are pressed together and she is smiling so brightly it lights up his world. "It's good to have you back," she says simply.

He has no defence against her, and finds himself smiling in return.

"Look," she says. "There's a problem with the water pump, and I have to go. Will you be here when I get back?"

He nods. "I'll walk around up here. It's been a while."

She turns and jogs back towards the entrance, leaving him staring out the windows.

He stays there for a long time before making his way back to her bench with the intention of sitting down on her stool and waiting there. It takes a few minutes before he notices his bag is gone.

He stands, turning a circle. It is nowhere in sight.

He did not move it, and the only other person in the vault was Fury.

He stands, and his feet carry him to the doorway of her room. Reluctantly, he enters, seeing it just the same as he left it, save a woven grey bracelet on the dresser. The sight of it gives him a pang. He hadn't noticed she'd taken it off.

But she hasn't thrown it away, so its presence here must mean something.

His green duffle bag is sitting on the bed.

It means everything.

He wanders around the vault, dragging his fingers along leaf edges and breathing in the scent of the green. He's not sure when it became the smell of home.

He is tired and finally settles back to where he waited before, seated next to the doorway to her room with his legs stretched out before him.

xxxxxxxxxxxxx

That is how she finds him, with his head lolling on his chest, fast asleep. She comes to one knee by his side and raises a hand to his cheek. "Wake up Max," she says gently.

His head comes up and his eyes open. Seeing her there, face inches from his, he smiles. "Fury," he breathes, and her name is like a prayer.

"Come to bed, Max," she says, rising to her feet and offering him a hand up.

He takes it, lurching to a stand with her as an anchor. She doesn't let go as she leads him into their room.

As easy as that, it is theirs once more. He shrugs out of his jacket and hangs it on the chair. She removes her prosthetic and hangs it on its hook. They kick off their boots and lay down together with their arms and legs tangled, pressed as tightly as they can get with their clothes still on.

As they have before.

As they will for the rest of their lives. However long that will be.

"Missed you," he whispers into her throat.

She kisses his forehead. "We don't have to do that anymore."

He smiles.

Xxxxxxxxxxxx

A/N: Well, that's it. It was a helluva ride for me. I've never written so much in so little time. I hope this chapter wasn't too discordant with the rest, but since it took place over a couple of months instead of a day like the others, it needed to be a bit different. Thank you so much for taking the time to read. If you liked it, please add it to your favourites list and take the time to write a review. To all those who have followed, favourited, and posted a review, thank you so very much. That stuff makes my day.