It’s a Vuvalini tradition, marking when the year turns over and days begin getting shorter again.
Most of the Citadel has little use for years, a marker of seasons that barely exist and the cycles of growing things only a few have the knowledge to tend. Time is measured in days and sometimes moons, for those to which that matters.
But the Vuvalini remember years, and are used to marking the beginning of a new one with a party. And so they are all in the garden near midnight, with a fire in the pit and a bottle of Janey’s homemade moonshine, which is slightly sweet and strong enough to strip the paint off a Rig.
Eves sits on the stone bench, lazily braiding Capable’s hair while Capable makes silly faces, sending Dag’s baby into fits of giggles. Cheedo is leaning back against one of the heavy planting boxes they use for seedlings, an arm around Dag’s shoulder, and Janey sits in the grass, resting easily against Eves’s knee as she takes a swig from the bottle and passes it to Toast.
Furiosa is there too, but a little bit separate from the pile of Mothers and Sisters. She sits on the grass, leaning on her flesh hand, the firelight cutting deep shadows into her face. She has a ghost of a smile on her face, but it’s the kind that doesn’t reach her eyes.
Max should be here, Toast thinks, if only because Furiosa’s smile always seems a little warmer when he’s around. But he’s been off in the desert for days now, coming and going in his rhythm only Furiosa understands, if anyone does.
Furiosa looks up and catches Toast watching her, and Toast takes a swig of moonshine to cover up her stare, trying her best not to grimace at the burn. She’s seen Furiosa knock it back like it’s water.
She passes the bottle to Cheedo.
“What were New Years like in the old world?” Capable asks.
“Well, people wore silly hats,” says Eves, and Capable shoots her a look like she’s pulling her leg.
“It’s true! And everyone would count down to midnight together, and at midnight you can kiss someone, if you want to.”
Dag whispers something into Cheedo’s ear and she giggles. “We could do that part.”
And Toast is just drunk enough to wonder what would happen if she kissed Furiosa.
It’s not like she’s never thought about it before…what her mouth would taste like, how it would feel to be wrapped up in her strong arms, metal and flesh holding her close. Or wondered what Max does to make her make those sounds that come out of her room at night when he’s here. (It’s not like she’d been trying to listen, coming back from the garages late at night, and maybe she shouldn’t have lingered outside the door, and maybe she shouldn’t have thought of it later with her hand between her legs, but…well, it’s not like they were exactly being subtle about it, either.)
She looks up and Furiosa is looking at her from across the fire, that even, unreadable gaze of hers.
Under the guise of passing her the bottle, Toast gets up from her spot between Cheedo and Capable and sits down next to her.
Furiosa takes a swig and Toast can’t help watching the line of her jaw and the way the tendons in her neck move. She passes the bottle back to Toast with a tipsy, wet-lipped smile, and when their shoulders touch Furiosa doesn’t move away.
Eves is consulting an ancient pocket-watch, miraculously still in working order. “Almost midnight!” she says.
When there’s ten seconds to go, Eves starts counting down, and gets everyone to join in until she cackles “Happy New Year!”
Dag pulls Cheedo into her arms and Capable is planting a wet smooch on the baby’s cheek, and Janey and Eves are not lovers, not that she knows, but Eves leans down and gives her a saucy kiss anyway and Janey seems to take it in stride.
No one is watching them. The warm, solid weight of Furiosa’s shoulder is still resting against hers, and before she has time to lose her nerve, she turns her head and brushes her mouth against Furiosa’s, a hasty press of closed lips.
She feels Furiosa go still and withdraws an infinitesimal amount, still close enough that Furiosa’s exhale of breath spreads warm across her face. For a heartbeat everything is suspended and she’s afraid she made a mistake. But then Furiosa leans in to find her mouth again, a catch of her bottom lip and a flicker of tongue, and there’s nothing uncertain about the way she tilts her head and urges Toast’s mouth open with her own, and she takes it all in, tongue and breath and the sugary aftertaste of moonshine.
She has never kissed anyone like this; the awkward mashing of lips had never seemed appealing the few times she’d tried it in her youth, but this is different, heady and thrilling, the scent that her brain codes Furiosa flooding her senses, insistent lips and a teasing flash of teeth now and then.
Fingers trail across her cheek, down her neck, a whisper of touch that sends shivers though her. She is dizzy with the sudden intensity of it.
If anyone is watching them now, she couldn’t care less.
Furiosa ducks her head back, far enough for Toast to catch a glimpse of wide blue eyes and a devilish quirk of a smile, close enough that no one but her could possibly hear the whisper in her ear.
“I could do something for you. If you want me to.”
You could do anything to me, most likely, she thinks but doesn’t say. Just thinking it makes her belly clench. Mouth dry, she nods.
Furiosa tilts her head toward the shadowy garden outside the circle of firelight. “No one will mind if we sneak off for a while.”
Furiosa knows the garden well, and leads her in near-darkness to a secluded spot, back against the massive lump of rock that anchors one of the terrace cranes.
Toast has muscles of her own now, but it still sends a thrill through her how easily Furiosa can lift her, flesh arm curled strong beneath her and metal hand on her waist, sliding her onto a ledge in the rock behind them so their faces are at the same height when she steps forward to kiss her again, hot and wet and intense.
Furiosa’s flesh hand is on the back of her neck and her body is solid and warm between Toast’s legs, and she’s never touched Furiosa’s hair before but it is so soft; she just wants to run her hand over it again and again, and before she knows it they are not just kissing but pressed all the way together, her legs wrapped around Furiosa’s waist, feeling hard leather belts and soft breasts and a metal hand in the center of her back, and, gods, it’s intoxicating, but there’s something tugging at the back of her mind—
“Will Max be jealous?” she breathes when they break apart for air.
Furiosa laughs, her smile barely visible in the moonlight. “Not up to Max what I do.”
“I know, of course, I just—” She didn’t mean it like that—it’s just that she likes Max—not that way, but enough to not want to do something that would put distance between them. And she doesn’t know what they’ve discussed, if they’ve discussed—
“Where I come from, some women have many lovers,” Furiosa says. “Men, women, both—whatever they want.” Her flesh hand is resting lightly on Toast’s knee and her metal hand is on her back, but she realizes that Furiosa hasn’t moved to touch her anywhere else.
“What do you like?” Furiosa asks.
“I—” And she feels a sudden flush of shame to realize she can’t answer; she knows what she does with her own hand, but she’s suddenly, painfully aware of how much more time Furiosa has had to learn her own desires under Max’s hands.
“I don’t know,” she says, her gaze somewhere in the region of Furiosa’s belts.
“Slow, then,” Furiosa says. “Tell me if there’s something you don’t like, or something you want more of.”
She waits for Toast’s nod before her hand moves, a firm slide up the outside of her thigh, letting her feel the strength in her fingers through the rough fabric of her pants. She plants little teasing kisses on Toast’s lips as the hand slips under her shirt, the scrape of rough calluses from engines and guns on the soft skin of her belly stoking heat low inside her.
She pauses to kiss down to the hollow of her jaw before her hand moves again, a brush of fingers against her breast and a thumb circling her nipple, and Toast gasps; she is so sensitive there; it’s like a live wire straight to her core, and Furiosa teases and flicks and then pinches, and Toast moans.
“You like that.” It’s dark but she can make out the shape of Furiosa’s smile.
“Yes,” she breathes out, and Furiosa slides her shirt up and ducks her head down and puts her hot mouth on her breast, a suck and a flick of tongue and just the slightest press of teeth, and her fingers are playing with the other nipple now, making it hard, and Toast’s hips are rocking with a mind of their own.
She’s already biting down on her lip to keep her gasps from becoming cries, and when Furiosa nips at the soft flesh of her breast, just lightly, it’s too much and she shoves a hand into her pants to touch herself.
Furiosa’s mouth retreats and she hears herself utter a whimper of disappointment, but it’s only so Furiosa can tug at her belt, near where her hand disappears into her pants.
She kicks off her boots and lets Furiosa unbuckle her pants and balances on the ledge while she slides them off, until she’s naked from the waist down, and ohh, the feeling of being spread open slick and wet with the cool stone under her ass and Furiosa’s steady gaze on her is enough to make her shudder and arch when her fingers go back to work.
Furiosa’s hand is on the inside of her thigh, and then it’s replacing hers, copying the circling motion she likes but firmer, faster—ohh—she needs something to hold onto and she clutches at Furiosa’s shirt, heels digging into the backs of her thighs, pulling them closer together, and then Furiosa slides a finger inside her and her hips jerk; it’s a shock of pleasure but Furiosa stops to ask, “Yes?” and it’s all she can do to whimper out, “More.”
There’s a second finger inside her, sliding in up to the knuckle, and the strokes from the inside are pure electricity, and Furiosa’s thumb is pressing against that special spot, and her hips are snapping as she fucks herself on Furiosa’s fingers, until she feels everything clench, harder than she’s ever been able to do with her own hand, and she has to bury her face in Furiosa’s shirt to keep everyone around the campfire from hearing her.
The fingers slide out of her as her legs are still quivering, and the metal hand on her back is surprisingly gentle, and when she looks up Furiosa is licking her fingers clean with a satisfied look on her face.
She leans her face against Furiosa’s chest and waits for the world to stop spinning.
She hasn’t forgotten the hungry way Furiosa kissed her, and when she’s put herself back together again she looks up and says, “Can I do that to you?”
Furiosa smiles, and it’s just a twitch, but it reaches her eyes this time.
She doesn’t take her pants off, just unbuttons them enough for Toast to get her hand in, and, oh, she’s a slick wet mess already. She huffs out a sharp exhale of breath when Toast’s fingers find the right spot.
Toast grins in spite of herself. “You’re wet.”
“Did you think this was a one-way deal?” Furiosa’s cheek is pressed against hers, her breath tickling her ear.
She lets her fingers slide, exploring, until a flick makes Furiosa’s flesh hand dig into her thigh. She does it again and the metal hand on her back twitches too. “Like that,” Furiosa breathes. “Just like that.”
It takes hardly anything, just that motion over and over, for her breath to become gasping little moans. Toast leans back enough to see, and Furiosa’s head is tipped back, face flushed, mouth half-open, her long neck exposed, and if this is what Max gets to see every night he’s at the Citadel it’s no wonder he heads straight to her room when he returns.
She swallows her moan when she comes, biting down hard on her bottom lip, and her nails scratch a sharp spark of pain into Toast’s thigh.
There will be marks there the next day, and Toast will run her finger over and over them as she lies in bed nursing a too-much-moonshine headache. And there will be tiny dried bits of Furiosa’s juices crusted under her fingernails that she’ll only notice in the light of day, and together it will be enough to convince her that all of this was real.