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Hue, Saturation, Value

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The suddenness of the Citadel's hallway dropping away just beyond his feet has Max scrabbling back from the edge of the opening, but it's the shock of seeing splashes of green over across the way that has him hesitating from continuing forward. He misses his chance to jump at the swinging hook that could have meant his freedom, stuck in place by the incongruity of seeing such a color. The War Boys swarm him again in seconds, this time getting something across his mouth and nose so he can't breathe-

He wakes with a pounding head and screaming back some time later, the world around him familiar unending gray.

 


 

The green he saw must have been a trick of his mind. It happens sometimes. He'll think the sky looks blue for a moment when it's not because he remembers it being blue once, that sort of thing.

He used to see colors a lifetime ago, back before he was scraped hollow by the wasteland, but there haven't been colors in his world since the day everything ended for him. It's almost a comfort now, a constant reminder of all the things he's lost, all the ways he's failed. He doesn't deserve to see colors and so he doesn't.

 


 

During his time trapped in the Citadel Max alternates between raging against the cage they have him in and sitting quietly, trying to think his way out. Their system is good, he can admit that- good enough that it'll take more than just kicking up a fuss for him to actually escape.

They keep the steering wheels of their cars in a big pile at the end of the hallway he's hanging over, and on days when they aren't bleeding him it's better to watch the pale War Boys going back and forth than it is to focus on what the Organic Mechanic is doing to those on the ledges. Sometimes some of the people walking the hallways will be lit up in color, flashes of eyes or fabric scraps or skin, if they aren't painted chalky white.

It never fails to set his heart to racing, and the more time he spends out of the sun the less he's able to convince himself it's just a trick of memory.

His efforts to escape redouble.

 


 

He's bleeding down into some War Boy, facing the wall so the Organic can read the words tattooed into his back as if he'll forget what they say. It makes Max' skin crawl to know that people are behind him when he can barely thrash around suspended by his ankles like this, but at least he doesn't have to look at them.

He listens in when he thinks he might pick up anything useful, which isn't often. Behind him is the uncommon-but-not-unheard-of sound of a woman's voice, saying something he isn't paying attention to about a truck, he thinks. Her words abruptly slow to trail off, like something's caught her attention; he can't see her or whoever she's talking to but he feels intensely aware that she's too close to him. Not that he can do anything about it.

After an uncomfortable length of seconds she starts talking again all at once, as if she'd never stopped. Max can hear her footsteps disappearing down the hallway, voice growing quieter.

When he's hauled back up into his cage later, head dizzy with blood loss, there are swathes of the hallway that are all colored up in the fading sunlight. He could follow those colors back to the source like a blazing trail, cage notwithstanding, and at the end he'd find- what, exactly? He already lost the only person to have brought color into his life once before.

Max closes his eyes and waits for the black of night to obliterate it all.

 


 

The day they strap him to the front of a car, still hooked up to the War Boy wearing his jacket, the hot sand and scorching sunlight are a familiar gray wash.

But then he picks up on a thread of reddish color on the sand ahead of them, growing stronger to resolve tire-tracks leading up to the massive truck they're chasing down. Max wants to shut his eyes for the principle of the thing but he can't bring himself to let go of whatever advantage he can gain by staying aware.

He can't help but look over when they're nose-to-nose with the truck's cab, a shock running down his spine as he catches a glimpse of the rogue Imperator in full color. It's hard to make out any detail, not that he's trying, but her eyes are glittering bright when she looks at him in return before he yanks his gaze back away.

It doesn't matter.

The storm turns red where it meets her, a banner of eye-searing color streaming out behind her and Max forces himself to look at anything else, to focus solely on not dying.

 


 

The death knell for his ability to fool himself sounds out when she tackles him, and the sky goes bright blue up above him before he's even hit the ground. If she knows what it means to suddenly have color in her world she isn't showing any sign of it, fighting to kill as they struggle on the ground.

He presses the barrel of a still-smoking gun to her head and thinks about firing one more time and killing his ability to see color again. Max can't quite bring himself to outright kill what is apparently his soulmate, even knowing she means nothing to him, even knowing it'd be a mercy for him to return to monochrome, but he's plenty willing to leave her to take her chances with the Citadel.

Except she's rigged the truck up with kill-switches, and even as pissed as he is to not be speeding out towards freedom right this second, he has to respect that sort of thinking. So he tells her she can join his escape. It's a fair enough offer, he thinks, but she climbs up until her face is right up in the window next to him, her eyes searing as she negotiates rapidfire, an assault he finds himself overcome by within seconds when she offers him freedom of at least one sort.

 


 

He doesn't say a word to Furiosa about the colors, the jolt under his skin when they first touched, and she likewise keeps silent. She calls the place they're headed 'green' and he can't help wondering if it's a word she really understands, if she saw it be green before or if it was only ever a name to her.

Worse than seeing the world filled in with colors again is the knowledge that they really do fit well together, that they can shoot and drive and fight in sync, that he somehow lets himself fall asleep in her presence, that she answers his questions with honesty.

Max's dreams have always been in blazing color since meeting Jessie, even now after she's gone. He wakes up now on the road with a sunrise golden-red in his eyes and thinks he must still be dreaming, all the more so when Furiosa calmly tells him there's no danger like they're anything but desperate strangers to one another, until his knee spasms and the pain tells him he can't be asleep.

The day before was real, then, and he looks out the window for a long time, staring at the horizon stretching blue-sky-red-sand to calm his panicky heart.

 


 

He's not surprised when there is no green.

 


 

He is surprised when he overhears Furiosa say- he can't help it, sound travels in a place like this- in a voice too small to fit her at all that things look different to her. That they have since the day before.

Max hadn't thought that she wasn't saying anything about being soulmates because she hadn't known. Every word that the older women say to explain things feels overly loud in his ears, sends panic skittering through him.

He almost runs right then and there when she approaches him an hour or so later to offer him a motorcycle, and a place in their group. No word about what she's learned, just the type of offer you might give a new ally, but it tears him apart all the same. He barely manages to get coherent words out to warn her off instead and feels something not unlike guilt at how she looks- accepting, but disappointed.

 


 

The thought that comes back to him as he stares at their dust-trail disappearing towards the salt is of the spots of green he'd seen that first day at the Citadel. She'd had to have touched those plants the very same day he'd been hauled in and branded and yet she hasn't said a word of how much there was, how bright and alive.

When he's caught up with them one of the Vuvalini wants to know why they should return to the Citadel and he looks right at Furiosa when he answers, wondering if she'll make the connection. That it's more than just reminding them that there are plants growing.

Her eyes too are green, and bright when she clasps her hand in his.

 


 

And then- he knew it would be like this, a desperate rush, a last stand. But he didn't expect the colors to be so vibrant, so distracting in all their shades of violence.

Red was never his favorite color and it's smeared everywhere now, bursting up in flames behind him and dripping from all sides, rushing up to try and meet his aborted fall. Red's all he can see for miles around, red pounding inside his head to the tune of those war drums.

Furiosa pushes herself further and further, red leaking from her chest like it's the last color he'll ever see, and all he can do is try desperately to catch up to her before it's too late. He catches her just before she falls from Joe's chariot, red flecked across her skin but far more churning in the front seat, a triumphant shade at last.

They get remarkably far before he can rally his thoughts beyond making sure there's a pulse under his fingertips, before he can remember what good red can do. His blood is a bright line of connection between them, red flowing from his veins into hers, and he can't tell whether color is returning to her skin or to the entire world. Her eyes stay shut but her chest moves, her heart beats.

 


 

When the red gives way in his vision there's the green he remembered up on top of the Citadel, frothing up like life itself, and he watches from the dull sand as she ascends up towards it.

 


 

Max waits for the colors to fade away, to cut off sharply or slowly dull down to leave him with gray and gray and gray, but they're persistent. The sky when he wakes up is blue and the ground is reddish and every now and again he even finds little pieces of green.

Just like it had the first time it's the green that gets to him, has him turning around to face the way he already came. He puts his ear to the ground for gossip and hears that the people who used to be War Boys aren't raiding like they used to be, with enough plausible details about the new rulers that he risks nosing up to see it for himself.

The Citadel is still topped with green, dripping down the stones towards the mass of people still huddled up around the base. They let people up and down freely now and Max queues up, uncomfortably aware of the press of so many people around him. When they're loading up the lift next he steps aboard to find himself looking right at Furiosa, her eyes skating past him for a second before snapping back with recognition.

"You came back," she says for a greeting, surprised.

He ducks his head in a nod and wonders if it was a mistake; before he lifts his gaze up again she's moved so that her forehead brushes against his and he startles backwards at the contact, no matter of whether he might have wanted it or not.

She likewise takes a step back, putting space between them as the lift lurches and sways, starting back up to the top. He wonders if she doesn't need to get off, since he hadn't seen her in the crowd on the ground, but she makes no move to leave while they're still within jumping distance.

Max wants to say something, ask how she's doing. It's been a few months since the road war and she's obviously alive, looks healthy enough. He says nothing until the lift stutters to a stop at the mouth of a wide dark cave and he feels sweat prickle at the back of his neck to remember the last time he saw this view.

"We have water," Furiosa says, the words helping cut down the swarm of memories.

He has some water of his own in his pack, and some more back in his car, but he has enough barter stashed on him that he wouldn't turn down more. He hums in answer, and when she starts weaving through the stream of people he follows.

Somehow he's taken entirely by surprise to see the ex-Wives, even more so when they immediately recognize him in return.

"Max!" the redhead- Capable?- says, and he flinches at the sound of his own name. "You came back." The same words Furiosa had said, spoken with less surprise.

He grunts and resists the urge to sink into his shoulders.

She smiles at him, and then another of the girls joins them, and one of the Vuvalini, and they give him water and food and try to tell him about the things that they're doing, that they've done, until the only thing keeping him from running for the nearest exit is seeing Furiosa steady in his peripheral vision.

The green looks good when he sees it. Healthy.

It was past noon when he arrived and it's only gotten later; somehow when it's fully dark save the lights burning against the walls he finds himself following Furiosa to a door marked by a painted skeletal hand, and only connects it with her when it opens to reveal a small room with a crowded workbench and messy bed. Max halts in the doorway while she steps easily inside, hands spasming where he's reflexively shoved them inside his pockets.

She looks at him over her shoulder and starts unbuckling the belts attached to her prosthesis.

"Close the door?" she says, and looks away from him again.

He can't tell if it's a dismissal or invitation, if he should step fully into the hallway or further into her room. Furiosa tugs her metal arm off and moves to set it on the workbench.

"We have guest rooms, too," she says without looking at him. There's a lantern on the table but she makes no attempt to light it, even with the moonlight only faint in her window.

He steps into the room and swings the door shut behind him, and with the light from the hallway cut off the room is dark, washed in shadows so it almost seems to be without colors. Sometimes the desaturation of night is a welcome relief, other times it makes him itchy and conflicted.

There aren't many decorations in her room but there's a picture pasted up next to a shelf, the colors of it bright even in the fading light. One of those trick drawings, he realizes as he steps close enough to see that it's made up of little circles, that look flat gray to someone colorblind but show an image when you add colors.

This one is a pair of fish swimming around each other in a pond, peaceful and pretty and so incongruous with the rest of the wasteland. He wonders where she got it, if she rescued it from a scrap pile when the colors caught her eye or if it was given to her, if she had to take someone's word for it that it was indecipherable in grayscale. He and Jessie had gone to an art museum for their first date, wandering around the hallways and staring at how different once-familiar images now seemed.

But thinking about that makes him think about why it is Furiosa can see the colors of the picture now, just like he can, and Max twitches away from the thoughts.

The mattress looks like it'll be a tight fit for two people and he can't even remember the last time he slept flat anyway, so he settles to sit at the foot of the bed, back propped against the stone wall. She checks that the door is locked and then curls up looking more wary than anything else, and he figures the both of them are in for a rough night, thinks he maybe should have taken that guest room or just started hiking back for his car.

 


 

He's surprised, then, when he wakes up in the morning with a crick in his neck but no nightmare screaming through his mind, Furiosa uncurled just enough to shove her toes underneath his thigh. It's a better night's sleep than he can remember getting in a long time and it's part of the reason he heads out before the heat of the day kicks in.

 


 

His eyes have a harder time skipping over plants now. They're dusty and tired but green all the same against the reddish dirt, and he spends a moment looking at them now, wondering if they're useful. Most things that grow out in the wastes are scrubby things, inedible and best used as kindling, but every now and again you'll find something worthwhile if you go far enough, look hard enough.

Max doesn't look particularly hard but he goes enough places that he stumbles on them all the same, until one day he uproots one of the plants- he can't remember the name of it, but they grow some kind of vegetable if they live long enough- and tucks it carefully into an empty can. Nearly everyone out in the wastes would just as soon run it over or set it on fire because why the fuck not, it's the end of the world, but he sees the delicate layering of different greens along its veins and knows there's someplace it'll be put to good use.

The first plant he tries this with dies. It slips through the cracks in his brain until he later uncovers the bone-dry thing rattling around the back of his car, leaves and stem withered to straw, a glaring failure.

The second, though, the second plant he puts right up front next to him, lets the green of it catch his eye with every glance out his windows and drips a little water onto it at night, and it holds on long enough for him to drive within sight of the Citadel again.

Furiosa smiles at him when he hands it over, not much more than just a softening of her mouth, her eyes, but enough for him to feel proud, like he's really done something right. The Dag's the one who gets really excited, prattling about growth and seeds and if he remembers where he found it (he doesn't), but he expected that considering her focus on the gardens last time he was here.

He adds plants to the list of salvage he can trade, on top of a day's work in the garages or wherever else they can use a hand in exchange for food and water. And a place safe enough to sleep in, one of the harder luxuries to get used to.

"You can stay as long as you'd like," Furiosa says as she climbs under her blanket when he stays for a second night in a row, the colors a mishmash woven for someone with grayscale vision or just whatever scrap yarn they could get at the end of the world. She doesn't look at him as she says it and she doesn't seem to be waiting for an answer; he tries to summon words anyway but doesn't get any further than a vague grunting noise.

The third night he lists sideways against the wall until he wakes up flat out on the mattress, and the fourth night when he tries starting out that way nightmares set him thrashing and that sets Furiosa off, so the both of them wake up halfway fighting the other.

But for a few days it's bearable staying at the Citadel, until suddenly it isn't and he slips away again.

 


 

It becomes- routine is too strong a word, but a habit maybe- for him to keep an eye out for green, to keep the position of the Citadel in the back of his mind. Sometimes he gets his directions turned around, or looks up and realizes it's been months since he even thought about them last, but making the trek up to the spires starts to feel familiar.

 


 

"Do they match?" Cheedo asks, holding up a pair of shiny glass baubles for him to see.

Max stares at her.

"The colors, do they match?" she says again, as if he might have misunderstood what he was asking.

One bauble is blue, the other purple, but that's not the reason he shakes his head, eyes widening even as his vision narrows. Max could have guessed that they all knew, of course, that they all were aware of him and Furiosa, and the colors they can see together, but for some reason it's striking him just now that it means they know.

"Max?" Cheedo says, smile giving way to a frown of concern. "You okay?"

Max can't stop shaking his head, vision spotty and gray in a way he knows isn't real but grips him with terror all the same. He walks calmly and slowly away from Cheedo, calmly and slowly through the now-familiar hallways bustling with people until he finds his car.

"Lift's down in half an hour," the attendant says when he's shuffled into place, unaware or uncaring that Max could get one of the ex-Wives to have it lowered immediately for him if he so much as hinted he wanted it.

He nods sharply and moves to sit in the driver's seat of his car, waiting for the wheels to start turning again. Dwelling on why he's going isn't an option; even if he wanted to pick it apart, Max wouldn't know where to begin. Cheedo's statement was innocuous, of a kind he's heard a hundred times before, albeit in a different lifetime.

People slowly fill out the space on the lift platform, not bothering to leave any air between themselves and the sides of his car, and the press is claustrophobic. If the horn worked he thinks he might have honked it, but that thing had been taken out ages ago.

A set of knuckles raps against the side of the car and Max jumps. Furiosa peers down at him, apparently unconcerned to see him on the verge of fleeing without so much as a goodbye.

"Heading out?" she asks.

He grunts and tears his eyes away from her green gaze, hands tightening on the worn leather of his steering wheel.

"Take care," she says with a shadow of a command in her voice, disguised as a simple suggestion.

Max nods.

Then she's gone again, the crowd moving in to fill her space as easily as if she was never there, and the lift clanks to life to lower him down to the unforgiving wasteland below.

 


 

He's constantly surprised by the splashes of colors he finds in the most unlikely of places. A swatch of fencing that's electric old-world orange, a stripe of blue down the middle of an approaching car, yellow in the eyes of the only person selling water for kilometers around.

It's hard to avoid now that he knows they're there, now that things aren't grayscale anymore. Some people seem to have no idea they're sporting purple or red or whatever fantastical color it is that catches his eye, while others wear them like a badge of honor, membership to a secret club.

There's a moment of recognition sometimes, a person who sees something colorful and then happens to catch Max's eye at exactly the right moment to know that he saw it, too. 'Aren't we lucky,' the looks say with a conspiratorial smugness, 'Both of us with living soulmates.'

It makes him nervy when it happens, makes him itch with the sudden need to be elsewhere. Mostly because he can't deny it. He sees colors because he has a soulmate, even if she isn't the first to have made him see colors, and there's no use pretending he can only see shades of black and white anymore.

 


 

One day he's there for when they're throwing some kind of a party that Toast tells him he's just in time for. He's forced to scrub his skin and trim his hair and sponge the worst grit off his leathers before he's allowed up top to the garden spilling light and music into the air.

The place is a riot of colors, people trading everyday faded-to-dullness clothes for brighter stuff you wouldn't want to wear out in the wastes, bright blues and yellows and all sorts of patterns that stand out painfully even if you're seeing them just as gray. Max hunches a little further into his familiar jacket and is torn between relief and a strange shade of disappointment when he spots Furiosa wearing just her usual gear.

Capable's wearing something green and orange that clashes horribly with her hair, and it's hard to remember that most- if not all- the people here can't see anything wrong with it if they tried.

He sidles up to Furiosa, perfectly content to use her as a touch-point of sanity in the chaos. "You couldn't talk her out of that?" he asks, nodding towards where Capable is complementing her wild outfit with some equally wild dance moves.

"What's the point?" she says in reply, shrugging loose. Her cheeks are a little bit flushed and her eyes are bright, and when she passes the cup she was holding over to him the reason for her state is obvious.

Max doesn't much like getting drunk or high or otherwise impaired these days. It's more danger than it's worth when everything and everyone is a potential danger- but the Citadel as it is now is alarmingly safe, at least as far as letting his guard down enough to get buzzed is concerned.

He takes a sip of the drink and feels it burn all the way up to his sinuses, holding a cough back by the skin of his teeth. Furiosa's got a head start on him but it doesn't take overly long before things start to fuzz pleasantly around the edges for him as well.

It would take a lot more moonshine than he intends to drink to get him out and actually dancing, so he just lets the beat move through him and watches the others.

"What's the party for?" he asks in a lull, trying not to look at where Toast is plastering herself up against some former War Boy, symbols that look more like vines than gears decorating his skin.

"A good harvest," Furiosa says. Her voice is warm and languid, and when he lets himself look over at her the firelight from the torches is painting her skin all shades of gold and flickering blue shadows. He loses himself for a moment in the sight before tearing his eyes away, to some random point off in the distance.

He hums out a reply probably a few beats too late, but she doesn't call him on it.

The party keeps going around them, boisterous and loud and crowded, and Max thinks he should probably leave before he drinks any more. He excuses himself with a mumble to go find a bucket and on the way back gets a bit lost, the lure of quieter garden lanes too strong to resist. Away from the action the air is cooler, and since the ground wobbles slightly more than he's comfortable with he finds a place to sit down for a minute, breathing out in relief.

He's contemplating the shadows on the moon when he hears movement, and his attention sharpens, cutting through the haze of alcohol. But it's only a couple stumbling down the pathway, wrapped up in each other. He heaves himself to his feet and heads back, intending to tell Furiosa that he's done for the night and ask if she'll lend him the key to her room so he can go crash if she isn't ready to turn in herself yet.

He finds her at the edges of the clearing, moonshine nowhere to be seen and a flower twirling between her fingers.

"I'm done," he tells her.

She nods, and glances at the crowd before looking back at him. "Me too," she says, and they make their way down to her room. He has to stop himself from brushing into her as they walk, his entire body seeming to want to list in her direction.

"Here," she says when they're stopped at her door, and thrusts the flower she was holding towards him. She hesitates uncharacteristically, mouth opening and closing. "They're the same color as your eyes." She looks away from him as she puts the key into the lock and opens the door.

Max looks down at the flower he's now holding; it's a bit crumpled, but he doesn't think he'd recognize what type it is anyway. The light's too dim for him to be sure what color it is and it isn't as if he makes a point of studying his own eyes, so he'll take her word for it. The words "your eyes are green" tumble out of his mouth without his meaning to say anything at all.

She turns those green eyes on him as she closes the door behind behind him and he feels it like a jolt all the way through him. He can't handle the intensity of her gaze so he looks elsewhere, but elsewhere turns out to be her mouth. They're standing too close, he should take a step back- but he moves forward instead, leaning into her space.

Furiosa closes the distance in a blink.

Her lips brush against his and he reaches his hands out for her, kissing with an intensity he hadn't realized was pent up inside of him. The flower gets crushed but if she notices she doesn't seem to care, her hand grabbing the back of his head while she presses herself up against him.

He can taste that moonshine in her mouth and it's just as intoxicating as drinking it was, smooths over any hesitation about why this might be a bad idea. The door is cold metal against his back with her weight bearing on him, his dick hardening with every little noise she makes against his lips until he can't think about anything but getting her on the bed.

"Can I," he gets out between kisses.

"Yeah," she replies breathlessly, even though he never finished the question. She seems to have the right idea anyway because she tugs at him to leave the wall, backing up to head for the mattress.

Max sheds his jacket now that there's room to, but rather than close the distance again immediately he takes the few steps over to her work table. The lamp there lights up easily, illuminating the room in warm golds. The moonlight would have been enough to maneuver in but he wants to see her, as much of her as she'll let him.

She's looking at him with an expectant expression, prosthesis discarded on the floor and fingers tugging at her belt buckle, and he pulls off his shirt as he walks back to her.

His mouth leaves faint pinkish-red marks on her skin when he sucks against the pulse in her neck, quick to appear and equally quick to fade. Furiosa makes approving noises and pushes into his touches, elbow crooked around his neck and hand roaming his skin in return.

He unlaces the corset on her waist and pushes her shirt up, exposing her chest and stomach to the cool night air. Her nipples are rosey pink against the pale skin of her breasts and he lowers his mouth to suck one into his mouth, wondering if she'd let him keep going until they're red like ripe fruit. She moans and wraps her arms firmly around him while he mouths at her chest, then tugs him down so he's crouched over her on the bed.

"Touch me," she breathes, rolling her body to rub against his, thighs parting in invitation.

Max kisses her and moves a hand down from her chest along her abdomen, fingers stuttering over little gnarls of scar tissue, tracing the planes of her muscles. He cups her pussy through her trousers and she rocks into the touch, so hot he can feel her through the leather. He somewhat reluctantly pulls himself away so he can actually get her pants off, sliding them down her legs only to get foiled by the fact that she hadn't taken off her boots.

She looks as surprised by this discovery of oversight as he feels, a moment later snickering enough to remind him of the drinks they'd shared, the way neither is at their sharpest. She nearly kicks him as she attempts to scrape the boots off herself and he grabs her ankles in self-defense, tugging off her boots and trousers quickly if not gently. He takes the moment to kick out of his own shoes as well.

Furiosa's laid out like a feast for him against the riot of colors that makes up her bedspread, her eyes dark and skin flushed. She adjusts her hips and he sees a flash of her pussy, and just the thought of this has him grinding his heel down against his aching dick, any trace of laughter fled.

"Can I eat you out?" he asks, voice rough.

She licks her lips and nods easily. "Fuck, yeah."

He settles himself between her legs and runs his hands up and down her thighs, nuzzles his way across her skin. It's been longer than he wants to think about since he was with someone like this, damp curls giving way to hot slick flesh, and he groans low in his chest at the first taste of her pussy.

Max wants equally to savor every second, see how desperate he can make her, and to get her off as quickly as he can. He thinks she'll let him fuck her either way.

She moans when he finds her clit and licks over it, bucks her hips up against him when he seals his lips around it and gives a pull of suction. The one bad thing about using his mouth is he can't really look at her, can't see her face while she's writhing and making encouraging noises.

He pulls off just enough to ask, "Fingers?"

She hums in answer, a whining note in the noise, and he wets his fingers with saliva before circling one around the opening of her cunt.

Fuck but she's hot inside, slick and clinging eagerly to his finger when he enters her. He starts licking her again, from where his finger's disappearing into her up to the peak of her clit, and has to use his free hand to hold onto her hip when she starts rocking against him enthusiastically enough to be in danger of dislodging him.

He slips a second finger in her and curls them up, his searching rewarded when Furiosa moans loudly and goes tense all around him, heels digging into his back, only to relax all at once the next moment. Her cunt is pulsing hot and wet and her breathing up above him is harsh panting.

He hums a questioning noise and she twitches, but her hand drifts down to rub over the top of his head like she's petting him. She doesn't say anything to tell him to stop and he keeps going, rubbing and stroking her walls with his fingers while his mouth works at her clit, teases her labia.

Max slides his other hand from her hips to her breasts and kneads the soft flesh there while he licks her, rolls and pinches her nipples. The way she's responding to him, the way she feels and how she looks when he steals peeks at her, the noises she's making, the way her pussy tastes, all serve to have him hitching his hips mindlessly against the mattress to get some friction on his cock.

She comes a second time with a swear, almost immediately squirming away from him.

He lets his fingers slip out of her and lifts his head, licking the taste of her off his lips while he gauges where she's at. She's breathing hard, a layer of sweat gathering on her skin that he sort of wants to lick away, but her eyes are still bright in the glow of the lantern- nothing that suggests she'd pulled away because of anything more than just getting oversensitive.

He's breathing hard too, pulse racing with desire, feels delirious with how little blood's actually in his head, dick a dark purpling red with how hard it is.

"I want you in me," Furiosa says. Her words are a plain request but it's pitched like a question, like she isn't sure he'd want the same.

He doesn't fight the low noise that breaks out of him at the thought, and shifts himself up to his knees so he can move further up her body. "You look so good," he mumbles, struck by the contrast of his tanned hand running up her pale belly, the hundreds of different shades of her skin, little blotches of color from healing bruises like sickly flowers. The reality of seeing her bare like this is better than any fantasy he could have conjured, had he let himself try.

She responds by pulling his head in and kissing him, not shy about the fact that the taste of her pussy is still heavy on his tongue. She rolls them on the mattress and Max goes along with it easily, groaning a little at the feeling of her body settling over his.

He takes his hands off her to undo his trousers and shove them down his hips, then gasps at the unexpected feeling of her hand reaching down to touch his dick.

She looks down at him with half-lidded eyes, just a strip of green visible around her pupils and her mouth pulling into a satisfied smile. She curls her fingers around his cock and gives a long stroke that has his hips twitching, thumb smearing the precome he's leaking all around. Then she sits up to straddle him properly and he moans loudly as she positions his dick at her entrance and starts sinking down onto him.

She was wonderful around his fingers and she's even better on his dick, pussy wrapping him in slick heat as she works herself down his length, eyes closed and lip bitten in concentration. He's glad when Furiosa pauses for a moment after he's bottomed out inside her, struggling not to just lose control and pound up into her for the all of ten seconds he'd last.

She breathes out his name and opens her eyes. He has to look away from her gaze, instead focusing on where their bodies meet, the curves of her form.

He grunts and rolls his hips when she starts moving, rocking against him with a quiet moan of her own. He coaxes her to curl into him enough for him to put his mouth on her skin, peppering her chest and throat with kisses, nipping just enough to draw up red marks. Some of them might even stay, might darken to a more brilliant hue other people will hardly see the shadow of.

He isn't sure he's going to last long enough for her to climax again, despite the lure of wanting her to do so with his dick inside of her.

Her knuckles brush against him as she moves, hand occupied with touching her clit. Max presses his teeth down a little harder on her nipple than he means to when she starts squeezing him with her pussy, but she arches into it with a gasp.

"Fuck," she sighs, "You need to- fuck."

He isn't sure what she's asking for but he takes a guess, switching to her other nipple and being just a little rough with it as well.

Furiosa cries out and grinds her hips against him harshly, cunt going wild around his dick as she works herself through coming. He pulls himself out a moment later and takes his cock in hand for the few strokes he needs to finish, his cum splattering pearly-white against the pale pink of her stomach.

She lets out a long sighing breath and slumps down, sliding to lie along his side in a sticky sprawl. He cups her cheek with his marginally cleaner hand and kisses her, languid now while his heartbeat slows back down. When she pulls back she looks down at her stomach and wrinkles her nose, getting up without a word to grab something to wipe the mess off with.

Max pillows his head on his arm and watches with lazy pleasure as she moves around the room completely naked, the light of the lantern casting dramatic shadows that catch on the planes of her body. He pulls his trousers up over his hips again but doesn't do up the fly; he'd feel more comfortable if he put his shirt back on as well, but it's on the floor somewhere and between the booze and the sex and the extinguishing of the lamp he doesn't think he could move to find it.

She slides back into the bed still naked but clean now, pulling the blanket up to cover the both of them.

He's slept flat with her a few times but it's still not something he's used to, even less so when he cautiously puts out his arm to rest against her middle. Furiosa doesn't push him away or seem like she wants space between them again and he sighs a little in relief, curling into her.

 


 

It actually takes until the next afternoon for the panic to set in. Max wakes in the morning groggy and slow and without more than his usual creeping unease, head tender and mouth feeling like something crawled inside and died there during the night. Furiosa is already awake, dressed and pulling on her boots for the day.

Later, when he's in the garage tweaking the exhaust of a bike, Furiosa says some innocuous comment about someone still wearing their bright party shirt, the color of it distracting in the stone cave that makes up all of the Citadel's interiors. The reality of the situation catches up with him all at once. They didn't just sleep together, she hasn't just worked her way under his armor- he might be able to handle that.

What he can't handle is the reminder that he's seeing colors because of her, that she's seeing the same, that the universe decided the two of them should be connected in a way that's only supposed to happen once in a lifetime and he already had his shot, already loved and lost the other half of his soul.

Max puts down the pliers he was using with hands that are suddenly shaking and doesn't say a word as he leaves the garage. Accusations dog at his heels, loud suddenly- when had they quieted?- a hundred voices reminding him of all the ways he's failed, the ways he's betrayed their trust. He shakes his head and it only clears the way for Glory to stare at him, grayscale because that's the only way he'd known her.

"Why are you running?" she asks, and he realizes that he is indeed running. There's no need to make a desperate leap out an open window this time; he simply climbs down one of the ladders they've set up for daytime use and drops to the sand, the sun burning bright and hot overhead.

Once he gets out of the tangle of humanity at the base of the spires and into his car there's nothing to be seen but reddish sand and bluish skies, and he drives well into the dark of night to avoid any hint of green.

 


 

When the fear recedes, guilt sets in. He hasn't promised anything to Furiosa and she would probably be better off without him hanging around, no matter how the both of them respond to threats better when they're working together, but he can admit that leaving like that was a bad decision.

And sleeping with her was an even worse one.

Max hasn't been entirely celibate since- since everything. It had made sense to trade sex for supplies a few times, and he'd flat out just wanted it a few others. But he hasn't had sex with anyone he ever intended to see again, anyone whom he trusted enough to fall asleep with after, anyone he'd be willing to risk his life for without gaining anything in return.

He tells himself that it doesn't matter, that it was just a drunken fuck and nothing needs to change, but he doesn't entirely believe himself.

 


 

His eyes catch on every bit of green he sees, every little glimmer of water, on useful car parts and useless trinkets and everything in between. But it's the green that gets to him the most, the green growing out of red cracks in the earth that makes him slow his pace, makes him stop and consider taking what isn't his to a place he doesn't belong.

He usually lets the urge pass him by, but one day he finds himself in possession of a rack of jars containing seedlings- citrus trees, he's told, as if he has the ability to tell plants apart when they're this young- and he certainly has no use for the fragile little things, no desire to stand guard as they grow over the years.

Why they couldn't have left them as seeds, that's what Max wants to know. Seeds can last, and last, and be eaten in a pinch- sprouts need care, a place to take root, exactly the sort of burden he hasn't asked for.

 


 

Furiosa says nothing of his abrupt departure once he returns. She meets him halfway to the Citadel, his car trundling up the distance cautiously, and presses their foreheads together in greeting like always.

Up close he can see the colors of new bruises under her skin, a redness where she spent too long in the sun, greasy brown-black from where she was working on something mechanical. Her eyes are the same piercing green, the same shade that haunts him, that flays him to his soul.

"Found some things," Max mumbles into the fabric of her scarf- black and white entwined, the shades pure to suggest she found the scraps of fabric herself instead of someone with grayscale vision.

She nods in answer and they step away, businesslike again as they navigate getting his car up to the heights of the Citadel.

Seeing her like this again, calm and in control, a brighter splash of color against the dull red rock than he would have ever anticipated, makes Max itch to get his hands on her again. If he's honest with himself there's been want simmering under the surface for a while now, a low ache whenever he sees her, but now that he knows what she sounds like as he fucks into her, how she tastes against his tongue, the way her skin flushes when she comes- it's hard to think of other things, now that he knows.

But with every flash of color he sees, it's easy to remember what prompted him to run. The connection he feels with Furiosa is bone-deep, soul-deep, and it's terrifying how she's rearranged his very perception of the world.

He doesn't plan to stay long after dropping off the seedlings, but of course the girls want to swarm around him, chatting happily, showing off what they've done in the time he's been absent. And then he might as well stay for dinner, and then the sun has fled and they won't lower the lifts again until morning.

Max arranges himself at the foot of Furiosa's bed, planning to spend the night in fitful sleep, but she kneels next to him on the mattress and puts her hand on his cheek and he's lost. He kisses her the way he's been thinking about since he left, undresses her to taste the salt of her skin and slides inside her body without anything but his own desire to blame. She writhes under him, gasping his name, clutching at his body as she moves in tandem with him and it is the most beautiful sight he's ever seen, even with just faint starlight to see her by.

Lying with her in the sweaty aftermath is torture. He wants to run away, terrified by everything he's feeling, the fact that she's brought color back to his world. He wants to stay forever and bask in her presence, to do nothing but continue lying with his head on her chest, listening to her heartbeat.

In the dark it's hard to tell there even are colors to be seen, but if he concentrates he can see their shadows, the proof that he hasn't gone colorblind again.

"Max," Furiosa says quietly, but then falls silent. Her fingers are carding through his hair with gentle repetition. She sighs, a sound he can hear through her entire ribcage.

He glances up to find her staring at the ceiling, and tugs his arm a little closer around her middle. The urge to run surges through him like the long-ago ocean, a rising and falling tide.

"I know what it means to see colors," she says at last.

Max sucks in a breath. The room is suddenly far too small, the night too dark, the press of her body against his too cloying. He rolls away from her, missing her warmth immediately as he brushes up against cold stone instead.

She sits up over him, naked and beautiful in the starlight. There's a spot on her neck where he hadn't checked his desire to mark her, already turning dark red that will stand out against her pale skin for even colorblind people to see.

"We don't have to talk about it," she says, voice pitched low. "But I know you see them too."

Max can't look at her; he can't look away. She means so much to him, enough that he'd been willing to bleed himself dry for her days after first laying eyes on her, a feeling that has only grown stronger since. "I don't," he rasps out, "I can't."

He doesn't know what he's saying, but she doesn't seek clarification. Furiosa just sits there and watches him, eyes piercing even in the gloom, steady and constant and just there.

Words stick in his throat, words he has no intention of saying. Jessie's eyes were blue, he wants to tell Furiosa. Blue like the ocean she'd loved, the ocean that's as dead and gone as she is, gone cold and empty and black. Max had accepted that colors fled his world after her death- had embraced it, a wasteland devoid of even the simple pleasure of a clear blue sky- and now that they're back, he doesn't know what to do.

He can feel Furiosa's gaze drop away from him, though he can't bring himself to lift his eyes to see where she's looking now.

He thinks for a moment about what it would be like to return to black and white, to live through a loss like that again, to have the knowledge of Furiosa's death imprinted across his entire world. Max shudders and curls into himself.

He survived it once, and he may survive it twice- surviving is what he's good at, after all, like a cockroach or the common cold- but just the thought grips his chest with pain.

He reaches out an arm and touches the curve of her thigh, taut muscles under soft skin.

Furiosa lets go of a breath and puts her hand on his, rubs her thumb against his wrist. "Get some sleep," she says, and squeezes her fingers around his for a moment before shifting back down to the mattress, until she's lying next to him once again.

He hesitates, the urge to flee still thrumming under his skin, but for now keeps hold of her hand, even though the angle must be uncomfortable for her.

 


 

The mark on her neck's darkened to a proper bruised-red by morning, a reminder of what they'd done together, of the fact that he's privileged to see the color and the vulnerability of it.

Furiosa is lying still in his arms, but there's a tension in her body that tells him she isn't asleep, a sense of waiting in her stillness. Max traces the curve of her neck with his eyes for a moment, her skin pale and creamy in the morning sunlight, reflecting bits of red and gold from the rocks around them.

He's hard, which is less unusual now than it has been in a while. The Citadel as it is now does that to him, all good food and good sleep and good company, only spurred on by Furiosa warm and lax in his arms. He brushes his lips against the back of her neck, testing, and her reaction is to let out a breath he can almost call a sigh.

Their legs are tangled together, and slowly like she's wary of spooking him Furiosa slides a leg higher against his, skin brushing against skin.

Max kisses her neck properly, sets his teeth against the tendons of her neck and flicks his tongue over her beating pulse. She lets out a little gasp and he slides the arm trapped awkwardly between them down her spine, to where the firm swell of her ass begins rubbing against his dick in small, hitching movements.

He palms her breast with his other hand, pleased to feel her nipples forming peaks for him to roll between his fingers while he lazily tries to feel her all over.

The sun's risen high enough to fill the room with light, but with Furiosa turned away from him like this he can only get glimpses of her even still. The curve of her cheekbone, a curl of hair left uneven by the clippers, the strong arch of her spine marred by the ugly skull at the base of her shoulders. He can't see her face, her eyes, and he's as grateful for the chance to hide as he is yearning for her to turn around.

Furiosa lets out a throaty hum and then it's his turn to gasp as her fingers find his dick, calloused skin careful as she takes hold of him. His hips roll forward without any direction from his brain, the head of his cock smearing sticky precome against the skin of her thighs.

She hitches her leg higher against his, opening herself up, and Max can't resist the invitation. He moves more fully between her legs and lets her guide him over to her pussy, warm and wet enough that it's effortless to slide inside in a single easy stroke.

He groans as he feels her hot flesh wrap around his dick, arm tightening around her chest to hold her close, as if she was showing any signs of wanting to go away.

For a moment he just lies there inside of her, reveling in the feeling of being invited in, wanted, but the urge to move is too much for him to suppress for more than the span of a few panting breaths. Max draws his hips back and she makes a little noise, one that grows when he pushes back inside.

He puts his mouth back on the spot he's already bruised and sucks again, a little harder, wanting the mark to last since he's already gone and done it once. Furiosa pushes into his touches, her fingers exploring where they're joined, stump gripping his arm tightly to her chest.

"Max," she breathes out, the first word he's heard from her this morning, her voice soft but still clear as a bell in the otherwise quiet room, floating up above the slick sounds of their coupling.

He buries his face between her neck and the pillow below, the pace of his hips picking up as his need builds.

Furiosa works in tandem with him, the movements of her breathing getting faster and shallower against his hand as he keeps playing with her breasts, squeezing and massaging one of the only truly soft areas on her wiry body. He wants to open his eyes and take in her face as he fucks her, to make sure it's nothing but pleasure he's seeing; he wants to stay hidden and safe, to pretend this is just a dream he's indulging in.

Her cunt ripples around him as she squeezes her muscles and Max barks out a gasp, rhythm thrown off to morph into something faster, more desperate. His other hand is on her hip and his body moves to cover hers more fully, lending him more leverage to his movements.

Furiosa moans and arches her back against him, and fuck but he wants to see her face.

He can't tear himself away from the hot clutch of her body long enough to entertain the logistics of how to make it possible, though, and with a few last thrusts Max spends himself, barely pulling out in time to spill over the sheets.

She lets out a guttural, disappointed noise that she unsuccessfully tries to temper into a simple sigh, and he presses a kiss to the sweaty notch of her jaw because the alternative is to smile at hearing such a sound come from her throat.

He attempts to hum a reassurance but what comes out is just a rasp, and rather than try it again Max reaches his hand for her shoulder, and gently urges her to turn over for him.

She's flushed red and sweaty in the morning heat, and her eyes are so sharp and bright it takes him a moment to recover his thoughts. He kisses her because he can't resist the lure of her mouth, soft and open and just a little bit pouting in disappointment.

He waits until she's kissing back with real vigor before moving on, hands running down her arms and sides as he slowly begins to kiss his way across her throat, her collarbones.

Furiosa says his name again, this time with a note of surprise, and he rumbles a wordless noise in reply because he doesn't want to know what might fall off his tongue if he tries to speak.

She has matching scars on either side of her ribs, one a jagged line like mountains and the other a sunken valley; for the life of him, Max can't remember which one he gave her. Which cut nearly ended her life and which one saved it, if they aren't maybe one and the same after all.

He sucks her nipple into his mouth to distract himself and slips his fingers between her legs, where her pussy is aching hot and wet against his skin, swollen and open from the press of his dick. She spreads her thighs to welcome him in with a moan and he explores her folds with his fingers, rubbing against her clit the way she'd liked the night before.

Her hips roll up against him and her arms reach for his shoulders, and Max keeps his eyes open to see that hers slide shut, cutting off the intensity of her gaze. She gasps and moans and he watches the minute changes of her expression, feels for the way her cunt responds against his hand.

Finally with a sharp noise she lets go, back arching up only to lie against the mattress again, legs falling akimbo as she finds her release.

He has no idea when he last saw something as beautiful as this, Furiosa spread out open for him in the warm sunlight, safe and content and strong, pleasure humming under her skin like an electric current. She sighs heavily and slides her eyes back open, and Max kisses her before she has a chance to say anything, rolling away from her to land heavily against the stone cold floor not even a second later.

He's aware of his nakedness suddenly in a way he wasn't the night before, when it hadn't made sense to leave any clothes on in the dark and quiet of her room. His shoulders bunch together when he remembers that she can read the ugly scrawl of his tattoo clearly like this, that there's nothing hiding the puckered scar of his brand.

He roughly clears his throat but can't force out some innocuous comment, and instead searches for his clothes in silence, not daring to turn around to look at her again, not wanting the spell to be broken.

Furiosa joins him not long after, pulling on her trousers and her shirt without any hint that she'd rather be talking over anything. "Help me with this?" she asks after a moment, and he has to turn to look at her after all because he can't resist anyone, but especially someone like her, asking for his help.

She has the black leather of her corset-piece in place, but the laces are loose and sagging. Max moves into her blind spot and tightens them up, relieved somehow that he can help her put on her armor for the day, wondering in the back of his mind how she would have managed if he hadn't been there.

 


 

He stays, for a time. Spends his days with the girls and Vuvalini and even the former War Boys, who seem to hold no memory of him as a former blood-bag, a thing to be taken advantage of at every turn. And he spends his nights with Furiosa, losing and finding himself in her body, learning how to draw out the best noises from her, watching the subtle progression of colors as bruises bloom and fade against her skin.

The restlessness doesn't leave, until one day Max makes a vague comment about heading out and the girls pout, but Furiosa only nods and talks about how much water he'll want, what ammo they have to spare for him.

 


 

He circles in and out, sometimes managing a single night away from her and other times missing entire months in a blink. She's never far from his thoughts even when the physical distance is nearly an entire continent, can't be when every glance around him reveals the effect she's had on his world, the colors she's sparked into being. It's a comfort as much as it is a torment, a reminder of what he has now, what he's missing by being on his own, what he lost already once before.

 


 

When he's away he can sometimes welcome the harsh sweep of desert air over his skin, in his eyes and nose. Maybe the sand will scrub away some layer of his body or his mind or his soul that's the problem, the reason he can't accept the best thing to happen to him since the world went gray all those years ago.

The dirt is red, the sky is blue, the scraggling plants clinging to life are green.

No matter where he turns Max can't escape the presence of colors, the proof of what Furiosa means to him according to the universe. He hadn't known her at all in those first moments of meeting, had thought about killing her and knew damn well she had tried to kill him, and yet the universe had still seen fit to illuminate their worlds with blazing color to mark their meeting.

He stares at the stars at night, so inky black he can pretend there's no hint of color at all in the world, and contemplates never going back. There's no reason he should stay away, no reason at all, but the thought is compelling in a sick way.

He stares at the sunrise, colors burning up out of sickly fog so there's no ignoring them, and contemplates never leaving again.

"Where are you?" Glory asks, an old friend he doesn't see around very often anymore. Her ghost has been worn thin, the guilt over how she'll never grow up to be more than a little girl, never have a chance to see colors of her own, buried under the weight of new sins.

Max rubs a hand over his face and sighs heavily. There's a few strands of silver in Furiosa's hair now, little threads of gray that all the colors in the world can't touch.

Jessie hadn't had the chance to grow any gray hairs. She was the springtime, eternal and young, the best of his youth. The colors she brought to his world were revelations, every one new and unique, every glance an untold masterpiece.

The colors Furiosa introduced are the raging summer, burning against his eyes with familiarity, impossible to ignore. It brings pain, so much that some days he thinks about never opening his eyes again, but it's a comfort all the same. Some days the sky is nearly the same shade as Jessie's eyes, some days he can almost find Furiosa's gaze hidden in the leaves he gathers with his weary hands.

 


 

He keeps returning because he doesn't really know how not to, at this point. The Citadel has become a lodestone to him, a point his internal compass swings back to time and time again.

 


 

There's a rainbow of colors up in the gardens that crown the Citadel, greens and yellows and reds all splashed up against the dusty earth that barely sustains them. The sky above is bright blue and stretches out towards the horizon, where it meets the heat-wavering ground far below.

Max likes it up there where it's quiet and open, a breath of relief from memories that can never be truly forgotten or forgiven.

He stretches out his legs against one of the rare patches left fallow for the season, nothing more delicate than clover for him to crush beneath him, while a little ways down the lane Furiosa is examining some plant in her usual cool manner, turning leaves and branches this way and that as she looks for insects or mold or whatever type of pests they're worried about up here. There are flowers on the plant she's looking at, pale blue-ish, and he remembers suddenly the night she'd given him a flower because it reminded her of the color of his eyes.

"Hey," he calls out, soft enough that he thinks she won't hear.

But she does turn to him, bright gaze swinging to land on him across the distance. She says nothing in reply, expression faintly curious.

"There's a, ah, there's a mineral pool," Max finds himself saying. "Week or two south."

She looks slightly puzzled, fingers slipping away from the plant she was inspecting, but she nods to show she's following his words.

He finds that he has to look away from her. "It's..." He has to search for a way to sum it up, the bright colors growing inside the pool of undoubtedly toxic water. Algae, he thinks, or bacteria or maybe just dissolved minerals. Not that it makes any difference when the important part is the shocking rings of color, the unearthly beauty of it that for once wasn't even caused by humans and their destructive touch. "Colorful," he settles on.

Furiosa watches him for a moment like she's waiting for him to say more, and he sees his chance to just let it pass, to stop talking and go back to contemplating the clouds as they drift by overhead.

"You should see it," he says just as she's turned her face away again. "You... We should go. Hm. Together."

Her attention snaps back to him and she looks as surprised by his words as he feels. It's not as if he hasn't gone places with her, but they've been missions and assignments, things with real purpose. This is him asking her to go driving for a few days to see a place just because it's pretty, just because the both of them can see the colors of it and appreciate it in full.

There's damp sweat between his shoulderblades that even the dry heat of the day hasn't whisked away, and he drops his gaze to the dusty ground near his boots.

For a moment there's nothing to be heard but the usual distant noises of the working farm, winches straining and people calling out and water flowing. There's even been some birds lately, singing away from the few trees they've gotten to survive the high winds and dust storms.

"I'd like that," Furiosa says, voice just loud enough to carry.

He looks back up at her to see that she's plucked a leaf off the plant, her metal hand holding it with delicate precision, green a sharp contrast to the blackened prosthesis.

Max lets out a breath and nods his head, relief for something he couldn't name rolling like a cool breeze over his skin. The mineral pools were pretty enough when he stumbled on them himself, but he thinks they'll be truly sublime when he can see them reflected in her eyes. "Yeah," he says, the idea settling in his mind and not turning up any sharp edges, "Me too."