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Fortifying

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There’s a tree up in the Citadel’s gardens that’s shorter and thicker than the rest, that doesn’t bear any sort of fruit. But Max sees one day that there’s something up in it’s branches all the same, and he grunts a question at the greenthumb nearest him. The greenthumb replies that it’s a little look-out fort that some of the pups put together. "We would have taken it down but it keeps them out of the real look-outs."

And Max keeps an eye out when he’s in the gardens next and sure enough there’s fairly often kids scrambling up the branches with little scrap-toy guns, playing at bandits and defenders.

He worries that the platform he can see is unsafe, maybe. If the kids built it themselves it’s probably liable to fall apart, not that he would tell them directly. So he waits until dark and heaves and huffs his way up into the branches- climbing trees used to be easier, Max is sure of that- and finds that the fort could indeed use some fortifications.

It becomes a project he works on here and there, on nights when he can’t sleep but the garage is too loud for his thoughts. On nights when he's actually at the place that used to be the Citadel instead of circling around it like a stray afraid to come up to the campfire. The platform was rickety at first, barely something he trusted to hold his own weight, but soon he’s sure it could handle a herd of kids.

He’s surprised, somehow, when Furiosa calls to him from the base of the tree one night. Max has actually dozed off, staring up at the stars through the branches, feeling safe surrounded by leaves.

He peers out over the edge of the platform at her, blanket wrapped around her night clothes, and wonders if she could climb up the branches without her arm on.

"You should take a blanket if you’re sleeping out here," she says when he shimmies his way back down the trunk to land on the solid ground again. There’s a coating of dew on his clothes, damp and cold, that he hadn’t noticed accumulating.

"Can you climb?" he says instead of replying, not wanting to assume, already thinking of how he could boost her through the trickiest spot.

Furiosa can, as it turns out, climb up to the fort without her prosthesis, though she takes a different route than Max does. She smiles triumphantly down from the platform as she waits for him to finish making his way up, then holds open the edge of the blanket to share.

There’s something different about the quietness now that there’s the steady rhythm of Furiosa’s breathing joined with his own, the warm solidity of her pressed all along his side. It’s nicer, Max thinks, the way that everything seems to be when she’s with him.

Before long the sun starts rising, something he’s hasn’t before stayed long enough to see, fresh golden light shading through the green leaves. The light dapples across Furiosa’s face when he glances at her, relaxed and peaceful, and he thinks not for the first time what a wonder it is that there’s green growing things anywhere, anymore.

"Pups’ll be here soon," she says, stretching out one of her legs to dangle over the side of the platform.

Max hums in reply, loathe to give up the quiet peace but knowing there’s things that need doing now that it’s no longer night.

From one of the nooks he’d added to the fort Furiosa procures a little gun-shaped bit of scrap that one of the kids must have left behind, and hefts it as if testing the balance of it for real.

"I think the both of us can hold ‘em off," she says with a smile and knocks her shoulder against his companionably, startling a laugh out of him at the thought of it, of playing.

There’s a toy gun for him, too, and his awkward attempts at making gunshot noises, at arguing over who’s been shot and who’s been missed and what counts as a flesh wound over something fatal. By the time he and Furiosa cede control of the fort the kids have started in on advanced tactics, threatening to find sticks to act as lances, empty canisters to be bombs.

"This could be good for training," Furiosa says when the breathless laughter Max never thought he’d be able to sustain settles down, the glow of playing warm and incandescent in his chest.

He hums, noncommittal, and passes the toy gun to one of the pups to add back to their arsenal.