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sugar in the gas tank

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Squinting his eyes against the sunlight pouring in through the windows, he considers just getting up, but he hasn’t left this spot in who knows how many days; he’d laid down one afternoon and then the weight of the known universe flopped down onto him and he hadn’t been able to make his body move after that.

The sensation of feeling Not Right in his own skin had come back too and the thoughts of ‘oh god what have I done’ and ‘you don’t belong in a place like this, not anymore’ had made a home in skull and he hadn’t been able to shake them loose. It had been easy to let himself drift, to not really think about some of the things he’d done or ignored, but now… Now the walls of a place that used to be home are his judge and jury now that he can’t make himself to be numb to the world around him through sheer force of will.

The temptation of leaving, of becoming a drifter again, is almost overwhelming. He’d do it right now if he could make his limbs cooperate.

Faintly, he hears the front door unlock and a now familiar booted gait coming up the stairs; he doesn’t need to look to know who it is.

“They’re concerned about you, you know,” Furiosa says from somewhere by the door. Max tries not to curl in tighter on himself. “Toast won’t admit it – she’s too much like you, if I’m being honest – but she’s trying not to drive herself up the wall worrying about you.”

It’s been less than a month since they all escaped, bruised and bloodied and battered and half starved, from a cult mostly made up of stolen people and stolen children that hid in the Outback. But that’s not what’s messing him up. At least, not completely; Max was already pretty messed up before he was forced to become a living blood bag, but that’s not what’s causing him to turtle up in a house that he’d been avoiding – running from – for about a decade, give or take. Being a drifter for so long has made his grasp on the passage of time a little too loose, like sand through fingers.

He doesn’t… He doesn’t know how to be around other people anymore.

That’s what is messing him up.

There’s a heavy sigh and the edge of the mattress dips as Furiosa sits down, snapping Max out of his wandering thoughts and remembering that she’s there.

“You can’t hide away forever, even if it would be easier.” She pauses for a moment, giving Max a chance to speak up if he wants. He doesn’t, but he supposes he appreciates the gesture. “Loneliness is just gonna chew you up and spit you back out. You need to have someone around to pull you out of your own head.”

“So you’re saying I should get a dog?” Max asks in a weak attempt at a joke, voice still hoarse from lack of use even though he’s been talking more lately than he has in years, uncurling a small fraction.

Furiosa lets out a huff of amusement.

“No, but it couldn’t hurt.” There’s another pause, but it’s different from the last one. This one is a little more tense, a pause to find the right way to word things. “I think Nux should come stay with you.”

Always straight to the point with Furiosa, something Max can appreciate about her; no need for sugarcoating or coddling, it’s not in her nature. His face still pulls into a frown at her words though.

It’s not that he dislikes Nux – he’s long since gotten over the whole blood bag thing – but Max’s mind immediately rankles at the thought of being around someone for more than a few hours.

Max is about to protest, but Furiosa cuts him off.

“Nux is still sick.” That makes Max’s words die on his tongue. “He refuses to go in for treatment, and it’s stressing Capable out because she doesn’t want to force him to do something he’s uncomfortable with.”

“And you think I can make him?” Max asks, a little incredulously, as he shifts around a bit to look at the side of Furiosa’s face. If Capable of all people can’t get Nux to go for treatment, Max seriously doubts that he could.

“I think you need to stop running from your ghosts, and that he needs someone who’ll give him a kick in the ass when it’s necessary,” she says, and then adds, “I think it would be good. For the both of you.”

He could say no.

He could say no and he knows that would be the end of it, that Furiosa wouldn’t push the subject any further. But Max can’t bring himself to do so, because then he’d be condemning the young man to death, and he can’t do that. Can’t add more deaths to his conscience and can’t repay the former War Boy that way when he nearly got himself killed to help their escape.

“Alright,” Max agrees, even though there’s still a part of his brain that wants to run again.

There’s a faint smile on Furiosa’s face as she claps him on the shoulder before hauling herself up.

“I’ll bring him by tomorrow.”

---

Long after Furiosa leaves, Max finally manages to shove himself upright.

He doesn’t leave, but he does stare at nothing for a while. Its Glory’s whispering that spurs him into moving, into getting up and out of the room.

The haunting weight of two graves lost somewhere in the Outback follows him throughout the halls of a home that isn’t really his anymore.

---

The radio starts to fizzle out a bit, but a good whack gets it back to as normal as it can be.

He’s not worried about the radio being too loud, seeing as how most, if not all, of the houses on this street are empty; it’s one of the reasons he’d chosen here of all places years ago. Max has always preferred the quiet, and for whatever reason, most people chose not live on this end of the city which worked out in the end.

(Except for when it didn’t.)

Max has been sitting out on the porch listening to the radio for hours now – it had been just barely past midnight when he dropped into one of the less rotten chairs, and now the sky is just barely starting to turn a pale gray as the sun peaks out from behind the peaks of roofs that have clearly seen better days.

There’s some syrupy sweet song playing over the airwaves – some sort of old world crooning record that’d probably been dug up recently since it isn’t familiar to him at all – but earlier had been another recap about the… well, he doesn’t know if refugees is quite the right word for them, but the people who had been freed from that damn cult.

The city had picked the Citadel clean after Furiosa had pointed them in the right direction; cars, guzzoline, water, and what little other resources there had been. Which meant it also picked up the Wretched and the War Pups and whatever was left of the War Boys. A shock and a strain on the city’s infrastructure, but only for a while; it had mostly been that those in charge hadn’t been expecting the number of people left in the Citadel. Hundreds of stolen children and stolen people, but the city had managed to balance itself with the sudden influx.

Though Max has his doubts; the Wretched will most likely stay now that they’re somewhere that offers more stability and regular water rations, and the War Pups will be fine, although with how young some of them are, Max doesn’t think a lot of them will be able to find their families again (if there are any to find).

No, his doubts lie with the War Boys. Because the War Pups are young enough to change, to shrug off the cult bullshit whereas the War Boys will probably have more difficulty adjusting – well, those that don’t run off back into the Outback in search of a living god that isn’t doing so much living anymore and was never really a god in the first place.

Pity flashes through him briefly at the thought; a bunch of young men still willing to throw their lives away for a rapist who never gave much of a shit about them to begin with so long as they died for him.

It reminds him a bit of that one old world condition. Stockholm Syndrome he thinks? No, not quite. Doesn’t quite fit. At least, he doesn’t think it does, but then again, he’s not an expert so what the fuck does he know anyway?

With a clumsy hand, Max scrubs at the exhaustion stinging his eyes.

Glory is mercifully silent for once.