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Better Selves

Chapter Text

Forgive what I have done
It means my soul's survival, oh
I need you so, it's sin
Put an end to my suffering, oh
- Revival / Soulsavers

Slit grimaced as he stared up at the smooth rock of the bunk above his own, his side searing from road rash. It was just a routine patrol, nothing to worry about, but he knew from the second he laid his eyes on his driver that he wasn't focused on the task ahead. His shoulders had been slumped, blue eyes dulled like an old knife and the black war paint framing his eyes was smudged as if his driver had just been crying. Slit had immediately wiped the paint away from Nux's eyes with his scarf. He couldn't let anyone think Nux had gone soft. Slit knew the consequences of that.

Looking back on it, Slit guessed he shouldn't have let Nux drive that day. It was selfish of him, but he needed to be out on the road. Staying cooped up inside the Citadel for too long set him on edge, so he'd placed his own needs over his driver's. Nux shouldn't have been driving that day, but still Slit ignored that. Nux wasn't watching the road, and he'd swerved too hard when he finally noticed the Buzzards coming for their backs. Slit had been thrown from the lancer's perch, tossed into the sand like he was nothing. One moment his hands were gripped onto the hot metal, and the next he was flying through the air like a crow, except his arms couldn't keep him up in the air like the bird's wings could. He'd hit the ground with so much force that he feared he'd snapped his spine in two, and his skin was scrapped away by the rough sand.

A Buzzard was coming right for him when he saw the thunder stick lying in the golden sand beside him. Slit picked it up and waited, had waited for his moment of victory. He was so close to Valhalla, but a gunshot echoed through the Wastelands and the Buzzard's car went up in flames. The Gates had been opened to him. He could practically hear them chanting his name, but Nux had come to his senses and circled back for him, blowing up the Buzzard's car. Fool.

When they eventually made it back to the Citadel, Slit had ripped Nux out of the driver's seat and repeatedly punched him right in the face until his knuckles had split open and Nux's face swelled. It took two War Boys to drag Slit off of him, and he'd left a new scar on Nux's cheek. Slit hadn't spoken to him since, figured his driver must scamper off somewhere every morning like a Pup to lick his wounds clean and be alone.

The pain in his side flared again, and Slit found himself grasping out to the other side of his bunk for his driver. Empty. Sure, he'd fought with Nux, but it wasn't like they'd never fought before. Something was different this time. Nux always came back. Worry seeped into his bones and panic gnawed away at his chest like the tumours that chewed on his flesh, and Slit forced himself to get up and drop down to the ground below. He quietly walked up and down the bunk rows, looking into each one for any sign of his driver, expertly stepping over piles of Pups and Boys who hadn't been assigned a bunk of their own yet.

He considered giving up and going back to his bunk to rest when someone grabbed his arm from the bunk he was standing next to.

"Slit? Everythin' alright?" Morsov asked, deep voice laced with worry.

Slit felt hope crashing down over him. Morsov always shared his bunk with Pups and Boys that had nowhere else to go, sometimes the ones that didn't feel safe where they were supposed to be.

"Is Nux with you? Have ya seen him?"

Morsov sighed, "I heard what happened. He was at Organic's place, but you know how he doesn't like staying there any longer than he has to. Last I saw of him, he was in the Garage."

Slit didn't bother wasting time thanking Morsov, instead rushing out of the sleeping quarters and down to the Garage below. He stepped on several hands and chests on the way, earning him sharp cries of anger, but all Slit could focus on was getting to the Garage. Getting to Nux. He tried telling himself that talking with Nux was just so they could clear the air between them. They wouldn't be able to work as an effective team without speaking. But something inside of Slit needed to see Nux, needed to apologise for what he did. Slit didn't try to think about it too much. He didn't want to grow soft.

When Slit got to the Garage he weaved his way between the cars, keeping his eyes on the ground so he could see where he was going. The Garage wasn't the most tidiest place in the Citadel, but to him it made sense. All of the tools strewn around each vehicle belonged to that vehicle's driver, and why would they bother tidying everything away just to drag it all back out again the next day?

Being in here always made Slit feel slightly uneasy, like he was trespassing in a sacred space he wasn't supposed to be in. He wasn't good enough to be a driver, and that was a wound that still stung. His hands weren't made for delicately taking apart engines piece by piece and lovingly building them back up again. They were made for crushing bone and launching thunder sticks. He loved being a lancer, loved the feel of riding on the perch that had been custom built just for him. He was damn good at his job too, but sometimes Slit still found himself wondering what it was like to drive out on the open road.

Nux's Coupe was tucked away in the corner of the Garage, hidden from everyone else unless they knew it was there, which most people didn't. The Coupe was beautiful but small, so was easily overlooked amongst the other cars. Slit cautiously walked up to the car and stopped. He stayed still, unsure whether or not he should turn back and leave Nux alone. Something was haunting Nux's eyes when Slit saw him the day he was thrown off the perch, and it was the same look Slit had seen when his driver had found his first tumour. Panic clawed at his chest again and pushed Slit forward until he was standing right next to the car.

Slit peered in through the window, taking in the sight before him. Nux was strewn across the back seat, legs pulled up towards his chest and skinny arms tucked around them. He used to be able to comfortably sleep in the Coupe, but now he was too tall to stretch out across the seats. When Slit first met Nux he was so small, almost fragile, and it made Slit nervous for the boy. He was relieved when Nux eventually grew, knowing that it would mean he didn't have to spend every second of the day worrying about his driver. Nux's height gave him some protection now, but from the way he'd been acting recently Slit feared something bad had happened to the boy.

Slit watched Nux for a few minutes, focusing on the boy's face and shallow breathing. The fresh scar over his cheek had been crudely stitched up. Slit knew that the Organic Mechanic was more skilled at stitching than whoever had done these ones, and the pain flared up in his chest again when he realised Nux must of done them himself. His breathing was laboured, each exhale and inhale rattling his body, and Slit glared at the growing tumours on Nux's neck. Larry and Barry. Only Nux could come up with such ridiculous names as those ones, but Slit had held back his words when Nux told him about them.

He sighed and was about to leave the Garage when Nux opened his eyes and looked up at him, causing Slit to jolt back like a Pup caught stealing. He bashed his head on the door frame and let out a sharp hiss.

"S-slit? What're you doing here?" Nux's voice trembled, fear widening his eyes.

Slit shifted nervously and his eyes flickered towards the exit.

Nux stared back at him, waiting for an answer.

"Nothing. I just wanted to see where you'd gone, that's all." Slit growled.

Nux closed his eyes again and forced a painful cough across his scarred lips, droplets of spit and blood spluttering out from his mouth. Slit felt the pain in his chest again, like someone had reached into his ribcage to squeeze his heart. He groaned and pulled the Coupe's door open, pulling it back shut after he'd climbed inside. The back of the Coupe wasn't big enough for the both of them, and he pushed at Nux's legs. The younger boy crawled away from him, tucking his legs close to his chest again and wrapping long arms around them. He stared hard at Slit with eyes huger than the moon and Slit felt himself shivering.

"You gonna beat me up again?" His voice didn't tremble this time, the words instead just coldly falling from his mouth.

"You understand why I did that, right?" Slit defensively crossed his arms and glared at Nux, "The other boys saw me fall, and it was yer fault. So I had to do it."

Nux shifted further away from Slit, flinching as his bruised back slammed against the Coupe's side.

"I'm - I'm fucking sorry okay! I shouldn't have let ya drive, but I did, and it happened. I can't 'ave the others thinking I've gone soft, Nux. They needed to see me do it, okay?"

Slit knew it wasn't a good excuse. He was responsible for his driver, but he'd let him drive anyway. Shame flooded it's way through Slit's body and he wanted to run away, but he knew Nux needed him. They were partners. They needed each other.

"Gonna tell me what happened then?" Slit slowly forced the words through his lips, a habit he hadn't been able to kick. Learning how to talk again after having his mouth slashed open had left him permanently self conscious of the way he spoke. Nux had been there for him through it all though, spoon feeding him Pup mush and attacking anyone that dared to tease Slit for his newest scars. And look how you repaid him.

Nux took a deep, shaky breath and closed his eyes before words spilled out of his mouth so fast that Slit barely managed to keep up with him. "I woke up and thought I was havin' a night tremor, but it felt.. weird. But good weird. And then m-my stick thing was doing something weird too and I got scared. I didn't want to wake ya up, so I left the bunks to just go for a walk to calm down. I was crying Slit, crying like a weak Pup."

Nux began crying again then, tears trickling down his face like the Aqua-Cola that sometimes dripped down the Citadel's walls after a rare storm. Slit slowly moved towards Nux, closing the gap between them and stretching his arms out for the boy. Nux looked like he was about to either bolt or punch Slit, but instead he sighed and leaned against him, head coming to a rest in Slit's lap. Slit wrapped one arm around his driver's shaking waist and stroked Nux's head, knowing from experience that touch seemed to calm the boy.

He lazily petted in circular motions over the smooth skin before breaking the silence with his rough voice, "Yer not dying, not yet, if that's what yer worrying about, Nuts. It's natural. Just a thing we do."

Nux tensed under his touch, "I know."

Slit felt the two small words punch at his guts, and when Nux spoke again his fears were confirmed.

"A-another War Boy found me. He was laughing when I tried to explain what was happening. And he said he'd show me. I didn't like it Slit, but he - he wouldn't stop. My throat still hurts."

"Who?" Slit spat the word out, anger and bloodlust instantly boiling under his skin. Whoever it was he was going to break them, shred them, tear their head from their neck.

Nux whimpered, tears dampening Slit's cargo pants.

"Who was it Nux? I'll fucking kill 'em."

"He said if I told anyone he'd kill me, Slit. But first he'd do it again. I'd rather die soft."

Slit tensed at Nux's words, guilt crashing down on his shoulders. He was supposed to protect Nux, and he'd failed him. He should have warned him about what some of the older War Boys were capable of. He should have taught him about his own damn body first, but it was too late now. The damage was already done, and Slit could feel it in the way the younger boy's body was shivering, could see it in his driver's shaking fingers that weakly clung onto Slit's pants.

"It's okay, Nux. I won't let anyone hurt you ever again. I'll kill 'em all, you know I will." Slit vowed.

Nux nodded and stopped crying, relaxing into Slit's touch.

"Hey, Nux," Slit tried to make his voice as gentle as he could, "it wasn't yer fault. Ya gotta know that. What that boy did was wrong, he shouldn't have done that to you. V8, you're too young for that sort of thing. That's way I didn't tell you about it, why I didn't try to fool around with ya myself."

Nux shifted around to stare up at Slit, "Would you have done?"

"Maybe. I mean, only if you wanted to." Slit felt the sharp heat of a blush blossoming on his cheeks under his war paint, and he was glad for the cover it provided him. If Nux could see it, he'd probably die from embarrassment. No chance of Valhalla with that death.

Nux looked up at him shyly before bringing a hand up to Slit's face, fingertips delicately tracing over the staples in his cheeks as though he were a piece of an engine Nux was carefully examining. Slit gently pulled away at Nux's hand, giving him a warning glare. He knew what his driver was thinking, and even though every fibre of Slit's being was aching for it himself, he knew that Nux wasn't thinking clearly. Or that if he was, fooling around with Slit would just be a way for Nux to punish himself.

He sighed, "Are ya gonna come back to the bunks? I can't sleep in here."

Panic widened Nux's blue eyes and he flinched hard, "No. He'll be in there. I feel safer here."

Slit nodded. He knew not to argue with his driver.

"Here," he fished out a long knife from one of his many pockets, pressing it into Nux's hand, "keep this."

A wide smile lit up Nux's face as he twisted the knife around in his fingertips, blade glistening in the faint light cast down from the lamps, "Ya sure, Slit?"

"Yeah, keep it."

He slowly pulled his body away from Nux and climbed out of the Coupe, shivering in the cold nights air that flowed through the Garage. The large cavern was constantly supplied with fresh air from the outside through vents in the walls to prevent the Rev-heads and Black Thumbs from getting too dizzy from exhaust and gas fumes, and Slit feared Nux would be too cold. Slit glanced back at Nux before shutting the door to make sure he was okay. He was curled back up like he was before, but this time he had the knife clutched closely to his chest and didn't seem to be shivering. His breathing was more controlled, and he actually looked like he was asleep. Fucker always falls asleep quickly.

"Goodnight, Nux." Slit whispered before shutting the Coupe's door and heading off for the long walk back to the bunks.