But! Here is a thing I wrote a while ago about Rokia and Devon painting together, for no particular reason other than it sounds like fun. Putting it up here because it's Friday afternoon and I'm tired and hey, why not? (It's cute at the end don't mind the minor angst-detour at the beginning)
"I thought we might have dinner with Devon and Misha tonight," Lyme says, over breakfast, and Rokia blinks and stirs her oatmeal before she looks up.
"Okay," she says, and Lyme is watching with that sharp mechanic's look she has, checking for loose wires. No short circuits here, dinner with Lyme's first Victor and her husband, that is a normal thing normal people do and perfectly fine.
"You sure?" Lyme asks, still watching.
"Yeah," Rokia says, and pulls out a smile. "It'll be fun."
Lyme raises an eyebrow. Okay, maybe fun was overstating it. "It's fine, really," she says. "It's just dinner."
It's just dinner, and it shouldn't worry her but she doesn't know them, doesn't know what they'll expect, doesn't know what stories they've heard. She thinks about it that day in the shop as she tears apart malfunctioning actuators. Devon mentored in 73, Artemisia was there for 75, and anyway they all know her whole story so there's no use pretending she's something other than a screwed up Victor refugee from a district that still can't keep itself from combusting now and again.
She's torn between staying in the shop as long as possible and leaving early to make herself presentable and eventually settles on the first because she's still got plenty of "fuck that" left for anyone who tries to make her care what she looks like. Even if it's some traitor part of her own brain.
She isn't late though, walks into Lyme's right when she said she would. Just enough time to shower and put on something clean. It's still too warm for sweatshirts but she's got one of Lyme's button downs that's worn soft and comes almost to her knees, and she rolls up the sleeves enough that her fingertips peek through, pulls on a pair of jeans and heads out. Lyme's waiting for her, hint of a smile when she comes out. "Ready?" Rokia straightens her shoulders and nods.
"Yup, let's go."
Artemisia opens the door with a grin, and Rokia's seen her around but never actually talked to her, and she's tall and gorgeous and sharp around the edges. Once a woman from Victor Affairs showed Rokia pictures of Artemisia working the crowd at a club, radiating comptetence and just enough sex and danger to be interesting and told her to watch and learn. It's stupid to be nervous because she's just standing here in jeans and a T-shirt, barefoot and more or less relaxed, but Rokia feels herself slide into the borrowed confidence of being a Victor and unreachable and locked down, and okay, there it is, she takes a deep breath and smiles back.
They walk in and Lyme introduces Devon and Rokia and says hello and everything's pleasant and friendly. They sit at the table and eat and tell stories and Rokia talks about work and smiles and before long Lyme's saying goodbye, so she thanks them politely enough to make both Lyme and Artemisia roll their eyes. Devon just smiles and says "Don't mention it."
It's gotten cool and the wind's blowing like it might storm and Rokia takes a deep breath of cool, humid air and shivers just a little. Lyme glances over, sharp. "You cold?" Rokia shakes her head and just breathes in the quiet until they get back to the house. Then she gives Rokia the loose-wires look again and just says, "So."
"It was good," Rokia says, "They're nice."
Lyme snorts. "Nice is not the first word I'd use to describe Misha," she says, offhand. "You're back with me?"
Rokia narrows her eyes. "What do you mean?"
"You're not fooling me, Rokia, where'd you go?"
Rokia shrugs. "Nowhere. It's fine."
Lyme sighs. "C'mere, you," she says, and goes to sit on the couch. Rokia hesitates, sits on the far side. She's twitchy tonight, like there's something under her skin, and Lyme is still just watching. "I didn't take you there to show you off," she says, cautious-sounding.
"I know," Rokia replies, quick, confused. "You want me to get to know people."
"Yeah," Lyme says, "and they'd like to get to know you, but we want you Rokia, you don't have to act for us."
Rokia shrugs, silent. She hadn't meant to--except it's just easier that way, with new people. Rokia the punk kid from 6, sister to Allie and Kadi, good with her hands and crap with people, that's not the person you ask over for dinner if you're a cool, put-together District Two Victor who helped win a war besides. Rokia the Victor of the 71st who's smart enough to know how to behave in polite company, that's the person you want for this.
"Tell me what you're thinking." The way Lyme says it it's not a question.
"I--" Rokia stops. "I don't know how to do this."
Lyme smiles a little. "You seem pretty friendly with Selene."
"That's different. She made friends with me." Plus they go ride motorcycles and talk shit, and Selene's her age, and Rokia could at least pretend Selene didn't know who she was, before.
And also this conversation is stupid.
Lyme lets it go, finally, with a look that says "We'll talk about this later," and also probably, "Adriana is going to hear about it from one of us" because Lyme and her therapist are terrible people who like to make her life difficult.
She reaches for the datapad on the table but Lyme beats her to it. "Bedtime," she says, and Rokia heaves a sigh and gets up. "I'm not tired," she says, and Lyme shrugs.
"There's pills for that if you want them," she says, and Rokia makes a face. Stupid pills that make her sleep too long and wake up groggy and useless and weird and make her wonder if Phillips wakes up nervous in 12 for no reason.
"I'm fine," she says, and she is, she just sits in bed with a notebook and scribbles lift parameters and then sketches trains and then falls asleep and wakes up with pencil smears down her cheek.
A couple days later Lyme comes down in the morning and sees Rokia sketching the mountains outside for the hundred and twelfth time. It's nice, something just from here, and they're always the same but just a little different and early in the morning the sun makes them glow.
Lyme clatters around making breakfast for a while and then looks over Rokia's shoulder and hums.
"You know, Devon has a whole mural wall in his house," she says. "He paints over it every once in a while, puts up something new."
Rokia looks up, skeptical. "Really?"
That's all Lyme says about it but it makes Rokia think, which she's sure was the point. She's not a real artist anyway, she just likes drawing stuff to keep her hands busy. Likes pinning memories to paper sometimes, these days. But it'd be interesting to try painting the colors on the mountains. Maybe. If she has time. Which she doesn't, she should be going into the shop by now.
Except Wednesday afternoons are off, by order of the people who are currently running her life, and when she comes back for lunch, Lyme says "So I asked Devon if he wanted to come over and paint with you."
Rokia's eyebrows go up before she has time to think about it. "Oh yeah?"
"Yup." Lyme's grinning. "He's coming over in an hour, unless you don't want him to."
She doesn't, not really, but there's a whole afternoon she has to fill up with not-work so she might as well. "Okay," she says, shrugs, "why not?"
She's sitting on the porch in one of Lyme's sweatshirts when she sees Devon coming down the walk with a bag slung over his shoulder. He's moving slowly, sets his feet carefully, and it's horrible but it makes Rokia feel better that she's not the only one who's a little, well, off balance. He smiles, a little tight, and waves, and Rokia waves back and waits as he climbs the steps, holding the handrail.
"Hi," she says, and she shoves her hands into her pockets and bites her lip, and it's stupid to be stammering and nervous like this when she could slip into all her old patterns and not have to worry about it. But Lyme said, and of fucking course Adriana backed her up and Devon's smile goes a little lopsided so maybe he gets it.
"Hi, Rokia," he says, and well, he's not pulling out the camera-ready banter either so maybe it's okay.
But they're still standing on the porch and that's ridiculous so Rokia opens the door and shows him inside.
Lyme's sitting in her chair with a pile of papers, and she just waves and says hi without getting up.
"I don't--where should we go?" Rokia asks.
"Table's good," he says, goes to sit. "Hey Lyme," he calls over his shoulder, "You care if the table gets paint on it?"
She snorts. "Nope. Do your worst."
Devon nods and sets his bag on the table. When he opens it up there's thick, heavy paper, brushes, tubes of paint in a riot of colors. Rokia's eyes go wide. When she looks up, Devon's smiling at her, soft and open and friendly, and for once it doesn't make her want to hide. "Can you grab a couple glasses of water?" he asks, and she jumps up.
When she comes back he's squeezing out blobs of color, and he dips a brush into the water, picks up the paint, and a purple-grey line of mountains soaks into his paper. She can hardly bring herself to mark hers, it's so nice. She watches Devon for a while, and then he looks up. "C'mon," he says, "It's just for fun, doesn't have to be good or anything." Rokia looks down, traces the edge of the paper with her thumb. "There's plenty more," he says with another one of those lopsided smiles. "Don't worry if you mess it up."
That gets her to pick up the paintbrush, swirl it in the water, and let the color soak into the paper. It's not precise, the lines fade into each other, and she lets herself experiment, paint lines and stripes of color without trying to make it look like anything in particular. Pretty soon the page is full. Devon grins, looks up from his, and hands her a blank sheet.
This time she draws the mountains out the window, and she knows every line of them by heart but she's never tried to match the colors in the morning, the shadows under the trees, and well, it's not right, not yet, but there's something there if she could just pin it down.
They've gone through a lot of paper by the time Lyme comes over to stand behind Rokia, one hand on her shoulder. The light's shifted, and you think she'd have noticed, but oh well. Devon leans back, relaxed, and Rokia still doesn't know what to say to him, but maybe that's okay. "Thank you," she says, and Devon smiles for real this time.
"It was fun," he says, "We should do it again sometime."
Rokia nods. "I'd like that."
Lyme squeezes her shoulder. "C'mon, you, clean up and then we'll get some supper."