"FEELINGS! /not helpful
Something where all sides of Rokia's family aka Lyme & Heidi & Sara are in the same place and she is super loved? :D?"
Then this happened.
It's not until she's back on the trains headed for Nine that Sara finally figures it out. She's back with her crew after a week of celebration in Two, Alima's wedding pulling a crowd from Two together, Phillips and Matt and Mai and the kids showing up to surprise Alima with someone from Six.
And Sara loved every minute of it, her girl pressed against her while Alima's husband kissed her, lifted her up and spun her around while Alima laughed. Loved the walk up into the hills with Matt's family gawking at everything, loved the way it felt like home.
But something's been pulling at her and riding though the wide open plains she finally figures it out.
She wants to stand up in front of their wide-spread family, slide rings on each others' fingers, and declare that nothing in the world is ever going to tear them apart.
She tries to put it out of her mind. They have something good, something amazing, they've cleared away land mines and broken glass and built a relationship that Sara barely dared to think was possible, and she can't imagine Rokia will react well to the idea of being claimed, even by Sara.
But she can imagine it, and once she starts she can't seem to stop, and when eventually they stop for a 2-day layover in Six, she goes to talk to Matt.
And the nice thing about the fact that Matt has known her since they were twelve years old is that she only has to walk into the shop and say hello for him to notice that something's up. "Come on," he says, "let me buy you a drink and you can tell me about it."
But Sara doesn't want to talk about this in front of anyone else, and Matt doesn't argue when she suggests going back to his house. But it does mean that she has to wait until dinner's finished and the kids are off doing homework before she can sit at the table with Matt and Mai and talk about what's bothering her.
"I want to ask Rokia to marry me," she says.
They both grin, and Matt says, "That's great, Sara!"
She pauses. "You don't think it will freak her out?"
Matt and Mai trade looks, then Mai speaks up. "Well," she says, "it might. But I think she'd want you to ask, if it's something you really want."
Sara stops in the middle of opening her mouth to argue that she doesn't want to push, because it's true, Rokia would be pissed if she knew Sara wanted something but didn't ask because she was afraid of upsetting her.
"Damn," she says, smiling ruefully. "Got me there."
Matt grins. "Come on, it's a good thing. We should celebrate!"
Sara can feel herself blushing, looking down, acting like a little girl and she's kicking herself for being ridiculous when Mai reaches over and puts her hand over Sara's. "I know, it's kind of goddamn terrifying," she says. "I freaked out with my friends for weeks before I asked Matt."
"You asshole!" Sara says, smacking Matt upside the head, "you didn't tell me she asked you!"
Now it's Matt's turn to blush. "I was thinking about asking!" he says, defensive, "but I was going to do it all official, ask her parents first, and Mai's parents are goddamn terrifying!"
"It's kind of true," Mai says, with a smile, "my mom was a high school principal and my dad worked passenger trains."
"And they're both taller than me, and I was just some kid working in a mechanics shop and who was I to marry their daughter..."
And that gets him another smack on the head, this time from Mai. "So I got tired of waiting, and asked him. We told our parents after, together."
Now Sara is laughing, some of the worry leaching away with it. But then she thinks of something, shakes her head. "Man, I don't even know who I would ask, for Rokia."
Matt's eyebrows go up. "Ha, you're right," he says, shaking his head. "You'd think her being technically an orphan would make it easier, but that girl's got more family than any of us."
"Yeah, see?" Sara says, "I'd have to make a list just to be sure not to forget anyone."
They laugh a little at that, but then Mai goes and gets a piece of paper and a pen. "Okay, so let's make a list. If all of them think it's a good idea, then you have to ask her."
It's actually not a bad idea. And with any luck, one of them will talk some sense into Sara before she messes things up with this stupid idea.
The next morning she heads up to find Rokia's grandma, riding up with the crew on the early coal train. The last time she was here they were bringing the girls to meet Kadi's namesake for the first time since the terrifying days of the Quarter Quell, and there'd been tears and hugs all around. Sara had been nervous then, but she's more nervous now, stepping off the train and walking to the house where Kadidia is staying since she started getting the pension Paylor implemented for those injured in the war and only works a few hours a week.
There's a band of flowers lining walk up to the front door, tomato plants climbing up the front walls, and Rokia's grandma is kneeling in the grass, pulling weeds.
"Miz Diarra," Sara calls, loudly enough for her to hear, "it's Sara, Rokia's friend."
The older woman turns, slowly straightening. "You don't gotta be fancy with me, Sara."
Sara offers her hand, "Okay, then, Auntie Kadidia, there's something I want to talk to you about."
That gets her a smile, and Kadidia takes Sara's hand and gets to her feet. "Come on in," she says, "I even got a fridge in here, we can have something cold to drink and you can talk."
Sara's offers of help are pointedly refused, so she gives up and sits at the kitchen table. When they're facing each other over glasses of cold mint tea Sara takes a deep breath and starts. "I want to ask Rokia to marry me," she says, "but I wanted to ask you first..." She trails off because Kadidia has tears in her eyes.
"Oh my, girl," she says, breathless. She reaches over and takes both of Sara's hands in her own. "You don't need my permission for that, but you sure do have my blessing."
Sara feels her own throat get tight, and she squeezes Kadidia's hands, the bones showing through age-worn skin, dirt under her fingernails from the garden. "Thank you," she manages to say, and they sit like that, quiet, for a minute before Sara can tell the news from Rokia and her girls.
Finally she has to leave to catch her train, and Kadidia walks her to the door.
"You invite me to the wedding, y'hear?" Kadidia says. "I didn't come to Alima's because that girl barely knows me, but I want to see my babygirl get married."
Sara nods. Tries not to worry about how she'll manage the long trip, whether or not Rokia will say yes, any of that. "I will," she says, and heads back down to town.
Phillips will be more difficult. Even after all these years living in different districts, he is still fiercely protective of his girl.
He's living in a ground-floor apartment next to the rehab center that's finally staffed by the doctors the Capitol had all along, gone from rundown and patched-together to clean and bright. Phillips will say he's helping out, and he is, but the doctors who stop by to chat after their shifts take the chance to check up on him.
It's nearly dinnertime when Sara gets there, and she wonders whether she should wait, but now that she's here she wants to get it over with. So she presses the call button.
Phillips' voice scratches over the speaker. "Yes?"
"Hi Phillips, it's Sara, can I talk to for a minute?"
"Sure," Phillips says, sounding puzzled, and the door buzzes.
Phillips is standing at the door when she gets there, motions her inside. Something smells good, and Sara's train lunch sandwich was a long time ago. "I'm sorry," she says, waiting for Phillips to lock the door behind her. "I didn't mean to interrupt your dinner."
Phillips narrows his eyes and he looks so much like Brutus for a second that Sara has to try very hard to hide a smile.
"There's enough. Those kids think I eat like a teenager." Sara raises an eyebrow and Phillips sighs. "Couple of kids from next door bring me freezerfuls of food. Guess they think they should save me from my own incompetence."
Sara smiles at the gruff affection in his voice. Phillips motions her to sit at the table, walks over to the stove, and brings a potful of rice and another full of peanut sauce, rich and thick, and he's right, it's plenty for both of them.
And it's not polite to bring up difficult topics over dinner so she waits until they're sitting back, satisfied. Then she takes a deep breath and says it. "I want to ask Rokia to marry me."
Phillips face goes completely blank for a second before a slow, quiet smile spreads over it. "Why're you asking me?" he asks, gruff, trying to school his face back to neutral.
"You're her mentor," Sara says, "I want to know if you think it's a good idea."
Phillips can't quite hide how pleased he is. "Well," he says. "I think you'll have to ask her."
"You think I should ask?"
Phillips shakes his head, like he can't quite believe what he's hearing. "Sure, I guess I do."
Sara grins. "Thanks, Phillips," she says, and starts clearing the dishes, meeting the glare he gives her at that with raised eyebrows and the smile she can't tone down anymore.
And that's District Six.
Now for the hard part.
It's a couple weeks till she has leave in Two, and Sara tries not to spend the whole time worrying about it, tries not to change the way she sounds on the phone when Rokia calls, but it's not easy.
Kadi's staying with her sister for the school year, so she can be closer to the Poytechnic where she's studying engineering, and it's nice to have someone else in the house so Rokia's attention isn't all on Sara when she arrives. But after dinner, when Kadi's bent over the table scowling at her homework, Rokia gives her a worried look while they wash the dishes. "Is everything okay?" she asks, "You seem worried."
Sara gives herself a mental smack. She's promised herself she won't lie to Rokia, but what's she supposed to say? "It's no problem," she says. "I'm just glad to finally be back." And she knocks her shoulder into Rokia's, and grins widely when Rokia gives her a careful look.
"Okay," Rokia says, dubious, but she goes back to the dishes and the conversation turns back to work, and Kadi's latest prank (filling Beetee's office with a giant spiderwebbed tangle of string), and Matt and his family.
The next day Rokia heads for the shop for the morning and Sara goes to Lyme's.
She knocks, gets a surprised "Yeah?" and hears footsteps.
"It's Sara," she says, just as Lyme pulls the door open and gives her a curious look.
"Come in," Lyme says, amused, and Sara kicks her shoes off in the direction of the pile by the door.
Lyme has paperwork spread over the table, and she pulls it into a haphazard pile, clearing a place for Sara to sit. "You want a drink?" she asks, and Sara resists the temptation to ask for the whiskey she knows Lyme's got in a cupboard because for fuck's sake, it's 9 in the morning. Doesn't mean it isn't tempting.
"Uh, water's fine," Sara says, and Lyme raises an eyebrow as she goes into the kitchen.
"What's on your mind?" Lyme asks when she comes back.
Sara sighs. "I want to ask Rokia to marry me," she says, "But I don't know if it's a good idea."
She looks down at the table, spinning the glass in her hands while Lyme sits across from her.
When she looks back up Lyme looks serious, considering. "Why?" she asks, neutral, non-judgemental.
Sara bites her lip. "It's not--I don't want to, I don't know, claim her or something." She looks at Lyme, but the woman's got a better poker face than anyone else Sara knows. "I just-- I want to stand up in front of everybody and say 'This is us, and we're not letting anything pull us apart.'"
Lyme still isn't saying anything, just watching. "It sounds dumb," Sara says, looking away. "I just want--I want the rings and the celebration and hell, even all the crazy Two feats of strength and whatever the hell else."
That gets Lyme to crack a smile. "Okay, kiddo," she says, pauses. "You're freaking out a little, aren't you."
"I'm fucking terrified," Sara says, lowering her head to her arms.
Lyme laughs, reaches over to ruffle her hair. "Well, I can't promise it won't trigger her," she says, thoughtful, "But I think it's worth asking."
Sara looks up, pushes her hair out of her face. "Yeah?"
"Sure, kiddo, you're not going to hurt her by asking."
"Yeah, but I might." Not like she hasn't messed this up before.
"Then I'll fix it," Lyme says, unperturbed. Sara looks at her, and one corner of Lyme's mouth quirks up. "That's what mentors are for."
"You really think it's okay?"
Lyme rolls her eyes toward the ceiling. "Kid, Rokia will tell you if its okay. All I can say is if you want to ask, you probably should."
Sara nods. Good enough. "Thanks," she says.
"You gonna ask Heidi and Marc?" Lyme asks.
"Of course!" Sara protests. "I'm going tomorrow. Told Rokia I wanted to get some veggies from Allie's garden, she should eat more fresh greens."
Lyme chuckles. "Sounds good." Sara gets up, moves toward the door. "Hey, Sara?" Lyme calls. Sara turns. "Good luck," she says, and she's smiling.
"Thanks," Sara says, and means it.
Unfortunately, the train ride down to the quarries is long enough for Sara to freak out all over again, even though so far none of these conversations have gone as badly as she feared.
She almost decides to forget the whole thing when Brutus opens the door, looks surprised to see her for a second before his face settles back into his habitual expression, which says "you are taking my time and you'd best have a good reason."
But Sara fought in a war, dammit, and after getting shot at and almost blown up and everything else, she is not letting any damn Twos scare her. "Hi," she says, "I wanted to talk to your parents, but you should probably hear this too."
Brutus raises an eyebrow, waves her in. They're sitting at the table, and Marc must have come home for lunch because he's still dusty from the quarry. Sara pulls out a couple jars of the applesauce she made with Rokia last fall and sets them on the table--fuck if she's coming empty-handed today of all days.
"Hi Sara," Heidi says, "come sit, make yourself at home."
There's all kinds of sandwich fixings on the table, and Sara makes herself egg salad. "Alima still bringing over eggs?" She asks, and Marc smiles.
"She sure is," he says, "she's got herself a nice little flock back of their house."
They make small talk for a while, and by the time Sara has finished her sandwich she's ready.
"I want to ask Rokia to marry me," she says, "but I want to do it right, ask her family first, and near as I can tell, that's you."
Brutus sits back in his chair, and Marc and Heidi trade a look across the table. Heidi's smiling, but both men are solemn.
Marc watches her for a minute before he speaks. "You're a good kid," he says, and for a minute Sara wants to laugh that he's calling her a kid when she's past thirty, but oh well. "But you're damn right, she's family to us. So you take good care of her, y'hear?"
Sara smiles, relieved. "I been trying to ever since we were kids," she says, and goes serious. "I'm not letting anything stop me anymore."
Brutus is watching though narrowed eyes. "You gonna take her back to Six?"
Sara blinks. She hadn't thought of that. "Not unless she wants to," Sara says. "She's got a home here, I have my leave weeks here already, I figured we'd stay."
"You're still gonna work on the trains?"
Sara sits straight and meets his eye. "Was planning to. Unless she wants me doing something else."
Brutus nods, then lets his mouth twitch up, just a little. "Guess we're about to learn about weddings in Six."
Sara is glad the table is wood so she can knock her knuckles against it. "You're assuming she's going to say yes."
Brutus snorts. "She will."
Sara looks over at Heidi, sitting next to her and watching the whole thing, amused. "Heidi?"
"I think it's great," Heidi says. "You two are good for each other."
"It's true," Marc says, and now he's smiling to. "She loves you, Sara."
"I love her," Sara says, simply.
She stops by Alima's house later, when the first shift finishes. Alima answers the door with her hair wet from the shower and motions Sara inside, offers her the cold mint tea that Sara has to remind herself is as common here as in Six before she says something to Alima that'll start things off awkward.
"What brings you out here?" Alima asks, and Sara takes a breath and says it for the millionth time, still strange and scary on her tongue.
"I want to ask Rokia to marry me," she says.
She's not sure what she expected, but laughter isn't it. That's what she gets though.
"Kadi is going to crow," she says. "She said Rokia was gonna be next, at our wedding. I told her she was nuts."
"Nuts why?" Sara asks, worried. For all that they don't always get along, Alima generally has a pretty good read on her older sister.
Alima shrugs. "She doesn't like dressing up, or big parties, or people watching her. I didn't figure she'd want a wedding."
Sara chews on her lip, wondering. "You think I should just not ask?"
Alima's shaking her head before Sara finishes the sentence. "Nah, but you probably ought to tell her you don't care if she wants to get married in that enormous damn sweatshirt she still wears around the house."
Sara smiles at the idea. "It's honestly fine if she wants to do it just her and me in a room somewhere, but I was thinking of inviting family."
Alima smiles. "Pretty sure you can talk her into that. Probably even clean clothes." She tilts her head to one side. "You gonna make her a ring?"
Sara freezes. She's been so worried about the asking she hasn't thought about anything beyond that. But Six weddings always have homemade rings. Matt wears the one Mai made him, nevermind that the solder holding the train-flattened copper coin to the blank steel ring is wobbly and unsure. Rokia, if she agrees, is sure to make something amazing, and Sara has no idea.
Allie laughs at her consternation. "I'm sure you'll think of something," she says.
Sara shakes her head. "Twos have it easy," she says, and Alima smiles.
"Guess so," she says.
Sara sighs, stands up. "I told her I was going to try to get some fresh vegetables so I'd have an excuse to come down," she says, "you got anything?"
Allie walks over to the small back pantry. "Got some carrots, some spinach, few cherry tomatoes," she says, "you're welcome to take those. And there's probably some eggs out back if you go check."
Sara raises both eyebrows and Alima laughs. "City girl, come on, I'll show you."
Sara shakes her head and follows, and gets half a dozen eggs to take along. Breakfast in bed, she's thinking, make Rokia take a day off, talk in the morning when everything seems clearer.
"Hey Sara," Alima says as she's leaving. Sara turns. "Good luck," Alima says, and she's smiling like she means it.
The last one is Kadi, and she's in the house all the time, but Sara isn't going to risk Rokia walking in on them because she forgot a screwdriver or something.
So she heads down to the polytechnic in the afternoon, and finds Kadi in Beetee's office, arguing something about regenerative braking.
"I'm telling you," she says, "my scooter gets twice as far on a charge as the commercial standard, and it's because I took the capacitor design from Rokia's car system and put it in here."
Beetee is frowning at a diagram she's scribbled on a piece of paper and is stabbing at with a pen. He looks almost relieved when Sara comes in. Kadi follows his eyes up and smiles at Sara. "Hi!" She says. "Tell Beetee my scooter is way better now that I fixed it up."
"It's pretty good," Sara says, "but I don't know the standard ones that well."
Kadi sighs. "They're fine, they're very practical, inexpensive personal transport for the districts and that's great but they can be better, and it's not even that much more expensive, and you could even use a smaller battery so it'd be lighter--"
Beetee holds up a hand and Kadi stops. "Sara," he says, "can we help you?"
Sara sighs. "Yeah, I was looking for Kadi, but you might as well stay," Beetee is, after all, on the short list of people Rokia actually, really trusts.
"I'm going to ask Rokia to marry me," she says.
Beetee raises an eyebrow, looks thoughtful, but Kadi is positively gleeful. "Did you tell Alima?" She asks, "I told her, she didn't believe it but I was totally right."
"So it's okay with you?" Sara asks, just to be sure.
"Of course! It'll be awesome! You guys are totally gonna make each other rings, right?"
Sara winces. "Yeah, I guess so? I don't know what to make her though."
Beetee looks curious. "Is this a District Six tradition?"
"Yeah, it's cool!" Kadi says, "you have to each make the other person's ring. It's symbolic or something. I bet Rokia will come up with something really complicated."
Sara groans. "Man, I know my way around a machine shop, but I'm never going to make something as good as her."
Beetee pushes his glasses up his nose. "This is to be symbolic of what, exactly?"
Sara and Kadi both shrug. "The ring's supposed to be for infinity, everlasting love, no beginning or end, all that," Kadi says.
Beetee takes the paper Kadi was sketching on, tears a long strip, gives it a half twist, and holds the ends together.
Kadi beams. "Of course!" she says, "it's perfect, Sara, you have to do it!"
Sara looks at her, confused. "What is it?"
"It's a Möbius strip!"
Beetee sighed. "It's a plane with only one side. Infinite, or semi-infinite." He traces a finger along the surface, coming back to where he started.
Sara takes the strip, traces it with her finger. One neverending single surface, two sides made into one with nothing more than a simple half twist, a trick of geometry.
"It's perfect," she says.
Beetee's smile doesn't quite reach his mouth, but his eyes sparkle. "You should ask her," he says. "I think it will make her very happy."
Sara gives up on waking up before Rokia just about as soon as she considers it: for one thing, she's not ever sure when Rokia will get up so it's a little tricky, and for another, waking up to an empty bed will seem strange, and Sara doesn't want the day to start with even very minor panic.
So she sets her alarm like normal before curling up with her girl pressed against her back. "Goodnight, Rokia," she says, drowsy, and Rokia just hums in response and nuzzles between her shoulderblades.
Sara is usually the better sleeper of the two of them but tonight she has to make herself focus on her breath, in and out the way she's told Rokia after panic attacks or bad dreams. It works just like it always does, and next thing she knows it's light and the bed's empty.
She takes a deep breath and gets up.
Rokia's curled in the window seat, soaking up the sunshine with a sketchpad on her knees. She looks up when Sara comes in, smiles, climbs to her feet for a good-morning kiss. They wander into the kitchen together, and Sara pulls out the eggs and vegetables and good, hearty District Two bread and makes breakfast while Rokia heats water for coffee. It's quiet and comfortable and Sara tries to stay calm as they eat.
When Rokia's pushed her empty plate away, Sara reaches for her hand and takes a deep breath. "Rokia," she says, "Can I ask you something?"
"Of course, what's up?"
Sara's mind goes completely blank. She's thought about this for so many weeks but she still has no idea what to say. So before she can freak them both out any more, she spits it out.
"Rokia, I want to get married."
Rokia freezes. "To me?"
Sara almost laughs, but Rokia's eyes are wide and serious. "Yes, of course, to you."
"Because I love you, and I don't want anything to pull us apart ever and I want to celebrate that."
"Oh…" Rokia looks down at their hands on the table. She's quiet for a long time, then finally she sighs. "I need to talk to Lyme."
Sara tries not to look disappointed. "Okay," she says. "I'll be here."
That gets her a tight smile. "I love you too," Rokia says, and the knot in Sara's stomach loosens just a little. "I'll be back."
When the door shuts, Sara makes herself get up, wash the dishes, starts cleaning the rest of the house while she waits. She's putting the sheets and towels into the washing machine that she's still voting on as best thing the Capitol ever invented when she hears the front door open. She wants to sprint over there but she finishes turning the machine on before walking out into the living room.
Rokia's still breathing a little fast, sweaty and rumpled and with grass stains on the knees of her jeans, but she's smiling, and Sara crosses the room before she even realizes and Rokia steps into a kiss that's eager shading toward desperate. She pulls away long enough to whisper "Yes," her breath tickling Sara's ear and the meaning of the word setting off sparks. Sara lifts her off her feet in a hug, and she's laughing, and then Rokia laughs, and somehow they make it to the couch, but there's no way they're getting any farther.
Later, Rokia lifts her head from where she's curled into the hollow of Sara's shoulder.
"Lyme says you asked her if she thought you should ask me," she says.
Sara smiles up at the ceiling. "I wanted to do it right, Rokia, ask your family first."
Rokia lets out a startled laugh. "Oh," she says.
"You've got a hell of a lot of family, girl," Sara teases, pulling Rokia close. "But they're not as scary as they want you to think."
"No," Rokia says, snuggling closer. "They're great though, aren't they?"
"Sure are," Sara says, and it's true.