kawuli (kawuli) wrote,

Experimental kissing protocols

Cleaning out the "drafts I'm not working on anymore and may as well post" folder, so here's Sara and Rokia, after the war (78-ish? not long after Rokia gets her own house)

Friends is good, friends is more than Sara dared to hope for a couple years ago, but there's something...different, Sara won't call it something more but it's shading her visits just a slightly different color.

They’re sitting on the couch after the movie finishes, Rokia leaning on Sara’s shoulder. Rokia sits up to ask a question, and stays there, watching Sara, and Sara smiles, soft and content. It’s been a good day.

Rokia’s still watching her, gears turning somewhere in her head, and she leans forward, tentative, puts a hand to Sara’s jaw and kisses her, a quick brush of lips, and Sara’s so startled she forgets to breathe. But Rokia’s smiling at her, so she leans forward again, and their lips meet, and Sara closes her eyes and savors it–and suddenly Rokia’s pulling away, and her eyes go wide and scared and she scoots back, breathing fast.

“Rokia?” Sara asks, worried.

“I–” Rokia gets up, shaky and still breathing fast, turns away. “I’m going to Lyme’s” she grits out, and she’s out the door before Sara even has a chance to respond.


Sara sits back, lets her head drop back against the couch and stares at the ceiling. When that gets old she gets up, walks to the kitchen, sits down at the table with her head in her hands, the big house echoing empty around her. Eventually the tears come, furious, frustrated, and entirely un-called-for, but apparently that doesn’t matter.

She’s still sitting there when the door opens and someone calls out, “Hello?”

“Yeah?” she calls, gets up to head for the door, and it’s Claudius, kicking his boots off.

“Hi,” he says, and he doesn’t look angry, but sometimes with Claudius it’s hard to tell.

“Look,” she says, just in case, “If you’re here to yell at me, I get it, okay, but she kissed me first.”

Claudius’ face does something complicated, and then he sighs.

“Yeah, no, Lyme asked if I’d come make sure you were okay.”

“Oh.” It’s nice of Lyme to think of it, but the fact that it’s Claudius here instead of Lyme herself means Lyme’s busy with Rokia, which means Rokia is, as she expected, really not okay, and this is shit, all of it.

Claudius reaches back toward the door and grabs a 6-pack of something Sara doesn’t recognize.

“I figured you might want a drink.”

“Fuck yes,” Sara says, and Claudius nods. They go to the kitchen, sitting at the table somehow seems better than on the couch right now, and Claudius pops the tops off the bottles and hands her one.

“This sucks,” she says, after she’s taken a drink.

“Yup,” Claudius says, turning the bottle in his hands.

“I mean, for one thing, I’ve struck out before but I’ve never managed to make someone run away screaming just from kissing them.” The joke falls a little flat but what else is there?

Claudius just waits. “And then there’s the part where I want to find every fucking bastard who did this to her and kill them, slowly,” she spits out finally, because the acid’s eating at her and maybe it’ll help to get it out.

Now Claudius smiles, except there’s nothing amusing about it, and Sara would be a little scared if she saw that grin in an alley in Six. “If I’m not allowed to you aren’t either,” he says, and Sara laughs, it’s not funny but it kind of is.

“I sent a container of rotten fish to one of Eibhlin’s” he says, and now Sara laughs for real. Rotten fish, that’s perfect.

“Got any more?”

“Not at the moment,” Claudius says, and he actually looks a little disappointed.

They sit there for a couple hours, working their way through the beer and coming up with steadily funnier and more disgusting pranks to pull on particularly egregious offenders, until Sara’s feeling a little less twisted up and hopeless. Finally Claudius sets his bottle down and goes to get up. “It’s not you,” he says, a little hesitant. “Fuck, it’s not even her, it’s them.”

Sara’s been trying to come up with a name poisonous enough for the people who did this shit to her girl and can’t do it, but the sheer venom in Claudius’ “them” is pretty close.

“Yeah,” she says, and one corner of Claudius’ mouth twists up.

“I know, easy to say,” he says, rueful.

“Harder to actually believe,” Sara completes the thought. “Thanks though.”

Claudius waves it off. “No problem,” he says, pulling his shoes back on, “See you around.”

Sara walks to the edge of the porch, stands there for a minute watching Claudius walk away, noting the lights still on at Lyme’s, and then she sighs, scrubs her hands over her face, and goes in to bed.

Rokia’s out the door and down the steps before she realizes quite what’s going on, only that she needs to get out and away and she needs Lyme to–well, she just needs to be at Lyme’s house and not here and away and gone.

And then the mountain air and the sounds in the dark and the grass under her bare feet register and she takes a deep breath, and oh fuck.

It’s stupid, and frustrating, and Rokia stomps over to Lyme’s house half terrified and half furious at her body’s stupid reactions and she didn’t authorize any of this so what the hell is going on? It’s been years, okay, and it’s Sara and it’s fine and so what she wanted to kiss a girl who apparently she doesn’t just like as a friend and all of a sudden she’s got bees under her skin like it’s–well. Like it’s back then and she slams open the door to Lyme’s house and Lyme looks up, startled, face shifting to worry when she sees Rokia’s face.

“What happened?” she asks, getting up and walking toward the door.

“Nothing fucking happened,” Rokia says, clenching her fists.

“Okay,” Lyme says, even, “Let’s go out back.”

Rokia nods, follows her out, and they fight, meaner than Rokia’s fought in a long time, uncontrolled and angry and looking for something she can’t seem to find, and Lyme knocks her down, and she scrambles back to her feet, over and over until she’s exhausted.

When finally she decides to just stay down, Lyme nods, sits down nearby while she rolls over and sits up, arms around her knees.

Silence, except for the usual mountain noises, and finally Rokia breaks it, because she knows Lyme won’t.

“I kissed Sara,” she says, and she doesn’t have to see to know Lyme’s eyebrows go up. “We were watching a movie and–” Rokia shrugs. “We used to, you know, and I just thought–I wanted to–” she stops. “Stupid idea, really.”

Lyme leans back on her hands. “Not stupid,” she says, and Rokia snorts.

“Yeah, sure. Because it worked out so fucking well for me that I had to run find my mentor.”

Lyme stays quiet for a beat. “So it didn’t work out today,” she says, calm, always she’s calm, and Rokia rolls her eyes. “You got plenty of time, kiddo.”

Like she’s going to try that ever again. Like Sara’s going to let her.

She’s never going to get to have this for real, it’s ruined for her and she might as well get over it.

She lets herself fall over, still curled up, but angles it so her head lands in Lyme’s lap, and she’s squeezing her eyes shut against the tears that are threatening now but she feels Lyme’s hand on her head, scratching against her scalp.

They stay there for a while, quiet, and then Lyme shifts. “Come on, Rokia, let’s go inside, it’s late.”

And now that the first flash of panic’s gone and the anger’s drained out she’s just tired, and sad, and embarrassed, and there’s a wash of bad memories floating up and asking for her attention and it’s just all so stupid and pointless.

But she gets to her feet, wraps her arms around herself, suddenly cold in just her T-shirt and jeans, and Lyme puts and arm around her shoulders and guides her inside where she flops on the couch. Lyme ducks into the kitchen and Rokia hears her voice, soft, on the phone but she doesn’t bother trying to make out the words, just pulls the blanket off the back of the couch and around herself and curls up small.

Lyme comes back before long and sits in the space Rokia definitely isn’t going to admit she left for that express purpose, winds her fingers into Rokia’s hair again, and Rokia argues with herself for all of half a second before depositing herself in Lyme’s lap.

Lyme just brings her arms loosely around Rokia’s back, and Rokia leans into her, pressed close so she can hear the steady thump of Lyme’s heart while her own winds down from panic and fight and whatever else into something more normal.

Lyme lets her stay there a long time while her brain winds out its idiot parade of images and feelings and assorted bullshit and she tries to let it leak out because supposedly that’s better than shoving it into little boxes and burying it, but it just doesn’t end and she’s fed up.

Finally Lyme shifts. “You need to sleep,” she says, and Rokia groans. “It’s late, kiddo, come on,” and this is her nice voice, the babying soft careful one and Rokia doesn’t move.

Lyme brushes Rokia’s hair back and Rokia shifts enough to glare up at her. She doesn’t actually want to move at all right now, but Lyme’s smiling just a little and just gets a better grip on Rokia and stands up.

The flaw in the not moving plan, of course, being that Lyme could probably bench-press Rokia in sets of 20 without breaking a sweat.

Lyme deposits her on the bed, disappears into the bathroom and comes back with a glass of water and a pill.

“I don’t want it,” Rokia says, and okay yes she knows she sounds about six years old but whatever.

Lyme just stands there, holding her hands out until Rokia takes the pill and the water with bad grace and swallows the stupid thing. Then Lyme climbs into the bed and Rokia lies down with her head in Lyme’s lap again, and the last thing she remembers is Lyme’s fingers in her hair.

Sara sleeps late the next day, wakes up when her phone rings. She checks before answering, and it’s Lyme, but Rokia left her phone here when she ran off last night so it would be anyway.

But no, it’s actually Lyme on the other end, and however Sara managed to fuck this up, she’s damn sure going to be more careful the next time.

“How’s Rokia,” she asks.

“She’s sleeping,” Lyme says, and Sara is startled, Rokia never sleeps in, but then she thinks for a second.

“You had to drug her to get her to sleep,” Sara says, and it’s dull, flat and bitter on her tongue.

Lyme sighs. “Yeah. Look, I know it’s weird for you but it’s normal, in Two, for mentors to give meds to their kids.”

Sara looks up at the ceiling. “It’s not normal for someone to have a panic attack because they kissed someone though, is it?”

“Not as strange as you might think,” Lyme says, and there’s a hint of amusement buried there, but fuck if Sara thinks it’s funny. She stays quiet, and Lyme goes on. “Look, she’s going to stay here when she wakes up, but I’ll give you a call later and you can probably come over.”

“Yeah,” Sara says, and tries not to sound resentful. “That’d be good.”

They say goodbye, and Sara wanders down to the kitchen to scare up some breakfast.

She’s managed to keep herself busy at least, cleaning the house and doing a load of laundry and finally trying to settle with a book she can’t quite manage to focus on when the phone rings.

She lunges for it, and it’s Lyme, thank goodness. Rokia’s awake, and she’s invited over.

She really shouldn’t be this nervous, but she walks in the door with her heart racing. Lyme doesn’t get up to meet her, because Rokia’s curled into her side on the couch, looking groggy and frustrated and sad but at least there’s no panic in her eyes. Sara never wants Rokia to look at her like that again.

Sara sits on the other end of the couch, pulls her legs up to sit cross-legged. Rokia won’t meet her eyes and if they don’t fix this Sara really is going to go to the Capitol and find the people who did this to her girl and tie them to the train tracks or throw them into a gorge or fuck, something.

Maybe she can get Claudius to help.

But Rokia looks up at her with sad eyes and says, “I’m sorry,” and she has to swallow the anger because she’s not mad at Rokia, not at all, and that’s the last thing she wants Rokia to see on her face.

“Rokia, I’m sorry,” she says, “I shouldn’t have pushed, I should’ve backed off.”

Rokia scowls, and right now she looks younger than Kadi, petulant rather than angry. “It’s not your fault,” she says, “I’m just fucked up.” Lyme purses her lips, over Rokia’s head and out of her view, but Sara sees, catches a flash anger to match her own on Lyme’s face before she smooths it back out.

“Rokia, it’s not your fault either, and you’re not fucked up, you’re amazing.”

Rokia snorts. “Sure.”

“Look,” Sara says, and she snaps off the word before she forces herself to stay calm. “Rokia, you’re my best friend, and if you never want to kiss me again that’s fine, if you decide you do later, we’ll figure it out, okay? I’m not running off just because something freaked you out.”

Rokia studies her with narrowed eyes, and Lyme’s watching her too, no less appraising, and if it is honestly pretty weird to have this conversation while Rokia’s curled into Lyme like a kid, if it keeps her calm then that’s fine.

Finally Rokia looks away. “I did want to,” she says, quiet. “And then it got all mixed up.” She curls tighter, and Lyme’s hand around her shoulders squeezes just a little.

“Rokia, it’s okay,” Sara says, and it isn’t okay at all, not even remotely, but it’s also not something Rokia should be embarrassed about and that’s clearly what’s going on here. Again she gets a scowl, narrowed eyes, questioning. Finally Rokia nods a little, looks away.

“You have to go, don’t you,” Rokia says, and Sara winces.

“Yeah, this afternoon is the plan.” Rokia nods again.

“When are you coming back?” she asks, quiet.

“Two weeks,” Sara says. “If you want me.”

Rokia looks up, startled. “Yes,” she says, “of course I do!”

There, finally, something unknots itself in Sara’s chest and she can breathe again. “Okay,” she says. “I’ll see you soon, okay?”

“Yeah,” Rokia says, “see you soon,” and Lyme hugs her again, nods to Sara, and Sara lets herself out.


They’re sitting on the couch again, and they started out with a foot of space between them, a space Rokia has slowly closed, until by the end of the movie she’s curled her feet up under her and is leaning against Sara. Who is very carefully not moving, because she doesn’t want to mess this up again.

The movie finishes, and Rokia sits up but doesn’t move away, finally blows out a frustrated breath. “Dammit” she mutters, hands scrubbing over her face and then gripping in her hair, pulling a little.

“What’s wrong?” Sara asks.

Rokia drops her hands to her lap and stares at the floor. “Dammit why am I such a fucking mess,” she mutters, mostly under her breath. She glances sideways toward Sara, then back down.

“You’re…not?” Sara says, “I don’t understand, it seemed like you were okay?”

“I’m fine,” Rokia says, dismissive. “It’s not–I mean–I…” She stops, stares through the carpet some more as though there’s an instruction manual written there. Then she pulls her knees up, wraps her arms around them, and says, in a low, rushed voice, “I want you to kiss me.”

Sara blinks, tries very hard not to flinch. “I thought after last time…” She trails off. “I don’t want to freak you out again,” she says, trying to keep her voice even.

Rokia still isn’t looking at her, but she gives the carpet a wry half smile. “I know,” she says. “I don’t know how to fix it.”

Well it’s not like Sara knows anything about it, either. She bites the inside of her lip. “Well,” she says, drawing out the word to give herself time to complete the thought. “We could experiment?”

Rokia looks over, one eyebrow raised, her whole face so comically skeptical that Sara can’t not smile. “That sounds just great,” she says, dripping sarcasm. “Clinical kissing experiments with fucked up whores.”

Sara can’t help it. She knows she shouldn’t react, but her jaw clenches, teeth grinding, before she can so much as think about it. Rokia sees it, looks away again. “Sorry,” she mutters.

Sara swallows a couple times. She wants to punch something. Is half envious of the callouses on Rokia’s knuckles from fights with Lyme. Maybe if she had someone she was allowed to punch she wouldn’t be sitting here steaming quite so much.

“God fucking dammit, Rokia,” she grits out, because she seriously can’t wind the anger back. Rokia glares up at her from under hooded eyebrows. “You’re not–any of that shit.” She actually can’t bring herself to say it. “And even if you were,” she says, clipped and precise and furiously level. “You think I would give a fuck?”

Rokia shifts away, but she drops one foot to the floor and turns to face Sara. Meets her eyes, challenging, searching. “This isn’t a game, Rokia,” Sara says, most of the anger leached out. “I’m not here just for fun.”

“Why are you here?” Rokia asks, and it sounds angry but Sara knows when Rokia’s angry because she won’t let herself be scared.

Because I’ve loved you since before I even knew what that meant, Sara thinks, swallowing hard. Because you’ve been the most important person in my world for so long I don’t want to think about that not being true. Because you finally let me come and every time you let me come back it’s a fucking miracle.

She looks at Rokia with all of that behind her tongue because she won’t dump that much raw need on someone who’s been convinced for way too long she has to meet everyone else’s needs before her own. Because she doesn’t know anything about this particular minefield, but she knows for certain that it would be way too easy to fuck this up.

She wants a drink, and someone to punch, ideally the dead asshole fucking president whose fault this is, but anyone will do.

And now she’s hesitating too long, Rokia’s looking over Sara’s shoulder, out toward the backyard, and when Sara says, “Rokia,” she has to pause while Rokia’s gaze refocuses on her from whatever distance it’s drifted to. “Rokia, because you are my best friend,” she goes with, letting that stand in for the rest of it, “and I care about you.”

Rokia looks skeptical, confused, childish, her mouth screws up and she looks away.

“I’m sorry,” she says, in a small voice. “It shouldn’t be this hard.”

“No,” Sara says, “it shouldn’t.” She waits until Rokia looks back at her. “But it’s not your fault,” she says, and Rokia looks down half-smiling.

“You and Lyme,” she says, “sound like broken recordings.”

“We’ll keep saying it until you believe it,” Sara says, intent.

Rokia shoves the heels of her hands into her eyes. “I need to sleep,” she says, looks up at the clock. “And I think I need to sleep alone.”

It’s not that unusual, Sara never assumes they’ll share a bed even if most of the time Rokia invites her. But it’s still hard.

“Okay,” Sara says, considers. “I’m going to stay up a bit,” she says, “maybe go for a walk.” She’s not a good enough actress to pretend none of this bothers her, so she may as well be open about it.

Rokia nods absently, gets up. “I’ll see you in the morning,” she says, still with that smile that’s several degrees more self-mocking than Sara likes.

“Goodnight, Rokia,” Sara says, keeping her distance.

Rokia hugs her arms around herself. “Goodnight,” she echoes, and goes up the stairs.

Sara decides she is going for a walk, because she wants to scream and she’s not going to do something that stupid. It’s cool up here at night, refreshing and calming, and she walks up to the apple orchard quick enough that she’s out of breath, then turns to head back.

And she notices a light on at Lyme’s house, and before she can psych herself out of it she’s walking up to the porch and knocking. “Yeah?” Lyme’s voice sounds confused.

“It’s Sara,” Sara calls, feeling stupid, but it would be more stupid to run away now. The door opens and Lyme’s not smiling but she’s also…not not-smiling.

“Come in,” Lyme says, stepping out of the way. Sara hasn’t ever been here without Rokia, it’s weird. She’s reminded somehow that this is, y’know, Lyme, Victor and Commander and whatever else, who towers over Sara and even though she obviously tries to look unthreatening, is still quite clearly at least potentially a serious threat.

“Sorry to bother you,” Sara says, but Lyme waves that away.

“You’re not,” she says. Lyme looks at Sara a little more closely, then she does smile a little. “You want a drink?”

“Yes please,” Sara says, and Lyme chuckles as she heads for the kitchen. Sara pulls off her shoes and follows. Lyme’s getting down glasses.

“There’s bourbon,” she says, “and probably a couple bottles of whatever beer Brutus left here last.”

“Bourbon would be great,” Sara says, and when she turns around with a very fancy looking bottle, Lyme’s smiling a little like she knows exactly what’s going on.

“How’s your girl?” Lyme asks, and yup, there it is. She looks away to pour and Sara blows out a long breath. “That good?” Lyme asks, sardonic, handing Sara a heavy-bottomed glass, ice clinking faintly against the sides.

Sara takes a sip and her eyebrows go up in surprise. The bourbon the train crews get definitely does not taste like this. “Wow,” she says, and dammit, could she sound any more like an idiot?

Lyme just looks pleased, and a little vindicated. “Yeah,” she says, sliding the bottle across the counter so Sara can look. “That’s the good stuff.”

Sara takes another drink, reading the bottle, then sighs, sets her glass down and spins it between her palms.

“I–look, she’s not my girl, first of all,” Sara says, and Lyme snorts.

“You’re smarter than that,” Lyme says.

Sara runs a hand through her hair. “Okay,” she says, and fuck it, she can’t look more like an idiot. “She told me she wanted me to kiss her,” Sara says.

Lyme raises one eyebrow, just a little. “And did you?”

Sara shakes her head, takes another sip of bourbon. “She was already all wound up,” she says. “I told her I didn’t want to freak her out, she got….scared, and pissed, like she does,” Sara looks up to make sure Lyme knows what she means, and Lyme’s nodding, so she goes on. “I said we could experiment with stuff and she…” Sara looks down, forces her jaw to unclench. “She said she didn’t think it sounded like it’d be fun to experiment with a fucked up whore.”

Lyme’s face goes dark for a second, and she sighs, takes a drink. “And?” She prompts, “you didn’t let her get away with that shit, did you?”

Sara shakes her head. “Told her she wasn’t, and even if she were I wouldn’t care.”

She glances back up at Lyme, who nods. Sara’s surprised how relieved she is to see what looks like approval. “I don’t think she believed me when I told her I was here because I cared about her, not just for fun, but I said it anyway. And then she went to bed, and I went for a walk because there wasn’t anyone around I could hit.” Sara tries to pull back, looks down at the glass between her hands. “And then I saw your light on, so…” She looks up, shrugs.

Lyme shakes her head, sighs, leans back against the counter. “Yeah,” she says. “That’s tough.” She glances over at Sara. “I’ve got a punching bag in the basement, for the record.”

Sara relaxes a little, she hadn’t realized she was worried what Lyme would think until she isn’t anymore. “Can I tape that dead fucking asshole’s face to it?” Sara asks.

“Sure,” Lyme says, “if that’s gonna make you feel better.”

Sara shrugs. “Guess it might,” she says. She’s not sure anything will, really.

"Kid, it’s not your fault either, you know that, right?,” Lyme says, watching Sara carefully.

Sara shrugs. “I know,” she says. “It just feels like I should be able to fix it.”

“Yeah, but you can’t.” Lyme says. “She’s the only one who can fix this stuff.”

Sara scowls. “If she even wants to.”

“Sounds like she does,” Lyme says. “And you’re helping, and that’s good.”

Sara’s unimpressed. “Doesn’t feel like I’m helping.” She’s sulking a little, but it just…sucks.

Lyme shakes her head. “You are. You know her better than any of us, she talks to you, she trusts you. You know how important that is.”

Sara looks down. Nods.

Lyme sighs. “Bring her over tomorrow if you want. She might be more comfortable experimenting here.” Sara looks up. Lyme looks like she’s offering to eat lemons, but she’s sincere.

“Okay,” Sara says. She downs the last of her drink. “Thanks,” she says, setting it on the counter.

“Anytime,” Lyme says. “Goodnight, Sara.”

Rokia’s guest bedroom is perfectly comfortable, it’s practically Sara’s own by now anyway, and it’s stupid to be sad about sleeping alone when she does it all the time, but Sara is anyway. But talking to Lyme calmed her down and the bourbon pools warm in her stomach and pretty soon, she’s asleep.

When she comes down the next morning, Rokia’s curled in a blanket on the couch with a cup of coffee and her datapad, poking at a model that’s floating in the air above her. Sara pauses near the bottom of the stairs, watches Rokia’s hands move, careful and sure and fully concentrating to the point she hasn’t even heard Sara coming down the stairs. Sara walks around to where Rokia can see her and Rokia looks up, half startled, smiles, shy, lip caught between her teeth.

And that’s just unfair, dammit. “There more coffee?” Sara asks, running a hand through her hair, pulling to dislodge the tangles and to remind herself what a terrible idea it’d be to climb onto the couch and just….no. No no no, coffee, then careful conversation, then, maybe, some experimentation.

“Yeah,” Rokia says, completely still for a second, and then she shakes her head. “Yeah, in the kitchen.”

She extracts herself from the blankets and follows Sara into the kitchen. Sara pours coffee, turns around and leans against the counter. “Sleep okay?” she asks.

Rokia shrugs. “Not bad, you?”

“Just fine,” Sara says, inhaling the steam from her mug. She takes a breath. “I talked to Lyme,” she says, and Rokia raises an eyebrow and gives Sara a look that’s a near copy of her mentor’s.

“What’d Lyme have to say?” Rokia asks.

Sara’s feeling brave, so she gives Rokia a mischievous smile. “She said we could experiment over at her place if you wanted.”

Rokia groans. “She doesn’t quit.”

Now it’s Sara’s turn to raise her eyebrows, gesturing “go on” with her coffee.

“She asked if I wanted her to, I don’t know, supervise us. After, you know…”

Sara sighs. “Yeah, well…” She shrugs. “I don’t mind if you don’t.”

Rokia gives her a very flat look, goes to the fridge for milk, starts pulling down bowls and cereal. “We are going to eat breakfast,” she says, sounding put-upon, “and I am going to finish my coffee, and then we can talk about it.”

Sara laughs. “Fair enough,” she says, and fills her bowl.

Sara’s piling the dishes in the sink when she hears Rokia come up to stand beside her. “You really don’t mind?” she asks, hesitant.

“Not at all,” Sara says.

“It’s going to be super awkward.”

“Awkward I can deal with,” Sara shoots back. Doesn’t need to say she’d vastly prefer it to the alternatives.

Rokia sighs. “Come on then,” she says. “Let’s brush our teeth and go practice kissing at my mentor’s house.” She starts off sounding annoyed but by the end it’s more amused. Sara knocks their shoulders together as they head up the stairs, and Rokia gives her a rueful smile. She’ll take it.

Lyme just nods when she hears the plan. Goes and gets a pile of newspapers off the table, sets them by her chair and sits down. “I’m here if you need me,” she says, looking at Rokia, and picks up a paper. It pretty effectively blocks her from obvious view, but Sara is pretty sure she’s paying a lot of attention to what’s happening all the same.

Rokia rolls her eyes. Sits in the corner of the couch. Sara sits next to her, giving her space, but reaches to take her hand. Rokia gives her a small smile.

Sara turns, sits crosslegged on the couch facing Rokia, and Rokia mirrors her. Their knees touch, but there’s space between them that’d be hard to breach. Rokia’s watching her, and she looks tentative, more awkward now than when they first did this when Rokia was 15.

“Should I start?” Sara asks, quiet.

Rokia nods. Sara leans forward, waits for Rokia to meet her halfway, just lets their lips brush, pulls back. Rokia’s smiling a little, leans forward again, and again, a brush of lips and Sara pulls back. Their hands are tangled still and Sara squeezes, once, a reminder.

Rokia stays still, watching, uncertain for a minute, and then this time she leans in first and Sara follows, and Rokia presses toward her a little, lips parting slightly, and then she pulls away fast.

Sara watches as Rokia takes a deep shaky breath, lets go of Sara’s hand and twists both of hers into her hair. “Fuck,” she says. “Son of a bitch.”

“You okay there kiddo?” Lyme’s put down her paper, looks over.

“Fantastic,” Rokia snaps. She turns, drops her feet to the floor.

Sara bites her tongue, shifts to sit the same way.

Lyme gets up and grabs the remote off the table, flips through the channels till she finds one of the educational ones, something about building a new dam in Seven somewhere. “There,” Lyme says, indulgent. “Think about giant walls of concrete for a while.”

Sara laughs while Rokia scowls. But Rokia’s shoulders are down away from her ears and pretty soon she’s commenting on the state of the mixing trucks.

When the show’s over Rokia sighs. Glances over at Sara. “Sorry,” she says.

“Don’t worry about it,” Sara says. “I wasn’t expecting this to get easy in a day.”

Rokia rolls her eyes again. “I’m not going anywhere, girl,” Sara says, soft. "We got all the time in the world.”

Rokia looks at Sara, searching, reaches over to take her hand. “Thanks,” she says, leans in and brushes Sara’s lips once more before getting up and walking toward the kitchen.

Lyme gets up, gives Sara a nod, and follows Rokia out.

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