Rokia's getting real tired of people telling her about recovery. About how it's not linear, it takes time, it takes work, whatever catchphrase Adriana's caught up in this week, whatever Lyme's decided she needs to hear. Mostly she's tired of how it never fucking ends, that as soon as she's figured out one thing, something else pops up to demand her attention. And it usually is a demand, sharp and persistent and eating at her whenever she lets her guard down. And she's tired of being Lyme's baby, the Victor who never grows up like those kids stories Rokia never understood. Who the hell would want to be a kid forever?
Lyme keeps telling her it doesn't matter, it's fine, things are different now, different for her, her Arena started sooner and ended later and anyway, everyone's recovery is different. Tells her she's not a burden or a pain in the ass or added work or anything, that Lyme likes having her around. That nobody else in the Village cares, and if they give her shit Lyme will beat the crap out of them anyway.
And, well. Nobody says anything, but Rokia knows that as long as she's living in Lyme's house she's gonna be Lyme's baby Victor. And they don't mean that as a bad thing exactly, but it means they defer to Lyme when they want to ask her something, they keep her sheltered as much as they can, they think of her as not quite independent. And she's not independent, Lyme tells her when to sleep and when to eat and even if Rokia makes meals sometimes, Lyme's still in charge of deciding what to make.
And for fuck’s sake, she's been running her own life since she was eight years old. If at 12 years old Rokia could take care of herself and two little sisters, surely as an adult Rokia can take care of her damn self. But every time she brings it up she gets glared at and shot down, or if Lyme's in a good mood she gets her hair mussed and a joke about how Lyme's not ready for her to leave yet.
And then, finally, when she's just about given up, Adriana says she'll talk to Lyme about it, and maybe. And Lyme asks her about it, after dinner while they're sitting on the couch together watching one of the nature shows Claudius got Rokia hooked on. Lyme's got a pile of logistics paperwork, Rokia has her datapad, and the show's mostly for background noise, until Lyme reaches for the remote and switches it off.
"Adriana says she thinks you might be ready to move out," Lyme says, in her Neutral Voice.
Rokia sits up straighter. "Yeah," she says, trying to figure out how best to argue her point.
"Well," Lyme says, before Rokia has a chance to say anything, "if you think you're ready and she thinks you're ready, then I guess you are."
Is this a trick? It's never that easy. "I think I am," Rokia says, "It's time."
Lyme nods. "What’re you thinking?"
Rokia bites her lip, because this is the part she's not sure of. She doesn't want to move all the way out to the quarries, she'd miss Lyme even if she's not going to admit it out loud.
"There's nice apartments in Careertown," she offers, because there are, and it's only 10 minutes or so by bike to the Village, less to the hangar.
Lyme looks surprised for a half second, then smooths it out. "That's an option," she says, still neutral.
"I don't need much space for just me," Rokia says, because it seems like she needs some justification. "And with my salary for the maintenance work I should be able to cover rent no problem." She actually has no idea what rent runs in this district, but seeing as she's making twice what she did in Six it ought to be plenty.
Lyme nods. "Okay," she says. "We can go look around tomorrow if you want."
Rokia nods, sudden butterflies in her stomach. "Sounds good," she says, and Lyme turns the TV back on.
It turns out housing in Careertown is a hell of a lot pricier than Rokia had expected. All the places they see would be almost half of Rokia's monthly salary, and sure, she could work more hours, but... But she doesn't belong here. Everyone here has rugged Two good looks and dangerous grins and handshakes that crush Rokia's fingers. Lyme fits in, long sleeves covering her wrists, sliding into a persona Rokia's never seen before.
They're quiet driving back to the Village, and when they get to the gates Rokia sighs.
"What's up, kiddo?" Lyme asks, while they wait for the guards to open the gates.
"I don't belong there." It slips out before Rokia realizes. "And everything's so expensive."
Lyme glances over at her, looking thoughtful. "I'll look at some other options," she says, and Rokia wishes Lyme wasn't so good at hiding all clues as to how she thinks Rokia should react to the shit she says. Because right now Rokia thinks Lyme has something planned, but for the life of her she can't figure out what.
The next day at lunch she finds out. Brutus and Beetee are sitting around the table, talking, and they go silent as soon as Rokia walks in, stay quiet while she pulls off her boots, don't move as she walks over to the table.
"Uh oh," Rokia says, because they seem to be waiting for her to say something. "What'd I do now."
Beetee purses his lips. "You seem to have forgotten you are a Victor, with all the attendant privileges."
Rokia just raises one eyebrow. "You're not moving out of the Village when there's perfectly good houses here," Brutus says, with a little more heat than his usual conversational tone. Rokia glances at Lyme, who's wearing a shadow of a smile, and Lyme nods.
"They're too big for me," Rokia argues--and why is she arguing? Whatever. "And way too fancy."
And now Brutus is looking at her and he just looks sad, and...fond, maybe. "Not all of them," he says quietly. "Emory's old house isn't."
Rokia's breath catches. She's heard the stories about Emory; Brutus' first girl, apparently the nicest person in the world, didn't like waste, made weird shit by hand, died in the war.
"I can't..." Rokia starts, and Brutus shakes his head and stops her.
"Last thing in the world she'd want is for the place to sit empty 'cause of nostalgia." Brutus says, "she'd want you to have it." He pauses. "And so do I."
Rokia knows better than to say no to that. "Okay," she says. Then she thinks of something. "I can fix it up," she says. "Probably needs some new shingles and stuff after that storm we had."
Brutus glares at her, which is much more familiar and comfortable than whatever was happening before. "Like hell you are. Me and Nero will go over tomorrow and see what needs doing."
Rokia stands her ground. "I want to help," she says, and Brutus is legendary for stubbornness, but so is Rokia, and this is one fight he can't win either via seniority or by pinning her to the ground. "I want to learn to use a nail gun."
Lyme barks out a short laugh. "She's got you there, caveman. Lady gets what the lady wants, isn't it?"
Brutus narrows his eyes and Lyme grins back, all bared teeth and menace. "Fine," Brutus says, "we'll stop by around eight, you ladies can come along and see what color curtains you want."
"Hey!" Rokia says, at the same time that Lyme lunges across the table to flick Brutus' ear. Or, try to. He grabs her wrist before she gets there, and she has to settle for wrenching her arm free and smacking him upside the head.
"Go on, get out," Lyme says. "We have things to do, and so do you."
Beetee's adjusting his glasses, his hand hiding his mouth. "Well, looks like that's settled, then," he says.
"Yup," Brutus says, getting up and heading for the door. "See you tomorrow, Rokia." He ignores Lyme.
"Always a pleasure!" Lyme calls from where she's still at the table, and Brutus snorts.
"Sure," he says, pulling on his boots. "Likewise."
And then they're gone.
And Lyme drops the act as soon as the door closes, comes over to Rokia and musses her hair. "You okay, kiddo?"
Rokia nods. What do you say when someone basically gives you their dead adopted kid's house? "Thank you" doesn't really seem adequate.
Lyme tilts her head to one side. "Come on," she says, drops her hand to Rokia's shoulder and guides her to the couch. Once Rokia is settled up against her side, Lyme goes on. "He's right, you know. She'd have wanted you to have it."
Rokia curls smaller. "But I'm not Two," she says. "I'm not like you guys."
Lyme chuckles, and Rokia mostly hears it through the ear that's against Lyme's chest, a low vibration. "You're not so different," she says. Doesn't elaborate.
Rokia's hand goes automatically to her right wrist, where the Two Victors' matching tattoos proclaim their belonging in bold colors etched in skin. Lyme's eyes follow, and her hand covers Rokia's. "That's not what matters," she says. Rokia's eyes go to the leather cuff Lyme wears over the place where her tattoo used to be. Lyme lets go of her wrist and Rokia runs a finger along the edge of the cuff. "Yeah, see?" Lyme says. "I don't have one either."
And that's just this side of patronizing bullshit, but Rokia will let it slide because it actually does make her feel better. "You're my girl," Lyme says, and as always it carries an edge that reminds Rokia of the light glinting off a sword. "That means you belong here."
"Okay," Rokia says, giving up, giving in, the way she always ends up doing with Lyme. "Okay," she repeats, and she should get up, make herself a sandwich, get back to the jobs waiting in the hangar, but for just a little while longer she stays right where she is.