(completely self-indulgent recovery-fic, sorrynotsorry)
Immediately follows Rokia goes to Lyme's for the first time, contains...the kinds of things you'd expect from early postwar Rokia fic.
Lyme manages to keep Rokia for three days before she says she has to go back to the Capitol and refuses to back down.
If this girl was Lyme’s kid she’d knock her down and sit on her and tell her she’s not going anywhere, but they’re not there yet—and she stops herself. Doesn’t know if that’s where they’re going at all, really. So she tries arguing, and when she gives up she drives Rokia to the station and waits till she hops on a cargo train headed in.
And then goes home. And it’s weird, the house already seems too quiet with the kid gone. Lyme shakes her head, gets something to eat, and goes down to the gym because when in doubt do what’s normal.
When she comes back up, Brutus is sitting on her couch.
“What’s up?” Lyme asks, on her way to the kitchen. Gets a glass of water and comes back, leans against the wall and rolls her neck.
“Heard you took the Six girl to the station this morning.”
“Rokia,” Lyme snaps, and oh shit.
Brutus raises an eyebrow. “Okay, Rokia. She still won’t leave?”
Lyme sighs, drinks the rest of the water. “Says she’s got work to do,” Lyme says. “Thing is, she’s not exactly wrong.”
Brutus takes a deep breath. “Yeah,” he says. “I hear that shop’s one of maybe three that can make spare parts right now.”
Lyme nods. “Only one outside Six, apparently.” She goes to sit, because this apparently isn’t a two-minute conversation.
“There was a good reason we all got out of the Capitol, you know. Wasn’t just nostalgia.”
“Yeah. Doubt she gets recognized much, though. Not like she’s going out clubbing.”
Brutus huffs a laugh. “Right.” He pauses. “She okay?”
Lyme sighs. “Fuck, I don’t even know,” she says. “Depends how you define it. Functioning? Sure. Is she a danger to herself or to others? Not really. Healthy? Not even close.”
Brutus shakes his head. “Should’ve gone with Phillips,” he says. “She needs her mentor.”
“Yeah,” Lyme says. “Needs someone, for sure.”
Brutus gives her a careful look. “You look like you just pulled a kid’s file you like,” he says.
Lyme’s not unaware. “Wish I had a damn file,” she says, “All I got’s rumors and what she tells me, which isn’t much.”
Brutus is still watching her. She feels like she’s 20 again, coming over with Artemisia’s Centre file and trying to defend her choice.
“There’s probably a Peacekeeper file around somewhere,” Brutus says, one corner of his mouth twitching up. “You could ask around.”
Ask Claudius to ask Selene and Dash, is what he means. “Guess I could,” she says.
Brutus gets up. “May as well,” he says, heading for the door. “So long as you’re picking up strays, you might as well know where they come from.”
“She’s not a cat, and I’m not Callista,” Lyme snaps, and oh fucking hell.
The worst part is that Brutus doesn’t even give her a hard time. Just says “okay” and walks out the door.
She stares at the door after he leaves. This is a bad idea. Lyme’s not sure she’s up for mentoring at all, much less with a kid she doesn’t know from a district she’s only been to on Tours. What does she know about any of what this girl’s been through? Mentoring is about “I know because I’ve been there,” and sure, the kid’s a Victor, but there’s a lot more going on here than what happened in the Arena. And if Phillips can’t get through to her, who is Lyme to think she can?
Except that Phillips is a man, and he’s never been able to make the promises Lyme’s made to her kids, and any time he looks at his girl he radiates guilt, and that alone would’ve been enough to keep Lyme from trusting him enough for it to work.
And he’s in Nine and the kid refused to go with him or let him stay with her, and she needs somebody, and there isn’t anybody else.
That’s what it comes down to, really. There isn’t anybody else.
She sighs, picks up the phone, calls Claudius to ask for the file.
He brings it over a couple days later, looking confused. “Why do you want her file?” he asks, a little defensive. And she never brought a kid home after him, and he wouldn’t have wished anybody dead but he liked having her mostly to himself. But here we are.
“Just trying to figure out a little more about her,” Lyme says, and yeah, he gets it, because his eyebrows shoot up to meet his hair where it’s growing back out.
“Really, boss? You’re adopting a Six?”
Lyme rolls her eyes. “She has a name, it’s not adoption, and I don’t even know if she’ll let me do anything.” Claudius just keeps watching her. “I want to see if I can get her to come here, there’s a reason we wanted all the Victors out of the Capitol.”
Claudius nods. “Okay,” he says, still sounding skeptical.
“Hey,” Lyme says, reaching over to muss his hair. “Don’t worry, D, nobody’s replacing you.”
He gives her a flat look, but there’s relief in there somewhere, so she shoves his shoulder just hard enough he can take it as an invitation if he wants to. She’s not really surprised when he does.
After dinner Lyme sits down with the file. It’s thin, compared to a Centre file, and everything before 71 is pretty much blank. Some stuff about her Tour, consulting jobs with Wiress and Beetee… and a long list of “private clients” that Lyme starts paging through before she registers what that means.
When she does, she almost flings the fucking thing across the room. Drops it instead, hands balling to fists as she stands up, because she can’t look at that and sit still.
She paces like a trapped cat while she tries to shove the screaming in her head back into the box it belongs in, picks up the stupid folder and forces herself to look at the list. Pages and pages, and Lyme knows way too many of the names, and every once in a while there’s a note—someone was “unsatisfied,” someone else “took liberties” whatever the fuck that’s supposed to mean in this fucking context. The last entry is Gaius fucking Luna, a Gamemaker, the night the Arena fell. She double checks the date to make sure, but no, it’s right. Kid was in on the rebellion already, and Plutarch and his boys still sent her out the night everything was going down?
And the thing is, Lyme knew it was happening.
She knew it from rumors before she even won, and since then she watched Finnick Odair go from a bright-eyed kid to a blank-eyed razor-smiling… persona, watched Johanna Mason fall apart over and over again, and that’s without even starting on the Ones.
She still feels sick.
Sick, and trapped, and nearly forty fucking years old but she stalks over to Nero’s house anyway, forces herself not to slam the door open hard enough to dent something because they’re just getting the damn Village fixed, she’s not going to break shit no matter how much she wants to.
“Hey,” Nero says, stops dead when he comes around the corner and sees her face. “Hey little girl, what is it?”
Lyme takes a deep breath. “I got the Peacekeepers file on Rokia, from Six.”
“Ah.” Nero doesn’t ask what she’s doing hunting down files for someone else’s Victor, just waits for her to tell him.
“She needs somebody,” Lyme says, “And she needs to get out of that fucking cesspool.”
Nero nods. “So you want to take her.”
“Yeah,” Lyme says, giving up any pretense. “I do.”
He just waits, and she hated that, twenty odd years ago.
“The shit they did to her,” Lyme grits out, low and dangerous.
Nero steps forward, drops his hands to her shoulders, heavy and grounding. “Hey. If you’re gonna do this, it can’t be about what happened in the Arena. It’s what happens after.”
“I’m not talking about the fucking—“
“I know,” Nero stops her. “Her Arena didn’t end when she walked out.”
“No, it fucking started then,” Lyme snaps.
“Yeah,” Nero says. “So that’s what you’re up against.”
“Are you trying to talk me out of it?”
Nero shakes his head. “I know better,” he says. “And you’re right, kid needs somebody.”
He pushes her back, slowly, till her back’s against the wall, his hands on her shoulders holding her there. It unknots some of what’s twisted in her chest. “Her Arena isn’t your fault. You just gotta make sure she knows you’re never letting her go back in.”
Lyme nods, and when he lets go of her shoulders she steps into his arms, sucks in a breath and lets it hiss through her teeth. “I don’t know if I can do this,” she says, into his shirt where maybe nobody will hear the admission.
“I do,” Nero says.
Lyme steps back, takes a deep breath and walks out.
Lyme manages to coax Rokia back on the third try, a couple weeks after she left. Manages to do it over the phone even, so she can just drive down to the station and wait.
It’s a cargo train, but Rokia hops down from the crew car and waves back at someone before looking over at Lyme. It’s a careful look, wary, and somehow old. Lyme’s used to kids regressing, to wide-eyed childish fear, not so much this narrowed-eyed assessment. Rokia hitches her duffel up on her shoulder and crosses the platform, just glancing up at Lyme before looking around for the car.
“How’s it going?” Lyme asks, walking toward the car. She keeps her distance: Rokia’s tense, pulled in, and Lyme will have to learn how to make her uncoil but she’s not starting out here.
Rokia sighs. “I’m fine,” she says, “Just busy. You worry too much.”
Lyme lets herself smile a little. “Okay. So when’s the last time you slept in a bed?”
“Beds are overrated,” Rokia shoots back. It’s not really an answer, but it’s enough.
Rokia tosses her duffel into the backseat and climbs into the car. She shows more interest in listening to the engine start up than she has in anything else since getting off the train, nods a little when the idle settles, then she shifts, curling against the door and looking out the window.
Closed off, pulled in, shut down. Lyme doesn’t like any of it.
There’s no space for doubt, not here, so Lyme shoves it down, concentrates on driving up to the Village and to her house. Rokia doesn’t move until the car stops, then gets out and gets her bag and waits to follow Lyme to the door, all without making eye contact. She crouches down to pull off her shoes—heavy, stained, well-worn work boots—stands up and freezes, swaying almost imperceptibly, blinking fast.
“Come get something to eat,” Lyme says, because that looked like low blood sugar.
Rokia looks around, “What time is it?” she asks.
“Lunchtime,” Lyme says.
“I left at lunchtime,” Rokia says, “It’s gotta be the middle of the afternoon now.”
“So you ate before you left?”
Rokia’s eyes flick left, then up, down, back toward Lyme without really making eye contact. “Well, no,” she says, grudgingly. “I was busy finishing up.”
“Then it’s lunchtime now,” Lyme says.
Rokia shrugs, follows Lyme into the kitchen. She stays in the doorway, leaning against the wall where Lyme knows she can see most of the living room—including the door—as well as the kitchen. She wonders if Rokia notices what she’s doing. “What do you want on your sandwich?” she asks.
Rokia glances over, shrugs. “Whatever,” she says, sounding bored.
Lyme puts together sandwiches, slides two plates onto the table. Rokia sits down, picks hers up. “This is gigantic,” she says. “How am I supposed to get my mouth around it.”
“You’ll manage,” Lyme says, mildly, picking up her own and taking a bite.
Rokia does manage, eats slowly but steadily until it’s gone, pushes the plate away from her. “Now what?” she asks, picking at a hangnail on one hand.
“Up to you, kiddo,” Lyme says.
Mistake. A stupid one, and she should know better. Rokia’s fake-nonchalance is completely unconvincing when her eyes go wide. “You told me to come,” Rokia says, irritated.
“Alright then, let’s go see what we can find on TV.”
The kid’s quiet, but she follows Lyme, folds herself into a corner of the couch. Lyme sits on the other end, pulls the blanket off the top and tosses it to Rokia. “In case you get cold,” she says. Rokia pulls it around herself.
Thanks to Claudius, Lyme knows where to find the nature documentaries, the ones from before deemed innocuous enough to show, and the new ones Plutarch’s having made to…something about District solidarity.
Rokia struggles to stay awake for almost an hour before she crashes, sleeping sitting up, curled against the back of the couch.
Lyme stops pretending to pay attention to the screen. Asleep, Rokia’s face sets into a frown of concentration, her eyebrows still drawn together. She’s tiny, especially curled up like this, and even granted she’s probably built small, sharp cheekbones and deep eyes peg her as too thin, and the dark circles are just one of the ways Lyme can tell she’s exhausted.
She looks like she just got out of the Arena. Especially now. Awake, she puts up a good front, for anyone not paying attention. It’s not surprising, really. It’s not the first time Lyme’s thought the war felt like a fucking unending Games. But here it’s…complicated. Lyme knows what to do with a fresh-out Victor, barring a little advice about drug dosages for someone less than half Lyme’s weight. But given how much Rokia fought an ordinary fucking sleeping pill, there’s no way she’ll agree to the full recovery cocktail. Even assuming Lyme could get all the meds, which is nothing like a sure thing.
Which means she’s got no map for this. No precedent. Nobody to ask, because nobody else has done this either.
What the fuck is she getting herself into.
It’s not that she wants to get out of it. No, damn it, Brutus and Nero were both right, she’s locked in hard on this kid, ridiculous as it may well seem. And she’s going to see it through, because that’s what mentors do.
And there it is. She’s been avoiding the word, out of some lingering self-preservation instinct, but it’s obvious what she’s doing here. Except it’s not like D, or Misha, not a kid she picked because she got them, not a kid she knows because she knows what shaped them, knows them because she’s been there, knows where to start, at least, from her training. This kid, the Arena is probably the least of her problems, given what came after.
And it’s fine to let herself worry about all of that now, while the kid’s asleep, but she needs to be sure by the time Rokia wakes up. Not just faking it, that’ll always show through somehow. That much at least she knows. So Lyme takes a deep breath and puts the worry aside.
As for the rest? Well, when shit gets bad you start with the basics. Food and sleep. And then go from there.
Easier said than done, when the kid jerks awake an hour later. She looks around in a panic for a second, then stares at Lyme, breathing fast, blinking away whatever’s left of the nightmare.
And then she presses the heels of her hands against her eyes for three deep breaths, her shoulders rising and falling with each one, pulls her hands away and gives Lyme a rueful smile. “Serves me right for sleeping during the day,” she says. Cocks her head to one side. “Or for starting to actually have a sleep schedule, one or the other.”
Lyme raises an eyebrow. “In Thirteen I didn’t really bother trying to keep track,” Rokia goes on. “Seeing as it didn’t fucking matter in the hangars anyway.”
Lyme fights down her reactions, any of them, because the kid’s joking and nonchalant, and it’s not the time for pointing out how fucked that is. Not to mention that Lyme would feel like a hypocrite.
“At least around here you can see the sun,” Lyme says mildly, to fill the space.
Rokia nods. “Yeah, so I mostly sleep at night now and when I try to sleep in the day it doesn’t really…work.”
Lyme gets up. “Let me get you some water,” she says.
When she gets back, Rokia’s pulled out her datapad and is frowning down at it. Lyme sets the glass down on the table and Rokia barely looks up. “Sorry,” she says, still buried in whatever she’s looking at. “I got a bunch of shit to get done.”
“No problem,” Lyme says, leaves her to it while she heads into the kitchen to make dinner.
She settles on pasta, because it’s easy to make and easy to eat, and the pseudo-meat they’re still using isn’t so offensive when it’s hidden in the sauce. She takes a plate out to Rokia, turns the TV back on and sits back.
When Rokia doesn’t even look at the plate for a solid 20 minutes, Lyme points it out. “Your food’s getting cold, kiddo.”
Rokia looks up at her, startled, looks at the plate, pulls in a little, shoulders hunching. “I just ate,” she says, eyes shifting. “I don’t need it.”
Not, Lyme notices, I’m not hungry. Huh. “It’s good for you, though,” Lyme tries. “Body’s gotta have fuel.”
Rokia glances over at her, sighs, and picks up the bowl. Mostly because Lyme wants her to, but that’s good enough for the moment.
She picks at it, eating slowly, spinning the spaghetti around her fork, sets it back on the table still half full.
And Lyme’s honestly not sure if she should push it, the kid did eat not that long ago, she’s small, she’s not training, maybe it’s fine. It’s probably not worth a fight anyway, at least not for right now. So Lyme stores the leftovers in the fridge and takes a minute in the kitchen to close her eyes and take a deep breath before heading back out and settling in with paperwork of her own.
Rokia doesn’t so much as move until Lyme speaks up. “It’s late kiddo, time for bed.”
Rokia looks startled. “What? Really?” She looks down at the datapad. “It’s not even midnight yet.”
“When’d you get up this morning?”
Rokia’s eyes shift sideways, thinking or getting ready to lie, Lyme’s not sure. “Not that early,” Rokia says. “Seven, maybe?”
“Uh huh,” Lyme said. “And it’s 11 now, that’s bedtime.”
“I’m not sleepy yet,” Rokia says looking back down. “And I’ve got work to do.”
Lyme just waits.
Finally Rokia looks up, irritated. “You can go to bed if you want, I’ll turn out the lights when I’m done.”
Lyme settles back in her chair. “Nah, I’ll sleep when you do,” she says. On Claudius that’s always gotten a guilty look, but Rokia just shrugs.
“Okay,” she says, and keeps working.
Lyme will punch anyone who suggests that she’s getting old, but the later it gets the more she starts thinking she’s too old for this shit. It was a lot easier to sit up with insomniac kids when she was 20, or 30. And what’s worse is this kid isn’t doing it out of spite—probably. It’s not testing boundaries or trying to piss Lyme off or win something, the kid just doesn’t want to go to bed yet. Rokia’s stubborn as hell about it too, she’s dozed off and jerked awake a couple times before she finally sets down the datapad and rubs at her eyes.
She gives Lyme a half-smile. “Okay, now it’s bedtime,” she says, getting slowly to her feet.
Lyme follows her up the stairs, makes sure she’s settled in the spare room, and heads for her own bed.
Lyme may be too old for this shit but she’s definitely not to old to wake up as soon as she hears someone else moving around. She sits up, takes a deep breath and goes out to the hall, down the stairs. Rokia’s standing in the kitchen, a blanket wrapped around her shoulders, glaring at the coffeemaker. She spins around when she hears Lyme. “I didn’t mean to wake you up,” she says, “I know it’s early.”
Lyme shrugs, slips past her and starts making coffee. “Don’t worry about it,” she says. “Old habits, I sleep light.”
Rokia drops into one of the kitchen chairs. She stays quiet until Lyme brings her a cup full of coffee, then she buries her face in the steam, curling her whole body around the warmth. “Thanks,” she says.
“What do you want for breakfast?” Lyme asks, checking the cupboards. She sees Rokia shrug out of the corner of her eye. “Oatmeal okay?”
“Sure,” Rokia says absently.
Lyme swirls peanut butter and jam into it, tried and true recovery comfort food, and Rokia eats it all.