This starts off nice and gets rapidly not nice at all. Big giant flashing trigger warnings for talking about the aftermath of rape (no details but lots of feelings), Rokia in denial, and confusion. Also, this doesn't conclude so much as it just stops. Someday there will be happy endings. I promise.
After the first extracurricular motorcycle trip Selene stops by the shop every once in a while. The first time she shows up with beer and takeout food Rokia’s eyebrows go up and Selene laughs at her.
“Come on, let’s go someplace less grimy” Selene says, so Rokia takes her to the apartment she’s commandeered across the street. They sit on the scruffy couch and watch some crappy TV show and drink the beer and eat the food and when Selene gets up to leave Rokia tells her to come back sometime, and surprises herself by actually meaning it.
Selene knows good bars in the Capitol, too. Rokia avoids every bar she’d ever been to as a Victor and she doesn’t know any others, but Selene knows the scruffy places where Rokia’s not likely to run into anyone she knows, where they can sit in a corner and drink in peace, even a couple places with decent music for dancing that don’t totally make Rokia’s skin crawl. It takes her a few drinks to enjoy it, but it’s fun, dancing with Selene, who plays the possessive girlfriend if anyone tries to get too close. Sometimes they go out with Dash, and Rokia watches the two of them dancing together. It’s brilliant, not just because they’re both good dancers but because years of watching each others’ backs means they move together like they don’t even have to try.
One night when she’s back in the Capitol after a week with Lyme in Two Selene drags her out of the shop to a new place. Selene’s wild-eyed and laughing and Rokia’s matching her drinks and they’re standing at the bar watching the crowd. Suddenly there’s a hand on her shoulder and she spins, hands pushing out. Selene steps up beside her, tense, and Rokia looks up into a face she remembers but can’t place and oh, shit. He’s talking to her, moving into her space and she pulls back, ducks her head, wraps her arms around herself. Selene glances from Rokia to the guy and it’s Selene’s hand on his chest, pushing him back, telling him to get out, Selene’s voice low and dangerous telling him the world doesn’t work like that anymore and he needs to leave them the fuck alone, and Rokia should be doing something, reacting somehow, but she can’t seem to do more than cower and stare until he’s gone and Selene is back standing next to her. Rokia takes a huge shuddering breath and meets Selene’s eye for a bare second until the fury sparked there leaves her breathless.
“Come on,” Selene says. “Let’s go.” She’s keeping her voice level but she’s furious, practically vibrating with it, and it’s all Rokia can do not to flinch.
Rokia can’t seem to unfreeze enough to talk so she nods and follows Selene out. It’s cold outside and the shock feels good, harsh and painful and clean. Selene walks her into her apartment and Rokia curls up on the couch. Selene sits at the other end, trying to act relaxed but Rokia’s not so far out of it she can’t see through it.
“Do you want to talk about it?” Selene asks, sounding so uncomfortable that Rokia has to laugh. It comes out shattered and almost hysterical.
“Shit, no,” Rokia says, “just—fuck that guy.” She laughs again, raw and brittle because, oh, the irony. Selene looks at her, half-smiling, and okay, Rokia’s acting more than a little crazy, but Selene hasn’t freaked out yet—instead she just shakes her head and goes to the kitchen.
Rokia takes the glass of water, sits up a little more, drinks. Deep breaths, okay, she’s fine. Just caught her off guard. It’s okay.
“Thanks,” she says finally, a little awkward, once she can manage to keep her voice level. “I’m okay, really, you can go.”
Selene looks at her. “You sure?”
Selene nods. “Call if you need anything.”
Selene glances over her shoulder as she walks out, and Rokia waves.
It’s a relief when she’s gone. Rokia drops the last thread of control she’s been clutching, takes her blanket and huddles in the corner of the room, cowering like a frightened animal and it’s ridiculous but nobody’s there to see it so it doesn’t matter that she’s holding her knees to her chest so she doesn’t shake apart. It takes a long time for the panic to wash through her and leave her exhausted, but she finally slides into sleep, back pressed against the wall.
When she wakes up gasping it’s still dark, and she doesn’t remember what woke her, but what she’s left with is the feeling of hands on her arms, holding her down, touching her, and she’s up and moving just to remind herself she can, pulling on her sweats and her running shoes and slipping out the door. The cold air knifes into her lungs and the rhythm of her feet on the concrete drums through her body and she runs, and runs, and runs until her legs shake and her breath comes harsh and painful and then she runs home as the sun comes up. There’s hot water this morning, thankfully, and she stands under the stream until she stops shivering.
It’s better in the shop—her job today’s complicated enough to demand her full attention and then some, recreating parts for a fuel pump because the plant making the spare parts is still out of commission. She’s absorbed enough that nobody really tries to talk to her, waves or nods as they come in and get to work. It’ll take all day, turning fittings on the lathe while the CNC hums in the background. Around noon she’s fitting parts together and checking tolerances, nibbling absently at one of the protein bars Selene stashed in her desk last time she was over.
And it’s as though thinking of Selene summoned her, because she’s walking through the dim hangar toward the office with that fake-casual stride, coming to lean in the doorway. Rokia doesn’t want to talk to her. It’s embarrassing, Selene can’t take her anywhere, she should just forget this misguided plan she seems to have to make friends with the crazy gearhead Six victor.
“So,” Selene says, “Meal of champions?”
Rokia looks at the wrapper on her desk, shrugs. Selene’s playing casual still, doing a pretty good job of it, but it’s awkward. “Yeah,” she says, “got caught up in a tricky job, didn’t feel like going out in the cold.”
“You want to get some real food for dinner? I could try and bribe Dash into cooking, or we could get takeout?”
It’s a nice thought, really, but Rokia’s not fit for human company, she’s going to work a while longer and then maybe run until she can’t stand up and see if that’ll wear her out enough to sleep. Eating real food and talking to real people require a level of effort she’s not really capable of today. “Thanks,” she says, “but I should finish this.” She holds up the datapad. Selene looks disappointed, but she just nods.
“OK,” she says, slanting a grin toward Rokia. “Don’t work too hard.”
Rokia forces a smile. “Sure thing.”
Selene looks at her like she wants to say something, thinks better of it, turns and walks out.
A couple hours later the phone rings. Rokia swears, checks the caller. It’s Lyme.
“Hi Rokia, it’s Lyme.”
“Checking up on me?” It’s sweet, how protective Lyme is, but honestly, Rokia doesn’t need protecting. Never has.
“Yup.” At least she’s not pretending it’s something else. “When’re you coming back?”
“I dunno.” There’s something appealing about the idea of holing up in Lyme’s house and never leaving, but Lyme will make her sleep and eat and feel things, and who needs that?
“How about tomorrow morning?”
“Seriously? I have work to do!”
“You’ve been working. Come back for a couple days.” Lyme says it as though she’s got some right to tell Rokia what to do, and it’s kind of annoying but it’s nice somehow at the same time.
“Fine. Tomorrow. Not sure what time.” Because really, Lyme can’t expect her to just come home on command.
“Alright. Call and I can meet you at the station.”
“OK. See you tomorrow.”
“See you. And Rokia?”
“Get some sleep.”
Lyme just laughs, and they hang up.
She actually does sleep for a while, curled up on the couch with some stupid nature documentary on the TV. Wakes up to nightmares again, but what else is new? There’s a list of things that should get done in the shop before she leaves, so she goes straight there after a cup of coffee and a yoghurt from the fridge because Lyme will probably ask her about it and it’s easier if she doesn’t have to lie about eating something. “Human Maintenance Procedures,” Wiress told her once, passing her a muffin as she hunched over her console, one year when they actually had a tribute in more than a few hours.
She’s finished in the shop by the afternoon and back in Two by early evening. Sure enough, Lyme’s there to pick her up. There’s something off, something Rokia can’t place until she realizes Lyme’s got her camera-face on, blank because whatever she’s actually thinking isn’t appropriate in public. It’s been so long since Rokia saw it that it takes her a minute to place it. There’s no reason for that around Rokia, so what’s going on? And then Lyme looks over at her and asks how the Capitol was, in that carefully neutral tone, and oh, fuck Selene and fuck the Twos and their stupid mentor networks and especially fuck Lyme for picking her up like some kind of stray cat she’s trying to housetrain.
“What, did Selene tell you I needed rescuing?” It comes out flat instead of angry, but angry takes energy Rokia doesn’t have.
“No. Selene told Claudius she had to stop herself from kicking the shit out of some guy in a bar, and that you were avoiding her. He told me I might want to give you a call.”
Rokia sighs. “Traitors, all of you. It’s fine.”
Lyme glances at her before looking back at the road. Her knuckles are white on the steering wheel. “You want to tell me what happened?”
“Not particularly. The Capitol is full of assholes, nothing new there.”
Lyme’s still gripping the wheel like she’s going to tear it right out. “Rokia.”
This is the problem with coming back. If she stayed in the Capitol she’d just numb it with short nights and long runs and hard work and eventually it would stop bothering her. But Lyme asks fucking questions, won’t let her stay zoned out and even keel. It’s starting to piss her off.
“You really want to know?”
“Yeah, kiddo, I really do.” Jump of muscle in Lyme’s clenched jaw after she speaks. So it’s a lie, kind of, even if Lyme doesn’t think it is.
Rokia crosses her arms across her chest. “We ran into a guy I knew.” Fuck this, fuck Lyme, now her heart’s racing again when she was just getting over it. “He was an idiot and an asshole and I used to see him every Games and he thought it’d be nice to say hi, I guess.” And good, they’re pulling up to the house, because if Rokia has to sit here in this car and think about any of this any longer she’s going to lose it. She’s out the door, slamming it hard, as soon as the car stops. Lyme catches up to her at the door to the house. Rokia shies away when she comes near, body reacting before she can stop it, and seriously, who wants to talk about this kind of shit? Lyme looks at her, stays out of her space as she pushes the door open and walks in. The line of her shoulders is tight.
“Selene didn’t hit him,” Rokia says. “She just told him to leave us alone, walked me back to my place. It’s okay.” Selene worries, Rokia knows. She thinks she’s screwed up and dangerous and doesn’t trust herself not to hurt people, but she didn’t do anything wrong. She doesn’t need to be calling Claudius to confess, or whatever.
“I’m not worried about Selene.” Lyme looks Rokia in the eye until Rokia has to look away. “And for the record if it had been me I wouldn’t have had nearly as much restraint. He’s lucky he’s still breathing.” Rokia looks up from the floor again. Lyme is absolutely serious. It’s breathtaking how angry she is.
“It’s a guy at a bar, being stupid. It freaked me out, okay, but he didn’t do anything bad, he’s just an idiot.”
Lyme just looks at her. “He paid Snow for… the privilege of your company?” She spits the words like they’re filthy, instead of calligraphy, written on white card that smelled of roses, and Rokia feels dirty in a way that has nothing to do with the shop grease under her nails. She nods, watches the fury spark and then fade as Lyme pulls herself together, shoving down the anger and blowing out a long breath.
“Rokia, he’s scum and he’s never touching you again.”
Rokia’s already huddled in on herself as much as she can, but the tension is too much. She turns and walks out the door, Lyme calls after her but she just shakes her head and speeds up into a run, snow crunching underfoot as she heads up into the mountains.
He’s scum and he’s never touching you again. It won’t get out of her head, settling next to the image of the guy’s face, shifting from something like hunger to shock as Selene shoved him back, next to all the images she keeps pushing back into the dark corners of her mind. Lyme was furious, angrier than Rokia’s ever seen her, and Selene was incandescent, she recognized it even through the panic. Angry enough to be worried about doing something stupid, worried enough to call Claudius to talk her down—and Selene and Claudius have a good thing going but it’s not like she calls him every time something shitty happens. So why is this such a big deal, running into someone from a past life? Yeah, she doesn’t like remembering it, but it’s just how it is. It sucked, it’s over, nothing to see here, move along.
She doesn’t run far, in work boots and a sweatshirt and exhausted and probably hungry, slows down, turns around partway up the mountain behind the village and looks at the houses down below, lights coming on in the windows. It’s too cold to stand still so she starts walking down, shunting her thoughts into the details of the new designs for cargo hovercraft they’ll start making if they can ever get the assembly plants up and running, probably a couple years out till they can do anything new but it keeps her mind busy, thinking about how to keep the fuel consumption manageable, wondering about maximum thrust and minimum drag.
Lyme meets her halfway down the trail, looking worried, carrying a heavier coat. Rokia’s glad for it, less certain she’s glad to see Lyme. But Lyme doesn’t say anything, just takes her home and feeds her soup. After they’ve eaten Lyme hands her a sleeping pill. She grumbles but takes it, too tired to argue.
When she jolts awake late that night Lyme is there, standing in the doorway and watching her. Rokia’s face is wet with tears and Lyme doesn’t look like she just rushed in, so Rokia must’ve been making noise in her sleep. She’s sitting up, half off the bed by the time she’s aware enough to stop herself.
Lyme doesn’t touch her, just says “Rokia, you’re safe, you’re in Two, you’re safe, it’s okay,” soft and repetitive and she must’ve been talking for a while but Rokia has just now noticed. She shivers. It’s still dark out, and it’s cold. She looks up at Lyme, still dazed from sleep and whatever drugs Lyme gave her to put her out, and Lyme gives her a soft smile. “Can I come sit with you?” she asks.
Rokia nods. “Yeah,” she adds, voice hoarse, and moves over to make room. When Lyme climbs onto the bed Rokia puts her head in Lyme’s lap and Lyme’s fingers comb through her hair, dig into the taut muscles in her neck and shoulders, soothing Rokia’s ragged breathing until Rokia slides back into sleep.
He’s scum. It slips into her head at breakfast, in the shop, Selene’s face as she pushed the guy away, barely contained rage, when Claudius stops by to say hi. He’ll never touch you again, when she’s trying to fit together the pieces of another fuel pump, parts she brought back from the Capitol to assemble here. She can’t concentrate. She can always concentrate; through war and hunger games and her mom’s idiot boyfriends and her granddad’s anger and whatever else she can always, always do this. But after the third time her hands slip and the screw drops to the floor and rolls under the workbench she’s ready to scream. She finds the screw, sets it next to her tools, and walks out into the living room where Lyme’s sitting, looking through a pile of paperwork and scowling.
“What did you mean he’s scum?” Shit. That was so not how she was going to start this conversation.
Lyme looks up, startled for a second before she covers it up. “I meant he’s a shitty human being and if there was any justice in the world he’d be in prison.”
“That’s not going to happen.”
“The jails aren’t big enough for all the people who...” Rokia isn’t sure what to call it.
Lyme’s face is blank but her voice is strained. “I know that, too.”
“It was normal. Plenty of people did it.”
“I don’t care if every fucking person in the Capitol did it, Rokia, it was wrong.”
“It’s not like it was just me. I didn’t even have it that bad.”
“Eibhlin’s the one you should be worrying about, not me.”
“I worry about both of you, but that’s not the point.”
“What is the point?”
Lyme looks at her. “The point is that you shouldn’t have to talk yourself down from this anymore. The point is that you are well within your rights to punch anyone who so much as touches you without your express permission. The point is that anyone who paid money to fuck you should have the basic human decency to stay the hell out of your way.”
Lyme sighs, running a hand through her hair. “Yeah, look, I don’t want to send you running off into the mountains again, we can drop it if you want, but that’s what I think.”
Rokia nods. “I don’t want to talk about it. But I can’t seem to quit thinking about it.”
“Do you want to spar?” Lyme sounds hesitant, maybe because the last few times she’s asked Rokia shot down the question without a second thought. She still flinches automatically, thinking of blood and violence and hands holding her down, but maybe if none of it was real?
“With training staffs? Like we used to? I know it’s kid stuff but I…I don’t want it to feel real.”
Lyme smiles. “Wait here. I’ll go dig some up from the gym.”