Title: All That We're Fighting For
Genre(s): dystopia!au, drama, romance
Word Count: 2,067
Summary: Jinri might as well be from a different world, but Victoria can't imagine a world without her.
Written for the nugu_seyo
exchange and originally posted here
a/n: Thank you to Lonio for almost literally holding my hand for this XD
Victoria leaned against the broken stone wall- edges once rough now smoothed over with time. She tried to tell herself she wasn't nervous, that she wasn't nearly holding her breath as she waited. No matter what, she'd be leaving that night at 2:30 on the dot. She'd leave the outskirts of the city to travel to the resistance group that was rumored to be a three day walk away from city limits. Everything that had to be done was done. She'd packed a small satchel and said goodbye to her family. All that was left, all that she was waiting for, was...Jinri.
She told herself that it didn't matter if she showed up to come with her or not, but she knew it was a lie. She could only try to ignore just how
much it mattered.
Victoria had been on her way home from work- grease staining her jeans, which sucked because these were her nice pair- when she saw her.
The girl was obviously from the high estates, though Victoria could tell that she'd tried to look like she wasn't. But her dark jeans and loose sweater screamed luxury despite their simplicity. And if that wasn't a tell enough, there was the wide-eyed look on her face. She looked like she was seeing everything for the first time, almost like a child minus the way she was walking so carefully, like she was afraid that the earth was going to split underneath her.
Naturally, Victoria wasn't the only one who'd noticed her. She could see a group of three guys trailing behind her, murmuring quietly to one another. It was obvious that they were waiting for the right moment to pounce- to steal her wallet or something worse, Victoria didn't know. But the girl clearly was oblivious.
Heaving a sigh, Victoria hastened her pace until she was able to fall into step with the girl and when they were even with a narrow alley, Victoria grabbed her by the wrist and yanked her between the buildings after her. Pushing her against the dirty brink, Victoria quickly covered the girl's mouth with her hand when it became clear that the shock of being pulled had worn off enough for her to scream.
“Calm down, I'm not going to hurt you,” Victoria told her, trying convey the truth of that statement with her eyes.
When it looked like the girl wasn't about to yell for help, Victoria removed her hand from over her mouth. The girl took a big, shuddering breath, staring at Victoria with big eyes.
“What the hell are you doing here?” Victoria demanded, frustrated that this girl was stupid enough to wander around the lower districts alone.
“What do you mean?” the girl tried, plush lips settling into a defiant pout and Victoria tried to fight against the urge to roll her eyes.
“I know you're from the high estates, okay?” she said, “And everyone else can tell too. Don't bother trying to bullshit me. Why are you here?”
The girl frowned, but sighed, slumping against the wall as well as she could with Victoria's body weight pressing against her, “I was curious, okay?”
Victoria did roll her eyes that time, “No, not
okay. You could have been robbed or raped or kidnapped...” she kind of wanted to shake the girl by the shoulders to try to knock some sense into her. How could she not know how dangerous it was here?
The girl shrugged, still childishly defiant.
“You need to leave,” Victoria told her firmly.
“Fine,” the girl scoffed, struggling to get Victoria to let go of her.
“Not by yourself,” Victoria clarified, “I'm going to walk you back to the border.”
“I don't need a chaperone,” the girl insisted, still trying to throw Victoria off, though her attempts were half-hearted.
Victoria let out a half laugh- bitter instead of amused. “Yes
, you do.”
“How do I know this isn't a trick?” the girl asked, suddenly suspicious.
“There were three guys following you and planning to do who knows what to you,” Victoria told her, “Just trust that if you try to go back without me, you might not make it back.”
Understanding of what she was saying had finally registered in the girl's eyes and Victoria wished that she didn't have to be the one to replace the wonder with fear. But someone had to do it.
“I'm Jinri,” the girl had said when Victoria had left her at the border, the guards lining the street eying them.
“Victoria,” she'd quickly replied before striding away like the guards hadn't been looking at her like she was scum.
She hadn't expected to see Jinri again, fairly confident that her warnings had made an impression on the other girl. But she hadn't accounted for the bi-weekly trip she took past the border to acquire parts for the repair shop.
Under normal circumstances, someone from the lower districts wouldn't have been able to venture into the high estates so freely. But she'd gone through the proper channels to get a special permit from the central government to pick through their discarded waste. She was practically doing them a service- taking old mechanical and electronic parts off their hands. Though that didn't mean that she was regarded with anything but disdain by anyone who saw her.
Still, she was used to it, so she usually didn't pay any mind to the people she passed on her way to or from the dump that was only a few minutes walk from the border.
But that particular day, she couldn't help the way her eyes fixated on a particular figure. And it didn't take long to figure out why.
It was Jinri.
She looked different than she had when she'd wandered into the lower districts nearly two weeks ago. Her shoulder length brown hair was carefully styled, pinned back on one side with a diamond encrusted comb, and instead of jeans and a sweater, she was in a fitted navy dress with lace cap sleeves that made her porcelain skin seem like it was glowing. And her delicate hands, which had clasped onto Victoria's arm when they'd passed a group of intimidating looking men on their way back to the border, were encased in a pair of white gloves with bows at the wrists.
Jinri looked every inch the privileged, high estate bred citizen that Victoria usually inwardly scoffed at, but...
The biggest difference between how Jinri looked now and when Victoria had met her was the look in her eyes.
Before, she'd looked afraid, naïve, and full of wonder. Now she just looked resigned. Despite her naturally young looking appearance, she seemed five years older as she trailed after a well-dressed couple who must have been her parents. She looked like she'd already seen everything there was to see and she'd come to grips with a reality that she didn't want.
Then she looked up and her eyes locked with Victoria's- something that was generally frowned upon. No high estate citizen wanted to lower themselves by meeting the eyes of someone from the lower districts.
But Jinri didn't sneer or quickly look away like she'd accidentally looked directly at the carnage from a car wreck.
Instead, she smiled
It was fleeting so no one besides Victoria saw, but it was there
and it was genuine. And it was like life had been breathed back into Jinri's being for just that one second.
Victoria felt like the air had been knocked out of her.
The third time she saw Jinri it was in the lower districts again. And at least Jinri had done a slightly better job of disguising herself that time. Her jeans looked like she'd dragged them through dirt and she had a simple canvas jacket on over a slightly less expensive sweater.
As soon as Jinri spotter her, her face broke into a grin that had Victoria's stomach swooping. But she quickly schooled her face into a blank expression as she made her way over to Victoria.
“I don't know abut the rules in the high estates, but you can smile here,” she said with some amusement when Jinri was right in front of her.
Jinri weakly swatted at her, but she she was smiling. “I didn't want to make myself a target again like last time,” she explained, “I didn't even bathe this morning.” She gestured at her messy ponytail and Victoria arched a brow.
“I did,” she informed her, “People from the lower districts aren't dirty
Victoria was pretty sure she should have been offended, but the way Jinri's cheeks flushed had her feeling more fond
“I didn't mean-”
“Why are you here?” Victoria asked before Jinri could apologize, trying to sound stern like she had the last time, but finding it a lot harder now.
“I wanted to see you.”
Victoria gaped, “Why
Jinri shrugged, looking a little self-conscious, “You're more interesting than anyone I've ever met in the high estates.”
“You don't know me,” Victoria said, feeling like she was making the obligatory arguments to keep Jinri out of harm's way without really even processing what she was saying.
“But I want to,” Jinri told her earnestly and Victoria had no argument for that even though she suspected she should have.
Somehow Victoria found herself agreeing to a weekly meeting in an abandoned cottage at the edge of the city where Jinri would pick her brain about what it was like to live outside of the high estates- both childishly intrigued and genuinely appalled by the way they were treated by the government.
Jinri listened with fascination when Victoria told her about the resistance groups outside the city and the ways they hoped to reform the government. And Victoria was pleased when Jinri started to offer her own ideas- surprisingly well thought out and unique due to her very different upbringing. Victoria thought that she could debate government structures with Jinri forever.
The first time Jinri kissed her, Victoria had been shocked into stillness. She knew that same sex love was frowned upon in the high estates- families most concerned with continuing their lineage and making sure their family name continued on.
In the lower districts, it was somewhat more common, though their lack of organization led to the occasional hate crime against those who were known to prefer the same gender.
So Jinri kissing her was not something she'd ever been expecting. Even if she'd possibly thought about it once or twice.
“Please, Victoria,” she begged, hands clasping tight to Victoria's shoulders and eyes searching her own with honest desperation.
Victoria liked to think of herself as strong. But in the face of Jinri's pleading eyes, she was weaker than she'd ever admit.
With Jinri's skin against hers, Victoria felt like she could do anything.
That is, if she didn't shatter first.
When Victoria's neighbor was killed by the guards at the border, she knew that she couldn't just sit back and accept her reality any longer.
She'd been toying with the idea of joining one of the resistance factions for a while and she finally knew that she couldn't wait any longer.
When she met up with Jinri two days later, she felt sick. She was planning on asking Jinri to go with her. But just because Victoria had had it, didn't mean that Jinri was ready to leave everything she'd ever known.
And Victoria wasn't ready to leave Jinri.
---I need to think
, Jinri had said when Victoria had asked her to run away with her three days prior. And now, as she felt the ridges of the bricks behind her digging into her back and the cold night wind ruffling her hair, Victoria couldn't swallow down the nerves that threatened to consume her every time she thought about leaving alone.
But then she heard the sound of shoes against gravel and she looked up to see Jinri standing there with a bag in her hand and Victoria thought her legs might give out from relief.
Jinri's eyes were wide and scared, just like they had been when Victoria had first seen her. And now, just like that first time, Victoria was there to take care of her.
The only difference now was that Victoria knew, as Jinri grabbed her hand with a surprisingly steady grip, that Jinri was there to take care of her too.