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Crime Does Pay

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Joven hadn’t slept easier since the Titans had fallen.

But he was getting bored.

Sure, he had plenty on his mind, but with what he was used to dealing with, all of his problems felt small.

Mari was back, and more stable than she had been the entire time he’d known her. Wes was warming up to him again. The club was thriving. He should’ve been happy.

But something irked Joven just slightly. It felt too perfect. And nothing ever worked out perfectly, at least, not for him.

Damien had barely spoken about anything to do with Leo in weeks, spending most of his time away from the Jackrabbit. Boze had been somehow present and distant at the same time, Mari’s outburst and return had clearly sent her on a wild spin of emotions. And to top it off, Lasercorn and Sohinki were still missing, and knowing them, they could pop back up at any moment.

They’d managed to trick Mari, and that was a hard thing to do. To say that he was afraid of what they were capable of, was an understatement.

It wasn’t like he should be that worried. They had no power anymore. The Titans were gone, Sunny had confirmed it over a very brief phone call, the Jackrabbit was the only threatening gang left on the block.

From his right, his office door slammed open, and Boze stepped through the entrance, her hands full of papers piled on top of her computer. “Afternoon Joven. I’m surprised you’re up.”

“Yeah,” he rubbed his face. “I almost slept in today, but I knew there was some paperwork to fill out so…”

“Always more work to do,” Boze nodded. “Speaking of which, the city got back to us about the permit.”

“And?”

“It actually passed through.” She tossed a manila folder onto his desk. “We can start work on the expansion as soon as next Friday.”

Joven opened the folder, paging through the lawyerly wording and the many, many signatures, looking for the stamp from the city. He smiled just slightly as he ran his fingertips over it. “We should almost get this framed.” Joven snapped it shut, handing it back to Boze. “Because it’ll probably be the last time the city agrees with us on anything.”

“If that ain’t the truth,” she snorted. Boze filed the folder in the closet in the corner as Joven paged through some of the other documents on the pile.

“Anything else interesting in here?”

“Eh, not really.” She shrugged, “unless you like looking at more zoning permits and some paper deals we made with the smaller gangs around the city.”

“Paper deals?”

“Yeah, we’ve basically taken the whole city now, and lots of gangs are willing to give up their territory in exchange for money or alliances and stuff.”

“Money?”

“Mostly alliances or trade deals.” She squinted, cocking her head slightly. “Gangs are surprisingly more democratic than our own government.”

“They know what they want and they know their bounds, our government doesn’t know that in the slightest.” He paused, “and most gangs are also run by one person, who makes more decisions, sometimes for worse than for better.”

“But if they’re still around by now, probably for the better.”

“True.”

“I’m surprised we even made it this far.” Boze crossed the room, falling into the chair across from him. “I’d expected it to take years longer than this.”

“You were willing to stick around here for that long?”

Boze furrowed her eyebrows. “What?”

“Well, when you first got here, I remember you telling me that you’d only be here temporarily.”

“I guess I changed my mind,” she shrugged. “Everyone here changed my mind.” Joven raised a suspicious eyebrow. “What?”

“I don’t know, it’s just…” he looked back at her. “Did you expect to end up here doing all of this? Is this what you wanted with your life?”

“Trying to get rid of me Joven?”

“No, just curious.”

“Good, because it’s going to take a lot more than that to get me on the move.”

“You’ve nested.”

“I have,” she grinned. “And I’m not going to get leaving anytime soon. The rent’s cheap-”

“It’s free-”

“And the food’s cheaper.” Boze leaned back, her hands on the back of her head. “And I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

“But is this what you wanted?” He was genuinely interested, but Boze rolled her eyes. “Did you look out on your life and expect it to turn out this way?”

“Are you trying to ask if I’m happy here?”

Joven shrugged, “kinda I guess.” He opened his mouth to speak and closed it again.

“What?”

“Nothing, just a random thought.”

“Well, would you like to share with the class Jovert?”

“Fine,” he grumbled. “It’s just...you feel like the same person you were when I first met you. And you obviously weren’t happy with the job then, and if you haven’t changed much, how do I know that you’re truly happy with it now?”

“I’ve changed.” Boze moved slowly from where she sat.

“Not really.” Joven chose his words carefully. “Wes has changed, Damien has been changing, albeit slowly, and Mari has definitely changed. You’re the only one that’s stayed the same.” She blinked back at him blankly. His words were light, “when was the last time you really told anyone anything about yourself?”

“All the time!”

“Anything that really mattered.”

Boze went quiet.

“You’ve wrapped yourself up in one identity for so long that I think it’s started to blind you from yourself. You can’t go your whole life with only one interest, I get it, computers are cool, but you have to find something else from it.”

“What do you have besides the club?” Boze crossed her arms against her chest. “Your just as guilty of it as I am.”

He let out a small laugh. “Hmm, you’re kinda right.”

“And you’re projecting.”

“Am I?”

“A little.” She made a small sweeping gesuture. "Why else bring all this up."

"You've just seemed a little...off recently."

"That's more Mari than me," she replied sharply. Boze glanced up at Joven's expression and tweaked her words. "Though I guess I should stop blaming my problems on her." She squinted, watching Joven intently.

"I guess...why did you still stick around?" He swallowed slowly. "So much shit has happened to you here, why deal with it, why not run?"

"Cause that's not how I wanted to do it this time."

"This time?"

"I always used to run when it got bad," she shook her head. "But I was sick of reinventing myself everytime I did. I like it here. I....I love all of you here so much. I didn't want to lose any of you, even...even Mari." She rubbed her face. "I don't even know why I started hating her. I didn't blame her...and then I did...and now I still do." 

There was a pause.

“But you’re not wrong,” Boze murmured. “I do need to step back and think about myself a little.”

“We’ve been busy, and you’ve been distracted justifiably.” He caught her eyes, making sure she maintained eye contact. “You’ve been going at this non-stop for almost five months, barely taking breaks for yourself.”

“Please don’t tell me to take the week off.”

“I’m giving everyone the week off,” Joven smiled. “We all need some time off with all that’s happened. Rent a hotel room out in Richman, go to the beach, take a trip up to Geld County. Relax Boze. You need it more than any of us.” He stood, fiddling with something on his desk. “Take some time. Reflect. I want you to take a look at yourself. And ask, are you happy?

“I’ll try,” Boze rolled her eyes. “But I can’t promise you anything.” She stood, standing across from him. “And,”  her finger extended in his direction in a sharp accusing point, “the vacation doesn’t start until tomorrow.”

“Deal.” He smiled. “Have fun.”

“You should too,” she replied. “If I can’t work, you can’t either, okay?”

“Alright,” he watched as the door closed behind her. “I’ll try my best.”