The lake was quiet. No river hunters. No groans. No boats. No motors. No hard working dock workers fixing something up or singing their dock songs. Just quiet. Sometimes the breeze would cause a few waves to rock the docks for a moment. But otherwise, the place was quiet.

It was a good place to think.

Sitting with legs crossed and elbows on her knees, the Iron looked out over the quiet water. Unlike the quiet that was around her, her mind raced with the chaos of a hundred things that needed to be sort through. Thoughts of the past month and everything that had happened, everything that had been said. Nothing was understandable right now.

First there was Ripton. There was Cadence Lloyd and Bloom and Ruth. There were 9 pieces of the gravemind and a deal made and kept. There was a corn farm, kidnappings, torture. Hiding in the dark under blankets to keep her glow from being seen. Sliphox threatening to disappear, then promising to never leave. The archivist. The toy box. The wandering man. So many things.

Ripton was no more.

But then there was the Grove. Ethan, the Full Dead, and his blunt questions that Jeanie answered with painful submission from years of slavery. The sudden and unexpected offer he gave. Legal freedom. No more slavers with her name on a list of runaways. No more painful encounters with Carthage Units trying to hunt her down. Protection. Plus the Dockworkers Union and the Summerwind Caravan no longer in danger with the Iron Works for helping a runaway.

And there was Sliphox. Her ascensorite. Caring, protective, and funny. The closest to full freedom that Jeanie had ever felt. Someone who promised to never leave and kept his promise with a rover’s sincerity. Someone who let Jeanie feel the joy of relaxing and was there to comfort her when she needed help. He would be at the Grove too. And he was her reason for getting up every day. He was her reason for living. He was what Cadence told her to find. What she understood in the gravemind and what Jess, the Snaking Bend guy, had told her to go be with.

Hayven certainly wasn’t trying to get her to stay. Dusty had proved that people didn’t want to talk to her. Shea was leaving. The Darwinists didn’t really acknowledge her presence. There was just the Dockworkers Union and they would be there whereever she went. But in the end, Hayven was lonely. People didn’t really care or seem to want her around. They just ignored her.

Except when they didn’t.

When suddenly all the Dockworkers were interrogating Sliphox to make sure he took care of Jeanie. When everywhere she turned, people were threatening him to treat Jeanie well. Jeanie asked them why. Yossarian said “because people care about you.” Sparrow had said that he would try to convince her to stay. He wanted her to see that this was her home.

But then, what was home? Was that where you lived? Then her home had been Motor City and now was Hayven. But people always said home was more than that. Home was where the heart is. But of course that didn’t make sense. Because then your home was in your chest and that’s not what people meant even if they never said it that way. And Jess hadn’t talked about home but he said it was okay to go to other places and move there even and if Hayven was really her home why would he say that it was okay to move away?

The Iron sighed. The worst part of having emotions was that now she had all these feelings and they would twist her stomach up into painful knots til she wanted to heave, yet, she still had no idea what to do with any of it. She still had no idea how to handle what she was feeling or what other people meant when they felt things or did things.

Jeanie stood and brushed off her pants. She’d think more on this later. Maybe Jimmy could help her figure out what it all meant. For now, she’d go see with the rest of the Dockworker’s needed done.