Characters/Pairing: All Tributes; one-sided minor Katniss/Peeta, otherwise pick your own
Rating: T (disturbing themes, child abuse, violence, brief sensualizing of minors)
Spoilers: I took artistic license with some of the traits the movie has given us so far
Summary: A look at the twenty-four doomed Tributes of the Seventy-Fourth Hunger Games through the eyes of the person who got to talk to all of them for three minutes before they died.
Notes: Hi, themockingjay! I don't usually post my fic, but I'm a bit obsessed with THG at the moment and thought I'd put this out there
1.) She sashays to her interview chair in a see-through dress that stops at the top of her thighs. She’s taller than Caesar in heels and his hand throbs after she shakes it. She giggles and winks at the catcalls from the audience and knows just how to play with her bouncy hair and how to shift her hips to mesmerize a crowd.
Caesar sees more than that, of course. He sees a sharp intelligence in her eyes that she hides by fussing with her hair and showing off perfectly toned legs and tantalizing cleavage. He knows that she’s been drilled for years to make this look natural but every move is calculated. He knows that she is sixteen and this is wrong.
“What’s your biggest asset in the arena?”
She looks at the crowd from under mascara-drenched eyelashes. “Why don’t you just watch and find out.”
He didn’t get a see-through costume, and Caesar can tell from the sideways glance he shoots the girl as they pass each other on the stage that he resents his partner. There will be no tears shed at the moment one of them has to kill the other, of this Caesar is sure. He’s very tall and very strong, but not as broad as One’s typical boys.
There’s a desperation about him that Careers don’t typically show; almost all of them are desperate for blood and victory, but he’s desperate to prove himself. He’s trembling with the effort to hold in shouting how much he deserves this. He doesn’t have the typical model’s face they go for in One, and this combined with his narrow shoulders make Caesar wonder if he’ll be the most dangerous of all of them. There is nothing more terrifying than a rejected Career. Oddly, he’s also more willing to talk about things outside of the Games. He loves history and got a perfect score on One’s academic exams, even though Careers stop attending formal school in One at fifteen.
“I don’t want to talk to them, Caesar,” he says when asked what he has to say to his loyal fans in the audience. “I want to talk to the slops backstage. I want them to know that I am going to kill them because I want it more than they can ever understand. And I want them to know that I will be the last thing they see.” He stands up as soon as the buzzer sounds. “That’s all.”
2.) She’s smaller than the usual Two girls but just as groomed and just as muscled. She floats onto the stage wearing a silver floor-length gown with her dark hair in sparkling ringlets. She moves with grace and poise that could never be taught in twenty-four hours, and Caesar knows that despite her size, make no mistake; this is a Career. She’s not overtly sensual like One. She exudes power, confidence, a hint of snarky humor – and danger.
When Caesar asks her how the audience might remember her, she smiles and looks directly into the camera and answers smoothly, “I’ll be the only one who gets to talk to you again.”
He’s enormous. He was born with most of it, but he’s got the unmistakable District Two steroid look. He wears a shirt the same shade of silver as her dress and navy, tailored pants. His shoulder is as thick as the girl’s waist. His training is obvious in the way he works the crowd, though his angle is much different from the girl’s. The audience swoons over his beauty and strength, but he’s aloof and frightening and gives short, gruff answers to all of Caesar’s questions.
“So, what’s the one thing you’d like to say to the other Tributes here tonight?” Caesar asks.
The boy clenches a fist that could grind Caesar’s microphone to dust. “Run fast. It makes things more interesting.”
3.) She’s in a heavily-jeweled black dress with her hair in a sleek bun on top of her head. They’ve piled on the makeup, but her eyes are red-rimmed, and she sniffles before answering each question. She’s so thin.
Caesar asks her about the goodbye to her family that “touched everyone who watched” because he has to. It’s her only chance, and it’s his job to give them any meager chance he has to give. It’s so hard to follow One and Two, and this fragile little girl that her stylist tried so hard to make older has no hope at all. She sucks in a pained breath and faces him with such betrayal in her eyes that he wishes he’d just allowed her to die silent and unremembered.
“I’m all they had,” she whispers. She wipes her eyes and smears her makeup.
He doesn’t want to talk. He’s either shy or using it as part of his strategy, and Caesar jokes about his mysteriousness and gets him talking about other topics when he refuses to discuss his plans for the arena.
It turns out that he could talk about inventions all day, and he has a knack for making very complicated technology sound interesting and relatable even here in the Capitol. He makes wild, excited hand gestures when he talks about the robot he was building at home. It can play cards by itself and fold paper into complicated shapes, and when he tells the audience that he wishes he had it here so he could show them, Caesar believes him.
“I guess I’ve got to get home so I can finish it,” he says, and his eyes hold something like hope.
4.) She’s tall like the blond Career from One and muscled in a similar template, though her body type is a bit straighter and she has long, dark hair that reaches past the middle of her back. They’ve played up her big doe eyes, probably because they couldn’t play them down and decided to work with them rather than against them, like the girl from Two who’s playing up the deadly-little-doll look. Other than the eyes, she looks strong and vicious in her dark red gown. She faces the crowd without fear, though she does not have the cultivated interview skills characteristic of the other Career districts.
“What do you think is your biggest challenge in the arena?” he asks her with a wink.
“I don’t,” she says simply. The audience screams approval.
“I see, I see,” Caesar says as he feigns edging away from her in fear. “So, what’s your strategy in there?”
“Survive.” She glances at the pack of Careers back stage, and there’s a flash of something across her face that Caesar can’t identify.
He’s small like the girl from Two with a mop of curly hair and a frightening scowl. He’s not eager to chat, which is typical for Four. They haven’t had adults preparing them for this since before their chubby little hands could hold a spear, and they often walk the line between typical Tribute meat and confident Career. They typically build their interview skills and angle by themselves, and someone like Caesar can almost always tell the difference. This one is rough and unrefined, though he’s obviously going for mean and can pull it off.
“Well, what’s the thing you’re most looking forward to about the Arena?” Caesar asks cheerfully, giving him the opportunity he clearly wants.
“Honestly, I don’t give a shit,” Four says. The crowd howls with laughter. “I’m more looking forward to afterwards when I get to sit in that nice chair and relive all of their deaths.”
Backstage, the girls from One and Two whisper something to each other. They’re sizing him up. Trying to figure out if his answer can be backed up with action. If it’s all posturing, it’s very good posturing, and Caesar knows that the girls recognize this, groomed as they are.
Caesar hopes for his sake that he’s not all talk.
5.) She’s quiet and evasive like the boy from Three, except no amount of friendliness or careful leading questions will make her talk. Her red hair reaches just below her shoulders and hangs there unadorned, and she wears minimal makeup that does nothing for her severe features and the sharp angles of her face. Her carnation pink halter dress only highlights the fact that she’s too thin. Caesar presses a gloved hand to his forehead. And so they’ve reached the parade of doomed pieces of meat.
“You sure seem quiet,” he says teasingly after the fifth or sixth question she’s dodged with a shrug and a noncommittal not-answer. “You know, it’s okay to talk to us. We’re all your friends here!”
This time, instead of the audience filling the auditorium with laughter, the girl is the one who laughs. Hers is reserved and quiet even with a microphone clipped to her shoulder, but it’s genuine. Her brown eyes sparkle briefly with life and a dark intelligence that gives Caesar pause and reminds him of another Games long ago and another little, too-thin girl who wasn’t pretty and wasn’t special and made an impression at her interview for being completely unimpressive.
Caesar wonders what Johanna’s thinking as Five gives a polite but unmemorable goodbye and walks calmly off the stage.
He catches his partner’s eye as they pass each other on the stage, and Caesar doesn’t miss the pain in his face or the strange gratitude in hers. It’s the most emotion he’s seen out of the Five girl since her disturbing laughter, and Caesar has difficulty shaking it as the boy takes the seat she just vacated and looks nervously out at the crowd.
His microphone pops obnoxiously on the first syllable of his first answer, and he offers an affable, self-deprecating shrug. He doesn’t wax poetic about his partner, as Caesar expected him to. He turns the conversation to training and how difficult it is and how impressed he is by all the others’ skills. He puts himself down constantly, from his “totally pathetic” training score to his “pretty much non-existent” interview skills, but Caesar knows that these failings are carefully cultivated and that Five is a natural speaker.
Caesar glances at the girl for a hint of what’s going on, but she’s predictably impossible to read. These two have a chance, he thinks suddenly.
6.) She has a purple dress and one foot in the grave. Her gaze flickers to the Careers milling around backstage throughout her interview. Caesar’s sure he catches the girl from One give her a bloodthirsty look that ends in a girlish wink. Six makes a little whimpering noise that the microphone has the misfortune of picking up and spends the rest of the interview staring at the floor.
He does what he can to help her. But her eyes know the truth that he can’t pretty up. She is looking straight into her death, and she knows it. Caesar makes jokes until the buzzer sounds and she wobbles, dreamlike, off the stage.
He’s trying to be tough. He squares his shoulders and tries to make himself seem bigger than he really is, a meaningless effort after the enormous Careers have taken the stage. He swallows hard and stares bug-eyed into the crowd and tells them in a wavering voice that he’s not scared.
A sharp laugh from backstage draws his attention, too quiet for the audience to hear but more than enough to terrify the other Tributes. It’s the snakelike girl from Two staring daggers into him, and her beautifully-manicured silver nails seem dangerous enough to be weapons even without the knives they’ve all seen her throw on television. The shiny ringlets framing her murderous face only seem to add to the horror of the situation. Then she looks back at her District partner as if she was really laughing at something funny he said, which is not true because he never says anything funny.
Six slinks off the stage at the buzzer and avoids the pair from Two like the plague.
7.) She’s chatty. She wears a yellow dress that she’s got the skin tone to pull off and follows along with Caesar’s jokes and makes many of her own. She tells an involved story about life in her district, and everyone laughs at her account of how she once made a log pile taller than she was, only to find that she’d put it in the wrong place and had to move it all. Underneath the friendly face, she’s tense. Her fingers tremble on the edge of her chair; she’s the kind of person who talks and talks a million miles an hour when they are very nervous. She tells the audience that it was nice to meet them and stumbles over the word ‘meet.’
He cries through his interview. It happens at least once in every Games, and Caesar knows how to play it off for the audience, but he knows that there’s nothing he can say to help. There are no questions or comments or jokes that will take his mind off the fact that these are his last days, and he’s spending them paraded in front of a jeering audience. Caesar doesn’t ask him any more questions. He knows how to divert attention, but he hates that he has to keep Seven on the stage until the buzzer. It’s cruel to make him talk.
The buzzer mercifully cuts through his choked-back sobs and Seven shuffles off the stage, arms wrapped around himself.
8.) She chews the inside of her cheek all through her interview until Caesar is sure her mouth must be coated in blood. Toward the end, her answers are all mumbles, so it’s hard to know. She keeps apologizing to Caesar: for not knowing an answer, for breathing too loudly, for hiccupping in the middle of a sentence. He tries to make it charming with his commentary but can tell from the audience’s reaction that it does no good. She’s thirteen and in a dark green dress with lace sleeves.
He talks about himself for every second of his three minutes. He interrupts Caesar every time he tries to bring up the Games until Caesar just lets him say what he wants. These are their last moments where they are allowed to speak up for themselves, and Caesar will let them if they want it. He talks them through his brief life that is about to end, and Caesar doesn’t miss the desperation in his voice to be heard, to be understood. Listen to me. Remember me. Make it matter that my body will be on the ground in my own blood in a few hours.
“I want to know that somebody heard me,” he says. His eyes are a deep brown. He has green shoelaces that match the girl’s dress, but his favorite color is red. He loves bananas, but only the kind that aren’t ripe yet. He watches sunsets with his mother.
“I did,” says Caesar, because that’s all he can promise.
9.) She’s breathtakingly beautiful in a sapphire dress that skims her knees and an elaborate headpiece. She’s beautiful enough to be a Career, but her shaky walk across the stage belies her looks, and she has the uneven gait of a girl who has never worn a pair of heels in her life before this day. Her big brown eyes seem mesmerized by the crowd, and she seems genuinely delighted by the applause when she waves at them in a way that reminds Caesar of the Twelve girl during the parade.
“I just can’t believe they’re all here to see me,” she whispers with a flushed face. The crowd coos at her. They like this one. If she could only make it through the first day alive, she may get sponsors.
“Of course they are,” Caesar says. Her smile is enough, for now.
He has the best sense of humor by far of the ones they’ve seen and has that sort of face that makes everyone think he’s a close friend. He tells a joke that references the girl from Two that sends the audience rolling. Backstage, Two is not happy, and neither is her partner. The menacing look she sends Nine says it all: you die first.
Nine sees her, of course he does, but he just grins like the lovable class clown and says sweetly into the microphone, “You won’t tell her I said that, will you?” and the auditorium vibrates with laughter.
Nine takes a little bow, and his meaning is clear. Yeah. I know. But I die as myself, mocking you and your rules.
10.) She is not traditionally beautiful which, in the Games, means that she is doomed, but her eyes are hard and strong with defiance as she takes the stage. The crowd is bored of her before her time is half spent, but Caesar isn’t. She’s a bad speaker and is not charming or entertaining, but there’s something about her dark eyes that stare accusingly at Caesar that make it impossible to look away. A deep sadness washes over him as this girl stares him down, everything that she knows she can’t say hanging in the air between them. And her plain face and solid gaze that refuses to back down uncover things that Caesar would rather keep hidden. She looks him in the eyes and he’s filled with a terrible, dark sense that she knows who he is and what he tells himself to keep doing this job year after year, to keep hearing two dozen children’s very short stories only to watch their endings in his VIP box days later. She knows what he does to stay sane with each new addition to the blood on his hands and what she thinks of it.
You don’t fool me, her eyes say. Caesar’s glad to see her go.
He walks with a limp that is more exaggerated than Caesar remembers from the Reaping, and he’s sure that his mentor spent days trying to train it out of him before giving up and deciding to play it up for sympathy. Better to gain maximum benefit from it if the sponsors are going to notice anyway. Maybe some sympathetic underdog-lover will buy him a hot meal before Two shreds him alive, his mentor probably reasoned.
He’s nervous and shy in his interview, but not the desperate kind that’s on the verge of breaking down. Caesar coaxes him easily into looking moderately attractive, though he still doesn’t contribute much to the conversation and has a lot of nervous tics that they clearly failed to eliminate during interview prep.
He’s as good as dead, but Caesar showers him with compliments because they seem to help. And anyway, it helps him shake the Ten girl’s scathing eyes. This one is the type to be comforted by empty words. There are no words for her but you’re right, we are monsters who are going to eat popcorn while you die.
11.) She looks like an angel in her shimmering golden dress that reaches to her shins. She even has wings. Caesar silently thanks her stylist for keeping her age-appropriate. She seems constrained by the chair they sit her in, and Caesar invites her to stand and begs invitingly for a demonstration when she talks about being light on her feet. When he shakes her hand, she pulls it away on the first attempt before he can grab it then grins cheekily at him and lets him catch her the second time. She’s capable for her age, but the boy from Two could pick her up and break her in half and hurl the pieces twenty feet each.
Caesar imagines her mutilated body as she flits off the stage like a hummingbird, and he makes another terrible joke to keep the audience laughing.
He’s nearly as massive as the Career boy from Two, but his strength obviously comes from years and years of hard labor, not calculated training. Caesar’s been doing these interviews more than long enough to tell a difference, and one look into Eleven’s face tells him that this is no killer. The Career Pack is going crazy with need, still, and the boy from One crosses his arms and stares while his partner points a manicured finger at Eleven and says something Caesar can’t hear. The pair from Two obviously disagree with her and whisper frantically to each other. The girl from Four stands noncommittally between them, probably happy to be included. The Four boy is nowhere to be seen. Caesar watches Two’s body language carefully and sees through what they obviously never received any training in hiding: their comfort with each other’s personal space, the palpable trust between them and the way they seem to make decisions as a unit. The pair from One hate each other, Caesar’s sure, but Two has something going on that they’d better sort out soon. They don’t have much time left.
Eleven’s oblivious to all of this, though – and if he isn’t, he does an excellent job at hiding it. Caesar finds his own attention drifting to the Career Pack because Eleven is giving him even less than the Five girl. He drops one-word, irritated answers to only half the questions he receives and ignores the ones he doesn’t like. They’ve tried to put him in an outfit that compliments his partner’s golden dress while still retaining masculinity, but he looks like he’s being forced into the starring role of a play he hates. Which, of course, he is.
The girl from One gives him a seductive smile as he makes his way off the stage, but that’s not going to work on Eleven. He brushes past her roughly and stands behind the Eleven girl in her fairy wings, as if he’s afraid that the Careers will forget the rules and attack her. The One girl pouts while her partner looks amused and even more impressed with Eleven than before; anyone who rejects her is a friend to him. The pair from Two are whispering again, the girl’s hand on the boy’s bicep – she almost certainly doesn’t realize that she’s put her hand there.
The audience is going to get all the drama they’re looking for this season, that’s for sure.
12.) She’s breathtaking, not for her figure but for the jeweled gown that sparkles like a sunset with every movement she makes. One look at her deer-in-headlights face shows how much she doesn’t want to be here, and Caesar is just glad that they’re nearing the end. She’s pretty but plain under her tasteful makeup and she fumbles every syllable and movement until Caesar gets her talking about lamb stew, after which she giggles her way through the interview, unsure of every word and impossibly nervous. Caesar gets her to twirl for the audience because that gown of hers is her best chance of gaining sponsors, and he’s now sure that her happy waving from the opening ceremonies was her way of processing terrible nerves. There’s worse ways, of course. Some in past years have vomited on the stage.
She gets a moment in the spotlight when he asks her about her sister, and when she’s looking directly at Caesar and not the crowd, she’s not half bad with the microphone. But it’s not enough. Caesar only hopes that whatever she really did to produce that eleven in training was not a joke. The Careers are bored now after they saw the Eleven boy. The girl from Four is playing with her hair and the Two pair are teasing each other like siblings. Caesar frowns as Twelve exits the stage. They have to get that sorted out.
He takes the stage and brings down the auditorium. Before his confession of love, the One girl actually looked like she was dozing backstage, but all the Careers are wide awake now. He seems to have no awareness of the hornet’s nest he just kicked over and his face is genuine and sincere, though Caesar knows that no one will see his face because every camera in the auditorium is currently trained on his partner. Her face is flushed, shock and horror and a little betrayal in her eyes, and she opens and closes her mouth like a fish and does not manage to make any actual words. Caesar milks this for all its worth because a stunt like this deserves to be rewarded, and the crowd goes nuts when he dangles the concept of inviting the girl back on the stage to hear a response. They moan in disappointment when he informs them that, alas, her time is up. The Twelve girl looks very relieved that no one will be dragging her back out there to hear how she feels about her partner’s love for her.
Caesar can tell how much hope the others have for their own survival based on their responses. The doomed meat offerings appear unphased, some of them even a little sympathetic or horrified. Most are too wrapped up in their own pain to spare any for this supposed couple about to be torn apart by carnage. All show no sign that this revelation will make a difference for them. A few contenders emerge from the pack as Caesar watches them: the girl from Five who seems to file every detail of the interview in her mind like a computer rearranging data; the boy from Three who glances from one Twelve tribute to the other and seems to add up endless possibilities in his head. The boy from Eleven, predictably, has no reaction. The Careers are varying degrees of furious. The boy from Four glares daggers at the Twelve boy. The One boy rolls his eyes. The Two girl just smiles at Twelve’s gorgeous gown and makes it obvious that she’s imagined a dozen horrific ways to stain it with blood in the time that it took Twelve to blush.
Caesar encourages the audience’s applause to go on for a good minute after the Twelve boy has left the stage and composes himself for his closing remarks and the final shot of all the Tributes. The Careers are already putting their game faces back on, which for most of them resemble the winners of a beauty pageant. The boy from Seven has stopped crying, but the girl from Three has started. But everyone is interested in Twelve now. The boy smiles winningly but enigmatically at the cameras and the screaming fans but mostly at his partner. The girl looks a few steps away from vomiting.
Just when Caesar’d thought he’d seen everything, these kids show him that you never, ever say you’ve seen everything at the Hunger Games.