Rating: T (disturbing themes, child abuse, violence, kids killing kids)
Characters/Pairing: no pairings, but characters are a surprise (see tags if you're curious, though)
Summary: What happens in the Stockyard stays in the Stockyard.
Notes: Written pre-movie. There may be others, as I have a few more who seem to be considering talking to me, but these are the ones who stand out to me right now. I'm slowly crawling out of my movie-stupor, so expect more fic from me soon including all the stuff I've promised various people.
Oh, how we’ve shouted, how we’ve screamed
Take notice, take interest, take me with you
But all our fears fall on deaf ears tonight
They’re burning the roads they built to lead us to the light
And blinding our hearts with their shining lies
While closing our caskets cold and tight
But I’m dying to live -- Dashboard Confessional
8.) Five minutes. That’s how long the voice in the ceiling says she has to be alive. The Peacekeeper outside stands guard and there’s a steady hum from somewhere between the walls – between her ears, maybe, because it seems like it’s maybe coming from inside of her – and it’s four minutes and thirty seconds now and this can’t be happening. This can’t be real. The walls are so white. This room’s too small and there are twenty-three others like it all around her, in a circle, and inside those rooms are the people who are going to kill her and it’s not real. It’s not. She’s dreaming and she’s going to wake up. Three minutes. All the cameras and shining lights and beautiful dresses they put her in and delicious food for this. Why would they do that if it was just going to end up here? Why would they do that? How could they do that?
How could they do that.
They want her on the launch pad. She pretends she doesn’t know what they mean, but she knows, of course she does but she won’t stand on it, she can’t stand on that tube because she will never come out of it. And when they gesture again, she ducks under their arms and races to the door before she can blink and claws the smooth glass for a handle, for something, for anything that will make it open but it won’t. She beats her palm against the door and screams for someone to help her as they grab her under her arms and drag her. Her feet kick out from under her and one custom-fitted boot catches the wall. One minute. Big hands press her into the tube that’s so small she can’t even stretch her hands out without hitting the sides, and she does it anyway, pounding the cold surface and willing it to break and she screams and screams but no one hears her. They turn away from her and one takes a sip from his coffee cup while the other pushes buttons on the phone in her hand and it’s thirty seconds and she falls to the cold, cold floor and puts her hands over her head.
Zero seconds. The countdown starts and then she’s moving. There’s nothing to grab onto here, so her hands fist in her hair.
“Mommy,” someone cries, sad and hopeless. There’s no one else in here so it must be her.
1.) Music screams into her ears from the tiny headphones she brought here with her. She can’t take it inside, of course – they’re all strip-searched before they go in – but as long as she isn’t hiding it and puts it down before the launch, nobody minds. They know she’s not gonna make a break for it, anyway.
She’s not a fan of the popular Capitol artists, but they let her have some of her old music from back in the District, the violent stuff she used to train to. Nobody thinks she’d be into that, looking at her, but the louder the screaming and the more hateful the lyrics, the more she likes it. They never let them listen to music during the group drills, and this luxury that was only to be indulged in during independent sessions helps put her in the right frame of mind. It reminds her that this is all her, not the groupthink of the Training Compound. It is not the clean, ordered structure of her grueling months in Residential where the only thing you don’t have to do is think for yourself. It’s not even the organized chaos of District Two where they churn out animals, not champions.
(“I wish we were Two,” she said at the end of one boiling summer day when they are finally allowed to talk. “Nobody cares what they do.”
“Shit, no,” said the girl next to her with her dark hair in a tight regulation bun. “I visited there once. Two sucks. They got no rules. Nobody cares how they live, but nobody cares if they die, either.”)
This isn’t organized chaos. This is mayhem, pure and simple. She jumps up and down a few times in quick, short bursts, shaking her arms on the way up. Her eyes are locked on the tube in front of her and where it leads.
The music rings violently in her ears long after someone taps her on the shoulder and gestures that it’s time. She steps into the tube and holds onto the mayhem in her head for as long as she can.
2.) She thinks about how they told her not to think. It’s a distraction at this stage. It messes with the reflexes they’ve drilled into her for years and years in the hundreds – maybe thousands – of times she’s practiced this. Thinking reminds her that this is the only time that really matters and these next five minutes are what she’s lived seventeen years for. It prevents her from acting on well-honed instincts, ones that she must rely on because they are right and they are faster than her mind. She’s thought about this so many times outside the Arena so she won’t have to think about it inside the Arena. Don’t dwell on the possibilities. Don’t make plans. Don’t ponder what they did in the last five Games, the last ten Games, and don’t try to use that to figure out what they’ll do this time.
“If there’s something you need to know, you either know it already or it’s too late and it will kill you. Thinking yourself into a corner will only ensure that it kills you faster,” Brutus said to her as she boarded the hovercraft. Those weren’t his last words to her. Those were when he got an odd, hard look in his eye and leaned close to her and commanded, “Remember what you’re here to do.”
She’s here to win the Hunger Games. She’s here to do anything necessary and survive anything necessary to ensure that she’s the last one alive in the Arena, whatever might await her there.
She’s here to kill Cato.
She puts her hand on the wall before her and stretches her quads, preparing for the mad sprint that's coming. She thinks about forests, oceans, scorching deserts, blizzards and two feet of snow to plow through. One year there was even concrete and they killed them by bashing their heads against it. She thinks about knives and swords and arrows and knives and maces and spears and axes and knives and knives and knives. She does not think about Cato.
11.) They don’t want to look at him. They’re scared, or maybe they’re ashamed, or maybe they’re just bored. Thresh doesn’t so much care what they are. They’re the ones who put them all in this place, and they can choke to death on their fancy Capitol food as far as he’s concerned.
He knows what he will do as soon as he’s able. Run. Run and hide and stay that way as long as he can. It’s not him at all – Thresh isn’t the type to hide from his problems, especially when his problems can be solved with a solid fight. And that’s what he’d get with Two, with the boy, at least, but the girl is a sick piece of work and Thresh wants no part of her until he has to. One Boy has a smirk that he’d like to remove, and One Girl is almost as bad. But then there is skinny little Three with her watery eyes and her quivering shoulders, sniffling about her brother and cousins. Then there is Seven crying on the stage at his interview as the hot lights catch every one of his tears. Then there is Eight with the always-bloody lip and Ten with the limp who is just as afraid to look at him as the ones who deserve to be afraid.
Then there is the little girl.
No, he will run because he made a deal with her that whatever causes her death won’t be him. He will find a place to occupy and make his territory known just like he isn’t challenged in the fields by those who know better, and then he will hope that the bloodthirsty Careers do the job he can’t do.
Because he is afraid. Just not of these monstrous people in front of him or their ‘games.’
He says nothing to his captors, and they move out of the way when he crashes through to the lift.
9.) His guards have trusted him since before he made it into this room. He’s pretty sure he could take advantage of that now and get out of here, maybe halfway down the last hallway he traveled before he’s caught. The room is locked, but he knows the passcode because his guard was in the middle of listening to one of his stories when she entered it and didn’t hide it from him. But there’s no point in running. He’s known this since the day that the last week of his life began and he stood on a stage a lifetime away and there were no volunteers. And that’s the one thing he promised himself there with the cameras and the lights and his father’s anguished screams: he won’t run.
He’s never seen a real ocean before, and the kids from Four aren’t exactly eager to describe one to him, but all the oceans he’s seen in pictures and on television remind him of the grain. They’re both endless and sweeping and powerful and you could walk a hundred years and never find the end. You can’t stop the waving of the grain and you probably can’t stop an ocean, either, and you can’t stop the numbers on the timer as they tick the minutes down, down until the one where he dies.
He’s heard stories of what happens in this room, all schoolyard whispers from other kids who don’t know any more than he does because almost nobody who goes in them ever comes out to tell, and the few who did will never talk about it on television. But the sideways, uncomfortable looks from his silent stylist and the first guard who won’t stop staring at him and the second who seems to have some kind of twitch in his cheek are not what he expected here. They all watch him, not joking with him anymore as the time gets shorter and shorter and he has less and less to run from. They wait, it seems like, for him to say something. So he does.
“I know it’s not your fault.”
The guards say nothing, but this time they’re both staring at the floor and it’s his stylist who finally indicates the platform.
“I know,” he says again as he rises to his feet and faces the tube.
He does not run.