Rating: T (language, violence, disturbing themes)
Characters/Pairings: Clove, the Gamemakers
Summary: How did Clove earn her training score?
Notes: I keep meaning to write the other Tributes' private training sessions, but I haven't yet. I might end up doing that in the future, but here's Clove's for now. Thanks to lorata and century_fox for enabling.
Her hair is secured in a complicated ponytail with cascading twists down her back and tied with a red ribbon. She looks smaller and younger than she did at her interview, like a child on her way to soccer practice. One of the Gamemakers slips out the ghost of a snicker as she walks, clean and confident, to the center of the room. She doesn’t speak until she reaches them and stands precisely on the ‘X’ before them. When she does, it’s clear and young and calm.
“District Two. Female,” she says in a musical little sing-song voice.
Seneca nods at her and starts the timer. It isn't important for most of the others, but the Careers have choreographed their fifteen minutes down to the last second.
A smile crawls across her face like a black widow spider.
Her eyes go hard as the steel her district is famous for, and she takes a slightly ragged breath that ends in a wicked little giggle. Seneca shifts forward in his seat, a hand on his chin as she turns fluidly and walks with dark purpose to the table with the knives.
She selects them slowly, lovingly, her fingers deliberate and lingering. She fills her belt with them, her sleeves, even her boots, and they seem to disappear into the dark fabric like stars into a black hole. They’re wondering where she's hiding all of those blades when she pauses to run a long, curved one over her lips. Her eyes close for a tense moment as she savors the knife against her mouth.
They barely blink before it’s sunk deep in the center of a target clear across the room.
Another one’s right behind it, knocking the first from its position, and then it’s raining knives out of her little hands as she flings them into one target after another. She aims for cripplingly close marks and impossibly far ones, for targets designated as such and for ones she’s invented like the tip of one of the climbing nets, a crack in the ceiling, the curve of the number ‘2’ that marked where they gathered every day in this room during public training. She hits the last one at a run and then shifts easily into showing them how fast she can get from one side of the gym to the other and how effortlessly she can climb the obstacle course. She moves like her smile, dark and fearless as she climbs the spiderweb net at the end. She aims another knife at a dummy from the ceiling and it hits straight in the stomach just before she drops to the ground. It’s two stories to the bottom and she hardly shows the impact when she lands.
Then her face changes again, bringing out a new game she’s yet to play for them. She stalks slow and deliberate toward the last dummy to fall.
She drops to the floor beside her victim and crawls up its chest, and her dark gaze is a shark that smells blood in the water.
“I’m gonna make you scream, you little shitface,” she whispers, smooth as silk, into the dummy’s non-ear. Her breath comes fast and hard and her eyes are unfocused and drunk on the blade in her hand. She twists the knife. “Yeah, just like that. Only that’s not good enough. Now you listen real good, cuntrag. I want you to beg for me like the fucking dog you are, and if you do it real nice, I might even let you die tonight. How does that sound, huh?”
And it goes on for a good three minutes as she carves her name in the dummy’s stomach, one knife in her hands and two more in her teeth and a fourth through her belt loop. She mimes an attempted escape and an expertly executed takedown (“Thought you’d go run back to your little district friend, huh, fuckwad? Too late. I killed him, too.”) and an elbow jammed into its throat. She carves it to ribbons without pause, without mercy, and without breaking the charade. She shows them the moment where her victim breaks (“Aww, don’t cry, we’re just having a little fun, aren’t we?”) and the moment where the life leaves them and she giggles with her lips against its forehead and breaks one of her elegantly-manicured nails digging it into concrete. She leaves one of the knives wedged between the folds of its face where a mouth would be, carving lips for it.
With twenty seconds left on her timer, she stands without a glance at the clock and tosses the extra knives over her shoulder. They each slam into targets as the malice on her face dissolves and she walks evenly back to the ‘X’ she started from.
With five seconds remaining, she weaves the last knife through her ponytail. The red ribbon is slightly askew.
“Thank you for your time and attention,” she says with the ease of rote conditioning, and she stands with perfect posture waiting for dismissal.
Rating: K+ (implied bullying)
Characters/Pairings: Young Clove and family
Summary: Clove's teachers said that if she got in trouble one more time, they'd have to do something.
Notes: This is a late-to-the-party companion to this fic about young Cato. Clove is the same age here (older six) as Cato was in that fic. (They're about nine months apart in my head.) There's probably going to be more of The Adventures Of Baby Clove, just so you guys know.
The bench outside the headmaster’s office is very hard and hurts to sit on. Most things do if Clove sits on them long enough because she’s very skinny and her bones stick out in weird places. With her eyes, she traces a pattern in the mortar between the bricks, zigzagging up the wall to the ceiling and then back down. Her teachers said that if she got in trouble one more time, they'd have to do something.
Clove’s in trouble again.
Her daddy opens the door and comes out first, then her mommy, then the headmaster. The headmaster stares at her behind thin glasses, like she’s a bug he wants to squish. Her mommy looks really mad, and probably Clove is going to be moving rocks from one pile to another all night after this.
Daddy shakes his head and sighs, “Clovey, not again.”
“They wouldn’t share the bucket.” Clove crosses her arms defensively over her chest.
“And what did you do when they wouldn’t share the bucket?” Mommy asks. She sounds very tired, but not as tired as Clove’s going to be when they make her move rocks after school.
“I took it,” she says simply.
“Is that all you did?” asks the headmaster, in that voice that means he doesn’t believe her at all.
“Yes.” Clove shuffles her feet and finds the path through the mortar again.
“Is that why Amey is in the nurse’s office?”
“I didn’t kick her that hard,” Clove says. “And I only scared Creed.”
“That sounds like more than taking a bucket,” Mommy says accusingly.
“No it’s not,” Clove says. “How else would I take it?”
“You could ask them,” Daddy says. “Remember how we talked about that last time? Using words?”
“I did ask them. They wouldn’t share it. So I took it.” Clove says it really slowly using really small words, like her teacher does when she’s trying to explain how to write the hard letters like ‘s.’ It makes sense that writing letters would be hard, but she’s getting really tired of explaining this. It’s not that hard. Grown-ups can be really stupid.
“You know fighting is against the rules,” the headmaster says.
“I wasn’t fighting. If I was, Creed would be in the nurse’s office, too.”
The headmaster takes his glasses off and wipes them on his sleeve.
“We have to have a serious talk about this when we get home,” Mommy says.
Clove knows all about Serious Talks. They come in big, capital letters and sideways looks between Mommy and Daddy and lots of things can happen after them. Usually none of the things are good. She shifts uncomfortably on the bench, but she was never comfortable, of course. The wood sticks into her spine.
They look at her like they want her to say something, but Clove doesn’t have anything else to say, so she doesn’t.
The headmaster and Mommy and Daddy look at each other and then back at her. Mommy’s eyes are hard and knowing, like she’s got a secret but it isn’t a nice one. Daddy’s eyes are scared like Creed’s were on the playground. He’s looking at her like he’s never seen her before. Like he doesn’t know what to do.
Like somebody might take her, just like she took Creed’s bucket.
“She’s a beautiful child, you know,” the headmaster says, in that voice that means he’s said it many, many times behind the door, before Mommy and Daddy came out. He bends to drag a finger through one of Clove’s pigtails. Clove stiffens. She might have to kick him.
The headmaster smiles at her. Clove doesn’t smile back. “Clean health record, you said?”
“Yes,” Mommy says, softly. Maybe that’s the secret.
“She’s hardly even sick,” Daddy says. There’s a little of the light in his eyes that makes him Daddy. “You know she seems so fragile, she’s always surprising the doctors, they – ”
He sees Clove watching him and stops. It’s like somebody pulled all the words out of him and stuffed them back in his mouth so he can’t talk.
“Yes, indeed,” says the headmaster. He straightens his back and stands up, away from Clove. “Well, you have the materials. I think, for now, we’ll overlook this incident. On behalf of the entire faculty, though, I am strongly encouraging you to apply. She needs instruction we can’t give her here, and there may be consequences if her behavior continues unchecked.”
Daddy’s face is harder than it usually seems, and all the light is gone from his eyes. “We understand,” he says. Then he looks down and holds out his hand and says, “Let’s go home, Clovey.”
“School’s not over yet,” Clove points out. “After recess we have to do History, and then we have to say the Pledge and have the Flag Ceremony and – ”
“Let’s go, Clove.” Daddy’s hand wraps around hers.
“We’ll discuss that when we get home.”
“Get in the car, Clove.”
When they get home, the Serious Talk is the strangest one they’ve ever had. It’s not anything like the other ones that came when Clove twisted Marianne’s arm to get her pencil back or when she climbed the playground fence because two big boys said she couldn’t and made it a long way into the woods before a teacher caught her. Nobody makes her move rocks. Nobody yells. Not anything like that. This one has lots of papers for her to look at, papers and little books with pictures of other kids, strong kids with lean muscles and pretty faces and straight, white teeth.
She remembers, somewhere in the back of her brain where she keeps all her faded memories, a boy in her class saying that his big brother went to this place once. He didn’t get to stay, but he went for a whole weekend to take tests. The boy called it the Farm.
Clove’s always thought that only District Ten had farms. Maybe the place is in District Ten.
There’s even a movie they watch together with Clove between Mommy and Daddy on the couch. The kids in the movie and in the little books are mostly older than Clove, but some of them don’t look that much older, and Daddy says that she could go there in January when she turns seven. They only seem older because they’re bigger, and Clove isn’t afraid of big kids. Most of the movie and the books have long words that Clove can’t understand and boring, grown-up voices, but it looks like a fun place. She wants to climb the net in the movie because it looks like a lot more fun than the playground fence, and these kids look like they wouldn’t cry if you put sand in their hair.
“Did you like the movie?” Mommy asks when the picture goes away and it’s just the seal of the Capitol glowing bright and even on the screen.
Clove grins. “I want to climb the big net.”
“What if we told you that you might be able to?”
“Will I have to go to the headmaster’s office there?” Clove wrinkles her nose.
“I’m not sure,” Mommy says. “We’ll have to ask them. Would you like to ask them yourself?”
“Yeah!” Nobody ever lets Clove ask anything. They just tell her to do things and get her in trouble. This place sounds much better than school.
“We’ll put that on the list of questions, then,” Mommy says. “We have a lot of questions to ask them, you know. I think we’ll start tomorrow.”
Clove is too excited to sleep that night, so she hears Mommy and Daddy talking down in the kitchen long after they send her to bed. They must be having another Serious Talk. Their voices are low and hushed and excited; they must be happy like her, she thinks. She can’t remember when she finally drifts off to sleep, but when she does, she dreams of sand buckets and secrets.