Author: cali-chan PM
"Primrose Everdeen." This can't be happening, Katniss thought. She desperately pushed through the crowd. I volunteer!, she wanted to scream. I volunteer as tribute! But she couldn't, because she wasn't eligible for the reaping anymore. There was nothing she could do. Peeta/Katniss and other pairings, AU.Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama/Romance - Peeta M. & Katniss E. - Chapters: 30 - Words: 161,992 - Reviews: 627 - Favs: 287 - Follows: 540 - Updated: 05-09-13 - Published: 01-23-12 - id: 7768246
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Chapter 19: Training, part 1
Author: Carla, aka cali-chan
Rating: Most likely PG-13. Nothing worse than what's in the books.
Genre: Adventure/suspense/drama/romance... again, pretty much what's in the books.
Pairings: Peeta/Katniss, Rory/Prim... and probably others. You'll see soon.
Canon/timeline: Same-context AU— this fic still happens in the same world as THG, but the actual events in the books never happened. I'm adding about five years to the characters from the age they were at the beginning of The Hunger Games. Katniss is 21.
Disclaimer: Yeah, just let me go get my transfer laser and switch bodies with Suzanne Collins. Until I find it in the mess that is my room, anything you can recognize belongs to her.
Note: I've never really tried this before (and I'm sure it will eventually come back and bite me in the behind), but each chapter will be from the PoV of a different character. You should be able to tell whose PoV it is fairly easily, though.
Summary: "Primrose Everdeen." This can't be happening, Katniss thought. She desperately pushed through the crowd. I volunteer!, she wanted to scream. I volunteer as tribute! But she couldn't, because she wasn't eligible for the reaping anymore. There was nothing she could do.
Gale was frowning so hard, it was practically like he was squinting at the television. He knew Vick would just make fun of him for it again; clearly the shove he'd given him earlier did nothing to dissuade the cheeky rascal from teasing his older brother, so Gale was mostly just ignoring his incessant snickering now.
Unlike the usual reasons for him to be frowning while watching the Games, this time it was mostly just confusion. It crossed his mind that he'd never really watched the Training Commentary. It wasn't mandatory watching, so he'd always taken steps to avoid it. This year, of course, he'd resolved to watch as much of the Games as he could, because of Prim, but now that he was watching this for the first time in his life, it struck him how pointless it was. Watching Templesmith and Flickerman speculate about the Tributes' abilities while trying not to reveal too much of what was actually going on during training was a notch below completely useless.
The program went into advertising space as he shoveled the last couple of spoonfuls of his dinner into his mouth. It had gone cold because his mother had made it earlier than usual. She was currently in the back, working on some laundry with Posy's help. Vick had decided to watch the Commentary with him (probably just avoiding doing homework). He hadn't seen hair nor hide from Rory since he got home. "Rory's out again?" he asked, not that he really needed confirmation. This had been routine for the entire week. This was the third day in a row he missed dinner.
Vick shrugged. "He hasn't been doing well through Prim's training days," he explained. Well, that was an understatement. He grimaced as Vick continued speaking. "You guys probably don't notice, but he hasn't been sleeping well." This, he wasn't aware of. It's not like Rory spent his nights tossing and turning— Gale was a light enough sleeper that he would've noticed. If it was subtler than that, though, Vick would know. He did share a bed with the guy.
"And work at the bakery is rougher these days, too," Vick continued. "He hasn't said anything, but I heard Mrs. Mellark screaming at him a couple days ago when I walked by." He shook his head. "It's no secret she wasn't happy about them hiring a Seam kid as an assistant. She didn't say anything with Peeta there, but now that he's not around, she's not holding back."
Gale grit his teeth; when stuff like that happened, it never failed to put him in a bad mood. He knew people from Town tended to think they were better than people in the Seam, but only a few of them were openly disdainful, and the Mellark woman was probably the worst of the lot. Normally he figured Rory could handle it, but now with everything that was happening... "Why is he spending so much time over there, then? If I were him I'd be out of there as soon as my shift was done."
"That's exactly what he does," Vick replied straight away. Gale couldn't know what his siblings were doing while he was working, but Vick and Rory saw each other often through the day, even though they had different groups of friends. "Only every day he goes off to the meadow to sulk. That's probably where he is right now."
Gale shook his head. One would think Rory was old enough that he wouldn't have to be worrying about him all the time, but of course that was foolish; he would probably never stop worrying about his siblings, no matter how old they were. It was too ingrained in him. With a sigh he got up. "One of these days, he'll get caught missing a mandatory viewing, and then we'll really be screwed."
"Language, Gale," he heard his mother reprimand him as he moved to the kitchen to wash his plate. She'd just walked in, carrying an empty tub, which meant she was there to pick up more laundry. He rolled his eyes. The admonishment might fly if Posy had come in with her, but she was still outside and Vick heard much worse at school every day, he was sure.
She moved to the kitchen table, where she'd left her pile of to-wash laundry, and started putting some of the garments in her tub. "And don't let Rory hear you talking about him behind his back," she addressed both of them. "You know he doesn't like that."
He scoffed, thinking that would be more emotion than either of them had seen from Rory in a week. "Let him get mad. As long as it gets him out of the funk," he grumbled, as he rinsed his plate.
She paused in her work for a moment and gave him one of those "Mom" looks. "Rory's hurting," she stated. "And under the circumstances, I think that's fairly understandable." She continued picking up the last few pieces of clothing. "Just let him have some time to himself. He'll be alright eventually."
He said nothing to that. If thinking that way made her feel better about Prim being reaped, he wasn't about to bring her down. She picked up the tub and went outside again. Just as he was drying his plate, he heard Vick let out a pained groan. "Oh man, not this again!"
He chuckled. Overdramatic much? "What is it?" he asked, putting the towel down as he walked to the living room again.
"These clips of District Thirteen," Vick exclaimed, waving his hand at the television screen almost angrily. "I mean, they've always aired these every once in a while, but they've been airing them every hour since the Games began," he grumbled as Gale sat down beside him again. "I'm tired of it already!"
Of course they'd been airing footage of District Thirteen non-stop for the past few days; they knew someone was trying to stir up unrest in the districts. It was the most direct and effective way for them to say "don't even think about rebelling, or you'll end up in ruins, too." But Vick didn't need to know that. "Well, this programming isn't really meant for entertainment," he commented.
"I know, but it's just so repetitive," the boy mumbled. "They could change it up a bit every once in a while, maybe, but it's always the same footage."
"What are you talking about?" Gale asked somewhat amused. He pointed at the screen, where a man with golden skin and obnoxiously orange hair was pointing behind him at the rubble that used to be a town in Thirteen. "I've never seen that guy before in my life."
"No, I meant the actual footage," Vick shook his head. "Yeah, the people who are speaking change every time, but the background is always the same." He paused for a minute, as if remembering something. "Take a closer look, you'll see the man is just superimposed on the background, like they do sometimes on game shows."
Gale decided to humor him. He squinted at the screen— this time he was actually squinting— and sure enough, it was clear that while the camera filming the scene of the ruins of Thirteen was moving to the side, the orange-haired guy was stationary. The two were definitely filmed separately and then superimposed. "Reusing footage is nothing new."
"Once or twice, sure. But it's been the same for years," Vick pointed out. "I didn't even notice until they started airing it so often, but... Look, look at this clip right here, of the Justice Building." He signaled for Gale to turn back to the screen, quickly. "Watch carefully, in the top right-hand corner."
It took a few seconds for something to appear there, and when it did, he wasn't terribly impressed. "It's a bird," he deadpanned, not getting the point.
"It's a mockingjay," Vick corrected him. "It's always the same mockingjay."
At that moment the Training Commentary resumed airing, and Gale put all thoughts of Thirteen and the bird out of his head. He thought it was an odd detail, but for the most part, irrelevant. The commentary, at least, gave him marginally more useful information in regards to the Games, and Prim's participation in them. Not by much, though.
It wasn't until the next night, after he had caught the clips of Thirteen on the broadcast a couple more times, that he realized Vick was right... about it being the same footage, at least. Without a doubt, it was the same every time. He had to give it to the kid: he might be lazy when it came to schoolwork, but he was smart.
He brought up the topic of the reused footage at work, just as a curiosity, one day after the last shift was over, while he and his crew mates were putting away their gear. Gale had tried to discreetly scout around the miners for support of a possible rebellion, but his attempts went nowhere. Most of his crew mates thought he was just looking for something to distract him from the fact that he "lost his girl to the Baker" (everywhere he went in the whole damn district these days, he was met with looks of pity. He was getting sick of it).
Apart from that, the constant replay of the District Thirteen clips wasn't the only preventative measure the Capitol had taken over the past week; Thread had doubled security in the mines, and everybody was reluctant to discuss what they all knew was happening, considering it could cost them an indefinite amount of time in the stocks, or worse. Compared to what happened at the Reaping, and the interruption of the Tribute Parade broadcast, a bird flying in the background of a 30-second-long clip of District Thirteen was much more innocuous, or so it seemed to his crew mates as they easily went along with the conversation topic.
Suggested explanations ranged from the sensible (such as Clayton's idea that it was cheaper to reuse footage than to send people all the way out there so often) to the plain silly (like Bristel's idea that it wasn't a mockingjay, but a robotic mutt that was programmed to fly in the exact same pattern every time they filmed so they could make the images look more "dramatic"). Mostly it was all of them young men just having fun with it, until Barnabas, the senior-most member of their crew, confirmed the footage had not changed for decades.
"I ain't one for bird-watching like you kids," he harrumphed in his usual gruff tone, "but I'll be damned if those ruins don't look exactly the same as they did thirty years ago." He shook his head. "You'd think something woulda changed. It's unnatural. But I guess they want people to think the place still looks like that."
"Why would they?" asked Thom, confused. "I mean, the more decayed the ruins are, the more intimidating it is for the districts, right?"
Barnabas paused for a moment to close his locker and wipe his hands with a rag he carried in his pocket. "Maybe there's more than just decay there these days," he mumbled. Thom seemed to think about it for a minute, but the topic was dropped as they filed out of the locker room.
As always, they had to be searched before leaving, and most of them weren't keen on speaking about topics like these after being face to face with Thread's Peacekeepers. Gale, however, wasn't the type to just let it go. "What did you mean, more than just decay?" he asked as he caught up with Barnabas, a fair distance away from the entrance to the mines. "Do you think maybe the Capitol has been using Thirteen soil for something else these past few years, and they've just been feeding us some lie about it being unusable because of the toxic residue?"
The older man did not slow down his steps, though he did look around, making sure nobody could overhear him speak. "You didn't hear this from me," he stated, more than asked, and Gale nodded accordingly. "Word back when I was younger was that the structure of Thirteen was destroyed, but not the people."
Gale frowned. Was Barnabas implying what he thought he was implying? "So, what? You think they've rebuilt the District, and the Capitol just let them? And that's why they can't show us what's really there now?" He shook his head, disbelieving. "That's not possible. Thirteen was obliterated."
"That's what they tell us," the guy pointed out, and Gale grew irritated, mainly because the comment made him feel foolish. Of course, he knew every truth that came from the Capitol was most likely not true at all. He'd been saying that for years, himself. But that didn't automatically make every other outlandish claim true either. "Back in the day, rumor had it they went underground, instead. And the Capitol let them, because Thirteen was in charge of nuclear development."
"No, they mined graphite," Gale shot back, but a second later he was doubting his own quick reply. That was yet another "truth" they'd been fed by the Capitol.
"They had a few graphite mines," Barnabas acquiesced. "'Bout half as many as we do coal. But that's not enough to sustain their entire population."
This gave Gale pause, because he'd never thought about it in terms of numbers. Put in perspective: in Twelve, which was the smallest district, the mines barely provided enough jobs for the able-bodied population of the district. The merchant population was relatively small. Halving the coal production would mean half the Seam would be out of their minimum-wage job, and entire families would die, even more than they did now. Assuming their population distribution followed the same pattern, how had Thirteen been able to sustain similar population numbers, with only half the graphite production?
For him, and probably the rest of Panem, the destruction of Thirteen was a fact they never questioned. That was not only because the Capitol said so, but because nobody had heard anything from them since the Dark Days. If survivors from Thirteen were really out there, surely they had to know what the other districts had been going through for the last seventy-nine years. So why hadn't they helped? And how could they just watch so many people starve and be abused, watch children be murdered in the Games, and do nothing?
Without meaning to, his pace had become brisker. Barnabas seemed to notice he was growing agitated. "Look, Hawthorne, I'm just telling you what people used to think. There's no proof about any of this. And there won't ever be." That, Gale knew was true. With communications, even between the currently active districts, controlled by the Capitol, the only way anyone could corroborate these claims was physically making their way there. Very few people could survive the trip, and those few who could, wouldn't dare.
That was as much as Barnabas was willing to talk about a subject that turned out to be not nearly as innocuous as they'd originally thought. With a tense nod, they each went their separate ways as they came up to the first few houses of the Seam.
Gale went back home and tried his best to put all thoughts of District Thirteen out of his head. As tempting as it was to imagine that there was something out there to run to other than just wilderness, he couldn't afford to lose himself in delusions now. Not until he knew what was happening with Katniss.
A couple more days went by, and soon enough came the night they would announce the training scores. His entire family was nervous by that point. As far as he'd managed to gather from the Capitol's useless commentary, Prim had spent most of her time in the survival stations, which he thought was smart. If she could keep herself fed and avoid the others for as long as possible, her chances were greater.
On the other hand, survival skills didn't usually impress the Gamemakers, and scores on the lower end of the spectrum didn't usually impress sponsors. She would have to strike exactly the right balance not to completely undo the amazing impression she made on the Tribute Parade.
He was already in a testy mood because of that, and then when he got home, he had to dodge a rubber ball coming his way, because Vick, Posy and a couple kids were playing kickball in their front yard and he just happened to pass by right in the middle of the action. He took a moment to remind the other kids it was time to go home if they wanted to be in time for the broadcast.
He walked inside, gave his mother a quick greeting (she was in the kitchen, chopping up some vegetables he'd brought from the Hob the previous day) and walked to the bedroom, dropping off his protective equipment on his mattress. As he looked around, he noticed the absence of a certain someone, and just as briskly as he'd come in, he made his way outside and toward the meadow, ignoring all questions.
He navigated through the streets of the Seam quickly, not even pausing to say hello to acquaintances of his who greeted him on the way; he had no time for that right at that moment. He hastened his steps when he saw that, just a couple blocks away, Peacekeepers were already patrolling the streets to make sure everybody was inside in time to watch the broadcast. He took a shortcut behind the last few houses in order to avoid being spotted, and came up to the edge of the meadow where, sure enough, Rory was sitting all by his lonesome, among a cluster of tall blades of grass.
He stalked right up to him. "Get up," he let out in a harsh whisper. He grabbed at his arm, and it snapped Rory right out of his brooding mood, it seemed, because he was too surprised to struggle as Gale pulled him to his feet. "We're going home," he sentenced, no-nonsense.
"I don't want to watch that—"
"Lower. Your voice." It came out as more a command than a request, emphasis marked to make sure Rory knew he was serious. The objection wasn't so much to the protest— he already knew that was coming— but to his tone. He was being loud and if someone heard, they'd be found out. "There are Peacekeepers patrolling the streets just a block away. If they find us here, you'll end up in the stocks, and I'll probably get shot." Rory's eyes widened momentarily. "We have to go, now."
Rory wasn't one to let himself be dragged around like cattle by his older brother (not since he hit puberty and grew tall enough to see Gale eye to eye), but it seemed the idea of what the Peacekeepers could do to them if they got caught had shaken him enough that he complied without complaint. Good. Gale wasn't playing games here. He was already on Thread's list as it was.
The moment they were inside their home, though, Rory roughly pulled his arm out of Gale's grasp, jerking him hard enough that the door slammed behind him. Their mother, Vick and Posy got up immediately, sensing the tension straight away. "Oh, thank goodness, you found him..." his mother started, but before she could say anything else, accusations were already flying between the two.
"What the hell were you thinking, Rory?" Gale boomed out, glaring at the boy. Grey eyes glared at him right back, in equal intensity. "Look, I know you're hurting right now because of Prim, but you can't just stop caring about everything else—"
"Oh, that's rich," Rory let out a bark of cynical laughter as he shook his head. "You don't know anything, Gale," he snapped at his brother, tone hard and obviously meant to hurt. "You don't know how it feels to know that the person you love most in the world is in danger, and you can't do anything about it! You have no idea!"
"You know that's not true," he retorted, and it only took him taking one small step forward to have his mother stepping between the two of them, like she expected them to lunge at each other. Vick also moved behind Rory, ready to hold him back if needed. Posy looked from one to the other, visibly scared. "Katniss is out there, in a dangerous place, and she probably doesn't even know the Capitol is looking for her," he pointed out through gritted teeth. That was true enough to make his point, yet vague enough that it still fit with the story he'd told everyone. "And even then I stayed here."
"Well, maybe you don't love her as much as you think you do, then!" Rory outright screamed back at him, his face going red in his agitation. Vick actually grabbed hold of his shoulder, holding him in place before he took a swing at him, or worse.
Gale bristled. Who the hell did Rory think he was, telling him what he felt or didn't feel? Sixteen, and the big ingrate thought he knew everything there was to know about love, about life? "You have no idea what you're talking about," he countered, pointing in Rory's direction. "I stayed because I have responsibilities here, and so do you."
"You stayed because she didn't want you to come with her!" Rory threw back. For a moment Gale was worried he was just about to reveal too much— he knew he should've kicked him out of Katniss's house that day before he could hear any of what they were planning— but he didn't. Not that what he did finally say made him feel any better. "She didn't want you. She left the district with another man. A better man."
Both Posy and his mother gasped. "Rory!" the older woman exclaimed, turning to give her second son a reproachful look.
Gale clenched his jaw, trying to keep his temper in check. Rory knew exactly what had happened that afternoon when Katniss decided to leave, knew exactly why Katniss had left with Mellark instead of him. And Gale knew better than to rise to his taunts: him and Katniss, they understood each other. They were the same. She knew he couldn't leave his family unsupported any more than she could keep from going to Prim. If they had had time to sort it out, he would've been right with her on that train to the Capitol. She would not have chosen anyone else to have by her side over him if her hand hadn't been pressed by time. They were partners. He had to believe that.
But Rory was angry, and he was lashing out, trying to hit him where it hurt. The fact that his own brother could be vindictive enough to throw his feelings for Katniss back in his face after everything Gale had sacrificed for his well-being, that's what really pissed him off. "Listen here, you little punk—"
"No!" Rory cut him off, narrowing his eyes at him. "I'm done listening to you. And you know what? You say we're your responsibility, well, you can take me off that list because I just don't care anymore!" He brusquely shrugged off Vick's grip on his shoulder and stormed down the hallway until he reached the bedroom, the door smashing against the doorframe as he swung it closed and locked.
After the resounding noise died down, the four of them were left there in silence. It seemed neither of them knew quite what to say. Gale ran a hand through his head and turned to pull out a chair from their kitchen table, maybe a little harder than he needed to. He dropped himself on the chair; that's when his mother moved closer to him. "Are you okay?" she asked, rubbing at his shoulder comfortingly. "You know he didn't mean any of that."
Gale closed his eyes for a second and let out a tired sigh. On days like these he really missed Prim; she could always mediate when him and Rory got into a shouting match. But of course, even if they were at each other's throats, they were better off than Prim was at that very moment. "What am I going to do with him, Ma?" he asked, exhausted.
"There's nothing to do," she replied in a soothing tone, and he wondered if women had some kind of gene that caused them to become infinitely wise the moment they brought a child into the world. "He's going to be out of it until Prim comes back to us." She said "until," not "if," and he loved her all the more for it.
She let out a sigh of her own. "I know you only want to help him, Gale, but Rory isn't you," she pointed out. "And you shouldn't treat him like he's you." Clearly she was trying to convey that blame could be found on both sides of the argument. It wasn't the first time she'd told him something similar. "Now," she kissed his temple lightly, "come on. The broadcast is about to start."
She went to sit in front of the television with Vick (who had already "called" the couch for his personal sleeping benefit, again). Gale decided to stay where he was; he could see the screen just fine from the kitchen table. Posy pulled out a second chair and stationed herself beside him, leaning against him as they watched. Well, at least one of his siblings loved him.
A couple minutes later, once the advertising space was over, the Capitol seal came up on the screen, announcing to all that the live transmission had started. He prepared himself to tune out Flickerman's usual introduction to the scoring procedure, what type of skills the Gamemakers took into account for each tribute, the scale used, and such. It was exactly the same every year; he could recite it by now.
However, Flickerman's image never came up on the screen. Instead, the Capitol seal started flickering on and off, getting distorted by scratches and glitches. Gale was on his feet and walking up to the TV in a split second. This was the exact same thing that happened during the Tribute Parade and he would waste no time wondering what the cause was. It had to be some kind of rebel interference.
He snuck a glance at his family, all of whom were as surprised by it as he was. Nobody asked anything this time but he knew at least his mother had to be thinking along the same lines as him. What would it be this time? The scene from the Reaping again, maybe, in case anyone missed it before? Or would it be something new? He was expecting some kind of "title card," like the one they used the first time around, to let them know exactly what the message of this interruption was. But there was none this time around. This time, it was different.
The seal was cut off abruptly and the signal switched to a scene with a drab, grey background. It was slightly textured, like concrete. The camera was aimed right at a wall, probably? In the foreground there was something that looked like the edge of a bed, but only part of it could be seen: just a part of the metallic frame to the far right and the off-white linens that covered the mattress.
That was all there was to see for the first few seconds— Posy had already begun to ask what that was supposed to be— but a moment later a young man moved into the camera frame, sitting down on the bed and giving a small nod to the camera, as if confirming he was ready for something. Posy's question trailed into a gasp. Then the man started speaking.
It was Peeta Mellark.
If there's one thing you should know about me, it's that I love the Hawthornes. With all my heart. Particularly Gale and Rory. Every time I read a scene where the sibling bond between those two takes a beating, I can feel my heart clench in my chest and I just feel like crying. Which almost never happens in other circumstances, because I'm not much of a crier. At all. But they get to me that much. And then I go and write it into my own fanfic. Ugh, why do I do this to myself? ;_;
On the other hand, the chapter I just finished writing, chapter 25, is one of those BFD (Big Freaking Deal) chapters. It was tough to get the tone of certain key characters right, but I am SOOOO excited I finally got around to writing it. So that, at least, puts me back in a good mood. :) You guys can't imagine what's coming up, I really hope you're all going to love it.
Sorry there was no Madge in this chapter! You'll be getting her PoV just a couple of chapters from now, though. No worries there. In the meantime, don't forget to follow my LJ and/or tumblr (I post excerpts of future chapters there), and please let me know what you thought of this! I'd love to hear what you think Peeta has to say. ;)